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Opponents of the 2211 Harold Way project proposal presented thousands of petition signatures to the Berkeley City Council in 2015.
Opponents of the 2211 Harold Way project proposal presented thousands of petition signatures to the Berkeley City Council in 2015.



What Happened on Harold?

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 03, 2020 - 02:39:00 PM
Opponents of the 2211 Harold Way project proposal presented thousands of petition signatures to the Berkeley City Council in 2015.
Opponents of the 2211 Harold Way project proposal presented thousands of petition signatures to the Berkeley City Council in 2015.

As recently as December 19, Mark Rhoades believed that the deal for the development on the site of the Shattuck Cinemas (usually captioned with its side street address of 2211 Harold Way although the current building fronts on Shattuck)was going to go through. He sent this email to his contacts on the City of Berkeley Planning Department staff and others:

“All: This email is to let everyone know that balance of the plan check fee for the Harold Way plan check submittal is going to be paid on December 30th. I will be away so Joe Penner will have someone deliver the check midday on the 30th. In addition, Planning will be providing a letter. I will send a meeting request for this event shortly. Happy Holidays everyone!”

Rhoades is the former COB Planning Department manager who now functions in the private sector as the expediter for corporations seeking permits for developments in Berkeley. Many of his former colleagues are still working for the city, so Rhoades’ name and contacts open doors in Planning for his clients.

However for 2211 Harold Way, aka Berkeley Plaza, insider advocacy has not turned out to be enough.

Few projects in the recent history of Berkeley have aroused so much opposition as this one. The use permit for this project was finally approved at a chaotic Berkeley City Council meeting in December of 2015 after months of heated hearings. Conditions of approval included reconstructing the ten theaters currently on the site as the Shattuck Cinemas, a provision which project opponents, many of them film buffs, demanded.

The next step was supposed to be securing a building permit within two years and paying the plan check fees associated with such permits. The Planning Department staff had the power to extend that time limit without the approval of the city council, and managers did grant two one-year extensions to the applicant, doing business as HSR (Hill Street Realty) Berkeley Investments LLC, but in the end, which came on New Year’s Eve, the company didn’t come through with the required fees.

In many ways, this deal was a classic example of the bait-and-switch method of land use regulation. The putative “developer” describes itself thus on its website: “Hill Street Realty (”HSR”) is a privately held real estate investment, management and development firm founded in 2001. HSR employs institutional discipline and entrepreneurial execution to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns from commercial real estate for its partners & investors.”

What this means, in ordinary language, is that in this case the company assembled parcels of real estate in downtown Berkeley and secured an “entitlement” to develop the property (in this case, got a use permit) and ever since has been trying to flip the entitled property to someone else to build and manage. This time they just couldn’t find a buyer. 

The standard operating procedure in what’s called without irony “the development community” is for the money men to get the original entitlement on the basis of promises, promises. After a bit of time has elapsed, they come back to the city when the opponents aren’t paying attention, whining that “it doesn’t pencil out” so they’ll just need to do some “value engineering” on those promises.

The history of the process in this case was recently summarized in details by project opponent Gale Garcia in a December 15 Planet op-ed: Harold Way — New Plans Call for New Review

She warned that:

“My observations of the Planning Department over the years cause me concern that Planning staff may try to circumvent the required zoning process to benefit the project. Citizens have complained for many years that the Department is largely funded from developer fees, a practice that seems bound to create bias in favor of projects, no matter how illogical or detrimental they may be.

The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission had been asked by city staff to review “incomplete” project plans at their December 5 meeting, but they declined to do so until plans were deemed complete by Planning.

At that meeting, project opponents Garcia, Erin Diehm and Kelly Hammargren made it abundantly clear that community activists would not let developers get by with less than what they’d promised to do in order to get the use permit. Hammargren is a film fan who was an original leader of the opposition and is one of the citizens who had unsuccessfully made pro per challenges to the project’s Environmental Impact Report in court when it was first approved.

Tellingly, Joe Penner was there to see their impressive graphic presentation, and evidently he believed that they meant what they said. As reported in the Planet on New Year’s Day:

“On New Year's Eve at 1:02:46 p.m., developer Joe Penner said this in an email to expediter Mark Rhoades and Steven Buckley of the City of Berkeley's Planning Department:

"The city believed that development projects are a never ending piggy bank they can continue to raid. Now the city will get zero."

After HSR’s withdrawal became public, Hammagren commented:

“What remains a mystery is how a Los Angeles developer whose website shows only flipping projects and no history of ever building anything got involved in a project that calls for excavation and construction under property that he does not own. 

(Click here for the site diagram.)

“ Not only is ownership of only two of the three commercial condominiums in the block surrounded by Allston Way, Shattuck Ave, Kittredge Street and Harold Way a problem, but in addition the project would have destroyed the much loved 10-theater Shattuck Cinemas complex with 9 full size screens, threatened the historic Shattuck Hotel, blocked the view from Campanile Way, demolished Habitot Children’s Museum covering less than 20% of the cost of relocation, plus the project would gotten away with paying a grossly discounted in lieu mitigation fee to avoid providing any inclusionary affordable housing.”

She brings up an important point. A key aspect of bait-and-switch development is a touching belief on the part of city officials everywhere that building lots of expensive apartments will somehow result in providing housing for low-income and even homeless citizens. Increasingly, we’re learned that this just isn’t true.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn was quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle as saying that “I’m really sorry that needed housing isn’t going to go up.” But the fact is that this kind of housing is not needed in Berkeley.

Berkeley has seriously over-achieved on building such “cash-register multiples” while under-achieving on low-income projects.

Some cities, including Berkeley, have attempted to remedy this situation by requiring developers to pay per-unit fees in lieu of including affordable housing iln new luxury/market-rate projects, but such fees don’t provide enough revenue to fund much construction of buildings for low income citizens. The Harold Way deal, pushed through at the last minute by former mayor Tom Bates and his council allies, agreed to reduce the already token inclusionary housing in-lieu fee to a meaninglessly small amount.

Yes, one estimate was that the city might get $10 million from this project to apply to the construction of “affordable” housing, but though it sounds like a lot of money it’s peanuts in an area where homes often cost more than a million. “Affordable” is itself a slippery term. And the latest HSR proposal would have reduced the number of units, and thus the total, even more.

What’s next? Berkeley’s current Downtown Plan, another Bates regime creation, allows for one more extra tall building under current zoning. But the ongoing Sacramento takeover of local planning authority, coupled with the Trump scheme to designate development in “opportunity zones” as a means of laundering capital gains, could produce another speculative project proposal for this site. That would be unfortunate.

A better outcome would be for Joe Penner and company to sell the property to someone who specializes in adaptive reuse of existing buildings. The upper floors would be ideal for conversion into low-cost housing, and the ground-floor theaters would continue to draw paying customers to a downtown which continues to need the vitality they provide. This plan would utilize the embodied energy in the structure at a reasonable and environmentally sound cost to address Berkeley’s genuine needs.

It’s not surprising that Penner is somewhat bitter. The bait-and-switch method usually works, in Berkeley and elsewhere, but this time it just didn’t work for him.

When I was working in the 1980s on an early stage high-tech venture, they used to say that if you look around the table when a deal’s going down, if you don’t know who the sucker is, it’s you. It’s true that Berkeley officials, both elected and appointed, were almost suckered by this dumb deal, but Joe Penner might reasonably be seen as another sucker at the table.

Both Penner and Berkeley might have heeded another 80s caution: If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. Penner might want to ask who talked him into this boondoggle in the first place.

For future development proposals, we should all remember the story of the Trojan horse, the ultimate insider deal, as reported by the poet Virgil: "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”—usually translated as “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. Berkeley should be wary of insider deals like this one which are being “expedited” by former city employees like Rhoades.

Kelly Hammargren has obtained documents relating to this deal though a Public Records Act request, some 800 pages in all, which she intends to make available to the news media. It will be interesting to find out exactly how this mess happened, in hopes of avoiding the same mistakes in the future. 

Meanwhile, in order to get a shorter history of what happened, use the "Search the Planet" button which is at the top of this page, enter "2211 Harold" in the special-for-the-Planet Google search window, and you'll find a long list of news articles and an even longer list of opinions from the last four or five years on this lengthy process.

