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Berkeley balcony lawsuit collapse settled in part

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 05:03:00 PM

A partial settlement has been reached in a lawsuit prompted by the death of six students and the injury of seven others when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley in 2015, lawyers for the plaintiffs said today.  

The collapse of apartment 405's balcony on June 16, 2015 at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. killed five students visiting from Ireland, as well as a student from Rohnert Park. 

The seven injured students were also from Ireland. 

Lawyers with the law firm Rains, Lucia, Stern, St. Phalle & Silver said they have reached a partial settlement with some of the defendants responsible for the construction of the apartment complex. 

The amount each defendant will pay the seven injured students and the families of the six students who died is confidential.  

One of those who died was Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park.  

Attorney Eustace de Saint Phalle, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement that even though there has been a partial settlement, "the Donohoe family will continue to push for legislative changes to the building codes."  

Following the collapse, the Berkeley City Council passed stricter building codes for outdoor structures.  

The Donohoe family also wants settlements contractors make related to shoddy work to be made public through the contractors licensing board.  

"The Donohoe family does not want negligent contractors to be able to hide the settlements of claims related to faulty construction through the use of secret settlements," de Saint Phalle said.  

Lawsuits against other defendants including the apartment complex's owner and the property manager continue to proceed. A trial date has been set for early next year.

Berkeley man gets 40 years to life for murdering childhood friend

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday May 05, 2017 - 02:24:00 PM

A Berkeley man was sentenced today to 40 years to life in state prison for fatally shooting a childhood friend during a dice game in South Berkeley in 2015 in what a prosecutor said was a callous and unfeeling act. 

Anthony Durant, 26, was convicted on Jan. 31 of second-degree murder for the shooting death of 24-year-old Christian Sheppard of Stockton near the Rosewood apartment complex near the corner of Russell and California streets shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2015. 

Prosecutor Jimmie Wilson said the motive for the shooting, in which he said Durant fired 16 shots at Sheppard, has never been made totally clear but there are indications that Durant and Sheppard had had an ongoing dispute over monetary issues. 

But Wilson said Durant and Sheppard had known each other since they were children and "a friend killed a friend." 

Wilson said Sheppard "never expected him (Durant) to do this to him." 

The prosecutor said, "What makes this so tragic is that he (Sheppard) never believed this person (Durant) would betray him like he did." 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay, who sentenced Durant said the shooting "was a matter of stupidity and never should have happened." 

Sheppard's mother, Wanda Hunter, said of the shooting, "I'm not at all at peace about how this all happened. It saw so malicious and he (Durant) isn't remorseful about it." 

Hunter told Durant, "You chose to jeopardize your freedom by doing something you shouldn't have done." 

Durant testified during his trial that he didn't kill Sheppard, claiming that Sheppard was killed by a masked gunman who suddenly appeared and tried to rob them. 

But Wilson said Durant's didn't provide any evidence to support that claim and jurors didn't believe his story. 

At his sentencing hearing today, Durant, who has long dreadlocks, told Sheppard's family that, "I'm sorry we are here in this situation and I'm sorry for your loss" but insisted that "I did not murder Christian." 

Durant said, "I want to clear my name and I want to get that off my chest." 

Wilson said, "I don't look at Anthony Durant as monster but instead as a failed individual who just doesn't get it." 

Durant was arrested in connection with a June 11, 2014, shooting at the same corner of Russell and California streets that sent two young men to the hospital but prosecutors didn't uncover enough evidence against him to make the charges against him stick. 





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Jane Jacobs' work is spotlighted in documentary now at Shattuck Cinemas

Charlene M. Woodcock
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:43:00 PM

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City:Shattuck Cinemas, from April 28 for two weeks (or longer based on demand.)

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, Modern Library 50th Anniversary Edition, 2011

How invigorating to see the continuing relevance of Jane Jacobs’ observations on the life of the city. Her genius was to understand what makes cities vibrant and humane and to demonstrate how insensitive development can render them inhospitable to the people who live in them. Jane Jacobs analyzed city parks and sidewalks, those that are successful, used and enjoyed by all sorts of people at different times of the day, as opposed to those that attract few people and become desolate, unsafe places, no matter how grand the adjacent buildings may be.


The drama of the film lies in its juxtaposing her close observation of city life with the abstract theories of planners, and particularly the New York planner extraordinaire Robert Moses. The film shows the consequences of the battle of wills between Moses and Jacobs and the residents of the buildings and whole neighborhoods he ordered destroyed to achieve his vision. Moses, Le Corbusier, and other planners envisioned the “park city” with tall buildings and large open spaces, and great, sweeping highways to move automobiles rapidly through them, which of course required extensive destruction of people’s homes, businesses, and habits of daily life. 

What these masterminds built in our cities was not designed on the basis of people’s needs and wishes but, for the most part, on untested city planning theories and driven by the profit motive. Blocks of two- to four-story apartment buildings with diverse small businesses at the sidewalk level were demolished, the residents and businesses forced out, their human-scale apartments and dynamic sidewalk life replaced by big, sterile buildings facing inward on grand open spaces. And many of them failed, the demolition footage to be seen in this film. These “parks” found little use or became dangerous for lack of the “eyes on the street” that Jacobs showed made busy streets safe for all. Jacobs closely observed the elements that interest city residents, how sidewalks and parks are enlivened by the diversity of people who use them, idle in them, play or simply enjoy observing their fellow city dwellers. She showed that it is this diversity of people, small businesses, short blocks, busy sidewalks, architecture old and new—that gives the city interest, attracts people, and makes it culturally and economically viable. 

We’ve all seen the urban scenes Jane Jacobs describes but perhaps have not consciously observed the accuracy of her findings. But we ignore at our peril the destruction and “renewal” of cities when done without consultation with the residents of the targeted neighborhood and adjustments or reconsideration of plans based on local needs and values. 

The film will be screened at the Shattuck Cinemas for one week, longer if there is sufficient audience interest. As the film schedule demonstrates, the Shattuck Cinemas are a Berkeley/East Bay treasure. The quality and diversity of films offered here draws to Berkeley several hundred thousand East Bay residents each year, thousands of whom signed a petition opposing their demolition to make way for a tall building, unwanted by the majority of Berkeley residents who voted out the pro-development mayor and city council majority. 

Last Saturday's Successful Climate Rally

Harry Brill
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:22:00 PM
Harry Brill

In many cities around the country tens of thousands of activists gathered to protest the destruction of our planet. To emphasize how serious the situation is, one sign in the Washington D.C. rally reminded the public; "There is No planet B". Lake Merritt in Oakland was the among the sites of a well attended rally, about 3,000 Bay Area residents who are committed to environmental justice 

The slogans and signs voiced concerns that our federal government and big business are taking us for a dangerous and irreversible ride. Referring to President Trump, one slogan rhymed " Resistance is here to stay. Welcome to your 100th day". There was certainly no shortage of imaginative activists. One sign read "Fossil fuels will make us fossil fools". According to the complaint of another activist "The oceans are rising and so are we". 

There was wonderful, live peoples' music throughout the day. Among the performers was the Occupella musicians group, which originally organized to support the Occupy Movement. Also, we heard speeches by Rep. Barbara Lee and Oakland Mayor, Libby Schaaf. To assure that everyone could hear both the music and speakers' voices, the volume of the sound had to be increased. Guess how. The volume is not triggered by any electronic gadget. Instead, stationary Bike-Powered amplification was achieved by peddling! 

After the speeches there was a march around the beautiful lake. It is a joy spending a day with so many people of all races. ethnicities and ages who care about making a difference. But what comes next? The leadership has certainly pointed the way: "It can't Be just a march. It has to be a movement".

New: Activist charges that downtown Berkeley apartment complex is being illegally rented as a suites hotel

Becky O'Malley
Saturday April 29, 2017 - 12:23:00 AM

Downtown land use activist Kelly Hammargren has written to Berkeley Mayor Arreguin, City of Berkeley planning staff and the city council to report her discovery that a very large new apartment complex on South Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley is being rented as a hotel instead of as the dwelling units for which it was permitted. 

In a letter sent to them on Saturday night, she says: 

“For all the cries for affordable housing and the posturing that Berkeley isn’t approving and building enough housing, recently opened projects in the Berkeley downtown area can’t seem to find renters. Possibly luxury priced projects in the downtown are overbuilt or possibly there is more interest by the developer in being a hotel than providing housing. 

“Parker Place apartment complex at 2037 Parker Street is listed as a hotel in all of the common hotel booking websites, i.e. booking.com, expedia, hotwire, hotels.com, in fact just type in Global Luxury Suites Downtown Berkeley into your favorite search engine and see what pops up.” 

Attached to her letter are copies of several of the ads offering the Parker Place apartment complex as a hotel. She says that by using the program Snagit she can supply officials with copies of many more hotel ads if desired.

Five arrested yesterday in Berkeley demonstration

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Friday April 28, 2017 - 02:51:00 PM

Police in Berkeley on Thursday arrested five people during a day of demonstrations in the city. 

Mark Wilder, 52, of Irving, was arrested on suspicion of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. 

Donque Addison, 28, of Oakland, was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest. 

Stephen Hall, 48, of Oakland, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to incite a riot and for violation of probation. 

A juvenile was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance. 

A person who has not yet been identified was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest. 

Police said the arrests were made as part of a coordinated effort to manage large-scale demonstrations in the downtown and South Campus neighborhoods and on the University of California at Berkeley campus. 

Police said officers confiscated numerous weapons during the course of the day. 

There were no reports of injuries or damage to property. 

The demonstrations were related to the canceled scheduled appearance of conservative commentator Ann Coulter. 

Coulter had planned a speech Thursday at the campus, but the Berkeley College Republicans canceled it on Wednesday saying the university could not guarantee the event would be safe.

Engines of Liberty offers strategies for this hour

Reviewed by Carol Polsgrove
Friday April 28, 2017 - 02:57:00 PM

In this time of heightened political awareness, David Cole’s Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law offers us maps for our way forward.

Cole, professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center, tells the stories of how activists paved the way for Supreme Court recognition of rights in three areas:

  • the right of same-sex couples to marry,
  • the right of individuals to bear arms,
  • and the right of detainees to protection from torture and unjust imprisonment.
Activists’ strategies varied in each area. To move the nation to legal recognition of same-sex marriages, activists adopted an incremental approach, laying the groundwork through state legislative action and courts before taking their case to federal courts. That way, a setback in one state would not apply to other states. 

Setbacks were common, as victories led to backlash, in the form, say, of referendums or amendments of state constitutions. But after “decades of advocacy of small groups of committed individuals,” the Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, acknowledged a national change of mind. 

In the case of the right to bear arms, the National Rifle Association, following a similar incremental strategy, worked for changes in state laws before moving on to federal courts. To erode certainty about earlier court interpretations that the Second Amendment applied only to militias, the NRA also encouraged legal scholars “to unearth historical evidence to support its view that the Second Amendment was originally understood to protect an individual right to bear arms.” 

Extending legal protection to detainees in the War on Terror presented a special challenge: most of those who were tortured, imprisoned at Guatánomo, held incognito in other nations’ prisons, or killed by drones were not American citizens; their claim to protection under the U.S. Constitution had not been established. 

Organizations like the ACLU used the Freedom of Information Act to bring to light U.S. practices that violated international human rights law and the moral codes of many Americans. Publicity and criticism at home and abroad led the executive branch to revise its treatment of prisoners, and through a series of rulings between 2004 and 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees had a constitutional right to court review. The Supreme Court decisions were, in significant part, a consequence of the work of organizations that drew back the veil of government secrecy. 

In his conclusion, Cole offers this takeaway: “Constitutional law is not something that hovers in the sky above us, or in an old piece of parchment to be divined, intoned, and enforced by judges in robes seated behind the well in formal courtrooms.... If you care about constitutional rights, the way forward should be clear: find or found associations of like-minded citizens, engage broadly and creatively, and do not leave constitutional law to the lawyers, much less the judges.” 

In a time when the foundations of our governance seem especially unsteady, Engines of Liberty suggests useful strategies for us. 


Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law/ by David Cole. Basic Books, 2016. 

