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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. 

Unfortunately, I thought, in the next general election a few more votes in the East Bay for the Democrats won’t make much difference, since they’re way ahead here already. 

But then I began fantasizing about how great it would be if young people like these two could be transported to a place where they would make a difference in time for the 2020 election. 

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the mid-country swing states because their demographic cohort, young African-Americans, just didn’t show up at the polls in the expected numbers. Peers might do a better job of recruiting these potential voters for 2020. 

In the last national election, I went back to Ohio to work with a friend who used to live in Berkeley. Help from an elderly White lady is fine, but the GOTV effort, and even more the registration drive, would have benefitted a lot from an infusion of youthful Berkeley talent. I’m sure that Washtenaw County, Michigan, where I did campaign work in the ‘60s, could have made good use of their help in 2016. Local people would certainly offer guest rooms for out-of-town workers if some showed up in 2020. 

And this year, even in California, which will be a sure win for whatever Democrat ends up at the top of the ticket, there are some congressional seats in swing districts that would appreciate their work. 

Quite a few worthy organizations like Indivisible are now energetically recruiting volunteers for the lead-up to 2020, but by definition they need to rely on workers from the comfortable middle class who can afford to work for free. How about making it possible for those who can’t afford to take time off from paychecks to participate? Fundraising around here specifically to support those who need to be paid to do election work would be a good idea. 

But it’s not easy to look toward the 2020 election while we’re mesmerized by the vision of impeachment which has just appeared on the horizon. My gut says YES! but my head says HMMM? to that seductive apparition. 

As of just this minute, crystal-ball gazers say that impeachment by the House will be followed by acquittal in the Senate, so we’d better keep our eyes on the prize, which is taking the government back from the crazies.  

The California March primary is a good place for a warm-up for the national election. If you’re one of those who’s chosen a must-have candidate, you could raise money to support young people like my movers as they learn to do voter registration and get out the vote for your favorite . Even if you, like me, are someone who prefers one primary candidate (in my case, Elizabeth Warren) but will gladly vote for an Old Yella Dawg running against Donald Trump in the general election, recruiting workers in March to get ready for November would also be worthwhile. 

And, of course, if Trump were to be successfully impeached AND convicted by the Senate it would be a whole new ball game. If Pence is the Republican candidate, for example, recruiting and supporting young folks like these for election work would be even more important. It’s an investment in the future that’s well worth making. 



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!

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. 

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World 

I recently discovered a revelatory PBS documentary that explores the Native American roots of Rock 'n' Roll. The folks behind Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, take us well beyond the magic and activism of Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) to reveal an honor roll of Rock icons whose performances were inspired and powered by their Native American ancestry. 

Rumble takes its name from a foundational guitar solo performed by hard-rock pioneer Link Wray, a Saunee guitar pioneer who recalled hiding from the Ku Klux Klan as a child in North Carolina. The song (with Wray's jaw-dropping "power chord") was so powerful, it was banned from radio play out of fear it might generate riots and rebellion. 

The pantheon of America's native-rooted rock stars includes The Band's Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), The Black Eyed Peas' Taboo (Shoshone), and Jimi Hendrix (Cherokee). Also among the "pioneering Native American musicians [who] helped shape the soundtracks of our lives"—Charley Patton (Choctaw), Mildred Baily (Coeur d'Alene), Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Jesse Ed Davis (Kiowa), Randy Castillo, and the Neville Brothers (Choctaw). 

The reason Indigenous blood runs in the veins of so many "black artists" is found in a dark legacy of America's history of racial oppression and genocide. According to Rumble, at the same time captive men and boys were being shipped from West Africa to enslavement in the US, Native American men were being rounded up and exported to Africa. The resulting unions of Native American women and African men gave rise to new generations of mixed children, sometimes called "Black Indians." According to Wikipedia: "This practice of combining African slave men and Native American women was especially common in South Carolina." 

Rumble features a dazzling array of Interviews with film director Martin Scorsese, American Indian Movement shape-shifter and poet John Trudell, Quincy Jones, Steven Tyler, Steven Van Zandt, Iggy Pop, George Clinton, Slash, Taylor Hawkins, Robert Trujillo, and Tony Bennett. 


Celebrating Max Anderson 

Former Berkeley City Council member Max Anderson is a beloved figure with a storied record as a political activist. He was largely responsible for the passage of Berkeley's "right to know" cellphone ordinance (which requires merchants to prominently post warnings about the health risks from over-exposure to cellphone radiation). 

