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Charlene M. Woodcock
 

News

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.


Opinion

Editorials

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 . 

Below is my own report on the topic:

Back in the Big Muddy

Casual conversations with strangers can be more revealing than stories on the nightly news. A Berkeley friend, a motherly lady in her fifties, started chatting with her seatmate on a bus a couple of weeks ago. He was an army officer, a personnel specialist in a big infantry unit down South somewhere. He said his job is dealing with “bereavements”—supporting families of service people who have died on duty. My friend, who comes from a military family herself, was shocked at what he told her: that in the last few months, out of every 100 deaths he’s worked on, 14 have been suicides. That’s not an official Army statistic, he emphasized, just his estimate, but in his opinion, based on about 20 years experience in the military, the suicide rate has gone up dramatically since the Iraq invasion.

One detail he revealed to her was that families are not usually informed that their loved one committed suicide unless they ask. Suicide, like much else in the bureaucratic world of the armed forces, has a special code number. The information the family initially receives doesn’t contain the suicide code, so the family must dig, must ask the right questions, to get the cause of death. He told my friend of one particularly harrowing case: A soldier committed suicide in Iraq, and his buddy sent his wife an e-mail apologizing for not seeing the symptoms in time to prevent the death. The wife had not been told that her husband had committed suicide, and so was doubly shocked when she found out.

The officer said that there’s a big internal controversy in the army right now about how such cases should be handled. Even though he has a strong personal belief that the practice of concealing suicides is wrong, he’s afraid to say so publicly. But he’s distressed. 

It’s hard to confirm what this officer believes to be true using official or unofficial sources. For one thing, army personnel are warned not to reveal any information of this kind. The friend who told me this story got her informant’s phone number, so I called him, told him I was writing this, asked him to tell me more. Of course he wouldn’t say anything. It is against the rules, and he clearly feared the consequences of sharing his anxieties about his job with a motherly woman on the bus. As he probably should. 

We’ve read in the New Yorker and other publications about some harrowing cases of how things seem to be badly wrong in Iraq. What we won’t necessarily read about is the terrible toll this is taking on ordinary American service men and women, who know it’s a mess but don’t know what they can do about it. A very few, like the guy who blew the whistle on the prison torturers, might summon the courage to back up their convictions about what’s right and wrong by speaking truth to power and taking the consequences . Others, perhaps, see only suicide as their path out of the morass. 

On the Memorial Day weekend, as this is being written, it’s the duty of those of us at home to think about our fellow Americans in Iraq who are caught up in a situation not of their own making and can’t escape. Most of them joined the armed forces out of a real desire to serve their country, and never anticipated that they would become an army of occupation in an increasingly hostile Middle East. They were told, and believed, that the Iraqi (and Afghani) populations would welcome them as the liberators of Europe were welcomed after World War II. 

Even arch-conservatives like Pat Buchanan now accept the awful reality that our American troops have been led, once again, into the Big Muddy, potentially even deeper, if that’s possible, than in Vietnam. Pat and his gang probably didn’t learn all the words to Pete Seeger’s Vietnam-era song about the captain who tried to lead his troops into a swamp and almost drowned them all, but here’s the key verse, as pungently adapted by Scots folkie Dick Gaughn: 

“Captain, sir, with all this gear 

No man’ll be able to swim.” 

“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,” 

The Captain said to him. 

“All we need is a little determination; 

Follow me, I’ll lead on.” 

We were neck deep in the Big Muddy 

And the damn fool kept yelling to push on. 

In the song, all versions, the captain drowns, the sergeant turns the troops back just in time, and they are saved. Somewhere in our armed forces today there’s a non-com like Seeger’s sergeant, or an officer like the youthful John Kerry, who will be courageous enough to tell Americans that it’s time to get our men and women out of the swamp. The officer on the bus, who confessed his doubts to a motherly acquaintance, was taking a first hesitant step on the path back to solid ground.
And here’s the most discouraging part: 

My piece was originally published for Memorial Day of 2004. Since then American men and women have been fighting and dying for Big Oil for 15 more years. Just recently Trump pulled American forces out of the Syrian border, all right, but left them in place to control the oil fields. How must the Americans who trained their Kurdish counterparts only to be ordered to abandon them feel about this? Suicidal, perhaps? 

And Iraq this week is in an even bigger mess than it was 15 years ago. 

And yet our damn fool of a president and his crew of equal idiots continue to say push on, disguising what they're really doing with a fraudulent claim that they're disengaging. Perhaps somewhere in the current administration there can yet be found some sergeant with some sense to actually turn this mad middle east crusade around. We can only hope so.


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
Charlene M. Woodcock

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. 

To propose to cut down the trees that have matured in some of them and that store carbon for us, without a careful analysis of the driver’s sightline in each, is rash and irresponsible. To say that new trees will be planted elsewhere begs the question of where and assumes we don’t know how many years it takes for a tree to mature to its highest carbon-sequestering capacity. To legislate against planting trees in our traffic circles would be equally irrational, especially since studies show that the trees themselves have a slowing effect on traffic. Trees are a very important part of our environment, not just aesthetically but for our physical and mental health and the health of our natural environment. (Sacramento policy: 15.2.3 Traffic calming Devices, page 5, Traffic circles shall be landscaped and/or decoratively hardscaped, including street lights, trees, etc.) 

Most importantly, a policy that treats all traffic circle plantings in the same way, without regard to the sight lines through each one, is terribly wasteful. It seems clear the city should create a volunteer team under the leadership of a Public Works staff person to do an inventory and document the sight lines of each of the traffic circles and to organize caretaking volunteers for each circle.
My own effort found a great range of plantings. In only one did I find that the tree, unpruned, blocked the view. In several, the view across the circle was partially blocked by shrubbery or, as below at Delaware and 10th, by agave cactus which can easily be trimmed back. The two palm trees enhance the area and obviously do not interfere with the sight lines across the circle.
In this time of climate disruption, it is not justifiable to cut down our carbon-storing, climate-enhancing, beautifying, traffic-calming city trees.


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. 

If you suggest that the Reaganesque embrace is no accident, given the convenience of this mythology for UC's constant expansion plans, you'll get accused of being unfair, as if 150 years of historical record was unseemly to observe at all. And if you're an alumna you'll be accused of disloyalty to what is, after all, both your alma mater and one of the largest nuclear weapons contractors in the world. 

It's complicated. At least one's sense of loyalty, in such a case, would seem entitled to complexity. But there's nothing complex about housing or crime. More crime, especially serious crime, is committed on frat row, but nobody's arguing to have it bulldozed. And more housing, especially non-controversial housing, could be accommodated on any of the other eight sites the university itself designated as available. The university has yet to meet the community to discuss the matter, although according to its spokesperson Dan Mogolof, small student groups will soon be invited to private discussions. 

It's a puzzle only if it's left hip deep in ignorance about the city's history, the park's history, the university's history, poetic movements, social justice origins, the intricacies (legal and otherwise) of free speech, open space, and landmarks to name a few. I asked one presenter as respectfully as possible why he would voice an opinion without any foundation in research, and he said he was just riffing on behalf of a friend. 

This is a valuable skill. But so is researching a topic before one commits to a perspective. So is making sure all considered community and ecological perspectives are represented in plans which could cost so much, not just in money but in creative possibilities, opportunities for cooperative community potential, and in lives. People's Park's 

 


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 


Thought for the day 28, November 2018 by Lord Singh

Last weekend was, for Sikhs, a bit like Christmas and Easter rolled into one. Celebration of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak who taught the need for responsible living centered on the rights and concerns of others, was followed next day by the commemoration of the martyrdom of the 9th Guru, Guru Teg Bahadhur who in 1675 gave his life in the defense of human rights. 

The Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, in his determination to extend Islam to the whole of the sub-continent, was forcibly converting large numbers of Hindus in Kashmir. In desperation the Hindu leaders asked Guru Teg Bahadhur to intercede on their behalf. They said, we know that you and earlier Sikh Gurus have always stood up for the rights of all people, will you appeal to the Mughal Emperor to stop this forced conversion? 

