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New: Latest Election Update

Rob Wrenn
Thursday November 08, 2018 - 04:19:00 PM

For anyone who might have been concerned that Kate Harrison’s election was not certain because she had less than 50% of the batch of votes counted yesterday (47% to be exact), today’s count (released by the Registrar at 5:04) restored the balance as she received 55.5% of the latest batch.

To summarize the count in District 4 so far:

Kate Harrison’s percentage of 1078 early vote by mail ballots: 50.6% of 1170 ballots cast at the polls: 54.5% of 802 post election VBM ballots: 50.7% of 3050 total votes to date: 52.1%

Nowadays, most people vote by mail but of those who continue to vote at the polls, a higher percentage are tenants and students compared to those who vote by mail.

There are probably somewhere between 1200 and 1500 votes still to be counted in District 4.Countywide turnout is now up to 37%. It will probably end up being at least 50%. 

Student turnout this year was poor, which is not unusual for a non-presidential year. So far only 1208 votes have been counted for the District 7 Council candidates, with Rigel Robinson leading 55% to 36%. In District 1, Rashi Kesarwani leads Igor Tregub 45.3% to 34.6% and receives a plurality of Margo Scheuler’s votes from the ranked choice voting count. 

Support for Measure O continues to increase as more vote are counted; it’s now 76.3% Yes.

With air advisory in effect, stay informed and take precautions

Councilmember Linda Maio
Friday November 09, 2018 - 04:27:00 PM

An air quality advisory for the Bay Area has been issued, meaning that residents should check for updates with airnow.gov and take precautions based on their own health.

The airnow.gov site takes in regional air quality information and offers general health recommendations. Add your zip code and hover over the dial to see instructions.

The Nov. 8, 2018 alert was issued by the the Bay Area Air Quality Management District due to the hazy skies and smoke from the wildfire in Butte County. The alert is in effect through Friday, November 9.

Air quality can change quickly depending on the wind and other factors. Stay informed by checking airnow.gov.

Spare the Air, Red Flag Alerts

Angela Hill (BCN)
Friday November 09, 2018 - 02:55:00 PM

In an unusual move, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Winter Spare the Air Alert from today all the way through Monday because of heavy smoke and particulates drifting into the Bay Area from the so-called Camp Fire which continues to rage in Butte County. 

In addition, the National Weather Service has simultaneously issued a red flag warning and a frost warning for the region this weekend -- fire danger is high for the Santa Cruz Mountains, the North Bay and the East Bay hills because of windy, dry conditions in the forecast, yet frost is also likely because of overnight temperatures dropping into the low 30s Saturday morning, mainly in the North Bay and southern Salinas valleys. 

The extended air quality alert was issued because smoke from the Camp Fire continues to cause elevated levels of particulate pollution in the region, especially impacting the North Bay and East Bay, officials said. 

Unhealthy air quality conditions are expected to persist through Monday and perhaps longer as northeasterly winds, forecast for the weekend, will continue to drive smoke this way. In addition, a continuing high-pressure system over Northern California is trapping the bad air at ground level. 

Outdoor and indoor burning of wood or any other solid fuel is prohibited for the duration of the alert. 

It is recommended to limit outdoor activities as much as possible. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that are harmful. The biggest hazard is from breathing in the fine particles, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and exacerbate existing heart and lung conditions, officials say.



Rejoice and Be Glad

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 09, 2018 - 03:02:00 PM

UPDATE, 11/16: The final election results might show up today, Friday, so we are going to delay both my comments and those of others until the weekend.  

Well, the plan for today was to discuss the local election results, but it’s apparent that the 100% sure bottom line will elude us for a good while yet for most races around here. I tend to believe Rob Wrenn’s analyses which appear in these pages, and he thinks not much will change from the early reports. However, just to (lazily) avoid wasted effort I’ll hold my comments for a day or so to let the dust settle.

As a substitute, however, I’d like to share with Planet readers some extracts from the handy summary of The Good, Good News from all over the country as compiled and circulated by vigorous feminist activist Susie Tompkins Buell, with links to the main stories.

Read it and chortle, no matter what bad things might have happened since: 




  • Following Tuesday’s elections, Democrats have gained control of seven legislative chambers, flipping the State Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. Connecticut’s Senate, previously evenly split, is now held by Democrats. We broke Republican supermajorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania’s Senates and both chambers in North Carolina. Democrats now completely control all three statehouse branches in 13 states and Washington, D.C., compared to the seven statehouses where they held trifecta control before Election Day. New York Times
  • The youth vote turnout for the 2018 Midterms was higher than any midterm election in a quarter-century. NextGen America
  • More openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were elected on Tuesday night than in any previous election. New York Times
  • The freshman class of the new Congress will boast the largest number of military veterans in nearly a decade. Reuters
  • 27 NRA backed candidates lost in this midterm elections – more than ever before. Change the Ref
  • In a historic victory for female candidates, at least 117 women won elections across the country, taking over high-level political positions including House seats, Senate seats, and governorships. Next year, a record number of women candidates, most of them Democrats, will be in Congress. BuzzFeed
  • In Michigan, Democrats ran women candidates for every statewide office on the ballot, and Democratic women won all of them. Detroit Free Press
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller is set to emerge from his midterm campaign hibernation period with a powerful new ally as House Democrats surged back to the majority in Tuesday’s elections. Politico
  • Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff and Eljiah Cummings are among the top Democrats poised to take over key House panels following Election Day. Los Angeles Times
  • trump endorsed 33 candidates on Twitter. 21 of them lost. CNN


  • Democrats have flipped 30 GOP-held seats and counting in the House. New York Times
  • Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and New Mexico’s Deb Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, became the first Native American women elected to Congress. CNN
  • Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American from Michigan, and Ilhan Omar, a Somali American from Minnesota, will become the first Muslim-American women to serve in Congress. Vice
  • Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became the first-ever Latinas elected to represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Texas Tribune
  • Lauren Underwood, a 32-year-old registered nurse, defeated a four-term Republican – and will become the first woman and the first African-American to represent Illinois’s 14th District. HuffPost
  • Democrat Jahana Hayes made history on Tuesday, becoming the first African-American woman elected to represent Connecticut in Congress. Hartford Courant
  • Democrat Ayanna Pressley has become Massachusetts' first black woman elected to the House. The Guardian
  • Six years after losing her son to gun violence, gun-control activist Lucy McBath won her midterm election to represent Georgia's 6th congressional district. Elle
  • The former Staten Island district attorney who refused to indict the officer responsible for the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner lost his seat in Congress to Democrat Max Rose. NY Daily News
  • Iowa’s Abby Finkenauer and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both 29-years-old, will become the youngest women ever in Congress as new House representatives. Hello Giggles
  • Kim Schrier, a pediatrician, won her race on Tuesday – to become the first Democrat to hold Washington’s 8th District since it was created. K5 News
  • In Illinois’s 6th District, which has been Republican since the 1970s, Sean Casten, a Democratic businessman, unseated the former Republican chief deputy whip Peter Roskam. The New Yorker
  • Democrat Kendra Horn defeated incumbent Republican Steve Russell in Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District –flipping the district blue for the first time since the 1970s. The Hill
  • For the first time in three decades, Florida’s 27th congressional district will be represented by a Democrat with a win for Donna Shalala. CNN


  • Democratic Representative Jacky Rosen beat her Republican opponent Senator Dean Heller in Nevada’s Senate race –flipping the seat from red to blue. Business Insider
  • Beto O’Rourke came within three percentage points of defeating Ted Cruz – the best performance in decades by a Democratic Senate candidate in Texas. Washington Post
  • Florida’s Senate race is headed to a recount, with Democrat Senator Bill Nelson behind by only 0.26 percentage points. Tampa Bay Times
  • Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema has taken a narrow lead over Republican opponent Martha McSally in the Arizona Senate race as officials continue to tally mail-in ballots. Washington Post


