Full Text

Amber Cummings, the self-designated (but no-show at least in this female persona) organizer of the August 27 right-wing non-rally at Berkeley's MLK Park, engages in dialogue with (presumably) a protester against Ben Shapiro's appearance on the UC Berkeley campus.  The Empathy tent,a fixture at recent contentious demonstrations, is maintained by volunteers who offer to listen to everyone.
Scott Morris
Amber Cummings, the self-designated (but no-show at least in this female persona) organizer of the August 27 right-wing non-rally at Berkeley's MLK Park, engages in dialogue with (presumably) a protester against Ben Shapiro's appearance on the UC Berkeley campus. The Empathy tent,a fixture at recent contentious demonstrations, is maintained by volunteers who offer to listen to everyone.


New: A Breathtaking ELEKTRA at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday September 18, 2017 - 03:53:00 PM

Richard Strauss’ Elektra, based on the great Greek tragedy by Sophocles, is justly considered a milestone of modern music. Composed in 1908 and premiered in Dresden early in 1909, Elektra comes as close to atonality as Strauss ever ventured. (He once addressed a young composer of the atonal school with the question: “Why do you trouble to write atonally when you have talent?”) Whatever Strauss’s thoughts were regarding atonality, Elektra’s harsh dissonances and bold contrapuntal shifts of tonality were the perfect musical equivalents of the twisted, obsessive, single-minded repetitions of Elektra’s unhinged state of mind. Elektra, after all, had lived to see her father, Agamemnon, return from the Trojan War only to be brutally murdered in cold blood by his wife, Klytemnestra, and her illicit lover, Aegisthus. Then Elektra had found herself treated by her mother and Aegisthus as if she were a slave. She had thus fallen in her blaze of beautiful youth from revered daughter of a king to a ravaged, tattered servant in what used to be her household. She had also seen her brother Orestes flee the household in terror for his own life. Small wonder, therefore, that Elektra harbors great resentment towards her mother, especially, but also towards Aegisthus, the usurper. Small wonder, indeed, that Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung considered that female children psychologically compete with their mothers for the affections of their fathers, a trait they called “the Electra complex.” (Electra is the English spelling, while Elektra is the German spelling used by Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannstahl.) 

In San Francisco Opera’s current production of Strauss’s Elektra, originally directed by Keith Warner when it premiered in Prague in 2016, the drama is set in a museum dedicated to the ancient Greek tragedy. A woman comes to the museum and identifies with the figure of Elektra. Perhaps she, too, like Elektra, has been abused by her mother. Or perhaps she too, like the ancient Elektra, simply vies with her mother for the affections of her long-gone father. In any case, this woman so identifies with the ancient Elektra that she psychologically takes on her adopted ancestor’s identity, and she stays behind in the museum by hiding herself at its closing time, so that she may soak up the psychologically lurid elements of this ancient yet elemental tragic drama. This museum, it seems, is a museum of our collective psyche. 

In the role of Elektra, American soprano Christine Goerke is incandescent. She is onstage nearly all 100 minutes of this one-act opera staged without intermission. And she is obliged to sing very difficult music and do so over an orchestra of more than a hundred musicians. Goerke, who started out singing light, lyrical Mozart and Handel roles, suddenly found in her mid-thirties her voice shifting to a stronger, darker hue. Upset at this change, coming as it did at an earlier age than usually happens, Goerke thought of giving up singing. Happily, she decided to give her new, darker voice a try. Now, Goerke is a leading performer of Wagner heroines as well as roles such as Cassandre in Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Strauss’ Elektra. With her performances of Strauss’ Elektra, Goerke joins a line of great Elektras that includes Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Astrid Varnay, and Inge Borkh, Here in San Francisco, Goerke displayed a voice capable of producing earth-shattering, almost wordless howls and equally adroit at crooning poignantly lyrical longing. Her portrayal of Elektra’s surprise reunion with her brother Orestes (Orest in German) was full of tender lyricism that stood out in stark contrast to the harshness of her earlier psychologically harsh, musically shrieked harangues.  

In the role of Klytemnestra, American mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, who sang here the role of Cassandre in our 2015 production of Les Troyens, used her voice beautifully to portray Klytemnestra’s guilt-ridden, nightmare-haunted torment. One senses in Martens’ portrayal of Klytemnestra that her character is one of those Bette Davis or Joan Crawford viragos who spew venom in their relations with their daughters. In Strauss’s Elektra, the mother-daughter confrontation becomes as creepy and venomous as, well, a scene from the movie Mommie Dearest. Klytemnestra even tries to wheedle her daughter into helping her cure the nightmares that plague her, but to no avail. Elektra simply twists the knife ever deeper into her mother’s tormented psyche, thereby also twisting the knife ever deeper into her own equally tormented psyche. In Klytemnestra and Elektra, mother and daughter are simply two sides of the same coin. 

In the role of Elektra’s sister Chrysothemis, Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka was a breath of fresh air in this psychologically overwrought drama. Though urged by Elektra to join her sister in avenging their father’s murder, Chrysothemis insists on clinging to life and its hopes for a future. “I want to live and have children,” she sings, and in this plea we understand the positive side of her refusal to go along with the death-obsessed ravings of Elektra. Adrianne Pieczonka sang with clear, limpid tone and surprising strength, letting us see – and hear – that Chrysothemis is no weakling but in fact a strong, positive counterweight to the maniacally death-obsessed Elektra. 

As Orest, bass-baritone Alfred Walker made a strong company debut. His voice was full of dark foreboding. Though hiding his identity at first from Elektra, when he ultimately recognizes her as his now much-ravaged sister, his voice turned tender and solicitous. In the role of Aegisth (or Aegisthus), tenor Robert Brubaker was appropriately arrogant yet vulnerable. When set upon by Orest, he cries out for help. “Where are the servants to come to my aid?” he cries. The servants rejoice at his demise. When Chrysothemis asks Elektra if she hears the music being sung by the rejoicing servants at the death of Aegisth, Elektra answers, “Ob ich die Musik nicht höre? Sie kommt doch aus mir.” (“How could I not hear the music? It comes from me.”) As Carolyn Abbate remarks, “This aphorism could stand for operatic Expressionism tout court.” 

There are so many small roles in Elektra that it seems useless to cite all the singers in this review. The essence of this drama, of this tragedy, is in the character of Elektra herself, as well as in the characters of Klytemnestra and Chrysothemis. It is interesting that Richard Strauss’ music simultaneously asserts yet ironically undercuts each position staked out by his three female principals. Indeed, the essence of this musical tragedy resides in Strauss’ orchestra, which fills the role of a chorus in Greek tragedy, both mirroring Elektra’s maniacal obsessions and at the same time casting a judgment upon them. Led here by Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, the orchestra performed magnificently. All told, this Elektra rivals my previous favorite Elektra, one staged by the legendary Harry Kupfer that I saw at Berlin’s Komische Oper back in 2002. This San Francisco Opera Elektra utilised Keith Warner ‘s 2016 Prague staging as restaged by Anja Kühnhold. Costumes were by Caspar Glarner, sets were by Boris Kudlička, lighting was by John Bishop, and video footage was by Bartek Macias. 

Strauss’s Elektra continues for three more performances, September 19, 22, and 27. Don’t miss it! It is breathtaking! 



Nine Arrested During Protest of Berkeley Shapiro Event

Scott Morris (BCN)and Planet
Friday September 15, 2017 - 10:28:00 AM
Amber Cummings, the self-designated (but no-show at least in this female persona) organizer of the August 27 right-wing non-rally at Berkeley's MLK Park, engages in dialogue with (presumably) a protester against Ben Shapiro's appearance on the UC Berkeley campus.  The Empathy tent,a fixture at recent contentious demonstrations, is maintained by volunteers who offer to listen to everyone.
Scott Morris
Amber Cummings, the self-designated (but no-show at least in this female persona) organizer of the August 27 right-wing non-rally at Berkeley's MLK Park, engages in dialogue with (presumably) a protester against Ben Shapiro's appearance on the UC Berkeley campus. The Empathy tent,a fixture at recent contentious demonstrations, is maintained by volunteers who offer to listen to everyone.

A large swath of the University of California at Berkeley was shut down Thursday evening as about a thousand protesters gathered outside a speaking event by right-wing author and political commentator Ben Shapiro.

After the speech was over, Berkeley police put out Nixle press releases saying that small groups of protestors were marching west from the campus gates toward downtown Berkeley, but no further disturbances were reported.

Campus officials had feared that the event could lead to similar violence that has erupted at right wing rallies and events in recent months, including just last month at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, where thousands of demonstrators confronted a handful of right-wing activists.

While there were some arrests -- Berkeley police said there were nine -- and some tense moments of confrontation, there was no violence reported. A woman was taken away on a stretcher, but campus officials said she had suffered a medical emergency and was not assaulted.

Berkeley police said the nine arrestees included four people arrested under city law prohibiting weapons in certain public parks. They were identified as 44-year-old Sara Rourke of San Francisco, 29-year-old Michael Sullivan of Hayward and 44-year-old Eddy Robinson. Hannah Benjamin, 20, of Fremont was also arrested under that law as well as battery on a police officer.

Also arrested were 18-year-old Kerim Celik of Saratoga for disturbing the peace, 24-year-old Noe Gonzalez Gudino of Richmond for disturbing the peace and public intoxication, 21-year-old Miguel Reyes of Colton for resisting arrest, 20-year-old Jorge Cabanillas for battery and 45-year-old Darin Bauer for battery. 

The greatest drama came from when a group of about two dozen students staged a protest on a walkway over the entrance to the event, where police were conducting careful screenings of ticket holders. The group hung signs that said, "UC protects fascism, not students," and "trans lives matter here." 

The students eventually retreated back into the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, where they used tape to write "stolen land" and "f-- Carol" -- directed at UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ for allowing right wing speakers -- on the windows. 

Eventually police surrounded the room, but the demonstrators made a phone call to the group outside, who blared their conversation over loudspeakers. Students stuck inside said the police wanted them to leave two at a time, but they were fearful of being arrested. 

"Let them go," the crowd outside roared, and eventually the police relented and the entire group was allowed to leave. 

UC Berkeley police Chief Margo Bennett said that she was relieved the event was held safely and largely lawfully. While the city made several arrests, campus police made none, she said. 

The intense security precautions weren't overkill in her eyes, she said, because "we wouldn't have been doing our duty if we didn't look at the worst case scenario." 

Campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said there are "no regrets" over shutting down Sproul Plaza, one of the campus's most active and central locations. Given the tense protests that have happened in Berkeley and nationwide recently, it was necessary to devote substantial resources to security, he said. 

The resources included aid from not only city of Berkeley police but officers from the California Highway Patrol and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, most of whom were in full riot gear throughout the evening. 

According to Berkeley police, there was additional aid from Oakland police, agencies in Solano County, The Monterey County Sheriff's Office, Fremont police, Citrus Heights police and Stanford University police. 

The cost of putting on the event amounted to an estimated $600,000, Mogulof said. 

While there were no reported injuries or property damage in these protests, Berkeley could be the scene of more demonstrations before the month is over as a full slate of conservative speakers have been announced for the so-called "Free Speech Week" beginning Sept. 24.  

Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, whose own speaking engagement was canceled amid violent protests in February, has been publicizing the event, announcing a slate of speakers that including himself, Ann Coulter and former White House aid Steve Bannon.  

Bennett said she is planning for the event, keeping up on the latest announcements and working to predict what might happen.  

But Mogulof stressed that no events publicized have been confirmed, no contract has been obtained for campus venues, no insurance has been purchased and no information has been given to the Police Department. 

"Time's running out," he said.

Dick Gregory Speaks Out on White Racism, Black Power, War, Sex, and Meat-eating
Dick Gregory's First Published Political Interview
September 27, 1966

Gar Smith, from the archives of Academic Publishing, Inc.
Friday September 15, 2017 - 12:45:00 PM

"I don't believe a man can be a true pacifist and not be a vegetarian, because animals are just as human in the stroke of nature as man is."

"The Viet Cong can't kill no one but me. But Mississippi racists can kill me, my five kids, my wife, and blow my church up."

"I'm not against wars—I'm against killing."

"We really don't want to save America—we want to save ourselves."

"America's racial pregnancy is up. And the baby's going to fall one way or the other."

On Tuesday, September 27, 1966, Robert Mundy (editor of Academic Publishing), Marilyn Mundy, Richard Saunders, and Carol Saunders, obtained the following interview with the noted comedian and civil rights leader, Dick Gregory.  

Q: At your last show, you started talking about a reporter who had asked you what you felt about the use of the word "Black Power." I don't want to ask that question. What I want to ask is, what do you think about the reaction to the use of the word "Black Power?"  

A: I think it's a normal reaction in a country where 10% of the population have no business with Black Power and the only reason we have Black Power is because of the racist segregationist pattern in the country that keeps a segment of the people trapped in one area—which has created Black Power.  

