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Tens of Thousands Expected for Women's Marches

Janis Mara (BCN)
Friday January 19, 2018 - 03:11:00 PM

Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out Saturday in cities across the Bay Area for a series of Women's Marches as part of a grassroots political movement to get more women into political office. 

The Women's Marches began in January 2017 in the wake of the election of President Donald Trump, drawing huge crowds at events across the globe. The largest gathering this year will likely be in San Francisco, where an estimated 100,000 people marched last year. 

While electing female political leaders is a main focus of the events, female empowerment in general is the overriding theme. Many of the events will feature a so-called Call to Action Alley, in which demonstrators can speak with representatives of nonprofit community organizations. s San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer are among the speakers on the program at the San Francisco event, which is expected to draw about 80,000 people. 

Demonstrators will gather at 11:30 a.m. at Civic Center Plaza for the rally, followed by a march down Market Street to the Embarcadero at 2 p.m. 

In Oakland, where an estimated 100,000 people marched last year, demonstrators will gather at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater on Lake Merritt Boulevard at 10 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., the group will march to Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland. 

Last year, about 25,000 people showed up for the Women's March in San Jose, according to organizers. This year's march is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at San Jose City Hall. 

The group will march about one mile down Santa Clara Street to Arena Green East near the SAP Center for a rally with speakers, music and food. Additional Women's March events planned in the Bay Area include Women's March Contra Costa, a 10:30 a.m. rally at Walnut Creek's Civic Park, 1375 Civic Drive. 

The Santa Cruz Women's March drew 18,000 participants last year, according to organizers. This year, the event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Pacific Avenue and Water Street, followed by a march to Louden Nelson Community Center at 301 Center Street.

New: Amendments for Berkeley's Community Benefits Definition

Thomas Lord
Monday January 15, 2018 - 09:01:00 PM

Please amend and pass item 35, titled "Strengthening Provisions of Significant Community Benefits in the Downtown". I have offered two amendments below.

As you know, the proposed resolution provides for a more robust and deterministic implementation of the process for negotiating what community benefits will be provided in exchange for the privilege of building one of the few tall structures envisioned downtown.

The vagueness of the earlier resolution on this topic has created a climate of mistrust and contention among many residents who are interested in downtown land use. It has created substantial uncertainty for potential developers. Councilmember Harrison and Mayor Arreguín have laid the foundation for a less chaotic project review process that will, at the same time, do a better job of maximizing public benefits within the constraints of enriching investors.

I ask for these two amendments: 

1. In the section titled "Base Benefits", strike item b. 

This subsection defines, as a possible community benefit, "that no less than 20% of the project’s construction workers be Berkeley or Green Corridor/Alameda County residents, with priority in that order."  

Organized labor is an essential way for workers to resist a relentless drive to increase profits by lowering wages and worsening working conditions. It is excellent that the resolution does what it can to encourage Project Labor Agreements.  

However, labor *protectionism*--the prioritizing of the right to work based on arbitrary criteria such as place of residence--has no principled foundation. Indeed, labor protectionism in the US has an essentially perfect historic record of supporting white supremacy. By placing Berkeley workers ahead of all others, this resolution would perpetuate that ugly legacy. No workers' movement or organization is truly worthy of the name unless it finds solidarity with all workers, everywhere, without regard to political boundaries and borders. No deservedly self-respecting union could endorse the divide-and-conquer nature of subsection b of "Base Benefits".  

2. In Section C ("Significant Community Benefit Options"), subsection 4, replace the phrase "units on site for tenants with qualifying incomes" with "units on site for tenants with qualifying incomes or for use by the City of Berkeley or its designated agent acting as master tenant for the equivalent rent, at the City's discretion."  

In application, this would allow the City of Berkeley or its agent to assume a master tenancy of an inclusionary unit at the discounted rent. The City would have the right to sublease the unit below, at, or above that permissible rent.  

The current system of income-qualified units where both the income qualifications and allowable rents are tied to area median income is a disaster. It leaves tenants of such units highly vulnerable to a growing wage gap and rising median income. It does nothing meaningful to promote community stability. As Berkeley has discovered, policing the program is burdensome and expensive, at best. An option for master tenancy would at least slightly mitigate this disaster, affording the City some greater flexibility in how these units are used for community benefit.  

The amendments proposed would not change these critical provisions: 

  • the requirement of a public hearing on benefits at ZAB,
  • the timely issuance of benefits payments,
  • the early declaration of what benefits the developer intends,
  • the disclosure of financial information necessary to evaluate the appropriateness of proposed benefits,
  • incentive for the developer to recognize organized labor

"Sign My Name to Freedom"
A New Book by Betty Reid Soskin

Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:28:00 PM

In Betty Reid Soskin’s 96 years of living, she has been a witness to a grand sweep of American history. When she was born in 1921, the lynching of African Americans was a national epidemic, blackface minstrel shows that both mocked and denigrated black music were the most popular American form of entertainment, white women had only just won the right to vote in American elections through the 19th Amendment passed the year before, and most African Americans in the Deep South could not vote at all. From her great-grandmother, who had been enslaved until she was in her mid-20s, Betty heard stories of slavery and the times of terror and deep difficulties for Black Folk that followed. In her lifetime, Betty watched the nation begin to confront its race and gender biases when forced to come together over the Fascist and Nazi world threat of the World War II era, saw those differences nearly break apart at the seams again in the upheavals of the civil rights and Black Power eras, saw the defeat of the Southern-led white segregationists following the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and, finally, lived long enough to witness both the election of an African American president and the re-emergence of a militant, racist far right that rose up out of the ashes of the old segregationists. 

But far more than being merely a witness, Betty Reid Soskin has been an active participant with so many other Americans in shaping the country as we know it now. The child of proud Louisiana Creole parents who refused to bow down to Southern discrimination, she was raised in the Black Bay Area community before the great westward migration of World War II. After working in the civilian homefront effort in the war years, she and her husband, Mel Reid, helped break down racial boundaries by moving into a previously all-white and initially unwelcoming community east of the Oakland hills. 

There she raised four children—one openly gay, one developmentally disabled—while resisting the prejudices against the family that existed among many of her neighbors. 

With Mel, she opened up one of the first Bay Area record stores in Berkeley both owned by African Americans and dedicated to the distribution of African American music. Her volunteer work in rehabilitating the community in which the record shop began eventually led her to a paid position as a state legislative aid, helping to plan the innovative Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, California, then to a “second” career at the Rosie Park as the oldest park ranger in the history of the National Park Service. In between, she used her talents as a singer and songwriter to interpret and chronicle the great American social upheavals that marked the 1960s. 

In 2003, Betty displayed a new talent—writing—when she created the popular blog CBreaux Speaks. Now followed by thousands, her blog is a collection of Betty’s sometimes fierce, sometimes gently persuasive, but always brightly honest story that weaves both the wisdom of the ages and the fresh enthusiasm of an always youthful mind into her long journey through an American and African American life, as well as America’s long struggle to both understand and cleanse its soul. Blending together selections from many of Betty’s hundreds of blog entries with interviews, letters, and speeches collected throughout her long life, Sign My Name to Freedom invites readers into an American life through the words and thoughts of a national treasure who has never stopped looking at herself, the nation, or the world with fresh eyes. 

Betty Reid Soskin has been a home-front war-years worker, a singer-songwriter and performer, a writer, a legislative aide, a National Parks ranger, a national icon, and an honest and tireless fighter, both against discrimination of all forms and for the growth and triumph of the human spirit and values that would benefit us all. In her blog, CBreaux Speaks at cbreaux.blogspot.com, she writes, “Life has never been richer, nor more abundantly lyrical,” and “I’ve grown into someone I’d like to know—were I not me already!” Website: cbreaux.blogspot.com 

About the Editor: Oakland, California, native J. Douglas Allen-Taylor was a natural choice to edit Sign My Name to Freedom. Besides having known Betty Reid Soskin literally “all my life” through extensive family and community ties, he is a longtime journalist and political columnist. He is the author of the 2012 novel Sugaree Rising about resistance in a black Southern community. 

Collision Victim was Berkeley Historical Society Volunteer

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Monday January 15, 2018 - 08:47:00 PM

A 70-year-old woman who died in a collision with a Berkeley city vehicle on Friday afternoon was identified today by the Alameda County coroner's bureau as Shelley Rideout. 

The collision was reported to the California Highway Patrol at 1:21 p.m. at Channing Way and Fulton Street near the University of California at Berkeley campus, CHP Officer Matthew Hamer said. 

A city employee was driving a sedan, which struck Rideout who was crossing the street in a crosswalk. Rideout was pronounced dead at 1:31 p.m.  

According to Hamer, witnesses told investigators that the vehicle was going at about 15 mph. The driver of the vehicle is cooperating with investigators. 

Hamer said neither drugs nor alcohol played a part in the collision.  

Rideout was a volunteer at the Berkeley Historical Society, according to a Facebook post Saturday by the group. 

"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the accidental death yesterday of Shelley Rideout, the longtime and invaluable Berkeley Historical Society volunteer who coordinated the current exhibit, 'Soundtrack to the 60s.'" 

The historical society is accepting donations in her memory.

New: Act Now to Make It Easier to Install Stop Signs

Charles Siegel
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:20:00 PM

On Thursday, January 18, Berkeley’s Transportation Commission will consider forming a committee to develop criteria that let us install stop signs in more locations. This could make the city much safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, but we need strong community support to make it happen. For information about what you can do, see the Action section below. 


In 2017, two middle-school students were hospitalized after being hit by cars when they were bicycling across Dwight Way on Californian St. Installing four-way stop signs is a simple and inexpensive way to make this intersection safe, but city transportation staff said we could not do this because the intersection does not meet state criteria for four-way stop signs. 

To let us make this intersection and other dangerous intersections safer, the City Council directed the Transportation Commission to develop criteria to supplement the state criteria, allowing us to install stop signs to protect pedestrians and bicycle safety. 

Berkeley clearly needs different criteria for stop signs than the state criteria. 

Berkeley has a far higher proportion of pedestrian and bicycle trips than other California cities, and we also have a higher proportion of crashes: A study comparing 44 California cities of similar size found that Berkeley was number one in both pedestrian and bicycle injuries and deaths. 

Stop Signs are far more cost-effective than other traffic controls. 

Berkeley has been installing Rectangular Rapidly Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) to make pedestrian crossings safer, but they cost about $50,000 each, compared with only about $1,000 each for stop signs. Stop signs are not appropriate in many locations, where they would interrupt traffic flow, but in locations where they are appropriate, they are far more cost-effective than RRFBs. 

Berkeley also has a network of Bike Boulevards throughout the city (including California St.) but it is unsafe for bicyclists to cross major streets. For safe bike crossings, the alternative to stop signs are HAWK beacons, which cost about $200,000. Again, stop signs are not appropriate in many locations, but in places where they are appropriate (such as Dwight and California), they are far, far more cost effective. 

There is only one obstacle to adopting expanded criteria for stop signs: staff says that it does not have spare capacity to support the effort, so we would have to reprioritize staff resources to get this done anytime in the foreseeable future. 

I think we should give a high priority to cost effectiveness. The city council has already voted to prioritize funding in the 2018 budget for either stop signs or a HAWK beacon at Dwight and Telegraph. If we revise the criteria soon, we can install a stop sign at a cost of $1,000 rather than installing a HAWK Beacon for $200,000 - or (more likely) doing nothing because we cannot afford the HAWK beacon. 

I think we should give a high priority to safety. In 2017, two children were hospitalized after being hit at this one intersection alone. We should give the highest priority preventing this sort of crash, which can cause severe injury or death. 

The Transportation Commission will give this issue the high priority it deserves if it hears from the public. 


Please email the commission at transportation@cityofberkeley.info and tell them that you support creation of a Stop Sign Warrant Subcommittee to create expanded criteria for stop signs that will let us protect pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

Please come and speak to the commission. This item will be on the agenda when the commission meets on Thursday, January 18 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

The issue is on the draft agenda, but before you come to the meeting, you should confirm that it is on the final agenda by looking at https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Transportation_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

With your help, we can make Berkeley safer in a way that does not bust the city budget. 

New: Berkeley Council Should Ensure that Developers of Tall Buildings Provide Significant Community Benefits

Charlene M. Woodcock
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:15:00 PM

I strongly support Councilmember Harrison’s resolution, co-sponsored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, to give more substance and more enforceability to our Significant Community Benefits program. 

In recent years the drive to permit many large development projects without ensuring that they would serve Berkeley’s urgent need for low-income and family housing has diminished both the architectural and social integrity of our city and taken up sites better used for non-profit projects. It has produced many large, market-rate or “luxury” units—providing an expensive bedroom community for people who do not work in Berkeley. It is essential that those buildings that are designed to be taller than the 75 feet our Downtown zoning permits, the up-to-three 180-foot buildings and two 120-foot buildings allowed by the 2010 Measure R, actually provide real benefit to the city in exchange for the problems they will create during years of construction and the additional stress they will put on city services and resources and water use into the future. 

Our city government needs to do much better than this. We need housing for the people who work in Berkeley, for young adults who grew up in Berkeley, for the diverse population we prize that contributes to the cultural richness of our community. Any local business, cultural resource, or non-profit displaced by a project must be provided financial recompense by the developer when a building permit is issued. 

We do not want mitigations passed off as Significant Community Benefits. We haven’t forgotten the outrage of permitting the LA developer whose plan to demolish the engine of downtown economic health the Shattuck Cinemas was rewarded by allowing him then to claim as a Significant Community Benefit provision of smaller, less accessible, less financially viable replacement theaters with fewer seats, no murals; and Berkeley residents suffer the loss of a landmarked building. This is, at best, an inadequate mitigation, NOT a Significant Community Benefit. 

We did not elect a new mayor and progressive council members to approve large buildings that do not serve our needs, that are apparently designed by committee and so do not enhance the architectural fabric of our city, and whose primary goal is profit for the developer. A good way to ensure that large new building projects downtown serve the needs of Berkeley residents is to create a strong, clear menu of potential Significant Community Benefits and make sure the program is enforceable. We need developers to be required to state in advance their intention to provide affordable units on-site or as in-lieu contribution to our Affordable Housing fund. Each proposed Community Benefits Package must have at least one public hearing at the Zoning Adjustments Board, and any changes to that package after approval must require a new hearing. 

City staff need to be reminded that the mission of our city government is to serve the needs of the residents of Berkeley, not the financial goals of developers. 


Letter to Berkeley Council Re Pepper Spray Use

Dr. James McFadden
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:38:00 PM

Once again you are on center stage nationally for your pepper spray votes. 

Steve Martinot hits the nail on its head. 

"To authorize the police to use OC on people is to authorize state sanctioned torture." 

Your votes will haunt you. Sept 12 - Ayes Arreguin, Maio, Bartlett, Wengraf, Droste, Hahn Dec 19 - Ayes Arreguin, Maio, Bartlett, Wengraf, Droste, (Hahn absent) 

In addition, the admonishment of the PRC on Dec 19 for requesting that the Council reconsider its "shock doctrine" vote was hypocritical at best. (The PRC was not consulted prior to the Sept 12 pepper spray vote.) The mayor and several Council members had called for strengthening PRC oversight and for PRC input - so to admonish them for doing their job, a voluntary job, is disrespectful. Perhaps members of the Council should rethink their defensive reaction to that PRC request -- where the mayor and several Council members appeared to huddle in their sectarian bunkers, aghast at the impertinent PRC for requesting a second vote in calmer times. 

