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DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Dodging Nukes In South Asia

Conn Hallinan
Thursday March 07, 2019 - 02:10:00 PM

The recent military clash between India and Pakistan underscores the need for the major nuclear powers—the US, Russia, China, Britain and France— finally to move toward fulfilling their obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Treaty’s purpose was not simply to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, but to serve as a temporary measure until Article VI could take effect: the “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

The 191 countries that signed the NPT—it is the most widely subscribed nuclear treaty on the planet—did so with the understanding that the major powers would de-nuclearize. But in the 50 years since the Treaty was negotiated, the nuclear powers have yet to seriously address eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

While over the years the Americans and the Russians have reduced the number of warheads in their arsenals, they—along with China—are currently in the midst of a major modernization of their weapon systems. Instead of a world without nuclear weapons, it is a world of nuclear apartheid, with the great powers making no move to downsize their conventional forces. For non-nuclear armed countries, this is the worst of all worlds. 

The folly of this approach was all too clear in the recent India and Pakistan dustup. While both sides appear to be keeping the crisis under control, for the first time in a very long time, two nuclear powers that border one another exchanged air and artillery attacks. 

While so far things have not gotten out of hand, both countries recently introduced military policies that make the possibility of a serious escalation very real. 

On the New Delhi side is a doctrine called “Cold Start” that permits the Indian military to penetrate up to 30 kilometers deep into Pakistan if it locates, or is in pursuit of, “terrorists.” On the Islamabad side is a policy that gives front line Pakistani commanders the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons. 

The possibility of a nuclear exchange is enhanced by the disparity between India and Pakistan’s military forces. One does not have to be Karl von Clausewitz to predict the likely outcome of a conventional war between a country of 200 million people and a country of 1.3 billion people. 

Pakistan reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first. India has a “no first use” policy, but with so many caveats that it is essentially meaningless. In brief, it wouldn’t take much to ignite a nuclear war between them. 

If that happens, its effects will not be just regional. According to a study by the University of Colorado, Rutgers University and UCLA, if Pakistan and India exchanged 100 Hiroshima sized nuclear warheads (15 kilotons), they would not only kill or injure 45 million people, but also generate enough smoke to plunge the world into a 25-year long nuclear winter. 

Both countries have between 130 and 150 warheads apiece. 

Temperatures would drop to Ice Age levels and worldwide rainfall would decline by 6 percent, triggering major droughts. The Asian Monsoon could be reduced by between 20 and 80 percent, causing widespread regional starvation. 

Between the cold and the drought, global grain production could fall by 20 percent in the first half decade, and by 10 to 15 percent over the following half decade. 

Besides cold and drought, the ozone loss would be between 20 and 50 percent, which would not only further damage crops, but harm sea life, in particular plankton. The reduction of the ozone layer would also increase the rate of skin cancers. 

The study estimates that “two billion people who are now only marginally fed might die from starvation and disease in the aftermath of a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India.” 

In short, there is no such thing as a “local” nuclear war. 

Article VI is the heart of the NPT, because it not only requires abolishing nuclear weapons but also addresses the fears that non-nuclear armed nations have about the major powers’ conventional forces. A number of countries—China in particular—were stunned by the conventional firepower unleashed by the US in its 2003 invasion of Iraq. The ease with which US forces dispatched the Iraqi army was a sobering lesson for a lot of countries. 

In part, it is the conventional power of countries like the US that fuels the drive by smaller nations to acquire nuclear weapons. 

Libya is a case in point. That country voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Less than seven years later Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by the US and NATO. At the time, the North Koreans essentially said, “we told you so.” 

The NPT has done a generally good job of halting proliferation. While Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea obtained nuclear weapons—the first three never signed the Treaty and North Korea withdrew in 2003—South Africa abandoned its program and other nuclear capable nations like Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have not joined the nuclear club—yet. 

But it is hard to make a case for non-proliferation when the major nuclear powers insist on keeping their nuclear arsenals. And one can hardly blame smaller countries for considering nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to the conventional forces of more powerful nations like the US and China. If there is anything that might make Iran abandon its pledge not to build nuclear weapons, it is all the talk in Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia about regime change in Teheran. 

There are specific regional problems, the solutions to which would reduce the dangers of a nuclear clash. The US has taken some steps in that direction on the Korean Peninsula by downsizing its yearly war games with South Korea and Japan. Declaring an end to the almost 70-yesr old Korean war and withdrawing some US troops from South Korea would also reduce tensions. 

Halting the eastward expansion of NATO and ending military exercises on the Russian border would reduce the chances of a nuclear war in Europe. 

In South Asia, the international community must become involved in a solution to the Kashmir problem. Kashmir has already led to three wars between India and Pakistan, and the 1999 Kargil incident came distressingly close to going nuclear. 

This latest crisis started over a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian occupied Kashmir that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitaries. While a horrendous act, the current government of India’s brutal crackdown in Kashmir has stirred enormous anger among the locals. Kashmir is now one of the most militarized regions in the world, and India dominates it through a combination of force and extra-judicial colonial laws—the Public Safety Act and the Special Powers Act—that allows it to jail people without charge and bestows immunity on the actions of the Indian army, the paramilitaries and the police. 

Since 1989, the conflict has claimed more than 70,000 lives and seen tens of thousands of others “disappeared,” injured or imprisoned. 

India blames the suicide attack on Pakistan, which has a past track record of so doing. But that might not be the case here. Even though a Pakistani-based terrorist organization, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claims credit, both sides need to investigate the incident. It is not unlikely that the attack was homegrown—the bomber was Kashmiri—although possibly aided by JeM. It is also true that Pakistan does not have total control over the myriad of militant groups that operate within its borders. The Pakistani Army, for instance, is at war with its homegrown Taliban. 

The Kashmir question is a complex one, but solutions are out there. The United Nations originally pledged to sponsor a plebiscite in Kashmir to let the local people decide if they want to be part of India, Pakistan, or independent. Such a plebiscite should go forward. What cannot continue is the ongoing military occupation of 10 million people, most of whom don’t want India there. 

Kashmir is no longer a regional matter. Nuclear weapons threaten not only Pakistanis and Indians, but, indeed, the whole world. The major nuclear powers must begin to move toward fulfilling Article VI of the NPT, or sooner or later our luck will run out. 


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









ECLECTIC RANT: Rep. Omar’s comments and the House Failure to Debate U.S.-Israeli Relations

Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday March 13, 2019 - 02:13:00 PM

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently suggested that House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. Her comments caused a furor. Whether her comments were anti-semitic is debatable. Ideally, this uproar was an excellent opportunity for a long overdue debate on our one-sided U.S foreign policy toward Israel. Instead, the House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry. I fear this resolution will result in a chilling effect on legitimate speech activity. All criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. 

Through the George W. Bush administration, there has been a clear pro-Israel tilt to U.S.-Israeli foreign policy. Consider that since 1972, the U.S. has cast over 43 vetoes in the United Nations to protect Israel. And Israel was the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, According to President Trump’s fiscal year budget request, Israel is expected to receive $3.3 billion in annual funding in 2019.  

Why does Israel need so much U.S. support as Israel’s vulnerability is a myth. Although there is open hostility between Israel and many of the other Arab states, the latter do not pose a direct threat to Israel at this time. Even though an Arab alliance has a quantitative advantage, Israel can rely on its technological and military dominance. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region, although there is fear that Iran will develop this capability. It has a military superiority vis-a-vis any possible coalition of Arab forces. It has the fourth largest air force in the world after the U.S., Russian, and China. It is the only state in the region with its own defense industry. It has the most modern military in the region with about 160,000 personnel. 