The Guru knew that such an appeal would almost certainly cost him his life. But true to Sikh teachings on freedom of belief he set off for Delhi. The Emperor refused to change his policy and instead offered rich gifts to the Guru to convert to Islam. When Guru Teg Bahadhur refused, he was publicly beheaded in the center of Delhi. His crime, defending the right to freedom of belief of those of a different religion to his own. 

The universal right to freedom of belief is emphasized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, written in the aftermath of the Second World War. We all applaud its lofty sentiments, but all too often put these below trade and economic interest. For example, questions have been recently asked about the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia in the light of the killing of the prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the on-going conflict in Yemen. 

Guru Teg Bahadur set the bar high when on a cold winter’s day, he gave his life in the defense of human rights and gave stark reality to Voltaire’s, famous words: ‘I may not believe in what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it. Yet, in the Sikh view, fundamental human rights will continue to be ignored unless those in power and authority are prepared to put these rights well above the false lure of short term economic gain.


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.  

Of course, the problems related to being poor discourage many students from remaining in college. But the consumer-oriented culture of many colleges victimizes students as well. Rather than encourage low income students to feel at home by providing an affordable education, they are instead showered with many unjustifiably high costs. Among the high costs is student housing. When the colleges built and operated student housing, not only were rents reasonable. Among the advantages the housing was operated in a way that encouraged a sense of community.  

But In recent years the colleges have changed their housing policy. Now many colleges are leasing the land to private developers to both build and operate student housing. Their only interest is in maximizing profits. Among the dire consequences is that about 10 percent of college students have experienced homelessness. At community colleges, the problem of homelessness is even higher.  

Also, a recent study found that 36% of college students do not have enough to eat. The colleges can solve that problem by providing poor students with a free or a very low cost pass to eat at the school cafeteria. Instead, most school cafeterias are too expensive for low income students. What is also costly for students is how the colleges have allowed banks to treat student ID cards as credit cards, which are controlled by the banks. The banks charge fees and interest on these cards, thanks to the colleges. It is no surprise that so many students drop out.  

But significantly, even many college graduates are in trouble. According to the Census Bureau there are 3.6 million college graduates living in poverty. And the problem, the Census claims, could be getting worse. Actually, the number of college graduates in poverty are already much higher because the Census appreciably underestimates the cost of living.  

Because of developments in the economy that favor business at the expense of the public, college graduates as well as dropouts are confronting an increasingly more competitive labor market. Only 27% of college graduates are working in jobs that are even remotely related to their major. According to Glassdoor Inc. which is a business that attempts to match workers with jobs, on the average there are 250 applicants for every job that companies are offering. As a result, the competition is driving wages down. So even many of those who were doing relatively well financially in part because of their educational achievement are now living on very tight budgets.  

Ironically, as the earnings of higher wage educated employees fall, the gap in income inequality is beginning to narrow. But clearly, a reduction in inequality by reducing the wages of some employees who have graduated college is certainly not good news. Unfortunately, this tells us that the value of a college degree is declining.  

What has also declined is union density. In the private sector, only 6.4 percent of workers are unionized (compared to 35% in 1954). The loss of union density for most workers has been a critical factor in reducing wages. The education that working people need most of all is how to work collectively to recapture union power. Obtaining advanced degrees cannot replace unionization as the major route to achieving good wages and secure jobs.


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. 

Recall, Santa Cruz-style 

In Santa Cruz, all you need are 20 valid signatures on a petition to start the recall process, and the standard for recalling an elected official is essentially anything you want to write on the petition. The California election code says, "A reason must be provided, but under Article II. Section 14(a) of the California Constitution, the sufficiency of this reason is not reviewable." It appears that you can accuse an officeholder of anything and it can go on the petition. Recall efforts are also currently underway in Chico and Westminster, for apparently political reasons similar to those in Santa Cruz, not because any law was broken. 

To understand how concerted the recall effort is in Santa Cruz, it must be recognized that the threat that four new city councilmembers represent to the lifeblood of local capitalism, namely to market rate development interests led by Barry Swenson Builder, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk corporations, and a dozen or so realtors, is a grave one. So perhaps not too surprisingly, this item appeared recently on the Santa Cruz City Council agenda: 

Censure of Councilmember Chris Krohn and Councilmember Drew Glover for substantiated findings in two cases of violation of the City of Santa Cruz Administrative Procedure Order 

It played right into the recall script, possibly planned by some of the above interests. The authors of the resolution were two councilmembers whose benefactors have been accustomed to controlling local power, approving all market-rate development projects, working in lock-step with UCSC as it proceeds to gobble up all available off-campus housing, and never turning down Marriott or Hyatt corporate proposals. 

But these councilmembers are now part of a 4-3 minority. Their grip on local decision-making has been loosened. and they must be hoping that a favorable vote on the censure would help fuel the recall and maybe return them to power. 

How did Santa Cruz get here?  

We have had two elections and elected four new councilmembers (all supporters by the way of Bernie Sanders) who now constitute a four-person majority on a seven-member city council. A day after the 2018 election, pronouncements were made by the more edgy racist minority in town about recalling all four of us. When that gang that couldn't shoot straight failed to turn in a completed petition form, the A-team of local “moderates” took the reins away from the right-wing group of ne'er-do-wells. It seemed similar to how the alt-right fuels the mainstream of Trumpland. 

This moderate group has now apparently spent well over $100,000 of local real estate and California Apartment Association largess to obtain enough signatures to recall Glover and me. They reportedly were paying at least $16 per signature—even up to a reported $50 per registered voter—to petition circulators in the last week of the campaign. They turned in over 11,000 signatures, and the County Clerk has until Nov. 22nd to verify the signature count. 

But let's take a step back. What was the real kick-off to the more serious recall movement, given that some politically displaced Republicans had first tried to light the match? It was at the city council meeting this past February 12th, when the Mayor of Santa Cruz stated at the beginning of the evening session that there was a "perception in the community" that she was being "bullied" by Councilmembers Chris Krohn and Drew Glover. Three more city employees stepped forward to complain and stand with the Mayor. Thirteen charges in all against the two of us were leveled by five women, two councilmembers and three city employees. 

After the report of an investigation by Sacramento attorney Joe Rose, at a cost of $18,000, yielded only two actually "substantiated" findings, recall petition circulators still called us "sexual predators" in order to get more signatures. 

The only substantiated findings against me was described as a "sarcastic laugh," which allegedly took place on that same evening after the Mayor registered her bullying allegation. If I actually laughed it is not audible on the video from that evening's proceedings, nor was it corroborated in interviews with four other city councilmembers when they were asked if they heard it, and I don’t remember laughing. 

The only person who told the investigator that she’d heard me laugh was another councilmember, who was also the complainant in the one other substantiated finding, against my colleague, Drew Glover. This resulted from an argument between the two over city hall meeting room availability. It seems that the councilmember overstayed her meeting time and Glover expressed his irritation in an argument that took place in the narrow hallway running through the city council's cramped office cubicle spaces. 

Our opponents clearly took these "findings" and used them to fuel the recall campaign. Front page headlines have appeared often this fall in the daily Santa Cruz Sentinel under banners like, "Santa Cruz Leaders' Conduct Investigation Reveals Wrongdoing" and "Santa Cruz City Council Members May Face Peers' Censure." The weekly Good Times smelled blood and produced two cover stories with dramatic titles, "City Counseling: Can Santa Cruz Detoxify Itself," and "Does Santa Cruz Have a Bullying Problem?" The local KSBW television ran with, "Investigation into Two City Council Members Showed They Lacked Decorum." What seems even more troubling is that the $18k Rose Report recommended "conflict resolution" to include all councilmembers. This recommendation was accepted on a 7-0 council vote and $12,000 was set aside to pay for it, but not before a vote on censure took place at the same meeting. 

It was weird. 

The Censure 

What is "censure?" From what I've been able to gather it is a formal public condemnation that expresses "strong or vehement expression of disapproval," according to Dictionary.com. In practice at the city council level, it is the public shaming of an elected official. There are no legal consequences that occur when a public official is censured. At the federal level, US Sen. Thomas Dodd was censured for using campaign funds for personal use, Sen. Herman Talmadge accepted $43,000 and did not report it to his campaign, while Sen. Joseph McCarthy, yes, that Joseph McCarthy was censured for "abuse" and "non-cooperation" when a Senate committee was investigating him. Seems to me that censuring should be reserved for political figures who are real criminals like Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, or real sexual harassers in the political realm like Judge Clarence Thomas, former Sen. Robert Packwood, and former US Rep. Anthony Weiner 

In Santa Cruz, the last censure to take place was in 2016. Then Councilmember Micah Posner was censured for renting out an unpermitted dwelling unit in his backyard. That was illegal. 

