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Vehicle burglary report leads police to drugs, weapons

Bay City News
Monday March 20, 2017 - 03:22:00 PM

A report of a vehicle burglary in Berkeley early Sunday morning led to the alleged discovery of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana, as well as pills and an assault weapon during the subsequent service of a search warrant, according to police. 

Officers responded to the vicinity of Durant and Telegraph avenues at 5:23 a.m. on a report of a vehicle burglary in progress, and found three suspects and a parked BMW. 

Steven Manning, a 35-year-old resident of Oakland, matched a witness description of one of the suspects, police said. 

Manning was found to have a warrant out for his arrest. He was allegedly in possession of heroin and more than $2,000. 

Oakland resident Meredith Rains, 32, was also found to have an outstanding arrest warrant. Officers allegedly found a bag of methamphetamine in plain view after removing her from the vehicle. 

A third suspect later identified as Berkeley resident Rakim Washington, 46, allegedly gave false identification to police. They determined that Washington was on parole, and found heroin during a search. 

A scale with marijuana and methamphetamine residue on the surface was allegedly found in the vehicle along with "drug packaging material," police said. 

Officers serving a search warrant at Manning's residence also allegedly found more than 1,000 pills consisting of five different drugs, a loaded assault pistol with no serial number and dozens of rounds of ammunition, a credit card embossing machine, a credit card reader/writer and card stock. 

All three suspects were booked into jail.

What is the purpose of the Intell hearing?

Bruce Joffe
Monday March 20, 2017 - 01:33:00 PM

The Directors of the FBI and the NSA were questioned by the Congressional Intelligence Committee on Russia's roll in subverting our democratic processes and influencing our national and international policies. Democrats focused on the actions and associations of people in the Trump campaign with Russian government agents and oligarchs, as well as the actions of Trump himself. Republicans, on the other hand, focused on the leaks to newspapers that reveal what we now know about Trump's people having questionable contacts with Russia. This distinction is profound. Republicans are more concerned with covering up the leaks than the consequences of what the leakers have revealed. Clearly, the partisan Intelligence Committee should not be the only investigator. America needs an independent, non-partisan investigation of this very serious threat to our national security.

Press Release: Community Tip Leads to Gun and Drug Arrests in Berkeley

Berkeley Police Department via Nixle
Monday March 20, 2017 - 10:21:00 AM

On 3/19/17 at 5:23am, the BPD responded to reports of a possible auto burglary in progress in the area of Durant and Telegraph Avenues. Officers and made contact with three people who were around a parked BMW. One of the car’s occupants matched the description provided by a witness of one of the suspects (later identified as Steven Manning 35, of Oakland). A computer check of Manning revealed he had several outstanding arrest warrants totaling $50,000. Manning was found in possession of suspected heroin. Manning was also found to be carrying over $2,000 in cash. 

Officers then contacted the front passenger of the car (identified as Meredith Rains 32, of Oakland). A records check of Rains revealed she too had an outstanding warrant for her arrest. When Rains was removed from the vehicle a bag containing suspected methamphetamine was in plain view on the floorboard. 

The backseat passenger provided false identification initially to Police but was later identified as Rakim Washington 46, of Berkeley. A computer check revealed that Washington was active to parole and officers conducted a parole search of his person and found suspected heroin.  

A strong odor of fresh marijuana was detected from the inside of the vehicle. A search of the vehicle revealed a digital scale which had suspected methamphetamine and marijuana residue on its surface. Additional drug packaging was recovered. While being booked into the jail, more suspected heroin was found in Manning’s possession. 

The officer responsible for the initial stop obtained a search warrant for Manning’s residence. The search yielded over 1,000 pills of 5 different types narcotics, drug packaging materials, digital scales, a loaded AR-15 assault pistol (without a serial number), dozens of rounds of ammunition, a credit embossing machine, a card reader/writer, and card stock. 

Manning, Washington and Rains were all booked into the City of Berkeley Jail on various charges including gun and drug violations.

Dirt bikers arrested after Berkeley visit

Sasha Futran
Monday March 20, 2017 - 10:18:00 AM

Starting Sunday evening my Nextdoor neighborhood email list became busy with reports of a gang of bikers roaring around Berkeley this weekend. I saw about 30 of them on Saturday at about 5:30 PM coming up University Ave. and turning at the UC campus. A few wore black ski masks. One did some wheelies in the opposite traffic lane. They were mostly all in black. It was a bit alarming, particularly given our political environment nationally. 

A call to Berkeley PD’s Area Coordinator confirmed that this had been happening in Berkeley and other cities over the weekend.. Sunday the Oakland police chased the bikers to the Bay Bridge when CHP and aircraft took over following them. After the group split up CHP stopped some of them. One biker, a woman from San Leandro, was arrested, others detained, and a few dirt bikes and motorcycles impounded. CHP is reviewing video to determine if others can be identified. 

Berkeley’s PD called this the “new side show with cars” that is happening in the Bay Area. On March 8, a group of bikers surrounded a car on Highway 101 and the driver ended up with a broken leg and other injuries. Fifteen were arrested during that incident. It is not known if these were part of the same group.

Press Release: Pathways project for Berkeley's homeless

From the offices of Mayor Arreguin and Councilmember Hahn
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:05:00 PM

Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Sophie Hahn unveiled a bold plan today to address the city’s homeless crisis, creating a path towards permanent housing and services for the City’s approximately 1000 homeless individuals.

The Pathways Project implements both interim and long term measures to address the homeless crisis in Berkeley, for the benefit of homeless individuals and to mitigate impacts on Berkeley’s streets, parks, commercial areas and neighborhoods. Emergency Interim Measures include creation of a STAIR Center (Center for Stability, Navigation and Respite), modelled after San Francisco’s successful Navigation Centers, which will provide a period of respite from the streets, and will connect homeless individuals with housing, family reunification and services. A Bridge Living Community will also be established, similar to the STAIR Center, but designed as a communal village for extended stay. 

The Centerpiece of the Pathways Project is the 1000 Person Plan, which directs city staff to develop a comprehensive, innovative and meaningful plan to house and serve Berkeley’s 1000 homeless, building on existing structures and services and incorporating best practices, and to determine resources and funding that will be needed to realize the plan. This plan would be submitted for approval by Council by the end of 2017, allowing the Council to obtain funding and begin implementation of the 1000 Person Plan in 2018. 

“Addressing homeless has been my biggest priority since day one of my administration” said Mayor Arreguín. “The Pathways Project will be a shining example of what we can achieve collectively to address major issues.” 

Councilmember Hahn said “Homelessness is our home-grown refugee crisis, and we have a moral obligation to act. The Pathways Project offers a comprehensive, compassionate set of solutions that provide immediate humanitarian relief - and create pathways towards permanent housing and services.” 

The Berkeley City Council will be voting on the Pathways Project at its April 4th, 2017 Meeting.



The Irish must stand up against persecution of immigrants

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 17, 2017 - 03:18:00 PM

The Irish half of my byline was acquired by marriage, but I’ve always thought it was more interesting than my own thoroughly WASP birth name. Many of the nuns who taught me at the convent schools I attended were from Irish backgrounds. My firm grip on grammar, as well as the names of the capitals of all the states, and the ability to do arithmetic in my head without calculators are all thanks to Mother Katherine Walsh, R.S.C.J., my fifth grade teacher in St. Louis. On St. Patrick’s Day, I remember envying all the Irish-American girls in my classes at school who added some touch of green to their uniforms every year. You could almost say I’m Irish by adoption.

