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ECLECTIC RANT: The Kashoggi Matter

Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday October 17, 2018 - 03:42:00 PM

Jamal Khashoggi is a permanent U.S. resident in self-imposed exile from Saudi Arabia. He is a journalist for The Washington Post who has written critical opinions of Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammond bin Salman, and its king, Salman of Saudi Arabia. He has also criticized the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.  

Video evidence shows that Kashoggi entered the Saudi consulate but none show him leaving. Reportedly, audio and video evidence shows that while in the consulate, he was beaten, tortured, murdered and then dismembered. 

When questioned about Khashoggi disappearance, President Trump initially said he would not sacrifice $100 billion in arms deals with the Saudis and the corresponding job losses, to criticize the Saudis. To an ethically challenged businessman, that may be a common sense response. To a defender of human rights and freedom of the press, his response was outrageous but yet not out of character. If the U.S. is willing to sacrifice its moral standing for $100 billion (most of which will never materialize), why should any nation ever look to it for leadership? 

The question must be asked, why would the Saudi leadership murder a journalist for a major U.S. newspaper and thus endanger its relationship with the U.S.? Perhaps, Trump’s anti-media rhetoric is partly the cause. Trump has called the media “the enemy of the people.” In a tweet, Trump wrote, “I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is. Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda. This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction. Enemy of the People!”  

Unfortunately, these attacks on the media increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence. Some media organizations are quietly beefing up security at their offices. Security guards now accompany network news reporters to Trump rallies. 

How does this anti-media talk resonate outside the U.S., especially where freedom of the press is not a sacred value? Maybe, Saudi Arabia took Trump at his word and brutally silenced a severe critic of the Saudis without fear of much blowback from the Trump administration. The Saudis, however, didn’t count on the audio and video evidence. 

The Saudi government is reportedly planning to say that rogue agents killed Khashoggi during an interrogation. The Trump administration has given early indications of accepting this hard-to-believe tale. 

Trump has extensive personal economic dealings with the Saudis which leaves him in an awkward position in dealing with the Koshoggi murder.

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Wednesday October 17, 2018 - 03:39:00 PM

Our Got-to-Have-It Economy 

Have you noticed how much of our economic activity is built around the promotion of addictions? Think about the major purchases Americans are encouraged to make in the course of a day. Tobacco. Alcohol. Gasoline. Sugary drinks. Opioids. Fast-food. And then there are all the click-bait temptations of social media—including Facebook, Netflix, streaming porn, etc. 

Let's give it all a name. How about: Addictionomics. 

When's the Last Time Washington Sent You a Gift Coupon? 

Speaking of TV: You want proof that government considers TV a powerful means of social control? In 2009, the FCC decreed that every TV set in the US would need to switch from analog to digital. That meant everyone was required to obtain a $50 Digital TV converter. In order to promote the change-over, the government handed out free "TV Converter Box Coupons" to millions of Americans. The coupon program cost the Federal budget around $500 million. 

When's the last time Washington sent you a $50 coupon – for anything

No More Wise Cracks, Please 

When I heard that two steel beams supporting the Salesforce Transit Center were cracked and failing, I told a friend: "I guess that ostentatious new design just wasn't all it was cracked up to be." 

Now I'm thinking: Since the site seems to be filled with more than one failing beam, maybe we should stop calling it the Salesforce Transit Center. New name: the Fail-Source Transit Center. 

Gen. Petraeus vs. The Wright Stuff 

Col. Ann Wright (US Army ret.), a well-known peace activist allied with Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK, makes lots of appearances in the Bay Area. But on October 2, she was in Washington, protesting the contested nomination of SCOTUS-wannabee Brett Kavanaugh. Here is Ann's report of a Classic Confrontation with former General David Petraeus complete with photos

"I was in the Hart Senate building talking with as many on the Senate staff—and Senators, if we could intercept them on their way to vote. The sign [that I had in my hands] was "I Believe Survivors! No On Kavanaugh!" 

I spotted retired US Army 4-Star General Petraeus—formerly head of US forces in Afghanistan and head of the Central Command (Middle East)—as he walked through the atrium of the Hart Senate building—no doubt on his way to lobby on behalf of some billion-dollar military industry. 

I stopped him saying "I’m a retired Army colonel." He said, "Oh thank you for your service." (1st photo) 

I said I was also a US diplomat who was on the team that re-opened the US embassy in Kabul Afghanistan 18 years ago. He said, "Oh thank you for your service." (2nd photo) 

Then I said, "In 2003 I resigned in opposition to the disastrous US war on Iraq that you were such a huge part of." 

"OHHHH," he said…. 

This is him walking quickly away!!! (last photo) 

Kavanaughty Behavior: A 7-Sentence Summary 

Brett Kavanaugh likes to be served IN a bar. ("I like beer.") 

Trump wanted him seated ON the bar (the High Court, SCOTUS) 

His critics argued his nomination LOWERED the bar. 

For lying under oath, fellow jurists called to have him DISBARRED. 

Meanwhile, millions of women wanted to see him BEHIND bars. 

Under the Constitution, Congress can impeach Kavanaugh—barring a lack of "good behavior." So, to have any chance of booting Kavanaugh from the Court, the Democrats need to flip 23 House seats in November—NO HOLDS BARRED. 

The Tweet of Doom 

I hated getting that nationwide Big Brother Presidential phone alert.  

What a chilling, authoritarian intrusion. 

But I did derive some satisfaction by pressing the glowing option that read: "DISMISS." 

I couldn't help thinking of the "Got Junk" trash-removal company and its slogan: "Just point and we'll make junk disappear!" 

Do they make White House calls? If so, I'd be more than happy to show up on the front lawn to give the Donald the Finger. 

WarSpeak: You Can't Make Drones "User-friendly" 

A copy of a proposed statement on militarized drones was passed along to Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org). Initially inclined to sign on, EAW had to decline, noting: "As currently written, the draft accepts the continued use of drone weapons and appears to simply call for measures to accommodate their use."  


Instead of banning drones, using them in accordance with "humanitarian and human rights laws." 

Instead of banning drones, articulating "standards for their use." 

Instead of banning drones, subjecting their use to "robust risk assessment." 

Instead of banning drones, discussing the "common standards" on their "transfer, holding and use." 

Instead of banning drones, developing "international standards applicable to armed UAVs." 

Instead of banning drones, make their use more acceptable by  

"working to prevent and mitigate harm," 

"accounting for civilian casualties and unlawful killings," and  

"ensuring meaningful transparency, accountability, and oversight for these systems." 

(Consider, for a moment, what impact these "reforms" would have if they were applied to the use of nuclear weapons.) 

Earth Island Journal's Fall Issue Rises 

As founding editor and Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal (the quarterly magazine of Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute), I couldn't be prouder to see the Autumn 2018 edition—an issue that celebrates the words and wisdom of women. 

By my count, nearly 27 women contributed articles to this issue (including two women who reviewed two books written by two women). 

Maureen Nandini Mitra's editorial (about Tahlequah, a grieving mama orca) brought tears to my eyes while the grave implications of her suffering sent a chill down my spine. 

The headline on the Journal's cover read WOMXN and the Environment

But is WOMXN (an improvement on WOMYN) the best way to convey an expanded definition of womanhood?  

After all, X is an exclusive letter (as in "x-out" and "x-rated").  

Perhaps the better letter would be "O" since the circle is a symbol of all-encompassing unification and a feminine symbol as well. 

A better word might be "WOMON." But, when pronounced, "womon" sounds like a Jamaican lamentation—"Woe, mon." 

Perhaps the better-yet spelling would be "WEMON."  

"We" is inclusive and "mon" (French for "my") celebrates individuality in the midst of diversity.  

And there's a bonus: pronouncing "WEMON" would sound more like "WOMEN." 

Kudos to LaSalle 

In addition to drawing erudite observations far beyond the frame of the movie screen, long-time Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle also creates verbal moments that prompt me to underlining passages. Here are two examples from the October 12 Chron

In a review of the Neil Armstrong biopic, "Last Man," LaSalle refers to leading man Ryan Gosling's "patented look of plaintive opacity." (Perfect.) 

And, in a review of "The Hate U Give," LaSalle starts with the broad observation "The worse things get, the better the movies get" before turning his focus on the film (in which he finds both fault and accomplishment) and concludes: "As movies go, it's not the usual smooth lie. Rather, it has the welcome clumsiness of truth." 

Haiku of the Day 

Our country's ruled by  

Oiligarchs and Coaligarchs: 


Special City Council Meeting to Change Rules of Procedure

Dr. James McFadden
Monday October 15, 2018 - 05:11:00 PM

City Council and fellow Berkeley Citizens,

At 4:30 tomorrow, the City Council has a special session to consider changing the "Rules of Procedure" for the City's legislating process.

This appears to be another power grab by the City Manager. It looks like an attempt to undermine those Commissions that the CM does not fully control - those Commissions that put forward recommendations to the Council which the CM disagrees with – and which are accompanied by CM companion items which tell the Council to ignore the Commission and “do nothing.”  

At the October 2 Council meeting, the CM undermined the Homeless Commission (Item D.a), Housing Advisory Commission (Item G.a), Community Health Commission (Item 10a), Human Welfare and Community Action (Item 11a), and the Peace and Justice Commission (Item 12a) by placing the accompanying “do nothing” CM sponsored items (*.b) on the agenda. The City Council contributed to this marginalization of their Commissions by moving the CM items to consent – avoiding any real discussion of Commission sponsored ideas. This marginalization of Commissions is an erosion of what little democratic input the public has. It attempts to transfer Commission power, the ability to introduce ideas to the Council, to subcommittees which will be better able to prevent these ideas from appearing at full Council meetings. These subcommittees will be under the thumb of the CM through her staff. The proposed changes will likely exempt the CM sponsored legislation from a similar subcommittee review. These rule changes will entrench the top-down power structure of the Berkeley Corporation run by its CEO – the City Manager. 

