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Moscow Mitch

Jagjit Singh
Tuesday August 06, 2019 - 11:35:00 AM

Finally, the media has penetrated the poker face Mitch McConnell by labelling him “Moscow Mitch”, a description he richly deserves. By his inaction he has left the nation unprotected from Russian interference.  

The Republicans, bowing to their master, Donald Trump, have ignored dire warnings from the special counsel, Bob Mueller who warned that Russia is still conducting aggressive cyber wars. 

The usually placid McConnell, impervious to criticism, responded with fury when the media accused him of being a Russian asset.  

McConnell has only himself to blame for blocking federal election reform that would prevent Russian interference in our elections. He should stop whining and perform his duties as Senate Majority leader otherwise his nickname will stick. His critics rightfully accuse him of blocking stronger security measures to prevent a repeat of Russian interference in 2016. McConnell has left the door wide open hoping the other Russian asset, Donald Trump, will prevail in the 2020 election.  

More and more Americans are demanding to know why President Trump remains silent and refuses to heed such warnings. We must raise our collective voices and demand to see his tax returns which might reveal how he is being compromised by Russian oligarchs. We cannot have a Russian asset as our President. For more go to, http://callforsocialjustice.blogspot.com/

Jake Heggie’s IF I WERE YOU Is A Loser

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday August 06, 2019 - 11:07:00 AM

For the first time in its 60 year existence, the Merola Opera Program commissioned a new work, and they chose San Franciscos own Jake Heggie to compose a new opera. Heggie teamed up once again with librettist Gene Scheer, with whom he had worked, most notably, on Moby Dick. Together, Heggie and Scheer decided to do a loose adaptation of Julien Greens 1947 French novel Si j’étais vous/If I Were You. The plot involves a young man, Fabian Hart, who, like Goethes Faust, makes a pact with the devil. This devil, however, is a woman who goes by the name Brittomara; and what she offers young Fabian is the opportunity to transfer his soul into anyone he chooses, thereby ridding himself of his own identity and assuming a new one each time he makes a transfer. The problem is, however, that, unlike Goethes Faust, who ambitiously sought to know everything and to make the world a better place, young Fabian seems to know nothing. He is, as Joshua Kosman called him, a numbskull. 

In If I Were You, we first see Fabian in an ambulance after he has driven his car into a tree. He has suffered a head injury. But Brittomara is by his side, disguised as an EMT. She assures Fabian she wont let him die, and she administers electro-shock to him. Fabian survives, but he has little memory of what happened. Its not a very auspicious start to an opera. Moreover, the music Jake Heggie has composed for this opera is, for the most part, very angular and dissonant, full of vocal screeching. This is a shame, because Merolas current crop of young singers is excellent; and they do their best to make this weird, diabolical opera work. I saw the first cast, or Pearlcast, on Sunday, August 4, at Herbst Theatre. In the role of Brittomara a role that also involves this character in shifting identities mezzo-soprano Cara Collins was superb. Among other things, she can screech with the best of them. As Fabian Hart, tenor Michael Day was vocally impressive, even if his numbskullcharacter was distinctly unimpressive. As Diana a character that does not appear in Julien Greens novel but was added by librettist Scheer soprano Esther Tonea was outstanding. The purpose of adding the character of Diana was to create a love interestfor Fabian that, so hoped Scheer and Heggie, would help ground the diabolical plot in something like everyday reality.  

But this pact with the devil has a bizarre slant of Eastern mysticism that goes along with it, for each time Fabian wishes to transfer his soul to another body and person, he must chant a palindrome of Hindu gods, a sort of abracadabra that musically is accompanied by a buzz of electro-shock and a visual array of lightning bolts. So much for everyday reality. Fabians first soul-shifting transfer is to assume the identity of Mr. Putnam, his oppressive boss at work. Mr. Putnams music, by the way, is vulgar and raucous, suggesting perhaps that Fabians choice is lacking in wisdom. Fabian next assumes the identity of Paul, a macho guy in a bar. But Paul is hardly a good choice either, for in his jacket other characters find cocaine and a gun. When the gun goes off and accidentally kills a tipsy Rachel, Paul calls the police. But when the policeman arrives and starts to question Paul, our Paul/Fabian simply chants the magic formula and becomes the cop. Oh well, what can you expect from a numbskull? 

There is, however, one bit of music that I found quite melodious. Diana, sung by soprano Esther Tonea, performed a duet with her best fried, Selena, sung by soprano Patricia Westley. The two soprano voices blended together beautifully. This duet takes place in the bar scene in Act I, and it was quite lovely. As Fabian continues to assume the identities of others, there were capable vocal performances from Rafael Porto, Timothy Murray, Edward Laurenson, and Brandon Scott Russell. However, we the audience dont give a damn about any of these characters, any more than we give a damn about this loser, Fabian. Ultimately, we wonder what Diana, the one seemingly well-grounded person in this opera, sees in Fabian? Why does she care about him and seek to find out what has happened to him? Is this just a plot-ploy to keep the story moving? In the end, she holds the dying Fabian in her arms. But Brittomara comes to claim Fabians soul; and the last words of If I Were You are Brittomaras: Who will be next? 

Nicole Paiement conducted energetically; and the sets by Liliana Duque Piñeriro were expressive. Keturah Stickann kept things moving as Director. IF I Were You will receive a fourth and final performance, with the alternating Emeraldcast, on Tuesday, August 6, at 7:30 pm at Herbst Theatre.  

Paul Krassner Bows Out, Unbowed

Gar Smith
Saturday August 03, 2019 - 06:55:00 PM

At 1:35PM on July 21, 2019, a short email from a family friend reverberated through the Netosphere. We'd been warned it was imminent but the foreshadowing didn't diminish the sense of loss: Paul Krassner was about to exit stage-left. 

"Dear all," the message read, He’s gone. Feel free to spread the word. Daughter Holly Krassner just e-mailed me and I have no further information. 

Here’s the link to the FB page if people want to share memories. 


And here’s the link to the gofundme if people want to know how they can help: 


Further memorials will be announced down the road. 

A Full Life  

During 87 fully-booked years, Paul Krassner assembled quite a resume—as a comic, a satirist, a publisher, and a political activist. 

Krassner won one of his earliest laughs as a six-year-old violin prodigy during a performance at Carnegie Hall. In the middle of his recital, one of his legs began to itch. Since his hands were otherwise occupied, he lifted one leg to scratch the other, tottering on one foot and not missing a glissando. When the audience burst into laughter and applause, Paul was hooked. (If only we had a YouTube video.) 

He palled around with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, co-founded the Yippie movement with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Mark Rudd, he fought for the rights of women and sex-workers alongside COYOTE-founder Margot St. James, dropped acid with Groucho Marx and also found time to found and edit The Realist, help Lenny Bruce write his bio ("How to Talk Dirty and Influence People") and pen his own flamboyant array of titles, including: How A Satirical Editor Became A Yippie Conspirator In Ten Easy Years, Who's to Say What's Obscene?, Sex, Drugs, and the Twinkie Murders, One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Satirist, The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race (with an intro by Kurt Vonnegut), Murder at the Conspiracy Convention (intro by George Carlin), Pot Stories for the Soul, Psychedelic Trips for the Mind, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs, and his autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture

When conservatives, shocked by Krassner's irrascible candor, attempted to rein him in with the classic complaint "Is nothing sacred to you?" he had a ready reply: "Irreverence is my only sacred cow." And, as he reminded his suit-and-tie critics: "Free speech existed before the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights just codified it." 

Duriing his years in San Francisco, Krassner also was a presence on the radio dial, hosting broadcasts on KSFX and KSAN under the name "Rumpleforeskin." In his Chronicle obit, Sam Whiting mentioned how Paul's radio gig at KSAN was cut short "after an on-air stunt with sex worker Margo St. James." The Chron didn't say more, but the details can be unzipped by clicking onto Paul's recollection of the encounter. 

Looking Back 

I first encountered Paul Krassner when he popped up, post-FSM, on the UC Berkeley campus where he offered an electric and eclectic standup routine in support of the burgeoning anti-war movement. I would run into Paul many times over the years, in comedy clubs and on the street. 

