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ECLECTIC RANT: Kudos to Meryl Streep

Ralph E. Stone
Monday January 09, 2017 - 04:31:00 PM

During the Golden Globes, actress Meryl Streep called out Donald Trump for ridiculing a disabled reporter at one of his campaign rallies. Her comments should remind us that Trump's appeal was and is to America's base instincts. The "make America great again" really means taking America back to a time when discrimination of Blacks was rampant, women knew their place, all Muslims were terrorists, the mentally ill were locked away, the physically disabled kept out of sight, and homosexuals knew enough to stay in the closet. 

His appeal did not convince a majority of the popular vote, but did allow him to capture the Electoral College. No one who has studied Trump's background, or paid attention to what he did and said during the campaign, can really believe that Trump is the answer to rural America's real or perceived woes, or make America great again in any positive sense of the word "great." 

Patrick Kennedy Promotes Stacked Coffins for the Homeless (Public Comment)

Aldo Moreason (Grace Underpressure)
Monday January 09, 2017 - 09:58:00 AM
Coffins are an efficient way to use space, as cemetery staff have known for centuries, so this is very green.
Coffins are an efficient way to use space, as cemetery staff have known for centuries, so this is very green.
PATRICK KENNEDY’S PANORAMIC INTERESTS IS HOPING to use city money and city land to situate these magnificent opportunities for poor people to finally live in their own coffin as a way to get both a sense of belonging and get off the streets, not to mention envision their future.
PATRICK KENNEDY’S PANORAMIC INTERESTS IS HOPING to use city money and city land to situate these magnificent opportunities for poor people to finally live in their own coffin as a way to get both a sense of belonging and get off the streets, not to mention envision their future.

Stacked coffins and storage containers may seem like a startling solution to homelessness, but Panoramic Interests press liaison and communications consultant David Friedlander says it’s the logical step for a city which simply wants to stay on the market rate real estate gravy train.

Critics were outraged that the San Francisco Chronicle gave editorial space to what was essentially a commercial for developer Patrick Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests’ most cynical ploy to date, forcing the poor into stacked shipping containers and coffins utilizing San Francisco’s anti-tent and anti-sitting legislation.

“This isn’t green; tents are green,” fumed one local camper. “What idiot camps in a stupid coffin?”

“Dead people do,” pointed out Friedlander, noting that “you never hear complaints from them about it, either.”

“Stacked shipping containers may not be everyone’s first choice for a home,” acknowledged Friedlander, “but neither is the Millenium Tower anymore.” 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is satire.

A modest proposal for Democrats (Public Comment)

Christopher Adams
Monday January 09, 2017 - 10:00:00 AM

Many readers of the Planet are probably also readers of the online New York Times and may have seen the charts published January 3 about the presidential vote. They showed that compared to support for Romney in 2012 support for Trump from voters with incomes of $30,000 or under increased by 16% and that compared to support for Obama in 2012 support for Clinton from voters with incomes of $200,000 or more increased by 8%. Further, they demonstrated that Trump’s tax plan will be beneficial to high-income Clinton voters and inconsequential to low-income Trump voters. The charts are yet another instance, among many already discussed by pundits, of how Trump voters seem to have sabotaged their own self interest. A similar phenomenon was spun into a book a few years ago by Thomas Frank entitled What’s the Matter with Kansas? What’s less discussed is why liberals also vote against their own self interest. The book yet to be written might be titled What’s the Matter with Marin County?. 

Being one of those liberals I suppose that among the reasons for our votes is that we are willing to pay taxes for good schools and universities, we are socially liberal, support environmental causes, and (maybe) are a bit altruistic about the less fortunate in society. But given the trouncing that many of those less fortunate gave us, I suggest Democrats reconsider some of their long held political positions.  

Guns for example. Rural Americans and lots of others love guns and seem to regard any restrictions on their use as tantamount to castration. So why do liberals insist on making gun control an issue that hurts them at the ballot box? There is little evidence that the federal restriction of assault weapons improved anything or that its expiration caused any harm. Firearm deaths, whether purposeful or accidental, are highest in conservative states like Alaska and Mississippi. So why worry about this issue at the national level? If folks in those states want to kill each other, let them do so and not hand the right wing another cudgel at election time.  

Obamacare. Under then-governor Mitt Romney Massachusetts passed the first version of the affordable care act. Now the Republicans plan to repeal the national version. Okay, let them. Can’t California pass its own state version or, better yet, pass a state version of single payer? If the folks in Kentucky and Wisconsin get sick and die without insurance, that’s what they voted for and what their elected senators and congressmen promised. Why should Democrats expend their limited political capital to save these voters from themselves? Democrats should just be sure that repeal allows states to pass a replacement.  

Israel. In a perfect world our Mideast policy would not be dictated by Sheldon Adelson, but it’s not a perfect world, especially with Senator Schumer as minority leader and evangelical voters who believe their unconditional support of Israel will hasten the Rapture. So, with apologies to J Street and many op-ed writers in the Planet, let the embassy move to Jerusalem and let the settlements continue. If Israel wants to have an Arab majority, that’s their privilege. Note, however, that caving in to Israel does not mean scuttling the Iran nuclear treaty which has broader regional implications. 

Taking these three issues off the table will leave liberals and the remaining Democrats in congress with time and energy to tackle the non-negotiable ones remaining, the most important of which is climate change. It can’t wait four years for action. 


Berkeley suspects sought in carjacking

Jade Atkins (BCN)
Saturday January 07, 2017 - 02:55:00 PM

Three people were arrested and one suspect is still at large following an attempted carjacking and robbery in Berkeley early Thursday morning, according to police.  

Police officers responded to the area of Dana Street near Bancroft Way around 1 a.m. on reports of an attempted carjacking. 

A victim told officers that four people attempted to steal her car, but she was able to drive off unharmed. 

Police said the four suspects were also allegedly involved in a robbery near the area of Haste and Fulton Streets just after the attempted carjacking. 

The suspects abandoned their vehicle near Ashby and Florence streets and attempted to flee on foot, before being spotted by an officer. 

Two men and a juvenile girl were arrested, while the fourth suspect is still at large. 

No further has information was immediately available.

Suspect in Berkeley homicide now in custody

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Sunday January 08, 2017 - 02:53:00 PM

A suspect in a Berkeley homicide on Friday is in custody, police said today.  

A watch commander with Berkeley police received a call at about 1:30 p.m. today from Burbank police who said 24-year-old North Hollywood resident Pablo Gomez Jr. was in custody.  

Gomez is the primary suspect in the homicide and also a stabbing on the same day, according to police.  

Officers responded at 11:42 a.m. Friday to a stabbing in the 2600 block of Ridge Road.  

Officers found a woman with serious stab wounds, police said. The woman was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition Friday night.  

As part of the investigation, officers went to the 2400 block of Ashby Avenue where they discovered what appeared to be a violent scene and later a body, police said.  

Police have not released the name of the homicide victim.

Could there be a “Trump Tower” in downtown Berkeley? (Public Comment)

Steven Finacom
Sunday January 08, 2017 - 12:16:00 PM
A graphic representation of the proposed “Sky Deck” signage atop Downtown Berkeley’s highest building. Under current City staff interpretations, this could just as easily read “Trump Tower”
A graphic representation of the proposed “Sky Deck” signage atop Downtown Berkeley’s highest building. Under current City staff interpretations, this could just as easily read “Trump Tower”

Did that provocative headline get your attention? I hope it did.

The good news is that there is not—yet—any such proposal for a building emblazoned with signage saying “Trump Tower” looming over Berkeley.  

The bad news is that if such a naming proposal were to be made, City staff would allow it and issue it an over-the-counter permit. 

Many people will remember the controversial yellow, lighted, “Power Bar” lighted sign that defaced the top of 2150 Shattuck Avenue, the tall dark bronze building at Center and Shattuck, next to the BART station entrance. 

That was eventually taken down and replaced with a “Chase” Bank lighted logo atop the building. The Chase logo lighted signs were recently taken down. 

Now there’s a pending proposal to blazon “Sky Deck” in huge lighted letters twenty-eight feet long across the top of the building on the east (facing the hills and the UC campus) and on the south, facing down Shattuck Avenue. “Sky Deck” is the tenant of the top floor of the building, and they’ve acquired the “naming rights” from the building owners. 

When the proposal was submitted, City of Berkeley staff tweaked it a bit here and there, and issued an administrative permit. They saw no problems with the proposal. 

Hence my headline. If the Trump organization, or some similar controversial entity, got it into its mind to buy or lease the naming rights to that same building, or one of the 190+ foot high-rises planned to be built Downtown, they could similarly get an over the counter permit without any public notice other than a small administrative notice temporarily posted on the facade. 

I recently appealed the “Sky Deck” proposal. 

