Full Text

Will this be Cesar Chavez Park?
Will this be Cesar Chavez Park?


Droste and Upzoning

Russ Tilleman
Wednesday March 06, 2019 - 10:00:00 PM

What a surprise that a council member who was caught taking an illegal campaign contribution from Gordon Commercial Real Estate wants to upzone residential neighborhoods so developers can make more money!

Droste committed a crime by accepting that contribution. I think she should be prosecuted for a misdemeanor and, if convicted, barred from holding elected office as specified by BERA.

This was not a minor paperwork error, it was a serious corruption-related offense.

Comments on Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for UC Berkeley's Long Range Development Plan (LRDP)

Carol Denney
Wednesday March 06, 2019 - 10:58:00 AM

I am a former student of the university who does not oppose the university building housing, but who opposes building housing on People's Park, a city landmark on the state's roster of landmarks now in its 50th anniversary year, an international symbol of user development, free speech, and opposition to war.

The University of California, my alma mater, stated at the outset of its plan to build additional housing that it had nine sites to choose from for housing projects, all of which left the main campus property undisturbed. The main effect this has is to force more and more of the town to service the university's housing needs, compounding a housing crisis courting the lead nationwide for high prices and per capita homelessness.

The university's own "Long Range Development Plan" shows it has currently between 8,000 and 10,000 more students enrolled than it agreed to enroll in legally binding agreements with the City of Berkeley and its impacted neighborhoods. Its "Housing Master Plan" states plainly that even its long-term goals only provide for "two years of university housing for entering freshmen," and "one year of university housing for entering transfers" and "one year of university housing for graduate students" making certain that students will shortly, in the middle of their studies, face the housing shortage head-on.

The nine sites cited as available neglected to include vast open spaces on the main campus, which it clearly does not want to disturb in favor of destroying local landmarks. It also neglected to include empty, run-down and what seems to be deliberately neglected housing on the Smyth Fernwald tract near the main campus which once accommodated 74 families, a location with still operative dining room facilities. 

Nor did the list of available sites include the convenient Clark-Kerr Campus now housing 900 students with additional senior housing in buildings which are low-rise, and many of which are single story. The Clark-Kerr Campus has many neglected, run-down buildings and vast open space which the university is currently using to build sand pit volleyball courts, of all things, over neighbor' objections and in violation of legal agreements with neighborhood groups. 

People's Park is still governed by agreements signed in 1978 and 1979 to maintain the land as "educational and recreational" space, agreements which include including neighborhood and park user groups which have been shut entirely out of this discussion. I am not alone in our community in being terrified of having to endure more conflict over People's Park which in the not so recent past cost millions of public dollars as well as disrupting and costing lives. Please consider the many locations currently available for additional housing, and respect People's Park's landmark status and international renown. 

(To add your own comment, write to: planning@berkeley.edu)

Urgent Notice Re People's Park SEIR

Mark McDonald
Saturday March 02, 2019 - 07:17:00 PM

This month the University of California (UC) has issued a stealth Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for their Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) which contains the possible green light for seizing People's Park and building student housing. The clock for comments has already started and ends April 8 at 5 PM. This is a critical time for anyone who cares about preserving the Park or any of the other serious land seizures by the University to submit a comment in one of 3 ways which will follow.  

The SEIR is an expansion of the number of students UC said they planned to cram onto the Berkeley campus by 2020, which was 33,000. Presently they now have 41,000, a 25% increase over next year's goal. The SEIR states that they plan to have 45,000 by 2022, but seeing how poorly UC honors their own declarations who can say how many more students will be admitted. Anyone can understand why we are having a "housing crisis" and why UC is grabbing land all over town with the abuse of their eminent domain state powers….the seizure of citizens' property for a so-called crucial public use. People's Park was once a block of single story and apartment houses filled with students and Berkeley citizens.

The Berkeley Council used to understand this and enforced an agreed limit of students if UC wanted to maintain a functioning relationship with the elected body. The present Council seems to have no interest in defending the rights of non-student Berkeley citizens and instead endlessly speaks of the need for more housing without ever acknowledging the huge increases in student numbers. The list of all the ways UC is already bilking the City is long. UC presently owns a substantial portion of Berkeley's taxable property…..taken off the roles which increases everybody else's taxes whether one is a renter or owner. A 15 year old study found the University was costing Berkeley taxpayer's $15 million a year after all generated funds and costs were calculated. UC has increased the portion of foreign students who are charged more but end up leaving less slots for tax paying residents for the state funded university. UC continues to be mired in major financial corruption and scandals with exorbitant perks . bonuses, retirement packages, slush funds and missing hundreds of millions of dollars.

One can send a comment by email titled SEIR Comment to <planning@berkeley.edu.> One can mail a written comment to SEIR Comment - 300 Architects & Engineers Building - Berkeley Campus - Berkeley Ca. 94720 - 1382. An Open House is scheduled for Tuesday March 12 at 6:30 PM at the Alumni House on the Berkeley campus and will have a presentation and then allow comments on a microphone.
We urge anyone who has concerns about People's Park or any other vulnerable space in Berkeley or just the total surrender to UC by the City to send a comment, as a big response could be critical. We also urge Folks to confront the Mayor and Council on why they are handing the City over to UC.

Suspect in UCB Punching Incident Identified and Arrested

Nicole Perez (BCN)and Planet
Sunday March 03, 2019 - 10:45:00 PM

Police said they have arrested a man suspected of punching a man staffing an information table on the University of California at Berkeley's Sproul Plaza last month.

Zachary Greenberg was arrested Friday and booked into jail by the University of California Police Department around 1 p.m.

Police did not say how they identified Greenberg as the suspect. It was unclear Friday if he had an attorney.  

Video of the assault went viral in conservative media circles.  

On Feb. 19, the day of the assault, the victim told police he was at a table for the group Turning Point USA when two men came up and started arguing. 

The suspect knocked over the table and punched the victim several times, injuring the man's nose and eye, police said. The suspect left before officers arrived 

Chancellor Carol Christ issued a statement after the incident.  

"That sort of behavior is intolerable and has no place here," Christ said.  

Police said the Alameda County District Attorney's Office will decide whether to pursue charges.  


Copyright � 2019 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 




Framing Upzoning in Berkeley: A Case History

Becky O'Malley
Saturday March 02, 2019 - 09:44:00 AM

If you’re one of those troglodytes who’s concerned that Berkeley’s becoming Silicon Bedroom, you might want to listen to this podcast (that’s the with-it term for an audio recording which you can also hear on your desktop computer):


It’s forty minutes of giggly girly chitchat produced by an organization called YIMBY Action, described thus by the producers: “Round-table discussions on local politics and urban policy with folks hanging out at the Yimby Clubhouse in downtown San Francisco. Regulars include Laura Foote, Sam Moss and a few other loudmouths.”

Here’s what they say about this episode: “Berkeley councilmembers Lori Droste [District 8] and Rashi Kesarwani [District 1] join us to discuss their effort to expand missing-middle housing options. We also talk opportunity and belonging in the Bay Area. And a fun side story: UC Berkeley students' recent advocacy for housing at 2190 Shattuck, at what Laura describes as the "F*ck a View hearing," after a memorable student sign. (The councilmembers want you to know Laura called it that, not them.)”

Why should you care about what these people say? Well it’s the roadmap for what these two councilpersons hope to achieve with a new proposal they’ve catchily captioned “The Missing-Middle”.

The name is a confusing conflation of a number of different concepts: middle-size, middle-class, middle-income and more than a dash of Middletown. It’s one architect’s branding coinage for an idea submitted to last Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting, with the YIMBYs’ blessing, by Droste and Kesarwani plus councilmember sponsors Ben Bartlett and Rigel Robinson. 

From the bio of the author of a 2017 op-ed included with the item on the council agenda: 

Daniel Parolek is an architect and urban designer who co-authored the book “Form-Based Codes,” coined the term Missing Middle Housing (www.missingmiddlehousing.com) and speaks and consults nationally on these topics. 