It was impossible not to want another toke of Krassner's classic wit—or The Realist's caustic writ. The Realist was the Wikileaks of its era—a place where reporters, cartoonists, insiders, and jokesters could post their otherwise unprintable dispatches. The Realist not only broke stories, it also broke many of America's prudish barriers. Case in point: The Disneyland Memorial Orgy cartoon. (Click here if you dare.) 

Two weeks before Paul's death, MAD Magazine announced it was ceasing publication—after 67 years as the country's premiere source of political satire and pop-culture mockery. The double loss is almost too much to bear. 

Not surprisingly, Paul paired with MAD in the early years. It was a formative experience. Paul would recall the night he lost his virginity. It was on the floor of MAD's New York office, below a portrait of the magazine's emblematic mascot, Alfred E. Neuman. When his co-conspirator asked if he had any reservations about what was about to happen, Paul grinned and replied: "What—Me Worry?" 

The last time I ran into Paul was on December 11, 2010 when he was in town to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Awards ceremony. I covered the event for a piece in the Berkeley Daily Planet. Here's a video of Paul's acceptance speech. 


Here's an interview with Paul: 

Paul Krassner Has the Last Laugh and the Last Word 

(November 13, 2018) — In the first part of this long interview, Paul Krassner talks about the founding of The Realist, the origins of the antiwar movement at Berkeley and his friend and collaborator Lenny Bruce.

And here are some early remembrances pulled from recent emails and Paul's Facebook page: 

Recollections from Paul's Friends 

Judy Gumbo 

I join all of you in this sad but not unexpected moment. Grieving is an emotion over which we have no control; it is not linear, it comes and goes. I like to think that Paul is up there now in that great protest movement in the sky -- along with Stew, Anita and Abbie, Jerry, Phil, Eldridge, Bill Kunstler and so many others. I miss them all. 

I first met Paul at Anita and Abbie’s apartment on St. Mark’s Place in April or May of 1968; I ingested Paul’s honey in Lincoln Park and was there for his abbreviated testimony at the Conspiracy Trial in 1969. He, Stew and I remained friends from then on, through Stew's death in 2006 until today.  

Of all the memories I have of Paul, perhaps the most vivid occurred during a conversation we had about 1962 -- before he and I ever met. Paul told me how he helped women obtain abortions. He had written an article in The Realist about a sympathetic physician in Ashland, Pennsylvania, who provided abortion care to women. Abortion was illegal at the time. Paul did not publish the physican's name. After Paul’s article appeared, desperate women began to telephone him, he became what he called an "underground abortion referral service." This physician was arrested; Paul continued referring women to other physicans; Paul himself was subpoenaed but refused to testify; Gerry Lefcourt defended him and ultimately Paul's subpoena was dropped. Despite both of us being Yippies, in my opinion, helping women find abortion care when it was illegal was the most humane thing Paul ever did.  

Paul also appreciated words. He insisted I call him a founder of the Yippies but call myself a Yippie original. At first I protested (of course) but I quickly recognized that Paul was right. I now proudly call myself an original Yippie in everything I say or write.  

With my deepest condolences to Nancy and Holly and much love to all. 

Michael S. 

Paul changed the world. He knew that having fun and demanding justice were not only compatible, but eternal mates. Please keep wife Nancy Cain, daughter Holly Krassner Dawson, and everyone else in your hearts. I’ve been reminded this week that we’re all in this life racket together. 

Daniel F. 

Well, folks, he did it. Threw the damn walker aside and busted out of here. Someone just asked me “Did he live a full life?” Ha. “Several”, I said.  


Victor M. 

R.I.P. Paul Krassner. He made it to THE BIG FINISH LINE today at age 87. Lived over 10 years past the national average. . . . 

Paul Krassner's Yippie Party ran Pigasus the Pig for President. Co-created the first Woodstock and other Music Festivals. A huge history of media and arts activism. MAD Magazine Collaborations. 1950's up radio shows on women's abortion rights, plus friends, collaborators with Groucho Marx, John Lennon, Phil Ochs, Lenny Bruce, and many others. Saint a-Paul-ing I call him. Paul Maul, The Zen Bastard. Raving Loonatic, and many other nicknames. . . . . 

Copy Righting Wrongs . . . . 

Gordon J. Whiting Producer Radiogroup FM 

I salute his courage and character and, above all, his savage sense of show biz. He came along just when we needed him. Thank you, Paul, we are higher (in every way) because of you. 

Rex Weiner 

“Laughter is your first language,” Krassner said. “It’s a bunch of folks leaning over the crib, laughing at everything you do.” 

From my 2012 interview with Paul in The Forward. I’ll miss him. 

Thorne Dreyer 

Sad news. Though I hadn't seen Paul in decades, I was in touch a lot over recent years and interviewed him on four hour-long Rag Radio shows between 2010 and 2015. I'll miss him. Condolences to all,
Barbara Garson 

Sometime in the late 1960s Paul Krassner and I spoke at a church. Someone in the audience congratulated me because "MacBird" showed I had the courage to defy the morality I was brought up with. I denied any credit, explaining that I didn't have any struggle. "The only moral absolute my mother taught me was that "It's a sin to waste food."  

Later in the question period, someone asked Paul if there were any things that should not be said in public. Paul said that might be true but who would be the censor? "I know," he answered himself. "It could be Barbara's mother. The one thing she would censor would be the Last Supper because Jesus walked off leaving the food on his plate."  

Susie B. 

Thanks. Jon and I are feeling it so hard, and it's really a relief to hear from all of you. We decided to make a Big Paul Flag and hang it outdoors, our Hero. Right? I'll send photos. Send me yours!  

Bob Sarles, Ravin’ Films, Inc. 

Paul was a hero of mine. What a life he lived! It was a privilege to have him as a friend. I’m very sad right now.  

Hal Muskat 

Paul lived a couple miles from us in Aptos in 1972 (73?). Once a week, through the summer, he’d stop buy to kibitz and purchase our awesome goat’s milk and eggs. After reading in his AutoBio where he writes about hosting John & Yoko in Aptos, I asked, “Why didn’t you tell us you were feeding our goats milk & eggs to John & Yoko.” 

“So you could give me shit about it 20 years later!” 

RIP Paul. Condolences to Holly & Nancy and all of us.  

Kevin B. 

Nancy, I'm throwing a bucket of love your way.  

Paul, I wish you peace as the curtain falls and a standing O on the other side, whatever the hell that may be. 

John E. 

A Grand Guy indeed, in the best Terry Southern tradition; it was in the august pages of The Realist that I first encountered the mighty TS. Tonight, in celebration of Paul, I'm going to re-watch his appearance on The Joe Pyne Show, which was a dazzling piece of guerrilla theater. Thanks Paul. 

N. Southern 

Thank you, Michael, and Godspeed to all Krassners. RIP grand guy Paul! 

He meant so much to Terry—who put it best in an interview (by Maggie Paley): 

Q: What’s your favorite piece of work that you’ve ever done? 

Terry Southern: Well…I’ve never thought of it like that. I love to reread stuff, and occasionally I read something and think, 'My God, did I write that?' I suppose that at the moment of rereading something you like, you would have to think of that as your favorite. I know some of my favorite is stuff that’s in The Realist

Q: Because you’re given complete freedom? 

Terry Southern: Yes. I think The Realist is the most important publication in America. People don’t realize how much Paul Krassner has done. For example, he raised money for Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who fought the Supreme Court case about the compulsory school prayer, and he’s done a great deal with Summerhill or Summerlane—whatever it’s called. He’s a remarkable man. They’ve done exposés that are quite sensational but have never been picked up on. 

Mitchito Ritter, Lay-Low Studios 

Have been having trouble understanding why I liked Krassner's work so much  

after reading the media-grabbing items mostly about his pranks in his obits.  

