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A sprinkler decided to celebrate the 4th of July by wildly expressing itself in front of City Hall around 10:00 am. There was no truth to the rumor that radical anarchist sidewalk chalk was responsible for the accidental baptism of the City Hall steps.
A sprinkler decided to celebrate the 4th of July by wildly expressing itself in front of City Hall around 10:00 am. There was no truth to the rumor that radical anarchist sidewalk chalk was responsible for the accidental baptism of the City Hall steps.


Reply to Harry Brill Re: November election (Public Comment)

Elsa Labonski
Wednesday July 13, 2016 - 02:04:00 PM

I would like to ask Harry Brill to remember that Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election. All votes are not equal. If his protest approach leaks over to states like Florida, where even now I hear people proposing to vote for third party candidates, the election could easily go to Trump. Control of at least the Senate is as important as the Presidential race. Potential appointees to the Supreme Court will make even more difference than the Presidency, because they are for life. The best hope for implementing the political revolution that Sen. Sanders promoted is to take back the legislative branch from the obstructionist party, and pass the legislation we need. This election is definitely not the time for a protest vote. 

Elsa Labonski lives and votes in Florida.

The West Berkeley Shell Mound (Events)

Malcolm Margolin, as forwarded by Richard Schwartz
Tuesday July 12, 2016 - 10:33:00 AM

Are you free this Tuesday, July 12, from 5:00 to about 7:30 pm? I’d like to convene an informal public meeting to discuss development plans for the site of the West Berkeley Shell Mound and to explore possible options. The meeting will be held at the East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison Street, Berkeley. 

Tentative Agenda and Topics for Discussion. 

  1. An overview of the shell mound and village site from its founding 4,500 years ago to the present.
  2. An overview of the terrain. Where exactly was the shell mound, how was the surrounding area used, and what is now being built or proposed for this area?
  3. What meaning does this area have for Native people?
  4. What would Berkeley lose if this physical link with the past, already severely damaged, were weakened even further?
  5. Can commercial development be stopped? A review of applicable laws that protect private property and prevent seizure of land by the government. Could the City government derail the impending development, even if it had the will to do so? At what cost? What are the laws governing Indian burials? What tactics might convince a developer to withdraw? How much money would be needed to buy the land, put it into the hands of a trust or park district, and build an appropriate memorial? What kind of strategy would be needed to see this effort through? If there is sufficient energy, organizational ability, and passion, who will take the leading role in this?
  6. Am I wrong about the magnitude of the effort? If there’s an “Achilles heel,” a point of vulnerability that can be taken advantage of, this would be a good time to present alternative tactics.
  7. If we can’t stop the development, are there other options (i.e., mitigation)?
As I said, this is in no way an “official” gathering, and it is not sanctioned by any group, Indian or otherwise. If we reach a consensus—it’s fine if we don’t—that consensus will simply be an expression of those present, and will have no authority or standing. It’s a discussion, an opportunity to hear from members of the Native community, and to wed practical knowledge with emotional concern. It’s done with the hope that it will energize members of the community to do whatever we can, individually, in small groups, or in concert, before we lose entirely this unique and irreplaceable connection to the place where Berkeley was born and continue the grim practice of erasing Native people from our landscape and our consciousness. 

Thanks. I hope this leads to something great. I look forward to seeing you. 

Malcolm Margolin Vincent Medina 

Founder and Publisher Emeritus, Heyday Outreach Coordinator, News fr Native Cal. 

margolinmalcolm@gmail.com vincent@heydaybooks.com 































Council to hear 1500 San Pablo Avenue Appeal

Toni Mester
Tuesday July 12, 2016 - 10:31:00 AM

A public hearing will be held on the neighbors’ appeal of 1500 San Pablo Avenue, a 5 story 171-unit residential development between Cedar and Jones, at the City Council on Tuesday July 19 at 7 PM. The application and related material can be found on the project web page: 


The appeal is attachment 2 in the packet of Item 34 on the agenda page: 


An organizational meeting to prepare for the public hearing will be held this Thursday July 14 between 6 and 7 at the West Berkeley Library 1125 University Avenue. The project modifications and traffic mitigations sought by the neighborhood will be discussed, and the alternative plans will be shown. The neighborhood design group’s Plan B features a recessed fifth floor, and new garden apartments at ground level that add to the total units in the project, achieved by a more compact design for the parking garage. 

Many have protested the project’s fifth floor in a four story mixed used zone. A Move-On petition that criticized the mass of the main building garnered 92 signatures but had no impact on the process; the fifth floor and other waivers of the C-W zoning on San Pablo Avenue are allowed under the density bonus state law, an incentive that permits developers to exceed the zoning envelope by including units that would be affordable to lower income renters. This project provides 15 such units. 

A neighborhood design group that included three architects developed two alternatives that reduce the fifth floor. The first Plan A was rejected by ZAB, and so the group has advanced a second idea Plan B that retains a recessed fifth floor and provides more total units for the project to offset the cost of revising the plans and for the additional excavation required to create a more efficient parking garage. 

These and other ideas will be explored at the upcoming meetings. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley

Rules for "Public Comment"

Monday July 11, 2016 - 09:57:00 PM

If you want to have an opinion of any length posted in our "Public Comment" section, please indicate that clearly by sending it to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com so we know it's not just a personal comment that you don't intend to have published. This includes copies of letters to City Council etc. that you want published as an "open letter". We require comments to be signed by the author's full name, and we want a phone number, not for publication, to check authorship when necessary.

Berkeley Apartment Fire on University near San Pablo

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Saturday July 09, 2016 - 11:06:00 PM

A fire this afternoon on a second-floor balcony of a Berkeley apartment building caused roughly $25,000 of damage, a Berkeley fire official said.  

The fire was first reported at 4:40 p.m. in the 1000 block of University Avenue about seven blocks from Interstate Highway 80.  

The fire burned some exterior siding and flames reached the parapet of the 12-unit building before firefighters extinguished it at about 5 p.m., Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said.  

No one was injured but one person will be displaced. That person was not at home when the fire was extinguished, McCracken said. 

The cause is under investigation.

Updated: Five arrested in Oakland protest

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday July 08, 2016 - 12:30:00 PM

Five people were arrested and one person was given a citation for vandalism, bottles thrown at officers and graffiti during an anti-police march in Oakland on Thursday night, police said. 

The march, which began at Frank Ogawa Plaza at 7 p.m. and eventually blocked traffic in both directions on Interstate Highway 880 near downtown Oakland, was held to protest the fatal shootings of black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. 

Oakland police said the protest began with about 100 demonstrators but it quickly grew to about 2,000 people. 

Police said officers facilitated a safe march along the Broadway corridor toward Sixth Street and Broadway but about 1,000 protesters went onto the highway and blocked traffic in both directions while the other 1,000 remained in city streets. 

Police said vandalism to the police administration building at Seventh Street and Broadway, such as paint on doors, scratches on glass and broken glass resulted in one arrest and more arrests are anticipated. 

A broken window at the Smart and Final store at 10th Street and Broadway resulted in one arrest for burglary and bottles thrown at officers resulted in two arrests, according to police. 

Graffiti on a window at the Chase Bank branch at 14th Street and Broadway and graffiti on columns in the 1000 block of Broadway resulted in one arrest and one citation, police said. 

In addition, there were broken windows at the Foot Locker store on Broadway near 14th Street and there was a small fire on a Caltrans sign board on I-880 according to police. No injuries were reported, police said. 

I-880 was reopened at about 1:15 a.m. today. 

Although the California Highway Patrol allowed protesters to remain on I-880 longer than is usual during protests, Officer John Fransen said today that "there's no set time" for removing protesters from freeways. 

Fransen said, "We try to do the best we can to keep as many people safe as possible and de-escalate the situation" and the most important thing is to protect lives. 

Fransen said protests are "fluid situations" and the CHP works with local agencies, such as Oakland police, to try to keep protesters off freeways but he said many variables are involved, such as how many people are involved in a protest. 

He said, "We look at each situation and deal with it as best as we can while keeping everyone safe," including drivers, protesters and officers. 

Fransen said, "Freeways are a dangerous place and we don't want anyone to be injured."