His thoughtful essay makes this key point: 

“We … need to change the way we communicate about housing needs in our communities. If we are using George Lakoff’s rules for effective communication we would never go into a housing conversation with a community and use terms like 'increasing density, adding multifamily, or upzoning a neighborhood.' I can think of few neighborhoods that would feel good about saying yes to any of those options if they were framed in that way, but which can mostly get on board with thinking about aging within a neighborhood, or ensuring their kids or grandkids can afford to move back to the city they grew up in..” 

So…what is this proposal all about in the end, unframed? 

The sponsors start by doing exactly what Parolek warned against: proposing upzoning neighborhoods in the first graf. They ask the council to:i 

“Refer to the City Manager to bring back to Council a report of potential revisions to the zoning code to foster a broader range of housing types across Berkeley, particularly missing middle housing types (duplexes, triplexes/fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, townhouses, etc.), in areas with access to essential components of livability like parks, schools, employment, transit, and other services..." 

Don’t get me wrong: I love bungalow courts, courtyard apartments and small apartment houses, as well as multi-generational group houses and co-ops…and because I’ve enjoyed a long life I’ve lived in all of them at various points. But what’s wrong with the way this scheme is being introduced is a classic case of “solution first, problem second”. 

That’s a mistake I had ample opportunity to observe in my mid-life high tech career working with over-eager programmers. They showed me that it’s possible to design a very elegant scheme with many appealing bells and whistles which will crash and burn in an instant if the problem isn’t correctly defined from the get-go. 

Here’s how Thomas Lord, a Berkeley housing activist (and computer wizard), analyzed this particular housing solution in an email: 

“The idea of form-based zoning codes and of allowing residential subdivision in some areas is nothing new, though today it is dressed in new, largely false or misleading rhetoric. "The economics of a zoning change such as proposed are pretty simple in high demand markets such as this. 

“The price of a real property is, in effect, the replacement cost of the improvements (e.g. the building(s)) plus the price of the land. 

“The price of the improvements is determined by the costs of materials and labor. The price of the land in the case of the missing middle idea is determined by the level of demand. 

"Already from just that you can see that if the high-income demand for single family homes is strong enough, such buyers can easily outbid say, two potential buyers of smaller condominiums or four renters of very small apartments. 

“But it is worse than that. The conversion of a property from single-family to multi-family entails the destruction of some or all of the existing value of the single family home-- either through demolition or retrofit. Not only must condo buyers or a handful of renters outbid high income single-family house bidders, they must bid even higher to make up for the redevelopment costs. Again, this is unlikely in most cases. 

“The exception is, of course, well-worn older buildings and distressed properties -- especially any subject to rent control. These properties can be purchased at a discount because of their relatively poorer condition or because of the needs of an owner to cash out under duress. The redevelopment costs are lower and so the financial play of razing them to build high-priced condos or apartments may pay off. The state subsidizes this kind of redevelopment by eliminating rent stabilization whenever a new occupancy permit is issued. That is to say, the authors of this measure have as much a chance of worsening the affordability crisis as anything else.” 

The authors of this proposal cite the very real history of racial bias in housing, which was present in Berkeley into the 1970s, as the justification for rezoning. But they need a refresher on the details of local history, since residential segregation here was mainly enforced by real estate salespeople and restrictive covenants during most of its duration, not by zoning. 

One example: On the District 8 block where my family has lived since 1973 and Councilmember Droste’s family now lives, BUSD teacher Chinese- American Ying Lee (later a councilmember herself) and her European-American then-husband Professor John Kelly were unable to buy the house they bid on in the ‘60s because of neighbor objections to her ethnicity, enforced by the real estate agents involved. 

Thanks to Arlene Slaughter’s real estate firm and others, that had changed by the time we got there. Now, about a half-century later, I’m happy to report, we have residents on this block descended from immigrants from Africa, Asia, Europe and for all I know Australia as well, and we have all kinds of housing combinations regardless of zoning. 

Ironically, there’s a very real risk that a plan like the one suggested by these councilmembers could have the most negative effect on the descendants of previous victims of racism. That’s because, as my correspondent pointed out, rezoning the previously red-lined areas west of Martin Luther King Way (formerly Grove Street) would increase over-all land price there, creating an incentive to tear down rent-controlled rentals and modest homes and replace them with new exempt “cash-register multiples”. And by specifying access to transit and excluding “very high fire severity zones” from rezoning you’ve pretty much left out the pricier parts of the Berkeley Hills. 

As the new version of the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but she’s still not Madonna. 

With all due respect to my old friend George Lakoff, what this idea needs is not just better framing. What it needs is clear thinking, starting with a rigorous definition of exactly what problems we’re trying to solve. 

It’s not Berkeley’s job to become Silicon Bedroom to atone for the sins of Cupertino. We need to admit that BART is nothing more than a badly designed commuter train which doesn’t even work anymore. What we need is more housing down south near those high tech jobs accompanied by inexpensive housing served by effective short-run transportation around here for BUSD’s underpaid teachers and UCB’s poorly paid service employees and under-funded students. 

Yet in the councilmembers’ YIMBY Action discussion, they point with pride to their recent approval of 2190 Shattuck, another vulgar “luxury” building which if it’s ever built will be an energy sink and a blight on the landscape for 40 years. All the missing-middle rhetoric in the world won’t make up for that. 

Oh, and by the way, if you are foolish enough to listen to that tape, make sure to go all the way to the end, so you can catch the fervent encomiums of the councilmembers and their YIMBY hosts about Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s “leadership” in getting that bad building approved, praising his deviation from his previous campaign stance on this kind of development. 

If you’re not happy with the way things are going, considering the proposal has been postponed until the March 26 City Council meeting. Between now and then, let Arreguin and councilmembers know what you think of what they’re up to, and show up at the meeting to voice your opinion. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Mayor Arreguin Jumps On Board the Developers' Gravy Train; Endorses YIMBY "Missing Middle" Plan.

Saturday March 02, 2019 - 11:54:00 PM

Received from a reader after the editorial was published, the mayor's tweeted reply to a YIMBY booster of the "Missing Middle" scheme:

Replying to
Totally agree and I support this study. We need to expand housing opportunities for all. I tried to get this passed last night and we will get it done on March 26th.


Don't Miss This

Sunday March 03, 2019 - 07:38:00 PM

If, perchance, you wonder what your state senator is up to since AB827 was stopped in committee last year, read this piece by Tim Redmond in 48hills.org:
The Democrats in Sacramento want to deregulate housing — but that has never worked





Public Comment

Jim Crow Economics in Berkeley

Steve Martinot
Saturday March 02, 2019 - 07:13:00 PM

Debt Servitude

The term “debt servitude” has a double meaning. It means one is placed in servitude to one’s debt, and it also means one is placed into servitude to another person or institution through that debt.

Debt servitude was the structure by which Jim Crow replaced the form of forced labor called enslavement that preceded it. Debt servitude and Jim Crow characterized the class structure during the second third of this nation’s existence. When an unlikely Supreme Court decision on education pulled the cork out of that bottle, two whole decades of unremitting struggle to democratize this country ensued. The Reagan administration then commenced to put the cork back in that bottle. And in the process, it deregulated real estate (as well as finance), initiating an era of rising rents and a concommitant problem of “homelessness.”

There is a civil suit (in Alameda County Court), launched by the city of Berkeley, that exemplifies the modern form of debt servitude. The name of this case is “The City of Berkeley vs. Leonard Powell.”

Leonard Powell is a black veteran with a large family who bought a house before Reagan, and got it free and clear by the 1990s. He is now in the process of losing it to debt servitude. 


Here’s how debt servitude worked under Jim Crow

Initiated in the late 1870s and 1880s, debt servitude was used to tie a freed black farmer or agricultural laborer to the land. It was a substitute for enslavement. Like enslavement, debt servitude tied an agricultural laborers to a piece of land, and forced him to work in order to pay off a debt that kept getting larger the more he worked. What tied him to that land was the Sheriff who had the power to arrest for any attempt to escape that debt, and throw the man on a chain-gang. 