The city ordinance made international headlines and has helped raise awareness of radiation hazards. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association sued Berkeley and lost. The CTIA even took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, which refused hear it. According to Elli Marks of the California Brain Tumor Association (CBTA), "Without Max, this ordinance and its implementation in stores would not have happened" and, Marks adds, if the CTIA issues a new appeal, "[Harvard Prof. Lawrence] Lessig, who is defending the city pro bono, is confident that Berkeley will continue to prevail." 

To honor the former councilmember, the CBTA plans to build a free little library dedicated to Max and filled with books focusing on public health. It will be placed in a spot chosen by Max. Contributions made be made by visiting the CBTA website and clicking the donate button. 

Interview mit Schwarzenegger und Greta  

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, has been all over the news of late, doing interviews with Naomi Klein and Amy Goodman, marching in (intentionally not leading) the Climate Strike march in New York, testifying before Congress, and speaking—with great emotional intensity—before the United Nations. 

ICYMI, here's a somewhat improbable but inevitable interview that joins The Determinator and The Terminator. Yep, on May 28, Thunberg met up with Arnold Schwarzenegger following the Vienna Climate Summit for an interview with Lisa Gadenstätter. 

The two charismatic heroes hit it off wonderfully. Thunberg has been avoiding air travel because of the industry's global-warming exhaust and Schwarzenegger (who, as Governor in 2004, famously converted his gas-burning Hummer to run on hydrogen) offered to let Greta and her dad borrow his Tesla to make a long drive to Canada. Eat your heart out, Elon Musk. 


This Albany Auto Garage Is … Spooky Good 

A few weeks ago, while visiting the Main PO, I picked up a "reminder postcard" from Dana Meyer Auto Care advising me that it was time for a check-up. As I got back into the car, a warning light suddenly came on reading: "Service Engine Soon." Curious, I looked at the service stamp that had been applied to the inside of my windshield when I last visited the garage—on February 3. The sticker noted that I was encouraged to haul the hulk in for a tune-up when the audiometer hit the 10476-mile mark. 

I looked at my dashboard and felt a chill run down my spine. The mileage read: "10476." How did they know

Spooked, I made an appointment for the next day. 

All seemed well as I was driving down San Pablo en route to the garage of a blistering hot morning. But suddenly the car's air-conditioning went kablooey. 

My first question when I arrived at DMAC's front desk: "Have you guys figured out some way to hack my car?" 

Trump IDs the Downside of Empire: The Mileage 

Donald Trump didn't join the Army to fight in Vietnam for two reasons: "bonespurs" (as he told the Army recruiters) and (as he told British TV host Piers Morgan) "it was too far." 

Let's consider that "too far" standard. 

It's 8,870 miles from New York City to Ho Chi Minh City. 

Last week, Trump sent US troops to "defend" Saudi Arabia. The distance between Washington and Riyadh is 6,755 miles. 

Distance from Washington to Kabul, Afghanistan—6,917 miles. 

Distance from Washington to Damascus, Syria—5,906 miles. 

Distance from Washington to Tripoli, Libya—4,230 miles. 

Related question: After agreeing to buy $110 billion in arms from the US, why can’t Saudi Arabia defend itself? 

No Nukes Is Good News 

Judge Pamela Reeves, Chief United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, recently declared the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration in violation of the National Environment Policy Act. Judge Reeves thereby vacated key decisions regarding NNSA’s enriched uranium operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, promptly declared “With this ruling, the NNSA no longer has any legal authority to continue construction of the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant.” 

Blocking the Pentagon's plan to start building new A-bombs is certainly good news but isn't it odd that US plans to actually build nuclear weapons is not considered particularly newsworthy or threatening while the imagined, conjectured, theoretical, possible prospect of an Iranian bomb is supposed to trigger a panic and a rush towards war? 

Regarding Trump's key role in breaching The Iran Deal then punishing Tehran with crushing sanctions: Isn't that like a guy who cheats on his wife, suddenly demands a divorce and then sues his ex for infidelity? 

A Children's Book 

I'm thinking of writing a children's book about a cute little robot vacuum-cleaner with a craving to explore the world beyond its familiar household carpets. One day, when nobody is looking, Little Roomba escapes out the back door and makes a run for it. I haven't got the storyline figured out yet, but I've got a title: "Clean Getaway." 

Packing Bibles in the Classroom 

October 3 is being promoted as "Bring Your Bible to School Day." There's even a prize: You can win a ticket to the Museum of the Bible in the nation's capital! 

