Charlene M. Woodcock


Bulldozers Threaten National Butterfly Project on Texas Border

Thursday November 14, 2019 - 01:02:00 PM

It has just come to our attention that The National Butterfly Center needs your help. Please call your Representatives TODAY and ask them to investigate potentially illegal behavior by We Build The Wall, Inc, (Steve Bannon + Brian Kolfage) on the property immediately adjacent to the Center.

The National Butterfly Center is a privately owned 100-acre magical butterfly preserve along the Rio Grande River near Mission TX. A former onion field, it has been lovingly turned into an oasis of birdsong, native bees and butterflies. Lots of butterflies. But now Trump’s Wall threatens to take away a sizeable chunk of the property. You may have heard about their struggle in earlier news reports by CNN (video), The Washington Post (video), NPR, National Georaphic, and The Texas Observer.

If built The Wall will push 70%, or 70 acres, of the Center’s private property behind the barrier. Access to the river, an important source of drinking water for the region, could be cut off. Border Patrol will have the option of completing clearing all land between the river and the wall, installing bright security lights that shine 24/7, wreaking havoc on all the nature and animals that call that area home. Some may be pushed to extinction, like the ocelot which is already threatened.

Today the National Butterfly Center reposted to their Facebook page a video originally posted by “We Build the Wall”. (Scroll down to see the video.) It shows them bulldozing vegetation and clearing a road right down to the river’s edge on the 6,000 acre property immediately to the east of the Center. In the video the group states that they are taking matters into their own hands and will build the wall themselves. It is heartbreaking to witness the backhoe tearing up huge chunks of grasses at the river’s edge, destroying all life in its path. -more-

Public Comment

Citizens' Commission Report Shows That Trees and Plants Improve Function of Traffic Circles

Charlene M. Woodcock
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:36:00 PM

The city staff’s proposal, announced this fall, to cut down traffic circle trees and take over maintenance of all traffic circles raises deep concerns. It is deeply insulting to those well-informed citizens of Berkeley who volunteered many hours of their time as members of the mayor’s traffic circle policy task force, for unelected members of the city staff to put forward a view of these issues as taking precedence over the citizen commission’s findings and policy proposals. Decades ago, neighborhoods that suffered the dangers of high speed through-traffic encouraged the city to put in place traffic-slowing circles. Research has shown that plants and trees, pruned to ensure clear sight lines at driver level, not only beautify the circles but contribute to their calming effect. Volunteers planted and maintain the circles to protect their neighborhoods from speeding traffic, to enhance their neighborhood, and provide the city with the multiple benefits of greenery and trees in our cityscape. -more-

1000 People's Park Tropes Still Bloom

Carol Denney
Sunday November 10, 2019 - 11:08:00 AM

On my recent trip to West Virginia I asked people if they'd ever heard of People's Park. All of them said of course. But that's not all. Their faces lit up. I asked why they were smiling, and they'd say the sixties, music, dancing, free speech, freedom of speech, thought, the "movement", adventurous clothing, freedom, poetry, people-centered thinking. This was in West Virginia.

So imagine my surprise when after a vigorous pro-People's Park rally on UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza Wednesday, November 6, 2019, a debate-style discussion group about People's Park at Wheeler Hall took a hard right turn into the university's two favorite tropes used to excuse any proposal to destroy the park: crime and the housing crisis.

While facts indicate you're much more likely to be raped, robbed, die of an overdose, die of alcohol poisoning, commit suicide or just be murdered up on fraternity row, facts never seem to stop even young inquiring minds from a Reaganesque embrace of fifty years of UC chancellors' favorite stereotypes.

Even if both of these curious non sequiturs were actually true, it baffles the mind how anyone could imagine that crime is eliminated if you blow up the location it happened, or that the existence of a housing crisis means parks must be destroyed. It doesn't take much imagination to make room for the possibility that crime and housing needs could both be addressed without being in opposition. We can have safety and parks, housing and open space. -more-

