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Source: https://www.redtoblueca.org/
Source: https://www.redtoblueca.org/


Berkeley Lending a Hand in North Bay Fires

Mayor Jesse Arreguin
Thursday October 12, 2017 - 10:38:00 PM

I want to thank all of the Berkeley police and fire personnel who have spent the past four days helping our neighbors in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Napa and the surrounding areas. They have been going in rotating 12-person teams of police officers and a 3-person fire crews to help fight the fires directly. Staff from Emergency Services are also going out to help coordinate the massive undertaking of managing this large-scale disaster. Some of these people have themselves been impacted by this tragedy, yet they continue to work. 

In addition, the Berkeley Animal Care Services, in coordination with several East Bay shelters, will take animals from North Bay shelters to allow those shelters to house strays and the pets of evacuees. And our Planning Department is stepping up and will soon send staff to the City of Santa Rosa, which has asked for more building inspectors to assess the damage. This, of course, is in addition to the many, many residents who have collected items or even traveled to hard-hit areas to assist with the relief effort. 

Meanwhile, please take steps to protect yourself against some of the worst air quality the Bay Area has ever seen. Precautions being shared by the Bay Area Air Quality District include: 


  • Stay indoors as much as you can.
  • Keep pets and loved ones indoors until the air quality changes for the better. This is especially important for kids, seniors, or have health concerns such as heart disease or asthma or you are pregnant.
  • Keep your windows closed.
  • Do not run fans that bring smoky outdoor air inside.
  • If you find yourself repeatedly coughing, having a hard time breathing, wheezing, feeling chest tightness or pain, getting nauseous or unusually tired, or feeling lightheaded, call your healthcare provider right away.


Monetary donations are highly preferred because families and individuals can most easily use these donations to obtain what they need. Organizations accepting donations on behalf of those in need include: 


  • Napa Valley Community Foundation
  • Sonoma County Resilience Fund
  • Community Foundation of Mendocino County
  • Redwood Credit Union


There are many ways to get involved: 

Sign up with the Red Cross or call their Sonoma County office 707-573-3399 if you want to volunteer. 

Lend a hand at a local evacuation center or food pantry gathering supplies for evacuees. ABC7 has a good list. 

The Sonoma County Volunteer Center has partnered with the Emergency Office of Communications, Shelters, and the Red Cross to streamline volunteer services in the community. To use services, visit 211sonoma.org. To volunteer, send an email to info@volunteernow.org with your full name, phone number, email address and applicable skills. 

Again, I want to thank everyone for stepping up to assist our North Bay neighbors. I'm so proud to be mayor of a city that responds with such generosity at a time of crisis. 

Air Quality Map

Thursday October 12, 2017 - 01:14:00 PM

To check local air quality, see this map.

Smoke Causes Flight Cancellations and Delays at SFO

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Thursday October 12, 2017 - 11:51:00 AM

Smoke from numerous wildfires in the North Bay is affecting visibility today at San Francisco International Airport, resulting in many delays and cancellations, an airport spokesman said.

As of mid-morning, 81 flights had been canceled and about 10 percent of flights were delayed an average of 30 to 45 minutes, SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said. 

The number of cancellations is about evenly split between arrivals and departures. 

Smoke from the wildfires has not affected operations at Oakland International Airport, but two flights from San Francisco International Airport have landed in Oakland because of the problems at SFO. 

A spokeswoman for Mineta San Jose International Airport said she had not heard of smoke affecting any flights there today. 

No impacts were reported Wednesday either, spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said.

Red Flag Warning Issued for Several Parts of Bay Area including Berkeley

Wednesday October 11, 2017 - 10:32:00 PM

Several parts of the Bay Area have been included in an expanded Red Flag Warning for most of Thursday, alerting residents of the high fire danger due to forecasted low humidity and gusty off shore winds, National Weather Service officials said today. 

As of this evening, areas under the warning include the North Bay Mountains, the East Bay Hills and Diablo Range, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Santa Lucia Mountains, and the inland mountains in Monterey County. The warning is in effect through Thursday afternoon. 

Because of the warning, today Oakland city officials asked residents to "use extreme caution and terminate the use of open flame or spark producing equipment" in areas with dry grass and brush. 

Similarly, Berkeley city officials today asked residents to be careful when using barbecues, power equipment or other heat sources, such as idling cars.  

Also, residents in the Berkeley hills were asked to park their cars in their driveway or garages, in order to leave streets clear for emergency vehicles. 

At least 21 people have died and more than 170,000 acres have burned in recent days in 22 major fires throughout the state, according to Cal Fire.

AirBnb Hosts in Berkeley Will House Fire Evacuees for Free

Bay City News
Wednesday October 11, 2017 - 10:35:00 PM

Short-term rental platform Airbnb expanded their disaster assistance program to help hosts in Oakland and Berkeley shelter victims displaced by the North Bay fires, Airbnb officials said this morning. 

Hosts located in San Francisco as well as parts of Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda and Mendocino counties are now able to make their rentals available at no cost for evacuees forced to leave their homes in the Napa and Santa Rosa areas as well as emergency relief workers and volunteers. 

More than 200 hosts have signed up for the program, which runs through Oct. 30, according to Airbnb.  

"We encourage hosts in safe areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of people evacuating," Head of Global Disaster Response and Relief Kellie Bentz said. 

"Our thoughts continue to be with everyone impacted by these fires, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response agencies who are working to keep our communities safe," Bentz added. 

Airbnb's disaster response and relief program was activated for Northern California fire victims on Monday. It dates back to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as a way of making space available to people in need after natural disasters.

Appeals Court Declines to Reconsider Challenge to Berkeley Cellphone Warnings Law

Julia Cheever (BCN)
Wednesday October 11, 2017 - 01:35:00 PM

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today turned down an industry group's bid for reconsideration of the group's challenge to a Berkeley cellphone warning law. 

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to grant a rare rehearing by an 11-judge panel on an appeal by a group known as CTIA-The Wireless Association. 

In April, a three-judge panel of the appeals court by a 2-1 vote declined to block the law. The court majority said the warning was "purely factual" and "reasonably related to the health and safety of consumers." 

The city law, which took effect last year, requires retailers to warn cellphone customers that wearing their device next to the body could result in exposure to radiofrequency radiation exceeding federal guidelines. 

The message adds, "Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely." 

Cellphone retailers must either post the message or give a paper copy to people who buy or lease phones. 

After losing before the three-judge panel, the cellphone association appealed for a rehearing by an expanded panel, and was turned down today. 

The Washington, D.C.-based association contends there is no evidence that cellphones are harmful. It claims the law violates the free speech rights of retailers by forcing them to provide a message they don't agree with. 

The appeal for reconsideration was submitted to the 29 active judges on the circuit court. The court never reveals the vote on such appeals, but its order today indicated that two judges favored rehearing the case. 



Spare the Air through the Weekend Because of Smoke from Wildfires

Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Wednesday October 11, 2017 - 01:24:00 PM

Poor air quality remains today throughout the Bay Area because of the North Bay wildfires, prompting regional air quality officials to extend a Spare the Air Alert and Health Advisory through the weekend.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District had issued the alert and advisory on Tuesday because of what it called "unprecedented levels of air pollution" caused by the several wildfires burning tens of thousands of acres in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties. 

Air district officials said changing wind patterns and the moving fires is creating air quality that is "variable and unpredictable" and "may improve at times or get worse, very quickly." 

Bay Area residents, particularly in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties, are advised to seek shelter in buildings with filtered air or move to areas less impacted by the smoke, according to the air district. 

People in areas with heavy smoke are recommended to use a N95 mask to minimize the breathing of fine particles. Buildings with air conditioning units should have them re-circulate to avoid drawing outside air into buildings. 

Children, the elderly and people with respiratory conditions are the most susceptible to the pollution and should take extra precautions, air district officials said.

Northern California Tuesday Midday News Roundup

Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Tuesday October 10, 2017 - 12:37:00 PM

At least nine people have died and at least 1,500 structures and tens of thousands of acres have burned in several wildfires that sparked in the North Bay late Sunday and continue to burn without containment today. 

The Tubbs Fire, which started off of state Highway 128 and Bennett Lane near Calistoga and spread to destroy many homes in Santa Rosa and elsewhere, has burned 27,000 acres as of this morning, while the Atlas Fire that started off of Atlas Peak Road south of Lake Berryessa has burned 25,000 acres, according to Cal Fire. 

