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Press Release: Ralph Nader to Speak at Berkeley Post Office

From Jacquelyn McCormick and Kristen Hanson, Berkeley Post Office Defense
Friday July 25, 2014 - 09:21:00 AM

Ralph Nader will speak on the front steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office, 2000 Allston Way, on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 2:30pm about the fate of the United States Postal Service, privatization and the importance of our public commons. 

Berkeley advocates have been concerned that selling off Post Office buildings is the first step to privatization and loss of our public commons. Local groups, Save the Berkeley Post Office, Berkeley Post Office Defense and the National Post Office Collaborate have continued to protest the actions of the USPS for over the past two years.  

Mr. Nader has been an advocate on behalf of keeping the USPS under public control and has helped expose the mis-information that has been proliferating about the postal service’s financial situation. Nader argues that it is in the public’s interest to join the struggle against the corporate state that will ultimately destroy the rights of the American People. In a writing from February 6, 2013 Mr. Nader stated: 

“Postmaster General Donahoe has demonstrated that he lacks the political courage to stand up to Congress and tell them that they caused this mess and they need to fix it. Instead, time after time, he has chosen to take the easy road and dismantle the USPS piece by piece – whether it is by cutting post office hours, closing post offices, cutting service and delivery standards, increasing postage rates, or now ending Saturday delivery” 

Privatizing the Postal Service was first planned by the Heritage Foundation in 2011, when it published an article recommending “deep cuts to the postal workforce, closing post offices and other facilities, and ending Saturday delivery.”  

KPFA 94.1 is holding a benefit event on Wednesday, July 30 with Ralph Nader as the keynote speaker. He will be presenting his new book UNSTOPPABLE: Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.



It's time for Berkeley to Speak Out About Gaza, and Barbara Lee Should Speak With and for Us

Becky O'Malley
Saturday July 26, 2014 - 11:23:00 AM

This week we have been deluged with anguished letters about the seemingly endless tragedies which are being enacted around the world. We’re still trying to provide news and opinion about “greater Berkeley”—not only what happens within our borders, but what Berkeleyans are concerned about.

We’ve gotten a typical volume of communications from regular and occasional contributors about local matters: homelessness, revenues etc. But we’re also heard from local people who view with alarm the state of the world. Top topics: Gaza, child refugees at the U.S. border, the Middle East, Nigerian girls, botched executions in the United States, armed conflict between Russians and Ukrainians which led to a planeload of bystanders being shot down… and more.

On Friday, many thought the news from Gaza still was the most appalling on a horrendous list. Among people I talk to regularly, many of them Jewish by heritage and including some Israeli expatriates, one reason for this could be expressed as “they ought to know better.” Israel has always in my lifetime been portrayed in the U.S. media as a progressive, modern and humane country, so it’s deeply shocking to see its army bombing sites where killing innocent people is completely predictable. 

This sort of thing might have happened in the past, but we didn’t know about it, most of us. Now, the coverage has changed. For the first time, candid representations of what’s going on are widely available, even in the much-derided mainstream media. The stories about the boys killed as they played ball on the beach are one example—there have been many more. We can read Haaretz ourselves online. 

And where does Israel get those spokespeople? On some NPR program yesterday I heard a professor, possibly employed at the University of Utah but speaking from Israel, who said in all seriousness that the Israelis were morally superior because they gave three minutes warning before they destroyed a building and all the people in it, whereas the Gaza rocketeers only gave ninety seconds warning. His fair and balanced Palestinian counterpart (I think it must have been PBS Newshour, which always believes there are just “two” sides to every question) pointed out, as do some of our Planet Public Commenters today, that Israel can give earlier warnings because their weaponry is much fancier, but that’s not the point. 

People, people, people: it’s ALWAYS wrong to kill civilians. For that matter, I happen to think that killing soldiers is wrong too, but I realize that everyone doesn’t agree. But when you know, thanks to excellent intelligence, that there are innocents in your target area, there’s no justification at all for going ahead with your strike. None. In my mind, that includes the Gaza rockets, but since they seldom hit anyone the crime is much less. 

I deeply appreciate the leadership which some Jewish people around the world have taken in speaking truth to Israeli government power. Jewish Voice for Peace stands out particularly in this country. In Britain it’s academics and intellectuals, people like Naomi Klein, whose bylines are appearing in the press now as they speak up for, yes, boycott, divestment, sanctions—whatever it takes to communicate with the intransigent. 

Many within Israel are also speaking up, a difficult and painful task. My closest Israeli ex-pat friend tells great stories about meeting his old Socialist classmates at demonstrations when he goes home to see his mother, so I know there are still some impressive backbones in that country, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. 

One remarkable analyst who is speaking out is Yuval Diskin, former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security force. His withering comments on his government’s role in the Gaza situation appeared on his Facebook page in Hebrew, and can be read in translation in J.J. Goldberg’s column on the Jewish Daily Forward site. 

An excerpt: “This is the result of the policy conducted by the current government, whose essence is: Let’s frighten the public over everything that’s happening around us in the Middle East, let’s prove that there’s no Palestinian partner, let’s build more and more settlements and create a reality that can’t be changed, let’s continue not dealing with the severe problems of the Arab sector in Israel, let’s continue not solving the severe social gaps in Israeli society.” 

As Americans, we have a responsibility to support courageous people like Yuval Diskin and groups like Breaking the Silence, former members of the Israel Defense Force who have been speaking out about what they saw during their term of service. 

Now Barbara Lee, who represents our district in Congress, needs to break her own silence about how the $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel from 2009 to 2018 is being used. 

I’ve gotten dozens of emails announcing petitions, marches, demonstrations of all kinds from groups trying to communicate their concern about the deaths in Gaza. One opportunity to talk to Barbara about what’s happening takes place today in Alameda. 

Forwarded to me by the Wellstone Democratic Club, this invitation: 

Barbara Lee Birthday Party 

Saturday, July 26 

It’s going to be a night filled with fun, food and fellowship, and I really hope you can attend!

And of course, it’s not just about me. We’ll also be celebrating our shared legacy of progressive values and achievements. Standing against the AUMF, pushing for a higher minimum wage, promoting civil rights – I couldn’t do any of it without you.

You can reserve your ticket below. I can’t wait to meet you!

-- Barbara

Saturday, July 26, 2014
4:00pm to 7:00pm
Rock Wall Wines
2301 Monarch Street, #300
Alameda, CA 94501

Individual Tickets
$50 - Individual
$25 - Student, Senior, or Disabled

Please RSVP to events@barbaraleeforcongress.org by July 22th with guest name(s). 

In parallel, I also got this call to action from Jim Harris, someone I know only as an occasional writer of op-eds or letters to the editor: 

What: Protest at Barbara Lee fundraiser. 

Where: Rock Wall Wine Company, 2301 Monarch Street, #300, Alameda, CA 

When: 3:30 pm Saturday, July 26th 

Why: Barbara Lee still supports “robust military aid to Israel”. A blank check for Israeli aggression. 

For a person that rightfully opposes “blank checks for war” ( http://tinyurl.com/pzuxzkr ) we must remind folks she has pledged to J Street PAC that she will support “robust military aid to Israel”- aid that makes possible Israel’s wars of aggression against Palestinians. Not that she does not have “concerns” http://tinyurl.com/now2woy , but we know Israel does not listen to concerns of a handful of congressmembers. As long as the weapons flow with Lee’s support, she remains tragically complicit in their use. We will not be silent. This is not a time for another decade of “constructive engagement” with an apartheid state. Now is the time for real action. 

If you have not already done so, please sign the petition to Barbara Lee -- www.tinyurl.com/LeeStopMilitaryAid -- and spread the word. 


Of course, Barbara Lee alone can’t save Gaza, though many of us who have admired her over the years wish she could. But as long as Americans, even progressive Americans, remain silent in the face of the manifest injustice now being committed there, we are implicated in the deaths of more than 1000 of our fellow humans, many of them children. 

It’s time for all of us, including Barbara Lee, to speak out.

Public Comment

New: Your Editorial on Gaza of July 26 2014

Richard Korb
Monday July 28, 2014 - 01:19:00 PM

As much I sympathize for the civilian population caught in the cross-fire in Gaza, I think your editorial is sadly misleading and devoid of any solution. Here are the facts as I understand them. After reviewing them please tell me where I am wrong or what you think America (or any nation) would do differently? 

§ In response to unceasing rocket and missile fire on civilian centers in Israel, on July 7, Israel launched a military operation targeting strategic Hamas facilities, tunnels, weapons and leadership. On July 17, following days of unceasing rocket fire, Israel expanded its military operation by sending IDF ground troops into Gaza in order to destroy Hamas’s infrastructure, including rocket storage sites and tunnels which cannot be destroyed by aerial attacks. Hamas smuggles rockets and other weapons into Gaza through its tunnels, and uses them to infiltrate Israel with the intention of killing and kidnapping civilians and soldiers. 

§ Since early July, over 2500 missiles, rockets and mortars have been fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israeli cities and towns, including Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, and even as far north as Haifa, a distance of over 85 miles from Gaza. At least five Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket or mortar fire, and a number have been injured, some quite seriously. There has also been extensive damage to homes and other structures. 

