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My letter to Trump

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Wednesday August 16, 2017 - 10:35:00 AM

We cannot address the dangerous spread of white supremacy in America without first assessing its influence on our nation's highest office.

Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump defended the white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville this past weekend while insisting there was blame "on both sides." As disturbing as his comments are, they should come as no surprise.

As long as Trump has senior advisors with ties to white nationalist groups, he will never fully condemn racism and bigotry. That's why I wrote a letter to Trump yesterday calling for the removal of three prominent White House aides who are involved with the alt-right: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka. 

It's time to root out white nationalism at the White House. Add your name to tell Trump he must remove Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka from the White House immediately. 

By placing these three men in his administration, Trump has elevated hate and discrimination to the highest levels of our government. He has signaled to white supremacists that they are no longer a fringe group – they now have advocates advising the president with their agenda in mind. 

We have already seen a manifestation of that agenda, from the Muslim ban and a ban on transgender Americans in the military, to raids on immigrant communities and attempts to perpetuate the era of mass incarceration and roll back voting rights. These policies are a result of the far-right extremist ideology held by Trump's top advisors. 

Add your name if you agree Trump must show Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka the door. White nationalism has no place in our country – especially not the Oval Office. 

Thank you for joining me in speaking out against white nationalism in the White House. 


Barbara Lee 


A Word About the Planned White Nationalist Rally August 27

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin
Wednesday August 16, 2017 - 10:09:00 AM

The City of Berkeley has received many emails and calls about the impending August 27 white nationalist rally at Civic Center Park. We want to reiterate that the city has not approved this gathering. It is an event organized online. No one has tried to obtain a permit nor has one been granted.

This rally, and its hateful rhetoric, is not welcome in Berkeley. We are currently exploring all options. The city will keep residents informed as the date approaches.

I also want to be clear that anyone who threatens to engage in violence -- and we have seen from earlier events that this is exactly their intent -- will be arrested and punished to the fullest extent of the law. We urge residents to avoid the Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center Park on this day. The best way to silence the white nationalists is by turning your back on their message. (Stay tuned for updates from us about how to positively send a message that the hate will not be tolerated.)

I think residents understand the extremely difficult position Berkeley finds itself in, made even more so by dealing with an amorphous group with no specific organizers. I want to reiterate that we will not allow our community to be terrorized by a small band of white supremacists whose ideology of hate is a losing one. Berkeley is proud of its multiculturalism and diversity, and we will continue to stand united against those who want to divide us.

Top Dog cook resigns when spotted in Charlottesville

Keith Burbank (BCN) and Planet
Monday August 14, 2017 - 05:07:00 PM

A Berkeley restaurant employee who allegedly attended a white nationalist rally Friday in Charlottesville, Virginia, resigned from the restaurant Saturday, restaurant officials said today. 

Cole White resigned from Top Dog, a business with two locations in Berkeley and one in Oakland, after social media posts from the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist and others identified him as a participant of the "Unite the Right" rally. 

Following the resignation, Berkeley police received information about a credible threat made against the business, Sgt. Andrew Frankel said 

Police kept their eye on Top Dog's three locations overnight and officers will be making extra patrols today when they can, Frankel said. 

Top Dog, which has been in business since 1966, said in a statement that on Saturday "we spoke with Cole White. During that conversation Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with Top Dog and we accepted his resignation." 

The company said, "There have been reports that he was terminated. Those reports are false. There have been reports that Top Dog knowingly employs racists and promotes racist theology. That too is false." 

Longtime Berkeley residents know that walls at Top Dog locations have always been covered with political posters and clippings which might generally be characterized as libertarian.  

"We pride ourselves on embracing and respecting all our differences and every individual's choice to do as that person wishes within the boundaries of the law," Top Dog officials said. "We do respect our employees' right to their opinions. They are free to make their own choices but must accept the responsibilities of those choices." 

"Individual freedom and voluntary exchange are core to the philosophy of Top Dog," the company said. "We look forward to cooking the same great food for at least another 50 years."

Main entrance to Berkeley BART closed

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Monday August 14, 2017 - 05:05:00 PM

A The main entrance to the downtown Berkeley BART station will close today as part of a plaza improvement project, BART officials said. 

Crews will also close the entrance at the corner of Addison Street and Shattuck Avenue.  

Both entrances will reopen in early 2018.  

BART officials said patrons will still have regular access to the platform, station agent booth and fare machines.  

As work is done to the plaza, the escalator between the street level and the concourse will be out of service for about six months. But the elevator near Shattuck Avenue and Center Street will be operating. 

Escalators between the concourse and the platform will also operate normally.  

BART officials said if the elevator isn't working, they will make arrangements to take patrons on an accessible vehicle to an adjacent station. The officials said patrons should get in touch with a station agent to arrange for that service. 

Patrons can call (510) 834-5438 to check whether an elevator is in service. Or patrons can sign up for status alerts at www.bart.gov/elevators.