The Nuns Fire off of state Highway 12 north of Glen Ellen in Sonoma County had burned 5,000 acres this morning, and the 37 Fire off of state Highway 37 and Lakeville Highway in Sonoma County had burned 2,000 acres and was 40 percent contained. 

The Partrick Fire, which started off of Partrick Road west of Napa, has burned an estimated 1,000 acres this morning, while the Pocket Fire off of Pocket Ranch and Ridge Ranch roads near Geyserville in Sonoma County had burned 500 acres, Cal Fire officials said. 

Many areas of Sonoma and Napa counties are still under mandatory evacuation orders, and flames from the Atlas Fire also prompted evacuations in western Solano County near the areas of Green Valley Road and Suisun Valley Road. 

"There's a lot of devastation that's gone on," Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said at a news conference this morning. 

Napa County Sheriff John Robertson released the names of two elderly people who were found dead in the area of the Atlas Fire. Charles and Sara Rippey, 100 and 98, died and "our thoughts are certainly with the family at this time," Robertson said. 

At least seven people died in Sonoma County, but county officials are not yet releasing their names. 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was briefed this morning on the damage to their county and discussed what one supervisor called "woefully inadequate" communication to county residents about the fire. 

Sonoma County sheriff's officials said 25,000 people have been evacuated, and they have received about 150 missing persons reports. 

Sonoma County Assistant Fire Marshal Andrew Parsons said 4,991 people are living in 34 evacuation centers that can accommodate 9,157 people, and 51,000 people are without power. 

Board member David Rabbitt said the county's effort to provide information about the fires was "woefully inadequate," and other board members agreed. 

"We had a press conference at 5 p.m. Monday. It should have been at 10 a.m.," Rabbitt said. 

"I got a call from Sen. (Dianne) Feinstein and I had no information to give her. We need to work on the poor communication," Rabbitt said. 

California Highway Patrol aircraft have rescued 44 people, all but two before Monday afternoon in the initial hours of the fires. 

They also have used the public address system on their aircraft to warn residents of the need to evacuate, and in some cases landed near homes under threat from the fire to provide notification. 

"A lot of people didn't know they needed to be evacuated, so we landed and expedited the process for them," Flight Officer Paramedic Shawn Bouyea said. 

Due to ongoing fires in the Santa Rosa area, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Division of Drinking water, the Sonoma County Health Department and the city of Santa Rosa Water System issued a boil water notice late Monday night for residents of the Fountain Grove area. 

The warning means residents should use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes as a safety precaution until further notice. 

City officials said the warning only applies to residents who live east of Mendocino Avenue, north of Chanate Road, west of Fountain Grove Parkway and south of Mark West Springs Road, or residents who are experiencing little or no water pressure. 

Biermann urged patience for Napa County evacuees who might want to return to their homes, saying crews still need to secure utilities and vegetation in the fire-damaged neighborhoods. 

"It's a process we've already started to work on," he said. "We ask that people please be patient, the fires are still out there." 

Biermann also urged people to not use any drones in fire areas since that will prevent firefighters from flying to put out the flames. 

Many Napa County evacuees have gone to shelters set up at places like the Napa Valley College gym at 1088 College Ave. in St. Helena and the CrossWalk Community Church at 2590 First St. in Napa. 

A list of evacuation areas and shelters in Sonoma County can be found at https://srcity.org/610/Emergency-Information. 

* * * 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was briefed this morning on the devastation caused by the 27,000-acre Tubbs Fire that has claimed seven lives in the county and discussed what one supervisor called "woefully inadequate" communication to county residents about the fire. 

Sonoma County Assistant Fire Marshal Andrew Parsons said the Army National Guard was flying over the county this morning to get updated information about the extent of destruction. 

The fire started around 9:45 p.m. Sunday off state Highway 128 and Bennett Lane in Calistoga. Fierce sustained winds drove the fire west to Santa Rosa, causing the worst damage in the north county and in northwest and northeast Santa Rosa where mandatory evacuations remain in effect. 

As of 10:30 a.m. today, the Tubbs Fire has destroyed 550 residential structures and 21 commercial structures, according to Cal Fire. 

Cal Fire assumed control over operations of the Tubbs Fire at 7 a.m. today, Parsons said. 

Sonoma County sheriff's officials said 25,000 people have been evacuated, and they have received about 150 missing persons reports. 

Parsons said 4,991 people are living in 34 evacuation centers that can accommodate 9,157 people, and 51,000 people are without power. 

Board members expressed concern about the effects the temporary closures of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital are having on local health clinics and the ability of patients to renew their prescriptions. 

Board member David Rabbitt said the county's effort to provide information about the fires was "woefully inadequate," and other board members agreed. 

"We had a press conference at 5 p.m. Monday. It should have been at 10 a.m.," Rabbitt said. 

"I got a call from Sen. (Dianne) Feinstein and I had no information to give her. We need to work on the poor communication," Rabbitt said. 

Another news conference is at 1 p.m., but the location has not been confirmed, County Administrator Sheryl Bratton said. 

* * * 

Three large wildfires are continuing to burn in Napa County without any containment this morning, county officials said at a news conference. 

The Tubbs Fire, which started off of state Highway 128 and Bennett Lane near Calistoga, has burned 27,000 acres as of this morning, while the Atlas Fire that started Sunday night off of Atlas Peak Road south of Lake Berryessa has burned 25,000 acres, according to Cal Fire. 

The Partrick Fire, which started off of Partrick Road west of Napa, has burned an estimated 1,000 acres this morning. 

County officials, speaking at a 9 a.m. news conference today, said all three fires remain at 0 percent containment. 

"There's a lot of devastation that's gone on," Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said. 

Sheriff John Robertson released the names of two elderly people who were found dead in the area of the Atlas Fire. 

Charles and Sara Rippey, 100 and 98, died and "our thoughts are certainly with the family at this time," Robertson said. 

About 27,000 PG&E customers are without power in the county, and many evacuees have gone to shelters set up at places like the Napa Valley College gym at 1088 College Ave. in St. Helena and the CrossWalk Community Church at 2590 First St. in Napa. 

Biermann urged patience for evacuees who might want to return to their homes, saying crews still need to secure utilities and vegetation in the fire-damaged neighborhoods. 

"It's a process we've already started to work on," he said. "We ask that people please be patient, the fires are still out there." 

Biermann also urged people to not use any drones in fire areas since that will prevent firefighters from flying to put out the flames. 

County residents are encouraged to register at www.safeandwell.org to let their loved ones know they are safe. Residents can also check the county's website and social media channels for updates on the fire. 

* * * 

With flames burning nearby early Monday, about 130 patients from Kaiser Permanente's Santa Rosa Medical Center were safely evacuated and transported to other hospitals in the region. 

Kaiser Permanente officials said today that the patients were moved out by about 6 a.m. Monday, with the majority taken to Kaiser's hospital in San Rafael and others taken to facilities in San Francisco, Oakland and elsewhere. 

The Tubbs Fire, which started near Calistoga but spread to Santa Rosa and has burned at least 25,000 acres as of this morning, destroyed the Journey's End mobile home park at 3575 Mendocino Ave., located just north of the Kaiser hospital at 401 Bicentennial Way. 

The interior of the Kaiser medical center in Santa Rosa remains closed. All routine and pre-scheduled procedures and appoints for today at the Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Mercury Way medical offices have been canceled. 

Kaiser patients needing to be seen for a medical problem can visit walk-up urgent care in Rohnert Park, while people are also can use video visits and telephone appointments for primary care needs. Anyone with questions about appointments can call (866) 454-8855. 

Kaiser officials said their pharmacies in Santa Rosa and Napa are closed today, but their pharmacies in San Rafael, Petaluma and Novato remain open. 

* * * 

A K-8 school in Solano County is closed today because of the 25,000-acre Atlas Fire that has prompted evacuations of some parts of the county. 

Jas Bains Wright, principal of Suisun Valley K-8 school located at 4985 Lambert Road north of Fairfield, wrote in a letter posted on the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District's website about the closure. 

The Atlas Fire, which started around 9:20 p.m. Sunday off Atlas Peak Road south of Lake Berryessa in Napa County, prompted mandatory evacuation orders for parts of west Solano County on Monday, according to Fairfield police. 

Residents along Joyce Lane and Twin Sisters Road are evacuating northwest of Fairfield, as well as areas along Green Valley Road and parts of Suisun Valley Road. 

"Given the severity of the fire, and its impacts on the roads surrounding our school, in cooperation with Solano County Office of Emergency Services, the District has made the determination that we need to cancel school," Wright said. 

