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This Berkeley brown shingle is slated for removal for a new construction project.
Bill Woodcock
This Berkeley brown shingle is slated for removal for a new construction project.



Berkeley Police Department
Thursday September 29, 2016 - 01:13:00 PM

Today’s scheduled Safer Streets March has been cancelled by its organizer, who is guiding concerned community members to consider attending another community event, entitled “Power of Faith 2016 – Together We Serve”, which will be held at the Ed Roberts Campus from 4 PM -7 PM. The march had been scheduled to begin tonight at 5:00pm from the parking lot of the Sweet Adeline Bakeshop. 

The Berkeley Police Department stands in support of all efforts to build a safe and caring community. For our part, extra patrols in the areas affected by violence will remain in place, as we work to ensure that residents are safe in their homes and on the street, and that our Department is committed to strong and safe neighborhoods. Our vigorous investigation into the two homicides and several shootings continues. 

Our efforts to engage and inform our community will continue.

South Berkeley Families March Against Violence Thursday at 5 PM

Heather Zadig (mother and resident of South Berkeley
Wednesday September 28, 2016 - 03:45:00 PM

I'm reaching out to announce the above Family March for Safe Streets that some mothers and I have planned for tomorrow evening:

I'd love if you (and everyone you know!) would join local family residents tomorrow (Thursday the 29th) at 5:00PM in front of Sweet Adeline Bakeshop for a community march in solidarity against the recent violence in our neighborhood. The march is not affiliated with any organization, it is just mothers who've come together and want to demonstrate a positive community tone in defiance of and in contrast to the recent violence (we've created a Facebook Group called Berkeley Citizens & Families for Safe Streets for updates). The chief of Berkeley PD will be marching with us in solidarity, along with several officers and city council members and candidates. 

In addition, we have created a list of goals for the march so that community members and members of the media can learn what it's about before they decide to attend:
*To put forth a collective, inclusive, positive, and public community response to recent violence in our neighborhood to express that we reject such violence as the status quo. 

*To attract and foster greater community engagement across the board, especially among residents who are new to participating in local community activism, neighborhood associations, and improvement projects. 

*To draw attention to, acknowledge, and support existing community groups in South Berkeley and surrounding areas who have been working tirelessly for decades on the root causes of violence and other social issues, including but definitely not limited to the Lorin District Business Association, Friends of Adeline, the Halcyon Neighborhood Association, Healthy Black Families, Youth Spirit Artworks, Spiral Gardens, the Shattuck Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council, local churches, and countless individual citizens who are out doing the real work every day. 

*To highlight such opportunities to residents, including families, and encourage them to participate in current and future positive community improvement activities. Our presence and engagement are excellent deterrents to crime and blight. Children love Berkeley’s city-sponsored block parties and festivals, but they also love to feel important and to help fix problems, which fosters pride in themselves and their communities, which is why this is a family march. 

*To express a desire for and implement more future public community improvement projects, including regular sustained organized neighborhood clean-up days, beautification projects, public gardens and art, and other community work. Let’s all commit to doing the real work, instead of leaving it to a few hard-working souls! 

Thanks for your support, and hope to see you there!  

Lots of research supporting removing excess traffic signs

Chris Gilbert
Wednesday September 28, 2016 - 01:58:00 PM

 Re: “The city of Berkeley plans to remove a hundred or more stop signs as a "traffic calming" measure” 
There’s been lots of research about the disadvantages of too many stop and other traffic signs. The Netherlands and other countries have been at the forefront of getting rid of “excessive” signs. What researchers have found is that “[d]rivers will force the accelerator down ruthlessly only in situations where everything has been fully regulated. Where the situation is unclear, they're forced to drive more carefully and cautiously.”(1) ‘"When you don't exactly know who has right of way, you tend to seek eye contact with other road users,'' he said. ''You automatically reduce your speed, you have contact with other people and you take greater care."’ (2) 

Personally, we see this every day where drivers speed through the yellow, and even just-turned-red, traffic lights going up Marin, counting on the delay before cross-traffic takes its turn. If there were no lights at all it would be hard to imagine anyone speeding through an intersection. While this is an extreme example, as a bike rider (I’m not sure how many readers of the Planet are regular bicyclists), it is painful to have to stop at every block on a relatively lightly trafficked street such as Milvia because of the excess of stop signs, mostly at intersections where all four directions have a stop sign.  

In fact, it’s gotten to the point that now at intersections its necessary to have additional signage saying that, in those rare places where there is not a four-way stop, the cross-traffic does not have a stop sign, so that stopped drivers don’t start through the intersection thinking that cross-traffic will stop. So more instructions are required once four-way stop intersections are in place. 


(1) http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/controlled-chaos-european-cities-do-away-with-traffic-signs-a-448747.html 

(2) http://www.dw.com/en/european-towns-remove-traffic-signs-to-make-streets-safer/a-2143663 

Additional sources: 



Stop sign removal should be based on auto traffic

David Friedman
Wednesday September 28, 2016 - 01:55:00 PM

This is a response to the 9/27 article about city plans to remove stop signs, apparently to spare bicyclists the inconvenience of stopping. 

I'm no great fan of stop signs. Probably some of them are overkill and should be removed after genuine consultation with neighbors (not just pro-forma consultation with the results preordained). However, in my experience, living about fifty years in Berkeley, most bicyclists (kids and adults) do not stop at stop signs anyway, and I doubt that police have the time or interest to ticket them for not stopping. Removal of a stop sign should be based on auto traffic, not on cyclists who barely pay attention to the signs. 

Just to be evenhanded about this, many car drivers also don't stop at stop signs, but at least they usually slow down a bit and glance both ways, most of the time.

Stop sign removal in Berkeley: another view

Charles Siegel
Wednesday September 28, 2016 - 01:52:00 PM

Steve Finacom is much too alarmed about the draft Bike Plan’s proposal to remove stop signs. The response of transportation manager Farid Javandel makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s look at it again: 

“There seem to be many locations where stop signs have been installed not as devices to assign the right of way at intersections, but as a form of pseudo traffic calming with the intent of slowing traffic or discouraging cut-through traffic. While stop signs are cheap, their effectiveness in achieving these goals is often marginal, and they have a variety of unintended consequences. On Bicycle Boulevards in particular, stop signs create a situation where cyclists must inconveniently stop at many intersections where there is rarely conflicting traffic. … However, simply removing the stop signs may not address the traffic speed and volume concerns that are a shared interest of residents and users of Bicycle Boulevards. Thus, we need to determine what alternative measures can be implemented to allow these routes to efficiently serve bike riders, while managing traffic speed and avoiding cut through traffic. The alternative measures need to be determined on a case by case basis depending on the context and conditions at each location. While the process has not been spelled out in detail, it rationally begins with analysis of traffic and crash data to confirm whether a given stop sign is warranted in the first place. Based on that information we can determine whether removal of the stop sign is advisable and what alternative measures may be feasible. At that point we could engage the neighbors to share the results of the analysis and seek their input regarding any alternatives. That would form the basis for determination by the City Traffic Engineer of what change if any should occur in a given location.”  

The first point is definitely true. Transportation planners generally agree that stop signs are not as effective as other forms of traffic calming.  

The second point is also true. The draft bike plan does not just call for removing stop signs but for replacing them with other forms of traffic calming that are more effective, traffic circles and diverters. 

Finacom is being alarmist when he talks about stop signs being removed in his neighborhood, next to the Le Conte school on Russell. Rather than just being removed, the stop signs would be replaced with other, more effective forms of traffic calming that do more to protect the children at the Le Conte school. 

If he needs more reassurance, I myself would be glad to support an additional provision in the plan saying that the stop signs on a street will not be removed until after the city installs other traffic calming measures on that street to make it safer than it was when the stop signs were present. 

I understand why he worries that the stop signs might be removed without any substitute, but I don’t see any need for worry if the plan provides that the traffic calming must be installed before the stop signs are removed.

New: Man stabbed at Berkeley bus stop

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday September 28, 2016 - 12:44:00 PM

A man suffered lacerations to his forehead and right arm when another man stabbed him for unknown reasons at a bus stop in West Berkeley on Monday night, police said.

The victim and his girlfriend were sitting at a bus stop at the northeast corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues at about 9 p.m. Monday when the suspect unexpectedly attacked him with a knife by slashing him across his forehead then striking his arm, according to police. 

The victim told police that the attack was unprovoked and the suspect never said anything to him. 

The suspect fled the area on foot and remains at large, police said. 

He is described by police as a white man who is about 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 7 inches tall with a medium build and blond spiked hair and was wearing a black T-shirt. 

Berkeley police are asking anyone who has information about the stabbing to call them at (510) 981-5900.

Updated: The city of Berkeley plans to remove a hundred or more stop signs as a "traffic calming" measure

Steven Finacom
Tuesday September 27, 2016 - 09:41:00 AM

No, that headline is not an April Fool’s joke or something from the “Onion” satirical paper.

It’s the consequence of a serious proposal on the verge of being adopted by the City of Berkeley that may very well mean large numbers of stop signs will disappear throughout Berkeley in coming years.

That’s a real possibility if the current draft “Berkeley Bike Plan” isn’t changed in the next few months.

The bicycle plan proposes removing at least one hundred and possibly more existing stop signs in Berkeley. At least fifty-two intersections are specified for this “treatment”. You can see them as red “x” marks on a map, here:

If you live on or near more than a dozen key streets, there’s quite likely stop sign removal proposed near you. Virginia, Hearst, Addison, California, Channing, Ninth, Mabel, King, Hillegass, Fulton, Russell and Woolsey are the streets that would be most altered. (At the end of this article there’s a list of the intersections).

