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Berkeley Votes to Divest from War

Gar Smith
Wednesday February 27, 2019 - 08:54:00 PM

On February 19, the City Council voted to approve Resolution No. 68,766-N.S., a recommendation from the Peace and Justice Commission (PJC) that Berkeley cease investing City funds in "any entity involved in the production or upgrading of weapons." It was a historic vote against war and militarism and the vote was unanimous. 

The PJC initiative was based on a model resolution drafted by the Divest from the War Machine coalition—a nationwide community of more than 50 peace organizations, including Peace Action USA, CODEPINK, American Friends Service Committee, United for Peace and Justice and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. 

The Divest coalition offered the following arguments for (1) debunking the false narrative of US military exceptionalism and (2) de-bucking the military-industrial complex that sustains it: 

In 2017, the US spent more than $700 billion on the Pentagon and its programs. More than $300 billion of that went to weapons manufacturers and war profiteers. That's $300 billion of our tax dollars going to line the pockets of CEOs who are profiting from war around the world and at home. In 2017, the CEOs of the top five weapons manufacturers in the US collected salaries that totaled $996 million, while American communities continue to struggle to provide basic services as federal support is slashed.  

For perspective: $1 billion in military spending creates approximately 11,200 jobs. That same $11 billion would create 26,700 jobs in education, 16,800 in clean energy, and 17,200 in health care.  

So why are we using public dollars to subsidize these corporations, at the expense of what our local communities need? 

The military and its contractors are also some of the worst polluters in the world.  

Standard controls, such as bans on open-air burning and compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act, are routinely circumvented or categorically ignored. These actions jeopardize the health and economy of local waterways, and poison local air.  

Our communities can take back the power of the purse, and pull their support from those who seek to do harm and profit from harm inflicted upon others. We do not have to put public support behind those who are making a killing on killing. 

The PJC persuasively argued that "reversing militarism is one of the key levers of promoting sustainability" and cited the 2003 proclamation from Environmentalists Against War that "War destroys human settlements and native habitats. War destroys wildlife and contaminates the land, air and water. The damage can last for generations." 

One Significant Revision 

Two changes were made to the model resolution. The first simply defined the meaning of the word "weapons." It read as follows: 

"Add a Whereas clause to define weapons to read as follows: 

WHEREAS, Weapon is defined as any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon; anything used against an opponent, adversary, or victim; and Weapons Systems is defined as any integrated system, usually computerized, for the control and operation of weapons of a particular kind." 

One last pothole remained in the path to approving the model legislation. According to PJC minutes, City staff raised an objection that the resolution, as written, could "pose problems with procurement." 

The concern was that PJC's updating of the model resolution would have prevented the City from purchasing bullets, guns, and other weapons for the Berkeley Police Department. That provision proved to be "a bridge too far" and, during its January 7 meeting, the PJC revised the resolution by removing "the ban on contracting with entities involved in the production or upgrading of weapons" and confining the resolution's scope "to the investment of City funds in such entities." 

As it now stands, the City can buy tasers, rifles, and tear-gas grenades directly from the manufacturers but cannot invest any City funds in the companies that profit from the production of the weapons. Put another way, tax dollars can buy the BPD a stock for a Remington rifle but the cash can't be invested in actual Remington stocks. 

Here is the wording of the revision: 

"Revise the first Resolved clause to read as follows: 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the City of Berkeley that the City of Berkeley will not invest City funds in weapons manufacturers, and decides that it shall be City policy to divest from such entities." 

Here is the complete-and-untweaked earlier version of the full resolution: 

Berkeley Divestment Resolution  

Resolution declaring the City of Berkeley will not invest City funds in any entity involved in the production or upgrading of weapons. 

WHEREAS, since 2001, the United States has spent over $5.6 trillion on wars resulting in over 1.17 million deaths and displacing more than 10.1 million people; [1] and 

WHEREAS, the cost of US domestic and foreign militarism, including veterans' affairs, homeland security, and law enforcement, and incarceration, topped $818 billion in 2017, [2]; and accounted for 64% of federal discretionary spending in 2016, at a time when federal funds are desperately needed in order to build affordable housing, improve public transit, and develop sustainable energy sources; [3] and 

WHEREAS, the United States remains the most militarized nation in the world, with a military budget greater than the next eight countries combined, an estimated 800 military bases and stations in over 70 countries around the world, and arms producers that dominated 57.9% of the share of major global arms sales in 2016 [4]; and 

WHEREAS, nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons, most of an order of magnitude more 

powerful that the US atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, over 90% held by the United States and Russia, continue to pose an intolerable threat to humanity; [5] and detonation of even a small fraction of these weapons would disrupt the global climate and agricultural production so severely that the resulting famine could put the lives of more than two billion people at risk; [6] and 

WHEREAS, the United States is poised to spend $1.7 trillion dollars over the next three decades to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads; the submarines, missiles and bombers to deliver them; and the infrastructure to sustain the nuclear enterprise indefinitely, which many experts believe actually increases the risk of nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and nuclear war by accident, miscalculation or intent, at a time when nuclear-armed countries are already on the brink of military confrontation; [7] and 

WHEREAS, investing in companies producing the nuclear and conventional weapons at the roots of US militarism implicitly supports this misdirection of our tax dollars; and 

WHEREAS, many major arms producers depend on the federal government as their primary consumer and are thus dependent upon perpetual warfare, political instability, and the prioritization of militarism over diplomacy; and 

WHEREAS, US weapons manufacturers continue to supply repressive regimes around the world, and US-produced weapons are being used in attacks that the international community deems unlawful for their disproportionate and excessive harm to civilians; and 

WHEREAS, billions of dollars worth of military-grade equipment has been transferred to local police departments in our communities, resulting in the disproportionate targeting of communities of color and perpetuating a culture of violence, hostility, and fear; [8] and 

WHEREAS, the rate of mass shootings in America is the highest anywhere in the 

developed world, as civilian gun manufacturers continue to reap enormous profits from unnecessary bloodshed in our streets and homes; [9] and 

WHEREAS, the average American taxpayer works 27 days a year to pay Pentagon contractors and pays 23.4 cents of each of their federal income tax dollars toward military spending, at a time when 43 million Americans live in poverty or qualify as low-income; [10] and 

WHEREAS, the US Conference of Mayors unanimously "calls on the President and Congress to reverse federal spending priorities and to redirect funds currently allocated to nuclear weapons and unwarranted military spending to restore full funding for Community Development Block Grants and the Environmental Protection Agency, to create jobs by rebuilding our nation's crumbling infrastructure, and to ensure basic human services for all, including education, environmental protection, food assistance, housing and health care; [11] and 

WHEREAS, the City's investment practices must accord with the City's commitment to equality, peace, and justice; 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council formally declares its opposition to investing City funds in any entities that are involved in the production or upgrading of weapons and weapons systems, whether conventional or nuclear, and including the manufacture of civilian arms, and decides that it shall be City policy to divest from such entities; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council directs any and all persons acting on behalf of City investment activity to enforce the provisions of this Resolution; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution shall be binding City policy and shall be in full force and effect after adoption by the City Council. 


1 "Costs of War," Brown University, Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs," 

2 "US Military Budget: Components, Challenges, Growth," The Balance

3 "The Militarized Federal Budget," National Priorities

4 "Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Service Companies, 2016," Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

5 "Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance," Arms Control Association

6 "Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk?" International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

7 "US Nuclear Modernization Program," Arms Control Association

8 "War Comes Home," ACLU

9 "How US Gun culture compares with the world in 5 charts," CNN, 10 "Tax Dollar Receipt," National Priorities Project

11 "Calling on the Administration and Congress to Step Back From the Brink and Exercise Global Leadership in Preventing Nuclear War," US Conference of Mayors, June 11, 2018, 


A parting thought: I'm not a lawyer, but I'm suddenly wondering if the revision of the resolution might technically open the door for Berkeley police to be armed with swords and cannon. 

