Public Comment

Greta Thunberg, a Human Dynamo

Jagjit Singh
Friday September 27, 2019 - 03:55:00 PM

Let us hope that 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg’s impassioned address at the United Nations will finally pierce through the collective apathy of world leaders and serve as a catalyst for change. I applaud her courage and dedication to her noble cause that we should all embrace and emulate. This living dynamo should stir the conscious of the world.

Young people from all over the world, brimming with idealism, have offered us a moral compass and amplified the need for world governments to take action on reducing greenhouse gases which are an existential threat to all life as we know it. “Greta warned that people are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing”. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.”

We need a major shift from not-in-my-backyard phenomenon into a not-in-my-lifetime. Let's bid farewell to Greta as she heads back to school to Sweden and assure her that her visit has not been in vain. Her high energy and dynamism has already stirred many of us to action. We will prod and cajole our lawmakers to break the impasse and take action. We will shame our climate deniers and fossil fuel merchants and demand they put the survival of the planet head of short term profits.

Let us pledge that our new planet arrivals can fill their tiny lungs with pure fresh air untainted with greenhouse gases. Greta, we solute you! -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday September 28, 2019 - 10:01:00 AM

On Friday, September 20, a large, garrulous crowd converged in the courtyard of Berkeley's School of Journalism to celebrate the publication of "The Battle for People's Park," a memorable collection of historical notes, memories, photos, and factoids assembled with pizzazz and precision by Berkeley's Heyday Press.

Adding to the event's allure was the promise of an evening panel discussion moderated by Berkelyside co-editor Frances Dinkelspiel and featuring activist photographer Nacio Jan Brown, Yippie leader Judy Gumbo, author Tom Dalzell, and Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman.

After sampling and enjoying the free wine and snacks in the courtyard, I decided to duck inside and check out the display of People's Park photos lining the J-School's halls. Halfway down one corridor, however, I discovered a display of printed sheets pinned on a wire, advertising class options for the Fall. But there was one announcement that stood apart from the others—it appeared to be a cartoon by hallowed underground artist R. Crumb (Remember "Mr. Natural"?)

It was clearly a recent piece of political art, created in response to the dire news that UC Berkeley plans to celebrate the park's 50th anniversary by "developing" the long-standing open space—created from scratch by hundreds of Berkeley students, professors, activists, families, and children. The UC administration argues it needs to destroy the park to "build student housing."

The reaction to this pronouncement has been loud and clear. As Steve Wasserman, Heyday's eloquent publisher put it during the panel discussion: "This is sacred ground. Blood was spilled. People were shot. James Rector died. Alan Blanchard was blinded." And others were scared for life.

R. Crumb is clearly someone who remembers,I thought. This unsolicited "drawn message" contained images that harkened back to the Hippy Sixties. Front and center was a big-headed, whiskered face with eyeballs popping from their sockets. Strange beasts erupted from a ruptured skull and strutted on all sides. In the upper left, UC Berkeley's beloved icon, Oski Bear, was portrayed standing uncomfortably spread-eagled over a large screw. Crumb himself was depicted as a hairy, roving tarantula. And, above all, there was a crude, high-decibel message: "If UC thinks it can FUCK with People's Park, we're gonna ROCK the Hayward Fault with a 9.0 shock that will kick their ass!"

I returned to the courtyard to share the discovery with a photojournalist friend. "Let's get a photo before someone grabs that sheet," I begged.

By the time we returned, the leaflet was gone. Not a single Crumb was left.

I sent a message to Crumb's reps, hoping to score an electronic version of the poster. A few days later, I received a surprising message from the artist. "I have no idea what artwork this might be," R. Crumb wrote. "I was not consulted by whoever used this artwork for whatever purpose, that I can remember. But, what the hell, I'm happy to do my part for the cause of saving the People's Park."

Perhaps this is a case of artistic "doppleganging," where some anonymous artist effectively mimics the work of a well-known artist. (This has happened with the British-based political muralist "Banksy.") I've sent word to the People's Park Committee asking if they have any leads on this mysterious Crumb-toon. -more-


Even After Impeachment, an Election Awaits

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 27, 2019 - 04:06:00 PM

So, yesterday morning I’d engaged a couple of strong young men to move some furniture at my house, and then the dam broke on The Whistle-Blower Affair. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, testified before the house intelligence committee in the wee small hours of Thursday morning, so I’d just listened to the drama on NPR from bed, but by the time my helpers arrived the MSNBC talking heads were in full voice on my computer screen. I just let the show run in background as we got on with our job.

