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The Play’s the Thing … (aka Capoeira Politics)

Steve Martinot
Wednesday December 28, 2016 - 02:18:00 PM

A mirror for the new council, if you please

Mirrors are important. For a city council to see what actually happens in its meetings, more than “instant replay” is needed. One needs a mirror to at least see where one’s lipstick is smeared, and how visible one’s facial tics might be. One needs a longer-term replay, or re-presentation. To fabricate such a mirror for the Berkeley City Council meeting of Dec. 13, 2016, we shall have to make it out of dramatic performance.

The dramatic setting

The setting for this drama is the problem of homelessness in Berkeley. The city has made endless attempts to resolve it, including a Task Force, millions of dollars in services, and contracted with shelter providers. Yet all this has produced mainly resolve rather than resolution, and a continued paucity of shelters. Alternatively, the city has spent reportedly over $300,000 for police raids on a specific community of homeless people calling itself “First they Came For The Homeless” (FTCFTH). As an intentional community, organized and able to take care of itself and its members, FTCFTH exists as a political protest, placing itself (the collection of tents by which it withstands the elements) where it will call attention the fact that homelessness exists.

Though it is a form of protest, a political statement demanding a “redress of grievances,” this community has been assaulted by the police, and stamped out 12 times in the past year – its possessions seized and its members left by the city to lose their lives to exposure. Several constitutional rights have been trampled in the process.

Their demands are [1] housing (the long-term solution), [2] humane and respectful short-term solutions, such as shelters and toilets and showers, and [3] an immediate cessation to the police raids because their community is what is keeping them alive while the city develops and funds short-term solutions. 

First Act

Scene one – the soliloquy

The agenda item on the homeless on Dec. 13, 2016, was Item 39. The new mayor wrote it, and opened the council discussion on it with an introduction explaining how it will initiate a resolution of the homeless crisis. [2:10:09 – these time markers refer to the city’s video of the meeting] And he reiterates that resolving the homeless crisis in a humane manner, aimed at getting everyone housed, is his first priority. 

However, in his introduction, he makes two assertions that simply ignore the depth of the crisis. He withdraws two clauses from the original language of the measure, clauses that would have recognized and honored the political statement of FTCFTH. One would have directed the city manager to designate an area in which this homeless community could be emplaced while the city develops and funds short-term solutions. The other would have imposed a limited moratorium on police raids. Both could have been justified by the First Amendment, or humanitarian, or financial, or democratic, or even sociological grounds. Instead, he retreats from calling off the repression. “I want to clarify that this item [Item 39] does not allow a blanket moratorium on enforcement of lodging on public property throughout the city of Berkeley.” (2:11:48) 

He doesn’t explain why he changed his mind, nor does he identify who convinced him to change it. Thus, he acts against his own heart-felt "priority." And we (the audience) become aware that this drama will be a tragedy in the classical sense. Though dedicated to preserving the health and safety of people, the mayor acts to leave unleashed the major threat to health and safety for the homeless community, viz. the police who seize possessions needed to survive, and who thus become the source of non-safety themselves (calling it “law enforcement”). In truly tragic fashion, the mayor acts against himself. 

And he reduces the three steps that the homeless know are necessary, an immediate means of survival, short-term solutions, and long-term solutions, to only two steps, short-term and long-term, substituting “short-term” eventuality for the immediacy of survival. 

Scene two – the dualities of language

The drama begins. The mayor’s right-hand man, the honorable Kriss, steps forward and makes a proposal. (2:18:18) He is seizing the time out of turn, since public comment is supposed to come first. But he cannot hold himself back. 

He proposes a series of amendments to Item 39, though no motion has been made yet on the item, nor has it been discussed. He seems to act on the assumption that the homeless community wants a place to "camp" permanently, and he will not allow that. Instead of substituting a short-term solution for immediacy (as had the mayor), the honorable Kriss goes "long," and accuses the homeless demand for immediate surcease as being their long-term desire (to camp endlessly), which no one on the street had suggested. 

Thus, he shows that those who do not live on the street speak a different and inept language. For them, a tent represents "camping," as an instrument for living away from home, and enjoying nature. For a homeless person, a tent is an item of clothing essential for surviving the elements. 

But why has the mayor’s right-hand man preempted the floor? Is it to obfuscate the language of debate? Is it to create confusion by offering a second motion where there was not yet a first one? Is he about to play Iago to the mayor as Othello, with Item 39 itself the innocent Desdemona? 

Only Sophie, the fair maiden of the north, wants to know what Kriss is doing. (30:06) 

And only the soft-spoken and keen-eyed Cheryl, with the soul of Minerva, asks for regulations that would assist people in retrieving what the police seize from them. (2:29:40) 

Second Act – the animus of contradiction

When the mayor finally opens the floor to public comment, the play erupts in conflict, as the room rises in anticipation, and then outrage. (34:13) Concerned citizens come forward with eloquent statements, making strong arguments for calling off the harassment, and for listening more intently to the political statements of the homeless. They understand the contradiction between “health and safety” and the actions of the police. Indeed, Mike Zint went into the hospital shortly thereafter because he had lost so much of his clothing to past raids. 

The mayor, bound by a tradition he does not know how to contest, is blind to the role of political structure in the conflict that ensues. Time itself becomes a repression, and thus an arena for revolt. The more people line up to speak, the less time they get. Speaking against the clock, they become aggressive, antagonistic, thrashing against restrictions on their freedom of speech. Against this, the council sinks into defensiveness, bombarded by monologues, and barred by that tradition from opening a conversation that would transform the heat of commentary into the fertility of broad participation. 

As if to add insult to the repressiveness of time and distance, when “public comment” is closed, five people in suits take their seats before the council dais, and enter into discussion on Item 39. (4:03:42) Who are these people? They are not introduced. They don’t introduce themselves. The city manager had simply said, “Our staff will be coming in shortly.” (4:02:49) Yet they enter into dialogue with the council. One of them explains: “The city has a contract with Dorothy Day House, a $30,000 contract that covers about 45 days or nights every winter … currently we have several different locations that we can use. … [they will be opened] if the weather is 40 degrees or below or has a 30% chance of rain in the forecast.” (4:04:18) 

Then why are the police seizing property rather than transporting people on the street to these shelters? Something is rotten in Denmark. 

What the audience has witnessed is that those who have a stake in solutions to the problem have no dialogic participation in arriving at them, while those who have no stake participate through real dialogue in arriving at their own solutions. 

Scene two – “Cry havoc”

Now the actors move into position. It opens with the honorable Kriss stepping forward to explain what he has done with his proposal, which he has read into the record. He abjures the camping, and bespeaks his desire for indoor beds for everyone. And with a subdued flourish, he makes his motion. Susan of the hills seconds it. 

