March 21 Was 17th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Jagjit Singh
Wednesday March 25, 2020 - 05:22:00 PM

While the world is trying to cope with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, one of the most appalling blunders in the history of U.S. foreign policy.

Contrary to President Trump’s election promise to extricate us from foreign wars, America is ramping up its efforts to send in more troops in response to an alleged attack by Iranian militias on a U.S. base near Bagdad ignoring the will of the Iraqi people who voted unanimously to demand the U.S. leave. This also echoes the sentiment of most Americans.

It is incomprehensible that so many nations supported the U.S. which has a long history of waging wars based on faulty intelligence or outright lies. Perhaps, it was access to cheap oil that explains this madness. To recap the sordid details. Seventeen years ago, the U.S. armed forces attacked and invaded Iraq based on faulty intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Israel swiftly stood in solidarity with the invasion, down to the last U.S. soldier. Iraq’s destruction was swift and menacing with 460,000 U.S. troops, 46,000 UK troops, 2,000 from Australia and a few hundred from other European countries. Former President Bush and Vice President Cheney who used their wealth and powerful family connections to escape the Vietnam war gave the order to launch the “shock and awe” invasion, demonstrating the “awesome destructive power” of the US military. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:The Corona Virus & Immigration

Conn Hallinan
Wednesday March 25, 2020 - 02:24:00 PM

As the viral blitzkrieg rolls across one European border after another, it seems to have a particular enmity for Italy. The country’s death toll has passed China’s, and scenes from its hospitals look like something out of Dante’s imagination.


Italy has the fourth largest economy in the European Union, and in terms of health care, it is certainly in a better place than the US. Per capita, Italy has more hospital beds—so-called “surge capacity”—more doctors and more ventilators. Italians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, not to mention British, French, Germans, Swedes and Finns. The virus has had an especially fatal impact on northern Italy, the country’s richest region.

There are a number of reasons why Italy has been so hard-hit, but a major one can be placed at the feet of former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the xenophobic, rightwing League Party and his allies on the Italian right, including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and one of the oldest in the world. It did not get that way be accident. Right-wing parties have long targeted immigrants, even though the immigrant population—a little over 600,000—is not large by international standards. Immigrants as a “threat to European values” has been the rallying cry for the right in France, Germany, Hungry, Poland, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain as well. -more-

Page One

Berkeley and the 1918 Influenza (Second Installment)

Steven Finacom,Copyright by the author
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 05:46:00 PM

We can learn a great deal about ourselves and the present by remembering the past. Here’s the second installment of my chronological account of what happened in Berkeley during the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” epidemic. The stories are largely drawn from the pages of the Berkeley Daily Gazette, Berkeley’s hometown paper.

We’re now in the second week of October, 1918. My coverage starts with news related to the “Great War”, both internationally and locally, continues with influenza-related stories, and concludes with other local news from the time.

War news

The Great War was in its closing chapters. In occupied France, north of Rheims, German forces were withdrawing and reportedly burning villages and towns behind the whole front from Lille to Rheims. This is believed to presage a retirement in several sectors the United Press reported October 7. German supply depots were also apparently being destroyed during the retreat.

A German proposal to discuss peace terms was reported rejected by the Allied governments. United States Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo told the press America “will fight until victory is clinched.”

(There’s a Berkeley connection to McAdoo. On the cornerstone of Berkeley’s main Post Office you’ll find his name, since he was Treasury Secretary when the building was constructed. He had married President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter in 1914, and would later be elected a Senator from California. Although McAdoo was a firm Progressive, if you look at pictures of him as a young man he somewhat eerily resembles today’s Jared Kuchner, another government official who married the daughter of a future president.)

Berkeleyeans seemed to be in accord with the Washington sentiment. October 7, 1918, 7,000 locals gathered in the Greek Theater for a mass meeting and “unanimously” stood up when asked if they supported a telegram to President Wilson declaring for no peace except on unconditional surrender and the crushing of the German army. -more-

Press Release: Some parking enforcement suspended through April 7

City of Berkeley
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 06:52:00 PM

Citations will continue for safety-related parking violations

As people in Berkeley and throughout California stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, the City is suspending various parking enforcement. Everyone should still follow normal parking rules about fire hydrants, disabled parking zones, bus stops, and other regulations that support safety and access to essential services.