Carol Polsgrove is the author of Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement and other histories. 







The first 100+ days of Berkeley's New Progs—how's it going here?

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:53:00 PM

Well, the first hundred days of dread have passed, and as yet no nuclear war, so that’s the good news, right? The record of what Gail Collins calls “can’t do” has been made, and this week it has been exhaustively reviewed in the major and minor media. David Remnick in the New Yorker has a very complete accounting of A Hundred Days of Trump, so I don’t need to add anything.

I find among my scribbler friends with longterm political involvement a sentiment analogous to compassion fatigue: Outrage Exhaustion. Many of us just can’t seem to say OMG one more time, as we learn that this president is unimaginably worse than we could ever have expected.

The good news is that a lot of people who have previously preferred to devote their time to watercolor sketching or madrigals or organic vegis have now awakened from their slumber and are carrying the ball. It seems that what some grandly call “The Resistance” is in good hands, so I’m going to leave it there for now. Thanks, guys, and more power to you!

Instead, I’m going to focus on another first term, now about six weeks more than 100 days in the saddle. That would be the dramatic change (fingers crossed) in Berkeley’s City Council fostered by the new Berkeley Progressive Alliance and its fellow travelers, some of whom were already incumbents in the 2016 election.  

The recent election of Kate Harrison to fill new Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s vacant District Four seat solidified what should be a supermajority of progressive councilmembers. However, we should be well aware of the human inclination to form what we used to call the circular firing squad. We used to think that this was exclusively a leftist weakness, but now the Republicans have started doing it too. 

In truth, everyone in local politics around here would count as a progressive somewhere in the world or at least in the U.S. The factional lines, such as they are, are more subtle and policy-driven, but they do exist. 

The main controversy that drove the results in November was how to manage Berkeley’s building boom and the housing shortage which was cited as justification for enabling it. The city has been dominated for a couple of decades by councilmembers whose campaign finance statements clearly showed that they were bought and sold by the building industry, but just in the last couple of years the propagation of big ugly buildings with billboards identifying them as luxury dwellings has finally caught the attention of complacent citizens. And on the sidewalk outside these monstrosities, we’ve also seen the proliferation of in-your-face homeless people, some of whom have been organizing politically with camp-ins and signs to call attention to their situation.  

Homeless activism has drawn the attention of those of us concerned about civil liberties to the way the city uses its police power. The Black Lives Matter movement is another branch of the same tree, particularly since Berkeley police directed by the previous administration made such a mess (such an expensive mess) in their reaction to the Black Lives Matter demonstration. Now, as well as a new mayor and city council, we have a new city manager and a new police chief—so we can hope for some progressive change. 

And just in time, too. I think the way Berkeley’s new team—mayor, council, city manager,police chief—has handled the recent invasion of the crazy right has been nothing less than brilliant, contrary to bloodthirsty criticism by online trolls. These public servants started off handicapped by U.C. Berkeley’s pathetic planning for the Milo fiasco, which caused a lot of damage, but by the time the March4Trump materialized the BPD’s strategy of confining the problems almost worked: no damage to buildings, no serious injuries, a reasonable number of arrests.  

Yesterday’s demonstration was, literally, a walk in the park. We (me, photographer, dog) were there for two hours, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. My human partner was reminded of a convention of flying saucer enthusiasts that he observed in New Jersey as a teenager in the 50s. We Americans do a great job of crazy, don’t we? 

Despite their spiked helmets and garbage can lid shields, the great majority of those in attendance, at least the ones I talked to, were amiable nuts. I suspect there was a good bit of overlap with the old Renaissance Faire crowd, the ones that liked to dress up in armor, kilts, and other military paraphernalia of days gone by. Some of them were youngish, but many of the guys were mid-life-crisis age, plump, balding and earnest.  

The gals were great, too. Many sported what I call the KellyAnne look: long stringy over-bleached or perhaps vinyl hair, tight teeshirts with slogans, skinny jeans (even on those whose actual bodies were far from skinny). My fave of these was the woman whose sign, hanging provocatively over her silicon-enhanced chest, said “Free speech is sexy.” 

Of course it is! Who could disagree with that? 

And enjoying the spectacle at lunchtime was a gaggle of charming Berkeley High students, who often eat in the park when the weather is nice. Three brave girls sat on the fountain just belong a goofy group of demonstrators, one wearing a suspiciously Germanesque spiked helmet and another with a shirt that said “Mohammed is in Hell”. 

Some of the demonstrators and speakers were even brown-skinned in various degrees. The sound system was terrible, so I couldn’t hear much of what they had to say, thank goodness. One that I did hear was a long, long, explication of why the Pilgrims got on those boats to America, to escape Bloody Mary, who was trying to burn them at the stake for reading the Bible. Plausible, unless you look up the dates for Queen Mary I of England and for the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock decades after her death.  

Another speaker said that “we’re here to support the First Fucking Amendment.” First time I’ve heard it described like that, but whatever works. I doubt that the students were shocked, if they heard it. 

My first First Amendment demo was in 1960, against the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Un-American Activities Committee (yes, Virginia, there was one.) The Un-America Activity in question was association with communists or even Communists, who turned out to be the parents of a couple of my friends.  

In those days, close to 50 years ago now, the SF cops turned on the fire hoses in City Hall to wash the demonstrators down a long flight of marble stairs. Messy, especially because in those days for demonstrations the guys wore coats and ties, and the girls dresses, hats and gloves. 

The Berkeley cops yesterday did a whole lot better, and I for one am proud of how they kept their cool. 

Which, after such a long digression, brings us back to the other issues on which we should judge the first 100+ days of Berkeley’s new progressive majority. Watching city council meetings where development issues were on the agenda, I’m not sure their supporters are enthusiastic for their record so far in this area. A couple of them are sounding off in this very issue.  

It looks to me like some councilmembers believe that they have a legal obligation to continue the mistakes of their predecessors. This is a legal error, probably under the influence of a lame duck City Attorney trying to do a few more favors for the old regime’s developer clients on his way out the door. 

There’s just one word for the way Kriss Worthington let down the neighbors of the Honda repair shop expansion on South Shattuck: inexcusable. There are rumbles of a candidate opposing him next year if he runs again. 

Still in the works is the proposal for 2902 Adeline, coming back to the council on Tuesday. It’s another one where there’s a claim that they deserve all the zoning variances they’ve demanded because of deals made by the Zoning Adjustment Board appointed by the previous council. 

This week the anger is about new Councilmember Ben Bartlett’s endorsement of the developer’s weaselly fake compromise, which offers way too little in the way of community benefits to compensate for the big bonuses they would be getting if their deal goes down. Here the rumor is that Bartlett plans to go after Tony Thurmond’s State Representative seat as Thurmond seeks higher office.  

Some say that he hopes to get campaign money from the building lobbies, both developers and the trade unions—that he’s willing to throw his current constituents under the bus to please the money men. That would be very foolish, especially since some in District 3 are now talking about a recall, which would look very bad on his record even if it failed. 

These are only two of the yardsticks by which the New Progs are being judged, and there are many more. I encourage readers, especially our regular opinion contributors, to add to the list in the next couple of weeks with their own analyses. To be continued…. 



Public Comment

Chairs in the lobby at Redwood Gardens

Miriam Berg, on behalf of the residents at Redwood Gardens and co-chair of the residents' association
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:23:00 PM

Once again the CSI management appears to have instituted a policy which is adverse to residents' needs by issuing an edict that no chairs are permitted in the lobby of Redwood Gardens for persons waiting for appointments with Myra Wallace and Donna Miles or other staff. This is an act of inconsiderateness against the residents if not an act of cruelty. Redwood Gardens is a Section 8 housing facility for the elderly and people with disabilities every office in the world where individuals have appointments provide chairs for waiting persons to be seated. This is an atrocious decision and we at Redwood Gardens demand that it be revoked, and also that the atrocious decision not to accept packages for residents also should be revoked. We are lease-holding tenants and tenancy means the right to have safe delivery of mail and packages.

Going Back in Time with the Berkeley City Council

C. Denney
Friday May 05, 2017 - 02:27:00 PM

Smoking at a bus stop in Berkeley became illegal in 2004. Smoking in a commercial area in Berkeley, an area with stores and shops, became illegal in 2008. Using e-cigarettes in those places became illegal in Berkeley in 2014. And the people who know this are a rarified group which wouldn't fit into a canoe. 

The law has its majesty. But a law which consistently changes, as Berkeley's smoking regulations have, requires clarification and signage to have any public health impact. Anyone walking through Berkeley will be met with any number of contradictory signs: you are prohibited from smoking in the commercial area, but apparently within your rights to smoke within twenty, or sometimes twenty-five feet, or sometimes fifty feet from a doorway depending on what era of signage one encounters. 

Berkeley's grade from the American Lung Association got better once it finally addressed the enormous ratio of people getting consistently exposed in their own homes from smoking neighbors. But it's about to get worse. The Downtown Berkeley Association, working on the advice of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC), is about to situate ashtrays downtown in currently smokefree areas prone to cigarette litter out of a seemingly benign concern about toxic cigarette butts in the waste stream. 

Which is important. Here's to having healthy ocean wildlife. No smoker should blithely toss cigarettes into the gutter, which poisons wildlife downstream. This pilot project is at least well intended. But since only CEAC saw this proposal, very few who work in public health saw it. And if they had, they would have sent up an alarm which any smoker can clarify: ashtrays are an international signal of a smoke-friendly area.  

If you travel, and your restaurant has ashtrays, you know you can smoke there. It may not be good for you, or for the restaurant staff, but you know it is permissible. If there's an ashtray on the sidewalk in front of the business or restaurant the assumption is the same. 

Berkeley chose, at a certain point, not to keep up with appropriate signage for its changing regulations. Businesses who have windows next to commercial district sidewalks were sent obligatory signage in 2008 after passage of the commercial district smoking regulations, and while not all of them complied, a little follow-up from the city meant that most commercial sidewalks had clear signage in every store window clarifying policy. This was valuable both for helping clarify the law to smokers, most of whom have no interest in bothering people or getting a ticket, and also improving public health. 

Those signs faded with time, and as those businesses turned over nobody from the city's once well-funded Public Health Department followed up with fresh information and signage, such that the only visible signs in some areas of the city are technically inaccurate. Pity the poor smokers, most of whom only wish to know where in heaven's name they can enjoy a cigarette, trying to figure out what the rules are today.  

The cigarette receptacle pilot project is the perfect way to amplify this confusion. Instead of a very modest amount of enforcement, the receptacles will create the impression that our smokefree areas have even more complex sets of exemptions than are currently apparent as a consequence of the confusing signage, the changing regulations, and the near complete lack of enforcement of a law which has life or death consequences for the public. 

Please, Berkeley City Council and relevant commissions - which would be all of them - revisit this pilot project before more people are exposed to something of which there is no safe dose. Enough of us already have difficulty doing errands without getting a serious, and avoidable dose of toxic exposure to secondhand smoke. We have the right to enjoy our city without toxic assault, and need to take common sense approaches to downstream waste issues, like ticketing violations. Please don't sacrifice the public's health unnecessarily just to look green. 


Trump’s obsessions

Jagjit Singh
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:50:00 PM

President Trump seems to be obsessively warm and effusive to some of the most brutal dictators in the world. Following his inauguration, he reached out to Vladimir Putin in the hope of warming relations with Russia and perhaps thanking him for the role he played in torpedoing Clinton’s efforts. Earlier this year he invited President el-Sisi of Egypt to the White House. El-Sisi He imprisoned judges, prosecutors, academics and journalists. 

Following Erdogan of Turkey’s election, Trump called to congratulate him ignoring his assault on free speech and imprisonment of tens of thousands of people following last year’s coup. 

Thailand’s leader is another authoritarian leader invited to the White House. The invitation will help fend off domestic opposition in Thailand. Prime Minister Prauth Chan ocha seized power in a military coup three years ago. 

His latest infatuation is with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, the authoritarian leader guilty of the extrajudicial killing of tens of thousands of suspected drug suspects. During their “very friendly conversation,” Trump invited him to the White House. This was Trump’s latest impulsive gesture which caught members of his National Security Council and State Department off guard. 

