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Berkeley's Redwood Gardens' continuing issues with management

Lydia Gans
Friday July 21, 2017 - 02:21:00 PM

It's been three years since we reported on problems at Redwood Gardens. Since then things have not improved. Redwood Gardens is a HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) subsidized 168 unit apartment complex for seniors and people with disabilities. It is located in Berkeley at 1951 Derby Street.

The complex has operated under various arrangements for more than 30 years. In 2013 CSI Support and Development took over management of the complex and they are having a very confrontational relationship with the tenants. They have been making major changes with virtually no consultation with the Residents' Council. In 2014 they proceeded with with a major renovation project causing huge disruption in people's lives. Some had to find temporary alternative accommodations while work was being done on their units. This was a particular hardship for people with disabilities.

In the ensuing years CSI has been receiving numerous complaints from the residents about hazardous conditions, barriers for mobility impaired residents, security issues, removal of community gathering space, a general deterioration in the quality of the living conditions. And they have refused to allow the on-site building manager to have meaningful communication with the tenants. In a recent meeting of some of the residents, Peni Hall, who has lived there for 30 years,describes their situation:

“We have out-of-town landlords who are very erratic and run the place like real estate and don't care much about the residents.”  

Unfortunately this is not unusual for many such government sponsored projects. The tenants have no power to make demands on the owners. If they complain too much they are threatened with eviction and for them eviction leaves no alternative housing. 

Miriam Berg, member of the Residents' Council recently held a meeting with a group of residents to “discuss current situation … because we have no house manager and no maintenance manager and no idea when we're going to get one.” In the course of the discussion a number of other issues came up – not for the first time! 

Peni Hall talked about the management problems: “We've had 4 managers one of which really cared but could not do what she wanted to because CSI kept sitting on her and holding her back. Then we had one that was straight out of the army, like 'your job is to pay your rent and follow the rules, and the last person we had lived in HUD housing and understood tenants problems and cared about us and wanted to do right by us ...” She left under pressure from the CSI supervisor. Since then the office manager's job has been added to the fiscal manager's workload.  

“They are really making conditions hard for anybody to be successful working here,” Ms Hall said. “On top of that we have the maintenance manager, only 6 months and he's wonderful, we love him! But all of a sudden we hear he's leaving and we don't know and we worry.” 

They have ample reason to worry. The 168-unit facility houses a population of older people, many with physical disabilities, with minimal financial resources who are at the mercy of an uncaring operator 400 miles away. Having such drastically limited on-site management is not just inconvenient it can be dangerous. 

The complex consists of 2 three-story buildings with a central courtyard. There is one elevator in each building. One of the elevators has not functioned for more than a month. “When you have people who can hardly walk,” Ms Berg says, “to go across the courtyard to the other elevator, up the elevator and then go all the way around that building to get to your apartment – there are people with all kinds of mobility impairments – and there are no stairs from the second floor to here. ... no information when it will be fixed.” 

This is hardly just an inconvenience, it is a serious safety issue. The extreme difficulty of egress from the buildings is a clear threat to people's lives. A recent emergency call to the fire department disclosed difficulties with accessibility for fire department personnel and an inoperable fire escape. Earthquakes and other natural disasters and now the rash of arson-caused fires are a real possibility. 

At the meeting people spoke of the loss of a sense of community since CSI took over. Chairs in the lobby where they could sit and socialize while waiting for visitors were removed. A long time resident spoke of the “loss of phone lists of all the residents and their phone numbers – that was very helpful to keep in touch with each other. We used to get death notices, a list of birthdays, and we used to have parties....” 

Important features of retirement or senior residences are opportunities to be part of a community. This basically requires some designated spaces for people to gather and accessible means of communication making it easy for all the residents to be in touch with each other. It appears that without any explanation CSI has taken away an valuable element in their lives. 

A newer resident, having looked at the record and hearing about all the complaints observed, “sounds like a list of abuses – senior abuses, threats, insolence and lack of consideration and improper and incompetent management on the part of CSI. … health and safety issues that are violated.” 

An ongoing issue has been management's refusal to have any meaningful communication with the residents. A resident commented that “We've seen one arbitrary thing after another.” Miriam Berg concurred. “The most urgent problem is that we're without a house manager. The second problem is they refuse to consult with the residents about decisions involving everybody's lives. 

The Residents' Council continues to appeal to HUD for relief. They tell their story to the press, meet with the Grey Panthers and have joined the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) and participate in their annual meetings. 

Concluding the meeting Miriam Berg declared, “once again we ask that HUD intervene and either remove CSI from managing this place or bring them to heel!” 



Press Release: Mountain Lion Sighting in Berkeley near Clark Kerr Campus

UCB Police Department
Friday July 21, 2017 - 01:55:00 PM

On Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at approximately 11:57 a.m. UCPD received a report of a mountain lion sighting east of the Clark Kerr Campus track.

