Book Review: Poet Nathaniel Tarn's New Collection 'Gondwana'

Ken Bullock
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 04:09:00 PM

" ... A silence there hard to believe, a hazeless,/dustless air when in the clear:a spot/on the farther side of knowledge/from which all other points are North./Where is your "epilepsy" West,/your "wisdom" East when everything/flies you away from known dimensions/into the stillness? This is no crossing/from a river's bank to its other side, but/lack of movement absolute,/total attention/to a deliberate deliverance./The orb has turned all diamond."

Poet Nathaniel Tarn's latest collection, 'Gondwana and Other Poems' (New Directions, 2017), his 33rd book of poetry, opens with the 19 sections of the title poem, discrete perceptions and thoughts, sometimes contemplating stillness, sometimes caught up with the motion of the ship taking him to Antarctica in his 80th year. -more-

Public Comment

Re “Twisted Thinking” by Steve Martinot (Op-Ed, Dec. 3)

Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 11:47:00 AM

As the author of the Berkeley City Council resolution requiring that the Council approve and be informed of past items acquired by our Police Department through the Department of Defense 1033 Program, I want to respond to concerns in Mr. Martinot’s Op-Ed. I also want to further explain my intent.

I am deeply concerned about the blurring of the lines between the military and our police. Our country was founded on the principles of the military and police being subordinate to civilian control and clear boundaries between the civilian sphere and the military. The 1033 Program as now conceived under President Trump has the potential to subvert these principles by: (1) facilitating transfers of excess defense material that is often wholly inappropriate for police-use, and (2) doing so without local civilian oversight.

I share the goal of a complete prohibition of participation in the program. Mr. Martinot’s arguments that future Councils may be less skeptical about this program and that interacting at all with the federal security state is the slippery slope are well taken. However, given the range of views on the Council and lack of awareness about this program generally, I was not confident that a prohibition would be politically and logistically feasible in the short-term. My item remedied the immediate harms posed by a lack of oversight and transparency and started a vitally important conversation within the Council, the Police Review Commission (PRC), and the public. The item initiated a process at the PRC that will require the Council to revisit the issue.

Mr. Martinot questioned whether the City Council “can establish the right to oversee, and to confirm before the fact … equipment the Berkeley PD will request from Project 1033.” The California Office of Emergency Services, which administers the 1033 program in California, confirmed that local governments can limit use of the program. Further, local oversight of this program is the official recommendation of the American Civil Liberties Union. We are the first city in the country to take any action on this front; our legislation is now being used as a national model.

In his Op-Ed, Mr. Martinot incorrectly suggested that the Council “renewed its membership in Project 1033” at the November 14 meeting. The BPD likely enrolled in the program sometime after it was created in 1997, without any required Council action. Increasing transparency, implementing immediate oversight, and seeking more information pending further consideration of the program that has existed in near secrecy is not tantamount to a “renewal.”

Finally, Mr. Martinot suggests that “[t]he Berkeley police department has been amassing military weaponry and military grade surveillence [sic] equipment for years now – assault rifles, grenade launchers, stingray technology, etc.” To date, I have found no indication of these materials coming from the 1033 program but am concerned that the record keeping on this point is wholly inadequate. The City Manager reported on November 28, 2017 that the BPD recalls acquiring ballistic helmets through the 1033 program but no longer has the helmets or any other material from the 1033 program in their inventory. We need more than recollection; we need documentation.

This issue is just one of many involving protection of privacy, civil liberties, civil rights and transparency facing the Council in the very near future. After voting to prohibit BPD’s participation in the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) and Urban Shield, I have continued to push for withdrawal from both NCRIC and Urban Shield. Early next year, we will also be considering the proposed Surveillance Technology Use and Community Safety ordinance, which will help implement critical oversight over surveillance technology and contribute to protecting our privacy.

We need to remain vigilant. -more-


Should Berkeley Exclude Citizens from Land Use Decisions?

Becky O'Malley
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 11:23:00 AM

Do the residents of Berkeley’s District 8 know that their Councilmember Lori Droste is positioning herself as the Joan of Arc of unrestrained development density?