A Well-Attended Anti-Nationalist Rally

Harry Brill
Monday August 14, 2017 - 10:55:00 AM

Sunday evening (August 13) a few hundred mainly Berkeley residents marched to and gathered at the Martin Luther King Civic Center Park to protest the recent racist and anti-Semitic conduct of white nationalists in Charlottesville this weekend. Moreover, Donald Trump refused to condemn the violence perpetrated by these neo-fascists. The protest rally, which was one of several hundred nationwide held on Sunday, was organized by Berkeley Indivisible, which is part of a national movement to resist the agenda of the current administration and to support progressive alternatives. 

Among the major themes of the protest rally was the immense importance of working together to expose and denounce these right wing extremists. One of the speakers, Yoel Khan who is the rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in Berkeley cited the following warning: 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- 

Because I was not a Socialist. 


Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- 

Because I was not a Trade Unionist. 


Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- 

Because I was not a Jew. 


Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me. 

The Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, called for the white supremacists to leave the city in the wake of violence that killed one person, injured others, and killed in a helicopter crash two State police officers. The officers were patrolling the area where the white nationalists were clashing with protesters. 

On Sunday, August 27th, 10:30am to 12:30pm, there will be a Bay Area Rally Against Hate. The rally will be on Crescent Lawn on the edge of the UC campus, Addison/Center & Oxford. Please attend and urge your friends and others to join this very important event.

Preventing displacement in Berkeley: the social housing strategy (News Analysis)

Thomas Lord
Friday August 11, 2017 - 10:33:00 AM

Most of the people who live in Berkeley are at risk for displacement. The market prices of housing in Berkeley are affordable only to households with incomes over $100,000. The median household income in Berkeley is much less than that.

In 2015, that median income was only around $66,000. Anyone who must leave their current residence in Berkeley is statistically likely to have difficulty finding an affordable replacement in Berkeley

Each year -- year after year -- the number of Berkeley households making less than $100,000 falls by the hundreds. Each year the number making more than $100,000 grows even faster than that. (See the attached graph.)

Berkeley is Gentrification City

Between 2000 and 2015, Berkeley added over 7,000 households with incomes over $100,000.[1] Most of that increase happened just between 2005 - 2015. During that same period, Berkeley lost over 6,000 households where the people had incomes under $100,000.

Some of those changes in household income might be explained by households that had incomes below $100,000 in 2000, but who by 2015 had seen their incomes increase to over $100,000. Still, it is unlikely that explains very much of this overall change.

Each year, on average, many hundreds of very high income households move into Berkeley. And many households with lower incomes wind up leaving.

Berkeley is becoming gentrified at a very rapid pace. 

Berkeley's housing is priced for very high income households

Berkeley's market rate housing, these days, is affordable to households with over $100,000 income, but not to households much below that. For example, one is lucky to find a $2,500 apartment these days - a rent that becomes sustainably affordable only with around $100,000 income. 

The median income in Berkeley is well below $100,000 (at least for now). In 2015, the median household income was only around $66,000. 

This implies that more than half the people in town are at risk for displacement if they lose their current in-town housing. 

Students experience this pricing as unaffordable overcrowding

A segregated market of student housing has developed in two forms: 

  1. There is an informal (e.g. Craigslist) market for sub-leasing bedrooms or half-bedroom in shared apartments. This large market is not strictly exclusive to students but is student-dominated in Berkeley.
  2. Some units are removed from the general public market by the University of California, which leases them and acts as a master-tenant who in turn sub-leases bedrooms to Cal students.
It is typical for students in either system to pay much more than $1,000 for a bedroom space. 

Thus, this segregated student market remains priced for very high income households. Students are "simply" [sic] carrying a heavy housing cost burden. 

"Affordable Housing" programs can not help

Tens of thousands of Berkeley households face displacement pressure in the current market. If their current housing situation is jeopardized, a majority of the town would find today's market prices excessive. 

While the need is in the 10s of thousands, traditional approaches to "affordable housing", even if fully funded and optimally regulated, can produce at best a tiny fraction of what is needed -- hundreds of units per year. 

Berkeley is spending all of its 10s of millions of housing dollars on failed affordable housing strategies. 

"Streamlining" development of new market rate housing can not help

Berkeley's housing is priced for the top 30% of household incomes within the entire, commute-distance region. 

In regional terms, only a small minority can really afford to buy or lease in Berkeley -- but even that small minority is large in number compared to the size of Berkeley. 

Even if Berkeley gained newly built housing at record-breaking levels the, supply would be tiny compared to that top-earning 30% that are dominating housing prices in Berkeley. 

It follows from this that the affordability crisis can not be relieved by encouraging faster market rate development. 

Policy Direction: Social (de-marketized) housing can help

In the 1970s, Berkeley embarked on a program of price controls for rental housing. 

The idea at that time was, in the long run, to de-marketize the supply of housing and treat it as something closer to a publicly controlled utility. 

The state fought back strongly, ultimately taking away the right of California cities to control the price of privately owned apartments. (Particularly the Costa-Hawkins Act which took effect in 1996.) 

To restore price controls -- to solve the affordability crisis, in other words -- Berkeley must find another path towards public control, and public creation of housing. 

Here is a key observation for policy makers: 

If the City of Berkeley owns some unit of housing outright, then the City can lease it at any price public policy will support, and allocate the housing by any lawful means. 