Mayor Arreguin's Plan to Dump Berkeley's Climate Emergency Committee on Tuesday is a Mistake

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Monday February 25, 2019 - 08:55:00 PM

Berkeley is continually promoting itself as a leader, a city of innovation, ahead of the pack and occasionally it is. On June 12, 2018, Berkeley did declare a Climate Emergency and passed a resolution to be Fossil Fuel Free by 2030. The Declaration even made Fox Business News commentary The problem is follow-through.

Saturday, February 23 at the well-attended “Can Berkeley be a Livable City for All?” forum sponsored by the Berkeley Neighborhood Council, Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Planning Director Timothy Burroughs would lead you to believe there is a communication problem not an action problem. Let’s pull back the curtain.

On Tuesday, February 26, the same day San Francisco Supervisors will vote to put forward their Climate Emergency Resolution, the Berkeley City Council will vote on Mayor Arreguin’s agenda item #22 to retire the Ad Hoc Climate Emergency Subcommittee.

Rather than retiring this important committee, the Mayor should be expanding the mission of the Climate Emergency Ad Hoc Subcommittee to be the center of communicating, informing, educating and engaging our community into action. If communication is the problem, then dissolving the Climate Emergency Subcommittee, which is establishing a network of regional and local climate organizations and community activists, is contrary to addressing the identified “communication problem” with the public—or maybe... community engagement is the problem that doesn’t need to be fixed.

New Berkeley Committee Will Discuss Climate Policy

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin
Tuesday February 26, 2019 - 10:13:00 AM

I strongly support Berkeley's efforts to accelerate our actions to address the climate emergency. I was proud to vote for the June 2018 resolution to officially declare a "climate emergency", and supported the regional Town Hall which was held in August 2018 to discuss solutions. The Council's Ad-Hoc Climate Emergency Subcommittee was originally formed to organize this regional Town Hall and to discuss ways to deepen efforts to fight climate change.

Since that time, the Berkeley City Council has created a new system of Policy Committees. One of the committees, the Facilities, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environment and Sustainability Committee was specifically established to discuss issues around energy efficiency, transportation, green building and climate action. This would be the best place to discuss many of the policy proposals put forward by community members, including moving our energy procurement to 100% renewable. I appreciate the work of the Ad-Hoc Subcommittee, and believe now is the time to continue the discussion at the new Facilities and Environment Committee. Councilmember Cheryl Davila, the author of the Climate Emergency resolution, was appointed to serve on this committee, and I hope that she will continue to convene community members and experts in developing ways to address the cataclysmic crisis of climate change.  

In addition to this Ad-Hoc Committee, Berkeley has advanced several policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move us to a resilient, energy independent future. At the Global Climate Action Summit this past September, Berkeley set a bold goal to reach 100% renewable electricity citywide by 2035 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In addition, the City of Berkeley has signed on to an electric vehicle purchasing initiative that will provide access to reduced-cost clean energy vehicles and infrastructure and has joined a group of Bay Area cities calling for a ban on the transport of coal through their jurisdictions. We are also exploring requiring a shift from natural gas to electrification, implementing our Deep Green Building initiative to move towards zero net energy construction, adopted a ban on Single Use Disposable Plastic food ware, expanding our bicycle infrastructure, adopted legislation to expand urban farming and food access, and promoting mandatory solar on new buildings. Additionally, the new East Bay Community Energy Authority presents an exciting opportunity to move our energy to 100% renewable sources, and the City Council will soon take up a proposal to opt-up our residential and city accounts to higher renewable content.  

The work does not stop at a Subcommittee meeting, but is being lead by my office and many members of the Council. Community partnerships are essential in continuing this important work. I believe that by working with the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition and many environmental leaders who make Berkeley home, we can continue to show how Berkeley can lead to addressing the biggest challenge of our time.  







Updated: Sierra Club Committee Backs Controversial San Leandro Luxury Project

Friday February 22, 2019 - 05:49:00 PM

48 Hills, the San Francisco online news source, recently ran this article by Berkeley journalist Zelda Bronstein which East Bay Sierra Club members should check out:

The Sierra Club and the luxury-housing developer

Northern Alameda chapter backs San Leandro project in a sign that the pro-growth forces are trying to take over the environmental group.

Are you a Sierra Club member who lives in Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, Alameda, Piedmont or San Leandro? If so, you fall under the aegis of the club’s Northern Alameda County Group, which is nested within the larger Bay Chapter.

Be aware, then, that the NAC Executive Committee is currently dominated by a pro-growth coterie that’s exploiting the Sierra Club’s cachet to push a pro-development agenda that violates the club’s commitments to affordable housing, neighborhood integrity, and democratic governance.

Read the rest of the story on 48 Hills:

After the article was posted, the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter posted an entry on its home page blog attacking it. The response from 48 Hills is posted here.  

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Monday February 25, 2019 - 09:01:00 PM

Bordering on Insanity

Isn't it odd (not to mention blindingly hypocritical) that Trump complains about a fictitious "threat" to America's southern border while simultaneously threatening to launch a full-bore military invasion by sending US troops across the border of Venezuela? When it comes to "threats to borders," who poses the greater danger—poor migrant families seeking asylum or heavily armed US troops seeking to control Venezuela's oil and minerals?

A few notes from the must-read Venezuela Fact Sheet (Standard disclaimer: "Maduro may not be the world's best politician, but still . . . ."):

Fiction: President Maduro was not legitimately elected.

Fact: Maduro won the Presidential election with a greater majority (68% of the vote) and backed by a greater majority of the population than any recent US president. In that election (which was judged legitimate by international observers), the US-backed candidates lost decisively and Juan Guaido's faction didn't even participate.

Fiction: The Maduro government in Venezuela is about to fall.

Fact: The elected government of Venezuela retains the loyalty of the majority of the people and of the military despite US-imposed economic sanctions, blackmail and threats.



The Bill that Could Stop The Donald 

Win Without War sends a troubling message: "Trump just declared that 'all options are open' in Venezuela. That’s as clear as it gets: He’s threatening military intervention." 

The US has a long and shameful history of bloody interventions in Latin America. Now Venezuela is once again in Washington's crosshairs—with Nicaragua and Cuba (the ultimate "prize") also on the target list. Thanks to onerous US sanctions, many Venezuelans are experiencing violence, hunger, and poverty. Trump's offer of "humanitarian aid" is a stunt designed to trigger further unrest inside the country. The last thing the struggle in Venezuela needs is a US military invasion. Fortunately, we can do something to stop this madness. 

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) has introduced a bill to block the Trump administration from taking any military action against Venezuela without the approval of Congress. But Congress has to get its act together, immediately. 

What We Can Do: Urge Rep. Barbara Lee to sign on to Rep. Cicilline’s bill to oppose unauthorized military intervention in Venezuela! 

Global Protests as US Targets Venezuela 

The stakes could not be higher as people around the world are mobilizing to support the Venezuelan people by marching to oppose the growing threat of US military intervention in Venezuela. More than 100 cities worldwide held peace protests over the past weekend. In the East Bay, protests were held at Oakland's Oscar Grant Plaza. 

Here's some background on the situation that you won't find in the mainstream press: 

UNAC Statement on the situation in Venezuela 

Venezuela Fact Sheet 

A Letter to Barbara Lee 

Thanks for the note about your endorsement of Kamala Harris's presidential bid. 

In truth, I would have been more thrilled had you endorsed Bernie or Elizabeth or Tulsi. I admire Harris but she has not been a visionary leader on the Green left and she has a troubling alliance with Israel's Netanyahu.
Hoping you will add your support to H.R.1249 [to save the Cold-War-era INF nuclear weapons treaty unilaterally threatened by Trump]. 

Thanks for becoming one of the co-sponsors of Rep. Ro Khanna's bill calling for a declaration officially ending the Korean War. 