  • Democrats flipped 7 governorships on Tuesday, a significant achievement that could help undo years of harmful Republican policy – particularly when it comes to the gerrymandering efforts that help keep GOP politicians in control. ThinkProgress
  • Stacey Abrams vows to fight on as Georgia’s governor’s race remains undecided. NPR
  • Florida’s governor’s race is not quite over as Democrat Andrew Gillum contemplates a recount. Atlanta Black Star
  • Democrat Lou Leon Guerrero, the current president of the Bank of Guam, has been elected the first female governor of the U.S. island territory. TIME
  • Democrat Janet Mills won her race on Tuesday, to become the first woman to serve as governor in Maine. WBUR
  • Albuquerque congresswoman Michelle Luján Grisham will become New Mexico's first Latina Democratic governor after defeating Representative Steve Pearce. Santa Fe New Mexican
  • Colorado voters on Tuesday elected Democrat Jared Polis, making him the first openly gay person elected governor in America. Coloradoan
  • Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette in Michigan’s gubernatorial election, ending eight years of GOP control in a state trump narrowly won in 2016. Politico
  • Democrat Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s state superintendent of public education and a former teacher, won the governor’s race against incumbent Scott Walker – who has undermined teachers unions and supported the underfunding of public education in the state throughout his career as governor. ThinkProgress
  • County Commissioner Steve Sisolak upended a rising Republican star to become the Silver State’s first Democratic governor in two decades. Las Vegas Review
  • Kris Kobach, the nation’s leading voter suppression architect, lost his bid for governor to Democrat Laura Kelly. ThinkProgress
  • Democrat Gavin Newsom defeated Republican John Cox in California’s gubernatorial race. San Francisco Chronicle
  • Democrat Eleni Kounalakis won the race to become the first female to be elected lieutenant governor of California. Greek Reporter
  • Democrat Mandela Barnes will become the first African-American lieutenant governor in Wisconsin history. WTMJ
  • Democrat Garlin Gilchrist will become the first black lieutenant governor in the history of Michigan. Chicago Tribune


  • Democrats flipped more than 300 state legislative seats. Washington Post
  • Moderate-to-liberal candidates won state supreme court elections in Arkansas, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Ohio. Governing
  • Democrats captured a majority of state attorney general seats (27-23). Bloomberg
  • Democrats flipped two secretary of state seats. Governing
  • Ed Emmett held the position of Harris County judge for 11 years – on Tuesday, 27-year-old Colombian immigrant and Stanford University graduate Lina Hidalgo beat him by nearly 18,000 votes. Houston Chronicle
  • All 19 black women who ran for various judicial seats in Harris County won their races on Tuesday, marking the single biggest victory for black women in the county's history. Cosmopolitan
  • Alaska voters rejected a judge who signed off on a plea deal that let a man serve only one year of home confinement for assaulting an Alaska Native woman. CBS
  • Leticia James won the New York's Attorney General race becoming New York's first black woman ever elected to the job. WNYC
  • Mary Ann Wilder-Vivians won her race for Carthage, Mississippi – she will become the city’s first African-American female mayor. MS Democratic Party
  • Safiya Wazir, a 27-year-old mother of two whose family fled persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan, beat out Republican Dennis Soucy to earn a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Concord Monitor
  • Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex died in the Aurora 2012 mass shooting, won his election for Colorado’s House District 37 seat. Everytown
  • Zach Wahls, who seven years ago stood before the Iowa House of Representatives and delivered a stirring speech defending his two lesbian mothers, became a state lawmaker himself on Tuesday. HuffPost
  • Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk made famous by her refusal to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, lost on Tuesday in her reelection bid for the Rowan County clerkship to Democratic challenger Elwood Caudill Jr. Lexington Herald

Ballot Measures

  • Potentially altering the election landscape in a key swing state, Florida voters approved a ballot measure that will enable more than 1 million ex-felons to regain their voting rights. PBS
  • Maryland voters backed a constitutional amendment to allow residents to show up at the polls, register and cast a ballot, all on Election Day. Baltimore Sun
  • Michigan voters approved an amendment to bring automatic voter registration, same-day registration, post-election audits, no-excuse absentee voting, straight-ticket voting and protections for military and overseas voters. ACLU
  • Nevadans approved a measure to make voter registration automatic when a person applies for an identification card or a driver's license. The Hill
  • Michigan, one of the most gerrymandered states in the Union, overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment which provides that future legislative maps will be drawn by an independent commission. ThinkProgress
  • Missouri voters passed an amendment to end gerrymandering & diminish lobbyist influence. KSHB
  • Residents in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah supported ballot measures to extend Medicaid benefits to more low-income adults. NPR
  • Oregon voters voted no on a measure that would have banned the state's Medicaid program from covering abortions for low-income women. The State
  • Louisiana voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to require unanimous juries in all felony trials and ending an aberrant practice rooted in the Jim Crow era. The Advocate
  • Voters in Nashville overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to create a community oversight board to investigate claims of misconduct against police officers. CBS
  • Colorado voters passed Amendment A, which officially ended the state’s ability to extract labor from people inside its prisons’ walls without pay. ACLU
  • Michigan voters legalized the sale and use of marijuana – and Missouri and Utah voters legalized medical marijuana. New York Times
  • Both Missouri and Arkansas voted to raise the minimum wage – to $12 by 2023 in Missouri, and to $11 by 2021 in Arkansas. New York Magazine
  • Voters in San Francisco approved Proposition C, which will levy a new tax on businesses posting gross annual receipts of over $50 million and allocate the funds toward homelessness services, like housing and eviction defense. The Intelligencer
  • Voters across the country on Tuesday made ballot decisions to help fund public schools, which are increasingly starved for resources. Most of them were successful, with six education initiatives passing overall, in places like Seattle, Washington; Georgia; Maryland; Montana; and two in the state of Maine. ThinkProgress
  • A state gun-regulations ballot measure (the only one on the Nov. 6 ballot anywhere in the country) seeking to make Washington’s firearms laws among the strictest in the country passed with 60 percent of the vote in election-night returns. Seattle Times
  • Voters in Massachusetts chose to keep a law that protects transgender people from discrimination. Vox
  • Oregon voters rejected a measure that would have repealed the state's sanctuary law that bars local law enforcement agencies from spending state and local resources on enforcing federal immigration laws. Willamette Week
  • Floridia voters banned offshore oil and gas drilling in Florida’s state waters with the passage of an amendment that prohibits oil and gas exploration activities three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Center for Biological Diversity
  • California and Florida both passed animal welfare laws by a landslide. Global Animal
  • Nevada became the 10th state to scrap the "tampon tax," making menstrual products exempt from state sales taxes. Today

Public Comment

Dangerous Air Quality Mandates City Action

Thomas Lord
Friday November 09, 2018 - 04:10:00 PM

It is 3:26 on Friday. The air quality outdoors is 171 count of PM 2.5 which is (officially, per standards) unhealthy for everyone. Nobody should be outdoors without masks, for example. 

The Mayor has just now tweeted warning that seniors and children (aka "vulnerable groups") should be cautious. That is medically wrong advice. Current conditions are worse than that. That mistake endangers lives. 

At this level of air quality the City should be advertising refuge spaces -- indoor spaces with filtered HVAC where people can go if they need to. At this level of air quality, the City should be handing out masks (or selling them at cost in some cases) to people living on the street and at senior centers, at least. 

Second year running with this kind of problem -- raise its disaster response preparation priority, please.

People's Park is Worth Fighting For

This op-ed was written by Ed Monroe, David D. Collins, Lisa Teague, Michael Martin, Michael Delacour, Russell Bates, Michael Diehl, Aidan Hill, Adam Ziegler, Joseph Leisner, Mark MacDonald, Neil Marcus and Erick Morales, the People’s Park Committee
Friday November 09, 2018 - 11:21:00 AM

In a letter to UC Berkeley alumni published in the summer 2018 issue of California Magazine, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ announced her intention to build student housing on People’s Park. We, the undersigned members of the People’s Park community, object to these plans.

Our park, the People’s Park, was born from a dream of free speech and common space in a turbulent time 49 years ago. It has been threatened and defended many times over the years. Today, People’s Park is utilized by a unique group of activists, students, artists, musicians, travelers and homeless people who believe in those ideals. We rely on this free, green and open space for the community, love and healing we find here. We will continue to fight for that long-ago dream.

The history of People’s Park is fraught with conflict. The university’s plans for developing the 2.8-acre residential parcel began in 1956, but development did not proceed until 1967, when the university paid $1.3 million for the land, using a process of eminent domain. In February of 1968, it demolished the residences, leaving the grounds undeveloped and empty for 14 months. On April 13, 1969, plans were developed to turn the land into a public park. Seven days later, on April 20, more than 100 people began creating People’s Park. On May 13, then-chancellor Roger W. Heyns publicly stated that the university would build a fence around the property. On May 15, 1969, or “Bloody Thursday,” as it has been dubbed, a riot over the fence construction erupted between approximately 4,000 protesters and 791 police officers, deputy sheriffs and California Highway Patrol officers. More than 100 people were admitted to local hospitals with head injuries and shotgun wounds, among other injuries. One student was blinded for life after a load of buckshot directly hit his face, while another was outright killed. For the next two weeks, the streets of Berkeley were patrolled by National Guardsmen sent in by then-governor Reagan. 

