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Eyewitness to Auto-Protester Clash

Hank Chapot
Thursday January 24, 2019 - 08:31:00 PM

I was one car back from the light at Telegraph and Durant and saw this incident. The driver tried to run through the protest and was stopped by angry pedestrians. He lost his way and tried to escape the wrong way down Durant and then ran up on the sidewalk, scattering pedestrians as he gunned the engine.

Berkeley Police Response to Protester-Auto Conflict Seems Biased

Thomas Lord
Thursday January 24, 2019 - 10:56:00 AM

The police have typed up a facially absurd account, directing it at one councilmember. Notice how it carefully avoids giving any indication why protesters had a beef with *this* car as opposed to any other. Notice how, without supporting evidence, it attempts to condemn the protest and exonerate the driver. Notice how it is silent about the man who assisted the getaway. 

The protesters themselves report that the car was not passively behind the march, but was in fact menacing the march in an attempt to drive through. In this account, the driver initiated the conflict by making a credible threat to injure or kill protesters if they would not let him drive through.  

The police have, here, already spun a yarn in which the protesters, for no reason whatsoever, attacked this car while the innocent driver merely tried to escape.  

In this "detailed response", the police have offered up the driver as his own alibi.  

Similarly, the police report *as a fact* that the driver's father was "preparing to the call the police" when they tracked him down. That is (biased) conclusion drawing, not evidence. (Indeed, the write reveals that driver left the scene, went home, had a conversation with his father, returned to Telegraph, and looked for people all before speaking with police. Yet, when the police tracked them down - the father was "preparing to call the police".) 

In short, the police pack a lot of insinuation into the undisputed fact that the conflict between protesters and driver began prior to the time of the hit and run. This "detailed response" reveals a department that appears biased towards exonerating the driver rather than protecting the community. 

Berkeley Police Response to Reported Car-Protester Collision

Captain Rico Rolleri, Berkeley Police
Thursday January 24, 2019 - 10:53:00 AM

From: "Rolleri, Rico" <RRolleri@cityofberkeley.info>
Date: January 23, 2019 at 8:19:35 PM PST
To: "Williams-Ridley, Dee" <DWilliams-Ridley@cityofberkeley.info>
Cc: "Greenwood, Andrew" <AGreenwood@cityofberkeley.info>, "Reece, David K." <DReece@cityofberkeley.info>
Subject: Re: Felony hit and run at corner of Telegraph and Durant yesterday afternoon

Good evening Dee,

I was able to locate this incident on our mobile system and just finished reading the draft report. The incident occurred at about 12:09 yesterday afternoon at the intersection of Telegraph and Durant. Several officers immediately responded to the report of a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian at that location.

The preliminary summary of what appears to have happened is this... A male about 20 years old was driving his parents’ car north on Telegraph Ave, uninvolved with the protest. He drove up behind what he described as a large group of people who were walking in the middle of the street and appeared to be protesting. According to the driver, at least two or three people from the group turned towards him unprovoked and began hitting his car, throwing food on it and threw beverages at it as well. He said they continued to attack his car by hitting the doors and front end. He decided to attempt to drive away from the attack by (incorrectly) turning west on Durant Ave (the wrong way) where he was blocked in and felt he was still under attack. He chose to drive up on the sidewalk to escape the area. He reports that he did not know that he hit the foot of the person located on the sidewalk or a bike belonging to another person in the group. He continued driving on the sidewalk and escaped the area. 

BPD officers have identified 14 witnesses at this point. From what I’ve read, it appears that almost all of their statements indicate that pedestrians/protestors were attacking the vehicle before it drove away on Durant. From what I can tell, besides the cell phone video sent by Councilmember Davila, it appears officers recovered security video from at least one business that captured all or some of this incident. The officers were able to obtain the license plate of the vehicle and tracked down the vehicle owner (the driver’s father) who reports at least $2,000 worth of damage to his car. He advised his son told him about the attack and did not report hitting anyone or anything. He took his son back to the scene to see if they could locate the people who damaged his vehicle with no luck. He was preparing to call BPD when he received a call from one of our officers. 

The man who was lying on the sidewalk, hit by the vehicle, was transported by BFD to Alta Bates. At this point in the report, he is reported to have abrasions to his foot. There is no other report of injuries and no report of broken bones. Although he is blind, he reports he could hear protestors “attempting to stop a vehicle” and “a protestor was vandalizing a vehicle.” He reports the vehicle ran over both of his feet. 

The investigation is on-going but hopefully this summary will give you enough information to allow you to respond to Councilmember Davila. Please let me know if you need anything else. 



Captain Rico Rolleri 

Sent from my iPad

Open Letter to Berkeley Officials Regarding Hit and Run on Telegraph Yesterday

Marcia Poole
Wednesday January 23, 2019 - 06:44:00 PM

Greetings Mayor, City Council members and Berkeley community,

I don't know if you were aware of the felony hit and run at corner of Telegraph and Durant yesterday afternoon, January 22nd. A car pushed into a protest march that was moving along Telegraph Avenue from Peoples' Park to the UC campus. The march was in protest of the arrests made of 6 protesters in Peoples' Park days before and the cutting of the trees there that precipitated the protest.

The car drove down Telegraph into the peacefully assembled marching group as they walked down the street, veered off onto the sidewalk on Durant (adjacent to Noah's) and continued down the sidewalk for half a block before getting back onto the street. A man was sleeping adjacent to Noah's with his legs extended towards the street. He was a blind, African-American man who went by the street name of "Blind Tony." The car ran over his legs. Several protestors tried to run after the car to get the license number, but were restrained by a tall young man who told them to "Stop fighting. Let UC have the park." They broke away from him and tried to continue to chase the car, but it had accelerated out of their sight. An ambulance was called and the victim of the hit and run was taken to the hospital. The young man (around 6'2"), who had tried to restrain the protesters from getting the license # of the car, got knocked down when he had tried to grab a protesting woman. He cried on the pavement and had an ambulance come for him too.

There was obviously a 911 call about the incident for the ambulance to have been summoned. It happened on the City of Berkeley sidewalk and street. The Mayor and Councilman from the district had not heard about it as of this afternoon, when they were informed. They said there was no police report that they knew of. 

Several things are very wrong with this. First, the car drove down Telegraph into the peacefully assembled group that was walking down the street. They were protesting Civil Rights violations and the cutting of many healthy trees. The driving into the demonstrators who were peacefully moving down the street was an obvious hate crime. The car's moving onto the sidewalk, running over a sleeping man's legs and proceeding on the sidewalk for half a block and then going the wrong way down the street, heading towards Shattuck, was a felony hit and run. Since the ambulance was summoned to the site and took the injured man away, the police were obligated to respond. We can't find the police record of it yet and city officials were not told about it. I think this warrants an investigation and, certainly, reporting in the press on it. Shades of Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Marcia Poole Berkeley

America Said Farewell
To 3 Great Poets In 2018:
John Oliver Simon,Ntozake Shange,Julia Vinograd

Thursday January 17, 2019 - 05:10:00 PM

John Oliver Simon

Most of John Oliver Simon's courage was internal; he believed in himself and he loved life. But he was also a Black Belt in Karate; a skill that may have kept him mindful as he taught poetry in the rambunctious schools of rough Oakland neighborhoods.

One day, as Simon and child were In line at a bank, she said, “Mommy, Mommy.” The man behind him snarled, “Don’t let your child call you ‘Mommy!’”

Simon calmly turned to face the man, and said, “I AM her Mommy.”