The same is true (at least to some degree) if the City of Berkeley is the master tenant of unit of housing under favorable terms. If the City is getting a "good deal" on a unit, and can sublease it, then again the City has a large degree of price control over that unit. 

If the City outright owns some housing, or leases it on favorable terms, it can create a source of housing "outside" the customary housing market, and not subject to market prices. 

The City -- the public -- can allocate housing for practical needs supporting the local economy, local community, and the student population. 

Since neither market rate or traditional "affordable housing" policies can make a dent in the problems, social housing is more plausible than ever. 

Social housing has an additional, huge benefit: the capacity of the community to maintain and improve its own stock of housing using direct action and local labor rather than relying on markets dominated by the market. 

By the numbers

Income categories below $100,000 are shrinking: 



% households 2000  


% households 2015  




$0 - $9999  








$10,000 - $14,999  








$15,000 - $24,999  








$25,000 - $34,999  








$35,000 - $49,999  








$50,000 - $74,999  








$75,000 - $99,999  
















# of households  


of 45,007  


of 45,917  




Income categories above $100,000 are growing: 



$100,000 - $149,999  








$150,000 - $199,999  
























# of households  


of 45,007  


of 45,917  






[1] US Census Bureau surveys are used throughout.  


Berkeley police investigate robbery at Ashby BART

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Saturday August 12, 2017 - 10:50:00 AM

BART police are investigating a robbery that occurred Thursday at the Ashby Station in Berkeley. 

On Thursday at 9:31 p.m., two men approached the victim from behind in the station parking lot, knocked him to ground, punched and kicked him and took his backpack, wallet and watch, police said. 

The victim was transported to the hospital with injuries including facial swelling, an abrasion on his head and pain in his fingers. 

Police said they believe the suspects are responsible for a similar robbery that occurred in the same timeframe in a nearby neighborhood. 

That incident is being investigated by the Berkeley Police Department. 

The first suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and wearing black clothing. 

The second suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, with shoulder length dreadlocks and wearing black clothing.



Whatever became of Berkeley's neighborhood-serving retail?

Becky O'Malley
Friday August 11, 2017 - 03:36:00 PM

Having lived in university towns for all of my adult life, I am very conscious of the difference in atmosphere when most of the students go home for summer vacation. One obvious benefit is that parking becomes infinitely easier. Yes, yes, I know that we’re not supposed to be driving, even those of us who are over 75 and a bit arthritic. Yes, I know that students never drive any more—well,hardly ever. It must be just a coincidence that many, many cars disappear from Berkeley streets in the summer—surely it’s not because the students are gone.

In the time I’ve been in Berkeley, off and on since 1958, most of the full-time residents have gotten out of the habit of shopping here, so the lack of parking is not much of a problem. There was a time, maybe in the ‘80s or ‘90s, when women of a certain age bemoaned the absence of anywhere to buy underwear in downtown Berkeley, but now they have surely figured out Amazon, or in a true emergency Target in Oakland. On the other hand, if they should need a tattoo or phony fingernails, Berkeley’s their place.

Am I the only person to notice the enormous number of commercial vacancies in what used to be neighborhood shopping streets? When I first lived in the Elmwood neighborhood, College Avenue boasted a real hardware store, at least two general bookstores, a “dry goods” store which sold both baby clothes and the now-lamented underwear selection, two “drug stores” and a “dime store” with one of almost anything you wanted. Now there are several Tibetan curio establishments and other gifte shoppes, lots and lots of restaurants, plus laptop study-hall cafes galore, but not a lot more. In particular, the two anchor corners at Ashby, north-west and south-east, stand vacant.

Neighborhood commercial districts like Elmwood are given high marks for supposed walkability, especially if they still also boast a bus route like the 51. But if there’s nowhere to buy laundry detergent or screwdrivers or toilet paper, neighborhood residents, especially those getting provisions for multi-person households, will inevitably be driving or ordering online.  

Why are there so many vacancies in ground floor retail buildings these days? It’s not just Berkeley—I see the same thing on commercial streets in other towns, and also in the many strip malls in places as diverse as El Cerrito and Santa Cruz. Even the mega-malls like Richmond’s Hilltop Mall are plagued with empty stores.  

There are two popular explanations for why this is so. 

One, obviously, is internet commerce. It’s just a whole lot easier, if you know what you’re looking for, to find it online and order it, often with the ability to compare prices to advantage. Old-style “Shopping”, the leisurely examination of a variety of offerings with the luxury of choice, has become more and more a recreational activity and less and less a practical strategy. 

The other villain, popular especially in left circles, is high rents. This kind of analysis is often coupled with criticism of a tax code which lets commercial landlords use the loss of phantom high profits on vacant stores to balance profits elsewhere. I’ve yet to see 100% convincing proof of this, but it seems plausible. 

Since much of the fabric of urban life is supposed to be woven around walking to local merchants, this is becoming a serious problem. Neighborhood-serving commercial blocks pockmarked with empty windows create their own feedback loop with more and more vacancies to be expected. 

Some new models for using these spaces show promise. I recently attended an evening meeting in a pleasant storefront space which serves as a childcare center convenient to offices in the daytime. Yoga, dance and martial arts studios seem to flourish in former retail localities. 