In 1979, UC Berkeley used the land to build a parking lot for students that would require a fee. Protesters took up picks and shovels and removed the asphalt to convert the west end of the park into a garden. And 39 years later, the gardens still bloom. In her book “People’s Park: Still Blooming,” author Terri Compost wrote, “As a bulb that pushes through the black dirt, we seek light, the truth, the promise of something new. … Push, little bulb, push! We need your sweetness. Surprise us with your beauty. We need the Park.” 

In 1991, the university announced its intention to build volleyball courts on People’s Park. Numerous public hearings and meetings were held where community members and park activists stated their strong objections. The university decided to continue with the construction of the courts. Riots stunned Telegraph Avenue. There were protests against the projects, some protesters occupied the volleyball courts to keep them from being used. The volleyball courts were removed in 1997. 

In her letter to the alumni, Chancellor Christ goes on to state, “Whatever anyone thinks of the ideals that motivated the creation of People’s Park, it is hard to see the park today as embodying those ideals. It is equally hard to determine who the people are that benefit from the park in its current form.” It is understandable that the chancellor finds it hard to see the park as embodying those ideals — we certainly haven’t seen the chancellor in the park very often. 

The central and crucial ideal behind the creation of People’s Park was the protection of free speech and the right to exercise our constitutional right to assemble. The community continues to gather there to celebrate, protest and share. Memorials are held. The park held a small gathering of people after the Chinese government launched its offensive against the protesters in Tiananmen Square. One of our community members witnessed this spontaneous, candlelit expression of solidarity for brave people sacrificing everything for their freedom. Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke from the People’s Park stage in 2003 at the 33rd Anniversary for People’s Park. 

There is a homeless presence in People’s Park, but that is hardly unique. As homelessness increases around the country, many parks have a growing homeless population. The homeless use the park as a safe space, a place of respite from the streets of Berkeley. East Bay Food Not Bombs, religious organizations in the area and student groups distribute food and necessities in the park to help the homeless and low-income residents of the neighborhood survive. 

Finally, we offer the words that local author Tom Dalzell wrote in his letter to Berkeleyside on May 3, 2018: “The park is important open green space in an increasingly dense south campus. William Wurster was a fierce advocate of a ‘greenbelt of natural beauty’ with no buildings around the campus. Hearst, Bancroft, and Telegraph (and Shattuck and University and San Pablo) are seeing big new buildings. As we debate the future of People’s Park, I urge that we keep in mind its unique value as a greenbelt, not just as hallowed ground, historical ground.” 

We, the People’s Park Committee, believe that the university must not build on People’s Park. 



The Employment Situation: Bad News Disguised as Good News

Harry Brill
Friday November 09, 2018 - 02:37:00 PM

According to the recently released figures by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national unemployment rate last month, which was 3.7 percent, is almost at full employment. In other words, virtually anyone who wants to work can find a job. The October rate is the lowest since 1969, which is 49 years ago. The California rate of 4.1 percent, although higher, is also considered low. In fact, in eight of the nine Bay Area counties, joblessness is below 4 percent.

However, these figures are suspicious. If the job market is as tight as the BLS and many in the establishment claim, wages would increase substantially because employers would be competing for scarce workers. As the San Francisco Chronicle acknowledges, wages are lagging, which is unusual when the economy is doing well. From the perspective of workers, the economy is not doing well. If all those who claim they want a job are counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be substantially higher. 

There is a problem obtaining an accurate count because the BLS employs criteria that excludes many workers from being defined as unemployed. Workers who report to interviewers that they haven't looked for work recently because they have been discouraged in their search are not counted as unemployed. Also, workers who have not actively attempted to find a job in the most recent four week period are not counted as unemployed. There could be good reasons why they haven't. But the BLS interviewers never inquire why. And students who want to work part-time but have been unable to find work are not counted as unemployed. But the BLS is very generous counting workers as employed even if they have barely worked. Anyone who has worked just one hour in a week is counted as employed, which tilts toward reducing the unemployment rate. 

The BLS nevertheless reports that over the years both the number of jobs and employees have increased. But the BLS does not report and discuss some of the illusions about the increase in jobs. Many employers have found it expedient to convert full-time jobs to two or three part-time jobs. Although the aggregate number of hours is exactly the same, the BLS reports a doubling or tripling in the number of new jobs. The number of involuntary part-time workers. which are employees who have been unable to find full-time work, has increased by almost 50 percent in the last ten years. 

For employers this conversion has important advantages. They are able to pay these employees lower wages and provide them with fewer, if any, benefits. According to the liberal think tank, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 6.4 million are involuntary part-time workers because they are unable to obtain full-time jobs. As the EPI explains, employers are shifting toward part-time work as the "new normal". 

Part-time male workers on the average earn about 20 percent less than full time employees. Women, who typically earn less than men on full-time jobs, are paid even less as part-timers. These involuntary part timers are five times more likely to live in poverty than full-time workers with similar jobs. The problem of being trapped in part-time work is disproportionately greater for Black and Hispanic workers. 

Moreover, these employees are much more likely to have work schedules that are not only variable from one week to another. Also, their schedules are often unpredictable. In short, they work fewer hours and experience a lot more misery. Since they are unable to obtain full-time jobs they should be counted in the BLS statistics at least as partially unemployed. Instead, they are statistically defined no differently than full time workers. 

To more fully evaluate how many workers who want a job are among the hidden unemployed, it is important to pay attention to the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR). This rate tell us what percent of the adult population is active in the labor force, that is, either working or actively seeking a job. In bad times the rate declines because many workers give up the search. In the last decade, beginning with the 2008 recession, the LFPR fell considerably, from 66.0 percent to 62.9. That's about ten million workers that are missing from the official unemployment rate. 

Although the official unemployment rate was 3.7 percent last month, the, BLS publishes in its monthly job report a more comprehensive criteria that includes involuntary part-time employees and its relatively modest estimate of discouraged workers. This would increase the official rate it to 7.4 percent last month, which is twice the BLS rate. If the BLS also included the ten million that are completely ignored by the BLS but nevertheless want to work, the unemployment rate would be in the double digits. 

But the unemployment problem is not only about how many workers lack jobs. Immensely important is how long the unemployed are out of work. Currently, 22.5 percent of the jobless are long term unemployed, which refers to workers who are unemployed at least 27 weeks. This high rate suggests that there are not as many available jobs around that the establishment claims. 

Yet the BLS and the establishment economists tell us that the economy is doing exceedingly well. And the mass media echoes the establishment line. A recent caption on the from page of the New York Times claims that the "economy hums" and that the October employment report is "Rosy". There is one large sector of the population that does not agree -- the many millions of workers who are trapped in poverty wage jobs and millions of others who have been unable to find any job at all.

The New Bi-Partisanship

Arthur Blaustein
Friday November 09, 2018 - 01:36:00 PM

The following Letter to the Editor was sent to USA Today and the Times -- as a memo/tweet, poetic postscript to the election:

To: Donald Trump

From: Nancy Pelosi


The election is over and the vote is now known.

The will of the people has clearly been shown.

So let's all get together and let differences pass.

I'll investigate your elephant.

And you can kiss my donkey.

Professor Arthur Blaustein taught Public Policy and Politics at the University of California, Berkeley and is author of DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT and THE AMERICAN PROMISE... He served on the Board of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. 

The Petition On People's Park: Scrap It!

Harry Brill, PhD, UC Berkeley, 1960-1969
Monday November 12, 2018 - 03:05:00 PM

On the recently signed op-ed published in the Planet, the signers urged UC Berkeley not to build housing in People's Park. The reason given is that the park embodies the ideals of free speech and the constitutional right to assemble. As the signers explain, it has been a safe gathering place for activists, students, the homeless and others. 

Since I was a grad student at UC Berkeley during the 1960s, I share similar sensitivities with the endorsers. We were engaged in difficult, uphill battles to retain what we won and go beyond what we achieved.  

However, I believe it is a serious mistake to leave People's Park as it is. What residents of Berkeley need, particularly students and the homeless is affordable housing. In fact, 10 percent of the student body has experienced homelessness at UC Berkeley. Moreover, the rate is 20 percent for postdocs. That's unacceptable. Also, many students are forced to live a long driving distance from the campus, which is tiresome and limits their involvement in campus life. So People's Park offers those in need an excellent opportunity. Since the Park is on public rather than on private property, we are in a much better position to influence the UC Berkeley administration. 