§ The Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted hundreds of projectiles fired into Israel, including missiles fired at Ben Gurion International Airport. Two-thirds of Israel’s civilian population (equal to over 200 million Americans) – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – are now directly threatened by missiles from Gaza. In addition, Israeli security forces have stopped terrorists from infiltrating inside Israel from sea, over land and through underground tunnels. Several rockets have also been fired by terrorists from Lebanon, Syria and the Egyptian-controlled Sinai desert into Israel. 

§ On July 15, the Israeli government voted to accept an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire, which was supported by the US, the Arab League and others in the international community. As a gesture to Hamas, Israel halted air-strikes in Gaza for a few hours. Hamas in turn rejected the terms of the ceasefire, and continued to bombard Israel with at least 50 rockets during that period. 

§ On July 26, Israel agreed to a 12 hour UN-proposed “humanitarian ceasefire.” Following the the 12 hour lull in hostilities, Israel agreed to extend the ceasefire by another 24 hours. Hamas rejected the ceasefire’s extension. On July 17, at the request of the United Nations, a “humanitarian ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas went into effect for approximately 5 hours in order to enable Gazans to shop and resupply. While it was mostly quiet during the ceasefire, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel resumed almost immediately following the designated period. There are increasing calls by some world leaders, including President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for an immediate ceasefire. 


§ The IDF aims to curtail Hamas’ ability to attack Israel – through rocket, missile, mortar attacks, and through an extensive network of underground tunnels, to ensure quiet and security for the Israeli population. The IDF announced that as of July 28, it has uncovered and destroyed 32 tunnels and over 60 tunnel shafts. Referring to the labyrinth of tunnels, Israeli military spokesmen speak of there being two Gazas – one above ground, and one below. 

§ The tunnels in Southern Gaza are used both to smuggle in weaponry from the Egypt-controlled Sinai into Gaza, and tunnels in Central and Northern Gaza allow Hamas terrorists to infiltrate Israel. For example, Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006 and held hostage for over five years, was seized from his base in southern Israel and taken into Gaza through a tunnel. During the current conflict, Israel has stopped a number of Hamas terrorists who have entered Israel through tunnels from Gaza. In one case, the Hamas operative was carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs, with the apparent aim of kidnapping Israeli soldiers. In addition, Hamas operatives have used tunnels to attack Israeli soldiers on the ground in Gaza. 

§ The extensive tunnel network cannot be destroyed through air power. The entire tunnel must be demolished through controlled explosions. Israeli forces are finding tunnels which begin under civilian homes. Some are booby trapped. Others are filled with explosives, telephone wires, food and other provisions. 


§ Israel has shown the utmost restraint in dealing with Hamas's blatant hostility, and tried to stop the attacks through a variety of measures. Israel has a right and a responsibility to protect its civilians from attack. No sovereign government in the world would stand by and allow its citizens to be under steady and heavy attack. In light of the unceasing attacks, Israel had no choice but to act against Hamas and its affiliates and eliminate its weapons caches and operational capabilities. 

§ Civilian injuries and deaths in Gaza are regrettable and tragic. Israel is doing what it can to avoid harming civilians and has launched investigations into certain incidents where civilians have been killed or injured. 

§ Israel has procedures to warn civilians though leafleting, phone calls and other methods, that their neighborhoods and buildings are located in the vicinity of military operations and urging them to leave the area. In response, Hamas has advised Gaza residents to ignore “Israeli propaganda” warnings and stay in their homes. 

§ Most of the targets chosen by the Israel Defense Forces are Hamas operational centers, storage facilities and rocket launching sites, the labyrinth of tunnels, as well as locations where terrorist leaders are hiding out. Many of the rocket storage sites have been deliberately located by Hamas in densely populated areas, including private homes, mosques and medical facilities. 


§ The reason Hamas hasn’t killed more Israelis isn’t due to a lack of trying, but rather a result of Israeli preparedness to deal with rocket fire from Gaza. Those who accuse Israel of reacting “disproportionately” - due to Israel’s relatively low casualty numbers as compared to those in Gaza - ignore Israel’s effective defensive systems which have prevented higher casualty numbers from the over 2000 rockets and missiles fired from Gaza. These include a nation-wide siren alert system, bomb shelters, and the anti-missiles Iron Dome batteries located throughout the country. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained: “This is the entire difference between us and Hamas. We are using defensive systems against missiles to protect the residents of Israel, and they are using the residents of Gaza to protect arsenals of missiles.” 

§ The psychological damage of Hamas rocket attacks cannot be minimized. When the alarm is sounded, no matter where they are or what they are doing – taking a shower, shopping for food, in summer camp, at a concert, in their car going to work – residents have as little as 15 seconds to reach shelter or risk being killed or injured. In the south of Israel, where the majority of rockets have fallen over the past 13 years, mental health professionals have documented the ongoing trauma experienced by children and adults alike. 


§ Hamas, an extremist Islamic terrorist organization, is firmly dedicated to the eradication of the State of Israel and is utterly opposed to any peace negotiations with Israel. Both the United States and the European Union have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. 

§ The Hamas Charter is viciously anti-Semitic and echoes the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion charging Jews with an international conspiracy to gain control of the world. In Hamas’ world-view, Islamic precepts forbid a Jewish state in the area known as Palestine, and the Jewish people have no legitimate connection to the land of Israel. As its covenant proclaims, “The land of Palestine is an Islamic trust... It is forbidden to anyone to yield or concede any part of it... Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it...” To this end, the leaders of Hamas have denounced compromise with Israel as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. 


§ Israel fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, uprooting Israeli settlers and removing military installations, in the hope that the Palestinians would govern Gaza responsibly and peacefully. Instead, the Hamas leadership has turned Gaza into an armed camp, creating and maintaining the conditions for a humanitarian crisis, and forcing the isolation of the Gazan population. Israel is trying to allow that the flow of humanitarian goods into Gaza continue but that becomes difficult when goods intended to help the population are being used instead for military purposes (i.e. attacks on Israeli civilian centers). 





Offensive Euphemism

Carol Denney
Friday July 25, 2014 - 09:27:00 AM

"Clean up"? Sara Gaiser's article repeatedly uses the same offensive euphemism for the policy of constantly relocating homeless poor people - "clean up." The City of Berkeley refused to provide toilets, garbage pick-up, or the campground this city has sorely needed for years to those it deliberately displaced from the Bulb, so it played a very affirmative role in the ensuing difficulties. People, and the belongings they need, are not garbage. 

Does it really take another tent city on the city hall steps to convince these city council representatives to do something more practical than herding people from one place to another hoping they go away? 


Once Again, Barbara Lee Speaks for Me

Rita Wilson
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:09:00 AM

This is about Barbara Lee wanting to send money to Israel for weapons. My comment is "Thank you."

Press Release: Right Livelihood Laureates sign declaration on Gaza: "They are also our children."

From Birgit Jaeckel
Friday July 25, 2014 - 07:42:00 AM

Gaza faces shortages of water and electricity supply, of hospitals, physicians and medicine, while bombs and bullets kill and injure both civilian people and health workers in a spiral of violence and hopelessness. Around 24 % of all those who have lost their lives in Gaza, as a result of Israeli bombing and military invasion, are children.

Nevertheless, the responsibility for such deaths lies not only with the joint and manifold accountabilities of Israel’s soldiers, Hamas’ fighters and their governments. Other governments are responsible either directly or indirectly through the transfer of weapons, military advice and silence. Such countries and the United Nations seem not to have learned from the past. Meanwhile, even as the violence grows rapidly in Gaza, negotiations move at an incredibly slow pace and are hindered by the vested interests of countries that don’t face any bloodshed in this conflict. Dialogue and negotiations cannot be replaced by the use of military force. Revenge solely produces revenge and bloodshed solely produces more bloodshed. 

Nobody will forget the recent scenes of broken school books in the streets of Gaza and the broken lives of the children who used them. Their dead bodies splattered near their books, which are never to be used again, paint a tragic picture of unparalleled cruelty. Nobody has the right to end their lives nor to threaten the lives of those children that still survive. They are also our children.

In this context we strongly support the outstanding and courageous work, determination and perseverance - amidst the thunder of bombs - of our fellow recipient Raji Sourani (RLA 2013, Palestine) and his colleagues at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, who are denouncing the killings of innocent civilians and the continuity of a dirty non-declared war being waged against the principles of international humanitarian law. We also want to express our deepest admiration for the work of Israeli peace organisations such as Gush Shalom (RLA 2001), and the incredible work of all medical personnel operating in Gaza right now continuously highlighted by our friends at Physicians For Human Rights-Israel (RLA 2010), who continue to hold up the torch of humanity despite being exposed to the inhumane machines of war.

As recipients of the Right Livelihood Award we urge the United Nations, the European Union and regional bodies, such as the Arab League and the Organization of American States, and countries from all over the world to join their voices, to condemn these unacceptable violations of human rights, to request an immediate ceasefire, lifting of the blockade of Gaza and to ask for the beginning of new peace talks. And to also halt all actions that perpetuate this conflict, hinder a peace settlement and supply the warring parties with arms. If we don't act urgently, more children and innocent people will be killed in the following days, in the following hours, in the following minutes, in the following seconds.

