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Development of People's Park Site During Health Crisis is Not Appropriate

Lisa Houston
Thursday May 14, 2020 - 10:23:00 AM

As a native of Berkeley, I protest the idea of going forward with UC's planned development on the historic site of People's Park. In addition to many preservationist issues which have doubtless been well-voiced by others, the current global health crisis should precipitate at the very least a delay, to allow for more public comment and also for a thoughtful revisioning of the University's future.  

The timing of the deadline for public comment is inappropriate as so much of the population is currently concerned in a day-to-day way with survival, major job loss, and other practical factors that make consideration of this plan an extremely low priority for very understandable reasons. Therefor the public must be given more time to respond to such a major change in central Berkeley. 

Additionally, the role of remote learning can and should be factored in more heavily to UC's plans, and that simply cannot be fully considered in time for this projected development. The impact of this health crisis on public behavior vis-a-vis commuting and remote learning is as yet unknown, nor has there been adequate time for UC to consider in the wake of this crisis the various video and online options which have quickly become the norm, and which many students may prefer in the near future.  

Meanwhile, making a significant and permanent change to the look and feel of Berkeley's beloved Telegraph avenue should simply not happen at this particular moment without more complete consideration of these issues, along with a commensurate, non-crisis time period for people's voices to be heard.  

If People's Park has not been all it could be in recent years, I hope anyone who loves Berkeley would still agree that hearing the voices of the People matters fundamentally, and when people are struggling to find basic necessities, preoccupied with health concerns for themselves and their families, not to mention making their rents and mortgages, UC should not be permitted to move ahead. It is a kind of dead-of-night appointment, a maneuver that intentionally or unintentionally takes advantage of the crisis to push forward their own interests. ; 

Surely such action is not at all befitting either a town of University with such noble and meaningful traditions.

City of Berkeley Offers Coronavirus Test to Symptomatic

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday May 06, 2020 - 11:11:00 PM

City of Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez said Wednesday that anyone who has new coronavirus symptoms can now get tested for free at a city testing site. 

Hernandez said the nine possible symptoms for COVID-19 that have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are coughing, shortness of breath, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and newly losing a sense of smell. 

Hernandez said if people have a health care provider, they should call them first, before getting a test at the city's site, because testing capacity has expanded greatly in recent weeks and providers will be the source of any follow-up care or advice. 

People who have COVID-19 symptoms, or parents of children at least 2 years old who have symptoms, can call a city of Berkeley nurse who will screen calls, according to Hernandez. 

A nurse will screen callers and schedule an appointment at the city's testing site in West Berkeley. The test screening line is (510) 981-5380 and is staffed from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. 

City of Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city hopes to be able to test up to 1,000 people a week. 

Hernandez cautioned people that a test is only a snapshot in time and it can take anywhere from two to 14 days for people to develop symptoms after they've been exposed to the coronavirus. She also said testing won't protect people from COVID-19 and no vaccine exists for the virus at this time.

Covid-19 Status on Wednesday

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Wednesday May 06, 2020 - 04:07:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Wednesday afternoon include:  

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Walnut Creek City Council at its Tuesday meeting approved $6.5 million in spending cuts and moved to use $3.6 million in reserve funds to close a projected $10 million budget gap for the fiscal year that ends June 30. 

The city of San Francisco is increasing the number of staffed Pit Stop public toilets open at all hours in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday. Eighteen already existing Pit Stop toilets will now operate 24-hours-a-day, bringing the total number of staffed 24-hour staffed Pit Stop toilets to 49, according to city officials. 

Contra Costa Health Services announced Wednesday that an inmate at the Martinez Detention Facility has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The patient tested positive Tuesday while Contra Costa Health Services workers were conducting proactive, asymptomatic testing of inmates at the facility. The person, who is in stable condition, has since been placed in isolation to receive care from the county's doctors and nurses. 