Some of the proposed removals are absolutely non-sensical. 

In my neighborhood at least two stop signs would come out at the intersection of Russell and Ellsworth which is adjacent to the pre-school play yard, and the two major student entrances, to Le Conte Elementary School. At the other end of the school block (Russell and Fulton) ALL four stop signs would be removed since that’s proposed as a crossing of two “bicycle boulevards”. 

Somehow the idea that allowing all traffic to move along Russell without stopping at the intersections adjacent to the elementary school made it through the “draft” process. 

And it gets worse. Along Russell Street, all the stop signs would come out for 7/10ths of a mile (I measured it). A car—or bicycle—could start moving downhill at Russell and Benvenue and speed or roll all the way to Shattuck Avenue without encountering a single mandatory “stop” except a traffic signal at Telegraph and Russell. 

If you’re concerned about the repercussions of changes like this all over the Berkeley flatlands, you must comment to the City this week, by the end of the day, Thursday, September 29. This is the close of the public comment period on the draft “Berkeley Bicycle Plan”. 

You can send comments to the City at info@bikeberkeley.com 

Thursday evening there’s also a crucial meeting of the Transportation Commission’s Bicycle subcommittee, where you can make a public comment (see details below). 

What should you write / comment? The most helpful thing would be to tell the City about your personal experiences with traffic on Berkeley streets and on your block and whether you value stop signs in our residential neighborhoods. Will removing stop signs on numerous residential streets and replacing them with “yield” signs make things better or worse for your street or others in your neighborhood? 

Here’s the biggest issue. Removing the stop signs means that not only bicycles but other vehicles—cars and trucks—can go through these intersections without stopping. The City proposes an initial palliative for this, “Yield” signs. And possibly other “traffic calming” measures such as additional traffic circles and “diverters”, if City staff decide they are needed. But there is no funding as yet identified to do that. 

You can find the draft plan here: bikeberkeley,com Go to “Documents” in the upper right hand corner. It shows several separate postings. #5, “recommendations reduced” and 5-10 “Recommendations Bike Boulevards Traffic Calming” are the ones you should look at first, for specific information on the stop signs. 

On the 12th page of “Recommendations Reduced” you’ll find Section 5.2.3 which includes this statement about stop signs. (The emphasis added is my own). 

Stop Sign Removal: 

This Plan recommends removing stop signs at specific locations along existing and new Bicycle Boulevard corridors. This enables riders to maintain momentum (with fewer stops). In many cases traffic calming devices such as traffic circles or diverters exist at these locations, or new circles are recommended, which reduces potential vehicle speed increases along these routes. The City should seek to comprehensively remove stop signs at existing traffic circles along Bicycle Boulevards and convert them to yield. 

Those same stop signs function as crucial traffic and safely controls for the surrounding neighborhoods. What some cyclists view as an annoyance many neighbors and pedestrians see as crucial safeguards for their neighborhoods, serving to at least force most motor vehicles to slow down and stop, and providing safer crossing opportunities for pedestrians. 

City staff say that removing the stop signs was, in fact, something that the City Council authorized sixteen years ago when the Bicycle Boulevards were created. Here’s what Eric Anderson, Pedestrian and Bicycle Programs Coordinator from the City’s Transportation department, told me in an email on Monday. The bold-faced emphasis below is mine, not his. 

The Citys approach to Bike Boulevards removing stop signs and adding traffic calming -- was formalized by Council 16 years ago. Here is the three-phase bike boulevard implementation plan approved by the City Council when the current Bike Plan was adopted in 2000. The current Bike Plan update provides us with a framework to begin more fully implementing this Council direction: 


1. Install signs and pavement legends along all Bicycle Boulevards. 2. Install devices to facilitate bicycle crossing of major streets, and 3. Remove unwarranted stop signs and replace as needed with traffic calming devices. 

There is a major mistaken assumption in this statement. 

The Council did not authorize removing stop signs. Look at that last sentence. The Council mandate was to “remove unwarranted stop signs.” There’s a huge difference. 

But City staff and/or consultants seem to have now made a sweeping assumption that most, if not all, stop signs on Bicycle Boulevards, should be authorized for removal by this plan. In essence, 52 intersections have stop signs that are de facto “unwarranted” by staff fiat, before there’s any community process to discuss them. That’s essentially what the table in the draft Plan shows. 

I also asked Mr. Anderson if the City had determined that stop signs no longer serve safety needs better than “yield” signs, diverters, or circles? Part of his response. 

Many of the stop signs along bicycle boulevard streets were originally installed in many cases decades ago -- because of traffic safety concerns expressed by local neighbors. In that sense they were installed as a cheap form of traffic calming, whether or not they met the engineering warrants for their installation. 

This was further amplified in a separate email to me from Farid Javandel, the City’s Transportation Manager after I wrote him with questions. Here’s part of what he responded. 

There seem to be many locations where stop signs have been installed not as devices to assign the right of way at intersections, but as a form of pseudo traffic calming with the intent of slowing traffic or discouraging cut-through traffic. While stop signs are cheap, their effectiveness in achieving these goals is often marginal, and they have a variety of unintended consequences. On Bicycle Boulevards in particular, stop signs create a situation where cyclists must inconveniently stop at many intersections where there is rarely conflicting traffic. This is about as rational for bikes as putting stop sings every few blocks on University or Shattuck would be for cars. It also increases the tendency for cyclists to roll through or ignore stop signs that they perceive as unnecessary. Neither unnecessary delays, nor risky behaviors are desirable effects of stop signs. However, simply removing the stop signs may not address the traffic speed and volume concerns that are a shared interest of residents and users of Bicycle Boulevards. Thus, we need to determine what alternative measures can be implemented to allow these routes to efficiently serve bike riders, while managing traffic speed and avoiding cut through traffic. The alternative measures need to be determined on a case by case basis depending on the context and conditions at each location. While the process has not been spelled out in detail, it rationally begins with analysis of traffic and crash data to confirm whether a given stop sign is warranted in the first place. Based on that information we can determine whether removal of the stop sign is advisable and what alternative measures may be feasible. At that point we could engage the neighbors to share the results of the analysis and seek their input regarding any alternatives. That would form the basis for determination by the City Traffic Engineer of what change if any should occur in a given location.

Now City staff also say not to worry. Once the bicycle plan is approved, no one is going to go out and start taking down stop signs. As Mr. Javandel notes, there will be a process to analyze “traffic and crash data”, and “engage the neighbors” to explain this as well as “seek their input”. Then the City Traffic engineer will make a “determination”. 

And Mr. Anderson told me: The neighborhood-level outreach needed for changes to stop signs and traffic calming will be conducted as a follow-on activity before any changes are made to these streets. 

I’m not comforted by these statements. From past experience, you can be pretty sure that when your neighborhood has its “outreach” and you say, “Keep the Stop Signs”, City staff will reply that the Council has directed the removal of the stop signs. 

Now you may be wondering why, at the end of a two year City “planning process” you’re just hearing about this. I wondered that, too. But when I looked at the “Bike Berkeley” website where the plan is housed, I realized what had happened. 

While opportunities to comment and participate were open to all, City staff and consultants appear to have focused only on bicycle riders as the principal “stakeholders” they needed to consult about plan details. Over that two year process, the draft plan had seven opportunities for public engagement, not one of them with any targeted publicity or outreach that I can find to neighborhoods with bike boulevards, or to non-cyclists. 

One was a Transportation Commission subcommittee meeting. Three were “open houses” or “community meetings” targeted specifically at “people bicycling in Berkeley” according to published publicity. One was a “Bicycle Plan Update Bike Tour” in which City staff and Transportation Commissioners biked around Berkeley with a limited number of consultants and members of the public (public participants had to register for a space, and presumably had to ride a bike). And the remaining two public “events” of the planning process were “Bike to Work Day Happy Hour” celebrations featuring “tasty New Belgium beer”. (I kid you not). 

If you feel moved to go to a City meeting and speak on this issue, there are two scheduled. 

The first is on this Thursday evening, September 29, 7:00 PM at the North Berkeley Senior Center. This is a meeting of the Transportation Commission’s Bicycle Subcommittee. This meeting should have a “public comment” period at the beginning. Arrive by 7:00 and turn in a public comment card to speak. 

Second, the Transportation Commission will be acting on the plan at its October 20 meeting. Also at the North Berkeley Senior Center, and also with the same opportunity for public comment at the beginning of the meeting. 

Then it goes to the Council where it’s tentatively scheduled for action on December 13. 


These are the intersections that are marked on the draft Bike Plan map with red “X” marks to denote “stop sign removal”. Since the map provided by the City is very small and does not identify most street names, some of the locations are unclear. In those cases I’ve put a (?) after the intersection. You can scrutinize the map yourself you to decide. 


