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BART Says It's Fixing Transbay Tube Problems Causing Jammed Trains

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:28:00 PM

BART is fixing a mysterious power surge problem in the Transbay Tube that's resulted in fewer and more crowded trains but hasn't yet figured out the root cause of the problem, a spokesman for the transit agency said today. 

BART spokesman Jim Allison said BART has had intermittent problems with train cars being knocked out of service while going through the tube, which runs under the Bay and connects the East Bay with San Francisco, but the problem became more frequent starting on Feb. 20 and reached the "watershed" stage on Monday. 

Allison said, "We've seen a decrease in the number of propulsion failures since we changed our power supply configuration" on Thursday and he expects that number to "dramatically decrease this weekend and next week." 

However, Allison said BART crews "will go out again tonight to try to pinpoint why this is occurring and look at it in more detail." 

BART's goal is to have 62 trains running at full 10-car length during peak commuting hours but 18 trains ran short on Thursday and 17 trains ran short during the morning commute today, Allison said. 

"That's not anywhere close to where we want to be," Allison said. BART hopes to be back to its normal train car count by Monday but it might take a while before there's a permanent solution to the problem, he said. 

When train cars get knocked out of service they have to be towed to repair yards at the end of BART lines, according to Allison. 

The transit agency then has to run shorter trains, which can carry fewer passengers, he said. 

The problem is coming at a bad time for BART because in February it set an all-time ridership record by averaging 446,650 on weekdays, Allison said.

Leap Year Twins Born in Berkeley

Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:33:00 PM

A mother who gave birth in Berkeley to special fraternal twin boys said today that the family is already planning for the unusual circumstances that will come since one was born minutes into Leap Day and will have his first birthday years after his brother. 

Miles and Walter Erickson, born to Oakland residents Summer and Ryan, came 11 minutes apart at Sutter Health's Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. Miles was born at 11:58 p.m. Sunday and Walter was born at 12:09 a.m. Monday, meaning his Feb. 29 birthday will come only once every four years. 

"We would be lying if we didn't already anticipate a lot of teasing of each other about it," Summer Erickson said by phone from the hospital today. 

She said her husband "is already party planning in his mind about how we're going to manage the birthdays," with a tentative plan to celebrate them both on Feb. 28 during non-leap years and have "a multi-day blowout bash" every four years. 

The twins were born premature at 26 weeks, with Miles weighing 2 pounds, 2.6 ounces and Walter weighing 2 pounds, 4.7 ounces, and will likely stay at the hospital for the next few months, hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said. 

"Obviously we just want them to grow big and strong, and healthy enough that we can take them home," Summer said. 

She said the couple's 4-year-old son Bruce met his new little brothers for the first time on Monday and then went back to school the next day and "instantly started telling everyone he's a big brother ... he's very proud." 

Summer, who expects to get discharged from the hospital Thursday, thanked the staff at Alta Bates for their care. 

Because of the higher risks involving twin pregnancies, she said the family was "very deliberate" in choosing a hospital and picked the Alta Bates campus in Berkeley for what she called its "top-level" newborn intensive care unit. 

"As scary and overwhelming as the whole experience has been, we've had a lot of calming moments because we know Walter and Miles are in the best of hands," she said.

RV Driver Injured on West Berkeley Train Tracks

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:31:00 PM

A driver of an RV suffered serious injuries Thursday evening when an Amtrak train struck his vehicle on Union Pacific tracks in West Berkeley, police and a Union Pacific spokesman said. 

The first report of the crash at Bancroft Way came at 6:08 p.m.  

The RV stalled on the tracks and the driver was able to get out before the crash, but the train's impact spun the RV and hit the driver, Union Pacific spokesman Francisco Castillo said.  

The driver was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland. Castillo could not say whether the person's injuries were life-threatening.  

Another man was hit and killed by an Amtrak corridor train Feb. 8 in Berkeley.

Readings on the Theme of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler

Compiled by Gar Smith from Various Sources
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:05:00 PM

Donald Trump Used to Keep a Book of Hitler's Speeches by His Bed

The Independent

According to a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, Ivana Trump once told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that her husband, real-estate mogul Donald Trump, now a leading Republican presidential candidate, kept a book of Hitler's speeches near his bed.

"Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that, from time to time, her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed . . . . Hitler's speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist," Marie Brenner wrote. 




Trump and Hitler 

The Forward 

When Brenner asked about the book, Trump said, "Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he's a Jew." 

Later, Trump said, "If I had these speeches—and I am not saying that I do—I would never read them." 

The best part? While Davis acknowledged being Trump's friend and giving him a copy of My New Order (not Mein Kampf as Trump claimed), he isn't even Jewish. 


Hitler's Rhetorical Theory 


Bruce Loebs  

Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Idaho State University 

Hitler was a great public speaker. His claim in 1939 was probably correct: "I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses." 

Hitler scholars seem unanimous in recognizing his speaking skill. Writes Klaus Fisher, "Without his remarkable gift of persuasion, Hitler would never have reached such heights of power." CBS correspondent William Shirer, who heard Hitler often, declares, "Hitler has a magic power to sway millions with his voice." 

British scholar of the Nazi-era H. Trevor Roper explains: "Hitler, at the beginning, had only his voice . . . that was his only instrument of power. His only asset was his demagogic power over the masses, his voice." Kershaw concedes "his rhetorical talent was, of course, recognized even by his political enemies." 


Fundamental to Hitler's rhetorical theory is his conviction that, for leadership, the spoken word is superior to the written word. So ingrained is this principle that Hitler expresses it in the brief one-page preface to Mein Kampf: "I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to orators and not to great writers." 

Hitler dismisses "fops and knights of the pen" who "for leadership" are "neither born nor chosen. The broad masses of people can be moved only by the power of speech." 


Hitler had contempt for his German audiences declaring, "the masses are slow moving and always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice something, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses remember them." 


In a preface to Hitler's Table Talk British historian H. R. Trevor Roper describes Hitler's opinion of the German people: Dickschadel (thick skulled), Querschadle (mentally fouled up) and Dumm Kopfe (dumb, stupid). Hitler did not conceal his contempt. He told 200,000 cheering Berliners in 1926, "the broad masses are blind and stupid and don't know what they are doing. 


Hitler was especially condescending toward women: "To convince women by reasoned argument is always impossible."
German historian Werner Maser explains, "Hitler knew his people—the masses he so detested. More than that, he despised them and said so openly without circumspection—and still they applauded him." 


Hitler: "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is born in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. Propaganda must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over again." 


Hitler agrees with Sigmund Freud, who wrote in 1924, the same year Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, "the orator who wishes to sway a crowd must exaggerate, and he must repeat the same thing again and again." 


Hitler cautions against attacking multiple enemies because "as soon as the wavering masses are confronted with too many enemies objectivity at once steps in and the question is raised whether actually all the others are wrong and your movement alone is right." 

Hitler: "It is necessary to indict one sole enemy to march against one sole enemy." Because his enemies were numerous, Hitler believed "it is part of the genius of a great leader to make adversaries of different fields appear as always belonging to one category." 


Explains Klaus Fisher, "Anti-Semitism, in fact, was the oxygen of Hitler's political life. Anti-Semitism was the hate that fueled the Nazi Movement." 


Hitler: "You will see how little time we need to upset the ideas of the whole world simply by attacking Judaism. Anti-Semitism is beyond question the most important weapon in my propaganda arsenal and I use it with almost deadly efficiency." 