Deer are a major food source for Mountain Lions. In the past couple of years, several sightings of mountain lions have occurred in the hills above the Berkeley campus and carcasses of animals suspected to have been attacked by mountain lions were also discovered.

To reduce the chances of encountering a Mountain Lion: 

  • Avoid hiking or jogging alone, especially between dusk and dawn, when lions normally do their hunting. Make plenty of noise while you hike so as to reduce the chances of surprising a lion.
  • Always keep children and pets in sight while hiking and within arm's reach in areas that can conceal a lion.
  • Hike with a good walking stick; this can be useful in warding off a lion.
To reduce the chances of an attack when encountering a Mountain Lion: 

  • Do not approach a lion, especially if it is feeding or with its young. Most lions will avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children
  • Fight back if attacked. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, or bare hands.
  • If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.

Berkeley teacher charged in connection with 2016 Sacramento rally

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday July 21, 2017 - 01:53:00 PM

Veteran activist and Berkeley school teacher Yvette Felarca has been charged with assault, participating in a riot and inciting a riot for her actions in a faceoff between white nationalist groups and counter-protestors in Sacramento last year, prosecutors said today. 

Felarca, 47, who teaches at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley and is also known as Yvonne Felarca, was arrested in Southern California on Tuesday night, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said. 

Authorities said that Felarca, a longtime organizer for the activist group By Any Means Necessary was captured on video hitting a member of the Traditionalist Worker's Party, a white nationalist group that had taken out permits for a rally on the west steps of the state capitol on June 26, 2016. 

Felarca and other counter-protesters blocked the rally by chasing and hitting and even stabbing members of the Traditional Worker's Party. 

The Sacramento County DA's Office said the California Highway Patrol conducted an extensive investigation of the rally and counter-protest and requested arrest warrants for 101 people on 85 counts of unlawful assembly, 55 counts of conspiracy to unlawfully assemble and 32 counts related to the possession of illegal signs and banners. 

Prosecutors said in a statement, "In several other cases, there was clear evidence of felonious conduct but the identity of the perpetrators could not be established. Unfortunately, included in this category were all of the stabbings and the attack on a local television reporter." 

The Sacramento County DA said that at this point only Felarca and three other people have been arrested for their actions in the rally and counter-protest and there are no other outstanding warrants in connection with the incident. 

The Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on paid administrative leave after the rally but reinstated her last fall. 

School district spokesman Charles Burress said today that the district is still gathering information about Felarca's case and has no comment on it at this time. He said, at this point, Felarca is still employed by the district. 

BAMN officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the charges that have been filed against Felarca. 

United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund organizer and attorney Ronald Cruz (510) 384-8859 Berkeley schools spokesman Charles Burress (510) 644-6320 or (510) 775-4096 cellphone 

Copyright � 2017 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Elisa Cooper Memorial Gathering on Monday

Kelly Hammargren
Friday July 21, 2017 - 07:17:00 PM

Elisa Cooper Memorial Gathering, Monday, July 24, 6:00 pm, 1817 Oregon St, Berkeley, In the garden at Elisa’s cottage. 

The July issue of Street Spirit has very nice articles about Elisa Cooper. Be sure to buy a July Street Spirit when you have a chance.

Two alarm Berkeley garage fire ended

Dennis Culver
Friday July 21, 2017 - 07:16:00 PM

Firefighters in Berkeley this morning have knocked down a two-alarm house fire. 

The garage fire broke out in the 1300 block of Arch Street near Spruce and Rose streets. 

The fire was first reported before 5 a.m. 

Police evacuated the surrounding area, but residents have since been allowed back into the area. 

There have been no reports of injuries.

Just one vote: How women got the vote

Ruth Rosen
Sunday July 23, 2017 - 12:18:00 PM

For days, the fate of health care for twenty-two million Americans depended on the vote of one Republican senator. Think about it: one person would have decided whether millions of Americans, including children, the disabled and the poor would continue to have access to health care. Just one vote.

This is not the first time in our history that a decision of such momentous importance has been decided by one legislator’s vote. Ever since the first women’s rights convention took place in 1848, Americans had been bitterly divided over woman’s suffrage. After seven decades of fierce campaigns, American suffragists finally convinced Congress to pass the 19th amendment on June 4th, 1919, which granted women full citizenship and gave them the right to vote. But after 35 states had ratified the amendment, pro-suffragists still needed one more state to ratify the amendment.

All eyes now turned to Tennessee. The leaders of both the pro-suffragist and anti-suffragist movements descended upon the legislature to lobby its members. The anti-suffrage liquor interests flooded the House and Senate with free booze, leaving the legislators dazed and drunk. Tennessee’s Senate quickly passed the amendment. In the House, however, furious argument and heated debate created a 48-48 deadlock. Just one person needed to change their vote give all American women the right to vote. 

