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Three People, Including Berkeley School Board President, Seriously Injured in Accidents

Sam Richards (BCN)
Saturday January 05, 2019 - 06:24:00 PM

Three pedestrians have been seriously injured after being struck by vehicles in two separate incidents, Berkeley police said Saturday.

Two women were critically injured shortly after midnight early Saturday morning when they were struck by a car as they crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Way near the corner of Stuart Street in South Berkeley near their home.

Police on Saturday wouldn't confirm the names of those victims, but a Berkeley Unified School District statement Saturday said school board President Judy Appel, 53, and her wife Alison Bernstein, 54, an attorney, were the ones injured. 

"We are in the process of obtaining more information about their conditions," Berkeley schools Superintendent Donald Evans said Saturday. "We will be offering whatever support and assistance we can to the Appel-Bernstein family and invite the community to join with us in hopes and prayers for their recovery. 

Both women remained in a local hospital Saturday evening. 

The driver of the car that struck the two women, an 81-year-old Berkeley resident, stopped at the scene and is cooperating with police. 

A 69-year-old Berkeley woman was seriously injured when she was hit by a vehicle about 6:45 p.m. Friday as she crossed Sacramento Street at Lincoln Street in North Berkeley. The woman was taken to a local hospital, where police said she was listed in serious condition Saturday. 

The driver of that vehicle, a 69-year-old Piedmont man, was also cooperating with police investigators, officers said.

CASA: A Coup by Any Other Name

Zelda Bronstein
Friday January 04, 2019 - 11:13:00 AM

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been planning a coup.

Not the putsch kind of coup, where armed insurgents overthrow a duly constituted government, but an insidious takeover led by an ad hoc public-private coalition, authorized by new laws, and justified by artful rhetoric—above all, a reiterated declaration of emergency. The goal is not to overthrow the ruling order, i.e., the capitalist growth machine, but to secure and aggrandize it at the expense of the most vulnerable.

The MTC cabal, otherwise known as The Committee to House the Bay Area or CASA, would have us believe that the region’s housing crisis necessitates:

  • creating a public-private agency that would standardize zoning across the region
  • imposing as much as a billion dollars of new taxes on the Bay Area
  • rolling back environmental review
  • lowering housing affordability standards
  • re-zoning “high opportunity” single-family neighborhoods for higher-density market-rate housing development, regardless of transit accessibility
  • accepting the assumption that building market-rate housing lowers the price of all housing enhancing private developers’ profit margins
  • ensuring continuous, explosive job growth while ignoring services and infrastructure to support that growth
These fatuous propositions inform the “CASA Compact: A 15-Year Emergency Policy Package to Confront the Housing Crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area,” a 31-page manifesto and plan of action finalized on December 12. Now MTC/CASA is lobbying the state Legislature to pass laws, including SB 50, State Senator Scott Wiener’s do-over of his failed SB 827, that implement the Compact’s recommendations.

For the sake of democratic governance, fiscal sanity, environmental protection, and housing justice, MTC/CASA needs to be stopped. 


Laying the groundwork: MTC’s hostile takeover of ABAG  

The CASA power grab is predicated on a prior usurpation: MTC’s 2016 hostile takeover of our region’s land use planning agency, the Association of Bay Area Governments. 

As MTC’s name indicates, the agency’s official mission is transportation. Every region in California has a Metropolitan Planning Organization that channels federal transportation dollars to the area. The Bay Area’s MPO is MTC. Created in 1970 by the California Legislature, MTC administers more than $2 billion a year, including more than $600 million in bridge tolls, for the operation, maintenance, and expansion of the Bay Area’s surface transportation network. It is rich, powerful, and feared. 

MTC is also a profligate, rogue agency. In 2010, MTC lost more than $120 million worth of bridge tolls in credit swaps gone bad. It had a major hand in the Bay Bridge debacle. Its new headquarters in San Francisco ran $90 million over budget; the agency’s use of bridge tolls to buy the building prompted then-State Senator, now-Congressman, Mark DeSaulnier to get the state Legislature to unanimously pass a law forbidding MTC to use bridge tolls for real-estate speculation. MTC is facing two lawsuits over the constitutionality of placing Regional Measure 3 on last June’s ballot as a fee, not a tax; the passage of RM3 increased bridge tolls by three dollars, starting with a $1 raise on January 1. 

The grim state of the region’s surface transportation attests to MTC’s failure to carry out its basic mission. Congestion is so bad, Bay Area News Group reporter Gary Richards recently wrote, that in 2019, local transit agencies will seek state legislation to authorize a once “unthinkable” practice: allowing buses and possibly carpools to drive on the shoulder of freeways and bridges during the heaviest commute times. According to Richards, MTC “is a strong proponent” of the change. 

Like every other major region in California, the Bay Area also has a land use planning agency called the Council of Governments (COG). The Bay Area’s COG is the Association of Bay Area Governments. Unlike MTC, a state agency, ABAG is a voluntary organization, created in 1961 by the cities and counties of the Bay Area. Whereas MTC is dominated by the three biggest cities in the region, every city in the Bay Area has a representative in the ABAG General Assembly. 

In every other region in California, the MPO is subordinate to the COG. The Bay Area has been an exception. Until 2016, MTC and ABAG uneasily co-existed as semi-independent bodies. ABAG, the poor relation, was financially dependent on MTC. With the passage of SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, the two agencies were forced to collaborate on Plan Bay Area. 

The preparation of the initial Plan Bay Area, which was approved by MTC and ABAG in July 2013, engendered conflicts over policy and finances. Those tensions moved MTC to execute a hostile takeover of ABAG in 2016. That offensive entailed a year-long fight that culminated in the so-called merger of the two agencies under the aegis of MTC’s administration. ABAG retains its board, but its staff now reports to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger. 

The takeover signaled MTC’s intention to transform itself into a one-stop regional transportation and planning agency. Enter CASA. 


Who is CASA? 

A year and a half ago, Heminger secretly hand-picked 53 “stakeholders” to participate in CASA. The group is dominated by the real-estate industry, with representatives from some of the region’s largest market-rate and affordable housing developers (Related California, TMG Partners, MidPen Housing), as well as the California Apartment Association, the Building Industry Association, pro-growth affordable housing advocates (Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, SV@Home), think tank SPUR, and BART). 

TMG Partners Chairman and CEO Michael Covarubbias is one of CASA’s three co-chairs. A second co-chair is SV@Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia, formerly a staffer at the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development and director of the San Jose Housing Department. 

CASA’s paid consultants include Carol Galante, former CEO of Bridge Housing and current head of UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. The ferocity of Galante’s attacks on CEQA are rivaled only by those emanating from Holland & Knight attorney and CASA member Jennifer Hernandez. Terner also has a representative on CASA, Committee, Visiting Scholar Ophelia Basgal, listed on the roster by another of her UC Berkeley associations, the Center for Community Innovation. Basgal and Hernandez are joined on CASA by Janice Jensen, who represents another vocal CEQA opponent, Habitat for Humanity. 

Big Tech (Google, Facebook), Big Philanthropy (Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, San Francisco Foundation), and Big Pharma (Genentech) are also at the table. San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell is the third CASA co-chair. 

Other CASA members include local officials, half of whom represent the three largest of the region’s 101 cities; equity advocates (PICO California, Urban Habitat, Working Partnerships USA, Tenants Together, California Housing Partnership); building trades unions (Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council and Nor Cal Carpenters Regional Council); and a healthcare workers union (SEIU-UHW). 

