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Flash: Meet the New "Boss" of Berkeley--
Sorry, Mayor Arreguin, but employees are making policy now

Carol Denney
Friday December 02, 2016 - 01:44:00 PM
Homeless protesters and activists try to recover belongings after an early morning eviction from Civic Center park Dec. 2, 2016.

New Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was interviewed on National Public Radio this morning saying that while the nation was moving to the right, Berkeley was "moving to the left", and that it was time for "bold action." But you wouldn't know it if you were unlucky enough to be shivering in a sleeping bag on the grass near City Hall at 5:30 am this morning.

About twenty-five city police and city staff evicted the protest group known as First They Came for the Homeless in the early darkness from their small grassy setting without notice or inventory receipts. The streets were completely blocked off on Center Street between Milvia and Martin Luther King. Bystanders attempting to help people with their belongings were threatened with arrest.

Sophie Hahn, inaugurated yesterday as the new representative for District 5, stood in front of City Hall during a press conference about the raid saying, "I'm talking to the people upstairs. I'm not happy at all."

The protesters have received conflicting messages regarding the protest's safety from middle of the night raids. New Mayor Jesse Arreguin had, along with several city councilmembers, explicitly requested that the raids stop during the Thanksgiving holiday. His inauguration yesterday invited speculation that the raids would end with former Mayor Bates' administration.

At the "closing party" for the Caffe Mediteraneum on Telegraph last night, Arreguin told Planet Editor Becky O'Malley that he'd reached an agreement with City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley to allow the campers to remain in place until a better location could be identified. But the City Manager stated today to Health and Human Welfare and Community Action Commissioner Dan McMullan that she was "just following policies that were set earlier." An aide to Mayor Arreguin confirmed that his understanding was that the raids were supposed to have stopped.

Two community members stopped by the group and dropped off large contributions of Seismic Coffee and supplies, saying "stay strong."

At1:30 this afternoon, the former campsite adjoining City Hall was completely closed off with plastic fencing. -more-

The Last Day at the Caffe Med

Steven Finacom
Friday December 02, 2016 - 07:33:00 PM
The Med on its last official night open.

November 30 I went to the last day of the Caffe Mediterraneum. Whether this was the final last day, I’m not absolutely sure. The Caffe has changed hands and was officially closing for remodeling by the new owners, but when I told a friend I was going there for the closing, she said “Oh, the Med has been periodically closing for YEARS!”

People often point to the Med as the first real cafe in Berkeley and the forerunner of Berkeley’s ancient coffee tradition. But although the Med dates to the 1950s and was the local forerunner, the widespread coffee tradition is not that old.

Listen, children, about the early days of Berkeley coffee culture. It has not existed in Berkeley, or the Bay Area, for ever and ever. Back in the ‘70s—oh, so long ago—it was still largely the era of Folger’s, and Maxwell House, and big metal percolators during fellowship hours after church services and community events, even in Berkeley. -more-

New Berkeley Council to take seats at meeting on Thursday at 5:30

Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:33:00 PM

The formal swearing-in of the new Berkeley City Council members will take place next Thursday, December 8, at 5:30 in the evening at the Berkeley City Council chambers at the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall,2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way ( at Allston Street).

Because of legal requirements, the new councilmembers were sworn in for the first time yesterday morning, as soon as the previous members' terms ended according to the city charter. That action took place before a limited audience of family members and supporters, but the general public is invited to the Thursday event, although seating in the council chambers is limited.

Newly elected Councilmembers are Cheryl Davila (District 2), Ben Bartlett (District 3) and Sophie Hahn (District 5).

