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Dropping the Police Accountability Ball and the Pre-trial Scarlet Letter

Carol Denney
Wednesday August 22, 2018 - 11:24:00 AM

bBerkeley Police arrested twenty demonstrators at the most recent August, 2018 "alt-right" rally and posted their photographs and personal information on the Police Department's Twitter account. The information was picked up by other publications, including Fox News and international outlets, and caused a stir as the new "scarlet letter" of creative police abuse. 

Publicizing the personal information of arrestees is not routine, and was justified by Berkeley's police spokesperson Byron White, quoted in England's "The Guardian", as saying "People are coming from out of town and bringing weapons and are committed to violence … We don’t want people to be able to do that with anonymity.” The Guardian's coverage, in contrast, stated that all but one arrestee was from the Bay Area, and that only one of the arrestees was accused of a violent crime. 

The most appalling point, if White's quotation is accurate, is the willingness of the Berkeley police force to exert punishment and public humiliation on people who have yet to be convicted of any crime, violent or otherwise. Mayor Jesse Arreguin has stated that he was "not involved" in the decision, much like his helpless hand-wringing over the police sweeps of homeless people taking place only yards away from his "human peace sign" event shortly after his inauguration. 

But Mayor Arreguin played an obvious role in quietly dropping the ball this week on the best hope for police accountability improvements in decades. By not calling a special meeting of the city council, the community-side effort stalls past various requirements to become a ballot measure this fall despite clear and consistent calls for change in the light of, among other issues, clear racial disparities in policing according to the police department's own records. The police union appears to be firmly in charge of crafting its own policy and calling its own shots. 

Neither of these issues should be a difficult decision for the mayor or the Berkeley City Council. The judge in the Manafort case only days ago declined to release the names of the jury on the grounds of threats received by the judge himself. The practice of internet-shaming arrestees at a protest, especially in the light of the Police Department's class and race-based disparities, should be quickly prohibited. The strengthening of police accountability measures will clearly take longer, but the disappearance of even the possibility of a council vote on the issue looks more like caving to police pressure than democracy. 

The practice of publicly shaming arrestees is especially ironic in the light of the decades-old effort to hide police officers' own records from the public. The latest iteration of Nancy Skinner's effort to get some accountability measures passed this session is, at this moment, hanging by a watered-down thread. 

It is the courts, not the police, who are tasked with arranging for an individual's punishment - after a conviction. The police representatives crowing over this victory for police power and autonomy should consider that they just made any possibility of cooperation between the police and the community much, much harder. 

Poet Tom Clark Dies after Being Struck by Car in Berkeley

Craig Lazzeretti (BCN)
Sunday August 19, 2018 - 11:11:00 PM

Local poet and author Tom Clark died after being struck by a vehicle on The Alameda near Marin Avenue in Berkeley on Friday night, according to authorities. 

Clark, 77, was listed in stable condition after the collision around 8:40 p.m., but his condition worsened after he was taken to the hospital, police said. His death was confirmed by the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau. 

Clark "combined the diverse roles of poet, biographer, novelist, dramatis, reviewer and sportswriter during his writing career," according to a biography of him posted by the Poetry Foundation. 

He authored dozes of books of poetry, a book co-written with former baseball pitching star Mark Fidrych, and a history of the Oakland A's, according to the Poetry Foundation. He wrote poems about such A's legends as Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Bert Campaneris. 

Clark's interest in poetry blossomed at the University of Michigan, according to the biography, and he earned an advanced degree at the University of Cambridge, where he was strongly influenced by the work of literary legend Ezra Pound. While in England, he hitchhiked with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. After being recommended to publisher George Plimpton by a former teacher, Clark served for 10 years as poetry editor of the prestigious Paris Review. 

"He was himself a singularly adept, seemingly effortless, absolutely exemplary, lyric poet, author of numerous volumes (too much to mention here)," said a tribute to Clark posted by the Allen Ginsberg Project. "We're still stunned and shocked." 

Born in Chicago, Clark had been married since 1968 to Angelica Heinegg. 

The driver involved in the collision is cooperating with police, Berkeley police Officer Byron White said, and there are no indications the person was impaired. 

### 1218p08/19/18 

CONTACT: Berkeley Police Department (510) 981-5900 

Copyright � 2018 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Understanding the San Pablo Park Shooting (Public Comment)

Thomas Lord
Monday August 20, 2018 - 11:22:00 PM

"The shooting was horrifying and unacceptable. BPD is increasing patrols in the area, my office will be exploring instillation [sic] of cameras and other security measures, and we will be convening a community meeting. We are limited in staffing but having a task force is a good idea." -- Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Sunday, August 19.

The San Pablo Park area where Saturday's shooting occurred is a complex, diverse, and from my standpoint, an increasingly fractious community.

A new wave of gentrifiers have brought with them a wave of racism and displacement. As Black-owned property is liquidated, often under duress, as Black-occupied apartments are relinquished and rents nearly double overnight, as elders leave because their networks of social support from family and friends moves away - in that context - we have new arrivals who openly, proudly boast of avoiding Black people "for safety". We have new neighbors for whom the process of gentrification and displacement is not some accidental market dynamic -- it is instead a playbook of strategies actively taken up colonizers like them. We have new community members who see police harassment of Black people as a community amenity. We have new neighbors for whom the sight of a large Black barbecue or a busy Black basketball game is a problem to be solved. 

When the shooting occurred, I braced myself, knowing what was coming next. I think I am probably not alone. Sure enough, it was perhaps all of 15 minutes before the racist gentrifiers began their whoops and hollers on social media. In less than half and hour Berkeleyside had breathlessly published pictures of an identifiable victim on the ground, his people with him. All the usual ugliness from the usual sources. 

It took less than 24 hours for our Mayor to join in the braying. On Sunday he took to twitter and announced his interest in placing the park under video surveillance. This park: the tennis players, the day care groups, the family parties, the basketball courts, the ball teams, the dogs -- this park, in this place, at this time, here where the pressures of gentrification and displacement are very high. Here, where the criminalization of a skin color is, for some, part of a real estate investment strategy. Here, less than 24 hours later, the Mayor found the latest way to run as fast as he can to the far, racist right. 

And now we have two problems. Where there were fault lines, the Mayor has unilaterally given us a fissure. 

God help us.

Help Plan for Climate Change with Vision 2050

Councilmember Kate Harrison
Monday August 20, 2018 - 11:31:00 AM

The City of Berkeley is holding an information session on August 29th regarding an exciting new project. Berkeley is committed to fighting climate change and guaranteeing high quality of life for all residents. As our infrastructure continues to age, we must ensure that our streets, sidewalks, sewer pipes, and buildings are resilient enough to withhold flooding, wildfires, and other natural disasters, while being as environmentally and financially sustainable as possible. 

To achieve this important goal, Mayor Arreguín is launching the Vision 2050 project, a citizen-led 30-year plan to revitalize public infrastructure. The City Council was unanimous in putting Measure R for the development of Vision 2050 on the November 2018 ballot, but we want citizens to get involved as early as possible. Next Wednesday, August 29th at 6pm, task force experts will discuss the impact climate change has on infrastructure, and how we can develop truly sustainable infrastructure in the future. Please RSVP here.

Berkeley Police Still Investigating San Pablo Park Drive-By

Craig Lazzeretti (BCN)
Sunday August 19, 2018 - 11:13:00 PM

Police continue to investigate an apparent drive-by shooting at San Pablo Park on Saturday afternoon that left three people injured. 

Based on witness interviews, police believe occupants of a vehicle opened fire around 5:30 p.m. on a group of men in their 20s in the park who returned fire, according to Officer Byron White. A 25-year-old man in the south end of the park was struck by bullets and remained in critical condition Sunday morning.  