The fair Sophie turns her gentle frown into words, and speaks of the virtue of the original Item 39. Without ado, she proposes it whole and wholeheartedly, and makes it her own, though perforce a substitute motion, since there is one already on the floor. The soft-spoken and keen-eyed Cheryl seconds this one. 

And thus dramatic chaos rolls onto the stage and begins its flowery dance. Two motions there are, vying for attention. The first one presents itself as an amendment to the second one, though the second one had not yet been made. And the second one presents itself as a substitute for the first one, though the second one is the original. Each one is thus procedurally subordinate to the other. 

One is reminded one of that famous paradox, created by two written statements divided by a vertical line. The statement on the left side says “the statement on the right is a lie.” And the statement on the right says “the statement on the left is true.” If the left-side statement is true, then the right-side statement is lying when it says that the left side statement is true. Which means the left side statement is false. If the left-side statement is false, then it means that the right-side statement is true (not a lie), which means that the left-side statement is true (not false). In short, the left-side is false if it is true, and true if it is false. 

If the honorable Kriss is only amending the mayor’s proposal, then the mayor’s proposal (as made into a motion by the fair Sophie) cannot be a substitute, and must be the main motion. If Sophie’s motion is a substitute, then Kriss’s motion is the main motion, and not an amendment. 

Either Kriss, the veritable right-hand man, is trying to steal the mayor’s thunder by preempting him with the mayor’s own invention, or he and the mayor are in cahoots to create as situation of paradox. We discern the probable tragic outcome wherein nothing can get done by the council as it chases itself through substance and substitution. And the police campaign to destroy those who protest their poverty will then proceed unhindered. Again. 

In the next act, all that is foreseen will indeed be seen. 

Third Act

Scene one – the Capoeira Circle

The council grinds on under the power of paradox, trudging through its structure-generated conflicts, though they be time-honored procedures. And things only get worse, as the paradox transforms itself into a circle, thanks to the morose genius of the City Manager. 

But first, the brave Ben enters the fray, armed as he is with a new concept. (4:29:01) Ben wants a quick solution to the problem. He opts for the autocratic, a tsar, a knight in shining armor who can control all and fix everything. 

The manager responds positively, offering to set up an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to expeditiously handle both immediate needs and enforcement. (4:31:30) As she puts it, it “puts us into an emergency situation where all hands on deck come into a process where we are all day working on this particular item and we can find resources both internally and externally.” 

Ben likes it. He wishes to make a motion to accept this executive solution. But with two motions on the floor, he must offer a friendly amendment to one of them. He chooses the original item moved by the fair Sophie as a substitute to that of the honorable Kriss. And someone whispers in the audience, “hang onto your hats, folks; we’re in for a wild ride.” There are now five characters on stage, all moving in their own way – like five bodies fighting in Capoeira fashion, making motions toward each other without ever making physical contact. 

The manager asks if Ben’s motion is to focus on shelters. Ben says yes. Kriss steps forward and offers to facilitate Ben’s proposal by removing his own. (4:33:12) Quite taken by it, he finds the EOC marks a better strategy than Item 39, one that seems somehow closer to his own (that is, to getting people off the street). He doesn’t explain why his and the mayor’s might be at odds, but Ben’s and Item 39 certainly are. They move by different rules. 

When the honorable Kriss withdraws his motion, the mayor asks the others if they would accept Ben’s as "friendly." And they agree. But it is short-lived friendship. Ben’s motion is to be a friendly amendment to motions that are to be withdrawn. (4:34:42) The manager then pronounces the need for a direct council decision on outcome, wishing to know what the EOC is to accomplish. The mayor turns it back and asks her what she would envision. She names storm and warming shelters, and refers to Kriss’s motion. 

They are all just spinning the wheel. (4:38:24) Kriss has deferred to Ben, Ben has deferred to the manager, and the manager has deferred to Kriss. They all circle each other. And the mayor has deferred to the circle. 

Scene two – centrifugal tearing of the fabric

The circle explodes when the soft-spoken and keen-eyed Cheryl brings up the critical issue that no one had wanted to hear about or address, namely, the cessation of the constant police raids. (4:38:38) 

In her quiet way, she was the only one listening. But when she makes her own friendly amendment concerning the raids, the whole house of cards falls to the ground. Which motion is she to befriend with her forbidden idea? Struck by the possibility (or impossibility) of such friendliness, the mayor suggests that all motions be withdrawn. 

To do so, the seconds must agree along with the motion-makers. Kriss agrees, and Susan of the hills agrees. Sophie withdraws hers. And everyone holds their breath. But the major moves on to consider passing the EOC. He thus fails to ask the keen-eyed Cheryl if she too agrees. Thus, they proceed to the business that the manager directs, leaving Item 39 open yet dead on the table, unwithdrawn yet discarded and disregarded, a victim of the whispered war between would-be suitors. Sophie tries to revive it, but to no avail. (4:47:40) Thus, all the mayor’s desire for Item 39, stated in his introduction, comes to its tragic ending. 


Council passes the EOC. Some of the short term issues ride along with it, because the manager has included them. In other words, it is she, the staff, who makes the EOC motion for the elected. And most of the veritable “short-term solutions” are then shunted to an ad hoc subcommittee which will report back a month later. So much for the immediate problem. 

On the winter solstice, the police raid the FTCFTH site and destroy it, taking most of the people’s possessions. For the police, though, once wasn’t enough. They raid the same people again that same afternoon over near city hall where they went after the first raid. In this second instance, the police even went so far as to grab possessions out of people’s hands. 

The police of course report that they had received many complaints about the "encampment." And of course, they do not divulge who complained. Whoever it was, it wasn’t the neighbors who lived nearby, and who had been seen supporting the encampment, bringing it food and other things. 

A post-mortem

Thus government officials end up playing with their constituent’s lives, as if they were children playing cowboys and Indians, making up rules as they go along – or rather, making up roles. And ignoring the sadism that spices up the raids. 

The city council clearly misconceived of itself. It has inherited a structure whose purpose is to prevent it from forthrightly dealing with critical issues, nor with public participation. That old structure is based on a hierarchy of discourse between public comment and council debate, and on the prevention of dialogue between the public and the council. Yet this council was elected through the influence of popular movements, not just by “getting out the vote.” By substituting pragmatics for democracy, the rules of “public comment” guarantee insularity from those movements. Thus, the council wallows in paradox, sorely needing a different relation between itself and the people. And having only insular executive solutions to the need. 


Something happened on the way to the book tour

Carol Denney
Monday December 26, 2016 - 01:33:00 PM

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's article ("Rallies helping Trump", San Francisco Chronicle, 12-25-2016) conveniently forgets that another candidate utilized large rallies unaccountable to his political party; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders, a long-time Independent, suddenly became a Democrat for this most recent election and used large rock-concert style rallies to undermine the most experienced, best qualified Democratic candidate - with Robert Reich's blessing. I have yet to hear any mea culpa from Reich, who ought to acknowledge his own role, however minor, in electing Trump.