And thanks for co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which has allowed US presidents to start unconstitutional wars at least 41 times in 19 countries. 

The Creeping Tabloidization of Network News 

On February 22, all three major TV news networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—ran the same lead stories. With all the other news happening in the US and worldwide, the American viewing audience was treated to a salacious trifecta of celebrity scandals: R. Kelley's abuse of underage women; Jussie Smollet's apparent concoction of a "fake noose" story; and NFL honcho Robert Kraft's visit to Florida, which allegedly included a lay-over at a Miami massage parlor. 

Is this what the titans of newscasting have come to? Tabloid-dejur-alism? 

Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow must be twirling in their graves. 

NBC Pressing on for War 

Here's a classic case of the Mainstream Media reinforcing Washington's Warhawkery. The following is a transcript of NBC's Nightly News for February 15, 2019. It begins with an incendiary warning from Lester Holt that promotes John Bolton's Trumped-up fear-mongering in place of objective journalism. 

First, here's Lester Holt's fraught introduction: "There is tough new talk coming from Iran tonight about the possibility of war with the US and Israel. It came in our Richard Engel's exclusive interview with Iran's foreign minister." 

Engel's halts his opening sentence half war through and allows US VP Mike Pense finish the introduction. Here's how it played out: 

Engel: "Just one day after a US-lead conference to pressure Iran . . ." 

Pence: ". . . the Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it." 

Only then does NBC cut to a shot of Engels and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sitting down to talk. 

But before Zarif the interview begins, Engel tells the viewing audience what they are about to hear: "Tonight: A warning from Iran's foreign minister." 

Without further preamble, Engels asks his first question: "Do you think there's a risk that there may be some sort of war between Iran, the United States and Israel?" 

In a calm and thoughtful voice, Zarif replies: "There certainly are some people who were successful in creating the war last time [who] are hard at it again, but I think some sense will prevail and people will find out that it's suicidal to engage in a war with Iran." [Does that sound like a threat of war?] 

Engel follows up: "We also asked if he would take up President Trump on his offer to potentially renegotiate the nuclear deal." [A deal that Trump violated but one that Iran and every other signatory nation still honors.] 

Zarif: "Why should we trust President Trump—that he would abide by his own signature?" [Fair enough.] 


Our Brave, Fighting Bombs and Missiles 

Our mainstream press and politicians never miss a chance to praise "our brave fighting men and women" in the armed services. But some of the real frontline fighters in the US Global War on Terror never get the credit they deserve. 

Why don't we hear praise for America's hard-working killer drones?  

Could it be that the government, military, and media don't like to mention drones because they are: covert, illegal, brutal and cowardly? These expensive, remote-controlled bombs—used mainly by the US and the UK—are currently inflicting murder and mayhem across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In 2018, drones accounted for 27% of British air strikes inside Syria with 75 drone strikes in December alone.  

Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is a major control center for the Pentagon's killer drone program. Dozens of strikes are executed every day by Creech controllers who sit in air-conditioned comfort as they lounge in front of glowing screens and guide their deadly weapons toward distant targets­­­—which frequently include innocent civilians. 

For the past 10 years, anti-drone activists have been protesting along the road outside Creech AFB. This year's week-long "Fifth Annual Shutdown" gathering will run from March 30 to April 5. If you've got the time and the inclination, you can register to participate here. 


Worth reading: Missing Pieces: The Human Impact of Drone Strikes. 

Tweet Revenge 

The global activist group Avaaz (working in 18 countries on 6 continents in 17 languages) has come up with a clever plot to twist Trump's Tweets into expedient tools of self-sabotage. 

"What if we could use Trump's obsession with Twitter against him?" That was the challenge. Here is the solution: Imaging that each time Trump tweets a personal insult or a message of racist division, misogyny, or xenophobia, people could reply with: "Thanks for your Tweet! Because of it, 100,000 people around the world have just made a donation to stop policies like this." 

The idea is for people to sign up for a mere 10 cents per Tweet. Get on Trump's Twitter list and you can literally nickel-and-dime the Orange Orangutan from sun-up to sun-down. 

Avaaz predicts that "if enough of us sign up and bring celebrities on board, this story will be like candy to the media." Avaaz also notes that "many of Trump's tweets violate Twitter's user policy and maybe even break hate speech laws—but he gets away with it. So what we're doing is changing that by using the money to challenge the dangerous, often ignorant views he's sending out to millions."
Interested? #TrumpTweetsMakeCents 

We're Speechless: UC Takes Credit  

For Inventing the Free Speech Movement 

UC Berkeley's "CalGift" fund-raisers recently sent out a solicitation headlined: "Berkeley Moments Change the World!" 

Their funding pitch read as follows: 

Open-source software. The wetsuit. The flu vaccine. The Free Speech Movement. The accelerating universe. Two vitamins, 16 elements, and thousands of students’ lives changed.  

For 150 years, UC Berkeley has been changing the world by making life-altering discoveries and developing the next generation of thought leaders . . . .  

Big Give is an annual online giving day that brings the entire UC Berkeley community—alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends—together to support schools and programs and help them win prize money. Visit BigGive.berkeley.edu to learn more! 

So how do FSM vets feel about being used as a UC fund-raising tool? Here's a sample of responses that trickled in following UC's announcement: 

Vet 1: "Big Give"? More like "Big Take." Invoking the FSM to "win big prize money"? That takes the prize. 

Vet 2: The FSM did provide "life-altering discoveries" but UC's role was akin to the role the influenza virus played in the discovery of the flu vaccine. 

Vet 3: I’ll tell them how much we appreciated all the time and effort the University put into helping us create the Free Speech Movement: "Without their effort, it would not have been necessary." 

Vet 4: To me it is the students and the faculty who are the heart and soul of the University, and so when the University of California takes credit for the FSM, I see it as at least an indirect acknowledgment of that. It was a victory for the University—freedom won by its student activists and their community and faculty allies. 

Vet 5: Send a contribution to the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture at: https://give.berkeley.edu/fund/?f=FW6930000

A #MeToons Movement Update 

The Fusco Brothers, the SF Chronicle's cartoon quartet of bad-boy bachelors, continue to (1) mock the plight of hapless flies trapped in soup bowls and (2) women trapped in the same room with the Fusco Brothers. Apparently, not even courtrooms are off-limits. 

In J.C. Duffy's February 20 panel, a judge attempts (and fails) to rein in Lars Fusco's randy nature. May it please the court (and, in this case, it didn't), the exchange ran as follows: 

Lady judge: "Flirtation has no place in a courtroom, Mr. Fusco. And this gavel is no prop." 

Lars Fusco: "Neither are these lips." 

Note: A detailed letter was mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle, calling attention to the strip's serial misogyny and suggesting that the Fuscos be (1) replaced (i.e. removed) or (2) re-placed (somewhere else on the comics pages but no longer in the lead position, above all others). 

So far, no response has been forthcoming from the Chron


Takács Quartet Plays Haydn, Bartók and Grieg

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday February 25, 2019 - 04:29:00 PM

The renowned Takács Quartet, now in its forty-third season, has undergone substantial changes of personnel since its founding in Budapest in 1975. Originally consisting of Gabor Takács-Nagy, Károly Schranz, Gabor Ormai, and András Fejér, the Takács Quartet now includes only cellist András Fejér from the original four. Second violinist Károly Schranz retired last April and has been replaced by Harumi Rhodes. Earlier replacements brought in Edward Dusinberre as first violinist and Geraldine Walther as violist. Over the years, the Takács Quartet has maintained consistently high standards and has received numerous awards and prizes. In 2012 Gramophone magazine announced that the Takács was the only string quartet to be inducted into its first Hall of Fame, along with such legendary artists as Jascha Heifitz, Leonard Bernstein, and Dame Janet Baker.  