A 57-year-old man in the north end of the park near the barbecue section was also struck in the midsection, and a 63-year-old man in the same area was hit in the hand, White said. Police believe both victims, who are in stable condition, were bystanders hit by stray bullets. 

Police are still investigating whether the 25-year-old was the intended victim, White said. Bullets also struck several cars and at least one home. 

Between 100 and 200 people were in the park, between Mabel and Park streets, at the time of the shooting, White said. Police have received varying descriptions of the suspects and vehicle involved. 

Anyone with information on the shooting can call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5741. Residents and businesses in the San Pablo Park area are also being asked to check surveillance and security videos for possible clues that could help lead police to a suspect.

West Edge Opera Performs Luca Francesconi’s QUARTETT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday August 19, 2018 - 10:22:00 PM

Stage director Heiner Müller, hailed as the most important theatre director since Bertolt Brecht, at least in Germany, wrote a highly intense, extremely concentrated play, entitled Quartett, based on the incendiary 1782 French novel Les liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos. In the mid-2010s, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala approached composer Luca Francesconi, inviting him to write an opera based on Müller’s text. Francesconi acknowledges that he found this invitation daunting. However, he accepted the challenge, and, once into it, discovered it was quite a compelling opportunity. The result, Francesconi’s 2016 opera Quartett, has been performed throughout the world, and it now arrives at West Edge Opera in a newly designed staged version by Elkhanah Pulitzer.  

Quartett has all the hallmarks of Mark Streshinsky’s tenure as General Director at West Edge Opera. It is edgy; it deals openly, even brazenly, with sexuality in all its varieties; and it is musically and dramatically very avant garde. Unlike the 1994 version of Les liaisons dangereuses by Conrad Susa, commissioned by San Francisco Opera and starring Frederica von Stade, (a production I found extremely successful), the Francesconi version opts for abstraction rather than realism. (As an aside, I asked Conrad Susa shortly before he died whether any new productions of his Les liaisons dangereuses were forthcoming; and he wistfully replied, much to my disappointment, that the answer was no. I found his opera quite compelling.)  

Compelling in an entirely different way is Luca Francesconi’s Quartett. Francesconi’s music is angular in the extreme, both vocally and orchestrally. It is called Quartett because in this opera two singers act out four different roles in a perverse quartet of sexual games played by debauched individuals. In this West Edge Opera production, the two singers were baritone Hadleigh Adams as Valmont and soprano Heather Buck as the Marquise de Merteuil. West Edge Opera’s two singers, Adams and Buck, were onstage almost constantly throughout the one and-a-half hours of this opera. And they acquitted themselves admirably in these extremely demanding roles. 

Francesconi, who studied with Luciano Berio, creates his Quartett music in multiple layers. There is, of course, the live orchestra; but there is also electronic music that recycles recorded music or earlier live performances. For the conductor, in this case, John Kennedy, it is a difficult but rewarding task keeping these diverse musical tracks in coordination. When I spoke to orchestra members and conductor John Kennedy himself after the August 19 performance of Quartett I attended, they all concurred that more rehearsals would have been useful. But what can you do? It is amazing that a small opera company such as West Edge Opera can even offer a world class production of a contemporary opera such as Quartett. 

That be said, Quartett strikes me as overlong at an hour and-a-half, without intermission; and it also, more critically, strikes me as a bit tedious. Sexual perversions, in their many varieties and gendered role-changes, can be ultimately quite tedious; and, sure enough, after an hour or more of sexual games and gender-bending role-reversals, Quartett became very tiresome and predictable. This opera might have been better off cut by a third. Nonetheless, I think it was a wise and bold move to bring Luca Francesconi’s Quartett to Bay Area audiences; and I congratulate Mark Streshinsky for doing so. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea; but Quartett is a contemporaary opera definitely worth our attention. 

Three Shot in Berkeley's San Pablo Park

Sam Richards (BCN)
Sunday August 19, 2018 - 11:08:00 AM

Two people were seriously injured and a third suffered a minor gunshot injury Saturday night when an unidentified suspect fired a weapon into a gathering at San Pablo Park in Berkeley, police said. 

Police responded about 5:30 p.m. to the park, between Mabel and Park Streets in south Berkeley, to find three men were hit by gunfire.  

Preliminary indications are that a man got out of a car and fired on a group of people in the park, but few specific details were available tonight. 

Two of the injured men were taken to a local trauma center; one was listed in critical condition and the other in stable condition, Berkeley police said. 

Police detectives are looking for any information they can get on the shooting. Anyone with potentially useful information is asked to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5741. Residents and businesses in the San Pablo Park area are also being asked to check surveillance and security videos for possible clues that could help lead police to a suspect.

BPD Wants to Use Your Cam

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:27:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Department is inviting residents to register their security cameras and let the police department know if they would be willing to voluntarily share footage when the department is investigating a crime. 

Registering cameras would enable to police department to quickly identify cameras that could potentially aid in the investigations into crimes and with the apprehension of suspects, according to the police department. 

It could also save investigators time in identifying a suspect, police said. 

Registering a security camera is voluntary and free, and an individual's personal information will be kept confidential, according to the police department. 

The registration can be withdrawn at any time. 

Individuals interested in registering their security camera can visit www.cityofberkeley.info/police/security-camera-registry/

Tom Clark (1941-2018)

Larry Bensky
Sunday August 19, 2018 - 11:09:00 AM

Tom Clark lived, for decades, as his health declined, on a busy street in Berkeley, in a house with many steep stairs. Crossing, haltingly, one of those streets he was struck by a car and killed on August 17.

One of the last times I saw him he made fun of himself for his frailty at having to pause while walking in the neighborhood, and even more when he tried to get to his front door. But, although he could have, he refused to move. His surroundings – mainly an enormous trove of books, magazines, newspapers, and his own voluminous works and manuscripts would have been too hard, and time consuming, to go through alone. And aside from his wife, Angelica, he trusted no one to help.

I asked Tom if he would be interested in being interviewed. We both knew we didn’t have forever to think about it (I’m 81; he was 77). My pitch was: “You’re probably the least best known person in this country to have written, and published, over 40 books. There’s a great diversity in subject and mode in what you’ve written. And you keep up, obsessively, with the literary and political world around you. Got to be some wisdom to communicate, no?”

Tom was polite, but obviously totally uninterested. He listened to me, and without responding, said he had to go lie down. Some time later, when he hadn’t returned, Angelica – who I’d known since their first days together in Bolinas in the late Sixties – came and told me he was asleep, and there was no telling when he’d get up.

We e-mailed occasionally after that, but never saw each other again. I liked him a lot and had always felt a bond with him. In fact, as I write this, I sense how nice it would be to have him here, as we would be watching the A’s (to whose fate he was emotionally linked) about to achieve what was thought to be an impossible climb to first place. 

As so many of us do – have to do – Tom compartmentalized his mind and soul.  

A glimpse at his published oeuvre gives a sense of this. 27 volumes of poetry. Biographies of Damon Runyon, Jack Keroac, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley. Five novels (including one based on the life and work of Celine). And diverse other tomes (and troves of articles) including books on baseball eccentrics Charley Finley and Mark Fidrych. 

Since 2009, he and Angelica produced an astonishing daily blog, “Beyond the Pale,” of pictures, poetry and prose, mostly centering on the endless horrors of refugee life in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. “Beyond the Pale” (archived on the internet) was (and is) worth grazing for the visually gripping photos, and the always apposite words.  

I wrote to him about how hard it was, sometimes, to immerse oneself in such intensity, no matter how much one empathized with plight. Amazingly, he called me to talk. After a long litany of health complaints he was tired and had to go. We never discussed the blog. But he did reiterate his gratitude for my Sunday morning classical music radio program, to which he was a devoted (and erudite) listener. 