I think the words of Michael Albert from his new book are appropriate here: 

“We know that when a person is sectarian, logic, evidence, reason, empathy, mutual regard, and respect become only weakly operative, if present at all. What is symptomatic of sectarianism is, instead, inflexibility, dogmatism, and imperious disregard. … Perhaps sectarianism occurs when a person comes to feel a subset of their views to be their identity … When we take our views to be who we are, any criticism of our views feels like and attack on our essence. … then we tend to perceive in the criticism of our views not just words of disagreement about ideas but a deadly attack on our personhood. We promptly assume the posture appropriate to warding off a deadly attack, and we strike back. Our rebuttal likely includes some harsh rejection of the critic’s defining views. Now our critic feels assaulted … and prepares for further verbal, if not physical, conflict. This observation suggests that the spiral of defensive/aggressive behavior characterizing sectarian conflict stems largely from perceiving disagreement with our views as an assault on our identity. … If someone tells me a view upon which I premise my identity is wrong – berserk is what I may become. In sectarian exchange we aren’t really arguing about ideas and evidence so much as we are protecting our identity and even our very existence.” 

So a question you might want to ask yourself is whether you believe that your vote for pepper spray was defending your identity - your personhood. And how did your identity get linked to pepper spray? Why are you identifying with the police (who have all the weapons) and not with the protesting public who will be the hapless victims of police tactics of torture (pepper spray) -- tactics that will be used to force obedience during legal protests.

New: Open Letter to Berkeley City Council in Response to January 16, 2018 Action Item 2018-2019 Strategic Plan

Kelly Hammargren
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:12:00 PM

You are asked to direct the City Manager to resubmit the 2018 – 2019 Strategic Plan https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2018/01_Jan/City_Council__01-16-2018_-_Special_Meeting_Agenda.aspx to include the Board and/or Commission that would be involved in each aspect of the Strategic Plan. It is an affront to the Commissioners and Board Members you appoint, Commissioners and Board Members who volunteer their time, to so deeply degrade their work as to not even note their contributions in the presentation of the Strategic Plan, and to ignore that Boards and Commissions are charged with and responsible for public hearings and digesting public input in developing resolutions, ordinances and recommendations. 

Those of who are monitoring and engaged in our City have had enough of this kind of insult. And, before you circle the wagons and declare that Boards and Commissions need not be mentioned, included, noted or recognized in any way, think again about what such language says about you and the work you ask of the Commissioners and Board Members you appoint who volunteer and who spend time not just in meetings, but also who spend time, often hours upon hours, devoted to preparation. 


Berkeley Woman Dies in Collision with City Car

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:42:00 PM

A 70-year-old woman died in a collision with a city of Berkeley vehicle this afternoon, California Highway Patrol officials said.  

Someone called the CHP at 1:21 p.m. to report the collision at Channing Way and Fulton Street near the University of California at Berkeley campus, CHP Officer Matthew Hamer said.  

A city employee was driving a city sedan that struck the woman who was crossing the street in a crosswalk.  

The victim was pronounced dead at 1:31 p.m.  

According to Hamer, witnesses told investigators that the vehicle was going at about 15 mph. The driver of the vehicle is cooperating with investigators.  

Hamer said neither drugs nor alcohol played a role in the collision.

Dorothy Calvetti Bryant
February 8, 1930 – December 21, 2017

Lorri Ungaretti
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:34:00 PM
Dorothy Calvetti Bryant February 8, 1930 – December 21, 2017
Dorothy Calvetti Bryant February 8, 1930 – December 21, 2017

Editor’s Note: The Berkeley Daily Planet was the enthusiastic beneficiary of Dorothy Bryant’s many talents almost from our first print issue in the new millennium. . Searching the Planet archives on her name produces hundreds of links to articles by her and about her: click here to see them. She wrote book reviews, author profiles, and created a unique feature called My Commonplace Book, excerpts from favorite authors with her own comments added.

Most of her pieces for the Planet, written during her last two decades, explored the theme of how we should best exist in the world, including her own interior meditations on the topic as well as lessons drawn from the lives of those she admired. In the end, her own life, as recounted by her devoted daughter below, provides us with an outstanding example of how to live with honor and virtue in an age where bad examples unfortunately abound.

--Becky O’Malley

Dorothy Bryant, teacher, novelist, and playwright, died December 21, from complications related to cancer. Dorothy was born in San Francisco on February 8, 1930 Italian immigrant parents, Giuditta (“Judy”) and Giuseppe (“Joe”) Calvetti. Dorothy attended Mission High and San Francisco State, earning a B.A. in music and an M.A. in creative writing. She taught music and English for many years at Lick-Wilmerding High School, Continuation High School, and Contra Costa College.

First married in 1949, Dorothy had two children, John and Lorri Ungaretti. The marriage ended in divorce after about 12 years. Dorothy met Robert Bryant in 1968, and they were married after a few months. They loved each other very much and were married for 49 years.

Dorothy, real maverick, defied the “rules” of life and opened doors for others to do the same. She was first to create a “black studies” class at Contra Costa College in 1965. She participated in civil rights marches and demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. And she began self-publishing long before it was popular.

Dorothy began writing in her late 20s. She wrote reviews and essays for The Freedom News, published in Richmond, California, in the 1960s. Her first novel, Ella Price’s Journal, was published by Lippincott. After Dorothy married Bob, they worked together to pioneer self-publishing, founding Ata Books in the 1970s. The first book she self-published was The Comforter, which sold well through word of mouth and was eventually published by Random House under the title The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. She went on to write and publish eight other novels, one nonfiction book, Writing a Novel, and a collection of essays and short stories. Some of her books are still available through Feminist Press.

Dorothy was a founding member of the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. Aurora’s first play, Dear Master, was written by Dorothy. Several of her seven plays were performed by various theatre companies.

Dorothy’s son, John, died in 1994. She is survived by her loving husband, Bob; her daughter, Lorri; her stepdaughter and long-term caregiver, Victoria Bryant; her stepson, Lorenzo Bryant; and her step-grandchildren, Robert and William. No services are planned, although a memorial will be planned for the future. (For more information, please contact Lorri Ungaretti, P.O. Box 640076, SF, CA 94164; or lorrisfATcomcastDOTnet.) To honor Dorothy’s life, enter a brick-and-mortar bookstore and buy a book! Or donate to your local library. 


Toni Mester
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 11:31:00 AM
Ken Alexander at Work
Ken Alexander at Work

Over the holidays, I spent some time at the movies, catching up with the Golden Globe nominees to better share in the fun. But for great cinema, nothing beats the Pacific Film Archive, which is the best screen in Berkeley for quality of projection, sound, sightlines, and programming by astute curators. An attentive audience ensures a reprieve from date night muttering and the rustling of popcorn bags, and their appreciation of fine art often elicits applause at the end of the credits, when the house begins to empty, as it should. The price of a museum member ticket is $7 for the first film of the day and $5 for the second, and the cost of membership is quickly reimbursed for the avid cinephile. Upcoming series include perspectives on Ida Lupino, Liv Ullman in Ingmar Bergman films, Sergei Eisenstein and his contemporaries, and much, much more. Lucky us. 

Besides retrospectives, the PFA often runs art-house and festival winners that the first run movie theaters overlook, like the documentary California Typewriter that got four screenings in December. The last show, which I attended, was almost sold-out, so word must have gotten around about this intriguing look at a seminal machine of the analog age that is no longer being manufactured but still sold and repaired at the eponymous store two short blocks from my house. The business has been at 2362 San Pablo Avenue for 36 years, almost as long as I’ve lived in West Berkeley. With the celebratory film and the opening next door of a popular cannabis dispensary, the Berkeley Patient’s Group, my working class neighborhood suddenly feels so chic. 

The stars of the film are the shop’s owner Herbert Permillion III and repairman Ken Alexander. A focus on their dedication to keeping the store and its machines running is the thread that connects appearances by actors Tom Hanks and Sam Shepherd, writers Silvi Alivar and David McCullough, and musician John Mayer; who all attest to their romance with the typewriter. Its history is provided by Martin Howard, a collector who travels the globe in search of antique machines, and a profound expression of its aesthetics by Jeremy Mayer, who sculpts fabulous creations in human and animal forms out of typewriter parts. A musical interlude is provided by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, whose percussive compositions exploit the familiar sounds of clickety-clack and ding ding

The philosophical undercurrent of the film asks us to consider the loss of analog expression, as the technology of composition has moved from the typewriter to the computer and other digital implements of writing. Have we lost the intimacy and comfort of slow writing to the instant gratification of word processing? It’s a question that has haunted me since watching this hugely entertaining documentary with its lingering intellectual afterlife. 

I grew up with typewriters. The office desk of our family business, Tri-State Electric Company, held a heavy black Underwood that my mother and I used to type letters and monthly invoices. At home, we had a sleeker Smith Corona, and my brother and I each took portables to college. I bought an electric typewriter for graduate school, which I kept until I bought my first Apple computer, an SE. I cannot remember how I disposed of the last of my typewriters, and frankly I don’t miss them one bit. Having suffered through whiting out hundreds of college papers, crumpling up failed attempts at correction, and retyping pages from scratch, I think computers are heaven on earth. Revision is a snap, especially with on-line dictionaries, spelling and grammar check, which is especially useful for stimulating the vocabulary of the aging brain. The vast research apparatus of the Internet provides breadth of information and gravitas of exactitude. With all this help, it’s a wonder how badly written so much of the Internet remains. But that’s another subject. 

The keyboard is the persistent element of the typewriter still in use, essentially the same QWERTY arrangement invented and patented by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1868, shortly after the Civil War. Today global villagers write English by pushing little keys in an order first conceived a hundred and fifty years ago by an American newspaperman practicing freedom of the press, with some additional functions of course. But the basics remain the same. 

One summer long ago, my mother urged me to take “touch typing” at the high school, where the classroom was arranged in long tables supporting rows of black manual Underwoods with blank keys. We students stared straight ahead at a large printed keyboard hung over the blackboard, instructed never to look down, but to find the right letters with our fingers. Thus was formed the eye to brain to hand connection that facilitated my higher education and livelihood. Learning to type helped me to think, write, and make a living. As a composition teacher, I told my students that developing the skill of writing at the keyboard would ensure they would always have a job. 

In material terms, there’s a continuum between the analog and digital world, not a total break and distinction. Theoretically, we don’t know if the world is continuous or discrete because we can’t see that small, and most people don’t give a damn about quantum physics anyway. PBS recently aired a documentary about George Boole, the nineteenth century English mathematician who formulated the calculus that allowed the digital revolution, but it took a century before inventors turned his logic into computers. The age of the human run analog machine is far from over but morphing into an industrial composite that uses artificial intelligence to run familiar machines like computer driven cars and other robots. We are probably living on the outer edge of the first industrial revolution, which started during the realm of Elizabeth I with the mining of lead. Five hundred years later, we are still trying to get the poison out of pipes and paint, so let’s not get carried away with technological hubris. In 2016 Americans elected a science denier as president, a historical setback and national humiliation, to say the least. 

The upcoming generation that has grown up in the digital age still has Popular Mechanics to teach them how the world works. Many smug teenagers who are showing old folks how to text know zip about the internal combustion engine and couldn’t rebuild a hot rod like grandpa and his friends in their youth. People take machines for granted without understanding the science of their structure. I once asked a class of travelers to explain how an airplane weighing hundreds of tons manages to stay in the sky, and nobody could explain the principles of lift. There used to be machine repair shops in the East Bay before retirements and high rent put them out of business. Now broken televisions, microwaves, and vacuum cleaners end up on the curbs rather than get fixed and re-used. We don’t live in a brave new digital world but in the junkyard of the analog age. 

Longing for an older, slower way of life infuses the film California Typewriter. Perhaps everybody who writes at a computer keyboard should have a typewriter handy for when the power fails. Arthritis often makes longhand difficult for the older writer, so demand for affordable typewriters as a fallback for that demographic may revive their manufacture. Even movies have gone digital. I was too stoned at the time to appreciate the irony, but I saw the original Star Wars in a friend’s garage theater, delivered to the screen by his antique 35 mm carbon arc projector. Now most celluloid has been digitized to disc, even movies that reek of nostalgia. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley. 



SB 827 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) will destroy local land use control

Becky O'Malley
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 02:12:00 PM
The purple areas in Berkeley will be upzoned if the Skinner-Wiener SB827 passes and is signed by Governor Brown.
The purple areas in Berkeley will be upzoned if the Skinner-Wiener SB827 passes and is signed by Governor Brown.

State Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) are again lusting after our remaining affordable neighborhoods on behalf of their developer patrons, who are fronted by the astroturf YIMBYs:

As reported by Liam Dillon in the L.A. Times:

“A dramatic increase in new housing near transit stations could be on its way across California under new legislation proposed by a Bay Area legislator. Subject to some limitations, the measure would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses allowed to be built within a half-mile of train, light-rail, major bus routes and other transit stations, and block cities from imposing parking requirements. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, said the state needs the housing to address affordability problems, maximize recent multi-billion-dollar transit investments and help the state meet its climate change goals.’
Here’s a link to the bill, authored by Scott Wiener and co-authored by our own State Senator Nancy Skinner:

SB 827, as introduced, Wiener. Planning and zoning: transit-rich housing bonus.

Transit-rich is the new buzz word in the title, and how ironically apt it is. This bill effectively removes all local planning controls in areas served by transit, opening up enormous swaths of our historically low-income urban neighborhoods (think southwest Berkeley) to gentrifying market rate development.

And no, it won’t make the current residents, especially renters, rich—but it will certainly make rich developers richer. That's who get the housing bonus.

This plan doesn’t seem to have been reported in the Bay Area press as yet, but Damien Goodmon, founder and Executive Director of Los Angeles’ nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition, already has their number. He’s posted a stinging denunciation of the bill’s backers and its effect on low-income residents on the organization’s web site. I was intending just to link to it, but so much of the analysis also applies to the urban East Bay that I’ll quote most of it: 


“Like the Colonizers before them, YIMBYs claim the 'Hood as Theirs! 

“The bill is backed by group that calls themselves YIMBYs, which stands for "Yes in my backyard." Like the colonizers whose agenda they seek to replicate, it takes a certain entitlement/supremacist mindset to call a community they didn't grow up in, don't live in or are new to as "theirs." It's NOT their backyard - it's ours. And we're not about to give it up. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED! 

“YIMBY groups are the very definition of "astroturf" - fake grassroots organizations backed by a corporate industry. The overwhelming white 30s-somethings-led groups push to remake our community of established institutions and organizations led by people of color. They aren't long-time residents of places like our South Central. 

“That's why they could care less about the predatory lending that led to the greatest evisceration of Black wealth in decades - it wasn't their grandma whose mortgage became unaffordable overnight. 

“They don't talk about or prioritize legislation to address modern-day redlining (Blacks are being denied home loans and refinancing in our community that are being granted to Whites with the same credit score and incomes), because they're not the ones being discriminated against. 

“They never discuss the role of foreign money, Wall Street investors and rampant speculation in driving up land values that has made the communities our parents bought into completely unaffordable to even working middle-class Black people today. 