We both loved sports and played street basketball together. Even after the divorce, we watched games together. Our system was: basketball at Bar Cesar, Super Bowl at the Wood Tavern, and baseball at Brennan’s. During one game, I cheered for a home run and he yelled at me, "Don’t cheer for that; that’s the Yankees!” I answered, “Derek Jeter.”

As he was dying, his students sent notes of encouragement. One note from a 7 year old boy read “Dear Mr Simon get well soon. Please come back."

At his memorial, many poets read their own poems to him. Robert Haas chose to read Simon’s baseball poem.

A homeowner told me about the plumber who was working on their house. He spotted the books on the table; on top was one of Simon’s poetry books. “Mr. Simon!” shouted the plumber.

“Yes, he was a friend of mine.” answered the homeowner.

“Mr. Simon was my teacher.” Close to tears, the man repeated, “He was my teacher! I was a pachuco in West Oakland. He told me I could write."

Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange wrote the poems and she and Paula Moss choreographed them. They performed the poems as a “Choreopoem” and I videotaped them dancing to the poetry for the cable TV station in Hayward, CA. She was a glorious dancer as well as a fabulous poet. As their performances continued, and were seen in New York, she found one of the great literary agents, Timothy Seldes. When Joseph Papp learned of her performance, he arranged an opening night performance at his theatre in Manhattan. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf opened to a full house and fine reviews.

Shameless Hussy Press, which I founded in 1969, was the first to publish her choreopoem in 1976 and we were in touch with agent Timothy Seldes as well as Ntozake. I was thrilled and loved the poems so much that I had printed it myself, on the AB Dick 360 offset press in our garage. When Tim saw the book, he called me. He praised my efforts and said although they would look for a major publisher, I was welcome to sell all copies I’d made. But was I aware that I had misspelled her name on the cover?

Her first name, Ntozake, was indeed misspelled; I had used an “s” rather than a “z”. Correcting it was easy; I just went into the garage and reprinted it.

Many authors would have been angry; called me stupid or refused to speak to me. This gracious young woman waited for the corrected copy, then sent a card, “Thank you for the beginning. love,tz”

As she was achieving success on the New York stage, we printed Sassafrass, the first section of her second book, in l976 and 1977. Copies of these early editions of her books, as well as the precious card, are included in the Archives of Shameless Hussy Press at University of California Santa Cruz Library, Special Collections.

Julia Vinograd

“Hey, look! It’s the Bubble Lady!” Voices of children would announce her arrival as Julia Vinograd brought her poetry to sell on the streets of Berkeley. Children loved the bubbles and would jump and dance, reaching for them. Julia told me, “I’m a naturally disgruntled person. I thought if I could make someone else happy, maybe I would feel better. So I decided to blow bubbles. Children like them.”

Her books were simple, short, and readable, not carried in major bookstores. She sold them on the street and in cafes, “Hey, Alta!” she would shout, "I’ve got a new book!” I often bought one; occasionally bought 2 or 3. She signed them all.

In the ’60’s, Richard Krech organized open poetry readings at Shakespeare and Co Books on Telegraph in Berkeley. Julia was the first woman to step up and read her work. She looked delicate but she was brave. Brave to step up to the mike, brave to say what she said, and brave to wander the streets listening to people who had no one else to talk to.

At the open poetry readings, I was intimidated by the male vibe of Charles Potts, Andy Clausen, John Oliver Simon, Richard Krech and John Thomson. Julia encouraged me to read aloud; soon both of us were reading regularly. There were evenings when she and I were the only women reading our own poems.

She was tireless in encouraging other poets. At her Celebration of Life, a tall blonde said “Julia told me she liked me because I look like Marilyn Monroe but I write like Charles Bukowski.”

A man, explaining that the beloved Buddhist saint Quan Yin is known as “She who hears the cries of the people,” said “Julia was our Quan Yin,”

Julia wrote dozens of books. One was unlike all the others: The Book Of Jerusalem comes from her own heart, rather than telling other people’s stories. “I don’t know where this came from, Alta.”

“It’s called poetry, Julia.”

“Yes, but most of what I write focuses on other people. This just came out.”

“That’s why it’s called the muse. Poets have to be really quiet for that to happen.”

“But where did it COME from?” she would insist, as if I had the answer.

I nominated that book for the American Book Award. It’s tiny; one perfect poem. One board member was dismissive; “Isn’t she that lady that walks Telegraph Avenue selling her books for $3?” I said, “Read the book.”

Luckily, I was not alone; Ishmael Reed said “Good idea. She deserves to be honored."

Julia Vinograd got the American Book Award for The Book Of Jerusalem.

A beloved figure for decades on Telegraph Avenue, Julia was the absolute best at listening to and sharing the stories of those who were usually not heard. The rest of us did care, and sent money to charities and shared food with the homeless, but Julia listened. And she wrote it down.



Have Your Say in the Political Process

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 18, 2019 - 11:56:00 AM

The Dems, bless their little restless hearts, are getting restless again. In the last week I’ve been deluged, at both my personal email and my Planet address, with exhortations from a variety of people I think well of (and a couple of not-so-much) to show up on January 26 to vote for delegates to the California State Democratic Convention. Most of them were for the Emeryville gathering of residents of California’s 15th Assembly District, where I actually live and could vote, but I even got one for Assembly District 18, which includes Alameda and environs.

Why should I (or you) care?

The central focus is that California has become a one-party state, or realistically a no-party state. The Republican Party has essentially committed suicide, with California as usual on the leading edge of change.

This last election knocked off another substantial number of Republican congressmembers, and Republicans in the state legislature are getting scarcer and scarcer. When you add in the top-two “jungle” primary, which more often than not pits two self-styled Democrats against one another in the general election, the old advice to “hold your nose and pull the Democratic lever” just doesn’t work. 

Delegates to the state Democratic convention, some to be chosen this weekend, can endorse particular candidates in the sea of hopefuls who run first in the June “primary” and then in the November general election. A delegate's endorsement adds luster to a candidate's resume. 

Here’s a broader definition of delegates’ powers from one of two slates which are soliciting votes in AD 15, the Progressive-Labor Slate: 

“Every two years, the CA Democrats elect 7 self-identified females and 7 other than self-identified females from each Assembly District in CA as delegates to the state party. Those who are elected will have a chance to vote for the new party chair and other leadership. The race is hotly contested and will determine how welcoming, grassroots-focused and innovative the party becomes or how beholden it will remain to big money interests.  

“Delegates elect Party officers, endorse candidates for statewide, legislative and congressional office, attend the annual convention, network with other Democrats, represent your constituency, promote the California Democratic Party agenda, and vote to endorse resolutions and ballot measures.” 

The hotly contested race for Assembly in the 15th District ended up being won in November by the candidate with far and away the biggest carpet bag full of cash, career politician Buffy Wicks, who has wasted no time aligning herself with San Francisco’s Scott Wiener as the voice of the big money development industry. It’s a sure thing that most of those who voted for her had only a vague idea of what her politics are, and just saw her smiley face and a pretty baby on her numerous glossy mailers. Most of them had no idea that she’s part of the developer-funded faction which wants to wrest control of land use from local jurisdictions. 

The Progressive-Labor Slate in AD15 was the first to drape itself in the progressive mantel, the one most coveted by candidates around here, from North Oakland through Richmond. Their web page spotlights candidates from a wide variety of progressive backgrounds, with the most prominent being Nurses’ Union member Wendy Bloom and Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison. Organizations claimed by candidates include a variety of unions, and Our Revolution (the trailing edge of Bernie Sanders). 

