Berkeley / East Bay

Gray Panthers Newsletter

October 2014

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

The October membership meeting will be on
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 1:30pm
at North Berkeley Senior Center.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) present a Performance Piece "Talking with our Grandmothers"

WILPF members Robin Lloyd and Charlotte Dennett, of Burlington VT, use dialogue, letters and images (and a bust of Robin’s grandmother Lola Maverick Lloyd) to create a conversation across generations. They bring to life the heroic efforts of women on both sides of World War I who met together and proposed initiatives to stop the war.

===Gray Panther Committee Meetings====

Board Meeting:
October 8, 2014 2:00pm
At Niebyl-Proctor Library

Page 2

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00pm.
date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. The names of some of the Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some of the Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, (510)990-0374.

Tax the Rich Rally

Every Monday 5-6 pm at top of Solano Ave in Berkeley to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.” Cars passing by honk in support. Pedestrians take leaflets.

The signs and leaflets present information about the impact of tax inequities in our society, and how we must work together to bring about essential changes so that the rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

Monthly Peace Rally

Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally,
every 3rd Friday, at Acton and University in Berkeley.
Next rally Friday October 16, 2-3 pm. Come sing, wave signs and listen to approving car honks.
For info, Call 841-4143

Solano Stroll

September 14 was a great day for the 2014 Solano Stroll. Our Gray Panther table got plenty of visitors. We passed out an updated "We are the GRay Panthers" handout, and single sheets declaring Panther support for Measure D (Soda Tax), Measure R (green downtown and zoning overlay) and Measure P (no more corporate 'persons').

As usual the booths and tables along the avenue offered a wide variety of food, art and entertainment.

Our neighbors, a bird rescue group, had two beautiful parrots.

With an election coming up in November, the politicians were out in force. Tony Thurmond and Elizabeth Echols, running for District 15 Assembly both had a table and marched in the parade. They both look impressive. It will be hard to decide how to vote.

Free Speech? In Berkeley?

There was an article in the September 26, 2014 Contra Costa Times covering the attempt to stop Jesse Arreguin from speaking about Measure R at our September 24 meeting.

The full article is at

Become a member of Gray Panthers!

Dues: $35/year ($15 low income)
Send us your name and mailing address.
Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

Page 3

Report on the September 24, 2014 Membership Meeting

The speaker for the September 2014 Gray Panther membership meeting was Omar Rodriguez, operations manager at Bay Area Alternative Press (BAAP) in Berkeley.

The title of Omar's talk was "The Death of Journalistic Ethics -- What News Are We Getting?"

Established in 1982, BAAP is an all-volunteer association of printers, artists, designers, writers, photographers and others in the publication field who have joined together to assist, free-of-charge, in the production of publicity materials and publications for, and with, organizations striving to improve conditions of low income workers and our nation’s poor and minority communities. BAAP volunteers teach how to produce printed materials, from design to final printing. Unlike Gray Panthers, BAAP isn’t 501(c)(3), so they are free to support political candidates, not just ballot measures.

Gray Panthers and their friends were urged to come visit the BAAP facility, which is located in the Lorin district of Berkeley, near Telegraph & Alcatraz. The address is 1847 Alcatraz Ave. It might be a good idea to call first (510-652-8828) to set up an appointment.

People who volunteer at BAAP have fun learning useful media skills, such as running a printing press and using the latest desktop publishing software, like PhotoShop, and Adobe InDesign.

BAAP publishes a newsletter twice a year, using BAAP’s own two-color press. BAAP has published handout material for many groups, ranging from Berkeley Lions Club to “Occupy the Farm.”

Modern computer and communications technology has given news media powerful tools. Indeed, today we almost have too much information. Gathering of facts is very thorough and efficient. But the big money interests which control the news media have a main interest in making money, not giving citizens help with making political decisions.

In times of political conflict and war, it is important to get at the truth, not just gather information. The ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus remarked, back around 500 BC: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

In 1972-73, Vice President Spiro Agnew made it plain to news media owners and production people that they should stop supporting programming that was sympathetic to protestors, particularly those against the Vietnam War, if they wanted to keep on getting government grants and licenses to broadcast.

