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Updated: Berkeley Police Are Investigating Derby Street Homicde

By Bay City News
Thursday July 18, 2013 - 08:53:00 AM

Police are investigating the shooting death of a man in South Berkeley last night, a police spokeswoman said.

The shooting was reported at 6:52 p.m. in the 1800 block of Derby Street between Grant Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Officer Jennifer Coats said.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are investigating and talking to witnesses in the area but have not identified any suspects, Coats said.

A story from the Bay Area News Group has identified the victim as a Berkeley High graduate, Jermaine Davis, 26. 

Anyone with information about the shooting has been asked to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-5980 or (510) 981-5900.

New: Berkeley Police Investigate Hit-and-Run Death

By Zack Farmer ( BCN)
Monday July 15, 2013 - 05:30:00 PM

Berkeley police are investigating a fatal hit-and-run incident that occurred early this morning on the University Avenue overpass above Interstate Highway 80, a police spokeswoman said.  

An officer was patrolling west Berkeley when he discovered a man in the westbound lanes on the overpass at 5:10 a.m., Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

Berkeley Fire Department personnel responded and pronounced the man dead at the scene, she said. 

A preliminary investigation indicated that a vehicle had struck him, Coats said. There are no sidewalks on the overpass. 

The overpass was initially shut down after the body was discovered, but eastbound lanes soon reopened, followed by westbound lanes at about 10:45 a.m., Coats said. 

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call police at (510) 981-5980 or at (510) 981-5900.

New: Napolitano to Be UC President

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Friday July 12, 2013 - 08:57:00 AM

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been nominated for appointment as president of the University of California, UC officials said today. 

UC Regent Sherry Lansing, who chaired the special selection committee for a new president, said in a statement that Napolitano was recommended by the committee in a unanimous vote after a review of more than 300 candidates. 

"Secretary Napolitano is a distinguished and dedicated public servant who has earned trust at the highest, most critical levels of our country's government," Lansing said. 

Prior to serving as Homeland Security Secretary, Napolitano was governor of Arizona. 

Her Bay Area ties include graduating from Santa Clara University as the school's first female valedictorian, according to UC officials. The full UC Board of Regents will consider the recommendation at its meeting on Thursday in San Francisco. 

Current UC president Mark Yudof announced earlier this year that he was stepping down at the end of August after more than five years in the post. 

If appointed, Napolitano would be the first female president in the 145-year history of the University of California. 

"I am both honored and excited by the prospect of serving as president of the University of California," Napolitano said in a statement. 

"If appointed, I intend to reach out and listen to chancellors, to faculty, to students, to the state's political leaders, to regents, to the heads of the other public higher education systems and, of course, to President Yudof and his team, who have done so much to steer the University of California through some extremely rough waters," she said.

New: Berkeley's Telegraph Ave. Regains Its Mojo;
Struggling Street Fair On A Roll;
Record Rains Followed By Record Heat
And A Landmark Student Building Reduced To Rubble

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday July 17, 2013 - 11:29:00 AM

It was a wild and bumpy Berkeley Week. Even Bette Davis would be impressed. 

First Berkeley watched forlorn Telegraph Avenue fight for its life, then came the rains to wash˙away all hopes. Bad weather haunted the first three Sunday Fests, but that bad weather was typical Bay Area summer chill and fog. Weather so good we didn't know it until we lost it. 

Then two days of rain broke rainfall records. Then came the heat. Highs were no more than 5-10 degrees above normal, but the duration of the heat wave set longevity records. 

Forth of July (ninth day of hear-wave) just short of 80, as predicted. 

Several Bay Area cities opened cooling shelters; health warnings--issued. 

Through this Job-like-plagues period Berkeley staggered. 

Then members of the Cal Marching band became the symbol of an upward Telegraph trend in a photo by Ted Friedman that was media-published twice. Saxophones raised to the heavens. 

And that upward symbol did portend better times the next week as students and vendors trickled back to the Ave. 

Despite a spate of gloom-and-doom major media pieces counting Telegraph out, Telegraph Ave. still has cachet. MTV has been filming at Moe's books, reminding old Berkeleyans of the famous Dustin Hoffman shoot at the Caffe Mediterraneum (the Graduate, 1957). 

A long line of Kentucky bibliophiles filed into Moe's this week. They come every year to the world-famous store, according to a Moe's staffer. 

A tourist bus pulled up on the avenue last week with twenty-five Diablo Valley College students. 

An Asian tour group toured the avenue on the 4th. 

Except for subsequent bad weather, Telegraph was finding what one pundit called it's [lost] mojo. 

A few melted ice-creams and sweaty brows did not reduce a growing flow of pedestrians, more than in the previous four weeks combined. Some of these people are from Southern California, part of a state-wide heat wave, (Death Valley: 127 degrees). Some like it hot. 


To photographers who daily shot the picky deconstruction of the student senate and Daily Californian offices (photographers like award-winning Oakland Tribune photographer David Yee, who shot for the Daily Cal in the 80s) the shoot was reminiscent of the Sequoia Apartment Bldg. fire almost two years ago. 

The plot was the same. Venerable buildings felled by natural disasters (fire and residual earthquake effects.) Watching these tear-downs is like a movie where you know the ending but can't turn away. 

The deconstructed buildings did not crash, but were methodically picked to rubble by a cherry-picking jaw of death. 

Great fun for the adolescent mentality, a basic trait of photographers—and voyeurs, too. 


Follow Ted Friedman at berkeleyreporter.com. 



The Editor's Back Fence

Letters We Never Finished Reading

Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 11:13:00 PM

"Greetings, I appreciate you taking the time to read my email. I have pasted below a press release for a editing and book shepherding service..."