Signatories to this statement, as of Friday July 25 2014, 11 am CET, are 46 Right Livelihood Award Laureates from 32 countries:
(We will continue to update the list on our website, www.rightlivelihood.org)

• Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, Founder, SEKEM, Egypt (RLA 2003)
• Swami Agnivesh, India (RLA 2004)
• Dr. Martin Almada, Paraguay (RLA 2002)
• Uri Avnery, Founder, Gush Shalom, Israel (RLA 2001)
• Dipal Barua, Former Managing Director, Grameen Shakti, now at Bright Green Energy Foundation, Bangladesh (RLA 2007)
• Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria (RLA 2010)
• Andras Biro, Hungary (RLA 2005)
• Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, South Korea (RLA 2003)
• Dr. Tony Clarke, Executive Director, Polaris Institute, Canada (RLA 2005)
• Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), Brazil (RLA 1991)
• Prof. Dr. Anwar Fazal, Director, Right Livelihood College, Malaysia (RLA 1982)
• Prof. Dr. Johan Galtung, Norway (RLA 1987)
• Dr. Juan E. Garcés, Spain (RLA 1999)
• Dr. Inge Genefke, Denmark (RLA 1988)
• Gush Shalom, Israel (RLA 2001)
• Dr. Monika Hauser, Founder, Medica Mondiale, Germany (RLA 2008)
• Dr. Hans Herren, Founder of Biovision Foundation, Switzerland (RLA 2013)
• Dr. SM Mohamed Idris, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (RLA 1988), Consumers Association of Penang and the Third World Network, Malaysia
• Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Brazil (RLA 2010)
• Dr. Katarina Kruhonja, Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights-Osijek, Croatia (RLA 1998)
• Birsel Lemke, Turkey (RLA 2000)
• Helen Mack Chang, Fundación Myrna Mack, Guatemala (RLA 1992)
• Dr. Ruchama Marton, Founder and President, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel (RLA 2010)
• Prof Dr. h.c. (mult.) Manfred Max-Neef, Director, Economics Institute, Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile (RLA 1983)
• Prof. Dr. Raúl A. Montenegro, President, Fundación para la defensa del ambiente, Argentina (RLA 2004)
• Frances Moore Lappé, Co-Founder, Small Planet Institute, USA (RLA 1987)
• Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad (RLA 2011)
• Helena Norberg-Hodge, Founder and Director, International Society for Ecology & Culture, United Kingdom (RLA 1986)
• Juan Pablo Orrego, President, Ecosistemas, Chile (RLA 1998)
• Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, India (RLA 1991)
• P K Ravindran, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, India (RLA 1996)
• Fernando Rendón, Co-Founder and Director, International Poetry Festival of Medellín, Colombia (RLA 2006)
• Dr. Sima Samar, Chairperson, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan (RLA 2012)
• Dr. Vandana Shiva, Naydanya, India (RLA 1993)
• Prof. Michael Succow, Founder, Michael Succow Foundation for Nature Conservation, Germany, (RLA 1997)
• Suciwati, widow of Munir, KontraS, Indonesia (RLA 2000)
• Dr. Hanumappa Sudarshan, Karuna Trust & VGKK, India (RLA 1994)
• The Kvinna Till Kvinna Foundation, Sweden (RLA 2002)
• Shrikrishna Upadhyay, Executive Chairman, Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal, Nepal (RLA 2010)
• Prof. Dr. Theo van Boven, The Netherlands (RLA 1985)
• Martín von Hildebrand, Founder and Director, Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Colombia (RLA 1999)
• Dr. Paul F. Walker, Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International, USA (RLA 2013)
• Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, New Zealand/Switzerland (RLA 2009)
• Chico Whitaker Ferreira, Brazil (RLA 2006)
• Alla Yaroshinskaya, Russia (RLA 1992)
• Angie Zelter, Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom (RLA 2001)

About the Right Livelihood Award

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honour and support those "offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today". It has become widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' and there are now 153 Laureates from 64 countries. The annual Award Ceremony takes place in the Swedish Parliament Building in December, with support by parliamentarians from all established political parties.

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is based in Stockholm, Sweden. The prize is financed by individual donors.

Gaza: Legitimate Defense or Deliberate Mayhem?

Jagjit Singh
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:21:00 AM

It is appalling that President Obama, buckling under political pressure, makes public statements goading and encouraging Israel to continue their slaughter of innocent defenseless Palestinian civilians. This is incremental genocide not legitimate defense. He repeats the mantra that “Israel has every right to defend itself” but remains totally silent on the right of Palestinians to defend themselves. Israel has often boasted that they possess intelligence of every occupant and building in Gaza but the slaughter and mayhem would suggest the IDF is deliberately targeting civilians. 

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza has soared to more than 100,000. One of the shelters, a girls’ school in central Gaza, was hit Monday by an Israeli shell. So far today, Israel has struck more than 70 sites inside Gaza, including five mosques and a football stadium, water treatment and sewage plants.  

On Monday, at least 103 Palestinians died when Israel bombed a residential tower block in Gaza City. Five children died in that attack. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, five people died and 70 were wounded when Israel shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It became the third medical facility to be struck by Israel in the past two weeks.  

The injured included about 30 medics. Israel, in complete violation of international law, is using flechette shells that spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal darts. Is this legitimate defense or deliberate mayhem?

A Critic of Israel? Then YOU do Better

Michelle Moshelian, Givatayim,Israel
Friday July 25, 2014 - 07:56:00 AM

As an Israeli, I am 100% confident that Israel is doing its utmost to get rid of Hamas while trying its hardest not to harm civilians. Yet civilians have been killed, including children - the most innocent victims of all. People all over the world are outraged, and rightly so, when they see the images of devastation emerging from Gaza. I too am outraged. But the problem is that most people, unlike me, are blaming the wrong culprit - Israel. We pulled the trigger, but we are not the ones to blame. 


I could tell you all about the efforts Israel makes to warns Palestinian civilians to get out of the vicinity of terrorists via leaflets, telephone calls and roof knocking. I could tell you about how Hamas calls for civilians to ignore these warnings. Don't believe me? Read for yourself on the Palestinian government website. These messages are no longer just in Arabic, sending one message to the world and one to its people. No more of that pretense. This message is in English: "the ministry calling all our people not to deal or pay attention to the psychological warfare carried out by the occupation through rumors that broadcast across his media and delivering publications and communications on the phones of citizens" 


I could go on about human shields, urging you to question why Hamas is launching rocket attacks from civilians area - schools hospitals etc. Even the UN admitted finding rockets in one of their schools in Gaza (and then apparently handed them over to Hamas but that is an entirely different story). 


I could go on about ceasefires - how Israel has honored three, while the Palestinians have failed to honor any. I could ask why it is that the apparent loser in this conflict is determined to continue? I could then descend into the abomination as to whether dead Palestinian children on tv screens is more valuable and important to Hamas than protecting those children. 


I could rant on about the millions and millions of dollars poured into the Palestinian coffers, questioning why this money has been spent on acquiring rockets, and fattening up their leaders wallets, instead of investing in their people's futures. (A cynic might even point out that the money spent on rockets is spent investing in their people's futures.) 


I could proudly tell you about the Iron Dome, how fantastically brilliant it is, and how I post a thank you on their Facebook page whenever I see that they announce that they have just knocked another rocket out of the sky. 


I could certainly tell you how grateful I am that my country is doing its best to protect me from a vicious enemy. They built me bomb shelters, an air-raid warning system, and a barrier that has proven totally effective in stopping suicide bombers (and even that non-lethal method of combatting terrorism was too much for the civilized world, but that too is another story). 


And yet the global media would still delight in publishing the gruesome images, clamoring for newspaper sales and hits to their websites, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that they are effectively doing the PR job of one of the most evil terrorist regimes on this planet. 


And the fact is that the images would be real. (Actually, that isn't entirely true. Some would be from Syria and not Gaza, but again that is another story. If you want to know about Pallywood, Google it.) 


As I said, Israel is trying its hardest not to hurt civilians, but apparently our best simply isn't good enough. No matter how hard we try, and how many improvements we make, and how much Israeli society agonizes over what we have to do, it is not enough. There are still too many dead bodies. 

So, could we do nothing? Absorb rockets fired without retaliating? Well, we tried that, and that didn't work out too well. The thousandth rocket that was fired at our civilians was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. 


Could we try another non-lethal method? How about making sure that no rockets reach Gaza in the first place. Well, we tried that too, but the fact is that some rockets did still reach Gaza, not to mention the fact that the world was outraged by the blockade, which has totally proven itself to be utterly essential. It needs to be a tighter blockade to make sure that no rockets at all reach Gaza, not to be relaxed. (Sorry world if that upsets your tv screen politics. Actually, I'm not sorry for that at all.) 


Perhaps we could go the diplomatic method? Apparently, not. The world insisted on giving money to the poor Palestinians without ever holding them accountable or responsible for where the money was spent. Millions and millions wasted. 


