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Handel’s MESSIAH by American Bach Soloists in Grace Cathedral

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 13, 2018 - 11:02:00 AM

In this their 30th season, American Bach Soloists performed Handel’s Messiah for the 21st consecutive year in San Francisco’s inspiring Grace Cathedral. Along with the American Bach Choir, American Bach Soloists were led by their founder, Jeffrey Thomas, in three performances of the Messiah, December 12-14. At the December 12 concert, I was struck anew by how much the text of Handel’s Messiah by Charles Jennens suggests Christianity’s debt to earlier religious beliefs and practices. After an overture in the French manner that opens slowly then becomes faster in the second section, the tenor follows with a recitative and aria. Here the tenor was Aaron Sheehan, and he launched into the florid aria, “Ev’ry Valley shall be exalted.” The words of this aria had always mystified me. Yet, suddenly, it dawned on me that this was a celebration of the coming of spring, when, indeed, ev’ry valley blooms miraculously, and the earth is renewed. Moreover, the fact that we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection at Easter, i.e., at the coming of spring, is no coincidence, for Christianity simply incorporated far earlier religions’ celebration of earth’s renewal in spring. What better way could there be to begin a celebration of the Messiah than by invoking the age-old agrarian cycle of earth’s renewal? 

Countertenor Eric Jurenas provided a sweet-voiced set of arias in the opening section. Especially beautiful was his “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,” set to lilting violins over a bass line, music that was then passed on to the chorus. Though Jurenas was at his best in high notes sung fortissimo, he did not fare so well when singing softly in his lower register, and this was especially noticeable when the orchestra tended to cover his voice. Baritone Jesse Blumberg offered a suitably gloomy rendition of “The people that walked in darkness.” The chorus then delivered a perennial highlight – “For unto us a child is born,” sung exultantly. Another perennial highlight ensued with the coloratura aria “Rejoice greatly,” gorgeously sung here by soprano Mary Wilson. The tender lyricism” of “He shall feed his flock” was performed here as a soothing duet between countertenor Eric Jurenas and soprano Mary Wilson, followed by a brief chorus to close Part One of Handel’s Messiah. 

The second part begins with a chorus, “Behold the Lamb of God.” There follows the utterly forlorn “He was despised,” beautifully sung here by countertenor Eric Jurenas. Accompanied by spare introductory notes in the violins, Jurenas’s singing in the A section of this ABA aria was inconsolably sorrowful and utterly expressive. However, the B section of this aria offered heavy orchestral accompaniment that tended to cover the countertenor’s voice. The chorus then begins “Surely he hath borne our Griefs” with an attack on the word “Surely.” A bit later comes another highlight, the soprano aria “How beautiful are the feet,” sung gorgeously here by Mary Wilson. A baritone aria and a tenor aria lead inexorably to the great “Hallelujah Chorus,” a masterpiece of contrapuntal writing that inevitably brings the audience to its feet.  

Part 3 opens with a soprano aria, “I know that my redeemer liveth.” As I listened to Mary Wilson sing the words to this aria, I had another glimpse of the debt this text owes to older agrarian ritual cycles. At the words “For now is Christ risen from the Dead, the First-Fruits of them that sleep,” I was suddenly struck by the resemblance here to the ancient Greeks’ celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries, evoking earth’s renewal in spring when Persephone emerges from the Underworld to rejoin her grieving mother, Demeter, who then joyously causes the dormant seeds of winter to bloom forth upon the earth, bringing bounteous plenty to humankind and a promise of eternal renewal, i.e., eternal life.  

After a brief chorus comes yet another highlight of Handel’s Messiah, the aria “The trumpet shall sound,” sung here by baritone Jesse Blumberg accompanied gorgeously by Kathryn James on trumpet. A brief duet ensues for countertenor and tenor, “O Death, where is thy Sting?” One last aria follows, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”, beautifully rendered here by Mary Wilson. Then comes the monumental closing chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb,” with its fugal section leading to an exultant “Amen,” punctuated by excellent work from timpanist Henry Reed. 

Throughout this Messiah, conductor Jeffry Thomas led the musicians in a wonderful performance, one sensitive to the dynamics of loud-and-soft and the varieties of fast-and-slow. The American Bach Chorus sang beautifully throughout. Perhaps especially worthy of praise was the soprano section of the Chorus, whose soaring voices rose majestically to the uppermost vaulted arches of Grace Cathedral. 

Finally, if you can’t make it to Grace Cathedral for the ABS performances of Handel’s Messiah, you have one further opportunity to hear it on Saturday, December 15, in Weill Hall at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park. 

How Berkeley Voted in November’s High Turnout Election

Rob Wrenn
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:15:00 PM

Wicks won by 250 votes; Prop 10 won big

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has certified the results of the November Election and released the Statement of Vote with a breakdown by precinct and city.

Berkeley votes supported affordable housing funding in November, voting overwhelmingly for Proposition 1 which authorizes $4 billion in bonds for affordable housing, and for the local affordable housing bond measure, Measure O. State and local bond funds, along with County affordable housing bond funds approved in 2016 and Measure U-1 revenues, will be able to help fund a substantial amount of below market affordable housing in Berkeley. 

Berkeley also affirmed strong support for rent control by supporting Proposition 10. Alameda County and San Francisco County were the only counties where a majority of voters supported Proposition 10 to repeal the Costa Hawkins bill’s ban on extending the power of local governments to enact additional rent control measures. The percentage voting Yes in Berkeley, 64.7%, was the highest in the state. As previously reported in the Planet, the Tenant Convention slate of Rent Board candidates swept all five seats, their victory aided by the absence of a full slate of candidates running against them. 


Proposition 10 and Statewide Races

Cities with majorities voting for Prop 10 

Berkeley 64.7% 

Inglewood 61.6% 

Los Angeles 57.6% 

Santa Monica 57.4% 

Davis 56.2% 

Richmond 54.5% 

Burbank 53.9% 

Glendale 53.6% 

Santa Cruz 53.0% 

San Francisco 52.9% 

Alameda Co. 51.8% 


Majorities in some smaller cities in Los Angeles County also supported Prop 10, which came close to passing in L.A. County, with 49.5%. 

Berkeley voters overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates in all races for statewide offices. In the race for the U.S. Senate, where two Democrats made the November runoff, incumbent Diane Feinstein was supported over Kevin DeLeon, with DeLeon winning in some flatland precincts. Outgoing AD-15 Assembly member Tony Thurmond was elected statewide over Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction, with 51.9%. Here in Berkeley, Thurmond received 80% of the vote. In the race for Governor, Republican candidate John Cox only managed 5.3% of the vote, though that is an improvement over the 3.2% Trump received in the 2016 presidential election. 

Berkeley voters backed Proposition 3, State Water Bonds, by 52% to 48% margin. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups opposed Prop 3 which lost narrowly statewide, 50.7% to 49.3%. Berkeley voters strongly rejected Republican-backed measures to reduce taxes, rejecting both Prop 5 and Prop 6, which both failed statewide. A majority of Berkeley voters also voted for Prop 8 to regulate kidney dialysis treatment charges; that measure failed statewide by 60%-40%. 