Henry Burn had been the state’s youngest legislator. At first, he voted to table the amendment. On his lapel he pinned a red rose, the symbol of the anti-suffragist movement. But then, to everyone’s shock, the 24-year-old switched his vote and broke the tie. As he voted “Aye,” he held a letter written from his mother, Febb Burn of Niota, Tennessee: 

Dear Son: 

Hurry and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt...I’ve been waiting to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet… Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs Catt (a major leader of the pro-suffragist movement.) 

With lots of love, Mama. 

A farmer and journalist, Febb Burn had long been following the bitter debates over woman’s suffrage. Her son’s district was overwhelmingly against granting women the vote to women. Nevertheless, as she later told a reporter, “Suffrage has interested me for years.” After reading anti-suffrage speeches published in her son’s county, Mrs. Burn felt compelled to write him. “I sat down on [my] little chair on the front porch and penned a few lines to my son.” 

Outraged and stunned, her son’s colleagues attacked his honor and integrity, and accused him of political betrayal. In response, Burn wrote a personal statement which he entered into the House Journal, explaining why he had cast his vote for woman’s suffrage. "I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification." 

We needed only one Henry Burn to save health care for twenty-two million Americans. Every one of the fifty Senate Republicans had a mother, like Febb Burn, who did her very best to bring him or her up to do the right thing, and to treat others with compassion and dignity. 

Senate Republicans, remember your mothers’ voices. Some day you may feel, as Henry Burn explained in his later years, that this one vote will be your greatest achievement: “I had always believed that women had an inherent right to vote. It was a logical attitude from my standpoint. My mother was a college woman. She could not vote…On that roll call, confronted with the fact that I was going to go on record for time and eternity on the merits of the question, I had to vote for ratification.” 

Just as his vote gave half the population the right to vote, one Republican senator might have preserved the health care for millions of Americans. Fortunately, more than one senator objected to repealing Obamacare, and three female senators immediately refused to repeal health care and replace it with nothing. 

Ruth Rosen, professor emeritus at the University of California and former columnist for the LA Times and SF Chronicle, is the author of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. 

I have lectured about women’s history for 40 years, but these are some of the web sources that accurately reflect historical scholarship 









Will Worser make it Better? What can we do to help?

Becky O'Malley
Friday July 21, 2017 - 07:13:00 PM

UPDATE on JULY 28: The news today is just too weird to comment on this afternoon. I'll wait to have a go at it until the weekend, so I can publish other people's good new pieces promptly.

It’s hard for me to go anywhere these days, or to read anything serious, or to watch anything comic , without hearing the echo of one of the few Russian phrases that I still remember, Что делать?- What is to be done?

Its first incarnation was a novel by the Russian Utopian Socialist Nikolai Chernyshevsky, described by Wikipedia as advocating “the creation of small socialist cooperatives based on the Russian peasant commune, but oriented toward industrial production.” The name was later used by Tolstoy, who did not admire the earlier author, and then by Lenin, who did.

That would explain why my friend who grew up on one of the famous Petaluma chicken farms, part of a settlement which seems to have been organized sort of on the Chernyshevsky model , remembers one of her mother’s political aphorisms as being “the worser the better.” That slogan, in the more grammatical form “the worse the better”, is attributed to Chernyshevsky, and we hope it’s apt, don’t we? Because it certainly gets worser every day, and What is to Be Done to make it better, indeed, is the question of the day. 

My latest hope is the path promoted by Steve Phillips, articulated most recently by him on Thursday’s New York Times op-ed page under the title of The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake. His point is simple:

“With its obsessive focus on wooing voters who supported Donald Trump, [the party] is neglecting the cornerstone of its coalition and failing to take the steps necessary to win back the House of Representatives and state houses in 2018.” 

I am oh-so-fed-up with breast-beating by Democrats who want to woo back the sulky working class white guys who voted for Donald Trump. I don’t want to hear another word about how to make nice with racists. 

Phillips’ thesis, first articulated in his 2016 book Brown is the New White, is simple and backed-up by plenty of data. Folks, we don’t need those guys. If people of color and their existing White allies would all turn out to vote in 2018, we’d have it nailed. 

He goes on: ”Civic engagement experts have found that an effective canvassing and mobilization program costs about $50 per infrequent voter who actually casts a ballot. 

“By that metric, it would cost $47.6 million to get enough infrequent voters to the polls in the 28 congressional districts that will determine which party holds the House. In the six battleground-state contests for governors, the cost to bring out the necessary number of infrequent voters is $42.1 million.” 

I participated a bit in a Berkeley effort to raise money for the campaign of Jon Ossoff in the Atlanta suburbs, which I now regret. The man spent a bloody fortune ($23 million or so, half of what Phillips says should be enough to win the country for Congress) trying to convert Republicans and reform racists, but (of course) he lost anyway. 