Hitler's rhetorical theory also emphasizes one-sided, black-and-white, all-or-nothing reasoning, because, according to Hitler: "the thinking of the people is not complicated but very simple and all of one piece. Their thinking does not have multiple shadings. It has positive and negative, love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie but never half this way and half that way." 


Hitler: "In the size of the lie there is a certain factor of credibility, because, with the primitive simplicity of their feelings the masses fall victim more easily to a big lie than to a small one. 

Since they themselves occasionally lie in small matters, but the masses of people would be ashamed to tell great lies. Such a falsehood would not enter their minds, and they will not be able to imagine others asserting, with great boldness, the most infamous misrepresentation. And even with the explanation of the matter the masses long hesitate and vacillate and accept some ground as true. Consequently, from the most bold lie something will remain." 


Hitler: "For myself personally I would never tell a lie, but there is no falsehood I would not perpetuate for Germany's sake." 


According to Hitler: "Conscience is a Jewish invention like circumcision. My task is to free men from the dirty and degrading ideas of conscience and morality." 


Hitler: "the people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions far less than emotions and feeling." Hitler explains, "My purpose is to arouse, to whip up, to incite." 


[Hitler] constructed a pragmatic Machiavellian rhetorical theory, based on a cynical analysis of his audience, that emphasized repetition, scapegoating, black-and-white reasoning, lying, and emotional appeal. 


Hitler: "I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses." 


A Brief Profile of Adolf Hitler: 1889 - 1945 



In Mein Kampf, Hitler promised to provide jobs, sort out the economy and make Germany proud and strong again. 

--- --- 


Donald Trump Campaign Ad Appears to Feature  

German Nazis Marching under White House  

Nina Golgowski, Celeste Katz / New York Daily News 

(July 15, 2015) -- Donald Trump's latest campaign ad appears to feature an American flag with money, the White House and German Nazis. 

"Make America Great Again," the presidential hopeful's Twitter account tweeted Tuesday with the banner, which includes his star-spangled face overlooking the marching World War II soldiers. 

"We need real leadership. We need results. Let's put the US back into business," his ad continues. 

Eagle-eyed critics pointed out that the soldiers' uniforms resemble those of the Waffen-SS infantry, the military wing of the Nazi SS. 

The outrageous image has since been scrubbed from his Twitter account, but not before being captured by eagle-eyed critics who identified the soldiers as Waffen-SS infantry re-enactors

Those depicted soldiers, who appear to have an SS eagle badge on their arms, were the armed wing of the Nazi Party whose reign led to the mass murder of some six million Holocaust victims. 

"These guys are dressed as late (1944-45) WW2 Waffen-SS infantry. Nothing to debate here. Way to go, Trump!" @20committee tweeted. 

"Trump's new campaign slogan: 'Put the SS back in BUSINESS,'" joked @buffalopundit. 

--- --- 

The Racist Origin of Trump's Family Fortune 

Troutfishing / The Daily Kos 

(February 28, 2016) -- . . . . By the late 1940s, Donald Trump's father, Fred Trump, was a flourishing real estate developer profiting heavily from the pro-WW2 vet largesse of the federal government. 

As iconic folk singer and WW2 veteran Woodie Guthrie learned, after renting an apartment in Fred Trump’s FHA-supported Beach Haven, NY apartment complex, Trump did not rent to African-Americans, veterans included. 

In short, racist, government-supported public housing built the fortune that launched Donald Trump. Fred Trump did not originate the segregationist rental policy, but he did enforce it. 

Historian Will Kaufman, digging through material at the Woodie Guthrie Archive, found several song lyric writings from Woodie Guthrie that attacked Fred Trump’s racist rental policy: 

I suppose 

Old Man Trump knows 

Just how much 

Racial Hate 

he stirred up 

In the bloodpot of human hearts 

When he drawed 

That color line 

Here at his 

Eighteen hundred family project .... 



What the June Primary Will Mean for Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 04, 2016 - 03:13:00 PM

In some quarters there’s concern because the number of votes in Democratic primaries is substantially lower than in previous presidential years. For example, a writer in the excellent Facing South newsletter published by the Institute for Southern Studies points out that “voter turnout for the party's 2016 primaries in the South is 45 percent lower than it was in the party's last competitive presidential primary in 2008.” And the same trend has surfaced in all the primaries so far around the country.

But not to worry. Despite the doomsaying of lathered-up Bernie Sanders fans, it’s more than likely that Democrats and those who usually vote for Democrats are not bothering to turn out for the primaries or the even more annoying caucuses because the Republicans, or what’s left of them, are making such damned fools of themselves that the Dem-symps are rapidly morphing into Yellow Dog Democrats. That’s a term originating in the 19th Century to describe people who would vote for an ol’ yaller dawg on the Democratic slate before choosing any Republican. (Not to be confused with Blue Dog Democrats, who are contemporary conservatives.)

A Planet reader whose second epistle is in this issue is the opposite, a kind of voter only too common in Berkeley, the folks who brought us the Ralph Nader Administration which we enjoyed (endured) between 2000 and 2008. People like this appear to regard voting as a sacramental act. It’s all about what voting does for me, how I feel when I vote, not about the consequences of my vote for everyone else.  

Anyone old enough to remember Barry Goldwater’s slogan, “In My Heart I Know He’s Right”? 

There are reasons why more than one commentator has identified Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as two sides of the same coin. They’re both mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore, so there!  

They appeal to different segments of the population, but the shared meme is that whoever’s running things in this country doesn’t represent what I want for myself. 

I’ve successfully avoided the study of sociology, but from this angle it looks an awful lot like a class thing, and I don’t mean that money is what it’s all about. Supporters of both candidates feel like outsiders, and they’d like instead to feel that “someone like me” could be in charge. 

Who’s “Me” is different for the two candidates’ supporters, however. For Trumpers, rudeness and even outright vulgarity are markers for the class they identify with: people for whom the right to public flatulence is the preferred form of expression. For Sandernistas, “people like me” seem smart and have visionary dreams unencumbered by facts. These two Mes couldn’t sit down at the same dinner table, of course. 

In both parties the outsiders tend to view the political world through the “How does it affect Me?” lens. Today’s Planet correspondent says “…racism is only one issue, and despite how it may offend your sensibilities, it's not as important as things like investors' rights agreements or war, because it affects far fewer people and generally does not affect the environment.”  

Just a guess, but he’s probably White. And when the writer goes on to say that it doesn’t matter much that Hillary’s a Woman…you can bet he’s a Man. Lucky for him, too bad for the rest of us—though collectively we White Women and Non-White Everybody Else do outnumber those White Men, don’t we? 

I continue to think that the reason many of us who are over thirty don’t bother to choose a horse in the Hillary v. Bernie race is that either one of them would be undeniably better than any of the Republicans now available, so why bother? 

More than that, all of the Republicans would be not just a little worse, but a lot worse, regardless of how H. or B. would vote on critical issues like investors’ rights. Trump is the loudest and ugliest bad guy, but he’s just one of the evil triplets, not much different from Cruz or Rubio. Kasich is perhaps the most dangerous of the bunch, since he has a civil façade though a dreadful track record in Ohio.  

