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BART Fares Up Again

Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Monday January 01, 2018 - 03:31:00 PM

Fares are going up for BART riders in the new year, with everyone paying 2.7 percent more than in 2017, according to the transit agency.

The minimum fare will rise to $2 for adults, $1 for youth between 5 and 18 years old, and 75 cents for senior or disabled Clipper card users. 

The youth discount is getting extended starting today for people up to 18 years old after previously being only for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Children 4 and under will remain free on BART. 

To encourage the use of the cards and cut down on fare gate maintenance cuts related to paper ticket jams, 50 cents are being added in the new year for each ride using BART's blue paper tickets. 

BART staff will be handing out free Clipper cards at three East Bay stations in the upcoming days -- at the West Oakland station from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, at the Dublin/Pleasanton station from 4-7 p.m. on Jan. 8, and at the Bay Fair station from 4-7 p.m. on Jan. 9. 

People can go to clippercard.com to get a card, find in-person locations or find out how to get a discounted card for youth, seniors or disabled riders, according to BART.

Berkeley Marijuana Dealers See New Year's Day Rush

Janis Mara (BCN)
Monday January 01, 2018 - 03:25:00 PM

Customers crowded into marijuana dispensaries that opened early in the East Bay today, the first day recreational marijuana became legal in California.

Some dispensaries in Berkeley and Oakland opened as early as 6 a.m. after being licensed in California and their respective cities for recreational sales following the passage of Proposition 64 in November 2016.

Underscoring the new legal status of the herb, a personage no less impressive than the mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue.

"It's an exciting moment. We worked really hard in the fall to be sure BPG was ready to open," said Arreguin, who cut a green ribbon to officially open the dispensary to recreational sales. 

People were waiting outside the door before BPG opened at 6 a.m., and the same was true art Purple Heart Patient Center on Fourth Street. 

"We opened at 6 a.m. We had people waiting in line," said Kell McKenzie, a team leader at Purple Heart. 

Reached by telephone around 10 a.m., McKenzie said the store was crowded and the mood upbeat. 

"It's great seeing the new customers and they seem really excited about looking at the products," McKenzie said. 

Oakland's Harborside dispensary opened at 6 a.m. The Harborside in San Jose opened at 9 a.m. Emails and phone calls to the dispensary and its chief executive were not returned. 

While Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose signed off on various dispensaries to begin recreational sales starting Monday, other cities including San Francisco did not approve legislation for it in time for the start of the new year. 

In San Francisco's case, legislation was not signed until early December following lengthy debates over regulatory issues for the dispensaries. 

Ultimately, the board opted for a 600-foot buffer zone around city schools and did not institute bans or caps for the number of dispensaries in each supervisorial district. 

The city's existing 45 medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services will be able to begin recreational sales as early as Saturday.



Happy New Year, just like the Old Years

Becky O'Malley
Monday January 01, 2018 - 01:47:00 PM

Looking through a box of old sewing patterns inherited from her grandmother, my daughter found a clipping of a column written by satirical columnist Art Buchwald, probably in early 1974. It’s a parody, a purported message from Richard Nixon’s winter White House in, yes, Florida.

Here’s Buchwald's introduction: “It is wrong to think that President Nixon’s political future rests on what evidence is produced by the Watergate hearings or whether the Supreme Court decides he has to give up the White House tapes.” Sound familiar?

Art’s gimmick was that it was a very cold winter, and Nixon was blaming the problem on Congress. His parody depicts the president claiming the usual bugaboos beloved of traditional Republicans: taxes (“I still believe a vast majority of Americans feel as I do, that it’s better to shiver than pay higher taxes’), the media (“The responsibility lies not only with Congress but with a press and TV media that for the past four months has been devoting endless space and time to weather reports that show the United States is a cold nation. … there are great parts of the United States that aren’t cold. Florida isn’t cold. Texas isn’t cold…All we ever see or read about is New England and Minnesota…), big government encouraging the lazy poor (“we’re not going to give a blank check to those able-bodied people who are capable of finding ways of keeping warm without government assistance…).

My daughter was amazed when she read it. The column was written at least 45 years ago, and yet today’s Republicans are still singing the same stale old tunes, except that now what was parody is presented with a straight face by the current president.