What's Happening Here

Becky O'Malley
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 02:17:00 PM

This issue was late to be published and contained just a few pieces from our faithful regulars, due to the editor's being occupied with personal matters. I'm just going to keep posting pieces as they come in, but I hope to be able to resume a more regular schedule before too long.


Odd Bodkins: The bear wants beer. (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday July 11, 2013 - 09:53:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: They left a mess you wouldn't believe. (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday July 11, 2013 - 09:31:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Sign the NAACP Petition to the Justice Department for Justice for Trayvon Martin

By Ben Jealous
Tuesday July 16, 2013 - 02:15:00 PM

As of Tuesday morning, one million people have signed an NAACP petition asking the Department of Justice to pursue federal and civil rights charges against George Zimmerman after he was founded not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin. 

I knew I was not alone in my outrage, anger, and heartbreak over this decision. When a teenager's life is taken, and there is no accountability for the man who killed him, nothing seems right in the world. 

But we cannot let these emotions rule us. Instead, in these most challenging of times, we are called to act. That begins with the pursuit of justice for Trayvon Martin, and it continues with a comprehensive campaign to fight the underlying problems factors that led to his death. 

The first step is clear: we must make sure that George Zimmerman is held accountable for his actions. The jury's decision must be respected and the rule of law upheld, but that does not mean the investigation should be considered complete. The trial judge's decision to discount debate about race or racial profiling in the courtroom leaves open questions about Zimmerman's motivation and intent. 

The Department of Justice has the power to investigate whether Zimmerman's actions constitute a hate crime under federal law. The Department has closely monitored the case since March, and only put their investigation on hold to respect the state's trial. Since the verdict and the overwhelming response, Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to re-open his investigation. 

As he told the Delta Sigma Theta convention this week, "We are determined to meet division and This is the power of one million voices. One voice in angry protest can be ignored, but when one million people speak as one - and thousands more take to the street in peaceful protest, rallies and vigils - we can change the world. 

So what comes next? As we closely follow the Department of Justice's investigation, we must continue to draw on our collective outrage and refuse to let the memory of Trayvon Martin fade from the hearts and minds of the nation. 

Trayvon Martin's death did not occur in a vacuum. Ours was supposed to be the first generation of black Americans to be judged not by our race or the color of our skin. Instead, we find ourselves to be the most murdered generation in the country and the most incarcerated on the planet. Meanwhile, racial profiling continues to rear its ugly head in law enforcement and civilian life alike. 


At this moment we have a chance to address some of these societal ills. We have a chance to challenge racial profiling in all its forms, and to fight the underlying cause of violence in our communities - by the good guys and bad guys alike. 


This last year we have already changed the world. Not a single state in the continental United States has passed a "stand your ground" law in 2013 - the first time in eight years. And last month the New York City Council passed a strong bill banning the racially abusive practice of "stop and frisk" policing, after hundreds of thousands of people protested in the name of Trayvon. 


We have a choice. We can be felled by our sorrows over the jury's decision. Or we can turn our frustration into action. We will demand the Department of Justice address the travesties of this tragedy. We will advance our movement to end racial profiling in America. 


And with one million people at our back, we will make sure that the memory Trayvon Martin never fades from the hearts and minds of this nation. 

Sign the NAACP's petition at www.naacp.org. 


Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.

New: Berkeley Residents Should Study "One Bay Area Plan"

By Martha Nicoloff
Friday July 12, 2013 - 06:50:00 PM

Only recently has the text of "One Bay Area Plan" been available. Berkeley citizens complain they have not had enough time to study the 155 page document. Throughout the text were an incredible number of acronyms, (see list below) almost like a code for planners. 

One Bay Area Plan includes nine counties, 101 cities, 7,000 square miles, and 7,000,000 people. By 2040 the population of the Bay Area is expected to reach 9,000,000, and the optimistic projection is made for new jobs at 1,100,000, mostly in the south Bay. 

65% of the new housing will be multi units for "families"; many will be immigrants with large families and little education. 

The plan expects them to be at the lower end of the work force. 

To receive funding multi-units must contain low income units to house the work force closer to jobs. 

The following counties are projected to have the greatest population growth: Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara. 

"Build housing and jobs will come", the Plan assures us that tech industries will expand Future development will be a more compact pattern, in "Priority Development Areas" along high quality transit corridors, and within a half-mile from BART stations. 

The Plan defines medium density as up to 40 units per acre; this is about four times the number allowed in Berkeley's Zoning Ordinance. The planners want new development in the "Priority Development Areas" to be free of a required Environmental Impact Report; they claim it is a tool used by opponents to halt projects. The permitting process also must be expedited, Public Hearings and Appeals are expensive delays for the developer. 

Six hundred and seventy one miles of existing roads, rail and shore line could be flooded by sea-rise as a consequence of global warming. Affected freeways must be redesigned and funding could be a problem. To Increase taxes to pay for the road improvements a measure must receive 2/3 vote on the ballot. The planners want approval to be changed to 55% of the vote. 

ABAG and MTC admit they will work strategically to replace the Redevelopment Agency as a funding source (page 129)and other powers as well. 

Call your Representative in City Hall and tell them to oppose the Plan, scheduled for passage on the 18th of this month. 


