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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.  

The political and military blunders of the Vietnam war were long forgotten. The aerial bombardment unleashed 29,200 bombs and missiles in the first five weeks of the war. The attack was a complete violation of international law and opposed by 30 million people in 60 countries. 

American historian and speechwriter for President John Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, compared the invasion to the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. 

Medea Benjamin, Medea Benjamin cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace and Nicolas J. S. Davies, an independent journalist chronicle the impact of the invasion: 

1. Millions of Iraqis killed and wounded and its priceless art stolen or destroyed. Reporters were intimidated or silenced by insisting they be imbedded with U.S. troops. 

2. Outraged members of Hussein’s elite guard who were fired by the Coalition Provisional Authority coalesced to form ISIS. 

3. More than 18,000 bombs were launched on Iraqi and Syrian cities reducing Mosul and many other cities to rubble. 

4. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 2 million Iraqis have been disabled, many fleeing to Syria and Jordan. 

5. U.S. artillery bombardment continued after the war targeting the Islamic State displacing a further 6 million Iraqi’s according to UNHCR. A generation of impoverished internally-displaced children face a bleak future of demolished homes, no education - an appalling legacy of the US led invasion. 

6. Thousands of Coalition troops have been killed and wounded More than 20 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day especially those with combat exposure, unable to cope with the horrors of war. 

7. Trillions of dollars squandered. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of the Iraq war at more than $3 trillion, “based on conservative assumptions,” The UK government spent at least 9 billion pounds. Former Prime Mister, Tony Blair, lampooned as “Bush’s poodle”, escaped censure and still travels freely as a high-priced” consultant. 

8. A dysfunctional and corrupt Iraqi Government has been unleashed on the Iraqi people. Most of the $80 billion a year in oil exports never trickles down to the impoverished people but lines the pockets of those in power. 

The invasion was a complete violation of the United Nations Charter, the foundation of peace and international law. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general at the time, said the invasion was illegal and would lead to a breakdown in international order, and that is precisely what has happened. When the U.S. trampled the UN Charter, others were bound to follow. Today we are watching Turkey, and Russia, attacking and invading Syria using the people of Syria as pawns in their political games. Israel continues to wage war on Iran, killing and maiming defenseless Palestinians with impunity. 

Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated many of the Bush-Cheney lies justifying the invasion in his shameful performance at the UN Security Council in February 2003. He later admitted that this was the low point of his tenure as Secretary of State. 

Most of the US, European media and the U.S. Congress supported the invasion, a sad testimony how they can be so easily manipulated into voting for a catastrophic war by such a web of lies? 

9. Impunity for War Crimes Most Americans are under the false assumption that the president can wage war, assassinate foreign leaders and terrorism suspects as he pleases, with no accountability whatsoever. President Obama’s failure to hold the former President Bush and members of his administration accountable for war crimes sent a dangerous message that such conduct was acceptable in US foreign policy. Mass killing by drones has now become all too common. Lack of accountability makes it easier for such crimes to be repeated. The U.S. Congress has largely been bypassed and rendered impotent, relinquishing its war powers responsibility to the executive branch. Abrogation of the 2015 Iran nuclear treaty is a recent example of appalling US arrogance.  

10. Destruction of the Environment Use of explosives with depleted uranium has caused a major escalation in cancer victims and congenital birth defects. This is a stark reminder of the use of Agent Orange, napalm and white phosphorus cluster bombs causing multi-generational birth defects in Vietnam. Unexploded ordinance continues to maim young children. More than 85,000 U.S. Iraqi veterans were diagnosed with multiple health problems including cancer and severe depression leading many to end their lives The London Guardian reports that many parts of Iraq may never recover from the environmental devastation. 

11. The U.S.’s sectarian “Divide and Rule” Policy in Iraq spawned appalling violence between Sunnis and Shias. In secular 20th-century Iraq, the Sunni minority ruled over the Shia majority, but lived in relative harmony side-by-side in mixed neighborhoods and even intermarried. After the invasion, the U.S. empowered a new Shiite ruling class led by former exiles allied with the U.S. and Iran, as well as the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region in the north. Upending the balance of power led to waves of horrific ethnic cleansing and the resurgence of Al Qaeda and emergence of ISIS.

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. 

In the last Italian election, the League and its then ally, The Five Star Movement, built their campaigns around resisting immigration. Anti-immigrant parties also did well in Spain and certainly played a major role in pulling the United Kingdom out of the EU. 

Resistance to immigration plays a major role in “graying” the population. Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, topped only by Japan. The demographic effects of this are “an apocalypse” according to former Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin. “In five years, we have lost more than 66,000 births [per year]” equal to the population of the city of Siena. “If we link this to this increasingly old and chronically ill people, we have a picture of a moribund country.” 

According to the World Health Organization, the ideal birth-death replacement ratio in advanced countries is 2.1. Italy’s is 1.32., which means not only an older population, but also fewer working age people to pay the taxes that fund the social infrastructure, including health care. 

As long as there is not a major health crisis, countries muddle though, but when something like the Corona virus arrives, it exposes the underlying weaknesses of the system. 

Some 60 percent of Italians are over 40, and 23 percent are over 65. It is demographics like these that make Covid-19 so lethal. From age 10 to 39, the virus has a death rate of 0.2 percent, more deadly than influenza, but not overly so. But starting at age 40, the death rate starts to rise, reaching 8 percent for adults age 70 to 79, and then jumping to 14.8 percent over 80. The average age of Corona virus deaths in Italy is 81. 

When the economic meltdown hit Europe in 2008, the European Union responded by instituting painful austerity measures that targeted things like health care. Over the past 10 years Italy has cut some 37 billion euros from its health system. The infrastructure that could have dealt with a health crisis like Covid-19 was hollowed out, so that when the disease hit, there simply weren’t enough troops or resources to resist it. 

Add to that the age of Italians, and the outcome was almost foreordained. 

