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In Memoriam: The protest encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office. August 28, 2013.
Gar Smith
In Memoriam: The protest encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office. August 28, 2013.


Flash: The Bridge is Open

By Bay City News
Monday September 02, 2013 - 09:16:00 AM

The Bay Bridge, complete with a newly-constructed eastern span, opened hours earlier than scheduled tonight, transit officials said. 

The bridge had been closed since last Wednesday while construction crews finalized work on the new eastern span connecting Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. 

The bridge was scheduled to be reopened by 5 a.m. Tuesday but the work was finished faster than anticipated, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said today. 

Dougherty made the announcement at a celebration held in Oakland this afternoon for the new span, a self-anchored suspension bridge that is replacing an old cantilever bridge that opened more than 75 years ago.

Flash: New Bay Bridge Will Open Tonight

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Monday September 02, 2013 - 05:51:00 PM

The Bay Bridge will be opening tonight, hours earlier than scheduled, transit officials announced this afternoon. 

The bridge has been closed since last Wednesday while construction crews finalize work on the new eastern span connecting Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. The bridge was scheduled to be reopened by 5 a.m. Tuesday but the work was finished faster than anticipated and it will open at some point tonight, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said. He did not specify exactly what time the bridge is expected to reopen. 

Dougherty made the announcement at a celebration held in Oakland this afternoon for the new span, a self-anchored suspension bridge that is replacing an old cantilever bridge that opened more than 75 years ago.

Martin Luther King, Jr: Rethinking The Dream in a Time of War

Edited by Gar Smith
Friday August 30, 2013 - 11:02:00 AM

Martin Luther King is remembered for his ringing "I Have a Dream" speech, but the corporate media routinely distorts King's legacy by burying his later warnings that "the dream had become a nightmare" because of the Vietnam war.

By 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. had become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall US foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi," and the Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

NBC recently helped balance the reporting on King's legacy by rebroadcasting reporter Sander Vanocur's rarely seen interview with the deeply troubled but reflective Civil Rights leader. The complete text of Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" address follows after the video clip. 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy 


MLK's Extraordinary 'Hidden Interview' with NBC's Sandor Vanocur 

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence 

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

(April 4, 1967) -- Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam. 

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on. 

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us. 

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live. 

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight. 

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. 

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides. 

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents. 

The Importance of Vietnam 

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago, there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. 


Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. 

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. 

So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.' 

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. 

But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. 

For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. 

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." 


We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier: 


O, yes, 

I say it plain, 

America never was America to me, 

And yet I swear this oath-- 

America will be! 


Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. 

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. 

To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? 

Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life? 

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. 

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. 

Strange Liberators 

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries. 


They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. 

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives. 

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. 

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization. 

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. 

The peasants watched as all this was presided over by US influence and then by increasing numbers of US troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace. 

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. 

They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged. 

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. 

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones? 

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators? 

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers. 

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? 

What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? 

How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts. 

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? 

They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence? 

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition. 

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. 

It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. 

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands. 

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores. 

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. 

We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor. 

This Madness Must Cease 

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours. 

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words: 

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies.  

"It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism." 

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. 

If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play. 

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. 

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict: 

* End all bombing in North and South Vietnam. 

* Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation. 

* Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos. 

* Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government. 

* Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement. 

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary. 

Protesting The War 

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible. 

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. 

Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest. 


There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. 


The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. 


In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. 

This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." 

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment. 

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. 

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. 

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. 


America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood. 

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops. 

The People Are Important 

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. 

It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. 

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain." 

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. 

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. 

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: 

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. 

As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word." 

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. 

The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on...." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. 

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. 

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history. 

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated: 

Once to every man and nation 

Comes the moment to decide, 

In the strife of truth and falsehood, 

For the good or evil side; 

Some great cause, God's new Messiah, 

Off'ring each the bloom or blight, 

And the choice goes by forever 

Twixt that darkness and that light. 


Though the cause of evil prosper, 

Yet 'tis truth alone is strong; 

Though her portion be the scaffold, 

And upon the throne be wrong: 

Yet that scaffold sways the future, 

And behind the dim unknown, 

Standeth God within the shadow 

Keeping watch above his own.

What a Difference a Day Makes

By Gar Smith
Friday August 30, 2013 - 07:30:00 AM
Our 'In-tents' Commitment
Gar Smith
Our 'In-tents' Commitment
BahHumbug Feinstein & Blum
Gar Smith
BahHumbug Feinstein & Blum
Two Tents on PO Steps
Gar Smith
Two Tents on PO Steps
In Memoriam: The protest encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office. August 28, 2013.
Gar Smith
In Memoriam: The protest encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office. August 28, 2013.
August 29, 2013.The Postal Police erase all signs of the protest encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office.
Gar Smith
August 29, 2013.The Postal Police erase all signs of the protest encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office.

After more than 30 days, the Occupation camp on the steps of the Berkeley Main Post Office came to an abrupt, but generally peaceful, end on Thursday, August 29, 2013. 

Berkeley Police, reportedly acting on a letter written by Berkeley Postmaster Ray Davis, descended on the encampment and ordered the protesters to disperse. Police informed the occupiers that failure to comply with the order would result in arrest. Survivors of the morning police action told the Planet there had been two arrests. The police allowed the protestors to remove and reclaim the many banners, posters and placards ("Stamp Out Privatization," "The Post Office Ain't Broke," "This Is What Hypocrisy – Not Democracy – Looks Like.") that have adorned the historic building for most of the past month. 

When it came to the half-dozen tents erected on the steps and flanks of the building, the BPD was less accommodating. The tents were seized, along with sleeping bags and personal belongings. The status of the seized property was uncertain. 

Later that morning, a squad car and officer bearing the logo of the US Postal Police (who knew the USPS had its own paid militia?) stood by watchfully as a custodian power-hosed the steps and sidewalk, wiping away messages writing in chalk. Also washed away was an impressively rendered drawing of The Simpsons' Postmaster Bill, that faithfully stood its ground for most of the Save-the-PO vigil. 

By 10a.m., a small group of organizers had regrouped on the Main's steps to discuss future actions – ranging from marches and on-site demonstrations (minus the tables, chairs and tents). Some of the protestors hoped they would have an opportunity to reclaim their personal belongings from police custody. Others were less optimistic: "They are already in the garbage," one of the disposed stated. 

For more news, see: http://www.savethebpo.com/

Boss Ben (Fiction Excerpt)

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday August 30, 2013 - 08:22:00 AM

Oakland author J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s new novel, “Sugaree Rising,” was inspired by a long-forgotten incident in American history: resistance to the forced uprooting and relocation of close to 1,000 families—most of them African-American—to make way for the building of the Pinopolis Dam in rural South Carolina in the midst of the 1930’s Great Depression. A portion is excerpted below.

Allen-Taylor worked for many years as a reporter and political columnist with the Berkeley Daily Planet. Sugaree Rising is his first novel. Sugaree Rising is published by Freedom Publishers of San Francisco, and is available in both paperback and eBook online and at Bay Area bookstores. For more information: www.sugareerising.com.


