The Week

Families Belong Together demonstrate at El Cerrito Plaza on Thursday.
Carolyn Norr
Families Belong Together demonstrate at El Cerrito Plaza on Thursday.


New: Why Berkeley Should Not Participate in Urban Shield Vendor Show and Tactical Exercises

Councilmember Kate Harrison
Friday June 22, 2018 - 02:38:00 PM

In 1990, the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) engaged in one of the most successful hostage rescue operations in history: Henry’s Hostage Crisis. This was not a case of foreign terrorism. The attacker was just 29 when he obtained three guns and took 33 people hostage. The BPD’s measured response to the situation was executed with textbook perfection. Their actions earned the BPD national acclaim, a legacy that our officers live up to each day.

Decades later, we see the BPD participating in a new and altogether different style of training -- Urban Shield, a set of war games, tactical exercises, and weapons expos designed around a Bush-era counter-terrorism agenda. Using millions of dollars in Department of Homeland Security funding, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office puts on 48 hours of tactical anti-terrorism exercises for federal and local departments. The only way to get full points in the competition is through full escalation of force. In a real-world hostage situation at Children’s Hospital in 2010, officers successfully resolved the crisis without loss of life but in an Urban Shield hostage scenario based on the event, teams “won” by escalating and killing the perpetrators.

Far from this real life example, many scenarios at Urban Shield are improbable and are built around military-grade technology featured by for-profit companies in the vender expo. Take one of last year’s exercises, supposedly based on the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Designed by Execushield, the sensationalized scenario had officers use Navy-grade aquatic raiding craft to kill members of a Hezbollah terrorist group, which had crossed the US border from South America to set up an armed encampment in a wooded cabin near a reservoir in Livermore. More than just improbable, the exercise bore almost no relationship to the Mumbai attacks, which featured multiple shootings and bomb threats distributed across multiple days and urban locations.

Berkeley can and should do better than Urban Shield. After months of subcommittee meetings including the Police Chief and presentations from the SRT team (Berkeley’s SWAT), the Council’s Urban Shield Subcommittee recommended on June 4th that the BPD suspend participation for the 2018 vendor expo and tactical exercises until revisions are made to the program. Berkeley is not pulling out of Urban Shield entirely. Certain modules of this year’s Urban Shield -- like the Emergency Operations Center exercises and the community fair – will focus on mass care and casualty. I encourage the BPD to attend these modules. -more-

New: Record Spending and Outside Money Help Wicks in AD-15 Primary

Rob Wrenn
Friday June 22, 2018 - 02:44:00 PM

In November, voters in Berkeley and the rest of the historically progressive 15th Assembly District will decide between two dramatically different candidates: Buffy Wicks, a newcomer to the district, with no local track record, but with record amounts of outside money, and Jovanka Beckles, a locally based candidate with a strong record of progressive activism. -more-

Join Protests Against Family Separation

Alberto Lopez
Wednesday June 20, 2018 - 12:06:00 PM

I want to bring to your attention that on June 30th there will be protests all over the country against the Trump administration's separation of families. I'm sure you have all seen the videos of the conditions in which ICE is keeping these kids. I was 11 years old when my family came to the U.S. and aside from the condescending attitude and rudeness of CBP when we went through passport control, our immigration experience was relatively uneventful. The experience was still traumatizing and the legal processes to become a permanent resident, and then a citizen felt dehumanizing at times. Even after going through that, I can't begin to imagine the hell those kids and parents are living.

I've been amused by the pundits, politicians, and newscasters mentioning how "this isn't who we are" and "how we are better than this." They seem to forget that there was a time when black children were sold like cattle and separated from their parents, or that the federal government took native children from their parents and sent them to "boarding schools" for what amounts to ethnic cleansing. Many of us are better than that, but a cursory look at social media or two minutes of watching Fox "News" will remind you that many have not moved past 1865 in their perception of the humanity of others.

