An Off-Color History: How The Color of Law Misrepresents
The Origins of Racial Segregation

Richard Walker
Monday June 17, 2019 - 05:09:00 PM

Richard Rothstein's Color of Law[1] has made quite a splash and is widely praised for its no-holds barred look at American racism. Rothstein has toured the country lecturing about the book, has been interviewed on National Public Radio and other outlets many times, and has been widely praised and cited by mainstream liberals – and even some on the left.

Rothstein is correct to attack the systematic racism that has long plagued this country and to lay bare the way our cities have been racially segregated – and continue to be to this day. This is not exactly news, but it is an important truth that bears repeating for every generation. So, to the extent that it helps educate the young and especially white Americans about certain harsh realities, The Color of Law serves a good purpose. This country's sorry record on race needs to be aired as an essential part of our urban history.

On the other hand, Rothstein is wrong in ways that mislead readers about the causes and course of racial segregation. His errors of theory and fact seriously undermine the value of the book as a work of historiography and are a disservice to progressive politics today. Indeed, Rothstein ends up bolstering conservative positions on several fronts, starting with the idea that racism is not a structural element of US civil society and that government is the problem not the solution. Whatever his good intentions, Rothstein's dubious scholarship has some very bad, if unintended, consequences. -more-

Public Comment

The UC-GlaxoSmithKline Deal Should Be Surrounded by Red Flags. Where Are They?

Tina Stevens
Saturday June 22, 2019 - 10:15:00 PM

Last week, drug company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced its five-year $67 million partnership with UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna and UC San Francisco’s Jonathan Weissman. Their stated goal is to establish a genomics institute with the aim of using CRISPR gene editing to find new medicines.

The GSK funds will support the Laboratory for Genomic Research, a new facility in San Francisco that will employ 24 full-time UC and 14 GSK scientists. GSK will play a hands-on role. Their prerogatives will influence the work that happens at the lab and they will have the option to license patents on discoveries. The arrangement raises obvious questions not only about conflicts of interest but also about handing a private corporation the benefits of research incubated by a public university. -more-

A Modest Proposal for the Berkeley Housing Crisis

Harvey Smith
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:52:00 PM

The grassy open space of People’s Park experienced its only murder recently. This incident has become another justification for the University’s plans to build student housing on this much maligned location. With the exception of a police killing of a protester at the park’s creation, the park has experienced just this one murder in its entire 50-year history. However, another nearby area of Berkeley - fraternity/sorority row - has experienced at least four in recent memory. Why not apply the same development logic to that area?

The unsightly median strips and traffic circle between Bancroft and Haste surely must harbor a breeding ground for drug and alcohol abuse and violent crime. There could be something in the unkempt tall weeds that encourages overindulgence, as well as shootings, stabbings and sexual violence so prevalent in the neighborhood. This could be easily solved by filling the unsightly and underutilized space with student housing. -more-

Another Modest Proposal Illustrated

Alfred Twu
Sunday June 23, 2019 - 10:27:00 PM


Tejinder Uberoi
Friday June 21, 2019 - 11:36:00 AM

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ seminal 2014 essay in the Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” helped spur new calls to make amends for slavery. Coates, the well-known African-American writer, made a number of powerful statements during his recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of H.R.40. He rightly argues that it is not enough to atone for the horror of chattel slavery but more importantly to address the broader inequities that have persisted since emancipation more than a century ago. Coates identified two great crimes in American history, the near annihilation of Native- Americans, the theft of their land, and the cultivation of the land using enslaved Africans. Slavery started in 1619 when a Dutch ship brought 20 slaves to the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, as a source of cheap labor. The profits generated from slavery exceeded $75 billion in today’s dollar value. -more-

How the US makes Enemies

Jagjit Singh
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:58:00 PM

President Trump’s bombastic language and nasty tweets has made the US the enemy of the planet. He was elected, albeit with some Russian help, by the American people who therefore reflect his values. -more-

The UC Board of Regents: The Public Be Damned

Harry Brill
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:50:00 PM

To give you a sense of the members who serve on the U.C. Board of Regents, which is the ruling body of the UC system, take a look at the recent activities of Senator Feinstein's spouse, Richard Blum, who was reappointed to the Board in 2014 to a 12 year term. Blum was quite happy to accept a contract with the federal government to sell 56 buildings that house a post office. As the many protests made clear, the post offices are highly valued by the public . But this was not among Blum's concerns. For Blum, it is mainly about making lots of money. -more-

Discretionary Despotics -- the Failure of the Brown Act

Steve Martinot
Wednesday June 19, 2019 - 11:56:00 AM

The purpose of the Brown Act (the "Act") is to make government transparent, to ensure that no policy is decided out of public view, and that public "input" is always to be facilitated. It is a democratizing purpose. Its focus is not only that the public be informed of government process, have access to its practices, but also have the right to speak. Under the “Act’s” purview, people in official positions, such as councilmembers or commissioners, are warned that they must pay attention to their unofficial discussions with each other. Should such discussions inadvertently involve a quorum, it would constitute an unannounced, and thus “un-public” policy-making discussion, in violation of the "Act."

Though the “Act’s” goal is an informed public, it does not provide for participation. It does nothing to break the monologic state to which “public comment” is relegated. It also leaves much official procedure discretionary, inviting exotic forms of silencing people. For instance, should the City Council seek to pass an unpopular measure (such as support for Urban Shield – a contemporary “civil defense” boondoggle), it could diminish public input by scheduling the item for late in the session, after many opponents would have left out of fatigue or in the interests of going to work in the morning. Those subjected to such deferral were essentially (and unethically) silenced. Indeed, this happens often enough to convince many people that it is an intentional strategy for constructing agendas. For that reason, many propose that controversial issues be scheduled early, out of respect for those expected to attend. -more-

Revisiting Morality in the Age of Dishonesty

Wim Laven
Saturday June 22, 2019 - 10:29:00 PM

If Donald Trump actually follows through on his recently tweeted promise that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “will begin deporting the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States … as fast as they come in,” what will you do? According to the faith I was raised with I hope I would act according to the lessons found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told of a traveler who was beaten, stripped, and left naked waiting for death. People who claimed to be great believers avoided this victim, but it was the Samaritan who stopped and freely rendered aid—selfless altruism. Charity, compassion, and forgiveness are the highest values I was raised with. I do my best to dedicate myself to their service, and I’m sure I’m not the only one left in a bind: what will I do? -more-

Open Letter to the San Francisco School Board of Education about Arnautoff Mural

Carol Denney
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:47:00 PM

Victor Arnautoff, Russian emigre and New Deal artist assigned to depict George Washington's life, chose to depict the full story, that of George Washington as a slaveholder, and the push to expand westward as having deadly consequences for native peoples. Arnautoff's 1935 fresco represents one of the few examples of an artist's willingness to risk the consequences of telling the more honest, inclusive story of George Washington's role in American history.

It is certainly possible to view the depictions of exploitation as a promotion of exploitation. But Arnautoff's intent is unmistakable, as his own reflections on working on frescoes with renowned artist Diego Rivera makes clear, giving him, in his own words, "the belief that the making of art is not a matter of idle contemplation, it cannot leave the viewer indifferent. Its goal is to move people, to stimulate their thinking" and to see large public murals as "a weapon of ideas in the struggle for a new society, in the struggle for the future of mankind." -more-


Peter Selz (1919-2019)

A.J. Fox
Friday June 21, 2019 - 05:16:00 PM

Peter Selz, the internationally celebrated art historian, professor, and essayist who served as founding director of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive from 1965 through 1973, passed away early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. He was 100 years old.

“Peter Selz was a remarkable individual whose contributions to BAMPFA, UC Berkeley, and the broader art world are too numerous to count. Over the course of his tenure as our founding director, Peter transformed BAMPFA from a modest university art collection into the internationally renowned art and film institution it is today," said Lawrence Rinder, BAMPFA's director and chief curator. "Generations of Bay Area art lovers have benefited from his insight, knowledge, independence, and boundless energy, and his legacy will reverberate across and beyond our museum for decades to come.”

From his humble beginnings as a Jewish-German immigrant who fled Nazi Germany for the United States in 1936, Selz rose to become one of the most distinguished scholars and curators of the postwar art scene, developing close friendships with some of his generation’s most influential artists—including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis, Christo, and many others. After studying in Paris under a Fulbright scholarship and holding professorships at multiple prestigious universities, Selz moved to New York in 1958 to become the Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. The position put him at the crux of powerful crosscurrents that were reshaping the New York art scene, from the influence of Abstract Expressionism to the rise of Pop art and Conceptualism. With a restless intellectual curiosity that would come to characterize his curatorial practice, Selz used his platform at MoMA to highlight work by an eclectic range of important artists, mounting influential midcareer surveys of Rothko, Jean Dubuffet, and Alberto Giacometti, among others.

In 1965, Selz accepted an invitation from the University of California to move to Berkeley and become the founding director of the museum that later became BAMPFA. What was then called the University Art Museum was conceived in the early 1960s to showcase the University’s growing art collection, which had recently been transformed by a gift from Hans Hofmann of nearly fifty of the artist’s finest works. As the museum’s first director, Selz was intimately involved in shaping the institution literally from the ground up—from engaging the renowned architect Mario Ciampi to design the iconic modernist building to partnering with the film director and scholar Sheldon Renan to establish the Pacific Film Archive at the heart of the museum’s program.

During his nearly decade-long tenure as founding director, Selz launched the young museum on an ambitious course, more than doubling the size of its collection with the addition of many Old Master, Modern, and contemporary masterworks and mounting massive exhibitions that took full advantage of the museum’s cavernous 100,000-square-foot facility. As his daughter Gabrielle Selz later observed, her father’s curatorial approach in Berkeley defied many of the fashionable art world trends of the 1960s; as the New York art scene deepened its embrace of Pop and Minimalism, the University Art Museum under Selz’s leadership celebrated the emergence of the countercultural Funk art movement with the massively influential group exhibition Funk in 1967. Selz also championed the work of figurative artists like Nathan Oliveira and ceramicists like Peter Voulkos, who went on to great acclaim despite working against the prevailing abstractionist trends of the period. As a professor in UC Berkeley’s art history department, Selz continued to distinguish himself as a scholar and essayist, authoring books and exhibition catalogs on Sam Francis, Ferdinand Hodler, German and Austrian Expressionism, and many other topics.

Selz concluded his tenure as the museum’s director in 1973 but continued to teach at UC Berkeley for more than a decade thereafter, retiring as an emeritus professor in 1988. He remained a major force in the Bay Area art scene even after stepping down as director, curating numerous exhibitions and partnering on projects with civic leaders and artists. Among these were the internationally acclaimed environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who engaged Selz as the project director of their ambitious installation Running Fence—a 24.5-mile long fabric fence crossing the Marin County hills, which was completed in 1976.

A beloved member of the Bay Area art community through the end of his life, Selz was recently honored with a one hundredth birthday party at BAMPFA on April 2. In what would be his final public appearance, Selz expressed to a large and affectionate audience his sense of optimism about the future of the art world: “I can say there’s a lot of very, very good art being produced now, a lot of surprises … I have felt optimistic about art all my life.”

Selz is survived by his fifth wife, Carole Schemmerling Selz; his daughters Tanya Selz and Gabrielle Selz from his first marriage, to Thalia Cheronis Selz; his stepdaughters Mia Baldwin and Kryssa Schemmerling; and his grandson, Theo Mync. -more-


It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Becky O'Malley
Sunday June 23, 2019 - 09:03:00 AM

The mantra for the current era should be Dorothy Parker’s rumored telephone greeting: “What fresh hell is this?”

Every day the national administration produces a new unbelievable occurrence, most often generated by the guy at the top. The last couple of days, however, have revealed, to my great surprise, that there’s someone in the White House that makes Donald Trump look sane and sober.

That would be John Bolton, who with his henchman Michael Pompeo has been ginning up a war with Iran.

How do I know? Well, it’s that same old script, always good for a remake. The first version, in my youth in the early ‘60s, was the Tonkin Gulf incident, the one where an imaginary battle between a U.S. ship and the North Vietnamese produced, per Wikipedia,“ the passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by communist aggression. The resolution served as Johnson's legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.”

The second bigtime remake was the episode of the WMDs, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, also imaginary, which were used to justify George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:Speaking Truth to Power

Bob Burnett
Friday June 21, 2019 - 11:20:00 AM

More and more of my friends tell me they can't bear to watch the news, because they can't stand to hear about the latest Trump outrage. Some unfortunates are afflicted with tinnituswhere they constantly hear a ringing or buzz in the background. The U.S. is subjected with the political version of this -- Trumpitus -- where there's always some Trump news item droning in the background. To deal with this backdrop of malevolence, to protect our sanity, you and I have to agree to stand up and proclaim the truth.

1.We're under attack by the Russians. The most disturbing conclusion from the Mueller Report is that Russia made a concerted effort to alter the results of the 2016 election. "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." Vladimir Putin and his cronies wanted Trump to win and engaged in a variety of technical efforts to help him. It's not clear what the overall impact was. Russians operatives were active in key swing states -- such as Michigan,Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- but it's not provable that the Russian efforts resulted in Trump's 78,000 vote margin. What is clear is that the Russians helped the Trump campaign by concerted social-media campaigns and hacking Clinton-campaign emails.

There's no evidence that Russian interference has abated. Indeed, if one looks at the Putin's objectives, there's no reason for the Russians to stop because they are succeeding. Russian efforts have weakened U.S. morale and diminished our role as leader of the "free" world. (They have also weakened the European Union and brought the United Kingdom to the brink of chaos.) -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Antipsychotics Impair the Body's Cooling

Jack Bragen
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:56:00 PM

The hot weather is beginning for this year in California, and I think it is helpful to bring up the subject of caution due to heat sensitivity for many mental health consumers. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump Would Accept Foreign Help in 2020 Election

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:44:00 PM

President Donald Trump admitted that he would accept a foreign government's assistance in an election -- and might not report it to the FBI. Sounds like an open invitation to Russia for help in his re-election campaign. This admission reflects Trump’s win-at-any-and-all-costs mentality. -more-

Arts & Events

Dvorák’s RUSALKA Is A Resounding Success

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 04:12:00 PM

In a summer season at San Francisco Opera where until now no production came anyway near being an unbridled success, we finally have in Dvorák’s Rusalka a production where everything came together beautifully. Rusalka is a fairytale folk opera rooted in Dvorák’s native Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic. With a libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil, based on fairy tales by Karel Jaromir Erben and Božena Němcová (and remotely based on “The Little Mermaid“ by Hans Christian Anderson), Dvorák’s Rusalka is set in the magical world of water sprites who cavort in forest lakes. These female nymphs of the waters exert an erotic allure on any human men who chance to encounter them. -more-

An Underwhelming CARMEN at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 04:09:00 PM

Bizet’s Carmen is almost unimaginable without a dynamic, alluring, title-role singer. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Opera’s current Carmen, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges. is a strangely underwhelming Carmen. Her voice simply doesn’t project, nor does her acting. She’s just there, going through the motions we associate with Carmen, but never catching fire either vocally or dramatically. .Although J’Nai Bridges was undertaking the role of Carmen for the first time, there was reason to think she could bring it off successfully, based on her performance, one of the few good things, in the 2017 world premiere of John Adams’ woebegone Girls of the Golden West. But, no, already into its third of seven performances, on June 14 J’Nai Bridges’ Carmen was still, at best, a work in progress. -more-

Russian and Middle Eastern Films You Might Enjoy

Margot Smith
Thursday June 20, 2019 - 03:54:00 PM

I've enjoyed these, didn't know that I was that interested in Russia until...