I’m left remembering. Our days in Europe, when he was poetry editor, and I was Paris editor, of the Paris Review.  

It’s hard for those who weren’t alive then to imagine the circumstances of life, especially marginal literary/publishing life. For most of the time, neither Tom nor I had phones. Our addresses – especially his, since I had the tiny one-room magazine office in Paris – changed often. To send manuscripts and proofs back and forth was arduous and slow. When I visited him in Brightlingsea, Essex one time (he was teaching, sort of, in Cambridge) we spent hours comparing life’s passages, like our childhood baseball devotions (he had been a hot dog vender in Chicago) and lamenting how difficult it was to follow the White Six and the Dodgers from our exiles.  

The day after he died I’m looking at issues 32-37 of the Paris Review, dated Summer/Fall 1964 through Spring 1966 (it was supposed to appear quarterly but never did, due to endless financial crises and the undependability of its New York boss, George Plimpton.) The poetry includes works by Larry Eigner, Louis, Zukovsky, Charles Olson, Robert Bly, Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov (a rare woman!), Philip Whalen, Ron Padgett, and Aram Saroyan. Clark’s wonderful interview with Ginsberg was published (and is still available on-line, blessedly without pay wall!). 

Clark remained poetry editor until 1973, when he moved to California for a long – and marginal in every sense – life as a writer, and father. 

Every year, a book or two emerged. 

We are left with them as his shining legacy. 


Some of Tom’s last words…. 

When your twittering machine starts feeling kind of neglected... pouting there beside your pillow as though it thinks maybe you don't love it any more... and in the night you hear its familiar call... beckoning... something deep in your heroic teuton outerboroughs bonespurs awakens... as you go into motion your imperial robe pinches a bit... you loosen the belt strap... your twittering machine won't let you rest... tweet with me now, it croons impatiently... your tiny fat fingers do an anxious little jig around it and now you hardly know what you're doing... you're in power glide... then its strange ravening dead bird mouth beak opens and... out comes a sound only other dead birds and Republicans can hear! 





All the News about the News:Mostly It's True

Becky O'Malley
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 11:22:00 AM

This is the week that the Boston Globe and its corporate sister the New York Times are exhorting everyone in the newspaper business (and even some that don’t qualify as businesses like this site) to use their editorial pages to affirm the value of a free press in the face of assaults from You Know Who.

While we sympathize with this goal, we also understand the reluctance of the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page to join the effort. When newspapers are (unfairly of course) accused of speaking with one voice, it’s arguable that speaking with one voice is not the best way to counter that accusation.

More than a century ago, in 1902, editorial writer Finley Peter Dunne, in his fictitious voice as Mr. Dooley, launched the widely accepted definition of the role of newspapers, usually rendered as “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. I first heard this slogan, I think, in I.F. Stone’s Weekly, and then again in my first newspaper job, from Bruce Brugmann at the Bay Guardian.

But the original was gamier. (Trigger warning for the sensitive Irish: It’s rendered as an attempt to recreate Irish dialect with English spelling, a tricky technique which caused trouble for Zora Neale Hurston and others when applied to African-American speech).

“Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward.”--Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne). 

Before I got mixed up with journalism, I worked in political campaigns, where we were wont to speak contemptuously of the “newsies”, believing them to be ill-informed and spineless. That perception was reinforced by my experience in the first demonstration I took part in, against the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1960 (yes, there was such a committee). 

As the first person in line to get into the hearing room, I was interviewed by the old Hearst Examiner, ancestor of today’s Hearst Chronicle. This resulted in an almost completely fabricated front page story, which among other things claimed that I’d “spent the night in a parked car on Polk Street” with my “boyfriend”, a heavy duty accusation in those innocent days and far from true. Luckily I didn’t give the reporter my name, mindful of my grandmother’s rule that a lady’s name should only appear in the paper when she’s born, when she’s married and when she dies.  

So even then, Fake News. Which sells papers. 

But the actual goal of newspapers should be very simple, covered pretty well by Mr. Dooley’s list: Let people know what’s going on. And the corollary to that is, if the people know what’s happening, they’ll sometimes make the right decisions, especially in the political sphere.  

My own idea about the role of newspapers today is that many voices are needed in the choir. That’s why, unlike some other news sources, I’ve always been happy to be the second or third publisher of good information, never rejecting an op-ed just because it’s already appeared elsewhere. I appreciate the ability to link to good work wherever it appears and the duty to credit it in an era when “clicks” are the coin of the realm for commercial publications. 

Thinking about the many ways that news gets out, I’m reminded of one of the myths about King Midas of Phrygia. He’s the one who demanded and received the power for everything he touched to turn to gold, only realizing that it wasn’t such a hot idea when his food, his garden and even his beloved daughter in some accounts were frozen into golden statues. 

(Remind you of anyone? His daughter has turned to gold, and could end up in jail because of it.) 

After that didn’t work out, the king took up music and managed in the process to diss a lyre-playing protégé of Apollo, the Sun god. As punishment, the god turned Midas’s tin ears to a donkey’s big hairy ones. His barber, for a while, managed to help him cover up this disfigurement, but eventually couldn’t resist the temptation to reveal the secret. (The king probably stiffed him on the tip.) 

The barber went down by the river, dug a hole, and whispered into it “Midas has ass’s ears.” In the very same spot, soon thereafter, reeds grew up, the kind of reeds used for making musical instruments. Separately but with one voice the reeds whispered for all to hear “Midas has ass’s ears”.  

That’s how I see the role of the many outlets which comprise today’s media. Each one in its own way is a reed which puts forward whatever it thinks “the news” is, and together they add up to something approximating the truth.  

And who’s the barber in this scenario? Well, this week, how about Omarosa? 

The good news is that there’s always someone like her who can’t resist spilling the beans, so the media should be there to catch them as they fall. 

Many of us do our best, at whatever level we are able to work, from citizens with cell phone cameras to on-line sites to print dailies and all the way up to the hallowed NYT. And don’t forget NPR, which is my first line of news.  

The truth will make you free, right? Well, maybe, if it is indeed the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

On the other hand, don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper, my father told me.  

The orange guy may be right, Fake News abounds, it’s just not where he thinks it is. In our still-freeish society, don’t forget, there are all kinds of newspapers, all kinds of news sources, including the Foxes. Caveat emptor. 


Public Comment

What's Wrong with AB2923

Zelda Bronstein
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 04:02:00 PM

State Senator Steven Glazer, a Democrat representing the Seventh Assembly District in Contra Costa County, has sent a strong letter opposing the BART development bill, AB 2923, to the measure’s authors, Assemblymembers David Chiu (D, San Francisco) and Tim Grayson (D, Concord). The bill would take zoning authority over BART stations in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties and land within a 1/2 mile of the stations from the host municipalities and give it to BART.

Glazer highlighted five outstanding issues. Here’s a summary of his argument.  

AB 2923: 

* Does not identify a problem 

“This bill assumes….that city have refused BART requests for housing project approval.” It “ignores the fact cities in my district have approved thousands of units of housing near their BART stations, even though BART has not tried to build housing on the property it owns. 

* Sets a dangerous precedent for special districts 

If AB 2923 becomes law, its enactment “is certain to prompt future legislation that grants land use authority to some of [the 4,000 other special districts across the state], especially transit agencies similar to BART. 

* Promotes collusion with unresponsive developers 

This is an argument I haven’t seen before. It’s cogent and alarming, so I’m going to reprint Glazer’s text in full: 

“In some situations, AB 2923 would promote collusions between developers and BART to undermine local land use authority in certain situations. While the bill may appear to grant new authority only to BART, in practice the law could be used by private developers to circumvent local control. A developer unhappy with a community’s decision on a project could form a private-public partnership with BART to take advantage of BART’s new power, bypassing city project approval. 

