The Week



New: THE PUBLIC EYE: The Rape of the United States of America

Bob Burnett
Friday December 08, 2017 - 06:19:00 PM

2017 political news contained two preeminent images: Donald Trump and sexual assault. Trump's objective has been to be dominate the news each day. Nonetheless, beginning with revelations about the sexual behavior of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Trump tidings were pushed aside by reports of celebrity sexual misconduct. (Time Magazine recognized this by naming "the silence breakers" their persons of the year.) The two images are connected. Trump has been accused of sexual assault. And the Republican Party is engaged in systematic rape of American workers. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Comment on Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday December 07, 2017 - 11:31:00 AM

On December 6, 2017, President Trump, as expected, recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, fulfilling a campaign promise. However, the decision is really not the radical policy departure that critics claim. -more-

Flash: Man Shot by Backpack Thief on Vine Street in Berkeley

Wednesday December 06, 2017 - 03:42:00 PM

A 32-year-old man was shot in the leg by two suspects after getting out of his car in Berkeley on Tuesday night, according to police. -more-

New: Going To The Atrocious New Strip Mall In Concord

Jack Bragen
Wednesday December 06, 2017 - 10:48:00 AM

In the past ten years, I have witnessed the disappearance of benches in public places. I have also seen the disappearance of bookstores. Of course, payphones are long gone, and a young person might not recognize one if they saw one. -more-

New: Is The Employment Disability Law Working?

Harry Brill
Wednesday December 06, 2017 - 10:44:00 AM

Among the serious problems that disabled workers encounter is that during difficult economic times they are among the first to lose their jobs. Their unemployment rate is currently in the double digits. As a result, the record shows, there has been a substantial increase in applications for social security disability benefits to replace their lost jobs.

Now it looks like the reverse is also down the road. President Trump's budget proposes a $65 billion dollar cut in the disability program. Undoubtedly, these cuts, which would limit the number of recipients, will appreciably increase the competition for scarce jobs among the disabled. Currently, only 41 percent of the disabled from ages 21-66 are employed compared to 79 percent of the non-disabled. And disabled persons who are fortunate enough to find work average about $9,000 less annually than other workers.

A major hurdle disabled people confront is that they are victimized by employment related discrimination. To address this problem Congress in 1990 passed the Americans for Disability Act, which was signed by President George H. Bush. The enforcement of this law has been a real challenge. -more-

New: An Interview with Lianna Haroutounian

James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 06, 2017 - 10:41:00 AM

Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian, who made such a hit at San Francisco opera in singing the title roles in Tosca (2014) and Madama Butterfly (2016), gave her first USA recital at Herbst Theatre on Sunday, November 25. I reviewed this wonderful recital in the November 26 issue of Berkeley Daily Plane, where I lauded Ms. Haroutounian for her voluptuous low notes and scintillating high notes, delivered very naturally without a register break between chest tones and head tones. Following this recital I had a chance to strike up a dialogue with Lianna Haroutounian about possible new directions in her career. -more-

New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Rolling Snake Eyes in the Indo-Pacific

Conn Hallinan.
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 10:37:00 AM

With the world focused on the scary possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula, not many people paid a whole lot of attention to a series of naval exercises this past July in the Malacca Strait, a 550-mile long passage between Sumatra and Malaysia through which pass over 50,000 ships a year. With President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanging threats and insults, why would the media bother with something innocuously labeled “Malabar 17”?

They should have.

Malabar 17 brought together the U.S., Japanese, and Indian navies to practice shutting down a waterway through which 80 percent of China’s energy supplies travel and to war game closing off the Indian Ocean to Chinese submarines. If Korea keeps you up at night, try imagining the outcome of choking off fuel for the world’s second largest economy. -more-

New: Play Review: 'This Wide Night,' Anton's Well Theater Co. at the Berkeley City Club

Ken Bullock
Wednesday December 06, 2017 - 10:36:00 AM

Midway through the show of 'This Wide Night,' a Bay Area premiere by Anton's Well Theater Co. of British playwright Chloë Moss' work, now running weekends at the Berkeley City Club, it occurred to me that it was fitting this spare two-hander was being staged during the holiday season ... -more-

When Affordable Housing Meets Free Market Fantasy

Zelda Bronstein
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 05:12:00 PM

Why is housing in booming U.S. cities increasingly unaffordable to everyone but the wealthiest? In early September The New York Times published a provocative op-ed that answered this question from a market-oriented perspective. Drawing on their widely cited 2015 paper, “Why Do Cities Matter? Local Growth and Aggregate Growth,” urban economists Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago and Enrico Moretti of the University of California, Berkeley contended that “[s]ince the 1970s, a property-rights revolution—what critics call Nimbyism, from ‘not in my backyard’—has significantly reduced the development of new housing stock, especially in cities where the economy is strongest,” thereby driving prices up to their current astronomical levels. Moreover, by impeding worker mobility and recruitment, “too-stringent housing regulations in high-wage, high-productivity cities” have resulted in “slower economic growth, fewer jobs,” “lower wages across the nation,” and ultimately “forgone gross domestic product” of $1.4 trillion. -more-

Little-known Yimby-developer bills will have big impact on local planning

Zelda Bronstein
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 09:30:00 PM

Of the fifteen bills in the “housing package” signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 29, the one that got the most attention in the media was State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35—and for good reason: SB 35 goes a long way toward “putting teeth” in California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocations, the number of housing units whose each city’s and county’s zoning must accommodate. Moreover, the bill’s provisions for “by-right” approval of certain multi-family, infill developments both circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act and eliminate negotiations with developers over community benefits.