The event is described as "a nationwide, student-led movement" but it's actually an event concocted by Focus on the Family, the fundamentalist Christian lobby founded by James Dobson. 

FOTF has used its exceptional wealth to oppose marriage equality and LGBTQ rights. FOTF also promotes the discredited use of "conversion therapy," misbelieved to "rid" people of "same-sex attractions." 

One of the explicit purposes of the event is to proselytize fellow students. The invitation reads: "The most crucial step is bringing your Bible to school and sharing your faith with others. On this day let your light shine." 

Warning, kids: This doesn't mean you can expect a "Carry Your Qu'ran to Class Day" anytime soon. And you can put away that Book of Mormon. Ditto "Study Your Sutras Day," "Have a Veda Good Day," "Advertize your Avesta Day," and "Flaunt your Kebra Nagast Day."


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. 

Washington blames Iran, but the evidence for that is dodgy. The Americans have yet to produce a radar map showing where the missiles originated, and even the Trump administration and the Saudi’s have scaled back blaming Teheran directly, instead saying the Iranians “sponsored” the attack. 

Part of that is plain old-fashioned colonial thought patterns: the “primitive” Houthis couldn’t pull this off. In fact, the Houthis have been improving their drone and missile targeting for several years and have demonstrated considerable skill with the emerging technology. 

The US—and, for that matter, the Saudis—have enormous firepower, but the possible consequences of such a response are simply too costly. If 18 drones and seven cruise missiles did this much damage, how much could hundreds do? World oil prices have already jumped 20 percent, how high would they go if there were more successful attacks? 

The only way to take out all the missiles and drones would be a ground attack and occupation. And who is going to do that? The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has already begun withdrawing its troops from Yemen and has been holding talks with the Houthis since July, (which is why UAE oil facilities were not attacked this time around). The Saudi army is designed for keeping internal order, especially among Shiites in its Eastern provinces and Bahrain. The princes in Riyadh are far too paranoid about the possibility of a coup to build a regular army. 

The US? Going into an election with prices already rising at the pump? In any case, the US military wants nothing to do with another war in the Middle East, not, mind you, because they have suddenly become sensible, but as Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff put it, it drains resources from confronting China

Starting with the administration of George W. Bush, and accelerated during the Obama presidency’s “Asia Pivot,” the U.S. military has been preparing for a confrontation with China in the South and/or East China Sea. The Pentagon also has plans to face off Russia in the Baltic. 

One suspects that the generals made it clear that, while they can blow up a lot of Iranians, a shooting war would not be cost free. US Patriot missiles can’t defend our allies’ oil fields (or American bases in the region) and while the anti-missile capabilities on some US naval ships are pretty good, not on all of them are armed with effective systems like the Sea Sparrow. Americans would be coming home in boxes just as the fall election campaign kicked into high gear. 

Whether the military got that message through to the Oval Office is not clear, but Trump’s dialing down of his rhetoric over Iran suggests it may have. 

What happens now? The White House has clearly ruled out a military response in the short run. Trump’s speech at the UN focused on attacking globalism and international cooperation, not Iran. But the standoff is likely to continue unless the Americans are willing to relax some of their “maximum pressure” sanctions as a prelude to a diplomatic solution. 

The US is certainly not withdrawing from the Middle East. In spite of the fact that shale oil has turned the United States into the world’s largest oil producer, we still import around one million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia. Europe is much more dependent on Gulf oil, as are the Chinese and Indians. The US is not about to walk away from its 70 plus year grip on the region. 

But the chessboard is not the same as it was six months ago. The Americans may have overwhelming military force in the Middle East, but using it might tank world oil prices and send the West—as well as India and China—into a major recession. 

Israel is still the dominant local power, but if it picks a fight with Iran or Hezbollah those drones and cruises will be headed its way. Israel relies on its “Iron Dome” anti-missile system, but while Iron Dome may do a pretty good job against the primitive missiles used by Hamas, mobile cruises and drones are another matter. While Israel could inflict enormous damage on any of its foes, the price tag could be considerably higher than in the past. 

Stalemates can be dangerous because there is an incentive to try and break them by introducing some game changing weapon system. But stalemates also create the possibility for diplomatic solutions. That is certainly the case now. If a more centrist government emerges from this last round of Israeli elections, Israel may step back from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relentless campaign against Teheran. And Trump likes “deals,” even though he is not very good at them. 