On Sunday, February 24, the Takács Quartet performed the first of two successive weekend concerts at Hertz Hall. The program for this first concert, which I attended, included works by Haydn, Bartók, and Grieg. Next Sunday’s concert will consist of another Haydn quartet, the Mendelssohn Quartet, and another Bartók Quartet. If you love the string quartet repertoire and want to hear one of the worlds finest string ensembles going, make it a point to attend next Sunday’s concert at 3:00 pm at Hertz Hall. You will not be disappointed. 

For the February 24 concert, the opening work was Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No. 4. Often cited as the most popular of Haydn’s groundbreaking six Op. 20 quartets, the D Major involves all four principals as soloists, highlighting each instrument and its tonality in turn. It opens quietly with a soft passage heard in the cello, soon joined by the first violin, then by all four instruments. Soon the music becomes agitated, even querulous. By the end of this first movement, tranquility returns. In the second movement we are treated to a set of variations, highlighted by a rich melody for cello, here beautifully played by András Fejér. Each and every time I hear the Takács perform, I am struck by the burnished tonality and sheer musicianship of cellist András Fejér. He is truly wonderful! Following this cello solo Haydn treats us to a sensuous variation for first violin, here gorgeously performed by Edward Dusinberre. Once all four instruments have had their go at a variation, Haydn offers us a Minuet, Allegretto alla zingarese, in other words, a gypsy-style movement full of “out of-step” rhythms. The finale abounds in humor, “wrong chords,” and whirling energy, until, at the end, everything slows down for an unexpectedly serene close. 

Next on the February 24 program was Bela Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 7. This work opens quietly with a dirge-like duet from the two violins. Soon cello and viola join in. The textures are rich, the tonality indeterminate. Soon the cello introduces powerful bow strokes, which introduce a viola solo, beautifully played here by Geraldine Walther. Then the cello offers a flowing passage, gorgeously played by András Fejér. Now the two violins reprise the opening dirge-like passage, and all four instruments take up this motif, bringing it to a climax. Without a pause, the second movement begins, a lively Allegretto. Here András Fejér’s cello offers a fair amount of pizzicato accompaniment to the viola and the two violins. The third and final movement opens with the cello, which is answered by a soaring passage from the first violin. Here Bartók plays off the low tonality of the cello against the ethereally high tonality of the violin. Next we hear fleeting suggestions of Hungarian folk songs collected by Bartók. A vigorous dance ensues, and the work builds to a tumultuous conclusion. The sheer vitality combined with exquisite musicianship marked this wonderful performance of Bartók’s Quartet No. 1 by the Takács Quartet. 

After intermission, the Takács Quartet retunred to perform Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27. This work is rarely performed, and I for one had never heard it. Little about it impressed me through the opening movements. It was all very graceful, though almost orchestral in its big sound. But there was nothing, not a single melody, you could latch onto and hold in your memory. However, towards the end of this work things picked up considerably. András Fejér suddenly had dramatc tremolos to 

play, and he played them vigorously and repeatedly, while the other instruments embroidered lyrical passages around and against Fejér’s tremolos. This was exciting music. And it almost made the earlier doldrums worthwhile, though I can’t say I’m eager to hear this first Grieg Quartet again soon. Nonetheless, I am grateful to the Takács Quartet for offering us this rarely heard work by a major composer. All told, this was a well-balanced program, elegantly conceived and beautifully performed by the Takács Quartet.


Public Comment

Updated: Can Berkeley be a Livable City for All? Watch the Public Forum with Mayor Arreguin and Planning Director Tim Burroughs

Sunday February 24, 2019 - 11:26:00 AM

On Saturday the Berkeley Neighborhood Council sponsored a public forum, Can Berkeley be a Livable City for All?, which featured Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Berkeley Planning Director Timothy Burroughs explaining their current thinking and actions in the key field of land use, followed by an open no-holds-barred opportunity for participants to question and address them on all kinds of topics. The meeting was the best possible illustration of how the city’s public meetings, which typically limit citizen comments to meaningless one minute soundbytes, serve little or no purpose in informing officials, both hired and elected, about what’s happening on the ground in Berkeley.

This gathering, which was held in the community center in South West Berkeley’s San Pablo Park, gave the city’s many articulate thinkers as long as they needed to talk about what’s right and what’s wrong with the way the city is being run these days, at least in matters which involve land use. Thanks to volunteer videographer Christine Schwartz, there’s an excellent public record of what was said, and it’s worth the time to watch the whole three hours of it. (Yes, that’s what I said, three hours!).

It can be found on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/307RuIpEgkQ

It would be great if someone, a reader perhaps, could create an index to highlight particularly cogent comments—any volunteers? A transcription or summary of high points would also be good—I might try that myself later in the week.

Meanwhile, take the time to take a look. Mayor Arreguin’s summary, very early in the video, of all the activity in Sacramento aimed at usurping local control over land use, would be a good place to start.

Climate note #4: "Massive die-offs and possible extinction: really?!?"

Thomas Lord
Friday February 22, 2019 - 05:39:00 PM

Why does it matter if warming is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial climate? If the planet warms to 2°C or above, how much worse could it be? Or at 3°C? We would be lucky to stop at 3°C. If all current climate pledges (including California's) are fulfilled - and we are not on track for even that much emissions reduction - at least 3°C warming will occur. 

Here are a very few highlights from the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C1. Most of these changes will occur within a single lifespan from today. 

  1. At 1.5°C, global maize crop yields will likely fall by about 10%. At 2.0°C, they will fall by about 15%. At 3°C warming, where we are headed, "Drastic reductions in maize crop globally and in Africa (high confidence) potential tipping point for collapse of maize crop in some regions (low confidence)". 

  2. At 1.5°C: 6% of insects, 4% of vertebrates, and 8% of plants will lose more than half of their habitat. A warming of only 2°C will "double or triple" the number of species affected. 

  3. Marine food webs are undergoing disruption that will increase as we reach 1.5°C. The risk significantly increases at 2°C. This includes impacts on fisheries. Coral reefs have a 10-30% chance of surviving at 1.5°C and will be wiped out beyond 2°C. 

  4. At warming of 1.5°C/2°C/3°C, the numbers of people directly exposed and vulnerable to existential risks (by virtue of their location): 

    • water stress: 496 million / 586 million / 662 million
    • heatwaves: 1,187 million / 1,581 million / 1,707 million
    • crop yield change: 8 million / 81 million / 406 million
These deadly risks multiply. For example food and water shortages increase inter-group conflicts and mass migrations. Hundreds of millions will abruptly migrate out of low-latitude areas in some, likely, 3°C+ scenarios. 

Threats to food webs are particularly noteworthy. As species become locally extinct, those that depend on those species for food and other services are threatened. For example, widely reported recent research has found extremely high recent-decades declines in the populations of flying insects in multiple locations. This has led, for example, to sharp reductions in bird and lizard populations. This "domino effect" is believed to be one of the key mechanisms of mass extinctions. 

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 #7: "What is to be done?"
    How to act wisely, together, in solidarity

  • 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 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report 15 ("Climate Change of 1.5°C"), chapter 3 ("Impacts of 1.5°C of Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems"). 

"Affordable Housing"

Vivian Warkentin
Thursday February 21, 2019 - 04:44:00 PM

“Berkeley Must Advocate for Housing Affordability”, so says an op ed in the Feb 12 Daily Cal. The article praises student protestors for showing up at the Berkeley City Council meeting to advocate for the development of an 18-story housing complex in downtown Berkeley and to denounce the residents who opposed the building on the basis of its interference with views of the Bay Area. The op ed goes on, “But one thing they (students) failed to do was demand affordability". ……”The development of new market rate housing merely contributes to the gentrification of Berkeley, exacerbating the lack of affordable housing for local residents.” ??????
So, after the project gets approved by the council the student newspaper says what a lot of Berkeley residents have been thinking.

