As of midnight, the unofficial results for the California State Assembly District 15 primary race indicated that Democrats Elizabeth Echols and Tony Thurmond, as the top two vote-getters, would be the likely opponents in the November general election: -more-
A Berkeley man and his girlfriend pleaded not guilty today to special circumstance murder charges for the hatchet killing of a man at his West Berkeley apartment in February. -more-
Press Release: Last Albany Bulb Residents Arrested at Gunpoint, Their Home Destroyed; They Plan to Sleep on Solano Avenue
At 4 AM this morning, a large contingent of Albany police, some carrying guns including assault rifles raided the campsite of the two last residents of the Albany Bulb, Amber Whitson and Philip Lewis, and arrested them along with a supporter, Erik Eisenberg. All three were charged with misdemeanor violations of California Penal Code 647(e), which prohibits lodging. -more-
A one-alarm fire on the roof of a commercial building in North Berkeley on Wednesday night may have been caused by a hashish production operation, Berkeley, police said today. -more-
California’s "top two" primary elections are next Tuesday, June 3rd. Turnout is expected to be very low despite the fact that every California voter can vote in every primary election and that voters have the option to vote early by mail or in person. -more-
Two Kaiser Permanente facilities in Oakland were closed this morning because of a "specific and credible criminal threat," police said. -more-
Alameda County voters will decide the fate of five ballot measures in the June 3 election.
The biggest issue on the ballot is Measure AA, a countywide measure that would extend a half-cent sales tax that provides funds to help the county's public health system and for community medical services for low-income and uninsured residents.
Voters initially approved the tax in 2004 and it won't expire until 2019 but supporters want to extend it to 2034 because they say it will help keep local hospitals open as well as clinics serving more than 100,000 low-income children and families.
However, critics say that serious problems with the way the money is being used must be addressed before the tax is extended.
A report by a tax oversight committee said 75 percent of the tax, which raises about $125 million annually, goes to the Alameda Health System, a public hospital consortium, but the rest is distributed to other health providers.
The oversight committee said it is hard to monitor the funds because recipients often fail to provide data to prove that their programs are beneficial.
In addition, each of the county's five supervisors can direct the spending of $150,000 annually, a feature that critics allege amounts to a slush fund.
Measure AA needs a two-thirds majority to win. -more-
For more than three decades now, the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley has provided unprecedented access and support for young Bay Area student musicians.
Founded in 1983 by Anne Crowden and Piero Mancici, The Crowden School, which incorporates music into a regular daily educational curriculum, started out with just 13 students. Today the school and associated music center serves more than 10,000 people a year through classes, lessons, workshops, camps, concerts and more.
Staff, alumni, local officials and fans will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the center with a special concert this weekend and a book examining the history and influence that the institution has had not only on the Bay Area, but its far-reaching impact on the music world at large. -more-
The video of police stopping three young black people, two men and a woman, for jaywalking, at the corner of Dana St. and Dwight Way, which ends with the woman screaming in the distance as cops throw her to the ground and twist her arms behind her back becomes one of a growing category. This one happened May 2, 2014, in Berkeley. That same week, two others emerged, one at the hands of BART police and the other those of OPD. Both ended with a woman screaming in the distance. On May 20, in Salinas, 60 miles to the south, Carlos Mejia was shot down on a street corner by cops in broad daylight, on video. And Cecily McMillan, who went into convulsions after being beaten and gases during the police suppression of Occupy Wall Street, is convicted of felonious assault on a police officer. These three cases of police harassment and violence are among dozens that have occurred and been videoed in the last few months. -more-
It's Official. The DHS and the National Security State Are a Sham
Last week, students at booed and turned their backs of UC's new president, Janet Napolitano, when she appeared to deliver a commencement address on the Laney College campus.
Afterwards, reporters asked Napolitano for a comment on Elliot Rodger's bloody Isla Vista murder rampage.
Napolitano, a former director of the Department of Homeland Security, replied: “This is almost the kind of event that’s impossible to prevent and almost impossible to predict.”
The sobering take-away from Napolitano's admission: The Department of Homeland Security is a sham. -more-
So far I have received five glossy campaign mailers from Elizabeth Echols, candidate for State Assembly, far more than any other candidate. I think it reasonable to assume that she is the Democratic machine candidate and expected heiress apparent to the Assembly. One of these mailers brags that she is endorsed by Loni Hancock and Nancy "not my jurisdiction" Skinner. Just last year Loni Hancock, State Senator, was working to weaken the public right to know via the "public records act", until she and fellow Democrats were busted by the press. She and other machine Democrats are trying to gut the California Environmental Quality Act because it gets in the way of "smart growth". Every time I call Nancy Skinner with a concern, she tells me it's not her jurisdiction. I asked her about a bill to label GMOs and she said the people had spoken by voting against proposition 37 even after Monsanto and the GMO industry plastered the media. Nancy talks a lot of cheap talk about the environment and is a top fundraiser for the Democratic Party. -more-
Prop 42, on the ballot for California’s June 4 election, will amend the Constitution to assure that local governments are legally bound to observe open-government requirements. If you prefer transparency to secrecy in your city government, local school board or county government, then the choice is clear: You should vote for Prop 42.