The US is in a very similar position, but for somewhat different reasons. As Pulitzer Prize-winning medical writer Laurie Garrett points out, it was managed care that has derailed the ability of the American health system to respond to a crisis. “What happened with managed care is that hospitals eliminated surplus beds and surplus personnel. So, far from being ready to deal with surge capacity, we’re actually understaffed and we have massive nurse shortages across the nation. “ 

Much of that shortage can also be attributed to managed care. Nurses are overloaded with too many patients, work 10 and 12 hour shifts on a regular basis, and, while initially well paid, their compensation tends to flatten out over the long run. Burn out is a major professional risk for nursing. 

Yet in a pandemic, nursing is the most important element in health care according to John Barry, author of the “The Great Influenza” about the 1918-19 virus that killed up to 100 million people, including 675,000 Americans. A post mortem of the pandemic found “What could help, more than doctors, were nurses. Nursing could ease the strain of a patient, keep a patient hydrated, calm, provide the best nutrition, and cool the intense fevers.” Nurses, the study showed, gave victims “the best possible chance to survive.” 

The issues in Italy’s 2018 election were pretty straightforward: slow growth, high youth unemployment, a starving education system and a deteriorating infrastructure—Rome was literally drowning in garbage. But instead of the failed austerity strategy of the EU, the main election theme became immigration, a subject that had nothing to do with Italy’s economic crisis, troubled banking sector or burdensome national debt. 

Berlusconi, leader of the rightwing Forza Italia Party, said “All these immigrants live off of trickery and crime.” Forza made common cause with the fascist Brothers of Italy, whose leader, Giogia Meloni, called for halting immigrants with a “naval blockade.” 

The main voice of the xenophobic campaign, however, was Salvini and the League. Immigrants, he said, bring “chaos, anger, drug dealing, thefts, rape and violence,” and pose a threat to the “white race.” 

The Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Mario joined the immigrant bashing, if not with quite the vitriol of Berlusconi, Salvini and Meloni. The center-left Democratic Party ducked the issue, leaving the field to the right. 

The outcome was predictable: the Democratic Party was routed and the Five Star Movement and League swept into power. Salvini took the post of Interior Minister and actually instituted a naval blockade, a violation of International Law and the 1982 Law of the Sea. 

Eventually the League and Five Star had a falling out, and Salvini was ousted from his post, but the damage was done. The desperately needed repairs to infrastructure and investments in health care were shelved. When Covid-19 stuck, Italy was unprepared. 

Much the same can be said for the rest of Europe, where more than a decade of austerity policies have weakened health care systems all over the continent. 

Nor is Italy is facing a demographic catastrophe alone. The EU-wide replacement ratio is a tepid 1.58, with only France and Ireland approaching—but not reaching—2.1. 

If Germany does not increase the number of migrants it takes, the population will decline from 81 million to 67 million by 2060, reducing the workforce to 54 percent of the population, not enough to keep up with current levels of social spending. The Berlin Institute for Population and Development estimates that Germany will need 500,000 immigrants a year for the next 35 years to keep pensions and social services at current levels. 

Spain—which saw the rightwing anti-immigration party do well in the last election—is bleeding population, particularly in small towns, some 1500 of which have been abandoned. Spain has weathered a decade and a half of austerity, which damaged the country’s health care infrastructure. After Italy, Spain is the European country hardest hit by Covid-19. 

As populations age, immigrants become a necessity. Not only is new blood needed to fill in the work needs of economies, broadening the tax base that pays for infrastructure, but, too, old people need caretaking, as the Japanese have found out. After centuries of xenophobic policies that made immigration to Japan almost impossible, the Japanese have been forced to accept large numbers of migrants to staff senior facilities. 

The United States will face a similar crisis if the Trump administration is successful in choking off immigration. While the US replacement ratio is higher than the EU’s, it still falls under 2.1, and that will have serious demographic consequences in the long run. 

It may be that for-profit health care simply can’t cope with a pandemic because it finds maintaining adequate surge capacity in hospital beds, ventilators and staff reduces stockholders’ dividends. And public health care systems in Europe—which have better outcomes than the American system’s—only work if they are well funded. 

To the biblical four horsemen—war, famine, wild beasts and plague—we can add two more: profits and austerity.  

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.worpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com  






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. 

The meeting was organized by the local “Friends of France” and the “American League of California”, and was addressed by the chaplain of a French army division that had suffered tens of thousands of casualties in the war so far. 

October 14, the papers reported President Wilson had sent an official note to the German government telling it “autocracy must go before peace can be had”; translation, the era of German Kaisers needed to end for there to be peace. The same day the U.S. Senate voted to demand German “unconditional surrender”. 

A huge explosion destroyed a plant where artillery shells were loaded in Morgan, New Jersey, on October 4, 1918. At least 94 workers were believed to have died. The United Press reported October 7, that rain has quenched the fire in the Gillespie plant ruins and the intermittent explosions have ceasedrebuilding operations are scheduled to begin as soon as possible. (Historical accounts today say it’s believed the explosion was accidental and about 100 people were killed, and hundreds injured. Some 12 million pounds of explosives blew up, throwing debris for more than a mile in all directions; buried, unexploded, shells have been discovered nearby for decades, most recently in 2007. Windows were broken more than 20 miles away. The enormous plant was destroyed, and another 300 buildings damaged.) 

On the Local Homefront 

Berkeley’s Boy Scouts were out in force, helping to canvass neighborhoods and get Berkeleyeans to pledge donations to Berkeley’s Fourth Liberty Bond drive. The “Mobilized Women’s Army” was at work as well. 14,004 Berkeleyeans had pledged bond purchases, to date. Apparently fearing Berkeley might not meet its quota, organizers condemned “Austrian and German peace propaganda” that had recently been in the news and urged locals to continue contributing to the war effort. 

On Monday, October 7, the Bond drive had two days to run and Berkeley was slightly behind the city of Alameda in meeting its bond goals: Alameda had raised 90%, Berkeley 88%.