"AB 2923 permits BART to purchase land adjacent to its current property as long as the property purchased does not exceed 10% of the total size of the existing property and is used only for a TOD [transit-oriented development] project within a half mile of a BART station. The bill also provides that the majority of the project must be on existing property. 

“As long as the developer complies with the aforementioned guidelines, nothing in the bill prevents a developer from selling its land to BART and then having BART zone the land to the developer’s specifications. 

* Restricts public access to decision-makers 

AB 2923 "requires BART to hold public hearings for proposed projects at its Oakland headquarters, but it is unreasonable to expect concerned residents of a city where a project is being proposed to have the same kind of access to these meetings as they would to a meeting in their own community.” 

* Violates the California Constitution 

The California Constitution “vests land use authority in California’s local government, through the police power, for good reason. Cities and counties understand the context of their decision making and are best equipped to act in way they find is suitable for their residents and the region.” 

Glazer closes by noting that the Legislature has recently passed bills that “circumvent local control.” Rather than passing another such measure, it “at least wait to see the impact of the new laws just passed.”  

Let’s be be clear: Glazer is no local control fundamentalist. Last year he voted for SB 167, authored by Berkeley’s representative in the State Senate, Nancy Skinner. And he states that he’s “open to speeding up the regulatory process for housing construction, most notably with CEQA streamling.” That’s code for further evisceration of the California Environmental Qualiity Act, the state's premier environmental protection law—a process undertaken with enthusiasm by real estate Democrats such as Skinner and San Francisco’s State Senator Scott Wiener, the author of the notorious SB 35, which, to his credit, Glazer opposed. 

All that said, Glazer makes a strong case against AB 2923. Last week the bill passed a major hurdle: it got through the Senate Appropriations Committee. It now moves to the Senate floor, where it must be heard and passed by August 31, or it will die. 

Meanwhile, since council’s May 29 meeting, when he fulminated against AB 2923 as a case of state overreach, Berkeley Mayor Arreuguín has been silent on the measure. Why? 

War crimes

Jagjit Singh
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 04:09:00 PM

As many of our young kids are planning a return to school, the hopes and dreams of some kids in faraway places have been shattered forever, victims of Saudi-US-UK airstrikes. 

It must have been a moment of unspeakable shock, terror and pain as 43 Yemini children travelling in a School Bus in Sa’ada, a city in northern Yemen were blown to pieces by a U.S. Mark 82 bomb. The bus was packed with young children – summer campers returning from a picnic. 

So few of the innocent kids survived to talk about the horror because those that did are clinging to life, maimed or burned by the blast. 

Why have aligned ourselves with the Saudi’s, the architects of the 9/11 attacks, a nation that funds terror incubators (madrassas) around the world? Why have we aligned ourselves with a nation who enslaves their women? What happened to our American values?

August Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday August 23, 2018 - 11:32:00 AM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Monsanto & Roundup - BEWARE

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 04:13:00 PM

California jurors deliberated for 3 days before awarding $289 million to a school groundskeeper, who developed cancer after using its weed killer, Roundup. Doctors say Dewayne Johnson, the plaintiff, is unlikely to live past 2020. The 46- year-old man was the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging Roundup causes cancer. Filed in 2016, it was fast-tracked due to the severity of Dewayne’s illness.  

When he first noticed lesions forming on his skin he reached out to Monsanto to seek clarification whether Roundup could be contributing to his health problems. Monsanto ignored his calls. During the legal discovery process, plaintiff lawyers learned that Monsanto had never tested the carcinogenicity of Roundup.  

Monsanto also released false articles in peer journals about the safety of the product.The jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California deliberated for three days before finding Monsanto had failed to warn Dewayne and other consumers of the cancer causing risks posed by its weed killers.  

Internal documents proved that Monsanto had known for decades that its products glyphosate and Roundup could cause cancer but withheld the information from the general public out of fear that its profits would be adversely impacted. Monsanto now faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States and possibly more from other countries. This is another example of a giant corporation using its financial muscle to silence critics and putting profits ahead of public safety.


THE PUBLIC EYE:Will the Economy Determine the Midterms?

Bob Burnett
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:47:00 PM

By many indicators, the US economy is strong. As Donald Trump travels around the country campaigning for Republican candidates, he touts the economy as evidence that his policies are working. Will this be enough to determine the outcome of the November 6th midterm elections? 

Probably not. But there's little dispute that the US economy is strong. Since Trump became President, 3.4 million jobs have been created; 7 in 10 Americans say they are doing fine or living comfortably; the official unemployment rate is 3.9 percent; and the stock market (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is up 33 percent. 

Trump's problem, and the problem for Republicans in general, is that many Americans are looking beyond the glitzy economic numbers. And, depending upon their Party affiliation, many voters don't like what they see when they examine their own situation. 

The July 2nd Quinnipiac Poll (https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2553 ) asked, "What is the most important issue to you in deciding how to vote in this year's election for the U.S. House of Representatives: the economy, taxes, health care, immigration, or gun policy?" Nationally, 27 percent said immigration, 23 percent said the economy, 22 percent said health care, and 12 percent said gun policy. But the preference depended upon political Party: Immigration was the number one issue for Republicans and Independents; for Democrats it was health care. 

50 percent of Quinnipiac respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate for the House, versus 41 percent who said they would vote for the Republican candidate. Of this 50 percent, 71 percent said that health care was their most important issue; their second choice was gun policy. For Republicans, their most important issue was immigration; the economy was their second choice. 

The Quinnipiac poll is another confirmation of political polarization. Approaching the midterm election. the issues for Democratic voters are costs, wages, and corruption. The issues for Republican voters are immigration and support for Trump. 

Democratic voters are concerned about healthcare costs and the cost of living in general. That's the result of a harsh reality: while corporate profits have surged, the economic uptick hasn't produced real wage increases. According to the Center for American Progress (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2018/08/09/454589/workers-wages-remain-stagnant-despite-gains-top-earners/ ), "Despite the fact that the country is experiencing positive GDP growth, the benefits are not trickling down the way Trump predicted they would." 

Of course, whether you believe this or not depends upon whether you trust what Trump says. The July 25th Quinnipiac poll contained this question: "Who do you trust more to tell you the truth about important issues: President Trump or the news media?" 75 percent of Republicans trusted Trump; while only 5 percent of Democrats trusted him. 

Recently AP News factchecked Trump on his exorbitant claims about the economy (https://apnews.com/1759c19598e9431db20b604232725871/AP-FACT-CHECK:-Trump's-economic-fiction:-'record'-GDP,-jobs ) and concluded: "Trump is distorting the truth on U.S. economic growth and jobs, pointing to record-breaking figures that don’t exist... He cites the highest-ever gross domestic product for the U.S. that’s not there." 

Rising costs, inflation, are wiping out any wage gains garnered by working families. (https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/08/chart-of-the-day-inflation-keeps-going-up-but-wages-are-going-down/ ) In July, Inflation rose 2.9 percent; the highest level in seven years. 

Nonetheless, consumer confidence in the economy is at the highest level in eighteen years (https://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/2018/07/31/consumer-confidence-increases-marginally-in-july ). And, while Trump's overall approval rating remains negative, the latest CNBC poll (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/25/majority-of-americans-approve-of-trumps-handling-of-the-economy.html ) indicates that 51 percent of respondents approve of his handling of the economy. (A recent New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/business/economy/trump-economy-credit.html ) suggests this is because Trump has done a good job of selling his positive spin on the economy.) 

The current economic figures indicate the economy is not working for all Americans; the uptick is disproportionately helping corporations and the top one percent. (A recent Guardian article (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/16/ceo-versus-worker-wage-american-companies-pay-gap-study-2018 ) reported, "The chief executives of America’s top 350 companies earned 312 times more than their workers on average last year.") 