On October 8th, with the Santa Cruz city council chambers packed to capacity, thirty-six members of the public spoke against the censure and eight in favor. The words of those 36 were at times both poetic and poignant. Those comments included: 

Conflict is not abuse (Alicia Kuhl) 

The person punking all of you is the City Manager. (Nora Hochman) 

Don't kick off reconciliation with punishment. (Brett Garrett) 

From the Merchant of Venice, "The quality of mercy is not strained." (Darryl Darling) 

This censure is a misuse of feminism. (Katherine Herndon) 

This is a #MeToo town, the city manager should've fixed this before it turned into a civil war. (Ed Porter) 

Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, but you must first go to the person and ask for forgiveness. (Rabbi Posner) 

Donna and Martine, perhaps your deepest need is to be completely heard and understood. (Satya Orion) 

Censure is just more shaming. (Rick Longinotti) 

Censure is a political tactic to reinforce the recall. It's a Republican tactic in many states to overturn elections. (Eric Ericsson) 

These same councilmembers are the ones who most represent the people, yes, I support Drew Glover and Chris Krohn. (Marilyn Garrett) 

 

After the last member of the public spoke, a motion and vote on the censure were quickly dispatched by the city council. Since four Bernie-cratic, rent-control, make-government-more-transparent councilmembers were in the majority, it was not difficult to predict which way the vote would go. From the minutes: 

Councilmember Brown moved, seconded by Vice Mayor Cummings, that the Council finds that the censuring of two of its members is inadequate based on the findings of the Rose report as it relates to Administrative Procedure Order II-1B regarding respectful workplace conduct, which states, “A single act shall not constitute disrespectful conduct unless especially severe and egregious.” 

The crowd of well over a hundred cheered and high-fived. The handful of real estate and pro-development people who were present bowed their heads. But as this part of the journey into our version of Trump-land ends, the real estate-developer power duopoly may in fact get its paws back on Surf City. 

Recall proponents submitted over 11,000 "raw count" signatures on October 22nd. The county clerk has until November 22nd to verify them. If 7,938 signatures are deemed valid the recall of two councilmembers then goes on the March 3rd ballot. To paraphrase Peter Douglas the former Executive Director of the Coastal Commission, maybe the fight for affordable housing, homeless services, and reining in rampant UCSC growth is never won, but is always being won. Those are the politics for now in Surf City. 


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. 

Let's applaud the City of Berkeley for having a bit of public process in their expensive exploration of restroom availability. And let's hope those impacted insist that BART plaza be the, er, number one location for among the most obvious of human needs. After all, at a certain moment of the day, we're all the wrong crowd. 

# # # 


Columns

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. 

After years of bitter rivalry, the Saudis and the Iranians are considering how they can dial down their mutual animosity. The formerly powerful Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Persian Gulf monarchs is atomizing because Saudi Arabia is losing its grip. And Washington’s former domination of the region appears to be in decline. 

Some of these developments are long-standing, pre-dating the cruise missile and drone assault that knocked out 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. But the double shock—Turkey’s lunge into Syria and the September missile attack—is accelerating these changes. 

Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, recently flew to Iran and then on to Saudi Arabia to lobby for détente between Teheran and Riyadh and to head off any possibility of hostilities between the two countries. “What should never happen is a war,” Khan said, “because this will not just affect the whole region…this will cause poverty in the world. Oil prices will go up.” 

According to Khan, both sides have agreed to talk, although the Yemen War is a stumbling block. But there are straws in the wind on that front, too. A partial ceasefire seems to be holding, and there are back channel talks going on between the Houthis and the Saudis. 

The Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war was supposed to last three months, but it has dragged on for over four years. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was to supply the ground troops and the Saudis the airpower. But the Saudi-UAE alliance has made little progress against the battle-hardened Houthis, who have been strengthened by defections from the regular Yemeni army. 

Air wars without supporting ground troops are almost always a failure, and they are very expensive. The drain on the Saudi treasury is significant, and the country’s wealth is not bottomless. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is trying to shift the Saudi economy from its overreliance on petroleum, but he needs outside money to do that and he is not getting it. The Yemen War—which, according to the United Nations is the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet—and the Prince’s involvement with the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has spooked many investors. 

Without outside investment, the Saudi’s have to use their oil revenues, but the price per barrel is below what the Kingdom needs to fulfill its budget goals, and world demand is falling off. The Chinese economy is slowing— the trade war with the US has had an impact—and European growth is sluggish. There is a whiff of recession in the air, and that’s bad news for oil producers. 

Riyadh is also losing allies. The UAE is negotiating with the Houthis and withdrawing their troops, in part because the Abu Dhabi has different goals in Yemen than Saudi Arabia, and because in any dustup with Iran, the UAE would be ground zero. US generals are fond of calling the UAE “little Sparta” because of its well trained army, but the operational word for Abu Dhabi is “little”: the Emirate’s army can muster 20,000 troops, Iran can field more than 800,000 soldiers. 

Saudi Arabia’s goals in Yemen are to support the government-in-exile of President Rabho Mansour Hadi, control its southern border and challenge Iran’s support of the Houthis. The UAE, on the other hand, is less concerned with the Houthis but quite focused on backing the anti-Hadi Southern Transitional Council, which is trying to re-create south Yemen as a separate country. North and south Yemen were merged in 1990, largely as a result of Saudi pressure, and it has never been a comfortable marriage. 

Riyadh has also lost its grip on the Gulf Cooperation Council. Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar continue to trade with Iran in spite of efforts by the Saudis to isolate Teheran, 

The UAE and Saudi Arabia recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin, who pressed for the 22-member Arab League to re-admit Syria. GCC member Bahrain has already re-established diplomatic relations with Damascus. Putin is pushing for a multilateral security umbrella for the Middle East, which includes China. 

“While Russia is a reliable ally, the US is not,” Middle East scholar Mark Katz told the South Asia Journal. And while many in the region have no love for Syria’s Assad, “they respect Vladimir Putin for sticking by Russia’s ally.” 

The Arab League—with the exception of Qatar—denounced the Turkish invasion and called for a withdrawal of Ankara’s troops. Qatar is currently being blockaded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE for pursuing an independent foreign policy and backing a different horse in the Libyan civil war. Turkey is Qatar’s main ally. 

Russia’s 10-point agreement with Turkey on Syria has generally gone down well with Arab League members, largely because the Turks agreed to respect Damascus’s sovereignty and eventually withdraw all troops. Of course, “eventually” is a shifty word, especially because Turkey’s goals are hardly clear. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to drive the Syrian Kurds away from the Turkish border and move millions of Syrian refugees into a strip of land some 19 miles deep and 275 miles wide. The Kurds may move out, but the Russian and Syrian military—filling in the vacuum left by President Trump’s withdrawal of American forces—have blocked the Turks from holding more than the border and one deep enclave, certainly not one big enough to house millions of refugees. 

Erdogan’s invasion is popular at home—nationalism plays well with the Turkish population and most Turks are unhappy with the Syrian refugees—but for how long? The Turkish economy is in trouble and invasions cost a lot of money. Ankara is using proxies for much of the fighting, but without lots of Turkish support those proxies are no match for the Kurds—let alone the Syrian and Russian military. 

That would mainly mean airpower, and Turkish airpower is restrained by the threat of Syrian anti-aircraft and Russian fighters, not to mention the fact that the Americans still control the airspace. The Russians have deployed their latest fifth-generation stealth fighter, the SU-57, and a number of MiG-29s and SU-27s, not planes the Turks would wish to tangle with. The Russians also have their new mobile S-400 anti-aircraft system, and the Syrians have the older, but still effective, S-300s. 

In short, things could get really messy if Turkey decided to push their proxies or their army into areas occupied by Russian or Syrian troops. There are reports of clashes in Syria’s northeast and casualties among the Kurds and Syrian Army, but a serious attempt to push the Russians and the Syrians out seems questionable. 

