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Carol Denney


Press Release: UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks offers Ann Coulter May 2 visit

UC Berkeley Media Relations
Thursday April 20, 2017 - 02:19:00 PM

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks made the following statement at a news conference today at which speakers provided an update on efforts to reschedule an appearance on campus by conservative author Ann Coulter: 

This university has an unwavering commitment to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines and protects the right of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. As the home of the Free Speech Movement, we fully support the right and ability of our students to host speakers of their choice, and we believe that exposing students to a diverse array of perspectives is an inherent and inseparable part of our educational mission. 

We also have an unwavering commitment to providing for the safety and well-being of speakers who come to campus, our students and other members of our campus and surrounding communities. 

While there may, at times, be a tension between these two paired commitments, we cannot compromise on either. In that context, Ms. Coulter’s announcement that she intends to come to this campus on April 27 without regard for the fact that we don’t have a protectable venue available on that date is of grave concern. Our police department has made it clear that they have very specific intelligence regarding threats that could pose a grave danger to the speaker, attendees and those who may wish to lawfully protest the event. At the same time, we respect and support Ms. Coulter’s own First Amendment rights. 

Given our serious reservations and concerns regarding Ms. Coulter’s stated intentions, last night I asked my staff to look beyond the usual venues we use for large public gatherings to see if there might be a protectable space for this event that would be available during the compressed, and extremely busy, window of time between now and the end of the academic year. 

Fortunately, that expanded search identified an appropriate, protectable venue that is available on the afternoon of May 2. While it is not one we have used for these sorts of events in the past, it can both accommodate a substantial audience and meet the security criteria established by our police department. Earlier today, we informed both the Berkeley College Republicans and the Coulter organization of this development, and we look forward to working with them. We will disclose the exact location of the venue once we have finalized details with both organizations.

Berkeley Chief defends protest response

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday April 19, 2017 - 05:20:00 PM

Berkeley police Chief Andrew Greenwood is defending his department's response to rallies for and against President Donald Trump on Saturday that resulted in 20 people being arrested and 11 people being injured. 

In a lengthy memo to Mayor Jesse Arreguin and the City Council this week, Greenwood said, "Our responsibility in this situation is to act with deliberation, and keen awareness of context, of what actions we're taking and why, and of what effect or reaction our actions may generate." 

He said, "We are rightly expected to not get swept into the volatility of the crowd. This is in keeping with the values of our community and the best-informed practices of law enforcement across the country, in a time where community trust in our actions is absolutely essential." 

Several hundred demonstrators and counter-demonstrators gathered at the Martin Luther King. Jr. Civic Center Park for the rallies on Saturday. 

Similar rallies were held at the park on March 4 and resulted in 10 people being arrested. 

Referring to Saturday, Greenwood said, "We found that once again large elements of the factions arrived in the area armed and prepared to fight." 

He said police confiscated dozens of weapons, including sticks, wooden dowels, poles, a stun gun, knives, bear spray, an axe handle and pepper spray. 

Greenwood said at least eight officers were injured while responding to the rallies, including several officers who reported hearing loss caused by having illegal explosives thrown at them, exposure to pepper spray and a knee injury. 

"Investigations into several felonious assaults is focusing on identifying and apprehending the suspects in these cases," he said. 

Greenwood said there were "multiple assaults between elements of the crowd" and people on both sides "actively sought confrontations with those with opposing views." 

The chief said that although his department had asked people to separate themselves from people who commit violence, "crowds of onlookers and video recorders were suffused throughout the event, frequently placing themselves in very close proximity to those who were fighting." 

Greenwood said that "made managing the event considerably more complex for our department." 

"A fight within a volatile crowd is not a simple matter in which to intervene. Intervening on intermixed groups of armed participants fighting or eager to fight presents challenges," he said. 

"Intervention requires a major commitment of resources, a significant use of force and carries with it the strong likelihood of harming those who are not committing a crime," he said. 

Greenwood said Berkeley police requested mutual aid "after our resources were essentially completely deployed" and the Oakland Police Department responded with 180 personnel, including squads of officers, motorcycle officers, supervisors and commanders. 

He said Oakland police provided security for Berkeley City Hall, around which most of the confrontations were taking place, and allowed Berkeley police to focus on the protesters. 

Greenwood added, "It's important to note that no uninvolved community members were injured and there were no reports of violence or vandalism outside of the Center Street area." 1141a04/19/17

Violence at Trump rallies in Berkeley: Trump forces successfully game the anti-Trump groups

Robert Cheasty
Tuesday April 18, 2017 - 10:53:00 PM

Guiding Lights for How to Defeat Pro-Trump demonstrators:

What should thinking people do when pro Trump people arrive to demonstrate? Take a page from Mahatma Ghandi whose tactics of non-violence succeeded in getting the most powerful colonial army in the world to leave India. Or from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose non-violent response to race baiting and vicious attacks brought us major civil rights legislation, opened up schools, parks, restaurants, hotels and voting to people of all colors - against what appeared to be insurmountable odds.

Inexperienced demonstrators need to be taught and regulated by the leadership:

It may feel gratifying for inexperienced demonstrators to indulge their anger when Trump supporters shout racist things or berate common scientific facts. However, physical confrontation is what the Trump supporters are here for. Why do they pick Berkeley? Because it is a beacon of free thought and they hope to tarnish that beacon and make big headlines at the same time by getting a few undisciplined people to react, lose their focus on the real issues, and attack the Trump supporters. 

The anti-Trump demonstrators who cannot control themselves are being played, and the leaders of the anti-Trump demonstrators need to study the tactics of Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Those two moved mountains. Raise your sights. 

New: Berkeley Police name suspects arrested at Saturday skirmish

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday April 17, 2017 - 05:11:00 PM

Berkeley police today released the names of all but one of the 20 people who were arrested in connection with violence at protests for and against President Donald Trump on Saturday. 

The charges for which people were arrested include assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and committing a criminal offense while wearing a mask. 

However, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney's office said no one has been formally charged yet because Berkeley police are still reviewing video and social media evidence and may make additional arrests. 

The arrested protester who wasn't named by Berkeley police was a 17-year-old girl who was arrested on suspicion of battery. 

The protests, which were similar to ones at the same park on March 4, started Saturday morning at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park at 2151 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. and spread to city streets. 

Ten people were arrested in the March 4 protests but the District Attorney's Office hasn't yet filed charges against anyone. 

Eleven people were injured during the protests on Saturday and seven of those were taken to hospitals, according to police. 

None of the businesses in the area reported being damaged. Additionally, no one who did not participate in the event was injured, police said. 

Berkeley police said that in addition to the 17-year-old juvenile, the people who were arrested on Saturday were: 


  • Sean O'Brien, 35, of Oakland, on suspicion of violation of a Berkeley municipal code.
  • Addae Reciado, 19, of Richmond, on suspicion of resisting/obstructing a police officer.
  • Rachel Schwarz, 33, of Oakland, on suspicion of violation of a Berkeley municipal code and for resisting/obstructing a police officer.
  • Levi Romero, 23, of Palmdale, on suspicion of battery and violation of a Berkeley municipal code.
  • Robert Rundo, 26, of San Clemente, on suspicion of battery on a police officer and for resisting/obstructing a police officer.
  • Nicholas Ryan, 24, of San Mateo, on suspicion of battery and violation of a Berkeley municipal code.
  • Genevieve Jones, 27, of Berkeley, on suspicion of battery and violation of a Berkeley municipal code.
  • Vincent Yochelson, 23, of Oakland, on suspicion of violation of a Berkeley municipal code and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense.
  • Moira Vandewalker, 21, of Albany, on suspicion of violation of a Berkeley municipal code and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense.
  • Jonathan Dalili, 32, of Berkeley, on suspicion of battery.
  • Christopher Smith, 37, of Martinez, on suspicion of battery.
  • Enrique Yarce, 22, of Santa Rosa, on suspicion of battery, violation of a Berkeley municipal code, wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense and resisting arrest.
  • Dennis Luke, 36, of Huntington Beach, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
  • Kyle Chapman, 41, San Francisco, on suspicion of a warrant for battery stemming from the March 4 protest.
  • Robert Scott, 39, of Oakland, on suspicion of battery and violation of a Berkeley municipal code.
  • Robert Peete, 51, of Berkeley, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
  • Lee Robinson, 68, described by police as a "Berkeley nomad," on suspicion of public intoxication.
  • Allyn Jensen, 30, of San Francisco, on suspicion of vandalism and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense.
  • John Cookenboo, 27, of Albany, on suspicion of inciting a riot, possession of switchblade knife and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense.

The Berkeley Police Department said it "remains focused on protecting the peaceful expression of free speech and will continue to develop criminal cases and seek prosecution against all those who infringed on the rights of others and participated in riotous acts." 

Police are asking anyone who has photos or videos of the protests that might help officers make arrests to visit http://bit.ly/berkvideo.

A mistake at Civic Center (Public Comment)

Harry Brill
Monday April 17, 2017 - 10:34:00 AM

In my view, it was a mistake on the part of some in the anti-Trump faction to take a hostile stance at Civic Center. They are not the enemy even if they acted like they were. There are many Trump followers who really need to be educated on what Trump is all about. In short, although they are mistaken that doesn't make them evil. For example, I came across Trump folks who believed what he said about saving jobs for American workers. So it is not surprising that many found Trump politically attractive. 

My own inclination is that we should approach pro-Trump folks in a friendly manner. Those who did were on the right political track. It would have also been a good idea producing a point by point leaflet explaining why we are unhappy with Trump. Please keep in mind that if our approach is antagonistic to those who we disagree with, we will have a serious problem building a successful, progressive movement. Let's keep the door open.

Saturday in an invaded Berkeley (First Person)

Steve Martinot
Monday April 17, 2017 - 10:18:00 AM

Saturday’s gala gladiatorial contest for the strongest vocal chords (on Tax Day 2017) tried not to take up where the March 4 confrontation between out-of-town Trumpists and Berkeleyans left off. But it failed. For most of the day, it looked just like that earlier chant-fest, only smaller. 

When I first got there, at around 10:30, there was this flimsy orange webbing stretched like a fence around the park (aka civil center), with large groups of people inside. I wondered how to get in, thought of simply stepping over it, but resisted the temptation. Down the block on Allston, I saw cops standing at an opening in the webbing, letting people in who didn’t have any weapons. I stood there with my jacket open, and a cop frisked me with his eyes from about 10 feet away, and waved me in. That’s when things got confusing. 

I walked in to the first crowd I came to. And quickly realized, from the USian flags that people were wearing, that this was a Trumpist crowd. 

Note: "USian" is the English translation of the Spanish word "estadounidense," which means a person from the US. "America," by the way, is two continents full of people with different cultures and traditions. For USians to call themselves “the Americans” is rank hemispheric chauvinism. 

There was another crowd of people to the west, standing on the other side of two parallel lines of webbing, running north-south across the park, spaced about 10 feet apart. That west side was populated by people in black with face masks, facing the Trumpists on the east side. I felt right at home. The thought occurred to me that the face masks don’t hide identity; they created it. It was the major mode of distinguishing oneself from the Trumpists. If they took their facemasks off, they would lose their identity, and become simply faces in the crowd, like myself. 

First assessment of the situation: The two parallel lines of webbing constituted a form of DMZ. Indeed, that is what everyone was calling it. The Trumpists held the east side of the DMZ, along with the stage where the big round fountain was. I had been to a sort of black-bloc meeting a couple of days before the event where they had decided to get to the park early and take control of that stage and fountain area. Obviously, that plan had failed. 

The existence of this DMZ impressed me. I thought, “Ah ha, a veritable strategy on the part of the police.” One could even be proud of the fact that they were thinking. But as I walked back to the south end of the DMZ at Allston, I realized my pride was misplaced. The opening in the perimeter webbing was not aligned with the DMZ, but rather 50 feet east, so that all those who came through it entered the Trumpist zone. Had the webbing opening been aligned with the DMZ, those entering would have been able to turn right to Trumpism or left to their opposition, and the DMZ would have served its purpose. Like the plans of the black-bloc group, the police strategy was a total failure. It had refused to take the simplest geographic factors into account. 