“This is the new strategic balance,” says Newclick Editor-In-Chief Prabir Purkayastha in the Asia Times, “and the sooner the US and its NATO partners accept it, the quicker we will look for peace in the region.” 


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










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. 

Many people with psychiatric conditions have difficulty knowing when and how to stop a behavior, and of knowing when and how to let go of a person, place or thing. This especially pertains to behaviors that do not serve a good purpose. If a particular behavior made life better, it would not be thought of as sickness. 

If I use myself as an example of someone who periodically has symptoms of psychosis, my decision-making ability is affected. In some instances, decisions, sometimes important ones, are executed erratically. This impacts many things. 

Over the past three-plus decades since my diagnosis, I've made a lot of effort to have compensatory mechanisms built into my thinking. That means that before or soon after a decision is made, far preferably before, I am aware of it when my mind is a bit haywire and of the decision being affected by that. In some instances, I've had to do a lot of backpedaling, when I've obviously made a bad mistake. This doesn't always work to fix a situation that I've wrecked. 

My speaking could benefit from more filtering. I have too strong a tendency to just say whatever it is I'm thinking. 

Although my behavior is likely to be a symptom of the brain malfunction that I've been handed, it is important that I take responsibility for my actions and speech. I can't just make excuses that this is the illness--that's just not good enough. I am accountable, regardless of the internal possible causes of how I behave. If I fail to "own" my behavior, then there is no chance of me being able to make my behavior better. In some instances, this takes the form of accepting the repercussions of my mistakes and doing this like a full-grown adult in his fifties. In other instances, I have learned to remember likely outcomes before doing or saying something, and I've stopped myself, in some cases in the nick of time. 

Another mechanism could be called a "failsafe" mechanism. This is where I've wrecked a situation to the extent that I cannot go back to a person or place. In this case, the failsafe mechanism is like a solid wall that completely blocks any attempts at going back, regardless of how delusional I might become. This mechanism has served me well. 

The alternative to taking responsibility for my actions and speech could be that I would be considered incompetent and would be put under restrictions. This might include being supervised by persons in the mental health treatment system, and it might entail receiving injections of antipsychotics, as opposed to taking pills on my own. I would be absolutely unable to create good conditions for myself. 

Despite having Schizophrenia, Paranoid-type, I have a lot of options in life. I have the option to take steps to better myself and my conditions. I have the option to not let the illness dictate my life circumstances. Mental illness does not mean that I should give up on having acceptable behavior and sound decisions. Bettering life circumstances begins inside, with bettering the thoughts. When thoughts are better, actions and speech are better. Following that, circumstances are better. 

Jack Bragen is author of "AN OFFERING OF POWER: VALUABLE, UNUSUAL MEDITATION METHODS" and lives in Martinez, California.

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(https://www.npr.org/2019/09/26/764724904/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-poll-americans-split-on-house-impeachment-inquiry ) 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: 

1.The Impeachment process has to move rapidly. American don't have the patience to stay with an impeachment process that drags on and on. (That was one of the problems with the Mueller investigation and the arduous release of the Mueller report.) 

One of the inherent problems is that Trump is a master at distraction. He's likely to do something bizarre -- invade Greenland -- in order to move public attention off impeachment. 

Speaker Pelosi indicated that she plans to get the House to vote on impeachment this year. That feels like the correct timeline. 

2. The impeachment process must be focussed. If the process is going to move rapidly and keep public attention, then it has to be focussed. Pelosi is mindful of this; on September 26th, she indicated that the impeachment inquiry will focus on the whistleblower complaint about Trump's interaction with Ukraine. (Many observers have noted that the complaint is very detailed (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/09/26/key-takeaways-allegations-trump-whistleblower-complaint/).) 

That doesn't mean that the six House committees that are investigating Trump's improprieties should stop work. What it does suggest is that all their findings should be funneled first through the Intelligence committee -- chaired by Adam Schiff -- which will do the bulk of the work on the whistleblower complaint, and then through the Judiciary committee -- chaired by Jerry Nadler -- which will present the impeachment motion for a vote by the House. (That is, over the next couple of months, any relevant committee findings have to be funneled to Intelligence and Judiciary.) 

3. The process has to sway independents. We know that Trump is a polarizing figure. With regard to impeachment, typically 90 percent of Republicans don't want Trump impeached; around the same percentage of Democrats want him impeached. So the critical voters are independents. The impeachment inquiry has to be conducted in such a way that it moves the opinion of independents. The inquiry has to be quick, focussed, and evenhanded. 