Unfortunately, under President Trump, the pro-Israel tilt has gotten worse. Trump has started a new, hardline pro-Israel stance that fits easily with the Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel, is a pro-Israel advocate who once wrote that the two-state solution is “a suicidal ‘peace’ with hateful radical Islamists hell bent on Israel’s destruction.” Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump appears to have abandoned efforts to curb illegal settlement activity in the West Bank, and the Trump administration’s peace plan, supposedly being drafted by son-in-law Jared Kushner, is reportedly tilted toward Israel’s view of the conflict. That’s why it is very, very unlikely for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. 

While it is unrealistic for the U.S. to suddenly become neutral in all things Middle East, we must end our lockstep support of Israel with little or no public debate. Instead, we must redefine what it means to be pro-Israel something the House response to Rep. Omar’s comments fails to do. 

The Oakland Strike Settlement Can Be the Beginning of Something Better for Oakland’s Students:

Peter Haberfeld
Wednesday March 13, 2019 - 02:23:00 PM

The goals of the recently settled Oakland teachers’ strike enjoyed unprecedented support by a coalition of teachers, parents, students and others in the community. Yet, the strike settlement merely promises modest improvements. Much more needs to be done to stop the deterioration of public-school education in our City. 

Problem: The District has not yet changed its priorities: The District’s budget is merely the spending plan it put together to further its priorities, priorities that do not include paying teachers in line with what surrounding districts pay their teachers. In the aftermath of the strike, it has become clear from the District’s $20 million cuts to student programs that the students’ educational needs are an even lower priority. 

OEA identified District funds that could be allocated to meet its demands. For instance, it pointed to the amounts budgeted for books and supplies. That is a favorite category of school districts for concealing available funds and serving as a slush fund for hidden priorities. 

The District has not yet chosen to eliminate costs that are not borne by other school districts: for example, the salaries of its full-time propagandist and bevy of lawyers. Nor has it decided to stop wasting funds on outside consultants instead of using the expertise of many of its full-time teachers and administrative staff. 

We must suspect that the District’s cuts to the educational program are not only designed to avoid changing its priorities. They seem intended to punish parents and students for supporting the teachers’ strike. Perhaps the cuts are designed to break up a potentially even more powerful alliance. 

Solution: The teacher-parent-student alliance must respond to the District’s cynical either-or posture by intensifying its organizing campaign. It can continue to fight for improvements in both teaching and learning conditions.  

Problem: District is dominated by alien corporate interests: Many of the School Board members owe their positions to the corporate interests (like “GO”) that financed their campaigns. As intended, they continue to do the bidding of those contributors. Regrettably, the corporate agenda does not further our community’s values. Charter schools, for example, are not governed by a publicly elected school board. They hire employees who are not represented by public employee unions. They are not obliged to accept students who have special needs. When students depart to enroll in charter schools, their former neighborhood schools are depleted of public funds and the School Board orders them closed. 

Solution: The coalition must replace the corporate dominated Board members. (Stop GO!) Each school community can wage an election campaign in the precincts that surround it. Coalition partners can form a team of leaders that will take responsibility for recruiting and coordinating volunteers to communicate by telephone and at the door with all registered voters. They must discuss the issues, identify voters who support the coalition’s pro-public education candidates, and ensure that they are mobilized to go to the polls on Election Day. 

The coalition has the legal right to remove members of the School Board before the end of their term. During the last few years, teachers and parents have recalled School Board members in neighboring school districts (Fremont, Vallejo, Santa Clara, etc.) The first step is to gather the required number of signatures and submit a recall petition to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. (Tip: it is more productive to collect signatures in front of supermarkets and other locations of high-volume foot traffic than it is going from door to door.) The next steps are to select a replacement candidate and carry out the same procedure for contacting voters, identifying supporters and mobilizing them on Election Day as is done in a regular election.  

Problem: The Mayor, City Council members, and other politicians representing Oakland have not yet made the public education of Oakland’s children the priority it must become. Although, the educational system is in crisis, elected city leaders have not presented bold and creative solutions. They continue to defer to a School Board that does not serve the needs of Oakland’s diverse population. 

Solution: The infrastructure that can be developed at school sites to change the composition of the School Board can be used, as well, to elect City and State officials who will make ending Oakland’s educational crisis their priority. The educational coalition’s organizational capacity at each school site to contact, persuade and turn out voters for pro-education candidates in surrounding precincts cannot be replicated by other candidates for public office. Only the coalition has the potential to exercise that degree of electoral power. 

Problem: The developers of new apartment buildings are new sources of wealth in Oakland that have not yet been required to contribute a share of their profits to the well-being of the City’s residents. The developers are beneficiaries of taxpayer contributions to the City. Yet, the City has not required them to sign a “community benefits agreement” that gives taxpayers a reasonable return on their investment. Nor has the City required them to provide a large quantity of rentals that are affordable for teachers and others who have been displaced by unchecked gentrification. 

Solution: The education coalition’s support of a candidate for local and State office ought to be conditioned on her/his agreement to require developers to pay their fair share of the City’s contribution to public education and to provide more affordable housing. That public official’s agreement and the developer’s obligation can be enforced by a full range of pressure tactics that range from letter-writing, phone calls, office visits by delegations to, if necessary, civil disobedience.  

Problem: District pays its teachers the lowest salaries in the area: The District, despite agreeing to grant modest salary increases, continues to pay its teachers the lowest salaries in the area. Last year, one out of five teachers left the District. They can drive a short distance away where they will be hired by a neighboring school district that values their skills and pays $15,000 more per year for teaching under easier conditions. 

Solution: The coalition can stay organized and spring to action when the teachers’ union has its next opportunity to bargain for a salary increase. That will take place when it has a contractual right to negotiate “salary reopeners”, generally at the end of the first year after the contract takes effect. The demand can be that the District place all the “new money” on the teacher salary that it receives from the State during the next few months and, further, that it restore funding to the student programs it has cut. 


The powerful new community coalition can build on the infrastructure that OEA and its supporters created before and during the strike. Organizers have identified schools that need help developing local leadership, teams and outreach. A forum for city-wide communication among, and training of, participants would advance the effectiveness of the internal and external organizing. 

Problem: The argument for charter schools is based on the same fallacy that is used by the political Extreme Right to justify other privatization schemes. It is based on the unproven claim that public institutions are less efficient than private ones. Further, it plays on the dissatisfaction many low income and minority parents have had with public schools. The purpose and effect of converting these public institutions, however, is to create either more opportunities to use public resources for private profit-making or non-profits that pay high salaries to CEOs and low ones to the school’s teachers and other employees. 

Many studies have demonstrated that inner-city charters schools do not, on average, have better outcomes than a truly public-school system. Oakland proved it. In the late 1990s, parent and teacher leaders connected to the Oakland Community Organization (OCO) (a federation of Oakland churches and synagogues) persuaded a forward-looking Superintendent and School Board to adopt the “new, autonomous small school reform” that ultimately restructured forty-nine District schools. 

Site-based teams of parents, teachers and administrators designed and directed schools that were recognized nation-wide as improving the quality of instruction, broadening participant collaboration and enhancing student outcomes. The process was supported by a team of District administrators that “incubated” the new schools by recruiting, training and guiding school principals to be instructional leaders capable of creating a safe, collaborative environment for teachers and students. 

Several of the new schools became highly successful scholastic communities in which parents and teachers were profoundly involved in students' learning. The former Whittier Elementary School, for example (now called Greenleaf) located near 58th and International Blvd in East Oakland, advanced, in four years, from a State API rating in the 400s to a score in the 800s. Another example is the Melrose Leadership Academy, now at the former site of the Maxwell Park Elementary School, provides excellent bi-lingual education to its students. 

Solution: School improvement must continue to be the unifying goal of the militant coalition that came together to support the strike. The new coalition’s credibility requires that its opposition to charter schools include advocacy for improved schools within the District. Now, the pursuit of higher salaries and reduction of class sizes must be combined with efforts to improve each school’s capacity to guarantee the success of all students. 