The goal of resettling refugees is unlikely to go anywhere. It will cost some $53 billion to build an infrastructure and move two million refugees into Syria, money that Turkey doesn’t have. The European Union has made it clear it won’t offer a nickel, and the UN can’t step in because the invasion is a violation of international law. 

When those facts sink in, Erdogan might find that Turkish nationalism will not be enough to support his Syrian adventure if it turns into an occupation. 

The Middle East that is emerging from the current crisis may be very different than the one that existed before those cruise missiles and drones tipped over the chessboard. The Yemen War might finally end. Iran may, at least partly, break out of the political and economic blockade that Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel has imposed on it. Syria’s civil war will recede. And the Americans, who have dominated the Middle East since 1945, will become simply one of several international players in the region, along with China, Russia, India and the European Union. 


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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. 

The Crime: There are two pivotal documents in this matter. The first is the "Unclassified Memorandum of [Juy 25th] Telephone Conversation" between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky (https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/25/trump-ukraine-phone-call-transcript-text-pdf-1510770 ). Early in this conversation, Trump says: "We do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing." Zelensky says, "We are almost. ready to buy more Javelins [missiles] from the United· States" and Trump responds, "I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it."  

The second pivotal document is the "Unclassified Whistleblower memo to Senator Richard Burr and Congressman Adam Schiff." (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/26/us/politics/whistle-blower-complaint.html) In this memo the whistleblower says that during the July 25th phone call, Trump pressured Zelensky to do three things: 

  • "initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden;
  • assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine, with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike, which initially reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC’s networks in 2016; and
  • meet or speak with two people the President named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. Giuliani and Attorney General Barr, to whom the President referred multiple times in tandem."
Three things jump out of these documents. The first is there was a quid pro quo. Trump mentions aid to Ukraine and then says "I would like you to do us a favor." Many constitutional lawyers have stated that Trump's action is a violation of U.S. Government Code title 18 Section 201(b) ( https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/201), which states that any public official who “corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for… being influenced in the performance of any official act” is breaking the law. 

The second thing that jumps out is the sequence of the ask: first Trump asks for assistance in "uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine;" and then he asks for helps investigating the Bidens. It's clear from the memorandum of the July 25th telephone conversation that the former is what's on Trump's mind -- he spends more time talking about it. 

The third thing that jumps out is that Trump goes out of his way to malign the previous U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news... she's going to go through some things." 

Ukraine and Paul Manafort: What lurks in the background is the unsavory relationship between Trump, and his associates, and sketchy characters in Ukraine. This relationship first became apparent in June of 2016, when Trump hired (former Ukraine) political operative Paul Manafort as his campaign manager. Manafort served in this position for three months, resigning in August of 2016. During this period -- which included the Republican convention -- three significant event happened: Manafort was part of the notorious Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents; Manafort intervened to weaken a Ukraine policy item in the Republican platform; and Manafort's connection to former former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, and his for-Russian party, was revealed to the American press. (In addition, the Mueller report noted that, during this period, Manafort passed proprietary campaign polling data to pro-Russian Ukrainians.) 

On October 30, 2017, Manafort was arrested by the FBI after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the Mueller investigation.The indictment charged Manafort with conspiracy, money laundering, failing to register as an agent of a foreign country, and making false statements. In March of 2018, Manafort was sentenced to seven and a half years in Federal prison. 

Many have reported that Manafort maintains contact with Trump. Recently released Mueller documents reveal that, in 2016, Manafort told Trump that he thought Ukrainians had been responsible for hacking the DNC during the presidential campaign. (https://www.alternet.org/2019/11/paul-manafort-pushed-ukraine-conspiracy-theory-on-trump-during-the-2016-campaign-mueller-documents/?) Whatever the reason, Trump has long nurtured resentment towards Ukraine (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/for-trump-ukraine-is-a-story-of-personal-resentment-and-political-opportunism/2019/10/04/a256eb70-e6d8-11e9-a6e8-8759c5c7f608_story.html). 

Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani: The "memorandum of the July 25th Trump-Zelensky phone call" makes it clear that Rudy Giuliani is Trump's man in Ukraine. Trump encouraged Zelensky to talk to Attorney General Barr and Rudy G. There's some (baroque) logic to the involvement of Barr -- he's leading an investigation into the origins of the Mueller investigation. But there's no clear logic to Giuliani's involvement. 

Rudy G has been involved in Ukraine for couple of years. He's worked as a U.S. lobbyist for Ukrainian businessmen and he's tried to get American companies lucrative Ukrainian contracts. Giuliani was part of a small group that, apparently, worked outside the U.S. State Department to influence the government of Ukraine. One member of this group was Trump-donor turned Ambassador-to-the-EU, Gordon Sondland. Another member was Energy Secretary Rick Perry. (Recently the Wall Street Journal noted that, "Rick Perry wanted to put two U.S. energy industry veterans on the board of Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, according to text messages written by the former Ukraine special envoy.") Giuliani also has ties with controversial Ukrainian Oligarch Dmytro Firtash (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/10/how-an-indicted-oligarch-became-a-key-player-in-trumps-ukraine-scandal/ ). 

Giuliani pushed for the replacement of U.S.Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. On November 7th, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent told the House Intelligence Committee: "Throughout March 02019], Giuliani trafficked in 'slander' designed to get... Marie Yovanovitchhas fired from her posting in Kyiv and clear a roadblock to the agenda Giuliani and his clients were pursuing there." (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trumps-demands-of-ukraine-came-down-to-three-words-investigations-biden-and-clinton-officials-testimony-shows/2019/11/07/d5ffab54-0197-11ea-8bab-0fc209e065a8_story.html ) Now Rudy's activities are under investigation by Manhattan-based Federal Prosecutors (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/11/us/politics/rudy-giuliani-investigation.html ). 

Summary: There are four part of this affair. First, Trump came into the White House with animosity towards Ukraine. Second, Trump did not trust the State Department to manage relations with Ukraine so he commissioned Rudy Giuliani to represent him with President Zelensky. Third, Giuliani and Trump deliberately withheld much needed Ukrainian military aid in order to coerce Zelensky into launching two investigations: possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden. Fourth, Giuliani and (no doubt) Trump conspired to have Ambassador Yovanovitch removed from her position. 

And, of course, Trump has abused his position by not cooperating with the impeachment inquiry. 


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


Afghanistan

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. 

The mechanisms of self-correction, for human beings, are inadequate much of the time. Most people sync with the beliefs of others as their way of getting grounded. That opens the door for collective delusions. And we've seen a lot of that in human history. 

In the case of a person deemed psychotic, we've had beliefs that most people would consider grossly disconnected from truth. This, by itself, is not usually enough to get someone locked up. A psychotic person, to become hospitalized, is unable to meet his or her basic needs, and/or poses a threat or severe nuisance to people. Once we've been branded mentally ill, it is easier for authorities to decide we need intervention, voluntary or not. 

Antipsychotic medication seems to allow a psychotic person to resume syncing to the beliefs of people in her or his surroundings. I've read that it places more emphasis on external senses. That means that medication may resolve being stuck too much within one's own mind. When other people's projected beliefs are incorporated into the thinking, it allows for that corrective mechanism to function. 

Just because everyone believes something, it doesn't make it true. However, there is a lot of value to incorporating the beliefs of others. If your beliefs are totally apart from those in your surroundings, you will be considered insane or something to that effect. Consensus guiding the beliefs will usually be more accurate than only believing oneself. 

The issue isn't always about seeking some kind of absolute truth. As people with limitations, we need to have other people's cooperation on many things. You won't get cooperation from other people if everyone believes that you are psychotic. 

When a person suffering from psychosis is not medicated, it is futile to try to talk them out of their delusions. Psychosis is not the key to the universe, and it is not a way of finding a better truth. It is a malfunction in how the brain processes information. You can see evidence of that through thermal imaging. You can also see evidence of deterioration of brain structure in MRI's of untreated people with schizophrenia. 