The property tax deadline for San Francisco residents has been extended to May 15 and City Hall, which has been closed to the public per the stay-home order, will reopen for in-person payments for three days. The new deadline for San Francisco residents is the second and final extension, according to the office of Treasurer Jose Cisneros . As of Wednesday at 2:15 p.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region:  

Alameda County: 1,863 cases, 66 deaths (1,809 cases, 66 deaths on Tuesday)  

Contra Costa County: 985 cases, 29 deaths (969 cases, 29 deaths on Tuesday) 

Marin County: 243 cases, 14 deaths (241 cases, 13 deaths on Tuesday)  

Monterey County: 241 cases, 6 deaths (235 cases, 6 deaths on Tuesday)  

Napa County: 78 cases, 2 deaths (75 cases, 2 deaths on Tuesday)  

San Francisco County: 1,754 cases, 31 deaths (1,728 cases, 31 deaths on Tuesday) 

San Mateo County: 1,341 cases, 56 deaths (1,315 cases, 56 deaths on Tuesday) 

Santa Clara County: 2,268 cases, 126 deaths (2,255 cases, 121 deaths on Tuesday) 

Santa Cruz County: 138 cases, 2 deaths (138 cases, 2 deaths on Tuesday)  

Solano County: 325 cases, 6 deaths (320 cases, 6 deaths on Tuesday)  

Sonoma County: 272 cases, 3 deaths (261 cases, 3 deaths on Tuesday)  

Statewide: 58,815 cases, 2,412 deaths (56,212 cases, 2,317 deaths on Tuesday)



The Nursing Home Horror Story Never Vanishes

Becky O'Malley
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 02:15:00 PM

In one of my previous lives I attempted to teach investigative reporting to a class of aspiring journalists who hoped to make a living free-lancing for magazines. This was in the early ‘80s, just about the time most of the print publications which commissioned 5,00 word stories were sinking slowly into the sunset, so few of my students ever managed to support themselves by writing.

But I did have one good idea. I thought it would be possible to put out a journalism textbook of sure-fire evergreen story ideas that would never get stale . I had a whole list, most of which came and went, but one endured and sadly is still with us: shocking conditions at nursing homes.

Forty years later, it’s still possible, any time an editor needs a dramatic story, to find a hellhole of a nursing home within 5 blocks of your desktop computer. Now in the COVID-19 era nursing home exposes can be found in any news source any day of the week. 

In the New York Times not long ago, for example, you might have read that Nursing Homes Were a Disaster Waiting to Happen, an op-ed written by Richard Mollot, the executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition. 

His conclusion:
“A pandemic is a force of nature that cannot be avoided. But years of neglect by nursing homes have left millions of older residents unprotected from it. Many of the deaths we’ve seen could have been prevented. More lives can be saved if we demand more from the industry and from its regulators.” 

Well, yes. 

Closer to home, and more immediate, we had excellent current reporting in Thursday’s S.F. Chronicle by Sarah Ravani: Asymptomatic staff, untested at many nursing homes, are spreading the coronavirus. 

It’s tempting to believe that the horrendous situation now being reported at nursing homes all over the country is a unique outcome of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In fact, however, epidemics caused by all kinds of viruses menace many sorts of crowded congregate facilities. Norovirus, for example, though it’s not a coronavirus, causes severe and dangerous diarrhea outbreaks in everything from day care centers to cruise ships to assisted living centers. 

The Centers for Disease Control recently added new symptoms to its list of symptoms of the CORVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

It now includes almost any complaint any sick person is likely to have, making it almost impossible to conclusively track victims of coronavirus-caused disease using symptoms alone. The first victim in the Bay Area, recently identified by Santa Clara County, was only diagnosed on autopsy. 

It turns out that definitional names for such institutions are not standardized medically or legally, which makes them harder to regulate effectively. For example, what used to be called “nursing homes” are often now spoken of as “sniffs”—SNFs, Skilled Nursing Facilities—but they’re not the only dangerous situations where people gather. This is why it’s crucial to test employees, residents and clients at any kind of congregate facility for the presence of this virus. 