The coalition partners should take heed, however, from Oakland’s experience. The argument advanced to justify the creation of charter schools (namely, that parents ought to have alternative ways to educate their children), led the District and OCO to diminish their commitment to the reform effort. Both facilitated the creation of charter schools, encouraged an exodus of students and funds, and thereby caused the closing of neighborhood schools. 

Oakland teachers at the newly created small schools dedicated themselves to the school reform. The OEA, their union, called for lower class size during its 1996 strike and thereby committed itself to a measure for school improvement. However, although its leadership consistently opposed the creation of charter schools, it did not support the small school reform or any other campaign to bring about district-wide school improvement. 

There is a lesson here. The community coalition must apply constant pressure on the stakeholders to sustain educational reform over the long term 

Problem: State refuses to forgive its loan to the District: In the late 1990s, the State imposed a trusteeship on the Oakland’s School District because, among other reasons, its expenses exceeded its revenue. Oakland continues to struggle each year to make ends meet, repay that State loan, and pay a $6 million annual interest charge. 

There is another perverse feature of the State debt. Charter schools receive the full amount of ADA (average daily attendance) paid per student by the State. However, the District’s debt to the State must be paid out of the ADA Oakland receives for the students who remain in its public schools. Consequently, not only is the District forced to manage with less money because of the exodus of students to charter schools, it must manage with less because of its obligation to repay the debt and pay the annual interest payments on the loan. 

The primary reason for the yearly shortfall is that the State does not recognize that students in large urban districts have greater needs and therefore are more expensive to educate. The State should change the formula it uses to fund large urban school districts. It must also increase the “cap” on the District’s special education expenditures. When that “cap” is exceeded, Oakland must raid its general fund to come up with the difference, a measure that further reduces the money available to the general school population. 

Solution: The coalition can organize delegations of community representatives to lobby State legislators. Ideally, delegations should consist of representatives from each of its constituent groups as well as allied business owners, religious leaders, elected officials, and District school administrators. The delegations should be trained to function well internally and deliver a common message: allocate more money to public education; end the funding of charter schools; adjust the funding formula to meet needs of Oakland’s children; adjust special education “cap”; and forgive the District’s debt. 

The coalition can also organize letter-writing campaigns and phone calls to legislators who serve on key committees. Ask each school site’s election committee to set a goal for the number of contacts it will make, monitor its progress toward the goal, and support it to guarantee success.  

Problem: Historically, contract settlements with the District have not guaranteed that it comply with contract terms. The District Administration has not had a mechanism that independently ensures such compliance and that administrators uniformly treat employees fairly. Instead, it relies on employee unions to monitor administrative conduct. When the unions initiate grievances that protest administrators’ violations of the contract, the District Administration’s predictable response has been to delay and oppose the grievance. This practice has placed a heavy burden on the teachers’ union. The time, energy and member dues money expended by union representatives to defend its members against administrative non-compliance with the contract has severely restricted its ability to take affirmative steps to lead its members and the community in the area of educational reform.  

Solution: It is in the interest of OEA’s coalition partners to help OEA protect its organizational resources so it can use them to promote educational improvements. The new educational coalition must persuade the School Board and District Administration to monitor administrative conduct and intervene on its own initiative to ensure compliance with contract terms. 

Conclusion: The problems that persist can be addressed effectively by the powerful new coalition that has formed to improve public school education in Oakland. 

Press Release: Berkeley Teachers to Rally This Evening at School Board in Advance of Contract Talks

Wednesday March 13, 2019 - 02:19:00 PM

Hundreds of educators and community members to take part in a 7:00 pm rally before the March 13th Berkeley Unified School Board meeting, affordability crisis for teachers and staff top concern.

n Wednesday, March 13th, hundreds of Berkeley teachers, classified staff, and school supporters will take part in a rally before the BUSD Board Meeting to show support for the upcoming contract negotiations between the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the District.

“We love our jobs, we’re good at our jobs and we need to be able to afford our jobs” says Berkeley Federation of Teachers Vice President Matt Meyer, who is helping to organize the action. “As the Bay Area becomes less affordable, teachers and classified staff are moving further away or leaving the area altogether. Vibrant communities require a stable teaching force. When teachers are worried about their own financial stability, it becomes harder to serve our students. We want to be in BUSD for the long haul.” 

Details on the Mass Mobilization

Who: Hundreds of Berkeley teachers, classified staff, and school supporters 

What: Rally and Mobilization to the March 13th School Board Meeting 

When: Wednesday, March 13th (7:00-8:45 p.m.) 

Where: School Board Chambers, 1231 Addison Street, Berkeley, California 

The Berkeley Federation of Teacher represents 900 teachers, counselors, substitutes, school psychologists, behavior specialists, librarians, and speech pathologists in the Berkeley Unified School District.

Philharmonia Baroque & Anne Sofie von Otter Offer Contemporary Works

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday March 13, 2019 - 02:17:00 PM

I It might seem at first glance a strange mix when Philharmonia Baroque presents a program of music by Handel along with contemporary music. Yet over the weekend of March 6-10, newly commissioned songs by American composer Caroline Shaw and short pieces by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt were offered side by side with works by George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell. And strange to say, these disparate works spanning the centuries fit together extremely well at the concert I attended Saturday, March 9, at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. 

Caroline Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, was commissioned in 2016 by Nicholas McGegan’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra to compose songs for this period instrument ensemble and the renowned Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. Two of these songs, “Red, Red Rose” and “The Edge” were on the printed program for this concert, and a third, which will be premiered on Tuesday, March 12, at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, was announced here by Nicholas McGegan as a sneak preview. In these songs, Caroline Shaw emphasizes the tonal colors of period instruments, thereby creating an intriguing mix of Baroque and modern music. 

“Red, Red Rose,” which was commissioned in 2016, is set to a poem by Robert Burns; and here Caroline Shaw follows the metric structure of Burns’ poetry while affording Anne Sofie von Otter a luminous vocal line. There is also a lovely solo for oboe, beautifully performed here by Principal Oboist Marc Schachman. “The Edge,” written in 2017, continues as the second in what has now become a three-part song-cycle; and for “The Edge” Caroline Shaw asked contemporary Scottish poet Jacob Polley to write the text. The result is a lovely, almost impressionistic vision set to music that is surprisingly free-wheeling. Here too there is a lovely oboe solo, a free vocal line devoid of precise rhythms, and a climax marked by, in Shaw’s words, “wildly ecstatic, irregular arpeggios, like Corelli on Red Bull.” The third and final item in this song-cycle, whose title I didn’t catch as announced by McGegan, is set to a text by Shaw herself. Here, as in the other two songs, there is effective use of pizzicato from the strings, and the harpsichord stands out even more effectively, here played by Hanneke van Proosdij.  

Also in a contemporary vein were three brief works by Arvo Pärt. Here too, as in Caroline Shaw’s songs, contemporary music drew on older traditions. Arvo Pärt’s music has its roots in Medieval chant. Summa, written in 1978, was originally an a capella vocal work, which Pärt arranged for string orchestra around 1990. Here it was performed by Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, whose clarity of intonation on period instruments added to the transcendental quality of this music. There was also a “Lord’s Prayer”/”Vater Unser,” by Pärt, sung here by countertenor Daniel Moody. The third and final work by Arvo Pärt was Es sang vor langen jahren, set to a text by Clemens Brentano, and sung here as a duet by Daniel Moody and Anne Sofie von Otter.  

