The Week

Amber Cummings, the self-designated (but no-show at least in this female persona) organizer of the August 27 right-wing non-rally at Berkeley's MLK Park, engages in dialogue with (presumably) a protester against Ben Shapiro's appearance on the UC Berkeley campus.  The Empathy tent,a fixture at recent contentious demonstrations, is maintained by volunteers who offer to listen to everyone.
Scott Morris
Amber Cummings, the self-designated (but no-show at least in this female persona) organizer of the August 27 right-wing non-rally at Berkeley's MLK Park, engages in dialogue with (presumably) a protester against Ben Shapiro's appearance on the UC Berkeley campus. The Empathy tent,a fixture at recent contentious demonstrations, is maintained by volunteers who offer to listen to everyone.


New: A Breathtaking ELEKTRA at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday September 18, 2017 - 03:53:00 PM

Richard Strauss’ Elektra, based on the great Greek tragedy by Sophocles, is justly considered a milestone of modern music. Composed in 1908 and premiered in Dresden early in 1909, Elektra comes as close to atonality as Strauss ever ventured. (He once addressed a young composer of the atonal school with the question: “Why do you trouble to write atonally when you have talent?”) Whatever Strauss’s thoughts were regarding atonality, Elektra’s harsh dissonances and bold contrapuntal shifts of tonality were the perfect musical equivalents of the twisted, obsessive, single-minded repetitions of Elektra’s unhinged state of mind. Elektra, after all, had lived to see her father, Agamemnon, return from the Trojan War only to be brutally murdered in cold blood by his wife, Klytemnestra, and her illicit lover, Aegisthus. Then Elektra had found herself treated by her mother and Aegisthus as if she were a slave. She had thus fallen in her blaze of beautiful youth from revered daughter of a king to a ravaged, tattered servant in what used to be her household. She had also seen her brother Orestes flee the household in terror for his own life. Small wonder, therefore, that Elektra harbors great resentment towards her mother, especially, but also towards Aegisthus, the usurper. Small wonder, indeed, that Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung considered that female children psychologically compete with their mothers for the affections of their fathers, a trait they called “the Electra complex.” (Electra is the English spelling, while Elektra is the German spelling used by Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannstahl.) -more-

Nine Arrested During Protest of Berkeley Shapiro Event

Scott Morris (BCN)and Planet
Friday September 15, 2017 - 10:28:00 AM

A large swath of the University of California at Berkeley was shut down Thursday evening as about a thousand protesters gathered outside a speaking event by right-wing author and political commentator Ben Shapiro.

After the speech was over, Berkeley police put out Nixle press releases saying that small groups of protestors were marching west from the campus gates toward downtown Berkeley, but no further disturbances were reported.

Campus officials had feared that the event could lead to similar violence that has erupted at right wing rallies and events in recent months, including just last month at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, where thousands of demonstrators confronted a handful of right-wing activists.

While there were some arrests -- Berkeley police said there were nine -- and some tense moments of confrontation, there was no violence reported. A woman was taken away on a stretcher, but campus officials said she had suffered a medical emergency and was not assaulted.

Berkeley police said the nine arrestees included four people arrested under city law prohibiting weapons in certain public parks. They were identified as 44-year-old Sara Rourke of San Francisco, 29-year-old Michael Sullivan of Hayward and 44-year-old Eddy Robinson. Hannah Benjamin, 20, of Fremont was also arrested under that law as well as battery on a police officer.

Also arrested were 18-year-old Kerim Celik of Saratoga for disturbing the peace, 24-year-old Noe Gonzalez Gudino of Richmond for disturbing the peace and public intoxication, 21-year-old Miguel Reyes of Colton for resisting arrest, 20-year-old Jorge Cabanillas for battery and 45-year-old Darin Bauer for battery. -more-

Dick Gregory Speaks Out on White Racism, Black Power, War, Sex, and Meat-eating
Dick Gregory's First Published Political Interview
September 27, 1966

Gar Smith, from the archives of Academic Publishing, Inc.
Friday September 15, 2017 - 12:45:00 PM

"I don't believe a man can be a true pacifist and not be a vegetarian, because animals are just as human in the stroke of nature as man is."