So what is to be done? Phillips has started a group called Democracy in Color which is dedicated to rallying and uniting the natural supporters of progressive policies, Brown voters and some White allies . You can see the group’s proposals online in an excellent June 2017 report called Return of the Majority, replete with maps and charts and lists of places to go and people to work with. Based on my own experience with electoral politics going back now more than a half century, I think they’re right. 

Here in California alone there are at least seven districts which have a good possibility of swinging left, going from red to blue, in fact, sans metaphor, of electing some sort of Democrat to Congress. At this point some readers, some even of my friends, will undoubtedly start nattering on about how such candidates might not support the same health care scheme they themselves would prefer…or perhaps would endorse cap-and-trade instead of local environmental control…or once said something nice about TPP…or, or,or…. 

At this point in history, all I can say is “get over it!” Unless, of course, you are determined to carry “the worser the better” to an apocalyptic conclusion, perhaps one caused by climate collapse. 

Recently I spent some time with women of my all-too-certain age or even older, seasoned veterans of successful participation in real politics who are anxious do what they can to clean up the mess we find ourselves in. One observed wryly that every time something dreadful happens, someone she knows starts a new organization, perhaps one with a new URL and its own logo. 

In today’s NY Times, David Brooks (with whom we never used to agree) makes this observation: 

“Sure, Donald Trump is a boob, but that doesn’t explain why Republicans can’t govern from Capitol Hill. The answer is that we’re living at a time when the prospects for the middle class are in sharp decline. And Republicans offer nothing but negativity, detachment, absence and an ax.” 


Per Steve Phillips, our job is to spread the word, to persuade current and potential voters that they can act to change this trajectory. It’s time for that simple game plan, the one which takes advantage of what we’ve learned from past experience and applies it to current reality. 

What my friends and I agreed to do is to work on documenting in understandable language just how the Republicans are supporting policies which will harm the public, both grandparents like us and our children and grandchildren. We especially envision creating special programs to educate old people like us at senior centers and the like about how bad things might get if we don’t change Congress in 2018. 

We plan to make a definitive list of the California and Nevada congressional districts where we might be able to help the local people work for the change they need, by sitting at voter registration tables or making phone calls or whatever they want us to do. We intend to research the organizations already active in these places (Indivisible and Swing Left were mentioned) and figure out which are most effective. 

And of course, there’s always, within reason, raising and spending money. But it would be a very good idea to consult the Democracy in Color website to learn which organizations they think show “proven track records of conducting effective and accountable voter registration and mobilization work”, rather than just sending checks to the Democratic National Committee to buy more of those expensive television ads which don’t get results. There’s no point in encouraging the DNC to continue their billion dollar boondoggle when smarter spending would produce better results, is there? 

We have a lot of work ahead of us, should we choose to accept it. Now is the time to start. 










Public Comment

What did the YIMBYs do in Oakland this week?

Zelda Bronstein
Thursday July 20, 2017 - 01:31:00 PM

Editor's note: If you're curious about what happened at last week's YIMBY get-together in Oakland, this thorough account can be found in full on the 48hills.org web site:

Inside the Yimby conference

Nice civil discussion on the surface -- and some nastiness behind the scenes

Last weekend about 120 attendees from 17 cities gathered in downtown Oakland for the Yimbytown 2017 conference. Organized by East Bay Forward, the event was bankrolled by a $40,000 grant from Open Philanthropy, a project of Cari Tuna and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz that also funded the initial Yimbytown conference in Boulder. Chicago Cityscape also funded scholarships for a quarter of the conferees. Admission was $75.

The event featured 20 sessions and three keynote speakers, including State Senator Scott Wiener. For this reporter, the most memorable aspect of the proceedings was the contrast between the participants’ civility and collegiality at the event proper and the organizers’ incivility and paranoia behind the scenes. A close second was Wiener’s disingenuous put-down of his and other Yimbys’ San Francisco opponents

[for the whole story, click here.] 

Gaza under siege

Jagjit Singh
Friday July 21, 2017 - 02:31:00 PM

Determined to intensify the suffering of the Palestinians, Israel has imposed new draconian restrictions limiting electricity to barely 2 hours a day.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, lamented “I see this extraordinarily inhumane and unjust process of strangling 2 million civilians in Gaza.”

60 percent of the youth are unemployed and see no future. Raji Sourani, the award-winning human rights lawyer, recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, said “Israel is fulfilling its promise to drive us into the Middle Ages.”

Gaza has suffered 3 brutal assaults leaving the city in complete shambles. Israel has refused to allow the importation of construction materials to rebuild their city. The sewage is untreated and the water undrinkable. People are unable to sleep because of the oppressive heat, food can no longer be refrigerated, many hospitals have ceased to function, dialysis patients have been turned away condemning them to a certain, painful death. Water pumps are unable to pump water beyond the second floor. Raw sewage cannot be treated and is dumped into the sea contaminating all sea life.  