These guys are young twenty-something buddies who played together on the Berkeley High football team. They’ve managed to take a few courses at community colleges and played a little ball there, but these days they’re just working hard to make ends meet.

One of them has 12-hour night shifts for a non-union assembly job at Tesla in Fremont: 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. 3 or 4 nights a week, subject to demand, and his hours have been cut back lately as Tesla slumps. The other one temps doing maintenance for rentals in San Francisco—no guaranteed number of hours and no benefits. Both are glad to get more work to supplement their day jobs, which just don’t pay enough to handle the Bay Area’s soaring cost of living.

As we worked, we sometimes directed our eyes toward the computer on my desk. Since I’m well past my heavy lifting days, I scored more screen time than they did, so from time to time they asked me what was happening.

I started to tell one of them about how Maguire was being quizzed about turning the complaint over to the White House, and he nodded knowingly.

“Executive privilege!” he said. Exactly. Right on the mark. Some teacher at Berkeley High seems to have taught these kids something.

We got into a discussion about how all this was likely to end, and he told me he was looking forward to voting this time.

“I missed it before,” he said regretfully. But this time he’s right on top of all the issues, and he plans to bring some friends with him to the polls. -more-


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Overturning The Apple Cart

Conn Hallinan
Friday September 27, 2019 - 03:48:00 PM

In many ways it doesn’t really matter who—Houthis in Yemen? Iranians? Shiites in Iraq? — launched those missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia. Whoever did it changed the rules of the game, and not just in the Middle East. “It’s a moment when offense laps defense, when the strong have reason to fear the weak,” observes military historian Jack Radey.

In spite of a $68 billion a year defense budget—the third highest spending of any country in the world—with a world-class air force and supposed state-of-the-art anti-aircraft system, a handful of bargain basement drones and cruise missiles slipped through the Saudi radar and devastated Riyadh’s oil economy. All those $18 million fighter planes and $3 million a pop Patriot anti-aircraft missiles suddenly look pretty irrelevant.

This is hardly an historical first. British dragoons at Concord were better trained and armed than a bunch of Massachusetts farmers, but the former were 5,000 miles from home and there were lots more of the latter, and so the English got whipped. The French army in Vietnam was far superior in firepower than the Viet Minh, but that didn’t count for much in the jungles of Southeast Asia. And the US was vastly more powerful than the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we still lost both wars.

The Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco refineries at Abqaiq and Khurais did more than knock out 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, it shook the pillars of Washington’s foreign policy in the region and demonstrated the fragility of the world’s energy supply.

Since 1945, Washington’s policy in the Middle East has been to control the world’s major energy supplies by politically and militarily dominating the Persian Gulf, which represents about 15 percent of the globe’s resources. The 1979 Carter Doctrine explicitly stated that the US reserved the right to use military force in the case of any threat to the region’s oil and gas.

To that end Washington has spread a network of bases throughout the area and keeps one of its major naval fleets, The Fifth, headquartered in the Gulf. It has armed its allies and fought several wars to ensure its primacy in the region.

And all that just got knocked into a cocked hat. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Effects of Bipolar and Schizoid Conditions on Decision-making and Impulsivity

Jack Bragen
Friday September 27, 2019 - 03:58:00 PM

Don't quote the following as a professional opinion:

OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by itself is not a major mental illness. It is characterized by unusual behavior patterns that are obsessive. People who have this without any additional disorder often do fine without treatment, and some may be very successful in business. However, OCD may also be one of many byproducts of having either a psychotic disorder or an affective disorder.

On the other hand, people with psychosis or mania may not suffer from OCD, they may simply behave obsessively; an important distinction. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: Ready or Not, Here Comes Impeachment

Bob Burnett
Friday September 27, 2019 - 03:44:00 PM

The recent revelations about Donald Trump's attempt to bribe the President of Ukraine, in order to get political dirt on Joe Biden, once again raises the specter of Trump's impeachment. What's involved?

