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Flash: Decision goes against Berkeley's Harold Way petitioners

Thursday October 20, 2016 - 12:28:00 PM

Kelly Hammargren, one of the petitioners (with James Hendry) who tried to stop the project approved by the Berkeley City Council for 2211 Harold Way, has informed the Planet that she's received word that their petition has been denied by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch. His opinion is posted here.

The project will result in the demolition of the building which now houses the Landmark Cinemas and the Habitot children's center. Developers have promised that both will be replaced in kind. Enforcement of these promises will be the purview of the Berkeley City Council, membership of which will change after the November election.

Learn about the Save Holy Hill Movement (Public Comment)

Lisa Lum
Wednesday October 19, 2016 - 01:10:00 PM

We, the neighborhood surrounding Holy Hill,
have formed an opposition movement
to the proposed Mather LifeWays development.
We have committed ourselves to preserving
the spirit of Holy Hill and have committed
ourselves to making sure that Holy Hill
remains a beautiful and special place that
the people of Berkeley can be proud of —
for us now and for generations to come.
We know that the Pacific School of Religion
will sell their property to a party who wishes
to develop it. But we are determined
to be a part of that process.
The PSR campus is a unique, historic place
where people have come for the last
90 years to enjoy tranquility and natural beauty;
to meet friends, watch their children play,
and to spend peaceful time alone.
Times and needs change, but the need
to keep the unique charm and beauty
that is Berkeley is timeless.
Please check out our Quick Links Page
which will link you to:
*The City of Berkeley webpage for the Mather LifeWays application
*A video fly through of a 3D model of the proposed structure in Google Earth
*The Save Holy Hill Facebook page
*The Save Holy Hill GoFundMe page
*Letter from Neighbors to Carol Johnson, Director of Planning, Berkeley
*Article by Frances Dinkelspiel
*Op-Ed by Daniella Thompson
*Article by Fred Dodsworth
Please contact me
at any time if you should like
further information.
Lisa Lum

Tent City on Adeline in Berkeley

Marcia Poole
Tuesday October 18, 2016 - 10:47:00 AM

[Editor's Note: as this is being posted we have received word by email that residents of the tent city are being evicted by City of Berkeley employees. From a correspondent: "Just got word from a phone call from the camp that police have showed up with wrist-ties and are threatening arrests.Any and all support is requested at the site!! (Adeline & Stuart)." Later report from Nanci Armstrong-Temple: "Encampment has been moved across the street for now. No arrests." More information will be added as we get it.]

A tent city for the homeless has been established on the median in the middle of Adeline Street between Ward and Stuart streets. It is drug-free and alcohol-free.

If people wish to help, the organizers of the tent city have asked people to have blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing and tents set aside in their houses so that when the call comes for these supplies, they can receive them readily. People could use me as their contact to the tent city organizers. They do not have accommodations to store the extra supplies - that is why they have asked people to store them in a corner in their own homes.

It would also be kind if people could bring over food and water to help the people who are living there. Just go to their camp and give them your support and food. 

Their campground is very clean and they constantly monitor the area so that no one disrespects the property or the people. Folks, it is the 1930s again and we have to help one another.

New: Two sexual assaults reported at off-campus fraternities in Berkeley

Bay City News
Tuesday October 18, 2016 - 10:53:00 AM

Police are investigating two alleged sexual assaults at off-campus fraternities affiliated with University of California at Berkeley that reportedly occurred Friday night and Saturday morning.  

Friday night, a female student was assaulted while attending a social event at an off-campus fraternity. She reported the unwanted sexual contact the following morning, according to police. 

Saturday morning another sexual assault was reported at a social event at an off-campus fraternity. The victim, another female student, was assaulted by an acquaintance, police said. 

Both cases are being investigated by the Berkeley Police Department, according to campus police. 

Police did not disclose whether the two assaults were connected, or if they occurred at the same fraternity.

Berkeley Police Union spends $17,951.58 to support Stephen Murphy, along with outside contributions

Rob Wrenn
Saturday October 15, 2016 - 01:02:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Association has spent $17,951.58 for mailers in support of District 5 City Council Candidate Stephen Murphy.

Most of the money in the PAC comes from police officers, but there are three contributors listed in the Form 496, Independent Expenditure Report, who aren’t cops:

  • Patrick Kennedy, San Franciso, Housing Developer, Panoramic Interests, $1,000
  • Ali Kashani, Investor, Memar Properties, Inc., $500
  • Michael Alvarez-Cohen, Technology Transfer manager, University of California, $100

The City of Berkeley limits campaign contributions to candidates for local office to $250. But this doesn’t apply to independent expenditures. So the police PAC gives developers like Kennedy and Kashani and U.C.B. executives like Alvarez-Cohen a way to spend more than $250 for Murphy. 

To put these expenditures in perspective, there are four mayoral candidates and five City Council candidates who have not even raised $17k, let along spent it on mailers. 

Sell also: 

Out of town real estate interests spend thousands to support Capitelli, Wengraf, Moore and Murphy Rob Wrenn 10-14-2016 

How much do we pay our police in Berkeley?

Sunday October 16, 2016 - 04:40:00 PM

In case you ever wondered about how much the city of Berkeley pays our police force, you might want to take a look at this report on the transparentcalifornia.com website. 

Press Release: Advisory: Police Urge North End Residents to Raise Awareness Following Robbery Series

Berkeley Police Department
Thursday October 13, 2016 - 04:03:00 PM

[Editor's Note: We usually publish these notices, distributed using the Nixle program to anyone who signs up to get them. But this time we want to call your attention to the Berkeley Police Department's lack of awareness of problems with using only race as a descriptor. When race is the sole identifying characteristic, many others of the same race are subjected to racial profiling, both by officers and by citizens. The NextDoor people have take steps to prevent this, to their credit, and BPD should do the same. And by the way, I've never heard it called North End-- it's Northside.] 

The Police Department is encouraging North End campus residents to pay close attention to their surroundings following six pedestrian robberies (5 cases handled by BPD and 1 handled by UCPD) that occurred between 10/8/16 and 10/12/16. Based on the descriptions of the suspects, the close geographic proximity of the crime scenes, and the victims’ demographics, Detectives believe that the cases are related. The following are a recap of those cases: 

1. On 10/8/16 at approximatley 11:30pm, the victim was sitting at the bus stop outside Cory Hall on Hearst Avenue. The victim was using his laptop when someone sat down next to him. After a few moments the suspect stood up, displayed a gun and demanded the victim's property. After the victim complied the suspect fled across the street and got into the front passenger seat of a waiting sedan which fled northbound on LeRoy Avenue. 

2. On 10/9/16 at around 10:30pm, the victim was walking westbound on LeConte Avenue toward his residence on the 2500 block when a black male [height? weight? clothing? complexion? hairdo? facial hair? ]suspect came out of the shadows and at gunpoint, demanded the victim’s property. After the victim gave the suspect his backpack he ran westbound on Le Conte Avenue and the suspect ran eastbound out of the victim’s view. 

3.On 10/9/16 at approximately 10:44pm, the victim was walking northbound on LeRoy Avenue towards Le Conte Avenue. When he reached mid-block he heard someone running southbound on LeRoy from LeConte Avenue just ahead of him. The victim said saw he saw a pistol in the suspect's hand as he approached. The suspect demanded the victim’s backpack. Once in his possession the suspect fled southbound on LeRoy Avenue. 

4.On 10/12/16 at about 1:00am the victim was walking eastbound on Ridge Road when a tan complected male suspect approached, pulled out a gun and told me to give him the backpack. The victim gave it to him and the suspect ran westbound on Ridge Road. 

5.On 10/12/16 at 8:10pm the victim was walking on the 1900 block of Virginia Street when he saw someone emerge from a parked car as he passed it. As he neared the entrance to his residence the suspect pulled out a gun and demanded the victim’s backpack. The victim complied and the suspect fled in an unknown direction. 

6.Contact UCPD for specifics on their case (#16-2467). 

Community members are encouraged to follow these safety tips when walking at night: 

Pay attention to your surroundings Travel in large groups whenever possible Consider putting your smart phone in a pocket while in transit Attempt to travel in well lighted, highly populated areas whenever possible 

If you have any information regarding these cases, please contact the BPD Robbery Detail via Dispatch at (510)981-5742. For crimes in progress, call 9-1-1 or (510) 981-5911 from your cell phone. 

For full details, view this message on the web

It's not about the politics of the '70s, it's about the future of Berkeley

Shirley Dean
Friday October 14, 2016 - 12:17:00 PM

I'm pretty much known as a political middle-of-the-roader, so it didn't really surprise me when people began asking me Why have I gone to the 'other side' in supporting Jesse Arreguin for Mayor instead of Laurie Capitelli and am co-hosting with Former Mayor Gus Newport, a fund raiser for Jesse Arreguin featuring Danny Glover this Saturday, October 15th? Here's my answer.  

The old days of "moderates" vs "radicals" (or whatever terms you want to use) are over. That page has been turned and it's a new day and now it's all about the future of Berkeley. Since I left the Mayor's Office in December 2002, I have attended or observed on Chanel 33 almost every Council Meeting. No one watching these hundreds of meetings, could possibly have missed the lock-step march of six Council Members approving rampant development. This is the issue that is shaping the character of our community by determining who can live here, where and how.  

November's the fork in the road when we decide whether to continue constructing faceless buildings up and out until there is no community left, or grow in a way that values and preserves diverse, pleasant and safe neighborhoods. Recognizing that strong neighborhoods are historically the foundation for every great city, definitely does not mean we turn our backs on needed growth.  

There is no denying we have a need for more housing as well as revenue to help us out of the economic hole that's been growing over the last decade. Solutions aren't easy. However, there is absolutely no need to destroy the community that attracted us to living here in the first place. But given that Berkeley is only about eight square miles and is already the most dense community in the East Bay, it is essential that we approach development in a thoughtful, managed way. 