The Editor's Back Fence

Are we all on board yet?

Wednesday January 08, 2020 - 09:33:00 PM

There is some confusion in the ranks about whether I remembered to click on the button that turns the "next issue" into the current issue.  In any event, since the email which went to subscribers new articles have been added. This is the current issue!

Public Comment

People’s Park: Berkeley’s Soul

Joe Liesner
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:08:00 PM

While it is currently popular to give thanks and respect to those on whose historic shoulders we stand, the words of thanks and respect that the City of Berkeley bestows upon Berkeley’s movements and activists of the ’60s reveal the ironic hypocrisy of a city ready to hand over People’s Park, the epicenter of Berkeley’s political soul, to the University of California, the very institution against which those activists battled for peace, freedom, and equality.

The “Visit Berkeley” website[1] contains several of these accolades to which I am referring. For instance, “Berkeley’s Historic Telegraph Avenue District is revered as the place where the counterculture came to Berkeley”. On that same page the connection of Berkeley to its proud history is said to rise to such a state that “free speech and flower power are forever in Berkeley's “DNA”.

I would certainly be drawn to visit a city that so “revered” its progressive history that it wanted to be identified with that history “forever”. Yet the near total absence of any mention of People’s Park on “Visit Berkeley” should alert those who remain committed to social justice to a new brand of double speak prevalent, these days, in Berkeley.

At the book release for Tom Dalzel’s “The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969” at the Brower Center on May 15,2019 Mayor Jesse Arreguin said he was very influenced by Berkeley’s Free Speech and anti-Vietnam War campaigns of the 1960’s. Mayor Arreguin spoke of how those events “inspired my lifelong commitment to fighting for social justice.”[2] So like the “Visit Berkeley '' site, Mayor Arreguin claims to have a deep connection to the events of the 60’s that took place on Telegraph Avenue and People’s Park. Yet despite these professed bonds, none rise to the point of demanding the University of California preserve and honor, not destroy, People’s Park. 

However difficult it may be to understand why so few in the power positions of the City have come out for the intact preservation of People’s Park, the motivation of the University of California to bury this green, open space sanctuary in concrete is obvious. So long as People’s Park exists as a green open space, open to all, created and stewarded by activists, citizens, and students, then UC’s 1968 role in the fraudulent use of state power[3] to take the homes of over 30 Berkeley citizens, in a desperate attempt to extinguish the counterculture and democratic movements of the 1960’s remains a very open reminder of where the UC stands on such questions of social justice. 

Chancellor Carol Christ’s current attempt to reassert UC domination of People’s Park recalls what Chancellor Heyns said when asked to reflect on his, May 15, 1969, decision to fence off and bulldoze People’s Park. His response to that reporter was “I’m just a janitor for the Regents.”[4] Recognizing the Board of Regents, as the ultimate planner of all things UC, is critical insofar as that body was in 1969, and is to this day, an embodiment of the corporate elite in our country. Now, thanks to the Occupy movement, those elite are more understandably known as the 1% and, as such, they are bound to diminish, as completely as possible, all vestiges of radical progressive victories. 

In discussing People’s Park at that Brower Center event, Mayor Arreguin recognized the significance of the seizure of UC land to build People’s Park as a victorious act of redress. One would guess that his appreciation of that significance was part of the reason he was against giving over People’s Park during his campaign of 2016. But it’s nearly 2020, and after three years as Mayor it seems the Gown has flipped the Town. His current position recalls words used with a directly opposite meaning 50 years ago: “Take the Park”. 

With his defeatist “Take the Park” attitude the Mayor has consigned People’s Park, once again, to UC bulldozers. Mayor Arreguin would now have us believe that “There is a place for a new vision of the park, one that builds on the values of creating a community gathering space.” 

In reality his vision destroys a valuable community space; his vision builds two large concrete boxes that eliminate most of the open space of the Park forever. His vision eliminates all other visions for anything vaguely resembling a park or open space. 

Relinquishing a future for People’s Park that truly respects Berkeley’s history is disrespectful to those freedom fighters of the 1960’s who fought the UC for the rights that we now enjoy. How terribly unfortunate that the presence of the poor and afflicted in People’s Park so limits this city’s vision, so defeats the great planning minds of Berkeley that Berkeley may soon be seen as having sold out its soul. 

[1] https://www.visitberkeley.com/maps-neighborhoods/telegraph-avenue/
[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J82mMBqoSgw
[3] Robert Scheer’s “Dialectics of Confrontation: Who ripped off the Park” (Ramparts: August, 1969) 45. Documents Regent Fred Dutton and UC administrators testimony that the land acquisition was to remove “hippie counterculture” not to build student housing or a soccer field and that Regents and Chancellor Heyns knew that there were no funds to build anything on Lot 1875-2 for at least 10 years.
[4] Sim Van der Ryn, “Interview” in Peoples Park Still Blooming, edited by Terri Compost (Slingshot Collective, 2009), p.19.  


A Case for Impeachment: for the Common Good

Ethel Long-Scott
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:45:00 PM

Impeach Trump, Pence and the whole swamp they brung with them! This man and his rogue crew keep conducting outrageously inhumane actions in our name, caging children, enabling poverty, denying medical care to millions, denying climate change, vomiting hate speech, encouraging Nazis and white supremacists to attack migrants, people of color, the disabled and women. Daily sabotaging institutions of the common good while terrorizing people whose crime is being different — different faith, different gender, different beliefs or just being poor! 

At stake is democracy itself — and the vision of the good America, the one that inspired workers from all over the world to come here. We are in crisis. Nationwide, corporate investment groups are buying up and hoarding housing – NOT to shelter people but to shelter billions in investment money while sprawling homeless encampments grow nearby, along with sky high rents & housing insecurity. No political party protects workers from the death grip of corporate predators. Corporate-sponsored voter suppression combined with deep cuts to life saving social programs ignore what we-the-people say we need. Who is government supposed to serve? Wall Street and the corporations? Or humanity? If the system won’t get rid of this wanna be dictator, servant of corporate dictatorship, then it’s up to us to defend our democracy, and fight to make the wonders of abundance from technology lift humanity out of poverty by reconstituting government of the people by the people and for the people. Starting now!

The Insidiousness of Corporate Crime

Harry Brill
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:16:00 PM

Take a moment to think about your reaction if you and your family were regularly showered with confetti when walking around your neighborhood. Even though the confetti is harmless, the community would be in an uproar and would do what it can to address this nuisance. Yet we often fail to respond aggressively to pollution even when the problem is due to a local source. Why not?  

The answer is obvious. The polluted air generated by a local business plant is on the whole invisible to most of us. Moreover, the adverse effects such as developing cancer, occur many years later. In contrast to street crime, corporate crime is generally subtle. So it is very difficult for the public to make the appropriate connections.  

Even the most recent disturbing development has been barely noticed. Rather than attempting to reduce air pollution, the practices of the business community has resulted this year in an enormous increase in foul air. The emissions of carbon dioxide have been unusually high. These emissions replace the oxygen that we depend on.  

Moreover, bad air is not the only problem. The vegetables we eat are often sprayed with pesticides that are carcinogenic. Indeed, there are many other products on the market that are unsafe. As a result of the widespread corporate assaults, corporate crime far exceeds street crime. Yet the media prefers to publicize street crime far more than corporate crime, which distracts attention from corporate misconduct.  

Among the powerful allies of business is the federal government. It has eliminated many business regulations, claiming it was in the best interest of both business and the public. The truth, however, is that deregulation is the euphemism for abolishing standards, which in turn is detrimental to the public.  

What can we do to turn things around? How do we develop effective organizing strategies? There is a great deal that has been written on this subject. For those who are interested in exploring different approaches, I recommend “People Power: The Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky” (Co-edited by Aaron Schutz and Mike Miller).  

One important strategy that is very rarely considered is the attempt to win over members of the ruling class. Before you snarl at what seems like a preposterous idea please keep in mind that even the rich, including spouse and children contract similar medical problems as a result of the air they breathe and the products they consume. Of course, attempting to educate the ruling class would certainly not win over a majority, But it could convince some of its members, which would be important. In fact, virtually no section of the population should be ignored by political activists.

Feeding Frenzy: Run-up to the Democratic Primary

Glen Kohler
Friday January 03, 2020 - 04:53:00 PM

The spate of me-too Democratic Presidential candidates is suspiciously strange. There has never been an event like this in America’s long history. Why so many? Why now? 