Good Russian Movies (In roughly chronological order):

Ivan the Terrible, Part I-- (1944) is set in sixteenth-century Moscow, where the newly crowned Czar Ivan attempts to thwart both the boyars (the feudal nobility) and the hold of the church to create a unified Russia. Part I follows Ivan from his coronation to his voluntary exile to Alexandrov to await his people’s summons.

Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great. (2014)--Great film, Katherine the Great from a modern perspective.The renowned Empress of 18th Century Russia and part of the Romanoff dynasty begins her journey as a German princess selected to marry Peter the Third, heir to the Russian throne and grandson of Peter the Great. 10 episodes. Filmed in Russia. (on Amazon Prime) -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, June 23-30

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday June 22, 2019 - 10:19:00 PM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are packed with meetings worth attending.

The City Council Agenda Committee on Monday afternoon and the City Council regular meeting Tuesday evening always have a long list of agenda items and make this week’s meeting summary extra thick.

NEW - Audio Recordings of the City Council Committee Meetings are now available and the quality is surprisingly good
Audio Recordings: click this link to access recent meeting MP3 audio files via Dropbox.

(Note: A Dropbox account is not required in order to access the MP3 files.)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

EV (Electric Vehicle) 101 Workshop, 11 am, - 12:30 pm, 2530 San Pablo, Event is free, but pre-registration needed – space limited, 350 Bay Area, Sponsored by Ecology Center and City of Berkeley, also offered Tuesday, June 25 at 6 pm


Housing is a Human Right Forum, 2 – 5 pm, 1802 Fairview, South Berkeley Community Church, hosted by Friends of Adeline

https://www.facebook.com/events/434314683815401/ -more-

Back Stories



It's Deja Vu All Over Again 06-23-2019

Public Comment

The UC-GlaxoSmithKline Deal Should Be Surrounded by Red Flags. Where Are They? Tina Stevens 06-22-2019

A Modest Proposal for the Berkeley Housing Crisis Harvey Smith 06-20-2019

Another Modest Proposal Illustrated Alfred Twu 06-23-2019

Reparations Tejinder Uberoi 06-21-2019

How the US makes Enemies Jagjit Singh 06-20-2019

The UC Board of Regents: The Public Be Damned Harry Brill 06-20-2019

Discretionary Despotics -- the Failure of the Brown Act Steve Martinot 06-19-2019

Revisiting Morality in the Age of Dishonesty Wim Laven 06-22-2019

Open Letter to the San Francisco School Board of Education about Arnautoff Mural Carol Denney 06-20-2019


Coming Friday: Preview 06-26-2019

An Off-Color History: How The Color of Law Misrepresents
The Origins of Racial Segregation
Richard Walker 06-17-2019

Peter Selz (1919-2019) A.J. Fox 06-21-2019


THE PUBLIC EYE:Speaking Truth to Power Bob Burnett 06-21-2019

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Antipsychotics Impair the Body's Cooling Jack Bragen 06-20-2019

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump Would Accept Foreign Help in 2020 Election Ralph E. Stone 06-20-2019

Arts & Events

Dvorák’s RUSALKA Is A Resounding Success Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 06-20-2019

An Underwhelming CARMEN at San Francisco Opera Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 06-20-2019

Russian and Middle Eastern Films You Might Enjoy Margot Smith 06-20-2019

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, June 23-30 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 06-22-2019