The City of Berkeley’s recently hired Health Officer, Dr. Lisa Hernandez, on April 16 issued this impressive document which specified many precautionary measures to be followed at the many types of group situations to be found in the city of Berkeley: 


It covers a long list of at-risk facilities: 

a. Hospitals including General Acute Care 

b. Psychiatric Health Facilities 

c. Skilled Nursing Facilities 

d. Intermediate Care Facilities of all license types 

e. Hospice Facilities 

f. Home Health and Hospice Agencies 

g. Home Care Organizations 

h. Chronic Dialysis Clinics 

i. Federally Qualified Health Care Centers j. Community Clinics 

k. Ambulatory Surgical Centers 

l. Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly 

m. Residential Facilities for the Chronically Ill 

n. Social Rehabilitation Facilities 

o. Continuing Care Retirement Communities & Community Services 

p. Urgent Care Centers 

q. EMS Providers 

r. Adult Residential Care Facilities of all license types including: 

i. Licensed group homes including runaway and homeless youth shelters 

ii. Homeless shelters for adults and/or families 

iii. Recovery houses or Sober Living Environments providing group living arrangements 

iv. Transitional Housing Programs providing group living arrangement 

v. Residential substance use disorder treatment programs 


Yes, we have some of all of these in Berkeley. It’s just that the public is not able to learn which of these facilities might be experiencing pandemic crisis. Also, there’s no effective diagnostic mechanism recommended, let alone required. There’s just temperature screening and self-evaluation for symptoms, neither of which is adequate, since we’ve learned that by the time such symptoms appear, the asymptomatic spreader has done considerable damage. 

Published data, whether from the City of Berkeley’s own Health Department, Alameda County or the state of California, is woefully inadequate. 

Now that we know (and the Order acknowledges) that coronaviruses can be spread by asymptomatic individuals, it’s likely there are many more cases in all congregate facilities than are recognized. 

UCSF Professor Emerita Charlene Harrington, a Berkeley resident, said this in an email to the Planet: 

“I continued to be amazed and disgusted that the local departments of public health are not releasing the names of nursing homes and assisted living facilities that have COVID-19 staff or residents. Transparency is the most important policy so that families, staff, residents and the community can know their risks and make decisions based on the spread of the virus. 

“We believe that some facilities are keeping the virus secret so it won’t hurt the reputation of the facility while putting staff and communities at risk. In many cases, both staff and residents are asymptomatic so they can be spreading the virus without knowing it. 

“We need to have the testing of all residents and staff in nursing homes and assisted living as a top priority to stop the spread. The LA County Public Health Officer has adopted this policy and yet the bay area counties have not done that. 

“This is a very frustrating situation.” 

On Friday, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax announced a new directive which will require all residents and staff working at the 21 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in San Francisco to be tested for the COVID-19 virus. The City will begin testing all residents and staff at SNFs next week, with a goal of creating a two-week testing cycle after the first round of tests are completed. 

That’s a big improvement, but authorities now recommend much more frequent testing of health care workers. On Thursday infectious disease expert Dr. Brian Schwartz, in a UCSF web presentation of the medical school’s Grand Rounds, recommended no more than a 3-5 day interval between tests, and said that 2 days would really be better. 

Berkeley’s Health Department has still not announced even one-time mandatory tests for health care workers in this city, and records of outbreaks at individual institutions are still not available. 

And that’s only the health care industry. Similar statistics for all kinds of super-dense living situations , including the full list per the Berkeley Health Officer’s edict, should be a matter of public record, with prisons and meat packing factories being prime examples of high-risk environments which are not starting with sick people. 

In North Carolina, a coalition of news organizations, including the non-profit Carolina Public Press, used legal pressure to persuade the state’s Department of Health to begin revealing that information for long-term care facilities. 

News organizations in California should follow the North Carolina example and demand release of statistics about COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate settings of all kinds. Admittedly scattered anecdotal reports indicate that at least half of deaths from this disease are in such institutions. 