How Berkeley Voted, Selected State and Local Races

Candidate or Measure 



Proposition 1  

Affordable Housing bonds 

Yes 46,400 


Proposition 2 

Mentally ill homeless 


Yes 46,699 


Proposition 3 Water Bonds 

Yes 27,523 


Proposition 5 

Senior Property tax reduction 


No 44,938 



Proposition 6 

Repeal of Fuel tax 


No 51,206 



Proposition 8 

Regulate Kidney Dialysis 


Yes 33,278 



Proposition 10 

Repeal of Costa Hawkins 


Yes 36,245 




U.S. Senator 



Diane Feinstein 



Kevin DeLeon 







Gavin Newsom 



John Cox 




Supt. of Public Instruction 



Tony Thurmond 



Marshall Tuck 




Berkeley Measure O 

Affordable housing bonds 


Yes 42,384 




Berkeley Measure P 

Homeless services 


Yes 39,337 




Berkeley voters easily passed Measures O & P to fund affordable housing and homeless services. Measure O fell short of the two-thirds required for a bond measure in only a few of the City’s most affluent precincts, including in one precinct above Claremont Ave. in District 8 and in a few precincts in the Northeast Berkeley hills in District 6. There was overwhelming support for the bond measure throughout the flatlands. 

Berkeley City Council 

In Berkeley’s City Council races, the two incumbents seeking re-election, Kate Harrison, in District 4, and Lori Droste, in District 8, won re-election by comfortable margins, finishing first in every precinct in their respective districts by solid margins. 

In District 1, the closest race for Council this year, for the seat held since 1992 by Linda Maio, Rashi Kesarwani, who fell short of 50% of first choice votes, defeated Igor Tregub by picking up more support than Tregub from supporters of third place candidate Margo Scheuler. Igor came in ahead of Kesarwani in four of the District’s 14 precincts and was one vote short of Kesarwani in one other West Berkeley precinct. 

In District 7, the student super-majority district, represented since 1996 by Kriss Worthington, Rigel Robinson, a recent UC grad, easily defeated Ces Rosales, 56.5% to 34.5%. Rosales won two of three South of Dwight precincts, the ones that have substantial homeowner populations, while Robinson won all the near campus student precincts north of Dwight Way. Turnout was poor in District 7. Only 3,259 people cast ballots, of only 6,014 registered to vote, resulting in a turnout of 54.2%. By contrast, in District 1, with a hotly contested Council race, 11,070 were registered to vote and 8,609 ballots were cast, a turnout of 77.8%, above the citywide average of 73.7%. 

As previously reported in the Planet, Jenny Wong was elected Auditor with 92% of the vote; and Ty Alper, Ka’dijah Brown and Julie Sinai ran far ahead of three other candidates in the School Board race. 

Assembly District 15: Wicks edges Beckles in Berkeley 

In the hotly contested race for Assembly District 15, Buffy Wicks, who broke all previous records for spending in an AD-15 race, and who benefited by independent expenditures made by special interest groups that paid for hit piece mailers, edged Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles by 250 votes. Voting following the usual pattern in Berkeley. Beckles defeated Wicks in the five flatlands covering Downtown, Central, South and West Berkeley, and in student areas, which have historically favored more progressive candidates, while losing in the City’s most affluent districts, 5, 6, and 8, which include the Berkeley Hills, which have traditionally voted for more moderate candidates. Beckles won majorities only in her home town of Richmond, in San Pablo, and in some of the unincorporated areas of the Contra Costa portion of the District. Beckles lost badly in more affluent areas like Kensington and Piedmont. Turnout in Richmond was poor compared to turnout in Berkeley and the part of Oakland in AD-15. 

















San Pablo 








Unincorporated CC 








El Sobrante 




















El Cerrito 













AD 15 Total 







Unincorporated Contra Costa County in AD 15 includes North 

Richmond, Rollingwood, East Richmond Heights. El Sobrante and 

Kensington, also unincorporated places, are listed separately and 

not included in total for “Unincorported CC”. 



Vote for Beckles and Wicks  

by Berkeley City Council Districts 




percent Beckles 





























Turnout and Voting by Mail 

Turnout in Berkeley was at record levels for a non-presidential year. More than 18,000 more votes were cast this year than in 2014. This year’s count fell a little more than 7000 votes short of the number of votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. Vote by mail ballots accounted for 71.3% of ballots cast in Berkeley this year as voting at the polls continues to decline. 58.1% had voted by mail in 2014 and 64.8% in 2016. 


Turnout in Berkeley, November Elections, 1988-2018 




Ballots Cast 

Turnout (%) 



































































Official Results from Statement of Vote 

Berkeley City Council -November 6 Election 

City Council 

District 1 

Number of Votes 

Percent of Votes 

Rashi Kesarwani 



Igor Tregub 



Margo Schueler 



Mary Behm-Steinberg 




District 4 



Kate Harrison 



Ben Gould 



Greg Magofna 




District 7 



Rigel Robinson 



Ces Rosales 



Aidan Hill 




District 8 



Lori Droste 



Mary Kay Lacey 



Alfred Twu 



Russ Tilleman 



Does not include small number of write-in votes. 

These results are slightly different from the results published on the Planet site on November 19, which were based on the final update when counting finished. 



As Usual, Kids Come Last. Are These Our Priorities?

Becky O'Malley
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 09:19:00 AM

It’s time for us all to get in touch with our inner Grinch. For some reason, it seems to be okay to get grinchy on the subject of Christmas, but many other sacred cows are protected territory. I’ve got my eye on one of them.

Friday’s Chronicle (I no longer call it the Comical since the news got so bad) has two stories which, when juxtaposed, are profoundly irritating.

First, on the front page, we learn that, because of some funny accounting, “All of a sudden, San Francisco has an extra $181 million to spend. It comes from excess education funds, and some officials hope that’s exactly how it will be spent: on education. Specifically, teacher pay raises.”

In your dreams, Josephine. Life is hard in the big city, and both mayor and supervisors have already thought of a passel of non-education ways to spend the money, all of them virtuous but none of them moving teachers any closer to a livable income in a place where it’s too expensive to live.

But tell that to the protagonist of story #2. This one can be found in the section of the Chronicle that’s handy to line the cat box, easy to find because it’s printed on green paper. Here we learn that an employee of the University of California at Berkeley, my very own alma mater, is getting a raise, from $1.5 million annually to about $3.25 million, give or take some chump change. He should be able to live on that.

And no, Josephine, he’s NOT a teacher. What’s he done to deserve this bonanza? 

He’s gotten our school into the Cheez-It Bowl. No kidding! Cheez-Its, that yummy conflation of carbs, fat and salt which are probably not even allowed in the lunchrooms of the San Francisco public schools.  

(I love clichés, especially this one, so useful these days: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.) 

What does this guy do at our university? He enables a select group of students from diverse backgrounds to bash their brains out on a regular basis in front of a cheering crowd. And to spend the winter holidays promoting Cheez-Its on TV.  

According to the article, his predecessor in this job was paid a mere $2.825 million on average, and when that guy was fired, presumably because the team missed the Cheez-It chance, he got a $5.8 million consolation prize. You could also live on that amount, even in San Francisco.  

Just imagine for the moment what sums like these could do for public school teachers.  