Last Tuesday Droste spearheaded the ill-conceived crusade by some Berkeley City Council members to prevent current residents from commenting on developers’ plans to build semi-affordable housing projects. The goal is to allow planning department staff to approve projects which claim a high percentage (~50%) of affordable units without the approval of those annoying citizens’ land use regulatory commissions (not the Zoning Adjustment Board, nor its Design Review Committee, nor the Landmark Preservation Commission). Eager sponsors (Droste, Bartlett, Arreguin, Worthington) characterized this truncated process as “ministerial” rather than “discretionary” approval. They proudly claimed that there would be no opportunity for citizens to appeal such decisions if their proposal should become Berkeley zoning law. Swell.

District 6 Councilmember Sophie Hahn (who is among other achievements a graduate of Stanford Law School though she no longer practices law) tried patiently and even eloquently to explain the many, many legal problems with a plan like this, but she got exactly nowhere with the gung-ho proponents.

Instead, they spoke in glowing terms of their desire to create a bulletproof set of simple-minded standards which could be easily enforced by staff without messy citizen input which would magically produce affordable housing very very soon. This, remember, is the same Berkeley Planning Department staff which permitted the approval and construction of the Library Gardens apartments with resulting fatalities. -more-


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

Bob Burnett
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 04:05:00 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.

A little over a year ago, Donald Trump's presidential campaign was momentarily derailed by the release of a salacious recording where Trump bragged about assaulting women: "When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything... grab them by the pussy." Amazingly, Trump survived this. His most ardent supporters came to regard the recording as "fake news." Mainstream Republicans adopted the attitude, "Whatever Trump may have done in the past, he's preferable to Hillary Clinton."

During 2017, Donald Trump put his imprint on the Republican Party and, in the process, "normalized" sexual assault, for the Party faithful. We see this in GOP support for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Multiple women have come forward with tales of Moore's sexual misbehavior -- one of the women was 14 when Moore assaulted her. The mainstream Republican response is, "Whatever Moore may have done in the past, he's preferable to the Democratic candidate."

Republicans have adopted the dubious ethical maxim: "the end justifies the means." And they have gone farther; they've adopted the tactics used to denigrate sexual assault victims. We can see this in the Republican tax plan that passed the Senate in the early hours of Saturday, December 2nd. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Segregation Versus Reintegration

Jack Bragen
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 04:08:00 PM

There can be so much more to life than riding in a van to a "day treatment" program, spending the day there taking about your problems and hearing others talk about theirs, riding back to a "board and care," and looking forward to another night of watching television, and eating bad food, bought at Costco, for dinner. -more-

Arts & Events

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

Ken Bullock
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 04:03:00 PM

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-

Once Again, The Future Is Now: The 2017 Adler Fellows Concert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 03:43:00 PM

On Friday evening, December 8, at the War Memorial Opera House, the 2017 crop of Adler Fellows gave a concert that was remarkable for the high standard of singing by all participants. There was hardly a singer in the entire program who did not demonstrate outstanding talent, and even those who fell slightly short of the highest category always showed sufficient promise to expect that in a year or two they too will be outstanding. -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, December 10-17

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday December 09, 2017 - 03:40:00 PM

December 19 is the last City Council meeting before the winter recess. The agenda is posted and available for comment. Of note: Item 40a – Police Review Commission (PRC) calls for the repeal of the use of pepper spray, 40b. BPD and City Manager counter the PRC to retain use of pepper spray.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

No city meetings or announced demonstrations,

Monday, December 11, 2017

City Council Special Meeting, Mon, Dec. 11, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, enter at 2031 Bancroft Way, Main Branch Library Community Room 3rd floor, agenda: Brown Act, Ethics, Principles of Good Governance

Youth Climate Lawsuit –Fundamental & Constitutional Right to a Livable Climate, Mon, Dec. 11, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 95 - 7th Street, San Francisco, Appeal is to lift temporary stay and let lawsuit on a livable climate proceed.


Tax the Rich rally – Mon, Dec 11, winter hours 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater,

Youth Commission, Mon, Dec 11, 6:30 pm, 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center, agenda: homeless youth, DACA


Civic Arts Policy Subcommittee, Mon, Dec 11, 6:30 pm, 2020 Shattuck Ave, Comal, agenda: draft cultural plan


Tuesday, December 12, 2017 Hannukah

4x4 Committee (4 City Council members 4 Rent Board Members), Tue, Dec 12, 9:00 am, 2001 Center St, 2nd Floor, Rent Board Law Library, agenda discussion rent ordinance and ADU, limit rent increases, demolition ordinance mitigation fee


Board of Library Trustees - Bylaws Subcommittee, Tue, Dec 12, 12:00 pm, 1125 University Ave, West Branch Library https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/about/board-library-trustees