When I left, a short while later, to take care of some business, I mentioned to one of the cops at the webbing entry that the police strategy was total failure. He looked at me and said, “We had a strategy?” I laughed and said, “Oh, they didn’t tell you?” 

I won’t call those on the left side of the DMZ anti-Trumpists, because they didn’t lend themselves to the kind of tunnel-vision that one finds among those who equate rabid support for government policy with patriotism. On the left, there were those chanting against racism, prejudice, fascism, as well as Trump. Many were simply outraged at the invasion and provocation of this right-wing rabid bunch, who seemed to use patriotism as a prosthetic device. 

Essentially, presence was the real substance of what was going on. The chanting by both sides cancelled itself out. Presence was all that was left. However, because those entering the park did so in the Trumpist zone, that is where the center of activity was. Tunnel-vision confronted Berkeley-defenders, nose to nose, shouting and chanting, and every now and then looking like they wanted to throw a punch. That didn’t start to happen in any serious way until later. I left after a while, came back a while later. I was told a few fights had broken out, and that a couple of people had been arrested. But by one o’clock, the webbing fence had been trampled out of existence, and the major part of the crowd had moved on to Milvia, escaping the police interdiction on weapons. There were firecrackers, teargas grenades, and some pepper spray canisters, all deployed by the people in the crowd. The police stepped aside, no longer knowing what to do – except wisely to block off the streets so that traffic wouldn’t add itself to the mix. 

I saw a few people helped out of the crowd with blood on them, but nothing serious. I ran into two friends of mine at different times who had bloody faces. In both cases, they had apparently been sucker-punched by some "freespeechie" Trumpists. Neither was the type to start a fight. There was also an impromptu DYI Trumpist first aid effort at the corner of Milvia and Center, for a few of their ranks who had gotten knocked out of the action. 

Ultimately, as the afternoon wore on, most of the Trumpists moved up Center St. to Shattuck and beyond, surrounded by Berkeley-defenders. The rest had stayed back in the park on the stage and fountain. By two o’clock, those on Center St. were actually just arguing with each other. At one point, I actually heard the crowd surrounding that group of arguers cheering and applauding, with some laughter spicing it up. From the sounds emitted, which didn’t sound like people taking themselves seriously, I concluded that it was basically Berkeley-defenders doing the cheering and laughing. In effect, the crowd of confrontationalists, as it moved up Center St. to east of Shattuck, sort of ground itself down to a low volume noise level. 

As the event started to peter out, it began to look like a kind of stalemate. I think that was actually the best outcome. Had the Trumpists lost, they would have been, as their patriotism teaches them, sore-losers, and come back for more. Had they won, their silly pride would have egged them on, feeling the desire to shame this nefarious bastion of liberalism a second time. Hopefully, ending in a stalemate, that will be the end of this re-activist-thread. There will no doubt be more of a different kind, as the rot of angst and paranoia that characterizes all white supremacy takes greater hold of the national administrative ideology. But for now, our job should be to pass a single-payer health care plan for this state, as the most effective political deconstruction of the assumptions of that same national ideology. 

After March 4, a lot of people were saying that the black-bloc should stay home, because all they did was start violence. But this time, as the Trumpists showed up, they brought with them a background of smoke rising from areas of Syria bombed by Trump, accompanying the tension of gun boats off the coast of North Korea sent by Trump, so nobody can now say that it is anyone but Trump and his accessories who are starting the violence. We who present presence against this are defending more than Berkeley. 

Pro-Trump Rally in Berkeley (PUBLIC COMMENT)

Ralph E. Stone
Monday April 17, 2017 - 10:35:00 AM

Various conservative groups on Saturday staged a second pro-Trump rally in Berkeley and, as expected, violence broke out. While I abhor the Trump presidency, I am disappointed that those opposing Trump espouse the First Amendment right of free speech for themselves, but seem willing to deny it to others whose views they oppose. After all, Berkeley is the symbol of the Free Speech Movement of 1964

Opponents of this pro-Trump rally certainly have the right to peacefully protest but they know, or should know, that inevitably the peaceful demonstrations will become violent. Remember, the first pro-Trump rally and the Yannopoulos incident? In fact, I suspect the sponsors of the rally hoped for this result. Now they can scream, “we were denied our free speech rights,” but also claim “it’s good for business.” 

Over 200 police officers were deployed including some from the Oakland Police Department. Twenty people were arrested. Eleven people were injured with six taken to the hospital. The police confiscated stun guns, knives, flag poles, baseball bats, and metal pipes. Fireworks and other objects were thrown into the crowd and pepper spray was used. Now, of course, the media is focusing mostly on the violence and destruction of property and the meaning, if there is one, of the anti-Trump demonstration will be forgotten. 

The Berkeley College Republicans have scheduled conservative columnist and provocateur Ann Coulter to speak later this month. Can we expect more violence? What if nobody but the Berkeley Republicans showed up at the Coulter speech? Wouldn't that be a more effective protest than the violence that otherwise likely will occur?  

In the end, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” in Berkeley is lost in the shuffle.

Press Release: Berkeley Police arrest 20 in protest

from Berkeley Police
Saturday April 15, 2017 - 11:58:00 PM

Twenty people were arrested Saturday for their roles in violence in the area of Civic Center Park, and more arrests will be pursued as Berkeley Police review social media and video footage.

The charges include arrests for assault with a deadly weapon and several other felony assaults.

Among Saturday’s arrests were two warrant arrests, based on follow-on investigations arising from the March 4 violence.

As video and photos are reviewed for suspected crimes, the department will actively work with the public to identify more suspects. After Berkeley Police released photos of suspects involved in March 4 violence, members of the public identified suspects within minutes.

Eleven people were injured and treated by paramedics from the Berkeley Fire Department. Those individuals included seven who were taken to local hospitals. 

The Berkeley police investigation into crimes committed during these demonstrations continues. At this time, there appear to be no reports of damage to downtown businesses and no injuries to anyone not involved with the event.

Berkeley Police and the City as a whole worked to protect people’s right to free speech and simultaneously keep people safe. These goals were set even though organizers did not seek nor obtain a permit, but still widely advertised the gathering.

To help achieve those goals, the City imposed a one-day rule for Civic Center Park to prohibit anything that could be used as a weapon. The City also imposed restrictions on entry and exit from the park and made people subject to citation or arrest for violating the rules.

The strategy helped police to confiscate dozens of weapons, including a slew of sticks, wooden dowels and poles. Confiscated items included a stun gun, mace, knives, bear spray, an axe handle, pepper spray and a can filled with concrete.

The park had been additionally been thoroughly cleaned by City staff prior to the event, during which a realistic-appearing replica gun was found.

The City encouraged people to stay safe by separating themselves from people committing violence. That is an important strategy for members of the public to use to keep themselves safe and help police be effective and pursuing criminals.

However, people continued to seek out confrontation and conflict throughout the day.

To further help our investigation, Berkeley Police ask any members of the public to send us photos or videos using any web-enabled device by visiting http://bit.ly/berkvideo.

Thank you for your partnership in helping safeguard our community.

For full details, view this message on the web





Updated: Twenty-one arrested in Berkeley protests so far, police say.

Keith Burbank (BCN) and Planet
Saturday April 15, 2017 - 06:23:00 PM
Not me, Officer!
Mike O'Malley
Not me, Officer!

Berkeley police said this afternoon that they had arrested more than a dozen people and expected to arrest more today in connection with a protest between pro- and anti-Trump supporters in Berkeley.

Police asked for help from other law enforcement agencies. Alameda County sheriff's deputies responded, and Oakland police were also present.

As of 1:48 p.m., 15 people had been arrested in connection with the protest, which started this morning at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park at 2151 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The Los Angeles Times has reported an arrest count of 21 at about seven this evening.

A similar protest at the park took place March 4 and 10 people were arrested.

Police said that protesters moved on to city streets. The downtown Berkeley BART station was closed because of the demonstration, BART officials said.

The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District bus No. 12 was rerouted because of the protest, according to agency officials.

By 5 p.m. MLK Park was almost empty. A crowd of about 50 people stood on the corner of Center and Shattuck surrounded by police officers. 


Police have reported fights, property damage and that protesters have thrown objects such as fireworks. 

Officers have seized items that were prohibited from the protest.  

The items seized have included flagpoles, a knife, a stun gun, helmets and signs and flags attached to poles. 

Some type of gas was released during the protest this morning, a police spokesman said.  

Spokesman Officer Byron White said because of the release of the gas, police put on gas masks. Numerous reports were made to police that demonstrators were using pepper spray. 

White wasn't sure when protesters started gathering but some planned to gather at 10 a.m. and others at noon or later.  

There were perhaps two hundred people in the park by about 11:30, some with pro-Trump signs and t-shirts and other with anti-Trump. Some of the latter were dressed in black with the lower part of their faces covered with bandannas, indicating that they were probably with the "antifa" or "anti-fascist" contingent. 

A sign briefly posted on the walls of Berkeley High quoted Huey Long: "When Fascism comes to America it will be called anti-Fascism." It was soon pulled down. 

At least two injuries have been reported so far to police, White said.  


Among city officials observed at the scene were Planning Commissioner Steve Martinot and Councilmember Linda Maio.  

Anyone with photos or videos of the event is asked to share them with police by sending them to police@cityofberkeley.info or http://bit.ly/berkvideo.

Press Release: Sinkhole on Tunnel Road into Berkeley

from Berkeley Police
Saturday April 15, 2017 - 07:03:00 PM

Advisory: Large sinkhole causing traffic delays on Tunnel Road in both directions. Please avoid the area. 

The Berkeley Department of Public Works advises the community to avoid traveling on Tunnel Road until further notice. Due to a sinkhole, westbound traffic on Tunnel Road between Bridge Road and Vicente Road has been shifted, also impacting the eastbound lanes. Significant traffic delays are expected for both directions of travel until further notice.

Flash: Berkeley Protest Clash Grows

Keith Burbank (BCN) and Planet
Saturday April 15, 2017 - 01:43:00 PM

A protest this afternoon in Berkeley involving Trump and anti-Trump supporters is now blocking city streets and fights have broken out, police said. Oakland police are now also on the scene.

As of 12:18 p.m., Allston Way between Milvia Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way was blocked.

Four people have been arrested and officers have seized items prohibited from the protest.

Some type of gas was released this morning at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park where the protest started, a police spokesman said.

Spokesman Officer Byron White said because of the release of the gas, police put on gas masks.

White wasn't sure when protesters started gathering but some were going to gather at 10 a.m. and others at noon. Other groups may come later, he said. White did not have any information on injuries.

The items encountered at the protest that are prohibited have included flagpoles, a knife, a stun gun, helmets and signs and flags attached to poles.

Officers continue to monitor the protest and adjust their tactics, White said.

Anyone with photos or videos of the event is asked to share them with police by sending them to police@cityofberkeley.info or http://bit.ly/berkvideo.

CONTACT: Berkeley police spokesman Officer Byron White (510) 812-4082 cellphone

Press Release: City of Berkeley News: Rules Imposed for Saturday April 15 at Civic Center Park

From webmanager@ci.berkeley.ca.us>
Friday April 14, 2017 - 04:47:00 PM

Sticks, pipes, poles and anything else that can be used for a "riot" will be banned on Saturday April 15 at Civic Center Park in an effort to ensure the peaceful expression of free speech.  

Anyone violating these rules will be subject to citation and arrest.  

Organizers have promoted Saturday's gathering as a follow-up to an unpermitted March 4demonstration, when numerous people were hurt due to violence. Ten people were arrested for their roles in the events, and other arrests are being actively pursued. No one has applied for or obtained a permit for Saturday, and as a result, anyone at the park will be subject to these rules.  