Nightfall brings about total darkness causing a huge spike in accidents. More and more countries have expressed outrage over Israel’s inhumane treatment of its oppressed people. It’s time the US to demand Israel lift the siege of Gaza, restore full electricity supply and cease rewarding Israel with billions of aid for its brutal apartheid policies.

We have lost our rights

Romila Khanna
Friday July 21, 2017 - 02:38:00 PM

The majority of the American people have lost faith in the current Congress. Most Republican members try to paint a rosy picture of how America has improved in every area. It is very frustrating to hear each day the same repeated words “Repeal and Replace Obama Care”. The suggested changes will make our poor and needy citizens suffer in every way. Their main goal seems to bring back the slavery era, where all manner of discrimination was present, with wide disparity in income, healthcare, and employment. I saw how President Obama’s desire to overrule the Congress and attempt to use executive privilege, to improve the public situation, was ignored. The Republicans and their members in the Congress always created a hostile attitude towards the African-American President. His views, his decisions, his way of thinking, was always considered wrong. They forgot that President Obama inherited the worst economy, due to prior War and hatred created by the previous President. He tried to create a friendly relationship with the International community. His rightful thinking was correct that war and hate does not bring peace within our hearts and on our planet. 

I am concerned about the moves our government is making now, to completely destroy the pillars of democracy. Most of people of color, of a minority group, young and old are affected by the Republican actions and decisions that are hurting our country. They overstate the high achievement and progress made in this short period of a few months. It is a lie. While taking away from the needy and poor to balance the budget may be a possibility, but has America has created new jobs? How has wasting our tax dollars with hasty and fruitless legislation and policies made ordinary people’s life better? How does lowering the taxes for billionaires and millionaires and businesses help the homeless, young and old children and students to get the quality education to further their efforts to improve their living standards? 

I see that poor and needy people don’t have the power to demand human rights to live with dignity. Instead, those who have the resources of education, money and power, look down upon them. 

On my walks along the streets, I see young and old, men and women deprived of the human right to live in their private space. Some of them don’t have a place to shower and wash their bodies for days and months. Some of them search for left over drops of water or juice to sip to quench their thirst. They try to take shelter under a tree during rain or hot summery days. Does our county, city or state government, get federal money to help provide for their basic needs? How America is becoming great? By giving the best opportunities to the rich and let others suffer? 

I wish all the best comforts and luxuries were taken away from the members of Congress, Senate and the Executive branch so that they would experience the pain and suffering of the people. 

We need bright days for all. Let us all join hands to help the American governing bodies become more empathetic and change their way of dealing with others in a more decent way. We don’t want America to adopt a monarchy style …… all the people need to know the reality of America becoming great again.


ECLECTIC RANT: Opioid epidemic likely to continue unabated

Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 21, 2017 - 02:35:00 PM

Let's stop calling it a "war on drugs." Over the past four decades, federal and state governments have spent over $1 trillion into drug war spending and some would say much of this money was wasted. Drug abuse is a public health issue, not a war. By treating it as a war, our commitment to drug prevention has been too heavily weighted on the supply side. This is a short-sighted view.  

What is desperately needed is increased funding for treatment, prevention, education, and recovery support services, as well as research to identify and promote strategies to reduce demand. President Obama changed the long-standing policy on combatting the growing opioid painkiller and heroine epidemic through public health, not criminal justice, programs. The Trump administration has reversed this policy. 

Consider that the U.S. has the highest use of both legal and illegal drug use. It is this high demand for illicit drugs, which largely fuels the drug trade.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. An additional $55 billion per year reflects private-sector costs attributable to productivity losses and health care expenses. 

About 80,000 Americans are incarcerated for drug-related crimes alone. Harsher drug policies are costly and bring a low rate of return. 

What is Trump going to do about the opioid epidemic? So far it is underwhelming. On the campaign trail Trump promised about the opioid epidemic, “We’re going to work with them, we’re going to spend the money, we’re gonna get that habit broken.” Instead on March 2017, by executive order, he established the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis headed by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey as chairman. The Commission will work closely with the White House Office of American Innovation led by Jared Kushner. The Commission is supposed to compile a report on the state of the opioid epidemic—along with recommendations for responding to it by October. If Trump was really serious, there would be a budget and an action plan for getting "the habit broken." 

Republican Senators are trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act but there is a split among Senate Republicans over federal spending on Medicaid and the opioid epidemic. Republican senators from states that have been hit hard by the opioid drug crisis have tried to cushion the Medicaid blow with a separate funding stream of $45 billion over 10 years for substance abuse treatment and prevention costs, now covered by the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This is opposed by conservatives. Now that the Republicans do not have the votes for repeal, will there be a $45 billion stream or any substantial dollar stream at all? I am not optimistic. 