Suisun Valley K-8 is the only school in the district closed today. School officials said to check social media feeds and the district's website for any updates on the school's status. 

* * * 

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit is continuing free, limited service today between downtown Santa Rosa and downtown San Rafael during the wildfires that have devastated the North Bay. 

Southbound service began at 5:10 a.m. from the Santa Rosa downtown station and northbound service from San Rafael began at 6:29 a.m. SMART will run 28 trips today. 

Power outages and closed railroad crossings in northern Santa Rosa related to the fires have closed the Santa Rosa Airport and North Santa Rosa stations today. 

More information on the SMART schedule is available at www.SonomaMarinTrain.org. 

* * * 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is issuing a smoke advisory for the second straight day today because of smoke from multiple wildfires that continue to burn in the North Bay. 

Winds have blown the smoke from fires in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties throughout the region, according to the air district. 

Bay Area residents should limit outdoor activities if they smell smoke and should set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate so outside air does not move inside, district officials said. 

Children, the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses are particularly sensitive to elevated pollution levels and should take extra precautions. 

* * * 

A person died and a number of residents were displaced in a one-alarm residential structure fire burning in a two-story Richmond duplex early this morning, a fire captain said. 

Richmond Fire Department crews responded to the blaze in the 300 block of South 35th Street around 2:10 a.m., according to Capt. Rico Rincon. 

"The residents on the second floor, because of their smoke alarms, were notified and they self evacuated," Rincon said. "They were out front when we arrived." 

Most or all of the damage occurred on the first floor, where the fatality occurred, but there was sufficient smoke damage on the second floor so the upstairs residents were displaced. 

The cause of the fire, the full extent of the damage and the identity of the decedent all remain under investigation. 

On Monday, the Richmond Fire Department sent an engine to join a strike team protecting structures in the North Bay, where at least nine people have lost their lives and more than 1,500 structures have been destroyed, but Rincon said that doesn't compromise the department's ability to respond to emergencies. 

"One of the things we do here is fill those positions so we still have a full complement of resources within the department," Rincon said. "We want to make sure we have the same level of protection, regardless." 

* * * 

Firefighters extinguished a two-alarm fire early this morning at an apartment building in Pleasant Hill, fire officials said. 

According to a Contra Costa County Fire Protection District dispatcher, the blaze was first reported at 10:49 p.m. Monday on Camelback Road near Diablo Valley College. 

The scene was cleared at 1:45 a.m. today, the dispatcher said. Further details were not immediately available. 

* * * 

A 6-year-old child abducted from San Leandro on Monday has been safely located, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

Malayia Davis-Booker was allegedly abducted by 34-year-old Laquita Davis, according to the CHP. 

The CHP issued an Amber Alert for Alameda and Contra Costa counties just before 1 a.m. today. It was deactivated around 10 a.m. 

The CHP did not provide any additional information about how the incident was resolved or where Davis-Booker was found. 

* * * 

A small vegetation fire reported in San Rafael this morning has been fully contained and may be suspicious in nature because a person was seen running from the scene, fire officials said. 

San Rafael fire officials initially wrote on Twitter at 8:37 a.m. about the 1-acre fire off of Professional Center Parkway. 

As of 9:05 a.m., the fire had been fully contained. Fire officials are asking residents to call 911 if they have any information about the male seen running from the scene. 

* * * 

Police tracked down and detained teen carjacking suspects who stole a vehicle and then crashed it in San Francisco, police said Monday night. 

At 11:48 p.m., San Francisco police announced on Twitter that the teens had stolen an SUV, then crashed it at Third Street and Burke Avenue in the city's Bayview District. The suspects then ran from the scene, police said. 

Officers later tracked down the suspects. One of them had suffered injuries in the crash, police said. 

Further details about the case were not immediately available. 

* * * 

Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo has urged county residents who were at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shooting in Las Vegas to reach out to his office for possible compensation for lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses and mental health treatment. 

According to the district attorney's office, residents might eligible for reimbursement even if they weren't injured in the attack. The shooting on Oct. 1 has been cited as the largest mass shooting in modern American history, as shooter Stephen Paddock killed 59 people -- including himself -- and injured more than 500. 

Those who wish to apply can call the district attorney's victim's unit at (831) 755-5072. Flippo also encouraged those who attended the festival but haven't yet had any expenses related to the shooting to apply in case they have expenses in the future. 

The FBI is still compiling a list of people who were at the festival during the shooting. Those still needing to add their name to the list can visit https://forms.fbi.gov/seeking-victims-of-las-vegas-music-festival-shooting. 

Those looking to offer information on the attack and searching for more resources for victims can visit https://www.fbi.gov/resources/victim-assistance/seeking-victim-information/assistance-for-victims-of-the-harvest-music-festival-shooting-in-las-vegas.

Updated: Berkeley Police Investigating Death of Woman in Homeless Encampment

Daniel Montes (BCN)
Friday October 06, 2017 - 04:00:00 PM

A woman believed to be 40 years old was found dead this morning at a homeless encampment near BART tracks in Berkeley, according to police. 

The discovery was made when, at about 10:15 a.m., officers and firefighters went to the encampment just north of 63rd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way after receiving a report of an unresponsive woman, Berkeley police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel said. 

The woman was found dead at the scene.  

Police initially believed the victim was in her 20s but have since clarified. Her identity has not been released pending notification of her family.  

The cause of her death is unknown, Frankel said, and there were no obvious signs of trauma. An investigation is ongoing, according to Frankel. 

"I don't have any evidence to indicate that it's (the death) suspicious other than the fact that we don't know what caused her death at this point," Frankel said.

Conservatives File Civil Rights Suit against UC Berkeley Over "Free Speech Week"

Dave Brooksher (BCN)
Thursday October 05, 2017 - 04:14:00 PM

Attorneys representing a group of conservative students at the University of California at Berkeley have filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that university officials have violated their clients' First Amendment rights. 

According to the law offices of Melo and Sarsfield, UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ indicated by email that her office was launching a hate crime investigation after students associated with the Berkeley Patriot publication distributed posters pertaining to last week's "free speech" events on campus. 

In the email, which was sent to students and staff on Sept. 21, Christ called Berkeley Patriot's posters "hateful messaging" targeting specific student populations and staffers. 

"I condemn these cowardly acts in the strongest possible terms," Christ wrote. "Our police department is investigating whether they constitute hate crimes and we will all do all we can to support those affected." 

As a result of that statement, attorney Marguerite Melo said her clients canceled "Free Speech Week" because the students involved weren't willing to subject themselves to "a pre-textual criminal investigation." 

"The message implied in her statements was clear -- conservative students will be subjected to a criminal police investigation (and implicitly a possible prosecution) for exercising their First Amendment Rights," Melo said in the complaint, which is dated Tuesday. 

This complaint is a follow-up on an earlier one filed against university officials on Sept. 19. 

The attorneys say that Christ's email, dated Sept. 21, and any subsequent hate-crime investigations that were opened up against their clients may have been a retaliatory response to that initial complaint. 

University spokesman Dan Mogulof said in an email today that Christ never called for an investigation into a crime, but rather announced that police were checking to see if a crime had been committed, and they later determined there had not. Christ also never suggested that Berkeley students were responsible for anything, according to Mogulof. 

"These utterly unfounded allegations aimed at the Chancellor would be silly if they weren't so sad," Mogulof said.  

"This is all part of an ongoing effort to blame others for an event that collapsed when it became evident that most, if not all of the speakers never had any intention of coming," Mogulof said. "The letter to the Justice Department reads like an assignment for a class in short form fiction." 

Mogulof compared the complaint to a lawsuit dismissed just last week by U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney in which the Berkeley College Republicans alleged that university officials had suppressed conservative speech back in April when an event with commentator Ann Coulter had to be canceled because the university could not guarantee it would be safe. 

The cancellation prompted extensive protests and counter-demonstrations.  

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield LLP, are located in Visalia. They specialize in civil and employment rights cases, according to the firm's website.



America Needs to Face the Facts about Gun Violence

Becky O'Malley
Friday October 06, 2017 - 02:21:00 PM
Source: https://www.redtoblueca.org/
Source: https://www.redtoblueca.org/

After a gunman shot about 550 of his fellow Americans, killing more than 50 of them, the president of the United States announced that he is proud to be an American.

Well, I’m sure as hell not.

Yes, yes, he was praising the response of those who had the unenviable responsibility for mopping up after the catastrophe. But he was totally ignoring the abdication of responsibility by those who allow this kind of thing to happen more and more often in this benighted country.