The original CASA lineup included as one of its two putative environmentalists Jeremy Madsen, then-Executive Director of Greenbelt Alliance. Introducing himself at the CASA Steering Committee’s meeting on September 26, 2017, Madsen said, “I sometimes joke internally that “we’re the most pro-development environmental group you’re going to run across.” In January, Madsen left Greenbelt Alliance to became program director for The Energy Foundation; he subsequently resigned from CASA. His seat was taken by Greenbelt Alliance Deputy Director Matt Vander Sluis. Growth environmentalism’s other representative on CASA is Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm. 

The full CASA roster appears at the end of this article. 


CASA operates largely in secret… 

CASA has two sub-groups: a 32-member Technical Committee, which has done most of the work, and an eighteen-member Steering Committee that has itself been steered by CASA’s three co-chairs and Heminger. From June 2017 to December 2018, the Technical Committee met publicly almost every month; the Steering Committee met publicly six times on an irregular basis. 

Only three of the public meetings published written minutes, and only one of those three (the summary of the Technical Committee’s first meeting on June 28, 2017) documents the names of the speakers and summarizes what they said. The other two only name CASA members in attendance and people who spoke at public comment. Two meetings lack official video or audio documentation; three have only audio. And of course the secret meetings have no public documentation at all. 

If the meetings were secret, how do we know that they took place? 

Simple: At the public meetings, Technical Committee members repeatedly referred to them. They professedly met at night, on weekends, and on at least one holiday: On November 14, Covarrubius boasted to the Steering Committee, “We were here six hours on Veterans Day, about 30 people”—“here” being MTC headquarters. 

The most spectacular instance of this covert activity came to light at the Steering Committee’s Dec. 12 meeting, when Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf referred in passing to a trip that she and other, unspecified CASA participants had recently taken to New York City. That trip never appeared on any CASA agenda, nor was it ever mentioned at any of CASA’s public meetings before it took place. I’ve filed a Public Records Act query with MTC asking to see documentation of the costs associated with each member’s travel, room, and board as well as itineraries and agendas. 

I also asked the First Amendment Coalition about the legality of CASA’s lack of written minutes. I was told that because CASA is not an official legislative or judicial body, it is not subject to the Brown Act and does not have to publish written minutes of its meetings. 

At the CASA Technical Committee’s meeting of May 16, committee Co-chair Covarrubias approached me and said, “You’re a journalist?” I replied: “Yes. I have to come to these meetings, because there are no minutes.” Covarrubias: “We like it that way.” 


…but is publicly financed 

Technical Committee members—all volunteers—repeatedly congratulated each other on their diligence and dedication. And they did work very hard. But their labors were considerably eased by MTC’s largesse, which included a free, tony meeting space; free food; ample support from staff and paid consultants; grants for outreach to community-based organizations; a place on MTC’s website that featured a professionally produced video; a telephone poll “of all Bay Area residents;” and the trip to New York City. 

The only information about the CASA funding that appeared on any CASA agenda was contained in a memo to the Technical Committee dated December 6, 2017 and posted on the committee’s December 13, 2017, agenda. Under the heading “DRAFT Community Outreach and Engagement Plan,” MTC Planning Director Ken Kirkey wrote: 

In order to engage communities traditionally unrepresented in government decision making,….MTC will provide a $5,000 stipend each to four community-based organizations (CBOs) to host and conduct the first of two rounds of outreach meetings with disadvantaged communities” in spring 2018. 

Kirkey added: 

MTC will provide a second round of stipend to the same community-based organizations to conduct a second round of meetings with disadvantaged communities. 

On April 23, I filed a California Public Records Act Request with MTC asking to see all documents related to funding the Committee to House the Bay Area. In response, on May 18, MTC provided with 55 pages of documents that included 

· sole source contracts with Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors “for facilitation services for the Committee for Housing the Bay Area” totaling $450,000 

· sole source contracts with the UC Regents totaling $133,400 for Terner Center Director Carol Galante and Urban Displacement Director Karen Chapple “for facilitation service for the Committee for Housing the Bay Area” that included “Just Cause Policy Research,” a “Protection Lens for Rent Gouging and Costa Hawkins Research,” an “Equitable Development by Neighborhood Conditions Framework” and “Production Pipeline Analysis.” 

· a “Letter of Agreement for $19,922 between the San Francisco Foundation and MTC for the CASA Initiative” to “support research that will be conducted by the Urban Displacement Project” at UC Berkeley 

· a letter from Heather Hood and Geeta Rao, Enterprise Community Partners to “Ken Kirkey and Team, Metropolitan Transportation Commission” setting forth the “Scope for Bay Metro to Support CASA with Research,” thanking MTC “for entrusting us to be a thought partner,” and estimating the total cost of the work to be $25,000, of which Enterprise “can contribute $25,000 of that time and materials in kind (paid by grants we have already secured).” 

On December 12, I made additional PRA Requests, asking (again) to see all documents related to CASA’s funding, as well as all expenditures that passed through MTC to fund the recent trip to New York City, including allocation for CASA members’ travel, room, and board, and any agendas and itineraries. 

On December 21, MTC informed me that, as per the California Public Records Act, because my request necessitated “consultation with another agency having substantial interest in the matter of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein,” additional time would be required to respond, and that it anticipated releasing a response by January 11, 2019. 


The CASA Compact 

While the political energies of many Bay Area residents were absorbed by the two elections of 2018, CASA drew up its Compact. Finalized in mid-December, the 31-page mainfesto/plan of action is organized around “Three Ps:” 

· Increasing housing production at all levels of affordability 

· Preserving existing affordable housing 

· Protecting vulnerable households from housing instability and displacement (p. 5) 

The gist of the compact is contained in ten dense “elements,” each setting out a major policy proposal (a list of the elements appears at the end of this article). 

The two most audacious Elements— Number 9, “Funding and Financing the CASA Compact,” and Number 10, “Regional Housing Enterprise”—deal with money and governance. One of CASA’s many foundational myths is the fiction that “everyone” is to blame for the Bay Area’s housing woes, and thus everyone should “share the pain” of remedying them. “[T]he beauty of this,” co-chair Covarrubias told the Technical Committee on September 18, is that it’s “a solution that doesn’t have a target, [but] that has everybody as a target.” 

Another CASA conceit is that the compact is a “grand bargain” in whose formulation all parties have compromised for the sake of the common good. But some parties are expected to compromise a lot more than others, as indicated by the “Allocation formula” in Element 9, which divvies up the anticipated new revenues by percentages: 

Allocation formula 

· minimum 60 percent for “subsidized housing production” 

· up to 10 percent for tenant protection services 

· up to 10 percent for “local jurisdiction incentives (including funding for hiring more building inspectors” 

· up to 20 percent for affordable housing 

Note that production is designated for the lion’s share of the funding, and that only production comes with a funding floor. The other allocations all have an ambiguous (“up to”) ceiling; in other words, they could get less than the designated percentages. 

Also ambiguous: the term “subsidized housing production.” Exactly what kind of housing is CASA proposing to subsidize? Is it market-rate? If not, why does “affordable housing” have a different allocation? 

Answers to these questions may be gleaned from “Figure A: The CASA Compact Framework,” which shows “Numeric Targets” for each of the P’s. Under “Produce,” we read: “35,000 Housing Unit/Year, 14,000 of Which are Affordable to Lower-Income and 7,000 to Moderate Income Households” (p. 5). 

