New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Syria-A Turkish Dilemma

Conn Hallinan
Friday March 06, 2020 - 10:41:00 PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest gamble in Syria’s civil war appears to have come up snake eyes. Instead of halting the Damascus government’s siege of the last rebel held province, Idlib, Turkey has backed off, and Ankara’s Syrian adventure is fueling growing domestic resistance to the powerful autocrat. -more-

Public Comment

People's Park "Alternatives": A 16- or 15-Story High-Rise?

Abe Quinto
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 06:11:00 PM

These three "Scenarios" for developing People's Park were displayed at UC Berkeley Capital Strategies' "open house" on March 4. It's a safe guess why UC hasn't revealed them on its project Website: The only "choice" UC is offering the community is between massive high-rise dorms topping out at 16 stories, versus 15 stories. -more-


Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 06:07:00 PM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coming under increasing criticism as the Coronavirus envelops America in its tight grip.

The CDC shipped hundreds of defective diagnostic kits to state laboratories compounding a serious health epidemic. President Trump downplayed the looming epidemic accusing the Democrats of inflating the crisis. His positive “hunch” is not reassuring.

The persistent drumbeat of positive test results has cast serious doubts on the validity of US testing. Much valuable time has been squandered allowing the Coronavirus to spread. Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard University was not so forgiving:“The incompetence has really exceeded what anyone would expect with the C.D.C - this is not a difficult problem to solve in the world of viruses.”

The CDC and the government should dial back on their collective pride and accept the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recommendation to use a far more reliable German testing kit.

The obscene military budget should be slashed and the accrued savings used to offer a free test to all Americans. -more-

Britain’s New Caste System

Jagjit Singh
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 06:11:00 PM

Racism, xenophobia and outright hostility to immigration have reached the shores of Britain. An unhealthy - “I’m all right jack” is a sentiment often expressed by the offspring of recent Asian immigrants.

Using the Trump playbook, Priti Patel and Sajid Javid are backing new immigration laws that would have barred their ‘unskilled’ parents from entering the UK.

Sajid Javid’s father, a poor Muslim immigrant from Pakistan unwittingly promoted the false belief that the Tories were the party of social mobility. Sajid immigrated in the 1960s. Much like their American cousins, the Hispanics and other minorities, British immigrants served as the backbone of UK’s economic growth. Sajid senior was a bus driver who worked hard to ensure his children received the best possible education.

Under current immigrant rules, Sajid senior would be denied entry by rules promoted by his son. The new rules bar all unskilled immigrants especially those who cannot speak English. His “Judas’s son, become a spectacularly successful businessman and politician. He spoke enthusiastically that we are “very optimistic about our future because … we will remain the global-outlook nation that welcomes people from across the world.” But people like his dad would now be unwelcome. Priti Patel, another successful politician bluntly stated that her parents, Indians from East Africa, would no longer be welcome. The new crop of influential Indian immigrants are now changing laws that would have barred their parents from seeking a better life. Has the offspring of Indian immigrants ushered s a new form of caste system dividing immigrants as good, highly skilled Brahmins and bad unskilled untouchables? -more-

March Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 06:04:00 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! -more-


Slow Politics? Why Not?

Becky O'Malley
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 04:11:00 PM

"America's present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration; not agitation but adjustment; not surgery but serenity; not the dramatic but the dispassionate; not experiment but equipoise; not submergence in internationality but sustainment in triumphant nationality."

Who’s talking here? ..It could be Joe Biden, couldn’t it, except perhaps for the last phrase, and even that might be read as a newly-minted condemnation of NAFTA. The mood this sentence portrays goes a long way to explain why the majority of voters on Super Tuesday went for Biden and not Bernie.

The vote could be a tribute to the era of No-Drama-Obama, a promise by Go-Slow-Joe that things will calm down once again if he’s elected president.

The technical term for a guy like Biden, at least now that he’s pushing 80, might be nebbish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in the eyes of weary voters.

Biden is dull, that’s for sure, and that’s his main charm. People seem sick and tired of the turmoil which accompanies the current administration, so Biden represents a return to normalcy, a time, even before Obama, when some paternal Old White Guy or other had things under control.