This is not about persecuting people with differences. If you want to be different from others, be my guest. However, your method of presenting being different should incorporate enough social norms so that it doesn't get you in trouble. And, in order to accomplish that, you must, at least in part, be able to sync with the beliefs of other people. People judge individuals in large part on appearances. This may not be fair, yet it is so. If you want to be a nonconformist, you have to do that in a way that follows at least some of the social and legal rules that we have. 

When a delusion is an assumption, it programs the mind to compute all things based on that assumption, and this causes every perception to be off. Human beings may have poor corrective mechanisms to use to compensate for this contingency. Yet we do have some corrective mechanisms, and they should be up and running. Medication may help with that. Additionally, interacting with people will help you sync, and it will also make life more enjoyable.


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.
 

 

 

A GI Joe for the 21st Century 

Media Goes Crazy over GI Janes 

When a six-year-old girl wrote a letter asking toy soldier companies "Why do you not make girl Army men?" the print and broadcast media pounced on the story and shifted into overdrive, presenting little Vivian Lord as a feminist prophet and drawing so much attention that one company, BMC Toys in Pennsylvania, promised to introduce a quartet of female soldiers armed with pistols, rifles and bazookas. 

BMC toy maker Jeff Imel explained he was not trying to be "100 percent historically accurate." He was, in fact, being "100 percent historically inaccurate"—women did not serve in combat roles in WWII. Vivian's mom, dismissed historical precedent by observing that "just because it's always been that way, doesn't mean it's right." 

Following those marching orders, Smithereens is hereby inviting any so-inclined six-year-olds (boys and girls) to write letters to US toymakers asking why their little green figurines fail to include wounded and dead soldiers or civilian refugees—including young children. 

Any child who has ever been exposed to violent war films and popular videogames also might wish to see toy soldiers with removable limbs that can be twisted off in the aftermath of make-believe bombings. 

Give Trump the Impeachment He So Richly Deserves 

Author (War Is a Lie) and activist (World BEYOND War) David Swanson is among many of Donald Trump's detractors who fear that trying to remove the Orange Ogre from office based on a single illegal act (be it "Russiagate" or "Ukrainegate") may fall short, leaving Der Trump free to ramble and rampage his way into a second presidential contest. 

Swanson decided he had to do something about this. So he sat down and created one of the most comprehensive compilations of Trump's crimes ever assembled. And, as Swanson notes, the following rap-sheet of 25 indictable acts is still a "work in progress," since it only covers cover-ups and crimes as of October 17, 2019. 

Violation of Constitution on Domestic Emoluments
Violation of Constitution on Foreign Emoluments
Incitement of Violence
Interference With Voting Rights
Discrimination Based On Religion
Illegal War
Illegal Threat of Nuclear War
Abuse of Pardon Power
Obstruction of Justice
Politicizing Prosecutions
Collusion Against the United States with a Foreign Government
Failure to Reasonably Prepare for or Respond to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria
Separating Children and Infants from Families
Illegally Attempting to Influence an Election
Tax Fraud and Public Misrepresentation
Assaulting Freedom of the Press
Supporting a Coup in Venezuela
Unconstitutional Declaration of Emergency
Instructing Border Patrol to Violate the Law
Refusal to Comply With Subpoenas
Declaration of Emergency Without Basis In Order to Violate the Will of Congress
Illegal Proliferation of Nuclear Technology
Illegally Removing the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
Seeking to Use Foreign Governments' Resources Against Political Rivals
Refusal to Comply with Impeachment Inquiry 

Solicitation Nation 

Nearly every day my post office box disgorges envelopes offering the redundant promise: "free gift inside." (If it's a gift, it's free by definition.) More often than not, the contents include a funding pitch wrapped around a collection of personalized mailing labels. (Mailing labels? Artifacts of a by-gone, letter-writing, stamp-licking era!) 

Recently these solicitations have upped the ante, by including coins alongside the labels, decals, and mini-bumperstickers. A note from CARE recently included a nickel glued to a request for donations. A solicitation to support the legacy of the Tuskeegee Airmen contained a commemorative coin. But when an envelope arrived bearing the announcement, "Check Enclosed," I nearly ditched it, unopened. 

Curiosity won out. I opened the mail and discovered that there really was an actual JPMorgan Chase Bank check inside made out in my name. The $3 check was issued and signed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 

"The enclosed check is REAL. You are free to cash it —if you'd like," read the letter from MADD president Helen Witty. The letter continued: "we're honestly in no position to give money away. So, I hope you'll decide to return [the check] along with your most generous donation of $15, $25 or even $50…." 

Will reverse psychology be the next fundraising trend? 

Instead of promising a tote bag, backpack or stuffed animal on receipt of a donation, an outright gift puts the recipient in a position of wanting to reciprocate. 

I doubt that this new ploy has real staying power but it worked this time. My check is in the mail. 

Make the MIC Pay for Entertainment Violence 

 

The Military-Industrial-Entertainment Complex continues to swell its gilt-lined coffers by promoting messages of violence and fear. As if real wars and real killings by US cops, grunts, soldiers and SEALS weren't bad enough, our ears and eyeballs are further bombarded with images of simulated violence flashing across our TVs, smartphones, and the Big Screen. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are homeless, living in poverty, dying of curable diseases, and 20 percent of our children are not getting enough to eat. 

So how do we cure poverty in America? Where's the money to come from? 

I agree with Bernie and Elizabeth: we need Big Plans, like a call to redirect billions from the waste-riddled, unaudited Pentagon budget—a radical action that progressive democrats (and Democratic Socialists) have proposed to increasingly robust cries of support. 

Instead of firing weapons, maybe its time we started firing (or, at least, dunning) the people who make the weapons. 

A Rallying Cry comes to mind: "If Wars Don't Work, Why Do We Keep Employing Them?" 

So here's an idea. We already have a host of Small Plans that don't aspire to outright eradicate dangerous behaviors but simply seek to discourage practices we want to control—i.e. taxes on carbon dioxide, tobacco, alcohol, and pot. 

So how about requiring the film and "entertainment" industries to pay into a Social Wellbeing and Safety Fund by imposing a fine/fee that must be paid every time a brutal death is depicted in a Hollywood movie or a televised cop/FBI/killer/combat series? And perhaps a parallel "Attacks Tax" could be paid to the SWSF for every bullet fired, grenade tossed, and bomb dropped during a Big Screen thriller or a small-screen chiller? 

Oiligarchs, Pollutocrats, and Polluticians 

Speaking of bad actors, how about addressing the ongoing problem of oil and goal companies whose operations tax the environment while the companies avoid paying of a single nickel in federal or state taxes? Worse: under existing federal laws, many of our biggest polluters actually get massive "tax refunds" from the government. 

Charlie Simmons is one of the "class traitors" who make up the membership of the Patriotic Millionaires—a group of well-off dudes who believe the rich should invest in social justice and economic equity (aka: "tax the rich"). 

Simmons, a big fan of Swedish eco-savant Greta Thunberg, is livid that "the man-made crisis of climate change is made worse by our man-made tax system." 

Simmons cites some disturbing factoids from the Institute on Taxation and Economc Policy: In 2018, 60 of the largest US corporations (including 22 of the biggest oil and gas behemoths—Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and Halliburton, among them) paid no taxes thanks to industry-friendly "tax incentives." In 2016, the Wall Street Journal revealed these loopholes allowed the federal government to shovel 4.76 billion taxpayer dollars into the vaults of our untaxed energy empires. 

Chevron's PR department boasts of its $100 million pledge to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, but Simmons notes this is squat compared to the company's $4.5 billion 2018 profits (made possible, in part, by $955 million in Trump/Republican tax cuts that saw Washington hand Chevron a $181 million "rebate" on Tax Day). 

 

If Sidewalks Could Talk 

Fact is, sidewalks already do talk. Just put a box of colored chalk in the hands of some kids and see what happens. Just check out the remnants of the great Climate Crisis event that still color the sidewalks and steps of MLK Jr. Middle School on Rose Street. 

Another example of chalk-talk spotted in the neighborhood involves a small-frame family drama that plays out on the concrete of a North Berkeley sidewalk—in an apparent exercise of sibling rivalry. 