Unfortunately, under Trump, the U.S. will revert back to an emphasis on treating the opioid-related epidemic as largely a supply-side problem -- a continued war on drugs if you will -- rather than a public health issue. As a result, I fear the opioid-crisis will continue unabated. 



As Trump Decompensates, GOP Disintegrates

Bob Burnett
Friday July 21, 2017 - 02:13:00 PM

We're sailing in uncharted presidential waters. Donald Trump has moved beyond incompetency to the designation: "a danger to himself and others." One small solace, before Trump blows up the planet he'll probably first destroy the Republican Party. 

Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough recently wrote that Trump is "killing" the GOP: "the wreckage [caused by Trump] will break the Republican Party into pieces." 

In the movie, Annie Hall, Woody Allen told an old joke: 

This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken.' And the doctor says, 'Well why don't you turn him in?' and the guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' 

The joke captures the essence of the GOP conundrum: most Washington-based Republicans know that Trump is crazy but they're afraid to "turn him in" because they "need the eggs." They're afraid of alienating Trump voters. 

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found Trump with record low approval ratings (36 percent). Nonetheless, 82 percent of Republican voters approve of his job performance. The Republican rank-and-file hold fast to a President whom the rest of the electorate regards as certifiable. 

Writing in the New York Times Magazine Mark Leibovich observed, "Trump got elected...by portraying and revealing [Republican] politicians to be feckless weenies -- and many of them went out and reinforced this view by displaying their... unwillingness to stand up to him in office." That's the number one reason why Trump is killing the GOP, he's turned a set of weak leaders (Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan) into quivering lumps of Jello. 

That wouldn't be a problem, if Trump were a strong leader with a well-defined policy agenda but that's not the case. Trump's crazy. His only consistent behavior is unpredictability. As a consequence, the Trump Administration has no consistency. The only unifying themes are incoherence and fear. 

Mark Leibovich writes that many Republican congress members live in "fear of mean tweets." They are afraid to oppose Trump because they fear the potential backlash. 

When Trump ran for President, some voters mistakenly identified him as a "successful businessman" and, therefore, believed that he would provide a steady hand on the ship of state; that is, provide both a clear strategy and a seasoned ability to get things done. But Trump wasn't a successful businessman in the usual sense of that phrase; he's a successful media personality. Trump doesn't have a clear strategy but rather a collection of campaign phrases: "build the wall," "lock her up," "repeal and replace Obamacare," and (of course) "make America great again." From the standpoint of saving the Republican Party, Trump doesn't have a good record of getting things done. He's not a hands-on manager who badgers his subordinates until his objectives are accomplished; Trump lends his general support to initiatives and then disappears. Since occupying the White House, Trump has been disengaged from GOP congressional initiatives. Some observers say he spends more time watching Fox News than he does interacting with Republican leaders. 

The failure of the Republican initiative to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) illustrates Trump's desultory management style. All of the heavy healthcare lifting was done by GOP leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (aka "feckless weenies"). On a day-to-day basis, Trump was not involved and often seemed out-of-step with GOP leaders -- as when he characterized the House version of Trumpcare as "mean." 

Buzzfeed observed: "The premise of the value proposition that voters bought into was: [Trump] knew about the art of the deal and that he could break through ‘Washington,’ break through political norms, and get things done.” Trump mislead his base; he doesn't know how to get things done. 

Trump's evocative promise to "make America great again" was based upon three loose narratives: repeal Obamacare and replace it with something "terrific;" negotiate better trade deals that would (magically) bring back manufacturing jobs with decent wages; and build a border wall that would keep out immigrants and "protect American lives and jobs." While these were never detailed policy prescriptions, Trump's promises had a powerful hold on his base. 

Now the Trump triad is in trouble. The GOP is incapable of repealing and replacing Obamacare. Trump hasn't displayed his ballyhooed prowess as a deal maker; for example, he promises to renegotiate NAFTA but, so far, nothing has come of this. Finally, Trump has no plan to build the wall. 

Nonetheless, Trump voters hold tight to the belief that he's going to turn it all around, "get things done." Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank explains that Trump supporters believe he can manage the economy, in general, and specifically bring back manufacturing jobs. Milbank notes, "manufacturing employment hit a record low last month of 8.47 percent of overall employment... Manufacturing wages rose less than the overall private sector." Milbank asks, "what happens [when] Trump’s core backers discover that they’ve been had... manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and a Trump-ignited trade war is hurting U.S. exports?" 

What will happen is that the Trump base will turn against Trump. And, the Republican Party. Winter is coming for the GOP. 


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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Don't Oversimplify, &, About Hydration

Jack Bragen
Friday July 21, 2017 - 01:26:00 PM

Don't oversimplify mental illness

Many people in the general public have uninformed opinions about us; people in mainstream society incorrectly view mentally ill people with negative stereotypes. People do not understand mental illness. Even family members, some of the time, will tell us to "lift yourself by your bootstraps." They may be viewing mental illness with monochrome, oversimplified thinking.