That would be all of us, Fellow Americans.

With all due respect to the many voices who have tried to explain what went wrong this time, it just doesn’t matter why this particular individual did what he did, or how he was able to get away with it.

What might have made a difference?

Screening for “mental illness”? He passed with flying colors, but failing wouldn’t have predicted this anyway. Many, many, many Americans have some form of what might be called mental illness in ordinary language, but the vast majority of them are not potential mass murderers. You can’t spot ‘em that way.

Religious fanatic? Nope, though as many commentators have pointed out, if he’d been a Moslem that would be taken as the explanation. But he stayed away from religion.

PTSD? Never went near the military.

We are citizens of a country which is no longer fact-based, about mass killings as well as about many other topics which can be scientifically explained to the remaining few Americans who can still process information.

It’s the guns, stupid. 

Simply put, the United States has many more guns in proportion to residents than any country in the world, and also many more gun deaths in proportion to its population than any other “civilized” country (excluding Latin American countries now in a situation essentially a war between drug dealers and civil society.) 

It’s not just also more gun deaths, it’s therefore more gun deaths. 

Charts of the pertinent facts have been widely published this week . A very good set is How US gun culture compares with the world in 5 charts, by Kara Fox on CNN. It tells you all you need to know: we have too damn many guns looking for victims, period. 

Focus today is on banning add-on gadgets that turn one murderous impulse into mass murder, but even one death is too many, and we have too many deaths, whether singly or by the dozens. 

Like most people in this country, I’ve seen several incidents of gun violence among family, friends and acquaintances. 

One killer would certainly have been disqualified as “mentally ill” if he’d sought to buy his guns through standard retail channels, but of course he got them elsewhere with no difficulty. He not only killed himself, he took a couple of neighbors with him when he went off the rails. 

Another, the lawyer son of family friends, was an innocent bystander in a law firm where a disgruntled ex-employee showed up with a hunting rifle. As I recall, about a dozen co-workers were killed in that incident. 

A third was a perfectly normal-seeming older upper-middle class white guy who killed himself with a handgun that had been in his closet for years, seemingly on impulse--no threats, no suicide note, no financial problems. According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, white men are 79 percent of all firearm suicide victims and about 60 percent of total gun deaths in the U.S. 

And then there are the brothers, cousins, nephews and grandsons of friends who live in mostly-minority neighborhoods where there are gangs. All the victims that I’ve known about were believed, at least by the family members they left behind, to have been hit by stray bullets, caught in crossfire or mistaken for someone else. 

There’s only one thread that connects all these people: the availability of guns. Otherwise, their backgrounds and situations were disparate in the extreme. 

The Russian playright Chekhov said that "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." Only logical. 

We have now in the United States of America almost one gun for every man, woman and child in the United States, hanging on our collective walls ready to use. Don’t think for a minute that a lot of them will not be fired at someone in the next act. 

Our national inability to recognize that too many gun deaths is the direct consequence of too many guns is right up there on a par with our leaders’ willful ignorance of the threat of climate change. In the language of pop psychology, we’re in deep denial. 

It’s not that polls don’t show substantial numbers, even majorities, of voters who’d like to do something about both gun violence and climate change. For historical and structural political reasons we just don’t seem to be able to elect leaders who are willing to do something about either problem. 

One specious argument in defense of widespread gun ownership derives from the Second Amendment. Yes, there were big flaws in the Constitution, which was drafted by and for male white property owners, but some have already been corrected, so why not fix this one? (I liked a letter in today’s paper which suggested that the Constitution should be amended to allow only women to have guns for militia purposes, since the vast majority of mass murderers are men, perhaps 97% by some estimates.) 

Well-meaning activists have been trying to solve the problem piecemeal, but gun interests manage to weasel their way around whatever specific language is passed, like the failed attempts to ban automatic rifles. Without touching the Second Amendment, a willing congress could finally act on its “well-regulated” language and put significant and binding national regulations on gun ownership itself. At the national level we regulate cigarettes, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, meat packing, organic produce…why not firearms? 

Each and every gun in this country should be registered with the federal government, required to be stored unloaded and kept under lock and key, preferably away from homes. Unregistered firearms should be subject to immediate confiscation, no exceptions, and possessors prosecuted. No one should be permitted to fire a weapon, even for target shooting, who has not passed tests at least as stringent as those for a driver’s license.  

All of this is only common sense, something U.S. citizens seem to lack however. If even a percentage of such regulations took a percentage of guns out of circulation, there would be a similar percentage decrease in gun deaths. Country after country, including Australia and Canada, which historically had “wild west” settlement patterns similar to ours, have proved that this works. 

Like much else, it starts with the U.S. Congress, and most immediately with the 2018 elections. Add this to all the other reasons why we need to be working right now on getting rid of as many congressional Republicans as possible.  

After that, of course, don’t kid yourself, lobbying of members of both parties will still be needed. 







The Editor's Back Fence

Sending Letters to the Planet

Becky O'Malley
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:41:00 PM

I've been getting copies of letters to the Berkeley City Council,especially on the budget, copied to my personal email address. I'm happy to see them, but if you want them published in our Public Comment section, be sure to address them also to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com so I know you want them published. Everyone should also be aware that letters to the City Council become part of the public record, so I can legally post them on this site if I want to, though I usually prefer to get the writer's permission.

Public Comment

Double Hit to Puerto Rico

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:35:00 PM

Puerto Rico was hit with a devastating double whammy. Hurricane Maria and a president asleep at the wheel who reacted with anger and meanness at having his golf game disturbed by the “mayday calls” from the San Juan mayor. Trump tweeted with racially inflected insults accusing the islanders of being lazy and “wanting everything to be done for them rather than helping themselves.” 

After visiting the island, retired Army Lieutenant General Honoré, who led the military response to Hurricane Katrina, estimated that about 7 critical days had been squandered by the sluggish Trump administration. It took 8 days to suspend the archaic Jones Act - a relic of World War 1.  

An exasperated Honoré said: “We’ve got to get rid of that dumb-ass Jones Act that benefits shipping tycoons in New York and Miami, while driving up costs for Puerto Ricans.” He thought the devastation was so horrendous, that perhaps the best course of action would be to move the children off the island to the mainland. Smarting under the withering criticism of his lackadaisical response, Trump reached down into his rich lexicon heaping praise for his “amazing and wonderful response.” 

Buoyed by his self-importance, determined to be a swaggering “John Wayne” or “make my day” Clint Eastwood he instructed Rexx Tillerson to halt his peaceful overtures with North Korea accelerating the demise of our Goldilocks planet.

Why We Are Dying Prematurely

Harry Brill
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:32:00 PM

If we take any hundred year period, we know that the mortality rate is always near 100 percent. However, in the short run the variations are considerable. Life expectancy rates vary between nations, within nations, and among the different populations within any nation. Moreover, so much is coming at us that it is difficult to figure out exactly what particular assaults on our body did us in.  

My favorite metaphor for understanding this issue is from the suspense movie, "Murder On The Orient Express", which was adapted from an Agatha Christie novel. Throughout the movie we wondered who the murderer was. But we eventually learn that there was not just one but twelve murderers that assaulted the victim. In a sense we are living out our lives on the Orient Express. For a variety of reasons, we almost all die prematurely, and generally speaking, there is not only one cause but many that account for our demise.  

What we do know is how the United States compares with other nations. The average lifetime in the U.S.is 79.6 years. For men it is considerably lower -- only 76.4 years. The life expectancy for women is 81.2, which is almost four years longer. In 39 other countries, the overall average exceeds 80 years. And the population in 42 countries enjoy a higher life expectancy than in the United States.

The obvious questions are why don't Americans enjoy a longer life, and what can be do to improve the life expectancy average. Since people live longer in so many other nations, including in countries with far less resources, achieving a longer life span must certainly be possible in the US.  

Why we live relatively shorter lives than in many other countries is no mystery. The problem is that our bodies are being continuously assaulted. We breath polluted air, eat food containing dangerous pesticides, and drink contaminated water. Each of these is a probable recipe for a shorter life span. According to the findings of a comprehensive study by MIT, air pollution causes at least 200,000 premature deaths each year in the United States. This figure probably underestimates the toll. 

Unfortunately, there is a major obstacle that discourages mass based organizing to effectively address our environmental problems. Unlike actual weapons, such as guns and knives, we do not actually perceive the poisons that we are consuming. Also, the impact of pollution takes a long while, often many years, to take its toll. It is not as if airplanes are dumping confetti on the public, which would pose an immediate and annoying nuisance . Of course, serious and important organizing on pollution is going on. But as a result of the combination of invisibility and the long delayed impact, too many people are not prone to making the connections and so are unlikely to become involved in protesting and organizing against these assaults.  

