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Let's put the J back in JOY!

Becky O'Malley
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:26:00 PM

A premature Happy New Year to everyone. Even though the holiday lights above our door say "Oy" instead of "Joy", it's really not as bad as it seems, trust me. As I've been telling my granddaughters, I can remember many, many years where we said that the exiting year was so bad, the next one couldn’t be worse: 1968, for example, when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated. And yet it didn’t get unequivocally better…or worse…in 1969, just different.

Then there was 2000, the year the Supreme Court stole the presidency on behalf of the Bushes. We went to DC with our dear friend Patti Dacey to march on the Court in the snow and ice. The weather in DC is really nasty in January, and this was freezing rain. The good thing was that I ended up marching there alongside a woman from Detroit who has also marched with us in the Detroit version of the original March on Washington, and we agreed that some things had gotten much better since then in the civil rights arena. The bad thing, which we didn’t foresee, is that Patti died a few years later, too young, but isn’t it always too young?

And of course, W stayed, but the world survived him somehow.

A friend of German/Iranian background, with vulnerable family members both in Iran and here, asked me apprehensively if I knew what I would do if there were a real fascist takeover of this country, as some are predicting. She wondered what she would be able to do, and I wonder about myself too.

I’ve heard tales of what happened when Japanese-Americans were taken away by a not-even-fascist U.S. government, and I’ve also heard that some of us, though not most, did stand up for what they weren’t even calling then “America values”. My children had an African-American teacher at Berkeley High who told her students how her family took care of the property of Japanese-American neighbors while they were imprisoned, and a friend of my parents did something similar in Watsonville. Wayne Collins, the attorney father of a Berkeley lawyer with the same name, defended the civil rights of the detainees during and after World War II. If the next administration takes out after Moslems, would we be able to do as well as they all did back then? I hope so.  

The big discussion in my family, and especially among my matriarchal cousins around the country, is whether going to DC to march once more on the day after the inauguration of President Dumpf would accomplish anything. Many of our children and grandchildren, especially those on the East Coast, currently plan to go. Most of these are too young to have taken part in marches for peace or civil rights, except for the oldest among them who were in strollers and backpacks, and I do believe they are somewhat envious of their grandparents’ experiences in those days.  

But the big difference I see between then and now is the sensitivity of the powers that be to justifiable criticism. This new guy’s vocabulary seems to be not much more than than the schoolyard nyanyanya-nyanya chant, the triumphant cry of the bully. Not much point in shaming a guy like him, is there? 

Spending the same amount of time and money that a one-time January 21 excursion would cost , when air fares will be sky high, on less visible efforts later into the term might be a better choice. Picking out a few congressmembers in potential swing districts for targeted lobbying could have surer results, either by influencing their votes on key matters or by setting them up for defeat in 2018 if they vote wrong. This could take place both in DC and/or in their home districts—and getting to know some of their voters in such locations would be an especially good idea.  

I wonder if anyone’s working on a list of places to go and people to see with the goal of influencing Congress. Here in Berkeley, some of us might be able to put together something like that with a bit of research.  

Another important avenue will be aiding in whatever way possible efforts at legal defense against any executive branch actions aimed at subverting our civil liberties or emasculating beneficial regulations, especially in the areas of health and the environment. That could include fundraising or volunteer labor.  

On the other hand, the city of Berkeley has just elected a crew of local representatives who will be quite sensitive to conscientious pressure to do the right thing, and it’s our job as citizens to apply that pressure in a fair but firm spirit. There are two places where citizens should focus their efforts. 

Despite repeated attempts to get rid of them, Berkeley’s commissions still wield a lot of potential power, and the mayor and new commissioners can amplify their authority by appointing the right commissioners. In recent years almost all appointees to the Zoning Adjustment Board have been part of—read captives of—the building industry. This must change. 

I’ve noticed, by the way, that Denise Pinkston, a development consultant, who was ex-Mayor Bates’ appointee, has been replaced by Igor Tregub as new Mayor Arreguin’s choice, but in the grand old tradition of revolving doors she’s been re-appointed by Lori Droste, who represents District 8. District 8 voters might or might not be proponents of the kind of market-rate housing expansion which has been the hallmark of the Bates era council, but they should be aware of how she votes and act accordingly.  

Another area which we need to watch is the new city staff. It’s been reported that City Attorney Zach Cowan, Deputy City Manager Jim Hynes and Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Daniels are all retiring, and all three represent an approach to law enforcement which does not represent what seems to be the current will of the people if the recent local election is any guide. The public needs to keep a close eye on who the candidates for replacing them turn out to be, and make their wishes known to their elected representatives. 