Protests close Interstate 880, now re-opened

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:14:00 AM

The California Highway Patrol this morning is reporting all lanes of Interstate Highway 880 in Oakland have reopened following a night of protests that spilled onto the highway.

A Sig-alert issued was canceled at 1:15 a.m., and both northbound and southbound lanes of the highway have reopened, according to the CHP. 

At 12:18 a.m., the Oakland Police Department reported there were still about 100 protestors demonstrating against police violence. 

The protests started Thursday around 7 p.m. when a group of approximately 100 demonstrators gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza, police said. The group quickly grew to about 2,000 people. 

As demonstrators made their way down Broadway toward 6th Street, a group of approximately 1,000 protestors went onto the highway and blocked traffic in both directions, police said. 

Police have reported vandalism to the Police Administration Building, including paint on the doors, scratches on glass and broken glass. 

There have been other incidents of vandalism reported including broken windows and graffiti at nearby businesses, and a Caltrans signboard was set on fire on the highway, police said. 

There were arrests made, but police have not said how many people were arrested during the protests.

Berkeley man charged for resisting officers in alleged attack

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday July 07, 2016 - 10:12:00 PM

A Berkeley man was charged today with four counts of resisting a police officer and two counts of exhibiting a deadly weapon for a scuffle outside a West Berkeley grocery store on Tuesday that left four officers injured, police said. 

Jason Joyner, 42, was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland this afternoon. 

Berkeley police spokesman Lt. Kevin Schofield said Joyner brandished a silver, double-edge knife at two Department of Public Works employees in the area of San Pablo Avenue and Harrison Street at about 8:54 a.m. on Tuesday "for no apparent reason." 

The employees said Joyner held the knife with the blade turned outward toward them and "believed that Joyner acted aggressively by kicking and yelling at fixed objects and yelling at them," Officer Jessyca Nabozny wrote in a probable cause statement. 

Responding officers contacted Joyner at Harrison and 10th streets and ordered him to stop numerous times as they tried to de-escalate the situation but Joyner ignored their commands and walked away from the officers, at one point pulling out his knife and brandishing it at the officers, according to Schofield. 

Joyner then dropped the knife and walked south on Ninth Street from Harrison Street toward the front of 1025 Gilman St., where a Whole Foods Market is located, and continued to refuse commands to stop, Schofield said. 

The officers tried to stop Joyner from entering the store for the safety of the employees and customers who were inside but he violently resisted and wouldn't allow himself to be handcuffed, according to Schofield. 

During the struggle, four officers suffered injuries ranging from minor abrasions and scrapes to a potentially more serious knee injury for one of the officers, he said. 

In addition, three officers were exposed to Joyner's blood that came from a cut on his hand, Schofield said. 

Joyner's blood will be tested so the officers will know if they have been exposed to any communicable diseases, he said. 

It took numerous officers to finally place Joyner under arrest and they had to place him in restraints in order to transport him to jail, police said. Paramedics treated Joyner for the minor cut on his hand before booking him into Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where he is being held. 

Schofield said Joyner is "well-known" to Berkeley police. 

Prosecutors said Joyner has two prior felony convictions, one for second-degree burglary of a vehicle in Alameda County in 2006 and one for receiving stolen property in Solano County in 2007. 

On June 17, Joyner pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for stealing a bicycle near San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Street on June 14. That location is near the site of Tuesday's incident. 

He was sentenced to two days in the county jail and placed on three years' probation. 

Berkeley police Officer Cesar Melero wrote in a probable cause statement that the evidence in the case indicates that Joyner cut a cable lock to steal a bike owned by the city of Berkeley that had been secured to a bike rack. 

Melero said that within six minutes of the theft he saw Joyner riding the stolen bicycle one block away from where it had been taken. 

He said a search revealed that Joyner was in possession of a pair of cutting pliers and a credit card that didn't belong to him. 

Melero said Joyner was on probation for a battery on a police officer conviction.

Press Release: Advisory: Arrest of suspect in 2008 Sexual Assault Series

Berkeley Police Department
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:50:00 AM

In 2008, the Berkeley Police Department investigated a sexual assault series involving at least three victims and several other peeping/prowling cases. Despite a large amount of diligent work and undercover operations we were not able to capture the suspect. We did obtain fingerprints at one of the crime scenes before the series stopped. In March 2016, Berkeley Police arrested a person for traffic warrant. The fingerprints obtained during the jail booking process arrest matched the fingerprints recovered at the scene of a sexual assault in Berkeley from 2008.  

Based on fingerprints and other evidence, Berkeley Police Detectives obtained a search and arrest warrant for a suspect. On the morning of July 6th, 2016, Detectives served the search and arrest warrants at a residence on the 1300 block of Delaware Street in Berkeley. A 24-year old male was arrested without incident and booked into the Berkeley City Jail for two counts of PC 261(A)(2)(rape), PC 288A (oral copulation), PC 288A attempt (oral copulation) HS 11359 (possession of marijuana for sale) and a traffic warrant for driving on a suspended license. His bail is set at $415k. The case will be sent to the Alameda County District Attorneys' for their review. 

Arrested: Johnny Dunbar, 24yo, Berkeley resident

American Nuremberg: Putting Washington's War Criminals on Trial

Book review by Gar Smith
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:16:00 AM

"To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

—Judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg

Enhanced interrogation. Extraordinary rendition. Abduction and detention. Black sites. Massive surveillance of civilians. Militarization of domestic police. Presidential kill lists. Assassination drones.

Any honest review of the aggregating crimes of America's political leaders gives rise to a nagging question: Isn't it time someone threw the book at them?

Well, the wait is over. We now have the book.  


It is called American Nuremberg. It was published by Hot Books and penned by Bay Area philosophy professor, writer and activist Rebecca Gordon (whose previous book was the equally challenging Mainstreaming Torture). The purpose of American Nuremberg is laid out in the subtitle: "The US Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes." 


As good as the book is, the cover art is a powerful match—a single image that makes the case in the blink of an eye. 

Designer Brian Peterson's cover is based on a famous historical photo of 21 German Nazi leaders sitting in a courtroom in Nuremberg, about to face justice for their numerous crimes against humanity. The men in the dock included Herman Goering, Rudolph Hess, Albert Speer, and Joachim Von Ribbentrop. But the photo has been updated for Gordon's book. Here the faces are more familiar. They include George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Barack Obama. 


As Rachell Madow argues in her excellent, well-researched book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (Random House, 2012), this line-up of modern war criminals could have been extended to include Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, both of whom side-stepped the Constitution in order to run illegal covert wars abroad. (Jimmy Carter, bless him, stands apart: He passed several Executive Orders to rein-in government criminality.) 

"Covert wars!" Those were the good old days. Remember when illegal wars were such touchy political matters that they had to be hidden or veiled, conducted by the CIA and denied by the Oval Office? 

These days, presidents (with the capitulation of the House and Senate) openly defy the Constitution and wage undeclared wars openly, endlessly and (so far) hopelessly. These days, a single world leader (the one who presides in Washington) openly acknowledges—without regret or apology—his ability to order the death of anyone on Earth (American citizens included). 

There is no trial. No jury. Just a "kill list" that is dropped in his inbox every Tuesday. All it takes is a checkmark and, somewhere, in some distant country where the US maintains acknowledged (or secret) bases, a $14 million General Atomics Reaper drone (or a bargain-basement $4 million Predator) will be armed with a $115,000 Lockheed-Martin/Boeing/Northrop-Grumman Hellfire missile. 

Air Force "pilots" in air-conditioned trailers located an hour's drive from Las Vegas will take it from there, turning targeted human beings into "bug splatter" with the twitch of a joystick and the press of a button. 

It's as simple as snapping your fingers. As Obama himself once confided to a colleague: "Turns out I'm really good at killing people." 

In 190 taut pages, Gordon makes her case—from the world's first War Crimes trial at Nuremberg, through decades of violated treaties and broken laws, to the recent abominations of US aggression and war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria to an appalling assortment of crimes against humanity— ranging from secret experiments with chemical and biological experiments at home to deploying anti-personnel, chemical, and radiological weapons abroad. 

Every chapter of American Nuremberg ends with a list of the individuals who deserve to be indicted and tried for the heinous crimes detailed in the previous pages. And yes, UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo makes it onto the list of war criminals on page 142 (as does Stanford economics professor Condaleezza Rice). 