But two other items in the package, SB 167 and AB 1515, that either got much less publicity (SB 167) or virtually none at all (AB 1515) will likely do much more damage to the democratic governance of land use in the state. Both amend California’s Housing Accountability Act, a once-dormant law now being exploited by Bay Area Yimbys. -more-


Public Comment

Updated: Re Sunday New York Times Article: Yes on NIMBY street

David Carr, West Haven, Connecticut
Monday December 04, 2017 - 10:00:00 AM

I found this [article] interesting since affordable housing is an issue in Connecticut and NYC as well, something I follow and support, yet no housing is truly affordable without sustainable employment:

1310 Haskell St. in Berkeley is all about doing well for the neighborhood and the larger community.

The builder is not creating affordable housing selling three new units for $1M each. If the property was sold for $650,000 in 2015 needing work, the Investor will be the only big winner here. Would this have been a different story if the next-door neighbor bought the property to renovate it to a comparable quality neighborhood value? Or a Neighborhood Development Corporation renovating for an owner occupant with a deed covenant restricting resale for profit? Or an owner occupant using a FHA 203K rehabilitation loan? -more-

Proposed Zoning Law Change Would Curtail Public Participation

Thomas Lord
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 03:53:00 PM

At the December 5 meeting, City Council will take up a matter continued from November 28: Item C titled 1 “Ministerial Approval of Zoning-Compliant Affordable Housing”. The item proposes that two public interests are at odds:

• early public participation in the land use entitlement process vs.

• the development of privately operated subsidized housing.

Item C proposes to sacrifice the former for the sake of the latter. This council item is admirable in its intent, which is to better facilitate the creation of housing offered at affordable prices. Unfortunately, the item is based on a misreading of the research it cites. It is also not supported by any analysis of Berkeley’s own conditions. My analysis suggests that the item is unlikely to advance its stated aim. Worse, as written, it is virtually certain to have negative consquences. I recommended that the item be amended as described below and then passed, but that it not be passed in its present form.

For the full analysis, click here. -more-

Twisted Thinking

Steve Martinot
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 09:25:00 PM

Though it proclaims itself against police militarization, Berkeley City Council has renewed three militarizing federal relationships: the Fusion Center (NCRIC), urban surveillence technology, and Project 1033. It apparently does not see how these projects work together, nor that they are pro-militarist. And in its conceit, it thinks it can control them each separately. That is a mistake.

Police militarization

In his familiar twisted fashion, Trump briefly proposed lifting a ban (instituted by Obama) on obtaining trophy elephant parts. (The ghoulishness of that sentence just makes me shudder.) The "trompeur" opined that this would be a "conservationist" measure toward elephants, an endangered species, because the act of recognizing and honoring the hunters would obviate bootlegging. Transparency in destructiveness? Hunters don’t just hunt for fun. They do it for profit. Conservationism does not mean acquiescing to profit hunger.

Here in Berkeley, City Council and the Mayor proclaim themselves opposed to further militarizing the police. Yet on Nov. 14, 2017, Berkeley City Council renewed its membership in Project 1033, a program begun in the 1980s of bestowing military equipment on police departments. The Berkeley police department has been amassing military weaponry and military grade surveillence equipment for years now – assault rifles, grenade launchers, stingray technology, etc. -more-

December Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Tuesday December 05, 2017 - 09:33:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: This Is Your Intellect on Antipsychotic Meds: Use It Or Lose It

Jack Bragen
Monday December 04, 2017 - 10:17:00 AM

Antipsychotic medication can impair concentration. When concentration is difficult, we might be more tempted to do mindless things and we might not try to do anything that requires concentration. However, this is the first step toward what I will call "brain atrophy."

A large dose of antipsychotic medication can actually make it painful to concentrate. Concentration and focus are capacities that should not be relinquished. Fortunately, there are ways that we can retain our valuable mental capacities.

Just because an authority has told you that your brain has a defect, it is not a good reason to give up on your mind. While life circumstances and a psychiatric illness may dictate to us that we need to be medicated, we should value ourselves enough to realize that we still have a good mind. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Senate Passes GOP Tax Bill

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 04:07:00 PM

On December 1, 2017, the U.S. Senate passed the GOP tax bill. Now that this irresponsible GOP tax bill -- with massive tax cuts for Trump and his wealthy friends and large corporations -- will now likely become law, ordinarily I would expect voters to punish those who voted for this shameful bill at the midterms and beyond. -more-

Arts & Events

Heldentenor Simon O’Neill’s Hertz Hall Recital

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday December 04, 2017 - 04:00:00 PM

On Sunday afternoon, December 3, New Zealand-born tenor Simon O’Neill gave a recital at Hertz Hall. He was accompanied by fellow Kiwi Terence Dennis on piano. Both O’Neill and Dennis are much decorated artists with considerable international experience. For this recital they were also joined by the Pati brothers, Pene and Amitai Pati, who also hail from New Zealand. -more-

New: Craneway Crafts Fair - 47th Annual Benefit For KPFA Radio

Jonathan Farrell
Tuesday December 05, 2017 - 10:05:00 PM
Artist Arbel Shemesh wearing her Fairy Crown.

As the holidays approach, there has been much in the news about retail sales and online shopping. Yet, it is those shoppers who look for unique and special gifts that make an impact. And, this is where the holiday craft fair has an advantage over retail or cyber shopping. One of best and long-standing of such fairs in the Bay Area is the Craneway Crafts Fair. Now in its 47th year to benefit KPFA Radio, on the weekend of Dec. 16 & 17, it will provide the most diverse and beautiful holiday shopping experience ever. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Week: Dec 3 - Dec 10

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday December 03, 2017 - 03:45:00 PM

Only two City Council meetings are left before the winter recess with important items on both agendas, December 5 (surveillance technology, community benefits) and December 19 (repeal pepper spray ordinance). City Boards and Commissions are winding down although this week is still busy. HAC meeting Thursday includes Brown Act training. -more-