The matter is set for public hearing Thursday, January 19, at the City of Berkeley Design Review Committee. That’s where it should be stopped. 

Here’s why I’ve made the appeal. 

(1) City policy under the Downtown Plan prohibits the proposed signage. 

Here’s the relevant wording. “Signs on Taller Buildings: Architecture, not advertising, should define the upper elevations of buildings, especially those visible from beyond the Downtown. Commercial signage, advertising signage (including emblems or logos) or building name signage should be avoided on (or) adjacent to the roofs of buildings in Downtown. 

That seems clear enough, doesn’t it?

The lighted “Sky Deck” signs are proposed to be 28 feet long, along two sides of the building, above the roof level. They would be mounted on the metal screen that surrounds the mechanical equipment at the very top of the building—the screen enclosure is a “penthouse” in architectural parlance. 

I’m familiar with this because after the Chase logo signs were approved by staff, I proposed part of the signage wording quoted above to the Planning Commission and they were supportive and adopted it. 

But here’s how the City staff have now reinterpreted things to allow the “Sky Deck” sign. 

Sorry, they said, the Downtown Plan doesn’t apply here because the City’s signage ordinance wasn’t also amended to include this language. This should be a caution to anyone, including City Council members, who think that a “Plan” has legal force in the City. If something in the Plan isn’t convenient, it can be ignored by the people charged with implementing it if there’s some other more lenient City policy they can cite. 

(2) Even if the “Sky Deck” sign were to be allowed, the proposed sign is above the actual roof level of the building. A roof is a roof is a roof. But City staff appear to have re-interpreted the “roof” of the building to be the highest elevation, which would be the top of the penthouse. 

This is nonsensical, no more rational than saying that your chimney or satellite TV dish constitutes the “roof” of your home. The penthouse of 2150 Shattuck isn’t the roof. It’s standing on and above the roof, and it has no roof itself. It’s just an open air enclosure. 

No problem, the staff opine. It has a wall (even if that wall is just a screen) so it’s fair game as a place to put a lighted sign. And according to the staff it’s “in the spirit” of a wall sign, not a roof sign. 

This makes a total mockery of the Plan language. Under the staff interpretation lighted signage can go as high as possible on the building, as long as it’s not on a new scaffolding built above the structure. 

(3) The City staff are also allowing the “Sky Deck” proposal not as advertising, but as “building identification signage.” 

This was the same fiction used to justify the “Chase” bank logos. The building owners, in that case, said fine, we’re happy to have our building called the “Chase Building”. 

Except, once the signs were approved, I could not find anything showing that the building name actually changed. It was still marketed and identified as “2150 Shattuck”. If you looked for an office rental under the name “Chase Building” in Berkeley, nada. If you searched for “2150 Shattuck”, you found listings. Similarly, the low facade and lobby of the building next to the BART plaza never lost their “2150 Shattuck” identification signs.  

My expectation is that the same thing will happen with the “Sky Deck Building”. The signs will go up but you’ll never hear about the “Sky Deck Building”. You’ll just see the sign. It will be, in fact, advertising for a tenant, not “building identification”. 

Why does this issue matter? 

The resolution of the “Sky Deck” proposal has major ramifications for the future of Downtown and the skyline tens of thousands of Berkeleyeans and visitors see every day from City streets, campus buildings, and homes.  

Several “tall” buildings, some of them as high or higher than 2150 Shattuck, are permitted under the Downtown Plan. Two have already been approved. The skyline of Downtown could be festooned with lighted advertising signs that will be as prominent on the Berkeley skyline as the Campanile. 

Next week or next month a proposal could come in for similar lighted advertising signage atop the already permitted “Harold Way” building or Downtown Hotel, and the City staff would presumably approve it under the same rationale they’re using for “Sky Deck”. 

Do you agree that in Berkeley, as the Downtown Plan says, “Architecture, not advertising, should define the upper elevations of buildings, especially those visible from beyond the Downtown”? 

If so, please join in supporting my appeal. 

You can write to the Design Review Committee. Please email your comments next week—Tuesday, January 10, would be a safe deadline—to get them into the official packet for the DRC on January 19.  

Send written comments by email to the Design Review Committee, care of Anne Burns, Design Review Planner. ABurns@cityofberkeley.info 

You can attend the DRC meeting on January 19 and speak in person during the public hearing. The meeting should be at 7:00 at the North Berkeley Senior Center in one of the upstairs meeting rooms.  

Watch here for the agenda, which should appear by January 13 or 14. http://www.cityofberkeley.info/DesignReview/ 

You can read staff reports and my appeal here in the December 2015 agenda packet: 


Berkeley Police seek stabbing and homicide suspect

Alex Kekauoha (BCN)
Saturday January 07, 2017 - 02:57:00 PM

Police in Berkeley are searching for a man suspected of a homicide and the stabbing of another individual on Friday. 

At about 11:42 a.m. Friday, police responded to a call about a stabbing in the 2600 block of Ridge Road in Berkeley.  

Upon arrival, officers found a woman seriously wounded, as well as the person who called police on her behalf, police said. 

Officers provided medical attention until the Berkeley Fire Department arrived and transported her to a hospital, where she is receiving treatment and was listed in stable condition Friday night. 

During the investigation, officers were lead to an address in the 2400 block of Ashby Avenue.  

According to police, evidence at the scene clearly indicated a violent crime had occurred there.  

Much later, the body of an unidentified person was discovered, police said. 

Police have identified the primary suspect of the homicide and the stabbing as Pablo Gomez, 24, of North Hollywood.  

Gomez is described as a Hispanic man, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 110 pounds and with brown hair and brown eyes. 

Gomez is believed to be armed and dangerous. Police are asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact the Berkeley Police Homicide Detail at (510) 981-5741.

Press Release: With massive storms expected, prepare!

Matthai Chakko, Press officer, City of Berkeley
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:14:00 PM

With storms expected to bring heavy rains this weekend, the City of Berkeley has been preparing. So should you.

  1. Clean on and around your property as needed: gutters, rain downspouts, driveways, culverts, trash and debris around fences and gardens, and clear basement drains.
  2. Check submersible pumps and sump pumps to make sure they are operating properly.
  3. Ensure you have flashlights or portable lamps and batteries on hand in case of a power failure.
  4. Program PG&E's power outage number into your phone (1-800-743-5002). This is the best number to call to find out about power outages and when the power is coming back.
  5. Berkeley residents with identification can pick up sand bags at the City Corporation Yard on 1326 Allston Way, Mon - Fri, 8am to 4pm. Residents must show I.D.
For further guidance on how to prepare, the City's Community Emergency Response Team has prepared guides on how to prepare for your pets' safety, power outages as well as a guide for floods and landslides.

Public Works staff will be working throughout heavy storms, day and night. City staff will be available to deal with downed trees or flooding affecting local homes, businesses or streets. In an emergency, they can be reached by dialing 311 on a mobile phone or landline. If outside the city, call 981-2489. Crews will be dispatched and respond as quickly as possible. 

If you see damaged power lines or electrical equipment, call 911 immediately and then notify PG&E at 1-800-743-5002. For those with cell phones, PG&E also has an online outage map

If you experience an outage, PG&E advises people to unplug or turn off all electrical appliances to avoid overloading circuits and to prevent fire hazards when power is restored. Simply leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.  

The City works year round to mitigate the impacts of the rainy season, such as Public Works' ongoing maintenance of approximately 7,000 storm drains, including inspections, cleanout and repair. The department prepares for winter rains by having "all storm days" that remove leaves by hand and with mechanical sweepers and cleans storm drains, culverts and trash rack cleaning. 

The City has also installed a number of green infrastructure projects, which temper storm water to reduce flooding while also reducing pollutants or beautifying neighborhoods.  

The City's Forestry Division prunes trees throughout the year to prepare to keep them healthy, which is critical for events like the coming storm.  

National Weather Service Forecasts indicate that further heavy storms are expected next week as well. The best way to stay safe and dry is to prepare. 

Oakland's Homeless Program is better than Berkeley's

Shane Brodie
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:34:00 PM

Oakland is showing real leadership among Bay Area cities by starting a pilot program which extends garbage collection to homeless camps. Cities like SF and Berkeley are purposefully using their neglect of basic sanitation to force our opinion about health hazards at these camps. Oakland's pilot program is a good start to working with these camps in a compassionate and realistic way, instead of just razing them and disposing of camping gear. 

If we are not going to provide appropriate housing and healthcare services for people, then we need to help them to survive where they are at and in the ways that they can. We need to help people to camp, if we do not provide alternatives that address their needs. 