The first thing by-strollers see (on approaching from either direction) are long colorful blue chalk-lines that eventually converge in front of a single-story, mid-block home. Along the way, the same announcement appears repeatedly: 

"It's Patsy's Birthday!" "Patsy's 9th Birthday!" "Patsy's 9 Today!" But directly in front of the house, a large box had been laboriously drawn alongside the birthday announcement. It read: "This is Milly's Box! Stay out of the Box!" 

[Names have been changed to protect the innocents.] 

Transporting Transportation 

We are currently [inadvertent pun] considering an electric car. My ideal vehicle, however, would be one that runs on CO2 pulled out of the air, captures the carbon in a state where it can be returned to the soil, and emits pure, sage-scented oxygen from the tailpipe. I can't afford a Tesla so maybe I'll transition slowly, beginning with an electric scooter. 

Speaking of which, I saw an interesting sight yesterday: A fellow zipping down Ninth Street atop an electric skateboard. What made the sighting remarkable was that the rider was doubled over, trying to tie his shoelaces while heading down-street at about 20mph. And, no, he wasn't wearing a helmet. 

WarSpeak 

On November 6, the Daily Kos asked its online followers: "Who is your top pick for president" in the 2020 race? 

Mine would be any candidate who opposes foreign wars, regime change, family-starving economic sanctions, militarized domestic policing, unaudited and wasteful Pentagon spending, weapons of minimum-and-mass-destruction, nuclear arsenals, and endless wars. 

So I was a bit put-off by the Kos' closing salutation: "Keep fighting." 

Screening the Screen and Overlooking the Overlooked 

Sometime ago, we noted the existence of a special set of words that share contradictory meanings. They are called "contronyms" and include such words as "cleave" (which can mean to cut apart or cling together), buckle (which can mean to strengthen or collapse), and sanction (which can mean to permit or punish). Words aside, is there a term for contradictory phrases? Here's something to ponder: What's the difference between "going all in" and "going all out"? 

¡Brad Cleaveland, Presente! 

A memorial gathering for academic agitator and Free Speech Movement veteran Herbert "Brad" Cleaveland will be held on Wednesday, November 13th, from 6-9 p.m. in the community room of Berkeley's Redwood Gardens (2951 Derby Street). The event will be pot luck. 

It's Noir-vember in Albany 

Need noir? If so, grab a trench coat, pull your fedora down over your eyebrows and sneak over to the Albany FilmFest for its free November 19 presentation: "A Wild Ride into Noir with Jerry Thompson"—described as an "entertaining guided tour through 70s and 80s noir" that involves a game called "Can You Spot the Bay Area Connections?" Details here. This collaboration between the Albany Library and Friends of the Albany Library kicks off at 7pm in the Edith Stone Room. Bonus: Free popcorn.
And, if you've got any young filmmakers in the house, the deadline for submissions to the 10th Albany FilmFest has just been extended. If you live in Albany, it's not too late to submit a film. Just go online to check out the categories for young filmmakers aged 6-17 and check out the Albany Filmmakers Showcase here


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.” 

Traditionally, deficits have been anathema to Republicans. Remember when then House Speaker Paul Ryan warned of the dangers of deficits, “The facts are very, very clear: The United States is heading toward a debt crisis. We face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy — which will lower our living standards.”  

And remember when congressional Republicans denounced President Barack Obama for the size of the national debt. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he would pay off the national debt in eight years. Instead he has lived up to his “King of Debt” claim with four corporate bankruptcies under his belt. 

Experts estimate that the Republican tax overhaul signed into law in 2017 will result in about $1.45 trillion in net deficits over a decade. The Republican tax “overall” made no attempt to eliminate the deficit, much less the debt. It provided for tax cuts, which means $1.5 trillion less revenue for the next decade. The Tax Policy Center concluded that federal government “revenue would fall by between $2.4 trillion and $2.5 trillion over the first 10 years and by about $3.4 trillion over the second decade.” And further concluded, "Those with the very highest incomes would receive the biggest tax cuts." 

The U.S. has the weakest safety net among the Western industrialized nations, devoting far fewer resources as a percentage of gross domestic product to welfare programs than do other wealthy countries. Cutting social safety nets will only widen the gap. Yet to close the deficit caused by the tax overhaul, the Republicans are continually talking about cuts to safety nets to those forgotten by Trump and his enablers in Congress. If the Republicans had their way such cuts would include Medicare, Medicaid, other health programs, welfare and other anti-poverty programs. 

The fiscal year technically ended in October, but Congress couldn’t come to an agreement on how much to fund the government, so they passed a short-term spending bill that keeps last year’s spending levels and expires Nov. 21. If they can’t agree on a year-long budget by then, they’ll fund another short-term spending bill. Or the government will shut down. We should be worried that Trump will use a shutdown as a distraction from impeachment. 


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:

Petitions

Petition to Save Traffic Circle Trees- sign by November 11, (Meeting Nov12) https://www.change.org/p/berkeley-city-council-grandfather-in-existing-traffic-circle-trees-ee3dbcc2-69b1-41d5-83a8-dd86a94ece3b

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

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/dont-let-trump-and-his-oil-company-cronies-dredge-the-san-francisco-bay?source=direct_link&referrer=group-sunflower-alliance

Events

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

Ongoing

Holiday Food Drive – November 1 – 29, daily from 8:30 a – 6 p, for more information https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=16299

Future 

November 19 Regular City Council meeting with agenda highlights and links follows list of weekly meetings 

 

Sunday, November 10, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Monday, November 11, 2019 - Veterans Day 

Tax the Rich Rally, with music by Occupella, 4 - 5 pm (Winter Hours) at the Top of Solano in front of the Closed Oaks Theater, Rain/Extreme Heat Cancels 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 

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

Special Meeting on Traffic Circles, 4:00 pm, Agenda: 1.a.& b. Task Force Recommendations, City Traffic Circle Planting Policies 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2019/11_Nov/City_Council__11-12-2019_-_Special_Meeting_Agenda.aspx 

Regular Meeting, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Agenda: Agenda: CONSENT: 2. $40,093,600Bid solicitations, 4. Contract $392,778 with BUSD for providing Mental Health Services in school programs, 6. Ordinance - Adopting more stringent building standards, 7. Companion Report Recommendations for Fossil Free Berkeley, 8. Contracts $600,000 in total for On-call Environmental Services, 9. Final Map - Approval to make 2747 San Pablo a 42 unit condo project, 10. Stop Sign Warrant Policy, 11. Support SB 378 PG&E shutoffs, 12. Budget Referral $250,000 environmental review and zoning planning for Ashby and North Berkeley BART, 13. Modifying Appointments to City Council Standing Policy Committees, 14. Support Impeachment, 15. $210,000 renovation Drop-In Center, 16. . $10,582 Community Gardening Collaborative, 17. $75,000 pedestrian and bike safety Oxford St, 18. Request for Information: Police Dispatch, 19. Budget Referral Expansion Homeless Navigation Facilities and Programs – 3rd Sleeping Unit – dollar amount not given in agenda documents, 20. Budget Referral $550,000 Wildfire Mitigation, ACTION: 21. goBerkeley North Shattuck, 22. Local Fire Code Amendments, 23. Public Hearing Approval of Bond for (affordable housing) 1601 Oxford (SAHA or affiliate), 24. ZAB Appeal 2701 Shattuck, 25. 1281 University to house up to 8-10 RV dwellers, 26. Revisions to Council Rules of Procedure, 27. Lava Mae Mobile Shower and Hygiene Services, 28. Wage Theft Prevention, 29. Address Traffic Enforcement and Bicycle Safety, 30. Surveillance Technology Report, 31. Energy Commission Recommendations for Fossil Free Berkeley, 32. Bird Safety Requirements, 33. Budget Referral Transportation support for mobility impaired homeless who are engaged in rehousing or other services. 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2019/11_Nov/City_Council__11-12-2019_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx 

Youth Commission, 6:30 pm at 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center, Agenda: 8. Family Homelessness 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Youth_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 

Homeless Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: 5. Presentation Megan Prier study on Berkeley Water, Access, Sanitation, Hygiene Assessment 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Homeless_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Parks and Waterfront Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center, Agenda: 9. Presentation on Adopt-a-Spot & 10. Action, 12. Presentation Pollinator Pathway, 15. Citywide Restroom Study/Master Plan, 16. Aquatic Park, 17. Marina Streets 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Parks_and_Waterfront_Commission.aspx 