Censored by the BBC

Lord Singh
Sunday November 10, 2019 - 10:18:00 AM

Islamophobia has taken hold in the UK. My brother, Lord Indarjit of Wimbledon's, recent broadcast was censored by the BBC. Here is the background of historical facts that were deemed too sensitive for British Muslims. It is an historical fact that the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Teg Bahadur, was martyred by Mughal emperor Jahangir for refusing to embrace Islam. Tyranny and religious persecution of Hindus and Sikhs reached its peak when Aurangzeb ascended to the throne in Delhi. He had long cherished converting India to Islam and vigorously started destroying temples and forcing Hindus to embrace Islam or face death. Fearing the imminent destruction of their religion, a group of Kashmiri Brahmins visited Amarnath, the abode of Hindu Lord Shiva, to invoke his mercy. At Amarnath Lord Shiva visited the Brahmins in their dream and asked them to go to Guru Teg Bahadur and plead for his help in saving the Hindu religion. Teg Bahadur agreed to visit Aurangzeb in Delhi to ask him to stop the persecution and slaughter of Hindus. He was arrested on the way and brought in chains to Delhi. Aurangzeb demanded Teg Bahadur embrace Islam. When Teg Bahadur refused he was executed with three of his companions. Many saints, sages and heroes have died for the sake of their own convictions, but rarely has someone died in defense of another faith. Lord Singh, has been a broadcaster for the BBC in the UK for more than 35 years. It was therefore most disturbing when a scheduled broadcast, called “Thought for the Day” was censored by the BBC out of fear of offending Muslim sentiments. The following is a copy of the censored broadcast.

---Jagjit Singh -more-

Is A College Degree Worth It?

Harry Brill
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:49:00 PM

Is College really worth the effort? The answer is both yes and no. On the average the earnings of college graduates are substantially higher compared to those who are only high school graduates. A college graduate averages about $51,000 annually. But the yearly income of high school graduates is $28,000. It is not surprising, as the polls show, that for the overwhelming number of students the main motive for attending college is to obtain a good job, particularly one that pays well. Nevertheless, despite their ambitions about 40 percent drop out. For students whose families are in the top 25%, 75% earn a bachelor’s degree. But only about 10% of students whose family is in the lower 25% graduate college. -more-

LETTER FROM SANTA CRUZ: story of a recall campaign

Christopher Krohn, special to the Planet
Friday November 08, 2019 - 01:02:00 PM

Covering local events in Santa Cruz has never been more challenging. In Surf City, journalism currently drips painfully through a leaky spigot.Many stories of import go unreported, not for a lack of resources but rather a lack of investment.

Reading print news lately is like participating in a kind of cultural bloodletting. It will perhaps die off when the current over-50 crowd dies off.

Here, all writers' heroic efforts in practicing their art die under the feet of a hedge fund, Alden Global Capital. Alden is squeezing the remaining writing shards from a handful of aspiring young journalists at the local Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San Jose Mercury News. Alden owns both. They make good money, but do not reinvest it. A few more pounds of flesh and the Wall Street vultures will be off to their next victim.

The Santa Cruz local media also includes a snarky and opinionated weekly, the Santa Cruz Good Times; a couple of insensitive and shallow local TV news stations, KION and KSBW; a tenacious and bright college newspaper, City on a Hill; an upstart podcaster. SantaCruzLocal, and me, a councilmember/journalist who contributes to BrattonOnline and elsewhere..

All of us cover local politics from various angles—some more consistent than others. Below is one report, not done for Alden, but a councilmember’s perspective on local politics.

Recalling the Recall

A recall campaign is going on in Santa Cruz to oust Drew Glover, one of only two African-American men ever elected to the city council, and me. We've been outspoken on the need for rent control, demanding developers build the legally required affordable housing units that were often negotiated away by previous councils, standing up to the UC Regents' extreme growth plans for UCSC, and building a much-needed emergency shelter.

This is what we campaigned on, me in 2016 and Glover in 2018, and it's essentially why we are being recalled. Who's funding this effort?

You may have guessed, real estate and developer money and perhaps some disgruntled homeowners who overpaid for their houses and now want to sanitize our town of renters and the houseless. You can be sure the California Apartment Association is also in the thick of it. Over $1 million was raised to defeat Measure M, rent control, last November.

There is a bigger picture to this recall and having a statewide political lens might help. Republicans are flailing electorally in California. Voter registration has hit all-time lows , so in order to hang onto power they've devised a three-prong national strategy: 1) Gerrymandering districts, which several states are currently fighting back on; 2) Using voter fraud allegations to make it difficult for new voters and non-regular voters to actually vote, and 3) Stopping anyone who has served jail time from voting.