ABAG - Association of Bay Area Governments 

BAAQMD - Bay Area Air Quality Management District 

BRT - Bus Rapid Transit CEQA - CaliforniaEnvironmental Quality Act 

CHA - Congestion Management Agencies 

FPI - Freeway Performance Initiative 

GHG - Green House Gasses 

GRP - Gross Regional Product 

HOT- High Occupancy Toll 

HOV - High Occupancy Vehicle 

MTC - Metropolitan Transportation Commission 

OBAG - One Bay Area Grant 

PASS - Program For Arterial Systems Synchronization 

PCI - Pavement Condition Index 

PM - Particulate Matter 

PDC - Priority Conservation Areas 

PDA - Priority Development Area 

RHNA - Regional Housing Need Allocation 

RTP - Regional Transportation Plan 

SCS - Sustainable Communities Project 

STIP - Surface Transportation Project 

TAC - Toxic Air Contaminates 

TOAH - Transit Oriented Affordable Housing 

TPP - Transit Priority Project 

UGB - Urban Growth Boundaries 

VMT - Vehicle Miles Traveled 

YOS - Year Of Expansion

July Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday July 11, 2013 - 09:26:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


ECLECTIC RANT: Snowden and the NSA Surveillance Program

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 09:01:00 AM

Much, maybe too much, has been reported on Edward Snowden's leaking of classified information, the NSA Surveillance Program, and Snowden's desperate attempts to find asylum. I would just add a brief comment, 

In my view Edward Snowden is neither a hero nor a villain. He broke the law as an act of conscience. As a result of his act of civil disobedience, he will probably spend his life in exile.  

Taking advantage of the public's concern for security in the wake of 9/11, our government initiated the NSA Surveillance Program in 2002. Then security trumped privacy concerns and still does in many quarters. A stunning shock such as 9/11 was the cover needed to implement i-- in the name of security -- Draconian measures such as the NSA Surveillance Program, which in ordinary times would have been vigorously opposed by the populace. (See Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Dpctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.) 

If the American public is shocked at the NSA Surveillance Program, then they haven't been paying attention. As early as 2005, the New York Times exposed the government's "warrantless eavesdropping," which forced NSA to open the program to broader review. In fact, there is evidence that the surveillance program had been cleansing itself well before Snowden's leaks. No doubt, Snowden's leaks will help speed the cleansing process.

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Poison Gas & Arabian Tales

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 08:39:00 AM

“It is not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark. It’s not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack, it is that we are not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack.”

--Jean-Pascal Zanders, former senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies

Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, cracked the case of the “Silver Blaze” by concluding that a murder and theft had to be an inside job because the watchdog never barked. It would be a good idea to keep this in mind when it comes to determining whether the Syrian government used poison gas against its opponents. And since the Obama administration is citing “proof” that the chemical warfare agent sarin was used by the Syrian government as the basis for escalating its intervention in the two-year old civil war, this is hardly an academic exercise.

Like Holmes, start with the facts. 

According to French, British, Israeli and U.S. intelligence services, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad used sarin on at least 10 different occasions, resulting in the deaths of some 100 to 150 people. The “proof” for this is based on tissue and blood samples—British intelligence claims contaminated soil as well—from victims of the attacks. The samples were gathered in Syria, taken to Turkey, and turned over to the intelligence services and the United Nations. 

The French newspaper Le Monde also reports that one of its reporters suffered blurred vision and nausea during one of these attacks, and the paper has published photos of purported victims being treated. There is, as well, a video of insurgent fighters donning gas masks. Besides the photos and video images, no evidence has been released to the press.  

What about the beast itself? 

The chemical was invented in Germany in 1938 as a pesticide. It is a nerve agent—as opposed to a “blistering agent” like mustard gas—and kills by blocking the body’s ability to control the chemical that allows muscles to turn themselves off. As the Office of Emergency Management puts it, “Without an ‘off switch,’ the glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated. They may tire and no longer be able to sustain breathing function.” 

You suffocate. 

Sarin is a colorless and odorless liquid, and it is “volatile”—that is, it quickly turns into a gas. Even in small concentrations, it is very deadly and can kill within minutes. It is absorbed through the skin or lungs and can contaminate clothing for up to 30 minutes. The British created a far deadlier and less volatile variant of sarin called V. It was an errant VX cloud from the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground that killed some 6,000 sheep in Utah’s Skull Valley in 1968. 

Many countries have chemical weapons, but some, including the U.S. and Russia, are in the process of destroying them under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Sarin is considered a “weapon of mass destruction” under UN Resolution 687, although that label is a bit of a misnomer. It is certainly bad stuff. In 1988 Saddam Hussein used sarin to kill several thousand Kurds in the city of Halabja, and sarin and mustard gas were used during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). It is estimated that gas inflicted about 5 percent of Iran’s casualties in that war. 

But poison gas is generally considered more of a nuisance than a weapon capable of creating large numbers of dead and wounded. It only accounted for 1 percent of the casualties in World War I, and doesn’t compare with a real weapon of mass destruction. The two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed some 250,000 people and injured hundreds of thousands more. And by today’s standard of nuclear weapons, those bombs were tiny. 

While chemical weapons are scary, they are no more indiscriminate in what they kill than 1,000 lb bombs and cluster weapons, indeed much of the arsenals of modern armies. Small arms, for instance, inflict 90 percent of civilian casualties. 

In any case, President Obama made the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war his “red line,” a barrier he claims has now been breached. 

Has it? 

Philip Coyle, a senior scientist at Washington’s Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has his doubts, telling the McClatchy newspapers that from what he has observed of the evidence, it doesn’t look as if sarin was used. 

Jean-Pascal Zanders, former head of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project at the Stockholm international Peace Research Institute questions some of the reports in Le Monde. For instance, the newspaper reports that victims traveled a long distance for medical care, which he suggests is unlikely if sarin was used. He also points out there are no reports of medical workers dying from exposure to victims, even though sarin clings to clothing for up to a half hour. He also questions a Le Monde report that one victim was given 15 shots of the antidote atropine, a dose that would surely have been fatal. 