Commissions are the only mechanism where the public has a small role in legislation. If the Council wishes to gut their commissions, why not instead just disband them entirely so we can at least be honest about City government being a façade of democracy – a façade that fronts for the rule of the CEO City Manager. These rule changes appear to put us one step closer to the neoliberal model of state appointed Managers who do not have to answer to any elected officials. Which reminds me of something I read recently – that a significant fraction of Americans really don’t want to live in a democracy (in fact they never have) – but instead want a some form of patriarchy where they are willing to accept domination and control, all in exchange for not having to bother with the hard work of being informed - and for some level of protection from the mythical “other.” Perhaps being lazy, earning a quick buck from the exploited other, is ingrained in the American Cultural DNA. Perhaps George Carlin was right “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

Citizen Josh" Benefit for Jovanka Beckles on Oct. 20

Josh Kornbluth
Monday October 15, 2018 - 06:36:00 PM

I'll be performing my comic monologue Citizen Josh at Berkeley's Live Oak Theater next Saturday, Oct. 20, to benefit Jovanka Beckles's campaign for the California Assembly, District 15. Tix & info here. Jovanka, a two-term City Council member in Richmond, Calif., is in the Richmond Progressive Alliance, an impressive coalition that has succeeded at the ballot box despite the millions of dollars that the Chevron Corporation has spent to defeat them. A children's mental-health professional and an immigrant (from Panama), she brings a community organizer's skills and mentality to her political work. Plus, Sara and I just saw Jovanka and her wife in Trader Joe's yesterday. (I realize that this last point may not be super-persuasive, but it was pretty cool to run into them there.) 

Director David Dower, my longtime collaborator, and I put together Citizen Josh in the aftermath of John Kerry's loss to George W. Bush in 2004. (Looking back, don't those seem like happier, simpler times? Yikes!) We wanted to plug back in to Berkeley's Free Speech tradition and explore how a passive person like me might become an active participant in grassroots democracy. We also tell the story of my belated attempt to complete my senior thesis in Politics for Princeton University, originally due in 1980 and still pending. (I'm not great with deadlines.) Though it was originally performed over a decade ago, Citizen Josh -- with its focus on, among other subjects, global warming and education -- feels totally relevant today, as we face the most challenging political environment of my lifetime. (The show also happens to feature absolutely gorgeous music by Marco d'Ambrosio and motion graphics by Alexander Nichols.)
It would be great to see you at the Live Oak Theater next Saturday! In any event, let us move toward Nov. 6, and beyond, with radical hope and empathy -- "radical," as my thesis advisor Sheldon Wolin (a hero of Citizen Josh) always reminded us, meaning "from the roots." Our roots are in the revolutionary idea of democracy, and democracy is "people power," and we (not corporations like Chevron) are the people -- no matter what the Supreme Court might ask us to believe.
Please vote!!!

WHAT: A performance of Citizen Josh, my comic monologue.
WHERE: Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, Calif.
WHEN: Sat., Oct. 20, 2018; doors open at 6:45, reception with Jovanka at 7, performance at 8.
TIX/INFO: Click here.

What the University of California Doesn't Want You to Know About People's Park

Carol Denney
Monday October 15, 2018 - 06:00:00 PM

People's Park is a landmark. The university doesn't mention it, but it became a city landmark in 1984 "for its historic and cultural importance to the City of Berkeley." The landmark designation is not necessarily protective, but it should be instructive to a community being carefully trained to ignore its own significant moments in history. The chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission behind the landmarking was a Republican who owned a local car repair shop, named Laurie Bright. 

Creative autonomy was part of southside culture. Even the City of Berkeley' s official Southside Plan acknowledges this, noting the revolt over increasing traffic which "led to the placement of street barriers to protect adjoining neighborhoods from the Southside and its traffic" and the response to the "redesigned Telegraph Avenue’s streetscape, creating wider sidewalks" which "soon filled with street artists. These independent artisans represent a creative autonomy that is a defining element of the Southside’s commercial district today."[1] 

The university has nine other sites on which to build housing, including a ten acre site at Smyth-Fernwald just further up Dwight Way, but only one, People's Park, that comes with a legal obligation to host any applications for amplified monthly concerts and events. A court decision requires this use by court order in a case represented by civil rights attorney Osha Neumann, who argued in 1987 that "a park is a 'quintessential public forum' for assembling together and the expression of opinion, where First Amendment rights have their broadest extension." 

The block now know as People's Park was acquired by a fraudulent use of eminent domain. The public record says it all. University officials, according to their meeting minutes, were terrified of what was, according to W. J. Rorabaugh in his book Berkeley at War, Telegraph in 1964, an area near the campus that "was cosmopolitan, artistically aware, politically diverse, and open to new ideas.” But after its acquisition the system-wide regents evaluated the university plans, which alternated between sports courts, office space, and (ironically) housing, and didn't vote UC Berkeley any funds to develop the bulldozed block. It was not a priority, according to the regents' inaction, a crucial element in the use of eminent domain. Under Cal Code Civ Proc § 1245.220, eminent domain requires that government agency "must adopt a formal resolution, also known as resolution of necessity to acquire the property before commencing an eminent domain proceeding in court[i]" which "must find (1) that the project for which the property is to be acquired is necessary; (2) that the property is necessary for the public project; (3) that the project is located in such a manner as to offer the greatest public benefit with the least private detriment." The muddy, rebar-filled lot left behind for years after bulldozing the community housing was an insult to southside's community. The land sat empty, and one day in spring community members, including Michael Delacour, built a park. 

People's Park has cost lives - and changed lives. It built at least one political career along the way as well; Ronald Reagan as the Governor of California used the anti-war movement as a contrast platform for his national ambitions. But it cost James Rector his life, Alan Blanchard his sight, and played a role in more deaths over the years if you're willing to count Rosebud DeNovo, who broke into the Chancellor's mansion as a protest and was shot in the back in 1992. For some of us it will always be the backdrop against which former Ashkenaz owner David Nadel lost his life to a gun. But for many people the park is the first place they ever built something together with others and watched a project move from an idea to fruition, whether it was a shingled freebox, a garden trellis, or a mural. "User development" remains the park's guiding principle, as much as the university attempts to obscure the fact. 

All of our parks, not just People's Park, have evidence of homelessness and poverty. And we don't tear down our overpasses when a tent shows up underneath it. We can respect our parks and landmarks and demand that the university do its part to house its students, something the university has not only historically neglected, it is something the university of California was originally forbidden by law to do: 

“Dormitories were suspected by midnineteenth-century educators and moralists of being incubators of student disorder.” (Stadtman, 1967: 157) 

This neglect can be easily addressed without abusing the surrounding city, or its parks and treasured cultural wealth. 



[1] City of Berkeley Southside Plan 

Response to SB 1045 and Possible Expansion of Conservatorship

Raisa Small for Senior and Disabilty Action and other groups
Monday October 15, 2018 - 05:30:00 PM

As a coalition of community groups who work with people with disabilities, seniors, and homeless people, we strongly oppose implementation of SB 1045 in San Francisco. We agree that we have a crisis of homeless people living and dying on our streets. But an expansion of involuntary conservatorship is the wrong approach and will do nothing to address the underlying drivers of psychiatric disabilities, substance abuse, and homelessness.  

Conservatorship is a serious matter. It takes away every single one of a person’s civil liberties-- their ability to make decisions about what happens to their body, their pet, where they live, what they eat, how they spend their time and their money. Our government should not ignore the long and shameful history of institutionalization, involuntary sterilization, and other forced treatment of people with disabilities. As Susan Mizner, Disability Rights Program Director of the National ACLU stated, “Conservatorship is the biggest deprivation of civil rights aside from the death penalty.” 

Current law under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act was carefully constructed to balance safety and personal liberties, and centers on whether the individual is harmful to themselves or others, or cannot care for themselves due to their mental illness. This new law adds addiction to mental illness, and focuses instead on whether someone has been detained more than 8 times. It therefore moves the reason for the conservatorship away from medical and safety necessity to police intervention. It is police who 5150 individuals, and this law would give them great incentive to repeatedly detain people who are generating complaints, or when political pressure is applied. A punitive approach to mental health is both inhumane and ineffective. 

SB 1045 has become a political strategy to address homeless people with mental health disabilities. This strategy relies on the false narrative that people choose not to get services, when in reality services are not available. There are 1,060 individuals on the single adult Shelter Reservation Waitlist and 8,000 households on the waitlist for public housing. When this data was last tracked, there were 500 people waiting to get methadone and substance abuse residential treatment.  

San Francisco’s performance audit of Behavioral Health Services (April 2018) reads: “Clients accessing psychiatric emergency services often have dual mental health and substance use disorders and experience homelessness. Linking these clients to services on discharge is important, because without service linkage, these clients are at risk of not only decompensating mentally, but of also resorting to alcohol and substance abuse after being discharged.” And yet, of people discharged from psychiatric emergency services in 2017, nearly 40% were not offered any services. The conservatorship process is failing us now, because there are not adequate services or placements for the individual, and this new law does not change that. It just makes it easier to churn people through the system.  

Implementation would be a much greater challenge than has been recognized by government leaders. Conservatorship is a serious commitment and responsibility, making government liable for providing extensive care for conservatees -- with the same level of resources that is currently not adequate to meet the needs of the community. Where is the housing going to come from when someone is conserved from the street? Where are the services coming from? Who will not get that housing or services because the conserved person does?  

Implementation of SB 1045 encourages police action and criminalization of people who are homeless and mentally ill. To be eligible, people will need to be detained through a 5150 action eight times, which gives police an incentive to use 5150 on people with mental illness and substance abuse. In San Francisco, almost 60% of people shot and killed by police have mental health disabilities. In addition, being detained and then conserved could turn into a homeless person’s only option for accessing housing and services. 

Before we take away civil liberties--in a city that prides itself on being a pioneer on civil rights--San Francisco needs to provide housing and voluntary mental health and substance abuse services. Proposition C, on November’s ballot, will provide much needed housing and services. Real solutions are available before we turn to involuntary conservatorship. 

Senior and Disability Action 

Mental Health Association of San Francisco 

Disability Rights Program, ACLU 

Coalition on Homelessness 

Independent Living Resource Center SF 

Disability Rights California 


No New Jail Coalition 

LAGAI Queer Insurrection 

Gay Shame 

Pacifica Social Justice 

For more information, please contact Jessica Lehman at Senior and Disability Action: 415-546-1333 (w), 510-427-7535 (c)

The IPCC Report on Climate Change in the Age of Entitlement, Growth Addiction and Urbanism

Bob Silvestri
Friday October 12, 2018 - 10:31:00 AM

The dire warnings that came this week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report should be a wake-up call to everyone everywhere who are betting on being able to continue doing what they’ve always been doing, in the future, and expecting the same results. The IPCC’s message that “We can no longer continue to do business as usual” also means that no human endeavor is more impacted than how we grow.

Ironically, in the face of this stark and unarguable reality, there is a growing chorus of climate deniers, hell bent on exacerbating the problem.