Given that many individuals brought various items that were used as weapons into Civic Center Park on March 4, the following items are prohibited from being brought into the park by any person on April 15, 2017: 


  • Metal pipes
  • Baseball or softball bats
  • Lengths of lumber or wood (any size)
  • Wooden dowels
  • Poles
  • Bricks
  • Rocks
  • Glass bottles
  • Pepper spray (OC spray)
  • Mace
  • Knives or daggers
  • Shields
  • Axes, axe handles, or hatchets
  • Ice picks
  • Razor blades
  • Tasers
  • Eggs
  • Any other item that is generally considered an "implement of riot" that can be used as a weapon

Signs and flags on Saturday at the park must be held by hand, and may not be affixed to any pole or stick. 

For peaceful protesters, there are a number of things people can do to stay safe. Separate yourself from people committing violence. Doing so not only keeps you safe, it prevents criminals from being done under the cover of a peaceful crowd. That allows police to focus on criminal acts. To read more, see an earlier news release

The City will work to safeguard our community while facilitating the peaceful expression of the First Amendment. If anyone commits a crime in our community, we will work with the community to identify, investigate and prosecute suspects. That applies both during and after the event. 

Be safe at protests: separate from violence and don't get baited 

In recent protests in Berkeley, we have seen a small portion who come seeking to hurt others or to destroy property. We have seen that individuals who come armed and armored use peaceful protesters 

If you are at a demonstration and you see violence, separate yourself. Keep a distance. If you can do so safely, report it to police. 

This is the best way to keep yourself and others safe, and it allows police to intervene safely. When individuals commit violence surrounded by a peaceful crowd, police are always concerned about how the violence might spill over onto those who are not committing any crime whatsoever. 

Separating yourself from violence also prevents those individuals from making their actions the image of your cause.  

Don't get baited by provocateurs. 

Read more at CityofBerkeley.info

SQUEAKY WHEEL: The Wake-up Call

Toni Mester
Friday April 14, 2017 - 04:22:00 PM

The upcoming public hearing on the R-1A zoning at the Planning Commission is a rare opportunity for all residents of the flatlands to influence zoning policy that effects our living conditions, neighborhood character, and population diversity. The meeting is scheduled for 7 pm on Wednesday April 19 at the North Berkeley Senior Center at the corner of Hearst and MLK. 

The staff report and recommendations make a few small improvements, but the rules are still a formula for demolishing old houses and building two new two-story houses, a practice that ensures maximum developer profits but endangers the light and privacy of neighbors and gobbles up precious open space that should be used for healthy family outdoor living and for growing things like gardens, trees, and children. There are better options for creating infill housing. 

Our group, the Friends of R-1A, is holding an informational meeting at the West Berkeley Public Library Community Room, 1125 University Avenue, on Saturday April 15 from 3 to 5. The gathering is intended for residents of the R-1A zones, shown in bright yellow on the map. 

More of the Same 

The development standards recommended by staff reinforce the pattern of current permit applications but don’t challenge the stodgy conventions of Berkeley’s antediluvian zoning or advantage compact development. Even more problematic, the staff proposal essentially ignores the three Council and ZAB referrals that requested a better definition of the relationship between the two dwelling units allowed. There is no substantive attempt to address that basic concern. 

The R-1A should be an intermediate zone. But instead, an unstable history has turned it into another version of R-2. The staff proposal would still allow two main buildings of the same size, which are the conditions that produced neighborhood appeals and the referrals. 

Staff’s proposal is to allow a three-story front house and a two-story rear house but expand the setbacks a tiny bit and make them consistent in both west and north R-1A zones. The minimum lot size for two houses would remain at 4500 square feet. A building separation of 12 feet is required, but that may be reduced subject to an administrative use permit. Nothing much would be changed, except to eliminate the potential for a three-story rear house that nobody wants to build anyway. 

Such minor tweaks will not prevent appeals by neighbors or promote more affordable options. The City’s own housing element is not optimistic about in-fill housing and estimates the following production for this period (2015-2023): 

• 157 units on vacant lots, 

• 24 units from the addition of main units to already-developed lots, and 

• 56 accessory dwelling units 

These disappointing figures reflect a low expectation for in-fill housing based on past experience and the expense of building detached dwelling units. Even a small separated ADU requires a foundation and new sewer, electric, gas, and water connections. In contrast, creating an internal ADU, dividing an existing larger single-family house, or building a new compact duplex reduces many of these costs, by half according to some estimates. The duplex is the first step upward in the “missing middle” housing continuum and should be promoted. 

Zoning Privilege 

Before I bought my house West Berkeley, I lived in three different apartments that had been created by dividing single-family houses, which is the cheapest way to create in-fill housing; yet the law prohibits owners in the R-1 zones from providing such needed units this way. Two-thirds of the 27,000 residential parcels are single -family houses, and most of these are located in the R-1. 

Unless zoning is changed to advantage less expensive and more compact dwelling units, the allowances will continue to encourage developers to buy lots in the expectation of demolishing old construction, building new houses, and selling them separately as condominiums. Although the zoning code requires a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet in all residential areas, developers get around this division by maintaining the lot as one legal entity with an APN (assessor’s parcel number) and the houses as separate properties, each with a different APN. It’s a legal fiction that defies the intent of the law but returns a respectable profit. There is nothing wrong with this practice per se, which presents opportunities for ownership. The problem is how to regulate condo conversion to provide maximum benefit and minimum detriment. 

There is a huge demand for detached single-family houses because they conform to the American dream of the nuclear family and the white-picket fence syndrome, whether or not the design and the setting support the needs of parents and children. The Dick and Jane model has stuck in our minds as the ideal home that meets all desires. Some of the homeless leaders are demanding “tiny houses” which is a hugely inefficient way of providing shelter, unless a city is blessed with an overabundance of land. Next up in size is the accessory dwelling unit, one story to 750 square feet in Berkeley. The next is the stand- alone backyard house that the R-1A, R-2, and R-2A zones allow. Scaling up, we find the bungalow, typically a one-story craftsman. Bigger yet are the boxy, two and three story brown shingles, and finally the outright mansions. Berkeley has a share of those. The progression is like Russian dolls. 

I just finished watching the Zoning Adjustments Board, which I find far more enjoyable than the City Council, mostly because architecture is a fascinating intersection of human needs and the material world. One of the applicants for a two-house project on Cedar Street in the R-1A said that there’s a shortage of single-family houses in Berkeley, which is a half-truth. When over two-thirds of residential parcels are single-family, that’s not shortage but excess. The shortage is based on an insatiable demand for the detached house in collision with protection of that type. The City can attempt to satisfy that infinite demand by cramming houses into every available yard or provide alternatives that increase the over-all number of units. 

If more family housing is needed, then the City erred in limiting the ADU to one story and 750 square feet when California law allows 1200. Every 100 square feet is another child’s bedroom. Political reality, not policy, drives these restrictions as well as the protections for the SFR and the R-1. It is understood that wealth buys private space, both interior and outdoors, and that our zoning laws reflect class differences. The poor have always lived cheek by jowl. So when working class people succeed in buying a home, it’s our neighborhoods that take the brunt of increased demand. 

The other zoning privilege of the R-1 is zoning stability since 1949. California land-use law provides for an orderly process that involves the planning commission, and the City of Berkeley master plan has a citizen participation element that promises all kinds of inclusive process, on paper at least. But when the uniform height limits were imposed in 1991, that topic was not discussed at the planning commission or properly noticed. Even the up-coming public hearing has not been widely publicized, other than the effort by yours truly and friends, and we’ve actually drawn flack for doing so.  

Neighbors from all corners who testify at the zoning board often speak to their fear of losing privacy, sunlight, and open space. It’s even worse to learn that the scale of your neighborhood has been changed behind your back. 

Lots of sizes  

The median size of single-family lots in the R-1A is around 4400 square feet with lot coverage of 27 - 31% because the zone includes Oceanview, a low-scale neighborhood with some of the smallest lots and homes, mostly one-story cottages. In contrast, the median lot size of single-family parcels in the city as a whole is 4950 square feet with lot coverage of 36%. 

When small houses go on the market, some as derelict properties, they present an opportunity to build larger homes that can overpower existing, adjacent dwellings. Building a three-story house next to a one-story cottage is unacceptable. Many cities like Palo Alto provide the protection of a daylight plane and other cities simply disallow more than one story or 12 feet difference.  

Two standards of Berkeley’s low and medium density zones are a maximum of 40% lot coverage and 400 square feet usable open space. The lot coverage in new development in West Berkeley is close to the maximum while the open space gets reduced. A minimum of 400 square feet of usable open space is pathetic for family living. With an average lot width of 40 feet, that’s a depth of only 10 feet, about enough room for a couple of chairs and a little table. Either the minimum of open space should be adjusted upwards for family use, the maximum lot coverage decreased, or the building square footage limited. Some cities like Burbank correlate the maximum gross floor area to the lot size. 



I hope that’s the right word in Spanish for displacement. If so, we might be hearing it used more. Just as the African-American population has shrunk with the rise of property prices in South Berkeley, the Hispanic population of West Berkeley faces the potential for similar displacement. I’m not an expert on “the causes and consequences of neighborhood change” but obviously the poor are the most vulnerable. 

According to the most recent ACS (American Community Survey 2011-2016, a service of the U.S. Census), the populations of the two R-1A sections differ in race and income. Westbrae is predominantly white and Asian with 7% blacks, while West Berkeley is also mixed but 30% Hispanic, mostly Mexican. The statistics reveal that the 556 Oceanview Hispanics have lived here longer and have a higher per capita average income ($24K) than those l022 living in mi tierra, the Rosa Parks neighborhood ($16K). 

Some of our hard working neighbors don’t speak English very well, about 250 out of 1578 Hispanics. Perhaps the City should provide some outreach in Spanish to engage these residents and get their input. 

But come to think of it, many native English speakers don’t understand planning lingo either. Do you speak zoning? 


Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley. 




Washington Leaks "Decapitation" Option: "Kill Kim Jong-Un

Gar Smith
Friday April 14, 2017 - 04:25:00 PM

North Korea has good reason to feel paranoid.

While most of the US media has spent the past year obsessing over North Korea's nuclear program and its missile launches, the global media has been reporting—for years—on Washington's no-so-secret plans to "decapitate" the country by murdering Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. These reports (largely unseen in the US media) may explain why North Korea remains obsessed with missiles and nukes.

Also rattling Pyongyang's nerves were two overlapping joint-US/South Korean military exercises (Key Resolve and Foal Eagle). The massive mobilization involved 22,800 troops rehearsing the execution of OPLAN 5015, a classified war plan calling for the invasion and "decapitation" of the North with precision strikes aimed at nuclear, missile, command-and-control facilities and the country's leadership. 

And the specter of a US aircraft carrier-led strike force barreling toward the Korean Peninsula doesn't calm any waters, either. 

Trump 'Near-Nukes' Afghanistan 

In the wake of Donald Trump's illegal, impetuous, and unsanctioned act of war in following a chemical weapons attack in Syria, the messaging from the corporate media went to work fanning the flames for more precipitous US military action overseas. On April 13, Commander-in-chief Trump took pride in announcing that US forces had dropped a 21,000-pound MOAB bunker buster on Afghanistan. 

The extent of ground damage accomplished by detonating this "Mother of All Bombs" is nearly as extensive as the blast damage from a tactical nuclear weapon. The MOAB was reportedly used to destroy a complex system of underground tunnels hidden beneath the Afghan soil. 

The message was not lost on Pyongyang: The North Korean capital sits atop a buried city of hidden underground bunkers, staging areas, and tunnels. (For the record, Russia has a weapon called "the father of all bombs." It is believed to be nearly four times the size of Trump's MOAB.) 