That is not what Mr. Capitelli has been doing, and it will certainly not happen should he be Mayor. Please note, I have many concerns based on Mr. Capitelli's record, particularly regarding his false claim about establishing a $15/hour minimum wage in Berkeley after opposing Arreguin's 3-year effort to get that done. But that's another story, and this article is about the Capitelli record on development, so here's a tiny piece of that record to consider: 

  • Affordable Housing: Capitelli fought for years to keep the Housing Impact Fee at $20,000 per unit when City-hired independent economic consultants said the amount should be as high as $34,000 per unit. Arreguin has steadily worked to set that number between $28,000 and $30,000.
  • UC-Berkeley: Even though the Council promised it would notify the public, Capitelli participated in a secret back room deal in which the City approved the UC Berkeley 2020 Long Range Development Plan and agreed that the University would only have to pay 10 cents on the dollar for its impact on City infrastructure and public safety services. The result: today, the University has greatly exceeded the Plan's capped enrollment and it has not built the over 3,000 housing units agreed upon. Students are homeless or quadrupling up in outrageously expensive apartments and Cal is enrolling1,000 more students in each of the next five years. Arreguin opposed the back room deal and wanted to re-negotiate it with the campus.
  • Landmarks: Capitelli co-authored legislation to weaken our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance which was overturned by citizen referendum. Arreguin was not on the Council at that time, but since has supported efforts to protect our designated landmarks.
  • Ignoring neighborhoods: Capitelli consistently demeans community members from the Council dias. He has called them "liars" when they presented professional drawings pointing out negative impacts on Aquatic Park from potential high-rise buildings in West Berkeley and intimidated persons who pointed out that City approvals are driving people out of their homes when 90% of the units in new development is affordable only to households with annual incomes over $120,000. He has ignored testimony regarding impacts from high rise developments on the backyards of adjacent low density residential neighborhoods from loss of sunlight or from roof tops that host evening parties lasting late into the night, or parking on neighborhood streets by new residents that aren't supposed to have cars, but somehow do. He has brushed aside efforts by neighbors when they hired architects to present alternate plans that would provide the developer with the same number of units while addressing the concerns of an adjacent low density neighborhood. On the other hand, Arreguin has consistently listened to neighborhoods and worked to find solutions to their concerns.

So what is the future for development in the commercial transportation corridors along Solano Avenue, the Elmwood, North Shattuck, Sacramento Street, Alcatraz-Adeline, and the north Berkeley BART Station? We have already seen that new development in these areas automatically exceeds Zoning Code height limits. And, what will the result be of an increasing population packed in and along the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Hazard Zone when the "Big One" finally arrives?  

Lastly, I credit The East Bay Times with the following statement regarding whom they considered for endorsement: 

Capitelli’s declaration that the city shouldn’t aim to fully pay off its retirement debt and his past ethical transgressions eliminated him from our list. 

I agree, and because Jesse Arreguin can bring people like Gus and me together is why I am supporting him for Mayor in this election. 

Shirley Dean served on the Planning Commission, as an elected Council Member for 15 years and for eight years as Mayor.

Updated: Measures U1 and DD
What’s the difference?

Rob Wrenn
Friday October 14, 2016 - 10:23:00 AM

Measure U1 and Measure DD would both raise the business license tax on landlords in Berkeley to generate funds for affordable housing. Measure U1 would raise the tax from its current 1.08% to 2.88%; and Measure DD would raise it from 1.08% to 1.5%.

How did they get on the ballot?

Measure U1 was proposed by affordable housing and homeless services advocates and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council.

Measure DD was placed on the ballot by an initiative petition. Paid signature gatherers hired by a sponsored organization of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, collected the required signatures. Over $65,000 was spent in the process.

How much money would they raise for affordable housing

Measure U1 would raise between $3 million a year (landlord economic consultant estimate) and 3.5 million a year (Finance Department estimate) to start, though former Housing Director Stephen Barton, PhD, estimates it will reach $4 million within two years. The amount raised would increase as rents increase, and would also increase each year as rents from buildings that become more than 12 years old become taxable.

Measure DD would raise $1.4 million a year and would increase only as rents increase. 

Would landlords be able to afford the increase? 

This year landlords are collecting $82 million more this year in rent than they did five years ago. The tax increase from U1 would take about $3.5 to $4 million of this; from DD, $1.4 million. Between 2011 and 2015, the median rent for a new tenancy in a two-bedroom rent controlled apartment rose by 53%. 

Are small landlords exempted? 

Measure U1 applies the increase in the tax only to landlords with five or more units 

Measure DD does not include an exemption for landlords with fewer than five units 

What other exemptions are there? 

Measure U1 exempts the following other categories from the increase in the tax: 

-nonprofit affordable housing rentals and rentals with income qualified tenants paying controlled below market rents 

-units occupied by tenants receiving rental assistance (Section 8, etc.) 

-rent controlled units occupied by a tenant who resided in the unit prior to 1999. Amounting to fewer than 15% of units, these units have rents well below market since the landlord has never had the opportunity to raise them to market when they become vacant. The idea is to apply the increase to those landlords who have been in a position to take advantage of the huge increase in market rents. 

-new rentals for the first 12 years they are rented. The purpose is to avoid discouraging construction of new housing and takes into account that developers of new units pay higher property taxes under Prop 13 than owners of older buildings, and must pay affordable housing fees or provide affordable inclusionary units when they build. 

Measure DD mandates no exemptions. The tax increase would thus add to the costs of landlords accepting Section 8 and that of nonprofits providing affordable housing. New housing could be discouraged. 

Who would recommend how the new tax money gets spent? 

Measure U1 designates the existing Housing Advisory Commission, which already advises the Council on housing matters, housing programs and Housing Trust Fund allocations. 

Measure DD would create a new Citizens Advisory and Oversight Panel on Safe Affordable Housing, which the Finance Department estimates would cost $150,000 to start up and staff in the first year. 

Does the new revenue from the tax increase have to be spent on affordable housing? 

No, because both U1 and DD require only a majority vote to pass. A measure to tie the City Council’s hands absolutely by specifying that the money must be used for affordable housing would require a two thirds vote to pass. Proponents of Measure U1 were aware that the BPOA planned to raise a lot of money, which they have done, to oppose this tax increase. They opted for a tax increase that required only 50% to pass. (Proponents of the soda tax measure in 2014 faced the same dilemma and opted for a 50% tax; the revenues from that tax have, to date, been spent as the measure intended.) The City Council, under both measures, may decide to ignore recommendations and the purpose of the measure, and could make other use of the money. Supporters of affordable housing will certainly keep an eye on the Council and hold them accountable if they fail to use the funds for their intended purpose. 

Could the tax increase be passed on to tenants? 

Landlords would not be able to pass on the increase to sitting tenants in the city’s 19,000 rent-controlled units. This would be true regardless of which measure passes. Tenants in the small percentage of rentals that are exempt from rent control are generally already paying what the market will bear and, if their rents fall short of market rate, their landlords could raise rents even without an increase in the tax. 

How much money have the campaigns spent? 

As of September 24, Measure U1 supporters had spent $1,163 and had an ending cash balance of $42,483. Contributions came from non-profit affordable housing developers, former City housing director Stephen Barton, and various individuals. 

As of September 24, a committee supporting Measure DD had spent $497,000, most of it on attacks on Measure U1, and had an ending cash balance of $22,712 Contributions came almost exclusively from landlords and people who identified themselves as “real estate investors”. This doesn’t include an additional $290,274 from many of the same contributors spent through June 30 by another BPOA sponsored committee, the “Rental Housing, Coalition, Yes on 10” that paid for polling, consulting and petition circulating. 

Who’s supporting which measure? 

Measure U1 is endorsed by everyone on the Berkeley City Council along with other elected officials; by the Alameda County Democratic Party and Democratic clubs in the area; by the League Women Voters; by environmental groups like the Sierra Club, and the Green Party; by affordable housing developers, and by providers of services to the homeless like the Berkeley Food and Housing Project; by the Berkeley Tenants Union; and by the ASUC and student groups. For a full list of supporters: http://www.fundaffordablehousing.org/?page_id=1124 

Measure DD is supported by some landlords who are part of the Berkeley Property Owners Association. To date, no elected officials, Democratic Clubs or political organizations appear to have endorsed Measure DD. No endorsements have been listed on the several mailers that the group has produced to date. 

What happens if these measures fail? 

Currently the main source of new affordable housing is the requirement that developers pay affordable housing fees or provide affordable inclusionary units. This source is cyclical and can be expected to dry up whenever the housing market slumps. A recent city report noted that the city’s Housing Trust Fund, whose funds are used to leverage additional federal or state funds to create affordable housing, has only a bit more than $3 million, some of it spoken for. Yet affordable housing developers have said they would need a local contribution totaling as much as $36 million to create the affordable units they would like to create in the next few years.

Out of town real estate interests spend thousands to support Capitelli, Wengraf, Moore and Murphy

Rob Wrenn
Friday October 14, 2016 - 10:18:00 AM

The National Association of Realtors Fund, based in Chicago, has so far spent the following on mailers and online ads:

Laurie Capitelli for Mayor: $60,381.64

Darryl Moore for District 2 City Council: $9,011.76

Stephen Murphy for District 5 City Council: $13,018.26

Susan Wengraf for District 6 City Council: $10,074.13

These independent expenditures are reported on the City’s Web site, here:

Why is this special interest group spending money on candidates in a local Berkeley election? 

Independent expenditures by special interest groups are nothing new in Berkeley elections. In 2014, the Berkeley Police Association PAC spent over $9000 in the District 7 Council race in an unsuccessful attempt to oust Kriss Worthington. 

In 2012, the East Bay Rental Housing Association spent big in an effort to elect a pro-landlord slate of Rent Board candidates. PACs connected to the Chamber of Commerce, SEIU Local 1021 and the Berkeley Firefighters union have also made independent expenditures in past elections. 

Independent expenditures are not supposed to be coordinated with the campaigns of the candidates they support. If you contribute to a candidate for local office in Berkeley, the maximum contribution is $250. There are no limits on independent expenditures by PACs, whether locally based or not.

Updated: Who not to vote for, and what to do instead

Christina Tuccillo
Friday October 14, 2016 - 12:59:00 PM

Just like on the national level, the Berkeley election this year represents a watershed. Many seats are up for grabs, so there is the opportunity to make a real difference. Sometimes we can enthusiastically vote "for" someone, and unfortunately sometimes we have to be sure to vote "against" someone.