I’m referring in particular to politicians like California State Senator Scott Weiner and the cadre of academics, planners, professional organizations, nonprofits, Bay Area corporate interests and their dedicated “shock troops,” the YIMBYs, all of whom promote hyper-growth as the solution to housing affordability and environmental sustainability. Like the far right, in order to rationalize their purely political agenda, they go beyond being uber-growth advocates to being outright climate change deniers in their own fashion.

These collaborators continue to manipulate data to justify environmentally destructive uber-urbanism in the name of saving the planet. But the shrill, self-obsessed YIMBYs don’t even pretend to care about the planet. In fact, they’re outspokenly anti-environmental and against regulations that protect it. They would do away with the California Environmental Quality Act completely, if they had the chance, replacing it with their “progressive” version of “trickle down” environmentalism fueled by willful ignorance of environmental science.

The YIMBY approach seems to be ‘the environment will have to wait until I own a nice house in my preferred neighborhood near my favorite barista.’

The great lie of the progressive left is that unchecked growth and particularly urban growth is good for the environment, even though there’s no contemporary science (or common sense for that matter) to back up that claim. For someone like me, who spent my formative adult years in the 60s and 70s, how the left sold out and became the other anti-environment party remains baffling. 

To state the obvious and at the risk of bursting some bubbles, growth, a consumption-addicted economic system and our antiquated methods of building construction – for affordable housing or anything else -- are not in any way, shape or form good for the planet. Not even close, particularly because of the way we presently design and construct 95% of our buildings. 

Construction of our buildings and their supporting infrastructure is the most resource intensive thing we do on the planet. Yet by and large, how we build remains stuck in past centuries, with manual labor working in the field, framing structures girder by girder and board by board, laying bricks one at a time, and shingling roofs by hand, albeit with the assistance of hand power tools. 

Growth = Development = Climate Change 

In the past, I’ve written extensively about the great myth about urbanism’s ability to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). The reaction I always get from progressives is as if I’ve committed some unpardonable sin to even suggest this. For a lengthy analysis of this subject, please see The Best Laid Plans: Our Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin, and my Marin Post piece, Plan Bay Area’s High Density, Multifamily, Transit-Oriented Development Won’t Reduce Greenhouse Gases.  

For now, however, suffice it to say, there is a great deal of talk these days about how things should be sustainable, but very little acknowledgment about how things actually are. 

According to a report by the US Green Building Council in 2016 

Buildings Account for 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States. The commercial and residential building sector accounts for 39% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States per year, more than any other sector. U.S. buildings alone are responsible for more CO2 emissions annually than those of any other country except China. Most of these emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels to provide heating, cooling and lighting, and to power appliances and electrical equipment. [Emphasis Added] 

They go on to explain: 

The most significant factor contributing to CO2 emissions from buildings is their use of electricity: 


  • Commercial and residential buildings are tremendous users of electricity, accounting for more than 70% of electricity use in the United States.
  • The building sector consumed 40 quadrillion Btus of energy in 2005 at a cost of over $300 billion.
But energy use and the corresponding CO2 emissions are only part of the story of how growth and development impact climate change, and may even be the least impactful part. As they explain further: 


The energy impact of buildings is likely to be even greater when taking into account other energy use attributable to buildings. For example, the energy embodied in a single building’s envelope equals 8-10 times the annual energy used to heat and cool the building. [Emphasis Added] 

This is referring to what is called the “energy externalities” of building: the greenhouse gases and environmental impacts of the mining, transportation, fabrication and installation of the materials and components that go into it. Or as Paul Hawkin put it, 

Everyone is for ‘sustainable solutions.’ But those solutions need to actually be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable after considering their true costs of “natural capital” and their external affects (supply chain energy usage, third world environmental degradation, etc.)[1] 

To emphasize the extent of the impact of our built environment, the Building Council notes: 

Buildings have a lifespan of 50-100 years during which they continually consume energy and produce CO2 emissions. every year [Emphasis Added] 

Even the best performing LEED Platinum designed buildings, which are far and few between, only reduce energy and water consumption by about a third, nowhere near enough to make a difference. 

These indisputable facts are constantly countered with another powerful, progressive myth about transportation, and in particular, the automobile: claiming that automobiles are the world’s greatest evil and the major polluter. This is then used as justification for urbanism and high-density development and increasingly draconian taxation, legislation and planning to get people to stop using cars. Yet all things considered, the number one GHG emitter remains our built environment, particularly in urban areas in California. Agriculture comes in second and all transportation a distant third. 

In a comprehensive study, Greenhouse Gas Emissions along the Urban-Rural Gradient, by Clinton J. Andrews, published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Vol. 51, Issue 6, 2008, the author questions the fundamental argument urbanists make for why urbanism is better than suburban living, when they argue that the data says that “Buildings in urban areas contribute more emissions than personal transportation” -- thus outweighing any other advantages that might exist. 

Sifting through the IPCC Report 

While the IPCC Report doesn’t claim to be a planning document, per se, it references various “scenarios” and “pathways” to carbon neutrality that are instructive for planning and development. 

For example, in Chapter 2, Executive Summary, page 2-4, it emphasizes the importance of limiting “growing resource-intensive consumption,” and “energy-demand reductions, decarbonisation of electricity and other fuels, electrification of energy end use” and other methods. On page 2-5 it goes on to note that “Investments in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency would need to approximately double in the next 20 years” to avoid catastrophic consequences. 

This is an extraordinary fast-tracked requirement. In terms of how we build, it’s basically saying that unless we immediately change our construction methods - the materials we use and how we design our buildings (the structures, finishes, mechanical systems, appliances, etc.) - we are up a creek. 

So, how can the build-baby-build crowd possibly condone their push for more and more 20th century urbanism and still claim to be “progressive” and caring about social justice and equity at the same time? What good is high density housing if climate change places it under water or in the path of increasingly menacing weather? 

The young, tech honchos who are pouring millions into the hyper-urbanism effort, are of course confident that their ilk will invent some brilliant new technology to sequester CO2 in the air, to avert climate disaster. But, even the IPCC Report, as hopeful and optimistic as it tries to be, is deeply skeptical of tech’s ability to save the day. Several times they note that “CDR [carbon dioxide removal technology] deployed at scale is unproven and reliance on such technology is a major risk in the ability to limit warming.” 

Yet, as incredibly thorough as the IPCC Report is and as impressive as its overall global scientific analysis is, it continues to make assumptions about categorical contributions to GHGs that fail to account for the incredible technological advances in transportation that we are seeing almost daily. 

Ironies abound 

Academic planners and YIMBYs are particularly fond of vilifying the automobile and the “rich.” In fact, one could argue that the entire philosophy of current planning doctrine is built on the single premise that the automobile is an evil invention. But, their zeal has blinded them to the fact that their theory is on shaky ground. According to the fashionable mantra, it is selfish, rich, suburban commuters (car owners) who are the true environmental evildoers. 

Meanwhile, these same academics and YIMBY groups are funded by and carrying water for the deepest pockets and the most privileged among us: major private and corporate foundations, big business organizations, tech millionaires and quasi-governmental groups such as the Bay Area Council and CASA – many of whose leaders drive really nice cars and live in really large homes in places like Palo Alto, Cupertino and San Francisco. 

While urbanists are happy to rail against the suburbs, evil rich people and the automobile, when it suits their legislative purposes and their financial interests, companies like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Toyota and Honda, which are run by some of those very rich people, and the entire automotive industry for that matter, recognize that the only thing wrong with cars is that they pollute and so they’ve have been spending billions to bring us electric, hydrogen and hybrid cars and trucks at increasingly attractive prices and improve their supply chain impacts as well. 

So, I wonder, what will all the “transit oriented development” planners do with the egg on their faces, when the tipping point is reached and the automobile has transformed itself into a carbon neutral machine? They’ll need to find another villain. I would like to suggest they turn their attention to the tech companies who fund them. They’d be a good candidate, because automotive engineering is the most rapidly “greening” technology on the planet, while gadget-happy tech companies aren’t doing a tenth as well in reducing the environmental lifecycle impacts of their products. 

Growth is just growth and there’s nothing “smart” about it 

The pro-growth crowd and the unelected bureaucrats and the tech moguls who fund their efforts are desperately clinging to politically correct but unscientific theories about high density development being good for the environment and scapegoating everyone who disagrees with them. It’s not just a losing strategy in the long run, but it will make matters much worse in the short run, because it is siphoning off billions of dollars that will be desperately needed soon, to tackle the real work we need to do to slow down climate change. 

It’s time for them to face facts: the system that has been in place during the modern era -- where there has always been some other place out there somewhere over the horizon to escape the consequences of growth -- just ain’t working anymore. 

While there is no way to stop growth, the symptoms of the societal and ecological limits we seem to be coming up against should be fair warning. We need to ask ourselves, how much CO2 and methane and other greenhouse gases will prove to be too much for life in its present form, to bear? How many chemicals and toxins can we add to our ecosystem and food web (now at a rate now of hundreds per year) before it’s fatal to keystone species, upon which all other life depends? How degraded can our oceans and rain forests become before the world’s “lungs” collapse? 

History has shown that the behavior of ecosystems is a lot like the stock market. Everything seems to be going along without a hitch one day then everything is collapsing the next. But unlike the stock market, the planet has no Federal Reserve to bail it out. 

So, why is it still business as usual for the pro-growth advocates? Is the world just filled with people obsessed with getting their slice of the pie and living a life of self-indulgence, surrounded by more and more “stuff,” like they’re taught by advertising, so for them nothing else matters? Or is everyone so stressed out just trying to make ends meet that they have no time to deal with anything else? Or is it that this “ocean liner” that is our society is just too big to turn around in time? 

I have no idea, but it’s not just what’s going on in Washington DC these days, that seems to be totally out of whack. 

What to do? 

I would argue that all of the evidence and circumstances and the critical timeline presented in the IPCC Report leaves us with only one realistic choice. We need to immediately shift gears and slow growth down as much as we possibly can, until we can retool our approach and redefine our goals and wait for building technology innovation and a newly trained workforce to catch up. And, all this must be accompanied by massive public investment in education, social welfare and innovation. 

We need to soberly recognize and accept what is working and what is not, environmentally, without political or ideological prejudice. 

The IPCC Report stresses this need. It spends considerable time suggesting that retrofitting, remodeling, reprioritizing and otherwise reusing what we already have in place, needs to play a major role in our “growth” and planning initiatives. 