Cities like Berkeley support well-funded economic development departments which are supposed to take care of such problems. Unfortunately, most of what they are able to do is earnest exhortation—they have little real power. From the COB Economic Development department’s web page: 

“The Office of Economic Development has contracted with Buy Local Berkeley to conduct a niche marketing campaign to promote local, independent businesses. Buy Local Berkeley is a collaborative of merchant associations and individual small business owners in Berkeley. We educate about the cultural, environmental, community and economic benefits of shopping at locally owned and operated businesses. Our goal is to inspire people to shift their spending to Berkeley businesses whenever possible.” 

It will take more than inspiration to overcome what’s going wrong with small businesses in downtown Berkeley. They are getting evicted to make room for developments aimed at BART commuters to San Francisco, who will most likely do most of their purchasing in The City, and by UC offices for employees who drive in from distant suburbs with big box stores. 

University Hardware, a stalwart for many years, was pushed or jumped from its wonderful location on University, complete with parking lot, to a dark and dreary car-free location on a side street. Now to add insult to injury the new store has lost access even for customers' curbside pick-ups of large purchases to the city’s poorly conceptualized new bicycle routing.  

There’s a host of similar examples of local businesses done wrong which give the lie to the perpetual myth of a Downtown Berkeley renaissance. Among other things, it’s past time to re-think Berkeley’s downtown area plan, which was jammed through by the previous city administration for the exclusive benefit of developers of mega apartment blocks for well-off consumers who’ll make their purchases elsewhere. A new and better plan would give much more respect to neighborhood-serving businesses and much less latitude to the smash-and-grab crowd who covet our downtown as potential building sites for commuter condos.  

And don’t get me started on the way the University of California is sucking up downtown Berkeley as lebensraum for offices which don't even pay property taxes. That’s a rant all its own, for another day.  





Public Comment

What should Berkeley do about the proposed alt-right rally on August 27?

Jacquelyn McCormick
Sunday August 13, 2017 - 11:55:00 AM

As a community we need to decide what we want our values really mean and under what circumstances.

We don't want to militarize our police, stop and frisk and profiling is unacceptable, and we have "use of force" monitors at previous protest to, rightfully, ensure there is no repeat of Black Lives Matter events. These are Berkeley values we all embrace.

Now we want to stop people coming into Our City, profile and frisk them, because look like Nazis and do not support our values. (Which is true and frightening). And, if we are truthful, we would be happy if they were all run out of town or thrown in the slammer for aggressive behavior.

I would like to hear some dialog around this. It is important to hear from the community about these conflicting approaches. Peace and Justice/Indivisible PLEASE chime in!!! It is so important to the approach that will be taken.

Enemies of the Planet

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday August 11, 2017 - 11:25:00 AM

The ominous signs of global warming are becoming more and more self-evident. Here in the United States, temperatures have risen sharply. According to the recent climate report from 13 federal agencies, the warmest climate has been experienced in recent decades, the hottest during the past 1,500 years. Record temperatures have also been experienced in Europe, Australia, the Middle East and India. The august body, The National Academy of Sciences, has signed off on the draft report which should give it enormous credibility.

If no remedial action is taken, temperatures are expected to rise 2 degrees centigrade by the end of the century. This would cause blistering heat waves, rainstorms, flooding and accelerate the obliteration of coral reefs. Greenland and the arctic ice are melting at an alarming rate a causing dramatic rise of sea levels.

The deadline for approval of the report is August 18. It is probable that Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, a climate change denier, may bury the report.

This must not be allowed to happen. I urge readers to call your representatives and demand the report be released to the general public. Light up the White House comment line and demand remedial action to combat the scourge of climate change. Silence is not an option. Your children and all future generations’ lives are at stake. If no action is taken, climate change will become the longest suicide ever attempted by the human race and we have a very good chance of success.


New: ECLECTIC RANT:The United States versus North Korea

Ralph E. Stone
Monday August 14, 2017 - 10:58:00 AM

The U.S. continues to view North Korea’s rulers as cartoonish madmen. Kim Jong-un, North Korea's ruler, probably isn’t crazy. Like his grandfather and father before him, Kim has generally behaved in a predictable and rational way for the ruler of a small, poor country trying to preserve his own grip on power in the face of bigger and more powerful rivals.

Anyway, it is not advisable to belittle a man with his finger on a nuclear weapon. I find little comfort that Trump has his finger on our nuclear button. 

When Kim baits him, it doesn't help when Trump bites and vows to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Aggressive rhetoric against North Korea could backfire on Trump, convincing Kim Jong-un that his regime is in imminent jeopardy and triggering a pre-emptive attack against the U.S. 

Consider what North Korea is facing. The U.S. has 35,000 troops in South Korea and holds annual joint military exercises with South Korea. Recently, the U.S. introduced anti-missile batteries into South Korea without Moon Jae-in, the new liberal South Korean president’s knowledge. Moon had the good sense to suspend their deployment. In addition, the United Nations imposed its harshest sanctions yet against North Korea, with the Security Council voting unanimously to punish the regime for developing ballistic missiles that could reach Japan and the U.S. 

What we need is a dialogue to reduce tension and avoid catastrophic miscalculation. Currently, we are on the road to conflict. 