Because of Arreguin’s elevation, an election will decide his District 4 council seat in March. Candidates are the eminently well-qualified Kate Harrison and Ben Gould, a young man who’s another fervent devotee of the growth-at-any-cost school of development advocacy. To no one’s surprise, I’ve endorsed her. If you agree, volunteer to work on her campaign. 

As you might have noticed by now, I think that after the inevitable Oy Vehs, it’s just time to get back to work. Here’s a cutesy slogan to print on that big bumper sticker of your dreams: “It’s time for us to put the “J” back in “Oy”.  

We can do it, can’t we? Well, take Sunday and Monday off if you must, but then get cracking! 

The Editor's Back Fence

Don't miss these.

Sunday January 01, 2017 - 11:40:00 AM

These came in last week and are quite interesting. If you missed them amidst the holiday shuffle, be sure to check them out now.

The Play’s the Thing … (aka Capoeira Politics) Steve Martinot 12-28-2016

New: Something happened on the way to the book tour Carol Denney 12-26-2016

Patience Please!

Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:33:00 PM

This issue is moving slowly. I still have some letters etc. to post, but I'm relaxing with family and friends until Tuesday.

Public Comment

Mayor Arreguin's First 29 Days - Still Sweeping the Homeless, or Honey, This Ain't Camping

Carol Denney
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 05:25:00 PM

Excerpt from Mayor Jesse Arreguin's "First 29 Days" progress report with emphasis and underlining added:

..."Regarding the “First They Came for the Homeless” Encampment

I have received many emails from neighbors throughout Berkeley regarding the ongoing protest tent encampment which has moved throughout Berkeley. These encampments have not been sanctioned by the City and staff have taken enforcement action based on complaints from residents. Camping on public property, including medians, is illegal under the Berkeley Municipal Code. City staff can take complaint driven enforcement action regarding any violations of the Municipal Code. Unlike other cities, Berkeley’s Charter does not give the Mayor executive authority to hire or direct staff. As Mayor, my role is to shape city policy and work with the City Manager to implement city policies and initiatives. I do not alone have the unilateral power to direct staff to enforce, or not enforce, violations of the Berkeley Municipal Code..."

So, is the Mayor of Berkeley just a helpless pawn in a larger political game played by a city staff hoping to thwart his objectives and court losing their jobs? Are they a bunch of evil people hoping to snatch blankets from the poor because it's just such great sport on a cold winter night?

Berkeley's new Mayor just issued a self-congratulatory "progress report" claiming that the City Manager is impervious to his direction. It's true that Berkeley has a strong city manager form of government. but there are lots of things Arreguin can do both as mayor and as a citizen, especially under the emergency housing crisis declaration which the city council (under Mayor Tom Bates) passed last January.

The City Council under Mayor Arreguin, at its first meeting Dec. 12, 2016, had language stopping the homeless sweeps removed from a lengthy proposal doubling shelter space, among other things. Apparently somebody realized they only had four votes since District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington inexplicably pulled his vote away. They wanted to look unified at their first meeting, and the proposal still had some good stuff. Calling Worthington to express dismay (981-7170) is a good idea, but building wider support to stop the homeless raids and accept that we need immediate housing and several campgrounds is key, since people have concerns about people setting up tents all over the city anywhere they like, which is pretty much the state of things anyway. And which is legal, absent alternatives, under many readings of the law. This is not camping, as Mayor Arreguin's statement claims. It is survival.

The answer is having both immediate emergency housing within Berkeley city limits as well as sanctioned camping areas with port-a-potties, laundry facilities, garbage collection, etc., without which complaints are almost inevitable. The homeless people I know are not only better organized than most of the people I know with housing, they do a better job of taking care of indigent mentally ill on the streets than the city's current answer; the police, the court system and its pointless, expensive revolving door. 

They are not camping, as brand-new Mayor Jesse Arreguin claims in his "29 Days" statement. We've all been camping, or many of us have. Try to imagine camping with no water source or bathroom nearby. Try to imagine having to assume that everything with you, all your survival gear, will be regularly swept into a trash truck, including your identification cards, your cell phone if you have one, your electronic equipment let alone your warm clothing, to end up in a huge dumpster in the rain you're free to paw through after a lengthy wait at the police station, assuming you can afford to take that risk considering the fines and bench warrants you may have unknowingly collected after the last raid.

The local non-profits and religious groups can play a role here by making statements and voting officially to stop the homeless raids, typically a middle-of-the-night nightmare costing $15,000 - to $30,000 per event (at least twelve so far for First They Came For the Homeless, only one of about eighteen tent groups in Berkeley of about an estimated 1000 people). Simply voting to cease the raids would pressure Arreguin's new task force, formed at the Dec. 12th, 2016, council meeting, to identify some sanctioned spaces for people to harbor and regroup without the fear of losing everything they own. Mayor Arreguin has sounded vaguely supportive in the past, but we need more voices to stand strongly against the criminalization of poverty.