More often than not, Gordon lets the perps condemn themselves with their own words. There was, for example, the US official who explained Washington's moral stance on torture to reporters in 2002 as follows: "We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them." And then there was the unidentified officer who observed: "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job." 

While many of the crimes of the military/industrial/political/academic complex are well known, Gordon's book has the potential to stir up a storm of latent indignation. When these winds begin to rise, the dimming embers of forgotten crimes just might begin to brighten until they ignite a firestorm of moral anger that can no longer be ignored. 

Some of the pages of American Nuremberg could simply be recited and shared on YouTube. Other pages could be handed out at protests or read aloud in the Capitol Rotunda or on the steps of the Pentagon. Theses are words that can steer the ark of history. 

In closing, a few words about Hot Books—their words, actually. Explaining their mission (from the offices of Skyhorse Publishing in New York City), the publishers have written the following: "Hot Books authors are daring to speak the unspeakable. Our body politic has grown sluggish and dull-witted, stuffed with a steady diet of junk media and corporate propaganda. It's time to light a fire under the slumbering giant of American democracy. It's time to think dangerous thoughts."

Sensing Light: Remembering a Dark Time
A New Book by Mark A. Jacobson

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:11:00 AM

Don't be put off by the title. Sensing Light, Mark A. Jacobson's hefty new novel, is not about some illuminating traipse down the pathways of spiritual enlightenment—except in the darkest possible definition. Instead, the subject of this sprawling, heart-punching feat of modern storytelling is foreshadowed in the subtitle: "1979. An epidemic begins…."

Yes, this is a story about the AIDS epidemic.

Jacobson, a San Francisco-based author, has written a haunting novel populated with memorable characters that we quickly come to know and care about deeply. The book is a crackling good read. Jacobson is a master of the conversational novel. 

Sensing Light focuses on the HIV/AIDS outbreak from the vantage point of the baffled doctors who first encounter it and moves on through the decades of hard work that followed as medical science attempted to identify ways to contain and treat the illness. The chapters fly by in a flurry of front-line medical encounters. Readers will be drawn into the crowded bustle of the hospital corridors, into the hushed desperation that fills the intensive care quarters, into the methodology of testing labs, and the early academic conferences where doctors, nurses, victims, family, and friends try to come to grips with an inexplicable and apparently all-powerful plague that targets a singular demographic agenda—young, and otherwise healthy, gay men. 

Jacobson begins his story in 1979 with a chapter called "The First Case." Kevin Bartholomew is a senior resident attending to patients in the intensive care unit at San Francisco City Hospital. Our first image of Bartholomew—a young, gay doctor—is both mundane and startling. He is described as wearing, "scrubs and waist length white coat, already rumpled and stained with spattered coffee and blood." 

Working nearby is Herb Wu, an older attending physician and a gifted diagnostician. We soon meet Gwen Howard, a dedicated young nurse and divorcee. These are the three central characters that anchor this storm-tossed medical melodrama. All three have complex and informative back-stories—revealed in flashbacks to childhood incidents and embedded in the haunting knowledge of family dysfunctions past and present. 

Kevin, Herb, and Gwen each have their own close friends and family who enhance—and complicate—their lives. The novel easily expands its reach to include the desires and fears of these characters as well. The patients, too, enter our minds as people we come to know and care about. 

Readers fortunate enough to have lived beyond the reach of the HIV/AIDs virus may find themselves feeling what it must have been like to be stalked by a sinister disease that can hide in a kiss or strike with the sudden shock of an accidental needle prick. 

This book has a sure-fire factor that works to "focus the mind"—the ever-present threat of an unknowable and devastating disease. The reader is aboard for the ride and comes to understand the special fear that comes from not knowing when or how or who the malicious virus will strike. At any moment, we understand, any one of these brilliant and lively people can be claimed by a hideous disease. On the frontlines of this medical emergency, anyone can sicken and die. That's the take-away from the get-go. 

As the dark tide of the mysterious epidemic begins to rise and poison everyone's future, the Bay Area becomes a microcosm for a global epidemic that threatens to turn the world into a concentration camp where invisible microbial snipers can target anyone at any time. 

Reading this page-turner is something like watching a well-crafted TV drama. This is a style of writing designed to keep you on your toes. The short chapters jump-cut from one scene to another, hopping between locations and situations. Some of the chapters are as short as one or two pages. The conversations are salted with humor and irony—smart, crisp, urgent, teasing, and intense. It's like reading a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. Think The Social Network meets Schindler's List (Footnote: It was Sorkin that Steven Spielberg invited to do a "dialogue wash" of the original Schindler screenplay). 

Clashes and confidences occur across many settings—from hospital corridors and intensive care units to after-hour meet-ups at local bars and raucous downtime parties in the homes of frazzled doctors in desperate need of blowing off steam. With the exception of soldiers on a battlefield, there are few jobs that require more physical, mental and emotional investment than being an emergency room professional. Jacobson does a fine job of portraying the human toll that lies in the aftermath of hours devoted to trying to cure—but too often merely managing to console—the afflicted. 

This is a novel of tragic human loss and heroic care giving that celebrates a resilient, unrelenting search for medical knowledge and life-prolonging solutions. 

This book is filled with heroes. 



Four who fixed the world

Becky O'Malley
Friday July 08, 2016 - 09:30:00 AM

In the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten forceful reminders of the finite nature of our life on earth, and probably of our corporeal existence in the universe. Three longtime friends died, and there was a memorial gathering for a fourth. All of them in their own way did their best to carry out what I understand from my Jewish friends to be our duty here, as documented by the invaluable Wikipedia: Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם or תקון ע. ולם‎‎) (literally, "repair of the world). Of course, as Wikipedia goes on to say, there are Jewish scholars who would dispute that interpretation of the traditional phase, but whatever the authority, repairing the world is a worthy goal.

Ben Bagdikian, Don Jelinek, Martha Nicoloff, Michael Pachovas: ¡Presente! 

Ben Bagdikian’s major achievements have been chronicled in this space several times, including at the time he died in March, as well as innumerable times in the national and international media. But a memorial for him last Saturday revealed a side of Ben which was not so well known, his life as a family member, neighbor and friend. As well as being a devoted husband for the last several decades, he was a beloved uncle, a proud father, and an honorary grandfather to a couple of generations in Berkeley and beyond. Yes, Dan Ellsberg spoke, recalling the glory days when he and Ben engineered the publication of the Pentagon papers, and colleagues remembered Ben’s time as dean of U.C.’s journalism school, but his garden, especially his flowers and tomato plants, got a good share of praise as well. 

Which brings to mind another recipe for how to live, from Voltaire, Candide’s response to philosophical musings about the purpose of life:“Cela est bien, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.”(That’s fine, answered Candide, but it’s necessary to cultivate our garden.) 

Again, scholars differ about exactly what Voltaire meant by that, but the surface meaning seems obvious to me: theory alone doesn’t cut it, you need to do stuff too. In a variety of ways, the three friends lost in the last couple of weeks acted on what they thought needed to be done in our world to make it a better place. 

Formal obituaries for Don Jelinek and Martha Nicoloff, written as is the Planet custom by family members, were in last week’s issue, so the facts of their lives have been recorded for posterity. But their place in the universe needs to be noted too. 

Don took the whole darn USA, warts and all, as his chosen field of influence. He started out as a fancy lawyer, in a job that suited a smart graduate of the fabled Bronx High School of Science, but he got sucked into the the civil rights movement and never looked back to Wall Street. Notable groups, major and minor, that he served as an attorney: the Attica prison rebellion, the Native American occupancy of Alcatraz, the Berkeley flea market vendors, and last but not least the people of Berkeley as a city councilmember. He saw the big picture in all of these endeavors, and he used his considerable legal skill to make sure that the right thing happened in all cases. 

Martha Nicoloff cared about what happened in the world and in the nation, but her special focus was closer in. In the circles I move in, she was most known for being the founding mother of Berkeley’s Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. She may have coined the phrase “Cash Register Multiples” to denote the shoddily built apartment buildings which threatened to replace Berkeley’s sturdy, historic and often brown-shingled housing stock in the late 60s and early 70s. Most of these constructs, the ones that survived, are earthquake-hazardous soft-story buildings with open garages on the ground floor. 