South Korea’s president has declared he'd be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "at any time, at any place" -- circumstances permitting. 

I say the U.S. should back off from the brink and fully support Moon’s diplomacy effort. The alternative is more back-and-forth bellicose rhetoric that could lead to a nuclear confrontation. 

It is worth a try.

THE PUBLIC EYE:6 Months of Trump, 6 Lessons Learned

Bob Burnett
Friday August 11, 2017 - 11:21:00 AM

After six months of the Donald Trump presidency, we know what to expect going forward. We've learned six lessons. 

1.Trump lies all the time: Going into the election we knew that Trump lies at an astounding rate -- typically more than one lie per day -- but after January 20th some of us nurtured the hope that Donald would begin acting more presidential. No way. 

Trump may go incommunicado for a day or two , but then he will unleash a barrage of misstatements, distortions, and outright falsehoods -- usually via twitter. On July 26, The Washington Post posted a headline, " 26 hours, 29 Trumpian False or Misleading Claims." 

Writing in Mother Jones, Denise Clifton mused that while Trump's "chronic duplicity" may be the consequence of a severe psychological disorder, "the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the 'Firehose of Falsehood'.” Clifton wrote: 

In 2016, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques seen in [Russian-controlled] media. The researchers described two key features: “high numbers of channels and messages” and “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.” 

Whether Trump lies because he's adopted a Russian tactic or because he's mentally ill, his chronic duplicity is having serious consequences for American political discourse. Many voters don't know who to believe; they can't discern "fake news." As a result there's unparalleled polarization: voters who trust Trump and the majority who don't. 

Trump's conduct riles up legitimate news outlets, such as Mother Jones and The Washington Post, and they report negatively on Trump, which feeds his paranoia, causing him to lash out. 

2. The Trump Administration leaks: Viewed from the Left Coast, the Washington culture thrives on gossip and insider information. Nonetheless, the Trump era has seen an unusual number of leaks. 

Trump supporters blame this on the dark state -- the national security state -- and the liberal media -- such as Mother Jones and The Washington Post -- whom they believe are out to get Trump. There's some truth to this suspicion because once Trump entered office, he blasted both groups. 

But there's another explanation: Trump has an unusually abrasive personality and a lot of Washington insiders don't like him. He lashes out and they respond by leaking. 

Whatever the cause, the leaks are likely to continue, which will contribute to Trump's paranoia. 

3. Trump only cares about Trump. After the election, there was a brief interval where some Americans thought, "I didn't vote for Trump, but whether I like it or not, he's the President and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt." That period is over. The nation is divided between those who support the President (roughly one-third of the electorate) and those who do not (two-thirds of the electorate). 

Since January 20th, Trump has made no attempt to reach out to those who either did not vote for him or did so reluctantly. He only talks to his base. 

And he's used his office to benefit his business interests. 

4. Trump hasn't gotten the job done. In an August 7th tweet, Trump said his base supports him because of the "record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs, Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more." 

Trump tries to take credit for the booming stock market and the generally positive financial news, but a case can be made that these are carryovers from the Obama Administration. On the tweeted list, the only event that Trump was directly involved in was the selection of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

Trump's base expected him to keep his campaign promises, such as "repeal and replace Obamacare," "build a border wall," and "lock up Hillary Clinton." None of these have been accomplished. Furthermore, Trump's recent failure to push through Obamacare repeal suggests that he does not have the wherewithal to move his legislative agenda through the (Republican-controlled) congress. 

5. Trump's strongest card continues to be racism. Writing in The New York Times, Emory University professor Carol Anderson observed: 

The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. 

On August 2nd, Trump endorsed a Republican initiative -- led by Senators Cotton and Perdue -- that would dramatically change immigration policy and reduce immigration levels by 50 percent. That same day, presidential aide Stephen Miller appeared at a White House press conference to laud the immigration initiative and claim that current policy has produced a slew of economic problems such as income inequality and a dearth of good-paying jobs. There's no compelling evidence for this assertion but it plays well with Trump's (white) base. 

6. The Mueller inquiry isn't going away. Since May, former FBI director Robert Mueller has been the special counsel responsible for the investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump's election campaign. Trump calls the Mueller inquiry "a witch hunt." The good news is that the Trump-Russia investigation will grind on, mostly out of sight of the media, and eventually produce results. The bad news is that it will take many months -- we'll be fortunate to see definitive results in a year. 

Meanwhile the Mueller inquiry will feed Trump's paranoia. An already unstable President will become even more erratic. Hold on tight! 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Russiagate in a nutshell

Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 11, 2017 - 11:27:00 AM

Now it seems clear that Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system in the summer and fall before the 2016 presidential election was widespread and included attacks into voter databases and software systems in at least thirty-nine states. 

For example, in Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber hackers tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. 

In October 2016, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia's role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict. 

Russian officials have publicly denied any role in cyberattacks connected to the US elections, including any "spear phishing" effort that compromised Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, among other groups. (Spear-phishing messages appear to come from a trusted source seeking unauthorized access to sensitive information.) 

It is unclear why the cyber hackers did not try to disrupt the vote. It may be that Obama’s warning was effective or the cyber hackers were unable to access and master America’s different voting systems spread across more than 7,000 local jurisdictions. The Russian cyber hack, however, should be a warning to election officials across the country that future cyberattacks may be able to actually disrupt the vote. 