Trump praised the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, as a “smart cookie.” He recently stated that he would be “honored” to meet the North Korean leader.

Trump and North Korea

Jack Bragen
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:05:00 PM

I believe that all Americans ought to back Trump's efforts on the issue of dealing with North Korea. And then, as soon as that situation is stabilized, we ought to impeach Trump.  

Like it or not, Donald Trump is currently the Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. Military. Furthermore, I believe his handling of the situation is competent. North Korea poses a dire threat to life on Earth. If the head of North Korea starts launching nuclear missiles at the U.S., at South Korea, or at Japan, it could lead to full scale atomic warfare between larger nuclear powers. That will cause the end of life on Earth, with the possible exception of bacterial life and some insects.  

Once we have somehow neutralized North Korea, and I do not know how this is to be done, we ought to impeach the President, because his election wasn't clean, it wasn't fair, and laws may have been broken.  

Certainly, the dishonesty of Trump and the crookedness of his election are not comparable to Bill Clinton lying about an affair. The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for pure political reasons. If you can impeach President Clinton for his affair, you can certainly impeach Trump for actual wrongdoing.  

This is why the midterm elections are crucial. We need to regain a majority of Democrats in Congress, so that Trump can be impeached, and so that we can end the national nightmare that his administration has brought about.  

Bus stops are not public restrooms

Romila Khanna
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:41:00 PM

What is happening to the bus stops? 

Who has allowed the strangers to use public spaces to urinate and discharge their bodily waste through their anus? 

This has been seen in bus stops for months. Transit department or city governments all over the state must make it their priority to help daily commuters to commute to their destinations without compromising their health. School children, college students and others use bus stops.  

Today there were broken glass pieces thrown all over on three bus stop areas in Albany. 

I had to board the bus standing on the road to save myself from getting poked by glass pieces and the bodily discharge of some crazy-brainer. 

This is a serious problem. I urge the Albany city Mayor to look into the matter and collaborate with the Public Health and Police Departments to ensure that Albany residents don’t face this problem again.  

If we ignore this issue, it will become a health issue for all residents, even those that drive their cars through the area. We must pay attention to the needs of all others, even when it does not directly concerns us.

May Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday May 05, 2017 - 02:25:00 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! 

City of Berkeley flouts state density bonus law for 2902 Adeline project

Robert Lauriston
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:19:00 PM

California's density bonus law provides a variety of bonuses for housing projects that include a small percentage of below-market-rate units that are reserved for and affordable to low-income households. One bonus is "concessions," which can be used to set aside local zoning code provisions.

To qualify for that bonus, the law also requires that any existing units that are or were last occupied by low-income tenants be replaced by units with the same number of bedrooms. If the income of the tenant households is not known, the law requires the city to presume that they were low-income in the same proportion as all renter households in the city. The burden is on the applicant to rebut that presumption.

Last October, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved permits to demolish a five-bedroom house at 1946 Russell and a mixed-use building at 2908 Adeline containing one five-bedroom unit and one two-bedroom unit in order to build a six-story building with 50 units, two of which would be affordable per the state law. This approval included use of a state concession to override the floor-area ratio limit. City staff did not inform the ZAB of the replacement requirement, so it was not even discussed. 

A group of 30 neighbors appealed that ZAB decision to the City Council. One of the bases for our appeal is the lack of replacement units. We believe that to qualify for the concession, the project would have to replace the demolished two five-bedroom and one two-bedroom units and include two new below-market-rate units. A letter detailing this was submitted to the City Council by one of our attorneys, Jassmin Poyaoan of the East Bay Community Law Center. 

The property owners claimed that they occupied the two units at 2908 Adeline, but we provided the Council with a list of 25 current or previous tenants, advertisements from last September offering rooms for rent, and documentation that all three of the owners live elsewhere. They also claimed that there was only one name on the lease at 1946 Russell and he was not low-income when he signed it, but they have provided no documentation of his income at the time they doubled the rent to force him and his roommates to move, and no information at all about his four roommates or the current or last tenants of 2908 Adeline. 

The city continues to refuse to make the required presumption, and the applicant has not rebutted it. Councilmember Hahn understands the problem but to date seems to have been unsuccessful in communicating that understanding to the rest of the council. 

Our appeal will be back before the Council for the fourth time this coming Tuesday, May 2. There will be no public comment, since the public hearing was closed, so if you want to make your opinion known on this matter, call or email Mayor Arreguin or the Council member for your district.


Toni Mester
Friday April 28, 2017 - 09:56:00 AM
Daylight plane
Daylight plane

­­­ For the past few months, I’ve been immersed in zoning because the rules that govern building in my West Berkeley neighborhood are under review at the Planning Commission. The continued public hearing on the R-1A will be held on Wednesday May 17 at the North Berkeley Senior Center at Hearst and MLK. We’re hoping for a big turnout, but I’ve learned that zoning does not excite most people until somebody wants to build next door, and then the neighbors scour the code and master plan for some justification to deny the permit.

Appeals by neighbors have become the rule. Dean Metzger, a convener of the Berkeley Neighborhood Council, reviewed City Council minutes since January 2015 and found 26 land-use appeals, some of which have had continued hearings. That’s a huge drain on resources including staff time to process the appeals as well as demands on the Council to review each appeal, hear it, and render a decision. In 2008 the City increased the fee to appeal in the hopes of reducing frivolous claims. There was a time when every fence and hot tub would engender an appeal. Now the appeals are mostly based on the scale of new buildings, and the higher fees have not dissuaded neighbors from protesting the perceived disruption. Since these buildings provide needed housing, more should be done to better harmonize new development with existing neighborhoods. The zoning code should be reformed to create conditions that would make such appeals the exception. 

The War Zone  

This morning I got an email asking me to show up at Civic Center Park to respect Berkeley and then another one telling me that the PD would rather that we stay home. Meanwhile the sound of helicopters has been constant. This is like living in a war zone, but like most other residents, I’m trying to live as normally as possible given the circumstances. It must be worse for parents of students at the high school and nearby Washington Elementary. So I’m going to write about zoning and respect the intelligence of my readers by not pretending that life is normal these days. 

My determination to carry on is complicated by the fact that I just had surgery on my right hand where a hard cast keeps hitting the space bar. The operation is called hand arthroplasty joint reconstruction ligament and trapeziectomy, quite a mouthful. It took almost two hours under general anesthesia, and I was in and out of Kaiser Richmond the same day. I stopped thinking about zoning for three days while weaning myself from Norco, which imposes a fuzzy mental zone that disallows rational thought and writing.  

I understand from drug ads on television, news stories, and friends in the medical professions that some people live on Norco, day in and day out. Norco is a combination of Tylenol and hydrocodone, an opiate. There’s supposed to be an epidemic of opioid drugs, which could explain some social phenomena we’re witnessing, such as mass stupidity. I spent two days on liquids to flush the anesthesia and avoid the notorious side effects of Norco. That worked, and I’m back on ibuprofen and thankful for a clear head again. Nevertheless, this column will be shorter than usual as a result. 

Berkeley can do better 

The Planning Commission discussions on the R-1A and the staff reports have mostly analyzed Berkeley’s own experiences. As a complement, I researched the history of R-1A zoning and created a parcel database from the City’s open data portal. But something was missing, a comparison with the zoning codes of other cities. So I made a list of 20 California cities with comparable populations as well as Oakland, Richmond, Palo Alto, Santa Rosa, and other nearby population centers and began to read their zoning code chapters that dealt with the neighborhoods just above the R-1 in density. Usually that was R-2. From this information, I constructed a simplified grid of their development standards. 

I gleaned much instructive data that can be applied to the R-1A, but the main take-away was that most other cities have more precise and complete zoning codes. Most of them were self-explanatory, explicit, and easy to decipher, and many had features missing from ours. For the sake of brevity and the condition of my right hand, here is a brief outline of what our zoning code lacks. 

Density parameters: Berkeley code describes a zone as “low­-medium density” or “high density” etc. but does not provide numbers in dwelling units per acre. Most codes of comparable California cities include densities for each zone measured in dwelling units per acre. The absence of densities in the Berkeley code makes computation of the density bonus difficult and affects the allowances in all residential districts. 

Lot dimensions: Berkeley’s lot requirements for new structures are given only in the square footage. Most other jurisdictions indicate not only the area required but also the minimum width and depth. This inadequacy creates problems in the older districts where the area may seem adequate, but the lots are too narrow for building two or three stories houses on the rear of the lot without intrusion into adjacent properties. 

FAR: Floor area ratio is only indicated in our commercial/mixed-use zones. Most other cities designate FAR for the residential zones as well, and some correlate the amount of building square footage to the lot area. The floor area ratio is a numerical relationship of the built square footage to the lot area that regulates the amount of floor area and helps to determine the building mass. 

Forms: even if a city has not converted to form-based zoning, the influence of contemporary trends is often shown by an emphasis on desired building types. Berkeley limits the types of dwelling units to single-family, duplex, and multi-family and omits cluster types like bungalow courts, townhouses, courtyard apartments, and live work developments. Our zoning code does not encourage compact infill housing in low and medium density neighborhoods. 

Diagrams: In many other cities, more pictures and graphics are provided of various setbacks and designs. An architect knows how to interpret development standards, but the ordinary prospective buyer or homeowner should be able to read the zoning code and know what is allowed by looking at illustrations. Depictions also show how setbacks and heights are applied. 

Daylight plane: a 45° setback is applied in half the cities studied to ensure adequate sunlight, obviating the need of shadow studies, which have become a cottage industry in Berkeley. The shadow studies are ignored anyway because the impacts are subjectively evaluated according to a meaningless standard of what is “a reasonable obstruction…” 

Design standards: most cities are very picky and specify design elements such as: the style of accessory buildings; preferred roof designs; finish materials, window placement to ensure privacy, % of the lot that must be landscaped, size of the second story by % of the first, solar roof protections, and many other provisions that influence the looks of the built environment. 

The codes of most other cities are more prescriptive and objective than ours. The cities are saying, build this way and you’ll be approved. Berkeley should incorporate some of these beneficial directives to ensure aesthetic and social harmony, prevent neighborhood distress, dragged out appeals, and waste of staff, commission, and Council time. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley.

Hey, let's stop threatening speakers and making a mockery of Berkeley

Peter Ellman, New York
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:08:00 PM

I'm a registered Democrat. I was not one of the Bernie supporters who out of protest voted for Trump (horrible idea) or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or who didn't vote for any President at all (opposite of yuge). The reason I didn't do any of these things is because I thought and still do even more now that the Trump administration is probably going to prove to be one of the worst things to ever happen to our country.

He is a criminal and a deeply disturbed narcissist surrounded by other criminals and narcissist. When I say criminal I mean literally part of an organized racketeering crime ring providing a front for some of the worst elements of international organized crime including ties to Iran. Okay. So you know where I stand.

That being said, I will fly out to Berkeley and personally physically protect Coulter if she chooses to speak on campus. Berkeley should close its academic doors and close up shop before it denies someone like Coulter free speech. We may not like her but she is not exactly a Nazi. She's someone with views not our own who likes to get a rise out of people by saying offensive and stupid things. Anyone who threatens her with violence or who goes further to plot violence against her is also a criminal and a fool.  

I'm a trained fighter so I'm happy to talk with anyone in person who wants to resort to violence. If you want to hurt someone because you don't like their mouthing off maybe take your extremist reactions and go punch yourself in the face. Stop making this world a worse place to be in.  

Just because you are on my side of the political spectrum does not make physically threatening or harming another individual okay who has done nothing to you. I don't care if you and I agree on everything else threatening or harming Coultier is bullshit. . I don't hit people. If you do, you don't belong anywhere near the Berkeley campus and you are losing the fight for all of us. Take a xanax and go write your congressperson

May Day and Labor Day- A Major Difference

Harry Brill
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:00:00 PM

Some of you might be confused about the difference between May Day and Labor Day. Actually the difference is substantial.