"The Viet Cong can't kill no one but me. But Mississippi racists can kill me, my five kids, my wife, and blow my church up."

"I'm not against wars—I'm against killing."

"We really don't want to save America—we want to save ourselves."

"America's racial pregnancy is up. And the baby's going to fall one way or the other."

On Tuesday, September 27, 1966, Robert Mundy (editor of Academic Publishing), Marilyn Mundy, Richard Saunders, and Carol Saunders, obtained the following interview with the noted comedian and civil rights leader, Dick Gregory. -more-



Hoorah! We've Kept the Elephants Out of Berkeley!

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 15, 2017 - 02:33:00 PM

No news is good news, the saying goes. I thought of this as I listened to my usual amount of radio newscasting in bed this morning. Berkeley was never mentioned, not once. It confirmed what I’d hoped when I got home late last night: just as I’d predicted last week, the sky had not fallen when Ben Shapiro gave what sounds like a very boring lecture at Zellerbach.

In all modesty, I hereby say I told you so. Shapiro is simply too dull to provoke the kind of extreme reaction just a whiff of Milo can produce.

Riya Bhattacharjee (yes, our former Planet reporter!) captured Ben’s essence in the kind of on-line interview you seldom see on local television.

In this interview he claims, perhaps even truthfully, that he’s only bought into what GHW Bush called the “voodoo economics” part of the conservative canon, not the racism, misogyny and worse that are associated with Milo and Ann Coulter. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Early Publication Today

Friday September 15, 2017 - 10:57:00 AM

This issue is being "published" (i.e. being made the home page) before most submissions have been posted, in order to make sure you find out that not much happened last night. Check in this afternoon as usual to see the full crop of new pieces. Last week's editorial is still up, but will be replaced in due time with a new one. -more-

Public Comment

New: Pepper Spray Saves the World

Carol Denney
Saturday September 16, 2017 - 03:13:00 PM

Monday afternoon, September 12, 2017, the Berkeley City Council had an emergency meeting to allow the use of pepper spray on a crowd if the crowd includes "violent extremists." With three dissenting votes (Cheryl Davila, Kate Harrison, and Kriss Worthington), Berkeley Chief of Police Greenwood managed to argue to a council majority that this use was somehow different than "crowd control."

They have a point. A study presented to the Berkeley City Council way back in 1991 showed that pepper spray doesn't control much of anything. People sprayed with pepper spray tended to fall loosely into three categories: those who have little or no reaction to pepper spray, those who are adversely affected, and those who get more violent after being sprayed, each group divided roughly in thirds. Nonetheless,

Chief Greenwood presented pepper spray as a magic compliance tool and most of the Berkeley City Council ate it up. Ben Shapiro, a conservative, would be speaking in two days on campus, and it was an emergency.

Councilmember Kate Harrison pointed out that the police already had pepper spray, a fact few others on the council seemed to know. She asked Chief of Police Greenwood, "what's inadequate about that small can?" Chief Greenwood gave a convoluted answer and finally stumbled onto his point: the big can is more "targeted." A fellow officer at the Chief's table then stepped in to help, saying that's how you "move the crowd", pulling the curtain back on any pretense of discrete application. -more-

Progressive - then, and later on/now

Norma Harrison
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:45:00 PM

When I was 15-20, Progressive Party ran Henry Wallace – in 1948, and Vincent Hallinan – of the renowned local family – in 1952, for President on the Progressive Party ballot . It was strongly communist influenced. I’ve always thought of it as communist – which is fine with me. As you might know from my campaigns for school board I devotedly subscribe to communism, socialism – tending toward the anarchy describe by Marx, the withering away of the state as we replace it with meaningful forms of control by us all. -more-

New: The Freeze-for-Freeze Solution: An Alternative to Nuclear War

Gar Smith
Friday September 15, 2017 - 02:32:00 PM

(September 9, 2017) -- On August 5, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster informed MSNBC that the Pentagon had plans to counter the "growing threat" from North Korea—by launching a "preventative war."