  1. Virginia and Ninth
  2. Virginia and Eighth
  3. Virginia and Chestnut
  4. Virginia and California
  5. Hearst and Ninth
  6. Addison and Fifth
  7. Addison and Seventh
  8. Addison and Ninth
  9. Addison and Bonar
  10. Addison and Acton
  11. Addison and California
  12. Addison and Grant
  13. California and Allston
  14. California and Blake
  15. California and Parker
  16. Near California and Ward, or Stuart (location unclear on map)
  17. California and Russell
  18. California and Woolsey
  19. Channing and Seventh
  20. Channing and Ninth
  21. Channing and Tenth
  22. Channing and Browning
  23. Channing and Bonar
  24. Channing and California
  25. Ninth and Camilla
  26. Ninth and Parker
  27. Ninth and Pardee
  28. Ninth and Grayson
  29. Mabel and Blake
  30. Mabel and Oregon
  31. Mabel and Carrison
  32. Mabel and Sixty-Seventh
  33. Sixty-Sixth and Idaho (?)
  34. King and Prince
  35. King and Fairview
  36. King and Harmon
  37. King and Woolsey
  38. Woolsey and Harper (?)
  39. Milvia and Parker (?)
  40. Milvia and Oregon
  41. Fulton and Parker (?)
  42. Fulton and Blake (?)
  43. Russell and Fulton
  44. Russell and Ellsworth
  45. Russell and Hillegass
  46. Russell and Regent (?)
  47. Russell and Pine (?)
  48. Hillegass and Parker
  49. Regent and Derby
  50. Hillegass and Webster
  51. Woolsey and Colby (?)
  52. Woolsey and Dana (?)
City staff say that the official "BikeBerkeley" website I discuss in this opinion piece is outdated and will be revised. In response to a question about what sort of outreach the Bicycle Plan process conducted, Eric Anderson from the City writes:
"We need to update the text on this page (the website), as it no longer reflects the actual process we followed for the plan. The outreach process was community-focused in the sense that most of our outreach involved us going out to the community rather than asking the community to come to us. This outreach took the form of a random zip code door to door public survey and approximately a dozen direct outreach events at Farmer’s Markets, street fairs, and on the UC Berkeley campus. In addition we conducted two formal public Open House meetings and several Bicycle Subcommittee meetings as more conventional outreach methods."
I am glad to include this information with my article. I've also asked the City for further clarification on the "random zip code door to door public survey" and the results from it.

Rent control issues and platforms in Berkeley

Thomas Lord
Tuesday September 27, 2016 - 11:56:00 AM

​ Big news in Berkeley: Bernie endorsed the so-called CALI slate for rent board. "CALI" is an acronym standing for Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg and Igor Tregub.

We know that Alejandro was active in Bernie's campaign -- is this endorsement just a quid pro quo? Or is there substance to it?

What did Bernie endorse? What platform does this rent board slate hold? What can landlords, tenants, and others expect?

To find out, I tried to figure out what this slate stands for. 

Many months into the campaign, this is the closest thing I kind find to a platform for the CALI slate: 

"This slate's campaign platform is to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion to keep people in Berkeley; Fairly enforce Berkeley's Rent and Eviction Protections Ordinance; and to Defend and strengthen rent control in Berkeley to keep Berkeley a place we can all call home." 

The quote comes from the campaign web site of Leah Simon-Weisberg. (If there is some web site for the whole slate I have yet to find it.) 

Let's examine this platform. Will it be good for renters? What actions does this slate promise to take? What does it promise to accomplish? 

The platform has three planks: 

1. Promote equity, diversity, and inclusion to keep people in Berkeley. 2. Fairly enforce Berkeley's Rent and Eviction Protections Ordinance. 3. Defend and strengthen rent control in Berkeley to keep Berkeley a place we can all call home. 

Obviously this is a bit thin but let's see if we can find anything in it: 

"1. Promote equity, diversity, and inclusion to keep people in Berkeley." 

Economic displacement is a widespread fear, these days. That plank clearly speaks to that fear, but the plan is to "promote equity, diversity, and inclusion". What does that mean? Will the rent board hold rallies for diversity? Put up billboards for inclusion? Displacement fears exist because market rate housing in Berkeley is so high priced that even the *median* Berkeley household can not afford it. More than half the people in Berkeley are at risk for displacement not just from their homes, but from the City and the region. 

This rent board slate is silent on what they will do to bring rents to reasonable levels. 

"2. Fairly enforce Berkeley's Rent and Eviction Protections Ordinance." 

While that sounds terrific it is also the sworn duty of every rent board member. Since the slate offers no details, I am not sure they are saying more than "We will try not to break the law or get the City or Rent Board sued.." 

Lastly, there's this: 

"3. Defend and strengthen rent control in Berkeley to keep Berkeley a place we can all call home." 

I'm sure we'd all like to see the plan. Rent stabilization in Berkeley was up-ended in 1995 with the passage of a state law called Costa-Hawkins. One long-term consequence of that state law is that Berkeley landlords appear to discriminate in favor of short-term residents (like students) but only in order to have more opportunities to raise the rent between tenants. Further, there are other state overrides that make it easier to take rent stabilized units off the market. Lastly, no new construction is price controlled. 

Thus, this, the next, and every rent board in the foreseeable future faces the gradual but inexorable eradication of rent control from Berkeley. 

It is nice to know that this slate says they will "defend and strengthen rent control" but anyone can say that. They offer no hint of just exactly how they'll achieve that aim.  

To the best of my knowledge, Simon-Weisberg is active promoting a similarly legally doomed form of rent control in nearby cities. Each of these candidates has at one time or another complained about the state laws but none has put forward a credible plan for changing them. Sadly, no reporter has bothered to ask them about their plans, either. 

And further, members of this slate have endorsed measure U1, a regressive tax on rents that will be passed through with every new tenancy in Berkeley, and that can be passed through in other cases in spite of the protestations of these candidates. 

Why would a supposedly pro-tenant slate endorse a regressive tax on rents? I think Harr might have given the most honest answer, comparing this slate to pro-landlord candidates: 

"“Berkeley can be a tough place to get a handle on as a voter because really our two sides aren’t that far apart,” Harr said." (Daily Cal, September 25, 2016, "Bernie Sanders endorses pro-tenant slate for November Rent Stabilization Board elections") 

We need a real tenants movement, not this fake one.

New: THE PUBLIC EYE: Ten Thoughts About the Presidential Debate

Bob Burnett
Tuesday September 27, 2016 - 10:32:00 AM

Whew! Even though I expected Hillary Clinton to win the first presidential debate with Donald Trump, watching it was a nerve-wracking experience. Here are my first thoughts about the debate:

1.Hillary had the best demeanor. In general, Clinton came across as composed and cheerful. Trump came across as angry and, occasionally, disdainful.

2.Trump interrupted Clinton either by talking over her or by making snide comments such as, "that's called business,by the way" -- when she noted that Trump "was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis."

3.Although the Trump campaign has made a lot of fuss about Clinton's supposed "stamina" problem, it was Trump who wilted in the last half of the debate. 

4.Clinton repeatedly trapped Trump with his own words: "Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese." (Trump denied this but it's verified by his Tweet.) 

5.Roughly one-quarter of the way through the debate, Clinton stood up to Trump: "Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts." (sic) 

6. After Trump blamed the supposed failings of the Obama Administration on Clinton, Hillary quipped: "I have a feeling that by the end of the evening I'm going to blamed for everything that ever happened." Trump responded, "Why not?" Clinton laughed, "Why not? Yeah, why not?" And the audience laughed with her. Clinton continued, "... just join the debate by saying more crazy things." Hillary won every round from that point forward. 

7. Trump failed to explain why he has not made public his tax returns. When Clinton speculated that "he didn't pay any federal income tax," Trump quipped, "That makes me smart." 

8.Roughly half way through the debate, Trump's responses began to ramble. He didn't do a good job explaining "people who were stiffed by you." He didn't explain why he believe his "stop and frisk policy" was legal even though it has been ruled unconstitutional. Trump failed to explain why, until recently, he continued his "birther" campaign. (Clinton called this "a racist lie" and noted, "he has a long history of engaging in racist behavior.") 

9.When Clinton noted, "Donald supported the invasion of Iraq," Trump denied it. When the moderator, Lester Holt, questioned Trump about his statement, Trump again repeated his denial, rambling for several minutes. Trump concluded with, "I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?" The audience laughed at him. Clinton laughed and shook her head in disbelief, "Whew, OK." 

10.At the end of debate, Lester Holt reminded Trump that he had said Clinton, "Doesn't have a presidential look." Again, Trump rambled trying to explain himself. Clinton nailed him: "He tried to switch from looks to stamina, But this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs. Trump defended himself by attacking Rose O'Donnell: "I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it." 

At the beginning of the debate, Hillary Clinton addressed the audience; "You have to judge us, who can shoulder the immense, awesome responsibilities of the presidency, who can put into action the plans that make you life better." Most political observers thought Clinton won this debate, came across as more presidential. (So did CNN viewers, [http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/27/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-debate-poll/] 62 percent though Clinton won.) Round one goes to Clinton. 

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

New: Is this the Berkeley we want? (Public Comment)

Charlene Woodcock
Sunday September 25, 2016 - 10:45:00 PM
This Berkeley brown shingle is slated for removal for a new construction project.
Bill Woodcock
This Berkeley brown shingle is slated for removal for a new construction project.

These Berkeley brown shingles are victims of the Downtown Plan pushed on us by Tom Bates and Laurie Capitelli, both of them funded by outside developers and real estate investors, and the Bates-Capitelli majority on the city council.

Our graceful, beautiful older buildings are being displaced by monstrous, utilitarian structures, such as the university is putting up on the right, at Berkeley Way and Shattuck. The whole block will be made lifeless by an out-of-scale institutional building (though earlier generations of university leaders succeeded in building beautiful buildings on our UC Berkeley campus). And of course another outrage is 2211 Harold Way, both out-of-scale and inappropriate in our historic downtown and irretrievably ugly as well. No new buildings should go up in Berkeley unless they actually meet rigorous energy efficiency and aesthetic standards.

This election will decide the future of our city. I hope people will realize that.

Two Berkeley shooting victims expected to survive

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Sunday September 25, 2016 - 11:09:00 PM

Police said two people were shot tonight in Berkeley.

The shooting was first reported at 8:23 p.m. at King Street and Alcatraz Avenue, police spokeswoman Lt. Alyson Hart said.

The victims were a man and a woman who are expected to survive.

No arrests have been made, Hart said.