Millennials, bless their tiny hearts, hope for another messianic figure like Obama was when he burst on the scene. They are nostalgic for the excitement they saw their parents and older siblings feeling in 2008, but that’s not on offer this year. Another commentator (maybe the currently distraught David Brooks though I can’t remember) echoed and improved my previous take on the Democratic primary: the kids like Grampa because he takes them out for ice cream, while Grandma says eat your vegies first. As a certified Grandma, I can relate to that. Bernie Sanders is Santa Claus and Colonel Sanders rolled into one, while Hillary is Mary Poppins at best.  

Yes, recent accounts of H.Clinton’s excursions into realpolitik, especially in Libya, are unnerving, but there’s no reason to think that Trump would not be a lot more dangerous. Sanders might be better than HRC, but since he’s had absolutely no experience in international affairs except a stint on a kibbutz and a honeymoon in Moscow you can’t be sure. 

Finally, I’m sorry to say that the name-calling and bad manners we see in the Republican debates seem to be catching. The letter writer starts out: 

“Jack Bragen: By your comments you are clearly not progressive; you are liberal at most, maybe center-right. That explains why you ‘believe [Clinton] would make a superlative President.’ No progressive would say that or anything even close. You clearly represent the conservative faction of Berkeley.” 

As a free speech fan, I posted his letter, but I’ll go on record here saying it’s tacky—sounds as rude as the Republicans, in fact. 

If the writer actually read the Planet regularly, he would know that long-time Planet columnist Jack Bragen doesn’t even live in Berkeley, let alone represent its conservative faction, whatever that might mean. Some Berkeleyans (I started to say we Berkeleyans, but no, that’s wrong) have a tendency to label anyone to the right of the farthest left-wing table in the cafeteria at CCNY in 1937 as a conservative, but it ain’t so. Calling someone out as a liberal in one sentence and a conservative two sentences down is unfortunately all too typically Berkeley at its worst.  


And what do all these labels mean, anyway? All I really know is that if everyone in Berkeley who has issues with Hillary Clinton stays home on the day of the June primary in California, it won’t make a dime’s worth of difference, so what are we arguing about? November now, that might be different.  







Public Comment

The Supreme Court's Silence versus the Media

C. Denney
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:23:00 PM

It's always dangerous to assume too much about silence, from the U. S. Supreme Court or anybody else. Silence can be ominous, or full of speechless admiration. But the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to take up a case regarding developers' objections to mandates for affordable housing is at least a deep breath during a waterfall of cascading stories mischaracterizing housing issues and the people who get caught in its crossfire. 

The San Francisco Chronicle has at least temporarily won its media war on poor and homeless people by using its reporters, columnists, and photographers to portray San Francisco city government and Mayor Ed Lee in particular as mistreated, misunderstood, underfunded, and helpless. The Mayor and the city are the underdog in most of these stories. People suffering the effects of the housing crisis are portrayed as just stubbornly unwilling to be part of the one percent's good fortune. 

It was barely mentioned in the Chronicle stories that the Pier 80 proposed alternative to the community of tents under Division Street's overpass didn't have enough capacity for even that particular tent community, let alone all of San Francisco's population of people in need. Despite the Pier 80 tents being miles from town, despite the barbed wire that evokes concentration camp analogies, these numbers matter, especially after watching the city spend nearly five million dollars of public money on nine days of pre-Super Bowl parties in a city that didn't even host the game. 

People in tents under the Division Street overpass paid for those parties, too, including the police officers who kept protesters away from the festivities. But night after night television cameras hovered around Division Street poised for fresh versions of the classic shots; interviews with people who "refuse" shelter, complaints from merchants and homeowners about trash, and city workers handing out eviction notices and offers of help interwoven with threats of tickets, warrants, intrusion, jail. 

Few are more knowledgeable than people with no housing options what it means when the bright vests of city workers show up nearby. Many people pack and leave at the whisper of any official intervention if they're able. The community of cooperation disperses to reinvent itself somewhere beyond the media spotlight. 

It works, if you believe the SF Chronicle's assessment of its readers' applause for its own coverage. Tent giveaways and food sharing is described as "misguided" despite even city officials, such as Kelly Hiramoto of the city's Homeless Outreach Team, describing her team as "bouncing among the whims of department heads, with strategies and priorities changing week to week."[1] And predictably a tech start-up's app was happily highlighted: a "Queen for a Day"[2] approach to homelessness where people in need are invited to compete with each other to coax sympathy and dollars from an essentially passive public. No pesky public policy here! 

Any city can use its camping laws, its public health laws, or no laws at all to disperse a collection of tents. But what most people would acknowledge if pressed is that most neighborhoods would share the same troubles conventional in any tent community within days (if not hours) if the garbage services, water and power services, and sewage services were shut off. Garbage would pile up, attracting vermin. Waste, even in tight containers, would smell. Even the most fastidious among us would start to look rumpled. 

Neighbors would quickly form committees of people to ferry waste back and forth to the nearest available facility, as people in tent communities often do, pool their camping equipment and arrange shared meals, as people in tent communities often do, and try their best to work cooperatively. It is no accident that this exhausting, time-consuming, and heroic work which all tent communities exhibit was not highlighted by the San Francisco Chronicle in favor of typical tropes which scapegoat the poor. 

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appears bent on noodling around with the usual "streamlined" services and "new" models while fighting in the back rooms for developers' interests while listening uneasily to a growing public outcry against luxury apartments and AirB&B-style conversions. Even the tech workers appreciate that profit, not human needs, is guiding this administration. 

The rights of cities to require developers to include affordable housing may or may not be upheld by a future U.S. Supreme Court, given that a crucial fifth vote may come from a Supreme Court justice nominated and affirmed by a Republican president and a Republican-dominated congress. But for the present, the Supreme Court's silence means that yes, a city can in fact require that developers' proposals address essential community needs for open space, for historic preservation, for transportation issues, and yes, for appropriate housing to address the housing crisis. 

# # # 


[1] By Emily Green, Kevin Fagan and Peter Fimrite, Thursday, February 25, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle. 

[2] Queen for a Day originated on Mutual Radio Network in 1945 in New York City and was one of the first popular big prize giveaway shows. It moved quickly to television in Los Angeles and ran through 1964 offering people in financial need opportunities to compete for financial help and prizes. 

Solitary Confinement

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:40:00 PM

Solitary Confinement is a barbaric form of punishment. It violates the 8th amendment of the US Constitution. It is illegal in treaties ratified by the U.S. It is guaranteed to harden human beings confined to its solitary dungeons. 

A staggering 80,000 are confined to solitary. Justice Kennedy commented that the insidious practice is sure to “literally drive men mad.” The prisoners are held in windowless cells devoid of virtually all human contact. A correctional facility should make every effort to rehabilitate prisoners to drive down recidivism rates when they are released.  

President Obama is the first president to denounce the practice, and called for its total ban for juveniles. He stated "how can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” After much legal prodding and hunger strikes, California agreed to overhaul its system which is the largest and most brutal in the country.  

500 of the prisoners who participated in the class-action lawsuit had been in solitary for more ten years. A United Nations report states that stays longer than 15 days could amount to torture. Albert Woodfox served 43 years in solitary, more time than anyone in U.S. history. This is a stark reminder of the injustice that pervades our criminal justice system. It makes us far less safe and is an affront to our common humanity. It is aptly described by social scientists as social death.

The NSA & Encryption

Jagjit Singh
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:38:00 PM

The NSA has an insatiable appetite to invade our privacy. Der Spiegel reported details of a secretive unit inside the NSA, called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. TAO has developed new ways to penetrate our privacy, courtesy of Microsoft, by gaining access to WINDOWS users who report technical problems. In addition, new computer orders are intercepted in transit and special malware is implanted to monitor all activity of unsuspecting users. 

