The Week



Public Comment

Let’s Democratize Our Democracy

Harry Brill
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:26:00 AM

Several issues ago in the Berkeley Daily Planet, an article on this nation’s political deficiencies astutely spelled out various structural factors that undermine our democracy. There is still another serious shortcoming that also deserves our attention. We should be concerned about the lack of electoral fusion in most states. Electoral fusion is when two or more political parties on a ballet support the same candidate. This pools the vote for that candidate, who could otherwise lose the election. Also, it enhances the influence of minor parties, who could support a candidate of another party if the candidate would be willing to accept some of the minor party’s platform. -more-

Race and the Housing Crisis

Steve Martinot
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:16:00 AM

An event was held on November 13, 2019, in a fairly large auditorium at Berkeley City College, with the somewhat glib title of “How to Save the World with Local Politics.” That the hall was less than half full may be sign that most people think it is too late. Or it may be that those losing their world knew something these attendees didn’t know. Whatever the case, it raised the question, “which world?”

The event sported a panel of four speakers, who presented in three different directions. One spoke about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the carbon footprint of the Bay Area. He used a map strangely and counter-intuitively reminiscent of the one about recent fire danger. A second spoke about the difficulties faced by people trying to rent housing in this area. She didn’t ask why no one from among the homeless communities of Berkeley had been invited to be a panelist. A third gave a brief outline of housing economics, and why it was appropriate to advocate building more market rate rental units. And the fourth kind of filled in gaps in the other three. She had a big job.

Two of the speakers were elected officials, one from the state Senate, and the other from the state Assembly. In an election year (even one with a candidate glut), one would have expected heavy hitters like that to be a greater draw. But neither had changed the world yet, nor gotten us back on track to stop global warming (the real name of our future). Two organizations, “South Berkeley Now,” and “North Berkeley Now,” were listed as sponsors. But the real sponsor, the power behind the panel, was the Berkeley Democratic Club, which ran the panel as an in-house affair. Questions were only taken on 3x5 cards and filtered by the MC before being handed to a speaker for response. Thus, it was a purely informational gathering.

Here’s their housing program in a nutshell (I won’t tell you what kind of nut it is:

The reason there is a housing crisis is not because there are runaway rent increases or on-going displacement of people who can’t afford housing anymore. It is because there is a housing shortage. No substantial housing had been built for 40 years in Berkeley. Admittedly, rent gouging and displacement have been problems, but a new bill passed in Sacramento that places a cap on rent increases, and tightens the rules against eviction should (belatedly) resolve those problems. Therefore, building more units (both market rate and affordable) becomes a viable program.

But this is old news. Pro-developer organizations, many pretending to represent neighborhoods, have been saying the same thing for years. And having their way, to the point where there is already a glut of market rate housing in Berkeley. We see “For Rent” and “Now Leasing” signs on new apartment buildings all over town. Yet people are still having to leave their homes because they are getting priced out of the area.

Left unquestioned was the assumption that rent-increase caps could be a substitute for repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act. That is the act that gives landlords arbitrary control over rents. It is the act that has allowed rent-gouging to proceed unchecked for decades now. Which is a major reason there is no affordable housing being built. -more-

Ann Coulter Should Not Be Invited to the Campus

Michelle LePaule
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:04:00 AM

The university is a place where intellectuals gather to exchange and teach ideas. Intellectuals are people who are passionate seekers of truth. They seek this truth by employing rigorous methodologies peculiar to their fields. A responsible intellectual is self-effacing and personally disciplined. He/she has learned to see and release him/herself from the demons that inhabit us and distort the truth. The most common of these demons are of greed and pride. The kind of people who are and should be invited to campuses are other intellectuals, researchers and authors who share these traits. -more-

Governing in Bad Faith

Steve Martinot
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:20:00 AM

It did not appear in the evening news, nor in the Chronicle, but last Sunday (11/24), some citizens of Oakland and Berkeley made a vain attempt to keep the city of Oakland honest. They failed miserably – at the hands of Oakland’s absolute refusal of honesty, as well as of civic virtue.

These citizens were a subgroup of the community of residents known as the unhoused, or as they say, those living curbside. They had previously taken the city at its word, that it was sincerely interested in resolving the problem of shelter for the homeless with winter coming on. But since the city’s word proved to be empty, and devoid of humane effort or intent, they decided to avail themselves of higher law (i.e. the US Constitution), and by that means, bestow honesty and virtue where it had been refused.

The Facts: in a highly organized manner, about 30 people took it upon themselves to set up tents as shelters on the civic center lawn in front of City Hall, an area that is public land, on a brisk but sunny Sunday morning, and prepare themselves for the coming rains. They had an information table, and a food table, offering both to the public, out of their own generosity and community-mindedness. But at 1:30 that night, the city sent the police in to destroy this effort at morality and true democratic spirit at around 1:30 am, that same night, seizing property and eliminating for them the ability to survive the elements.

What do you call a political entity that commits a crime rather than accept a gift? The gift? Keeping the city true to its word. -more-


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Nuclear lies and broken promises

Conn Hallinan
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:00:00 AM

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an economic meeting in the city of Sivas on Sept. 4 that Turkey was considering building nuclear weapons, he was responding to a broken promise.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the government of Iran of lying about its nuclear program, he was concealing one of the greatest subterfuges in the history of nuclear weapons.