But he's not alone. Sanders supporters, in a magnificent show of denial, pressured the Electoral College delegates to revolt, a tactic which not only unnecessarily underscored Trump's victory but made eliminating the Electoral College look more partisan, therefore making it ultimately more difficult to accomplish. This followed on the heels of the Green Party's desperate recount efforts, another strategic backfire. Trump had spent his entire campaign implying that the vote itself was "rigged", a banner his opposition is apparently now inexplicably willing to carry. 

But lack of coherent strategy is the guiding principle at present for those who consciously went out of their way to insist that Occupy slogans be part of the Democratic platform and mischaracterized the strongest Democratic nominee as not just corrupt, but worse, unfashionable. The youth vote remains fickle and weak, but could have made a difference in split states or at least as part of the door-knocking, voter turnout team. Imagine an election with Senator Sanders working on behalf of his party instead of against it until the damage to the party's obvious nominee was too deep and any effort was too late. 

The misogyny so obvious in this election had its wheels greased by Reich, Sanders, and a lot of table-pounders who love the optics, the "momentum" to use Sanders' word, of large rallies and are willing to trade it for the PTA meetings and community groups where women toil unnoticed and unnoted in communities nationwide holding fragile families together and forging life-saving connections. Trump's rallies, like Sanders', were full of chanted slogans, disdain for "establishment" politics, a complete lack of childcare, and voters whose commitment to electoral politics lasts until the music stops. Sanders and Reich will still sell their books - to smaller crowds - while we are left to pick up the pieces. 

New: Does it matter whether he lived or how he died?

John McMullen
Sunday December 25, 2016 - 05:47:00 PM

I read an article in the Washington Post about the birth of Jesus not being so important as his resurrection. Then they went on about whether Jesus really existed.

Wouldn't it be great if it relied on the teachings and example of the man, regardless of his existence, history, fact, or fiction? That we all loved our neighbor because of the METAPHOR of Jesus? This would preclude our having to believe in things that very likely didn't happen since all our experience tells us it isn't so, that no one actually comes back from the dead except in horror films, no one rises into the sky except in sci-fi.  

At one time we were ignorant children, but then we learned how to read and the rules of logic and science, We wouldn’t have to believe in Santa anymore or be good for fear of not getting a reward, and for fear that someone other than NSAnta is monitoring us when we are sleeping and is aware of our movements when we are awake. We could be good for goodness' sake, and be moral because it is the right thing to do. We would have to find another reason to exterminate our fellow humans other than what fantasies they believe in. We wouldn’t have to keep our wives and daughters captive based on transcribed hallucinations inspired by too much time in the desert heat or monsoon wet from 1500 years ago or more.  

The paranoia and blind obedience has not worked out very well so far. It puts us on the track to believe in and do what we are told which was probably pretty important for its time, but the cognitive dissonance (holding two opposing thoughts, feeling one way and thinking another) has been getting in the way of our human development and belief in the scientific method. And we wouldn’t hold a not-so-secret belief that we will rejoice when the world ends. And the guilt, oh the guilt that destroys lives. Our symbol could be the light of love, an acceptance of our humanity--that we have been given the gift of sentience and reason, that we are sexual creatures and if we are careful, reasonable, and keep our promises that we can revel in the one act that surely can be spiritually ecstatic: I offer as evidence from that we most always invoke the name of the deity at that most thrilling of moments that takes over our senses. No more scary beliefs that torturing a victim to death will save us from God’s wrath or kneeling before a gruesome image. 

Does it matter whether he lived or how he died? What are the important messages? Accumulating wealth is detrimental to our spiritual health. (Hmmmm…that could have influenced recent events much more than any hacking did.) That this man with the message of love was a bastard child who was lucky enough to have man raise him with love though he knew he wasn’t his father—he had to learn it from somewhere and the examples that inspire you begin at home. He came from a working class family. He spoke truth to power regardless of the consequences—and in his case there were some serious consequences that make Guantanamo and dark CIA sites seem like nursery school--and was a victim of capital punishment as a political prisoner. He came to the defense of women and their sexuality, and appointed one of them to a high position in his organization in a time when women were treated pretty much like they are in Afghanistan. He strongly suggested that we withhold judgement so that we might establish a precedent wherein we are not pre-judged. Have mercy, make peace, that the poor are special (hey, Mark added the “in spirit” disclaimer just to throw us and give the rich a way around it), be meek, aspire to a purity (now this is good place to insert “in spirit”), and to seek what is right regardless of the prospect of losing your job, going before the tribunal, incarceration in supermax, or being machine gunned in the stadium or “disappeared.” Charity. Hope. But most emphatically and preeminently, Love. It will light up your life, and light up the world. I think if we followed that, the presents we bought would be those to give to the poor, and hugs would replace nerves and exhaustion and fights about the decorations not being perfect. 

Not a bad example at all and an excellent norminative ethical system to pursue. On a rational and moral basis.  

Merry Christmas everyone. 


District attorney says New Year's Eve concert is a scam

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday December 23, 2016 - 01:03:00 PM

A concert that's being promoted in Berkeley on New Year's Eve that supposedly will benefit the Alameda County Food Bank is a scam, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office said Thursday. 

The District Attorney's Office said, "The 'I Love the 90's Music Fest' or 'New Years Eve 90s Music Fest' is currently being advertised online, but the event is not taking place." 

Websites promoting the concert say it will feature 1990s acts such as Dru Hill, K-Ci & Jojo, Next, Silk, Color Me Badd and SWV. 

The websites list a phone number that people can call to buy tickets as well as an office space that's being temporarily rented at 1300 Clay St., Suite 600, in Oakland. 

The websites say AFAA Sports is organizing the concert but it doesn't appear that such an outfit exists. 

The websites say, "Proceeds benefit Alameda County Food Bank" but food bank spokesman Michael Altfest said Thursday that the food bank doesn't have any affiliation with the concert. 

Altfest said the food bank didn't know anything about the phony concert until it was notified by the District Attorney on Tuesday. 

He said people who want to donate to the food bank can do so by visiting its website. 

Altfest also said there are many legitimate events being held in the Bay Area during the holiday season that are helping to raise money for the food bank. 

The District Attorney said people who have purchased tickets to the fake event or have any other information about it should call their consumer protection division on (510) 383-8600. 

The tickets are advertised as costing between $65 and $129 each, with the higher-priced tickets offering "a meet and greet." 

The websites promise four party rooms, three dance floors and seven bars, party favors, a hot and cold seafood buffet with champagne and desserts and a late night breakfast bar. 

The concert's location is unclear. The websites say it will be held in downtown Berkeley but also that it will be held "aboard a harbor lights yacht."