“They never propose solutions to fight the expansion and rise of Wall Street landlords like Blackstone, the largest private equity firm in the world, which in one day bought up 1,400 homes in Atlanta, because YIMBYs are largely funded and supported by the real estate investor industry. 

“YIMBYs are completely indifferent and nowhere to be seen on the strategies of protection and preservation of our dwindling affordable housing stock, because they're not being asked to move-in their cousin who makes less than $30K a year and was harassed out of their $850/month two-bedroom in Baldwin Village by the new corporate landlord who can now collect $2,200/month for the unit. 

‘As just one example, not a single major YIMBY group has expressed strong support for what will be the biggest mobilization of housing justice groups in Sacramento this year - next week's Assembly Housing Committee hearing on AB 1506 - the bill to repeal the horrible Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which all housing justice groups in the state consider the top legislative goal for 2018. 

“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color. 

“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.” 

I couldn’t have expressed it better myself. 

What in the name of heaven is Berkeley’s state senate representative Nancy Skinner’s name doing on this horrendous bill along with Wiener’s? We haven’t done the same research on her contributors that Damien Goodmon’s group did on Scott Wiener’s backers, so we don’t know if developers are funding her the same way they are him, but it’s time to find out. 

And what does all this mean for Berkeley? Thanks to Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner Thomas Lord for spelling it out for us on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition list-serv: 

“Scott Wiener has proposed SB827 which I am guessing will sail through both houses and get an easy signature from the governor. You must see the attached map to really appreciate it.  

“Odds are, your street - your block - will be upzoned. Every place with purple shading on the map. “ 

“Oh, and, by the way -- the areas on the map that are not shaded? AC Transit will have land use authority over those. For example, all they have to do is decrease the peak commute schedule for the 88 bus from 15 minutes to 5 minutes and then all along Sacramento street will be upzoned. 

“What do I mean by upzoned? I'll quote this bill which puts every low income household on the chopping block: 

(b) Notwithstanding any local ordinance, general plan element, specific plan, charter, or other local law, policy, resolution, or regulation, a transit-rich housing project shall receive a transit-rich housing bonus which shall exempt the project from all of the following: 

(1) Maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio. 

(2) Minimum automobile parking requirements. 

(3) Any design standard that restricts the applicant’s ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code. 

(4) (A) If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph. 

(B) If the transit-rich housing project is within one-half mile of a major transit stop, but does not meet the criteria specified in subparagraph (A), any maximum height limitation that is less than 55 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 45 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 55 feet or 45 feet, as provided in this subparagraph. 

(C) For purposes of this paragraph, if a parcel has street frontage on two or more different streets, the height maximum pursuant to this paragraph shall be based on the widest street. 

“ Another aspect of this: it creates a much greater incentive than ever before to empty and demolish rent controlled buildings in Berkeley. Berkeley charges some fees for this but they are peanuts compared to the potential windfalls. 

“Why will a bus service [AC Transit] have land use control over land use?” 

A good question, and it sheds light on something I’ve been wondering about. 

Within the last year, two new bus lines, 80 and 81, have been added to Ashby Avenue, with a stop right in front of our house. When our kids were at Berkeley High, we much appreciated the old 65, which took them from home to school in 15 minutes, but that’s been long gone. These new lines are part of a circuit which seems to go to the El Cerrito Plaza mall and the pricey 4th Street shopping area, neither one of which appeals much to me. 

Evidently, these lines are not filling any huge demand for others either. 

Since the service started, we’ve observed that very often there’s not a single passenger on these buses, and we have literally never seen more than two on any bus, day or night, since we’ve starting watching for them. 

AC Transit does not publish figures on operating costs per passenger mile, but the cost of transporting these few passengers in lonely splendor on huge gas guzzlers must be astronomical. We've been wondering why these lines keep on going. 

However, though I don’t want to go all conspiracy theory on you, it’s not hard to conjecture that the mere existence of these two routes in the next five or ten years, if SB827 passes, will dramatically increase the land values on Ashby for the benefit of speculative developers. The west end in particular, now devoted to nice well-maintained small single family homes, many minority owned, and small rental apartment buildings, will certainly be targeted for Build It Bigger market-rate projects as bad as the one on the corner of Ashby and San Pablo (which by the way was originally promoted as affordable housing, though it's now rented at market rates. ) 

A little history: The old “red-line” in southwest Berkeley used to be Grove Street, now re-named Martin Luther King Way. Minority residents had a mighty hard time buying or renting homes east of Grove, with the collusion of development and real estate interests, so as a result they clustered on the city’s west side. 

The area was home to Berkeley’s substantial Japanese-American population until they were interned during World War II, when African-Americans who migrated to the Bay Area to work in defense manufacturing bought or rented there. As a result Berkeley’s vaunted diversity tends to be concentrated in the southwest quadrant of the city, along with a substantial percentage of our rent-controlled units. 

If Berkeley’s control over its zoning is lost through the passage of the Skinner-Wiener SB827 bill, it’s highly probable that well-paid commuters to San Francisco jobs will soon gentrify southwest Berkeley, which is tantalizingly convenient to the Ashby freeway entrance. This will have the effect of forcing current residents to move to distant places like Antioch, Pittsburg and even Tracy, from which they will need to drive long distances to reach poorly paid service jobs in the urban core. 

At the very least, passage of this bill could motivate residents in all kinds of areas, including the rest of Berkeley, to oppose the extension of rapid transit to their neighborhoods, which in the long term would have detrimental consequences for those who already live there and do need right-scale bus service. 

This is a knotty topic which deserves a book of its own, for which we don’t have time or space here. Better to just reprise Damien Goodmon’s call to arms: 

“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color. 

“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.” 

What do you think? Is upzoning coming to your 'hood? You can comment at opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. Only comments signed by real names will be published. 











The Editor's Back Fence

Skeptics and Sex

Becky O'Malley
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 12:50:00 PM

In the last few months I’ve done a couple of pieces expressing a certain amount of skepticism about some reported cases of sexual misconduct: Setting All Kinds of Limits and Sexual Sins: Are Contrition and Redemption Possible?

It turns out that there’s a magazine for that. A Planet reader sent me a link to an interesting opinion essay, I, Too, Am Thinking About Me, Too by Carol Tavris, which was published in a publication I’d not been familiar with, eSkeptic. It’s the online newsletter of The Skeptics Society, whose announced goal is to “Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.” Tavris recounts another author‘s difficulty in finding a publisher for a defense of due process even when there are allegations of sexual transgressions. Some of the publication’s articles also appear in print as Skeptic Magazine.

The latest issue of eSkeptic features a book review, by Frederick Crews, a well-known Berkeley writer who is the author of several books and numerous articles about the weak scientific underpinnings of recovered memory theory and Freudianism, of The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment, by Mark Pendergrast. The book’s topic is even more explosive than sexual misconduct of men toward women: a pederasty conviction which the book’s author views as a miscarriage of justice. It seems that where sex is concerned, the rules about admissible evidence and statutes of limitations which usually apply in criminal prosecutions go out the window, especially if juveniles are the alleged victims. 

On Saturday the New York Times ran an op-ed about what will surely be called the backlash to #MeToo:Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings by Daphne Merkin. 

Evidence that cooler heads are now reassessing the situation can be also be found in a couple of stories in today’s Times: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks on the #MeToo Moment and Major Donor Reconsiders Support for Democrats Who Urged Al Franken to Quit.  

It’s obvious that many men and even some women need to clean up their act where sex is concerned, but though the cleansing is long overdue, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Even in apparently horrendous cases, the usual due process safeguards are needed to make sure that the offense actually occurred as charged, and if the crime is proved, the punishment should fit the crime. 








Gar Smith
Friday January 12, 2018 - 05:57:00 PM
Trump Being Trump
Gar Smith
Trump Being Trump
Trump's Big Hand
Gar Smith
Trump's Big Hand

Public Comment


Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday January 13, 2018 - 12:15:00 PM

Once again the Republicans under the leadership of their self-proclaimed “genius”, Donald Trump, has issued a fatwa to deport 200,000 Salvadorans living in the United States, many of whom have been living, working and raising families here for more than 20 years. This is excessively cruel and heartless, especially given our own dark history supporting the right wing repressive Salvadorian military rulers who adopted a scorched earth policy against the so called left-wing guerrillas, who were largely made up of peasants and farmers. 

Despite strong evidence of mass torture and senseless murder, America stood by El Salvador´s military leaders. 

U.S. intervened in Latin American politics throughout the 20th century and supported dictatorships favorable to American business interests. 

The appalling massacre in Mozote where men, women and babies were tortured did not persuade American leaders to withdraw their financial and military support. 

El Salvador deserves an unconditional apology and reparations, failing which we must offer Temporary Protected Status program and a path to citizenship for Salvadorans in the US who have been pummeled by a devastating earthquake and civil war that we helped foster.

Berkeley Zoning Board Gets EIR on Shattuck High Rise

John English
Friday January 12, 2018 - 05:49:00 PM

Released this Tuesday is the "Final Environmental Impact Report Response to Comments Document" about the egregious proposed vista-busting high-rise at 2190 Shattuck Avenue. And I believe the Final EIR will be on the Zoning Adjustments Board's January 25 meeting agenda— even for potential certifying then. 

To see it online, go to https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Land_Use_Division/Current_Zoning_Applications_Log.aspx

Within the alphabetically-arranged-by-street table that brings up, scroll down to the first row for "2190 Shattuck" and click on"ZP2016-0117." Then within what THAT brings up, scroll down to and click on "2018-1-10 RTC Final EIR 2190 Shattuck Ave.pdf." 

The Draft EIR that was issued several months ago evaded acknowledging as relevantly significant the project's actual, brutal historic-resource impact on the iconic vista from Campanile Way toward the Golden Gate. If you've been hoping that the Final EIR would correct that failure, prepare to be disappointed. The new document uses largely the same tortuously evasive rationale to reach the same faulty conclusion; see especially its pages 10 to 13. 

It will be vital that during the relevant January 25 session, the ZAB hearing speakers severely criticize the document. 

John English is a professional planner and a Berkeley resident.

Is Boycotting Charlie Hallowell's Restaurants a Good Solution?

Friday January 12, 2018 - 05:26:00 PM

The Bay Area is reeling from revelations about charges by employees of sexual harassment by several well known and successful businessmen, including chef and restauranteur Charlie Hallowell, owner of three popular Oakland restaurants, Pizzaiolo, Penrose and Boot & Shoe. All three continue to be open, though others in San Francisco have been closed, but Hallowell is taking a leave of absence. 

I am a devotee of Pizzaiolo, enjoying morning toast & coffee there for 4 years. 

Reports by employees about Hallowell’s comments have been upsetting. I have also noticed his flirtatious behavior with patrons. One woman who comes for breakfast told me it helps to have her partner with her, which has stalled Charlie’s asking “When are we going to have sex?” That’s clearly no more appropriate for a customer than for an employee. 

An incident I saw 2 years ago disturbed me; Charlie came up behind a barrista as she made tea, and put his hands on her shoulders. She hadn’t realized he was about to approach, and seemed startled. He whispered something. After he left, I asked, “Are you comfortable with that?” She answered, “No, that wasn’t comfortable.” “Maybe you should tell him," I suggested. She shook her head. “I don’t think I will.” She no longer works at Pizzaiolo. I didn’t say anything, either; now I think maybe I should have. 

Charlie has made mistakes and has acknowledged them and apologized. I take both his behavior and his apology seriously. If Charlie indeed takes responsibility and is willing to change his behavior, hopefully the restaurants will survive. What I’ve observed is that Charlie is a charming, affectionate man with great charisma who brings energy and pizzazz into a room. This has not been a problem except when he expects women employees and diners to appreciate sexual innuendos and uninvited touching. 

Ironically, two new employees told me they left previous jobs due to harassment. They were happy to get work at Pizzaiolo, because they had never heard any negative reports. They intend to stay, and hope the restaurant can continue. 

One of my friends is boycotting the restaurant. She refuses to come as a protest against his behavior toward the workers. When I told a barista, she said, “I appreciate her concern; I definitely do understand people boycotting us, but I’m scared. It’s our livelihood.” 

The baristas are delightful youngsters, even with the high turnover which annoys another friend, who complains “Just as I get to know them, they’re gone! This doesn’t happen in my country; there, they stay for years.” After reading about the 17 former employees who have complained about harassment, she said, “Now we know why” there is such turnover. One of the current employees, who has had no problems with harassment, is nonetheless checking out ads on craigslist in case they need a new job. Not because they want to leave, but they are concerned that if people boycott, as some patrons say they intend to do, the restaurant may close. I would miss the baristas and hope our delightful morning times can continue. 

Knowing him as I do, I believe Charlie is sincere in being willing to face the results of his behavior, and willing to change. 

He has been steadfastly kind to me, including feeding me for free during chemo treatments for breast cancer. I continue to have breakfast daily thanks to his generosity. I have tried offering him checks, but when I realized he never cashed them, I asked why. He said, “I’m not going to cash them as long as I know you are struggling.” 

He has also been generous with consistent donations to the auctions at Emerson School which raised money sufficient to hire an art teacher and a music teacher. 

I sincerely hope Charlie decides not to close the restaurants. It would be a loss to our neighborhood and the community of folks who meet in the mornings to chat and enjoy the fabulous pastries. We started a “Croissant Club” on weekends because the croissants are so good that even our French friends have joined us. 

I asked one day if I could kiss him on the cheek & he replied, “Get outta here! You can always kiss me!” He and I have hugged over the years, and I realize that he always approaches me from the front, so I have the opportunity to refuse any gestures of affection. Certainly during breast surgeries, I didn’t want hugs, as contact would be painful. I would recommend this to men who wonder what they need to do to be respectful: Don’t sneak up on us! Give us a chance to refuse your touch, no matter how well intentioned. 

NO means NO. If we all treat each other with respect, the world would be a beautiful place. Let’s try it. 



Alta is a poet and the founder of the pioneer feminist publishing house Shameless Hussy Press. 


The Minimum Wage: The Good, the Bad, and the Very Bad

Harry Brill
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:49:00 PM

A clear reflection of the disinterest and insensitivity of the federal government to the needs of working people is its refusal to raise since 2009 the deplorably low minimum wage of $7.25. Meanwhile prices have continued to climb. No government official has proposed limiting costs. So the federal minimum wage is worth 10 percent less since its last increase. Since 1968 its value after adjusting for inflation is 25 percent lower. Had the minimum wage over the years kept up to the increase in worker output, it would have climbed to about $22 an hour. 

Nevertheless, many cities and states, in response to pressure from organized labor and community groups, have enacted minimum wage legislation that exceed the federal level. So far 29 states and D.C. have higher minimum wage laws, and about 12 cities as well. But the respective approaches of states and cities are on the whole very different. 

18 states increased the minimum wage in the beginning of this new year. The mass media was full of praise. Of course, an increase in wages is generally good news. However, absent from the media was how little some of these increases have been. Workers in Alaska received a four cents an hour increase, from $9.80 to $9.84. Hourly wages for Ohio workers climbed only 15 cents, from $8.18 to $8:30 cents. There was no annual increase in most states. Hourly wages In 37 cities remain below $10 an hour. That's almost 75 percent of the entire country. In none of the states does the minimum provide working people with an escape from poverty wages. 