The other team in AD15 has adopted the apt title of Union of Progressive Leaders. That’s code for “top down”—it’s controlled by establishment state electeds. Pictures of this slate were included in an email from Richmond Mayor Tom Butts, but I couldn’t find any web site which stated their principles if any. Its slate graphic is prominently headed ENDORSED BY SEN. NANCY SKINNER AND ASM. BUFFY WICKS, in case you missed the memo about who’s on top. 

I also got an email about the race in AD18 from an old compañera of mine who used to live in Berkeley but has now moved out of state. She asked me to vote for her niece, but sadly I’m not in that district, so I won’t be voting there. 

The slate her niece is on, the East Bay Unbossed Slate , does have the best definition of candidates’ political principles I’ve seen. They seem to be the polar opposite of the so-called Union of Progressive Leaders slate which wants to run AD15. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Iowa's racist Congressman King has a History with Berkeley

Thursday January 17, 2019 - 03:04:00 PM

Iowa Congressman Steve King was recently dumped from all congressional committee assignments by the Republicans in the house after a spate of racist remarks. But this is by no means his first manifestation of undisguised racism.

Way back in 2005, he organized the defeat of a bill by Rep. Barbara Lee to rename the main Berkeley Post Office after former Berkeley Councilmember Maudelle Shirek , by a 215-190 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives .

For details, see Congress Rejects Shirek Post Office Honor By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR.

At the time, Congresswoman Lee hoped to try again, but it never happened. Is it too late? Berkeleyans almost lost the post office itself not long ago, and it’s still not safe. Perhaps the vigorous Save the Post Office folks could add naming the building after Maudelle to their list of concerns.

Public Comment

“Beware the Jabberwock”

Steve Martinot
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:49:00 PM

Remember the parable of the five blind men trying to describe an elephant? Each man touches a different part of the elephant, and then expands his single perception to the whole. The five of them variously describe the elephant as like a snake, a rope, a tree, a wall, and a palm frond. We recognize the trunk, the tail, the leg, the side, and the ear, but the real animal is missing.

At a recent meeting of the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council, five reports were given about housing developments, and the problems encountered in each. In each case, there was a different problem, and it played a different role. These problems represented complications caused by dissonance between developer desires and the neighborhood people affected by the project. While neighborhoods have been clear about the need for low income affordable housing, ignoring such needs, or even pandering to them through the use of legalities create confused approaches. Each problem becomes a kind of roadblock to being responsive to people’s concerns.

And by "problem," I do not mean the background noise from the troll claque that accompanies each proposed project, and chants things like “build build build” (as if supply and demand were operative), or “densification is good for the planet” (as an alternative to what?), or “affordable for whom” (as if that wasn’t known).

The problems these five "cases" revealed, however, were real. 

One project was a proposal to condo-ize some rent controlled homes at the corner of Hearst and Curtis. Some of the tenants there were low income. Their units, 7 in all, would be updated to market rate conditions. And 6 new units would be built, all market rate. Those now living there would get first chance to buy. But if they couldn’t afford it, they were, as the developer’s agent put it, “out of luck.” The neighborhood however testified in significant numbers at the ZAB (Zoning Adjustment Board) that flooding occurred in that area whenever there was heavy rain. Nevertheless, the developer asked to waive a CEQA review, and the ZAB approved the project. It will be appealed at City Council on Jan 29. 

Another project was on the corner of Allston and Shattuck, where Walgreen’s now is. It will be a 19 story building, and will obstruct the view of the Golden Gate from Campanile Way, up on campus. Campanile Way has been granted landmark status. That means the building should not be higher than 6 stories. 

The third project is on the corner of Ashby and Shattuck. The ZAB denied the project because of inadequate parking, inadequate access (loading and unloading), and an internal design that violated zoning codes. Units were to be multifamily, with six bedrooms in each, rented singly by the housing administration. The developer and the staff colluded in appealing the project to City Council, which granted the appeal, against the city’s own Zoning Ordinance. 

The fourth project is a plan to build housing on the North Berkeley BART parking lot. At a meeting of North Berkeley resident about this proposal, some 400 people showed up, mostly to argue against it. 

The fifth project was one proposed by the Credit Union on the corner of Ashby and Adeline. Its lot will be given to a 6 story building, with 100% affordable units (the Credit Union moving to a different location), built by a non-profit developer to provide housing for low and very income families. The problem they confront is how to determine the best income levels for the building’s purposes. 


Each of these projects raises a different issue, with all apparently separate from each other. 

The issue for the first is the land itself. There are floods at that corner because a creek runs under it. Originally, the creeks in this area ran above ground. As the city developed, it built pipes and culverts for the water to run underground, to free that land for development. These pipes form an extensive infrastructure for that purpose. The fact that there is flooding at that corner means that the infrastructure there is insufficient for its purpose. The responsibility for that infrastructure is the same as that for all infrastructure in the city, viz. City Council and its staff. Though the land has been subdivided, and thus turned into commodities, it is still land, and the city that governs its parceling and commodification has that responsibility. 

The issue raised about the second project (Shattuck and Allston) is that of the view from another location. This issue of views of the bay and of the golden gate occurs in this area with respect to any elevated place. These views are a highlight of the area, an attraction, and a value for life here. When a development or even an unpruned tree obstruct the view of the bay for another homeowner, there can be suits and fights and City Council resolutions. In this case, the location to which the view attaches is the walkway up the hill from Fulton to the Campanile. It has been landmarked as a special place. It is not the view that has been landmarked (we refrain from such absurdities). It is a location or a building that can be landmarked, and the view attaches to that. The view (from Campanile Way) is being used to oppose this particular downtown building. Is that a forced argument? The esthetic that thinks that a 19 story building will be monstrous in downtown Berkeley is the same esthetic that would seek to preserve the qualities of the land, and the character of neighborhoods. The city has recognized this need to preserve the esthetics of the city by having commissioned a Landmarks Preservation Commission, whose job is to preserve both historicity and beauty as meaningful. 

The issue for the third project (Ashby and Shattuck) is not one of esthetics, but rather one of ethics. The ZAB, a board commissioned by the City Council, saw fit to deny the project. Never before had the ZAB refused to approve a large project. In the past, when it has granted a permit, and there had been an appeal, the appeal has always been on the grounds that the ZAB failed to take an important consideration into account. That wasn’t the case here. The only reason to overturn the ZAB decision was "to build." In granting the developer’s appeal of that ZAB decision, the City Council in effect violated its own zoning codes and ordinances, evaluation of which was the job given the ZAB. Thus, City Council betrayed its trust in own creation. What City Council should have done was send the project back to ZAB with instructions to review its decision or order the project modified. To simply overturn the ZAB decision, with the connivance of the city staff itself, is to stab the ZAB in the back, throwing one part of the city machine against another part. 

An ethics referee, perhaps in the form of an Ethics Commission, or perhaps an ombudsman, would be called for here. 