Prop 42 solves a problem that has repeatedly undercut enforcement of California’s open meetings law (the Brown Act) and open records law (the Public Records Act). Because these laws are “mandated” by the Legislature, the state must reimburse local governments for their costs. Although the costs are small (more on that below), local governments and the state inevitably disagree on the amount of reimbursement, and those disagreements, in turn, provide legal cover for local governments to suspend their compliance with parts or all the Brown Act and Public Records Act.
Prop 42 solves this problem once and for all by converting the existing legislative mandate (which has to be reimbursed by the state) into a constitutional mandate (which does not). Prop 42, in other words, unequivocally reallocates these costs to local governments. -more-
Good government depends upon open transparency. We citizens must see how government actions are decided in order to keep our public servants accountable. This requires public access to the same information that government agencies use to conduct their duties, with limited exceptions to protect our common security and individual privacy. This is all spelled out in the California Public Records Act (sections 6250-6270 of the Government Code). -more-
We go to war to bring stability to the international communities but we don't make strict laws at home to protect innocent people from gun violence. -more-
Contrary to the Justice Department’s stated promise “to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis . . . to ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes . .” - it has largely failed in its mission. -more-
Given its unique history of promoting free speech, Berkeley has become a place where people feel emboldened to advocate for their causes. Since my sister attended University of California, Berkeley, I was able to visit the campus and witness a student-driven protest called Occupy Cal whose mission was to protest against the administration raising undergraduate tuition fees by thirty-two percent. The tuition increase would directly affect current and future students’ ability to pay for quality education in a climate where college is increasingly becoming unaffordable. As a high school student, it is my dream to attend UC Berkeley because it delivers world-class higher education for the price of a public school and shapes future activists. Recent attempts to change Berkeley, however, are undermining Berkeley’s reputation as a progressive place. -more-
The brouhaha over Chinese hacking US corporations for commercial gain exposes us to charges of monumental hypocrisy. Are Americans and our allies supposed to believe that our (NSA) hacking is for the greater good and Chinese hacking is inherently evil? It’s nice to be assured by our government that when we hack, our hearts are pure and we would never hack for commercial gain. -more-
Tuesday's (May 20) Berkeley City Council session were disappointing but at least, so far, not a disaster. Only hours before the meeting, a small delegation met with Mayor Tom Bates who assured the delegation that he would support a minimal wage proposal that would peak by 2021 to $15 an hour, which afterward would rise each year according to the rate of inflation. He even said that we should feel free to circulate his progressive document. -more-
The editorial in the May 23 issue of the Planet, endorsing Tony Thurmond for California Assembly over another candidate, Elizabeth Echols, is based on a mistaken premise.
The editorial criticizes a “push poll on behalf of Elizabeth Echols.” I too am very much opposed to such manipulative campaigning. But neither I nor anyone else I know who follows East Bay politics closely has heard of any such Echols-supported poll. When I asked the manager of the Echols campaign, Jamila English, about this matter, she told me that the campaign has done no polling, let alone push polling, whatsoever. -more-
My friend Tommy (not his real name) is the first to describe himself as “not a political animal”. While this is probably true, he’s an astute observer of human nature and a great—and funny—storyteller. Last week he happened to tell what he thought of as just another funny story to mutual friends who DO follow politics.
They quickly realized that what he was describing as an odd call he’d gotten in early May was actually a push poll on behalf of Elizabeth Echols, one of the candidates for State Assembly in District 15, where I live.
So what’s a push poll, for all the rest of us who aren’t political animals? -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
A few words about the tragic killings in Santa Barbara:
First, all the usual exhortations about the senseless availability of weapons with no other purpose than mass killing of humans apply here. The accused killer was able to do more damage faster because of the kind of guns he was able to buy, but let’s not forget that three of the victims were stabbed to death.
Then, there’s the question of why a variety of concerned observers, including family members, could not stop someone who was obviously mentally ill, suicidal if not homicidal as well, in time to prevent a tragedy.
On this site we’ve hosted an excellent pertinent discussion between regular columnists Ralph Stone and Jack Bragen about the advisability of laws requiring involuntary treatment, the “Laura’s Law” category. There are two points which I think were not fully addressed in their thoughtful essays, however. -more-
Outside a late-night restaurant in Downtown Berkeley on election eve, young man to young woman: "Yeah, Berkeley just turned conservative sometime in the 90s."