A viable plan for appropriate housing might be to prioritize housing people first before other problems are solved. We need to create uncrowded temporary housing conditions, instead of the usual stacks of multiple bunkbeds shoved into a small room and locked behind a fence, such as at the men's shelter in downtown Berkeley. We need shelters to be primarily staffed by trained social workers who would then actively transition people into more stable housing and provide one-on-one mental health and addiction services. Currently, shelter workers actively look for minor infractions and deviations in behavior, which creates a hostile and punitive environment that people are unable to comply with and want to avoid. 

Without substantial wrap-around support services, the most vulnerable people are often banned from the shelters and are then unable to access any help and are forced to camp out. I consider it a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if municipalities harass and criminalize the behavior of disabled people that they've excluded from temporary housing, because of unmet healthcare needs or a lack of disability accommodation. 

This exclusion also leads to false reporting (i.e. lies by omission) by municipalities about the number of available beds. The cities look like they have plenty of services available, while at the same time they are restricting availability only to those who can handle very stringent jail-like conditions and rules.

We can do better. Let's follow Oakland's lead and extend city services to all city residents and then work on longer-term plans for reforming conditions at our temporary shelters to meet the real needs of homeless Berkeley residents.

Press Release: Statement From Congresswoman Lee on Voter Disenfranchisement and the Challenge of Electoral Votes

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:24:00 PM

Washington, D.C. – Today Congresswoman Barbara Lee joined with Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee, Maxine Waters, Raúl Grijalva, Jim McGovern, Pramila Jayapal and Jamie Raskin in formally challenging the certification of the electoral votes of several states and released the following statement: 

“During this presidential election cycle, hundreds of thousands of minority voters were disenfranchised before and on Election Day. It’s unconscionable that more than 50 years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, people of color are still denied their constitutional right to cast a ballot. 

"The use of malfunctioning voting machines, the restriction of provisional ballots, the improper purging of voter rolls, and the widely reported incidents of intimidation and misinformation at the polls amount to widespread efforts to disenfranchise and suppress voters across the country. 

"Additionally, I am gravely concerned by the overwhelming evidence showing Russia interfered with our election. History has shown us that democracy is fragile. It is our duty as members of Congress to protect the integrity of our electoral process. This starts with expanding access to the ballot box and defending our elections from enemies both domestic and foreign.  

"The people of the 13th Congressional district elected me to speak for them in Congress. In the face of widespread disenfranchisement and reports of Russian interference with our election, I formally challenged electoral vote certifications during today’s Joint Session of Congress.” 


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations Committee, Vice Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and a Senior Democratic Whip. She serves as chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity.



Updated: Kennedy/Maio Team is BAACKK in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 06, 2017 - 02:58:00 PM

One of the wisest things one of my wise-ass teenage daughters ever said to me was that “unsolicited advice is rarely welcome.” That’s not only true of teenagers, it’s true in spades of elected officials. When they’re running for office, they’re all ears, but when they’ve succeeded in getting elected they’re sure that all of their ideas must be right, and they don’t need you to tell them what to do.

My computer screen and even my print publications these days are full of advice on what our progressive leaders can/must do to combat Donald Trump, so I’m not going to go there today. The obvious problem is that until you know which Trump will be tweeting at you in any given moment, you can’t figure out what to do. Everyone’s just shooting arrows into the air, with no real idea where the target is.

It’s much easier for those who have been around the local track more than once to give unsolicited and possibly unwelcome advice to those who have been newly elected locally with our support. The hugely over-quoted George Santayana observed that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The new mayor and some city councilmembers because of their age or lack of involvement missed some tricks in the city’s past history, so we feel obliged to inform them about what they can’t remember.

Exhibit A: I received this communication from a reader who is a longtime Berkeleyan: 


"The Arreguin administration, with help from Ben Bartlett and Linda Maio, could manage to turn the homelessness crisis into a Patrick Kennedy giveaway.

See the Agenda Committee Jan 9th agenda. Within that, the prospective agenda for the January 24th regular meeting:


36. Referral to City Manager: “Step Up Housing” Initiative - Micro-Units to House
Homeless and Very Low-Income People

From: Councilmembers Bartlett and Maio

Recommendation: Refer to the City Manager to take the following actions through the Ad Hoc Committee on Homeless Solutions: 1. Identify parcels of City owned land for citing assisted-living modular micro unit buildings. 2. Take affirmative steps to speed the permitting and approvals process for the creation of below market housing. 3. Obtain zoning approval and a building permit for a 4 story and approximately 100 unit building consisting of stackable modular units. 4. Upon completing construction, allocate $1,000/month [PER UNIT -tl] from the budget to lease the building. The actual construction costs of the building will be privately financed at no charge to the City. 5. Identify a housing non-profit to be responsible for managing and operating the building. 6. Establish criteria for selecting individuals and determining eligibility. These need-based criteria will take into account seniors, disabled people, and Berkeley natives who have become Financial Implications: Staff time

Contact: Ben Bartlett, Councilmember, District 3, 981-7130 



Kennedy proposes to build sub-standard (160 sq ft) units by slapping together prefab units and collecting $1,000 per month per unit indefinitely. (He wants more money if he has to buy the land). The city will separately pay to manage and maintain the units. The units will be exclusively for the down and out.

None of this has gone before any commission. The City Manager is now apparently a social worker ("Establish criteria for selecting individuals and determining eligibility."). No analysis has gone into whether this is a good strategy for helping people.

Where did this idea come from? Patrick Kennedy sees easy money on the table, although his proposition has already been rejected in [better-informed] cities:


It's unclear how much each unit would cost Kennedy but based on his comments elsewhere, I think it would be $100,000 or less. Assuming a 20 year lease-to-own (so after 20 years, the City gets the depreciated craptastic "housing"), this is like giving a $100M 20 year municipal bond to Kennedy with a yield of something like 4.5%-6%. In addition, Kennedy gets the tax-free use of the land. In addition, on day 0, instead of having $100M in cash, the City will own a white-elephant housing project that has already depreciated. In addition, the City and taxpayers generally will have to further subsidize the building and the tenants. In addition, this gives only 100 units of segregated, substandard housing. In addition, there is 0, nada, zilch integration of this scheme with any kind of comprehensively planned homeless crisis plan." 



The reader has a point, a good point, and I can gloss it a bit based on my own knowledge of history. Way back in the dark ages before the Daily Planet, when Linda Maio and I both thought of ourselves as “progressive activists”, my partner and I were invited to a brunch at her house. Since we were in a high-tech business at the time, I suppose some might have seen us as deep pockets, though we were actually hanging on by a thread at that very moment. 



Much to my surprise, I discovered that all the other guests were developers of one kind or another, including Patrick Kennedy, with whom I’d been engaged in a prolonged tussle over his lust to demolish several historic buildings in order to build the Gaia building. 

(I was snookered on that one. He won. He’s not stupid.) 

She asked us all to contribute to a pet project she was promoting at the time, one with a green-washed veneer which made little sense to me, so I ate my bagels, went home and thought not much more about it. But I was not surprised when later on she was transmogrified into the Bates “I’ve never met a building project I didn’t like” wing of the localites formerly-known-as-progressives. Presumably the other better-heeled guests came through with the cash, because Maio’s pet project materialized on schedule. 

Therefore, I was not at all surprised later on when Planet stalwart reporter Richard Brenneman uncovered these stories: 

Paper Trail Reveals Kennedy and Maio Financial Dealings By Richard Brenneman 11-13-2008 

Court Orders Maio To Testify Over Loan From Developer By Richard Brenneman 10-09-2008 

For everything we published on this topic, see this Google list: 

Evidently Maio never forgets a favor, and now she’s backkkk to return the favor with her main man, PK! 

Newly elected Councilmember Bartlett can be forgiven for not knowing the back story, since eight or nine years ago he was probably just a mere child, but the rest of us should make sure that we let him know that Kennedy is still bad news. If you have any doubts, just try to take in a movie at the non-existent Fine Arts Theater, another Kennedy special with which he snookered Berkeley once again. 

The agenda committee meeting on Monday would be a good place to start: 





2:30 P.M.  

6th Floor Conference Room, 2180 Milvia Street 

Committee Members: Mayor Arreguin, Councilmembers Linda Maio and Sophie Hahn 


UPDATE, Jan. 9: At the agenda committee meeting today, the name of District 8 Councilmember Lori Droste was added to the list of sponsors for this proposal. There are rumors in her district that the triangle of public land on the south side of Ashby just east of College could be one of the available sites for the Kennedy project, if it's big enough. Another possibility in this area would be part of what is now Willard Park. 

UPDATE 2: Councilmember Kriss Worthington has informed me that despite rumors, he's been informed by the city attoney that it is not legal to build dwellings on park land per conditions on a bond issue. That's will be a relief to those who thought otherwise, but the question of where such a project might go is still knotty. 





Let's put the J back in JOY!