And have you seen any of the stories published in the last couple of years, about how many football players end their lives with tragically damaged brains, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)? Why in the name of righteousness is the once-proud Cal going forward with a “sport” that causes too many participants lifelong grief? 

The lucky coach specifically thanks Chancellor Carol Christ for her trust and confidence in him—doesn’t she know better than that? Can’t she process the scary data? Yes, I know she was an English Major at Rutgers, but I majored in Comp Lit at Cal and I know my way around enough STEM to process simple statistics about the longterm health cost of football to players. 

When I was an undergraduate, way back in the class of 1961, our foot ball team almost never won anything, and we were very proud of that. We knew that we beat Stanford on a regular basis, not in any Big Game but in Nobel prizes. I never knew anyone who went to football games except a girl in my French classes whose mother forced her to join a sorority, and she was taking French so she could escape to Paris as soon as she graduated. Myself, I never even learned the rules for football. 

School’s gone to hell, says my inner grinch.  

While we’re channeling grinches, how about the mammoth debt UCB has incurred tarting up the football stadium and building an attached Special Person Gym? 

The old Planet covered the best efforts of the widest possible range of Berkeley citizens, from Zachary Running Wolf to a doughty trio of old lady heroines, to tell UC it was making a big mistake with that stadium project, but they built it anyway and now they’re stuck with it. 

See, from the Daily Cal: UC Berkeley to pay $238M of Cal Athletics debt from stadium renovations.  

$238 million—even more than the $181 million windfall San Francisco schools are lusting over. 

Here in Berkeley, the swimming pool at Willard Junior High has been filled in with dirt for many years now. That happened on the watch of former Mayor Tom Bates, an old football player himself who’s proud of once playing in the Rose Bowl. 

Just one or two of those millions would probably get the Willard kids back in the water. Priorities? 

What about the fans? I’ve been told that boys just like to have fun, or at least some old boys and some old girls too. There have always been people who enjoy watching football games, including my late mother right up until her death at 98. But knowing as we do now that the players are risking permanent injury to their brains, perhaps it’s time to find some other entertainment for fans. Basketball is fun to watch, isn’t it?  

It certainly should not be the role of a would-be prestigious state university to enable students in such a dangerous pursuit to the tune of multiple millions of dollars a year. The claim is that alumni are paying the salary of the coach, but they’re getting a lot of hoopla in return. 

I’m one alumna among many alumnae and alumni who could afford to make a modest contribution to our old school, but don’t do it because of stories like these. Since the footballers are getting big corporate bucks from Cheez-Its and their ilk, we can assume that they don’t need our money anyhow.  






Public Comment

Whose Streets? Tech's Streets, or Public Policy by BID

Carol Denney
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:47:00 PM

It's simple. Public sidewalks are too crowded for homeless people, but wide enough for waddling robots and monolithic, data-sucking electronic sidewalk billboards with 65-inch screens. Public sidewalks are dangerously over-filled with backpacks and bedrolls but have a sad aura of being deserted without unpermitted signboards, tables, chairs, and rolling racks of commercial merchandise. Personal belongings must not exceed a certain square footage on a sidewalk - for public safety's sake - but those same sidewalks would be downright lonely without scooters.

There's no inconsistency here. The visible presence of poverty makes people sad and makes governments look inadequate. People trying to panhandle enough for a night's shelter at the low-rent hotel make the 9.3 million expenditure on the renovated BART plaza look like a questionable set of priorities. Moving around the deck chairs is otherwise at least mildly entertaining.

The Berkeley City Council's agony over blankets and bedrolls blocking public sidewalks necessitating a raft of bewildering new restrictions was nowhere to be found in their haste to make way for 65-inch electronic screen kiosks spewing ads slated for those same public sidewalks. The necessity of having even more refinements on the six-feet-from here, four-feet-from there, only-so-many-dogs carnival of sidewalk restrictions which only seem to apply to a rarified few was a serious issue, their earnest discussion implied. Imagine if somebody tripped and fell. 

The electronic sidewalk billboards came no closer than the scooters did to visiting the various relevant community commissions. This was apparently an urgent matter. The latest sidewalk regulations similarly flew through the air and touched down first at the City Council because only the business improvement districts' opinions, after all, really matter. The community commissions' perspectives on matters before the Council, like the public's, are probably welcome. But apparently unnecessary. Mayor Arreguin has begun to telegraph his decisions even before opening public comment, in case you were under the curiously comic impression that your opinion was playing a role. 

The BART plaza renovation renewed the debate over whether public places were cluttered to the point of jeopardizing public safety or, as the BART plaza revitalization jargon implied, were in need of "activation" necessitating even more public funds, programs, and organized activities to displace whatever horror might happen more naturally. "Controlled space" is the new black. 

Note that at these hearings the start-up in question never really has to make a case. They just have to be patient so it looks like there's a process. Everybody on the inside knows the decision is already in the bank. And that if the whole enterprise plays out to be an embarrassment, the way those bright little donation boxes did, they'll disappear equally quietly so that nobody counts up the staff time and the other costs and brings it up at an inconvenient electoral moment. 

After all, anybody who isn't enchanted with and salivating over scooters is probably some old fart who needs to make way for the latest jargon on transportation. It's kind of a cult. If they spend enough money on taming and cultivating their scooter concept through a pilot program, if they "educate" the public and constrain the complaint processes, they may, they just may, end up with something at least half as useful as the bus. 


Lies, Lies and More Lies

Harry Brill
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:40:00 PM

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the economy next year in California and the rest of the nation is likely to slow. Why? Among the important reasons the Chronicle gives is because the economy "is running out of workers". The following day the caption in the Chronicle's front page claims that there is a "serious shortage of Muni Drivers". What do we make of these claims? 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is the main source of labor force data. Those who follow their reports regularly and carefully realize that the BLS has a strong bias toward underestimating the problem of joblessness. And the fiction that it regularly manufactures finds its way into the mass media. To cite one important example, if an unemployed worker has not actively searched for work in the last 28 days, they are not counted as unemployed. No extenuating circumstances are considered. Perhaps job seekers are waiting to hear from one of the employers they contacted. Or they searched for work in ways that the BLS does not consider as an active search. Yet if someone worked only one hour in the survey week they are counted as employed. 

The BLS does estimate the number of jobless persons who want a job. But if they offer reasons other than saying their search for work has been unsuccessful, then they are not counted officially as unemployed. If they explain that they are not working because they are handicapped, for example, they are not included in the unemployment count. Yet the number of those who are not working but want a job is substantial. In October of this year, over 5 million out of work persons stated that they want to work. That is over 100,000 more than in October, 2017. Clearly, these are the" hidden unemployed" . 

So when the SF Chronicle earlier this week claimed on its front page that there is a "Serious Shortage of Muni Drivers", we have reason to be skeptical. The article claims that it has almost 1900 full time drivers, which results in a shortage of slightly more than 400 drivers. However, the shortage reflects not a lack of enough qualified employees. Rather, it has too many dissatisfied employees. According to Muni operators. low wages and dangerous working conditions are the problem. So as many as 600 drivers are absent on a given day. According to the company's drivers the low wages and poor working conditions are chasing Muni workers off their jobs. 