I'd encourage you to visit the link below so you can see a list of protests near you. If you are not the protesting kind, but still feel inclined to do something, I have also included a link where you can find donation information for organizations helping the kids and their families.

Families Belong Together: Berkeley Mobilization

Protest link:


ECLECTIC RANT: Trump’s Cruel Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy in a Nutshell

Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:19:00 PM

In April 2018, the Trump administration introduced a "zero-tolerance” immigration policy calling for the prosecution of all individuals who illegally enter the U.S.. This policy has the effect of separating parents from their children when they enter the country together, because parents are referred for prosecution and the children are placed in the custody of a sponsor, such as a relative or foster home, or held in a shelter. The Trump administration’s hope is that harsh treatment would deter illegal immigration. -more-

Jury Finds Berkeley Protesters Not Guilty in Assault Case

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday June 18, 2018 - 07:33:00 PM

An Alameda County Superior Court jury today found five protesters not guilty of misdemeanor assault charges that were based on allegations that they attacked a President Trump supporter at a rally in Berkeley last year. -more-

It's not Just Burrowing Owls, Kites are Raising Young at the Bulb Too

Robert Brokl
Thursday June 21, 2018 - 03:45:00 PM

Like the little trains that could, burrowing owls have made a dramatic arrival to the Albany Bulb plateau. Birdwatchers and photographers have lined the cyclone fence on the Bulb plateau, under the jurisdiction of the East Bay Regional Park District, hoping to catch glimpses of the birds at their mounds. Burrowing owls are small, long-legged owls that nest in burrows. Unusual for owls, they are active during the day. -more-

City of Berkeley and SEIU Dodge Strike

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 10:14:00 AM

A strike was averted in Berkeley when city administrators today agreed to wage and safety measures with nearly 600 union workers, union officials said. -more-

Berkeley Landlord Charged with Shooting Tenant

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday June 15, 2018 - 05:44:00 PM

A 75-year-old man was charged today with premeditated attempted murder and assault with a semi-automatic firearm for allegedly shooting his 39-year-old tenant in Berkeley on Wednesday morning, police and prosecutors said. -more-



Families Belong Together, Taking Action

Becky O'Malley
Friday June 15, 2018 - 05:33:00 PM

By the time we heard about the rallies yesterday sponsored by Families Belong Together it was too late to go to them. Today (Friday, June 15) I did call Anna Tarkov, the press contact whom the Bay City News article listed for the organization . She’s in Chicago, and didn’t know much about how the planned events had turned about, nor about any plans for the future, but she took my phone number and said she’d pass it along to the local organizers.

From their web site and Facebook page I learned that they seem to be organized in the contemporary decentralized internet model pioneered by In this group, local volunteers can designate a location for supporters to gather as the spirit moves them. Around here, they were supposed to meet yesterday in Concord, El Cerrito Plaza, San Jose, Watsonville…a diverse collection of places outside the usual SF-Oakland-Berkeley orbit.

Many of us in Berkeley seem to be suffering from outrage fatigue, watching too much Rachel Maddow and learning too often about the travesty du jour. No action was planned here.

But when I heard evil Jeff Sessions smirking about tearing babies from their mothers’ arms, I was more upset than I’d been about anything else in the last round of disgusting behaviors. Somehow lying, cheating and stealing, the hallmarks of the Trump regime, have gotten to be old hat, but tearing up families …let’s just say I cried real tears over Michelle Goldberg’s column in my morning Times detailing what they’re doing to the children they seize at the border. I suspect many of my grandmother peers had the same reaction.

A flunky economist who’s part of the Trump gang said (and of course then walked back) that there would be “a special place in hell” for Justin Trudeau because he mildly reproved Trump for trying to start a war with China.