In other words, 60 percent of the total funds for housing production would apparently go to—or to borrow the Compact language, subsidize—market-rate housing. And, as noted in detail below, thanks in large part to the Bay Area’s insane housing prices, what’s officially affordable is far beyond the means of many of the region’s residents. 

The funds would be disbursed by the “Regional Housing Enterprise,” a new governmental agency described in Element 10 as an “independent,” public-private, regionwide entity that has authority to impose taxes; issue debt; buy, lease, and sell land; provide technical assistance to local governments; “collect data to monitor our progress;” and administer zoning standards for the region’s nine counties. 

Heminger has referred to the Regional Housing Enterprise as a “housing assembly authority” (Technical Committee, October 17, 2018) and “a financing vehicle and data warehouse” (Steering Committee, December 3, 2018). At the Steering Committee’s meeting in October, he described CASA as “a public-private enterprise” and said that “it would make some sense to try to mimic that in the governance of this new institution.” Just so, Element 10 recommends that “[s]tate law should establish an independent board, with broad representation to [sic] MTC, ABAG, and key stakeholder groups that helped develop the CASA Compact.” 

Some people, including me, complain that MTC and ABAG are undemocratic because their governing boards are not elected. More precisely, the officials sitting on those boards—mayors, councilmembers, county supervisors—are elected, but they’re not elected to oversee regional agencies. In terms of representative democracy, the Regional Housing Enterprise would be even far less accountable to the public: its board would include and very likely be dominated by individuals who haven’t been elected to anything at all. 

At the Technical Committee meeting on December 3, Heminger responded to criticism made at public comment that the Regional Housing Enterprise would be unelected. “The fact is,” he asserted, “that there’s only one elected regional board in America—in Portland.” 

The MTC chief then sought to further discount a regionally elected government by commending the “innovation” of having private parties on the RHE board. Apparently the novelty that distances government further from the public at large is welcome at MTC/CASA, while the kind that puts the two in greater proximity is not. 

The Compact says that “[t]he new enterprise will not have direct regulatory authority” (Preamble). But the two models referenced in the Compact—the New York City Housing Development Corporation and the Twin Cities revenue-sharing program—both exercise regulatory authority. Neither program was ever discussed in detail at a public CASA meeting. 

With the authority to “levy fees and seek voter approval to impose taxes for housing” (E10) and to “administer any new regional funds that might be approved for housing” (Preamble), the Regional Housing Enterprise would effectively be calling some big shots on land use in the Bay Area. And as envisioned, it would have a lot of money at its disposal. 


Dodging Bay Area voters 

The Compact estimates the cost of the Regional Housing Enterprise at $2.5 billion a year for 15-20 years, with $1 billion coming from unspecified state and federal sources and the remaining $1.5 billion from new regional and “local self-help measures.” 

A “menu” of potential new sources of revenue are laid out in Compact Element 9. CASA confusingly distinguishes “parcel taxes,” “taxes on local governments,” and taxes on “taxpayers.” In fact, “taxpayers” would be paying all three kinds of charges, as well as the interest on the general obligation bonds. 


Taxes on Property Owners: $200 million 

· 1% tax on vacant homes, regionwide ($100 million) 

· $48 per year region-wide parcel tax, regionwide ($100 million) 


Taxes and fees on Developers: $400 million 

· $5-$20 per sq. foot commercial linkage fee on new construction ($200 million) 

· $10 per sq. foot flat commercial linkage fee on new construction ($200 million) 


Taxes on Employers: $400 million 

· 0.1%-0.75% regionwide gross receipts tax; small businesses and employers in a jurisdiction with an existing tax would be exempt ($200 million) 

· $50-$120 per job regionwide variable head tax ($200 million) 


Taxes on Local Governments: $300 million 

· 25% “Redevelopment Revenue Set-Aside for affordable housing” ($200 million) 

· 20% “Revenue Sharing Contribution from future property tax growth, regionwide” ($100 million) 


Taxes on Taxpayers: $500 million 

· 1/4 –cent sales tax, regionwide ($400 million) 

· 5-year term general obligation bonds issued by Regional Housing Enterprise, renewed every five years ($100 million) 


At the Technical Committee’s meeting in October, Heminger noted and then discounted objections to certain items on the revenue menu. Sales tax, he observed, “is regressive, but here in California, food and medicine are exempt….[I]f you’re spending it to fund a bunch of affordable housing, I would consider that progressive.” He also noted that 

some of [the] measures in the developer-employer orbit could be considered fees, and, depending how the enabling legislation is passed in Sacramento, could be authorized without a vote of the people. I have no doubt that that would be litigated; we’re litigating RM3 right now for bridge tolls. 

Heminger seemed unfazed by the prospect of new litigation, possibly because at the end of February, he’s leaving MTC. “Maybe,” he joked, “we’ll use our precedent to see what we can do on housing.” He also opined: 

“I doubt that you could put five of these suckers on the same ballot and expect to pass any one of them. So one, we’re going to have to be selective; and two, some of these may not require voter approval, and that’s indeed helpful, if that’s true...” 

Indeed, as Heminger wrote in a memo for MTC’s November 28-29 retreat at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, the compact advances “a suite of legislative reforms” whose authorization requires action in Sacramento. Well before MTC approved the compact, CASA members were negotiating behind the scenes with the Bay Area’s state legislators. The Compact says that they will continue lobbying the Legislature “to implement” its “principles” (p. 5). 

Missing from the Compact is the “CASA Work Window” that was handed out at the Technical Committee’s September 2018 meeting. That document set out a five-year plan: 


2018 CASA Development 

2019 Legislative Package 

2020 Election #1 Presidential 

2021 PBA/RHNA Adoption 

2022 Election # 2 Gubernatorial 


On October 17, Heminger told the Technical Committee that the “infrastructure community” was discussing a regional “mega-measure” to pay for a second BART tube. “If [that proposal” is “live around 2020 election,” could his listeners entertain “some scenario where we might join forces and help each other?” Going in as “partners,” he mused, “might involve a better chance of success for both.” At the Steering Committee’s November meeting, he said getting such a measure on the 2020 ballot was an “imperative.” 

Heminger and the CASA co-chairs have repeatedly stated that the 10 elements in the Compact must go forward together. But on December 3, the first day of the Legislature’s new session, members of the Bay Area Caucus introduced bills—most notably Wiener’s SB 50—that incorporate CASA’s recommendations. Except for Skinner’ SB 18, which vaguely echoes Element 3, “Emergency Rent Assistance and Access to Legal Counsel,” none of the measures incorporate any of the Compact’s proposals for either a regionwide just cause eviction policy (Element 1) or an emergency rent cap (Element 2); instead, they’re all aimed at weakening restrictions on growth. So much for a package deal. 

AB 4 (Chiu): Redevelopment 2.0 

AB 68 and AB 69 (Ting): further loosen regulations on in-law units 

SB 4 (McGuire and Beall): Limit local land use policies that restrict housing and encourage new housing near transit and job centers 

SB 5 (McGuire and Beall): Redevelopment 2.0 

SB 6 (Beall): Streamline housing production and penalize local planning that restricts production 

SB 13 (Wieckowski): further loosen regulations on in-law units 

SB 18 (Skinner): legal assistance for tenants 

SB 50 (Wiener): upzoning near transit and job center 

Plus AB 2065 (Ting): surplus public lands (introduced in 2018 and still live) 

CASA’s legislative initiative has a pay-to-play aspect: Estelano LeSar Perez Advisors, the consultantcy with the $450,000 contract with MTC noted above, is co-owned by Jennifer LeSar, the wife of California State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins. 

