Full Text

The areas in pink are Priority Development Areas (PDAs) where "by right" zoning would prevail under a new proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates which will be discussed by the City Council on April 5. Residential areas immediately adjacent to these PDAs would be up-zoned to a distance of 200 feet or half a block.
The areas in pink are Priority Development Areas (PDAs) where "by right" zoning would prevail under a new proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates which will be discussed by the City Council on April 5. Residential areas immediately adjacent to these PDAs would be up-zoned to a distance of 200 feet or half a block.


New: BART Car Failures Still a Mystery

Brett Johnson (BCN)
Wednesday March 30, 2016 - 11:19:00 AM

Two weeks after an electrical glitch knocked BART train cars out of commission between two East Bay stations, the source of the problem remains mysterious and normal service has yet to resume there. 

BART spokesman Jim Allison confirmed today that train shuttles are still being used as a temporary measure to take riders between the Pittsburg/Bay Point and North Concord/Martinez stations. 

He also confirmed that the problem first reported the morning of March 16, a voltage spike that damaged the propulsion systems of around 50 train cars, continues to elude the agency's investigating crews. 

While there still is no timeline on when normal service may be restored between the two stations, BART officials said crews are moving the train cars most prone to propulsion equipment failure in this stretch of track off of the line. 

The cars are being replaced with other models that have more robust protective systems, BART officials said.  

"Once we have completed this reconfiguration we will do more testing to ensure we can run regular service without experiencing additional propulsion failures on the cars," BART spokewoman Alicia Trost said in a statement Monday. 

Until then, riders who have to travel between the two stations will have to rely on two train shuttles that arrive roughly every 10 minutes at the stations. 

During a Thursday BART board of directors meeting, the agency's officials expressed dissatisfaction with the interim measures that have been necessary to keep regular riders moving on the affected line. 

When people use the train shuttles to get between the stations, they have to off-board and get on a different train to get to other destinations on BART. 

"We need to understand how significant this is to people," BART director Joel Keller, who represents the affected stations, said. 

Keller said he took the shuttle to Thursday's meeting, and while it works, "it's not what people are accustomed to, it's not what they expect, it's not the level of service that we have provided people for 20 years. It's a step down in service."

New: Victim's Family Upset that No Charges Filed in Berkeley Balcony Cas

Jeff Shuttleworth/ Scott Morris(BCN)
Tuesday March 29, 2016 - 08:36:00 PM

Family members of a Rohnert Park woman who died in the collapse of a balcony at a Berkeley apartment complex last year said today that they are disappointed that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office has decided not to pursue criminal charges in the matter. 

The family of 22-year-old Ashley Donohoe said in a statement that they "continue to grieve their loss and were hopeful that the DA would pursue criminal charges against those who were responsible for this tragedy." 

The family said their "disappointment stems from their belief that the criminal justice system would act as a deterrent for other corporations and builders to engage in similarly grossly negligent behavior." 

Thirteen people attending a birthday party, including many visiting Irish students, were standing on the fourth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. when it collapsed in the early morning hours of June 16, 2015. Six people -- Donohoe and five Irish students -- were killed and seven others were seriously injured. 

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said today that her office has reviewed the case over the last nine months, conducting a forensic inspection of the deck and a thorough review of the legal issues involved to determine if there was criminal negligence in the balcony's construction or maintenance warranting potential manslaughter charges. 

But O'Malley said she concluded that there would be no criminal prosecution even though her office's investigation came to the same conclusion that the city of Berkeley's investigation did, which is that the collapse was caused by water intrusion that had rotted support beams inside the deck. 

There were many contributing causes for the moisture intrusion, including the materials used, which were not prohibited by the building code, and wet weather during construction. There were numerous people who potentially could be held responsible in the construction and maintenance of the building, prosecutors said. 

"In order to file a manslaughter case based on criminal negligence, the District Attorney must be satisfied that any defendant or defendants acted with gross or reckless conduct akin to a disregard for human life, and that the deadly consequences of those actions were reasonably foreseeable," O'Malley said. 

After the collapse, the Berkeley City Council passed stricter construction codes for outdoor structures and required inspections for all existing structures. The inspections determined that 402 of 2,176 structures inspected needed work. 

Lawsuits filed by the victims and their families alleged that there were signs of issues with the balcony for years, including mushrooms growing on it, indicating the moisture intrusion, and the balcony leaning when people were standing on it. 

Prosecutors said they will work with state officials considering imposing stricter oversight of contractors and new building codes. 

Prosecutors also said they met with the families of each victim prior to making today's public announcement. 

Donohoe's family members said they believe, "There was a series of events that led to this tragedy which could have been avoided if the balcony was properly designed, constructed and inspected." 

The family added that the district attorney's investigation has resulted in determinations and findings that appear to establish culpability for many of the defendants in their pending lawsuit. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, whose son works in the district attorney's office, said in a statement, "I cannot say I am surprised by the District Attorney's decision." 

"I knew from the start that it would be difficult to reach the legal threshold for a case of manslaughter due to criminal negligence," Bates said. "Nevertheless I am optimistic that the safeguards we have adopted in Berkeley in the wake of the balcony collapse, including regular inspections and stricter building standards, will help us make sure that such a tragedy doesn't happen again." 

The Contractors State License Board said today that it is completing its nine-month-long investigation of five construction companies that were involved in the building of the apartment complex where the balcony collapsed. 

The board said its investigation will determine if administrative actions will be recommended against the five licensed contractors. 

"The main questions we're trying to answer are if the various contractors involved followed the architectural plans for the balcony, including the use of the proper building materials, and whether workmanship standards were followed," David Fogt, the board's chief of enforcement, said in a statement. 

Fogt said if proper procedures weren't involved, "it's a clear violation of the law." 



New: No Criminal Charges in Berkeley Library Gardens Tragedy

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday March 29, 2016 - 12:08:00 PM

There will be no criminal charges filed for the deadly collapse of a balcony at a Berkeley apartment complex last year that killed six people and injured seven others, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced today. 

Prosecutors said they reviewed the case over the last nine months, conducting a forensic inspection of the deck and a thorough review of the legal issues involved to determine if there was criminal negligence in the balcony's construction or maintenance warranting potential manslaughter charges. 

But while the district attorney's office investigation came to the same conclusion that the city of Berkeley's investigation did regarding the cause of the collapse -- that water intrusion had rotted support beams inside the deck -- District Attorney Nancy O'Malley concluded there would be no criminal prosecution. 

There were many contributing causes for the moisture intrusion, including the materials used, which were not prohibited by the building code, and wet weather during construction. There were numerous people who potentially could be held responsible in the construction and maintenance of the building, prosecutors said. 

Prosecutors wrote in a statement explaining the decision, "In order to file a manslaughter case based on criminal negligence, the District Attorney must be satisfied that any defendant or defendants acted with gross or reckless conduct akin to a disregard for human life, and that the deadly consequences of those actions were reasonably foreseeable." 

Thirteen people attending a birthday party, including many visiting Irish students, were standing on the fourth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. when it collapsed in the early morning hours of June 16, 2015. Six people were killed and seven others were seriously injured. 

The Berkeley City Council passed stricter construction codes for outdoor structures and required inspections for all existing structures. The inspections determined that 402 of 2,176 structures inspected needed work. 

Lawsuits filed by the victims and their families alleged that there were signs of issues with the balcony for years, including mushrooms growing on it, indicating the moisture intrusion, and the balcony leaning when people were standing on it. 

Prosecutors said they will work with state officials considering imposing stricter oversight of contractors and new building codes.  

"This is not a decision that I came to lightly," O'Malley said in a statement. "It is the culmination of months of consultation with my team of attorneys. It follows extensive review of reports, both legal and factual, and numerous meetings with investigators and experts." 

Prosecutors said they met with the families of each victim prior to making a public announcement.

New: How the Bates Development Plan Would Destroy Flatlands Berkeley

Steven Finacom
Monday March 28, 2016 - 10:17:00 PM

The Tom Bates Development Plan for Berkeley which will be presented to the Council on April 5 contains the seeds of destruction of pretty much every Berkeley “flatlands” neighborhood.

His proposal would permit, “by right”, up to nine story housing developments along avenues in Berkeley’s “Priority Development Areas”, districts that the Bates-led Council voted into existence years ago with soothing promises that this was not a major change for Berkeley, just a way to enable the City to qualify for some transportation grant funds.

Beyond those nine-story canyons, Bates now proposes the up zoning of adjacent blocks 200 feet back from the “PDA” zone to allow intense multi-unit development on those blocks.

Bates describes this as “higher densities for housing projects on streets along major transit corridors (with step-down height limits on the back side of blocks that face lower-density residential neighborhoods).”

This is billed as a “buffer” zone between the really big buildings and the lower-rise residential neighborhoods. What it is, in fact, is a gift of development rights to real estate speculators to wipe out those residential districts piece by piece.

An honest translation of the Bates statement would be: “a wall of nine story buildings along the major streets and, for 200 feet beyond the outer edges of those building sites, tearing down any existing houses or small apartment buildings and building dense apartment buildings or condos that are “step down” only in relation to the nine-story buildings next to them.” 

This makes the development zone several hundred feet wide, and also extends the zone of "infill" a block deep to the adjacent residential streets, in many cases. 

Most Berkeley flatlands blocks are roughly 700 feet long and about 300 feet wide (conditions vary considerably, but that’s an approximation).  

If a block sits narrow “end on” to a main street (as is the case in the neighborhoods along south Shattuck and much of Telegraph), this means that the lots slated for high-rise housing along that street extend about 150 feet deep into the block. Add another 200 feet to that, and half or more of each block becomes “developable” under the Bates plan. 

If the adjacent block sits “long side on” to a main street, as is the case along most of University Avenue, then the entire block essentially becomes a development site. The high-rise sites take up half, or about 150 feet, of the 300 foot depth; the 200 foot “buffer” beyond that consumes the entire remainder of the block and extends out to the middle of the next street. 

Most Berkeley flatlands neighborhoods are only 3-4 blocks wide or deep, if that, between major arterial streets. If you have a "PDA" on both sides, and extend the up-zoning 200 additional feet into the neighborhood, this means the potential destruction of additional hundreds of older houses and small multi-unit buildings and the conversion of the majority of the land area of some neighborhoods into dense apartment sites. 

In the Le Conte neighborhood, for example, the expanded density zones on Telegraph and Shattuck would leave only about one block width in the middle of the neighborhood untouched.  

(Ironically, this is the zone in Le Conte where Tom Bates and Loni Hancock have their home. They will be able to live out their retirement in Berkeley—interspersed with the lengthy overseas trips they enjoy—insulated from development. Vice Mayor Linda Maio won’t be so lucky. I believe she still lives in what would become a “buffer zone” next to University Avenue.) 

During a public hearing last year before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, one Commissioner who lives in the neighborhood west of south Shattuck made a vehement statement that he thought infill development—particularly the Parker Place development on his block—is the way to “save” neighborhoods like his from destruction, by concentrating the development along the transit corridors, rather than further in the neighborhoods. 

Not so fast. That commissioner’s home would, under the Bates proposal, be on land “up zoned" for apartment buildings. Sorry about that. He and his family would ultimately have the “choice” of either selling and moving, or living in an isolated house surrounded by much taller apartment buildings. 

This is no less than a proposal by Bates to convert many hundreds of flatlands houses into "sites"--pretty much the same thing that happened in the 1950s / 60s with the "ticky-tack" apartment buildings that sprang up through the flatlands, but this time on a steroidal scale of larger buildings. 

By my very rough count, perhaps 120 City blocks which partially border on “Priority Development Areas” would be directly affected by the “buffer zone” proposal. Those blocks each may average—again, a rough count—about 12-15 separate land parcels that would be part of the 200 foot “buffer”, most of those parcels containing one or more houses or a small apartment building.  

Total, that’s at least 1,800 properties in Berkeley—and probably a higher number of actual buildings—that would be intentionally rezoned so speculators and developers could buy them up, demolish the existing buildings, and then construct apartment buildings for quick profit. 

And that’s “only” 1,800 properties. It won’t stop there. Just as Bates endorsed Priority Development Areas just along the avenues, but now pursues higher density deeper into the adjacent residential neighborhoods, it will only be a matter of time before his successors and their enablers start saying why not develop those entire neighborhoods with multi-unit apartment buildings? Let’s tweak the zoning a bit more. 