The debt would be initiated by the need of the farmer or laborer to borrow money to buy seed and tools and donkey feed and the means for his own and his family’s survival during the growing season (food, etc.). The laborer and his family would work the land (his own or another’s), to raise a crop he had already mortgaged to get that loan. When the crop was harvested, the lender would then come and seize it. And after it was sold, and the amount of the laborer’s debt deducted, the laborer would find his pockets empty and his debt greater than it had been. So he would borrow more money to get through the next growing season. And so on. 

Here’s how debt servitude works today

Today, if a low income family’s house is found to be in violation of city codes, and the family cannot meet city demands for immediate repair, the city can sue to put the house in receivership. The receiver then initiates repairs which then become a debt for the owner. The debt increases as the cost of house repair increases. If the receiver then initiates expenses beyond the owner’s means, he places the owner in a position to lose his house. There is nothing that the owner can do to stop this process. And it happens more often to black families during periods of gentrification (white upper class influx) because black families have been held to lower levels of assets than whites. The low value for real estate means development will be more profitable. 

In 2014, the city of Berkeley found certain code violations in Mr. Leonard Powell’s house, and gave him a list. Being a man of meager means, he asked the city to negotiate with him on fixing and repairing what the city had listed. He had no objections to the list, and was happy to comply with the law, and to keep his house maintained. But he hit a wall. The city preferred to set strict deadlines, and hold it against him that he failed to meet them (in its suit against him). It offered him a loan that it knew he couldn’t use. And held that against him as well. The suit it initiated was to place the house under receivership, which was approved in March of 2017. (See my article, “Berkeley, a City with a Heart … of Stone,” in the Berkeley Planet, May 16, 2018, for the details on this). And everybody, city, court, and receiver, assured LP that he would be returned to his house with his family when it was over. 

The original repair work was estimated (in 2017) to be in the area of $150,000 to $180,000, which would have established a debt that Mr. Powell could have handled. By the summer of 2018, the receiver had managed to boost the total expenses for the project up to $700,000. Here’s how it works. 

The receiver is mandated only to repair the code violations. When he began work, he says he found some things wrong with the house that needed reconstruction beyond the scope of his original mandate. Without inspection or court approval, he went ahead with it. It was nedessary, he claimed, for returning the house to duplex status, as the condition whose absence ostensibly prohibited LP getting access to that money. 

The city didn’t require duplex status, however, and LP didn’t want it. And the transformation of the house to duplex status negated the "home" condition to which LP was promised he could return because it rendered the house rental property. This was the first step in the debt cycle. 

A debt cycle consisted of an increase in costs, LP’s attempt to get loans to cover them, the imposition of new requirements on the house for those loans, new construction to meet those requirements, and thus increased costs producing increased debt, sending LP out to get more loans. He went to banks and the VA and the federal government, etc. Each source of financing imposed new building requirements. The receiver would then do the work to "enable" LP to get a loan. After each cycle, LP owed more money on his house. It’s a treadmill, a debt servitude treadmill. 

Here’s how the receiver himself describes this in a letter to the Mayor of Berkeley, written on February 4, 2019. He explains the origin of the increased costs through a determination “that there were significant structural and foundation issues.” This was not pursuant to abating the Berkeley housing code violations. But it was done, without prior city inspection, and without prior court approval (at least none that appears in the court records, or in Public Records Request documents from the city). The immediate effect was the need for LP to obtain more funding. The receiver admits to this (in his letter to the Mayor). 

“In order for Mr. Powell to qualify for federally subsidized financing, the entire property needed to meet the Federal Home Association guidelines for habitability. This required the repair of items that were not on the original list of code violations.” 

Several times during 2018, the receiver asked the court for an increase in his capacity to borrow money on the basis of the receivership. The latest, granted in June, 2018, by Judge Brand, was for an increase from $435,000 to $515,000. With his fees and legal expenses, the receiver, in his June 28, 2018, filing with the court, reaches the final total figure of $700,000, to be chargeable to LP. 

On February 22, 2019, we (supporters of Mr. Powell) witnessed the latest step in this cyclic process personally. Some 35 of us attended the court process in support and solidarity with LP, knowing what he had gone through to raise the money to satisfy the receiver’s bill of the previous month. Whatever transpired that day during an hour and a half conference in judge’s chambers, Mr. Powell emerged from that "conference" owing more money than he did when he went in. 


It is the same old story

When a black sharecropper works the land, it is to survive, to feed and clothe and house his family. The debt servitude of Jim Crow would place him in a situation from which he could never get free. If he tried -- to go north, perhaps, or to a city to get an industrial job – the sheriff (under Jim Crow law) would put him on a chain-gang. Today, when a city or a bank or a receivership process places a resident in unconscionable debt, and the person seeks to escape bondage to that debt, he will lose his house, and become homeless. 

If debt servitude was the analogue of enslavement after the outlawing of slavery, urban homelessness is today the latter-day avatar of the chain-gang of the Jim Crow era. It is where those who wish to escape an imposed debt – with no resources with which to do so – end up. 

The true purpose of Jim Crow was to set aside an entire sector of the population (black people) for hyper-impoverishment, to prevent them from accruing assets that could be used to support a non-impoverished life. By bestowing an “identity of prosperity” on the rest of the society (white people), it enabled white people to think in terms of a supremacy. It also enabled banks to think in terms of "redlining," and political parties to think in terms of "gerrymandering." And ultimately it allowed whole classes of people to oppose gun control. 

As Albert Memmi has said, the dominant group does not oppress the subordinate group because it hates them, it hates the subordinate group because it oppresses them. 

Today, it all happens in a courtroom

In his monthly accounting for January, 2019 (filed on February 22, 2019, the same day as the aforementioned court conference), the receiver stated that “The Receiver has reviewed the funds on hand and determined there are insufficient funds to pay all expenses incurred. Accordingly, if no objections are received within 10 days from the service of the Report, the Receiver will accrue fees until estate funds become available.” That is, the debt will increase until full payment by Mr. Powell is made. Even long after the building was finished. 

The work on the building was finished in October, 2018. It was given a Certificate of Occupancy. Yet the receiver refuses to allow Mr. Powell back into his own house, until he gets his money. Thus, the case remains in court. The receiver demands his money. The judge tells Mr. Powell to come into court with the money (in cash or promissory form). Mr. Powell appears with the money in promissory form, and is informed that he owes more than before because the receiver has charged him with fees from the intervening month. 

So it has gone for the last 4 months. The receiver continues to receive in excess of $10,000 a month in “fees and expenses” during this time, though no work is being done. Every month, the money Mr. Powell owes the receiver increases. 

Now (February, 2019), the receiver has filed a petition with the court to obtain permission to sell the house. He is implying that the only way he thinks he will be able to get compensation will be through such a sale. In other words, he is fairly confident that Mr. Powell will not get himself out of the debt the receiver has placed him in. 

Only the city of Berkeley can stop this travesty

Only the city of Berkeley can stop this travesty of justice because only its "uncivil" suit has created the condition in which Mr. Powell is victimzed by this form of debt servitude. The city is the author of the situation by which Mr. Powell is being impoverished through debt. 

The judge can’t do it. He finds himself immersed in a biased procedure because the law provides greater protection for the interests of this white receiver than it does for the interests of this black homeowner. The city of Berkeley knows this, but does nothing to alleviate it. Over the last 4 months, the Berkeley city attorney (or her assistant) has attended these hearings and conferences. She is thus a party to the discussions that impose endless increase in debt on Mr. Powell. 

In effect, the city’s suit plays the role of Jim Crow law, authorizing the debt servitude imposed on black laborers by lenders after emancipation. Here, it is being used to deprive a black family of their assets. 

Why wasn’t the suit terminated in October, 2018, when the work on the house was done (or in December, 2017, when repairs of code ciolations had been completed)? Had the city terminated its suit in November of 2018, some $84,000 would not have been added to Mr. Powell’s debt. 