Becky O'Malley
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:26:00 PM

A premature Happy New Year to everyone. Even though the holiday lights above our door say "Oy" instead of "Joy", it's really not as bad as it seems, trust me. As I've been telling my granddaughters, I can remember many, many years where we said that the exiting year was so bad, the next one couldn’t be worse: 1968, for example, when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated. And yet it didn’t get unequivocally better…or worse…in 1969, just different.

Then there was 2000, the year the Supreme Court stole the presidency on behalf of the Bushes. We went to DC with our dear friend Patti Dacey to march on the Court in the snow and ice. The weather in DC is really nasty in January, and this was freezing rain. The good thing was that I ended up marching there alongside a woman from Detroit who has also marched with us in the Detroit version of the original March on Washington, and we agreed that some things had gotten much better since then in the civil rights arena. The bad thing, which we didn’t foresee, is that Patti died a few years later, too young, but isn’t it always too young?

And of course, W stayed, but the world survived him somehow.

A friend of German/Iranian background, with vulnerable family members both in Iran and here, asked me apprehensively if I knew what I would do if there were a real fascist takeover of this country, as some are predicting. She wondered what she would be able to do, and I wonder about myself too.

I’ve heard tales of what happened when Japanese-Americans were taken away by a not-even-fascist U.S. government, and I’ve also heard that some of us, though not most, did stand up for what they weren’t even calling then “America values”. My children had an African-American teacher at Berkeley High who told her students how her family took care of the property of Japanese-American neighbors while they were imprisoned, and a friend of my parents did something similar in Watsonville. Wayne Collins, the attorney father of a Berkeley lawyer with the same name, defended the civil rights of the detainees during and after World War II. If the next administration takes out after Moslems, would we be able to do as well as they all did back then? I hope so.  

The big discussion in my family, and especially among my matriarchal cousins around the country, is whether going to DC to march once more on the day after the inauguration of President Dumpf would accomplish anything. Many of our children and grandchildren, especially those on the East Coast, currently plan to go. Most of these are too young to have taken part in marches for peace or civil rights, except for the oldest among them who were in strollers and backpacks, and I do believe they are somewhat envious of their grandparents’ experiences in those days.  

But the big difference I see between then and now is the sensitivity of the powers that be to justifiable criticism. This new guy’s vocabulary seems to be not much more than than the schoolyard nyanyanya-nyanya chant, the triumphant cry of the bully. Not much point in shaming a guy like him, is there? 

Spending the same amount of time and money that a one-time January 21 excursion would cost , when air fares will be sky high, on less visible efforts later into the term might be a better choice. Picking out a few congressmembers in potential swing districts for targeted lobbying could have surer results, either by influencing their votes on key matters or by setting them up for defeat in 2018 if they vote wrong. This could take place both in DC and/or in their home districts—and getting to know some of their voters in such locations would be an especially good idea.  

I wonder if anyone’s working on a list of places to go and people to see with the goal of influencing Congress. Here in Berkeley, some of us might be able to put together something like that with a bit of research.  

Another important avenue will be aiding in whatever way possible efforts at legal defense against any executive branch actions aimed at subverting our civil liberties or emasculating beneficial regulations, especially in the areas of health and the environment. That could include fundraising or volunteer labor.  

On the other hand, the city of Berkeley has just elected a crew of local representatives who will be quite sensitive to conscientious pressure to do the right thing, and it’s our job as citizens to apply that pressure in a fair but firm spirit. There are two places where citizens should focus their efforts. 

Despite repeated attempts to get rid of them, Berkeley’s commissions still wield a lot of potential power, and the mayor and new commissioners can amplify their authority by appointing the right commissioners. In recent years almost all appointees to the Zoning Adjustment Board have been part of—read captives of—the building industry. This must change. 

I’ve noticed, by the way, that Denise Pinkston, a development consultant, who was ex-Mayor Bates’ appointee, has been replaced by Igor Tregub as new Mayor Arreguin’s choice, but in the grand old tradition of revolving doors she’s been re-appointed by Lori Droste, who represents District 8. District 8 voters might or might not be proponents of the kind of market-rate housing expansion which has been the hallmark of the Bates era council, but they should be aware of how she votes and act accordingly.  

Another area which we need to watch is the new city staff. It’s been reported that City Attorney Zach Cowan, Deputy City Manager Jim Hynes and Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Daniels are all retiring, and all three represent an approach to law enforcement which does not represent what seems to be the current will of the people if the recent local election is any guide. The public needs to keep a close eye on who the candidates for replacing them turn out to be, and make their wishes known to their elected representatives. 

Because of Arreguin’s elevation, an election will decide his District 4 council seat in March. Candidates are the eminently well-qualified Kate Harrison and Ben Gould, a young man who’s another fervent devotee of the growth-at-any-cost school of development advocacy. To no one’s surprise, I’ve endorsed her. If you agree, volunteer to work on her campaign. 

As you might have noticed by now, I think that after the inevitable Oy Vehs, it’s just time to get back to work. Here’s a cutesy slogan to print on that big bumper sticker of your dreams: “It’s time for us to put the “J” back in “Oy”.  

We can do it, can’t we? Well, take Sunday and Monday off if you must, but then get cracking! 

The Editor's Back Fence

Don't Miss This: petition against raids on homeless.

Wednesday January 11, 2017 - 02:53:00 PM

Berkeleyans and others are asked to sign this petition against raids on homeless settlements.

Don't miss these.

Sunday January 01, 2017 - 11:40:00 AM

These came in last week and are quite interesting. If you missed them amidst the holiday shuffle, be sure to check them out now.

The Play’s the Thing … (aka Capoeira Politics) Steve Martinot 12-28-2016

New: Something happened on the way to the book tour Carol Denney 12-26-2016

Patience Please!

Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:33:00 PM

This issue is moving slowly. I still have some letters etc. to post, but I'm relaxing with family and friends until Tuesday.

Public Comment

New: Drumpf's Nominee for labor secretary is a bad choice

Sergi Goldman-Hull
Monday January 09, 2017 - 04:37:00 PM

I wanted to take a moment to explain why Andrew Puzder, President-Elect Trump's pick to lead the Labor Department is a BAD CHOICE! Here's why… 

Donald Drumpf has nominated fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder to lead the Labor Department. This is a bad choice for working people. 

This pick betrays the spirit of the Drumpf campaign and threatens to leave working people more vulnerable to abusive employers. Puzder opposes raising the minimum wage and says workers don’t need overtime and should instead be happy with a “sense of accomplishment.” Puzder has used his position and authority as a fast-food CEO to enrich himself at the expense of working people by violating labor law. One investigation found that more than half of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants reviewed weren’t paying workers what they were owed. He refused to pay his managers the overtime they earned and said he’d like to replace human workers with machines, because machines “never take a vacation…there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.” People who work at his restaurants make poverty wages while he made more money last year in one day than one of his full-time minimum wage workers makes in a year. 

All of these reasons make Puzder unfit to run the agency tasked with protecting people at work! 

Thank you for listening. Please spread the word!

The pension scandal: the great betrayal

Harry Brill
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:38:00 PM

The pensions for about 1 1/2 million retirees, except for retirees who are at least age 80 or who receive disability, will soon be cut by up to 60%. The cuts apply to retirees whose unions have the same collective bargaining agreement with at two or more employers, which cover more than 10 million workers. These workers have defined benefit plans in which an employer promises a specified pension payment upon retirement that is based on a worker's history rather than depending on an individual's investment returns. The justification for slashing the pensions in firms that have multi-employer contracts with unions is that these pension funds will soon be depleted. So it is necessary, the employers claim, to reduce the pensions now to assure that retirees would at least receive some income. 

Workers have been able to depend to some extent on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), which was created by Congress to protect the pensions of working people. But the agency has recently been complaining that its funds are drying up too. If PBGC runs out of money, the "guaranteed" pension benefits could drop by more than 90 percent or even to nothing at all. 

The consequences for retirees will be very severe since many workers and their families will wind up in poverty and lose their homes. If we take account of the considerable extent that retirees will suffer, it is reasonable to ask how threatened the pension money actually is, and are there alternative options to protect the pension funds. Guess what-- when we look at the situation closely, the problem is nowhere near the dire straits that business claims. According to the business community, cuts are justified when a pension plan is expected to become insolvent within 20 years. Incredible! Cut pensions now by up to 60 percent because pension money is expected to be depleted 20 years from now! Hmmm! Isn't there something wrong with this arithmetic? 

How did this bizarre state of affairs come about? To give employers plenty of latitude to make steep cuts in pensions, Congress in 2014 passed the Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act, which President Obama signed. The law allows pensions to be reduced substantially by pension trusts, which are overseen by trustees appointed 50-50 by the union and employers. Their decision is then submitted for approval to the Treasury Department. The legislation doesn't give an inch to working people. Even if there is a significant financial revival in the pension plan after pensions are reduced, there is no provision in the law that requires employers to restore lost benefits. 