This brings back the Flushing kid of Working Class Heroes in me who looked up to Astoria kid Krassner through the VILLAGE VOICE, SOHO WEEKLY, WBAI indie bookstores along with his books and midnight monologues blossoming into audience dialogues at THE ELGIN (long since THE JOYCE DANCE THEATER in CHELSEA) who wanted to make my living as a comedy writer, hoping to work all that was wrong in the world and causing such human pain and suffering (most of it muted by our Weapons of Mass Distraction) into something to make inactive folks laugh, then think, then mebbe act socially (more Dick Gregory than Paul Krassner) so we wouldn't be stuck with choices like those Groucho lamented with Krassner, about the choice for U.S. citizens being between being led by an LBJ or an RMN (Nixon). 

Here we came in 21st C. to choice 'tween Hillary House of Clinton or Serial corporate bankruptcy wannabe President Private Interest Trump. Voting for non-existent 3rd Party Jill Stein didn't get me off the complicity hook.... 

Desperate Hondurans dying or sending their kids to die trying to get a life after decades of Washington's using their country and ruling elite like the USS HONDURAS has barely dented our body politic's or corporate-captured news media's awareness. Nor has it lessened the trans-shipment of drugs into the U.S. thanks to insatiable demand from the hollowness at heart of Amurikin Dream... 

Anyhoow, love reading why Groucho and Krassner were both true to their callings in excerpts below.... 

Balled up in confusion, Yours in Equi-sapien Servitude 

Sharon S. 

Goodbye, Paulie K. 

Your enduring 'tearful turkey' logo is the crying mime without words, without arms to fight with or fly away with, and with aging eyes. Basically the human condition as seen by a realist. 

And Finally…. 

There are two ways of contending with the Ultimate Loss of those we revere: (1) wait for Terry Gross to replay an archived interview or (2) check your email backlog for snippets of ancient messages. 

In March 2015, while preparing for the 50th Anniversary of the Berkeley Barb, I contacted Paul about participating but discovered that he was unable to travel to the event because of physical disabilities. 

Here is our exchange: 

GS: Maybe we could Skype you onto a screen occupying a seat on one of the Berkeley Barb panels. 

PK: Good idea…what’s the date of that event? 

GS: Or better yet, we could theoretically broadcast you as a hologram right onto the stage. 

PK: Who am I, Tupac? 

GS: On a more practical note, we are planning a table where Barb-relatable books and goods could be trafficked.  

PK: My latest book, published by PM Press in Oakland, is Patty Hearst and the Twinkies Murders. I originally covered the Patty trial for the Barb (and the Dan White trial for the Bay Guardian). 

On Donald Trump's faux success (November 3, 2015): 

PK: I would reveal that what launched his public profile was the publication of The Art of the Deal, because he bought 20,000 copies, thereby landing it on the bestseller list. 

On Donald Trump's election (November 11, 2016): 

PK: When George Bush was elected president of the United States in 2000, it was because of the Electoral College, even though his opponent Al Gore won the national popular vote. 

Hillary Clinton was elected senator that year, and she announced that the first thing she would do was to get rid of the Electoral College. 

A few years later, as a columnist for The New York Press, I sent her a letter asking about the status of that promise. She didn’t reply. 

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump—business crook, liar extraordinaire, star pussy-grabber, make-America-white-again and Putin’s “useful idiot”—was elected as an insanely narcissistic dictator because of the Electoral College, even though his opponent Hillary won the national popular vote. 

Irony lives . . .  



Fake Fights Give False Impressions

Becky O'Malley
Friday August 02, 2019 - 10:12:00 AM

“Let’s you and him fight!”

That’s the signature line of Popeye the Sailor Man’s buddy Wimpy, ever eager to stir things up in the ‘30s cartoons. Wimpy seems to have been the role model for those CNN newsies who tried to spice things up in this week’s Democratic presidential debates. I can’t remember their individual names, since I seldom watch CNN or any other TV “news”, but let’s just say one was a mutton-dressed-as-lamb woman with bleached and flattened hair, one was a pasty white guy with serious horn rims, and one was a kinda black guy, but you know, not too black. They could have been interchanged with a dozen others of similar description, but all were all carefully scripted by CNN’s Wimpy-on-staff to turn a civil discussion into a Real Debate.

Their MSNBC equivalents who asked the questions in the June shows (also inaccurately called debates) were milder, with even Rachel Maddow toned down for the occasion. There were complaints that those were dull (and they were). The candidates themselves provided whatever sparks flew, with Berkeley’s own Kamala Harris lighting a small fire under Joe Biden. (Yes, I know she was born in Oakland, but I bet that’s just because Kaiser’s there, not because her mother lived there.) 

I watched those June shows in Santa Cruz. The first was at the home of politically-minded people, at an event organized online by the Warren campaign, with some guests invited by the official organization and others friends and allies of the hosts. The second was held by the Bernie crowd at a pizza/sports bar. Both were followed by spirited discussion of issues raised by the candidates, more spirited than the on-camera exchanges by the stars. 

As someone who’s vacillated between advocacy and journalism, I understand CNN’s impulse to turn the second round into a fight, since the first ones were so tepid. In almost all contemporary media, everything from the online Atlantic Magazine to newsish local sites, if it bleeds it leads. That’s always been true of the print tabloids, but the tabloid style manual seems to have been adopted for most venues, especially the ones where truthiness prevails. 

On this week’s Dem shows, just about every question by the interlocutors was what’s called in the law a leading question, like a bit of red meat tossed in front of dogs to see if they will bite. Not all leading questions are illegitimate, but the overall effect on CNN was to create more dissention than actually exists among the candidates if left to their own devices. 

Again I watched Part I at a viewing party sponsored by, but not limited to, the Warren for President crowd. I organized this one myself in Berkeley, and in addition to those who registered with the campaign I also invited a random selection of my own contacts that I happen to encounter in the couple of days preceding the event, plus a few Planet readers who saw a last minute notice here. For July Part II, I joined a few friends in someone’s living room. 

This being the extended Bay Area Bubble, the reactions of all these audience members, at least a couple of hundred all together, were favorable to most of the candidates. I would be astounded if anyone at any of the four gatherings would reject Warren, Sanders, Booker, Harris, Castro or Mayor Pete as the candidate of the Democratic Party in 2020. Some who had lived elsewhere mid-continent expressed sympathy for Joe Biden, but all snickered at Devany. 

The rest of the candidates are hard to remember, but if by some act of god they got the nomination, they’d probably get these votes too. Yes, OMG, Marianne Williamson, who seems to have a warm heart if a weak head. Even Andrew Yang, who is as he says the opposite of you –know-who as an Asian who loves math. He seems to have a good head as well as a warm heart.  

Despite the best efforts of the CNN producers, policy differences among these candidates are vanishingly small. Everyone now endorses offering some form of government-supported health care to all, which as recently as 15 years ago would have been unimaginable.  

The exact role of private insurers in the mix will surely be settled in Congress by negotiation, not dictated by a president with a magic wand or (per the current incumbent) by executive order. All of the bumper sticker slogans (Single Payer, Medicare for All, Socialized Medicine….) are meaningless without details, and the details are sure to converge. 

The other topic on which the video newsies tried to gin up some controversy is the question of how unauthorized border crossing should be treated in the legal system. The only real dividing line among the candidates is who understands the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony and how this distinction plays out in enforcement at the border.  

Not one single Democratic candidate is down with using the chosen code section to separate migrant children from their family members, and certainly not to lock them in cages. There’s no substantial issue here. 

This week’s poster boy for sloppy newsies is Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times, who really should know better. From his Thursday column on the op-ed page: 

I worry that telling more than 150 million Americans that they will soon lose their private medical insurance could turn health care, which should be a winner for Democrats, into a winner for Republicans. 

Yes, and that’s why you shouldn’t do it.  

There are a dozen ways that government-paid health care and private insurance can co-exist, as you—and all the candidates—can learn from Paul Krugman in your very own paper. Just because some contenders aren’t clear on the concept, don’t muddy the waters yourself. 


Likewise, it seems to me reasonable that if we want a secure border, it should remain a misdemeanor to cross without permission — just as it’s a misdemeanor to trespass on private property. Warren’s drive to decriminalize border crossings would play into President Trump’s false criticism that Democrats want open borders. 

