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Climate note #2: "The carbon budget"

Thomas Lord
Tuesday February 12, 2019 - 11:32:00 AM

In climate note #1, we noted this global consensus:

If humans are to avoid a massive die-off - and even steer well clear of possible human extinction - then within a single single human lifetime, net global carbon emissions from human activity must reach 0, and then go below 0.

To better understand what is required, scientists have asked this question:

How much CO2 can we add to the atmosphere before we have locked in temperatures beyond our best-hope 1.5°C limit?

Today we are adding carbon to the atmosphere very quickly. Each year, human activity adds about 42 billion metric tonnes of CO2 (aka "42 GtCO2") to the atmosphere.[1]

The consensus understanding today is that we will have a slightly better than a 50-50 chance of staying below the 1.5°C limit if we add not more than an additional 580 GtCO2. This is probably an optimistic estimate. 

Let's call that 580 GtCO2 the human population's remaining "carbon budget". 

If we continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere at 42 GtCO2 per year, we will use up the entire budget in 14 years. In 14 years or sooner, we will have locked in a much worse future. 

The situation for the U.S. itself is only slightly less grim. The US emits roughly 15% of the world's emissions. Our share of the carbon budget, 15% of 580, is 87 GtCO2. U.S. emissions last year were 5.4 GtCO2 - an increase from 2017. At a rate of 5.4 GtCO2, the US will exhaust its carbon budget of 87 GtCO2 in 16 years

How can we possibly make it 50 years before getting to 0? Well, by reducing our emissions this year, next year, and each year thereafter. How much decrease each year is needed? 

Assuming emissions reductions go perfectly, everywhere in the world -- the U.S. must reduce emissions by 6% per year, every year, starting this year.[2] To have any kind of safety margin, the rate should be higher - 15% or 20% is not unreasonable. 

U.S. and California emissions both increased 2018. 

About this series

This is the first in a series of very short discussions of climate change, meant to be easily understood by a wide audience. 

Please let me know if you spot errors, or have suggestions or questions. I will do my best to improve the notes and to issue corrections as necessary. I can be contacted at lord@basiscraft.com. Please put "climate:" at the beginning of the subject line. 

Planned topics

  • Climate note #1: "The push for zero"
    The gravity of the situation.
  • Climate note #2: "The carbon budget"
    The scarcity of resources to solve the problem.
  • Climate note #3: "How soon until zero?"
    The urgency of successful action.
  • Climate note #4: "Mass die-offs? Extinction? Really?!?"
    The importance of acting.
  • Climate note #5: "Your lifestyle or your life - physical and economic limits"
    The sacrifice required (no sugar-coating).
  • Climate note #6: "Can't we just make our infrastructure green?"
    The denialism popularized by progressive politics.
  • Climate note #6: "What is to be done?"
    How to act wisely, together, in solidarity.
  • Climate note #7: "Can't green urbanism fix this?"
    The tragedy inherent in current policies in the City of Berkeley.
  • Climate note #8: "The genocide problem."
    Are we monsters?
  • Climate note #9: "Simple plans of action."
    A little courage is all we need to act.
  • Climate note #10: "Rejoice."
    A personal reflection.

[1] The source for the numbers in this section is The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report 15 ("Climate Change of 1.5°C"), chapter 1 ("Summary for Policy Makers"), section C.1.3. 

[2] To figure out how to stretch the carbon budget over 50 years, with a constant rate of emissions reduction, solve sum(5.4 * x^n for x from 0 to 49). x is about .94, meaning a minimum 6% reduction per year, every year, for 50 years. 

What is Missing-Middle Housing for Teachers? A Dialogue

Charles Siegel, Zelda Bronstein
Tuesday February 12, 2019 - 11:02:00 AM

Charles Siegel: There is an obvious error in the article about Lori Droste's push for missing-middle housing.

The article says: "In 2018 ... the 120% AMI for a household of four was $125,300. As of January 31, 2019, the average public school teacher salary in Berkeley was $66,918 .... Ergo, what’s missing from Droste’s missing-middle housing is housing that most Berkeley public school teachers, especially if they have kids, could afford."

Notice that the article compares 120% of average median HOUSEHOLD income with ONE TEACHER'S SALARY (not with teachers' household income). 

If both members of a couple are teachers earning the average salary, their household income would be enough to afford housing priced for 120% AMI. According to the figures in the article, average combined income of two teachers = $133,836 while 120% AMI = $125,300. 

The case of a household headed by two teachers who earn average salary is just one example showing that it is possible for 120% AMI housing to be affordable to households that include teachers. Of course, teachers live in many types of households. The example is meant to underline the point that someone writing an article about whether housing is affordable for teachers should look at teachers' household incomes, not at one teacher's salary. 



Zelda Bronstein: In his Letter to the Editor regarding “the article about Lori Droste’s push for missing-middle housing,” Charles Siegel marks “an obvious error”: “the article compares 120% of average median HOUSEHOLD income with ONE TEACHER’S SALARY (not with teachers’ household income).” Siegel then argues that “a household headed by two teachers who [each] earn average salary [for a BUSD school teacher] is just one example showing that it its possible for 120% AMI housing to be affordable to household that includes teachers.” He concludes: “someone writing an article about whether housing is unaffordable for teachers should look at teachers’ household income, not at one teacher’s salary.” 

As the “someone” who wrote the article, I agree and thank Siegel for his comments. 

Actually, I think we need to go further: HUD bases its AMIs (Area Median Incomes) not only on incomes per household, but also on the size of households. 

Unfortunately, my preliminary investigation suggests that the missing data is not available. Certainly it’s not easily available: I contacted both the BUSD and the Berkeley teachers’ union. Neither one had any information about the household incomes of teachers in Berkeley public schools, much less the size of teachers’ households. Nor did I see any such figures on the website of the California Department of Education. 

In any case, the responsibility for obtaining and publishing the requisite data lies with the public official who’s pitching “missing-middle” housing as affordable to Berkeley’s public school faculty. 

Councilmember Droste, your move.

A Jewish Response to Congress

Marc Sapir
Tuesday February 12, 2019 - 11:11:00 AM

I stand with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar; and with Angela Davis; and with Michelle Alexander and with President Jimmy Carter and all the other wonderful principled people who dare to speak out against Israel’s racism, apartheid, occupation and terror under which millions of Palestinians suffer.  

Israel is guilty of crimes against humanity and Israel represents the last vestiges of settler colonialism in the world, propped up by US military billions and vetoes in the UN to defend its tyranny. I boycott Israeli goods and cultural events. And I sneer in disrespect at the fawning Congressional majorities of both parties and governments of 26 states who can’t justify their outlawing of the boycotting of Israel.  

I dare them to arrest us all in the BDS movements. I was born in New York during the Holocaust, brought up a Jew, bar mitzvah’d. Judaism is how I recognize Israel and its supporters for what they are: anti-Semitic tyrants and the font of much anti-Semitism in the world today.

Press Release: New Opera to Premiere in San Francisco: Howards End, America

Tuesday February 12, 2019 - 10:59:00 AM

In its first-ever adaptation for opera, Howards End has found an American voice. Allen Shearer and Claudia Stevens, creators of the acclaimed Middlemarch in Spring, now bring you the premiere of a bold new opera Howards End, America. The unforgettable characters of the book and Oscar-winning film take on new life, transported to our own shores. Can the lovely, generous Margaret forgive her husband Henry for his sordid relationship with club singer Jacky? Will Charles get away with manslaughter? And what will become of Leonard, a young black poet who courts disaster in a love affair with rich society girl Helen? In a gripping tale of illicit love, racial conflict and real estate set in Boston of the 1950’s, this is a story about us!  