It's a critical time right now, in my opinion, because most people will be delighted to hear they've doubled the shelter space and "improved" ways to retrieve your belongings after they've been stolen. But I'm hoping people will stand firm with stopping the raids in the first place. Leaving a call expressing concern with the new Mayor(Mayor Jesse Arreguin, (510) 981-7140) is a good start. 

But let's not forget that no less than former Mayor Tom Bates, at the persuasive insistence of a group of people which included former Human Welfare & Community Action Commissioner Dan McMullan, a strong advocate for civil rights and director of the Disabled People Outside project, spent at least a portion of the night outside in the park by City Hall to experience, at least in part, what homeless people experience, albeit under the bemused eye of local press. 

Let us not begin the year 2017, a year which guarantees extreme challenges for our city, expecting even less from Mayor Arreguin. We need to vacate entirely the discriminatory laws on our books aimed at the poor, and dismantle the teams routinely rousting and robbing them, including the Downtown Berkeley Association's chilling "Hospitality" green-shirted Gestapo, caught on video beating up homeless people not long ago. Especially after thirty years under the Hancock-Bates regimes' shell game replacing low-income and SRO (single-room occupancy) housing with high-end, unaffordable units, we need to make sure the current council majority is pressured to offer housing, not "services", and keep their promises to stop the raids. 

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday January 05, 2017 - 03:05:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


5 Resistance Resolutions

Bob Burnett
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:24:00 PM

As we enter a perilous new year, here are five resistance resolutions:

1.Practice resistance each day. Political resistance is an American tradition; "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Take a stand for democracy. Slow down and focus. Resist.

If you've experienced a life-threatening disease, the process will be familiar. Live one day at a time. Focus on the essentials: taking care of yourself and regaining your health. Trump is a democracy-threatening disease. Focus on taking care of yourself and regaining democracy.

Perhaps begin each day with an aphorism: "I am a patriot;" "Actions speak louder than words;" "It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end;” "I will not let Trump defeat me." Whatever works for you.

Follow with a simple act of defiance. For example, resolve to not listen to news for 24 hours. Resolve to add another name to your "Boycott Trump Donors" list. Join a march or demonstration. Send $ to the resistance. Etcetera.

Above all, resist the Trump propaganda machine that repeats lies over and over until many Americans believe they are the truth. Resist the "normalization" of Trump. What is happening is not normal; America is experiencing a right-wing coup. 

2. Acknowledge that you are grieving. Trump's victory was a traumatic event, a death of sorts. Place yourself along the continuum of the five stages of grief; are you in denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance? 

If you are stuck in depression, acknowledge where you are. Seek assistance. 

In terms of this traumatic event, "acceptance" means "recognizing what is true." What is true is that a narcissistic, paranoid, white-supremacist bloviator is going to become President of the United States. 

Recognizing what is true doesn't imply passivity or acquiescence. Remember Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." In this situation, acceptance means recognizing what is true and, then, moving forward with resistance. Trump may become President but we do not have to accept his authority. We do not have to believe what he says or support his actions. 

Resistance requires serenity, courage, and wisdom. Get your shit together, the resistance needs you. 

3. Spend time in nature. Instead of watching the news or checking Facebook, take a walk. Get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and, for however brief a period, immerse yourself in nature. Take a deep breath and look around. This is what we are fighting for. 

Read Wendell Berry's poem, "The Peace of Wild Things." Take a break "in the grace of the world." Ground your activism in the earth. 

4. Join with others. Developing a broad, mindful resistance movement is an exercise in community building. First, treat your family with kindness. Don't let yourself withdraw or lash out in redirected anger. Embrace yourself and your loved ones. Offer comfort. 

Extend that circle of love and support to your friends and community. 

Recognize that if you have been stuck in depression, or passivity, your allies may feel the same way. Reach out with compassion. 

5. Cherish your own perspective. Search for your own truth and guard it ferociously. 

Recognize what you can change and find the courage to take action. Help your friends negotiate the transition from depression to action. 

On February 15, 2015, the noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, published an essay in the New York Times, "My Own Life," on how he had come to grips with the knowledge that he had terminal liver cancer. (Sacks died in August.) Sacks wrote of feeling "intensely alive" and added: "I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends." 

Now you and I are faced with the possible death of democracy. There is no time for anything inessential. We must focus. We must resist. 