Note: When someone armed with world-ending weapons is speaking, language is important.

For example: a "threat" is merely an expression. It may be annoying, or even provocative, but it is something that falls well short of a physical "attack."

"Preventative war" is a euphemism for "armed aggression"—an action the International Criminal Court identifies as "the ultimate war crime." The slippery phrase "preventative war" serves to transform the aggressor into a "potential" victim, responding to a perceived "future crime" by acting in "self-defense." -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Weathering Storms Within the Mind

Jack Bragen
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:24:00 PM

Hurricane Irma is in the news now, and it seems that the devastation is unprecedented. Even a psychotic episode seems to pale in comparison to what is happening to Florida, Cuba, and any other place in the path of that storm.

Yet, a psychotic episode is like a storm. The rational mind is swept away by winds and floods that exist in the mind, and the victim of the storm is left without the ability to reason. Worse yet, the individual is functioning under psychotic beliefs.

I heard stories of people tying themselves to a part of their house to prevent getting blown away by Irma. The mind of a psychotic person may be similar. There is no reliable anchor. The solution isn't always extra antipsychotic medication--although sometimes it is. One's psychiatrist would be able to answer that; I could not. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: The Aftermath of Hurricane Donald

Bob Burnett
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:42:00 PM

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Americans have an initial estimate of the damage. However we have yet to assess the costs of "Hurricane" Donald Trump.

Moody's Investor Services estimates that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused approximately $200 billion in damage. Of course, beyond the monetary damages there are psychological and social consequences; millions of people have been dislocated and, to some degree, traumatized.

Hopefully, the long-term consequences of the devastating hurricanes will include changes to government policy: for example, at the federal level, recognition of the reality of Global Climate Change and reduction of the power of the fossil-fuel lobby; and at the local level, changes in city planning and building codes (such as not paving over wetlands.)

The long-term consequences of Hurricane Donald are more costly than the damage inflicted by Harvey and Irma. Here are five social costs associated with Trump. -more-

SQUEAKY WHEEL: Speech and Spectacle

Toni Mester
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:28:00 PM

Mario Savio is dead but I’m not. Having outlived this eminent contemporary and residing in Berkeley for the past 45 years, I feel compelled to reflect on his legacy and influence, now that the right wing has ironically and provocatively donned the free speech mantle. -more-

New: ECLECTIC RANT: Climate Change is Happening -- the Time to Act is Now

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday September 16, 2017 - 03:11:00 PM

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose collectively represent the most hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, in terms of strength and size, in recorded history. The National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake pointed out the three hurricanes are threatened land at the same time. Again, that’s never happened before. -more-

Arts & Events

An Underwhelming Opening Night at San Francisco Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday September 15, 2017 - 10:54:00 AM

In a recent conversation at Berkeley’s hub of classical music, The Musical Offering on Bancroft Street, the name Yo-Yo Ma came up. The knowledgeable folks at The Musical Offering treated Yo-Yo Ma with undisguised scorn, dismissing him as the kind of big-name musician that impresarios bring in to show off to the big-money donors. These latter get to have a patrons’ dinner with Mr. Ma before or after the cellist goes through the motions in some familiar warhorse or, as is frequently the case, in some totally unfamiliar music from the far corners of the globe. The scuttlebutt at The Musical Offering was that Yo-Yo Ma has become the self-styled musical emissary to the world, and as such he is the big-money donors’ darling. But if you want emotional intensity and depth of musical interpretation, you don’t turn to Yo-Yo Ma. -more-