Continuing on the diplomatic front, despite the blaringly obvious neon signs that a Palestinian unity government including Hamas would be bad news for everyone, the governments of the world embraced it with open arms and open checkbooks and promises that if they behaved badly, they would withdraw their support. Apparently, you forgot about that promise Mr. Obama, and Mr. Cameron, so let this be a reminder. Surely you currently outraged citizens of the world are aware of the fact that your own governments still support the Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. Surely you have spoken out against this abomination? Surely you have seen through the ridiculous claims that the Hamas entity in the Palestinian government is purely technocratical. See? Even the word technocratical is absurd. A spell-checker has more sense than the leader of the free world. 


The simple answer is that we have to act against Hamas. Or at least that Hamas needs to be acted against. The best solution would be for the Palestinian people to act against Hamas, recognizing that Hamas are not acting in their best interests. But there again, seeing as it was the Palestinians who democratically elected Hamas to represent them, that isn't likely to happen. 


So there remains the need to eradicate Hamas. 


Despite the fact that Israel has a proven track record of having a comparable, if not lower (but this is no time to brag), rate of civilian combatant deaths than many other countries or unions such as NATO, we have still failed in the eyes of the world. There are too many dead bodies being shown on tv for the hypocritical armchair critics to feel comfortable with. 


Therefore I invite any country to send in their forces, or even their concerned citizens to get rid of Hamas without harming the hair on the head of any Palestinian child. Show us how it can be done. Show us how humanely you critics can do it. 


This isn't simply a conflict 'over there', better kept at arm's distance and not to get involved in, and far from your reality, like Syria. It is right there on your television screens each day and each night. And more fool you if you cannot see that Israel is on the front line of the west versus extremist Islam battle (fighting your battle alone, I might add.)  


What does it matter if the analysis of the Palestinians who have been killed based on Al-Jazeera's records prove that Israel is not killing indiscriminately? The fact of the matter is that this war is being fought on tv sets all over the world and also on the streets of London, Paris and New York. 


The reasons for needing to get rid of Hamas are crystal clear. They are not good for the Palestinians and they are certainly not good for Israelis. Millions of Israelis - Jews, Arabs, Christians, Bahai and atheists are currently facing the very real threat of rocket attacks. Millions of Palestinians are suffering since Israel is obliged (it does not merely have the 'right' to self defense, but it has an obligation to act against the war crimes being inflicted upon its citizens) to respond to the continued Hamas rockets. 


There is no question that Hamas must be eradicated if there is a chance of peace. Their own charter states that they are against a peaceful solution. [Article 13: Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement]. Hamas and peace are simply incompatible. Don't simply harp on about getting the peace process back on track - it is absurd and downright embarrassing for anyone who dares to still claim that this is possible while Hamas is still in the picture. 


They need to be eradicated. I don't care who does it. In fact, I prefer that anyone but Israel does it since I am fed up of the agony of knowing that another Israeli soldier has been killed in this war that we never chose and never wanted, but are obliged to fight. 


I am furious with the world, especially the western 'civilized' world. How dare you criticize Israel when you have never been in such a situation that we face, and when you yourself have behaved worse when faced with a comparable situation (look at the NATO devastation in Belgrade in 1999 for a good start). 


How dare you criticize! How dare you?! How dare you - unless you are willing to do what needs to be done 'better' (more humanely) than us. Put your money (and your lives) where your mouth is. If not, how dare you criticize? A few countries might make excuses. But how can it be that out of over a hundred countries, there is no-one willing to get rid of Hamas without harming any Palestinian civilians. The message is loud and clear - you wouldn't dare try to prove us wrong since you know we are right. But prove me wrong. Please prove me wrong. 


Send in the coalition of the willing. The coalition of the brave. The coalition of the superheroes who can fight a war without creating civilian casualties. You are more than welcome. 


Eyes Wide Open in Gaza

Joanna Graham
Friday July 25, 2014 - 07:19:00 AM

Here are statements about some of the ways I think. (1) I find the process of “taking sides” on any given issue—as if all human life could be reduced to a sporting event—useless except for producing bar fights and endless television shows in which people shout at each other. (2) I like to be consistent, and therefore, if I detect an inconsistency in my opinions, I work at it until it’s resolved in some way. (3) I often use “thought experiments” to work things out. (4) I also frequently include limits or extreme instances as part of my thought experiments.

Here’s an example of (2) above. It occurred to me in the last couple of years or so that as a citizen of the U.S.A., I have no standing whatsoever to criticize Israel’s behavior on moral grounds since I am the beneficiary of similar acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide carried out with all due deliberation over a nearly three-hundred-year period by my European predecessors on this continent—newcomers who had every intent of removing all ability of its native inhabitants to resist the theft of their land and the destruction of their economies and cultures—to resist, in other words, their replacement by others as those with the recognized claim of ownership.

Therefore, I decided to cease from criticizing Israel on moral grounds. This freed me to think about Israel in other ways and what I eventually saw was that the difference between us and them is not that we’re good and they’re bad or that we’re innocent and they’re guilty, but simply that we succeeded while so far they have not done so, and, I believe, cannot. 

Here’s a thought experiment employing an extreme instance, cf. (3) and (4) above. What if we Americans—all of us who have immigrated here from elsewhere in the last 400 years or so or are the descendants of others who did—overcome with remorse at the injustice of our taking, decided to leave and give the country back to the living First Nations people? 

I could be wrong here, haven’t done a poll, but my guess is that there are probably an angry few who would say “How soon can you be out of here?” but that the great majority of native Americans have a long list of grievances they would like to see addressed but that getting the whole place back to run as they see fit is probably not choice number one. 

If this conclusion is correct, I am confirmed in my opinion that we settlers have well and truly won; there is now no way remaining to undo what we have done, except to make those amends that we ought to make to the living descendants of those whom we so brutally robbed and displaced—including transfers of territory where appropriate. 

Here’s another thought experiment. Imagine that—as opposed to the actual situation—for every settler American (“American”) there remain in 2014 two native Americans (“Indians”). Thus there are 300 million plus Americans and 600 million plus Indians. Most Americans live east of the Rockies. Twenty percent of that population, however, is Indian; in the lower grades of school the number rises to 25 percent. If current demographic trends continue, by 2050 Indians will comprise 50 percent of the population east of the Rockies. 

Meanwhile, in the West, Indians far outnumber American settlers. The still-unsubdued country is filled with forts and crawling with soldiers, but the handful of hardy pioneers who, attracted by land grants, have settled there go always armed in daily fear of Indian raids. 

At the other end of the country, the state of Maine has been turned into a prison camp where a population of Indians, over a quarter as large as the entire American population, is permanently trapped and periodically subjected to massacres so awesome the attack can be seen from space! 

Of course this describes only the situation within the U.S. Half the Indian population has been successfully driven out—but they haven’t gone too far. Most of the refugees live, hopeless and angry, in huge camps just across the borders in Canada and Mexico, while still others live further away, as stateless persons working in Central or South America or the Caribbean. 

While all the Indians of my thought experiment, like the real Indians of real North America, come from strong local cultures and feel a deep attachment to their places of origin, nevertheless, unlike the real Indians of real North America, all 600 million of the imaginary ones share a common language and common cultural modes and most of them share a common religion as well. These commonalities are also shared with the—let us say—billion people in the surrounding countries, although not with the Americans, who speak a different language, have a different religion, and generally pride themselves on being nothing like the vast sea of Indians who surround them. 

Maybe I should mention that, despite this pride, 50 percent of the Americans are semi-Indian themselves. Having emigrated to the U.S. from the surrounding countries, they do speak the Indian language (although only in private), enjoy the same foods, groove to the same music, and so on as those denoted “Indian.” Obviously, none of the Americans hate the Indians more than these people who share many of the Indian characteristics. 

As I’m sure you’ve long since figured out, my thought experiment is a transferred map of Israel’s dilemma. In 2013, the dissident Israeli historian Ilan Pappe wrote an op-ed refuting a recent speech by Israeli president Shimon Peres in which Peres made the still-not-unusual claim that Palestine, when settled by the Jews, had been uninhabited. Pappe said that Peres “denies the existence of nearly twelve million people living in and near to the country to which they belong.” 

This is putting the issue from the Palestinian perspective. From the Israeli Jewish perspective, six million Jews are forced to live in “their country” with somewhere between nine and twelve million Palestinians (or “Arabs” as they are called—it is difficult, by the way, to get an exact count) living amongst them (in Israel); next to and amongst them (in the West Bank); next to them (in Gaza); and rather too close (in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria). 

When Israelis speak, as they so endlessly do, about their “enemies,” they do not really mean the surrounding Arab countries, which, with few exceptions, have been hard to rouse to actual acts of enmity. They mean the Palestinians, their “Indians,” who vastly outnumber them and won’t go away. 

This obvious and indisputable fact is hard to learn or keep in mind because the Israeli Jews—while unable to get rid of the actual people—have done a bang-up job of getting rid of them—or most of them—in the (nearly) universal human discourse. How was this done? 