Composer and long-time East Bay resident Allen Shearer writes, "Of my eight operas large and small, this is the only one set in the U.S. Claudia Stevens' libretto transports the story of this famous English novel to our own soil, casting the character of Leonard Bast as an aspiring African-American poet. It's remarkable how well the transfer succeeds, with our ubiquitous racism replacing the rigid British class discrimination of the novel. 

It has been gratifying to be able to incorporate jazz standards by Fats Waller and Gershwin into the score, which also references Beethoven's Ninth. Do come and see for yourself how it all goes together! I promise a memorable experience. 

Howards End, America, a new chamber opera 

Who: composed by Allen Shearer, libretto by Claudia Stevens based on E. M. Forster’s novel Howards End. Conducted by Mary Chun, directed by Philip Lowery, presented by Earplay in partnership with RealOpera 

When: February 22-24, 2019. Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm; Sunday Matinee at 2:00 pm 

Where: Z Space, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA 

How much: general admission, $45; students, seniors, disabled persons, and groups of 8 or more, $30. 

Run Time: 2 hours, plus one intermission 

How to buy: online here or at the Z Space box office beginning one hour before the show. 




Can Virginia Recover from Its Past?

Becky O'Malley
Saturday February 09, 2019 - 10:26:00 AM

When I think about the mess they’ve gotten themselves into in Virginia, a lot of words starting with “re-“ come to mind. It’s a Latinate prefix, roughly meaning “again” or “back”, and all of these words refer to the heartfelt desire of most if not all of the affected parties for a do-over in a series of regrettable occurrences.

Let’s just list a few of them in no particular order: remorse, reconciliation, reparations, rehabilitation, reform, revenge, retaliation, restore …the list could go on for a long time.

The last time I looked, there were at least three Virginia officials who have reason to regret the past.

At the top of the list is the governor, who might or might not be pictured in his medical school yearbook in either blackface or a KuKluxKlan costume. He thought he remembered being in that picture, then he remembered that he wasn’t, but he did remember another time when he did wear blackface.

Third down on the list is the attorney general, who also remembers wearing blackface for a costume party when he was only 19, but he brought it up himself and he apologized.

Number two, the lieutenant governor, seems to be in even more trouble, with a second woman now claiming that he raped her in the past.

But really, it’s the whole state of Virginia that’s in trouble.

So let’s assume, shall we, that all three charges are somewhat true. What’s to be done now? 

We can start with “remorse”. Two of the three have apologized profusely, and there’s no reason to think that they should feel anything but profound remorse for their youthful actions, whether they showed simple insensitivity, disrespect for African-Americans, or actual racism or racial hatred. They say they’re sorry now, and surely they must be as they see the consequences, though many commenters have taken exception to the way they expressed their remorse.  

How about the one accused of rape? It’s likely the alleged victims will seek “revenge”. As of this writing he has not admitted guilt and therefore has shown no remorse. One woman accuser is already seeking her revenge in the legal system. The other is not—or not yet. 

Retaliation against the two others, the ones accused of racism, would be accomplished by forcing them to resign from their government jobs. But if they are pushed out in revenge, the consequences for those they allegedly harmed, people of color, might be serious. In contemporary Virginia, more often than not, they and their fellow Democrats have worked on the side of justice. The cure could be worse than the disease. 

Should these officials be banned for the rest of their lives from participating in political activities? Any better ideas? 

One that’s talked about a lot lately (sometimes with contempt by the right) is “restorative justice”. That’s been defined as “… rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.” Reconciliation between direct victims and victimizers has been practiced successfully in South Africa and elsewhere. 

These two officials can claim, and do, that they’ve already been” rehabilitated”, and a certain amount of reconciliation would be possible and desirable in Virginia. That’s fine for the perpetrators, but what about the victims? They are too numerous and go back too far into history to benefit much from a 2019 reconciliation process. The problem goes deeper than an insensitive blackface escapade, which is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Slavery was the first and most obvious way this country has stolen from Americans of Africa descent, but in the years since then the fruits of their labor have been taken from them in ways too numerous to list here. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates catalogued many of them in The Atlantic in 2014 in The Case for Reparations

One of his major theses is that simple poverty caused by centuries of abuse is the foundation for many of the ills which afflict African Americans to this day. It follows that one major remedy for the historic injuries to them could be financial: payment of reparations. 

As radical as this might sound in the American context, it’s been done before, here and elsewhere. The Germans paid reparations to Jews, for example. And the U.S. is compensating interned Japanese-Americans. 

The historic Commonwealth of Virginia alone accounts for many of the victims of racism and its even more evil precursor, slavery. Some of my own ancestors, the Stith family, were slaveholders in Virginia.  

But at least one family member understood and pioneered the concept of reparation. That was Mary Stith, the daughter of the third president of William and Mary College, whose house is replicated at Williamsburg in Virginia. According to historian Emily L. Powers

“Mary Stith's depth of feeling for her former slaves is apparent in the way she provided for them after her death. She wrote her will on 15 December 1813, and it reads in part: 

“ ‘All the coloured people in my family being born my slaves, but now liberated, I think it my duty not to leave them destitute nor to leave them unrecompensed for past services rendered to me. As in the cause of humanity I can do but little for so many, and that little my conscience requires me to do, therefore I subject the whole of my estate to the payment of my just debts, and to the provision which I herein make for them.’ 

“With the exception of few small legacies to white friends, Stith left most of her considerable estate, including three buildings and the ground on which they stood, to her freedmen.” 

The accused Virginia officials are but two in what must be legions of Southern (and Northern) politicians who were late to the party: who didn’t acknowledge or understand the evils of American racism until 1984 and beyond. Although many of us were active in the civil rights movement at least 25 years earlier, many were not.  

.The best account of Governor Ralph Northam’s life to date is in the invaluable Wikipedia. He went to Virginia Military Institute, then all-male and all-white, where he probably learned little of value. Lately, however, he hasn’t been half bad. 

There’s a current concept which should be considered when judging these two. Black activists have for some decades talked about being “woke”, with or without the quotes. What that originally meant was people of color grasping the reality of their own situation, but lately it’s been applied also to White people who kinda sorta get it. Even if Northam today isn’t exactly woke, he does belong to a predominantly Black church and seems to have a decent voting record appropriate for a recovering racist.  

It looks now like Governor Northam could have to quit, as surely will Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, but the Attorney General might need to hang in there despite past transgressions, because the next guy down the succession line, a Republican, would never be the choice of the Black caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates or their allies.  

If he’s out, Northam might think about what he can do as penance for his feckless youth. It might just be possible for White people in his situation, those who have a lot to answer for in their own lives but who now sincerely seek reconciliation with people of color, to work toward meaningful financial reparations for the descendants of slaves.  

We know, or at least those of us who were paying attention in the sixties know, that money won’t buy love, but money could buy some time off for the Black mother who has to work two jobs so she’d be able to afford to spend more time with her kids. It might pay tuition for some African American students. It might offer rent supplements for families which need better housing. And more. 

Governor Northam might take a leaf from Mary Stith’s book: in the cause of humanity I can do but little for so many, and that little my conscience requires me to do. 

Reparation, reconciliation, recovery—worth a try… 






Public Comment

Lori Droste’s fanciful push for “missing-middle housing”

Zelda Bronstein
Friday February 08, 2019 - 10:39:00 AM

On the evening of Feburary 6, Berkeleyside tweeted a photo of Berkeley Councilmember Lori Droste and her son at the Berkeley School Board meeting. The tweet read: 

@loridroste and her son, an Emerson student, together voice their support for BUSD employee housing. "Creating this kind of missing-middle housing is really hard. We really need to keep our teachers within our community," says the grown-up speaker. #busdmtg 

We certainly do need to keep our teachers within our community, but it’s hard to see how more of what Droste calls missing-middle housing is going to accomplish that goal. 

