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There are no longer any park benches at Berkeley's Triangle Park.
Carol Denney
There are no longer any park benches at Berkeley's Triangle Park.


Press Release: Berkeley Students Support Climate Walkout Tomorrow

From Pavini Sethi
Thursday September 19, 2019 - 11:59:00 AM

I am a UC Berkeley student contacting you on behalf of CALPIRG and Students for Climate Action to let you know about the Climate Walkout occuring on campus on Friday the 20th on Sproul Plaza from 9-12. During the walkout students will be rallying behind a list of demands which include:  

1. An Acknowledgement of the State of the Climate Emergency -We want legislators to declare climate change to be the emergency that it is and take action accordingly.  

2. A Green New Deal - The Green New Deal offers a comprehensive plan to confront the issue of climate change without the constraints of the status quo. The plan offers a framework for the appropriate action needed to meaningfully attack the issue  

3. Divestment - We demand the UC Regents to halt their complicity in the fossil fuel industry’s destructive agenda. Our tuition dollars should not be spent lining the pockets of an industry that will ultimately lead to our demise.  

4. Just Transformation - The University of California must engage in good-faith negotiations to provide workers with a high standard of living. Strong unions, labor rights, and political representation are necessary for a transition to sustainability.  

5. A UC Energy Plan that Delivers Results Not Just Rankings - We call the University of California to recommit to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. This goal and clean energy system retrofitting must become a budget priority.  

6. Solidarity - We call on all students, staff, and faculty at UC Berkeley to collectively organise for a sustainable future.  

We ask all departments to integrate climate justice into their curricula and to empower climate action across disciplines. We are participating in this climate strike in solidarity with the Bay Area Youth and Allies Climate Strike and the Global Climate strike. CALPIRG stands for California Public Interest Research Group and we are a team of student activists who advocate for students and the wider population on issues of social justice, the environment, and equity. The climate crisis is the largest threat our world faces today and will impact on our generation’s survival. The time for dramatic action is now and we hope that your organization will seek to cover UC Berkeley student’s fight for our future.  

If you have any questions please contact us at: christina.park@berkeley.edu.

Up and Autumn! Global Climate Protests Begin on the Equinox

Gar Smith
Thursday September 19, 2019 - 12:04:00 PM

Happy Equinox

On September 23, in celebration of the onset of Autumn, Berkeley's traditional Equinox Gathering will be held at The Solar Calendar located high atop a hill at the César Chávez Park. Guests are invited to gather at 6 pm. Activities will start at 6:15 and conclude with the setting of the sun at 7:05

This year, the equinox falls during a week of worldwide climate protests (the Global Climate Strike—Sept 20-27) organized by the planet’s younger generation whose future survival is threatened by extreme weather changes already underway.

As Solar Calendar organizer Santiago Casal notes: "Global climate concerns tie in with Cesar Chavez’s and Dolores Huerta’s environmental activism" so this year's celebration will be held "in solidarity with Global Climate Strike . . . a week of many direct actions and confrontations. As we watch the sun drop toward the western horizon, Rabbi David Cooper will lead a series of interactive moments that will raise our consciousness about our planet’s relationship to the sun and its place within the solar system and within the cosmos." 

Strike Back at the Pollutocrats' Planet-cooking Policies 

Find a Climate Strike event near you—anywhere in the US

Events kick off with a Youth Climate Strike Bannering, Sept. 18-19 

7:00 AM, Pedestrian Bridge/ Hwy 80, Berkeley Ca, 598 University Ave., Berkeley. 

Here's a short list of actions in the Bay Area on Friday, Sept. 20. 

Students for Climate Action 

11:00 AM, University of California Berkeley, Sproul Plaza, Berkeley. 

Berkeley Climate Action Coalition/Ecology Center Strike 

3:00 PM, Ecology Center Store/Offices, 2530 San Pablo Avenue, Suite H, Berkeley. 

Oakland-Laney Climate STRIKE Rally / Merging with Youth-led March in SF 

10:00 AM, Gather at the Main Quad, center of campus, 900 Fallon Street, Oakland. 

Richmond California Climate Strike 

11:00 AM, Richmond Civic Center Plaza, 450 Civic Center Plaza Richmond. 

Bay Area Youth Led Climate Strike 

10:00 AM, San Francisco Federal Building, 90 7th Street, San Francisco. 

Other Climate Strike events are set for Walnut Creek, Mill Valley, San Rafael, San Mateo, San Ramon, Novato, Fremont, Napa, Palo Alto, Sonoma, Petaluma, and San Jose. 

And, on Sept. 25, you can join the Strike for Climate Justice at Wall Street West: 7:00 AM. San Francisco Financial District, 1 Post Street, San Francisco. 

Flash: Triangle Park Protest

Carol Denney
Saturday September 14, 2019 - 10:27:00 PM
The art installation at Triangle Park was approved by the Berkeley Art Commission,
Carol Denney
The art installation at Triangle Park was approved by the Berkeley Art Commission,
There are no longer any park benches at Berkeley's Triangle Park.
Carol Denney
There are no longer any park benches at Berkeley's Triangle Park.

A small group of protesters is currently stationed at Triangle Park, the small, historically significant open space at the intersection of Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue. The group stated their intent to protest the unnoticed midweek removal of a public bench. 

The abrupt removal happened absent any public discussion. Telegraph Avenue's once generous public benches, seating areas and water fountains have been reduced by the city with specific pressure from area merchants including the Berkeley Hat Company, the Bow and Arrow shoe business, and the 510 Skateboard business.  

"We supported the skateboard shop and the shoe business," stated one of the protestors. "We worked to send business their way when they were going under." 

One of the "ambassadors" for the Telegraph Business Improvement District stated that there had been no notice of the bench removal, which clearly had nothing to do with traffic visibility, given the large maps and planters, larger than the public bench, none of which were removed.  

No tickets have been issued so far, but the protesters claim that city officials have informed them that the city's intent is to prohibit anyone from congregating or sitting together in the Triangle Park area for unknown reasons.



Whose Law is It Anyhow? For All, or Just for Some?

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:50:00 PM

Lately the San Francisco Chronicle has decided that the front page is the perfect place for events of earth-shaking importance, relegating the latest escapades of the oh-so-irrelevant Herr Dumpf to Page 6 or so. They especially like stereotypical Bezerkeley stories, out-there activities that could only happen in Quirky Berkeley, a genre so beloved that Tom Dalzell has gotten a couple of books out of it, presumably making the Chron jealous.

But the sad truth is that Berkeley is rapidly trying to morph into Silicon Bedroom, a homogeneous community populated by spandexed young folk who BART to San Francisco for work, bike to TJ’s for ready-to-eat dinners and use car shares with bike racks for recreational weekend trips to ride in unspoiled rural areas. It’s the perfect lifestyle for 20- and 30- somethings with no kids or dogs.

Not surprising, sometimes they’re in a tearing hurry to get around. That’s why, as reported by the Chronicle’s designated “Transportation Reporter” Rachel Swan, Berkeley cyclists cry foul over hefty fines for rolling through stop signs.

That would be $200 and up. Not only that, they’re being monitored by cops on motorcycles! Shocked, shocked, aren’t we?

The story prompted a flurry of heated comments in the usual venues: NextDoor, Twitter and others. People have strong feelings about bicycles, pro and con. Oddly enough, these tend to be related to age. Who knew?

Bicycle fanatics are not always aware that demographic trends point to an aging population as baby boomers mature. Even more, they’re not consistently conscious that they might be aging themselves.

What bike fans don’t understand is that us old folks were also young once. I’ve been young, but most of them have never been old, and believe me, it’s different. You’ll find out. 

It’s not that I don’t have a few friends in my own shrinking pre-boomer generation who still ride bikes for transportation, and more power to them. But plenty of us now need other kinds of wheels instead, specifically walkers and wheelchairs both powered and manual. Many of us also need to use cars of some sort if we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives sitting on couches watching TV. We might drive ourselves or rely on partners, friends and Uber/Lyft, but there are many times and places that public transport doesn’t go and we can’t walk. 