You don't worry about a gorilla jumping on you when you walk down the street because you know that humans outnumber gorillas, but when I take my daughter to the zoo, I get a sneaking suspicion that if I'm ever going to be jumped on by guerrillas, it's going to happen here, because you're dealing with animal power.  

It's very interesting how this power came about. We've had Black Power for years, and now the scream for Black Power had gone out, which is another way of saying we're going to channel this power into constructive directions instead of destructive directions.  

To me it's like standing in a valley looking up at a mountain, seeing the snow, and knowing that spring is going to come around and the snows going to melt, and it's going to come rushing down the mountainside—and if there's not the right facilities, like hydroelectric dams, that are built and irrigation systems, that water's going to sweep into town and just wipe everything away.  

And this is the way I look at the call to Black Power—as channeling this energy. It's very very interesting because this is the first time in history, probably of the world, that there's a tremendous revolution going on, and this revolution is not going to change the institution. And I think this is the beauty of this revolution—that everybody has missed–in that we're not trying to change one iota. We're saying, quote Just cut me in on what belongs to me."  

Q: Do you think it's possible to get this through Congress, as Congress is now acting. For example, turning down the latest civil rights bill. Or can we think in terms of civil rights bills?  

A: No. I think a civil rights bill is a racist attitude, which, for the first time, exposed that Negroes are very racist, too. But there is no way you can get around that, coming up in a racist country. It's like a kid growing up in a house and see his mother smoke pot from the time he's born. Chances are, when he gets to be 14 years old, he's going to smoke it too. And he might not even be aware that he's doing something that's wrong as far as the law is concerned. And the fact that the Constitution spells out what the attitude of man's inhumanity to man should be, and the fact that he can give him something less than this, and even make a law out of it, is like being short on your income tax, and have a bunch of your friends run to Congress and legalize the short payment that you didn't pay, and then having all of America accept this short payment, you know.  

And so what's really going to have to happen is that the Constitution has to be implemented to its fullest—not civil rights legislation. I think the fact that the civil rights bill was defeated was a step in a good direction, unconsciously.  

Nobody seemed to realize what was going on, but in the history of this country, man has treated other men wrongly, and he's always been against the Constitution, he's always broken the law. And what was about to happen with this new civil rights legislation was, for the first time, they were going to have a law to legalize segregated housing.  

Sixty percent of the housing was going to be segregated by law. And this makes about as much sense as my coming to your house, cutting off both your ears, and you run to the law-enforcement agencies, and they say: "Well this can't happen." And they passed a law that Dick Gregory can't cut off but one ear. And so, for the first time in the history of chopping off ears, now I can get your ear legal, you know.  

And so if I can get your ear—the one that I can legally cut off—and if somewhere down the line I run across old Jabo Jones, who can cut off one legally, baby we'll have all your "ears" in our pocket, you know. So I think that may be the civil rights movement has gone as far as we can go.  

Maybe nonviolence has gone as far as it can go in talking to one group. Maybe nonviolence was invented, in theory, by Hegel and Kant. Maybe their ideas of nonviolence meant that a whole area or community had to be nonviolent, not just one side. It is very interesting when you sit and look at nonviolence today, which also shows a racist attitude, because I bet nonviolence is more important than money, and if Dr. King said all Negroes should have $1 million, White folks would call him a racist, and he'd probably been knocked out of the movement in a month. And if nonviolence is better than money and more important than money, how is it that King can say all Negroes should be nonviolent and don't cut Whitey in?  

If people knew the joy, the beauty of nonviolence, then King would be considered very bigoted, because of telling Negroes not to fight back, and not abdicating this to White people.  

I think this has been the biggest mistake in the nonviolent movement—that Negroes seem willing to die at the hands of Negroes—to keep them nonviolent—but they don't seem willing to die at the hands of Whites to teach them nonviolence. I think nonviolence is either going to have to be an attitude in America (and not just the Negro) or either we're going to say that we are better than White people and, because if we feel that we are better than White people, we can teach the Negro nonviolence. I think we're in trouble with the whole movement as it is right now, unless we have some drastic changes.  

Q: What sort of changes?  

A: Well, one, the attitudes of the federal government, the attitude of many Whites. You see, what's going on right now that's good—this is the danger point you go, when you let cancer go so far—you have to use every drastic means you can try to save the body—sometimes radical means because it's gone so far, and we're not willing to accept the consequences.  

Well I wish California had a choice between [Los Angeles Mayor Sam] Yorty and [Hollywood and TV star Ronald] Reagan and then bring this thing down, you know. Goldwater and Johnson—I couldn't vote for Goldwater, but I was hoping he'd won, because when you take the lesser of two evils, I feel you deserve the evil of the evil.  

One woman's a prostitute seven days a week; another's a prostitute on weekends. And you have to marry one, and you stoop to marry the weekend prostitute without realizing you were still married to a whore. In an election year. And this is what we got with LBJ: the weekend prostitute who started selling his body seven days a week, now – and looking for an eighth day!  

For instance, you take the White backlash – no one can be hurt by this but the politicians. That's why you never hear this word used except in an election year. You hear the White backlash used in '64, and we've still bugged White folks down the line, man, but you never heard it used no more till now. And then they try to make us believe that will be hurt by the White backlash.  

Q: They're now saying that there is a Black backlash, too.  

A: Yeah, because that means that the Negro is going to start hurting some politicians now. And then you won't hear this word anymore, until another election. And when we talk about drastic changes, one is the change in attitude of people to be able to accept this reaction that you're going to get—and not try to do it as sweet as you can.  

You see, whenever you have things going in opposite directions, and they hit, you gonna get action—which is electricity—which is the basis of life. Two things travel in opposite directions, and they hit, boom, and turns your lights on.  

And you see, it's very interesting—the bigot is simply the guy who has convictions. And this is the interesting thing about that bigot: when I march and I look at him, I'm about one-millionth of a degree from seeing myself, 'cause this cat has just as much convictions as I have. The only difference between he and I is: I have sympathy with my convictions and he just has convictions. And convictions without sympathy creates the bigot, who is very destructive.  

But he comes closer to bein' a beautiful cat than the Negro who stays at home—who has no convictions whatsoever. And so there is going to have to be many, many drastic changes. America's going to have to solve this problem—not the Negro.  

Ten percent of a population can destroy 90% much easier than 10% of the population can convince 90% of the people to go in this direction. So, if we going to save it, it's gonna take lots and lots and lots of hard work. This is not the Negro's job—to see to it that their Constitution works right—it is the job of the federal government. And it's sort of like very insulting for the federal government to say: "All right, you Negro civil rights leaders, go on out there and get those rights." And the guy who's telling you to go out and get them is the guy who can get them for you. And if my rights are worth more than money, and I know this same guys telling me to go out and get them, but would not let me collect the income tax, because they have provisions in the Constitution for collecting the income tax—like they have provisions in the constitution for me to get my rights—so eventually, somewhere down the line, it's going to have to stop. And, maybe this is the year that we took that that train off that slow track and put it on the fast one. And the guy never told us that there was another train coming on that fast-track, so we'll wait and we'll see.  

Q: It seems to a lot of us, that every time we go to vote, we end up having to choose between the lesser of two evils, so we don't vote. Perhaps this is indicative of the need for a new party in this country—an entirely new party.  

A: I think we need a new party, but I don't think that's the way to get out, because when you create a new party just for the cat so he can have someone to vote for, then, what's the difference between voting for the lesser of the two in the lesser of the three evils. I think the new party'd have to be set up for more than giving a guy a right to vote somewhere. Because the basic rights in America is not only the right to vote, but the beauty of this country is the right not to vote without nobody putting any pistol to you.  

And a third party would be very good for many reasons, if it's set up right. For instance, California needs a Liberal party to control this rightwing. Like New York—the rightwing was invented in New York City. But it's been controlled by a Liberal party. Because the right-wing cat's a very funny cat, man. There's not too many of them because of the qualifications you have to have. They could probably do good if they just talked about the niggers, and let the Jews alone, and laid off Social Security and relief, because that's stone Whitey they're talking about there. And they lose him.  

That's the interesting thing about the Democratic Party: no bigot votes rightwing—he always votes Democrat. There is a certain type of cat that always votes rightwing—and that's the interesting thing about [Alabama governor George] Wallace: because old Wallace will come up and steal that bigot vote that no rightwing cat could ever get. That's why he'll probably be killed before the election—and probably blamed on a Negro. [Wallace was shot and injured in an assassination attempt six years later in 1972 – eds.]  

I would just like to see a third party formed—an intellectual party that appeals to the statesmen to run but appeals to the masses—and really show 'em something. And we're going to be very brilliantly organized because voting in America becomes something like a freakish thing—like a horse race, nobody likes to be with the loser. If a party is set up, because there're a lot of things that have to be done, I think there's going to be more time and more brains than money. You just can't beat up money, and the Democrats and Republicans have the money.  

I remember when I was a kid, we would take pennies and try to file them down to the size of a dime. You couldn't take a stick and beat it but, if you spent a little time and stood on the curb, you could rub it down. See, you can rub money down, but you can't beat it up. And I think in setting up a third party, with the laws that cater to the two-party system, where you have to go out and get petitions, but that is almost totally impossible in many areas. But I think a third party that would be set up, where you would depend mainly on write-ins and aim your campaign at telling people: "Don't vote, since we can't get on the ballot. Then just write my name on it, turn around, and go back home."  

And then the good politicians would come to your aid because you would be knocking them out of the vote. You see, good politicians have never worried at the polls because they say: "Well, so-and-so will vote for me." And if a third-party was set up where you wouldn't vote for anyone as long as you had to write a name in—just write that name and run – then, for the first time, a politician could see himself losing millions of votes. And then they would change the law for you.  

Q: Well, for example, there are a lot of people in this state—not a lot, unfortunately—but people who feel that [radical political figure Robert] Scheer should have run against [liberal Democratic Congressmember Jeffery] Cohelan in order to try to draw off enough of Cohelan's votes so that Cohelan would lose, and thus start scaring the Democrats.  

Another thing that's going on: this coming weekend, in LA, there is a conference about what they're calling "Power Politics," organized by Californians for Liberal Representation. Possibly, and hopefully, at that meeting Si Cassidy will come forward to run against [Governor Edmund G. "Pat"] Brown and Reagan –- and possibly draw off enough votes from Brown so that Reagan would win and Brown lose. Do you think that is effective?  

A: Oh yeah, very. Because it makes a guy wake up and realize that either he's going to be totally right in every walk of life, or the guy who's the wrongest will get in. Because when you put the good guy up who is totally right, he will siphon off enough votes so that wrong can win. It could be a very good thing. And wrong needs to win sometimes, if it means that we'll clean up the whole situation and bring it to a head, you know.  

The guy who found out he had cancer at eight years old might be able to be saved, you know. So I think it could be a very good thing.  

Q: I wanted to know what you thought about Stokely Carmichael and the new SNCC policy of not letting White students work in the South?  

A: Well, I don't know how the policy is on not letting White students work because, I was in Washington, DC at the Black Power convention, and the White folks that got put out we're the ones that SNCC had sent to represent them. It was the only organization that showed up with Whites, you know.  

But I love Stokely. I think he's one of the best things that has happened for the country – particularly for the Negro. And I guess I should say particularly for the White man, because the guy he appeals to is that brick-thrower for the first time. He has an arena now because nobody ever appealed to the brick thrower, you know.  

He never felt right at the NAACP luncheon. And the Urban League—he don't know where to find that. (Through no fault of the Urban League—It's just that it's always located on the wrong side of town.) And he was never religious and enough to join Kings group. And CORE was just too White for him.  

So he stood on a corner, and when the call went out—when Stokely comes to town for the first time—this guy's got an arena. I'm sure that Stokely is the one guy today that could fly into a town where a riot's been going on for five days and say, "Stop!" because he's created this "ear" of people. I think when he went to jail it helped him a lot, because a lot of people that didn't like him, turned to like him – 'cause they were able to see. He says, you know, he says things that are very honest—in a time when this nation can't afford honest things. It's like, when you've been wrong for so long, it's sort of like, you know: even if I want to get right, give me a few minutes to do it first.  

It's well, "We can't trust you. You may be sincere, but I just can't trust you."  

I think Stokely will be killed, too—not before Cassius Clay, though. They've really got to kill Cassius. They had no intentions of drafting him in the Army—they were just trying to lower the mental test rate so they could get all the types of cats who caused Watts [a major urban riot in Los Angeles in1965] off the street, and in jail. And in order to do this, they have to tamper with Cassius and, in order to ease everybody's mind on why he's not in the army and why he won't go, the best thing for them to do is kill him, and I figure that they will do that now . . . . Whenever they find out who's going to do it, you know. The only thing that keeps you alive sometimes is the FBI can't decide they gonna do it or the CIA.  