Why couldn’t the city withdraw or terminate its suit against Mr. Powell right now? That would end whatever authority the receiver has by ending the receivership. While the receiver has been enriching himself at Mr. Powell’s expense, the city has offered no supervision. It did not care that this black family was victimized through the imposition of this debt cycle. Indeed, all knowledge the city had, in the context of this failure, amounts to collusion with the receiver. 


Climate note #5: "Your lifestyle or your life - physical and economic limits"

Thomas Lord
Saturday March 02, 2019 - 10:41:00 AM

The consequences of global warming in excess of 1.5°C warming are horrific. Tragically, we are on a trajectory past 3°C warming, which will quickly lock in mass extinction, many millions of assured deaths, and significant uncertainty that civilization or even the human species can survive.

To have a chance at a 1.5°C limit, global emissions must be cut by approximately 50% by 2030, a mere 11 years away.1 That goal is a 6% reduction per year, every year.

For us in the U.S, 6% per year is much too slow. We are the highest per capita emitter in the world. We are also in the most advantageous position to make immediate reductions. Equity concerns - such as the need of much of the Global South to develop sustainably - reinforce our obligation.
A 15% per year reduction is not too much to ask.

Fly less? Change our diets a bit? Vote for public transit? What the IPCC has shown us, in 2018, is that the laws of physics can not wait for such long-range, pie-in-the-sky plans. If we delay sharp emissions reductions, chances to stop at 1.5°C are lost. We will still be on a path towards 3°C warming.

There will be no "catching up", in other words. To miss this last remaining window of opportunity for serious change is to condemn many millions to death, and today's children to misery.

It is true that, in principle, we know of "technological fixes". For example, greatly improved public transit systems can sharply reduce emissions from cars. The principle is, at the moment, useless. It should be understood as a lament for not acting earlier. There is simply no economic possibility (in the broadest sense of "economic") to build such a transit system in time.

In that one example of car travel we can, if we are willing to look, see something very profound about the physical and economic barriers we are up against.

  • The laws of physics command a death-plagued, miserable single-lifetime future if we do nothing.

  • There is no practical or economic means to substitute sustainable forms of public transit for cars fast enough.

No sugar-coating: the only choice that remains is to curtail driving with no substitute ready, and manage the harsh economic fallout as best we can. 

About this series

This is the first in a series of very short discussions of climate change, meant to be easily understood by a wide audience. 

Please let me know if you spot errors, or have suggestions or questions. I will do my best to improve the notes and to issue corrections as necessary. I can be contacted at lord@basiscraft.com. Please put "climate:" at the beginning of the subject line. 

Planned topics

  • Climate note #1: "The push for zero"
    The gravity of the situation. 

  • Climate note #2: "The carbon budget"
    The scarcity of resources to solve the problem. 

  • Climate note #3: "How soon until zero?"
    The urgency of successful action. 

  • Climate note #4: "Mass die-offs? Extinction? Really?!?"
    The importance of acting. 

  • Climate note #5: "Your lifestyle or your life - physical and economic limits"
    The sacrifice required (no sugar-coating). 

  • Climate note #6: "Can't we just make our infrastructure green?"
    The denialism popularized by progressive politics. 

  • Climate note #7: "What is to be done?"
    How to act wisely, together, in solidarity

  • Climate note #8: "The genocide problem."
    Are we monsters

  • Climate note #9: "Simple plans of action."
    A little courage is all we need to act. 

  • Climate note #10: "Rejoice."
    A personal reflection. 

  1. Summaries of projections here generally refer to the analysis in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report 15 ("Climate Change of 1.5°C"). 

Save Cesar Chavez Park

Carol Denney
Saturday March 02, 2019 - 10:27:00 AM
The trash left afterwards
The trash left afterwards
Will this be Cesar Chavez Park?
Will this be Cesar Chavez Park?

"In what has become an annual tradition, at least 10,000 people gathered to smoke pot on Hippie Hill, despite the park’s smoking ban... revelers left behind 22,000 pounds of garbage... 'It’s a mess out here, and I have 40 people working out here this morning. This will cost the city $100,000. Probably by the time we’re done, this will cost my department $30,000 to $50,000 in staff time,' Ginsburg said. 'To put that in perspective, we can send one kid to summer camp for a week, for free, for about $300,' the Recreation and Park director went on to say..." - SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5)

The Berkeley City Council is slated to make Cesar Chavez Park a "designated location for cannabis events" at their meeting on Tuesday, March 12, an extreme hazard for those who don't wish to be or can't be exposed to smoke. They plan for the smoking to be in a "smoking tent"; SF's "hippie hill" (photo at left) helps us imagine how well that will work. Berkeley students, residents, and workers get exposed to both tobacco and marijuana all over Berkeley as it is. The California law decriminalizing marijuana specifically prohibits smoking in public.

Please help protect our smokefree parks. Write to, and encourage any group (you don't have to be from Berkeley) you work with to write to: council@cityofberkeley.info 

or call and leave a message saying you oppose cannabis events in any of our smokefree parks, especially Cesar Chavez, the most accessible in Berkeley:

Mayor Jesse Arreguin - (510) 981-7100
Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani - (510) 981-7110
Councilmember Cheryl Davila - (510) 981-7120
Councilmember Benjamin Bartlett - (510) 981-7130
Councilmember Kate Harrison - (510) 981-7140
Councilmember Sophie Hahn - (510) 981-7150
Councilmember Susan Wengraf - (510) 981-7160
Councilmember Rigel Robinson - (510) 981-7170
Councilmember Lori Droste - (510) 981-7180

RV Permitting Nightmare, or Hit the Road, Jack

Carol Denney
Saturday March 02, 2019 - 07:21:00 PM

Anti-homeless laws don't work; the last thirty years proves it. Anti-RV laws, such as Berkeley's vote for a prohibition on parking from 2-5 a.m. while creating a nightmarish two weeks-only permitting system has the same probability of being pointless. The Berkeley City Council probably knows this. But the majority just doesn't care.

Only a couple of them at the special meeting Thursday, February 28, 2019, had the common sense to note that the police were actively concentrating RVs in the west Berkeley. At least some of them know police often just make up the rules as they go. It makes those of us in the police's sights wonder why the Berkeley City Council majority even bothers pumping out more rules. The police do whatever they want whenever they want to the poor, rules be damned.

Here's why they do it; it makes the homeowners and business owners pressuring against the RV community feel like something was done. Even if pointless, even if useless, even if heartless, something happened. A crank turned. The City Manager's office will whir with authority and fluff the detail, the City Manager's office will try to craft an elegant evasion of Martin vs. Boise, and the City Council gets to pose next to their RV permit process like a proud hunter standing by a dead bear. 

There always comes a moment in a city council meeting to generate more anti-poor laws where a single supporter alludes to the people who would have attended, who might have spoken, who could have far outnumbered the poor and voices on behalf of the poor. They were just too afraid to come, to speak, to represent their own interests and opinions according to this single voice. This voice always argues that the room is skewed unfairly toward opposition to laws that target the poor despite the poor in great numbers managing to muster the courage to come. The poor plead for common sense and against ineffective, expensive laws which commonly dog and doom the those without property and means to tickets, fines, and jail for simply being unable to pay sky-high rents. 

And it works. Mayor Arreguin leans forward, just as Tom Bates and before him his wife, former Mayor Loni Hancock, use to do. The mayor assures the poor law supporters, usually property and business owners convinced that the view out their front windows of streets they don't own should not include the sight of an RV, that they're heard and that their concerns will be treated with respect. The Mayor assures them that there is scrambling behind the scenes to move heaven and earth to accommodate their issues. They may not own the public streets in front of their businesses and properties, but they're reassured that they will be treated as if they did. 

And then comes the turning of the big, fake crank that proves that the council did something for the property owners tired of being surrounded by poverty. Berkeley may be among the top ten cities nationally for its income disparity, but dang it, that doesn't mean the well-off should have any visible evidence of same. The fake crank turns. Those insistent that any poverty or income disparity be invisible then feel their council representatives have done something. Any residual difficulty is just evidence of the depth of the problem, not the idiocy of the council, few of whom are unaware that anti-poor laws are a waste of money and time. 