That’s why I’m so disgusted to see the coterie of rogue Irish that have popped up around the current federal czar. Take Bannon the Bully, for example. 

He’s been swanning about with the nefarious right-wing cardinals who are attempting to undermine the fine liberal pope. It’s not clear to me, if the old rules still apply, how a man now on his third marriage can dare claim to be More Catholic Than The Pope, but since lying and cheating appear to be the trademark traits of the gang he now hangs with, I shouldn’t be surprised. 

Then there’s Kellyanne Conway. She went to the same Catholic women’s college as my cousin Elsa, who’s descended on the other side from a famous Irish political family. Elsa was so annoyed when her college claimed Kellyanne as a famous alumna that she made a special trip to the Women’s March to protest. 

And while we are talking about crooks, how about that sleazy Michael Flynn, busy lining his pockets with rubles? A disgrace to the Irish, though I do know there are bad eggs in every basket. 

How soon we forget! I have somewhere on my bookshelves a cheaply printed volume on crumbling paper which I bought at an estate sale in Michigan, a mid-nineteenth-century publication of the Know-Nothings. For those of you who missed this chapter in your American history class, they were American-born European-descended Protestants who banded together to keep out immigrants of other faiths, including especially the Irish, who came here in the 1840s as refugees escaping the potato famine at home. The book’s packed with lurid fantasies about scandalous goings-on by Catholics, especially between priests and nuns behind convent walls. 

You’d think that some of the highly placed Trumparooneys now trying to ban immigrants might have heard of the days when help-wanted signs said “No Irish Need Apply”. Some of the workers discriminated against might have been their great-grandparents. 

This kind of prejudice continued well past the turn of the 20th century, when a Quaker ancestor living in Iowa was the only person in town willing to sell land to those who wanted to build a Catholic church. He got a whole lot of flack for it, from just the same kind of people who’ve lately been trying to stop a mosque from being built in Sterling, Michigan. 

When I lived in Ann Arbor, Judge Francis O’Brien, an elderly man who grew up there, told me that in his youth at the turn of the century Irish boys were not able to cross State Street without getting beaten up by the German boys who lived on the west side of town. (The reverse might also have been true.) 

Judge O’Brien also told me the story of the St. Patrick’s Battalion, Batallón de San Patricio, a bunch of Irish immigrants who crossed over to join the Mexican army when the United States invaded Mexico in 1848. They became legendary heros in Mexican history. You can read the whole story in, of course, Wikipedia. Or even easier, you can hear the short version, as sung by The Fenians, here: 


It’s particularly ironic, given this historic alliance, that any of today’s Irish-descended Americans have allied themselves with those who are trying to exclude Mexican migrants. 

But all the Irish, American and otherwise, aren’t taken in by Trump. Here’s Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of Ireland laying it all out: 


He points out that there are 50,000 undocumented Irish citizens in the United States today, but of course as White people they are not likely to face deportation. 

Today in New York City the senator is starring in an event which will highlight Irish opposition to Trump, his cronies, and what they all stand for. Proceeds will go to the ACLU. For details, go to IrishStand.org

Japanese Americans in California have been organizing protests against the threats which face Moslems and others, reminding us that their parents and grandparents were subjected to the same kind of oppression during the 1940s. Irish Americans, even those who like me are Irish in name only, must follow their example and stand up for today’s refugees and migrants. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Public Comment

Republican party politics is hurting us

Romila Khanna
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:30:00 PM

The Republicans have voted to replace the existing healthcare plan with a single payer plan. They think this is a good plan for all Americans. I hope they have replaced their own healthcare plan with the new replacement plan. I feel they are just playing party politics and want to repeal all, which helps poor, sick, young and elderly people. It seems they just want to please the Republican tea party groups. It also seems that they are helping the pharmaceutical companies. I don't see the poor and sick getting any benefit from repealing the ACA.  

Can someone from the government address this issue more efficiently so that all of us feel that this is better for us, while it also saves the government a huge amount of money? 

I don't think it is good to take more resources from the most needy and give it to those who don't need it. The speaker of the house Paul Ryan can cast his vote to support the general public. President Trump can wait and think twice before signing the bill into law. He must represent all Americans, not just those of his party. 

“The Test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those that have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little” —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Conflicts of Interest

Jagjit Singh
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:32:00 PM

Conflict of interest charges have been levelled against Donald Trump who has large outstanding loans estimated at $300m with the German Deutsche Bank, his largest creditor.

Deutsche has been accused of massive money-laundering violations of US law beyond its failure to establish adequate financial controls. It is estimated that $10B of Russian money has been transferred to the bank. 

Top Democrats on the House financial services committee, are concerned the Department of Justice will soft-pedal the investigation in deference to Mr. Trump especially as the investigation will fall under the purview of the morally challenged Sessions. There are additional concerns that Trump’s administration extensive ties to Russian government officials and oligarchs would add additional pressure for the Doj to steer clear of serious investigations.

Squeaky Wheel: Lament of the Moderate

Toni Mester
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:09:00 PM

It’s hard being a moderate in Berkeley, because people here think in extremes and like to label people accordingly.

When was the last time that a Berkeley activist was called a moderate, either as an insult or a compliment? I should know because that’s what I’m supposed to be according to a complicated test of political attitudes that I recently took on-line. The questions mostly concerned the role of government, which is the usual determinant of political categories. Conservatives want to limit the reach of government into the lives of the people and stress individual rights and responsibilities. Liberals think that government has a greater role in leveling the playing field, and progressives feel that the government should step in and ensure justice for all. In the test, put together by a professor of political science, I landed squarely in the middle. 

Moderates are adaptive pragmatists, not chameleons entirely, but we choose our fights with caution and a healthy regard for survival. I grew up in Port Jervis, N.Y. a small Republican town during the McCarthy era, and my liberal Democratic parents showed us how to get along in that conservative community. We ran a construction oriented family business, Tri-State Electric Company, and knew just about everybody around town through the business and social activities of my parents including the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, and the Boy Scouts. Every year my father took dozens of boys to Ten Mile River camp for a couple of weeks and called it a vacation. Crime was almost non-existent. I can only remember one homicide in the years I was growing up, and that was in Goshen, the county seat. We only locked our doors when we went away for more than a day. 

Berkeley is almost the polar opposite in politics. Although ten times the size of my hometown and tinged with big city crime, it has the same small town flavor and beautiful natural surroundings. People know each other and contribute to the life of the community. Dozens of people volunteer in commissions, the arts, religion, and all kinds of civic engagement. Most people are just trying to get along.  

My Berkeley years were mostly dedicated to pursuing a career in education. I’m finishing up life on the course that I set for myself in high school, as an independent woman. 

Feminists are akin to flaming radicals in the minds of most conservatives because they think the government shouldn’t interfere in the lives of men, especially rich white men, but should control the lives of women, right down to what we should do with our reproductive organs. If you don’t have control over your own body, whether you’re labeled a conservative, moderate, liberal or progressive takes on a secondary meaning. Conservative women, an important constituent group that supported Trump, think that the government should enforce their personal choice and prevent other women from exercising ours. So much for the freedom caucus! 