There’s one last irony here. The Berkeley flatlands neighborhoods are already considerably dense, by any objective standard. They abound with duplexes, back yard cottages, in-law units, shared houses, and small apartment buildings, most of them just 1-2 stories tall, and free-standing on their own lots. 

If you drive or walk along a Berkeley flatlands street, count what you think is the number of residences. Then go back and count the mailboxes, not the buildings. In most cases you’ll end up with an “actual density” of residential units probably 2-4 times the “apparent density”.  

Residents and homeowners of these neighborhoods have achieved what I think of as “liveable density”, high residential densities where most residents still have access to light, air, sun, maybe a partial view of the hills or the Bay, some garden space, quiet at night, and a place where they are happy to live long term, not simply endure until they can afford to move elsewhere. 

Instead of recognizing that “liveable density” for what it is—an immensely creative and humane approach to providing housing for many, without stacking boxes on top of each other and extracting development profits and rents for absentee owners—Bates and his complacent Council colleagues and “growther” supporters regard those neighborhoods as something to be wiped away. This is contemptible. 

Earlier this year one resident of my neighborhood made a plea to the City Council to think of what Berkeley needs in terms of “homes” not “housing”. That sums it up. Too bad the Council isn’t listening.

Another Major BART Outage

Jade Atkins (BCN)
Monday March 28, 2016 - 09:49:00 AM

BART officials announced a major delay this morning between Daly City and Millbrae and SFO, and Millbrae and East Bay directions. 

At 6:05 a.m., BART officials said a disabled train had been cleared and that ongoing track issues were causing residual delays. 

BART officials initially reported the delay at 5:15 a.m.

Death on Berkeley BART Tracks Being Investigated as Suicide

Daniel Montes (BCN)
Monday March 28, 2016 - 09:47:00 AM

One person died Saturday morning at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station, prompting BART officials to close the station for about two hours as they investigated the incident.  

At 10:29 a.m., BART officials first reported the closure, saying it was due to a medical emergency.  

According to witnesses, a person jumped from a platform at the station, according to BART spokesman Jim Allison.  

Police are investigating the incident as a suicide, Allison said. 

The closure caused a major delay on the Richmond Line in the Fremont, Richmond and Daly City directions.

More Than 60,000 People Added to Metropolitan Bay Area

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday March 25, 2016 - 11:17:00 AM

The San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan statistical area added the 11th biggest number of people between 2014 and 2015 among the nation's 381 MSAs, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.  

The metropolitan statistical area consists of Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda and San Mateo counties.  

The MSA added 60,152 people and was one of only 16 MSAs in the country to add more than 50,000 people.  

In percentage terms, population grew by 1.3 percent from 4,595,980 people to 4,656,132. 

The MSA is the 11th largest in the country, according to the Census data. 

The population of the MSA has been increasing because of an increase in the number of available jobs in the Bay Area over the past five to seven years, especially in technology and healthcare, Association of Bay Area Governments Senior Regional Planner Hing Wong said.  

The population growth is causing or exacerbating a couple of the area's challenges.  

Population has grown faster than the number of housing units, Wong said, leading to what some have called a housing crisis.  

Another challenge is the crowded transportation network, Wong said. BART, for example, has been breaking ridership records every year since 2012, BART spokesman Jim Allison said.  

That has led to some crowded trains.  

Between 2011 and 2015, average weekday ridership grew from 344,647 to 412,284, or 19.6 percent, according to Allison.  

During commute hours, the transit agency currently runs 24 trains per hour through the Transbay Tube, which is the tube's capacity, Allison said.  

Wong said officials have been talking about building another Transbay Tube because it's running at capacity.  

But he said a second tube is decades away, if it will be built at all.

New: The First Casualties of the Easter Rising of 1916: Tragedy At Ballykissane Pier

Will Boutelle MD
Monday March 28, 2016 - 11:55:00 AM

I write this on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Good Friday 1916, a day on which occurred the very first casualties in what is generally known as the Easter Sunday Rising in Ireland. I first heard this story in 1972 from my cousin Bride Keating (now deceased), who was either the niece or the sister of Con Keating (I cannot remember which) and who was a lifelong schoolteacher in Caherciveen, County Kerry. My wife Ann and I were visiting to renew family connections which came from my paternal grandmother, Margaret Keating Boutelle, whose father had journeyed from Caherciveen to Worcester, Massachusetts in the later 19th Century. When we visited again in 1977 I heard the story again and asked Cousin Bride if any of the other people from that time were still alive. She knew several, all very elderly, and invited them to tea. 

After the story was again told, Cousin Bride presented us with a copy of The Capuchin Annual 1966 published in Dublin, which gave an account of the events of that night. Since that time, I have seen an article in the Archives of the journal The Kingdom from April 13, 2006 (archives.tcm.ie/thekingdom/2006/04/13/story20146.asp) and a publication from North Antrim (northantrim.com/rogercasement.htm), both of which describe these events. Both of these latter have since been removed from the internet, but are available on archiving sites. Given these varied sources, I will present the events as I heard them from my cousin and her friends, using the written sources for factual backup. 

Before the Easter Rising, Padraig Pearse, Roger Casement and many others recognized the necessity of obtaining arms and other materiel for the fight. Germany, which was engaged in fighting the British in World War I, was only too willing to help. A quantity of arms (some 20,000 rifles, a few machine guns and about 1 million rounds of ammunition) was loaded aboard the “Libau”, a ship originally named the “Castro” and owned by a Hull company before being captured in the early days of the war by a German torpedo boat. The ship was outfitted as a Norwegian freighter, renamed again as “Aud Norge” and crewed by German sailors disguised as Norwegian seamen. Under cover of darkness, the new name and “Bergen” as her home port were painted on her hull. The ship sailed from Hamburg to Leubeck, where she was loaded with arms and carefully disguised. 

Captain Karl Spindler was in charge of the Aud and he met with Roger Casement in Berlin before the mission. The plan was for the Aud to sail to a point off County Kerry and there meet with Casement for the delivery. However, Casement became concerned about travelling by surface ship and agreed to be delivered to Ireland by German submarine. The sub which took him, U19, was commanded by Captain Weissbach who, a year earlier, had been the Torpedo Officer on U20 when it sank the “Lusitania”. Indeed, it was Captain Weissbach himself who released the torpedo. 


Meanwhile, it had been proposed by the Volunteer headquarters to dismantle the British wireless station on Valentia Island just off Caherciveen and set up a transmitter in Tralee to make contact with the Aud. On Good Friday morning, a party of 5 men left Dublin to carry out this task. They were Denis Daly, Con Keating, Donal Sheehan, Charles Monaghan and Colm O’Lochlainn, with Daly in charge of the party. Keating was chosen because he was the one man of them all who was an expert on wireless installation and also knew Morse code. They rode the train from Dublin to Killarney, where two cars from Limerick would be waiting to take them first to Caherciveen to capture the radio and then to Tralee to set up the transmitter to guide the Aud in for unloading. 

One of the Limerick cars, a new Briscoe American 20 horsepower open tourer, belonged to John J. Quilty, the son of a man from the 1867 rising. The other, an older Maxwell, belonged to Tommy MacInerney, a garage owner. They met the Dublin party in Killarney and set off, the car containing Daly in the lead because he knew the way, with MacInerney following. The weather, which had been fair, began to darken with mist. Daly’s car got through to the outskirts of Caherciveen and waited there for the other car. MacInerney, meanwhile, had had engine trouble and lost sight of the lead car. He also encountered a policeman outside Killorglin who became so inquisitive that Keating finally drew his revolver and ordered him off. Now, with the mist swirling and newly anxious about the police, they headed off without seeing Daly’s car.  

MacInerney was not sure of the way after Killorglin and stopped to ask directions from a young girl, who told them “first turn to the right”. Macinerney was still in some doubt after the turn and asked Keating (who was from Caherciveen) if they were on the right road. Keating replied that he was certain they were on the road to Caherciveen and MaciInerney put on speed. The road actually ended on Ballykissane Pier and seconds later the car shot over the pierhead and into the water. MacInerney, the only survivor, heard Keating utter the words “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, after which he sank out of sight. 

Donal Sheehan, Con Keating and Charles Monaghan were therefore the very first casualties of the Easter Rising, having drowned before midnight on Good Friday. Con Keating is buried in Caherciveen and a city park was named in his honor. 

There is a heavy irony to this tragic story: Although Con Keating the radio expert was there to contact the Aud after the British station was overwhelmed, no one had thought to check whether the Aud carried a radio. It did not. 

As my wife and I sat in Bride Keating’s sitting room in 1977 listening to the older ladies retell their remembrances of that night 61 years earlier, we noticed that several of them indicated that the men stopped for a “cup of cheer” on their journey during that dark and misty night. Surely, it is possible that these statements were only delivered to make the teller part of the story—but if true, then there might have been another reason for that car to shoot off the end of that pier.



Updated: Manufacturing Consent, Berkeley-Style

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 25, 2016 - 06:39:00 PM

The title is cribbed from Noam Chomsky, who in turn cribbed it from Walter Lippman. Noam’s 1992 book essentially accused the mass media of creating a propaganda engine for controlling public opinion, with advertisers acting as gate-keepers. The most interesting part of his thesis, the one which still seems to resonate today, is the one expressed in this quote found on Wikipedia:

“…[T]he large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring [...] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become 'routine' news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”
Yes. The powerful in any context have the ability to dole out information in such a way that the voting public gets only part of the picture, and can thus be persuaded to rubber-stamp what the big machers want to do.

Case in point: the rapidly developing strategy of Berkeley’s majority machine, dominated by long-time Mayor and former Assemblymember Tom Bates and his wife State Senator Loni Hancock, both in their seventies and on their way out of their powerful jobs, to have one last hurrah by up-zoning a whole lot of Berkeley for the benefit of chosen members of the development industry.

In high school geometry we learned that it takes at least two points to determine a line—and three points which constitute the Bates Line on development have recently been put forward with the help of the local commercial media. This constitutes the opening salvo in manufacturing the apparent consent of the voting public, a campaign which would be expected to be consummated in the November election.

Point Number One is the “community” survey recently conducted on the city’s behalf by an outside contractor. It supposedly used a random sample which reached 500 voters, but in my household both of the registered voters were polled in two separate calls to our legacy landline, making me suspicious of its reach.

The survey itself was truly awful. The person reading the questions, which were tremendously long multi-clause sentences fraught with pre-suppositions, couldn’t even pronounce all the words correctly. In case you doubt me, commenters on the Berkeleyside report about this exercise in irrelevance agreed. 

But the main message, the first line-marking point, is that respondents (34% call themselves progs, 34%libs) thought that city’s main problems are lack of affordable housing (22%) and homelessness (17%). Aoout three-quarters of them wanted to do something about these problems. Berkeleyans are good-hearted folks. 

The website of the polling firm, Lake Research Partners, provides some clues as to their methodology and goals in conducting surveys like this one: 

“Since its formation, Lake Research Partners has become one of the most respected Democratic polling firms in the country. The firm's work has moved the progressive agenda forward on a variety of issues.
Yeah, sure, we’re all Democratic around here, most of the time Progressives even, nothing against Liberals either, but really…that was a publicly funded push poll: a poll designed to move an agenda. 

So, ya got trouble right here in River City? It just so happens that The Medicine Man has solutions. It’s Point Number 2. 


If you want to move that progressive agenda on affordable housing in Berkeley forward, Mayor Bates can tell you just how to go about it: Up-zone almost everything, assure maximum profits for developer profiteers, and some of that largesse will surely trickle down to the poor souls who are looking for affordable housing and even perhaps to the homeless. 

And we'll all get rich. Tell me again about those rabbits, George, it's Eastertime. 

It’s the old dope peddler, doing well by doing good. 


Bates is putting his plan forward at the April 5 city council meeting. The details are too convoluted to present in this space, but there’s a full analysis by former Downtown Area Planning Committee member and former Berkeley Planning Commission Chair Rob Wrenn in this issue. 

Which brings us to Point Three. 