Under the heading ‘Missing Middle Initiative,” Droste and three other councilmembers—Ben Bartlett, Rigel Robinson, and Rashi Kesarwani—recently proposed that the city council place on its February 19 consent agenda a proposal to potentially revise Berkeley’s zoning to expedite the approval of “clustered or multi-unit housing types compatible in scale with single family homes or accessible to those earning between 80-120% of the area median income.” 

Area median incomes are set by HUD. Household incomes of 80 % and below are officially considered affordable. In other words, Droste and her colleagues want to expedite the approval of market-rate, if not luxury, housing. 

In 2018, 80% AMI for a household of one in Alameda County was $62,750; for a household of two, $71,000; for a household of three, $80,650; and for a household of four $89,600. The 120% AMI for a household of four was $125,300. 

As of January 31, 2019, the average public school teacher salary in Berkeley was $66,918, typically falling between $58,417 and $77,254. 

Ergo, what’s missing from Droste’s missing-middle housing is housing that most Berkeley public school teachers, especially if they have kids, could afford. 

On February 4, Droste pulled her proposal from the council’s Agenda Committee agenda. Watch to see if she comes back with another missing-middle initiative. If she does, crunch the numbers. 



Only Way To Address Our State’s Drinking Water Crisis Is The Safe And Affordable Drinking Water Fund

Nicole Masaki
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:17:00 PM

The last time you had water to drink, were you able to get it directly from your tap? If you answered yes, you are one of the lucky Californians that have easy access to safe and affordable drinking water. Many communities throughout the state do not have share this privilege. 

In both urban and rural areas, residents have been forced to drink contaminated water in their school cafeterias and drinking fountains because of lack of access to safe and affordable drinking water. These harmful effects have been concentrated in low income communities and communities of color. Wednesday February 6th was the first hearing for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. 

Newsom’s 2019 budget proposed up-front state support to help achieve safe water for all with a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SADWF). A SADWF will provide a long term, sustainable, and reliable funding for the state to invest in new infrastructure, replace old infrastructure, and do all that is needed to guarantee every Californian safe and affordable drinking water.  

If you care about a permanent solution to California’s water crisis, you should advocate for the full passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund so that every resident can live a full and healthy life without worrying where they will be able to find safe water or how to afford it

A Single Use City Council

Steve Martinot
Friday February 08, 2019 - 10:50:00 AM

We all know the drill. We go to City Council session with specific issues, and sit and wait. When the mayor calls our agenda item, we line up in the aisle for a chance to speak. Its called “public comment.” Fortunately, it is not called “public participation,” nor “democracy in action,” because that would not be truthful. It is more like people lining up to buy tickets at a multiplex movie theater, a structure designed to admit (to a domain) rather than include in a process. Ideas that should play in a multi-dimensional space of dialogue find themselves relegated to a disorganized linearity (aka "commenting"). Our contributions become like cartoon balloons, each with its own monologue firmly encircled. 

However, the difference between us and the council is more that merely dialogue vs. monologue. The council addresses “agenda items,” and we speak to real issues. An issue involves the destiny of real people. It is what policy is about. Issues require dialogue. An item is only a moment of procedure, pretending to play the role of policy-making. It ultimately gets reduced to numbers, sinking into a drama of “for or against.” Indeed, the clerk tabulates both comments and council discussion on an item in terms of "for" or "against." Yet items get "discussed," while our issues are permitted only monologue. The hierarchy between dialogue and monologue gets reversed. 

People line up because they want to participate in policy-making, while their ideas get thrown under the bus of procedure. We speak on policy (which requires dialogue) and find ourselves reduced to a minute of monologue. Then we sit back down in frustration at the scam, victims of the delusion that "comment" is something other than ritual. That’s the drill. 


Usually, people speak in opposition to an item or its policy. That’s because the item was formulated without them, though they will be affected by the policy it fosters. But once in a while, a large number of people show up to support an item. Then the difference between item and issue becomes crystal clear, as happened on January 22, 2019. 

The issue was the atrocity of waste. Not garbage. Waste. Not production in excess of need, but wasted production insofar as it creates unneeded consumer need. The issue was the glut of plastic that fills dumps from landfills to oceanic coagulations. The specific aspect on which City Council focused was “single use plastic” utensils – the use-it-once-and-toss-it kind of waste. For instance, in the agenda item, it mentions that Berkeley’s 120,000 people use an estimated 40 million plastic cups every year. That’s enormous production by a complex industry to be subjected to a flick of a wrist. And its truly dizzying aspect (having recently made the front page) is that it is even despoliating the oceans. 

There is a floating mass of slowly decomposing plastic about twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific. Fish are dying because they ingest this stuff in various forms. On land, there are networks of ecology centers that sweep up masses of plastic each day. It forms an international economy constantly looking for recycling facilities. Much used to go to China, but recent reductions by the Chinese have put US waste management in crisis. The issue has come home to roost. 

We now house whole industries that produce commodities for the purpose of rapidly becoming waste (plastic cups, dishes, styrofoam containers, etc.). One person summarized this absurd trajectory as follows. The corporate economy tears up the planet through extraction, constructs a petroleum-based chemistry industry whose processes are toxic to life, renders the air unbreathable using fossil fuel energy, creates poverty by paying wages lower than the rising cost of living, all to produce things that will be used only once and thrown away. 

A Zero Waste Commission has existed in Berkeley since 2006 (its original form dating from 1975). It produced this particular agenda item, which it called the “Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance.” Though its documentation ran for 120 pages of description on how to do this, it never addressed the important questions. Instead, it reduced them to monetary details – a 25 cent value given to not using a plastic cup for take-out coffee, for instance. 

It was up to the line-up of people to address the important issues. Dozens of people, business people, café and restaurant owners, environmentalists, social welfare specialists, and even school children, not only lined up and spoke in favor of the measure, but gave political, economic and cultural reasons why it was necessary. They presented data, gave profound analysis peppered with biting critique and alternative wisdom. Had all their "comments" been compiled and given unitary coherence, it would have gone far beyond substantiating the item’s pragmatism. Unfortunately, the meat-grinder of the "comment" ritual scambled their analytic testimonies into a cacophony. Their critique of the social and corporate structure that could foist such a problem on society and on the planet sank beneath the waves of procedure. 

The process of public "comment" (which should be called “public analysis” in this case) outlined a three stage process of despoliation. First, there was the dependence of the plastic industry on petroleum, the queen of extractive industries that has become so destructive of earthly coherence it is even causing earthquakes in Oklahoma. Second, there is the depoliation of health and safety through the ubiquity of toxic chemicals, such as the dioxin in the SF bay-bottom that is stirred up by swimmers and ingested by fish, or carcinogenic collateral chemicals that seep out of plastic containers in which food is stored and sold. And finally, it is a tale of an endless impoverishing expansion of dumps. 

What was not mentioned, though it serves as the avatar for this paradigm, was nuclear waste. It is the lethal leftovers from an energy process so deadly it has to be encased in 4 feet of steel. The waste sits where they (not we) put it, rotting out the contianers that they (not we) put it in, gradually generating escape conditions for itself by which to ultimately leak out into the ground on which we walk. And it doesn’t go away, not on any human time scale. 

Spoiler Alert: the present move to curtail fossil fuels is rejuvenating the specter of nuclear energy and its lethal waste. 