William Binny, creator of some of the NSA surveillance code, expressed concern that the agency is drowning in mountains of useless data which has rendered it to be totally dysfunctional. He also warned that the potential for abuse and misuse of the information is extremely troubling. 

It is instructive that the NSA couldn’t cite a single instance in which its mammoth sized haystack of data circumvented an imminent attack – including the Bernardino shooters. In the last fifteen years the NSA had access to potential terrorist attacks but failed to act on the significance of the data. 

It is ironic that the NSA paid millions in fees to Apple and other high tech companies to weaken their encryption standards by supplying a back door access. The same companies are now feigning outrage over government demands to allow them access to their devices thereby weakening their encryption standards for all their customers. 

As Dan Kaminsky, a security expert commented, “when your products have been intentionally flawed in the support of intelligence missions, don’t expect people to buy them”.  

Irony: The Rise of Trump Can Be Good For American Pluralism

Shaik Ubaid, MD
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:03:00 PM

I dislike Donald Trump. Yet I am grateful to him. No not because I believe in his particular philosophy of making America great again but because he can save America from people like him.

Islamophobia has been on the rise for many years and it had become politically acceptable. But before the bombastic and narcissistic Mr. Trump joined the race to lead this nation, the media and the political leaders including Mr. Obama, were not paying much attention to it. Like an insidious cancer, this poison was spreading in the body of our great nation. Mr. Trump was a symptom that finally led the physicians to take notice. Trump is not the pain of hemorrhoids but of the deadly and insidious pancreatic cancer. 

Before Mr. Trump, Congressman Tancredo of Colorado had suggested that America should bomb the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. A person of the stature of Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, and who is a history professor, had called the mosque in downtown Manhattan, a symbol of Muslim triumphalism. Senators Cruz and Rubio, Governor Huckabee and Congressman Santorum had said worse things.  

But these politicians were too respectable and sometimes too inconsequential for leaders like Mr. Obama to take notice. Only the moderate faith leaders and the human rights and civil rights organizations were taking notice. They were showing solidarity with their Muslim fellow citizens. 

Mr. Trump changed all that. He was too big a name and getting bigger too fast, to be ignored. With his crass pronouncements against so many groups and individuals, he was not too respectable. Never had been. The President and the Speaker could no longer hide behind the need to be politically expedient. Both came out in defense of the Muslim Americans. President Obama even gathered the courage to visit an American mosque to show his solidarity with the demonized Muslim community. 

Trump is a good thing for the Republican Party too. GOP was fast losing the immigrants and the women, after having lost the African Americans already. The rise of Tea Party and the extremist wing of the Evangelical community who had a very strong grip on the party, was making it become marginalized nationally. Mr. Trump will force the GOP to address this suicidal ideation. Even if it comes to allowing a split, the leaders can calculate the loss of the extremists against the gain of right leaning immigrants, racial minorities, younger Whites and women. Just a decade and a half ago the affluent sections of immigrants and conservative sections of Muslims were supporters of the GOP. 

Trump has also been a good thing for America. Anyone who forces the country to take notice of the cancer of intolerance has done a good job. At a time of demographic shift and economic stagnation, fear-peddling can lead to the undermining of the national fabric itself. Any one who spray gasoline from the air when the drought has caused many small fires will be noticed.  

I have been speaking out against the danger of rise of xenophobia in the US but was mostly met with disbelief and denial. When in 2010, for the first time in its history, the US saw more non-White births, I spoke about it an anti-war conference in New York City. I have been so sure about the rise of xenophobia and demagogues because never in the history of humanity a dominant ethnicity had let its power erode without trying to arrest that erosion. In such times of demographic shifts, especially if these shifts are occurring during economic downturns, it becomes very easy for a demagogue to rise to power 

Six years after that conference, I am still frustrated at the denial that our intellectuals exhibit. I attended a teleconference on the rise of Islamophobia held by the Council on Foreign Relations on February 25th. The speakers and the participants mostly focused on hate and prejudice. They would end their statements with a “positive” message that America always overcame the hatred of new groups and cite the history of Jewish and Catholic struggle against hate. No one focused on fear. It was frustrating and scary. 

Muslims are in a much worse shape than their predecessors- the Irish and Italian Catholics and Jews. The Catholics and Jews, though reviled, were not feared. Muslims are feared.. Fear is an almost primordial emotion. It can evoke the survival instinct in the most docile of men and turn them into fear-crazed violent mobs armed with bullets or ballots. 

History teaches us that when native Americans were demonized as savages and African Americans were dehumanized as sub-humans we committed the worst of atrocities on the grandest of scale without suffering even the mildest of guilt-pangs. We saw what demonization did to the European Jews and Gypsies, how the Bosnian women were gang-raped in thousands in our own era and how in Gujarat -the land where Gandhi was born- vegetarian mobs gleefully cut open the bellies of pregnant Muslim women , fully confident that in post 9 11 months, the world will not mind at all if a few "Muslim baby snakes' lives were snuffed out even before they could breathe. 

So we must not take fear-mongers and hate-peddlers lightly. But we were. That is till Trump became the leading contender for the nomination for Presidency from the Republican Party. But this is not enough. The leading intellectuals, the editors, the clergy, the leaders of human rights and civil rights groups must not only start addressing the rising xenophobia against the immigrants but must start to identify and counter those who are behind it. The powerful forces that are exploiting the insecurity of the Whites in times of economic decline and demographic shifts must be countered in an organized way. 

When it comes to Islamophobia, these leaders must not feel shy in identifying those evangelical groups that are involved in Islamophobia. They must counter the American supporters of the Israeli right-wing parties who consider the rise of the US Muslim population as an existential threat to their dream of a greater Israel and therefore fund the Islamophobia industry. 

Just wishing for xenophobia to go away or living in denial that xenophobia can not lead to bad things at a grand scale in the US, will eventually be suicidal to the pluralistic and democratic ethos of America. A dynamic alliance of all those groups who believe in a pluralistic America will have to be built and built soon. Its strategy must be based on a study of history, sociology and behavioral science. 

All religious groups and media must report fairly that violent extremism is a human problem that exists in all communities. While the Muslims have their Boko Haram, ISIS, Mehdi Army and Al-Qaeda; the Christians have their Neo Nazi groups, the armed militias, the KKK, the Lord Resistance Army; the Hindus have their RSS, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Vahini and Shiv Sena; the Buddhists have their 969 of Burma, the Jews have their Kach, Kahane Chai and the settler groups. The reassuring fact is that all these groups are fringe movements. Reporting such facts in a nondiscriminatory way will suck the oxygen out of the propaganda of the demagogues who might be targeting one religion for demonization. 

All political parities and institutions must be convinced to make countering racial bigotry and religious hatred a priority. 

The rise of Trump in these can be a wake up call against the spread of xenophobia and can be the catalyst for the launch of a broad based alliance to protect pluralism in the US. This is my hope for America and this is why I thank Trump for running. 

XXXXXXXX Dr. Shaik Ubaid is a community organizer, political commentator and a practicing neurologist. He is active in inter-faith arena and recently presented a panel discussion at the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City on "Sharing the lessons from the intrAfaith struggles against extremism", where leaders of major religions shared their communities' struggle against extremism.