The May Day holiday is broader than Labor Day. Beginning in the late 19th century, socialists referred to May 1 as International Workers Day. It was on May 4, 1886 when police killed workers who were demonstrating in Haymarket Square, Chicago for an eight hour day. But May 1 commemorates the struggles and contributions of not only American workers, but all working people around the world. It is no surprise that the conception of May Day was international in scope because it reflected the perspective of socialist and communist leaders, who tend to take a broad perspective. Because of the severe resistance and repression they confronted, May Day has historically promoted an anti-establishment perspective. 

Labor Day is a federal holiday that honors the contribution of American workers and the American Labor Movement. It was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor. It is celebrated annually on the first Monday in September. This holiday tends to be festive rather than adversarial. The Alameda Labor Council, for example, sponsors a huge annual picnic. For a small admission charge, all are invited. 

This May 1 there will be a rally and march for immigrant rights. A coalition of immigrants, workers, students, labor unions, and faith and community groups will join together. A rally will be held at 3pm at Fruitvale Plaza (near BART). The march will begin at 4:00pm.

Trump & Indonesia

Jagjit Singh
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:17:00 PM

It’s a pity that VP Mike Pence seems to be unaware of the close ties that his boss has long established perhaps unwittingly, with the elites of the Indonesian underworld. In a shocking expose’, long time reporter, Allan Nairn revealed supporters of Donald Trump have aligned themselves with army officers and vigilante groups linked to ISIS in an attempt to remove Indonesian’s president.  

Several prominent supporters of the coup are a corporate lawyer working for the mining company Freeport-McMoRan who has close links with Trump’s advisor, Carl Icahn and a Fadli Zon, vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives. Closely associated with this group is Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who is building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta. 

Carl Icahn’s Freeport lawyer was videotaped not long ago at an ISIS swear-in ceremony, where he was one of two people presiding as a group full of young men pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. The program of massive street demonstrations, aimed at bringing down the Jokowi elected government, has been endorsed by radical Islamic Indonesians who have gone to Syria and joined up as ISIS fighters. 

This once again raises critical ethical questions regarding Trump’s business interests with Indonesia’s unsavory underworld.

Engineering failure of health care

Ron Lowe
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:48:00 PM

Donald Trump and a few hundred Republican politicians are still out to repeal the successful Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to please its base of Freedom Caucus and Obamahaters. The only way the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will fail is if Trump and Republican politicians sabotage it. 

Thanks to Republicans' relentless propaganda campaign for the past six years, the concept of Obamacare is widely disliked. But most of what the law does is popular; expanding Medicaid, forcing insurers to cover those pre-existing medical conditions' allowing young people to stay on their parents' policies until age 26.  

If President Trump does cave to the hard-core extremists in the Republican Party base, what will Donald tell the millions of Americans who have the ACA health care plan and like it? And Donald you keep telling Americans the Affordable Care Act is dangerous: The only thing dangerous about the ACA is that its a threat to Trump-Republican lies and hypocrisy!

North Korea threat

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:44:00 PM

World-renowned professor Noam Chomsky offered some sobering thoughts during a recent interview. 

He reminded his listeners that an attack on North Korea would unleash massive artillery bombardment of Seoul where 28,500 American troops are stationed. US troops based in Japan would also be in the line of fire. 

B52 military maneuvers flying near North Korea’s border are highly provocative and have exacerbated an already explosive situation. North Koreans have much to fear. According to the Air Quarterly Review, US aircraft carpet bombed North Korea in June 1952 and then proceeded to destroy the dams releasing huge amounts of water destroying villages and rice crops, the main staple of North Korea. Tens of thousands of men, women and children died. 

Destroying the dams is a serious war crime for which the US was never held accountable. The massive ‘shock and awe’ and racist comments that followed was reminiscent of the Iraq war and the recent Tomahawk missile strike in Syria. 

A former proposal offered by China and North Korea should be vigorously pursued. Simply stated, the de-escalation quid pro quo would freeze North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons systems and in return the US would halt its B52 flights near North Korea’s border and gradually withdraw US forces from South Korea and Japan. 

There is universal revulsion at the North Korean leadership but their basic instinct for survival is understandable. They remember the fate of Mohammar Kaddafi of Libya who paid the ultimate price after he surrounded his nuclear arsenal. 


THE PUBLIC EYE:Explaining Trump’s Base Support

Bob Burnett
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:45:00 PM

Donald Trump continues to be unpopular with voters, in general. However, his base overwhelmingly supports him. Why? 

According to Five Thirty Eight, 52 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing while 42 percent approve of his performance. (A ten-point gap that has held steady for a month.) Nonetheless, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds a stark difference of opinion between Trump voters and everyone else: 94 percent of Trump voters approve of his performance, 92 percent of Clinton voters disapprove, and 62 percent of other or non-voters disapprove. 

There are three explanations for the rabid support Trump gets from his base. The first is political, the Trump voters don't have another choice; they don't see any other politician they prefer to Trump. The Washington Post/ABC News poll asked voters who was to blame for Trump's lack of accomplishments in his first 100 days in office. Trump voters felt this was due to the obstruction of congressional Democrats. On the other hand, Clinton voters felt that the lack of accomplishments was Trump's fault. 

The typical perspective of Trump voters is, "Give him a chance to show what he can do." Trump hasn't repealed Obamacare or built the border wall or kept Muslims from entering the U.S., but these failures are dwarfed by what appears to be a strong economy. Trump claims to have created 500,000 jobs (but overall economic growth is a tepid .7 percent). 

From a political perspective, Trump voters aren't going to desert him until the economy stalls. 

There's also a sociological reason why Trump voters are "standing by their man." Trump has fashioned a narrative where he is the most reliable source of information. When Trump says things like, "We've accomplished more in 100 days than any previous Administration," it's laughed at by the mainstream media but accepted as truth by Trump voters. 

Roughly one-third of Trump's April 29 Harrisburg speech was spent attacking the press. "Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are fake news...They're incompetent, dishonest people, who, after [the] election had to apologize...the media deserves a very, very, big fat failing grade." 

The next third of the speech was spent lauding Trump's accomplishments: "For decades, our country has lived through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world...[the media won't report this because] they're all part of a broken system that profited this global theft... We've delivered 100 days of action." 

The final third of the speech was about the "threat" of illegal immigrants. the audience called out, "Build the wall!" and Trump promised he would. He said, "The last, very weak administration allowed thousands and thousands of gang members to cross our border and enter into our communities where they wreaked havoc on our citizens." 

Trump voters buy this narrative because they identify with Trump and trust him; most of their associates share this sentiment. 

Finally, there's a psychological reason why Trump voters continue to support him: they are trapped in an abusive "system." These voters suffer from a version of Stockholm syndrome where prisoners "develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy." 

After the election, many polls noted that Trump supporters voted for him because they believe it to be their last chance to save the country and to regain power over their lives. 

In her landmark study, "Stranger in their own Land," sociologist Arlie Hochschild detailed the shared narrative, "deep story," of many Trump voters: "You are standing in a long line leading up a hill... You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male... Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line. Most in the back of the line are people of color... Look! You see people cutting in line ahead of you! You're following the rules. They aren't. As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back... Who are they? Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers—where will it end?" Hochschild explained, "[Trump voters] felt that the deep story was their real story and that there was a false PC over-up of that story... So it was with joyous belief that many heard a Donald Trump who seemed to be wildly, omnipotently, magically free of all PC constraint." Trump made them feel okay about themselves. 

Hochschild observed, "Underlying all these other bases of honor — in work, region, state, family life, and church — was pride in the self of the deep story... What seemed like a problem to liberals — the fact that conservatives identify 'up,' with the 1 percent — was actually a source of pride to the [Trump voters] I got to know." Trump voters admire Donald. 

A recent Time magazine article , about why women stay in abusive relationships, observed: "Research also shows that abusers are drawn to people who already feel powerless in other aspects of their life. These people question their own worth and thus do not consider whether their needs are being met. Predators build up the victim's self-esteem before introducing the abuse." This explains the relationship between Trump and his supporters. 

Donald Trump is an abuser. He's found an audience with millions of American who feel powerless. Now, he's getting ready to abuse them by taking away their healthcare, polluting their air and water, and reducing public services. 

What will take for Trump voters to realize they have been fooled? 


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


SQUEAKY WHEEL: Housing Ups and Downs

Toni Mester
Friday May 05, 2017 - 12:53:00 PM
Narrow streets in the hills
Narrow streets in the hills

­­­ With the final approval of the 2902 Adeline Street project by the City Council on Tuesday night, Berkeley is 50 units closer to meeting our RHNA goals (pronounced ree-na: Regional Housing Needs Allocation). It was a thumbs-up night with approvals from all the Council members except Cheryl Davila, who abstained. 

Mayor Jesse Arreguin praised architect David Trachtenberg for his building design, although I would have preferred another step-down terrace towards the neighborhood to avoid shadowing nearby homes. Councilmember Ben Bartlett got credit for negotiating the community benefit and the below-market rate (BMR) units: 4 for very-low income, 4 for low-income, and one for moderate income. 

Nobody on the dais thanked Robert Lauriston and the 29 other appellants who helped to squeeze more affordable units out of this project. It takes courage and hard work to appeal, as I know from personal experience, a bruising effort not lightly undertaken to “impose capricious requirements” as one of the support form letters insinuated. One of the tactics used against neighbors is to impugn their motives. Personal attack didn’t work in this case because critics of the project were not acting out of selfish reasons but hoping to increase affordable housing, which is the top citizen concern according to the 2016 surveys

More affordable housing was the subject of two petitions, one from Friends of Adeline that gathered 400 signatures, demanding 20% affordable units and another from Move-on with 251 signatures wanting 40% affordable units, 85% parking spaces, and other unrealistic expectations that show a woeful ignorance of the costs and risks involved in developing housing. The density bonus has blurred the distinction between subsidized and for-profit housing projects. Instead of insulting the confused, the development community should educate the public about the business of building housing, as presentations at ZAB and the design review board are clearly inadequate methods of informing the broader community. 

The approval took a year from the initial application, not the worst case for Berkeley, although the new Council should strive for improvement. The causes of such delays in the process should be evaluated, as they add to the overall costs. To avoid appeals, the City needs to institute design standards that protect the adjacent property owners, as so many other cities including San Francisco, Albany, El Cerrito, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park, have done in adopting the daylight plane. 

Reading the correspondence in the administrative record reveals the usual suspects: form letters from Real Tex and Livable Berkeley full of urgency and contempt for the neighbors and emails and the petitions from skeptical residents, full of pie-in-the-sky expectations and distrust of developers and their motives. The pattern is predictable. 

Everybody is to blame and nobody. Berkeley has an insufficient and antiquated zoning code, leaving density and design parameters to subjective interpretation rather than robust standards. With so much flexibility, even angels would come to blows. 

It should be obvious by now that the density bonus is an inadequate tool for producing the affordable housing needed: too much effort and expense for a handful of BMRs in each project. In addition to expanded and often intrusive building envelopes, the City pays for the monitoring of the affordable units, as occupancy is means tested. At least two full-time staffers are required to verify and enforce the tenants’ eligibility to reside in the subsidized units. 

New reports on the affordable housing crisis show the dimensions of the current deficiency. According to the California Housing Partnership, Alameda County needs over 60,000 rental homes. “Renters must earn nearly 4 times local minimum wage to afford the median asking rent of $2,593 in Alameda County,” they reveal. “Alameda County’s lowest-income renters spend 56% of income on rent, leaving little left for food, transportation, health expenses, and other needs.” 

Come on people, let’s get together …right now. 

Berkeley loses another planning chief 

The process of getting to yes has just been complicated by the resignation of Carol Johnson as Director of Planning and Development. She will return to Phoenix, Arizona to become the Director of Community Development for Maricopa County. It’s a big job, and we wish her all the best. She will be missed for her professional demeanor, depth of knowledge, and accessibility. I was hoping to work with her on the San Pablo Avenue Plan. 

Hers was a short term of office, taking over in May last year after the resignation of Eric Angstadt, who is now the chief deputy administrator for Contra Costa County. He lasted as Berkeley’s planning chief for four years. 

Management turnover is a big problem in Berkeley. The City needs the stability of a planning director to achieve some progress toward upgrading our antiquated master plan and zoning code by creating realistic specific plans and workable modern standards. An interim planning director has not yet been named. 