Fossil fuels devastate our environment much more quickly, however. Ever since the 1950s, we have seen cities get covered over with gray clouds like huge moldy growths – Hershey, PA; Los Angeles; Pittsburgh, PA; Mexico City, Beijing, etc. In 1977, one could stand on a mountain and see of top of a global layer of browned air at roughly 5500 feet elevation. By 1985, it was up to 10,000 feet. And shortly thereafter, it covered the 13,000 foot peaks of the Rockies. 

By what absurd process has such industrialism been allowed to flourish? 

To its credit, “public analysis” understood single use plastic utensils as an atrocity. One individual, who owned a shop involved in producing just such “single use plastic” items, actually welcomed the measure, and subtly celebrated going out of business in the interest of planetary survival. 

The City Council’s item, however, could only go to the banal extent of advocating monetary means. The measure suggests that, if customers wished to use a plastic cup instead of bringing their own resuable one for take-out, it will add 25¢ to the drink. Thus, council simply put a small brake on single use culinary plastic. What the measure sought to ensure was that this not look like a tax. Thus, its pragmatism weakened it. The obvious fear was that a stronger one would infringe on “property rights,” leading to civil suits. So the measure didn’t ban single use plastic, nor erode the corporate ability to profit from selling food or drink in ways that were toxic to humans and planet alike. Instead, it continued subservience to marketability and the corporate way, which obstruct our ability to keep the planet livable. In effect, the people who came to council were more interested in resolving the problem than council was. But they didn’t have a chance to put their thinking and analysis together into something that would have better informed the council’s measure. 

Thus, the measure did not measure up to the awareness of the public who came to do more than comment. Lagging behind popular sentiment and the people’s vast social knowledge, the Council’s procedure did not allow them to "participate," or to even include a disquisition on the real responsibilities. If some way had been found to compile what the people presented in their "comments," and put it together in a coherent analytic form, it would have been a powerful critique to add to the measure. Instead, strung out as it was, the comment "period" relegated this knowledge to a kind of disorganized verbal dump. 

What happened in this council meeting was that council attempted to deal with an item, and the speakers, all of whom supported the item, wanted policy-making to rise beyond that and deal with the issues as well. They presented their public analysis in order that it be integrated into the item, rather than excluded. They came to council because they wanted to make policy, which Council procedure does not permit. 

This experience suggests a need to restructure City Council procedures. If council discussion went first, instead of after public comment, the people who came to speak would know, when they spoke, what they were facing in the way council was thinking, and thus what they need to advance to make up any deficit, to change minds, and to make council’s thinking and intentions better. Or, more radically, suppose the format could be changed so that dialogue became possible between the people and the policy-makers. As long as the people are barred from dialogue, they are barred from policy-making. As long as the people are restricted and limited to monologic deliveries in disorganized line-ups, they are essentially silenced. 


In the long run, two important considerations confront us with respect to all this. One is an item, the question of corporate charters. The other is an issue, that of people’s control over policy. 

Many of the comments focused on how the corporate economy has come to dominate our daily lives. The essential principle of human non-responsibility for what a corporation does has the effect of making its victims (of its many forms of toxicity) think that what happens to them is their own fault. Because this ethos makes corporate activity unquestionable, it produces a social sense that the corporations must know what they are doing. The insularity of bureaucratic hierarchy has become a cultural norm, to the point where even investigative journalism has been thrown out. At the same time, the constant proximity of corporate operations makes us think their policies can somehow be brought under our (civilian) democratic control. We find ourselves saying “we can do this and that” with the economy (speaking democratically from a first person plural perspective), though we remain wholly outside any structural connection that would give us the power to do so. We have no say over how a corporation, or the corporate economy as a whole, functions, except by mass external opposition. 

However, the entirety of a corporation’s existence lies in its Charter, which is granted by state Assembly. Under its Charter, corporations can do whatever they like, leaving us to pick up the pieces. To rid ourselves of this plague, to throw off its paradoxes and subserviences, we would have to start repealing charters. That means forming a political structure that will put human interests ahead of property rights. And its direct corollary would be the necessity to find employment for the workers of those corporation disbanded. 

If that is the "item," the "issue" is democracy itself. In the long term, democracy means that those who will be affected by a policy should be the ones to decide on the policy that will affect them. In the absence of that ability, a great step forward would occur by implementing the principle of due process. Due process is what gives individuals equality in the face of a dominant structure or institution (such as a corporation or the police), one that might seek to impose (for instance, deprive a person of life, liberty or property). If a community had the power to demand due process before a toxic production process was introduced into its domain (which would be more that merely a hearing), or an absurd product sold in its stores, then it could introduce its cultural tradition, its communal taste, and the precautionary principle. All that could be brought to bear democratically, with a modicum of equality. The corporate way has been to dispense with due process. 

Modi’s Woes

Jagjit Singh
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:19:00 PM

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India was swept to power five years ago he promised to create millions of jobs to lift India out of poverty. 

After suffering bruising losses in recent state elections, Modi’s BJP party has become extremely sensitive to high unemployment which is likely to adversely impact his party’s prospects in the next general election just a few months away.  

His government has been accused of blocking an official report on the national unemployment rate which had reached a staggering 45-year high in 2017. A highly respected Indian agency, the Business Standard confirmed the dire unemployment statistics which had been prepared by the National Sample Survey Office. 

Two commissioners responsible for reviewing the data in the report and advocated for its early release resigned in protest when the government refused to release the report. 

Much of Modi’s earlier popularity was closely aligned by the support of the ultra-nationalistic Rashtriya Seva Sangh nationalistic (RSS) militant group which is rewriting many of the school textbooks with information glorifying a fake narrative of Hinduism. 

Much like our own president, the populist Modi promised to make India “great again,” an economic powerhouse rivaling China. The gloomy economic forecast is bad news for the 10 to 12 million young people flooding into the labor force each year. 

Modi’s hasty demonetization decision in 2016 aimed at eliminating illegal cash transactions (black money) created huge shortages and imposed enormous hardships on the poor. This was followed in 2017 by the new single tax code, or GST which was poorly implemented driving many small businesses into bankruptcy. 

To add to Modi’s woes, the All India Manufacturers’ Organization reported that 3.5 million jobs had been lost since 2016. The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a business information company in Mumbai, reported the loss of 11 million jobs in 2018 alone. 

Himanshu, an associate professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University confirmed that job prospects had diminished under Modi’s watch.  

To add to Modi’s woes the website, WATCHDOG reported the ruling BJP amassed Rs. 553 crore as income from “unknown sources” in 2017-2018 which nets to an aggregate of 80% of total income from all political parties. Modi who earlier looked unbeatable is now looking increasingly vulnerable. Sadly, the opposition Congress Party which has a history of patronage, ineptness, cronyism and corruption does not engender much hope for India’s future. 

Election Suggestions

Joanna Graham
Friday February 08, 2019 - 10:51:00 AM

Just a few weeks ago, when the new year was still fresh and dewy, I woke up to the horrid realization that the 2020 presidential election season was already up and running. Twenty-two long miserable months to go. 

Fortunately, I can save everyone hundreds if not thousands of hours of wasted time spent following or even participating in this protracted and pointless ritual by forecasting the outcome now. 

First, though, I must make the disclaimer that I am not a seer, no more than all those people who make their living opining endlessly on TV et cetera about what is going to happen even though they have no idea what is going to happen. Furthermore, I am aware that unexpected things can upset the normal course of events, especially now that what passes for normal, from politics to weather, is far more chaotic, random, and unpredictable than what we grew used to in the second half of the twentieth century. 

Therefore, all I can do is look at previous data and from them draw the most obvious conclusions, which are as follows. 