Despite the gravity of the federal legislation, there were no congressional hearings. The pension law was slipped unnoticed into a massive spending bill. The legislation passed not only because of business support. Crucial was the vigorous advocacy for the legislation by several major labor unions. 

In fact, business and Labor submitted a joint report to Congress entitled Solutions Not Bailouts. "Solutions" is the euphemism for cuts. The title of the report served to assure Congress that the pension plans were not seeking public money. But Congress beginning with the 2008 recession nevertheless showered the financial corporations with tons of money. If bailouts are okay for the financial sector even though they contributed to the nation's economic problems, why hasn't Congress been interested in assisting working people too? 

The federal government has claimed that the bailout money given to the financial industry in response to the 2008 recession was relatively low. But a high level executive at Goldman-Sachs claims that the real costs of the bailout exceeded 14 trillion dollars. In fact, although it is nine years since the initial bailout, the federal government is still providing funds to some of the large financial institutions. Some of this money has boosted the income of executives. Where does the money come from? You guessed it--the taxpayers, most of whom are working people. 

The federal government should cease subsidizing the corporations and their executive staff and instead transfer these billions of dollars of bailout money to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation so that it can meet its legal obligations to protect the pensions of workers. 

. Rather than cutting pensions, business should be legally required to pay the full premiums to assure that working people receive what they were promised. The contribution by employers to the employee pension plans has always been underfunded. But workers have been misled to believe that the retirements pensions were guaranteed. Why, then, should working people be deprived of a pension they earned even though they had been cheated by their employers all along. 

Unlike business, the mission of labor unions is to represent the best interests of workers. Since many trade unions have huge financial resources and pay excessive salaries to their executive officers, they are in a position to contribute to the pension funds if business and the federal government cannot be persuaded to do so. Close to 500 union officers and employees are paid over $250,000 a year and many of these officers receive over $400,000 and $500,000 annually. Also, millions of dollars are spent on conferences in luxury locations, such as Las Vegas, where hotel room rentals are very expensive. 

Lobbying to win favorable terms for unions is another substantial expense. But this expenditure is not always on behalf of their union members, such as the costs of supporting lukewarm candidates for office and lobbying Congress to allow business to substantially cut pensions. So is it asking too much of labor unions to do an about-face by contributing to the pension fund some of the millions of dollars that they have received from union dues? 

Indeed, the money is there, but not the will. As the records shows, some unions are more interested in accommodating the business community than their own dues paying members. Take for example the nearly 2 million member Service Employee International Union. SEIU has a reputation for engaging in sweet heart contracts. That is, to encourage a business to allow it to organize, SEIU has agreed with employers that it would avoid making strong demands. According to the Wall Street Journal, SEIU negotiated a deal with a corporation although the company's employees didn't even know that the union was meeting with management. 

Among the other unions that support the pensions cuts are the building trade unions, United Food & Commercial Workers, United Mine Workers, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and Laborers International Union of North America. The employees in these unions are certainly not getting their money's worth. Although many other unions formally opposed the legislation to slash pensions, they did not organize a campaign to defeat the employers. 

In contrast to multi-employer pension plans most workers have retirement plans that provide benefits to employees by only one employer. Could these plans be next on the chopping block? 

What alternatives, then, do working people have? With regard to pension issues and other workplace problems, they have to first agitate and organize within their own union or workplace. Obviously, workers who are employed in the same workplace will most often have common concerns, and of course they are in a position to pressure the same union leadership and employers. 

Take for example the vigorous organizing efforts of workers in the Teamsters Union. In the recent union election for national office they came close to replacing their powerful pro-business President, James Hoffa (48.5% to 51.5%). Indeed, working people should never forget that they have a mighty strong weapon at their disposal, which is the workers themselves acting collectively and democratically.

Bay Area Jews Held Mock Trial Outside San Francisco Jewish Federation

Penina Eilberg-Schwartz
Friday January 06, 2017 - 09:47:00 PM

Early Friday morning, 25 Bay Area Jews and allies held a mock trial outside the offices of the San Francisco Jewish Federation, challenging the institution on two counts of moral bankruptcy: its silence on the appointment of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel and its support for 50 years of Israeli Occupation. The mock trial included actors representing the prosecutor, defense, and four witnesses: the San Francisco Federation, David Friedman, Stephen Bannon, and a representative of IfNotNow’s #JewishResistance.

The action -- one of six happening across the country this week and next -- came in response to a national call made by IfNotNow, a diverse national movement of American Jews working to end the American Jewish community's support for Israel’s Occupation. IfNotNow demanded that all local Jewish Federations and their parent organization, the Jewish Federations of North America, publicly denounce the appointment of Stephen Bannon by the last night of Hannukah, December 31st. The San Francisco Federation did share a partner organization’s statement condemning the appointment of Stephen Bannon. However, it remained silent on the appointment of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel. 

David Friedman is a bankruptcy lawyer with no diplomatic experience who supports the settlement enterprise and wants to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He has also likened leftist Jews to Kapos - Jews who aided the Nazis. 

“We are here today because the American Jewish institutions that claim to represent us as American Jews have failed. While we are pleased our Federation shared the Jewish Community Relations Council’s statement against Bannon, its silence on David Friedman’s appointment is only the latest example of its support for the Occupation, which is a daily nightmare for Palestinians and a moral disaster for Jews everywhere,” Bay Area IfNotNow leader Becca Kahn Bloch said. 

“In the past, though the Federation has claimed to represent the whole Jewish community, it has not spoken for us. We are here today, as members of the Jewish community, IfNotNow and the #JewishResistance, to put the Federation on trial for its moral bankruptcy. But we are also here to invite the Federation to turn from its pro-Israel-at-any-cost position, and join our growing movement dedicated to freedom and dignity for all,” Kahn Bloch continued. 


See live video from the trial at https://www.facebook.com/IfNotNowBayArea/ 


IfNotNow is a Jewish movement to end the American Jewish community’s support for the Occupation and gain freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. It is also leading the #JewishResistance against the Trump administration, in deep solidarity with all thosefighting for freedom and dignity for all. IfNotNow has chapters across the country. For more information: www.ifnotnowmovement.org

Crony Capitalism under Trump

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday January 06, 2017 - 09:59:00 PM

A number of US corporations have adjusted their strategies hoping to gain more favorable treatment under a Trump administration by nourishing his enormous ego. For example, companies like Sprint seem content allowing Trump to take credit for their decision to hire more workers. Predictably, he tweeted with great gusto boasting that the Sprint CEO would hire 5,000 more workers in the US. Largely ignored is the fact that SoftBank, Sprint’s parent company, made a commitment to invest $50 billion and create 50,000 new jobs in the US in October - before the election. The insecure Trump thanked himself profusely for an increase in a consumer confidence index last month. More grist for ‘Saturday Night Live’.  

What is behind Sprint’s announcement? Softbank is anxious to overcome the Department of Justice and the Federal Communication’s earlier ruling blocking a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. 


Nixon’s Treachery

Jagjit Singh
Friday January 06, 2017 - 09:56:00 PM

The recent release of archives from the Nixon library reveal a man obsessed with power who would willingly allow thousands of Americans and Vietnamese to die in the pursuit of the US presidency. 

Historians and President Johnson had long suspected Nixon of treachery but had never found the “smoking gun.” 

Here are the historical facts. In 1968 Johnson was advancing a peace initiative with South and North Vietnam. 

Henry Kissinger, an outside Republican advisor, advised Nixon that a peace agreement was in the offing, if Johnson would halt bombing raids on North Vietnam, the Soviets pledged to urge North Vietnam to engage in peace talks.  

Fearful that the successful conclusion of Johnson’s efforts would jeopardize his presidential ambitions, Nixon ordered his aide H.R. Haldeman to scuttle the peace talks to give him an advantage over his rival, Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.  

Release of Haldeman’s notes confirms long held suspicions that Nixon prolonged the war unconcerned of the human carnage that would ensue. 

As Haldeman’s notes reveal, Nixon was able to persuade the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, to stall the talks. CIA director, Richard Helms, was ‘persuaded’ to remain silent while this coup d’état was taking place. 

Haldeman’s notes yield other shocking items - Nixon’s promise to Southern Republicans that he would soft-pedal on civil rights and “lay of pro-Negro crap,” if elected. 

In the 1962 gubernatorial campaign, he and his aides conspired to wiretap political opponents. 

How to get the news to that fellow

Katherine Liepe-Levinson, Martin H. Levinson
Friday January 06, 2017 - 09:54:00 PM

Donald Trump insists he does not need to listen to daily intelligence briefings. But anyone knowledgeable about foreign affairs knows that he puts our country at risk by not doing so. Therefore, we offer five ways to help Trump get over his briefing aversion: 1) Videotape the briefings as if they were News Talk Shows with Hail to the Chief playing in the background. 2) Arrange to have them read by CIA agents dressed up as beauty contestants in swimsuits. 3) Make a deal that if he reads the briefings Chris Christie will drop to the ground and give him ten. 4) Send the briefings to Putin so he can read them to Trump. 5) Tweet them to him at three am.  

Stand up to the Republican thugs

Ron Lowe
Friday January 06, 2017 - 09:51:00 PM

It's right here in the newspapers if you are wiling to take the time and dig it out. Hillary Clinton is winning the 2016 presidential election by 2,670,075 votes and yet media is still calling loser Donald Trump the next president.The nation's top intelligence officials and CIA say unequivocally and emphatically that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump has voiced skepticism about the conclusion. Of course he would: Putin and Russians worked on his behalf to skew the election.  

In other news, House speaker Paul Ryan (R-WISC) says a few hundred Republican politicians will repeal the Affordable Care Act, keeping a promise they made to their extremist base. Ryan doesn't mention that this will leave 20 million Americans without health care coverage and insurance. And just to stir the pro-life Republican base into a further frenzy, Speaker Ryan says the GOP will kill funding for Planned Parenthood.  

Psychologically unfit pres-elect Donald Trump talks about reinstating the sort of torture used in the Bush-era. Americans had better start standing up to these Republican political thugs or things will only get worse if that's possible!

What is coming next year?

Romila Khanna
Friday January 06, 2017 - 10:02:00 PM

The clock is moving too fast. We will get the New Year message from the billionaire in the White House. Some of us are worried about receiving adequate and timely information about our country and our own safety and wellbeing. 

I think that we may be creating another war zone out of fear and insecurity. Will we ever feel safe and secure using military power alone? We have tried all these years to cut violence and bring peace and security using weapons and other military tactics. Unfortunately we have failed in our efforts to bring peace, security and stability here in America or in the International communities. 

Many members of the public have lost hope in the new chapter in their political interaction with the incoming billionaire cabinet members and advisors to President-elect Donald Trump. 

We, the citizens, wish that the incoming President will be more kind and caring for the masses. I hope that, in the first 100 days of his office, he will have empathy for all the poor and needy citizens here and abroad.

Mayor Arreguin's First 29 Days - Still Sweeping the Homeless, or Honey, This Ain't Camping

Carol Denney
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 05:25:00 PM

Excerpt from Mayor Jesse Arreguin's "First 29 Days" progress report with emphasis and underlining added:

..."Regarding the “First They Came for the Homeless” Encampment

I have received many emails from neighbors throughout Berkeley regarding the ongoing protest tent encampment which has moved throughout Berkeley. These encampments have not been sanctioned by the City and staff have taken enforcement action based on complaints from residents. Camping on public property, including medians, is illegal under the Berkeley Municipal Code. City staff can take complaint driven enforcement action regarding any violations of the Municipal Code. Unlike other cities, Berkeley’s Charter does not give the Mayor executive authority to hire or direct staff. As Mayor, my role is to shape city policy and work with the City Manager to implement city policies and initiatives. I do not alone have the unilateral power to direct staff to enforce, or not enforce, violations of the Berkeley Municipal Code..."

So, is the Mayor of Berkeley just a helpless pawn in a larger political game played by a city staff hoping to thwart his objectives and court losing their jobs? Are they a bunch of evil people hoping to snatch blankets from the poor because it's just such great sport on a cold winter night?

Berkeley's new Mayor just issued a self-congratulatory "progress report" claiming that the City Manager is impervious to his direction. It's true that Berkeley has a strong city manager form of government. but there are lots of things Arreguin can do both as mayor and as a citizen, especially under the emergency housing crisis declaration which the city council (under Mayor Tom Bates) passed last January.

The City Council under Mayor Arreguin, at its first meeting Dec. 12, 2016, had language stopping the homeless sweeps removed from a lengthy proposal doubling shelter space, among other things. Apparently somebody realized they only had four votes since District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington inexplicably pulled his vote away. They wanted to look unified at their first meeting, and the proposal still had some good stuff. Calling Worthington to express dismay (981-7170) is a good idea, but building wider support to stop the homeless raids and accept that we need immediate housing and several campgrounds is key, since people have concerns about people setting up tents all over the city anywhere they like, which is pretty much the state of things anyway. And which is legal, absent alternatives, under many readings of the law. This is not camping, as Mayor Arreguin's statement claims. It is survival.

The answer is having both immediate emergency housing within Berkeley city limits as well as sanctioned camping areas with port-a-potties, laundry facilities, garbage collection, etc., without which complaints are almost inevitable. The homeless people I know are not only better organized than most of the people I know with housing, they do a better job of taking care of indigent mentally ill on the streets than the city's current answer; the police, the court system and its pointless, expensive revolving door. 

They are not camping, as brand-new Mayor Jesse Arreguin claims in his "29 Days" statement. We've all been camping, or many of us have. Try to imagine camping with no water source or bathroom nearby. Try to imagine having to assume that everything with you, all your survival gear, will be regularly swept into a trash truck, including your identification cards, your cell phone if you have one, your electronic equipment let alone your warm clothing, to end up in a huge dumpster in the rain you're free to paw through after a lengthy wait at the police station, assuming you can afford to take that risk considering the fines and bench warrants you may have unknowingly collected after the last raid.

The local non-profits and religious groups can play a role here by making statements and voting officially to stop the homeless raids, typically a middle-of-the-night nightmare costing $15,000 - to $30,000 per event (at least twelve so far for First They Came For the Homeless, only one of about eighteen tent groups in Berkeley of about an estimated 1000 people). Simply voting to cease the raids would pressure Arreguin's new task force, formed at the Dec. 12th, 2016, council meeting, to identify some sanctioned spaces for people to harbor and regroup without the fear of losing everything they own. Mayor Arreguin has sounded vaguely supportive in the past, but we need more voices to stand strongly against the criminalization of poverty.

It's a critical time right now, in my opinion, because most people will be delighted to hear they've doubled the shelter space and "improved" ways to retrieve your belongings after they've been stolen. But I'm hoping people will stand firm with stopping the raids in the first place. Leaving a call expressing concern with the new Mayor(Mayor Jesse Arreguin, (510) 981-7140) is a good start. 

But let's not forget that no less than former Mayor Tom Bates, at the persuasive insistence of a group of people which included former Human Welfare & Community Action Commissioner Dan McMullan, a strong advocate for civil rights and director of the Disabled People Outside project, spent at least a portion of the night outside in the park by City Hall to experience, at least in part, what homeless people experience, albeit under the bemused eye of local press. 

Let us not begin the year 2017, a year which guarantees extreme challenges for our city, expecting even less from Mayor Arreguin. We need to vacate entirely the discriminatory laws on our books aimed at the poor, and dismantle the teams routinely rousting and robbing them, including the Downtown Berkeley Association's chilling "Hospitality" green-shirted Gestapo, caught on video beating up homeless people not long ago. Especially after thirty years under the Hancock-Bates regimes' shell game replacing low-income and SRO (single-room occupancy) housing with high-end, unaffordable units, we need to make sure the current council majority is pressured to offer housing, not "services", and keep their promises to stop the raids. 

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday January 05, 2017 - 03:05:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


THE PUBLIC EYE: California vs Trump

Bob Burnett
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:36:00 PM

On election day, Californians favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a near 2 to 1 margin -- 61.7 percent to 31.6 percent. Now, faced with a President many of us detest, California's best stance is to become a model of Democratic principles. But the Golden State faces intriguing challenges.

California is not an independent state; we're not going to be able to secede from the union. Nonetheless, we are the 6th largest economy in the world and Trump is not going to be able to ignore us.

California can have the most impact on the national political environment by demonstrating that the best way to grow good jobs and provide a healthy democratic environment is by a judicious combination of taxes and regulation. The Golden State can serve as a vital alternative to the Republican model: minuscule corporate taxes and zero governmental oversight, which has turned states like Louisiana into sewer pits with deplorable public health, while failing to create the promised jobs. 

On November 8th, Trump prevailed because many Americans believed that he, rather than Clinton, would create good jobs. At this writing, Trump's jobs program is a composite of an ill-defined effort to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure, threats to force manufacturers to "make it in America," and, primarily, tax cuts and deregulation. The Trump infrastructure plan will probably bog down in Congress, where GOP "deficit hawks" are understandably wary of a trillion-dollar unfunded initiative. Meanwhile, California has its own $12 billion infrastructure initiative to modernize our water-distribution system. 