It is generally acknowledged today, scientifically, that a watt of energy saved is less impactful than a watt of energy generated[2], and that the greenest buildings are the ones already standing. All this would suggest that instead of allocating hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding to build more and more of what we already have, our future is about investing those precious funds in a massive renovation, retrofit, adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of our existing built environment and its supporting infrastructure. 

Many will groan at the thought, but if we have any chance of avoiding the kinds of environmental catastrophes the IPCC foresees, we’re going to have to temporarily accept and embrace slower growth and lower investment returns in order to ensure social, environmental and economic stability and more durable and reliable returns on capital in the future. 

A nationwide re-education of our workforce is an essential part of this to get ahead of the inevitable impacts of automation, robotics, computerization and the jobs obsolescence that will result from the deconstruction of retail, office work, middle management, and just about every type of job and profession that presently exists. In a way, we are like a society of buggy whip makers at the dawn of the age of automobiles. The handwriting is on the wall, except that now there’s a double urgency to act, because the environmental wolf is at the door. 

The IPCC Report talks about how basic things like heating and cooling design, efficient equipment, lighting and appliances, thermal performance and reducing the “embodied energy” in buildings and integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) can dramatically reduce emissions and slow climate change. This is equally true of infrastructure, utilities and services, which not only need upgrading but re-imagining. 

Achieving a sustainable future and planning for change also includes how we distribute power and water and collect and process waste. Throughout history the need to share and efficiently distribute resources from a central location (e.g. water from a river or natural spring) has been a given. This is so ingrained in our thinking that we accept it without questioning its long-term sustainability challenges. But, by 21st century standards, centralized utility systems are incredibly wasteful and inefficient. 

Significant losses occur as electrical power moves out through our vast centralized power grids. A large percentage of our drinking water is lost due to leakage and evaporation as it moves through underground pipes and aqueducts. And in many U.S. metropolitan areas, 50 percent of the effluent that goes into sewer lines never reaches the treatment plant because it leaches out into the ground through old pipes. 

When it comes to really addressing our environmental challenges, all this becomes very important to consider, because efficient use of resources is fundamental to any environmentally or economically sustainable solution. So we have to ask ourselves, is there a better way? 

Advances in energy-conservation and alternative energy sources are about to tip the balance of global energy production and distribution from the top to the bottom: what is called “at the source” co-generation. Feeding power hundreds of miles in one direction out to users on the grid, from central power plants (i.e. hydroelectric plants, nuclear reactors, coal fired generators, and even solar farms.) is technologically obsolete. “Smart Grids” can distribute power the way the Internet distributes information and dramatically alter the “user / producer” relationship. 

Interactive, self-monitoring electrical grids change a “distribution” network into a “sharing” network where everyone becomes both a user and a producer. New thin-film photovoltaics can produce solar energy on any surface (even window glass), and wind is now the fastest growing clean energy source in the world. More options will be here sooner than people think, but only if we encourage it financially. 

The repercussions of this on growth and planning will be profound 

Once personal transportation options (cars and other personal vehicles) no longer pollute or rely on fossil fuels, and more at-the-source utility solutions are introduced (electrical co-generation, waste treatment, rainwater and gray water capture and recycling, etc.) today’s "urban" versus "suburban" arguments will fall apart. In fact, lower density suburban development already has significant environmental advantages over high-density urban development. 

A typical suburban home on a small lot can support a highly productive vegetable garden fed by automated drip irrigation. Food waste can be composted on site reducing trash hauling and soils degradation. Hybrid cars, energy saving appliances, passive solar design, proper insulation and solar panels can all be retrofitted in place, to the point that such a home can essentially be off the grid. It is simply impossible for this kind of conversion to take place in a thirty story, high-density apartment building on a typical city block. The vast majority of urban buildings are doomed to remain environmental polluters for decades to come. 

While lasting climate change supporting strategies need to be addressed at the highest levels of government, through supportive legislation[3], the incremental differences will be made in the trenches at the local level. On the national level, our climate change problems are primarily a national policy failure which is expressed through dysfunctional tax[4], subsidy and funding mechanisms, and our federal government has never had a national energy policy and still refuses to cooperate with every other industrialized nation in the world on climate change treaties. 

So, all this has to change for us to accomplish our transition back from the slow growth that we desperately need to adopt right now, to the more normal growth levels we’ll be able to enjoy once we’ve retrofitted and retooled our industries, businesses and our workforce. But, this effort has to begin immediately before too much of our planet’s regenerative capabilities, which are vital to the continued health of our society, are lost. 


[1] Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken 

[2] Amory Lovins 

[3] E.g., Providing federal tax credits and funding and guidelines for the retrofitting of our built environment, or phasing out internal combustion engines using oil as a fuel or power generation using coal as a fuel, etc.. 

[4] E.g., Massive “business” write-offs and tax benefits on trucks and gigantic SUVs. 

Bob Silvestri is the founder and president of Community Venture Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization funded only by individuals in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.



Land Use is the Principal Local Issue in Berkeley for the November Election

Becky O'Malley
Friday October 12, 2018 - 04:38:00 PM

An eagle-eyed reader noticed that last week’s editorial accidentally left out the race for the state’s 15th Assembly District. He successfully deduced, however, that the ideologically consistent position, for both me and my fellow members in the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, was to endorse Richmond Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, as indeed we did. For heaven’s sake, don’t you miss that slot on your ballot.

It’s harder and harder to concentrate on what’s happening in California, given the plethora of shocking news national and international, but we have to keep trying. What we do here will ultimately affect the whole planet, so we need to make sure to elect the right people in November.

So I was planning to devote space this week to explaining what the main issue that tied all the endorsed candidates together is, but luckily my Marin Post colleague Bob Silvestri just sent me his own excellent dissection, which you can now read here, The IPCC Report on Climate Change in the Age of Entitlement, Growth Addiction and Urbanism.

What links the candidates for the state assembly and the Berkeley City Council is whether or not they adhere to the Scott Weiner/ Nancy Skinner/corporate dogma that we can build our way out of climate change.

Folks, we can’t. Bob saves me the trouble of citing chapter and verse of why growth won’t work to save the planet, so be sure to read what he says. (My only quibble is that he's too willing to cede the "progressive" title to the MeFirstNow crowd.) 

The shorthand slogan has been around for years: “Growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” 

Here in Berkeley, as in all of California, we’re in the middle of a great big gold rush. We’ve seen big bucks in corporate technological enterprises in the last decade, so those who’d like to share the experience at all levels have been rushing here in droves to populate enormous numbers of start-ups, the majority of which will sink without trace. 

Just like the original gold rush, this one has created a parallel land speculation boom. This time there’s an ideology to match: that building near existing and/or planned public transit locations will mitigate the climate-altering effects of hyper-urbanization. 

Just a couple of counter facts should be inserted here: 

(1) BART is failing six ways from Sunday. All it’s good for is to transport well-paid workers from suburbs like Berkeley and Orinda to San Francisco jobs, and increasingly it’s too crowded to do even that adequately. Both the many techies who are trying to commute from Berkeley to Silicon Valley and the poorly paid workers who drive hours to work there from Tracy are out of luck. 

The BART infrastructure is collapsing. 

(2) Buses, those energy-consuming behemoths, run almost empty a large part of the time—just look inside. AC Transit does not publish an energy consumption per passenger mile figure, which is what counts. 

Despite this, there’s a political push to build more and more market-rate (“luxury”) apartments along these dysfunctional “ transit corridors”. The legislators at the state and local level who peddle this snake oil are funded by the development industry, often by all three classes who profit from building projects: owners, managers and labor. A review of their campaign contributors and of the “independent” political action committees which back them makes this clear. 

Their legislative proposals are designed to shift the locus of planning and decision-making to Sacramento, where it’s easier for corporate interests to lobby for decisions that they find lucrative. That’s why, in Assembly District 15, which includes key parts of Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito and Richmond, corporate Democrats (we have no admitted Republicans) are trying to parachute in a newbie who backs the same agenda favored by San Francisco’s Scott Weiner. 

The discussion is garbled because Weiner and his East Bay ally, Senator Nancy Skinner, have been fronting for an ever-changing series of bills designed to pre-empt local control over housing construction. The shorthand for this class of measures is “827”, the number (Senate Bill 827) of the first incarnation of this concept, which put the fear of the lord into some (though not all) local elected officials. It originally referenced a somewhat obscure Metropolitan Transportation Commission map which, if adopted, would have ceded almost all control over Berkeley land use to Sacramento mandates. 

827 was a stalking horse which has now been disavowed by its proponents, but it’s the UnDead, already rising again in multiple incarnations. That first run didn’t even make it out of committee, but since then there’s been a rush of differently numbered attempts, some of them successful, to grab control of ever more local land. And there will be more. 

The major difference between Berkeley backers of this strategy and Berkeley’s opposing progressive candidates for City Council is the definition of exactly what the “housing crisis” that has accompanied the tech boom might be. 

Three Berkeley candidates, incumbent Kate Harrison (District 4), Planning Commissioner Mary Kay Lacey (District 8) and ZAB Commissioner Igor Tregub (District 1), contend that what’s needed is more affordable housing, particularly for low and very low income residents, not just more housing in general. All three are endorsed by the Wellstone Club, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, and Berkeley Citizens Action, as is Jovanka Beckles for the 15th District Assembly seat 

The opponents of all four espouse what are sometimes called “neoliberal’, sometimes “trickle-down” and sometimes “market-based” theories with various particulars. The key contention is that if enough housing of whatever kind is built it will eventually result in making housing available to those at all economic levels. 

There’s a touching faith in the efficacy of markets which is seldom supported by data. One UC study estimates that this process will take 50 years to work its magic, but whatever… 

The four candidates who are running against the progressives are heavily backed by middle-of-the road establishment Democratic National Committee types. In your mailbox you can find the evidence: their endless expensive glossy brochures depicting every politician you’ve ever heard of in living color posing for selfies with them. 

Jovanka Beckles’ modest flier, by contrast, features snapshots of the several local Democrats she defeated in the June primary in order to make it into this runoff—they’ve all endorsed her. Well, all but one, of course, the beauteous big bucks-backed Buffy. 

A related separator is that all four progressive contenders discussed here support Proposition 10, which ends Costa-Hawkins, the state-mandated ban on much of local rent control. Buffy Wicks opposes lifting the ban (hinting at minor modifications), while the rest of the Berkeley candidates tip-toe around positions on 10—I can’t find any endorsement of it from any of them except Alfred Twu, at least online. 