They called him Boss Ben and nothing else, and it fit him like the belt stretched tight around his big belly. He dressed in white shirts and a tie and pressed slacks and tool-stitch-pattern black boots, with a wide planter’s hat sitting flat on his broad head. He took off his hat often to wipe his thinning hair with his handkerchief or the perspiration off his forehead. But it was not a worrying kind of sweat, because he displayed little worry about anything. He smiled Cheshire-cat-style at everyone and everything, the smile of a man who was good at his job and lived secure in the knowledge. Neither the office clothes nor the planter’s hat fooled anyone. One look at his hands told the real story. Boss Ben hadn’t come up in no office. He had blacksmith’s hands, big, meaty hands, with the fingers so thick that they crowded each other out for space when he gripped something, the palms and fingertips horn-yellow with callouses, and he had forearms as big and knotted as bull’s thighs that stretched the fabric of his shirtsleeves. He walked on massive legs with a rolling swagger that displayed a confidence that in whatever manner he approached the ground, it would always prepare itself to hold him. It was clear from the testimony of Boss Ben’s body that he had started life out as a working boy, either in mill or factory or field, most likely all three. And from his demeanor and ways—the easy bluster in his walk and the note of barked command in his voice that underscored its deep and lazy drawl—it was also clear that Boss Ben had bulled his way up from carrying loads to driving other men to do so. Thus, the name Boss. 

He was as unlike the lanky, intellectual Sparman as could be imagined. 

He did not live in Cashville, as the Sparman had, but drove the fifteen miles every day down from St. Paul at high speeds, passing slower cars whenever he could, blowing them down with his horn when he could not, waving at people with the bottle of Coca-Cola he usually clutched in his hand. He drove a tan and white touring car, the latest Ford model, which he took care to have wiped and shined every morning by the colored boy at the Lee & Longstreet in St. Paul where he took his rooms. On the job in the countryside around Cashville, he never went door to door, seeing that as a waste of time and talent. He attended organized meetings at churches and halls and other gathering spots, and there he made his pitches, enticements and threats. He had the barrelly voice of a camp meeting preacher and the salesmanship of a potion peddler and under his direction, families slowly began to stay after the meetings and cautiously, one by one, sign up for the move, convinced that SPAR meant business if it had hired a man like Boss Ben. 

He never crossed the river to Adams Neck, not for any reason. When asked by people in the Basinbottom why they should sign up for the move when the Neckerniggers were not, Boss Ben would tell his colored audience, “They got one foot in the bog over there, and sinking. You ain’t going to let them hoodoos drag you down with them, are you?” And to the white folks he would say, “I seen a lot of things in my travels, but I never seen a Carolina white man let a nigger take the lead of him. But maybe y’all different down here to Cantrell, and can’t do nothing until the niggers do it first.” 

Not content with mere persuasion, Boss Ben had new signs printed up. 

This is to announce that court proceedings may be initiated at the discretion of the Sugaree Power and Recreation Authority, the State of South Carolina, and/or the Federal Government of the United States of America against any landholder within the below census tracts of Central and Southern Cantrell County, South Carolina, who have not made preparations to surrender their dwellings and/or real property and vacate said premises by August 31, nineteen hundred and thirty-six. 

He paid a crew of boys to nail the new signs up all across the Basinbottom, sometimes side-by-side with the already-yellowing ones that had been posted by his predecessor, sometimes laid out on top of them. Crowds gathered around the signs, interpreters were called in to read and explain the legalese, and there were long and heated discussions by Basinbottom residents over what must be done. One sign went up on the pole at the cable-barge crossing on the county side. It disappeared from the pole within hours, and was rapidly passed around Yelesaw Neck, so that three days had not passed before everyone interested had seen or touched it. 

At first, the new SPAR signs caused a stir on Yelesaw Neck. But when Boss Ben showed no interest in coming over the river, and nothing seemed especially imminent in the threats lined out on the signs, concerns about the coming water and the new whiteman from Columbia began to wane again, and their attention turned to other things. There was much to do that summer. The year ripened fat and oily like a sweet pecan, rolling over bright emerald green to sand-dust brown, stretching itself out and cracking open sweet in the sun. The rice-shoots drove up like growing grass, and they worked by torchlight many nights to keep up with them. Rain came and went at just the right time. Crocus-sacks and baskets of fruit and garden crops hung heavy in their hands, and the cane grew so high even the tallest among them could not touch its leafy tops. Potatoes were big as stepping rocks in a pond, the melons and cabbage the size of small boulders, the carrots and sugarpeas and tomatoes the sweetest anyone could remember, okra the most tender, corn ears so weighted to the ground that the bending stalks called out to people passing by to please ma’am, please sir, hurry and pick them things off, it was too much a strain to try to hold them up. The fall harvest was fat and yellow-deep, the wagon-axles crying and groaning and hardly able to hold their loads coming out of the fields. It was a fall of many healthy babies born, and few accidents or illness, and fewer elders passing. It was the best growing time in a generation or more, and with the days rolling on so well, who among them could imagine leaving the land of their fathers and mothers? 

Ashes and Dust (First Person)

By Clare Bell-Fuller
Friday August 30, 2013 - 07:58:00 AM

Berkeley’s Family Camp was the proverbial village everyone says it takes to raise a kid.

This sweet spot, tucked along the south fork of the Tuolumne River, 155 miles from Berkeley and 7 miles from the entrance to Yosemite Park was, as corny as it sounds, a place of pure mountain air happiness.

The seeds of anticipation were planted when you made a reservation in April, for a spot in August….when, finally you made the long hot four hour drive and spotted the wooden sign. That specific unbridled thrill accompanied you as the car rolled into camp, filled to the brim with bedding, coolers, board games, swimming paraphernalia, books, sketch pads, water colors, cameras, flashlights, bug spray and sun screen. 

I remember that same feeling as a kid when we arrived for our annual two weeks in the Santa Cruz mountains, and I’m sure my mom experienced it when they took the train from the sweltering summer heat in Shanghai, up into the cooler mountains of Mokanshan. Sam always took a buddy, and the boys leapt out of the car like dogs at the Marina, oozing joy. We picked out one of the charmingly basic tent cabins, nestled among the trees, within earshot of the gentle river, and quickly set up our mountain refuge for the next 5 days. The boys soon headed for the glorious swimming hole, where the majority of their time would be spent. It was surrounded by huge smooth boulders, perfect for jumping from. Kids could be incredibly free in this place. Like feral foxes they tasted an unfettered independence, leaping and chasing, awakening primitive instincts long subdued by city living. They became Robin Hoods when they took archery class, artists making papier mache masks and the iconic camp lanyard [for mom]. Then there were the lovable outdoor plays they could act in, always hilarious and high spirited, with the parents guffawing in the audience, so proud of their talented offspring. 

Three hearty meals a day kept all this going, served in the generous old dining hall. 

After lunch was the brilliant concept of quiet time. You had to stay in your cabin while the staff hosed down the dusty trails, as the trees stood as sentinels, spying any escaping campers. This enforced time to be together, was an unsuspecting gift. We usually avoided naps, and played board games, drew pictures or read our books, the togetherness making all the difference….such an essential luxury, missing from our busy lives. 