This year there seem to be two people to vote "against" in Berkeley for reasons having to do with ethics and character, as well as people to vote "for." 

1. the Trump of Berkeley -- District 5, beware

One to vote against is Stephen Murphy, running for City Council, in District 5. As a lawyer, he was involved in a legal case that went on for years; he ended up getting censured in 2012 for his actions and fined $8500, which apparently is a huge amount for this kind of issue. The family involved (they live in his district) created a website to tell their story, and you can read all the details here:

and here -- another lawyer from Berkeley wrote an article about it because he was so outraged by the situation. It's called A Trump of Our Own:

The Court of Appeals judges said this about Murphy (this text as laid out this way is from Nicolaus' article but I also saw it in the actual legal text): 

“What is especially disturbing to us is Murphy’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge his breach of his duty to provide us with a document bearing on our jurisdiction and to express any remorse for that breach.” 

“Murphy aggressively and with remarkable temerity threatened [opposing counsel] with sanctions.” 

Murphy’s “response to us ‘was both truculent and dismissive.'” 

Murphy “repeated his personal attacks” on opposing counsel. 

Murphy “demonstrated no recognition whatsoever of the gravity of his misconduct.” 

Murphy “met our concerns with nothing but petulance and disregard.”  

Murphy displayed “steadfast refusal to recognize his conduct as blameworthy.”  

Murphy’s conduct displayed “‘dishonesty and lack of remorse.'” 

Sound familiar? Sophie Hahn, running against him, is well worth voting for. 

2. Berkeley's biggest liar?

And then there's Laurie Capitelli, who is running for mayor (and endorsed Stephen Murphy). He is taking credit for achievements he has actively tried to block, derail, or diminish, such as raising the minimum wage and getting affordable housing built and getting significant community benefits from developers. He even showed up at a meeting and said "I renege" after he agreed to a minimum wage agreement that had been hammered out.

It's fine if you don't agree with those goals -- just don't take credit for them when others make them happen. People I know who have been deeply involved in these issues are very unhappy that he is taking credit for them, such as on his political mailers. I hear he is also frequently disrespectful to people at City Council meetings. (Yes, he was endorsed by Robert Reich, but when I bumped into Reich a year ago at CVS and tried to talk to him about Berkeley issues, he basically said, "Unfortunately I don't pay much attention to local politics."

In addition to that, Capitelli apparently profited from the sale of a house to the Berkeley police chief after the City Council agreed to lend the police chief $500,000 to buy a house, which is all the more infuriating when he is siding with developers in the city rather than fighting for more affordable housing. If you'd like to read the original article in full about Capitelli's ethically questionable behavior regarding the police chief's home:


He denied that he was paid a realtor's fee, but said he was paid a consultant's fee, still profiting from the sale of this house:

I have a long list of other dishonest behavior from folks who saw it firsthand, if you're interested. 

3. Who did Bernie Sanders and Dolores Huerta endorse?

If you want a Berkeley that is progressive in its behavior and not just in its words and where politicians keep their word, I recommend voting for Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington in ranked-choice voting. Arreguin was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Dolores Huerta. (Do not write Capitelli in because, even as the third choice, that could benefit him in the election.) 

4. which group is pouring money into this election?

Here is some information on big money pouring into this election -- and it's this kind of outside money that makes it even more important that our elected officials are of high integrity: 

National Association of Realtors Fund - totals thru Oct 13, 2016,
  • Laurie Capitelli $60,382,
  • Stephen Murphy $13,018,
  • Susan Wengraf $10,074
  • Darryl Moore $9,012

5. A petition for South Berkeley

If you'd like to sign a petition aimed toward mitigating against gentrification in South Berkeley and making sure there are significant community benefits for another proposed development there, here's the link:


If you made it this far, thanks for listening! May the year to come bring greater sanity, good will, and compassion in our elected officials

Cheryl Davila for Berkeley City Council District 2

Dorothy P. Wonder
Friday October 14, 2016 - 12:21:00 PM

In my Berkeley District 2, there is a candidate for City Council I am enthusiastic about. I first became aware of Cheryl Davila because of her human rights record. Human rights are universal. One cannot be truly committed to human rights here in Berkeley and not be concerned when our actions and decisions may be part of how other people are denied human rights. 

I attended one of Cheryl Davila’s neighborhood events to meet her in person and was impressed. Cheryl has thought about the issues facing Berkeley and has good ideas for sensible solutions. Still she is open, respectful, and solicitous of others’ ideas. She has lived in District 2 for 35 years and her children attended Berkeley public schools. Cheryl was active with the school PTA and served for seven years on the city Human Welfare Commission. 

She has ideas to beautify the city by focusing on public art and preserving open space and reducing pollution. She recognizes the importance of community policing to keep the city and the community safe but opposes the militarization of the police. Keeping our communities intact is a top priority. Cheryl will help initiate neighborhood assemblies to give the citizens of Berkeley a voice in council decisions. Cheryl supports development as long as it does not result in displacement and drive young people and small businesses out of the city.  

Cheryl is a breath of fresh air. I encourage every voter to get to know Cheryl Davila in person and to become familiar with her platform (www.CherylDavila.vote). And I urge those in District 2 to vote for Cheryl Davila to represent us on the Berkeley City Council. 


Your Vote Matters in Berkeley’s Election

Pedro Hernandez Deputy Director, FairVote California
Friday October 14, 2016 - 11:47:00 AM

How Ranked Choice Voting Works - and Why It Matters

Berkeley is one of four Bay Area cities that will use ranked choice voting to elect its officials this November 8. This means Berkeley voters will have the freedom to rank their favorite candidates in order of preference and elect a new mayor and council in one efficient trip to the polls.

The way ranked choice voting works is as easy as 1-2-3: Voters rank the candidates using the three columns on the ballot to indicate their first choice candidate, second choice candidate, and third choice candidate. In elections with many choices -- like Berkeley’s election for mayor -- it’s wise to use all three of your rankings. Let me explain.  

On Election Day, all first choices are counted. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices they win just like in any other election. However, if no candidate has a majority, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and voters who supported that candidate have their ballot instantly go to their next choice. This cycle repeats until there is a majority winner. This way, a candidate is elected under majority rule, when most voters will be casting a ballot in November. That makes winner more broadly representative. 

Ranked choice voting is similar to runoff systems like the one Berkeley used to have. In a typical runoff, voters had to go back to the polls and choose among the top two candidates if no candidate wins a majority of the first round vote. Ranked choice voting is sometimes called an “instant runoff” because it’s achieving that objective in one election, not two. That keeps turnout higher, reduces the cost and time it takes to run, and saves money on elections. 

Berkeley’s election system is also fairer than many California cities that vote with a plurality voting system in which a candidate who polls more votes than any other candidate (a “plurality”) is elected. One could easily imagine a situation where a candidate wins with very little support, even though a majority of voters preferred other candidates. This is known as “vote splitting”. 

In a recent New York Times piece supporting ranked choice voting at a state and national level, former Vermont governor Howard Dean noted the underlying importance of the effect of ranked choice voting, “The fundamental issue is majority rule. Without a majority standard, you can’t hold the powerful accountable.” 

Ranked Choice Voting Will Determine Berkeley’s Next Mayor 

Tom Bates, who has served as the Mayor of Berkeley since 2002, leaves an open seat in what has become a highly contested race. There are eight candidates for mayor: three city councilmembers (Jesse Arreguin, Laurie Capitelli, and Kriss Worthington) and five additional candidates, (Ben Gould, Guy “Mike” Lee, Naomi D. Pete, Zachary Runningwolf, and Bernt Rainer Wahl. Arreguin and Capitelli have raised significantly more money than other candidates. 

With so many candidates running, Berkeley voters should anticipate that no candidate will win a first round majority, which means that the backup choices of voters who support trailing candidates will help determine who wins the instant runoff. The reason is simple: eight candidates means voters may be split eight different ways. The candidate with the lead in first choices usually wins the instant runoff. However, there is no guarantee of that happening -- just like traditional runoff elections aren’t always won by the candidate who leads after the first round. 

An example that some readers might be aware of is when Oakland elected Jean Quan as Mayor in 2010. Former Senate Majority Leader Don Perata led 33% to 24% in first choices, but lost 51% to 49% in the final ranked choice voting. Essentially, Quan was much more likely to be ranked second or third by backers of the mayoral candidates who were eliminated during the ranked choice voting count. When the field was reduced to two, Quan defeated Perata head to head. She would have also won a runoff if voters had kept their same preferences. 

So there wasn’t any “trick” to Quan winning. She simply did a better job at connecting with more voters, and ultimately became the majority winner. The lesson for candidates is that you need to reach out to as many voters as you can in the goal to become the candidate who can win a majority in that final instant runoff. Berkeley’s mayoral candidates know what they need to do to win -- now they just need to make their case to voters. And voters need to be aware that ranking candidates gives them more power -- if your first choice loses, your second or third choice can still determine who wins. 

Berkeley City Council Races and Lessons for Candidates 

In the Berkeley city council races, ranked choice voting will also come into play for three candidates in District 2 (Cheryl Davila, Nanci Ira Armstrong-Temple, and incumbent Darryl Moore), four candidates for an open seat in District 3 (Ben Bartlett, Deborah Matthews, Mark A. Coplan, Al Murray), and three candidates in District 6 (Fred Dodsworth, Isabelle Gaston, and incumbent Susan Wengraf). 

Under ranked choice voting, door-to-door face-to-face interaction and coalition building will matter more than money in politics. Since candidates must have the support of more voters to win, they must engage with a broader voter base instead of relying on their sole constituencies. Candidates need to seek out second choice rankings from voters whose first choice may be somebody else. What you should expect to see are campaigns that are more focused on issues and values in a ranked choice voting election.

There is no need for “bullet voting,” a tactic where a voter will only cast one vote on a ranked choice ballot. Some campaigns mistakenly believe that if their supporters rank other candidates second or third, this would somehow dilute the strength of that voter’s first preference or hurt the chances of that candidate getting elected. But this is not the case. Under ranked choice, if a voter has ranked a candidate first, that ballot will only count as a vote for that candidate and provide no benefit to other candidates so long as that candidate is still in the running. A voter’s second or third choice candidate is considered only once their preferred candidate is eliminated. 