Q: I did a study on racial violence, starting with Atlanta in 1906 and going through to Watts. I came up with the feeling that we've gone from a form of White intimidation—of various forms, even complete violence—to primarily Negro uprisings—Negro revolts. Not a revolution, because that assumes that you've changed the structure. One, do you think that that characteristic is a fair one and adequate for explaining Watts—perhaps not for explaining it, but for understanding Watts – and, if it is, do you think that America will ever understand that what's going on in Watts is not like what went on in Atlanta in 1906?  

A: I don't think it's important that America understands this. No more than a woman has to understand the gestation period to be pregnant. You do that first thing and natures going to take care of the rest. Well, revolts are naturalistic characteristics that are always going on where there is injustice.  

We called it evolution – which is gradual change through nature—but that leads into revolution, which is quick change. Man has not been able to put the parallels together yet.  

Nature is very sweet and very gentle—she gives you all the time through the evolution period to get straight. But if you're not straight by the time that revolution hits, then you're destroyed. A woman can't wait, after the evolution period—which is the nine months—and make a deal because she hasn't paid her Blue Cross Blue Shield or because she's not married. When that waterbag busts, revolution starts at evolution stops—and all the armies in the world can keep that baby up in there. And so this is the period that America has reached. We've had this gradual change now and the difference with what you were talking about in 1906 and now is Nature.  

Five disciplined cops can stop a riot, but Hitler's army couldn't put down a protest, because one is inspired by nature and another one is inspired by man. And there's a tremendous difference in the two. Had Britain realized the difference between a protest and a riot, we might all have a British accent today. But she failed to realize this. She failed to realize the beauty of nature and the way nature was.  

For instance, everybody thinks that somebody must be teaching Negroes how to make Molotov cocktails. But no one's ever thought about how a group of people can throw them for five years without one burn to themselves. But she doesn't understand what she's dealing with. Like we have 19 laws in America that say Black cant marry White. You have millions of people that feel this way—which is also a very good feeling for a racist country. But the only mistake they've made is they gone against Nature.  

Whitey can pass laws that say Negroes can't catch TB, cancer, polio—which are very good laws if he wants them, for a racist country. Nature's not going to respect them. So if Nature didn't want me to have a White woman, she'd have made her like a tree. I can't screw a tree and a chicken can't rape my momma. And anything nature didn't block, I defy man, be he Black or White, to try it and survive.  

And this is the beauty of this idiot. Now he's dealing with nature. And if I never came out and held another march, he's doomed. And what's going on now is like a hurricane, you know, a tornado. And they're being promoted by the same element that promotes hurricanes and tornadoes. Once you get a situation with the right ingredients, where cold air meets hot air, you gonna get and explosion. You can call it lightning, thunder, anything you want to collect. Nature don't put names to it, it just happens.  

You put on a tight shoe, you get a corn. You wear the shoe long enough, the corn turns into a callus. You keep on wearing it, the callus turns into a bunion. Eventually, you wear the shoe out. Because Nature's one law is that she don't want anything rubbing against her own. And when you rub against her own, you get a reaction. And when she gives her reaction, she gonna win, [even] if it means mass destruction.  

Negroes in America have got a callus around their soul. And if this shoe don't back up, it's all coming down. And so, there is a tremendous difference between 1906 and now. Take Watts—Watts was legal, not only through Nature, but on the Declaration of Independence. They say: "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." And when these rights are destroyed, over long periods of time, it is your duty to destroy or abolish that government.  

That legalized Watts. 'Course, I look at Watts as Urban Renewal without graft. It's very interesting how we can justify certain things. When a man stoops to solve a problem by murder—like America has in her wars—then I say there's an intelligent way to do a thing and a stupid way even to be wrong. The hoodlum that participates in crooked gambling—there's a stupid way and an intelligent way of doing it, you know.  

And when I look at murder, and how can we justify a Negro from Mississippi going to Vietnam, chasing the Viet Cong through the bushes of Vietnam, trying to kill him, but you can't justify the same Mississippi Negro chasing a Mississippi racist Ku Klux Klan through the swamps of Mississippi trying to kill him? Who needs killing?  

The Viet Cong can't kill no one but me. But Mississippi racists can kill me, my five kids, my wife, and blow my church up. So who needs killing? If you're talking about protecting your family, I'm much safer killing this racist here, than that Cong over there, because he can't kill no one but me. And if I'm going to die to protect my family, I have no guarantee that at the same time as the Cong is putting a bullet through my head, the Klan won't be lynching my mammy. This is the cat that I got to get off my back first, if I'm gonna involve myself in killing. And so, we have many problems that's going to have to be solved.  

Q: What can people who are against this war do now? What do you think is the most effective means to stop the war? Or can we stop it?  

A: Well, I don't think you can be able to stop it. I don't think it should be stopped; not by the people out here who are against the war, because you haven't got enough sincere people out here. You got scared people out here, who are against being killed themselves. But I can't understand how a peace movement in this country can go out and march and demonstrate in 50 given cities on any Saturday, saying America can't drop the palm bombs on Vietnamese kids and Vietnamese women, but you can lynch my grandma any given day and that same kid don't come out and hit the streets.  

What are you against? Wars or killing? I'm not against wars – I'm against killing. And I'm safer with a cat who's against killing than the cat was against war.  

Because I've watched. I've watched black folks killed in the Congo, and I didn't see a peace movement move. Because he knows he don't have to go to the Congo. In any situation in this whole goddamn country for this cat doesn't have to go, he won't march with it. There's a few cats, man, who are really sincere in his peace movement—who march when anybody's killed. But as long as he thinks he's going to get drafted somewhere, then he comes out and hits the street. Well, he needs to be dead, too.  

Actually I have more sympathy with the soldier who's over there through ignorance, than this cat here, who claims to be with peace but he's really just marching to save his own ass. If you're sincere about peace, then any form of disturbance would promote you to come out and march. You can kill, kill, kill. The same gut is not marching on capital punishment, because he feels that he'll never do anything in his life to get the electric chair. But if he did, he'd be out there marching against capital punishment.  

I'm not against the army. I think all countries need an army—to clean up after her earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods. So I'm not against the army at all. I'm against killing. I'm not against wars—I'm against killing. If two countries get together and make a deal, and say, "We gonna have a war . . . but over chess," then cool, baby, and that whoever loses the chess game gets the country. This is okay with me. I've never been against war, just killing, period. And the cats who are against war—I find no protection with them at all because those same cats don't seem to be marching against killing—capital punishment and the whole vicious scene that goes on. So I don't even relate the two of them together at all.  

Q: Is there a relationship between what's happening in Vietnam and what's happening in Watts? Is it the same thing or is it a different thing?  

A: Well, what's happening in Vietnam with the Vietnamese is the same thing that is happening here. They're having an uprising against tyranny—against oppression. As far as the Americans over there are concerned, the same thing that's happening here is happening there. They're having more race riots some weeks, over there, among Negro and White servicemen, then they have over here. See, you carry your cancer with you.  

There is no such thing as having a cancer in your foot, and then come by my house for dinner and tell me you haven't brought that germ with you. Whereever you go—it goes with you. And this country has cancer. And there's no way in the world we can go anywhere in this world without taking it with us.  

Q: Do you think that this cancer can be cured?  

A: That I don't know. I don't know if we've gone beyond the point of no return. We brought out a very beautiful thing in Chicago this summer by marching into the White neighborhoods. For the first time, I saw a very beautiful naturistic reaction among White folks, because this was the only way they could have reacted, under the circumstances.  

In the South, the southern cats have, I guess, been clever enough to keep the wages so low that every White man in the south has been able to hire my grandma for a quarter. Consequently, every White person's had a nigger in their house, and they've met a Negro schoolteacher, a Negro doctor, a Negro lawyer.  

The White racist bigot knows that Negro schoolteachers exist. Whereas up north, this poor, dumb, trampy, ignorant, bigoted hillbilly and foreigner, has never had the luxury of hiring my nigger mama for a quarter. So consequently they couldn't have anybody in their house. So when we marched through their neighborhoods, it was the first time they ever saw Negroes. They don't know what I Negro doctor looks like or know that Negro principals exist.  

So when I marched through his neighborhoods, it was like turning a bunch of gorillas loose. He's going to kill everyone who comes into his block. This is a normal reaction. And there's going to be more of it in the North . . . it's very difficult to see if this country can be saved. People want to put more on us than anybody else. People tell us we shouldn't riot. The Irish are very funny. They say, "Well look, we came over here, and we got ours." But they don't tell you that they used to take those non-Irish women and slit their babies out of their pregnant bellies, you know.  

Q: Let me go back to what you said before. To a great extent I would agree with you, that when a lot of people go into the streets against Vietnam, very few people go when someone's on death row. Although, in this state, there was a demonstration when [California Death Row inmate Carl] Chessman was there (although there was not one in the past few weeks, when there was the possibility of another man going to the [gas] chamber). But I think there are people in the peace movement who mean peace, not in the sense of simply being against a war.  

A: This is evident. Women are not going to get drafted, so, I'm not saying there's anybody out there who's out there simply because they don't want to go to war.  

Q: There aren't enough people out there.  

A: There are 80-year-old people out there.  

Q: Is the difficulty with that that too many of the people Who are out there who are eligible for the draft are going to be "fair-weather friends."  

A: Yeah.  

Q: And that the problems with Vietnam are perhaps a little deeper than simply people going over there and fighting something?  

A: Well, it's like pacifists. I don't believe a man can be a true pacifist and not be a vegetarian, because animals are just as human in the stroke of nature as man is. They go through the same gestation period to create little animals. The same air that keeps them alive keeps us alive, and the only way that we separate ourselves from the animals is through material things, period.  

I just can't understand how a man can call himself a pacifist and justify eating meat because the same thing that we do to animals, the system is doing to us. If you had to go and kill your own hog, chances are you couldn't eat it. And if the power structure in this country had to do their own dirty work, chances are they couldn't do it.  

But when you go and you get your pork chop, the bloods washed off it, and the parsley's sitting there, and it looks very good. And when the top business corporation minds in this country come down to see us, they only see the finished product of what was good that came out of it. So there's no difference at all.  

I just can't understand how we're going to try to solve the problem without solving the problem of man's inhumanity to man and animals. I looked at my mother when I was a kid, and my mother couldn't understand how racist bigot White folks could justify racial segregation out of the Bible.  

She couldn't understand that but she can justify eating meat out of the Bible, which said, "Thou shalt not kill." It doesn't say "man"; it said, "Thou shalt not kill." She's twisted that statement to cover where she could eat all the steak she wanted. And then Whitey twists his where he can eat all the niggers he wants.  

If you're going to use The Book wrong, let everybody use it wrong or clean it up completely. And so, if eventually it will come to a vegetarian world or no world at all. It's going to have to come here very quickly, too.  

Q: We've listened to your act, now—and also at various other demonstrations—probably eight or nine times. The first time we listened to you, you were extremely funny. I don't mean it derogatorily at all. But the more we listen to you, the more we find your humor frightening to us—and tragic to a certain extent. Not exactly frightening, but the things that you were saying are so true that we find it hard to laugh anymore. I don't know how to ask the question, because I don't know if it's the type of question that can be answered.  

A: It can be. I think we are both growing up  

Q: Okay. How much time do you really spend in nightclubs?  

A: I'd say about 10% of my time in the course of the year.  

Q: And 90% of the time you're out on the road?  

A: That's right. Yeah.  

Q: Tell us about your campaign against Mayor Daley [Mr. Gregory plans to run as an independent against Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.]  

A: Well, I haven't even started it, yet. I was going to start it this summer, until the demonstrations started. I decided to pull out because I know (by marching through those White neighborhoods) if my campaign was going on they would have grabbed me. Not literally, but they would've taken out that bitterness by saying, "I'm not going to vote for Dick Gregory." But they weren't going to vote for me anyway.  

Now they have grabbed the mayor and said that they're not going to vote for the Democratic Party. So I'm going in and organize my campaign right after the November election. My race comes up in the spring of next year. And I have no doubt at all that it's going to be very effective, because many people want a change. I don't want to appeal to the racist vote, be it Black or White. I'll leave that for somebody else. I'd feel very insulted if I won the election with the racist vote from the Whites or from the Blacks. But I can't lose, because either I'll get enough votes to win, or I'll get enough votes to destroy that machine. And either one is going to be a victory.  

Q: Is King supporting you? Do you think he will? Or do you even want his support?  

A: I don't want his support. That's my hometown, there. And, you know, when a man has to go out and get another man to support him in his hometown, he's in trouble! That's like asking King to help me support my kids. They're my kids, and Chicago's my hometown, you understand. I got a record to stand on in Chicago, period.  

Q: What are you going to do if you win?  

A: Ask for a recount. To be honest with you, I don't know how I could learn to adjust to living on $30,000 a year. That's six weeks pay for me, now. And I don't steal. I'd be in pretty bad shape, man.  

Q: When we were here last time, you were talking about a campaign to get commercials off television.  

A: No, I haven't had time. I was going to go to court on that, but I haven't had time.  