Unsurprisingly, people seemed their best within this stress-free environment; brotherly good will floated throughout the camp, which served 250 campers a day and 4000 each summer. Before the camp opened in 1922, Bernard Maybeck himself had finalized the site. In those days it was $1 a day, 60 cents for kids. 

Sam loved it so much, he returned as a teenager, 3 years in a row, to be a counselor. His adventures as an older camper were just as free and wild as when he was younger, with the added bonus of sex, drugs and driving. There was the time he crashed a friend’s car taking a mountain turn too fast….fortunately crashing into the mountain, and not plummeting down the canyon into oblivion. 

It was a complete addiction, and one that actually worried him, since various friends had returned again and again for a few too many years. In an email he wrote after word of the fire, he stated: 

“I felt a sense of relief when I heard the news yesterday. The fire brings a forcible end to the nostalgia I felt whenever I visited. No more structures and spaces harkening back to wonderful past summers that are easy to long for again. It’s over.” 

Little does he know, it’s never over…that is, if the DNA in his heart is anything like mine. Those nostalgia threads wind themselves tight, linking our memories with love and loss…and we carry them around wherever we go. 

Maybe it’s fitting that Family Camp was carried away by the massive cleansing fire, all those remnants of years of shared good times floating into the atmosphere of dust and ash. The camp was like a 91-year old beloved patriarch, who existed for the benefit and happiness of others. It was thoughtful of him to leave at the end of summer. 

With gratitude we will always remember.



Updated: Syria: What Is to be Done?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday August 30, 2013 - 03:49:00 PM

Weekend UPDATE:

Thanks to the efforts of Congresswoman Barbara Lee and others, President Obama has, much to the surprise of some Very Important People in D.C., agreed to submit the decision on what to do about Syria to the Congress for debate. Thanks, Barbara.

In the last few days my inbox has been filled with earnest exhortations from all the estimable organizations that have email addresses for me. Not one of them has expressed the sentiment that is widely available in the national press as a whole: that we should go get ‘em in Syria.

Barbara Lee, my excellent representative in Washington, had the clearest expression of what we should be thinking about: “We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others.” Well, yes, but there’s more to it than that, unfortunately.

There’s a cliché about this so widely distributed that at a glance the Internet doesn’t even hazard a guess as to its provenance. Generals always fight the last war. 

For those of us who have been frequently yet fruitlessly right about all the wars we’ve seen our government pursue in the last 50 years, the response to Syria seems like a no-brainer. Some of us started in the early 1960s haranguing an otherwise-okay Democratic administration about what was going on in an obscure part of Southeast Asia, and we’ve had to do it again and again over time. 

The most egregious misstep was one those of us out here in the roots of the grass had pegged from Day One, the one that inexplicably fooled all the Very Important People. After all these years I still can’t understand how I could have been sure that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when the Judith Millers and the Joe Bidens missed the boat entirely. Not only that, my entire immediate family, ten strong including babes in arms, marched down Market Street with thousands of our closest personal friends in March 2003, and Washington just ignored us. 

It’s no wonder that ever since we’ve been inclined to say Never Again when the drums of war start rumbling in D.C. They say Yea, we say Nay—it’s automatic. 

Which is what makes the current situation so difficult. 

Here’s my erstwhile spiritual adviser, Jon Carroll, who very occasionally emerges from his cat-induced torpor to utter wise words, as he did this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle: 

“And here's the other problem for the Obama administration. As it revs up its campaign to convince everyone that the chemical weapons were definitely Assad's and it all really did happen, it's beginning to sound suspiciously like another administration that wanted to have a war in Iraq, and set about lying to get one.” 

It does indeed, but this time it may be difficultly different. 

Way back in 2003, we were sure, and we were right, that there were no WMDs in Iraq. Today, arguendo, let’s just assume that the videos and the oral reports and the testimony of the UN investigators are not lying to us, that the government of Syria is gassing babies. 

What’s hard is to decide that if the Syrian government really did kill thousands of innocent civilians, should the United States of America do anything about it? 

And it’s not just the chemical weapons, because they seem (in Aleppo most recently) to be doing appalling things with “conventional” WMDs too, not to mention equally deadly weapons of individual destruction, including instruments of torture. Dead is dead, regardless of the tools used. 

For those of us who are familiar with history, the obvious conundrum is whether we have before us is a holocaust situation. We can’t help wondering whether we would have supported taking action when it counted in the 1930s and 40s, as the government of Germany systematically set out to kill its own citizens. Then as now, simple isolationism is tempting, especially for Americans who are still geographically distant from most theaters of war. 

An awful lot of people were massacred in Uganda as the United States took no action. Should we stand by now as Syrians are being slaughtered? 

For the deep-down pacifist, it seems easy: war is never the answer. They might be right. But as soon as you concede that there have been, historically, situations where military action has prevented even worse outcomes, it’s harder to know what should be done right now. 

Yes, suppose we say that the government of Syria has used chemical weapons on civilian populations, so we should help the other side. 

But who exactly is “the other side”? As we’ve seen in Egypt, not all revolutionaries are democrats—we might just be aiding one form of tyranny to replace another, to be replaced down the line by still a third one, and innocent lives lost all around in the process. 

Or perhaps all we want to do is “teach them a lesson”. There are no obvious examples of how limited air strikes (“surgical”, we like to call them) have successfully taught anyone a lesson. It seems logical, but it doesn’t work. And god forbid we should get into another ground war! We can all agree on that. 

What’s most important at the moment is that thoughtful well-informed people, “people like us”, should resist the temptation to fight the last war as generals are prone to do. Just because George Bush II lied to us about Iraq, we shouldn’t assume that Barack Obama is lying to us now, or that his advisors are lying to him. 

The hard case, the one we have to tackle as best we can, is that they’re telling the whole truth, and yet there’s still no easy answer. The important principle to defend is that it’s not just their decision. 

Barbara Lee gets it, as she usually does. Here’s how she put the question: 

“This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected…The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.” 

Let’s join her in calling for congressional debate, ideally without those distracting conclusionary claims that the government of Syria isn’t using nerve gas. In the last half-century Congress’s constitutional prerogative to declare war has been dangerously eroded—it’s time to revive it. 








The Editor's Back Fence


Odd Bodkins: The Handshake (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday August 30, 2013 - 12:49:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: A boy and his paper trail (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday August 30, 2013 - 04:04:00 PM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Flight of the mumblehead (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday August 30, 2013 - 04:01:00 PM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Inside the Aught (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday August 30, 2013 - 03:56:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: The Truth about the Closing of the Berkeley Post Office Camp-Out

By Lydia Gans
Monday September 02, 2013 - 01:53:00 PM

The sudden attack by the city on the four week long camp-out to save the Berkeley Post Office was a sad ending to a spirited and peaceful action that was in the interest of the community. With people staffing a literature table and gathering petitions, urging folks to write letters in addition to organizing marches and concerts, the campers did an impressive job informing and educating the public about the issues involved. And they inspired, and were inspired by the protests at the many other post offices around the country facing the same threat.

