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Press Release: Bay Area mayors respond collectively to Trump administration immigration policy

Office of Mayor Arreguin
Wednesday January 25, 2017 - 09:56:00 PM

Today, the mayors of the Bay Area’s three largest cities, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, and the City of Berkeley spoke out against President Trump’s executive order on immigration. They reaffirmed their commitment to working together to address the many challenges the region faces from growing income inequality, lack of affordable housing, better education outcomes, job creation and transportation infrastructure improvement. 

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also vowed to take a regional approach to combat the impacts of any threatened cuts in federal funding that would adversely affect the nearly two and half million residents of diverse backgrounds who reside in their cities. 

“The Bay Area stands united against this White House’s morally bankrupt policies that would divide families, turn our nation’s back on refugees in need, and potentially thwart the efforts of nearly one million productive young people who are on a legal path to citizenship. Oaklanders rely on $130 million in federal funding for everything from early education programs like Head Start to getting officers out of their cars and onto our streets at a time when community policing is so desperately needed. We will not allow this president to play politics with our safety and security.” – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf  

“Nothing about the President’s Executive Order will change how San Jose cops police our city. The San Jose Police Department’s longstanding policies relating to immigration enforcement are critical to keeping our community safe. Our police officers must focus their scarce time responding to and investigating violent, predatory and other high-priority crimes – not the enforcement of federal tax laws, federal securities laws, or federal immigration laws. There’s a broad consensus among major city police chiefs that having local officers meddle in federal immigration enforcement undermines public safety, and diminishes community trust. We need to ensure that all residents feel comfortable calling 911, reporting crimes, coming forward as witnesses, and testifying in court to help us keep criminals off the street.” – San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo 

“The Bay Area is home to millions of people who have sought refuge and a chance at a better life. As mayors, we stand together in our responsibility to keep our cities safe and healthy and take care of all our residents and families, regardless of status. We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding. Together, the Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality, and united against any and all efforts to divide our residents, our cities, and our country.” – San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee  

“Our values of human rights, equity, and inclusion have come under attack by the Trump Administration. In just two days, Trump has pushed a divisive wall, stripped our citizens of civil liberties, and cut funding to cities that have the courage to stand up for all people – whether or not they are legal citizens. We will not be intimidated by threats to cut funding to cities that believe in the fundamental notion that no person is illegal. No amount of federal funding is worth betraying our values.” – Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín

Couple found dead in Berkeley apartment identified

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday January 24, 2017 - 10:36:00 PM

A Berkeley couple who were found dead in their apartment on Monday afternoon were identified today, but what killed them remains a mystery.

Berkeley police spokesman Officer Byron White said 35-year-old Roger Morash and his wife, 32-year-old Valerie Morash, were found dead together in their apartment in the 3000 block of Deakin Street. The couple's two cats were dead as well.

No cause of death was immediately clear. Police evacuated the apartment building and called in PG&E and the fire department's hazardous materials team to look for a gas leak or some other hazard but no contaminant was found. 

Police don't suspect foul play but still haven't determined what killed the cou ple. A report from the Alameda County coroner's bureau could take weeks. "Until we get the coroner's report, we really won't know what caused their deaths," White said. "It truly is a mystery at this point." 

Roger Morash was a game developer working on an adventure game called Shard. Valerie Morash was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. 

They both attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

NOW READ THIS: Penis Power

Monday January 23, 2017 - 09:53:00 PM

Rebecca Solnit has completely nailed it. She knows all the people I know to whom I am still barely able to speak after the election. Her brilliant piece on why Hillary lost--or rather why we all lost--is in the issue of the London Review of Books which came to my house today. You can read it for free online. The title is Penis Power. Click on it.

Berkeley District 4 Candidates speak at Forum

Video by Ken Bukowski
Monday January 23, 2017 - 08:05:00 PM

The video linked below shows candidates Kate Harrison and Ben Gould at a League of Women voters forum. They are contending for the seat vacated by new Mayor Jesse Arreguin in central Berkeley's District 7. The election will use mail-in ballots which must be returned by March 4. 


Flash: Advisory: Suspicious Circumstance on 3000 block of Deakin Street (Press Release)

Berkeley Police Department via Nixle
Monday January 23, 2017 - 03:10:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Department is currently investigating a suspicious circumstance on the 3000 block of Deakin Street where two persons were found deceased inside their residence. As their cause of death is not immediately apparent, the building has been evacuated out of an abundance of caution. In addition to the Berkeley Fire Department, PG&E personnel have also responded to location to make sure there are no hazardous conditions remain. 

Investigators continue to investigate this incident and we are advising residents that Deakin Street is closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic between Webster and Prince Street. 


Planet editor's note: The Daily Californian is reporting that the address where the bodies were found is 3028 Deakin, but that has not been independently confirmed. For their complete report, see 

BPD investigates 2 suspicious deaths at South Berkeley apartment complex.


Lies endanger democracy (Public Comment)

Bruce Joffe
Monday January 23, 2017 - 02:58:00 PM

No argument is too petty for little Donald when it comes to assertions about size. While photographic evidence confirms the crowd that witnessed his inauguration was half the size that celebrated President Obama's inauguration, Trump chose to claim the opposite and make a fuss about "media bias." His official representative, Kellyanne Conway, went even further, saying Trump's claim is based on "alternative facts."  

This is not the first time the blowhard candidate and then president-elect made claims based on verifiable untruths. So let's call "alternative facts" what they are; they are lies.  

Now as President of the United States, his lying prevarications pose a direct threat to our free society which depends on engaged citizens informed by true facts. Government officials calling their lies "alternative facts" endangers the very foundation of our democracy. 

Patriotic appreciation to news reporters who check the facts and point out the lies.

Police now estimate East Bay Oakland march at 100k

Scott Morris (BCN)
Saturday January 21, 2017 - 03:47:00 PM

An estimated 100,000 people turned out for the Women's March Oakland this morning, one of several protests held in the Bay Area and hundreds around the world for women's rights in response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. 

Oakland police estimated 100,000 people participated in the march today, revising a previous estimate of 60,000. 

The march snaked through downtown Oakland encompassing most if not all of the roughly 2-mile parade route at once, winding from the Lake Merritt BART station along the western shore of Lake Merritt, then west on Grand Avenue and south on Broadway to Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

After sporadic rain Friday drenched Bay Area protests of Trump's inauguration, the clouds parted this morning as marchers began to gather at the Lake Merritt station at about 10 a.m. Despite running extra long trains, BART had delays coming into the extremely crowded station. 

Brass bands blared throughout the peaceful, jubilant crowd. As the march began, protesters danced while one played "hit me with your best shot." 

While there were many men in the diverse crowd, a significant majority of attendees were women and girls. They carried signs with messages like, "a woman's place is in the resistance," "women's rights are human rights" and "hear me roar." 

Many donned "pussy hats," pink knitted hats with cat ears that became a symbol of today's protest. Even an Oakland police officer was wearing one late this afternoon as crowds petered out of Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Kai Gelphman of Santa Rosa stood waiting for her niece in the plaza above the Lake Merritt BART station this morning with a sign that said, "74,074,037 people are speaking up!" referencing the number of people who voted for a candidate other than Trump, including Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein. 

"I'm really so impressed that so many people turned out," she said. "I think it makes a powerful statement." 

In addition to women's rights, marchers showed up to support a variety of issues they feel are threatened by the Trump Administration. There were signs for immigrants' rights, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, the environment and economic justice. 

There was one contingent called "Women for Climate Justice," and another who quoted Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. Socialists mingled with supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton and her rival in the primaries, Bernie Sanders. 

Marian Killian, a retired teacher, came out to promote the Network for Public Education's upcoming national conference in Oakland. She said she is concerned about the future of public education as Trump's pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, supports privatizing public schools. 

National organizers said there were similar marches in cities across all 50 states and 70 countries. The event grew out of a call for a protest in Washington, D.C., following Trump's inauguration. 

An estimated 500,000 people marched in Washington and there were large crowds across the nation. At least 25,000 people marched in San Jose and some estimates had 100,000 turning out for the protest this afternoon in San Francisco. 

Police in Oakland and San Francisco said there were no arrests. 

Photos by Scott Morris related to this story can be seen here.

Berkeley protesters on the move

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday January 20, 2017 - 02:06:00 PM

Hundreds of students from the University of California at Berkeley and Berkeley High School are marching toward Oakland this afternoon against the inauguration of President Donald Trump.  

A rally started at noon on Sproul Plaza on UC Berkeley's campus, drawing about 1,000 demonstrators or more, some holding anti-Trump signs, university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said.  

At about the same time, about 200 students from Berkeley High School left the school campus and were seen walking to the university, which is nearby, Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Charles Burress said. 