Criminalization of the poor is not just counter-productive, it is really, really expensive. Note that the $13 million dollars of the public's money which was just recently spent on renovating BART Plaza to make it less likely that poor people will hang out on benches (and deliberately toilet-free), divided by the $20,000 per year this writer has managed to live on for decades would have gotten at least 650 people off the street for a year. 

But extremely costly idiocy appears to be what citizens of Berkeley are willing to embrace. The proof is the decades they have spent doing exactly that, and spending those decades watching their own public dollars going straight down the drain of this convenient political facade. 

Let's be clear. It takes creativity, resourcefulness, focus, discipline, and attention to detail to work within the strictures already placed on RVs (recreational vehicles) in the City of Berkeley, let alone keep your job while living in a tent. And it is most likely true that just as with tent cities, human waste is dealt with in inadequate ways, since the closest pumping station right now according to this recent city council meeting is somewhere in Petaluma

But it is also true that repeated speakers warned against providing adequate pumping facilities in the City of Berkeley for fear that people, rather than renting at exorbitant rates, would abandon any hope of finding a rental unit and create an even larger RV community. Ahhhhhh! 

While the majority of the Berkeley City Council listened to the voices of the RV community with glazed expressions, a few councilmembers exhibited clarity, concern, and creative policy. Councilmembers Hahn, Harrison, and Davila illustrated how simple it would be to offer immediate space in vacant properties as a safe harbor, and how counterproductive it is to tighten rules on a community already under strain. Hahn, Harrison, and Davila questioned the report presented to the council as a foundation for the proposed legislation asking pointed questions, noting the absence of commissions and relevant committees in the process, and raised hope that at least a little common sense rattles around on City Hall's fifth floor. 

But in the meantime, between 2:00 am and the break of dawn, RV dwellers will have to endlessly drive around. Because thanks to the necessity of a political facade, common sense and compassion will just have to wait. 




Jagjit Singh
Friday March 01, 2019 - 12:14:00 PM

Both President Trump and President Madura are facing off moving towards a cataclysmic showdown. Mr. Trump’s veiled threat to the Venezuelan military to abandon President Nicolás Maduro or “lose everything” can only be interpreted as a pretext for military intervention. 

Yes, the military should abandon Mr. Maduro, who has guided one of Latin America’s richest countries to total ruin with a valueless currency, hyperinflation driving up food, medicine and other commodity prices out of reach for the average citizen. But it should not be America’s role to impose its will on Venezuela. History is replete with failed US military adventures–Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, the 17 year quagmire in Afghanistan.  

The offer of humanitarian aid seems completely out of character given Mt Trump’s admiration for the world’s strong men like Putin, General Assisi, Duterte, President Erdogan, Xi Jinping and his latest love, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. Vice President Pence tried to gain European support projecting the US as a beacon of light with his recent visit to the European Parliament but the tepid reaction he received made clear the Europeans don’t buy a sudden burst of altruism from the White House. It is telling The United Nations, the Red Cross and other relief organizations have refused to work with the U.S. on delivering aid to Venezuela, which they say is politically motivated. Finally, Mr. Trump has expressed a strong desire to gain access to Venezuela’s oil which he said would be a huge bonanza to American oil companies. 


Don’s Attack Dog Attacked by the Republicans

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 01, 2019 - 12:20:00 PM

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s long time attack dog drew back the curtains of his boss’s sordid business activities and private life. His riveting testimony validated what most of us have long suspected. 

By his own admission Cohen threatened more than 500 people or entities at Trump’s behest. 

Trump had an early history of gaming the system, Clearly embarrassed by his school grades and SAT scores he instructed Cohen to ensure they be hidden from the public. In mortal fear of being sent to the killing fields of Vietnam, he conjured up a fake bone spur story to escape the draft.  

Cohen looked a broken man, sacrificing his integrity for the proximity to power but nevertheless deserves credit for appearing before Congress with full knowledge that he would be vilified and treated like a human piñata by the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. 

Armed with documents to bolster his case Cohen accused his former boss as “a racist, con man, and a cheat who is fundamentally disloyal and a threat to democracy.” We should pay close attention to Cohen’s warnings otherwise we may be subjected to a Trump second term when he will continue to do irreparable damage to our nation, alienate our allies while cozying up to Russia’s Putin. With his stubborn denial of the ticking time bomb of climate change, he is clear and present danger to the entire planet. Republicans and Trump supporters time to take your head out of the sand and pay attention. 


New: Tragic Trump

Marc Sapir
Sunday March 03, 2019 - 08:13:00 PM

Donald Trump, with his many criminal machinations, kidnapping of migrant children and unrepentant hate speech, deserves to be in federal prison. Yet for all that, with his hopes to prove a foreign policy genius on Korea punctured, Trump becomes a tragic figure. Trump floated the idea of negotiating an end to the never ended Korean War (something both Koreas’ leaders want) in exchange for Kim Jong Un ending his nuclear weapons program. It might have worked. 

What happened instead? Unbeknownst to Trump his own men, Bolton and Pompeo, joined the national security state leaders in blocking such a peace plan. Why? US finance and military interests don’t want the Korean war ended, reunification or the removal of US troops from South Korea even if it meant ending dictatorship in the North. As a more independent capitalist powerhouse, a unified Korea, would likely loosen US imperialism’s grip throughout East Asia.

March Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Wednesday March 06, 2019 - 10:37:00 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! 

New: Cannabis Gathering in Cesar Chavez Park

Sid Small
Sunday March 03, 2019 - 08:25:00 PM

f you have ever gone to Cesar Chavez Park the day after the Kite Festival you will find lots used toilet paper under bushes, behind trees and on the grass and yet we allow this to continue year after year. I can’t imagine that a gathering of cannabis users would be any more inconsiderate of public health than the attendees of this festival. My dog and I stayed away from the park when Frankie Graham took it over for his religious/political rally because it upsets me to hear that. Frank and his peeps had their day in the park and me and Shadow went somewhere else that day. It was not a big thing for us to go to a different park that day and let them do their thing.I would hope that the few folks who are affected by smoke would choose one of the many other Berkeley parks for one day and allow a few hundred like minded folks to do their thing.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Reasons to Cooperate with Treatment

Jack Bragen
Friday March 01, 2019 - 11:54:00 AM

When a psychiatric consumer becomes "noncompliant" they face massive forces going against them. The "system" is designed to funnel those who are uncooperative into conservatorship, or worse. 

We have many reasons why we are better off initially cooperating with the system, and then going farther than that--using the resources of the system to make things better for ourselves. 

When someone becomes medication noncompliant, a relapse is very likely. This seems universal. In the past thirty-plus years of exposure to fellow psych patients in the mental health treatment systems, I haven't seen any exceptions; going off meds will cause a relapse. I am uncertain about why--I would think a small percentage would be able to get by without medication. 

In some instances, a relapse of severe psychiatric symptoms will carry life-threatening consequences. 

The consequences of stopping medication against medical advice sometimes includes incarceration. You don't want that. In other instances, the relapse causes you to become gravely disabled. In the latter case, a rehospitalization follows, and this is followed, one hopes, with a gradual recovery. A quick recovery probably won't happen unless you're in your early twenties or younger. 

I've seen cops take away people who have "decompensated." The cops are not always nice about it. Not to knock law enforcement people--they have helped me numerous times. Yet, when dealing with a mentally ill person whose behavior may not make any sense, often police are at a loss concerning how to be compassionate. 

In modern times, mentally ill people frequently end up in prisons and jails. They may inadvertently commit minor offenses. It might seem more convenient to just lock people away, rather than trying to help them deal with and solve their problems, and then help them reintegrate into society. 

Often, those in charge of running society are tempted to seek the easiest and most convenient method of dealing with a psychotic, manic, or suicidal person. This is sometimes to incarcerate the person, and in other instances, to commit her or him into a long-term, locked facility. 