Is Berkeley becoming Scrooge City?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 23, 2016 - 01:06:00 PM

A couple of days before Christmas, right here in Berkeley, a group of people protesting the city's inadequate provision for homeless residents are being regularly rousted from their tents and sleeping bags in various locations around the city. As readers of this site are well aware, I think this is an expensive and ultimately pointless exercise which serves no genuine public purpose. There’s just no good reason to turn Berkeley into Scrooge City for the holidays, as our city employees appear determined to do. 

This crusade on the part of our city manager and staff has been the subject of heated controversy on the very valuable NextDoor.com website, well worth reading. Important issues have been raised. 

(Yes, I know, some don’t approve of NextDoor because some misguided individuals use it for racial profiling of people they suspect of being criminals, but around here they’re sternly reproved by the rest of us when they do that. The management of the site is also attempting to correct this problem with some success.) 

The homeless encampment situation as discussed there boils down in my mind to analyzing two themes, both of them rooted in the U.S. Constitution. 

First, a variety of recent court cases relying on the 8th Amendment (“cruel and unusual punishment”) pertain to discouraging prosecution of those sleeping/camping in public places if they have no real alternative to doing so. For a full analysis of what’s being talked about, see, for example, this: 


Second, the specific group being repeatedly ousted in Berkeley is loosely organized under the rubric of First They Came for the Homeless. They have clearly enunciated their intent in setting up these camps in order to call attention to the general lack of suitable housing for the sizeable segment of the population who are currently homeless. Because of the political nature of their statements, they can claim 1st Amendment protection for their actions. It’s generally accepted that government can, within reason, regulate the time, place and manner of political expression—so it would be up to a court to decide how this particular situation fits that standard, but it’s an open question.  

What is obvious to me is that the repeated raids and seizure of tents, sleeping bags, etc. are bad public policy. Seattle is well ahead of Berkeley in its efforts to craft a new model--among other things the mayor there has announced that he won’t be rousting people from sites where they’re not doing any damage. Efforts are underway to designate several approved camp sites in Seattle, accompanied by a host of services, all in aid of meeting the 8th Amendment standards under discussion around the country. Permanent small units are also in consideration. 

At the last city council meeting, the new councilmembers took some small steps in the right direction, but much more is needed. It seems to me that the lawn of Berkeley’s Maudelle Shirek building, the Old City Hall, would be a good place for a first approved camp site since bathroom access could be offered there relatively easily, and not much else is going on there at the moment. 

There’s always the chance that protests will continue to take the form of civil disobedience, with the emphasis on the “DIS”, so we might expect that protest sites will be around for the foreseeable future. It’s just plain foolish to continue this cat-and-mouse exercise while better solutions are being planned. More than that, it’s inhumane, sadistic even, to enforce what is believed to be the law by means of dawn raids in cold rainy weather accompanied by seizure of property. 

The city manager has been justifiably praised, notably by Councilmember Worthington, for copying Seattle’s strategy of commandeering a variety of city resources using the Emergency Operations Center structure to expand the number of homeless people who can be accommodated in various day and/or night indoor refuges in the near term. But the total number of individuals who are being accommodated by this strategy is about 200 tops, as compared to a low-estimated 800 homeless population who must eventually be housed in some way for the duration. 

The cynical among us might suggest that all this additional attention at this time amounts to an 8th Amendment CYA maneuver aimed at compliance with recent court opinions, and they wouldn’t be completely wrong. The only glitch in such a strategy would be that offering 1st Amendment protesters shelter per 8th Amendment requirements is not a neat fit.  

Though protest participants might be able to sleep overnight at the North Berkeley Senior Center, they don’t relinquish their right to raise the question of whether all of their homeless colleagues are adequately served by sleeping outside instead. That’s a distinction which at least one progressive- leaning councilmember seems not to be able to grasp.  

Tomorrow is both Christmas Eve and the start of Hanukkah, both feasts associated with light in darkness, a rare confluence which we might hope would enlighten the misguided city staff about the error of their acts. It’s time and past time to for them back off these stupid raids until the City Council meets again in late January to provide clear guidance about what the right policy should be.  

And of course, Happy Holidays, whichever ones you might celebrate, to all of you. 

P.S. A rumor is abroad that City Attorney Zach Cowan will be retiring in April. This might be an opportunity to replace him with an energetic and forward-looking attorney who can help the council find creative solutions to some of these conundrums. 



The Editor's Back Fence

What should we do in this season?

Saturday December 24, 2016 - 10:24:00 AM

Here's a seasonal message for the Berkeley powers-that-be. Stay tuned for the last verse,and it doesn't only apply to Christians. 

Public Comment

"Respite" Care? No.

Mike Zint
Friday December 23, 2016 - 01:30:00 PM

A few day ago, I was released from the hospital into a "care facility" through BACS. Last night was my third night here. This is supposed to be respite care. It is not medical at all. I still have not seen a nurse. 

Last night, my drug abusing roommate spent the entire night puking. The tiny room has about a half gallon of vomit on the floor and smells horrible. My roommate has been going through my gear, taking what he wants. The food is not enough for a child's meal. No working cooking facilities, no toilet seat, and it took a special phone call and an attorney to get me a mattress. 

When the city of Berkeley chooses to ignore homeless, we die. This place is making me weaker, not stronger. Alta Bates hung up on me when I contacted them and tried to resolve this situation. 

So, Mr. Mayor, Kriss Worthington, and the rest of city council, is this what you mean by helping the poor? These reasons are why we demanding tents. You lie about what is offered, and spin stories to make yourself look good. Look at the photos, and put yourself in my situation. This is the lie you are covering up. And to say everything is good shows you are out of touch or full of shit. 

House cleaning just left my room. They left this behind in disgust. Is this how you want to be cared for? Remember, my lungs are ruined and I can not move more than a few feet at a time. Is that cigarettes on the ground? An aluminum pipe for for drugs? My tent is a much better choice than BACS. Respite care, my ass. More murder of the poor. 

Please share. 


Mike Zint is a founder of First They Came for the Homeless and was a resident of their settlement until getting sick. Thomas Lord to forwarded this to the Planet. 



Jagjit Singh
Friday December 23, 2016 - 01:25:00 PM

According to the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, one child is dying every 10 minutes in Yemen, victims of devastating air attacks by Saudi Arabia. Britain and the United States have sold Saudi Arabia billions of sophisticated weapons which have been used indiscriminately in its ongoing conflict with Houthis rebels causing devastating civilian deaths. In addition, the US continues to refuel Saudi planes allowing them to intensify bombing raids leading to more fatalities. Missile fragments have the unmistakable markings of British and American defense ordinances. This is fueling intense hostility against the coalition partners, the British, US and the Gulf States, who seem totally unconcerned by the ongoing human suffering. Over half a million children are suffering severe malnutrition and 2.2 million others are in urgent need of care. Over 58 hospitals have been bombed by coalition airstrikes. 