Homeless Commission – Encampment Subcommittee, Tue, Dec 12, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, agenda: process for or establishing policy for sanctioning encampments


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Police Review Commission, Wed, Dec 13, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, agenda: body worn cameras BPD presentation, use of force


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Habitable and Sustainable Housing Committee, Thur, Dec 14, 5:45pm, 2001 Center St, 2nd Floor, Rent Board Law Library, agenda: external disaster recovery plan, green building standards, EV charging stations, elevator ordinance http://www.cityofberkeley.info/rent/

Community Environmental Advisory Commission, Thur, Dec 14, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library,


Mental Health Commission, Thur, Dec 14, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, agenda: Mental Health Crisis response


Zoning Adjustments Board, Thur, Dec 14, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers

1805 Franklin – appeal of administrative use permit to construct addition to 1-story residential adding 148 sq ft to 1st floor, 921 sq ft 2nd floor,

2100 San Pablo – former U-Haul site, construct mixed use 96 unit residential care facility

2928 Ellsworth – renovate 4 bedroom dwelling to 8 bedrooms and construct 130 sq ft addition and 125 sq ft detached accessory building w/full bath,

1050 Parker – construct 61,000 sq ft commercial building for medical offices and R&D, 119 parking spaces,


Friday, December 15, 2017

Councilmember Cheryl Davila office hours, Fri, Dec 15, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, 2265 Fifth Street, Tomate Café,

Sierra Club Members leadership/chapter elections, voting deadline Fri, Dec 15, 2:00 pm, https://www.sierraclub.org/san-francisco-bay/2017chapterelections

Saturday, December 16, 2017

East Bay DSA is canvassing Sat, Dec 16, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm South, West and North Berkeley to support Single Payer Health Care

Sunday, December 17, 2017

No city meetings or announced demonstrations -more-

Back Stories



Should Berkeley Exclude Citizens from Land Use Decisions? 12-09-2017

Public Comment

Re “Twisted Thinking” by Steve Martinot (Op-Ed, Dec. 3) Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison 12-09-2017

Updated: Re Sunday New York Times Article: Yes on NIMBY street David Carr, West Haven, Connecticut 12-04-2017

Proposed Zoning Law Change Would Curtail Public Participation Thomas Lord 12-03-2017

Twisted Thinking Steve Martinot 12-03-2017

December Pepper Spray Times By Grace Underpressure 12-05-2017


Book Review: Poet Nathaniel Tarn's New Collection 'Gondwana' Ken Bullock 12-09-2017

New: THE PUBLIC EYE: The Rape of the United States of America Bob Burnett 12-08-2017

ECLECTIC RANT: Comment on Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital Ralph E. Stone 12-07-2017

Flash: Man Shot by Backpack Thief on Vine Street in Berkeley 12-06-2017

New: Going To The Atrocious New Strip Mall In Concord Jack Bragen 12-06-2017

New: Is The Employment Disability Law Working? Harry Brill 12-06-2017

New: An Interview with Lianna Haroutounian James Roy MacBean 12-06-2017

New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Rolling Snake Eyes in the Indo-Pacific Conn Hallinan. 12-03-2017

New: Play Review: 'This Wide Night,' Anton's Well Theater Co. at the Berkeley City Club Ken Bullock 12-06-2017

When Affordable Housing Meets Free Market Fantasy Zelda Bronstein 12-03-2017

Little-known Yimby-developer bills will have big impact on local planning Zelda Bronstein 12-03-2017


THE PUBLIC EYE: The Rape of the United States of America Bob Burnett 12-09-2017

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Segregation Versus Reintegration Jack Bragen 12-09-2017

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: This Is Your Intellect on Antipsychotic Meds: Use It Or Lose It Jack Bragen 12-04-2017

ECLECTIC RANT: Senate Passes GOP Tax Bill Ralph E. Stone 12-03-2017

Arts & Events

Play Review: 'This Wide Night,' Anton's Well Theater Co. at the Berkeley City Club Ken Bullock 12-09-2017

Once Again, The Future Is Now: The 2017 Adler Fellows Concert Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 12-09-2017

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, December 10-17 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 12-09-2017

Heldentenor Simon O’Neill’s Hertz Hall Recital Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 12-04-2017

New: Craneway Crafts Fair - 47th Annual Benefit For KPFA Radio Jonathan Farrell 12-05-2017

The Berkeley Activist's Week: Dec 3 - Dec 10 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 12-03-2017