There’s a sweet soft-pedalled op-ed by the Mayor posted on the local commercial news site, full of funky figures without attribution except to the notoriously inaccurate Zillow. 

Needless to say, this political statement was not offered to the Planet. Nor does it appear on the city-sponsored Mayor’s web page, either linked as the Bates Update newsletter or as a press release. That’s Chomsky’s “privileged access to the gates”. We’re all equal, but some are more equal than others, if they serve the powerful person’s purpose. 

I’m not sure whether the piece was written on city time with help from city staff—can anyone figure that out, I wonder? It doesn’t sound like Bates’ spoken prose style—much too coherent. 

Here’s how it starts: 

“We all agree on the urgent need to address our critical shortage of housing, especially affordable housing. But how?”
We all agree, he says, and there’s a city-sponsored survey to prove it. But indeed how? 

It’s worth reading this statement in conjunction with Bates’ proposal for the April 5 council meeting just to see what he leaves out from the “how”. I’m asking our various sharp-penciled pro bono contributors to compare and contrast the two for educational purposes—stay tuned. 

Those of us who try to keep track of what’s happening remember how apparent consent for the 2010 Measure R was engineered. We are aware that almost nothing that R appeared to promise about developing downtown Berkeley has materialized. 

Does anyone remember the “Green Pathway”? It’s produced not one single project, not even one. Yet it was a big selling point in the promotion of Measure R. And how much affordable housing did we get out of it? 

That’s how Manufacturing Consent works. 

The captive City Council is poised to carry out the mayor’s bidding by passing his April 5 agenda. Most likely the very most outrageous aspects of it will be toned down a notch, but what the council majority passes will still be outrageously bad, count on it. 

It’s possible that the neighborhoods which will have the most adverse effects from the upzoning and other changes could organize to stop it, but their councilmembers are in the minority, so that’s not too likely. 

[Ironic aside for oldtimers: They could call their organization the April Coalition]. 

And in November, depend on it, more Manufactured Consent will be on the ballot for voters to rubberstamp: candidates, measures, bonds, you name it, you'll be asked to approve it. 

As always, we depend on our readers to provide our analysis of what’s happening and why. Send your thoughts on this matter to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com

—And especial thanks to sharp-eyed reader J.P. Massar, who reminded me that "It takes two points to determine a line, three points to determine a plane. Regardless of where or when it was learned." It's been a long time since high school for me. Error corrected, though it kinda spoils the rhetoric.  



Public Comment

Bates Housing Plan Fails to Address Berkeley’s Affordability Crisis

Rob Wrenn
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:50:00 PM
The areas in pink are Priority Development Areas (PDAs) where "by right" zoning would prevail under a new proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates which will be discussed by the City Council on April 5. Residential areas immediately adjacent to these PDAs would be up-zoned to a distance of 200 feet or half a block.
The areas in pink are Priority Development Areas (PDAs) where "by right" zoning would prevail under a new proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates which will be discussed by the City Council on April 5. Residential areas immediately adjacent to these PDAs would be up-zoned to a distance of 200 feet or half a block.

Mayor Tom Bates has come up with a housing plan, with the dramatic heading “Addressing the Housing Emergency”, which unfortunately does little to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.

Most of its 13 recommendations would benefit for-profit developers of market rate housing, which is currently affordable only to people with incomes well above $100,000 a year.

It fails to advocate for a realistic funding plan that that would actually result in the creation of more affordable housing.

Among the problems with the plan are:

  • inadequate housing impact fees,
  • “by right” approval of housing in Priority Development Areas,
  • an increased density bonus benefiting only those earning 120% of area median income,
  • upzoning parts of neighborhoods near priority development areas,
  • possible reduction of fees paid by developers, and
  • accelerating conversion of rental units to condos.
His plan will be discussed by the City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, April 5. The agenda for that meeting with the mayor’s proposals can be found here.

What You Can Do

If you think the City should do more to fund affordable housing than what the mayor is proposing, I would encourage you to contact the City Council (council@cityofberkeley.info) to express support for the Berkeley Progressive Alliance’s affordable housing funding proposals. You can find these proposals, part of their housing platform, on BPA’s Web site here.

You could also comment on the other aspects of the Mayor’s housing plan discussed in more detail below. There are many important issues being discussed by the City Council on April 5 and you could also come to the meeting and speak your mind.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and takes place at the Council’s new meeting location, the School District Board Room, 1231 Addison St. (Please enter at 1222 University Ave.) 



Housing Impact Fees 

The consultants hired by the City to do the Affordable Housing Nexus Study recommended a year ago that developers be required to pay a housing impact fee of $34,000 a unit. 

They found that the City could legally charge a fee as high as $84,000 a unit for rental developments. $34,000 was recommended as an amount that would insure that the project would still be financially feasible and give developers a reasonable return. The consultants estimated a return on cost of 13.9% for developers with a $34,000 fee. 

The City currently has a fee of $28,000, but Mayor Bates and his allies voted to discount the fee to $20,000 just as the proposed 2211 Harold Way high rise project downtown was being considered last year. 

Mayor Bates now wants to set the fee below the recommended $34,000. He would charge only $28,000 if developers pay the fee before they get their building permit. San Francisco already requires developers to pay their housing fees up front and their fees work out to be substantially more than $34,000 a unit. 

There is no reason why the city can’t both require payment of the fees before construction begins and charge $34,000. What Bates is proposing is a giveaway to developers that will cost the Housing Trust Fund millions over time, just as the City lost $1.8 million when he and his allies voted to discount the existing fee. 

Mayor Bates is also proposing that for developers who prefer not to pay the fee, 16.7% of total project units have to be affordable. This is an improvement over the current 9%, but the Nexus Study justifies setting the percentage at 20% as 100 units of market rate housing creates demand for about 25 units of below market housing. 

Other funding sources 

So what else is Mayor Bates proposing to fund affordable housing? The only other thing, recently added to his recommendations, is support for an Alameda County housing bond on November’s ballot. 

Berkeley’s recently release community housing survey, which can be found here, found that 61% of Berkeley voters would support a $500 million county affordable housing bond. 18% would oppose. So it has a good chance of passing here. 

Would it pass countywide given that it requires two-thirds to pass? It would probably require very large majorities in Berkeley and Oakland to compensate for probable less enthusiastic support in other parts of the county. But it would be great if such a bond passed and the mayor deserves credit for including it in his recommendations, even though success is far from certain. 

The Community Survey also found that Berkeley voters would support an increase in the business license tax paid by landlords. The idea is to capture some of the huge windfall in rental income that has occurred as rents have soared. 

60% would support an increase in the tax of $30 a month per unit on residential buildings with five or more units; 13% were undecided or said they didn’t know. 

Support jumped to 67% when survey respondents were told that the increase can’t be passed on to tenants and would bring in $4 million a year, enough to create 300 affordable units over ten years. 

Despite broad support for this funding source for affordable housing, Mayor Bates does not include it in his housing plan. And further he has no numerical targets for the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) or for the number of affordable units that the City should work to create. 

The Berkeley Progressive Alliance is calling for the City to commit to funding the creation of at least 100 affordable units a year and is calling for raising at least $10 million a year for the HTF. Their proposals include committing new revenue from taxing short term rentals (AirBnB, etc.) to the Housing Trust Fund. 

Mayor Bates has a record of voting down proposals to increase funds for the HTF. Council members Arreguin, Worthington and Anderson wanted to allocate $1 million in discretionary funds to the HTF in this year’s budget, but Bates and his allies approved the budget with no discretionary revenue ($164 million in 2016) going to the HTF. 

Recently, Mayor Bates and his allies voted down Councilmember Arreguin’s proposal to allocate 25% or any property transfer tax revenues above $10.5 million to the HTF. It should be noted that when the property transfer tax was increased from 1% to 1.5%, the additional money was supposed to go in large part for affordable housing. 

Mayor Bates even refused to support a proposal to loan $1 million to the HTF made by Councilmember Worthington. The HTF has only $3 million at present. 

Non-profit housing developers and land trusts told the City last year that they would need as much as $36 million to undertake all the projects they would like to undertake in Berkeley through 2018. 

Bates’ primary reliance on housing fees is problematic because that income is cyclical. When there is a housing construction slump in a recession, that income will dry up. The City needs some funding sources for affordable housing that aren’t tied to private housing development. 

By-Right Approval of Housing  

Mayor Bates is recommending “By-Right” approval of multi-family housing developments in “priority development areas” (PDAs) in Berkeley. He wants the Planning Commission to draft an ordinance. 

By-Right means that a project would be approved by a member of the planning staff with no involvement of the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB), no public hearings and no opportunity for public input or comment. The project would not require a use permit. 

Project development areas include the Downtown, the Southside (south of the UC campus), San Pablo Avenue, University Avenue, Shattuck south of Dwight Way, and the Adeline Corridor. [See map]. 

To qualify for by-right approval, a project would just have to meet certain criteria such as providing bike parking, spaces for car sharing, bus passes for residents, and meeting LEED Gold Green Building standards. 

And this interesting criterion: “minimum height equal to the maximum allowed under zoning for the property”. This suggests that if you proposed to build something at less than maximum allowed height, you would still need a use permit. 

With the possible exception of undefined “Local hire requirements for construction workers”, all of these criteria are things that are already routinely done and provide no exceptional benefit to the City. 

There would also be some design requirements that the Design Review Committee (DRC) is supposed to come up with, but by-right approval means there would be no DRC review of individual projects. 

This proposal would constitute a radical change to City zoning. More information about types of City permits can be found here

Berkeley is a built-out city with relatively little vacant land. Development invariably has impacts on adjacent properties and neighborhoods. There can be issues related to design, setbacks and solar access, traffic impacts, etc. 

The use permit process results in better projects as, not infrequently, modifications are made and conditions are attached to project approval as a result of public input and ZAB and DRC review. 

How well the use permit process works, of course, depends on the caliber of people appointed to the ZAB. Are they conscientious in evaluating projects or do they tend to just rubber-stamp staff recommendations? 

There is no evidence that the City’s long-standing use permit requirement is impeding housing development. It’s obvious to anyone that who travels around our city that we are in the midst of a market-rate housing boom. 

City Density Bonus 

The mayor proposes that staff and the Housing Advisory Commission draft a City Density Bonus ordinance that would reward developers by giving them an extra 15% of units on top of the current 35% bonus units that they get under the state of California’s density bonus law. 

Currently if a developer proposes to build 100 units, 11 of which are affordable to households with incomes up to 50% of the area median income, that developer gets the right to build 35 more units. 

What would developers have to do to qualify for Bates’ proposed extra 15%? They would have to add an unspecified number of units affordable to people at 120% of area median income or pay a fee for moderate income housing. 

For a family of four, 120% of median income in Alameda County is $112,200. In Berkeley, renter households have a median income of only $38,539 and 82% of renter households have incomes below $100,000. 

Giving a bonus that benefits people at 120% of median income is questionable. The City’s Affordable Housing Nexus Study concluded that “households earning 100 percent of AMI or less are typically unable to afford the average market rate unit in Berkeley.” 

When you get to 120%, rental housing becomes relatively affordable, though units in newly built market rate “luxury” developments remain beyond reach. 

Neighborhoods or Buffer Zones? 

In an amazing example of Orwellian newspeak, Mayor Bates tries to sell the idea of upzoning residential streets near PDAs as a solution to setback and shadowing issues created by development on commercial streets like Shattuck, University, etc. Stepping up of residential property is called stepping down. 

His plan is to have the Planning Commission draft an ordinance to upzone residential properties, that is, increase the allowable height and density, on blocks that include commercial property located in PDAs. 

What he is calling “buffer zones” would extend for one block or 200 feet in either direction from the primary commercial street. 

So, for instance, if you live on the north side of Addison Street, between MLK and Sacramento in a property currently zoned R-2, and that backs on to property that fronts on University, which is a PDA street, your property would be upzoned to R-3 which would allow reduced setbacks, higher density and taller buildings. 

Other streets that would presumably be affected, assuming a 200 foot limit, would include 10th Street, Kains, Byron and Wallace because of their proximity to San Pablo along with segments of streets that cross San Pablo. 

Near University, one side of Berkeley Way would be upzoned along with segments of cross streets. Near Telegraph zoning changes would apply to streets like Dana, Halcyon, Florence and Regent and also cross streets. 