About 50 more high school students joined them on the way to the university. 

Gilmore said the rally on Sproul Plaza was peaceful and at about 1 p.m. hundreds from the group left the plaza and started walking along Telegraph Avenue toward Oakland. 

The rally on Sproul Plaza ended at about 1:20 p.m.

About 1,000 Oakland protesters marching down Telegraph and Broadway

Kiley Russell (BCN)
Friday January 20, 2017 - 02:07:00 PM

About a thousand protesters are out marching in the rain in Oakland against the inauguration of President Donald Trump. 

Protesters started gathering for the "march of the working class" at about noon in the Latham Square area at Telegraph Avenue and Broadway. 

As of about 1:20 p.m., they had circled up Telegraph to 27th Street and were heading back down Broadway. Many children are present at the peaceful protest. 

Clark Allen, 34, of Oakland, said he attended because, "For me it's an act of solidarity. It's a therapeutic response to something that frightens us." 

Police on bicycles were nearby monitoring the crowd as they marched down Broadway.

THE PUBLIC EYE: It's Midnight in America

Bob Burnett
Friday January 20, 2017 - 08:45:00 AM

33 years ago, Ronald Reagan was elected President in large part because of his TV ad, "It's morning in America:" "It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better." For many Americans, the inauguration of Donald Trump foretells a period of darkness, "It's midnight in America." 

Here on the Left Coast, where Trump got roughly one-third of the vote, the prevailing emotion is depression. My homies are split on what's worse: the fact that lying bully Trump is President or that he got 63 million votes. 

Nonetheless, there is ray of hope in the darkness. Trump is uniquely vulnerable by virtue of his personality and the nature of his appeal. Our challenge is taking advantage of this vulnerability. 

Personality. Thousands of pages have been written analyzing Trump's personality. He's a narcissistic who lacks impulse control and lashes out at those who challenge him. And he's a pathological liar. Nonetheless, Trump's vulnerability is that he is a con man. Time and again, in his business and personal life, he has proposed a grandiose solution and then produced something totally inadequate. (For example, Trump University.) 

Program. Trump has made many promises about what he'll do as President. His "plans" can be factored into three groups. Promises he made to the oligarchs -- such as Robert Mercer and Charles Koch -- who pulled him across the finish line. He's promised to reduce their taxes and roll back government regulations. It's likely Trump will deliver on these promises but they will not impact the average Trump voter. 

Trump has also made foreign policy promises, the most prominent of which was to cozy up to Russia. Trump will try to do this -- it's a big objective of his closest foreign policy adviser, Mike Flynn. But Trump's foreign policy plans will run into huge opposition from the Senate. Whatever happens, it won't impact the average Trump voter. (Unless, of course, if Trump takes us to war, which he's certainly capable of.) 

Finally, Trump has made a series of domestic policy promises, the most prominent of which feature jobs. This is what Trump voters care about and where he is most vulnerable. 

Trump won the election because his supporters believed that an outsider could shake up the status quo and bring economic prosperity to America's have-nots. Trump's jobs "program" has three components: spur employment by reducing taxes and regulations, threaten corporations who plan to move jobs out of the country, and institute a massive infrastructure program. 

In his election night speech, Trump talked about his trillion dollar infrastructure initiative: "We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it." 

What Trump has suggested is similar to the program that President Obama proposed after the initial recovery from the great recession. Obama wanted a massive infrastructure-based jobs program financed by taxing corporations and the wealthy. (Hillary Clinton proposed something similar.) Congressional Republicans squashed it. 

Trump has proposed a similar infrastructure-based jobs program but with a different method of financing: "The American Infrastructure Act leverages public-private partnerships and private investments through tax incentives to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next ten years." For example, in Trump's plan, America would finance new highways by giving construction companies tax incentives up front and, after the highway was completed, letting the builder charge tolls. 

Trump's jobs initiative faces two obstacles. First, congressional Republicans are unlikely to approve the taxes required to fund a trillion dollar program and less likely to approve an unfunded initiative. Second, Trump doesn't understand the nature of America's unemployment problem. 

In his January 11th news conference, Trump claimed that 96 million Americans are unemployed; a typical misstatement. 96 million adult Americans are not in the labor force mostly because they are retired, sick, going to school, or running a household. Only 7.4 million are officially unemployed (4.6 percent). However, another 7.6 million are not fully employed because they are involuntarily working part time or "marginally attached to the workforce" -- such as "discouraged" workers who have quite looking for employment. Thus 15 million Americans are unsatisfactorily employed -- a rate of 9.4 percent. 

But the plight of these workers is not easily remedied. Some, like coal miners, worked in industries where the jobs have disappeared because the industry has been depleted. Economic forces have determined that coal is yesterday's fuel source. Thirty years ago there were 175,000 coal miners; today there are less than 50,000. 

The larger problem is that Trump assumes he can make good-paying manufacturing jobs reappear. However, there's compelling evidence that these jobs, for a variety of reasons -- such as advances in robotics, aren't coming back. (http://www.technologyreview.com/s/602869/manufacturing-jobs-arent-coming-back/) Writing in 538 (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/manufacturing-jobs-are-never-coming-back/), Ben Casselman observed, "Like it or not, the U.S. is now a service-based economy. It’s time candidates started talking about making that economy work for workers, rather than pining for one that’s never coming back." But Trump is extremely unlikely to tackle the structural changes that would make the current economy "work for workers." 

Trump's jobs plan is a con. What he's proposed won't get America working again; it won't magically conjure up 15 million meaningful jobs. 

Trump's obvious con job is the one ray of light shining on an otherwise black scenario. 

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



So, where do we go from here?

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 20, 2017 - 11:01:00 AM

Let’s start off with Paul Krugman’s summary of the inauguration, tweeted this morning:

“Takeover by a popular vote loser who squeaked through thanks to foreign intervention and blatant malpractice by the FBI. The system worked!”

That said, what can be done? Is there a way the system can be made to work better?

This week I was lucky enough to join a small group of supporters of newly re-elected Congressmember Ami Bera for a bit of “where do we go from here” discussion. He’s from the Sacramento area, from one of the state’s few potential swing districts. He noted wryly that it was not like ours, which has been represented for many years now by the indomitable and unbeatable Barbara Lee.

He told us he hoped someday to be in a race that was decided on election night, instead of having to suffer through weeks of tortuous counting before being declared the winner. He’s been in three races for this seat now—he lost the first one, won the second one after the district boundaries were redrawn, and this last time he actually tripled his victory margin, he said triumphantly: from about 2,000 votes to about 6,000. This is still mighty close.

In the last few weeks, my friends around the country report that they’ve been in standing-room-only meetings of their local progressive interest groups, packed with people who hope to figure out how we’re going to survive the “President” Drumpf regime. Pundits and public intellectuals of all stripes, including some erstwhile conservatives, have been wondering the same thing online and in print. 

There seems to be general agreement that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t really cut the mustard in the fall race. What the insider wannabes call the ground game was notably lacking in the Midwestern states which had been expected to go for Clinton. My experience in Akron, Ohio, confirmed that analysis. 

A friend and I did what insiders call parachuting in, summoned at the last minute by a friend who used to live in Berkeley. She’s a savvy older African-American woman who’s put together a strong coterie of her peers, women of a certain age who have done a great job of getting voters registered in their own community. She held down the reception desk in the Akron’s storefront Democratic election headquarters and dispatched workers as needed to drive voters to the polls. The part of the operation that she commanded went like clockwork, but other activities were not so smooth. 

The local Democratic party had feared some last minute attempt at voter suppression on election day, which didn’t materialize. But someone, somewhere, had called in a phalanx of lawyers just in case. My ex-Berkeley friend knew that I was an inactive member of the California Bar, so she thought I might have something to add, but frankly my colleagues way outclassed me in the legal department.  

One night before the election I was in a meeting in a room packed to the gills with obviously high-powered out-of-town legal talent. Ironically, Dan Roth, the guy who chaired, had flown in from the Bay Area himself, where he now lives, though Akron is his family home and he said he went there to work on every election. 

He delivered bad news: the local honchos had ruled that only attorneys licensed in Ohio could monitor the vote count, so there turned out not to be much for us to do. But we agreed that simply the presence of so many lawyers had kept the funny stuff out of the early voting picture. 

Luckily, since I’m pretty old, I’ve had a good bit of experience in election pavement pounding, going back several decades, so I happily did that instead. My assigned canvassing partner was a woman in her fifties who had both a Yale law degree and an MBA, but was marooned in Akron because of her executive husband’s job with a tire company.  