This temporary suspension of rules by City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley is intended to make it easier to shelter in place. Normal daily patterns of traffic and parking needs have changed, and we are all adjusting. We’ll be monitoring the situation, and we may realize that changes need to be made. -more-

Public Comment

The folly of denying online purchases to food stamp recipients

Carol Polsgrove, Charlotte,
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:38:00 PM

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that California is asking the federal government to allow the state’s food stamps recipients to use them temporarily for online purchases. [https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/California-asks-feds-to-let-CalFresh-recipients-15151515.php]

A California friend on food stamps has alerted to me to the fact that in most states, recipients on food stamps cannot use them for online purchases of food. The exceptions are the few states in a pilot program allowing online purchases from designated companies. California is not among those states.

At a time when Americans are encouraged to isolate themselves across the country, it’s folly to require some of the most vulnerable among us to get on buses (if the buses are still running) and take themselves out to stores when we’re all being discouraged from mingling.

I suggest we ask our governors and congressional delegations across the country to press the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which administers the food stamp program) and Congress (which can authorize funds for it) to expand online purchasing to all states, immediately.

As CityLab has pointed out in a recent article, “This would be a big shift for SNAP [the food stamp program]: Not all states even allow participants to apply for benefits online. Given the disparities in access to the internet, such a program alone wouldn’t support every household in a food desert — but it’s a fix that could expand options for many.” https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/03/coronavirus-food-stamps-snap-benefits-meal-program-hunger/608170/

Here is the USDA’s description of the pilot program that permits recipients in some states to buy food online: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/online-purchasing-pilot.

In California, the federal SNAP program, providing monthly food benefits to low-income recipients, goes under the title CalFresh and is administered by the California Department of Social Services. [https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/calfresh].

Contact information: -more-

DBA, TBID - Exploiting the Moment

Carol Denney
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:45:00 PM

“Caner’s DBA, along with the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, sent a letter to the city today with suggestions about how to offset the financial losses businesses are experiencing, he said. That included deferring, discounting or waiving fees and taxes; providing interest-free loans of up to $75,000 for businesses that have a 25% drop in gross receipts; and establish a moratorium on new business regulations such as Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout.” - Berkeleyside March 16, 2020

While some members of Congress appear to have taken advantage of the Corona virus moment to dump stocks likely to take a swan dive in the pandemic, our publicly-funded business lobbies stepped up to the same greedy plate by writing a letter to the Berkeley City Council suggesting that there be a moratorium on "new business regulations such as Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout,” according to Berkeleyside's March 16, 2020 issue. -more-

The Wrong Mary

Richard Wright, London
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:33:00 PM

The otherwise excellent article on hand washing has an error: it was not Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who died from puerperal fever. It was her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft herself, who died two weeks after giving birth to Mary Shelley. So it was the author of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" who died of the fever, not the author of Frankenstein. -more-


Fixing What's Broken: How Is It Possible?

Becky O'Malley
Tuesday March 24, 2020 - 05:12:00 PM

What’s new this week? Not much. The president of the United States of America is still stone crazy, a fact which is probably known to at least a couple of members of the crowd of sycophants who surround him, but they’re too cowardly to do anything about it.

Watching the string of campaign appearances disguised as press conferences which Trump has made this week, I’d hazard a guess that Mike Pence is not nuts, though he’s a coward and not terribly bright. When Trump went off the rails with his promotion of chloroquine and other untested remedies and his later rejection of the need for long-term social distancing, Pence did make a modest attempt to correct the record later on, but too little too late. Nevertheless, there have been a number of calls for the Vice President to exercise his powers under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office as unfit to serve, unless and until the legislative bodies overrule him.