Berkeley’ s bond drive Chairman William P. Morrish told the Gazette, If the Kaiser had waged an honorable war, he might be entitled to some consideration for an honorable peace, but as that was his last consideration, let it now be our last consideration. Berkeley and all of Alameda county can show the Hohenzollern family that we are ready to put up all we have to wipe them from the face of the earth and that no peace will be an honorable peace until this is accomplished. 

Alameda won the county contest October 8 when it “went over the top” and met its quota and Berkeley was still short $180,000 in pledges of its $2,351,700 goal. 

Organizers blamed Berkeley’s wealthiest citizens for not subscribing enough and threatened to publish the names of “bond slackers” unless they contributed immediately. Morrish told the Gazette,if the rich had subscribed here as the workingman, businessman, and laborer have done, no city in the state would have beaten us to the honor flag. 

The next day, October 9, Berkeley met its quota by noon and added $50,000 above that; $96,000 was subscribed that morning, alone. (The quota was based on a Federal Reserve report on the amount of bank deposits recorded in each city, not on population or other measures of prosperity. That’s quite possibly one of the reasons Mr. Morrish was upset since Berkeley’s bank statistics would have shown that there was sufficient money held locally to fund the bonds. And here’s an interesting note. Adjacent Albany was not given a bond quota by the Federal government because it didn’t have any banks. So Berkeley’s bond committee poached Albany pockets, assigning the neighbors their own quota—which they faithfully met—but calling it part of Berkeley’s share.) 

There was a big celebration when the local bond goal was reached and surpassed. Most everybody in Berkeley came downtown last night to help host our honor flag Morrish told the Gazette on October 10. Berkeley is willing to lend all she has to Uncle Sam. 

Several thousand Berkeleyeans gathered around the municipal flagpolePromptly at eight oclock the silvery voice of Lydia Sturtevant rang out in the clear night with the strains of The Star Spangled Banner’…” 

Bond Committeemen (and one Committeewoman) joined by Mayor Samuel Irving and Leonard Lathrop, “champion salesman of the Boy Scouts”, all grasped the halyards and the four barred flag that shows how Berkeley responds to the appeal of the government was slowly hoisted to the mast headwith a dozen spotlights playing on it (it) stood bold against the night sky an emblem of patriotism and civic pride. 

The evening gathering had been proceeded by an afternoon parade led by fire trucks which “with siren, horn, and bell acquainted everyone with the fact that Berkeley had done her usual good work in the Liberty Loan drive.” 

Despite meeting the bond quota, Morrish threatened once again that day to reveal the names of the well-to-do who hadn’t already given, or given enough. If there are a few slackers here who have not given what they can afford a little more publicity will smoke them out and the assessment committee is about ready to announce their names in the public press, he said. 

In September, 1918, the Berkeley Red Cross had been busy helping to raise the Liberty Loan contributions burt also active in other ways. “The local chapter report showed 404 hospital garments out, 544 returned and 594 on hand”. Red Cross volunteers also produced and shipped 4,900 surgical dressings. 

The need for women who can do home nursing is so imperative at this time that the Berkeley Red Cross chapter has arranged for two more classes for those who can take the work, the Gazette reported October 12. The tuition fee will be $5 for the course of 15 lessons; text-book, 50 cents. Women have been urged to enroll immediately for these courses. So at least someone local was taking the influenza threat seriously. 

October 10, it was reported that the Theta Delta Chi fraternity house would be converted to an Officer’s Club “…in order that the army officers stationed at the university may have the opportunity of living in the same building.” 

Berkeley High girls pledged October 7 no flowers, no gloves, no silk stockings, simple shoes and gowns of the simplest of white materials for their graduation exercises on January 1, 1919. (In that era Berkeley High graduated classes twice a year, not just in the spring.) The announcement came after a meeting of teachers, students, and mothers at the school, where Principal Fannie McLean talked on the necessity of simplicity and economy…” The girl of the class cheerfully consented to dispense with the usual expensive frills which accompany the commencement wardrobe as their bit in the war time economy. 

A “strong war film”, “The Prussian Cur”, drew large crowds at the Berkeley Theater October 6. Going back through the years, a brief Gazette review said, the action of this stupendous historical drama follows from its very inception the German scheme of conquest that now threatens to enslave mankind. It shows America cultivating the arts of peace while the German rulers thought only of warthe Prussian hordes are loosed like beasts upon their victims. 

(The Berkeley Theater was on Shattuck, between Channing and Haste; there’s a senior housing apartment building there today.) 

Other, lighter themed films, played to “crowded houses” elsewhere in Berkeley and the East Bay, including the UC Theater. However, a few miles north of Berkeley in Vallejo, on October 8 all public amusement places, including theaters and dance halls, were closed today by voluntary action of the managers as a protectionary measure against Spanish influenza. 

All the towns whistling a new tune; a sort of trickling-sweet-like-molasses sort of tune that sticks to the memory like syrup to the fingers and leaves a haunting sweetness that one cant shake the Gazette noted on the entertainment page on October 9. It was a tune called When He Comes Back to Me, from The Girl on the Magazine, a short play that had reached the East Bay on the vaudeville circuit. (Today, we’d probably call a piece of music like this a “viral” hit or an ear worm.) 

Ten more UC faculty had been called into national service the UC Regents were told at their meeting October 9, 1918. Several new faculty were hired. They included Harold Witter Bynner as an instructor in English. (Bynner was a Harvard alumnus and his Berkeley tenure has an interesting footnote. He appears to be the first gay member of the UC faculty who can be identified by historical research. He lived in the Carlton Hotel at Durant and Telegraph and taught poetry.) 

The pastor of Albany’s Marin Avenue Methodist Church was enlisting in the Army, the Gazette reported October 9, and departed with a bang. The grand exit for the Rev. M.J. Williams, age 48, was scheduled for October 13, with “a big patriotic meeting and farewell service” that would start with a half hour of “patriotic music” including singing by church members, Albany Boy Scouts, and servicemen. 