A Proposal for a Peoples' Cabinet

Gar Smith
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:24:00 PM

Democratic elections are a wonderful social invention. Every four years, US voters can cast a ballot for a president and vice-president. But that comes down to a choice of just two individuals who may—or may not—represent the voter's best hopes, dreams, and core values. Perhaps it's time for a bold, new experiment.

Under the prevailing two-party system, many immensely popular crusaders will never make it onto a two-person presidential ticket. (Sometimes these outliers run as independents, like Ross Perot and General James Stockdale, or Green Party candidates Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke.)

While Bernie Sanders has been hailed as one of the most authentic candidates ever to seek the White House, many Democrats—while they admire his free-college-education, big-bank-busting policies—continue to daydream about alternative realities: What if Elizabeth Warren had chosen to run? What if a younger, more charismatic radical were leading Bernie's call for a populist "revolution" against Wall Street and the American Oligarchy?


Despite http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/2016_presidential_race.html"> a host of national polls that show Sanders leading Hillary Clinton and topping Donald Trump and other GOP candidates, Bernie's critics continue to question his electability. He is, after all, an older, Jewish, white guy with "bad hair" who can come across as a grumpy old scold. And Camp Clinton would have you believe, Sanders suffers from a lack "experience" that would hobble his ability to accomplish needed reforms. 

But what if Sanders were to do something really radical and unprecedented? What if he were to announce that he was running, not as an individual, but as part of a full-fledged, hit-the-ground-running slate of progressive reformers? 

What if voters were told—in advance—the names of every individual Sanders intends to nominate to head every critical post in the his new cabinet? Suddenly, instead of supporting a single candidate, each ballot would be cast for a broad coalition of well-vetted, talented and experienced reformers—Team Bernie! 

Instead of placing Election Day hopes on a single ray of Sanders' Sunshine, the creation of a Peoples Cabinet would convene an entire constellation of stellar activists—all working collectively to push Bernie's revolution into hyperdrive. 

After all, a real revolution involves more than a single leader. An idea only becomes a revolution when inspiration gives rise to growing crowds of enthusiastic game-changers. 

Think of it: Instead of just casting a ballot for a President and VP, the next national election could become a vote for top-to-bottom, institutional reform. Announcing a Peoples Cabinet in advance would provide voters with a clearer understanding of the kind of government they hope to elect. Let people know who—and what—they are voting for. Such an approach could electrify voter enthusiasm, kick-starting even wider support. 

Sanders has called for "a peoples' campaign." What could be more "revolutionary" than announcing a Peoples Cabinet? A "Team Bernie" of charismatic activists that would make the Sanders "revolution" manifest. 

In today's interconnected world, it might even be possible for a Peoples' Cabinet to be selected by popular vote (imagine a political version of "The Voice"). 

For Democrats, the election wouldn't be about voting for Hillary or Bernie. It would become a larger vote on the core members of an entire new administration. A Peoples' Cabinet would have Bernie's back—a Guardians of the Galaxy super-combo, committed to safeguarding the planet and battling the evil Lords of Greed. 

If you ever wished to see Elizabeth Warren make a run for the White House, nominate her for a position in the People's Cabinet. If you ever voted for Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich during their earlier presidential campaigns, consider nominating them for positions in the People's Cabinet. 

Another benefit: This team-approach will make it much easier for the Democratic campaign to fan out across the nation to win support. Instead of just the President and VP making campaign appearances, every member of the Peoples Cabinet could be on the road, helping to get out the vote. This could generate a growing tide of enthusiasm that could not only put a Democratic Socialist in the White House but could also flood the polls with enough new voters to regain control of the House and Senate. 

The Idea for a People's Cabinet Is Not New 

Back in 1992, the great Berkeley-born environmental leader David Brower (a former Sierra Club director who went on to found Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute), spelled out what he would do "if I were President for a week." His first act would be to gather a team of specialists to draft "national environmental restoration legislation." Brower's team would have included alternative energy guru Amory Lovins, World Resources Institute head Gus Speth, biologist Norman Meyers, economist Hazel Henderson (who famously called economics "a form of brain damage"), 1988 presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, and a slate of progressive politicians—including Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Jimmy Carter. 

The Idea for a People's Cabinet Is Gaining Traction 

"We don't want another Treasury Secretary who is beholden to Wall Street," insists Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). (This has been an institutional problem: six of the last Treasury Secretaries had Wall Street connections.) 

"Personnel is policy," Warren observes and making good cabinet appointments is "one of the best ways a president can assure that big things—and the right things—get done." Warren believes that "anyone who wants to be president should appoint only people who have already demonstrated that they are independent, who have already demonstrated that they will hold giant banks accountable." 

Bernie Sanders has vowed that there will be no one from Goldman Sachs in his Administration. (Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has refused to reject the idea of another Wall Streeter as Treasury head in a Clinton administration.) 

The idea of a Peoples' Cabinet is starting to emerge from many quarters. 

On February 5 (in expectation of a Democratic election victory in November), Just Foreign Policy director Robert Naiman launched an online petition urging the nomination of Robert Reich as Treasury Secretary in Sanders' new cabinet. 

Recently, the Washington Post reported that a progressive coalition (consisting of Public Citizen, Revolving Door Project, Rootstrikers, Better Markets, and Americans for Financial Reform) is challenging all presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, "to provide a short list of candidates for Cabinet posts and top government jobs involved in policing Wall Street." 

(You can sign the petition here.) 

Note: If elected, Sanders' cabinet appointees still would need the consent of Congress. This current gridlock on this Constitutional approval process might benefit if a rising tide of motivated voters were to sweep into the nation's voting booths and bring an end the GOP/Tea Party's current obstructionist lock on the House and Senate). 

What Might a 'Peoples' Cabinet' Look Like? 

The following list is only intended as a conversation starter. It clearly needs work. It needs more women and more candidates of color. (And, as a practical matter, anyone who receives a significant number of votes for a position on the Peoples' Cabinet would have to be willing to serve.) But the move for a Peoples' Cabinet needs to start somewhere. Let it begin here. 

Presidential Offices 

President: Bernie Sanders 

Vice-president: Elizabeth Warren 

Cabinet Offices 

Department of State: Daniel Ellsberg 

Department of the Treasury: Robert Reich 

Department of Defense: Gen. Wesley Clark. 

Department of Justice: Ramsey Clark 

Department of Interior: Winona LaDuke

Department of Agriculture: Jim Hightower 

Department of Commerce: Van Jones 

Department of Labor: Mary Beth Maxwell 

Department of Health and Human Services: Hillary Clinton 

Department of Housing and Urban Development: Jonathan Reckford 

Department of Transportation: Elon Musk 

Department of Energy: Amory Lovins 

Department of Education: Michael Moore 

Department of Veterans Affairs: Tammy Duckworth 

Department of Homeland Security: Edward Snowden 

Environmental Protection Agency: Bill McKibben 

Executive Offices 

Office of Management and Budget: Paul Krugman 

Small Business Administration: Ben "Ice Cream" Cohen and Jerry Greenfield 

Director of the FBI: Coleen Rowley 

Director of the CIA: Ray McGovern 

Bureau of Consumer Affairs: Ralph Nader 

UN Ambassador: Angelina Jolie 

This proposal will be forwarded to the both Sanders and Clinton campaigns. They will be encouraged to "pre-declare" their cabinet choices. 

--- --- 

Create Your Own "People's Cabinet" 

Fill in your own list of Presidential Appointees below.  

Once you are done, you can email your list to Bernie Sanders and/or Hillary Clinton. 