Earlier this year, in May , the University expressed an interest in building on the site affordable housing for a thousand students and 125 units permanently for the non-student homeless. The Berkeley community should organize a campaign to make sure that the University does not change its mind and will really provide housing at rents that are affordable. 

To do so is consistent with the values of the struggle to protect People's Park. After all, most political campaigns we engage in either directly or indirectly represent our efforts to reduce inequality. So my suggestion to the signers of the petition below is that they cease their campaign, which regardless of their good intentions, will hurt many vulnerable members of the Berkeley community. Instead, let's all participate in the struggle to build affordable housing in People's Park.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon

Conn Hallinan
Friday November 09, 2018 - 02:46:00 PM

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement (INF) appears to be part of a broader strategy aimed at unwinding over 50 years of agreements to control and limit nuclear weapons, returning to an era characterized by the unbridled development weapons of mass destruction.

Terminating the INF treaty—which bans land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 300 and 3400 miles— is not, in and of itself, a fatal blow to the network of treaties and agreements dating back to the 1963 treaty that ended atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. But coupled with other actions—George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002 and the Obama administration’s program to upgrade the nuclear weapons infrastructure— the tapestry of agreements that has, at least in part, limited these terrifying creations, is looking increasingly frayed.

“Leaving the INF,” says Sergey Rogov of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies, “could bring the whole structure of arms control crashing down.” 

Lynn Rusten, the former senior director for arms control in the National Security Agency Council warns, “This is opening the door to an all-out arms race.” 

Washington’s rationale for exiting the INF Treaty is that the Russians deployed the 9M729 cruise missile that the US claims violates the agreement, although Moscow denies it and the evidence has not been made public. Russia countercharges that the US ABM system—Aegis Ashore—deployed in Romania and planned for Poland could be used to launch similar medium range missiles. 

If this were a disagreement over weapon capability, inspections would settle the matter. But the White House—in particular National Security Advisor John Bolton—is less concerned with inspections than extracting the US from agreements that in any way restrain the use of American power, be it military or economic. Thus, Trump dumped the Iran nuclear agreement, not because Iran is building nuclear weapons or violating the agreement, but because the administration wants to use economic sanctions to pursue regime change in Teheran. 

In some ways, the INF agreement is low hanging fruit. The 1987 treaty banned only land-based medium range missiles, not those launched by sea or air —where the Americans hold a strong edge—and it only covered the U.S. and Russia. Other nuclear-armed countries, particularly China, India, North Korea, Israel and Pakistan have deployed a number of medium range nuclear-armed missiles. One of the arguments Bolton makes for exiting the INF is that it would allow the US to counter China’s medium range missiles. 

But if the concern was controlling intermediate range missiles, the obvious path would be to expand the treaty to other nations and include air and sea launched weapons. Not that that would be easy. China has lots of intermediate range missiles, because most its potential antagonists, like Japan or US bases in Asia, are within the range of such missiles. The same goes for Pakistan, India, and Israel. 

Intermediate range weapons—sometimes called “theater” missiles—do not threaten the US mainland the way that similar US missiles threaten China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow can be destroyed by long-range intercontinental missiles, but also by theater missiles launched from ships or aircraft. One of the reasons that Europeans are so opposed to withdrawing from the INF is that, in the advent of nuclear war, medium-range missiles on their soil will make them a target. 

But supposed violations of the treaty is not why Bolton and the people around him oppose the agreement. Bolton called for withdrawing from the INF Treaty three years before the Obama administration charged the Russians with cheating. Indeed, Bolton has opposed every effort to constrain nuclear weapons and has already announced that the Trump administration will not extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expires in 2021. 

START caps the number of US and Russian deployed nuclear weapons at 1550, no small number. 

The Bush administration’s withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty in 2002 was the first major blow to the treaty framework. Anti-ballistic missiles are inherently destabilizing, because the easiest way to defeat such systems is to overwhelm them by expanding the number of launchers and warheads. Bolton—a longtime foe of the ABM agreement—recently bragged that dumping the treaty had no effect on arms control. 

But the treaty’s demise has shelved START talks, and it was the ABM’s deployment in Eastern Europe—along with NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders—that led to Moscow deploying the cruise missile now in dispute. 

While Bolton and Trump are more aggressive about terminating agreements, it was the Obama administration’s decision to spend $1.6 trillion to upgrade and modernize US nuclear weapons that now endangers one of the central pillars of the nuclear treaty framework, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). 

That agreement ended the testing of nuclear weapons, slowing the development of new weapons, particularly miniaturization and warheads with minimal yields. The former would allow more warheads on each missile, the latter could increase the possibility of using nuclear weapons without setting off a full-scale nuclear exchange. 

Nukes are tricky to design, so you don’t want to deploy one without testing it. The Americans have bypassed some of the obstacles created by the CTBT by using computers like the National Ignition Facility. The B-61 Mod 11 warhead, soon-to-be-deployed in Europe, was originally a city killer, but labs at Livermore, CA and Los Alamos and Sandia, NM turned it into a bunker buster, capable of taking out command and control centers buried deep in the ground.  

Nevertheless, the military and the nuclear establishment—ranging from companies such as Lockheed Martin and Honeywell International to university research centers—have long felt hindered by the CTBT. Add the Trump administration’s hostility to anything that constrains US power and the CTBT may be next on the list. 

Restarting nuclear testing will end any controls on weapons of mass destruction. And since Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear-armed powers to eventually disarm their weapons of mass destruction, that agreement may go as well. In a very short time countries like South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia will join the nuclear club, with South Africa and Brazil in the wings. The latter two countries researched producing nuclear weapons in the 1980s, and South Africa actually tested one. 

The demise of the INF agreement will edge the world closer to nuclear war. Since medium range missiles shorten the warning time for a nuclear attack from 30 minutes to 10 minutes or less, countries will keep their weapons on a hair trigger. “Use them or lose them” is the philosophy that impels the tactics of nuclear war. 

In the past year, Russia and NATO held very large military exercises on one another’s borders. Russian, US and Chinese fighter planes routinely play games of chicken. What happens when one of those “games” goes wrong? 

The US and the Soviet Union came within minutes of an accidental war on at least two occasions, and, with so many actors and so many weapons, it will be only a matter of time before some country interprets a radar image incorrectly and goes to DEFCON 1—imminent nuclear war. 

The INF Treaty came about because of strong opposition and huge demonstrations in Europe and the United States. That kind of pressure, coupled with a pledge by countries not to deploy such weapons, will be required again, lest the entire tapestry of agreements that kept the horror of nuclear war at bay vanish. 


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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: No One Can Predict the Future

Jack Bragen
Friday November 09, 2018 - 12:42:00 PM

No one can predict the future; and no one can read your mind. We can anticipate future events, but if we think we know what will happen, much of the time, we will be wrong. A person can not predict how another person will act. Nor can we even predict how we, ourselves, will act. 

What does this have to do with being mentally ill? A lot. One symptom of mental illness is sometimes negative or positive anticipation of perceived future events. This is often erroneous. And it can create a lot of problems. 

To believe we have a "destiny" is magical thinking, and it is erroneous. We can certainly have hopes and dreams as well as fears and dreading. It is okay to have faith in one's future. The core belief that everything is going to be okay, is a good thing. The Universe periodically tests people. If you pass the test, future circumstances could get better. If you fail, you could be in for a more complicated life. 

It is helpful to realize that your outcome in life is in large part created through the consequences of your choices, your actions and your speech. But it is also a consequence of how you think. If the mind is too far off from realism, it could cause speech, actions and choices to be less than optimal. 

Delusions, since they are a substantial thought disorder, can cause us to make bad decisions. If we are not in a restricted living situation and if we have choices in life, because we are not under conservatorship, it matters a lot what we say and do. This is a reason that we should keep psychosis or other mental health problems "aggressively" treated. 

In this case the term "aggressively" is medical terminology that means an abundance of treatment that is more likely to err on the side of overtreating rather than undertreating. 

I've personally benefited from being medicated at high dosages but not to the point of having excessive or unbearable side-effects. If I went too high, the medication could worsen the symptoms. I am on the maximum of two antipsychotics. I've taken antipsychotics almost without interruption for the past 35 years. It hasn't ruined my ability to think. The main downside of me being medicated is that I have a lot of issues with stamina and physical energy. 

In the thinking, it is useful to remember that thinking something doesn't make it true. If a thought occurs, and if we instantly believe it without weighing it enough, it creates numerous errors in future thoughts. This can cause actions, decisions and speech to be far off base. 