As we say all too often: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Except that things aren’t the same thing anymore in this surreal age. Congress is now populated by fools who actually believe such foolish dogmas, aided and abetted by an executive branch that is both ignorant (in a way that Nixon never was) and corrupt (as he certainly was). 

Thinking about the age of Nixon on New Year’s Eve as I write this reminds me of what I think was my most optimistic New Year’s Eve, in 1968 as I looked forward to 1969. Why optimistic? Well, because nothing could be any worse than ’68. 

Just a few low points in a generally awful year: Martin Luther King was assassinated. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The Democratic Convention blew up with many arrested. Richard Nixon was elected President. How could it get worse? 

Well, as we know, it did get worse, though eventually it got better. Nixon stopped the Vietnam War, eventually, after allowing many more unneeded deaths for political reasons. Then he was caught behaving badly and had to quit. Good. 

In between, some of us thought in 2000 that 2001 was going to be pretty shocking, believing as we did that G. W. Bush had stolen the election with the connivance of the Supremes, as he had. We went to DC (with the late beloved firebrand Patti Dacey) and demonstrated in awful sleet at the Court on Inauguration Day—which did approximately no good. We thought W was pretty bad, but it turned out presidents could be a lot worse. 

Which brings us to New Year 2017, a year in which things turned out to be just as bad as we expected and perhaps even worse. It’s sobering, to say the least, to discover that the 2016 election was certainly stolen, by the Russians in fact, and that the new administration is thoroughly staffed with scoundrels.  

The current situation makes Nixon, Bush I and Bush II all look like statesmen, which is ridiculous. (Although I can’t help finding it mordantly amusing…) 

Perhaps we can instead concentrate on local politics as a refreshing alternative. 

The latest crop of Berkeley councilmembers are eminently more plausible than their predecessors, though some are disappointingly cautious when more forceful action is needed. Mayor Arreguin does deserve praise for not panicking when the bullies came to town, avoiding bloodshed, though at a sobering financial cost. Councilmember Kate Harrison in particular has distinguished herself by her intelligent pursuit of important governance reforms—she’s serving out a short term now, but will need to be re-elected in November of this year. Other councilmembers, even holdovers from the previous administration, seem to be making a serious effort to respond to vox populi, though they don’t all hear the people saying quite the same thing. 

And, of course, there’s an election in the fall, isn’t there? If you’re looking for a productive way to spend your time, there’s nothing more important right now than working to take control of the House away from the lunatics formerly known as Republicans, with the additional goal in Berkeley of making sure that Kate Harrison is re-elected. Berkeley’s District 8 City Council seat can also be contested in November, and there’s an active search right now for a progressive challenger to the incumbent. 

I’ve learned the hard way that there’s not much point in over-anticipating—and dreading—what a new year might bring. It’s true that things could get worse, but they could also get better, and chances are the answer is not either/or but both/and. What seems to me to be most important right now is to keep our eyes on two of the biggest prizes: action both local and international to slow or halt climate change and protection of human rights at home and abroad.  

Those in power are likely to remain in power for another year, so it’s our job to continually press them to do the right thing in as many situations as possible. We have our work cut out for us, don’t we? 


Public Comment

Guam's Military Perspective: Let The Public Be Damned

Harry Brill
Monday January 01, 2018 - 02:59:00 PM

Guam, which is a possession of the United States, has been making the news in response to military threats by North Korea. North Korea's warning was triggered by military threats from President Trump. It is probably unlikely that either nation will attack the other. On the other hand, Trump does not need the approval of Congress to launch an assault even with the deployment of nuclear weapons. Although North Korea and Guam are about 2100 miles apart, their missiles can reach each other in only 14 minutes. Neither side would have much time to prepare for a catastrophe. In any case, the battle rhetoric has certainly increased world tensions. 

Guam is considered by the US Department of Defense as among the most important of the approximately 800 US bases. It is situated in the Pacific within easy reach of opponents, including China and North Korea. The base is also close to its allies, including Japan and South Korea.  

Guam has a history that the Defense Department is proud of. To support the Vietnam War, the Air Force sent 155 bombers to Guam to hit targets in Southeast Asia. Guam has also served as a refueling spots for military heading to Southeast Asia. During the US war with North Korea (1950-1953) many of its bombers and soldiers were deployed from Guam.  