And speaking of District 8, where I live, we do seem to have three interesting candidates. I support Mary Kay Lacey, who’s smart, sophisticated and empathetic. She’s not afraid to take positions on controversial issues, unlike the current councilmember, who’s been generally wishy-washy and compliant—a loyal supporter of the worst schemes of former mayor Tom Bates. 

The incumbent likes the middle of the road, bringing to mind the quip that there’s nothing much in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos. Someone in the online commentariat compared her to Susan Collins. 

But I do plan to fill the second and third slots on my ranked choice ballot—I haven’t decided in what order—with the names of Russ Tilleman and Alfred Twu. Russ is opinionated in a good way, and articulate about what he believes. Alfred’s wardrobe, campaign signs and web page are delightful—if there were a city office called Designer-in-Residence he’d have my vote for it in a hot minute. Maybe Mary Kay should pledge to appoint him to the city’s Design Review commission. 

One last point, not housing related but which should be obvious. This is one of the very few Assembly Districts left in the state which could conceivably return an African American woman. It seems really too bad to blow that opportunity on a White woman, especially one from a rural background whose main experience is as a party operative. Jovanka Beckles would bring a depth of urban experience to the Assembly which her opponent woefully lacks. 










Public Comment

Campaign 2018:
25 Reasons To Get Involved

Arthur Blaustein
Saturday October 13, 2018 - 12:02:00 PM

If you are thinking of sitting out the upcoming Congressional elections on November 6th, think again; because the results will, directly and indirectly, affect you and your whole family in ways that you never imagined.

So, instead of pushing the snooze button, think about the issues that matter to me that I've outlined below and should matter to you. It's worth the effort as the stakes are high!!! The issues to consider, not necessarily in order of importance, are: 

1. Decent Jobs at Livable Wages
2. Voter Suppression
3. Global Warming
4. Public Education and Student Loans
5. Women's Choice
6. Medicare and Medicaid
7. Affordable Health Care
8. Campaign Finance Reform
9. The Supreme Court and Federal Judges
10. Sexual Abuse and Equal Justice
11. Separation of Church and State
12. Increasing Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness
13. Assault Weapons on the Street
14. Social Security
15. Consumer Protection
16. Immigration Reform
17. Preemptive War and National Security
18. Disaster Preparedness
19. Maldistribution of Wealth and Economic Justice
20. Fair and Progressive Tax Reform
21. Basic Research in Science, Health and Technology
22. Renewable Energy and a Sustainable Environment
23. NPR, NET (Sesame Street, et. al), the National Endowment for the Arts and the National
Endowment for the Humanities
24. Cronyism, Lying, Manipulation and Incompetence in Government
25. Infrastructure Development (Mass Transit, the Energy Grid, Schools, Bridges, Roads and Airports) 

After careful analysis of the issues listed above one can safely conclude that the positions of the Democrats are mainstream, moderate and reasonable; whereas the positions of the Republicans are ideological, opportunistic and dangerous. The choices are stark, the stakes are high, and the consequences could be devastating. 

Finally, it must be said that it's far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. The most important thing to do, for those who are concerned about the character, integrity and future of our country about democracy, the rule of law and the common good is to spend the next few weeks until Election Day putting our energy, money and time into efforts to move control of Congress, both the House and the Senate, to the Democrats. Then we will have both Congressional committees and the Special Counsel doing their legitimate jobs of investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, cover ups and possible collusion; as well as having the legislative authority to limit the worst excesses of the Trump administration. 


Professor Arthur Blaustein (retired) taught Politics and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and is author of DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT and THE AMERICAN PROMISE. He served as Chair of the National Advisory Council of Economic Opportunity under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and on the Board of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. 

The Minimum Wage is Not a Living Wage

Harry Brill
Friday October 12, 2018 - 04:53:00 PM

Achieving a minimum wage in Berkeley for $15 an hour, which unlike most minimum wage laws, will be increased annually in the beginning of July next year according to the inflation rate. The law, which became effective October 1, was a major victory.

The vast majority of minimum wage laws pay well under $15 an hour and lack an inflation adjustment provision. As a result the purchasing power of these wages will continually decline. But generally speaking, these new minimum wage laws make an enormous difference in the standard of living of many thousands of working people. As low as these wages are, they are an immense improvement over the federal minimum wage of only $7.25 an hour

However, without exception these wages are still poverty wages.

According to an official study of poverty in California, at $15 an hour, which is in the $31,000 range annually for a full time year round worker, a family of four would still lack the resources to meet basic needs. The California poverty rate, which is 20.6 percent of the population, is the highest in the country. Prices keep rising but wages for several decades have been stagnant. 

What working people need to escape poverty is not simply a higher wage. They need a living wage. A living wage would provide a family with the costs of health care, food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and other essentials to enjoy a decent life.  

Thorough and careful research was conducted by MIT and the liberal Economic Policy Institute to determine the costs of essentials throughout the United States and the annual wage that is needed to cover these costs. But because prices often rise considerably and rapidly, there is an inherent tendency of these institutes and others to underestimate the cost of living. Let us look at these issues in Alameda County, California where probably many of the readers of this commentary live. For a family of four - husband, wife, and two children -- with only one person working, the minimum hourly wages must exceed $33 an hour for a 40 hour week to qualify as a living wage.. That amounts to a wage of $70,000 annually. 

According to the estimated budget, these families have to spend for housing over $26,000 a year, which is $2,166 a month. However, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment now in Alameda County is $2,529 a month, which is over $300 per month more than their budget would permit. Most of the rental increase occurred within the last six months. So as careful as the studies about the cost of living may have been, costs are actually higher than what the experts determined. The estimated wage of $70,000 to adequately support a family of four is a rock bottom figure, at least in Alameda County. That's more than twice the minimum wage that was achieved in Berkeley. 

Nationally, things are very tight for many individuals and families. Rents and the employees' share of health care are rising rapidly, which appreciably erodes the paychecks of working people. According to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of Americans cannot pay for a $400 emergency expense. Moreover, thirty-four percent have no money in the bank, and many others have very little. So the total number of individuals with little or nothing is 65 percent. In fact, the average household debt according to the Federal Reserve is $137,000. So ironically, borrowing is among the necessities of life. 

Since the problem of poverty is a national problem, the federal government rather than the states and cities should be mainly responsible for addressing this issue. That it has failed to do so is a national disgrace. The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 since 2009. 

Had the federal minimum wage kept up with the increases in worker output, it would be over $20 an hour. That certainly would have been welcome because many poor workers and their family would be less poor. However, this hourly rate would still be lower than a living wage for families. 

Actually, the federal minimum wage law is worse than it is realized. In addition to the hourly minimum the law exempts many businesses from providing any minimum wage. As a result, the number of workers who are paid below the minimum under the law is larger than the number of employees who receive the minimum wage. The gap would be greater if many in the workers in the federal exempt category were not covered by state and local wage laws.  

What then could be done to achieve a living wage for all workers? That's a formidable challenge. Perhaps it would be helpful to keep in mind that we should not be shackled by a culture of low expectations. So along with celebrating our minimum wage victories, our slogan must be "Not Enuff, Not Enuff, and Not Enuff". 

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "No business which depends for existence on paying *less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.. By living wages, I mean more than the bare subsistence level - I mean the wages of a decent living."


ECLECTIC RANT: San Francisco Should Opt-in to the SB-1045 Conservatorship Pilot Program

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday October 13, 2018 - 08:55:00 PM

On September 27, 2018,California Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill-1045 , which creates a five-year pilot program for San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties for a conservatorship program in the Welfare and Institutions Code. 

Current conservatorship, the two sections of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and probate section provide a procedure to appoint a conservator for people who are "gravely disabled" as result of a serious mental health disorder or an impairment by chronic alcoholism. 

SB-1045 expands the scope of conservatorships to allow housing with wraparound services to the most vulnerable Californians living on the streets. In order to be considered for conservatorship under SB-1045, an individual must be chronically homeless, suffering from serious mental illness and substance use disorder such that those co-occurring conditions have resulted in that individual frequently visiting the emergency room, being frequently detained by police under a Section 5150, or frequently held for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. In short, SB-1045’s aim is to make it easier to help troubled homeless deemed too impaired to care for themselves. 

The San Francisco 2017 Homeless Count & Survey showed a homeless count of 7,499. More than two-thirds of this number (68% or 5,099) reported one or more health conditions. Over half of respondents (53% or 3,974) reported their condition limited their ability to take care of personal matters or to get and keep a job. These conditions include a psychiatric or emotional condition, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a chronic health problem, drug or alcohol abuse, a physical disability, a traumatic brain injury, and an AIDS or HIV related illness. 

Too often, we have a revolving door of homeless, especially the chronically mentally ill. They are picked up off the streets or in Golden Gate Park or at Homeless Connect. The homeless may or may not be placed in a treatment facility, if one is available. Once they complete treatment, they are too often dumped back on the streets with no housing, jobs, money, or followup by a professional case manager. In a short time, these homeless are back on the street. 

While we as a society must safeguard the civil rights of the unfortunate, we also have an obligation to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. SB-1045 provides San Francisco with an additional tool to help these homeless people. 

In order to take part in this program, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors must opt-in to the pilot program. Mayor London Breed is in favor of an opt-in. This pilot program, also called a feasibility study or experimental trial, is a small-scale, short-term experiment that will help to learn how SB-1045 might work permanently throughout California. 

I urge the Board of Supervisors to follow Mayor Breed’s lead. 



THE PUBLIC EYE:Global Climate Change Comes Home

Bob Burnett
Saturday October 13, 2018 - 11:41:00 AM

There are many reasons to dislike Donald Trump. He's an unrepentant sexual predator, who lies without remorse. In addition, Trump is a bigoted bully whose only moral precept is "might makes right." Nonetheless, the most important reason to dislike Donald is that he refuses to protect our children and grandchildren. Trump is obsessed with immediate gratification and. therefore, has chosen to ignore global climate change. Now it's coming home to bite all of us. 

If you blinked, you missed the October 8th report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/). It's very disturbing; if we don't take immediate action to control emissions, we're screwed. More about that later. 

You may have not seen the IPCC climate change report because the mainstream-media focus quickly shifted to the fight between Donald Trump and Taylor Swift. And then to sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh's first day on the Supreme Court -- by the way, he has four female clerks. Or, if you live in the southeast, you may have been preoccupied with Hurricane Michael bearing down on the Florida panhandle. 

If you're among the unfortunates living on the coast of Alabama and Florida, I sympathize with your situation. Perhaps, as your considering the hurricane damage, you'll have a moment to reflect that you, too, are a victim of global climate change. These days, that's the pattern: people don't pay attention to climate change until it comes to their neighborhood. 