Berkeley Rep is now showing a gripping drama “Roe” about abortion rights and the personalities involved in the Supreme Court case “Roe v. Wade” and its aftermath. Not didactic and highly entertaining, “Roe” reminds us about the world outside the Bay Area, both politics and culture.  

But I digress. The point is that political categories tend to fall apart under the scrutiny of a single issue. According to Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside, I am a member of Berkeley’s “progressive wing” because I wrote a couple of checks to Kate Harrison along with six other people she names, including two I’ve never met, out of the hundreds that donated to her campaign. 

I don’t mind if Dinkelspiel labels me a progressive, even though the term used to serve as a euphemism for communist or somebody who voted for Henry Wallace in 1948. I belong to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, which is definitely to the left. We are a lively and sociable group who hold potlucks, picnics, discussions, and actions, some of which I favor more than others. Democrats gain power through an endorsing club, and I could never belong to the “moderate” Berkeley Democratic Club, who supported district elections, the bane of the flatlands. 

In the comments on that article, an anonymous writer said that progressives are anti-development and claimed that he knew me in my 20’s when I was anti-development and that my ideas haven’t changed. 

Just to set the record straight, I moved to Berkeley when I was 30 years old, and for the first six years was involved in publishing and writing for Plexus, a women’s monthly. The first time that I gave any thought to housing issues was in 1978 after I got evicted from an apartment on Roosevelt Street and bought an affordable fixer-upper in West Berkeley. I was far more interested in running rivers and sailing than politics. We only get one youth, and after enduring five years of university study, I was intent on spending time outdoors. 

A couple of years later I got involved in fighting the Santa Fe plan for the waterfront on behalf of the Sierra Club, which wanted the meadow, the brickyard, and the north basin strip as a keystone for the Eastshore Park. The Santa Fe development included 1,500 hotel rooms and 3 million square feet of office, R&D, light industry, and small retail. It wasn’t the development that the Sierra Club hated, but the fact that it stood in the way of the park. Only now, in the era of climate change and Bay rise, is the best argument against that development painfully apparent: much of the area, especially the low-lying meadow, is soon going to be under water. 

Recently, I attended a joint subcommittee meeting of the parks and public works commissions and heard a description of how the king tides are already submerging part of the meadow and lower University Avenue. 

For a couple of years, the waterfront planning process was a breeze, with Marge Macris and Clem Shute at the helm, but when it came time for the adoption of the specific plan, one faction thought we could just take the land by initiative without risking a loss in federal court. Some of my former comrades hissed me when I asked the City Council to sponsor an alternative with a mechanism that ensured a fair return-on-investment. That was the Measures P and Q battle, for those who weren’t here in 1986, and the Sierra Club’s Measure Q not only held up in court but also helped to get Loni Hancock elected Mayor. The history of that and related battles are told by Sierra Club activist Norman LaForce in his book Creating the Eastshore State Park

Even though we won, the P and Q fight left a bitter taste. I went back to minding my own business, but one day I got a notice in the mail about a development called Parker Plaza that included a café, something our neighborhood needed. So I went to the Zoning Adjustments Board meeting, supported the project, and made a friend in one of the developers. A couple of years later, he convinced me to join him on the Bayer Development Agreement advisory committee, where I advocated for the education program as a community benefit. Again, I found myself under attack by extremists who seemed not to care if Berkeley’s largest private employer – a union shop- left town. 

The pressures of work forced me to drop out of the West Berkeley Plan, and I didn’t get involved in local politics again for over fifteen years, primarily as a parks advocate. Parks are my heritage, having grown up just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail, the Pinchot estate, Childs Park, the Delaware River Gap, and all the mysterious and eternal forests of the Catskills. 

Before I depart, I would like to see West Berkeley zoning reformed, specifically those zones (C-W and R-1A) that were mostly overlooked by the West Berkeley Plan. I have appealed projects in these two zones to raise awareness of bad design and related inadequacies in the codes. My core beliefs about development and building design are based on ideas that I gleaned in my youth from reading Architectural Forum, a magazine managed and later published by my uncle Larry. The editor Peter Blake and columnist Jane Jacobs were two of the writers who influenced my thinking. 

What is now called “Smart Growth” is nothing new. Blake hated single use urban zoning and the sprawling suburbs, and Uncle Larry shared these views, although he lived in Long Beach and took the Long Island Railroad to work at Time and Life in Manhattan. The same kind of contradiction happens today when people advocate for the use of transit at meetings and then drive off in their cars. 

My cousin is a retired developer. The last time I visited him in Philadelphia, he regaled me with a story of how his company proposed a medium density subdivision to a suburban city in Pennsylvania. Their project was mostly two and three story townhouses in a park-like setting with trails, a stream, a pond, and gardens. But the city turned them down because the residents and the Council wanted the suburban standard: detached, single-family homes, white picket fences and two-car garages. And despite the attempts of Plan Bay Area to fight sprawl, many of the new outlying developments hold to that old formula, by the looks of the offerings in the real estate section on the Sunday Chronicle. 

Although many Berkeleyans champion smart growth, a majority of residential parcels remain zoned R-1, and new projects in the hills are appealed as often as the flats. Some critics claim that the new Council is anti-development, overlooking their recent denial of three appeals, two in the hills (2702-2706 Shasta Road; 1441 Grizzly Peak) and one in West Berkeley (1737 Tenth Street). 

The slow-growth advocates don’t offer much of an alternative for creating new housing to meet the great demand, especially affordable housing. Transit oriented development has proved to be no panacea in preventing congestion and pollution. Robbed of its green veneer, TOD is just another option. The most environmentally sound alternative is not building anything at all, but that is not realistic or morally acceptable. People need places to live. 

It’s only because politicians, activists and our local population in general are moving to the middle are we seeing some real change, in the overwhelming approval of the Alameda County housing bond in Berkeley (87%), the attempts to house the homeless, and to increase density in the R-1 by allowing ADUs. 

Moderation brings so many benefits that Aristotle wrote an entire book on the subject, The Ethics, that shows us how to live by “the golden mean.” It’s sitting on a shelf around here. Maybe it’s time to see if the old guy has some useful advice for this feminist and the rest of us progressives. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley. 







Housing First Without the Housing, or Parsing the Pathways Project

Carol Denney
Friday March 17, 2017 - 03:43:00 PM

There is some good news. It's good news that Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Councilmember Sophie Hahn's Pathways Project presentation acknowledged that chasing homeless people round and around the town and in and out of jail, Berkeley's approach to homelessness for the last three decades, is not just pointless but expensive.

It's good news that Councilmember Hahn noted aloud that people with nowhere to go were often previously saddled with the descriptor "service resistant" for passing on the opportunity to pack up everything they own to spend one and only one fitful night in loud, crowded circumstances without the comfort of pets and family before being booted back into the cold at the break of dawn. 

But it's ridiculous, not to mention hypocritical, for a town to embrace the principles of "Housing First" as a policy and then firmly shut the door on providing housing, especially in a town that not only is dense with housing, but just legitimized short-term AirB&B-style rentals that ravage rental housing stock by anyone's measure in numbers approximately equal to the number of people sleeping in the cold. 