“In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn’t make sense that we don’t see videos, that we don’t see photos showing bodies of the dead, the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the afflicted,” he says. 

While the French claim they have an “unbroken chain of custody” from the attack to the lab, even experts who believe the intelligence reports disagree. Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association says that while his “guess” is that the poison gas was used, there is a lack of “continuous chain of custody for the physiological samples from those exposed to sarin.” 

One “Western diplomat” told the Washington Post, “The chain-of-custody issue is a real issue,” in part because the “red line” speech was an incentive to “prove” chemical weapons had been used. As Rolf Ekeus, a Swedish scientist who headed the UN’s weapons inspections in Iraq, said, “If you are the opposition…you have an interest in giving the impression that some chemical weapons have been used.” 

According to a report in the New York Times, samples gathered in Aleppo were carried by a civilian courier from that city to the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, “a journey that took longer than expected. At one point,” reports the Times, “the courier forgot the blood vials, which were not refrigerated, in his car. Ten days after the attack, the vials arrived at the Turkish field office for the Syrian American Medical Society.” 

In short, the samples were hardly secured during the week and a half it took them to get to Turkey, and they were delivered into the hands of insurgency supporters. 

Carla del Ponte, former war crimes prosecutor and currently a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, says it was the rebels, not Syria, who are the guilty party. 

Damascus refuses to allow the UN to test for chemical weapons inside of Syria, which certainly raises suspicions. On the other hand the UN has not exactly been a neutral bystander in the civil war. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has demanded “unfettered access”—an unlikely event in the middle of a war—and while sharply condemning Iran and Russia for supplying arms to Assad, has muted such criticism of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the main arms suppliers for the rebels. 

There is a certain common sense factor in all this as well. Would the Assad government really “cross the red line” in order to kill 150 people?  

When U.S. Special Forces invaded Syria in 2008 to attack what they claimed was a “terrorist gathering”—it turned out to be carpenters and farmers—the Syrians protested, but did nothing. At the time, Syria’s Foreign Minister told Der Speigel that Damascus had no wish to “escalate the situation” with the U.S. “We are not Georgia” he added, an illusion to Georgia’s disastrous decision to pick a fight with Russia in the 2008 Russian-Georgian war.  

Nor has Syria responded to three bombing raids by Israel, knowing that challenging the powerful Israeli air force would be suicidal. 

Western intelligence services want us to believe that Damascus deliberately courted direct U.S. intervention for something totally marginal to the war. Maybe the Assad regime has lost its senses. Maybe some local commanders took the initiative to do something criminal and dumb. Maybe the whole thing is a set-up. 

Shouldn’t we wait until the dog barks? 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 




THE PUBLIC EYE: The Arc of the Moral Universe: Same-Sex Marriage

By Bob Burnett
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 08:36:00 AM

Martin Luther King, Jr., famously observed, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards Justice.” The American civil rights movement has made slow progress since May 17, 1954, when the Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal doctrine” in Brown vs. Board of Education. Nonetheless, few anticipated the rapidity of acceptance of same-sex marriage.

The American civil rights era began on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott by refusing to give up her seat to a white man. As the African-American civil rights campaign began to produce results, it was joined by the women’s liberation movement, the campaign for Hispanic-American civil rights, and the gay pride movement. 

The first many of us heard of what came to be termed the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights movement was the Stonewall Inn riots that began on June 28, 1969. There were similar incidents in isolated parts of the US, but for most progressives the LGBT concerns seemed a tiny part of the total civil-rights movement. We thought we didn’t know homosexuals. 

In 1971 I was attending a service at the San Francisco Unitarian church when the minister invited a LGBT advocate to discuss their concerns. He made three points: Gays were coming out of the closet. They were our friends and family members. And they demanded to be treated as equals, to have rights equal to straights. 

Within several years, I realized that I knew gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Some I had suspected but many came as a surprise. Having them come out didn’t change our relationship but it did make me aware of their concerns and the barriers they encountered that didn’t impact me, a straight white man. 

The larger community slowly began to change. On December 15, 1973, the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. On November 8, 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (One year late he was assassinated.) 

In 1980 the Democratic Party declared that it would not discriminate against homosexuals and worked LGBT rights into the Democratic platform. In 1981 famous tennis player, Billy Jean King, came out as a lesbian. In 1982 Americans became aware that many of our friends were suffering from HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). In 1983 movie star Rock Hudson died of AIDS. In 1986 a lesbian couple was allowed to adopt a child. In 1987 Congressman Barney Frank came out as gay. 

In 1992 the World Health Organization declared that homosexuality was not an illness –the AMA agreed in 1994. In 1993 musician Melissa Etheridge came out as a lesbian. In 1998 Tammy Baldwin became the first open lesbian elected to the House of Representatives. In 1999 California passed a civil union/registered partner law. 

By 2003 most states had passed laws banning LGBT discrimination. In 2003 the Supreme Court struck down Sodomy laws (Lawrence vs. Texas). In 2004 the battleground became same-sex marriage when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome permitted same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. However these marriages were annulled. In 2008, The California Supreme Court again granted same-sex couples the right to marry. My wife and I held a reception to celebrate the weddings of several of our lesbian friends. Nonetheless, in November of 2008 Californians narrowly approved a ballot initiative – Proposition 8 – that once again banned same-sex marriage. The battle moved into the court system. 

In 2011 the US Military ended the ban on openly LGBT service personnel. In 2012 President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage and Tammy Baldwin became the first open lesbian elected to the US Senate. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled against the “Defense of Marriage Act” and let California’s Proposition 8 be struck down. (13 states have legalized same-sex marriage.) 

