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When Leaving Home, Cover Face to Limit COVID-19 Spread

City of Berkeley
Thursday April 02, 2020 - 07:36:00 PM

Staying home, washing hands regularly still remain critical

The City of Berkeley’s Health Officer and other Health Officers around the region and state recommend that everyone cover their noses and mouths with cloth when leaving home for essential visits to doctor’s offices, supermarkets or pharmacies.

A bandana, fabric mask, neck gaiter or other cloth barrier helps prevent those who have mild or no COVID-19 symptoms from unknowingly spreading it to others. To protect yourself from others, use physical distance.

Do not use surgical masks or N-95s. Preserve the limited supply of medical grade masks such as an N-95 for health care workers or first-responders, who cannot use physical distance to protect themselves, especially from people at their most symptomatic, infectious periods. 

This new recommendation from the City of Berkeley, state and regional officials comes as scientists and doctors rapidly learn more about this new type of coronavirus, which was detected only four months ago and has no known medicine or vaccine. 

“Wear a bandana to protect others from an infection you might have,” said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, the City of Berkeley Health Officer. “When you see others wearing a cloth covering, know that they are protecting you.” 

Face coverings should cover the nose and mouth. Cloth materials can be improvised and should be washed repeatedly with detergent and dried on a hot cycle. Ideally, use a dedicated laundry bin so they are washed after each use. 

Make sure the covering is comfortable – you don’t want to have to keep adjusting the mask, which means touching your face. Always wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before AND after touching your face or face coverings. 

Health officials stress that staying home, frequent hand washing and physical distancing are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings may also serve as a reminder to the critical order to shelter in place except for essential activities. 

If you have sealed packages of masks, gloves, and other protective equipment to support Berkeley's emergency response you're able to donate, let us know

“Stay home except for essential activities,” said Dr. Hernandez. “When you must leave, help care for our community by keeping distance from others and covering your face.”

Tomorrow at Noon

LISA BULLWINKEL, Berkeley Art & Culture Hotline
Tuesday March 31, 2020 - 05:39:00 PM

Each week, on Wednesday at noon, no matter what your time zone, step outside your door or open your window and make the hills (and the flats) come alive with music. Props or costumes appreciated.

April 1, Noon http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobbymcferrin/dontworrybehappy.html

There are also some YouTube tutorials for learning this 3 chord song on a uke.

Take a photo or video and please link it to facebook.com/AnothrBullwinkelShow along with your location or neighborhood. A list of upcoming songs through April are at AnotherBullwinkelShow.com.

Have fun and stay away from each other while singing! 

New: Bay Area Stay-At-Home Order Extended, Clarified

DanMcMenamin,KileyRussell (BCN)
Tuesday March 31, 2020 - 04:36:00 PM

Health officers in several Bay Area counties and cities on Tuesday extended a shelter-in-place order through May 3 to try to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the region.

The previous order, issued earlier this month, was set to expire on April 7. The new order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and covers six counties -- Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara -- as well as the city of Berkeley.

The county health officers said the order is a complement to the indefinite stay-at-home statewide order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19.

The extended order reiterates that all non-essential businesses will remain closed and also clarifies some of the restrictions on public life in the Bay Area. 

It says that the use of playgrounds, dog parks, public picnic areas and similar recreational areas is prohibited and must be closed to the public. 

The use of shared public recreational facilities, like golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, pools and rock walls, is prohibited and those facilities must close. 

Sports requiring people to share a ball or other equipment is prohibited unless it solely involves people in the same household. 

The new order requires essential businesses to develop a social distancing protocol before Friday and says that most construction, both residential and commercial, is prohibited. 

The order expanded the types of essential businesses that are allowed to remain open to include service providers that enable residential transactions, like notaries, title companies and realtors. 

Also included are funeral homes and cemeteries -- but funerals are limited to 10 attendees.  

Moving companies, rental car companies and ride-hailing services that "enable essential activities" are also allowed to remain operational.  

All of the businesses that remain open are required to pair down operations to the bare minimum, according to the announcement.  

The extension of the order is necessary because of a "significant increase" in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths that are now putting a "strain on health care resources," according to the news release. 

As of Tuesday, there were 150 deaths reported statewide from COVID-19. "Extending the stay-at-home order should reduce the number of sick patients seeking care at one time, giving us time to acquire more medical supplies for providers who will be providing care to people sick with COVID-19," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County. 

"The extension will allow doctors and nurses to better treat those who do get sick, and save countless lives," Farnitano said.

New: Spiraling infections - What to consider- What to do

Kelly Hammargren, R.N.
Tuesday March 31, 2020 - 03:31:00 PM

The Shelter in Place order has been extended to May 3. The peak is still weeks away. Per Mayor Jesse Arreguin's town hall Saturday, Berkeley was only at 19 identified infected persons. We know that will increase.

It is impossible to turn on the television without seeing a story about homemade masks or masks now being made out of sports jersey materials. Nurses, doctors, the entire team need the N95 masks and a full set of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The homemade masks, masks from sports jerseys do not give the protection that is needed for members of the health care team who are in close contact with COVID-19. A best guess would be that these well-meaning efforts offer little to almost no protection for the working conditions of doctors and nurses, but for your trip to the grocery with social distancing a DIY mask will add some extra protection even if the only effect is to make you conscious of keeping your hands off your face.

Consider this: When a person infected with measles coughs or sneezes, the virus propelled into the air is infectious for up to two hours. Measles carries a fatality rate of 0.2%. The winter flu is 0.1% fatal. The best information available states COVID-19 is airborne for three hours and when those droplets fall from the air or come off the hands of an infected person on plastic and stainless steel the droplets are infectious for days. The true fatality rate of COVID-19 is still unknown given the inconsistency and inadequacy of testing, but it is many times higher than flu and measles. 

The elderly are most vulnerable and most people will have a full recovery, but it has been a disservice, if not irresponsible to frame COVID-19 as an infection that the young only need to worry about transmitting to their grandparents. The 17 year old from Lancaster, CA who died last week tested positive for COVID-19. He is still not counted as a COVID-19 death, but notions that young people cannot die from COVID-19 look to need some readjusting. 

I’ve heard and seen a variety of behaviors from casually dismissive to obsessively compulsive. A quick drive to observe people waiting in line to buy groceries lays to question how well people really respect the six-foot distancing recommendation. 

Back on March 21, I posted on my Facebook page several links on do it yourself masks including making choices on materials and patterns. They are included here along with how to plan your shopping trip and unpack your groceries. Social distancing and washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds are still the most important actions you can take, but, looking at the increasing numbers of infections and complications, wearing DIY masks for essential trips out adds another layer of protection. And don’t forget gloves if you have them. 

Here are some practical "how to" tips on grocery shopping from two physicians. Note in the unpacking the physician is in Michigan where they still have plastic, and after the tape was made there was an update on how long the virus lives on cardboard.  

Shopping Trips:

I Went Grocery Shopping With A Doctor To Learn How To Do It Safely During Novel Coronavirus 



How to Unpack 

PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic UPDATED - virus lives on cardboard for 1 day  




More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks As Protection 


When there aren’t enough N95 masks for health care workers, what do the rest of us do? Get out the sewing machine. 

Analysis of materials for homemade masks (note this comparison is to surgical masks not the N95 that our doctors and nurses need) 

What Are the Best Materials for DIY Masks? 



Pattern for shaped mask with variety of sizes 


Pattern for pleated mask like surgical mask 


Kelly Hammargren is an R.N. and a Certified Public Health nurse. She has an MBA in health administration.

New: Berkeley Responds to COVID-19

Councilmember Kate Harrison
Tuesday March 31, 2020 - 02:28:00 PM

Today marks the second week of the COVID-19 Shelter in Place Order.

While it is still too early to tell, I remain hopeful that the Bay Area's early physical distancing measures will result in a flattened infection curve. The Bay Area is fortunate to have a group of dedicated public health leaders working together.

I am providing a number of updates on the extension of the order, information on how to apply for the City’s COVID-19 rental, arts, and small business relief funds, and excerpts from my virtual town hall Q&A: 

Berkeley Shelter in Place Order Extended until at least May 3, 2020 

Seven health officers across the Bay Area extended shelter-in-place orders until at least May 3. Yesterday, Regional Health Officers issued a the joint statement alerting the community that the shelter in place order would be extended. You can read the latest order and press release here

Even though the Shelter at Home order has created massive disruptions to our daily lives, it is important take a moment to appreciate the leadership of Berkeley’s Emergency Operations Center, Department of Public Health Department, and other City staff, acting in unison with neighboring Bay Area cities and Counties, and leading the country in taking necessary physical distancing measures to slow the COVID-19 infection. 

Without these measures, our public health system could be overwhelmed far beyond the current influx. We are seeing a doubling of cases every six days instead of the doubling every three days that was occurring in New York. 

Applications for the COVID-19 Relief Funds are Now Open 

The incredibly fast response of City staff in setting the parameters and developing the application process for these Council-directed funds is much appreciated. 

  • Apply here for housing retention grants
    • What: Berkeley's Housing Retention Program provides grant assistance to Berkeley residents at risk of eviction.
    • Deadline: Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The program will be open 60 days after the shelter-in-place order if lifted, or longer if deemed necessary.
Update: Permitted Construction Work During Crisis 

In the latest shelter order, Berkeley’s Public Health Officer clarified the type of construction work that is permitted during the crisis

  1. Projects immediately necessary to the maintenance, operation or repair of Essential Infrastructure;
  2. Projects associated with Healthcare Operations, including creating or expanding Healthcare Operations, provided that such construction is directly related to the COVID-19 response;
  3. Affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including multi-unit or mixed-use developments containing at least 10% income-restricted units;
  4. Public works projects if specifically designated as an Essential Governmental Function by the lead governmental agency;
  5. Shelters and temporary housing, but not including hotels or motels;
  6. Projects immediately necessary to provide critical non-commercial services to individuals experiencing homelessness, elderly persons, persons who are economically disadvantaged, and persons with special needs;
  7. Construction necessary to ensure that existing construction sites that must be shut down under this Order are left in a safe and secure manner, but only to the extent necessary to do so; and
  8. Construction or repair necessary to ensure that residences and buildings containing Essential Businesses are safe, sanitary, or habitable to the extent such construction or repair cannot reasonably be delayed.
In addition, residents may contract with arborists, landscapers, gardeners, and similar service professionals, but only to the limited extent necessary to maintain the habitability, sanitation, operation of businesses or residences, or the safety of residents, employees, or the public (such as fire safety or tree trimming to prevent a dangerous condition), and not for cosmetic or other purposes (such as upkeep). 

I want to thank our regional health directors for considering these issues. 

Update on the City Response 

Here are a few of the other major ways the City of Berkeley has been responding to the crisis in face of an inadequate, but growing, response from the federal government: 

  • Conducting contact tracing interviews with people that may have had contact with infected individuals to determine appropriate follow-up actions which help determine additional individuals exposed. This is a time intensive, labor intensive process and we’re lucky to have our diagnostic team. However, the absence of testing (a federal failure) leaves people who were contacted but are asymptomatic without many avenues for dealing with this information.
  • As of Monday, establishing a paramedic team to respond to COVID-19 and triage calls for unhoused individuals. More needs to be done around protocols here but this is a critical and much needed intervention.
  • Finding more sites for social distancing among sheltered and unsheltered people, including isolation for those exhibiting symptoms/confirmed cases (see below for more details).
  • Developing a pilot program to provide childcare for essential City staff at recreation centers; coordinating with Alameda County on a Countywide database of available childcare facilities for healthcare professionals and other essential service workers.
  • Coordinating with Alameda County on the County Medical Surge Plan (which is implemented when the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed).
  • Working with Easy Does It to provide protective equipment for those serving community members who use wheelchairs.
Questions and Answers from my Recent Virtual Town Hall 

Thank you to all that attended my virtual town hall last week. Here is an excerpt of a few of your questions along with answers: 

  • Q:

    How can we donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to our first responders?


    The City has created a program to collect PPE from residents and from Earthquake Caches. The Public Donations webpage provides details of how to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing supplies (e.g. hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc.) beginning Monday, March 30. Items must be in sealed packages or unopened boxes.
    • N-95 masks (expired masks accepted)
    • Masks (isolation or surgical)
    • Gowns (isolation or surgical)
    • Gloves
    • Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer (all sizes)
    • Disinfectant wipes and sprays (bleach and peroxides)
    • Face shields
    • Shoe covers
    • Goggles/eye protection
    • Tyvek coveralls

  • Q:

    What latest actions has the City been taking to distribute essential supplies and educational materials to encampments? What is the status of the hotels in Oakland that are to be used as temporary shelter for homeless folks? Do you have information on the two sites the City is looking to establish for quarantining homeless folks?


    The City is working with NGOs to distribute supplies to the encampments. You can donate supplies to Consider the Homeless at http://www.considerthehomeless.org/ or Where Do we Go at https://www.facebook.com/WhereDoWeGoBerkeley/ and https://twitter.com/WhereDoWeGoBerk.

    I’m pleased that the latest COVID-19 shelter order states that “governmental and other entities are strongly urged to, as soon as possible, make such shelter available and provide handwashing or hand sanitation facilities to persons who continue experiencing homelessness.”

    The City has been given the go-ahead to access State-procured hotels in Oakland for COVID-19 positive and presumed positive homeless people and this appears close to happening. If it does, we will use the trailers placed on City property at the 1200 block of University Avenue to help elderly and medically vulnerable homeless people who do not have a positive test or those that have not yet been tested . A house formerly owned by the Redevelopment Agency is also being repurposed. The City is working on how to transport people to these locations.

    In addition, my office wrote, and the Council directed the establishment of a sanctioned encampment in January 2020 to provide tents, handwashing stations, porta potties, trash pickup, onsite staff and housing referrals In February, the Council and CALTRANS identified parcels to be used for this purpose. The COVID-19 emergency has delayed these efforts. This is the time to double down on providing these facilities, for the sake of the unhoused and all of us.

    The City is using one site (Senior Center) for storage of PPE that is procured from the state, vendors or donations. We are considering other sites for shelter expansion -- both for reducing the number of people in current shelters and bringing more people off of the streets but there is no finalized list.

    We have been instructed that homeless people with COVID-19 symptoms and lack access to care can call Alameda Health System 510-437-8500 for telephone screen and more information. Advocates can use this number to provide help as well. However, I remain concerned that our region’s response to helping the unhoused in this emergency is slow and could result in unnecessary loss of life.
  • Q:

    How else can I help?


    The Berkeley Preparedness Network has set up a Mutual Aid network (www.berkeleymutualaid.org) to support vulnerable populations with grocery delivery etc. during the crisis. Please visit the website for more information about how to benefit from services and how to volunteer to help.

    The network is in the process of reaching out to those without internet access as well, with bilingual flyers at all Berkeley Safeway markets, Berkeley Bowl, and Mi Tierra Foods, as well as a bilingual Google Voice Mail: 510 519-6770.
  • Q:

    What is the current number of COVID-19 cases in Berkeley?


    As of 10:00am March 30, 2020, there are 19 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Berkeley. This does not reflect the total number of people in Berkeley with COVID-19 due to limitations on testing. Data shows that there is community spread in our area. Many people experience mild or no symptoms, but they can still spread it to others.

    For a daily update on cases please visit: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/coronavirus/
  • Q:

    Are there any tests available via drive in to Berkeley residents for those with symptoms of fever and shortness of breath?


    There is no drive in available in Berkeley at the moment. Testing for COVID-19 is done through clinicians. You should call your doctor before heading to the hospital. If you don't have a primary care physician, contact an urgent care center.

    List of urgent care centers in and near Berkeley

    Starting this week, the City will dispatch a team to assess unhoused individuals and triage them for testing.

    The City of Hayward has partnered with Avellino Labs for an innovative free drive through testing facility located at a Fire Station for anyone (regardless of residency or immigration status) with fever over 100 degrees and shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms. Tests are being administered by Hayward firefighters and paramedics, EMTs and fire science students from Chabot College. San Francisco will begin curbside testing this week as well and Berkeley is nearing implementation of this idea in the face of the severe shortage of tests. I will be sure to send updates on this issue.
  • Q:

    Why has the City closed cannabis dispensaries?


    I am happy to report that Berkeley’s Public Health Officer revised the order to clarify that dispensaries may offer curbside pickup and delivery during the crisis.

Federal Stimulus Bill Clarifications 

  • Please note that the additional unemployment benefit of up to $600 will be applied on a weekly basis (not per paycheck as suggested in my prior newsletter). You can find a link to an updated version here.
  • As AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) notes, lower-income seniors receiving Social Security benefits, disability, or other retirement benefits are still eligible for the $1,200 one-time check even if they do not file taxes: https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2020/coronavirus-stimulus-checks.html

New: Bay Area COVID-19 Tuesday Status Summary

Eli Walsh, Bay City News
Tuesday March 31, 2020 - 01:36:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Tuesday morning include: 

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkeley plan to extend the current shelter-in-place order due to the novel coronavirus pandemic until at least May 1. The order was slated to expire April 7. 

Health inspectors with the San Francisco Department of Public Health are conducting inspections of single-room occupancy hotels to ensure that SRO building owners and managers are complying with city mandates amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District announced that it will modify its service beginning on Tuesday in the wake of declining ridership because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. AC Transit, which serves parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, said its modified service will be similar to its current Sunday service, although arrival times will be different than on Sundays. 

The California Franchise Tax Board has postponed the deadline for filing tax protests, appeals and refund claims due to the novel coronavirus pandemic until mid-July. 

As of Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region: 

Alameda County: 283 cases, 7 deaths (270 cases, 7 deaths at last check Monday) 

Contra Costa County: 187 cases, 3 deaths (175 cases, 3 deaths as of Monday) 

Marin County: 98 cases, 4 deaths (93 cases, 1 death on Monday) 

Monterey County: 36 cases, 1 death (36 cases, 1 death on Sunday) Napa County: 15 cases (14 on Monday) 

San Francisco County: 397 cases, 6 deaths (374 cases, 6 deaths on Monday) 

San Mateo County: 309 cases, 10 deaths (309 cases, 6 deaths as of Monday) 

Santa Clara County: 848 cases, 28 deaths (646 cases, 25 deaths as of Monday) 

Santa Cruz County: 45 cases, 1 death (44 cases, 1 death on Monday) 

Solano County: 43 cases (34 on Monday) 

Sonoma County: 73 cases, 1 death (58 cases, 1 death on Monday) 

Statewide: 7,414 cases, 149 deaths (6,300 cases, 132 deaths as of Monday) 


CONTACT: County Health Departments, State Health Department https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx 

Copyright � 2020 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Running around a Pandemic

Jeremy Schwartzbord
Monday March 30, 2020 - 02:56:00 PM

At 8:00pm, it starts. First, the slide of terrace doors opening and the sound of balcony windows being unlatched. Lingering silence is broken as people lean out from above and applaud. Regardless of the neighborhood , the French people clap every evening at this time. Some households play music. Noise-making accoutrements that I don’t have in my home punctuate the patter: cow bells, groggers of sorts, and improbably, kazoos. This is all to appreciate healthcare workers battling COVID-19. I am an American living in the southern French city of Montpellier, and during the pandemic, my favorite activity is to jog during this daily event. Montpellieris a small city­—the population of Orlando—but has the density between that of Boston and Newark. Narrow streets radiate from the medieval center and meander through myriad neighborhoods. So I can jog a short distance but feel that I have covered much ground. 

As of March 30th, there have been 40 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in France, and the threat has been taken seriously by the French government. Its policy—a correct response—of shelter-in-place requires residents to stay home except for essential needs: food shopping, caring for family, pharmacy runs, doctor visits, and up to one hour of athletic activity within one kilometer of home, alone. Anyone outside must have a certificate indicating a sanctioned reason, either printed from the website of the French government or transcribed by hand. The certificate must be signed with the date and hour. Anyone found in violation of the this policy (Article 3 of the decree of March 23, 2020 prescribing general measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic…) can be fined 200 euro for a first infraction and in the case of a fourth within 30days, up to 3700 euro and a six month prison sentence. 

The President of France has announced that we are at war, and so the French government has taken drastic measures. But what alarms me more is the inconsistent application of them in the United States and the confused messages and rancor from the top levels of American government. Governors are strapped forventilators. The president insists “We’re not a shipping clerk” as a response to requests from states for emergency medical supplies. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas affirms that the elderly can sacrifice themselves for the American economy. I think of my family in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and worry what will be the ultimate toll in a nation that lacks a solid, coherent response to the pandemic. In France, the message is clear: stay home. Nonetheless, the élan of the country remains intact, and each night at 8:00 pm people open their windows. 

So if I leave my apartment by 7:40 pm to warm-up well, then by 8:00 I’m flying as the city is cheering. I forget the grim news on every French news program, in one out of two New York Times articles, in two out of three National Public Radio stories. My attention cannot stick to them as I race through the city, (within one kilometer of my home) tracing streets that pass from neighborhoods of the Belle Epoque to modern, residential high-rises standing sentinel to the Mediterranean sea. My brain bathed momentarily in endorphins, I witness a nation expressing its gratitude for those caring for the sick. I’m home by 8:30, and that little respite will carry me to another day. 

Becoming Truly Fashion Forward: Revolutionizing Ethicality and Sustainability Within Fashion

Claire Chang
Monday March 30, 2020 - 02:50:00 PM

There was a time when my closet was inauthentic.

I’d always been an admirer of the glitz and glamour of the fashion world. But as I became older and more cognizant of the ugly processes that lay behind the beauty the garments offered, owning them became untenable. With factory workers coerced into substandard work conditions, erratic shifts, and unlivable wages, the human cost of fashion is unjustifiable. Clothing is meant to be an empowering exercise in self-expression; how then was it ethical to empower myself at the expense of workers? Instead of focusing on appearance or price, I wanted my clothes’ origins to reflect my humanitarian values. To me, authenticity in fashion means embodying a piece that you believe in, not only in its outward appearance but also its inward significance. As I rediscovered my wardrobe, I identified three key action-items we should all consider when picking out the next piece to decorate our closet. 

Firstly, we must question all the company’s claims. In today’s digital age of instantaneous information transfer, nearly any company can portray itself as being environmentally conscious with an Instagram post that highlights a few buzzwords and some strategic design placement. But we must not let flashy falsehoods mislead us from understanding what companies are truly saying amidst their claims of ethical behavior. If a company touts their compliance with labor laws, all they’re really saying is that they’re not committing a crime. Thus, we must delve further to evaluate whether those labor laws are even affording workers adequate working conditions in the first place. 

Second, we must examine the materials of an article of clothing. For years, the fashion industry has used toxic materials that have not only been proven to have a long-lasting impact on the environment, but also have been discovered in the blood and breast milk of the vast majority of people tested. Imagine the long-lasting impact it has on the workers who are forced to interact with these chemicals constantly, while given little to no protection from these toxic fumes. Instead of perpetuating a demand for clothing made with these harmful materials (i.e. polyester, acrylic, and cotton), we should invest in alternatives (i.e. organic hemp, tencel, and qmonos) that will not only look fantastic, but also improve the conditions of those working with such materials daily. 

Finally, we must advocate for accountability through policy. Given that these companies rely on us to generate their revenue, we should take policy actions to ensure that these brands are held accountable in adhering to environmental and labor regulation standards. Such policies have been proven successful in other regions and can be similarly applied in the United States. For example, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a massive inspection campaign in 2017 where they identified that 70 percent of the 14,000 businesses examined did not meet the existing air pollution standards, resulting in hefty fines imposed on violators to normalize adherence. If we wish to hold these companies responsible, we must be the fashion police that demands similar policies in the United States. With the world consuming 80 billion new pieces of clothing a year, the time to reexamine what we put on our bodies is now. But, let’s also not fall for manipulative marketing attempts by companies wishing to jump on the trending wave of “sustainable fashion”. 

Everlane, a popular company that markets itself as a “radically transparent” company that works with the “best, ethical factories in the world”, actually lacks evidence that they decrease water and hazardous chemical use throughout their supply chain. On top of that, they actually employ people from countries with a high history of labor abuse. On the other hand, KOOKAI, a family-owned women’s fashion label based in Australia and New Zealand, opened its own manufacturing facilities, giving the brand complete visibility over its supply chain. Its executives regularly visit these facilities, which provide ongoing training programs, free health checks, and even a full-time on-site counselor, to ensure production is executed in an ethical and sustainable way. 

Clothing is the purest form of self-expression. So unless you walk around naked, each and every one of us is part of this fight, and together, we can change this industry. By simply being conscious in selecting the next piece to try on for the fitting room, we can influence companies to realize the importance of ethical and sustainable standards for clothing, and maybe even shift towards models like that of KOOKAI. 

Slowly, we can bring back authenticity in fashion -- where every piece not only reflects a part of someone’s outward personality but also their essential humanitarian values. 

Claire Chang is a sophomore studying Business Administration and Human Rights at the University of California, Berkeley.

UCB Creates Popup Coronavirus Test Lab

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Monday March 30, 2020 - 01:01:00 PM

The University of California at Berkeley said Monday that its Innovative Genomics Institute is creating a pop-up novel coronavirus diagnostic lab with the capacity to process more than 1,000 patient samples per day.  

More than 50 volunteer scientists from UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UC's local corporate partners are launching the lab to bolster the Bay Area's coronavirus testing capacity outside of local public health departments. 

The scientists hope the lab's robotic and analytical equipment can analyze patient nasopharyngeal swabs in less than 24 hours. 

The lab will begin testing viral samples this week with the goal of being accredited by the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments program by next week. The lab will begin testing samples from UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty, with plans to eventually assist other testing centers in the East Bay. 

"We mobilized a team of talented academic scientists, partnered with experts from companies and pulled together, in a matter of a few days, a group that is operating like a biotech company," said Jennifer Doudna, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology and executive director of the IGI. 

The lab will use testing methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but with a higher efficiency than some commercial labs. The IGI lab will be able to test more than 300 samples at once. If needed, the lab can accommodate up to 3,000 tests per day, according to UC Berkeley. 

Test turnaround in the Bay Area has, in some cases, taken a week or more for commercial labs due to a dearth of test kits and changing guidelines on who can be tested and when. Public health officials have stressed the need for large-scale testing to prevent the virus' spread and to know who is and isn't infected. 