There is a complex answer to this question which I can’t explore here but I will mention one important thing. First they convinced themselves. 

One must remember that while the Zionist project did not reach fruition until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, it was invented in the late 19th century, at a time when many of the so-called Western countries were helping themselves to large parts of the world without bothering to ask the inhabitants how they felt about it. Even before we finished conquering our Western Indians, we were deposing the Hawaiian queen and fighting a brutal ten-year war for the Philippines. Meanwhile the British made Victoria Empress of India and played the Great Game against the Russians in Central Asia. They traded Morocco to the French (who had already annexed Algeria) in exchange for their own free hand in Egypt; just before WWI Italy took Libya. I won’t even bother to mention the Scramble for Africa which left millions of dead in its wake. After WWI, what remained of the Ottoman Empire was divvied up by the British and French in the Sykes-Picot agreement (recently again in the news). In this context, the Balfour Declaration, casually handing Palestine to the Zionists, seems commonplace. 

Lately I have read and heard many people, both Israel’s defenders and its antagonists, refer to the Israeli “bubble,” meaning, I think, its extreme insularity, a framing of its issues in its own terms with an ever-increasing disconnection from the rest of the world. Sometimes, despite the crowds in and out of Ben-Gurion, I think of Israel as the North Korea of the Middle East, a walled-off nuclear-armed fantasy island. But the “bubble” can also be seen as a time-warp. The Zionists had the misfortune to conceive their project of colonization and settlement in the age of imperialism but to birth it just as that age was ending, often in hard fought wars around the world. Their “white man’s burden” and “exterminate all the brutes” attitude, which comes out so often and so unselfconsciously in Israeli speech, but above all, their conviction that there are no Palestinians because all Arabs are the same and these annoying people might as well drift off someplace else as stay where they are, is thus a hundred years behind the times. 

Why are the Jews of Israel committing a massacre in Gaza once again? Many answers have been proffered, most of them probably correct. But one I think little noted is that in the wake of the revenge slaying of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir there were demonstrations not only in East Jerusalem but—extremely unusually—in Palestinian (“Arab”) towns within the borders of Israel itself. 

Slave owners in the antebellum South, often outnumbered by the slaves they owned, managed most of the time to pretend they were living normal lives—and even managed to do so. Always present, though, was the knowledge they were living on a powder keg. So, at the first sign of unrest, real or imagined, they killed enslaved people. It didn’t matter if the ones they killed were ringleaders or someone else. The important thing was to demonstrate to the subject population once again that resistance was hopeless. 

We must understand that from the Israeli Jewish point of view, it doesn’t really matter right now if civilians, including children, are murdered in Gaza. In fact, it’s probably better if they are. Such brutal murders, which have been employed by those displacing native people everywhere, are useful to teach the bitter lesson of who the new owners are. If Israel is to survive, all Palestinians must learn and accept this reality. 

But can Israel survive? There have been settler states like ours or Australia’s, for example, where the incomers have simply outnumbered the natives. There have been others, like Mexico or South Africa, where settlers have failed to outnumber but have established dominance as a minority. In movements of peoples all over the earth, sometimes the natives have been eradicated, sometimes subsumed. Sometimes the incoming settlers are themselves assimilated. However, the Zionists have not outnumbered the natives and, since their project requires a state for Jews only, options of minority dominance or assimilation are not available. They would probably like to eradicate the Palestinians (who, let me remind you once again, outnumber them by 1 ½ to 2 times). Many in Israel have in fact called for their eradication. 

But would the world stand by and permit such a program of murder? I don’t know. As the death toll mounts in Gaza to inconceivable numbers, there still seems to be a lot of bleating about Israel’s right to self-defense (which, as I am trying to explain, means the right to kill as many Palestinians as Israel deems necessary). However, even “the international community” might balk at tens of millions—and besides, Israel cannot reach them all. So I don’t think this solution is a truly viable one, at least not at this time. 

So let us revisit the thought experiment which I tried out with our own indigenous people, the Indians. If the Zionists had, for some reason, a change of heart, could they give Palestine back to the Palestinians? 

In a blind minute they could. If all the walls and fences came down everywhere, most Palestinians could walk back to the places from which they were driven in 1948 or 1967 (and in the West Bank since the Oslo Accords of 1993). Sometimes, from where they now live, in prisons or refugee camps or on the other side of border fences, they can see the landscape where their own farms and villages stood before they were bulldozed and built or planted over. 

Last night, while thumbing through Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown’s 1971 book about the Indian experience of the American conquest, I came across this quote attributed to the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who, 200 years ago, saw the coming holocaust and attempted to confederate all the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi to fight against it. After naming tribes already gone, he said: “Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without a struggle, give up our homes, our country bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will cry with me, ‘Never! Never!’” 

The Palestinian word for that cry of people everywhere who have struggled against the invader, is, as I have mentioned before, sumud, steadfastness. It can take the form of active resistance, violent or nonviolent, but mostly it means simply: we are still here. 

So back to statement number one in my first paragraph about the uselessness of yelling at each other about who’s right and who’s wrong. Obviously, if you believe that a state for Jews only is a necessity for the preservation of “the Jewish people,” whatever that may mean, then you accept all the things that Israel must do to accomplish that and all the justifications it proffers for doing so. If you don’t agree with that necessity, then Israel’s actions and its justifications are unacceptable. 

But now we come to that group of people, the majority, I think—many who are well-intentioned and others (like the U.S. government, for example) possibly not so much so—who would like to have their cake and eat it too. They believe there is some way to reach a negotiated solution between the six million Jews of Israel and the nine to twelve million Palestinians the Jews have displaced. I should mention in passing that sharing the land is probably not a physical impossibility; the Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta, for example, has spent a lifetime working on this problem. But it would certainly finish off the Zionist project of a state for Jews only. Since 1948 and even before, there has never been the slightest indication that the Zionists are willing to give up their project in any way whatsoever and as long as they don’t have to, I don’t see why they would. Therefore, at least under current conditions, there is no possibility of such a resolution to the conflict. If someone sees a way out of this that I’ve overlooked, please let me know. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Meanwhile, unless and until conditions are changed in some unforeseen way—and, of course, people can and should always take action to change conditions—I’m convinced the conflict will end only when one or the other is gone: the Palestinian people or the Jewish state. 


Berkeley Needs More Exports!

Thomas Lord
Friday July 25, 2014 - 09:44:00 AM

The City of Berkeley is in big financial trouble, as we all know. There is an urgent need to boost city revenues. Growth in taxable business income can help to boost city revenues. The Office of Economic Development is supposed to help grow Berkeley's taxable business incomes.

To my great surprise I cannot find mention in any Office of Economic Development document of exports. The word literally does not occur and the concept is entirely missing from the OED's written output. How is this possible?

Nowhere in any of these writings does the OED seem the slightest bit concerned with the question of what products are produced in Berkeley and sold, in a taxable way, to buyers outside of Berkeley.

This is an important omission and I'll explain why. It matters to each and every Berkeley household! 

The City's general fund comes primarily from locally collected taxes and fees.

What this means is that the expenses of running the City ultimately come from only three possible sources: 

1. City revenue taken from the household incomes of Berkeley residents.
All residential property taxes and sales taxes from local resident spending come from our household incomes -- our paychecks. Whether new revenues are raised by adding a new residential parcel tax or passing a tax on soda, nearly all of that money comes straight out of our individual wallets. 

2. City revenue from the one-time windfalls from real estate speculation.
Highly inflated urban land values lead to land speculation and this generates one-time city revenues in the form of transfer taxes, development fees, and marginal increases in ad valorem property taxes. The short-term benefits are real but so are the longer-term detriments, as this speculation drives local businesses out of business, contorts the built environment, and devastates social stability. 

3. City revenue from taxable exports.
One way for Berkeley's businesses to thrive is if they are able to import lower-cost materials, transform them with locally supplied labor into something more valuable, and sell them at a handsome profit to buyers from out of town. When those sales revenues are taxable, Berkeley is able to obtain revenue without hitting the wallets of households and without encouraging destructive land speculation.

Berkeley's exports, produced by resident labor, are in fact a cornerstone of the local economy. They currently include such notable products as high quality furniture, high-end audio systems, and artisan alcoholic beverages.

One would think, given the desirable qualities of this kind of business activity and City revenue, that the Office of Economic Development would be eager to encourage and expand Berkeley's production for export. 

What is the department doing instead? Some highlights include:
  • "Promote the tenanting of vacant retail and office space through the Locateinberkeley.com website and increase traffic to the site by 25 percent."
  • "Promote the emerging incubation of co-working entities that are now operating in Berkeley and attract at least one new incubation or co-working facility to the City."
  • "Work with the development community, QB2 East Bay, U.C. Berkeley, LBNL, and other stakeholders to facilitate the incubation and growth of 10 emerging Bioscience companies in West Berkeley."
Do you notice a trend? Every single one of these concerns is about land prices. The Office of Economic Development is intensively focused on one-time windfalls from real estate speculation and at the same time has apparently never heard of production for taxable export. 