There are three reasonably certain probabilities. The first is that Donald Trump will seek and win a second term. 

The second is that for some reason Donald Trump will not run, in which case some other Republican will do so and win. A glance at the 16 hopefuls who were defeated by Trump in the 2016 primaries indicates that the potential Republican field is not promising. 

This leaves us with Democrats on whom I know many Berkeleyans have pinned their hope. But history indicates that this hope is not rational. The Democrat who will win (if a Democrat wins) will be an unimaginative mediocrity who is a willing servant of the ruling class which is now in the last stages of destroying life on earth. 

It is true that a Democrat might be a slightly kinder, gentler servant of the ruling class than a Republican servant of the ruling class, but a servant of the ruling class nonetheless who will do exactly the same things that the Republican candidate might have done if he or she had won, although the Democratic president will speak in a kinder, gentler, more high-minded way while doing them. 

On what grounds do I base this assertion other than my personal disaffection from the Democratic party? Data. 

One. All seven presidents since 1976, four Republicans and three Democrats, have pursued the same neoliberal policies of breaking the working class, privatizing the public sphere, squeezing the welfare state, expanding policing, and in general doing whatever is necessary to transfer wealth upward, the result of which has been ever greater inequality and ever less democracy. Furthermore, all presidents since WWII have willingly helmed the project to maintain U.S. hegemony over the entire planet by all means fair and foul—or at least, despite some squeaks now and then, none has tried hard to stop it. 

Two. At present it costs getting on towards one billion dollars to run for president. Thus, no one can enter the office without being either personally fabulously wealthy or beholden to people who are. It is true that the 2016 election was abnormal with respect to funding as well as other aspects. I will comment here only that the (mildly) left insurgent was mocked by the media and squashed by his party while the racist, nativist nutcase on the right waltzed into the White House. Apparently there were rich people who believed that though unsavory, he would do—and, for the most part, they should not feel disappointed. 

Three. Donald Trump is our 45th president (actually the 44th person to hold the job). The overwhelming majority of our presidents were mediocre and forgettable. Check it out. Ask any regular American to name six; I doubt if many can get that far. So statistically speaking, the most likely outcome is that our next president, Democrat or Republican, will be mediocre and forgettable too. 

Four. We as a species are currently faced with multiple interactive crises so overwhelming and insoluble in nature that no one person, even one as prominent and powerful as the president of the United States, can solve them. But the chances that any person elected is even going to recognize the crises, let alone address them, is essentially zero since recognizing (and addressing) them requires challenging the world as it is, a world which works very well (for now) for the rich.  

Given the reality described above, I suggest that no voter should bother to pay any attention to the presidential race until late summer 2020 (at the earliest) when, presumably, we will know who the major party candidates will be. Then ask yourself this question: is one of these candidates sufficiently preferable to the other so that I can hold my nose and vote for her/him? If yes, then do so—with low expectations. If not, vote for some one else (the American version of “none of the above”) or don’t vote for the president at all, possibly an even stronger statement of the same. 

My final suggestion is that while discussion is to be encouraged, please don’t get into angry fights before the election or engage in recriminations after should your preferred candidate fail to win. A political choice is a highly personal matter and each person who bothers to vote makes the decision she or he thinks best. 

Meanwhile, on every one of the 633 days between now and November 3rd, 2020, may we all find something a great deal more important to engage our attention and a lot more useful and/or rewarding to occupy our time.  


THE PUBLIC EYE:State of the Union 2019: Two Visions

Bob Burnett
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:04:00 PM

If you just arrived in the United States and wanted to understand the difference between the Republican and Democratic vision for America, a good place to start would have been Donald Trump's State of the Union address followed by Stacey Abrams' Democratic rejoinder.

Donald Trump is a 72-year-old privileged New York white man who made a fortune in real-estate and reality television. His near-record-length SOTU address -- 82 minutes -- was framed in military images: Trump noted that June 6th marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day when the allies invaded the European mainland. He said, "Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure." He continued with the most controversial remarks in his speech, "An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous, partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace in legislation, there cannot be war and investigation." 

Stacey Abrams is a 45-year-old Georgia African-American woman who rose from impoverished circumstances to become a lawyer, entrepreneur, politician, and the 2018 Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor. Her 11-minute response was framed around community and service: "My family understood firsthand that while success is not guaranteed, we live in a nation where opportunity is possible. But we do not succeed alone. In these United States, when times are tough, we can persevere because our friends and neighbors will come for us." She used this perspective to criticize Trump: "Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food, and the sliver of hope since they hadn't received paychecks in weeks. Making livelihoods of our federal workers a pawn for political games is a disgrace. The shutdown was a stunt, engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people but our values." 

Typically, the State-of-the-Union address is where the President lays out his legislative agenda in broad strokes. Trump chose to focus on immigration (16 minutes): "Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis. Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure are very dangerous southern border. Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business... walls work and walls save lives." 

In contrast, Stacey Abrams did present an agenda. She emphasized voting rights: "Let's be clear. Voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places, to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy... This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have a say the vision they want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says every vote cast to be counted is a power grab. Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters." 

Trump's most controversial SOTU claim was about North Korea: "As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula... If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea." 

Stacey Abrams most controversial line was: "Even as I am very disappointed by the President’s approach to our problems – I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America." 

Trump chose not to mention many issues that vex Americans; for example, education, healthcare, gun control, and climate changes. 

Stacey Abrams did mention all these issues. For example, "Children deserve an excellent education from cradle to career. We owe them safe schools and the highest standards, regardless of ZIP code. Yet, this White House responds timidly while first-graders practice active-shooter drills and the price of higher education grows ever steeper." 

At the conclusion of his SOTU address, Trump asked: "What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?" And responded, "I am asking you to choose greatness." This was consistent with the military frame of his address. And Trump's self-image as commander-in-chief. 

Stacey Abrams concluded: "Our progress has always found refuge in the basic instinct of the American experiment – to do right by our people. And with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together." This was consistent with her emphasis on community and service. 

It's hard to imagine that there could be a starker difference between the Republican and Democratic vision for the United States. 


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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Social Expectations

Jack Bragen
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:14:00 PM

Social expectations aren't intrinsically good or bad, despite what many people might think. Social expectations are simply the things that people currently expect of others. For example: in the past, African American people in the U.S. were expected to be obedient and subservient. And in Germany under the Nazi's, it was the social norm for children to report their parents, if the parents were disloyal. These were two of the social norms in the past. 

On the other hand, many social expectations are based on behavior which is considerate of others. 

Not smoking around others who object to the fumes is a recently adopted social norm that reflects consideration of others. Another social norm is to put your arm to your face when sneezing. Yet, other social norms of today are often arbitrary or downright repressive. If you go to a ritzy bar or restaurant and you do not have good clothes, you might not get good service or might be asked to leave. 

We live in a significantly repressive society. Many people would disagree with that assertion. However, if you are unable to conform to what is expected, for whatever reason, then society will punish you. 

Mentally ill people and poor people are sometimes not welcome in the realms of the affluent, unless it is to clean their toilets and sweep their floors. 

"Professionalism," (still in the category of social norms) to an extent, reflects being respectful. People who work to earn money feel that their time should not be wasted on things that are irrelevant or things that could be considered "inappropriate." 

The standards that mentally ill people are taught in the mental health treatment systems are completely apart from the expectations of the work world. I am working on establishing a middle ground--for myself. I deal with people in the context of being a mental health consumer. However, I also deal with professional people. I have mishandled some of my business communications due to ignorance. 

In my past, I've considered myself "superior." I believed that society's expectations were petty or perhaps pointless. I believed in nonconformity. This attitude didn't get me very far. If ninety percent or more of human beings have the conviction that I ought to behave like everyone else, I am up against a lot if I try to defy that. 