Flash: Berkeley Police investigate shooting report at King and Alcatraz

Berkeley Police Department
Sunday September 25, 2016 - 08:42:00 PM

Berkeley Police Department is currently involved in a police activity near King St/Alcatraz Ave. Please avoid this area for the next hour. Police Officers are investigating reports of a shooting.

Open Letter to U.C. Berkeley Professor Robert Reich

Charlene Woodcock
Saturday September 24, 2016 - 08:53:00 PM

Your endorsement of Laurie Capitelli for Berkeley mayor is a betrayal of progressive principles. This man represents a very scary future for Berkeley should he be elected—as it is, the Bates machine and city council majority including Capitelli have invited developers to come to Berkeley to make profits, not to provide the low and middle income and student housing we so desperately need. They support the demolition of our greatly loved and very successful Shattuck Cinemas, a part of the landmarked Shattuck Hotel block, and the disruption of our city center for years, so that an LA developer can profit from more market rate housing and further the gentrification and loss of diversity our city is already suffering. 

The infrastructure of Berkeley is clearly inadequate to serve the many new buildings and thousands of inhabitants that are being added. Our city government is prepared to sacrifice amenities valued by residents such as the parks needing attention, new open space for all the new residents such as the American Rock & Soil property which should be added to Aquatic Park, not developed; the warm pool, the city pier, the fine old civic buildings that need retrofitting and reuse, in favor of cheap, ugly, quickly-built housing for those who can pay thousands a month. This does not reflect the values of the Berkeley we love. For that reason, many of us are working to change the city council majority and to elect a mayor who will serve the interests of Berkeley residents, not fund their campaigns with outside money from speculators, developers and real estate interests.

Southwest Berkeley shootings may be related, police say

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday September 23, 2016 - 11:11:00 PM

Berkeley police said they have increased patrols and investigations this week near Sacramento and Ashby streets in response to a number of recent shootings in the area.

One took place at about 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, injuring a 16-year-old boy who lives outside the city.

A man who was shot and killed Thursday evening in Berkeley has been identified by police as 19-year-old Berkeley resident Ignacio Francis Jr. Other shootings have injured other people, according to police.

The shootings appear to involve two groups shooting at each other. Police did not name the groups. 

One of the shootings killed 22-year-old Alex Goodwin of Berkeley. Goodwin was shot to death last month near Burnett and Mabel streets.  

City officials are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects who killed Goodwin.  

A separate shooting Thursday evening killed 19-year-old Berkeley man Ignacio Francis Jr. Officers are still investigating whether Francis' death is related to the shootings near Sacramento and Ashby streets, police spokesman Officer Byron White said.  

Police are asking residents to quickly report any disputes especially if a gun is involved.  

Residents can also help in an investigation by providing surveillance video and additional information about damage to vehicles or buildings.  

Police said they suspect only a few people are involved in the shooting spree. 

Anyone with more information about the shooting that killed Alex Goodwin is urged to call the Police Department's homicide unit at (510) 981-5741.

Berkeleyan on The Moth Radio Hour this weekend

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 23, 2016 - 02:05:00 PM

A Berkeley resident, Tony Cyprien, has scored a spot on public radio’s popular story-telling show “The Moth Radio Hour”.

Tony joined his wife in Berkeley about 5 years ago, finally paroled after spending the years between ages 17 and 43 in prison for a gang-related conviction which carried a sentence of 26 years to life.

His personal story of his incarceration and salvation, as he recounts it, will be included in the latest Moth episode, "GrandSLAMS Coast to Coast," which is going out to public radio stations across the United States and will air according to local schedules through next Monday. It will be on KQED-FM on Saturday night at 10, and on KALW-FM on Sunday at 6pm.

The full episode which contains his story, which starts about 30 minutes from the beginning, can be heard online here.

Since Tony came home, he’s been earning a living with the welding trade he learned while he was incarcerated, fabricating and assembling custom metal products. But he’s discovered that his real love, and eventual career goal, is performing. 

Tony was taking an improv class at Berkeley Rep from Rebecca Stockley, when she suggested he tell a story at MOTH Radio which had a new venue across the street at Freight & Salvage. He went the next night, sat and listened in the audience, and said to his wife, "I can do this." 

The next visit to a MOTH radio performance was at Public Works in San Francisco. His name was drawn from the hat, and the first time was a charm: He won. 

Tony made it to the GrandSlam at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, where he placed 3rd out of 10. The story was picked up by New York-based Senior Producer Jenifer Hixson, and it airs this week on National Public Radio. 

Kate Brubeck helped him develop his material so he might coherently crush 30 years of life change into this five minute story. 

He enjoys performance of all kinds: comedy, improv, storytelling. Through a program sponsored by Marin Shakespeare and with the direction of Suraya Keating, he and five other formerly incarcerated people wrote and performed a play titled "Nobody Told Us We Were Diamonds: The Story of How I Found Me." He's looking for a venue to play it again. 

Tony is currently a teaching assistant for one of Rebecca Stockley's classes at BATS Improv in San Francisco. He aspires to create a one man show and to bring improv to young offenders. 

To see more of his work, you can watch his first MOTH story on YouTube. It’s a delightful reminiscence about true love in kindergarten, and the accompanying body language which you miss on radio adds a lot. 


















































As corporate transgressions go, Citizens United is chump change

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 23, 2016 - 03:26:00 PM

The recent brouhaha over the Wells Fargo corporation’s sleazy behavior, with hundreds of petty and major executives participating in opening phony accounts for unsuspecting customers and reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in fees has been covered in the local media as an OhMyGod moment. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, not to toot our own horn too loudly, we told you they were crooks, way back in 2005.

That’s when our homeless and disabled friend Betty Bunton died after an asthma attack, and also after her meager SSI check was shamelessly stolen through a type of Wells Fargo account (they call them “products”) which provided her with an ATM card which encouraged her to run up astronomical fees at interest rates up to 90%, which not surprisingly left her pennyless. 

I’m not going to re-run the whole sordid story here. You really should click on this link to read the obituary/expose I wrote after her death. 

My conclusion then: 

“What can be done about this practice? We don’t know, and we don’t even know if it’s still going on. We’ve laid this all out here so someone else can try to figure it out. Barbara Lee is on the House Banking Committee, so maybe she can take a look at remedies. Loni Hancock or Wilma Chan might want to see if anything can be done in California. We hope other publications will find other victims and do stories about them. It’s too late now to do any more for Betty, but in her memory we hope that telling this story as she wanted us to do will help someone else avoid getting conned as she was. ‘ 

Oh sure. I was more naïve then than I am now. No one, none of the legislative luminaries mentioned, nor other more prestigious publications than this one, did a damn thing, though I forwarded the piece to several of them. Wells Fargo has just rolled on stealing from all of us. And now, finally, after they’ve stolen enough not just from poor disabled homeless people, but also from what used to be known as the middle class, Attention Must Be Paid, as Arthur Miller said about Willy Loman.  

In fact, let’s just break here to quote more of the whole brilliant speech from Death of a Salesman to underline the point: 

“I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.” 

In the meantime, human beings like Betty Bunton have had terrible things happening to them. In the dozen or so intervening years since Betty died, hundreds or thousands of depositors large and small have been robbed by Wells Fargo. 

It seems that now, finally, there’s a kerfuffle, not really about the victims as yet, but at least about Wells Fargo’s manifest institutional transgressions. Senator Elizabeth Warren (former Oklahoma high school debate champ) has succeeded in putting words to it, as she does so well: “You [Wells CEO John Stumpf] should resign…you should be criminally investigated.” She’s right, of course…but why did it take so long for anyone to suggest this? 

Local politicians and major media are now all over it. Lefty officeholders at all levels now vow to cut up their Wells credit cards and donate their generous campaign contributions to charity.  

There’s been a lot of excitement about the “Citizens United” decision which says that corporations must be considered “persons” according to the First Amendment, which is said to guarantee their right to buy political speech. But that discussion doesn’t recognize the major harm which has always been done by corporations, long before Citizens United. 

Corporate public relations engines work overtime building benevolent images for their clients—Wells Fargo is not the exception but just typical. They give not only to politicians but to genuinely worthwhile artistic causes like the Oakland Symphony, which has done an outstanding job of bringing classical music to a wide audience at affordable prices. Here in Berkeley the Bayer corporation, which has just announced a merger with glycophosphate herbicide promoter Monsanto, builds goodwill by sponsoring educational programs. That’s how it’s done, that’s what makes people in power reluctant to challenge corporate power. 

The major damage is not done by corporations per se, which are not people even though they may be persons for free speech purposes. Elizabeth Warren is demanding, rightly so, that the sentient human beings who do harmful acts in performance of their corporate employment should face criminal prosecution as individuals. Corporations can’t go to jail, but corporate executives at many levels can and should. Think, e.g., about all of those people who worked for Volkswagen to disguise their products’ contribution to pollution and climate change. And how about oil company employees? Or airbag manufacturers? 

It’s true that a bunch of low-level Wells Fargo employees were fired for carrying out what they believed to be company policy, but the bosses who set that policy walked, with millions in bonuses in their pockets, 

And let’s not forget the corporate profiteers at the highest level. The harm done by the corporations that the Koch brothers and their ilk own is not necessarily done by the corporate structure, but the obscene profits which are extracted from them are used by the Kochs and others like them to promote horrendous candidates and anti-democratic changes to the election laws in many states.  

Does anyone still read Upton Sinclair any more? Starting more than a hundred years ago he wrote a series of novels and essays cataloguing corporate sins and sinners which still read true. Not much has changed, it seems.  

What he said then is still true today about executives like John Stumpf and Carrie Tolstedt of Wells Fargo: 

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Not to mention his (or her)bonuses.... 