Every American has an opinion about climate change, but few of us rank it as an important concern when deciding who to vote for. Instead, prospective voters focus on the near term: healthcare costs, jobs and the economy, or guns. This is the recurring pattern when Americans ponder climate change: they decide it's too abstract or difficult and they don't do anything about it. Unless you are fortunate enough to live in California. 

In August, Quinnipiac ran a small poll (175 respondents) that asked: "Do you think the United States is doing enough to address climate change, doing too much, or do you think more needs to be done to address climate change?" 64 percent responded "more needs to be done;" the highest number since Quinnipiac started asking the question. (And "doing too much" or "doing enough" were at all all time lows.) The pollsters added a new follow-on question: "The wildfires in California are the worst in the state's history. Do you think climate change is a factor in making these fires more extreme, or not?" 53 percent of respondents believed climate change was a factor. 

In California, we take climate change very seriously and a strong majority believes that climate change was a factor in our fires. A recent Public Policy Poll ( http://www.ppic.org/publication/californians-views-on-climate-change/) found that 80 percent of Californians view climate change as a serious "threat to the state’s future economy and quality of life." (California Democrats and Independents view climate change more seriously than do Republicans -- only 22 percent of Trump's Party see it is a threat; they're more worried about Taylor Swift.) Californians have to take climate change seriously; a recent report indicated that the frequency of major fires will increase by 77 percent by the end of the century. 

In California we're taking a variety of actions to stem the tide of climate change -- such as limiting our carbon emissions -- because we understand that we don't have a choice. 

Meanwhile, the October 8th IPCC report indicates that the world is rapidly reaching the point of no return: "We are on track to cross a key threshold of danger —1.5 degrees C or 2.7 degrees F—much earlier than anticipated: 2040." (A 1.5 degree Celsius increase is the point at which irreversible sea level rise, massive coral reef extinctions, and food shortages begin to occur.) In California, this would increase the severity of fires and the probability of drought. It would also increase flooding along the coast and raise the probability that salt water would intrude into the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta -- an event that would have cascading consequences, threatening drinking water supplies and impacting farm land. 

California is taking steps to deal with this and it's likely Florida will join us. The day the IPCC report appeared, Florida got news that Hurricane Michael was heading their way. (On the afternoon of October 10th, Michael hit the Florida panhandle with winds between 115-155 mph.) It's the third major hurricane to hit Florida in the past 3 years. 

It's not Florida's only global climate change event. For almost a year, Florida has been beset by the "red tide" (https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/8/30/17795892/red-tide-2018-florida-gulf-sarasota-sanibel-okeechobee ), which has killed: "At least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, 300 sea turtles, and more have died or washed along shores in putrid-smelling masses." The red-tide has become a factor in Florida's election: Republican Governor Rick Scott exacerbated the situation by cutting Florida's water-management budget. 

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration chose not to respond to the IPCC report. When queried, Donald said, "It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew it... Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it. Absolutely.” Trump isn't going to read the report and he isn't going to lead an effort to protect our children and grandchildren from future harm. 

Response to the IPCC report will have to happen at the state level. In the meantime, move to higher ground. 

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


Conn Hallinan
Wednesday October 10, 2018 - 12:34:00 PM

The Syrian civil war has always been devilishly complex, with multiple actors following different scripts, but in the past few months it appeared to be winding down. The Damascus government now controls 60 percent of the country and the major population centers, the Islamic State has been routed, and the rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are largely cornered in Idilb Province in the country’s northwest. But suddenly the Americans moved the goal posts—maybe—the Russians have fallen out with the Israelis, the Iranians are digging in their heels, and the Turks are trying to multi-task with a home front in disarray.

So the devil is still very much at work in a war that has lasted more than seven years, claimed up to 500,000 lives, displaced millions of people, destabilized an already fragile Middle East, and is far from over.

There are at least three theaters in the Syrian war, each with its own complexities: Idilb in the north, the territory east of the Euphrates River, and the region that abuts the southern section of the Golan Heights. Just sorting out the antagonists is daunting. Turks, Iranians, Americans and Kurds are the key actors in the east. Russians, Turks, Kurds and Assad are in a temporary standoff in the north. And Iran, Assad and Israel are in a faceoff near Golan, a conflict that has suddenly drawn in Moscow. 

Assad’s goals are straightforward: reunite the country under the rule of Damascus and begin re-building Syria’s shattered cities. The major roadblock to this is Idilb, the last large concentration of anti-Assad groups, Jihadists linked with al-Qaeda, and a modest Turkish occupation force representing Operation Olive Branch. The province, which borders Turkey in the north, is mountainous and re-taking it promises to be difficult. 

For the time being there is a stand down. The Russians cut a deal with Turkey to demilitarize the area around Idilb city, neutralize the jihadist groups, and re-open major roads. The agreement holds off a joint Assad-Russian assault on Idilb, which would have driven hundreds of thousands of refugees into Turkey and likely have resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties. 

But the agreement is temporary—about a month—because Russia is impatient to end the fighting and begin the reconstruction. However, it is hard to see how the Turks are going to get a handle on the bewildering number of groups packed into the province, some of which they have actively aided for years. Ankara could bring in more soldiers, but Turkey already has troops east of the Euphrates and is teetering on the edge of a major economic crisis. Pouring more wealth into what has become a quagmire may not sit well with the Turkish public, which has seen inflation eat up their paychecks and pensions, and the Turkish Lira fall nearly 40 percent in value in the past year. Local elections will be held in 2019, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party ‘s power is built on improving the economy. 

In Syria’s east, Turkish troops—part of Operation Euphrates Shield—are pushing up against the Americans and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State (IS). Erdogan is far more worried about the Syrian Kurds and the effect they might have on Turkey’s Kurdish population, than he is about the IS.  

Ankara’s ally in this case is Iran, which is not overly concerned about the Kurds, but quite concerned about the 2,200 Americans. “We need to resolve the difficulty east of the Euphrates and force America out,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in early September. 

That latter goal just got more complex. The U.S. Special Forces were originally charged with aiding the Kurdish and Arab allies drive out the IS. President Donald Trump told a meeting in March, “we’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon.” But that policy appears to have changed. National Security Advisor John Bolton now says U.S. troops will remain in Syria until Iran leaves. Since there is little chance of that happening, the U.S. commitment suddenly sounds open-ended. Bolton’s comment has stirred up some opposition in the U.S. Congress to “mission creep,” although Trump has yet to directly address the situation.  

The Kurds are caught in the middle. The U.S. has made no commitment to defend them from Turkey, and the Assad regime is pressing to bring the region under Damascus’ control. However, the Syrian government has made overtures to the Kurds for talks about more regional autonomy, and one suspects the Kurds will try to cut a deal to protect them from Ankara. The Russians have been pushing for Assad-Kurd détente. 

Turkey may want to stay in eastern Syria, but it is hard to see how Ankara will be able to do that, especially if the Turks are stretched between Idlib and Euphrates Shield in the east. The simple fact is that Erdogan misjudged the resiliency of the Assad regime and over reached when he thought shooting down a Russian fighter-bomber in 2015 would bring NATO to his rescue and intimidate Moscow. Instead, the Russians now control the skies over Idlib, and Turkey is estranged from NATO.  

The Russians have been careful in Syria. Their main concerns are keeping their naval base at Latakia, beating up on al-Qaeda and the IS, and supporting their long-time ally Syria. Instead of responding directly to Erdogan’s 2015 provocation, Moscow brought in their dangerous S-400 anti-aircraft system, a wing of advanced fighter aircraft, and beefed up their naval presence with its advanced radar systems. The message was clear: don’t try that again. 

But the Russians held off the attack on Idlib, and have been trying to keep the Israelis and Iranians from tangling with one another in the region around the Golan Heights. Moscow proposed keeping Iran and its allies at least 60 miles from the Israeli border, but Israel—and now the U.S.—is demanding Iran fully withdraw from Syria. 

The Assad regime wants Teheran to stay, but also to avoid any major shootout between Iran and Israel that would catch Damascus in the middle. In spite of hundreds of Israeli air attacks into Syria, there has been no counter attacks by the Syrians or the Iranians, suggesting that Assad has ruled out any violent reaction. 

That all came to end Sept 17, when Israeli aircraft apparently used a Russian Ilyushin-M20 electronic reconnaissance plane to mask an attack on Damascus. Syrian anti-aircraft responded and ending up shooting down the Russian plane and killing all aboard. Russia blamed the Israelis and a few days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was sending its S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria, along with a series of upgrades in Damascus’ radar network. Syria currently uses the S-200 system that goes back to the ‘60s. 

The upgrade will not really threaten Israeli aircraft—the S-300 is dated and the Israelis likely have the electronics to overcome it—but suddenly the skies over Syria are no longer uncontested, and, if Tel Aviv decides to go after the Syrian radar grid, the Russians have their S-400 in the wings. Not checkmate, but check. 

How all of this shakes down is hardly clear, but there are glimmers of solution out there. Turkey will have to eventually withdraw from Syria, but will probably get some concessions over how much autonomy Syria’s Kurds will end up with. The Kurds can cut a deal with Assad because the regime needs peace. The Iranians want to keep their influence in Syria and a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but don’t want a serious dustup with Israel.  

An upcoming Istanbul summit on Syria of Russia, France, Turkey and Germany will talk about a political solution to the civil war and post-war reconstruction. 

Israel will eventually have to come to terms with Iran as a major player in the Middle East and recognize that the great “united front” against Teheran of Washington, Tel Aviv and the Gulf monarchies is mostly illusion. The Saudis are in serious economic trouble, the Gulf Cooperation Council is divided, and it is Israel and the U.S. are increasingly isolated over in hostility to Teheran. 


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











ON MENTAL ILLNESS: A Misunderstood People

Jack Bragen
Friday October 12, 2018 - 04:40:00 PM

It is common for people with mental illness to be misunderstood. We do not necessarily present ourselves in ways that non-afflicted people can readily understand. Many non-afflicted people do not seem to make any effort to understand us, and it may be easier to just dismiss us as sick, depraved, or brain-damaged. However, it is hard for us to prove ourselves when we are used to being trampled upon by those who do not have the disadvantage of being medicated and otherwise controlled. 

More often than not, mentally ill people are just as smart and aware as those considered normal. "Normal" people may gain satisfaction about considering us inferior to them, but this perception is not accurate. 

When the illness is no longer in charge of us because we've been given treatment, we are not done yet with our recovery. We need to learn to make others realize that we do have mental capacity. Yet, there are constraints placed on us that can make this difficult. 