Outside Nabalom, next to firehouse polling place, on election morning, one grey-haired lady to another, both with "I Voted" stickers: "We used to think we could make a difference." -more-
Since so much of the current issue is election related, and several contributors are on vacation, I’m going to extend it for another week. I’ll just add new articles when they come in and as I have time—scroll down and look for the green “new” tag to make sure you don’t miss anything. I’ll also be posting a few brief reflections of my own on current topics in this “Editor’s Back Fence” section. -more-
The occurrence of loss of various types in our lives seems universal, and happens sooner or later to all people with no exceptions. -more-
The past few weeks have seen the anniversaries of the US Civil Rights Act and the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in “Brown v. Board of Education.” We’ve also had a media frenzy over the dreadful remarks of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. For a brief period, there was a national discussion of racism. But now, for most Americans, it’s over. Why can’t we acknowledge racism continues to be a major national problem, a cancer that threatens the heart of our democracy? Why can’t we do something about it? -more-
Arts & Events
New: Around & About Opera & Theater: Cinnabar's 'Marriage of Figaro' & Fringe Festival at Dominican University
Cinnabar was founded in the 70s as an arts center in an old stucco schoolhouse on a hill by the late Marvin Klebe, an American baritone with a career in Europe who wanted to come home, raise his family—and involve them and the community in arts education and performance. Cinnabar's still going strong today, with the artistic direction of Elly Lichenstein, Klebe's student and protége (who just won a lifetime achievement award from the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle), and management of Terence Keene, late of Berkeley Rep. -more-
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival starts Thursday night and runs through Sunday night at the Castro Theater.
Far from the ragged, blurry images of the popular imagination, the silent era of filmmaking was an age of discovery, innovation, and supreme achievement by pioneers working in a new medium. Motion pictures, at first treated as a mere novelty, came of age as an art form between 1910 and 1920, growing from brief, flickering diversions into full-scale narratives. And in the 1920s, the silent era's final decade, cinema truly blossomed as it gained in sophistication and artistry. In those early years, film—despite the tiredness of the cliché—was a new and universal language, relying almost exclusively on image and motion to convey plot and meaning.
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival showcases the breadth and depth of this first golden age of cinema, presenting the full range of film treasures—from slapstick comedy to noir, from documentary to the avant garde—as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen, in a beautiful 1920s movie palace, and with live musical accompaniment. This year’s program begins Thursday night, May 29, at the Castro Theater with Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which not only features the famous tango that made Rudolph Valentino one of the biggest stars of the era, but honors the hundredth anniversary of the world war that provides the film's backdrop.
The festival continues all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, closing with a 9 p.m. Sunday screening of Buster Keaton's classic 1924 comedy, The Navigator. In between you'll find a wide range of films accompanied by an array of superb musicians that includes the British Film Institute's Stephen Horne, playing his unique blend of piano, flute, and accordion; the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra of Colorado, which replicates the sound of the small orchestras that performed for mid-size silent-era theaters; and the Matti Bye Ensemble of Sweden, which brings a more modern, experimental approach to the art of silent film accompaniment.
For more information or to order tickets, go to silentfilm.org. Tickets are $15-$20 per show, or $225 for a festival pass. The complete program is below. -more-
Berkeley High Jazz Program alumni will honor the late Dr. Herb Wong, father of Berkeley School Jazz Programs, at the 3rd Annual Berkeley High School Jazz Alumni Concert on June 1st. Some of their finest musicians, spanning decades of Berkeley High Jazz, will celebrate his life. -more-
TWO THEATER REVIEWS: 'Over the Tavern' by Actors Ensemble at Live Oak Theater, 'The Crazed' by Central Works at the Berkeley City Club.
Two plays still in production, very different in subject and in style, but similar in that both contain a role that is, in many respects, the motor of the play—and both Berkeley productions found an ideal actor to cast in them. -more-
Plácido Domingo has sung 144 different opera roles in the course of his long and illustrious career. Most of these, of course, were tenor roles, and Domingo is justly considered one of the present era’s greatest tenors. Since 2009, however, Domingo has begun singing baritone roles as well. On Saturday, May 17, 2014, Los Angeles Opera offered the opening night performance of Plácido Domingo in the baritone role of the Cenobite monk Athanael in Jules Massenet’s 1894 opera THAIS. Domingo’s performance in this meaty role was stupendous; and if Plácido Domingo had never been a tenor he might well be remembered as a great baritone. One might even be excused for saying that the role of Athanael in Massenet’s THAIS is perhaps Domingo’s role of a lifetime, so magnificent is his vocal and dramatic portrayal of this tormented monk. -more-
Around & About Theater, Dance, Opera & Music: Isadora's 137th Birthday Celebration; Mendocino Music Festival Preview at City Club; Jaime De Angulo Novella As Opera; Marion Faye's Theater Class
--May 26th is the 137th anniversary of Isadora Duncan's birth in San Francisco. (She grew up in Oakland, taking her artistry and considerable influence in art, manners and fashion to the world while still young.) This year, as for the past 16, Mary Sano, the Bay Area's extraordinary exponent of Duncan Dancing in teaching, choreography and her own exquisite performances, will host a birthday party in her studio on the two days previous, next weekend. -more-
SAN FRANCISCO--In his first U.S. appearance since resigning a year ago, former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will join former Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev and former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer to discuss an insiders’ view of Mideast diplomacy. -more-