Many cities and counties however, have joined the $15 an hour movement. In Berkeley, the current wage of $13.75 an hour will increase to $15 this coming October and will also include an annual cost of living adjustment. Los Angeles is the largest city in the country to embrace the $15 an hour wage, which will go into effect in 2020. In San Francisco, the $15 an hour wage, which will be implemented this year, was achieved by a ballot measure supported by over 75 percent of the voters. California is the one state where its legislature voted to increase wages to $15 an hour but not until 2022. However, that's four years down the road. In all the cities that voted for the $15 an hour wage, the time will arrive sooner.  

Two of the California counties that have voted for a $15 an hour wage by 2020 are Los Angeles and Riverside counties. The increase applies to all workers in the cities and towns that are part of these counties but are not incorporated. That is, unlike the city of Los Angeles, they have no formal government of their own other than the county that they are part of. So the minimum wage law has a large geographical spread.  

But there is also very bad news. Big business has persuaded many state legislatures to adopt preemptive legislation. These laws deprive local communities of the right to enact minimum wage laws as well as other legislation that would improve working conditions, including paid sick leave and fair scheduling of working hours. So far business interests have been successful in at least 26 states. Among the results is that 21 states are stuck with the federal minimum of $7.25. Moreover, the preemptive laws allows the state to ignore the higher minimum wage that a local community had approved. For example, St. Louis raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour. But Missouri's preemption law allowed the higher wage to be rolled back to the state wage of $7.70 an hour. 

In Alabama, the race issue with regard to wages has been a major concern of black workers. In the city of Birmingham white workers earn $1.43 cents more per hour on average than black wage earners. Also the poverty rate is much higher for blacks. Although Alabama is 75 percent white, Birmingham is 73 percent black. Birmingham was the only Alabama city to enact a minimum wage law. The Birmingham council passed a minimum wage ordinance that raised the minimum wage to 10.10 an hour. Of those who would have benefited from the higher wage 70 percent are African Americans. However a preemptive law nullified the increase. The law is being challenged in court because of its racist implications. But the chances of it being overturned is very, very slim. 

The labor movement, by striking and engaging in collective bargaining, has achieved major gains for working people. But big business and its allies in government have successfully gutted Labor's influence. As a result, labor density in the private sector has shrunk from 35 percent in the 1950s to 6.4 percent currently. Moreover, the increasing influence of the Republican Party has been devastating. The Republicans have captured the governorship in 34 states, which is over two thirds. They also make up the majority of the two houses in 32 states. In 2010 it was a majority in only 14 states. 

About Labor's future, there is much work to be done. Among the major tasks is getting the Republicans off their backs in this year's November elections. That is not only important: It is critical and necessary.  

For questions and comments: harry.brill@sbcglobal.net 

The U.S. in Iran

Jagjit Singh
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 03:00:00 PM

Oh, how our political pundits love to waggle their fingers and lecture autocratic rulers on democracy that we have done so much to undermine. Like the US (Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, .) the Iranians have squandered their precious resources fighting proxy wars and impoverishing their people. 

Let’s begin to examine own dark history in Iranian affairs. In 1953-54 the CIA (and British intelligence) orchestrated the overthrow of Iran's (parliamentary elected) Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had sought to build a true democracy. His major offense against the West was the nationalization of Iran’s oil fields, thereby denying the British (Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.) their control of Iran's chief natural resource.  

The CIA ushered in the demonic Shah of Iran who, as an absolute monarch, bought billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the US, established a vicious secret police (SAVAK) that carried out torture and murder on a wide scale. In 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini led the Shia Iranian Revolution hostage taking which further fanned hatred against the US. Teflon President Reagan then generated revenue to support the Contras by selling weapons to Iran. We then enriched our defense contractors by selling weapons to Iraq in its eight war with Iran. 

Not much has changed. It’s a pity Mr. Trump in his latest tweet failed to express similar outrage for the people living under oppressive regimes that we support - in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt to name just a few.

What Is Your History Worth?

Carol Denney
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 06:57:00 PM

A conversation about the potentially imperiled view between the campus and the bay is happening right now. And there is still time to be part of it.

When city planning happens, it can seem small. It can even seem boring. Your extra six inches of roof height can block sunlight to my garden, which is no small matter to me and my tomatoes.

But the issue at stake in this case is decades of generations who have carefully planned the preservation of the iconic view of the Golden Gate from the Berkeley hills, a view so powerful that it's been celebrated by successive generations of artists, architects, planners, students, city and campus workers, residents, and visitors from all over the world.

The leading lights of voices for the preservation of historic landmarks spoke Thursday night at the Landmarks Preservation Commission on behalf of a petition to preserve Campanile Way, not just a setting one can see from the marina up to the campus as well as the hills above but also an irreplaceable, unforgettable view from either direction. The most compelling voices included former commissioners, architects, and historians who recognize, as have hundreds of petitioners, that it is our generation's obligation to honor the extraordinary efforts of previous generations to preserve the amazing intersection of both built and natural elements represented by this landmark petition. 

If this is news, take the time to walk to the Campanile and look west, where your view will sweep through the entire length of the city through the shoreline, past the extremities of the fingers of San Francisco Bay and on a clear day include the pastel elements of either islands or fog - one has difficulty knowing which from moment to moment. Imagine the sad state of our city if, without guidance regarding its protection, this powerful image which draws thousands of admirers and is documented by thousands of wedding and graduation pictures from every continent was sacrificed. 

One could put the biggest billboard on earth across the Grand Canyon. What would stop such a thing, or the destruction of any landmark? Voices. Voices of people who have walked the Campanile Way, and who have been moved by the sweep of imagination included an expansive setting in what would otherwise be just a lovely sunset. 

The last voice at Thursday's meeting, the final part of a unanimous parade of support for the landmarking of Campanile Way, was a woman who said she worked with young people who see a lot of concrete and asphalt and made a brilliant, concise case for the clarity and power of the sweeping vista to a young imagination. She somehow made us all understand its necessity, to resounding applause, making us think about not only what our history is worth, but what our history is worth to those young eyes looking for a sense of connection to the generations that came before. 

Note: to send support for the Campanile Way landmark application, write to Fatema Crane, Senior Planner, Landmarks Preservation Commission Secretary (510) 981-7413, fcrane@cityofberkeley.info, 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. To speak on the application's behalf, attend the next Landmark Preservation Commission meeting in February.

Stop an Impending Global Crisis

Mark Altgelt
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 02:35:00 PM

West Antarctica, Greenland and Arctic ice is melting because more than 90 percent of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans and warm ocean currents are rapidly melting exposed ice.

In West Antarctica warm ocean currents 4,000 feet below sea level are carving canyons 30 miles long and 600 feet high at the base of three glaciers which is accelerating their unstoppable slow motion cascade into the Amundsen Sea.

When they are gone the ocean currents will begin dislodging and breaking up the West Antarctica Ice Sheet that is twice the size of Texas and two and half miles thick. That could take a thousand or several hundred years and would eventually raise sea level 14 feet. 

In the Antarctica Peninsula, next to South America, temperatures have risen nearly 5 degrees since 1950 and the winters have warmed 9 degrees reducing sea ice formation from seven to only four months a year. Nearby a section of ice the size of Delaware recently broke away from the Larson Ice Shelf. 

Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster than predicted because recent mapping revealed many glaciers are in water deeper than 600 feet which is 6 to 8 degrees warmer than colder Arctic water above 600 feet. Melting of Greenland's ice would raise sea level 24 feet. 

Southeastern Greenland has a 27,000 square mile aquifer of water within its top layer of ice and snow that will inevitably rupture. Here is more about that: nsidc.org/cryosphere/icelights/2014/02/can-liquid-water-persist-within-ice-sheet 

Arctic sea ice has declined 30 percent over the past 30 years and summer sea ice has been reduced 13.4 percent per decade. 

Globally, 19,500 square miles of sea ice was lost per year between 1996 and 2013, more than double the previous 17 years. 

Glaciers that provide water to millions of people in the Himalayas, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Indonesia and western North American are all in decline and permafrost degradation is occurring throughout northern regions. 

The world is facing a catastrophe caused by warming air and ocean temperatures. Republican and Democrat congressional representatives need to fulfill the will of the American people by enacting legislation that would stop heat trapping carbon dioxide emissions. 

The Citizen’s Climate Lobby legislative proposal would accomplish that by establishing a gradually increasing fee on the carbon content of coal, oil, and natural gas. The revenue collected would be returned in equal monthly dividend payments to everyone 18 years and older, including a half dividend for one or two children per family. The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon, adding about 15 cents to a gallon of gas, and would increase $10 per year. 

The dividend payments would increase to compensate for the increasing cost of fossil fuels. That would stimulate the economy and a market-driven transition to alternative energy because clean renewable energy would be less expensive and a better long-term investment. 

The 62 Congressional representatives in the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus should introduce legislation based on the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, “Carbon Fee and Dividend,” proposal. With their votes in Congress and a Senate majority, national climate legislation would pass and go to President Trump for his signature or veto. 

In the event of a Trump veto, the United States would miss the opportunity to lead the world in developing a sustainable global economy by building a more efficient and productive American economy powered by clean renewable energy. Also a veto would further divide the world in addressing climate change and the impending global crisis of rising sea level. 

Increasing ocean temperatures are melting polar ice which is disrupting the natural balance that regulates Earth’s climate. But extreme cold Arctic temperatures make it possible to take drastic action to maintain the Arctic ice cap that is vital for maintaining the balance of Earth’s climate. 

Arctic ice is receding but ocean water could be pumped onto the winter ice that is melting so it will last throughout the year. Arctic winter temperatures average between -40 to +32° Fahrenheit so the pumped water would create a thick layer of solid ice that would be equivalent to old sea ice that has recently been replaced with thin, less solid ice. The science of this has been studied extensively at: www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016EF000410/full 

Pumps operating continuously would pump water into 6 to 12 inch diameter horizontal perforated pipes two feet above the ice extending out 660 feet. The pipes could be heated to prevent freezing if necessary. The pumps would be spaced a quarter mile apart and be powered with electricity through a grid generated by large wind turbines in frames that can be raised under reinforced ice. 

The Arctic ice cap regulates global climate because Arctic sea ice reflects the sun’s radiation into space and retains cold ocean temperatures while open water absorbs and retains the sun’s radiation accelerating ocean warming. Warming temperatures in the absence of Arctic ice allow the jet stream to drift south bringing cold Arctic air to Eastern United States and for warm air to penetrate into the Arctic. Warmer ocean temperatures could disrupt the system of global currents that regulate Earth's temperature. 

Restoring the Arctic ice cap would maintain Arctic climate and surrounding ocean temperatures until greenhouse gas emissions are stopped and global temperatures decrease to a sustainable level. 

Maintaining Arctic sea ice would give polar bears and seals life-sustaining habitat for hunting, resting and breeding. 

The water in Greenland’s aquifer which formed in 1970 should be pumped to the surface to freeze before it bursts. Ocean water could also be pumped onto Greenland and Antarctica to maintain ice sheets and strategic ice flows. The pumped water would counteract rising sea level in addition to preserving ice and its benefits. 

Restoring Arctic and global ice may seem daunting but not compared to building sea walls or moving low-lying cities. 

As a matter of national and international security the United States Army Corps of Engineers and military personnel should be dispatched and funds allocated to restore the Arctic ice cap. For more information, visit: 


Mark Altgelt is affiliated with Citizen’s Climate Lobby 

Puerto Rico: The High Toll of Being Colonized

Harry Brill
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 05:30:00 PM

An important indication that a government is disinterested in the basic needs of a population is almost always reflected in its statistics. An uncaring government underestimates the extent of a problem that really should have been and still should be addressed. Puerto Rico's recent major Hurricane, Maria --- shouldn't it be named Hurricane Trump! -- killed according to the official count 64 people. President Trump praised the low number of deaths, although he objected that its officials were asking the U.S. Government for more resources. He criticized local officials for wanting "everything to be done for them”. 

If the damage was so relatively mild a reasonable argument can be made that Puerto Rico needs very little assistance. But It is not only that three months since the hurricane about half the households still lack power. According to the New York Times over 1,000 residents were killed as a result of the storm. The Times checked the same time period of recorded deaths in 2015 and 2016, which averaged over a thousand fewer who had died. But it is not just hurricane Maria that bears the blame for the immense damage. By contrast, the rich suffered far less in degree and kind. Most Puerto Ricans lack a safe environment, adequate infrastructure, and access to good and readily available medical services. 

Among the greatest killers anywhere is living in poverty, whether due to low paying jobs, unhealthy jobs, or unemployment. Unfortunately for those who reside in Puerto Rico, their misfortune is proportionately greater than anywhere else in the United States. The official unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent, which is over twice the national rate of 4.1 percent. The average annual income in Puerto Rico is about $15,200. That's half of Mississippi's, which is the poorest state in the union. In other words, if Puerto Rico was a state, its average income would be the lowest than all other states in the union. The widespread poverty creates conditions of living which makes the impoverished more vulnerable to disastrous events. 

Nelson Denis in his remarkable book, "War Against All Puerto Ricans", reports additional burdens that Puerto Rico's population bears is that water rates were hiked by 60 percent, and sales taxes have been increased to 11.5 percent. For electricity Puerto Rico's consumers pay more for their power than consumers in every state except Hawaii. Also, the costs to every Puerto Rican to cover the interest on Puerto Rico's public debt will be more than $1500 a year, which on average is at least 10 percent of their income. The abysmally low income and high taxes of most Puerto Ricans have pushed many of its residents into deeper poverty.  

Also, foreclosures have more than doubled in the last decade. About a third of Puerto Rican homeowners have fallen behind on their mortgage payments. Like the judicial process on the mainland, lenders must follow federal guidelines on notifying borrowers and must give them an opportunity to pay their debt. But to save time, inconvenience, and uncertainty for the mortgage lenders, the foreclosure notices are sent in English even though many residents speak only Spanish. Despite this outrageous violation, the federal government has looked the other way. 

To explain the desperate economic situation of many of the Puerto Rican residents, their basic problem is that they are colonized. They lack the democratic rights to build a better life for themselves. Although they are citizens, they are deprived of the right to vote for president. They are allowed one representative in the House of Representatives, but their rep is not allowed to vote on the floor of the house. Puerto Ricans do have their legislature. But Congress can veto any decision that the legislature makes. 

In fact, Congress passed in 2016 a notorious bill that completely eliminates any political and judicial rights of Puerto Rican citizens. The purpose of this 

horrendous law is to repay creditors for the money they are owed. A Financial Control Board (FCB) was established and pro-business appointments to the board were made to manage the entire Puerto Rican Economy. The FCB approved an austerity plan for 2017-2026 that includes cuts in health care and pensions, and massive cuts in education. Also 300 public school buildings will be closed and sold. Also, the FCB is empowered to preside over all leases, union contracts and collective bargain agreements.  

Clearly, Puerto Rico's population is painfully aware from their horrendous experience that the lack of democracy and their massive poverty are inextricably linked. For very good reason, they prefer political independence from the United States or at least statehood. But legally speaking, that decision is not up to the people. In fact, during the 1950s there was a growing nationalist movement for independence that was crushed by several thousand American troops. Also, two towns were bombarded. This is the only occasion in American history that the U.S. government deliberately bombed its own citizens. 