The contemporary works all came in the second half of this concert, while before intermission we were treated to music by Handel. Opening the program was the overture to Handel’s opera Partenope. Next came the aria “Ch’io Parta”?”Should I leave?” from Pärtenope, sung here by countertenor Daniel Moody. (As an aside, I note that in singing Handel’s music, Daniel Moody sported a sequined jacket that sparkled, while he donned a staid black jacket to sing Arvo Pärt’s music.) Daniel Moody may be short in stature, but he possesses a clarion falsetto. His “Ch’io parta?” was an impassioned lament of a broken-hearted lover. There followed the aria “Will the sun forget to streak” from Handel’s Solomon, exquisitely sung here by Anne Sofie von Otter. Then came the aria Furibondo spira il vento/The wind blows furiously from Handel’s Partenope, sung here by Daniel Moody as a virtuoso piece in which the violence of a windstorm mirrors the turbulence of an unhappy lover’s soul.  

The highlight of the first half of this program came as Anne Sofie von Otter launched into Juno’s angry aria “No more…Iris, hence away” from Handel’s Semele. In this aria, Juno, indignant at young Semele’s dalliance with her wavering husband, Jupiter, imperiously commands Iris, messenger of the gods, to fly to Somnus, god of sleep, and awaken the drowsy Somnus in order that he might cast his soporific spell on Semele. Anne Sofie von Otter navigated the coloratura of this aria brilliantly. Next came a duet featuring Daniel Moody and Anne Sofie von Otter, “Welcome as the dawn of the day,” from Handel’s Solomon. Here Anne Sofie von Otter was imperious as the Queen of Sheba, regally extending her hand to be kissed by a compliant, almost tentative, Solomon. A Concerto Grosso by Handel, Op. 3, No. 2, in B flat Major, which concluded the first half of the program, featured brilliant passagework for two violins, here performed by Lisa Weiss and Katherine Kyme. I should add that the second half of this concert closed with a lively instrumental Suite from The Fairy Queen by Henry Purcell.  



Daylight Saving is Too Much

Bruce Joffe
Tuesday March 12, 2019 - 08:57:00 PM

Since changing to Daylight Saving Time last Sunday, media opinionators are talking about making it year-round. Permanent DSL is a terrible, dangerous idea. Setting the clocks ahead one hour moves an hour of morning light to the end of the day. That's great between March 21 and September 21, when there is more daylight than night. But for the winter-half of the year, we need more light in the morning when kids are going to school. 

Our children go to school at about the same time that commuters are starting their treks to work. Darkness and early morning sun in commuters' eyes create dangerous hazards. Later in the day, schools end before most commuters return home, so evening darkness is not as dangerous. 

As it is, Daylight Saving Time ends in November, nearly two months past the September 21 Equinox. Shortening, not lengthening, the DST period would make mornings safer for our children and grandchildren.

Yes, It Was an Earthquake

Bay City News
Saturday March 09, 2019 - 10:29:00 AM

A 2.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Hayward Fault in Oakland late Friday, according to the United States Geological Survey. The quake hit around 10:41 p.m. and was centered near state Highway 13's junction with Lincoln Avenue. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.



Code Enforcement Should Be a Tool, Not a Weapon

Becky O'Malley
Saturday March 09, 2019 - 12:51:00 PM

Ah, the police power of the state: a fearsome thing, often used for good but also, not.

Merriam Webster online says it’s the “inherent power of a government to exercise reasonable control over persons and property within its jurisdiction in the interest of the general security, health, safety, morals, and welfare except where legally prohibited.” What could be wrong with that?

The tricky bit is that the police power is often employed orthogonally, to punish some other sin which is not called out in the charges.

Example A: Notorious bank robber Al Capone was sent up not for being a bank robber but for tax evasion. No one objected very loudly, because…gangster!

Example B: Paul Manafort. Also convicted of tax evasion, to be sent up for about 3 years. Sentencing Judge Number One gave him a minimal sentence, though federal guidelines suggest 19-24 years, because he’s viewed as a first offender, though he’s been engaged in this particular crime for ten years. Reasonable people tend to believe he’s done more bad stuff without getting caught—that this tax evasion is only the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Remember, the case against him fell out of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, though what he’s been convicted for so far has not much to do with Russia. But tax troubles will keep him off the streets for a while, and his next trial may produce a longer sentence.

If you don’t like crooks, these are two good examples of how police power can produce desired results. But there are plenty of bad examples too.

Right here in Berkeley we have one, a bad example of how the government’s police power can be used for the wrong goals. 

That would be the case of Mr. Leonard Powell of South West Berkeley, who is accused of letting his house fall into disrepair while raising a bunch of kids and grandkids, converting it from a duplex to a single family home for all these folks without getting a city permit to do so. 

Someone, or perhaps several someones, seems to have complained to the City of Berkeley that someone living in his house was up to something shady. It’s been reported that Berkeley Police police raided the house, and some time thereafter city building inspectors came around and cited him for a large number of violations of the Berkeley building code. 

This is a murky story, and what I’m telling you is my opinion only, not factual investigative reporting by any stretch of the imagination. The information in the last paragraph was confirmed in informal chats with southwest Berkeley neighbors and friends. Since several of them independently told me approximately the same story I tend to believe them. 

One, Steve Martinot, has done a huge amount of work getting Powell’s story into the public eye. We’ve published his account and analysis as Public Comment on this site. 

What jumps out at me in these tales is that the City of Berkeley building inspectors were obviously sicced on Leonard Powell because (a) he and his housemates offended someone for some other reason, or perhaps (b) he looked like a target of opportunity to the receiver who took over his house when Powell didn’t clear the code violations on schedule. Or both of the above. 

Consider that Berkeley, like most of the older neighborhoods in the East Bay, is full of heritage single family houses which are loaded with code violations. More worldly residents tend to know that a building inspector can’t just demand entrance to their private homes to prospect for problems, but Powell did not, and it brought him a world of woe. Why was his house chosen? 

Clues can be found in charges which have been made (anonymously or pseudonymously of course) on various local troll farms. Documents purporting to show that the property has been adjudged a public nuisance have been posted online, though careful readers observe that public nuisance charges are just tacked on to the end of the code violations subject to legal challenge. 

Some online commenters opine that the real problem was criminal activity at the house, but as yet there’s been no evidence offered that anyone was ever charged with doing anything of a criminal nature at that house, let alone convicted. Criminal charges are much harder to prove than unpermitted conversion from a duplex to a single family house. 

The bottom line is that it’s much easier to use the police power of the City of Berkeley to effectively seize suspect property and to persuade a court to place it in the hands of a for-profit receiver who would expect to make a tidy sum on the transaction. Nobody but defense attorneys profit from criminal prosecution. 

Speaking of rumors, for years it’s been bruited about in Berkeley that the city’s building inspectors could be vindictive if you annoyed them, but also that there were ways of “persuading” them to back off. This kind of hearsay doesn’t prove anything, of course, but if there were any experienced reporters available to look further into this, they might find it rewarding to see if what happened to Powell has happened to anyone else. 

Could his experience represent pattern and practice for some of those who took part? A retired Berkeley City Attorney said online that “I could name (and was involved in) a few others.” What, and when? 

Would all other such instances be disclosed by the City of Berkeley in the interest of transparency? If not, would a Public Records Act request reveal what happened to whom when? 

One source of grief has been a city loan program which some city employee talked Powell into using when the code violation fines started to accumulate, which he was unable to repay. How has this program worked for others? 

And a few more questions: Is a receiver paid a flat fee, hourly or a percentage of the cost? How much contact has there been between the receiver and the City of Berkeley’s Planning Department in other situations? 

What contractors have been employed in actions like this one? Do they often bid low and then up-sell? 

What’s the record of the city building inspector who signed the list of charges about problems with Powell’s property? Has anyone else complained about his work? 

Who made the original complaint against Powell? Have they complained about anyone else? 

Leonard Powell is lucky—he is surrounded by neighbors and friends who, far from registering complaints against him, have been writing letters on his behalf and going to court with him. His activist neighborhood association, Friends of Adeline, recently raised close to $80,000 in a Go Fund Me campaign to fill the gap between the mortgage he might expect to qualify for and what the house is judged to be worth if he must buy it back from the receivership. Their enthusiasm casts doubt on commentariat claims that his house was a nuisance to his neighbors. 