For Muni and many other businesses, their prime problem is how to recruit workers completely on their own terms. Isn't it about time for executives to realize that the best way to deliver quality service is to provide working people with quality working conditions as well as a living wage?

Political Impoverishment

Steve Martinot
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 12:52:00 PM

The corporate economy is an impoverishment machine. When prices go up, the people who have to pay those prices get poorer. When rent levels rise, renters are impoverished. The corporate economy inherits this from capitalism. In capitalism, profit levels depended on keeping wage levels low. Today, inflation, which has become an economic norm, amounts to a pay cut. Those who organize unions in order to make up for their loss of pay are called greedy, but they are only fighting to stay in the same place. Those who build more market rate housing are acclaimed for meeting a need in a so-called housing crisis. But the real crisis is that those who need housing can’t afford market rate. There is only an affordable housing crisis, as more people are impoverished by corporate economics. 


A travesty on Ashby  

After 5 years of neighborhoods going to city council explaining that they need affordable housing (which, according to HUD, should be no more than 30% of one’s income), City Council votes to allow more market rate housing to be built. Their latest is on one of the most absurd corners of the city. At Ashby and Shattuck, some developer now will build 7 stories of bedrooms. Each bedroom, 6 to an apartment, will be rented separately, starting at $1300 a month. That comes to $7800 a month. Just another impoverishment machine. It has nothing to do with a housing crisis, but only with what the banks think will give them the greatest return. 

And Ashby, by the way, is the site of the oldest traffic jam in the city of Berkeley. There will be no parking in the building. To deliver a package, a truck will block an entire lane of traffic. The gurus of our local impoverishment process actually think that maybe, or perhaps, or who knows, this will coax some people out of using cars. Then the city can pat itself on the back for having done its bit to slow global warming. Meanwhile, a line of idling engines a mile long sit waiting for a light somewhere to change. 

What is more de-mazing (aka negative amazement) is that ZAB (Zoning Adjustment Board), traditionally the developer’s friend, had actually turned the project down, having heard what the neighborhood said about it. When City Council approved the developer’s appeal (Nov. 27, 2018), they were in effect flipping the bird at their own local regulatory agency. Apparently, after ZAB had taken off their anti-democratic blinders, council stooped to pick them up and put them on. 



Well, yeah. Seventy percent (70%) of residents in Berkeley are renters, but our elected body can’t seem to represent them. Every time ZAB approved a developer’s market rate project, it was acting against the majority of residents. In this case, when ZAB heard those of the neighborhood, and rejected the project, the City Council stepped in and reinstated the developer in controlling position. 

As an elected body, when the City Council acts for the tiny minority (developers) against the majority (renters), it affirms (or refuses to countermand) the process that leads to higher rent levels. In other words, the economic is not the only domain of impoverishment. We have only to look at Berkeley City Council to see political impoverishment. 

City Council has no power over market rent level. They are determined by a real estate industry that announces such levels through its glossy publications, telling landlords what they can expect to get away with – that is, what they can gain by booting out their present tenant and raising their rents. That is the source of the displacement crisis that no one talks about any more. People simply get moved out of the city – by “the market.” 

Those glossy magazines forget to count all the “For Rent” and “Now Leasing” signs that one sees on so many new buildings. Even as vacancies accrue (with people still looking for housing), the rent levels don’t come down. A little bird whispers in our ear, saying “they never will.” It is an impoverishment machine. 

The Costa-Hawkins Act is a state law that bars cities from regulating rents (we’re not even talking about “rent control” here, just regulation). Seventy percent (70%) of residents in Berkeley are renters. That means that city government cannot act in the interest of its majority (on rents). Its de-mazing how a supposedly "democratic" state government could have passed laws that make democracy impossible. It is further de-mazing that somehow, Californians failed to repeal that law, which Prop 10 would have done. In short, we sit here on our hands. 


Take it out on the homeless  

This council is not thinking any better about how to shelter the homeless. They had a beuatiful chance (to set up a "shelter" in Old City Hall), and couldn’t do it. There were nay-sayers. So against them, City Council opened it for inclement weather nights only (for 45 days). That will take it to the middle of January. Only 30 beds are provided (though 90 were promised), in a city with 1000 homeless. That is seriously impoverished thinking about how to meet the crisis of real people who remain unhoused and thus deprived of that human right. 

But the City Council will use this as an excuse to close down encampments, which are how the homeless survive in a hostile and impoverishing political landscape. The encampment at Aquatic Park is attacked because it is messy. The city could send some people down to help keep it clean. For the city to do so would be humanitarian, and even democratic (taking responsibility for residents), but it would countermand the impoverishment. And it would eliminate a reason to raid. 

But it won’t use its power to close down developers, to leave economic and political room for non-profits to build affordable housing. At present, in its zoning regulations, it gets a mere pittance from developments for the Housing Trust Fund. And it has done nothing to stop developers from buying their way out of providing affordable housing (mitigation fees). 

You know what it would take? Zoning regulations requiring 80% affordable housing units in new developments, and a mitigation fee of $200,000 per non-affordable unit. The for-profit (impoverishing) developers would leave, and the non-profits could come in and build for the people. 

This impoverishment of political thought goes even further. This City Council refuses to divorce the city from the surveillence state (Federal Fusion Centers, Urban Shield, automated license plate readers, street corner advertising kiosks with cameras, and police lapel cameras that are blurred and uncommunicative when the cop is in motion, like running or punching someone or just pulling his gun. There was this clip shown on evening news of a cop running down a crowded street with his hands in front of him holding his gun, which then went off a few time, and some unidentifiable person in a blurred distance doing something unidentifiable in the clip ended up dead. The council could not even bring the issue of police accountability to the voters. It refused to put a perfectly good measure giving the Police Review Commission some teeth on the ballot in the last election. 

We have no voice. That is political impoverishment. Democracy means that those who will be affected by a policy should be the ones who make the policy. That means that people, those who will be affected by a policy, get to define and articulate the issues, as well as participate in a final decision on it. That principle has long ago been thrown out by representationism. 


We need to restructure City Council  

Yet people keep going to the City Council meetings, and speaking, trying to get the council to think affirmatively about what real people need. It is the way we are taught to think about politics. Council endures this, ignores it, and votes as it already had decided to vote. Lost in our monologues, we have no structural means of entering real dialogue with those who make the decisions. That is structural impoverishment. 

One place to start would be a restructuring of City Council. Here are a few ways that can be done. 

Political policy is made through dialogue, and especially dialogue with those people empowered by law to make policy. If people cannot dialogue with them, then they are left with a monopoly on power to do what they like. In the absence of open dialogue on issues, only money can break through that monopoly. 

But democracy means that those who will be affected by a policy should be in dialogue with those with the legal power to make policy. People need to be able to ask elected officials how they stand on issues, and discuss it with them in an open domain and try to change their minds, in the open so others can hear. Going to an office and lobbying is like extending the campaign trail. The official can say what s/he likes, and then go to council do do anything. Council meetings should be restructured to allow dialogue and involvement in policy-making. 

As an indication of how far City Council will go to impoverish politics, it recently cancelled the people’s ability to take items off the Consent calendar, so that they can be discussed as Action items. If council agrees among itself that it does not want to discuss an item, and puts it on Consent. The people have no way of countermanding that monopoly elitist decision. 