If one's mind automatically accepts a thought, it points to a gating problem in the brain. Medication may work to put thoughts in proper perspective. Medication might raise the threshold in the synapses of a neuron being made to fire. When this happens, it may restore some of the gating that is supposed to take place throughout the brain. 

While it may seem as though medication suppresses brain function, this may not be so. In my experience, having a psychotic episode means that most of the mental faculties do not work. Medication to treat psychosis, although it may slow things down, causes more parts of the brain to be available to process information. 

Faster isn't always better. Faster doesn't mean more complete. If the neurons fire too easily, much of what I will call "consciousness" is gone. 

You should never believe that you can read people's minds or that they can read yours. You should never believe that you know what will happen in the future. The only things you know consist of what is happening with you now, and of what has already happened. You do not know what is happening at a distance. Assumptions to the contrary of this can ruin your thoughts. This, in turn, will ruin your speech and actions. This, in turn, could adversely affect life circumstances. 

It is fine to speculate things or imagine things, so long as you are aware it is what you're doing. It is fine to be optimistic. It is fine to believe in a higher power. It is fine to maintain hope and to believe that there is help for you, even if it is a belief in the unseen. However, faith should be tempered with realism. 

It seems to me that if you want to accomplish something and/or get out of a bad situation, you should do the things that are reasonably within your power to make things better. Beyond that, optimism and faith certainly couldn't hurt.

THE PUBLIC EYE:Ten Midterm Takeaways

Bob Burnett
Friday November 09, 2018 - 11:11:00 AM

The results of the 2018 midterm election are in. Democrats achieved some, but not all, of their objectives. Here are ten takeaways from the November 6th results. 

1. The Resistance worked. Even before Donald Trump was coronated, Democratic protest groups -- such as Indivisible -- sprang up across the United States. One of their objectives was to flip congressional districts where, in 2016, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican won the congressional contest. This objective was accomplished: Democrats won at least 225 seats (of 435) with 13 to be determined. 

Now Trump is forced to deal with Democratic members of Congress. To say the least, this is a huge accomplishment; for example, it will block any further Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

2. Nonetheless, a lot of work remains to be done. Republicans retained control of the Senate with at least 52 seats. They continue to have the exclusive power to determine appointments to the Federal judiciary -- which means that Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell will continue to pack the courts with conservative judges. 

Democrats came close but failed to win a majority of gubernatorial races; they now hold 23 with one race (Georgia) yet to be decided. (Democrats did not win in Florida, more about that below). Nonetheless, Dems now control most of the populous states -- such as California and New York. And they control key swing states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- states that Trump unexpectedly won in 2016 (Democrats did not prevail in the Ohio gubernatorial race). 

3. Big voter turnout didn't necessarily translate into wins. The New York Times estimates, "Approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014." Most Democrats believe that when there is high voter turnout, their candidates win; but this fails to take into account the electoral college effect, that is, it depends where the voters turn out. 

A record 80 million voters participated in Senate contests -- not all states had a Senate race. Democrats cast 57 percent of the votes and still lost 3 seats.(!) Because Republicans turned out where they had to. For example, in Texas, Democrats had an excellent candidate, Beto O'Rourke, and Republicans had a loathsome candidate, Ted Cruz. Democrats turned out in record numbers -- more than 4 million voters -- but Cruz won (50.8 percent) because Republican voters also turned out. 

Giving credit to the devil: Trump abandoned House races and, instead, focussed on Senate races that Republicans absolutely had to win. For example, he went to Texas and cajoled Republicans to vote for Cruz -- even though Trump and Cruz detest each other. This strategy also worked in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Tennessee; and, maybe, in Florida. 

Notably, Trump's strategy did not work in Montana, where Democrat John Tester -- Trump's number one target -- won with 50.1 percent of the vote. The New York Times analyzed: "Tester has prevailed as a Democrat in a state that leans Republican largely on the strength of his local appeal: he flies back from Washington, D.C., to work on his farm nearly every weekend, and emphasizes the value of knowing your neighbors." There was also record turnout in Montana and Tester overwhelmingly won the female vote and 67 percent of the youth vote -- it helps that he's friends with the members of Pearl Jam

4. Florida remains a mystery: Before November 6th, polls showed Democratic Senate candidate Bill Nelson up 3-5 points over Republican Rick Scott; the polls also showed Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum up 3-5 points over Republican Ron de Santis -- who is a turkey. De Santis apparently won by 35,000 votes and Scott apparently won by 15,000 votes -- there will be a recount in both contests. Like the situation in Georgia, the Florida vote feels like there was malevolence involved. 

5. Republicans like crooks. Remember when Republicans were the "Family Values" Party? Now they've become the Trump Values Party; "It's not how you play the game, it's whether you win." In New York (CD 27) voters apparently re-elected Chris Collins who is under indictment for securities fraud. In California (CD 50) voters re-elected Duncan Hunter who is under indictment for campaign corruption. (BTW, in the classless move of the election, Hunter accused his opponent Ammar Campa-Naijar of being a muslim terrorist.) 

6. Georgia has voter suppression issues. Democrat Stacey Abrams, an African-American, managed to garner at least 49 percent of the vote. the problem is that her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, is also Secretary of State and has done a bunch of things to suppress the vote -- particularly that of African-Americans. (On November 8th, a lawsuit forced Kemp to resign (https://protectdemocracy.org/update/breaking-georgia-voters-lawsuit-forces-brian-kemp-to-resign-secretary-of-state-role).) Looks like this election will end up in court. 

7. Trump's popularity tracked the Senate races. The biggest key to the Senate results was Trump's popularity in the state the contest was held in. Morning Consult (https://morningconsult.com/tracking-trump/ ) has a chart that shows where Trump is most popular: In North Dakota he was +15 and the Democrat lost. In Indiana Trump was +9 and in Missouri +8; Dems lost. In Texas Trump was +7 and that was too much for Beto O' Rourke to overcome. (The exceptions to this rule are West Virginia, where Democrat Manchin won even though Trump was +24 and Montana where Tester won even though Trump was +10. I think Manchin had local authenticity, like Tester.) 

8. Trump motivated his base with immigration horror stories --the "invasion" from Central America. This had an impact in Texas. CBS News reported: "Voters in Texas are relatively split about what they think the most important problem is facing the country, according to exit polls. More than one-third of voters believe that health care is the most important problem and among them, more than two-thirds voted for Democrat Beto O'Rourke. Of the third of voters who believe that immigration is the most important problem, about three-quarters support Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Nearly a quarter of voters things the economy is the country's biggest problem, and among them, the majority voted for Mr. Cruz." [Emphasis added] 

ABC News reported that immigration was the most important issue for one-third of Arizona voters. "[Republican Senate candidate] McSally overwhelmingly is winning voters focused on the issue of immigration." (84 percent) 

9. Trump voters belong to a cult. They resolutely hold onto their justification for voting for Trump (immigration, abortion, guns...) and close their eyes to his ethical shortcomings, They'll do anything to win. 

10. Democrats prevailed because of the female vote. Pew Research noted: "Nationally, voters favored Democratic candidates for Congress over Republican candidates by a margin of about 7 percentage points... [However] Women favored the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 percentage points (59% to 40%) while men voted for the Republican 51% to 47%." (White women split 49 percent to 49 percent; while college educated women favored the Democratic candidate 59 percent to 39 percent.) 

This was a blue wave. It's a tremendous accomplishment to take back the House of Representatives and to elect so many qualified Democrats throughout the country. Congratulations! 

Now get to work preparing for the 2020 presidential election. 

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

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday November 09, 2018 - 12:44:00 PM

The Life and Death of a Berkeley Bot

It's become a common sight in these parts: small, driverless robot delivery vehicles heading for the UC campus stuffed with food and drinks.

And so it was on Thursday, October 25, at about 11:45 when a small Kiwi food-bot tumbled over a curb at the intersection of Shattuck and Allston Way.

The picnic-basket-sized bot fell onto the street and lay immobilized on it's side, its wheels whirring uselessly.

Suddenly, a concerned Berkeley high school student stepped from the curb, picked up the bot, and set it back on its wheels. Then he paused to give it a friendly, reassuring pat. (The whole scene played out like one of those Dignity Health "Human Kindness" commercials on TV.)

The little bot stood on the pavement for a moment, looking stunned and confused. And then, to the delight of the noontime crowd, it sparked back to life and bravely resumed its programmed mission, heading across the intersection . . . .

And right into the path of a red, white and blue Erhet Plumbing truck.

A shocked crowd of pedestrians gathered around the shattered remains, somberly recording the tragedy on their smartphones. 

Ballot Boxing 

The success of several controversial candidacies and propositions on the November ballot was another reminder that, all too often, modern elections are not contests between differing political positions or parties but simply a contest between two competing advertising agencies. 

Not Entranced by the Entrance 

After a long wait, the new entrance to the downtown Berkeley BART station now stands revealed. And, to my eye, it looks like a glass-covered high-tech rat cage. 

A lot of glass—glass that needs to be kept clean. The panes are already dirty and just wait 'til the local pigeons start doing their Jackson Pollock number on those transparent overhead panels. 

And the light pouring into the station in the afternoon? Blinding to anyone taking the upward escalator! 

The old station design was dissed by the folks who promoted the change, but I will remember it as a classic beauty—part cathedral, part carousel, easy on the eyes, protective, and soothing to the soul. 

The plaza, however, has been a pleasure. The sculpture, the sound effects, the skinny metal chairs and tables—and the live performances—are worthy of a European tourist mecca. 

At Your Service? 

Move over, Siri, and make room, Alexa, there's a new tool in town. 

Bank of America is promoting its new "virtual financial assistant" with a poster that features a smartphone along with a message reading: "Hello, I'm Erica. Talk, type or tap whenever you need me." 

Is this what the world needs? Another electronic device that offers a feminine persona that is always-on-call and ready to serve? 

Well, it turns out that BoA is having second thoughts, too. The bank was recently sued for copyright infringement by a Colorado journalist who, in 2010, patented a "search engine and personal assistant" named E.R.I.C.A. (which stands for Electronic Repetitious Informational Clone Application). 

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, E.R.I.C.A. "features a female avatar with dark hair and blue eyes." 

Maybe it's time to start giving these devices names like Eric, Alex and Sir. 

Why Is UC Still Building A-bombs? 

On October 30, I found myself sitting next to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ during a noontime Get Out the Vote/Free Speech Movement rally on the Savio Steps in front of Sproul Hall. And, darn it! I missed an opportunity to needle the Chancellor about the role of UC's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LNLL) in designing and building a "new generation" of nuclear weapons. 

So, later that day, I created a poster to send to the Chancellor's office. Above a photo of an exploding nuclear weapon is UC's motto: FIAT LUX. Below the photo is the statement: FIAT NUKES, followed by the closing line: "LLNL! WTF, UCB?


Trump Equates Refugees with Invaders 

At 4:05 AM, on October 25, Donald Trump tweeted: "Democrat inspired laws make it tough for us to stop people at the Border. MUST BE CHANDED, [sic] but I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!" 

So, how far is Trump willing to go to "stop" thousands of weary Central American asylum seekers? 

Will Trump resort to the use of tear-gas and concussion grenades? 

Will hungry immigrant kids be struck down by rounds of rubber-coated bullets? 

Will Trump order a confrontation between tanks and toddlers? 

Will he direct snipers to target mothers pushing strollers? 

Faced with hungry hoards of desperate men, women, children, and babies, will he update Major General Israel Putnam's famous command from the Battle of Bunker Hill?: 

"Don't fire until you see the whites of their diapers!" 

Trump's Military Revelation: War on the Rocks 

Donald Trump recently threatened the caravan of unarmed Latin American migrants by declaring: "anybody throwing stones, rocks . . . we will consider that a firearm, because there's not much difference." 

In the spirit of this new equivalency, I hereby propose the following plan to rein in the country's $21.6 trillion debt and balance the Federal budget: simply halt the wasteful production and purchase of costly guns, rifles and other weapons. Instead, following Trump's lead, we can save billions by arming our soldiers with bandoliers of stones and rocks while making sure that our Air Force bombers are fully equipped with a fearsome arsenal of granite boulders. 

Meeting the Caravan More than Halfway 

During the event, the activist on my left, David Kubrin, shared the news that author and conspiracy buff Bill Simpich had proposed a response to Trump's attacks on the refugee "caravan." 

Simpich's suggestion: What if hundreds of US citizens marched across the border into Mexico and joined the people fleeing violence and poverty (traceable in most cases to US military and economic interference in their home countries). US citizens would march alongside the refugees, sharing protest signs, and defending their right to seek asylum. Happy to report it's already begun to happen. One group that has a long record of providing aid to refugees is Border Angels

Meanwhile The Texas Tribune has compiled a list of organizations working to aid parents and children separated by the US Border Patrol. 

Don't Toss a Rock: Pop a Cap 

Kat Schaaf, a Berkeley Marina mainstay and a friend of mine, recently suggested a novel tactic to speed the passage of Central American refugees into the US. As the weary travelers approach our southern border, she proposed, volunteers from the US could show up to hand out thousands of free Make America Great Again caps. 

Knowing Trump as we do, the chances are good that he will take one look at the MAGAnificent spectacle, his ego will swell with the adrenaline of self-adoration and he will welcome the new arrivals with a really incredible bigly smile. 

Trump Hoist with His Own Overblown Petard 

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz recently noted how Donald Trump had metaphorically blown himself to bits by stepping on his own buried landmine. Trump had been in the news for threatening to sign an "executive order" to unilaterally rewrite the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution to end "birth citizenship" 

But there was a problem, Borowitz pointed out. In July 2018, Trump told a Scottish interviewer: "My parents were born in the European Union. I love these countries; Germany, Scotland, they are still in there, right?” 

Trump proudly declared: “Don’t forget both of my parents were born in EU sectors – my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.” 

Borowitz's headline nailed the delicious irony: "Trump Strips Citizenship From Children of Immigrants, Thus Disqualifying Himself From Presidency." 

 Father, Son and Holy Scheisse
Could this explain it all? Something I just discovered: Donald Trump's father Fred's middle name was . . . "Christ." (Not "Christian," mind you, but "Christ.") 

Have you ever known anyone whose middle name was "Christ"? 

War Doesn't Work: 

So Why Do We Keep Employing It? 

Washington is spending millions of dollars to support a Saudi-led war that's threatening to starve millions of people in Yemen. It makes no sense. But it certainly makes a lot of dollars. 

Why do we continue slaughtering innocent women, children and men? 

In an interview with CBS reporter Leslie Stahl, Donald Trump tried to explain why he was so reluctant to criticize the Saudis after Riyadh sent a team of assassins to kill Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi and dismember his body, severing his arms and legs with a bone saw. 

But the brutal murder of a journalist was not the most important thing on Trump's mind. As Trump explained to Stahl, It was all about saving a multi-billion-dollar arms deal: "I don't wanna hurt . . . Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing," Trump declared. 

Apparently the only arms that Trump cares about belong to "Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing." 


With far too many reports of schools forced to deal with gun-wielding attackers, Senator Kamala Harris should have had second thoughts about the wording of her endorsement of Superintendent of Public Education candidate Tony Thurmond. In a pre-election TV ad for Thurmond, Harris finished her plea by promising that Thurmond would "give every student a fair shot." 

A Parting Ponder 

A quick question regarding the Supreme Court's "Citizen United" decision: 

If "money is speech," why does it talk louder than words?" 

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, November 11-17, 2018

Adolfo Cabral
Saturday November 10, 2018 - 02:35:00 PM

Sunday, November 11

Holiday Food Drive for all of November and daily from 8:30 am-6 pm. Donations can be made at all City Community Centers, Pools or at the Recreation Customer Service Hub. Hours vary by location. Please call
981-6656 for more information.

"Building Bridges, Not Walls: Berkeley--America’s First Sanctuary City"- This Berkeley Historical Society exhibit opens on Sunday, November 11, from 11 am–1 pm. From the original mayor's dedication of a new WWI Memorial plaque and to the beginning of the recent United Against Hate Rally, join us in the BHS auditorium for an introduction to this new historical exhibit, followed by exhibit viewing. --See: http://www.berkeleyhistoricalsociety.org/news.html -

Bay Area Stands United Against Hate Week starts on Sunday, November 11, from 1-4 pm at Civic Center Park,
2151 Martin Luther King Jr Way. United Against Hate is a call for community action to Bay Area residents to stand up against the rise in hate throughout the country, to build inclusion in our communities. Family friendly and all ages welcome, with music, performances, and powerful personal stories and our own community's message of support--
We will Stand Together Against Hate. --See more at:

Monday, November 12

Public Works Subcommittee/Sidewalks, Street Lighting & Sweeping, Mon., Nov. 12, from 6:30 – 7:30 pm, at Au Coquelet Café, 2000 University Ave. On agenda: - Sidewalk policy & lights programs, - Belrose Ave. sweeping. --see: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Sidewalks%20subcommittee%…

Tuesday, November 13

City Council Agenda Committee, Tues.,Nov. 13, from 2:30 – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia St., 6th Flr Redwood Conf. Room. Planning for the Nov.13-City Council Meeting. E-mail your comments to City Council at <council@cityofberkeley.info>

On Agenda: for Consent: Item 17-North Berkeley Bart housing development, Item 18-To appoint Daryl Moore to Housing Authority Board, Item 24- To integrate ESG principles with City Investments, Item 28-To request rank voting above 3 choices, Item 31-To request boycott of Amazon for assistance with ICE, Item 34- To reconsider re-purpose use of Old City Hall;
- On the Action Calendar: Item 39- Modify Zoning Ordinance for small businesses, Item 40- Year-End and 2019-1st Qtr budgets, Item 43-To allow city staff to be commissioners by repealing section 3.80.030., Items 44-48 City Information Reports. --See agenda packet:https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Agenda_Committee__2018_In…

Berkeley City Council meeting, Tues, Nov.13, from 6-11 pm, at 2134 MLK Jr Way, in City Council Chambers. On agenda/Consent: Item 2- CityManager's Rivised Records Retention, Item 7- Future of Pacific Steel Casting site usage, Item 8-Budget and process to create program for marginalized youth and young adults, Item12- To allow more parking on Telegraph Ave, Item13-To support Bay Area hotel workers strike, Item14-15 Taxi special training and to allow more taxi stands,

--Action calendar: Item 17- ZAB appeal of 3000-Shattuck Ave development project, Item 18- To complete process for Lava Mae homeless showers program, Item19-To adopt Sancutary Contracting ordinance against ICE supporting vendors, Item 22-Cannabis Retail and an Equity program, Item 24-Increase safety at San Pablo Park. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_

Youth Commission, Tues., Nov.13, at 6:30 pm, at 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr., at the Youth Services Center. On agenda: --San Pablo Park shootings.--See:

Zero Waste Commission, Tues., Nov.13, at 6:30 pm, at 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center. On agenda: Review waste deconstruction options. --See:

Wednesday, November 14

Animal Care Commission, Nov.14, from 7– 9 pm, at #1 Bolivar Drive, at Berkeley Animal Shelter. On agenda:
Proposed ordinance on Live Animal Sales, Disclosure Requirements. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Agenda%20November%2014,%2…

Board of Library Trustees, Nov.14, at 6:30 pm, at 1901 Russell St, at Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library. No agenda available, check before attending. --See:

Parks and Waterfront Commission, Wed., Nov.14, from 7– 9 pm, at 2800 Park St, in Frances Albrier Community Center.
On agenda: --Marina parking study, --Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/PWC%20Agenda%20-%2011-14-…

Police Review Commission, Wed. Nov.14, from 7– 10 pm, at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center. On agenda: - Lexipol (body camera) policy, - PRC new commissioner training. --See:

Homeless Commission, Wed., Nov. 14, from 7– 9 pm, at 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center. On agenda: Winter shelter. --See:

Commission on Labor, Wed., Nov. 14, from 7– 9 pm, at 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center. On agenda: Status updates on - Homeless Youth policy, - Immigration & ICE, - Minimum wage. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Com…/Commission_for_Labor/
November Larson%​2014,%202018%20Agenda%20Packet.​pdf​

Thursday, November 15

Community Health Commission, Thurs., Nov.15, from 6:30 – 9 pm, at 2939 Ellis St. South Berkeley Community Center. On agenda: Cannabis information. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Final%20Agenda%20Packet%2…

Joint Subcommittee for the Implementation of State Housing Laws, (not) Thurs., Nov.15, from 7– 9 pm, at 1901 Hearst, North Berkeley Senior Center—is Canceled--The next JSISHL meeting will be held on Thursday, January 17, 2019. For information contact Alene Pearson, Commission Secretary, at (510) 981-7489, or email at or, see: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Joint_Subcommittee_for_th…

Fair Campaign Practices Commission, at 7 pm , at1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center. On agenda: - Violations in local elections, -Potential public finance changes. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/11%2015%202018%20FCPC%20A…

Transportation Commission, Thurs., Nov.15, from 7–10 pm, at 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Multi-Purpose Room. On agenda: - Measure T, - Work Plan priorities updates. --See:

Design Review Committee,Thurs., Nov.15, from 7–10 pm, at 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Classroom A-B. On agenda:
- 2628 Shattuck Av - Review propsal to demolish 1-story care facility to build 6-story MU with 78 units & 3400 sq/ft ground retail, 45 car & 63 bicycle parking;
- 1951 Shattuck Ave – Preview plans to demolish 2 commercial buildings for construction of 120 ft/tall, 12-story MU building, 5000 sq/ft ground retail, 156 units, & 100 car parking underground;
- Review LEED standards for City;
- Commission Comments to/from ZAB, LPC, CAC & DRC. --See:

Open Government Commission, Thurs., Nov.15, at 7:30/8pm (?) at 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Classroom C. On agenda: - Revising commissioner's manual, - Providing better public transparency.
--See agenda: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/Commissio…/2nd_Commission/
or, packet:

Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts,Thurs., Nov.15, from 7–9 pm, at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, 2nd Flr Large Room. On agenda: Measure D presentation,--see:

Special City Council meeting, Thurs., Nov.15, from 6-11 pm, at 2134 MLK Jr Way, in City Council Chambers. On agenda: Updates on - Pedestrian Master Plan , - Park-Rec. & Waterfront Capital Improvements, - Public Works Capital Improvements. --See:
Or, see:

Friday, November 16 - No City meeting or civic events listed.

Saturday, November 17 - No City meeting or civic events listed.

* * *
Worth Noting

Bay Area Stands United Against Hate Week continues with more events from November 11-18:
- Nov. 14, at 7pm: "Waking in Oak Creek” screening, in the Tilden Room, MLK Jr. Student Union Building
- Nov. 15, from 4-9 pm, Games of Berkeley: Game Night Against Hate, at 2510 Durant Ave.
- Nov. 15, from 5-6:30pm, Bystander training with Bears That CARE, at the ASUC Senate Chambers, 5th Flr, Eshlemen Hall
- Nov. 16 --All day; from Moe’s Books Letter Campaign to newly-elected officials “Stop the words of Hate”
at 2476 Telegraph Ave.
- Nov. 18 at 11:45 am - Compassionate Communication Across Difference, at First Church Berkeley UCC,
at Durant at Dana Sts.

Sponsored by Telegraph Avenue United Against Hate -- See more information at:

-- See the City of Berkeley's public meeting's live video web-cast schedule for those who cannot attend certain City meetings in person, visit:https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventWebcastMain.as

* * *
This Sustainable Berkeley Coalition civic meetings list is posted on the SBC website at <https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/>
The civic calendar list is also now posted in the Berkeley Daily Planet under Berkeley Activist’s Calendar at <www.berkeleydailyplanet.com>
and, it is also available at the Facebook pages for Berkeley Progressive Alliance (BPA) and Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA). Also, visit the (BNC) Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Newsletter link for information on City and community issues at <http://berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/>

The Times, They Were A-Changing. Paula Friedman Tells a Sixties Tale in The Change Chronicles

Gar Smith
Friday November 09, 2018 - 12:17:00 PM

Paula Friedman's new book, The Change Chronicles: A Novel of the Sixties Antiwar Movement, is firmly planted in the soil of Berkeley and rooted in the anti-war struggles of the era. This is a special book that will invite older readers to relive (and younger readers to marvel at) the heady days on the frontlines of anti-war peace activism in the Bay Area. As Friedman notes, the book offers a "rarely told story of that 'peacenik' generation between Beats and hippies, who first hesitantly seeded what would become known as 'women's consciousness.'" 

The late 1960s were a time of radical change. Urban riots had set cities aflame while America's cultural cauldron was bubbling over. In the liberating aftermath of the Free Speech Movement, history was no longer being directed by the Oval Office, the Hearst newspaper empire, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In the Bay Area, at least, history was being hijacked and re-tracked by agents of progressive change—including the street-smart reporters from the Berkeley Barb, the daring and defiant Vietnam Day Committee, and the nonviolent martyrs of the Port Chicago Vigil—looking militarism straight in the face and being threatened, beaten and jailed as their reward. 

In August of this year, Paula Friedman—a long-time Berkeley resident who now resides in Gresham, Oregon—made the long drive back to the People's Republic for a book reading at the Berkeley Historical Society (BHS, 1931 Center Street). 

The event was originally set for Sunday, August 5, but it had to be rescheduled due to an imminent confrontation between Alt-Right and Antifa demonstrators in the adjacent city park. 

The new date turned out to be propitious. As Friedman pointed out at the start of the reading: "Today, August 7, is the anniversary of the start of the Port Chicago vigil." It was on August 7, 1966 that a band of peace activists gathered at the Main Gate of the Naval Weapons Station in an attempt to block trucks carrying napalm bombs for shipment to US pilots flying incineration-missions in the skies over Vietnam. Several protesters were injured by the trucks and by the blows of the Marine guards. 


Paula Friedman first came to the attention of local booklovers with her 2011 novel, The Rescuer's Path, which Ursula K. Le Guin called "exciting, physically vivid, and romantic." The Change Chronicles is equally involving, especially since it is rooted in Friedman's personal experience as a reporter for the Berkeley Barb and a participant in what became known as the "Port Chicago Vigil." 

As Friedman noted during her BHS reading, her novel covers a period of critical historical transformation—following Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, paralleling the anti-war movement, and anticipating "the junction before the women's movement." 

This new tale of love and political struggle begins in 1965 as it follows the political and emotional adventures of a young Berkeley Barb reporter named Nora Seikh. After bravely disengaging from an abusive relationship, Nora falls for a "flamboyant activist" who sweeps her off her sandals only to bid a fond adieu when he discovers he's left her pregnant. 

The challenges of being a woman, an anti-establishment reporter and an activist are now compounded by the demands of motherhood. But Nora's dilemmas are soon steadied by a developing relationship between Ted, one of the leaders of the Port Chicago protests. 

As a Barb reporter, Nora's has become used to police harassment but the prospect of carrying an unborn child must steer her decision to participate in a nonviolent protest aimed at stopping speeding weapons trucks. Can Nora find the courage to face arrest and risk possible injury or death? Is this fair to the child? 

The blockade at the gates of the Weapons Station, becomes a metaphor for "breaking through" the expectations of society and self—and overcoming "the Marines of your mind." Nora's story becomes a tale of one deeply aware woman facing and overcoming barriers—finding the strength to walk down a rural highway and face the menacing glow of the "five yellow lights" atop an approaching napalm truck. 

In many ways (and despite the commitment and the camaraderie), the Port Chicago peace vigil existed within a grim aura suggestive of a detention camp—isolated, remote, surveilled, and dangerous. People on the small, exposed and unprotected vigil line were verbally abused, targeted by passing cars, and subjected to occasional beatings by local thugs and soldiers. And there was that one night when exhausted vigilers, trying to catch some sleep at a local safe-house, nearly died when unknown parties pushed a stolen car over a neighboring road and sent it rolling downhill, crashing into the sleeping quarters. Fortunately, no one was killed that night. 

For those who lived though these events, part of the pleasure of The Change Chronicles lies in recognizing special connections to the incidents and individuals described. In addition to the local landmarks—UC Berkeley, Telegraph Avenue, Caffè Mediterraneum (aka "Caffé Med")—it was nice to see a passing reference to fellow nonviolent peace activist Bob Meriweather. Other real-life participants also make appearances throughout the book—some under their real names, others identified by pseudonyms. 

Reading The Change Chronicles, I was surprised to discover that I had a cameo appearance (on page 115)—as a newly minted Berkeley Barb reporter. (Actually, I didn't become a Barb reporter until some time after the Port Chicago vigil. On Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1965, prior to the mass protest commemorated in the Chronicles, I became the first activist to be arrested and jailed for stopping a truckload of napalm at the gates of Port Chicago.) 

Addressing the BHS audience, Friedman spoke of her own continued activism and noted that, 48 years later, anti-war protests were still happening. On Hiroshima Day, August 6, 2018, 40 people—including whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and author/activist David Kreiger—were arrested at UC Berkeley's nuclear bomb plant at Livermore. One of the event's most prominent chants clearly named four interconnected threats to human life and freedom: "No Nukes! No Walls! No Wars! No Warming!" 

The spirit of rebellion was still ringing in Berkeley that afternoon, as Friedman engaged the crowd in a share-fest of activist memories. 

During the Q&A&R (with the "R" standing for "reminiscing"), indomitable singer-activist Hali Hammer recalled "a major Ah-Hah! Moment" she experience in the Sixties after reading press reports of an anti-war protest she had just attended. "It was misreported!" Hammer harrumphed. She learned an important lesson about media bias that day: "It's not just the USSR that has propaganda." 

Cynthia Papermaster offered an invitation to Join CODE PINK, a spirited group that manages to "have fun" and make a righteous noise while confronting the agents of the Apocalypse. 

One voice in the post-reading conversation offered a memorable observation that: "The #MeToo movement will save democracy in the US." 

Another audience member recalled a day in 1962 when a "peace boat" sailed into a US atomic bomb testing zone in the Pacific in an attempt to halt a nuclear blast. 

Another recalled how, in 1967, 100,000 people gathered in the nation's capital to nonviolently march against war. And 50,000 of them then attempted to storm the Pentagon, resulting in nearly 700 arrests. This event is largely lost to memory. Here is a video: 


Jordi Savall Traces The Musical Routes of Slavery

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 09, 2018 - 12:32:00 PM

Bringing together musicians from Africa, Latin America, North America, and Europe, Jordi Savall brought to Zellerbach Hall on Saturday, November 3 a stirring program recalling the injutices of more than 2,000 years of slavery. Actor Aldo Billingslea served as narrator, reading short excerpts from an eclectic array of texts dealing with slavery. Billingslea was often introduced and/or accompanied by softly played notes on the kora, a West African stringed instrument played here by Ballaké Sissoko from Mali. The very first text read by Billingslea was by none other than Aristotle, who wrote in his 4th century BCE Politics that “Humanity is divided into two: masters and slaves.” This serves as a reminder that Europeans began by enslaving one another, as they did in Ancient Greece, even as the first democracies were formed.  

Next came a text describing the discovery and conquest of the African land of Guinea in 1444 by Portuguese slave-traders. Thus began the European exploitation of Africans as slaves. Musically, this infamous moment was evoked by Malian griot Mohammed Diaby who walked from the rear of Zellerbach Hall singing an improvised set of lamentations, his high, clear voice ringing out powerfully in a cry of pain and sorrow. Following this we traced the Portuguese and Spanish spread of colonies in the New World, as musicians from Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico performed songs and dances of slaves brought over from Africa. These Latin American musicians were members of Tembembe Ensemble Continuo, a group specializing in exploring connections between the Hispanic Baroque period in music and the traditional music of Latin America. Soprano Maria Juliana Linhares was a vivacious performer of Brazilian songs, while Ada Coronel sang and danced the music of Mexico. Mixed in among these Latin American songs was a West African griot song eloquently performed by Mohammed Diaby and Ballaké Sissoko, who were accompanied by a chorus of three Malian female dancers and singers comprised of Mamani Keita, Nana Kouyaté, and Tanti Kouyaté. 

Instrumental music was performed by Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI, and choruses were performed by La Capella Real de Catalunya. Aldo Billingslea read texts describing the cruel and inhuman tortures meted out as punishments to recalcitrant or rebellious slaves. Some of the first signs of resistance were evident in the slave song “Follow the drinking gourd,” powerfully sung by Neema Bickersteth. Indeed, several slave songs performed by Neema Bickersteth, including “I’m packing up” and Amazing grace,” revealed the slave roots of Negro Spirituals and Gospel music. These songs, eloquently sung by Neema Bickersteth, were among the many highlights of this program. Other highlights were provided by Mohammed Diaby in various Malian griot songs. A particularly eloquent text read by Aldo Billingslea was one by Abraham Lincoln, who spoke out forcefully against the cruel and inhuman treatment of slaves in a letter to a slave-owning friend.  

If there was one perspective that was missing in this inspiring program, it is one that was brought home to me when I visited a slave-trading fortress-castle on the coast at Elmina in Ghana. There the Ghanaian guide made a point of telling us that we white Europeans were by no means the only people who enslaved Africans. Africans had a long history, he said ruefully, of enslaving one another, capturing enemy tribesmen, women, and children in warring raids and enslaving them. I also happen to know from my years spent in East Africa that Arab slave-traders rounded up slaves even into the 20th century and shipped them off to Zanzibar or Arabia itself. In spite of these omissions, Jordi Savall’s Routes of Slavery was an uplifting event combining historical texts and music from four continents. Jordi Savall, who organized this event and contributed an eloquent essay on remembering slavery for the program notes, is to be commended for his commitment to reminding us of man’s inhumanity to man while also reminding us of music’s ability to express our human feelings of pain, sorrow, and resistance to oppression.