What have we learned from the routine contempt of Puerto Rican residents by many government officials? It is not only that they can be very tough. Too often these officials are also cruel. Being mistreated by those in control of the American colonies is the heavy price that is paid by those who are colonized. 

To Err is Human. But to Exploit and Humiliate is Not

Call Lethal Injection the Vile Torture It Is

Stephen Cooper
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 03:43:00 PM

In a New Year’s Eve display of liberal newspaper death penalty abolition harmony – buoyed by the release of the Death Penalty Information Center’s (DPIC) annual report evidencing another year in the long-observable trend of capital punishment’s disuse and disfavor in America – both the Washington Post and New York Times’s editorial boards published opinion pieces arguing for an end to what the Times called a “cruel and pointless” practice; one that is “savage, racially biased, arbitrary,” and which “the developed world agreed to reject...long ago.”
On her well-followed Twitter account, intrepid anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean opined that the Times “opened the New Year with a bang: a full-throated exhortation against the death penalty. The editorial hit all the right notes.” While I hardly disagree with Sister Helen on anything concerning death penalty abolition – and, despite all the truthful and pointed invectives the Times’s editorial board did skillfully use to highlight capital punishment’s moral depravity – I still preferred when newspaper editors used the word ‘torture’ to describe to the American people what lethal injection really is.
For example, take the column titled “Lethal Cruelty” published by the New York Times’s editorial board over a decade ago, in April 2006: Its final paragraph, a frustrating-beyond-belief marker of the meandering, snail pace of the abolition movement in the United States, concluded: “But even justices who think the Constitution permits capital punishment should find that lethal injections that torture prisoners in the process of killing them are unconstitutional.” (Hello Justices? Hello!? Any Justices at home and awake at the high court? As Martin Luther King, Jr., once judiciously declared: “The time is always right to do what is right,” which the Supreme Court can and should do immediately by “[w]iping the stain of capital punishment clean.”)
It is precisely because of its stinging, far-reaching legal, historical, ethical, and moral implications – especially in the putative “land of the free and home of the brave” – that I respectfully submit it is increasingly more important for anti-death penalty writers to use the word ‘torture,’ as a censure, to describe the barbarity of lethal injection. Other than genocide and atrocity, perhaps no other single-word descriptor is capable of generating the same level of opprobrium, righteous indignation, and negative international press coverage as the word ‘torture.’ A not very humble example is a column I published in the Hill last year, at about this same time, called “Alabama's torture of Ronald Smith spotlights unequal justice under law.” (Others include an opinion I published a few months later in Alabama’s Montgomery Advertiser – not only about Mr. Smith’s patently botched execution, but about all of Alabama’s volatile executions by lethal injection – called “Is Alabama hiding that it tortured its citizens,” “Alabama’s Human Guinea Pigs: Burning People Alive on Death Row,” and, most recently in the series, “Alabama's ‘Baghdad Bob’ of Death Row.”)
Nevertheless, notwithstanding my hyper-technical, terminology-centric complaint about this year’s version of the Times’s perennial plea for death penalty abolition, it was a darned sight better than the Washington Post’s overly rosy outlook. Despite leading with the appropriately morose title, “[a]nother year in death,” the Post’s piece irrationally extols the significance of DPIC’s annual report, insipidly informing its readers there is “cause for celebration” because “[n]o matter the reason, it is heartening to see the country become steadily more humane.”
Horse hockey. Each and every year since the death penalty’s reinstatement over forty-five years ago, stern-faced state officials, particularly in the South, regularly trot out, for extra pay, withered, weakened, beaten-down – dying even – old men (and much more rarely, women) to torture them to death. This occurs many years, sometimes even decades, after their crimes of conviction. As I have written elsewhere decrying the “unacceptable racial bias [that] persists in capital punishment”: “[s]ometime soon in the 31 states that have not abolished the death penalty, leaders at the highest levels of state government, men and women – mostly men and mostly white – will hold private, closed-door meetings, in which they will discuss the most secretive, most cost-effective, most media-friendly way to go about killing one, or more of its citizens.”
And there’s nothing – not a damn thing – humane or celebratory about that.
Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.

The Peril We All Face Due To Human Folly

Jack Bragen
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 02:54:00 PM

Soylent Green was a 1973 movie starring Charlton Heston, loosely based on the 1966 science fiction book "Make Room, Make Room!" by author Harry Harrison. The movie explored the effects of unchecked population, it predicted global warming (in 1973) and it concluded with the uncovering of a secret, that the ocean was dying, and with it, everyone would die.

Thus, human beings have known of global warming for more than fifty years. It was too inconvenient for us to find alternatives to fossil fuels.

Worse yet is how human beings treat our oceans. We've used them as a sewer, a garbage dump, a nuclear testing ground and nuclear waste sight, a platform for military battles. And worse. Recently there was the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors, which released large amounts of radioactive material into the ocean. Additionally, we had the BP oil spill disaster in Gulf of Mexico.  

At the same time, we expect the ocean to provide us with oxygen, and we use it as a source of food. The ocean is responsible for about 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Due to warming of the oceans, some scientists believe that there has already been a forty percent reduction in the plankton that produces oxygen.  

When our situation worsens, it is conceivable that our oceans could turn anaerobic. This means everything in the ocean will die, and it means that human beings and most animals will slowly suffocate to death. 

Environmental issues are no longer strictly in the domain of bird watchers, hikers and nature lovers. Environmentalism is also no longer about mere health concerns, such as carcinogens in our environment, lead and mercury contamination, birth defects, towns becoming sick due to toxic waste, and so on. Now, the ante has been raised to whether or not our planet will continue to support human life, whatsoever.  

Is it too late for us? We must not assume that. It appears that the Republican Party, the fossil fuel industry, Congress, and the President, believe that it is hopeless to reverse global warming; and that we may as well build structures that will house the fortunate few. 

I am certain that President Trump is well aware of the scientific fact of global warming, despite his public denial of that. His circle of concern excludes everything and everyone other than his own power, importance, and wealth.  

To appease some of the less informed members of the public, oil companies have periodically aired ads claiming that we can take the carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere and store it. Any credible scientist can tell you that this would either A; require more energy than was obtained by burning the fossil fuels, or else B; it would deplete our atmosphere of oxygen.  

We currently have sufficient technology to convert to renewable energy. What stands in the way?--human folly of various kinds, such as greed, denial, the desire for comfort, and resistance to change. 

As it stands, we're looking at the likelihood of most life on our planet becoming extinct, and it seems to be happening much faster than we anticipated. 

Force and Violence in a Can

Steve Martinot
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 02:32:00 PM

Pepper spray. (Oleoresin capsicum or OC). During Redwood Summer, back in the 90s, people went north in an attempt to keep the old growth redwoods from being killed (aka logged). A group of young people chained themselves in front of a timber industry office with their hands in pipes so their ties together could not be broken. The cops, seeing these protesters sitting there defenselessly, daubed pepper spray in their eyes – causing unimaginable pain, and ruining the eyesight of two of them. [www.nopepperspray.org/levendosky.htm

This was two decades before the cop sprayed the sitting demonstrators at UC Davis. OC is an instrument of torture. In police hands, its only function is to cause pain for the purpose of gaining obedience or obeisance. Put an instrument of torture in the hands of a sadist, and he will use it to torture someone. 

It was also during the 90s that Berkeley City Council decided to authorize Berkeley police to carry OC. In 2017, the City Council extended this authorization to use in crowd situations. This was precipitated by the events of last summer when white supremacists and neo-nazis came to Berkeley to recruit to their organizations. Counter-demonstrations were organized to defend the city because people remembered that these invading organizations loved violence, and practiced it within the traditions they had adopted (pogroms, KKK raids and lynchings, World War II, etc.). There were confrontations, a few fights, a lot of media attention to violence, but mostly discussion and argument. The people of the Bay Area wore down the invaders, and they stopped coming. 

To close out this year of paradoxes, on Dec. 19, the City Council passed a resolution opposing fascism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. And in the same session, it reaffirmed its former policy on OC use in crowd situations. Though many spoke against the use of OC – an element of police militarization, necessarily indiscriminate in its use, and as an instrument of torture – suggesting that its original authorization was unethical, the mayor assured the world that Berkeley had a “well-crafted policy” on the use of OC by the PD. “We crafted a policy very carefully to meet constitutional standards, and specifically target people who engage in violence.” [2:50:52 in the council video] 

One perceptive young man pointed out, however, that if the police have pepper spray, then people will bring pepper spray to the demonstrations to equalize with the police. That is, the police become a role model. Somehow, the idea of people defending themselves against police violence did not occur to the council. 

But the mayor assured us that pepper spray will only be used "properly." I suppose we can trust the police to do this, just as we can trust them to stop racial profiling (just kidding). Sporting a stern expression, the mayor says: “We are against anyone that commits violence against anyone in our community. Or against our police. That is not acceptible. That will not be tolerated.” [1:00:25] But it will be toloerated from the police themselves. That is why they want weapons. 

By "properly," he means only on individuals (which no one believes possible for a spray), and only against violent people. But who gets to define violence? Is it the people involved in their disputes with invading neo-nazis, or is it the neo-nazis and white supremacists themselves who come with their protestations of peace, that their entire history of violence belies? No. it will be the police who define violence, and thus when to use the pepper spray. They will have autonomous use, while City Council euphemizes "autonomously" as "properly." Big deal!! 

On what basis will a cop define another person as violent, so that he can use pepper spray on him? Will it be when the other is walking away though told to stand still by the police? Or when the person is defending himself against a neo-nazi? Will it be when someone tries to tear down a confederate flag used to insult and harass a fellow black Berkeleyan (for instance)? Or will it be when a cop tells a person to move and they just standing still? Police have often interpreted that (standing still) as violence. People have been killed by cops who felt "threatened" in just such situations as these. 

The fact that the police will be defining what is violent is left unsaid by the council. Or perhaps, "abdicated" is the proper word. A "carefully crafted" abdication? 

If pepper spray is an instrument of torture, then it is illegal under international law, banned by UN treaty to which the US is signatory (1994), making it unconstitutional (Article 6). And Berkeley City Council swore to uphold the Constitution. The entire council stands in violation of its oath. 

To authorize the police to use OC on people is to authorize state sanctioned torture. When four cops beat Rodney King on an expressway as he crouched trying to avoid their baton blows, they were subjecting him to state sanctioned torture. And similarly for the myriad unvideo-ed such incidents. Batons are not exempt from the category of torture instrument, and neither are tasers. State sanctioned torture violates the Nuremberg Agreements written at the end of that terrible war against fascism in 1945. Those Agreements focused on regimes that used torture to establish social control. Torture used for social control is not law enforcement. It is militarization. 

Paradoxically, the City Council reaffirmed giving a torture instrument to the police at the same time it passed the resolution against fascism. The resolution, submitted by the Peace and Justice Commission, stated that Berkeley opposed “fascism, white supremacy, anti-semitism, and any individuals or organizations promoting fascism and/or committing violent acts” against people. The mayor, however, pulled a fast one, and changed it, pulling out several whole clauses. His version of the above sentence now reads that Berkeley opposed “fascism, white supremacy, anti-semitism, and any individuals or organizations committing violent acts.” 

By making that change, though the statement still names fascism and white supremacy, it no longer opposes their activities to recruit and build their organizations, which was the purpose for which they came to Berkeley, and the issue inspiring the commission’s statement. By removing "promotes," the focus of the sentence shifts from opposing invading racists and neo-nazis to opposing violence in the abstract. 

What does it mean by violence? Does it mean anti-semitism? No, because anti-semitism is only a social concept, while violence is enacted by "individuals." Does it mean white supremacy? No, for the same reason. Violence in the abstract has no meaning. We are left with Stephen Colbert’s spoof of Trump’s failure to name the violent organizations that vandalized and killed in Charlottesville, while pretending to condemn violence “in the strongest terms.”. Colbert, interpreting Trump: “I condemn in the strongest terms … um … you know who … um … doing you know what.” 

Exactly what is it that the Mayor is saying we will not tolerate? 

It is noteworthy that the Mayor made this change on his own, without participation by the rest of council. [1:32:10] Yet he refers to it as something “we, the council” have done. He took a decision by the agenda committee and altered it unilaterally. He admits that did that just before the council meeting. Yet none of the councilmembers had the temerity to say, “wait a minute, that wasn’t what the agenda committee decided. And we weren’t consulted. So now you are speaking for us?” Though a few amendments were offered, the Mayor’s changes represented a serious shift in the statement’s ideological position. And the mayor just sprung it on the council (and on the PJC). The PJC representative was stunned. And the council confronts a mayor who speaks for them without their participation. 

To speak for other people is a form of thought control. It does autocratic violence to the decision-making process. And leaving the notion of "violence" abstract is precisely what gives the police the power to define it however they want, and to pick out at will who to shoot. “Um … you know who … um … doing you know what.” 


But the real reason the police want pepper spray as a weapon lies elsewhere. According to Chief Greenwood, “It is this new emerging tactic of a large group of folks bearing shields .. which render our less lethal weapons less effective.” For torturing? The less lethal weapons are batons or teargas. Greenwood doesn’t want to be limited to those two. He wants the police to have “a tool that allows us a direct focus use of force on a person.” [2:41:20] The mayor clarifies this. “We need to make sure that the police have the tools that they need to keep themselves safe, and to keep our community safe. … The alternatives are using either tear gas which is diffuse, and will effect an entire crowd, … or more heavy uses of force.”  

In other words, the Mayor and the Chief agree insidiously that if the police do not have this weapon (euphemized as a "tool"), other weapons will be used. When weaponry comes first, it signifies that the police will only deal with people at a distance. They do not want to get their hands dirty. They impose pain to sanitize their own violent approaches. 

This isn’t law enforcement, it’s the law of force, the force of war. For the Mayor and the Chief, a person to be arrested must first be subjected to pain. He must first be tortured, punished for being arrested before arresting him for his crime. Gone is the idea of walking up to a person and arresting him, like the old days. Instead, weapons become a rule of engagement. We, the people, become the enemy, subject to police definition of who we are and what we are doing. It is just another form of profiling. 

Racial profiling has nothing to do with law enforcement either. In law enforcement, when a crime is committed, the police look for a suspect to charge with having committed it. In racial profiling, the police commit an act of suspicion, and then look for a crime for their suspect to have committed. 

A lot of people now talk about the police gaining the trust of the people. Its easy. Just call off your war. Put the weapons away. Drop the military ideology. But also, prosecute those cops who kill, maim, injure, or torture. Be an organization of peace. 

Oh, well. Easier said than done. When did an army ever disarm in the face of the unarmed. Unarmed?? But the Chief mentions shields, saying the police need protection against them. Give me a break. 

Shields are defensive implements. We should not forget why demonstrators carry shields. They are used to ward off baton blows and beanbag rounds, they are signs of past violence by the police against demonstrators (going back to the 1960s). Many demonstrators now wear helmets for the same reason. Yet the Chief states that the police need weapons to protect themselves against shields and helmets. For him, shields are offensive, aggressive against the police, meaning OC becomes defensive. 

He doesn’t speak the same language as the people. And reading Orwell probably won’t help him. Once you invert offense and defense, nothing about the disputes between people can ever make sense. Ask the thousands of imprisoned women convicted for defending themselves against abusers. All that’s left is war, which the police, by inverting offense and defense, bring to us. And the council falls for it. 