The above are reasons that a mentally ill person needs to be cooperative. After you have that learned, it is helpful to find yourself a niche in society. I suggest that you do something you love. It doesn't necessarily matter whether you are very good at it; if you love a type of work, you should do that. When you pursue that sort of goal, and if some level of success at it has a chance of being realistic, it will have numerous good ramifications to many areas of your life. 

In my twenties, my pursuit was that of repairing home electronics. I also worked at other jobs. In most of the jobs that I obtained, I ended up quitting in a manner that was unprofessional. This netted bad ramifications, and a lot of people criticized that behavior. However, there were some jobs that I stuck with, and at the time, this helped my life circumstances. 

Cooperating with psychiatric treatment is something you can do even as you defy the label being thrust on you. 

Defying the concept that your intelligence is below normal, is another thing that you can do in your partial defiance. If you take your medication and accept other treatment that the system is mandating, you nonetheless have the basic freedom to value yourself and act accordingly. 

Because in my twenties, I worked at jobs for more than ten years even after being labeled as schizophrenic, I have Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and not just Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This allows me to get Medicare, which in turn allows me to accept treatment for physical and mental ailments, at a wider variety of places and not just at county-run facilities. 

When I was in my thirties, I finally gave up on conventional employment. I'd been taking heavy antipsychotics for a long time and decided that it was getting too difficult to be employed while maintaining this and other forms of treatment. 

Yet, my experience at working jobs, and my attitude of cooperation yet defiance, are things that stay with me, and that continue to help my quality of life be better than it would be otherwise. 

The mental health treatment system in conjunction with other mechanisms in society, and a psychiatric condition that necessitates treatment, are things we probably can't change. But we continue to have power over our own attitudes and actions. We don't have to accept the role of mentally ill idiot. We can do better. Being mentally ill, or being diagnosed as such, does not have to define us. 

Cooperating with the system is the biggest thing we can do to fight the system. When we cooperate, we maintain our basic liberty and maintain our faculties, this allows us to stand up for ourselves. This is something we would not be able to do if we were noncompliant and re-hospitalized on a repetitive basis. 

Jack Bragen's books can be found on Amazon.

ECLECTIC RANT:Michael Cohen in the Spotlight

Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 01, 2019 - 11:56:00 AM

On February 17, Michael Cohen, the ex-attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, persuasively testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee assailing Trump as a “racist,” “con man,” and “cheat." 

Republicans claimed that Cohen lacks credibility because he has been convicted of lying to Congress and faces jail time. Remember, however, that Cohen lied on behalf of Trump. Whereas, Trump has lied over 8,000 times and counting in his first two years in office and committed other egregious acts, and, as yet, faces no jail time or impeachment.  

Who is more credible, Cohen or the Congressional Republicans still in lockstep support of Trump? My money is on Cohen.

New: SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday March 03, 2019 - 08:14:00 PM

R.I.P.: Noted in Passing

One of Berkeley's oldest residents died in a tragic fall during last week's storms. A towering eucalyptus tree in the middle of the King Park and Pool playground lost its footing in the rain-soaked soil and tumbled to the ground with a crash and a thud that woke nearby residents.

Fortunately, the gigantic tree toppled during the night. Had it fallen during the day, the results could have been tragic because it came crashing down right on top of the adjacent children's playground, mangling several swings, ripping holes in the spongy groundcover, and crushing the surrounding metal fence.

The tree once stood more than 100 feet tall but Friday morning saw it sprawled across the play area, its massive base uprooted and work crews busily sawing the enormous trunk into refrigerator-sized chunks. The toppled tree was so huge that the sections of sawed trunk scattered on the ground rose over the heads of the clean-up crew working to clear the site.

By the time students began arriving at MLK Jr., the cleanup was already well underway.

The tree will be missed. But, given the odds that it could have rumbled down on a playground filled with children, let's give thanks that it missed.



Grumpy Trump Walks Away, Very Hanoied 

Poor Donald. The stage was set, the agreements confirmed, the papers already printed and waiting to be signed, and he winds up turning his massive back on Kim Jong-un's pudgy front, and walking away from a potentially history-making Deal. 

Pundits immediate went to work trying to suss out what went wrong. Trump's focus was fractured, for one thing. The Donald admitted he had taken some "executive time" during the intense meet-up with Kim—abandoning the nuclear negotiations so he could watch the live broadcast of Michael Cohen's House intelligence committee testimony. 

This might have left Trump unable to concentrate of the business-at-hand. Surely watching his former right-hand-man calling him a "racist, a conman, and a cheat" may have left Trump feeling a bit imperiled. 

I just heard Willie Brown on the radio and realized we both shared the same theory to explain Trump's sudden departure from Hanoi. Here it is: 

After watching Cohen's testimony, Trump approached the North Korean leader to ask for a favor and flew off in a huff when Kim refused to offer him political asylum. 

In Related News 

On February 26, KCBS afternoon newsperson Melissa Culross went on air to inform the Bay Area that: "Donald Trump is now on his way back to Russia." Quickly adding: "Excuse me . . . . The US." 

Send Trump a Billion Dollar Bill 

Donald Trump claimed he was "proud" to "take the mantle " for shutting down the government. This unprecedented, authoritarian act caused crushing economic chaos—especially for 800,000 federal workers. Since Trump has claimed "ownership" of the shutdown, he should be held liable for the consequences, including reimbursement of the $3 billion in "unrecoverable losses" he inflicted on the country. This could become a precedent to prevent any future presidential actions that would result in clearly predictable economic damage to the nation. 

MoveOn Petition: Make Trump Pay for $3 Billion Loss 

To be delivered to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate 

Donald Trump said he was "proud to shut down the government" but the Congressional Budget Office reports that Trump's 35-day shutdown left the US Treasury with an "unrecoverable" loss of $3 billion. Ask Congress to enact legislation calling for Trump, a self-styled-billionaire, to reimburse the Treasury in full for the $3 billion loss.  

To sign the petition, CLICK HERE or cut and paste the following link: 


A Swab for the Dubs? 

Kaiser Permanente's elevators currently sport an ad alerting riders that "Early Detection Saves Lives." But the following text had me doing a double-take. It read: 

"Win Warriors Tickets! Get your cervical cancer screening test during the months of February and March and be entered into a raffle for a chance to win Golden State Warriors tickets." 

I pulled a puzzled expression and pointed to the sign to see if any other passengers thought it strange. 

A young woman just laughed and replied: "A pap smear for the Dubs? Sounds like a good deal to me!" 

Another Strange Commercial Transaction 

During a layover in Panama City en route to Colombia, I popped open my laptop inside Tocumen International Airport and attempted to connect to the Internet. The promise of "free wi-fi" came with conditions. There were two ways to link in. Travelers could (1) register with a local wi-fi provider or (2) donate blood to a local blood bank. 

A notice explained that the offer was limited to passengers 18 and older. Sorry kids, no online Vampire videogames for you on this trip. 

Bible Libel 

It's no secret that the Holy Bible is filled with unholy acts and bizarre behaviors but hard-core evangelists might be flustered to discover that King James of England—the fellow behind the translation, editing, and revision process that produced the King James Bible—was openly gay. Several years ago, I happened upon a portrait of King James that raised my curiousity and a Google search left me google-eyed. 


Turns out it was well-known at the time. The monarch's subjects openly shared a common joke that proclaimed: "Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen." 

It turns out the familiar nursery school rhyme, "Georgie, Porgie," was a veiled reference to King James's young consort, George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham. 

There were even passionate letters twixt King-and-Duke. In one, King James wrote: "I naturally so love your person, and adore all your other parts . . . ." And appealed to: "my sweet child and wife [to] grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband." 

Villiers penned similar notes, including the following: "I cannot now think of giving thanks for friend, wife, or child; my thoughts are only bent on having my dear Dad and Master's legs soon in my arms." And the monarch once dispatched a letter to the young Duke that declared: "Whether you loved me now . . . better than at the time I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed's head could not be found between the master and his dog." 

So repent, thou gay-bashing preachers of intolerance! 

Stop Using the Word "Growth" 

In 1988, Edward Abbey famously observed: "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." 