Word has it that the City Manager has failed to find a replacement for City attorney Zach Cowan, who is retiring. None of the first round candidates were suitable, and we can only wonder at the skills being sought, such as expertise in the complexities of current land-use law, as well as a tolerance for late-night meetings. 

These openings present an opportunity for Mayor Jesse Arreguin and his majority to renew the direction of the City by hiring land-use experts who will help update Berkeley’s master plan and zoning code like Richmond’s elegant and inspirational new 2030 General Plan and form-based code. 

The Council should hire a consultant and get on with the work. In the process maybe we can learn a common language if not agree on a vision. 

Hey, do you ADU? 

Hidden in the consent calendar on Tuesday night was another accessory dwelling unit program, called the junior ADU, an invention of a Novato builder and allowed by a law initiated by State Assemblyman Tony Thurmond. The JADU allows for an extra unit in R-1 zones, but within the existing home, and having an exterior door as well as an interior entry to the main living quarters. The junior ADU -­­ up to 500 square feet - would have a separate bedroom and kitchenette, but a toilet is not required. The Council consent item referred the ordinance to the planning commission. 

The junior ADU is another housing option, and the unit would count towards the City’s RHNA. However, it may not appeal to many homeowners who are used to a private bathroom. For the cost of a small bathroom, a regular attached ADU can be constructed up to 750 square feet. 

The junior ADU is another diversion from implementing Berkeley’s ADU program that has yet to take-off. The ADU has the potential to house low to moderate-income singles, couples, and small families who together comprise 80% of coastal East Bay households. According to census data of household characteristics of the six cities from Richmond to Alameda, 30% of households are one person, 33% are two, and 17% are three persons. Only 20% of coastal East Bay households are 4 persons or more. An ample supply of ADUs could house many small households; a clever floor plan of 750 square feet can contain up to two bedrooms. The ADU is one of the least costly units to build, as the land is already available, and the permit process is streamlined. 

Other benefits like the safety of a backyard and first floor access for children, the disabled and elderly should make building ADUs a primary goal for housing creation. And yet Berkeley has thrown several roadblocks in the way of this potential. 

The first was the City Council’s decision in January to prohibit their use for short-term rentals, which is probably the fastest way for an owner to pay back the cost of construction. The anti-Air BnB argument is seductive, but it’s more important to get those ADUs built. I was at the Council the night this restriction was imposed, and I found myself speaking against Air BnB because it’s such an easy target. But as soon as I sat down, I began to question my agreement with politically correct thinking. The City could instead allow a few years grace period for renting them short–term, or limit short-term rental to the weeks or months each year would make construction more feasible. The short-term rental restriction is unnecessary and should be revisited as it may impede the construction of ADUs. 

A second roadblock, literally, is the prohibition on building an ADU on lots “with access from a roadway with a minimum 26 feet in pavement width, unless an AUP is approved.” I’m not yet clear why this restriction was imposed or what conditions would allow the administrative use permit, but a fire map provided by staff shows a large labyrinth of roads in the hills overlay area that are under 26 feet wide. They are shown in red. There must be thousands of parcels affected by this prohibition, and many of their owners may want to build an ADU. 

If the flatlands are the choice area for building ADUs, the planning staff is not cooperating with this vision, as they are advantaging large backyard houses over the compact ADUs. This conflict, which has produced appeals throughout West Berkeley, will be the subject of a continued public hearing at the Planning Commission on Wednesday May 17. Please mark your calendars because this is a crucial debate that pits affordable compact urban housing forms (the duplex and the ADU) against the lucrative business of building suburban size houses stuffed into small backyards. At stake are the definition and implementation of infill housing. More about this next week. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Random Events Versus Conspiracy Theories, and, Hard Delusions Versus Harsh Realities

Jack Bragen
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:03:00 PM

Most "delusional systems" tend to make the affected person believe he or she is special. For example, delusions of being Christ or being some other messiah are not uncommon, also delusions of some special role to play in the world, such as the belief that our actions alone could save the world. Other delusions could include the belief that we will be President, that we are about to write a bestselling novel, or also, a delusion that we will become a billionaire.  

{While there is a place for self-confidence and believing in one's abilities, delusions of grandeur are much more common than actually becoming a billionaire, a bestselling novelist, or the President. Most psychologists and psychiatrists, when they hear someone speaking of such beliefs, automatically dismiss them as delusions, unless they see evidence that substantiates these ideas.}  

The delusion of conspiracy theories is related to this. The belief that there is an elaborate plot to do something to us, for example, is not uncommon. Interpreting normal events, events that could otherwise be upsetting, in the framework of a conspiracy theory, affects the pleasure centers of the brain and allows production of brain chemicals that can ease the pain of unfortunate events. In addition, delusions can prevent us from facing actual problems we may have that would otherwise be difficult and painful to fathom.  

As an author, I speak to thousands of readers. Therefore, it is a good thing that I have learned to reject delusions of grandeur. I once had delusions of grandeur.  

Paranoia hasn't been as easy to let go. Since I am currently dealing with difficult events, including my car being hit by and Uber driver, and a difficult insurance negotiation, it is easy to go into paranoia. It takes effort and it takes talking things out with saner heads to prevent me from slipping too far into that.  

For a psychotic person, there are at least two parts to getting free of delusions. These include being properly medicated, and the psychological part, which itself includes learning how to recognize, emotionally release, and dismiss delusions.  

Conspiracy theories may come up when there seem to be a number of unfortunate events occurring in a short timeframe. Rather than deal with these events, a psychotic person is vulnerable to escaping them by producing delusions.  

The above isn't "weakness"; it is a neurological problem. Correcting such a problem in the absence of medication usually will not happen. However, medication, by itself, may not be enough. We may need to work on reinforcing the mechanisms that would normally help us track reality. In some instances, it helps to talk to those close to us about questionable thoughts, and obtain some feedback about them. 

There is an emotional hurdle to overcome that could allow us to let go of delusions more. This is in a gray area between the neurological and the psychological. This is where we overcome the addiction to the brain "rewarding" delusions. This could be a situation of delusions making us feel better in the short term, or it could be where we trigger fear due to delusions. Either the desire for, or fear of delusions reinforces them.  

The ability to refuse these emotions comes about by means of meditative practices and/or cognitive techniques. Sometimes it can take years to accomplish this.  

Delusions are partially able to remain in place due to their ability to stimulate the pain and/or pleasure centers of the brain. This is somewhat analogous to bacterial or viral infections--both items have strategies for overcoming our defenses. 

None of this manuscript should be construed as a suggestion to quit medication.  

A conspiracy theory comes about partly because we want an explanation for why difficult events happen. However, you should consider that perhaps there is no explanation.  

Jack Bragen's books can be previewed and/or purchased on Amazon.

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump’s proposed tax plan in a nutshell

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:32:00 PM

On the eve of the election, Trump promised to "massively cut taxes for the middle class, the forgotten people, the forgotten men and women of this country, who built our country." During a town hall meeting on NBC's Today show, he was asked if he believed in raising taxes on the wealthy. Trump replied, "I do, I do — including myself. I do." 

However, under Trump's tax plan the top 1 percent would get about half of the benefits under his tax cuts, and a millionaire, for example, would get an average tax cut of $317,000. But a family earning between $40,000 and $50,000 a year would get a tax cut of only $560, and millions of middle-class working families will see their tax bills rise under Trump's plan — especially single-parent families. 

The Trump plan eliminates the $4,000 exemption for each person in a household. 

His tax plan would also eliminate the federal estate tax entirely. Only the wealthiest taxpayers — less than 1 percent — now pay that tax. Ending it would lead to an even greater concentration of wealth in the U.S. 

Economists disagree on whether the tax plan would be good for the economy. The Tax Policy Center says that over the first decade, the government would lose $6.2 trillion in revenue, producing huge budget deficits that could hurt the economy. 

Under his tax proposal, the wealthy class, including Trump, will win big at the expense of struggling low- and middle-income people, who turned out in large numbers to help Trump win the election. While this is not a serious proposal for overhauling a complex and frequently unfair tax code, it should, but probably won't, convince these ardent supporters that they have been betrayed once again by Trump. The question is, when will his lies catch up to him? 

In short, his proposed tax plan does nothing to help the shrinking middle class and will further contribute to wealth inequality -- the rich will get richer.  

This betrayal comes on the heels of the failed American Health Care Act (AHCA) or TrumpCare, authored by Paul Ryan, as a proposed repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. Trump lobbied heavily for passage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the AHCA had passed, 14 million more people would have become uninsured next year and by the year 2026, a total of 24 million more Americans would be uninsured than they would be under ObamaCare. The ACHA was diametrically at odds with Trump's pledge on the campaign trail when he promised to cover everyone, avoid Medicaid cuts, and boost funding for opioid abuse. 

Low-and Middle-income Americans who voted for Trump have a right to ask, “what have you done for us so far?” 

But then again, like health care, Trump will soon learn that tax reform is a lot harder than he thought.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: When Childhood is Over

Jack Bragen
Friday April 28, 2017 - 02:54:00 PM

I almost titled this week's column, "You Can't Go Home Again." However, since I haven't read that book, by Thomas Wolfe, and since I am not really speaking of the same situation, I decided not to give it that title.

When a person with a psychiatric disability gets older, parents aren't available as much to provide help, or just to be there and lend a sometimes false sense of security. (Even if the sense of security is false, it still feels better.) Parents may become deceased, or they may get older and may wish to go on with their own lives, rather than caring for middle-aged offspring that can't quite survive on their own.  

And in some instances, a disabled offspring may be in a position of caring for an aging parent. This can be very demanding when a disabled person could be struggling merely to care for oneself.  

It can be frightening to have to survive on one's own, when we haven't been prepared for it by the mental health treatment system. And we may not be adapted to handling the same level of responsibilities that a nondisabled adult is expected handle.  

The loss of a parent can be devastating. It is not just a matter of lacking practical help in one's life. There are no words that can convey the loss of a close family member.  

And then, we must fall back on the mental health treatment system to become caretakers of us. And their agenda is to manage us, keep us out of trouble, and keep us from pestering the good working people. Their agendas for us may be far different from what we want and need.  

When childhood is over, and when we are responsible for taking care of ourselves, it can be harsh. It is hard for someone with a significant disability to live independently, partly because we usually don't have a pile of money or a good paying job to soften the blows and misfortunes that random chance may render.  

I was recently "T-boned" in my car by and Uber driver, and the collision was his fault. At about the same moment, hundreds of miles to the north, a dear member of my wife's family passed away.  

Now, my wife is dealing with loss, and I am dealing with the difficulties of temporarily (I hope) not having transportation. Meanwhile, finances have become harder due to unrelated issues.  

What prepares you to have the rug yanked from under your feet? Nothing. You just have to get back up and try a little harder.  

When I was young, I longed for the day when I could be an adult and not have to follow the dictates of parents or be a small person in a big world. I wanted great things for myself. I wanted out of public school, and I wanted to no longer endure the bullying of classmates. I wanted great success, and I wanted to live on my own terms.  

Now, I am an adult, I am getting older, and I am realizing that it is probably a lot easier to be a kid. The problem is that when you're a kid, you know nothing. When you get older, you know more, and that is the problem.  

Almost none of what I'd hoped for when young has come to be. Instead, I am doing everything I can to get by and to live with some amount of comfort. I am grateful for not being homeless, for having family to help, and for a number of other things that are good in my life.  

Getting older is difficult. When you have a brain illness and brain-suppressing medication that affect the ability to handle hard situations, the difficulty of life situations is at least double.  

At this point, it would be nice to have more care from the mental health treatment system and not less. However, I am up against the reality that there is really no one who will take care of me but me. And this is both good and bad.  


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Nuclear Breakthrough Endangers the World

Conn Hallinan
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:25:00 PM

At a time of growing tensions between nuclear powers—Russia and NATO in Europe, and the U.S., North Korea and China in Asia—Washington has quietly upgraded its nuclear weapons arsenal to create, according to three leading American scientists, “exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the American Federation of Scientists, Matthew McKinzie of the National Resources Defense Council, and physicist and ballistic missile expert Theodore Postol, conclude that “Under the veil of an otherwise-legitimate warhead life-extension program,” the U.S. military has vastly expanded the “killing power” of its warheads such that it can “now destroy all of Russia’s ICBM silos.”