Judging from visible results in what passes for news media these days—and from remarks heard by media viewers in the Bay Area—we are witnessing a full-court press to avoid the prospect of nominating a progressive Democratic candidate for the 2020 general election: ‘as if’ there is a coordinated effort by the Democratic National Committee to steer the nomination to defenders of the status quo. 

The arrival of so many candidates is reported and written about to marginalize Sanders and Warren, by focusing on personalities and minor ideological differences among the many would-be candidates, who clearly are not going to be the next President: Klobuchar, Booker, Yang, De Blasio, Castro, and the rest of the pack with zero chance of winning the Democratic nomination. 

What has led them to suddenly declare? Very strange! Odder still, as 14 Democratic candidates dropped out of the race, more have come forward to replace them. Instead of letting the few serious contenders go to work, too many candidates are being dangled before a bewildered electorate. This has to be a deliberate strategy. It does look like the Party faithful are pulling out all the stops to curtail the talk about progressive policies. The crowd on each debate stage ensures that neither Sanders nor Warren has much time to espouse their respective views and proposals.  

Just imagine what the debates would be like if they could…. 

The football of health care for all that the progressive candidates have loosed upon the field has been punted by quibbling over funding, while CNN runs profitable ads by Kaiser and Blue Cross to ensure that insurance actuaries continue to decide who gets which medical treatments. 

DNC poster boy Joe Biden has loudly proclaimed that 167 million Americans ‘like their health care’. How does he know this? What are the size and distribution of his polling samples? Uncle Joe has said he will consider a Republican running mate, in an obvious appeal to however many Republican voters wanting to make the little man take his loafers out of the Oval Office. Joe has also said he will not serve a second term. He now is trying to downplay that revealing statement, but Biden is obviously not the game-changing President this suffering country needs. Nor is Mayor Pete, the other apologist for the insurance industry, gamboling amidst wads of rich donors’ cash. 

The large number of Democratic candidates allows CNN and Fox ‘News’ to propel viewers’ attention from candidate to candidate in a dizzying whirl. At this late stage in the campaigns, there are still people in Berkeley and the East Bay who say, ‘I haven’t made up my mind yet.’ These casual references are uttered without noticeable concern, as if they are choosing a flavor of ice cream. If voters do not educate themselves and work all-out to nominate the best available Democratic candidate at this critical time in our history—we will not have the President we so desperately need.

US Drone Attack a Monumental Blunder

Jagjit Singh
Sunday January 05, 2020 - 05:02:00 PM

Abandoning his campaign promise to end US military adventures, President Trump launched a drone strike killing Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General Qasem Soleimani. Acting on impulse much like his predecessors Bush and Cheney, the self-proclaimed “Iraqi liberators”, President Trump started a new conflict which will have dire consequences putting American, Iraqi and Iranian lives at considerable risk and plunging the Middle East into more chaos. This latest conflict comes on the heels of the expose by the Washington Post accusing senior U.S. officials of deliberately misleading the American people, making sunny pronouncements they knew to be untrue. It is unlikely that Trump officials have taken a truth serum offering a more accurate assessment of Trump’s latest blunder. 

We have a long dark history of orchestrating regime changes and stealing other countries resources which bears repeating. In 1953 the CIA/MI6 orchestrated a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favor of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and handing over Iran’s oil to Britain who rebranded Iran’s oil company, British Petroleum (BP). 

The US then provided weapons to both sides in the Iraq invasion of Iran. Saddam was armed and provided chemical by weapons, by the US. Reagan then secretly and illegally, sold arms to the Iranians, and used Saudi Arabia to transfer those funds to arm the Contra death squads in Central America (also covert, illegal and an impeachment offence). Removing Saddam Hussein and the Sunni Revolutionary Guard had unintended consequences. It united Iraqi and Iranian religious communities which ushered a Shia revival in to challenge Saudi Arabia Sunny majority and threatened Israeli’s hegemony in the region. The killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani is the latest example of the capricious way in which the former reality T-V star has chosen to flex his awesome lethal powers. 

This establishes an extremely dangerous precedent. Surely, drone technology will soon be available to other nations to target generals and possibly world leaders.  

Killing Suleimani will cause seething anger among both Iranians and Iraqis who will likely demand the ouster of all Americans from their country. If this happens it will be major defeat for the US and possibly negatively impact Trump reelection prospects.

How Trump Falsely Escalated the Prospects for War with Iran

Gar Smith
Saturday January 04, 2020 - 10:32:00 AM

On December 27, 31 Katyusha rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk, wounding several Iraqi troops and killing a single US civilian contractor who was working to "train Iraqi security forces." (Note: The death of a civilian contractor is not uncommon. As of June 26, 2011, 257 American contractors had been killed in Iraq. Typically, contractor deaths outnumber the deaths of foreign soldiers.)

Although the attack targeted an Iraqi government base, and the death of the civilian contractor was apparently inadvertent, the Pentagon responded disproportionately by launching a series of devastating "retaliatory" strikes against five sites belonging to the Iranian-backed Kataeb Hezbollah Brigades. Three sites in Western Iraq and two sites inside Syria were obliterated by US airstrikes that killed at least 25 Hezbollah members.

The US acted despite pleas from Iraqi government officials to call off the attacks.

Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the US retaliatory strikes, calling the actions a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region.”

These attacks brought crowds of protestors to the gates of the US embassy—a 104-acre site in Baghdad's fortified "Green Zone." The demonstrators breached the perimeter security and began breaking windows, destroying security cameras, and setting offices afire before US troops forced them back by firing rounds of tear gas.

The US media uniformly described the protestors as "Iranian-backed militias" but videos appear to show crowds of civilians engaging in the demonstrations—part of a series of public protests that have been roiling the capital for months. Since October, more than 450 people have been killed and more than 8,000 wounded in "apparently leaderless" mass protests by civilians chaffing under Iraq’s poverty, unemployment, electricity cut-offs, unsanitary water supplies, lack of democracy, sectarian politics, and rampant corruption.

In November, these widespread protests forced Adel Abdul-Mahdi to announce he would resign as Prime Minister. 

The Manipulation of Iran's Role 

The Trump administration misrepresented the attacks on the US Embassy as being the sole result of Iranian agitation and used this false claim as a pretext to threaten Iran. In fact, Iran has played a role in suppressing anti-government protests in Iraq. According to Dr Lina Khatib, Iran has been “supporting the security forces. And their loyalist militias in Iraq have infiltrated protests to try and crack down on them and force the demonstrators to go home . . . . It is not in Iran’s interests for the protests to succeed, because it sees them as a threat to its own influence in Iraq.” 

Even the New York Times admited that the assault on the US Embassy was not simply the work of "Iranian-backed militias" but also involved many sectors of Iraq's population, including members of the US-backed Iraqi government. To wit: 

Despite a 16-year American effort to establish a government friendlier to Western interests, at a cost of more than $1 trillion and 5,000 American lives, Iraq’s leaders lined up in opposition to the American airstrikes and its security forces allowed the militias to reach the American diplomatic compound. Some people wearing the uniforms of the Iraqi security forces were even seen attacking the compound themselves. 

Nonetheless, the Trump administration continued to blame Iran for guiding the demonstrations and used this as its excuse for launching a drone strike that targeted Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani as he was leaving Baghdad's national airport in a convoy of vehicles with other officials. 

Soleimani was killed when a missile launched by a 36-foot-long MQ-9 Reaper drone turned his vehicle into a twisted tangle of flaming metal. 

The US media reported that Soleimani "died" in the attack. This minimizes the gravity of the situation. Soleimani did not simply "die"—he was brutally assassinated at the direct order of US president Donald J. Trump. 

Trump has properly been labeled a "lawbreaker" for unilaterally abandoning the multi-party Iranian Nuclear Deal. Now, Mr. Trump—who has been publicly celebrating the death of Soleimani—has earned the title of "murderer." Where other presidents (including George W. Bush and Barack Obama) covertly ordered the deaths of scores of foreign targets, Trump becomes the first US leader to openly boast of his responsibility for assassinating a foreign political leader. 