4. The evidence has to be overwhelming. In order to be seen as evenhanded the impeachment inquiry has to present overwhelming evidence of the Presidents's culpability -- there has to be "a smoking gun." There seems to be, in the whistleblower complaint, three very clear examples of the President's wrongdoing: 

a. Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the Ukrainian government, to investigate Joe Biden. 

b. There was a conspiracy. Trump involved Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, Attorney General Barr, and other Administration officials in his attempt to get The Ukrainians to investigate Biden. 

c. The White House made multiple efforts to hide evidence of the Ukrainian effort. There has been an obvious coverup. 

5. The White House must cooperate. The Trump Administration is between the proverbial "rock and a hard place." If they fully cooperate it will move the House inquiry closer to a vote. If they don't cooperate, the House Democrats will have further ammunition for their "cover up/obstruction" charges. 

The whistleblower report contains evidence of the equivalent of the infamous Nixon tapes. The report indicates: 

"White House lawyers directed White House officials to 'remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored' and place the word-for-word account on a server typically reserved for highly classified information, according to the complaint... White House officials said this was 'not the first time' that a presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system to shield politically sensitive information." 

The House Intelligence committee must be granted access to this special server. If necessary, they will have to go to the Supreme Court to obtain this information. 

6. The House Vote Has to Attract Some Republican Support. If the House vote was held today, it would pass but with only Democratic support. If the impeachment inquiry is quick, focussed, and produces overwhelming evidence of Trump's guilt, then it should attract the votes of some Republican House members -- certainly those in swing districts. 

It's possible to bring the House impeachment process to a vote before the end of the year. Let's worry about the Senate process in 2020. 

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

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. 

Now the House has pried loose a copy of the whistleblower complaint. 

This appears to be the tipping point for enough Democrats in the House to support impeachment. Thus, on September 20, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced, "The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, 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.” 

Stay tuned.

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
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.

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


Monday, September 30, 2019 

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 

Agenda and Rules Committee, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Plan for October 15 Council Agenda, Consent: 4. Add $60,903 total $985,747 Verint Systems Inc. Software Maintenance, 5. Approve plans, accept bid $3,056,900 (includes $277,900 contingency) from D.L. Falk Construction for Central Library Improvements, 6. Approve Plans, accept bid $1,191,342 (includes contingency $198,557) from Redwood Engineering Construction for James Kenny Park, 7. Approve plans, accept bid $505,684 ( includes $65,959 Contingency) from J.A. Gonsalves&Son Construction for Bay Trail Extension to Berkeley Marina, 8. Grant application $71,510 to BAAQMD Berkeley Marina Bicycle Electronic Locker Project, 9. – 11. Mills Act Contracts 2524 Dwight Way with NCR Properties LLC./Nathan D Geroge, 1730 Spruce with Jeff Lipton, 2526 Hawthorne Terrace with John Komoroske and Daniel McDonald, 12. On-call construction $500,000 Kitchell/CEM, Inc, $500,000 Cooper Pugeda Management, Inc., 13 – 14. Renewal Business Improvement District (BID) Advisory Boards for 2020 Elmwood and Solano, 15. Protect from deportation DACA, TPS (Temporary Protected Status, DED (Deferred Enforced Departure), 17. Grant Referral $150,000 for Capoeira Arts Foundation, 18. Health Impact Assessment Outreach Coordinator for closure of Alta Bates, 20. Budget referral 24/7 free standing Public Restroom Facility Telegraph BID, Action: Revised Agreement with CA State Historic Preservation Officer, 22. IKE Smart City Kiosk Locations, Phase 1, 23. – 30. Continuation Sept 24 mtg, 32. Traffic Circle Policy and Recommendations, 33. Prohibit Use of Face Recognition Technology, 34. Ban Ban Racial, Ethnic, Cultural, Religious Discrimination on Basis of Hairstyle or Headwear, 36. Authorize Additional Inclement Weather Shelter at Old City Hall from Oct 15 2019-April 30, 2020, 37. Support Auto Worker’s Strike, 38. Sanctioned Homeless Encampments, 39. Declare Wildfire Prevention and Safety Top Priority, 40. Referral: Telegraph Shared Streets, 41. Support Seamless Transit Principles, Information Reports 42. 2019 3rd Qtr Investment, 43. Audit Update: Construction Permits, 44. Homeless Commission Workplan, 


Wednesday, October 2, 2019 

Board of Library Trustees, 6:30 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch, II. B,C,&D, 2020 Library Hours and Holiday schedule, E. Role Library in providing information 2020 US Census, F. Spending Authority, G. Opening Library for additional hours due to wildfire incident, III. Nominations Board President and Vice-President. 