At this point, it has not been established whether the cyberattack actually influenced the presidential election results. 

It is also unclear whether Donald Trump and/or his cohorts and/or his family members colluded with the Russians in these cyberattacks or attempted to interfere in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation of any potential links to and coordination between two entities -- the Trump campaign and the Russian government. However, it has been revealed that some of Trump's campaign members, business partners and administration nominees have various types of links to Russian officials, business people, banks, and Russian intelligence agencies. Meeting with Russian officials may be suspicious, but probably not illegal. What was discussed at these meetings is, of course, one focus of Mueller’s investigation. 

And as the New Republic reports, Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. 

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he was certain his firing was due to the president’s concerns about the Russia probe. Trump had wanted Comey to disclose publicly that he was not personally under investigation, but the FBI director refused to do so. Was Trump trying to block the inquiry? 

After the firing of Comey, Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel. The appointment authorized Mueller to investigate "any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Trump," along with "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation," plus "any other matters within the scope" of the law. That statement also gave Mueller the job of looking into efforts by Trump or others to impede or block the inquiry. 

Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C., which will focus on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and on allegations of obstruction of justice. The grand jury can order testimony, issue indictments, and if appropriate, forward evidence against Trump to the U.S. House of Representatives for possible impeachment. It is conventional wisdom that a sitting president cannot be indicted for a criminal offense. 

A grand jury has already been impaneled in Virginia to investigate Michael Flynn and his work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests. 

The Republican-controlled Senate and House Intelligence Committees are also conducting investigations into Russian interference in the November presidential election, including any ties to Trump. I suspect these investigations have taken a backseat to Mueller’s probe. 

Can Trump fire Mueller? In his order making the appointment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cited federal regulations issued by the attorney general in 1999. According to those regulations, a special counsel “may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the Attorney General” (or in this case, the acting attorney general). In a Senate Hearing on June 13, Rosenstein said he alone exercises firing authority, and that he had not seen any evidence of good cause for firing Mueller. 

If the grand jury does issue indictments, Trump, pursuant to Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, could pardon those indicted. However, under the president’s pardon authority, Trump cannot stop or undo congressional impeachment. 

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials. It takes only a majority vote in the House to impeach. It takes a 2/3 vote in the Senate to convict. Would a Republican-controlled House vote out articles of impeachment against Trump? If it did, it would be extremely unlikely that 2/3 of the Republican-controlled Senate would vote to convict. 

Russiagate is ongoing in secret and will likely continue for months. When Mueller’s investigation concludes, there will finally be an end in sight to the question of who did what in 2016. 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Difficult Realities and Paranoid Reactions

Jack Bragen
Friday August 11, 2017 - 11:14:00 AM

I've had to scrap a previous version of the column for this week, because I realized in the nick of time that it would get people paranoid and/or upset. I was affected by my paranoid symptoms, and had written the piece accordingly. 

In the past six months, my wife and I have been hit with a tidal wave of difficult events. 

About four months ago, my wife had a death in the family. She got the phone call just after I'd been dropped off by a tow driver--I'd been in a car accident. This seemed like some kind of cosmic coincidence--but not in a good way. 

About five years ago, a similar situation happened. My father passed away, and soon afterward, I was in a car accident. The earlier incident is more explicable, because I was driving while affected by grief. However, there is no explanation for the second coincidence, that took place this year. 

Some of the time, I get a delayed reaction to difficult events. I might get through a crisis, in some cases with what I could call bravery, I might do all of the things I have to do to get through, and then, I might fall apart a couple of months or a few months later when it seems safe to do so. 

The two difficult events I've listed aren't the whole picture. A number of other occurrences have been rough. 

A therapist recently told me that medication does not by itself make a person able to deal with difficult realities such as these. A mental health consumer needs extra support to deal with rough times. 

I haven't had that. At the mental health clinic where I go, I've been able to obtain medication well enough, but for some reason they've had a problem lining me up with a therapist. This has been going on for about a year. During that time, I've been without the support that therapy provides. Treatment isn't just being medicated--we all need someone to talk to. 

As a result of all of the above, I've been teetering on the brink of getting acutely ill again. When a person with schizophrenia experiences hard realities, the reaction is often to become psychotic. 

When an events occur that we perceive as threatening, a schizophrenic person may interpret this as an indication that "They're out to get me." Actually, hard things happen to everyone. The difference is that someone with schizophrenia may take it personally, and may think it is only happening to them. 

This happens because the mind of the person with schizophrenia is seeking a coping mechanism. However, while this is intended as a way to cope, in fact, it causes everything to get much worse. This is because the person begins to function while affected by psychosis. 

If things are just too hard, you should not try to tough it out by yourself. You should seek help. If you are having a hard time, remember that you are not alone. Hard things happen to everyone. And, if mentally ill, it is normal for symptoms to become worse when having a hard time.