No one is saying it should not be a misdemeanor. But it is not a misdemeanor now. What Julian Castro and his allies are saying is that it should no longer remain a felony. If you’re writing about this stuff, you should really know the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor, between criminal and civil offenses. Decriminalization—changing from felony to misdemeanor—does not equal open borders, and newsies should be able to explain that. 

When are editors when NYT columnists need them? 

The Democratic Party (whoever that might be) should never have turned these important “debates”, which should actually be called panel discussions, over to commercial networks. They are creating controversy where none exists as a way of boosting ratings and selling ads. 

Besides the offensive questions, the way the CNN people truncated the closing sentences of the more literate candidates was very annoying. Steven Colbert, one of our smarter political commentators, did a good riff on this on Tuesday night after the show with clips of speakers being cut off by questioners mid-thought. There’s just no way that a serious issue can be tackled intelligently in one minute. (Are you listening, Mayor Arreguin?) 

We’ve seen enough of bogus controversies created by the reality TV crowd. The country would be well-served if the DNC took back their candidates forthwith and turned them over to non-profit non-commercial producers.  

PBS or NPR might be able to do it, though they also are tempted by ratings wars and have too many thinly disguised corporate commercials for their “sponsors”. Maybe the BBC, with no dog in the race, could put on a better program? Or our Canadian neighbors, whose public radio news is leisurely and thoughtful?  

Or even C-Span, which usually just points the cameras and lets ‘em roll. In this set, several of them have already looked pretty darn good on camera in the Senate or House. 

Candidates worthy of consideration should be able to state their positions without interpretation by the corporate media. If serious candidates were allocated a couple of free hours on the “air waves”, video or online, we might see some genuine debates for a change, instead of contests which are about as fair as professional wrestling matches. 





Friday August 02, 2019 - 10:20:00 AM

Public Comment

How Organic is Whole Foods?

Harry Brill
Friday August 02, 2019 - 03:06:00 PM

Although Whole Foods carries more organic food than any other supermarket in the Bay Area, the majority of what it sells is non-organic products. Let's take a look at the Whole Foods store in Berkeley on Gilman. 


The Gilman store has a substantial number of bins for customers who like to eat a prepared meal at the store or to take the meal home. At the hot food section there are over 30 bins. Customers take as little or as much as they would like, and then pay according to the weight of their dish. Incredibly, almost none of the foods in these bins are organic. Please -- visit the store and see for yourself. 


Also at the Gilman store is a very large section of wines. Although the store carries some organic wines, over 90 percent of the wines the store displays are non-organic. The high prices of these wines suggest that they serve financially comfortable customers who prefer high quality wines. Of course, these wines are very profitable to Whole Foods. However, a wine that is both high quality and organic would be very costly to sell. Whole Foods would have to limit the markup to less than the standard markup of 33 percent. Instead the corporation's commitment to maximizing profits prevails over its interest in increasing the supply of organic wine. Moreover, Whole Foods has no interest in persuading customers to avoid wines that are drenched with dangerous pesticides. 

Generally speaking, it is very important to understand that large sections of the public who prefer organic food are not necessarily wedded to it. Unlike so called street crimes the adverse impact of consuming unhealthy foods are not immediate. The health problems they cause may not be experienced until many ysears later. This lack of immediate signals explains why people are generally not too concerned about the consequences of what they eat. So it should be incumbent on Whole Foods as well as similar supermarkets to educate the public on the potential risks of consuming foods laden with pesticides and other poisons.  


Whole Foods claims that it is carrying a wide array of products, labeled 365, that are very healthy to consume and are also affordable. According to Whole Foods the 365 labeled foods are either organic or natural. Actually, most are non-organic. The term " natural" is very appealing to the public. In a poll, over 60 percent of those who were surveyed preferred products that are labeled "natural".  


However, unlike food labeled organic, the public is unaware that there is no legal standard for foods defined as natural. FDA has not adopted any requirement that these foods meet a high health related standard. So it is not illegal for natural foods to contain antibiotics and growth hormones. Moreover, many foods that are labeled 365 are imported from China and other foreign countries where oversight is poor. It is a ruse, then, to tell the public that these foods are healthy and safe.

Of course the corporation's rhetoric costs much less than investing its resources in assuring high health food standards, including an organic requirement on most of what it sells. Probably the safest options for purchasing organic food are from farmer markets, which include mainly small farms. The giant supermarkets are not as reliable. Indeed, as the evidence confirms, big is not necessarily beautiful. 


August Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday August 02, 2019 - 10:06:00 AM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

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DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Rivers of Dust: Water & the Middle East

Conn Hallinan
Friday August 02, 2019 - 02:48:00 PM

It is written that “Enannatum, ruler of Lagash,” slew “60 soldiers” from Umma. The battle between the two ancient city states took place 4,500 years ago near where the great Tigris and Euphrates rivers come together in what is today Iraq. The matter in dispute? Water.

More than four millennia have passed since the two armies clashed over one city state’s attempt to steal water from another, but while the instruments of war have changed, the issue is much the same: whoever controls the rivers controls the land.

And those rivers are drying up, partly because of overuse and wastage, and partly because climate change has pounded the region with punishing multi-year droughts.

Syria and Iraq are at odds with Turkey over the Tigris-Euphrates. Egypt’s relations with Sudan and Ethiopia over the Nile are tense. Jordan and the Palestinians accuse Israel of plundering river water to irrigate the Negev Desert and hogging most of the three aquifers that underlie the occupied West Bank.

According to satellites that monitor climate, the Tigris-Euphrates Basin, embracing Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran, is losing water faster than any other area in the world, with the exception of Northern India. 

The Middle East’s water problems are hardly unique. South Asia—in particular the Indian sub-continent—is also water stressed, and Australia and much of Southern Africa are experiencing severe droughts. Even Europe is struggling with some rivers dropping so low as to hinder shipping. 

But the Middle East has been particularly hard hit. According to the Water Stress Index, out of 37 countries in the world facing “extremely high” water distress, 15 are in the Middle East, with Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia heading the list. 

For Syria and Iraq, the problem is Turkey and Ankara’s mania for dam building. Since 1975, Turkish dams have reduced the flow of water to Syria by 40 percent and to Iraq by 80 percent. According to the Iraqi Union of Farming Associations, up to 50 percent of the country’s agricultural land could be deprived of water, removing 124 million acres from production. 

Iran and Syria have also built dams that reduce the flow of rivers that feed the Tigris and Euphrates, allowing salt water from the Persian Gulf to infiltrate the Shatt al-Arab waterway where the twin rivers converge. The salt has destroyed rich agricultural land in the south and wiped out much of the huge date farms for which Iraq was famous. 

Half a century ago, Israel built the National Water Carrier canal diverting water from the Sea of Galilee, which is fed by the Jordan River. That turned the Jordan downstream of the Galilee into a muddy stream, which Israel prevents the Palestinians from using. 

Jordanian and Syrian dams on the river’s tributaries have added to the problem, reducing the flow of the Jordan by 90 percent. 

And according to the World Bank, Israel also takes 87 percent of the West Bank aquifers, leaving the Palestinians only 13 percent. The result is that Israelis on the West Bank have access to 240 liters a day per person. Israeli settlers get an extra 60 liters a day, leaving the Palestinians only 75 liters a day. The World Health Organization’s standard is 100 liters a day for each individual.  

At 4,184 miles in length, the Nile River is the world’s longest—Brazil disputes the claim—and traverses 10 African countries. It is Egypt’s lifeblood providing both water and rich soil for the country’s agriculture. But a combination of drought and dams has reduced its flow over the past several decades. 

Ethiopia is currently building an enormous dam for power and irrigation on the Blue Nile. The source of the Blue Nile is Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands. The Egyptian Nile is formed where the Blue Nile and the White Nile—its source is Lake Victoria in Uganda—converge in the Sudan at Khartoum. Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia were initially tense over water but have eased somewhat with the two sides agreeing to talk about how to share it. 

But with climate change accelerating, the issue of water—or the lack thereof—is going to get worse, not better, and resolving the problems will take more than bilateral treaties about sharing. And there is hardly agreement about how to proceed. 

One strategy has been privatization. 

Through its International Finance Corporation, the World Bank has been pushing privatizing, arguing that private capital will upgrade systems and guarantee delivery. In practice, however, privatization has generally resulted in poorer quality water at higher prices. Huge transnational companies like SUEZ and Veolia have snapped up resources in the Middle East and global south. 

Increasingly, water has become a commodity, either by control of natural sources and distribution, or by cornering the market on bottled water. 

Lebanon is a case in point. Historically the country has had sufficient water resources, but it is has been added to the list of 33 countries that will face severe water shortages by 2040. 

Part of the current crisis is homegrown. Some 60,000 illegal wells siphon off water from the aquifer that underlies the country, and dams have not solved the problem of chronic water shortages, particularly for the 1.6 million people living in the greater Beirut area. Increasingly people have turned to private water sources, especially bottled water. 

Multi-national corporations, like Nestle, drain water from California and Michigan and sell it in Lebanon. Nestle, though its ownership of Shoat, controls 35 percent of Lebanon’s bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, and many times inferior in quality to local water sources, the plastic it necessities adds to a growing pollution problem. 

There are solutions out there, but they require a level of cooperation and investment that very few countries currently practice. Many countries simply don’t have the funds to fix or upgrade their water infrastructure. Pipes lose enormous amounts through leakage, and dams reduce river flow, creating salt pollution problems downstream in places like Iraq and Egypt. In any event, dams eventually silt in. 

Wells—legal and illegal—are rapidly draining aquifers, forcing farmers and cities to dig deeper and deeper each year. And, many times, those deep wells draw in pollution from the water table that makes the water impossible to drink or use on crops. 

Again, there are solutions. California has made headway refilling the vast aquifer that underlies its rich Central Valley by establishing ponds and recharge basins during the rainy season, and letting water percolate back into the ground. Drip agriculture is also an effective way to reduce water usage, but it requires investment beyond the capacity of many countries, let alone small farmers. 

Desalinization is also a strategy, but an expensive one that requires burning hydrocarbons, thus pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and accelerating climate change. 

As the Middle East grows dryer and populations in the region continue to increase, the situation will get considerably worse in the coming decades. 

The Middle East may be drying up, but so is California, much of the American Southwest, southern Africa, parts of Latin America, and virtually all of southern Europe. Since the crisis is global “beggar thy neighbor” strategies will eventually impoverish all of humanity. The solution lies with the only international organization on the planet, the United Nations. 

In 1997, the UN adopted a convention on International Watercourses that spells out procedures for sharing water and resolving disputes. However, several big countries like China and Turkey opposed it, and several others, like India and Pakistan, have abstained. The convention is also entirely voluntary with no enforcement mechanisms like binding arbitration. 

It is, however, a start, but whether nations will come together to confront the planet wide crisis is an open question without it, the Middle East will run out of water, but it will hardly be alone. By 2030, according to the UN, four out of 10 people will not have access to water 


There is precedent for a solution, one that is at least 4,500 years old. A cuneiform tablet in the Louvre chronicles a water treaty that ended the war between Umma and Lagash. If our distant ancestors could figure it out, it stands to reason we can. 


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



THE PUBLIC EYE: The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming

Bob Burnett
Friday August 02, 2019 - 02:21:00 PM

No sooner did Special Counsel Robert Mueller testify that the Russians continue to interfere in U.S. politics, than the Senate Intelligence Committee released a sobering report about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Before the public could digest this, the news was swept off the front pages by Donald Trump's racist tweets. Nonetheless, the truth is hiding in plain sight: Russians are interfering in U.S. politics and Trump doesn't want to do anything about it.

Robert Mueller's July 24th appearance before the House Intelligence Committee was highlighted by his strong statements about Russia: "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." He indicated the Russian interference continues, “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign."

After 30 months of investigation, we know the Russian interference took five forms: 

1. Exploiting weaknesses in the election infrastructure: On July 26th, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the first volume of its report. "Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election...Russian Efforts Against Election Interference." The Committee observed, "The Russian government directed extensive activity... against U.S. election infrastructure at the state and local level." The report found the Russians targeted election systems in all 50 states -- a shocking finding as previous indictions were the Russian infiltration was more limited. 

The Senate report is so heavily redacted that it's difficult to determine how successful the Russian efforts were. However, we already know the GOP has been messing with voter registration data bases and it would be difficult to distinguish Russian activity from ongoing Republican efforts -- for example, we know that, in 2016, the State of Georgia eliminated more than 300,000 eligible voters from their data base, based upon dubious criteria. 

2. Hacking emails: The Mueller Report noted, "A Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents." "The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations... the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas 'DCLeaks' and 'Guccifer 2.0.' The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks." 

During Robert Mueller's July 24th testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, chair Adam Schiff asked Mueller, “The Trump campaign officials built... their messaging strategy, around those stolen [Wikileaks] documents?” Mueller responded, “Generally, that’s true.” “And then they lied to cover it up?” Mueller answered, “Generally, that’s true.” 

Although the Trump campaign utilized the Wikileaks documents, the Mueller Reportfound no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian hackers. 

3. Subverting Social Media. The Mueller Report noted: "A Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J.Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton." "The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out... a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Priozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin." "The [IRA] campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton." 

Again, while the Trump campaign benefited from the Russian social media campaign, the Mueller Reportfound no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian disinformation effort. 

4. Influencing persuadable voters via Facebook. Hillary Clinton lost the presidency because she lost the electoral college; specifically, she lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a combined total of 79,646 votes. That's where the influence of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook and Russia mattered. (Cambridge Analytica was a technical political consulting firm founded by Trump mega-donor Robert Mercer and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.) 

In 2016 the Trump campaign, with the help of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, developed a singular swing-state voter data base that drove electronic interaction using social media, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter. For example, they used the Facebook data to develop a voter profile and then sent voters messages based upon this profile. (This worked both to motivate voters to vote for Trump and to dissuade potential Clinton voters from voting for her.) 

Writing in The New Yorker, Sue Halpern (https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/cambridge-analytica-facebook-and-the-revelations-of-open-secrets) observed: "Cambridge Analytica contractors worked with Trump’s digital team, headed by Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner. Alongside all of them were Facebook employees who were embedded with the Trump campaign to help them use Facebook’s various tools most effectively—including the so-called “dark posts,” used to dissuade African-Americans from showing up to vote." (Recently Facebook was fined $5 billion for related activity.) 

There's evidence the Russians were involved. Writing in Slate (https://slate.com/technology/2018/03/did-cambridge-analytica-leverage-russian-disinformation-for-trump.html), Justin Hendrix reported "Cambridge Analytica also enlisted Russian-American academic Aleksandr Kogan to mine the private Facebook user data that is the subject of the ongoing scandal. While an associate professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Kogan received grants from the Russian government to research 'stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks.'" [Note that the Internet Research Agency is headquartered in St. Petersburg.] 

5. Compromising Trump campaign officials. According to Robert Mueller, his team did not investigate the Russian tactic of collecting digital information in order to compromise U.S. actors. During the Mueller hearing, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi asked, "Since it was outside your purview, your report did not reach counterintelligence conclusions regarding any Trump administration officials who might potentially be vulnerable to compromise or blackmail by Russia, correct?” Krishnamoorthi continued, "Individuals can be subject to blackmail if they lie about their interactions with foreign countries, correct?” “True,” Mueller replied. [Former national security adviser Michael Flynn did plead guilty to lying to Mueller’s team.] Krishnamoorthi asked Mueller, “Your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?” Mueller responded, “I cannot get into that... because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.” 

We know that Russia has compromising information about several Trump campaign members. 

Summary: At this writing, Donald Trump has resisted all attempts to safeguard the 2020 election. The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, had steadfastly blocked election security bills (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mcconnell-defends-blocking-election-security-bill-rejects-criticism-he-is-aiding-russia/2019/07/29/08dca6d4-b239-11e9-951e-de024209545d_story.html?). This week, Trump forced out his respected Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, (https://www.businessinsider.com/dni-dan-coats-quit-white-house-suppressed-russia-warnings-nyt-2019-7) reportedly because Coats kept warning of Russian interference and Trump didn't want to hear it. 