Secretary of State: 

Department of State: 

Department of the Treasury: 

Department of Defense: 

Department of Justice: 

Department of Interior:

Department of Agriculture: 

Department of Commerce: 

Department of Labor: 

Department of Health and Human Services: 

Department of Housing and Urban Development: 

Department of Transportation: 

Department of Energy: 

Department of Education: 

Department of Veterans Affairs: 

Department of Homeland Security: 

Environmental Protection Agency: 

Campaign Addresses 

Bernie 2016, PO Box 905, Burlington, VT 05402. 


Hillary for America, PO Box 2001, New York, NY 10116-2001 


March Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:58:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Trump vs. Clinton: Reprise

Jeff Hoffman
Friday March 04, 2016 - 01:16:00 PM

Jack Bragen: By your comments you are clearly not progressive; you are liberal at most, maybe center-right. That explains why you "believe [Clinton] would make a superlative President." No progressive would say that or anything even close. You clearly represent the conservative faction of Berkeley.

As to your comments about Trump's racism, reread my comment; I noted that and expressed disgust about it. But racism is only one issue, and despite how it may offend your sensibilities, it's not as important as things like investors' rights agreements or war, because it affects far fewer people and generally does not affect the environment. 

As to having a woman president, yeah, that would be great if it were someone like Barbara Lee or even Elizabeth Warren. But identity politics are stupid and we should never support someone just because of her gender, color, ethnicity, etc. Clinton would hopefully be very good on abortion and birth control issues, but she can't be trusted and might sell those issues down the river in exchange for things that mean more to her, like war mongering (she's great at that, just learned that she was the primary cause of the U.S. attacking Libya and destroying that country, for oil as usual despite the lying pretext of avoiding a massacre), and corporate and general economic issues. 

Sorry, but you can't call yourself a progressive and support a pro-corporate war monger like Clinton. She embodies the establishment and because of her war-mongering she would be worse than her husband, who brought us the horrors of NAFTA and GATT.



Jack Bragen
Friday March 04, 2016 - 04:56:00 PM

People who supervise mental health consumers often lack understanding of what we are up against, and usually presume that we are no more than ignorant people of less ability than they. Not all mentally ill people are the unaware, unconscious, and childlike people that mental health treatment practitioners assume us to be. We go through very rough times, and the abuses as well as the absurdly bad circumstances and experiences we have to go through often go unacknowledged. Or, we might get cutified.  

Recently, two people who I had never seen before showed up at my apartment, identifying themselves as mental health practitioners, and one of them carried a massive box of cupcakes. One of the two was female and had the look of a churchgoer, with perfect makeup including lipstick, and a nice outfit. The other was a very tall man.  

They believed I would want the cupcakes and would let them into my home. It was quite presumptive and an insult, as well as being an invasion of privacy. I am fifty-one years old, and it is about time that I was not treated as a twelve year old. (This is aside from the fact that I am taking care of my health and not eating too much refined sugar.) 

I sent them away and then I phoned their organization to complain. I would like a little respect, and not a box of cupcakes. (Had it been donuts, or maybe the chocolate croissants they have at Starbuck's, now that's different. I would have said, "Come on in!")  

It was a serious invasion of privacy and extremely presumptuous to have mental health practitioners come to my door unannounced. As the pair left, I overheard them comment that I was "very paranoid." Apparently, to them, anything I did was a symptom. 

I had been away from outpatient institutionalization for quite a long time, and had begun to forget about the "stinking thinking" that goes on in the minds of mental health treatment practitioners. I had begun to even deny that it existed. But, then, when institutionalization came to my door, it all came back to me. Persons with psychiatric disabilities aren't regarded as adults. On the other hand, we are up against very serious issues, ones that most young, healthy, and affluent mental health practitioners would have no concept of how to face.  

Even while mental health consumers get infantilized, our lives, fates, and possible early deaths are not taken seriously and are put on a level of comparable to or less importance than the lives of people's family pets. We are regarded as subhuman, and we are dealt with accordingly.  

I do not like giving people put-downs. I am keeping as anonymous the organization that wanted to give me cupcakes, because it could have a bad effect on an organization in which people apparently have good intentions, and I don't want to dissuade people from going there if they need to.  

The man and woman who came to my door had the visage of missionaries of a cult-like church, or perhaps that of Jehovah's Witnesses going door to door. It was the same glazed look of having severely distorted perceptions, and of not seeing me, but rather seeing whom they wanted to see.  

They were doing "outreach" according to the woman I spoke to on the phone. Yet, from my perspective, it was too close for comfort.  

If I wanted cupcakes, I am capable of buying some at the grocery store. If I wanted to go to that group, I am capable of driving there. I appreciate the good intentions, but these people were mistaken, and it was annoying.

Who Sired Trump? Ronald Reagan

Friday March 04, 2016 - 01:17:00 PM

In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks blasted Donald Trump and “the rise of a group of [Americans] who are against politics.” Regrettably, Brooks failed to acknowledge that Trump is the direct descendant of Ronald Reagan. 

The path from Reagan to Trump had five stages: 

1. Blame Government: In his January 20, 1981, inaugural address, Ronald Reagan famously declared, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Republicans adopted “government is the problem” as their mantra and blamed the Federal government for all manner of problems (remember the “nanny state”). The GOP blithely ignored popular support for infrastructure improvements, old-age pensions, a robust military, and a host of other Federal programs. 

2. Pay No Taxes: After blaming the government, the Republicans decided to pay no taxes. In 1985, at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform. This powerful conservative lobby pushed Republican political candidates to sign a pledge to oppose “any and all tax increases.” As a result, America launched thirty years of deficit spending – the GOP replaced “tax and spend” with “spend and don’t tax.” 

“Blame the government” and “pay no taxes” promoted a unique Republican lunacy: the belief Americans could enjoy the benefits of government without having to pay for them. Inevitably this led to the madness of George W. Bush’s $2 trillion war in Iraq that was financed by writing I.O.U.’s rather than levying new taxes. 

3. Encourage Absolutism: At the same time Ronald Reagan was blaming government, and slashing tax rates without considering the consequences, he was solidifying the GOP’s hold on the South by bringing evangelical Christians into the fold. Reagan declared he was “born again” and invited the Moral Majority into the White House. Reagan “inaugurated what scholars David Domke and Kevin Coe have called the ‘God strategy’ in American presidential politics, as ‘religious communications increased to levels never before seen in the modern presidency.’” 

The consequence of Reagan’s political strategy was to bring religious fanaticism into mainstream American politics. One of the reasons that George W. Bush invaded Iraq was that religious zealots in his Administration believed it would escalate Armageddon. Christianity became, de facto, the state religion of the United States. Previously private concerns such as access to birth control and sexual preference were escalated into matters of public policy. Republicans became moral absolutists. 

This produced the ultimate GOP schizophrenia: the Republican Party deplored the Federal government and wanted it to disappear, yet believed that same government should dictate to women what their personal health care choices are. (Republicans believe government doesn’t work in Washington, but does in the bedroom.) 

4. Oppose all things Obama: Stung by the victory of a black, liberal Democrat, on January 20, 2009, Republican leaders adopted a scorched earth opposition strategy, "We've gotta challenge [the Obama Administration] on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign." The result was unprecedented obstructionism, little real legislation, and the widespread public perception that “Washington is broken.” 

The Republican plan succeeded. The GOP shut down the government, drove public sentiment for politicians to unprecedented lows, and polarized the electorate. 