The upgrade—part of the Obama administration’s $1 trillion modernization of America’s nuclear forces—allows Washington to destroy Russia’s land-based nuclear weapons, while still retaining 80 percent of the U.S.’s warheads in reserve. If Russia chose to retaliate, it would be reduced to ash. 

Any discussion of nuclear war encounters several major problems. First, it is difficult to imagine or to grasp what it would mean in real life. We have only had one conflict involving nuclear weapons—the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945—and the memory of those events has faded over the years. In any case, the two bombs that flattened the Japanese cities bear little resemblance to the killing power of modern nuclear weapons. 

The Hiroshima bomb exploded with a force of 15 kilotons. The Nagasaki bomb was slightly more powerful at about 18 kt. Between them, they killed over 215,000 people. In contrast, the most common nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal today, the W76, has an explosive power of 100 kt. The next most common, the W88, packs a 475-kt punch. 

Another problem is that most of the public thinks nuclear war is impossible because both sides would be destroyed. This is the idea behind the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, aptly named “MAD.” 

But MAD is not a U.S. military doctrine. A “first strike” attack has always been central to U.S. military planning, until recently, however, there was no guarantee that such an attack would so cripple an opponent that it would be unable—or unwilling, given the consequences of total annihilation— to retaliate. 

The strategy behind a first strike—sometimes called a “counter force” attack—is not to destroy an opponent’s population centers, but to eliminate the other sides’ nuclear weapons, or at least most of them. Anti-missile systems would then intercept a weakened retaliatory strike. 

The technical breakthrough that suddenly makes this a possibility is something called the “super-fuze”, which allows for a much more precise ignition of a warhead. If the aim is to blow up a city, such precision is superfluous, but taking out a reinforced missile silo requires a warhead to exert a force of at least 10,000 pounds per square inch on the target. 

Up until the 2009 modernization program, the only way to do that was to use the much more powerful—but limited in numbers—W88 warhead. Fitted with the super-fuze, however, the smaller W76 can now do the job, freeing the W88 for other targets. 

Traditionally, land-based missiles are more accurate than sea-based missiles, but the former are more vulnerable to a first-strike than the latter, because submarines are good at hiding. The new super-fuze does not increase the accuracy of Trident II submarine missiles, but it makes up for that with the precision of where the weapon detonates. “In the case of the 100-kt Trident II warhead,” write the three scientists, “the super-fuze triples the killing power of the nuclear force it is applied to.” 

Before the super-fuze was deployed, only 20 percent of U.S. subs had the ability to destroy re-enforced missile silos. Today, all have that capacity. 

Trident II missiles typically carry from four to five warheads, but can expand that up to eight. While the missile is capable of hosting as many as 12 warheads, that configuration would violate current nuclear treaties. U.S. submarines currently deploy about 890 warheads, of which 506 are W76s and 384 are W88s. 

The land-based ICBMs are Minuteman III, each armed with three warheads—400 in total—ranging from 300 kt to 500 kt apiece. There are also air and sea-launched nuclear tipped missiles and bombs. The Tomahawk cruise missiles that recently struck Syria can be configured to carry a nuclear warhead. 

The super-fuze also increases the possibility of an accidental nuclear conflict. 

So far, the world has managed to avoid a nuclear war, although during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis it came distressingly close. There have also been several scary incidents when U.S. and Soviet forces went to full alert because of faulty radar images or a test tape that someone thought was real. While the military downplays these events, former Secretary of Defense William Perry argues that it is pure luck that we have avoided a nuclear exchange, and that the possibility of nuclear war is greater today than it was at the height of the Cold War. 

In part, this is because of a technology gap between the U.S. and Russia. 

In January 1995, Russian early warning radar on the Kola Peninsula picked up a rocket launch from a Norwegian island that looked as if it was targeting Russia. In fact, the rocket was headed toward the North Pole, but Russian radar tagged it as a Trident II missile coming in from the North Atlantic. The scenario was plausible. While some first strike attacks envision launching a massive number of missiles, others call for detonating a large warhead over a target at about 800 miles altitude. The massive pulse of electro-magnetic radiation that such an explosion generates would blind or cripple radar systems over a broad area. That would be followed with a first strike. 

At the time, calmer heads prevailed,, and the Russians called off their alert, but for a few minutes the doomsday clock moved very close to midnight. 

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the 1995 crisis suggests that Russia does not have “a reliable and working global space-based satellite early warning system.” Instead, Moscow has focused on building ground-based systems that give the Russians less warning time than satellite-based ones do. What that means is that while the U.S. would have about 30 minutes warning time to investigate whether an attack was really taking place, the Russians would have 15 minutes or less. 

That, according to the magazine, would likely mean that “Russian leadership would have little choice but to pre-delegate nuclear launch authority to lower levels of command,” hardly a situation that would be in the national security interests of either country. 

Or, for that matter, the world. 

A recent study found that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan using Hiroshima-sized weapons would generate a nuclear winter that would make it impossible to grow wheat in Russia and Canada and cut the Asian Monsoon’s rainfall by 10 percent. The result would be up to 100 million deaths by starvation. Imagine what the outcome would be if the weapons were the size used by Russia, China or the U.S. 

For the Russians, the upgrading of U.S. sea-based missiles with the super-fuze would be an ominous development. By “shifting the capacity to submarines that can move to missile launch positions much closer to their targets than land-based missiles,” the three scientists conclude, “the U.S. military has achieved a significantly greater capacity to conduct a surprise first strike against Russian ICBM silos.” 

The U.S. Ohio class submarine is armed with 24 Trident II missiles, carrying as many as 192 warheads. The missiles can be launched in less than a minute. 

The Russians and Chinese have missile-firing submarines as well, but not as many and some are close to obsolete. The U.S. has also seeded the world’s oceans and seas with networks of sensors to keep track of those subs. In any case, would the Russians or Chinese retaliate if they knew that the U.S. still retained most of its nuclear strike force? Faced with a choice committing national suicide or holding their fire, they may well choose the former. 

The other element in this modernization program that has Russia and China uneasy is the decision by the Obama administration to place anti-missile systems in Europe and Asia, and to deploy Aegis ship-based anti missile systems off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. From Moscow’s perspective—and Beijing’s as well—those interceptors are there to absorb the few missiles that a first strike might miss. 

In reality, anti-missile systems are pretty iffy. Once they migrate off the drawing boards, their lethal efficiency drops rather sharply. Indeed, most of them can’t hit the broad side of a barn. But that is not a chance the Chinese and the Russians can afford to take. 

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Forum in June 2016, Russian President Valdimir Putin charged that U.S. anti-missile systems in Poland and Rumania were not aimed at Iran, but Russia and China. “The Iranian threat does not exist, but missile defense systems continue to be positioned---a missile defense system is one element of the whole system of offensive military potential.” 

The danger here is that arms agreements will begin to unravel if countries decide that they are suddenly vulnerable. For the Russians and the Chinese, the easiest solution to the American breakthrough is to build a lot more missiles and warheads, and treaties be dammed. 

The new Russian cruise missile may indeed strain the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty, but it is also a natural response to what are, from Moscow’s view, alarming technological advances by the U.S. Had the Obama administration reversed the 2002 decision by George W. Bush’s administration to unilaterally withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the new cruise might never have been deployed. 

There are a number of immediate steps that the U.S. and the Russians could take to de-escalate the current tensions. First, taking nuclear weapons off their hair-trigger status, which would immediately reduce the possibility of accidental nuclear war. That could be followed by a pledge of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. 

If this does not happen, it will almost certainly result in an accelerated nuclear arms race. “I don’t know how this is all going to end,” Putin told the St. Petersburg delegates. “What I do know is that we will need to defend ourselves.” 


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



THE PUBLIC EYE:Berkeley Gets Trolled

Bob Burnett
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:36:00 PM

"What's happening to Berkeley? Are you safe?" our friends ask. National headlines scream: "Riots in Berkeley!" "The Death of Free Speech!" Yes, something is happening in Berkeley. We've been trolled by the hard right. And our "leaders" haven't responded effectively. Now it's time for the true defenders of free speech to step forward.

The so-called "riot" unfolded in three acts. 

ACT ONE: Berkeley Young Republicans invited Breitbart bigot Milo Yiannopoulous to speak on campus . On February 1st a crowd formed before the speech (estimated size 1000). Suddenly it was invaded by the East Bay anarchists, who call themselves "AntiFa." They threw cherry bombs, started fights, and generally riled things up. Campus police cancelled the speech. 

Milo's speech, and subsequent (cancelled) speeches by David Horowitz and Ann Coulter, were funded by the Young America's Foundation, one of whose donors is the notorious Rebekah Mercer -- daughter of Oligarch (and Trump supporter) Robert Mercer. 

(Young America's Foundation has sued the University of California over the cancellation of the Coulter speech.) 

ACT TWO: Subsequent to the cancellation of Milo's speech, a pro-Trump group scheduled a protest in a downtown Berkeley park; part of the nation "March 4 Trump" demonstrations—which drew a laughable 160 to the National Mall. A few Trump supporters showed up in Berkeley and were met by many more Anarchists, resulting in fist fights and 10 arrests. 

On April 15th there were national tax day marches. Once again, in the same downtown Berkeley park, the pro-Trump forces staged a rally. Predictably they were met by the anarchists, resulting in a several hours of sporadic fistfights and 23 arrests. And national news headlines: "Riots in Berkeley!" 

It's informative to consider who was at the April 15th rally. Prominent was Identity Evropa a White Nationalist group founded by Nathan Damigo . Their office is in Oakdale, California, the central valley. The source of their funding is unclear but Damigo is affiliated with Richard Spencer, of the National Policy Institute . The National Policy Institute was founded by far-right donor William Regnery; some of its board members are connected to Rebekah Mercer. 

Another group at the rally was the Oath Keepers. Formed in 2009, this is among the largest US extremist groups claiming 30,000 members many of whom are former members of the military or law enforcement. It's founder, L. Stewart Rhodes, was present on April 15. Again their funding is unclear. Rhodes lives in Montana. 

Also present were The Proud Boys, who called for the April 15 Alt-right rally. They were represented by Rich Black. Once again, it's not clear how they raise funds. (Although Black has solicited donations for his organization, "Liberty Revival Alliance" on the notorious Alt-right site Wesearchr.) The Proud Boys' offices are in New York City. 

What these three Alt-right groups have in common is their mysterious funding and that they are headquartered outside the Bay Area, 

On the other hand, the Antifa group is local. Antifa, short for anti-fascism, is a collection of anarchists, including the Berkeley chapter of "By Any Means Necessary." Its most prominent member is Yvette Felarca. 

On April 27th, the hard right staged another Berkeley protest because of the cancellation of Ann Coulter's speech. At the downtown Berkeley segment, there were a couple of dozen identified Alt-right individuals. Oathkeeper L. Stewart Rhodes said he was there to defend free speech. (Antifa didn't show; Yvette Felarca reportedly boasted, "We don't need to come to the park. We won. We caused the cancellation of Coulter's speech.") 

ACT Three: In hindsight, the Milo Yiannopoulous event was mishandled by the UC authorities. The hard right has seized upon this as an excuse to troll Berkeley; they're likely to keep doing this until Berkeley citizens take charge. 

Milo Yiannopoulous should have been allowed to speak, as should other conservatives no matter how inflammatory their views. Antifa is wrong to block the exercise of free speech. Berkeley must remain the home of free speech. 

History indicates that if there is a massive outpouring of nonviolent-free-speech support this will check the violence from the Alt-right and from Antifa. Therefore, the Berkeley nonviolent community has to mount a concerted effort to mobilize several thousand free-speech advocates to show up whenever there is a far-right speech or the Alt-right schedules a rally. 

This is our challenge, Berkeley. We must defend free speech by standing up to political violence. 