On a lovely autumn afternoon, we dutifully walked a nice middle-class mostly African-American neighborhood, where we discovered that almost everyone had already voted with early ballots, despite the long lines at the single polling place open early. Everyone was friendly, no problem there for Hillary. And on election day, I observed at a neighborhood polling place, where nothing untoward occurred. 

So what did happen to Ohio? Not to mention Michigan, which was reliable Democratic territory when I managed a Congressional primary campaign there five decades ago. Or Wisconsin, which in its time has elected more than one progressive hero to national office.  

I did talk to a young Black man driving a shuttle cart at the Cleveland airport who told me he wasn’t planning to vote, even though he was registered. Why was that? 

He didn’t think it would do much good: “They’re both crooks, anyway. What about those speeches she made to the bankers? What did she tell those rich guys, for all that money? And what was on that computer that the FBI was looking at last week, tell me that!” 

The Donald-and/or-Bernie fake news troll-arama—yes, both have some crazies in their fan base—seems to have connected online with just enough of the voters with a plausible enough rap to tip the scales in states like Ohio, so that the electoral college counted more than the national popular vote.  

Where do we go from here? President Obama suggested that we might actually get out and talk to some of our fellow citizens, and he’s right on the mark, I think. 

This came up in the discussion with Representative Bera, and he said he’s working with a group led by Vice-President Biden to plan how to do just that. They’re trying to figure how to start now to get the right boots on the ground and the best faces at voters’ front doors to win in swing districts for Congress in 2018. 

However making sure that our troops speak the local language is important. All too often, big D Democrats who see the state, the country or even the world as their playground don’t understand local issues, and make big gaffs when they show up in town. 

Right now, for example, there’s a struggle between some Sacramento functionaries led by Jerry Brown and Bay Area locals over how much control residents should have over hometown zoning. Here in Berkeley the very same people who backed Bernie Sanders were elected to the city council largely because of their opposition to big market-rate apartment development, yet at the same time Governor Brown has been covertly pushing a whole flock of changes to state law to drastically reduce local autonomy in favor of corporate developers. Opposition to unwanted development is the one issue which can bring together the “left” and the “right” in California and elsewhere. 

Example: Robert Reich, a national Big D Dem who did go for Bernie, endorsed the losing mayoral candidate in the November Berkeley city election, the pro-developer guy who got $100,000 from the national realtors’ PAC. Reich stiffed the eventual winner, the one Bernie himself endorsed. He just doesn’t get Berkeley, even though he’s lived here at least part-time for several years now.  

Another example: The real estate firm of Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum is behind the attempt to sell off Berkeley’s Post Office, roundly opposed by all kinds of Berkeleyans. But nevertheless, what can we do about the nation? 

The most straightforward simple fix would be to elect a better House of Representatives in 2018. All Democrats are not alike, but they’re still better than the alternative.  

Here’s one practical suggestion: I called Dan Roth to check my memories of the Akron campaign, and he told me about a new campaign he’d just discovered. Swingleft.org is an attempt to match volunteers from reliably Blue congressional districts with the closest swing districts, based on zip code. I typed in 94705, and was connected with District-10, around Modesto, where our help might pay off. 

But if we go to other districts, we have to be less than dogmatic about our Berkeley values. In Ami Bera’s district for example, the conventional left—and right—opposition to international trade deals like TPP must be carefully nuanced because a lot of his constituents grow and export rice across the Pacific, and they liked what they heard about TPP.  

We need to get out and talk to our fellow citizens, for sure, but also, we need to listen to them. There are more issues that unite us than the ones that divide us, for example health care and racial equality. Can we focus on those, for a couple of years at least? Let's try.  








The Editor's Back Fence

DON'T MISS THIS: S.F. Comical Boss cracks down on thinking by staff

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 20, 2017 - 12:20:00 PM

If we didn't have enough to annoy us today, the East Bay Express reports, via the Cal Alumni Magazine, that the managing editor of the San Francisco Comical has banned, by fiat, participation by her slaves employees in the Women's March on Saturday. Huh? Does anyone really think that the likes of Leah Garchik or Caille Milner are impartial about this inauguration? I certainly hope and believe that they're not on the fence. Read all about it here:

SF Chronicle Editor Bans Newsroom Staff From Attending Saturday's Women's March

Non-Marching Orders: Newspaper Bars Employees from Women’s March

Public Comment

Statement on inauguration of president Donald Trump

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin
Friday January 20, 2017 - 01:29:00 PM

Many people across Berkeley and this country have expressed deep concern over the new administration’s agenda. As Mayor of Berkeley – a diverse city with a long history of political activism – I reiterate my strong commitment that Berkeley will continue to be a beacon of light during dark times. We will remain a sanctuary city, and we will protect the rights of our residents. 

The transition of power is a cornerstone of our democratic process, whether we agree with it or not. But we have a democratic obligation to hold our elected officials accountable. This is exactly what I plan to do, and I call on everyone else to do the same. The record-breaking protests planned in the Bay Area over the next couple of days is a testament to the commitment of our region to holding the new administration accountable. 

=n his inaugural address, President Trump called upon building unity and providing a voice to those who have become forgotten. But this cannot be done through mass deportations that break apart families, or continuing the mass incarceration of minorities, stripping them of their rights. A role of the President is to bring people together, not to ignite feuds on Twitter; to build bridges across communities, not walls; and to ensure and expand the rights of our residents, not restrict access to healthcare, voting, or media. Let it be clear that misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia have no place in the White House or anywhere in society. 

As we begin this new chapter in American history, we must be vigilant and raise our voice to ensure that our future is written by we the people, and not an elite handful of billionaires. The American people have risen to the challenge of fighting for our rights against regressive thinking administrations in the past, and I am confident that if we unite, we will continue to move the progressive torch forward through this storm.

Considerations for "step up housing": open letter to Berkeley City Council Members

Thomas Lord, Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission member
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 12:32:00 PM

As the elected leaders of one of the world's great small cities, you are confronted by a rush of awesome and rapidly evolving challenges.

Sometimes, as the actions taken by Council wend their way through the complex machinery of the City government and make their way out into the greater society, the weight of their effect grows. Your choices may acquire such profound human significance that every now and then it must take great courage for you to act decisively and quickly.

Or so one hopes. It is only appropriate, then, that sometimes your decisive hand should be stayed. There are times when contemplation should displace action. On certain problems, you must step back and try to see a bigger picture, and to seek out the the counsel of others who can help you find that greater perspective.

The human tragedies and the civic disruptions associated with homelessness are large, urgent problems. Even as urgent as the problems are, they are also persistent: Berkeley has had a significant homeless population for decades. You must feel under intense pressure to take bold steps quickly. Nevertheless, my counsel to you is to slow down and reconsider the "Step up housing" Initiative: 

A Utopian clinic sprung from an architect's imagination? 

Following a suggestion from architect Patrick Kennedy, the "Step up housing" Initiative proposes 100 micro-units of "supportive" or "assisted-living" housing for some of the "most vulnerable members of our community". 

What is proposed, then, is a sort of treatment facility: a new form of residential clinic or hospital; a new form of sanitarium or asylum. 

What Kennedy and now council propose is radical. At 160 square feet, each micro-unit will be smaller than most patient rooms in conventional hospitals. Yet, unlike patient rooms, these units must contain all of a resident's possessions and her kitchen. 

Is it practical for professional care providers to do their job in such close quarters, when they need enter these units? Can emergency medical professionals or the police operate well in this environment? 

What of the cognitive effects of such small quarters? Can they cause further harm to substance abusers or those with mental illnesses? Can such confinement add mental illness to the problems of someone who is initially merely down and out? 

Yet even before any serious medical evaluation has been made of the proposal, Council is asking the City Manager to get to work finding money in the budget, streamlining the permitting process, deisgning contracts for service providers and, remarkably: asking city employees to design admission criteria for the micro-units! 

Where are the neutral, disinterested residents and the care providers to evaluate this proposal? Are there any besides the architect, the politicians, and potential contractors who, after study, would choose this design for a care facility? 

A sucker's loan? 

Fiscally, the Initiative would seem to have potential to create a disaster. 

Kennedy proposes, in effect, a 10-20 million dollar loan to the City of Berkeley, delivered "in kind" as these units. Though the details are vague, in return the City would guarantee payments of $100,000 per month ($1.2 million per year) to Kennedy, apparently indefinitely. 

Those are certainly solid terms for the lender but are they good for the City? Is the City getting a fair deal when what it gets is a structure for which the natural rate of depreciation is unknown? When the upkeep costs are unknowable? When the usefulness - or non-usefulness - of the structure is the topic of an expensive social engineering experiment? When Berkeley hopes to scrounge most of the $100,000 per month from welfare subsidies that appear likely to be slashed by austerity policies? 