What Democratic voters are exhibiting is a kind of battle fatigue. Does the phrase “return to normalcy” sound familiar? It’s the Republican slogan for the election of ’20—that is to say, of 1920, when Warren G. Harding was elected on a promise to help the nation recover from the stress of the World War. -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Coronavirus Preparedness, Raw Deal

Jack Bragen
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 05:19:00 PM

Coronavirus Preparedness

This pathogen seems to be spreading at a lightning fast pace. The b90-day supplies of psychiatric medications, and to ask your psychiatrist for extra refills. We should not run out of our psych meds, because they are every bit as essential to us as surviving the virus, if you get it. If your psychiatrist is out sick for three months, it may not be possible to get meds filled. Ninety-day supplies of meds reduces the number of trips to the pharmacy. Pharmacies could be hotspots for exposure to the virus.

Secondly, if you are able to save up money, do so. If you have pending business, get it dealt with. Prepare as though you could be spending a period of time essentially defunct. Communicate with family to create emergency plans.

Avoid optional trips to hospitals. Hospitals are full of sick people, and it is likely that some of the people at hospitals will be sick with Coronavirus and can spread it to you.

When you shop for groceries, remember to get more canned food than you normally would, and store some of it.

Finally, take care of your health as much as you can. The better your condition is, the more prepared your body will be to fight off this disease. If you can delay catching Coronavirus, you are better off, since scientists doubtless are working on vaccines. Medical science is better than it was, and biologists know more than they did in the past. This equals a greater chance of rapidly formulating treatments and vaccines. If you get sick after, not before a good treatment is discovered, you are better off.

You do not need to panic. Most people who contract Coronavirus barely get sick, or barely have symptoms.

Raw Deal -more-

Arts & Events

Simone McIntosh Shines in Messiaen Song Cycle

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 05:42:00 PM

Mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh, who was a 2018 Merola Opera Program participant, gave a mesmerising performance in the Taube Atrium Theatre on Wednesday, March 4, of the song cycle Harawi by Olivier Messiaen. Harawi, rarely heard, is a major work of the 20th century art song, and it combines Messiaen’s passionate interest in ethnomusicology, nature, and birdsong. Loosely based on a Quechuan folktale of two lovers, Harawi bears some resemblance, though in an abstract way, to the medieval German story of Tristan and Isolde. In both there is a meditation on love and death. Messiaen found inspiration in a book given to him by a friend, comprised of Incan folklore and folksongs. From this unlikely raw material, Messiaen created a multi-hued song cycle of great rhythmic originality. -more-

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts a Strange & Somewhat Strained Concert at Davies Hall

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 05:40:00 PM

Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen led the San Francisco Symphony last week in three performances of a program that featured the conductor’s own Violin Concerto with soloist Leila Josefowicz. I had only heard Josefowicz perform once before, many years ago in San Francisco, and I came away from that concert with a decidedly low opinion of Leila Josefowicz as a violinist. Her tone was thin, and she seemed to have simply gone through the motions, imbuing whatever it was she played with little feeling. Perhaps she played one of the classics — “Brahms, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, etc., etc.” — she now prefers to leave behind, having stated that she “didn’t want to keep performing pieces that everyone else was performing all the time.” So Leila Josefowicz has reinvented herself as a champion of new works she herself often commissions from contemporary composers. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 05:26:00 PM

Democracy Is Only Natural: Ask a Meerkat

On March 3, The New York Times carried a Super Tuesday story headlined: "Sneezing Dogs, Dancing Bees: How Animals Vote." Humans are not the only animals that caucus, the Times revealed: "We’re not even the only primates that primary." Looking beyond the cliché of "mindless sheep," scientists have discovered that many animals make group decisions by popular vote. "[F]rom primates all the way to insects [many animals] have methods for finding agreement that are surprisingly democratic."

A 2010 study by Dr. Marta Manser observed that meerkats in South Africa's Kalahari Desert forage on the basis of "move calls"—a "gentle mew" that signals a consensus regarding which direction the herd will head. It takes a minimum of three meerkat mews to move the herd in a new, common direction.

According to the Times: "Biologists call this phenomenon—when animals change their behavior in response to a critical mass of their peers doing something—a quorum response." The same quorum response is exhibited in human decision-making.