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

Arts & Events

MUSIC REVIEW: Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile Play Bach at the Greek Theatre

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 02:43:00 PM

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has stated publically that he grew tired of playing the same old classical repertoire of music for the cello, so he decided to branch out into other areas of music. In his many crossover recordings he has done so. Sometimes, as in his recordings and concerts with the Silk Road Ensemble, the results are good. At other times, the results are, well, a bit hokey. For his concert at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Sunday evening, April 30, Yo-Yo Ma joined forces with Chris Thile on mandolin and Edgar Meyer on bass to perform new and unusual scorings of music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Chris Thile, a mandolin virtuoso who plays bluegrass and jazz as well as classical music, recently took over from Garrison Keillor as host of A Prairie Home Companion. Edgar Meyer is both a virtuoso bassist and a composer.  

For the concert at the Greek Theatre no program was given beforehand, it being noted that the program would be announced from the stage. However, when the three musicians came onstage, they simply began playing without announcing what they would play, leaving the audience in the dark. This seemed negligent at best, perhaps even arrogant. Indeed, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile played four pieces before any acknowledgment was offered regarding what they had played; and even that announcement, by Chris Thile, was offhand and incomplete. Suffice it to say that Chris Thile’s mandolin generally took the melodic line, occasionally sharing it with Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, while Edgar Meyer’s bass provided the continuo. The slightly tinny sound of the amped mandolin took some getting used to, especially in works by Bach that we are already quite familiar with from hearing them played with the instruments they were written for. However, a highlight came with Bach’s Organ Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 548, transcribed for mandolin, cello, and bass. This work was followed by a Prelude and Fugue, which in turn was followed by yet another fugue, this one a Prelude and Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier.  

Next came a transcription of Bach’s cantata Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I Call on You, Lord Jesus Christ), with a vocal line played by cello to a bass continuo. Following this came three works from Bach’s Art of the Fugue, numbers 13, 14 and 8. The latter was a highlight of the evening. Another cantata was offered, Kommst du nun, Jesu, featuring jaunty arpeggios from Chris Thile on mandolin. Then came a Chorale and Prelude to close out the program. As encores, the group first offered a transcription of Bach’s cantata Er barm dich mein, o Herr Gott, with Chris Thile switching from mandolin to guitar. For a second and final encore the group launched into something definitely not by Bach. Rather, it was a contemporary piece featuring wild riffs from Chris Thile’s mandolin and loud screeches from Yo-Yo ma’s cello. Oh well, with three musical chameleons onstage, I suppose there had to be at least one crossover piece. I left in the middle of the final encore. 

MUSIC REVIEW: Berkeley Symphony Performs Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 02:42:00 PM

Dmitri Shostakovich’s struggles with the Stalinist bureaucracy are well known. The composer was denounced in Pravda for his 1936 opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which was vilified as an offense to good Soviet principles. However, with his immensely popular Fifth Symphony in 1937, Shostakovich was reinstated into official favor. This period lasted until World War II, when Shostakovich and other Russian composers were summoned by the government and had to make public apologies and pledge henceforth to write music for the proletarian masses. When Nikita Kruschev issued a denunciation of Stalin in 1960, a certain thaw ensued in the artistic circles of the Soviet Union. However, when the young poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko published in 1961 his incendiary poem Babi Yar and lifted the veil on anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, bringing into the open the Soviet silence over Nazi Germany’s wartime massacre of 34,000 Russian Jews at the ravine of Babi Yar near Kiev, Kruschev lashed out at Yevtushenko and launched a new campaign for “ideological purity” in the arts. However, this did not stop Shostakovich, who had been deeply moved by Yevtushenko’s poem, from deciding to set Babi Yar to music. Shostakovich composed the opening section of his 13th Symphony to Yevtushenko’s poem, and he had already completed it when he met with Yesvtushenko to request permission to set Babi Yar to music. Yevtushenko not only granted Shostakovich permission, he also penned at the composer’s urging a new section entitled “Fears” to be included in the poem and the symphony. The result is a searing portrait of official unwillingness to acknowledge anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and the fears the Russian people felt about speaking out on any controversial subject. 

Berkeley Symphony took on the task of performing the monumental 13th Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich on Thursday, May 4. Barely a month before their one-night only performance of this work, the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had for many years taught at the university. It was announced from the stage of Zellerbach Hall that as far as was known this was the first performance of this work in the USA or anywhere since Yevtushenko’s death. Replacing Berkeley Symphony’s Music Director and Principal Conductor Joana Carneiro, who recently gave birth to triplets, was German Conductor Christian Reif, whose local debut with the San Francisco Symphony in 2015 was widely acclaimed. Russian bass Denis Sedov was the vocal soloist, and the 40-strong bass chorus involved men from alumni of UC Berkeley’s Chamber Chorus, alumni of the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and members of the St. John of San Francisco Russian Orthodox Chorale. The Chorusmaster was Marika Kuzma. Before the performance of Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony, four actors recited Yevtushenko’s poem Babi Yar. The actors were Bonnie Akomoto, L. Peter Callendar, Arje Shaw, and Victor Talmadge. 

Once the music got underway, Shostakovich was quick to offer a tolling bell and a four-note chromatic phrase that scholars identified as the “Babi Yar motif.” This motif undergoes many variations throughout the opening movement of the 13th Symphony, which ultimately closes with a blazing finale. St. Petersburg-born bass Denis Sedov established right away his rich stentorian voice as he sang the text of Yevtushenko’s poem in the original Russian. The lights in Zellerbach Hall were lit sufficiently for the audience to follow the words that were printed in the program in both Russian and English, the latter in a translation by Marika Kuzma. Denis Sedov’s 

diction was so clear that even a non-Russian speaker like me was easily able to follow the Russian text of Yevtushenko’s Babi Yar. Indeed, Sedov was so good he reminded me of the great tradition of Russian basses such as Fyodor Chaliapin and Boris Christoff.  

The second movement, entitled Humor, is actually an homage to the use of sardonic humor as a subversive element against the imposition of authoritarian intrusions in all aspects of Soviet life. The third movement, entitled In the Store, begins with somber cellos and basses, punctuated by repeated claps from a wood block. This movement eulogizes the Russian women who lined up in the stores hoping to purchase whatever meager foodstuffs and supplies happened to be available that day. The women of Russia, it is sung by the bass choir, are the nation’s conscience and pride. With Denis Sedov chiming in, the choir declares loudly that, “All on earth is in their power,- they are given so much strength. To short-change them, it is shameful. To short-weigh them is a sin.”  

The fourth movement, Fears, offers a retrospective look back on the years when the Stalinist bureaucracy made everyone fear to speak out on any subject that might be controversial. Cellos and basses open this movement with ominous low notes, then Denis Sedov offers a lengthy discourse on the way the Soviet leaders tamed and silenced the people, who dwelt in secret fear of a knock at the door. 

The fifth and final movement, Career, offers meditations on the careers of men such as Galileo, who insisted on truth against the teachings of the Church, or of men such as Shakespeare, Pasteur, Newton, and Tolstoy. Praised too are the nameless doctors who died fighting cholera. This movement opens with wry flutings that perfectly set the tone for Yevtushenko’s wry celebration of Galileo. At the work’s conclusion, Yevtushenko’s final words are sung quietly by Denis Sedov: “I am making my career thus: by my not pursuing it.” A gong sounds, strings offer a light touch, and a few notes on piano and celesta bring the 13th Symphony to a close.  

Conductor Christian Reif brought out the rich sonorities of Shostakovich’s orchestration, and the singing by soloist Denis Sedov was thrillingly gripping throughout, aided and abetted by the all-male bass choir. In truth, there are not many opportunities to hear a live performance of Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony; and it seemed very fitting, even if conincidental, that the Berkeley Symphony happened to perform this work so soon after the death of Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

OPERA REVIEW: Philharmonia Baroque Stages Rameau-Voltaire’s Le Temple de la Gloire

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 02:25:00 PM

Imagine the leading French composer of the mid-18th century, Jean-Philippe Rameau, combining forces with the period’s leading French writer and thinker, Voltaire, in an opera intended to provide for King Louis XV of France an allegorical object lesson in what it takes to be a great ruler. Then imagine that this opera was first staged not in an opera house or a palace but rather in a temporary theatre in the stables, La Grande Écurie, at Versailles in 1745. To top it off, imagine that the original score of this 1745 premiere was lost for centuries and then discovered in UC Berkeley’s Hargrove Music Library. Finally, imagine that Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale would combine forces with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles and with New York Baroque Dance Company to mount a fully staged production of this opera in Berkeley. What you get staggers the imagination, as we saw when the opera Le Temple de la Gloire opened on Friday evening, April 28, for three performances April 28-30, at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall.  

Philharmonia Baroque’s Music Director, Nicholas McGegan, learned of the existence of the original score back in the 1980s from Victor Gavenda, then a Ph.D. student at Cal Berkeley; and after studying the score McGegan led the PBO in recording several movements from Le Temple de la Gloire for a Harmonia Mundi CD released in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, McGegan nursed the hope he might someday produce a fully staged version of this opera-ballet by Rameau. Finally, as McGegan says, “the planets aligned.” Cal Performances got behind this project, and McGegan drew on his network of contacts to involve the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles and its musicologist Julien Dubruque, who was preparing for publication a newly reconstructed score based on the version found in UC Berkeley’s Hargrove Music Library. McGegan also involved the participation of Catherine Turocy a leading scholar and choreographer of French Baroque dance, who agreed to direct the production of Le Temple de la Gloire and design its authentic period choreography.  

Thus, with a cast comprised of 90% French singers who had worked with Benoit Dratwicki at the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, McGegan was able to put on stage a remarkably authentic production of how this opera-ballet would have looked and sounded to French audiences at the time of its 1745 premiere. In this collective project, Set Designer Scott Blake, Costume Designer Marie Anne Chiment, and Lighting Designer Pierre Depouey all played their part in making this as authentic a French Baroque opera-ballet as one could imagine.  

The results were spectacular. Commissioned to write a libretto celebrating the French military victory over Dutch, British, and Hanoverian troops at Fontenoy in 1745, Voltaire dared to write not a paean of praise to King Louis XV for leading his troops in a successful battle, but rather an encomium on what it takes to be a great ruler. The plot of Le Temple de la Gloire is unconventional, to say the least. Voltaire’s libretto offers three different heroes who seek to gain entry to a mythical Temple of Glory guarded by Apollo and various muses. There is a lively Prologue, full of rich orchestration involving bassoons and a musette or bagpipe. Set in the cavern of Envy, an allegorical role sung by baritone Marc Lebonnette, the Prologue pits Envy against Apollo, sung by countertenor Aaron Sheehan. Caroline Copeland, principal dancer with New York Baroque Dance Company, performed the role of a Priestess of Apollo. The Philharmonia Chorale led by Bruce Lamott sang the role of Demons who follow Envy and various Muses and demi-gods who follow Apollo.  

In Act I, the first hero, one Bélus, sung by baritone Philippe-Nicolas Martin, asserts his claim for entry into the Temple of Glory by boasting crudely of his military prowess. Lydie, sung by soprano Chantal Santon-Jeffery, and Arsine, sung by soprano Gabrielle Philipont, offer courtly support. However, Bélus is a brutish character who preens himself on nothing but his military victories. Bélus is denied entry to the Temple of Glory by Apollo, sung by Aaron Sheehan. 

Act II presents the second applicant to the Temple of Glory, Bacchus, the legendary purveyor of wine and abandon. While his prowess is acknowledged and his power to involve women Bacchantes in his cult of drunken abandon is emphasized, Bacchus too fails to win entry. Catherine Turocy’s choreography emphasizes the debauchery of Bacchus’s candidacy for the Temple of Glory. Artavazd Sargsayan sang the role of Bacchus with comic aplomb, accompanied by a quizzical ostrich. When I questioned Director Catherine Turocy about the ostrich, she replied that Bacchus is traditionally accompanied by a tiger or leopard, but since they didn’t have either of these cats they chose an ostrich. A principal Bacchante is lustily portrayed by soprano Chantal Santon-Jeffery. Baritone Marc Labonnette sings the role of The Grand Priest of Glory. One interesting detail of the Bacchus episode in Le Temple de la Gloire involves a love intrigue between Bacchus and Erigone, sung by soprano Camille Ortiz-Lafont. In ancient Greek legends, Erigone was the daughter of the peasant Ikarios who was taught by Dionysos/Bacchus the secrets of wine-making, which Ikarios shared with his countrymen, after which the nearby villagers unwisely over-indulged in wine, suffered the drunken consequences, became angry, and killed Ikarios. His daughter, Erigone, discovered her father’s corpse and hanged herself in grief. (This back-story is not acknowledged at all in Voltaire’s libretto for Le Temple de la Gloire, but I find it interesting that even a distorted shred of this ancient legend is present in Voltaire’s libretto, which turns Erigone into a favored follower of Bacchus.) 