I myself depended on bikes, and even more often on my feet, into my thirties. By that time we had three kids, and even a double stroller plus a backpack didn’t get us all where we had to go all the time in the Michigan winters. We couldn’t afford a car when the classic 50s Studebaker we’d driven across the country from California died, so when I won a camper van in a 25-words-or-less contest we gratefully began using it. 

But with planning, a lot can be accomplished without using cars, if you're able. 

When we were back in California, I took the E-bus most of the time to work and school in San Francisco, and the kids took the 65 bus, which stopped right outside our house, to Berkeley High when BUSD busing ended after elementary school. When we started our software company, our low-rent office was a 20-minute walk away on Telegraph.  

But my bicycling days were over. I have one weak eye (“amblyopia”) and as my eyes morphed with time into the bi-focal range I just ran into too many bumps and holes to ride safely. And it won’t get any easier.  

So more than a year ago I tripped on the porch stairs and gave my left knee and shin a mighty whack, creating soft tissue injuries from which I’m still recovering. What I’ve learned is that there’s a vast range of abilities between bicycling and using a powered wheelchair. 

One commenter on the Chronicle story accused bicycle advocates of being both “ageist” and “ablest”—a term I’ve never heard before, but she has a point. It’s easy for the fully able-bodied to mistake their own good fortune as the norm for the rest of us. 

I’ve been very grateful that I’ve had a four-wheeled walker with a built in seat to increase my mobility after this injury. I’m even more grateful that the pioneers in the disability rights movement, some of them ( like the late Michael Pachovas) my good friends, have gotten curb cuts and grab bars and a host of other accommodations into the public sphere to make my mobility-impaired life easier. I hope eventually to recover. 

What has not made my life, or the lives of others who are partly or temporarily disabled, easier is the modification of public space to respond to the demands of those pro-bike activists and vendors who seem to have plenty of time to go to civic meetings and plenty of money to hire pricey well-wired lobbyists to get what they want out of City Hall. 

This includes the rent-a-bikes, now to be seen in locations near you all over town. Those who rent them (seemingly mostly tourists) distinguish themselves by crazily weaving all over the road without helmets, and yes, they seldom stop at stop signs. Last night I saw one shoot out from the very special new dedicated bike lane on Fulton/Oxford to blow through a red light (not just a stop sign) on Dwight Way at night with lots of cars on both streets. This happens all the time. 

Curb spaces formerly used as drop-off sites for mobility-challenged passengers all over Berkeley have been lost to commercial bike and scooter stands and bike lanes. This week I got a ride to a Landmark Commission meeting at Berkeley City Hall, and there was no longer a legal place for my driver to discharge me and my walker next to the entry ramp on Milvia. There was, however, a long quite inaccessible space on Allston devoted to myriad rent-a-bike parking slots, all stocked with bikes though it was the middle of a busy work day.  

The meeting involved touring Old City Hall and the Veterans’ Building. I knew how to use the creaky hard-to-find elevator in the former because I’d shared it many times with the late Councilmember Dona Spring and her wheelchair, but in the Veterans’ Building I was told that the elevator, clearly marked with the disability icon, “hasn’t worked in 20 years.”  

This building is now used as a homeless shelter and a history museum, so how does the city of Berkeley get away with a non-functioning elevator? It’s an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen. 

But back to the central question posed by the Chronicle story: should bicyclists be ticketed for blowing though stop signs? Why not, for heaven’s sake? 

If bicyclists want the rights and privileges of using public roads, they should be expected to follow the law like anyone else. 

Terms like bicycle fascists and bicycle nazis, which I’ve heard and seen in some of the comments, are too harsh, given that many bikes represent cars not driven. But many riders might be justly called bicycle anarchists. 

If laws are not appropriate, they should be changed, not just ignored ad lib. People who ride bicycles in the street should be tested on their understanding of the rules of the road and licensed just like those who drive cars. There’s no reason for them to make up their own rules.  

And don’t get me started on motorized scooters on sidewalks. I take a not-inconsiderable risk stepping out my front door onto the Ashby Avenue sidewalk where I could be run down by one at any time. Not to mention, of course, skateboards and the occasional bike on the sidewalk...but that's for another day. 


Public Comment

Trump Golfs While Dorian Pummels the US

Jagjit Singh
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:43:00 PM

While Dorian victims were desperately trying to survive in the aftermath of one of the worst storms in US history, Donald Trump found time to play golf at his resort. The optics were devastating to even Trump’s most ardent supporters, many expressing outrage. Trump’s longtime nemesis, London mayor, Mayor Sadiq Khan reignited his long-running feud by accusing him of being grossly insensitive to the people of Poland and much of Europe by skipping the commemoration ceremony marking 80 years since the end of WWII.

Exposing alarming memory lapses, Trump insisted he had never heard of a Category 5 hurricane, forgetting that four prior hurricanes of the same insensitivity threatened the US on his watch. The racist Trump then falsely expressed alarm that the predominantly white folks of Alabama may be in the path of the hurricane hastily drawing up a map to repeatedly justify his false claims. The National Weather swiftly denied that Alabama was in any danger. At the same time Trump dismissed concerns for the brown-black people of the Caribbean. 

To make matters even worse Trump suggested dropping a nuclear bomb at the eye of the storm to neutralize its intensity. Does anyone still believe the nuclear codes are safe in his twitchy fingers? Wake up America, the category 5 Trump hurricane is in the eye of our democracy and sanity.

Free Pass for Guns?

Ron Lowe, Nevada City
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:36:00 PM

Time magazine's August 19, 2019 cover listed the locations of 253 mass shootings in America so far this year. I wonder if Donald Trump's incendiary rhetoric has anything to do with these gun nuts going off the handle? Donald Trump is playing to these white gun crazies much like he is playing to the white religious Republican anti-abortionists, anti- gay crowd and anti-immigrationists.

Why are gun manufacturers shielded from liability in gun killings and crimes and getting a free pass while gun violence shakes the soul of America?

Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:33:00 PM

Much like President Nixon’s false Vietnam narrative, both Bush and Cheney continued to mislead the American people falsely stating “we have the Taliban on the run.”

The invasion was a visceral reaction to 9/11. The war followed a familiar trajectory much like the disastrous Vietnam War. Thousands of Americans and a significantly higher number of Afghans have perished. Much like the bungled invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan is in utter chaos. Many veterans returning home are traumatized by the horrors of war.

Others returned in body bags in the dead of night away from the public eye on route to Arlington Cemetery.

According to “Stars and Strikes” 20 veterans commit suicide every day; others turn to drugs to ease the constant pain. After 18 years, the country has become so violent, American diplomats and other supporting personnel still rely on privately-operated helicopters to safely get around in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The invasion was a horrible mistake. The Afghan government is thoroughly corrupt and many Afghans view the Taliban as lesser of the two evils.  

The Taliban own most of the countryside. Conflicted Americans should recall the 1990 interview with Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap of Vietnam, who was asked how long he would have fought the Americans. He responded, “Another 20 years, even a hundred years — as long as it took to win, regardless of cost.” 

The final exit will be similar to Vietnam. There will come a point when the only way out will be by helicopter from the embassy roof.

Guns Don't Kill: It's the Bullets

Gar Smith
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:24:00 PM

In January 2008, during a botched gas station heist in Oakland, California, a would-be robber fired his 40-caliber handgun at a station attendant. All three shots missed. The first two rounds crossed a busy intersection and smashed through a parked SUV, barely missing the driver. The third bullet plowed through the wall of the Harmony Road Music School, striking a 10-year-old boy, who was in the middle of a piano lesson. The fifth-grader was left paralyzed from the waist down.

This tragic incident illustrates an often-overlooked fact of the gun-safety debate: it's not the guns that injure and kill—it's the bullets. And, too frequently, gunfire creates "collateral damage" with innocent men, women, and children hit by "stray" bullets. As even the National Rifle Association concedes: "A bullet from an errant shot or a miss may fly several miles before it impacts the earth."