Jesse Arreguin is the new mayor of Berkeley. He will be chairing the first meeting with the newly seated city council, which is expected to have a progressive majority. -more-


Bellini’s Romeo & Juliet Opera

Previewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:07:00 PM

On Friday, December 9 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 11 at 2:00 pm, Berkeley Chamber Opera will present Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi/The Capulets and the Montagues, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The announced cast features two outstanding singers in the lead roles – Juliet (Giulietta in Italian) will be sung by soprano Eliza O’Malley, whose superb interpretation of the difficult role of Cherubini’s Medea I reviewed on May 12, 2014 in this paper; while the role of Romeo will be sung by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Baker, whose stunning debut recital I reviewed in these pages on October 24, 2016. Tybald/Tebaldo will be sung by tenor Patrick Hagen, Lorenzo by baritone Don Hoffman, and Capellio (Juliet’s father) by bass Paul Cheak. Jonathan Khuner will conduct the chamber orchestra, and I Capuleti e I Montecchi will be staged by director Ellen St. Thomas, with veteran diva Olivia Stapp serving as Artistic Advisor. Performances will be at Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, an ideally intimate space with excellent acoustics. -more-

Public Comment

Who Is The Murderer?

Harry Brill
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:55:00 PM

Perhaps you are familiar with the movie "Murder on the Orient Express", which is based on an Agatha Christie novel. The task for the detective, Hercule Poirot, was to determine who committed the murder. The problem we learn is that asking the wrong question yields the wrong answer. Like the title of my article, "Who is the Murderer" is the wrong question. The right question should be pluralized --Who ARE The Murderers. It took a while for Poirot to realize that not one but twelve individuals were involved in what was a revenge murder. When Poirot finally solved the mystery, he made the difficult decision not to turn them in because he concluded that the murderers were justified.

This remarkable and brilliant murder mystery is a metaphor for learning something about our own demise The lives of most of us will be cut short because we are victimized by many murderers. They include a substantial number of the unregulated corporations who in one way or another pollute our environment, poison our food and water supply, and produce many products that jeopardize our health. Indeed, each of us is subject to abuse by many corporate assassins who wield their many lethal weapons.

There is an important difference between Poirot's murderers and the corporate prompted assassinations. The type of murders committed in the Orient Express involve a tangible weapon, which is usually a gun but also a knife. And the impact is generally immediate. Last year there were almost 16,000 such homicides. It is these kinds of murders that we generally learn about from the media. Those who are apprehended typically receive heavy sentences particularly if they are racial minorities.

Corporate crime, by contrast, is far more subtle. The "weapons" that assault corporate victims are not tangible or even visible, and if the victims die as a result, it is not the same day or week but years later. So it is much more difficult to connect in people's minds the cause and effect. Also, except for unusual circumstances, corporate crimes are rarely reported in the media. So we can understand why many Americans are more oriented toward supporting capital punishment than punishing capital. -more-

Fidel Castro

Jagjit Singh
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:51:00 PM

I seem to recall reading a Readers Digest article many years ago which lauded Castro for ousting the brutal US puppet dictator, Batista, with his rag-tag army. -more-

Middle America

Tejinder Uberoi
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 10:03:00 PM

Let Middle America rejoice – the master deal maker is soon to relinquish his palatial home and downsize to his more humble abode, the White House. -more-

Stop the Center st. garage!

Sennet Williams
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:48:00 PM

This fall, UC berkeley finally made public that it is working with "Cybertran," a developer of super-safe, fast, low cost and efficient transit technology: UC Berkeley and CyberTran International Join Forces to Help Solve Traffic Congestion and Other Auto-Related Problems | -more-


Updated: What the hell is going on at Berkeley City Hall today?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 02, 2016 - 02:26:00 PM

I was just downtown in a car, something I try to avoid, stopped in a loading zone waiting to drop off something for a friend, and Carol Denney’s emailed story about the homeless campers being busted on this cold December morning showed up on my phone.


Last night the new mayor told me confidently that he and the city manager had reached a meeting of the minds: no more evictions until they got things figured out. But Carol’s got it right—evidently he, and perhaps also the newish City Manager, are not in charge. I stopped to talk to the activists I know, who were standing around on the corner of Center and Milvia, and I’ve been calling the Mayor’s office since I got home, but all I get is voice mail. To add insult to injury, the new guys haven’t even re-recorded their messages, so it sounds like Tom Bates is still in charge.

The activists had two names for those in charge of the raid this morning: Greg Daniel, whose job used to be code enforcement, and Jim Hynes, Assist. City Manager. They said that about 20 cops were involved.

I hate to sound like an angry taxpayer, but how much in wages did this little escapade cost the city of Berkeley? And who the hell authorized it? Is city staff just giving the finger to the new mayor? Heads should roll, but they probably won't.