Looking back on the 44 years since the Stonewall Inn riots, it’s clear enormous progress has been made affirming LGBT rights. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans have come out of the closet and in many places been allowed to live normal lives. It’s a tribute to the leadership of the LGBT movement that so much has been accomplished in such a (relatively) short amount of time. 

Nonetheless, there is much work to be done. 35 states have banned same-sex marriage and many of these treat LGBT individuals as pariahs. 

Indeed, the civil rights movement in general has more work to do. The same Supreme Court session that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act also eviscerated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And it’s clear that many of the states that continue to discriminate against LGBT individuals also look down upon women, African and Hispanic-Americans. 

Each of the “identity” groups has their unique challenges: for women it’s access to comprehensive healthcare; for the LGBT caucus it’s marriage equality; for Hispanics it’s immigration; and for blacks it’s access to the ballot box. But, as Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson notes, what cuts across all these groups is economic inequality. The United States is now more accepting of the LGBT community than it was 44 years ago, and more accepting of women, blacks, and Hispanics. But we are less accepting of the poor. In that sense the arc of the moral universe has not bent towards justice. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Self Acceptance, Employment and Other

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 08:57:00 AM

Persons with mental illness, because we have a legitimate disability, should not feel bad about ourselves if unemployed.

Our society puts a great deal of value on employment. This is changing to an extent, since unemployment has become rampant. To many people's surprise, unemployment has become somewhat of an acceptable occupation. Furthermore, employment at a "good" volunteer job is often seen as more valuable than paid unskilled employment.

When seeking some type of employment or volunteer work, you might ask yourself if you are doing so in order to receive appreciation or to survive. These are two very different motivations. If you are trying to survive, go ahead and work at a carwash. If you're after respect from others, or from oneself, you should seek something more meaningful. (If things were ideal, a person would work at something mostly because they are interested in what they're doing. However that's off the subject of self-esteem.)

As a good starting point, why not learn to accept yourself, or even respect yourself, regardless of what you're doing or not doing? 

If the issue is self-acceptance, this can be accomplished through changing one's mind. If you just decide that you are unconditionally worthy, it will eliminate a lot of unnecessary work; or it can make a work attempt more likely to be successful. A job attempt (whether paid or unpaid) is more likely to succeed if not clouded by a deficiency in valuing oneself. If not trying to prove something to yourself or others, it is easier to just focus on the work.  

Most people find it easier to like and appreciate themselves when they are getting external recognition. Yet, regardless of being recognized or not, self-acceptance boils down to the content of the thoughts about oneself. 

Again, as persons with mental illness or with other disabilities we should not feel guilty or otherwise bad about ourselves if not employed. Most people with mental disabilities have some level of difficulty with work. And this includes many persons with mental illness who are extremely smart. 

There are numerous causes of low self esteem other than unemployment or underemployment. Someone could be upset with their self due to an issue of body image. The mass media promotes obsession with how we look. Having or not having a relationship is a common source of self-esteem problems. Either of these issues makes it more likely that people will unnecessarily punish themselves in trying to live up to some unattainable standard. 

Unconditional self-acceptance and self-appreciation can improve quality of life with no physical changes necessary. But let's not forget the five thousand pound elephant in the room--having a mental illness can be quite a blow to self esteem. 

Being mentally ill can entail having a negative perception of the self. This perception is a separate but collateral issue from the physical existence of the brain condition. And yet, if mentally ill, it is still possible to like and appreciate the self, and this does not require denying the fact of having the illness. 

An important step toward liking oneself is to stop identifying with the condition of your brain, and to instead identify with the person who owns and operates your brain--you. You are far more than just a diagnosis. 

The belief is widespread and false that you can't like yourself if your brain hypothetically has a defect. This is one out of several motives for noncompliance with treatment, often having tragic results. 

People should realize that having a mental illness should not preclude liking and respecting oneself. Society's standards that people are supposed to be "perfect," have no "defects" should be of "good stock," or should be able to survive if put on a deserted island, are false and cause a lot of unnecessary self-persecution. 

Self appreciation doesn't cost anything, and is achieved partly by deciding that you are worthy. If this seems difficult, you are probably in good company. Acceptance of the self can require internal work--this is best accomplished by consulting books on the subject or a psychologist.


By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 08:47:00 AM

If you enjoyed PBS’ ‘Call The Midwife’ and want to know more about Jennifer Worth, RN RM, read on. You can also go to YouTube for an April 14, 2009 interview with her plus lots of related photographs. 

Jennifer Lee was a British nurse and musician. After leaving school at 15 she learned shorthand and typing and became grammar school head’s secretary. She then trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and moved to London for midwifery training. She was hired as a staff nurse at London Hospital in Whitechapel, an East End poor and working-class neighborhood, known for being the location of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders in the late 1880s. Today’s residents are of varied ethnic origin, primarily Bangladeshi Bengali

With an Anglican community of nuns, she worked to aid the poor. She wrote about her work as a midwife practicing in the poverty-stricken Docklands of the 1950s. Later, she became a ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in Bloomsbury, London and then at the Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead. She married in 1963, and had two daughters. 

Jennifer Lee Worth retired from nursing in 1973 to pursue her interest in music. Appointed a licentiate of the London College of Music, she taught piano and singing, and in 1984 obtained a fellowship. She performed as a soloist and with choirs throughout Britain and Europe. And she began writing. The first volume of her memoirs, ‘Call the Midwife’, was published in 2002. It became a bestseller when it was reissued in 2007. The trilogy sold almost a million copies in the UK. 

Worth was 76 years old when she died, in 2011. She had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer earlier that year. In 2012, BBC One commenced broadcasting the ‘Call The Midwife’ television series, created by Heidi Thomas and based on Worth’s three books: ‘Call the Midwife’, ‘Shadows of the Workhouse,’ and ‘Farewell to The East End.’ Jessica Raine plays Jenny Lee, and Vanessa Redgrave provides the voice narration of the elder Jennifer Worth-Jenny Lee. 