The issue for the fourth project (housing projects on North Berkeley BART parking lot) was neighborhood integrity. The neighborhood, when asked about its feelings in March, 2018, spoke energetically against it, saying that such a project would be out of character with the neighborhood. It had a history, a life style, and a sense of stability that the proposed buildings would disrupt or even destroy. People had bought houses in that area for the very reason that densification was not being planned. Oddly, these were the very same arguments that neighborhood people had been voicing for years in South Berkeley with respect to development in the Adeline Corridor. In the area of Adeline and Ashby, there are four densifying highrise buildings on deck, already approved by ZAB. The reason the city had permitted projects in South Berkeley rather than North Berkeley was that South Berkeley was lower income and diverse, as opposed to the white middle class character of North Berkeley. It was looking at North Berkeley now only because of loud complaints about bias, racism, and white supremeacy from the people of South Berkeley – though without having developed any specific plans yet. In other words, the specific ethics practiced by the city and its City Council had been both racist and opportunist in allowing developers to profit from the lower priced real estate in the lower income area of South Berkeley, using the neighborhood as a commodified resource or raw material for production. 

The issue involved in the fifth project is one of rent levels. It stems from a half-hearted attempt by the city and federal government to overcome the institutional racism from which real estate capital had previously benefitted. HUD established standards for affordability, one being that maximum rent should be no more than 30% of the tenant’s income. To assure that all different income levels would get a chance at affordability, income levels are divided into strata by percentage of the area median income (AMI). The AMI for Alameda County is roughly $94,000 per year. Housing for low and very low income levels (below 80% AMI and below 50% AMI respectively) would roughly be between $75,000 and $28,000 a year. The non-profit developer actually projected housing for incomes between $22,000 and $68,000. 

The problem is that, in Berkeley, the actual AMI for the city (different from the county) is around $65,000. So in Berkeley, units renting for $68,000 would be nowhere near low income. To fit such a building into Berkeley’s specific conditions, ab akternate standard should be used, one that would set rent levels in ranges that would approximate the real income levels of those living in the vicinity of the development. That would insure that a neighborhood family that got displaced by greedy-landlord rent increases could theoretically find a new home in the new building. This disparity between county AMI and city AMI is a carry-over from the institutional racism that created black and brown ghettos in Berkeley and Oakland before the 1960s. 

Each of these projects touches on a different aspect of development as a monstrous entity for which we do not have a name. It is like a Jabberwock, jabbering away endlessly. We have described it as an infrastructure, or as land and city preservation, or government ethics, or as income disparities, or as a racism problem. The monster these aspects frame is the problem of housing for the people of Berkeley (not “the problem of housing in Berkeley” – which would simply change the subject). 

For each of these to be considered a separate problem would mean we were all blind, and simply touching different parts of this socio-economic animal. 


When we put these factors together, however, as a Jabberwock, we find there is a symbiosis of various forms of unethical behavior that spank of both corruption and extreme irresponsibility. The irresponsibility extends from ignoring the needs of city infrastructure (dire these days with the increase in summer fire danger) to ignoring the plight of low income families faced with dislocation at the hands of greedy landlords. This is what created an affordable housing crisis. The corruption (the political kind) extends from unethical passivity toward (and in violation of) both the letter and the intent of the zoning ordinance, to institutional racist attitudes toward different communities resulting in betrayal of their cultural sense of belonging (a possession of communal space rather than of things). Betrayal means trading their sense of belonging for rank commodification and possession of things and land. It destroys not only neighborhoods but the very principles of democracy. 

What should people do when betrayed by those they trusted, those who came to them and said, “trust us, we will look out for your welfare and for the cultural richness of this community”? Well, there are a number of possibilties. I will list four. 

1- We can pray to Jesus Christ that he please come back to earth and save us from the destructive venality of a commodified life. 

2- We can sit home watching television, hoping that the financial economy tanks and all these development plans then get put on indefinite hold because funding is not available, thus saving the city. 

3- We can pay increased dues to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, pretending that they are not organizations of the for-profit developers and construction industries, and thus (please please) not in collusion with the high cost of living and the high cost of maintenance of the city. 

4- We can organize our own grassroots neighborhood councils that make policy for each neighborhood autonomously (as they are doing in Jackson, Mississippi), write those policies into local neighborhood Zoning Overlay ordinances and by plebecite make those Zoning Overlays the law of each neighborhood, to be policed locally, and on the basis of which City Council gets restructured to be more responsive to and responsible to the real needs of the people. 


Is Slavery Legal?

Bruce Joffe
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:44:00 PM

Is it legal for the Federal government to force employees to work without pay? This looks like slavery, which is constitutionally prohibited. Sure, Congress passed a bill requiring workers' reimbursement after the trump shutdown ends, but that payment date is indefinite. Doesn't this also violate labor laws? 

Putin's puppet President is destabilizing the integrity and security of our government. He forces slavery on shutdown government workers so that the impact of their absence won't be felt by the general public. The true absence of 800,000 government workers, including TSA inspectors, Securities and Exchange regulators, judges, firefighters and IRS accountants, could not be sustained for these long weeks of shutdown. So, instead, the burden of trump's desperate political shutdown piles on the backs of dedicated men and women who chose public service, working for what should be a reliable employer. Meanwhile, how can they pay their bills? 

This just ain't right.

Restraint of Trade: Berkeley Fiber Optic Access Threatened

Glen Kohler
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:33:00 PM

AT&T and Comcast have been pushing hard to stop SONIC from expanding its high-speed optical fiber service in Berkeley. First their lobbying organization in Washington, U.S. Telecom, petitioned the FCC to alter the Telecommunications Act of 1997, which maintained competitve rates by required the big boys to share their phone lines with competing service providers. The petition deliberately lied, saying that there is no competition locally, and that ‘no residential customers would be affected’ by the proposed rules change. 

Customers of the two main local competitors, LMI.net and SONIC, responded in droves with comments about the petition, and to date it appears that U.S. Telecom's petition has not been granted. 

Now, AT&T, Comcast, and PG&E—and the City of Berkeley—are conspiring to limit SONIC’s ability to expand its services in Berkeley by another slimy tactic. Key sections of overhead wires are being put underground, but SONIC isn’t being allowed to put its fiber cables in the new conduits. If this is carried through, SONIC’s ability to expand its services in Berkeley will be sharply restricted. The capper is that PG&E is disallowing SONIC from using key utility poles that would obviate the necessity of being included in the underground project. 

Today an e-mail from the Google Group Equal Utility Choice in California, said in part: 

Under present CPUC rules the current "incumbent" providers get the chance to use taxes to effectively lock in a monopoly under public streets, when utilities are undergrounded. (e.g. AT&T and Comcast) [This Group’s …] goal is expanding sharing requirements: equal access to any qualified competitor. 

Those who want to know more and do something can join a google group: Equal Utility Choice in California Underground Areas


The Utility Reform Network, TURN, has been advised of this maneuver and has signaled its interest in lending a hand. Also, City Council members Susan Wengraf and Kate Harrison have responded to Equal Utiiity Choice communiques. This corporate attack on local businesses (LMI in Berkeley, SONIC in Santa Rosa) really ought to be stopped. Especially considering that AT&T deliberately excluded Berkeley from its program of fiber optic conversion* … until SONIC began offering services here. 

* Reported to the writer by AT&T technicians in 2015.

Fact-starved Republicans - An American Tragedy

Glen Kohler
Friday January 18, 2019 - 04:29:00 PM

NPR reports that in 2017, data collected by the Department of Homeland Security showed the majority of illegal residents in this country did not enter from our Southern border. The Republican-created agency said that two-thirds of known illegal immigrants entered this country legally, then remained after their visas had expired. Only a third of known illegal foreign visitors were apprehended down South. 