The initiative that Martha backed saved hundreds of the better-built older buildings from demolition by speculators. They are still in active use today, often as charming rent-controlled apartments in the campus area, while the Cash Register Multiples are fast decaying. In many other ways she was an active participant in the life of Berkeley, and especially in her neighborhood. 

Michael Pachovas was unique. Those of you who have been around here for a while might remember him when he lived up near Telegraph, a larger-than-life guy in a very big wheelchair frequently seen tooling around downtown with a large and colorful macaw on his shoulder, or sometimes one on each shoulder. 

He came with a well-developed social conscience and a taste for risk. This is how he became a quadriplegic wheelchair user—as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, he dove into shallow waters and broke his neck. His salvation narrative of being airlifted out in a diplomatic plane was dramatic, and usually presented as a triumph over insurmountable odds, which it was. Some would have made it a sadder tale, but not Michael—he was a winner all the way, just ask him. 

Before I met him, he’d been one of the founding members of the disability rights movement which started right here in Berkeley when he was a U.C. student. Originally all of the students in wheelchairs were housed together in the old student health service hospital, but by the time we met he had moved into his own ground floor apartment in a brown shingle house owned by the Presbyterian Church. 

In 1994 we had both jumped indignantly into “The Campaign to Ban the Poor Laws”, Berkeley Measures N & O, the first of a dismal succession of attempts by Tom Bates and others to ban the visibly needy from our streets, which is still going on. Not long after that (we stopped them that time), Michael faced eviction himself, as his churchly landlords prepared to tear down his brown shingle to further their expansion plans. 

That one was stopped by landmarking the building as, among other things, an early historic site of the meetings which led to the Americans with Disabilities Act. In furtherance of this goal, Michael persuaded Councilmember Maudelle Shirek to appoint me to the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission, where I served for almost eight years. Michael had a knack for sucking his friends into his causes. 

When he was again evicted from a different apartment and hoped to finally get into one of Berkeley’s very few public apartments for low income disabled tenants, there was a gap of a week or so between eviction and a new tenancy. He rented a U-haul truck and recruited a bunch of buddies to fill it with his many possessions until a new place opened up. Creative problem-solving! 

Another memorable adventure was the time I watched him forcefully instruct the sniffy proprietor of an unjustifiably pretentious North Shattuck café that a tropical bird could be a service animal, within the meaning of the state law which allowed such creatures to go into restaurants. In fact, his noisy macaws were excellent protection for a guy who liked to roar around town at all hours—they emitted terrifying screeches at anyone who threatened him. 

He had a long fight with the U.S. government, because according to their actuarial information he wasn’t supposed to live past age 60, so his federal stipend based on his Peace Corps service was scheduled to stop then. Eventually he won, and somehow turned that victory into his dream, a specially equipped van which he could drive with the one arm which still kind of worked. 

Now, reader, Michael Pachovas, finally well-equipped and ready to roll, drove that sucker to casinos all over the West for close to a decade, where, to hear him tell it, he made a nice living as a poker shark. No one could believe that this big old guy in a wheelchair was serious competition. 

These are only a few of a long series of Michael Pachovas tales. Friends have been calling with outrageous episodes ever since they heard of his death, which they promise to write up for the Planet. I’m looking forward to one which seems to involve rafting on a wild river with some blind co-conspirators as a form of protest—I can’t imagine the plot. 

Per Michael’s will, his sister Cynthia is finding a loving home for the macaws. A family-written obituary is in progress, and a community celebration of his life is being discussed. 

And he did beat the game in the end. Yes, he died on Monday, suffering at the last from many of the ailments which might afflict any of us in our old age, and from worse ones caused by two-score years in a wheelchair. But the triumphant point, one last victory against all odds, is that he did succeed in reaching his old age, making mockery of the statistics which had him dead and buried at 60. Michael died a winner. 

We’re poorer for losing him, but richer for knowing him. He repaired the world, for sure—and also made our corner of it a lot more fun. 



Public Comment

There's Money In Homelessness -- Review of the S. F. Homeless Project

Carol Denney
Monday July 04, 2016 - 09:45:00 PM

The San Francisco Chronicle spearheaded a blizzard of coverage in June 2016 on homelessness which included 70 news outlets by its own count, calling it the "S. F. Homeless Project." And after a week of homeless-focused stories, the San Francisco Chronicle put an editorial on its own front page endorsing the status quo: more money for "services", of course, and good luck with that. But the rest sounded pretty familiar; stricter tracking systems for the use of "services", more enforcement of anti-homeless laws, and continued street sweeps of tent cities as a way to "ensure that the people who are offered this array of assistance are no longer afforded the option to flout the law with impunity." 

Flout the law with impunity. It sounds like a cool dance step you pick up in a hip hop class. But it's the smear out of almost every Bay Area news outlet and the snarl on the face of almost every politician in close concert. It's the best-known song about the housing crisis, and it helps to consider that some people benefit from homelessness. The average rent in San Francisco is $4,500 a month, which has a lot more to do with the creation of homelessness than drug abuse, mental illness, or the rest of the red herrings the Chronicle loves to flog combined. 

There's a clear mechanism in play at the San Francisco Chronicle, a mechanism recognizable nationwide. Chronicle reporters repeatedly savage the poor on the street for being in the way, for being messy, for inevitable and natural behavior such as defecating, etc. They continuously stoke animosity toward people on the street year round, promulgating deceptive but popular mythology, like the idea that homeless people prefer to live on the street. A few reporters, Kevin Fagan and Heather Knight in particular, manage to sneak relevant factual information into an article, but the Chronicle's main focus has always been how hard San Francisco and its politicians work to end homelessness and how much money is wasted--whoops, spent in the process. The implication is that spending more money is not the answer -- these poor people just need a strong incentive to change their attitude. 

This is really handy for the San Francisco politicians who need a popular boost in the next election. Nobody ever loses votes in San Francisco for kicking around the poor. It doesn't matter if the last anti-homeless law was a stupid, unenforceable, unconstitutional, counter-productive embarrassment even to a hard-working police officer -- here comes another one! No need to honestly re-prioritize the budget if you can unveil another pointless, unenforceable anti-homeless law. People who pay attention can see where extremity meets levity; the towering pile of laws which make it illegal to pee while acres of handy dough shows up for the yacht race. 

The new horsecrap anti-homeless law benefits the politicians who get public applause for doing something about the issue of homelessness whether its counter-productive or not. Then as the new pointless program with the cute name (Care Not Cash, etc.) hits the wall the Chronicle never does the story about why the program was a piece of ...pointlessness. They do the story blaming the poor. Followed by the story about the next pointless program with the new cute name and the new well-meaning director standing next to the next politician who needs a pre-election boost in the papers. 

Who benefits from homelessness? Property owners do. Landlords do. Most law is bought and paid for by property owners to benefit property owners who are giddy with the fact that they can legally increase their rent from $800 a month to $8,000 a month because some tech guy will just pay it. The American system of voting, after all, began in this country not just by excluding African-Americans and women -- you couldn't vote at all if you didn't own property. 

Berkeleyside put a picture of a man sleeping on concrete up on their website, apparently something from an archive. He had a sleeping bag pulled over him with his bicycle and backpack close by. He had no liquor bottle or beer can anywhere near him, but the photo was captioned "sleeping it off" as though he were drunk-- as though one could pretty much assume anybody sleeping on the sidewalk was probably drunk or sleeping off a drinking binge. 

That's how assumptions are made in the Bay Area, and it doesn't take long after unemployment, eviction, or serious illness uproots a life for people to begin making them. In a way, Berkeleyside's editors did us all a favor by illustrating on a Monday, before their coverage for the S. F. Homeless Project began on Wednesday, that the tradition of stereotyping homeless people caught up in a planned and predictable housing crisis would continue to be honored. 

It was an ominous beginning to a week of perhaps good journalistic intentions. But what ensued was no substitute for analyzing the numbers, something most publications find it politically convenient to omit. Developers, after all, are the deep pockets in town, often the primary producers in showy campaigns for anti-homeless laws such as the anti-tent law currently being promoted for November's ballot by San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, who coincidentally is running for re-election. Nothing positions a politician better for re-election than another unconstitutional anti-homeless law if the voting public, often honestly thirsting for a practical solution to decades of housing crisis, is fed enough daily, hostile anti-poor screeds by an obedient press. 