Addressing the Steering Committee on November 14, Heminger said that the region’s state legislators “are quite excited about this CASA thing you’ve all invented.” 




Age Before Beauty? Not a Bad Idea

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 04, 2019 - 05:31:00 PM

Well, we can all take a deep breath, and maybe even a short nap. Granny’s back, and she’ll take care of everything now.

I’m glad Paul Krugman said it first, so I don’t have to be embarrassed to admit that seeing Nancy Pelosi sworn in surrounded by all those kids brought “una furtiva lagrima” to my eye.

He said he was especially moved by the shot of the new, diverse Congress: “If you don't tear up a bit at this image of a better nation, you don't get what America is all about.".

We’ve had a two year look at what we don’t want America to be about, so the image of a better option which the group photo of the House provides is a blessed relief.

Fifteen tedious twerps, conservatives putatively in the Democratic column, voted against Pelosi as Speaker. Progressives on Long Island are already gunning for one of them for the 2020 primary, and the rest had better watch their backs.

I won’t reprise all of my 11/30/18 editorial to make the point that a grandmother-in-charge is exactly what we need to get this mess cleaned up. But the manifest wisdom of bringing Nancy Pelosi back in 2019 should tell us what we’re going to need for a presidential candidate in 2020.

Another grandmother, of course.

A passel of pretty faces are being paraded in front of us by a media whose slogan should be “let’s you and him fight”, based on their futile attempt to create a fine old conflict over the speaker’s job. It didn’t work then, and it shouldn’t work now.

When you compare Elizabeth Warren’s qualifications with those of the cast of dozens who might like to become the Democratic candidate to take down whatever will be left of the Trump administration, it’s not even close. She’s a giant among shrimps. 

Or maybe puppies. Several of the wannabes have the potential to grow up to be somebody, but Senator Warren is already somebody.  

It’s very tempting to want to see a younger person playing the role of President again. But as much as I love and admire Barack Obama, in retrospect he might have gotten more done if he’d had a bit more experience before he took the job. The Affordable Care Act, the major accomplishment of his administration, is often called Obamacare, but it should really be called Pelosicare, since she’s the one who made it work. 

(And here let’s insert a raspberry for some of my buddies on the left, who seem prepared to go to their graves arguing over the nuances of differences between Single Payer, Medicare for All, the National Health Service and god knows what else. There’s no agreed-on definition of any of these, but there is a tangible identifiable ACA, and guess what? It works. Not perfect, but damned good. We all know lots of people who didn’t have health care pre-ACA and do now.) 

The major problem right now in this country is the huge gap between the rich and the not-even-making-it. Elizabeth Warren has had a whole career of trying to close that chasm, to deal with all the inequities in the way the country is structured. 

A California friend who came here from the Northeast, a good lefty Dem at heart, said wistfully that she just couldn’t stand Warren’s voice. There we have another reason that Warren would be a good choice: She talks like the forgotten flyover state folks, odd though she may sound to the urban elite. 

Once I participated in a recorded debate, and listening to it afterwards I was shocked to discover that I sound a lot like Harry Truman, a Missourian, as I was until I was 13. There’s an unmistakable South/Midwest twang that stays with you, and it sounds authentic in much of the middle of the country. We need those folks on our team.l 

The great advantage of Senator Warren's age (70ish) is that she’s had time to accumulate a whole lot of different kinds of life experiences. She’s waited tables to make the rent, raised children, run a major part of the federal government, taught law school and been a senator. Most of the younger people who’ve been mentioned as competitors for the nomination have had much easier paths in their shorter lives and have accomplished less. 

Oh, and she’s still the smartest kid in the room, isn’t she? Though many in the Senate could say that about themselves, but smart is not the whole story. Life counts too. 

Cory Booker, for example, is the son of two IBM executives. He went to Stanford and probably doesn’t have much student debt. He was later Mayor of Newark, and is now a senator, but he hasn’t authored much significant law. He’s an “eligible bachelor”, whatever that means. That’s not to say that someday he might not make a fine candidate, but he’s not there yet, despite his skill at prosecutorial questioning. All of the other potential candidates I can think of at the moment are similarly limited. 

Democrats enjoy nothing so much as a shooting match, preferably one in a circle. The Berniecrats have already resumed taking potshots at the Democratic Party and each other. Sanders, Joe Biden and several others are semi-plausible, but Warren is head and shoulders above them. 

And what about those of us, the majority of us actually, who still want to see a woman as president, all other things being equal? Warren lacks most of Hillary Clinton’s negatives: the philandering husband, the Wall Street speechifying, and the rest, and she has all of the same positives and more. 

Is it even remotely possible that just this once Dems and their fellow travelers could skip the sniping and unite quickly behind Elizabeth Warren? Let’s hope so. 


Full disclosure: The name my parents gave me at birth was Elizabeth Warren Peters, but we're not related. 







Public Comment

Re: Games of Berkeley

Janet Winter
Saturday January 05, 2019 - 10:16:00 AM

I wonder how long he was at the store to miss absolutely everything that is not what he described. Maybe we should fear "Candyland" or jigsaw puzzles, or Chess, or Frisbees, or playing cards too. Inquiring minds want to know.

Time to quit Afghanistan is NOW

Jagjit Singh
Friday January 04, 2019 - 06:04:00 PM

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to hunt down and kill members of al-Qaeda and destroy their safe haven in an operation dubbed ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’. What a grotesque name for a war that has gone so badly.
Hundreds of coalition forces and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians have died and the Taliban insurgency has become emboldened, occupying large swaths of land in rural areas and terrifying Kabul with IED’s and suicide bombers. Kabul is so dangerous that US personnel are forbidden to drive the 2 miles from the local airport to the US embassy but instructed to use helicopters to land onto the embassy roof. American troops stay behind in steel-reinforced concrete walls to protect themselves.
The CIA admits that it is partially defraying cost of operations by transporting “poppy seed drugs” on American planes generating about $50 billion annually.According to Brown University, ‘Cost of War Project’ the Afghan war could exceed $2 trillion in this mother of all quagmires. American leaders stubbornly refuse to learn the lessons of prior conflicts. It has recently come to light that General Westmorland was seeking permission to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam! 

It is obscene that all this money and human capital is being used to prop up an unstable and highly corrupt government. The ongoing conflict is an ethnic and sectarian conflict with Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras fighting to exercise control over the same piece of geography.The legacy of Afghanistan mirrors other wars, Vietnam, Iraq and countless other conflicts, a humiliating defeat stemming from the arrogance of American military power and politicians who repeatedly mislead the American public. We continue to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, which we devastated with napalm, Agent Orange, carpet bombing and multiple Mai Lai atrocities. The time to exit Afghanistan is NOW. For more go to, http://callforsocialjustice.blogspot.com/

Press Release: Victory for Transparency: CA Supreme Court Rejects Police Union Effort to Gut Landmark Police Transparency Law

First Amendment Coalition
Friday January 04, 2019 - 05:28:00 PM

In a significant victory for government transparency and accountability, the California Supreme Court today denied a police union’s last-minute effort to undermine the effectiveness of a new, landmark police transparency law, rejecting the union’s effort to make the law (SB 1421) apply only to records created after January 1, 2019.

The First Amendment Coalition (FAC) led a coalition of media groups in opposing the union’s effort, filing papers on December 28 urging the Court to deny the effort to gut the law.

In a one-sentence order issued Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed on December 18 by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association. The union had asked the high court to rule that the bill, signed into law in September, applies only to records created after January 1—the bill’s effective date. 