One of the Friends recognized comedian W. Kamau Bell in a café and buttonholed him with the story. He offered to help, put it out on his Twitter feed, and contributions came from all over the world. Some familiar names were spotted: Daveed Diggs was on the list, as was, inexplicably, the receiver who’s mixed up in all this, who tossed $50 into the pot. [Full disclosure: I made a small contribution.] 

There will be another, hopefully final, court date on Monday. Things are looking pretty good for Leonard Powell, but the story shouldn’t end with him. It’s not right for the City of Berkeley to use its legitimate police power to insure safe housing as a weapon against other kinds of perceived problems like drug sales, and certainly not in order to turn a profit for anyone involved. 

How many Leonard Powells are out there who are not so lucky in their friends? Using charges of code violations is a traditional way to take down someone you have a grudge against, but it’s not the way Berkeley should treat its citizens. 




Public Comment

An Open Letter to the Berkeley Police Association

McGee-Spaulding Neighbors in Action
Saturday March 09, 2019 - 02:48:00 PM

On November 6th, 2018, despite a well-funded campaign of opposition, Kate Harrison was re-elected overwhelmingly as District 4 Councilperson, garnering a majority of votes and 17% more votes than her nearest opponent in a three-way race.

McGee-Spaulding Neighbors in Action is a group of some one hundred politically active residents in District 4. We write to express our extreme displeasure at the intervention of the Berkeley Police Association in an election which should have been - and ultimately was - decided by the residents of the District. This election should not have been influenced by members of an organization who overwhelmingly live outside the District, and, for the most part, are not residents of Berkeley.

If the Berkeley Police wish to obtain the respect of the residents they are sworn to protect and serve, then, as a professional association, we strongly suggest that in the future they disengage from local politics, respecting the wishes of Berkeley's residents as they pertain to police policy (and all other matters). While they should provide their professional opinion as to best practices and policies to the City Council, it is ultimately the choice of Berkeley’s residents through their elected officials what policing policies are appropriate for our City.

To put it bluntly the attack flyers opposing Councilperson Harrison mailed out and funded by BPA PAC (with some funding by the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition) were disgusting. They consisted of little more than outrageous propaganda smears, half-truths, out-of-context takedowns, and emotive pictures and loaded-language appeals to fear and prejudice.  

One of the flyers says “Harrison voted against a policy to unequivocally condemn violence in Berkeley” while citing an article which made clear that the policy in question addressed by the resolution being voted on was the issue of ‘doxing’ non-violent protesters by police. In fact, the policy voted on had been weakened to the point that Harrison – and two other City Councilors – felt they could no longer support it, regardless of its flowery but legally irrelevant declaration of opposition to violence.

Another flyer tries to paint Harrison as voting against police training, specifically against “de-escalation training” when in fact the issue before the Council was Urban Shield – a highly contentious and politically charged event that even the conservative Alameda County Board of Supervisors had by that time concluded should no longer exist “as currently constituted.“[i] In fact, Urban Shield has never emphasized de-escalation training, one of the crucial points that led the Board of Supervisors to reach the decision they did. To vote against training the community considers objectionable and even detrimental, while arguing for training commensurate with Berkeley and the East Bay’s needs, is leadership. To portray Harrison in the manner the flyer did is both disingenuous and rank.

And on it goes. Each and every claim is belied by fact, context and/or common sense. ‘Willie Horton-ing’ may have been successful somewhere and somewhen, but not in Berkeley’s District 4 as clearly evidenced by the vote.

See the three flyers here ( http://tinyurl.com/y53q3m7v), here ( http://tinyurl.com/y3kwewgc) and here ( http://tinyurl.com/y663qeph). (Copy/paste the url’s if the ‘here’ links fail).

Policy issues are the rightful purview of the Council. Kate Harrison’s positions are in line with those of the vast majority of the public in her district. These kinds of political attacks on those who seek to represent us, by what should be a professional organization above partisan politics, are beyond the pale.

To be clear, we fully support training for disaster preparedness for police, firefighters, and other first responders. As citizens, we are fully aware of the dangers of earthquake, wildfire, flooding, etc. We need and respect the training and professionalism of the city's first responders in time of disasters.

And yes, we recognize your 1st Amendment right to say and distribute what nonsense you will. Still, we hope and suggest that in the future your organization concentrate on being the best at your profession, at better protecting and serving, not politicking and partisanship.

This Letter Written By

McGee-Spaulding Neighbors in Action.

And Endorsed By

Berkeley Progressive Alliance

Berkeley Citizens Action

View the Fully Formatted Letter Here: tinyurl.com/y63fz7s4, or here: tinyurl.com/yxusnhye

[i] In a vote taken in March, 2018, an Ad Hoc Committee to make implementation recommendations to that end was also created. On February 26th, 2019, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to accept their Ad Hoc Committee’s Recommendations to completely transform Urban Shield.

Stephon Clark

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 08, 2019 - 10:53:00 AM

On March 18th, African-American Stephon Clark was brutally gunned down by Sacramento police in a hail of 20 bullets. The police justification followed a familiar theme. They claimed Stephan was holding a gun which turned out to be a cellphone. They failed to issue any warning or use nonlethal weapons.

In a clear effort to suppress incriminating evidence, the police officers shut off the audio of the video cam after killing Stephon Clark. And now we are told that the county’s district attorney will not file criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed him. Contrast how police responded to white domestic terrorists such as Nikolas Cruz, the mass shooter in Florida or Dylann Storm Roof, who gunned down the parishioners at the Mother Emanuel Church. In both cases they escaped being killed by police.

Let us hope a federal investigation will remedy this grave injustice.


THE PUBLIC EYE:Trump and the Economy

Bob Burnett
Friday March 08, 2019 - 10:31:00 AM

600 days before the 2020 presidential election, it looks like the two major issues will be Donald Trump and the U.S. economy. Of course, this could change if Trump leaves office or there is a cataclysmic climate event. Otherwise, the election will be determined by voters' feelings about Trump and, of course, how they view their economic prospects. 

The latest polls ( https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/) indicate that 41.9 percent of voters approve of Trumps' job performance -- over the last 12 months this number has stayed in the approval range 38-43 percent. Of course, not all of these Trump "supporters" approve of Trump's behavior -- a recent poll found that only 30 percent of respondents believed Trump to be "honest" (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/voters-believe-michael-cohen-over-president-donald-trump-poll-says.html). Because I live on the Left Coast, I haven't had many in depth conversations with Trump supporters, but those I have talked to said the same thing: "I don't like the way Trump behaves, but his presidency has been good for me;" they thought they were making more money because of Trump. 

That's a remarkably widespread sentiment. A recent Gallup poll (https://news.gallup.com/poll/247304/trump-rating-economy-top-strength-hits-new-high.aspx ) found that 56 percent of respondents approved of Trump's handling of the economy. (This was his highest rating in the Gallup survey; at the other end of the spectrum, 60 percent disapproved of Trump's handling of corruption.) This results highlights a discontinuity in public opinion: most Americans don't believe the country is headed in the right direction but they are generally satisfied with the economy. 

In 2020, will the U.S. economy help or hurt Trump? To answer this question we should examine Trump's economic campaign promises. 

Jobs: During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to create 25 million jobs over 10 years and to double economic growth to 4%. According to Factcheck (https://www.factcheck.org/2019/01/trumps-numbers-january-2019-update/) since Trump became President the economy has added 4.9 million jobs (as of January). Trump promised that most of these would be manufacturing jobs but, as of January, only 436,000 manufacturing jobs have been created. By the way, a recent Pro Publica article (https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/trump-job-promises) said that of 31 specific Trump claims about jobs, most were misleading. 