The gun-violence debate must address the role of bullets. Blaming firearms without blaming the ammo is like blaming bows while ignoring the arrows—or condemning missiles without mentioning the warheads.

America is caught in the crossfire of a growing problem. According to the Small Arms Survey, one-fourth of Americans are now armed with 393 million firearms—46 percent of the world's privately held weapons. If these gun-owners were actually organized into a "well-regulated Militia," they would constitute an armed force nearly three times larger than all the national armies on Earth combined.

But not a single one of these weapons would pose a threat to human life—if it weren't for bullets. 

"Mushrooms": Death by Second-hand Bullets 

As of September 10, the Gun Violence Archive had recorded 293 mass shootings and 10,359 gun deaths in the US in 2019. The archive also listed 1,056 "unintentional shootings." A paper in the December 1989 edition of The Journal of Quantitative Criminology addressed the issue of "bystanders killed by bullets not specifically intended for them." The victims were identified as "mushrooms," which is "street slang for an innocent bystander who 'pops up' in the path of fire." 

The Giffords Law Center reports that, on average, 100 Americans are killed by bullets every day—making gunfire "the second leading cause of death for all children and teens." But there is little information on how many are killed or injured by stray bullets. The Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California at Davis notes that, while "stray-bullet shootings affect entire communities every day . . . there has been almost no research exploring them."  

According to The Trace, 150 American children were struck by stray bullets in the first six months of 2017—one every 32 hours. A 2012 UC Davis study found that "nearly one-third of the [stray-bullet] victims were children and nearly half were female." The report identified these victims as "innocent bystanders who typically have no opportunity to flee or take any other preventative measures." More than 68 percent of these stray-bullet victims were killed or injured inside their homes. 

The UC Davis study examined 284 stray-bullet shootings that killed or injured 317 people. One incident involved a New York toddler killed at home by a bullet fired 378 feet away. 

The majority of stray-bullet deaths (59.2 percent) involved gun battles in the streets and neighborhoods of large cities. Only 7.4 percent of the stray-bullet incidents involved hunting or "shooting sports." 

So-called "celebratory gunfire" (when weapons are fired into the air on holidays) accounted for 5 percent of stray-bullet injuries and deaths. (Bullets fired into the sky can travel as high as two miles before falling back to Earth—traveling 300-700 feet-per-second. The mortality rate for the resulting "head-strikes" is around 32 percent—five times deadlier than other bullet strikes.) 

The Psychology of Firearms 

A gun is typically seen as a tool of empowerment but, if we were honest, weapons could be viewed as a sign of insecurity and fear. Someone armed with a weapon enjoys a strategic advantage. This is not heroic. 

During an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Jeff Williams, the mayor of gun-friendly Needles, California, patted the Glock 9mm pistol that he always carries and boasted that his weapon "will throw a big brick at somebody." 

Note: A 115-grain 9mm bullet can travel 1.4 miles and deliver an impact force equal to 368 foot-pounds. You can't toss a brick that fast nor will it deliver the same blunt-force trauma on impact. 

The Physics of Firearms 

There are two main forces that determine the direction of a speeding bullet: velocity and gravity. A high-velocity 9mm bullet flying at 1,300 feet-per-second can travel the length of two football fields. A bullet fired from a .308 hunting rifle can travel 2,700 feet-per-second and cover one-third of a mile. (In January 2018, a US sniper managed to kill an Iraqi "militant" located more than two miles away.) 

But no bullet travels in a straight line. In flight, bullets are constantly falling and (unless they hit something or someone) will eventually strike the ground. A bullet fired from a .22 long rifle, for instance, will fall about 36 inches after travelling 300 yards. 

This is another argument against creating bullets that can travel anywhere from two city blocks to two country miles. The chances of a bullet hitting the intended target steadily fall the further the bullet has to travel.  

Reducing the Stray-bullet Body Count 

A sling without a rock is an empty threat. A catapult without a 100-pound stone block inspires no fear. Similarly, a gun without bullets is just a useless hunk of metal. 

Bullets are designed to kill or grievously wound. Bullets are shaped to pierce human skin. Hollow-point rounds expand to rip large cavities as they travel through tissue. Elongated rifle rounds tumble or burst upon penetration, shattering bones, rupturing blood vessels, and destroying organs as they tear through human bodies.  

If we want to reduce the carnage, the gun industry will need to radically redesign its guns and its bullets. If the goal is "personal self-defense," there is no excuse for a bullet that can travel more than a mile. 

If the goal is "self-defense" a bullet's range could be limited to a distance of, say, ten feet. And self-defense should not require the ability to kill. 

Bullet cartridges could easily be redesigned with reduced explosive power. The explosive charge in many contemporary bullets fills two-thirds of the cartridge—a wasteful overload that extends the bullet's trajectory far beyond any "defensive" requirement.  

Reducing the size, weight, muzzle velocity, range, and impact of bullets would still allow for a deterrent effect capable of distracting, discouraging, and potentially disabling a perceived threat. 

Limiting the power and range of bullets would reduce the likelihood of stray-bullets wounding and killing innocent bystanders on the streets or in their homes. 

Designing "Safer" Bullets 

The arms industry has already demonstrated its ability to redesign its hardware to suit the demands of emerging markets. In the 1980s, after all, Smith & Wesson introduced the LadySmith, a line of "handguns for the modern woman." 

The transition to safer automobiles (redesigned to include seat belts, air bags, and collision-avoidance technologies) took decades but, since the first auto safety laws were enacted in 1965, the number of Americans killed in car accidents has fallen by 80 percent. A transition to less-lethal bullets could be accomplished much quicker. 

In the meantime, there are already examples of Ballistic Arms Reduction programs. 

• The US Secret Service now possesses a P-90 compact machine gun that fires custom-made rounds designed to lodge in the body of the target thus lowering the chances of collateral damage. (Better for bystanders: not so good for the targets.) 

• In 2016, Popular Mechanics hailed the arrival of a new .50-caliber round developed at the US Army's Picatinny Arsenal that was designed to "self-destruct after a set distance in order to limit the damage it would do beyond whatever the gun is aiming at." The half-inch-thick copper jacketed "Limited Range Projectile" contains an embedded pyrotechnic charge that can distort the bullet in mid-flight, causing it to fall to the ground. 

Alternative Ballistics has created a "non-lethal alternative to standard bullets" that consists of a plastic device that snaps over a regular police pistol and positions a large metal ball over the muzzle. When the gun is fired, the exiting bullet embeds in the metal ball, sending the merged projectile toward the target. The striking force is reduced by 80 percent, making it less likely to penetrate the skin. Removing and replacing the device between shots takes less than three seconds. Here is a video of the device being tested. 

• Blunt-Impact Projectiles (BIP) consist of plastic rounds capped with silicone, gel or foam. Fired from single-shot gas launchers, they flatten upon impact and can be adjusted to disperse pepper gas or deterrent aromas—including the smell of rotten eggs and fecal matter. More than a dozen US cities have purchased these "stinky BIPs." 

• Many police departments already employ inexpensive "bean bag" weapons that use socks packed with lead or rubber bullets fired from a shotgun. (Note: Both BIPs and beanbag rounds can be lethal if fired at the head, face, throat, or near the heart.) 

• The XREP is a wireless version of the taser that employs plastic shells fitted with electrodes, a transmitter, and a microprocessor. Upon impact, the electrodes sink into the target's skin and an on-board battery discharges an incapacitating 50,000-volt electrical shock lasting 20 seconds. (Amnesty International cautions that tasers accounted for 500 deaths in the US between 2001 and 2013.) 

• The ML-12 is a two-shot pistol that can fire an array of less-than-lethal (LTL) rounds (bean bags, pepper rounds, rubber bullets, or flares). According to Bruzer Less Lethal International, the ML-12 is now used by more than 100 "small, rural police departments—who prefer it to the TASER because of its lower cost." 

Sadly, while bullets can be reconfigured to be less deadly, the federal government is busy designing new bullets that are even deadlier.  