Some R-1 zoned areas of Southwest Berkeley in Council District 2 would be affected. 

This won’t reduce shadowing and setback concerns. It will, on the contrary, exacerbate them. Taller buildings and the reduced setbacks between properties that come with upzoning mean greater impacts on access to sunlight and more potential for conflict. 

There is little vacant land in these proposed so-called “buffer zones”. Building to take advantage of increased height limits would certainly often involve demolition. Demolishing existing housing is always problematic. 

It’s possible that some owners of small rental properties might try to take advantage of the greater permitted density to demolish their buildings to build something larger. 

With a density bonus, especially if Bates’ proposed 50% bonus were adopted, this proposal could mean buildings up to 5 stories on these residential streets currently zoned R-1, R-2 or R-2A; buildings that would often shadow neighboring homes and make it harder for some people to get the benefits of putting solar panels on their roofs. 

Mayor Bates proposes to allow this density increase without calling for any quid pro quo. No requirements for affordable housing, solar panels or anything else that might be beneficial to the community. 

Reducing Developer Fees? 

There is also no quid pro quo suggested with mayor’s suggestion that City staff “examine” development fees on new construction. The implication is that maybe these fees are too high and should be reduced. 

There is certainly no evidence that these fees are so high as to discourage building of new housing. We are in the midst of a market rate housing boom in Berkeley. 

No consideration should be given to reducing fees unless the City gets something in return. For instance, a specified significant amount of on site alternative energy from solar systems, etc., or more affordable units on site. 

Rezoning the West Berkeley Senior Center 

The West Berkeley Senior Center, on Sixth Street at Hearst, has been closed since 2011, but is still in use by the City’s Aging Services Division. Mayor Bates proposes rezoning the site to allow a taller building to be built there. 

Current zoning allows 35’; his proposal would raise this to 50’. The idea is that the building could be “repurposed” for affordable housing and expansion of services. 

Building affordable housing there, perhaps wholly or in part targeted at seniors, would certainly be a good use for that site. Public land should be used for public benefit. Any housing built there should be affordable and no for-profit development should be included on public sites like this one. 

Promoting condo conversions? 

The last of the mayor’s thirteen recommendations calls for a Council appointed task force to look at condominium housing. Reading between the lines, it appears that the mayor doesn’t think there have been enough condo conversions; “only” 175 units have been converted since 2008. 

Converting rental units to condominiums reduces the supply of rental housing and does not contribute to increasing the supply of affordable housing. 

The mayor’s plan is silent on the one kind of conversion that would add to the stock of affordable ownership housing, namely the creation of coop housing through land trust acquisition of existing rental property. Land Trusts would, of course, need some support from the City’s Housing Trust Fund which the mayor’s plan fails to adequately fund. 

Fee Waivers for Section 8 Rentals 

This is one of the few good recommendations in the Bates housing plan. It would make it easier for those fortunate enough to have a Section 8 voucher to find housing in Berkeley. 

The idea is that landlords who rent to Section 8 tenants would have fees that they would normally pay to the City or Rent Board waived. With rents soaring, the payments that the Berkeley Housing Authority will pay to landlords who take Section 8 tenants have fallen too far short of market rates. 

The recommendation asks the City staff and Rent Board to look at waiving fees. 

Undoing the Southside Plan 

Mayor Bates also wants to upzone the areas of Southside closest to Dwight Way, its southern boundary. He wants it returned to R-4 zoning, which allows buildings of up to six stories, or 8 with a density bonus, or 9 with his proposed City Density Bonus. 

From a planning standpoint, this makes absolutely no sense. The Southside Plan embraced the idea of stepping down development as you move from the campus to Dwight. Density was increased in areas closest to campus, while lower heights were permitted in areas closer to established residential neighborhoods. 

R-4 is outmoded zoning and it doesn’t allow greater density than R-S zoning, it just allows greater height but with more restrictive lot coverage standards. Under the Bates plan, buildings on Dwight Way could be taller than buildings closer to campus. How does this make sense? 




Rob Wrenn is a former member and chair of Berkeley’s Planning Commission. He helped write the Berkeley Progressive Alliance’s affordable housing platform. 









Saudi Arabia

Jagjit Singh
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:39:00 PM

Our close ties to the Gulf States have been an unmitigated disaster. We have flooded the Middle East with billions of dollars of weapons which has fueled proxy wars and emboldened autocratic governments to export their brand of Islamic orthodoxy and weapons to their Sunni allies. For example, ‘our ally’ Saudi Arabia’s oil money has funded religious schools (Madrasas) in countries like Pakistan to ensure a continuous supply of suicide bombers and terrorists. They have fanned proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Sunni bombardment of Yemen targeting Iranian-backed Houthis has resulted in the fatalities of thousands of civilians. The Saudis have also funneled weapons to radical rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Saudi Arabia and Egypt scoffed at President Obama’s mild chastisement of their countries appalling record suppressing political dissent and tolerating corruption and human rights abuses. Sadly, there seems little hope of any major change given the internal turmoil within the new shaky leadership within the Saudi royal family. Fortunately, falling oil prices has curtailed some of their activities. Pouring billions of dollars of weapons to autocratic governments bolsters profits of US defense contractors but makes a complete mockery of our claim to be a force for good.  


Marcy Cravat
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:32:00 PM

As residents of the East Bay Hills, we received a letter about a very disturbing plan to remove 400,000 trees for fire protection. I am a filmmaker working on a new environmental documentary called Dirt Rich. Knowing what I know now, I cannot tell you how horrible this plan is. After having followed renowned experts around in the making of this film, I have learned in detail about how dire the need to sequester carbon is to prevent runaway global warming, and how dependent we are on trees and plant ecosystems to do this for us through photosynthesis which feeds the soil that is home to the carbon. This plan is hugely irresponsible on so many levels.  

When trees are removed soil is exposed to sun and it becomes dirt, which is dead soil. When the soil is exposed the carbon it housed off gasses and is released into the atmosphere which is what is causing global warming. Photosynthesis is the best and only real way to process man made carbon emissions and natural emissions from decaying biomass. Soil needs the protection that diverse plant and animal species provide. Trees are key to life in forests as they provide habitat and services to insect and animal species that work together to create living soil. When we remove any part of that ecosystem we kill the microbes and fungi that keep the soil alive and carbon rich.  

Insects work and aerate the soil ground while providing food for microbes through their excrement and decay. Animals also provide these services through their digging, excrement, etc. Combined insects, animals and plants keep the soil rich which slows rain water down by allowing it to filter into our aquifers stressed by drought and also preventing erosion. Trees also make oxygen. Two mature trees make enough to provide one family of four enough oxygen for one year. When trees are removed it kills the plants and insects that lived in their shade doing their symbiotic work in the soil. And when Monsanto chemicals are added to the destruction of cutting down trees, the deadly poisons get into our our watersheds affecting the lives of fish (that we eat,) destroy the very valuable insect life that works our soils and inevitably threatens human health.  

Anyone who supports this plan does not have a clear understanding of its impact. We should be discussing far better ways to prevent fire.  

Please do not support such an ill conceived plan and please consider consulting with people who truly understand the value of what you aim to remove.

Everybody Voted for the Clown

C. Denney
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:27:00 PM

everybody voted for the clown

there were choices

there were the clichés

there was the bombast

there were the suits and the hair

there was custom, tradition

but everybody was tired of that

they voted for the clown

the loud, plain-spoken, contradictory,

cheesy, entertaining, racist

arrogant, spotlight-loving clown

because he was a clown

and they just

wanted to see what would happen

New: A Muslim Responds to the Brussels Attack

Monday March 28, 2016 - 11:57:00 AM

As an Ahmadi Muslim, I condemn these barbaric attacks on innocent civilians and my heartfelt condolences go out to all those affected by this tragedy. We stand with the people of Belgium and pray for their recovery and for justice. Terrorism is never justified and all those who perpetrate these atrocities ignore basic principles of Islam. The Quran categorically condemns terrorism when it states, “Whosoever kills an innocent…it is as if he has killed all of mankind” (5:32). Similar to Paris Attacks and San Bernardino shootings, again there is disparity in responses towards attacks in non-Muslim countries as compared to Muslim countries. Recent bombings in Turkey were largely ignored or at least not equally regarded as attacks in France and Belgium. While I do not wish to compare tragedies, it should be recognized that radical elements are a mutual enemy and the taking of innocent lives anywhere is a tragedy. That is why as the president for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association at the University of California Berkeley, we are organizing True Islam campaign to educate young Muslim the true teaching of Islam. The only cure to this cancer of ignorance is by education because after all, military airstrikes can only ‘’kill” those terrorist mastermind not the ideology. 

Khalida Jamilah is UC Berkeley Peace and Conflict Studies undergraduate and a member of the Ahmadiyya Women's Muslim Writers Guild.

A Housing Rant

Tom Lord
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:23:00 PM

I don't what to say. The mind boggles. If [Berkeley Mayor Tom] Bates' latest proposal were presented as farce I'd find it refreshingly funny. But no, it's dead serious. It's Bates giving one last giant middle finger to the very residents who put him in office. 

It turns out that if the bottom 60 or 80 percent of the workers in a region experience flat or falling wages, while top earners get ever larger paychecks, that the housing market responds with evictions, displacement, and intensified economic segregation. 

Can you imagine that? Who could have seen that coming. Quick, everyone act surprised. 

Is it a shortage? Of course not. The region adds housing just about as fast as people migrate in. There's no shortage, there's just a new wave of segregation and forced displacement. 

I can't tell what goes through the mind of Mayor Tom Bates but my guess is that for one thing he sees Berkeley mainly, and the region generally, as a kind of toy train set and model village he gets to play with the way some people play video games like Sim City. Some jackass wants to erect a ridiculous high-rise here or there and Bates feels like one of the Great Men for making it happen. Some other jackass wants to put up crap housing for an imagined subservient "workforce" and Bates feels like he can stroke his chin and imagine himself the wise Prince setting in order the subjects upon his Province. 

For another thing, I'm pretty sure Bates enjoys the feeling and the personal perks of accumulating power and doling out favors. He's a consummate backslapper and gladhander. Good eye contact, too (if you're Somebody, at least). He's a silky, smooth, mover and shaker in the cocktail party of his mind - that's my guess. 

It is in both of those roles that, rather underhandedly, when sent to the Assembly, Bates undermined rent control by declining to honor his mandate to vigorously defend it. It's why in the Assembly he undermined the self-governance of the residents of Berkeley by trying to wrestle from them control over the development rights of transit corridors. Now that his elected office is back in Berkeley his noble disregard for the local will of the people is only stronger. 

I guess in his strange old self-regard Bates is some kind of American Aristocrat, not obliged to work for what everyone thinks is good so much as to say, on the basis of his standing in society, what exactly "good" shall be. 

Before and on April 5th the public will heavily participate in what is nominally the public process of guiding the actions of an insensate council majority who Knows Better Than Thou What Thou Needs. 

It will be a put on and the council will, for the most part, vote exactly as most of the attentive and engaged resident stakeholders fear. Their main concern about what the public has to say is that it not take too long to sit through it. 

Hey, it's not all bad. Now's an OK time to get your real estate license or find some consulting gig in the developer boondoggles industry. Bates couldn't do his work without the support of overseers, after all.

The Assault on Social Security

Harry Brill
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:15:00 PM

The current Republican agenda is to brutally slash the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. We should not wait until the last minute to respond to this madness. The Republicans are screaming that Social Security will be running out of money in about 20 years, which makes substantial cuts necessary soon. But the program has a surplus of almost $3 trillion, and for a long while it can pay its recipients full benefits. Moreover, by making the payroll tax progressive so that the wealthy pay its fair share, it can even appreciably increase the benefits to ALL Social Security recipients.  

Why are conservatives committed to assaulting the Social Security program? First, keep in mind that they are opposed to all public programs that do not primarily benefit the wealthy and big corporations. Second, they would like to reduce the matching contributions that employers must pay. Third, as a few of these Republicans have acknowledged, they want to privatize the program. 