I've coexisted with hundreds of mentally ill people, in my years in the mental health system, and I find that most of us have average or above average levels of intelligence and sensitivity. The illness makes it harder for most non-afflicted people to understand that we have this. It is a yolk that cheats us out of the use of our own minds--and these minds are often good minds. 

It varies. Some persons with mental illness lack the ability to understand very much. Others, including me, may find it a lot harder to express ourselves. People tend to dismiss anything we say, attributing anything we express to be the product of a delusional mind. A substantial barrier we must face is that of changing or accepting the erroneous mindset of the normal. 

Mental illness, in an acute phase, causes a "patient" to behave in ways that do not make sense. The illnesses affect the mind to the extent that it may be hard to have the basic insight of what the illness does to us, how it affects us, and even, the insight of the fact that the insight has been missing. When we come to realize that a malfunction has dominated our minds, it can open the door to living in reality. 

Once the mind is reality based, we are done only with the first leg of the journey. Following an acute episode of mental illness, it can take years, depending on the individual and their diagnosis, to raise functioning to an effective level. When we reach that, many mentally ill people forget that it was treatment that got them there, and they must continue it. 

However, once we are back up to a good level of functioning, people may continue to believe that we are intrinsically inferior, and that we aren't capable of much. Facing this can be disheartening. 

When people underestimate us, it is a disservice. People assume that any boasts of greatness are simply "delusions of grandeur," and this is harmful to our lives. When someone is in the category of "normal" they are not viewed the same skepticism. 

Mentally ill people are often badly misunderstood. Bad motives are sometimes attributed to many behaviors that are commonplace, behaviors that among the non-afflicted wouldn't even be noticed. People don’t give us the benefit of the doubt. 

When people assume we are incapable, we will inevitably be denied the same opportunities given to the normal. (Additionally, people in positions of power over a mentally ill person may gain satisfaction from feeling powerful.) 

People do not necessarily view mental health consumers as fully-fledged human beings. We may differ in appearance and mannerisms, and we may sometimes be awkward. Thus, many people do not view us as worthy of genuine compassion. Caregivers may be condescending and may give phony sympathy when we are in distress. Lack of basic understanding can lead to mistreatment without the same compunctions as when someone deemed normal is mistreated. 

This perception of us as less than a person has classically led to mistreatment in hospitals. It causes any observations made to be interpreted in a warped way that professionals use to support the notion that we are just sick or crazy people. People often don't even try to understand who and what we are. 

And, you might ask, "who and what are mentally ill people?" My answer, the same as anyone else, afflicted to not. There is no actual difference between mentally ill people and anyone else. We're all made of the same stuff, and people need to recognize that.

Arts & Events

New: Zukerman & Forsyth with The Jerusalem Quartet

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday October 15, 2018 - 06:26:00 PM

The husband-and-wife team of Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth joined forces with The Jerusalem Quartet for a program of string sextets on Saturday, October 13 at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. Featured works were Richard Strauss’s String Sextet from Capriccio, Verklärte Nacht by Arnold Schoenberg, and String Sextet in D minor, Souvenir de Florence by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Jerusalem Quartet consists of Alexander Pavlovsky, violin; Sergei Bresler, violin; Ori Kam, viola; and Kyril Zlotnikov, cello. For this concert, Pinchas Zukerman eschewed the violin and played viola, and Amanda Forsyth played cello.  

In his last opera, Capriccio, Richard Strauss explored the question of the relative importance of words and music. This, of course, is a question that has stirred up controversy throughout the history of opera and art song. Although Richard Strauss left the question open, he had fun exploring it in Capriccio, and he also had fun in composing the String Sextet from Capriccio. In this music we hear snippets of Mozart, Gluck, Wagner, and Verdi, composers who all made contributions to the debate over which has priority, words or music. As played here by Jerusalem Quartet & Guests, Strauss’s String Sextet sparkled with ever changing lubricity, featuring at one moment the robust tone of first violinist Alexander Pavlovsky and at another moment the burnished tone of cellist Kyril Zlotnikov.  

Next on the program was Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht/Transfigured Night, a work that premiered in 1902. In Verklärte Nacht we have Schoenberg before he adopted the twelve tone technique of composition. Thus, Verklärte Nacht stands as a pivotal monument of sorts to Wagner’s chromaticism and Post Romanticism in general. Audience members who generally shy away from Schoenberg are often surprised to find how much they like Verklärte Nacht. (In fact, at this concert’s intermission one woman told me just that.) In Verklärte Nacht, Schoenberg set to music a poem by Richard Dehmel in which a man and woman walk through a forest at night and have an emotional conversation that ends up transfiguring their nocturnal promenade.  

The work begins with slow sighing figures from violas and cellos, thereby setting an elegiac mood. Then come moments of anguish and sadness, followed by a radiant theme in a warm major key. This momentary joy, however, turns nightmarish, with screaming violin lines, dissonant harmonies, and strange viola pizzicato figures. Following this harrowing music, a warm cello line in a major key restores a note of hope, and here Kyril Zlotnikov’s burnished tone on cello provided a highlight of the concert. Now began the ‘transfiguring’ in which the falling scales of the opening are recycled in a new, ‘transfigured’ light. A brief coda paints an evocative picture of a starry universe, thus creating a most beautiful musical nightscape. 

After intermission, Jerusalem Quartet & Guests returned to perform Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet in D minor, Souvenir de Florence. Tchaikovsky wrote this work shortly after returning to Russia from an 1890 trip to Italy. It premiered in St. Petersburg in late 1892. In performing this Souvenir de Florence, Jerusalem Quartet’s cellist Kyril Zlotnikov ceded the first cello chair to Amanda Forsythe, whose richly hued tone beautifully complemented Zlotnikov’s. Among Tchaikovsky’s works, Souvenir de Florence is a rarity in bearing no hint of the composer’s habitual melancholy and doubt. Though the music is decidedly Russian, its spirit seems inspired by the lightness and zesty quality of life in Italy, whose “heavenly” climate was much appreciated by Tchaikovsky. The Russian quality of this music comes to a climax in the two closing movements, which are based on folk-like themes, including a final, lively Cossack dance.  

As an encore, Jerusalem Quartet & Guests performed a transcription of music from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin. This brought to a close a lovely concert of well-chosen, exquisitely performed works for string sextet. 

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, October 14-21

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday October 13, 2018 - 11:48:00 AM

Worth Noting ** Meetings

Tuesday City Council starts with 4:30 session draft recommendation for reorganizing how Council functions by establishing standing Policy Committees. Of note, Budget items from City Manager would not go to Budget Committee. Regular Council session at 6:00 pm on consent item 11. is another increase for Ghilotti Contractor bringing the total cost of the South Cove Restroom Project to $1,840,072. Council was reluctant to approve the last cost overrun for the Restroom. 14. On consent to approve Ghillotti as the “low bid” on the Shattuck reconfiguration.

Wednesday is a public hearing on community needs.

Thursday is a presentation by Berkeley Police on Policing de-escalation.

Saturday is the BNC forum on Planning. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 

Monday, October 15, 2018 

Agenda Committee, Mon, Oct 15, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda Planning for Oct 30 City Council meeting, Key Items: Increasing Safety at San Pablo Park, Unregistered short & medium term rentals, Mid-year Crime Report, 


Berkeley City Council Closed Session, Mon, Oct 15, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: Conference with Labor Negotiators 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Mon, Oct 15, 

Outreach Committee, 5:30 pm, 2001 Center, Law Library 2nd Floor 

Regular Meeting, 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm, 2050 Center, Berkeley City College Auditorium 


Civic Arts Commission, Mon, Oct 15, 2180 Milvia, 

Public Art Subcommittee, 9:00 am – 10:30 am, Redwood Room 

Grants Subcommittee, 5:00 pm, Cypress Room 


Tax the Rich rally with Occupella sing along, Mon, Oct 15, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater,  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018  

**Berkeley City Council, Tue, Oct 16, 2134 MLK Jr Way, City Council Chambers, 

**Special Meeting, 4:30 pm, Agenda: Proposed Draft Structure for City Council Standing Policy Committees 


**Regular Council Meeting, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Agenda - Key items: 11. Another amendment increasing Ghilotti contract for South Cove Restroom Project total now $1,840,072 14. Low bid by Ghilotti Contractors for Shattuck reconfiguration 16. Funding 35 Affordable units 1601-1603 Oxford 17. Installation of cameras at San Pablo Park, 18.&19. Sidewalk regulations 21. Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance, 22. Videotaping Planning Commission, 23. Revised GLA (Group Living), 25. Welcome to Berkeley Signage, 26. a.&b. Home Share, 27. Small Sites Housing, 28. Objects on Sidewalks., Information Report: Berkeley Microgrid Project 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018 

Commission on Aging, Wed, Oct 17, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Electric Scooters 


**Special Hearing on Community Needs with Homeless, Housing Advisory, Human Welfare & Community Action, Children, Youth & Recreation Commissions, Wed, Oct 17, 6:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St. South Berkeley Senior Center, 


Mental Health Commission Fiscal/Program, Technology, Accountability Subcommittee, Wed, Oct 17, 11:00 am 2180 Milvia, Pepperwood Room 


Thursday, October 18, 2018 

Design Review Committee, Thur, Oct 18, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 2628 Shattuck Ave – Preliminary Design Review, 6-story mixed use, 78 units 


Fair Campaign Practices Commission, Thur, Oct 18, 7:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, No Agenda posted, check before going http://www.cityofberkeley.info/FCPC/ 

Open Government Commission, Thur, Oct 18, 7:30 pm or 8:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, No Agenda posted, check before going 


Public Works Commission and Parks and Waterfront Commission Capital Projects Subcommittee, Thur, Oct 18, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm, 1326 Allston Way, Building A Willow Room, Agenda: T1 Bond Measure 


**Police Review Commission, Thur, Oct 18, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: BPD Presentation of De-escalation Training Program for Police Officers 


Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts, Thur, Oct 18, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center 


Transportation Commission, Thur, Oct 18, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Discussion with AC transit Rep, one-way car share, T-Bond, Pedestrian Plan, Stop Sign Warrants https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Transportation_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Friday, October 19, 2018 

No City meetings found 

Saturday, October 20, 2018 

**Berkeley Neighborhood Council (BNC) Forum with Planning Director Timothy Burroughs, Sat Oct 20, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, 

Sunday, October 21, 2018 

No City Sponsored Events Found 



The meeting list is posted in the Berkeley Daily Planet under Berkeley Activist’s Calendar 



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



When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 


Wish to engage in campaigns to flip Republican Congressional Districts, local, state and national events check Indivisible Berkeley https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions and Wellstone Democratic Club, http://wellstoneclub.org 

New: Superb Piano Recital by Evgeny Kissin

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday October 15, 2018 - 06:33:00 PM

Until Sunday, October 14, I had never heard Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin perform live. Thus I looked forward with high anticipation to this October 14 recital as part of San Francisco Symphony’s Great Performer Series. I was not disappointed. Kissin lived up to his reputation. Here is a pianist who lets his formidable technique and interpretive sensitivity do all the talking. There is no flair here, little charisma, and none of the demonic element of, say, my current favorite young pianist, Daniil Trifonov. Evgeny Kissin, who at age 47 is twenty years older than Daniil Trifonov, is all business when he sits down at the keyboard and begins to play.  