After weeks of tacit support from city officials and non interference by the Berkeley police, statements appeared in the newspapers of the city manager's concern about 'violence and criminal activity' in the camp. It is unfortunate that the press published the official statements but made no effort to talk to the campers. Many of the stories that appeared in the papers were gross distortions if not outright lies. 

Criminal activity? It is all over Berkeley as anyone can see from the list of murders and shooting and mayhem described weekly on the police log in the Berkeley Voice. There was a crime reported at the camp but it was false. There was an attack, it happened on the the street, and neither the attacker nor the victim were campers. 

A charge that there were weapons, turned out to be a 'club' that could have been a walking stick and a knife that was a probably a bread knife left by one of the food providers. And the charge that people were urinating or defecating in the garbage cans in the post office is a bit hard to believe. As a matter of fact the campers were meticulous in keeping the camp area cleaned up. 

The most egregious lie put out by the press was that the campers decided to pull out. The campers did not choose to end the camp-out! Had it been their decision they certainly would have taken their tents and equipment and their personal possessions. They had gone Wednesday evening to Oakland to participate in a Trayvon Martin related action fully expecting to return. The police used the opportunity to break up the camp. Some of the campers' possessions were never returned . 

The campers made an effort to get the truth to the public at a press conference and concert on Saturday but there was little evidence of news media presence. And although the appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission was denied the battle is not lost. The people who camped and those who supported the camp are not ready to give up and they want the community and the politicians to know it.

New: Notes from Behind the Scenes at Berkeley P.O. Protest Bust

By Ted Friedman
Monday September 02, 2013 - 02:19:00 PM

When the final stamp was cancelled on the Save Our Berkeley Post Office protest, Wednesday, the cameras were not rolling even though major media trucks regularly rolled in.

Media was caught off-guard, and so were the protesters. Only six were in camp when their camp stamp was canceled. 

A protest leader, Jim Squatter, told me protesters were attending a Trayvon Martin memorial and an event honoring Martin Luther King's 1963 civil rights march to Washington, D.C. 

Free-lance photographers like me and David Yee, a retired Oakland Tribune press photographer, who had been vying for a bust-shot were also fooled by the raid. We both logged hours of surveillance, hoping for the "money shot." I went to the camp, Wednesday, the afternoon of the 7:30 p.m. bust to look for tell-tale police activity. 

"Amplify," a camp leader and I cased police headquarters, but were lulled into complacency. Amplify told me he didn't want to get busted, but he was--prior to the raid on the camp. There was another bust, as well. Police say these two busts were not part of the raid. 

BPD Police Chief Michael K. Meehan told me Thursday he was proud of the raid that cleared the camp in ten minutes, without incident or arrest. 

A seeming discrepancy between (police) "no arrests" and two arrests, according to protestors, can be explained by police distinguishing between just-before-the-raid, shortly after 7 p.m. and the raid itself--20-30 minutes later. 

Prior to the raid, protester Larry Silver saw "twenty-five Berkeley cops silhouetted against the sky making their way across Civic Center Park from police headquarters, headed for the camp. Two large dumpster trucks pulled up alongside the camp. The cops started immediately scooping up tents and throwing everything in the dumpsters. There was no resistance. The camp was cleared in ten minutes." 

Earlier in the month, seventy-five protestors, led by Jim Squatter and David Welsh, a retired postal worker, took off from the post office on a three-mile march ending in the shadow of Cal's Campanile. [photo-essay of that event--http://berkeleyreporter.com/?p=2139] 

Protestors formed outside UPS and Fed-Ex (and inside, too) to hear fiery speeches by Squatter and Welsh condemning UPS and Fed-Ex, and then up Hearst and onto campus, passing the canceled U.C. president's mansion, a narrow bridge and on to the Richard Blum Center. 

Basking in the glow of this success, a group within the Save the P.O. faction sponsored "proposals," over the next several weeks, to take its winnings and depart. 

According to one such proposal authored by Welsh (he denies authorship), "…the encampment has won broad support in the community, with non-stop favorable media coverage, daily dinners and cultural events at the post office and two large rallies on the post office steps." 

But like the constabulary in Pirates of Penzance, off to fight the foe, they couldn't break away. Even a Gilbert and Sullivan chorus couldn't have budged them. Finally, the Save the P.O. contingent voted once more (19-11) to leave. Save P.O. had been welcoming to its scruffy tent-city from the start and was reluctant to signal a rift. 

Moni Law of the Save Berkeley P.O. steering committee told me there was no divisiveness between the protest's two communities, one a seemingly moderate group of grey-hairs, and its younger disheveled wing. 

Welsh and Squatter were both camping overnight with the young protestors. 

But only days before the bust, voices hostile to the encampment were raised at a protest meeting on the P.O. steps. These complaints anticipated the city manager's accusations of the encampment's vandalism, various assaults, and being a threat to public safety. 

Squatter countered that protestors' alleged crimes were no more than usual for the neighborhood. 

Here is a list of P.O. protesters" causes--based on posted camp slogans: 

"Capitalism is a Pyramid Scheme." 

"Occupy Wall Street." 

"Goldman Sachs" [sucks?] 

"Monsanto" [sucks?] 

"Corporate Personhood" [sucks?] 

"the Monetary System" [sucks] 

"the Military System" [sucks?] 

"Health Care" [sucks?] 

"Strike Debt" 

"Chevron" [sucks?] 

"Justice for Families" 

"Every 28 hours a black person is killed in the USA by cops." 

"Trayvon Martin." 

"Dignity for Death" 

"Occupied Since 1625" [Indians] 


"Support Bart Workers" 

"Strike the Prisons" 

"Artists Resisting" 

"Richard Blum" [sucks?] 

"Privatization" [sucks?] 


Follow Ted Friedman at berkeleyreporter.com and his series, South Side Tales in Berkeley Times (print only), and Google--Ted Friedman Speak Out.

Making a Movement

By Carol Polsgrove
Friday August 30, 2013 - 03:54:00 PM

For journalists who wonder if the little bit they do, day by day, week by week, makes a difference, paging through the Library of America’s anthology, Reporting Civil Rights, newly reissued, should reassure them.

I was reminded of that recently when an invitation to appear on the Tavis Smiley radio show sent me back to those two volumes, which I and three other editors helped to edit.

Many of the writers of these 1,800 pages were not professional reporters but people in other walks of life who felt moved to bear witness. 

Lawrence Reddick, a professor at Alabama State, wrote about the sit-ins his students were staging – and lost his job for his efforts on their behalf. 

Anne Moody (Coming of Age in Mississippi) was herself a Tougaloo student caught up in the movement in Jackson, Mississippi – and scared her mother so much that “she said if I didn’t stop that shit she would come to Tougaloo and kill me herself.” 