An October CNBC report (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/01/this-chart-shows-the-types-of-jobs-that-are-thriving-under-trump.html ) indicated that the majority of the new jobs are in the "mining and logging industry" (which includes oil and gas extraction), construction, and transportation. 

While there has been an increase in jobs, most Americans have not seen an increase in wages. Since Trump became President, wage growth has been tepid. (https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/12/should-donald-trump-be-bragging-about-wage-growth/ ) In the fourth quarter of 2018, wages grew at .2 percent. 

Trump promised that economic growth would be at least 4 percent. So far, Gross Domestic Product has reached this mark in only 1 of 8 quarters. GDP growth was 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2018 and 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter. On February 26th, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee the Fed, "[Expects] the U.S. economy to grow solidly but at a slower pace this year than the estimated 3 percent growth for 2018." Some economists have suggested that in 2020 the U.S. economy will be stagnant. 

Prediction for 2020: The economy will slow, fewer jobs will be added, and wages will be static. 

Taxes: During the campaign, Trump promised massive tax cuts: "Everybody is getting a tax cut, especially the middle class." He did push through tax legislation but it favored the rich at the expense of everyone else. The most recent Gallup Poll found that 52 percent of respondents disapproved of the way Trump has handled taxes. 

Trump promised to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent; his "Tax Cut and Jobs Act" cut the corporate rate to 21 percent. (By the way, under Trump, corporate profits have increased by 14 percent.) 

The net effect of Trump's tax plan has been to reduce federal income by $1.5 trillion per year. This produced an increase in the national debt. 

Debt: Trump promised to bring down the national debt: "We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt. ... Well, I would say over a period of eight years." Instead, the national debt has grown to $22 billion (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/02/12/national-debt-tops-22-trillion-first-time-ever/2849978002/); increasing at the rate of $30 billion per month. 

Not everyone feels that the growing national debt is a problem; certainly not the Republican Party, which -- when Obama was President -- moaned about the national debt but, under Trump, has gone silent on the subject. Nonetheless, Fed Chairman Powell is concerned; he told the Senate Banking Committee: "Federal government debt is on an unsustainable path... I think that U.S. debt is fairly high as a level of (gross domestic product) and, much more importantly than that, it’s growing faster than GDP.” 

A growing national debt is likely to produce an increase in interest rates. It's also going to affect Congressional appetite for big federal public-sector initiatives such as massive investment in infrastructure. (During the campaign, Trump promised: "to invest $550 billion to ensure we can export our goods and move our people faster and safer.") 

Prediction for 2020: As the economy slows, the increasing national debt will affect interest rates, dragging down growth. 

Trade: During the 2016 campaign, Trump portrayed himself as a master dealmaker who would revitalize existing trade relationships. Trump's promised to renegotiate trade deals such as NAFTA. He's done this but with uncertain results (NAFTA was replaced by USMCA -- the US Mexico Canada Agreement -- which has yet to be ratified.) 

Trump also promised to to raise tariffs on imports; particularly those from China. He's done this. 

Despite Trump's efforts, the U.S. trade deficit has increased by more than 20 percent. On March 6th, the Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit was the largest on record: $891 billion. (Including a $419 billion trade deficit with China.) 

Prediction for 2020: While the trade issue has an uncertain impact on the overall economy, it does affect public perception of Trump's leadership. The latest Gallup Poll indicates that 50 percent of respondents now disapprove of Trump's handling of trade. 

Summary: Heading into the 202 election, Donald Trump is asking his supporters to trust him, in general, and to believe in his economic leadership. While some will continue to trust him with the passion of religious zealots, others will falter; they will react to a slowing economy and a cluster of negative economic trends. Trump's political base will erode. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychotic Reactions to a Criminal Government

Jack Bragen
Friday March 08, 2019 - 10:34:00 AM

Following the 2000 contested election of George W. Bush, it was hard for progressive Americans to imagine a worse scenario of the wrong President becoming elected. The late George H. W. Bush, if I recall correctly, at one point lamented that his son had made it harder for more Bushes to be President. Bush "senior" had believed Jeb would be better, if I remember correctly.

Yet, look at how things have turned out!

Trump is a formidable threat to the American way of life, and gravely jeopardizes the future of the U.S. When those of us who are already mentally compromised see this unfold, it is hard to not have our symptoms worsen as a result. 

Intelligent and conscientious individuals currently participating in government in the U.S., and there are some, are flabbergasted by this dishonorable idiot occupying our highest office. Those who can be bought out for sums that Trump would consider small, are already bankrupt, morally. They will say and do whatever the President tells them to say and do, because they are only interested in their own perceived fortune. 

(This is not to deny that plenty of mentally ill people think Trump is great. However, since I am the person writing this column and because I feel that Trump is bad for disabled people and exacerbates our symptoms, this is what you're getting.) 

In recent television news--actually, for the past two years, video of Vladimir Putin shows an expression of sadistic mirth. Putin is the puppeteer controlling Trump and is laughing about his ability to totally mess with the institutions in the U.S. Putin is also laughing at Trump. 

For people who are already mentally compromised, it is very difficult not to become completely paranoid. Some of us may need an increase in antipsychotics until, one hopes, at some point, we again have reasonable people in charge. 

The U.S. could be indelibly changed for the worse. This is a very difficult prospect for people who may feel, to an extent, helpless and reliant on a safety net. 

If you are a mentally ill person and aren't comfortable with the actions of the current, criminal government, it is helpful to remind yourself of a few things: 

Firstly, you are not alone. Reasonable people from all areas of society are in a sort of emergency mode. We are all in the same boat. If you feel despair over the current government, you are not alone. 

While society is being wrecked, you should do extra things to take care of yourself. You should utilize existing resources, in many cases at the state level, to obtain help that could be available. 

You should validate yourself. What you feel and what you perceive create your perspective. Although you could have some delusions, exaggerations, or illusions, your perspective is valid, because that's what you feel. Not everything you think is wrong. When you disagree with someone, you are not always wrong. 

Continue to accept treatment and be proactive and collaborative in your treatment. 

Do the things that are necessary to maintain your body and your mind. This includes oral hygiene and a diet that is adequately nourishing and not extreme. Exercise is great if you can do it. However, many people with mental illness are too sedated to be able to exercise.  

Keep informed, but don't obsess with world events and/or politics. There are enough unimpaired people who can do the highly demanding work of trying to rescue the Earth from the current assemblage of evildoers. If you take good care of yourself, it helps the world situation, even if it is only in a small way. If you feel compelled to be involved, remain within your reasonable limits as to how much activity you can handle. 

And finally, don't give up. Inevitably, the societal pendulum will go the other way. In the future, our society will find ways to solve the extreme problems we face. This could seem like a stretch to some, who might believe we're doomed. However, it is my gut feeling that human beings will get past this primitive stage in our development, and we will emerge from it to create a much better society. 

Jack's books are available at Amazon and through other vendors.

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday March 08, 2019 - 10:38:00 AM

Boy, Did Datebook Blow It!

What was the San Francisco Chronicle thinking when it put the new female face of Capt. Marvel (Brie Larson) on the cover of the Datebook section with a headline that read: "Girl Power Surge"?

I'm pretty sure that if Datebook ever featured a cover story on Batman, Superman, Ironman, or the Avengers, the headline wouldn't read: "Boy Power Surge."

But the Chron's Headlines Still Top the News

Just to let the headline writers at the Chronicle know their work is not going unappreciated, here's a sampler of groan-worthy puns tucked into some of the paper's recent headlines.