Midwife Jenny Lee had been present in the first moments of life. Nurse Jennifer Worth went on to witness the experiences of patients approaching the end of their lives. As a nurse and ward sister, she often encountered poignant life and death situations that evoked great warmth, humor and humanity-- from the businessman who set up office in a hospital broom closet, to the family divided by a decision no one could make. Reflecting on her later experiences caring for the terminally ill, she asked ‘In the Midst of Life: Is There Such a Thing as a Good Death?’ in her fourth volume, published in 2010. 

There appear to be no copies of ‘In the Midst of Life: Is There Such a Thing as a Good Death?’ in the UC Berkeley library nor in local public libraries’ collections other than the Sausalito Public (MARINet) system. Sausalito’s copy is in circulation, which just shows to go that elsewhere ‘In the Midst of Life…’ has been overlooked, to say the least. The book can be ordered through Amazon, which also provides online the table of contents, index, photos, and the first pages. 

Last year a GoodReads user (apparently a British physician) commented, “Although all her other books are lighthearted anecdotes, this one is much deeper and darker. It deals with the subjects of death and dying, and in particular the medicalisation of death and our loss of acceptance of death as a culture. It details the invention of palliative care and the introduction of CPR into medical practise, and is based on her own personal experiences as well as interviews with others who have been bereaved in various circumstances. I found it very thought provoking and it challenged me to consider where I stand on the subject of death, both as a person and as a doctor in training. It deals with people's right to choose how they die and making sure that these wishes are communicated to friends and family. Although it is, by nature, a very sad book, it's also wonderful. There are some real tales of joy in it, and it is engagingly written without being preachy or overly medical. I can highly recommend it, although it may be upsetting to people who are expecting more of her lighthearted work, or who have been recently bereaved…” 


Martha Moore Ballard was a midwife in an earlier era and in a very different locale. Born in Massachusetts in 1735, she lived most of her 77 years in rural Maine, said to have three seasons: black flies, snow and mud. ‘A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on her Diary, 1785-1812’ is one of Harvard history professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (1938- )’s several literary accomplishments. The 1990 book made a grand sweep of the profession’s prizes, including the Pulitzer for History, Bancroft Prize in American History, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize, an American Association for the History of Medicine Medal, and several others. Ulrich’s ‘A Midwife's Tale…’ and her 2007 ‘Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History’ are in the local public library’s collection. 

The diary itself eventually came into the care of Martha Ballard’s great-great-granddaughter, Mary Hobart, one of America’s first female physicians and the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Medical Society. Hobart graduated from the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1884, the year that she received the diary. In 1930, she donated it to the Maine State Library, where it faded away. After all, what was so great about yet-another woman’s diary? Which was, in fact, the reaction Ulrich got when she discovered it buried there. And her initial attempts to get recognition of its historic and methodological value were rejected – nothing special, same old same old. 

Ulrich persevered for eight years, re-searching the diary’s 9,965 entries, applying comparisons and mark-up to create a landmark in women's labor history. (This type of hand-work is pictured in the motion picture and video.) Ulrich interwove an individual’s daily life with her society and times-- the role of women in the household and local market economy, the nature of marriage and sexual relations, aspects of medical practice, and the prevalence of violence and crime in the early American republic. She provided scholars with insights into the life of an American rural lay healer around 1800, resting on the words of the woman herself. 

Ballard used her diary as an accounting book and to keep records of her medical practice. For 27 years, from 1785 to 1812, she wrote in it every day. Many of her early entries were brief; later, they became longer and detailed. She started each with the weather and the time. For example, “May 11, 1797 it is now 11h Evn, my family have been in bed 2 hours". Each chapter of ‘A Midwife’s Tale…’ represents an aspect of woman’s work in the home and community in the late 18th Century. Ulrich pursues and interprets the terse and circumspect diary entries, e.g. medical practice and prevalence of violence and crime. By showing clearly the economic contributions that midwives made to their households and local communities, and demonstrating the organizational skill of multitasking as a source of female empowerment, the book revised the understanding of prescribed gender roles. 

Martha Ballard recorded her arduous work and domestic life in Hallowell on the Kennebec River, District of Maine. She wrote with a quill pen and homemade ink (pictured in the motion picture and video), recording numerous babies delivered and illnesses treated as she traveled around the Massachusetts frontier by horse and by canoe, as she “sank to the bottom” of the mud. There were struggles and tragedies within her own family: of nine children born between 1756 and 1779, three were lost to a diphtheria epidemic. The end of her life was cold and lonely. In her final diary entry, she “made a prayer adapted to my case.” 

‘A Midwife's Tale’ was subsequently developed into a docudrama film for the PBS American Experience series, with Ulrich serving as a consultant, script collaborator, and narrator. PBS Home Video made ‘A Midwife’s Tale’ available in video and DVD formats, 89 minutes in color. Actor Kaiulani Sewall Lee (1950- ) is midwife Martha Ballad. The movie intercuts between reenactments of Ballard doing her midwifery and related tasks and chores, and Ulrich working on her book. There are clear comparisons between the work of these two women. "When I finally was able to connect Martha's work to her world, I could begin to create stories." Wonderful. 




Arts & Events

Theater Review: Oleg Liptsin's Production of Beckett's 'Endgame

By Ken Bullock
Friday July 12, 2013 - 11:02:00 AM

"What else is there to keep me here?”... "The dialogue!"