Nobody went to jail on Wall Street for tipping the world into economic chaos. And not everybody who lost their jobs, homes, families, and health after the crash in 2008 ended up on the street. But it's odd how little of that economic earthquake affected policy, both on and off Wall Street. 

The Chronicle's Heather Knight and Kevin Fagan are two journalists who are occasionally given space enough to write about the fact that the current policy on tent cities and street dwellers nationwide -- jailing and chasing people in circles -- is more expensive than simply providing and paying for housing. But such paragraphs, usually buried in the back pages, are no match for the flashy regular columnists whose stock in trade is emphasizing the horror people experience having to actually see others in need. 

Powerful emotional experience is certainly part of persuasion. But it's a curious kind of journalism that see-saws wildly between two opposing views of the inevitable poverty created by a planned housing crisis: the emotional toll on those who have to walk by visible poverty on the one hand versus the humanity of the human beings caught in the cross-fire of a political climate which hasn't taken a practical approach to housing for decades. 

"These people are human, many of them, on the streets and deserve to be recognized as such," -- Michael Krasny on KQED's Forum program after a discussion of homelessness 6-29-2016. 

People don't mean to sound like idiots on live radio. But if Michael Krasny, the respected host of the Forum show on KQED radio can do it, perhaps it has something to do with lacking practice, not of hosting radio but of navigating a subject in which portraits of sympathetic poor people substitute for exposés of expensive, counter-productive, but politically popular policy. 

We need to keep firmly in mind that there's money in homelessness. Right now just about none of that money is being challenged and channeled to address community needs. Just about nobody is talking about real rent control, or linking rents to the minimum wage. Just about nobody wants to promote a tracking system for the wealthy to make sure they're making appropriate choices with the profits they're making off the rest of us. The developers have managed to monetize poverty, a feat that makes even the savviest tech guy buying Mission district property salivate--can I make an app for that? 

The S. F. Homeless Project was a magic act poised to capitalize on already committed funding to create the illusion of political change without having to actually manifest any. Those who work in print know that the impressive front page editorial for Sunday's Chronicle entitled "A Civic Disgrace", the culmination of the week's collected study and focus which re-committed to the status quo, was written well ahead of time. 

Let's not kid ourselves. The absence of political and moral will is the real obstacle to change. If a city had the will to address the housing crisis it would never allow developers to dedicate precious square footage to anything other than meeting community needs. Developers, after all, can go build luxury housing all over the world in places where their dollars are welcome. But the raw math of the status quo -- allowing developers to chew through all the honestly affordable housing in neighborhood after neighborhood on the off chance they might leave behind a couple of units affordable to the new poor, the $80,000 to $100,000 a year crowd-- is not only not sensible, it is not sustainable. 

Playing games with high-end pet products, or cosmetics, or clothing are things investors and entrepreneurs can experiment with without necessarily ripping a culture to pieces. But playing games with housing, a human necessity, should be criminal. A community slowly and systematically robbed of spaces to live, spaces to make art, spaces to worship, spaces to gather, places to recreate let alone places to live has a deep poverty of leadership. The few reporters who notice need to write about that deficit, which is the real story.

Come All of You Tech Workers

Carol Denney
Monday July 04, 2016 - 09:43:00 PM

(An updated version of Which Side Are You On, a song written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of Sam Reece, a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky)

come all of you tech workers

and stop the war on tents

you've got to know you've played a role

in skyrocketing rents

chorus: which side are you on 

which side are you on 

which side are you on 

which side are you on 


come all of you tech workers 

the city is your bitch 

the rest of us are dying on the 

streets or in a ditch 

which side are you on... 


come all of you tech workers 

you've got a part to play 

we're in a housing crisis and it 

and it gets worse every day 

which side are you on... 


come all of you tech workers 

you can't deny the truth 

the city paved the way for tech 

and robbed us of a roof 

which side are you on... 


come all of you tech workers 

big tech is getting fat 

a lot of us are homeless and 

there is no app for that 

which side are you on...

Toward a Politics of Hope

Harry Brill
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:22:00 AM

Despite Hillary being a long political distance away from my ideal candidate, Trump is even much further away. But what troubles me about the discussions and debates about the presidential candidates, the discourse is mainly guided as it often is by the politics of fear. We support a candidate not because of our enthusiasm but mainly to avoid the serious risk of electing the alternative. 

Of course I understand, as you all do, why we are forced into this dreary position. It is a winner takes all in our two party political system. But I really don't like it. Our vote is not based on a politics of hope. Is there any way out of this dilemma? Yes, I think there is, at least in California. We live in a state where the voters vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party presidential candidate.  

Obama won the presidency in California by several million more votes in both 2008 and 2012. In 2004, when he Democratic Party candidate John Kerry lost the presidential against his Republican contender, George Bush, Kerry nevertheless swept California with almost a 10 percent lead (54.3% to 44.4%). If in the unlikely event the odds change for the upcoming November election, the polls will tell us beforehand. We can vote for a third party candidate, then, without jeopardizing the chances of the Democratic Party nominee. 

Since the candidate of a third party will definitely lose, why bother? The reason is that it sends a signal to the establishment that we are not happy with how things are, and we are letting the Democrats know they don't always have us in their pocket. Since the Democratic Party leadership assumes that it can most likely count on our vote, we have little if any leverage. 

I recently attended a Green Party rally at the main Berkeley post office because I wanted to hear what its presidential nominee Jill Stein had to say. I was impressed with the progressive program she advocated and especially that she urged us to vote for and support Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic Party primary. That Bernie is running as a Democrat rather than as a Green party candidate was not a stumbling block for her. 

I think those who work within the Democratic Party have something to learn from Jill Stein. Since no risk is involved in voting for the Green Party candidate, I think it would be healthy and wise that we vote for someone who represents our progressive perspective rather than voting for a compromise candidate. The Green Party's platform is essentially the same as Bernie's. There is nothing vital in its platform that any progressive would object to. So why not take a break from the politics of fear and instead vote our principles! It would be good politics and psychologically liberating.

India’s Rosa Parks

Jagjit Singh
Monday July 04, 2016 - 10:24:00 AM

When the priests of Nashik District in Maharashtra, India, learned that a woman had defiled the sanctity of Shani Shingnapur Temple they swung into action with an elaborate purification process, smothering the deity with yogurt and honey. Then they suspended a temple security guard for his laxity allowing a woman to enter the temple for the first time in its 350-year history. Security was tightened and the priests heaved a sigh of relief vowing that such a travesty would never be repeated. But they had not counted on the fierce determination of Trupti Desai, who had hitherto championed the rights of slum dwellers. The frenzied cleaning by the priests, implying that women were unclean because they menstruate, outraged and galvanized Trupi to action. “How dare the priests discriminate between men and women, - why are we unworthy of entering the temple? “God doesn’t discriminate between men and women. Why should religion?” 

Her public actions have forced the government of her home state of Maharashtra to issue a court judgement allowing women to enter into any temples. Gaining inspiration from Trupi and her followers, Muslim women protested their exclusion from the Haji Ali mosque in Mumbai. 

Gaining strength in numbers, Trupi has become a Cause célèbre for gender equality leading her supporters into inner sanctums of temples often meeting fierce resistance by priests. The violence has been captured by social media which has accelerated the movement. Muslim women have been inspired and are now demanding an end to quick divorces, “talaqs”, in which their husbands can terminate a marriage by uttering (“I divorce you” in Arabic) three times. “Religion is the final frontier in gender discrimination,” said Indira Jaising, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court. “Now, the challenge is coming from the heart of these communities.” 

Trupi relentless efforts to demolish centuries old taboos and fight corruption have earned her grudging respect from India’s male dominated establishment. In 2010 she formed an organization called the Bhumata Brigade, or Mother Earth Brigade. Religious customs which disproportionately favor men are inherently unfair and must be vigorously challenged. These rules were written by men to favor men. Religious priests have much to learn from Trupi. India’s,‘Rosa Parks’, is a true inspiration.