The Editor's Back Fence

Public Comment

Why has Robert Reich endorsed a conservative for Mayor of Berkeley?

Harry Brill
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:28:00 PM

In Berkeley nine candidates are running for mayor to replace Tom Bates, who is retiring. The two top contenders, who are on the Berkeley City Council, are politically worlds apart. Laurie Capitelli tilts in a conservative direction, and Jesse Arreguin is among the most progressive council members. Because Capitelli is an ardent supporter of development projects, he receives substantial contributions from real estate interests. In fact, his habit of favoring developers and landlords as well explains why he raises more money than any other member of the Council. Also, despite Capitelli's recent support for a minimum wage law,-- elections are around the corner -- he has for a long while obstructed efforts to increase the minimum wage.

Although Jesse Arreguin is not opposed to development, he is infinitely more sensitive to the impact of development on small business and residents. Particularly important, Arreguin strongly supports labor legislation that benefits working people. Unlike Capitelli, he has never wavered on minimum wage and any other labor issues. It is no surprise, then, that among his significant endorsers are Bernie Sanders and the Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Very surprising to progressive activists, however, is that among Capitelli's endorsers is Robert Reich. Reich is among the nation's most progressive intellectuals. He has no problem criticizing big business, and exposing how they have stacked the deck. Clearly, Reich is many light years away from the politics of Capitelli and also from his close ally, Tom Bates, who Reich had said is "the best mayor in the country".

Just as startling is Reich's comment about Capitelli: "Laurie is a serious progressive, one that doesn't just talk about progressive values but who demonstrates them." The Progressive Student Association, which is based on the UC Berkeley campus, disagrees with Reich's endorsement, because Capitelli has "repeatedly voted to reduce funding for affordable housing and has opposed campaign finance reform". 

Although Reich's endorsement of Capitelli is disappointing, it is really, if we think about it, not surprising. Reich pays little attention, as he admits, to local politics. And he certainly doesn't follow on a week to week basis what is transpiring at the Berkeley City Council. Reich was impressed with his campaign to increase taxes on sodas to discourage overdosing on sugar sweetened drinks. Capitelli certainly deserves to be commended for his effort. But that does not offset the damage he has committed by his support for legislation, particularly on development proposals, that has adversely affected many Berkeley residents and workers.
Reich is obviously unaware of the tremendous gap between Capitelli's rhetoric and his actual performance. That gap is not the result of any personal quirk. It is politically driven. Berkeley is the home of a substantial number of progressive residents. So generally speaking, conservatives who are interested in running for office and being reelected feel compelled to camouflage their conservatism with progressive language.

Take for example, Capitelli's recent letter printed in the Daily Cal newspaper (Sept.9th). Believe it or not, he takes credit for the recent enactment of a minimum wage law that he had for a long while opposed. Incredibly, his words read "I was proud to lead these efforts so our low-wage workers can earn more money for their families." The organization I am affiliated with -- the East Bay Tax the Rich Group - has worked along with other activists and progressive organizations to obtain a minimum wage law that is superior to the minimum wage law passed in 2014. The greatest difficulty we had in winning a better minimum wage law was overcoming the resistance of both Capitelli and Mayor Bates.

In fact, we had two demoralizing experiences that Capitelli was responsible for. The labor and community committee worked very hard with Capitelli to craft a compromise minimum wage ordinance, which would be voted on at the Berkeley City Council meeting. At this unforgettable meeting Capitelli's first words were "I Renege". We were stunned. We had reached what we were led to believe was a firm agreement. As a result of his changing his mind, we had to begin all over again.

Many months later a Council committee led by Capitelli met with labor and community groups to craft another ordinance. Again an agreement was reached. Yet at the next meeting he along with some other members of the City Council didn't show up without even notifying members of the committee. Since there was no quorum, the council meeting was canceled.

At the City Council, councilmen Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington, and Jesse Arreguin played a major role keeping the minimum wage issue alive. Since Capitelli is running for mayor, he apparently decided to move things forward. But those who haven't followed this issue closely are unaware of the history. That probably includes Robert Reich.

Earlier in the campaign, I had asked Reich to testify on the minimum wage at a Berkeley City Council meeting. Since he resides in Capitelli's district, I thought that his public testimony would be particularly important. He refused. For whatever reason, he seems to have kept his distance from local politics. As a result, he was not as well informed as he should have been in deciding who to endorse for mayor. Clearly, he made a decision to favor a candidate who not only has very different political perspective. Capitelli's political agenda clashes with his own values.

Reich's problem mirrors the larger issue of how do we keep the public informed. Individual activists, no matter how grass roots oriented they are, can only reach a small sector of the community. What Berkeley is lacking is a large, formidable organization that is committed to educating the public on political issues and problems that they have only scant information about. A relatively new organization, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance (BPA) has been formed that is committed to playing this important role. BPA is a very promising development, which includes very experienced and dedicated organizers. The organization deserves the support of those who live or work in Berkeley. Right now they are working on electing a progressive majority to the City Council in November, including Jesse Arreguin.

Please send an email to Robert Reich to let him know why he should make a dual endorsement by supporting Jesse Arreguin for mayor. His email address is: bob@robertreich.org

If you would like to learn more about the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, here is the web address: berkeleyprogressivealliance.org 


Israel’s Shift to the right

Jagjit Singh
Friday September 23, 2016 - 03:43:00 PM

Israel has made a dramatic shift to the right after the recent elections. 

Gen. Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army, voiced his concern during a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day that has sent shock waves in Israel. Reading from a prepared speech he warned,: “if there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.” This was a direct comparison to the treatment of Jews under the Third Reich to the decades of oppression and discrimination against the Palestinians. 

Overt racism has reared its ugly head. A growing number of rabbis have called for a boycott of Arab shops. “Death to the Arabs” can be heard at soccer matches. A member of the Knesset has called for the separation of newborns in hospitals. A chief rabbi made the absurd claim that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews. 

Quoting religious texts to justify cruelty and occupation of indigenous people can never be justified. God is not in the real estate business offering promises to certain religious groups. Christianity and Islam have all justified unspeakable acts of violence based on scripture. 

The education and cultural ministries have issued new guidelines to conform to its more extremist ideology. Criticism of elitism and political correctness bears a strong resemblance to other European far right parties and the Trump movement. The replacement of the more moderate defense minister, Ya’alon with ultra-right wing, Avigdor Lieberman, is yet another disturbing occurrence. 

The whiff of fascism is unmistakable. 

The general’s warning is apt; with the growing intolerance unleashed by Donald Trump and his supporters, a Nazi party can come to any country, including America.

Massive Bank Fraud – again!

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday September 16, 2016 - 03:47:00 PM

Responding to intense high pressure tactics to meet unreasonable targets, bank officials illegally transferred funds from existing customers’ accounts to open new fraudulent accounts. When the seedy activities were finally exposed, Wells Fargo agreed to pay restitution to customers who were charged for these sham accounts. 

The scale of the operation is mind-boggling spanning five years impacting millions of customers. 5,300 of the ‘bad apples’ managers and employees were fired while the senior vice president in charge, Carrie Tolstedt, chose early retirement raking in millions in stock and options. Displaying gross insensitivity to the massive charade, chief executive, John Stumf, called Tolstedt, “a role model for responsible leadership” and “a standard-bearer of our culture.”  

She earned $27 million over the last three years for her stellar leadership. This gross violation of the public trust will continue until senior bank executives trade their expensive attire for orange jump suits. 

The Obama administration must share the blame for establishing a dangerous precedent allowing senior Wall Street Banks bankers to escape punishment during the 2008 financial crisis. 

City of Berkeley “entrapping” drivers with poorly designed and placed street sweeping signs?

Chris Gilbet
Friday September 23, 2016 - 04:07:00 PM

Who hasn’t seen hand-painted signs haphazardly attached to trees in various neighborhoods warning unsuspecting drivers to be careful: today is street sweeping day. Everyone seems to accept that this is a proper and neighborly use of residents’ time. But it’s only because of poor design that this is necessary. Whether it’s intentional – to drive up city revenues through issuing as many tickets as possible, or to cut costs by not installing enough, or big enough, signs – or just negligence through incompetent design, citizens should not have to take over a job that the city is charged with doing.  

For instance, on Colusa south of Solano Ave, signs are 10 – 15 car lengths apart (the meter cop said that they are only required at each end of a block), some with text that is only readable on one side (the cop said that only one side is “required” to have text), and several hidden in bushes or trees. How much does the city take in ticket revenue every month because of conditions like this?


What Happened to Hillary’s Lead?

Bob Burnett
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:17:00 PM

After the Democratic convention, many Democrats breathed a sigh of relief because it appeared that Hillary Clinton had an "insurmountable" 8-point lead over Donald Trump. Two months later, that lead is almost gone and Dems are worried. What happened?

The latest Huffington Post Poll of Polls shows Clinton with a 4.0 percentage point lead over Trump. The latest Five Thirty Eight summary shows Clinton with a projected 60.5 percent chance of winning, a 2.3 percentage point victory, and 288 electoral votes. Over time, Trump's ceiling has stayed about the same, 42 percent of the likely vote; however, Hilary's numbers have gone up and down -- sometimes getting as high as 49 percent and as low as 42 percent. 

Several factors have contributed to the closeness of the presidential race: First, since reorganizing his campaign Trump has been more disciplined compared to the old Trump. He still makes rash comments but not the same craziness that characterized the Judge Curiel and Khan family periods. 