Case in point: Lockheed-Martin, Teledyne Technologies, and the Pentagon have created the EXtreme ACcuracy Tasked Ordnance(EXACTO), a .50-caliber "smart bullet" that can change course in mid-air in order to follow and kill a moving target. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency proudly calls the EXACTO a "thinking bullet [that] chases its target."  

Some Recommendations 

While awaiting the day when the US Gun Culture is replaced by a New Era of Civility, here are some steps we can take to diminish the dangers of guns and bullets: 

• "Downsize" the weight, shape and power of bullets. 

• Redesign guns to reduce the number of rounds that can be fired. 

• Ban high-capacity magazines. 

• Reinstitute the 1994 federal ban on assault rifles.  

• Ban the ownership of semi-automatic weapons and other weapons of war. 

• Offer a Federal buy-back option for banned weapons and bullets.  

• Promote less-than-lethal options (tasers, sprays, beanbags, wax bullets, fast-acting tranquilizer darts). 

• Require the use of "smart guns" to insure that a weapon can only be fired by its owner. 

• Require universal background checks with a one-week waiting period. 

• Require nationwide permit-to-purchase programs to vet, license, and fingerprint gun owners. (Studies show that licensing is more effective than background checks in lowering rates of gun-linked homicides and suicides.) 

• Enact Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal to raise the federal tax on handgun sales from 10% to 30% and the tax on ammunition from 11% to 50%. (A good step towards Chris Rock's proposal that "every bullet should cost $5,000.") 

And, as we consider a transition to smaller, less-deadly weapons, we might extend our concerns to the purchase and use of air-powered rifles, pistols and BB guns, which pose a public safely risk in the hands of would-be robbers and assailants. Possession of these less-deadly weapons could also require thorough background checks and other safety guarantees. 

It's time to acknowledge that using high-powered guns and bullets for "self-defense" makes as much sense as using Formula 1 racecars to deliver the mail. There are simply better ways to get the job done. 


THE PUBLIC EYE:Trump’s Search for a Big Win

Bob Burnett
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:17:00 PM

After a disastrous August, Donald Trump staggered into September. To some observers, Trump appeared to exhibit symptoms of a nervous breakdown; for example, spending a week defending his claim that Hurricane Dorian had threatened Alabama. He's cracking under pressure. Trump knows he is in political trouble. He's desperately searching for a big win.

On September 7, Trump called off a secret Camp David meeting with Taliban leaders, where he planned to sign an Afghanistan "peace agreement." This was Trump's ill-considered attempt at a big win.

In the 100 plus days between now and the end of the year, there are eight areas where Trump will search for political capital: the economy, foreign policy, gun control, government funding, healthcare/drug policy, impeachment, national security, and trade.

Impeachment: On September 12, House Democrats launchd a formal impeachment inquiry. Trump will not be able to make the multiple inquiries go away -- there's no big win for him with this situation. Instead, Trump will be subjected to more pressure, which will feed his desperate search for political capital. 

Don't expect Democrats to actually hold a vote on impeachment. That won't happened in 2019 and probably won't happen in 2020 unless something surfaces that is so egregious that it causes a massive shift in public opinion -- which is currently running about 60 percent against impeachment. 

Expect Democrats to get into Trump's face every week with some new information about his malfeasance or incompetence. Enough to accelerate Trump's descent into madness but not enough to change the minds of members of the Trump cult. 

Gun Control: During the next couple of months, discussions about gun control will dominate the airwaves but in the end it will amount to a big nothing. 93 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun buyers, but the NRA is opposed and Trump -- and Mitch McConnell -- are beholden to the NRA. Trump will bloviate and confabulate. McConnell will say that the Senate won't pass any legislation that Trump won't sign. The ball will get passed back and forth. And then dropped. No big win here. 

The economy: The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ten-call-recession-trump-approval-drops-points-poll/story?id=65414875) indicates that sixty percent of respondents feel the U.S. economy will slide into recession during the next 12 months. However, the economic signs are mixed -- the stock market is up, consumer confidence is down. 

The reality is that there's not a lot Trump can do to directly influence the economy -- other than demonstrate steady leadership, which he is incapable of. There are certain strategic actions that he might have initiated a year or two ago -- such as a massive infrastructure initiative -- but Trump isn't going to do that now. 

Trump will harass the Federal Reserve Board and give stock traders collective atrial fibrillation -- by lying about trade progress with China. But, there's no big win here. 

Trade: Trump's biggest opportunity to positively influence the economy would be to stabilize trade relations with China. That's unlikely to happen because Trump has dug in too deep and is constitutionally incapable of admitting he made a mistake. 

Lurking in the wings is congressional approval of the NAFTA-replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump wants this but Democrats won't pass it unless the labor and environmental provisions are strengthened. 

Will Trump agree to Democratic demands in order to secure a win with USMCA approval? Possibly, but I bet that Speaker Pelosi will want some quid-pro-quo -- such as White House cooperation with a phase of the impeachment proceedings -- and it's unlikely that Trump will go along with that. There's a possibility of a Trump win here, but not a big one. 

Government Shutdown: On September 30, various federal agencies run out of money. The latest information indicates that Senate Republicans and House Democrats will agree to a short-term funding bill to avert a shutdown. (https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/09/mitch-mcconnell-government-shutdown-1486886) This will kick the can farther down the road -- likely until the Thanksgiving recess. 

The question is whether Trump will use the threat of government shutdown to press for a big win -- such as massive funding for "the wall." A year ago, December 22, 2018, Trump forced a 35-day shutdown but it didn't achieve his objectives; so, it's unlikely he will repeat this action. 

Drug Prices: There've been recent suggestions that Trump will seek to accomplish his big win by doing something major about drug prices. Recently Speaker Pelosi has promoted a significant drug-price-reduction plan (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/10/us/politics/pelosi-trump-drug-prices.html). Will Trump support this? (Possibly as the quid-pro-quo for support of his USMCA.) It's certainly conceivable. 

Foreign Policy: Between now and the end of 2019, Trump will be desperately seeking a big win. His best bet is to do something dramatic in the arena of foreign policy. 

As this was being written, Trump fired John Bolton, his National Security Adviser, because Bolton didn't approve of Trump's desire to make a big foreign policy "splash" but cutting some sort of deal with Afghanistan, Iran, or North Korea. Now that Bolton is gone, it's more likely that Trump will push for some sort of deal with Iran -- possibly during Trump's visit to the United Nations' General Assembly at the end of the month. 

National Security: The 18th anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that one of the reasons the United States was surprised by the terrorist attacks was that then President George W. Bush didn't pay attention to critical briefings (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/opinion/the-bush-white-house-was-deaf-to-9-11-warnings.html). Now we have another President that doesn't pay attention to critical intelligence briefings. Worse yet, Trump has systematically fired all the experienced White House intelligence experts and replaced them with sycophants. 

The current national-security situation suggests that, between now and year end, while Trump will not get the big win he so desperately seeks, he is increasing the odds of a big loss for the country. 

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


Jack Bragen
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:14:00 PM

If mentally ill and working, taking a sick day when not feeling well could be appropriate, or it could be the beginning of the end.

In general, the expectations of most employers are that mental or psychological reasons for taking a sick day are not valid reasons. This is disablist. It does not acknowledge that if you are mentally ill, you might not be up for work on occasion. Mental illnesses in the minds of most employers are not really being sick. They believe that the employee is making excuses to get out of work. However, a flareup of mental illness is just as real and just as valid as influenza.

On the other hand, sometimes taking a sick day can lead to a breach of the basic discipline that allows us to show up for work. If we already have emotional difficulty showing up for a job, taking a sick day could lead to more sick days, and more. Taking a sick day, if work is challenging, might weaken the resolve to hang in there at one's job.

When I was a high school sophomore, I had a habit of taking one day off most weeks, toward the end of that year. I'd ask my mother to write a note, and she would do it. I'd already had a brother who'd been violently attacked by other students. He'd had to quit high school because of that.