Obviously, corporate tax cuts would benefit all US companies not just those in California. However, threats to "make it in America" could have a major impact on California technology companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Apple. Both corporations have a substantial overseas manufacturing presence. If Trump took steps to ensure that final assembly of most products was done in the U.S., his actions could have major consequences for California corporations -- for example, the Apple iPhone contains parts from all over the world and final assembly happens in China and other countries. 

After jobs, the Trump policies having most impact on California are immigration, climate change, and health care. Trump's immigration policies will be hotly contested by most Californians. However, Trump's plan to build a wall along the southern border isn't going to affect Hispanic immigration; last year more Chinese immigrants came into California than did Mexican immigrants. 

A national roundup of undocumented immigrants would primarily impact California's agricultural sector; it's the nation's largest but represents only 2 percent of the California's economy. (Ironically, California's farmers, typically Republicans, were strong advocates of the "pathway to citizenship" initiative that Trump's GOP has abandoned.) Many agricultural workers are undocumented but typically have been in the state at least a decade. A national roundup would drive up agriculture prices. 

Of course, a national roundup of undocumented immigrants would be a huge political issue in California. The Golden State's population of 39 million includes 15 million Hispanics (the largest group). There are an estimated 2.67 million undocumented immigrants in California; about 1 million of these live in Los Angeles County. (By the way, there are roughly 250,000 "Dreamers" in California.) 

Across the board, California public officials have pledged to protect undocumented immigrants. However, Trump has promised to punish those who oppose his initiative; for example, by penalizing sanctuary cities which include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland. Theoretically, this could have a major financial impact on the Golden State. 

After immigration, California's biggest conflict with Trump will regard global climate change. Trump is a climate-change denier and appears ready to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies that fund climate scientists. Meanwhile, California leaders such as Governor Jerry Brown take climate change seriously and have led multiple initiatives to protect the Golden State's air and water and natural beauty. (California is the number one U.S. tourism destination.) 

Finally, millions of Californians depend upon Obamacare. If Trump repeals affordable healthcare, this act would present a huge challenge for the Golden State. It's likely that some residents would lose coverage. For example, 3 million low-income Californians are covered by Medicaid, which is entirely paid by the federal government. 

As strong as the California economy is, the Golden State each year depends upon the federal government for approximately $96 billion -- 36 percent of our budget. (By the way, California is "a giver" not "a taker;" we contribute more than $300 billion in federal taxes.) Of the $96 billion, $69 billion goes for health and human services, primarily insurance coverage for the poor, children, and seniors. Trump could impact this directly by repealing Obamacare or indirectly by withholding federal funding, on the basis that California is not in compliance with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies. 

If the Trump Administration threatened to withhold some of the $96 billion, the Golden State would have to make tough choices: comply with Trump policies to keep the $ flowing, cut services, or increase taxes to offset loss of Federal funds. It's possible that Californians could raise their own taxes to thwart the Trump Administration. But probably not income taxes. Californians could repeal the notorious Proposition 13, which would raise $ billions in property taxes. In addition, the Golden State favors carbon taxes; a variety of these taxes (for example, taxing transport of fossil fuels such as coal) could erase much of the $ billion potential deficit. Another possibility is a "tourism" tax. 

The battle is joined: the Trump resistance begins in California. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Karma, Coincidences, and Paranoia

Jack Bragen
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:21:00 PM

People with paranoid schizophrenia frequently suffer from delusions of conspiracy. Some of this might be narcissistic, but most is due to a malfunction in the brain. People who suffer from paranoid illnesses do not really have much choice about this tendency. The brain has a design flaw, and nobody can run away from his or her brain.  

When odd coincidences happen to us, it feeds into the paranoia. Yet, life is full of odd coincidences. This could be attributable to the effects of Karma.  

For example, I frequently end up in the same place and time as former girlfriends. This is due to no action on my part--they are odd coincidences only. Yet, I do not have very many ex-girlfriends. There have recently been two incidences of this at the county hospital. And there have been a number of other sightings. This is far more common than encounters with the Loch Ness Monster or a UFO sighting.  

Another example--near disastrous mishaps, in which dumb luck and a certain amount of skill have allowed me to avoid a personal calamity. I won't go into detail, but there have been a lot of these. And, in the recent past, there has been no recklessness attributable to this--these have mostly been random events.  

It is easy for the mind to develop conspiracy theories when these things happen. However, we should factor in the system of the mind's filtration. If we presume in our minds that there is a plot to do something to us, it tells the brain to look for evidence of that. Thus, we are functioning with skewed consciousness that ultimately leads us to think we have overwhelming evidence proving us right.  

In my life, I have experienced a massive number of coincidences. Some scientists theorize that a person's energy field has a funky way of warping events. If someone's energy is stronger, (although not necessarily better) more odd things may happen to that person. 

More odd, bad things may happen to a paranoid person, with no apparent explanation. Also, when people consider you "a problem" whether this is baseless or for a good reason, you could get life imitating paranoid delusions. People, when they feel threatened by someone, may talk to each other and formulate plans to deal with that someone. Then, even if there was no conspiracy to begin with, a person's paranoid behavior brings about some amount of conspiracy.  

The rule of thumb for someone with schizophrenia is to never rely solely on one's own judgment. The ability to judge truth versus an incorrect conclusion is compromised by the brain malfunction. This includes times in which we think we have overwhelming evidence to support an unusual belief.  

This is why it is good to talk to people, whether they are therapists or family, and bounce ideas off people to find out what they think. 

In today's world, there is more convergence between paranoid thinking and accurate thinking, compared to twenty or thirty years ago. However, we may need to err on the side of naiveté if we are to remain in non-psychotic territory.  


ECLECTIC RANT: UN vote on Israeli settlements

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 06, 2017 - 03:47:00 PM

I for one applaud the U.S. abstention of the United Nation resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal. By abstaining the resolution passed. It doesn't seem to matter to some that under international law, it is illegal for Israel to move settlers into the occupied Palestinian territories.  

On December 28, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry accused Israel Prime Minister Benjamin of thwarting peace in the Middle East, calling settlements a threat to peace. Kerry said, “The status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation.”  

Foreign policy leaders for decades have labeled Israeli settlements as an obstacle for peace. Israel has ignored criticism of settlement building by Obama and others in this and previous administrations. It came to a point where action was needed. 

Hopefully, before he leaves office, Obama will grant U.S. recognition of Palestine as an independent state, albeit a militarily occupied one. While this may be but a symbolic action, symbols are important.  

Of course, Trump is not happy about the U.S. abstention and when he assumes office, will do everything he can to reverse Obama's action.

5 Resistance Resolutions

Bob Burnett
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:24:00 PM

As we enter a perilous new year, here are five resistance resolutions:

1.Practice resistance each day. Political resistance is an American tradition; "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Take a stand for democracy. Slow down and focus. Resist.

If you've experienced a life-threatening disease, the process will be familiar. Live one day at a time. Focus on the essentials: taking care of yourself and regaining your health. Trump is a democracy-threatening disease. Focus on taking care of yourself and regaining democracy.

Perhaps begin each day with an aphorism: "I am a patriot;" "Actions speak louder than words;" "It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end;” "I will not let Trump defeat me." Whatever works for you.

Follow with a simple act of defiance. For example, resolve to not listen to news for 24 hours. Resolve to add another name to your "Boycott Trump Donors" list. Join a march or demonstration. Send $ to the resistance. Etcetera.

Above all, resist the Trump propaganda machine that repeats lies over and over until many Americans believe they are the truth. Resist the "normalization" of Trump. What is happening is not normal; America is experiencing a right-wing coup. 

2. Acknowledge that you are grieving. Trump's victory was a traumatic event, a death of sorts. Place yourself along the continuum of the five stages of grief; are you in denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance? 

If you are stuck in depression, acknowledge where you are. Seek assistance. 

In terms of this traumatic event, "acceptance" means "recognizing what is true." What is true is that a narcissistic, paranoid, white-supremacist bloviator is going to become President of the United States. 

Recognizing what is true doesn't imply passivity or acquiescence. Remember Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." In this situation, acceptance means recognizing what is true and, then, moving forward with resistance. Trump may become President but we do not have to accept his authority. We do not have to believe what he says or support his actions. 

Resistance requires serenity, courage, and wisdom. Get your shit together, the resistance needs you. 

3. Spend time in nature. Instead of watching the news or checking Facebook, take a walk. Get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and, for however brief a period, immerse yourself in nature. Take a deep breath and look around. This is what we are fighting for. 

Read Wendell Berry's poem, "The Peace of Wild Things." Take a break "in the grace of the world." Ground your activism in the earth. 