The closest the OED comes to concern for exports is a vague effort to boost the number of retail shoppers driving in from out of town, an approach that produces only lower-wage jobs and very little marginal increase in city revenue.
It's especially ironic because the OED makes a point of lamenting to Council that industrial employment in Berkeley is on the decline at the same time the OED is working actively against industrial employment by encouraging land speculation.

And it's doubly ironic since the City's General Plan describes the economic role of the City government to be one of local business development in response to the threat of land speculation. The OED is doing the very opposite of what it is supposed to be doing!

If Berkeleyans are tired of ever-increasing taxes levied against household incomes and skeptical of the side effects of out-of-control land speculation, I think it is time they ask what the city is doing to develop the most important alternative: exports of locally produced products. 


Petition to Congress: Don't Send Children Back into a War-zone

Courage Campaign, forwarded by Gar Smith
Friday July 25, 2014 - 09:29:00 AM

Our country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and as a nation of immigrants, it's our civic duty to show true American leadership and protect innocent child refugees from life-threatening violence!

In the past month, thousands of starving, scared, and traumatized children have fled from Central America to the United States border -- fleeing countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that have been torn apart by gang violence and drug wars -- in seek of refuge and safety. Some of them even carry horror stories of young kids in their country being chopped to pieces and burned for refusing to take part in local gang activity.

And instead of helping these young innocent refugees, Congress is trying to push forward a bill called the HUMANE Act -- which is anything but humane -- that would fast track the shipping of these children back into danger and violence, where they will face potential death. 

The HUMANE Act is a slap in the face to what America represents. This bill would undermine our core values as a country by overturning vital protections for child refugees passed during the Bush administration that legally require the U.S. to provide assistance to child refugees who are threatened by violence in their home countries. And President Obama -- who earlier declared he would not send them back without giving them a fair chance at safety -- has now pledged to sign the HUMANE Act into law if passed. For the full text of the bill, click here. These children need us to come together and help stop this shameful bill in its tracks. 

Let's be clear. This has nothing to do with the ongoing immigration debate. This is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis that has come to a head because of the growing violence in countries that have turned into war-zones. We have both a moral and legal obligation to protect these children! 

But since reaching our borders, they have been welcomed by hateful protesters holding signs that read "RETURN TO SENDER" and "NO VACANCY." And this gut-wrenching backlash in Washington is only making matters worse. Are these the values our country was founded on? Or the values that we want to pass onto our children? 

Now more than ever we must have the courage to stand up and let the world know who we are as a nation. It starts with stopping the HUMANE Act. 

ACTION: CLICK HERE to stand for justice and American values by signing the petition demanding Congress vote NO on the HUMANE Act.

Israel's Pinpoint Bombing: Take Israel At Its Word

Joseph Anderson
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:15:00 AM

The Palestinians have no fighter jet interceptors, no air defense systems, not even any Stinger missiles that Israel's air force has to worry about. Thus, Israel's military aircraft have 'all the time in the world', so to speak, to leisurely loiter above Gaza, and the tactical freedom to fly relatively low there, with Israel's fighter jets, helicopter gunships, and armed drones. And, not merely with old-fashion gravity-only bombs, subject to winds or errors relating to jet airspeed, release, and bombsight parallax, but, instead, with missiles, bombs, and shells with the latest in pinpoint guidance technology (video, laser, precision GPS, precision radar, infrared, wire, night-vision, or computer-guided).  

This allows Israel to pick and set up its targets carefully (i.e., precisely the targets Israel wants to pick), picking most targets using aerial imagery before Israel's military aircraft (or ships and tanks) even leave their bases, besides civilians of opportunity targets.

We've seen that U.S. armed drones, flying high and far from their targets, controlled from a flight room in another country, can bomb a single moving vehicle whose occupants couldn't even hear the drone!
So, since Israel has 'all the time in the world' and all the latest targeting technology to leisurely set up its missile, bombing and shelling targets, I say let's get real!: If Israel's pinpoint targeting is killing so many civilians, destroying so many civilian homes, and killing groups of women and girls with or without small children or babies at hand, or teen boys just hangin' out and chatting while sitting on the sidewalk, and even little kids on the beach (was Hamas storing rockets under them, too?), as well as Israel striking hospitals, and even the very emergency rooms, surgery rooms, and ICU rooms of those hospitals (which I'm sure Israel had previously all mapped out), then Israel is, indeed, pinpoint targeting precisely those civilians, hospitals, schools, UN refugee compounds (often containing very many women and children moved there), and even kids on the beach that Israel wants to target.
If it were the U.S. government's enemies who were obviously targeting civilians, the drinking water and sewage systems, hospitals, and even children, like Israel is obviously doing, the U.S. government and mainstream media would spare no howling outrage and call for immediate UN Security Council sessions to sanction and embargo its enemies, not allow its enemies' officials to fly on Western airliners, and have the Hague issue immediate international arrest warrants not only for war crimes, but, indeed, for wanton and indiscriminate mass crimes against humanity.
To be morally blunt, Israel's assault on Gaza is akin to the Nazi assault on the Warsaw ghetto (with its tunnels and smuggled or handmade weapons, too!) -- I have heard some Jews of moral conscience make that same, unavoidable comparison -- and about as much oppressor "unoccupied."
(Now, I wonder what Noam Chomsky would say about that?...: "That it's alll under the U.S. government's direction?: that Israel is just ffolllowwing orrrderzzz..."? And where have we heard that 'defense,' before?)

Press Release: Kaiser RNs Set to Open Contract Talks -Voice Concern About Erosion of Patient Care Standards

From Karen Chan and Charles Idelson
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:06:00 AM

With contract talks affecting more than 18,000 Kaiser Permanente registered nurses who work in 86 Kaiser hospitals and clinics throughout Northern and Central California set to open next week, RNs today renewed their call to press the HMO/hospital giant to put the breaks on the growing erosion of care standards nurses say put patients at risk.

Negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between Kaiser and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, originally set to open today, are now scheduled to begin July 31 in Oakland.

The talks come at a time of heightened concern by RNs about cuts in care by Kaiser even as it is recording record profits and rapidly expanding membership rolls following implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“We can not provide the care our patients need when Kaiser is limiting access to care or sending patients home too soon which shifts the burden and responsibility of care to family members,” says Zenei Cortez, an RN at Kaiser’s South San Francisco hospital. Cortez is a co-president of CNA and also chairs the Kaiser nurse negotiating team.

“When Kaiser continues to collect premiums and denies or limits care for our patients, we are going to make our voices heard,” said Cortez. Kaiser, CNA notes, has seen its enrollment figures jump 243,000 to 9.3 million system wide. It is the largest insurance company and hospital system in California.

Kaiser profits for the first quarter of 2014 soared to $1.1 billion, a 44 percent increase over the same quarter last year. Its operating revenues were up 6 percent and operating profits up 49 percent during the same period. Last year, Kaiser made $2.7 billion in profits.

Additionally, Kaiser has accumulated a massive $21.7 billion reserve fund, 1,626 percent more than required by the state, a clear indication on top of the nearly $4 billion in profits the past 15 months that cuts are wholly unnecessary, says CNA/NNU.

Among those high profile cuts are the closure of pediatric services in Hayward in November, leaving 100,000 families in southern and central Alameda County without nearby access to hospital care for their children.

The issue was highlighted by the death in April of 6-month-old Jenevieve Dagatan after being discharged after an initial visit to the emergency room at Kaiser’s Hayward hospital. The in-patient pediatric facility saw 1,800 families every year that must now travel to Oakland, San Jose or even Roseville on congested freeways for needed care.

Kaiser RNs, joined by seniors in the central valley, have also been vocal in protesting the sharp cut in services at Kaiser’s Manteca medical center reducing access to care for 80,000 Manteca area residents. In June, Manteca’s City Council passed a resolution calling for immediate restoration of cardiology and radiology-ultrasound services, reopening the hospital’s medical surgical unit, and restoring a fully functional sub acute surgical unit.

System wide, Kaiser RNs said they will continue to demand that Kaiser:

1) Admit patients who need nursing care rather than blocking admission or holding them on gurneys in the Emergency Room.
2) Stop using ‘observation status’ as a way to circumvent in-patient admissions.
3) Place patients in the appropriate hospital unit so they receive the level of care of nursing care their health status needs rather than in inappropriate units with lesser staffing that puts them at risk because an RN could not properly monitor them.
4) Stop the premature discharge of patients who still need hospital care which too often places the burden of care on family members to provide continued complex medical care.
5) Guarantee women in labor who arrive in a hospital or ER are seen immediately by an RN and admitted when needed rather than subjecting them to long waits that can harm the mother and baby.
6) Provide needed equipment and replace broken blood pressure machines, medication scanning machines and basic supplies that are often not available leading to delays in patient care.
7) Stop placing pediatric patients on adult floors without proper security processes that put those children at risk from adult patients.
8) Properly staff hospital blood banks at night to reduce delays in care for patients who need blood for emergencies.
9) Improve RN staffing at a number of Kaiser hospitals that face persistent under staffing which puts patients at risk.
10) Reduce Kaiser premiums and co-pays imposed on Kaiser members and patients.

August Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday July 25, 2014 - 10:25:00 AM

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: What's Wrong with the Breakup of Iraq

Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:26:00 AM

The unintended consequence of the U.S. Iraq war, the so-called Arab Spring, and the Syrian conflict is the collapse of the post-World War I partition of the Ottoman empire by the British and the French. Perhaps, we are now seeing the inevitable Balkanization of the middle east and maybe that is not such a bad thing. 

Let's look back. In the winter of 1915-1916, two diplomats, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France secretly met to decide the fate of the post-Ottoman Arab world. According to the Sykes-Picot Agreement the British and French divided up the Arab world between themselves. The British took control of what is now Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan. The French took what is now modern Syria, Lebanon, and southern Turkey. The status of Palestine was to be determined later, with Zionist ambitions to be taken into account. The zones of control that the British and French took allowed for some amount of Arab self-rule, but with European control. In other areas, the British and French were given total control. 

The division was arbitrary, taking no account of the ethnic or religious groups within the divided areas. A large Kurdish population -- about 30 million today -- was divided between today's Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Shiite Arabs were split between today's Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia. The Alawites, a dissident Shiite sect, reside along today's northern Lebanese, Syrian, and southwestern Turkish coasts. The Druze were distributed between today’s Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Lebanon, supposedly a Christian safe place, included large Sunni and Shiite populations, as well as Alawites and Druze. Sunni Arabs, the dominant population of the Middle East, were divided into numerous states. Pockets of Turkomen, Circassians, Assyrians, Yazidis, and Chaldeans were isolated throughout. At the beginning of the 21st century, minority ethnic groups ruled Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Bahrain, often repressively. 

Today the Kurds are considered to be the largest stateless national group in the world. The Kurds in northern Syria with the backing of Iraqi Kurdistan and the strong disapproval of neighboring Turkey have declared autonomy. 

Iraqi Kurdistan is already a fully autonomous region, and has been spared much of the chaos that has affected the rest of the country in the past few years. In the face of the recent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advances, Iraqi Kurds have actually gained ground as they took control of Kirkuk, a key oil hub. This has fueled fears in Iraq that Iraqi Kurdistan may declare itself a fully independent state. Iraqi Kurdistan already runs itself in much the same way an independent nation would. It has its own armed forces, and it has been selling its own oil for half the price of what the rest of Iraq charges through a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. It is estimated that the Kurdish region contains a quarter of all of Iraq's oil. 

ISIS now occupies vast areas of Iraq including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. It controls territory greater than many countries and now rivals Al-Qaeda as the world’s most powerful jihadist group. If the Syrian conflict finally ends with President Bashar al-Assad still in control, what will he do about the Syrian territory now in ISIS control? 

Remember, T.E. Lawrence of Laurence of Arabia fame? During the closing years of the war Lawrence sought, with mixed success, to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain contradicted the promises of independence he had made to the Arabs. Perhaps, the Arabs are finally seizing the independence that was denied them. 

President Obama is correct in not trying too hard to "fix" what is going on in Iraq and Syria.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Anxiety is Sometimes Useful

Jack Bragen
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:24:00 AM

Anxiety is uncomfortable but it keeps me on my toes. Some amount of anxiety can be useful. Yet, when anxiety becomes too strong, you can call it an "anxiety attack." Excessive anxiety can be very uncomfortable, can be paralyzing, can cause impulsiveness, and can interfere with daily tasks and activities. h Excessive anxiety to the extent of wiping out confidence can worsen the outcome of a difficult situation, even though there may be a real reason to be anxious. Much of the time, fearlessness is a more effective mode of functioning than fear. Hence, anxiety is often an enemy. 

Yet, anxiety is sometimes a warning that we had better heed--that something is being done wrong. 

Anxiety should be tempered with as much common sense as possible. Ask yourself, "Is the fear realistic?" Ask yourself, "What is the likelihood of the thing happening, about which I am worried?" Ask yourself, "Does this worry make any sense?" 

Someone said FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Sometimes when we are worried, there is actually nothing to worry about. 

Not worrying does not do anything to fix an actual problem. Thus, you may not be worried about paying your electric bill, your rent, or about whether or not you can buy groceries. However, not worrying about these needs doesn't make these necessities go away. 

Worrying, on the other hand, by itself, doesn't help you, either. Action is the solution to some problems and not worry. If it takes being worried to prod you into doing something that's needed, go ahead and be worried. However, if you can meet your needs without generating this uncomfortable emotion, more power to you. 

When someone with mental illness is anxious, it helps to identify the issue related to the anxiety. In some instances, the brain is simply producing inaccurate things to worry about. In other instances, it is good to stop and think. If the issue related to the anxiety turns out to be something "external" that can be fixed with prudent problem solving, then the anxiety has furnished a gift. 

It is always good to know someone who can be used as a "reality checker" upon whom ideas can be bounced. My wife is good at helping me with this, especially since she does not suffer from the same delusional tendency that I have. (However, even a "normal" person often needs to bounce an idea off someone.) 

When anxious, it is usually good to at least reevaluate one's direction. You might decide that the anxiety is irrational and thus should be overruled. Or, you might figure out that the little insecurity in the back of your mind will save you from making a significant mistake. 

Anxiety is nearly always uncomfortable. Taking an anti-anxiety medication may sometimes bring relief, but these medications can also bring forth an addiction. It is a mistake to assume that you are too strong of a person to become addicted to a substance. That was how I got started on tobacco smoke, which was an experiment with twenty five years of regret. 

Thus, while some anxiety is too strong to be dealt with solely through cognitive techniques, relying on mindfulness as at least part of the solution may better the outcome. 

When dealing with anxiety, reminding oneself that "everything is okay" can be useful. If you "buy in" to the possibly erroneous feeling of threat, it gives the anxiousness the ability to completely take over. If you remember that the anxiety is merely a malfunction of the mind, it will still be uncomfortable to experience this, but you will be able to ride it out without panicking. 

When you have done all you can to fix a problem, then the anxiety has served its purpose and can be released. Take a deep breath and feel the worry leave your body as you exhale. Seek counseling as needed. And if you feel you have a problem, you don't need to "go it alone." Maybe there is someone who can help. 



This is to announce my book on Amazon titled: "Revised Short Science Fiction Collection of Jack Bragen."  

The book is 99 pages and contains fiction I have written that has appeared in Street Spirit, Ragged Edge Magazine, Bewildering Stories, and Illuminata Science Fiction.  

Some of the pieces are just fun reading while others are grim and might have a message to them. 

I invite people to read this book, and possibly post a review either on Amazon or in some other publication, such as this newspaper. 

This Link will bring you to the Amazon purchasing page for this work. The Kindle version is more affordable and faster to obtain, and can be read with a free Kindle reading app. The paperback version has an accurate table of contents and is published via LULU. But don't let the stigma of self-publishing dissuade you--I promise you, the writing is good.  

Arts & Events

New: Festival del Sole, Part 2

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday July 28, 2014 - 05:41:00 PM

On Wednesday, July 16, I was again at Castello di Amorosa for a 6:30 PM concert given by the Zukerman Chamber Players, a group founded by Pinchas Zukerman in 2002 and, for this event, consisting of Zukerman on violin, Amanda Forsyth on cello, and Angela Cheng on piano. Opening Wednesday evening’s concert was Beethoven’s “Allegretto” movement for Piano Trio in B-Flat Major. This deceptively simple work was dedicated to the twelve year-old daughter of Franz and Antonie Brentano, “to encourage her in playing the piano.” Though the opening of this “Allegretto” is indeed simple, it soon broadens in complexity, shifting unexpectedly to a minor key, and deftly working out a number of inventive variations. This single movement is perhaps most closely related to Beethoven’s magisterial “Archduke” Trio, also in B-Flat Major. As performed by the Zukerman Chamber Players, the “Allegretto” was a crowd-pleasing opener. However, it was somewhat marred by a mysterious metallic squeaking sound that seemed to emanate from somewhere on or near the stage. 

These intrusive squeaks became critical in the next piece, a Suite Populaire for Cello and Piano by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. The six songs, transcribed for cello and piano, that comprise this Suite were constantly intruded upon by more squeaks. I mentally hypothesized that they might be the result of microphone feedback, but this seemed unlikely. The Suite’s first song, featuring brisk Andalusian rhythms and melodies, fairly successfully warded off the squeaky intrusions. But the second song, a quiet lullaby, had no defenses. The third song, calling for the highest registers of the cello, admirably played by Amanda Forsyth, was also marred by squeaks. The fourth song, a lively folk dance from Aragon, weathered the intrusions; but the fifth and most famous song, Asturiana, suffered badly in its appropriately mournful mood. The final Jota, a lively and boisterous folk dance, seemed almost a celebratory victory over the squeaks. 