Why US whiskey is on the rocks

Tree crisis at root of furor over ficus

How to get high-speed rail back on track

How state plan for bullet train went off track

Hospital mergers haven't been so healthy

Swim palace finally reopens with splash

Martha Stewart is high on CBD

Meltdowns keep Warriors from cooking

The new data hogs: China firms use tech to combat deadly swine disease

Bow hunter, once a target, strives to lure public to sport

Bard gives homeless stage for expression

And my favorites (both for Datebook theater reviews):

"Moby" proves it's not a fluke

Delivery tarnishes "Mother Courage"

Outta Sight 

Anyone missing the Chronicle's 12-page Sunday opinion supplement? If you're looking for the usual array of commentaries and cartoons, you're out of luck. The Insight section is no longer in sight. The remains are now consolidated on three pages inside Section A. Instead of seven commentaries, there is now only room for three. Robert Reich's and Jonah Goldber's Sunday columns are now only available online. The good news: we may have lost the Gallery's collection of political cartoons but the downsized Insight still features Tom Meyer's elegant editorial art. 

A Scrappy New Art Form 

His name is Shaun but he says you can call him "Patches." 

Patches is a talented street artist who has developed a unique art form—making wearable "tats" from tatters. 

Standing in front of the Shattuck Dollar Store—his art work covering a large blanket stretched over the sidewalk—he explains his trademark tool. 

"Denim," he begins. That's his canvas—cast-off scraps of cloth that he paints with small tattoo-like illustrations of daggers, shields, faces and animals ranging from birds to tigers to wolverines. 

Once the painting's done, each bit of art is cut from the larger piece of cloth and added to the gallery of Patches' patches. 

Looking for a way to add some panache to your pants, shirt, cap or hoodie? Check out these unique cloth tattoos. You can find Patches doing business at his sidewalk store. Walk-ins welcomed. 

Astronaut-politician Shoots Down Trump's Space Force 

Along with his wife, gun-victim-survivor Gabby Giffords, Capt. Mark Kelly has earned a solid reputation as a gun control advocate. But now the former NASA astronaut has his eyes on a Senate seat (no corporate PAC money accepted) and he's expanding his universe of concerns by mounting stinging attacks on Donald Trump and Trump's proposed "Space Force." 

"Donald Trump, who has no military or scientific experience, called for the creation of a sixth branch of the US military: a Space Force," Kelly's campaign recently announced. Kelly, a former US Navy fighter pilot with numerous combat missions under his belt, had a word for Trump's latest mega-macho fantasy—"Dumb!" 

"This is a dumb idea," Kelly says. "The Air Force does this already. The USAF already has the Air Force Space Command. That is their job. What's next? We move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the 'Under-the-Sea Force'?" 

Furthermore, Kelly added, creating a new entity to do what the USAF already does would cost billions of dollars. (And you know how the Pentagon handles dollars.) As Kelly notes, it "doesn't make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic DOD." Even Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is reportedly sour on Trump's latest Grand Dumb Idea. 

Women With Guns: Cooptation or Liberation? 

Although I'm appalled by the argument that women "deserve the right" to join the US Army and shoulder rifles, I have to admit there's a distinctly different vibe when the battle is a grassroots struggle against an army of occupation. 

First there was Arundhati Roy's Walking with the Comrades and now there's Las Sandanistas!, a prize-winning documentary about Nicaragua's female guerrillas. (Another documentary in the works will include interviews with female members of Colombia's FARC militias.) 

So I offer this as a perspective-building challenge. Certainly, if we had more women in positions of political and diplomatic power there would be no need for women to be camping in forests and ambushing soldados

Among the questions raised by Las Sandanistas!:  

Has our cultural training to "root for the underdog" been usurped in an attempt to justify war? 

Does a desire to see women "succeed in a man's world" mislead us into sympathizing with strong, committed women who risk their lives in a "just cause"? 

The film will be broadcast on KQED on Sunday, March 10th at 7pm and 11pm, and Monday, March 11th at 7am and 1pm. Here's a link to a trailer: 


According to PBS, "Las Sandinistas! uncovers the disappearing stories of women who shattered barriers to lead combat and social reform during Nicaragua's 1979 Sandinista Revolution, as these same women continue to lead the struggle for justice today against their current government's suppression of women's rights and democracy.  

"The film is centered around the personal stories of Dora Maria Tellez, the young medical student who became a major Sandinista General, and four of her revolutionary allies.  

"Las Sandinistas! exposes a watershed moment in history when thousands of women transformed society's definition of womanhood and leadership before facing renewed marginalization by their male peers after the wars ended. Now, 35 years later, amidst staggering levels of gender violence in Nicaragua, these same women brave the streets once again to lead the popular movements for equality and democracy." 

(Footnote from Bob Baldock: "Hope big credit was given to Fidel's all-women group of fighters, Las Marianas.") 

Organize to Plug the Pipe 

TransCanada wants to start building its dirty, destructive, polluting Keystone XL oil pipeline as early as this June. Environmental and activist organizations like 350.org are already working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to challenge the Oil Barons of the Carbon Economy by demanding the fastest-possible transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. But, in the meantime, we have to block the pipelines. 

A "Promise to Protect Training Tour" is coming to the Bay Area on April 13-14 as part of a nine-city caravan to prepare thousands of activists to mobilize for a mass-action to stop construction of the Keystone Pipeline. You can find information on the local events here

According to Kendall Mackey of 350.org: "This training is meant to be fun, but also not to be taken lightly. There are a limited number of spots available, therefore you should only register if you are 100% committed to attending. Only confirmed participants will receive the location information for the training leading up to the event." 


Censored by Facebook  

Metta Spencer is a Canadian sociologist, writer, peace researcher, and activist. She also is president of Science for Peace. And Facebook is getting in her face. 

On March 5, 2019, Metta sent out the following dispatch (abridged): 

It has happened again, only it is worse this time. I was told a month ago that I could not boost two of my videos to a "worldwide" audience because they were about nuclear weapons and I live in Canada. Only people living in the US are allowed to advertise anything related to such matters in the US . . . . 

Now I have a new video about planting trees with drones and they have rejected my application to boost it worldwide . . . . They want to verify my identify. I am a dual citizen of Canada and the US, living in Canada. Apparently I am now allowed to boost this video inside Canada but not to any other country. So apparently Facebook is of the opinion that there should be no international affairs—no discussion of such matters as climate change and nuclear warfare, which transcend national borders. 

Because Facebook is a private company, they have the final say. The notion of "free speech" or a "free press" is irrelevant now. 

If you want to break through the info-barricades, you can link directly to videos of the disputed talk shows by clicking here and clicking here

The Super-Eco-Hero We've Been Waiting For 

Forget Hollywood's endless army of summertime superheroes. Don't be satisfied with hoked-up confrontations with roaring supervillians. The time for willful escapism has passed. As the fiery heroine of a popular new Icelandic movie (opening this week) puts it: "We are the last generation that can stop the war against our Earth." 

"Woman at War" is a fictional story about a grim reality that is told with remarkable wit and irreverence. This time, our superhero is Halla, a middle-aged schoolteacher with a secret. Armed with a small bow and a lot of grit, she spends her down time in a messianic one-women crusade to save her native wildlands—and the planet itself—from pollution and overconsumption. Halla's mission: to bring down the country's electric powergrid . . . one transmission tower at a time. In short, she's PG&E's worst nightmare. 

At the heart of this film is a terrific performance by Halldora Geirhardsdottir who shows both amazing emotional range and awesome physical stamina as she races across rocks and rivers, evading pursuing drones and corporate copters. 

As Variety wrote: "Is there anything rarer than an intelligent, feel-good film that knows how to tackle urgent global issues with humor? Look no further." 

Well, actually, please do look further. Here's the trailer: 

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 10-16

Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday March 09, 2019 - 01:02:00 PM

Berkeley Public Meetings and Civic Events for March 10-16

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Join Mayor Arreguin and Council member Rashi Kesarwani for drop-in “office hours” on Sunday,

March 10, from 4-6 pm at the Urban Adamah, at 1151 Sixth St. (in District-1).