Gassing Children, Bad: Blowing Them to Pieces, Not a Problem 

The ancient exceptionalist/imperialist war cry is once more ricocheting around the American airwaves. As NBC's Hallie Jackson reported excitedly on April 6, 2017: "Tonight, is the ultimate test of a commander-in-chief: Whether to activate the military—in this case, after a humanitarian crisis that has gripped the country with the world watching." 

Two quibbles: (1) Some would argue that the ultimate test of a president lies in the ability to avoid unnecessary wars. (2) Once again, the phrase "humanitarian crisis" is invoked to perpetuate the linguistic fraud known as "a humanitarian war." In order to "send a message" about killing Syria's "babies, beautiful babies," Trump's airstrikes killed scores of Syrian civilians, including at least 11 children. 

And where was Trump's concern for children—and "beautiful babies"—when his botched January 29 raid in Yemen wound up killing 30 people? Nine of the victims were young children, including one infant and several toddlers. 

Here are their names and ages: 

Asma Fahad Ali al Ameri -- 3 months 

Aisha Mohammed Abdallah al Ameri – 4 years 

Halima Hussein al Aifa al Ameri – 5 years 

Hussein Mohammed Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri – 5 years 

Mursil Abedraboh Masad al Ameri – 6 years 

Khadija Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri – 7 years 

Nawar Anwar al Awlaqi – 8 years 

Ahmed Abdelilah Ahmed al Dahab – 11 years 

Nasser Abdallah Ahmed al Dahab – 12 years 

"Trump's Benghazi" also claimed the life of US Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens and Nora Awlaki, an eight-year-old girl who also happened to be a US citizen. 


Nora Awlaki 

Obama's 'Red Line': A Case of 'Fake News' 

NBC's second-hand call-to-arms was based on several unchallenged preconceptions. Among these is the US claim that it alone has the exclusive right among all nations to act as judge and jury when dispensing bombs and cruise missiles. And that we only exercise this murderous "right" in defense of "our vital national interests." 

Another mainstream preconception is that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has once again "gassed his own people." As yet, there has been no independent investigation into who was responsible for the release of deadly chemicals that lead to the agonizing and gruesome deaths of at least 70 Syrian adults and children in Idlib Province. 

Instead, we hear and read endless references to President Barack Obama's supposed "red line" retreat in 2013 (a false charge that he failed to stand up to Assad over the use of chemical weapons in the city of Ghouta). This meme has become a treasured bit of groupthink among the "important people" in the D.C. Beltway but it is nothing more than "fake news" used to bolster calls for flexing the Pentagon's military muscles. 

The White House and US mainstream media continue to echo the charge that Obama is somehow "responsible" for the deaths in the Syrian village of Khan Sheikhun because of his failure to attack Assad's regime for using chemical weapons following the 2013 attack on Ghouta. Obama continues to be faulted for failing to act after Assad "crossed a red line." 

Repeating this falsehood requires that one must ignore two historical facts 

(1) In 2013, acting at Moscow's behest, Assad accepted then-Secretary of State John Kerry's offer to avoid a bloody war by surrendering his existing chemical weapons stockpiles. 

(2) A UN investigation failed to find any firm evidence that Assad was responsible for the alleged use of sarin nerve gas in Ghouta. Instead, subsequent investigations by the UN and the Pentagon left open the possibility that the deadly gas was used by Assad's rebel opponents who staged the attack in hopes of "framing" the regime. (See the archival citations below.) 

Some Relevant Articles from the News Archives of Environmentalists Against War: 

2013 Story, "Assad Gassed His Own People" Was Fake News 

(April 6, 2017) - Even as The New York Times leads the charge against the Syrian government for this week's alleged chemical attack, it is quietly retreating on its earlier certainty about the 2013 Syria-sarin case. 

What the US Media Is Not Telling You about Chemical Warfare in Syria 

(September 7, 2013) - Horrendous civilian casualties were sustained in an August 21 incident that devastated a suburb of Damascus. The US was prepared to attack Syrian targets before UN inspectors could assess what chemical weapons—if any—were used. Meanwhile, UN investigators have confirmed that the US-backed rebels have killed civilians and soldiers using sarin and other chemical weapons—possibly supplied by Saudi Arabia. 

Rebels (Not Syria) Used Nerve Gas; Plotted to Arm Drones with Sarin 

(May 31, 2013)—Authorities in Iraq have uncovered a plot by US-backed al-Qaeda rebels in Syria to use unmanned drones to deliver chemical weapons. A defense ministry spokesman said five men had been arrested after military intelligence monitored them for three months. The plotters had three workshops for manufacturing sarin and mustard gas. Remote-controlled toy planes were also seized at the workshops. The rebels reportedly had plans to smuggle sarin-armed drones to Europe and North America. 

A Short History of Chemical Warfare 

(September 7, 2013)—As of February 2013, Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Russia, and the US still admitted to possessing chemical weapons stockpiles. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, signatory nations are required to destroy their remaining stockpiles. Russia and the US, with the world's largest inventories of chemical and biological weapons, have still not eliminated their stockpiles. 

Pentagon Documents Confirm Rebels Used Sarin Gas 

(September 12, 2013)—US intelligence has yet to uncover evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad directly ordered the chemical attacks last month on civilians in a suburb of Damascus. A classified Pentagon report obtained by WND confirms that sarin was seized from the US-backed Jabhat al-Nusra Front. Some of the sarin (from al-Qaida in Iraq) made its way into Turkey where it was seized. Some could have been used in a deadly rebel attack last March 19 on civilians and soldiers in Aleppo. 

Rebels Behind Previous Syrian Chemical Weapons Attacks 

(August 26, 2013)—UN human rights investigators have spoken to the victims of Syria's civil war and gathered medical testimonies that point to the Syrian rebels having used sarin nerve gas. Meanwhile, allegations of its use by the government remain unsubstantiated. Opposition fighters allegedly used unknown chemicals against residents in the town of Saraqib and in the northwestern province of Idlib to later put the blame on Assad forces. 

Syria, Sarin, and Subterfuge: They Made It All Up 

(December 8, 2013)—The suspicion that the sarin gas attack supposedly launched by Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebel positions in the town of Ghouta on August 21 was a false flag was always in the air. Now we have strong evidence pointing in that direction. 

Report: Syrian Soldiers Find Chemical Agents in Rebel Tunnels 

(August 24, 2013)—Syrian state TV reports troops found chemical agents in rebel tunnels in Damascus in what some called an attempt to strengthen the case against a suspect chemical weapons assault—based on UK and US efforts to win public support for a "humanitarian intervention" (similar that which was perpetrated in Libya in 2011). Meanwhile, no one is asking the most fundamentally important question: were real military-grade chemical weapons actually used at all? 

UK Government Let British Company Export Nerve Gas Chemicals to Syria 

(September 2, 2013)—The British Government was accused of "breathtaking laxity" in its arms controls after it emerged that officials in David Cameron's administration authorized the export to Syria of two chemicals used to manufacture nerve agents. The UK's Business Secretary will be required to explain why a British company was granted export licenses for the chemicals at the same time there were fears that the regime could use chemical weapons on its own people. 

A "Wide Range of Options":  

Nuclear Bombs, Assassination, and Covert Invasions 


On April 7, 2917 NBC Nightly News reported that it had "learned exclusive details about the top secret, highly-controversial options that are being presented to the president for possible military action against North Korea." 

NBC featured an interview with Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.), Nightly News' Chief International Security and Diplomacy Analyst. "It's mandatory to present the widest possible array of options," Stavridis stated, "That's what enables presidents to make the right decisions: when they see all the all the options on the table in front of them." 

But the "wide array of options" appeared to be dangerously narrow. Instead of considering diplomatic options (which could involve accepting China's "double-halt" proposal that the North halt its missile and nuclear tests in exchange for South Korea and the US ending its provocative military exercises), the only three options placed on the President's table were: 

Option 1: Nuclear Weapons to South Korea 

Option 2: "Decapitation": Target and Kill 

Option 3: Covert Action 

Top Secret US Options for North Korea 

Cynthia McFadden, NBC Senior Legal & Investigative Correspondent, laid out the three options. The first involved reversing a decades-old de-escalation treaty and shipping a new assortment of US nuclear weapons back to South Korea. 

According to McFadden (working as some White House insider's media megaphone), the second option would be a "decapitation" strike designed to: "target and kill North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un and other senior leaders in charge of missiles and nuclear weapons." 

Stravridis, however, cautioned that "decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you're faced with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader." (The words are freighted with a chilling irony given that this description of the Korean leader also fits the US leader, Donald Trump.) According to Stravridis, "The question is: what happens the day after you decapitate." 

The third option involves infiltrating South Korean troops and US Special Forces into the North to "take out key infrastructure" and possibly stage targeted attacks on political targets. 

The first option violates numerous nuclear nonproliferation agreements. (Nonetheless, NBC conveniently informs us, there is growing support in the South for reinstalling atomic weapons aimed at the North Korean border.) 

The second and third options involve infringements of sovereignty as well as gross violations of international law. 

Over the past years, the world press has run numerous articles detailing Washington's desire to attack North Korea and topple the regime, even it that involves a criminal "decapitation strike." 

Now that NBC has been given the go-ahead to "normalize" the political assassination of a foreign leader by broadcasting Kim Jong-Un's murder as a reasonable "option," the geopolitical stakes have grown even higher. 

Sanctions have so far failed to alter Kim's behavior. It is doubtful that overt US threats calling for his murder will do anything more than harden his determination to empower his military with "offsetting" weaponry that can "send a message" to Washington and to the tens of thousands of US soldiers surrounding his country to the south, in Japan and, on Guam and other Pentagon-colonized islands in the Pacific. 

One option that we would be better advised to explore is the one that China has proposed: Washington should stop its massive (and massively costly) "invasion games" off North Korea's border and shores; in exchange, Kim would agree to halt the testing of destabilizing nuclear weapons and missiles. 

It seems a fair—and wise—solution. So far, Washington and South Korea have dismissed it as "a non-starter." 

Related Stories: 

SEAL Team 6 Is Helping Plan a 'Decapitation' Attack against North Korea 

Raw Story (March 13, 2017) 

The United States Navy's SEAL Team 6 is helping to plan a "decapitation attack" aimed at taking out North Korea's political leadership. 

In Drills, US, South Korea Practice Striking North's Nuclear Plants 

The Washington Post (March 7, 2016) 

The United States and South Korea kicked off major military exercises on Monday, including rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea's main nuclear and missile facilities and "decapitation raids" by special forces targeting the North's leadership. 

The Foolishness of Strategic Decapitation in North Korea 

The Diplomat (January 10, 2017) 

Plans to 'solve' the Korea issue by taking out key leaders are tragically oversimplified. 

South Korea's Plan to Destroy Kim Jong Un with 'Decapitation Unit' 

The News (Australia) (January 6, 2017) 

South Korea is ramping up plans to create a "decapitation unit" whose chief mission is to paralyze North Korea by wiping out its top officials.. 

South Korea Plans 'Decapitation Unit' to Wipe Out Kim Jong Un 

The New York Post (January 5, 2017) 

South Korea is ramping up plans to create a "decapitation unit" whose chief mission is to paralyze North Korea by wiping out its top officials. 

South Korea Has a Military Unit Trained to 'Decapitate' Kim Jong-un 

The Independent (January 5, 2017) 

South Korea says it has established a military unit to "decapitate" Kim Jong-un and other senior Communist officials in the North in the event of war. A Special Forces team would be used to paralyze North Korea's wartime command. 

South Korea Has a Plan to 'Decapitate' Kim Jong Un 

The Week (September 14, 2016) 

If North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un orders a nuclear strike on South Korea, Seoul will attempt to kill him with missiles and devastate Pyongyang in the process. 

How South Korea Plans 'Decapitation' Strike against North's Leadership 

Telegraph (August 28, 2015) 

South Korea plans pre-emptive 'decapitation' strike against Kim Jong-un and senior leaders if Pyongyang makes moves towards nuclear launch. 