We are, right now, witnessing a further extension of council’s impoverishment of politics by silencing the people. It is considering a plan to establish “Standing Policy Committees.” Different committees will be responsible for different issues. Their purpose will be to buffer the relation between the council and all those people who have something to say or something to advocate. As the proposal itself states, people can go to these “Standing Policy Committees” to speak, instead of going to council. The Committees will then decide for themselves what they will pass onto the Council. 

Instead of “Standing Committees,” why doesn’t the city set up “Standing neighborhood assemblies” in each neighborhood in which people can talk to each other, come up with resolutions to problems, vote on resolutions of their own making, and present them to the council as the will of the people of that neighborhood? 

One thing the council can do right now is make the agenda flexible so that items for which many people show up to speak would go first. Indeed, there could be a signup sheet in which people would record their main interest, and those items that got the most signups could be put first. Traditionally, they go last, so that the lateness of the hour will persuade many to go home before their issue comes up. 

The fight for democracy is a fight against political impoverishment. Impoverishment is always something imposed by a minority on the majority. 


Jagjit Singh
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:28:00 PM

Finally, 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/

December Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday December 07, 2018 - 03:05:00 PM

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! 


THE PUBLIC EYE:Turning California Totally Blue

Bob Burnett
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:33:00 PM

In case you missed it, on November 6th, a blue wave washed over California. Democrats took all major statewide offices, elected a second Democratic Senator, and seized 46 of 53 congressional districts. Nonetheless, California Democrats won't be satisfied until the Golden State's congressional delegation is totally blue. What will it take to accomplish this?

64 percent of California's eligible voters cast a ballot on November 6th -- more than 12.3 million. Most statewide races weren't close: Democrat Gavin Newsom won the governor's race with 61.9 percent of the vote. California's most controversial ballot initiative -- GOP-sponsored proposition 6 that would have repealed a fuel tax -- was defeated by a 13.6 percent margin.

In preparation for the midterm elections, California Democrats focused on seven congressional districts where, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican incumbent was retained: CA 10, 21, 25, 39, 45, 48, and 49. When the dust settled, Democrats had taken all these seats. 

It's useful to consider what it will take for Democrats to win the remaining seven Republican congressional seats: CA 1 (La Malfa), CA 4 (McClintock), CA 8 (Cook), CA 22 (Nunes), CA 23 (McCarthy), CA 42 (Calvert), and CA 50 (Hunter). Most of these are historically Republican rural districts. 

The largest of these congressional districts is CA 1 which covers the northeast portion of California: Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, and Tehama counties — plus portions of Glenn, Nevada, and Placer counties; its largest city is Redding. It's notoriously conservative; if you travel through this area -- on interstate 5 -- you'll encounter signs welcoming you to the independent state of "Jefferson." 

In 2016, Doug La Malfa won this district with 59.1 percent (Trump had 56.2 percent). In 2018, La Malfa got 54.9 percent of the vote. 

Republican La Malfa is a conservative Republican who has faithfully followed the Party line; he voted against Obamacare and for tax cuts. 

CA 4 covers much of eastern California, along the Sierra Nevada range; Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, and Tuolumne counties — plus portions of Fresno, Madera, Nevada, and Placer counties. Its largest cities are Auburn and Truckee. 

In 2016, Tom McClintock won this district with 62.7 percent of the vote (Trump had 54 percent). In 2018, McClintock got 54.2 percent of the vote. (By the way: McClintock does not live in CA 4.) 

McClintock is a conservative Republican and faithful Trump supporter. He voted for Trump's tax cuts and supports his immigration policies. Nonetheless, McClintock has been an uninspired congressman and, overtime, has lost favor in his district. 

CA 8 encompasses most of California's eastern desert regions; it consists of Inyo and Mono counties plus most of San Bernardino County. It largest city is Victorville. 

In 2016, Republican Paul Cook garnered 62.3 percent (Trump got 54.7 percent). In 2018 Cook did not have a Democratic opponent. 

Cook is a conservative Republican who has had a predictable but undistinguished congressional career (for example, he voted against Obamacare and for tax cuts). He's done nothing for the bread-and-butter issues confronting his impoverished constituents. 

CA 22 is an agricultural district in the lower San Joaquin valley: areas of Kings and Tulare counties. Its largest cities are Clovis, Tulare, and Visalia. 

In 2016, Devin Nunes garnered 67.6 percent (Trump had 52.1 percent). In 2018, Nunes garnered 52.7 percent. 

Republican Nunes is a long-term conservative and one of Donald Trump's strongest supporters in the House of Representatives. Nunes was on Trump's transition team and strongly defended him while chair of the House Intelligence Committee. CA 22 residents have criticized Nunes for spending too much time defending Trump and not enough time on local issues, such as water distribution concerns. 

CA 23 is the most Republican district in California. Located at the bottom of the San Joaquin valley, it spans parts of Kern and Tulare counties. Its largest city is Bakersfield. 

CA 23 is represented by Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader and, at the moment, the most powerful California Republican. In 2016, McCarthy garnered 69.1 percent of the vote (Trump had 58.1 percent). In 2018, McCarthy had 63.7 percent. 

McCarthy was an early Trump supporter and backs him across-the-board 

CA 42 is in Riverside County, in southern California. Its largest city is Corona. 

CA 42 is represented by Ken Calvert. In 2016, Calvert garnered 58.8 percent (Trump had 53.4 percent). In 2018, Calvert got 56.7 percent of the vote. 

Calvert has been in office since 1992 and has little to show for it. 

CA 50 lies primarily in central and eastern San Diego County. Its largest city is Escondido. 

CA 50 is represented by Duncan Duane Hunter. (In 2008, he succeeded his father, Duncan Lee Hunter.) In 2016, Hunter garnered 63.5 percent of the vote (Trump got 54.6 percent). In 2018, Hunter was narrowly reelected with 51.8 percent after he accused Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar -- a Christian -- of being "an Islamist" and "security threat." 

In August, Duncan Duane Hunter, and his wife, were indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. Their trial is scheduled for September of 2019. 

Summary: These seven Republicans are vulnerable on three issues: the first is climate change -- they're all climate-change deniers even though there's ample evidence in California: drought and horrendous fires. (La Malfa continues to deny climate change even though the Paradise fire happened in his district.) 

All seven voted against Obamacare -- which is very popular in California. 

Finally, all seven voted for the Trump tax cuts and, in general, have represented the special interests in their district and neglected their less affluent constituents. This is particularly a problem for La Malfa, McClintock, Cook, and Calvert, who represent very poor districts and have shown no interest in job-creation initiatives. 

In 2020, it's easy to imagine Democrats picking off Calvert (CA 42) and Hunter (CA 50) because they have personal issues and undistinguished records. (White non-Hispanic voters will soon be in a minority in CA 42). 

With good organizing, and a 24-month campaign, it's reasonable to imagine Democrats winning CA 1, CA 4, and CA 8. 