"There are other aspects of broader testing that would be so clinically powerful," said UC Berkeley University Health Services Assistant Vice Chancellor Guy Nicolette. "We could make better decisions about health, about work, about possibly how long we need to continue to socially distance, based on what we find." 

The IGI has also pledged to make its coronavirus testing technology royalty-free, in hopes of increasing testing exponentially. 

More information about the IGI can be found at innovativegenomics.org.

We Are All First Responders

Carol Denney
Monday March 30, 2020 - 01:00:00 PM

The lengthy commentary by Cody R. McGillivray scolding us all for sheltering in place probably awakens in a certain ratio among us a sense of something familiar. Isn't there some lunacy in letting the economy fall apart while going stir-crazy indoors if we're lucky enough to have a door to close?

Only if you're unconcerned about being an asymptomatic carrier. You may elect to take your chances with exposure since you're feeling well, or if you like the sense of adventure. But the person who picks up the shopping basket behind you may not want to risk their family, their neighbors, or themselves. 

Just as with the common cold, this virus may be passed between asymptomatic people, some of whom may never present with symptoms. Just as the common cold can make the rounds of a dinner party while everyone at the moment of exposure continues to feel perfectly fine, so too can coronavirus easily pass from person to person. By touching common surfaces it can find a new host and take three days to do it. 

Of the 10,000 people dead in Italy, count on it that a certain ratio grabbed and kissed European-style on both cheeks had no idea what was about to happen. Now there aren't enough coffins to keep up. 

We are all first responders right now since the only option, absent any vaccine or treatment, is to make sure we do not pass the virus between us. Cody McGillivray may wish to make his own decisions about his own exposure, but I am thankful the people he encounters are at least trying to caution him about making life or death decisions for others. 

The economy is not a person with a finite amount of time to live. And anyone deeply concerned about how to take a tanking economy and wants some good ideas about how to address it should, while shelter-in-place provides the opportunity, read about the New Deal.

Sunday Report on COVID-19 Status

Bay City News
Sunday March 29, 2020 - 09:14:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Sunday afternoon include: 

Seven staff members and two patients at Laguna Honda Hospital have tested positive for the virus. 

The Santa Cruz Police Department on Sunday announced its intention to actively enforce the city's shelter-in-place order when officers see businesses or groups of people in violation. 

Santa Clara County Helping Hands is calling on healthy residents to volunteer to bring meals and prescriptions to local seniors and people who are immunocompromised via scchelpinghands.com. 

Ten days after passing a $500,000 rent relief package, the Mountain View City Council has approved another $800,000 to help local small businesses, homeless and people with unstable living situations, seniors and residents struggling with garbage or water bills. 

Animal shelters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties urged pet owners to develop an emergency plan in the event they are hospitalized and cannot care for their pets. 

As of Sunday at 3:30 p.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region: 

Alameda County (including Berkeley): 270 cases, 7 deaths (204 cases, 4 deaths at last check Saturday) 

Contra Costa County: 175 cases, 3 deaths (151 cases, 2 deaths) 

Marin County: 74 cases, 1 death (68 cases, 1 death) 

Monterey County: 36 cases, 1 death (32 cases, 1 death) 

Napa County: 10 cases (9 cases) 

San Francisco County: 340 cases, 5 deaths (308 cases, 4 deaths) 

San Mateo County: 277 cases, 6 deaths (239 cases, 6 deaths) 

Santa Clara County: 646 cases, 25 deaths (574 cases, 20 deaths) 

Santa Cruz County: 44 cases, 1 death (34 cases) 

Solano County: 34 cases (34 cases) 

Sonoma County: 58 cases, 1 death (54 cases) 

Statewide: 5,827 cases, 124 deaths (3,801 cases, 78 deaths) 

Press Release: Federal Court Issues Nationwide Temporary Restraining Order to promptly release all detained immigrant minors in light of COVID-19

From Peter Schey
Sunday March 29, 2020 - 03:56:00 PM

Yesterday United States District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles issued a nationwide temporary restraining order requiring that the Trump administration "make every effort to promptly and safely release" from custody thousands of class members in the Flores v. Barr case. LINK TO RESTRAINING ORDER. Class members in the Flores case include all minors detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in family detention centers and all unaccompanied minors detained by the HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement. There are over 5,000 children in detention. The order requires prompt release under Paragraph 14 of the Flores Settlement which sets out an order of preference for release including parents, relatives, group homes, and other responsible unrelated adults. 

The restraining order also requires that by April 6 the Government provide the court, the court-appointed Special Master, and the lawyers representing the children data on all minors not released by then including their names, dates of apprehension, places of detention, and why they have not been released in eight states. The states are California, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. These are the states that have 3000 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of the date of the restraining order. ORR was also ordered to "endeavor to provide the requested information for all Class Members in their custody" - those detained in other states. 

The order also requires that by no later than April 9, 2020, court-approved Juvenile Coordinators who work for ICE and ORR as part of the Flores settlement monitoring "shall provide the Court and the Special Monitor with a report regarding whether their facilities are at, above, or below capacity levels (with specific numbers) and the status of implementation of CDC-compliant guidances. The Juvenile Coordinators shall also videotape living conditions at any facility chosen by the Special Monitor and/or her expert consultant for review, as well as provide any requested information on what guidance protocols are being followed there. 

The court's injunction was issued at the request of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization that in 1997 reached a nationwide settlement with the federal government addressing the conditions of detention and right to release of children in immigration custody. The settlement, commonly known as the Flores settlement, guarantees all detained immigrant minors the right to "safe and sanitary" conditions of detention, and to prompt release, "without unnecessary delay," to a list of relatives living in the United States, including parents, grand-parents, uncles, aunts, and siblings or licensed group homes. 

President Trump has publicly denounced the settlement, and is now trying to over-turn it in a federal appeals court in San Francisco after the lower federal court in Los Angeles in December 2019 denied a government request to terminate the settlement based on new regulations the Trump administration issued dealing with the detention of children. 

Statement of Peter Schey, one of the attorneys for the class - 

We are relieved for thousands of detained children that the court has intervened to keep these children as safe as possible during this COVID-19 health crisis. Judge Dolly Gee's order that the Government must promptly release all children to available sponsors may save children's lives. The court's temporary restraining order is reasonable under the circumstances given the Trump administrations inaction to get children released as quickly as possible. The judge's order may help slow down the spread of the virus among detained children and staff and surrounding communities where children and families are detained. The Trump administration's failure to release detained immigrant children who are neither flight risks nor a danger is cruel and serves no national or local interest. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to unnecessarily detain thousands of children who pose no danger of any sort to the country, the Trump Administration should use those funds to get COVID-19 testing kits and protective gear out to local communities. 


Anyone who wants to support our work and a licensed group home we operate for detained minor's whose release we secure, can make a donation in any amount at https://casalibrela.org/donate Every donation helps regardless of the amount. 

Lawyers, child welfare experts and interpreters who may want to volunteer doing detention site inspections under the Flores settlement please go to www.reunify.org to register. We will email you when site inspections resume. 


Link to restraining order

Non-essential legislation during a pandemic violates our public participation rights

Bob Silvestri
Sunday March 29, 2020 - 02:45:00 PM

While California is just beginning to deal with the Covid-19 virus pandemic, the biggest healthcare crisis in our history, most politicians seem to exist in a parallel universe. They seem to think that they are doing their job by sending out email blasts with pictures of their smiling faces parroting CDC pronouncements.

Meanwhile, heartless state senators, representatives, and well-financed YIMBY operatives are looking at the tsunami of pain and suffering we are witnessing as just another “opportunity” to promote their extremist, legislative agenda that wrests control of planning and zoning away from local governments. But this time, the consequences for us all are likely to be much worse.

We cannot allow predatory, unconscionable political maneuvering

We have a protected legal right to engage in robust public participation in our political process. But how can we exercise that right when all public gatherings are forbidden, when all public hearings are closed, when even face to face conversations are verboten? The well-intended but meager attempts by local and state government to videotape their meetings and use social media to interact with the public are absurdly inadequate to replace a fully attended public process, while the entire state’s population is under mandatory “shelter in place” order, schools are closed, most businesses are closed, and most people cannot go to work. 

Right now, people are desperately worried about their children, their families, their finances, their jobs, about having food to eat… about their lives! The furthest thing on anyone’s mind right now is what some loose-cannon legislator is trying to slip through in Sacramento. 

This is why we must immediately contact our local and state elected representatives and demand that all non-essential legislation and deliberations be postponed until the statewide “Shelter in place” order has been lifted. 

"Non-essential" is defined as anything not directly related to the health, safety, and well-being of the public: healthcare, food, homelessness, personal and business support, etc. 

The heartless Wiener bandwagon rolls on 

A case in point is San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener, who is intentionally exploiting the pandemic chaos to, yet again, promote his community-destroying legislation to make way for virtually unlimited, high density development and massive numbers of luxury housing units across the state. His latest proposal is Senate Bill 902 and his Sacramento allies are piling on with their own holdover housing bills such as AB 725 (Buffy, Wicks, Wiener) and AB 1279 (Bloom). 

As always, these bills are enthusiastically supported my Marin County state representative Marc Levine and state senator Mike McGuire. Yet, none of this legislation ensures any amount of affordable housing for those most in need. 

These new laws continue to strip local government of all zoning control and legislate massive, high density development in single-family zoned neighborhoods, by right. They create nonsensical, politically-motivated zoning designations such as “jobs rich areas” (big corporate interests) and “high resource areas” (wealthy residents and other business interests). 

Worst of all, these proposals continue to dramatically shift the liabilities and financial responsibilities to provide public services, schools, and infrastructure to support their hyper-development visions, onto the backs of small local governments and already tax overburdened residents. 

This was bad enough when the economy was humming along and local coffers were being filled with sales taxes and rising property taxes (though the tax revolt evidenced in our recent March elections in Marin County showed that was already coming to an end). But now, with each passing day of the dramatic shutdown of our $22 trillion per year national economy, that revenue is rapidly disappearing. 

While Senator Wiener and his self-interested financial supporters try to take advantage of the moment, people are dying and the body count is just beginning. This is particularly true for the elderly, whom Wiener and YIMBYs have shamelessly blamed for the housing “crisis.” Apparently, Scott Wiener could care less. 

We are ill-prepared for what might be coming 

The gross failings of our federal government at the top and the inadequacy of our healthcare response/resources system is well-documented on the evening news. Meanwhile, the general public is caught like deer in the headlights, in the face of the deluge of bad news that will be coming as the coronavirus eats its way through the northern hemisphere then the southern hemisphere, disrupting everything in its path: farming, resources extraction, manufacturing, transportation, supply chains, corporate fortunes, banking, and possibly even the solvency of many marginally stable countries around the world. 

All of this will have real impact, direct and indirect, on local employment and wages and benefits. And all of this is coming at the worst possible time, when the biggest pension funds are woefully underfunded and far behind their promised rates of return and payouts, and when defaults on credit cards, auto loans, and other credit were already rising, and the corporate bond market, which dwarfs the valuation of the stock market, is now in a free-fall of insolvency. 

Will we get through this? Of course, yes. What will it look like on the other side? No one knows. 

What we do know is that the state’s shelter in place directive will not be over by Easter. Maybe Memorial Day? No one knows. The societal adjustments we’re witnessing may be with us for years unless an effective vaccine is found soon. 

As things are, the stock market (and all those IRAs and 401ks) may have little chance of a sustainable rebound soon because of the massive debt and default overhang that may continue to haunt it. Or the government will become the investor of last resort, making everything financial even more dependent on the market's survival than it already was when all this began. Either way, the federal government will likely have spent/injected/backstopped $8 to $10 trillion to save our financial system before this is over, and we’ll be lucky if that turns out to be enough. 

So then where will the funding come from to pay for universal healthcare, a green new deal, and affordable housing? A lot of unanswerable questions. 

It is likely that tens of thousands of jobs in California and millions in the country will vanish and a significant percentage will never come back. Thousands of small businesses are going to be closing their doors, for good. Central bank interest rates will remain at zero for years and savers will be decimated even as people will save more, out of fear. 

If personal and business bankruptcies surge in the coming months, it could set off a chain reaction of unpaid debt on a scale that could make the much touted, federal $2 trillion stimulus package and it's $1,200 a month payouts look like a drop in the bucket. And if the California Rule holds on, it may drag the state down in the pension fund collapse that’s coming. 

On the home front 

The bottom line is that many small cities and counties, who rely heavily on revenues from sales taxes and local bond measures, may not survive prolonged financial carnage. If this pandemic keeps up at anywhere near the pace we’re seeing around the world, look for insolvency to be coming to a city council meeting near you. 

All things considered, this is not a time to be screwing around with cleverly worded “housing” legislation in Sacramento, to help major corporations off-load the financial impacts of their voracious, tax-subsidized growth onto our already over-burdened local government and the public. 

Please immediately contact your local and state elected representatives and demand that all non-essential legislation and deliberations be postponed until the statewide “Shelter in place” order has been lifted. 

We deserve a fully functioning, open, and transparent public process. 



Bob Silvestri is a Mill Valley resident and the founder and president of Community Venture Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization funded only by individuals in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. Please consider DONATING TO CVP to enable us to continue to work on behalf of Marin residents. 



Tom Lehrer Previews 2020

Sunday March 29, 2020 - 12:09:00 PM

How did he know it would come to this? Thanks, Kathleen, for sending this prophetic link.  

City Asks Berkeley Residents to Donate Personal Protective Equipment

Bay City News
Saturday March 28, 2020 - 10:25:00 PM

Berkeley is appealing to the community for donations of protective supplies that can be used by public safety workers and others during the novel corona virus emergency. 

The list of items includes N-95 masks (expired masks accepted), isolation or surgical masks and gowns, gloves, all sizes of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and sprays (bleach and peroxides), face shields, shoe covers, goggles or other eye protection, and Tyvek coveralls. 

"We'll use the equipment to help support our firefighters, nurses, police and others as the need arises," the city said in an announcement Friday. "This equipment reduces their exposure to the virus, which in turn reduces the spread and allows them to respond to more cases." 

Items must be in sealed packages or unopened boxes. There is no minimum quantity. 

Those who have items to donate can fill out the online donation form at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/H5625ZC. 

"If you're not sure whether your item is an appropriate type or model, leave a note in the comments section with additional detail," officials advised.

New: Bay Area COVID-19 Update as of Saturday A.M.

Kathleen Kirkwood, BCN
Saturday March 28, 2020 - 10:29:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Saturday morning include: 

In San Francisco, test kits for the novel coronavirus will be prioritized for health care workers and first responders, Mayor London Breed announced Friday. 

An emergency department staff member at San Francisco General Hospital has tested positive and is self-isolating at home, officials said. All San Mateo County Parks have been closed until further notice due to a sharp increase in visitors. 

Health care professionals are warning that steps need to be taken to protect immigrant populations and communities of color, which face a greater risk of being exposed. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order banning the eviction for renters affected by COVID-19 through May 31.  

A man who had been a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship is the first novel coronavirus-related death recorded in Marin County, health officials said Friday. 

The Press newspapers based in Brentwood announced the "suspension" of the print publication of their four editions that also included papers in Oakley, Antioch and Discovery Bay. 

Solano Public Health said all county parks and Solano Land Trust public Access properties closed as of 6 p.m. Friday. 

As of Saturday at 9:30 a.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region: 

Alameda County: 204 cases, 4 deaths(178 cases, 4 deaths at last check Friday) 

Contra Costa County: 151 cases, 2 deaths(131 cases, 1 death at last check Friday) 

Marin County: 68 cases, 1 death (65 on Friday) Monterey County: 32 cases, 1 death (27 cases, 1 death on Friday) 

Napa County: 9 cases (8 on Friday) 

San Francisco County: 308 cases, 4 deaths (279 cases, 3 deaths on Friday)  

San Mateo County: 239 cases, 6 deaths as of 3:40 p.m. Friday (239 cases, 5 deaths on Friday)  

Santa Clara County: 574 cases, 20 deaths (542 cases, 19 deaths as of Friday) 

Santa Cruz County: 34 cases (32 on Friday) 

Solano County: 34 cases (34 on Friday) 

Sonoma County: 54 cases, 1 deaths (49 cases, 1 death on Friday) 

Statewide: 3801 cases, 78 deaths(3,006 cases, 65 deaths as of Friday)

How Berkeley Voted:
March 2020 Primary
Sanders won 41% Plurality

Rob Wrenn
Friday March 27, 2020 - 03:36:00 PM

Bernie Sanders won the largest share of votes cast in Berkeley in this year’s Democratic presidential primary. He garnered 20,131 votes, amounting to 40.5% of votes cast for Democratic presidential candidates. 

Elizabeth Warren finished second with 14,907 votes or 30% of the total. Biden received 18.7% and Bloomberg received 6%. 

Peter Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out of the race for president right before the primary received 2.1% and 1.6% respectively. Some vote by mail ballots had already been cast for them before they dropped out. 14 other candidates split the remaining 1.1% of Democratic votes cast. 


California Democratic Presidential Primary March 3, 2020 


Number of and percent of votes 










20,131 40.5% 

14,907 30.0% 

9,277 18.7% 

2,967 6.0% 

District 1 (NW Berk) 

2,903 39.7% 

2,468 33.8% 

1,253 17.1% 

344 4.7% 

District 2 (SW Berk) 

2,802 45.1% 

1,876 30.2% 

1,029 16.6% 

272 4.4% 

District 3 (South Berk) 

3,148 48.7% 

1,930 29.9% 

927 14.4% 

230 3.6% 

District 4 (Central Berk) 

2,431 48.3% 

1,468 29.2% 

736 14.6% 

209 4.2% 

District 5 (North Berk) 

2,488 28.7% 

2,845 32.8% 

1,997 23.0% 

785 9.0% 

District 6 (NE Berk) 

2,011 30.3% 

1,950 29.4% 

1,626 24.5% 

628 9.5% 

District 7 (South of UC) 

2,091 64.9% 

592 18.4% 

376 11.7% 

83 2.6% 

District 8 (SW Berk) 


2,257 37.0% 

1,778 29.1% 

1,333 21.8% 

416 6.8% 

Alameda County 





San Francisco* 










*near final 


District results 

Sanders came in first in every Berkeley City Council district except District 5, where he came in second to Warren, 32.8% to 28.7%. His support was strongest among students. He won 64.9% in District 7, the student supermajority district south of the UC campus, topping 70% in 3 near campus consolidated precincts that include student dorms. Sanders also led by sizable margins in South and Central Berkeley. 

Warren’s best districts were districts 1 and 5, but she did relatively well everywhere but in District 7. Biden did best in the hills above Claremont Avenue in District 8, coming in first and winning 34% of the vote in the consolidated precinct that includes most of that area. He also did relatively well in the North East Berkeley hills, coming in first in one consolidated precinct there. The hills, home to Berkeley’ most affluent residents, have traditionally favored more moderate candidates. Even so, Elizabeth Warren did better than Biden in most of the northeast hills. She narrowly lost District 6, which includes the North East Berkeley hills to Bernie Sanders, who beat her by less than 1% by winning the southern, near campus portion of the district by a big margin. 

Bloomberg did not win much support in Berkeley despite the vast sums he spent in California. He topped 10% only in a few precincts in Districts 5, 6 and 8. 


Where they did best 

Sanders had defeated Clinton in Berkeley 54% to 45% in the 2016 primary. This year, with Elizabeth Warren on the ballot competing for progressive voters, Sanders' vote was lower than in 2016, when he received 22,933 votes. 

Sanders did better in Berkeley than he did in the rest of Alameda County; he won 37.4% of the countywide vote. He did better in Berkeley than he did in San Francisco and in Los Angeles County, which he won with 34.4% and 39.4% respectively. Statewide, Sanders finished first (with all but a few votes counted), getting 35.7% of the vote, almost 8% more than second place finsher Joe Biden. Among counties, Sanders did best in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, with 49.3 and 44.7% of the Democratic primary vote. 

While there were parts of California where Sanders did better than in Berkeley, there is no part of the state where Warren did better than in Berkeley. The 30% she received here was her best percentage in the whole state, at least for cities with over 100,000 residents. Statewide, she has managed only 13% of the vote counted so far, with only a few votes still left to count. 



Turnout in the Democratic Primary this year was higher than in the June 2016 Democratic Primary. The election in 2016 was held in June, when most students had left town for the summer and when Hilary Clinton’s nomination was a sure thing. In 2016, 42,476 votes were cast in the Democratic primary. This year, 49,874 cast votes in the party primary. As it typically the case with primary elections, turnout was below November election turnout. 65,430 votes were cast in the November 2016 presidential election in Berkeley, though this includes votes by people who are not Democrats. 

With UC students in town, more votes were cast this year in District 7, the student supermajority district, but turnout was still way below turnout in the other seven Berkeley Council districts. Democratic candidates received a total of 3223 votes in District 7. Turnout in other districts ranged from 5028 in District 4 (Central Berkeley), which also includes a substantial number of student residents in near campus precincts, and 8480 in District 5. The big turnout of younger voters that Sanders was hoping for did not happen in Berkeley. 


Few Votes for Trump 

Berkeleyans who voted in the Republican Primary cast a total of 521 votes for Donald Trump; 116 were cast for Bill Weld and there were scattered votes for other candidates. In June 2016, Trump had received 454 votes, with 306 votes for John Kasich. Trump’s Berkeley vote amounts to not much more than 1% of the number of votes cast for Democratic candidates. 


Berkeley and the 1918 Influenza (Third Installment)

Steven Finacom, Copyright by the author
Friday March 27, 2020 - 04:58:00 PM

We can learn a great deal about ourselves and the present by remembering the past. Here’s the third installment of my chronological account of what happened in Berkeley during the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” epidemic. The stories are largely drawn from the pages of the Berkeley Daily Gazette, Berkeley’s hometown paper. A pattern of writing about one week at a time seems to have evolved and is suitable; in that era the Gazette published Monday through Saturday and took Sunday off, so there are six daily issues I am reviewing for each installment.


Our story is now in the third week of October, 1918. That was the week that official Berkeley started to get serious about the influenza epidemic, which had already arrived and gained a strong foothold. The coverage in this installment starts with the first official pronouncements on the local flu, then news related to the “Great War”, both internationally and locally, more influenza-related stories, and concludes with other news from the time to set the context, and obituaries of local flu-related deaths.

There are a number of stories I’ve copied in their entirety because they go into detailed descriptions of how both government officials and doctors viewed the epidemic. This is a long piece; it is two and a half times longer than the second installment which, itself, was twice as long as the first one.

Part of the reason for the increasing length is that as October, 1918, wore on more material about the influenza epidemic appeared in the newspaper. My intention is to give readers a great deal of raw material about Berkeley and its experiences in 1918, so the length has grown, accordingly. I am also not “reading ahead” much in the newspapers to give myself an omniscient sense of what is coming next; rather, I’m taking the papers one day at a time, just as we are experiencing the present COVID-19 crisis and the health, political, economic, and cultural impacts as they unfold.

Here’s a summary of what you’ll find in this installment: 

  1. the world war continued in Europe and elsewhere, although there were increasing signs that Germany and its allies faced imminent defeat and diplomatic moves were being made by several belligerents to bring about an armistice. At the same time, there was vociferous sentiment in parts of Berkeley, and elsewhere, that the German army needed to be completely defeated before a cease fire;
  2. Berkeley—at least as portrayed through the eyes of the hometown newspaper—was firmly “patriotic” and Anglophile, and local war-related work continued unabated;
  3. the number of cases of Spanish influenza rose rapidly in the city, and elsewhere, and locals were waking up to the reality that the city was facing a possible epidemic;
  4. Berkeleyeans began to die both in and out of the town. For this week I found in the Gazette ten obituaries of those who died from the influenza. The previous week there were six;
  5. official orders closed many public facilities and limited public gatherings, but intentionally left open public schools, until an abrupt change of heart. Berkeley was a bit ahead of the State of California in this regard. Many locals started to change their routines and avoid or postpone public gatherings, while others apparently continued to go about their regular social events and activities;
  6. in an unsettling parallel to today’s conditions, medical authorities admitted they didn’t know the exact count of Berkeley influenza cases and didn’t have the resources to accurately update and track the local epidemic.
One interesting aspect of the local situation in October 1918 is that while public officials acted to close theaters, churches, and other gathering places in Berkeley and shut down large events, they specifically and strongly resisted closing public schools up to October 18, arguing that the influenza could be best identified among children through observing them at school and sending those who were ill to their homes. As you’ll see, there was pushback and doubt about this—the Health Officer refers to it when he says he must publicly respond to such a clamor for the closing on the schools—but at least through the third week of the month, city and school authorities stood firm, until the situation rapidly changed. 

Another fact to keep in mind is that medical services in 1918 still concentrated at home. You didn’t typically go to a doctor at a hospital or medical building. He (or she, since Berkeley had a number of very good women physicians in that era) came to you at your house. When someone was injured and it was not immediately life threatening, they were often taken home and a doctor called, or taken to a doctor’s private office rather than a hospital. The ill were typically be cared for by family members at home or, if the family was affluent, a visiting or live in nurse might be hired for the duration of the illness or injury. And, as we’ll see, this meant that many deaths, sudden or lingering, and including those from influenza, occurred at home, not in hospitals. 

Berkeley in 1918 did have several small hospitals and care facilities—often called infirmaries or sanitariums—but they did not have the same role they have today of being the de-facto place for almost all medical consulting and treatment. Most hospitals, including Alta Bates and Herrick (then the Roosevelt Hospital) were located in large, old, mansions, not purpose built facilities. 

There was no health insurance as we understand it today, and while some of the poor might receive free services at charitable hospitals or centers, if you were sick you were typically expected to pay upfront for the service and treatment from medical professionals. The University did have an infirmary, created after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire and overseen by a University Physician, where students could seek medical treatment. 

Berkeley did seem to have good medicine for the time. There were many good private practitioners, good physical medical facilities—although small by today’s standards—and, as we’ve seen, University students had a form of public health care in their own campus infirmary. As I’ve written elsewhere, the flood of refugees into Berkeley after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire in San Francisco had galvanized locals to organize and support hospitals that could cope with large scale medical challenges. The University of California also operated excellent medical colleges and teaching hospitals in San Francisco that were still closely connected to Berkeley in that era. 