In California, since these three no longer yield positive outcomes for the GOP in this overwhelming Democratic and "No Party Preference" state, they are resorting to recalls. If they don't like the outcome of a local election, because rent control, affordable housing, or homeless advocates have been elected, they use our state's fairly liberal recall method. The Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight among other news outlets have reported that Republicans are using recalls in states like Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon to overturn elections that did not go their way. -more-

The Bathroom Ballet, or the Restroom Rhumba

Carol Denney
Saturday November 09, 2019 - 09:56:00 PM

It’s always mind-boggling in America that people can’t find restrooms,” said John Caner, the CEO of Downtown Berkeley Association. Caner suggested the city work with BART to provide better restroom access around stations.

John Caner, quoted above in a local paper, is the same CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association who insisted during the planning of the renovation of BART plaza that there be no restrooms for fear of attracting the "wrong crowd." It's all nicely documented in the DBA's meeting minutes.

The bathroom in People's Park pictured in the article was inexplicably but firmly locked during the park's most recent public concert, making it clear that the presence of restrooms is only part of the difficulty. -more-


Remembering Carol Brill
June 30, 1938 - November 8, 2019

Harry Brill
Sunday November 10, 2019 - 08:48:00 PM

My wife, Carol Brill, died peacefully on Friday November 8th. Carol had a bad case of Parkinson's and as a result she suffered very severe pain. I and her many friends lost a remarkable woman, who had a very big generous heart. Carol devoted her life to making our world a better place to live. In particular, she very much cared about supporting programs that would improve the quality of life of poor Americans and racial minorities.

During the many decades that we lived in the Boston area, Carol was the director of the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She encouraged the chapter’s members to lobby the legislature and governor to adopt laws on behalf of those who needed assistance. This had not been the chapter’s orientation.

Prior to moving to Boston, Carol in the 1960s got her masters at the UC School of Social Work. During this period, she organized social workers to support the Free Speech movement on campus. She did not know that the dean of the social work school placed in her dossier a commentary that claimed she was an irresponsible radical. She learned about this insult from a progressive social work board when she applied for the job as executive director of the state chapter. To the Board’s credit, they hired her.

We both retired to the Bay Area in 2004, where Carol continued to work hard on behalf of others. Personally, she appreciated almost everyone she met and knew. So not surprisingly, Carol had many, many devoted friends. Most of all, our 60 years of marriage was a blessing to me. She has been a joy to live with. I am deeply honored to have been her spouse for more than 60 years.

In one important way Carol is still alive. Our wonderful daughter, Deborah, has so many of Carol’s admirable qualities. Also, Carol loved her grandkids, who are age 13 and 15. They are wonderful, mature youngsters. In fact, Carol played a major role in their development. How our daughter and grandchildren have developed has made it easier for Carol to go to sleep forever. -more-


Still in the Big Muddy
After All These Years

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:02:00 PM

Boy, sometimes I hate it when I’m right. Recently with the approach of what’s now called Veterans’ Day (sadly, formerly Armstice Day) there’s been a spate of articles in the major media calling attention to the appalling rate of suicide among current and veteran service members in the armed forces of the United States. Here’s one from the November 1 New York Times.: Suicide Has Been Deadlier Than Combat for the Military.

What’s so sad about the statistics quoted by editorial writer Carol Giacomo, in her piece, subtitled “The Pentagon has made strides in helping those in need, but the rate of deaths is rising” is that nothing’s new . -more-


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Middle East: A Complex Re-alignment

Conn Hallinan
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:01:00 PM

The fallout from the September attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities is continuing to reverberate throughout the Middle East, sidelining old enmities—sometimes for new ones—and re-drawing traditional alliances. While Turkey’s recent invasion of northern Syria is grabbing the headlines, the bigger story may be that major regional players are contemplating some historic re-alignments. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Impeachment and Ukraine

Bob Burnett
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:18:00 PM

Although the impeachment inquiry is cloaked in legalese -- such as whether Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense -- it's also about the relationship between Trump, and his associates, and Ukraine. There is a counterintelligence aspect: Trump was trying to manipulate the Ukrainian government on multiple fronts. -more-