High school is a completely different thing than the work world, however. Companies need to be able to rely on employees showing up--or they will be unable to function in business. They may be forced to efficiently eliminate those who can't be there on a daily basis. I've had jobs in which I had no sick days for six months to a year. This suited employers just fine. 

When I contracted Mononucleosis in my twenties, I needed time off because I was physically very sick. I was bedridden for a month. The illness was rough. It took me several years to regain the previous level of physical health. During that time, I was in successive jobs in which I took frequent sick days, and this got me fired. In retrospect, I wasn't totally back to normal following mono. But, at the time, I felt as though I'd blown the jobs and wasn't really that sick. 

If you get up in the morning and you feel that there is no way you're going to be able to fulfill job duties, because you are just not up for it, whether the reason is physical or mental, it might make sense to take a sick day. If you go in and don't feel well, you could show up for work but have bad performance, which works against you in keeping your job. 

I consider writing to be my current job even though I don't earn a steady wage at it. When I have brain fatigue or have some other difficulty, I don't even try to compose. This is not a problem for me, since I love what I do, and there is no lack of hours put in. When self-employed, you can usually make your own hours. 

The problem with being a writer is it doesn't really bring home the bread. Probably ninety-nine percent of published authors must not quit their day job. Being published is a definite feather in the cap, but it usually doesn't pay anything substantial. 

If the reader wants to improve conditions for oneself through employment or self-employment, don't put all your eggs in one basket, especially an unrealistic one. 

Due to age, health problems, mental health problems, and other obligations, it is impracticable for me to show up for work at a regular job. I also wouldn't be able to do something like DoorDash, for numerous reasons. 

However, if the reader is in their twenties or thirties, it is a good time to go to school and either get a degree or get a certificate that will allow earning a decent wage at something. 

In my mid-twenties, following the point where I obtained SSDI, I had a lot of apprehension and/or guilty feelings because I was adjusting to not needing to work to survive. At the time, it took effort to convince myself that this was okay; and I had a legitimate reason for not working. I still would rather have employment in which I could bring in a decent amount of money. However, my values have shifted. The issue is unrelated to liking myself, and, instead I would rather improve my life conditions. 

Employment is usually better than unemployment or partial unemployment. Yet, if the disability, part of which is the effects of medications, prevents competitive work performance, maybe we should give ourselves a break. 


Jack Bragen lives in Martinez, California. He is author of "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual" and other titles.  

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:19:00 PM

Donald Trump has been called many things: The Orange Menace, The Grinch, The Lyin' King, The Reprimander-in-chief. But a recent New York Times article—on DJ's plan to end federal oversight of two mortgage behemoths—found a new and simpler moniker for the Oval Office resident.

In the September 8, 2019 edition of the S.F. Chronicle, the article's first sentence read: "The Trump has unveiled a long-awaited plan to end federal control of two mortgage giants." [Emphasis added.]

The online version of the story has been corrected to read: "The Trump administration has unveiled…."

Bye-Bye Bolton

National Security Advisor and warhawk extraordinaire John Bolton has been jettisoned by D. Trump. After praising Bolton for years—telling friends Bolton was “a killer” during his appearances on Fox News—Trump has given Bolton the boot. One contributing problem (shared by many and cited by several news organs, including TIME Magazine) "the president has voiced some unhappiness about Bolton’s trademark mustache."

NPR's report on Bolton's firing mentioned the president's reservations over Bolton's mustache. A New York Times article confirmed that Trump was reluctant to hire Bolton: "[O]fficials said Mr. Trump has hesitated, in part because of his negative reaction to Mr. Bolton’s walrus-style mustache." 

A Pink Slip for Bolton 

"John Bolton’s what you might call a warmonger's warmonger," writes the anti-war group Win Without War. "Whether it was helping launch the Iraq War, trying to kill diplomacy with North Korea, or doing everything he could to start a war with Iran, Bolton simply never met a war he didn’t want to start." 

As National Security Advisor, Bolton's "warmongering mustache was all over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Cold War-era, anti-nuclear weapon INF Treaty. Trump pulled out of the historic Iran deal within days of Bolton taking office. And Bolton did everything he could think of to try and get Trump to go to war in Venezuela." 

But now that Revoltin' Bolton's gone meltdown-molten, WWW is inviting peace-lovers everywhere to celebrate his retirement with this pitch: 

"Donate $4 and we’ll make sure John Bolton knows exactly how happy we all are about him getting fired with a flood of happy retirement cards delivered right to his door." 

Taliban Banned 

Trump's secret (now scuttled) Camp David meeting with Afghan leaders and a band of Taliban negotiators on the eve of the September 11 anniversary, caught most Washington insiders (including top government leaders, agency heads, and members of congress) by surprise. Trump revealed the proposed secret meeting at the same time he announced that he had decided to cancel it—at the last minute. 

Not a first for Trump. He also touted his "very, very good" high-stakes negotiations with North Korea, only to walk out at the last minute. 

Perhaps he should consider writing a sequel to his book, "The Art of the Deal." Trump's new book could be called "Depart of the Deal." 

Good-bye Sarah, Hello Stephanie 

There's another new face in the White House. Meet Trump's new White House communications director/press secretary Stephanie Grisham. 

Since her appointment in late June, Grisham has yet to host a single press briefing. It's now been five months since her predecessor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, held the last White House press briefing. 

Asked about a New York Times press-count that now credits Trump with uttering more than 12,000 public lies since entering office, Grisham responded like a veteran Trumpling (c.f. Kellyanne Conway): "I don't think they're lies . . . . I think the president communicates in a way that some people, especially the media, aren't necessarily comfortable with. A lot of times they take him so literally . . . . he's not going to lie to this country." 

Some critics in the ranks of the press—those nit-pickers, niggling naysayers, and "nattering nabobs of negativism"—have pointed out that Grisham comes to her new position with an impressive resume that includes two DUIs and jobs lost for plagiarism and "cheating on expense reports." 

Press Pranks: It's a Crop Shoot 

During Trump's rallies, some press photographers have been looking for opportunities to frame their shot so the only part of the TRUMP banner at Trump's back is the portion that reads "RUMP." 

Warspeak by-the-Bay 

The last place you'd expect to find someone engaging in warspeak would be in an invitation to help clean up a beach. But there it was, in the September 4 edition of the East Bay Express: an ad for Coastal Cleanup Day—a "volunteer competition" that has been rebranded as a "Battle for the Bay." The call for competition (instead of cooperation) will pit "San Francisco vs. Oakland." The contest begins on September 21. 


For a refreshing change of patter, here's EBMUD's invitation to the same event (Emphasis added): 

Join us for California Coastal Cleanup. Join hands with other volunteers as we remove litter at Martine Luther King Jr. Shoreline in Oakland. Cleanup starts at 9 a.m. All are welcome! This cleanup effort is a partnership of EBMUD and East Bay Regional Parks District. Share your cleanup photos with EBMUD on #CoastalCleanup. 

Tell CALPIRS: Stop Investing in War 

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System oversees one of the country's biggest public pension funds and CODEPINK is red-in-the-face because CalPERS has invested millions in General Dynamics, a company that supports for-profit prisons and earns billions selling weapons that fuel armed conflicts around the world. 

General Dynamics has provided Saudi Arabia with estimated at $1.3 billion in weapons—weapons used to wage a war on Yemen that has killed an estimated 6,000 civilians—and the company has been linked to war crimes. On August 12, 2018, a General Dynamics GBU-12 Paveway II bomb destroyed a Yemeni school bus, killing 54 passengers—including 44 of school children. 

CODEPINK is circulating a petition to join CalPERS members in urging the pension fund address General Dynamics' war profiteering. 

Don't Care about the Planet? Think about your Pet 

The Climate Reality Project has found a new angle for motivating people to do something to address the devastating effects of climate collapse. For the rather-not-be-bothered crowd that shrugs off torrential rains, floods, heat waves, hurricanes, and droughts—and the potential disappearance food, electricity, and of clean water—CRP has a question: Are you prepared for the impacts global biospheric collapse will have on your pet dogs, cats, cockatoos, and goldfish? 