Now Pinchas Zukerman replaced cellist Amanda Forsyth on stage for the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major by César Franck. So ravishingly beautiful is this work, which inspired Proust as a model for his fictional Vinteuil sonata, that it almost made me forget about the intrusive squeaks. In the first movement, after a wistful four measures of introduction by the piano, the violin enters with a lilting melody, gorgeously played by Zukerman, that serves throughout all four movements as a guiding theme in Franck’s famously “cyclical” style of composition. When a second theme is introduced, this time by Angela Cheng on piano, the violin refuses to take up this second theme, as is the usual practice, but sticks to a reiteration of the first theme. Without any develop-ment section, a reprise brings back the first theme on violin, now backed by massive chords from the piano. Meanwhile, the second theme continues only on piano. When the two instruments briefly join, the violin offers a soaring and broadening of the first theme while the piano evokes the wistful figure it played in the four introductory measures.  

In the second movement, marked Allegro, an animated and exciting theme is introduced, first, by the piano, then picked up by the violin. A second theme is then introduced on violin, with a harp-like accompaniment on piano. Both the first and second themes are developed; and, now and then, the main theme from the first movement returns like an idée fixe of the work as a whole. In the third movement, there is a long violin solo, rapturously played by Pinchas Zukerman, which is only sparsely and intermittently accompanied on piano. The overall mood of this long violin solo is wistfully capricious, while the piano establishes a pensive, almost gloomy mood. The fourth and final movement is joyful and gay; and it is largely in the form of a canon, in which the violin plays the same passages note-for-note as the piano, only a measure behind. There is much playful banter back and forth, as now one instrument now the other takes the lead. When the work’s main theme eventually returns, in canon, it now sounds as if emanating from cathedral bells, proclaiming their joyful message to the world. Indeed, this beautiful Sonata for Violin and Piano in A-Major by César Franck, majestically played by Pinchas Zukerman and Angela Cheng, was for me the highlight thus far of the Festival del Sole – and this in spite of the squeaks! 

After intermission a host apologized for the squeaks, which, he explained, came from wind blowing the guy wires fastening floodlights to a wall of the castle immediately behind the stage. He assured us that the problem had been remedied and there would be no further squeaks. We all applauded. I gazed up at the Romanesque bell-tower atop the Castello’s chapel and gave silent thanks for the elimination of the squeaks. 

The sole work performed after intermission was Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D Minor. This work was written in 1839, soon after Mendelssohn’s marriage and his move to Leipzig where he became conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a musical institution he transformed into one of Europe’s leading orchestras. In the D Minor Trio, a cello opens the first movement, which is in classic sonata allegro form, with an exposition, development and recapitulation. This movement’s beautiful string melodies and pulsating rhythmic drive directly engage our attention. In the second movement, the piano opens with a lovely solo, then the strings enter with the cello uncharacteristically taking the upper register while the violin takes the lower. In this movement’s middle section, the cello plucks the strings in pizzicato fashion while the piano and violin play the melody. The third movement, marked Scherzo, features more pizzicato plucking by the cellist, and maintains a joyful exuberance throughout. The D Minor Trio concludes with a passionate final movement, in which three themes are developed, with the cello breaking forth in a passionate melody just before the work’s rousing conclusion. 

After this concert I drove south on Route 29 to the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville where I had an invitation to partake of the Patron Dinner. This year, the July 16 Patron Dinner held special significance, for it celebrated the 75th birthday of violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Guests were handed a glass of Chardonnay immediately upon arrival; and servers brought out trays of hors d’oeuvres on which we munched while awaiting the arrival of latecomers and a call to proceed to our assigned tables. Among my tablemates was pianist Angela Cheng of the Zukerman Chamber Players, whom I congratulated for her moving performance in the Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major.  

Once seated, we were served, as a first course, a compressed watermelon salad with cucumber, pickled red onion, feta cheese, baby greens and a Fumé Blanc vinaigrette. This salad was paired with a 2012 Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville, Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. Without any fish course intervening (in the French tradition), or any pasta course (in the Italian tradition), our next course was a Rib Eye steak with a mild (very mild) pesto polenta, wild mushrooms, corn, cherry tomato and arugula salad. This meat course was paired with a 2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. With no intervening cheese course, we proceeded to a dessert of birthday cake with blueberries, blackberries and lemon curd, paired with a 2013 Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro, served in a tulip-shaped glass with shaved ice. Once the dinner party broke up, I drove home to Berkeley, safe, sober and delighted, above all, with the music I had heard, which, at least for this one night, indicated that music does indeed hold a primary place in the Festival del Sole. 

On Sunday, July 20, the closing musical event of the Festival was an Opera Gala featuring tenor Matthew Polenzani, soprano Nadine Sierra, and the Sphinx Orchestra conducted by Carlo Ponti, the son of Sophia Loren and Italian film producer Carlo Ponti senior. The Sphinx Orchestra, by the way, is the unique all Black and Latino orchestra of top musicians from around the USA. This concert, which took place at Yountville’s Lincoln Theatre at 5:00 PM, originally listed Sicilian Maria Agresta as soprano. But with no explanation offered for Ms. Agresta’s absence, Nadine Sierra stepped in to replace her. (One major complaint I have about Festival del Sole is that neither online nor in the printed program is it clearly noted who, when, where, and in what music will musicians perform, much less the price of a ticket.)  

Just as the Festival’s opening concert on July 13 began with a surprise tribute to Athena and Timothy Blackburn, the closing concert also included a surprise tribute to Athena Blackburn in the form of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, richly performed by the Sphinx Orchestra. Next came the overture to Gioacchino Rossini’s opera La Scala di Seta/The Silken Ladder. This lively overture has outlived the opera itself, which is now rarely performed. (I’ve seen it only once, in Vienna in 1969.) Fol-lowing this overture, tenor Matthew Polenzani came on stage to sing “Pourquoi me réveiller” from Jules Massenet’s opera Werther. Matthew Polenzani, whom I have enjoyed in Met HD Live sim-ulcasts as Leicester in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda and Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, has a bright lyric tenor voice with surprising power. Singing in French, Polenzani exhibited his com-mand of both diction and dynamics in this poignant aria from Act III of Werther. 

Next came Nadine Sierra singing “Depuis le jour” from Gustave Charpentier’s opera Louise. Incidentally, it struck me as odd that with this concert introduced under the rubric “Bella Italia,” the first two arias performed were from French operas. Nadine Sierra is a young soprano who has won numerous international awards and has sung in concerts with the San Francisco Symphony. She gave a fine performance of “Depuis le jour,” exhibiting excellent diction and great vocal control in an aria full of vocal flights of fancy and exuberance. Following this aria, Carlo Ponti conducted the Sphinx Orchestra in preludes to two Verdi Operas, Rigoletto and La Traviata. These two preludes couldn’t be more different: the Rigoletto prelude is agitated and ominous, featuring blaring brass, while the La Traviata prelude is quiet and introspective, featuring limpid strings. Rounding out the first half of the program was the duet Parigi o cara” from La Traviata sung by Matthew Polenzani and Nadine Sierra. From the beginning, conductor Carlo Ponti established the tempo as a slow, dreamy interpretation of this duet, as if Alfredo and Violetta were indulging in some illusory dream they momentarily shared even in the face of her terminally ill and weakened condition. Beautifully sung by Polenzani and Sierra, this brief duet was infinitely poignant. 

Following the intermission, conductor Carlo Ponti led the Sphnix Orchestra in the overture to Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma. As the program notes indicated, the overture contrasts the opening military march with ensuing moments of tender lyricism. However, Ponti’s conducting failed to bring out these contrasting dynamics; and I found his overall approach too broadly (and loudly) portrayed. Next came Nadine Sierra singing “Je veux vivre” from Charles Gounod’s opera Roméo et Juliette. In this aria, young Juliette, who has not yet met her Roméo, sings of the joys of youth before the onset of love, which will bring inevitable suffering. Nadine Sierra sang this aria beautifully, her own youthful voice expressing both Juliette’s naïve momentary happiness and her dread of what lies in store for her.  

Now Matthew Polenzani returned to sing the famous Neapolitan song “O sole mio,” com-posed in 1898 by Eduardo de Capua with lyrics in Neapolitan dialect by Giovanni Capurro. Polenzani gave a full-throated rendition of the famous first stanza, with its repeats, then gave a pianissimo rendering of the opening lines of the second stanza, later returning to full voice for the famous concluding refrain. For the concert’s final number, Nadine Sierra rejoined Matthew Pol-enzani on stage to perform Act I’s closing scene from Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème. Pol-enzani’s aria “Che gelida manina” was beautifully sung, full of emotion and longing, as was his follow-up, “Chi Son? Son un poeta.” Likewise, when it became Nadine Sierra’s turn to give voice to Mimi’s response to Rodolfo’s opening, Sierra sang “Mi chiamano Mimi” with just the right touch of simplicity and humility, while establishing the beauty of Mimi’s character with her rapturous voice. Then, as the final scene of Act I of La Bohème drew to a close, Polenzani and Sierra, as Rodolfo and Mimi, walked arm-in-arm offstage, disappearing into the wings as their voices still rang out with words of love.  

Thus came to a close the musical events of the 2014 Festival del Sole. As for the events pairing food with wine, as in a Patron Dinner and a Closing Dinner, I found them enjoyable but underwhelming in the former and rudely disappointing -- or should I say, disappointingly rude-- in the latter. Let’s leave it at that.