Gar Smith is a veteran of the Free Speech Movement, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, the co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and the author of Nuclear Roulette. 



New: Berkeley brawl bombs again

Becky O'Malley
Tuesday April 18, 2017 - 10:47:00 PM

Last Saturday, as we do on many Saturdays, we went to Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Civic Center Park, usually the site of the Berkeley Ecology Center-sponsored Farmers’ Market. As always, Center Street, the park’s northern boundary, was blocked off, but this time the farmers weren’t there.

Faced with online threats by an assortment of aggressive groups, the market’s sponsors, fearing trouble, had decided to cancel for safety’s sake.

The blustering bullies had been there about a month before, with a permit to hold a rally in support of the current president, a “March4Trump” which was replicated in a variety of other locations around the country. This time no one got a permit from the city, but online threats from groups with bravura names like OathKeepers that they would show up to harangue on Patriot’s Day got a lot of attention in the media.

In fact, my observation was that the advertised demonstrator riot never materialized, but that didn’t stop several branches of the corporate media from reporting on one anyhow. A few fistfights do not a riot make. It was more of a media riot than a protester riot, really.

For those of you who’ve never lived in Massachusetts, “Patriot’s Day” commemorates the event memorialized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five…

Somehow I doubt that the raggle-taggle band of tattooed fools who came to Berkeley looking for a fight on Saturday had read the poem.

If I hadn’t felt some obligation to report on what happened, I wouldn’t even have bothered going myself, but I went, arriving at my usual 11:30. 

Thanks to the cancelled market, parking was easy. We parked on Allston Way beside the park, right next to Berkeley High, where we encountered an activist friend. She told us that we really should take a picture of the sign she spotted hung on the school wall, a quote from Huey Long: “When Fascism comes to America, it will be called anti-Fascism!" 

Of course, when we got there it had already been torn down, probably by a self-designated anti-fascist, AKA anti-fa. 

For a while we just sat in the car and watched an assortment of variously costumed people milling around trying to look tough, but we weren’t fooled.  

Our better photographer got out looking for action photos, but not much was happening. I buttonholed a couple of Berkeley regulars and asked them to contribute their observations to the Planet, which they’ve done. 

The park was crisscrossed with the same kind of orange netting that Berkeley’s been using lately to keep homeless people from camping on city property, a very inadequate kind of fence that everyone blithely stepped over when they felt like it. The objective seemed to be to keep pros and antis from getting close to one another, which of course failed.  

There were plenty of Berkeley police on the scene, dressed in relatively conventional uniforms, trying to look cool and for the most part succeeding. A contingent of Oakland cops arrived while I was there, which worried me for a bit, but even they managed to look and act super cool. 

Eventually, bored, we left to pursue other options.  

On the way back, around three, we stopped off again, to discover that the crowd had mostly left the park and moved toward what used to be the hub of downtown Berkeley at Center and Shattuck, now obscured by a massive BART construction project. We saw about 100 people there, some shouting. We drove all around the area, but saw very little else going on. 

Imagine my amazement when I got home and saw on the internet some local TV stations’ take on what was happening. There were helicopter shots of a lot of men milling around, and yes, punctuated by close-ups of a bunch of guys having at each other. If you didn’t know better, you might think that the whole crowd had been engaged in a massive battle. I never observed anything on that scale when I was in the middle, but there must have been a few fights. 

One TV reporter who did a lot of OMGing about what happened finally confessed that he himself hadn’t been physically present to watch the fray because he felt it would be dangerous. Really?? 

Yes, a lot of dopes threw a lot of punches at each other, but in the end it didn’t add up to much harm for outsiders.  

There was even a shot of a cute dreadlocked young woman, a self-described member of an anarchist anti-fa collective, taking a punch from a baddy, and predictably the video that captured it is now viral. Dog bites woman, etc. 

Could this be fourth-wave feminism, taking it on the chin for the cause? No, nothing’s new under the sun—I remember the girls who hung around the Weathermen.  

As a longtime Berkeley resident I felt mighty proud of our cops, whom I’ve criticized often in the past. No injuries more serious than bloody noses for willing participants, a couple of dozen richly deserved arrests, not a single window broken. Our police modelled civil behavior, and for the most part it worked. 

(A little cynical voice in my head does ask, still, if the combatants had been brown-skinned, would things have been allowed to work out this way? I wish I didn’t doubt it, but I do remember the Black Lives Matter demonstrations where the police response was more violent—maybe they’ve learned how to do better from that experience.) 

The last two encounters at Civic Center Park remind of nothing as much as a pale imitation of what I’ve seen of the hooligans who love to battle it out around European “futbol” matches.  

From the British Sun: 

“RIOTING broke out in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower last night as France’s Euro 2016 party was wrecked by violent street clashes. Youths fought running battles with squads of heavily armed police before gangs began hijacking cars and torching them near the city’s iconic fan zone.” 

Nothing here approached that. To see what real riots look like, click here. 

By the way, that word “hooligan”, originally a derogatory name for rowdy Irishmen, has been imported into Russian (хулига́н) to characterize any kind of unapproved behavior, not just fighting at soccer games.  

The guys and occasional gals who’ve been invading Berkeley to slug it out are definitely hooligans, folks who make trouble mostly for the excitement of it, despite all their nattering about free speech.  

Their eager adversaries, the self-styled anti-fa, aren’t much more virtuous. All of them obviously enjoy a good fight. 

But both camps had better watch out. Berkeley may have a half-century old reputation as the cradle of the free speech movement, but its current civic religion is food. What locals were most outraged about in this encounter was the cancellation of the Farmers’ Market. 

It’s one thing to tolerate demonstrations against the unsavory Milo, but you’d better not mess with our organic vegis. You can bet that our fervent foodies won’t let that happen again. 

Brawls are red meat for the corporate media, yes, but I have an even better idea. Now that the UC Berkeley football team seems to be tanking, their multi-million dollar boondoggle of a stadium is not pulling in the big bucks like it used to.  

How about hiring the whole crew of gladiator wannabes, both teams, to slug it out in Memorial Stadium under the newly installed lights? These people deserve one another, and we can make it happen. 

Tickets could be sold to an audience frisked at the door, and the proceedings could be broadcast by the big networks or even online. Weapons could be allowed, but limited to old-timey gear like shields made out of garbage cans, picket signs and firecrackers.  

Wouldn’t that be a blast! And a money-maker to boot. 

Just an idea. On the other hand, I suppose there’s no point in paying people to make fools of themselves when they’re willing to do it for free. That’s the secret of reality TV, isn’t it? 

It’s the new politics: Play at it long enough and you might even grow up to be president. 


The Editor's Back Fence

More to come, don't worry

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 14, 2017 - 05:09:00 PM

As has become a habit lately, I'm releasing the new issue before everything has come in or been posted. This week, that includes the new editorial, which will be posted whenever it's finished--wait for it.

Public Comment

Missile attacks

Jagjit Singh
Friday April 14, 2017 - 10:10:00 AM

The public performance of President Trump and his team responding to their first major foreign policy challenge hardly inspires confidence.

Just days before the strike, Trump and his close associates all stated that Syria’s civil war was no longer a major US concern.

Sensing the political fallout following the chemical attack, Trump backtracked and launched missile strikes to a largely abandoned hanger. According to the London Guardian, the White House contacted Russia to give them a “heads up” of the impending strikes. Let us hope “mission accomplished doesn’t morph into mission creep. As a footnote, Trump personally profited from Raytheon’s sudden surge in stock value. The missile strike harkens memories of the disasters wars in Vietnam and Iraq, which started in much the same way. 

The missile strike also raises troubling questions of their legality. According to the US Constitution the president may only take unilateral action, without Congressional approval, if there is an imminent threat to the US. This is an extremely dangerous precedent. Let us remember one strike does not make a strategy. If Trump’s compassionate genes have finally kicked in he should immediately lift the travel ban on Syrian refugees – otherwise his actions will be interpreted as self-serving. 

The temptation to unleash America’s awesome war machine is both seductive and addictive and extremely dangerous in the hands of Trump who operates more on impulse than intellect. What is urgently required is the application of soft power not mighty hammers. 

The Return of Child Labor

Harry Brill
Friday April 14, 2017 - 08:06:00 AM

When Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of Treasury he noted in a report on manufacturing that children "who would otherwise be idle could become a source of cheap labor". His advice was highly regarded by the business community. Child labor, as young as age 6, was widespread until the late 1930s. Almost 20% of children worked, often in unhealthy environments and performing dangerous jobs. Children between the ages of 6 to 16 years labored as many as 12 to 14 hours each day. In the southern textile industry during the early 20th century 20,000 of the 50,000 employed children were under the age of 12. 

As a result of the efforts of progressive reform organizations and labor unions, some states adopted restrictions on child labor. The major advance was made by the Federal Labor Standard Act in 1938, which includes minimum wage and maximum hour provisions, and also makes it illegal to hire anyone under age 18 to perform work that is considered hazardous by the Department of labor. As a result of the growing strength of organized labor, unions were able to exert some pressure on business and government to protect workplace safety and health standards. 

But since union clout has been declining, these protections have been taking a beating. The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) is to assure that employers provide a safe work environment for working people, both young and old. Yet although the labor force has grown considerably since 1980, OSHA now has fewer health and safety inspectors. Due to budget reductions OSHA's federal inspectors have been cut since 1980 from 1,469 federal inspectors to about 850.  

The worse may be still ahead. The Department of Labor, which is the only federal agency with inspectors who are responsible to protect young workers from abuse, is confronted now with a recommended budget reduction of over 20%. 

At the state level, many legislators across the country have been attempting to roll back child labor laws. In Missouri, even though its labor department is short of staff, the state has reduced the number of labor investigators. In the year prior to reducing the staff, the Department reported 467 child labor violations. The following year only 191 violations. 

In Maine, a youth wage of $6.50 was enacted. Previously there was no separate youth wage. This change resulted in a cut in their hourly earnings. Also, employers can now require young employees to work late evening hours. Generally speaking, keep in mind that changes in safety laws for all employees can be particularly problematic for young workers. Michigan, for example, banned safety regulations for work that covers repetitive motion. 

Enacting child labor laws favored by employers are mainly the result of the Republican Party's electoral victories. There are now 33 Republican governors and 32 Republican Legislatures. And there are also a few Democrats who are unsympathetic to labor. Add to the political menu President Donald Trump and a conservative Supreme Court, you can be fairly sure that working youth will not be coddled. 

The grim domestic developments are nevertheless only one piece of the problem. The United States is the world's largest importer. According to the Department of Labor many imported products are made by child labor. The Department of Labor issued a report which identifies about 350 products from countries around the world that are made with child or forced labor. President Obama, responding to the concerns of organized labor, signed a bill last year that bars the import of many of these products. However, with rare exception the law has not been enforced.  

Among the imported products that involve child labor are clothes, cocoa, coffee, bricks, cotton, sugar cane, and gold. Some of the countries that supply the United States with gold mined and refined by children are South Africa, Kenya, India, Bolivia and Brazil.  

Also, an estimated 200 children in Bangladesh, some age 11 and even younger, are sewing clothes that are sold in Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny, and many other retail outlets in the United States. The work shift is 12 to 14 hours a day, often seven days a week. In Thailand, an Associated Press investigation found child and slave labor pealing shrimp which is then exported to American supermarkets including Whole Foods, Safeway, and Kroger. Although Thailand had been on a State Department blacklist, the country was never sanctioned. 

Exports to the United States of products made by child labor are encouraged by this country's membership in the intergovernmental World Trade Organization (WT0), which was established in 1995. The WTO is the only global organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. Over 160 countries are members, which covers more than 90% of world trade. As labor and community groups have experienced, WTO is a corporate managed organization that subverts the decision making process of democratically elected domestic bodies. Tribunals of the WTO make decisions, which bind all member countries. Incredibly, the WTO has an unwritten rule to exclude discussions on child labor and labor issues generally. 