Novelist James Baldwin was in Paris when he saw a photo of a young African-American girl braving a hostile crowd and came back home to travel south, where he seriously feared for his life. Meeting the students determined to make things different, he wrote a series of magazine articles that led finally to the powerful New Yorker piece we know as The Fire Next Time

The writers’ bios at the end of the Reporting Civil Rights volumes don’t begin to describe the work that went into these chronicles and meditations – or the sacrifice: the dangers run, the personal prices paid. For that readers may want to go to The Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff or my own Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement

But readers can imagine from the stories themselves what it was like for the writers writing them: to be Murray Kempton, crowded into a pew in that Montgomery church with a mob howling outside… or Julian Mayfield, caught up in the melee of Monroe, N.C. (and later fleeing the country to live the rest of his life in exile)… or Garry Wills, riding the bus to Atlanta with the striking Memphis garbage workers bound for the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As my fellow editor Clayborne Carson pointed out in the Tavis Smiley interview, important as he was, Martin Luther King Jr. was not the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was powerful because so many were involved – giving up their lives, temporarily or for good, to bring change about. Among those were the writers who walked alongside them, taking notes. 

Press Release: Berkeley Post Office Defenders Respond to August 28th Raid

From Mike Wilson, Jim Squatter
Friday August 30, 2013 - 10:03:00 AM

On Saturday August 30th at 11:30 AM a press conference, followed by music and a rally, will take place at the Berkeley Post Office, 2000 Allston Way. Berkeley Post Office defenders will present information about the August 28th encampment raid by the Berkeley Police and discuss future actions to be taken against the sale of the Berkeley Post Office and the privatization of our commons. 

On the evening of August 28th, many Berkeley Post Office camp residents and supporters were in Oakland celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and protesting against the murders of Trayvon Martin, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant and many others by police and police surrogates. The Berkeley Police Department saw fit to use this opportunity to raid the encampment and "confiscate abandoned property" that in fact they knew very well belonged to protesters, leaving homeless Berkeley citizens without bedding and possessions for the night. 

Using as a blank check a report released earlier in the week by the City Manager detailing incidents in and around the camp - some of which took place blocks away from the Post Office, some of which involved camp participants as victims, some of which had nothing to do with the encampment at all, and filled with lies, half-truths and distortions - some twenty BPD officers swept through the camp Wednesday evening, breaking up a working protest encampment which had provided food, mutual support, movies, study groups, resources and information outreach for over 30 days. 

Berkeley has a choice. It can defend the democratic will of its own people - as expressed vociferously in public forums and by its City Council and its elected representatives - by any and all means necessary, or it can meekly accede to a bureaucratic process whose end is now a foregone conclusion. 

As Mayor Bates so aptly put it just days ago in reference to the power brokers in Washington deciding the Post Office's fate, "They're a bunch of double-dealing sons of bitches." The Berkeley Police should be directed at such as these, not its own peaceful, if down and out, citizens.

September Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Wednesday September 04, 2013 - 04:09:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Medic Alert Scam

By Richard Reynolds
Friday August 30, 2013 - 07:54:00 AM

That calls we've been getting are more devious than indicated in your article. When you pick up the phone, this guy just starts talking. You think at first that it's a real person. He says that you've been recommended by a friend or perhaps you have requested the call yourself. He then goes on to say stuff like, "Gee, it says here that you can get this medic alert device absolutely free!" Later he says, "Oh, and it also says there is no shipping charge!" 

This is one of the most sophisticated telemarketing calls I have ever received. My assumption was that the perps were scamming Medicare, but I see from your article that they are scamming the recipients of the call themselves. I am a pretty cynical person, but sometimes the lengths to which scam artists will go surprise even me.

An Open Letter to John Stewart Company and Resources for Community Development About University Avenue Cooperative Homes in Berkeley

By Linda Carson
Friday August 30, 2013 - 10:17:00 AM

This is my third request for an interview regarding the nearly $16 million proposed rehab project for University Avenue Cooperative Homes that places 47 households at risk of losing their housing.

I would be deeply disappointed if no one replied to the following questions below, which were originally were sent to the executives of the John Stewart Company and Resources for Community Development on August 27, 2013. 

Questions to Charles West of the John Stewart Company, and Resources for Community Development about UACH 

Charles West, the John Stewart Company property manager for the University Avenue Cooperative Homes (UACH).called me around 5:15 p.m. on August 26, 2013. He confirmed that he is a member of the UACH cooperative, and that he also resides at one of the properties of UACH in Berkeley. He also confirmed that he filed the original incorporation papers with the Secretary of State in California in 1980. But he was surprised to learn that the corporation (University Avenue Cooperative Homes, Inc.) was still listed as being active. 

Charles West declined to answer any questions regarding what has happened to the UACH ownership shares that belong to the residents of UACH. He stated that my questions should be answered by the corporate office spokesperson of the John Stewart Company, and that he was not allowed to speak with the press. 

I believe that UACH was created by the Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley. Around 1978 the Housing Task Force of the Consumers Cooperative formed UA Housing, Inc. UA Housing, Inc, was the parent organization UA Cooperative Homes. University Avenue Partnership (UAP) and UAH, Inc., owned/creeated UAHC and around 1978 and a 55 year old lease agreement was signed between UAP and the City of Berkeley after which the City of Berkeley will own both the land and capital improvements (the buildings) in the year 2036. The City of Berkeley through it's Redevelopment Agency loaned $616,000 to purchase the land. The City of Berkeley also gave $443,604 to UAH, Inc., in grant monies which were in turn loaned to the Partnership. 

Capital Management Strategies, formerly CRICO which has 99.99% ownership of the the Partnership and University Avenue Housing, Inc., has 0.1% ownership. UAH., Inc, acts as the acting manager of the complex. Capital Management Strategies acts on behalf of several investors involved in the financing of the development. 

Nearly an additional $900,000 was given to Resources for Community Development Corporation for a Nepa analysis for RCD to get some tax credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee for the proposed $15,745,508 rehab project proposed to begin near the end of 2013. 

Questions to Charles West and the John Stewart Company 

1) How many years has Charles West been a manager/property manager at UACH? 

2) As a resident (2020 Sacramento St.) and member of the University Avenue Cooperative Homes (UACH), does Charles West have any ownership shares in UACH? 

3) What happened to the partnership that owned UACH, and what are the names of the main beneficiaries of the partnership that profited from the creation of UACH, including the John Stewart Company? 

4) What happened to the ownership shares and security deposits that belonged to the residents and members of UACH, including Charles West? 

5) When did Charles West or the John Stewart Company first realize that there was a problem that threatened the ownership shares of the households at UACH? 

6) What is the date that Resources for Community Development (RCD) took control and ownership of UACH, and how did that occur? What is the name of the person at RCD that contacted someone that works for the City of Berkeley, to initiate the takeover of UACH by RCD? Did someone at the City of Berkeley contact someone at RCD to ask if RCD was interested in taking over ownership of UACH, and if so what is the name of that person? 

7) With the takeover of UACH by Resources for Community Development, does the original 55 year lease agreement still exist whereby the UACH properties and capital improvements (buildings) are to revert back to the ownership of the City of Berkeley in 2036? 

8) How many existing households at UACH are expected to be displaced from their existing housing at UACH? 

9) How many existing households at UACH have members that are elderly, disabled, with children, or have an income lower than 30% of the local AMI? 

10) What is the average income of all the households currently residing at UACH, not including the income of Charles West of the John Stewart Company? 