Arts & Events

Around & About--Dance & Music: Mary Sano & Her Duncan Dancers with Eriko Tokaji on Piano

Ken Bullock
Saturday August 12, 2017 - 06:54:00 PM

I've written about Mary Sano before, her exquisite dancing and choreography, the important work she's doing here and in Japan to revive Isadora Duncan's legacy, here at her studio, an occasional home for all kinds of performing artists, just blocks away from where Isadora was born in the late 1870s. 

This Sunday at 4, there's a benefit performance for the studio's 20th anniversary project, "taking off next spring," with Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers performing from their traditional repertoire to the music of Chopin and Schubert, pianist Eriko Tokaji, visiting from Tokyo, playing. 

Sunday, August 13, at 4, 245 Fifth Street (between Howard & Folsom), studio 314, San Francisco. Suggested donation: $15-$25. www.duncandance.com (415) 357-1817.

West Edge Opera at Pacific Pipe: A New Venue & New Operas

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday August 13, 2017 - 06:45:00 PM

After several successful seasons at Oakland’s abandoned train station, West Edge Opera was told by Oakland city officials that in the wake of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire, for safety reasons the city could no longer permit public performances at the abandoned train station. So West Edge Opera’s General Director Mark Streshinsky set out in search of another suitable (and cheap) venue where his company could stage their 2017 Festival. What Streshinsky came up with was Pacific Pipe, a former West Oakland warehouse for a steel refurbishing factory. In this vast former industrial space, West Edge Opera is currently presenting three new operas, all rarely seen anywhere. On Sunday, August 6, I attended L’arbore di Diana/The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martin y Soler. A Spanish composer who worked in Vienna as a contemporary of Mozart, Martin y Soler shared with Mozart the services of renowned librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, who wrote the libretto for The Chastity Tree. Later in life, da Ponte considered L’arbore di Diana the best opera libretto he had written, noting that “it was voluptuous without overstepping into lasciviousness.” 

Well, in Mark Streshinsky’s staging L’arbore di Diana definitely overstepped into lasciviousness. The plot revolves around a fruit tree in the garden of the chaste goddess Diana. If Diana’s nymphs are virginal, the tree offers them ripe fruit when they pass under it; but if a nymph has secretly given up her virginity, the tree pelts her with overripe, rotten fruit. Diana is very strict about virginity. That is, until she feels the stirrings of love for the shepherd Endimione. In Streshinsky’s staging, the single set is dominated by a large, metallic tree with several metal ladders leading to its heights. A chorus of green-clad nymphs dances around the tree and clambers up its branches. Three nymphs are singled out for singing roles. They also seem to be so fed up with chastity that they are ready to get it on with any of the three shepherds who hang around. In their amorous pursuits, the three nymphs retreat to a curtained off platform bed at stage right. There they take on all comers, sporting outrageously huge, phosphorescent wigs, one orange, one purple, one pink. 

Musically, Martin y Soler’s opera is similar in style to Mozart’s operas, though lacking Mozart’s magisterial genius for melody. The role of Diana was here beautifully sung by soprano Nikki Einfeld, who has appeared with both San Francisco Opera and Symphony. Einfeld’s aria “I know what I am” was a highlight of this performance. Incidentally, the acoustics at Pacific Pipe are not the very best. Though I’m fluent in Italian, I could barely make out a word or two in any sentence sung. Moreover, the supertitles did not project brightly enough during this afternoon matinee to be easily readable. (I checked with staff who had attended the previous evening’s performance of Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, and they noted that the supertitles had been brighter at night than in the day. Ironically, the one reservation I had about West Edge Opera’s abandoned train station as a venue for opera was that the company never seemed to solve the problem of making the supertitles easily readable. Now the same problem crops up at Pacific Pipe.)  

In The Chastity Tree, Cupid is the antagonist of Diana, championing love against Diana’s insistence on chastity. Cupid was gorgeously sung by soprano Christine Brandes, who played the role of the boy Cupid disguised as a girl. This created some gender-bending when Cupid makes a pass at Doristo, who responds to her/his come-ons. Whether Doristo ever discovers that the girl is actually a boy is not clear, though the fact that at one point in their amorous encounter he mounts her/him from behind suggests that, well, maybe he does or maybe he doesn’t care whether it’s a girl or a boy. (Mark Streshinsky mentioned in a pre-opera talk that he emphasized gender-bending in this opera to champion love in all its forms.) In any case, the role of Doristo was robustly sung by German bass-baritone Malte Roesner. His deep, dark voice was powerful, though in the vast interior space of Pacific Pipe I’m not sure that even Roesner’s voice carried sufficiently to make the words clearly audible to audience members seated even halfway towards the rear.  

In the role of the shepherd Endimione, tenor Kyle Stegall was superb. Though Endimione, too, engages in sexual foreplay (and maybe more) with each of the three wig-clad nymphs, he falls in love with Diana herself. This turn of events initially confuses the chaste goddess, but she quickly surrenders to the pangs of love. Incidentally, director Mark Streshinsky missed a great opportunity for comedy when he failed to include a scene of the mythical Chastity Tree pelting rotten fruit at any female who passed under it who was not chaste. Certainly, his staging of The Chastity Tree offered multiple opportunities for such a scene; but, alas, no such scene occurred. In the role of Endimione’s sidekick, the shepherd Silvio, tenor Jacob Thompson was engaging. As for the three wig-clad nymphs, their voices blended beautifully in ensembles, and each singer had a few solo moments. In the role of Clizia, mezzo-soprano Molly Maloney was excellent. As Britomarte, soprano Maya Kheroni was admirable; and as Chloe mezzo-soprano Kathleen Moss was delightful.  