Young workers, however, are often outspoken, active, and militant. The historical records shows that the wit and actions of young people have resulted in many important victories. Who would have predicted that the highly exploited fast food workers, which include many youngsters, would almost double their wage in many cities to $15 an hour? The $15 an hour demand has become a political movement that has caught the attention of workers in other industries as well. Also, 14 cities, counties, and states so far have passed a $15 an hour wage law. 

Aside from the economics, these young workers have enjoyed the links to each other and to workers elsewhere who they have been reaching out to. They see their struggle as an ethical as well as an economic issue. Indeed, their political involvement has been personally transformative. Gandhi understood the process: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others". This principle works at any age.


COUNTERPOINTS:The beautiful babies of Khan Sheikoun

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday April 14, 2017 - 10:48:00 AM

A man is sitting in his living room on a Sunday afternoon, enjoying a cool drink and a ballgame on television, trying to drown out the noise of the neighborhood kids playing on the sidewalk just outside his door and the sound of someone doing donuts in their car out in the street. Suddenly, he hears a terrific crash that cannot be ignored. He jumps up and runs to the door to find one of the neighborhood kids lying broken and bleeding on the sidewalk, with the rest of the kids standing around him, screaming and pointing down the street to where a car has crashed into a telephone pole near the corner. The man runs out of his house, past the neighborhood kid lying broken and bleeding on the sidewalk and down to the crashed car at the end of the block, where he drags the driver out and begins pounding him with punches and kicks, shouting all the while about “don’t you know we’ve got kids playing out here?” 

Meanwhile, that neighborhood kid remains broken and bleeding on the sidewalk just outside his door, waiting for one of the other neighbors to come out and provide help to him or to make the 911 call for emergency medical attention. 

Whatever love and protectiveness this man professes to feel about the kids in his neighborhood—and we won’t doubt the presence of those feelings—it is his actions in the immediate wake of the accident which reveal what actually was dominating his feelings. Maybe it was merely his anger at the driver who had been doing donuts in the street, or frustration with his own inability to do anything about it, or perhaps the man was transferring his built-up rage at the merciless managers of the bank that holds his home mortgage, or at his boss who works him too much and pays him to little and disrespects him in between, or possibly it was a chance to strike a blow at all of the injustices of the world from the time of the Roman Empire onward, at which the man was finally able to vent and release with the pummeling of the driver crashed against the telephone pole down at the end of the block. Whatever. Most likely, the man himself does not know the actual cause of his actions, and without challenge, may truly believe that it is for the protection of the neighborhood children. 

It is in this light that we should judge President Donald Trump’s decision—in the wake of the poison gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib Province—to send an armada of Tomahawk Missiles screaming down on the buildings and bunkers and runways of the air base at Shayrat. Mr. Trump said he ordered the attack after seeing images of the bodies of the “beautiful babies [who] were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric [poison gas] attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” 

There were many things Mr. Trump could have done for the children of Khan Sheikhoun after viewing those horrible images. He could have, as many have afterwards suggested, lifted his own imposed travel ban on immigration from seven countries in the Muslim world, a ban which prevents so many of those “beautiful babies” of Syria from being able to flee the horrific violence of their country’s civil and terrorist wars with their families to find succor and peace in the United States. If that was too big a hurdle to leap, Mr. Trump could have ordered Army and Navy medical personnel and supplies to the site of the attack to assist in immediate medical care, as our neighbors in Cuba so often do during natural or man-made tragedies. Or Mr. Trump could have had the most seriously-injured of the victims airlifted to American military hospitals in Germany, where they could have gotten some of the best treatment on the planet. Or there are many other actions of comfort and concern he could have taken to put America’s arms around the suffering victims. 

He did none of those. 

Instead, Mr. Trump left the children broken and bleeding on the sidewalks of Khan Sheikhoun while he rushed down to the White House Situation Room to rain down fire and death upon the air base at Shayrat. 

Forget the geopolitical analysis. Forget the twitter feeds and the Facebook posts and the evening talk show chatter. Forget, for the moment, what this might reveal about Donald Trump’s holdings in Tomahawk Missile stock or his wretched poll numbers or his attempt to distract from the current chaos infecting his presidential administration or the true nature of his complication relations with President Vladmir Putin of Russia. Use, instead, your common sense. Mr. Trump’s immediate actions in the wake of the Idlib gas attack tells you everything you need to know about what the President of the United States really feels about those beautiful babies of Khan Sheikhoun and the horror they have been made to suffer. 

And after that, there’s not much else to say. 

THE PUBLIC EYE: While the Media Slept

Bob Burnett
Friday April 14, 2017 - 08:01:00 AM

Donald Trump has called the mainstream media "the enemy." But since January 20th, the media has been Trump's best friend because they have, in the main, ignored the big stories about his disastrous presidency. 

To be fair, Rachel Maddow has been superb. And the New York Times, Washington Post, and a few other print outlets have done a great job with the Trump-Russia imbroglio. Nonetheless, here are some of the big stories they've missed. 

1.Trump isn't an executive. Everything we've seen since January 20th, confirms the painful truth: Trump is in way over his head. Let's consider the five basic tasks of any CEO: Vision, Resources, Culture, Decisions, and Performance. 

Vision: What is Trump's vision for America? We understand that he offers "Make America Great Again" as his vision, but what lies behind that? "Where's the beef?" There isn't any. Trump's budget document—the closest we have to a plan—tears down the Federal government and gives massive tax breaks to the rich. Trump's real vision is "Screw the 99 percent." 

Resources: Another responsibility of an effective CEO is to allocate resources (money, personnel, time, and facilities) to accomplish specific objectives. Trump's budget gives resources to ICE and the national security state. The domestic agencies get the shaft. There's nothing in Trump's budget to improve the lot of the 99 percent. 

Culture: A successful CEO builds a culture of competency. "A good culture makes people feel safe and respected, enabling them to perform at their best." Except for his national security advisers (Mattis and McMaster), Trump has surrounded himself with a team of bumpkins. From the White House staff through the Cabinet secretaries to all the (few) political appointees, Trump's prevailing credo has been "do they like me?" rather than "can they do the job?" or better yet, "can they make America greater?" 

Decision-making: One of the defining aspects of management is making timely, effective, and responsible decisions. Trump doesn't make decisions: he dithers. And equivocates. 

When he has made decisions, such as his ineffective "full-court press" to repeal Obamacare, Trump has made bad choices. And then, when his initiatives have failed, he's attempted to blame others. He's a coward. 

Forget looking for responsibility within this Administration. Trump's operational model is "the buck doesn't stop here." 

Performance: America's corporate CEOs ultimately get judged by a narrow standard: share price. For President, the equivalent standard is, "How's the stock market doing?" So far the stock market is up, so Wall Street thinks Trump is doing okay. Really? (According to Gallup, U.S. Economic Confidence is trending down.) 

Another standard for a President is, "Has he kept us safe?" The good news is that there have not been any domestic terrorist attacks under Trump. The bad news is that since walked into the White House the whole world has been unsettled. Moreover, tourists are afraid to come here—any non-native person-of-color is afraid to come to the US. Hmmm. That can't be good for national security. Hmmm. If the rest of the world doesn't like Trump, maybe that could have some impact on our economy. 

2. Trump has no Foreign Policy: Trump wasn't elected because of his foreign-policy chops but we expected some coherence. It's not like all the Republican leaders are dummies. (Or have we got that wrong, too?) 

First Trump liked Russia; now he doesn't. Initially Trump didn't like China but now apparently he does. And on and on. Trump's foreign policy seems totally random; as if it is was most influenced by what he learned from watching "Fox and Friends" while he was getting dressed. 

Consider North Korea. From his recent remarks, sounds like Donald is "mad as hell and won't take it anymore." What's this mean? Is he going to attack North Korea? Hmmm. Think Donald knows that Seoul, South Korea, is less than 35 miles from the border with North Korea—that's less than the distance between New York City and Coney Island? Think Donald understands that if we attack North Korea it's inevitable that Seoul would be devastated? Probably not but breathe a sigh of relief: there are Trump properties in Seoul so he probably won't attack North Korea. 

3. Trump's Attack on Syria: The media mostly missed that Trump precipitated the heinous gas attacks because his administration announced they had take Syrian regime change off the table . Next the ruler of Syria, or someone else, gassed the poor folks in Khan Sheikhun, Syria. Then Trump got pissed off, jumped to a conclusion, and bombed a Syrian airport—with undetermined results. 

The media applauded because they had been waiting for Trump to do something a tiny bit presidential. The problem is the media have now set the bar so low that any Trump act of foreign-policy violence is likely to painted as "presidential." Rather than what it really is: thuggery. 

4. Trump's missing legislative agenda: Remember when Trump was going to sweep in and repeal Obamacare, cut everybody's taxes, and unleash a trillion-dollar infrastructure program? That's disappeared. 

Trump isn't going to be able to get anything passed in Congress but that won't keep him from dismantling the social safety net—and every part of government that isn't the national security state. But the media doesn't report this disgrace because it's all "nuts and bolts" government stuff and the media doesn't think their readers/viewers are interested. So, Trump will propose gutting Social Security to almost no notice while the mainstream media ponders weighty concerns like, "What's Ivanka going to do next?" 

Wake up national media! This isn't a drill, it's a real catastrophe

ON MENTAL ILLNESS:Embracing getting a little older

Jack Bragen
Friday April 14, 2017 - 08:11:00 AM

Don't get me wrong, I am not old yet and haven't yet reached 55 years. However, people with severe psychiatric illness often don't make it to their forties or fifties...  

When you get older, the body shows signs of it. One's front may no longer be firm, and instead might sag, partly depending on how well one has or hasn't maintained oneself. In back, things may become flattened out. The hair goes gray and sometimes white. Someone once looked at me and said, "When your chest hair turns gray, forget about it."  

It is nice to have made it this far. However, here is where the battle begins. The proverbial fight against aging; how long it has existed, I do not know. People used to have a life expectancy of thirty. With modern medical science as well as improvements in living conditions, it has become fairly common for people to live to ninety. When you get to be in your fifties, that's when aging really seems to hit; the illusion of invincibility is gone, and one starts doing things to try and hang in there longer and in better health.  

This is what I would call, the Viagra/Lipitor/Botox generation. In the 1980’s, we were called, "The coffee generation." 

Partly due to taking massive amounts of antipsychotic meds for decades, in some ways I am a fifty-something with the body of a seventy-year-old. Many persons with severe mental illness drop dead before reaching my age, because of the numerous health hazards and dangers of being mentally ill. 

A number of us have become physically distorted, obese, and otherwise impacted, because of the effects of medication.  

The mental health treatment system doesn't prioritize the physical wellness of psychiatric consumers. They manage to infantilize us and at the same time ruin our health when, at times, they try to bribe us with sugary and/or fatty junk foods.  

For example, people from a mental health program showed up unannounced at my door with a giant box of cupcakes, incorrectly assuming I would be bedazzled by this and would let them into my home. Other mental health organizations are generous with the sweets, and with other fatty high calorie foods. Furthermore, they do not do anything to help us quit smoking--some have even condoned it.  

In fact, I believe our lives aren't valued. We are cutified, and when we drop dead at a young age, no big deal is made of it.  

But I value myself, and I won't spend my time around people who are condescending, who are infantilizing, and who, idiotically believe I am an idiot because I am mentally ill. If truth be told, I have more brains than most of the mental health professionals with whom I interact. Yet it is not unusual for fools to underestimate me.  

I am a much more aware person than I was just a few years ago. If I live long enough, there is a lot I can accomplish. I definitely have reasons for being here, and they seem to go beyond just looking out for my own enhancement.  

Getting older has given me the clarity I once lacked, that most people probably take for granted. I've had to relearn how to think. My self-taught "mental training," which borrows many of its concepts from Buddhist philosophy, hasn't cured my mental illness, but it has allowed me to do a lot better than I otherwise would.  