THE PUBLIC EYE:Predicting the Presidential Election

Bob Burnett
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:08:00 AM

Four months before the presidential election, Hillary Clinton is ahead of Donald Trump. Three factors will determine the November 8th outcome.

As of July 8th, Hillary has a 5.8 percentage lead in the Huffington Post poll of polls; of the last 10 major polls, only one showed Trump ahead. The respected Cook Report projects Clinton with 304 electoral votes, Trump with 190, and 44 contested (Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio). The esteemed statistician, Nate Silver, says that Trump has only a 20 percent chance to win.

Nonetheless, it’s possible for Trump to prevail in November. Three factors will determine the ultimate outcome.  


Character: While most presidential contests are, to a great extent, determined by perceptions of candidate personality, the 2016 campaign is singular because of the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump. According to the latest Gallup Poll 59 percent of respondents view Trump unfavorably versus 50 percent that see Clinton unfavorably. (The Huffington Post poll shows that Trump’s unfavorability spread is about 10 percentage points greater than Clinton’s.) 

As would be expected, favorable perceptions shape the vote. According to the most recent Ipsos/Reuters poll Clinton gets 78 percent of Democratic votes and Trump gets 70 percent of Republican votes. (As of July 7th, Hillary’s email kerfuffle does not appear to affect her approval ratings for Democrats and Independents.) 

Meanwhile, President Obama has a high approval rating (50 percent plus) and has promised to campaign for Hillary Clinton. This gives an advantage to Hillary. Trump has no comparable surrogates and his unfavorability marks appear more durable. 

Issues: 70 percent of Americans are worried about the future of the country; their concerns center around the threat of terrorism and the economy. 

Donald Trump has made trade, terror, and immigration the three legs of his campaign. He moans that ill-conceived trade deals have resulted in the loss of millions of US jobs and that unchecked immigration has cost citizens millions of other jobs and hastened the cause of terrorists. Of course, Trump’s claims are largely false but, nonetheless, they resonant with unsophisticated voters who search for easy answers for the decline of their fortunes. 

Clinton has to both embrace the Obama legacy and stand apart from it. (Obviously she desires the President’s support.) The reality is that while the US economy has improved under Obama’s stewardship it has not benefitted everyone; while the fortunes of the top 1 percent have improved, the median income of the working families has stagnated. While Democrats can blame Republicans for this – for failure to embrace measures to lessen inequality – many voters will blame the Party in power. 

Trump’s advantage is that he can blame economic stagnation on the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton. His disadvantage is that he has no plan other than renegotiate trade deals and “get tough” with China. A recent CNN poll found that voters trust Trump (51 percent) than Clinton (43 percent) to deal with the economy. 

The threat of terror attacks is a big concern for Trump voters, many of whom are impressed by his tough guy demeanor. Once again, Trump has been vague about how he would handle ISIS saying his approach is flexible and he doesn’t want to give away his plans, in advance of the election. A recent poll found that voters trust Clinton (50 percent) more than Trump (39 percent) to deal with the threat of terrorism. 

Only on immigration is Trump specific: he would build a high wall along the Mexican border, deport all 11-million undocumented immigrants, and ban all Muslims from entering the United States. A recent poll found that voters trust Clinton more than Trump on the issue of immigration. 

These three issues give a slight advantage to Trump. But one that could easily decay given that his plans are so vague. 

Campaign: While perception of character and positions on issues matter, so too do the mechanics of a presidential campaign. By every metric, Clinton leads Trump: money raised, TV advertisements, swing state political organizers, etc. Clinton has an army. Trump has Trump. 

Ten days before the Republican convention, the GOP is in disarray. The convention agenda is not set and the attendance list is unclear. 

Meanwhile, candidate Trump struggles to stay on message. One day he sticks to the GOP script and attacks Clinton’s trustworthiness and malignant trade deals. The next deal he wonders off script, praises Saddam Hussein, and attacks fellow Republicans

There’s always the possibility of change, but at this writing Donald Trump is a terrible presidential candidate. If his opponent was some other Democrat other than (damaged) Hillary Clinton, Trump would be losing by 20 points. 

Nonetheless, Donald Trump will likely lose to Hillary Clinton. If he does, it will be his own fault. 

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

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:The Brexit & Spain: Europe On The Edge?

Conn Hallinan
Thursday July 07, 2016 - 09:41:00 PM

On the surface, the June 23 Brexit and the June 26 Spanish elections don’t look comparable. After a nasty campaign filled with racism and Islamophobia, the British—or rather, the English and the Welsh—took a leap into darkness and voted to leave the European Union (EU). Spanish voters, on the other hand, rejected change and backed a rightwing party that embodies the policies of the Brussels-based trade organization. 

But deep down the fault lines in both countries converge. 

For the first time since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan rolled out a variety of free market capitalism and globalization that captured much of the world in the 1980s, that model is under siege. The economic strategy of regressive taxes, widespread privatization and deregulation has generated enormous wealth for the few, but growing impoverishment for the many. The top 1 percent now owns more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth. 

The British election may have focused on immigration and the fear of “the other”—Turks, Syrians, Greeks, Poles, etc—but this xenophobia stems from the anger and despair of people who have been marginalized or left behind by the globalization of the labor force that has systematically hollowed out small communities and destroyed decent paying jobs and benefits. 

“Great Britain’s citizens haven’t been losing control of their fate to the EU,” wrote Richard Eskow of the Campaign for America’s Future[AB1] , “They’ve have been losing it because their own country’s leaders—as well as those of most Western democracies—are increasingly in thrall to corporate and financial interests.” 

While most of the mainstream media reported the Spanish election as a “victory” for acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) and defeat for the left, it was more a reshuffle than a major turn to the right, and, if Rajoy manages to cobble together a government, it is likely to be fragile and short lived. 

It was a dark night for pollsters in both countries. British polls predicted a narrow defeat for the Brexit, and Spanish polls projected a major breakthrough for Spain’s left, in particular Unidos Podemos (UP), a new alliance between Podemos and the Communist/Green party, Izquierda Unida. 

Instead, the Brexit passed easily and the UP lost 1 million votes from the last election, ending up with the same number of seats they had in the old parliament. In contrast, the Popular Party added 14 seats, although it fell well short of a majority. 

A major reason for the Spanish outcome was the Brexit, which roiled markets all over the world, but had a particularly dramatic effect on Spain. The Ibex share index plunged more than 12 percent and blue-chip stocks took a pounding, losing about $70 billion dollars. It was, according to Spain’s largest business newspaper, “The worst session ever.” Rajoy—as well as the Socialist Party (SP)—flooded the media with scare talk about stability, and it partly worked. 

The Popular Party poached eight of its 14 new seats from the center-right Ciudadanos Party and probably convinced some UP voters to shift to the mainstream SP. 

But Rajoy’s claim that “We won the election. We demand the right to govern” is a reach. The PP has 137 seats, and it needs 176 seats to reach a majority in the 350-seat parliament. The Prime Minister says he plans to join with Ciudadanos, but because the latter lost seats in the election such an alliance would put the PP seven votes short. An offer for a “grand alliance” with the SP doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. “We are not going to support Rajoy’s investiture or abstain,” said Socialist Party spokesman Antonio Hernando. An abstention would allow the PP to form a government. 

Which doesn’t mean Rajoy can’t form a government. There are some independent deputies from the Basque country and the Canary Islands who might put Rajoy over the top, but it would be the first coalition government in Spain and a fragile one at that. 

Part of that fragility is a scandal over an email between Rajoy and Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, that was leaked to the media. The Commission is part of the “troika” with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank that largely decides economic policy in the EU. 

During the election Rajoy promised to cut taxes and moderate the troika-imposed austerity measures that have driven Spain’s national unemployment rate to 22 percent, and a catastrophic 45 percent among young people. But in a confidential email to Juncker, the Prime Minister pledged that, “In the second half of 2016, once there is a new government, we will be ready to take further measures to meet deficit goals.” 

In short, Rajoy lied to the voters. If the PP had won an absolute majority that might not be a problem, but a coalition government is another matter. Would Ciudadanos and the independents be willing to associate themselves with such deceit and take the risk that the electorate would not punish them, given that such a government is not likely to last four years? 