And the vast majority of Americans haven’t a clue about either.

Early in the morning of Sept. 22, 1979, a US satellite recorded a double flash near the Prince Edward islands in the South Atlantic. The satellite, a Vela 5B, carries a device called a “bhangmeter” whose purpose is to detect nuclear explosions. Sent into orbit following the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, its job was to monitor any violations of the agreement. The Treaty banned nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, underwater and in space.

Nuclear explosions have a unique footprint. When the weapon detonates, it sends out an initial pulse of light, but as the fireball expands, it cools down for a few milliseconds, then spikes again.

“Nothing in nature produces such a double-humped light flash,” says Victor Gilinsky. “The spacing of the hump gives an indication of the amount of energy, or yield, released by the explosion.” Gilinsky was a member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a former Rand Corporation physicist. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: Talking to Republicans about impeachment

Bob Burnett
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:06:00 AM

The holidays are coming. And with them, more opportunities to talk to those recalcitrant Trump supporters in your family. Such as Aunt Bertha who believes God sent Donald on a mission. And Uncle Bert who wants Trump to blow up Washington. Here are ten tips on how to talk to them about the impeachment process. Ten responses to familiar Republican (false) arguments.

Contention 1: "Democrats are trying to overthrow the 2016 election." This a good place to start the conversation because there is an element of truth in this Republican argument. Response: Yes, impeachment is about removing the President from office and replacing him with the Vice President. Democrats are using this process because they believe Donald Trump has committed grave offenses that threaten our Democracy. (Helpful hint: Don't mention that Vice President Mike Pence could also be a candidate for impeachment because of his involvement in the Ukraine scandal.) -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Symptoms do not Invalidate

Jack Bragen
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 10:44:00 AM

About fifteen years ago, maybe more, I participated in a pilot program intended to prepare mentally ill people for IT careers. The executive director of the program was mentally ill and was believed to be cured of her condition, or something to that effect. The program also involved mental health professionals, including, I think, a psychiatrist.

The executive director did something unethical, and this caused the program to end. The individual, it seemed to me, hid behind the cloak of continuing symptoms to explain and excuse the behavior. Yet, according to that person, he/she was supposedly not fit to run the program because he/she was still ill.

I take exception to this logic. Mentally ill people, to be valid individuals, should not be expected not to be mentally ill. -more-

Balancing free speech and safety at UC Berkeley — from Yiannopoulos to Coulter

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 10:51:00 AM

On November 20, 2019, Ann Coulter — American conservative media pundit, syndicated columnist, lawyer, and supporter of Trump’s wall — spoke at U.C. Berkeley sparking angry protests.

The Berkeley College Republicans invited Coulter for a talk entitled, “Adios, America!” Advertising said the writer would discuss the “current United States immigration system and the dangers of mass immigration.” Many protestors carrying signs condemning her as a fascist. While some masked protesters were arrested at the event, there was no violence or destruction of property. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:12:00 AM

The Awesome Power of Ivankanomics

During a November 12 speech to the Economic Club of New York, Donald Trump proudly and loudly boasted that his daughter, Ivanka, had personally "created 14 million jobs—14 million and going up."

It will come as no surprise that Trump's claim didn't actually jibe with the facts.

Since Trump became president, the entire US economy has added fewer than 6 million jobs. So Trump's boast must mean that the other 8 million of the First Daughter's job-creation miracle must have occurred in low-pay, overseas factories, where most of her lines of designer goods have been manufactured. -more-

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, December 1-8

Kelly Hammargren,Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:51:00 AM

Worth Noting:

Climate Solutions – Hosted by Student Environmental Resource Center at UCB -

So You Think You Know Climate Change?, Tue, Wed, Thur, 11 am - 2 pm at Sproul Plaza,

Deadline Decmber 8 – Petition - CA Air Resources Board, (CARB),

DIESEL TRUCKS – Expected CARB Proposal is too weak sign EarthJustice Petition

Deadline December 9 - Letter - CA Air Resources Board, (CARB),

SHIPS - Submit comments by letter or CARB form to CARB to cut pollution from Ships entering the Bay. CARB staff estimate the proposed regulation would remove nearly 400 tons of small particles from the air details and form link at

Council Agenda for December 10

Agenda follows the weekly list of meetings and rallies, City Council Winter Recess is December 11, 2019 – January 21, 2020

Sunday, December 1, 2019

350 Bay Area sponsored Action at Annual Auto Show, 1-3 pm, at Moscone Center in SF, FORD, BMW, HONDA and VW agreed to meet CA standards, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia sided with Trump to oppose CA standards

Monday, December 2, 2019

City Council Public Safety Committee, 10:30 am, at Cypress Room – minutes only, no other agenda items

Tax the Rich Rally, Canceled Rain

Tuesday, December 3, 2019 -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, November 24- December 1

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 10:45:00 AM

Worth Noting:

Monday is the only day of the week with City meetings.

Holiday Food Drive ends November 29 Hours: daily from 8:30 a – 6 p, for more information


Submit comments by letter or CARB form to CA Air Resources Board, (CARB) to cut pollution from Ships entering the Bay. CARB staff estimate the proposed regulation would remove nearly 400 tons of small particles from the air details and form link at


Agenda for the December 3 Regular City Council meeting follows the weekly list of meetings and rallies.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

No City meetings or events found

Monday, November 25, 2019 -more-