This fact scuttles the claims of those who would use immigration as a smokescreen for the calumnies in Washington. Therre is no real-world requirement for this super-sized monument to all that ails our nation. Honest observers know ‘the wall’ is both excuse and tool for the little man in the Oval Office to gratify Mitch McConnell, and his good friend, Vladimir Putin, who has long dreamed of disabling the government of the United States. The little man dreams of everyone paying attention to him, and are we ever. 

This isn't rocket science. Any competent middle manager committed to the continuity of an institution would say the same, if his bosses and the workforce were sent packing for an indefinte period by a known associate of the competitiion. 

If you ask why Republicans in Washington, and Republican trolls and spoilers on the Internet, are squawking about a border wall, you aren’t paying the right kind of attention. If you suppose that a real smart man—allegedly obsessed with illegal immigration to the exclusion of all else—might ask other smart people to identify the major factor behind illegal immigration ... you’re not supporting the President! Why would you even care about his vanishingly brief attention span, limited to short, simple slogans, such as ‘’infrastructure’, 'the wall’, and ‘Mexico will pay’? 

No. You must dedicate yourself to preventing that rich, spoiled, man from looking foolish. That’s a full-time job that brooks no slacking. To make the inconvenient facts fly away to Capistrano, or wherever sanity goes when lunacy prevails, just say anything. Anything at all, to distract and mis-lead people who want a clear view of events. You don’t want to know, so why should they? What you say doesn’t have to be true. Effectiveness is what matters, and in this case, accuracy only weakens the diversions. A simple theme, free of context, repeated over and over, is the key to maintaining right-wing dominance. 

Properly conditioned Americans know that only heartless progressives would expect the proud man in the White House to stop holding this nation hostage to his juvenile ego—and the prompting of behind-the-scenes handlers. If that is what you are thinking, shame….on….you! Shame on all of us, probably, because to tell the truth (the left’s main failing) millions of Americans and 800,000 government employees are thinking exactly that. 

‘Extreme’ leftists, devoid of compassion for Republicans’ constant lying, should remember the late George H. W. Bush, who repeatedly insisted that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, many of them do remember: heartless liberals tactlessly point out that, as the former head of the C.I.A., Bush surely knew that Saddam had no such thing. He maintained that fiction (Democratic voters say ‘kept on lying’) to start a war. G.O.P. factotums mumbled Bush’s lie while Americans were heroically killed and injured supporting the President—if not the country. The U.S. treasury was drained by the vast military expenditure. But the left would only have frittered the money away on medicine, education, maintenance of bridges, disaster relief, foreign aid, and the arts. 

The Iraqis who died … don’t count. Let’s keep the focus where it belongs: on the plight of the wealthy. Bush’s image survived the revelation that he was lying from day one, among Republicans anyway. But surely there were evenings when, after the filet mignon, the single-malt whiskey was hard-pressed to do its job. 

Lefties thinking to disparage the Grand Oil … that is, the Grand Old Party, should think of poor Richard Nixon, who became physically ill while denying that Republicans, including himself, perpetrated the break-in at Democratic Party Headquarters in the Watergate complex. Oh! The suffering … this poor man endured, at the hands of callous reporters! The shock and disillusionment of the nation hardly outweighed the tragedy of a cruelly-maligned top office-holder, relegated to a sumptuous private estate and surrounded by his rich friends, while his lawyers and cronies bent backwards to keep him out of prison. How did this nation coldly dash Nixon’s hopes of being exonerated? Now, in the place of eternal warmth, his spirit muses that we don’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more. 

Republican inanity is not confined to Washington. Here in Berkeley some Republicans reflexively, without examination of contents, parrot lies emitted from the White House. And Florida. Local outbreaks of falsehoods follow a pattern: when the guy under the orange rug burps up a lie, thousands of graduates of the Leadership Institute and hordes of party small-fry repeat it in social media. 

The mental deterioration of so many citizens exacts a huge toll upon our society: inhumane public policies; rampant tax evasion by the rich; millions of Americans unable to obtain medical services; homelessness stemming from exporting American jobs overseas, while inflation swallows all but the highest salaries. The editorial objective at Fox ‘news’ is mass stupefaction; and at CNN—which has entered the 2020 race early by proclaiming that Elizabeth Warren cannot get elected. (She scares the hell out of the banksters.) 

All of this ... to afford millionaires and billionaires the luxuries, the prestige, and the limitless power they feel unquestioningly entitled to. 

At this rate, a tiny, exclusive core of ultra-rich Republican oligarchs will have everyone else’s food and rent money, and nothing at all in their heads and their hearts. The awful, final denouement is the night of the very rich, living dead.

The Wall

Jagjit Singh
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:51:00 PM

Mired in lawsuits, President Trump is desperately seeking a diversion which prompted him to launch a fake national security crisis to build his beloved concrete-steel wall. All the major networks have concluded there is no danger at the border and the “wall” is merely a political stunt to fulfill his campaign promise much like his bogus claim that Mexico will pay for the wall. 

Haunted by the ghosts of “huge crowd sizes” to celebrate his presidency and bogus claims of fake news, the delusional president is exhibiting his “superb negotiating skills” by pounding on the table to abruptly terminate his meeting with House Speaker Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. His behavior is reminiscent of former Russian president, Nikita Khrushchev, who disrupted a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly with several angry outbursts, pounding the table with both fists followed by removing his shoe and smashing it on the table. 

Meanwhile, an enormous humanitarian crisis is unfolding with over 800,000 furloughed federal workers whose lives have been thrown into turmoil. Lifesaving critical care services have vanished. Food inspections no longer exist. Other government agencies are bereft of critical funding. 

The House has passed a bill that would end the shutdown without funding the wall but Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader is asleep at the wheel terrified he might offend the messianic Trump. Our adversaries, China and Russia are gleefully observing this chaos. It is time to end the shutdown NOW.

Wake Up America

Romila Khanna
Saturday January 19, 2019 - 10:24:00 AM

President Trump is trying his best to convince his supporters that he will fulfill his promise to build the wall to stop the entry of illegal persons to America through the southern border. Who will pay to build this wall? Is this the way to make America great again?  

Little children who have not developed critical thinking can insist on their demands which can hurt other children in the family or in their classroom in their school. They will cry and demand what they want. In order to calm the child, the parents or teachers take time to understand the request and explain why it is not reasonable, but they don’t give the child what he or she wants. 

I think it is a critical time for the intelligent cabinet members to educate the President, and explain that his border security wall idea has many loopholes. Just building the wall is an imagined security. Our Immigration policies, our cameras, technology, our national census all impact the people who have or want to come to America. In my view, the most important step is to improve the current policies and operation of the immigration system. People who are already here illegally should be screened well enough to know whether they are creating any security issues. If they are really a national security threat, then they should be deported. Otherwise we need to treat them like humans. 

During the Democratic Presidency, the Republican congress blocked numerous critical issues that would have helped the general public. These issues included Health, Education, Climate Change Management, and scientific research. Now when the Republicans lost the majority in the congress, they are creating barriers for the right legislation to reach the President’s desk for his signature to make it the law. 

It seems very unreasonable to demand the billions for his wall, by shutting down the Federal government and hurting the workers and families across the country. 

Wake up people! America is becoming “Great” again. Poor and low income people are working at the entry level jobs. Many people have lost jobs as some companies have laid them off by downsizing. 

In my view people have been cheated by honey-coated words. It is a war between rich and poor, Democrats and Republicans.  

Can the citizens wake up and demand that the president be a kind, caring and good decision maker for the benefit of all citizens?