Berkeley, as a college town, is not only dense with housing, it is dense with housing that turns over in very predictable, profitable waves. It should interest people that the Pathways Project relies intensely on not disturbing this mechanism. Nor does it utilize the inordinate amount of empty spaces which have sat on both the commercial and residential markets sometimes for years without even the application of the vacancy fee included in Berkeley's general plan. 

The recognition in the Pathways Project plan that people need more than one fitful night in a shelter before being tossed back into the streets is laudable, but the one to four-month stays in either the initial shelter or the "village" (for a specially invited and specially selected group) begs the obvious question - what happens to people after that? 

I know, I know, I sound like a whiner. But I can't help but notice there's no campground in this plan. There's no effort to vacate the use of "camping" laws to ticket homeless and poor people or people who sleep in their vehicles; quite the opposite; the Pathways Project assures us that those laws will most assuredly be used after "robust" outreach efforts, the definition of which no reporter at the press conference was interested in requesting. 

Mayor Arreguin insisted that due to the emergency nature of the housing crisis this proposal will not be making the rounds of relevant commissions, but will come before the council in early April in this vague, budget and location-free form, which will make unanimous support easy to find. It will be up to other voices in the community to refuse to allow housing, the element that makes the real difference in changing homelessness nationwide, to be so nonchalantly sidestepped. 


Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:27:00 PM

It used to be said that a man’s word was his bond. Not anymore! In much the same way Mr. Trump stiffed his building contractors, the world’s preeminent deal maker has reneged on his campaign pledge to provide “health coverage for all”. “Death panels” for many Americans may become a reality. Trashing Obamacare was a great campaign slogan but repealing it will dramatically increase bankruptcies and mortality rates. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimates 14 million fewer Americans will have insurance if the ACA is repealed and replaced by Trumpcare. This number would rise to 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026. 

The ‘smoke and mirrors merchants’ of deceit plan to gut Medicaid, give huge tax breaks to the rich and stiff the poor, sick and disabled Americans. The elderly will be particularly hard hit. Rising premiums and deductibles would also make coverage unaffordable to millions of Americans as subsidies are withdrawn. The new proposal would allow insurers to charge five times more for older enrollees. 

Rich Americans would no longer pay for health care subsidies which would give them a huge bonanza of $600 billion tax cut over 10 years. 

This would also be a boon to Funeral Directors. I pity Republicans who are seeking re-election in 2018. This is what the Trump kleptocracy looks like -- impoverishing the many for the enrichment of the wealthy few.

Berkeley Mayor leads City Council in Vote to Sign Off on Police Cooperation Agreements with Trump Regime

James McFadden
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:49:00 PM

Here are some observations on Tuesday night’s vote (3-14-2017) on Police cooperation and aid agreements with various local, state and federal agencies. In summary, the Council passed the bulk of these agreements leaving further discussion regarding cooperation on the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) for a later April 25 meeting. But the interesting thing is how this went down, and what they voted for – including cooperation with ICE. 

Public comment (about 20 people - a good showing for a late night vote) was entirely against the Federal agreements. Some people focused on narrow provisions; others were against any and all cooperation with the Trump regime. 

But before the public comment period even started, the mayor announced he had already decided what should be done and had a motion in hand. I guess this exercise of public comment was, once again, one of false empowerment, just going through the motions and pretending to listen. Some Council members didn't even bother pretending. Droste, Wengraf and Maio spent much of their time on phones or computers -- probably doing email. Worthington didn’t even bother to stay for the vote. I was surprised Kate Harrison didn't show up to speak as a citizen since this was an issue she raised during her campaign (she was sworn in the next day). 

There was a funny moment in the meeting where Linda Maio asked the Police Chief about some details in the agreement and the Chief seemed confused. I suspect he didn’t read the 900+ page agreement and thought he could wing it. When it was clear he couldn’t answer any questions, and all he could do was talk in generalities, Linda stopped asking. I think she was embarrassed for him. 

From my skimming of the document, it appeared to be mostly boilerplate from previous years – probably produced by some previous City Manager’s staffer. The Federal agreements, which I read more carefully, appeared to have flimsy justifications, as Andrea Prichett of Cop Watch pointed out. 

With what we now know about the Trump regime, I can’t for the life of me understand why the City Council would want to make any agreements with ICE, Homeland Security, DEA, Urban Shield, or any other arm of our surveillance state. Aren’t we supposed to be a sanctuary or refuge city? So why do we have an agreement with ICE? 

There was a moment when Sophie Hahn actually responded to the public comments. She drew cheers when she questioned whether the Council should adopt any of these federal agreements with the Trump regime. She knows how to play the crowd. She seemed to have Bartlett and Davila on her side, and even Maio indicated she was leaning against these Federal agreements. 

But alas it was all for show. And just like Tom Bates, Jesse put an end to that discussion with his pre-planned motion to sign off on nearly all the agreements and only reconsider two of the provisions at some later date – crumbs to the public concerns. And our Council members got in line and voted with the mayor, ignoring public testimony. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

Sophie’s playing to the crowd reminded me of a few times when I saw her on the ZAB – agreeing with the public then voting with the majority against the public. I think only Cheryl Davila has shown any real backbone since the new Council formed, voting against the Berkeley armored vehicle back in December. But alas even she folded and voted with the mayor. Perhaps 900+ pages was just too much to read. Or perhaps they still haven’t quite grasped that these agreements are with the Trump regime. 

I'm beginning to think the Council’s problems are structural. Once you are part of the Council majority, you feel compelled to maintain the status quo – to vote with the herd. Various departments - City Manager and Police in this case - apply pressure to the Council – tell them not to change anything. The Police Review Commission pushes back with almost no force, asking for crumbs on UASI and NCRIC. And the Council, afraid to rock the boat, merely tries to please the Chief and City Manager. There seems to be a real reluctance to actually try to fix the system. It seems that it will take a lot more public pressure, and more eloquent speakers, to change the City’s direction away from police militarization and cooperation with the Trump regime. 

If you think some of these agreements will be helpful in protecting our democracy, I suggest you watch the documentary “Do Not Resist,” or read the books “The New Jim Crow” and “Rise of the Warrior Cop”. It will definitely cure you of that nonsense. These federal agreements set us up for a nationalized police force to suppress social movements like Occupy, DAPL, BLM, and the climate movement. 

Using these agreements to usurp local control of our militarized police force, the Trump regime will be able to crush all progressive movements. Don’t believe the nonsense that local ordinances will take precedence – the agreements have outs to allow the police to be the arm of Trump in a crisis. These agreements cement the federalization of our police that began with the Patriot Act – a clear effort to undermine the Posse Comitatus Act. By signing off on these agreements, the Council is making the rope to hang us if we attempt to resist the Trump regime. 


SENIOR POWER: Sophie Hahn, fortunately.

Helen Rippier Wheeler
Wednesday March 15, 2017 - 04:53:00 PM

The library -- and by that, everyone knows I’m referring to the Berkeley Public Library system, what used to be our library -- isn't working in the best interests of seniors and Berkeley residents in general.  