Further, if a voter indicates the same candidate as a first, second, and third choice, it is the same as if they left the second and third choice columns blank. This means that their vote will only be counted once. And if that first choice loses during the count, the voter won’t be a part of the final instant runoff between the top two candidates 

Ranked Choice Voting Beyond Berkeley
Four cities in the Bay Area -- Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and San Leandro -- have enjoyed ranked choice voting for several election cycles, and evidence from rigorous studies show it is working well and is popular. Other cities in Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota are also using RCV.

Now ranked choice voting may go statewide. In November, voters in Maine will decide whether to adopt Question 5, which would give voters the power to rank candidates running for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, and Maine state legislature beginning in 2018. The Bay Area has been leading the way with ranked choice voting and Maine represents another potential historic win for voters -- one that in turn may lead to California thinking of ways to improve its elections with ranked choice voting for state and congressional elections.

Berkeley voters should take advantage of the greater choice that will be provided this November 8 by ranking a first, second, and third choice. Doing so will ensure their vote is counted for a true win for the community.

Election Back Stories

Friday October 14, 2016 - 10:35:00 AM

Here are previous Planet articles about the November election:

Election endorsements in the works 10-07-2016

Berkeley Daily Planet Endorsements for the Berkeley City Races Becky O'Malley 10-08-2016

Berkeley Democratic Caucus endorses Jesse Arreguin for Mayor Elisa Cooper 10-08-2016

Endorsements for state ballot measures Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian 10-08-2016

Measures and Propositions: Progressive endorsers Margot Smith 10-07-2016

East Bay state Senate District 9: Sandré Swanson Becky O'Malley 10-08-2016

What's beyond Reich's endorsement? (Public Comment) Joanna Graham 10-07-2016

New: About Robert Reich: Things Are Seldom What They Seem!!! Harry Brill 10-08-2016


The Editor's Back Fence

Don't Miss This

Tuesday October 18, 2016 - 10:32:00 AM

Op-ed: Why is the Berkeley City Council so right-wing?

By Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson is a resident of Berkeley and a professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley. This article appears on berkeleyside.com.

You would think in a left-leaning city like Berkeley – a bastion of free speech and the home of one of the soda tax – that the City Council would be a pretty liberal group. So, it came as a surprise to me to learn that this liberal town has a right-wing City Council.

We’re used to thinking of right-wing politics in terms of social issues – anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, pro-gun, pro-fossil fuels, etc. But this misses the point. The right wing is the business party. In right-wing politics, big business seeks to influence government decisions by backing candidates who will tilt the regulatory and taxation playing field their way. Some of our local council members are pretty clear about this. For example, Susan Wengraf (District 6) said, in effect, at a candidates’ forum that “what’s good for business is good for Berkeley.” A more effective approach, taken by Laurie Capitelli, is to find a wedge issue to distract ordinary voters from the favors that are being granted to big campaign contributors.This year in the presidential race the wedge issue is immigration. In past years it has been gay rights or abortion. The fact that a new wedge issue can be swapped in for an old one, tells you that these issues aren’t the main show. What really counts for the big contributors is whether the levers of government can be used to increase profits.

See more on Berkeleyside.com

And here's another good one:

Op-ed: Laurie Capitelli? Progressive leadership? By Nicky Gonzalez Yuen

Same old same old

Becky O'Malley
Friday October 14, 2016 - 04:45:00 PM

This Friday, for now at least, I'm just going to leave up what I posted last week, because the information is still current. Our citizen commenters this week have done a great job of highlighting key issues in the local elections, and I don't have much to add at the moment. Frankly, I'm suffering from election exhaustion, and I suspect many readers are too. If I recover (it's only mental, not physical) I'll let you know. Meanwhile, see above for what you need to know to get your oar in the water.

Public Comment

New: Write in Norma J F Harrison for Berkeley School Board Director

Norma Harrison
Monday October 17, 2016 - 10:20:00 AM

I have studied ‘education’ for 70 years. I’ve seen over and over the futility of the constant, always unsuccessful reform efforts. We’re still left with school. The reforms do not, cannot! begin to rectify the inadequacy that school is, the role it plays in our singly-minded society directed at continuing our Owners’ profiteering by our labor. 

The problem is school itself. 

I tell people ‘we hate school’; we the faculty, staff, parents, communities … and students. Most people wholeheartedly agree. Some guarantee ‘I loved it’! I guarantee they – as do we all – experience selective amnesia, forgetting the treacheries, unceasing, which they set aside in order to get on with life as permitted. As with jobs, we all accustom ourselves more or less, to our day to day life. We have to accept what’s permitted in order to survive, however wearing or boring or limiting the assignment is. The few of us who’re fortunate enough to have jobs we like, that make sense, are subject to numerous undesirable conditions likely including having to spend too much time there. 

School is to repair us. Its approach is that we’re insufficient, in error; it’s supposed to remediate that. That’s the opposite of ‘educe’, the root of ‘education’. ‘Educe’ means that who comes has content, thinks creatively – as we all do, from the time we’re born. Instead we’re approached as though we need to be taught to think creatively. The attitude instead is that if the student doesn’t agree with the content, they’re not creatively thinking. 

The fact is, we’re all geniuses. Genius is not a genetic factor, hovering parents trying to be sure their child gets a good job, to the contrary.  

We’re all artists. 

We’re all teachers and students all our lives. 

Alienation is defined by our not being permitted to engage our tastes and tendencies. These are stifled by the insistence that we fill classrooms and school desks and offices, instead; that we must be diploma-ed, degree-ed, in order to get some prestige that allows us – maybe! – to get some good position, which is not like changing the street lights’ light bulbs (an esSENtial task! relegated to lesser status!). 

People have long known that a four-hour work week overproduces what we need and like, if the full labor force, that’s everyone, all of us, regardless of age, is permitted to participate in production. Participation in production is what orients us into our communities and into understanding our place in life. It includes feeling around for what to do – together – or alone. It imbues us with self-respect. 

Instead we have to accept what’s permitted in order to survive, including that our Owners bomb us – near and far; including that we resist, yet end up fitting ourselves into the imperium. 

The artificiality of school lessons, classes, is felt as insults by all concerned: students, teachers, and their families and communities, by forcing age-segregated routinization formations in place of self-respecting participation in society. Common Core notwithstanding (same ol’), the classroom presupposes students’ interests, and their abilities. Teachers are to tell themselves as well as the subjects, students and parents, that the lessons are relevant for them, whether they are or not; that the lessons are time-appropriate – in that students’ life, whether the student wants to study that lesson then or not.  

Lessons are externally imposed classroom requirements; – classrooms created as a place for teachers and staff to earn a living, and for children to be warehoused as labor waiting until some artificially determined time to become a full participant in society. 

These deformities have to come under discussion in order for us to begin to grasp together, the direction in which our struggle needs to go. 

Continually expecting that the major aid to our oppression, school, be made useful, has got to be available for discussion; that, and what the choices need to become.  

The choice obviously is us all doing our lives together. Don’t let the system rip our children from us in order to use the formal stamping machine to fit them into it. Don’t let the system force children to be made to believe that school equals work. Don’t make people pretend to do the hammering and sawing of living, cutting milk cartons into house-shapes for some project. Let us ALL DO real work together.  

No failure.  

No tests in anything like the present form. 

Classroom-like study needs to rise in situ. All the skills can be learned doing our work together, not isolated into 8-, 10 years of unlearning how to read, write, calculate. Learning the skills has been cast as needing remediation, instead of happening as the natural accompaniment of any study and work. 

Teaching and learning needs instead to become us working together regardless of age, altogether because of communal and individual need and desire. Work needs to become for all OUR benefit, none for our Owners, the profiteers. 

I offer the opportunity to enable the discussion of how to remove the present binding form and replace it with the living that will allow us all the joy! of education, the joy of work, of actually participating within our communities, not requiring our children to accept the deception that school equals work. 

US-Saudi War Crimes in Yemen

Jagjit Singh
Thursday October 13, 2016 - 03:49:00 PM

Human rights activists are accusing the U.S. of being complicit in war crimes in Yemen. Thousands of Yemenis gathered at the United Nations building in Sana’a calling for an international investigation into the U.S. - backed Saudi assault on a funeral last week. The exploded munitions have clear U.S. markings which have intensified the anger and is fueling anti-American sentiments and radicalizing many of the local residents. 

The Intercept reports, "Multiple bomb fragments at the scene appear to confirm the use of American-produced MK-82 guided bombs”. The fallout of the war in Yemen has been severe. The US and Saudi Arabia are closely linked to ongoing war crimes and the credibility of the U.N. has been severely tarnished after it buckled to Saudi pressure which threatened to withhold its U.N. dues. 

The ongoing carnage in Yemen has stymied U.S. efforts to condemn Russian and Syrian government attacks on civilians in Aleppo. How can the U.S. condemn attacks by extremist groups like ISIS in Iraq and Syria on civilians when we are complicit in crimes on civilian targets in Yemen? 

Sen. Chris Murphy stated “there is an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen. The Houthi rebel army poses no existential threat to the United States. The United States Congress has not debated a war authorization giving the president the power to conduct this operation in Yemen.” 

I urge readers to call the White House Comment line (202-456-1111) and demand an immediate halt to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. 


It's Not the Word

Carol Denney
Thursday October 13, 2016 - 04:02:00 PM

it's not so much the "pussy" word that grinds 

and shocks at least a ratio of us 

from one who'll never see that power blinds 

or figure out how to exit the bus 

it's that it's followed closely by the act 

coercing an employee to embrace 

on video an image no one hacked 

and then sexual innuendo laced 

embarrassments for the poor employee 

who had to just endure as women do 

a hail of questions which lecher that she 

would date if she were obligated to 

it's not a women's issue I believe 

we build the world we someday will receive

dead ender

Barry Levine
Thursday October 13, 2016 - 03:40:00 PM

the Party's over; Donald stands alone
atop the rubble of the GOP
the rhetoric no father could condone
provoked the party stalwarts' mutiny
the Southern Strategy that's built on hate
had kept poor Whites' votes sync'ed up with the Rich
they recognized their peril far too late
Trump rolled the whole machine into the ditch
a yawning vacuum on the power stage
like Whigs left just before the Civil War
could usher in a new Progressive Age
ironic tribute to the Orange boor
Trump's isn't the U.S. for which we yearn
a Perfect Union's heart swells with the Bern


New: THE PUBLIC EYE:The Election’s Tipping Point

Bob Burnett
Monday October 17, 2016 - 10:21:00 AM

Months from now, as we look back at the 2016 presidential election, we'll argue about several possible tipping points that moved voters towards Hillary Clinton. Was it when she survived FBI Director Comey's speech about her emails? Was it when Hillary decisively defeated Donald Trump in the first presidential debate? Was it one of Trump's tweet-storm fugues? It was Michelle Obama's speech on October 13th. 