Significantly, Guam is much more than a military base. It is also a growing colony of over 170,000 people. As a result of winning the a war against Spain (1898), the US obtained both Guam and Puerto Rico. Like imperialist nations generally, the US never offered the people of Guam any options such as gaining independence. And democracy in this American occupied Island is almost completely absent. In prior decades public officials openly referred to Guam as a colony. But since this is no longer respectable, Guam like other US colonies is now referred to as a territory. 

Those who are born in Guam or in several other US colonies are considered citizens. But it is in name only. They cannot vote for president, and although they are allowed one representative in the House of Representatives, they are not allowed to vote on the floor of the House. On domestic issues, they cannot override any decisions made by the military even when it clearly impacts, as it often does, their quality of life. One general explained to reporters "We can do what we want here". 

About doing" what we want", take for example the highly undemocratic decision of the navy to detonate explosives beneath the water's surface. The media was filled with critical comments about the project. It can pollute drinking water which already is contaminated. Guam citizens insisted that they be consulted but they were unsuccessful. The Coast Guard acknowledged the "inherent danger" and "potential hazards" associated with underwater detonation. But the Guam residents were told that it could not accommodate public comments due to time constraints. What nonsense! There was no urgency to proceed as quickly as possible. Also, to the chagrin of Guam's residents, the governor and other local leaders were blamed for their silence despite their anti-colonial rhetoric. 

Clearly, Guam's military establishment does not empathize with the problems of Guam's citizens. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency Guam's sewage plants, whose purpose is to remove contaminants from the water, is in noncompliance with the Clean Water Act. Also, the air is foul due to Guam's military activities. And especially for residents living near the military airport, the noise level from planes taking off is virtually intolerable. About Guam's future, the population will be confronting another problem. the military is planning to relocate a minimum of 4,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam. On this small Island, which is only 240 square miles, the public is concerned with the already crowded roads and the additional pollution more vehicles will spew. But the protests by many "citizens" have been as usual in vain. 

The abysmal standard of living is also among Guam's serious problems. Although Congress has been financially generous to Guam's military base hardly enough trickles down to the population. About thirty percent of Guam's residents receive food stamps compared to around 13 percent in the US generally. The unemployment rate is 8.2 percent which is twice as high as the national rate. And Guam's official poverty rate is 23 percent compared to about 14 percent nationally. These are the official figures. The reality is really worse. 

Guam's military occupies about a third of the land. But politically speaking, the military impacts on the human rights of the entire civilian population. Its decisions are made undemocratically. It continually pollutes the environment. And it does essentially nothing to address the population's poverty problem. Clearly, the major principle that guides the conduct of the Guam military is "Let The Public Be Damned".

Judicial Appointments

Jagjit Singh
Monday January 01, 2018 - 04:18:00 PM

In contrast with Trump’s much hyped appointment of supreme court justice, Neil Gorsuch, appellate appointments have received scant media attention. What is even more disturbing are appointments to the lower courts which have the most impact on American life.

For example, last year the 13 circuit courts, rendered 60,000 opinions compared to the Supreme Court’s 62. Trial courts write several hundred thousand opinions per year.  

Trump’s appointments have received withering criticism from the American Bar Association (ABA). Many of his appointees have drawn scrutiny, including Leonard Grasz, whom the Senate confirmed earlier this month to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals despite a “not qualified” rating from the ABA. Meanwhile, Trump’s nominee to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. District Court in Washington withdrew from consideration, after a widely circulated video showed he was unable to answer basic questions about the law and had never tried a case in court. 

A staggering 150 backlog of vacancies exist in federal courts or about 10 percent of the federal judiciary, largely due to Republican obstruction of confirmations during the Obama administration.  

Another of Trump’s “brilliant nominations” was Texas lawyer Jeff Mateer, who has called transgender children evidence of “Satan’s plan,” and blogger Brett Talley, who was rated “unanimously unqualified” for a judicial post by the ABA. The lower courts have become filleded with very conservative judges, all of whom who have life tenure,of approximately 30 to 40 years, which will have a huge impact on American life for decades.