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, CRP notes: "the perfect time to do a little planning to help your pets stay safe in our warming world." It all seems to boil down to having a "pet disaster kit" ready in the event of a wildfire, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake. "Download the free e-book." 

The Stop Wall Street Looting Act 

MoveOn.org is fed up with Wall Street billionaires lining their pockets with money fleeced from America's hard-working, hardscrabble majority. According to MoveOn: "More than half a million people have already lost their jobs at retailers like Toys 'R' Us, Payless, Sears, Kmart, RadioShack, Shopko, Sports Authority, and dozens more. These retailers were bought and controlled by private equity and hedge funds, shadowy financial firms that also 'invest' in industries like for-profit private prisons and detention centers, dirty fossil fuels, and predatory payday loans." 

MoveOn is backing federal legislation that would "prevent these predators from destroying jobs for profit, protect our retirement funds from reckless fund managers, and provide compensation for working people when their stores close in bankruptcy." You can click here to petition Congress to supports the bill 

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor … Yearning to Breathe Teargas" 

People used to flock to the US seeking asylum from war, poverty, and hunger. But Donald Trump's America no longer offers asylum for "huddled masses." Instead, he has (in the eyes of the world) turned the country into a heartless, vindictive insane asylum! 

Berkeley Songster Wins Big 

A large, late-night crowd turned up at Celia's Mexican Restaurant in North Berkeley on September 4 to watch the national broadcast of Songland, NBC's popular song-writing competition. The outcome wasn't a total surprise: the winner, Zach Sorgen, happens to be a local talent and his mom—activist and sometime songstress Phoebe Ann Sorgen—was hosting the event. 

It almost didn't happen. The event was originally set for a café on University Ave in West Berkeley. The owner had agreed to showing the broadcast on a large screen but once the invites had been sent out, he informed Sorgen that there would be an extra $750 charge to "unmute the volume." 

If you missed the Songland broadcast, you can listen to the episode here



Here's Zach’s first music video (directed by his big sister): 

Here's "Starry Night," a music video with Zach and his girlfriend Jessica: 

And here a link to “Paradise," co-written and performed by Zach and his mom. 

A Dose of Military-Industrial Complex Grammar 

Last week, the following mumble-jumble arrived in my email: further evidence that the human brain can be turned into cardboard. 

"Couldn't join us for the live screening of the Ensuring Mission Readiness Through Customer Experience webcast? Tune in to the on-demand version instead! 

"During this event recording, we'll explore the intersection of customer experience and mission readiness in the national security community. 

"From integrated multi-channel experiences to automated chatbots, digital workflows to user-friendly platforms, we’ll examine how providing exceptional customer experiences can not only build better agency-employee relationships, but also enable your workforce to more effectively achieve mission objectives. 

"Don't miss out on this on-demand digital event featuring Defense One, Nextgov, the Department of Defense, the Defense Digital Service and more!" 

Let's Turn Election Day into a National Holiday 

The US calls itself a democracy but our leaders are selected by an Electoral College, not elected by popular vote and our voter turnout is among the lowest among world democracies. Because busy schedules and inconvenient locations discourage many people from voting, House Democrats have proposed making Election Day a national holiday. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reports that close to two-thirds of Americans—both Democrat and Republican—would like to see Election Day turned into a national holiday. 

As part of a landmark election reform bill—the For the People Act—House Democrats have called for a national voting holiday so people won’t have to take time off from work to vote. 

Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow a vote to enact electoral reforms and voting protections. 

McConnell's seeming disinterest in Russia's role in trolling the polls in 2018, suggests that he's "Okay with that." Hence his trending nickname: "Moscow Mitch." 

In McConnell's world, allowing more people to vote constitutes a Democratic “power grab”—or, to put it in other words, increasing democracy is bad for democracy. 

For what it's worth, here's another petition: This one calls on McConnell to allow a vote to protect and improve democracy in America

Rent Rant over AB1482 

California Assembly Bill 1482 is supposed to protect the state's renters from "massive rent hikes" that have driven some apartment dwellers to seek shelther in the Central Valley. Gov. Newsom has called the measure an "important new tool" for addressing the "housing and affordability crisis." But wait a minute. What does the bill actually offer? 

AB1482 allows landlords to raise rents 10% each and every year (5% for an annual increase plus another 5% "regional cost of living increase") through 2030. This essentially permits doubling the cost of rentals over the course of ten years. And how about people who get evicted without cause? AB1482 would give them a month's rent (sans the 10% adjustment) to start all over. How is this an "improvement" over traditional rent control, which (in San Francisco) limits increases to less than the yearly cost of inflation—for 2019 that would be 1.53% rather than 10%. 

What's AARP with That? 

AARP, the American Association of Retired People, assigns a good amount of its time and attention to warning its elderly members of various schemes and scams and explaining how to avoid them. So it's surprising that AARP has sent out a solicitation that is arguably guilty of attempting to scam the recipients. 

An AARP envelope arrives in the mail containing what is essentially a request for a voluntary financial donation. Well and good. But here's the problem: Instead of describing the pitch as a request for a donation, the solicitation has been given the title of (in urgent red letters) a "Charitable Renewal Notification." 

Instead of a straightforward presentation as a "Charitable Donation Request," the revamped wording edges worrisomely close to the phrase "Renewal Notice." 

I suspect that some unsuspecting AARPers will hasten to write out a check for the stipulated $25 for fear that failure to respond could result in the loss of their AARP memberships.

ECLECTIC RANT: Gerrymandering after Rucho v. Common Cause

Ralph E. Stone
Friday September 13, 2019 - 04:35:00 PM

Gerrymandering is manipulating the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruled in Rucho v. Common Cause that federal courts cannot determine whether election maps are too partisan or gerrymandered. In other words, the Supreme Court ruled that the question is non justiciable by the federal courts.

This decision has raised the stakes for the 2020 election, leaving room for both parties to draw gerrymandered district lines with little fear of a federal court challenge gerrymandering. For example, In a major blow to Republicans who control the state legislature, a North Carolina State Court panel threw out North Carolina’s state legislative maps as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered lawmakers to draw up new ones in two weeks. This North Carolina decision could serve as a blueprint for legal challenges in other states.

Otherwise it will be up to the individual states to create independent election commissions that use nonpartisan means to draw House districts. 

The House of Representatives passed legislation this year that would force states to create such independent election commissions. However, it is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate. 

Currently, 21 U.S. states have some form of non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commission. Of these 21 states, 13 use redistricting commissions to exclusively draw electoral district boundaries. 

This U.S. Supreme Court decision means Democrats must focus on finding and supporting people to run for state legislative bodies who, if elected, would support creating such nonpartisan independent election commissions.

Arts & Events

A BILLY BUDD for the Ages

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday September 16, 2019 - 03:48:00 PM

I’ve seen quite a few productions of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd in the past, including the first two — in 1978-9 and 1985-6 —of three prior productions at San Francisco Opera. I’ve enjoyed and learned something from each of these productions, as well as from those I’ve seen elsewhere. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a production until this one that effectively highlighted the intensity of the morality play inherent in Herman Melville’s unfinished novel of Billy Budd, and did so in Benjamin Britten’s strikingly idiosyncratic musical terms. In short, for me, this San Francisco opera production of Billy Budd, which opened on September 7, and which I attended on Sunday, September 15, is a Billy Budd for the ages. 