The Saudis are also blocking food supplies entering Yemen. According to the Times of London reporter, Iona Craig based in Sana’a, a high profile strike killed 140 civilians in a double-tap strike killing first and second responders. Our ongoing unconditional support of Saudi Arabia makes us and the British complicit in war crimes. This must stop. 

I ask readers to call the White House, Comment Line 202-456-1111 (9 am – 5 pm Mon – Fri PST) and demand an immediate halt to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. 

Russian Spying

Tejinder Uberoi
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:29:00 PM

Dirty tricks seem to be endemic to American politics. Recall the bugging of the Democratic Party offices by President Nixon or hiring a woman to strip naked at a Democratic press conference and scream her love for one the attendees. But Donald Trump and his Russian spymasters have accomplished the impossible – the theft of the American presidency and our democracy. It is a pity that senior Clinton officials failed to take action after an FBI agent issued repeated warnings that their computers were being hacked. The CIA failed to issue such warnings and block the intruders. Putin must have laughed uproariously at President Obama’s tepid response at their hacking admonishing them to “cut it out.” 

Sadly, the CIA has a dismal history of predicting world events from 9/11, Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its incursion into Ukraine and its intervention in Syria. Before we point an accusing finger at the big bad wolf, Vladimir Putin, and his ‘gang of depolorables’, we should recall the CIA’s decades long misdeeds in overthrowing democracies who failed to bend to our will.  

A few examples:  

1953 CIA overthrows the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh. 

1954 CIA overthrows the democratically elected Jacob Arbenz of Guatemala. 

1957-1973 The CIA carries out approximately one coup per year trying to nullify Laos democratic elections. 1959 The CIA helps the thug, “Papa Doc” Duvalier become dictator of Haiti. Multiple failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro including exploding cigars. 

As the saying goes, “what goes around comes around”. 


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Dispatches 2016 News Awards

Conn Hallinan
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:17:00 PM

Each year Dispatches from the Edge gives awards to individuals, companies and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016. 

The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including: 

  • General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
  • Panavia Aircraft Company’s $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can’t fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can’t shoot straight when the weather is hot.
  • The British company BAE’s $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down “whenever we try to do too much with them,” a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be “catastrophic.”
But the hands down winner is Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Lightning stealth fighter. At a cost of $1.5 trillion it is the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history. Aside from numerous software problems, pilots who try to bail out risk decapitation. The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation recently released an assessment of the F-35’s performance that states, “In an opposed combat scenario,” the “aircraft would need to avoid threat engagement and would require augmentation by other friendly forces.” Translation: “If the bad guys show up, run for your life and pray your buddies arrive to bail you out of trouble.” 

Lockheed Martin also gets an Honorable Mention for its $4.4 billion littoral combat ship, the USS Zumwalt, which had to be towed out of the Panama Canal. The ship also leaks, as do other sister littoral combat ships, including the USS Freedom

Note: U.S. students are currently $1.3 trillion in debt. 

The Dr. Frankenstein Award to the U.S. Air Force for zapping the brains of drone operators with electricity in order to improve their focus. The electrical stimulation was started after scientists discovered that feeding the pilots Provigil and Ritalin was a bad idea, because both drugs are highly addictive and Provigil can permanently damage sleep patterns. Nika Knight of Common Dreams reports that “European researchers who studied the brain-zapping technique years ago warned that the technology is, in fact, extremely invasive, as its effects tend to ‘spread from the target brain area to neighboring areas.’” 

The Golden Jackal Award goes to United Kingdom oil companies BP and Royal Dutch Shell for their lobbying campaign following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Executives of the companies met with UK Trade Minister Baroness Elizabeth Symons five months before the U.S. attack to complain that the Americans were cutting them out of the post-war loot. 

According to Parliament’s 2016 Chilcot Report on the Iraq War, Symons then met with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to tell him it was a “matter of urgency,” and that “British interests are being left to one side.” Straw dutifully told Blair to raise the issue “very forcefully” with President George W. Bush, because U.S. companies are “ruthless” and “will not help UK companies unless you play hardball with Bush.” 

Runner up in this category is the Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service journalism for publishing Edward Snowden’s revelations about illegal U.S. wiretapping and then called for the whistleblower to be charged with espionage. Glenn Greenwald—who met with Snowden and wrote stories about the scandal for The Guardian—said “The Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in US media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own source…. That is warped beyond anything that can be described.” 

The Thin Skin Award is a five-way tie among the governments of Spain, India, Israel, Turkey and Thailand: 

*Spain-Under Spain’s 2015 public security law—nicknamed the “gag rule”—police are trying to fine a woman for carrying a bag on which was written “All Cats Are Beautiful.” The police say that the writing and color of the bag is “traditionally associated with insults to the police” and that the four capital letters really mean “All Cops Are Bastards.” 

*India: The rightwing government of Narendra Modi is proposing a law that would make it illegal to publish any map indicating that Kashmir is disputed territory divided between India and Pakistan. Currently such maps are censored by either preventing the publication’s distribution or covering the maps with black stickers. The new law would fine violators $15 million and jail them for up to seven years. 

*Israel: The Ministry of Education has removed a novel—“Borderlife” by Dorit Rabinyan about a romance between a Jewish woman and a Palestinian man—from the list of required reading for Hebrew high schools literature classes. Education official Dalia Fenig says, “Marrying a non-Jew is not what the education system is educating about.” 

Turkey: In the aftermath of July’s failed coup, novelist and journalist Ahmet Alten, and his brother Mehmet, a professor of economics, were arrested for “colluding with the military” even though both men are known to be sharp critics of the Turkish armed forces. The prosecutor had no evidence against the men, but charged them with giving “subliminal” and “subconscious” messages backing the coup during a TV talk show. The authorities also closed down the Smurfs, Maya the Bee, and SpongeBob SquarePants, because the cartoon characters were speaking Kurdish on Zarok TV, a station that does programming in the Kurdish language. According to Al-Monitor, “Many social media users went into lampoon mode, asking, “Who is the separatist: SpongeBob or Papa Smurf?” 

*Thailand: Patnaree Chankij, a 40-year old maid, is to be tried by a military court for breaking the country’s lèse-majesté’ law that makes it a crime to insult the royal family or their pets. She replied “ja” (“yeah”) to a private post sent to her on Facebook. She did not agree with the post, comment on it, or make it public. One man is currently serving a 30-year sentence for posting material critical of the Thai royal family. Following the military coup two years ago, the authorities have filed 57 such cases, 44 of them for online commentary. One person was arrested for insulting the king’s dog. 

The Cultural Sensitivity Award goes to Denmark, France, and Latvia. 

The center-right Danish government, which relies on the racist Danish People’s Party to stay in government, passed a law that confiscates valuables, including jewels and cash, from refugees. Immigrants can only keep up to $1,455. The Danish town of Randers also required pork to be used in all public day care centers and kindergartens in what the Socialist People’s Party (SPP) charges is aimed at Muslims. “What do children need? Do they need pork? Actually not,” said Charlotte Molbaek, a Randers Town Council member from the SPP. “Children need grownups.” 