Monday, March 11, 2019 


Children, Youth, and Recreation Commission, at 7 pm, at 2800 Park St., Frances Albrier Community Center, San Pablo Park. No agenda posted. If you have questions call 981-5146, or email at Steven Chu . See: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Children_Youth_and_Recreation_Commission/ 


Agenda and Rules Committee, from 2:30–3:30 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Flr.,Redwood Conf Room; Agenda Planning for March 26-City Council Meeting. Email your public comments to <council@cityofberkeley.info

On planning agenda: For Review of Feb.26- #8. Emergency Situation Stand-by Officers for elected members, #9. Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance for vendors like ICE data brokers, etc.; On Mar.26 planning agenda, items: #1.RV Parking ordinance, #4 Amend Ashby Village contract for Age-Friendly Plan, #5. Get grant for removal of abandoned boats in Marina , #7. Proposal public hearings to adopt the FlixBus service, #8. Extend mattress recycle budget by $50K., #10. Transition July4thFestival costs from Marina funds to General Fund. #11. PRC co-sponsor with NACOLE & BART a regional training and networking event, #15. To support SB-190 for fire safety building standards, #17. ZAB appeal to deny 1722-Walnut St for added 8-units apt. permit, #19. Revisit Zoning revisions for “Missing Middle” housing zones, #21a.-b-c-d- Funding gaps for Measure T-1 Phase-1 including Public Works south of University Ave, & Parks and Waterfront, & Energy Commision re: greenhouse gas reduction rules, #22. Enforcement of (CEAC) Safe Lead Paint Practices, #25. Propose scope process & estimate for a new General Plan, #26. Compliance on Minimum Wage and Sick Leave Ordinance, #27. Proposal for Election Day as a City holiday. -See more at: 




Health, Life Enrichment, Equity & Community Committee, at 10:30 am, at 2180 Milvia Street, 1st Floor - Cypress Room. No agenda posted. Contact April Richardson -510.981.6908;or email, --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Home/Policy_Committee__Health,_Life_Enrichment,_Equity___Community.aspx 


Tuesday, March 12, 2019 


Berkeley City Council, from 6–11pm, at 1231 Addison St., in BUSD Board Room. On agenda - Consent Items: #5.-6. EveryOne Home on homelessness program and aid, #9. WETA Ferry Service & new Public Peir at Marina, #10 Public Rewards for Criminal Investigation info, #12. Oversight for Measure O & P, #13 Establish community stakeholders for housing innovations; Action Calendar Items: #19. Adopt new Zoning amendments on revisions to Density Bonus regulations, #20. ZAB appeal of 2701-Shattuck Ave project of 5-story, 57-units,21-parking spaces, #21. Cannabis Ordinance Revision; (Information reports on:) #24. Progress of 2020 Zero Waste Goals, #25 Code Enforcement review from HAC. --See: 



Wednesday, March 13, 2019 


Homeless Commission, from 7–9 pm, at 2180 Milvia St., 1st Floor Cypress Room. Agenda items: 

#7. Discuss action on Homeless Youth Policy referral response report, #8. Discuss action on 1000-Person Plan, 

#9. Address crime by homeless & impact on other homeless, including impact on general community. 

10.Discuss action on plan for inclusionary housing over Housing Trust Fund on new developments. --See: 



Parks and Waterfront Commission, from 7–9 pm, at 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center. No agenda posted. Call (510) 981-6704 or e-mail: Roger Miller <RMiller@CityofBerkeley.info


Police Review Commission, from 7–10 pm, at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center. Agenda items: 

#8. Subcommittee reports: SexWorkers; LexiPol; MOU Compendium, #9a. Update on Public Records Request Act, #10a. Lexipol (16) Policies for review. --See: 



Thursday, March 14, 2019 


Community Environmental Advisory Commission, 7–9 pm, at 1901 Russell St, in Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library. Agenda: Discussion/Action items #1. Proposed Ordinance Prohibiting Natural Gas in New Buildings (fr. Item #21). --See: 



Zero Waste Commission, from 7–9 pm, at James Kenny Rec Center,1720-8th St. Public workshop for community input on the City's Solid Waste and Recycling Transfer Station to meet the Berkeley"s Zero Waste goal. --See: 



Zoning Adjustments Board, from 7–11:30 pm, at 1234 Addison, BUSD Board Room. On agenda: 

- 3084 Claremont Ave, To add 131 sq. ft. of outdoor café seating in rear yard of approx.900 sq. ft. 

- 1991 Marin Ave, To add a new detached 1-story, 750 sq. ft. Accessory Dwelling Unit with a reduced front yard setback (where 20-ft is required), on a 5,289 sq. ft. through lot, with an existing 2-story, 1,733 sq. ft. single-family dwelling. 

- 1711 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, To (1) replace a 799 sq. ft. non-conforming commercial space with one dwelling, (2) eliminate 2 existing off-street parking spaces, (3) create 700 sq. ft. of usable open space, (4) increase the total number of bedrooms on the parcel from 15 to 19, and (5) waive 1 parking space that is required for the proposed dwelling. --See: 



Friday, March 15, 2019 


Zero Waste Facilities Workshop: From Concept to Plan, from 2-4 pm at the North Branch Library at 1170 the Alameda (St.). To provide public input on the preliminary facilities design for the City's Solid Waste and Recycling Transfer Station to meet Berkeley"s Zero Waste goal. --See: 



Saturday, March 16, 2019 


Free Tax Preparation at the Main Central Library, (weekly) from March 9--April 13, from 10:30am-3:30pm by appointment. Need help with your Taxes? Volunteers with the AARP Free Tax Preparation service are here to help you every Monday & Saturday by appointment. Sign up by calling (510) 981-6148 to make an appointment. --See: https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/events/free-tax-preparation 


Sunday, March 17, 2019 – No public meetings or events listed. 


* * * 

Worth Noting 


– Attend a Berkeley ADU Basics Workshop on March 25,at 7pm at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. This public workshop is open to all who want the specifics of the Berkeley ADU ordinance permitting process and Measure Q's impact. 


--The Public Review Draft Adeline Corridor Specific Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) will be available in April/May 2019. There will be multiple opportunities to learn about and provide feedback about the Adeline Corridor Draft Plan and the DEIR at community meetings, as well as meetings of the Planning Commission and other Boards and Commissions in May & June. More detailed information about specific meeting dates will be announced as location and agendas are confirmed. Visit the Adeline Corridor webpage for schedule of the planning process--or visit: 



Water Conservation Showcase in San Francisco on Thursday, March 21. Gathering yearly since 2004 to address the water issues and challenges facing California, and advocating for sustainable practices in building developments that speaks to the bottom line of people, profits, and the planet. --See: https://www.waterconservationshowcase.com 


-- The CASA Compact-- Former Planning Commissioner Zelda Bronstein has given an introduction to the CASA Compact and Bay Area cities on the issues of land-use and development. It is more literal and current, describing a situation that requires some organized resistance in the moment. ..."Regional planners mount a quiet coup to promote developers and attack vulnerable communities"... in 48 Hills. -- View at: https://48hills.org/2019/01/developer-mtc-coup/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGZylxZWSqk 


-- Coming soon, "What Is Democracy?" a new film documentary that reflects on the word we take for granted and how it connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire us--if we want to live in a democracy. See: <https://zeitgeistfilms.com/film/whatisdemocracy#playdates


-- To check for Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees, see: 



-- A new web-platform of mapping of City data can be found at <cityofberkeley.info/gisportal

This portal allows users to explore a broad variety of data, grouped into five primary categories: property & planning, transportation, recreation, environment, and community services. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/…/2019-0131_New_community_p… 


* * * 

This *Sustainable Berkeley Coalition civic meetings list is posted on the SBC website at <https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/

and it is also available at the Facebook pages for **Berkeley Progressive Alliance (BPA) and for Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA). 

Also, visit the (BNC) Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Newsletter link for information on City and community issues at <http://berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/