Unidos Podemos supporters were deeply disappointed in the outcome, although the UP took the bulk of the youth vote and triumphed in Catalonia, Spain’s wealthiest province, and the Basque country. What impact UP’s poor showing will have on divisions within the alliance is not clear, but predictions of the organization’s demise are premature. “We represent the future,” party leader Pablo Iglesia said after the vote. 

There is a possible path to power for the left, although it leads through the Socialist Party. The SP dropped from 90 seats to 85 for its worst showing in history, but if it joins with the UP it would control 156 seats. If such a coalition includes the Catalans that would bring it to 173 seats, and the alliance could probably pick up some independents to make a majority. This is exactly what the left, agreeing to shelve their differences for the time being, did in Portugal after the last election. 

The problem is that the SP refuses to break bread with the Catalans because separatists dominate the province’s delegation and the Socialist Party opposes letting Catalonia hold a referendum on independence. Podemos also opposes Catalan separatism, but it supports the right of the Catalans to vote on the issue.  

Rajoy may construct a government, but it will be one that supports the dead-end austerity policies that have encumbered most of the EU’s members with low or flat growth rates, high unemployment and widening economic inequality. Support for the EU is at an all time low, even in the organization’s core members, France and Germany. 

The crisis generated by the free market model is hardly restricted to Europe. Much of Donald Trump’s support comes from the same disaffected cohort that drove the Brexit, and, while “The Donald” is down in the polls, so were the Brexit and the Spanish Popular Party. 

The next few years will be filled with opportunity, as well as danger. Anti-austerity forces in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Ireland are organizing and beginning to coordinate resistance to the “troika”. But so, too, are parties on the right: France’s National Front, Hungary’s Jobbik, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party, Austria’s Freedom Party, Denmark’s People’s Party and Sweden’s Democratic Party. 

Instead of reconsidering the policies that have spread so much misery through the continent, European elites were quick to blame “stupid” and “racist” voters for the Brexit. “We are witnessing the implosion of the postwar cultural and economic order that has dominated the Euro-American zone for more than six decades,” writes Andrew O’Helir of Salon. “Closing our eyes and hoping that it will go away is not likely to be successful.” 

A majority of Britain said “enough,” and while the Spanish right scared voters into backing away from a major course change, those voters will soon discover that what is in store for them is yet more austerity. 

“We need to end austerity to end this disaffection and this existential crisis of the European project,” said a UP statement following the election. “We need to democratize decision making, guarantee social rights and respect human rights.” 

The European Union is now officially a house divided. It is not clear how long it can endure.” 


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


[AB1]Is this the name of the org? 

ECLECTIC RANT:"Emailgate"--a brief legal explanation

Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 08, 2016 - 10:51:00 AM

Attorney General Loretta Lynch made it official saying that Hillary Clinton will not be charged for using a personal email server during her tenure as secretary of state. She is relying on the FBI's recommendation that no charges be filed. 

To warrant a criminal charge, FBI Director James B. Comey said, there had to be evidence that Hillary Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information. The FBI found neither, and as a result, Comey said, “our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” It was recently reported that the State Department has confirmed that the two emails reportedly classified weren’t actually classified at the time, and had merely been marked incorrectly during the course of the investigation. Although moot now, this does support Clinton's claim that no emails were classified. 

While she was careless and even negligent, the FBI concluded that Clinton did not commit a criminal act. If she were still a federal employee, Clinton at most would be subject to administrative action. It should be noted that other politicians and officials in federal and state governments -- Colin Powell, Secretary of State under President Bush, for example -- have sometimes relied on personal email for official business. And then Vice President Dick Cheney’s office in 2003, 2004, and 2005 destroyed its emails, in violation of the requirements of the federal records act and potentially criminal law 

FBI Director Comey is no flaming liberal protecting Clinton. He is a republican, who graduated from William and Mary and the University of Chicago Law School. He was appointed by President George W. Bush the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York until appinted Deputy Attorney General during the Bush administration, and was pushed by White House officials for consideration for the Supreme Court. Comey should be intimately familiar with the facts of the case and the controlling law better than just about anyone else.  

As a former prosecutor, all Comey did was apply the applicable law to a set of facts and concluded that a criminal indictment of Clinton was not warranted. Remember, the applicable law is only part of the equation. The law must be applied to a set of facts, all of which have not been made public, including Clinton's testimony to the FBI.  

Now the critics are second guessing Comey's decision citing what they think is the applicable law but not knowing all the facts. Like the Benghazi incident, "emailgate" appears to be overblown and is really another political tactic to discredit Clinton.  

But the Republicans are not giving up. Next week both Comey and Lynch are to testify before House Oversight Committee next week.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Medical Complications

Jack Bragen
Thursday July 07, 2016 - 09:53:00 PM

This week's column does not specifically cover all possible medication side effects of the drugs prescribed for psychiatric problems; there are too many to list here, and many are quite common. Instead, I am focusing on some of the things that shorten the lifespans of persons with mental illness.

The average lifespan of people with chronic mental illness is approximately 25 years less than that of the general population. This is partly due to being medicated, since the medications have side effects that are bad for physical health. It is partly due to smoking, much more common among persons with mental illness than non-afflicted people. It is due to poor self-care. In addition, physicians do less to address the health problems of persons with psych disabilities.  

Moreover, this shorter lifespan is partly due to the stresses on the body of psychiatric illness. Persons with mental illnesses generate stronger emotions, a greater amount of fear, and other negative emotions--bad for health. An acute episode of psychiatric illness can entail extreme physical stresses, since the afflicted person may have behavior that pushes physical limits, or they may end up jailed, which can be incredibly stressful.  

When persons with mental illness live in group homes, the food is generally nutritionally poor, e.g.: hot dogs with baked beans. The food provided in outpatient institutional venues is often high in fat and sugar. People with mental illness are often pacified with fatty, high calorie meals, and frequent sugary desserts. Mental health treatment venues lack programs for smoking cessation. 

People with mental illness who live independently often lack the income to pay for nutritional foods, and may be unused to meal preparation, opting instead for microwaved food.  

Some mental health practitioners and others don't believe our lives to be of much value; and therefore, it doesn't matter to those who supervise us when we drop dead in our forties and fifties.  

Second-generation antipsychotics cause extreme weight gain and diabetes. If you consume these medications, you should compensate for it with a more restricted diet. I know of people who have gained a hundred pounds or more due to the effects of Olanzapine or other medications.  

Since psychiatric illnesses affect thought processes and judgment, it is more likely that someone with a psychiatric illness will be in denial about his or her health problems. I knew someone who is or was about a year older than I, who had diabetes but was in denial that it needed to be dealt with. Last time I saw her, she was walking with a walker (at about age 50) and literally appeared on death's door. I do not know if this woman is still alive. She had severe diabetes but continued to eat massive amounts of refined sugar, and she would go to restaurants and order massive meals with huge desserts, thinking she was too good to experience health repercussions. 

Doctors and pharmaceutical companies make a fortune on diabetes treatments, and on treatments for lung ailments caused by smoking. From what I have seen, taking medicine for diabetes is a losing game, and you are far better off revising the eating habits. The medicines cause additional weight gain and get you farther and farther into "metabolic syndrome."  

Not that I would advise you to go off your diabetes meds. If you need them, take them.  

However, if you can catch it before it gets to the stage of taking blood sugar medication, you are much better off. This is because diabetes medications work to lower blood sugar by means of moving glucose from the bloodstream into the body's tissues. Thus, diabetes medications make one's metabolism even more efficient, and this causes the diabetic person to gain more weight. This, in turn, only worsens the problem.  

When I received a blood test indicating I had developed diabetes, I exhibited stubbornness toward my doctor. I said I was going to fix the diabetes problem with diet. I changed my eating habits.  

I don't try to starve myself. However, I have eliminated about ninety percent of the refined sugar in my diet, e.g.: ice cream, candy, cookies and so on. I increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. I also stopped binging on fast food. I was at a weight that bordered on being morbidly obese, and now, I weigh twenty-five pounds less, and my blood sugar numbers have returned to the upper part of the "normal" range.  

I am now trying to get my cholesterol numbers down, because I fear that taking a statin could have a bad effect on my brain, in combination with the psych meds I take. I wonder if any studies have been done on mixing statins with psych medications. I took Lipitor, and I experienced memory loss and a loud ringing in my ears--neither has entirely gone away.  