Several French towns run by rightwing mayors have removed alternatives—like fish or chicken—from school menus when pork is served. On those days Muslim and Jewish children eat vegetables. 

The rightwing government of Latvia is banning the wearing of full veils, in spite of that fact that, at last count, there were three such women in the whole country. Former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga told the New York Times, “Anybody could be under a veil or under a burqa. You could carry a rocket launcher under your veil.” 

A runner up in this category is former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who, during a speech in Kiev, said that Ukrainians should stop complaining about the economic crisis that has gripped the country since the 2014 coup that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych. “Anyone who believes that life is bad in Ukraine should go to Liberia, where the standard of living is much lower, and then you will be thankful.” 

The Head In The Sand Award to British Prime Minister Theresa May for closing down the government’s program to study climate change. A co-winner is the conservative government of Australia that laid off 275 scientists from its climate change program. Some were rehired after an international petition campaign, however, the leading international researcher on sea levels, John Church was let go permanently. 

In the meantime, the U.S. Air Force is spending $1 billion to build a radar installation in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Atoll is halfway between Australia and Hawaii and is only a few feet above sea level. It is estimated that sea levels will rise at least six feet by 2100, but the increase is moving far faster than scientists predicted. “The future does not look very good for those islands,” says Curt Storlazzi, and oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Service. 

The Little Bo Peep Award to the U.S. Defense Department for being unable to account for $6.5 trillion in spending. Yes, that is a “T.” According to Mandy Smithberger, director of Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight, “Accounting at the Department of Defense is a disaster, but nobody is screaming about it because you have a lot of people in Congress who believe in more military spending.” 

According to UK watchdog group Action on Armed Violence, the Pentagon also can’t account for 1.4 million guns shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The CIA won some laurels in this category as well. According to an investigation by Al Jazeera and the New York Times, Jordanian intelligence operatives stole millions of dollars in U.S. weapons bound for Syria. Some of the guns were used to kill Americans at a police training school in Amman. 

The Annie Oakley Award to the American firearms manufacturers and the National Rife Association (NRA) for their campaign to arm kids. The guns for tots are lighter than regular firearms and have less recoil. They are also made in “kid-friendly” colors, like pink.  

Iowa recently passed legislation making it legal for any minor to own a pistol. According to state Representative Kirsten Running –Marquardt, the law “allows for one-year olds, two-year olds, three-year olds, four-year olds to operate handguns,” adding, “We do not need a militia of toddlers.” 

The Violence Policy Center reports, “As household gun ownership has steadily declined and the primary gun market of white males continues to age, the firearms industry has set its sights on America’s children. Much like the tobacco industry’s search for replacement smokers, the gun industry is seeking replacement shooters.” 

If your two-year old is packing and really wants that Star Wars droid, Dispatches recommends you buy it. 


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


THE PUBLIC EYE:Trump and Hitler

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:21:00 PM

It's impossible to read Volker Ulrich's remarkable biography, "Hitler, Ascent: 1889-1939," without being struck by the parallels between Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump. 

1.They were both charismatic political leaders. Watching grainy newsreel footage of Hitler speaking, it's difficult to imagine what a hypnotic spell he cast on his pre-war German audiences. Just as it's difficult to understand the impact of Trump rallies on his devotees. 

Ulrich says that Germans were captivated by Hitler's passion and authenticity. That's what Trump followers say about him. 

2. Both men gave voice to the zeitgeist of their times. In Munich, Hitler claimed that Germany had been betrayed at the end of WWI, "stabbed in the back" by Jews. 

Trump has give voice to the "Alt-Right"/Tea-Party perspective that America has been tyrannized by Obama and the liberal elite. Trump spoke to the "Alt-Right"/Tea Party when he said, "I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves." 

3. Both blamed the "fall" of their countries on a particular group. For Hitler this was Jews. For Trump this is immigrants. 

Hitler conflated Jews, communists, and intellectuals. Trump conflates undocumented immigrants and Muslims. One of the reasons he gives for building "the wall" is to keep out terrorists. (Trump's national-security adviser, Mike Flynn, claims there are Arabic road signs at the southern border.) 

4. Hitler and Trump repeated two principal themes. Hitler claimed that Germany had been betrayed by Jews. He added that for Germany to achieve its historical greatness it had to expand to the east, lebensraum.  

Trump believes that America has been betrayed by its liberal leadership and undermined by immigrants. He claims that previous Presidents didn't know how to negotiate deals and promises he will renegotiate everything, including agreements such as NAFTA and the Iran nuclear disarmament. 

5. After building broad support among under-educated white voters, Trump and Hitler cut a deal with capitalists. Although Hitler ran the National Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP), he made it clear to German business leaders that his aims were not those of traditional socialists but rather to exterminate the threat of communism, which he claimed was led by Jews. In 1933, when Hitler became German Chancellor, he had the support of most business leaders. 

Although Trump initially started out as an outsider, after he secured the Republican nomination for President he cut a deal with conservative business leaders such as the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, and Wall Street billionaires. 

6. Both men had a penchant for telling outright lies. Hitler blamed the 1933 Reichstag fire on communists even though a single deranged man, Marinus van der Lubbe, was caught at the scene. After the December, 2015, San Bernardino shootings, Trump blamed the killings on Muslims, in general, and called for shutting down entry of Muslims into the United States as well as starting a registry of American Muslims. 

Observers described Hitler as a consummate actor who varied his message depending upon the audience. Before partisan crowds he would make extreme statements about "the Jewish problem." Before business leaders, or the press, Hitler would moderate his message. 

Trump's most inflammatory statements have come during his speeches. When speaking to the press he will moderate his message. For example, Trump has told crowds that global climate change is "bunk" or "a hoax." When speaking to the press, he claims to have an open mind on the issue. 

7. Hitler and Trump condoned violence. From his earliest Munich beerhall days, Hitler was surrounded by the S.A. (Sturmabteilung, storm troopers), thugs and hooligans who beat hecklers and members of the political opposition. 

Trump has condoned violence at this rallies, occasionally calling for hecklers to be beaten. His Alt-Right supporters believe that the Obama Administration is tyrannical and have sanctioned armed response. 

8. Both men nurture resentment. Supposedly, Hitler had a photographic memory and never forgot a slight. 18 months after becoming German Chancellor, during "the night of the long knives," he authorized the killing of his rivals and those he believed had slighted him. 

More generally, Hitler inflamed German resentment about WWI and the great depression. He consistently blamed Jews. 

Apparently, Donald Trump never forgets a slight. During his campaign we saw him lash out at Judge Gonzalo Curiel, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and gold-star father Khizr Khan, among others. He has advocated that Hillary Clinton be investigated and "locked up." 

More generally, Trump inflamed Alt-Right/Tea-Party resentment about what they perceive as the loss of their country. 

9. Early in their careers, both Hitler and Trump were underestimated because political observers did not appreciate the power of the demagogic narrative. Hitler was mocked because of his appearance, and lack of governmental experience. Trump was mocked because of his appearance, and lack of governmental experience. 

10. In order to secure power, Hitler and Trump changed the rules. Hitler's NSDAP Party never had a majority in the German parliament but Hitler continually manipulated the rules to gain increased power. (And then, outlawed the opposition.) 

Trump won the presidency, in part, because Republicans changed the rules about who could vote and the role of billionaire-driven Super PACs. Now Trump wants to change conflict-of-interest rules so he can retain control of his business investments while sitting in the White House. 

Comparing Trump and Hitler is not hyperbole. There are chilling similarities. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net or bobburnett.net 

ECLECTIC RANT: Two-state solution delusion

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 09:50:00 PM

A fantasy persists of a Israeli-Palestine peace agreement leading to an independent Palestine state in the land Israel has occupied since the 1967 Mideast War. It must be clear by now to anyone paying attention that Israel has no intention of engaging in meaningful peace negotiations that would result in an independent Palestinian state. Rather, Israel is slowly squeezing the Palestinians where the ultimate goal is to take over the entire country by erecting a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves.  

Israel continues to establish new settlements (called outposts), demolishing homes and uprooting plantations in the process. These settlements are a de facto piecemeal annexation of the West Bank. In the meantime, Palestine has been pushed to the periphery, clinging to economic life. Foreign policy leaders for decades have labeled Israeli settlements as an obstacle for peace.  

Israel has no internationally recognized borders. Before Israel was created, the Jewish communities owned no more than 6% of historic Palestine and represented about 30% of the population. In 1947, the United Nations partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55% of Palestine.  

In the 1948 "war of independence," Israel ended up with 78% of the area of Palestine. This war displaced 750,000 Palestinians and over 450 Arab villages were erased. In the 1967 war, Israel took control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since then, Israel systematically takes more and more Palestinian land to accommodate Israel's settlement project to establish "facts on the ground." Over half a million Israeli settlers now live in the occupied Wast Bank. It doesn't seem to matter to Israel or the U.S. for that matter, that under international law, it is illegal for Israel to move settlers into the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel is about to annex 60% of the West Bank.  

Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu -- the current premier of Israel -- if nothing else is a political survivor. If he lasts as premier till September 23, 2018, he will beat out David Ben-Gurion as the longest serving prime minister in Israel's history. His survival does not depend on reestablishing peace negotiations with the Palestinians. His political dexterity was evident when in 1996 he won election by moving to the center and then winning in 2015 by moving to the right. On the eve of the last election, Bibi stated that he would not allow a Palestinian state. This shored up his right flank. On a trip to Washington, D.C. in November, he stated that he remained committed to a vision of two states for two people. With the war in Syria, the Arab Spring, confronting ISIS, and the Iran nuclear deal, has allowed Netanyahu to avoid dealing with Palestine. 

There are a number of pro-Israel lobbies seeking to influence U.S. policy. The most successful is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Others include JStreet, and the Anti-Defamation League. AIPAC is a self-described pro-Israel lobby. AIPAC was established in the 1950s and now claims 55,000 members. Most candidates for political office feel obligated to appear before AIPAC to woo wealthy pro-Israel campaign donors. All presidential candidates meet with Israel’s advocates. For example, in March 2016, Trump gave a speech to AIPAC's annual policy conference. AIPAC cultivates single-issue partisans. American Jewish voters are overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic, but as Jewish groups moved to the right along with Israel in the 1980s, AIPAC increasingly leaned toward the Republican Party, which from the time of Ronald Reagan is seen as more staunchly pro-Israel than were the Democrats. AIPAC has begun to work with the evangelicals who form the Republican base and tend to be pro-Israel. AIPAC's influence on Congress is immeasurable. Yet, Congress did approve the Iran nuclear deal in spite of Israel's and AIPAC's opposition. 

Over the years, there have been numerous efforts in Congress -- supported by AIPAC -- to pass legislation giving legitimacy and recognition to Israeli settlements by, in effect, making it U.S. policy to treat them as part of Israel.  

Total U.S. aid to Israel is approximately one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though Israel comprises just .001% of the world's population and already has one of the world's higher per capita incomes. Israel's GNP is higher than the combined GNP of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza. With a per capita income of about $14,000, Israel ranks as the sixteenth wealthiest country in the world.  

Why then, is the U.S. so generous with its aid to Israel? According to Stephen Zunes, Israel is "a surrogate for American interests in this vital strategic region." "Israel has helped defeat radical nationalist movements" and has been a "testing ground for U.S. made weaponry." Moreover, the intelligence agencies of both countries have "collaborated," and "Israel has funneled U.S. arms to third countries that the U.S. [could] not send arms to directly,...Iike South Africa, the Contras, Guatemala under the military junta, [and] Iran." 

Does Israel really need so much military aid from the U.S.? Although there is open hostility between Israel and many of the other Arab states, the latter do not pose a direct threat to Israel at this time. Even though an Arab alliance has a quantitative advantage, Israel can rely on its technological and military dominance. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region now that Iran's possible nuclear ambitions have been neutralized by the Iran nuclear deal. It has a military superiority vis-a-vis any possible coalition of Arab forces. It has the fourth largest air force in the world after the U.S., Russia, and China. It is the only state in the region with its own defense industry. And it has the most modern military in the region with about 160,000 personnel.  

In order for a state to gain membership in the General Assembly, its application must have the support of two-thirds of member states with a prior recommendation for admission from the Security Council. This requires the absence of a veto from any of the Security Council's five permanent members. At the prospect of a veto from the U.S., Palestinian leaders opted instead for a more limited upgrade to "non-member state" status, which requires only a simple majority in the General Assembly but provides the Palestinians with some of the recognition they desire. In 2012, the General Assembly accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations, which amounts to a de facto, or implicit, recognition of statehood. The U.S. and Israel were two of the eight votes against. U.S. state department spokesman Mark Toner called it a "counterproductive" attempt to pursue statehood claims outside of a negotiated settlement." Yet, the U.S. threat of a veto in the General Assembly, absent a negotiated settlement with Israel, there will be no UN statehood for Palestine. 

What about the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations under a Trump adminstration. Given Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric during the election and his threat to establish a Muslim registry, they don' t look good. Jason Greenblatt, the Trump team's point person on Israel told Israeli Army Radio, "It is certainly not Mr. Trump's view that settlement activities should be condemned and that it is not an obstacle for peace." 