Q: Why were you against advertisements on television?  

A: Because I don't feel that a guy can use my house, and my electricity, to sell his product without paying me. No more then you'd put a billboard up on my front lawn without paying me. This is my house, it's my television set, and if you're going to come into my house, and use my television set—to reach my friends who I might be feeding or something—then you pay me, period.  

Q: When I read your book [Nigger, pocketbook paperback, $.75], I read the part about when you first spoke before the Playboy Club in Chicago. How did you feel that night before you spoke?  

A: I don't remember, now. I'd have to concentrate and take about three or four minutes to really create an atmosphere where I could. It's back in my head somewhere but I just don't have the brilliance to release things back there, like that. That was the interesting thing in doing the book. I drifted all the way back to childhood, and then one thing related to another, and the atmosphere was created, but I've never been able, just on a minute's notice, to go back in that file cabinet and pull out that stuff. I couldn't even see how it was, right now.  

Q: Is there any chance of changing the attitude of religion in this country?  

A: Of religion?  

Q: Yeah, the churches.  

A: I doubt it. I doubt it very seriously.  

Q: Because, well, we read in the paper that you'd given a sermon [at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco] and that you were applauded greatly. I had no doubt that they applauded you and probably gave you a standing ovation—but I was very fearful that when they left, they forgot.  

A: Well, I don't know whether they forgot. I don't even know if they remembered it there. Let, religion is its own biggest enemy. If the church would just get hit enough to run itself like a football team, they could probably survive. And if a football team started running itself like the church, they be wiped out in the morning. If the football players showed up only on Saturday for the game—like the church people show up on Sunday for the game—man, that lose them all. The only thing that keeps football going, and keeps the game as beautiful as it is, is the practice that goes on all week. The agony that you go through in the practice sets makes Saturday a beautiful game.  

Hell, I could go to a coach and say, "Look, I'll play football for you if you'll guarantee I won't get tackled during scrimmage." And he could give me that guarantee. But he couldn't guarantee me on Saturday, at the game, that the first tackle I was hit with wouldn't break my neck and kill me.  

So the church just plays the game but they never coach the team. And so these are the many problems that the church has, but this is the basic problem that it has.  

Q: You sort of talked about two things. When you were talking about Vietnam, before, you said that you were very much against killing, whether it be in Vietnam, or Mississippi, or in Chicago, or Sing Sing. And yet, in a lot of other things that you said, today, you've talked about the metaphor of either two trains coming together, or electricity, or some two very opposing things coming head on to each other, which tends toward an explosion—a violent explosion. I was just wondering how these two fit together in your mind.  

A: Well, Nature. Nature's always had the right to kill, to destroy. This is the only person that can kill, without question. But not man.  

It's the theory of spontaneous combustion—you put those dirty, oily, greasy, rags in the closet and close the door, where no air can circulate, and you know what's going to happen. Well, in the Black ghettos, today, that's the oily, greasy rags. And if you don't let that air circulate, you're going to get that thing. When that woman's nine months pregnant, she's going to drop that baby, [even] if it means death to the mother and child. Well, America's racial pregnancy is up. And the baby's going to fall one way or the other. 

Q: How do you think it will fall? Do you think it will be a violent or a nonviolent birth? 

A: I think it will be very violent. Very very violent. 

Q: Do you think the baby will be stillborn? 

A: A new baby can come up from the ashes. You're talking about the birth of Nations. Hell, the Romans fell. See, again, we get this old selfish fucking thing, man, that we really don't want to save America—we want to save ourselves. If we had the world concerned, the best thing happen to America is she fall. 

We have the whole world so fucked up, all over, man. Six percent of the world's population, we own 60% of the national resources all over the world. We supply 90% of the ammunition around the world. This isn't racial violence . . . . If a big rock hit this bastard in the morning, from outer space, and completely crushed it, the world might have a chance. But the longer, every day America exists, the whole world's fucked up, man, because of what we doin'—above and beyond our racist attitude. 

Q: Well, how the hell do we stop it without being nonviolent? 

A: Be good. 

But, you know, it's like a man coming to me and saying: "I'm married, and I don't want to cheat on my wife." Just stop, man—but that's too simple. 

So then he wants you to cut his balls off. But, you tell him it's a simple fuckin' thing to do—Just don't cheat on your old lady, man—It's just that simple. No big trick to that. 

But we got so fouled up in our thinking, that the simple thing, he don't want. So now he says: "Please help me so I won't cheat on my wife." So, okay, put it there and I'm going to chop it off for you, man. But you really don't need that nonsense. Just don't do it, man. 

It's like birth control. Nature gave you the power to keep your fuckin' legs crossed. It's the greatest birth control you got. Don't have to invent no pill—'cause all the sex organs were made for in the first place was to reproduce—nothing else—not to have no fun with. 

When a man starts using his ears to have as much fun with outside of hearing what nature gave to him, he's going to need a pill for his ears, too. The eyes was made to see with; the mouth to chew with, taste with, talk with; the nose to smell with; the ears to hear with; the sex organs only to reproduce. And the day we use our other organs, man, and our other senses as foul as we use the sex organs, then you're in trouble. And that's the basis of prostitution. 

When a man gets hip and realizes that the sex organ was only to reproduce and every time he puts it in a broad it should be only to have a baby then we won't want to have a baby with any strange woman in the street—so prostitution is automatically dead. The simplest things in the world can be solved. We've gone so far overboard with them now, but now you've got to go the other route. 

Q: When a person gets fed up with this country, as I'm afraid an awful lot of us are; because, like, you know, there is no effective way of protesting the war—not to make it stop. And there doesn't seem to be too terribly much you can do about civil rights unless, you know, you go out and pick up a gun. Well we're coming very close to leaving the country, because maybe—okay, other countries have things wrong with them, too, but at least they're new and different, and maybe you can do some good in atmosphere unlike this one. 

A: Well, it all depends. I think people have various attitudes, you know. Don't know why I'm staying. Maybe I just want to take pictures of it all when she falls. Different people got different attitudes. It's like the beautiful nonviolent kids who are marching, who hate war so bad and hate death so bad, but they're still pulling for the Viet Cong to kill. 

Where do you swing the balance? What's the difference, you know? And they're really pulling for the Viet Cong, not because they're against killing, but because they're for the underdog. And they're pulling for the underdog. And if America happens to be the underdog—it'd be the same thing. There's these tremendous people, man, who are really against that war in Vietnam. 

When that napalm falls on those American soldiers, they cheer. If that napalm plant out there is Clyde, California wiped out the whole town, they would be happy. Now, what is this, you know? American kids can be killed by napalm, accidentally, but you don't have the same feeling when little foreign kids are killed? 

Q: Yeah, but if that happened, to just those few people out there, then the whole lot of people in this country would realize what it looks like and what it's like to those people over there when they are killed and maimed by napalm. These people don't have any realization of what's happening. 

A: Yeah, but that's the same attitude that the right-wing general has—that if we drop this napalm on the fucking kids over here, then a lot of people'll realize that we're not going to put up with this bullshit. It's the same attitude, just twisted around the other way. 

Q: I realize it's very close. 

A: The only way you can justify this feeling is go get you some napalm and do-it-yourself. You know, go into that neighborhood and catch that little kid and say, "Alright, here." And then say, when the cop comes, "I just wanted to show you what napalm looks like. Now you all come out and look at this little bitch. Here she is." Maybe that would be effective, you know. But just sit back and wait for an explosion, that's not going to happen, you know… 

Q: Or put it on yourself. 

A: Yeah, put it on yourself, you know. 

Q: I decided that the only effective way to end this war is to put Johnson and Congress on the frontline in Vietnam. 

A: With they're luck, they'd probably win, man. They'd end up making it a barbecue pit. 

Q: What did you think of Clyde, when you were out there, Port Chicago. How long are you there? 

A: I was there not over an hour. 

Q: Was it quiet out there when you were there, or…? 

A: They [a group of antiwar protestors] had just finished being attacked and we're discussing if they should reported it or not. 

Q: Yeah, they've been discussing things like that ever since, well, before the paint incident. 

A: Which is very interesting, you know, that we can find a neutral area where you're going to protect the villains more so than you do the pacifist. Everybody's so concerned about the bad guy, which is very interesting. 

Q: You seem to be calling for everyone, including yourself, to do something this exceedingly simple really—that's just look around and except full responsibility for whatever is happening around you. 

A: You really don't have to accept the responsibility. Just look around and accept right, even if you're going to do wrong—at least know that you're doing wrong. Period. That's the problem with the cats over there in Vietnam: they're not aware that killing is wrong. And they get over there, and this guy says, "That's your enemy!" And if LBJ said in the morning, "That's your friend, man," they'll be marching with the same cat they're shooting at. They haven't even decided that they want to shoot at him—somebody else decided it for them. 

Q: The only thing, though, that worries me about that, is that I really believe that LBJ, and those guys in Congress, know that killing is wrong. And I think that in a lot of ways, they know what they're doing. Perhaps not the full extent of it. But I think that they know that they're taking United States and putting it in Vietnam where it's not wanted. And if that's true, and they do know what they're doing . . .  

A: Then Hitler, would you say Hitler knew killing was wrong? 

Q: Yes. 

A: I don't think he did. You get to that madness, man, that insanity period where they're going to go out and kill all these . . . let's face it—the American Medical Association, man, them cats have killed more people in hospitals, man, than we've probably killed in all the wars we've ever been in. So again, what are we saying? What kind of killing are we against? The cop—can he kill, legally, justifiably? And the soldier is the last cat that has to kill. When you start talking about killing, he is the least, because the cop, he's on the front line every day. 

The soldier, hell, he might fight three days, then he might not fire a gun for two weeks. They make it very easy for them. They give you a uniform—if you wearing brown, the enemy got green. I never understood how two countries can get a deal going, where they wear different uniforms. Because if a country marched on me, man, I'd wear the same uniforms they wore. 

Can you imagine the White Americans and White Germans in the same uniforms? You wouldn't know who to shoot if both of them keep their mouth shut. Or two African countries going out to fight each other. All you do is get naked, and who you gonna shoot? You wouldn't know who to shoot. So they make it too easy. So I guess they're really not hardened killers, you know. They're playing a game. 

Q: Well, they've been bombing themselves. 

A: That's probably why the Viet Cong aren't worried about us. Or maybe, probably that's why they're about ready to surrender now. They say anybody who can do this much dirt to themselves has got to have an ace in the hole. 

Q: I was reading a Time magazine—I think it's the latest issue—that Johnson had put electronic devices in all of his limousines so he could hear the applause with all the windows closed. And Time magazine said, for the first time, that he may soon need an amplifier. What do you think about Johnson? About him as president?—as a human being? 

A: I think if you take Hitler and multiply him 1 million times, you might come up with a baby Johnson. That's the way I feel about it. You might come up with a baby Johnson. There's still no guarantee that you would. 

Q: I've heard he's banned all television cameras from his press conferences, now, because he doesn't want pictures of himself going out. 

A: Well, he's dying. He's dying of cancer. That's probably why. That's why all of his staff is getting away from him. You know, his tight buddies, you know, are like splitting now. Best thing to do is split and get you a good job before the boss dies… 

Q: He's looking older every time I see him. 

A: He is older. 

Q: And sicker and grayer. 

In France, before they had the Republic, when they had the royal thing, when Louis XV died, you know they had the legend of him saying, "After me, the Revolution." Could you see any link between some thinking like that and, "After Johnson, the revolution." 

A: No. There's a Johnson on every block, man. And Johnson not just one bad cat, man—every block—damn near every house, got a LBJ in it, in some form or another. I think it's evidenced here: Vigilantes to protect themselves against pacifists, man. It's never happened before. 

Q: I can't think of any more questions I'd like to ask. 

A: Then that's it. Let's stop it then. I can go back to bed. 


Academic Publishing-Berkeley was a student organization on the Berkeley campus of the University of California with the purpose of publishing material of academic interest to students. During the Sixties it published two student-run magazines, Podium and Particle (a student scientific journal), along with Lecture Transcripts, which tape-recorded and transcribed important lectures by campus and off-campus speakers and circulated printed copies on campus the day after the event. The nonprofit group also provided inexpensive self-publishing services to students who wanted to produce and distribute their essays on campus.  


Fifty years later, Academic Publishing continues to support low-cost, high-impact projects, ranging from investigations of nuclear wastes sites to the climate impacts of corporate agriculture. Academic Publishing also supports the work of Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org), which has posted more than 20,000 articles since its founding in 2003. In 2015, Academic Publishing helped host the 50th Anniversary of the Berkeley Barb and was instrumental in compiling nearly all the back issues of this pioneering underground weekly. The scanned pages are among the items posted for public view on the website www.BerkeleyBarb.net.



Hoorah! We've Kept the Elephants Out of Berkeley!