In the past twenty or more years, I have been struggling to understand human beings, and to get my mind synced to the thinking of other people. 

In one of his books, "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," Deepak Chopra, among other things, said that everyone wants to have their perspective understood--everyone wants to be heard. Chopra suggests listening to others. 

Even though the book is from the late 1980's or early 1990's, and even though I might disagree with some of it, many of the ideas in the book are applicable. As someone with mental illness, the quest to become more successful is rocky. Part of this path is to try to give others what they want and expect. 

You could be President of the U.S.A. and could be a miserable failure. Trumpism is a cancer spreading in American culture, and it eats away at people's minds, hearts and souls. Chopra's book was written in a time of relative peace; and in the 1990's, there was a bubble of sanity in the U.S., in which his ideas were applicable. 

Are Chopra's ideas applicable today? I think they are. The difference compared to in the early 1990's is that the modern environment is a lot harsher. In order to follow Chopra's ideas, you should be prepared to be brave. 

I found that as I read and reread Chopra's book, my life apparently became a lot more difficult. In his book, he never claimed that the path would be easy or smooth. Nor did he claim that it would be difficult and full of hazards. He did suggest that readers, before they tried his book, should learn fundamental spiritual practices, such as "Silva Mind Control."  

My conclusion following reading Chopra's book was that this (the seeming increase in difficulties) was my Karma, and these were lessons that I had to learn. I have been lacking in my ability to live among other human beings, and I have lacked the ability to interact in a way that people find acceptable. 

Concerning attaining success, first you need to relinquish the "attachment" to success. This is not the same thing as giving up. Instead, you need to let go of the symbol that you equate with success. Once you do that, one hopes that things will get better. 

Schizophrenia is a disease in which the mind is "split off from reality." This entails that you will not be on the same wavelength as non-afflicted people. If you are psychotic, even mildly so, it poses an impairment to social functioning. If you can learn to listen, it helps with syncing your perceptions to those of most people. And this helps lessen symptoms. 

If you want to be successful, someone must buy your product. If no one is happy with how you are acting toward them, you can not make them buy. Thus, being socially correct (at least when this doesn't conflict with the ethic of "do no harm") is usually necessary, in order to succeed in life in any significant manner. 

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:11:00 PM

Democracy v. Gopocrisy

Enemy of Democracy Mitch McConnell says a bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a nothing more than a "power grab" on the part of devious Democrats. I guess that means Mitch doesn't think elections should be accessible to the working class.

Bernie Sanders, for one, thinks it's a good idea. If you agree, you can check out Bernie's website and read his "Democracy Day" bill.

Reich On! 

Robert Reich has responded to Mitch McConnell’s Washington Post attack on HR 1, the House Democrats’ “For the People Act of 2019." Prof. Reich calls HR 1 "the most important effort in recent memory to expand voting rights, encourage low-dollar campaign contributions, end gerrymandering, shed light on secret money and tighten up lobbying and ethics rules." So what's Mitch's gripe? "McConnell reveals that he and the GOP want fewer voters, not more, and they want to enhance the power of big money, not diminish it." For the rest of Reich's rakish repudiation, check out his Facebook posting. For the content of HR 1, click here


Will Senators Feinstein and Harris be backing the Senate's companion bill (which is likely to be an updated version of Sen Udall's "We the People" Democracy Reform Act of 2017? It's hard to see how Sen. Harris could refuse to back HR 1. After all, "For the People" is her presidential campaign slogan. 

To keep an eye on how Harris (and other DC politicians) are voting, visit the political tell-all site, Vote Smart. 

A Scar Is Borne 

Sadly, there was a time when (white) people didn't see a problem with applying blackface makeup. "Just a bit of harmless entertainment." We're all now familiar with the photo from Virginia Governor Ralph Northlam's medical school year book but let's not forget Hollywood's role in racial stereotyping. I'm not just talking about Al Jolson. Here's a still of Judy Garland performing in the 1938 film, "Everybody Sing." 


BDS Trump 

In the lead-up to the delayed State of the Union Address, female legislators were being urged to wear white (in solidarity with the Suffragette movement) and there was even talk of an outright boycott. If Donald Trump can walk away from treaties to lessen the threat of climate change and nuclear war, it was argued, Democrats could respond in kind—by walking away from the SOTU Address. 

Trump recently insulted his intelligence chiefs—whom he previously praised and appointed—because they dared to expose his lack of intelligence. Since Trump is performing for an audience of one and only listens only to the echo chamber inside his head, having to stare at a House chamber filled with empty chairs might prove to be therapeutic (or traumatic, since it might remind him of his Inauguration). 

Trump Watch: To See or Not to See? That Is the Question 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) explains why he decided to attend the SOTU: 

I don't expect I'll hear anything surprising, or anything that is focused on real solutions to our nation's biggest challenges. But I know that after Trump has his moment in the spotlight, and after the self-aggrandizement; scapegoating and divisiveness; racist beacons and white nationalist grievances; distortions, omissions, and outright lies—we'll still be able to forge a path forward for America. While the State of the Union gives Trump a highly visible platform for his poisonous swamp-fever-dream paranoia, it also gives the rest of us a chance to plot a way around (or through) him. 

Trump's Leadership Skills Can Be Measured in Milliliters 

Trump continually offers proof that he is not genetically inclined to be a leader. A bully, yes. A leader, no. Here's the proof. Whenever he's asked about his strategic expectations about how any social, economic, environmental, political, or international problem will play out, his go-to response is, more often than not: "Well, we'll just have to see what happens." 

Chug a pint of beer every time Trump uses that line and you might feel less stressed about our shared future. And then you can pass the empty can to Trump so he can kick it down the road. 

Trump's Superbawl Interview 

Margaret Brennan's February 3 Meet the Press Interview with Trump was filled with a richness of embarrassments. Here are just a few: 

On negotiating: "Well, I don't—I don't take anything off the table. I don't like to take things off the table." (You wouldn't want Trump as a roommate.) 

On not negotiating: "And on the 15th we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what's going on because of the shutdown." (Just remember how beautifully the table was set for the last shutdown.) 

On criticism of his intelligence chiefs: "It was the questions and answers as the report was submitted and they were asked questions and answers." (They were asked answers? That's questionable.) 

On the threat of terrorism: "You're going to always have pockets of something. What—you're going to have people, like the one-armed man who blew up a restaurant. You're going to have pockets." (But, at least one-armed attackers would have fewer pockets.) 

On dealing with the Taliban: "We'll see what happens, who knows…." 

On an insurgent rebound in Syria?: "We'll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving. We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice. . . . I've rarely seen anything like it. And it's there. And we'll be there." (So we're leaving, but you're not leaving and we're staying?) 

On negotiating with Venezuela's elected leader: "Well he is requested [sic] a meeting and I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process." (And that process is been directed [sic] by the CIA.) "We're going to see what happened." (So not only can't Trump see what's in the future, he can't even see what's in the past?) 

On the Mueller investigation: "There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing." ("No nothing"? Double negative, Mr. T. That translates as: there was "something.") 

On accommodating Russia: "Well, look the Russia thing is a hoax. I have been tougher on Russia than any president, maybe ever. But than any president." (But what?) 

On risking his son's health playing football: "It's very, it's very tough question. It's a very good question. If he wanted to? Yes." (Then Trump immediately contradicts himself, adding: "Would I steer him that way? No, I wouldn't.") 

On "taking a knee" to protest racial injustice: "I think that when you want to protest I think that's great. But I don't think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem." (Let's make "saking the flag" a federal offense!) 

On keeping US troops in Iraq: "We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have." (The Golan Heights is just ten miles north of Baghdad, right?) 

On leaving Afghanistan: "I'll leave intelligence there. Real intelligence, by the way. I'll leave intelligence there and if I see nests forming, I'll do something about it." 

On Roger Stone's arrest: "I don't know if you know this or not—Roger wasn't on my campaign . . . except way at the beginning." (No biggie. He was only a founding member.) 

On Afghanistan: "I want to fight. I want to win, and we want to bring our great troops back home. I've seen the people. I go to Walter Reed Hospital. I see what happens to people. I see with no legs and no arm—arms." (God knows it's hard to see when you have no limbs.) 

On Iran: "[R]ight now they're a country that's in big financial trouble. Let's see what happens." 

There's much more, but my frontal cortex is starting to melt. 

The #MeToon Movement and the Fusco Fiasco 


The Fusco Brothers cartoon-strip continues to rack up offenses in these sexually charged times. Now, it's not just the four nudniks from Newark who are on the prowl. In a January 31, 2019 Fusco panel, a cartoon judge ogles a blond woman (whose low-cut dress reveals some significant cartoon cleavage) and utters the invitation: "Mi chambers, su chambers." 

Instead of apologizing, the strip's fans actually celebrate the Fusco's verbal misbehaviors. The go-to cartoon site, GoComics.com, even has a special archive called "The 10 Worst Pickup Lines Uttered by The Fusco Brothers.'" 

These include a panel where Al Fusco threatens a date: "You know, if you're not nice to me, I can pull a few strings and arrange it so that you look ugly when this encounter shows up in the comics." 

In a 2016 panel, Rolf Fusco hovers over a woman inside a darkened room and says: "I'm currently working on my autobiography. Would you care to help make page 327 interesting?" 

DeFuscofying the Chron's Comics? 

What's really aggravating is that the Chronicle has chosen to place the Fuscos at the top of its daily comic lineup—ahead of 22 other strips. While it may be too much to call for the complete deFuscofication of the comic pages (the strip was dropped once before but popular outcry brought it back), the Chron's editors could at least dethrone it from its current position as the lead-off comic. 

What to put in its place? Maybe the Chronicle could hold a contest. (Peanuts and Doonesbury could stand aside since they're both reruns.) 

A quick-fix could be as simple as elevating the two adjacent single-panel offerings—Bizarro and Dennis the Menace. Whatever the solution, The Chronicle should pay heed. The #MeToon movement will not be denied. 

Exercise Your Emojination 

Who knew? Iran has a "Death to America" emoji—and it looks like a character from South Park. Kinda cute, actually. 


Schiff Hits the Fan 

On January 30, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-NH) sent out an email blast on the economic hit the country took from Trumpmageddon—"the president’s temper tantrum" and the federal shutdown that followed. Schiff noted: "The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated that President Trump’s 5-week shutdown cost the US economy $3 billion in unrecoverable economic activity. That’s $3 billion down the drain." 

Smithereens has invited Rep. Schiff and other democratic "thought leaders" to follow up on our proposal to pass legislation requiring Donald Trump to reimburse the American people for his billion-dollar boondoggle. Failing that, does anyone know any public interest good lawyers? (Emails will be going out to the legal team at Public Citizen.) 

I Just Juan to Be Your Leader 

Juan Guaido's self-nomination to become the "unelected democratic" leader of Venezuela (after receiving a go-ahead phone call from Vice President Mike Pence) has triggered some copycats. 

On January 30, my Facebook page received a message from Patrick Jordan (someone in the Midwest that I don't know). Jordan's short announcement read: 

"I declare myself President of the USA. Send me your taxes. And I'm giving Tucson back to Mexico.

Lee Camp Fires Up the Venezuela Debate 

Lee Camp, host of Redacted, an acerbic, weekly, left-wing newcast, recently made a similar public announcement, declaring that he had just nominated himself to be the new governor of Idaho. 

Camp's obscenity-laced rant on a recent episode of Redacted is right on—and viewable right on RT. Apologies for the language but—profanity be damned—I'm posting it anyway. 


Bolton Says US Wants Venezuela's Oil 

Don't just take a left-wing comic's word for it: Here's the truth from the mustachioed mouth of Trump regime-changer, Revoltin' John Bolton. 


Crowd-sourcing Facts on the Ground 

The MSM (Mainstream Media) continue to list the US-aligned governments supporting Guaido's presidential usurpation but seldom mention the countries (including Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Uruguay) and international organizations (such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations) that continue recognize Maduro as the country's legitimate leader. 

Meanwhile, the MSM's reports on the competing political rallies in Caracas kept referring to the size of Guaido's crowds without mentioning the huge turnout for Maduro's event. (It would be politically embarrassing for the White House to read that Maduro's turnout might have been larger than Guaido's.) 

It's hard to source facts on crowd size. One press report admitted "it was hard to tell which side's crowds were larger" while another report said the turnout at Maduro's event "was larger than expected." 

Anyone have a crowd count? In the meantime, here's a photo (from a Latin America news organization) showing the turnout for the embattled, elected government: 


A New Film (with Lots of Local Faces) Explores Racist Politics 

The so-called "American Dream" is rooted in the belief that certain individuals are born superior and are thus more entitled to wealth and privilege. The concept of "biological determinism" underlies some of America’s most appalling history—and Trumpism is fueling its return. 

A new documentary, A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream, reveals how biological determinism has been used to marginalize women and disenfranchise people of color. The 18 women and men interviewed include Van Jones (activist and CNN political commentator), Robert Reich (UC Berkeley Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy), Ignacio Chapela (UCB Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology), and Troy Duster (UCB Chancellor's Professor of Sociology and author of Backdoor to Eugenics and White-washing Race). 

Here's the trailer: 



ECLECTIC RANT: Hands-Off Venezuela

Ralph E. Stone
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:07:00 PM

It is difficult to reconcile our outrage over Russia’s interference in our elections with our present interference in Venezuela’s affairs. I’m sure everyone would agree that Venezuelans deserve a better government. But let’s face it, the late Hugo Chávez's vision of a modern day "Bolivarian revolution” — a Latin American political block with a socialist bent as an alternative to U.S. hegemony. — has descended into repression and economic decline.  

That said, the U.S. shouldn’t be the ones to determine what Venezuela should look like. Our interference in Venezuela follows a long and sordid history of U.S. intervention in Latin America. As the past should have demonstrated, our present interference in Venezuela, I fear, will do more harm than good. 

Finally, it is not a coincidence that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

Arts & Events

Emanuel Ax with Oakland Symphony in a Beethoven Concert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday February 09, 2019 - 10:20:00 AM

Oakland Symphony presented “An Evening with Emanuel Ax” on Friday, February 8 at the Paramount Theatre. Renowned pianist Emanuel Ax was certainly the centerpiece of this concert, but this might have just as suitably been dubbed “An Evening with Beethoven,” for all five works on the program were by Ludwig von Beethoven. We heard, in the following order, the Egmont Overture, Op. 84, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15, the Coriolanus Overture, Op. 62, the Prisoners’ Chorus from Act I of Fidelio, and the Choral Fantasy in C Major, Op. 80.  

Music Director Michael Morgan opened the concert by leading the Oakland Symphony in Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Commissioned to write incidental music for a new production of Goethe’s play Egmont, Beethoven, who revered Goethe, was inspired to compose this remarkable overture, which is a marvel of dramatic compression. The underlying theme is the struggle for freedom from tyranny as the Flemish people seek liberation from Spain. In Michael Morgan’s hands, this overture did not quite hold together. Rather, it seemed to lurch from one seemingly isolated moment to another. Only in the build-up to a rousing, triumphant finale did this Egmont Overture demonstrate its propulsive energy and remarkable cohesion.  