October 9, the Gazette reported that Mrs. Robert F. Forbes of 2526 Bancroft Way now had all four of her sons in military service. Two were already with the army in France, and a third was at a base in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Social life was active at UC Berkeley during the second week of October, 1918. President and Mrs. Wheeler would host all freshmen at a reception at Hearst Hall, the Newman Club (Roman Catholic) would meet, The Sacramento Chamber of Commerce Quartet would perform at the regular, free, Sunday “half hour of music” in the Greek Theater, and various lectures open to the general public would take place. 


The influenza epidemic made it to the front page of the Gazette on October 8, 1918. “Country Swept by Epidemic of Spanish Influenza” the article was headlined. Flu outbreaks were reported in military camps, Washington D.C. among civilian government workers, Tacoma, and Ohio were an estimated 25,000 sick were spread through “every community in the state”. 

October 7, seven hundred cases of the influenza were reported in Arizona. All schools, theaters and public gathering places in Phoenix were ordered closed today. Winslow, a town of 2,500, reported one-fifth of its population had been stricken. The shortage of nurses is critical and the local high school had become a flu ward. 

October 11, the Gazette carried a United Press story on the front page reporting 211,000 cases of the flu nationwide in Army camps alone, with 7,432 deaths to date. One week ago only 17 of the 42 larger camps were infected. There are not 33 such camps reporting more than 500 cases each for the week. The epidemic was spreading rapidly westward

October 11 also brought the month’s first mention of the flu on the Berkeley campus. A small page 11 article reported that the University Physician, Dr. Robert Legge, had issued an order banning dancing in all of the University buildingsas a measure of prevention of Spanish influenza. 

There are now more than thirty cases of the influenza on the campus and precautions are being taken to prevent an epidemic. All meetings possible are held in the open. (Except, as you’ll read below, a “mass meeting” the day before that drew hundreds to Harmon Gymnasium to participate in the new University Community Chorus.) 

I might note that the next day the Gazette ran an advertisement for a “Patriotic Entertainment and Dance” at Berkeley’s Masonic Temple that same evening. Berkeley’s Mayor “and other distinguished guests will be present”, and “all Masons and their families are cordially invited.” The Masonic Temple (which still stands) was at Bancroft and Shattuck, just a few blocks southwest of the campus. 

Berkeley Related Deaths from the Flu 

(Since many flu-related deaths of Berkeley residents or Berkeleyeans living elsewhere were individually reported in the pages of the Gazette during the 1918-19 influenza epidemic, Ive decided to transcribe their brief obituaries when I find them. The date at the end of each entry is the date the item ran in the Gazette.) 

Bruce Howard, university student in the class of 1919 who has been serving the he chemical laboratory of the ordenance department, died yesterday of pneumonia, int her hospital at Edgewood Camp, Baltimore, according to a telegram received by his sister, Mrs. Duncan McDuffie. Mrs. McDuffie left this morning for the east to attend the funeral services. Mrs. John L Howard, mother of the young man, left here six months ago for New York, and was in the east with her son. Bruce Howard has been engaged in research work with mustard gas in the chemical laboratories in the eastern camp. He was prominent in university affairs last year, being managing editor of the Daily Californian and one of the editors of Blue and Gold.Howard was twenty-five years of age, and was the son of the late John L. and Mrs. Howard, one of the best known families of the bay cities. His brother, Lieutenant Sidley Howard is serving in France in the aviation section. Howard is survived by his mother, one sisterand four brothers…” (October 7, 1918) 

Millard F. La Grange of this city, son of the late Millard F. La Grance who was in the office of the East Bay Water company for many years, died of pneumonia at Base Hospital, Tours, France, September 17, according to a telegram received yesterday by his sister, Lucille La Grange. La Grande enlisted while in Oregon temporarily, in May, 1917, with the Oregon Engineers, and landed in France in August the same year. He was twenty-eight years of ageHe is survived by his sister, Miss Lucile La Grange, a teacher in the McKinley school, and by one brother who lives at Inverness. (October 7, 1918) 

Gail W. Barry of this city, died at Camp Lewis of pneumonia Saturday while his mother, Mrs. Anna Little Barry, well known art lecturer, was enroute north to be with him during his illness. The young man had been all for a number of weeks, and was recovering nicely, but suffered a relapse a few days before his deathBarry was twenty-eight years of age, and was employed with the Pacific Gas and Electric company before his enlistment five months ago. He is survived by his parents, Mrs. E.S. Barry and one brother Edward L. Barry, manager of the Canton Insurance company. (October 7, 1918) 

Dr. George Cranville Eldredge, pastor of St. Johns Presbyterian Church, one of the most prominent men in church circles in the bay cities and most highly respected in the community, died last evening at his home, 2731 Benvenue avenue, following a weeks illness from pneumonia. Dr. Eldredge was in charge of the mid-week service at his church on Wednesday evening of last week, and was scheduled to preside at the services Sunday for the first time since his return from the front, where he was engaged in YMCA work, but was stricken with his fatal illness…”

He had been overseas preaching to servicemen, giving his time and strength in aiding them in every possible way. He had become sick, returned to California, spent several weeks recuperating at Inverness, then gone for a month to the Sierras and returned about ten days ago, much improved. He was 47 and had been pastor at St. John’s for ten years. His funeral was held at the church on October 11. University President Benjamin Ide Wheeler was among those who gave the paper a testimonial in his honor. (October 10, 1918). 

Lieutenant William Dwight Hatch, U.S.N.R.F., formerly of this city died in Cardiff, Wales, October 5, of pneumonia, according to news received today by his mother, Mrs. Z.P. Hatch of 3155 Eton Avenue. Lieutenant Hatch enlisted more than a year ago and had been in active service since last May. He had recently been sent to Wales, to ply in the service between that country and Italy. Before his enlistment, Hatch was well known in marine circles in the bay cities, being one of the Hatch brothers of the Montecello (sic) Steamship company of Vallejo. Lieutenant Hatch was thirty years of age and was educated in Oakland. He was the son of the late Captain Z.p. Hatch, also well known in marine circles. Lieutenant Hatch is survived by his widow, Mrs. Anna Hatch, three months old son, who are in Stockton at present, by his mother, Mrs. Z.P. Hatch and by two brothers and two sisters (including) Mrs. A.W.Webb of this city. (October 12, 1918). 