The U.S. And Other Countries Are Not Equipped For A Major War Between "Superpowers"

Jack Bragen
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:57:00 PM

American citizens do not have a mentality that remotely resembles what our ancestors must have had before we entered WWII. People are concerned with football games and whether the remote control needs batteries. People are concerned with how well their stock portfolios are doing. People want to see the latest action-adventure flick or go out to eat at a nice restaurant downtown. We aren’t prepared to have bombs dropped on us, conventional or otherwise. 

In WWII, the U.S. had a geographical factor working for it. On the left, we had the Pacific Ocean, and on the right, the Atlantic. Hawaii was bombed in Pearl Harbor. However, because air and sea travel were primitive, and long-range missiles didn't exist, the mainland U.S. was not very easy to bomb or invade. With modern technology, it isn't a problem for any developed country to hit us with any number of objects, including aircraft, missiles, other objects, or also, individuals on foot carrying WMD's, who could get in at the Florida Keys, at the southern or northern borders, by boat, or by commercial air travel. 

During WWII, the U.S. was not hooked on imported goods and services. A foreign car was unusual. We produced and packaged our own food. We build our own home appliances. We supplied ourselves with petroleum. 

Today, the U.S. relies heavily on imports of all kinds. We also borrow a great deal of money from China, to keep the U.S. Government going, even though we are often in military confrontations with them. If we completely halted trade with them, numerous essential items would be unavailable to consumers. We rely heavily on foreign oil. A lot of this oil is from Canada, some is from Mexico, and some from the Middle East. If we could not get any oil from the Middle East, comparable to the Oil Embargo of the 1970's, we would need to ration gasoline. 

In the U.S., we are taking care of numerous disabled veterans, and this is the only correct thing to do. Following WWII, as conveyed in war movies, there were people who came back with missing limbs, and/or post-traumatic stress. If the U.S. went to war against a major power, we would be flooded with massive numbers of women and men with permanent physical and mental disabilities. 

If the U.S. were to go to war against a substantial enemy, it would be difficult to prevent it from escalating to a nuclear confrontation. The American people aren’t remotely prepared to deal with having atomic bombs dropped on us. This is assuming that only a few of these weapons detonated in the U.S. and this assumption is a stretch. A full-scale nuclear confrontation against a superpower would be likely to end all life on Earth, with the exception, perhaps, of some insect life. The radiation would probably kill most of the bacteria that would be responsible for the decay of all of the dead bodies. 

Governments of other countries mistakenly believe that they are more prepared than the U.S. for a major war. The citizens in China are more likely to do what their government tells them to do. They doubtless aren't accustomed to the same level of comfort as Americans. China mistakenly may believe they would fare better than the U.S. if they were in a major war against the U.S. The situation in Russia is probably similar. In Russia, the underground subway system purportedly doubles as a fallout shelter. 

Governments of any country are delusional if they believe a major war on our planet is survivable. If people did survive, life would not remotely resemble what we have now.


ECLECTIC RANT: On Trump’s Oval Office Speech

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 18, 2019 - 11:55:00 AM

Trump’s January 9, oval office address was nothing more than a ho-hum, “same ol’, same ol’” pitch for $5.7 billion for his wall. He again blamed the Democrats for the partial government shutdown. As usual, Trump’s speech was sprinkled with the usual “porkies.” The “growing humanitarian and and security crisis at our Southern border,” if there is one, is one of his own making. 

The Huckster-in-Chief used the oval office speech to raise funds for his re-election. His before and after speech Tweets requesting funds duped supporters into believing that the donations to the “Official Secure the Border Fund” would be used to fund the wall. However, the fine print states that the funds would be used in the “Make America Great Again Committee.” 

Trump’s oval office speech was really a preview of his 2020 re-election campaign with a pitch for campaign funds thrown in. That is, of course, if his presidency last that long. 

The current government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. About 800,000 furloughed government workers have already missed their first paycheck and will miss their second soon. 

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of the most moderate senators are now attempting to appeal directly to President Trump to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over funding for border security. The group so far, Politico reports, includes Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rob Portman (R-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Chris Coons (D-DE). 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Needs, Rights, Wants

Jack Bragen
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:54:00 PM

People's needs and rights are often subject to debate. People's wants are usually easier to determine. However, concerning "needs", I believe that the best way to understand them is by using "if, then" statements. 

If you are to live, then you need food. If you are to get to the bowling alley by ten o'clock, then you need transportation. If you are to keep your teeth, then you need toothpaste. 

"Rights" are a concept that is subject to fiery arguments. The Pro-Choice, versus Right to Life debate is a prominent example of that. The right to freedom of expression is non-negotiable in the U.S. but does not exist in many other countries. 

Mentally ill people should have basic needs met, but we do not have a legal right to that in the U.S. "Inalienable Rights" are a relatively new concept. However, the U.S. does not guarantee that people will be cared for who, due to a disability, are unable to support themselves or meet basic needs. 

People with mental illness seem to be unable to organize to have political influence. Part of the issue behind this is lack of income. Groups of people with a lot of money classically have influence over politicians. 

NAMI, (National Alliance on Mental Illness) primarily consists of parents and other family members of those afflicted with mental illness. NAMI does have influence. However, mentally ill individuals themselves do not have influence in the political and social realms. 

The "patient's rights" movement, in which mentally ill people organized to help our peers, and to address injustices perpetrated by the mental health treatment systems, has evaporated. Twenty and thirty years ago, persons with mental illness were organized, and we had a vibrant network of activism and peer assistance. 

Mentally ill people, in my opinion, have a right to the absence of social and socioeconomic abuse. Achieving that? I don't know how that would be achieved. Is it a need? I don't know if that is a "need," but it would help us have better living conditions. 

Mentally ill people should have more opportunities to better our living conditions. 

The above two paragraphs outline things that I think most mentally ill people would want. In the past, conditions were worse for mentally ill people than they are now. In the distant past, people were involuntarily given shock and lobotomies. That is before my time. 

The social systems applicable mentally ill people are intentionally set up to impose economic restrictions. That makes it harder for many of us to live as we would prefer. Yet it also makes it harder for mentally ill people to maintain substance abuse. Illicit drugs are expensive. 

Many people with mental illness should be supervised. It seems that sometimes (due to the systems and people that have power over us) we must earn the right to live independently. 

In my past, I've been sabotaged and attacked at times when I was on the verge of achieving major successes in life. I could speculate as to why this happened. However, I think any sort of speculation about it would be paranoid and delusional. 

Concerning what needs mentally ill people have, we need food, housing, treatment for our psychiatric conditions, and we need to have hope in our lives of the possibility of something better. 

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:36:00 PM

Donald Trump is trying every trick in the book to build his Wall on the southern border. He continues to falsely claim that "Islamic terrorists" and "M-16 gang members" are streaming across the border intent on doing harm to our nation.

But let's pause a moment to ask: What's the worst thing these fictive anti-American "terrorists" could be expected to do?

Attack our homeland and . . . shut down the government?

A Poem for Trump

Donald says he wants a Wall.

I say, "Give him four"—

with a bigly cot

and a chamber pot

and a padlock on the door.


DoD on Arrival 

If Trump resorts to declaring a national emergency and orders the Department of Defense to put down their rifles and pick up hammers to build his Border Boondoggle, we might have to rename our military establishment the Department of De Fence. 

A New Gnashional Anthem 

Gnashing your teeth over All Things Trump? How about starting the New Year with a revised Trump-era national anthem. Here's one try: 

My Country' 'Tis of Trump 

(With profound apologies to Samuel F. Smith, 1844) 

My country, 'tis of Trump, Big Wall around a dump, For thee I mourn. 