Speaking at a New Hampshire Clinton rally, Michelle Obama departed from her prepared speech to deliver a scathing rebuke to Donald Trump. The President's wife is in a unique position to comment on Trump's sexual avarice. She's the most admired woman in the U.S. And, a woman who has experienced sexism. 

Since October 7th, the nation had been reeling from the impact of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" videotape showing Trump making aggressively sexual remarks about women. In the October 9th debate, Trump pushed back suggesting this was "locker-room talk" and when asked, "Have you ever done these things?" responding, "No, I have not." On October 11th, several women came forward with stories of their abuse by Trump. 

On October 13th, Michelle Obama addressed Trump's behavior: "The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women... And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. So while I'd love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream." 

Michelle Obama continued, "This is not something that we can ignore... This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior." 

Shortly after Michelle Obama's speech, Donald Trump responded: "These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. And the Clintons know it, and they know it very well. These claims are all fabricated." 

Trump continued, "Nevertheless, I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you. I take them for our movement so that we can have our country back. Our great civilization, here in America and across the civilized world has come upon a moment of reckoning... it is our corrupt political establishment that is the greatest power behind the efforts at radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people. Their financial resources are virtually unlimited, their political resources are unlimited, their media resources are unmatched, and most importantly, the depths of their immorality is absolutely unlimited." 

In other words, Donald Trump was unrepentant and doubled down. On October 14th, Trump suggested that his victims were too unattractive to assault, "Believe me, she would not be my first choice." 

The history of Trump's campaign has been that he says terrible things -- such as mocking Senator John McCain for being a prisoner of war -- and the media predicts the end but Trump survives and grows stronger. Indeed, a cornerstone of his campaign has been to flaunt "political correctness." Given this history, why would we expect Trump not to survive the revelation of his history as a sexual predator? Two reasons. 

The first is the sequence of the Trump revelations. It began with the release of the "Access Hollywood" videotape where Trump bragged about his sexual-predator behavior. Two days later, during the second Presidential debate, Trump denied that he had done the things he bragged about. Then women began to come forward saying, "Yes, Trump did the things to me that he bragged about on the 'Access Hollywood' videotape." (According to Mother Jones, "17 women have gone public with more tales of unwanted sexual touching or inappropriate behavior by Trump." 

The second is that fact that Trump's predatory behavior (almost exclusively) affects white women, the single largest voting bloc. Since the release of the "Access Hollywood" videotape, American women have conducted a national teach-in on sexual assault. 

The latest survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that 19.3 percent of American women have been raped during their lifetimes and 43.9 percent have experienced "other forms of sexual violence." (15.2 percent of women have been stalked.) I believe that these numbers are deflated because many women do not report sexual assault; the women in my family tell me that most American women have experienced sexual violence. 

In the most important speech of the 2016 political campaign, Michelle Obama not only called out Donald Trump as a sexual predator, she also enabled millions of American women to talk about their personal histories of sexual abuse. 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump’s October Surprise

Bob Burnett
Friday October 14, 2016 - 11:53:00 AM

With less than a month before the November 8th election, the tone of the presidential race is so acrimonious that many voters are turned off. Nonetheless, everyone who is serious about US democracy should pay attention because there are daily revelations, mostly about Donald Trump.

On October 1st, the New York Times revealed that it had received the first few pages of Trump's 1995 tax returns. They revealed that Trump had taken a $916 million write off -- which likely allowed him to not pay taxes for twenty years. Then, on October 7th, the Washington Post revealed the existence of a 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape where Trump made lewd comments about women.

Meanwhile, also on October 7th, Wikileaks revealed thousands of emails hacked from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chair, John Podesta.

Many observers believe that between now and election day there will be dueling revelations: details of Donald Trump's behavior with women -- Trump has the profile of a sexual predator -- and emails from Podesta and other Clinton campaign insiders. Nonetheless, the ultimate "October Surprise" is likely to be the details of Trump's relationship with Russia.

In August, I wrote a column predicting that before the election Trump's tax returns would be hacked: "They’ll likely show zero taxes paid, no charitable contributions, and scary ties to Russian oligarchs." Today we know that Trump paid no taxes and has next to zero charitable contributions. But we still don't understand his ties to Russian oligarchs. That shoe is about to fall. 

During the October 9th debate, Hillary Clinton twice made an unusually strong condemnation of Russia: "Our intelligence community just... said that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election. And WikiLeaks is part of that... we don’t even know if it’s accurate information, and then they put it out. We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election... They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump." 

Trump responded: "Anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — [Hillary] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia... I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia." 

In a debate where Trump told 33 lies, few commented on Trump's remark, "Maybe there is no hacking." But, on October 10th, NBC News reported that Trump "was personally briefed on Russia's role in the hacks by U.S. officials." 

We've gotten so used to Trump's lies that it's easy to dismiss this particular lie as, "Trump continuously lies because he can." But in a new book, "The Plot to Hack America," intelligence expert Malcolm Nance suggests that Trump is a pawn in Vladimir Putin's own version of "Game of Thrones;" Putin wants to humiliate President Obama and Secretary Clinton and is using Trump, together with Russian spy agencies, to accomplish his objectives. 

Nance speculates that Putin has enlisted Trump by appealing to Trump's vanity and greed. In return, Trump has taken the most pro-Russia stance of any political candidate in recent memory. In the second debate, Trump suggested that the US should abandon Aleppo because "it has fallen." He "explained": "Syria is Russia" and "Russia is killing Isis." (It appeared that Trump was saying that all of the occupants of Aleppo belong to Isis -- something that is far from true). Trump has called Vladimir Putin a more capable leader than President Obama. He's called for normalizing relations with Russia, "Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along, as an example, with Russia?" 

Trump claims he has no financial ties to Russia: "I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia." Here's what the Washington Post says: "There is all kinds of evidence, including statements from his advisers and family members that Trump has done business with Russia. Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008 that 'Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.' Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told our colleagues in May: 'I have no doubt, as a company, I know we’ve looked at deals in Russia. And many of the former Russian republics.' " 

Time Magazine reported: "As major banks in America stopped lending him money following his many bankruptcies, the Trump organization was forced to seek financing from non-traditional institutions. Several had direct ties to Russian financial interests in ways that have raised eyebrows. What’s more, several of Trump’s senior advisors have business ties to Russia or its satellite politicians." 

Trump could prove he has no financial ties to Russia by releasing his tax returns, but he refuses to do this. Conservative columnist George Will observed, "Perhaps one more reason why we're not seeing [Trump's] tax returns is because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others." 

The hacking and publication of Trump's complete tax returns will be the ultimate October surprise. Given that Obama/Clinton are very irritated with Putin, coupled with the capabilities of American cyber-security services, it's very likely that Trump's tax returns will be released before November 8th. 

ECLECTIC RANT: the only choice--Hillary Clinton for President

Ralph E. Stone & Judi Iranyi
Thursday October 13, 2016 - 03:26:00 PM

We cast our absentee ballots for Hillary Clinton for president and here's why:

Hillary Clinton is the most qualified. She had eight years experience in the U.S. Senate; four years experience as the nation's Secretary of State; and eight years as First Lady. Clinton has laid out in detail her positions on the issues. All we have heard from Trump on the issues is that he is going to make America great again, which we take to mean sending the country backward to a time when discrimination and hate were not only accepted but celebrated.  


Trump has filed for four bankruptcies and has two failed marriages. And his following businesses failed: Trump Airlines, Trump casinos, Trump mortgage, and Trump Vodka. In addition, Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel has ordered Trump to stand trial in an investigation over fraud and racketeering charges related to Trump University. Judge Curiel is the same judge who Trump said was biased against him because of his Mexican ancestry. Tell me again, what makes him qualified to be president? 

In addition, Trump has a long history of saying and doing racist things and has won the support and praise of the country’s white supremacists. Do we really want a racist as president? 

Many cite Clinton's supposed "corruption" as the reason why they will not vote for Clinton, which we take to mean the bogus Benghazi incident, the overblown "email gate," and the Clinton Foundation "scandal." As for the Benghazi incident both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) admitted that the Republican House committee created to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was solely “designed to go after” Hillary Clinton. She was cleared of any wrongdoing. 

As for the so-called email gate, Clinton committed no crime by doing the exact same thing as some her predecessors did. FBI Director James B. Comey, a republican, said, "there had to be evidence that Hillary Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information." The F.B.I. found neither, and as a result, Comey said, “our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” The commotion raised by the republicans in Congress about Clinton’s handling of emails was just another political tactic to discredit Clinton. 

Remember in 2007, when Congress asked the Bush administration for emails surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed that many of the emails requested could not be produced because they were sent on a non-government server. I don’t remember the republicans in Congress asking for an investigation of the Bush administration. 

Finally, the Clinton Foundation is not a scandal as the Republicans would have you believe. In fact, it is a phenomenal, life-saving success. In contrast, the Donald J. Trump Foundation is under scrutiny for how he used his foundation when he directed more than a quarter of a million dollars from the charity to settle legal disputes stemming from his personal businesses. Now that's a scandal. 

In this land founded by those from other countries, Trump's immigration policy is one of exclusion, not inclusion. For example, he has said he would bar all Muslims from entering the U.S. and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, paid for, of course, by Mexico. His proposed immigration policy makes a mockery of the words carved on the base of the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."  