Jagjit Singh
Sunday November 10, 2019 - 10:08:00 AM

Anger is mounting over the large number of civilians being killed by heavy-handed CIA trained Afghan Forces and misdirected US aerial strikes. According to the United Nations, more civilians were killed by Afghan and international coalition forces in Afghanistan in the first half of this year than by the Taliban and other militants.No longer are Americans regarded as saviors but enemies or infidels. Some Afghans are calling for Americans to be tried in Afghan courts.
After a number of US military strikes resulting in the death of hundreds of civilians, more and more Afghans were heard chanting, “Death to Ashraf Ghani, death to America.”
Following 18 years of U.S. military operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the war is still a meat grinder. The Taliban control much of the terrain. The insurgency continues to operate in much of the country including the capital, Kabul. While President Trump equivocates on his peace initiatives with the Taliban and is desperately trying to defend his role in Ukrainegate, Afghanistan is burning. Perhaps many Americans have forgotten that we supported Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban fighters as a counterbalance to the Soviet invasion. Americans should understand that religious affiliations will always trump foreign alliances. Long after all American troops leave left Afghanistan the warring tribes will eventually settle their differences. Let us not compound the mistakes we made in our earlier interventions in Iraq and Libya. The time to leave Afghanistan is NOW.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: When Delusions Become Assumptions

Jack Bragen
Saturday November 09, 2019 - 10:47:00 AM

The human mind is organically produced, and the attributed organ is the brain. Since the brain is a biological thing, it isn't really a machine. Except that in some instances, the brain and mind do seem to act like a machine. An example is where the human mind seems to operate in a linear, logical manner.

I'm not speaking of "logic" like you might've heard issuing from the character "Spock" in Star Trek. The human mind's logic is, as often as not, inaccurate. The "logic" I speak of points to how we function from assumptions. Assumptions are like postulates. If the assumption is correct, then accurate thinking will follow. If a person's assumptions are inaccurate, the mind will produce inaccurate thoughts and beliefs from these assumptions.

Except that human beings are designed with some mechanisms that allow some level of truth to filter in, despite possibly holding erroneous assumptions. These self-corrective mechanisms, however, don't always work very well. The latter fact pointing to how people can behave in a misguided manner.

People with psychosis usually have a delusion at the bottom of the thoughts. This is where, as a basic assumption, we believe something that isn't so. When erroneous behavior inevitably follows, we get into some type of trouble, and in a best-case scenario wind up being put in a good psychiatric ward. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:30:00 PM

A Teacher's X-rated Desperation

Do we need any more evidence that teachers are underpaid and underappreciated? If so, consider this wrenching cri de coeur that appeared on October 20 in Dan Savage's syndicated East Bay Express sex advice column, Savage Love. (I only read the column for the acronyms, I swear. Recent example from a "poorly endowed" gent who signed his letter: "Physically Embarrassing Nub Isn't Sufficient").

The letter read:

"I am a public-school teacher in the US. I love teaching and I want to teach for the rest of my career" but "after 10 years of poverty, I'm getting tired of going without. I thought perhaps I could do some sex work on the side to help pay off my student loans and get some more money for classroom supplies," so "how on earth does someone safely and discreetly embark on sex work as a side hustle?"

—Signed: Need a Second Job That Actually Pays.

ECLECTIC RANT: Public Debt And Deficits Be Damned

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 08, 2019 - 12:23:00 PM

The public debt has surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history, rising more than 100% in less than a decade and more than a trillion dollars this year alone.

The Fiscal Year 2019 (October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019) budget created a $1.09 trillion deficit. A budget deficit can cause concern when the economy is doing well. The government should be reducing the deficit in an effort to lower the debt. Deficit spending in a healthy economy will make it overheat. An economy that's churning too fast creates a boom and bust cycle. It always leads to a recession.