Soleimani's body was torn to pieces. He could only be identified because of a ring on one of his charred fingers. The brutality of the US attack almost makes Saudi Arabia's public beheadings look like mercy killings by comparison. 

"Self-defense" Cannot Be Proactive 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Soleimani was killed "in response to imminent threats to American lives." Trump called the assassination a "defensive action" designed to "protect US personnel." Trump claimed Soleimani was "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region." So it wasn't a "defensive action" as much as a "preventative action." 

It's always a difficult proposition when any person—or state—asserts the right to take lethal action in "self-defense" on the basis of a suspected threat. Paranoia does not justify over-reaction. 

The problem with first-strike "preventative actions" is that they address probabilities as realities. In this light, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor could have been called a "defensive action," since the US had been massing military forces in the Pacific and subjecting Japan to a range of punishing sanctions intended to push the empire toward war. 

On January 3, Trump issued a statement that "Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him." The details of the alleged threat have not yet been shared with Congress or the American people. And, if there were grounds for such concerns, what is the best response—to prepare to defend against a potential threat or to become an aggressor who commits the first act of violence? 

George W. Bush staged a deadly attack, invasion, and occupation of Iraq based on completely bogus claims of a non-existent threat. Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an act of self-defense. 

You Don't Stop Wars by Employing Aggression 

Now Trump has stated: "We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war." But Trump offered no evidence that Soleimani or Iran had any plots to launch a war against the US. 

Plotting attacks on US troops and military contractors who are installed in a foreign country that increasingly resents US presence is an act of resistance. It does not rise to the level of declaring war on the "US Homeland." 

Many political leaders in the US and around the world are deeply fearful that Trump's posture of self-righteous vengeance has not just given Iran a pretext to attack Western targets but practically requires that Tehran respond in some dramatic manner. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed this concern when she observed: "[W]e cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions." 

Trump declared: "I have deep respect for the Iranian people . . . . We do not seek regime change." Perhaps, Trump is unaware of the fact that it was the US that toppled the government of Iran's democratically elected leader Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. The CIA stirred public discontent and organized massive public protests to destabilized the country as a prelude to overthrowing the government and installing a brutal, US-friendly regime headed by the Shah of Iran. 

In a stunningly disingenuous public statement issued on January 3, Trump blithely lied that "America will always pursue the interests of good people, great people, great souls, while seeking peace, harmony, and friendship with all of the nations of the world." Trump followed that historically flawed claim with the discordant boast: "God bless our great military." 

"An Act of War" 

Trump continues to escalate tensions through threats and disproportionate military responses. So how can he not expect Iran to respond to these threats and military attacks? 

Iran's UN Ambassador has called Soleimani's murder an "act of war" and pointed out that the US has been strangling the Iranian economy with a series of punishing sanctions since May 2018—a process he likened to an "economic war." 

In response to Soleimani's murder, Iranian state television halted all scheduled programming and began broadcasting the Islamic prayer for the dead. During a presentation on Soleimani's assassination, military spokesman Ramezan Sharif broke down in tears on live television. 

New York University professor Arang Keshavarzian, explained why Soleimani was so revered: “He has remained above factional conflicts in Iran and is respected by a variety of segments of the Iranian elite, and he enjoys popularity in Iran as a nationalist symbol who helped repel the Iraqi invasion in the 1980s and stand up to US aggression since then.” 

Catalina Gómez Ángel, a journalist based in Iran, has written: “At the end of this Friday’s prayer in Tehran. I don’t remember hearing the cry of 'Death to America' with such passion in many years. This time it was something that felt like truth. Qasem Suleimani was more than a general for these people.” 

Meanwhile, during a New Year's party at this Mar-a-Lago retreat, when reporters asked Mr. Trump whether he feared a war with Iran might break out, the Commander-in-Chief responded: "I want to have peace. I like peace. I don’t see that happening." 

Someone who murders foreign leaders and doesn't see that such acts can lead to war is too inept and dangerous to be entrusted with the powers of the presidency. 


One odd thing about this whole frightening scenario is that, while the White House has put the country on the path to war because of the inadvertent death of a single civilian contractor, we have not learned the name of the contractor—nor do we know the name of the corporation that was receiving the taxpayer dollars that embedded this military contractor in a foreign country more than 6,000 miles from US shores. 

Letter from Australia

Dennis Fitzgerald
Friday January 03, 2020 - 04:51:00 PM

Sometimes it's the small events that brings home an issue to you, as the saying you can't see the trees for the forest can be so true. At the usual Friday coffee catch up one of our group mentioned in passing that they had lost their holiday house in the fires that are attacking so much of Australia at the moment. 

When you are safe and the fires are nowhere near you, the losses of life and property shown on TV and discussed on the radio seem distant and unconnected to your comfortable life. There is of course a feeling of regret and sadness over the tragedies, but the realities are not so clear. 

Like most young people who grew up in a farming community I contributed to fire risk reduction exercises clearing breaks and reducing the fuel loads around houses by burning them off before they accumulated too much material. It was hot, uncomfortable and actually boring but it had to be done each year and it was just a part of the farm routine. It was also effective. 

Their beachside holiday house was empty as they wouldn't allow any of the family to go there while there was danger. The house and all of its contents including the new table and fridge were gone although insurance will help cover loses. It has been a part of their annual holidays from before their children and grandchildren were born although it's not likely to be replaced as the fires are likely to become more common due to climate changes. It might now become a camping ground for the younger family members. All that really has been lost are some memories. 

The country needs to look at why these fires are becoming bigger and more frequent and find a solution before more lives and property are lost although at present the Politicians are mostly offering words and handshakes, many of which are refused. 

One house out of hundreds lost and fortunately no lives is a small item in a massive issue, but we all need to address it.

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday January 03, 2020 - 06:01:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Governmental and General Abuse

Jack Bragen
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:22:00 PM

When people with psychiatric disabilities seek help from government agencies, the first result is that of informational dissection. The government needs to have all the details. The workers' attitudes and manner, when they are exacting all this data, are sometimes detached and cold. (In all fairness, some government workers are very nice.) 

We are put in the same category as those who commit crimes, those who are addicted to illicit substances, and those who are prone to domestic abuse. In other words, we are considered criminals because we are asking for help with basic needs. 

The above is discernable through the language in the paperwork that we are forced to sign to get various benefits and services. And it is also apparent in the attitudes of some social workers and some mental health professionals. 

Those who work for mental health agencies have ties and mandates that link them to government. Other than criminalizing us, people who work in mental health tend to prejudge. And this is done in a way that produces gross inaccuracies that affect our charts. Since our charts are legal documents, yet another level of being criminalized is produced, one that could affect court cases. 

When mental health agencies prejudge, they seem to assume that a mental health consumer lacks any professional accomplishments. In my twenties, I had a career in electronic repair, which was and is a respectable endeavor. I also have a high I.Q. Mental health workers cannot assimilate the concept that a person with a mental illness could be otherwise intelligent and competent and can have professional-grade skills--such as computer skills, reading comprehension, and the abilities to write and think. When they see evidence of this, it doesn't compute. 

People in the general public have categories in how they perceive and discuss people they meet and/or with whom they do work. One category (of perception) is something that may have cost Mrs. Clinton a Presidency. She was quoted as using the term "deplorables." Trump took full advantage of this mistake and got the vote of many who resented that. 

Our government, ideally, is composed of people in the general public. Government workers are often called, "public servants." When the public has misconceptions, so does the government. In general, it is a good thing that our government is mostly composed of ordinary people. Yet, there are some who despise those they serve, who have high paying positions in government, and who socialize with their own type. 

People are wrongly assessed, wrongly diagnosed, and wrongly assumed to be idiots. Criminal behavior is wrongfully attributed. This is why many mentally ill people, good, often smart individuals who suffer from bad illnesses, are considered garbage and are put in jails and prisons without good reason. Our corrupt, inappropriate government is responsible for this. This is criminal. 

People should look a bit farther than their own affluence. Is their affluence built on the suffering of others? 

Governor Newsom is trying to put an end to for profit prisons in California. This would curtail the inappropriate mass incarceration, a thing that society cannot morally justify. When people are incarcerated for piddling offenses committed due to mental illness, that's wrong. Also, if a suspect is innocent but mentally ill, they will be unable to defend themselves against the mechanisms of the system. They will be unable to make a good case for themselves in court. The Public Defender may not be invested in helping them. If you can't properly articulate that you've done nothing wrong, then what will happen to you? 