David Friedman, Trump's nominee to be ambassador to Israel, opposes a two-state solution, supports settlements, and advocates annexation of the West Bank. He certainly is not an ambassador that a U.S. administration would send if it had any plans whatsoever to advance the peace process. Friedman, by the way, is the bankruptcy lawyer that helped Trump with the bankruptcy of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, where employees lost there jobs and contractors went unpaid. 

A new poll shows that a majority of both Palestinians and Israelis support a two-state solution. However, when the pollsters presented respondents with a hypothetical peace agreement based on previous negotiations, only 39% of Palestinians and 46% of Israelis supported it. The hypothetical deal included mutual recognition, a demilitarized Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with land swaps, the establishment of a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem and an Israeli capital in West Jerusalem, and the return of 100,000 refugees to Israel based on family reunification. 

The obstacles have grown so much that a two-state solution has become shaky at best. When there is power imbalance and diplomacy is not working, we can expect an increase in violence.


Jack Bragen
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:35:00 PM

"…and so this is Christmas, and a happy New Year, let's hope it's a good one, without any fear…"  


The recount effort has ended with no change in the outcome of the Presidential election, the recount being the last gasp of a monstrosity that has assaulted the senses of the American people for over a year. I, for one, am relieved it is over with, despite the outcome being the worst one imaginable.  

If mentally ill, for those of us engaged in the news, the election was probably a source of trauma and re-trauma. Now the American people have to deal with Donald Trump as our leader, and this travesty, ironically, could be revenge for not electing Clinton.  

The American people will most likely survive four years of Trump, and, one hopes, will learn from this mistake. I feel bad for Mrs. Clinton, since I wanted to see her win the Presidency.  

Now we have someone handpicked by our adversary, Russia. Yet the Republicans don't care, and they just want to promote their own political careers. The Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves.  

If Putin and Trump get along with one another, it couldn't be entirely bad, because the Cold War is a threat to continued human existence. If we see human rights and basic freedoms deteriorate for a while, it is still not as bad as the total obliteration of life on our planet. If Trump and Putin get along, does this mean that thermonuclear war between the U.S. and Russia is less of a likelihood? I don't know. I don't think anyone knows.  

We do know that with the current administration, tensions between Russia and the U.S. are extremely dangerous. Will they be worse under an emboldened Putin? Will Trump's promise to abandon NATO invite Russia to initiate bolder, more dangerous military action? No one really knows for certain. However, things can not continue as they are without the U.S. and Russia, at some point, reaching a flashpoint.  


It is possible that Trump will do some good things even if most of the things he will do will be bad. I hope that he has some amount of empathy toward people with disabilities who rely on the government's generosity for our livelihood.  

People with disabilities, along with many other disadvantaged categories of people, have been left behind by both democrats and republicans. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was signed into law by George H. W. Bush. Perhaps more landmark legislation could come from another republican [namely Trump] as well. If so, it will make me change my mind about him.  

Ironically it appears to me as though a republican President has a better chance at passing progressive legislation. This could be so because republicans in Congress are less likely to oppose such legislation, while democrats in Congress, when there is a rare democratic majority, will vote for progressive legislation regardless of the source.  

If President-Elect Trump happens to read this article, I hope he will respond by incorporating compassion for disabled people in his policies. We are a disadvantaged bunch of people, many of whom have much to contribute, but who are generally dependent on the help of others.  

Just a note to let you know that my memoir book, "Schizophrenia: My 35-Year Battle-Vignettes of Hardship and Persistence," is now available in electronic format. Readers have already responded with an increase in purchases of both the electronic version and physical copies.

Arts & Events

Voices of Music Perform Corelli, Vivaldi & Telemann

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:28:00 PM

Voices of Music, a Bay Area ensemble headed by Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler, gave a series of holiday concerts in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto featuring virtuoso concertos by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1753), Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767), and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). I attended their Berkeley concert at the Church of St. Mary Magdalen on Sunday evening, December 18. The concert opened with Corelli’s ever-popular Christmas concerto, the Pastorale, Opus 6, No. 8. Featured soloists in this Corelli concerto were violinists Carla Moore and Lisa Grodin, and cellist Elisabeth Reed. One of the themes used by Corelli is based on a tune traditionally played in Rome on Christmas Eve by shepherds on the Zampogna, a rustic bagpipe.  

Next on the program was Telemann’s Recorder Concerto in F Major featuring Hanneke van Proosdij on recorder. The opening movement, marked Affetuoso, is a liltingly beautiful melodic piece, and the second movement offers dazzlingly difficult rapid passagework for recorder, brilliantly performed by van Proosdij. The third movement is a lovely Adagio, which is followed by a double Menuet that brings this work to a close.  

Antonio Vivaldi was an extraordinarily prolific composer, and over 470 of his concertos survive, and evidence shows that many more were lost. Vivaldi composed many of these concertos for the female musicians of Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage for women. Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major, RV 564, features two groups of soloists who constantly interact with one another. Here the soloists were Carla Moore and Gabrielle Wunsch on Baroque violins, and Elisabeth Reed and Tanya Tomkins on cellos. The violins play as one unit and the cellos form a second unit, and they trade themes back and forth in endlessly inventive variations.  

The final work of the first half of the program was a Suite by Michael Praetorius ( 1570-1630), from his volume of French instrumental dances Terpsichore. A Prelude was set to Praetorius’ Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (A Rose Grew Forth). Percussionist Peter Maund was featured, as was Hanneke van Proosdij, who played alto recorder, tenor recorder, and sopranino.  

After intermission, Voices of Music first played a work by Jewish composer Salamone Rossi (1570-c1630), an instrumental setting of Rossi’s hymn in Hebrew, “Shir hamma’a lot, Ashkei kol yeri Adonai. Next came Vivaldi’s well-known Concerto in G minor for two cellos. This was brilliantly played by cellists Tonya Tomkins and Elisabeth Reed, who shone particularly in the lovely Largo. The final movement, marked Allegro, also featured pizzicato accompaniment on Violone by Farley Pearce and subtle accompaniment by David Tayler on archlute.  

Following this was another Vivaldi work, the D minor Concerto, RV 565. Soloists in this concerto were Carla Moore, Lisa Grodin, and Tanya Tomkins. After the violins open this work, a brief Adagio ensues, followed by some of Vivaldi’s notorious “hard knocks,” which may be reminiscent of the three knocks which traditionally were heard at the beginning of a play in the theatre. Vivaldi then presents a fine double fugue, intricately wrought. Then comes a beautiful Largo with cantabile melody played by the first violin over thick string accompaniment. The final movement opens with solo violins, which soon are joined by all the instruments which take up many of the themes heard in the first movement.  

The final work of the program was Telemann’s Ouverture a la Pastorelle. This Pastorale featured bell-like notes imitating a carillon, and vigorous passage-work on alto recorder played by Hanneke van Proosdij. All in all, this was a splendid concert of outstanding concertos by leading Baroque composers, beautifully performed by Voices of Music, a world class chamber music ensemble.