The people know that the invading groups of neo-nazis and white supremacists have a past of violence, a murderousness that takes the Blitzkrieg and the burning cross as its icon and its tradition, killing endlessly, right up into 2017. 

The shields are signs of past police violence. The fascist symbols are signs of past violence that the Mayor disguises behind empty generalizations. Far from learning to trust the police, we are learning to distrust the council. 

So here we are, in the middle of a situation in which there is violation of the Nuremberg Agreements, torture used for social control, a council subjected to thought control, autocracy in government, militarization, a police power that can determine who we are and what we are doing, and a police force that refuses to get up off its own racism. Wow, it’s a good thing this isn’t a fascist society. 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychotic Anger

Jack Bragen
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:59:00 PM

There are some people with mental illness who must be supervised and who are unable to handle their own responsibilities. And at the other end of the spectrum, there are some persons with mental illness who do better at most things than most non-afflicted people. 

A fairly common thread among those who suffer from psychosis is disproportionate anger. People who have psychotic tendencies, unfortunately, may get a bad rap as being a bully. However, the reader should understand that the brain of a schizophrenic or schizoaffective person is not entirely normal. 

Here, it is important for the reader to distinguish a person's intent, versus symptoms of mental illness that could at times override the person's basic intent. Most people with mental illness aren't criminals, don't do premeditated crime, and do not harbor ill will toward anyone. 

Many people with psychosis become very angry when feeling boxed in by a situation, when we are excessively frustrated or overstimulated, or, when we are in a situation that is too demanding. 

This is not the same thing as bullying, it is not the same thing as a quest for dominance, and it is not that people with psychosis are "haters." It is more like an instinct for self-preservation, an instinct to get out of a situation that is excessively painful; and it is sometimes linked to a fear of something.  

The stereotype created by mainstream media, that people with mental health problems are responsible for all of the crimes, is inaccurate, and it is a slam. Most people with mental illness are not dangerous. Many mentally ill people, when angry, may seem frightening, yet the worst most will do is yell at you. 

Most people with mental illness can learn ways of coping that don't frighten people. This entails taking care of oneself, not getting in people's faces, and, of course, not becoming violent. 

Removing oneself from a situation, taking a break, and giving oneself a chance to calm down, are good ways to start. Doing breathing exercises, being aware that the anger could be triggered due to psychosis in combination with environment, and deciding not to take out one's anger on anyone, constitute another tier of coping. 

A third tier to dealing with anger could be to gain an understanding of how anger is triggered in the mind. This could be asking a lot; yet with training, it is achievable.  

People with schizophrenia are better off when we have an escape route from situations that could be excessively difficult or too stressful. If we are stuck in an overwhelming situation, and if we have no choice about it, it can sometimes be a bad formula. 

The reader should distinguish what I've described above from premeditated acts of violence--a completely different category. 

My thing is that I can't handle retail scenarios, especially at night, and especially when I have to wait for someone else to finish up with what they are doing. Even if I tried to take a break, the only place of escape is a parking lot. This is not very good, if it is dark out, if it is hot weather, and/or if there is security in the parking lot; security personnel can frighten some people with paranoia. On the other hand, I've been harassed in parking lots by criminals. 

Other areas of difficulty include travel, can include going to some fancy restaurants, and may include some formal events. Furthermore, if one's home has a lot of noise pollution--such as a person nearby having a loud party every night, this can be a big stressor. 

People with a psychotic disorder may have a lot more sensitivity to environments. This can be hard for people unfamiliar with mental illness to understand; non-afflicted people may have no concept that it can be a problem. 

Recently I saw two men trying to park their cars who got in a conflict. I assume they weren't mentally ill and were idiots. A vehicle in front was blocking the car behind it because the driver was waiting for a turn so that he could get the parking space he wanted. The vehicle behind him was stuck, with no reasonable way to move his car anywhere.  

They both "flipped off" each other. The driver in back was apparently ready to have a colossal fistfight, and the driver in front went away. Then, the driver who'd been in back, and who seemed angry out of proportion, asked me if I had seen what had happened. I acknowledged it as simply as I could. As soon as we could, my wife and I left the parking lot and went home. 

You don't have to have a mental health problem to be infantile and violent. If the main goal in life is to prevent people from walking all over you, and if one makes oneself physically more powerful in order to be left alone, the consequence is sometimes that it will come back to haunt you.  

This is to point out the fact that infantile men and not people with psychosis or mania create most violent incidents. 

Insofar as "getting even," which is a motive some mainstream or uninformed people might attribute to mentally ill people, it is not applicable to me personally, and probably isn't applicable to most mentally ill people. Most of us are focused on our personal situations, on getting through another day, and on hoping for something better in the future. 


THE PUBLIC EYE:What to Expect in 2018

Bob Burnett
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:54:00 PM

As we slosh into 2018, it's clear that while there are some negative carryovers from 2017, there's a lot that has changed for the positive over the past 12 months. We're still stuck with predator Trump and the associated madness. On the other hand, there has been a huge wave forming for -- lacking a better term -- a new women's movement. That bodes well for 2018. 

If you were one of those who, a year ago, expected Trump to "grow" into the job, you've probably abandoned hope for real change. The publication of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" has enhanced the great Washington debate: Is Trump crazy or just unbelievably stupid? You decide. Either way he's "a clear and present danger." 

It's painfully obvious that Trump has confirmed our worst expectations. Looking at the downside, 2018 will be difficult because Trump is maddeningly erratic. (Don't ask me why, in the face of this, the stock market has done so well. It reminds me of the famous REM lyric, "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.") 

For several months, Trump's approval rating has averaged around 38 percent. (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/ ) Within the American electorate, Trump's base is a hardcore 33 percent. They're not going to be swayed by any foreseeable political event. Trump supporters are a cult; they're with him all the way to Armageddon. (Bring it on, Jehovah!) 

This means that in any competitive 2018 election, Trump-supporting candidates can count on 33 to 38 percent of the vote. Therefore, Democrats can win these elections if they mobilize their base and Independents. (That's the take-home message from the Doug Jones victory in Alabama.) 

Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to screw up an advantage. Nonetheless, at the moment, things like good. In the latest CNN poll (http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/20/politics/cnn-poll-democrats-advantage-grows-2018/index.html ), when asked, "Which Party are you most likely to vote for in [the] midterm election?" 56 percent responded Democrats and only 38 percent answered Republicans. 

Democrats have been mobilizing since early 2017 -- thanks to groups like Indivisible and NextGen -- and should have competitive candidates in most races. What could go wrong? Lots of things. 

Early in 2002, George W. Bush's approval ratings started to decline -- despite the boost he had received from 9/11 -- and so he decided to boost his poll numbers with the Iraq invasion. Trump could attempt adopt a similar tactic by launching military action against North Korea. (Recently, there's been a fair amount of chatter about this (http://www.businessinsider.com/tillerson-mattis-trump-north-korea-strike-2018-1 ).) 

Of course there is a government shutdown looming on January 19th. Many Dems expect their Party to hold out for some kind of dispensation for the Dreamers. (Trump has been maddeningly inconsistent about this subject.) There's always a possibility that Democrats will screwup what should be their tactical advantage and the public will blame them for what happens. 

Assuming that the national Democratic leadership doesn't screwup too badly, Dems should have a substantial advantage going into the November 6th midterm elections. But there is a slight matter of message to consider. Neutral observers -- all two of them -- fault the Democrats for not having a unified message -- other than, "Lock him up!" 

Actually, "Lock him up!" isn't a bad message as, in his first twelve months in office, Trump has managed to piss off every segment of the electorate other than his adoring base (and Wall Street speculators). Having Trump as President is like babysitting a hyperactive toddler who methodically poops all over your house. 

Democratic candidates can run with the message: "Trump is a treacherous incompetent who threatens our _______", where they fill in the blanks with the relevant local issue: healthcare, security, good jobs, clean water, (black and brown) neighbors, national parks, or whatever. 

In the midterm election, the interesting races are likely to be decided by competing personalities. The Republicans will run an elderly white male who will do his best to defend his support for DT. The Democrats, in many cases, will run a woman. For example, in the Nevada Senate race, opposing incumbent toady Dean Heller is Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen; in the Arizona Senate race, opposing the loathsome Joe Arpaio -- or whoever else the GOP nominates to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Flake -- will be Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. No doubt Jacky Rosen will emphasize Heller's unwavering support for Trump's attack on healthcare and other issues that matter to Nevadans. Kyrsten Sinema will attack Arpaio on immigration (duh). 

To the extent that Democrats run female candidates they can take advantage of the momentum from the #MeToo movement. Running against Trump, and his supporters, is running against sexual harassment at all levels: from physical violence to employment discrimination. 

However, the new "feminization" of politics strikes a deeper chord. Throughout the country, Restaurant Opportunities Center (http://rocunited.org/ ) are running campaigns for the benefit of America's 14 million restaurant workers -- the majority of whom are women. (BTW: two-thirds of these women report being sexually harassed on the job.) In 2018, ROC is focussing on Michigan where state law permits restaurants to pay workers as little as $3.52 per hour. ROC is organizing workers to put a "fair wage" initiative on the ballot and to vote in 2018. (In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 12,000 votes.) 

There's a potent coalition forming that should sweep Democrats to victory on November 6th. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: North Korea gave thumbs up to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:46:00 PM

Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside Trump's White House, portrays an unflattering view of President Trump and much of his White House. Excerpts of the book had already appeared in New York Magazine.

Among the juiciest claims in the book:

* Trump's "ultimate goal” had never been to win the Oval Office. But he was excited about the exposure and opportunities to develop his brand;

* “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head,” former aide Sam Nunberg told Wolff about the time he was sent to explain the Constitution to Trump early in the campaign;

* President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, described a controversial meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” to Wolff;

* Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron” last year;

* “For (Treasury Secretary) Steve Mnuchin and (former Trump White House chief of staff) Reince Priebus, the president was an ‘idiot.’ For (former Goldman Sachs exec) Gary Cohn, he was ‘dumb as sh-t.’ For (National Security Adviser) H.R. McMaster he was a ‘dope.’ The list went on,” Wolff said;

* “It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won't read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant p---k who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits ... I am in a constant state of terror and shock,” Gary Cohn said in an email, according to Fire and Fury; and so on. 

Trump's personal attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to publisher Henry Holt and Wolff demanding that the book not be released or face legal action. This, of course ensured a best seller. The book was published on January 5, 2018, and as predicted is already a best seller. The book sold 29,000 hard copies the first weekend, and digital and audio sales have topped 350,000. 

While Wolff's book got mixed reviews from critics, North Korea's state media gave it a thumbs up, which said the book's popularity "foretells Trump's political demise." 

I am not going to read the book but I am sure enjoying the furor caused by its publication.

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Dispatches Awards for 2017

Conn Hallinan
Monday January 01, 2018 - 07:09:00 PM

Each year Dispatches From the Edge gives awards to individuals, companies and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2017.

The Reverse WEBBY Award to the Colsa Corporation based in Huntsville, Ala, a company that runs the multi-million dollar WebOps program for the U.S. Defense Department. WebOps, according to Associated Press, employs “specialists” who “employ fictitious identities and try to sway targets from joining the Islamic State.” But the “specialists” are not fluent and used the Arabic word for “salad” in place of “authority.” Thus the governing body set up by the 1993 Oslo Accords became the “Palestinian salad” (tasty with a light vinaigrette).

Runner up is the military’s Special Operations Forces (SOFs) that botched a raid in Yemen last February that got a Navy SEAL killed and destroyed a $75 million MV-22 Osprey aircraft. Desperate to show that the raid gathered valuable intelligence, U.S. commanders published a video on how to make explosives that they say were captured during the raid. Except the video was 10 years old and all over the Internet. The raid also killed several children, but the Trump administration called it “a success by all standards.” 

The Little Bo Peep Award to the DOD’s “Iraq Train and Equip” program that lost track of $1.6 billion worth of weapons and military equipment, some of which might have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State. “Sending millions of dollars worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy” Amnesty International researcher Patrick Wilcken told the Financial Times

The Rudyard Kipling Award to the U.S. DOD for spending $28 million on new camouflage uniforms for the Afghan Army that depict a lush forest background. The country is almost 98 percent desert. 

Runner up is the British New Century Consulting contractor hired by the U.S. for $536 million to train intelligence officers for the Afghan Army. There is no evidence that the company did so, but New Century did buy Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for its executives and paid six figure salaries to employees’ relatives without any record of their doing work. 

The U.S. has spent $120 billion in Afghanistan since 2002. Most of it goes to train the Afghan armed forces, whose desertion rate is close to 35 percent, in part because the Taliban are inflicting heavy casualties on police and soldiers. How many casualties? Not clear, because the Pentagon has classified those figures. “The Afghans know what’s going on; the Taliban knows what’s going on; the U.S. Military knows what’s going on,” says John F. Sopko, the special inspector for Afghanistan. “The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people paying for it.” 

Dispatches suggest that readers read a short poem by Kipling entitled “Arithmetic on the Frontier.” Nothing’s changed. 

Marie Antoinette Award to Brazilian President Michel Temer, who has instituted a draconian austerity regime in one of the most unequal countries in the world, while ordering more than $400,000 in food for his official trips. That would include 500 cartons of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, almost a ton and half of chocolate cake, provolone, Brie and buffalo mozzarella for sandwiches, and 120 jars of Nutella spread. Public uproar was so great that the order was cancelled. However, Temer did host a taxpayer-funded steak and shrimp feed for 300 legislators in an effort to get their support for budget cuts. Temer ally Pedro Fernandez suggested that one way to save money on a program that feeds the poor for 65 cents a meal is to have them eat “every other day.” 

The Grinch Award had three winners this year: 

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for demanding that Cambodia repay a $506 million debt to Washington for a Vietnam War era program called Food For Peace. While USAID was handing out rice, wheat, oil and cotton to refugees, the U.S. military was secretly—and illegally—dropping more than 500,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia. Those bombings killed upwards of half a million people, destabilized the Phnon Penh government, and led to the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge that killed more than two million people. Bombs still litter Cambodia and kill scores of people every year.
  • The U.S. Defense Department for discharging soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, thus denying some of them health care, disability pensions and education funds. Of the 92,000 troops discharged from 2011 to 2015, some 57,000 were diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, or both. The military is supposed to screen discharges before tagging them with the “misconduct” label, but in almost half the cases there was no screening. Of that 57,000, some 13,000 received a “less than honorable” discharge that denies them health care, pensions and benefits.
  • Stephen Miller, President Trumps speech writer, for intervening in the Group of Seven summit meeting in Sicily and sabotaging an Italian initiative to resettle millions of refugees from wars in the Middle East and Africa. The G-7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the U.S.
The Golden Lemon Award to Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system in history. In the long run the program is estimated to cost $1.5 trillion. The plane was withdrawn from an air show in Amberley, Australia because there was a possibility of lightning (the plane’s name is “Lightning II”), and this past June five pilots’ experienced “hypoxia-like” symptoms—no air—and the plane was grounded. So far, no one has figured out the problem. The F-35 can’t open its weapons bay at high speed, because it causes the plane to “flutter,” and while it is supposed to be able to take off from an aircraft carrier, it can’t. According to a study by the Director of Operational Test Evaluation, “The aircraft will have little, if any real combat capability for years to come.” 