11) Is the John Stewart Company or Resources for Community Development threatening the current households at UACH with eviction or harassment to go along with the proposed nearly $16 million rehab project expected to begin near the end of 2013? 

12) What is expected to occur to the residents or households that refuse to comply with the proposed rehab project at UACH, and decline to move out of their housing, or decline to sign a new lease agreement? 

13) When is Resources for Community Development (RCD) expected to return the nearly $900,000 in funding that was used for the Nepa analysis, back to the City of Berkeley now that RCD has enough money to do a nearly $16 million rehab project at UACH? 

14) Considering that many local rehab projects including the massive $35 million rehab project in Oakland occurring at the California Hotel which allows the current residents to keep their existing housing after the rehab project is over, why is Resources for Community Development forcing the current households at UACH to leave their existing housing with no guarantees that they will be allowed to return, during or after the proposed rehab project is completed? 

I look forward to a reply and an answer to my questions about UACH from the John Stewart Company and Resources for Community Development as soon as possible. 

Many thanks in advance... 

Sincerely, Lynda Carson

Wistfulness Should Be Outrage

By Linda Rollins
Friday August 30, 2013 - 11:00:00 AM

The wistful story about the family camp in the Sierras was nauseating. Governor Brown and Cal Fire let this fire burn out of control so the Governor could declare a state of emergency and get federal funds for the fire. Even Cal Fire employees are disgusted with the idiotic philosophy that fires should be allowed to burn for weeks or months. This is an outdated notion. Fires should be controlled immediately to prevent loss of life, livelihood, precious camps, forests, pets, wildlife, and property. It's criminal to let fires become infernos. Disgusting. 

Cal Fire allows fires to become out of control. This is wrong. Fires should be doused with water the second they start, no foot-dragging or excuses, and no old theories about how forest fires are good for forests. What's good about losing our precious resources and opening mountains to erosion and logging. What is good about dumping thousands of tons of fire retardant chemicals into streams and rivers? 

Has anyone thought about the fact that industries or companies that make fire retardant chemicals profit from increased fires? That might just be enough motivation to start big fires. Fires should be doused with water from lakes, not fire retardant. Take the profit out of burning our forests. 

Tell Jerry Brown how you feel about him allowing blazes to become infernos in order to get federal dollars from state of emergencies. 

Apple pie nostalgia is ignorance. The same men who use faulty bolts on the new Bay Bridge are clones of the men who run Cal Fire and the Governor's office. There is no difference. But putting women in these positions would lead to use of the entire human brain including the empathy center to prevent or solve these catastrophic failures. Studies have proven that women's brains are different than men's and that more areas of the white matter are involved in problem solving than our male counterparts. MRI's don't lie.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: The Kurds: Opportunity & Peril

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday August 27, 2013 - 10:04:00 AM

For almost a century, the Kurds—one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without its own state—have been deceived and double-crossed, their language and culture suppressed, their villages burned and bombed, and their people scattered. But because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Syrian civil war, and Turkish politics, they have been suddenly transformed from pawn to major player in a pivotal part of the Middle East. 

The Kurds—who speak a language distantly related to Farsi, the dominant language of Iran—straddle the borders of north eastern Syria, northern Iraq, and western Iran, and constitute a local majority in parts of eastern and southern Turkey. At between 25 to 30 million strong, they have long yearned to establish their own state. Now, with their traditional foes weakened by invasion, civil war, and political discord, the Kurds are suddenly in the catbird’s seat. 

But in the Middle East that can be a very tricky place to dwell. 

The Kurds’ current ascent began when the U.S. established a no-fly zone over northern Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. When the Americans invaded and overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraqi Kurds saw their opportunity: they seized three oil rich northern provinces, set up a parliament, established a capital at Erbil, and mobilized their formidable militia, the Peshmerga. Over the past decade, the Kurdish region has gone from one of the poorest regions in Iraq to one of the most affluent, fueled in the main by energy sales to Turkey and Iran

It is an astounding turn of fate. 

Twenty-nine years ago the Turkish government was burning Kurdish villages and scattering refugees throughout the region. Some 45,000 people—mostly Kurds— lost their lives in that long-running conflict. Today, Turkey is negotiating with its traditional nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and trying to cut a peace deal that would deliver Kurdish support to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s push to amend Turkey’s constitution and give him another decade in power. 

In 1988, Saddam Hussein dropped poison gas on the Kurdish town of Halabja, killing between 3,000 and 5,000 people. Today, the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki may be outraged by the Kurds’ seizure of oil assets, but the Baghdad regime is so preoccupied by a sectarian-led bombing campaign against Shiite communities that it is in no position to do more than protest. Last November, the Maliki government backed away from a potential showdown with the Peshmerga in the northern town of Tuz Khurmatu

Fifty years ago the Syrian government stripped citizenship rights from 20 percent of its Kurdish minority—Kurds make up about 10 percent of that country’s population—creating between 300,000 to 500,000 stateless people. Today, Syria’s Kurdish regions are largely independent because the Damascus regime, locked in a life and death struggle with foreign and domestic insurgents, has abandoned the northern and eastern parts of the country. 

Only in Iran are Kurds in much the same situation they were a decade ago, but with the Teheran government’s energy focused on its worsening economic situation and avoiding a confrontation with the U.S. over its nuclear program, that, too, could change. 

In short, are the Kurds’ stars finally coming into alignment? 

Maybe and maybe not. If the invasion, politics, and civil war have created opportunities for the Kurds, they are fragile, relying on the transitory needs or current disarray of their traditional foes, the central governments of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. 

Turkey is a case in point. 

Endogen needs the votes of Kurdish parliamentarians to put a new constitution up for a referendum in time for the 2014 elections. Ending the conflict with the Kurds could also boost Turkey’s application for European Union membership and burnish Ankara’s regional leadership credentials. The latter have been tarnished by a number of Erdogan missteps, including his unpopular support for the Syrian insurgents and his increasingly authoritarian internal policies. 

Most Kurds would like to end the fighting as well, but that will require concessions by the Endogen government on the issues of parliamentary representation and the right educate Kurds in their own language. 

But Endogen has balked at these two demands, and the Kurds are growing impatient. PKK leader Cemil Bayik recently warned that “September 1 is the deadline” for a deal and a failure to reach an agreement by then “will be understood that the aim [of the Turkish government] is not a solution.” Given the long history of animosity, it would not take much to unravel peace talks between the two parties. 

Syria’s Kurds have threaded a hazardous path between their desire for autonomy—some would like full independence—and not taking sides in the current civil war. Indeed, the fighting going on in northern and eastern Syria is not between the insurgents and the Assad government, but Kurds represented by the Kurdish Democratic Union and the combined forces of the extremist al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, both of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda. 

Most of Syria’s oil reserves are in the Kurdish region and control of them would provide a financial base for whatever side emerges victorious. 

The Assad regime may have abandoned the north, but Damascus recently has made headway against the insurgency, gains greatly aided by infighting among its opponents. So far the war is a stalemate, but it might not stay that way forever. Even Syrians opposed to the Assad government are tired of the fighting, and most have no love for the sectarian groups that have increasingly taken over the war against the Damascus regime. In short, the current autonomy of Syria’s Kurds may be a fleeting thing. 