But that’s too much to hope for. It’s highly likely that Trump will be in power until January. Is there any way to limit the damage he can do, the number of deaths he can cause, between now and then? -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

No Exit

Becky O'Malley
Monday March 23, 2020 - 05:01:00 PM

Like many of you, I've been confined to home and glued to the computer/tv. Nothing seems to change--I spent a wasted hour this morning trying to join a Zoom meeting online until I finally realized it's not Wednesday yet. Our faithful correspondents continue to write, though I have not. Thanks to all who volunteer to produce these interesting articles for you. -more-


The Pandemic Election: 10 Predictions

Bob Burnett
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:16:00 PM

The first U.S. Coronavirus case was reported on January 20th. Since then, 19,155 Americans have tested positive and 250 have died. There are many consequences of this pandemic but it's sure to affect the 2020 presidential election. Here are ten predictions.

1.The Coronavirus pandemic will not be over quickly and, therefore, it will affect the conduct of the presidential election. The Democratic convention is scheduled to open July 13th. It seems unlikely that it will convene in its normal form.

Recently, Donald Trump stated that he expects the pandemic to go on until "July or August." Some experts believe it may go for a year or more -- until a vaccine is developed to deal with the Coronavirus. Therefore, it's likely that the pandemic will be with us for, at least, the next six months and dramatically affect the conduct of the presidential election.

2. The pandemic will affect the economy. It's obvious that the Coronavirus pandemic will impact the economy: the stock market (DJIA) has fallen over 10,000 points; there's been a spike in unemployment claims; and economists are predicting that the U.S. economy has slipped into a recession -- with negative growth for at least the next two quarters.

To say the least, times are dire. Americans have to fear the Coronavirus and the collapse of our economy. (It seems the two are intertwined; the economy will not recover until the course of the pandemic is more predictable.) -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: In Politics, Mentally Ill People Don't Get a Mention

Jack Bragen
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 05:58:00 PM

I watched the Presidential primary debate between Sanders and Biden (a week will have passed before you are reading this), and people with disabilities didn't get lip service. -more-

Italy the Worst Case Scenario For COVID-19 in the U.S.

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 09:42:00 PM

Italy is the worst case scenario for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic of what could happen in this country. Presently, as of March 15, Italy has 24,747 cases with 1,809 deaths — a rise of 368 or 25% in the death toll in just 24 hours. Italy is now in a nationwide lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces

By Gar Smith
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 06:16:00 PM

A Sign of the Times

This morning, an NPR reporter mentioned the upcoming November election and added a qualifier: "... assuming human civilization survives that long."

Another Sign of the Times

I had a small bout of surgery two weeks ago and was due to return to the hospital to have the sutures removed. Given the restraints of our geo-endemic pandemic, I sent off an email asking if the appointment was being postponed.

The helpful hospital folks suggested a delay was a possibility but they had an alternative: I could take out the sutures myself in the comfort of my own home.

Right: a Do-It-Yourself suturectomy!

The doctor's email provided the following quick course in removing surgical stitches:

"Use a small nail scissors with the pointy tip, to cut under the knot and pull the suture out with forceps/tweezers at home. It would be great if someone could help you."

A more detailed Five Step Procedure followed, along with a link to "a step-by-step video on taking out your stitches at home."


Back Stories



Fixing What's Broken: How Is It Possible? 03-24-2020

The Editor's Back Fence

No Exit 03-23-2020

Public Comment

The folly of denying online purchases to food stamp recipients Carol Polsgrove, Charlotte, 03-22-2020

DBA, TBID - Exploiting the Moment Carol Denney 03-22-2020

The Wrong Mary Richard Wright, London 03-22-2020


March 21 Was 17th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion Jagjit Singh 03-25-2020

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:The Corona Virus & Immigration Conn Hallinan 03-25-2020

Berkeley and the 1918 Influenza (Second Installment) Steven Finacom,Copyright by the author 03-22-2020

Press Release: Some parking enforcement suspended through April 7 City of Berkeley 03-22-2020


The Pandemic Election: 10 Predictions Bob Burnett 03-22-2020

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: In Politics, Mentally Ill People Don't Get a Mention Jack Bragen 03-22-2020

Italy the Worst Case Scenario For COVID-19 in the U.S. Ralph E. Stone 03-22-2020

SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces By Gar Smith 03-22-2020