October 7, the funeral service was held for Mrs. Clark Burnham, whose death from pneumonia was reported in the previous essay. 

Other news and notes  

  • October 12, 1918, Berkeley’s police officers threatened to resign, en masse, if their wages were not raised. A patrolman was reported as making $110 a month, and their demand was for $125. Only Police Chief August Vollmer was said not to have prepared a letter of resignation. The Council met with him privately and “it is said the Council agreed tentatively to a raise.” ($125 in 1918, adjusted for inflation would be equivalent to a salary of about $2,140 a month today, or a little under $26,000 a year).
  • October 8, the City Attorney announced that Berkeley would be split into three districts for the purpose of assessing municipal garbage rates. West of Sacramento Street, rates “will be the same as formerly”. From Sacramento east to Piedmont on th south and Euclid, rates would rise 10%. They would go up 15% in the areas to the furthest east including the Claremont and “nearly all of Northbrae”. No reason was given in the newspaper article but one can surmise the rates were based on hauling distance to West Berkeley dumps, or possibly elevation.
  • October 10, the Berkeley City Council decided that only one goat will be allowed to be kept by any one family within the city limits. This was the same restriction imposed on the ownership of cows in Berkeley. The police have been flooded recently with complaints from people who happen to live close to a goat-pen, the Gazette reported. The paper’s re-write man waxed philosophical: Hereafter a goat in Berkeley will be designated as a cow. Across the line in Albany, or in Emeryville, or Oakland, a goat will still be a goat. But not so in Berkeley.
  • But wait..hold your horses! (or cows, or goats). October 12 the Gazette reported that “local photographer E.H. Belle-Ourdrey” had protested the Council action saying there is no necessity for such an ordinance if goat pens were maintained in a sanitary condition. City Commissioner E.T. Harms observedIt seems to me we should legislate against the small, rather than the goat.The article added that the Council would reconsider the measure and meanwhile was seeking a specialist to advise on how to keep goat pens clean. (This item made be laugh. First, the Council takes a precipitous action. Then there’s a public protest. The Council responds by hiring a consultant.)
  • October 11, the Council voted to ban fortune tellers and clairvoyantsfrom the city. An October 12 news story gave some possible context. Apparently a “gypsy fortune teller” had been operating a “booth” at University and Shattuck. A man who consulted with her claimed she had stolen $30 from him. The police brought her in “and she refunded the money but insisted that she was not guilty.” One suspects an underlying bias against gypsies which appears elsewhere in the news of the era. But in light of the influenza epidemic headed for Berkeley at the time, I’m tempted to say (facetiously, of course) that this was an unwise move since it would have been good for the community to know what was coming.
  • October 10, the Gazette noted the publication of S.D. Waterman’s history of the Berkeley Public Schools, going back to 1878. It “will be of great value to those interested in the growth of the city schools” the paper remarked. That’s true. Many local historians have consulted Waterman’s account for details on the origins of various school campuses in Berkeley.
  • The “mass meeting” on October 10, 1918 to create a “University of California Community Chorus” was dubbed a “great success” in the paper the next day. The group, under the direction of Arthur Farwell, started off with a big crowd and great enthusiasm at Harmon gymnasium last night when a patriotic song mass meeting was held as the initial step in this new movement. The people filled the hall from the side stage, from which the leader worked to the entrance doors opposite.

    Attendees sang “America” and a number of patriotic and other well known American songs, and the introduction of some new ones. Attendees divided into soprano, alto, tenor and bass divisions but there was not trying of voices; everyone went to the section in which he knew he thought or wanted to sing. A news story later in the Oct. 11 Gazette said Farwell was head of the music department at UC. He was the speaker at a San Francisco luncheon of the Alliance of Artists, presided over by Berkeley’s Bernard Maybeck.
  • October 7, the Gazette reported a botanical curiosity. It was the beginning of fall and a cherry tree was in full bloom at 2222 East Thirteenth Street in Oakland.The tree bore a crop of fruit earlier in the season and is the only tree in the garden row in bloom.

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. 

Enforcement suspended for meters and residential permit parking

While the shelter in place order is in effect, the CIty will not enforce rules related to: 

  • parking meters
  • time limited parking
  • school zones
  • residential permit parking
We ask that people be considerate and not park for long periods around venues that are struggling during this time, such as restaurants doing pick-up and delivery only, or destinations that we all need, such as a grocery store. 

Enforcement continues for safety and access violations

We will continue to issue citations for parking violations that impact public safety or impede access to essential services, as these issues become even more important during a public health emergency. This includes: 

  • red curbs and fire hydrants
  • disabled parking blue zones
  • street sweeping
  • yellow zones in commercial areas
  • double parking
We will enforce prohibitions on parking in construction zones and driveways by complaint only. 

Visit cityofberkeley.info/covid19 for additional information on COVID-19, frequently asked questions on the Health Officer’s order, and changes to City services.



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? 

The most horrendous example of his direct responsibility for killing Americans is the couple in Arizona who misunderstood Trump’s endorsement of the kind of chroloquine product which is used to treat malaria and ingested a different kind of chloroquine compound. It killed one of them and grievously injured the other. 

I’m the world’s fiercest First Amendment advocate, but Donald Trump’s “science” comments are the exact equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater, the classic example of when speech should be stopped. What’s needed now is for all relevant media to agree not to run any Trump appearance in real time. Instead, they could record these events and delay distribution long enough for scientific experts to identify all the errors and just plain lies which his statements contain and clearly mark them as such before broadcasting. 

It’s clear that he’s scared out of his mind. He’s got the double fear of his ill-gotten gains disappearing in a puff of smoke in the crashing stock market and his well-known pre-existing condition of germophobia. No wonder he makes up these magical cures. 

At our house we subscribe to youtubetv.com, which makes it easy to see these travesties on time delay accompanied by knowledge comments from expert talking heads. News organizations could easily use this kind of technology to add truth, provided by scientists, to the fictions Trump promulgates. 