Conductor Robert Mollicone led the orchestra in a brisk, fast-moving performance. Sarah Berges served as choreographer, and she provided the chorus of green-clad nymphs with much entertaining movement throughout the opera. Jean-François Revon was Set Designer, Kevin August Landesman was Lighting Designer, and Christine Cook was Costume Designer. L’arbore di Diana/The Chastity Tree continues with performances August 12 and 19 at Pacific Pipe. (West Edge Opera offers a free shuttle to Pacific Pipe from the West Berkeley BART station, as well as back to this Bart station after the show.)

Sarah Chang and Asian Youth Orchestra at Zellerbach

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday August 13, 2017 - 06:53:00 PM

On Saturday, August 5, Cal Performances presented violinist Sarah Chang with the Asian Youth Orchestra at Zellerbach Hall in a program of music by Richard Strauss, Jean Sibelius, and Ludwig van Beethoven. With the Asian Youth Orchestra’s founder, Richard Pontzious, conducting, the evening began with the Tone Poem Don Juan by Richard Strauss. An early work by Strauss, Don Juan took up the same womanizing character made famous by Mozart’s great opera Don Giovanni. However, Richard Strauss altered the Don’s character by making his Don Juan seek the ideal woman who would be, as it were, all women in one. Because he can never find his ideal woman, Don Juan suffers from disgust and disillusionment at his predicament, and, as Strauss wrote, “This Disgust is the Devil that fetches him.”  

Strauss’s symphonic treatment in the Don Juan Tone Poem relies on propulsive rhythms to suggest the Don’s ardor, which we hear in the opening upward surge of the strings. This is followed by a tender melody suggesting the lover’s longings. A third theme, this one heroic, is heard in the horns, offering a kind of portrait of the Don. Several love episodes ensue, including a beautiful melody first heard in the oboe and repeated by the clarinet. Then things heat up, as Strauss lets loose the orchestra in an outburst of color and volume. Just when it seems all too much, a dissonant chord is abruptly followed by silence. The end is near, and a feeble rustling or shudder in the orchestra marks the end of Strauss’s Don Juan. 

Next on the program was Sarah Chang as soloist in Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor. This work opens with a passionate, extended song for violin, played exquisitely here by Sarah Chang. An orchestral interlude introduces a yearning theme initiated by bassoons and cellos. This precedes a second theme heard in the violin, more sedate than the first theme. Next a march rhythm sets the music in motion, leading, unexpectedly, to a cadenza for solo violin based on the work’s opening theme. This cadenza then leads directly into a recapitulation of all the themes in this movement. The second movement , marked Adagio di molto, presents Sibelius at his most Romantic. Woodwinds open followed by the violin playing a tender melody against an accompaniment of chords heard in the horns and bassoons. When the whole orchestra takes up this melody, the soloist decorates it with a latticework of tonal variations, played beautifully by Sarah Chang. The finale is a propulsive rondo set in motion by timpani and basses. Sarah Chang then introduced a bold theme. Striking virtuoso passages for the violin ensue as well as two bold orchestral tutti, all of which keep the music moving brilliantly forward. In the coda, Sarah Chang ran off spectacular octave passages against an accompaniment recalling the work’s main theme, as Sibelius’s Violin Concerto came full circle. Tumultuous applause greeted Sarah Chang, Conductor Richard Pontzious, and the Asian Youth Orchestra. 

After intermission, Pontzious returned to the podium to lead the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92. This great symphony has always struck listeners and scholars alike as a work definitely out of the ordinary. With its propulsive rhythms, Richard Wagner called it “the Apotheosis of the Dance.” Others called it a village festival, a peasant wedding, or, even, a work conceived by its creator in a drunken frenzy. Perhaps the best word for it is the one chosen by Maynard Solomon -- “Carnivalesque.” For in Beethoven’s 7th Symphony we are indeed taken outside the norms of mundane life and its conventions and restrictions, and we enter instead a Carnivalesque world of exhilarating freedom. Beethoven himself wrote, “I am Bacchus incarnate, appointed to give humanity wine to drown its sorrow…. He who divines the secret of my music is delivered from thee misery that haunts the world.” 

Leading the Asian Youth Orchestra, Richard Pontzious gave an energetic account of this Dionysiac symphony. The opening movement features two themes: the first is heard in the winds accompanied by long, rising scales in the strings. The second theme is a gentle melody for oboe. The second movement, marked Allegretto, proceeds in a series of variations on the heartbeat rhythm of the opening measures. The third movement is structured as a scherzo. The sonata-form finale lets out all the orchestral stops, as the music surges relentlessly forward to a climax that outdoes all the previous climaxes heard in the earlier movements. It is as if everything we heard earlier was planned to culminate in this exuberant, intoxicating finale. Richard Pontzious and the Asian Youth Orchestra did themselves proud rising to the challenge posed by this most dynamic, most Dionysiac, of all symphonies.