Views aside, the project will not after all have any “affordable” apartments. Were the students aware of that before they put on their demonstration?

There seems to be a pattern here. Yet another big box corporate monster apartment building gets proposed and the shock troops (students,YIMBYs and media) show up to bully, deride and attribute motives to Berkeley citizens who have real concerns. Council is emboldened to stick with their marching orders and spit in the face of their tax paying constituents.

Could we please talk about the “Plan Bay Area”, drawn up and approved illegitimately by ABAG/MTC (now called MTC) in July of 2013, which mandates cities to build, build, build this type of housing. It used to be called “Smart Growth”. Now it’s called “affordable” housing, but it really isn’t . The MTC redevelopment machine cloaks itself in a righteous cause to perpetuate its con on the Bay Area

No bull on Trump Nobel?

Dennis Fitzgerald, Melbourne, Australia
Thursday February 21, 2019 - 05:01:00 PM

It appears that President Trump thinks he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize just like President Obama's one. A misspelling of Nobel - Noble gives one of the qualities often associated with most Laureates. The Nobel should go to only the best of the best although sometimes hindsight adds more to the story. 

With the Mexican wall now a possibility the idea of peace is being challenged. Peace cannot every be enforced or imprisoned it must be earned and especially protected by all. 

Sorry, Mr President, no prize for you.

Lighting Up in A Smokefree Park - Brought to You By the Berkeley City Council

Carol Denney
Thursday February 21, 2019 - 04:32:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council once had sterling awareness about secondhand smoke's health effects. But on Tuesday night, February 19, 2019, they punched a hole so big in Berkeley's smokefree policy that any progress we've made in working toward a smokefree generation is effectively over. 

Two holes, in fact; Berkeley was declared a "sanctuary city" for cannabis, and Cesar Chavez Park was declared "an approved location for cannabis events” despite current ordinance making all city parks smokefree. Worse; it passed on the consent calendar. At least one Berkeley city councilmember knows marijuana smoke is carcinogenic, and still didn't pull the item. That's what Big Cannabis, like Big Tobacco, can do just by waving money, or the illusion of money, around. 

There was no discussion of marijuana smoke being listed on the State of California's Public Health website right alongside tobacco smoke as a carcinogen as per Proposition 65's mandated disclosure of carcinogens. No mention that blood vessel function in lab rats drops by 70 percent after half an hour of exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke -- similar to results found with secondhand tobacco smoke," according to researchers from the University of California. 

It gets worse. This is being done on behalf of the wealthiest, whitest, old-school stoner cannabis trade show in existence; the High Times' Cannabis Cup, which is like the Kentucky Derby of weed. Berkeley's underage high school kids may smoke weed at twice the rate of other California kids, but that was apparently not worth discussion. Because it's one thing to wave your hands around and pretend to have confusion about lot line loopholes for developers. It's quite another thing to get tagged as anti-weed as the big green wave of weed money starts rubbing its hands together over your smokefree park. 

What's sad is High Times wasn't even trying to change our city policy. Their event happens once a year all over the country, and there are plenty of parks full of every kind of smoke imaginable to choose from. The Berkeley City Council could have welcomed the Cannabis Cup to come to Berkeley, situate itself in a park - and have a smokefree event. Nobody knows better than High Times the wide spectrum of calibrated edibles, oils, creams, patches, lozenges, infusions, and other more exotic sources of ingestion which are widely available. Berkeley could have taken a stand for its smokefree parks and for safe, accessible, decriminalized cannabis, putting an end to the deadly implication that you can't have one without the other. 

Keep in mind that High Times wasn't asking for a policy change. They have nothing against smokefree parks for the reasons I just mentioned. But they are, of course, fifty solid years of fuck-the-rules resistance to over-the-top hostility to cannabis, and their outlaw profile makes them let's just say unlikely to draw a crowd eager to comply with "smoking tent" rules earnestly being referred to by the planning office to address concerns about unwanted exposure. When they say "smoking tent" it's okay to giggle, shake your head, and then enjoy a hearty laugh at the expense of your earnest planning staff, who has been instructed to keep a straight face. 

Once you allow this wealthy group of High Times stoners to violate Berkeley's smokefree parks law, whom can you turn down? And it gets even worse; Rashi Kesarwani, the new District 1 representative, wanted limitless events instead of only three per year. The rest of the council responded that they might just do that, and would revisit the issue after its first year. Councilmember Kesarwani represents Cesar Chavez Park's district, and she's all in for limitless cannabis events- at only that location. The other, traditionally whiter parts of Berkeley thanks to redlining, won't be affected. 

You'd have to look hard in Berkeley to find anyone who opposes safe access to cannabis and who isn't thrilled that it has been decriminalized in our state, including me. I salute High Times for the role its journalists have played in confronting marijuana's stigma, and fighting for a safe place for honest discussion. But there should be no conflict whatsoever between safe access to cannabis and smokefree public parks, which by law must be accessible to everyone. Our parks are difficult enough for people who wish to avoid smoke exposure; I have friends who can only enjoy the parks or local beaches when it's raining hard enough to ensure the air is smokefree. It's a bit of a joke with my cancer survivors crowd that when others assume a rainy day is a recipe for staying home, we go out hiking. 

The Berkeley City Council could have welcomed the first smoke-free Cannabis Cup, gotten ten times the publicity of a regular Cannabis Cup event, stood up for our smokefree parks, and educated interested consumers about marijuana's pulmonary and cardiac issues and the alternative ingestion methods available. Instead, they took protective public health policy decades in the making and tossed it-- inexplicably considering that, again, High Times wasn't even looking to change Berkeley's ordinance. The Mayor's office did that without preface, without discussion, without considering alternatives, and apparently without embarrassment. 

Should one park be singled out "as an approved location for cannabis events" in contradiction of our smokefree parks policy? The park furthest from the hills, the park in the working class area that was historically black? Should Berkeley's City Council's commitment to public health collapse when money walks in the mayor's office? It is most definitely up to you. Because if they sell out Cesar Chavez Park that easily, your park is might be next. 

Mayor Jesse Arreguin - (510) 981-7100 

Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani - (510) 981-7110 

Councilmember Cheryl Davila - (510) 981-7120 

Councilmember Benjamin Bartlett - (510) 981-7130 

Councilmember Kate Harrison - (510) 981-7140 

Councilmember Sophie Hahn - (510) 981-7150 

Councilmember Susan Wengraf - (510) 981-7160 

Councilmember Rigel Robinson - (510) 981-7170 

Councilmember Lori Droste - (510) 981-7180 

# # #

Manhattanizing Or Democratizing Berkeley? -- That is the Question

Harry Brill
Thursday February 21, 2019 - 04:36:00 PM

Progressives are immensely troubled by the Berkeley City Council's decision to approve an 18 story, high rental 274 unit residential building. Another 18 story residential building, called Harold Way, was approved by the previous City Council. Other pricey buildings are being constructed and more are being planned. However, the Council's record for developing an adequate supply of affordable housing and protecting the homeless from being harassed are very disappointing. In the last Council election, Berkeley voters replaced a conservative with a progressive majority. Understandably, many progressives are feeling betrayed.  

What happened? To stand a chance of beating the real estate interests is a major challenge. The business class obviously has enormous influence and power. Not least, they have an unlimited amount of money to spend. Only a massive direct action campaign similar to the courageous and persistent efforts of the 1930s labor movement and the civil rights movement could stand a chance of successfully resisting the manhattanizing of Berkeley as well as other East Bay cities and counties. 

There have been serious efforts in Berkeley to provide low income housing. But these programs can only accommodate a relatively small number of homeless and poor individuals and families. However, since the public housing program was inaugurated, millions of poor tenants have been paying affordable rents. Currently public housing serves about 2.6 million residents in 1.1 million units. Tenants pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The federal government via the Housing and Urban Development finance agency (HUD ) pay the rest. 