This economic imbalance is why it's a good idea for Congressional Democratic candidates to focus on costs, wages, and corruption. Costs because consumer prices are increasing for health care, housing, and energy. 

Democratic candidates should focus on wages because Trump's economic policies have increased corporate profits but this hasn't translated to more money in the wallets of working families. Republican largesse has enabled corporations to raise their dividends, increase CEO salaries, and buy back their stock; but it hasn't benefited their employees (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/04/13/how-companies-spend-tax-windfall/505122002/ ). 

While Trump promised to "drain the swamp," he's actually deepened the swamp. The issue of Republican corruption complements the economic issues of costs and wages for two reasons. The first is that an unusual number of Trump associates appear to be corrupt. For example, this week New York Republican Representative Chris Collins -- the first member of Congress to endorse Trump -- was indicted for insider trading. Also in this week, Trump cabinet member Wilbur Ross (Commerce) was accused of having stolen $120 million at his investment company (https://www.newsweek.com/ross-accused-stealing-120-million-1060598 ) -- Ross is also accused of violating conflict-of-interest laws and filing false information. 

More generally, Trump Administration corruption ties to its economic policy. For example, this week the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/05/us/politics/nucor-us-steel-tariff-exemptions.html ) reported that the implementation of the steel tariffs has guided by Trump supporters at two large US steel companies, Nucor and US Steel. As another example, Trump plans a coal company bailout that will help some of his biggest donors. (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-sells-regulatory-favors-to-his-donors-2018-06-14 ) And, of course, it's well established that the 2017 Trump-sponsored tax cuts primarily favored big GOP donors (https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/29/big-donors-republican-tax-cuts-374842 ). 


Will the economy help Republican candidates in the midterm election? Probably not. Democratic candidates will run on the interconnected issues of costs, wages, and corruption. That should be enough to influence most contested Congressional districts. 

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

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:55:00 PM

Ron Dellums, Presente!

Remembering the Marine Vet Who became an Antiwar Congressman

"If it's radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it's radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it's radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, and other forms of human misery, then I'm proud to be called a radical."

-- Representative Ron Dellums

Here's a video clip of Ron Dellums speaking truth about power onstage at UC Berkeley in 2016.  


Pot Bots in Berkeley?  

Walking down Berkeley's Shattuck Avenue last week, I came face-to-faceplate with one of those new automated four-wheeled Kiwi food-delivery robots.  

It stopped right in front of me. I moved to the side but the bot stayed rooted to the spot where it had stopped.  

I was befuddled.  

At that point, I heard a voice.  

Looking to my right, I discovered a bearded street dude who had just raised his eyes to survey the encounter.  

"Say, brother," he inquired. "Is that my weed delivery?"  

This gave me an idea for a new business—delivering pot-infused drinks via robotic carts. The company could be called "Portable Potables" and the rolling pot-bots could be dubbed "Robottles."  

The Secret Word Is "Fear!" 

KCBS offers a daily "Commute Cash" contest. Each day, a single, common, every-day word is announced on-air and listeners are instructed to text that word to KCBS for a chance to win $1,000 in a nationwide contest. 

On Friday, July 20, the word was "school." On Thursday, July 19 the word was "habit." But on Wednesday, July 18, the contest took a disturbing turn. A chill may have run down the spines of many in the radio audience when the female announcer revealed the chosen word was: "Terror." 

First thought: Could this have been some kind of secretive, government-sponsored mass-media psychological experiment? 

Historic Vote: 76 Politicians Vote "No" on US War Budget 

On July 26, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA 11th) released this statement regarding to the House vote on the National Defense Authorization Act.
"The NDAA would give an additional $717 billion to the Department of Defense. For context, that is almost four times the entire budget for the State of California. Instead of giving funding unchecked to the Pentagon, where $125 billion in bureaucratic waste has already been identified, we should be spending on only the essentials . . . .  

"I have not voted in favor of any of the annual bills to authorize defense spending and will continue to oppose the measure until the DoD has completed a full audit and I am confident taxpayers' hard earned money is spent in an open, transparent, and efficient manner . . . ."
The latest vote on the War Budget was historic. Why? Because ten senators and 66 members of congress voted AGAINST more Pentagon spending. 

In the Senate, 2 Republicans, 7 Democrats and 1 independent voted "Nay." 

In the House, 7 Republicans and 59 Democrats voted "Nay." 

You can check the complete list of may-saying politicians at the Environmentalists Against War website

Teaser: Thirteen of the House "No" votes were cast by California Representatives. In the Senate, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris joined Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in voting "No!" 

No Middle Ground for Muddling Meddlers 

The US has accused Iran of "meddling" in Syria and Yemen—at the same time US is fully engaged in wars in both countries. The difference: Syria's elected regime invited Iran (and Russia) to provide troops. The US, by contrast, was not asked to invade Syria with thousands of soldiers, Special Ops forces, and corporate mercenaries. 

And, last I heard, the US had built eight ground bases and two airfields inside sovereign Syrian territory. Now that's meddling. 

As for Yemen, while Iran has offered money and military support to the Houthi rebels, this aid pales in comparison to Washington's Made-in-the-USA "meddling." The Pentagon has been providing Saudi Arabia with fuel and weapons that have been used to kill hundreds of civilians and create massive refugee problems. Saudi attacks on Yemen's ports have created shortages of food and medicines, triggering outbreaks of cholera and famine. 

When it comes to uninvited acts of military aggression, the conclusion is clear: It's the US that deserves to get a medal in Meddling. 


WarSpeak got a new spin thanks to a recent fund-raising letter from Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer on behalf of Senate Majority 2018. The first page of the pitch featured an introductory quote from J. B. Poersch, President of Senate Majority 2018. It read: 

"Senate Majority 2018 exists to run independent, take-no-prisoner campaigns and fight back against the right-wing fundraising machine." 

The aggressive tone of the quote failed to acknowledge that the phrase "take no prisoners," invokes the threat of a war crime. Under international law, prisoners are to be detained and protected. Killing a captured prisoner during war is considered a crime. 

Quick Flick Clicks 

With Blindspotting, Black Panther, and Sorry to Bother You, Oakland has suddenly become the Mecca for progressive afro-urban filmmaking. 

And here's an odd cinematic coincidence: there is a peculiar plot device that's shared by two of the summer's hot new movies. Sorry to Bother You and Spike Lee's BlackkKlansman both star black protagonists who use a telephone connection and a "white voice" to infiltrate, subvert, and manipulate the dominate culture. 

Too bad movie theaters no longer offer double features. Picture a co-screening of Dark Money and Generation Wealth. That would have made a great double bill. 

Tweeting While Rome (and Redding) Burns  

With California—and many other parts of the world—going up in flames, D. Trump is still pushing to burn more coal and oil. Everyone knows Trump's a square-peg-in an-Oval-Office but this is like having a Fire Chief who turns out to be an arsonist. 

Greenpeace Puts Trump on the Run 

Memories to cherish: In Scotland, on July 14, a lone Greenpeace protester in a motorized parafoil buzzed Donald Trump during a visit to one of Trump's foreign golf clubs. A sign beneath the floating activist proclaimed: "Trump Is Sub-par." 

Well, not when it comes to running, it seems. 

In a video of the incident, Trump (who is not known for his athleticism) can be seen breaking into a run as he flees for the safety of the nearest building. 

Note: Trump is the only one in the crowd to break into a terrified trot! 


How America Hacked Russia's Election to Help Boris Yeltsin 


From "It's Time For a Little Perspective On Russia" by Lyle Jeremy Rubin in Current Affairs

"As the political scientist Dov H. Levin has shown, between 1946 and 2000, the United States government conducted at least 81 electoral interventions in other countries, while Russia conducted at least 36. 