Many have erroneous views about medication. Some people believe medication should not be taken, and we ought to just get over our problems without it. Others assume medication is absolutely needed in all cases. I feel that medication isn't good or bad. It helps millions of people to survive and to live somewhat normally. Yet, psychiatric medications have drawbacks.

If someone can get by okay without medication, they should. This is because psychiatric medications, aside from being useful, often have side effects that affect the human mind and body in awful ways.  

Psychiatrists, when they decide someone has psychosis, and find through a blood test that the problem isn't caused by narcotics, tend to prescribe antipsychotic medication almost automatically. Apparently, medicating is the most cost-effective and convenient way to deal with a person suffering from psychosis. In some instances also, medication is the only thing that will work to get someone out of the mental and behavioral predicament in which they are stuck.  

But, let's look at the same person a year later, ten years later, twenty years later. Medication, while essentially saving a person's life, has done much to make life more difficult. Could alternatives have been tried?  

Attempting alternatives to meds probably is not cost effective (for the mental health treatment system) and most of the time, alternatives just won't work. Additionally, the more times that a mentally ill person relapses, the more damage there is to his or her brain and life circumstances.  

It isn't necessary to be on one side or the other of the medication debate. It helps some people. For some, it is the only thing that helps. On the other hand, it has some pretty awful long-term effects. In addition, medication, although it helps many individuals remain mentally stable, for some people, blocks brain function to the extent that it prevents adequate performance at most jobs.  

To adopt the view that any medication is bad, or the view that medication is the only answer, are two poles of oversimplification.  

By the same token, people with schizophrenia should not go into the danger zone of looking for reasons to go off of medication. If medication got you out of the pit of psychosis, then probably, you need to keep taking the stuff--even if it does make you feel awful.  

(If newly medicated, you may not know this: that over time, you can relearn to enjoy life, despite medication side effects. This is accomplished by learning to ignore side effects, by acclimating to medication, and by using cognitive methods to neutralize the suffering of side effects.) 

Who and What Are Mentally Ill People?

Are mentally ill people dangerous? Are we idiots? Are we unable to participate in society?  

Some persons with a psychiatric illness are a danger to the public. I have met one or two mentally ill people who were dangerous. And, I have met a couple of mentally ill people who seemed to have lower than average intelligence, at least at the time that I met them.  

However, people should not automatically judge us if they find out that we have a history of mental illness. Doing so is to stereotype us, and it is yet another version of oversimplified, monochrome thought. People in the mainstream of society should not automatically exclude us, should not automatically assume that we are bad people, and should give us the same chance as others to be "let in" to society.  

Many people with mental illness are sensitive, brilliant, and gentle. (Yet, before others value us, we may need to value and respect ourselves.)  

About hydration

This advice is a bit late in the season in coming, yet it will still probably be relevant for about the next two and a half months of hot weather in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Many psych medications interfere with the body's mechanisms to cool itself. Furthermore, some medications can cause increased urination. Some persons with mental illness may be less aware of their bodies, for various reasons. If we lack body awareness, it may prevent being aware of becoming overheated.  

It is of the utmost importance that we take in enough fluids, such as Gatorade, cold water, or perhaps diet soda. Cold water tastes better than the tepid water that many of us are getting from the tap this time of year. When I go to a drugstore or supermarket, I'll often grab a bottle of water from their refrigerator and drink it immediately--so long as I have the two dollars or so needed to pay for it. 

Air conditioning is important as well. Like I say, those of us on psych medications have more of a need to keep out of the heat. Waiting for a bus, in Central Contra Costa County, should not be attempted on a hot day. You could be in the sun for an hour and forty five minutes waiting for your bus, and then another hour or two, waiting for a connecting bus. This can be life-threatening for people on meds. Get a ride.  

Jack Bragen is author of: "Stories to Read at the Kitchen Table at Night," and, "Instructions for Dealing With Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual."

Arts & Events

Menotti’s THE CONSUL: An Opera Trump Should Be Required to See

Reviewed by James MacBean
Sunday July 23, 2017 - 12:29:00 PM

Berkeley Chamber Opera’s Artistic Director, Eliza O’Malley, followed up on the outstanding achievement of her company’s production last December of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi with what seemed at first glance an odd choice for the company’s next production – Gian-Carlo Menotti’s 1950 opera The Consul. Menotti, an American-born composer of Italian origin, is hardly in the same league as Vincenzo Bellini. Menotti’s chamber operas The Medium (1946) and The Telephone (1947), and his television Christmas opera Ahmal and the Night Visitors (1951) have always remained marginal curiosities in the operatic world. Though I’ve seen these works, they never made much of an impression on me. Gian-Carlo Menotti’s main claim to fame, it seemed, was as founding director in 1958 of the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds, which he later took to Charleston, South Carolina.