Second, mainstream Republican voters have become relatively inured to Trump and, apparently, have decided that the almost daily stream of Trump revelations (shady business dealings, bizarre charity expenditures, white supremacist associations, etc.) are the work of a "corrupt" mainstream media. In the latest Washington Post poll Trump gets the support of 86 percent of Republican likely voters -- Clinton gets the support of 90 percent of Democratic likely voters. 

In the fifties, Republicans chanted "Better Dead than Read;" this year their mantra seems to be "Better Evil Donald than Liar Hillary.' 

Third, the candidates are unusually unpopular -- in the latest Gallup poll, Hillary has a 40 percent favorable rating and Trump has a 34 percent favorable rating. As a consequence, many "Independents" are either undecided or have committed to a third-Party candidate. 

Fourth, Hillary's numbers went down after a bad week: during the September 7th "Presidential Forum," NBC host Matt Lauer focussed on Hillary's email problems for roughly half her allotted time. This hurt Clinton in the short term -- but probably helped her in the long-term because she seemed to address every conceivable email issue. Clinton followed this with her "deplorables" remark on September 9th -- that to many of us didn't seem extreme but, nonetheless, cost her support among persuadable Republicans. And then Clinton fell ill on September 11th. The press played this up as an example of the Clinton's campaign's lack of transparency -- which seemed incredibly unfair because the Trump campaign has zero transparency -- and it knocked down Hillary's numbers. Since getting back on the campaign trail, Clinton's polls and favorable ratings have improved. 

I've long argued that the election would be decided by two factors: the candidates performance in the September 26th debate -- the first debate has historically been the most important -- and the get-out-the-vote effort. I expect Hillary to do well in the first debate and I expect her campaign to do much better getting out the vote. 

At this point, I look at two indicators to gauge how Hillary is doing. the first is key swing states. I'm assuming that Trump will win Ohio and Clinton will prevail in Florida. Among the big three, the key state is Pennsylvania, where Clinton currently has a 6.6 percentage point lead; if Clinton falls behind in Pennsylvania she has a problem. (There's also a competitive PA senate race -- McGinty versus Tommey; currently a dead heat.) To a lesser extent, I look at New Hampshire (Clinton up by 5 points), Nevada (dead heat), and North Carolina (dead heat). the latest Cook Report electoral projection shows Clinton getting to 272 by winning Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. (I believe that Clinton will also win Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina, thereby winning more than 300 electoral votes -- and probably guaranteeing that Democrats control the Senate.) 

The second indicator is support among college-educated white voters. The latest Washington Post poll indicates that Clinton has maintained her lead among these voters: plus 12 points among women and plus 1 among men. This is the largest shift from the Romney voters to the Trump voters and, if it continues, guarantees a Clinton victory. (It's hard to foresee a Trump victory based solely upon support of non-college-educated white men.) 

The 2016 election is Clinton's to lose. What she should do now is remind voters of what she stands for -- she's already done a good job defining Trump negatively (a recent Fox News poll found that 59 percent of respondents believe Trump does not have the temperament to be President.) In the process, Clinton needs to soften her image -- my contention is that a lot of persuadable voters want to like her but don't. She needs to have a more cordial relationship with the press. And, she needs to stop making mistakes! 

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


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Inexactitude of Prescribing Medication

Jack Bragen
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:34:00 PM

If you are mentally ill and seeing a psychiatrist for medication, the psychiatrist should be evaluating the medication he or she is prescribing. A psychiatrist will try to find out if the dosage(s) are appropriate, will check to make sure that you aren't having an adverse reaction to the meds, and that you are "responding" well to the medication(s).  

One of the things my psychiatrist would once have me do was to stick out my tongue so that he could find out if I was developing tardive dyskinesia. He would also ask me if I was eating and sleeping okay. He would ask me how I was doing in general. He would ask me if I had any "unusual thoughts."  

It is in the psychiatrist's domain to figure out of your meds should be lowered, changed, or raised. However, it is important that you give your own self-evaluation and that you ask for what you want.  

It is our bodies and our minds that are being dealt with. We ought to have a say in our treatment. Mental health treatment ought to be designed to get us well, and to help us do as well as possible. Sometimes it appears that treatment is only for the purpose of preventing us from being a nuisance to society. In these instances, it is as if treatment becomes punishment.  

Psychiatrists usually aren't sadistic people, and thus, if medication side effects are making you suffer, this should be reported. One hopes that the psychiatrist will have an appropriate response. Side effects of excessive medication can be hell. This is drug induced suffering, and this is in the form of extreme physical and mental discomfort. Antipsychotics and some other medications will do this. Most psychiatrists will try to minimize medication-induced suffering, yet will want you to be on an adequate dosage to treat your symptoms. 

In some instances, a behavior that you are "presenting" is caused by medication side effects, and yet, mental health professionals mistake this for being a symptom of your illness--or that you "are doing that on purpose." For example, too much antipsychotic can cause agitation. Yet, mental health workers may mistakenly assume that your agitation is one of your symptoms. (Some of the time, agitation is a symptom; while at other times it is caused by excessive or the wrong medication.) 

In 1984, during my second episode of mental illness (the first had been a year and a half earlier, in 1982) I had a bad reaction to medication in which my lower body contorted, and I couldn't voluntarily control this. This was at an inpatient ward run by Kaiser. Staff assumed this was something I was doing intentionally. Finally, they relented and gave me a big shot of Cogentin (a medication that alleviates some of the side effects of older antipsychotics). When the Cogentin fixed the problem, the doctor realized that, apparently, the antipsychotic medication had caused the problem. I have lingering resentment to this day.  

Choosing psych medications and their dosages is an imperfect undertaking, and involves a fair amount of guesswork. Psychiatrists don't have a definitive way of testing if you are on the right medications or the right dosages, and the best they can do is to look at how you are acting and to listen to what you are saying. We do not currently have a way of knowing what is happening within the cranium of someone with mental illness, other than by evaluating the person's behavior and speech. You can give an x-ray, a thermal image, or an MRI of the brain. However, these tools don’t give psychiatrists enough information and thus aren't used very often on mentally ill people.  

If you believe a psychiatrist isn't doing a good enough job for you, you might want to consider your options; one of them is asking to be referred to another doctor. Most psychiatrists appear to be conscientious, good people who want to help. In spite of that, a particular psychiatrist may not be a good fit for a particular patient. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.  


ECLECTIC RANT: Kaepernick and police unions poles apart on racism

Ralph E. Stone
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:29:00 PM

Everyone now knows that San Francisco 49ers quarterback took a knee instead of standing during the national anthem before a game was played as a protest against racism in America and the police killings of blacks.  

Immediately, critics turned his protest into disrespect of the flag and of veterans. This, of course, is nonsense or as Kaepernick put it, "racism disguised as patriotism." The American flag symbolizes many things and certainly among them is the right, and, indeed, the duty to protest injustice. And black veterans should remember the history of racism in the military. In fact, it took over 50 years and a presidential order before the U.S. Army reviewed their records in order to award any Medals of Honor to black soldiers. In 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, officially ending segregation and racial inequality in the military. Is there still racism in the military today? Ask a black now serving in the army, air force, navy, or marines. 

Instead of acknowledging the rightness of Kaepernick's protest, the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) went into attack mode. In a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers CEO Jed York, the POA denounced Kaepernick's "ill-advised" statements and a "naivete" and "total lack of sensitivity" toward police, along with an "incredible lack of knowledge" about officer-involved shootings. The POA letter failed to note the notches already on San Francisco police gun belts -- e.g., the police shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Luis Gongora, Jessica Williams, and Mario Woods.  

Then on September 16, 2016, the National Fraternal Order of Police (NFOP), the country's largest law enforcement union, announced it would endorse Republican Donald Trump for president, who has a long history of saying and doing racist things and has won the support and praise of the country’s white supremacists. By endorsing Trump, the NFOP was in effect endorsing racism, the continuation of the status quo instead of reform.  

Clearly, many of our police continue to be oblivious to the need for more action for change. Instead of criticizing Colin Kaepernick, he should be praising for rebooting the discussion about endemic racism in America and the needless police killings of blacks. 

Arts & Events


Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday September 26, 2016 - 10:15:00 AM

Alameda’s Island City Opera combined forces with Opera Academy of California to produce a single performance on Sunday September 25 at Alameda’s Elks Lodge of Francis Poulenc’s short operatic monologue La Dame de Monte Carlo and Maurice Ravel’s one-act opera L’Heure Espagnole. This was a felicitous pairing; and although both works were performed with only a piano as accompaniment for the singers, nonetheless, the excellence of the singers brought out all the nuances of these compositions sung in French. Opera Academy of California’s Artistic Director Yefim Maizel was responsible for the staging of both works on this program. 

In La Dame de Monte Carlo, soprano Julia Hunt Nielsen portrayed a woman “of a certain age,” as they say, who lets out all her emotions over betrayal by lovers, and takes out her anger in gambling at the famed casino in Monaco. Poulenc wrote this work in 1961 for French soprano Denise Duval and it premiered that same year at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris. Poulenc set his music to a poetic text by Jean Cocteau that reminded the composer of happy years he had spent in Monte Carlo with fellow composer Georges Auric, “in the imperial shadow of Diaghilev.” The lady, down on her luck at the gaming tables, has been thrown out of the casino and feels that her life is not worth living. She sings of her humiliation at wearing always the same blouse drenched in sweat from anxiety. Julie Hunt Nielsen sang with clear French diction, a rich tone, and formidable expressivity. At the work’s end, when the lady jumps to her death into the Mediterranean Sea, Julie Hunt Nielsen turned her back to the audience and threw her hands up in despair as she shrieked the words “Monte Carlo.” Then the stage went black. 

