Gar Smith


New: East Bay Parks Are Removing Big Berkeley Dirt Pile from McLaughlin Park

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Wednesday February 24, 2016 - 02:02:00 PM

Workers today are beginning to renovate McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in Berkeley by moving around a 53-foot high dirt pile at the park, East Bay Regional Park District officials said. -more-

Page One

Berkeley Police Release Video of Suspect in 3 Sexual Assaults

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday February 19, 2016 - 11:04:00 AM

Police are asking for help identifying a suspect in three sexual assaults that took place in Berkeley in less than a week and have a released a video of the person they want to identify. -more-

Public Comment

There Is No Regional Housing Shortage: Truth and Consequences

Thomas Lord
Friday February 19, 2016 - 05:30:00 PM

The power to shape social truth is a field of war.

How so? Well: The power of the state and social truth are two sides of the same coin. To influence what is socially regarded as true is to influence the power of the state. For example, does the King's divinity grant him the power of life and death? or is the truth of guilt the realm of a jury of peers? Social truth and state power are co-determinate.

I mention this because in spite of what you might have heard there is no regional housing shortage.

The alleged existence of a Bay Area housing shortage is all rumor and innuendo, part of an enormous and coordinated effort to grab power and real estate. -more-

When It Comes to the Holy Bible,
Both Trump and the Pope Are 'Off the Wall"

Gar Smith
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:15:00 AM

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and Pope Francis have recently exchanged barbed comments about what it means to be a "Christian"—especially when it comes to the matter of walls. -more-

Affordable Housing Platform
Berkeley Progressive Alliance

Rob Wrenn and Kate Harrison
Thursday February 18, 2016 - 10:34:00 AM


Since 2011, rents for vacant rent controlled apartments have soared by an average of 47% and are unaffordable to many of the people who live and work here. Housing costs impact our city’s vitality and diversity by contributing to the decline of the African American population and fewer lower-income residents and creative people. Berkeley has fallen short of building the new housing called for under regional housing goals and falls woefully short of housing affordable by moderate and low income households. This problem is not unique to Berkeley: Oakland, San Francisco and most of the Bay Area face a housing affordability crisis. We need a comprehensive approach in Berkeley. -more-

Obama to Supreme Court???

Armin Wright
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:17:00 AM

I almost always find your editorials enlightening. However, I am aghast at your suggestion that Obama would be a superb Supreme Court justice and should maneuver himself into the position.

Not only would it be laughable for Obama to manipulate the nomination process by resigning in time to allow Biden to nominate him (Obama) to the court, as you suggested in your editorial of 2/12/16, but there is little likelihood that he would be confirmed unless the Democrats had taken control of the Senate in the prior election. Given the wholesale voter disenfranchisement and suppression that has taken place over the last decade by many Republican Secretaries of State (to little notice by Obama), that is an unlikely outcome of the 2016 election. I, as a lifelong Democrat, would be ashamed of the party for supporting such a maneuver. (I'm already ashamed of many of the actions of the Democratic Party - no need to add to my misery.) -more-

Policy-Makers Need to Relax

Romila Khanna
Friday February 19, 2016 - 05:32:00 PM

All of us need time to relax by playing. I think even our politicians need to play to think clearly about national problems. We know that playing has a positive effect on our immune system. It is anti-stress medicine for free. -more-


The Best Choice for the Supreme Court

Becky O'Malley
Sunday February 14, 2016 - 12:27:00 PM

While there’s still time, let’s consider the possibilities for President Barack Obama’s constitutionally guaranteed nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court. Everybody’s favorite senator, Elizabeth Warren, frames the decision perfectly:

"The sudden death of Justice Scalia creates an immediate vacancy on the most important court in the United States.

"Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.

"Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can't find a clause that says "...except when there's a year left in the term of a Democratic President."

"Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself. It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that — empty talk."

This effectively demolishes the crocodile tears coming from those Senate Republicans. Now the only question is who the nominee should be.

I have a modest proposal.

If the Republicans continue to whine about being asked to advise and consent to President Obama’s choice, there is an alternative.

There’s one outstanding candidate who will be available soon:Barack Obama.

That’s right, an extremely well-qualified guy who will be out of a job soon. Among other things, he’s a member of an under-represented minority: Protestants.

He’s still pretty young and very healthy, so he’s likely to be around long enough to make a difference.

But can he appoint himself? That’s never happened, but we’d probably have to ask Senator/Professor Warren if it’s okay.