The Times article echoes a September 2017 report in The Independent that celebrated the following examples of animal democracy:

• In Africa, wild dogs gather in groups and vote with a sneeze to determine whether to go out on a hunt or sleep in.

• When deciding on a direction to explore, baboons tend to follow whichever fellow baboon "seems to have the most confidence." (Clearly, when it comes to popular elections, most human voters tend to behave like baboons.)

• White-faced capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica rely on "trill calls" to determine which way the majority of the pack will decide to move.

• In England, rock ants will decide to abandon their nests en masse if a sufficient number of individual ants "vote with their feet" and move out to settle in a new location.

• And, when beehives become too crowded, "scout bees" are sent out to search for new homesteads. On their return, each of the scouts performs an aerial dance to promote its recommended plan for the future. Some bees will drop out of the competition and back another bee's "platform." The swarm won't move until all the votes are in and all the remaining bees are dancing in support of the remaining proposal.

U.S. Reliance on China for Pharmaceutical and Personal Protective Equipment

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 05:21:00 PM

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) will also likely harm Americans indirectly because the U.S. is increasingly reliant on drugs either directly sourced from China or made from intermediate chemicals called Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), or their chemical precursors, manufactured in China. While 90% of the finished drugs Americans take are generics, most are manufactured overseas, primarily in India and China. Even India, the world’s largest generics producer, relies on China for 80% of the APIs it uses in drug production. -more-

Pianist Audrey Vardanega Presents “An Evening of Schubert”

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday March 08, 2020 - 03:31:00 PM

On Saturday evening, March 7, Musaics of the Bay, an organization whose founder and Artistic Director is Audrey Vardanega, gave a chamber music concert at Crowden School in Berkeley. Dubbed “An Evening of Schubert,” the concert featured Franz Schubert’s splendid Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major, D. 929. Also included was Mozart’s Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, K. 481. Performing with pianist Audrey Vardanega were violinist Nigel Armstrong and cellist Tanya Tomkins. This illustrious group of musicians all have local origins and ties, though they each have performed worldwide. -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 8-15

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday March 07, 2020 - 06:03:00 PM

Worth Noting and Responding with phone call or email:

As of this writing, (Saturday morning), no Berkeley City meetings have been cancelled due to Covid-19. In fact, another meeting announcement arrived as this was being finalized. Community meetings and events are being cancelled so check for updates.

Monday – Agenda Committee at 2:30 pm is the plan for March 24 City Council meeting. #22. is the proposed Charter amendment to establish a Police Board. There are no documents in the agenda packet describing the proposed new Police Board.

Tuesday – Regular City Council meeting at 6 pm includes #23. Emergency Outdoor Shelter and 24. Fair Chance Housing (ban the box for housing).

Wednesday – Kate Harrison will be at the Homeless Commission at 7 pm to answer questions about the Emergency Outdoor Shelter

Thursday –.#2 in the 10 am Budget Committee agenda is accepting Cryptocurrency as tax payment. There will be a community meeting at 7 pm on the “revitalization” of North Berkeley.

The Police Commission at 7 pm will be discussing scheduling a special meeting regarding the Charter amendment, not the content of the amendment

Future -more-

Back Stories



Slow Politics? Why Not? 03-07-2020

Public Comment

People's Park "Alternatives": A 16- or 15-Story High-Rise? Abe Quinto 03-07-2020

Coronavirus Tejinder Uberoi 03-07-2020

Britain’s New Caste System Jagjit Singh 03-07-2020

March Pepper Spray Times By Grace Underpressure 03-07-2020


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Syria-A Turkish Dilemma Conn Hallinan 03-06-2020


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Coronavirus Preparedness, Raw Deal Jack Bragen 03-07-2020

Arts & Events

Simone McIntosh Shines in Messiaen Song Cycle Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 03-07-2020

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts a Strange & Somewhat Strained Concert at Davies Hall Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 03-07-2020

SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces Gar Smith 03-07-2020

U.S. Reliance on China for Pharmaceutical and Personal Protective Equipment Ralph E. Stone 03-07-2020

Pianist Audrey Vardanega Presents “An Evening of Schubert” Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 03-08-2020

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 8-15 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 03-07-2020