After a short pause, Maurice Ravel’s comic opera L’Heure Espagnole was performed. The orchestral overture was played in a taped recording. Then the opera itself was accompanied on piano by Louise Costigan-Kerns, who also accompanied the Poulenc work. Ravel, whose mother was Basque, was greatly influenced by Spain and Spanish music. In this opera, set in Spain, Ravel uses a great many Spanish rhythms reminiscent of flamenco. Thus, stage director Yefim Maizel worked with Flamenco Consultant Stephanie Neira to produce what he called a “Flamencish opera.” Happily, the results were highly entertaining.  

L’Heure Espagnole is set in a watchmaker’s shop in a Spanish town. Torquemada, the watchmaker, has a beautiful wife, Concepcion, who is bored by her husband and this provincial town. At the opera’s beginning, Concepcion hastens to get her husband out of the shop by reminding him he has to rewind the municipal clocks. Her ulterior motive is that she has a rendez-vous with her lover, a young poet named Gonzalve. But a muleteer with a broken watch arrives and is told to wait by Torquemada, who goes off to attend to the town’s clocks. What will Concepcion do to get rid of this muleteer? 

The role of Concepcion was vivaciously sung by Solmaaz Adeli, a mezzo-soprano with a dark tonality that stood her well in this role that calls for her to be now shy, now coy, now again impatient and imperious. Incidentally, the great mezzo-soprano Isobel Leonard memorably sang the role of Concepcion last year in a concert production of L’Heure Espagnole at the San Francisco Symphony.  

In Alameda, tenor Jason Patrick ably sang the role of Torquemada, Concepcion’s watchmaker husband, who is a bit bedazzled and befuddled by his beautiful and conniving wife. Baritone Bradley Kynard sang the role of Ramiro, the muleteer, and Kynard was excellent as the brawny fellow who doesn’t feel comfortable talking with women. Tenor Taylor Rawley was the poet and would-be lover Gonzalve. This poet is forever spouting verses and never gets around to going to bed with Concepcion, much to her annoyance. Another would-be lover arrives, Don Inigo Gomez, a local banker who’s full of himself. Sung by baritone James McGoff, the banker thinks that because he’s rich Concepcion will welcome him to her bed. Instead, she hides both him and the poet in separate grandfather clocks, which she cajoles the brawny muleteer to carry upstairs to her bedroom, then back down again. Incidentally, the grandfather clocks in which hide the would-be but ill-fated lovers also give rise to a fine French pun that rhymes coocoo, as in a coocoo clock, and cocu, the French word for a cuckold.  

As Ramiro, the muleteer, baritone Bradley Kynard deftly portrayed the way this brawny fellow so impresses Concepcion with his strength that she ends up whisking him off to her bedroom for a quickie before her husband returns and while the poet and banker are holed up in grandfather clocks. The opera ends with all five singers joining in the refrain that “in pursuit of love the muleteer gets his turn.” It’s a slight work, admittedly; but L’Heure Espagnole is full of lively Spanish rhythms. In a production limited to a piano score, none of the rich orchestration for which Ravel is famous could be heard. Yefim Maizel compensated for this lack by emphasizing the rhythms that were conducive to flamenco-like dance movements by all the singers.

World Premiere of DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:37:00 PM

Among former General Director David Gockley’s many accomplishments, he will probably be best remembered, not without reason, for the many new operas he commissioned. Though their quality varied, as one might expect, Gockley’s commissions exemplified his bold commitment to opera as a living, vibrant art form that had an important place in our contemporary musical world. Dream of the Red Chamber, by Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, which just received its world premiere at SF Opera, was only the last of Gockley’s commissions as SF Opera’s General Director. But it no doubt will gain a place in the 21st century operatic world.  

Not that Dream of the Red Chamber is without its faults. Indeed, its faults are many and obvious. The plot, pared down from an enormous, sprawling 18th century Chinese novel that is a classic in China, wanders hither and yon, often in desultory fashion, especially in Act I, which runs for an hour and a half, without much happening. Layers of allegorical philosophy, questions of illusion and reality, and Qing dynasty social and political intrigues are all run together in Dream of the Red Chamber by co-librettists David Henry Hwang and Bright Sheng. Moreover, Bright Sheng’s orchestral score is often bombastic, full of overstated brass and pervasive percussion. Yet there are moments of musical expression that stand out as quite beautiful. Foremost among these, to my mind, is a simple song sung here by soprano Pureum Jo as Dai Yu, a song about plum blossoms accompanied only by the ancient Chinese qin, a plucked zither with seven silk strings, which was played here by Shanghai-born Zhao Yi. This lovely song was for me the highlight of the opera. 

As the beautiful but sickly Dai Yu, Pureum Jo, a native of South Korea, was this opera’s most engaging singer. Her pure, crystalline soprano shone brightly throughout the opera. Her character, Dai Yu, is an embodiment of the crimson pearl flower that has received nurturing dew for 3,000 years from a stone left behind from the construction of Heaven. The stone, sung here by tenor Yijie Shi, is embodied in the character Bao Yu, who finds his soul-mate in Dai Yu. The character of Bao Yu is that of a sentimental idealist who is more interested in poetry and beauty than in getting ahead in the world. This puts him at odds with his mother and his aunt, who desperately seek to save the clan’s status in society and rescue the family from an oppressive financial debt that hovers over them like a curse. In the role of Bao Yu, Yijie Shi sang beautifully, though his tenor lacked heroic heft.  

The third point in the love triangle is the female character Bao Chai, beautifully sung here by mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts, who starred as last season’s Carmen. The character Bao Chai is in every way the opposite of Dai Yu. Where Dai Yu is poetic and dreamy, Bao Chai is down-to-earth and practical. But both women are beautiful, and for a while the idealistic Bao Yu is undecided which women he loves. He has an erotic dream that confuses him even more on this issue. This erotic dream, elegantly danced by female dancers in choreography by Fang-Yi Sheu, also contains some of the opera’s finest orchestral music. Incidentally, on the theme of love and lust, it is no doubt significant that on first meeting the ethereal Dai Yu, Bao Yu confesses his feelings for her by imploring “Let me sprinkle my morning dew on your soft petals,” a phrase that Freudians would die for.  

Intervening frequently throughout this opera is a Buddhist monk, who, in a speaking role, tries to tie together the often wayward plot-threads. However, instead of tying things together, he merely breaks any musical and dramatic flow there might have been. Moreover, the speaking voice of Randall Nakano, who plays the Monk, is abrasive in its American accent. He sounds more like a Fuller brush salesman than a Chinese Buddhist monk!  

In the role of Granny Jia, contralto Qiulin Zhang was exquisite. Her character is sympathetic to Bao Yu and she favors his marriage to the poetic Dai Yu. Opposing this marriage is Bao Yu’s mother, Lady Wang, sung forcefully here by mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim. Also opposing Bao Yu’s marriage to Dai Yu is his Aunt Xue, exquisitely sung here by mezzo-soprano Yanyu Guo. These two strong women favor instead a marriage between Bao Yu and Bao Chai, a marriage which will unite two powerful clans and save the Jia family from their crushing financial debt. Even Bao Yu’s sister, Princess Jia, the Emperor’s favorite concubine, sung here by soprano Karen Chia-ling Ho, favors her brother’s marriage to Bao Chai as the only way to save the family’s status in society. But Bao Yu is adamant that he will not marry Bao Chai and intends to marry Dai Yu. The aria sung by Dai Yu that begins Act II, about fallen flower petals, is set to a poem included in the novel of Dream of the Red Chamber and is considered one of the most poignant poems in all of Chinese literature. This aria, which echoes in the opera’s ending, is another of the most beautiful musical moments in this opera.  

Conductor George Manahan did his best with a score that is often bombastic, and director Stan Lai achieved a fluid staging. Production Designer Tim Yip created sets that were colorful and imaginative, mixing dreamlike elements and realistic touches. Gary Marder was in charge of lighting this opera. The Opera Chorus sang well, although their opening number, a patter song, got Dream of the Red Chamber off to a somewhat shaky start, almost belittling the drama we were about to witness. Dream of the Red Chamber is sung in English and supplied with both English supertitles and Chinese side-titles. This opera continues through September 29.  

Movies in the Margin

By Gar Smith
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:40:00 PM

Not every film makes it to the Big Screen. Not every film makes it into a local movie house. It takes a lot of promotional money to secure a spot on a commercial screen. Exhibitors must pay to promote the films with print ads. Without the promise of this publicity, theatre owners will not commit to showing a film. That is why, with hundreds of commercial screens in the Bay Area, the weekly viewing menu is dominated by fewer than 12 Big Studio films.  

(In the Bay Area, the last installment of the Star Wars franchise managed to lay claim to so many screens that the sequel was being projected more than 1,000 times a day. In Berkeley, The Force Awakens was being screened simultaneously at the Landmark Shattuck and the California Theater, whose box offices are located less than 351 feet apart.) 

Here, then, is a sampling of some of the current crop of "small screen" offerings—some of this month's "Movies in the Margin." 

Racing to Zero, local filmmaker Christopher Beaver's 2015 Environmental Film Festival award-winning documentary, was screened at the Roxy Theatre on September 16 and will move on to the New Parkway theater in Oakland for one-night showing on September 24. Racing to Zero chronicles San Francisco's historic attempt to ring in urban waste, I environmental and economic burden that made the front page of the September 18, Sunday San Francisco Chronicle


The Vessel. This tale of mystery and redemption in a small coastal village in Mexico, may be unique in the history of filmmaking. The movie, starring Martin Sheen as a local priest dealing with the aftermath of a fierce storm that washed 46 of the village's children out to sea, was filmed twice: once in Spanish, once in English. Subtitles would have been easier and much cheaper but Julio Quintana, the film's Cuban-American writer and director, opted to produce two mirror images in attempt to "create a sense of universality" in telling this tail of morning and miracles. 