Since I can’t get anyone on the phone, I guess I’ll have to go down there to see if anyone’s around. I’m getting too old for this.

UPDATE: So I went to Berkeley City Hall at 3:30 today, and—SURPRISE!—neither the City-Manager-in-Chief nor her two deputies were there. The receptionist on the 5th floor suggested hopefully that they might be at an off-site meeting, but really folks, it is Friday afternoon, isn’t it? I did run into Councilmember Kriss Worthington, and (as usual the adult in the room) he reminded me that the Mayor and Councilmembers can’t legally tell the city employees what to do. The Council can pass laws, but when the laws are on the books the staff chooses whether to enforce them. It looks like a few laws need to be rethought, which is what the new mayor is promising to undertake on December 13. Not answered: why did the Mayor think he had a deal with the Manager but she doesn’t seem to agree? Maybe she’ll be back in the office on Monday so I can ask her. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump’s Puppeteers

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 04:56:00 PM

When historians work out the details of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential victory, the most important date is likely not to be October 28th -- when FBI Director Comey announced he had reopened the Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle -- but August 19th when Paul Manafort resigned as Trump campaign director. While Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon replaced Manafort, the real change happened behind the scene when reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, took control of the Trump campaign.

Who are Robert and Rebekah Mercer? What does their ascendancy mean for the Trump Administration?

70-year-old Robert Mercer is a computer scientist famed for his research in machine-translation algorithms. In 1993 Robert joined Long-Island-based Renaissance Technologies, which became the most successful quantitative hedge fund; Mercer is now its co-CEO. Recently Robert was identified as the largest Republican donor in the 2016 presidential contest. His political giving is directed by his 42-year-old daughter, Rebekah.

Before the Mercers took over the Trump campaign, they funded the unsuccessful presidential bid of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz suspended his campaign on May 3rd, after losing the Indiana primary, and lost the favor of the Mercers with his July 20th "vote your conscience speech" at the Republican convention. The Mercers renamed their superPAC "Make America Number 1" and shifted its focus to Trump. By election day they had invested more than $15.5 million in the superPAC.

The Mercer's enormous investments in Cruz and Trump reflect the ultra-conservative philosophy of Robert and Rebekah, and give us a good idea of what to expect from the Trump administration. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Filtering the Thinking

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:06:00 PM

It would be nice if antipsychotic or other medications simply provided accurate thinking, but this is not so. If medicated, a person subject to psychosis still has to work at it to obtain thinking that is mostly not delusional. This is because antipsychotic medications cause parts of the brain to slow down, allowing the potential for rational thought. However, there is no pill that can automatically provide accurate thinking. A person suffering from psychosis must learn or relearn how to think, and must learn to recognize and discard delusions. -more-

Mixed feelings on Fidel Castro’s legacy

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 02, 2016 - 07:30:00 PM

The Cuban government will observe nine days of mourning for Fidel Castro. After two days of observances in Revolution Plaza in Havana, Castro’s ashes will be transported across the country to the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The final mass and ceremony will take place Dec. 4, and his ashes will be interred in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia. -more-

Back Stories



Updated: What the hell is going on at Berkeley City Hall today? 12-02-2016

Public Comment

Who Is The Murderer? Harry Brill 12-01-2016

Fidel Castro Jagjit Singh 12-01-2016

Middle America Tejinder Uberoi 12-01-2016

Stop the Center st. garage! Sennet Williams 12-01-2016


Flash: Meet the New "Boss" of Berkeley--
Sorry, Mayor Arreguin, but employees are making policy now
Carol Denney 12-02-2016

The Last Day at the Caffe Med Steven Finacom 12-02-2016

New Berkeley Council to take seats at meeting on Thursday at 5:30 12-01-2016

Bellini’s Romeo & Juliet Opera
Previewed by James Roy MacBean 12-01-2016


THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump’s Puppeteers Bob Burnett 12-01-2016

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Filtering the Thinking Jack Bragen 12-01-2016

Mixed feelings on Fidel Castro’s legacy Ralph E. Stone 12-02-2016