Other than mass incarceration of those who should be getting help, our government is guilty of not providing enough help, and of not providing this in some semblance of a friendly and nonthreatening manner. 

The Social Security Administration is partly composed of those who want to help. Yet, there are some who work for them who have authoritarian attitudes, and who obtain joy from being mean toward disabled people. There is also the factor that SSI isn't enough to live on. Republicans in government would like to further reduce entitlements under Social Security. Even the semi-decent Republicans who can think, who've quit because they couldn't tolerate Trump, were not great toward disabled people. 

Our government, whether it is controlled by Republicans, Democrats, or Purple-People-Eaters, needs to have some level of kindness. What little kindness remains is under siege. 


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THE PUBLIC EYE:Who’s Afraid of Michael Moore?

Bob Burnett
Friday January 03, 2020 - 03:07:00 PM

At otherwise jolly holiday parties, my political friends couldn't stop talking about Michael Moore's prediction that Donald Trump would win in 2020. (Remember, Michael predicted Trump would prevail in 2016.) How worried should we be? 

Michael Moore made his prediction in a December 26th conversation with Amy Goodman (https://www.democracynow.org/2019/12/26/michael_moore_donald_trump_impeachment ): 

"I believe whoever the Democrat is next year is going to win by 4 to 5 million popular votes. There’s no question in my mind that people who stayed home, who sat on the bench, they’re going to pour out, in California, New York... The problem is, is that [Trump] will — if the vote were today, I believe, he would win the electoral states that he would need, because, living out there, I will tell you, his level of support has not gone down one inch. In fact, I’d say it’s even more rabid than it was before, because they’re afraid now." 

Moore explained to Goodman that he believes the reason 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump was because, in states like Michigan, she did not generate enthusiasm among rank-and-file Democrats. In 2020, Moore is afraid that Democrats will lose again if they repeat the Clinton "mistake." 

"The good news is, again, number one, never forget, there’s more of us than there are of them. The majority of the American people agree with us. Seventy percent of the voters next year are women, people of color and young adults... So, what we have to do is we have to make sure we don’t give them another Hillary Clinton to vote for." 

Michael Moore is a smart guy. What he is saying is that if, in 2020, Democrats nominate a Hillary-clone then they'll lose again because Trump will carry the midwest and, therefore, win the electoral vote. This is an important argument that has three components: 1. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because Democrats in critical states, such as Michigan, didn't vote for her. 2. Moore believes the 2020 "centrist" Dems, such as Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, are bound to be as unpopular as Clinton. 3. In 2020 the other political dynamics will be the same as they were in 2016. That is, Trump will probably carry the Independents. Furthermore, Moore believes Trump will probably win the same "red" states and the Dems will probably win the same "blue' states and therefore, the race will come down to the same handful of states such as Michigan. Let's examine each of these contentions. 

1.Hillary lost swing states because registered Democrats didn't vote for her. The 2016 election post-mortem suggested that Clinton lost the electoral college because she underperformed in three states and lost them by a total of 77,759 votes. Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,307 votes (0.7 of a percentage point), Wisconsin by 22,748 votes (0.7 of a point) and Michigan by 10,704 votes (0.2 of a point). 

Michigan: Trump had 2,279543 voters (47.50%) and Clinton had 2,268,839 voters (47.27%). Two other candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had 223,499 voters (4.66%). So it's likely that some Democrats who didn't like Clinton, chose instead to vote for Johnson or Stein. 

The CNN exit polls indicated that while there were more potential Michigan Democratic voters than Republican, only 88 percent of Dems voted for Clinton versus 90 percent for Trump. 

Wisconsin was similar to Michigan: Trump had 1,405,284 voters (47.22%) and Clinton had 1,382,536 voters (46.45%) , while Johnson and Stein had 137,746 voters (4.62%). Once again it was likely that some Democrats that didn't like Clinton voted for Johnson or Stein. 

Pennsylvania results indicated that Trump had 2,970,733 voters (48.18%) and Clinton had 2,926,441 voters (47.46%). Johnson and Stein had 196,656 (3.19%). 

The CNN Pennsylvania exit polls were similar to Michigan. There were more Democratic voters (42%) than Republican (39%) but only 87% of Dems stayed with Clinton versus 89% that stuck with Trump. 

Conclusion: In these key states, Michael Moore is right when he states that Clinton lost because her base didn't stick with her. But it's an oversimplification, because Moore ignores the decisive role played by Independents -- Trump carried the Independents in each state. (By the way, the national exit polls indicated that Trump carried Independents -- 20 percent of the electorate -- 48% versus 41% for Clinton.) 

2. The 2020 "centrist" Dems, such as Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, are bound to be as unpopular as Clinton. Michael Moore believes that 2020 Dems are about to make the same mistake they did in 2016 and nominate an unpopular candidate -- leading to a "hold your nose" election where Trump will prevail. The most recent polling data doesn't support this. 538 (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-democratic-presidential-candidates-are-becoming-less-popular/ ) notes that Trump is by far the most unpopular candidate (47.8% "very unfavorable" rating). 

Among the Democratic candidates: Joe Biden had a 31.4% "very unfavorable" rating, while Bernie Sanders had a 34.4% rating and Elizabeth Warren 34.2%. 

Conclusion: Michael Moore seems to be off in his assertion that the 2020 centrist Democratic candidates will be as unpopular as Hillary Clinton. 

3. In 2020, Michael Moore assumes the other political dynamics will be the same as they were in 2016. There are actually two parts to this assertion; the first is that Trump will, once again, carry Independent voters. This doesn't seem to be the case. 

The latest Gallup poll shows that Trump's approval rating is 42 percent with Independents. This is consistent with the 2018 election results where Democratic candidates "took 55 percent of independents compared to just 41 percent for Republican candidates." (https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/475607-independent-voters-will-make-donald-trump-a-one-term-president) A recent The Hill article observed: "A recent Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 62 percent of independents 'disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president.' " 

This shift in the sentiment of independent voters seems to indicate that, in 2020, Independents will prefer the Democratic presidential candidates over Trump. There isn't a lot of polling on this, but a November Washington Post/ABC News poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-trails-democratic-rivals-in-national-survey-as-independents-move-away/2019/11/04/) showed that among Independent voters: Biden led Trump by 56% to 39%. 

The second Moore assertion is that the 2020 election map will look the same as it did in 2016. That is, the coasts will go to the Democratic presidential candidate, the south and heartland will go to Trump and the election will be decided by a small number of states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Many Democratic strategists don't agree with Moore's perspective; they think many more states will be in play. Seven states have been mentioned as possible Democratic targets. 

Arizona: In 2016. Trump won Arizona with 48.1% (Clinton got 44.6%). However, the state is inexorably swinging towards the Democrats. In 2018, Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema replaced (outgoing) Republican Jeff Flake. Recent polls show that Trump's popularity is waning; Real Clear Politics indicates that he and Joe Biden are tied in the Arizona polls. (Explanation: I'm using Joe Biden as the potential Democratic candidate because -- in these seven states -- Biden has the best poll numbers versus Trump.) 

Florida: In 2016, Trump won Florida with 48.6% (Clinton got 47.4%). As we know, this is a volatile state. At the moment, Joe Biden leads Trump by a 2 percent margin. 

Georgia: In 2016, Trump won Georgia with 50.4%. We know this state is difficult to peg because of historic Republican-instigated voter suppression. Nonetheless, at the moment, Joe Biden leads Trump by 8 percent. 

Iowa: In 2016, Trump won Iowa with 51.1%. In the latest polls, Trump leads Biden by approximately 2 percent. 

North Carolina: In 2016, Trump won North Carolina with 49.8%. At the moment, Biden leads Trump by 3 percent. 

Ohio: In 2016, Trump won Ohio by 51.3%. In the latest poll, Biden leads Trump by 6 percent. 

Texas: In 2016, Trump won Texas by 52.2%. In the latest polls, Trump and Biden are even. 