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Sunday December 31, 2017 - 06:14:00 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! 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Extraterrestrials

Jack Bragen
Monday January 01, 2018 - 03:01:00 PM

Recently, mainstream sources have begun to legitimize the belief that we are being visited. I have seen two stories about this on CNN.com, one of which sources the New York Times, Senator Harry Reid, and a high-ranking military official.

We are not close to having a flying saucer land in Times Square. Even if we were to believe that some UFO's are extraterrestrial, and that they are studying us, no human is ready to have them over for coffee or tea.

The human nervous system is probably not equipped to deal with intelligences that are millions of years more advanced than we are. They would have to be ahead of us by that much, if they are able to travel from other star systems to Earth.

But, you might ask, what does this have to do with mental illness? A simple answer in three parts: much of the delusional content I've had relates to extraterrestrials. A second part of this; people who believe in ET's have been branded 'crazy' for decades. Thirdly, people other than me who've been psychotic could have also had delusions about ET's.  

Does the apparent normalization of ET's mean that I wasn't psychotic? No. It still holds true that the aliens with whom I was in contact were products of a malfunctioning brain.  

The lines between illusion and reality aren't always well-defined. Some people who have delusions don't necessarily believe in the impossible. However, many delusions are highly improbable. Some delusions are in the form of extreme exaggerations. 

More than likely, the actual extraterrestrials, if they are visiting Earth, do not have time or inclination to have dealings with a down and out, mentally ill man in his thirties, something I was in 1996 the most recent time I was fully psychotic. At times, I had a delusion that I was on Mars. 

The rule of thumb to discern delusions is not always that they are beliefs in impossibilities. It often has more to do with the manner in which a belief manifests in the mind. If the belief floods in and takes over, if it crowds out reason, and if you "need" to have the belief, these are indications of a thought generated by a psychotic malfunction. 

Will the extraterrestrials rescue the human species from our possible impending self-destruct? With current world leaders' attitudes, with the increasing threat of nuclear annihilation, with us ruining the atmosphere by excessive carbon emissions, there is some doubt that life on our planet will continue into the next century.  

However, will the aliens rescue us from our impending self-inflicted demise?  

This is my best guess, (from the perspective not of an expert, but that of a presently reasonable, well-informed person): If humans cannot learn to coexist, neighboring civilizations may see us as a possible threat to nearby star systems. 

Don't count on being rescued by extraterrestrials. If we are foolish enough to wipe ourselves out, I think extraterrestrials will let us do so. Concerning beliefs about contact with extraterrestrial aliens, you should consider them delusions. 

This is just a reminder that any time, you can browse my self-published books available on LULU. The works are easy to read, clearly written, and should be helpful to almost any reader


ECLECTIC RANT: 2018 and Trump is still president

Ralph E. Stone
Monday January 01, 2018 - 03:19:00 PM

It is 2018 and I remain as angry, frustrated and embarrassed as anyone that Donald J. Trump continues to be the president of the United States and represents this country to the world. As Tom Engelhardt put it, "Beyond himself, his businesses, and possibly (just possibly) his family, Trump clearly couldn’t give less of a damn about us or, for that matter, what happens to anyone after he departs this planet."  

Yes, there is talk of impeachment and the use of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump because he is mentally disabled. Ain't going to happen. I am now convinced that Trump will serve out his presidency. 

Sure there are calls to impeach him under Article II, section 4 the U.S. Constitution. Even if the Robert Mueller investigation provides overwhelming evidence that Trump obstructed the investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election or worse, colluded with the Russians in the election, no Republican-controlled House is likely to vote out articles of impeachment against Trump and, even if it did, it would be extremely unlikely that 2/3 of the Senate would vote to convict.  

Ordinarily, impeachment would be so embarrassing that the person would resign. But Trump doesn't embarrass easily and he would probably chalk it up as a witch hunt, and like Bill Clinton before him, finish his term. 

Of course, if the Democrats take control of the House in the midterm elections, impeachment is a likely possibility. But again it is unlikely that 2/3 of the Senators would vote to convict, no matter which party controls the Senate after the midterms. But at least a Democrat-controlled House and/or Senate would provide some check on Trump's power to do further damage. 

After the midterms, our focus should be on defeating Trump in the presidential election. That means the Democrats will have to come up with a winnable candidate -- Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Cuomo, Michelle Obama, et al. 

I don't read or listen to anything about Hillary Clinton. She's yesterday's news. Time to move on. 