Where are the voices on council with the good sense to be wary of becoming the bag holder on a bad loan? 

Genuine help or legalistic prop? 

In light of the City's history of police actions against homeless people, and in light of policies advanced by City Council, a certain conclusion can not be avoided: 

If these units are built, the City of Berkeley is likely to eventually use their existence as a policy excuse for policing unhoused people more harshly. The excuse will be deployed even when there are not adequate alternatives for many who remain on the street. 

That conclusion is unavoidable because it is firmly grounded in history, including recent history. Similar legalistic policies characterize the repeated raids on the First They Came For The Homeless protest camps and the recently (partially) repealed sidewalk ordinance. This pattern of inadequate carrot plus harsh stick is deeply rooted in Berkeley's practices. 

Glib promises will not do: why should anyone believe this project would be any different? 


Whatever the root causes of a person's homelessness, one thing is near certain: he is crushingly poor. 

In our society, to be that poor is either to receive welfare or not eat. To either receive subsidy or not sleep indoors. 

Ours is a society in which, for the non-wealthy, anyone who can not sell their labor must become a dependent or die. 

The societal compulsion to work is vestigial. It comes from a time when collective survival required labor from all who were capable, and growth occurred only on the backs of slaves. Punishing the idle had at least this logic to it: there was always a collective need for their work. 

Today the situation is radically different. Today we live in a society that can not usefully employ many millions of people. We live in a society that exhibits the famous contradiction of an enormous mass of wealth and productive capacity at one pole, and an enormous mass of unemployment, poverty, and need at the other pole -- the two kept apart by an unsatisfiable logical of profit. 

And we know how all corners of excluded society react to these conditions -- every subculture, every ethnicity: Systematic and crushing deprivation engenders the social disfunction of dispair, hatred of others, hatred of self, substance abuse, mental illness, fiscal collapse, and criminality. 

Further, for all the good intentions of well meaning politicians, the inexorable fiscal logic of capital compels our society into a steady reduction of welfare and other subsidies to subsistence. 

In short, we live in a society that simultaneously casts out millions whose labor is not needed, and punishes those who are cast out. 

The phenomenon of mass incarceration in the United States and the large and persistent homeless population are two horrific expressions of our outdated social habit of punishing those who are blocked from income by the blind processes of capital. 

Council is not confronted by the need for a new concept in clinic design. Nor by the need to borrow $20 million dollars from an eager lender. 

Council is not really, in spite of its tendencies, confronted by a need to construct further legalistic excuses to harshly police homeless people. 

No social engineering experiment by an eager lender and architect can address the problems of capital. 

City Council, please do not bother staff or yourselves at this moment stuggling to implement the "Step up housing" Initiative in a rush. Instead, step back work with the Citizen Commissions at your disposal and the public to clarify your thinking about the nature of the problems, and the possible policies that might speak to those real problems, in light of Mr. Kennedy's kind offer. 

Yours in community,
Thomas Lord <lord@basiscraft.com>, Berkeley CA 

Letter to the Daily Californian re: Milo Yiannopoulos free speech controversy

Board of Directors, Free Speech Movement Archives: Robert Cohen, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Steve Lustig, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 09:07:00 PM

As veterans and historians of the Free Speech Movement, we are writing to comment on the forthcoming visit to Berkeley of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos is a bigot who comes to campus spouting vitriol so as to attract attention to himself. His modus operandi is to bait students of color, transgender students and anyone to the left of Donald Trump in the hopes of sparking a speaking ban or physical altercation so he can pose as a free speech martyr. His campus events are one long publicity stunt designed to present himself as a kind of hip, far right, youth folk hero — sort of Hitler Youth with cool sunglasses. “Look at me, I’m so rad, the PC police won’t let me speak on campus.” That’s his whole shtick in a nutshell, along with bigotry.

Banning him just plays into his hands politically, which is one reason why we were glad to see the UC administration refuse to adopt such a ban. True to form, however, Yiannopoulos and his Berkeley College Republican sponsors nonetheless put on their phony free speech martyrdom routine when the administration asked them to pay for security needed to ensure that the incendiary bigotry of their event does not end in bloodshed.  


Berkeley’s free speech tradition, won through struggle — suspension, arrest, fines, jail time — by Free Speech Movement activists is far more important than Yiannopoulos, and it is that tradition’s endurance that concerns us. “The content of speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university”: That’s what the pivotal Dec. 8 resolution says, as adopted by the Berkeley faculty’s Academic Senate when it finally backed the FSM’s free speech demand in 1964. Under the terms of that resolution, even the worst kind of bigot, including Yiannopoulos, must be allowed to speak on campus. So the UC administration was acting in accord with those principles when it refused to ban Yiannopoulos. 

We were thus disappointed that so many Berkeley faculty signed an open letter supporting such a ban and criticizing the UC administration for refusing to ban Yiannopoulos. The best way to battle his bigoted discourse is to critique and refute it. And really, that is not hard to do. Just have a look at his speeches, which are devoid of logic and humanity. For example, one of his speeches we read online finds him arguing against criticism of racial slavery in the U.S. since many societies had slavery, which is basically a kind of moral relativism for dummies. If even a 10th of the 100 or so faculty who signed those pro-ban open letters showed up to ask this bigot tough questions or held a teach-in about what’s wrong and unethical in his vitriol (and in the rest of the so called “alt right”), they could puncture his PR bubble instantly, avoid casting him in the role of free speech martyr and prove that the best cure for ignorant and hateful speech is speech that unmasks its illogic, cruelty and stupidity. At a time when we have a bigoted president taking office in the White House it seems especially important for universities to expose and refute bigoted speakers — banning them evades that responsibility. 

We urge students to express their opposition to the bigotry of Yiannopoulos and all speakers on campus whose views are hateful, and to do so non-violently, in ways that do not prevent such speakers from making or completing their remarks. Those tempted to block access to or disrupt speeches by such reactionaries should resist that temptation and reflect on FSM leader Mario Savio’s criticism of the disruption of UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick’s speech at Berkeley in the Reagan era. Savio said that, for the sake of Berkeley’s “very precious” tradition of free speech, Kirkpatrick had to be accorded the right to speak. While conceding that her militaristic views might seem intolerable, Mario argued that “for our own good we need to find ways of tolerating what is almost intolerable.” Making a distinction between heckling (raising tough questions in a robust manner) and disruption (drowning out or in some other way preventing the speaker from completing her remarks), Savio urged protesters “to stay on this side of the line that separates heckling from disruption.” This would “prevent what she represents from crushing our liberties—which we can use … to oppose and I hope eliminate what she represents.” 

Finally, this whole controversy leads us to call on the Berkeley College Republicans to reflect on their own approach to organizing. While you do have the right to sponsor hateful speakers, how does it serve the campus community, your classmates, or the party of Lincoln to do so?

Almost Full Employment!!! What Planet Is The New York Times On?

Harry Brill
Friday January 20, 2017 - 01:59:00 PM

The New York Times is not only an informative newspaper. It is also an establishment newspaper. Accordingly, we are fed with a mix of truth and fiction. In a recent article on the front page of the business section, the NY Times reports "Recovery Finally Yields Big Gains for Average Worker's Pay. The article concludes that the "tighter labor market forces employers to pay more to hire and retain workers. But in reality, the gains of last year of 2.9% were paltry. For when the inflation rate of 1.7% is subtracted, the real wage increase was only 1.2%. That is by no means a major improvement. 

About the newspaper's claim that the labor market is tight, the very opposite is far more accurate. There is a growing surplus of unemployed workers. As the NY Times article acknowledges, millions of workers have stopped looking for work because they have been unable to find jobs. But they haven't disappeared. These discouraged workers, who exceed 2 million, are ready, willing, and able to work. If they were included in the unemployment figures, as they should be, the official unemployment rate would climb from 4.7% to 6.1%. 

Also, about 6 million workers are employed part time because they are unable to obtain full time jobs. Many employers, who want to escape the costs of fringe benefits and pay lower wages, split full time jobs in half, which creates two jobs out of one. During the first week of every month the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the number of new jobs that have been added to the economy. The BLS exaggerates the growth in the number of new jobs because it includes these newly created part time jobs that do not reflect any economic growth at all. 

What the employers have mainly created by destroying full time jobs is poverty and despair. And they have also increased the labor surplus because many of these workers who are now forced to work only part time will be competing for full time jobs. 

Also, undocumented workers add to the surplus labor force. The official estimate of the number of undocumented workers in the United States is 8 million. But it is most likely higher because the estimate is inferred rather than directly counted. Undocumented immigrants try, so to speak, to slip into the shadows because they do not want to risk deportation. But they certainly contribute substantially to the pool of job seekers. Indeed, that's why the government looked the other way as so many illegally entered this country. 