"This does not include the US government's violent overthrow of dozens of governments during this same period, including democratic governments in places like Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), and Chile (1973).  

"As recent as 2009, Hillary Clinton's State Department played a complicit role in the brutal deposition of democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya's government in Honduras. No other country, including Russia, even approaches this level of wanton disregard for the norms of sovereignty." 

Some Salient Quotes from Simon Bolivar 

"The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.

"Flee the country where a lone man holds all power: It is a nation of slaves.

"When tyranny becomes law, rebellion is a right.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Binding Effects of Antipsychotics

Jack Bragen
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:37:00 PM

"Muscle Rigidity" is one of the many documented side effects that are probable in all antipsychotic medications. We also get "motor restlessness," as well as dry mouth, tremors, and, in instances more frequent than doctors would like to admit, there is "Tardive Dyskinesia." Tardive Dyskinesia is a syndrome of disfiguring, crippling, involuntary movements of the mouth, face, and upper body. Some of the militant pro-medication advocates have tried to assert that TD is a symptom of the illness. This is one of the more bogus things I've heard someone say. 

The newer antipsychotics in the past ten years have been called, "Second Generation Antipsychotics." Twenty years ago, the doctors and the drug companies called them "Atypical Antipsychotics." The pharma industry and psychiatrists were promoting the false impression that the newer antipsychotics did not have the same awful side effects that the earlier ones are known to have. After atypicals had been prescribed for about ten years, it was clear that they caused the same side effects. 

It is thanks to "second generation antipsychotics" and numerous other factors, that the mental health consumer self-help movement is essentially extinguished. The newer meds are more powerful at suppressing brain function than the earlier ones. 

Because of the fact that my "positive symptoms" of psychosis can become so severe, the disease forces me to take very large dosages of two antipsychotics, one of them is an older medication, and the other is a second generation antipsychotic. If I had a viable alternative to being medicated, I would be utilizing that. However, every time that I have tried to reduce or discontinue meds, the results have been anywhere from very bad, to a disaster. 

Medication makes it painful to concentrate for extended periods. When I write, I have to take frequent breaks. When I read, I have to take frequent breaks, about every ten pages. As a teenager, I could read about fifty pages of dense material at a time, and I could read over a hundred pages in a day. This impressed an English teacher. 

When I try to concentrate for extended periods now, the side effects interfere with that. My head and entire body tense up, and this worsens and becomes unbearable after a while. I am guessing that when I concentrate too long, I am using up the available serotonin in the synapses. The medication blocks serotonin. 

Physically, I have poor movement, and this is attributable to getting a little older and to the meds. Some people have likened antipsychotics to a "chemical strait jacket." Antipsychotic side effects, to an extent, resemble Parkinson's disease. This is why additional medications intended to relieve side effects are called, "antiparkinsonians." Parkinson's disease seems to have some common threads with schizophrenia. Apparently, Parkinson's sometimes causes hallucinations. 

Being put on antipsychotic medication can mean years of misery until you learn essentially to tolerate and ignore the side effects. Having side effects becomes the new normal. Meds that are supposed to alleviate some of the side effects have their own side effects. 

Medications haven't been introduced that don't cause this suffering. Such medications either don't exist or are being withheld. As I say, if I had a viable alternative to being medicated for psychosis, I would employ that. It is not worth it for people with a psychotic disorder to try going without medication, because psychosis must be addressed on a physical, brain level. Secondly, if you don't have proper use of your mind, you have nothing. 

Untreated psychosis is no way to live, and it can get you or someone else killed. When psychotic, you cannot live in society and you will be completely unable to make a life for yourself, or even survive. It is foolish to try noncompliance, especially if this has not worked in the past. While being medicated is bad, untreated psychosis is a hundred times worse. 

To get tangential: We need more brain research to find better methods of treatment of mental illness, treatments without side these awful side effects that induce large amounts of suffering and/or being crippled. If the current conservative government is going to blame mental illness for the numerous shootings, so that they can deflect attempts at gun control legislation, they need to stop being hypocrites and take the logical step that follows from their assertion, that of providing more funds toward mental health research and treatment.

ECLECTIC RANT: Pennsylvania Report on pedophile priests

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:44:00 PM

On August 14, 2018, the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report was released to the public identifying more than 1,000 children were molested by hundreds of Roman Catholic Church priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, while senior church officials up to the Vatican itself, took steps to cover up the abuse. The Grand Jury report indicted there might be thousands more abused children as some records were lost and some victims were afraid to come forward. Most of the perpetrators if still alive will not be criminally prosecuted because of statutes of limitations.

According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, "Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of god who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all for decades."

The Vatican expressed “shame and horror” at the scathing report and said the Pope is on the victims’ side. 

Consider, however, that in a December 28, 2016, letter to bishops, Pope Francis exhorted them “to adhere to “zero tolerance” so that “these atrocities [sexual abuse of children by priests] will no longer take place in our midst.” However, since his appointment as Pope in 2013, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report clearly indicates that Pope Francis has much work to do to make “zero tolerance” a reality. It is time to do so. 

The heinous nature of pedophilia among Roman Catholic Church priests was vividly brought home to me by the two-part Canadian docudrama, The Boys of St. Vincent, which is based on true events. The first part of the docudrama is set In the 1970s, where boys at St. Vincent’s, a Roman Catholic Church orphanage in St. John’s, Newfoundland, are repeatedly victimized emotionally and physically by the brutal superintendent, Brother Lavin, as well as by other members of the clergy. Eventually the orphanage’s secrets are laid bare, but the church seeks to cover up the scandal. 

The second part is set fifteen years later when the various boys are brought in to testify against the brothers, who are now finally standing trial for assaulting them when they were children. The former head of the orphanage, Peter Lavin, has been married for several years at this point, has two children, and is living in Montreal when he is placed under arrest and brought to stand trial. While he maintains his innocence, the boy he favored during those years, are faced with revisiting the abuse and trauma they sustained as children. 

Who could forget Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who on Saturday Night Live in October 1992, tore a photo of Pope John Paul II. Later, she posted an open letter to Pope Benedict criticizing the Catholic Church’s role in, and initial coverup of, the child abuse in Ireland. She was vilified at the time, but has since been vindicated. Because of her, the extent of the problem of priest pedophilia became more widely known. 

Unfortunately, so little is said about the victims of these pedophile priests. Pedophile priests acted criminally by taking advantage of the intimate trust of their youngest and most vulnerable parishioners. But it is also apparent that the Roman Catholic Church itself, rather than acting decisively to end the victimizations and facilitate prosecutions, had engaged in a systematic effort to shield predator priests dating back several decades. Childhood abuse can lead to lifelong health and social issues. 

One source claims that Pope Francis admitted that “about two percent” or 1 in 50 Roman Catholic Church priests are pedophiles. If the claim is true, that means there are about 8,200 pedophile priests. Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP, said the “real percentage of predator priests” is much higher than 2%. SNAP called upon the Vatican to fire or defrock pedophile priests and their enablers. 

Has Pope Francis done enough to reach “zero tolerance?” Consider the following: Pope Francis once admitted that there were now 2,000 pedophile priest cases “piled up.” Are they still piled up? If not, are these priests still performing their priestly duties? What kind of punishment can we expect Pope Francis to mete out to these pedophile priests? 

Cardinal George Pell, a top advisor to Pope Francis, who took a leave of absence as the Vatican’s financial chief to fight criminal charges in his native Australia. It is alleged he committed sexual assault in the past. Cardinal Pell disputes the charges but these charges may be a serious obstacle to the Pope’s “zero tolerance” commitment. 

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (Commission), whose sole purpose is to propose initiatives that could protect children from pedophiles in the church. In February 2016, the Commission met amid increasing public criticism that Pope Francis was not delivering on his promise of “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse and cover-ups by church higher ups. 