A better buy for the money? Higher education students in the U.S. are currently $1.3 trillion in debt. 

The Torquemada Award to Alpaslan Durmas, education minister in Turkey’s conservative Islamic government, for removing all references to “evolution” in biology textbooks because it is “too complicated for students.” Instead they will be instructed that God created people 10,000 years ago. Mustafa Akyol of Al Monitor points out the irony in Durmas’ order. Medieval Muslim scholars wrote about a common origin of the species, and “That is why John William Draper, a Darwin contemporary, referred to Darwin’s views as the ‘Mohammadan theory of evolution.’” 

Turkey has also blocked Wikipedia in case some of the kiddies want to read about evolution on line. 

Frankenstein Award to the U.S. Navy for building small “killer” boats called Autonomous Surface Craft that use artificial intelligence to locate and destroy their targets. I mean, what could go wrong, this is the U.S. Navy, right? The same one that rammed two high-tech guided missile destroyers into a huge oil tanker and a giant container ship this past summer, killing a score of sailors. A guided missile cruiser collided with a South Korean fishing boat, and the guided missile cruiser Antietam ran aground in Yokosuka Harbor in Japan. The Navy also kind of lost track of an aircraft carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean. 

So, not to worry. 

The Ostrich Award to The Trump administration for first disbanding the federal advisory National Climate Assessment group and then sending speakers representing Peabody Energy, a coal company; NuScale Power, a nuclear engineering firm; and Tellurian, a liquid natural gas group to represent the U.S. at the international climate talks in Germany. Barry K. Worthington, executive director of the U.S. Energy Assn., said he was going to challenge the idea fossil fuel should be phased out. “If I can throw myself on the hand grenade to help people realize that, I’m willing to do it.” 

It was a puzzling analogy. 

In the meantime, 2016 was the hottest year on record, breaking records set in 2014 and 2015. Temperatures were particularly high in Asia and the arctic, and drought was widespread in southern Africa. Wildfires burned 8.9 million acres in western Canada and the U.S. And a patch of warm water off the coast of Alaska facilitated the growth of toxic algae that killed thousands of seabirds and shut down fishing industries. 

The Doom’s Day Award to what the Financial Times calls the “uber-rich” who are “hedging against the collapse of the capitalist system” by buying up land in New Zealand. “About 40 percent of our clients are Americans,” says Matt Finnigan of Sotheby’s International Realty New Zealand. The buyers want land that comes “with their own water supply, power sources and ability to grow food.” 

But you don’t have to go down under to bunker down. Vivos Group will sell you a hardened concrete bunker in South Dakota for $25,000 and a yearly fee of $1000. Or you can buy a cabin on the World, a huge cruise liner that will take you far from trouble. If you are Larry Ellison, you can buy 98 percent of Lanai, one of Hawaiian Islands. 

In Memory of Edward Herman, co-author with Noam Chomsky of “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” who died Nov. 11 at age 92. The book was what author and journalist Matt Taibbi called “a kind of bible of media criticism for a generation of dissident thinkers.” Herman wrote almost 20 books on political economy and corporate power, including his 1997 “The Global Media” with Robert McChesney. 



Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog. wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 

ECLECTIC RANT: Congress, hands off Social Security

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 05:23:00 PM

Both my wife and I receive Social Security benefits. Yes, we are of that certain age. We pay taxes on part of our benefits. Luckily, we do not depend on these benefits to totally meet our daily retirement living expenses. Instead they supplement our employment retirement income. Many senior citizens, however, rely only on Social Security benefits to survive.  

About 169 million Americans pay Social Security taxes and we and 61 million others -- one family in four -- collect monthly benefits. The recipients are retirees, disabled persons, and families of retired, disabled or deceased workers. The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at the 2017 full retirement age is $2,687 a month. 

What is Social Security? 

"Social Security is largely a pay-as-you-go program. This means that today's workers pay Social Security taxes into the program and money flows back out as monthly income to beneficiaries. As a pay-as-you-go system, Social Security differs from company pensions, which are “pre-funded.” In pre-funded retirement programs, the money is accumulated in advance so that it will be available to be paid out to today's workers when they retire. The private plans need to be funded in advance to protect employees in case the company enters bankruptcy or goes out of business." 

In short, Social Security is an earned benefit. It is also an entitlement in the sense that when you actually file a claim for benefits and get approved, you are legally entitled to those benefits. Unfortunately, some Republicans in Congress have begun to use the word "entitlement" to imply some kind of government handout that can be just taken away. 

Tax Overhaul Estimated Net Deficits 

Experts estimate that the recent GOP tax overhaul will result in about $1.45 trillion in net deficits over a decade. Traditionally, deficits have been anathema to republicans. Remember when Paul Ryan warned of the dangers of deficits, “The facts are very, very clear: The United States is heading toward a debt crisis. We face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy — which will lower our living standards.” During his presidential campaign, Trump said he would pay off the national debt in eight years. To close the deficit caused by the tax overhaul, the Republicans are talking about cuts to safety nets such as Social Security. 

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.) introduced a plan to "modernize social security for the Twenty First century." The LA Times described Johnson's plan, "The bottom line is that Johnson’s plan is one of the most cynical and dishonest Social Security “fixes” to come down the Republican chute in years. It “fixes” Social Security in the same sense that one “fixes” a cat, and makes the program less relevant for millions of Americans facing retirement with ever shrinking resources."  

Is Social Security Going Broke?  

While the Social Security system is in need of another overhaul (similar to the one in 1983), the fund is not going broke. The 2017 Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees, who oversee the fund showed that, if left alone, the Social Security system will continue to be able to pay its bills for at least the next 40 years — thanks in part to a $1.4 trillion nest egg of Treasury securities that has been stashed away over the past several decades. (A separate analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found the fund is in good shape until 2052.) 

Does Congress Raid the Social Security Trust Fund?  

Of course. Should we be worried? No. More Social Security taxes are collected than paid out. This buildup of surplus was intentional -- the government wanted to build a reserve that would cover the benefits of the baby boomers. This surplus has been invested in special U.S. government bonds that are legally obligated to pay the stated rate of interest, and then repay the principal when they mature, according to the terms of the bonds. These special bonds are just part of the funding of the overall federal government, and the assets in the Social Security trust fund represent about 15% of the government's total debt. With the special U.S. government bonds held by the Social Security trust fund, we should be concerned whether future taxpayers can make good on the interest and principal payments when they come due, or if future bonds can be sold to pay the principal of the maturing bonds. The real issue is the federal debt. If it gets too big, then we might indeed be justified in worrying about the ability of future taxpayers to make good on the special bonds in the Social Security trust fund. 


As Nancy Altman, co-founder of Social Security Works, put it, in the last election “no one voted for massive cuts to Social Security, nor to end the program as we know it.” In December, 2015, just ahead of the Iowa caucuses, then-candidate Donald Trump stood up at a town hall and reassured a concerned AARP Iowa member that they "were not taking their Social Security." Perhaps, Trump should tweet Congress, telling them to take their "hands off" Social Security.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Method of Retasking the Mind

Jack Bragen
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 07:00:00 PM

Most people, I have observed, are generally unaware of what it is they are trying to do.

Some examples: What comes to mind when you hear someone say, "I'm not angry!" or, "I'm not jealous!"? What comes to mind when you hear someone say, "I don't do it for the money"? And, what comes to mind when you hear someone say, "I can take it or leave it"?

The human mind is constructed in a such a way that we may have a blind spot that may prevent us from understanding our own motives. This is so for a non-afflicted person's mind as much as it is for someone with a psychiatric diagnosis.  

The mind, at any given point, functions under a cache of commands/assumptions, which are our agendas. If the mind is on a painful, destructive, or useless task, it can grind on this indefinitely until something happens, externally or internally, to get us off that track.  

A television can play a horrible, awful, distasteful show, and it can play something better. The human brain is another vehicle that carries content. A person isn't necessarily stuck with one set of thoughts. We can divert to something else. If we are experiencing unhappiness, it could be due to bad content.  

Of course, it is not always so simple as that. Content is largely created by someone's environment--by surroundings, and the content being inputted from other people near us. When someone speaks and we hear it, this affects us whether we like it or not. How it affects us depends on what is being said, how it is being said, and on how our brain processes it. We don't always have full control over how our brain processes something.  

Environment often shapes the content of the mind, and the processing of the mind. When the environment is not demanding, we have more choices and we can give the mind assignments that we choose to give it. 

If our environment is not too demanding, it becomes more plausible to do almost any type of meditation or mindfulness. What I am calling "retasking," is where you change the postulates, the content, and the processing done by the mind. 

The first thing in "retasking" should be to discover your current postulates/commands. If it is a hot day, your postulate could be: "I'm hot; I need to cool down." If your stomach is empty, it might be: "I'm hungry." If someone is yelling at you about something, your postulate might be, "What a jerk!" If you are trying to figure out your postulates, one of them will be that of finding the postulates. 

Or, we might be preoccupied with postulates not connected to happenings in the moment. For example: "I need to get a better job." Another could be "This car is a piece of crap." Another could be "My ___ [girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse] is cheating on me--I know it!"  

The postulate cache in the mind can probably hold about a dozen accurate or erroneous beliefs at a given time. If you can get them to stop, one by one, it can bring peacefulness.  

You can learn to swap content. Another way of saying this is "distracting yourself." When we think of distraction of oneself, it may bring skepticism. It may seem like it doesn't resolve anything. However, the act of distracting should not be underestimated.  

Also, there is the act of ignoring. You might think ignoring something doesn't accomplish anything. However, you'd be wrong.  

People in certain jobs have learned to ignore the desire to urinate--for example, bus drivers and truck drivers. It is unhealthy to put this off for too long. However, if you have to go another half hour because it doesn't work to stop in a bad part of town, or, if your break time at your job is in fifteen minutes, being able to ignore this for fifteen minutes can be handy.  

Ignoring being hungry can come in handy if you are trying to lose weight. Ignoring being somewhat cold or hot is useful if you'd like to save money on your heating or cooling bill. Ignoring low-level physical pain is useful if you are a professional athlete, or perhaps a laborer.  

(A note about "ignoring pain": The reader must not construe this as an invitation to do harm to yourself or to fail to seek medical attention when sick or injured.)  

When you ignore a stimulus, it tells the mind that it is of low priority. When you distract yourself, it fills up mental space that might otherwise be used to mentally complain.  

You might be skeptical and believe that none of this solves your emotional pain. Yet, you should give this a chance. Retasking works because most emotional suffering that most Americans feel is caused by the content of the mind. If you change the content of your mind, it often solves a lot of unhappiness. 

There are a lot of ways to use the idea of retasking the mind. The basic idea is that you swap the content of your thoughts--you focus on things that do not cause you to be upset, and, additionally, you focus on things that help you and that make you feel better.  

The above concept doesn't address a neurologically caused mental illness. However, it can help with quality of life. This technique doesn't change any problems in life that must be addressed. It is merely a way to create a better mood. 

A shortcoming of modern psychotherapy, as administered to mentally ill adults, is that the therapists are trained to make their subject go into their pain more deeply, in the mistaken belief that this is somehow going to solve it. What they are doing is to train their "clients" to magnify their pain. This is a reason, among many, that I am resistant to therapy. A page in my chart says that I am "resistant to therapy." 

Changing the content of thoughts is something with which you can experiment. We are not in a demanding situation twenty-four hours of the day. When we have some time, we could practice at it. If you go into a more demanding situation, and begin it with thinking that is more positive, it can sometimes create a better outcome. 

The mind is happy when the mind thinks it is happy. The origin of most happiness versus unhappiness is often based on the content--the set of thoughts that currently occupy the mind. 

When someone says something negative to you, you might make a mental note that you will not absorb this into your mind. You don't have to say anything to the person who said it, since the person might be offended. If you know the person well enough to tell them, you could do so, hopefully in a tactful way. 

Spending time revising thoughts is not a waste of time. You can do this with paper and pen as an aid, not on a computer. What we think and how we think can have a major effect on mood, and I suggest looking into this. 


Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar
January 14-21, 2018

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday January 13, 2018 - 11:46:00 AM

The draft agenda for the January 25, 2018 Zoning Adjustment Board is available for review and comment: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/zoningadjustmentsboard/

Email comments to: zab@cityofberkeley.info

1734 Spruce – legalize 7th dwelling bringing total 13 bedrooms are parcel

2556 Telegraph – The Village 5-story, 22 units, 2-live-work, 3358 commercial space

2190 Shattuck Ave – Certification Final EIR, 18-story mixed use building which will obstruct the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Campanile Way

The City Council January 23 meeting agenda is posted for review and comment:


Email comments to: council@cityofberkeley.info partial agenda listing:

16. Broadband Master Plan

30. Student Housing,

31. Ad Hoc Committees to be open to the public with minutes, 24 hour notice of meeting,

34 a. Surveillance Ordinance – Police Review Commission,

34b. Surveillance Ordinance – City Manager requesting delay to complete counter proposal

35. Significant Community Benefits

37a. Porta Potties – Homeless Commission, 37b. Porta Potties - City Manager,

39. Replace Berkeley City Limit signs to “Welcome to Berkeley”, LOVE LIFE!” “Sanctuary City” and “Ohlone Territory”,

43. Information Report – To Achieve Fairness and Impartiality-Report and Recommendations from Berkeley Police

Indivisible Berkeley's list of actions you can do from home: https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions

The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website:

Next week, day by day

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Protect Berkeley Shellmound, Sun, Jan 14, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, 1900 Fourth Street,

Indivisible Berkeley General Assembly, Sun, Jan 14, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1970 Chestnut St, Finnish Hall, 


Monday, January 15, 2018 - Martin Luther king Jr. Holiday 

Tax the Rich rally – Rain cancels, Monday, Jan 15, winter hours 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater, 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 

Agenda Committee, Monday, Tue, Jan 16, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda for City Council Jan 30, meeting, item 6. Fire Safety and Prevention, item 8. Revenue stream for housing homeless and low-income students, Berkeley Way Housing update, item 10. Endorse 2018 Affordable Housing State Ballot Initiative, item 12. Adopt resolution “Premier Cru” property 1001, 1007, 1011 University, 1925 Ninth St purchased to develop affordable housing, direct and refer to City Manager to outline full development potential of site and report back by June 12, 2018. 