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that too many workers are competing for scarce jobs, the NY Times claims that our economy is close to full employment. That's nonsense! When we include the aggregate number of discouraged workers, part-timers who want full time jobs, and undocumented workers, we realize that the labor surplus is huge and even staggering. 

But the NY Times sees things quite differently. For example, although It notes that the majority of workers without college degrees have fewer opportunities, it nevertheless misses the important point. Since our economy is many light years away from full employment, it is inevitable that some groups will fare more poorly than others. 

Even many college students have little to look forward to. Actually, higher education institutions are often warehouses for young people. Most are not receiving any training or any other preparation for good jobs. Moreover, many of the good jobs are disappearing. The federal government has the resources but not the will to create good, living wage jobs. But unfortunately, if the government did nothing at all, it would be an improvement. The government has been playing a major role facilitating the ability of business to migrate offshore, particularly to lower wage countries. Among the major domestic labor force disasters, over 4 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared in a 20 year period. 

The tax advantages to corporations of relocating offshore are considerable. Moving expenses are completely tax deductable. Also, thanks to the tax code, the effective income tax rate on reported income by foreign subsidiaries is substantially lower than the tax paid on domestic earnings. It's about a 10% difference. Also, corporations can even report their profits as foreign income although they were actually earned in the United States. And most of all, among the major roles of American foreign policy is to protect and nurture American multinational corporations abroad. The aggregate result of government's pro-business practices is that unemployment and low wages are both growing domestically. 

Already, too many businesses are shedding jobs. Sears will shut 150 stores, and lay off over 6,000 employees. Macy's is closing 63 stores and cutting 10,000 jobs. Wal-Mart is slashing 17,500 jobs. Other corporations that are reducing jobs include Microsoft, 4,700, DuPont, 6,000, and Bank of America, 10,000. Some of the cuts are showing up as an increase in empty stores that are not being replaced by other businesses. Empty store fronts in shopping centers have risen in 30 metropolitan areas. The real estate industry is worried that the worse may be ahead. When stores close without being replaced, shopping centers lose their vibrancy, and could eventually become blighted, which in turn, causes more closings and layoffs. Of course, many businesses are losing sales to Amazon and other internet companies. But the massive reduction in jobs mainly reflects the state of the American economy. According to the recent weekly figures, 237,000 workers applied for unemployment insurance! That's quite worrisome. Isn't it? 

Higher Wages Will Boost the Economy 

Are there any positive developments? Yes, indeed. As a result of well organized campaigns, there have been important gains in the minimum wage. This issue is not only important because it reduces poverty for low wage workers and their families. Higher wages increase purchasing power, which both saves and creates jobs. 

Thanks to minimum wage laws, wages have recently improved for 4.3 million workers. In Berkeley, San Francisco, and Emeryville, the wage will reach $15 an hour and will include an annual cost of living increase and paid sick leave. Over 200 economists signed a detailed statement asserting that a $15 an hour wage would help stabilize the economy because it would appreciably boost spending. To those who think this wage is excessive, keep in mind that if the federal minimum wage kept up with inflation and productivity gains since 1968, the minimum wage would now be about $26 an hour. 

When Oakland, California passed a ballot measure that appreciably increased the minimum wage. Despite the cries that the sky is falling, interviews with over one hundred employers eight months after the law took effect acknowledged that the higher wage posed no serious problem. As the official figures showed, the unemployment rate declined and there was no major effect on employment opportunities. That's not surprising. A substantial increase in wages and benefits will have a positive impact on all working people and their families by improving the economy. 

Frankly D. Roosevelt was committed to both reducing poverty and stimulating the economy. He remarked, "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country." 


*The New York Times article was written by Nelson D. Schwartz, whose writings represent the point of view of the NY Times. He is officially responsible for covering economic issues in the newspaper's business section

Trump’s infatuation

Jagjit Singh
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 09:05:00 PM

Trump’s ongoing infatuation with Vladimir Putin is extremely troubling. His stubborn refusal to release his tax returns has cast a dark shadow on his presidency and may well explain why he dismissed the findings of his intelligence agencies who blame the Kremlin for hacking DNC’s emails which tilted the presidency in his favor. 

There is mounting evidence that Trump’s romance with Russia is closely linked to his business interests. Crushed by mounting debt from his failing casinos, Trump was mysteriously rescued by a shadowy Iceland-based corporate entity thought to be financed by Russian oligarchs. Many of the oligarchs were prime customers for Trump’s properties. For example, in 2008, he sold a Palm Beach mansion to billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million. This seems to fly in the face of Trump’s claims that no such entanglements exist. More alarmingly, Trump has hinted that sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine may be lifted. As a further gift to Russia, Trump suggested the US may not come to the defense of the Baltic States to thwart a possible Russian invasion and mocked NATO as being irrelevant. 

If Trump succeeds in undermining NATO this would be a huge boost to Russia’s sphere of influence and Putin’s popularity. 

Finally, to ignore Russia’s role in supporting the brutal regime of President Assad who has slaughtered tens of thousands of his people is an affront to the core values we claim to cherish.

WOW--A report from the field

Steve Martinot
Sunday January 22, 2017 - 03:31:00 PM

WOW!!! The women’s march in Oakland, on a Saturday called Jan. 21. At 1 pm, a march monitor tells me, “they estimate 60,000.” 7 pm, Channel 7 reports upwards of 84,000 people. Eighty Four Thousand. Please forgive me. I had to write it out in order to give my fingers a bit of the ecstacy that my mind feels. But then, 11 pm, Channel 5, “the police have revised their estimate, now up to 100,000.” WOW. 

In San Francisco, another 100,000, filling Market St. to the brim. In Chicago, there were a hundred and fifty thousand (150,000). In DC, a half a million. Across the country, over 600 cities graced by the presence in motion of the dignity, the humor, the inventiveness, and the rage of the women. And those of us who are non-women, but who try to add what we can to what has been set in motion. Millions nationwide, and more millions globally. 

What has been set in motion? A leap to our collective feet to beat down those who pretend to political elitism, whose who would use their position in a political structure to disparage whole peoples, to denigrate whole genders, to derogate whole sectors of the US population, to threaten whole ethnicities that try to find a home among us. And to heap contempt on all those who would be critical and on those who would stand up for the dignity and self-respect of humans. A Hundred Thousand people in Oakland alone. 

We fought to get where we are, to a place that is a road toward where people enter dialogue rather than command obedience, a place free of slavery, a place free of racial discrimination, a place free of masculinist violence and patriarchal hegemony. We haven’t gotten there, because the job is so big that a mere half century (not to mention 300 years) is not enough to finish it. But as long as we find a way to live shoulder to shoulder rather than toe to toe, we know we will get there. As one sign said, “we didn’t come this far to ONLY come this far.” 

But why had there been something to come this far from, in the first place? Insofar as we have been building a sense of humanity against bigotry, against murder, deceit, and exclusion, we cannot forget that former place from which we emerge. But we cannot take that as our tradition. To have taken this long journey means what we have been building hadn’t been there back then. What is a tradition and a history if they have to be created as we go along? Ask the women, for they are the guardians of tradition, and they are the ones inventing it right now. 

Still, there has come some loud mouth who finds it in his spleen and liver to derogate what we find in our hearts as a vision of sisterhood and brotherhood, and gets himself selected to be the mouthpiece of the political past, the one in which so many of us could not find ourselves. He is there to threaten us. We know why he is there to threaten us. It is because our struggle against verticle political stratification, against the racializations of white nationalism, against the discriminatory attitudes toward the “other-du-jour” that political and corporate hegemonies depend on, threaten them. But we don’t threaten them. It is our natural bent toward equality and democracy, and the justice that those demand, that threaten them. It is our natural tendency toward cooperation and unity that they attack in order to say, in one breath, cooperation is criminal, and people don’t naturally cooperate or unite. They attack our movements with post-Cointelpro campaigns with its hundreds of political prisoners, and then say that it is human nature to fail at collective endeavor. 

But the truth of the matter is that they who run this society cannot stand the presence of equality, the structures of democracy where we the people make political decisions for ourselves, and expect our representatives to honor them and carry them out. No, they insist on making decisions for themselves, and then expect us to carry them out. 

It is in terms of that ethos that Trump played the electoral vote game. The separation of the electoral vote from the popular vote is in the constitution itself. It was put there as a way of preserving parity among the states rather than let the more populous dominate the more sparcely populated. It has become a states-rights arena. Nevertheless, it beckons with a suggestion to turn it around and use the state’s autonomy, which means our own sense of ourselves, against the federal juggernaut. 