In other words, the business community, in the interest of increasing profits, would not blink an eye on increasing poverty. That is, the wealthy class favor policies that deprive millions of people of their basic needs in favor of catering to their luxurious life style. So in addition to being opposed to welfare programs in which eligibility depends on needs, they are even opposed to a very successful program for working people who receive benefits because they earned them. 

Social Security is the nation's major anti-poverty program. The majority of recipients receive most of their income from Social Security. In fact, 74 percent of unmarried elderly recipients depend on Social Security for over half their income. 

But we are not only concerned about those who are currently collecting. Many millions more will become eligible when they retire. But to make matters worse, the Republicans want to change the retirement age for full benefits to age 70. Were that to happen, competition for jobs will grow, which in turn will increase unemployment and depress wages. For many of us it is difficult to understand the insatiable appetite of the one percent until we realize that they have abolished empathy!

Bernie Sanders & AIPAC

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:01:00 PM


Kudos to Senator Sanders – the only presidential candidate who had did not grovel before the mighty AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and offered a far more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike the other candidates who only offered more of the same, Sanders is the only Jewish candidate who experienced living in a Jewish Kibbutz and took aim at right-wing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s polices of illegal occupation and settlement expansion. 

He reminded us that “Gaza’s unemployment today is 44 percent and poverty rate almost as high.” He stressed the need to be successful;” we have to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people.” He called for an end to the occupation and blockade of Gaza and was equally critical of Hamas’s rocket attacks and Israel’s overwhelming response that killed 1,500 civilians, wounded thousands and devastated much of the Gaza’s infrastructure. 

This is a man who has a well-calibrated moral compass who speaks his mind but who is not out of his mind like his Republican counterparts. Contrast his message with Clinton’s who only promises to sink billions more into futile wars and American lives. She has a poor record of hasty decisions for regime changes in Iraq and Libya and offers nothing new to end the festering conflict in Israel. Kissinger’s endorsement will come back to haunt her.

The Election Campaign

Romila Khanna
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:08:00 PM

The primaries look like a funny show. The way many presidential candidates are spreading negativity among one another and towards the other party’s candidates them look unworthy of the highest office. I am surprised by the style of name calling and bullying in the debates. The candidate for the highest office should have better control over choice of words.  

Politicians in the public sphere are role models. Their rudeness in the primaries gives young people the wrong example of how to address differences of opinion within one’s own party and with the other party. 

Let voters choose candidates we can trust—those who are respectful of differences of opinion as much as they are respectful of the cultural differences that make America such a special nation. 

Let voters choose candidates who are empathetic—who have a vivid understanding of what it is like to live on the bottom of the heap. 

Unless we elect leaders who will work for the welfare of the least among us, we will never form a community that the world can look upon with admiration.

New: Drones

Tejinder Uberoi
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:12:00 PM

General Michael Hayden’s recent statement, “drones really work” needs to be vigorously challenged. The program is mired in secrecy developed on the false premise that it removes the necessity of having ‘boots on the ground’. We as a nation have assumed the right of violating a country’s sovereignty and killing perceived enemies, seemingly unconcerned of the probably death of innocent civilians. The program is illegal and highly flawed, and depends on the skill or lack thereof remote operators who with click of a mouse can vaporize perceived enemies. One can only imagine the horror and despair and seething anger of innocent victims killed ny human errors. The drone program has received little Congressional oversight and has greatly expanded under the Obama administration. The program is conducted according to secret rules with no accountability. 

The drone operators have sent a joint letter to the President expressing their profound reservations of the validity of the program. Assuaged with guilt, many of the operators are suffering from PTSD. The remote assassination program makes us less safe and needs to be halted. We have created an extremely dangerous precedent. It is only time when our enemies develop the same technology and begin to targe U.S. cities and our people. An International Legal Counsel for Human Rights First said it more succinctly, ‘Intentionally using lethal force against an individual for being near a target is a war crime’.

Updated: Can we make our safety a reality?

Romila Khanna
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:11:00 PM

Judging from recent news I see that we have failed in establishing homeland and international security. We have tried tit for tat but that was not effective. There can be another way of thinking. Let us, like true believers of Christ, try giving respect and love to those who feel powerless. 

We should also undertake open discussions on how to relieve mental pressure of insecure people who intend to do harm to others. Can we enable them to find constructive channels to lasting power? 

I know that the true religion of any community does not teach shooting and killing. God is love. True believers of God do not kill or harm others. In my view, bombarding others, or creating war zones and new graveyards should be replaced by trusting and educating striving people.

The Housing "Crisis".

Tom Lord
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:41:00 PM

Editor's Note: This article by Professor Dick Walker in the East Bay Express, Why is There a Housing Crisis? is well worth reading, as are the comments on it which follow.

To further underscore what Richard Walker is saying consider first that there is no housing shortage - fewer roofs than people - in the greater Bay Area. Instead, the trend is for increased segregation and, perversely, longer and more crowded commutes.

The working poor as well as middle class families increasingly take to the outer parts of the region. The most affluent scoop up housing in San Francisco, initially displacing workers from The City to the East Bay, and then themselves putting pressure on East Bay cities like Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. 

Today, public transit systems and highways are filled past the breaking point and communities are scattered in the chaos of forced displacement -- yet there are plenty of roofs to go around. No shortage. 

Many strategies can help to better align housing prices with regional incomes ranging from wage reform, to rent controls, to increases in social ownership of housing, and more. The legal obstacles are severe but what choice is there? 

The myth that giving investors free reign to develop will cure the problem is nonsense. Sophisticated investors are fully capable of not making the mistake of building enough housing to bring down prices and thus lower their profits. 

Walker suggests an overshoot in development will nevertheless occur at the next big economic bust but there, I think he is too optimistic. A major crash in 2000 and a global financial system train wreck in 2008 both came and went but housing affordability in land-constrained major cities only got worse, almost without interruption. There will be no overshoot. Unless capital collapses entirely, we ought to assume this is the new normal and turn our attention to altering the basic rules that determine housing prices in the first place


Chuck Mann, Greensboro,NC
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:22:00 PM

As a supporter of democracy, and equality, I think that it is a shame that our state now has a new law that bans local governments from passing their own anti-discrimination legislation. Imagine if a city passed an ordinance that gave all of its adult citizens the exact same legal, and civil,rights.Would the state invalidate it?Why is it that supporters of states rights don't support local rights?

New: Network

Jeff Hoffman
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:15:00 PM

I think Bob Burnett really missed the point of Network if his March 25 column is any indication. Once Howard Beale knew he'd lost his job, and again once his ratings went through the roof, he was free to tell the truth instead of being part of the corporate propaganda machine. Yes this was intertwined with his delusional insanity, but letting the public know about things like selling our country to foreign investors instead of promoting the usual pap that passes for "mainstream" (i.e., corporate) news was the important point of the movie, as was his boss's rant to him in private that there are no more nations, just corporations.


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:A Terrible Beauty: The 1916 Easter Rebellion

Conn Hallinan
Monday March 28, 2016 - 10:29:00 AM

“Poblacht na hEireann”: The speaker of these words, standing on the front steps of Dublin’s General Post Office and reading from a proclamation, the ink was barely dry, of the “provisional government of the Irish Republic” was the poet Padraig Pearse. It was just after noon on March 24, 1916, the opening scene in a drama that would mix tragedy and triumph, the twin heralds of Irish history. 

It is a hundred years since some 750 men and women threw up barricades and seized strong points in downtown Dublin. They would be joined by maybe a 1,000 more. In six days it would be over, the post office in flames, the streets blackened by shell fire, and the rebellion’s leaders on their way to face firing squads against the walls of Kilmainham Jail. 

And yet the failure of the Easter Rebellion would eventually become one of the most important events in Irish history, a “failure” that would reverberate worldwide and be mirrored by colonial uprisings almost a half-century later. 

Anniversaries—particularly centennials—are equal parts myth and memory, and drawing lessons from them is always a tricky business. And, while 1916 is not 2016, there are parallels, pieces of the story that overlap and dovetail in the Europe of then with the of Europe today. 

Europe in 1916 was a world at war. The “lamps,” as the expression goes, had gone out in August 1914, and the continent was wrapped in barbed wire and steeped in almost inconceivable death. Shortly after the last Irish rebel was shot, the British launched the battle of the Somme. More than 20,000 would die in the first hour of that battle, and by, the end, their would be more than a million casualties on both sides. 

Europe is still at war, some ways influenced by the footsteps of a colonial world supposedly long gone. Britain is fighting its fourth war in Afghanistan. Italian Special Forces are stalking Islamists in Libya. French warplanes are bombing their old stomping grounds in Syria and chasing down Tuaregs in Mali. 

And Europe is also at war with itself. Barbed wire is once again being unrolled, not to make killing zones out of the no man’s land between trenches, but to block the floods of refugees generated by European—and American—armies and proxies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. 

In many ways, the colonial chickens are coming home to roost. The British and French between them secretly sliced up the Middle East in 1916, using religion and ethnicity to divide and conquer the region. Instability was built in. Indeed, that was the whole idea. There would never be enough Frenchmen or Englishmen to rule the Levant, but with Shiites, Sunnis and Christians busily trying to tear out one another’s throats, they wouldn’t notice the well dressed bankers on the sidelines—“tut tutting” the lack of civilized behavior and counting their money. 

The Irish of 1916 understood that gambit, after all, they were its first victims. 

Ireland was a colony long before the great powers divided up the world in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the strategies that kept the island poor, backward and profitable were transplanted elsewhere. Religious divisions kept India largely docile. Tribal and religious divisions made it possible to rule Nigeria. Ethnic conflict short-circuited resistance in Kenya and South Africa. Division by sect worked well in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. 

For Ireland was the great laboratory of colonialism where the English experimented with ways to keep a grip over the population. Culture, religion, language and kinship were all grist for the mill. And when all else failed, Ireland was a short sail across the Irish Sea: kill all the lab rats and start anew. 

The fact that the English had been in Ireland for 747 years by 1916 was relevant. The Irish call the occupation “the long sorrow,” and it had made them a bit bonkers. Picking a fight in the middle of a war with one of the most powerful empires in human history doesn’t seem like a terribly rational thing to do (and, in truth, there were many Irish who agreed that it was a doomed endeavor.). 

The European left denounced the Easter rising, mostly because they couldn’t make much sense of it. What was a disciplined Marxist intellectual and trade union leader like James Connolly doing taking up arms with mystic nationalists like Padraig Pearse and Joseph Mary Plunkett? One of the few radicals to get it was V.I. Lenin, who called criticism of the rebellion “monstrously pedantic.” 

What both Connolly and Lenin understood was that the uprising reflected a society profoundly distorted by colonialism. Unlike in the rest of Europe, in Ireland different classes and viewpoints could find common ground precisely because they had one similar experience: no matter what their education, no matter what their resources, in the end they were Irish, and treated in everyway as inferior by their overlords. 

Most of the European left was suspicious of nationalism in general because it blurred the lines between oppressed and oppressors and undermined the analysis that class was the great fault line. But as the world would discover a half-century later, nationalism was an ideology that united the many against the few. In the end, it would create its own problems and raise up its own monsters, but for the vast majority of the colonial world it was an essential ingredient of national liberation. 

The Easter rebellion was not the first anti-colonial uprising. The American threw off the English in 1783; the Greeks drove out the Turks in 1832. India’s great Sepoy rebellion almost succeeded in driving the British out of the sub-continent in 1857. There were others as well.  

But there was a special drama to the idea of a revolution in the heart of an empire, and it was the drama more than the act that drew the world’s attention. The Times of London blamed the Easter rising for the 1919 unrest in India, where the British Army massacred 380 Sikh civilians at Amristsan. How the Irish were responsible for this, the Times never bothered to explain. 

But the Irish saw the connection, if somewhat differently than did the Times. Roger Casement, a leader of the 1916 rebellion who was executed for treason in August of that year, said that the cause of Ireland was also the cause of India, because the Easter rebels were fighting “to join again the free civilizations of the earth.” 

As a rising it was a failure, in part because the entire affair was carried out in secret. Probably no more than a dozen or so people knew that it was going to happen. When the Irish Volunteer Force and the Irish Citizens Army marched up to the Post Office, most of the passersby—including the English ones—thought it was just the “boys” out having a little fun by provoking the authorities again. 