There were also probably some ineffectual or out-of-date practitioners in the local medical community, and some possible charlatanism; one large facility on University Avenue was privately operated as a sanitarium that seemed to promise to cure cancer (and also do it without operations). Many medical “remedies”, advertised with grand claims but of dubious health value, were sold in local stores and by mail order. Although the relatively recent Federal Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 had started to rein in some of the worse abuses, there was still a powerful commercial incentive to make money off sickness with exaggerated or outright false claims for various nostrums and treatments; in this installment we’ll start to see some advertisers responding to the influenza by touting their alleged cures or preventives in the paper. 

Although, then as now, the well-to-do consistently got better health care than the poor, there were vigorous efforts by civic-minded citizens to provide medical services for all, including a health center for the poor that had been opened with charitable donations in west Berkeley in 1916. 

Finally, a note about nomenclature. The Gazette in 1918 and national media at the time frequently referred to the epidemic as the “Spanish influenza”. Today, this has fallen into vigorous dispute because of the real problem of promoting xenophobia by assigning national or ethnic names to diseases as, for example, Mr. Trump insists on doing by talking about “Chinese Flu” this year. 

The name “Spanish influenza” came about, Wikipedia tells us, because to maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Papers were free to report the epidemics effects in neutral Spainand these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit. This gave rise to the pandemics nickname, Spanish flu. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemics geographic origin. 

(It is interesting that the Wikipedia page for “Spanish Flu” carries a note that “it has been requested that the title of this article be changed to 1918 influenza pandemic; there are hundreds and hundreds of comments posted by Wikipedia editors.) For my articles, however, I’ll continue to directly quote what the 1918 papers said—which was frequently “Spanish Influenza”. 

All that said, on to the events of 1918… 

Influenza Update 

“Health Officer Closes Theaters” was the headline in the October 14, 1918, Gazette. I’ll quote the whole lengthy article here since it seems to be the beginning of official statements in Berkeley on the epidemic, and includes an early directive for how to respond to influenza in the public schools. 

Heath Officer Dr. J.J. Benton today issued orders closing all motion picture houses and other places of amusement, and prohibiting the issuing of dancing permits for the time being to prevent spread of the Spanish influenza. The order does not include the closing schools. Regarding the order, Dr. Benton made the following statement:

The presence of influenza in Berkeley and the daily increase in the number of cases make it necessary, in my opinion, as health officer, to restrict assemblages as a prophylactic in the spread of the disease. In doing so, however, regard should be had of the actual possibilities of infection and its likelihood. In moving picture shows and like places of amusement and dances the actual promiscuous contact is very intimate and the possibility of contagion imminent. Therefore we think the public health will be greatly conserved by prohibiting the opening of such places of assemblage.  

In the case of the schools, however, we have the children under intelligent supervision of the teachers, who have been instructed to note any sneezing or coughing among the pupils and to send these children to their homes and report such cases to the health officer for investigation, and not to allow said children to return until they have received a permit from that officer to do so. 

In this way we believe the possibility of spread of the disease will be minimized among the children, whereas, if the schools be closed the children congregate at playgrounds or in the streets for play (as all children do), and communicate the contagion to one another, all control over them is lost and there is no possibility of ascertaining the prevalence of the disease among them. 

The people of Berkeley are displaying, and naturally so, considerable anxiety regarding influenza, and I would advise that as individuals they avoid intimate contact with one another, do not congregate more than is absolutely necessary, cough and sneeze into handkerchiefs, and keep the nose and throat as aseptic as possible by the use of alkaline disinfectants, such as glyco thymoline, listerine, cytus, Dobells solution, etc. 

One fatality was recorded today in the record of Spanish influenza in the city, when Mrs. Lena Higuera, 2400 Dwight Way, wife of Fred Higuera, died. Her death occurred at 4:00 oclock this morning. The funeral was held this afternoon. It was strictly private.  

(Was hers Berkeley’s first death in the rising epidemic? I’m not sure since I haven’t looked backwards in the earlier Gazettes. 2400 Dwight, where Mrs. Higuera died, is at the southeast corner of Dwight and Dana. That property was the long-time site of an older apartment building which burned in the 1980s and was replaced by a condominium complex that still stands today. I’m not sure if the apartment building was there in 1918—my recollection is that it looked like it was built during the great expansion of Berkeley housing in the booming 1920s.) 

The article went on: 

There are about sixty cases of Spanish influenza in the city, according to Health Officer Benton. Dr. Benton said he did not believe there was any occasion at this time to warrant closing the schools.  

Mrs. Higuera was 24 years old and a native of Utah. The family moved here three years ago from Salt Lake. Besides her husband, she is survived by a baby three years old. 

Superintendent of Schools H.B. Wilson has given the following instructions to the principals of the schools of the city, regarding the necessary precaution to prevent the spreading of the Spanish influenza: 

You must realize that we shall have to give the most careful attention possible to safeguard our schools against the inroads which are apt to be made upon the attendance by illness from influenza, and particularly by the fear which people have of the spread of this disease. Our health department advises, and I understand that this is the advice of the state department (of health), that we should exercise every possible precaution, but that we should endeavor by all means to keep the schools open. 

Let me emphasize the following: 

  1. By all means let the teachers give particular attention to keeping themselves strong and in good physical tone, that they may be able to go about their work with energy and (an) air of confidence. Under no circumstances, unless the conditions force it, show any alarm or uneasiness. This will enable you to maintain the confidence of the children.
  2. Whenever the temperature will permit it, ventilate freely and keep the children out of doors and in the air in all types of work where possible.
  3. Without allowing it to be evident, note carefully evidences of the usual symptoms of colds, such as the eyes watering, sneezing, coughing, etc. When these appear quietly excuse the child (and immediately exclude all other members of the family, allowing none of those under any circumstances to return until each presents a health certificate). Report each case to the city health office over the telephone, and likewise to the superintendents office, giving the name and address of the child.
  4. Dr. Benton advises, and I note that various communications from health authorities give similar advice, that just at this time all people should exercise particular care to have the bowels free, that elimination may be good and that is is a good precautionary measure to use as a gargle the following: Listerine, glyco thymoline or a simple solution made from a combination of boric acid, salt and ordinary baking soda and water. As I understand it, a teaspoon of salt should be put with half a teaspoon of sodaall of this to be put in such a quantity of water as to render it weak enough that it is not unpleasant to use either as a gargle or for irrigating purposes.
The Superintendent concluded:I need not tell you that I am very anxious, in the interest of keeping the schools open for good work and particularly in the interest of safeguarding the lives of our children, that we should give this health situation our very prompt attention without in any way manifesting any undue alarm over it. 

(What are those suggested remedies mentioned by the Health Officer and the Superintendent? I can’t find a reference for “cytus” online. But Glyco thymoline seems to be a mouthwash patented in 1894. It’s apparently still around today—there’s even a company website, which says it’s the original alkaline mouthwash and gargle, produced by the Kress & Owen Company. The history section of the website displays a number of early advertisements including one from 1910 that says glycol thymoline was useful for Catarrhal Conditions, Nasal, Throat, Intestinal, Stomach, Rectal and Utero=Vaginal. “Dobell’s Solution”, according to dictionary.com is a a clear, yellowish, aqueous solution of sodium borate, sodium bicarbonate, phenol, and glycerol, used chiefly as an antiseptic and astringent for the nose and throat.Disclaimer, of course: I’m not trying to promote early 20th century medicine here; rather, I’m simply sharing some historical references.) 

October 17 the Gazette provided more information on the schools in an article headlined “Doctors To Visit All Schools Daily”. 

Physicians appointed by Health Officer J.J. Benton will visit each school in the city daily, examining the children, and sending to their homes all who show symptoms of colds or Spanish influenza. Reports from the schools this morning show that a very small number of pupils were afflicted. 

Dr. Frank Woolsey, who has been appointed examining physical for the Berkeley high school, reported that out of the 900 students in the high school examined this morning only four seemed to be affected with colds. An examination will be held each day and pupils who are ill or slightly ill will be sent to their homes.

Upon the advice of Dr. J.J. Benton, the board of education decided at a special meeting held yesterday afternoon to not close the schools. Regarding his attitude on the question Dr. Benton said this morning:

There has been such a clamor for the closing of the schools that I deem it wise to make a statement as to the policy adopted by the health department of keeping the schools open. This policy is in accordance with the recommendation of Surgeon General Blue and the state board of health of California. While the schools are open the pupils are under observance of intelligent teachers who, upon observing any symptoms of cold, are requested to exclude these children from the school until it is certain they are not showing the promonitory (sic) symptoms of influenza. Accordingly, the physicians of Berkeley have been requested to volunteer their services in this emergency to act as inspectors at each of the schools to determine whether such pupils be allowed to continue at school or be sent home. Those who are sent home will not be allowed to return until the physician in charge of the school attended shall have examined and found the pupil free from all possibility or (sic) transmitting the disease to others.  

And to carry out this arrangement the physicians appointed will make daily visits to the schools assigned them. Following is the list of those physicians and the schools to which they have been appointed. 

High School, Dr. Frank Woolsey. Columbus, Dr. J.J. Benton. Emerson. Dr. C.H. Denman. Franklin, Dr. Ruby L. Cunningham. Hawthorne, Dr. J.F. Dibble. Hillside, Jr. E. Edson Kelsey. Jefferson, Dr. H.J. McNulty. John Muir, Dr. E.B. Hoag. Le Conte, Dr. R.P. Meads and Dr. A.L. Adams. Lincoln, Dr. E.G. Whitney. McKinley, Dr. F. Axtell. Oxford, Dr. J.T. McCormac. Washington, Dr. A.J. Sanderson. Whittier, Dr. H.W. Crane. Willard, Dr. J.W. Peck. Garfield, Dr. E.D. Moffett. Burbank, Dr. W.R. Boone. Edison, not appointed. Longfellow, not appointed. 

Then, Friday October 18, 1918, there was an abrupt change of policy. The Gazette headlined, Schools Closed in Effort to Check Spread of Epidemic.  

The Berkeley public schools were closed this afternoon to check the Spanish influenza epidemic.

The following message was sent to the various schools of the city at noon today buy Superintendent of Schools H.B. Wilson: Since the Oakland schools and all public meetings have been closed upon the urgent request of the United States government, and since San Francisco has closed all meetings, and since it is probable that the state board of health will close everything in the state, the Berkeley schools will close this afternoon.

That’s a particularly terse announcement that carefully avoids saying anything about Berkeley opinion on the closing; it’s simply a recitation of external reasons why Berkeley was being forced to close. Perhaps we can guess that the Berkeley health officer and/or the superintendent were still not convinced that closing the schools was the best course.

The article also noted, All schools, theater and public meeting places in San Francisco were closed today by order of the city health board to prevent further spread of the influenza epidemic. The only loophole left in the order is the provision for special permits to hold Liberty Loan gatherings. The resolution was adopted b the board following a report of 743 new influenza cases and fifteen deaths. The total number of cases now reported in San Francisco is 2,867. 

The earlier, October 17, article about the Berkeley schools also outlined the flu situation on the UC campus, Berkeley’s biggest “school” by far: 

About five percent of the student body at the university is ill with the grippe or Spanish influenza, according to the information given out by President Wheelers office yesterday. 

The report of the studentsinfirmary at the university shows that 278 cases termed respiratoryby the physicians are being cared for either at the university or at designated places outside the university. This report indicates a decrease of eleven cases from the number reported the day previous. The university physicians report that the disease seems to be well under control and that the present outlook would indicate that there is little chance of a general epidemic at the university community. There is an estimated total of 75 additional cases among non-military students who are at their homes or are being cared for by other agencies than the university.  

Cases are distributed as follows: In barracks Cof the studentsarmy training corps there are 149 cases among members of the SATC and six cases among members of the naval unit. In the former building itself there are seven cases among members of the SATC, nine among cadets of the school of military aeronautics, six non-military male students, and twelve women students. At the Zeta Psi house, which has been taken over by the university for hospital purposes, there are 21 cases among members of the SATC and nineteen cadets from the school of military aeronautics. Thirty-seven members of the naval unit are afflicted, ten of whom have been lodged in Merritt hospital by the navy physicians. The remaining 27 are in their homes int he bay region, by permission of their offices. 

According to the physicians in charge at the university, the cases are not severe. Some six or seven cases of pneumonia have resulted, but there of these being in any way severe. 

October 17, 1918, the Gazette reported that the quarantine that exists on the school of military aeronautics has been particularly irksome to the graduates. Squadron 60 missed the usual ten-day furlough after graduation, and squadrons 58 and 59 returned from their furloughs only to be held up from proceeding to flying fields by the same influenza quarantine.  

The YMCA, however, is seeking to offset somewhat the disappointment due to quarantine conditions. Wheeler Hall has been put at the disposal of the aviation school and the Yis putting on an entertainment each evening this week. 

On Monday Charles Bowman Hutchins delighted the members of the squadrons 58 and 60 with his program of bird pictures drawn in crayon the screen as he talked, illustrated by the wonderful invitations of bird calls and whistling. Miss Weaver gave selections on the Irish harp. A Douglas Fairbanks picture, The Americano, was given Tuesday evening, and last evening the Garnet Holme players presented a one act playlet. These programs will be continued the rest of the week for the men kept in barracks by the quarantine. 

(This is sort of astonishing. Entire barracks of soldiers on campus had been quarantined from the flu. However, each evening, they were let out and allowed to gather in large numbers in the largest classroom on the campus which had been used during the day by regular students, some of whom probably had the flu.) 

Despite the closure of Berkeley’s commercial places of amusement, the Gazette reported October 14, the same day, that Neptune Beach the big Alameda amusement park was crowded from noon until late in the evening. Two thrilling finishes were seen in the girlsand mens races and the big crowded that lined the (swimming) tank and shore got full value of their trouble in attending. The beautiful weather has brought back crowds of miid-summer proportions…” Three days later there was another mention of Neptune Beach. Neptune Beach continues to draw big crowds and the management continues to offer the best of entertainment. 

And,of course, many Berkeleyeans probably went to Neptune Beach, compromising the Berkeley ban on large entertainment gatherings. 

(This feels reminiscent of today, when some cities are ‘sheltering in place’ while Spring Break revelers crowd some beaches in Florida. and, even in the Bay Area, people flocked to beaches and parks and didn’t always observe ‘social distancing’.) 

And, notwithstanding a warning the same day, October 14, from Berkeley’s Health Officer against the possibility of the spread of influenza on playgrounds, and the subsequent inability to track down the source(s) Berkeley’s children were being organized for a national “Patriotic Play Week and Recreation Drive” starting October 21, 1918. Every evening in the intermediate schools, programs under the direction of Superintendent Gustavus Schneider and his play directors will be given in which the children will have a part and the parents are to join, (there will) be community play nights, and patriotic features will be strong on every program. Thursday evening there will a large mass meeting in the high school auditorium, the program being planned for that evening to present some features never seen in Berkeley.

The week would end with a city-wide gathering of school children from every playground for exercises and a pageant “on the Civic Center playground immediately opposite the high school. All in all, the paper said, it would be “the greatest week of play in the life of the city.” 

The next flu shoe dropped October 15, 1918 and it had considerable import. “Churches Closed By Health Order”, the Gazette headlined. 

An order closing all meetings in Berkeley was issued this morning by Dr. J.J. Benton, health officer. The order is sweeping in its effect and will close all meetings of every kind. Only the public schools and private schools and the university may remain open, according to Dr. Benton. 

All churches and church meetings will come under the ban. 

Fourteen new cases of Spanish influenza were reported to the health authorities yesterday, which is the largest number of cases to be reported in any single day. The number of cases in Berkeley today, including those at the university, are close to 150, although the actual number had not been checked. 

Warning against all kinds of congregations have been issued. Physicians say the disease is not highly contagious, unless one comes in contact with anothers breath. 

Following the suggestions of Mayor Irving that all public gatherings be avoided, Gustavus Schneider, superintendent of playgrounds in Berkeley, has decided to postpone for a month the Week of Play which was scheduled for next week. 

President Wheeler of the University of California issued an order last night postponing for an indefinite period all gatherings in the campus buiildings, other than regular class meetings.  

The concert of the Berkeley Musical association, which was to have bene held in Harmon gymnasium this evening, is thereby postponed, as is also the lecture on Democracy vs. Autocracy,by Dr Charles Mills Gayley, also announced for this evening. 

No public meetings may be held other than open-air gatherings in the Hearst Greek Theater. 

The Second Church of Christ, Scientist, announced it would hold an outdoor service on the church lot, Oxford street, between Virginia and Heart Avenue on October 16, to comply with the prohibition on indoor church services.The services are held with the consent of the board of health. 

October 16, 1918, At a meeting of the Board of Education at 1 oclock this afternoon, it was decided not to close the public schools on account of the epidemic. Dr. J.J. Benton addressed the board, advising against closing the schools. He said the spread of the disease could be better prevented with the schools open, than if they were closed. He said physicians would visit the various schools each day and examine the students and any showing symptoms would be sent home.A committee was appointed to watch the situation closely and make recommendations from day to day. 

October 16, 1918, several local doctors responded to an appeal from the United States Public Health service for doctors willing to serve anywhere in California, Nevada and Arizona to help combat the flu. Five definitely said they would go, and other physicians have signified their willingness to go if conditions become serious and if they are not needed at home.They would be paid $200 a month and up to $4 a day for expenses. 

In San Francisco, as of October 15, the number of reported influenza cases increased 378 in 24 hours, the evening Gazette issue reported. All private hospitals were asked to refuse minor cases so that nurses can be released to combat the influenza. All patients of the San Francisco hospital are to be moved out and the institution used for isolation of influenza alone. Dance halls will probably be closed within the next 24 hours. 

All civilians “except those having business there” were barred from entering the San Francisco Presidio then, of course, a major military base not a National Park. 

In New York there were 4,217 new cases recorded in one day, and 222 deaths. 

October 15 in order to limit the spread of Spanish influenza and keep it from making still further inroads on the nations war production the U.S. public health service under authority of the resolution just passed by Congress appropriating $1,000,000 to combat the disease has inaugurated a nation-wide campaign of public health education in co-operation with state and local health officers to teach the people of this country how to safeguard their health, keep themselves physically fit, and so help maintain the high standards of war production attained within the last few months. 

The Surgeon General had issued these recommendations. 

The disease now spreading over this country is highly catching and may invade your community and attack you and your family unless you are very careful. Influenza is a crowd disease. Therefore keep out of crowds as much as possible. Influenza probably spreads mostly buy inhaling some of the tiny droplets of germ-laden mucus sprayed into the air when ignorant or careless persons sneeze or cough without using a handkerchief. Therefore cover up each cough and sneeze. Influenza is probably spread also by the filthy habit of spitting on sidewalks, streetcars and other public places. Therefore do not spit on the floor or sidewalks. Influenza is probably spread also by the use of common drinking cups and the use of common towels in public places. Therefore shun common drinking cups and the roller towel in public places. If you feel sick and believe you have Spanishinfluenza, go to bed and send for the doctor. This is important. Dont get up too soon, your heart feels as tired as your legs and needs rest. In all health matters follow your doctors advice, and obey the regulations of your local and state health office. All that has been said above about Spanishinfluenza is true also of colds, bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Do your part to keep them away. 

The acting surgeon general of the army issued a similar, but more succinct, list: avoid needless crowdinginfluenza is a crowd disease. Smother your coughs and sneezesothers do not want the germs which you would throw away. Your nose, not your mouth, was made to breath throughget the habit. Remember the three Csa clean mouth, clean skin, and clean clothes. Try to keep cool when you walk and warm when you ride and sleep. Open the windowsalways at home at night; at the office when practicable. Food will win the war if you give it a chancehelp by choosing and chewing food well. 

Despite the warnings about public gatherings, next to this article in the Gazette was a column thick with event announcements planned by local clubs that day or week. The Berkeley Piano Club was having a concert featuring Celtic and Italian songs. The Etude Club had a successful concert event. Mrs. William Colby was scheduled to address the Whittier (School) PTA about the several different amendments to be voted on at the next election.” “All the mothers interested in their children and the school should make a special effort to attend these meetings. 

Charles Keeler was going to speak to the Plymouth Women’s Club about “The Creative Spirit in Child Education”, chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Confederacy were scheduled to meet in private homes, and the McKinley (School) Mothers’ Club was planning a meeting with “an illustrated lecture on ‘Children’s Teeth’,” as well as entertainment by sixth grade students.

Only two events were announced as postponed: the Garfield PTA meeting; an “Old Folks Concert” scheduled for the Town and Gown Club on October 25. The latter “has been postponed on account of the Spanish influenza”, the paper noted. 

The next day, however, four events including the DAR meeting, were announced as postponed. The warnings against gatherings were spreading and, in at least some cases, being heeded. 

By Saturday, October 19, the cancellations were rolling in. The Berkeley Defense Corps postponed its regular meeting at its headquarters, “The Dugout” on Allston Way downtown. The Berkeley Intermediate High School Teachers Association postponed a meeting at the Berkeley tennis club “until further notice.” The University cancelled the Sunday “Half Hour of Music” at the Greek Theatre, a popular—and free—event for locals.The decision is in line with the university policy of discouraging public gatherings as a precautionary measure against the spread of Spanish influenza. 

And the University Physician, Captain R.T. Legge, took to his bed at home on Benvenue Avenue “suffering from overwork and a severe cold.” 

San Francisco’s health officer issued flu recommendations October 16. He noted immunity to influenza is very slight; in fact, one attack seems to render the person susceptible to subsequent attacksmales and the more robust in the community are, seemingly, more susceptible, perhaps on account of greater exposure and indifference to the first effects of the disease.” “Prevention of the spread of this disease is not difficult if people will take the subject seriously, not only as individuals, but collectively enforce aggressive measures. 

Despite the containment efforts, Berkeley’s caseload continued to rapidly grow. Friday, October 18, 1918 Dr. Benton announcedthe number of Spanish influenza cases in Berkeley are on the increase. Yesterday, 73 new cases were reported. Figures showing the total number of cases in the city have not been compiled, it was said, because of inability to secure assistance. A great number of cases have been reported, it was said, but there has been no one to check them up to determine whether the disease was actually…” (And there the article ends, in mid-sentence. Someone on the newspaper layout and typesetting staff made an error.) 

In the same paper the Berkeley Red Cross chapter made an urgent appeal for bedding for sick. (The organization) needs the following articles for its influenza cases in the barracks and the rest of Berkeley: sheets, pillow cases, atomizers, bath robes, bath towels, blankets, womens and childrens nightgowns. This call is most urgent and any person able to donate any of these articles has been asked to bring them at once to headquarters, Oxford and Allston streets, which for the present is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Sunday. 

The next day, October 19, the local Red Cross announced that on account of the great amount of emergency work undertaken by the local Red Cross at the present time, citizens who wish influenza masks are requested to make their own according to the following directions issues by the Surgical Dressing department.

The Hillside Club Red Cross Auxiliary was already busy with an event to sew 200 masks to be worn by those nurses in Spanish influenza casesand promised that when volunteers showed up at the Club building to help,as far as possible workers will be provided with masks to wear while working. 

The Red Cross specifications for gauze masks were as follows: 

From gauze 56 inches, cut 43 inches on the selvage; Divide into strips 9 inches wide; fold each strip into halves, ten into thirds making masks 6 thicknesses of gauze; turn in all four edges and stitch all four sides to hold firm (Selvage need not be turned in, can be sewed on the sewing machine or by hand.); Put three pleats in the 7 inch ends, the lower pleats deeper than the other two, to allow for the chin; attach a tape 11 inches long to each of the lower corners and one 13 inches long to each of the upper corners; place a black thread in the center of the mask to designate the outside. 

October 19, a front page article said Nearly fifty new cases of influenza were reported to the local health office yesterday No total of the number of cases in the city is yet available. The state board of health yesterday ordered all moving picture houses and other theaters throughout the state closed as a precautionary measure against the spread of influenza.  

The state board, however, recommended against closing churches and schools. In regard to the latter, the board said: In the opinion of the state board of health, schools should be kept open whenever the teachers can be relied upon to immediately exclude any child appearing with symptoms of any sort of illness. The well children in schools kept open in this manner will be much safer from contagion than if the schools were closed and they were free to associate on the streets. Churches, likewise, should not be required to close. 

The third week in October also saw some entrepreneurs waking up to the possibility of making money from flu remedies. 

The October 18, 1918 Gazette carried an advertisement that started out, The constant daily increase of Spanish influenza reported by local physicians shows clearly that many people are failing to take the precautions necessary to avoid infection. For, while influenza, after its development, is sometimes difficult to cure, it is an easily preventable disease. 

The ad went on to recommend purchase of famous Hyomei Inhaling outfits consisting of a bottle of the pure Oil of Hyomei and a little vest-pocket, hard rubber inhaling device(it) is sold by druggists everywhere. Hundreds of people in Berkeley and vicinity keep a Hyomei outfit with inhaler on the bathroom shelf for regular winter useIf you havent one, go to the nearest drug store and get one today. It is the duty of every person, not only for his own sake but for the community to do all in his power to prevent further spread of this epidemic and to stamp it out. 

(A bit of online research indicates that this was a patent medicine with a 12% alcohol content that was marketed as a cure for catarrh, i.e. heavy mucus in the nose or throat.) 

And elsewhere in the paper that same day there was a small United Press dispatch. Chicago. Members of the Chicago Medical Society were discussing today claims advanced by Dr. Louis J. Pint that diphtheria antitoxin is an absolute remedy for so-called influenza. 

War News 

“Crushing defeat of Germans Demanded” was a headline out of Washington October 14, 1918. An adjacent article noted that the government of Turkey had expressed acceptance of President Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” and asked for an armistice. 

An Allied offensive in Belgium took back ten towns along a 35 mile front. By the end of the week an estimated 400 square miles of the occupied nation had been liberated. On October 17, the news reported a major breakthrough on the front, and the same day British naval forces landed and occupied the German submarine base at Ostend. 

German troops were reported being withdrawn from Finland and the German Chancellor, Prince Maximilian, had reportedly resigned. 

By the end of the week, it appeared that a pause to the war might be near. October 18 the United Press reported a parcel of warfront news. Austria was apparently “evacuating occupied territories”, and German U-boats attacking Allied shipping in the Atlantic had been ordered back to their bases. 


Berkeley’s strenuous efforts to meet and exceed its Fourth Liberty Loan goal might earn the city the honor of having a ship named for it, the Gazette reported October 14. By that date Berkeleyeans had purchased bonds worth $112,000 over the campaign goal. 17,417 citizens had made purchases by noon on October 13.