Next on the program was Emanuel Ax as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major. Actually, Beethoven wrote this concerto after his Piano Concerto No. 2; but he switched their numerical order for publication. The work begins with a lengthy orchestral introduction. When the piano finally enters, one is struck by the Mozartean fluidity of its lyricism. Indeed, Beethoven’s first three piano concertos all follow the Mozartean pattern in both structure and style. In this the first piano concerto, I might say that one hears Beethoven in the orchestral passages and a strong influence of Mozart in the piano. However, in the first movement’s strenuous cadenza, played here with technical mastery and interpretive intensity by Emanuel Ax, there is no doubt that this is Beethoven striking out on his own and distancing himself from Mozart even as he pays homage to him elsewhere in this same work. The second movement is a poignant, delicate Largo, performed with loving lyricism by Emanuel Ax. The third and final movement is a Rondo, Allegro scherzando; and it is a wonderfully familiar showpiece for the integration of solo piano and full orchestra. Together, Emanual Ax and Michael Morgan brought this off quite splendidly.  

After intermission, Oakland Symphony opened the concert’s second half with Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture. Based only indirectly on Shakespeare’s play, Beethoven wrote this overture for a play by Heinrich von Collin. The opening chords are striking and emphatic, and they immediately announce the heroic nature of the Roman general Coriolanus. The second theme is more gentle and melodious, and it perhaps represents the entreaties of Coriolanus’ wife and mother. A section of agitated development signals the storm and stress of a heroic general’s life amidst revolt. The ending slowly fades away to signal the hero’s death.  

Next on the program was the Prisoners’ Chorus from Act I of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. Joining Oakland Symphony were Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus and Oakland Symphony Chorus. Brief solos were ably sung by tenor David Chavez and baritone William Lawley. As a stand-alone piece, devoid of its setting in the opera, this achingly beautiful sigh of momentary relief by prisoners of tyranny loses much of its fervent power. Nonetheless, it was splendidly performed here. 

To close out the concert, Emanuel Ax returned to take the piano solo lead in Beethoven’s Choral fantasy in C Major, Op. 80. This lovely work has often been called a precursor to the Ode to Joy of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. However, overshadowed by the immense grandeur of the Ode to Joy, this Choral Fantasy is rarely performed. In the hands of Emanuel Ax and Michael Morgan, it was a treat to hear this fine work. The rich interplay between solo piano and various sections of the orchestra, especially the woodwinds, was outstanding. The combined forces of Oakland Symphony Chorus and Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus ultimately join in at the end of this piece to sing of music’s transcendent qualities. The student group known as Muse Vivo Orchestra also joined in to perform this Choral Fantasy. 

As an encore, Emanuel Ax performed a Chopin Nocturne.

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Feb. 10-17

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday February 09, 2019 - 10:17:00 AM

Sunday, February 10, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Monday, February 11, 2019 

Berkeley City Council Agenda Committee, Monday, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda Planning for February 26, City Council Meeting: Consent items: #3. Dorothy Day House agreement Veterans Memorial Building & Old City Hall, #4. Receipt $150,000 from Kaiser Permanent to support Pathways STAIR Center, #8. $200,000 to clean, paint, repair refuse and recycling bins, #9.&#10. Sanitary Sewer Rehab and Replacement, #11. Resolution to denounce and oppose white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and actions, Action items: #14. Proposed location Apothecarium Cannabis Retailer, #15. Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance, #16. Retirement of Council Ad Hoc Subcommittees Immediate - Community Benefits, Urban Shield, Small Business, Automatic Door Openers, March 31, 2019 – Paid Family Leave and Fair Work Week, Climate Emergency, #18. Traffic Circle Policy Task Force, #19. Sustainability Berkeley Flea Market, #20. Open Doors Initiative – R1-R1A to renovate homes to become multi-family condominiums and limit sale to employees of City of Berkeley or first time moderate income home buyers, #21. Modify In Lieu Mitigation to be based on gross residential floor area rather than number of units, #22. Missing Middle – revision to zoning to foster broader range of housing types. 


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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 

Board of Library Trustees Special Meeting, 2 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda item: Governance Work Session with Moss Adams LLP 


Homeless Commission, 7 pm – 9 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda items: #6. Recommending inclusionary housing over Housing Trust Fund monies for new developments, #7. Housing subsidy discrimination, #9. Conflicts of interest and recusals from RFP discussions, #10. Community Agency Funding proposals 


Parks and Waterfront Commission, 7 pm – 9 pm at 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center, Agenda items: #10. Extend subcommittee Off Leash Dog Area at Cesar Chavez Park, #11. T1, #12. Funding 4th of July Festival, #13. Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, #14, Irregular compliance of leash law at Cesar Chavez Park, 


Police Review Commission, 7 pm – 10 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda items: #9. A. Lexipol Policy 425 body-worn cameras, b. afteraction reports, c. Lexipol policies, d. BPD response to changing role of Black Block to Antifa – making protests safer, e. Communications subject to Public record Requests, f. Response to mental health crisis – role BPD and mental health services, #10. a. Procedures and time limits for debate, b. commendations BPD personnel, BPD MOU (formerly Mutual Aid Pacts), NACOLE Regional Training & Networking event 


Public Works Commission – Undergrounding Subcommittee, 4 pm at 1947 Center St, 4th Floor, Agenda: #3. A. Phase 3 study, B. Natural conditions creating increased urban wildfire and earthquakes, C. Berkeley’s preparation hazard mitigation plan, emergency preparedness, evacuation routes, D. Preliminary identification of arterial and collector streets for utility undergrounding 


Thursday, February 14, 2019 

Community Environmental Advisory Commission, 7 pm – 9 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: Discussion/Action items #1. Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, #2. Audubon Society presentation on Bird-Friendly Architecture, #3. Bee City Initiative, #4. Cigarette-Butt Pilot Project, 6. CO2 Labels for Gas Stations 


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

1605 Solano – add medical practitioner office to holistic day spa, on consent 

2119 Eighth St – construct 2-story detached single famile dwelling at rear of parcel, reduce set-back, staff recommend approve 

1940 Haste – relocate existing 3-story building to back, relocate 2028 Bancroft Way 2-story residential building to front of lot, relocate or waive parking, staff recommend continue 

2025 Durant – remove 26 parking spaces on ground floor to construct 2 dwelling units and common space, staff recommend approve 

2028 Bancroft Way – relocate existing building to 1940 Haste, construct 6-story residential with 37 dwellings (including 2 below market rate) staff recommend approve 


Friday, February 15 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Saturday, February 16, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Sunday, February 17, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 


Worth Noting: 


Berkeley City Council February 19 meeting agenda is posted and available for comment. Email comments to council@cityofberkeley.info, Agenda items: #10. Resolution to request Gov Newsom declare a CA Homelessness State of Emergency, #14. Density Bonus Ordinance, #15. Contract Pride Industries for Citywide Janitorial Services, #16. Cannabis Number of Retail Establishments and Equity Program, #17.a&b. Living Wage Ordinance, #18. Standby Officers, #19.a&b. Assessment Vacant Properties, #20.a&b. Declaration City of Berkeley will not invest in production or upgrading of weapons – current policy limited to guns, #21. Refer to Planning Commission close loophole allowing prospective project applicants to avoid inclusionary affordable housing -in lieu fee by modifying property lines https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Agenda_Index.aspx 


Comment period on the Local Hazard Mitigation plan draft (the Plan for preparing for natural disasters and reducing the impacts) ends February 28.  





To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees 




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