I don’t think so. In fact , most of the remaining special places in hell are already taken, being saved for that economist and the profane crowd he runs with, and one Jeff Sessions has just moved up to the top of the waiting list. -more-

Public Comment

A Mother Speaks for Migrant Children

Carolyn Norr
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:59:00 AM

My boys are almost four and six-and-a half now, and sleep in their own bunk bed. But sometimes, they wake up, startled by some bad dream, or thirsty, or needing reassurance. Always, when they do, they call, “Mama!” and I wake from my own sleep to soothe them. Now, when they do, a thought comes to me, as I smooth my child’s hair and tuck him back in: that our government is moving to deny this type of reassurance to some children as a matter of policy. That our government has made a conscious, intentional decision to refuse some mothers the basic human right to comfort and protect their children, their toddlers, their babies.

The memory that comes to me when I wake is of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announcing last week that every person who arrives at the US border without documents will be treated as a criminal, which means that their children, even as young as a year old, will be literally torn from their arms. This has already happened to more than 1900 kids. A baby was torn from her mother as she breastfed; the mother was handcuffed for resisting. Children are being kept in cages, parents can hear them screaming but are unable to comfort them. One father we know of took his own life when he was unable to stop them from snatching his toddler. ICE is planning tent cities to house the children stolen from their families.

There is no justification for this kind of terrorism. -more-

Does The Equal Pay Act Actually Equalize?

Harry Brill
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:47:00 AM

Recently, several progressive and feminist organizations celebrated the 55th year of the Equal Pay Act, which mandates that women receive the same pay and amenities as men for engaging in jobs that have similar levels of skills and responsibilities. The law is broadly defined to cover jobs with different specific skills. The main purpose of the law is to assure that employers do not economically discriminate against women by paying less than what men earn for performing similar work.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against various minority groups, including women. If EEOC concurs with an employee's complaint, it can first attempt to settle the charge. It that doesn't succeed, EEOC can then file a law suit on behalf of the person who complained. If EEOC prevails, but the employer violates the law again, the agency can recommend that the employer be sentenced up to six months in prison. It is refreshing to find a law that at least on paper views white collar wrongdoing as a criminal offense. -more-

New: No Country for Old Women

Steve Martinot
Thursday June 21, 2018 - 11:15:00 AM

I’m reading Marcia Poole’s essay in the Planet (6/15/18) on Ani, an 80 year old Buddhist nun who’s been homeless for the last five years. She’s sick, and in a wheel chair, and living in a tent. That is, until she got thrown to the ground so hard that it cracked her skull. Now she’s in the hospital. She begged our Mayor, Jesse Arreguin, a couple of weeks ago, in a video interview at the encampment she’s living in, to please find her a place to live. She can’t beat her illnesses living in a tent. She needs to be able to wash. -more-

Gaza Revisited

Jagjit Singh
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 10:09:00 AM

Israeli soldiers have killed at least 119 Palestinians and wounded more than 13,000 since the Palestinians’ nonviolent Great March of Return protests began on March 30. -more-


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:The Spanish Labyrinth

Conn Hallinan
Friday June 15, 2018 - 10:03:00 AM

As the socialist-led government takes over in Spain, newly minted Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faces at least two daunting tasks: cleaning up the wreckage wrought by years of European Union (EU) enforced austerity and resolving the Catalan crisis exacerbated by Madrid’s violent reaction to last fall’s independence referendum. Unfortunately, his Party’s track record is not exactly sterling on either issue. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Donald Trump, Russian Agent

Bob Burnett
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:39:00 AM

511 days into the Trump presidency it's clear that Donald is the most destructive US President in recent history. He's divided the nation, alienated our historic allies, and made worse the planet's most pressing problems. Although there are several possible explanations for Trump's disastrous behavior, it's likely that he is acting on behalf of Russia. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Wealth and Fame Are Not the Cure

Jack Bragen
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:50:00 AM

Over the many centuries of civilization, people who have experienced disturbances in their lives and minds have provided many of the greatest contributions to society. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump Doing Putin’s Work