And if all else fails, Trump will reuse his his contempt of women, which unfortunately appeal to many who do not believe a woman should be president or in any position of power or influence. Earlier this month, a tape was released in which Trump makes lewd comments about women and admits to sexual assaults. In an earlier tape, he agreed with Howard Stern that his daughter Ivanka was "a piece of ass." Is this misogynist fit to be president?  

We filed our tax returns and Clinton filed her tax returns. Trump claims he cannot because he is being audited. But according to the Internal Revenue Service that is not a barrier to disclosure. At the September 26 debate, Trump indicated he had not paid taxes because he is smart. Guess those of us who pay taxes are suckers. The New York Times obtained a copy of Trump's 1995 tax returns, showing a $196 million loss derived from the his mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his airline business, and his purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. This deduction could allow him to avoid paying taxes for up to 18 years. So much for Trump's touted business acumen. 

We voted for Hillary Clinton because she is more qualified than Donald Trump and we just cannot imagine a president Trump representing us at home and abroad.  

We urge everyone to vote for Clinton. A vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson is really a vote for Trump. Those who do not vote are also favors Trump. 

It is time to vote for Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president of the United States.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Some of the Hardships

Jack Bragen
Thursday October 13, 2016 - 03:52:00 PM

Being mentally ill, aside from the fact that many people treat you like a scapegoat due to their bigotry, aside from living with a disability that, for some of us, prevents working (and this causes poverty), and aside from us having a shorter lifespan in comparison to non-afflicted people, comprises a hard condition to live with. Simply living with the symptoms of a mental illness and the side effects of medication is difficult.  

My situation includes frequent changes in medication. I have a dilemma of taking a higher dose of some of my meds, which then sometimes causes me to experience miserable, unbearable side effects, versus taking lower dosages and having partial psychosis leak through.  

My daily medication is under my control. This is because there isn't anyone but me supervising how the meds are administered. I don't live in a group home; I rent an apartment. I am not on injections of antipsychotic medication because I've proven in the past couple of decades that I can take medication on my own. Many people in recovery live in a similar manner to me.  

Despite supervising myself, it is proper to consult with my doctor before making any changes to medications or dosages. He or she is the one writing the prescriptions, and if I anger or irritate him or her too much, I run the risk of not having a psychiatrist.  

Yet, I have some leeway.  

So how do I solve the dilemma of too much medication versus too little? The answer is that I don't. Things are hard in this respect, and may continue to be for the foreseeable future. I could try a newer medication, yet I am very hesitant to do that. I don't want to take something that has been on the market for less than ten years. I could be blindsided by unforeseen side effects, some of which could be irreversible.  


Society asks a lot from people with mental illness. In some instances these are just necessary adjustments, since mental illness requires treatment if we are to have a life.  

However, success in a career is unattainable for a number of us, because if prospective employers find out that we have a psychiatric disability, it is unlikely we will be hired. This is aside from doing the job (whatever the job is), which may not be possible without at least some amount of accommodation.  

SSDI and/or SSI may be provided, yet this is a very small amount of money to live on. Because of all this, I assert that most people with severe mental illness are expected to live in poverty.  

Society expects us to live as second-class citizens, which means for one thing that we must tolerate ostracism, and in some instances, we must tolerate being the butt of people's jokes--and some of those making derogatory jokes are the very treatment professionals who are supposed to be helping us.  

Many of those with mental illness must live with restrictions. The enforced poverty that I mentioned is one of those restrictions. Secondly, if we are unfortunate enough to live in outpatient institutionalization, we may be forced to endure restrictions imposed by whomever is in charge of our housing. This could be a curfew, or it could be a lack of other freedoms, which an everyday non-afflicted person would never be expected to tolerate.  


Society's attitude toward mentally ill persons is that we shouldn't live in their neighborhood. People think we are going to sell drugs to their daughters, steal their grandmothers' purses, and urinate on the street (this is the G-rated version).  

We are not as able to stand up for our rights as are African American people, Latino people, and the LGBTQ community. This is because we are impaired by our disabilities, and we are impaired by the effects of the medications used to treat these problems. Thus, there are not a lot of demonstrators with mental illness because we are up against a lot more.  

To begin with, our meds tend to knock a hole in our physical energy level, making it a lot harder to get out in the street and carry signs or bang on a drum. Secondly, many of us do not own a vehicle, making it more difficult to get transport to wherever it is people want to demonstrate (if they did). Third, it is harder for mentally ill people to organize, compared to people in other minority groups.  

Society has grown accustomed to the unacceptability of racism and misogyny. However, it isn't yet politically incorrect to hate mentally ill people. This is caused by a basic deficiency in most people's minds, in which people hate those they perceive as different, as "other," or perhaps as someone their group expects them to hate. This must change.  

Arts & Events

New: Takács Quartet Opens A Beethoven Cycle at Hertz Hall

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday October 18, 2016 - 11:18:00 AM

On Saturday-Sunday, October 15-16, the Takács Quartet, now in its 41st year as an ensemble, opened a cycle of Beethoven’s complete string quartets under the aegis of Cal Performances at Hertz Hall. Plaudits to Cal Performances for scheduling these concerts in Hertz Hall and not Zellerbach Hall. One of my most disappointing musical experiences was hearing the Takács Quartet perform Beethoven’s Op. 130 Quartet in 2014 from a seat two-thirds of the way back in cavernous Zellerbach Hall, where the sound was thin and totally lacking in both warmth and immediacy. In reviewing that regrettable experience, I stated emphatically that chamber music concerts should not be held in Zellerbach Hall. I don’t know, of course, if my insistence on this point, which I restated in subsequent reviews of chamber music concerts held in smaller, more intimate venues, did any good; but it is certainly gratifying to hear the excellent Takács Quartet in the lively and intimate acoustic space of Hertz Hall.  

In scheduling a complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets, the Takács Quartet will offer six concerts October through April, with each program containing three works, one quartet each from Beethoven’s early years, middle years, and late years. The Saturday, October 15 concert, which I did not attend, featured the Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2; the F minor Quartet, Op. 95, Serioso; and the B-flat Major Quartet, Op. 130. The latter work was performed on Saturday with Beethoven’s second, more accessible finale rather than his more demanding Grosse Fugue, which he originally intended as the conclusion of his Op. 130 Quartet. At the closing concert of their Beethoven quartet cycle on April 9, the Takács Quartet will perform Op. 130 with Die Grosse Fugue as the work’s finale. 

Beethoven, of course, learned much about the expressive possibilities of string quartet writing from his illustrious predecessors, Mozart and Haydn. Yet throughout the early, middle, and late years of his life, Beethoven explored ever new and inventive possibilities for the string quartet. Beethoven’s late quartets have justly been celebrated as seminal works for the future of music, a future we are still witnessing and enjoying today.  

On Sunday, October 16, I attended the concert featuring the Takács Quartet in Beethoven’s F Major Quartet, Op. 18, No. 1; his E-flat Major Quartet, Op. 74, Harp; and his monumental C-sharp minor Quartet, Op. 131. In the opening work, the centerpiece of the F Major Quartet is the somber Adagio, which Beethoven wrote with the burial vault scene in mind from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This Adagio is anguished in the extreme, yet poignantly beautiful. The Scherzo that follows is bouncy and ingratiating, while the final Allegro offers a dramatic fugue. As performed by the precise, tightly knit Takács Quartet, this product of Beethoven’s early exploration of the string quartet format offered many fore-shadowings of the innovations to come later. 

Next on Sunday’s program was a superb rendition of Beethoven’s Harp Quartet, so-named for the pizzicato notes that are so prominent in this work. The Harp Quartet opens with a soft, brooding passage marked Poco Adagio. In the Allegro section’s frequent pizzicato passages, violist Geraldine Walther, cellist András Fejér, and second violinist Károly Schranz performed brilliantly, as did first violinist Edward Dusinberre. Soon, however, this opening movement takes on a more dissonant, somewhat disturbing character. The ensuing Adagio ma non troppo is somber and a bit wistful. The next movement, a scherzo, featured a robust contribution from András Fejér, the Takács Quartet’s cellist. The concluding movement brought this work to a soft, understated close, here rendered in as superb an interpretation as one could hope for of the beautiful Harp Quartet. 

After intermission the Takács Quartet returned to play the C-sharp minor Quartet, Op. 131. To write about this monumental work is daunting. Its size alone is colossal, consisting of seven movements, or, as some parse it, five movements and two transitional sections; and it is the only one of Beethoven’s string quartets meant to be played without a pause from beginning to end. Op. 131 begins with the first violinist playing the first 12 notes solo. The Takács Quartet’s Edward Dusinberre has written eloquently of all the questions of rhythm, tempo, tone, and lightness versus gravitas that he encounters when deciding how to play these first 12 notes, and of the input he receives from his colleagues regarding these matters. Suffice it to say that in Sunday’s performance at Hertz Hall, Dusinberre seemed to find the perfect combination for opening Op. 131 with a slow, intimate, almost ethereal theme in the style of a fugue. The second section, an Allegro in D Major, offers a slightly swinging yet shadowy theme, followed by a brief transitional passage. The third (or fourth) section offers a kaleidoscopic set of variations. This is the true centerpiece of Op. 131, featuring variations that while becoming ever more complex also become ever more serene. The brilliance of the variations is followed by a bumptious scherzo. Another transitional section then leads into the forceful finale, which begins with four bars centered around the initial notes of the first movement’s fugal material. Thus we find a cyclic structure in Beethoven’s Op. 131 Quartet, with the emphasis on the work’s two outer movements and its brilliant set of variations at the center. All in all, the Takács Quartet gave a magisterial rendition of this colossal work from Beethoven’s last years. 

The Takács Quartet’s next installments in Hertz Hall in their complete Beethoven cycle will be on March 4-5, and the final installments will occur on April 8-9.  

New: Around and About: Trio Brillante at Berkeley Chamber Performances on Tuesday

Ken Bullock
Saturday October 15, 2016 - 03:45:00 PM

Trio Brillante--Betty Woo, piano; Emily Onderdonk, viola and Tom Rose, clarinet--will perform next Tuesday, October 18, 8.p. m.,for Berkeley Chamber Performances at the ballroom of the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, between Dana and Ellsworth.  