Since I have always tried to have a purpose in life, such as writing or another activity, I have a reason to get up in the morning and do what needs to get done. This brings balance, and it allows me to have a more positive attitude than I would have otherwise. I think, even if we have disabilities that prevent us from working a nine to five job, we should do something, rather than being passive recipients of medication, food, and restrictions.  

Activity can be an end in itself. Some things are worth doing, whether or not you achieve the results you seek.  

It is not written in stone that mentally ill people must live tragic lives and not live very long. If we take care of our bodies and minds, and if we do something that means something to us, and maybe even something fun, we have a better chance of living a long, full life.

Arts & Events

Zero Days: Alex Gibney's Disturbing Film Reveal the Dark Forces Behind the Stuxnet Computer Worm

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Friday July 08, 2016 - 12:22:00 PM

Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley July 8

Welcome to the Brave New World of Cyber War. Our guide today is Alex Gibney, acclaimed director of Taxi to the Dark Side, We Steal Secrets, and ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room. We're in good hands: Gibney has been honored with Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, the Peabody, the Writers Guild of America Award and (in 2013) the International Documentary Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Several weeks ago, Gibney visited San Francisco for a Q&A following a press screening of Zero Days, his edgy new documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus that destroyed Iran's uranium centrifuges and went on to wreak cyber-havoc around the world.

Accompanying Gibney to the SF screening were Eric Chen and Liam O'Murchu, two local computer geeks from Semantec. Chen and O'Murchu are the "heroes" of the film. Their work-day job at Semantec is to protect computers from viruses and malware. To do that, they need to identify and track the nature of each example of cyber-snarkiness that comes their way. But they had never seen anything like the Sworm. (No one had.) It was these two guys who gave the worm its name.

Gibney's investigation makes a convincing case that the US (in partnership with Israel) created the worm to destroy Iran's nuclear processing ability. The suspicion is that US hoped to forestall an impending Israeli air attack that could have spread fallout over the region—and may well have triggered a major (perhaps cataclysmic) war. 


Zero Days dives behind the algorithmic veils of computer science to troll the complexities of cyberwar with keen eye and a curious mind. In a world of techno-terms and shorthand identifiers—LLPs, P-1s, IR-2s—it would be easy to loose track of the proceedings. (Take, for example, this explanation: "The ICS worm now developed would hit every machine on the net in an hour. Stuxnet would affect every Microsoft machine it encountered and would activate once it found a compatible LLP.") Fortunately, Gibney keeps the journey lively with cinematic tricks and lots of key-player interviews. 

Watching the film's animated invocations of cyberspace leaves viewers swimming through a dark soup where billions of numbers and letters march and arch in lockstep to some unknowable purpose. Sometimes, in this vast swath of cosmic complexity, a single short line of identifiable code might be spotted. That, in turn, can lead to other bits of traceable data. With enough pieces, a puzzle may begin to emerge. Then the challenge is to "solve" the puzzle. But when you're dealing with terabytes, petabytes, exabytes, zetabytes and yottabytes of data, "connecting the dots" becomes a Heculean task. 

Surprise factoid: The Semantecnicians confirmed that you can use a Microsoft word search to look for—and find—tell-tale bits of hidden code. 

The most memorable effect in Zero Days is an "anonymous" insider who appears as a disembodied female face suspended in a black void and defined by a floating veil of computerized netting. (Gibney explained the character's testimony is a composite of more than a dozen individuals who agreed to be interviewed on the promise of anonymity. He also explained that he chose to make his "insider" a female because "there were no other women in the film." Cyberwar, wouldn't you know, is still largely a "man's world.") 

The Growing Problem of Cyberwar Attacks 

In today's "connected" world, computers can be targeted for destruction just like the jihadists and "collaterals" on Obama's Tuesday Kill List. But instead of using a "killer drone" (courtesy of General Atomics, at 3 million taxpayer-dollars-per-shot) modern, militarized nation-states use complex codes that can be smuggled into an "enemy country" and covertly injected into a computer system via a thumbdrive. It's a new era of global combat. Call it the Code War. 

In August 2012, an unprecedented hack-attack fried 30,000 Internet workstations at Saudi Arabia's massive ARAMCO oil facility. An unknown (and possibly fictitious) group called the "Cutting Sword of Justice" claimed responsibility for the disabling attack. 

Beginning in September 2013, a series of cyber attacks began hammering major US banks over a period of weeks. Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capital One, BB&T and HSBC were all hit by sophisticated "distributed denial of service attacks." 

In December 2015, when Ukraine's power grid went out for six hours it was clearly seen as a nation-state cyberattack. Desperate operators were forced to switch to manual mode—flipping physical switches instead of typing orders on a keyboard. (The US generally doesn't have that "luxury" but some older systems made protection possible.) 

In New York State, a small dam was attacked by an attempted cyber-strike but, fortunately, no serous damage was done. Were Iranian hackers behind this incident? Russia? China? If anyone knows, they aren't talking. 

Cyberwar is a spreading menace: During the Q&A, Semantec's two cyber-sleuths estimated there have been 80 to 100 significant "government actions" over recent years. 

The US may not have been the first out-of-the-gate in the cyber-war arms race, but it was soon in the saddle. "Once it happened," one insider recalls, it was a simple matter of realizing, ""Hey, we could be doing this." 

So the US secretly devised a "superworm" of unprecedented power. But, something went wrong and, after taking out Iran's centrifuges (by causing them to spin with increasing speed until they self-destructed), the worm began to spread. It quickly spilled beyond Iran's borders and spread around the world, leaping from one hemisphere to the next, taking down thousands of computers as it multiplied and self-replicated. And eventually it "came home to roost," devastating systems in the US itself. 

Even the Department of Homeland Security was kept out of the loop. The DHS had no response plan when the Stuxnet virus began to eat its way into the Homeland's computers. A DHS spokesperson later confessed: "We didn't know the threat was homemade." 

Why did Stuxnet 'go rogue'? According to Gibney's investigation, it was a case of "blowback." Unbeknownst to the US, its co-partner Israel secretly changed the code to be more aggressive. Three viruses were released. Some had longer play periods before they "activated." In the first version, the program allowed 12 days before activation. The activation trigger was shortened in later versions. 

Behind the Wall of Secrecy 

"There are so many secrets it's hard to get to the bottom of the story," Gibney told the roomful of reviewers. "Everything is secret. People could be playing games with you. It was not neat and tidy—and that's what made it exciting." 

There is a pervasive fear of prosecution (quietly and before special courts) for anyone who dares to reveal state secrets involving Washington's cyber warfare programs. 

Gen. James Cartwright, a four-star general who was vice chair of the Joint Chiefs from 2007 to 2011, ran the cyber operation, (code name: Olympic Games) under the Bush and Obama administrations. In 2010, an attack by the Stuxnet worm disabled 1,000 centrifuges that the Iranians were using to enrich uranium. 

Cartwright, the former second ranking officer in the U.S. military became the target of a Justice Department investigation into a politically sensitive leak of classified information about Stuxnet. 

Chien and O'Murchu spent months looking for encoded clues encased in the complex, multi-layered depths of the Stuxnet virus. They were virtually on their own: there was no academic or systemic record to explore. As one cyber-warfare insider explains, the whole enterprise is "hideously over-classified." 

When the two investigators realized how advanced and complicated the code was, they began to get concerned about their own safety. After all, a number of nuclear scientists had been brutally assassinated in Iran (Israeli agents were suspected). Both Semantecers became convinced their phones were being tapped. 

Gibney was also concerned about his own security. He explained that, while writing his screenplay, he relied on "encryption technology" to avoid the possibility that his work might be monitored online. In this case, "encryption technology" meant transcribing audio recordings of his interviews on an old-fashioned electronic typewriter. 

Some observers believe the Stuxnet attack played a large role Iran's decision to agree to a nuclear deal with the West. 

At the press conference, Gibney mentioned an interview with former Washington Post staffer Brian Krebs who specializes on cybercrime and security topics. The Krebs interview was deleted from the film but you can expect to see it on the "bonus reel" when Zero Days in released on the DVD.) 

But don't wait for the DVD. See Zero Days now. 

And back up your computer.