The staff knows that books are still removed if they haven't been checked out in 3 years. No human or professional collegial decision on each book if it has lasting value or interest. One of the principles of library collection and selection management included in accredited graduate schools of library-information science curricula is do not discard based solely on how often, or even if, a given title circulates.  

The current BOLT situation reminds me of an invitation that was included in each Senior Power column beginning in June 2012: All candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders.  

And I sent individual invitations to candidates for Berkeley Mayor and City Councilmembers representing districts 2, 3, 5 and 6 in the November 6, 2012 General Municipal Election. 

I received one statement. From Sophie Hahn, candidate for City Council, District 5, running against incumbent Laurie Capitelli. The City Election website indicates that she is currently a Zoning Commissioner, i.e. a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. She recounts accomplishments and plans relative to the health, housing and transportation of our senior citizens.  

None of the other, thirteen mayoral and councilor candidates provided statements. None, that is. There were acknowledgments of receipt of Senior Power’s invitation email from the offices of candidates Bates, Capitelli, Wengraf, and Worthington. 

What might be concluded from this? Several things, possibly… depending on your reading interests and skills, politics, income, and demographics— mainly age. Is it possible that thirteen candidates consider that they have no accomplishments and plans related to senior citizens’ well-being?  

Of fourteen candidates for Mayor and four Council memberships, there was one clearly concerned with seniors’ health, housing, and transportation. Sophie Hahn wrote

“The diversity among Berkeley’s seniors reflects the diversity of our entire population. There is a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, of family and economic status. Berkeley needs to ensure that all seniors have adequate housing to meet their changing needs, and services to support them.  

"Much of the housing built in the last few years in Berkeley has targeted our student population. I will work for more housing diversity, with developments appropriate for seniors and for families, close to public transportation and other amenities. Funding for affordable housing has been severely restricted at the State and Federal levels, so it’s up to local communities to find ways to support affordable housing. Council recently rejected an approach to obtaining funding for such housing – without even studying the proposal.  

"As a result of ongoing budget deficits and less funding for AC Transit, fares have gone up and services have been cut. This has a disproportionate impact on seniors who often rely on public transit. I will advocate for increased funding for transit and against cuts that have a negative impact on seniors.  

"Our parks, libraries, pools and other public amenities are important for all, and seniors in particular. I support the refurbishment of Berkeley’s pools, including the warm pool, and believe that with good management they can become profit centers for the City. As a member of the Public Library Foundation Board and Chair of the North Berkeley Committee for the Branch Libraries Campaign, I am actively involved in the refurbishment and expansion of our libraries. I believe a community must provide safe and well maintained parks, recreation facilities and other amenities to support the health – and happiness – of all residents, including seniors."  

Cuts to senior programs in Berkeley, including the closing of the West Berkeley Senior Center, are troubling. Cuts in critical safety net programs at the State Level – in-home supportive services and services that help the disabled – compound the problems seniors face. With tight budgets at the local level as well, the need for good government practices, pro-active, fact-based fiscal management and strategic resource allocation becomes even more important.  

Seniors value good government and good financial management, and want to know that tax dollars are wisely spent. But we cannot balance our budget on the backs of seniors and other vulnerable populations. We need to increase transparency around the city’s financial predicament, clarify our priorities and pull the community together to address our common future.” 

Two Months of Trump: There are No Neutrals Here

Bob Burnett
Friday March 17, 2017 - 12:15:00 PM

After two months of Trump, there are clear winners and losers:


1.The Resistance: Individual resistance groups are springing up throughout America. (90 days after the publication of the Indivisible guide there are now more than 6000 Indivisible units; 1000 in California.) Traditional progressive issue advocacy groups -- such as ACLU and Sierra Club -- have grown fangs and are organizing direction action. Regardless of how they voted (or didn't vote) on November 8th, progressives are setting aside their differences and uniting in opposition to the Trump Administration.

Out here on the Left Coast, long-term activists cannot remember when there was so much activist energy. While non-Trump voters continue to be pissed off and depressed, the majority are ready to move out of the doldrums and into the streets.  


2. Rachel Maddow: After the election, many progressives quit watching and reading the news. Fortunately, outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post kept doing their jobs and we managed to learn about the subterranean infrastructure that swept Trump into power. Then Rachel Maddow rose to the occasion. 

Rachel avoided (what has passed for) mainstream news -- Trump's latest tweet, discussion of whether Kellyanne Conway has lost her marbles -- and focused on the really big story: Trump's ties to Russia. As a consequence she's become enormously popular; Politico reported that her ratings are growing three times as fast as those for Fox News . "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." 

3. The Stock Market. Legend has it that on August 24, 410, while the Visigoths sacked Rome, the Roman stock market hit an all-time high due to a surge in demand for fire insurance and private-security services. 

Since the beginning of 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.8 percent. While there are multiple reasons for this, it's safe to say that Wall Street assumes Trump will provide a "business-friendly environment" with fewer regulations and lower taxes. (Bank stocks are up because the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates.) 

Nonetheless, there are those who urge caution, noting that Trump may not deliver on his promises. In addition, Barrons Magazine observed that the S&P 500 companies currently have an average price-earnings ratio of 24.7; adding, "We don’t believe that a 2% growth environment justifies that valuation.” 

Look! Over there! Isn't that a Visigoth? 

4. Trump's favorite Oligarchs. Shortly after the election, I observed that Trump prevailed because he had enlisted the support of American oligarchs such as Robert Mercer . I predicted that Trump would adopt the platform espoused by unsuccessful GOP candidate Ted Cruz including a massive reduction of discretionary spending. "Cruz called for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, plus the Internal Revenue Service. Trump seems open to these changes and has called for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency." The only way to justify the appointment of dimwits such as Betty DeVos, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, and Scott Pruitt is that they are part of Trump's plan to devastate certain aspects of the Federal government, pretty much everything except DOD. 


5. The Republican Party. Two months into the Trump regime, he's already turned on the Republican leadership -- apparently stepping away from Paul Ryan's healthcare legislation. Republicans find themselves in the position of the woman in the fable who took in a wounded snake, nursed it back to health, and then was fatally bitten. The dying woman gasped, "Why did you bite me?" and the snake answered, "You knew I was a snake when you took me in." 

Republicans knew that Trump was a snake but imagined that when he entered the White House, Trump would change. Hah! 

Trump's favorability ratings are underwater, but Republican ratings are worse. 

6. The Democratic Party. Given two months of the Trump disaster, one might think that Americans would be fleeing into the arms of the Democratic Party. But that's not the case. Democrats are only marginally more popular than Republicans. (63 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.) 

The current political climate is: "A pox on both their houses." 

7. Non-political Americans. After California's 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Bay Area residents suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder: we couldn't trust our relationship with "terra firma." That's similar to what most Americans are now experiencing: the ground of our political reality is shifting beneath our feet. 

This malaise is particularly disorienting for non-political Americans. Trump voters can, at least, hold onto their belief that Trump is going to "blow up" Washington -- he's doing that but (I suspect) not in the fashion they anticipated. Progressives can take comfort in the resistance. But where do "innocent bystanders" find refuge? 

A political earthquake has rolled over America. There is no safe footing. As a consequence there are no neutrals. Only the active and the passive. 