The Pope’s “zero tolerance” promise took another hit in February 2017, when Ms. Marie Collins resigned from the Commission. In her resignation comments, Ms. Collins said, “There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change or understand the need to change.” Ms Collins added, “I can’t stick with it any more. They are not co-operating with the Commission.” Ms Collins, who was raped at age 13 by a hospital chaplain in Ireland, was the only active abuse survivor on the Commission. 

Ms. Collins’ resignation and critical comments may have prompted Pope Francis to fire hard-line Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that processes and evaluates all sex abuse by pedophile priests. 

Has Pope Francis done enough to hold bishops and priests accountable for the abuse scandals that have swept through the Catholic Church? Italian journalist Emilliano Fittipaldi says “no.” Fittipaldi, who wrote an expose about corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, has written a book Lussuria (Lust), based on court documents and interviews with priests and judicial officials that paints a damning picture of Francis’s papacy. 

Fittipaldi claims that 1,200 plausible complaints of molestation against boys and girls from around the world have been brought to the Vatican’s attention in that period. In some of the twenty cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests in Italy in 2016, Fittipaldi claims priests have been convicted of abuse without the church taking any canonical action against them. Fittipaldi accuses Pope Francis of doing “close to nothing” to stop clerical sexual abuse in Italy and around the world. 

It is clearly time for Pope Francis to stop talking about “zero tolerance” and to do something about it. Pedophile priests shame the Catholic Church. 


This is an updated version of my July 11, 2017 article.

Arts & Events

American Bach Soloists Perform Handel’s SEMELE

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 04:14:00 PM

Ever since its premiere at Covent Garden in 1744, Handel’s Semele has mystified audiences, who can’t decide whether it is fish or fowl, opera or oratorio. As the 20th century musicologist Winton Dean noted, “the public [in 1744] found [Semele’s] tone too close to that of the discredited Italian opera and set it down as an oratorio manqué”…. Like the ‘discredited’ Italian opera seria, Handel’s Semele adheres to the da capo format whose ABA structure of arias many English audience members were beginning to tire of due to the format’s tedious repetition. (I have often said that when one hears a Handel opera, even for the first time, one hears it in fact three times, due to the repetitions of the ABA da capo format.)  

In the current American Bach Soloists concert performances of Handel’s Semele, Thursday, August 9, and Friday, August 10, at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, not only is the da capo format tediously repetitious, so too is the largely unvarying instrumental texture of Handel’s score, here rendered by an overwhelmingly string orchestra. (I’m not sure I ever heard a woodwind, and certainly not a brass instrument, in the entire Friday evening performance I attended.)  

Still, this is Handel; so there are saving graces. First and foremost, in this presentation, was the singing of mezzo-soprano Sylvie Jensen as Juno, the beleaguered wife of the much wandering Jupiter. Troubled by her wavering husband’s latest infatuation with the mortal Semele, Juno uses both her own wiles and those of allied minor gods to spoil Semele’s happiness in her newfound role as Jupiter’s mistress. Deploying both flattery and deceit, Juno, admirably sung by Sylvie Jensen, simply stole the show from Semele. In the role of Semele, soprano Arwen Myers was sweet-voiced, though not particularly powerful. Moreover, some of Ms. Myers’ high notes came out as squeaks, though whether this was an intentional gesture of interpretation or technical lapse wasn’t clear to me. In principle, I take it to be the latter. But Arwen Myers was a good, quite expressive actress; and it’s possible she let her voice go occasionally shrill in order to portray Semele’s nervousness and insecurity about just where she stood with her immortal lover. Indeed, the whole plot hinges on this question. 

I found Handel’s Semele quite stodgy in the way it opens. After a brief Overture, admirably conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, the plot gets under way with a father, Cadmus, imploring his daughter, Semele, to acquiesce to the marriage proposal of Athamas. Cadmus, sung here by bass Constantine Novotny, seems a bit domineering and insensitive, though at this point he (and we) are unaware that his daughter Semele has just become the latest mortal female to be seduced by the god Jupiter. In the role of Athamas, counter-tenor Sam Spiegel sang beautifully, but, alas, his voice lacked power and he didn’t succeed in projecting the words of his arias and recitatives. In the absence of supertitles, Sam Spiegel’s words as Athamas went unheard and unknown. Slightly better, however, was the vocal projection of mezzo-soprano Milena Gligic as Ino, Semele’s sister. From Ino we learn that she secretly carries a torch for Athamas. In the end, Ino will win out, though the end is far in the distance at this point. Ino’s Act I aria, “Turn, hopeless lover,” was accompanied by William Skeen on violoncello and Corey Jamason on harpsichord. Amid much hamming and hawing, Act I at least closed with a bubbly, exuberant aria, “Endless pleasure, endless love,” sung by Arwen Myers as Semele. 

In a minor role, soprano Emily Yocum Black was excellent as Iris, an ally of Juno’s. Soprano Madeleiene Matej sang a coyly insinuating aria as Cupid. Jupiter was ably sung on August 10 by tenor Patrick Kilbride, this role having been sung the previous night by Chase Henry Hopkins. Bass Graham Bier gave a wonderfully drowsy performance as Somnus, the personification of sleep, and for this role Handel wrote an appropriately yawning instrumental introduction. The real highlight of this concert, however, came with Sylvie Jensen singing Juno’s haughty aria, “Hence, Iris, hence away,” in which she orders Iris to leave and reveals her plot to spoil Semele’s happiness. Disguised as Semele’s sister, Ino, Juno gives Semele a hand mirror and flatteringly invites her to gaze upon her beauty. Semele rises to the bait and exults triumphantly, and with great vanity, over the beauty she sees in the mirror. Still disguised as Ino, Juno urges Semele to demand of Jupiter that the god show himself not in his customary mortal disguise but in all his godly splendor. Semele does so, and much to her dismay, is incinerated by the lightning and thunderbolts that accompany Jupiter’s appearance. However, the god Apollo, here sung by tenor Nate Widelitz, appears and announces that from Semele’s ashes her unborn son by Jupiter has been saved, and this son, none other than Bacchus, shall bring joy to all mankind. Ino also announces that in a prophetic dream, Jupiter declared that she should wed Athamas; and impressed by her devotion, Athamas agrees to wed Ino. A final chorus of priests declares, “Happy, happy shall we be,” as Handel’s Semele comes to an end.

An Enigma Inside A Conundrum: PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:58:00 PM

West Edge Opera opened its 2018 summer season with Claude Debussy’s remarkable Pelléas et Mélisande. At its premiere in 1902 at Paris’s Opéra Comique, Pelléas et Mélisande created quite a stir. Some loved it, and some hated it. Unquestionably, it offered opera-goers something entirely new. Here there were no arias, no set numbers at all. Instead, there was an immensely fluid musical current that involved, in almost equal proportion, both orchestra and singers. Moreover, in an opera where every sung word is meant to be heard and understood, what dialogue there is often involves non sequiters. When Golaud, a man of forty-some years already getting some grey hairs, gets lost in the woods while hunting and happens across a beautiful young woman weeping beside a well, among the many questions he asks her is, “Quel âge avez-vous? / “How old are you?” To which the young Mélisande answers, “Je commence à avoir froid./”I’m beginning to feel cold.”  

In spite of the fact that in this encounter Golaud learns almost nothing of Mélisande beyond her name, he marries her. But we the audience know nothing of how this came about. This information is conveyed in a letter read aloud by Golaud’s mother, Geneviève, at the beginning of the second scene in the opera. In this letter, Golaud reveals that after six months of marriage he knows no more of Mélisande than the little he got from her on their first chance meeting when they both were lost in the forest.  