5. Celebrate Ignorance : 2009 saw the rise of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party (in Congress referred to as the Freedom Caucus). David Brooks spoke of this as Americans who are “against politics.” 

[They] want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.
In other words, they are Republicans opposed to democratic process. 

At the beginning of the Reagan era, Republicans acknowledged the give and take of the American political process. (After all, President Reagan raised taxes and increased the size of the Federal government.) But over the past thirty years, we’ve seen the rise of a GOP “my way or the highway” attitude; one that eschews compromise. (As one example, the Republican Senate that refuses to vote on President Obama’s judicial nominations, including the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Scalia.) 

David Brooks wrote, 

Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.
And, of course, the denigration of science and the veneration of ignorance. 

During the Reagan era, the Republican Party turned its back on democratic process and begun a dark slide into authoritarianism. Donald Trump is the culmination of this process. A no-nothing who flaunts his ignorance. A bully who resorts to insults rather than reason. A threat to democracy. 

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

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Irish Shillelagh Austerity*

Conn Hallinan
Friday March 04, 2016 - 04:28:00 PM

If there is one thing clear after Ireland’s recent election, it is that people no longer buy the myth that austerity is the path to economic salvation. It is the same message that Greeks, Portuguese and Spaniards delivered to their elites over the past year: the prophets of tough love, regressive taxes, and massive social services cutbacks should update their resumes and consider a different profession than politics.

Ireland is a small country but the Feb. 26 election drove a big spike into the policies of the “troika”—the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund—that have blitzed economies across the continent and made chronic unemployment and growing economic inequality a continuing source of malaise. 

The governing center-right Fine Gael lost 16 seats, and its partner, the center-left Labour Party, was virtually wiped out, dropping from 37 seats it controlled after the 2011 election only to six. The two parties had overseen an economic program that almost doubled child poverty rates, drove some 500,000 young people to emigrate, reduced wages by 15 percent, and sharply raised the jobless rate. 

Ireland’s economic difficulties had nothing to do with public spending, but were the fallout from private speculators and banks caught in the great 2008 financial meltdown. Rather than making the speculators pay, the then government of Fianna Fail shifted the bank debts to taxpayers. The troika agreed to a $67 billion bailout of the banks, but only if major bondholders were exempted and the government would institute a draconian austerity program. Most Irish voters were unaware of this “trade off” until just before the election. 

The Fine Gael/Labour government has long claimed that it had no choice but to apply the austerity formulas and that, in any case, the policies worked, because the economy was recovering. Voters didn’t buy it. The “recovery” has largely been restricted to Dublin—where homelessness in January reached a record high—and the growth was largely a product of falling oil prices and a decline in the value of the euro, rather than the result of austerity. 

As Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times put it, “What voters said on Friday is in some ways highly complex, but in relation to the dominant narrative” that austerity is the path to recovery, the Irish said, ‘We don’t believe you.’” The Fine Gael-Labour campaign slogans of “stability” and “all is well” fell flat. The government, O’Toole said, “imagined that it would ride back to power on a feel-good factor, as if people who had been repeatedly beaten should feel good that the beating has stopped.”  

At first glance, the Irish election looked like a shootout between the two center-right parties—Fine Gael and Fianna Fail—that have taken turns governing Ireland for more than eight decades. But this time around Fianna Fail ran from the left—mild left, as it were—promising greater fairness and more public services. Fianna Fail, which was crushed in the 2011 election, bounced back from 21 seats to 44 and is now the second largest party in the Dail after Fine Gael. 

The Dail has 158 seats. 

Another winner was the unabashedly leftist Sinn Fein Party, which picked up nine seats for a total of 23 and is now the third largest force in the Dail. The People Before Profits/Anti-Austerity Party gained two seats, and the independent bloc picked up a seat. In contrast, the rightwing Renua Party lost its three seats. 

Irish elections are complex affairs, employing a proportional representation system that provides a path for small parties to gain a foothold in the Dail, but makes campaigning complicated.  

What emerged from the Feb. 26 vote was a hung parliament: Fine Gael/Labour did not win enough seats for a majority, but neither did anyone else. There is talk of a “grand coalition” between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, but both parties would have to renege on pre-election promises that they wouldn’t consider such a move, and it would automatically make Sinn Fein the leader of the opposition. The latter possibility scares both center-right parties. 

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, and Labour refuse to consider a coalition with Sinn Fein because of the Party’s links to the Irish Republican Army and violence. It is an odd rationale, considering that all three parties have roots in the sometimes quite violent struggle for Irish independence and the bloody 1922-23 civil war over the Anglo-Irish Treaty that freed the Republic from Great Britain. 

In any case, Sinn Fein leader Jerry Adams made it clear that his party has no interest in being a minority member of any combination that Fine Gael or Fianna Fail put together. And there is no way that Sinn Fein can construct a majority coalition. At most, the left and center-left parties could muster 60 votes, and that would include the Labour Party, a dubious possibility. Indeed, one Labour Party leader, Alan Kelly, has already called for a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail unity government. 

It is possible that Fine Gael will try to rule as a minority government, but that would require Fianna Fail to abstain when it comes time to elect a Prime Minister, or Taoiseach. And it would also mean that Fianna Fail might have to choose between swallowing some of Fine Gael’s austerity policies that it ran against in the election, or bringing down the government. Since any minority government will be extremely fragile, another round of elections is a real possibility. During the campaign, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin said he would not go into a coalition with Fine Gael, and Irish voters in a re-match might punish any party that broke its promises. 

Irish voters essentially gave two messages in the last election, one directed at Europe and the other at its own political structure. 

About Europe, the voters firmly rejected the increasingly discredited policies of the troika, joining Greek, Spanish and Portuguese voters in saying “enough.” Austerity as a cure for economic crisis, as O’Toole points out, “was not just an Irish story—it was a European narrative.” That narrative is under siege. 

About Ireland, voters turned their own political structure upside down. The two parties that have dominated Ireland since the end of the 1922-23 civil war can now claim the allegiance of slightly less than 50 percent of the electorate. This election, as Sinn Fein’s Adams argues, represents “a fundamental realignment of Irish politics.” 

*A shillelagh is a blackthorn walking stick that the Irish use for whacking things they don’t like. 


Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 

Arts & Events

Grab your Life Vests: The Wave Roars onto the Big Screen

Gar Smith
Friday March 04, 2016 - 05:18:00 PM

Opens at the Landmark Shattuck on March 4

Norwegian film director Roar Uthaug knows what he's up to at every point in his new pulse-pounding disaster epic, The Wave. He delivers exactly what you would expect from a filmmaker whose name is "Roar."

Instead of invoking a fictitious plot device like an alien invasion or a mysterious plague, Uthaug focuses on a real-life mountain that looms over a popular real-life tourist village that sits in one of Norway's scenic fjords.

The problem is, Geiranger is situated in a watery cul de sac. If the mountainside collapses (and it's only a matter of time), the fjord is configured to act as a chute, channeling the surging water into a towering wall of water aimed directly at the town's shops and hotels. The Wave gives new meaning to the phrase "tourist trap."




The press screening at SF's Embarcadero Landmark multiplex was in a room that held fewer than 40 upholstered barcalounger-style seats. The screen was only 20-feet away from my row. It was a pretty intense setting for a film like The Wave

My first question, as I settled in, was: "Can my seat cushion be used as a flotation device?" 