Police Review Commission, at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 

Lexipol Policies Subcommittee, 5:30 pm, Agenda: Policy review Officer Involved Shooting 

Regular Meeting, 7 – 10 pm, Agenda: 10. Consider Revision to BPD Policy on questioning detainees about probation or parole status and conducting searches of detainees 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Police_Review_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Public Meeting San Francisco to Stockton Dredging Plan to Increase Crude Oil Tankers, 6 – 8 pm, 2935 Pinole Valley Rd, Pinole Public Library, Pinole, Agenda: Corps of Engineers Dredging Plan to enable greater amounts of crude tankers to travel to and from Bay Area Refineries, Contra Costa County and the Western States Petroleum Agency are project partners. 

http://www.sunflower-alliance.org/army-corps-of-engineers-oily-dredging-plan/ 

Forum with Nancy Skinner, Buffy Wicks, 6 – 8 pm, 2050 Center, Berkeley City College, Agenda: How to Save the World With Local Politics, climate change, air pollution, traffic fatalities 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-to-save-the-world-with-local-politics-tickets-73624295249?aff=northberkeleynow 

Thursday, November 14, 2019 

City Council Budget & Finance Committee, 2 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Agenda: 2. FY 2019 Year End Results, FY 2020 First Quarter Update, including Gerneral Fund Reserves, Mayor’s Supplemental Budget Recommendations, Council’s Budget Referrals to be considered, 3. FY 2020 Annual Appropriations Ordinance - $136,730,924, 4. Review of Fiscal Policies 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Home/Policy_Committee__Budget___Finance.aspx 

Community Environmental Advisory Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: I. Prohibition of Combustion Vehicles by 2045, III. Aquatic Park Maintenance 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Community_Environmental_Advisory_Commission/ 

Zoning Adjustment Board, 7 pm at 1231 Addison St, BUSD Board Room 

2528-B Durant – add distilled spirits – continue off calendar 

3020 College – expand 3-story, 3902 sq ft existing building that exceeds maximum density, add roof deck, on consent 

2348 Hilgard - construct 25 sq ft ground floor addition, on consent 

2431 Fifth St / 2424 Sixth St – convert existing 31,420 sq ft building from 2 tenant spaces to 3, 10,803 sq ft light manufacturing and 2502 sq ft wholesale trade use in 2 of 3 tenant spaces, on consent 

2128 Ward – add 2-story 2567 sq ft duplex on 10,088 sq ft lot with existing 2-story 2697 sq ft duplex, reduce required building separations, allow 4 required parking spaces, 

1312 Josephine – legalize 65 sq ft balcony on existing 3-story, 8 unit 5796 sq ft building, increasing lot coverage to 50.5% where 35% is allowed 

2099 MLK Jr Way – Project Preview – demolish 1-story auto service building and construct 62,419 sq ft, 7-story 69 ft tall, mixed-use with 72 dwellings (including 5 very low income dwellings), 12 parking spaces, 38 bicycle spaces 

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/zoningadjustmentsboard/ 

Friday, November 15, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Saturday, November 16, 2019 

Adeline Corridor Community Meeting, 10 am – 1 pm, 3201 Adeline, Black Repertory Group Theater 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/AdelineCorridor/ 

Community Meeting: Ohlone Park Improvements, 10 am – 12 pm, 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor, Cypress Room 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=16348 

Sunday, November 17, 2019 

Berkeley Half Marathon – start 7:30 am – expected finish 12 pm, check link for street closures 

https://berkeleyhalfmarathon.com 

_____________________________________ 

 

City Council November 19 Regular Meeting, email comments to council@cityofberkeley.info

CONSENT: 2. $800,000 bid solicitations – Sanitary Sewer $500,000, Electrical $300,000, 3. Grant Submission to State for $284,463 Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, 4. 2.5 hour Minimum Overtime Pay for Emergency Call Back in IT Dept., 6. Nominate North Berkeley BART Priority Development Area, 7. Contract $1,481,417 with Redgwick Construction Co. for Ninth Street Bicycle Pathway Extension Phase II, 7. Contract add $50,000 total $200,000 with HF&H Consultants LLC for Development In-house Commercial Hauling System, 8. Add $50,000 total $200,000 for study of City Providing Commercial Collection Services, 9. $2,348,732.70 purchase seven 25-yard Heavy Duty Rear Loading Collection Trucks, 10. $1,110,000 to purchase five 2020 North Star 155-1 Ambulances and dispose 3 Freightliner and 2 International ambulances by public auction. 11. Declaration Homeless Shelter Crisis, 12. Letter to Richmond City Council, CA EPA and CA Department of Toxics (DTSC) concerning recent action of cleaning up AstraZeneca Site Near Berkeley, 13. Budget Referral $15,000 BigBelly Trash Receptacles in Ohlone Park, 14. Referral to City Manager Amnesty Program for Undocumented Secondary Units, ACTION: 15. Budget Update, 16. FY 2020 Annual Appropriations Ordinance, 18. a.&b. Recommendations Allocations Measure P Funds, 19. Short term Referral Process, 20. goBerkeley Residential Shared Parking Pilot Project Update, 21. Short term Revenue Allocations for Civic Arts and Affordable Housing Trust Fund, 22. Modernized Contract Registration Workflow. 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Agenda_Index.aspx 

 

_____________________________________________ 

 

Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir TBD 

2701 Shattuck 11-12-2019 

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

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

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period 

3020 Acton 11-18-2019 

1119 Arch 12-02-2019 

2410 Blake 11-11-19 

2801 Claremont 11-18-2019 

3108 Deakin 11-12-2019 

1225 Eighth 11-20-2019 

2422 Fifth 11-19-2019 

888 Indian Rock 11-18-2019 

2026 Los Angeles 12-02-2019 

1858 San Lorenzo 11-19-2019 

2352 Shattuck 11-19-2019 

1036 Sierra 11-25-2019 

687 Spruce 11-20-2019 

2110 Vine 11-12-2019 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/planning_and_development/land_use_division/current_zoning_applications_in_appeal_period.aspx 

 

 

WORKSHOPS 

Jan 14 – Civic Center Visioning, Systems Realignment 

Feb 4 – Discussion of Community Poll (Ballot Measures), Adeline Corridor Plan 

March 17 –CIP Update (PRW and Public Works), Measure T1 Update 

May 5 – Budget Update, Crime Report 

June 23 – Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update, Digital Strategic Plan FUND$/Replacement Website Update 

July 21 – no workshops scheduled “yet” 

Unscheduled – Cannabis Health Considerations 

 

Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations 

Cannabis Health Considerations 

Vision 2050 

Update goBerkeley (RPP) 

BMASP/Berkeley Pier-WETA Ferry (November 2020) 

 

_____________________ 

 

To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 

https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Committee_and_Regional_Body_Appointees.aspx 

 

To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 

https://www.berkeleyschools.net/schoolboard/board-meeting-information/ 

 

_____________________ 

 

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 

 


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. 

I decided to see Motherless Brooklyn because Edward Norton seems to involve himself with interesting projects; for this film he wrote the screenplay, based on Jonathan Lethem's 1999 novel, directed, and plays the major role. You wouldn’t learn it from the promotion, but besides being a detective story, it’s about Robert Moses (called Moses Randolph in the film) and his willingness to sacrifice a place and people to his megalomania. It’s the story Jane Jacobs told in Death & Life of a Great American City. Beautifully filmed as a period piece, it bears similarities to Chinatown in both content and style and its ambitious scale: a 50s noir, featuring a barely-making-it private detective office, a black jazz club (and very good music, with Wynton Marsalis’s trumpet), and the dinners and balls of New York's rich and powerful. Norton (and Jonathan Lethem in the novel) adds the challenge of giving his loner detective Tourette’s Syndrome. So the film gives us a beautifully-shot period detective story but it also shines a light on the Robert Moses character and allows him a speech to explain (if not vindicate) himself. Throughout the film we see the Norton character’s difficulty with speech and tics as well as his photographic memory and capacity to observe details missed by others. Norton's presentation of high intelligence co-existing with Tourette's Syndrome does a great service to us all.


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.  