The program: Mendelssohn's Concertpiece No. 2, Opus 114 (1833); Karl Reincke 1903 trio, Opus 264; Kleines Konzert by Alfred Uhl (1938); Libby Larsen's Black Birds, Red Hills (2005, inspired by six Georgia O'Keefe paintings of New Mexico) and Matthew Naughtin's Moldovanke, a Klezmer tune arranged for Trio Brillante in 2009. 

There will be one intermission and a complimentary wine and cheese reception following the concert with the opportunity to meet the artists.. 

$30 general; students through high school, free; post high school students, $15. www.berkeleychmberperform.org or 525-5211

New: Around & About--Theater, Dance: 'Kathakali Ramayana in Berkeley' Monday through Wednesday at Hillside Club

Ken Bullock
Saturday October 15, 2016 - 03:41:00 PM

A remarkable, highly unusual performing arts event at the beginning of the week, at 8 p. m. Monday through Wednesday October 17-19, in the wonderful rustic intimacy of Berkeley's Hillside Club: 'Kathakali Ramayana in Berkeley,' with Kalamandalam Manoj in performance, presented by Graeme and Eve Vanderstoel, co-sponsored by SACHI.  

('Kathakali Ramayana in Berkeley' was programmed to correspond with the SF Asian Art Museum exhibit, 'The Rama Epic,' opening later this week in the San Francisco Civic Center.) 

Kathakali, one of the very oldest theater and performing art forms in the world, is an elaborate dance-drama, like a great, illustrated storybook unfolding, with stories taken from the ancient Indian epics of The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. Its predecessors--the Sanscrit theater Kuttiyattam and Krishnanattam, were originally meant to be performed in temples and featured spoken roles for the actor-dancers. Kathakali became a more popular art, performed in villages, but the actors don't speak; the narrative and dialogic parts are sung with the actors concentrating on dance and gesture, reenacting the dialogue through hieroglyphic-like sign language (mudras) and extraordinary facial expressions amplified by colorful, very sophisticated make-up that takes hours to apply and beautiful costumes and crowns. ('Ramayana Kathakali's' shows features the backstage work of one of the finest contemporary make-up artists, Kalamandalam Sukumaram.) The virtuosic movements and gestures are among the most unusual in classical Indian dance, some allied to martial arts, and performed to singing and remarkable drumming. (The Berkeley shows will be to prerecorded music and voice.) 

Berkeley has been a rare location for Kathakali the past decades: the late K. P. Kunhiraman of Kalakshetra and his wife Katherine made it their home since the 1970s, teaching South Indian classical dance through their Kalanjali School, which Katherine continues to produce. Kunhiraman was only able to play occasional scenes or demonstrations of Kathakali, of which he was a second-generation performer, rare now in India. 

(I remember all but dragging friends to see a very rare Krishnanattam performance in Golden Gate Park years ago. One friend--not an aficienado of theater or Indian arts particularly, gleefully told me mid-performance how rapt he was, watching something he had feared would be esoteric--"It's like being a kid again! And it can be so funny!") 

Kalamandalam Manoj, famous for playing many roles of this great repertory theater, will take up two of his most famous across the three scenes from plays that will be presented: the Demon king Ravana and the heroic monkey general Hanuman. Hanuman has deliberately humorous moments, but even Ravana is often played like the comic ogre, to frighten and delight village children. As in so much great theater, beauty, power and humor coexist on the same stage. 

Kathakali and its related styles has influenced other performance forms in South and Southeast Asia, notably in Indonesia, but also as far afield as Tibet, China and Japan, where its techniques were brought by Buddhist monks as teaching tools. In modern times, it's been a constant influence on European theater, in particular ariane Mnoushkine and her Théâtre du Soleil, in Paris since 1964, and the great Jerzy Grotowski, probably the most influential man of the theater since 1950. 

On Monday night, Manoj will perform a "monologue" (but with plenty of action!) from the mid-18th century play 'Ravanodbhava,' in which Ravana recalls his early childhood and his mother's ambitions for him. Tuesday will see Manoj as Ravana again, in his Kingdom of Lanka, trying to woo the virtuous Sita, wife of Lord Rama, who Ravana's kidnapped and is holding captive in a beautiful palace--until his wife Mandodari intervenes, from the late 16th century play Torana Yudha. On Wednesday, Manoj will play Hanuman, searching for his ally Lord Rama's kidnapped wife, wrecking havoc wherever he goes, finally finding Sita in Ravana's palace garden, giving her rama's ring as proof of identity, a scene also from Torana Yudha. 

Manoj--who was trained at Kalamandalam, the premier Kathakali academy, and has appeared worldwide, including in 'Kathakali King Lear' at the Old Globe Theatre in London--will be joined onstage by guest artists Roshni Pillai and Jan Zeitlin, both traditionally trained Kathakali performers who have performed widely in Kerala, home state of Kathakali, and by Janhavi Pillai, making her debut as Ravana's wife Mandodari. 

Kaladharan Viswanath, a famous tour producer, who has lectured widely at American universities, has organized this tour. He'll introduce and explain the episodes, which will also be synopsized in the program. Graeme Vanderstoel is proprietor of Books on Asia and the Islamic World in El Cerrito and former program director of the American Society for Eastern Arts in san Francisco, with longtime experience in the production of touring shows from Eastern, South and Southeast Asia. 

Highly recommended! Kathakali brings so much to the stage, it's like aeeing several forms of classical and popular art combined in a single performance.  

Monday through Wednesday at 8 p. m., the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar (three blocks east of Shattuck, between Spruce and Arch). $30 general, $22 students, seniors SACHI members--at the door or through BrownPaperTickets.com. Inquiries: 527-2882

Command and Control: How a Socket Wrench and a Nuclear Missile Nearly Destroyed Arkansas

Gar Smith
Friday October 14, 2016 - 11:41:00 AM

Opens October 14 at the Landmark Shattuck

Director Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) and writer Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) have combined their proven story-telling prowess to create a film of unimaginable true-life horror that will have you gripping the seat upholstery at the local cinema.

Based on an incident reported in depth in Schlosser's book, Command and Control, this film recreates a nearly forgotten incident that demonstrates the folly of pretending nuclear weapons are subject to human "command."

Incidents of "friendly fire" have become such an embarrassment that the military had to invent this euphemism to make self-inflicted mayhem sound semi-cuddly. But there is no comfort to be had in the phrase "nuclear friendly fire."

In 1980, the Pentagon poseurs who claim it is their job to "Keep America Safe" nearly blew Arkansas off the US map when a freak accident created an explosive situation well beyond anyone's ability to "control."




Thanks to recent "reforms" in the parallel universe of US health care, resident doctors can no longer be forced to work more than 80 hours a week. In another victory for the profession, their shifts cannot exceed 24 hours at a stretch. 

How can any government "of the people" justify placing such demands on the very people who are called upon to make life-and-death decisions? 

You might ask the same question about the working conditions of the soldiers responsible for maintaining (and potentially launching) the most destructive weapons of war ever devised—nuclear missiles. 

The stunning truth is that some of the teams entrusted with maintaining the Pentagon's nuclear arsenal are required to work 24-hour "tours." 

Command on Control introduces us to one such team of nuclear workers who were stationed near Damascus, Arkansas, in September 1980. They included members of the pressurization teams entrusted with the safety of the combustible contents encased inside liquid-fueled Titan II missiles. They were required to work 12-to-16-hour shifts after which they were rewarded with five hours of sleep before putting in another 12-to-14-hour day. 

The Titan missiles were blasted aloft by the powerful combination of rocket fuel and liquid oxygen. The two hyper-explosive ingredients were confined to two separate tanks stacked one-atop-the-other inside the body of the missile. 

As one of the former crewmembers told the filmmakers in an interview, the launch crews were never told what targets their missiles were programmed to hit. This was done so "we wouldn't know who we were going to destroy. You had to be prepared to destroy an entire civilization and we were trained on that. As heartless as it sounds, I never had a problem with it. I was doing it to protect my country." 

Another nuclear missile techie explains: "Deterrence is worthless if you don't demonstrate that you're willing to do it. I would turn those keys and kill 11 million people and never hesitate." 

If those comments suggest a level of brainwashing that can only exist in an individual driven to inhabit a parallel reality, Command and Control also offers reflections that are indisputably grounded in fact and experience. As one of the airmen notes: "Working on a weapon of mass destruction, you're counting on everything working perfect all the time. And things just don't work perfect all the time." 

On the fateful day (recreated with stunning realism and archival detail by the filmmakers), we revisit Site 47 as the young airmen (now haunted, middle-aged survivors) prepare to attend to the needs of a single nuclear missile in the bowels of a hidden silo. 

The cone of their Titan rocket—sitting atop the 330,000-pound missile towering eight stories above the workers on the launch platform— contained a nine-megaton thermonuclear warhead—a bomb three times as powerful as all the bombs dropped during WWII (and that includes both atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan). 

The Titan II was powered by the explosive combination of hydrazine-based fuel and a huge cylinder of nitrogen tetroxide that served as an oxidizer. One of the missile tenders' major concerns was to make sure the contents of those two tanks never mingled—unless the missile was ordered launched. 

The small crew had already on been on duty for 11 hours. Heading into the silo, a worker named Dave Powell realized he'd left his torque wrench in his vehicle. Instead of going back and losing precious time, he grabbed a ratchet wrench that he'd used many times before to remove the Titan's fuel caps. 

The ratchet measured about 3-feet long. The socket that needed to be removed weighed about eight pounds.  

As Powell set about testing the pressurization of the Stage 2 oxidation tank, the rachet slipped, allowing the socket to pop free. Powell and his teammate froze. 

They watched in horror as the heavy piece of metal plummeted 70 feet down the shaft. Powell says he remembers the moment every day of his life: "It was like it was moving in slow-motion." 

When the heavy metal ring hit the thrust mount, it bounced hard against the side of the missile, puncturing a hole that immediately began spewing a steady cloud of toxic fuel. 

The silo began to fill with vapor. 

A good half hour passed before the silo crew in the Command Center actually spoke to the two workers and learned what had happened. By then, the fuel loss was out of control. 

This had never happened before. No one knew what to do. But somebody had better damn well do something because, if all the fuel was expelled from the lower tank, the missile would likely collapse on itself—owing to the weight of the oxidizer in the tank above. And if the fuel and oxidizer mixed, there would be one hell of an explosion. 

It became clear to local police that something unusual was happening at the missile base. A Missile Protection Accident Team had been flown in. The site had been blocked off. 

When the local sheriff arrived on the scene—along with radio reporters and TV news crews—the first question was: "Is there a nuclear bomb at the launch site?" The response from the Air Force commander was a curt: "I cannot confirm or deny." 

That night in Little Rock—just 45 miles from the chemically hemorrhaging missile inside the seething silo—Walter Mondale and Bill Clinton were involved in political campaigning. As word began to leak out that there was a leak out at the missile site, the press turned to Arkansas Gov. Clinton for reassurance. Clinton's response was both stark and useless: "As regards to a nuclear explosion, all we can do is trust the experts." 

Meanwhile, out at Site 47, 24 guys in their 20s got suited up like astronauts and set out to plunge into the silo to "fix the problem." 

With no one left in the silo's buried Command Center, the Strategic Air Command ordered several teams to take turns in an attempt to breach the hardened site. This entailed breaking through nine 6,000-pound blast-proof doors—a feat that had never been done before. Each team was given only 30 minutes to accomplish its portion of the task. 

By this time, the exhaust duct readings of combustible gases in the concrete silo were peaking at 255 ppm (concentrated enough to melt the protective suits the volunteers were wearing). At that point, anything could trigger an ignition. 

Sgt. Jeff Kennedy and David Livingston were the second team to go in. Kennedy was team chief. As we watch a reenactment of the two men starting down the hundreds of steps in the buried bunker, Livingston's chilling warning reverberates on the soundtrack: "Someone's going to die out here tonight." 

They were inside, enveloped in toxic mist when everything went to hell. 

Though seriously injured, Kenney somehow survived. Instead of being treated as a hero, however, he was slapped with a letter of reprimand. Although he died years ago, Kennedy's voice and presence—vividly captured on audiotape and film—reach beyond the grave to rage at his treatment by the government he promised to serve. 

Similarly, Greg Devlin, a senior airman who sustained a shattered ankle in the explosion, was drummed out of the Air Force. 

Command and Control does not end with a reassuring or hopeful message. To the contrary, Kenner and Schlosser emphasize that oversight and attention has only gotten worse. This is due, in part, to the fact that most people have no idea there are still 7,000 US nuclear weapons attached to launch-ready missiles packed away in silos hidden around the country. 

During the Cold War, the US built a stockpile of 31,255 nuclear weapons; the Soviet Union had more than 35,000. There used to be 54 Titan II missiles deployed at bases in Kansas, Arizona, and Arkansas. 

Many of today's nuclear warheads are about 20 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. Each of America's 14 missile submarines caries enough sea-launched warheads to destroyed more than 100 cities. 

The two Presidents Bush were responsible for the largest reductions in America's nuclear arsenal, cutting the number of warheads by half. Despite his acclaimed "nuclear abolition" speech in Prague, Barack Obama's record has been abysmal. Today there are more than 15,000 warheads left in the world with the US and Russia accounting for more than 90% of them. And Obama has announced a plan to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to build a new arsenal of nukes that will be smaller, more powerful, and more difficult to intercept. 

For their part, the Russians have invented a new ballistic missile that doesn't fly on a pre-set trajectory. It can bob-and-weave unpredictably in flight, making all existing US "defenses" useless. 

"Nuclear weapons are machines and every machine ever invented eventually goes wrong," one of the Site 47 survivors observes. "Nuclear weapons will always have the chance of an accidental detonation. It will happen. " 

A Short History of Domestic Nuclear Near-Misses 

The Pentagon admits that, during the Cold War, the US was responsible for 32 "broken arrows"—an opaque code for nuclear weapons accidents. It is believed the actual number could top 1,000. Human error was cited repeatedly as a major contributing cause. In his book, Schlosser cites a few of those near-misses, including: 

January 24, 1961: A B-52 bomber broke apart over Goldboro, North Carolina. Two hydrogen bombs fell from the sky and smashed into the ground, triggering a firing signal designed to start the countdown to detonation. A single safety switch prevented a nuclear explosion that would have obliterated most of North Carolina and blanketed much of the East Coast in deadly fallout. In a subsequent inspection, the "fail-safe" safety switch was found to be defective in many of the Pentagon's warheads. 

September 15, 1980: An engine on a B-52 bomber caught fire with four hydrogen bombs and eight nuclear-tipped missiles on board. An explosion would have eradicated Grand Forks and irradiated the state. 

August 30, 2007: Six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles we're mistakenly loaded on a B-52 bomber and flown to an air base in Louisiana where it was left unguarded overnight. 

May 28, 2008: A maintenance team discovered a fire had erupted and burned itself out inside a Minuteman missile silo. The fire went unnoticed because the alarm system failed to work. The missile inside was armed with a nuclear warhead. 

May 17 2014: During routine maintenance, a work crew damaged a Minuteman missile in a silo in Colorado. The Air Force still refuses to disclose what happened, whether the missile was damaged, or whether there was any possibility of an accidental detonation. 

March 2016: 14 airmen responsible for the safety of nuclear warheads and Minutemen missiles at the Warner Air Force Base were suspended for using illegal drugs, including cocaine. 

US Atomic Missile Accidentally Blown to Bits in 1962 

One little-known incident of atomic "friendly fire" involved the destruction of a nuclear warhead that caused the radioactive contamination of a US missile site on Johnson Island in the Pacific Ocean. The accident occurred during secret US tests to detonate nuclear warheads in space. On July 25, 1962, "a one-of-a-kind missile misadventure caused by a sticking fuel valve," caused a Thor missile to explode on the launchpad. The explosion was captured on film and can be seen beginning at the 42-second mark in the following video: 

New: THE MAKROPULOS CASE at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday October 15, 2016 - 03:40:00 PM

Marking the 50th Anniversary of the American Premiere in 1966 at San Francisco Opera of Leoš Janáček’s The Makropulos Case, this opera has again been staged at the War Memorial Opera House. Based on a play by Czech writer Karel Capek, with a libretto written by Janáček himself, The Makropulos Case explores the pitfalls of a quest for eternal youth. Capek, who in his earlier play R.U.R., had punctured the notion that artificial intelligence will achieve human perfection, here expressed his belief in human limitations by showing how a woman who drank an elixir that kept her young for 337 years eventually found her life meaningless. Upon seeing Capek’s play in Prague in 1922, Janáček asked the author for permission to write an opera based on Capek’s The Makropulos Case. This opera premiered in Brno in 1926. 

For this San Francisco Opera revival of The Makropulos Case, Director Olivier Tambosi returned to oversee his imaginative staging, a co-production with Finnish National Opera, which premiered here in 2010. The Makropulos Case opens in the law offices of Dr. Kolenatý, where the clerk Vitek is filing papers dealing with a centuries old lawsuit over inheritance involving Gregor v Prus. The plaintiff, Albert Gregor, sung here by tenor Charles Workman, enters to inquire about the case’s progress. Vitek, sung here by tenor Joel Sorenson, is non-committal. Vitek’s daughter, Krista, sung here by Adler Fellow Julie Adams, enters and extols the beauty of opera singer Emilia Marty. Dr. Kolonatý, sung here by bass-baritone Dale Travis, arrives with Emilia Marty in tow. The role of Emilia Marty is performed here by German soprano Nadja Michael, whose voice features an amazing range. Originally a contralto, Nadja Michael is now a world-renowned dramatic soprano. Ms. Michael made her SF Opera debut in 2009 in the title role in Salome. As Emilia Marty in The Makropulos Case, Nadja Michael commands the stage, vocally and dramatically, in nearly every scene. With her beauty and her stage presence as a prima donna opera singer, Emilia Marty captivates every man she meets. Emilia Marty is a force of nature, albeit one that is, so-to-speak, ‘de-natured’ by having lived for 337 years and thereby become jaded. 

Emilia Marty expresses an interest in the case of Gregor v Prus, and she mysteriously possesses secret knowledge about the existence of a written will in a sealed envelope in the desk of Baron Jaroslav Prus. Exactly why Emilia Marty is so interested in this case is never altogether clear; or, rather, it is unclear exactly whose side she’s on and why she cares. It seems, however, that in one of the many identities she has assumed over her 337 years, all bearing the initials E.M., she once had a passionate affair with an ancestor of the present Baron Prus, and they had a son named Ferdinand Gregor. The birth mother was listed as Ellien McGregor, or was it listed as Elina Makropulos? Much of the plot revolves around this question – a rather tedious one, if you ask me, to lie at the pivotal center of an opera. 

Janáček’s music for The Makropulos Case features few arias and is comprised mostly of parlando passages where the singers deliver a conversational style of vocal lines, often imitating the rhythms of spoken language. The role of Baron Jaroslav Prus, for example, sung here by baritone Stephen Powell, is almost entirely made up of short conversational phrases, to the point where one can hardly evaluate his performance as a singer. This is one of many drawbacks that limit the appeal of Janáček’s The Makropulos Case. The convoluted plot, of course, is another. 

Things pick up a bit when the aged Count Hauk-Sendorf arrives and sees in Emilia Marty the spitting image of the Spanish gypsy Eugenia Montez (another of Emilia Marty’s identities with the initials E.M.), whom he loved passionately long ago in his youth. As Hauk, tenor Matthew O’Neill played a thoroughly rejuvenated lover who once again falls hopelessly in love. Meanwhile, Prus’ son Janek, young Krista’s sweetheart, also falls hopelessly in love with Emilia Marty, and he ends up killing himself over this unrequited love. As Janek, tenor Brenton Ryan comported himself capably in this brief role. Mezzo-soprano Zanda Švėde did likewise in her brief turn as a chambermaid. The opera comes to an end when Emilia Marty, feeling the effects of the elixir of youth wearing off, renounces eternal youth and realizes that her life, though long, has been empty and devoid of real human warmth. So she welcomes death. Throughout this production of The Makropulos Case conductor Mikhail Tatarnikov led the orchestra and singers in a crisp, agitated rendering of Janáček’s angular music. Sets were designed by Frank Philipp Schlössmann, and Duane Schuler was Lighting Director.