Yet despite the need for more public housing units, not only are they no longer being built. Instead, the number of public housing units are being substantially reduced. Due to deterioration as a result of long term underfunding, over 250,000 units have been demolished since the mid-nineties. Currently 10,000 to 15,000 are being demolished every year. And many who are evicted have no place to go but the streets. How ironic that the nation's public housing program, which was served to reduce homelessness, has been in recent years increasing homelessness. 

The barriers to providing affordable housing are especially difficult in California. In 1950 California voters approved the notorious Article 34 law. The article states that "no low rent housing project" can be constructed without the approval of a majority of the voters. Playing on the prejudices and fears of racial minorities and the poor, Article 34 was approved by a majority of voters. Although it was challenged, the Supreme Court disagreed that article 34 was unconstitutional. Although there have been some modifications in how the law is applied, Article 34 still plays a major role preventing the construction of any low cost housing, public or private. 

Another major source of affordable housing is Section 8, which houses several million tenants. Since 1974, a limited number of eligible low income tenants can receive a voucher which entitles them to find an interested landlord to provide a room or apartment. The typical arrangement is that tenants pay 30 percent of their income and the remainder is paid to the property owner by the federal government. 

For property owners, rental subsidies from the federal government is certainly very appealing. For low income tenants, living in a privately owned apartment can be very attractive . But Section 8 has some very serious drawbacks. Section 8 provides a tool on behalf of the private market, to reduce the supply of public housing. So far over 60,000 public housing units have been sold and converted to Section 8. Moreover, HUD is allowed to privatize 185,000 public housing units for the purpose of replacing these units with Section 8 housing.  

Also, government subsidies to private landlords reduces the supply of vacancies in many neighborhoods. As a result rents in these vicinities tend to rise. Landlords understand this principle. In response to pressure from the real estate industry, the government has been compelled to balance every increase in public housing units by removing from the private market the same number of units of private housing. President Nixon abolished this practice. But the decision was irrelevant because Section 8 housing was being substituted for building new public housing. 

Also, with regard to Section 8 tenants, their rents have been rising. That's because the very conservative Ben Carson, who Trump appointed to head HUD, has taken a hard line. He claimed publicly that the rent of some tenants should be tripled. Also, all tenants should pay at least 35 rather than 30 percent of their income for rent. His announcement precipitated a national outcry, which prompted many to believe he backed off. Nevertheless, what has not been widely publicized by HUD is that a growing number of Section 8 low income tenants are now paying 40 percent of their income for rents. And many landlords are demanding that their tenants contribute even more of their income to pay for utilities. These tenants, who are generally isolated from tenants in a similar situation. can do little or nothing about it. In short, Section 8 is a precarious route for low income tenants. 

With regard to public housing, despite its problems, it has been the most successful in providing affordable housing for millions of economically distressed Americans. In fact, it still does. To provide adequate housing, the public housing program must be revived and appreciably expanded. At the moment, it sounds unrealistic. However, it is immensely important to avoid being captured by a culture of low expectation. We need to learn from those who have been successful. Activists in both the labor movement and the civil right movement were aware of the immense obstacles but yet made major achievements. 

Whatever the progressive agenda is, a movement to succeed must first understand the important distinction between mobilizing and organizing. A common approach to addressing political issues is to mobilize. That is, an effort is made to bring out others to rallies and other important events. The problem, however, is that just mobilizing others is generally ineffective. It does not build power. Without building power, the chances of winning are very poor.  

Instead, progressives must develop democratic political organizations. This requires building organizations that are capable of carefully planning strategies and actively contacting other individuals and organizations to persuade them of the legitimacy and importance of what they are advocating. Unlike just mobilizing, which attract only those who are already convinced, an effective community organization by reaching out to others is able to involve far more people. In fact, a public housing movement, like the labor and civil rights movements, would attempt to reach out to activists in other states. By activists relating to each other, a movement attempts to develop effective strategies, including if necessary, engaging in non-violent disruptions. 

History has continually reminded us that when so called ordinary people take steps to build a powerful movement they can achieve major changes and victories. This will happen. But better, of course, sooner than later.


THE PUBLIC EYE:Costing the Green New Deal

Bob Burnett
Friday February 22, 2019 - 05:45:00 PM

It's a remarkable testimony to these times that while Donald Trump has declared a "national emergency" because of politically inspired "border security" concerns, he has chosen to ignore the true national emergency caused by global climate change. The bad news is that Trump is playing to his base, most of whom don't believe in climate change. The good news is that because of the "Green New Deal," climate change is going to be a major issue in the 2020 election. 

In many parts of the U.S., climate change is now one of the top voter concerns. Recent polls (https://www.vox.com/2019/1/28/18197262/climate-change-poll-public-opinion-carbon-tax ) indicate that two-thirds of Americans believe the climate is changing, and a strong majority feel that human activity is causing this change. In the San Francisco Bay Area we've seen a lot of evidence of climate change: we've just experienced a week of torrential rain, and flooding -- one of my major commute routes is still impassable. (And, of course, last summer we had a series of horrendous wildfires.) 

Public concern about climate change is backed up by an overwhelming scientific consensus. In the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/16/opinion/sunday/fear-panic-climate-change-warming.html) science writer David Wallace-Wells warns that we are approaching a planetary crisis, "The emissions path we are on today is likely to take us to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040, two degrees Celsius within decades after that and perhaps four degrees Celsius by 2100." Vast areas of the planet will be rendered uninhabitable and none of us will be safe. 

Nonetheless, action to avert the impact about climate change is opposed by Republican leaders. Donald Trump is a climate-change denier. While he no longer calls reports of climate change "a hoax," he has cast doubts on the latest dire warnings. In October, Trump told Fox News that he believes climate-change scientists have a political agenda, adding that he did not believe that humans were responsible for earth's rising temperature. (In November the Trump Administration released a federally-mandated climate-change study, the Fourth National Climate Assessment; at the time, Trump told reporters, "I don't believe it.") 

Unfortunately, Trump's attitude reflects that of most Republicans. A major year-poll (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/consensus-emerges-climate-change-debate-n950646 ) found that only 15 percent of Republicans believe that climate change is a a major problem requiring action. (Senate Majority Leader McConnell's response has been to call for the use of more coal.) Republican leaders contend that Green New Deal would be "too expensive." (https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-08/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-s-green-new-deal-is-unaffordable ). 

In contrast, 71 percent of Democrats believe climate change requires action. Democratic Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have introduced "The Green New Deal."(https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/politics/green-new-deal-proposal-breakdown/index.html ) It's likely to evolve into the official Democratic 2020 talking point about the action we must take to deal with climate change. The Green New Deal references the Roosevelt era, "the Federal Government-led mobilizations during World War II and the New Deal." It's a resolution that insists we mobilize now; that whatever the ultimate cost we must take action to save our families and the planet. 

The Green New Deal resolution has a lot in it but what jumps out is the call for a "10-year national mobilization" with several key objectives: 

  • "Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources." That is, eliminating our dependence on fossil fuel in 10 years.
  • "Upgrading all existing buildings" in the country for energy efficiency.
  • Working with farmers "to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions ... as much as is technologically feasible."
  • "Overhauling transportation systems" to reduce emissions — including expanding electric car manufacturing, building "charging stations everywhere," and expanding high-speed rail to "a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary."
  • A guaranteed job "with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security" for every American. While this may appear to be a gratuitous add-on, the notion of a guaranteed job makes sense in light of the scope of the national mobilization, which will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
While there's been positive response to "The Green New Deal" -- outside of the Republican Party -- Mother Jones just published a poll (https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2019/02/poll-likely-2020-voters-support-parts-of-green-new-deal-despite-concerns-over-the-cost/ ) that indicates the level of support for "Green New Deal" proposals varies depending upon the perception of cost: "Faced with a range of possible price tags, voters’ support varied, suggesting costs could factor high into the Green New Deal’s political viability. The results showed a majority of voters would likely oppose policies with stringent mandates—rules requiring all cars be electric by 2030 and every fossil fuel power plant close by 2035." 