Land where my freedoms died, Thanks to our ruler's pride, 

From every minor slight, Tweet-storms rained his scorn. 

Cruel narcistocracy, Dearth of nobility, Thy reign I loathe 

Trump loves oil's rocks and drills, Trees felled for timber mills, 

Dismissing Mother Nature's needs, Climate Change? A hoax. 

Let pure greed swell the breeze, And all the poor folk freeze, Sweat-shops prolong. 

The press we excoriate, Tyrants we imitate, 

Critics we extirpate, Muslims don't belong. 

Where 'ere our flag's unfurled, Insults and taunts are hurled, Then come the bombs. 

Bomb-dropping, damn the costs, 

Targeting schools and mosques, 

US-made holocausts, From Syria to Sudan. 

Groper of beauty queens, porn stars and nubile teens, of thee I squeeze. 

Master of business deals, defaults and bankruptcies, 

Rubles-for-scruples schemes, Great Don our King. 

Imagine if the US Were to Become a Real Democracy 

In the aftermath of the problematic mid-term US elections, many people are arguing it's time to restore—and improve—the Voting Rights Act. Noting that, thanks to "massive voter suppression [and] the corruptive influence of money in politics, the last couple of elections have proven that our democracy is broken and must be fixed," CREDO Action, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Common Cause are demanding new laws that "put voting rights and voter protection front and center." 

Meanwhile, it doesn't take a Constitutional Amendment to dispatch with the Electoral College. It turns out that the means of directly accounting for presidential ballots can be determined by the states themselves and more than 30 states already are on track to circumvent the Electoral College by adopting National Popular Vote bills this year. Here's more information on how this union of the States can improve the state of the Union. 


In addition to a call for direct popular elections, I'd like to endorse one more campaign upgrade. In the future, anyone campaigning to claim the powers of Commander-in-Chief would not only need to submit to the traditional physical exam, they would also have to pass a thorough psychological vetting. 

Follow North Carolina's Example:  

Let's Re-do the Last Presidential Election 

In North Carolina, the mid-term voting process was so bolloxed—what with voter suppression, gerrymandering, closed voting stations, delayed counts, and stolen absentee ballots—that a decision was made to abandon any attempt at a fair recount and, instead, opt for a completely new, start-from-scratch election. 

But there was a rogue element to the deal. 

The local Republicans, troubled by the fact that their candidate didn't do so well in the polls, indicated that they now wishe to have a different, new-and-improved candidate to run in the Re-run of the Run-up to the Re-election. 

Now before we condemn the NC GOP for heedless self-advancement, let's consider the bigger picture. 

If this plan works for North Carolina, we could argue that it should work nationwide—not just to determine the outcome of local and congressional races that remain "too close to call" but on the biggest electoral prize of them all. 

Thanks to gerrymandering, voter suppression, Russian influence and the Electoral College, the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election also wound up as damaged goods. After all, the "winner" in that disputed election lost the popular vote by 3 million ballots. 

So let's use North Carolina as our guide. Let's not sit around and wait for the 2020 election—or an impeachment (whichever comes first). Let's call for a new, nationwide presidential election. 

As with North Carolina, it needn't even involve either of the original candidates. The GOP and the Dems could propose two completely new candidates. 

The GOP could chose to elevate Mike Pence, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. The Democrats could consider Bernie, Elizabeth, Beto, Tulsi, or even Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. 

Once You Know: How to Live in a Collapsing World 

Amir Soltani, the multi-talented director who created the moving Oakland-based documentary Dogtown Redemption (alternately heart-wrenching and joyful) recently shared some news about another powerful documentary now in the works. 

According to Soltani, French filmmaker Emmanuel Cappellin's Once you Know (Quand on Sait, in French), "a feature-length documentary on energy depletion, runaway climate change, and our capacity for personal and collective resilience in the face of collapse," is in its final stages of production. 

As Cappellin explains: "I've been directing and producing the film for 6 years, filming it in five countries [France, Bangladesh, China, Greece, and the US]. We are now in the final stages before its release in 2019, with only a couple shoots left to include in our current rough-cut of the film." Here's a trailer for the film: 


In Once You Know, Cappellin circles the globe, seeking out the scientists and visionaries most concerned with the challenge of adapting to change on a "collapsing world." The film focuses on five leading climate-change experts. 

Prominent French climatologist and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead-author Herve Le Treut shares his concerns for his children's future and hopes our adaptation to new climates could become a "time of democracy." 


Jean-Marc Jancovici, co-author of a book on climate change with Herve Le Treut, is an engineer, writer and lecturer who has expounded on the link between cheap fossil fuels and economic growth. 

American writer and Post-Carbon Institute founder Richard Heinberg invites Emmanuel to stay at his "energy-autonomous home" near San Francisco. 

IPCC adaptation expert Saleemul Huq shows Emmanuel the Bangladeshi people's resilience as they try to adapt to sea-level rise. 

German geographer Susanne Moser provides the "missing piece"—"a long-term narrative where transformation once again becomes possible." 

"If you think the film aligns with your own vision of what is a stake today," Cappellin tells The Planet, the filmmakers would appreciate help in completing "the last stretch of our independent production." 

A Kickstarter crowd-sourcing campaign ended on December 29 but the filmmakers can still receive tax-deductible donations through their fiscal sponsor SFFILM until March 2019. Meanwhile, non-tax-deductible donations can be made through onceyouknow-thefilm.com, the film's website. 

Arts & Events

New: Island City Opera Presents Mark Adamo’s LITTLE WOMEN

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday January 22, 2019 - 11:03:00 AM

In 1998, Mark Adamo’s opera Little Women premiered at Houston Grand Opera, where it was commissioned by Houston’s then artistic director David Gockley. Based on American writer Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Adamo’s Little Women is currently being presented in Alameda by Island City Opera. I attended on Sunday, January 20 the second of four performances at Alameda’s Elks Lodge. The remaining performances take place at the same venue on January 25 at 7:30 pm and January 27 at 2:00 pm.  

Alcott’s novel, largely autobiographical, depicts the youthful lives of four sisters growing up in an impoverished family in Concord, Massachusetts. Though not well off financially, the March family is quite artistic; and each of the four sisters dabbles in the arts. Jo, the central figure and a surrogate for Alcott herself, aspires to be a writer. Beth has a gift for music and is working on a composition of her own. Amy is a talented draftsman, and Meg, well, she is the eldest of the sisters and seems to embody common sense and yet a belief in marriage for love and not as a vehicle for financial and social advancement. In Adamo’s opera, as in Alcott’s novel, there are many shifting timeframes as the sisters grow older yet look back now and again at the way they were at the beginning of the story. Some of these shifts in time are difficult to follow, with the result that we are never really sure how old the sisters are in any particular scene.  

Musically, Mark Adamo has crafted an opera that contains elements of modernist dissonance as well as elements of classical harmony and old-fashioned, sentimental melody. This combination seems appropriate for a story that is highly sentimental and moralizing yet also full of familial discord. However, just as the shifting timeframes are hard to follow, the sudden shifts musically can be a bit jarring. Moreover, in a family drama already containing four sisters, a mother and father, an aunt, a boy next-door, a suitor for Meg, and a German professor, composer Mark Adamo has further complicated matters by including a vocal quartet of four female singers. Who they are and what they represent is anyone’s guess. Their presence seems a totally random intrusion on the opera’s storyline. 