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



ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Giving Oneself a Break from Self Persecution

Jack Bragen
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 05:30:00 PM

While many of us are making an effort at making our lives better and at living in a responsible way, none of us can control the outcome of our efforts. We ought to feel proud of ourselves when we make a good effort toward a constructive goal or endeavor. However, when our efforts seem to be futile, when the outcome isn't what we had hoped for, we ought not berate ourselves.

If mistakes are made, if we slip up on something, one hopes that at least that the intent was where it ought to be. If an error is made, we ought not punish ourselves with negative or self-derogatory thoughts.

If we have symptoms that get in the way of fulfilling expectations, whether these are self-imposed expectations or come from someone else, we ought not blame ourselves. Persons with psychiatric disabilities may often have days in which we do not feel good, or do not feel up to doing very many tasks.  

We shouldn't be hard on ourselves when we have an off day. And if someone else is giving you a hard time about it, whether this is a supervisor at work, a family member, or someone in the mental health treatment system, we should not internalize this. If the person is a supervisor and if you haven't disclosed your disability to your employers, you may not be able to confront the source of unreasonable expectations, and you may have to get through it whatever way you can. However, if the source of unreasonable expectations is yourself, you should not be giving yourself a hard time.  

The problem that we may have with following the advice above is that many persons with mental illness, as well as people in general, do not have much control over their thoughts. However, the first step is to at least identify the thoughts. Many people have not developed their capacity to reflect on their thoughts, and this means that they could be unaware of what the thoughts are.  

You read correctly in the above paragraph--many people are unaware of many of their thoughts. While some thoughts are in the forefront of consciousness, others are on the periphery, while still other thoughts take place on a deep level, are assumptions, and present themselves in our minds as being a basic reality.  

Therefore, before we are able to root out self-persecuting thoughts, we must find those thoughts. This may be achievable in therapy, if the therapist is good.  

(There are numerous individuals who practice psychotherapy, either with a license or under "supervision" who have entered that profession for the wrong reasons and who have no business counseling another human being. It takes experience to spot bad therapists, and it takes initiative to switch to another therapist.)  

If you can identify and discontinue the self-trashing thoughts, you will probably feel a lot better. You should see yourself as an acceptable person. If other people do not accept you, it is due to their agenda. We do not need to take sides with other people against ourselves.  

Is global warming a Chinese hoax?

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:21:00 PM

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax, vowed to dismantle America's climate and clean energy policies, and appointed climate deniers with ties to the fossil fuel industry to his transition team and Cabinet.

For example, Trump is looking at quick ways of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement in spite of international backing for the plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal, which sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. The U.S. signed the agreement on April 22, 2016. I fear this will be but the beginning of Trump's reversal of policies designed to curb global warming. 

Clearly there a scientific consensus on global warming. In the scientific field of climate studies, which includes many disciplines, the consensus can be demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change. So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. “...the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” In other words, more than 97% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate, accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities. Global warming is no longer about science; it is now a political, economic, social debate. In other words, what do we do about global warming? Putting your head in the sand is not the responsible thing to do. 

As we all know, on January 20, 2017, Trump will be president and the Republicans will control the Senate and House, which means that efforts to control global warming will be dead even though the danger to our planet is real.  

Scott Pruitt, a longtime adversary of the Environmental Protection Agency and a close friend of the fossil fuel industry, is to head the EPA. Pruitt claims that global warming is "far from settled."  

Ryan Zinke will be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior who has consistently voted in favor of oil and gas projects on federal lands. The League of Conservation Voters gave him a lifetime voting scorecard of 3%. Zinke said the the science behind global is not proven. 

Rick Perry has been selected by to take over the Department of Energy, the agency he famously wanted to abolish but could not name during his presidential bid in 2012. 

Tom Price will take over the Department of Health and Human Services. He signed a pledge created by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative thinktank funded by the Koch brothers, to oppose climate legislation. 

Do Trump and his soon to be members of his administration really believe that global warming is not happening and if it is, it is not because of human activity? I believe these deniers have made a self-interest political decision, rather than a scientific one, on global warming. By denying global warming, they now have an excuse to do little or nothing about it. 

Yet there are a number of people who in fact distrust the science community. For years, global warming deniers have engaged in an effective disinformation campaign to undermined efforts to pass a clean energy bill to curb our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels, resulting in cleaner air, more renewable energy, a stronger dollar, and more innovative industries. Even if 999 scientists out of 1,000 agreed that the main cause of the increase in global average temperatures in recent history is not because of any natural cycle — although natural cycles do exist — it is because of man, the deniers, of course, would seize on the minority of scientists who do not agree.  

No, Mr. Trump, global warming is not a Chinese hoax and there is too much at stake for us to stay silent and do nothing.