Chairman W.F. Morrish of the Liberty Loan Committee told the paper there is every indication that a ship bearing the name Berkeley, would be built by the Federal government. This city still leads all others in the ship-naming contest,according to Morrish.Morrish had previously implied that a Navy warship would bear the name Berkeley if sufficient funds were raised. 

(Did this happen? I believe so. In late 1919 the “City of Berkeley” was completed. It was a cargo ship, not a warship, and had been built with Federal funding to expand the United States merchant marine to provide a strategic reserve of American-controlled carrying capacity. It was launched with considerable hoopla and made a first voyage in 1920 transporting grain from California’s Central Valley to the East Coast.) 

On the UC campus, soon to be ravaged by influenza, a series of nine public lectures in the recently completed Wheeler Auditorium was announced. They would focus on “The Ideals of the Present War”. The first lecture, on Tuesday, October 14, 1918 would be given by Charles Mills Gayley, chair of the Department of English and one of Berkeley’s most ardent and eloquent Anglophiles. (And yes, Gayley Road that passes the front of the Greek Theatre where he used to give his “Great Books” lectures, is named for him.) 

As you’ve read above, the lectures were almost immediately cancelled because of the flu. 

A headline in the October 14 Gazette read, “Schoolmasters are Opposed to Peace”. It referred to a resolution by the Schoolmasters’ Club of California sent to President Wilson opposing an armistice “until the German army is completely defeated and destroyed.” (It’s unclear from the short article whether this Club was an association of teachers, or owners or administrators of schools.) 

C.O. Schnoor, a realtor living at 1600 Todd Streetwas rescued last night from a mob of infuriated citizens who threatened to lynch him, the Gazette reported October 15. He had been accused by Fred Michelson of 1728 Alcatraz Avenue of trying to tear down a Liberty Loan poster. Schnoor said a corner of the poster had been hanging loose and it was his practice to remove loose or damaged posters. 

Nonetheless, Schnoor was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. He was held on $1,000 bond. 

October 17, Carl C. Thomsen, 2708 Dana Street, was carried two blocks through Emeryvilleand dunked in the bay. Breathing heavily from the scare, and half drowned, he was finally released by the two hundred fellow workers who had dunked him. The demonstration against Thomsen was started by fellow employees at the Emeryville branch of the Standard Oil company, who claimed he had refused to purchase a Liberty Bond. Following his ducking Thomsen hastened to the bank and purchased a bond while the dunking party returned to work with a 100 percent card. Thomsen, assistant clerk at the plant, has been employed there a year. During that period the other workers claim he aroused their ire by saying he would like to see more Germans in the United StatesAccording to the records of the Liberty Loan committee, Thomsen purchased bonds during the third bond campaign. 

The October 17, 1918, Gazette reported that the Bethany Swedish Lutheran church of this city has established a record for patriotism, more than 25 percent of its membership now being in the service of the country, either in France or in camps in this countryAlthough most of the members of the church are foreign born, they are thoroughly American in spirit. 

Berkeley Related Deaths from the Flu 

(Since many flu-related deaths of Berkeley residents or Berkeleyeans living elsewhere were individually reported in the pages of the Gazette during the 1918-19 influenza epidemic, Ive decided to transcribe their brief obituaries when I find them so these individuals are not lost to history. The date at the end of each entry is the date the item ran in the Gazette. I have included deaths from pneumonia since it was often a complication caused by the flu, and since there were not tests in that era to specifically detect infection by a particular type of influenza. I am also not certain that the newspapers of the time didnt periodically opt for calling a fatal illness by a term less fraught that Spanish flu.)

Besides Mrs. Higuera, reported above, here are the names from the week: 

Miss Alice Broughton, trained nurse, died this morning at the home of her brother, Coleman R. Broughton, 2428 Russell Street, of pneumonia, following an attack of Spanish influenza. 

Miss Broughton was called to nurse a case of Spanish influenza and within a few days seven members of the family were stricken. The cook and all of the help in the home deserted her and she remained, caring for the seven patients until stricken herself. 

For the last eight years Miss Broughton had made her home in this city. She was a woman of charming character traits which won for her the respect and admiration of all who knew her.  

Miss. Broughton was a native of this state and was thirty-nine years of age. She was a graduate nurse of the Good Samaritan hospital in Los Angeles.

Miss Broughton was the daughter of the late R.J. Broughton, a prominent resident of Santa Barbara. She is survived by her mother, Mrs. R.J. Broughton, of this city; two brothers, Coleman R. and Clarence T. Broughton, also of this city, and one sister, Mrs. Frank E. Ely of Woodland.
(October 15, 1918). 

News had reached here of the death of Lieutenant Edwin McLaren Busser, which occurred at Camp Meade, Maryland, Monday. His death was caused by pneumonia, which followed an attack of Spanish influenza. Lieutenant Bussers parents, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Busser, formerly of Regent Street, this city, were with him during his last illness. According to word received by Bussers sister, Mrs. H.W. Whitworth of Oakland, this morning, Mr. and Mrs. Busser arrived at Camp Meade last Thursday for a visit with their son,who was recovering from an attack of grippe.They were told upon arriving that he was on the drill field, and going there they found that he had been stricken while at drill and returned to the hospital. Spanish influenza was quickly followed by pneumonia and his death occurred four days later. 

Lieutenant Busser was a graduate of the Harvard Military School of Los Angeles and was a member of the class of 1920 of the university. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, was affiliated with the Occidental Masonic Lodge of San Francisco, and was a member of St. Marks Episcopal church, this city.  

In his youth, he was a member of the boy choir at St. Marks Episcopal church, and was a member of the first troop of Boy Scouts organized here. He attended the second officerstraining school at the presidio and, following his graduation, was made lieutenant in the 63rd infantry, and was a provisional lieutenant in the regular army. 

Lieutenant Busser is survived by his parents and three sisters . They are Mrs. H.W. Whit worth of Oakland, graduate of the university in 1906; Mrs. C.H. Phillips of Los Angeles and Mrs. William King of Honolulu. Internment will take place in Arlington National cemetery at Washington, D.C. (Wednesday, October 16, 1918) 

Mrs. Elizabeth Brown, wife of Claude Brown, both well known in University circles, died yesterday at the home of her mother, Mrs. J.A. Smilie, 825 Fallon Street, of pneumonia. Mrs. Brown was a former university student and was a member of the Alpha Thi sorority. Her marriage took place about a year ago. Mrs. Brown spent this summer in San Diego, while her husband was stationed at Camp Kearny. When he was sent east, she went to Oakland, and has been at the home of her mother. Brown was home from the east on a furlough during his wifes illness.(October 16, 1918). 

Mrs. Isabel Ashley Johnstone, wife of Rolph S. Johnson of Honolulu, died yesterday at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Ashley, 1521 Walnut Street, after a weeks illness of pneumonia, following Spanish influenza. Mrs. Johnstone and her husband arrived here two weeks ago from the north, where they had been spending a few weeks, and were guests of her parents.  

Mrs. Johnson was well known here. She attended the university a dozen or so years ago, and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She was a native of Honolulu, 34 years of age, and came here with her parents to attend the university. Since her marriage she had resided in the islands.  

Mrs. Johnstone is survived by her husband, Ralph S. Johnstone, and two young sons, Wilson and Ernest. The children are in Honolulu. She also leaves her parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Ashley; three sisters, Catherine, Dorothy and Anna Ashley of this city, and two brothers, George and John Ashley of Honolulu.  

Johnstone will take the body of his wife back to Honolulu, where funeral services will be held and interment will be made.(Thursday, October 17, 1918.) 

Carl Goll Petsch, a senior at the University, died about noon today at the home of his parents Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Petsch , 2604 Dana Street, of pneumonia, following Spanish influenza. Petsch was doing special work in chemistry at the university and was employed as instructor of the chemistry department. His death was the second from this department in two days. Kenneth Henry Coates, a special chemistry student, also 21 years of age, succumbing to the disease yesterday. 

Petsch was born in Los Angeles, his parents coming here three years ago to live while he attended the university. He was the only child. Arrangements have not been made or the funeral services. (Friday, October 18, 1918.) 

Mrs. Gertrude Matzler, wife of Frank Matzler, died this morning at the family home, 1326 Peralta Avenue, following a brief illness of pneumonia. Mrs. Metzler was twenty-eight years of age and had been a resident of this city for the last six years. She is survived by her husband, and a five months old son. She also leaves her parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. Timm and a number of brothers and sisters.(Friday, October 18, 1918.) 

Volunteering his services as a nurse during the Spanish influenza epidemic at Camp Beauregard, La., Richard Boss of this city, a member of Company H., twenty-ninth infantry, was stricken with the disease in three days time, and in another three days passed away. His body arrived in Berkeley this morning, accompanied by Sergeant Michael Fennell, and funeral services were conducted at Sunset View cemetery this afternoon. 

Mrs. Boss and three year old son, whom his father had never seen, resident (sic) at 2418 Tenth Street. Boss has served in the regular army for a number of years. He was sent to Panama shortly before his sons birth. Efforts were made by his wife to get transportation to Panama to visit him, but were unsuccessful. Since the outbreak of the war, Boss was sent to Camp Beauregard, La. He was 28 years of age.(Friday, October 16, 1918). 

Dr. Rushmer Christianson of the U.S. Navy died at Vallejo yesterday of Spanish influenza following an illness of a few days, according to word received here early this morning. Dr. Christianson and his bride of a few months, who was Miss. Ruth Schaeffer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D.R. Schaeffer of 1646 Walnut street, have been living at Vallejo where Dr. Christianson was engaged in research work in medicine for the government. Dr. Chistianson was educated in the east. The body was brought to this city this afternoon for burial.(October 19, 1918). 

Eugenia Thayer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Claudius Thayer, wealth residents of Salem, Oregon, died yesterday at the Hotel Claremont of Spanish influenza. Miss Thayer was stricken three days before, and died a few hours before the arrival of her fiance (sic), Edward Van Knoutt, a warrant officer in the Navy, who is home on furlough. Van Knoutt arrived in Oakland yesterday after seeing overseas naval service. Miss Thayer was twenty-one years of age and was attending the university. Funeral services will be held at Salem, Ore.(October 19, 1918). 

Other Berkeley news

Berkeleyeans had been protesting actions by the private East Bay Water Company which had assigned multiple service charges to buildings with more than one residential unit. October 15, 1918, the City Attorney received a ruling from the State Railroad Commission that the company could not legally impose more than one service charge for each meter regardless of the number of flats or apartments served by such meter.Excess charges were ordered refunded. 

(Why did a decision about water come from the Railroad Commission? Because that body had charge of regulating utilities in California. There had been a major struggle during the Progressive era in the state to bring the railroads under effective public regulation. The Railroad Commission later became the state Public Utilities Commission.) 

A “clever forger” had hidden in plain sight among the ranks of the Student Army Training Corps on the UC campus, the paper said October 16. He had shown up with apparently forged recommendations and documents indicating he was a British airman, and was duly enrolled. He then charmed and hook-winked some well to do locals and started passing bad checks at local banks and businesses, finally disappearing with approximately $1,000. 

In early October, 1918, the City Council raised garbage rates in much of Berkeley as reported in my last essay. The garbage workers were quick to respond, asking for the rates to be increased more. “Minimum rates in the balance of the city are too low, they say”, the Gazette reported October 15. 

Elsewhere in the nation: 

The most disastrous fires in the history of Minnesotahad killed at least 500 people in the vicinity of Duluth a October 14, 1918 story reported. Numerous small towns and settlements were burned by the fires which started in areas of peat 75 miles east of Duluth. The conflagration burned directly east. Other fires, originating in the north, encircled the head of Lake Superior. 

Residents of those cities hurried east for refuge. Some were reported overtaken in automobiles. Trains, jammed to capacity, ran terrifying races with the fires leaping through adjoining timberlands. At Moose Lake, Minn., a score of people stood neck-deep int he lake overnight, fighting the flying brandsThrilling tales were told here today of the heroism of members of the motor reserve corps and the home guards, who drove automobile trucks loaded with burned and suffering survivors along flamed-licked roads. 

The next day the news reports said the death toll might grow to 800 or more and 29 “towns and villages were wiped out or partially destroyed.” 

The troop transport American, formerly the German liner Amerika, sank at her pier at Hoboken, New Jersey, on October 15, 1918. The location was simply reported in the press as “an Atlantic port”, presumably because of wartime censorship. The vessel had already made ten voyages to Europe carrying troops. In addition to the crew some 500 soldiers bound for France who had already boarded the ship managed to escape, jumping to the dock, adjacent barges, or into the harbor. Somehow water had started flooding through open ports on one side—many of them still open for coal loading, or to air out the fumigated interior—and the ship rapidly heeled over and sank at her moorings (the exact cause is still unknown today). Four soldiers and two sailors drowned. (The ship would be quickly re-floated and refurbished, and sail again to bring troops back from France in early 1919.) 

I was amused to see a tiny Gazette headline on October 19 that read, Gives Tin-foil for Use of Government.For a moment I wondered what it referred to—perhaps anti-alien hats for public officials, donated by a lunatic? Alas, it was simply a mention that the Wrigley company had decided to temporarily wrap Juicy Fruit gum in waxed pink paper instead of foil, so the metallic material could be used for war purposes.

March 21 Was 17th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Jagjit Singh
Wednesday March 25, 2020 - 05:22:00 PM

While the world is trying to cope with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, one of the most appalling blunders in the history of U.S. foreign policy.

Contrary to President Trump’s election promise to extricate us from foreign wars, America is ramping up its efforts to send in more troops in response to an alleged attack by Iranian militias on a U.S. base near Bagdad ignoring the will of the Iraqi people who voted unanimously to demand the U.S. leave. This also echoes the sentiment of most Americans.

It is incomprehensible that so many nations supported the U.S. which has a long history of waging wars based on faulty intelligence or outright lies. Perhaps, it was access to cheap oil that explains this madness. To recap the sordid details. Seventeen years ago, the U.S. armed forces attacked and invaded Iraq based on faulty intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Israel swiftly stood in solidarity with the invasion, down to the last U.S. soldier. Iraq’s destruction was swift and menacing with 460,000 U.S. troops, 46,000 UK troops, 2,000 from Australia and a few hundred from other European countries. Former President Bush and Vice President Cheney who used their wealth and powerful family connections to escape the Vietnam war gave the order to launch the “shock and awe” invasion, demonstrating the “awesome destructive power” of the US military.  

The political and military blunders of the Vietnam war were long forgotten. The aerial bombardment unleashed 29,200 bombs and missiles in the first five weeks of the war. The attack was a complete violation of international law and opposed by 30 million people in 60 countries. 

American historian and speechwriter for President John Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, compared the invasion to the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. 

Medea Benjamin, Medea Benjamin cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace and Nicolas J. S. Davies, an independent journalist chronicle the impact of the invasion: 

1. Millions of Iraqis killed and wounded and its priceless art stolen or destroyed. Reporters were intimidated or silenced by insisting they be imbedded with U.S. troops. 

2. Outraged members of Hussein’s elite guard who were fired by the Coalition Provisional Authority coalesced to form ISIS. 

3. More than 18,000 bombs were launched on Iraqi and Syrian cities reducing Mosul and many other cities to rubble. 

4. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 2 million Iraqis have been disabled, many fleeing to Syria and Jordan. 

5. U.S. artillery bombardment continued after the war targeting the Islamic State displacing a further 6 million Iraqi’s according to UNHCR. A generation of impoverished internally-displaced children face a bleak future of demolished homes, no education - an appalling legacy of the US led invasion. 

6. Thousands of Coalition troops have been killed and wounded More than 20 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day especially those with combat exposure, unable to cope with the horrors of war. 

7. Trillions of dollars squandered. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of the Iraq war at more than $3 trillion, “based on conservative assumptions,” The UK government spent at least 9 billion pounds. Former Prime Mister, Tony Blair, lampooned as “Bush’s poodle”, escaped censure and still travels freely as a high-priced” consultant. 

8. A dysfunctional and corrupt Iraqi Government has been unleashed on the Iraqi people. Most of the $80 billion a year in oil exports never trickles down to the impoverished people but lines the pockets of those in power. 

The invasion was a complete violation of the United Nations Charter, the foundation of peace and international law. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general at the time, said the invasion was illegal and would lead to a breakdown in international order, and that is precisely what has happened. When the U.S. trampled the UN Charter, others were bound to follow. Today we are watching Turkey, and Russia, attacking and invading Syria using the people of Syria as pawns in their political games. Israel continues to wage war on Iran, killing and maiming defenseless Palestinians with impunity. 

Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated many of the Bush-Cheney lies justifying the invasion in his shameful performance at the UN Security Council in February 2003. He later admitted that this was the low point of his tenure as Secretary of State. 

Most of the US, European media and the U.S. Congress supported the invasion, a sad testimony how they can be so easily manipulated into voting for a catastrophic war by such a web of lies? 

9. Impunity for War Crimes Most Americans are under the false assumption that the president can wage war, assassinate foreign leaders and terrorism suspects as he pleases, with no accountability whatsoever. President Obama’s failure to hold the former President Bush and members of his administration accountable for war crimes sent a dangerous message that such conduct was acceptable in US foreign policy. Mass killing by drones has now become all too common. Lack of accountability makes it easier for such crimes to be repeated. The U.S. Congress has largely been bypassed and rendered impotent, relinquishing its war powers responsibility to the executive branch. Abrogation of the 2015 Iran nuclear treaty is a recent example of appalling US arrogance.  

10. Destruction of the Environment Use of explosives with depleted uranium has caused a major escalation in cancer victims and congenital birth defects. This is a stark reminder of the use of Agent Orange, napalm and white phosphorus cluster bombs causing multi-generational birth defects in Vietnam. Unexploded ordinance continues to maim young children. More than 85,000 U.S. Iraqi veterans were diagnosed with multiple health problems including cancer and severe depression leading many to end their lives The London Guardian reports that many parts of Iraq may never recover from the environmental devastation. 

11. The U.S.’s sectarian “Divide and Rule” Policy in Iraq spawned appalling violence between Sunnis and Shias. In secular 20th-century Iraq, the Sunni minority ruled over the Shia majority, but lived in relative harmony side-by-side in mixed neighborhoods and even intermarried. After the invasion, the U.S. empowered a new Shiite ruling class led by former exiles allied with the U.S. and Iran, as well as the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region in the north. Upending the balance of power led to waves of horrific ethnic cleansing and the resurgence of Al Qaeda and emergence of ISIS.

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:The Corona Virus & Immigration

Conn Hallinan
Wednesday March 25, 2020 - 02:24:00 PM

As the viral blitzkrieg rolls across one European border after another, it seems to have a particular enmity for Italy. The country’s death toll has passed China’s, and scenes from its hospitals look like something out of Dante’s imagination.


Italy has the fourth largest economy in the European Union, and in terms of health care, it is certainly in a better place than the US. Per capita, Italy has more hospital beds—so-called “surge capacity”—more doctors and more ventilators. Italians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, not to mention British, French, Germans, Swedes and Finns. The virus has had an especially fatal impact on northern Italy, the country’s richest region.

There are a number of reasons why Italy has been so hard-hit, but a major one can be placed at the feet of former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the xenophobic, rightwing League Party and his allies on the Italian right, including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and one of the oldest in the world. It did not get that way be accident. Right-wing parties have long targeted immigrants, even though the immigrant population—a little over 600,000—is not large by international standards. Immigrants as a “threat to European values” has been the rallying cry for the right in France, Germany, Hungry, Poland, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain as well. 

In the last Italian election, the League and its then ally, The Five Star Movement, built their campaigns around resisting immigration. Anti-immigrant parties also did well in Spain and certainly played a major role in pulling the United Kingdom out of the EU. 

Resistance to immigration plays a major role in “graying” the population. Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, topped only by Japan. The demographic effects of this are “an apocalypse” according to former Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin. “In five years, we have lost more than 66,000 births [per year]” equal to the population of the city of Siena. “If we link this to this increasingly old and chronically ill people, we have a picture of a moribund country.” 

According to the World Health Organization, the ideal birth-death replacement ratio in advanced countries is 2.1. Italy’s is 1.32., which means not only an older population, but also fewer working age people to pay the taxes that fund the social infrastructure, including health care. 

As long as there is not a major health crisis, countries muddle though, but when something like the Corona virus arrives, it exposes the underlying weaknesses of the system. 

Some 60 percent of Italians are over 40, and 23 percent are over 65. It is demographics like these that make Covid-19 so lethal. From age 10 to 39, the virus has a death rate of 0.2 percent, more deadly than influenza, but not overly so. But starting at age 40, the death rate starts to rise, reaching 8 percent for adults age 70 to 79, and then jumping to 14.8 percent over 80. The average age of Corona virus deaths in Italy is 81. 

When the economic meltdown hit Europe in 2008, the European Union responded by instituting painful austerity measures that targeted things like health care. Over the past 10 years Italy has cut some 37 billion euros from its health system. The infrastructure that could have dealt with a health crisis like Covid-19 was hollowed out, so that when the disease hit, there simply weren’t enough troops or resources to resist it. 

Add to that the age of Italians, and the outcome was almost foreordained. 

The US is in a very similar position, but for somewhat different reasons. As Pulitzer Prize-winning medical writer Laurie Garrett points out, it was managed care that has derailed the ability of the American health system to respond to a crisis. “What happened with managed care is that hospitals eliminated surplus beds and surplus personnel. So, far from being ready to deal with surge capacity, we’re actually understaffed and we have massive nurse shortages across the nation. “ 

Much of that shortage can also be attributed to managed care. Nurses are overloaded with too many patients, work 10 and 12 hour shifts on a regular basis, and, while initially well paid, their compensation tends to flatten out over the long run. Burn out is a major professional risk for nursing. 

Yet in a pandemic, nursing is the most important element in health care according to John Barry, author of the “The Great Influenza” about the 1918-19 virus that killed up to 100 million people, including 675,000 Americans. A post mortem of the pandemic found “What could help, more than doctors, were nurses. Nursing could ease the strain of a patient, keep a patient hydrated, calm, provide the best nutrition, and cool the intense fevers.” Nurses, the study showed, gave victims “the best possible chance to survive.” 

The issues in Italy’s 2018 election were pretty straightforward: slow growth, high youth unemployment, a starving education system and a deteriorating infrastructure—Rome was literally drowning in garbage. But instead of the failed austerity strategy of the EU, the main election theme became immigration, a subject that had nothing to do with Italy’s economic crisis, troubled banking sector or burdensome national debt. 

Berlusconi, leader of the rightwing Forza Italia Party, said “All these immigrants live off of trickery and crime.” Forza made common cause with the fascist Brothers of Italy, whose leader, Giogia Meloni, called for halting immigrants with a “naval blockade.” 

The main voice of the xenophobic campaign, however, was Salvini and the League. Immigrants, he said, bring “chaos, anger, drug dealing, thefts, rape and violence,” and pose a threat to the “white race.” 

The Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Mario joined the immigrant bashing, if not with quite the vitriol of Berlusconi, Salvini and Meloni. The center-left Democratic Party ducked the issue, leaving the field to the right. 

The outcome was predictable: the Democratic Party was routed and the Five Star Movement and League swept into power. Salvini took the post of Interior Minister and actually instituted a naval blockade, a violation of International Law and the 1982 Law of the Sea. 

Eventually the League and Five Star had a falling out, and Salvini was ousted from his post, but the damage was done. The desperately needed repairs to infrastructure and investments in health care were shelved. When Covid-19 stuck, Italy was unprepared. 

Much the same can be said for the rest of Europe, where more than a decade of austerity policies have weakened health care systems all over the continent. 

Nor is Italy is facing a demographic catastrophe alone. The EU-wide replacement ratio is a tepid 1.58, with only France and Ireland approaching—but not reaching—2.1. 

If Germany does not increase the number of migrants it takes, the population will decline from 81 million to 67 million by 2060, reducing the workforce to 54 percent of the population, not enough to keep up with current levels of social spending. The Berlin Institute for Population and Development estimates that Germany will need 500,000 immigrants a year for the next 35 years to keep pensions and social services at current levels. 

Spain—which saw the rightwing anti-immigration party do well in the last election—is bleeding population, particularly in small towns, some 1500 of which have been abandoned. Spain has weathered a decade and a half of austerity, which damaged the country’s health care infrastructure. After Italy, Spain is the European country hardest hit by Covid-19. 

As populations age, immigrants become a necessity. Not only is new blood needed to fill in the work needs of economies, broadening the tax base that pays for infrastructure, but, too, old people need caretaking, as the Japanese have found out. After centuries of xenophobic policies that made immigration to Japan almost impossible, the Japanese have been forced to accept large numbers of migrants to staff senior facilities. 

The United States will face a similar crisis if the Trump administration is successful in choking off immigration. While the US replacement ratio is higher than the EU’s, it still falls under 2.1, and that will have serious demographic consequences in the long run. 

It may be that for-profit health care simply can’t cope with a pandemic because it finds maintaining adequate surge capacity in hospital beds, ventilators and staff reduces stockholders’ dividends. And public health care systems in Europe—which have better outcomes than the American system’s—only work if they are well funded. 

To the biblical four horsemen—war, famine, wild beasts and plague—we can add two more: profits and austerity.  

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






Berkeley and the 1918 Influenza (Second Installment)

Steven Finacom,Copyright by the author
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 05:46:00 PM

We can learn a great deal about ourselves and the present by remembering the past. Here’s the second installment of my chronological account of what happened in Berkeley during the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” epidemic. The stories are largely drawn from the pages of the Berkeley Daily Gazette, Berkeley’s hometown paper.

We’re now in the second week of October, 1918. My coverage starts with news related to the “Great War”, both internationally and locally, continues with influenza-related stories, and concludes with other local news from the time.

War news

The Great War was in its closing chapters. In occupied France, north of Rheims, German forces were withdrawing and reportedly burning villages and towns behind the whole front from Lille to Rheims. This is believed to presage a retirement in several sectors the United Press reported October 7. German supply depots were also apparently being destroyed during the retreat.

A German proposal to discuss peace terms was reported rejected by the Allied governments. United States Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo told the press America “will fight until victory is clinched.”

(There’s a Berkeley connection to McAdoo. On the cornerstone of Berkeley’s main Post Office you’ll find his name, since he was Treasury Secretary when the building was constructed. He had married President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter in 1914, and would later be elected a Senator from California. Although McAdoo was a firm Progressive, if you look at pictures of him as a young man he somewhat eerily resembles today’s Jared Kuchner, another government official who married the daughter of a future president.)

Berkeleyeans seemed to be in accord with the Washington sentiment. October 7, 1918, 7,000 locals gathered in the Greek Theater for a mass meeting and “unanimously” stood up when asked if they supported a telegram to President Wilson declaring for no peace except on unconditional surrender and the crushing of the German army. 

The meeting was organized by the local “Friends of France” and the “American League of California”, and was addressed by the chaplain of a French army division that had suffered tens of thousands of casualties in the war so far. 

October 14, the papers reported President Wilson had sent an official note to the German government telling it “autocracy must go before peace can be had”; translation, the era of German Kaisers needed to end for there to be peace. The same day the U.S. Senate voted to demand German “unconditional surrender”. 

A huge explosion destroyed a plant where artillery shells were loaded in Morgan, New Jersey, on October 4, 1918. At least 94 workers were believed to have died. The United Press reported October 7, that rain has quenched the fire in the Gillespie plant ruins and the intermittent explosions have ceasedrebuilding operations are scheduled to begin as soon as possible. (Historical accounts today say it’s believed the explosion was accidental and about 100 people were killed, and hundreds injured. Some 12 million pounds of explosives blew up, throwing debris for more than a mile in all directions; buried, unexploded, shells have been discovered nearby for decades, most recently in 2007. Windows were broken more than 20 miles away. The enormous plant was destroyed, and another 300 buildings damaged.) 

On the Local Homefront 

Berkeley’s Boy Scouts were out in force, helping to canvass neighborhoods and get Berkeleyeans to pledge donations to Berkeley’s Fourth Liberty Bond drive. The “Mobilized Women’s Army” was at work as well. 14,004 Berkeleyeans had pledged bond purchases, to date. Apparently fearing Berkeley might not meet its quota, organizers condemned “Austrian and German peace propaganda” that had recently been in the news and urged locals to continue contributing to the war effort. 

On Monday, October 7, the Bond drive had two days to run and Berkeley was slightly behind the city of Alameda in meeting its bond goals: Alameda had raised 90%, Berkeley 88%.

Berkeley’ s bond drive Chairman William P. Morrish told the Gazette, If the Kaiser had waged an honorable war, he might be entitled to some consideration for an honorable peace, but as that was his last consideration, let it now be our last consideration. Berkeley and all of Alameda county can show the Hohenzollern family that we are ready to put up all we have to wipe them from the face of the earth and that no peace will be an honorable peace until this is accomplished. 

Alameda won the county contest October 8 when it “went over the top” and met its quota and Berkeley was still short $180,000 in pledges of its $2,351,700 goal. 

Organizers blamed Berkeley’s wealthiest citizens for not subscribing enough and threatened to publish the names of “bond slackers” unless they contributed immediately. Morrish told the Gazette,if the rich had subscribed here as the workingman, businessman, and laborer have done, no city in the state would have beaten us to the honor flag. 

The next day, October 9, Berkeley met its quota by noon and added $50,000 above that; $96,000 was subscribed that morning, alone. (The quota was based on a Federal Reserve report on the amount of bank deposits recorded in each city, not on population or other measures of prosperity. That’s quite possibly one of the reasons Mr. Morrish was upset since Berkeley’s bank statistics would have shown that there was sufficient money held locally to fund the bonds. And here’s an interesting note. Adjacent Albany was not given a bond quota by the Federal government because it didn’t have any banks. So Berkeley’s bond committee poached Albany pockets, assigning the neighbors their own quota—which they faithfully met—but calling it part of Berkeley’s share.) 

There was a big celebration when the local bond goal was reached and surpassed. Most everybody in Berkeley came downtown last night to help host our honor flag Morrish told the Gazette on October 10. Berkeley is willing to lend all she has to Uncle Sam. 

Several thousand Berkeleyeans gathered around the municipal flagpolePromptly at eight oclock the silvery voice of Lydia Sturtevant rang out in the clear night with the strains of The Star Spangled Banner’…” 

Bond Committeemen (and one Committeewoman) joined by Mayor Samuel Irving and Leonard Lathrop, “champion salesman of the Boy Scouts”, all grasped the halyards and the four barred flag that shows how Berkeley responds to the appeal of the government was slowly hoisted to the mast headwith a dozen spotlights playing on it (it) stood bold against the night sky an emblem of patriotism and civic pride. 

The evening gathering had been proceeded by an afternoon parade led by fire trucks which “with siren, horn, and bell acquainted everyone with the fact that Berkeley had done her usual good work in the Liberty Loan drive.” 

Despite meeting the bond quota, Morrish threatened once again that day to reveal the names of the well-to-do who hadn’t already given, or given enough. If there are a few slackers here who have not given what they can afford a little more publicity will smoke them out and the assessment committee is about ready to announce their names in the public press, he said. 

In September, 1918, the Berkeley Red Cross had been busy helping to raise the Liberty Loan contributions burt also active in other ways. “The local chapter report showed 404 hospital garments out, 544 returned and 594 on hand”. Red Cross volunteers also produced and shipped 4,900 surgical dressings. 

The need for women who can do home nursing is so imperative at this time that the Berkeley Red Cross chapter has arranged for two more classes for those who can take the work, the Gazette reported October 12. The tuition fee will be $5 for the course of 15 lessons; text-book, 50 cents. Women have been urged to enroll immediately for these courses. So at least someone local was taking the influenza threat seriously. 

October 10, it was reported that the Theta Delta Chi fraternity house would be converted to an Officer’s Club “…in order that the army officers stationed at the university may have the opportunity of living in the same building.” 

Berkeley High girls pledged October 7 no flowers, no gloves, no silk stockings, simple shoes and gowns of the simplest of white materials for their graduation exercises on January 1, 1919. (In that era Berkeley High graduated classes twice a year, not just in the spring.) The announcement came after a meeting of teachers, students, and mothers at the school, where Principal Fannie McLean talked on the necessity of simplicity and economy…” The girl of the class cheerfully consented to dispense with the usual expensive frills which accompany the commencement wardrobe as their bit in the war time economy. 

A “strong war film”, “The Prussian Cur”, drew large crowds at the Berkeley Theater October 6. Going back through the years, a brief Gazette review said, the action of this stupendous historical drama follows from its very inception the German scheme of conquest that now threatens to enslave mankind. It shows America cultivating the arts of peace while the German rulers thought only of warthe Prussian hordes are loosed like beasts upon their victims. 

(The Berkeley Theater was on Shattuck, between Channing and Haste; there’s a senior housing apartment building there today.) 

Other, lighter themed films, played to “crowded houses” elsewhere in Berkeley and the East Bay, including the UC Theater. However, a few miles north of Berkeley in Vallejo, on October 8 all public amusement places, including theaters and dance halls, were closed today by voluntary action of the managers as a protectionary measure against Spanish influenza. 

All the towns whistling a new tune; a sort of trickling-sweet-like-molasses sort of tune that sticks to the memory like syrup to the fingers and leaves a haunting sweetness that one cant shake the Gazette noted on the entertainment page on October 9. It was a tune called When He Comes Back to Me, from The Girl on the Magazine, a short play that had reached the East Bay on the vaudeville circuit. (Today, we’d probably call a piece of music like this a “viral” hit or an ear worm.) 

Ten more UC faculty had been called into national service the UC Regents were told at their meeting October 9, 1918. Several new faculty were hired. They included Harold Witter Bynner as an instructor in English. (Bynner was a Harvard alumnus and his Berkeley tenure has an interesting footnote. He appears to be the first gay member of the UC faculty who can be identified by historical research. He lived in the Carlton Hotel at Durant and Telegraph and taught poetry.) 

The pastor of Albany’s Marin Avenue Methodist Church was enlisting in the Army, the Gazette reported October 9, and departed with a bang. The grand exit for the Rev. M.J. Williams, age 48, was scheduled for October 13, with “a big patriotic meeting and farewell service” that would start with a half hour of “patriotic music” including singing by church members, Albany Boy Scouts, and servicemen. 

October 9, the Gazette reported that Mrs. Robert F. Forbes of 2526 Bancroft Way now had all four of her sons in military service. Two were already with the army in France, and a third was at a base in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Social life was active at UC Berkeley during the second week of October, 1918. President and Mrs. Wheeler would host all freshmen at a reception at Hearst Hall, the Newman Club (Roman Catholic) would meet, The Sacramento Chamber of Commerce Quartet would perform at the regular, free, Sunday “half hour of music” in the Greek Theater, and various lectures open to the general public would take place. 


The influenza epidemic made it to the front page of the Gazette on October 8, 1918. “Country Swept by Epidemic of Spanish Influenza” the article was headlined. Flu outbreaks were reported in military camps, Washington D.C. among civilian government workers, Tacoma, and Ohio were an estimated 25,000 sick were spread through “every community in the state”. 

October 7, seven hundred cases of the influenza were reported in Arizona. All schools, theaters and public gathering places in Phoenix were ordered closed today. Winslow, a town of 2,500, reported one-fifth of its population had been stricken. The shortage of nurses is critical and the local high school had become a flu ward. 

October 11, the Gazette carried a United Press story on the front page reporting 211,000 cases of the flu nationwide in Army camps alone, with 7,432 deaths to date. One week ago only 17 of the 42 larger camps were infected. There are not 33 such camps reporting more than 500 cases each for the week. The epidemic was spreading rapidly westward

October 11 also brought the month’s first mention of the flu on the Berkeley campus. A small page 11 article reported that the University Physician, Dr. Robert Legge, had issued an order banning dancing in all of the University buildingsas a measure of prevention of Spanish influenza. 

There are now more than thirty cases of the influenza on the campus and precautions are being taken to prevent an epidemic. All meetings possible are held in the open. (Except, as you’ll read below, a “mass meeting” the day before that drew hundreds to Harmon Gymnasium to participate in the new University Community Chorus.) 

I might note that the next day the Gazette ran an advertisement for a “Patriotic Entertainment and Dance” at Berkeley’s Masonic Temple that same evening. Berkeley’s Mayor “and other distinguished guests will be present”, and “all Masons and their families are cordially invited.” The Masonic Temple (which still stands) was at Bancroft and Shattuck, just a few blocks southwest of the campus. 

Berkeley Related Deaths from the Flu 

(Since many flu-related deaths of Berkeley residents or Berkeleyeans living elsewhere were individually reported in the pages of the Gazette during the 1918-19 influenza epidemic, Ive decided to transcribe their brief obituaries when I find them. The date at the end of each entry is the date the item ran in the Gazette.) 

Bruce Howard, university student in the class of 1919 who has been serving the he chemical laboratory of the ordenance department, died yesterday of pneumonia, int her hospital at Edgewood Camp, Baltimore, according to a telegram received by his sister, Mrs. Duncan McDuffie. Mrs. McDuffie left this morning for the east to attend the funeral services. Mrs. John L Howard, mother of the young man, left here six months ago for New York, and was in the east with her son. Bruce Howard has been engaged in research work with mustard gas in the chemical laboratories in the eastern camp. He was prominent in university affairs last year, being managing editor of the Daily Californian and one of the editors of Blue and Gold.Howard was twenty-five years of age, and was the son of the late John L. and Mrs. Howard, one of the best known families of the bay cities. His brother, Lieutenant Sidley Howard is serving in France in the aviation section. Howard is survived by his mother, one sisterand four brothers…” (October 7, 1918) 

Millard F. La Grange of this city, son of the late Millard F. La Grance who was in the office of the East Bay Water company for many years, died of pneumonia at Base Hospital, Tours, France, September 17, according to a telegram received yesterday by his sister, Lucille La Grange. La Grande enlisted while in Oregon temporarily, in May, 1917, with the Oregon Engineers, and landed in France in August the same year. He was twenty-eight years of ageHe is survived by his sister, Miss Lucile La Grange, a teacher in the McKinley school, and by one brother who lives at Inverness. (October 7, 1918) 

Gail W. Barry of this city, died at Camp Lewis of pneumonia Saturday while his mother, Mrs. Anna Little Barry, well known art lecturer, was enroute north to be with him during his illness. The young man had been all for a number of weeks, and was recovering nicely, but suffered a relapse a few days before his deathBarry was twenty-eight years of age, and was employed with the Pacific Gas and Electric company before his enlistment five months ago. He is survived by his parents, Mrs. E.S. Barry and one brother Edward L. Barry, manager of the Canton Insurance company. (October 7, 1918) 

Dr. George Cranville Eldredge, pastor of St. Johns Presbyterian Church, one of the most prominent men in church circles in the bay cities and most highly respected in the community, died last evening at his home, 2731 Benvenue avenue, following a weeks illness from pneumonia. Dr. Eldredge was in charge of the mid-week service at his church on Wednesday evening of last week, and was scheduled to preside at the services Sunday for the first time since his return from the front, where he was engaged in YMCA work, but was stricken with his fatal illness…”

He had been overseas preaching to servicemen, giving his time and strength in aiding them in every possible way. He had become sick, returned to California, spent several weeks recuperating at Inverness, then gone for a month to the Sierras and returned about ten days ago, much improved. He was 47 and had been pastor at St. John’s for ten years. His funeral was held at the church on October 11. University President Benjamin Ide Wheeler was among those who gave the paper a testimonial in his honor. (October 10, 1918). 

Lieutenant William Dwight Hatch, U.S.N.R.F., formerly of this city died in Cardiff, Wales, October 5, of pneumonia, according to news received today by his mother, Mrs. Z.P. Hatch of 3155 Eton Avenue. Lieutenant Hatch enlisted more than a year ago and had been in active service since last May. He had recently been sent to Wales, to ply in the service between that country and Italy. Before his enlistment, Hatch was well known in marine circles in the bay cities, being one of the Hatch brothers of the Montecello (sic) Steamship company of Vallejo. Lieutenant Hatch was thirty years of age and was educated in Oakland. He was the son of the late Captain Z.p. Hatch, also well known in marine circles. Lieutenant Hatch is survived by his widow, Mrs. Anna Hatch, three months old son, who are in Stockton at present, by his mother, Mrs. Z.P. Hatch and by two brothers and two sisters (including) Mrs. A.W.Webb of this city. (October 12, 1918). 

October 7, the funeral service was held for Mrs. Clark Burnham, whose death from pneumonia was reported in the previous essay. 

Other news and notes  

  • October 12, 1918, Berkeley’s police officers threatened to resign, en masse, if their wages were not raised. A patrolman was reported as making $110 a month, and their demand was for $125. Only Police Chief August Vollmer was said not to have prepared a letter of resignation. The Council met with him privately and “it is said the Council agreed tentatively to a raise.” ($125 in 1918, adjusted for inflation would be equivalent to a salary of about $2,140 a month today, or a little under $26,000 a year).
  • October 8, the City Attorney announced that Berkeley would be split into three districts for the purpose of assessing municipal garbage rates. West of Sacramento Street, rates “will be the same as formerly”. From Sacramento east to Piedmont on th south and Euclid, rates would rise 10%. They would go up 15% in the areas to the furthest east including the Claremont and “nearly all of Northbrae”. No reason was given in the newspaper article but one can surmise the rates were based on hauling distance to West Berkeley dumps, or possibly elevation.
  • October 10, the Berkeley City Council decided that only one goat will be allowed to be kept by any one family within the city limits. This was the same restriction imposed on the ownership of cows in Berkeley. The police have been flooded recently with complaints from people who happen to live close to a goat-pen, the Gazette reported. The paper’s re-write man waxed philosophical: Hereafter a goat in Berkeley will be designated as a cow. Across the line in Albany, or in Emeryville, or Oakland, a goat will still be a goat. But not so in Berkeley.
  • But wait..hold your horses! (or cows, or goats). October 12 the Gazette reported that “local photographer E.H. Belle-Ourdrey” had protested the Council action saying there is no necessity for such an ordinance if goat pens were maintained in a sanitary condition. City Commissioner E.T. Harms observedIt seems to me we should legislate against the small, rather than the goat.The article added that the Council would reconsider the measure and meanwhile was seeking a specialist to advise on how to keep goat pens clean. (This item made be laugh. First, the Council takes a precipitous action. Then there’s a public protest. The Council responds by hiring a consultant.)
  • October 11, the Council voted to ban fortune tellers and clairvoyantsfrom the city. An October 12 news story gave some possible context. Apparently a “gypsy fortune teller” had been operating a “booth” at University and Shattuck. A man who consulted with her claimed she had stolen $30 from him. The police brought her in “and she refunded the money but insisted that she was not guilty.” One suspects an underlying bias against gypsies which appears elsewhere in the news of the era. But in light of the influenza epidemic headed for Berkeley at the time, I’m tempted to say (facetiously, of course) that this was an unwise move since it would have been good for the community to know what was coming.
  • October 10, the Gazette noted the publication of S.D. Waterman’s history of the Berkeley Public Schools, going back to 1878. It “will be of great value to those interested in the growth of the city schools” the paper remarked. That’s true. Many local historians have consulted Waterman’s account for details on the origins of various school campuses in Berkeley.
  • The “mass meeting” on October 10, 1918 to create a “University of California Community Chorus” was dubbed a “great success” in the paper the next day. The group, under the direction of Arthur Farwell, started off with a big crowd and great enthusiasm at Harmon gymnasium last night when a patriotic song mass meeting was held as the initial step in this new movement. The people filled the hall from the side stage, from which the leader worked to the entrance doors opposite.

    Attendees sang “America” and a number of patriotic and other well known American songs, and the introduction of some new ones. Attendees divided into soprano, alto, tenor and bass divisions but there was not trying of voices; everyone went to the section in which he knew he thought or wanted to sing. A news story later in the Oct. 11 Gazette said Farwell was head of the music department at UC. He was the speaker at a San Francisco luncheon of the Alliance of Artists, presided over by Berkeley’s Bernard Maybeck.
  • October 7, the Gazette reported a botanical curiosity. It was the beginning of fall and a cherry tree was in full bloom at 2222 East Thirteenth Street in Oakland.The tree bore a crop of fruit earlier in the season and is the only tree in the garden row in bloom.

Press Release: Some parking enforcement suspended through April 7

City of Berkeley
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 06:52:00 PM

Citations will continue for safety-related parking violations

As people in Berkeley and throughout California stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, the City is suspending various parking enforcement. Everyone should still follow normal parking rules about fire hydrants, disabled parking zones, bus stops, and other regulations that support safety and access to essential services.

This temporary suspension of rules by City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley is intended to make it easier to shelter in place. Normal daily patterns of traffic and parking needs have changed, and we are all adjusting. We’ll be monitoring the situation, and we may realize that changes need to be made. 

Enforcement suspended for meters and residential permit parking

While the shelter in place order is in effect, the CIty will not enforce rules related to: 

  • parking meters
  • time limited parking
  • school zones
  • residential permit parking
We ask that people be considerate and not park for long periods around venues that are struggling during this time, such as restaurants doing pick-up and delivery only, or destinations that we all need, such as a grocery store. 

Enforcement continues for safety and access violations

We will continue to issue citations for parking violations that impact public safety or impede access to essential services, as these issues become even more important during a public health emergency. This includes: 

  • red curbs and fire hydrants
  • disabled parking blue zones
  • street sweeping
  • yellow zones in commercial areas
  • double parking
We will enforce prohibitions on parking in construction zones and driveways by complaint only. 

Visit cityofberkeley.info/covid19 for additional information on COVID-19, frequently asked questions on the Health Officer’s order, and changes to City services.



Fixing What's Broken: How Is It Possible?

Becky O'Malley
Tuesday March 24, 2020 - 05:12:00 PM

What’s new this week? Not much. The president of the United States of America is still stone crazy, a fact which is probably known to at least a couple of members of the crowd of sycophants who surround him, but they’re too cowardly to do anything about it.

Watching the string of campaign appearances disguised as press conferences which Trump has made this week, I’d hazard a guess that Mike Pence is not nuts, though he’s a coward and not terribly bright. When Trump went off the rails with his promotion of chloroquine and other untested remedies and his later rejection of the need for long-term social distancing, Pence did make a modest attempt to correct the record later on, but too little too late. Nevertheless, there have been a number of calls for the Vice President to exercise his powers under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office as unfit to serve, unless and until the legislative bodies overrule him.

But that’s too much to hope for. It’s highly likely that Trump will be in power until January. Is there any way to limit the damage he can do, the number of deaths he can cause, between now and then? 

The most horrendous example of his direct responsibility for killing Americans is the couple in Arizona who misunderstood Trump’s endorsement of the kind of chroloquine product which is used to treat malaria and ingested a different kind of chloroquine compound. It killed one of them and grievously injured the other. 

I’m the world’s fiercest First Amendment advocate, but Donald Trump’s “science” comments are the exact equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater, the classic example of when speech should be stopped. What’s needed now is for all relevant media to agree not to run any Trump appearance in real time. Instead, they could record these events and delay distribution long enough for scientific experts to identify all the errors and just plain lies which his statements contain and clearly mark them as such before broadcasting. 

It’s clear that he’s scared out of his mind. He’s got the double fear of his ill-gotten gains disappearing in a puff of smoke in the crashing stock market and his well-known pre-existing condition of germophobia. No wonder he makes up these magical cures. 

At our house we subscribe to youtubetv.com, which makes it easy to see these travesties on time delay accompanied by knowledge comments from expert talking heads. News organizations could easily use this kind of technology to add truth, provided by scientists, to the fictions Trump promulgates. 

That’s a way of mitigating the damage caused by his misinformation, but in this COVID crisis the country also needs to have an effective chief executive. In a pinch (and we’re in a bad one) governors can exercise authority, and some are doing so, but for certain aspects, such as mobilizing the Army Corps of Engineers to build emergency hospitals, federal authority is necessary. 

It’s hard to believe, but we’re still in the middle of an election campaign, which if carried out intelligently might provide succor in January. Or not,if the Dems don’t come up with a winning candidate who could also run the country. 

Bernie or Biden? It looks like that one is just about settled, through no fault of either one. Collateral damage of the COVID crisis is that the rest of the primaries won’t count. 

It is earnestly to be hoped that Bernie doesn’t take his marbles and go home to Vermont, and I see no reason to think that he would. But his bros are a different kettle of fish. With friends like these, he doesn’t need enemies. 

A week or so ago I got this in an email : 


BERN NOTICE: Bernie Was The Original Architect Of The Stimulus Idea Congress Is Now Considering. As lawmakers now consider direct cash payments to Americans to stimulate the economy, it is worth remembering that Bernie was the original architect of such a stimulus policy. It is also worth remembering that despite Congress then being controlled by Republicans, Bernie’s initiative was adopted by lawmakers during an economic downturn. Here is an excerpt of a Gannett story from 2001, during the dot-com crash … 

"Vermont’s socialist congressman came up with the original idea for a $300-a-person tax rebate in February, when he unveiled it at a Capitol Hill news conference with fellow members of the House Progressive Caucus." 

I don’t usually respond to these mass mailings, but since this was the end of a long string of similar claims I did reply: “Nonsense--Krugman from Keynes.”. 

Bernie did not invent the idea of using a stimulus to correct a downturn. Further, many don’t agree that tax rebates work as well as the kind of direct payment Congress is now considering. In any event, some sort of stimulus technique has been advocated at least as far back as Roosevelt. 

Bernie’s espoused a lot of good ideas, some of them original with him, but he hasn’t convinced the public that he’s the right person to carry them out. It’s time to put an end to his campaign’s triumphalist boasts, some worthy of the stable genius himself. 

Much to my surprise, I got an unwelcome defensive response from David Sirota, a central bro since 2016, himself. Time to let this one go. 

The game’s over before it’s finished, cancelled by a coronavirus. 

God forbid the bros should sulk their way through this one. But anyhow, would it matter much if they did? Did they ever really command a sizeable number of votes, especially since the revolutionary young don’t seem to turn out at the polls as expected? 

This is not to say that I’m sure that Joe Biden can handle the terrific and terrifying job of restoring the United States of America (and the rest of the world) to some manageable order which will protect those in need. My cousin says Joe’s as comfortable as an old pair of slippers, but that might not be enough. I’m wearing a pair of worn-out slippers right now, fine for working at home but I couldn’t go outside in them on a rainy day. 

As always, anyone but Trump would be an improvement, but would Biden be up to the massive reconstruction effort? If not, is there anyone better? 

Here’s a new idea that’s everywhere this week: Andrew Cuomo. 

The governor of New York is dealing masterfully with COVID. He has the message down pat and knows how to communicate it, with his serious sit-down chats and well-done visual aids. Not only that, he’s had a lot more administrative experience than Joe Biden, and is, dare I say it, a lot younger. There’s a big difference between 62 and 78. Been there, done that. 

At the moment, in a fair head-to-head matchup between the two, they might be approximate equals, but if we’re looking for an eight-year term, which we might need to dig ourselves out of this hole, Cuomo would be 70 at the end, Biden 86. You choose. 

At the moment, Cuomo’s got a momentous task in front of him, and it won’t be over by the time of the Democratic convention in August. Recently it’s been expected that conventions would simply ratify the choice of the primaries, but this is an unusual year, to put it mildly. It would technically be possible to choose Cuomo, but would the Democrats have the nerve? We shall see. 





The Editor's Back Fence

No Exit

Becky O'Malley
Monday March 23, 2020 - 05:01:00 PM

Like many of you, I've been confined to home and glued to the computer/tv. Nothing seems to change--I spent a wasted hour this morning trying to join a Zoom meeting online until I finally realized it's not Wednesday yet. Our faithful correspondents continue to write, though I have not. Thanks to all who volunteer to produce these interesting articles for you.

Public Comment

India’s Lockdown

Jagjit Singh
Saturday March 28, 2020 - 04:46:00 PM

India is about one third the size of the U.S. with four times the people and much, much poorer. Large numbers of the population are dayworkers, clerks, savants, secretaries, and hawkers – a sea of humanity dependent on subsistent wages in order to survive. 

Prime Minister Modi of India hasty lockdown without adequate preplanning will condemn millions of poor Indians to a certain painful death. As usual he has gone for the optics making headlines when he announced the stay at home order. His earlier decision to implement demonetization in 2016 was taken without appropriate consultation and was a huge disaster for the economy causing immense hardships for the poor. 

His lack of humanity is extremely troubling. He failed to offer any words of compassion to the families whose loved ones were beaten to death in the recent communal riots in Delhi. His recent response to the pandemic is puzzling. How does he expect 1.3 billion people to remain 6 feet apart? 

Local Indian officials ignored the views of international experts, who warned the coronavirus was being transmitted within communities. For weeks they failed to impose a strict testing regime especially for international travelers and their immediate contacts. 

Much like the rest of the world India is facing crucial shortages of ventilators, testing kits, masks, gowns and other protective equipment for health workers. 

It is baffling to understand why India continued exporting medical equipment which was urgently required by local hospitals. Does corporate profits triumph concerns for human life? 

Modi’s announcement “left a gaping hole,” tweeted P. Chidambaram, a former finance minister. “Who is going to provide cash to the poor that they need for the next 21 days?” 

In Chandigarh, one the wealthiest cities in India the curfew is more draconian than the rest of the country. There is fear of Non Resident Indians (NRI’s), over the age of 62 returning from Italy infecting the local population. These Punjabis are famous for their mozzarella. The local government promised home deliveries of essentials like bread and milk but after three days the deliveries stopped. Crowds of starving poor are crowding around food stores negating the purpose of the shutdown. 

It is estimated that there are 50 lakh crores of rupees of gold stashed in Indian Temples. Perhaps the government could consider commandeering the gold to lessen the impact of the lockdown. 

The important lessons of China, Italy and Spain have been ignored. India does not need a “brown Trump.” It needs a rational leader like Mario Cuomo who thinks strategically and compassionately. 

The rich and well connected will survive, the poor, oppressed minorities will not. The only silver lining in the dark foreboding clouds is the improvement in India’s air quality which will save lives. It will be interesting to map the ecological windfall from a worldwide shutdown of humans.

The Coronavirus Route To Unemployment

Harry Brill
Friday March 27, 2020 - 03:52:00 PM

Working people do not need a PhD to realize how the coronavirus and fears that the virus has aroused is impacting the labor market and the economy generally. Unemployment, which has increased tremendously, is expected to grow even more. By how much is difficult to predict. But especially ominous, a senior federal reserve official believes that the unemployment rate could reach 30 percent. In other words, the Great Depression of the 1930s may be making another visit. 

As a result of business being compelled to make huge cutbacks, workers are losing their jobs or at best working fewer hours. Accordingly, they are suffering a huge reduction in purchasing power, which triggers even more layoffs because workers have less to spend. 

Among the serious consequences of rising unemployment is an appreciable increase in poverty. Many Americans are being deprived of the necessities of life, which is harmful to their health. When this happens, both serious illnesses and the death rate climb.  

The business community must do what it can to protect working people. Starbuck, for example, has taken a small but positive step. The chain is paying its workers for 30 days even if they prefer to stay at home to protect themselves. But these steps are not nearly enough to address the major problems. Massive public programs are necessary. 

Among the major programs, which was born in the 1930s, is unemployment insurance. Governor Newsom recently reported that unemployment insurance claims in California have skyrocketed. The average number of claims by unemployed workers has been about 1200 per day. But the number of current claims have climbed daily to 100,000. That’s a 4,000 percent increase. According to the Department of Labor, a record 3.28 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment insurance last week. 

It is critical that the states receive a substantial amount of money from the federal government. The federal government is planning to increase unemployment insurance by $600 a week. Also several categories of workers for the first time will be eligible -- the self-employed, contract workers, and certain government employees. The catch is the $600 increase, which is really not enough to sustain a family, would expire in several months even if the virus crisis continues, 

Is the federal government being stingy? Certainly not to the major corporations. The Senate just passed a multi-trillion dollar bill to presumably deal with various serious problems. But guess what! The allocation includes 500 million dollars for the big corporations. Since it is a bipartisan bill, it is expected to win approval in the House. Incredibly, several Senators objected to a section in the bill because they thought it was unjustifiably favorable to working people. Clearly, working people have good reason to be very worried. 

Considerable evidence has been emerging which suggests that the environmental assault of our planet has played an important role in releasing dangerous viruses. So to win the battle against the highly destructive coronavirus is not just a matter of biology, To survive, It is urgent that we organize to challenge big business interests.

Open Letter to Governor Newsom re Handwashing Needs in Berkeley

Carol Denney
Friday March 27, 2020 - 03:54:00 PM

Dear Governor Newsom,

Thank you for your leadership during this pandemic.

My city, Berkeley, has the resources it needs to make sure all of us can observe hand-washing and social distancing, but has fallen short of making sure those resources and appropriate messaging are available to various groups at risk throughout the city. In particular, people with no housing are at the mercy of this neglect. They are in special danger of exposure to Covid 19 and inadvertently contributing to its spread.

The wash stations are often out of soap and water, which leaves people with no way to observe best practices for days on end. The People's Park restroom, for instance, has sinks which turn off mechanically after a few seconds dribble of water, and rarely has soap. Sometimes there is no water at all, and sometimes the restrooms are locked, leaving unhoused people, park gardeners, service workers and park users with no safe options. 

This has been a public health issue before the pandemic, and has always deserved serious attention. But the neglect which Berkeley and the University of California treat this issue in the middle of this current Covid 19 health crisis now courts even more serious public health consequences despite both Berkeley and the University of California having the resources to immediately address the matter. It would take very little to make sure bathrooms and wash stations are in functioning order. 

Please use your influence to encourage both parties to address this neglect, and thank you for your attention to this matter. 



Cody R McGillivray
Friday March 27, 2020 - 03:57:00 PM

the recent coronavirus issue has caused a lot of trouble for our country, most of that trouble is not being caused by the virus and the people it kills itself but rather the actions politicians are taking in response to it. These days when photographs of young people out and about having fun pop up on social media people get angry. They fume about how young people are refusing to follow social distancing guidelines and putting public health at risk. Mayor London breed is now talking about shutting down the city’s parks because she claims that people are violating the shelter in place order. All of the politicians that support the shelter in place orders are operating off of a very dangerous fallacy that is ultimately going to cause more problems for our country than even 1 million deaths from coronavirus. We are essence teaching our seniors to live in fear of being killed by their grandchildren when those grandchildren decide to have some. Even worse, we are teaching the grandchildren to harbor hatred and contempt for their elders. 


Nobody is willing to discuss the fact that lockdowns and shutdowns implode your country’s economy. People who talk about this are labeled heretics and haters of science or even labeled Trump supporters. This is ridiculous because economics matters. Money talks and bullshit walks, that’s the saying that governs our lives here in America. A person who has no job and no income is going to have poorer health outcomes than one who does. We know from mass epidemiological studies that poverty kills by trashing people’s health. If these measures that were taking push our country into a second Great Depression, the health outcomes of that will be absolutely catastrophic. The health outcomes and lost lives from an economic depression over the long run will kill way more than the coronavirus ever could. During the Great Depression people actually starved to death and people died because they couldn’t afford medical care just like people already die today because they can’t afford medical care. Never mind the fact that you also need an economy and tax revenue coming from that economy to pay for coronavirus. We impose lockdowns to save a couple thousand or even hundreds of thousands of lives at our own peril. Sure, we could save 10 maybe even 100,000 lives. And those lives would be saved in a relatively quick secession, assuming social distancing works, which it probably doesn’t anyway. But our politicians are not thinking about 1 to 5 years from now. They’re not thinking about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who will die because of poverty. They’re not thinking about the millions of futures that will be turned to ash because of a second Great Depression. They don’t seem to care about this and that’s not right. 


So, what do we get instead of a reasonable acknowledgment of the serious human catastrophe that will unfold as a result of the shutdown of the country’s economy? We get something called quarantine shaming. When I announced on social media that I was still going to continue to do my job as a bike messenger so that I can pay my bills, somebody said that if his grandmother died of coronavirus it would be my fault. When I pressed him even further, he said that my staying home is the only thing that will slow the virus so that there will be a hospital bed for his grandmother if she gets the virus. That complying with the stay home order and being holed up in my room will save his grandma’s life because it will preserve hospital resources for her. I got news for you, that is the biggest piece of bullshit I have ever heard in my life. Now I’m not saying that this person on social media is an idiot, I don’t believe him to be one. He’s getting these ideas from people like London breed and Gavin Newsom. These charlatans are telling everybody that your decision to stay home will save lives. That is not true, your decision to stay home is not going to save a respirator or an ICU bed for somebody’s grandma. Your decision to go outside in violation of the shelter in place order is not going to kill somebody’s grandma or cause a public health crisis. I cannot even believe that these college-educated politicians along with the so-called doctors that are advising them would even advance such stupidity in the first place. That statement ‘stay home to flatten the curve so that we can preserve hospital resources’ is the absolute dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Unfortunately, were actually acting on this dumb thing so now in the intermediate future were also going to experience the horrible consequences of acting on the stupidity. 


So, when I choose to get out and do my job as a bike messenger, which by the way is exempt from the shelter in place order anyway, my decision to go to work is not going to impact the health of some senior citizen somewhere in the bay area. My decision to go outside is not going to clog up the hospitals or kill somebody’s loved one. The fact is that we don’t even have enough hospital beds for a flattened curve anyway. The fact is, flattening the curve doesn’t appear to work anyhow as we can see from both china and Italy. They imposed lockdowns and their curve still spiked before sharply falling off. We live in a dictatorship of the stupid, this dictatorship is going to kill a lot of people in the next 5 to 10 years. That is the pandemic that is going to kill lots of Americans, not corona virus. 


Gov. Newsom and his compatriots in the bay area have made the conscious decision to basically sacrifice the state’s economy to accomplish something that likely cannot be accomplished. They think that they are projecting strong and decisive leadership in defiance of that horrible trump administration. Right now, the average person believes this to be the case, but that is not going to last forever. When this is all over and the job losses mount and people begin suffering deaths of despair Gov. Newsom may very well find himself unable to win reelection. In fact, he could become the victim of a recall campaign which is already underway via Facebook groups like make California read again. So, there you have it, buzzwords like social distancing and shelter in place are bullshit. Somebody’s decision to go party with friends is not going to cause a public health crisis. Somebody’s decision to hole up in their room and not go to work is not going to abate a public health crisis. Now I want to talk about two men and two statements. 


As a young person, I have a lot of more senior citizen friends than most young people do. This is largely because of the types of homeless activism that I engaged in and circumstances that unfolded after my arrival in Berkeley in 2011. As such I tend to be very sensitive to the issues that senior citizens face. The way we treat our seniors as a country is absolutely disgusting, the way that we allow seniors to live on the street and kick them around when they have no place to go even more disgusting. The lieutenant governor of Texas recently made statements about senior citizens and coronavirus. He talked about how senior citizens may be willing to sacrifice their lives in order to preserve the economy for their grandchildren. Even insinuated that they should do so. Now I find his comments and the way he made them to be very disgusting and very insensitive. I sure as hell would not vote for such a man in this state or any other state and hope that he loses his reelection bid if and when he has one. However, we must consider the fact that behind every asshole statement there is a kernel of truth. The lieutenant governor’s statement does raise a very serious question that needs to be discussed before we do any more damage to the countrys economy. 

The question that the lieutenant governor’s statement raises is a very simple one. Is it worth it to save a couple hundred thousand senior citizens from dying of coronavirus, if it will cause a great depression that will become a living hell for tens of millions of Americans? This is a legitimate question folks, had the lieutenant governor just come right out and asked that question instead of being an asshole about it maybe he could be in front of the media engaging in an adult discussion about the topic. I used to be homeless before, I also grew up poor never knowing where my next meal was going to come from. During the Great Depression this happened on the scale of tens of millions of Americans. As I pointed out before, people died of starvation during the Great Depression and people will die of starvation during the next one to. Unlike coronavirus which primarily kills old people, starvation and other poverty related complications are equal opportunity killers. These things kill the elderly and they also kill the young and healthy to. Poverty related health outcomes do not discriminate based on age and health status. Many hundreds of thousands of Americans will end up homeless as a result of the second Great Depression. I will tell you right now that being homeless is worse than being dead. I repeat, being homeless is worse than death. Slowly starving to death because there’s no money for food is worse than dying of coronavirus. You can look at the literature about what a human being goes through when they starve to death and compare that to what a human being goes through when they die of coronavirus. The two don’t even compare. 

That is what the lieutenant governor of Texas is getting at, the medicine that we are administering may very well save a couple hundred thousand elderly people from dying at a horrible, catastrophic cost for everybody else. And so, the question is, given the cost of saving those lives, is it worth it? I hate to say it but it may not be worth it to save those lives. If I were the United States president and I had to deal with the coronavirus, I can tell you that I would be making very different decisions than the ones London breed and Gov. Newsom are making. If I had a choice between 300,000 people die of coronavirus or save 300,000 people from coronavirus but plunge the country into a second Great Depression, this would not be a choice I would take lightly. The first thing I would do is try the South Korea approach to see if that works. But if that didn’t work and it came down to extreme social distancing and a depression, or keep America open for business and 300,000 people die (assuming social distancing even works in the first place) I would have to choose the less bad of these two bad choices. The less bad of the two bad choices is to keep America open for business and accept the fact that 300,000 people are going to die. As president, I would have to make the choice to sacrifice 300,000 Americans in order to protect the lives, health and futures of the other 320 million Americans. That’s the brutal reality folks. Now look, we could’ve avoided all of this had our idiot president gotten ahead of this in January. Had our idiot president decided to do what the South Koreans were doing in January; nobody would even have to think about such a decision. But he didn’t and now it’s too late. There are no good choices, only less bad choices. 


The second person and the second statement that I want to get to is Donald Trump himself. I am not a Trump supporter nor have I ever been a Trump supporter. Regardless of what he does with lockdowns and the economy I will never vote for this asshole. He is a racist charlatan who is to blame for the predicament that our country is in right now. My candidate is Bernie Saunders, I hope he wins the Democrat primary because if he doesn’t then I will just boycott the presidential election entirely. Donald trump in recent days has been motivated by several conservative academics to try to end social distancing. These academics are looking at the cost of social distancing in relation to the lives that could potentially be saved by such measures. As a result of this Trump is now talking about trying to end the practice. If Donald Trump decides to end this practice, it will very likely save the economy if he does it quick enough. It will also likely reassure Trump supporters that the Donald is there man, he would likely win reelection by a huge margin if he keeps this latest promise he’s making. I hate to say it, but if Trump does this, I will support his decision to do it knowing what I know about economics and its relation to death and public health. That does not mean that I will vote for another four years of the Donald. Of course, Donald Trump will have obstacles in doing this, so I’m going to lay out how I hope he does it so that he can actually keep his promise. Gov. Newsom is talking about extending shelter in place to potentially July or even August. As Californians, we can’t wait that long. We can’t even wait another four weeks for this bullshit to come to an end. We need the shutdown to stop and we needed to stop very soon. 

The first thing that Donald Trump would need to do is say that he is withdrawing the social distancing guidelines. The second thing that Donald Trump would need to do is to request the governors of the 50 states to stop implementing shelter in place orders. It is highly unlikely that people like Gov. Newsom will accede to the president’s request to end the shutdown. So, the president will have to move to step three which would be highly controversial in the short term but if it saves the economy only seek to energize his base even more. He would then have to threaten these governors with enforcement action. I could imagine him getting on twitter saying that Newsom has asked number of hours to comply or federal agents are going to come and arrest him. Assuming that somebody like Gov. Newsom doesn’t comply, then we reach step four. President Trump would have to send federal law enforcement officers to the Statehouse and physically arrest Gov. Newsom. Gov. Newsom would then have to be put in a federal penitentiary somewhere or potentially sent to Guantánamo Bay for the duration of the coronavirus issue. Donald Trump would also likely have to detain and arrest a whole coterie of people in Newsom’s administration because of the state’s continuity of government plans. That means the lieutenant governor and anybody else who would step in to replace Mr. Newsom would also have to be detained or arrested assuming these people are going to stay the course with Newsom’s policies. 

I don’t know what Trump would have to do after arresting all of these people, but I imagine that he could find the answer in the fact that federal law and federal edicts always trumps state law and state edicts. It’s a well-settled area of constitutional law. I reiterate, I hate Trump I detest him a lot. He is a rank embarrassment and an idiot who could’ve avoided all of this simply by acting in January with testing and quarantining of sick people. Instead he chose to sit around and do absolutely nothing about it. Now we are in a position where there are only less bad options. Unfortunately, reopening the country now instead of waiting until June or July or whenever the hell Gov. Newsom decides to do it, is the less bad option even though it could depend on the efficacy of social distancing lead to a lot of deaths. So yes, I unfortunately support the president’s desire to reopen the country soon. Social distancing is so expensive in intermediate and long-term that you can’t afford it.

The folly of denying online purchases to food stamp recipients

Carol Polsgrove, Charlotte,
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:38:00 PM

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that California is asking the federal government to allow the state’s food stamps recipients to use them temporarily for online purchases. [https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/California-asks-feds-to-let-CalFresh-recipients-15151515.php]

A California friend on food stamps has alerted to me to the fact that in most states, recipients on food stamps cannot use them for online purchases of food. The exceptions are the few states in a pilot program allowing online purchases from designated companies. California is not among those states.

At a time when Americans are encouraged to isolate themselves across the country, it’s folly to require some of the most vulnerable among us to get on buses (if the buses are still running) and take themselves out to stores when we’re all being discouraged from mingling.

I suggest we ask our governors and congressional delegations across the country to press the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which administers the food stamp program) and Congress (which can authorize funds for it) to expand online purchasing to all states, immediately.

As CityLab has pointed out in a recent article, “This would be a big shift for SNAP [the food stamp program]: Not all states even allow participants to apply for benefits online. Given the disparities in access to the internet, such a program alone wouldn’t support every household in a food desert — but it’s a fix that could expand options for many.” https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/03/coronavirus-food-stamps-snap-benefits-meal-program-hunger/608170/

Here is the USDA’s description of the pilot program that permits recipients in some states to buy food online: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/online-purchasing-pilot.

In California, the federal SNAP program, providing monthly food benefits to low-income recipients, goes under the title CalFresh and is administered by the California Department of Social Services. [https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/calfresh].

Contact information: 

California governor: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ 

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me 

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris: https://www.harris.senate.gov/contact 

U.S. Congressperson Barbara Lee (13th Congressional District): https://lee.house.gov/contact 


DBA, TBID - Exploiting the Moment

Carol Denney
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:45:00 PM

“Caner’s DBA, along with the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, sent a letter to the city today with suggestions about how to offset the financial losses businesses are experiencing, he said. That included deferring, discounting or waiving fees and taxes; providing interest-free loans of up to $75,000 for businesses that have a 25% drop in gross receipts; and establish a moratorium on new business regulations such as Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout.” - Berkeleyside March 16, 2020

While some members of Congress appear to have taken advantage of the Corona virus moment to dump stocks likely to take a swan dive in the pandemic, our publicly-funded business lobbies stepped up to the same greedy plate by writing a letter to the Berkeley City Council suggesting that there be a moratorium on "new business regulations such as Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout,” according to Berkeleyside's March 16, 2020 issue. 

The Fair Workweek legislation addresses unfair and exploitative work practices, such as keeping employees below 30 hours a week to avoid health care requirements, scheduling opening and closing shifts ("clopening" shifts) which offers little time to rest, and rescheduling shifts only hours before a workday creating extreme difficulties for those with childcare needs, additional jobs, and family obligations. 

The Healthy Checkout legislation addresses the nutritional standards of foods offered in the checkout aisle, standards advised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and adopted by communities partnering with public health agencies to provide a higher standard of healthy options to shoppers in checkout lines. 

The Downtown Berkeley Association and the Telegraph Business Improvement District get thousands of public dollars through the property-based fees they receive -yes, even public property-based fees such as public schools and university property. The public, the same public benefiting from public health ordinances the business lobbies wish to postpone, are paying the impressive salaries of the CEOs who tucked the proposed moratorium on the Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout ordinances into a request for interest-free loans of up to $75,000 for slumping businesses. 

There's nothing like a health crisis to inspire the profit-inclined to take steps to undermine public health. 

It's time for Berkeley to recognize the extraordinary divide between the public's interests and business lobby's interests. The well-heeled property owners in our town have needs they can meet themselves without the money we pay through their mandatory fees on public property we own collectively for what should be the public's general good, not to support an exploitative mechanism for the narrow benefit of private property owners and the powerful people who control the business lobbies. Berkeley citizens have to buy their own stamps and pay their own phone bills to communicate with the Berkeley City Council about matters important to them. The business lobbies, whose governing principle is profit, should do the same. Especially in a health crisis where those shift workers on the front lines are all that's left between ourselves and the functioning businesses still open on which we all depend. 

Let's call for a moratorium on the mandatory fees which entirely undemocratic, self-appointed "Business Improvement Districts" require of all property within their self-determined maps. It's time to take a stand for public health and democratic best practices. 


The Wrong Mary

Richard Wright, London
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:33:00 PM

The otherwise excellent article on hand washing has an error: it was not Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who died from puerperal fever. It was her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft herself, who died two weeks after giving birth to Mary Shelley. So it was the author of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" who died of the fever, not the author of Frankenstein.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:The Corona Virus & Immigration

Conn Hallinan
Friday March 27, 2020 - 04:43:00 PM

As the viral blitzkrieg rolls across one European border after another, it seems to have a particular enmity for Italy. The country’s death toll has passed China’s, and scenes from its hospitals look like something out of Dante’s imagination.


Italy has the fourth largest economy in the European Union, and in terms of health care, it is certainly in a better place than the US. Per capita, Italy has more hospital beds—so-called “surge capacity”—more doctors and more ventilators. Italians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, not to mention British, French, Germans, Swedes and Finns. The virus has had an especially fatal impact on northern Italy, the country’s richest region.

There are a number of reasons why Italy has been so hard-hit, but a major one can be placed at the feet of former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the xenophobic, rightwing League Party and his allies on the Italian right, including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and one of the oldest in the world. It did not get that way be accident. Right-wing parties have long targeted immigrants, even though the immigrant population—a little over 600,000—is not large by international standards. Immigrants as a “threat to European values” has been the rallying cry for the right in France, Germany, Hungry, Poland, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain as well. 

In the last Italian election, the League and its then ally, The Five Star Movement, built their campaigns around resisting immigration. Anti-immigrant parties also did well in Spain and certainly played a major role in pulling the United Kingdom out of the EU. 

Resistance to immigration plays a major role in “graying” the population. Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, topped only by Japan. The demographic effects of this are “an apocalypse” according to former Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin. “In five years, we have lost more than 66,000 births [per year]” equal to the population of the city of Siena. “If we link this to this increasingly old and chronically ill people, we have a picture of a moribund country.” 

According to the World Health Organization, the ideal birth-death replacement ratio in advanced countries is 2.1. Italy’s is 1.32., which means not only an older population, but also fewer working age people to pay the taxes that fund the social infrastructure, including health care. 

As long as there is not a major health crisis, countries muddle though, but when something like the Corona virus arrives, it exposes the underlying weaknesses of the system. 

Some 60 percent of Italians are over 40, and 23 percent are over 65. It is demographics like these that make Covid-19 so lethal. From age 10 to 39, the virus has a death rate of 0.2 percent, more deadly than influenza, but not overly so. But starting at age 40, the death rate starts to rise, reaching 8 percent for adults age 70 to 79, and then jumping to 14.8 percent over 80. The average age of Corona virus deaths in Italy is 81. 

When the economic meltdown hit Europe in 2008, the European Union responded by instituting painful austerity measures that targeted things like health care. Over the past 10 years Italy has cut some 37 billion euros from its health system. The infrastructure that could have dealt with a health crisis like Covid-19 was hollowed out, so that when the disease hit, there simply weren’t enough troops or resources to resist it. 

Add to that the age of Italians, and the outcome was almost foreordained. 

The US is in a very similar position, but for somewhat different reasons. As Pulitzer Prize-winning medical writer Laurie Garrett points out, it was managed care that has derailed the ability of the American health system to respond to a crisis. “What happened with managed care is that hospitals eliminated surplus beds and surplus personnel. So, far from being ready to deal with surge capacity, we’re actually understaffed and we have massive nurse shortages across the nation. “ 

Much of that shortage can also be attributed to managed care. Nurses are overloaded with too many patients, work 10 and 12 hour shifts on a regular basis, and, while initially well paid, their compensation tends to flatten out over the long run. Burn out is a major professional risk for nursing. 

Yet in a pandemic, nursing is the most important element in health care according to John Barry, author of the “The Great Influenza” about the 1918-19 virus that killed up to 100 million people, including 675,000 Americans. A post mortem of the pandemic found “What could help, more than doctors, were nurses. Nursing could ease the strain of a patient, keep a patient hydrated, calm, provide the best nutrition, and cool the intense fevers.” Nurses, the study showed, gave victims “the best possible chance to survive.” 

The issues in Italy’s 2018 election were pretty straightforward: slow growth, high youth unemployment, a starving education system and a deteriorating infrastructure—Rome was literally drowning in garbage. But instead of the failed austerity strategy of the EU, the main election theme became immigration, a subject that had nothing to do with Italy’s economic crisis, troubled banking sector or burdensome national debt. 

Berlusconi, leader of the rightwing Forza Italia Party, said “All these immigrants live off of trickery and crime.” Forza made common cause with the fascist Brothers of Italy, whose leader, Giogia Meloni, called for halting immigrants with a “naval blockade.” 

The main voice of the xenophobic campaign, however, was Salvini and the League. Immigrants, he said, bring “chaos, anger, drug dealing, thefts, rape and violence,” and pose a threat to the “white race.” 

The Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Mario joined the immigrant bashing, if not with quite the vitriol of Berlusconi, Salvini and Meloni. The center-left Democratic Party ducked the issue, leaving the field to the right. 

The outcome was predictable: the Democratic Party was routed and the Five Star Movement and League swept into power. Salvini took the post of Interior Minister and actually instituted a naval blockade, a violation of International Law and the 1982 Law of the Sea. 

Eventually the League and Five Star had a falling out, and Salvini was ousted from his post, but the damage was done. The desperately needed repairs to infrastructure and investments in health care were shelved. When Covid-19 stuck, Italy was unprepared. 

Much the same can be said for the rest of Europe, where more than a decade of austerity policies have weakened health care systems all over the continent. 

Nor is Italy is facing a demographic catastrophe alone. The EU-wide replacement ratio is a tepid 1.58, with only France and Ireland approaching—but not reaching—2.1. 

If Germany does not increase the number of migrants it takes, the population will decline from 81 million to 67 million by 2060, reducing the workforce to 54 percent of the population, not enough to keep up with current levels of social spending. The Berlin Institute for Population and Development estimates that Germany will need 500,000 immigrants a year for the next 35 years to keep pensions and social services at current levels. 

Spain—which saw the rightwing anti-immigration party do well in the last election—is bleeding population, particularly in small towns, some 1500 of which have been abandoned. Spain has weathered a decade and a half of austerity, which damaged the country’s health care infrastructure. After Italy, Spain is the European country hardest hit by Covid-19. 

As populations age, immigrants become a necessity. Not only is new blood needed to fill in the work needs of economies, broadening the tax base that pays for infrastructure, but, too, old people need caretaking, as the Japanese have found out. After centuries of xenophobic policies that made immigration to Japan almost impossible, the Japanese have been forced to accept large numbers of migrants to staff senior facilities. 

The United States will face a similar crisis if the Trump administration is successful in choking off immigration. While the US replacement ratio is higher than the EU’s, it still falls under 2.1, and that will have serious demographic consequences in the long run. 

It may be that for-profit health care simply can’t cope with a pandemic because it finds maintaining adequate surge capacity in hospital beds, ventilators and staff reduces stockholders’ dividends. And public health care systems in Europe—which have better outcomes than the American system’s—only work if they are well funded. 

To the biblical four horsemen—war, famine, wild beasts and plague—we can add two more: profits and austerity.  

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






THE PUBLIC EYE: Ready or Not, Here Comes the Recession

Bob Burnett
Friday March 27, 2020 - 04:02:00 PM

The U.S. economy is heading into recession. Washington politicians are trying to prevent this but a prolonged period of negative growth appears inevitable. What should we expect? 

The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the economy: the stock market (DJIA) has fallen about 7,000 points; there's been a huge spike in unemployment claims; and economists are predicting that the U.S. economy will have negative growth for at least the next two quarters -- the technical definition of recession. 

Both Democrats and Republicans worry about the recession. Congress is on the verge of passing a massive ($2 trillion) stimulus bill. 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is toying with the notion of declaring (premature) victory over the Coronavirus and broadcasting that "America is open for business." On March 23rd, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) argued that social distancing measures against the Coronavirus should be lifted to let Americans go back to work, even if it means older people becoming infected with the illness. “Those of us who are 70+, we’ll take care of ourselves but don’t sacrifice the country... We all want to live with our grandchildren as long as we can. But the point is our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country, and right now, that is at risk.” (https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/texas-dan-patrick-grandparents-sacrifice-lives-coronavirus-economy ) There's an emerging conservative stance that values stock-market gains over American lives. 

Meanwhile, three factors have pushed the economy into recession: unemployment produced by the Coronavirus pandemic; collapse of the oil market; and perforation of the corporate debt bubble. 

1. Unemployment resulting from the pandemic. On March 23, St. Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard warned that the U.S. unemployment rate could hit 30 percent in the second quarter. On March 26, the Department of Labor announced that a record 3.3 million Americans had registered for unemployment benefits (https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52050426). 

Unemployment will play out differently throughout the country. On March 25, California Governor Newsom reported that, since March 13, one million Californians had applied for unemployment insurance. Golden State economists say the hardest hit economic sectors will be hospitality and food services, and transportation. 

In terms of contribution to California's GDP, the largest sector is "Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate;" this sector, and "Construction," will be certainly impacted by the pandemic, and by the concomitant credit crisis. California's "Manufacturing" and "Publication/Media" sector's have already been affected. (in fact, all the sector's will be impacted with the exception of "Government" and "Health Care/Social Assistance.") 

In Sonoma County, where I live, the biggest impact has been on the "Hospitality/Food Services" sector, which has, for the most part, shut down. (Hospitality is the largest industrial sector in the County; it includes hotels, motels, vacation rentals, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and brewpubs.) Outdoor recreation has also cratered. As a result, the unemployment rate in Sonoma County is likely to spike to 20% or more. (https://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/10837277-181/job-losses-mount-in-sonoma

In my small community, we all know someone whose business has shut down or whose friend or relative has lost their job. Looking at the Bay Area, in general, we all know someone who was working a couple of jobs, in order to make ends meet -- participants in the "gig" economy. Typically, one of those jobs is now gone -- such as driving for Uber. For those who rented out a room or "granny unit" via Airbnb, this source of income has also dried up. 

2. The collapse of the oil market. On December 30, the price of a barrel of oil was $63.05; on March 26, the price had fallen to $21.90. Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2020/03/26/oil-headed-to-10-a-barrel-as-virus-lockdown-eradicates-fuel-demand/#28303fb26d00) reported that some analysts expect the price to fall to $10 per barrel. 

This abrupt change has dramatically affected the "Energy" sector. While this has only a slight impact on the California economy, it has major consequences for Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, and Louisiana. (A recent Brookings study indicated: "The most exposed metro area nationwide is the oil-and-gas town of Midland, Texas, with 42% of its workforce in high-risk industries. Other major energy producers such as Odessa and Laredo, Texas as well as Houma-Thibodaux, La. also land in the top 10 most affected.") 

In other words, in parallel with the pandemic impact on economic sectors such as Hospitality and Transportation, much of the fossil-fuel energy sector is likely to collapse. 

3. The perforation of the corporate debt bubble. Recently the Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/27cf0690-5c9d-11ea-b0ab-339c2307bcd4) reported:
"The shock that coronavirus has wrought on markets across the world coincides with a dangerous financial backdrop marked by spiralling global debt. According to the Institute of International Finance, a trade group, the ratio of global debt to gross domestic product hit an all-time high of over 322 per cent in the third quarter of 2019, with total debt reaching close to $253tn... A comparison of today’s circumstances with the period before the [2008] financial crisis is instructive... an important difference now is that the debt focus in the private sector is not on property and mortgage lending, but on loans to the corporate sector... The rise is most striking in the US, where the Fed estimates that corporate debt has risen from $3.3tn before the financial crisis to $6.5tn last year." 

Corporations with excessive debt include Ford, Halliburton, Kraft-Heinz, and Macy's. Some banks are affected as are many corporations in the Energy sector. 

What this means is that, aside from the impact of the pandemic, some U.S. companies will fail because of the collapse of the debt bubble. 

Summary: On March 26, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said, "We may well be in a recession... The virus is going to dictate the timetable.” 

On March 25, NYU Economics Professor Nouriel Roubini (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-pandemic-has-delivered-the-fastest-deepest-economic-shock-in-history) spoke of the timetable: 

"[E]very component of aggregate demand – consumption, capital spending, exports – is in unprecedented freefall... The contraction that is now under way looks to be neither V- nor U- nor L-shaped (a sharp downturn followed by stagnation). Rather, it looks like an I: a vertical line representing financial markets and the real economy plummeting....Not even during the Great Depression and the second world war did the bulk of economic activity literally shut down, as it has in China, the US and Europe today." 

Hold on tight, we're entering rough water. 

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

Will the Rally ‘Round the Flag Syndrome Affect The Presidential Election?

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday March 29, 2020 - 09:38:00 AM

Will the COVID-19 pandemic and the expected resulting recession lessen Trump’s re-election chances? The rally 'round the flag effect (or syndrome) may come into play. This is a concept used in political science and international relations to explain increased short-run popular support of the President of the United States during periods of international crisis or war. After all, 9/11 certainly helped George W. Bush get reelected.  

In January and February, Trump ignored intelligence reports of the dangers of a likely COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he called such news a hoax, fake news, and a Democrat conspiracy. Fox News has been a leader in presenting a Trumpy version of the truth, often portraying news in the best possible light for the president at the expense of science-based facts.  

Trump gets lots of media attention by holding daily rosy briefings containing misinformation and downright lies with no sympathy for virus victims. Then again, empathy is not a Trump strong suit. Meanwhile, news of the pandemic keeps Joe Biden, his probable opponent, out of the limelight. As November 3 draws closer, will Americans “rally ‘round” Tru 

With all the turmoil, as of March 13-22, a Gallup poll shows 60% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Go figure. Of course, it is still early and anything could happen between now and election day. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the question remains as to how the rest of the Democratic primaries will be held as well as the general election on November 3.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Coronavirus and Remaining Mentally Well

Jack Bragen
Friday March 27, 2020 - 05:04:00 PM

My background includes more than thirty-five years of being afflicted with Schizophrenia, Paranoid-type. But my background also includes, long before I became mentally ill, being an avid reader, and about half of that was science fiction. And as a youngster, I was hooked on Godzilla and the original series of Star Trek, and also shows called "Creature Features," "Outer Limits," and the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. So, I know a bit about going into fantasy media. 

Panic is mounting over the pandemic of Coronavirus. And, to a large extent, this is reality-based. However, some are going a little too far. 

As a paranoid person with a history of being drawn into fantasy, I've intentionally created some immunity to this proclivity. This is essential to living with schizophrenia, especially when events take place such as the destruction of the World Trade Centers. I remember the television coverage of that, vividly. 

It is normal to exaggerate. You don't have to be psychotic to have exaggerated fears. 

As people with mental illness, as much as anyone else, we've been advised on sensible steps we can take to lessen the immediate likelihood of contracting the Coronavirus. Yet, I have not seen anyone advise mentally ill people on how we can frame this in our sometimes-fragile minds, minds in which remaining well is a precarious thing. So, I am going to give you some ideas on this. 

If you have an overactive imagination and a tendency to take things too far, you should acknowledge that tendency. Many people with mental illness and some who do not, could overreact to something that appears to an extent like a real-life Armageddon. This is not to minimize the seriousness of what we are facing. Yet, to the extent that we can, we should carry on business as usual. We still have to budget our money, pay rent, pay bills, take care of our cars, clean up after ourselves, and fill out an income tax return (if we have significant taxable income). The government isn't going away. The laws aren't going away. The United States isn't going anywhere. This is not going to be the end of civilization. Although it does affect a lot of things. 

Coronavirus does not change a psychiatric disorder that we had before the virus and that we will continue to have after the virus spreads. However, if you have family that is at risk, you should call them and advise them to take care of themselves. 

The Coronavirus will probably infect most people. When I've had the flu, the best medicines have been Guaifenesin (generic for Mucinex) and Tylenol, the latter not taken in excess. Ibuprofen is good too, yet doesn't mix well with some drugs, is a blood thinner, and is sometimes hard on the kidneys. Aspirin is good but should be taken with food. The Coronavirus could be seen like a superflu. Most people who get it won't die, but some will. But do not panic. From the numbers I've seen on television news, it looks like it kills fewer than one in a hundred whom it infects. 

As I'm writing this, governments on our globe are taking steps to make the spread of the virus happen in a more controlled way. This accomplishes a number of things. It increases the likelihood that there will almost be enough hospital beds, respirators, and other equipment. It allows more medical personnel to be available to treat the ill. It may also lessen the economic impact of the virus. 

What we can do if mentally ill is to cooperate with authorities who currently advise remaining at home except for essential trips, and to avoid large gatherings. Also, and this is essential, we have to maintain our mental health. This is accomplished by remaining medication compliant and by obtaining counseling over the phone, or through either facetime or skype. 

If we live in shared housing, things are a bit more complicated, because we can't control the exposure of roommates who could infect us. I live with my wife, and neither of us are going very many places. 

In China, the government they have, while it does not allow the basic personal liberty we cherish in the U.S., allows for more efficiency in combating the virus. This is because their public will do anything their government tells them to do. 

Leaders, in the best case, lead by example. One hopes it is a good example and not the criminal, incompetent, inadequate example of the current "leadership."  

We can weather this. We are all in this together. 

SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday March 28, 2020 - 04:23:00 PM

Chronovirus: Delivered to your Door? 

I used to look forward to the arrival of dawn in the East and the arrival of the Chron in my driveway. But there was one thing that bothered me. The daily newspaper always seems to arrive stuffed inside a bright yellow bag of single-use plastic — even when there's no threat of rain. 

Now I'm wondering if there might be another problem with the Chron's home delivery operation: Are the folks who deliver the plastic-clad paper to tens of thousands of Bay Area doorsteps observing essential anti-coronavirus hygiene procedures — i.e., are they sanitizing their hands before bagging the daily news? 

If not, a single infected worker would be in a position to spread the disease widely through the Bay Area's large urban population. 

We could call this new threat "Chronovirus." 

Attempts to reach the currently-understaffed Chronicle for comment failed. A prerecorded voice advised that "it is extremely unlikely" that anyone would answer a call and the robo-options did not offer any info on the Chron's pandemic practices. 

So, for the time being, it might be good to get in the habit of washing our hands after removing the Chron from its dapper wrapper. 

And, meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University has made it possible to monitor the contagion's spread via an online COVID-19 data-map

A Revelation! Clearly! 

Several times over the past week, I found myself remarking on how beautifully sun-lit the days have been. But the cause for the clarity wasn't clear until I received an email from a friend who lives aboard a boat at the Berkeley Marina. 

"Had I mentioned the amazing clean air?" she wrote. 

"[My sailboat] is, after many days since I gave her a swab, still white! [And my dingy], Little Blu is clean still since I had given her a wash." 

This is not surprising. Orbiting weather stations have shown the thick layers of pollution in the skies over China and Italy have vanished and the air has become clean again—for the first time in decades. With humans confined, Nature restores herself. Go Mama Gaia! 

Some Reassuring Words from a Local Activist 

Local CODEPINK activist Cynthia Papermaster recently emailed some thoughtful words that gave me some comfort and I'd like to pass them on: 

I'm seeing some opportunities in this situation. 



  • quieting, grounding, enjoying solitude, slowing down
  • connecting with friends and colleagues in a caring way
  • contemplating extinction -- both personal and planetary-- giving us an opportunity to reflect on who we are and where we're going
  • seeing the failures of our capitalist and imperialist systems being blatantly exposed
  • making connections between the pandemic and planet-killing human actions and opposing both
  • taking stock of our routines and re-ordering our priorities
  • getting back to basics
  • valuing the beauty and abundance around us, or not, if we're struggling
  • putting the brakes on meeting after meeting, event after event, and having time to think, rest, garden, read, tidy, organize, de-clutter
  • figuring out how we want to spend the rest of our time here and reconciling with our mortality
FSM Activists Still Active 



One of the veterans of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement (now a teacher and a boardmember of the Los Angeles Unified School District) has long been a progressive voice in Southern California politics. She recently sent a message to colleagues in the Bay Area who have been working hard to secure the transfer of the Free Speech Movement Archives to UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library. Her message underscored the alarming impact of the coronavirus infection that is rampaging across the state. 

"Hope all of you are well, as are we in Echo Park. I must apologize for being unavailable, but since last Wednesday—in five workdays—LAUSD [Los Angeles Unified School District] has given out more than a million meals to our students, their families, and the homeless. And we are spending about $100 million to get 100% of our students connected to the Internet and with an I-pad or Chromebook to use while schools are closed. I just cannot focus on anything but all of this right now." 

Once an activist, always an activist. 

A Blithering Idiot's Dithering Comments on COVID-19 


The Viral Bailout Bill: Just the First Step 

On March 25, The Progressive Change Campaign Committee warned that the Senate's COVID-19 bailout bill was "a giant check to the Trump re-election campaign" and accused Democrats of "handing Donald Trump the Keys to the Country." 

The Huffington Post huffed that Mitch McConnell's bill "would establish a $4.5 trillion corporate bailout fund overseen by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, with few substantive constraints." 

BoldProgressives called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "seize control of this process" and insist on a bill that would "help families and hold corporations accountable." 

The Democrats were able to stand fast and win some critical concessions from the Corporatocracy but much work remains to be done. The veterans' group, Common Defense, wanted to see $230 billion directed to medical professions, local clinics and hospitals trying to cope with the coronavirus epidemic, $15.5 billion dedicated to sheltering homeless Americans (many of them combat veterans), and would have required corporations to keep employees on the payroll and banned corporados from using bailout bucks to by back stock or grant CEO bonuses. 

Rev. William Barber and Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Poor Peoples' Campaign penned a joint appeal that argued the "unprecedented national emergency" triggered by the viral epidemic actually arose from "a deeper and much longer-term crisis—that of poverty and of a society that ignores the needs of 140 million who are poor or who are a $400 emergency away from being poor. The Poor Peoples Campaign has called for federal action to ensure "that our abundant natural resources are used for the general welfare, instead of wars, walls, and the wealthy—not just in times of crisis but at all times." 

And the Sierra Club—while praising the Democrats for securing additional funds to protect working families facing hunger, illness and evictions—warned that the Trump administration was likely to use the pandemic to distract attention from its plans to open land around the Grand Canyon to uranium mining, reduce protections for migratory birds, and "roll back standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants." 

How Many Trillions Make a Gazillion? 

As the Poor Peoples Campaign has noted, the current bailout bill fails to address systemic problems of inequity. And, as Bernie Sanders pointed out back in 2018, long before the virus emerged from Hubei Province, Amazon not only paid no federal income tax in 2017, "it received a $137 million tax rebate from the IRS." Amazon was one of 15 mega-corps that collectively claimed $24.5 billion in profits yet paid not a single dime to the IRS. 

More recently, a March 21 Associated Press report noted how the Federal Reserve "moved with unprecedented force and speed … to pump hug amounts of cash into the financial system" without having to deal with the inconvenience of having to seek enabling legislation. The report ran below the memorable headline: "Federal Reserve to Lend Additional $1 Trillion a Day to Large Banks." 

You read that right: One trillion dollars a day "until the end of the month." (Translation: $11 trillion.) No Senate or House vote needed. 


Bob's Back! Dylan Dialing Down in Dallas 

At the stroke of midnight on March 27, Bob Dylan released his first studio recording since 2017. The song, “Murder Most Foul,” is the first original song Dylan has released since 2012. The epic ballad — which runs nearly 17 minutes — was accompanied by Dylan's note that fans “might find it interesting” and a warning all to “stay safe, stay observant.” 

The title echoes a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and expands from a condemnation of the government conspiracy behind President John F. Kennedy’s assassination to a ramble through the decades that followed. 

There's a video below and, if you want to savor the lyrics in print, you can do so at this link


Should you wish to explore some of the darker details behind Kennedy's murder, check out local author David Talbot's New York Times bestsellers: Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government

Looking ahead. Director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK) has completed a devastating new documentary on the assassination called "JFK: Destiny Betrayed." Stone's film has been picked up by AGC Studios for television syndication. Only one problem: there is currently "no information on when or where the show might air." 



Bernie vs. Biden, Trees, and an In-CREDO-Bill Outcome

In mid-March, CREDO Mobile asked its members to share their presidential preferences and, for every response received, the socially responsible phone company promised to plant a tree. 



The invitation prompted 7,000 responses—which means 7,000 trees. In the CREDO tally, Bernie Sanders received 54% of the vote, Joe Biden garnered 43%, and Tulsi Gabbard came in third with a single-digit 1%. 

Asked to list their top two political concerns, the CREDO cadre overwhelmingly named “combating climate change” and “reducing income and wealth inequality.” 

In response to another question, 20% of the respondents claimed they were unaware that CREDO donates nearly $2 million a year to progressive organizations like Color of Change, Planned Parenthood, Rainforest Action Network, March for Our Lives, Americans for Tax Fairness, Friends of the Earth and NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

Much of this treasure is the result of a clever fund-raising strategy CREDO introduced many years ago: a simple request that customers "round-up" the charges on their phone bills to the next full-dollar amount. 

How US Taxes Attack Foreign Spouses 

I was recently surprised to discover that the IRS not only taxes Americans and immigrant workers for the income earned in the US but the IRS also taxes immigrants for the money they made in their home countries

As Turbo Tax Help explains in response to a request from an American gentleman recently married to a foreign-born lady: "by including your [non-native] spouse on your tax return, your spouse's worldwide income will be taxed by the United States. This includes both US and Foreign earned (i.e.: wages) and unearned (i.e.: bank interest) income from all sources. So if your spouse does not have any US income but does have foreign income, that foreign income will need to be included on your married filing jointly tax return." And that amounts to double taxation. 

American citizens who earn income abroad are also subject to taxation by the US. However a Foreign Earned Income Exception (Form 2555) can exclude "up to $105,900 in foreign earned income in tax year 2019." 

Can Tech Save the World? WIRED Thinks So 

The April issue of WIRED magazine is dedicated to the idea that technology (which has lead to so much environmental damage) can be recruited to help stave off planetary collapse. And, on page 83, Berkeley is singled out for a special mention: 

Berkeley's 2019 ban on natural gas in new buildings has spurred more than 50 California cities to draft similar legislation. 

And here are some other positive footnotes from the issue: 

• Stockholm Central Station absorbs the body heat of its 250,000 daily commuters and shoots it underground to help heat a nearby 13-story office building. 

• Australia refurbished a 1949 diesel train a few years ago into the first-ever solar-powered train. Even better, 100 percent of Dutch national trains run on wind power. 

• China's new magnetic levitation train, the world's fastest, will reach speeds of 373 mph, carrying passengers more than 600 miles in two hours while putting out less than half the emissions of a regional flight. 

• California stopped buying (most) solely gas-powered vehicles for its fleets at the end of 2019 . . . to reduce greenhouse emissions in the state. 

• A 2018 US carbon-storage tax credit could spur retrofits of power plants to capture 54 million tons of carbon per year—the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the streets. 

• Livestock accounts for roughly 14.5 percent of anthropogenic emissions worldwide. If farmers filled their pastures with trees and shrubs—an ancient technique known as silvopasture—their grazing land would absorb up to 10 times more carbon. 

• Methane emissions burped out by cows could be cut by 99 percent if farmers changed 2 percent of the ruminants' diet to seaweed. 

• Two-thirds of Americans support a carbon tax if the revenue is used for environmental restoration. 

45 Years of Common Ground 

Common Ground magazine is celebrating its 45th anniversary with an edition that contains a great retrospective gallery of covers and four of editor-publisher Rob Sidon's consistently sterling interviews. (Full disclosure: I'm a former editor of Common Ground and I love the publication dearly.) 

The interviewees include: "Ken Babbs, the Original Merry Prankster with stories about Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, and the Grateful Dead," "A Conversation with Krishna Das about his Best Friend, Ram Dass," "Daniel Kottke, Steve Jobs' College Buddy," and a reminiscence with Common Ground founder Andy Alpine. There's also a fine salute to "The Cockettes: San Francisco's Gender-Bending Trailblazers." 

Now the challenge is where to find a copy. With Berkeley's libraries closed, the only spot I know where you can find Common Ground is inside a battered, shabby-looking news box sitting in front of Berkeley Natural Grocery (1336 Gilman). 

A DIY Enemies List? 

On March 25, visitors to the online edition of the NBC Nightly News encountered a pop-up ad that asked for public opinion on Donald Trump's performance as president. (Note: I stress the word "performance.") But the survey was not the open-ended solicitation of opinion that it first appeared to be. 

The "Official Trump Approval Poll" (accompanied by a campaign photo of Trump flashing a grin and a fist) contained only one question: "Do you approve of President Trump's recent job performance?" There were three response options: "Yes. No. Other, please specify." 

The questionnaire then asked for the respondent's first and last name, zip-code, email and mobile phone number. 

The not-so-subtle aim of the so-called "survey" appeared to be to identify Trump's opponents and create a database—but for what purpose? 

Trump Does TIME 


The Pandemic Election: 10 Predictions

Bob Burnett
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:16:00 PM

The first U.S. Coronavirus case was reported on January 20th. Since then, 19,155 Americans have tested positive and 250 have died. There are many consequences of this pandemic but it's sure to affect the 2020 presidential election. Here are ten predictions.

1.The Coronavirus pandemic will not be over quickly and, therefore, it will affect the conduct of the presidential election. The Democratic convention is scheduled to open July 13th. It seems unlikely that it will convene in its normal form.

Recently, Donald Trump stated that he expects the pandemic to go on until "July or August." Some experts believe it may go for a year or more -- until a vaccine is developed to deal with the Coronavirus. Therefore, it's likely that the pandemic will be with us for, at least, the next six months and dramatically affect the conduct of the presidential election.

2. The pandemic will affect the economy. It's obvious that the Coronavirus pandemic will impact the economy: the stock market (DJIA) has fallen over 10,000 points; there's been a spike in unemployment claims; and economists are predicting that the U.S. economy has slipped into a recession -- with negative growth for at least the next two quarters.

To say the least, times are dire. Americans have to fear the Coronavirus and the collapse of our economy. (It seems the two are intertwined; the economy will not recover until the course of the pandemic is more predictable.) 

Obviously, this recession will be fodder for the 2020 election. 

3. All aspects of the Republican and Democratic political campaigns will be impacted by the pandemic and recession. We've already seen the end of political rallies and conventional -- press-the-flesh -- fundraisers. 

At the same time the Coronavirus crisis has deepened, Joe Biden has emerged as the presumptive Democratic candidate. In the meantime, Donald Trump is on the news each morning, playing the role of "wartime President" in the daily Coronavirus press briefing. The question for Biden is how can he get a reasonable amount of media time. 

4. The format of the political conventions will be altered. The Democratic convention is in July and the Republican convention will occur in August. It's unlikely that the pandemic will have sufficiently abated to permit these event to go forward in their usual manner; no doubt there will be "virtual" conventions. 

There are all sorts of logistical issues to be solved in the virtual convention format: how will votes be counted? How will typical convention items -- such as the Party platforms -- be determined? 

5. Some prominent politicians will be infected. Two members of the House of Representatives have tested positive for the Coronavirus and approximately twenty others are in "self-quarantine." (https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/09/politics/coronavirus-lawmakers-quarantine-isolation/index.html) At least one member of the White House staff has tested positive and others are in self-quarantine. 

It's only a matter of time before a major American political figure tests positive for the Coronavirus. When this happens, it's conceivable that the course of the election may be impacted. (For example, a Senator -- up for reelection -- may be stricken.) 

6. Congress will change the way it votes. At the moment, Congressional votes require Senators or Representatives to come to the floor of their respective chambers. It's highly likely that these rules will change, permitting members of Congress to vote without leaving their regional offices. (Obviously, this change has security consequences.) 