In the lead role of Jo, mezzo-soprano Deborah Rosengaus was superb. Vocally and dramatically, Rosengaus seemed to embody the character of Jo, a strong-willed, bullying young woman who rejects marriage and wants her family life to remain as it was when the sisters meant everything to one another. Possessed of a voice with great range, Rosengaus employed her vocal talents with superb expressivity as she depicted the various contradictory elements in Jo’s character. As the elder sister, Meg, mezzo-soprano Katja Heuzeroth was also superb. Meg is in many ways the anchor of the family, and Katja Heuzeroth’s performance emphasized the stability of Meg’s character. Of the four sisters, Meg is the first to marry, and thus the first to endure the wrath and scorn of the strong-willed and narrow-minded Jo. Vocally and dramatically, Meg is not nearly as flighty as is Jo; but within a narrower range of emotions Katja Heuzeroth’s Meg effectively portrayed the gradual independence Meg achieves from her overbearing sister Jo. In the role of Amy, soprano Angela Jarosz had a lot of old-fashioned coloratura to sing, and for the most part she handled these passages well. However, there were moments of shrillness in some of her high notes. As Beth, soprano Aimée Puentes was in fine voice; and in her death scene she handled with aplomb the pathos in Adamo’s score. 

Among the male characters in Adamo’s Little Women, tenor Sergio González ably portrayed Laurie, the boy next-door. As youngsters, Laurie and Jo have a lively, playful friendship. Later, Laurie declares his love for Jo and asks her to marry him. Jo scornfully rejects him. Later, Laurie marries Amy. Throughout these changes, Sergio González’s Laurie gave an impassioned performance. Baritone Bradley Kynard sang the role of John Brooke, Meg’s suitor and eventual husband. Vocally, Kynard is a high baritone; yet he has considerable power in his low register. In the role of Friedrich Bhaer, the German professor who courts a now older and wiser Jo near the end of the opera, baritone Don Hoffman was excellent. His lyrical performance in German of a passage from Goethe was particularly effective.  

As Gideon March, the father of the four sisters, Wayne Wong was in good voice. He was joined by mezzo-soprano Jacque Wilson as Alma March, the girls’ mother. Particularly effective was the parents recalling their own wedding vows. Soprano Ellen St. Thomas was outstanding as the crusty and temperamental Aunt Cecilia. The vocal quartet, randomly mysterious though its function may be, was ably comprised of mezzo-soprano Leandra Ramm, soprano Chelsea Hollow, soprano Maria Caycedo, and soprano Debra Niles.  

Conductor Dana Sadava made an auspicious debut here as she led a 19-piece orchestra in a well-paced interpretation of Mark Adamo’s Little Women. Igor Viera’s staging of the opera was full of details that effectively underlined the shifting aspects of Louisa May Alcott’s storyline.  


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Jan. 20-27

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Alliance
Saturday January 19, 2019 - 10:21:00 AM

Worth Noting:

Wednesday, January 23 Disaster and Fire Safety Commission agenda includes Evacuation, Alerting and Hills Fire Safety

Saturday, January 26 Assembly District 15 Democratic Party Elections of 14 delegates and one executive board member is 9:45 am – 12:30 pm


January 29 City Council meeting agenda is available for comment


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.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

No city meetings or events found

Monday, January 21, 2019 - Martin Luther King Jr Holiday

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 22, 2019

Berkeley City Council, Tuesday, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, Consent Agenda: 2. Second reading rezoning 1050 Parker (note requested modification at ZAB Jan 24 plus over 200 parking spaces) 19. SB 18 Keep Californians Housed Act, Action Agenda: 22.& 24 a.&b. Single use disposable food containers, 23. Consider Boycotting Amazon for labor practices and cooperation with ICE, 24 a.&b. Green Stormwater Infrastructure


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Civic Arts Commission, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: Final Grants Guidelines, John Toki “s-Hertogenbosch” sculpture relocation, Public Art Display programs, proposed Ohlone Mural plantings and Jean LeMarr stone sculpture


Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 997 Cedar St, Fire Department Training Center, Agenda: Support for Wildfire Evacuation, Emergency Alerting and Public Education, Hazard Mitigation Plan, Access-Functional Needs Considerations for Emergency Evacuation, Hills Fire Safety


Energy Commission, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1947 Center St, Agenda: Electrification Expo Update, Recommendations Fossil Free Subcommittee, Hazard Mitigation Plan, T1 recommendations


Loan Administration Board, 9:00 am – 4:50 pm, 2887 College Ave, Anton Salon (Board meeting and first “lab”), Agenda: Board meeting with visits to 8 sites,


Police Review Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Lexipol policies including body-worn cameras, Commissioner training, after action reports, crowd control management policies, response to mental health crisis, delivery mental health services


Commission on the Status of Women, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, NO AGENDA posted, check before going


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Community Health Commission, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St. South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Presentations: Mitigation Plan, Food Insecurity in Berkeley, Cannabis Equity Fund, Public Health Institute Cannabis Update, Action: Ban on flavored cannabis and tobacco, number of cannabis outlets https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Community_Health_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Mental Health Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1947 Center St, Agenda: Hazard Mitigation Plan, Planning for May – Mental Health Month


Zoning Adjustments Board, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 1234 Addison, BUSD Board Room http://www.cityofberkeley.info/zoningadjustmentsboard/

2016 Shattuck - add distilled spirits, Lucia’s Pizzeria

2009 Addison – modification to allow vacant dwelling units to be rented to other non-profits, original demolition of existing commercial building and construction of 7-story mixed use with 45 rent-free dwelling units to be occupied exclusively by Berkeley Rep theater professionals

2418 Acton - construct new 2-story single family residence w/attached garage on vacant lot in R-2

1050 Parker – modification to allow previously approved but not yet constructed 60,670 sq ft building w/20,300 sq ft medical office and 40,300 sq ft R&D to be 100% medical offices, 115 auto parking, 46 bicycle spaces on site, 88 auto spaces off-site

Pardee Block Parking Lot (1010, 1014, 1016 Carleton, 2700, 2712, 2714 Tenth, 1001, 1003, 1013 Pardee 43847 sq ft parking lot for 1050 Parker St and existing businesses total 123 parking spaces, 18 bicycle spaces

2628 Shattuck – demolish 2-story care facility building and construct5-story mixed use with 78 dwelling units, and to increase building height and to reduce the required setbacks and residential parking requirement

1444 Fifth St – construct 4 detached 3-story single family dwellings on vacant lot, approx.1900 sq ft each, ave height 33 ft,

Friday, January 25, 2019

No city meetings found

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Assembly District 15 ADEM Elections, 9:45am-12:30pm, Emeryville Center for Community Life (ECCL) gym, 47th Street and San Pablo Ave

The California Democratic Party's Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEMs) are held every 2 years. Each assembly district elects 14 delegates and one executive board member. They join other party members at statewide conventions to vote on candidate, ballot measure, and policy endorsements, and also elect California Democratic Party officers.

There is a Progressive Labor Slate running, led by Wendy Bloom. https://www.adems.vote/ad15/

Wendy Bloom (Executive Board candidate), Andrea Mullarkey, Mabel Lam, Ada Recinos, Kate Harrison, Courtney Welch, Bobbi Lopez, Keane Chukwuneta, Soli Alpert, Alfred Twu, Kacey Carpenter, Sam Davis, Devin Murphy, Xavier Johnson

To vote in this election, you must be a registered Democrat in Assembly District 15. Same-day voter registration will be available at the event

Sunday, January 27, 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