The new law requires a wide range of records relating to police misconduct to be available to the public—a sweeping change in California law.

“This is a great result for transparency and for the public,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “We’re grateful the Supreme Court saw through the union’s Hail Mary effort to weaken this law, which will allow broad public access to police misconduct files.”

Joining FAC in the effort to oppose the union’s petition were the Los Angeles Times, KQED, and the California News Publishers Association.

See the briefing filed by FAC here. See here for the petition filed by the police union.

FAC and the media coalition are represented in this matter by James Chadwick and Tenaya Rodewald of the Sheppard Mullin law firm.

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday January 03, 2019 - 09:10:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:“Are You Serious?” Awards 2018

Conn Hallinan
Friday January 04, 2019 - 04:26:00 PM

Each year Dispatches From The Edge gives awards to individuals, companies and governments that makes reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2018:

The Golden Sprocket Wrench Award to Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms manufacturer, for its F-22 Raptor Stealth fighter, a fifth-generation interceptor said to be the best in the world. That is when it works, which is not often. When Hurricane Michael swept through Florida this fall, 17 Raptors—$339 million apiece—were destroyed or badly damaged. How come the Air Force didn’t fly those F-22s out of harm’s way? Because the Raptor is a “hanger queen”— loves the machine shop. Less than 50 percent of the F-22 fleet is functional at any given moment. The planes couldn’t fly, so they got trashed at a cost to taxpayers of around $5 billion.

Lockheed Martin also gets an Oak Leaf Cluster for its F-35 Lightning II fighter, at $1.5 trillion the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history. Some 200 F-35s are not considered “combat capable,” and may never be, because the Pentagon would rather buy new planes than fix the ones it has. That may cost taxpayers $40 billion. 

The F-22s and F-35s also have problems with their oxygen systems, but no one can figure out why. 

However, both planes did get into combat. According to Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, the F-35 achieved “tactical supremacy” over the Taliban (which doesn’t have an air force). The F-22, the most sophisticated stealth fighter in the world, took on Afghan drug dealers

As for Lockheed Martin, the company was just awarded an extra $7 billion for F-22 “sustainment.” 

The Golden Parenting Award to the U.S. State Department for trying to water down a resolution by the UN’s World Health Assembly encouraging breast feeding over infant formula. A Lancet study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 infant deaths a year, decrease ear infections by 50 percent and gastrointestinal disease by 64 percent. It lowers the risk for Type 1 diabetes, two kinds of leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome and asthma. It also makes for healthier mothers. 

In contrast, infant formula—a $70 billion industry dominated by a few American and European companies—is expensive and not nearly as healthy for children as breast milk. 

When Ecuador tried to introduce the breast-feeding resolution, the U.S. threatened it with aid cuts and trade barriers. Several other Latin American countries were also threatened and quickly withdrew their names from a list of endorsers. Finally, Russia stepped in and introduced the resolution. The measure finally passed, but the U.S. successfully lobbied to remove language urging the World Health Organization to challenge “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.” 

So apparently the White House is fine with silicon in breasts, just not milk. 

The Golden Cuisine Award to Ron Colburn, president of the U.S. Border Patrol Foundation, who told Fox & Friends that the tear gas used on migrants at the U.S. border was not harmful, because pepper spray was a “natural” product that “you could actually put on your nachos and eat it.” 

The Marie Antoinette Award has two winners this year: 

* Nikki Haley, retiring U.S. Ambassador to the UN, who blasted Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) for supporting the UN’s Special Rapporteur report on poverty in the US that found tens of millions of Americans suffer “massive levels of deprivation.” In a letter to Sanders, Haley said it was “patently ridiculous” for the UN to even look at poverty in the US, because it is “the wealthiest and freest country in the world.” 

In a response, Sanders pointed out that while this country is indeed the wealthiest in the world, it is also one of the most unequal. “Some 40 million people still live in poverty, more than 30 million have no health insurance, over half of older workers have no retirement savings, 140 million Americans are struggling to pay for basic living expenses, 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency, and millions of Americans are leaving school deeply in debt.” 

* US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who expressed surprise that the people attending the World Economic Forum in the resort town of Davos, Switzerland were considered elite. “I didn’t realize it was the global elite.” 

Basic membership in the Forum costs more than $70,000, and getting to the event by helicopter or car is expensive, as are accommodations. There also numerous glittering parties hosted by celebrities like Bono and Leonardo DiCaprio. But those parties can have a sharp edge: one had attendees crawl on their hands and knees to feel what is like to flee an army. 

The Golden Matthew 19:14 Award (“Suffer the little children”) to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen for threatening to seize the children of poor people if parents commit crimes or fail to teach children “Danish values.” The parliament has designated 25 “ghetto” areas—Denmark’s term—which Muslim immigrants are crowded into. Families living in “ghettos” must send their children—starting at age 1—to schools for 25 hours a week where they are taught about Christmas, Easter and the Danish language. Failure to do so can result in a welfare cutoff. Proposals are also being considered to double prison sentences for anyone from a “ghetto” convicted of a crime, and a four year prison sentence for parents who send their children back to their home countries to learn about their cultures. The neo-fascist People’s Party, part of the governing coalition, proposed forcing all “ghetto” children to wear electronic ankle bracelets and be confined to their homes after 8 PM. The measure was tabled. 

Runners up are: 

* The British Home Office, which, according to a report by the House of Lords, is using children for undercover operations against drug dealers, terrorists and criminal gangs. “We are concerned that enabling a young person to participate in covert activity for an extended period of time may expose them to increased risk in their mental and physical welfare” the Lord’s report concluded. 

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for placing Dr. Ruth Etzel, head of Children’s Health Protection, on administrative leave and derailing programs aimed at reducing children’s exposure to lead, pesticides, mercury and smog. Etzel was pressing to tighten up regulations because children are more sensitive to pollutants than adults. A leader in children’s environmental health for more than 30 years, Etzel was asked for her badge, cell phone and keys and put on administrative leave. 

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight Award to arms maker Raytheon (with a tip of the hat to contributors Northup Grumman and Lockheed Martin) for its Patriot anti-missile that has downed exactly one missile in 28 years of use (and that was a clunky old Scud). An analysis of the missile interceptor system by Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Ca., concluded that Patriot is “a lemon.” Writing in Foreign Policy, Lewis says, “I am deeply skeptical that Patriot has ever intercepted a long-range ballistic missile in combat.” But it sure sells well. Saudi Arabia forked over $5.4 billion for Patriots in 2015, Romania $4 billion in 2017, Poland $4.5 billion in 2018, and Turkey $3.5 billion this year. 

The Golden “Say What?” Award has three winners: 

*The US Department of Defense for cutting a deal in the Yemen civil war to allow al-Qaeda members—the organization that brought us the Sept.11 attacks—to join with the Saudis and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their fight against the Houthis. According to Associated Press, while the Saudis claim that their forces are driving al-Qaeda out of cities, in fact, the terrorist organization’s members were allowed to leave with their weapons and looted cash. US drones gave them free passage. Why, you may ask? Because the Houthis are supported by Iran. 

* Saudi Arabia and the UAE for bankrolling a series of racist and Islamaphobic attacks on newly elected Muslim Congress members Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashid Tlaib (D-Mi) because the Gulf monarchy accuses both of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Neither is, but both are critical of the absolute monarchs of the Persian Gulf and are opposed to the Saudi-instigated war in Yemen. 