Act III of Le Temple de la Gloire focuses on the Roman hero Trajan, who wins a military campaign against five Parthian generals. Instead of exulting in his military prowess and cruelly mistreating his captives, Trajan magnanimously frees the five Parthian generals. Moreover, Trajan, sung by countertenor Aaron Sheehan, insists on making the Temple of Glory a bastion of inclusivity for “each rank, each sex, each age.” Trajan also dedicates his acceptance into the Temple of Glory to his beloved fiancée Plautine, sung by Gabrielle Philiponet. Plautine, for her part, loyally accepts the duty Trajan observes in leading his Roman people, even though it means they must delay their union. Venus herself, majestically sung by soprano Meggi Sweeney Smith, adds her benediction to Trajan for his noble conduct as ruler. Trajan is accepted into the Temple of Glory, and the opera-ballet concludes with lengthy orchestral and choral celebrations, including a final Passacaille.  

Supposedly, after the premiere of Le Temple de la Gloire, its librettist, Voltaire, who dared to offer a moral lesson to his monarch, asked King Louis XV, “Is Trajan happy?” Louis XV was not pleased, and replied to Voltaire with only silence and an icy stare. Rulers, it seems, do not like to be told how they should govern.  

THEATER REVIEW: Inferno Theatre's 'Female, Ashkenazi with a Sewing Machine'

Ken Bullock
Saturday May 06, 2017 - 05:51:00 PM

"It's a live oak.

" Her branches extend forever. Did I use the right pronoun?"

"People here can be picky about pronouns."

Jamie Greenblatt's play 'Female, Ashkenazi with a Sewing Machine,' opens with a musical, sweet and humorous courtship vignette, a couple at an old tree. Anna (a strong, affecting performance by elissa Clason) has appeared on Benjamin's (a debonaire and humorous Benoît Monin) "Jewish radar." But she knows nothing about being Jewish, in every sense. She was adopted, an old Singer sewing machine her only link to her otherwise unknown birth mother.

As the play unfolds, like a parable being worked out, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer leads to revelations about identity, community, origin ...

'Female, Ashkenazi ... ' comes from Jamie Greenblatt's own experience, though both the playwright abd her actual circumstances are different from her protagonist. The play is, in fact, playful, without neglecting the seriousness of the disease it turns on, and that is where the excellent collborative production by Inferno Theatre expands on the playwright's vision. 

Inferno's founder, Giulio Perrone, has directed the fine cast in a graceful movement theater show, the lines of which are like those traced by a feather floating on air. There is a kind of narrator, or introducer, who speaks directly to the audience and takes on different incidental roles, delightfully performed by Crystal Brown. Carol Braves appears onstage playing original music on violin throughout, strolling, dancing, singing as she plays. 

There's such a light touch (though with strength behind it) to this play and this production of it, that any extended dwelling here on what would ordinarily be plot, characterization ... could be more than just a "spoiler." Suspense, big displays of pathos aren't the thing here. It's very close to pure theater, pure storytelling ... 

Perrone's stage design and Mike Sweeney's lighting are both excellent, adding immeasurably to the very pleasing overall effect. 

Jamie Greenblatt's managing director of Inferno Theatre, which also produced her play 'My Recollect Time' in 2013. 

Only two performances of 'Askenazi, Female ... ' remain--Saturday and Sunday, May 6 & 7, at 8. I urge you to see it. 

At the landmark South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Fairview at Ellis, three blocks west of Adeline, near Ashvy BART. $10-$25 infernotheatre.org or 788-6415

FILM REVIEW: To the Ends of the Earth Foresees a World Beyond Oil and Coal

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:36:00 PM

San Francisco's Roxie Theater, May 10, 7pm. Film screening and panel discussion.

Filmmaker David Lavallee's documentary To The Ends of the Earth begins with playwright Arthur Miller's sobering observation: "An era is said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." One of our basic illusions is that cheap oil will always be available. Prepare to be exhausted.




To the Ends of the Earth official TRAILER from David Lavallee on Vimeo


For many, the filmmaker's call to "decarbonize" our economy and society will cover familiar ground. Richard Heinberg, founder of the Santa Rosa-based Post Carbon Institute, has been penning fossil fuel Jeremiads for years. (At last count, his "Museletter" blog-posts have hit 299.) 

In Donald Trump, we now have an Oval Office dweller who not only calls climate change a "hoax" but believes that digging coal and sucking oil are activities that have a future. Fortunately, The Ends of the Earth gives us the voice of Emma Thompson to carry us through a recap of energy history and a critique of how our reliance on cheap energy poisoned the planet and now threatens to collapse civilization as we have come to know it. 

The Coal, Hard Facts 

Some stark factoids: Today, 85% of our power comes from hydrocarbons—oil, coal, natural gas. The average US family of four consumes 100 barrels of oil a year. The energy in a gallon of gas offers the equivalent of 490 hours of human labor. It takes seven calories of fossil fuel energy to produce a single calorie of food. (Of course, this depends on what food you're talking about and how far it has traveled.) 

The globalized world runs on cheap fossil energy—by some estimates 32 billion barrels a year. It is cheap oil and mechanization that has made our economic growth—unprecedented in human history—possible. But we're running out of oil. Back in 1956, Shell geoscientist M. K. Hubbard predicted that U.S. oil discoveries would peak sometime between 1965 and 1970. He was right. The USA's "peak oil" moment came in 1970. 

An earlier "peak oil" event struck in the 19th century, an era during which tens of thousands of whalers risked (and oftimes lost) their lives hunting whales to secure the oil needed to keep lamps lit in streets and homes. 

Ironically, with today's coal and oil reserves in serious decline, whales are once again at risk. With nearly 90 billion barrels of untapped oil believed to lie below Arctic waters, oil company ships are testing the seabeds with seismic guns. The noise from sonic testing (after a nuclear blast, the second loudest human-made sound) can deafen, kill, and disturb sea creatures over a range of 3,000 km. Whales, dolphins, porpoises and narwhales are all at risk. 

Energy Spikes and the Pursuit of "Extreme Energy" 

It's a bit of a bother to hear Emma Thompson blame Iraq's toppled president Saddam Hussein for the 2003 spike in oil prices. "The actions of a rogue dictator sent the price of oil skywards," she tells us, "but as Baghdad burns, Calgary booms. The Age of Extreme Energy is born." 

The Calgary reference relates to Canada's decision to commercialize its oil-rich tar sands deposits—"the largest second largest oil deposit in the world." The declaration was confirmation that the age of cheap, seemingly plentiful carbon-based energy was over. The world had begun its descent down the Energy Pyramid. Instead of free-flowing oil from wells, it was time to start turning bitumen into synthetic crude. 

This was a costly and unparalleled engineering challenge. It requires two tons of excavated earth to scavenge a single barrel of bitumen. Separating the bitumen from the sand and soil required vast amounts of energy—from coal and natural gas. The question remains: is it really worth it? 


There is a standard called the Energy Return on Investment (EROI), which determines "what you get back for what you put in." Currently, it takes the energy in one barrel of oil to extract 20 barrels of oil. When it comes to mining Canada's tar sands, however, the energy in one barrel of oil only recovers five barrels of new oil. 

Heinberg points out the last time the world was working with such a low EROI was back when humanity was engaged in agricultural economies—long before the Industrial Revolution. We're talking horse-drawn carts and plows operated by oxen. 

Powering civilization at current levels of expectation (electric lights, cars, computers) requires an EROI of 1:15. But we are no longer anywhere close to seeing these kinds of returns and the situation will only worsen in the years ahead. 

Beware Big Energy's "Clean Energy" Gambit 

The film introduces us to Eoin Madden, a mining company clone who snaps and becomes an environmental lawyer. Madden takes us on a visit to Site C, a highly promoted "clean energy" project that involves building a hydropower dam on British Colombia's Peace River. 

It turns out 60% of the dam's output would be expropriated by the existing Canadian fossil fuels industry to provide power for new fracking wells—an extremely energy-intensive and polluting alternative. 

Currently more than half of BC's oil and gas is burned to support the tar sands industry, which winds up releasing global warming plumes of methane gas. Because fracking also requires vast amounts of water, the dam is opposed by the local Native peoples. Showing long pipelines snaking across the landscape, Lavallée cites a chilling Dene Prophecy: "Great Black Snakes will come across Turtle Island, destroying the waters and lands." 

Native Lands Fracked; Native Peoples F--ked 

Lavellée takes us to the lands of the Fort Nelson First Nation where 95% of territory has been claimed for fracking. The developers promised 600 jobs but said nothing about chemicals that would poison the water including carcinogenic hydrochloric acid. And the jobs? Only five permanent positions were created. 

Fracking is a costly, cumbersome and dirty process. Production looks good at first but most wells are exhausted after only a few years. 

The film's speakers underscore the troublesome fact that the oil industry (like the Pentagon, like the US Treasury) is in denial. Big Oil increasingly is burning more oil than it is producing. The endgame is clear but the oil-mongers appear incapable of stopping. Because they are "energy companies" they MUST continue to dig, drill, frack—even as the treadmill they are on is visibly fraying and preparing to crack and fly apart. 

Coal and oil profits are now small-to-none. Heinberg mentions that some desperate companies have had to borrow money to pay off their stockholders. A series of accidents, spills and explosions define an industry that now pursues increasingly dangerous projects for decreasingly justifiable results. 

The Net Energy Cliff 

Even with oil still left in the ground, the film reveals, the acute energy demands of global economies soon will exceed the available energy resources and our high-energy civilization will begin to collapse. 

In September 2008, oil hit a historic high ($147 per barrel). That was followed by an economic crash and recession. Ten of the past eleven major recessions immediately followed a dramatic spike in the price of oil. 

Our economic/social systems are based on faulty energy assumptions and bogus financial factors. It's not just the threat of climate change and pollution: the financial system itself is fatally flawed, bankrupt, and unsustainable. The basic myth is that our heedless, hyper-indulgent economy can continue to grow—in fact, MUST continue to grow—forever. But as environmental critics have been repeating for decades: "You can't have endless growth on a finite planet." 


Lavellée begins to offer solutions in the 60th minute of this 80-minute doc. 

Don't be comforted by the familiar arguments that Improved technology and innovation will assure our survival and perpetuation of the "growth paradigm," Lavellé cautions. A century ago, Britain realized it was starting to run out of cheap coal. The response was a call for better machinery and improved efficiency. But the result was that the "more efficient" British Empire wound up burning even more coal, not less. (Trump needs to hear this message.) 

The film cites the Jevons Paradox, based on a 19th century essay on "The Coal Question" written by W. Stanley Jevons. Jevons observed that a growth economy would, by its very nature, always consume more energy than it did before—up until the point that the whole enterprise collapses. 

Instead of pursuing ever more complexity, the film proposes taking the path of "a great simplification"— localized, self-reliant, sustainable, post-carbon communities with lower expectations, slower travel, and near-zero consumption. 

The Ends of the Earth ends on a high note with a review of "Blockadia" protests that are successfully turning back plans for tar sands, pipelines and ocean drilling platforms. As one U.S. protestor in the streets of Paris for the historic Climate Summit says: Social protests are needed to do what politicians are failing to do. 

Does it work? Well, according to one expert, the delays caused by Blockadia pipeline activism have cost industries an estimated $19 billion since 2011. 

And that's a good note to end on. 

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with Ash Lauth of the Centre for Biological Diversity and Gar Smith, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, moderated by Media Alliance executive director Tracy Rosenberg. 

Space is limited so buy your tickets today.