On Tuesday, September 24th, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced the commencement of a formal impeachment inquiry:

"...the Trump administration’s actions undermine both the national security and our intelligence and our protections of whistleblowers... For the past several months we have been investigating in our committees and litigating in the courts so the House can gather all the relevant facts and whether to exercise its Article 1 powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity of articles of impeachment.

...this week, the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of betrayal of his oath of office and betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.

Therefore, today I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry and directing our six committees to proceed with their investigation under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry."

Pelosi's actions carry political risk. Until this week, the national polling on impeachment has been discouraging. In July Quinnipiac asked, "Do you think that Congress should begin the process to impeach President Trump, which could lead to his removal from office, or don't you think so?" Only 32 percent of respondents said that Congress should begin the impeachment process. Now, the polls indicate positive movement. The September 26, NPR/PBSNewsHour/Marist Poll( ) indicates that 49 percent of respondents are in favor (46 percent opposed) and Independents are split.

It will be a slog to get impeachment to happen. But it's not impossible. Here's what's necessary: -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: On the Impeachment inquiry

Ralph E. Stone
Friday September 27, 2019 - 03:52:00 PM

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump boasted, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” He said, mimicking firing a gun with his fingers. “It’s, like, incredible.” We now know how prescient he was. The lesson we learned since Trump became president that if lying and stonewalling work, and your own party is too afraid to challenge you, stick with the plan. As a result, Trump has so far been beyond the reach of the law.

The situation may have changed after the whistleblower complaint reported to be centered on Trump's communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pressuring him to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden in return for the release of $391million in Congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine. Trump admitted holding up the Ukraine aid and did ask them to investigate Joe Biden and his son but claimed it was because the cheapskate Europeans were not paying their fair share and he asked for the investigation because he was very worried about political corruption in the U.S. The military aid was ultimately released to the Ukraine. -more-

Arts & Events

Verdi’s Falstaff at the Hillside Club Today, Saturday, September 28, at 7 p.m.

Friday September 27, 2019 - 04:04:00 PM
Rachel Warner, Cheryl Moore, Eliza O'Malley and Kristin Genis-Lund are "the merry wives of Windsor" in Verdi's FALSTAFF

Bay Shore Lyric Opera, a non-profit company based in Saratoga, presents Verdi's Falstaff, an opera in 3 acts by Giuseppe Verdi, on Saturday. September 28, at 7:00pm, at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, 2286 Cedar St.

This is the final performance of a fully staged and costumed production which has played in several Northern California venues, including Redwood City, Capitola, Santa Cruz and Big Sur. It will be sung in English accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra. Berkeley soprano Eliza O’Malley sings the role of Alice Ford, and Falstaff is Chris Wells.

Tickets, priced from $15-$37, are available at the door or may be purchased from Brown Paper Tickets by clicking here.

Admission includes a complementary wine and appetizer reception.

Verdi’s sophisticated Shakespearean comedy Falstaff is brimming with backfired plans, failed disguises, and uproarious personalities. This brilliant opera, Verdi’s last, features one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters: the rotund and lovably oafish knight Falstaff, from the Bard’s Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. In this operatic take, Falstaff attempts to seduce two wealthy (and married) women—but they concoct their own scheme to expose him for a fool.

A deeply human comedy full of humor and genuine emotion, Verdi’s last opera is a splendid finale to an unparalleled career in the theater. With a supremely well-crafted score, which has long commanded the respect even of Verdi’s critics, it is among the greatest operatic comedies of all time. -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Sept. 29-Oct. 6

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday September 28, 2019 - 09:24:00 AM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

Thursday - City Council Land Use and Facilities Policy Committees meet.

Thursday Solar Workshop by SunShares will be repeated in Berkeley October 15.

Note weekend ticketed events on Voting, Tiny Houses, Concert for Climate Emergency.

Plan Ahead

Community Emergency Prep Fair, Saturday, October 12, 10 am – 3 pm, 1720 8th Street, James Kenney Park, Features demonstrations of disaster response techniques, disaster supplies, how, family-friendly event,

Sunday, September 29, 2019 – Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown

Film Suppressed: The Fight to Vote, 10 am, at the Grand Lake Theater, discussion to follow 38 minute documentary film on voter suppression in Georgia -more-