Lest I get carried away, however, let me say that the stage set for this Billy Budd, imported from Glyndebourne, England, presented me, and not only me, it seems, with some initial difficulties. This unitary set offers us a view that seems to be of the inside of the hull of a British man of war circa 1797. Yet the libretto, a carefully written work by none other than E.M. Forster with help from Eric Crozier, repeatedly gives us scenes from outside, on the deck of the ship, where sails are unfurled, distant enemy ships are sighted, and canons are fired. The spatial ambiguity of this unitary set, a product of the combined vision of Michael Grandage and Designer Christopher Oram, caused me to reorient myself at several stages towards the drama that unfolds. The question it raises is an interesting one: Is this an exterior drama or an interior one? That it is both is obvious. The question becomes, which vision of this drama does one wish to emphasise? By choosing a view of the interior of the British man of war ship the Indomitable, this production deemphasises straightforward realism to the benefit of suggestive ambiguity and allusiveness. By giving us the inside of the ship, this production emphasises the claustrophobia of the common sailers on a ship at sea, constantly up against one another and their superiors. Moreover, the ribs and vertebrae of this ship’s interior might well suggest the inside of the belly of a whale, evoking the Biblical Jonah’s captivity therein, a reference not at all out of line with both Herman Melville’s and Benjamin Britten’s view of things. Both Melville and Britten seem to be interested, mainly, in the moral dilemma experienced by Captain Vere, who finds himself caught amidships, as it were.  

We’ll get to this moral dilemma of Captain Vere’s in a moment. Let’s acknowledge, first and foremost, that the singing of the principals in this production of Billy Budd was uniformly excellent! As Captain Vere, tenor William Burden was outstanding. From his opening moments, wherein as an old man, he recalls the incidents involving Billy Budd, then through the harrowing enactment of those moments, down to Captain Vere’s old age closing lines at the end of the opera, William Burden was a sympathetic, tragically conflicted individual. He managed to convey vocally the inner conflicts he experienced between dutifully enacting the Articles of War that called for the capital punishment of Billy Budd for striking a superior officer and killing him, on one hand, and his profound intuition, on the other hand, of the goodness and innocence of Billy Budd.  

In the title role, baritone John Chest was also excellent. His high baritone easily captured the nuances of a role often assigned to a tenor. As Budd, John Chest was earnest, forthright, and full of the naiveté that Billy Budd’s character calls for in spades. John Chest’s delivery of Billy Budd’s final ballad as he awaits hanging, “Billy in the Darbies,” was a thing of utmost beauty. The third point in this opera’s triangle of goodness and evil, whose pivotal point is Captain Vere, was, of course, Master-of-Arms John Claggart, here sung with merciless ferocity by bass-baritone Christian Van Horn. If there is anyone who can make evil sound beautiful, it’s Christian Van Horn. Where the operatic role of John Claggart is concerned, I don’t envy the task of the singer. But, believe me, Van Horn was more than up to this task.  

Among the minor roles, a few stood out. Veteran bass-baritone Philip Skinner was impressive as Dansker, the sympathetic old-timer who befriends Billy. Three other bass-baritones also sang impressively: Christian Pursell as Mr. Ratcliffe, Philip Horst as Mr. Redburn, and Wayne Tigges as Mr. Flint. Tenor Brenton Ryan was compellingly pathetic as A Novice suborned by Claggart to entrap Billy. And tenor Matthew O’Neill brought comic relief to the role of Squeak. 

The Opera Chorus’s male contingent, led by Ian Robertson, sang robustly as the crew, and they were aided by members of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus led by Joyce Kell. The orchestra, led by Lawrence Renes, who was making his local debut, gave a robust account of Britten’s score. The sea is ever present in Britten’s Billy Budd, as it also is in this composer’s Peter Grimes; and here the orchestra faithfully renders the dark, swirling waters while the chorus of crew members sing “O Heave! O heave away!”, and are thus identified with the mysterious energies of the sea. Finally, the orchestra alone takes over the opera near the end, and for three long minutes we hear brass, strings, winds, and horns, intone a series of mysterious chords. During this 34 bar stretch of instrumental music, no action occurs onstage. Perhaps this is Britten’s musical rendering of a scene Herman Melville declined to put in words — the unseen interview wherein Captain Vere communicates to Billy Budd the verdict of the court martial — Billy must be hanged from the yardarm. Musically, this is a moment of sublime solemnity; and it is the highlight of this opera. 

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Sept.15-22

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday September 14, 2019 - 11:17:00 AM

Worth Noting:

Monday – The City Council Agenda and Rules Committee will be discussing the proposals for how City Council agendas are developed and City Council meetings are conducted. The Agenda and Rules committee will also discuss the plan for evaluating the City Manager – no performance evaluations has been completed since hiring January 9, 2015.

Tax the Rich protest rally celebrates its 8th anniversary

Wednesday – The Animal Care Commission is once again reviewing the number of dogs walked at the same time by one person (4) or (8).

The September 24 City Council Meeting Agenda follows the summary of weekly meetings and is available for comment email council@cityofberkeley.info


Sunday, September 15, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Monday, September 16, 2019 

City Council Agenda and Rules Committee 2:30 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, Agenda: 2. Discussion and Direction Regarding Revisions to City Council Rules of Procedures and Order (how City Council meetings are planned and conducted), 3. Discussion and Direction on City Manager Evaluation Process. Meeting Packet 148 pages 


Council Public Safety Committee, 10:00 am – 12 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor – Redwood Room, Agenda: 2. Adopt an Ordinance Amending Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 2.99 to Prohibit City Use of Face Recognition Technology 


Children, Youth and Recreation Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center at San Pablo Park, Agenda: 8. Aquatic Park Lagoon, 9. New West Campus Pool Hours, 


Measure O Bond Oversight Committee, 6:30 pm, at 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, Agenda: 2. Draft Framework for Berkeley’s Affordable Housing, 3. Public Hearing on Housing Trust Fund Projects https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Measure_O_Bond_Oversight_Committee.aspx 

Planning Commission – Zoning Ordinance Revision Project Subcommittee (ZORP), 7 – 9 pm at 1947 Center, basement, Multi-purpose Room, Agenda: 6. ZORP Background & Review 


Public Works Commission – Measure T1 Subcommittee, 9 – 11 am at 1947 Center, 1st Floor, Sitka Spruce Room, Agenda: 3. B. T1 Audit, c. Phase 2 Timeline, d. Possible Allocation Options for Remainder of T1 Funds 


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, September 17, 2019 

Berkeley City Council, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, 

Closed Session, 4:30 pm, Agenda: 1. Anticipated Litigation – one case, 2. Conference with Real Property Negotiators (City Manager) Gov Code Section 54956.8 (purchase, sale, exchange or lease of Real Property) 752 Grayson Property Owner City of Berkeley, Negotiating Under Negotiation Price and terms, Negotiating parties City of Berkeley and 752 Grayson Owner LLC, 

Special Meeting, 6 pm, Agenda: 1. Berkeley City Arts and Culture Plan, 2. Zero Waste Rate Review 


Wednesday, September 18, 2019 

Animal Care Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 1 Bolivar Drive, Berkeley Animal Shelter, Agenda: V. a) revisit maximum number of dogs walked at one time by single person 4 dogs to 8 dogs, b) revisit licensing dog walkers, e) establish large dog exercise area in Aquatic Park in conjunction with Friends of Berkeley Animal Care Services. 