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 15, 2017 - 02:33:00 PM

No news is good news, the saying goes. I thought of this as I listened to my usual amount of radio newscasting in bed this morning. Berkeley was never mentioned, not once. It confirmed what I’d hoped when I got home late last night: just as I’d predicted last week, the sky had not fallen when Ben Shapiro gave what sounds like a very boring lecture at Zellerbach.

In all modesty, I hereby say I told you so. Shapiro is simply too dull to provoke the kind of extreme reaction just a whiff of Milo can produce.

Riya Bhattacharjee (yes, our former Planet reporter!) captured Ben’s essence in the kind of on-line interview you seldom see on local television.

In this interview he claims, perhaps even truthfully, that he’s only bought into what GHW Bush called the “voodoo economics” part of the conservative canon, not the racism, misogyny and worse that are associated with Milo and Ann Coulter. 

Money quote: 

Riya: Some protesters have come out and called you a white supremacist — what do you have to say to them and to protesters in general? 

Ben: Well you see this thing on my head here, this is called the yarmulke. Not a lot of people who wear yarmulkes are white supremacists. Generally we are their targets. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number one recipient of white-supremacists and alt-right anti-Semitism among journalists on the internet last year. [Yiddish spelling corrected.] 

See? Just a nice Jewish boy who went to yeshiva. What’s not to like? 

Well, this is why I’m not much of a fan of ethnic stereotypes. This just in: every group has its bad apples, and he’s the one in his barrel. But maybe he’s not a racist. He even denies voting for Trump. 

And even smart boys, even religious boys, can believe (or at least pretend to believe) stupid things. Having been a high school debater myself, I know his type: able to argue any side of any proposition, no matter how silly. 

But economic foolishness just isn’t enough to bring out the boys in black. Nevertheless, I don’t agree with reports in other media that the Antifada were completely absent. I went down to Bancroft between Dana and Telegraph before the lecture, and among the several hundred people milling about I saw plenty of Under-Thirty White Boys in aggressively-sloganed tee shirts and ugly haircuts who seemed to be likely candidates for donning the dark attire and the face masks when they thought it was worth their trouble. 

The protesters in the street when I got there at 6:30 separated into two groups. At the Zellerbach entry path, where the ticket-holder line was forming, there was a crowd of perhaps 200 miscellaneous mostly young folks muttering amongst themselves. 

Some girls got into a screaming match reminiscent of the Mean Girls in Junior High—perhaps they were among those eventually arrested. Occasional slogans of the usual type were chanted. 

Another group hung out at Bancroft and Telegraph, the Sproul Plaza/Sather Gate path entry. Approaching, I ran into an artist friend, a muralist that I knew from The Old Days at the Caffe Med.  

“RCP up there,” he said, and he was right. 

RCP since 1975 has been short in our old-timer political circles for anything masterminded by Bob Avakian, the Berkeley-raised son of “Sparky” Avakian, a respected liberal Democratic judge, and a nice lady who taught my daughters swimming at Willard Junior High. Bob went through the usual 60s trajectory of civil rights, SDS, Weathermen, Black Panthers, and ultimately ended up way out there on the left limb. He had (or perhaps still has) a long period of exile in Paris for jumping bail over some charge or other. 

RCP expands to Revolutionary Communist Party, which explains why a smirkingly punkish young man asked us old folks, patronizingly, “Going up there to see the Communists?” Playing dumb, I asked, “Communists? Where!” But some of my best friends are or were real big C Communists, and I knew full well that this crowd was not them. 

Thanks to the internet, it’s now possible to see interlocking directorates among websites for the RCP, The World Can’t Wait, which has been around for a while, and the newby identity, RefuseFascism.com. They do seem to be several hats on the same head. What they had in common last night was access to a VERY LOUD sound system, unfortunately not intelligible more than 100 paces away. 

I recognized one of the main speakers, a young man who introduces himself as Raphael, who spoke at the Berkeley City Council meeting against the use of pepperspray. He seems not to understand acoustics, since he shouts top volume into all microphones, so I’m not quite sure what else he thinks. 

The commercial press from time to time interviews him and others that I know to be in the RCP orbit, evidently without being aware that they are not exactly The Left, but a special cult that has its own obscure rules, accompanied by what looks to be ample financing from an unknown source since it was founded in the mid-1970s. It’s been called a cult of personality centered around Avakian, and has also been accused of being a front for disruptive provocateurs of various stripes, including disguised rightists. 

One of their handouts last night seemed to be predicting an anti-fascism uprising on November 4.We’ll see what happens. 

The whole event reminded me of a joke. Since I’m a certified cultural WASP despite have attended Catholic school, I can’t tell jokes very well, so I’ll quote this one from the ex-parrot.com website: 

A man boards a train, and finds himself sitting in a compartment opposite another passenger who is reading The Times. Every time the other finishes a page, he tears it from the paper, rolls it into a ball and throws it from the train. Perplexed, the man asks what he is doing. 

``Ah,'' says the man with the newspaper. ``A trick I learned in Africa. Keeps the elephants away, don't you know.'' 

``But there aren't any elephants around here!'' 

``Yes. Works well, doesn't it!'' 

The University of California says it expended $600,000 on their role in this show: police overtime, cement barricades, the works. As a Berkeley taxpayer I don’t even want to think about how much the city spent on its part. And it’s true, no one much showed up to make trouble, in or out of black masks. 

See? We kept away the elephants.  

It’s estimated that the crowd numbered maybe 700 at its peak. If you add another $100,000 (and probably much more) for the COB, the math is easy. Each outside spectator could had been offered what is called a grand in Raymond Chandler novels to just stay home. But that probably wouldn’t have worked with the true believers in the RCP crowd, quite a few of whom undoubtedly don the black masks when the gang’s all here and the target is more compelling than Ben Shapiro. 

After checking out the demonstrations, I dropped by a lovely event at the North Berkeley Senior Center celebrating the 30th anniversary of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission. Many of the most stalwart activists in town were there to pay their respects. The special meeting ended with what they called a Town Hall, a few minutes in which commissioners and audience were encouraged to say what they hoped the commission would do in the future. 

Among the items on various people’s wish lists, the one that struck me was unexpected. P& J Commissioner Mansour Id-Deen, who has also been president of the Berkeley NAACP, expressed his desire to see wearing masks outlawed in Berkeley. Some other speakers doubted the constitutionality and/or the desirability of such a sweeping prohibition, but his request spotlighted how wrong-headed the Antifada’s soldier games have turned out to be. 

They claim they’ve scared away fascists (and also elephants?), but all they’ve actually done is annoy, scare or even terrorize too many Berkeleyans, including the very people of color that they say they support.  

At the last Berkeley City Council meeting the figure of a half-million dollars or so in the cost of policing demonstrations was bruited about. Just think what that could do for the homeless population.  

So what should be done about Milo and Girlfriend if they show up in a couple of weeks? UC’s PR guy hopes optimistically that their putative sponsors (the Patriotic Somethingorother) will drop the ball and won’t be able to follow the rules, so their show would be cancelled. But if not, what should UC and the city do about protests? 

Could we possibly ignore the stupid speakers? We Berkeleyans are doing better at that, but judging by the listed home addresses of those arrested for bad behavior certain out-of-towners haven’t gotten the memo. 

I don’t have the answer, but I’m pretty sure more play-acting by the Boys in Black isn’t part of the solution. All they do is publicize the nasty alt-rightists, not a good thing.

The Editor's Back Fence

Early Publication Today

Friday September 15, 2017 - 10:57:00 AM

This issue is being "published" (i.e. being made the home page) before most submissions have been posted, in order to make sure you find out that not much happened last night. Check in this afternoon as usual to see the full crop of new pieces. Last week's editorial is still up, but will be replaced in due time with a new one.

Public Comment

New: Pepper Spray Saves the World

Carol Denney
Saturday September 16, 2017 - 03:13:00 PM

Monday afternoon, September 12, 2017, the Berkeley City Council had an emergency meeting to allow the use of pepper spray on a crowd if the crowd includes "violent extremists." With three dissenting votes (Cheryl Davila, Kate Harrison, and Kriss Worthington), Berkeley Chief of Police Greenwood managed to argue to a council majority that this use was somehow different than "crowd control."

They have a point. A study presented to the Berkeley City Council way back in 1991 showed that pepper spray doesn't control much of anything. People sprayed with pepper spray tended to fall loosely into three categories: those who have little or no reaction to pepper spray, those who are adversely affected, and those who get more violent after being sprayed, each group divided roughly in thirds. Nonetheless,

Chief Greenwood presented pepper spray as a magic compliance tool and most of the Berkeley City Council ate it up. Ben Shapiro, a conservative, would be speaking in two days on campus, and it was an emergency.

Councilmember Kate Harrison pointed out that the police already had pepper spray, a fact few others on the council seemed to know. She asked Chief of Police Greenwood, "what's inadequate about that small can?" Chief Greenwood gave a convoluted answer and finally stumbled onto his point: the big can is more "targeted." A fellow officer at the Chief's table then stepped in to help, saying that's how you "move the crowd", pulling the curtain back on any pretense of discrete application. 

He left out that pepper spray has the upside of allowing the police to punish "extremists" (as demonstrators were referred to throughout the Chief's request) without the bother or expense of a trial. The council didn't seem affected by this slip, but the horrified crowd overflowing the council chambers watched in disbelief as the council majority absorbed this explanation as sensible. 

Pepper spray is by nature indiscriminate; it is called a spray because it is an aerosol, in other words "a substance enclosed under pressure and able to be released as a fine spray, typically by means of a propellant gas." The wind conditions, the distance from the target, and the movement of a group all affect the dosage. If you're aiming at a crowd, the crowd gets exposed to a chemical irritant implicated in at least 25 deaths in California alone. And then the obvious; pepper spray causes temporary blindness and panic in a crowd. 

Approximately one in five, or 19% of any given population, have disabilities, and that ratio may be higher in the city of Berkeley. No police officer can tell who has cardiac or pulmonary issues, and our city's most recent encounter with police use of chemical irritants was the Black Lives Matter march in December of 2014 when the police saw a provocative flier from some other group before the march began and just lost their shit. People with no connection to the march were dosed and beaten so badly they couldn't have dispersed if they wanted to due to their injuries, the darkness, and the chaos. The "frontlines" of the street confrontation moved all over town, sometimes trapping people trying to disperse between police lines. 

A long line of perhaps a hundred people attended the emergency, or "special", pepper spray meeting and objected in one minute bites of public comment, with four people supporting the proposal, one of whom was the Downtown Berkeley Association's John Caner. But the fix, or in this case the spray, was in. It was déjà vu'; the Pepper Spray Times newspaper began 26 years ago to make comedy out of policymakers' disinterest in even the earliest studies of oleoresin capsicum's physiological effects, and apparently nothing has changed. The Chief of Police, when asked by Councilmember Wengraf about physiological effects, stated that he "hasn't heard a thing about health issues," adding that "he would have heard about it." Perhaps this is true; police departments tend to get a steady stream of unrealistic manufacturers' claims about new, improved products, rather than reports on liability claims. But Mayor Jesse Arreguin and City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley should have made sure the presentation was balanced and included relevant information if, in fact, the goal is public safety. 

Andrea Pritchett of Copwatch made the important point that there was actually a lot of pepper spray on hand on August 27th, at that point the most recent alt-right and counter demonstration. Not only did Berkeley police have their own canisters on their belts, but mutual aid officers had large, fire extinguisher-sized canisters available, so that presumably if pepper spray were the answer to Berkeley's problems they would have been solved. And many noted the one-sided nature of the impressive array of weaponry laid out before the council dais like presents around a Christmas tree, none of which seemed to belong to any of the alt-right groups but rather all reflected symbols and colors of the groups in the counter-demonstration roles. 

Pepper spray, like other chemical weapons, doesn't just create special challenges for the approximately 19% of the population who already have disabilities, it creates neurological and cardiac changes in people who get dosed, and who might not realize until months or years later why their breathing, motor skills, or ability to tolerate chemical exposure has changed, long too late to get legal or medical assistance. But there's never a political downside to beating up lefties or giving the police shiny new toys. That's how Ronald Reagan got his teflon. 

The people in the streets intent on stopping alt-right speakers from speaking who are, according to the Chief's report and remarks, clearly the targets of this new pepper spray rule will just put on another couple more layers of neoprene and keep on with their quest to make sure only speech that meets with their approval takes place in the world. Which means a parade of conservative provocateurs is coming to town to "test" our resolve to protect First Amendment rights. I don't know how it happened, but we have dozens of people, hundreds of people, really, who either slept through civics class or never had it explained to them that the First Amendment applies to odious, sexist, racist speech, too. It's embarrassing. It's not a majority of people with this misconception, but it's enough of them enabled by the National Lawyers Guild to grease the path toward more, and more dangerous police "tools" to try to corral their long, slithering, snaky equation of non sequitur: sexists + fascists + racists + neo-Nazis = people whom they assume (because of their attire) voted for Donald Trump (and deserve to get run out of town if not beaten up) or voted for someone equally odious like Hillary Clinton (and deserve to get run out of town if not beaten up). I might have that equation wrong, but I have honestly tried talking to a lot of them and as soon as I ask questions they bristle and hiss. 

My own experience has shown that the biggest bullies with the loudest mouths and the flashiest costumes and weapons are usually cowards. Most of us have heard offensive speech before and know how to handle it without improvised weapons from Home Depot. If it were up to me, I would snap my fingers and have everybody show the conservative provocateurs the time of their lives while they're here; take them to Chez Panisse, tour the town, come to the Starry Plough Irish jam and sing songs with a big chorus. I would do that West Virginia thing if they tried to bait me and just say, oh, that is so interesting, please go on. The ability to resist being baited, after all, is powerful. In the case of these nationwide political confrontations, it is crucial. 

# # #

Progressive - then, and later on/now

Norma Harrison
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:45:00 PM

When I was 15-20, Progressive Party ran Henry Wallace – in 1948, and Vincent Hallinan – of the renowned local family – in 1952, for President on the Progressive Party ballot . It was strongly communist influenced. I’ve always thought of it as communist – which is fine with me. As you might know from my campaigns for school board I devotedly subscribe to communism, socialism – tending toward the anarchy describe by Marx, the withering away of the state as we replace it with meaningful forms of control by us all. 

‘Progressive’ is maybe getting re-defined by people struggling to take control of our governmental mechanisms. But I’ve long determined it to be a wishy-washy term about people trying to do the right thing but not being sure what that is, the way to do it. 

Berkeley Mayor’s submissions indicate the depth and sincerity of the council’s efforts, much as have done previous government formations, not only here, but in many places where candidates and electeds would committedly like to find ways to carry out programs that are good for us all – that we’ve asked for/demanded. 

The problem is they can’t be in capitalism – which you’ve seen repeatedly. If we win something, we lose it; our Owners steal it back. 

An actually progressive government would make the effort to get us talking about the use of socialist, communist struggle. Without us able to talk about it, we spin our wheels – which I think you – and our electeds – know. But, they keep their jobs, saying they will – fix all that broken stuff of ours without enunciating the cause of the constant horrors. 

Maybe they just need encouragement to agree to allow us all to educate ourselves- us all about taking control of government, of work – of labor – for all our benefit.

New: The Freeze-for-Freeze Solution: An Alternative to Nuclear War

Gar Smith
Friday September 15, 2017 - 02:32:00 PM

(September 9, 2017) -- On August 5, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster informed MSNBC that the Pentagon had plans to counter the "growing threat" from North Korea—by launching a "preventative war."

Note: When someone armed with world-ending weapons is speaking, language is important.

For example: a "threat" is merely an expression. It may be annoying, or even provocative, but it is something that falls well short of a physical "attack."

"Preventative war" is a euphemism for "armed aggression"—an action the International Criminal Court identifies as "the ultimate war crime." The slippery phrase "preventative war" serves to transform the aggressor into a "potential" victim, responding to a perceived "future crime" by acting in "self-defense." 

The concept of "preventative violence" has a domestic counterpart. An investigation by London's The Independent found that US police killed 1,069 civilians in 2016. Of those, 107 were unarmed. Most of these individuals died because of the concept of "preventative war." The typical defense from the officers involved in deadly shootings was that they "felt threatened." They opened fire because they "felt their lives were in danger." 

What is intolerable on the streets of America should be equally unacceptable when applied to any country within range of Washington's globe-straddling weaponry. 

In an interview on the Today Show, Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted: "There will be a war with North Korea over their missile program if they continue trying to hit America with an ICBM." 

Note: Pyongyang has not "tried to hit" the US: It has only launched unarmed, experimental test missiles. (Although, listening to Kim Jong-un's heated, over-the-top rhetorical threats, one might think otherwise.) 

Living in the Shadow of a Frightened Giant 

For all of its unparalleled military might, the Pentagon has never been able to assuage Washington's abiding suspicions that someone, somewhere, is plotting an attack. This fear of a constant "threat" from foreign forces is invoked to channel massive tides of tax dollars into an ever-expanding military/industrial pond. But policies of perpetual paranoia only make the world a more dangerous place. 

On September 5, Russian President Vladimír Putin, responding to journalists' questions about the worrisome face-off between the US and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), issued this warning: "[R]amping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it's a dead end. It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean Issue, save that peaceful dialogue." 

Putin dismissed the efficacy of Washington's threat to impose even harsher economic sanctions, noting that the proud North Koreans would sooner "eat grass" than halt their nuclear weapons program because "they do not feel safe." 

In a commentary posted in January 2017, Pyongyang underscored the fears that prompted the DPRK to acquire its nuclear arsenal: "The Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya, after surrendering to the pressure from the US and the West, which were attempting to subvert their regime[s], could not avoid the fate of doom as a consequence of . . . giving up their nuclear program." 

Time and again, the DPRK has railed against the ongoing joint US/ROK military exercises staged along Korea's contentious borders. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has characterized these events as "preparations for the second Korean War" and "a dress rehearsal for an invasion." 

"What can restore their security?" Putin asked. His answer: "The restoration of international law." 

Washington's Nuclear Arsenal: Deterrent or Provocation? 

Washington has expressed alarm that the latest long-range tests by the DPRK suggest that Pyongyang's missiles (sans warhead, for now) may be able to reach the US mainland, 6,000 miles away. 

Meanwhile, the US maintains its own long-established and launch-ready atomic arsenal of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs. Each can carry up to three nuclear warheads. At last count, the US had 4,480 atomic warheads at its disposal. With a range of 9,321 miles, Washington's Minuteman missiles can deliver a nuclear blow to any target in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and most of Africa. Only Southern Africa and parts of the Antarctic are beyond the reach of America's land-based ICBMs. (Add the Pentagon's nuclear-armed submarines, and nowhere on Earth is beyond Washington's nuclear reach.) 

When it comes to defending its nuclear missile program, North Korea uses the same excuse as every other atomic power—the warheads and rockets are solely intended as a "deterrent." It is basically the same argument employed by the National Rifle Association, which asserts the right to self-protection involves the right to bear arms and the right to use them in "self-defense." 

If the NRA were to apply this argument at the global/thermonuclear level, consistency would require that organization stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Kim Jong-un. The North Koreans are simply insisting on their right to "stand their ground." They are only claiming the same status that the US grants to other existing nuclear powers—Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. 

But somehow, when "certain countries" express an interest in pursuing these weapons, a nuclear-armed missile is no longer a "deterrent": It instantly becomes a "provocation" or a "threat." 

If nothing else, Pyongyang's truculence has done the nuclear abolition movement a great service: it has demolished the argument that nuclear-tipped ICBMs are a "deterrent." 

North Korea Has Reason to Feel Paranoid 

During the brutal years of the 1950-53 Korean War (called a "peace action" by Washington but remembered by survivors as "the Korean Holocaust"), American aircraft dropped 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,557 tons of napalm over North Korea, destroying 78 cities and obliterating thousands of villages. Some of the victims died from exposure to US biological weapons containing anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. It is now believed that as many as 9 million people––30% of the population—may have been killed during the 37-month-long bombardment. 

Washington's war on the North stands as one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. 

The US blitz was so merciless that the Air Force eventually ran out of places to bomb. Left behind where the ruins of 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, and more than a half-million homes. The Air Force also managed to bomb bridges and dams on the Yalu River, causing farmland floods that destroyed the country's rice harvest, triggering additional deaths by starvation. 

It is worth recalling that the first Korean War erupted when China honored a 1950 treaty obliging Beijing to defend the DPRK in the event of a foreign attack. (That treaty is still in effect.) 

The Continued US Military Presence in Korea 

The "Korean conflict" ended in 1953 with the signing of an armistice agreement. But the US never left South Korea. It built (and continues to build) a sprawling infrastructure of more than a dozen active military bases. The Pentagon's military expansions inside Republic of Korea (ROK) are frequently met with dramatic eruptions of civilian resistance. (On September 6, 38 people in Seonju were injured during a confrontation between thousands of police and demonstrators protesting the presence of US missile interceptors.) 

But most troubling to the North are the annual joint military exercises that deploy tens of thousands of US and ROK troops along the DPRK's border to engage in live-fire exercises, marine assaults, and bombing runs that prominently feature nuclear-capable US B-1 Lancer bombers (dispatched from Anderson Airbase on Guam, 2,100 miles away) dropping 2,000-pound bunker-busters provocatively close to North Korean territory. 

These annual and semi-annual military exercises are not a new strategic irritant on the Korean Peninsula. They began just 16 months after the signing of the armistice agreement. The US organized the first joint military deployment—"Exercise Chugi"—in November 1955 and the "war games" have continued, with various degrees of intensity, for 65 years. 

Like every military exercise, the US-ROK maneuvers have left behind landscapes of scorched and bombed earth, bodies of soldiers inadvertently killed in mock-combat accidents, and vast profits reliably tendered to the companies that supply the weapons and ammunition expended during these martial extravaganzas. 

In 2013, the North responded to these "show of force" maneuvers by threatening to "bury [a US warship] in the sea." In 2014, Pyongyang greeted the joint-exercise by threatening "all out war" and demanding the US halt it's "nuclear blackmail." 

The "largest ever" military drill was held in 2016. It lasted two-months, involved 17,000 US troops and 300,000 soldiers from the South. The Pentagon characterized the bombings, amphibious assaults, and artillery exercises as "non-provocative." North Korea responded predictably, calling the maneuvers "reckless . . . undisguised nuclear war drills" and threatening a "preemptive nuclear strike." 

Following Donald Trump's incendiary threat to strike Kim with "fire and fury like the world has never seen," the Pentagon opted to bank the flames even higher by proceeding with its previously scheduled August 21-31 air, land, and sea exercise, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. The verbal slugfest between the two combative leaders only intensified. 

While most of the US media has spent the past months obsessing over North Korea's nuclear program and its missile launches, there has been less reporting on Washington's plans to "decapitate" the country by removing the Korean leader. 

A "Wide Range of Options": Assassination and Covert Ops 

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." 

"It's mandatory to present the widest possible array of options," Nightly News' Chief International Security and Diplomacy Analyst Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.) 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" was dangerously narrow. Instead of considering diplomatic options, 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 

Cynthia McFadden, NBC's Senior Legal and 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, the second option, the "decapitation" strike, was 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 the description fits Trump as well as Kim.) 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 attacks on political targets. 

The first option violates numerous nuclear nonproliferation agreements. The second and third options involve infringements of sovereignty as well as gross violations of international law. 

Over the years, the Washington has used sanctions and military provocations to harass the North. Now that NBC News has been given the go-ahead to "normalize" the political assassination of a foreign leader by presenting Kim's murder as a reasonable "option," the geopolitical stakes have grown even higher. 

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Washington has imposed sanctions (a form of economic water-boarding) on a wide array of targets—Syria, Russia, Crimea, Venezuela, Hezbollah—with negligible results. Kim Jong-un is not the kind personality that responds well to sanctions. Kim has ordered the execution of more than 340 fellow Koreans since he assumed power in 2011. HIs victims have included government officials and family members. One of Kim's favorite means of execution reportedly involves blowing victims to pieces with an anti-aircraft gun. Like Donald Trump, he's use to getting his way. 

And so, it is doubtful that overt US threats calling for Kim's 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 American soldiers surrounding North Korea to the south and east—in Japan and on Okinawa, Guam and other Pentagon-colonized islands in the Pacific. 

The Fourth Option: Diplomacy 

While the Pentagon cannot guarantee what impact its actions may have on the future, the State Department has significant data on what has worked in the past. It turns out that the Kim regime has not only approached Washington with invitations to negotiate an end to hostilities, but past administrations have responded and progress has been made. 

In 1994, after four months of negotiations, President Bill Clinton and the DPRK signed an "Agreed Framework" to bring a halt to the North's production of plutonium, a component of nuclear weapons. In exchange for abandoning three nuclear reactors and its controversial Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing facility, the US, Japan, and South Korea agreed to provide the DPRK with two light-water reactors and 500,000 metric tons of fuel oil a year to offset the energy lost while replacement reactors were constructed. 

In January 1999, the DPRK agreed to meetings designed to deal with missile proliferation matters. In exchange, Washington agreed to remove economic sanctions imposed on the North. The talks continue through 1999 with the DPRK agreeing to halt its long-range missile program in exchange for a partial lifting of US economic sanctions. 

In October 2000, Kim Jong Il sent a letter to President Clinton in a gesture designed to affirm the continued improvement of US-North Korean relations. Later, in an op-ed written for the New York Times, Wendy Sherman, who served as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, wrote that a final agreement to terminate the DPRK's medium- and long-range missile programs were "tantalizingly close" as the Clinton Administration came to an end. 

In 2001, the arrival of a new president signaled an end to this progress. George W. Bush imposed new restrictions on negotiating with the North and publicly questioned whether Pyongyang was "keeping all terms of all agreements." Bush's sally was followed by Secretary of State Colin Powell's brusque denial that "imminent negotiations are about to begin—that is not the case." 

On March 15, 2001, the DPRK sent a heated response, threatening to "take thousand-fold revenge" on the new administration for its "black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea]." Pyongyang also cancelled ongoing administrative talks with Seoul that had been intended to promote political reconciliation between the two estranged states. 

In his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush branded the North as part of his "Axis of Evil" and accused the government of "arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens." 

Bush followed up by formally terminating Clinton's "Agreed Framework" and halting the promised shipments of fuel oil. The DPRK responded by expelling United Nations weapons inspectors and restarting the Yongbyon reprocessing plant. Within two years, the DPRK was back in the business of producing weapons-grade plutonium and, in 2006, it conducted its first successful nuclear test. 

It was an opportunity lost. But it demonstrated that diplomacy (although it takes attention and great patience) can work to accomplish peaceful ends. 

"Dual Freeze": A Solution that Could Work 

Unfortunately, the current resident of the White House is an individual with a short attention span and is notoriously lacking in patience. Nonetheless, any avenue that takes our nation down a path not labeled "Fire and Fury," would be a road best travelled. And, fortunately, diplomacy is not a forgotten art. 

The most promising option is the so-called "Dual Freeze" plan (aka the "Freeze-for-Freeze" or "Double Halt") recently endorsed by China and Russia. Under this tit-for-tat settlement, Washington would stop its massive (and massively costly) "invasion games" off North Korea's border and shores. In exchange, Kim would agree to halt the development and testing of destabilizing nuclear weapons and missiles. 

Most mainstream media consumers might be surprised to learn that, even before the China-Russia intervention, the North itself had repeatedly proposed a similar "Dual Freeze" solution to resolve the increasingly dangerous stand-off with the US. But Washington repeatedly refused. 

In July 2017, when China and Russia partnered to endorse the "Dual Freeze" plan, the DPRK welcomed the initiative. During a June 21 TV interview, Kye Chun-yong, North Korea's ambassador to India, declared: "Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of freezing nuclear testing or missile testing. For instance, if the American side completely stops big, large-scale military exercises temporarily or permanently, then we will also temporarily stop." 

"As everybody knows, the Americans have gestured [toward] dialogue," North Korea's Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In-ryong told reporters. "But what is important is not words, but actions . . . . The rolling back of the hostile policy toward DPRK is the prerequisite for solving all the problems in the Korean peninsula . . . . Therefore, the urgent issue to be settled on Korean peninsula is to put a definite end to the US hostile policy toward DPRK, the root cause of all problems." 

On January 10, 2015, the KCNA announced that Pyonyang had approached the Obama Administration offering to "temporarily suspend nuclear tests that concerns the US [and] . . . sit face to face with the US." In exchange, the North requested that the "US suspend joint military exercise temporarily." 

When there was no response, North Korea's minister of foreign affairs made public note of the rebuff in a statement posted on March 2, 2015: "We already expressed our willingness to take a reciprocal measure in case that the US halts joint military exercise in and around South Korea. However, the US, from the very beginning of the New Year, outright rejected our sincere proposal and effort by announcing 'additional sanction' toward North Korea." 

When the Trump administration rejected the latest Russia-China "Freeze" proposal in July 2017, it explained its refusal with this argument: Why should the US halt its "lawful" military exercises in exchange for the North agreeing to abandon its "illicit" weapons activities? 

However, the the US-ROK joint-exercises would only be "legal" if they were provably "defensive." But, as past years (and the NBC leaks cited above) have shown, these exercises are clearly designed to prepare for internationally outlawed acts of aggression—including violations of national sovereignty and the possible political assassination of a head of state. 

The diplomatic option remains open. Every other course of action threatens an escalation towards a potential thermonuclear clash. 

The "Dual Freeze" seems a fair—and wise—solution. So far, Washington has dismissed Freeze-for-Freeze as "a non-starter." 


Tell Trump to Stop Threatening North Korea 

Roots Action Petition: Sign Here

Tell Your Senators: No Military Action Against North Korea 

Write your Senators today insisting upon a diplomatic – rather than a military – solution to the conflict with North Korea. You can amplify your impact on this issue by calling your Senators as well. The Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) will connect you. 

Gar Smith is an award-winning investigative journalist, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, and author of Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green). His new book, The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books) will be published on October 3. He will be speaking at the World Beyond War three-day conference on "War and the Environment," September 22-24 at the American University in Washington, DC. (For details, visit: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2017.) 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Weathering Storms Within the Mind

Jack Bragen
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:24:00 PM

Hurricane Irma is in the news now, and it seems that the devastation is unprecedented. Even a psychotic episode seems to pale in comparison to what is happening to Florida, Cuba, and any other place in the path of that storm.

Yet, a psychotic episode is like a storm. The rational mind is swept away by winds and floods that exist in the mind, and the victim of the storm is left without the ability to reason. Worse yet, the individual is functioning under psychotic beliefs.

I heard stories of people tying themselves to a part of their house to prevent getting blown away by Irma. The mind of a psychotic person may be similar. There is no reliable anchor. The solution isn't always extra antipsychotic medication--although sometimes it is. One's psychiatrist would be able to answer that; I could not. 

Just so that we're clear, I am not a PhD or an MD. I tested out of high school to get out early, and I've been to trade school for electronics. I should not be thought of as an "expert" in the field of mental health. I have learned to write well through the fact that I read a lot as a teen, and have spent incalculable hours teaching myself about how to write, with some limited feedback, mostly from editors. I am a thoughtful person. 

I do not hire a "ghostwriter" or a copy editor. I do not have income to pay such a person, nor do I have a need or want for such a person.  

When we have a mental "storm" it isn't necessarily caused by "noncompliance" with taking medication. Over the past week, I've experienced levels of anxiety that seemed unbearable, even while taking medications according to prescription. I've had paranoid delusions accompanying this. It was like a weather system moving through my brain and mind.  

When things become unsteady, it is important to stay off Facebook and email, and you may want to stay off the computer entirely. Computers don't mix well with paranoid psychosis.  

When things are difficult, it is important not to take medication in excess of the prescription unless one's psychiatrist instructs one to do so. The result of taking excessive medication can be dire. Also, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can very easily cause death.  

When things are hard, it doesn't always work to "ride it out" alone. In my case, washing all of the dishes in my dwelling and then getting a good night's sleep were therapeutic. I took a brief break from my laptop.  

Silence is subject to interpretation. Almost any way you'd like to interpret it is probably wrong. Forgive me if this week's column is a bit of a ramble.  

Nothing in particular is going on with me other than a "mental storm." One friend who is now deceased called it a "mental cold." His reference was to the fact that I have insight about my illness. He said that in his case, it was worse than that because of his lack of insight. I found it odd that someone can lack insight and at the same time acknowledge this.  

If we realize at a particular time that we are having symptoms, the awareness of this is helpful in minimizing damage to life circumstances. On the other hand, if we begin to act based on delusions, it can really create complications.  

There are no assurances in life. If we are living with a major psychiatric diagnosis, we may need to set our sights a bit lower. People do not always want to hand responsibility over to someone with a history of mental illness. While I have numerous desires in life, I am aware that some of them may be out of reach.  

It might seem unfair that persons with psych disabilities aren't allowed to do certain things. However, this is an illness that attacks judgment. Therefore, mentally ill people should not be President, or be an airline pilot.  

As far as me being considered an expert, I am good at surviving as a disabled person, I have a lot of experience with this illness, and I think a lot. If you need to contact me for any reason, I think the editor is still willing to forward a message.

THE PUBLIC EYE: The Aftermath of Hurricane Donald

Bob Burnett
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:42:00 PM

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Americans have an initial estimate of the damage. However we have yet to assess the costs of "Hurricane" Donald Trump.

Moody's Investor Services estimates that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused approximately $200 billion in damage. Of course, beyond the monetary damages there are psychological and social consequences; millions of people have been dislocated and, to some degree, traumatized.

Hopefully, the long-term consequences of the devastating hurricanes will include changes to government policy: for example, at the federal level, recognition of the reality of Global Climate Change and reduction of the power of the fossil-fuel lobby; and at the local level, changes in city planning and building codes (such as not paving over wetlands.)

The long-term consequences of Hurricane Donald are more costly than the damage inflicted by Harvey and Irma. Here are five social costs associated with Trump. 

Economic Inequality: Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because of economic injustice: Millions of voters -- predominantly white -- felt their lives had not improved during the Obama Administration. They believed Trump's promise to "make America great again." Trump supporters felt he would change the way Washington does business, shake up the establishment, bring good jobs back to the heartland, and substantially improve their lives. 

Eight months after occupying the White House, Trump has done little to justify his supporters' confidence in him. He has not taken on economic inequality. To the contrary, post-election Trump appears to be a typical Republican politician who sides with the one percent at the expense of the 99 percent. (Trump's tax plan -- still being formulated -- favors wealthy Americans at the expense of working families.) 

Ignoring economic inequality has long-term consequences. Many economists have observed that the Republican ideology -- "trickle-down" economics -- damages the economy: it fails to address pressing national needs, such as infrastructure repair, and does not increase the disposable income of the middle class. 

Furthermore, protracted economic inequality jeopardizes democracy. Not only does the Republican ideology favor "big money" in politics but it discourages average Americans from participating in the political process; for example, because they are too busy earning a living to adequately inform themselves about national issues. In addition, economic inequality breeds cynicism, distrust of democratic institutions. 

Social Injustice: Writing in The New York Times, Emory University professor Carol Anderson observed: "The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration" Trump's vociferous August 16th press conference -- where he defended the Charlottesville White Supremacists -- illuminated Donald's true feelings. 

The primary focus of Trump's prejudice has been immigration. On August 2nd, Trump endorsed a Republican initiative -- led by Senators Cotton and Perdue -- that would dramatically change immigration policy and reduce immigration levels by 50 percent. That same day, presidential aide Stephen Miller appeared at a White House press conference to laud the immigration initiative and claim that current policy has produced a slew of economic problems such as income inequality and a dearth of good-paying jobs. (There's no compelling evidence for this assertion but it plays well with Trump's base.) 

Besides being immoral, Trump's prejudice undermines American democracy. It jeopardizes the core notion that we are "one nation, indivisible." The United States has thrived because it has been seen as a land of opportunity, a vast "level playing field," where anyone willing to work hard could be successful regardless of gender, race, religion, or national origin. 

Climate Change: Donald Trump is a climate-change denier and a tool of the fossil-fuel industry. His actions -- whether taking the US out of the Paris Climate Accord or appointing climate-change deniers to top Administration positions -- are deleterious to the health and safety of all Americans. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma proved that we need to drastically curtail carbon emissions (and move millions of Americans to higher ground). 

International Relations: On January 20th, Donald Trump became the United States leading "diplomat." Unfortunately, Trump does not practice diplomacy; he doesn't believe in negotiating for the common good, striving for a "win-win" agreement where both negotiating partners feel good. Trump is a "deal-maker," which he once capsulized as "the thrill of winning." He's not interested in fair agreements but rather ones where he comes out looking good. 

Now Donald represents the US in a variety of harrowing matters. He is negotiating with North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China, among others. Furthermore, Trump is negotiating perilous issues such as the proliferation of nuclear arms, global climate change, immigration, and sex trafficking. 

National Consciousness: We live in a difficult time. Many Americans are experiencing a level of psychological disturbance above-and-beyond what we might attribute to living in the fast-paced modern world. The national zeitgeist features anger, despair, and hatred. 

Much of this widespread psychological disturbance has been caused by Hurricane Donald. It's unsettling for the nation to be led by an unstable bully. A man who lies all the time. Who does not care about the national interest, but rather what benefits him. A president who does not treasure democracy. 

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

SQUEAKY WHEEL: Speech and Spectacle

Toni Mester
Friday September 15, 2017 - 01:28:00 PM

Mario Savio is dead but I’m not. Having outlived this eminent contemporary and residing in Berkeley for the past 45 years, I feel compelled to reflect on his legacy and influence, now that the right wing has ironically and provocatively donned the free speech mantle. 

In December 1964, when Savio climbed on a car in Sproul Plaza and gave his now famous “operation of the machine” speech, I was a senior at SUNY Albany, looking for a place in graduate school. The free speech movement at Cal was covered widely in the press and had a special meaning for us, linked by far-reaching national events and those parochial to Albany State. 

In March 1963, our campus had been rocked by a small brouhaha that pitched the Greeks against the independents, including two circles of my friends – a group of English majors who published an underground rag called suppression and the officers of Forum of Politics, a sanctioned organization that received student activity funds to sponsor speakers on public affairs. Our most eminent guest had been Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited in October 1961, when I was privileged to meet her backstage. 

We independents saw ourselves as intellectuals and non-conformists in opposition to the mainstream student leaders whom we viewed as goody-goodies. We flaunted our pretensions, wore berets and black stockings like Greenwich Village beatniks, and hung out in a corner of the school cafeteria known as “the cave.” But our true mettle as upholders of individual rights came after a basketball tournament in Cortland, when some tipsy team followers celebrated a victory by pissing from a table in a bar. The President of Cortland State complained to ours, and all hell broke loose on campus, a front-page editorial in the State University News asking, “What has happened to the morals of our college students?” 

The student judiciary Myskania held closed-door hearings and reported to the administration, which reprimanded the fraternity members involved but suspended one of our friends. Furious about violation of due process, we retaliated by bringing in the ACLU and forcing the reassignment of the Dean of Men. 

By the time that the free speech movement at Cal began to make national headlines, Albany State had gotten a taste of controversy. In the early 1960’s the campus was still located downtown, near the seat of state government. We sat in at the capitol in support of anti-discrimination bills with the local chapter of CORE, hosted the Freedom Singers to raise money for SNCC, and sponsored debates. One of the face-offs featured liberal James Burkhart (Americans for Democratic Action) and conservative Fulton Lewis III (Young Americans for Freedom), who traveled the lecture circuit debating “Which Way America?” They were two well-mannered elite white guys having a polite discussion, the kind of forum currently held at the Commonwealth Club and probably the wish of UCB Chancellor Carol Christ. 

The free speech movement didn’t exist in a vacuum but developed from the struggle for racial integration, which progressive students considered the most pressing political enterprise of our generation. Mario Savio was a civil rights activist, having joined the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. 

Beneath this struggle, a cultural upheaval was brewing, stoked by drugs, sex, and rock ’n roll. At Albany State, a predominantly white working class school, the free speech movement was seen as a protest against the administration acting in loco parentis. The Cortland case was just one more example of self-righteous middle-class morality and its paternalistic restrictions. The dormitories had curfews, even on the weekends, and most of our crowd moved out as soon as we could, age 21 or earlier with parental approval. So emancipated, my roommate and I rented an apartment on Western Avenue in our junior year and began our lives as adults. 

Reading from the archives of the student press, I’m struck at the quality of my educational experience in Albany, which was then a state teachers’ college making the transition to a university. For those in the education program, mostly the children and grandchildren of European immigrants, tuition was free because it was expected that we would teach in the public high schools. We had an inferiority complex comparing our school with the Ivy League, but our newspaper was not only well written and comprehensive, but also reveals a thoroughly engaged campus community. I had many fine teachers and two great ones: Mary Grenander and Harry Staley; in fact the Albany State archives are named after M.E. Grenander, who taught my freshman composition class, one that I will never forget. We read The Oresteia of Aeschylus and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and wrote essays that still inform my ideas about justice. And that was only the beginning. By the time I got to Staley’s famous class on James Joyce, I had been involved in rigorous intellectual exercise for three years. 

The excellence of the Albany State English department must have been well known because I got into all three of the graduate schools I applied to: Cal, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where I finished an MA, having decided against Cal for fear of distraction. Using my late father’s life insurance to pay for a final year of higher education, I didn’t expect another bite of the apple. When I finally arrived in Berkeley in 1972, I had already started my career. 

Mario Savio also picked up graduate degrees and taught math, philosophy, and logic at Sonoma State but died relatively young at 53, over twenty years ago. He left behind a reputation for courage and conviction that influenced a generation from coast to coast. We can only imagine what he would think about the current roster of speakers on the Cal campus and the spectacle surrounding them. 

Political Theatre 

During the first weekend of December 2014, I took a mini-vacation to Seattle to see the LBJ plays by Robert Schenkkan: All the Way and The Great Society, performed back to back on Sunday. The Seattle Repertory Theatre was sold out, packed with people my age entranced by Jack Willis’ brilliant portrayal of the complex and conflicted man who presided over this country during the turbulent years between the assassination of Jack Kennedy in November 1963 and the election of Richard Nixon in 1968. At the end of the evening, we rose in unison and cheered, in appreciation of the performance and celebration for having survived the maelstrom of the sixties just reviewed on stage. In all my years of theater going, this was the loudest sustained ovation from an audience, a stunning exultation and catharsis. I wobbled back to my hotel room and turned on the late news. 

In Berkeley, the worst of three days of protests against events in Ferguson, Missouri were culminating in a riot carried on Seattle television and probably across the country. It was the oddest feeling of alienation, having just witnessed a dramatic enactment of the 1960’s, compressed into six hours, and then watching the coverage of events in Berkeley from afar. It reminded me of the unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, when I was a caseworker in Brooklyn, and brought back the smash-up at the Democratic National Convention later that year. A group in the office considered making the trip from New York to Chicago when a colleague from the windy city warned us off, so we went to the shore instead and watched the horror on TV. 

Political power flows from the optics, a trend that started with the election of JFK who knew how to talk to the TV cameras, while Nixon looked uncomfortable and therefore incompetent. Marshall McLuhan supplied insights on how media influences opinion and popular culture in his many books that explained and shaped the practice of persuasion. He died in 1980 at the advent of the internet, but he inspired other communications experts in the field of internet studies. 

A little acknowledged theorist who is getting more attention is Guy Debord, the author of The Society of the Spectacle (1967) and his group the Situationist International, who took part in the 1968 uprising in Paris. The full translated text is available on-line, as well as an illustrated summary on the HyperAllergic site, which calls it a “polemical and prescient indictment of our image-saturated consumer culture…. the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity.” 

Although Debord was a Marxist, his analysis pertains to spectacle performed by all kinds of political actors, hawking fake news or not. Conservative opinion makers like Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos’ and Steve Bannon can be seen as right-wing situationists, their energies funneled into disruption, provocation, and monologues that enrapture like theater rather than inspire like debate, more entertainment than information. Political disruption, whether from the left or the right, focuses on caricatures of the other, enemies that emerge in a process of projection and objectification. If students want exposure to discourse on social problems, perhaps they should stop spending money on celebrity lecturers and return to a Socratic discussion of “Which Way America?” 

What’s happening is not free speech; it’s expensive. The cost to the City of Berkeley and UC to police these speeches and counter-protests is astronomical, money that could be better spent. These publicity stunts masquerading as educational events depend on a predictable response from the gullible who have learned little from history and eagerly play the role of extras in mob scenes anticipated by the right. When Ben Shapiro accuses the university of harboring “campus thuggery” and his adversaries react like thugs, they perform his script, a self-fulfilling prophecy and feedback loop that has little to do with speech and everything to do with spectacle, televised unrest that only serves the forces of reaction. The campus Republicans know exactly what they are doing, trying to make the left look as bad as possible to keep the Democrats from capturing Congressional seats next year. 

The Trump administration is a disaster, and Steve Bannon a has-been; he and the rest of these right-wing provocateurs are best ignored, deprived of the publicity they crave. 

As for Ben Shapiro, he is mired in contradiction. Nobody exists in this world devoid of ethnic roots, and he is as guilty of identity politics as those he excoriates. Students should learn to be proud of whatever their heritage and get on with the business of preparing for a productive life. 

The Vietnam War Returns 

The Ken Burns long awaited 18-hour series starts Sunday night on PBS at 8 and runs for two weeks. It’s going to take a strong stomach to watch this, because while we survived, many friends and family did not. 

The Vietnam War lasted twenty years and had profound effects, which hopefully the film will bring into perspective. Despite all our protests, ultimately the Vietnamese ended the war by winning. Academic communities coped through the teach-in. Students were struggling to learn, absorbing knowledge, and their professors were actively engaged as mentors. One of the most disturbing incidents was the Kent State shooting in 1970 because a school campus was considered a haven and a retreat. Tragically, we have become accustomed to school shootings, almost 200 since Sandy Hook. As a result, most Americans now see cops on campus as a safety measure, not militarization. 

Maybe after The Vietnam War, the teach-in will make a comeback, and students will return to the work at hand, savoring their precious years in higher education, building a foundation for a future that will create social benefit and save the planet. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley.  




New: ECLECTIC RANT: Climate Change is Happening -- the Time to Act is Now

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday September 16, 2017 - 03:11:00 PM

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose collectively represent the most hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, in terms of strength and size, in recorded history. The National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake pointed out the three hurricanes are threatened land at the same time. Again, that’s never happened before.  

Is this what climate change scientists predicted? Yes, climate scientists such as Michael Mann at Penn State states, "The science is now fairly clear that climate change will make stronger storms stronger." Or wetter. 

Clearly there a scientific consensus on climate change caused by human activity. Climate change is no longer about science; it is now a political, economic, and social debate. In other words, what do we do about climate change?  

Why is the Trump administration, and too many Republicans in Congress, not addressing climate change head on? It is no mystery to me. These so-called climate change deniers have made a self-interested political decision, rather than a scientific one. By denying climate change, they have an excuse to do little or nothing about it; they don't want to alienate their friends in the fossil fuel industry,  

It is not coincidental that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 21 other Republicans, whose campaigns have collected more than $10 million in oil, gas and, coal money since 2012, sent a letter to the president urging him to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  

It way past time for this administration to develop and implement an action plan. Planet Earth is our home; we have no place to evacuate if our home becomes uninhabitable. 


Arts & Events

An Underwhelming Opening Night at San Francisco Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday September 15, 2017 - 10:54:00 AM

In a recent conversation at Berkeley’s hub of classical music, The Musical Offering on Bancroft Street, the name Yo-Yo Ma came up. The knowledgeable folks at The Musical Offering treated Yo-Yo Ma with undisguised scorn, dismissing him as the kind of big-name musician that impresarios bring in to show off to the big-money donors. These latter get to have a patrons’ dinner with Mr. Ma before or after the cellist goes through the motions in some familiar warhorse or, as is frequently the case, in some totally unfamiliar music from the far corners of the globe. The scuttlebutt at The Musical Offering was that Yo-Yo Ma has become the self-styled musical emissary to the world, and as such he is the big-money donors’ darling. But if you want emotional intensity and depth of musical interpretation, you don’t turn to Yo-Yo Ma.  

All this came to mind as I sat in Davies Hall Thursday evening, September 14, and listened to the San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Night Gala Concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma. On the program were the Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor by Camille Saint-Saens and Piotr Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. These works featuring the cello were bookended by two pieces of dross, The Overture to Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, and, to close the evening, Maurice Ravel’s bombastic Bolero. We can deal with the bookends in short order. Bernstein’s Candide Overture was its usual brassy, bumptious self, a product of Bernstein’s Broadway years. Bernstein is a particular favorite of Michael Tilson Thomas, who announced from the stage that 2018 will be the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth and the Symphony will honor Bernstein by playing much of his music this season. If you like that sort of thing you’re happy. If not, you’re forewarned. As for Ravel’s Bolero, I didn’t stay to hear it close out the evening’s program with its all too familiar and all too bombastic repetitions. 

So, let us turn to what should have been the meat of this Opening Night concert – the two works featuring Yo-Yo Ma as solo cellist. If meat there was, it was a thin repast. The Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No. 1 is a conservative, backward-looking work. Composed in 1872 when Saint-Saens was 37 years old, the work was applauded by a Parisian reviewer for retreating from “the tendencies in a number of his recent works”-- by which he means modernist inclinations. In short, this cello concerto, actually a concertstück with three short movements played without a pause, looks back beyond Romanticism to Classicism. As such, it is a modestly ingratiating work, and modest indeed were the pleasures heard in Yo-Yo Ma’s diffident rendition of this cello concerto. In fact, this work’s most noteworthy feature, at least in this performance, was the weight assigned by Saint-Saens to the orchestra, which is far more than a mere accompanist to the solo cello. I would even venture to say that conductor Michael Tilson Thomas brought out more of the richness of this work’s orchestral score than Yo-Yo Ma brought out of the score for cello. Superb technician that he is, however, Yo-Yo Ma stays on the surface of this music, never probing deeply or imbuing his playing with intensity, preferring surface charm to emotional depth.  

After intermission, Yo-Yo Ma returned to play the solo cello part in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. This is a slight work, only 18 minutes in length, and it is one that gave Tchaikovsky great difficulty in composition. In fact, he sent the piece to his friend Wilhelm Karl Friedrich Fitzenhagen, then principal cellist of the Orchestra of the Imperial Russian Music Society in Moscow. Asked by Tchaikovsky for suggestions, Fitzenhagen simply made so many wholesale alterations that many musicologists argue he should be named as co-composer with Tchaikovsky. In any case, Yo-Yo Ma played the Fitzenhagen version, as do most but not all cellists, and here too, as in the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto heard earlier, Yo-Yo Ma gave a technically impeccable performance redolent of surface charm but devoid of any of the excitement one hears, for example, in Mstislav Rostropovich’s recording of this work with the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan. If I had to find one word to characterize Yo-Yo Ma’s playing, of not just the works heard in this concert but of nearly everything, that one word would be ‘underwhelming’. If this Opening Night Gala Concert of the 2017-18 San Francisco Symphony season was supposed to be a blockbuster event, all I can say is, it was … underwhelming.