Interestingly, this is the only reference in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut to a scene that is unforgettable in Massenet’s Manon, which premiered nine years earlier than Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, also based on the popular 1731 French novel Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. Massenet set his Act II in the impoverished love-nest in Paris where Manon has fled with her young lover the Chevalier des Grieux after their love-at-first-sight meeting in the coach station at Amiens. In Massenet’s opera, this scene depicts both the joy of young love and, at its conclusion, the pathos of the abrupt separation of the young lovers when Des Grieux is abducted by henchmen sent by his disapproving father. It is one of the great scenes in all opera.  

However, for god knows what reason, Puccini and his many librettists (how many is not certain, though there were at least five) decided to eliminate the love tryst and move directly from Amiens to the opulent Parisian manor house of the wealthy old rake Geronte de Revoir, who has somehow installed Manon as his kept woman. In any case, when in Act II of Puccini’s opera Des Grieux bursts unexpectedly into Manon’s bedroom to confront her for abandoning him, Puccini’s music bursts into flame. With the exclamation from Manon, Tu, tu, amore! Tu?”/“You, you, my love! You?” both the drama and the music catch fire.At first, Des Grieux, sung here by tenor Brian Jagde, reproaches Manon. However, overcome by her beauty and her protestations of love, Des Grieux melts; and the reunited lovers sing an impassioned duet, “Vieni! Colle tue braccia stringi Manon che t’ama”/“Come, love! In your arms enfold Manon who loves you.” Musically and dramatically, this is the highpoint of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut; and it was sung beautifully by Liana Haroutounian and Brian Jagde. If at other moments Brian Jagde’s baritonal tenor voice lacked an edge, here, in this impassioned scene, when he could sing at or near the top of his range, Jagde was excellent. As for Liana Haroutounian, she is always excellent, voluptuous in the lower register and scintillating in the high notes. My only reservation at this performance came at the very beginning when, for once, Haroutounian seemed a bit tentative, and her voice momentarily lacked its usual projection. However, she warmed up quickly, and for 99% of this Manon Lescaut Liana Haroutounian was her usual superlative self. 

At the close of Act II, Manon, who has wasted time collecting her jewellery before escaping he wrath of Geronte, is arrested and imprisoned at Geronte’s orders as a loose woman. When Act III opens, it is with an extraordinarily beautiful instrumental Intermezzo, always a highlight of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, performed exquisitely here by the orchestra led by Nicola Luisotti. Act III is set in Le Havre, where Manon awaits deportation to the then-French colony of Louisiana. Lescaut concocts a plan to rescue his sister for the faithful Des Grieux, who has followed his beloved Manon to Le Havre. But the plan fails; and Des Grieux can only beg the ship’s captain to be allowed on board in whatever capacity he might remain with Manon. He is taken on as Cabin Boy. Act IV takes place, somewhat notoriously, in “a desert in Louisiana.” It seems that, to Puccini and his Italian librettists, America could only be imagined as a desert, a totally sterile environment. Oh well. At least Act IV gives us Manon’s pathetic aria, “Sola, perduta, abbandonata,” sung gorgeously here by Liana Haroutounian, who dies a few moments later in the arms of her beloved Des Grieux.  

Former San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti returned to conduct this Manon Lescaut; and he led a taut performance. Chorus Director Ian Robertson led his minions effectively, especially, in the opening scene. Veteran bass-baritone Philip Skinner was an excellent Geronte; and tenor Christopher Oglesby opened the opera with a mocking attitude towards the young and inexperienced Des Grieux. Baritone Anthony Clark Evans was a conniving Lescaut, Manon’s brother, who see-saws back and forth between aiding Des Grieux and Geronte, wherever he perceives an advantage to himself. The staging by director Olivier Tambosi, after a production design by Frank Philipp Schlössmann, was, at best, ho hum. I found nothing new here, although, granted, it’s hard to find anything new in Puccini’s limited, or shall we say, Italianzied, version of this quintessentially French love story.  

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut continues until November 26, when for the final performance Brian Jagde will be replaced by Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila.  

 


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. 

Born in Romania, Florin Parvulescu took up the violin at age five. He initially studied at The Geroges Enescu Music School in Bucharest. Later he attended the Juilliard School Pre-College division, then studied at Peabody Conservatory of Music. In addition to his career as a violin soloist, Parvulescu took up conducting when he studied with David Zinman and Michael Tilson Thomas at the Aspen Music Festival. In 2015 Florin Parvulescu stepped in at short notice for the ailing George Cleve to conduct a program as part of the Midsummer Mozart Festival in San Francisco. For this performance, Parvulescu received grateful praise from the San Francisco  

Chronicle, as well as from myself in these pages. 

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931) has been hailed as one of the greatest violinists who ever lived. Born in Liege, Belgium, Ysaÿe achieved a remarkable balance between the austere style of Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) and the flashy virtuosity of Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908). A friend of Claude Debussy, Ysaÿe was the dedicatee of Debussy’s String Quartet; and with the Ysaÿe Quartet he performed the world premiere in 1893 of this auspicious work by Debussy. As a teacher, Eugène Ysaÿe mentored many illustrious protegés, including Josef Gingold and Fritz Kreisler. Ysaÿe performed often in America, and in 1918 he returned to assume the post of conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which post he held until 1922. 

Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27, date from 1923. Each of the six was dedicated to a different contemporary violinist. Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 1 is dedicated to Joseph Szigeti. Inspired by Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, Ysaÿe took these famous Bach works as his starting point. Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 1, like Bach’s Sonata No. 1, is in G minor and contains four movements. The opening movement, marked Grave, gets off to a tumultuous start, played here with fervour by Florin Parvulescu. The second movement, marked Fugato, offers a jaunty rondo. The third movement offers something of a scherzo, and the Finale launches into what Parvulescu described as “a diabolical dance,” which he performed with panache. 

Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor, dedicated to Jacques Thibaud, continues the composer’s homage to Bach, as it opens with the exact opening bars of Bach’s Partita No. 1. However, Ysaÿe immediately veers into more modern territory, with considerable dissonance. This opening movement is marked Obsession; Prelude, and the second movement is marked Malinconia. The latter is a slow Siciliana. The third movement, marked Danse des Ombres; Sarabande, opens with extensive pizzicato, brilliantly performed here by Florin Parvulescu. The final movement, marked Les Furies, is extremely modern-sounding, with shrieks and wails appropriate to its namesake, the Furies.  

In his Sonata No. 3 in D minor, “Ballade,” dedicated to Georges Enescu, Ysaÿe pays allegiance not to Bach but to Debussy, as Ysaÿe adopts the nebulous tonality and augmented intervals of Debussy. Chromaticism abounds, and the harmonics are reminiscent of Debussy. Parvulescu adroitly handled all the technical difficulties of this sonata, the most frequently 

performed of Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin.  

After intermission, Parvulescu returned to open the second half of the program with Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 4 in E minor, dedicated to Fritz Kreisler. In three movements, this work opens with a heroic introduction. The second movement, a Sarabande (Quasi lento), offers abundant pizzicato, admirably performed here by Florin Parvulescu. The Finale offers a gigue-like dance played vigorously by Parvulescu.  

Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 5 in G Major was a surprise highlight of the concert. Florin Parvulescu introduced it as “pastoral;” and its two movements were indeed pastoral, with evocations of nature in a manner reminiscent of Debussy. The opening movement, marked L’Aurore/Dawn, begins softly, with pizzicato punctuation after each lyrical passage. One gradually gets a sense of the sun rising above the eastern horizon. The second and final movement is a Dance Rustique, set in 5/4 time. Pizzicato punctuates this rustic dance towards the end of this work. 

Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 6 in E Major is dedicated to Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga. It is in one movement with two sections. The opening, as Parvulescu aptly described it, is a tour de force. Then, perhaps in homage to the Spanish roots of his dedicatee, Ysaÿe offers a habanera. Florin Parvulescu brought this last of Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin to a close with a flourish. Throughout this concert of technically difficult works, Florin Parvulescu performed with impeccable technique as well as heartfelt involvement with music he clearly loves. As an encore, 

Parvulescu invited his friend and fellow violinist René Mandel to join him in playing a movement from a sonata by 18th century French composer Jean-Marie Leclerc.