Let us roll up our sleeves and get to work together to preserve the softness and sensitivities of our human being against this machine that has made itself extant at the highest levels of government – a government that we have acceeded to up until now, up until this travesty has happened. And now we see what it is capable of, and not. 

To have been in that crowd, to have smiled at all those faces, never seen before, but among whom one finds friends, is a pure cool breeze on a hot day, an atmospheric embrace that allowed the few drops of water that fell to be seen as life for our planet, and not just rain. 

Steve Martinot 

A small group holds U.S. hostage

Ron Lowe
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 09:11:00 PM

A few hundred House and Senate Republican politicians are holding areas of the U.S. government and Supreme Court hostage with their extremest and negative agenda. It's beyond comprehension that the media, business community, Justice Department, Americans, and Democrat's can do nothing to stop the out of control Republican Party from turning the Constitution and it's checks and balances upside down. 

A few hundred Republican politicians are stealing another presidential election from the American people much like they stole the 2000 presidential election. Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump were election losers but both ended up as president through Republican fraud and their gaming of the election process. 

A FEW HUNDRED REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS are threatening to destroy the Affordable Care Act that offers 18 million Americans health care.  

A FEW HUNDRED HOUSE AND SENATE ANTI-ABORTION REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS are going to defund Planned Parenthood which helps millions of women with health and reproductive issues. 

A FEW HUNDRED REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS ARE HOLDING THE U.S. Supreme Court hostage so that President Obama can't select the next Supreme Court justice. Oh, but Donald Trump will be able to install a Republican anti-abortion jurist on the court to replace Antonin Scalia.  


When are Americans going to stand up to these Republican political thugs? Because none of the powers-that-be seem willing to do it!


Updated: ECLETIC RANT:Should performance-enhancing drug use bar entry to Baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 09:01:00 PM

On January 18, 2017, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum elected three new members to the Hall of Fame. Notably absent were home-run king Barry Bonds and star pitcher Roger "Rocket" Clements. 

The criteria for membership is based on "the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player player." By being tainted with performance-enhancing drug (PED) use, both Bonds and Clements and others have been denied membership. A player must receive at least 75% of the votes cast to become a member. This year Bonds received 53.8% of ballots submitted up from 44.3% last year while Clements received 54.1% up from 45.2% last year. As the numbers keep climbing and most commentators speculate that it is only a matter of time before PED use will not be a bar membership. 

Many Hall of Fame voters attribute the election of Bud Selig and Tony La Russa to the Hall of Fame last year for Bonds and Clements rising numbers. Selig, former Commissioner of Baseball, presided over the so-called PED era in baseball. Selig claimed he knew nothing about rampant PED use and was only forced to take action when Jose Canseco published his tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big in 2005. Until then, Selig, owners, and fans loved the way baseballs were flying out of the park making baseball more profitable than ever.  

Tony La Russa was the Oakland Athletic's manager when the bulked up Conseco and Mark McGuire were on his team. La Russa had "suspicions" but nothing came of them. Now La Russa recommends the PED cheats be admitted to the Hall of Fame but with an asterisk after their names. 

As the argument goes, why should Selig and La Russa be members when Bonds, Clements, and other PED users are not. True, Selig and La Russa did not take PEDs because, as far as I know, PEDs do not enhance leadership or management skills. Yet, both Selig and La Russa knew or should have known about widespread PED use and did little or nothing about it at the time it was so widespread. 

With Selig and La Russa in the Hall of Fame, it would seems that membership is now based solely on on field performance while "integrity" and "character" have been dropped. It is probably only a matter of time when PED use will no longer be an impediment to membership. 

But does it matter? Like it or not, superstar professional athletes are role models for many of our young people and celebrating cheaters sends the wrong message to them. If the would-be professional athlete believes that it will give him or her an edge, the temptation is high to use PEDs. In fact, PED use is increasing among high school and college students, especially among minorities. This is not surprising as professional sports --unlike most professions -- are where talent can trump color and ethnicity. In this age of wide-scale cheating and lying by public officials, researchers, school officials, students, etc., the use of PEDs appears irrelevant to a lot of people. After all, baseball is just entertainment and “everyone” was doing it.  

Now that on field performance will likely become the sole criteria for membership in baseball's Hall of Fame, perhaps "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Pete Rose should now be considered for membership. 

the team(s) on which the player player." By being tainted with steroid use, both Bonds and Clements and other have been denied membership. A player must receive at least 75% of the votes cast to become a member. This year Bonds received 53.8% of ballots submitted up from 44.3% last year while Clements received 54.1% up from 45.2% last year. As the numbers keep climbing and most commentators speculate that it is only a matter of time before PED use will not be a bar membership. 

Many Hall of Fame voters attribute the election of Bud Selig and Tony La Russa to the Hall of Fame last year. Selig, former Commissioner of Baseball, presided over the so-called PED era in baseball. Selig claimed he knew nothing about rampant PED use and was only forced to take action when Jose Canseco published his tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big in 2005. Until then, Selig, owners, and fans loved the way baseballs were flying out of the park making baseball more profitable than ever. 

Tony La Russa was the Oakland Athletic's manager when the bulked up Conseco and Mark McGuire were on his team. La Russa had "suspicions" but nothing came of them. Now La Russa recommends the PED cheats be admitted to the Hall of Fame but with an asterisk after their names. 

As the argument goes, why should Selig and La Russa be members when Bonds, Clements, and other PED users are not. True, Selig and La Russa did not take PEDs because, as far as I know, PEDs do not enhance leadership or management skills. Yet, both Selig and La Russa knew or should have known about widespread steroid use and did little or nothing about it at the time it was so widespread. 

With Selig and La Russa in the Hall of Fame, it would seems that membership is now based solely on on field performance while "integrity" and "character" have been dropped. It is probably only a matter of time when PED use will no longer be an impediment to membership. 

But does it matter? Like it or not, superstar professional athletes are role models for many of our young people and celebrating cheaters sends the wrong message to them. If the would-be professional athlete believes that it will give him or her an edge, the temptation is high to use PEDs. In fact, PED use is increasing among high school and college students, especially among minorities. This is not surprising as professional sports—unlike most professions -- are where talent can trump color and ethnicity. In this age of wide-scale cheating and lying by public officials, researchers, school officials, students, etc., the use of PEDs appears irrelevant to a lot of people. After all, baseball is just entertainment and “everyone” was doing it. 

Now that on field performance will likely become the sole criteria for membership in baseball's Hall of Fame, perhaps "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Pete Rose should now be considered for membership. 

Editor's note: This version corrects errors in the originally posted version.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Recovery, Repairing Oneself, and Comparing Oneself

Jack Bragen
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 08:59:00 PM

Psychiatric medications often lessen symptoms of a mental illness, but usually do not eliminate the problems completely. A person with a psychotic disorder often must use a number of additional strategies to remain on an even keel.  

While medication may rid me of about ninety percent of my acute symptoms, I still have the ten percent left (still a lot) that I have to address somehow. 

In the recent past, I've suffered from low-level psychosis, and this has impacted numerous areas of my life. I've had a severe anxiety disorder as well, and this can make it much more difficult to sift through thoughts and weed out the bad ones.  

I've realized lately that my thinking needs a tune-up. Looking at thoughts and evaluating them is a valid thing for any human being. And for someone who suffers from a low level of psychosis, it is vital. If unable to look at thoughts and ponder them, it could mean too much or too little medication, it could mean that the disorder has wiped out this capacity, or it could merely indicate that this capacity hasn't been exercised enough.  

Not being connected enough to reality can be detrimental to numerous areas of life. The first step is to gain the clarity necessary to realize that the thinking is unclear.  

Donald Trump said, "I know things other people don't know." This is an indication, among many, that Trump suffers from low-level to moderate psychosis. The difference is that I know I have a problem and President Trump does not. Another difference is that Trump, by the time you read this, holds the most powerful office on Earth. I am just a freelance author and I am not in a position to do much damage, should my thinking go way out into left field.  

I also strive to clear up my misconceptions by means of communication. If I am not sure whether something is real or not, I check it out; I ask the person who has access to the facts, or I might ask my wife or a therapist, neither of whom, I hope, live in psychosis.  

On planet Earth, we have a number of men who hold power of the highest magnitude who are also unstable, who suffer from severe narcissistic disorders, and who believe they must be in a position of dominance. Warped dictators have taken over, and this doesn't speak well for the short-term prospects of life on our planet. This is enough to traumatize any sensitive individual, much less a sensitive person who suffers from a psychiatric condition. So, it is challenging to hang on to sanity.  