Here’s another alternative. If the Republicans continue on their snarky obstructionist path, in about eleven months Obama will be turning the presidency over to a successor, though until November we won’t know who the successor would be.

But between now and next January he could be absolutely sure of who the successor is, and it could be someone he could rely on to appoint him to the Supreme Court seat in which he would unquestionably shine.

If he resigned sometime, even as late as January 2017, under the Constitution he would be succeeded by Joe Biden, a great guy who’s always wanted to be president. Then President Biden would be free to appoint ex-President Obama to the Supreme Court. -more-


SENIOR POWER: Women’s History

Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:21:00 AM

My editor says ninety is the new seventy. American author, abolitionist and social critic Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) wondered why somebody doesn’t wake up to the beauty of old women. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Hillary’s 5 Problems

Bob Burnett
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:12:00 AM

Since April, when Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, I’ve expected her to be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. Only recently, given the strong showing of Bernie Sanders, have I doubted she might prevail. Meanwhile, the fierce competition for the Democratic nomination has revealed five problems with Hillary’s campaign. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Irish Voters to Grade Austerity

Conn Hallinan
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:01:00 AM

What looked like a smooth path to electoral victory for the Irish government has suddenly turned rocky, and the Fine Gael-Labour coalition is scrambling to keep its majority in the 166-seat Dail. A series of missteps by Fine Gael’s Taoiseach [prime minister] Enda Kenney, and a sharply critical report of the 2008 Irish “bailout,” has introduced an element of volatility into the Feb. 26 vote that may end in a victory by an interesting, if fragile, coalition of leftists and independents. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Devastating Effects of a Relapse of Psychosis

Jack Bragen
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:25:00 AM

A relapse of psychosis can be precipitated by a traumatic or overwhelming event or series of events, can occur simply due to the nature of the illness, or can occur because of stopping medication either against medical advice or with the blessing of a well-intentioned but mistaken psychiatrist. -more-

Arts & Events

A War: Truth from an Oscar-nominated Film: War Is a Bore—and It Can Be a Trial

Gar Smith
Friday February 19, 2016 - 05:34:00 PM

Opens February 19 at San Francisco's Embarcadero Cinema and February 26 at Berkeley's Landmark Shattuck

Director/writer Tobias Lindholm's Academy-Award-Nominated Best Foreign Language Film, A War, captures both the rigors of war and the mundane, crippling consequences for war's survivors. Filmed in the outlands of Turkey, Lindholm serves up scenes that duplicate the Afghanistan we have glimpsed in nightly news reports. But the film goes beyond the battlefield to show a war's impacts—both domestic and political—back home. Like A Few Good Men and The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Lindholm's tale starts in a soldier's dirty world and ends in a sterile courtroom.

This may be the slowest-moving war film in the history of cinema. Which is a good thing. Most war films focus on the frantic scramble of combat when a good part of a soldier's experience involves downtime—sitting, waiting, pondering, fearing, regretting. Lindholm's pacing provides viewers with sufficient time for inward reflection and evaluation about a soldier's life—line of work that is often little more than a demanding form of drudgery, but one that carries the risk of sudden, life-changing injury or violent, bloody death.


Julia Morgan Imagined in Play on February 28

Friday February 19, 2016 - 11:10:00 AM

The Berkeley City Club Conservancy, with the generous support of the Ross Valley Players, will present playwright Mary Spletter's "Arches, Balance, and Light," Sunday, February 28. Spletter imagines famed architect Julia Morgan as an older woman examining her life and choices and whose regrets, triumphs and accomplishments that may surprise you. -more-

Cypress Quartet Plus Guests Play Brahms’s String Sextets

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday February 19, 2016 - 10:27:00 AM

When I heard the Cypress String Quartet play Beethoven’s Op. 130 Quartet last October in the Maybeck Studio (formerly the Maybeck Recital Hall), I experienced one of the finest chamber music concerts I’ve ever attended. I was impressed not only by the tightly integrated musicianship of the Cypress Quartet but also by the acoustic and sightline intimacy of the Maybeck Studio. In fact, I declared the Maybeck Studio the perfect venue for chamber music, outranking even the nearby Hillside Club. Well, perhaps I was too hasty in this judgment. Last night, Friday, February 12, 2016, I again heard the Cypress Quartet at Maybeck Studio, only this time the group was augmented by two more instrumentalists – Zuill Bailey on cello and Barry Shiffman on viola. The program consisted of two String Sextets by Johannes Brahms -- the Op. 18 in B-flat Major and the Op. 36 in G Major. -more-