Firefighters responded to two fires at a restaurant within a six-hour span early this morning near the University of California at Berkeley, a fire official said. -more-
A family of three that was shot at while driving on Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley Tuesday night did not realize what had happened until police found a bullet in their car, a Berkeley police spokesman said today. -more-
Eleven protesters and journalists who were injured during police brutality demonstrations in Berkeley late last year announced this morning that they will file a federal civil rights lawsuit for injuries suffered during the aggressive police response. -more-
A group advocating for the protection of coast redwood trees in California and the state Department of Parks and Recreation are partnering to provide free admission on the day after Thanksgiving to 49 redwood state parks, some of which are in the Bay Area, the group's spokeswoman said. -more-
A Report on Berkeley’s “Affordable Housing 101” session, Nov. 14, 2015
It all began with the admonishment that this was to be a “learning session.” Well and good. But the student doesn’t always learn what the teacher proposes to teach. That is the risk, the “double edged sword” lurking in all propaganda.
We learned the familiar scale of income levels, for whom "affordable" means paying no more than 30% of a family’s income for housing. We learned that half of Berkeley’s renters are low income (generally those people earning below 80% of Area Median Income). And we learned that, from 2000 to 2015, the percentage of income spent on rent for extremely low income families has gone from 60% to 80%. There’s not much left for food and clothes.
Then we learned about the difficulties of financing affordable housing. Since corporate developers don’t make enough money on low rent buildings, it is up to non-profits to provide them. And they need funding. While 1400 affordable units had been built in this city over the last 25 years, that rate has not been maintained because the federal government has cut funding for such enterprises.
Berkeley, as a city, seems to be proud of its "learning" processes. This meeting was one of a series, in which it complimented itself on providing these chances to participate to the people. Prior meetings, complete with “pop-up” tents and tables, were set up to poll and survey the neighborhood (the Adeline corridor), to find out what the residents wanted. There was money involved. The city’s “Idea Center” that ran these events did so on a $750,000 grant from ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The purpose was to give the "populace" a voice.
What was lacking was how that "voice" translated into actual plans for the development of the area. No mechanism was described whereby the people would gain a seat at the planning tables, at which they could actually shape the course of things to come. But still, it was called "participation." The issues involved, from the neighborhood’s perspective, in these prior meetings, were clear. Affordable housing, no dislocation, no evictions; at several meetings, that was summed up as a call for a moratorium on market rate housing until the need for affordable had been satisfied. -more-
A small item showed up in The Berkeley Daily Planet around the same time as the Mayor Tom Bates team methodically passed their law criminalizing having more than two square feet of belongings in public.
A local artist had all of his work stolen from a storage facility. He had property stolen as well, property which apparently showed up later for re-sale at Moe’s Books and Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue. But his original artwork, a colorful collection including unique prints and monographs perhaps without the same immediate re-sale value appear to be gone forever.
Councilmember Linda Maio of District One told the whole town all summer “they can put their stuff in parks, they can sleep in parks, they can hang out in parks” to excuse her two square foot sidewalk law, generating a park-protective backlash that she used to grease the way to criminalizing more obvious attributes of homelessness with the usual sweeteners; non-existent bathrooms, storage, and services.
People who attended the overflowing City Council meeting were treated to a letter from the business (oh, yes, it is a business) run by Jack Petranker called the Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages which claimed their business (yes, it is a business) was down because of the terrible homeless people across the street whom they're not sure but might be stealing bicycles and are just so icky anyway. -more-
In the recent Democratic Presidential Debate, Bernie Sanders was right to hold Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire for her hasty, short-sighted decision to topple Saddam Hussein of Iran and Gaddafi of Libya. Her glib response that it was ‘a mistake’ is a gross understatement. Neither Hussein nor Gaddafi were an existential threat to the US. Their removal has plunged the whole Middle East into utter chaos. Sanders was also right to condemn ‘regime change’ as a core foreign US foreign policy objective. It has been an unmitigated disaster in destabilizing so many countries in the world. Western powers, most notably the US, Canada, France, the UK and Israel have flooded the Middle East, with billions of dollars in weapons sales. The US sold Saudi Arabia over $30 billion in F-15 Boeing fighter jets and Lockheed F-16 to bomb Yemen and Syria. The Emirates will be receiving a fleet of Predator drones to run spying missions. France has just completed a $10 billion contract with Saudi Arabia. -more-
Why Berkeley City Council Measure Perpetuates Racism: Comment to Berkeley City Council Meeting , November 17, 2015
I’m going to try to explain why, from a social justice perspective, the proposals in item 28 perpetuate the country’s history of racism, particularly against African Americans and Latinos. -more-
UPDATE: This piece appeared last Thursday. On last Sunday my Chronicle had a big scary front page article, another one of those single source stories which the Chron seems to be specializing in lately, which gave the impression that Ohlone Park was still full of homeless people. It appeared that reporter Rachel Swan had talked only to Councilmember Linda Maio, not to any homeless people or even their advocates. It was accompanied by great big photos of homeless people in Ohlone Park taken by Michael Macor. Since I was pretty sure that by the previous Wednesday the park had already been cleared, I emailed Macor asking when the picture had been taken. His answer: Tuesday. Q.E.D. Get your stone cold news from your Sunday Chronicle!