4. Join with others. Developing a broad, mindful resistance movement is an exercise in community building. First, treat your family with kindness. Don't let yourself withdraw or lash out in redirected anger. Embrace yourself and your loved ones. Offer comfort. 

Extend that circle of love and support to your friends and community. 

Recognize that if you have been stuck in depression, or passivity, your allies may feel the same way. Reach out with compassion. 

5. Cherish your own perspective. Search for your own truth and guard it ferociously. 

Recognize what you can change and find the courage to take action. Help your friends negotiate the transition from depression to action. 

On February 15, 2015, the noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, published an essay in the New York Times, "My Own Life," on how he had come to grips with the knowledge that he had terminal liver cancer. (Sacks died in August.) Sacks wrote of feeling "intensely alive" and added: "I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends." 

Now you and I are faced with the possible death of democracy. There is no time for anything inessential. We must focus. We must resist. 

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



ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Giving Oneself a Break from Self Persecution

Jack Bragen
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 05:30:00 PM

While many of us are making an effort at making our lives better and at living in a responsible way, none of us can control the outcome of our efforts. We ought to feel proud of ourselves when we make a good effort toward a constructive goal or endeavor. However, when our efforts seem to be futile, when the outcome isn't what we had hoped for, we ought not berate ourselves.

If mistakes are made, if we slip up on something, one hopes that at least that the intent was where it ought to be. If an error is made, we ought not punish ourselves with negative or self-derogatory thoughts.

If we have symptoms that get in the way of fulfilling expectations, whether these are self-imposed expectations or come from someone else, we ought not blame ourselves. Persons with psychiatric disabilities may often have days in which we do not feel good, or do not feel up to doing very many tasks.  

We shouldn't be hard on ourselves when we have an off day. And if someone else is giving you a hard time about it, whether this is a supervisor at work, a family member, or someone in the mental health treatment system, we should not internalize this. If the person is a supervisor and if you haven't disclosed your disability to your employers, you may not be able to confront the source of unreasonable expectations, and you may have to get through it whatever way you can. However, if the source of unreasonable expectations is yourself, you should not be giving yourself a hard time.  

The problem that we may have with following the advice above is that many persons with mental illness, as well as people in general, do not have much control over their thoughts. However, the first step is to at least identify the thoughts. Many people have not developed their capacity to reflect on their thoughts, and this means that they could be unaware of what the thoughts are.  

You read correctly in the above paragraph--many people are unaware of many of their thoughts. While some thoughts are in the forefront of consciousness, others are on the periphery, while still other thoughts take place on a deep level, are assumptions, and present themselves in our minds as being a basic reality.  

Therefore, before we are able to root out self-persecuting thoughts, we must find those thoughts. This may be achievable in therapy, if the therapist is good.  

(There are numerous individuals who practice psychotherapy, either with a license or under "supervision" who have entered that profession for the wrong reasons and who have no business counseling another human being. It takes experience to spot bad therapists, and it takes initiative to switch to another therapist.)  

If you can identify and discontinue the self-trashing thoughts, you will probably feel a lot better. You should see yourself as an acceptable person. If other people do not accept you, it is due to their agenda. We do not need to take sides with other people against ourselves.  

Is global warming a Chinese hoax?

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:21:00 PM

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax, vowed to dismantle America's climate and clean energy policies, and appointed climate deniers with ties to the fossil fuel industry to his transition team and Cabinet.

For example, Trump is looking at quick ways of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement in spite of international backing for the plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal, which sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. The U.S. signed the agreement on April 22, 2016. I fear this will be but the beginning of Trump's reversal of policies designed to curb global warming. 

Clearly there a scientific consensus on global warming. In the scientific field of climate studies, which includes many disciplines, the consensus can be demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change. So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. “...the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” In other words, more than 97% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate, accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities. Global warming is no longer about science; it is now a political, economic, social debate. In other words, what do we do about global warming? Putting your head in the sand is not the responsible thing to do. 

As we all know, on January 20, 2017, Trump will be president and the Republicans will control the Senate and House, which means that efforts to control global warming will be dead even though the danger to our planet is real.  

Scott Pruitt, a longtime adversary of the Environmental Protection Agency and a close friend of the fossil fuel industry, is to head the EPA. Pruitt claims that global warming is "far from settled."  

Ryan Zinke will be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior who has consistently voted in favor of oil and gas projects on federal lands. The League of Conservation Voters gave him a lifetime voting scorecard of 3%. Zinke said the the science behind global is not proven. 

Rick Perry has been selected by to take over the Department of Energy, the agency he famously wanted to abolish but could not name during his presidential bid in 2012. 

Tom Price will take over the Department of Health and Human Services. He signed a pledge created by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative thinktank funded by the Koch brothers, to oppose climate legislation. 

Do Trump and his soon to be members of his administration really believe that global warming is not happening and if it is, it is not because of human activity? I believe these deniers have made a self-interest political decision, rather than a scientific one, on global warming. By denying global warming, they now have an excuse to do little or nothing about it. 

Yet there are a number of people who in fact distrust the science community. For years, global warming deniers have engaged in an effective disinformation campaign to undermined efforts to pass a clean energy bill to curb our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels, resulting in cleaner air, more renewable energy, a stronger dollar, and more innovative industries. Even if 999 scientists out of 1,000 agreed that the main cause of the increase in global average temperatures in recent history is not because of any natural cycle — although natural cycles do exist — it is because of man, the deniers, of course, would seize on the minority of scientists who do not agree.  

No, Mr. Trump, global warming is not a Chinese hoax and there is too much at stake for us to stay silent and do nothing.

Arts & Events

Updated: Berkeley CCO presents Requiems by Mozart and Cherubini

James Roy MacBean
Monday January 09, 2017 - 04:25:00 PM

Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra presented three concerts over the weekend of January 6-8 at Hertz Hall. Featured were Mozart’s famous Requiem and the less well-known but highly acclaimed Requiem in C minor by Luigi Cherubini. BCCO’s Music Director Ming Luke conducted the Mozart Requiem at the Saturday concert I attended, while Assistant Conductor Eric Choate led the Cherubini Requiem. 

Luigi Cherubini was born in Florence in 1760, studied counterpoint in Milan under Giuseppe Sarti (1777-80), and began composing church music in a florid Neapolitan style. He settled briefly in London (1784-6), then moved to Paris where his career flourished. Perhaps best known for his opera Médée (Medea), Cherubini was considered by Beethoven to be his greatest contemporary composer. Berlioz heaped praise on Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor, calling it the “greatest of his (Cherubini’s) works.” Under the baton of Eric Choate, BCCO gave a sterling account of this fine Requiem, which offers dramatic concision, fullness of form, and sublimity of style. The opening Introitus and Kyrie begins in the low registers with cellos and basses. The Kyrie section is quite dramatic. The ensuing Graduale is brisk, and the lengthy Dies Irae is agitated from the outset, though the transition to the Lacrymosa is tender and full of sadness. The Offertorium begins joyously, then offers an exciting double fugue, heard both before and after the brief Hostias section. A combined Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna brings Cherubini’s C minor Requiem to a glorious close featuring the chorus entering in overlapping fashion singing in octaves. 

After intermission, BCCO returned led by Ming Luke to perform the Mozart Requiem in the familiar version completed after the composer’s death by Mozart’s copyist Franz Süssmayr. Featured soloists were soprano Ariana Strahl, mezzo-soprano Silvie Jensen, baritone Matt Hanscom, and tenor Kirk Dougherty. The opening Requiem and Kyrie began with full chorus, with the high sopranos soaring above on the word “luceat” (light). Soloist Ariana Strahl sang gloriously the “Te decet hymnus.” In the Kyrie section, Mozart offers a fine double fugue worthy of his illustrious predecessors Bach and Handel. The ensuing Dies Irae is aggressive and wrathful. The Tuba mirum section is introduced by the famous trombone solo, beautifully played by principal trombonist Jake Harris longtime BCCO trombonist Jeff Mertens Here all four soloists take turns in pleading for God’s mercy on Judgment Day. The brief Rex tremendae offers dotted rhythms of staccato notes. The Recordare features all four soloists again pleading for mercy. The Confutatis offers a brief section for full chorus. Mozart’s Lacrymosa opens with the violins playing a mournful melody, soon joined by the chorus with voices rising on the words “judicandus homo reus” (“all humanity will be judged”). Weeping violins bring this saddest of Lacrymosas to a close. The Domine Jesu section is assertively hopeful, and the Hostias is a solemn prayer. For the final Sanctus, Süssmayr adroitly reused the double fugue from the Kyrie, bringing Mozart’s great Requiem to a glorious close. This was a fine rendition of Mozart’s Requiem, with superb choral singing and four fine soloists, all led by conductor Ming Luke’s dynamic sense of the music’s inexorable momentum.