Our focus now should be on electing Democrats in the midterm elections. The midterms will offer the first nationwide referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency. The whole U.S. House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and most governorships will be at stake, along with hundreds of state legislative seats and local offices around the country. Even with Trump's low poll numbers -- about 40 approve -- the midterms are no slam dunk for the Democrats. The Senate map does not favor the Democrats and the House map is also slanted in Republicans’ favor, due in part to gerrymandering and in part to geography — as are many state legislative districts. 

Onward toward the midterms. Hopefully, the Democrats will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Arts & Events

Young Beethoven in Concert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday January 01, 2018 - 01:48:00 PM

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, led by Music Director Ben Simon, offered three Bay Area concerts, December 29-31, focusing on Beethoven’s early works. I caught the Saturday, December 30 concert at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre. Opening the program was a true chamber work, Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat Major, Opus 20, a work from 1799-1800. In this piece, Beethoven’s choice of instrumentation was innovative. An ensemble of clarinet, bassoon, French horn, violin, viola, cello, and double bass was anything but traditional. Further, the prominence given to the clarinet as an equal to the violin was new. This joyful work was beautifully dispatched by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.  

Next on the program was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Opus 15. This work, though given the number 1, was actually the third piano concerto composed by Beethoven. The composer himself gave this concerto the number one, acknowledging that his true first and second concertos were not as good and dramatically new as this one, which he decided to publish as Number One. Soloist in these performances was debut artist Rin Homma, a twelve year-old pianist who has won numerous awards, including two successive prizes in the California Concerto Competition in 2016 and 2017. In her rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Rin Honna was excellent. Undaunted by the difficult cadenza in the first movement, Rin Homma navigated its difficult passages with aplomb. If I had any reservations about her playing, they occurred in the slow Largo where a clarinet soars above the piano. This movement seemed more plodding than flowing. The third movement, a Menuetto, and the final Adagio, closed out this youthful work by Beethoven, excellently interpreted by Rin Homma. 

After intermission, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra returned to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Opus 21. Conductor Ben Simon announced that he considered both Symphonies 1 and 2 more interesting to him than Symphony No. 3, the Eroica, which is usually cited as Beethoven’s break-through work. Under the lead of Ben Simon, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra proceeded to offer a respectable candidate for the breakthrough status claimed for it by their Music Director. Whether or not I bought Ben Simon’s claim, I enjoyed his rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, a work I dearly love. All told, this was a welcome way to close out the year of 2017 and to welcome in 2018.

The Berkeley Activist's Weekly Calendar

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Monday January 01, 2018 - 03:18:00 PM

Happy New Year, hope you have been enjoying being on holiday too. The first week in January is off to a slow start at least here in Berkeley. There are only a few meetings while the City catches up from reduced scheduling and time off. City Council is on winter break until January 23, 2018. 

Comment Deadlines 

Jan 16: Stop EPA from withdrawing from Clean Power Plan 


Jan 11: Community Choice Energy under attack, write to PUC


Monday, January 1, 2018 

Happy New Year 

Tax the Rich rally – resumes Monday, Jan 8, winter hours 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater, 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 

No city meetings, Council on winter break until January 23, 2018 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 

Board of Library Trustees, Wed, Jan 3, 6:30 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda action: adopt resolution to identify consulting services Communications training, Organizational Review, Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) 


Commission on Disability, Wed, Jan 3, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Universal Design, automatic door openers, EVV (electronic visit verification) system 


Planning Commission, Wed, Jan 3, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, listed as meeting on Planning Commission calendar, no agenda packet posted and Planning Commission webpage does not list a meeting, call before going 981-7520 


Thursday, January 4, 2018 

Landmarks Preservation Commission, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, agenda: 

2301 Bancroft Way – View from Campanile Way – open hearing 

Certified Local Government Grant (CLG) Application – discussion 

2526-30 Shattuck – discussion appeal of designation of University Laundry Building 


Public Works Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard 


Friday, January 5, 2018 


No announced meetings or demonstrations posted, 


Saturday, January 6, 2018 

McGee-Spaulding Neighbors in Action, Saturday, Jan 6, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, petitioning to end participation in Urban Shield 


Sunday, January 7, 2018 

No announced meetings or demonstrations posted,