That’s a way of mitigating the damage caused by his misinformation, but in this COVID crisis the country also needs to have an effective chief executive. In a pinch (and we’re in a bad one) governors can exercise authority, and some are doing so, but for certain aspects, such as mobilizing the Army Corps of Engineers to build emergency hospitals, federal authority is necessary. 

It’s hard to believe, but we’re still in the middle of an election campaign, which if carried out intelligently might provide succor in January. Or not,if the Dems don’t come up with a winning candidate who could also run the country. 

Bernie or Biden? It looks like that one is just about settled, through no fault of either one. Collateral damage of the COVID crisis is that the rest of the primaries won’t count. 

It is earnestly to be hoped that Bernie doesn’t take his marbles and go home to Vermont, and I see no reason to think that he would. But his bros are a different kettle of fish. With friends like these, he doesn’t need enemies. 

A week or so ago I got this in an email : 


BERN NOTICE: Bernie Was The Original Architect Of The Stimulus Idea Congress Is Now Considering. As lawmakers now consider direct cash payments to Americans to stimulate the economy, it is worth remembering that Bernie was the original architect of such a stimulus policy. It is also worth remembering that despite Congress then being controlled by Republicans, Bernie’s initiative was adopted by lawmakers during an economic downturn. Here is an excerpt of a Gannett story from 2001, during the dot-com crash … 

"Vermont’s socialist congressman came up with the original idea for a $300-a-person tax rebate in February, when he unveiled it at a Capitol Hill news conference with fellow members of the House Progressive Caucus." 

I don’t usually respond to these mass mailings, but since this was the end of a long string of similar claims I did reply: “Nonsense--Krugman from Keynes.”. 

Bernie did not invent the idea of using a stimulus to correct a downturn. Further, many don’t agree that tax rebates work as well as the kind of direct payment Congress is now considering. In any event, some sort of stimulus technique has been advocated at least as far back as Roosevelt. 

Bernie’s espoused a lot of good ideas, some of them original with him, but he hasn’t convinced the public that he’s the right person to carry them out. It’s time to put an end to his campaign’s triumphalist boasts, some worthy of the stable genius himself. 

Much to my surprise, I got an unwelcome defensive response from David Sirota, a central bro since 2016, himself. Time to let this one go. 

The game’s over before it’s finished, cancelled by a coronavirus. 

God forbid the bros should sulk their way through this one. But anyhow, would it matter much if they did? Did they ever really command a sizeable number of votes, especially since the revolutionary young don’t seem to turn out at the polls as expected? 

This is not to say that I’m sure that Joe Biden can handle the terrific and terrifying job of restoring the United States of America (and the rest of the world) to some manageable order which will protect those in need. My cousin says Joe’s as comfortable as an old pair of slippers, but that might not be enough. I’m wearing a pair of worn-out slippers right now, fine for working at home but I couldn’t go outside in them on a rainy day. 

As always, anyone but Trump would be an improvement, but would Biden be up to the massive reconstruction effort? If not, is there anyone better? 

Here’s a new idea that’s everywhere this week: Andrew Cuomo. 

The governor of New York is dealing masterfully with COVID. He has the message down pat and knows how to communicate it, with his serious sit-down chats and well-done visual aids. Not only that, he’s had a lot more administrative experience than Joe Biden, and is, dare I say it, a lot younger. There’s a big difference between 62 and 78. Been there, done that. 

At the moment, in a fair head-to-head matchup between the two, they might be approximate equals, but if we’re looking for an eight-year term, which we might need to dig ourselves out of this hole, Cuomo would be 70 at the end, Biden 86. You choose. 

At the moment, Cuomo’s got a momentous task in front of him, and it won’t be over by the time of the Democratic convention in August. Recently it’s been expected that conventions would simply ratify the choice of the primaries, but this is an unusual year, to put it mildly. It would technically be possible to choose Cuomo, but would the Democrats have the nerve? We shall see. 





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.

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: 

California governor: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ 

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me 

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris: https://www.harris.senate.gov/contact 

U.S. Congressperson Barbara Lee (13th Congressional District): https://lee.house.gov/contact 


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. 

The Fair Workweek legislation addresses unfair and exploitative work practices, such as keeping employees below 30 hours a week to avoid health care requirements, scheduling opening and closing shifts ("clopening" shifts) which offers little time to rest, and rescheduling shifts only hours before a workday creating extreme difficulties for those with childcare needs, additional jobs, and family obligations. 

The Healthy Checkout legislation addresses the nutritional standards of foods offered in the checkout aisle, standards advised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and adopted by communities partnering with public health agencies to provide a higher standard of healthy options to shoppers in checkout lines. 

The Downtown Berkeley Association and the Telegraph Business Improvement District get thousands of public dollars through the property-based fees they receive -yes, even public property-based fees such as public schools and university property. The public, the same public benefiting from public health ordinances the business lobbies wish to postpone, are paying the impressive salaries of the CEOs who tucked the proposed moratorium on the Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout ordinances into a request for interest-free loans of up to $75,000 for slumping businesses. 

There's nothing like a health crisis to inspire the profit-inclined to take steps to undermine public health. 

It's time for Berkeley to recognize the extraordinary divide between the public's interests and business lobby's interests. The well-heeled property owners in our town have needs they can meet themselves without the money we pay through their mandatory fees on public property we own collectively for what should be the public's general good, not to support an exploitative mechanism for the narrow benefit of private property owners and the powerful people who control the business lobbies. Berkeley citizens have to buy their own stamps and pay their own phone bills to communicate with the Berkeley City Council about matters important to them. The business lobbies, whose governing principle is profit, should do the same. Especially in a health crisis where those shift workers on the front lines are all that's left between ourselves and the functioning businesses still open on which we all depend. 

Let's call for a moratorium on the mandatory fees which entirely undemocratic, self-appointed "Business Improvement Districts" require of all property within their self-determined maps. It's time to take a stand for public health and democratic best practices. 


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.


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.) 