But secrets don’t make for successful revolutions. The plotters imagined that their example would fire the whole of Ireland, but by the time most the Irish had found out about it, it was over. It was not even an overly bloody affair. There were about 3,000 casualties and 485 deaths, many of them civilians. Of the combatants, the British lost 151, the rebels 83, including the 16 executed in the coming weeks. It devastated a square mile of downtown Dublin, and, when the British troop marched the rebels through the streets after their surrender, crowds spit on the rebels. 

But as the firing squads did their work day after day, the sentiment began to shift. Connolly was so badly wounded he could not stand, so they tied him to a chair and shot him. The authorities also refused to release the executed leaders to their families, burying them in quicklime instead. Some 3,439 men and 79 women were arrested and imprisoned. Almost 2,000 were sent to internment camps, and 98 were given death sentences. Another 100 received long prison sentences. 

All of this did not go down well with the public, and the authorities were forced to call off more executions. Plus, the idea of an “Irish Republic” was not going to go away, no matter how many people were shot, hanged or imprisoned. 

The Easter rising was certainly an awkward affair. Pearse called it a “blood sacrifice,” which makes the rebellion sound uncomfortably close to the Catholic Church’s motto that “The blood of the martyrs is the seat of the church.” And, yet, that is the nature of things like the Easter rising. 1916 churned up all of the ideologies, divisions, and prejudices that colonialism had crafted over hundreds of years, making for some very odd bedfellows. Those who dreamed of re-constituting the ancient kingdom of Meath manned barricades with students of Karl Marx. Illiterate tenant farmers took up arms with Countess Markievicz, who counseled women to “leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver.” 

Some of those divisions have not gone away. There will be at least two celebrations of the Easter rising. The establishment parties—Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, and the Labour Party—have organized events leading up to the main commemoration March 27. Sinn Fein, representing the bulk of the Irish left, will have its own celebration. There are several small splinter groups that will present their own particular story of the Easter rising. 

And if you want to be part of it, you can go on the Internet and buy a “genuine” Easter Rebellion T-shirt from “Eire Apparent.” 

Everything is for sale, even revolution. 

In some ways, 1916 was about Ireland and its long, strange history. But 1916 is also about the willingness of human beings to resist, sometimes against almost hopeless odds. There is nothing special or uniquely Irish about that. 

In the short run, the Easter rebellion executed the people who might have prevented the 1922-23 civil war between republicans and nationalists that followed the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921. The Free State was independent and self-governing, but still part of the empire, while the British had lopped off Northern Ireland to keep as its own. Ireland did not become truly independent until 1937. 

In the long run, however, the Easter rising made continued British rule in Ireland impossible. In that sense, Pearse was right: the blood sacrifice had worked. 

Does the centennial mean anything for today’s Europe? It may. Like the Europe of 1916, the Europe of 2016 is dominated by a few at the expense of the many. The colonialism of empires has been replaced by the colonialism of banks and finance. The British occupation impoverished the Irish, but they were not so very different than today’s Greeks, Spanish and Portuguese—and yes, Irish—who have seen their living standards degraded and their young exported, all to “repay” banks from which they never borrowed anything. Do most Europeans really control their lives today any more than the Irish did in 1916?  

How different is today’s “Troika”—the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund—from Whitehall in 1916? The latter came unasked into Ireland, the former dominates the economic and political life of the European Union. 

In his poem, “Easter Week 1916,” the poet William Butler Yeats called the rising the birth of “a terrible beauty.” And so it was. But Pearse’s oration at the graveside of the old Fenian warrior Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa may be more relevant: “I say to the masters of my people, beware. Beware of the thing that is coming. Beware of the risen people who shall take what yea would not give.” 


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

New: REGIONAL REPORT: Who's "against change"?

Zelda Bronstein
Monday March 28, 2016 - 11:04:00 AM

Or does that just mean some of us are against the sort of change that the powers that be are pushing?

Like 48 hills editor Tim Redmond, I welcome UC Berkeley geographer Dick Walker’s piece in the East Bay Express debunking the supply-side approach to the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis. As Walker writes, that’s the approach taken by “mainstream policy shops and planners such as Gabriel Metcalf, president and CEO of the pro-urban growth organization SPUR.” In their view, the problem is “activists and neighborhood residents who oppose more market-rate housing devel opment. Their solution is to allow developers to build more freely.” 


Is the real issue in the housing wars growth? How much can one region take?Is the real issue in the housing wars growth? How much can one region take? Photo by Peter Menchini 

Walker agrees that the region needs more housing. But “building more housing,” he contends, 

cannot solve the problem as long as demand is out of control, as it is today….Three basic forces are driving the Bay Area’s housing prices upward: growth, affluence, and inequality. Three other things make matters worse: finance, business cycles, and geography. All of these operate on the demand side of the equation, and demand is the key to the runaway housing market.  

He goes on to mark the region’s 500,000 new jobs since 2010, the tech industry’s huge profits and correspondingly high salaries and wages; the gaping, growing inequality of income and—even worse—of wealth in the Bay Area; and the “geography of privilege and power” that enables “the nouveaux riches of the tech world….to outbid working stiffs, families, artists and the poor” for housing. 

Also well-advised are Walker’s recommendations for local policy: restrict speculation via development fees and controls on rents and evictions; create and fund housing land trusts; build new housing that includes low-income units; and do it all in behalf of “a livable city” that incorporates “good design, historic preservation, neighborhood protections, mixed use, and social diversity”—and “a collective, democratic and yes, conflictual process of politics and public debate.” 

It’s a commendable agenda, though I wish Walker had grappled with what he rightfully identifies as the “key to the runaway housing market”: inordinate demand, which is to say, excessive growth. Instead his piece raps those who “oppos[e] all new building, greater density, and neighborhood change” and “cling to the idea that our town or neighborhood will remain the same in a dynamic urban system.” 

I’ve never met anyone who opposes “all new building, greater density and neighborhood change,” and I’d wager that nobody else has, either. It’s a fiction, part of the diversionary rhetoric employed by none other than Metcalf and Co. that aims to discredit and stigmatize “activists and neighborhood residents who oppose more market-rate development” as irrational extremists. 

When people say, “You’re against change,” they really mean, “You’re against the kind of change I want.” The essential question is, what kind of change is that? 

As Calvin Welch pointed out in 48hills.org last December, the kind sought by the fast growthers—SPUR, the Bay Area Council, the Building Industry Association, the real estate Democrats, and their allies in the planning profession and the regional planning agencies—is the same kind their ilk purveyed as “urban renewal”: “market capitalism using state power” to achieve “demolition and displacement for tens of thousands of San Franciscans” in the name of “‘housing opportunity.’” 

This is the true irrational extremism. And as Welch also points out, in San Francisco urban renewal was defeated by grass-roots activists— 

seniors, working-class retirees and Latinos in South of Market and the Mission [who] rejected redevelopment’s market-rate housing and devised the city’s first community-based and community-controlled housing development corporations that built affordable housing owned by the community, keeping thousands of low-income residents in the city. 

Today community activists around the Bay Area are fighting against the new urban renewal, a.k.a. “smart growth.” They’re pushing back—not just in San Francisco, but in Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Mill Valley, and Palo Alto, among other places. 

You read that right: Palo Alto. Thanks to the “nouveaux riches” of the tech world,” Palo Alto has a jobs-to-housing ratio of 3-to-1 and commercial space that’s been so extensively colonized by tech offices that the council passed a citywide ground floor retail space protection ordinance. Should Palo Alto build housing to accommodate all the workers in the city’s tech’s offices? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure what Walker thinks. 

His embrace of “high-rises” is incautious. Massive high-density development does not necessarily provide “moderate priced homes” or “low-income public housing.” As ever, the devil is in the details. Witness the controversial 18-story residential project proposed for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley, the town in which Walker and I both live. It has no affordable units at all—one of many deficiencies cited in a lawsuit filed by a community activist

Density’s dubious relationship to housing affordability aside, the larger growth question remains. To paraphrase the title of a much-cited article by David Talbot, how many people can one region take? That question would seem to be entailed by Walker’s recognition that demand is “out of control.” It’s suppressed in the halls of power, including the offices of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. For the sake of genuinely livable cities, community activists need to raise it, loud and clear. 

Zelda Bronstein formerly wrote the Planet's local Public Eye column. She is a former chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission. This article originally appeared on 48hills.org. 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Donald Trump Channels Howard Beale

Bob Burnett
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:12:00 PM

Forty years ago, the movie “Network” created a sensation, eventually winning four Academy Awards. Etched on the American consciousness is the image of the demented lead character, news-anchor Howard Beale, striding to an open window, leaning out into the rain, and shouting, “we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.” Now Donald Trump has brought Howard Beale to life. 

“Network” has a captivating plot line: Howard Beale, a long-time evening news anchor, is told that because of falling ratings he will be fired in two weeks. Beale immediately goes on the air and announces that he plans to kill himself on live TV. However, as Beale descends into madness, his ratings go up and he postpones his suicide. And the distinction blurs between real news and reality television. 

There are three parallels between the political ascent of Donald Trump and the disintegration of Howard Beale: 

1. Descent into madness: Beale breaks down after he’s told he will be fired. 

It’s not clear when Trump’s decline started – perhaps when he was fired from “The Apprentice.” Nonetheless, recent observers believe Trump is mentally ill. This group includes his one-time stalwart supporter, Fox News, who recently declared: “Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land.” 

In November, Psychology Today queried clinicians about Trump’s behavior. The psychiatrists and psychologists concluded that Trump suffers from a form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: 

[involving] arrogant behavior, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration... People who are narcissistic are frequently described as cocky, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. Narcissists may concentrate on unlikely personal outcomes (e.g., fame) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. Related Personality Disorders: Antisocial, Borderline, [and] Histrionic.

2. Insanity bolsters ratings: After Howard Beale promises to kill himself, his TV ratings go up; his nightly news commentary deteriorates into a rant. 

Once Donald Trump declared his candidacy, his increasingly bizarre statements fueled his campaign, bolstering his ratings. In July, Trump promised to build a high wall along the entire US-Mexico border, claiming that it would keep out illegal immigrants whom he described as, “criminals, drug dealers, [and] rapists.” Nonetheless, Trump insisted, “Latinos love me.” (A recent Washington Post poll found that only 16 percent of Hispanics would vote for Trump). 

In November, Trump suggested keeping a national registry of Muslims. In December, he proposed banning all Muslims from travelling to the US. Once again, Trump insisted he has Muslim friends and they are “happy” he is discussing this. 

The fact-checking website Politifact declared Trump’s collective campaign misstatements the “2015 Lie of the Year.” They determined that 76 percent of his claims were lies. 

While it’s not unusual for someone suffering from Narcissist Personality Disorder to lie, the extent to which Trump lies – and the fact that he will not back down when confronted with his lies – is characteristic of a related pathology, Borderline Personality Disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, Borderline Personality Disorder: “includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and impulsiveness.” 

3. Blurs the line between legitimate news and reality television: In the movie “Network,” to capitalize on Howard Beale’s strong ratings, TV executives transfer him from the news division to the entertainment division. Beale gets his own 30-minute live show, where the audience chants, “we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.” 

Indeed, over the past forty years we’ve seen TV news descend into entertainment. The hard news content of the typical network news program has steadily declined and been replaced by reality television. Now, with Donald Trump, we’ve seen a reality TV personality enter mainstream politics. 

Political commentators have noted that, despite the absence of specific political policies, Donald Trump’s approval ratings, among Republicans, have been consistent: since January he has been the GOP front runner commanding 30-38 percent of the vote. Trump supporters don’t seem to care about his specific views – or whether or not he changes his position. 

Why do Republican voters support Donald Trump? A recent CNN study found that they feel he speaks from the heart, “tells it like it is.” According to the CNN interviews: Trump supporters feel the American dream slipping away from them; they blame corrupt politicians, immigrants, and people-of-color, in general. In other words, they’re “mad as hell;” and they’re “not going to take it anymore.” 

Today, most movie fans remember “Network” for Peter Finch’s searing portrayal of Howard Beale. Nonetheless, critics – who rate “Network” as one of America’s classic movies – note the prophetic depiction of the descent of mainstream media from hard news into entertainment. 