I am taking a little bit of a break, in which I continue doing this column but have not pushed quite as hard in other areas of my writing--areas in which the work is much harder and that contain no promise of gratification. At the same time, I am trying to do a tune up on my mind, and this is while I continue to handle basic responsibilities of living as a disabled, middle-aged, low-income, married man. I might also try to get out of the house a bit more, and open up my vistas a bit more. I've been in quite a rut.  

When the spring comes, it might be time for another massive fiction push, or perhaps work on another book (which will probably be self-published). 

In the traffic school that I attended when I had my most recent speeding ticket (It was in 1988 or 89) the instructor said something that stuck in my memory: "Stress will kill you." And it is very stressful just to be in one's own head with a ton of thoughts rattling around. In order to connect with reality, sometimes a person needs to get a firsthand look.  

If I were in a psychiatric ward right now, I would make myself play ping-pong. (Most psych wards have a ping pong table. And those that don't have one should have one.) All work and no play makes Jack sick.  

Please remember that if you like my writing, you can always find more by doing a search for me on Amazon.  

SQUEAKY WHEEL: The Citizen-in-Chief

Toni Mester
Thursday January 19, 2017 - 02:56:00 PM
Meeting Ken Small at the tank memorial July 2000
Meeting Ken Small at the tank memorial July 2000

Troubled times are coming. Berkeley’s own Robert Reich has sounded the alarm in a recent column listing 15 warning signs that a tyrant is taking over.

People are frightened. For us old folks who have lived through so much, the feelings are familiar. I will never forget December 13, 2000, the night that Al Gore lost the election by fiat of the Supreme Court. Pulling into the driveway, I heard his concession speech on the radio, and I wept. I just knew that the presidency of George W. Bush would be a disaster, and it was.

Through those miserable eight years, through terrorist attacks, the Iraq War, and the financial implosion, I began to wind down a long career in public education. A bit pooped, I pensioned out at age 65 in 2008.

But the election of Barack Obama gave me the psychological boost to teach a reduced load for five more years. The Presidency touches individual Americans on an emotional level, and so many of us Californians are worried about Trump. In such times, we need to hold on to our values and each other. A whole lot of hugging is going on. 

In the midst of this uncertainty, three recent events buoyed my spirits. One was Obama’s optimistic and graceful farewell address, full of positive lessons and encouragement. Of course he emphasized his accomplishments: leading us out of a deep recession, the Iran nuclear deal, the Affordable Care Act, and Cuba. He celebrated marriage equality and cautioned that race relations, although improved, still have a long way to go. 

But the essence of his speech was a lesson in dignity and democratic citizenship. He extolled the rule of law and worried that the growing rancor in public life creates such negativity that “people of good character” are reluctant to engage in politics. He said that a belief that the system is “inevitably corrupt” has an onerous effect and that we each have a duty as citizens to accept responsibility to be “those anxious and jealous guardians” of our democracy. He told young people not to break windows, but to organize. 

We’re going to miss Barack Obama even though he’s not going away. He promised to be an active citizen, “the most important office in a democracy.” 

City College Accredited 

Another uplift came with the end of the accreditation crisis at City College of San Francisco, my employer for 42 years. The threat of losing our accreditation began in 2012, affecting the morale of everybody at the college: the Trustees, the administration, and faculty, and the students. Many of us retired, leaving the fight to the younger teachers. 

Watching the struggle from Berkeley, I admired the perseverance of my union, as the leaders of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 waged a spirited, focused, and intelligent fight for the survival of our beloved school with the help of the entire college community, San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera, and myriad supporters. It took five years to beat back the forces of reaction, and now that the worst is over, I feel relief that City College has survived and pride in the part that my union played. 

Somehow the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), led by Barbara Beno, managed to convince the public that City College was mismanaged. Some of that accusation was true, but there’s much more to the City College story than meets the eye. The ACCJC didn’t like our contract and the power that faculty had won. 

Since I contributed to that contract, specifically the equitable pay scale for hourly instructors and their re-employment rights, the past five years have been a constant reminder about the fragility of political accomplishments. Just when we think that we’ve won a victory, another force waiting in the wings comes forward ready to wipe away those achievements, like the Republican attack on Obamacare. 

During my time there, City College underwent changes that improved an already remarkable educational institution that included two divisions, credit and non-credit, a huge and diverse student body, a dedicated and heterogeneous faculty, and the support of the citizens of San Francisco. 

For a small town girl from the Catskills, working at CCSF was a dream come true, even though I spent my entire career as a “temporary” part-timer. Sometimes walking around San Francisco, I wondered how I ever got to such a glorious place. 

Although financially challenged, I enjoyed total academic freedom in the non-credit Older Adults Program, a priceless opportunity that few teachers enjoy. Ultimately, that was the trade-off that I came to accept. I wrote my own course outlines, syllabi, and lesson plans. All the administration seemed to care about was the enrollment count in our classes. 

Out of necessity, I became a union activist and enjoyed the support of a spirited team including my mentor, the indomitable Chris Hanzo, our executive secretary. On the negotiating team, I learned the laws of collective bargaining, both adversarial and interest based. I got elected to the Academic Senate. 

In 1998, around the middle of my career, Bob Varni was elected to the Board of Trustees and began a revolution at CCSF by first hiring consultants and two years later Chancellor Evan Dobelle, who fired a third of the administrators. This was the first time that I witnessed up close and personal how much change could be effected by a single person in the right place at the right time. 

The college was restructured into departments with the faculty running the instructional program and a streamlined administration playing a supportive role. Our part-timers committee won the advent of an hourly pro-rata pay scale and a modicum of job stability. 

The financial problems at the school were not caused by employee contracts, but by risky investments and behavior by some of the later top administrators. It was the banking disaster of 2008-2009 that put City College and others into jeopardy by deflating our budget cushion, which just so happened to coincide with the beginning of the accreditation process. 

I had worked under President Barbara Beno at Vista College, teaching basic skills classes at night for five years. The Peralta Community College District is top heavy with four Presidents and their managers. No wonder Ms. Beno thought that CCSF didn’t have “enough administrators.” 

The crisis is over now; congratulations and best wishes are due to all my colleagues who survived this ordeal and to the younger faculty who have the responsibility and opportunity to rebuild. Teaching is hard enough without the additional struggle of healing a wounded school. 

The Forgotten Dead 

I was reminded again about the power and importance of individual citizens at a recent Berkeley Rep performance of 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips. I hadn’t paid attention to the reviews. I knew the show had something to do with a cat, but as I watched, it slowly dawned that I knew the back-story, a largely unknown World War II disaster off the coast of the Slapton Sands in England. 

In July 2000, I was motoring around Devon with a Scottish friend, crossing the moors towards the mouth of the Dart, where the D-day invasion force had gathered in the spring of 1944. I wanted to see the place where my uncle Julius “Dudy” Nathan, a sergeant in the US Army, had enjoyed some English hospitality before crossing the Channel and landing on Utah Beach in Normandy. 

From Dartmouth, we drove along the beach and stopped at an unusual memorial, a rusty Sherman tank, gun pointing upward, its front decorated with a wreath and flags, a stone monument nearby. Up walked a welcoming figure, a white haired gent who seemed to be the guardian of this place. He was Ken Small, now deceased, the author of The Forgotten Dead. 

When Mr. Small realized that we were a Brit and a Yank, he launched into the story of how he had exhumed the tank from the sea floor where 946 American servicemen had died in a German U-boat attack on April 27, 1944 and how he brought to light this horrific fiasco, caused in part by technical failure in Allied communications. 

He signed a copy of his book, an account of the disaster and his difficulty in uncovering the truth. The book and the memorial website list all the names of the army and navy victims so they will never be forgotten again. 

Michael Morpurgo heard of this tragedy and wove it into a children’s book that was adapted by the Kneehigh theater company, who have brought other mesmerizing productions all the way from Cornwall to Berkeley Rep. 

Ken Small was just an ordinary citizen dealing with depression when he stumbled across military detritus on Slapton Sands. In memorializing the victims of Exercise Tiger and informing their families, he found a new purpose in life, now honored as an inspiration. 

Citizens can do such things. Thank you Barack Obama for reminding us and for rejoining our ranks. Welcome back. 


Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley 



OUR DAILY BIRD:Chestnut-backed chickadee

William E. Woodcock
Friday January 20, 2017 - 11:30:00 AM
Chestnut Backed Chickadee
William E. Woodcock
Chestnut Backed Chickadee

Arts & Events

New: Island City Opera “Don Pasquale” —Great Voices, Great Laughs, Great Venue

John McMullen ATCA
Tuesday January 24, 2017 - 11:33:00 AM

Alameda’s thriving Island City Opera Company opened the comic opera Don Pasquale last Friday. The opera buffa was a relief from the angst of Inauguration Day. 