Ann Pettifor, a fellow of London's New Economics Foundation, has an even stronger position on the term. "Please, never use the word 'growth,'" Pettifor pleads: "It was a word that was invented as recently as 1967 by a man called Samuel Britain and the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development]. It wasn't in use before that." Every time you use that word, Pettifor scolds, "you're buying into a neoliberal concept, which is dangerous." 

According to Pettifor, economists used to express concern about the "level" of employment or the "level" of productivity. But the OECD came up with the idea that the economy should "grow by 4 percent" – i.e., to grow beyond its capacity. This path lead to debt and inflation, "for which the unions were blamed." 

It's fine to talk about "more employment," "more productivity" or "higher incomes," Pettifor says: just "don't use the word growth. 

So It's Time to Grow Our Vocabulary 

Progress has been made in the search for "growth-free" conversations—if economists would only adopt them. Here are two: 

In 1968, the Club of Rome came up with the concept of "degrowth." 

In 2009, Earth Island Journal minted a new term to counter neoliberal gtowth-based economics. The word was: "Shrinkth." 

Recent years have seen a flowering of catchphrases and popular movements all crafted to nudge us toward a less cataclysmic end. Among them: Small Is Beautiful. Power Down. Simple Living. Global Footprint. Carrying Capacity. Less and Local. Locavore. Green New Deal. 

And, of course, there's still that golden oldie: Zero Population Growth

Double-duty Words 

Speaking of the English language, did you know there are a few rare words that have exactly opposite meanings? An example? Take the word "sanction." Depending on the usage, the word can mean either "permission" or "denial." You can sanction someone for bad behavior. You can also sanction someone to do whatever they please. 

Such words are called "contronyms" (also known as "contranyms," "auto-antonyms," "antagonyms," "enantiodromes," "self-antonyms," "antilogies" and "Janus words"). 

"Oversight" can mean "supervise" or "overlook." 

"Left" can mean "left for somewhere else" or "left behind." 

"Dust," as a verb, can mean to cover with dust or to remove dust. 

According to the website MentalFloss, there are 14 such words, including: seed, stone, trim, cleave, resign, fast, off, weather, screen, and help. 

Well, I think I've found a 15th word: "Forge." 

"Forge" can mean to build something honorable —i.e., to "forge a respectable career"—but it can also describe an act of deceit—to "forge a document." 

Anyone have any other antagonyms? 

Trump Pays to Pop Up on the Mainstream Media 

It wasn't the kind of pop-up ad you would expect to see while tuning into the NBC Nightly News, but there it was—a fund-raising appeal from the Trump/Pence 2020 presidential campaign. 

A photo of Trump (with two thumbs raised) was paired with a donation square listing suggested contributions ranging from $35 to $2,700 to "Other." 

"The Fake News Media is out to get us," the ad proclaimed. And, to make it's point, the "Certified Website of Donald J. Trump" invited visitors to take a Mainstream Media Accountability Survey. It was clearly not intended to be an unbiased, scientific survey. Here are some of the 25 questions: 

Do you trust MSNBC to fairly report on our presidency? 

Do you believe that the mainstream media actually cares about working Americans? 

Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party's position and actions?  

On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans (Select as many as apply): Immigration. Economics. Pro-life values. Religion. Individual liberty. Conservatism. Foreign policy. Second Amendment rights. 

Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media? 

Do you believe that the media wrongly attributes gun violence to Second Amendment rights? 

Do you believe that the media has been far too quick to spread false stories about our movement? 

Do you believe that the media uses slurs rather than facts to attack conservative stances on issues like border control, religious liberties, and ObamaCare? 

Do you believe that the media purposely tries to pit Republicans against each other in order to help elect Democrats? 

Do you believe the media is engaged in a witch hunt to take down President Trump? 

Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable? 

The survey is an ingenious—and disingenuous—propaganda tool. It pretends to be interested in people's opinions but its line-up of leading questions is actually designed to instruct the participants what to think—about the media, about the Party, and about its fact-challenged leader's Reign of Error. 

Join the Movement to Impeach Trump

Do you think that Trump is unfit to be president and should be removed from office? If so, you might like to join a CREDO-hosted conference call with Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Alexandra Flores-Quilty from By the People. The goal: "to lay out the political landscape and what's at stake in this moment, why impeachment is important, and what our plan for action is."  

When: Thursday, March 7: 5 pm PT. 

Note: There's only space for 10,000 callers, so you'll have to RSVP by clicking here to get an email with notes about how to call in and a recording of the call after it's over. 

And please: Don't everyone talk at once. 

Arts & Events

New: Is the Takács Quartet the Best in the World?

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday March 03, 2019 - 10:42:00 PM


I’m not easily given to nominating anyone for Best in the World. But I have to admit that the thought crosses my mind that the Takács Quartet may well be the best string quartet we have today. I can recall, however, the great Budapest Quartet of the 1950s, the wonderful American quartets of the same period like the Fine Arts Quartet and the Juilliard. But when it comes to today, especially among string quartets we get to hear regularly in the Bay Area, I find the Takács Quartet almost unrivaled, at least since the beloved Cypress String Quartet suddenly disbanded a year or so ago. Lately, the Takács Quartet has given us ample proof of their mastery in two weekend concerts at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. In last week’s edition of these pages, I reviewed their February 24 concert. Now I’m reviewing their March 3 concert, the last in a series of two. 

For this concert the program consisted of Haydn’s String Quartet in G Major, Opus 76, No 1, Bartők’s String Quartet No. 6, and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80. What these quartets have in common is, above all, that they are late works in the lives of their composers. Thus, they offer us a chance to hear what a lifetime of experience had taught these composers about writing string quartets. 

In this respect, Franz Joseph Haydn is a particularly revealing case in point. Haydn wrote his Opus 76, No. 1 quartet very late in life, at a time, in fact, when he was also composing his very last work, the ambitious oratorio The Creation. His final symphony, No. 104, was already two years old when he began composing his Opus. 76, No. 1 string quartet. What we find, therefore, in this work is a distillation of everything Haydn had learned both from his own earlier string quartets and from those of Mozart, who died five years before Haydn’s six Opus 76 quartets of 1796.  

Haydn’s Op. 76, No. 1 quartet opens with three chords, after which the cello, here magisterially played by András Fejér, introduces a theme immediately taken up by the other instrumentalists. What ensues is a spirited Allegro full of brio. The second movement, a lovely Adagio, opens with cello and first violin trading lyrical themes. Here the umber tone of András Fejér’s cello is contrasted to the bright, clear tone of Edward Dusinberre’s violin. The third movement is a Menuetto, at least in name, though Haydn turns it into a Scherzo that anticipates much of what Beethoven would later write in the way of assertive, even aggressive scherzos. And in the middle of this Scherzo, Haydn offers us a surprisingly clunky country dance tune. The Finale begins in a minor key but gradually modulates to a major key as it offers a beguiling song. Then the music speeds up, pauses for pizzicato moments, then rushes onward to the finish.  

Next on the program was Béla Bartők’s String Quartet No. 6. This, the last of Bartők’s string quartets, was begun in 1939 at a time when Hitler’s extra-territorial ambitions threatened all of Europe, including Bartők’s native Hungary. To make matters worse, Bartők’s beloved mother was gravely ill. Thus, it is no surprise that this final string quartet by Bartők is full of anguish and pain. (His mother died just as he completed this work, and about the same time Bartők made the decision to leave Hungary for the USA.)  

The quartet opens with a solo lament by viola, here gorgeously played by Geraldine Walther. Then all join in as the music turns agitated and obsessive. By the end of this first movement, a lyrical high point is reached, followed by a peaceful close. The second movement, marked mesto (sad, in Italian), like all four movements, opens with a cello solo, beautifully performed here by András Fejér. Then the music launches into an ironic march and a parodied military tune. Here a central section features pizzicato from the viola, while the cello offers a wild folk-inspired tune. As the march returns, we note a kinship with Mahler’s sardonic march tunes. The third movement opoens with another lament, followed by a burlesque of the march theme. The final movement opens with a dirge-like lament, then delves into deep recesses of pain, marked suddenly by two piercing outcries by the first violin. Then there is a return to the lament that opened the work, and this quartet closes with pizzicato from Geraldine Walther’s viola and Harumi Rhodes’ second violin, ending in a reflective mood.  