So what is Pelléas et Mélisande about? I’d venture to say that it’s about the ineffable feminine, the enigma that a beautiful young woman presents to the outside world, especially to a man much older than her but one susceptible to her mysterious beauty. In saying this, I might add that it’s clear from the beginning of this opera that the older man and beautiful young woman will never truly understand one another. Even in marriage there will always be an unbreachable chasm between them. He may question her relentlessly, but her answers will never give him what he wants. Her replies will remain oblique and opaque, as will the essence of her being, no matter how he strives to comprehend and grasp this. 

Set to a poetic play by Maurice Maeterlinck, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande has a unique place in opera history. It ushers in modernism, shaking off all the old formulas of operatic tradition. It introduces new, unusual harmonies. In doing so, Pelléas et Mélisande almost miraculously casts its unique spell on each and every audience that hears it performed. Audiences may initially find it weird; but they will almost inevitably come around as the music envelops them. Debussy’s music grows on you. It’s that simple. And it’s that beautifully mysterious. 

This much said, I have a few complaints about West Edge Opera’s current production of Pelléas et Mélisande. The first complaint involves the very first thing one sees and hears. During the brief orchestral prologue, a beautiful work in itself, stage director Keturah Stickman outrageously has Mélisande lying prone beside the well, and writhing violently and crying out aloud. I can’t imagine a more misguided way of opening this opera! Stickman seems to want to make Mélisande into a Lucia di Lammermoor mad woman! Overacting has no part whatsoever in the role of Mélisande. I gasped out loud in anger at this outrageously wrong-headed opening gesture of Keturah Stickman’s staging of Pelléas et Mélisande. 

My second complaint is that baritone Efrain Solis, who portrayed Golaud, sang well enough, though he simply did not succeed in projecting his voice sufficiently to make every word audible and comprehensible, as needs to be the case in this opera. Even though I know every word of this opera by heart, I could not make out the words Efrain Solis was singing. (If you want to hear the greatest Golaud, listen to a recording of French baritone Gérard Souzay singing this role.) On the other hand, mezzo-soprano Kendra Broom clearly enunciated every word and sang quite beautifully. To my taste, Kendra Broom’s voice is not ideal for the role of Mélisande, being perhaps too dark and fulsome; but she acquitted herself admirably. In the role of Pelléas, tenor David Blalock sang with intelligence and intensity, and his diction in French was impeccable. Pelléas, Golaud’s younger half-brother, is much closer in age to Mélisande than is her husband, and he seems to understand Mélisande intuitively. Predictably, he becomes smitten with his half-brother’s young wife. Mélisande, in turn, matter-of-factly acknowledges that she loves Pelléas and has loved him from when she first saw him. This, of course, causes family problems. 

Veteran bass-baritone Philip Skinner was a very sympathetic Arkel, the nearly blind grandfather of Golaud and Pelléas. Contralto Malin Fritz was convincing as Geneviève. In minor roles, Sophie Stolte sang Yniold at the August 12 performance I attended; and baritone William Neely portrayed the Doctor who attends Mélisande’s mysterious death at the close of the opera. Mélisande, you see, exits this opera as she entered it, an enigma to the end.  

West Edge Opera’s latest venue, the Craneway Conference Center at the Richmond waterfront, offers some drawbacks, both visually and aurally. Due to a large post situated in front of the orchestra, seats have to be aligned at an angle. Even so, the central post and spotlights hanging next to it manage to partially block one’s view of the stage action, and strings of decorative lights intrude as well on the projected supertitles. Acoustically, the theatrical space required heavy curtains to dampen the intrusive reverb effect that unfortunately marred West Edge Opera’s earlier recital in this space of the excellent mezzo-soprano Céline Ricci. For Pelléas et Mélisande, the company’s Music Director, Jonathan Khuner, led the scaled-down orchestra in a fine rendition of Debussy’s innovative score. In this opera, the orchestral music moves us just as deeply, perhaps even more deeply, as do the singers.  

The Berkeley Activist’s Calendar, August19-26

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday August 18, 2018 - 03:30:00 PM

Worth Noting:

The emergency Homeless Shelter which houses 95 people per night at 9th and University closes at the end of the month. There is an emergency meeting Tuesday evening 6:00 pm at the South Berkeley Senior Center.

The 1155 – 1173 Hearst project is back after a year on Thursday evening at the ZAB meeting. This project met with resistance with concerns for displacement of persons in 6 rent-controlled units and inadequate drainage plans. Soil borings have not been done.

The agenda for the LeConte Neighborhood August 29 meeting will include traffic circles and Peoples Park. Look for more information in the next weekly summary. Location will be the Art House.

City Council is on summer recess and most Boards and Commissions do not meet in August. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018 

McGee Spaulding Neighbors in Action sponsored Town Hall with Jovanka Beckles and Kate Harrison, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, University Village Community Room, entrance from Jefferson between Allston and Addison, follow sidewalk to back of building 

Monday, August 20, 2018 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Mon, Aug 20 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: Unrepresented employee salary adjustments and manual, MOU SEIU Local 1021, Prop 10, contract with Executive Director, 


Tax the Rich rally – Mon, Aug 20, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater,  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 

Mental Health Commission, Tue, Aug 21, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center 

6:00 pm Site Visit Subcommittee, Agenda: Create calendar for site visits 

7:00 pm Diversity Subcommittee, Agenda: Draft Implementation Assessment 


Caring for our Community Emergency Town Hall (organized by Cheryl Davila Vice Mayor), Tue, Aug 21, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Closure of homeless shelter at 9th and University, which houses 95 people per evening. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 

Ad-Hoc Sub-Committee on Climate Emergency, Wed, Aug 22, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 5th Floor, Pepperwood Room, Agenda: Forum planning 


Commission on the Status of Women, Wed, Aug 22, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Safety of Sex Workers who report violence, Domestic Violence, Santa Rita Jail 


Thursday, August 23, 2018 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board – Habitable & Sustainable Housing Committee, Thur, Aug 23, 5:30 pm, 2001 Center St, Law Library, 2nd Floor, Agenda: Demolition applications, disaster recovery plan for rental housing, green building standards, relocation ordinance, elevator ordinance 


Zoning Adjustments Board, Thur, Aug 23, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers ZAB@cityofberkeley.info

2510 Channing – density bonus 8-story, 40 unit, mixed use, (consent calendar) 

2120 Berkeley Way – modify Use Permit #ZP2015-0153, renovate 3-story building to 6 stories of offices (consent calendar) 

811 University – Use Permit #2018-0038, change use from commercial to private school grades 6-12, maximum 65 students, 25 teachers/staff (consent calendar) 

1155-73 Hearst – continued from August 2017, develop 2 parcels including substantial renovation existing 7 units, construct 6 new units (action – staff recommend approve), 

1110 University – demolish existing mixed use with 8 rent-controlled units, construct 5-story mixed-use with 36 dwellings which includes 8 Very Low income and 1 Low income units (action – staff recommend approve) 


Friday, August 24, 2018 

Movies in the Park - Coco, Fri, Aug 24, 7:45 pm – 10:00 pm, 1300 Rose Street, Cedar Rose Park, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=15526 

Saturday, August 25, 2018 

No City events listed 

Sunday, August 26, 2018 

Wellstone Club Endorsement Meeting for November 6 Election, Sun, Aug 26, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, 390 27th Street, Oakland, Humanist Hall, Agenda: 15th Assembly District, Oakland and Berkeley City Government, State and Local Propositions, only (existing) current members may vote 




The meeting list is posted in the Berkeley Daily Planet under Berkeley Activist’s Calendar 



The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 



When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 


Wish to engage in campaigns to flip Republican Congressional Districts, local, state and national events check Indivisible Berkeley https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions and Wellstone Democratic Club, http://wellstoneclub.org