The most difficult targets are Nunes (CA 22) and McCarthy (CA 23). They both have strong connections to wealthy GOP donors and, as a result, millions to spend on reelection. Their vulnerability is their tight connection to Trump. If Donald goes down the drain, it's possible to imagine Nunes and McCarthy going down with him. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: George H.W. Bush Dropped The Ball On The AIDS Crisis

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:53:00 PM

George H.W. Bush died on the eve of World AIDS Day, established in 1988 to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and mourn those lost to the disease. As a father of 19-year Michael who died of AIDS in 1984, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I am dismayed that the media has focused primarily on Bush’s “kinder and gentler” image, with no mention of his inaction on the AIDS/HIV crisis. This inaction allowed the virus to spread, stigma to grow, and left so many vulnerable people out in the cold.  

True, Bush did sign two pieces of legislation in 1990 to address the crisis: the Americans With Disabilities Act, which protected people living with HIV and AIDS from being discriminated against, and the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which provided federal funding for HIV/AIDS treatment. But he did very little to end the negative attitudes and beliefs about people with AIDS. 

The stigma continues. Today over 1.1 million Americans live with HIV. Roughly 70% of new HIV infections in the U.S. are among gay and bisexual men, and 44% are among African-Americans. We see this government inaction under Trump who fired the entire staff of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, leaving no clear strategy for dealing with the ongoing epidemic. 

Let’s tell the whole story about Bush’s legacy, not just the “nice guy” part.

Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 12:02:00 PM

Recalibrating the Tesla Kerfuffle

At 4:30 AM on December 3, the Highway Patrol surrounded a Tesla Model S speeding down Whipple Avenue at 70 mph with is driver blissfully asleep and inebriated. The driver, Alexander Samek, a Los Gatos executive was cited with "Driving Under the Influence." (An easy-to-beat rap, since he wasn't driving.)

Tesla immediately took a lot of grief, with critics pointing to the incident as an example of careless social-and-automotive engineering. The negative press was so intense that Tesla initially didn't even bother to issue any statements in its defense.

But here's a thought: Consider how this incident might have played out if the driver had, say, suffered a stroke.

Suddenly, Tesla would be hailed for creating a life-saving technology and Elon Musk might be announcing a new auto-update that would not only drive the car in the case of an incapacitated driver but could sense the emergency and change course to head for the nearest hospital.


Feeling Bushed 

Anyone feeling a little bushed after all the 24/7 coverage of the demise of George Herbert Walker Bush? (At least the excessive coverage provided some relief from watching the surveillance video of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi walking to his doom at the entrance to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.) 

Granted, GHWB was a likable guy, with real "hero" cred. Shot out of the sky during WWII, he returned to skydiving to celebrate his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. (By contrast, GWB now dabbles in oil painting; Jimmy Carter builds houses for the poor; Bill Clinton continues to wince at the name "Monica Lewinsky"; and Barack Obama is successfully surfing the Blue Wave and basking in Michelle's popularity.) 

But now, with Bush's mortal remains having crisscrossed the land by air and rail and now safely laid to rest at the presidential library in Texas, it's time to reconsider the less-ennobling portions of Bush's legacy. 

Mehdi Hasan recently offered one such unglossed recap in a recent posting on The Intercept.that bore the headline: "The Ignored Legacy of George H.W. Bush: War Crimes, Racism, and Obstruction of Justice." 

Here's a brief summary: 

Bush started a war on Iraq based on a "mountain of lies," falsely claiming that "250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier" when satellite images showed an empty desert. The US committed war crimes in its "shock and awe" attack on Iraq's infrastructure and civilian population. And there was the illegal, covert Contra War against Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra "affair" which lead to a criminal investigation and Bush's pardons of his political cohorts. 

What's the Difference? 

There are many differences between Donny Trump and Poppy Bush (actually it's hard to find much in common) so here's a quick, disrespectful Q&A: 

Q—What's the difference between George HW Bush and Donald J Trump? 

A—Bush gets to lie in state for two days. 

Trump gets to lie in statements everyday. 

A PR Dispatch from The White House 1600 Daily 

On November 29, 2018, a White House press release announced the following: 

"Yesterday morning, First Lady Melania Trump joined Eric Bolling, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at Liberty University in Virginia for a town hall on opioids. 

“When I took on opioid abuse as one of the pillars of my initiative BeBest, I did it with the goal of helping children of all ages,” the First Lady said. To a full stadium of students, she explained the scale of the problem and how each person can make a difference. More than 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. Last year, those overdoses accounted for over 72,000 deaths—more than any previous year on record." 

Let's parse that proclamation, shall we? 

Note to Malania: Do the math. If opioids kill 130 Americans a day, the total would be 47,450, not "over 72,000 deaths." And the White House 1600 Daily editors apparently didn't notice that Melania misspelled the name of her signature initiative. It's Be Best, not BeBest. 

Another Daily Dally 

A more disturbing note in the 1600 Daily dispatch involves the First Lady's claim that "children of all ages" are opting to become underage addicts. Children aren't abusing opioids: it's mainly adults, with a growing number of teens being drawn in. Children, kids and toddlers aren't active, intentional abusers: too often the problem begins with mothers addicted to drugs while their children are in the womb. Some children mistake pills for candy and some children actually receive a doctor's prescription for addictive painkillers. 

The kids aren't "abusers." They are victims of a profit-driven addiction industry that churned out 241 million opioid prescriptions in 2014 alone. 

Instead of preaching to children, Mrs. Trump should be railling against the real abusers: people like Purdue Pharma's "OxyContin billionaire," Richard Sackler. Sackler is also a major financial donor to Donald Trump and the GOP. 

Now, having destroyed millions of lives by promoting the over-prescription of opioids, Sackler has announced plans to rake in millions in new profits from his latest creation. As the Financial Times put it: "Purdue owner Richard Sackler [is now] listed as inventor of drug to wean addicts off painkillers." 

And that's the ultimate genius of capitalism: Create a Problem and Sell the Cure. 

A Breath of Fresh Error 

When we type the wrong word in a quick email note we can (sometimes) blame AutoCorrect. But it's harder to live with errors that are recorded as part of the public record. 

Once, at a conference on "war and the environment," I shared a Biblical tale with a large audience, describing Samson's "scorched-earth" attack on Philistines. Later, when I looked at the video, I realized I had mucked up and claimed Samson had attacked "The Philippines." 

And I recently listened in stunned disbelief when I was flinging numbers around in an online webinar and I announced that there were "993" members of the United Nations. 

No way, Norway. There are only 193 UN members. 

I can't blame those slip-ups on AutoCorrect. (Alzheimer's, maybe.) 

Good Guys with Guns, Part 1 

The NRA may to have to rewrite its classic gun-wielding defense: "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." 

A slew of recent news reports suggests that we need to add the qualifying sentence: "Unless the cops show up." 

On Thanksgiving night, police in Birmingham, Alabama claimed credit for saving lives during a shooting incident that left a 12-year-old girl and an 18-year-old man wounded and the alleged shooter dead. 

Upon arriving at the Riverchase Galleria, police opened fire on 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, claiming that he had "brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots." 

Twenty hours later they issued an apology. It turned out that Bradford, a law-abiding US Army veteran, had not fired the weapon and had legal permission to carry a concealed firearm. 