As The New York Times put it, “If we are not going to saddle future generations with ever-increasing government debt, we need to find a great deal of money. That means either spending less or taxing more.” -more-

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: November 10-17

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday November 09, 2019 - 09:18:00 PM

Worth Noting:


Petition to Save Traffic Circle Trees- sign by November 11, (Meeting Nov12)

Petition in opposition to Dredging the Bay, sign by November 12 (meeting Nov 13)


Sunday Nov 17 – Berkeley ½ Marathon, 5K, 10K – check street closures


Holiday Food Drive – November 1 – 29, daily from 8:30 a – 6 p, for more information

Future -more-

Motherless Brooklyn as Film Art

Reviewed by Charlene Woodcock
Saturday November 09, 2019 - 08:36:00 PM

An unexpected example of film as art (to quote Rudolf Arnheim, UC Press, 1957) is Edward Norton’s just-released Motherless Brooklyn. Unexpected because the reviews don’t hint at the core of the film—Robert Moses' drive to eliminate poor neighborhoods, especially poor colored neighborhoods, to remake New York City to serve the wealthy and the automobile. Nor was I prepared for the gorgeous cinematography, the 1950s period detail, and a jazz club with great music. With Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis. -more-

Lianna Haroutounian Lights Up Puccini’s Dark MANON LESCAUT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday November 09, 2019 - 07:56:00 PM

Having quickly emerged as perhaps this era’s leading Puccini soprano, Lianna Haroutounian returns to San Francisco Opera by adding the role of Manon Lescaut to the list of Puccini heroines she has sung here, starting with Tosca in 2014 and Madama Butterfly in 2016. Ms. Haroutounian also sang here the role of Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci in 2018. On Friday, November 8, Liana Haroutounian sang in the first of six performances of Manon Lescaut, the opera that gave Puccini his first success when it premiered in 1893. If Manon Lescaut has never achieved the audience adulation accorded Puccini’s La Bohème, Tosca, or Madama Butterfly, it nevertheless contains some excellent music. Manon’s Act II aria “In quelle trine morbide”/“In these soft laces” is considered by many one of the finest arias Puccini ever wrote. At the first performance this year of this San Francisco Opera production of Manon Lescaut, Liana Haroutounian not only sang this aria beautifully, she even conveyed the chilling effect experienced by Manon amidst all this luxury. Not that Manon doesn’t like luxury! But she also confides to her brother that she longs for the humble dwelling where she and Des Grieux knew true love. -more-

Florin Parvulescu Performs Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday November 10, 2019 - 09:59:00 AM

In a fortuitous combination of events, Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 3, “Ballade,” was played as an encore at San Francisco Symphony on October 4 by Maria Dueñas, and a month later Florin Parvulescu performed all six of Ysaÿe’s Sonatas for Solo Violin on Sunday, November 3, at Piedmont Center for the Arts. The former event ignited great local interest in Eugène Ysaÿe; and the latter event offered a rare opportunity to hear a live performance of all six of Ysaÿe’s notoriously difficult Sonatas for Solo Violin. At the Piedmont Center for the Arts, René Mandel's introductory remarks noted that these Ysaÿe Sonatas for Solo Violin are among the most difficult works ever written for the violin. So it was a rare treat indeed to hear them admirably performed by Florin Parvulescu. -more-

Back Stories



Still in the Big Muddy
After All These Years

Public Comment

Citizens' Commission Report Shows That Trees and Plants Improve Function of Traffic Circles Charlene M. Woodcock 11-08-2019

1000 People's Park Tropes Still Bloom Carol Denney 11-10-2019

Censored by the BBC Lord Singh 11-10-2019

Is A College Degree Worth It? Harry Brill 11-08-2019

LETTER FROM SANTA CRUZ: story of a recall campaign Christopher Krohn, special to the Planet 11-08-2019

The Bathroom Ballet, or the Restroom Rhumba Carol Denney 11-09-2019


Bulldozers Threaten National Butterfly Project on Texas Border Planet 11-14-2019

Remembering Carol Brill
June 30, 1938 - November 8, 2019
Harry Brill 11-10-2019


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Middle East: A Complex Re-alignment Conn Hallinan 11-08-2019

THE PUBLIC EYE:Impeachment and Ukraine Bob Burnett 11-08-2019

Afghanistan Jagjit Singh 11-10-2019

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: When Delusions Become Assumptions Jack Bragen 11-09-2019

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces Gar Smith 11-08-2019

ECLECTIC RANT: Public Debt And Deficits Be Damned Ralph E. Stone 11-08-2019

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: November 10-17 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 11-09-2019

Motherless Brooklyn as Film Art Reviewed by Charlene Woodcock 11-09-2019

Lianna Haroutounian Lights Up Puccini’s Dark MANON LESCAUT Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 11-09-2019

Florin Parvulescu Performs Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 11-10-2019