Obviously, this recession will be fodder for the 2020 election. 

3. All aspects of the Republican and Democratic political campaigns will be impacted by the pandemic and recession. We've already seen the end of political rallies and conventional -- press-the-flesh -- fundraisers. 

At the same time the Coronavirus crisis has deepened, Joe Biden has emerged as the presumptive Democratic candidate. In the meantime, Donald Trump is on the news each morning, playing the role of "wartime President" in the daily Coronavirus press briefing. The question for Biden is how can he get a reasonable amount of media time. 

4. The format of the political conventions will be altered. The Democratic convention is in July and the Republican convention will occur in August. It's unlikely that the pandemic will have sufficiently abated to permit these event to go forward in their usual manner; no doubt there will be "virtual" conventions. 

There are all sorts of logistical issues to be solved in the virtual convention format: how will votes be counted? How will typical convention items -- such as the Party platforms -- be determined? 

5. Some prominent politicians will be infected. Two members of the House of Representatives have tested positive for the Coronavirus and approximately twenty others are in "self-quarantine." (https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/09/politics/coronavirus-lawmakers-quarantine-isolation/index.html) At least one member of the White House staff has tested positive and others are in self-quarantine. 

It's only a matter of time before a major American political figure tests positive for the Coronavirus. When this happens, it's conceivable that the course of the election may be impacted. (For example, a Senator -- up for reelection -- may be stricken.) 

6. Congress will change the way it votes. At the moment, Congressional votes require Senators or Representatives to come to the floor of their respective chambers. It's highly likely that these rules will change, permitting members of Congress to vote without leaving their regional offices. (Obviously, this change has security consequences.) 

7. Both the Biden and the Trump campaign will be impacted by the pandemic. The crisis will particularly hurt Donald Trump (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/09/3-ways-coronavirus-could-end-trumps-presidency/): a. The state of the economy had worked in Trump's favor but now the economy has gone into the tank. b. Trump has done a terrible job handling the pandemic and this will hurt him in the polls. c. The current situation emphasizes the need for an improved healthcare system and Trump has taken many actions to undermine the current healthcare system. In addition, moving the presidential campaign into a virtual format will hurt Trump because it will deprive him of his big rallies. 

On the other hand, Trump has amassed a war chest of millions of dollars intended to go after the Democratic candidate via social media. This strategy could give Trump a huge head start over Biden. 

8. Biden and Trump will definitely debate. The first presidential debate is scheduled for September. Before the pandemic hit, Trump was making noises that suggested he would not debate the Democratic candidate. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/12/us/politics/trump-presidential-debate-democrat.html) Now he doesn't have a choice. At the moment, Real Clear Politics shows Biden with a 7.4 percent lead over Trump and, as the pandemic/recession plays out, the gap will widen. Trump will complain about the debate format and moderator, but he will be forced to debate. 

9. The debate issues will be shaped by the pandemic. If the presidential debate were to be held today, the issues would be the economy, healthcare, and presidential leadership. Biden would have the advantage. 

10. The format of the November election will be impacted by the pandemic. On November 3rd, it's likely that vast swaths of the United States will still be under orders to "shelter in place." This means that most states will have to offer residents the choice of voting by mail. (29 states already permit some form of voting by mail.) 


Or maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps this will all be over in a week. In any event, we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Stay safe. 

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

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. 

I watch a lot of politics on television and I read it on the internet. So far, I have seen no politician courting the votes or contributions from persons with disabilities. My category, that of mentally ill people, does not have political clout. The closest we come to it is through NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization consisting primarily of the parents of people with mental illness. NAMI does have some amount of clout, but even they rarely get a mention by a politician. 

Mentally ill people often do not have jobs. If we had jobs, it would be easier for us to organize into an entity that has some form of clout. The money has to come from somewhere. And people are not going to contribute to the cause of mentally ill people forming an organization that is by and for mentally ill people. 

Many families continue to keep it a secret that a family member is bipolar or schizophrenic. The concept that mental illness is something to be ashamed of is a misnomer. Yet it persists. 

Many mentally ill people probably do not vote. Many can't afford to contribute to a politician. When we are living under restrictions, including the passive restraint of having no income, activities become very limited. My writing is easy to do in some respects, because it merely involves possession of a computer, and the will to sit at that computer and produce something. 

Politicians don't mention mentally ill people because that won't help them win an election. Yet there are many elected officials who care about our wellness and who will act to make our lives better after they are elected. Proposition 63 was a one percent millionaire tax to fund mental health. It has done a lot to make the lives of mentally ill people better. It pays toward the Clubhouse in Concord and might pay for some of the expenses of NAMI Contra Costa. 

In the not so distant past, mentally ill people could and did organize. This was due to there being less economic pressure and other constraints on us. Additionally, the previous generation of medications was less restrictive of brain function. Thus, in the past, mentally ill people could do more things, including organize. 

When we organized, we accomplished some good things, but there was also some amount of corruption. I was out of the loop, so I do not know the exact nature of this. However, there were some mentally ill people in the organization with which I was involved who liked being a big fish in a small pond, and they also liked fishing out of a barrel. 

Where there is money, there is corruption. At one time, mental health organizations were able to get grants. These times appear to have passed. The capacity to organize seems to have been swept away by the force of medication, and other forces, including a harsher society. The "Patients' Rights Movement" arose when there were far worse injustices in the mental health treatment system than there are now. 

Yet, in the past ten years, certain things about inpatient treatment have worsened. And, additionally, police forces have always been too heavy-handed in their detainment procedures, from what I have observed firsthand. 

Organized mentally ill people often served as a balance on the authority of the mental health treatment systems. There are some organizations, such as Office of Consumer Empowerment. Yet, my perception, and the reader should correct me if I'm wrong, is that this organization is supervised by the county. 

Better conditions for mentally ill people would allow us to organize and have clout, and not worse conditions. This is unless the parents become excessively outraged at what is being done to their adult children. 

Meanwhile, there is the Clubhouse model, which has absorbed the funding, and which is not run by recovered mentally ill people. We've lost adult status. 