Certainly, that trend helps explain the political emergence of Donald Trump, who is an entertainer, a narcissist consumed by his own interests and not those of the US. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: April Fool's Day—Twenty Years

Jack Bragen
Friday March 25, 2016 - 04:54:00 PM

April Fool's Day marks twenty years since my most recent admission to an inpatient psychiatric ward. (It coincided with a big explosion at the Shell refinery here in Martinez, an unrelated but not irrelevant event.) It was my last attempt to wean myself off of antipsychotic medication, and it was unsuccessful, as it had been with previous attempts.  

A week or three beforehand, while I was "decompensating," I'd had one nonviolent run-in with Concord Police on the front lawn of the house where my girlfriend (now wife; nineteen years) lived. My symptoms kept getting worse as I continued to go without medication, and was seen wandering the streets of Martinez.  

A few hours before the explosion, I believed I was in mortal danger and had to get out of the area. I walked about ten miles to a church in Pleasant Hill, where I was 5150'd. The explosion at the refinery happened about that time, and could be seen at the church, which was situated on a hill.  

Upon being hospitalized and reinstated on medication, my recovery was slow. It took me a very long time to sort out the fact that I was suffering from delusions, and that I needed to start correcting my thoughts. Meanwhile, I had been released to the care of my [then] girlfriend.  

I stayed in one of the two inpatient psychiatry wards in the old Martinez Merrithew Hospital, called "I ward." The first building of the replacement hospital now standing was under construction, and from the window of the psych ward, I could see workers welding girders of the frame.  

At "I ward" I had the delusion (among many other delusions) that I was in a museum of historic mental hospitals. The facility dated back to the time of World War II.  

I owe a large part of my long term recovery to my wife, who said several times that if I went off medication, she would move out. She was and still is a voice of reason and a caring person. She has turned out to be exactly "what the doctor ordered."  

Something was different about my most recent recovery that began twenty years ago, in comparison to earlier recoveries. I had apparently struck "pay-dirt" in my meditation practices that I did beforehand and afterward. While I was recovering, I made numerous observations about how my mind works. I put these observations to work in making a better, albeit slower, recovery.  

In my recovery of the last twenty years, numerous times I have flashed upon various events in my life, and came to the realization, among other realizations, that there had been a large gap in my perceptions. I had been unable to comprehend my life situations with a good level of clarity.  

Perhaps clarity has the potential to come with age. And also, as I got older, I had not been crystallized into an ignorant pattern of thought and behavior. Looking at the recovery of my older brother in the past ten years (he is also schizophrenic) I realize that something similar seemed to happen for him. He is functioning at a better level than he had in his past.  

It is an established theory in psychiatry that for people with schizophrenia, if you live long enough, the illness tapers off when you reach later years. I am benefiting today from the fact that I have physically survived the hazards of my illness, have remained intact, and can now enjoy later years in which things are not quite as hard.  



New: ECLECTIC RANT: Toward U.S.-Cuba Normalization

Ralph E. Stone
Monday March 28, 2016 - 09:52:00 AM

I applaud President Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba, including his recent historic visit there. Isolating Cuba has not worked. Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and then handed power to his brother Raúl in 2008. Thus, the Castro brothers have outlasted eleven U.S. presidents.  

My wife and I traveled to Cuba in 2003 on the last people-to-people exchange programs,. The goals of these programs were to enhance cross-cultural relations between Americans and Cubans. New regulations issued in 2003 ended these tours. What a difference a decade or so made. Now we have diplomatic relations with Cuba and last year the U.S. embassy was reopened in Havana. Commercial flights now fly directly to Cuba from the U.S. although technically U.S. travel to Cuba is still illegal until both countries work out the details of such travel.  

Critics of normalization point to Cuba's poor human rights record, a hypocritical stance. Consider that the U.S. right now has the world’s largest prison population by far. There are 2.2 million citizens in prison here for offenses that include smoking pot and failing to pay off certain debts. At its peak, there were 2.5 million in Stalin's Soviet Gulag.  

And remember the U.S. Senate Torture Report documenting the CIA's use of torture and our extraordinary rendition program (secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to other countries where torture was used)? The Report found that the CIA used waterboarding, shackling detainees in painful positions, prolonged sleep deprivation, rectal feeding, and slamming detainees against walls.  

As the Bible says, ”He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 

Past U.S. administrations got along fine with Fulgencio Batista the thug Castro overthrew. During Batista's rule, Americans were free to frolic at the nightclubs, casinos and beach resorts during Batista’s thuggish regime. But then Batista was in our pocket, whereas the Castro brothers are not. And Castro was a communist and Batista was just a brutal dictator. 

Two major obstacles remain before there is full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba: the closing of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp and the return of Guantánamo Bay to Cuba, and lifting the embargo on trade between the U.S. and Cuba. 

How did we come to control Guantánamo Bay? The Platt amendment to a U.S. Army Appropriations Bill of 1901 gave the U.S. the right to intervene militarily in Cuban affairs whenever the U.S. decided such intervention was warranted. Cubans were given the choice of accepting the Platt Amendment or remaining under U.S. military occupation indefinitely. The U.S. has intervened militarily in Cuban affairs at least three times. U.S. intervention endowed Cuba with a series of weak, corrupt, dependent governments. In 1903, the U.S. used it to obtain a perpetual least of Guantánamo Bay, a blatant example of U.S. gunboat diplomacy.  

The current Cuban government consider the U.S. presence in Guantánamo to be illegal and the Cuban-American Treaty to have been procured by the threat of force in violation of international law.  

There are presently 91 prisoners left at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp. Last month, President Obama sent another plan to close the Camp, which centers on bringing to a prison on domestic soil 30 to 60 detainees who are deemed too dangerous to release, while transferring the remaining detainees to other countries.  

Opponents do not want “terrorists” on U.S. soil. Yet, during World War II, the U.S. housed, fed, and worked over 425,000 German POWs in 700 camps in 46 states with little or no risk to the populace. Most of the camps were low to medium security camps, not prisons, although some of the camps had to be designated “segregation camps,” used to separate the Nazi “true believers” from the rest of the prisoners. Of the 425,000 POWs held in U.S. prison camps, only 2,222 – less than 1 percent – attempted escape with most were quickly rounded up. Guantánamo prisoners, on the other hand, would be sent to medium, high, or even so-called supermax security prisons, where the chance of escape would be minimal. 

Obama's latest plan to close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp was immediately rejected by the Republicans in Congress and the GOP presidential candidates. Thus, Guantánamo will continue to be a shameful episode in U.S.history. 

President Obama marked the one-year anniversary of his move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba by calling on Congress to end the U.S. embargo. Clearly, it is nothing but a relic of the Cold War dating back to 1962, when President Kennedy signed Proclamation 3447 to declare "an embargo upon all trade between the United States and Cuba." (As an aside, the night before he signed the embargo, JFK sent his Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger, to procure as many Cuban cigars as he could find. Salinger returned with a stash of 1,200 Petit Upmann cigars.)  

Progress has been made in normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations but full normalization is still a work in progress. 

Arts & Events

New: Movie review: “City of Gold” at Shattuck Cinemas

Christopher Adams
Tuesday March 29, 2016 - 11:51:00 AM

While I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I haven’t really called it home for over 50 years. Family visits tended to be exactly that, visits with family, leavened with occasional forays to the nearby beach or one of the art museums, which LA has in spades, though unfortunately separated by miles of freeway. My post childhood memories of LA have been of endless driving and endless strip malls.  

It was almost by luck that I saw “City of Gold” last weekend. The “City” of the title is Los Angeles. The “Gold” is the protagonist of this gently compelling documentary about the LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. Gold loves driving the freeways and the endless streets of strip commercial in search of the definitive Vietnamese café or the best taco truck. Along the way he finds time to learn the stories of the immigrants who have so enriched his LA not just with their food but with their life stories.  

My growing-up memories of restaurant food in LA are Mexican, always, and Chinese if we travelled to Chinatown in downtown LA. And since my father had jobs as a deliveryman of some sort, he spent time in west LA finding the definitive rye bread and the best cheesecake. Gold too shares memories of good Jewish delis, but he has gone way beyond to find the definitive Ethiopian restaurant or the absolutely spiciest Burmese soup.  

More than that he has learned about the people who have started these restaurants and whose children are growing up American. The director Laura Gabbert manages to tell these stories without sentimentality and without being didactic. The physician whose Ethiopian mother put him through school working as a waitress and who has now financed her successful restaurant flashes a smile at the camera but no more. You get the message. It is a wonderfully optimistic movie for these depressing times.  

My only pessimism came from a much more local situation. The theater in which I saw this movie, Shattuck Cinemas, is one of the few places where a thoughtful non-blockbuster like “City of Gold” is likely to get a screening. And soon it will be destroyed to allow a developer to inflict us with yet another ugly high-rise. It makes even those endless strip commercial streets in LA seem humane.  

Around & About--Music: Kent Nagano Conducts; Kalil Wilson Sings; The Israeli Chamber Project Plays ...

Ken Bullock
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:21:00 PM

—Kent Nagano, who stepped down after 30 years at the podium of the Berkeley Symphony in 2009, will conduct the Montreal Symphony with pianist Danil Trifonov in a program featuring Debussy's Jeux (1913), Prokofiev's Piano Concerto in C major, Opus 26 (1921) and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (also 1913--and, like Jeux, composed for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with Nijinsky)--this Saturday night, March at 8, for Cal Performances at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC campus, Bancroft near Telegraph Avenues. Tickets: $21-$150. calperformances.org (including program notes); 642-9988. 


—Kalil Wilson, splendid jazz singer (he's also an operatic tenor, as well as an R&B vocalist), and his truly swinging trio LOVE (Dan Marshack on keyboards; Chris Bastian, bass; and talented yyoung drummer Genius Wesley) will put in three sets this Saturday night at Sliver, the pizzeria with a full bar at 2132 Center Street, between Shattuck and Oxford in downtown Berkeley--a no-cover venue for other fine local musicians, including jazz trumpeter Geechi Taylor, who plays this Sunday, 4:30-8:30. 


Kalil Wilson was born in 1981 in Oakland, son of classical flutist Jackie Wilson and popular African band leader Baba Ken Okulolo (who sometimes accompanies Kalil on percussion), sang with the Oakland Youth Chorus as a boy, and attended the Young Musicians program at UC-Berkeley before earning his degree in Ethnomusicology at UCLA. He's been mentored in jazz by the likes of Kenny Burrell, and has sung operatically at the Met in New York and with the Oakland East Bay Symphony. 


His grasp of jazz idiom, apparent both in his remarkable grasp of jazz standards, show tunes and the tunes of the Great American Songbook, as well as originals, is remarkable. (How many singers of his generation routinely do tunes like "My Romance" or "Three Little Words," selling them with ease to attentive, enthusiastic audiences of all ages?) And some of the greatest jazz and pop standards he's made his own, regularly stopping the show with a broad range of tunes, from a Latin-flavored "Nature Boy" to a duo with piano of "Alfie." 


Hopefully, there'll be more shows with Kalil soon in Berkeley, Sliver being a lively place the last Saturday he played there; and there have been frequrent appearances with Yancie Taylor's vibes-driven combo at Geoffrey's Inner Circle (geoffreyslive.com or on Facebook) at 410-14th Street, off Broadway in downtown Oakland, which features soul food dinners at a low price in addition to a very reasonable show ticket. And Kalil plays three no-cover sets every Wednesday with LOVE from 6 pm at Club Deluxe, 1511 Haight, a few doors west of Ashbury, in San Francisco, a full bar with pizza and salads, where three performances of the moth are followed around 9 by another three sets by saxophonist Patrick Wolff and his bop band. kalilwilson.com (including samples of his CD Easy to Love--and more on YouTube), sliverpizzeria.com (510-356-4044), clubdeluxe.co/ (415-552-6949), Geoffrey's Inner Circle (510-839-4644


--Berkeley Chamber Performances will feature a concert at 8 this Tuesday night, March 29, by the Israeli Chamber Project (Tibi Czigar, clarinet; Edward Arron, cello; Sivan Magen, harp; Assaff Weisman, piano; Wentung Kang, viola and Carmit Zori, violin), a group based in New York and Tel Aviv, playing Saint-Saens' Fantaisie for Harp & Viola, Opus 124; Ice Palace, by the young Israeli composer Zohar Sharon (commissioned for the Israeli Chamber Proect); Bohuslav Martinu's three movementChamber Music No. 1; Mozart's Violin Sonata K 378, arranged by Anton Andre as Clarinet Quartet in B flat major; and Brahms' four movement Trio for Violin, Cello & Piano in C minor, Opus 101. 