What's happening is not subtle. Russia is actively interfering in the U.S. electoral process and Trump -- and Mitch McConnell -- aren't doing anything about it. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Treat Condition "Aggressively" but Don't Medicate Normal Problems

Jack Bragen
Friday August 02, 2019 - 03:09:00 PM

The following should not be taken as medical or psychiatric advice. It is derived from my personal experience only, and I am not a doctor. If you need medical, psychiatric, or any other advice, you must consult a licensed professional.


Recent medical philosophy pertaining to type 2 Diabetes entails "aggressive treatment," which means being rigorous with treatment to keep blood sugar at controlled levels. Doing this is said to minimize organ damage. This also may increase the diabetes patients' chances of progress toward needing less treatment and/or of the disease going into remission.

The above is analogous to schizophrenia treatment, in which many psychiatrists are in favor of high meds, so that the patient gets relief from her or his symptoms and has a better outcome.

Prescribing medication to treat the normal suffering that is intrinsic to "the human condition" should not usually be done. 


Some prescribing professionals (examples: a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, or possibly a psychologist with an additional license to prescribe) over-medicate their patients, to the extent that side effects are unbearable, and functioning in a normal manner (to do simple things that most people would take for granted) is a near impossibility. Over-medicating creates a lot of restrictions in what a patient is able or unable to do. Some psychiatric medications, especially antipsychotics, create profound, severe limits on brain function. It took me years of being medicated to learn to work around these limits, and to adjust to side-effects. 

Yet, lack of adequate treatment for psychosis is worse. When a psychiatric consumer is medicated, some level of symptoms will persist. However, when under- or over-medicated, the condition isn't treated adequately, and symptoms will be worse. In some instances, a dosage of medication that is far too high could lead to more psychosis compared to taking a reasonable dosage. 

When a person has low-level symptoms of psychosis, they may be bothered by either negative or euphoric thoughts, and what I will call "messy thoughts." They may also suffer from poor decision-making ability. They may have delusional systems that develop despite being on meds. They may only have partial tracking of reality. 

Every person is different. Usually psychiatrists have to figure out what won't and will work for an individual by observing them for a period of months. Usually this is done through intermediaries, such as mental health staff in a day treatment program or during an inpatient stay. 

Inadequate meds can be a danger. And that's where the "aggressive" treatment comes in. One medication policy is to give a patient as much medication as she or he can safely tolerate. The idea is to get a devastating condition under control, so that the patient can get back to normal thinking and functioning. 

On medication, there may be some things we can't do. Yet, when adequately medicated, the damage caused from the brain overload of mania or psychosis, will be less. Additionally, if we can get back to syncing with basic reality, we have a chance at living under decent conditions. 

At some point after we get back to a normal mental state, we might look to medication to solve all our problems. This doesn't work. 

If we feel emotionally uncomfortable or overloaded, adding another medication is the answer only some of the time. We should be able to have some amount of emotions, whether pleasurable or painful. That is a sign of being normal. Yet, if emotions become so strong that the have the potential to destabilize us, we could consider asking for a pill. 

When emotions are so strong that we are unable to function normally, we probably aren't calm enough to look to mindfulness to fix that. The faculties that are used for mindfulness may not be available when emotions become too powerful. 

However, when we are grieving for a lost loved one, or if we are experiencing the emotional fallout of bad events, within limits we should feel these emotions. When the emotions snowball, and become a bottomless pit of pain from which we can't extricate ourselves, sometimes the solution is to seek a distraction, while other times we may need help from a counselor or psychiatrist. 

But we should not expect that medication will make our lives trouble free and easy. It never is, and that kind of expectation is in the realm of the promises of cult leaders. 

If the meds are doing their job, we are going to feel bad some of the time, but, also, we are going to feel good some of the time. If we never feel good, something is being done wrong. 


Jack Bragen's self-published books are available for purchase online.  


ECLECTIC RANT: Gilroy Garlic Festival Mass Shooting

Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 02, 2019 - 02:51:00 PM

I am saddened at the killing on July 28, 2019, of 6-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Kayla Salazar, and 25-year-old Trevor Irby, and the wounding 12 others, at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival by a 19-year old Gilroy, California native using an AK-47 type semiautomatic assault weapon; the killer was killed by police. 

The weapon used by the killer was purchased legally by him in Nevada. Such weapons are banned in California. Clearly, a federal assault rifle ban is more effective than state-by-state bans. That’s why new federal legislation is needed to replace the ban on such weapons that was allowed to expire in 1994. As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Tardy v. Hogan, certain kinds of rifles, including assault rifles, are “weapons of war,” meaning they are not covered under the Second Amendment for the purpose of self-defense. 

In addition to the usual thoughts and prayers, the U.S. Senate should at least begin addressing gun violence in the U.S. by taking up two gun control bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The first calls for universal background checks on all firearms purchases. The second would extend the review period for a background check from three to ten days. 

Unfortunately, gun violence has become as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday August 03, 2019 - 07:06:00 PM

That's the Spirit

Street Spirit, the feisty 21-year-old monthly tabloid ("Justice News and Homeless Blues in the Bay Area") just finished up the month of July with an "International Issue" that featured a report on the International Network of Street Papers. The INSP, which encompasses more than 100 publications in 35 countries in 25 languages, held is annual conference in Hanover, Germany and Spirit editor-in-chief Alastair Boone was on hand to bring back a report.

As the pressures of social inequality continue to rise around the world, Street Journalism has provided a "communications life-raft" that dispossessed urban dwellers can cling to. According to Boone, "The are around 25,000 vendors who sell INSP-member papers globally each year and 4.6 million people read the papers worldwide." As a result, sidewalk sales of these publications "has put over $30 million in the pockets of the vendors each year."

Today, the Street Spirit has come up with a brand-new fund-raising angle. What is this novel idea? A novel.

In addition to the monthly collection of news, essays, artwork and poems, Spirit vendors are now offering copies of Eastern Span, an illustrated "noir novel" by local writer Rick Paulas about life and debt in a gentrifying Oakland—where dive-bars and homeless encampments strive to survive in an economy dominated by powerful developers. It's being offered on a sliding scale of $5-10.and you can pick up a copy from your local Street Spirit vendor. 

Simple Truth: Mixed Message 

On July 28, the Sunday Chronicle announced its weeklong "San Francisco Housing Project" with a front-page headline that read: "Tough questions, no simple answers." Readers were then directed to explore a 16-page "How You Can Help" supplement. On the cover of the supplement was a headline that read: "The solution to homelessness is simple: a house." 

Home, Sweet Cell 

On July 27, a long line of protesters gathered outside the downtown Verizon store on Shattuck for the National Day of Action Against 5G. The potential "rollout" of Fifth Generation (5G) wireless transmitters has raised a lot of hackles—and many concerns. In 2011, the World Health Organization labeled wireless radiation a "possible human carcinogen" and a 10-year, $25 million National Toxicology Program study found "clear evidence" that exposure to wireless radiation was linked to cancer. 

Despite these warnings, the Federal Communications Commission has not updated its radiation exposure safeguards since 1996 and the Telecommunications Act (largely written by industry lobbyists) dictates that no expansion of the wireless grid can be blocked for public health or environmental reasons. 

The demonstrators at the Verizon outlet had a simple request: A moratorium on the installation of 5G antennas until the technology is proven safe. 

Ironically, this was the same day that TIME magazine published a feature story on the "5G revolution" and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

According to TIME, the advent of "automated attentiveness" (a euphemism for robotic surveillance) would allow electronic home devices to closely track the behavior of every inhabitant. The upside: "smart homes" would know when to play your favorite music, which TV stations to turn on (and when), and refrigerators would scold you for consuming too much junk food. (There was no mention of known health impacts that can range from cancer and neurological harm to brain abnormalities and reproductive failure.) 