Conclusion: Michael Moore is predicting that Donald Trump will again win in 2020 because (1) Democrats will nominate an unpopular candidate -- Moore, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, believes that Joe Biden will prove to be as unpopular as Hillary Clinton. (2) Moore's second assertion is that Democrats will again lose Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. At the moment, Biden (and other Democratic candidates) are ahead of Trump in these three states. (3) Moore's third assertion is that, in 2020, Independent voters will break for Trump. Once again, this doesn't seem to be the case. (4) Finally, Michael Moore believes that the 2020 electoral map will be the same as it was in 2016. Once again, this is questionable. At the moment, Democratic candidates -- particularly Joe Biden -- seem to be extremely competitive in seven states that Trump carried in 2016. 

I'm not saying that Trump will definitely lose in 2020. I'm saying the situation looks different than it did in 2016 and Dems should have "guarded optimism." At the moment, several Democratic candidates -- notably Joe Biden -- have a good shot at defeating Trump. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT:U.S. Assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 03, 2020 - 07:09:00 PM

Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was assassinated on January 3, 2020 by U.S. drone strikes. Soleimani led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. President Trump authorized the strike. 

General Suleimani is accused of causing the deaths of hundreds of soldiers during the Iraq war, by providing Iraqi insurgents with advanced bomb-making equipment and training. He is also accused of masterminding destabilizing Iranian activities that continue throughout the Middle East and are aimed at the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

Congress was not consulted prior to the strike, nor did Allied forces participate. The Defense Department characterized the strike as "decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad" and said Soleimani "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” The White House has not revealed the evidence of such “plans.” 

Iran is not without blame in the escalation of the U.S.-Iran conflict. The strike comes days after American forces bombed three outposts of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-supported militia in Iraq and Syria, in retaliation for the death of an American contractor in a rocket attack last week near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Pro-Iranian protestors lay siege to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. 

Trump has repeatedly vowed to end American entanglements in the Middle East, insisting that he did not want war. But the killing of Soleimani is likely to escalate the U.S.-Iran conflict and worsen our relations with Iraq. It is notable that previous to the strike, there had been a wave of anti-Iran demonstrations. I expect a wave of anti-U.S. demonstrations in Iraq now. 

I suspect the beginnings of the present precarious situation with Iran dates back to Trump’s abandoning of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran whereby Iran agreed to limit its ability to produce a nuclear weapon, in exchange for the removal of various sanctions imposed on it internationally. After the 2016 election. Even though Iran was abiding by it, Trump reneged on the Iran nuclear deal and renewed sanctions. The Iranians are suffering deeply under these sanctions. 

In killing General Suleimani, Trump took an action that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected, fearing it would lead to war between the U.S. and Iran. 

Trump talks about bringing our troops home from endless wars. Yet, we still have troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and now Saudi Arabia. And now he risks another endless war with Iran. 

There is nothing like a war to divert attention away during an election year and impeachment proceedings. 


In Iran, the leadership convened an emergency security meeting. The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement calling for three days of public mourning and then retaliation. American government and civilian personnel, the military, and tourists around the world are vulnerable. 

Has Trump bungled us into a war with Iran and increased the destabilization in the Middle East? Stay tuned.

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday January 05, 2020 - 05:10:00 PM

News Flash: Dream Edition

I seldom recall my dreams these days but, this morning, I woke up with a great fragment from Dreamland lodged in my head.

Just before waking, I dreamed I heard a newscast reporting a car theft that was pulled off by a criminal located "nine miles from the scene of the crime."

How could this happen?

According to the reporter-on-scene: "The clever thief hacked a self-driving car."

Spinning in a New Year

On New Year's Day, I lost two quarters in a North Berkeley Laundromat.

Rather than risking a third coin on yet another broken drier, I set out in search of another site. As it turned out, a better omen for 2020 was waiting for me at the Central Launderette at 2462 Shattuck.

While I was finishing up and folding my last batch of freshly cooked shorts and shirts, the on-site operator (who typically inhabits a dry-cleaning service behind a counter in the back of the space) walked up with a smile, handed me two quarters, and said "Happy New Year." 

She explained that she was handing out coins to "seniors" as a New Years' gift. 

The kind lady was named Akoshia and she hails from Ghana. 

I think I've found a new home for my rainy day laundry runs. 

After 45 Years, Beach Blanket Folds 

Beach Blanket Babylon is no more but the long-running Club Fugazi fantasia went out with a bang. The Chronicle's Lily Janiak was on hand for the final performance of the cast and crew of this unique theatrical institution. (I really hope these final shows were captured on film or videotape. In the meantime, the Chron's BBB-post-closing podcasts are available online at www.sfchronicle.com/podcasts.) 

And, as the curtain comes down on Snow White, Glinda, and King Louis, we have Janiak's signature over-wrought/over-writ recap of the event. By Janiak's account ("It's bye-bye for Babylon"), Tammy Nelson's closing rendition of the Patsy Cline song, "Crazy," was especially moving. Nelson, Janiak wrote, "got so lost in the loogie-hocking of a caricatured French accent that she seemed to dislocate her jaw or, later, suck one of her eyeballs out of its socket and into her sinuses." 


Justice for Trump Tattler 

Ex-Trump campaign aid Rick Gates has been justly rewarded for betraying his Orange Master. Gates was facing a minimum four-year prison term for committing financial crimes and lying to the FBI but Gate flipped and spilled some beans that lead to the criminal conviction of two other Trump advisors—Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. In exchange for cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russiagate probe, Gates had his prison sentence reduced to 300 hours of community service and was a modest sentence of 45 days in jail. 

It gets better: According to the New York Times, Gates will be allowed to "serve the jail time intermittently, if he prefers, such as on weekends." 

It's not everyday that a convicted criminal is allowed to chose how to serve out a jail sentence. 

Jail-time Suicides 

In 2019, 36 inmates committed suicide in California's prisons—an alarming 26% uptick from the previous year. According to the Associated Press, Contra Costa Country is attempting to brighten the lives of inmates held in solitary confinement by "offering cookies" in exchange for following prison orders. 

Something else that might reduce prison suicides: ending the practice of solitary confinement. 

Back to the Future: Hope from Nepal 

Kirstin Miller, Executive Director of EcoCity Builders recently shared some year-end thoughts. "As 2019 closes," Miller reflected, "many of us are unsure of what the future holds. Our planet, brimming with life made possible by the protection from a thin blanket of gases and tiny particles, continues spinning through the cosmos into the unknown." 

Despite our precarious times, Miller found cause for hope, writing: "This year, I had the good fortune to spend part of my time in Nepal, where it's currently 2076, approximately 56 years ahead of the Gregorian Calendar. 

"I find Nepal especially fascinating because the traditional city builders of the Kathmandu Valley were highly sophisticated urbanists who maintained a socially and ecologically balanced civilization for many centuries. My wish for the coming year is that we go 'back to the future' and explore the vast knowledge pool available to us from places like 2076 Nepal. Indigenous urban systems and social architecture there hold promise for new data collectives and resilient city design here." 

Targeting America's Assassin-in-Chief 

If War Criminal DJ Trump's stunt of assassinating a major foreign leader to (as he explained it) "stop a war" was part of a strategy to distract the public from his ongoing impeachment problems, it may be working. (Nothing "focuses the mind" more than the prospect of a Nuclear World War.) 

All the more reason to cheer Bernie Sanders for stepping out front to confront the mortal danger that is Donald Trump. 


It's an Ill Wind that Blows No Good? 

A recent report on KPFA's Ecoshock poscast left some listeners wondering if climate change might have some positive effects. One scientist proposed that the stronger winds that accompany "extreme weather" could provide more power for wind turbines. A positive. But there are many downsides to climate collapse and here's just one: rising temperatures are expected to degrade the performance of solar panels. 

This fact gives Big Oil and Big Coal interests yet another reason to pollute the planet — i.e., the more heated our carbonated our skies become, the more it will harm the infrastructure of competing, solar-based sustainable technologies. 

Innovate or incinerate: that is the question—and that is the challenge. 

Have a 20/20 Visionary New Year. 

Well Done, Dick! 

The activists with The Brady PAC are celebrating a decision by the Dick’s Sporting Goods chain to destroy $5 million worth of guns pulled it's store shelves. And, to show their approval, the anti-gun group has posted an online "thank you" card that people can sign. 

"If enough people sign our card," the Brady team notes, "it’ll create massive public pressure to force other companies to pull assault weapons from their shelves." Unfortunately, the Brady PAC's pitch ends on a prissy note when potential supporters are asked to check one of the following two options: 

"Yes, I’ll donate right now! 