From a short-term perspective, this position makes sense: voters support climate-change proposals so long as they appear to be free. For example, "Mandates requiring the country to generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050 enjoyed sweeping support." But as the possible costs increased, support fell off. This finding illustrates a fundamental problem initiating programs to tackle the effects of climate change: to some voters "doing nothing" appears to have no cost or an indeterminate cost; for example, voters in areas subjected to increased temperatures have the choice of doing nothing -- suffering through longer heat waves -- or to renovate their residence to withstand blistering temperature increases. (Initially, the prospect of doing nothing may seem more attractive.) 

The key question is: What is the long-term cost of doing nothing about climate change? The impact of climate change has a personal component -- it affects where we live -- and a community component -- it impacts water and air quality -- and a national component -- it impacts national competitiveness and the economy. 

(I'm focussing on California because that's where I live, but every state will experience its own spectrum of climate-change consequences.) California residents will be impacted by drought, fire, and flooding. For example, the southeastern counties (Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino) touch on the Mojave Desert -- an area that will expand because of higher temperatures and drought. As another example, vast swaths of California are subject to increased threat of wildfires. And, there are many areas that are subject to flooding -- in Northern California the Alviso region of San Jose and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

Many California residents will have to move to higher ground (for example, Berkeley has an average height of 171 feet which means that several thousand residents now live in areas that will flood as the bay rises.) However, residents should not move into the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) because that is subject to wildfire (California residents who live in the WUI are finding they cannot get insurance). And of course, wherever Californians move they have to make sure there is adequate water -- a particular problem in Southern California. 

As a result of last fall's catastrophic California wildfires, we've blown through California’s $443 million emergency wildfire fund. The legislature just authorized $200 million for tree clearing in rural areas but this is just a drop in the bucket. A recent state report (http://www.climateassessment.ca.gov/state/docs/20180827-SummaryBrochure.pdf ) indicated: "It could soon cost [California] $200 million a year in increased energy bills to keep homes air conditioned, $3 billion from the effects of a long drought and $18 billion to replace buildings inundated by rising seas, just to cite a few projections. Not to mention the loss of life from killer heat waves, which could add more than 11,000 heat-related deaths a year by 2050 in California, and carry an estimated $50 billion annual price tag." 

In California, billions will be required to help folks relocate out of dangerous areas or to upgrade for energy efficiency. Additional billions are needed to ensure that all of California has adequate water. 

In 2017, California got 43 percent of its energy from fossil fuel (mostly imported natural gas) and 9 percent from nuclear -- a facility thats being decommissioned; we're well on our way to generating 100 percent of our energy from renewables but it will cost billions to get there. 

Finally, Californians like cars; there are 15 million cars for 40 million residents. Even though there are an estimated 1 million electric or hybrid vehicles here, many Californians depends upon gas guzzlers to get to work (average commute time is 30 minutes.) How many billions will it take to develop a green transportation system? 

My point here is not to illustrate that it will cost Californians billions to convert to a clean green economy, but rather that Californians, and Americans in general, have no choice. If we do nothing, the areas where we live will be rendered uninhabitable. That's why the "Green New Deal" is comparable to the national mobilization during World War II -- after the Axis declared war on the U.S. we had no choice but to respond. (It is was unthinkable to "do nothing" after the attack on Pearl Harbor.) 

This grim reality is an opportunity of sorts. Response to climate change will necessitate billions in infrastructure investment and, in the process, generate jobs. Climate change will force Californians to make major changes in order to protect themselves and their children and grandchildren; it will usher in a new era of innovation that, in the long term, will heighten our productivity and strengthen the economy. 

Nonetheless, the Green New Deal won't be free. And the longer we wait to take action on climate change, the more expensive the effort will be. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Why Psychiatric Noncompliance is Such a Big Problem

Jack Bragen
Thursday February 21, 2019 - 05:06:00 PM

In 1982-83, I was a young adult, and I had newly been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Paranoid-type. I didn't agree with the diagnosis, and I believed that I had created the illness on my own, through mishandling of my thinking. And I also believed there were additional reasons that I became ill. I didn't buy the assertion that something was wrong with my brain. I thought that I'd mal-programmed myself. 

Soon after being released from an inpatient psych ward, I obtained employment with a janitorial service, with part-time hours at first. 

My job was torture. I was making myself function in the job in the presence of severe depression and medication side-effects. It was difficult to do any kind of physical work, because the medication side-effects impaired my ability to work. 

I decided to go off medication. I concealed this at first. Then, I was found out. I went in to see my psychiatrist, and I told him, or he'd found out that I wasn't taking my medication. I asked him if he could still work with me to keep me monitored. His response was that if I wasn't going to cooperate with doctor's orders, he was unable to do anything for me. 

I continued to work, and I asked the company's co-owner if I could get more hours. I obtained full-time hours and I began to save up money. Several months later, I had about eighteen hundred dollars saved. In 1983, this was a decent amount. 

I moved from my parents' house into a share rental. I continued to work. I studied various kinds of meditation. I was utilizing meditation techniques while working. 

However, as months went by, my delusions began to increase. I'd been able to shut off some of the delusions, but not to a good enough extent. 

I became ill and nonfunctional in January of 1984. I was 5150'd at a gas station. 

People sometimes become noncompliant due to effects of the medication that make it more difficult to function at numerous things, including work. Medication also can cause depression and can also cause "Parkinsonian" side effects. Medication although it treats parts of the symptoms of schizophrenia, also introduces a lot of suffering, due to the side effects. 

Additionally, by taking medication, a person is acknowledging that he or she has a problem. For this reason, taking medication in many instances can be considered a courageous action. 

People may stop medications "AMA" (against medical advice) because they are unable to face the concept of having a mental illness that requires treatment. There is no limit to the number of alternative explanations as to why we became ill. I've met people who believed that it was merely because they took a street drug, and that she or he will be fine if they just don't take the street drugs any more. Others could continue to be delusional and could have delusions to explain what happened. 

In one hospitalization, a fellow patient piled objects on his bed under a blanket to make it look like he was asleep in bed. He'd escaped. 

In order to become "compliant" with medication, we must become clear in thinking enough to understand what happened to us and why. If we never make enough contact with what most people would consider reality, we may never reach the insight that is needed. 

There is a lot of stick and not a lot of carrot for the person who faces what could be a lifetime of being mentally ill. 

We may be unemployable. (But we aren't necessarily unemployable, and I encourage school, training and/or work attempts.) We may not be able to go out on a date with the person with whom we are enamored. (Yet, we could find a meaningful relationship at some point in our lives, and/or we may have to deal with that issue in therapy.) 

The points are: A, we may have to acknowledge we have an underlying brain condition that affects consciousness and that must be treated with medicine; B, we may have to tolerate the suffering of taking medication; C, we should not give up on making decent lives for ourselves. 

The outcome of accepting treatment for a mental illness diagnosis isn't most people's idea of a fabulous life. This is something that is very hard to accept. People in mainstream society and/or treatment practitioners do not give us enough credit or enough leeway, and just assume that we ought to take what is handed to us and not question it. Human beings don't function that way. Of course, if we've been told we are going to live as a mentally ill person, it is going to be very hard to take. 

The choice of voluntary compliance with taking psychiatric medication entails sacrifices. Physical comfort and emotional comfort are sacrificed. The capacity to perform at numerous jobs is sacrificed. The self-concept that we are "normal" is sacrificed. The prospect of being treated by others as a normal and/or competent person may be sacrificed, replaced with people assuming we are "depraved, threatening" mentally ill people. 

Society's provisions for people diagnosed with mental illness, with or without voluntary compliance, are measly and unsavory provisions. 