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.  

London’s The Telegraph reports that a crisis management unit in Turin, Italy, has drawn up a protocol that will determine which patients will receive intensive care treatment and which will not if there are insufficient intensive care capacity is already running short. Intensive care spaces for COVID-19 victims aged 80 or more or in poor health would be denied care should pressure on beds increase. The ability of the patient to recover from resuscitation will also be considered. 

Even in the best of times, hospitals the U.S. run at near-full capacity with infection control a perennial problem. Unfortunately, as of now, there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 and probably will not be for 1 to 1-1/2 years. 

As one doctor said: "[Who lives and who dies] is decided by age and by the [patient's] health conditions. This is how it is in a war.” Note that according to the 2019 point-in-time count, 10% of San Francisco’s 9,764 homeless are 80 or older. The U.S. too is facing a war with hard decisions ahead. 

Unfortunately, we now have a deadly lack of leadership in the White House. I’m not sure we are fully prepared for this war against COVID-19.

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."


A Poem for Our Troubled Times 

The following poem has been making the online rounds as pandemic-panicked people search for reassuring words to share. Herewith: 


By Brother Richard Hendrick (March 13, 2020, Ireland) 

Yes, there is fear. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

Yes, there is even death. 


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise 

You can hear the birds again. 

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet 

The sky is no longer thick with fumes 

But blue and grey and clear. 

They say that in the streets of Assisi 

People are singing to each other 

across the empty squares, 

keeping their windows open 

so that those who are alone 

may hear the sounds of the family around them. 

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland 

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound. 

Today a young woman I know 

is busy spreading fliers with her number 

through the neighborhood 

So that the elders may have someone to call on. 

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples 

are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary 

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting 

All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way 

All over the world, people are waking up to a new reality 

To how big we really are. 

To how little control we really have. 

To what really matters. 

To Love. 

So we pray and we remember that 

Yes, there is fear. 

But there does not have to be hate. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

But there does not have to be loneliness. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

But there does not have to be meanness. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

But there does not have to be the disease of the soul 

Yes, there is even death. 

But there can always be a rebirth of love. 

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. 

Today, breathe. 

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic 

The birds are singing again 

The sky is clearing, 

Spring is coming, 

And we are always encompassed by Love. 

Open the windows of your soul 

And though you may not be able 

to touch across the empty square, 


Breaking News Amidst the Noise: What's Bad News for People Is Good for the Planet New data from the orbiting the CopernicusEU #Sentinel5P weather satellite reveal a major decline in air pollution over Italy as a result of a nationwide lockdown that is keeping residents confined to their homes. 


At the same time, the water in Venice's clouded canals has begun to run clear as the coronavirus lockdown suspends boat traffic. Fish are once more visible in the canals. Also returning to enjoy the currents of the city's cleaner canals—swans and . . . dolphins! 


Meanwhile, the air quality over China has improved dramatically following the imposition of a nationwide coronavirus quarantine. NASA satellites are finding 'significant decreases' in nitrogen dioxide as factories are closed and workers are ordered to stay home. 


A Hopeful Invitation from the Greenhorns 

Over the years, it's been my pleasure to know and work with an amazing crew of young eco-activist farmers who call themselves the "Greenhorns." From their headquarters in rural Pembroke, Maine, they energetically promote ecological farming as an alternative career path for young Americans who see no long-term future in a world dominated by short-term, extractive, debt-for-profit capitalism. 

And how can I not love a team of on-the-land artists, writers, and eco-agitators who chose to name their homestead "Smithereen Farm"? 


Here's a portion of a recent letter from their farm in Maine. It was a welcome respite from the apocalyptic barrage of doom-soaked screeds that have dominated the news cycle for the past weeks. 

What a time! What a time to sit quietly in the morning and lay out some constructive thoughts about where and how to intervene in the unfolding now. Disaster capitalism, masked sprayers in the streets, lockdowns and xenophobia, trillions of dollars of phantom money flooding, draining and swirling toxic silt, indenturing the future with debt. 

Panic and hoarding, schools and courts of justice closed—and meanwhile the dismantling continues, the closure of state agencies charged with overseeing our public lands, parks, forests, department of agriculture, department of statistics, the science of climate study and the needed coordinated response to climate change. We’re keeping our spirits up: speaking with each other, checking in with those we love, showing care and kindness in the hallways and at the intersections. This is no time to be hollowing out institutions and the social behaviors of solidarity. The dispatch comes with an invitation. Every year (in between planting and harvesting) the Greenhorns produce a collection of ruminations and solution-oriented essays in their annual publication, The New Farmer’s Almanac. And this year, they are inviting us to submit articles for the upcoming edition. 

We at the Greenhorns challenge you to use this time to compose your thoughts, articulate constructive solutions, and write for The New Farmer’s Almanac! The future is a long time, and the present is a good time to write. 

As they explain in their letter: We are seeking solutions! Works of resistance, restoration, revisioning. We welcome contributions from farmers, researchers, poets, landscape designers, architects, ranchers, activists, artists, thinkers, and gardeners working to reimagine our management of public and private lands. 

In the meantime, the Greenhorns offer this open invitation: "Come learn with us about Sardines, Oysters, Mushrooms, Rice, Vinegar, Wild herbs, Forestry in a Forest context, Historic Restoration and more." 


Trump a Poet? You're Right: It's Got to Be a Joke Need some satire to get you through these helter-shelter days? How about an audio book titled: The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump (Unabridged)? The perpetrator behind this parody is Robert Sears, the publisher is Canongate Books, and it's the mellifluous, overly dramatic voice of Jon Culshaw that carries the day, delivering Sears' craftily edited collection of Trump's tweets and tropes with deliciously unearned gravitas. 

According to the publisher: "This collection will give readers a glimpse of the Trump's innermost thoughts and feelings, on everything from the nature of truth to what annoys him about Cher—and will reveal a hitherto hidden Donald, who may surprise and delight both students and critics alike." Click here for a free listen. 

Trump Does TIME