Because pollution is destructive to human life, they should be recognized as a type of violence. This non-traumatic form of violence is mainly perpetrated by big corporations. The damage that these companies inflict on human life far exceeds the more highly publicized harm caused by those engaging in so called street crime . When fines are imposed they are usually paid not by the executives, but by the corporations. From a business perspective these financial penalties are the cost of doing business. Significantly, corporate executives commit these crimes with impunity. They do not spend even a day behind bars. Apparently a major role of government, whether federal or state, is to protect the guilty. 

Believe it or not, private enterprise and the government also bear a major responsibility for the carnage on the highways, which in the last three years has killed over 100,000 men, women, and children. In fact, last year more than 40,000 died as a result of car accidents, which made 2016 the deadliest year on American roads in nearly a decade. Also, 4.6 million people suffered injuries. We do not know how many additional lives were eventually cut short as a result of these injuries. 

Of course, driving habits, speeding and road rage are obviously very problematic. But a major contribution to dangerous driving patterns is the failure of government to provide adequate budgets for highway patrol. The claim that the money is unavailable does not ring true. Somehow there is always plenty of money for the police to cover rallies and marches. Security costs to cover a recent demonstration came to about $800,000. The University of California police department received assistance from at least 14 other law enforcement agencies and hundreds of police officers.  

Clearly, this was overkill. The few who were arrested -- only about 11 protesters --were mainly for non-violent offenses. As police records show, far more fans on the average are arrested at Raider games, -- over 17 arrests per game -- which unlike politically oriented progressive rallies, are not highly publicized. Wouldn't it be a much better idea if instead, police officers were assigned to highway duty? In the interest of saving lives, they could warn, ticket, and even arrest dangerous drivers including drivers of large speeding trucks, who are very rarely ticketed? Since at least half of bay area drivers are speeding on the road, the fines would easily exceed the cost of paying the police.  

Why then are there too few police officers on the highways? Among the barriers is the trucking industry and its clients who for business reasons value reaching their destination as quickly as possible. It is no surprise that in 1995 the conservative Republican Congress and President Nixon abolished the 55 miles per hour speed limit. 

Probably the most worrisome problem is that there are too many auto accidents because there are too many cars on the road. The sordid history of transportation policy in the U.S. explains why. General Motors and other corporations are to blame for pushing the United States into automobile dependency. Among their accomplishments, land with trolley tracks around the country were purchased for the sole purpose of destroying these tracks. Although most of these corporations were convicted of conspiracy to monopolize the transit industry, they were subsequently acquitted. 

Since then it has been public policy to spend lavishly on building roads and limiting expenditures for public transportation. The federal fuel tax that car owners pay at the pump are deposited with the Highway Trust Fund, which uses the money mainly to construct more roads and pay for road repair. Also states charge fuel taxes as well. However, public transportation is being starved. Shouldn't money be allocated to provide high speed, electric, non-polluting trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles? These trains operate successfully in Europe, Japan, and China. Japan runs hundreds of speed trains each day with minimal delay. One of Japan's high speed trains travels up to 375 miles an hour. The speed trains abroad are far safer and healthier than automobiles on American highways. And they arrive at their destinations much sooner. 

Labor force issues also play an important role in influencing longevity. A recent very disturbing revelation is that for one sector of our population longevity is appreciably declining. Two Princeton researchers found a substantial increase in the death rate of middle-age whites whose educational achievement does not exceed high school graduation. In fact, the mortality rate for this group is higher than the death rate for African Americans as a whole. Indeed, the middle-aged white premature death rate is epidemic. 

The reason according to the researchers is that this group, ages 45-54, lacked steady, well-paying jobs which have caused pain, distress, and social dysfunction. As a result they tended to drink alcohol excessively or became addicted to dangerous drugs and overdosing on prescription drugs. Also, they have the highest rate of suicide. These "deaths of despair" were accompanied by reduced labor force participation and less stable marriages. They were also in poor physical and mental health. Unlike many African Americans who have been living with a low standard of living, the downward mobility of these middle age whites -- in this instance doing worse than their parents -- has been a major shock. 

It is likely that other sectors of the population will confront similar shocks in the labor force as well, which could also precipitate major adverse consequences. Already many college graduates are finding it difficult to obtain good jobs. According to a recent study, 44 percent of college graduates are working at jobs that do not require a college degree. Moreover, wages for recent graduates have been declining. And many graduates are burdened with the obligation of paying off their high debts, which exceeds $37,000 for last year's class. 

Generally speaking, the future of work looks bleak. Over 2 million jobs a year, which include many that pay well, are shipped abroad annually. These jobs, which total more than 20 million that are lost in one decade, are not coming back. Many of the jobs that are remaining are being converted to part time jobs or are being handled by temp agencies. It would not be surprising if a growing number of working people as a result will suffer serious physical and mental health problems.  

Nevertheless, rather than surrendering to these admittedly very difficult challenges, it is immensely important to build an alternative society based on humane principles that include job security and a decent standard of living. If instead tense divisions among working people prevail, including difficult racial and ethnic divisions, corporate America will be reassured that a united front to threaten its dominance is very unlikely to emerge


Toni Mester
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:09:00 PM

The FBI is having a hard time figuring out why Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of country music fans enjoying an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, killing at least 58 of his fellow human beings and wounding hundreds more. He was a seemingly sane healthy and wealthy white guy with an adoring girl friend, and he hadn’t converted to radical Islam. So what was his problem? Senator Dianne Feinstein wants us regular folks to weigh in on the problem of mass shootings, so here goes. Ms. America has her say. 

The main problem is that the guy was a psychopath, a quiet one until he acted out big time. Psychopaths do not have empathy for other human beings, but not all psychopaths are criminals, just like not all criminals are psychopaths. He was divorced twice, and his last girlfriend was afraid that he sent her on a trip because he wanted to break up. That sounds like she was insecure, maybe feeling like he didn’t love her. He didn’t because he was incapable. 

I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not qualified to parse the symptoms of his disease, but the fact that he gambled in a rigid calculating manner on video poker machines certainly speaks to his inabilities in relating with other people. I haven’t played cards in a long time, but when I was a teenager, we neighborhood kids played strip poker in the attic of our garage, a high stakes game with a lot of personal interaction. Poker is an up-close and personal game in which the players try to outfox each other, the source of many idioms including “poker face.” The traditional dramatic scene of the smoke-filled back-room poker game with its aura of threat among hardened men is intense and intimate, a staple of the crime, cops, and cowboy movies. 

On the stage, The SeaFarer by Conor McPherson ends with a haunting scene of poker, but my all time favorite is Dealer’s Choice by Patrick Marber, a riveting dissection of gambling addiction among a father, son and their friends. Removing the personal from poker and making the game mechanical epitomizes the anomie, isolation, and alienation of video gaming, our new national pastime. According to news stories, Paddock would spend hours playing $100 a hand video poker in Las Vegas casinos and was such a regular that he earned “comps” including the suite of rooms in the Mandalay Bay that served as his shooting perch. The fact that he shot people from long range, over 400 yards, also speaks to his psychological removal from the victims. 

His father Benjamin Paddock was a psychopath and a career criminal, a bank robber who was once on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Many recent studies have found a genetic link to criminal behavior, and even though his father was the ultimate deadbeat dad, totally absent from his children, the “like father, like son” adage holds true, teaching by example. The effects of an absentee father can be devastating on a child including failure, crime, and disease; not all grow up to be President. Almost one in three American children live in a fatherless household, a crisis that has engendered many organizations with a mission to support engaged fathers. 

Stephen Paddock is beginning to look like an all-American boy. He might have been influenced by sibling rivalries among his three brothers and feelings of inadequacy. He had allergies that prompted him to leave the humidity of Orlando, Florida and move to the Nevada desert, where he could also indulge his gambling habit. One of his brothers and his mother live in Orlando, the site of the former worst mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in June 2016, when 49 people were massacred. It is possible that Paddock was motivated by a desire to go down in history as the worst badass ever, upstaging Omar Mateen and certainly surpassing his father in evil, who in contrast was just a petty thief. 