Apparently Bradford was a "good guy with a gun." When shots rang out, he drew his weapon in response to a threat. But when the cops saw a black man holding a gun, they opened fire. 

Lesson learned: Even if you're a proud member of the NRA and you try to be a "good guy with a gun," there's a good chance the cops will show up and take you down. 

Lesson two: Bradford's tragic death would seem to void the rationale behind "concealed carry" laws. 

Good Guys with Guns, Part 2 

On November 7, a trained Marine vet named David Long opened fire on a crowd of college students inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Long killed 11 and wounded 22 others. Press reports noted it might have been worse but for the quick arrival of two armed police officers. 

One of the officers, Sheriff's deputy Ron Helus, was hit by five of Long's bullets. Nearly a month after the shooting, it was revealed that Helus would have survived had he not been the victim of "friendly fire." 

Helus was shot in the heart and killed by the other responding officer, a member of the California Highway Patrol whose identity has not been released. The CHP's Coastal Division has only described him as "a consummate professional, well-trained, military background." 

In an odd statement, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub assured the press: "We believe that Sgt. Helus was clearly not the intended target of the CHP officer." (Well, that's reassuring.) Ayub called Helus' death "a tragic detail" that was "unavoidable" and, despite the source of the fatal shot, Ayub insisted "Long alone was to blame for Helus' death." 

A Tip on Toners 

Used to be, when your printer's toner cartridge started to fade, you could give it a vigorous shake and it would be good for another month. 

No more. Today's cartridges are designed to shut off prematurely while there's still lots of ink inside. But if you've got a Brother printer, here's a work-around that can revive your cartridges. Look for a small round "window" on the side of the toner case. This is part of the engineered "shut-down" system. As long as no light can pass through the window to a sensor on the other side, the cartridge will operate. Once the toner level falls below a certain point, light will flash from one side to the other and the cartridge stops working. 

Here's the fix: Cover the window with a small square of opaque tape. With the sensor "blinded," you can resume using the cartridge. In my experience, that small patch of tape will keep a cartridge going for at least another month. Here's a video: 


Three Strikes and You're Grout 

The handwriting is on the wall. In this case, on the walls of the bathrooms in the Berkeley Main Library—and on tiled restroom walls across this great nation. 

Make that "Grout Nation." 

I can't speak for the walls in the ladies' rooms, but for untold years, restive mens-room ruminators have been inscribing tiny messages on the thin lines of grout between the ceramic wall tiles. Look closely or you might miss them. 

In the Berkeley Main Library, the messages can tend toward the literary with notes that read: "The Grout Gatsby," "Grout Expectations," and "Grout Caesar's Ghost!" 

But there are other entrees as well. Take a look and see what you find. Here are a few new sightings: 

"Make America Grout Again," "Trump is Groutesque," and "Feeling immature? Don't worry, you'll grout of it." 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Validation and Invalidation

Jack Bragen
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:04:00 PM

People with psychiatric diagnoses are denied decent, gratifying existences. This, in part, is a direct result of being disabled. If we are unable to work, and/or conform to the expected social norms, it is very hard for us to live in the human environment as it currently exists. 

Today's society is all about wealth. And, if mentally ill, it is likely that you don't have wealth. The wealthy are respected, and being disabled puts us in the category of social lepers. We are excluded. 

People with psych disabilities aren't offered much. We might get a nice sandwich for lunch. We might get some happy pills that make us comfortably numb. We might be able to get a cigarette on the front patio of our residential care home. And we will doubtless get plenty of television. 

Therapists might help pacify us by paying compliments to us of how well we are doing under our circumstances. Therapists can be supportive. When they get home at the end of the day after working at their high-paying, satisfying therapy job, to their big house in Walnut Creek, they might sit in their jacuzzi on their back patio, eat some gourmet food, and drink a glass of white wine. 

If someone offered me a chance at wealth, I wouldn't turn it down--not based on "becoming one of them" and almost not on any other basis.  

Validation, if you are mentally ill, is offered when you are a good enough victim. Treatment professionals are in the business of preventing us from becoming a nuisance or a threat. The system is intentionally designed to keep money out of our hands, and to keep us segregated--by means, in large part, of economic mechanisms. 

When we seek validation of the concept that our anger is real, we will be analyzed and neutralized. But when we seek validation of the idea that we are hopeless and helpless, there are numerous boxes of Kleenex to cry into. 

And, why should we not be angry? Many people in the world are angry concerning wrongs that have been done to them. On the other hand, anger should not lead to violence or aggression. Instead, it should lead to the resolve that we will do better. 

If we seek success, we are undermined. If a mentally ill person becomes successful, persons in the treatment system perceive it as a threat to the status quo. Yet, at the same time, they may have us blocked at all angles. For one thing, there is medication. Trying to perform at a job while on psych medication is a near impossibility at a position that has any sort of demands. Yet, if we went off of medication, not only will the brain go haywire; the treatment system will exclude us until we reach a point of an involuntary hold. 

I am not recommending going off medication; and especially, you should not go off medication if you've been on it for any appreciable length of time. Doing that will cause you to become substantially more impaired, including when back on medication due to the ensuing relapse. 

When mentally ill people seek help from professionals, our information is disseminated, we are put in categories, we are analyzed, and we are computerized. The best ways to keep us contained are found. We are subject to being brainwashed. That's part of the transaction of being helped by the system. It's not perfect, but sometimes we have no choice. 

What choice do we have? I suggest navigating within the system and taking advantage of the parts that provide help. Find parts of the mental health system that will help you in your objectives, and that will validate you for a job well done. 

Being a professional victim is no way to live. This isn't to say that people are not victims. This is to say that victimhood should not be a source of fulfillment. 

As people with psychiatric disabilities, some of us may have to choose less ambitious goals compared to non-afflicted people. Or, we may have to learn better ways of taking care of ourselves, such that we are competitive enough to be big fish in bigger ponds. 

In part, this depends on age. In part, it depends on how much we can handle. There is no rule that says a person with a diagnosis of mental illness can or cannot handle a particular amount of stress and responsibility--some can handle more and some less. Overall brain condition is a factor.  

I do know that when we see green rectangles of paper in our wallets, it is validation.

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activists' Calendar, Dec.9-19

Kelly Hammagren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 09:16:00 AM

Sunday, December 9, 2018

No City Sponsored events found

Monday, December 10, 2018

Housing Advisory Commission – Housing Trust Fund Subcommittee, 2:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, Dogwood Conf. Room, Agenda: Recommendation to Reissue RFP to Consider Measure O Funds, Proposals Received 1638 Stuart (Land Trust), 1900 alcatraz (Satellite Affordable Housing ), Predevelopment Loan for 2001 ashby


Youth Commission, 6:30 pm, 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center, Agenda: team Building Exercise, Response to San Pablo Shooting, Youth Homelessness, Gender Neutral Bathrooms,


Tax the Rich rally with Occupella sing along, Cancelled 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018  