Thus, there are numerous reasons that a person diagnosed with mental illness and expected to take medication, and additionally expected to participate in outpatient institutionalization, would want to deny this role in life. Society can address this by making conditions better for people with mental illness, and by ceasing bigotry toward us, and accepting us as valid human beings. Doing that could make the pills a lot easier to swallow.

Will Democratic Socialism be a winner in 2020?

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday February 21, 2019 - 04:41:00 PM

n his State of the Union address, President Trump decried socialism stating, “Toni, we resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” I bet Trump could not explain what socialism is, nor for that matter, could many Americans. 

Why does the word "socialism" cause fear and trembling too many Americans? Many probably think socialism equals that old bogeyman communism. However, communism is primarily a political system, a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products, and there is no privately owned property.  

Whereas socialism is primarily an economic system that can exist in various forms under a wide range of political systems. Bernie Sanders is what may be called a democratic socialist, who wants to reduce economic inequality, remove the influence of the rich on our political and economic system. In practical terms, he favors, among other things, universal healthcare, free public college education, a federal $15 minimum wage, and advocates for addressing climate change. 

When Sanders announced his candidacy for the democratic nomination for 2016 presidential race, many discounted him as too far from the mainstream to have any chance. Sanders went on to win 43% of the primary vote in 2016, ultimately losing the nomination to Hillary Clinton. 

Sanders recently announced again for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Now, however, he is no longer outside the mainstream as many of the other announced Democratic candidates are sounding a lot like Sanders. 

Don’t count Sanders out. Just over 24 hours after announcing his presidential bid, Sanders had already collected $6 million from more than 225,000 donors, 

Socialism then, is basically means a redistribution of wealth or publicly-funded programs that capitalism wouldn't pay for. We already have many so-called socialistic programs in the U.S. such as our progressive tax system, social security, public housing, unemployment insurance, medicare, schools, libraries, etc. I like to think that most of these programs provide social safety nets for the have-nots in our society who otherwise would fall through the cracks when unregulated capitalism goes awry. You know the kind of capitalism that got us into our financial mess under the Bush administration. Looked at this way socialism equals compassion for the less fortunate in our society. What's to be afraid of? 

The question remains, however, as to whether American voters will support a “socialist” in the next general election.  

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Feb. 24- March 3

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday February 24, 2019 - 11:22:00 AM

Sunday, February 24, 2019

No city meetings or events found

Monday, February 25, 2019

Agenda and Rules Committee, Monday, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda Planning for March 12 City Council Meeting, #8. Referral – Updated Policy for Emergency Standby Officers, Consent Calendar #1. Living Wage, #2. YMCA Early Childhood Trauma dn Resiliency Project, #4. Update to EveryOne Home Plan to End Homelessness, #5. Contract CA Homelessness Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), #6. Agreement to Operate Pathways Project, #7. Shelter Plus Care Program Renewal Grants, #8. MOU Planning Phase Viability of Ferry Service and Public Recreation Pier at Marina, #9. Reward of up to $50,000 fo info in Criminal Investigation, #10. Add 2700 block Belrose to Street Sweeping, #11. Measure O Oversight and Measure P Homeless Services Panel, #12. Authorize public meeting with Housing Advisory Commission and Affordable Housing Organizations, #14. Letter requesting Barbara Lee to support repeal of FCC regulation limits on 5G, Action: #16. 2701 Shattuck Appeal of 5-story, 62-foot, mixed-use building, #17. Cannabis Ordinance Revisions, #18. Density Bonus Ordinance Revisions, #19. Janitorial Services Contract, #20. Presentation Mosquito Abatement, #21. Ordinance to Prohibit Natural Gas Infrastructure in New Buildings, 22. Adopt Gender Inclusive Language, #23 Affirm Support of People of Tibet, Information Items #24. Audit Construction Permits, #25. Audit Strategic Plan, #26. Audit Zero Waste, #27. Amending Contracts with Eviction Defense Center (EDC) and East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) 


Ad Hoc subcommittee on Paid Family Leave, - contact Ben Bartlett for correct time and place 510.981.7130 posted agenda has date of Feb 12, while web page lists Feb 25 


Zero Waste Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard, Agenda: #8. Modifications to types of plastics accepted #1-#7, #11. Carpet Recycling 


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 26, 2019 

Berkeley City Council, Tuesday, 6 – 11 pm, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, Agenda 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, #12. Traffic Circle Policy Task Force, #13. Resolution to denounce and oppose white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and actions, #14. Support AB 5, #15. Ensure Sustainability of Berkeley Flea Market, #16. Support AB 177 (Election Day Holiday) Action items: #17.. Proposed location Apothecarium Cannabis Retailer, #18. Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance, #19. City Auditor’s quarterly report, #20. Referral Response: 1000 Person Plan to Address Homelessness, #21. Missing Middle – revision to zoning to foster broader range of housing types. #22. 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, #A. Referral Response Supporting Worker Cooperatives 


Community Environmental Advisory Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: Response to Hazard Mitigation Plan 


African American History Celebration, 6 – 8 pm at 1720 8th Street, James Kenny Recreation Center, art, poetry, music 


Wednesday, February 27, 2019 

Civic Arts Commission, 6 – 8 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: Telegraph Historical Walking Tour Markers, Legal Consulting on Public Art Policies, artist Masayuki Nagase proposal for North Berkeley senior Center, Policies to protect art spaces from being displaced by cannabis business, T1 Infrastructure, Mission statement 


Commission on the Status of Women, 6:30 – 9 pm at 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, Agenda: Updates/Reports – Domestic Violence, Safety Sex Workers, Equal Pay Audit, Transgender Health Access Training, Homelessness Work, Women’s History Month Event 


Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 997 Cedar St, Fire Department Training Center, Agenda: Action items, Election, Support for Wildfire Evacuation, Emergency Alerting, Public Education, Hazard Mitigation Plan, Discussion Hills Fire Safety, Fire Safety Standards for Rebuilt Fire Damaged Structure, 


Energy Commission, 6:30 – 9 pm at 1947 Center St, Agenda: #5.Electrification Debrief, #7. Deep Green Reach Code, #8. EV Roadmap Update, #9. Beso Update 


Green Infrastructure Plan Public Meeting, 6:30 -8 pm, 1301 Shattuck, Live Oak Community Center 


Homeless Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, #8. Community agency Funding 


Police Review Commission, 7 – 10 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: #8. Lexipol Policies, MOU Compendium Subcommittee, #9. A. Body-worn camers, b. guiding principles, letter to City Attorney what documents PRC is entitled to obtain from BPD, #10. a. Lexipol Policies, b. PRC Charter Amendment on 2020 Ballot, c. Public records requests 


Thursday, February 28, 2019 

Berkeley City Council, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, Agenda: item #1. Managing Recreational Vehicle (RV) Parking (Homeless living in RV), #2. Clean and Livable Commons Conditions (Homeless Garbage pickup, storage) 


Community Health Commission, 6:30 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St. South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda not posted, check before going 


Mental Health Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 1947 Center St, Agenda: #7. Annual report 


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


1901 Hearst – North Berkeley Senior Center, Alterations 

2777 Shattuck / 2747 Adeline – Honda Dealership – Review of Circulation Study 

Friday, February 22 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Saturday March 2, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Sunday, March 3, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 


Worth Noting: 

Berkeley City Council is having a special meeting Thursday, Feb 28 on Homelessnes item #1. Is the RVs whether to prohibit parking or establish permitting process and waste discharge facility, #2. Recommendation to utilize Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) Email comments to council@cityofberkeley.info


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



Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

2701 Shattuck – 5-story mixed use – 3-12-2019 

1722 Walnut – ninth dwelling - 3-26-2019 

1050 Parker – Parker – Medical Office Building - 4-30-2019 

2700 Tenth – Pardee Parking Lot - 4-30-2017 

1444 Fifth St – 4 single family dwellings - 5-14-2019 



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