According to his brother Eric, Stephen has no religious or political affiliation. He wasn’t studying anything except gambling. As far as we know, the man had no core beliefs. He didn’t worship in a congregation or engage in strategic actions for any social cause. He didn’t go to classes to learn a foreign language or woodworking. He had mathematical abilities that helped him earn a living and then to buy and sell real estate. The note that he left contained numbers, not a suicide note or manifesto. He wasn’t involved in the community; except for his girlfriend, he was a loner. According to the latest reports, he had been pursuing the goal of shooting up a music festival, and evidently had surveilled other venues before deciding on the Route 91 Harvest Festival of country music. He hated other people having fun. 

He had been drinking, and alcohol is a depressant. His drinking habits have not yet come to light, but many high functioning alcoholics successfully hide their addiction. About 8% of adult men in this country have alcohol use disorder, and very few of them are under treatment. AUD is described as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” A recent study puts the number of alcoholics higher at 12% of the population or 1 in 8. In 2011, after slipping and falling in a casino, Paddock sued for damages, but the case was dismissed. He claimed that the fall aggravated his high blood pressure, a common symptom of alcoholism. 

And finally, there’s the gun story, the focus of many interviews and articles, even though we’re never supposed to talk about guns. Where did he get all those guns and why did he keep them, if not to be used? One of my old friends has turned to the right and owns 13 guns, so he says. Why do you need 13 guns, I asked. It seems they are a symbol of strength and independence. This is totally whacko. We both grew up in the country and the fall hunting season. Guys go out with their pals and rifles to hunt deer that inevitably end up roped to the truck and then strung up between trees, skinned and cut up as venison for the freezer. My uncles and cousins who owned egg farms used their rifles to hunt rats and chicken predators. A gun is a tool, not a symbol. As a weapon, a gun is best used in civilian society for policing and self-defense. Stephen Paddock wasn’t threatened by anybody and didn’t need his weapons of war for self-defense. According to reports, he was an avid defender of gun rights, although it’s doubtful that the NRA is going to make him a poster boy for the second amendment. Like all tools, guns are meant to be used, mostly for sport and target practice. In allowing weapons of war in civilian society, legislators have created the inevitability of mass murder. In 2017 there have been 521 mass shootings, and that figure is so last week. The gunroom originated on ships and on the country estate, usually near the backdoor or within the owner’s inner sanctum, where the hunting rifles were stored. Stephen Paddock kept his arsenal in a bedroom of his suburban ranch house in a protected retirement community. It would be ludicrous if the outcome weren’t so horrific. 

None of these factors alone make a mass murderer: psychopathology, gambling addiction, and a fatherless childhood; family dynamics that might have placed him at a disadvantage among his siblings, competitiveness, lack of core beliefs, alcoholism, and the availability of weapons of mass destruction. But together, they were a lethal mix. This is an all-American tragedy. We have met the enemy, and he is us. There may be a rational explanation, but no motive. Sorry. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley 

Berkeley Minimum Wage Now $13.75 Hour

Harry Brill
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:06:00 PM

Good news finally. The Berkeley minimum wage was just increased to $13.75 per hour. Beginning next October, 2018 the minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour. The hourly wage will then be increased according to the cost of living index. Believe it or not the legislation was supported last year even by the conservative majority on the City Council despite the fierce opposition of the business community, including the very influential Chamber of Commerce. 

There is a very important lesson to learn from this victory. When large numbers of activists and allies work together vigorously they can achieve important gains even though the odds seem to be against them. We are particularly indebted to Steve Gilbert of the SEIU union. He worked very hard and effectively in putting together a coalition of progressives organizations and individuals. Also important was the hard work of the Tax the Rich Group, whose role has been since the birth of the organization in 2011 to work against economic inequality. 

Not surprisingly, the business community is screaming that the higher wages could devastate their business. They apparently believe that paying a poverty wage is their only path toward survival. The problem is that the business community has been too pampered, and so they do a lot of whining when they don't get their way. 

Remember, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25. The California minimum wage is only $10 an hour. These are both poverty wages. Even $15 an hour is not sufficient. Business needs to realize that in the long run higher wages is better for business. About 70 percent of domestic spending is by consumers, who are mainly working people. In fact, President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized the importance of a good minimum wage. In 1933 he claimed "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country."

Berkeley Riots

Tara Patenaude, Auburn, MA
Wednesday October 04, 2017 - 02:56:00 PM

Months ago, I was watching a “protest” in Berkeley on TV. It had become volatile, with several fights breaking out, mace being sprayed and many businesses vandalized. While watching this take place, I watched as a man was being dragged away while being beaten up and realized the police were not interfering and standing off to the side until another man, who was later identified as Kyle Chapman, who was seen off to the side- appeared to realize what was happening, he paused for a moment then swung the sign/pole at the person dragging away his friend, the pole breaking upon impact. In that moment, I thought to myself that this guy is a hero for sticking up for his friend.  

The police eventually went into the crowd and arrested several people-the cause of the sudden action at that time is unknown but it has been reported by both news sources and social media that the Police were ordered to not intervene until they were told otherwise. One of those arrested was Kyle, who’s case I have been following rather closely and has made me question if California laws violate the 8th amendment right guaranteed by our constitution which excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. This would also apply to the $135k bail in August. 

Kyle was wearing a mask, helmet and carried a sign on a wooden pole, of which he stated he had brought these items due to the past riots in Berkeley, CA, in an effort to ensure the safety of himself and those around him. These items proved to be necessary and used at the time of Kyles arrest, and a few other rally’s after this. 

I had the opportunity to meet Kyle. He flew to Boston and he gave an inspirational speech encouraging the protection of our Constitution and our American culture of diverse people coming together, following the laws of the land, and advocating to celebrate being white much like other races are able to do, without being called racist. That would mean equality for all citizens. Kyle was articulate, with a positive message while addressing these issues and when I spoke with him, he was kind and gracious. 

According to California Penal Code 198.5-99, “the defendant is not guilty of whatever forceful act was used in self-defense if he/she used force against the other person in lawful self-defense or in defense of another. The defendant acted in lawful self-defense of defense of another if the defendant reasonably believed that the person being defended was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury and that the force used was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger”. This appears to categorize the “assault” Kyle is accused of committing. Kyle is also in jeopardy of going to jail for an extended period of time due to California’s 3 strikes law. We are all aware of his past, but he has since grown into an honest, caring man.  

I have found varying inconsistencies as to what “weapon” Kyle was carrying. These range from “long pole”, “large stick”, “large stick of wood”, “leaded stick”, “large piece of lumber”, “lead pipe” and “large baton”. While these aren’t drastic changes, any discrepancy would cause a Police Detective to doubt the honesty of those being interviewed. I believe that Kyle has been wrongfully accused. I saw the pole clearly, it was a wooden flag pole, 5-6 feet long, approximately 1 inch in diameter. It snapped on impact so it was likely a soft wood, such as Pine. If it were anything leaded or otherwise altered, it would not have snapped as it did. Kyle has made many sacrifices to encourage patriotic Americans to realize that gradually, over time, our freedoms are rapidly decreasing. Kyle is a patriotic soldier fighting for the constitutional rights for ALL of us, as well as being honest, caring and courageous. In the moment that lead to his arrest, he was a hero to that man being attacked by a mob in Berkeley, and his actions as a soldier fighting for our constitutional rights and does not deserve to be put into jail for protecting people from being assaulted. 


ECLECTIC RANT: Remembering the Vietnam War

Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:18:00 PM

Watching the compelling documentary, The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, brought back memories of my time in Vietnam in 1967-1968. The Tet Offensive occurred during my service there; it was a defining event in the Vietnam War. Tet, by the way, is the Vietnamese New Year. 

I was a U.S. Army Transportation captain stationed in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. As a transportation officer, I was responsible for arranging the movement of goods from the Saigon depot to the troops in the field. 

General William Westmoreland commanded the U.S. military operations in Vietnam War at its peak (1964–68), during the Tet Offensive. We on the ground knew that Westmoreland's highly publicized, overly optimistic assessments of the war were not true. We "won" every battle, but lost the war. The 1968 Tet Offensive, in which communist forces, having staged a diversion at the Battle of Khe Sanh, attacked cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. U.S. and South Vietnamese troops successfully fought off the attacks, and the communist forces took heavy losses, but the ferocity of the assault shocked public confidence in Westmoreland's previous assurances about the state of the war.  

War is a spectacular show when watched from afar, but as the documentary shows, not so much up close. During the Tet Offensive, I remember the B-52 carpet bombing that shook the earth and I watched from a rooftop as our helicopter gunships strafed the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. I could hear explosions throughout Saigon as the Viet Cong attacked police stations and other government buildings. The U.S. military used Korean and Australian civilian workers who were housed in unprotected housing throughout Saigon. Many were killed by the Viet Cong.  