In 1931, Kentucky union organizers sang "Which Side Are You On?" with the refrain: "They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there; you'll either be a union man, or a thug for J.H. Blair." This is the song of the resistance: "They say in the U.S. of A., there are no neutrals there; you'll either be a resistance fighter, or a thug for Donald Trump." Or swept away by the wrath of Trump. 

ECLECTIC RANT: Democratic Party has its work cut out for it at the state level

Ralph Stone
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:19:00 PM

The Democrats elected Tom Perez for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairmanship. After winning the vote, Perez appointed Keith Ellison as the Deputy Chair. Perez and Ellison each pledged to rebuild state and local parties, including in Republican-dominated states. The Democrats have much work to do at the state and local level where laws are passed disfavoring Democrats.  

Consider the Republicans have won more political power in 2016 than in any election since at least 1928. Republicans now have a firm grip on the presidency, Congress, and soon the Supreme Court.  

Republicans control both chambers in 32 states, including 17 with veto-proof majorities. Those 32 states cover 61 percent of the U.S. population. Republican also have 33 governors. Democrats, meanwhile, control the legislature in just 13 states, amounting to 28 percent of the country’s population; only five of those chambers have veto-proof majorities.  

State legislative elections rarely make the national news, but they are important because they run the redistricting process for the U.S. House of Representatives. One provision of the Voting Rights Act akes it illegal for states to draw voting districts as a way to disenfranchise minority voters. For example, if African Americans are spread out throughout a state, they might not have sufficient numbers in any one district to elect any representatives at all. Racial gerrymandering is when state legislatures draw their maps in such a way as to ensure whites would win every district. Recently, a district court judge ruled that three congressional districts in Texas had been intentionally designed to dilute and diminish the votes of minorities. 

Twenty-eight states now have right-to-work laws, which lessens union power by allowing workers in unionized workplaces to withhold union fees used to organize and advocate on their behalf. This gives workers a disincentive to join the union, thereby diminishing the union's power. Over the years unions have partnered with the Democratic Party and as unions lose power so does the Democratic Party. Presently, there is a national right-to-work law -- HR 785 -- pending. 

The 15th Amendment prohibits any state or the federal government from denying citizens the right to vote based on "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Yet it took the Voting Rights Act to make the right to vote a reality for African Americans in the South. Unfortunately, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the formula for determining which jurisdiction needed preclearance to change voter registration laws. Preclearance wasn't dead, but Congress never did set up a formula for preclearance after this decision.  

Now -- as of December 2016 -- 31 states enforced voter identification requirements. A total of 16 states required voters to present photo identification, while 15 accepted other forms of identification. Many states have passed laws suppressing access to the polls such as regulations limiting or eliminating early voting, requiring proof of citizenship, limits on mail-in ballots, restrictions on provisional and absentee ballots that can invalidate these ballots, and at least 868 polling places since the Shelby County decision. The laws have a chilling effect on voting. The rationale for these voting restrictions are to prevent voter fraud, a fake problem as it turns out. These laws target minorities, who in the past voted for Democrats. 

It behooves the Democrats to concentrate some of their efforts toward electing democrats at the state and local level as that's where many future candidates hone their skills for later runs for national office.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychological Warfare

Jack Bragen
Friday March 17, 2017 - 11:57:00 AM

Trump's biggest weapon, in his quest to create a dictatorship, is his knowledge of how to manipulate people's perceptions. CNN has been unwittingly suckered into playing a supporting role.  

Probably ninety percent of the things he does are for the purpose of freaking out the liberals, the moderates, and the conservatives—anyone who is smart enough not to be on board with him. Quite intentionally, everything he is doing reflects his effort to appear as villainous as possible.  

I am not unfamiliar with psychological attack. When I was seventeen and first becoming mentally ill, someone who lived near me was waging psychological warfare, and it was a contributing factor in my first psychotic episode. Beforehand, in high school, numerous other students, on a constant basis, hammered into me the idea that I was a "freak" that I was unfit, and that I wasn't a person.  

Psychological warfare can kill.  

We have seen examples of teens ostracized on social media who have, sadly, taken their own lives. We have seen campus bullying in high schools, in some instances culminating with a student obtaining a firearm and shooting fellow students. The effects of bullying, whether this is physical assault, verbal ostracism, or some combination of both, are long lasting and can be devastating for people's development.  

A psychological attack is often more effective when the victim believes she or he is being attacked. However, if the perpetrator feigns that his or her behavior isn't an attack, and his or her intentions are good, this can add confusion, which then becomes another weapon.  

On the other hand, it is important that people who suffer from paranoia should not imagine being attacked, or presume being attacked, when in fact this isn't happening. It is easy for someone who suffers from delusions to become paranoid about others, when they are better off erring on the side of excessive trust. Speaking about how you feel to one or two people (not subject to psychosis, who you fully trust; e.g., a family member or a therapist) in order to do a reality-check, could be part of the solution. 

As adults, psychological warfare could take place in the workplace, or it could be in the form of battles among "frenemies." Adults are every bit as prone to hate as are teens, only the tactics of attack are different.  

Trump is utilizing CNN to make himself look more dangerous, more sinister, more overwhelming, than he would otherwise appear. Trump is not hiding the fact that he wants to do away with democracy in the U.S. CNN's role has been that of a conduit for Trump's induction of fear.  

Trump isn't merely trying to dial back the U.S. to a 1950's culture; his intent is to turn the U.S. into another China or another Russia, and do away with human rights altogether. CNN has been of use to Trump because that network continually conveys the message that the U.S. is becoming Trumpland.  

I don't know much about the Martial Arts. However, in Karate, it is said that you are supposed to yell at your opponent to strike fear into him. Fear is a weapon. When someone is attacking, one of the first things they may try to do is to make you afraid. If they can't do that to you, in most instances, the attack will not proceed.  

Any warfare will have a psychological element. In WWII, there were the Kamikaze pilots who would intentionally crash their fighter planes into a ship. They were intentionally not provided with enough fuel to fly back home. Kamikaze pilots and today's suicide bombers have been very effective psychological weapons. Not only are they physically effective attacks, they have a demoralizing and fear-inducing effect.  

Trump has fed on his opposition, and has actually used his opposition to his advantage. When the news media conveys the President's behavior as "unprecedented," and when he is painted as an unstoppable force, one bent on achieving domination and oppression, it gets people upset--and rightly so.  

However, President Trump isn't unstoppable. And, I believe that our Constitution coupled with the dedication of Americans in positions of power, not to mention concerned citizens who are becoming involved in the democratic process, will cause this aspiring dictator to be rendered impotent, voted out of office, or perhaps impeached.  

The "fallout" of widespread psychological warfare, for persons with mental illness—it is far more difficult to remain emotionally stable. Society has become filled with hate and fear, and this makes the environment caustic for those of us trying to get well.  

If you believe someone is waging psychological warfare, the first thing to do is to discover whether your beliefs are founded, or not. It could easily be something you're merely imagining.  

Secondly, attempting any sort of counterattack is a big mistake. Your best bet is to focus on your own mental health. If someone is bad for you, maybe you should find a way to get some distance from her or him.  

You do not need to be a doormat, however. If someone is bullying you in a way that you can actually document, then you should take notes on the specific incidents. These can be given to authorities or to the appropriate person who is in a position to be of help.  