Oleg Liptsin, the Bay Area's resident veteran of Russia's outstanding theater of the late 20th century, has produced a marvel—an intimate, remarkably original show of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece, 'Endgame,' billed as being in Laurel and Hardy style, even opening with the great comic pair's theme music, but more of wonderfully bittersweet comedy of the endlessly repeated encounter of a longwinded old master in his wheelchair, appropriately named Hamm(Greg Young), his skittering, ever-upright servant Clov (Liptsin)—and interruptions, asides by Hamm's captive parents (in adjoining dumpsters) Nagg (Phil Estrin) and Nell (Gale Bradley), as well as a few eruptions from the light booth and some well-chosen video footage, counterpoint to Hamm's drawn-out tale of acquiring a boy servant from a starving man—probably the young Clov, though Hamm's too coy to say. 

The setting's a bare room with two covered windows, Nagg and Nell's dumpsters, and Hamm swathed like a mummy in his wheelchair, all of which Clov unwraps with little sighs and chuckles, a weird Christmas present for the audience. Later, he scans the horizon through a spyglass, intent on reporting the "Zero “he sees in the wake of some entropic apocalypse. 

Lipsin's stylizations of Clov, the servant unable to sit down, recall the grimaces and wild poses of the silent film comedians—and a voice never heard in Talkies. Young plays Hamm more naturalistically, the two captive old folks magnificently delineated as vaudevillians, Nagg an acerbic raconteur, Nell a sour ingénue, backward-looking: "Ah, yesterday." 

Brimming with paradox, it's a series of overly serious yet funny games, about wanting to leave home but sticking around, played out in a well-rehearsed hysteria, power trips succeeded by tender moments of intimacy, foaming resentment followed by shared mirth .. 

If you see one "different" theater show this year, make it 'Endgame,' one of the few Beckett productions I've ever seen that grasps his humor and melancholy humanity whole, framing his quartet of”fantastics” with the clockwork of theater that makes them tick, striking the hour of heartbeat and laughter: "Are you crying again?" ... "I'm trying! “ 

Thursday-Saturday through July 20, Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa at Harrison, San Francisco's Mission District. $24 (wine and snacks included), some discounts. (510) 854-6242, itetheater.org  

New: San Francisco Silent Film Festival Starts July 18

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 11, 2013 - 10:00:00 PM
Louise Brooks in Prix de Beauté.
Louise Brooks in Prix de Beauté.
Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!
Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!
Victor Sjöstrom's The Outlaw and His Wife.
Victor Sjöstrom's The Outlaw and His Wife.
Marion Davies in The Patsy.
Marion Davies in The Patsy.
Greta Garbo in Joyless Street
Greta Garbo in Joyless Street
Buster Keaton in The Love Nest.
Buster Keaton in The Love Nest.
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance in The Immigrant.
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance in The Immigrant.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents its annual summer event July 18–21 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. This year's festival features a wide range of genres from an array of nations: Germany, Japan, Sweden, Bali, the USSR, the UK, Denmark, France, and America. 

Here are a few highlights. The complete schedule and ticket information can be found at silentfilmorg

The opening night film, Prix de Beauté (France, 1930), features the last starring role for Louise Brooks, the silent-era actress who has perhaps retained her allure better than any other. It's a rare screening of a film that has long been overshadowed by Brooks' work with director G.W. Pabst, especially Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne. 

Friday's screenings include Tokyo Chorus (Japan, 1931), a beloved early film by the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, who demonstrates here the deft handling of both drama and comedy that would characterize his work for decades afterward. It concerns some of the filmmaker's enduring themes: the dreams and realities of everyday middle-class life, and the pleasures and pains of family dynamics. Music by Günter Buchwald. 

One of Marion Davies' effervescent comedies, The Patsy (USA, 1928), shows at 7 p.m. Directed by the great King Vidor, Davies reveals the folly of her paramour, William Randolph Hearst, who felt comedy was beneath her, by delivering an energetic and charismatic performance, complete with impressions of other stars of the day, including Lillian Gish and Pola Negri. If not for Hearst, we might have had a full complement of Davies comedies, and she might have rightly taken her place among the best comedic actors of her day. Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. 

Saturday morning starts with cartoons. John Canemaker, author of Winsor McCay: His Life and Art, will give a presentation about the pioneer animator that includes several of his best known works: Little Nemo (1911), Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), How a Mosquito Operates (1912), and The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918). Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne. 

A rarely screened Douglas Fairbanks film shows at noon Saturday. Directed by the great Allan Dwan, The Half-Breed (USA, 1916) was filmed in part near Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Wurlitzer accompaniment by Günter Buchwald. 

Greta Garbo, another of the great sirens of the silent era, appears in Joyless Street (Germany, 1925) at 8:30 p.m., restored and reconstructed to get as close as possible to director G.W. Pabst's original cut. The film was censored for both its sexual and sociopolitical content as it highlighted the growing disparity between rich and poor in Weimar-era Germany. Music by the Matti Bye Ensemble. 

Sunday starts at 10 a.m. with short films by the great comedians. Film preservationist Serge Bromberg presents new transfers of some of his favorite short comedies, including Buster Keaton's The Love Nest (USA, 1923) and Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant (USA, 1917). Music by Günter Buchwald. 

At 11 a.m. the festival will screen The Outlaw and His Wife (Sweden, 1918), one of the best films by the pioneering director Victor Sjöstrom of Sweden. Sjostrom was one of the most important cinema figures of his day, the only filmmaker to rival D.W. Griffith for artistry and innovation in the 1910s. Music by the Matti Bye Ensemble. 

The Last Edition (1927), showing at 3:30 p.m., is sure to be a treat for Bay Area filmgoers. The movie is about a San Francisco Chronicle pressman and was shot throughout The City. Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne. 