Given the demographics, is not surprising that the film debuted on September 16 at the AMC Van Ness in San Francisco, the Eastridge in San Jose, and at the MAYA cinemas in Salinas, Fresno, and Bakersfield. 


Anna Magnani. On September 24, The Castro Theatre hosts a "Special Homage to a Diva of the Italian Cinema." That can only mean Anna Magnani. The retrospective is part of a grand national tour that began at New York's Lincoln Center in May and will wind up in Toronto in January 2017. Following the grand opening at the Castro, the Magnani filmfest will settle in at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive for ten-day run beginning September 24. 

Four of Magnani's most memorable and Magnanimous forays in film are featured, each in glorious 35mm restorations. The Castro event will included a special guest of honor, Lidia Vitale, the star of Solo Anna, a one-woman show devoted to Magnani. The four films are: 

Roma Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy award for its depiction of the WWII resistance against the Nazi occupation of Rome. Part of a trilogy, Rome Open City featured Magnani in a breakout performance as Pina, the girlfriend of a resistance fighter. This film, called "a watershed moment in Italian cinema" earned Magnani one of her first Best Actress awards. 


Bellissima (Luchino Visconti, 1952) follows Magnani as a working-class mother who pushes her daughter into auditioning at Italy's famed Cinecitta Film studio. This satire was actually filmed in the Cinecitta studio and features self portrayals by a number of famous directors and artists. When Bette Davis saw Magnani's performance, she declared Italian diva one of the greatest actresses she had ever seen. (Mignani was delighted at the news, having previously proclaimed that Bette Davis was, to her mind, the greatest actress of all-time.) 


The Rose Tattoo (Daniel Mann, 1955). Originally a Broadway play written by Tennessee Williams, The Rose Tattoo was brought to the screen in this award-winning production. Magnani, in her first English-speaking role, was teamed with Burt Lancaster. It was Williams himself who insisted on casting the Italian star and subsequently proclaimed her performance as "magnificent." Lancaster emerged from his encounter with Magnani's emotional ferocity and penned this lasting tribute: "If she had not found acting as an outlet for her enormous vitality, she would have become a great criminal." 


The Passionate Thief (Mario Monicelli, 1960) teamed Mangnani with an old friend, the Great Italian comic Toto, and a newcomer from the States—a young actor named Ben Gazzarra. A ditzy combination social satire and petty criminality, the film features Magnani as a blonde-and-bedeviled would-be actress who tries to navigate a wild night of singing, dancing, and larceny with a mismatched pair of nere-do-wells. One reviewer called this film: "fun and frothy . . . It's like a long night of champagne without the handover." 


Snowden: Whistles Are Blowing over Oliver Stone's Newest Film

Review by Gar Smith
Friday September 23, 2016 - 12:49:00 PM

I just saw Oliver Stone's Snowden, a film that Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan characterized as an "unashamed mythologizing of Edward Snowden." NPR's David Edelstein, seeming to begrudge director Stone's history as a "gonzo conspiracy theorist," offered diminished praise, calling the film a "textbook political conversion narrative." Time magazine dismissed Snowden as "lifeless," which, I assume, refers to the fact that the film contains no car chases, fistfights, or bloody shootouts.

No body count? How ho-hum. 


I, on the other hand, found the film, well-crafted, thought-provoking and edgy. As a result, I'm giving the film a good review, to wit: Two thumbdrives up! 



(A note of caution: there are some deaths in Snowden -- real ones, captured by US drones that routinely videotape human targets on the ground in distant countries moments before they are devoured by exploding US-launched Hellfire missiles.) 

Everybody Must Get Stone 

Many critics seem to hold Stone at a distance, fearful of appearing too sympathetic to a filmmaker (and former soldier) who refuses to promote Washington's mythology of America as a benign "global policeman." Edelstein, for instance, complains: "The funny thing about the movie is that it doesn't acknowledge there are terrorists and that the government surveillance equipment could actually be used to protect Americans. We only see agents blackmailing foreign officials to protect the interests of American corporations and using drones to wipe out unlucky families." 

What Edelstein seems to miss here is that is the very acts of blackmailing foreign officials, promoting the profits of American corporations over human rights and civil liberties, and "using drones to wipe out unlucky families" are some of the very acts that continue to feed the growing, global blowback of anti-American "terrorism." 

Clearly, there is more than a film review at stake in the release of this politically charged biopic. It coincides with a growing global campaign to demand that Pres. Obama grant a pardon to one of this century's two greatest whistleblowers (Chelsea Manning being the other). 

It is no coincidence that, the day before the movie debuted, members of the house intelligence committee signed a letter to the president insisting that he not pardon Snowden. The House committee also chose this day to release an unclassified summary of the 36-page investigation of the Snowden controversy. Was he a hero? Was he a traitor? The bipartisan House committee made their conclusion clear, describing Snowden as "a serial exaggerator and fabricator" who "caused tremendous damage to national security." 

(Snowden's defenders continue to point out that, to date, no one has produced any evidence that any provable damage has been caused to "national security" by Snowden's revelations. However, the disclosures that our government was secretly conspiring to deprive American citizens of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights has certainly caused profound embarrassment within national security circles and triggered extreme indignation on the part of most Americans.) 

Big Screen Magic: A Stoner's Delight 

Stone's film is filled with many eye-popping cinematic moments. 

There is an early scene of Snowden as a military recruit, march-jogging with 40 other soldiers across a pasture at daybreak. There is a huge orange sun resting on the horizon as the camera, carried aloft by a drone, captures the platoon of yelling men as the day stomp cross the freezing grasslands and into the woods. 

There are incredibly complex replications of the world inside little-known NASA and CIA complexes. These include "The Tube," a vast underground city with a commons that resembles a sprawling subterranean ice rink installed inside a space large enough to accommodate the Capitol dome. 

There are cinematic facsimiles of cyberattacks that begin as infinitely complex flowing strands of code snaking through a black universe before coalesing into a glowing hemisphere of captured intelligence circling in an ocean of algorithms. The visualization climaxes with a satellite's-eye view of the island empire of Japan all aglow at night until it's suddenly thrown into crippling darkness as the entire country's electricity is unplugged, domino like, from south to north. 

The cinematography is gorgeous, replete with shadows, insinuations, and complex reflections. The filmscape is matched by a soundtrack that crackles ominously with eerie cyber moans and static. These ominous wails are slowly relieved by the emergence of quietly anthemic scores delivered by piano as Snowden wens his way from the purgatory of the surveillance state wonk, towards the redemption of whistleblowers state—defined by fugitive status and life on the run. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is superb as Snowden's doppelganger, matching his voice, his taut, taciturn nature, and his focused intensity. 

Coming as it does in the aftermath of Hollywood's summer blockbusters, it's surprising to realize that Edward Snowden is, in reality, a real-life superhero—an "average" young man endowed with superhuman intelligence and an unflagging moral core. Instead of Thor-like hammer or an oversized Captain America shield, Snowden's weapons consist of his mind, his keyboards and his signature Rubik's cube. 

Stone has rendered a detailed presentation of the veiled world of modern surveillance—the machinery, the deviousness, and the unblinking impunity of the powerful practitioners of political domination, malevolently personified by Corbin O' Brian (Rhys Ifans) as Snowden's mentor, a preening, self-important anti-Yoda. 

Shailene Woodley holds up half of Stone's cinematic world in the role of Snowden's girlfriend, yoga-instructor-cum-poledancer-cum-photographer Lindsay Mills. It is somewhat ironic to watch Lindsay, who appears to carry a camera with her at all times, continuously snapping photos of her boyfriend—an obsession that, ironically, places Snowden under constant surveillance. (Stone easily could have cut the movie's length by several minutes simply by deleting some of the 50 plus black-and-white snapshots that get posted on the big screen whenever Lindsey and Ed go off for a hike in the woods.) 

It comes as a surprise to learn that, in addition to all the other risks and dangers that Snowden needed to deal with as he struggled with his conscience, was the fact that he fell victim to—and still suffers from—a life-threatening disease. There are two scenes in the film—one involving steaming colander of noodles and the other, an illuminated camera-drone that crashes into an outdoor dinner table—that trigger the disease, leaving Snowden writhing on the ground paralyzed by uncontrollable pain. As cinematic moments go, both of these scenes are remarkable. 

To sum it up: See the film (you may feel the need to take notes) and support the petition to Pardon Snowdon. You can sign the White House petition here. 

Full disclosure: I have a professional interest in Edward Snowden's campaign against electronic spying and manipulation. Early in 2014, German television's NDR News released the first televised interview with the fugitive NSA whistleblower. On Feb. 25, 2014, I reposted the interview on my website (Environmentalists Against War). 

In the intro to the posting, I wrote: "This interview was ignored by US media and the video was inexplicably pulled from YouTube, while Vimeo reportedly has come under attack for posting it." 

(YouTube replaced the page with a woodlands scene and a false announcement that: "This video does not exist." YouTube failed to admit it had pulled the video and failed to explain why they had removed it.) 

I closed my online intro to the video interview with a wisecrack: "Watch it here (while you still can)." 

It turned out the joke was on me. The next day, I was shocked to discover the video had been stripped from our website. In it's place someone had left a message that looked like a cryptic warning. It read: 

"Make sure you have all arguments set!" 

Interestingly, the "embed code" for the video was still intact and untouched in the web-page set-up files and the print transcript of the interview was left untouched and can still be read here. 

The "nonexistent" video interview has since been reposted online and can be seen at "http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f93_1390833151" and below.