7. Both the Biden and the Trump campaign will be impacted by the pandemic. The crisis will particularly hurt Donald Trump (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/09/3-ways-coronavirus-could-end-trumps-presidency/): a. The state of the economy had worked in Trump's favor but now the economy has gone into the tank. b. Trump has done a terrible job handling the pandemic and this will hurt him in the polls. c. The current situation emphasizes the need for an improved healthcare system and Trump has taken many actions to undermine the current healthcare system. In addition, moving the presidential campaign into a virtual format will hurt Trump because it will deprive him of his big rallies. 

On the other hand, Trump has amassed a war chest of millions of dollars intended to go after the Democratic candidate via social media. This strategy could give Trump a huge head start over Biden. 

8. Biden and Trump will definitely debate. The first presidential debate is scheduled for September. Before the pandemic hit, Trump was making noises that suggested he would not debate the Democratic candidate. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/12/us/politics/trump-presidential-debate-democrat.html) Now he doesn't have a choice. At the moment, Real Clear Politics shows Biden with a 7.4 percent lead over Trump and, as the pandemic/recession plays out, the gap will widen. Trump will complain about the debate format and moderator, but he will be forced to debate. 

9. The debate issues will be shaped by the pandemic. If the presidential debate were to be held today, the issues would be the economy, healthcare, and presidential leadership. Biden would have the advantage. 

10. The format of the November election will be impacted by the pandemic. On November 3rd, it's likely that vast swaths of the United States will still be under orders to "shelter in place." This means that most states will have to offer residents the choice of voting by mail. (29 states already permit some form of voting by mail.) 


Or maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps this will all be over in a week. In any event, we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Stay safe. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: In Politics, Mentally Ill People Don't Get a Mention

Jack Bragen
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 05:58:00 PM

I watched the Presidential primary debate between Sanders and Biden (a week will have passed before you are reading this), and people with disabilities didn't get lip service. 

I watch a lot of politics on television and I read it on the internet. So far, I have seen no politician courting the votes or contributions from persons with disabilities. My category, that of mentally ill people, does not have political clout. The closest we come to it is through NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization consisting primarily of the parents of people with mental illness. NAMI does have some amount of clout, but even they rarely get a mention by a politician. 

Mentally ill people often do not have jobs. If we had jobs, it would be easier for us to organize into an entity that has some form of clout. The money has to come from somewhere. And people are not going to contribute to the cause of mentally ill people forming an organization that is by and for mentally ill people. 

Many families continue to keep it a secret that a family member is bipolar or schizophrenic. The concept that mental illness is something to be ashamed of is a misnomer. Yet it persists. 

Many mentally ill people probably do not vote. Many can't afford to contribute to a politician. When we are living under restrictions, including the passive restraint of having no income, activities become very limited. My writing is easy to do in some respects, because it merely involves possession of a computer, and the will to sit at that computer and produce something. 

Politicians don't mention mentally ill people because that won't help them win an election. Yet there are many elected officials who care about our wellness and who will act to make our lives better after they are elected. Proposition 63 was a one percent millionaire tax to fund mental health. It has done a lot to make the lives of mentally ill people better. It pays toward the Clubhouse in Concord and might pay for some of the expenses of NAMI Contra Costa. 

In the not so distant past, mentally ill people could and did organize. This was due to there being less economic pressure and other constraints on us. Additionally, the previous generation of medications was less restrictive of brain function. Thus, in the past, mentally ill people could do more things, including organize. 

When we organized, we accomplished some good things, but there was also some amount of corruption. I was out of the loop, so I do not know the exact nature of this. However, there were some mentally ill people in the organization with which I was involved who liked being a big fish in a small pond, and they also liked fishing out of a barrel. 

Where there is money, there is corruption. At one time, mental health organizations were able to get grants. These times appear to have passed. The capacity to organize seems to have been swept away by the force of medication, and other forces, including a harsher society. The "Patients' Rights Movement" arose when there were far worse injustices in the mental health treatment system than there are now. 

Yet, in the past ten years, certain things about inpatient treatment have worsened. And, additionally, police forces have always been too heavy-handed in their detainment procedures, from what I have observed firsthand. 

Organized mentally ill people often served as a balance on the authority of the mental health treatment systems. There are some organizations, such as Office of Consumer Empowerment. Yet, my perception, and the reader should correct me if I'm wrong, is that this organization is supervised by the county. 

Better conditions for mentally ill people would allow us to organize and have clout, and not worse conditions. This is unless the parents become excessively outraged at what is being done to their adult children. 

Meanwhile, there is the Clubhouse model, which has absorbed the funding, and which is not run by recovered mentally ill people. We've lost adult status. 

Italy the Worst Case Scenario For COVID-19 in the U.S.

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 09:42:00 PM

Italy is the worst case scenario for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic of what could happen in this country. Presently, as of March 15, Italy has 24,747 cases with 1,809 deaths — a rise of 368 or 25% in the death toll in just 24 hours. Italy is now in a nationwide lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19.  

London’s The Telegraph reports that a crisis management unit in Turin, Italy, has drawn up a protocol that will determine which patients will receive intensive care treatment and which will not if there are insufficient intensive care capacity is already running short. Intensive care spaces for COVID-19 victims aged 80 or more or in poor health would be denied care should pressure on beds increase. The ability of the patient to recover from resuscitation will also be considered. 

Even in the best of times, hospitals the U.S. run at near-full capacity with infection control a perennial problem. Unfortunately, as of now, there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 and probably will not be for 1 to 1-1/2 years. 

As one doctor said: "[Who lives and who dies] is decided by age and by the [patient's] health conditions. This is how it is in a war.” Note that according to the 2019 point-in-time count, 10% of San Francisco’s 9,764 homeless are 80 or older. The U.S. too is facing a war with hard decisions ahead. 

Unfortunately, we now have a deadly lack of leadership in the White House. I’m not sure we are fully prepared for this war against COVID-19.

SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces

By Gar Smith
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 06:16:00 PM

A Sign of the Times

This morning, an NPR reporter mentioned the upcoming November election and added a qualifier: "... assuming human civilization survives that long."

Another Sign of the Times

I had a small bout of surgery two weeks ago and was due to return to the hospital to have the sutures removed. Given the restraints of our geo-endemic pandemic, I sent off an email asking if the appointment was being postponed.

The helpful hospital folks suggested a delay was a possibility but they had an alternative: I could take out the sutures myself in the comfort of my own home.

Right: a Do-It-Yourself suturectomy!

The doctor's email provided the following quick course in removing surgical stitches:

"Use a small nail scissors with the pointy tip, to cut under the knot and pull the suture out with forceps/tweezers at home. It would be great if someone could help you."

A more detailed Five Step Procedure followed, along with a link to "a step-by-step video on taking out your stitches at home."


A Poem for Our Troubled Times 

The following poem has been making the online rounds as pandemic-panicked people search for reassuring words to share. Herewith: 


By Brother Richard Hendrick (March 13, 2020, Ireland) 

Yes, there is fear. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

Yes, there is even death. 


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise 

You can hear the birds again. 

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet 

The sky is no longer thick with fumes 

But blue and grey and clear. 

They say that in the streets of Assisi 

People are singing to each other 

across the empty squares, 

keeping their windows open 

so that those who are alone 

may hear the sounds of the family around them. 

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland 

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound. 

Today a young woman I know 

is busy spreading fliers with her number 

through the neighborhood 

So that the elders may have someone to call on. 

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples 

are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary 

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting 

All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way 

All over the world, people are waking up to a new reality 

To how big we really are. 

To how little control we really have. 

To what really matters. 

To Love. 

So we pray and we remember that 

Yes, there is fear. 

But there does not have to be hate. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

But there does not have to be loneliness. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

But there does not have to be meanness. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

But there does not have to be the disease of the soul 

Yes, there is even death. 

But there can always be a rebirth of love. 

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. 

Today, breathe. 

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic 

The birds are singing again 

The sky is clearing, 

Spring is coming, 

And we are always encompassed by Love. 

Open the windows of your soul 

And though you may not be able 

to touch across the empty square, 


Breaking News Amidst the Noise: What's Bad News for People Is Good for the Planet New data from the orbiting the CopernicusEU #Sentinel5P weather satellite reveal a major decline in air pollution over Italy as a result of a nationwide lockdown that is keeping residents confined to their homes. 


At the same time, the water in Venice's clouded canals has begun to run clear as the coronavirus lockdown suspends boat traffic. Fish are once more visible in the canals. Also returning to enjoy the currents of the city's cleaner canals—swans and . . . dolphins! 


Meanwhile, the air quality over China has improved dramatically following the imposition of a nationwide coronavirus quarantine. NASA satellites are finding 'significant decreases' in nitrogen dioxide as factories are closed and workers are ordered to stay home. 


A Hopeful Invitation from the Greenhorns 

Over the years, it's been my pleasure to know and work with an amazing crew of young eco-activist farmers who call themselves the "Greenhorns." From their headquarters in rural Pembroke, Maine, they energetically promote ecological farming as an alternative career path for young Americans who see no long-term future in a world dominated by short-term, extractive, debt-for-profit capitalism. 

And how can I not love a team of on-the-land artists, writers, and eco-agitators who chose to name their homestead "Smithereen Farm"? 


Here's a portion of a recent letter from their farm in Maine. It was a welcome respite from the apocalyptic barrage of doom-soaked screeds that have dominated the news cycle for the past weeks. 

What a time! What a time to sit quietly in the morning and lay out some constructive thoughts about where and how to intervene in the unfolding now. Disaster capitalism, masked sprayers in the streets, lockdowns and xenophobia, trillions of dollars of phantom money flooding, draining and swirling toxic silt, indenturing the future with debt. 

Panic and hoarding, schools and courts of justice closed—and meanwhile the dismantling continues, the closure of state agencies charged with overseeing our public lands, parks, forests, department of agriculture, department of statistics, the science of climate study and the needed coordinated response to climate change. We’re keeping our spirits up: speaking with each other, checking in with those we love, showing care and kindness in the hallways and at the intersections. This is no time to be hollowing out institutions and the social behaviors of solidarity. The dispatch comes with an invitation. Every year (in between planting and harvesting) the Greenhorns produce a collection of ruminations and solution-oriented essays in their annual publication, The New Farmer’s Almanac. And this year, they are inviting us to submit articles for the upcoming edition. 

We at the Greenhorns challenge you to use this time to compose your thoughts, articulate constructive solutions, and write for The New Farmer’s Almanac! The future is a long time, and the present is a good time to write. 

As they explain in their letter: We are seeking solutions! Works of resistance, restoration, revisioning. We welcome contributions from farmers, researchers, poets, landscape designers, architects, ranchers, activists, artists, thinkers, and gardeners working to reimagine our management of public and private lands. 

In the meantime, the Greenhorns offer this open invitation: "Come learn with us about Sardines, Oysters, Mushrooms, Rice, Vinegar, Wild herbs, Forestry in a Forest context, Historic Restoration and more." 


Trump a Poet? You're Right: It's Got to Be a Joke Need some satire to get you through these helter-shelter days? How about an audio book titled: The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump (Unabridged)? The perpetrator behind this parody is Robert Sears, the publisher is Canongate Books, and it's the mellifluous, overly dramatic voice of Jon Culshaw that carries the day, delivering Sears' craftily edited collection of Trump's tweets and tropes with deliciously unearned gravitas. 

According to the publisher: "This collection will give readers a glimpse of the Trump's innermost thoughts and feelings, on everything from the nature of truth to what annoys him about Cher—and will reveal a hitherto hidden Donald, who may surprise and delight both students and critics alike." Click here for a free listen. 

Trump Does TIME 

Arts & Events

Simone McIntosh Talks about Messiaen’s Harawi

An Interview by James Roy MacBean
Saturday March 28, 2020 - 04:31:00 PM

On March 4, Canadian mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh gave a mesmerising performance of the song-cycle Harawi by French composer Olivier Messiaen as part of the second Schwabacher Recital of 2020 in the Taube Atrium Theatre in San Francisco. Readers may check out my review of this recital in the March 7 online issue of Berkeley Daily Planet. This event was of such impact and importance in our Bay Area musical life that I decided to follow up by engaging Simone McIntosh in a dialogue about Messiaen’s Harawi. Due to the Shelter in Place restrictions imposed, however, due to the coronavirus, my dialogue with Simone McIntosh had to be online through email. Here, with few revisions, are the results of our online dialogue. 

James MacBean I read in an interview you gave in Canada that you first encountered Messiaen’s Harawi in 2015 in Toronto in some kind of mash-up with Franz Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin. That must have been a strange way to make one’s first encounter with Messiaen’s Harawi, so I’m wondering what was it about Messiaen’s Harawi that jumped out to you and made you want to sing this work? 

Simone McIntosh: Yes, it was a mash-up of Schubert and Messiaen. But it was very well sung by mezzo-soprano Kristina Szabo, and the music by Messiaen totally captivated me. I had never heard anything like it! So from that moment on I’ve wanted to sing that amazing music, though of course I’ve also continued singing many other works by classical and contemporary composers. 

James MacBean: Harawi is written for soprano and piano. You’re a mezzo-soprano, albeit one with an extraordinary vocal range. In your San Francisco performance, did you sing Harawi as it was written for soprano, or did you transpose certain passages down to suit your mezzo-soprano voice? 

Simone McIntosh: Messiaen was definitely unrelenting towards both the singer and the pianist in this work. For the singer it requires her to maintain a high B while equally feeling at home in the lower register. It was originally written for a dramatic soprano, but lucky for us lyric mezzos we can also lay claim to this work. It might better be described as a piece written for a zwischen (voice between mezzo and soprano). Transposition to Messiaen is decidedly a big “No, No.” Especially because of his synesthesia, transposition would change the entire coloration of the piece. 

James MacBean: Your performance in San Francisco was mesmerising! As I wrote in my review, you seemed to inhabit the music. Or, to put it another way, the music seemed to inhabit you. In each of the twelve songs, you moved in a different way. You gesticulated, you knelt, and you danced. Did Messiaen’s synesthesia, i.e, the ability to experience in one sensory faculty a stimulus in another sense faculty, encourage you to explore a visual complement to each musical stimulus? 

Simone McIntosh: Thank you for your incredible compliment! I felt that in order to effectively portray this piece there had to be storytelling through a whole body experience; and we were greatly influenced by colour throughout this work. The idea of synesthesia also gave me the idea of wearing all-white. I wanted to symbolise the fact that Harawi uses the whole spectrum of colours, while also allowing the audience to experience a blank canvas that enables them to interpret the performance in their own way. 

James MacBean: Can you give an example of how the combination of words and music in a particular song suggested to you the kind of movement that would work? 

Simone McIntosh: In the fourth song, “Doundou tchil,” Messiaen said in his notes to singers that this song represented a lover courting his or her beloved through dance, and that the made-up words “doundou tchil” represented the sound of little bells encircling the dancer’s ankles. So that inspired me to perform a dance, and to go around behind the piano in a circular movement as in the words in Messiaen’s text, “la danse des étoiles” (“the dance of the stars”). 

James MacBean: The verbal exoticism of Harawi is very strong. The poetic text, written by Messiaen himself, is full of surrealist juxtapositions, devoid of normal grammar and syntax. Then too there is the imitation of Quechuan language, plus the nonsense syllables of birdsong. 

Moreover, Messiaen’s rhythms are irregular and exotic, based on the talas of Hindu music in India. It must be a monstrously difficult text to memorise, much less to sing. How did you manage it? 

Simone McIntosh: I can’t say it was the easiest piece I’ve done in my life! Memorising such a disjunctive text was especially difficult! But it’s such a beautifully evocative text! So I felt it was well worth my effort.  

James MacBean: Messiaen’s music is usually quite mystical and Catholic. Harawi seems to stand a bit outside his usual intellectual sphere, although it brings together his interest in ethnomusicology, love of nature, and birdsong. In Harawi, an hour-long song-cycle for piano and vocalist, and in other of his earlier works, such as, for example, Quatuor pour la fin du temps/Quartet for the end of time, Messiaen thrives on utilising minimal resources. However, in Messiaen’s later works he tended towards the grandiose. In his Turangalila Symphony, which follows Harawi as the second part of his Tristan trilogy, Messiaen goes overboard in mounting a grandiose work for large orchestra plus Ondes Martenot, an electronic instrument producing ethereal sound waves. Messiaen discusses Turangalila Symphony in terms of Hindu thought. He uses the Sanskrit words “Turanga” and “lila” to suggest divine play in the cosmic order and the passage of love through time. As I wrote in a review for Berkeley Barb of the 1975 performance of Turangalila Symphony by San Francisco Symphony, “Like Wagner, (whose influence is easily heard in Turangalila), Messiaen attributes all sorts of esoteric and mystical meanings to various musical themes and their modifications. Also like Wagner, Messiaen sometimes comes off sounding like a cosmic con-man.” Do you find that in Harawi, at least, if not elsewhere in his work, Messiaen avoids going overboard in a grandiose mystical direction?  

Simone McIntosh: I love that insight! I am hugely biased towards Harawi; and I feel that in this song-cycle he created a visionary story about love and death, which, though it had affinities with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, was very much Messiaen’s own view and avoided going overboard in a mystical direction, unless one considers a feeling for the oneness of all nature as mysticism.  

James MacBean: I’d like to ask about your collaboration with pianist Robert Mollicone for the San Francisco performance of Harawi. You had previously performed this song-cycle in Canada with pianist Rachael Kerr. How was it different this time performing with Robert Mollicone?  

Simone McIntosh: I’ve been so fortunate to have worked with two incredibly talented, skilled, and hardworking pianists on Harawi. It’s such a demanding piece for pianists as well as for singers! When I began working with Bob Mollicone on Harawi it became clear in the first twenty minutes that this would be quite different from what I did with Rachael Kerr. Harawi allows the pianist to bring out his/her individual artistry and interpretation of the work, and I found this both surprising and immensely rewarding. 

James MacBean: Finally, as memorable as was your performance of Harawi, I don’t want to leave readers with the impression that you are a Messiaen specialist. You’ve sung a great variety of roles, including the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. And of course, you’re well-suited to sing many of Mozart’s mezzo-soprano roles. What’s it like for you to move from century-to-century in music history? And what can we look forward to hearing you sing in the future? 

Simone McIntosh: I love singing Messiaen, new music (especially by Canadian composers), and music of the Second Viennese School (Berg and Schoenberg). I guess I love music that is ridiculously hard! But I also love singing music from all periods. I do a lot of Mozart, Rossini, and Richard Strauss. Like all mezzos, I get lots of pants roles. To be able to sing Messiaen one night, and Handel the next, and to be just as passionate about one as the other is truly wonderful! Music is wonderful that way! As for the future, it’s a bit on hold for now due to coronavirus. I’ve had to cancel performances of Fauré and Respighi with the San Francisco Chamber Music Society, originally scheduled for April. Meanwhile, I urge your readers to support musicians whose livelihood is at risk by donating to organisations like Artist Relief Tree. The arts will always persevere! 

Note: I wish to thank Teresa Concepcion of the Communications Department at San Francisco Opera for facilitating this online interview by email. It was also at Teresa’s urging that I included the question about working with pianist Robert Mollicone in San Francisco.

Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 29 - April 5, 2020

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday March 28, 2020 - 04:16:00 PM

Worth Noting:

The only City meeting scheduled for the week of March 29 – April 5 is the Agenda and Rules Committee at 2:30 pm Monday, March 30 which will review the proposed agenda for the April 14 City Council meeting.

The Agenda meeting will be conducted exclusively through videoconference https://zoom.us/i/269315640 and teleconference 1-699-900-9128 meeting ID: 269315640 if you wish to comment *9 (your phone number will appear on the videoconference screen).

The Agenda Meeting Packet is 334 pages. The proposed April 14 agenda is found on pages 11 – 29. The Consent items are primarily contracts. The Action calendar includes: 40. Opting up residential and commercial customers of EBCE (East Bay Community Energy) to Brilliant 100 and Municipal accounts to Renewable 100 (completely 100% renewable). 41. Requiring 20% inclusionary units in new developments in Qualified Opportunity Zones. 42. – 45. Are the proposals on eliminating carbon based fuel transportation by 2040 and 2045. These goals miss the 2018 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warnings and actions that need to be taken by 2030.



All other policy committees, board and commission meetings are cancelled. The Agenda and Rules committee will re-evaluate the status of Boards and Commissions on April 13. 


Monday, March 30, 2020 

Agenda and Rules Committee, 2:30 pm, Meeting Agenda planning for April 14 City Council meeting: 

CONSENT: 1. Contract $93,600 with Sonya Dublin Consulting as external evaluator Tobacco Prevention Program, ends 6/30/2021 2. Contract $104,400 Contingency $38,600 with Lind Marine for removal of derelict and abandoned vessels at Berkeley Marina, 3. Contract add $127,200 total $305,000 with Affordable Painting Services, Inc for additional painting Park Buildings, 4. Contract add $300,000 total $500,000 with Bay Area Tree Specialists for as-needed tree services 5/29/2019 – 5/28/2022, 5. Contract add $204,152 total $375,000 with ERA Construction for concrete repair in parks, 6. Contract $3,491,917 (includes $317,447 contingency) with Ghilotti Construction, Inc for Rose Garden Pergola Reconstruction & Site Improvements, 7. Contract $600,000 with Vol Ten Corporation DBA Delta Charter for bus transportation for Day Camp & Summer Programs 6/1/2020-6/1/2025, 8. Add $162,568 total $233,868 with Bigbelly Solar Compacting Trash and Recycling Receptacles term remains 8/1/2018-6/30/2023, 10. Call for Consolidated Nov 3. Election, 13. FY 2020 Annual Appropriations $28,565,263 (gross) and $15,378,568 (net) 14. Renewal North Shattuck Business Improvement District, 15. 1601 Oxford Interest Rate Reduction to 1%, 16. Shelter Plus Care Program Renewal Grants, 17. 60-year term Lease Agreement 5/4/2020-12/31/2080 200 Marina Blvd for Doubletree Hotel, Berkeley City contribution $3,000,000 for Marina street improvements, 18. Grant Application $42,000 Surrendered and Abandoned Vessel Exchange, 20. Waiver of Annual Marina Berth Fees for Non-profits (Berkeley Racing Canoe Club, Cal Sailing Club, The Pegasus Project, Blue Water Foundation) 21. Contract $39,650,670 (includes 10% contingency, add-alternatives) with Robert E. Boyer Construction, Inc. for Tuolumne Camp, 22. Funding $1,000,000 to EBMUD FY 2020-FY 2024 to control wet weather overflows and bypasses, 23. Vacate sewer easement at 2009 Addison, 24. Contract $2,475,200 (includes 10% contingency) with CF Contracting, Inc for Sacramento Complete Streets, 25. Contract add $300,000 total $450,000 with Clean Harbors, Inc. for Hazardous Waste and extend to 6/30/2022, 26. Contract $4,478,909 with Bay Cities Paving & Grading for Street Rehab FY 2020 Project, 27. Contract add $100,000 total $600,000 with Revel Environmental Manufacturing for on-call Storm Water Maintenance extend to 6/30/2021, 28. Contract $116,635.39 (includes $19,439.23 contingency) with Shaw Industries for Civic Center Building Carpet Replacement, 29. Contract up to $240,000 with National Data & Surveying Services for On-call Transportation and Parking Survey Consulting Services, 30. Refer to City Manager education for businesses on Service Animals, 31. Appoint Ann Hawkins to Mental Health Commission, 33. Budget Referral $279,000 to Fund Berkeley Youthworks, 35. Support SB 54 & AB 1080 CA Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (only 9% of plastic is recycled, billion tons of plastic are added to the oceans each year), 36. Support SB 1160 Public Utilities undergrounding, 

ACTION: 37. Public Hearing – General Plan Redesign and Rezone of The Rose Garden Inn at 2740 Telegraph, 2744 Telegraph, 2348 Ward, 38. Public Hearing – Zoning Ordinance Amendment for Family Daycare Homes to comply with Senate Bill 234, 39. Nov 3 Election Ballot Initiative Charter Amendment to establish Police Board and Director of Police Accountability, 40. Resolution to Upgrade Residential and Commercial Customers to 100% Greenhouse Gas Emission Free Electricity Plan (Brilliant 100), Upgrade Municipal Accounts to 100% Renewable, 41. Ordinance requiring 20% onsite inclusionary units in new rental developments (10 units or more) in Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs), 42. Resolution 100% Sustainable Trips by 2045 and referral to CEAC, Energy and Transportation Commissions to develop proposals to accomplish this goal, 43. Prohibit sale of gas, diesel and other carbon-based transportation fuels effective Jan 1, 2045, 44. Prohibit resale of used combustion vehicles in 2040, 45. Prohibit use of City Streets for operating, parking or idling combustion vehicles by 2045, 46. Develop Improved Plan/Mechanism to count Homeless in 2021 Berkeley Homeless Point-in-Time count, 47. a.&b. Peoples First Sanctuary Encampment, 48. Rental Discrimination on the basis of payment through vouchers or subsidy a. Homeless Commission Recommends amending BMC 13.31 to provide administrative procedure to enforce anti-discrimination b. City Manager – no action, 49. BMC 13.78 add prohibition of additional fees for existing tenancies and lease terminations 50. Open West Campus Pool and MLK Jr Pool to implement shower program during COVID 19 Pandemic, 

INFORMATION REPORTS: 51. Strategic Plan Performance Measures, 52. Summary of Aging Services, 53. Pathways STAIR FY-6 month evaluation, 54. Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Dept Capital Improvement Projects Update, 55. Measure T1 Update, 56. Audit Recommendation Status 911 Dispatchers, 57. Public Works Planned Projects for FY 2021,  




Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

1533 Beverly (single family dwelling) TBD 

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir TBD 

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

1155-73 Hearst (develop 2 parcels) – referred back to City Council – to be scheduled 

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period 



LINK to Current Zoning Applications https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Land_Use_Division/Current_Zoning_Applications.aspx 





May 5 – Budget Update, Crime Report 

June 23 – Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update, 

July 21 – no workshops scheduled yet 

Sept 29 – Digital Strategic Plan/FUND$ Replacement Website Update, Zero Waste Priorities 

Oct 20 – Update Berkeley’s 2020 Vision, BMASP/Berkeley Pier-WETA Ferry 


Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations 

Cannabis Health Considerations 

Vision 2050 

Ohlone History and Culture (special meeting) 

Presentation from StopWaste on SB1383 

Systems Realignment 



To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 



To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 





This meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 


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 


If you wish to stop receiving the Weekly Summary of City Meetings please forward the weekly summary you received to kellyhammargren@gmail.com