I am a late bloomer, by about thirty years. I hope to accomplish a lot in the time I have left. I could drop dead tomorrow, or I could be around for another twenty, thirty, of even forty years. This is according to a Zen proverb: the only thing of which we can be sure is "this breath."  

ECLECTIC RANT: U.S. Missile Attacks Against Syria

Ralph E. Stone
Friday April 14, 2017 - 05:35:00 PM

Accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of launching chemical attacks on civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun where at least 86 people were killed, Trump ordered Tomahawk missile attacks on the Shayrat air base where the chemical attacks on civilians were allegedly launched. "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," Trump said.  

Reportedly, 59 Tomahawk missiles costing about $93.8 million to replace were used in the attack. This amount of money could have funded Meals on Wheels -- zeroed out in Trump's proposed budget -- until 2029. 

Even some of his severest critics love Trump's show of military might. However, the missile attack was symbolic at best as Syrian planes left the same airfield the next day for further attacks on the same town although no chemical weapons were used. 

But what is Trump's Syrian war strategy if indeed he has one, and what "national security interest" was at stake? Previously, Trump criticized the U.S. involvement in Syria, had no interest in removing Assad, and claimed he would seek Congressional approval for any U.S. attacks on Syria. All these "promises" went out the window. 

By our missile attacks against Syria, we are in effect attacking Assad. Russia supports Assad. Does this mean that the coordination between the U.S. and Russia against ISIS will now end? The U.S., Turkey, Gulf Arab states, and Jordan provide support to some rebels opposing Assad. Supposedly, Russia and the U.S are only targeting ISIS while avoiding targeting the rebel forces. Will Russia be less discriminate in who they attack now that the U.S. has seemingly targeted Syria and Assad directly? 

Trump said of the chemical attack, "No child of God should ever suffer such horror." Was he intimating that our national interest was humanitarian in nature because Assad used chemical weapons he was ordered to destroy back in 2014? If the missile attacks were humanitarian, then why has Trump proposed slashing funding for the State Department and USAID, its foreign aid agency? And why is he trying to ban admission of refugees to the U.S., including Syrians? Consider that the war has resulted in about 4.8 million Syrian refugees. And why are some calling Trump the Islamophobia president?  

Was this missile attack an ad hoc decision or in furtherance of Trump's long-term Syrian war strategy? I suspect the former, not the latter. What's next in Trump's campaign to make America great again?  

That's a lot of unanswered questions. Stay tuned.

Arts & Events

Theater Review: 'Way Out West'--Adaptation of 'The Inspector General' Set in Early California

Ken Bullock
Friday April 14, 2017 - 05:36:00 PM

"And what's wrong with a little palm oil?"

The shrewd, self-styled cynics of an end-of-the-road frontier town have caught wind of a government official traveling incognito from the capital, sure to report all kinds of their civic chicanery and official laxity to the powers on high after he sneaks into their burg--or gouges the locals, promising to overlook their many peccadilloes ... And so they brace themselves for the onslaught, planning a big, overly-friendly welcome--and a lot of exaggerated bribery--as a counterattack ...

The Ross Valley Players are presenting Joel Eis' original play--or should we say, original adaptation, 'Way Out West,' which was developed under their auspices, onstage at the Barn, a kind of double-barreled tour de force, certainly something with a couple of twists--an adaptation of Nicolai Gogol's great satiric farce, 'The Inspector General,' reset in newly Americanized San Francisco on the eve of the Gold Rush, its wildly humorous dialogue become American tall tale banter.  


But it's not simply Gogol gone Spaghetti Western, as James Dunn once famously rebranded 'Taming of the Shrew' down the road apiece at College of Marin--and around the world at the Edinburgh Festival. Eis's Frisco Primitive is less the actual former Yerba Buena that a few months before hauled down the Mexican flag at the Presidio, replacing it with a soon-to-be starrier Stars & Stripes ... than it is a state of mind, a slapstick platform where the farce, slmost a doorslammer, of 'Inspector General' is mounted, more akin to how Larry Gelbart treated Ben Jonson's great comedy 'Volpone,' reducing it in the culinary sense to a concoction: farce, not in Elizabethan dress, but Volpone the fox dressed up in crinoline and brocade as The Gay Nineties on Nob or Rincon Hill. 

It's all meant in fun, as director Buzz Halsing declares in his notes, admitting a deliberate playfulness, fast and loose, with period facts, as telegrams, Pony Express and the city of Reno are all referenced, each actually coming into existence a decade or two later, the first supplanting the second as machine age technology brought in new forms of transcontinental travel and communication--and whole cities like Reno with them ... 

'The Inspector General' was staged nearly halfway around the world from 'Way Out West's' setting and a dozen years before its supposed time. Tsar Nicholas personally intervened to make a production in St. Petersburg possible. From an anecdote Gogol heard from the great Alexander Pushkin, whom Dostoyevsky credited with virtually founding Russian literature, about being mistaken for a government inspector on a trip to the provinces, Gogol came up with a crazy satire of corrupt small town muckty-mucks (and higher-up bureaucrats) that became such a hit with both the Tsar and the public, the backlash from officialdom drove Gogol out of the country. 

'The Inspector General' has been revived over and over, most notably in the 1920s by the great stage director V. S. Meyerhold, teacher of film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein, whose production, incorporating elements ftom other writings of Gogol, became an international sensation. Silent film clips from Meyerhold's experimental, stylized show can be found on YouTube. The physical stylization followed Meyerhold's dictum, "The Grotesque is a triumph of Form over Content," complimenting his description of 'The Inspector General' as "not an absurd comedy, but a comedy about an absurd situation," taken to the limit. 

The cast Buzz Halsing directed plays grotesques, though maybe more in Sherwood Anderson's sense, from Anderson's seminal book about provincial towns, 'Winesburg, Ohio,' than Meyerhold's: "It was his notion that the moment one of the people snatched up one of the truths to himself, called it his truth and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood." 

From Alex Ross' portrayal of "Mayor Rabbit's Foot," smug in his self-satisfied humor of having seen it all, thus being con-proof, to Richard Friedlander's Judge Carter, more card shark than magistrate, to Stacy Anderson playing the sarcastic head of municipal charities, Hortense Brewer, to literally two-faced (or doubke-hatted) Police Chief/Postmaster Lucius Potter (Javier Alacon) and Ida May Dobkins (Carrie Fisher-Coppola) with Ike Bobkins (Ralph Kalbus) as the village bumpkins, the locals are almost begging to be raked by the first con man to disembark. 

The mayor's wife Pearl (Pam Drummer-Williams) and ingenue daughter Rose-Marie (Keara Reardon) would in fact gladly welcome a rake to flatter them, pay them court in their provincial isolation at any price. 

Maureen Coyne plays Maxine, the maid and factotum in the mayor's household, who narrates the action and backstory at start and finish, but whose pivotal role gets muted during the second and third act, as it were ... 

John Anthony Nolan as Ridgeway, former barber from Saint Louie, faux valet and real partner-in-crime to the mistaken government inspector, is the sole melancholic, the realistic grump (complimenting Maxine) in this nest of ninnies, as he and con man Rex Reynard (Paul Stout)--the real Volpone or Sly Fox--ease into town, hiding out in its one hotel, until flushed out by their over-eager prey, mistaking Reynard, the mysterious stranger in town, for the rumored dread government man come to audit. 

Stout and Nolan get palms for their energy in moving the tale along, spurred too by Keara Reardon's madcap vivacity. 

In the end, word comes in of someone announcing the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill--Sam Brannan, no doubt--ushering out the brief era of San Francisco as one horse, dead end town, and ushering in the crowd of real grotesques of the Gold Rush, then Comstock Lode--and a new era in American humor, periodically refreshed through the 1960s. 

Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2 through April 23 at the Barn Theatre, 30 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (at Lagunitas Road), Ross, Marin County (old Art & Garden Center). Tickets: $20 general, $15 under 25. www.RossValleyPlayers.com or (415) 456-9555 x. 1

Takács Quartet’s Beethoven Cycle Closes with a Rousing Finish

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday April 14, 2017 - 08:14:00 AM

On April 8-9, the Takács Quartet brought to a rousing close its cycle of the complete Beethoven string quartets. Begun last October, this Beethoven cycle comprised six concerts, all in the excellent acoustic space of UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. How lucky we are to have the opportunity to hear a world-class string quartet perform all sixteen of Beethoven’s String Quartets plus Die Grosse Fugue. This latter work, catalogued as Op. 133, was performed by the Takács Quartet on Sunday, April 9, as it was intended by Beethoven as the final movement of the Op. 130 String Quartet. However, at the urging of a publisher the composer saw fit to write a less demanding, more accessible finale for the Op. 130 Quartet. Yet what more fitting ending could one imagine for a cycle of the complete Beethoven String Quartets than the Grosse Fugue played as the finale of Op. 130?  

We’ll take up the Takács Quartet’s performance of Op. 130 and Die Grosse Fugue towards the end of this review. First, however, we turn our attention to Saturday evening’s program, which included Op. 18, No. 6, Op. 135 (the last of Beethoven’s String Quartets), and Op. 59, No. 3 (the last of the so-called Rasumovsky Quartets). The String Quartet in B flat, Op. 18, No. 6 was written in the years 1799-1800 as the final quartet in a group of six, all composed in the Viennese Classic style with four movements. This work’s first two movements cast an affectionate look backwards at Beethoven’s great predecessors, Haydn and Mozart. Ebullient and mellifluous themes are stated, developed, and recapitulated. At the end of the second movement, two gentle pizzicato chords in viola and cello, played here by Geraldine Walther and András Fejér, make for an understated close. The two final movements of this quartet definitely look forwards to the experimental style of Beethoven’s late quartets. The third movement, a scherzo, offers a syncopated theme and obstinately dislocated off-beat accents. It also offers acrobatic turns by the first violin, brilliantly performed here by Edward Dusinberre. The finale, entitled “La malinconia” (“melancholy”), begins with a slow introduction that Beethoven instructed must be played with the utmost delicacy. The predominant dynamic marking is pianissimo. A bit later, a country dance breaks out, and melancholy turns to gaiety. However, the music of the slow introduction returns to throw a cloud of melancholy over the gaiety of the country dance. But this mood is quickly overcome by a giddy, almost manic cheerfulness as the work races to a conclusion, expertly performed by the Takács Quartet. 

Next on Saturday’s program was Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135, his last string quartet. This marked a return to the high-Classic style that Beethoven had left behind in the highly experimental Op. 130, 131 and 132 String Quartets. There is indeed something almost Haydnesque about the F Major Quartet. The viola introduces the opening theme, though in fragmentary form. The other instruments pick up this theme but simply add more fragments, approaching the home key only obliquely. Nonetheless, the overall mood of this first movement is one of iridescent cheerfulness. The second movement, marked Vivace, continues in a cheerful vein. Yet, suddenly, in what seems to be an exuberant scherzo, the viola and cello saw away at a small, brutal figure over and over again, at fortissimo, while the first violin undergoes wild convulsions. This seems to be an eruption of chaos in the midst of calm and restraint. Typically, Beethoven is not afraid to acknowledge the lurking chaos, but literally embraces it. The third movement is a somewhat lugubrious Lento. The fourth and final movement is prefaced by the words, “Muss es sein?” (“Must it be?”) Following this question comes the answer: “Es muss sein.” (“It must be”). Whether these words have a metaphysical connotation or, as some scholars believe, simply make a joke about the stinginess of one of Beethoven’s Jewish patrons who balked at paying the price of a ticket, we’ll never know. Perhaps both meanings were intended. In any case, the finale proceeds to a cheerful, playful close. 