For this recital, Kissin began with two Nocturnes by Frederic Chopin. If I found Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor, Opus 55, no. 1 from 1843 an odd choice to open a recital, it is simply because the minor key and almost funereal opening theme set a rather gloomy mood. Kissin’s playing, however, left nothing to be desired, neither in the slow, almost hesitant opening nor in the more lively middle section. As for the finale, well, it tidied things up. Much more interesting was Chopin’s Nocturne in E Major, Opus 62, no. 2 from 1846. This was expansive music, fluid, and affirmative in a bright major key. Kissin navigated this demanding piece with considerable aplomb.  

Next came Robert Schumann’s Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Opus 14 (premiered in 1836 and revised in 1853). Schumann’s piano music can sometimes seem overworked. There is a little of this quality in his Sonata No. 3 in F minor; but in Evgeny Kissin’s hands every note seemed to fit together with every other note, and the melodic element stood out clearly. The opening Allegro brillante, a demanding movement, was handled effortlessly by Kissin. Likewise for the ensuing, energetic Scherzo. The Quasi variazioni movement featured four variations, all expertly delivered by Kissin. The Finale, an impassioned sixteen pages of music, was performed at breakneck speed by Kissin, who scrupulously followed the composer’s tempo markings in the score. (Incidentally, Kissin played the entire recital from memory, without recourse to scores.) 

After intermission Evgeny Kissin turned his attention to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Preludes for Piano. Included were selections from Rachmaninoff’s Ten Preludes, Opus 23 from 1903, and from Thirteen Preludes, Opus 32, from 1910. These Rachmaninoff Preludes were for me the heart and soul of the recital. What a vast range of moods, emotions, technical demands, and demands of musicianship are here explored by Rachmaninoff! Evgeny Kissin proved himself more than equal to the task in every respect. The opening Opus 23 Prelude No. 1 in F-sharp minor was suitably melancholy and subdued. For sheer difficulty, Prelude No. 2 in B-flat Major could hardly be topped; but Evgeny Kissin’s awesome technique made playing this demanding piece seem effortless. Prelude No. 3 in D minor was elegantly performed. One of the true highlights of the recital was Kissin’s playing of Prelude No. 4 in D Major. Here the dreamy opening theme was expansive, the ensuing melodies were effusive, and the overall lyrical quality of this piece was beautiful to behold.  

Turning to selections from Rachmaninoff’s Thirteen Preludes, Opus 32, Kissin chose to begin with No. 10 in B minor, a tentative, halting piece inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s symbolist painting The Homecoming, that offers a metaphorical depiction of approaching death. Next came Prelude No. 12 in G-sharp minor offering a wintry mood with a languidly falling melody and considerable counterpoint. Kissin gave an impressive rendition of this popular piece. To close out the scheduled portion of this recital, Kissin played Prelude No. 13 in D-flat Major. Here Evgeny Kissin was able to show off the triumphal side of his keyboard personality, as this piece develops from initial hesitancy to an all-out triumphant conclusion.  

Evgeny Kissin received a lengthy, enthusiastic standing ovation from the appreciative Davies Hall audience. By way of an encore, Kissin played a quiet piece by Robert Schumann, most likely from the composer’s Kinderszenen. Then, in a surprise move, Kissin announced he would play a second encore of his own composition. This turned out to be a bouncy, sprightly, and surprisingly playful piece from a performer whose stage demeanor is measured and controlled. Here was a glimpse into a more intimate, more relaxed, Evgeny Kissin. Clearly, Evgeny Kissin is one of the world’s leading pianists, and now that I’ve finally heard him live I can’t wait to hear him again and again. 

The Berkeley Arts Calendar

Tom Hunt and Bonnie Hughes, Berkeley Arts Festival
Saturday October 13, 2018 - 11:53:00 AM

CLICK HERE for a comprehensive calendar of arts and cultural events in Berkeley and beyond, today and in the future.

A TOSCA with Contemporary Relevance

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday October 12, 2018 - 04:46:00 PM

Think about it. We have just witnessed, in the testimony under oath of Christine Blasey-Ford, allegations that Brett Kavanugh, a man nominated for the position of Supreme Court Justice, allegedly sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. In Blasey-Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh and his elite prep school buddy, Mark Judge, pushed her into a bedroom, locked the door, and threw her on a bed, where Kavanaugh climbed atop her and tried to remove her clothes while he held his hand over her mouth to prevent her from calling for help. What is this scenario other than the plot of Puccini’s Tosca, where Baron Scarpia, the Roman chief of police, tries to force himself on Floria Tosca in a vile effort to satisfy his perverse lusts for sex and power? 

San Francisco Opera most likely had no notion of the rise of the MeToo movement when it decided to mount a new production of Puccini’s Tosca in the Fall of 2018. Yet in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the revelations regarding Harvey Weinstein’s decades long sexual abuse of women as he exercised his power as a Hollywood mogul, Tosca, an opera that Joseph Kerman once notoriously dismissed as “that shabby little shocker,” has become a mirror of sorts of the ongoing saga of men of power sexually abusing women, not to mention that other “shabby little shocker” of priests sexually abusing children. 

As an opera, Tosca, long a doormat for critics who poked holes in its dramaturgy and sneered at some of its music, has suddenly risen in stature by virtue of its contemporary relevancy. Yet audiences have always loved Tosca and respected it for its taut dramaturgy and its musical high points. Tosca was the first opera produced by San Francisco Opera in its 1923 inaugural season at the Civic Auditorium, and it also inaugurated the War Memorial Opera House on October 15, 1932. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Tosca has received an infusion of new blood, so to speak, in the contemporary political climate of the MeToo movement. 

The team of Director Shawna Lucey, Set and Costume Designer Robert Innes Hopkins, and Lighting Director Michael James Clark strove to make their new production of Tosca relevant to today’s world. “Tosca,” says Shawna Lucey, “is a piece for today like almost never before. In a world where corrupt dealings decay civic institutions, torture is fair and legal, and the Church colludes with tyrants for self-preservation, a woman fights back against her fate and the damning crush of this society.” 

To their credit, this production team has remained largely faithful to the traditional staging of Tosca. Act I is still set in a Roman church, Act II in the Palazzo Farnese, and Act III atop Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo. My only reservation, a visceral one, occurred when the curtain opened on the set for Act II, which was a mish-mash of architectural styles that had nothing whatever of the style of the Palazzo Farnese. Oh well, we don’t go to opera for verisimilitude.  

What we go for is, first and foremost, great singing. This was supplied by Italian soprano Carmen Giannattasio, who was making her San Francisco Opera debut and her role debut as Floria Tosca. Giannattasio has a ravishing voice, one that is especially impressive when she sings full out at the top of the soprano range. But she is by no means a singer who belts at full blast for the sake of sheer power. Giannattasio’s Tosca is a thoroughly thought out characterization, one that combines the soft, tender side as well as the passionate, jealous, and fierce side of the role. In the Act I love interplay between Tosca and Mario Cavaradossi, Carmen Giannattasio often sang surprisingly softly but did so only in the moments of loving intimacy between Tosca and Mario. Giannattasio also let loose her awesome power in the moments of sudden jealous anger and suspicion. Likewise, in her Act II portrayal of Tosca’s self-defense murder of Scarpia, Giannattasio revealed the intensely religious side of Tosca, who once she has killed Scarpia, states that only now can she forgive him, as she crosses herself and prays for her own forgiveness from the Virgin Mary. Finally, her words over the dead body of Scarpia, “davvanti al lui tremava tutta Roma/Before him all Rome trembled,” were not spat out in bone-chilling vengeance as Maria Callas so memorably delivered them, but instead were almost tentative, as if Giannattasio’s Tosca could hardly believe what she had just done. Likewise, her aria “Vissi d’arte” was sung as a moment of heartfelt prayer in which Tosca begs for God to take pity on her in her moment of extreme affliction at the malevolent hands of Scarpia. 

In the role of Scarpia, baritone Scott Hendricks was most impressive. His was not the suavely elegant malevolence of Tito Gobbi’s great interpretation of Scarpia. Rather, Scott Hendricks went full out in portraying an extremely violent Scarpia, one who not only orders Cavaradossi’s torture but also sexually assaults Tosca and physically beats up his henchman Spoletta. The latter, sung here by tenor Joel Sorensen, was portrayed as a cringing sycophant.  

As for Brian Jagde’s Cavaradossi, we have seen and heard it before, both in 2014 and 2012. Basically, Jagde’s voice is a baritonal tenor and only features a true tenor timbre when he sings fortissimo high notes. I find Jagde not quite right for the role of Cavaradossi, though he garners a generous share of applause from the audience for the role’s usual highlights. Bass-baritone Hadleigh Adams was a convincing Angelotti, the political renegade and leader of the Napoleonic resistance in Rome. Veteran bass-baritone Dale Travis was persuasive as the Sacristan, a narrow-minded clerical nobody who filches food from the basket left for Cavaradossi. Baritone Andrew Manea was fine in the minor role of Sciarrone, one of Scarpia’s henchmen. At the October 11 performance I attended, the role of the Shepherd Boy was beautifully sung by Miles Kaludzinski.  

Making his San Francisco Opera debut with Tosca, British conductor Leo Hussain led a taut performance, one full of orchestral color. One might mention in passing the elegant clarinet solo by principal clarinetist Jose Gonzalez Granero that accompanies the aria “E lucevan le stelle” in Act III. Under the leadership of Ian Robertson, the Opera Chorus sang beautifully, especially in the glorious Te Deum music that closes Act I. All told, this was a fine Tosca, and one with a distinct resonance in this contemporary moment of the MeToo movement.