There was only one hint that the IoT (which is predicted to trigger $123 billion in sales by 2021) might be a boondoggle rather than a boon—a graphic showcasing nine "evolutionary step[s] in true automation." They included Smart Showers, Health Sensors, Robotic Kitchen Arms, 3-D Printers, and special "Tech-free Rooms" designed to "block wireless signals, giving residents a place to disconnect." 

These electromagnetic "safe rooms" (also known as "Faraday cages") would protect human bodies from constant bombardment by powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation. 

And that, my friends, is what's called "The Genius of Capitalism": You create a problem and then you sell the cure. 

The Boys Who Said No: News Good and Sad 

Six years in the making, "The Boys Who Said No," a documentary about resistance to the Vietnam-era draft, is moving closer to completion. In March, Berkeley filmmaker Judith Ehrlich finished the "fine cut"—which includes more than 1,300 photos and segments of archival film clips. That meant the biggest remaining challenge was raising $80,000 to purchase song rights. 

That challenge was made a lot easier, thanks to singer and resistance-icon Joan Baez who has "contributed her performance rights" to more than a half-dozen songs, including Carry It On and Kumbaya

Sadly, the project has suffered an unexpected loss. One of the key movers behind the enterprise, producer Christopher Colorado Jones, died after an accident on June 29. According to the film's advisory committee, Jones (who was the initiator of the project in 2003) died "from a head injury" after he "fell from a ladder while adjusting a Pride flag on his home on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising." 

Jones refused the draft in 1967 "for reasons of conscience" and served nine months in a Federal Prison Camp. After his release, he became director of the Agape Foundation, which promoted nonviolent activism. He moved to San Francisco in 2012 and organized a reunion of draft resisters that became the genesis for the documentary. Jones' friends and colleagues are asking supporters to secure Jones' legacy by offering contributions to guarantee completion of the film by the end of this year. For more information, see https://www.boyswhosaidno.com/


Trump's "Fake News" Terrorists 

Darn Ol' Trump continues to falsely characterize four progressive female congressmembers as "pro-terrorist" and "anti-USA" ISIS-sympathizers. 

But even Sen. Mitch McConnell has been moved to warn that these tweeted tirades can no longer simply be dismissed as "disgraceful" volleys of "fake news." Quoth Mitch: "Words do matter." 

This is serious: Trump's slanders contain precisely the kind of language that can get people killed. 

Without facts or specifics, Trump broadcasts the accusation that four elected congresswomen are engaged in "anti-American" activities, adding that: "If they don't love America, they can leave." (Translated from Trumpspeak that means: "If they don't love me, they can leave.") 

In fact, all four legislators have all been preoccupied performing the job they were elected to do—including crafting and passing an impressive number of progressive bills aimed at challenging costly military excursions abroad and preventing the erosion of human freedom at home. 

At the same time, Trump has tweeted nothing about a real-life terrorist now awaiting trial for a potentially deadly serial bombing attack directed at government officials. 

A Real Trump-loving Terrorist 

Last October, Cesar Sayoc set off a federal manhunt when he mailed packages containing pipe bombs to a host of Democratic targets. So why hasn't Trump mentioned this real domestic threat to America? Because Sayoc loves Trump. His lawyers have described him as "an ardent Trump fan." He is such an over-the-top Trump supporter that the media dubbed him the "MAGAbomber." 

Sayoc's saga recently took a weird turn when his legal team revealed their defense strategy. They are claiming that it was Donald Trump who drove their vulnerable client to commit illegal acts, arguing that, "In his darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald Trump." 

"In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm election," his lawyers argued in a sentencing memo, "Mr. Sayoc became increasingly obsessive, paranoid and angry. His paranoia bled into delusion and Mr. Sayoc came to believe that prominent democrats were actively working to hurt him, other Trump supporters, and the country as a whole." 

The lawyers pointed to exculpatory evidence, including the fact that their MAGAnoid client was "connected to hundreds of right-wing Facebook groups," many of which promoted the idea that "Trump's critics were dangerous, unpatriotic and evil." They further pointed out that Trump had "specifically blamed many of the individuals Mr. Sayoc ultimately targeted . . . ." 

The legal team all but named Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator who not only prompted Sayoc's explosive-laden reprisals but also provided him with a hit list. 


Sadly, Cesar Sayoc is not the only terrorist inspired by Trump's hate-filled tweets. In November 2008, three militia members who plotted to bomb a gathering of Muslims in Kansas, asked for a lenient sentence because they had felt urged to action by Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and the Christchurch shooter who attacked two New Zealand mosques in March linked his murder spree to Trump, who he described as a "symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose." 

But Isn't Treason a Capital Offense? 

After a 16-year lull, US Attorney General William Barr wants to resume the execution of federal prisoners. 

But has Barr thought this through? 

US Code 18, Article 2381 is explicit: "Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death." 

Surely the House Democrats are aware that Article III, Section 10 of the Constitution clearly states: "Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason." 

This makes Trump's reelection bid a matter of survival—perhaps, literally. It may be that the only way Trump can avoid jail is to win a second term. 

On Your Marks, Get Set . . . Blow! 

Did you know there was a calendar date that honors whistleblowers? The Chronicle recently celebrated July 30 (National Whistleblowers Day) by offering readers a chance to win reserved seats to an advance screening of Official Secrets, a powerful political thriller staring Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun, the real-life British intelligence specialist who tried to blow the whistle on the US/UK plot to fake an excuse to invade Iraq. 


It turns out that there's not just one day set aside to honoring whistleblowers but three. We've got a National Day, an International Day, and a World Day for whistleblowers. Here are the details: 

International Whistleblowers Day (March 24) is hosted by an international network of "lawyers, investigators, journalists and anti-corruption experts" who stand ready to investigate complaints of wrongdoing and pledged to "work with you to achieve corrective action and justice." Any reports of corruption, public health threats, environmental dangers are welcome and come with a promise that: "Our highly respected partners use the most secure technologies available to protect your identity." 

World Whistleblowers Day (June 23) is an international observance whose goal is to raise public awareness about the role of whistleblowers in combating corruption. WWD defines a whistleblower as any "person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization." 

National Whistleblower Day (July 30) commemorates the date in 1778 when the Continental Congress passed a resolution honoring ten sailors and marines who were jailed after revealing that their commanding officer, Commodore Esek Hopkins, had tortured captured British soldiers "in the most inhuman and barbarous manner.” 

The resolution declared: "“it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information of wrongdoing to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.” 

The first Congressional celebration of National Whistleblower Day took place in the US Senate Kennedy Caucus Room on July 30, 2015. Since then, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) has held an annual celebration to honor whistleblowers and to declare July 30 National Whistleblower Day. On July 24, the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution to designate July 30 “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the bill on behalf of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus. The US House of Representatives has also introduced a Resolution to recognize the day. 

Barbara Lee on the Case for Impeachment 

Rep. Barbara Lee writes: 

On Wednesday, July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress, and here are the facts: 

• Russia engaged in widespread election interference in 2016 in an attempt to help Donald Trump win the presidency. 

• The Trump campaign welcomed and actively sought help from Russia during the race. 

• Then they lied and tried to cover it up, and President Trump made at least ten potential attempts to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s corrupt behavior. 

Perhaps the most important fact to come out of Wednesday's hearings and the Mueller report is this: Trump was not exonerated from wrongdoing, and it’s possible he could be charged with a crime once he is out of the White House. 

Mueller could not indict Trump, but Congress can. The case for impeachment is stronger than ever. 

Impeachment is serious business, but so is the fact that we have a corrupt, racist, sexist, and reckless man in the White House. Trump continues to deny the facts and call Russia’s election interference a “hoax,” Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” and the free press “the enemy of the people.”  

As long as Trump is in office and tearing our communities apart with his hateful rhetoric and harmful policies, I will do whatever I can to see that we hold him accountable . . . . 

ACTION: The President is not above the law. Add your name if you agree. 

Our Elections Are Still Not Secure 

On July 17, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a warning: 

"Despite our intelligence agencies' certainty that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and are preparing to step up their attacks in 2020, the Trump administration has been pathetically—even willfully—slow in addressing election security. Now the Associated Press is reporting that machines in as many as 10,000 precincts will be running outdated, unsecure software. 