After 1,000 years of domination by China, Vietnam’s conflicts with the French and U.S. were mere bumps in the road. Looking back, it seemed the Vietnamese got over the war much quicker than U.S. did. 

I attended law school in Boston after the war at a time when the Boston/Cambridge area was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam activity. Many of my fellow classmates were attending law school to avoid the draft and often kiddingly called me Captain America whenever the New York Times reported on the war. 

In 2006, I visited Vietnam with my wife. Our itinerary took us to Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho, Tay Ninh, Vinh Trang, Minh City, Hue, Hoi An, Halong Bay, and Hanoi. During the war, I did not appreciate what a beautiful country Vietnam is with its 2,000 mile coastline, jungles, beaches, and mountains and hills.  

Vietnam is now one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. The U.S. signed a bilateral trade agreement in 2001; the U.S. is now the sixth largest investor in Vietnam.  

We were greatly impressed by the excellent condition of Vietnam’s infrastructure, i.e., roads, bridges and public buildings. There was lots of construction going on around the country. Ho Chi Minh City's (still commonly called Saigon) population in 1967 was approximately 1.7 million; today the population totals about 8.4 million. Vietnam is worried that Saigon is reaching a population saturation point. 

While we were in Vietnam, an Agent Orange Conference was taking place. The U.S. military dumped 80 million litres of agent orange/dioxins in Vietnam. At least 2.1 million were victims of the toxins while another 4.8 million were indirectly effected. We saw photos of some of the victims in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. The dioxins effect those sprayed, and has caused birth defects in their children.  

Each of our three guides asked if this was our first trip to Vietnam. I told him that I was a Vietnam veteran, stationed in Saigon in 1967-68. Our Saigon guide told us that he was in the South Vietnamese army and was stationed with the U.S. Marines in Danang. After the U.S. defeat, he tried twice to escape, but was caught both times. He spent 2-1/2 years in prison. He is now an independent tour guide. He then proceeded to point out some of the U.S. occupation sites, most of which have since been torn down to build office buildings and housing. Our Hue/Hoi An guide asked me if I had left any children behind, a bit of an indelicate question in front of my wife. I said no. Later we learned that he would have offered to assist me in finding these children if I had said yes. Our Hanoi/Halong Bay guide told us her father was in the North Vietnamese army and lost his leg in a land mine explosion. He still suffers pain.  

Our visit to Saigon’s War Remnants Museum was a sobering highlight of our trip. As stated in the Museum’s brochure: “The role of the unique museum . . . is to preserve and display exhibits on war crimes and aftermaths [of] foreign aggressive forces caused [to] Vietnamese people.” The photos are both gruesome and compelling. One section called “Requiem,” contains a collection of photos taken by 134 war reporters -- from 11 different countries -- killed during the Vietnam War. The Epilogue to this section states in part: “[A] war in which so many died for illusions, and foolish causes, and mad dreams.” Thirty years later, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his book In Retrospect: The Tragedies and Lessons of Vietnam admitted we were wrong about Vietnam. Will we ever get a similar admission or apology about the Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria wars? 

It seems a lot of Americans, French, and Australians come back to the scene of their misadventures. Vietnam even offers tours to important war sites, such as the DMZ, the Cu Chi tunnels, and the so-called Hanoi Hilton where Senator John McCain spent seven years; it is now a museum and has photos of the American prisoners and displays McCain’s flight suit.  

We met a group of French veterans of the Vietnam War -- remember France's defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. When learning that I too was a Vietnam veteran, they insisted on a group photo. There is an irony there someplace. 

While in Vietnam, we picked up an English translation of a book called The Sorrows of War by Bao Ninh, a veteran of North Vietnam’s Youth Brigade. Of the five hundred who went to war with the brigade in 1969, he is one of ten who survived. His book has been compared to Erich Remarque’s All Quiet On the Western Front. A compelling read. Bao Ninh is featured in The Vietnam War. 

Did we learn anything from the Vietnam War? Apparently not, given our misadventures since. As George Hegel observed, "The one thing history undoubtedly teaches us is that people have never learned anything from History."

THE PUBLIC EYE: Martin Luther King Jr asked “Chaos or Community?”

Bob Burnett
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:13:00 PM

Fifty years ago Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his last book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" Reading it again, in the hate-filled Trump era, brings the painful recognition that in many regards the civil rights struggle has stagnated for decades. 

Dr. King wrote the book a year before his assassination, at a time when his civil-rights initiative had entered a new phase. After the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and became a national presence. After a series of successful protests, King led the 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Justice" and delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. In 1967 King led a march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama; the March 7th demonstration ended in violence on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge. During this period King changed his focus from civil rights, in general, to concrete objectives, such as jobs and housing. (King also spoke in opposition to the Vietnam War.) 

In "Where Do We Go From Here," King distinguishes two phases of the civil-rights movement. The first was the broad recognition of the humanity of Negroes; the second was the accomplishment of true equality. "For the vast majority of white Americans, the past decade -- the first phase -- had been a struggle to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not of equality... When Negroes looked for the second phase, the realization of equality, they found that many of their white allies had quietly disappeared.

King recognized "the magnitude of the gap between existing realities and the goal of equality." "When the Constitution was written [it] declared that the Negro was 60 percent of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare he is 50 percent of a person. Of the good things in life he has approximately one-half those of whites; of the bad he has twice those of whites. Thus, half of all Negroes live in substandard housing, and Negroes half half the income of whites... There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality... among Negroes is double that of whites." 

It's painful to acknowledge that most of what Dr. King complained about in 1967 remains true in 2017. Writing in The Guardian ( British journalist Gary Younge observed:
"The battle lines in America’s struggle against racism and white supremacy are become increasingly clear to a degree not seen since the 60s...The codified obstacles to freedom and equality have been removed, but the legacy of those obstacles and the system that produced them remains. Black Americans are far more likely than white people to be stopped, frisked, arrested, jailed, shot and executed by the state, while the racial gaps in unemployment are the same as 40 years ago, the racial disparity in wealth and income is worse than 50 years ago." Younge concluded: "[People of color] have the right to eat in any restaurant they wish; the trouble is, many can’t afford what’s on the menu." 

What happened? Why has it proved so difficult to provide true equality? 

Dr. King recognized that the civil-rights movement had only transitory unity: "Up to Selma there had been unity to eliminate barbaric conduct. Beyond it the unity had to be based on the fulfillment of equality and in the absence of agreement the paths began inexorably to move apart." 

Most activists agree with King's analysis. There are several explanations for the failure to provide true equality. Some say it was due to King's assassination in 1968. Others note that the white allies King expected to help in the fight for economic equality instead shifted their focus to the Vietnam War. 

But there is another explanation: Dr. King's white allies shied away from a direct confrontation with the larger system of white male privilege; a system that incorporates racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, anti-semitism and dominionism. (In essence, white male privilege is the notion that straight white Anglo-Saxon men should dominate the social order because that is the "natural" hierarchy.) 

As a consequence, fifty years after Dr. King wrote "Where Do We Go From Here," the United States remains a segregated society. Writing on "self-segregation" ( https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/self-segregation-why-its-hard-for-whites-to-understand-ferguson/378928/ ), Robert Jones observes there is an absence of "integrated social networks... fully three-quarters (75 percent) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence." (This segregation is particularly true of Trump supporters; a March 2016 New York Times article [https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/13/upshot/the-geography-of-trumpism.html?_r=0&mtrref=undefined] noted that "One of the strongest predictors of Trump support is the proportion of the population that is native-born. Relatively few people in the places where Trump is strong are immigrants.") 

Dr. King foresaw that the United States needed to choose between "chaos or community." In 2017 we seem closer to chaos than we do community. But that doesn't mean there is no hope of achieving the truly democratic society that King dreamed of. 


There needs to be a new conversation about racism, in specific, and the system of white male privilege, in general. While economic equality should be one aspect of this conversation, it should also include race, gender, and class. Liberals need to restart phase two of King's civil-rights struggle. Fifty years is too long a time to wait to fulfill Martin Luther King Junior's dream. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: A Shift in Accepted Thinking

Jack Bragen
Friday October 06, 2017 - 02:58:00 PM

Society has shifted as a whole, with the advent of continuous war and widespread electronic surveillance. In the past, thoughts that would have been considered "paranoid delusional" are now often passable as normal thinking--in fact, accurate.  