The Wave (Bolgen) begins with black-and-white documentary footage recording the aftermath of a 1934 landslide that triggered a 210-foot-high wall of water that obliterated the villages of Tafjord and Fjøra. This is followed by a modern-day aerial view of a mountain that towers over the fjord. The camera reveals a massive cleft running nearly 2,000 feet across along the rockface. It is an unforgettable visual "reference point" that sticks in the mind. 

When the camera returns to the scenic tourist town of Geiranger, every moment thereafter is subliminally framed in an aura of impending disaster. The picturesque village may be a sun-splashed paradise for the families who live there—and for the visitors who sail over to enjoy the scenery—but the audience feels the inescapable presence of that looming mountain. 

While Geiranger's small resident population hovers around 250, as many as 200 cruise ships bring more than 700,000 tourists to the region each year. The problem is, Geiranger is situated in a watery cul de sac. If the mountainside collapses, the fjord is configured to act as a chute, channeling the surging water into a towering wall of water aimed directly at the town's shops and hotels. The Wave gives new meaning to the phrase "tourist trap." 

Director Roar Uthaug knows what he's up to at every point in this production. (He delivers exactly what you would expect from a filmmaker whose name is "Roar.") 

Uthaug does not rely on a fictitious plot device like an alien invasion or a mysterious plague. Instead, it's a real-life mountain, standing right there in plain view. Somehow, this makes the threat seem even more frightening. 

One of the town's residents is a local geologist named Kristian (Kristoffer Joner). He may not be able to tell a spanner from a plumber's wrench, but he does seem to share the audience's uneasy sense that "something may be happening" in the rocky depths of Akerneset. (In fact, the crack currently is growing at a rate of 1-4 inches a year.) Whenever Kristian stops and turns towards the mountain, it's as if he can hear something that not even the government's seismic stations can pick up. 

Kristian's wife, Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), is the practical one. She not only cares for her two kids but also fixes broken plumbing (a skill that will prove useful before The Wave has run its course). Idrun is the co-hero of this film. When the worst happens, she becomes the problem-solver and demonstrates that, when it comes to saving her children, she's even prepared to kill. 

The plot is laid out for maximum effect. The four members of Kristian's family become increasingly separated from one another as the apocalypse approaches. Even if they do survive the coming flood, the questions remain: how will they ever be able to reunite? 

Many critical scenes take place inside a real government seismic station built on the mountainside. This is where Kristian and his colleagues spend their days monitoring the condition of the mountain in a NASA-style control room filled with large screens displaying data-streams from hundreds of sensors implanted in Akerneset's rocky ribs. It's usually dull work but even when "strange things" begin to register on the screens, the jaded watchdogs shrug it off and attribute the problem to the sensors, not to the summit. (The audience, of course, knows better.) 

Even when all hell breaks loose and the screens begin to ignite with red warnings, the guardians of Geiranger hesitate to push the button that triggers the area-wide evacuation alarm. After all, it's the tourist season and "What if it turns out to be a false alarm?" 

Of course, this it's the real shebang and Uthanug delivers a presentation that is as every bit as devastating as an invasion from Mars. Cliffs shiver into rubble. Boulders smash and churn the river into leaping towers of demonic power. The long-predicted flood begins to pour down the fjord's confined canyons, rising higher with each turn of the river. 

The alarm gives everyone a ten-minute warning. But ten minutes is not a realistic time-frame for evacuating a village—especially when there is only a single two-lane highway out of town. As the water closes in, your mind may start asking desperate questions: Why isn't there a series of helipads for quick aerial evacuations to higher ground? Could people have found refuge strapped inside strong, metallic "survival pods" that would eventually bob to the surface? 

The Wave shows us how the "evacuation plan" for a multistory hotel on the waterfront works out. It involves hotel staff racing frantically from floor to floor, knocking on doors and urging sleeping tourists to leave everything behind and scramble onto a bus. (In this case, a single bus capable of carrying, at best, 60 passengers.) 

The resulting flood is Biblical—but there's no parting these waters. Hundreds of people are caught outside, running for their lives. Most will not make it. The CGI effects are heart-stopping. 

After the flood dissipates, the landscape is rendered unrecognizable. Crushed and twisted cars lie atop collapsed buildings amidst pools of water lit by guttering fires and electrical sparks. Images of bodies floating facedown in pools are reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

And the drama isn't over. A few survivors remain trapped in a horrific situation and time is not on their side. In these final-reel scenes, it's clear that the actors did not have an easy time of it. I felt myself holding my breath during some of the desperate underwater sequences. At another point, I found myself involuntarily pumping my arms against my legs as someone on the screen tried unsuccessfully to apply artificial resuscitation. 

It would be unfair to reveal who survives and who doesn't but the experience is guaranteed to have audiences staggering out of the theater happy to be alive. 

The final scene—an overview of an emergency center on a road high above the fjord—slowly opens up to show the landscape far below. For as far as the eye can see, the valley has been ripped apart by the force of the rampaging waters. The scale of the devastation is incredible to behold. 

Afterwards, I found myself in the theater lobby discussing the film with a small crowd of filmgoers. One of my fellow spectators was Hilde Skorpen, a personable cineaste who turned out to be the Consul General of the Norwegian Consulate in San Francisco.  

Given the proven dangers, I asked Skorpen about the Norwegian government's decision to spend enormous amounts of money on an extensive early-warning system to continuously monitor the mountain. "Wouldn't it make more sense to simply abandon the town before the cliffs collapse?" 

Our group discussion quickly came face-to-face with a familiar human reality: It is hard to motivate people to think long-term and "leave their comfort zones." Humans have a hard time planning for the "long term." 

Skorpen mentioned other places on Earth facing similar threats, including the Canary Islands. If the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma island were to suffer a "flank collapse," some predict if could generate a mega-tsunami that could slam the eastern seaboard of the US with a wave traveling at supersonic speeds and measuring 165 feet from trough to crest. (The scientific community is divided on this. Geologist Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis believes "the threat of mega-tsunami generation from collapses of oceanic island stratovolcanoes has been greatly overstated.") 

Another looming threat is posed by the Cascadian Subduction Zone, a fault that lies buried beneath the ocean off the coast of Washington State. In 1701, this rift triggered the largest quake ever known to have hit the Pacific Northwest. The fault, which is overdue for another massive shake, could devastate Seattle with a magaquake ranging between 8.7 and 9.2. The resulting flood zone would cover 140,000 square miles and the initial death toll could reach 13,000. (The odds of a major quake unlocking the Cascadian rift within the next 50 years are currently one-in-three.) 

It quickly dawned on me that I was in no position to critique the Norwegians. After all, I'm part of a large population that continues to live in cities built atop a killer earthquake zone. 

Watching hundreds of desperate residents and tourists trying to escape The Wave and evacuate a village in a few desperate minutes, gave rise to a thought: What would it look like if the Bay Area were to undertake a proactive tsunami "evacuation drill"? How would it work? 

Let's say State and local governments would give Bay Area residents several days of advanced notice (something not available in a real seismic event). Then, at a certain pre-announced time on a certain appointed date, alarms would sound and everyone would attempt to evacuate their low-lying homes and businesses in advance of a theoretical flood. 

I wonder how that would turn out. 

Postscript: The Wave is one of four Norwegian films set to screen at Cinequest, the Silicon Valley film festival (March 1-13 in San Jose). The other three are Returning Home, Staying Alive and Women in Oversized Men's Shirts