However, as staged by Berkeley Chamber Opera in two performances at Berkeley’s Hillside Club on July 14 & 16, Menotti’s The Consul was a revelation. Here is a serious opera written in a post-Puccini verismo style, full of angular, often dissonant music that alternates with occasional soliloquies and duets of a poignant lyricism. The plot revolves around a topic that is in the forefront of news today in Donald Trump’s USA – the fate of political refugees. Set in a fictional, unidentified European country, The Consul focuses on the plight of one John Sorel, his wife Magda, his infant son, and his aging mother. John, a political dissident in a totalitarian state, is wanted by the police for his political opposition to the government. When the State’s secret police come looking for John, he is hidden by his wife and mother. The police ask questions but don’t find John. Once the police have left, John bids his family goodbye and heads for the border. Taking his leave, John, movingly sung by tenor Michael Orlinsky, sings a poignant duet with his wife, Magda, ravishingly sung by soprano Eliza O’Malley. This duet, like most (but not all) of the music in this production of The Consul is sung in English. Earlier, as The Consul opens, a street-singer, sung here by mezzo-soprano Liliane Cromer, croons in French. Later, in a scene at the consulate, a foreign woman sings in Italian.  

Alexander Katsman conducted a chamber orchestra of ten instrumentalists. One would think that such a small orchestra could hardly overwhelm the singers. Yet in the intimate and hard acoustic space of the Hillside Club this was a problem, especially in the First Act, though a word to the conductor at the first intermission seemed to bring about a better balance for Acts 2 and 3. Igor Vieira directed this production with superb aplomb. Especially effective was Vieira’s inclusion of video material of contemporary refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, including American protesters both for and against refugees, which was screened during the poignant instrumental music opening Act 3 of The Consul. Costumes were by Barbara Lim.  

In each of the three acts of The Consul there are two scenes, one in the home of the Sorel family, and one at the consulate where Magda goes to apply for a visa to allow her family to join her husband in exile. In the consulate scenes, bureaucracy is scathingly depicted as the order of the day, of every day. There are endless papers to fill out, endless requests for personal information, endless requests for documents. The consular secretary, ably sung by mezzo-soprano Michelle Rice, is a stickler for details and rules.  

As Act 2 opens, John’s mother sings a lullaby to comfort the infant son of John and Magda. The child is ill and unsmiling. The lullaby was beautifully rendered by mezzo-soprano Deborah Rosengaus, who was excellent as John’s mother. The secret police return to the Sorel home and try to get names of John’s friends from Magda, but she refuses. This infuriates the secret police, and bass-baritone Jason Sarten was quite effective as the insinuating, threatening member of the State’s secret police, while baritone James McGoff was his ominous sidekick. In Act 2’s consulate scene, various people wait in line in hopes of obtaining a visa. Baritone J.T. Williams was excellent as Mr. Kofner, soprano Cara Gabrielson was superb as a Foreign Woman who spoke (and sang) only Italian, mezzo-soprano Bethany Goldson was a credible Vera Boronel, soprano Amy Foote was a fine Anna Gomez, and tenor Alexander Taite was outstanding as the magician Nika Magadoff, who beguiled and bewitched the crowd of visa-seekers with his magic tricks and experiments in hypnosis. At the close of Act 2, Eliza O’Malley as Magda erupted in a ranting soliloquy at the absurdity of the consular bureaucracy, asking, in a tour de force, if there really was a live human being in the next room where the consul had his office. “Tell me,” screamed Magda at the secretary, “Have you ever seen the consul? Does he even exist?” 

In Act 3 of Menotti’s The Consul, Magda informs the consular secretary that John’s mother and his infant son have both died. Increasingly desperate, Magda pleads for a visa or at least an audience with the consul. She is told to wait. Assan, one of John’s co-conspirators, arrives to warn Magda that John has sneaked back into town hoping to see her. If John is caught, says Assan, sung by baritone Igor Vieira, their entire group of activists will be endangered. Assan asks Magda to try to dissuade John from trying to see her. Magda writes a note to John in which, it is implied, she declares that she is about to commit suicide and urges John to save himself. Assan leaves to deliver the note to John, and Magda returns home. But John bursts into the consulate as it is about to close. He demands to see his wife. The secretary tells John his wife just left. The State’s secret police burst in, violently subdue John, and take him into custody. The secretary picks up the phone to call Magda. The final scene of The Consul takes place at the Sorel home. Magda takes pills to kill herself. A lengthy dream scene then occurs emphasizing Magda’s agony. This dream scene is a bit far-fetched and overdrawn, but then this is opera. As the dream comes to an end, Magda falls limp on the couch and dies. The telephone rings repeatedly, as the secretary tries in vain to contact Magda. Angular chords are heard in the orchestra as Menotti’s The Consul comes to a dramatic end. Donald Trump should be required to see Menotti’s The Consul.