By focusing on yourself, on your own mental health, you are protecting yourself in the best possible way. Attempts at a psychological counterattack, or any form of counter-aggression, will create more problems.  

A final word: Most people are not "out to get you." Most people are focused on themselves, on their own perceptions of being attacked, and do not have time, energy, or inclination to sabotage your life. In most cases, when a paranoid person believes people are plotting against he or she, this is a delusion and should be dealt with in therapy or with a psychiatrist's help. There are exceptions, but they are relatively rare.  

Arts & Events

New: LA VOIX HUMAINE: “Can You Hear Me Now?”

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday March 19, 2017 - 02:12:00 PM

Under the auspices of San Francisco Opera Lab, Francis Poulenc’s one-act opera La Voix Humaine, set to a text by Jean Cocteau, was given three performances March 11, 14, and 17 at Taube Atrium Theatre. Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, who was last heard here in 2015 as Cassandre in Berlioz’s Les Troyens and as Cesira in the world premiere of Marco Tutino’s Two Women, sang the role of the never-named woman whose voice is the only one we hear in La Voix Humaine as she talks on the telephone with her lover of five years who is now breaking up with her, much to her distress. We hear nothing of the man on the other end of the phone line. The full weight of this opera must be carried by one singing actress who can make it work dramatically. 

As if this weren’t daunting enough, the play by Cocteau has been famously performed by Anna Magnani in Italian in the 1948 film Una voce humana directed by Roberto Rossellini, and by Ingrid Bergman in an English version made for ABC Stage 67 in 1976. Magnani and Bergman are hard acts to follow; and Anna Caterina Antonacci certainly commands our respect for taking on such a task. Moreover, she was brilliant in the role of the woman ‘of a certain age’ who finds herself jilted by her lover. 

Cocteau wrote the play in 1930, basing it on the breakup of a homosexual couple he knew. In writing the play, however, Cocteau made it about a heterosexual woman who is left in the lurch by her lover. Cocteau, himself a gay man, wasn’t particularly sympathetic to his woman protagonist in La Voix Humaine. In fact, many see this story – play and/or opera – as quite misogynist. The female protagonist, Elle, in La Voix Humaine is almost a caricature of the grasping woman who will do and say anything in the faint hope of keeping her man. She lies to her ex-lover, telling him at one point she is wearing his favorite dress though she reveals later she is wearing something else. She lies about spending the day enjoyably with a woman friend, Martha, when in fact she reveals later that she did no such thing and was so distressed she couldn’t even eat. She also lies when she says repeatedly that she’s taking their breakup quite well, when it becomes more and more clear as the nearly 40-minute phone call develops that she is a complete mess, and has even attempted suicide the night before. She also catches her lover in a lie, for though at one point we infer from the questions she asks that he says he is calling her from his place; when their conversation is suddenly cut off and the line goes dead, she calls him back at his place, only to get the servant Joseph who apparently informs her that “Monsieur is not in and won’t be returning home tonight.” (She repeats his words, which is how we know what Joseph said.) We --and she-- infer that her lover has called her from his new mistress’s place.  

It’s all a bit campy and melodramatic, and it reminds me of several scenes in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant). In any case, Anna Caterina Antonacci handled all the dramatic difficulties of this role quite splendidly, even throwing herself on the floor at one point à la Petra von Kant. Anna Caterina Antonacci’s voice is sumptuous, and she used it expressively in La Voix Humaine. At times, in a vain effort to win back her ex-lover, she sang caressingly. At other times, when suffering from wounded pride, her voice became strident. Ms. Antonacci’s French was totally comprehensible in La Voix Humaine, though this was by no means always the case in the French chansons she performed that served as the first half of the evening’s program. The reason for this may lie in the accompaniment of pianist Donald Sulzon, who tended to overplay the piano part in the art songs, whereas in La Voix Humaine he played a more discreet role, only blaring forth at times when the dramatic situation called for such an eruption. Incidentally, the score for La Voix Humaine used in these performances was not the original orchestral score composed by Poulenc for the opera’s 1959 premiere but rather an alternative piano score he composed, full of angular motifs and jabbing rhythms. 

Poulenc and Cocteau had known one another for many years going back to the time when Serge Diaghelev first brought his Ballets Russes to Paris, then subsequently established his dance company in Monte Carlo. Poulenc, an openly gay man, and his partner, fellow composer Georges Auric, had spent many happy years in Monte Carlo, “in the imperial shade of Diaghelev,” as Poulenc put it. When in 1959 Poulenc composed the music for La Voix Humaine, Cocteau served as set and costume designer, director, and personal coach to Poulenc’s soprano, Denise Duval. Two years later, Poulenc and Cocteau again joined forces in another one-act, one-person opera featuring Denise Duval, La Dame de Monte Carlo, which I reviewed in the September 26, 2016 issue of this paper when it was presented by Island City Opera.  

As for the French art songs that formed the first half of this Opera Lab program, the song “La mort d’Ophélie”(“The Death of Ophelia”) by Hector Berlioz was a morbidly dramatic rendering of Ophelia’s drowning from Shakespeare’s Hamlet; the songs in the collection “Chansons de Bilitis” by Claude Debussy were shimmering and sensuous; and the songs of “La fraîcheur et le feu” (“The Coolness and the Fire”) by Francis Poulenc set to texts by Paul Éluard were richly allusive. Pity, however, that the words sung in French in these songs were often overwhelmed by the piano accompaniment. Happily, this was not at all a factor in La Voix Humaine, which was a sheer tour de force for Anna Caterina Antonacci.

Handel’s Atalanta at San Francisco Conservatory of Music

reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday March 17, 2017 - 04:25:00 PM

The opera Atalanta by George Friederic Handel received a semi-staged production last weekend, March 11-2, at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Handel composed Atalanta for the events celebrating the 1736 wedding of Frederick, Prince of Wales, to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. The story of Atalanta is drawn from the pastoral tradition of ancient Greek writers, who delighted in depicting the simple life of shepherds and nymphs. Here the story revolves around two couples: the shepherd Aminta and the nymph Irene, and the noble couple comprised of Meleagro, King of Aetolia, and Atalanta, Princess of Arcadia. To complicate matters, both Meleagro and Atalanta appear in disguise, he as the shepherd Tirsi, she as the huntress Amarilli. In a ‘back-story’, Atalanta had rebuffed the marriage proposal of Meleagro and had gone off instead to imitate the chaste goddess of the hunt, Artemis.  

Atalanta opens with an extended overture featuring the Baroque trumpet, artfully played by Dominic Favia at the Sunday matinee I attended. Then Meleagro appears onstage, singing the cavatina, “Care selve” (“Dear forests”). Sunday’s Meleagro was sung in a trousers role by soprano Morgan Balfour, who right from the outset wowed the audience with her brilliant coloratura. Balfour’s voice is rich in color and her technique is impeccable. This is a young singer to watch! Meleagro’s purpose in coming to these forests, he declares, is “in search of my heart.” In short, he hopes to persuade Atalanta to reciprocate his love.  