What’s going on here, anyhow? On Tuesday night I witnessed a performance by the majority of members of the Berkeley City Council which seemed so irrational, so devoid of logic, that I’ve spent the better part of the last two days trying to figure out what they thought they were doing.
In the first place, there was a lot of hand-wringing by councilmembers over the dire state of affairs in Ohlone Park, the strip which runs along Cedar from Martin Luther King to Sacramento that was left over from undergrounding BART. A couple of people who described themselves as parents from the Ohlone neighborhood recited cautionary tales of their kids’ encounters with possibly deranged street people, not clear where, but seemingly in the park. Unpleasant experiences with human excrement and/or needles were mentioned. Not good, I get that.
A much larger number of people either self-identified as homeless or as providers of service to the homeless or simply as compassionate advocates for the homeless offered ideas for solutions for some of these problems. They generally opposed a set of proposals in Council Agenda Item #28 as criminalization of homelessness, and suggested that passing these could lead to, among other things, loss of federal funds for housing. They pointed out that the more extreme bad behaviors cited were already illegal, and asked why new laws were necessary. -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
France and the free world are in mourning following the horrible Paris massacre on November 13 by at least seven gunmen, killing 129 and wounding another 352, 99 critically. -more-
Four years ago, US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden; many Americans believed Al Qaida had been broken and the terrorist threat eliminated. The November 13th Paris Massacre demonstrated that terrorism has a new face: ISIL – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Where should the US do? -more-
Anxiety, that knot in your gut or that giddiness in your spine, isn't always a villain. Sometimes, your body is trying to tell you something. The message could be essential, or it could be erroneous. There is no absolute rule concerning whether you should push past anxiety, or heed it and back off. -more-
Physician- assisted suicide in California
Governor Jerry Brown has signed a measure allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths. The new law is modeled after one that went into effect in 1997 in Oregon, where last year 105 people took their lives with drugs prescribed for that purpose. The California assisted suicide law will permit physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months. The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare, which may not be until 2016. It is also allowed in Washington, Vermont and Montana, although in Montana it was by a court decision. -more-
Arts & Events
If, as the saying goes, brevity is the soul of wit, then how astonishing is it that Richard Wagner’s comic-opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg somehow manages to be witty in spite of a running-time of over five hours. Of brevity, of succinctness, Wagner knew nothing. As in all his operas, here Wagner rambles on as if he had all the time in the world – and his audience’s world --at his beck and call. He belabors every dramatic issue and even manages to belabor some of the admittedly beautiful musical issues he explores in Die Meistersinger. Yet, somehow, Wagner brings it off admirably in this opera. To this day, Die Meistersinger remains Wagner’s most accessible and most popularly acclaimed opera. -more-
Noted harpsichordist Richard Eggar led the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in four of the six Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach. I attended the Saturday evening concert, November 14, at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. Before the concert began, Richard Eggar provided droll commentary, noting that these concertos were finished in 1721 and immediately sent off to the nobleman who had commissioned them, Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg. Apparently, the Margrave did not think highly of them, if indeed he even looked at the scores, which he filed away in his library. Upon the Margrave’s death in 1734, Bach’s scores were sold off in a job lot with a miscellaneous collection of music. Bach’s sons were not aware that their father’s Brandenburg Concertos even existed. -more-
African music’s superstar Youssou N’Dour came to a packed Zellerbach Hall with his band, Super Étoile de Dakar, on Saturday, November 7. Now 56 years old, Youssou N’Dour began performing at the age of 12 and became one of Africa’s most popular musicians in the 1970s, subsequently achieving international recognition as a musician and cultural ambassador of his native Senegal. Singing in Wolof, Senegal’s principal language, as well as French, and English, Youssou N’Dour draws on the West African griot tradition of praise singing and oral history. His music is a fusion of mbalax (a polyrhythmic West African dance music,) Cuban rumba, jazz, reggae, and soul. With his powerful, high-pitched griot voice and his charismatic stage-presence, Youssou N’Dour was named by Rolling Stone magazine as « the world’s most famous singer. » He was the subject of the filmed documentary Youssou N’Dour : I Bring What I Love, about Senegal’s divided reaction to his Grammy Award-winning album Egypt, a deeply spiritual album dedicated to a more tolerant view of Islam. In 2012, Youusou N’Dour assumed the office of Senegal’s Minister of Tourism and Culture. -more-
"I'd like to stand by the sea ... " -more-