Of course, it is possible that the Syrian Kurds might cut a deal with Assad: help drive the insurgents out of the area—maybe in alliance with the Iraqi Kurds—in exchange for greater autonomy. That would enrage both the Turks and the Maliki government, but it is not clear either could do much about it. 

Erdogen’s support for the Syrian insurgents is widely unpopular in Turkey, and any direct intervention by the Turks to block autonomy for Syria’s Kurds would put Ankara in the middle of a civil war. With an election looming next year, that is not a move Erdogan wants to make. As for Iraq, thanks to the U.S.’s dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s army, Baghdad doesn’t have the capabilities to take on the Peshmerga at this point. 

What will finally emerge is hard to predict, except that a return to the past seems unlikely. Iraq’s Kurds can only be dislodged by a major invasion from Turkey in cooperation with the Baghdad government. Given that Kurdish oil and gas are increasingly important to the Turkish economy, and that any invasion would be costly, why would Ankara do that? 

And cooperation between Baghdad and Ankara has been soured by Turkey’s willingness to ignore Baghdad’s protests over its exploitation of Kurdish-controlled (but Iraqi owned) oil and Turkish support for the Sunni extremists trying to overthrow Assad. Those same extremists are massacring Shite supporters of the Maliki government in Basra, Baghdad and Karbala. 

Turkey’s Kurds—between 20 and 25 million, the largest Kurdish concentration in the world—are on a knife’s edge. There is little doubt that the average Turkish Kurd wants the long-running conflict to end, as do the Turks as well. But Endogen is dragging his feet on the key peace issues, and the PKK may decide it is time to pick up the gun again and return to the old Kurdish adage: trust only the mountains. 

The solution to all this is not all that difficult. 

For Turkey, granting Kurdish language rights and cultural autonomy, and reducing the minimum percentage of votes to serve in the Turkish parliament from its current 10 percent, would probably do the job. 

For Syria, the formula for peace would be much the same, with the added move of restoring citizenship to almost half a million now stateless Kurds. But that is only likely to happen after a ceasefire and a political settlement of the civil war. 

The Iraqi government will have to bite the bullet, recognize that an autonomous Kurdish area is a reality, and work out a deal to share oil and gas revenue. 

As long as Iran is faced with an attack by the U.S. and/or Israel, that country’s Kurds will be out in the cold. The U.S. and its allies should keep in mind that sanctions and threats of war make a peaceful resolution of long-standing grievances by Iran’s minorities, which also include Azeris, Baluchs, and Arabs, impossible. If the U.S. is truly concerned about minorities in Iran it should find a way to negotiate with the Teheran government over Teheran’s nuclear program. 

But the Iranian government, too, would do well to seriously engage with its Kurdish population. Autonomy for the Kurds is out of the bag and not about to go back in, regardless of what the final outcome in Syria and Turkey are. Sooner or later, Iran will have to confront the same issue that governments in Damascus, Ankara and Baghdad now face: recognition and autonomy, or war and instability.  

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

AGAINST FORGETTING: Chelsea Manning's Past and Future

By Ruth Rosen
Friday August 30, 2013 - 10:22:00 AM

Bradley Manning certainly picked a difficult time to tell the world that he has always wanted to live as a woman. Convicted of leaking 700,000 documents to Wikileaks, Manning - who went by the name Bradley - was sentenced to serve 35 years at Fort Leavenworth Prison, a military prison in Kansas. A spokeswoman for the facility told the "Today Show" that "the Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder." She now faces at least seven years in federal prison before she is eligible for parole. 

On the day after the judge pronounced her sentence, Bradley shocked the world when he said he had been living in the wrong body. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am female," the private wrote in a statement. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition." In her statement to the "Today Show," Chelsea Manning thanked her supporters and said: 

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning…. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

Thank you.
Aside from shock, the first response has been predictable. First, the media questioned when or if they should use the pronoun "she" to describe Private Manning's sentence and request for hormone therapy. Double XX, a feminist section of Slate Magazine, immediately said that all media should use female pronouns. The New York Times managed to write an entire story without using a single pronoun. 

Next, attorneys debated whether she has a constitutional right to such therapy and surgery as a prisoner. During her trial for leaking government documents - the greatest number in American history - Manning was described as suffering from gender identity disorder. One psychologist testified that she had a "difficult time adjusting to the hypermasculine environment of a combat zone." Manning's attorney believes - or says he believes - that President Obama will pardon Manning. He will also appeal Manning's request for hormone therapy, arguing that there are precedents for other prisoners receiving such medical care. The American Civil Liberties Union similarly states that it is her constitutional right to seek corrective medical care, but that is not the position of prison officials right now. 

Finally, the media began to dig deeper and explore the danger and isolation that Chelsea Manning will face in prison. If placed in a men's prison, which is likely, her life will be in danger and solitary confinement will almost certainly be necessary to protect her from rape or worse. Slate's Double XX article noted that "As a trans woman living in a men's prison, Manning will not only be denied hormone therapy. She will also face an elevated risk of harassment and sexual assault behind bars from both fellow inmates and members of staff. One 2006 study of California prisons found that trans women housed in men's prisons are 13 times as likely to be sexually abused as other prisoners. That year, 59 percent of transgender women in the system were abused. And Just Detention International, an organization dedicated to ending sexual abuse behind bars, notes that once "targeted for abuse, the majority of transgender survivors are subjected to repeated sexual assaults." 

Even if she were placed in a women's prison, she would also face taunts - and perhaps violence - that a transgender woman experiences in a prison filled with inmates who make sharpened instruments and frequently express hatred for a man who has decided to live as woman. 

In a newly released Netflix-produced television series titled "Orange Is the New Black," which recounts the experiences of women prisoners, one of the inmates is a former husband who has had hormone therapy and reassignment surgery. The other women circle her warily, sometimes taunting her, often supporting her. When she can no longer buy hormones, she suffers hot flashes and grows a beard. To get the hormones she needs, she ingests a toy so that she can be declared a medical emergency. 

The fact is, all institutions are based on a binary system of gender identification. You are either a woman or a man. Bathrooms are for either women or men. So are prisons. Yet years of research and political activism have repeatedly revealed the broad continuum along which women and men find their identity. The idea of gender fluidity, however, is not institutionalized in prisons, and you don't have the choice where you serve your sentence. 

In the case of Chelsea Manning, the situation is particularly complicated. She has been court-martialed, sentenced to a military prison, and officials are scoffing at the idea that Chelsea Manning will go to prison as a woman. The transgendered community is still relative new and invisible within the United States. No longer relegated to the streets as prostitutes, many are employed as the women or men they have chosen to be. Chelsea Manning, however, did not come out when she could have chosen hormone therapy and reassignment surgery. 

As a convicted and imprisoned felon, moreover, she is at the mercy of officials who view her as a "man" who gave secrets to the enemy. 

The average American does not read feminist books about the "gender fluidity" that undergraduates study - and sometimes live - at their universities. They don't know any transgendered individuals, and when they see them, they view them as freaks, not as people born into the wrong body. 