Housing Advisory Commission – Student Housing Subcommittee, Tue, Jan 16, 8:00 am, 2000 University, Au Coquelet, Agenda: Planning Commission to address housing 


Berkeley City Council, Tue, Jan 16, 6:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr Way, City Council Chambers, Worksession: Small Business Support, Action: Adopt 2018-2019 Strategic Plan 



Wednesday, January 17, 2018 

Animal Care Commission, Wed, Jan 17, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1 Bolivar Drive, Berkeley Animal Shelter, Agenda: 2018 work plan – meeting schedule, dog play areas, lost pets 


Commission on Labor, Wed, Jan 17, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Equal pay, banning prior salary on applications, living wage 


Human Welfare & Community Action Commission, Wed, Jan 17, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Closure Alta Bates, Childcare, Homeless Policy, Skills Training low-income residents, banking, immigration 


Thursday, January 18, 2018 

Design Review Committee, Thur, Jan 18, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center 

1940 San Pablo – demolish 1-story service station, construct 5-story mixed use, 48 dwelling units, 3 live/work units, 800 sq ft café, 53 parking spaces 

2580 Bancroft – demolish 2558-2588 Bancroft Way and rear half Fred Turner Building (City Landmark), 122 dwelling units, 11,000 sq ft ground floor retail, 37 parking spaces 


Housing Advisory Commission, Thur, Jan 18, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Home Share, Supply Rent Control Units, Smoke-free Residential Housing, Adopt More Student Housing, SB 827, Short Term Ordinance enforcement 


Medical Cannabis Commission, Thur, Jan 18, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, 2180 Milvia St, 6th Floor, Agenda: existing and proposed ordinances and regulations 


Planning Commission, Thur, Jan 18, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Hearing ADU Amendments to BMC Chapter 23D.10, Public Hearing rezone 1050 Parker postponed 


Transportation Commission, Thur, Jan 18, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Hillegass/Ashby Pedestrian beacon, I-80/Gilman Bike/Ped overcrossing, autonomous vehicles, autonomous vehicles, utility undergrounding 


Friday, January 19, 2018 

No announced meetings/events 

Saturday, January 20, 2018 

Women’s March 2018 – San Francisco, Sat, Jan 20, 11:30 am – 3:30 pm, march Civic Center to Embarcadero 1.7 miles 


Women’s March 2018 – Oakland, Sat Jan 20, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, march Lake Merritt Amphitheater to Frank Ogawa Plaza, 0.7 mile. 


Sunday, January 21, 2018 

No local marches 





New: Emanuel Ax Does Double-Duty with San Francisco Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:26:00 PM

Veteran pianist Emanuel Ax returned to Davies Hall Thursday-Saturday, January 11-13, to perform with the San Francisco Symphony in two piano concertos -- Mozart’s 14th in E-flat Major, K. 449, and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto Opus 42. Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas led the orchestra in this program. Bookending the two piano concertos were Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, which opened the concert, and Richard Strauss’s tone poem, Till Eulenspiegel and His Merry Pranks, which closed the program.  

In composing his only opera, Fidelio, Beethoven encountered myriad difficulties. Symptomatic of these difficulties is the fact that he wrote and re-wrote several overtures for this opera. The Leonore Overture No. 3 is a brilliant work, but, as Donald Tovey noted, in offering a précis of the opera’s final act, “it annihilates the first act.” Realizing this, Beethoven wrote a simpler, more festive curtain-raiser, the Fidelio Overture. (In some performances of Fidelio, the Leonore Overture is played prior to the final act.) As performed here by the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, the Leonore Overture began in a very slow, very dark, almost lugubrious, mood. Such an interpretation emphasizes, indeed, exaggerates, the desperate plight of Florestan, who is incarcerated in an underground cistern, where he is confined in chains in total darkness and silence. Just at the point when Florestan bemoans the fact that in the springtime of his life happiness was taken from him, a trumpet sounds from afar (offstage), announcing what will ultimately bring Florestan’s liberation and resurrection. All of this action, which requires an entire act in the opera, is condensed in the Leonore Overture into fourteen minutes of orchestral music. Although MTT’s laborious treatment of the opening measures seemed off-putting, his interpretation perked up and became affirmative, indeed, heroic as soon as the trumpet blasts livened things up. 

Next on the program featured Emanuel Ax as soloist in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat Major, K. 449. Composed between 1782 and 1784, this concerto was written at a time when Mozart was frequenting the Viennese musical soirées at the home of the Baron von Swieten, who favored the music of Handel and J.S. Bach. It was at this time that Mozart began to interest himself seriously in writing fugues. Indeed, the third and final movement of the 14th Piano Concerto is thoroughly contrapuntal, though it is perhaps more in the style of J.S. Bach’s son Philipp Emanuel Bach than that of the senior Bach. Mozart wrote this concerto to show off the talents of one of his most gifted pupils, Barbara (“Babette”) Ployer. However, it was Mozart himself who led from the piano at this work’s Vienna premiere on March 17, 1784. Mlle. Ployer seems to have played the work a few days later, at the earliest on March 23, 1784.  

Mozart’s intention to offer something unconventional is evident in the first movement’s triple meter, a ¾ meter, which makes this one of only three Mozart piano concertos to begin in triple meter. The abrupt modulations of the opening bars emphasize the restless quality of this material. When the piano enters, it takes command and gives momentary order to this movement. However, drama returns in the development, which is built around trills in the last bars of the opening tutti. Emanuel Ax then brilliantly performed the cadenza written for this first movement by Mozart. The second movement, marked Andantino, offers two themes in alternation. The first is begun by the orchestra then taken up by the piano. The second is initiated by the piano and only later taken up by the orchestra. The final movement, marked Allegro ma non troppo, is in the form of a sonata-rondo. But there are so many rich contrapuntal variations explored here that its form might more aptly be considered a set of variations. There is much cross-handed playing required of the soloist, and Emanuel Ax handled these difficult passages with aplomb. The finale was exuberant.  

After intermission, Emanuel Ax returned to perform Arnold Schoenberg’s 1942 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 42. By way of introduction to this twelve-tone work, Michael Tilson Thomas grabbed the microphone to ‘explain’ to an apprehensive audience that in spite of its forbidding twelve-tone construction, Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto was in reality nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it was just an offbeat version of a trite and very traditional sort of Viennese parlor tune. To demonstrate what he meant, MTT said he had recomposed the opening measures of Schoenberg’s concerto so that Emanuel Ax could play this version to reassure the audience before Ax tackled the music that Schoenberg actually wrote. Going along with MTT’s schmaltzy ploy, Emanuel Ax then played MTT’s four-square reduction, and, sure enough, no atonality reared its ugly head. MTT then asked Ax to play Schoenberg’s own opening measures, and, voilà, there was enough resemblance between the two versions to enable the audience to breathe a sigh of relief. This whole ploy by MTT smacked of smarmy manipulation and condescension.  

When Emanuel Ax and the orchestra finally got around to playing what Schoenberg wrote, the music was as forbiddingly difficult as ever, in spite of MTT’s schoolboy effort to domesticate it. Composed in four sections that proceed without a pause, the concerto opens with waltz-like music that seems to symbolize Old World Vienna before the Nazi invasion. But this is waltz-like music with rough, jagged edges. Only the music’s rich coloration makes it palatable. Then an outburst from the trombones signals the opening of a second, far more menacing, section. This demonic scherzo seems to represent the onset of Nazi Germany’s campaign of racial hatred. A dark third section ensues with mournful violas and haunting woodwinds. Then Emanuel Ax launches into the first of two cadenzas Schoenberg wrote for this section. Ax performed this cadenza with superb artistry, and when the orchestra resumed playing a grand climax occurred, followed by an instant of silence. Then Emanuel Ax launched into the second cadenza, offering another piece of brilliant piano dexterity. These two cadenzas, as performed by Emanuel Ax, almost succeeded in making this twelve-tone work palatable, if not likeable. A brief final section brought Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto to an unorthodox and abrupt close. 

The final work on this program was Richard Strauss’s 1895 tone-poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. Based on German folk-tales about a mischievous prankster named Till Eulenspiegel, this work by Strauss is full of rich coloration, tongue-in-cheek humor, and musical jests. It is a thoroughly beguiling work, and the San Francisco Symphony gave it a robust, highly entertaining rendition.  

San Francisco Early Music Society Presents VAJRA VOICES

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday January 07, 2018 - 03:02:00 PM

In a series of concerts throughout the Bay Area designed to ring in the New Year, the vocal ensemble Vajra Voices, led by their founding Director Karen R. Clark, performed medieval music ranging from ca. 1150 to 1377. I attended the Berkeley concert on Saturday evening, January 6, 2018, at St. John’s Presbyterian Church. Presented under the auspices of San Francisco Early Music Society, the concert featured selections from such musical and literary luminaries as Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), Perotin (organist at Cathedral Notre Dame ca. 1200), and Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377).  

In program notes, Karen R. Clark emphasized the selection of works celebrating the turning of the seasons at Winter Solstice, the opening of new possibilities in the New Year, redemption after the fall, and radiant light arising out of darkness. Vajra Voices was joined in these concerts by instrumentalists Shira Kammen on medieval harp and vielle and Kit Higginson on recorder and psaltery. The seven vocalists of Vajra Voices include Lindsey McLennan Burdick, Amy Stuart Hunn, Allison Zelles Lloyd, Phoebe Jevtovic Rosquist, Cheryl Shafer Moore, Celeste Winant, and Karen R. Clark. In the highly melismatic singing, altos, sopranos, and mezzo sopranos form ever-changing vocal combinations, their richly textured voices blending beautifully. Occasionally, soprano Allison Zelles Lloyd did double-duty by playing medieval harp accompanied by Shira Kammen on vielle and Kit Higginson on recorder.  

The program opened with the song Annus novus in gaudio from the St. Martial manuscript (ca. 1150). “Let the New Year be celebrated in joy,” exclaims the text. “Let singers and instrumentalists be praised.” Next on the program was an instrumental offering by Shira Kammen on vielle, followed by the florid song Gaudia debita temporis orbi from the St. Martial manuscript. In this brief work, soprano voices soar above the lower voices in celebrating the turning of the New Year and the redemption by the new Adam (Christ) of the sins of the old Adam. Then came a set of works by Hildegard von Bingen, including O quam mirabilis est, O virtus sapientiae, a work accompanied by magic tricks with metal rings performed by Kit Higginson, and O quam magnum miraculum est, which latter featured the earthy voice of Karen R. Clark. An instrumental interlude offered airs on chants of Hildegard played by Shira Kammen on vielle and Allison Zelles Lloyd on medieval harp. Next came an organum from the St. Martial manuscript, Mundo salus, followed by three more songs by Hildegard von Bingen. Another instrumental piece featured harp, vielle and recorder, and the first half of the program ended with Verbum Patris humanatur, one of the earliest surviving three-part pieces of music, from the St. Martial manuscript. 

After intermission Vajra Voices returned to perform works from the 13th and 14th centuries. First came the organum Alleluia Nativitatis by Perotin (or as he sometimes called Perotinus). As successor to Leonin as organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Perotin revolutionized medieval polyphony, taking advantage of a new, more refined system of notation to indicate rhythm. Typically, Perotin wrote highly melismatic upper voices over extremely long notes, derived from Gregorian chant, in the tenor (literally, held) part. His Alleluia Nativitat celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary. Perotin’s massive works, the justly famous Viderunt omnes and Sederunt principes, though too long to include in this concert, are the earliest known four-part music in European history. Next on the program were works by Guillaume de Machaut, the dominant figure in both lyric poetry and music in 14th century France. This set opened with an instrumental offering on airs of Machaut arranged by Shira Kammen for harp, vielle, and recorder. Next came the motet Quant en moy/amour et biauté/amar valde. In this work love is both celebrated and bemoaned when it is unrequited, as the upper voices sing of bittersweet longing while the tenor drones on the words “very bitter.” Following this motet came Machaut’s witty rondeau Ma fin est mon commencement, in which the composer creates a musical text that literally describes the cyclical structure of this music.  

The final set of this concert offered 14th and 15th century music from England, including two songs from the Trinity Carol Roll (a parchment ca. 1400). The program closed with a 14th century English song celebrating Christmas, Now is Yole Comen Anon. Bay Area audiences owe a pleasant debt of gratitude to Vajra Voices and San Francisco Early Music Society for inaugurating 2018 with such a fine concert offering infrequently heard music from the Middle Ages. 


The Berkeley Activist's Weekly Calendar, January 7-14, 2018

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 05:17:00 PM

The first Berkeley City Council meeting of 2018 is January 23rd. You can get a heads up by looking at the planned agenda under Monday’s Agenda Committee Meeting. Agenda items are listed that warrant scrutiny and response. An email sent to council@cityofberkeley.info will be distributed to all the Council Members and the Mayor. You can, of course, always address each Council Member and the Mayor Individually. The final agenda for January 23rd should be posted this coming Thursday, January 11. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Agenda_Index.aspx 


Indivisible Berkeley is warming up for a hectic 2018. There is always a list of actions you can do from home, https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions, but note the IB calendar of Berkeley City meetings is projected meetings, not the final schedule. 


The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 



Remember, being active and engaged is the best remedy for all that ails us. 


Sunday, January 7, 2018 

Indivisible Berkeley Science and Environment Team Meeting, Sunday, Sun, Jan 7, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, 1581 University Ave, Three Stone Hearth 


Monday, January 8, 2018 

Agenda Committee Meeting, Mon, Jan. 8, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, Milvia, Redwood Conf Room 6th floor, Agenda for Jan 23 City Council meeting: surveillance ordinance, significant community benefits. Ad hoc committees, summer learning loss, removing impediments to port-a-potties, wash stations and Hepatitis A vaccines, housing, inequitable policing (disparate treatment by race) by BPD, increase feasibility study of pier and ferry services to $330,744, keep West Campus pool open year round 


Personnel Board, Mon, Jan, 8, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Personnel_Board_Homepage.aspx 

Youth Commission, Mon, Jan, 8, 6:30 pm, 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center, Agenda: homelessness, immigration 


City Council Closed Session, Mon, Jan, 8, 4:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room Agenda: Health Officer position to be filled 


Commission on the Status of Women Paid Leave Subcommittee, Mon, Jan 8, A meeting is listed on the website home page, but there is no agenda, time or location, call 510 981-7071 for information 


Tax the Rich Rally Cancelled Due to Rain, Mon, Jan 8 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 

Solano Avenue Business Improvement District Advisory Board, Tue, Jan 9, 6:00 pm, 1821 Catalina Ave, Thousand Oaks Baptist Church, Agenda: Special Project Grant, Buy local participation $250 


Wednesday, January 10, 2018 

Homeless Commission, Wed, Jan 10, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Presentation by YEAH and Homeless Youth Policy, Civic Center port-a-potty, centralized referral system, City response to pending litigation 


Police Review Commission, Wed, Jan 10, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center 

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Subcommittee on BPD June 20, 2017 action 

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm - Regular Meeting, Agenda: mutual aid pacts, NCRIC, restructuring PRC, specially equipped van, accountability plan, use of force, 


Thursday, January 11, 2018 

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

2009 Addison – Demolish an existing, single-story commercial building and construct 7-story mixed use performing arts space and 45 rent free dwellings, staff recommends continue off calendar 

1406 McGee – raise existing single-family residence by 44” and add internal ADU, staff recommend dismiss appeal and approve 

1499 University Ave – 3-story 39 room hotel previously approved, request add rooftop deck, staff recommend approve 

2305 Edwards St – add 560 sq ft second story, increase bedrooms from 2 to 5, staff recommend approve 


Friday, January 12, 2018 

Berkeley City reduced service day 

Saturday, January 13, 2017 

McGee-Spaulding Neighbors in Action – neighborhood meeting, Sat, Jan 13, 9:30 am potluck brunch, meeting 10:00 am-12:00 pm, University Terrace Commons Room – entrance in back 

Sunday, January 14, 2017 

SB 100 CA Climate Legislation – 100% renewable energy by 2045, Sat, Jan 14, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, 12530 San Pablo #1, Berkeley, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Office, presentation on bill, current status, Q & A.