After intermission, the Takács Quartet returned to the stage to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80. As program notes remark, this late work by Mendelssohn may surprise the casual listener, for whom Mendelssohn is known as a gifted composer of light music lacking in emotional depth. Here, to the contrary, the work is full of pain and disillusionment. Mendelssohn’s beloved sister, Fanny, herself a gifted composer and pianist, had suddenly died of a stroke at age 41. Felix himself died prematurely within the same year. Is it any wonder, then, that the music of Mendelssohn’s last string quartet is full of anguish and pain?  

Opening with repeated tremolos, followed by three stabbing chords, this work aannounces its pain right from the outset. Moreover, at the close of this movement Edward Dusinberre’s first violin reiterates the stabbing chords as the rhythm accelerates and the music veers at the brink of chaos. The second movement features a brooding, obsessive motif that seems to run headlong toward disaster, though leavened by a quiet, unsettled central section. The third movement, an Adagio, offers profoundly beautiful music that could be interpreted either as a lament or, conversely, a song of gratitude and affirmation. But the final movement could never be taken for anything but an outcry of anguish and pain. The music is often angry, and towards the end the first violin, here performed in virtuoso fashion by Edward Dusinberre, shrieks its pain while the others join in dwelling on their collective grief. This was the Takács Quartet at their best, brimming with intensity yet ever precise in their musical cohesion.  

Errata: In last week’s review of the Takács Quartet’s February 24 concert, I included a note regarding the works to be played at their second concert, Sunday, March 3. Among the works cited, I mistakenly wrote ”the Mendelssohn quartet,” when I meant to say ”the last Mendelssohn quartet.” Somehow the word ”last” got omitted. I apologize for this lapse.  


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 3-10

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Friday March 01, 2019 - 06:52:00 PM

Worth Noting:

The new/restructuring of Berkeley City Council Policy Committees is starting to fill the daytime hours. If the first Land Use Committee is an example of the future, the City staff attendees will vastly outnumber citizens.

Four meetings stand out as worth attending for important issues, Wednesday - Planning Commission, Thursday - Council Land Use in the morning , Council Infrastructure which includes Climate in the afternoon and Housing Advisory Commission in the evening. Agenda Highlights for the March 12 , 2019 City Council meeting are posted at the end. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Monday, March 4, 2019  

City Council Public Safety Committee (Policing, Fire, Dispatch, Disaster Preparedness ) 10:30 a, at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor, Cypress Room, First meeting of new committee, (Bartlett, Wengraf , Robinson), 


4x4 Committee, 4 p, at 2001 Center, Law Library, 2nd Floor, Agenda: #5. Rental Housing Safety Program – proposed Fee Increases, #6. Universal rent registry, #7. Short-term Rental Ordinance, #8. Demolition Ordinance, #9. BMC 19.50.050, inoperable elevator and alternative housing for persons unable to access or egress unit via stairs due to disability, medical condition, (Council –Arreguin, Davila, Harrison, Robinson, Rent Board -Laverde, Simon-Weisberg, Alpert, Tregub), 


Ad Hoc subcommittee on Paid Family Leave, 1:00 p, at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor, Cypress Room, C. Bartlett Proposal, D. Harrison Proposal, (Bartlett, Davila, Hahn, Harrison) 


Peace and Justice Commission, 7 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: #12. Justice for Mr. Leonard Powell, #13. Disaster Preparedness and social justice lens 


Personnel Board, 7 – 9 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conference Room, listed on community calendar, no meeting notice posted, call 981-6800 LaTanya Bellow before going 

Tax the Rich Rally, Mon, 4 pm – 5 pm, Top of Solano in front of the closed Oaks theater (soon to be a climbing gym), Rain Cancels 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 

Board of Library Trustees, 6:30 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: B. Apply for and accept grant funds for STEM programming 


Commission on Disability, 6:30 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: #1. Presentation Paratransit, #2. IKE Kiosks, #3. Zero Waste, #5. San Pablo Ave. Plan, #6. Navigable Cities, 


Planning Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 1947 Center Street, Agenda: #9. Form Adeline Corridor Plan, #10. Local Preference for Affordable Housing Case Studies, #11. Housing and Community Benefits Ideas for Adeline Corridor, #12. Formation Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee Subcommittee 


Live Oak Community Center renovation Project Community Meeting, 6:30 p – 8:30 p at Live Oak Community Center , 1301 Shattuck, Seismic Update and Renovation 


Thursday, March 7, 2019 

City Council Policy Committee Land Use, Housing & Economic Development, 10:30 a, at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, #2. Analysis Site Capacity for Housing Development at West Berkeley Service Center, 1900 6th Street, existing zoning, potential max height 6-story, RFIfor senior hour, services, maximizing number of affordable units, refer to Planning Commission modifications underlying MUR zoning, #3. Open Doors Initiative: First Time Homebuyer, incentivize creation of affordable starter homes through renovation of properties to become multi-family condominiums (missing middle) in R1, R1A, #4. Tie Affordable Housing Mitigation fee to floor area (currently tied to number of units) 


City Council Facilities, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environment & Sustainability Committee, 2:00 p, at 1947 Center St, Multi-purpose Room Basement, Agenda: 2. Green Stormwater Infrastructure from a. CEAC and b. City Manager, 3. Adopt Ordinance to Prohibit Natural Gas in new buildings 


Cannabis Commission, 2 – 4 pm, at 2180 Milvia St, 6th Floor, Agenda: B. 3/12/19 Council item Cannabis ordinance, C. Cooperative/collectives, 


Housing Advisory Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: #6. CDBG Subcommittee Recommendations, #8. Presentation Theo Ferguson – 1642 Milvia St Condominium Assoc, #9. a. 1281 University b. Housing trust Fund, #11. Revise Code Enforcement, #12. Update Bi-Annual Housing Policy, #13. Urban Development relative to IPCC Special report, #14. Teacher Housing and Housing Discrimination, #15. a. Inclusionary Housing and Mitigation Fee, b. Missing Middle, e. Measure O & P m f. 2001 Ashby Predevelopment loan 


Landmarks Preservation Commission, 7 – 11:30 pm at 1947 Center St, Multipurpose Room, Basement, Agenda: 6. B. Grant Application, C. UC Upper Hearst – CEQA notice 

1835 San Pablo – Demolition Referral 

2352 Shattuck – Demolition Referral 

2300 Shattuck – Structural Alteration 


Public Works Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard, No Agenda posted check before going 


Friday, March 8, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Saturday March 9, 2019 

Youth Sports, 11 a – 2 p, San Pablo Park, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=15738 

Sunday, March 10, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 


City Council March 12 meeting agenda available for comment, Consent: #4. Contract $2.4 mil mental health transport, #5. Update Everyone Home Plan to end Homelessness, #6. Contract CA Homeless Aid Program, #7. Amend Contract to Operate Pathways, #8. Shelter Plus Care Renewal Grants, #9. MOU Planning for Ferry Service $250,000, #10. $50,000 rewards for criminal investigations, #12. Measure ) oversight, Measure P panel of experts, #13. Housing Innovations from HAC, #15. Letter to MOC Lee on 5G infrastructure, #17. Gender Neutral Language, #18. Support for Tibet, Action: #19. Density Bonus Ordinance, #20. ZAB appeal 2701 Shattuck, #21. Cannabis Ordinance Revisions, #22. Janitorial Contract, 


Email comments to council@cityofberkeley.info


Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

2701 Shattuck – 5-story mixed use – 3-12-2019 

1722 Walnut – ninth dwelling - 3-26-2019 

1050 Parker – Parker – Medical Office Building - 4-30-2019 

2700 Tenth – Pardee Parking Lot - 4-30-2017 

1444 Fifth St – 4 single family dwellings - 5-14-2019 



To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees 




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