* Israel, for selling weapons to the racist and anti-Semitic Azov Battalion in the Ukraine. On its YouTube channel, members of the militia showed off Israeli Tavor rifles, the primary weapon of the Israeli Special Forces. The Tavor is produced under license by the Israel Weapons Industries. The unit’s commander and Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, met with Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri last year to discuss “fruitful cooperation.” Azov’s founder, Anriy Biletsky, now a Ukrainian parliament member, says his mission is “to restore the honor of the white race,” and lead “a crusade against the Semite-led untermenschen.” 

The Blue Meanie Award to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for blocking medical supplies to North Korea. Drugs to fight malaria and tuberculosis have been held up, as have surgical equipment and soy milk for child care centers and orphanages. According to the UN, sanctions “are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population” of North Korea. The US position has come in for criticism by Sweden, France, Britain, Canada, and the International Red Cross. 

The Little Bo Peep Award to the Pentagon for its recent audit indicating that some $21 trillion (yes, that is a “t”) is unaccounted for. Sharing this honor is the U.S. Air Force for losing a box of grenades, which apparently fell off a Humvee in North Dakota. The Air Forces says the weapons won’t go off without a special launcher. Right. What can possibly go wrong with grenades? 

In Memory of Dr. Victor Sidel, a founding member of the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Nobel Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Sidel, along with Dr. Barry S. Levy, wrote several important books including “War and Public Health,” and “Social Justice and Public Health.” In 1986 he was arrested, along with astronomer Carl Sagan, at the Mercury, Nevada nuclear test site. He once said, “The cost of one-half day of world arms spending could pay for the full immunization of all the children of the world against the common infectious diseases.” 


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




THE PUBLIC EYE:2018:Ten Reasons to be Thankful

Bob Burnett
Friday January 04, 2019 - 04:32:00 PM

New Year's Day was clear and sunny on the Left coast and it was easy to imagine that 2019 would be "all green lights and smooth sailing," as unlikely as that seems at the moment. Nonetheless, while 2018 ended with a government shutdown, and a flurry of ugly Trump Tweets, the year wasn't all bad. Here are ten reasons to be thankful.

1. The Blue Wave: Democrats won control of the House of Representative and Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House. (Pelosi is the right person to lead the Democratic Party up to the presidential convention in July of 2020.) 

Meanwhile, Democrats are energized. More than 116 million Americans voted in the midterm elections; 49.3 percent of the voting-eligible population -- the highest midterm percentage since 1914 (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/11/19/18103110/2018-midterm-elections-turnout ). 538's Nate Silver estimates that more than 60 million voters cast ballots for Democratic congressional candidates -- compared to 63 million Trump voters in 2016. Silver did a projection of what the electoral college would look like in 2020 (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-2018-map-looked-a-lot-like-2012-and-that-got-me-thinking-about-2020/ ) -- Trump versus an anonymous Democrat and Dems win with 314 electoral votes. 

2. The Resistance: 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 235 seats (of 435), with one to be determined. 

In the first days of 2019, Indivisible groups were back at work. 

3. Female Democrats: After November 6th, 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.) 

In the 2018 midterms, 116 women were elected to Congress, bringing the total to 126 (23.6 percent). There are now 102 female members of the House of Representatives -- the highest number in history. 89 of these women are Democrats, 37.9 percent of the Democratic majority. 

The Democratic wing of Congress is beginning to look like America. 

4.Brave women continue to talk about sexual abuse: The #MeToo movement began In October of 2017, with the allegation about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Reuters reports that over the next 365 days more than 425 prominent men were accused of sexual misconduct (https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-me-too-anniversary/ ). 

There were many #MeToo stories during the year. None more dramatic than the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate committee deliberating on the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Blasey Ford testified that, as a teenager, she had been assaulted by a drunken Kvanaugh. (Ultimately Republicans confirmed Kavanaugh, following the logic that whatever happened, it was a long time ago and Kavanaugh has been redeemed by his work as a lawyer and judge.) 

Thank you, Christine Blasey Ford, and the other brave women who came forward. 

5. The Press: Throughout the year, Trump complained about "fake news" and non-laudatory news sources -- everyone except for Fox News. The reality was that the U.S. mainstream media did an exemplary job covering the various outrages of the Trump Administration. 

At the end of the year, Time Magazine's "person of the year award" was given to a group of journalists it called "The Guardians," referring to individuals “who have taken great risks in pursuit of greater truths.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/time-2018-person-of-the-year_us_5c0ed93ee4b08bcb

Thank you, Jamal Khashoggi and the other journalists who daily risk their lives to tell the truth about Trump and the rise of Authoritarianism. 

6. The Mueller Investigation: Dating from Watergate (1972-74), the average length of a special counsel investigation, involving a President, is 904 days. Robert Mueller's investigation has gone on 597 days. So far it has produced 36 indictments and five major plea deals. 

At year end, the Mueller investigation was one of 17 investigations involving Donald Trump and his closest associates. (https://www.wired.com/story/mueller-investigation-trump-russia-complete-guide/

Thank you, Robert Mueller and the other investigators who slogged through the legal jungle determined to reveal the truth about Trump. 

7. The Parkland survivors: On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. It was the most horrific U.S. school shooting. 

In the aftermath, student survivors formed an anti-gun-violence group, "Never Again,"culminating in a March 24th, "March for Our Lives," in Washington, D.C. At year-end, national sentiment had shifted towards "common-sense" gun-control legislation. ( http://www.people-press.org/2018/10/18/gun-policy-remains-divisive-but-several-proposals-still-draw-bipartisan-support/

Thank you, Parkland survivors and the many others who are changing the dialogue about gun violence. 

8. The Immigrant defenders: Beginning in April, the Trump Administration changed their stance on illegal crossings at the Mexican border. The result was the separation of parents and children -- sending them to separate facilities rather than keeping them together in detention centers. 

There was a strong response to this policy -- which continues in a slightly different form -- and many American aid organizations provided support to the immigrant families. In August, CNN asked, "When immigrants and their children are detained at the U.S. border for coming into the country illegally, do you think the U.S. should do everything it can to keep such families together, even if it means that fewer face criminal prosecution, or should the U.S. do everything it can to prosecute immigrants entering illegally, even if it means their families are separated?" 66 believed our policy should be to keep families together. 

9. Climate Change Truth Tellers: 2018 was a year of extreme weather-related events: hurricanes, forest fires, floods, and ice storms. In December, Quinnipiac asked, "Do you think that the extreme weather events in the United States over the past few years are related to climate change, or don't you think so?" 61 percent of respondents think they are. 

Thank you, Climate Change truth tellers working to save humanity before it is too late. 

10. And many others: Thank you to all those who worked to protect voting rights. And, of course, thank you to the (under-paid and under-appreciated) teachers who work to educate America's children so that they can appreciate our Democracy. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: A Piece of My History: Functioning in Society While Psychotic

Jack Bragen
Friday January 04, 2019 - 04:38:00 PM

In 1996, I went off antipsychotic medication, and this was a mistake. This came after a series of crises in which I was threatened, assaulted, victimized by con artists, and otherwise attacked. By the time a stable situation was restored, I had deteriorated, and had lost the insight that the medication was the only thing that remained that held me together. 

I was 5150'd after walking ten miles or more to a church in Pleasant Hill. I was put in "I" Ward, at Merrithew Memorial Hospital, long since replaced by Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. In fact, through the window at "I" Ward, I could see workers welding together the frame of the first new building. 

When I was released from my stay at the then County Hospital, I was still very delusional because the antipsychotics weren't working as well as they previously had worked. I was cared for by my then fiancé, who is now my wife of twenty-two years. 

Even though I was very delusional, I was somehow able to function and meet my basic needs. This was a pretty good feat. The awareness exercises that I did before the psychotic episode may have worked for me. 

I was able to ground by attaching myself to what came in through the "here and now" five senses. Thus, while most of my mind followed the delusions, I had a compartment that maintained contact with some of the simpler, more immediate realities. I paid rent when I got out of the hospital. I kept myself fed, medicated, and bathed. My then fiancé was a major support. In previous episodes of psychosis, I was not in a steady relationship. 

When home, which, at the time, was a small unit at Riverhouse (all of the units there are small) in Martinez, California, I had a corner in which I would sit, smoke cigarettes, listen to acid rock, and explore the innards of my then psychotic mind. From this study arose many fundamental truths that continue to serve me to this day. 

You might think that if you are to meditate, you should not have distractions. Yet, psychosis or no psychosis, if parts of the mind need to be taken out of the equation, because they detract, distractions may liberate the parts of the mind that you want to use.  

(Smoking is always bad for health. Yet, if you are schizophrenic and hooked, this monkey on your back hangs on tight. It is hard for anyone to quit. I have a friend who is a couple decades older than I, who has to be on oxygen, who told me that quitting smoking was the hardest thing she ever did. And I expect it will be the same with me, only worse.) 

Yet, the main point of this week's column is to say that schizophrenic people can often function in society, often including when we have delusions. When I was meditating, I realized that, to a large extent, my mind would do what I told it to do. So, I told it to get rid of the delusions. That doesn't replace being medicated. But it does put into effect some self-correcting mechanisms. 

Even when significantly delusional, I did not need to be on conservatorship; I was able to handle my own business. I attribute this partly to not being hooked on illicit drugs, and partly to having good levels of autopilot. 

But, can schizophrenic people cure themselves? No. When on medication, and with external help, we can work hard to lower symptoms and improve levels of functioning. It is an uphill battle. Yet, it is worth the effort, since effort of this kind can improve quality of life. 

For those with mental illness, I encourage CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Medication alone isn't enough. People who are subject to psychosis and other psychiatric issues are well-advised to do exercises that increase levels of insight, and exercises that bring relief from worries, from anger, and from depression. 

ECLECTIC RANT: End of Dismal Oakland Raiders Season

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 04, 2019 - 04:35:00 PM

With a season win-loss record of 4-12, are the Oakland Raiders management now having second thoughts about that much ballyhooed 10-year, $100 million contract they gave to Jon Gruden. We can just barely hear Al Davis’s faint exasperated whisper from the grave, “Just win, baby.”  

The loss to the 49ers seemed to epitomize the Raiders season. The 49ers with Nick Mullens, the third-string quarterback leading the way, defeated the Raiders 34-3. This was the third time this season that the Raiders failed to score a touchdown.  

To add insult to injury, Oakland has sued the Raiders for an alleged illegal move to Las Vegas. Now the team is searching for a place to play next season. 

Poor Oakland — the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco, and the Oakland Athletics are looking for a new stadium.

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Jan. 6-13

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday January 05, 2019 - 10:10:00 AM

In the changing climate of drought and fire storms, Local Hazard Mitigation Plans are not an exercise to place on a shelf. First read the LA Times December 30, 2018 article “Here’s How Paradise ignored warnings and became a deathtrap” by Paige St. John, Joseph Serna and Rong-Gong Lin II. Then dig into the Berkeley Local Hazard Mitigation plan draft. https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-camp-fire-deathtrap-20181230-story.html

The deadline for Commissions and the community to comment on the Local Hazard Mitigation plan draft (the Plan for preparing for natural disasters and reducing the impacts) is February 28.


Please note the location of Commission meetings. The North Berkeley Senior Center is closed for renovation until mid 2020. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Monday, January 7, 2019  

Agenda Committee, Monday, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda Planning for Jan 22 City Council Meeting: Consent 2. 2nd reading ordinance to rezone 1050 Parker/2621 Tenth St Amending from Mixed Use-Light Industrial to allow for 4-story/50 fro tall building, 5. MOU with Alameda Co Winter Relief Program, 8. Grant Application for Berkeley Way transportation and infrastructure improvements if awarded, 11. Cazadero Camp Jensen Dormitory Replacement Design, 12. Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Permit Project, 14. Ghilotti Construction Co for Panoramic Hill Rehabilitation 18. Support Green New Deal, Action: Refer to City Manager to consider boycotting Amazon for role in tracking immigrants in cooperation with ICE and abusive working conditions, 21. a&b. Mandatory Green Stormwater Infrastructure in New and Existing Redevelopments, 22. a&b. and 24. Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction, 23. Number of Cannabis Retail Establishments and Creation Equity Program, 25. Safe Lead Paint Practices, 26. &b. Contracting with or Investing City Funds in any entity involved in production or upgrading of weapons, 27. a&b. Allocation $4.75 million FY 20 & FY 21 to reduce consumption and health impacts sugar-sweetened beverages, 28. 2019 City Council Committee and Regional Body Appointments, 29. RFP for development of West Berkeley Service Center site into senior housing and services project, 30. Reaffirm commitment to Roe v. Wade 


Peace and Justice Commission, 7:00 pm 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: Weapons Contracting Resolution, Hazard Mitigation Plan, Sanctuary Cities, County Working Group 


Personnel Board, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conference Room, Agenda: Temporary Employee Report 


Tax the Rich Rally, Mon, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Rain Cancels Top of Solano in front of the closed Oaks theater (soon to be a climbing gym), 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 

Civic Arts Commission Grants and Policy Subcommittee, 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, Agenda: Guidelines for Festivals, Arts Organizations and Individual Artists 


Solano Avenue Business Improvement District Advisory Board, 11:00 am, 1821 Catalina Ave, Thousand Oaks Baptist Church, Agenda: Future of the Flower Baskets, Holiday White lights for windows project, Planning for Fall OED Forum 


Wednesday, January 9, 2019 

Commission on Disability, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Local Hazard Mitigation Plan http://www.cityofberkeley.info/mitigation,, Disability access to IKE Smart City Kiosks, Co-op Community living center proposal, sidewalk obstacles, Franchise Structure E-Scooter 


Homeless Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: RFP response, Everyone Home Strategic Plan, Local Hazard Mitigation Plan http://www.cityofberkeley.info/mitigation, Employment resources for Homeless, Agenda notes attachments although none available on website or with minutes 


Parks and Waterfront Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center, Agenda: Report Parks/Waterfront Special Events, Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, Waterfront Update, Parks and Marina Capital Plan, T1 Projects 


Police Review Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Homeless Encampment Subcommittee Report, Body Worn Camera Policy, BPD responsiveness to PRC requests, Training program for commissioners, Lexipol Policies for review, August 5, 2018 BPD response to protests – changing role Black Bloc to Antifa, After-Action Reports, Commissioners’ Communications subject to Public Records Act requests 


Thursday, January 10, 2019 

Cannabis Commission, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, 2180 Milvia St, 6th Floor, Agenda: Presentation Civic Arts Commission, Presentation and possible recommendation of new location for The Apothecarium at 2312 Telegraph – would be 3rd dispensary in close proximity 


Public Works Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard, Agenda: Presentation Hazard Mitigation Plan, Street Sweeping Belrose Ave, 5-year Paving Plan with matrix to evaluate options for permeable pavement, Reports T1, Utility Undergrounding 


Zoning Adjustments Board, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 1234 Addison, BUSD Board Room 

  • 2040 San Pablo – Alcoholic Beverage and Service with retail sales through wine bar in existing commercial building
  • 2198 San Pablo – demolish existing single-story commercial building and construct new 6-story mixed use development with 3 live-work units, 56 dwelling units including 5 to very low income households, parking for 20 vehicles and 44 secure bike spaces, Zoning - C-W West Berkeley Commercial

Friday, January 11, 2019 

City of Berkeley reduced service day 

Saturday, January 12, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Sunday, January 13, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 





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 


Indivisible Berkeley engage in local, state and national events, actions, town halls and election mobilizations https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions 



Puccini and Passion: Berkeley Chamber Opera Presents Manon Lescaut on Friday, Jan. 11 and Sunday, Jan. 13

Friday January 04, 2019 - 04:41:00 PM

If you like to experience genuine opera up close and personal, the Berkeley Chamber Opera production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, at Berkeley’s Hillside Club on January 11 and 13 is your opportunity. If your only exposure to opera has been recordings, videos in movie theaters, or cavernous auditoriums like the San Francisco War Memorial Opera house, you’re in for a revelation.

The BCO, a non-profit, presents locally-sourced professional casts singing with a chamber orchestra in a human-scale venue evocative of the many intimate opera houses in Italy. This is their sixth fully costumed and staged production, the last five mounted at the historic wood-paneled club.

Conductor Jonathan Khuner is a veteran of many operas, including several for BCO. The title role will be sung by Bay Area soprano Eliza O’Malley, whose last BCO role was Joan of Arc in Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco, which Khuner also conducted. The stage director is Lisa Houston. All three, as it happens, are Berkeley High School graduates who have gone on to regional, national and international careers. Many of the cast and chorus are also local residents. 

When Manon Lescaut opened in London, critic George Bernard Shaw wrote that “Puccini seems to me more like the heir of Verdi than any of his rivals.” Later commentators have opined that the opera, Puccini’s first big success, has Romantic underpinnings with Verismo tendencies and Wagnerian harmonic influences. Wherever it came from, the music is lush and the libretto gripping. 

The story comes from a wildly popular book by French novelist Antoine Prévost which was also the basis for Massenet’s Manon. The heroine is a kept woman who falls in love with a student—and it’s all downhill from there, in dramatic terms worthy of a telenovela, with sound track to match. You won't want to miss this one. 

For more information see: berkeleychamberopera.org 


Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini 

Friday January 11th, 7pm
Sunday January 13th, 2pm

Berkeley Hillside Club 2286 Cedar St. (at Arch) 

Brown Paper Tickets: (800) 838-3006, https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3914805
General: $37 advance, $42 at the door
Students/Seniors: $25 in advance, $28 at the door
12 and under: free

Creativity Unhoused: Homeless Art Exhibition in Berkeley, CA on March 9, 2019

Marcia Poole
Friday January 04, 2019 - 06:00:00 PM

On March 9, 2019 an art show dealing with multiple aspects of homelessness within our communities will open at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, sponsored by the advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless. The main focus of the art will be on the efforts of homeless people to survive within urban environments and, especially, on the benefits created by the communities that develop within and around homeless encampments and shelters, as well as among people sleeping in the rough. The exhibition will explore the differing ways utilized by individuals in these communities to insure safety, solidarity, camaraderie, and other positive aspects of the communal experience. The show will also address the problems faced by the homeless on a daily basis. 

The participating artists, homeless and housed, will be drawn from members of our community who have either experienced homelessness directly or have been touched by the plight of the homeless . This event will be the first opportunity for some of the participating homeless artists to display and sell their work in a professional gallery and will incorporate art in many different media, including painting, photography, printmaking, digital art, installation art, videos, sculpture, crafts, jewelry, clothing, and ceramics. 

The participation of homeless artists will be facilitated through their collaboration with First They Came for the Homeless (which will provide access to materials as well as assistance in the presentation and submission of their work) and Expressions Gallery. Funds and materials for the effort will be secured through donations. 

The Creativity Unhoused exhibit will run from March 9th, 2019 – May 24th, 2019 at Expressions Gallery, located at 2035 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, CA. Phone # 510-644-4930. The gallery, one block from the Ashby BART station, is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, Noon - 5 PM and Sundays from Noon - 3 PM. The Opening Reception will be held at Expressions Gallery on Saturday evening, March 9th, from 6-8 PM and will feature local participating artists, musicians, and refreshments. The reception is free to the public.

A Baroque New Year’s Eve with American Bach Soloists

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday January 04, 2019 - 05:24:00 PM

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and soprano Mary Wilson joined American Bach Soloists for a splendid 4:00 pm concert on New Year’s Eve at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre. Musical Director Jeffrey Thomas announced from the stage that he intends to offer similar concerts every New Year’s Eve. If future such events are anything like this one, Bay Area audiences are indeed fortunate, for this was magnificent. Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen lived up to his advance billing. His countertenor voice is superbly rich in tonal variety, and his range is stupefying. Moreover, Cohen is an immensely gifted interpreter of the music he performs. With exquisite diction in Italian, Cohen brought immediacy and intensity to everything he sang at this New Year’s Eve concert. Perhaps the highlight of the whole affair was Cohen’s interpretation of “Che farò senza Euridice” from Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. This aria, of course, is a familiar chestnut; but Aryeh Nussbaun Cohen made it sound new and fresh. Likewise, veteran soprano Mary Wilson, who needs no introduction to Bay Area audiences who have heard her many wonderful performances over the years with Jeffrey Thomas’s American Bach Soloists, brought her refreshingly bright, gleaming tone to this concert’s selection of soprano arias from George Frideric Handel.  

To open the program, conductor Jeffrey Thomas led his period instrument orchestra in the Overture to Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s opera Pigmalian, which featured broad sweeping passages in the strings. Throughout this concert, instrumental works and vocal works were nicely interwoven. Included among the instrumental items, in addition to the Rameau overture, were three overtures from Vivaldi operas, and a Sinfonia from Alessandro Scarlatti’s La caduta de’ Decemviri. The Vivaldi overtures were, as you might imagine, peppy, sprightly, and bright in tone. Indeed, a recorder brightened up the tone of Vivaldi’s Overture to Ottone in Villa, a work which also featured superb solo passages from violinists Elizabeth Blumenstock and Jude Ziliak.  

Given the prominence of Handel arias in this concert, there was plenty of coloratura. Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen wasted no time in showing off his adroit coloratura in his very fist aria, “Sperai vicino il’ lido” from Gluck’s Demofoonte. Likewise, Mary Wilson offered splendid coloratura in her first aria, “De tempeste il legno infranto” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto. From this same opera, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen unleashed plenty of vindictive coloratura in the aria “Empio, dirò, tu sei.” In addition to its coloratura passages, an aria from Handel’s Agrippina featured Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen holding a note for what seemed an eternity on the final syllable of the word “dolor”/”grief”. Equally impressive was Cohen’s agitated and spiteful aria “Vivi, tiranno, io t’ho scampato” from Handel’s Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi.  

Although the vocalists were mainly featured in solo arias, they did perform several duets together. One such duet, “Io t’abbraccio” from Handel’s Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi was among the many highlights of this splendid concert. Another highlight was Mary Wilson singing the immensely sorrowful lament “Lascia ch’io piangere mia cruda sorte.” A final bright-hued duet brought this wonderful New Year’s Eve concert to a happy ending. What a splendid way to bring in the New Year!