Many liberal supporters, therefore, worry that transgendered men and women will be tarnished by Manning's actions. During the McCarthy era, homosexuals were hunted down because of fears they were communists or could be blackmailed into giving secrets to the Soviet Union. Now, some people in the lesbian, gay, and transgendered community fear that social conservatives will argue that people like Chelsea Manning - unable or unwilling to come out - will instead turn into leakers of government documents or spies. Some social conservatives, in fact, have already expressed their disgust at her leaks to Wikileaks, and view her as a freak who is "a mentally ill deviant waging a war on reality." 

It is too soon to know how Chelsea Manning will fare in prison and whether her request for hormone therapy and reassignment surgery will be approved. Manning has not received the same support shown Edward Snowden, because she remained in isolation in prison, unable to explain why she leaked government documents. And yet, her justifications for her actions are similar to his. In a statement just released after her sentencing, Chelsea Manning explained how much she loved her country, but that she could not tolerate the means used to fight the "war on terror." "It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan." 

Whatever her future, one thing is clear: Chelsea Manning has made a great sacrifice by informing the world of this country's hypocrisy and hidden crimes. Now, she may gain the admiration and political support that some Americans have expressed for Edward Snowden. She has also made more people aware of the plight and feelings of transgendered persons than all the political activism did during the last four last decades. Her future, however, is endangered by what will be viewed as her unpatriotic act and her "freakish" life as a transgender woman. 

Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, is Professor Emerita of history at the University of California, a regular contribute to openDemocracy.net and many other online magazines. She is the author of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America. Follow Ruth Rosen at www.ruthrosen.org and at twitter @Ruth_Rosen 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Victims of Social Warfare

By Jack Bragen
Friday August 30, 2013 - 08:07:00 AM

In the war that the government and the rich are waging upon the poor and middle class, there is one group of people, persons with mental illness, who are easy targets of abuse. 

Our economic system is becoming increasingly hostile toward those who can not buck up and get a full-time job. It is getting harder and harder for people who live on Social Security benefits and SSI to eke by. 

Seniors are apparently being hit just as hard as people with disabilities. My father, in order to have medical insurance as well as to have enough to live on, worked at his job to within a year or so of his passing. 

Many persons with mental illness in the past have tried to obtain a housing certificate in order to live with some level of comfort and independence. Yet, the corporate people who are in cahoots with the government have ruined this route through social engineering. HUD has experienced major cuts, and this may have forced many persons with mental disabilities to seek institutional-type housing. Energy, rents and the cost of food have skyrocketed while benefits under SSI have been cut. 

According to government sponsored propaganda, our economy is in a recovery phase. Yet if you have a mental illness, your economy isn't recovering, and you are financially worse off than ever. Regardless of the nonsense we're seeing in the news, the economy isn't recovering. 

Due to the advent of Google and other sources of background checking, as well as increasing social intolerance, it is disproportionately harder for a person with mental illness to get hired. There was a news story of a fast food restaurant in the South or perhaps the Midwest that adopted a requirement for a Bachelor's degree for applicants to be hired--for the very bottom positions. This is an example of how tough it has become for people at the bottom of the socioeconomic totem pole to better their situations. 

Persons with mental illness are not usually prepared to join the work force and are often unemployable. Many persons with mental illness can not work competitively due to their medication, due to the initial problem, or due to being unaccustomed to the rigors of a job. The mental health treatment system has taught us to be docile, but also to become immobilized. 

Without employment being a reasonable prospect, we are forced to live at the mercy of the government or of whomever else there is who can help. If the government cuts off the programs upon which we rely, we have little recourse. Persons who are quite capable of living independently and who can contribute to society through volunteer work are being forced into extremely uncomfortable and unsuitable living situations. 

Those in charge of the social engineering would like to see persons with mental illness and homeless persons disappear off the face of the Earth. This is being accomplished through incarceration, institutionalization, and the creation of a society in which it is impossible for a disabled person to survive. * * * 

My self-published books, including "Instructions for Dealing With Schizophrenia: a Self-Help Manual," and other titles, are available on Amazon. I have a blog at: bragenjack.blogspot.com

Arts & Events

New: Opera Live in Berkeley on Sunday Afternoon

Monday September 02, 2013 - 04:54:00 PM
Soprano Eliza O'Malley will sing the role of Gilda in Sunday's Verismo Opera production of Rigoletto, 2 p.m. at the Hillside Club in Berkeley.
Soprano Eliza O'Malley will sing the role of Gilda in Sunday's Verismo Opera production of Rigoletto, 2 p.m. at the Hillside Club in Berkeley.
Baritone Chris Wells as Rigoletto, Soprano Eliza O'Malley as Gilda

This week brings the grand opening of San Francisco’s grand opera, complete with glamorous get-ups and lavish parties. But what’s often forgotten is that opera’s 19th century roots were firmly in common ground. It’s been a popular art form in Italy and elsewhere for more than two centuries, even though it’s attracted superb classical composers. Many European cities and towns still have small opera houses, and travelling music-lovers report that up-close and personal opera is exciting in a way that big-house and/or big-screen opera can never be.

Large American companies like the San Francisco Opera now fly in famous singers from around the world for elaborately staged and costumed extravaganzas, creating a level of expense which mandates big auditoriums and high ticket prices for fans who want to be close enough to see the action without binoculars. There have been a number of more-or-less successful recent attempts to make opera available to a larger audience: bringing streamed performances to movie houses, adding video to the nosebleed section of big opera houses, and other gimmicks.

But last September’s S.F. Opera experiment with bringing a streamed Rigoletto to the Giants’ waterfront ballpark is not being repeated this year. The company’s web site says that another Opera in the Ballpark will be presented in the summer of 2014, but neither the date nor the program is announced.

Nonetheless, whether you’re already an opera lover, or if you just think you like what you’ve heard on Prairie Home Companion and want to hear more, it doesn’t have to be a budget-busting expenditure. And if you’ve only seen opera on the big screen until now, you could be experiencing it live in a good number of Bay Area venues.

Next Sunday afternoon, September 8, for example, you’ll be able to see a real live production of Rigoletto presented by a company, Verismo Opera, whose goal is to make opera “accessible to the public at reasonable prices through a community effort of professional musicians and singers.”

In keeping with its mission statement, the non-profit company has been offering affordable opera for several years in a variety of locations around the bay, including Vallejo, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Francisco and Santa Cruz as well as Berkeley. Most shows are fully staged and costumed, with chamber orchestra and English supertitles, and every seat in the intimate houses where Verismo plays is a good seat.

The top price for tickets at Berkeley’s Hillside Club on Sunday at 2 will be only $20, with discounts below that for seniors and students.

The lead singers are experienced Bay Area pros: Frederick Winthrop (Duke of Mantua, tenor), Chris Wells (Rigoletto, baritone) and Eliza O'Malley (Gilda, soprano). They might be familiar to Berkeley audiences from previous Verismo productions at the Hillside Club theater—the most recent, La Traviata, played to a full house and a standing ovation in June.

Date: Sunday, September 8 

Time: 2 p.m. 

Place: Hillside Club;2286 Cedar Street; Berkeley 

Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.