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 10:11:00 AM

At the Group of Seven (G7) meeting on June 8, President Trump called for the readmission of Russia into the group. Russia was tossed out of the Group after it annexed Crimea and intervened in the Ukraine and did so even after Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election. Soon there will be only a de facto G6 Group. -more-

Arts & Events

The Ring, Or Wagner as Scam Artist

James Roy MacBean
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:52:00 AM

Ernest Newman famously wrote of Wagner that “The ‘problems’ of his operas are generally problems of his own personality and circumstances. His art, like his life, is all unconscious egoism.” Discussing both Verdi and Wagner, Peter Conrad wrote that “For Verdi there is no god, so music must fill up the absence; for Wagner there is no god, so he must personally assume the role.” Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, currently mounted by San Francisco Opera in all its 17-hour glory mixed with tedium, (or is it tedium mixed with occasional glory?), is Richard Wagner’s arrogant attempt to rewrite the history of the world and cast it in his own image. Opening night of the first Ring cycle was Tuesday, June 12, for Das Rheingold. Two more complete Ring cycles will continue through July 1. -more-

SF Opera’s RING Cycle Ends with a Whimper

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:25:00 PM

In director Francesca Zambello’s revised staging of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, currently on display at San Francisco Opera, Die Götterdämerung, the final installment of this 17 hour marathon, ends with a nine year-old girl placing a potted sapling of an ash tree center-stage as the orchestral music fades. This is supposed to signify the beginning of a new era after the downfall of the gods. I don’t have much confidence that this ‘new’ era will be any different than the old. -more-

New: Wagner’s SIEGFRIED Is Hard to Take

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:20:00 PM

Act I of Wagner’s Siegfried has to be the most vile, mean-spirited act in all opera! It is one long, vituperative attack on an individual, Mime, the brother of Alberich, who in the course of this act reveals himself to be the ultimate stereotype of Wagner’s notion of the Jew. Mime is forever whining, and when he’s not whining, he’s wheedling for an opening to advance his greedy self-interest. What is perhaps even worse, Siegfried, the ostensible hero of this opera and of the entire Ring cycle, epitomizes just how Wagner believes Jews should be treated, which is utterly beyond contempt. -more-

DIE WALKÜRE Reaches THE RING’s High Point

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:56:00 AM

On Wednesday, June 13, San Francisco Opera opened Die Walküre, the second in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen. Unlike the other operas in The Ring, which often get bogged down in tedious exposition, Die Walküre soars from beginning to end. Act I of Die Walkure presents the love of Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wagner, the ultimate narcissist, depicts the ideal love as one between twins separated early in childhood. In other words, for Wagner, the ideal love is for someone as much like himself as possible. Thus, when Siegmund and Sieglinde meet, it is love at first sight. -more-

MTT Makes A Mish-Mash of Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:36:00 PM

One thing I certainly won’t miss once Michael Tilson Thomas steps down as music director of San Francisco Symphony is his misguided penchant for gussying up the music with ill-conceived visual effects. Yet again MTT hooked up with Los Angeles-based video artist James Darrah, this time in three performances, June 14-17, of the opera Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky. What MTT finds in the work of James Darrah I simply can’t fathom. I find Darrah’s video embellishments of classical music and opera puerile at best, and often quite distracting. (The one time I found Darrah’s imagery effective was in the semi-staged production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes.) This time around, with James Darrah serving as both video artist and director, we were subjected to Darrah’s usual overuse of the Davies Hall aisles for gratuitous entrances and exits of the singers, plus Darrah’s random and extraneous video imagery. (The only image that fit the story of Boris Godunov was Darrah’s inclusion of what looked like Russian Orthodox saints depicted in frescos on the walls of a monastery near Moscow; and even with these images, why in the world did Darrah abruptly switch them from color to black and White?) As I’ve said many times before, it’s a pity MTT won’t let the music simply stand on its own. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, June 18-23

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Alliance
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 11:14:00 AM

June 26 City Council meeting is available for comment email -more-