No, I don't care about saving lives." 

Singing Along with Jolly Giulinani 

The travails of Trump Consigliere Rudy Giulinani prompted a number of pundits to celebrate the holiday season with politically charged renditions of a popular Christmas ditty. Here's one from Public Citizen's Robert Weissman: 

Rudy the Red-nosed Grifter 

You know Bill Barr and Bannon, the Pencer, and ’Vanka
McConnell the stupid, Don Jr. and Bolton
But do you recall
Trump’s most rotten lackey of all?
Rudy the Red-Nosed Grifter
Has a very shiny face
Now that we all have seen him
What a national disgrace!
All of the other fraudsters
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudy
Join in all their swindler games
Then one ugly election year
Donald came to say
“Rudy, with your lousy brain
Help me quid pro quo Ukraine”
But now the people loathe him
And we’re shouting out with glee
“Rudy the Red-Nosed Grifter
You’ll go DOWN in history!”

And here's another from CBS commentator Dave Ross: 


Arts & Events

Salute to Vienna at Davies Symphony Hall

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:19:00 PM

New to me, though now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Salute to Vienna came to Davies Symphony Hall on Monday evening, December 30, to present a concert of music and dance in homage to the city of Vienna. Drawing its inspiration in part from the famed Neujahrskonzert 

given each January 1 at Vienna’s Musikverein by the Vienna Philharmonic, a concert seen worldwide on television, Salute to Vienna offers lots of waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. and others, plus excerpts from Viennese operettas. Touring 18 cities in the USA throughout December, not to mention concerts in Canada, Salute to Vienna spreads its Viennese gemütlichkeit over a large canvas. In San Francisco, the orchestra was the Strauss Symphony of America, a musical 

organization based in New York State. Its conductor for the Davies Hall concert was Balázs Bánfi from Budapest. Singers were soprano Patricia Nessy from Vienna and tenor David Danholt from Copenhagen. Ballet dancers from Europaballett of St. Pölten, Austria, performed to several of the instrumental pieces, and International Champion Ballroom dancers from Hungary waltzed to both vocal and instrumental pieces.  

The concert got under way with the Overture to Gypsy Baron by Johann Strauss, Jr. Next up were “Frülingsstimmen” Waltzes, Op. 410, by Johann Strauss, Jr. These were sung by 

soprano Patricia Nessy, who negotiated the difficult coloratura passages with aplomb. (In an aside, I note that never before hearing this music live did I realise how close some coloratura 

passages resemble yodelling.) Following this came the Dorfschwalben aus Österreich Waltzes by Josef Strauss, the brother of Johann Strauss, Jr. This music was accompanied by dancers from Europaballett. Next, conductor Balázs Bánfi introduced tenor David Danholt from Copenhagen. A Heldentenor, David Danholt has won many awards, including first prize in the International Wagner Competition in Seattle. Here in San Francisco, David Danholt’s first contribution to the program was an aria from Franz Lehár’s operetta Giudita. In this aria, David Danholt’s robust tenor easily made itself heard over many fortissimo passages in the orchestra. Following this came an instrumental piece, Florentiner March by Julius Fučik, which offered multiple trombone smears. The next piece, the Wiener Blut Waltzes , Op. 354, by Johann Strauss, Jr., offered what to my mind was the highlight of the first half of the concert. Accompanied by graceful ballroom dancers, the sweetly lyrical Wiener Blut Waltzes resounded beautifully in Davies Hall. Next came a vocal duet with Patricia Nessy and David Danholt singing a lovers’ spat to music by Emmerich Kálmán from Die Csárdásfürstin/The Gypsy Princess, an operetta I saw at Vienna’’s Volksoper in 2001. This piece began with a lovely cello solo. To close out the first half of this concert, 

Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Op. 214, was performed accompanied by ballet dancers.  

Opening the second half of this concert was a famous, one might even say, notorious, piece by Jacques Offenbach, the Overture (“Can-Can”) from Orpheus in the Underworld. Though not by a Viennese composer, this operetta by Jacques Offenbach was a great hit in Vienna. Next came a tenor aria from David Danholt, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” from Land of Smiles by Franz Lehár. In this aria, David Danholt demonstrated an impressive ability to handle frequent shifts of dynamics, ending with a booming fortissimo climax. Another work by Franz Lehár followed, the Gold and Silver Waltzes, op. 79, accompanied by ballet dancers. Turning to comedy, the next piece was “Schwipslied” or “Tipsy Song” from A Night in Venice by Johann Strauss, Jr. Sung in character by Patricia Nessy, who carried a bottle of champagne in one hand and a wineglass in the other, this drunken aria was filled with infectious laughter and even a burp or two. As a 

musical rendering of inebriation, this was a delightful hoot. Next came the Process Polka, Op. 294, by Johann Strauss, Jr., followed by another highlight of the concert, the song “Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume”/ “Vienna, city of my dreams,” by Rudolf Sieczyński. This song, which was famously recorded by the great tenor Richard Tauber, was sung here as a duet by David Danholt and Patricia Nessy. Closing out he scheduled part of the program was “Leichtes Blut Polka by Johann Strauss, Jr.  

By way of encores, the ensemble performed the famous Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr., then an aria from Strauss’s operetta Die Fledermaus, followed by an audience sing-along of “Auld Lang Syne,” and, finally, an audience clap-along to the Emperor Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr.  

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Jan. 5-12

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday January 04, 2020 - 10:31:00 AM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

It is a full week of Board and Commission meetings with the City Council Agenda Committee monopolizing the space over the proposed agenda plan for the January 21 City Council meeting From the looks of the long list of Council agenda items, expect some to be referred or postponed.

  • Tuesday the Ashby Safety Community Walk looks interesting. The Homeless Services Panel of Experts discusses the response to City Council actions on Measure P.
  • Wednesday the Parks Commission has a presentation on Tree Planting and the Police Commission will review the policies on the Use of Force, Gun Violence Restraining orders and First Amendment Assemblies.
  • Thursday the Housing Advisory Commission takes comments on spending of HUD Funds for 2020-2025 and will have updates on AB2923 and BART. ZAB will have a presentation on Electrification / Green Building.