Commission on Disability, 6:30 – 9 pm at 1947 Center, 4th Floor, Agenda: B. 2) Milvia Bikeway Presentation, 3) New Designs and Accessibility, 4) Transportation, 5) Housing 


Homeless Services Panel of Experts, 7 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: 5. Best Practices, 7. Framework proposal “Housing for a Diverse, Equitable and Creative Berkeley, 9. Update Panel and Measure O Coordination, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Homeless_Services_Panel_of_Experts.aspx 

Planning Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 9. Proposed Demand Management Framework, 10. Planning Commission Workplan, 11. Southside EIR Subcommittee 


Community Meeting: Willard Clubhouse, 5 – 7:30 pm at Willard Clubhouse, 2720Hillegass, Agenda: Conceptual Design for new Willard Clubhouse 


Thursday, October 3, 2019 

City Council Land Use, Housing & Economic Development Committee, 10:30 am, at 2180 Milvia, Room, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Agenda: 2. Amnesty Program for Legalizing Unpermitted Dwelling Units, 3. Requiring Legal Rights for Legal Tender (cash), 4. Ronald V. Dellums Fair Chance Access to Housing and Public Health and Safety Ordinance, 5. 2019 Bi-Annual Report on Funding for Housing Programs, 


City Council Facilities, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environment & Sustainability Committee, 2 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Agenda: 2. Require Kitchen Exhaust Ventilation in all Residential and Condominium Units undergoing Renovations and Prior to Execution of a Contract for Sale or Close of Escrow, 3. Automatic Gas Shut-off Valve Requirements in Multifamily, Condominium and Commercial Buildings Undergoing Renovations and to All existing buildings prior to execution of a contract for sal or close of escrow, 4.a. &b. Recommendations for a Fossil Free Berkeley 


Housing Advisory Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 6. Recommendations to improve and enforce Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing Ordinance, 7. 1654 Fifth Street RFP, 8. Recommendations to Council’s draft Affordable Housing Framework,  


Landmarks Preservation Commission, 7 – 11:30 pm at 1947 Center St, Multipurpose Room, Basement, Agenda: 5.A. 2234 Haste Street – Structural Alteration Permit, B. 2099 M L King Jr. Way – Demolition Permit, C. 999 Anthony – Demolition Permit 


Public Works Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard, No agenda posted, check before going 


East Bay SunShares Workshops, 6:30 – 8 pm at 10890 Sqn Pablo, El Cerrito City Hall, SunShares makes it easier and more affordable for Bay Area residents to go solar, workshop repeated October 15, 6 – 7:30 pm at South Berkeley Senior Center, pre-registration requested 


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


Friday, October 4, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Saturday, October 5, 2019 

3rd National Election Integrity Conference, 10 am – 6 pm, at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, two day conference, theme “In Paper We Trust” This is a ticketed event with discounts for seniors, students, educators, (tickets can be purchased for one or both days) 


Music in the Park, 11 am – 4 pm at Cedar Rose Park 


Tiny Living Festival – Tiny House Festival, 10 am – 6 pm, 25th St & Barrett Ave, Richmond, CA (Parking Lot across from Richmond Art Center, this is a ticketed event 


Native Plant Sale, 10 am – 3 pm, at Tilden Regional Park, free parking, no entrance fee 


Concert for Climate Emergency, 6 – 10 pm, at 411 26th Street, Oakland, Classic Care West, Climate Emergency Fund Raiser 



Sunday, October 6, 2019 

3rd National Election Integrity Conference, 10 am – 6 pm, at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, two day conference, theme “In Paper We Trust” This is a ticketed event with discounts for seniors, students, educators 


Tiny Living Festival – Tiny House Festival, 10 am – 6 pm, 25th St & Barrett Ave, Richmond, CA (Parking Lot across from Richmond Art Center, this is a ticketed event 





Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

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 

41 Fairlawn, 10-15-2019 

2241 Glen, 10-2-2019 

2758 Matthews 10-7-2019 

1631 McGee, 10-10-2019 

1410 Peralta 10-2-2019 

1520 Sacramento 10-2-2019 

2873 Sacramento 10-7-2019 

1685 Solano 10-1-2019 

2512 Telegraph 10-17-2019 

151 Tunnel 10-16-2019 


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