Commission on Aging, 1 – 3 pm at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 5. Presentation Vision Zero, 9. Senior Housing Crisis, 10. Homelessness among the elderly, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Commission_on_Aging_Homepage.aspx 

Commission on Labor, 7 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 5. 1) Presentation racial wage gap in restaurant industry, 2) City of Berkeley Procurement and Commission on Labor oversighthttps://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Commission_on_Labor_Homepage.aspx 

Human Welfare & Community Action Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 3. Easy Does It Audit, 5. Review City Funded Agency Program LifeLong Medical Care – Primary Care/Acupuncture, 9. Disabled Accessibility in high-density areas, 13. West Berkeley Air Quality, 14. Update closure of Alta Bates 


Police Review Commission, 7 – 10 pm, at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 9. a. Surveillance Use Policies – GPS tracking devices, b. Lexipol Policies for review, Use of Force, Major Incident Notification, Volunteer Program, Service Animals, Gun Restraining Orders, Off-Duty Law Enforcement Actions, Firearms and Tactics Unit, Second Response, Hostage and Barricade Incidents, Foreign Diplomatic and Consular Representatives,  


Thursday, September 19, 2019 

City Council Land Use, Housing & Economic Development Committee, 10:30 am, 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor, - Cypress Room, Agenda: 2. Referral to the City Manager to return to Council an Amnesty Program for Legalizing Unpermitted Dwelling Units, 3. Adopt an Ordinance to Berkeley Municipal Code requiring legal rights for legal tender (accepting cash), 4. Ronald Dellums Fair Chance Access to Housing and Public Health and Safety Ordinance, 5. Spring 2019 Bi-Annual Report on Funding for Housing Programs. 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, 7 – 11 pm, at 1231 Addison St, Agenda: 5. Appeal 1312 Delaware, 6. A. 1) Definition of Principal Residence 


Design Review Committee, 7 – 10 pm at 1947 Center St, Basement Multi-purpose Room, Agenda: 

2035 Blake Street – Final Review Follow-up garage door only 

2542 Durant – Final Review demolish asphalt parking lot 5-story mixed-use 32 residential units and ground level commercial space 

2352 Shattuck – continued preliminary review demolish two existing commercial buildings, split lot, construct two 8-story mixed-use with 206 units (including 15 very low income units) 12,154 sq ft commercial space and 16930 sq ft usable open space, 90 parking spaces 

1835 San Pablo – preview to demolish existing 1-story commercial building and construct 6-story mixed use with 95 units (including 7 very low income units) 


Fair Campaign Practices Commission, 7 pm at 2180 Milvia, Cypress, Agenda: 6. Approval of Cost of Living Adjustment, 7. Staff report possible BERA violation Candidate Lacey for 2018 


Open Government Commission, 8 pm at 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, Agenda: 6. Recommendations from Democracy Project Subcommittee http://www.cityofberkeley.info/opengovermentcommission/ 

Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts, 6:30 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, No Agenda Published 


Transportation Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 1326 Allston Way, Corp Yard, Building A Willow Room, Agenda: 2. Fossil Fuel Free Berkeley, 3. Milvia Bikeway, 4. Sacramento Complete Streets, 5. Stop Sign Warrants 


Free Smoking Cessation Clinic, 6 – 8 pm, at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, 


Friday, September 20, 2019 

Global Climate Strike - Youth Climate Strike (all ages encouraged to join), 10 am – 5 pm, start San Francisco Federal Building, 90 7th Street, Nancy Pelosi Office 



Family Game Night, 6 – 8 pm, at Frances Albrier Community Center 


Family Game Night, 6 – 8 pm, at Willard Clubhouse 


Saturday, September 21, 2019 

Music in the Park, 1 – 4 pm, at Grove Park 


International Shoreline Cleanup, 9 am – 12 pm, at 2939  



Sunday, September 22, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 




Berkeley City Council September 24 Agenda, Consent: 2. Increase NetFile Contract to $133,200 thru May 31, 2023 for regular annual maintenance for online campaign report, Form 700 filing and tracking and lobbyist registration, 3. 1 yr contract $150,000 with NV5 to develop City’s website, 4. IKE Smart City Kiosk Locations in Downtown, Telegraph and Lorin Commercial Districts, 5. Modifications(streamlining) Zoning Ordinance to allow approvals in commercial districts for permitting and licensing by zoning certificate, 7. Amend Bay Area Community Services Contract add $300,000 total $6,880,149 (4yr contract) for homeless people presenting at North County Housing Resource Center, 8. $28,115for Community Housing Development Organizations, 9. Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) Ordinance, 10. Authorizes City Manager authority to settle Worker’s Comp Claims up to $75,000, 11. Provide 3% Special Class Commercial License Premium to Solid Waste Supervisor Job Classification, 12. Contract with Ghilotti Construction Co for John Hinkel Park Improvement $658,588 – 20% contingency $131,718, total $790,306, 13. Contract with The Dutra Group $261,100 – 15% contingency $39,165, total $300,265 for ADA accessible Gangway Project at Berkeley Marina South Cove, 14. Contract with Mar Con Builders $5,226,363 – 20% contingency $1,045,272 total $6,271,635 for Live Oak Community Center seismic Upgrade, 15. Contract with Don Fowler Construction for Tuolumne Camp Repairs $228,735 which includes 15% contingency, 16. $7,000 for Technical Assistance in Grant Application for Housing Protection and Preservation, 17. Add $500,000 (total $900,000) to add 1 yr thru June 30, 2022 to Contract with Coastland Civil Engineering for on-call Civil engineering Services for Sanitary Sewer Program, 18. Add $225,000 (total $725,000) qirh Fehr & Peers, Inc for On-call Transportation Planning Services, 19. Support H.R. 2809 – Nutrition Act of 2019, 20. United Against Hate Week 2019, 21. Declare Oct 2, 2019 as Clean Air Day, 22. Support AB 342 Prohibiting Use of Public Lans for Oil and Gas Production, 23. Support SB 210Implement heavy duty vehicle inspection and maintenance program 24. Pollinators and Habitat referral to City Manager, 25. Naming Berkeley Paths for Women Founders of Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, 26. Support Resolution to CPUC Rule 20A projects (undergrounding utilities) 27. Support ACA – 8 Elections: lower voting age to 17, 28. Set aside $100,000 for freestanding 24/7 public restroom facility in Telegraph Business Improvement District, 29. Referral Telegraph Crosswalk Art Installations, Action: 31. ZAB Appeal 2325 Sixth St, 32. Referral Response Grant Writing Services, 33. Allowance 3404 King Street to Covenant House to operate a Shelter for Homeless Youth, Amend Contract by $357,020 total $1,630,572 to Covenant House to operate 12-bed transitional housing program (currently awarded to Fred Finch Youth Center), 34. Develop Bicycle Lane and Pedestrian Street Improvements Policy, 35. Referral Response (May 26, 2015 and Nov 13, 2018) Lava Mae Mobile Shower and Hygiene Services, 36. a&b. Health Study Health Disparities and Mortality Rates of Berkeley’s homeless, 37. a.&b. Utilization of 1281 University for up to 8-10 RV dwellers selected on strength of ties to Berkeley, 38. Wage Theft Program, Information Reports: 39. Short Term Referral Process Update, 40. Remove Berkeley Big People on I80 pedestrian bridge from City of Berkeley civic art collection, 41. First Year Data Pathways STAIR Center, 42. 2019 HAC Work Plan, 43. Planning Commission work Plan. 



Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

2325 Sixth Street (single family residence) ZAB, 9-24-2019 

0 Euclid Ave – Berryman Resevoir (denial of 4G telecom facility), ZAB, 10-29-2019 

2701 Shattuck (construct mixed-use building) (remanded) 11-12-2019 

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period 

2241 Glen, 10-2-2019 

2758 Matthews 10-2-2019 

1520 Sacramento 10-2-2019 

1446 Scenic 9-19-2019 

11141 Shattuck 9-25-2019 


Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

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




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

Nov 5 - Transfer Station Feasibility Study, Vision Zero Action Plan, Update: goBerkeley (RPP – Residential Parking Permit) 

Unscheduled – Cannabis Health Considerations 



Adeline Corridor Plan 




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 


The Coming Tax the Rich Celebration!

Harry Brill
Friday September 13, 2019 - 03:27:00 PM

Please join us this coming Monday, September 16th, 5-6pm, to celebrate the 8th year that the Tax the Rich group has been rallying weekly near the top of Solano Avenue. We are proud of our long term commitment and we are proud of our accomplishments. Working along with other progressive organizations we successfully achieved a minimum wage for Berkeley workers of $15 an hour that includes an annual inflation adjustment. Moreover, we won by a unanimous vote despite the conservative majority on the Berkeley City Council. Among our other victories was persuading the public to vote for an increase in taxes for the rich mainly for the purpose increasing funds for the public schools.

We are also proud that our movement has been a musical movement. Fine talented musicians play and sing with us every week. They bring joy to our efforts. Please bring your appreciation and enthusiasm and your voice as well this coming Monday to celebrate these special eight years.