The festival closes Sunday night with an 8:30 p.m. screening of Harold Lloyd's 1923 classic Safety Last!, which features the famous image of Lloyd dangling from the face of a clock above downtown Los Angeles. The film is the best known example of Lloyd's "thrill comedy," in which he sought to increase the laughs by increasing the danger. Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. 

For a complete schedule and to order tickets, check out silentfilm.org.

I'm So Excited! Almodóvar at Cruising Altitude—
Opens at Berkeley's Rialto Elmwood theater on July 5.

By Gar Smith
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 02:12:00 PM

Would I be the first to characterize Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar as the Gay Woody Allen?

The two directors have much in common. Like Allen's Midnight in Paris and From Rome with Love, Almodóvar's latest, I'm So Excited, is a travelogue filled with a dozen colorfully dysfunctional and self-absorbed characters who are thrown together by chance and spend more than an hour of screen-time furiously fussing and yammering at one another in a torrent of nonstop nuttiness.

With both Almodóvar and Allen, the fuel that propels the exercise is overtly sexual. In Allen's films the sexual tension is hetero-neurotic. In Almodóvar's films, the characters are unrepressed, gay, straight, bent and bi. In both cases, the result is a cinematic comedy of eros. If you need more proof that these two directors are twin souls, look no further than the tribute casting of Penelope Cruz as a constant in both director's work. And, like Woody's From Rome with Love (which features Cruz), Almodóvar's latest also includes a musical centerpiece.


Almodovar's film takes off with a 1950's-style animated intro as a piece of cartoon luggage progresses through airport check-in, headed for an exotic location. This time, however, the destination isn't Paris or Rome -- it's the interior of a commercial airliner. 

It's not for nothing that Almodóvar fits his drama into the confines of a commercial jet. The long, tubular planes (owned by the suggestively named Península Airlines) are lovingly photographed on the tarmac and in the air. 

But there's a problem. The plane is stalled in mid-air by a landing gear failure that is forcing the pilots to circle endlessly while awaiting instructions from ground control. 

The hapless all-male crew (consisting of two macho pilots and three stewards) strives to avoid panic by keeping the passengers in the dark about the danger. The three flight attendants are somewhat, well… flighty. They bicker and spar endlessly, tossing of mini-rants, slams, disses and humblebrags. 

The manly pilots, hunkered down in their hallowed "cockpit," try to maintain their hunkish cool but, as the hours roll on, they begin to confess to certain unspoken urges. In Almodóvar's world, it seems as if three-fifths of the population is openly gay while another fifth is either gar or bi – they just don't know it yet. 

While the pilots kick back behind the windows of their metallic cabin (plowing through the skies like a phallic missile), the flight attendants are busy warding off panic by sucking (marijuana) joints and knocking back shot-after-shot of whiskey. 

In order to keep the passengers calm, the flight stewards have proactively knocked out everyone in coach by spiking their complimentary drinks with sleeping pills. 

For some reason, the first class passengers are allowed to remain conscious. Oh! I know the reason: If everyone was asleep, there wouldn't be much of a movie, would there? 

The half-dozen still-conscious passengers (including a fugitive businessman, a hunted dominatrix, a haunted actor, and a strange woman who "sees things") are set free to indulge in a cacophony of ridiculous conversations -- all pursued with laughable seriousness. 

One serious story line involves the actor's broken affair with a tempestuous, suicidal young woman and his potential "last call" to set things right. There is a great horror-to-humor moment where a potential suicide is interrupted by a ring-tone but what happens next caused me to embarrass myself. In a roomful of professional movie reviewers, I was the only one to lurch from my seat, yelling "God, no! No!" 

The high-flying alcohol-fueled drama grows even kinkier when a male passenger confides that he's booty-smuggled some mescaline onboard the plane. Orgies ensue, with one drugged couple in coach copulating half-consciously while another zonked-out passenger is used as living dildo by a 40-year-old female virgin. Wild enough for you? Well, wait, there's more. 

Almodóvar serves up the first Big Screen comedy cum-swap since Ben Stiller's jizz served to stiffen Cameron Diaz' pompador in Something About Mary. But Almodómar makes screen history with what I believe is the first male-to-male cum-swap moment. (It's just a quick little bit of business. Blink and you might miss it. Some folk may wish to blink so they do miss it.) 

The big set piece (and the movie's titular pay-off) comes when the sloshed stewards suddenly break into an extended rendition of the Pointer Sisters' disco hit, "I'm So Excited." Off they go, prancing down the aisles and sashaying 'tween the seats. Nevermind that most of their audience is comatose from overdose. This eruption of gay overkill used to be box-office gold – gaudy and irresistible fun. But, I gotta say it: this routine no longer works for me. It's become an über-gay sterotype – all this familiar hip-twitching, bun-thrusting, fanny-slapping, eye-rolling Betty-Boopish over-the-top nonsense now comes across as simply over-the-hill. Seen it. Let's move on. 

Of course, the story can't remain up-in-the-air forever. This gives Almodóvar an opening to stage the lowest-budget crash scene in film history. In an extended and strangely affecting scene, the crash-landing unfolds entirely off-screen. As the camera pans slowly across the polished surfaces of an eerily empty air terminal, we hear the sounds of the plane as it collides with the earth and rumble-skitters down the runway. It's as memorable as a Gene Krupa drum solo – a sound engineer's dream assignment. 

Everyone survives and the film climaxes – literally – in a sea of fire-suppressant foam that's sprayed over the tarmac, engulfing the fleeing passengers in a knee-high tide of white froth. 

This is what you get with Almodóvar. And if that's what you're looking for, "I'm So Excited" won't disappoint.