CNA – CHE – Press Conference 4:45 pm, 2180 Milvia, Stand Up to Save Alta Bates 

Berkeley City Council, Tuesday, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 1231 Addison, BUSD Board Room, (last scheduled meeting before winter break) Agenda: 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 for 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. B. Reclassify Zoning for 1050 Parker / 2621 Tenth Street from Light Industrial to Commercial to allow for 4-story / 50 ft height, Adopt CEQA findings, C. Structure for Standing Policy Committees, D. Provide Direction to City Manager and Planning Dept on Number of Cannabis Retail Establishments and Creation of Equity Program, E. Short Term Referral to Planning Commission and Design Review Urban Forestry Ordinance Requiring Tree Planting upon Completion of New Residential and Certain Alterations, F. a.&b. Mandatory and Recommended Green Stormwater Infrastructure in New and Existing Redevelopments or Properties, 26. Referral to City Manager to Update Housing Pipeline Report to Address Timeline between Planning Entitlements and Submission of Building Permit Applications and consider Reasons for Delay, 27. Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2018 

Board of Library Trustees, 6:30 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: Presentation Berkeley Public Library Foundation, Budget Priorities for the FY 2020 & 2021 


Police Review Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Subcommittee reports & action Homeless Encampments, Safety for Sex Workers, Lexipol Policies, Body-worn Cameras Policy, Temporary Custody of Juveniles, Adult abuse, Discriminatory Harassment, Child Abuse, BPD Reponse to August 5, 2018 Protests, Pre-emptive confiscation of Sound Truck, Audio recordings, communications using personal devices, Letter to Manager/City Council regarding follow- up on CPE (Community Policing Equity) recommendations, After Action Reports and Public records Requests, Time Limit for Investigations, Commissioner Training 


Thursday, December 13 2018 

Community Environmental Advisory Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: Reports: Toxics Management Division, Subcommittees and Liaisons, Discussion/Action: Lead Paint Issue, Microfiber, Cigarette-Butt Pilot Project, Climate Mobilization, Fire-Fuel Reductions, CO2 Label for Gas Stations, Bee Updates, Green Infrastructure 


Mental Health Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: National Standards for Cultural and Linguistically Appropriate Services, Unruh Civil Rights Action, 2018-2019 Work Plan, By-Laws, Policies and Procedures Manual 


Zoning Adjustments Board, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers 

2555 Fulton – Convert 10-bedroom community care facility to 8-bedroom dwelling with parking in rear yard, Staff Recommend Approve 

1526 Sixth Street – Demolish portion of 2,216 sq ft mixed use building expand to 3280 sq ft and convert to office use, construct new dwelling unit within expanded building, four parking spaces, Staff Recommend Approve 

1050 Parker St Medical Office Building – modification of Use Permit, Staff Recommendation Continue 

Pardee Block Parking Lot Project (1010, 1014, 1016 Carlton, 2700, 2712, 2714 Tenth St, 1001, 1003, 1013 Pardee) 43,847 sq ft surface parking lot, Staff Recommendation continue 

2777 Shattuck – Review Use Permit, Staff Recommendation hold public hearing, take no further action 


Friday, December 14, 2018 

Reduced City Service Day 

Saturday, December 15, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 

Sunday, December 16, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 




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 




Giovanni Porta’s IFIGENIA IN AULIDE: Ars Minerva Ventures into the 18th Century

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:00:00 PM

Having specialized in reviving long-lost 17th century Venetian operas, Céline Ricci’s Ars Minerva company now has revived a long-forgotten 18th century opera. Giovanni Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide (1738) was given two performances November 30 and December 1 at ODC Theatre in San Francisco’s Mission District. Porta, Venetian by birth, was a popular composer of thirty operas, which were performed in the early 1700s throughout Italy, Germany, and England. However, only four of Porta’s operas remain extant. His Ifigenia in Aulide score was found in Dresden. Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide premiered in Munich during Carnival season in 1738, and as far as we know it has not been performed since until now.  

Sung in Italian with English supertitles by Joe McClinton, Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide is very much in the style of Handel’s Italian operas. Indeed, Handel produced one of Porta’s operas, Numitore, in 1720 at London’s Royal Academy of Music. As I have previously noted regarding Handel’s operas, the same could be said of Porta’s: the da capo structure imposes an ABA pattern that means we hear pretty much the same music three times in each and every musical number. This makes for very long operas and can get tedious. However, with sufficient variations offered in the B section, as is the case in Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide, the da capo structure works reasonably well.  

Set to a libretto by noted Italian writer Apostolo Zeno, Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide retells the story told by Euripides and later retold by 17th century French tragedian Jean Racine. The Greeks were preparing to sail to Troy but were becalmed by contrary winds. Agamemnon consulted the oracle Calchas and was told that he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to appease the goddess Artemis (Diana, in Italian). Only with this sacrifice will the Greeks be able to sail to conquer Troy.  

Céline Ricci, founder and artistic director of Ars Minerva, directed this semi-staged production. Using images projected on a backdrop instead of stage sets, Céline Ricci came up with an imaginative staging that involved seven hooded and masked figures who represented the Furies or Fates. As these Furies interacted with the various characters, they writhed, they whirled, and they encircled the victims caught up in their web. In short, this was an elaborately choreographed Ifigenia in Aulide, one that held our attention and emphasized the Greek notion of Nemesis. 

The cast was uniformly excellent. Soprano Aura Veruni was a sweet-voiced Iphigenia, whose aria at the close of Act 1 expressed her joy at the prospect of wedding her beloved Achilles. Later, in Act 3, Aura Veruni delivered a poignant farewell to her mother in the aria “Madre diletta, abbracciami” (“Beloved Mother, embrace me”). In the role of Clytemnestra, Iphigenia’s mother, soprano Shawnette Sulker was superb. In the dramatic trio in Act 3, Sulker’s repeated outbursts of the word “barbaro” (“barbarous”) were hurled at Agamemnon like lightning bolts. (Mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz was a revelation as Agamemnon. She sang with vigor and sensitivity, vocally conveying the torments of this father seemingly compelled by the gods to sacrifice his own beloved daughter. As Achilles, mezzo-soprano Céline Ricci was outstanding. Her Act 1, scene 2 aria “Asia tremi, Argos festeggi” (“Asia tremble, Argos rejoice”), was delivered with superb vocal technique as she negotiated this music’s dramatic vocal acrobatics. Further, Céline Ricci’s farewell to Iphigenia, “Sposa, addio” (“Farewell, my bride”) near the opera’s end, was movingly sung as Achilles vowed to save Iphigenia from the sacrificial pyre. 

In a subplot, Elisena, captured by Achilles as he took Lesbos, falls unhappily in love with her captor. Soprano Cara Gabrielson sang beautifully as Elisena in a role that sashays back and forth between love, vengeance, jealousy and pity. Countertenor Matheus Coura was excellent as the much put-upon Teucer (Teucro, in Italian). Tenor Kevin Gino was a vivid Ulysses, singing grandly and dramatically portraying the male chauvinism of the Greek warriors. Baritone Spencer Dodd ably sang the minor role of Arcade. Derek Tam conducted a chamber orchestra from the harpsichord, and he deftly kept the opera moving forward over its full three-hour stretch. Oh, and by the way, Agamemnon’s daughter doesn’t die at the end of the opera. Elisena takes her place, for it turns out that her real name also happens to be Iphigenia, so her sacrifice is accepted by the gods, and the Greeks rejoice as they prepare to set sail for Troy amid suddenly favorable winds.