Meleagro is joined onstage by the shepherd Aminta, sung on Sunday by tenor James Hogan. Aminta confides to Meleagro his love for the nymph Irene, who treats him with disdain. The two men commiserate with one another before exiting the stage. Irene enters and confides to her father that though she loves Aminta, she is annoyed by the dowry conditions he put on their proposed engagement. She says she wants to test Aminta. Irene was sung on Sunday by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Dickerson, who possesses fine vocal technique and a good comic sense. Her father, Nicandro, was sung by baritone Bradley Kynard, who endowed his character with stern disapproval of his daughter’s desire to test rather than trust Aminta.  

When Atalanta first appears, disguised as Amarilli, she sings a rousing hunt song in which she urges her hunting party to give chase to a wild boar that has been spotted. When she kills the boar, she exults in her success, though she wonders if she will as easily subdue the pangs of her own heart. At Sunday’s performance Atalanta was sung by Sarah Szeibel, whose soprano is a bit darker than that of Morgan Balfour, which will later bring a welcome contrast/complement to their duets. As Act I closes, Meleagro voices his resolve to restrain his passion for the moment and rely on patience and hope. 

In Act II, Atalanta confesses to herself her attraction to Tirsi. Not realizing that he is Meleagro in disguise, she laments the disparity in their social standing. Meleagro overhears Atalanta’s remarks and, delighted, tries to clear up her confusion. However, he is tongue-tied in his efforts, and Atalanta continues to believe he is the simple shepherd Tirsi. Here Morgan Balfour and Sarah Szeibel sang a lively duet full of coloratura embellishments. There ensue further confusions when Meleagro/Tirsi enlists Irene’s help, which she then uses to inflame Aminta’s jealousy, and Atalanta/Amarilli enlists Aminta’s help, which he then uses to make Irene jealous. Tenor James Hogan as Aminta sang splendidly in his revenge aria, and he displayed a fine comic sense, much to Irene’s dismay. Left alone, Irene sings of the sorrow in her heart now that she thinks she has lost Aminta, who seems happily loved by Amarilli. Meleagro overhears Irene’s lament and thinks he has lost Atalanta/Amarilli. Overcome with despair, Meleagro faints. When he comes to, Amarilli declares her love for him, though she still believes he is the shepherd Tirsi. Irene’s father, Nicandro, enters with Irene and Aminta, who have reconciled, and he clears up the confusion of identities, asking everyone to celebrate the coming union of the two couples. Meleagro and Atalanta now sing the duet, “Caro/Cara,” in which they pledge their love to one another. A final fanfare ensues, with once again the Baroque trumpet leading the way, as all five singers and a small chorus welcome the union of the two couples.  

Corey Jamason conducted the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Baroque Ensemble, and Jamason shared directorial credits with Elisabeth Reed. This semi-staged production of Atalanta offered a whimsical, light-hearted opera that provided a wonderful introductory vehicle for a singer to watch in soprano Morgan Balfour, who seemingly has a great future in store for her.  

Theater Review: 'Bus Stop' at Ross Valley Players

Ken Bullock
Friday March 17, 2017 - 12:05:00 PM

One of the genuinely iconic pictures of modern Americana—and its discontents—is Edward Hopper's famed and oft-reproduced 1942 painting, 'Nighthawks,' depicting "Night + brilliant interior of cheap restaurant," as Hopper's wife Jo noted in the log they kept of each painting he did ... Four figures inside, glass all round, bathed in light as if on display to the lonely night streets of New York outside that offer stark contrast.

Thirteen years later, William Inge's play, 'Bus Stop,' became a hit on Broadway and within a year, was made into a somewhat different movie adaptation in Hollywood, also a hit, starring Marilyn Monroe. The movie's usually remembered as a star vehicle, the play as postwar Americana.  

But, like Hopper's phenomenal image, Inge's play isn't so naïve a rendering as it has seemed to be to many. The vaunted individualism of America's contrasted in both cases by its loneliness, its casual facelessness, 'Bus Stop' being set far from New York in a small town in Kansas on a freezing, snowy night.
And it plays off milieu drama too, in that half of its characters are transients who don't know each other, except for two cowboys—and the new (and apparently former) fiancée of one of them, a saloon singer who barely has met the young rodeo star who insists she'll marry him and move to remote Montana.
Those locals in the café where the bus pulls in to wait out the worst of a storm that's shut down the roads are better acquainted, but no less isolated—the small town young woman, bubbling with curiosity, waiting tables; her boss, the café's "patronne;" the local sheriff ...
And all are lonely, reaching out in one way or another for contact, while watching the sometimes comic, sometimes sordid spectacle, a battle of earnestness and indecision between bronco buster and bar singer.
Ross Valley Players, one of the longest-running community theaters in the state, producing in the venerable Barn at the old Marin Art & Garden Center for decades, has mounted a pretty satisfying version of one of the central plays by the playwright who, with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, was often thought of as one of the important American playwrights of the 50s and early 60s.
Bookending the action are two troupers, Mary Ann Rogers as Grace, owner of the counter restaurant and scene of the action, and Aeron Macintyre as Virgil, "Virg," mentor to Bo (played with boisterousness andsensitivity by Andrew Morris), the headstrong cowboy. Grace is a local, Virg traveling through—though they close the action of the play together, Virg become a drifter who Grace shuts out in the cold when she closes shop.
(And Virg provides a couple brief musical interludes, one by singing a Hank Williams classic.)
The duos or couples, some overlapping, are a curiosity—besides Virg and Bo, Grace and waitress Elma (a vibrant Ariana Mahallati), there's the ruffled lovebirds, Bo and Cherie (played with humor by Laura Peterson as a country girl just citified enough to resist the country's loneliness in favor of the city's), Elma and itinerant declared ex-professor Dr. Lyman (Ron Dritz, alternating spouting Shakespeare, swigging from a mickey and expressing self-contempt)—and Grace and Carl, the bus driver, carrying on a little offstage ... Steve Price as Sheriff Will Masters is the only loner onstage—and the only one really committed to his job—except, perhaps, when he reluctantly has to mix it up with fractious Bo.
The chance milieu of travelers and locals, a temporary community, is what gives the play its drama and relevance, the individual characters pairing off explore and often reverse their stereotypes. And it's the sense of ensemble that the cast, directed by Christian Haines, brings to the drama of an unfamiliar collective that, by accident, falls together and stands revealed as individuals that makes this production worth seeing. The show's running two more weekends.
Fridays, Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2 at The Barn, Marin Art & Garden Center, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at Lagunitas Road, Ross (Drake Blvd.west from 580 after Richmond-San Rafael Bridge at San Quentin), $12-$27— RossValleyPlayers.com or call (415) 456-9555

AROUND AND ABOUT Film: Rob Stewart Memorial Screening, Two Ecology Documentaries at East Bay Media Center

Ken Bullock
Friday March 17, 2017 - 12:03:00 PM

East Bay Media Center will present three memorial screenings of Rob Stewart's cology documentaries 'Sharkwater' (2008, which helped in the banning of shark finning, winning 22 international awards, and 'Revolution' (2012), receipient of 36 international awards, this Friday and Saturday, March 17 & 18, at 7, Sunday, March 19 at 2, at the Center, 1939 Addison, between MLK & Milvia, downtown Berkeley. Tickets: $6, at the door or online at www.eastbaymediacenter.com or email: maketv@ aol.com 843-3699 

Stewart, 37, was killed in a scuba diving accident on February 3 in Florida during filming of a new documentary.