Sunday, January 5, 2019

No City meetings or events found

Monday, January 6, 2019 

Agenda and Rules Committee, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Items to be reviewed for inclusion or referral: 8. Prohibiting Councilmembers from using of cell phones, email, text, instant messaging during public meetings on matters under consideration, 9. Updating Berkeley Telecom Ordinances, 10. Referral to Zero Waste to develop plan for compulsory composting and edible food recovery, CONSENT: 1. Ratify license agreement for Jazz School to use 1947 Center for 3-month term ending March 31, 2020, 2. Ratify $150,000 contract with Capoeira, 6. $675,000 total 3 yr Contracts Copying Services, 7. $112,000 Contract with Venture Tactical for Firefighters Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), 8. $47,000 Contract with First Spear of California (FSOC) for Firefighters PPE, 9. $166,680 Contract with Michael Brady for Emergency Management Training for City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Department of Operations Center (DOC), 10. Designate line of succession in disaster, 11. Grant Application for funding from Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) for $56,472 Emergency Medical Training Equipment and $53,134 purchase Polaris Fire/Rescue Utility Vehicle, 12. Grant Application for funding from CA Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection for $800,484 for 3-year vegetation mitigation program in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) in Berkeley Fire Zones 2 and 3, 13. Add $25,000 (total $100,000) and extend current contract by 4 months with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), 14. Add $24,000 (total $78,500) to contract with Resource Development Associates (RDA) to provide evaluation consulting services for the Homeless Outreach and Treatment Team (HOTT), 15. Release of Resale Restrictions on Redevelopment Homeowner Loans, 16. Grant Applications total $2.625 million for 2527 San Pablo (SAHA) and 2001 Ashby (RCD) and $4.047 million in state AHSC funds for project-related transportation and infrastructure improvements, 17. Ordinance for 2012 Berkeley Way Partial Assignment and Third Amendment to Disposition and Development Agreement, Ground Leases, 18. Add $35,000 (total 250,000) and extend Contract to Dec 31, 2020 with Sloan Sakai LLP for Chief Labor Negotiator Services, 19. Establish Mental Health Nurse Classification Series, 20. $285,609 payment to State of CA Self-Insurance Fund (Worker’s Comp) for Fiscal Year 2020, 21. Add $225,000 (total $621,000) to Contract with Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc (ESRI) for Enterprise Graphical Information Systems (GIS) for software license maintenance and support July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2023, 22. Add $73,658 (total $329,061) May 1, 2016 – June 30, 2021 with ThirdWave Corporation for Digital Strategic Plan Refresh and RapidWorkFlow® Process Modeling Certification Training, 23. Add $28,620 (total $128,620) to Contract with Presidio Network Solutions to develop a Cyber Resilience Plan (CRP), 24. Michael H. Weiss Memorial Bench at Cesar Chavez Park, 25. Add $60,000 (total $384,335) to Contract with Bellingham to replace damaged finger docks at Berkeley Marina, 26. Add $90,000 (total $190,000) to contract with Epic Recruiting for Police and professional staff recruiting, 27. Add $13,600,000 (total $26,661,930) withRecology, Inc Blossom Valley Organics – North facility for hauling and processing organic compostable green and food waste, terms thru Feb 28, 2025, 28. Mental Health Commission Appointments of Maria Moore, Edward Opton, Farzaneh Izadi, 29. Oppose new US base in Henoko-Oura Bay of Okinawa, 32. Short Term Referral to City Manager to 1. Improve and increase Community Engagement, 2. Identify Funding resources to implement 1 & 3. And 3. Require all City Council items and staff reports to include Climate Impacts in addition to Environmental Sustainability. Items 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, allocation of Councilmember discretionary funds, ACTION: 36. Parking (RPP) 1500 block of Lincoln, 37. Extend ADU Urgency Ordinance by 10 months and 15 days to comply with new STATE Law pending further analysis and adoption of local regulations, 38. Prohibit Officeholder Accounts, 39. Amendments to Berkeley Election Reform Act, 40. City Council revisions of Rules and Procedure, 41. Purchase Order for $492,284 plus $245,000 to add plug-in hybrid when it becomes available for 9 Ford Super Duty F-Series Pickup Trucks, 42. a.&b. Five year Paving Plan, 43. Direct a substantial portion of cannabix tax proceeds to fund subsidies under 1000 Person Plan (end homelessness plan), 44. Change Public access to move Consent item to Action, 45. Change Public comment to allow more comprehensive discussion between Council and Public, 46. a.&b. purchase of, provision of sugar sweetened beverages with City funds or sale of sugar sweetened beverages on City property, 47. Require Kitchen Exhaust Hood Ventilation prior to execution of contract for sale or close of escrow, 48. Outdoor Emergency Shelter, 49. Recommendations Related to Code Enforcement and Receivership Actions, 50. Measure P Revenue Allocations for 2020-2021, 51. Budget referral to conduct Equal Pay Audit, 52. Small Business Listening Sessions, 53. Resolution reaffirming Roe v. Wade, INFORMATION REPORTS: 54. 2019 Business Survey Results, 55. Small Business Retention Programs, 56. Measure T1. 


Peace and Justice Commission, 7 pm at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Sequoia Room, Agenda: 10. Resolution calling on India to revoke Articles 370 and 35a (autonomy Jammu and Kashmir and permanent resident status) 11. Council proposal to modify role of commissions, 12. Educational forum 75th anniversary of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 


Personnel Board, 7 – 9 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conference Room, Agenda: V. Extension Temporary Director of Health, Housing and Community Services, VI. Recommendation to Revise Classification of Fire Apparatus Operator, Paramedic Supervisor I, Fire Captain II, Battalion Chief, Assistant Fire Chief. 


Tax the Rich Rally, with music by Occupella, 4 – 5 pm at the Top of Solano in front of the Closed Oaks Theater, signs available Impeach and Remove, anti-war signs welcome, Rain Cancels. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2019 

Ashby Safety Community Walk, 5:30 – 6:30 pm, start Sacramento/Ashby end Shattuck/Ashby, Walk Ashby with Ben Bartlett and voice concerns about road and street safety. 

Homeless Services Panel of Experts, 7 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: 6. Response to Council Action on Measure P, 7. Registering objection (“No Confidence”) regarding Council Action on Measure P Recommendations 


Wednesday, January 8, 2019 

Commission on Disability, 6:30 – 9 pm at 1947 Center, 4th Floor, Agenda: 2. T1 Presentation, 3. Wildfires and Power Outages, 6. Elevator Ordinance, 7. New Construction and Renovation – Accessibility Guidelines and Regulations. 


Homeless Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor Cypress Room, Agenda: 7. People’s First Sanctuary Recommendation, 8. Possible recommendation on supplemental homeless count, 8. Encampments on Caltrans property, 10. Incentives for landlords to rent to voucher and subsidy holders. 


Parks and Waterfront Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center, Agenda: 11. Presentation Tree Planting Program, 12. Frances Albrier Center Measure T1, 13. Aquatic Park Update. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Parks_and_Waterfront_Commission.aspx 

Police Review Commission, 7 – 10 pm, at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 9. a. Recommendation to revise Berkeley Police Dept (BPD) policy regarding searches of detainees on probation or parole, c. PRC Regulations regarding handling of informal complaints, d. Commendations of BPD personnel, 10. a. BPD Policy 300, Use of Force, b. Lexipol Policies 327 – Outside Agency Assistance, 343- Gun Violence Restraining Orders, 344 – Off-duty Law Enforcement Action, 420 – Foot Pursuits, 424-Mobile Data Terminal Use, 428 – First Amendment Assemblies, 506 – Disabled Vehicles, 1202 – Second Response 


Thursday, January 9, 2019 

Cannabis Commission, 2 – 4 pm, at 2180 Milvia St, 6th Floor, Agenda: VII. C. Relocation of Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) to 1101 University 


Housing Advisory Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 5. Comments on draft 2020-2025 Consolidated Plan (spending of HUD funds), 8. Housing Impacts of the Climate Emergency Subcommittee Joint meeting, 10. Updates, Measure P, Measure O, ADU ordinance, BART stations and AB2923 


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

1332 Alcatraz – 6th bedroom on a parcel developed with a duplex – on consent 

1516 Carleton – demolish existing 1-story single family house and detached garage, construct 3 detached 2-story dwellings with on-site parking – on consent 

1331-1334 Oxford – alter 5,400 sq ft parcel that is over density by constructing 305 sq ft addition to 2-story duplex max height 33’2”, relocate entrance to 1st floor unit, install unenclosed hot-tub, alter garage by decreasing height by 7”, construct perimeter fence 5’10“ and 7’. 

Presentation – Electrification / Green Building by Sarah Moore 


Public Works Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 1326 Allston Way, Willow Room, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard, Agenda not posted, check before going 


Friday, January 10, 2019 

City of Berkeley reduced service day 

California on Fire – Toyota protest rally, 4 – 5:30 pm (note time change), at 2400 Shattuck, Toyota Dealership, can’t come call Toyota USA CEO Jim Lentz @ 800-331-4331. 


Saturday, January 11, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Sunday, January 12, 2019 

Indivisible Berkeley General Assembly, 5:45 - 7:30 pm, 1924 Cedar, BFUU Fellowship Hall 






Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir TBD 

2422 Fifth St – mixed-use building 2-25-2020 

1581 LeRoy Ave – convert vacant elementary school property – LPC & ZAB 3-10-2020 

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 

1731 Channing 1-22-2020 

1637 Delaware 1-9-2020 

1236 Delaware 1-9-2020 

1236 Dwight 1-27-2020 

2307-09 Prince 1-7-2020 

2323 Rose 1-23-2020 

1835 San Pablo 1-7-2020 

1505 Shattuck 1-7-2020 

1241 Sixth 1-22-2020 

1632 Sterling 1-27-2020 

1632 Stuart 1-7-2020 

1600 Walnut 1-7-2020 





Jan 14 – Vision 2050, Civic Center Visioning, 

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

March 17 – Undergrounding Task Force, 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 and Sept 29 – no workshops scheduled “yet” 

Oct 20 – Update: Berkeley’s 2020 Vision, BMASP/Berkeley Pier-WETA Ferry 



Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations 

Cannabis Health Considerations 

Update goBerkeley (RPP) 

Systems Realignment 



To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 



To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 





This meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 


When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY