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Stick with a Winner

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 30, 2018 - 09:04:00 AM

Well, it looks like Nancy Pelosi is headed for another term as speaker. She got the endorsement of House Democrats this week, with a few rightish-leaning spoilsports casting what were essentially protest votes. It would be—over-used word—amazing, in the true sense, if the same surly suckers jumped ship and voted with the Republicans in the actual speaker election next week.

These anti-progressives already have a couple of ringleaders, both distinguished by how undistinguished they are. They are from two branches of the Democratic tradition, each manifesting his own brand of entitlement. 

Seth Moulton is from the old school Massachusetts patrician class, exemplified by the Kennedy family, John Kerry and many more of their ilk. He actually went to Andover and Harvard, topping off with a Harvard MBA with a side of Marine Corps.  

Bred to rule, right? Time was when that resume guaranteed you a shot at being president. 

Presumably this background is what gives him the— what in other contexts might be called— chutzpah to believe that two terms in Congress without his name on any meaningful legislation qualify him to replace a woman believed by many to be the most skillful congressional leader they’ve ever seen. His district does include Salem, a place which historically had a negative take on powerful women. 

Tim Ryan is another shade of smug. His district includes Akron, where I went to Get Out the Vote in 2016. Campaign workers in our part of town, which we carried comfortably, were primarily the kind of middle-aged (and older) African-American women who have the deserved reputation of being the backbone of political effort in lots of winning races. I did notice that the muckety-muks who hung around the courthouse without doing much work were prototypical old white guys, not to indulge in identity politics or anything, of course 

Some of these local honchos were young white guys like Ryan. He went to Youngstown State University on a football scholarship, an achievement which sometimes creates a sense of entitlement in males. He makes nice with the increasingly ineffective unions. 

His Wikipedia bio does not credit him with any legislative achievements. But he too seems to think he deserves to knock off Pelosi. 

Oh please! What are people like this thinking? 

In my on-again-off-again involvement in electoral politics, I’ve often ruefully observed that Our Side Can’t Count. All too often my team has been the 47 percenters, so close and yet so far.  

What’s different about Pelosi is that she can count. That’s why she was able to cobble together enough votes to pass the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare but which more accurately should be Pelosicare.  

This might be because she had a whole first career as the mother of five children before she entered politics. With a lot of kids you do have to be able to count, as I know from watching my aunts juggle six and seven respectively. Yes, I expect there were nannies and possibly housekeepers and even cooks. But that develops management and delegation skills, and her children turned out well. 

Since no one has cast any specific aspersions on Pelosi’s effectiveness in the speaker’s job, what’s up with the naysayers? 

There’s a phenomenon familiar to many women who are in managerial positions after they’ve passed the age of 40. All too often they go from being the office pet to being the Old Witch—youthful charm is helpful for women, but if they have power when they’re older it frightens co-workers, men and even other women. 

Nancy Pelosi annoys both as a woman and by being by some standards too old, even though she’s done a bang-up job until now. It’s no surprise that those trying to dump her are young men plus the occasional woman. Their main argument seems to be “Now it’s my turn!”, rather like small children fighting over access to a swing.  

(On the local scene, we see their counterparts: the YIMBYs who whine that society owes them homes in the Bay Area like those their middle class parents provided for them back in Philly or Topeka. They're eager to hustle Boomers off to the old folks home to get their houses.) 

In the last couple of weeks Pelosi has frequently been quoted as saying that nobody gives you power, you have to take it. What she hasn’t taught her young challengers is exactly how you go about that. 

I always told my own children that if nobody seems to be in charge, you are—advice which is handy in all kinds of chaotic situations. But the reverse case, when somebody is definitely running the show, is more complicated.  

The advantage that old people like Nancy Pelosi and me have over younger people is that we’ve been 40, but they’ve never been 78, or anything in between. The older I get, the more I appreciate what I’ve learned through doing many different things, having several kinds of jobs, living various places. It’s hard to experience that kind of learning vicariously. 

It is a real shame that just as Barack Obama has had a chance to learn a few things the hard way, he’s barred from future shots at the presidency. I admire the kind of vigorous young person he was when he first ran, but I think he might be wiser now. Having made a few mistakes, he might have learned from them and done even better. 

That’s why I think an Elizabeth Warren or a Bernie Sanders or even an Al Gore could legitimately be considered for president. Younger people grouse about Baby Boomers, but let’s hear about some viable candidates in their sixties if there are any. It’s easy to like fresh-faced newbies like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, but they need time to ripen and learn. 

But back to Pelosi. I met her only once, at a 2016 campaign party that was small enough that I managed to get her ear for a nanosecond. For some reason I asked about an Ohio campaign that my Akron buddy was working on, an obscure state race that she had no reason to know anything about. Instantly, without missing a beat, she produced a shrewd fact-based statistical prediction that turned out, come election day, to be spot on. 

Her most recent achievement was using her coattails in the midterms to bring in eight new California congressional seats. I don’t have real data, but my personal anecdote is that I got a call before the election from T.J. Cox (whom I’ve never met), soliciting contributions for his 21st District campaign. I’d heard that one of the California candidates was dissing The Leader, and I didn’t want to support that person, so I asked Cox who he would vote for.  

“Pelosi of course”, he said. My kinda guy, so I promised him a modest sum. I bet many more California progs did the same—there was a big story in the Fresno Bee about his support for her. Cox’s race was just called in his favor, and you can bet Pelosi’s backing, both endorsement and funding, put him over the top. 

I seriously doubt that Moulton or Ryan could do the same, and I don't want to give them the chance to prove me right. 





Public Comment

Just Say No to "IKE" Kiosks in Your Neighborhood

Carol Denney
Thursday November 29, 2018 - 10:45:00 PM

Who among us lucky enough to live in a charming mixed-use residential and commercial neighborhood Berkeley doesn't want the sidewalks cluttered with enormous glowing screens that flash ads all day? 

What? Not you? Even if "IKE" offers an "interface" that collects your information if you use it? No? What a disappointment this will be to the Economic Development Department and the City Council, both of which honestly thought you'd be thrilled. And if you write and phone to try to protect your neighborhood you'll be told maybe if you make a good case at a meeting somewhere someday and the room isn't full of "IKE Smart City" shills you can avoid having one planted where you see it from your bedroom window --maybe. 

Unless you're 4th Street. 4th Street's representatives seem quite sure they'll never have to put up with the big, glowing "way-finding" screens in their lovely, carefully designed and aesthetically congruent area. They're not sure how it happened, but they just said no and somehow it took.  

So don't worry if the Economic Development fellow tells you there's no "opt-out" policy for the passionately disinclined to participate. There is. They just would prefer that you don't know about it because they already signed a contract to plant these things all over town and if you don't want one they end up with two in their front yards. Those of us who somehow weren't invited to the initial meetings about this extraordinary electronic imposition, these sidewalk ad-flashing billboards, are really hoping they all end up in the mayor's front yard. After all, he signed the papers. 


The Illegality of U.S. Immigration Policy

Harry Brill
Thursday November 29, 2018 - 10:38:00 PM

Among the important lessons we learn from history is that the winners in any political struggle often influence our outlook in ways that are congenial with the perspective of the winners. Take for example the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has done immensely important work to protect immigrants. In fact, to the ACLU's credit, it just persuaded a District judge to at least temporarily overturn a ruling by President Trump that would tremendously limit the number of undocumented immigrants that could apply for asylum.  

Yet the ACLU and other progressive organizations have agreed that the United States (U.S), like every nation, has the right to control who enters the country and who is allowed to remain. As the ACLU states, the U.S. "has the right to deport persons in the country who are not authorized to be here". So although the ACLU gets an "A" for advocacy, it shares with the establishment the view that deporting unwanted immigrants is legitimate as long as those who are adversely affected have been able to access the legal rights they are entitled to. That is what due process is about. 

Could there be anything wrong with this perspective? Yes, because decisions that may seem legally justified often don't stand up when we take a deeper, historical look. The problems that Mexicans confront as immigrants has a long history. In the mid-19th century, the doctrine called "Manifest Destiny" played an important role justifying an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. Wealthy citizens asserted that God supported the effort of the U.S.to expand territorially and to spread capitalism. It was the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, coined in 1845, that provided the U.S. one year later with an excuse to engage in an unprovoked imperialist war with Mexico (1846-1848).  

As a result of the war, the U.S. obtained 55 percent of Mexico's territory, which included what became California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Western Colorado. Mexicans, of course, made up a substantial segment of the population of these stolen states. So the political establishment was committed to preventing the Mexicans from playing an effective political role. From the very beginning they were treated as outcasts by those who stole their land. When the political bigwigs seem to be doing the right thing legally, then and now it is often only window dressing. The challenge is to avoid being taken in by establishment intrigue. 

The contempt that Mexicans have experienced has continued unabated. During the Great Depression, for example, about 300,000 Mexicans living in the U.S. were deported. According to the historian, Francisco Balderrama, who studied deportation issues, It was a way of denying New Deal welfare benefits to Mexicans. 60 percent of the deported Mexicans were U.S. citizens! The political leaders referred to the deportation as "repatriation" to give the impression that they departed voluntarily. 

In the 1950s Mexicans were victims of the largest mass deportation in American history. An estimated 1.3 million Mexicans were unjustifiably deported. They were arrested and dumped elsewhere in Mexico by American immigration officials. The Mexicans paid the heavy price of losing their jobs and disrupting their lives That the deportation was brutal and illegal did not inhibit American officials. 

President Trump would like to continue this practice. In a speech Trump gave, he praised the past policy of dumping undocumented immigrants in Mexican territory. Apparently, the president has no problem evicting immigrants from what had been their own land. Clearly, he wants to make sure that these immigrants do not have a permanent and secure future in the U.S. So the President, who has undoubtedly recited many times the Pledge of Allegiance, should be continually reminded of its famous message, which advocates "liberty and justice for all". 

It is immensely important that American citizens learn about the tremendous disparity between words and deeds with regard to the treatment of undocumented immigrants. Mexicans particularly have a moral and legal right to live in the U.S. and be employed in any job they could qualify for. And it is about time that they are granted citizenship. Among the benefits, they could then participate politically by voting and running for office. It is about time. After all, they were among the original settlers.

Who Should Be Blamed for the Housing Crisis? Some Wrong Answers from Author of New Book

Thomas Lord
Friday November 30, 2018 - 04:06:00 PM

Randy Shaw is promoting his new book called "Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America?" Recently, he was interviewed on Berkeleyside.com. In a Nov. 26 interview by Frances Dinkelspiel, With zoning and neighbor veto power, Berkeley is pricing out the non-rich, says author of new book, Shaw reveals his thinking about housing policy in Berkeley. [Quotes in boldface are from that interview.]

I care quite a bit about housing policy in Berkeley. I even asked to be appointed to the Housing Advisory Commission where I try to work hard on these issues. (I represent District 2 and was appointed by Council member Cheryl Davila.) I read the interview with keen interest.

Frankly, Shaw's reported opinions disappoint and anger me. We have some very serious housing crises. In my opinion, we need less, not more, of the junk economics and false narratives Shaw is pushing. Just about everything he is says or is quoted as saying in this interview is wrong: 

"During his 40 years as a housing activist, Shaw has also watched as governments punted their obligations to ensure there was housing for all residents, not just those who can afford to pay the highest rents."  

That is ahistoric - the government has always favored private investors over public provision of housing. Every public investment in housing has been limited, as a result. Housing insecurity and poor quality housing for poor people have been the U.S. norm throughout the development of industrial capitalism and still to this day. It is disgraceful. But it is also not some recent, generational conflict. 

YIMBYs sometimes do favor a false narrative in which the current housing crisis supposedly originated in the 1960s and 1970s. Presumably this is Shaw's stance: 

In the YIMBY story, some changes to zoning law, in some some cities, caused today's crisis. For example, Berkeley's 1973 Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance is often blamed—and Shaw later joins that chorus—for today's housing crisis in Berkeley. Similarly, a modest increase to setback and light requirements on Manhattan, in 1961, is in YIMBY-world blamed for the effects of massive white flight from Manhattan in the 1960s and 1970s. It sounds funny when you lay out it out that plainly but this is their seriously-meant claim. 

What they tend not to mention is that the NPO was itself, in part, a response to an ongoing, serious housing crisis. The NPO was not merely about the nostalgic preservation of brown-shingles. It was also about the preservation of affordable housing stock that was being torn down and replaced with housing that was not only ugly and cheaply built, but expensive to rent. (Similarly, what they tend not to mention about 1960s Manhattan is that demand contracted so much that one point apartment buildings were being abandoned at a rate of about 10,000 units per year.) 

Shaw is quoted as saying: 

"When did it become acceptable for America's politically progressive and culturally diverse cities to price out the non-rich?"  

That is vicious, manipulative nonsense. Logically, it comes in two parts. 

First, Shaw asserts that "cities" set market prices when he says "for ... cities to price out the non-rich". As if cities have a policy lever on market prices. 

Second, Shaw asserts that his policy prescriptions ought to be adopted unless progressives want to be (according to Shaw) hypocrites. Hey, you're a progressive, aren't you? I mean, you say you are and yet I don't see you following Shaw's orders here.... He may as well say "The people of Berkeley really intend to be kind people but, frankly, if they were actually kind they would deregulate land-use!" 

YIMBY rumors and the heated claims of a few prominent economists aside, theories that land use regulation created present housing unaffordability are poorly supported. Empirical research shows that where "compact city" policies have made the most progress, housing affordability and the quality of housing available to lower income households tends to be worse, not better. 

What is generally true of these dense cities? For one thing, these days, they are great playgrounds for the rich and there is a lot of money to be made in real estate there. What else do they have in common? Some of the largest ecological footprints on the planet — utterly unsustainable — at least in the affluent cities. 

Berkeleyside summarizes a few of of Shaw's policy prescriptions this way: 

"Cities must allow the construction of more housing and must mandate that new complexes contain a percentage of affordable units. (Berkeley currently requires that 20% of the units in any project be set aside for affordable housing or that developers pay a $37,962-per-unit in lieu fee.)" 

In fact, YIMBYs are currently asking state legislators to limit inclusionary unit requirements to no more than 15%. Meanwhile the inclusionary units system, and the in lieu fee alternative, are shams: 

On the one hand, adding stock with only 20% priced below current market prices guarantees that Berkeley will become less economically diverse. Today's market prices are unaffordable to a majority of the incumbent population. Even a whopping 20% inclusionary requirement amounts to a plan to thin out and disperse the current community. 

On the other hand, the lucky few in those inclusionary units are not so lucky after all. The prices of these units are tied not to costs — but to area median income. The more gentrified the region becomes, the higher grows the allowable price of these so-called "affordable" units. 

(When in lieu fees are spent on traditional, HUD-style affordable housing, the outcomes are similar.) 

Berkeleyside further summarizes Shaw's recitation of YIMBY party lines: 

"Cities must also push for new housing aimed at low-income residents. Permit regulations must be streamlined so new projects don't face years and years of delay."  

Shaw would be hard pressed to point to any recent "years and years" of delays for low-income housing projects. Even the infamously contentious senior housing project at 2517 Sacramento Street was quickly approved — twice. It was not delayed by the City but by private lawsuits. 

The long-delayed BRIDGE housing project on Berkeley Way is another example. The City, as directed by Council, is throwing money and staff at that project trying to get it built ASAP. The delays have resulted not from City obstacles but from lack of a definite program for the building, lack of a viable funding and business model, slipped deadlines by the developer, rapid and large cost increases, and the slow funding cycles of county and state financing programs. (It appears we will also get terrible leverage for City money if the project is eventually built but that's a tale of woe for some other day.) 

"Single homeowners should not be able to block a project, as they can in San Francisco, writes Shaw." [Berkeleyside 11/26] 

Surely Shaw knows that in neither San Francisco nor Berkeley law can a single homeowner unilaterally block a project. If perhaps he means that homeowners should not sue, well, perhaps or perhaps not, but in any event their right to sue is not subject to City override. 

"There also must be stronger protection for tenants, including providing public funds to fight off Ellis Act and unjust evictions."  

I wonder if Shaw is aware that Berkeley has significantly increased its budget for tenant legal defense. It was one of the first things Council proposed, and we at the Housing Advisory Commission endorsed, after the 2016 passage of measure U1 (the tax increase on residential rents). 

"Zoning laws need to be changed to allow higher density in single-family-home-zoned neighborhoods, Shaw says." 

Again, empirical evidence shows that greater density is associated with worse, not better affordability for low-income households. There may or may not be good reasons for greater density, but density won't promote the outcome Shaw says he wants. 

Meanwhile, my envelope assumes 1 household per 5000 square feet for a Berkeley R-1 district. At 2.3 people per household, that works out to 186% as dense as the Tokyo metro region, and about 80% as dense as metropolitan Tokyo itself. Sure, Berkeley is no Manhattan but it is plenty dense already. 


"Shaw believes that neighborhood preservation groups — such as the ones that formed after Berkeley passed its pioneering Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance in 1973 — must assume some of the blame for the rising housing prices that are squeezing out artists, teachers and others." 

This is a quite extreme accusation. Since Shaw is basing this on false ideas about density and housing affordability, and false ideas about the reach of City policy, Shaw is making a baseless, harsh, personal attack on particular Berkeleyans. 

I understand it might sell books but this is nothing more than economic scapegoating—attributing the failures of capitalism to an out-group whose influence must somehow be demonized so that it can be purged. 

I am all for neighborhood groups stepping up to help mediate the housing crises but to blame it on them goes beyond the pale. 

More accusations from Shaw: 

"Neighborhood activists routinely fight against the construction of apartment complexes because they say it will change the character of an area. But since cities are mostly made of up neighborhoods, that approach means not much housing can be built, argues Shaw." 

What comes to my mind as a recent example of neighborhood resistance to multifamily construction is the project at Adeline and Russell (a project to build apartments on the former AW Pottery site and an adjacent parcel). 

For years, neighbors in this area were told that their input to a planning process was needed and valued. Unequivocally, at the top of their demands: a need for affordable housing in this area. 

The proposed project had already caused displacement before the first permit application was submitted. And the proposed project will deliver next to no affordable housing. 

Public resistance in this case did not delay a project. Public enthusiasm for the construction of affordable housing got steamrolled by a City Council that was eager to approve a project that is a poor fit for community housing needs! 


"Those who already own homes benefit as their property values soar. But people trying to break into home ownership are squeezed out of places like Berkeley when the home prices are so high." 

Shaw's nostalgia for mid-20th century housing markets is simply reactionary. What is going on today? 

Ownership of urban residential real property is becoming increasingly consolidated. A scattering of data points: 

  • In 2006, a single company (Page Mill Properties) bought up the majority of apartment units in East Palo Alto. (The eviction rate subsequently skyrocketed.)
To this day, even through a bankruptcy and multiple sales, the entire portfolio remains under a single owner. 

  • In the aftermath of 2008. thousands of single family homes in the flats of Oakland were scooped up by a handful of real estate equity firms. (Eviction rates subsequently skyrocketed.)
  • A recent report from financial research firm Prequin confirms that private equity real estate firms focused on North America have $70 billion in "dry powder" — cash equivalents ready to go to buy up properties. The amount of reserve has grown year over year and continues to grow.
That means that at today's inventory levels and prices, these firms collectively can afford to buy every single residential property that becomes available for sale in Berkeley and it would make but a minor blip on their balance sheets. 

The point is this: the prospect of home ownership as the American dream is not in retreat because some homeowner in Berkeley enjoys the sunlight in their yard. The dream is receding from sight because real wages are have become so meager in relation to the amount of money accumulating to capital. 

Shaw's looseness with even recent history is displayed when he says: 

"Berkeley puts housing developers into a labyrinth of public hearings and appeals that either kills projects or makes them less affordable. I describe in the book the senior housing on Sacramento Street, and the three-unit Haskell Street project on a site zoned for four where neighborhood opposition subjected the developers to years of costly delays." 

"Years of costly delays"—no. Shaw is misrepresenting the record. As I said above, the senior housing project on Sacramento was quickly approved— twice— by the City. It got delayed by private action. 

What about those three units on Haskell Street? 

The applicant completed his application in January 2016 and the project was initially approved in March of 2016. An appeal was quickly heard and Council attempted to remand the project back to ZAB with strong encouragement to make some concessions to the neighbors. 

After a lawsuit and settlement, the project was finally approved in February 2017. 

Even that extraordinarily contentious example took a mere 13 months, not "years" to approve. As for its costs, it was the applicants' choice to stiff-arm neighbors when preparing the application, and to react to the remand not by finally trying to work with the neighbors, but by suing the City. 

As the interview goes on, Shaw pulls out all the stops and unleashes a full on theatrical level of bull: 

"I see boomer homeowners dominating the opposition to new housing, and a new millennial generation finally offering a long overdue pro-housing counterbalance. Groups like East Bay for Everyone are equalizing what has long been a one-sided, boomer-dominated debate." 

To summarize, per Shaw: 

  • Boomers (born between between around 1946 and and 1964) — the parents, uncles and aunts of most millenials — are greedy mean people who created the many crises of capitalism.
  • Progressives are hypocrites because they don't like to sell out to multi-billion dollar real estate funds. This proves they hate racial equity.
  • A plucky group of lobbyists based in Oakland, known for mentioning people's age as a form of insult while spouting the same kind of nonsense theories about density Shaw likes, they are the future, man.
  • P.S.: Give more funding to tenant assistance organizations like Shaw's.
Classy, Shaw. Classy. 

Trump bows before the mighty (Saudi) king

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday November 30, 2018 - 03:45:00 PM

Another dark chapter is unfolding in the reign of Donald Trump. He has already dragged America into the gutter trashing old alliances, obsessed with maintaining his power and disparaging his critics. His latest target was Rep. Adam Schiff who he insulted calling him “little Adam Schitt”. He ignored CIA conclusions that there was a high probability that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was guilty of ordering the strangulation and dismemberment of Washington Post reporter, Kashoggi. 

The Saudi’s “vehement” denial of MBS’s involvement was good enough for Trump who earlier boasted he and Jared Kushner had made millions from their relationship with the demonic MBS. As Mueller’s dragnet grows tighter, Trump has abandoned any attempt at civility and has become more and more incoherent lashing out at reporters and muttering, “witch hunt, no collusion.” An innocent person should have nothing to fear but Trump’s actions seem consumed with guilt. 

He and his silent supporters have delivered an unmistakable message to the world’s autocrats that the US is no longer concerned with human rights and the rule of law and the plight of Saudi dissidents imprisoned and tortured. The Bible and Christ’s teaching have long been abandoned. The evangelicals have become totally irrelevant by their failure to challenge the antichrist rhetoric and actions of Trump.


Jagjit Singh
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:24:00 PM

hFinally, the Senate is flexing its atrophied muscles by voting to advance a resolution to end military support for the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the Senate has resurrected the War Powers Resolution Act to end the monstrous illegal war in Yemen. This is also a rebuke of President Trump’s handling of the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis soiled their reputations by urging the senators to vote against the resolution. 

Senator Sanders countered Pompeo and Mattis by demanding that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen be addressed and urged the US to end the “despotic dictatorship in Saudi Arabia that we will no longer be part of their destructive military adventurism.” 

The Saudi led war in Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 14 million of Yemen’s 28 million people on the brink of famine and facing a huge cholera epidemic. A recent report by Save the Children estimates 85,000 children under the age of five have died from acute malnutrition brought on by this genocidal war. Once Mohammed bin Salman assumed power he has been flashing his oil money to attract Western allies groveling for his attention and wealth. The US and our many European allies have supplied Saudi Arabia’s with weapons of war and are therefore complicit in their war crimes. This MUST stop.  

For more go to, http://callforsocialjustice.blogspot.com/

New: Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council Re:Prof Hatem Bazian

Margy Wilkinson
Tuesday December 04, 2018 - 12:06:00 PM

The November 9, 2018, issue of The Jewish News of Northern California, includes an article about Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s objections to the appointment of Hatem Bazian to the City’s Peace and Justice commission by Council member Cheryl Davila. In addition to objecting to Prof. Bazian’s appointment to the Peace and Justice commission, the Mayor “vowed to oppose Davila’s nomination of Bazian as her standby officer in case she is unable to serve during an emergency or disaster.” The Mayor is quoted as saying: “There’s documentation showing things he has said that are very offensive and inappropriate and anti-Semitic,” Arreguin told J. “And on that basis, I think it’s a very serious issue about whether this person should be in public office.” 

Anti-Semitism is defined as: “hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews.” Prejudice is defined as a: “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” 

If the mayor’s only evidence of Prof. Bazian’s “anti-semitism” is the fact that he retweeted a distasteful message which he subsequently apologized for, then this charge is completely unfounded. Prof. Bazian said in a letter concerning the incident of the tweet: ““The tweet itself is not defensible and does not add to understanding any of the issues related to the Palestine-Israel conflict,” he wrote. “I am deeply sorry for causing pain and anguish to the Jewish community and for lack of careful examination on my part of the specifics of the image and text included.” Prof. Bazian is a scholar and well respected academic in Berkeley who is the co-founder of Zaytuna College of California, the first Muslim Liberal Arts College in America. (http://aaads.berkeley.edu/faculty/hatem-bazian/ ) And Prof. Bazian works closely with many Jewish organizations and has always stood for justice for all. 

And then there is a larger issue here – our elected officials must not conflate anti-Semitism with rejection of Israel’s domestic and foreign policies. 

Amria Hass , a Jewish Israeli journalist, has said: “ Their occupiers, their tortures, their jailers, the thieves of their land and water, their exilers, the demolishers of their homes, the blockers of their horizon. Young Palestinians, vengeful and desperate, are willing to lose their lives and cause their families great pain because the enemy they face proves every day that its malice has no limits.” 

The City of Berkeley needs to have a real discussion about what is happening in the Middle East. Many people in many parts of our country are already having that conversation. We should start very soon.

The Migrant Message to Trump: Obey the Law

Harry Brill
Thursday November 29, 2018 - 10:42:00 PM

We are horrified that the U.S. Border Patrol agents firing tear gas to into the crowd to disperse hundreds of Central American migrants in Tijuana who tried to climb over the border fence to enter the U.S. from the Mexican side. Woman and children were among the victims. About President Trump's reaction, he calls the caravan migrants "stone cold criminals" He cited various offenses they allegedly committed. But even the Department of Homeland Security could not find any evidence to back up his claims. 

However, it is not only important that we appreciate the desperation of the migrants. We need to also understand that they are attempting to persuade the Trump administration to obey the law. As one federal judge reminded the president, that the law allows foreigners to enter the U.S. and request asylum. The 1965 Immigrant and Naturalization Act states that any foreigner who arrives in the U.S "whether or not at a designation port of arrival may apply for asylum. As a federal judge remarked, "the president cannot just make the law go away." 

Among the ruses that Trump is attempting is to cut down on the legal access of these immigrants The Administration is limiting the number of asylum requests that will be heard to no more than 100 per day. Because of the huge number of asylum seekers, it could take many months before their claims are considered.  

But the President certainly has the staff to do much better. In fact, to contain the activities of these migrants the president has deployed 500 officers. Many more officers are available. So rather than intimidating the migrants, clearly, their claims could all be heard in just a few weeks. But that would require President Trump to obey the law. In contrast, it is the migrants who are attempting to assure that the law is obeyed.

Let's All Run Against Jesse

Carol Denney
Saturday November 17, 2018 - 10:49:00 PM

On Sunday, November 11th, amid the swirl of sundowner-whipped ash and debris battling through the air, several dozen dedicated East Bay citizens gathered for a Veterans' Day commemoration featuring Mayor Jesse Arreguin among other luminaries on the steps of the Berkeley Historical Society. The event was arranged to begin on the eleventh month, on the eleventh day, at the eleventh hour, and at the eleventh minute to honor its 100 year-old Armistice Day origin; the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. 

And the Mayor was late. His aide had to stand red-faced with his phone in his ear shoulder to shoulder with annoyed observers making wry remarks about the Mayor sleeping in.Which is the least of it. Mayor Arreguin flipped completely on more than one of his campaign promises, including the "housing first" policy he promised to dozens of advocacy groups and houseless people. Two years in he's not erasing anti-homeless laws, creating safe campgrounds, or utilizing empty buildings to get people out of the rain. Police sweeps and citations still rule the day. 

Another broken promise was that he would sidestep the usual; ravaging People's Park to delight the new UC chancellor, as documented on the People's Park website: 

"In 2016 Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said in his campaign platform: “It is not necessary to convert People’s Park into student housing, as there are multiple locations for student housing around the University.”
In 2018 Mayor Jesse Arreguin told the SF Chronicle: “For many decades this [People’s Park] was the third rail of politics in Berkeley, but today I think there is a desire to look at something different.”  

Mayor Arreguin abandoned those promises. But it's much more than that. The Downtown Berkeley Association budget was just over a million dollars when two of its "ambassadors" were caught on video assaulting homeless people. Now their budget is just shy of two million dollars and there's still no oversight. Mayor Arreguin has shown no backbone for reigning in the business improvement districts now firmly in the driver's seat of undemocratic, civil rights-defying, profit-at-any-cost policies literally changing the color of our town while residents hang on for dear life. Mayor Arreguin has calculated that leaving these policies in place works for him. Few people seem bothered by yet another BART plaza reconfiguration at a $9.3 million public cost while others sleep under the overpass. 

Any one of us running for Mayor against Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin would send a message. But let's all send that message together. We supported you. We worked on your campaign, we walked for you. Then when we saw the "Bates lite" predictions coming true we wrote to you, we called you, we salted the town with op-ed pieces and kept leaving messages with various administrative aides. 

But we're not the big money Mayor Arreguin is listening to. The high-end, penthouse-heavy development continues its path through our neighborhoods leaving more and more people displaced, especially people of color. The measured, well-researched efforts at enhancing police accountability get tabled or gutted at his hand. The towering pile of anti-homeless ordinances competes with sidewalk and demonstration restrictions for the Jenga prize. 

Even the easy things, like refreshing the ten-year-old smokefree commercial district signage, get swept aside in favor of cluttering the town with sidewalk-clogging evidence of the same tech giveaways most mayors find impossible to turn down or negotiate well: scooters, robots, and the usual greenwashed bike "sharing" or ride-hailing start-ups venture capital loves so much more than your local hardware store. In any fair hearing our own bikes, and real delivery jobs win. So there is no fair hearing. 

Brace yourself for several dozen contract-mandated glowing "IKE"[1] screens flashing ads all day and collecting your data whether you want them to or not, screens which you and your neighborhood have to opt out of, rather than opt in to, and which you're stuck with by contract for at least two years if you miss the crucial opt-out meeting whenever that is. Don't hold your breath that they have any incentive to tell you since they make money off of turning your neighborhood into a running big screen commercial curated by and for profit alone. 

The Police Officers' Association, apparently without embarrassment, spent over $15,000 in the recent election trying to unseat the able representative in District 4 for backing police reforms based in part on the Police Department's own statistics about race-disproportionate stops and practices. That POA message rang like a bell, heard unmistakably by any other council representative inclined to support police accountability measures. The mayor apparently has no objection to the POA's effort to tilt the election. An effort to ban "spit hoods", which guarantee the police can't monitor the breathing of a detainee as required by law, died at the commission level for want of a second despite the obvious danger to public safety. If you're listening for Mayor Jesse Arreguin's outrage, bring a comfy chair and settle in. And I could go on. 

Let's all run. Maybe others are caught in the eddy of hope that Mayor Arreguin will use his clout to save the shell mound, have a change of heart about upholding the landmarking of Campanile Way or at least stop jacking the process behind the scenes. But some of us are done. Mayor Arreguin's course was clear on the day he gathered hundreds together on a cold January morning shortly after his inauguration to make a human peace sign while a homeless police sweep took place only yards away. Most of Berkeley sleeps through this kind of obvious display, or doesn't want to hurt anybody's feelings by mentioning it. But if we all run against him for these and many more obvious reasons, it'll get play. 

Our instant runoff voting will protect any viable candidate offering an alternative course for the city. And an "everybody run" campaign will send a much-needed message to neighboring cities and states, not to mention the similar message our nation just sent, that creating a facade of progressive policies is just not enough. 

[1] IKE stands for "Interactive Kiosk Experience" which Smart City describes as "a breakthrough citizen engagement platform that helps cities, business improvement districts and destination marketing organizations communicate with the public, encourage a pedestrian-oriented environment and tell the story of their city." 


Good Neighbors

Romila Khanna
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:08:00 PM

It is very important that sidewalks and pathways are kept clean for public safety. 

I think the property owners are expected to ensure that uncovered dirt, dry twigs or branches don’t block the sidewalks. It makes the pathway slippery and may cause the walkers to get hurt. Last week I had to suffer due to a large area of accumulated dry leaves left uncovered on a neighbor’s property. The stormy and rainy weather made it worse. I did not expect my neighbor to keep the common pathway full of dirt and leaves. In my opinion it is the duty of the property owners to keep the pathway free of any overgrown bushes, grass or other compostable items. It would become safer for those who use these pathways on a daily basis. As the weather may be stormy over the next couple of months, I hope property owners will take extra care to keep clear pathways next to their property. They must not ignore their civic duty towards others. I think good neighbors like to comply with rules that help create a safe and healthy environment for their neighbors.


THE PUBLIC EYE: 10 Action Items for Democrats

Bob Burnett
Friday November 30, 2018 - 09:16:00 AM

The 2020 presidential campaign began on November 7th, the day after the midterm elections; many Democrats are prepared to work every day for the next two years in order to oust Donald Trump from the White House. For this prolonged effort to be effective, national Democratic leaders should heed these words of friendly advice. 

1.Develop a 50-state strategy: In 2016, the national Democratic leadership abandoned whole swaths of the U.S. and focused primarily on the coasts and the rust belt. In 2018, the Party began to move away from this model and, as a result, fielded competitive candidates in -- what had been regarded as -- deep red states such as Georgia and Texas. (Although a lot of support from candidates like Stacey Abrams and Beto O'Rourke came from organizations outside the traditional Democratic framework -- such as Way to Win (https://waytowin.us/ )). 

In 2020, Democrats must compete in every state at all levels. 

2.Learn from 2018. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the 2018 elections; the national Democratic leadership should spend the time and money to study what worked and what did not work. For example, Montana Senator John Tester was Trump's number one target; yet Tester won by 3 percentage points in a red state. How did Tester accomplish this when other red-state Democratic Senators got stomped? 

As another example, in Ohio. incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown won by more than 6 percent while Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray lost by 4 percent -- competing for an open seat. Why the discrepancy? 

Each state has races that deserve a detailed study. For example, in California where Dems captured 46 of 53 congressional seats, two dreadful Republican incumbents won: Devin Nunes (CA 22) and Duncan Hunter (CA 50). Why? 

3.Deal with voter suppression. In several states, notably Georgia, voter suppression was a major problem for Democratic candidates. (Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the Georgia gubernatorial race by 55,000 votes and there's reason to believe that several hundred thousand votes were suppressed by Republicans.) 

As part of their 50-state strategy, Democrats need to assess the voter suppression problem on a state-by-state basis and start working to combat this. For example, on November 27th, the Georgia "Fair Fight" PAC. "filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia election officials asking a judge to order fixes to what it says are deep-seated problems in the state's election system.(https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/11/27/stacey-abrams-fair-fight-action-georgia-election-lawsuit-brian-kemp/2128540002/

4.Convince their (unelected) "stars" to run again. Several charismatic candidates, such as Stacey Abrams and Beto O'Rourke narrowly lost in 2018. National Democratic leadership should convince them to run again: Abrams for Georgia Senate versus Republican incumbent David Perdue and O'Rourke for Texas Senate versus incumbent John Cornyn. 

The demographic tide is running in a direction that favors Democrats. Candidates such as Abrams and O'Rourke can win if they start their campaigns now, by registering new voters and dealing with voter-suppression issues. 

5.Recruit exciting candidates. This was a change election and one of the primary changes was the election of many women and people-of-color. This trend must continue. The Democratic Party needs to look like America. 

National Democratic leadership needs to embrace diversity. 

6.Expand the use of ballot initiatives. In 2018, one of the many reasons that Democrats prevailed was their intelligent use of state ballot initiatives, For example, in Michigan, a state where Democrats retained a Senate seat (Stabenow) and added a governor (Whitmer) Dems boosted their turnout with three initiatives: legalizing marijuana for recreational use, creating an independent redistricting commission, and adding additional voting policies to the state constitution -- including automatic voter registration. These ballot initiatives furthered Democratic objectives and increased voter participation. (The statewide turnout was 57.5 percent, the highest midterm-election participation in more than 50 years.) 

7.Develop a rural strategy. A recent Alternet article (https://www.alternet.org/its-official-first-time-history-gop-has-become-party-rural-white-voters?src=newsletter1098031 ) declared: "If there was one demographic group that blunted the force of the 'blue wave' in this month’s midterm elections, it was rural white voters." The CNN exit polls indicate that 56 percent of rural voters favored Republicans (versus an even 49-49 percent split in the suburbs and only 32 percent in suburban areas). 

Alternet notes: "As the suburbs have turned against the Republican Party of President Donald Trump, rural whites have embraced the Party’s new message of economic protectionism, immigration restrictions, and an 'America First' foreign policy." [emphasis added] 

There's a way for Democrats to sway some rural voters: convince them that Donald Trump's economic policies are not working. In other words, change them frame of the discussion from ideological to practical: "Donald Trump has deceased your income and opportunity." 

8.Talk to White Evangelicals. One of the most surprising 2016-election statistics was that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump. In 2018, Pew Research found that 75 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Republican candidates (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/07/how-religious-groups-voted-in-the-midterm-elections/ ). 

Writing in the Washington Post, Sociologist Janelle Wong explains Donald Trump's hold over this segment of his base: "I find economic anxiety isn't [their] primary reason for supporting Trump. Rather, white evangelicals fear losing racial status. White evangelicals’ perceptions they’re the targets of discrimination – more so than other groups — influence far more than simply their votes for Trump." 

There's no simple strategy for appealing to white-evangelical Christians except to find ways to talk to them and seek common ground. We know that conversations about Trump, immigration, and feminism are unlikely to succeed. Possible positive topics are health insurance (pre-existing conditions), education, and infrastructure-related jobs. 

9.Anticipate Trump's fear initiative. Trump's go-to strategy is to appeal to fear. At the conclusion of the 2018 election campaigns, when Trump thought that Republican control of the Senate was in doubt, he invented an immigrant "invasion," blew it out of proportion, and used this fear to motivate his base to vote. 

Why didn't the Democrats anticipate this? Why didn't they come up with an effective counter measure? 

10.Counter Trump's Tweet of the Day. It's part of Trump's persona to dominate the news each day. Usually with a series of early morning tweets but sometimes with impromptu news conferences. Heading into the 2020 presidential election, Democrats have to find a way to counter this. (Sigh.) Democrats have to have more message discipline. 

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


Conn Hallinan
Friday November 30, 2018 - 04:15:00 PM

“The Iran Agenda Today: The Real Story Inside Iran And What’s Wrong with U.S. Policy” By Reese Erlich

Routledge Taylor & Francis Group

New York and London 2019

Want another thing to keep you up at night?

Consider a conversation between long-time Middle East reporter Reese Erlich and former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, Jr. on the people currently directing the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran. Commenting on National Security Advisor John Bolton’s defense of the invasion of Iraq, Freeman says “The neoconservative group think their good ideas were poorly implemented in Iraq,” and that the lesson of the 2003 invasion that killed upwards of 500,000 people and destabilized an entire region is, “If at first you don’t succeed, do the same thing again somewhere else.” 

That “somewhere else” is Iran, and Bolton is one of the leading voices calling for confronting the Teheran regime and squeezing Iran through draconian sanctions “until the pips squeak.” Since sanctions are unlikely to have much effect—they didn’t work on North Korea, have had little effect on Russia and failed to produce regime change in Cuba—the next logical step, Erlich suggests, is a military attack on Iran. 

Such an attack would be a leap into darkness, since most Americans—and their government in particular—are virtually clueless about the country we seem bound to go to war with. Throwing a little light on that darkness is a major reason Erlich wrote the book. For over 18 years he has reported on Iran, talking with important government figures and everyday people and writing articles on the country that increasingly looks to be our next little war. Except it will be anything but “little.” 

History matters when it comes to life and death decisions like war, but unfortunately, one of the mainstream media’s glaring deficiencies is its lack of interest in the subject. If newspapers like the New York Times had bothered to read Rudyard Kipling on Afghanistan or T.E. Lawrence on the British occupation of Iraq, the editors might have had second thoughts about supporting the Bush administration’s invasions of those countries. Of course, this was not just the result of wearing historical blinders. As Erlich points out, the mainstream media almost always follows in the wake of American foreign policy, more cheerleader than watchdog. 

But if that media learned anything from the disasters in Central Asia and the Middle East, it is not apparent when it comes to its reporting on Iran. Most Americans think that country is run by mad mullahs who hate the U.S. and is—in the words of President Donald Trump— a “terrorist nation.” Americans don’t hold that image of Iran by accident, but because that is the way the country is represented in the media. 

The fact that the U.S. government (along with some help from the British) overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953, and backed Saddam Hussein’s attack on Iran in 1980 that resulted in over a million casualties has vanished down the memory hole. 

One of the book’s strong points is its careful unraveling of US-Iranian relations, setting the record straight on things like the development of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. While the Shah was in power, Washington pushed nuclear power plants on Iran, including nuclear fuel enrichment technology, even though the Americans were aware that it could lead to weapon development. Indeed, that is exactly how India produced its first nuclear weapon back in 1974. 

Erlich also analyzes everything from class structure to Iran’s complex ethnicities and explains how the Islamic Republic functions politically and economically. While he is a long-time critic of US foreign policy, Erlich is no admirer of Iran’s political institutions. Iran is far more democratic than the absolute monarchies of the Persian Gulf—with which the Washington is closely allied—but it is hardly a democracy. 

“Iran is ruled by a reactionary, dictatorial clique that oppresses its own people,” he writes, “however, that does not make Iran a threat to Americans.” What Teheran does threaten “are the interests of the political, military and corporate elite who run the United States.” On a number of occasions Iran has made peace overtures to the U.S., all of which have been rejected. 

Iran is a country with a very long history, and its people have a strong sense of nationalism, even if much of the population is not overly fond of Iran’s top-down political system and clerical interference in everyday life. The idea that the Iranian people will rise up and overthrow their government because of sanctions or in the event of a military attack on the government is, according to Erlich, pure illusion. 

The Iran Agenda Today covers a lot of ground without bogging down in a overly detailed accounts of several millennia of history. It certainly provides enough historical context to conclude that an attack on Iran—which would likely also involve Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and possibly Israel—would unleash regional chaos with international repercussions. 

Such a war would be mainly an air war—not even the Trump administration is crazy enough to contemplate a ground invasion of a vast country filled with 80 million people—and would certainly inflict enormous damage. But to what end? Iran will never surrender and its people would rally to the defense of their country. Teheran is also perfectly capable of striking back using unconventional means. Oil prices would spike, and countries that continue to do business with Iran—China, Russia, Turkey and India for starters—would see their growth rates take a hit. No European country would support such a war. 

Of course creating chaos is what the Trump administration excels at, and in the short run Iran would suffer a grievous wound. But Teheran would weather the blow and Americans would be in yet another forever war, this time with a far more formidable foe than Pushtin tribes in Afghanistan or jihadists in Iraq.  

Mr. Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may get their war, but war is a deeply uncertain business. As Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke, one of the founders of modern warfare, once noted, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” 

Erlich, a Peabody Award winner and the author of five books, has written a timely analysis of U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran and why, if our country continues on its current path, we—and the world—are headed into a long, dark tunnel. 


Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 



ECLECTIC RANT: Fortieth Anniversary of Jonestown Tragedy

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 01, 2018 - 10:40:00 AM

November 2018 marks the fortieth anniversary of the mass murder and suicide of 918 in Jonestown, Guyana, by religious cult leader Jim Jones. About two-thirds of the victims were African-Americans.  

Jones was the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, which In 1971, established a permanent facility in an old San Francisco building that used to be the Albert Pike Memorial Scottish Rite temple on 1859 Geary Boulevard[ in San Francisco. 

Jones had first started building Jonestown, formally known as the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project", several years before an expose of human rights violations by the Peoples Temple appeared in the New West Magazine. As his power waned, Jones began moving his followers to Jonestown where the mass deaths by cyanide-laced Flavor Aide occurred. 

There isn't anything extraordinary about Jones’ power. It was pure politics. Jones could deliver what politicians want, which is power. And how do you get power? By votes. And he could deliver the votes with time and resources. Jones also forged alliances with the media to extol the Peoples Temple’s virtues. The people who warned about Jones were ignored, intimidated, or marginalized.  

In November 2008, on the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown tragedy, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a one-time Jones supporter, wrote in his Willie's World column in the San Francisco Chronicle: "What happened in Guyana was just horrible for us. We were obviously embarrassed at our lapse of judgment, our lapse of objectivity, our lapse of due diligence. We had no explanation for how stupid we were. We couldn't even be responsive to all these relatives whose folks had died." 

Forty years after Jonestown, we should ask yet again — why do people put their lives in the hands of a charismatic and mentally unbalanced person? As Jonestown shows, cult of personality can be a dangerous game.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Variations in Mental Capacity and Therapeutic Abuse

Jack Bragen
Thursday November 29, 2018 - 11:14:00 PM

Mentally ill people, including those with high intelligence (and there are many) can not necessarily take for granted that our full mental capacity will always be available. There are numerous factors that may affect our faculties. 

Being delusional, being manic, or being depressed, are all things that will probably limit or distort cognitive capacities. If delusional, our minds are subject to gross errors in thought. In that case, mental capacity is working against us. If manic, thoughts are also distorted--we may have delusions of grandeur, or we may have incomplete reasoning. I am not an expert on mania, since my primary diagnosis is currently "schizoaffective." However, I have seen the behavior of people in an acute phase of mania, and their reasoning isn't realistic. 

Being severely depressed could mean that a large part of consciousness is bogged down with negative, pessimistic, self-rejecting thoughts. Also, parts of the mind could be slowed down. 

When medicated and stabilized, effects of medication on cognitive capacity vary, depending on which medications a person is taking, the dosages, and individual differences in people's brains. Generally speaking, taking medications will allow more of the mind to be usable, if the alternative is untreated symptoms of mental illness. 

An old antidepressant called "Trazodone" had the worst effect on my mental capacity of any drug. It is not an antipsychotic. It is extremely sedating, and it shuts down the higher functions of the mind, much more so than any antipsychotic I have taken. That is my experience--it may be different for other people. I've met people who think Trazodone is great. 

Insight into one's condition and insight that we need treatment are dependent on having enough mental capacity available. When fully psychotic, mental capacity for anything useful is absent. At that point, we will not have any mental capacity available to have the insight that we've become psychotic. 


In situations where we are inundated with stimuli, the ability to think clearly will be compromised. I've been in situations of "warfare" against criminals, in a previous housing situation. They were blasting horrible "goth" music that created continuous upset. They were dealing drugs. They were doing a number of other things with the intent of letting me know that I should live elsewhere. After I moved, my electricity bill went way down. I think they were tapping into my electricity through the wall. Also, I had depression after moving that took about a year to go away. I suspect that they were manufacturing methamphetamine and that I was being exposed to the fumes. 

If you have neighbors who are criminals, you cannot live in peace, and your mental capacity will be significantly compromised. 


Some therapists, in their ability to feel superior, are able to take advantage of mental gaps introduced by medication. The techniques used are, in some instances, manipulative, and sometimes damaging. This is a style of therapy that I detest. The therapist by asking a series of questions, and by asking sub-questions, is able to psychologically dissect a patient's mind, and when that is done, the control they have established is used to neutralize the patient's ability to function, or, this control is used to do other damage. 

This is a particular style of therapy that some practitioners use. Not all therapy practitioners do this. When the therapist asks a question, they exert pressure to speak. When we reply, the therapist wants specific examples of why we feel the way we do. Then, we go into sub questions. The therapist asks what happened to us in our past that made a thing objectionable. Then, they've got us reliving our past, and they ask questions about that. It eliminates accountability of the therapist, and the focus becomes that of probing into past trauma, ready or not. 

This style of therapy is disabling. In the name of helping a person, disassembly is done, and we are disempowered. (To use a term that might be sexist: emotional castration.) You might have to see a therapist employ this style of interaction to know what I am talking about. 

When in full use of our faculties, the above is less likely to happen. Additionally, something about taking psychiatric medication may make therapists able to do this to us. Or, possibly, the therapists have had a lot of practice and could do the same damage to anyone. 

Good therapy can help, and bad therapy can do damage. Ram Dass: "…therapy is as high as the therapist is." 

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Thursday November 29, 2018 - 10:55:00 PM

A Gas Mask for Lady Liberty?

If the Statue of Liberty were alive, she would be in tears.

Emma Lazarus, in her famous poem, "The New Collossus," immortalized this "mighty woman with a torch" as the "Mother of Exiles."

Donald Trump's gassing of desperate women, men and children on our southern border has shamed our nation before the world. Trump's actions may require a rewrite of the statue's welcoming message:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe tear-gas . . . I lift my guns beside the golden door!" 

Forget the Wall: America Needs Carpenters 

It was a surprise to see that Willie Brown and I are "on the same page" (albeit in different sections of the Sunday Chronicle). My November 25 letter to the editor echoed a call in Brown's same-day column for Trump to redeploy US troops from the southern border to help fight the firestorms in Butte County. 

If the "Defense" Department was worth it's salt, it would be defending the domestic "Homeland" from extreme weather events and rebuilding entire cities (nearly 20,000 structures in the case of Butte County) destroyed by wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. 

Green New Deal 

Donald Trump's Orange Deal has been a raw deal for poor people and the struggling middle class. It has encouraged the exploitation of nature, the acceleration of climate change, and the proliferation of weapons and wars. 

The US could eradicate poverty and provide housing, education and healthcare for all of the poor people in our country but ONLY IF we stop spending billions to kill and maim poor people in other countries. War is a scam that only serves the interests of an elite class of billionaire war-profiteers. Save the Earth, Don't Enslave the Earth! 

Now there is an alternative. The Blue Wave of progressive Dems has spelled out plans for an FDR-inspired New Green Deal for a government that serves the many not the money. Read more about the Green New Deal bill at this link

PS: I called Rep. Barbara Lee's office on Wednesday and confirmed that she still has not signed on to supporting the Green New Deal. Give her a call and encourage her to go Green. 

Give Peas a Chance 

A Thanksgiving press release from the White House reads: "From the moment polls opened yesterday, Americans began casting their votes online for our two very qualified candidates, Peas and Carrots. With the votes now tallied, by a razor-thin margin, Peas has earned the honor of 2018 National Thanksgiving Turkey!" 

According to this PR blurb, the winning bird was also "crowned." And, with this announcement, Donald Trump appears to have added a new twist to this annual White House event—giving himself the imperial power to "crown" a turkey. With Robert Mueller's indictments in the wings, perhaps there's a political message behind the practice of following a "crowning" with an act of "pardoning." 

Fake Spews: Trump's Bogus Search for Media Praise 

The White House likes to grind out a daily feature called "Resolute Reads"—aka, "Real news president [*] Trump wants you to read." 

These are positive articles ostensibly written by the "real news" media. But a closer look reveals that many of these cherry-picked articles were actually written by members of the White House staff, dutiful cabinet secretaries, and various conscripted underlings. 

The November 16 edition contained nine stories praising the White House occupant. Most were bogus. 

"President Trump Has Kept His Promises," trumpeted the top story in the news list: "No president has done more in two years to strengthen our military and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to better serve our nation’s heroes than President Donald Trump," it read. Who was the author? Trump's Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie. So, in effect, the author was also "resolutely" praising himself. 

Three were sourced from Fox News but two of these essential "reads" were the same article, entered twice—a vague policy statement issued by GOP chief Mitch McConnell. The lead "read" from Fox bore the headline: "Veterans Have No Better Friend than President Trump." Who authored this "news" story? Vice-president Mike Pence. 

Also cited was a USA Today article headlined "Donald Trump Honors Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth in First Medal of Freedom Ceremony." The "nation's highest civilian honor" is awarded to individuals who have "made significant contributions to the United States' national interests and security, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." One of the honorees was "GOP donor and philanthropist Miriam Adelson." The article failed to note that Mrs. Adelson is the wife of Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino operator who ranks as the GOP's biggest donor. Together, the two Adelson's have donated $87 million (and counting) to GOP SuperPACs this year alone. 

West Wing Reads 

"West Wing Reads" is the title of yet another source of cherry-picked, pro-Trump fake-news-blurbs. The following samples were culled from a November 26 White House press release: 

From The Wall Street Journal: "For eight years under President Obama, the growing burden of government suppressed the economic recovery that should have followed the recession of 2008-09. Mr. Obama nonetheless has claimed responsibility for today’s boom, asking Americans in September to 'remember when this recovery started, Yet it wasn’t until President Trump took office that the economy surged.” 

Attribution: An op-ed by Andy Puzder, "former CEO of CKE Restaurants." 

Unmentioned: According to CNBC: "Puzder had drawn scrutiny after Trump picked him [to serve as Labor Secretary] over his opposition to federal minimum wage increases, alleged wage violations at CKE fast food restaurants and decades-old abuse allegations from his ex-wife. He later withdrew from consideration amid these allegations." 

On Fox News, Linda McMahon opined that things are better than ever for America's small businesses, citing: "A strong economy and record level consumer optimism. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in almost 50 years and consumer confidence is at its highest level in 18 years." 

And who is the author? McMahon is Trump's Small Business Administrator. 

Also from Fox News: "President Trump was right to order troops to our border with Mexico to reinforce our overworked law enforcement officials and protect our sovereignty. No amount of leftist protestations should distract us from the fact that the primary purpose of our military is to provide security to America." 

The author? Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata. 

On November 27, Reads reposted five more pro-Trump "news" stories. One was written by Trump's Interior Secretary Ryan Zincke while another, a USA Today article praising Trurmp's nationalism, was penned by Boris Epshteyn—a former Trump aide—who wrote: "being a nationalist is to correctly believe that America is a beacon of freedom and is the greatest country in the world. These are sentiments all Americans should want to get behind." 


Maybe I've become too self-sensitized on this WarSpeak thing. I'm trying to teach myself not to use words like "assault" and "attack" and substitute words like "organize," "campaign," "strive." I'm not sure about middle-ground phrases like "tackle a problem" and "slapping a project together." Now I'm even wondering whether the word "overcome" is too belligerent. 

The Latest Proclamation from the Monarch of Planet Moron 

Speaking to the Washington Post on November 26, Donald Trump "explained" why he "didn't believe" the official government report that human-caused climate change was a real and imminent threat to human existence. 

Here—swear to God—is Trump's response. 

TRUMP: "One of the problems that a lot of people like myself—we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and when you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including—just many other places—the air is incredibly dirty. And when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean, we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific, it flows, and we say where does this come from. And it takes many people to start off with." 

Trump's pugnacious gibberish cries out for a new word: How about "incoherent" plus "rants" equals "incoherants." 

Haikus in the News 

Ivanka's emails 

Unsecured! Now what's that line? 

Oh, yeah: "Lock her up!" 


Trump on Kashoggi: 

"The rich can get away with murder." 

So, "case closed" 


They cut off his arms? 

Just don't cut off our arms sales. 

America First! 

Arts & Events

New: The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Dec. 2-9

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday December 01, 2018 - 09:39:00 AM

Sunday, December 2, 2018

No City Sponsored events found

Monday, December 3, 2018

Parks and Waterfront Commission – Subcommittee of Parks Capital Projects with Public Works Subcommittee on T1, 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, Agenda: T1 Project Prioritization 


Personnel Board, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Amend Classification of Facilities Superintendent, Equipment Superintendent, and Parks Superintendent, Amend Salary Public Works Maintenance Superintendent, 


Tax the Rich rally with Occupella sing along, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater,  

Tuesday, December 4, 2018  

Berkeley City Council, Tuesday, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 1231 Addison, BUSD Board Room, Agenda: 8. Adopt Shared Scooter Program, 9. Appointment of Council Vice President for 1 yr term, 10. Appointment Sophie Hahn as Council Vice President, 11. Revitalize Civic center Park Fountain, 12. Authorize Additional Winter Shelter, C. Modifications Zoning Ordinance to Support Small Businesses, 13. Reclassify Zoning for 1050 Parker / 2621 Tenth Street from Light Industrial to Commercial to allow for 4-story / 50 ft height, Adopt CEQA findings, D. Structure for Standing Policy Committees, E. Provide Direction to City Manager and Planning Dept on Number of Cannabis Retail Establishments and Creation of Equity Program, F. Short Term Referral to Planning Commission and Design Review Requiring Tree Planting upon Completion of New Residential and Certain Alterations, 15. a.&b. Mandatory and Recommended Green Stormwater Infrastructure in New and Existing Redevelopments or Properties, 16. Allow Mayor and City Council employees to serve as a Commissioner 


Wednesday, December 5, 2018 

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 997 Cedar St, Fire Department Training Center, Agenda: 4. CPUC Wildfire Mitigation Plans, 5. T1 Information Report, 6. Emergency Response to Camp Fire, 7. City of Berkeley Evacuation Plan, 8. Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, 9. Wildfire Safety Planning 


Energy Commission - Fossil Free Subcommittee, 8:00 am, 2000 University Ave, Au Coquelet, Agenda: Establish Date to be Fossil Free, Oppose further transportation of oil, gas, coal, Full implementation of Deep Green Building, Transitioning city to all EV, 100% renewable energy by 2030, opposition to off-shore drilling, rapid adoption of renewable energy sources, affordable densification of cities and low-emissions public transportation, 


Energy Commission - Regular Commission Meeting, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center Agenda: 4. T1 Infrastructure Bond, 6. Draft Ordinance on Reducing Tax for Qualifying for Electrification, Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation Retrofits, 7. Recommendation of the Fossil Free Subcommittee 


Planning Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center Agenda: 9. Public Hearing Modifications to Cannabis Use Chapter – Retail Nursery Microbusiness, 10. Discussion Bicycle Parking standards 


Thursday, December 6, 2018 

Berkeley City Council Special Meeting, Thur, 4:00 pm, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, Agenda Updates of the following: Climate Action Plan, T1 Infrastructure Bond, City Strategic Plan, 10. Reassessing Disaster Survival Priorities 


Landmarks Preservation Commission, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 5. A. Pending Changes to State Historic Resources Commission, B. Annual Report to State Office of Historic Preservation, 6. A. 2415 Blake – landmark or Structure of Merit Designation, B. 1 & 5 Canyon Road - landmark or Structure of Merit Designation, C. 1414 Walnut Ave – alteration to City Landmark, D. 2740 & 2744 Telegraph – alterations to City Landmark, E. 2140 Shattuck – alteration to City Landmark 


Friday, December 7, 2018 

No City meetings found 

Saturday, December 8, 2018 

Public Works Commission – Special Meeting, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard, Check before going, website notes no December meeting, however, Berkeley Community Calendar lists special meeting on Saturday, December 8, no agenda/meeting posted 


Winter on the Waterfront & Lighted Boat Parade, 2:00 pm – 6:30 pm, Berkeley Yacht Club, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=15603 

Sunday, December 9, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 



Worth Noting  

Tuesday, December 11, City Council meeting agenda available for comment: 4. Authorization to Study economic and fiscal impacts of UC Berkeley on City of Berkeley, 8. Authorize Citywide Restroom Assessment, 9. Authorize analysis of fees and other impacts on development project feasibility, 12. 5-yr Contract fo Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, 13. Measure M. Street Rehabilitation Project, 14. Support SB3342 – Housing, Opportunity, Mobility and Equity Act, 15. 5-yr Street Rehabilitation Plan, 16. a.&b. Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Plan, 20. Establish Traffic Circle Policy Task Force, 21. Send Letter to Sutter Health requesting a plan to Retrofit/Rebuild Alta Bates or sell to another operator, 23. Expand control of flavored tobacco, 24. Refer to City Manager to establish RV waste discharge facility on City Property and equitable administrative fee program. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2018/12_Dec/City_Council__12-11-2018_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx 



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 




Daniel Barenboim Brings His West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to Berkeley

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 30, 2018 - 04:14:00 PM

In an outstanding career in which he has excelled as piano soloist, conductor of major orchestras, and award-winning recording artist, Daniel Barenboim has also founded several orchestras, including the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1999 with Palestinian writer Edward Said. This orchestra was conceived by Barenboim and Said as a place where Israeli and Arab musicians from Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries could come together to work in harmony as music-making examples of hopes for a better, more peaceful future in the Middle East. Named after Goethe’s book of poems West-Eastern Divan, which itself was an effort to promote a united world culture, the orchestra founded by Barenboim and Said has become one of the world’s leading orchestras. Since 2015 talented young musicians from the Middle East have studied at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, which now includes a glorious new concert hall, the Pierre Boulez Saal, designed by architect Frank Geary. 

On Saturday afternoon, November 10, Daniel Barenboim led his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in a concert at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Featured on the program were Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Quixote and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor. Completed in 1887, Don Quixote was subtitled by Richard Strauss as “Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character.” Throughout this work, Don Quixote is represented by a solo cellist, here robustly performed by Kian Soltani. The don’s squire, Sancho Panza, appears first in tenor tuba and bass clarinet, subsequently in the solo viola, here performed by Miriam Manasherov. This is an affectionate, often sardonic musical portrait of Don Quixote and his exploits, aided and abetted by Sancho Panza. There is wonderful writing throughout this work for cello; and young Kian Soltani, who was born in Bregenz, Austria, in 1992 of Persian parents, then joined at age 12 Ivan Monighetti’s class at the Basel Music Academy in Switzerland, showed why he has become a much-sought-after cellist who performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras. Soltani exhibits a ravishing tone and superb technical artistry combined with a dazzling stage presence. In the lyrical dialogue between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the third variation, there was a lively and affectionate interplay between Kian Soltani’s cello and Miriam Manasherov’s viola. This work’s final death scene is a yearningly tender portrayal of Don Quixote’s lucid awareness of the vanity of his former mad obsessions with knightly chivalry and his peaceful acceptance of death. At the close of this work, the Zellerbach audience gave Kian Soltani and Daniel Barenboim a standing ovation. As an encore, Barenboim and Soltani offered an excerpt from The Swan, by Saint Saens.  

After intermission, Daniel Barenboim led the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor. Of Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies, the Fifth is the only one I admire unreservedly. Whereas the others often indulge in bombast, the Fifth seems to me of consistently high quality, unified by a theme embodying Fate that opens the work and recurs inescapably in each of the symphony’s four movements. This theme is made up of an 8-note figure, which appears first in the clarinets, then is worked out in a 37-measure slow introduction. Toward the end of the first movement, this 8-note figure returns in the bassoon. 

The second movement, an Andante cantabile, opens with a solo horn playing a romantic melody. Then a poignant melody follows in the oboe. A third theme appears in the solo clarinet before the full orchestra reiterates the 8-note Fate theme. The third movement is, instead of the usual scherzo, a waltz. This is a graceful, lilting waltz; yet toward the end of the movement the 8-note Fate theme returns ominously in the clarinets and bassoons. The same Fate theme opens and closes the work’s fourth and final movement. Transposed from minor to major, the Fate theme is now developed almost triumphantly, as if Fate itself had at last been accepted. (For Tchaikovsky, Fate seems to have been associated with the composer’s struggles with his own homosexuality.) Throughout the Fifth Symphony, conductor Daniel Barenboim energetically led his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in a splendid rendition of this work’s brilliantly coloristic orchestration. 

In a brief conversation on-stage with Matias Tarnopolsky after the concert, Daniel Barenboim gave a detailed history of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in which he singled out six years spent in Andalusia, Spain, which, he said, was one of the few places in the world where Jews and Muslims live together in peace and harmony. When asked when he would be able to list the names of the orchestra’s musicians in the programs, Barenboim wistfully pointed out that in the present situation this is not possible, for Israel is in a state of war with Lebanon and Syria, and it would be dangerous to publish the names of Lebanese and Syrian musicians. In the meantime, he said proudly, many of the musicians in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra concurrently hold posts in leading orchestras the world over, yet they return whenever possible to perform with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.