The performance is followed by a complimentary wine and cheese reception, with opportunity to meet the artists. 


Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue between Dana and Ellsworth Streets. Tickets: $30; students through high school, free; post-high school students, $15. berkeleychamberperform.org ; 510-525-5211 


Theater Explorations & Music Appreciation Adult Classes

Ken Bullock
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:18:00 PM

Marion Fay's popular, longrunning classes for adults, Theater Explorations and Music Appreciation, both held at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda near the Solano Avenue Tunnel in Berkeley, are starting up again.
Theater Explorations, four two-hour classes with two separate groups, one meeting Mondays from April 4, 1-3 p. m., the other on Thursdays from March 31, also 1-3, both for nine weeks, features post-performance discussions, guest speakers (including presentations by the artistic directors of SF Playhouse, Ubuntu Theatre Project and Theatre First, as well as pre-play talks by Berkeley Rep docents) and trips to see Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of 'Treasure Island' (from Robert Louis Stevenson) at Berkeley Rep, 'Grapes of Wrath' (adapted from Steinbeck) by Ubuntu and a visit to the new Strand Theater in San Francisco.
Music Appreciation meets Thursdays, 10-noon, starting April 7, and features composers, conductors and musicians from the Berkeley Oakland and San Francisco Symphony orchestras and other professional musicians performing and discussing their work in class, as well as field trips to concerts and performances..
Special events include a piano quintet by SF Symphony musicians; a presentation by a music therapist; and a program of pieces for oboe, English horn and piano, featuring solos from orchestral masterpieces.
No background in music is required for Music Appreciation classes.
Both courses, Theater Explorations and Music Appreciation, are nine weeks for $90, excluding discounted tickets for performances. Register at the first class. For further information: marionf5@earthlink.net

Ted Rall Comes to Town with the Book of Bernie

Gar Smith
Friday March 25, 2016 - 04:56:00 PM
Ted Rall
Ted Rall

Earlier this week, political blogger, columnist and cartoonist Ted Rall dropped by Berkeley's University Press Bookstore to flog his new book, Bernie, a 200-page "bio-graphic novel" about the insurgent presidential candidate from Vermont.

Like Bernie Sanders, Rall is an independent, anti-establishment crusader and critic. He's also a two-time winner of the Robert F. Kennedy journalism award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. His syndicated cartoons—and trenchant political commentaries—appear across the board, from the New York Times to the Village Voice and he's recently turned to producing full-length cartoon treatises on subjects ranging from election theft to controversial public figures. Before Bernie, his previous book profiled Edward Snowden.

Rall told the bookstore crowd that he sees his role as "filling a gap in coverage" and allowed that the "ideal audience" for his politico-graphic comic books is "a smart 12-year-old."

That said, Bernie is a great polemic for all ages—providing a critical re-examination the last 60 years of American politics before introducing readers to the personal saga of the rumpled rebel from upstate Vermont. Author and cartoonist Ted Rall is a self-admitted storyteller. He loves the Moth Radio Hour and indulges in tail-spinning contests at neighborhood cabarets. So it's no surprise that, when we arrive at the University Press Bookstore across from the UC Berkeley campus for a 6 PM reading of Rall's new book about Bernie Sanders, the author was already knee-deep in a story. 

Role was relating details of an encounter he had with the Los Angeles police sometime ago that apparently resulted in his being detained, handcuffed and eventually fired by his employers at the Los Angeles Times. Being fired by the LAT, Rall noted, amounted to a "burn notice" when it comes to future employment. Rall wound up fighting this mini-encounter-turned-epic-battle for years. 

The LAPD claimed they had and audiotape of the encounter and insisted Rall had "lied" about what happened. "I didn't lie!" Rall insisted. It took a great deal of effort to wrest a copy of the allegedly incriminating audio from the LAPD. When it arrived, it turned out the tape was inaudible—just a hissing pack of electronic static. After Rall paid to have the tape enhanced, it was possible (just barely) to make out a woman's voice in the background yelling, "Remove his handcuffs!" With this exculpatory evidence, Rall is now asking the Times for damages under, among other things, California's anti-blacklisting laws. 

It was a great tale, told with gusto and relish. But the real purpose of Rall's Berkeley visit was to flog his new book, Bernie, a 200-page "bio-graphic novel" about the insurgent presidential candidate from Vermont. 

Like Bernie Sanders, Rall is an independent, anti-establishment crusader and critic. But he also is a two-time winner of the Robert F. Kennedy journalism award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist whose syndicated cartoons—and trenchant political commentaries—appear across the board, from the New York Times to the Village Voice. Rall recently has turned to producing full-length cartoon treatises on subjects ranging from election theft to controversial public figures. Before Bernie, his previous book profiled Edward Snowden. 

Rall told his fans at the bookstore gathering that he sees his role as "filling a gap in coverage" and he allowed that the "ideal audience" for his politico-graphic comic books is "a smart 12-year-old." 

That said, Bernie is a great polemic for all ages—providing a critical re-examination the last 60 years of American politics before introducing readers to the personal saga of the rumpled rebel from upstate Vermont. 

In Bernie's introductory historical primer, Rall subjects the Democratic Party apparatus to an unvarnished shellacking. In squinty-eyed retrospect, Rall charts the Democratic Party's regression from a people-centered politic to in an institution so wracked by compromise that it has become (by comparison to its New Deal past) a neo-Republican shadow party of the GOP. 

While the New Left managed to find a voice in the Democratic Party of the 1960s, that ended after George McGovern was trounced by tricky Dick Nixon in 1973. In the shocked aftermath, the party's destiny was seized by a group of centrists—the Coalition for a Democratic Majority—that wrenched the political machine sharply to the right. 

As Bernie Sanders himself has pointed out: "In the 1970s, the Democratic Party became more dependent on corporate money. If you need money, you go to wealthy people." 

Jimmy Carter became the first modern Democrat to abandon the party's signature "big government" programs designed to address suffering and inequality in the US. Ronald Reagan ushered Carter out of the Oval Office and commenced the "Reagan Revolution," cutting and poverty programs that had been in place since FDR's administration. While slamming Reagan for a budget-busting military buildup that included the ludicrous Star Wars defense system, Bernie pauses to point out that the military splurge actually began under Jimmy Carter's watch. 

Once again on the outs under Reagan, center-right Democrats seized even more influence inside the party. "There has been no Democratic poverty plan since LBJ's Great Society," Rall told the bookstore crowd. "Roosevelt's WPA (Works Progress Administration) created millions of jobs for Americans," Rall noted. "Obamacare is not a poverty program," he continued. "A real poverty program would be one that puts money in people's pockets." 

"We are living in The Age of Vague," Rall lamented, but he's doing his part to illuminate the sharp edges of a benumbed society. In one example from Bernie, Rall has enshrined in ink this stinging comment from Ralph Nader: "The only difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock." 

Bernie explains how the culmination of the Dems "politics of triangulation" peaked with the election of Bill Clinton, a southerner with the charm of radical scamp but a decidedly pro-business bias that soon saw him channeling billions of dollars of incentives toward the private sector. Clinton put more police on the streets at the same time he was cutting poverty programs that put even more poor Americans back on those streets. 

Clinton, a Democrat-in-Name-Only, went on to DINOmite Somalia, Afghanistan and the "welfare state" with equal zeal. The Democrats' liberal and labor base was left to wither. 

It only got worse with election (strike that: the Supreme Court-appointed installation) of George W. Bush. In 2008, the moral travesties of the W's administration— illegal wars, immoral resorts to abductions and torture—were swept aside by the election of Barack Obama. But instead of things getting a whole lot better, "Change we can believe in" quickly began to morph into a lot of "same old, same old." 

In Rall's wry assessment, "The victory of Barack Obama marks the high watermark of the centrist counterrevolution." There were no progressives or liberals in Obama's Cabinet. Obama hyped Bush's War on Terror and expanded the Pentagon's global reach to the point that Rall now places him "to the right of Richard Nixon when it comes to foreign interventions." 

Obama increased military spending (even reversing his vow to rid the world of nuclear weapons). He expanded Bush Jr.'s killer drone program to include the murder of US citizens. He favored Wall Street's criminals with a $7.77 trillion Big Bank Bailout and an $814 billion "stimulus package" (read: taxpayer-funded handouts). Under Obama, the earnings gap actually widened while college students forced to apply for Federal loans found themselves saddled with unpayable debts. (Debts that, under bank-friendly congressional legislation, could never be discharged through bankruptcy protection). 

Bernie does not spare the other Democratic candidate. "To me," Rall says, "Hillary has always been a Republican—in contrast to [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg who has always been a Democrat." Clearly, Hillary is Wall Street's candidate and her war-mongering days at State won her many friends in Military-Industrial circles. "In Libya," Rall told the bookstore throng, "she took a first-world nation and reduced it to a failed state in a year." 

Driven from the co-opted "party of the people," liberals, progressives, people of color and youth no longer had a gathering space in the nation's halls of power. The only places left to occupy were the streets and parks. 

It was becoming clear that "only an outsider can change the system from the inside." 

At this point (page 74 in the book), Bernie devotes 20 pages to recapping Sanders' maverick political career—a consistent and enduring howl of indignation against the powerful and wealthy. Increasingly, Bernie's message was resonating across generations of America's political outcasts. Today, all eyes turn toward the east as Bernie rises—all fiery rhetoric and thundering admonitons—and begins to blaze a new path across the American landscape. 

Unlike the rest of the country's fair-weather politicians, Bern' is as authentic as last winter's hiking boots. He's a rumpled mensch, a white-maned Messiah whose Sermon on the Mounting Debt boils down to: "We should be tough on Wall Street! The wealthy should pay their fair share!" 

Halfway through his book, Rall schedules some personal face time with Bernie Sanders in an attempt to answer the question: "Who is this guy and why was he uniquely situated to address people's anger over income inequality, while the rest of the political establishment remained clueless?" 

"What did you think of Bernie when you finally met him?" one of the bookstore crowd asks Rall. 

"I found him to be warm… and awkward." Rall recalls. He flips to the inside back cover of his book and points to a photo of the author with the candidate. "When I asked if I could take a selfie, he just gave this big exasperated sigh!" Bernie's not a "selfie" kinda guy. 

The remainder of the book is devoted to rousing affirmations of "Feel the Bern'" campaigning. But the applause-worthy slams against entrenched wealth and all things GOP and Hillary are sprinkled with some honest caveats. Sanders has not been a firebrand when it comes to opposing certain brands of firearms. He's OK with the US using drones to kill people in foreign lands. And the temperature of his expressed alarm over Israel's oppression of Palestinians has only been lukewarm. 

Still, Rall gives Sanders the last word. Bernie's final quote reads: "I think I am as good a candidate as any to carry the torch." 

In the afterword, Rall notes there are two routes for problem solvers. One is to take the path of the rebel; the other is to assume the role of the reformer. 

Edward Snowden is clearly a rebel. "He took risks for integrity," Rall says. Sanders is a reformer, hoping to pull off what Rall calls "this sneaky end run around revolution." 

Rall's conclusion is wary: "It is tougher, in some ways, to try to effect change from the inside. Push too hard… and you'll certainly be alienated and marginalized by the gatekeepers of the mainstream media. Fail to push hard enough and you won't get the job done." 

Rall is concerned that the one-party nature of America's so-called "two-party system" has lead to one of the world's lowest voter turn-outs. Countries with parliamentary elections see much more vigorous voter engagement. 

"If Bernie ran as an independent," Rall believes, "he could win against Hillary or Trump. This is the year of the outsider. It's either Trump or Bernie." 

The 2016 election, however it turns, will be pivotal. If Sanders and his revolution win the right to stand up to power and reclaim the tethers of democracy it will be good news for the country, the continents, and the planet. If we lose this one, Rall fears, we may well have lost it all. 

Rall's book is a rallying cry for our last, best hope.