Additionally, paranoia has spread, to the extent that it is an epidemic. In modern times, a large proportion of wage-earning, responsible, affluent people have developed symptoms of paranoia--without anyone labeling them as mentally ill.  

So, it is almost as though the world has changed to conform to the version of reality that paranoid people have always had, which was once considered insane thinking.  

In modern times, the evaluation to determine a psychiatric disorder has probably changed, where it has to include much more than the presence of thoughts that were once considered bizarre and paranoid. The individual must be doing antisocial and/or threatening things as a result of their disorder, or, she or he must be "gravely disabled" due to the condition.  

When driving, if you think you are being followed, such a thought is no longer considered crazy. Half of the time, people probably are following you.  

If you have some paranoid thoughts but can still take care of your basic needs without creating the appearance that you are a threat or a nuisance, you may not necessarily need psychiatric treatment. Yet, would such treatment help you? Very possibly.  

It is usually preferable to be balanced, and not to go too far into questionable or bizarre thinking. (Some amount of different thinking is fine, as long as you can navigate your way back and don't become stuck.) 

If I use myself as an example: I cannot function in society in the absence of mental health treatment. Furthermore, it is doubtful that I could handle full-time employment, either on medication or off. While medicated, the psychiatric drugs, because they affect the central nervous system, are part of the disability. However, if off medication, I would be completely nonfunctional at anything due to the untreated psychiatric disorder.  

Because of the above, I could not run away from the psychiatrists, and go get a job out of state or out of the country. Remember the end of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in which the narrator escapes from the hospital? I could not pull that one off. (It has been more than thirty years since I've read that book, so I am going with the image at the end of the movie version, that starred Jack Nicholson, which might or might not be true to the book.)  

However, in today's culture, some amount of paranoia is probably appropriate. How well you can handle that thinking is important. Do you see yourself as essentially the same as most people? Such a view of oneself tends to be a sign of health. I don't view myself as "the same as others", however, I am also paranoid schizophrenic.  

A "normal" human mind will have a system of "checks and balances" that are designed to keep the mind fairly healthy.  

Most people absorb common beliefs from each other, from the mass media, and from other human sources. Few people arrive at their own conclusions about things. This serves as one of the mechanisms that keep most people mentally normal. Also, the human brain normally has mechanisms for regulating itself. One of these is the need for sleep. Another is the ability to feel pain, and there are more.  

When someone lives based on their own conclusions, and when, at the same time, their mechanisms for sleep, pain, hunger, and other grounding attributes, go haywire, that person will probably become mentally ill in some way.  

If a person is excessively isolated it can lead to psychosis. You can be isolated even when you are around other people--if you fail to bond with people, if you fail to joke around with people, and if other interactions are too limited.  

However, society has shifted. It is now normal to have a number of thoughts that in the past would have been deemed paranoid. The same mechanisms for "sanity" still work. However, certain types of thoughts have moved out of the category of delusional into the domain of normal.  

"Crazy persons" have a role in society. Society needs to sacrifice a few people to test the waters of new and different beliefs. The capacity to be "insane" is simply the capacity to be different from the group.  

If we lacked a few individuals who are individual, society would be stagnant, and it would be in jeopardy in other ways. We need to have someone present to declare: "The Emperor Has No Clothes." Or to disbelieve that if we sail our ship too far off the coast, we will fall off the edge.  


Jack Bragen is author of "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual," "Schizophrenia: My 35-Year Battle," and other titles.

ECLECTIC RANT: Las Vegas Shooting Deja Vu

Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 06, 2017 - 03:57:00 PM

On October 1, 2017, 64-year old Stephen Paddock checked into a 32nd-story suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and opened fire on an outdoor music festival below, killing 59 people -- including two off-duty police officers -- and hurting 527. Later Paddock killed himself.  

While listening and reading about the post-Las Vegas shooting discussion, I had a sense of deja vu. Just substitute Sandy Hook, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Aurora Theater in Colorado, Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., and the other mass shootings too numerous to mention, for Las Vegas, and you will see what I mean. Isn't it the same discussion -- sorrow, helplessness, outrage, a call for gun control?  

America is just too gun loving to have a serious, informed discussion about gun violence. Consider that this country already boasts approximately 300 million guns, or eighty-eight for every hundred people.  

The state of our gun laws is not the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, or the gun industry, but the NRA. And so far the NRA is winning the political battle on gun laws in Congress. 

As a result, we will just have to grit our teeth and wait for the next mass killing that will come as surely as night follows day.

Arts & Events

A Perplexing San Francisco Symphony Concert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday October 08, 2017 - 01:31:00 PM

Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski returned to San Francisco to lead the Symphony in two October programs featuring works of his native Poland. For the October 6-8 concerts, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima led off the program, followed by Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E minor. Interestingly, and somewhat perplexingly, the only work that won my unreserved praise was Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.  

Composed in 1960 and premiered in Warsaw in 1961, this work was originally entitled 8’37,” which corresponds to its running time. Then Penderecki changed the title to Tren, the Polish word for lament or dirge. Later, he added the dedication to the Hiroshima victims. However, Penderecki acknowledges that he was not thinking of the American use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima while composing this work, which he intended as a lament for the difficult times Poland was going through circa 1960 at the height of the Cold War. In any case, Threnody, which I first heard played by Oakland Symphony under Gerhard Samuel in the late 1960s, is an eerie, compelling work that gets under your skin with its harsh dissonances and unorthodox tonal clusters, including quarter-tones. In San Francisco, conductor Urbanski skillfully brought out all the seething ferment and dark foreboding that underlies this incisive work. This was a taut, terse, deeply expressive account of Penderecki’s Threnody.  

Next on the program was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with young German violinist Augustin Hadelich as soloist. Any successful performance of this great work must get off the mark immediately, as the soloist enters after a single opening measure and plays a rapturous melody that should – and usually does – sweep you off your feet. Here, however, Hadelich’s tone was noticeably thin, with the result that the opening melody lost much of its seductive power. Later, however, his tone was fuller and richer. Why it was not so in the all-important opening melody is an open question. Throughout this concerto, Hadelich had me moving in and out of the work, questioning what I was hearing from him. In the first movement’s cadenza, for example, Hadelich kept stopping for long pauses between one passage and the next, thereby canceling out any hint of exuberant improvisation. (Of course, Mendelssohn wrote out this cadenza, so improvisation is only hinted at even when violinists play it without pauses. Here, however, Hadelich made it ponderous.) Then, in the slow movement, music that should be dreamy was merely sleepy and sluggish. This too I lay at the feet of Hadelich, for much of the time in this movement the violinist plays with very sparse accompaniment, so the sluggish tempo was seemingly imposed by Hadelich and not by conductor Urbanski. Only in the third and final movement did conductor and soloist come together to produce a fully satisfying unity of interpretation. Even here, however, I must note that on several occasions when reaching for a high note at the top of his instrument’s register, Hadelich failed to make this note audible against the orchestra’s full string section. All told, this was a most perplexing performance of a work I dearly love. My acute reservations notwithstanding, Hedelich received enthusiastic acclaim from the audience, to which he responded with a vivid account of Paganini’s Caprice No. 21 as an encore. 

After intermission, Urbanski returned to lead the Symphony in Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony in E minor. At a running time of 53 minutes, this symphony seems to go on forever. Moreover, its opening movement is longer than the work’s third and fourth movements together. The first movement is dark and brooding, and, as program notes acknowledge, doesn’t seem at times to know where it’s going. Indeed, there are tedious moments here and there in this movement, and not only in this movement but in the third and fourth as well. As for the second movement, well, Shostakovich acknowledged that it’s a musical portrait of Joseph Stalin, who died shortly before this symphony was written. It’s a mad, furious scherzo, full of unrelenting savagery. Thankfully, it is brief. In the third movement, Shostakovich plays with four notes that offer a signature of his own name, oft repeated. This gets tedious after a while. However, in remarks offered by Urbanski before playing this symphony, it was remarked that Shostakovich also played with notes that offered a signature of one of his female students with whom he was infatuated. Urbanski called this “a love story, though one that went nowhere. When Shostakovich’s first wife died, he quickly married a second wife, not the student with whom he had been infatuated. None of this self-referencing can rescue this music from tediousness. The fourth and finale movement is open to the same charge. It goes on much too long, and is full of bombast. How anyone can claim that the 10th Symphony is Shostakovich’s masterpiece I can’t fathom. I’ll take the 5th Symphony or even the 13th “Babi Yar” Symphony any day of the week and twice on Sunday over the 10th. Oh well, to each his own taste, I suppose.