After intermission, the Takács Quartet took the stage to perform the String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3, the last of the Razumovsky Quartets. Without doubt, the most striking feature of this quartet is the second movement, an Andante. This movement, with its slow melodic repetitions is almost hypnotic. In his film Une femme mariée (A Married Woman), Jean-Luc Godard used this movement to accompany images of languid foreplay between a married woman and her lover. Godard filmed semi-abstract images of hands caressing bare torsos, over and over, as the lovers repeat gestures they – and we -- have already performed innumerable times. In these images set to this music, unhurried lovemaking involves a suspension of time. It’s as if these gestures, and this music, could be infinitely prolonged. Yet Godard also picks up on the element of melancholy in Beethoven’s music; and as the music and gestures repeat themselves endlessly with slight variations, we are aware of an undercurrent of melancholy. It may be beautiful, and it may be tender, but it also may be a bit mechanical, an infinite repetition of the same gestures and music, over and over and over. Nonetheless, this movement was a particular favorite among audiences in Beethoven’s day, and it remains a deeply moving musical experience for us today. There is more to say, of course, about this Op. 59, No. 3 Quartet; but in a double-barreled review covering two concerts and five quartets, we’d better leave further comments on Op. 59, No. 3 for another time. 

On Sunday, April 9, the Takács Quartet performed only two works: the String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1, Rasumovsky, and the String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130 with its original finale, Die Grosse Fugue, Op. 133. The former work, the first of Beethoven’s middle period quartets commissioned by Count Rasumovsky, clearly situates this set of three quartets as a radical rethinking of the structure and style of string quartets. As Maynard Solomon observes, “Where Beethoven’s creative laboratory had at first been the piano and then was the symphony orchestra, the focus of his experimental efforts was now transferred to the string quartet.” There is undeniably a new expansiveness here in Beethoven’s string quartets. The opening melody of the first Rasumovsky is elaborated by the cello while the other instruments offer a largely dissonant, obstinately unchanging accompaniment. It is not until 20 bars of music that we settle into the home key of B-flat Major. There are experiments in this first movement regarding an implied repeat when a reiteration of the cello’s opening bars leads not to a full repeat but rather to the development section. Likewise, the central section of the development unfolds from a mysterious pianissimo that reaches a climax on the very same dissonance with which the movement began.  

The second movement begins with the second violin introducing the opening theme, here beautifully played by Károly Schranz. Throughout this scherzo, there is a wonderful interchange of melodic material from one instrument to another, as Dusinberre passes a melody to Schranz, who passes it to Walther, who passes it to Fejér. The third movement, marked Adagio with a subheading of mesto (sad), offers one of Beethoven’s great tragic statements of grief. One of this movement’s innovations lies in the extended pizzicato with which the cello, here played with consummate artistry by András Fejér, elaborates the expressive mood of overwhelming grief. (Beethoven associated this movement with the death of his brother.) The fourth and final movement offers a Russian theme, in the original a soldier’s lament on returning from war, though Beethoven disdainfully casts aside the original’s grim mood and simply writes this music as an Allegro, thus bringing this quartet to a triumphal close. 

After Sunday’s intermission, the Takács Quartet took the stage to perform Beethoven’s monumental String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130 with its original finale, Die Grosse Fugue, Op. 133. Maynard Solomon called this quartet “the most enigmatic of the late quartets.” Paul Bekker, writing in the early 20th century, found the B-flat major Quartet “a suite, almost a pot-pourri, of movements without any close psychological interconnection.” On this latter point I totally disagree. There is indeed a unifying principle in this Op. 130 quartet, and it is an eminently psychological one, it seems to me. It consists of an undercurrent of melancholy, of grief, that lies just under the surface of music that otherwise might seem cheerful. The first movement is a case in point. It is marked Adagio, but this is no liltingly lyrical Adagio. Rather, it is shot through with dark, gloomy recollections of sorrow and suffering. It must not be played in a light-hearted manner. The second movement, a very brief Presto, however, is indeed light-hearted. Here, after the melancholy opening movement, Beethoven allows himself the simple pleasure of joyful music-making. Note, however, that this moment is extremely brief. Next comes the third movement, marked Andante con moto. It features pizzicato plucking by the low instruments while the first violin occupies the high range in a heavy-duty workout that suggests turbulence. The fourth movement is Alla danza tedesca, a simple German country dance, a Ländler. As we listen to this music we can almost picture clod-hopping peasants and maidens in dirndls dancing in a circle. Yet at a certain point, two-thirds of the way through this movement, the pace slows down noticeably, or at least it should, and here I fault the Takács Quartet for not slowing this music down sufficiently. Why is this important? Because here, I think, we can picture Beethoven sadly acknowledging a distance he feels from this music. Not that he can’t appreciate it as music. Obviously, he can and does, even if in his deafness he can no longer hear it. However, what distances Beethoven from this country dance is its tight sense of community, an element Beethoven longed for but never achieved. And it is this recognition, I believe, that precipitates the tragic outpouring of grief and pain of the Cavatina that follows. 

Into this Cavatina Beethoven poured all the pain and suffering he had experienced in his life – the struggle with deafness, the repeated disappointments in love, and the sense of lonely isolation stemming both from his deafness and from the immense gap between his own exalted notion of music and the more pedestrian expectations of his public. The tragedy expressed in the Cavatina, according to J.W. N. Sullivan, is “the yearning for the unattainable, for that close human intimacy, that love and sympathy, that Beethoven never experienced.” Beethoven’s friend Karl Holz reported that the composer “wrote the Cavatina (‘short aria’) amid sorrows and tears; never did this music breathe so heartfelt an inspiration, and even the memory of this movement brought tears to his eyes.” 

Following this tragic Cavatina, Beethoven needed to pull himself together and write something that would embody his ability to overcome all suffering, all obstacles, and express his reaffirmation of life. What Beethoven turned to was Bach and the fugue. In writing Die Grosse Fugue, Beethoven went back to the roots of classical music and demonstrated that in his mastery of counterpoint he could indeed overcome all obstacles and reaffirm his commitment to life. As expertly performed here by the Takács Quartet, Die Grosse Fugue was a perfect climax to their cycle of the complete Beethoven String Quartets. 




The Danish National Symphony Orchestra with Deborah Voigt

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday April 14, 2017 - 09:47:00 AM

On April 2-3, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra gave two concerts at Davies Hall under the direction of their new Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi. The Sunday evening concert I attended offered Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture, Richard Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder with soprano Deborah Voigt as soloist, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Eroica. Opening the program was Nielsen’s Helios Overture, an ode to Helios, the Greek god of the sun, who wheeled his four-horsed chariot across the sky each day from east to west. Nielsen wrote this 12-minute work while spending six months in Greece in 1903. As the Helios Overture begins, muted throbbing is heard in the basses, barely emerging out of silence. Then four horns are heard, interwoven in dissonance, as they announce the sunrise. The music then spans an arc as the sun itself spans an arc from east to west. At midday, when the sun is brightest, the four horns sound again, this time in powerful unison. An energetic theme is developed which culminates in a fugue. Then the sun gradually descends its arc until it sinks silently into the sea. Nielsen wrote a letter to his three children back in Denmark describing the inspiration he drew from a particularly beautiful sunset at the port of the island of Aegina. By coincidence, I too experienced an incredibly beautiful sunset as I looked out to sea from the port of Aegina, as the setting sun backlit the jagged mountainous peaks of the islands of Moni and Angistri and the rugged coastline of the Peloponnesos. What Carl Nielsen put into music, I put into a chapter in a novel. 

Next on the program was Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder, set to five poems written by Mathilde Wesendonk, who, with her husband Otto, provided Wagner with a place to stay just north of Zurich in 1857-8. Wagner, who was distancing himself from his wife of thirteen years, Minna Planer, developed a passionate involvement with Mathilde Wesendonk, who apparently reciprocated Wagner’s love, if we can judge by his letters. This liaison caused much discomfort, however, to Mathilde’s husband, Otto, who watched it develop under his eyes and in his own house. Wagner used this love triangle as the raw material for the poem and opera he was writing, Tristan und Isolde. The Wesendonk Lieder, especially the songs Im Treibhaus and Träume, became trial runs for the burgeoning Tristan music.  

Soprano Deborah Voigt was the soloist in this performance of the Wesendonk Lieder. Although Deborah Voigt is a veteran Wagnerian who has sung many of Wagner’s heroines at the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere, I found her voice not quite right for the tenderness, longing and resignation of the Wesendonk Lieder. Ms. Voigt certainly entered expressively into each of the five songs, but her voice had a touch of flintiness that detracted from the intimacy she sought to convey. Nor did Ms. Voigt’s voice have the sumptuous, all-embracing presence of Jessye Norman’s voice, whom I heard sing these Wesendonk Lieder in 1976 in Melbourne, Australia. Nonetheless, Deborah Voigt gave a sensitive interpretation of these songs, accompanied adroitly by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Fabio Luisi. For her efforts, Deborah Voigt received a thunderous ovation from the Davies Hall audience. 

After intermission, Fabio Luisi returned to the podium to conduct Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Completed in 1804, the Eroica marked a giant step forward in the history of the symphony and of music in general. Gone are the slight, formalized high classical conventions of Beethoven’s First and Second Symphonies, and in their place is a work of enormous ambition and scale. Originally entitled Bonaparte as a tribute to Napoleon, Beethoven angrily scratched out the name Bonaparte when he learned that Napoleon had himself crowned as Emperor. The work was renamed Eroica, and it seemed to many listeners to honor an anonymous great hero of the spirit of mankind. Certainly the Eroica is grandiose and majestic, vast yet immensely concentrated.  

The concentration is heard immediately in the work’s first two abrupt, powerful chords, which assuredly announce a great drama that will unfold. Conductor Fabio Luisi punctuated these opening chords with clenched fist punches in the air. Then a first theme is announced by the cellos. This theme is passed on to different sections of the orchestra until it pours forth proudly in the full orchestra. An idyllic second theme is introduced by exquisite chords in the woodwinds and violins. This suggests repose after a storm, but soon the storm returns. The orchestra hurls one piercing chord after another in jarring dissonance, each one punctuated by a vigorous punch from Conductor Luisi. Then comes a new melody in the woodwinds, gentle and tender. A recurring pattern is established: turmoil alternating with repose. Beethoven expands the development section far longer than the initial exposition, a novelty in symphonic construction. Fabio Luisi, throwing himself into the music with his whole body, bending low, springing upward, thrusting with his left hand as if to wrench the music from his orchestra, opts for a fast-paced tempo throughout most of this huge first movement. 

The second movement offers a slow funeral march, majestic in its somber lament. The violins introduce the death theme while the basses throb in anguish. A plaintive melody for strings ensues. An introspective trio seems to ponder the dead hero’s past accomplishments. An elegiac song is heard in the flutes and clarinets. The march theme returns, and a remarkable fugue ensues. When the march theme eventually is heard yet again, it has now broken apart, occurring only in fits and starts, as if the pain of grief were too great. 

By contrast, the third movement, a brisk, scampering scherzo, is light-hearted and almost gay. Hunting calls by three horns suggest that the scampering music depicts animals’ efforts to escape the arrival of a hunting party. This scherzo offers a brief interlude in the otherwise dramatic life of Beethoven’s hero of the spirit. With the fourth and final movement, we return to the storm and stress of the opening movement. A theme is plucked in the strings and given a set of variations, which are climaxed by a fugue. Then a hymn for the woodwinds emerges. As in the first movement, the two main themes are developed to gigantic proportions. The orchestra swells in volume and surges forth, until another series of jabbing chords brings the Eroica Symphony to an end. 

As an encore, Fabio Luisi led the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in a jaunty tango. I note in passing how interesting and instructive it has been to witness in quick succession two visiting conductors, Yuri Temirkanov of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and Fabio Luisi of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, who couldn’t be more different in their styles of conducting. Where Temirkanov seemed amazingly laid back and undemonstrative, Luisi was as unabashedly demonstrative as can be. Yet both conductors elicited beautiful, in-depth interpretations of the works their respective orchestras performed. Conducting styles notwithstanding, what counts is the rapport the conductor has with his/her orchestra as well as with the music itself.