"Put simply, here's what that means: until November of next year, hackers will be able to find new vulnerabilities in our election equipment, and no one will be doing anything to secure them. And, because security requirements vary by state, and the federal government has yet to implement cybersecurity standards nationwide, some Americans' votes are much more vulnerable than others. That danger is urgent and preventable. 

"That's why I introduced the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act, which will mandate nationwide cybersecurity standards for our elections.  

I've also questioned the top federal election task force in charge of protecting our elections—the Election Assistance Commission—to learn exactly what steps it's taking to make sure that every vote, in every state, is safe from outside interference.  

"Free, fair, secure, democratic elections form the backbone of our democracy, and I will do everything in my power to guarantee their integrity. There's still time to act, but the clock is ticking." 

Say No to Undeclared Presidential Wars 

Thanks to the 1961 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a president can start a war anytime, anywhere he/she wants. This war powers act undermines our Constitution, triggers needless human suffering, and threatens world peace. 

Consider: The current "occupant of the White House" is precisely the kind of guy who would fail a background check to purchase a handgun. At the same time, he's been granted the power to command naval fleets, strategic bombers and nuclear-armed missiles. 

According to Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy: 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a historic opportunity now to end the famine-causing Saudi war in Yemen. The House has passed the Matt Gaetz [R-FL]  

-Ro Khanna [D-CA] Yemen War Powers amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would end all US participation in the war.  

The House and Senate have both passed the Sanders-Lee-Murphy Yemen War Powers Resolution. The House and Senate have both voted to cut off US arms shipments to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the war. 

ACTION: MoveOn has posted an online petition Urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen. You can sign the petition here

Postscript: On July 25, Trump vetoed three Congressional bills that would have blocked billions of dollars in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

Heretical Haikus  

"Send her home!" they yell. 

Trump stays mum. He's no leader, 

He's a stampeder 

. . . 

Trump's vile strategy: 

Specialize in special lies. 

Fat fibs and whoppers. 

. . . 

Showers for hours 

Trump storms, rumbles and thunders 

Let's suspend his reign 

. . .  

The red-capped hoards say 

Trump deserves a second term. 

Make it a jail term.

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, August 4-11

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday August 03, 2019 - 06:53:00 PM

Worth Noting:

City Council is on summer recess until September 9th and most of the Boards and Commissions also take a summer break, some in July and some in August. August 6 is National Night Out.

Wildfire Evacuation Drills for high risk fire areas

  • August 4 (see below),
  • August 11 from 9am – 10 am, neighborhood Wildcat Canyon to the east, The Alameda to the West, Berkeley-Contra Costa border to the north, Codornices Park to the south, aaa
  • August 25 from 9am – 10 am, neighborhood Berkeley-Contra costa to the east, Spruce to the west, Codornices Park to the north and UC Berkeley to south.
For more details on Wildfire Evacuation Drills and to sign up go to link https://www.cityofberkeley.info/City_Manager/Press_Releases/2019/2019-07-23_Sign_up_for_City-led_wildfire_evacuation_drills_in_August.aspx

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission on Wednesday is addressing wildfire risk reduction, power shutoff, fire equipment access. 


Sunday, August 4, 2019 

Wildfire Evacuation Drill, 9 – 10 am at neighborhood between the Berkeley-Oakland border to the east, Telegraph to the west, Dwight to the north and Alcatraz to the south. 


Monday, August 5, 2019 

Tax the Rich Rally, with music by Occupella, 5 – 6 pm at the Top of Solano in front of the Closed Oaks Theater, Rain/Extreme Heat Cancels 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 

National Night Out, check link to find nearby gathering 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board IRA / AGA / Registration, 4 pm, 2001 Center St, Law Library, 2nd Floor, Agenda: Golden Duplex 


Wednesday, August 7, 2019 

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 997 Cedar St, Fire Department Training Center, Agenda: 3. PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), 4. Vegetation Management to reduce fire risk, 5. Recommendation ensuring fire equipment access, 6. Emergency Preparedness, 7. Wildfire Issues: Parking and Prevention 


Police Review Commission – Lexipol Policies Subcommittee, 4 pm, at 1947 Center, Sika Spruce Conference Room, 1st Floor, Agenda: Policies 1302 – Surveillance Use Policy, 1302 Appendix A – Surveillance Acquisition Report, 422 – Automated License Plate Readers 


Thursday, August 8, 2019 

Adeline Corridor Specific Plan Subcommittee, 7 – 10 pm, at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Continued Discussion Transportation and Public Space, Chapters 6 & 7 


Friday, August 9, 2019 

City of Berkeley reduced service day 

Saturday, August 10, 2019 

Blues Festival, 12 – 5 pm, at Ohlone Park Baseball Field, Sacramento at Delaware 


Sunday, August 11, 2019 

No City sponsored events or meetings found 



Alameda County Housing Survey and Community Meeting on Housing August 13, 1-3 pm at 2090 Kittredge, Berkeley Central Library 


Register for August 22, 6 – 8 pm, Climate Action Coalition – Clean Transportation Convening, clean energy home, home electrification, East Bay Community Energy, SunShares bulk discount program. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ride-electric-all-the-way-home-electric-cars-101-the-future-of-berkeleys-clean-transportation-tickets-64738825570 



Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

2325 Sixth St (single family residence) – public hearing 9/24/2019 

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period https://www.cityofberkeley.info/planning_and_development/land_use_division/current_zoning_applications_in_appeal_period.aspx 

840 Addison – 8-5-19 

1643 Allston – 8-6-19 

910 BANCROFT 8-19-19 

2124 Bancroft 8-5-19 

1827 Blake – 8-6-19 

1633 Bonita - 8-19-19 

857 Contra Costa - 8-12-19 

1854 Euclid - 8-5-19  

2019 Del Norte- 8-16-19 

1833 Fourth – 8-5-19 

1208 Gilman – 8-6-19 

1407 Gilman – 8-19-19 

2707 Hillegass – 8-14-19 

2851 Russell – 8-19-19 

1235 San Pablo 8-22-19 

2613 San Pablo 8-16-19 

1647 Sixth – 8-6-19 

2475 Telegraph 8-5-19 

584 The Alameda – 8-6-19 

1909 University - 8-15-19 

485 Vincente – 8-6-19 

1835 Virginia 8-22-19 

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

1155-73 Hearst (develop 2 parcels) – referred back to City Council – to be scheduled 

2701 Shattuck (construct 5-story mixed-use building) – ZAB 6-30-2019 




Sept 17 – Arts and Culture Plan, Zero Waste Rate Review, Adeline Corridor Plan 

Oct 22 – Berkeley’s 2020 Vision Update, Census 2020 Update, Short term Rentals 

Nov 5 - Transfer Station Feasibility Study, Vision Zero Action Plan, 

Unscheduled – Cannabis Health Considerations 



Referral Response: Explore Grant Writing Services 



To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 



To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 





This meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 


When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 


Berkeley Regional Housing Survey & Housing Workshop

Friday August 02, 2019 - 03:03:00 PM

The City of Berkeley and the County of Alameda want your feedback on housing issues, as part of an action-focused report called Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (Regional AI).

Your feedback will help guide housing policies and housing goals in your area!

To help, please take this 10-15 min Alameda County Regional Housing Survey (Click on Link) and share your views on housing characteristics and housing needs. 

Please forward this survey along to any friends, clients, colleagues, and/or organizations that would be interested in participating in the future of our County’s housing policies! 

Additionally, you and all County residents are invited to attend one of these community engagement meetings for a more in-depth discussion. Please RSVP to me at the information provided below: 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. 

Berkeley Central Library 

3rd Floor Community Meeting Room 

2900 Kittredge Street, Berkeley, CA 94704 


Wednesday, August 21, 2019, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. 

Oakland Library 81st Avenue Branch 

Community Room, 2nd Floor 

1020 81st Street, Oakland, CA 94621 


Saturday, August 24, 2019, 11:00 am - 1:00 p.m. 

Hayward City Hall 

Conference Room 2A, 2nd Floor 

777 B Street, Hayward, CA 94541