Island City Opera plays in the Elks Lodge Ballroom on Santa Clara just a few blocks off the main drag of Park Street. It is a grand building, and the ballroom has a beaux arts stained glass dome that gives grandeur appropriate to opera. 

While the production has its faults and is somewhat uneven in talent, there is much to recommend it, and it is worth the trip to the lsland of Alameda to see its local art. 

Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is the age-old zany tale of the old man who wants a young wife. The hoary, rich Pantalone character chasing the ingénue has been a staple comic figure since Greek comedy through Commedia dell’Arte and beyond. 

A quick synopsis: Don Pasquale’s nephew and heir Ernesto has refused to marry the woman his uncle selected for him because he is in love with a young widow. To punish Ernesto for his disobedience, Pantalone decides to take a bride himself and disinherit him. He consults Dr. Malatesta (“headache” in Italian), who in this case is an Arlecchino/Dottore hybrid--a light-hearted, astute consigliore of the rich merchant who thwarts the plans of his master in favor of his own interests. His sister is the young widow Norina and the object of Ernesto’s affection. Malatesta plots to introduce her to Don Pasquale as a young virgin direct from the convent and prospective wife. His scheme is for her to access the Don’s wealth and secure her innamorato Ernesto’s (and her own and probably brother Malatesta’s) future. She pretends to be demure at first, but immediately after the faux marriage ceremony, Norina morphs into a shrew and spendthrift. Pantalone tries to tame her, but to no avail, and relents to a settlement to be rid of her. 

Here is the wiki-blurb for a tad of background: “Don Pasquale was first performed on 3 January 1843 by the Théâtre-Italien at the Salle Ventadour in Paris with great success and it is generally regarded as being the high point of the 19th century opera buffa tradition and, in fact, marking its ending.” 

The Good: 

Merola grad and Adler Fellow Basso-baritono Bojan Knezevic plays Don Pasquale with baritone Igor Viera as the fixer Dr. Malatesta. They both have superior, professional voices, but, just as important, both possess the comedic ability that is essential for the buffa. They do not mug, they are expressive in a heightened fashion, and play the comic reality at all times. 

I found myself laughing my head off, not just at the acting, but also at their expertly navigating the challenging prestissimo tongue-twisting lyrics. 

The set was spare but satisfying, with the vista of San Francisco excellently replicated. The garden scene rolled in from backstage was superb. The lighting was commendable with special kudos to the follow-spot operator. 

The chorus was very good as was the orchestra which was conducted by Philip Kutner. 

Eileen Meredith has a clear, young-sounding soprano which can facilely reach coloratura heights although it wasn’t shown in its full vigor until the second act. 

The Maybe-Not-So-Good: 

Tenor Sergio Gonzales was regrettably ill with a fever, and is to be commended for a valiant effort. His voice came alive at the end of the first act in an engaging aria, but in the second act his understudy sang from the orchestra while he lip-synched the love-duet. 

Neither of the lovers believably sustained the comedy. Opera is best when it combines impressive acting with great singing. Ms. Meredith’s pretended fits of pique are not the blood-in-the-eye, deranged and menacing tantrums that you can see in any romance language cinema. Mr. Gonzalez gets a sick-day excuse. 

The staging was presentational and prosaic. Giovanni Ruffino’s libretto specifies that it is set in Rome--it is truly a Roman Comedy—yet director Erin Neff chose to set it in San Francisco though nothing else in the play seemed to invoke San Francisco. 

The costuming had no thematic unity with a few unfortunate choices such as an old biddy’s brown dress and veil for Norina and Don Pasquale in a suit suited for a Texas cattle rancher, plaid with red embroidered shoulders and a bolo tie, when there is no reference to his being in oil or cattle or even Southern Italy. 

The staging of the chorus had them clumped together and banging into each other in what was supposedly slapstick but was neither specific nor practiced to a tee as comedy must be. 

Regardless of its unevenness, it is worth it to travel to Alameda for a regaling good time, a full bar, and a grand site. And of course to support a superior effort to sustain this fragile art form and make it local. 

Don Pasquale plays though next weekend: Friday 7:30 January 28 and Sunday, January 29.  

Go to www.islandcityopera.org /call 510-263-8060. Tickets $40-$60, seniors $36, students $10 

(From Berkeley, it’s about as far as the San Francisco Opera and the same 25 minutes. From Oakland/Piedmont, it’s an easy 13 minutes. Exit 23rd St. off 880 South, turn left onto the bridge, follow Park St. to 2255 Santa Clara down a couple of blocks to the Elk’s Ballroom with B.P.O.E unmistakably emblazoned on the portico, enter through the back of the building.) 


Island City Opera’s next offering is Don Quichotte by Massenet with the most excellent talent of Igor Viera (Dr. Malatesta!) directing and performing the role of Sancho Panza. March 1, 3, 5, 10, 12. 










Early Mahler at San Francisco Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday January 20, 2017 - 12:03:00 PM

In a well-planned concert series devoted to early works by Gustav Mahler, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony performed over the weekend of January 13-15 the symphonic movement entitled Blumine, the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, and Das klagende Lied. Two of these three works are rarely heard, so this program offered an enticing element of curiosity. Of the three works, however, only the best-known Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfaring Journeyman) lived up to what we have come to expect and cherish in Mahler. Beautifully sung by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, these songs of lament over a lost love were intensely moving, full of longing and bitterness. Cooke’s vocalism was unerring, her voice richly colored. My only note of qualification is that no matter how great a performance is given by a mezzo-soprano (such as Janet Baker, Brigitte Fassbaender, or Sasha Cooke), these songs were written for a baritone; and to my mind the greatest rendition of them is still the one by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on a recording with Raphael Kubelik conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.  

As for the rest of this San Francisco Symphony program, entirely new to me was the opening piece, a symphonic movement entitled Blumine. This is something the 24 year-old Mahler originally wrote as a third movement of what would become his First Symphony. It was performed as such on two occasions. However, once Mahler dropped it in the process of ordering his First Symphony as we know it today, Blumine (The Banquet of Flowers) was all but forgotten. As it stands, Blumine is a highly sentimental piece of music, even bordering on the saccharine. Its saving grace, however, is that in some ways it foreshadows, albeit in a pale version, the wonderful Adaggietto of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. 

The featured work in this program – and one might question whether it deserved pride of place over the wonderful Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – was Mahler’s Das klagende Lied, a title difficult to translate, for it suggests both a lament and an accusation. This is a very early work by Mahler, begun by the composer when he was only seventeen and completed when he was barely twenty. Mahler aficionados have gushed over the precocious composer’s audacious orchestration. It is there, to be sure. However, I find little in this hour-long oratorio that rises above a rather banal curiosity.  

To counter this inherent banality, Michael Tilson Thomas once again planned a semi-staged production in collaboration with director-designer James Darrah, with whom he had recently worked, to great effect, in Britten’s Peter Grimes and, to atrocious effect, in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Given the wildly diverging quality of their previous collaborations, I wondered what I was in for this time around. The story is a medieval tale involving two brothers who vie with one another for the love of a beautiful queen. One brother murders the other and wins the queen, but a minstrel happens to find a bone of the murdered brother out of which he carves a flute. Whenever he plays this flute, however, its only song is one accusing his brother of murdering him. Here, in Das klagende Lied, a fine contribution to this semi-staged production came from dancers Rebekah Downing, Alexandra Jenkins, Nicholas Korkos, and Sam Shapiro. Some of their lifts, leaps and catches were dramatic indeed. However, the video projections by Adam Larsen added nothing to the proceedings, and were mostly extraneous. In the end, MTT would be better off sticking to the music and abandoning these Hollywood attempts to gussy up the music with special effects. 

The singers in this Das klagende Lied were excellent, especially the lilting soprano of Joelle Harvey and the full-voiced mezzo-soprano of Sasha Cooke. Tenor Michael König did stalwart work, as did baritone Brian Mulligan. The San Francisco Symphony Chorus, led by Ragnar Bohlin, also provided excellent work. Nonetheless, Das klagende Lied struck me as a rather soporific work, one which only has relevance as an early work of a composer who later went on to do great things. If Das klagende Lied were by anyone other than Mahler or someone of comparable worth, it would now be forgotten.  

One final note: the program for this series of concerts contained a wonderful essay on Mahler and his problematic relationship to modernism by Carl E. Schorske. It was excerpted from Schorske’s book Thinking with History: Explorations in the Passage to Modernism, Princeton University Press, 1998. I recommend this excerpt and the book itself to all interested in Gustav Mahler. 


OUR DAILY BIRD:Chestnut-backed chickadee

William E. Woodcock
Friday January 20, 2017 - 11:30:00 AM
Chestnut Backed Chickadee
William E. Woodcock
Chestnut Backed Chickadee