Because the media tend to toe the line drawn by the government and wealthy business people, fewer people today believe most of what they read in the press or hear from broadcast media. The fraction of citizens who say they trust the media is now about 40% and getting smaller Sensationalism and escapism have replaced professional standards for journalism.

Page 4

Report on the September 24, 2014 Membership Meeting (continued, 2nd page)

News corporations, mostly owned and controlled by a highly-concentrated media industry, spin stories and political analysis their way, generally omitting or distorting information about movements for progressive change. BAAP tries to tell the other story.

It’s not that the media outlets are deliberately suppressing news. All the information is out there, if one knows how to find it. As with using Google, one must know how to ask the right questions. Omar thinks that US schools have failed to train graduates in the analytical skills required to formulate such questions. They don’t comprehend enough historical and political background. Since they can’t get all all the information they need, they are poorly equipped to make informed judgments.

This situation pleases the powerful interests that control media today. These interests are delighted to provide “bread and circuses” for everyone, offering plenty of pretty graphics, weather and sports. Coverage is abundant for any type of violence; they never miss a murder or an atrocity. They desire to divert public attention from real news, like protests and poverty.

Protests are often not well-reported. Coverage of the recent climate march of more than 400,000 people in NYC was very light.

Poverty is not a “news beat.” It gets little coverage -- about 1% of the news. There’s plenty of coverage of the latest gadgetry. Recently, we’ve seen many “infomercials” on Apple’s newest iPhone. Over 10 million of these gadgets have been sold, at $500 each.

Basically, the free market is not driving the quality of the information we get. Today’s journalism goes light on analysis -- the digging out of what is actually true. We’ve had a fall-off in newspaper investigative journalism; we see it in some magazines like Atlantic and the New Yorker and in some books, but not so much in the daily newspapers or TV and radio news. You can find the truth about poverty in a book, for example “The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives,” by Sasha Abramsky. Poverty often exists by design, the result of deliberate political policy choices.

Putting a “spin” on the news can give people wrong ideas. For example, unemployment is not measured as a count of the people who do not have a job. The reported unemployment statistic comes from the number of people who are applying for a job. Anyone who actually has a job, even if it’s 1 hour a week, is considered employed.

Omar thinks that the unemployment number needs to be multiplied by 3, to include the under-employed. But the media always reports just the number of the people who are still looking for work.

A major source of media distortion is what sounds at first like a good idea: news stories which report both sides, usually the Democrat view and the Republican view. But this is no help to the news consumer because there is no analysis of these views. The reader is left on his own to decide which side (if either) is telling the truth. BAAP offers its facilities to groups that want to provide that needed analysis and commentary. Conflict reporting is very much in need of analytical commentary. We get way too much detail. Spin a globe and throw a dart and you’ll hit a region where a conflict is happening. Even a dart in the ocean hits the big conflict over global warming.

Reporters are under pressure to keep the news under control. James Risen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist for The New York Times who previously worked for the Los Angeles Times. He has written or co-written many articles concerning U.S. government activities and is the author or co-author of two books about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a book about the American public debate about abortion. A case charging a former CIA officer charged with leaking classified information to James Risen is moving towards trial again after the Supreme Court turned aside Risen's plea to avoid testifying about his confidential sources. Risen himself faces no charges in the case.

Page 5

Report on the September 24, 2014 Membership Meeting (continued, 3rd page)

BAAP teaches people to push for their own communities, not just accept the stuff being put out by the corporate media. Omar evoked Tom Paine, the Revolutionary War era pamphleteer, who urged people to use “common sense.”

So what can Gray Panthers do to help BAAP? Well, they need manpower, people to do all kinds of jobs from office work to running a press to using InDesign software. Like any group of volunteers, BAAP needs organizing. Omar again emphasized that NONE of BAAP workers are paid; they all have day jobs. BAAP does not have all the materials and services it needs. Anyone with industry contacts, who might be able to secure specialized equipment or supply donations, would be a big help.

But the big thing is community contacts. Panthers can spread the word about what BAAP is doing and can do, for other organizations.

A more detailed version of this report is online at