Meanwhile, a good start would be for the Berkeley Health Department to compile an authoritative list of all such establishments in this city complete with statistics. Why do we need a standalone health department if they can’t do this? A Berkeley-based news organization coalition to demand this information with legal back-up would be great. 

The best I’ve been able to do as one person under quarantine is to google “skilled nursing facilities Berkeley”, which at the top level produces a handful of appealing ads and some negative Yelp ratings which would curl your hair. And at least one dreadful-sounding one-star place is, yes, within 5 blocks of my home office, but I can’t walk down there to check it out. 

Meanwhile, I just got a phone call from a friend whose 96-year-old mother is in an assisted living facility in Pinole, having just moved from another one which evicted all of its residents because the property was sold to a developer. Her mother uses a wheelchair, but is basically healthy.  

My friend had just heard from the home that an employee (name not revealed) who worked with her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 and has been told to stay home. Word of mouth among staff has it that their affected co-worker, who has no symptoms, was tested because someone she shares a ride with, a health care worker at another facility, tested positive. 

All these tests were administered under the auspices of Contra Costa County at another locatiion.  

Her mother’s residence has no regular program for testing either employees or residents. Three more untested employees have now called in sick, but have not been tested, though the employer is trying to persuade the county to do so. 

My friend would like to get her mother tested, but has been told by Sutter Health that they don’t provide tests unless the person has symptoms, despite current evidence that COVID-positive people are often asymptomatic. She has no way to get her mother with wheelchair to the county test site. What to do? Who knows? 

This is just one anecdote among many, typical of what many Americans are dealing with. What’s needed is not more anecdotes—we need hard data and much more testing. It’s time for our elected officials, state, county and local, to step up to the plate and require both. 

It’s pretty clear that after 40-some years “nursing homes” and their modern re-branded equivalent “skilled nursing facilities”, along with other crowded living situations, are still a reliable horror story. It’s past time to do something about that.

The Editor's Back Fence

UCB Disses Alumnae and Alumni Once More

Sunday May 03, 2020 - 03:31:00 PM

As an alumna of the University of California at Berkeley (’61) I got an email this week from Chancellor Carol Christ which said in part:
“The COVID-19 crisis is challenging for the campus in many ways, not least so to our students.

“Across the income spectrum, students are facing enormous economic pressure brought on by the pandemic to pay for housing, food, and access to basic necessities. Almost overnight, part-time jobs many students relied on to fund their education have ended, and lay-offs and pay reductions began weakening the capacity of families to provide support.

“How are we responding as a campus community?

Please join me on Tuesday, May 5 for a live, online chat on how Berkeley is addressing the changing landscape of student need. Mark your calendars for 12:30 to 1 p.m. (Pacific) for this important conversation.

“You will learn about how you can take part in the response, including supporting the Student Emergency Fund. I’ll be joined by a panel that includes campus leaders, a philanthropic partner and trustee, and a student-parent supported by the fund.

You will also be able to submit questions for the chat in advance.

One significant question I have for Chancellor Christ is why she’s trying to rush her plans to build a sixteen-story building on People’s Park and to increase, massively, the number of admitted students through the environmental review process when affected parties, particularly local residents, are not able to attend the meeting in person. The City of Berkeley has already protested the schedule, which is blamed on COVID-19 but looks pretty sneaky to many of us alumnae.

Online chats are not an adequate substitute for open public forums. They probably don’t qualify under CEQA, engendering inevitable law suits and demonstrations.

This is no way to ensure public support for the school and its students.

Click here if you'd like to tell the Chancellor what you think of this process. 





Public Comment

Hospitals: Moving Backwards, Medically Speaking

Harry Brill
Friday May 08, 2020 - 12:29:00 PM

On behalf of the state’s hospital patients, California limits the number of patients that a nurse can treat at one time. Generally speaking, one nurse can serve no more than five patients. In intensive care units the maximum for one nurse is two patients (sometimes three). The purpose is to insure that patients receive quality care.

But when these ratios are violated the mortality rate increases appreciably. For example, if the number of patients taken of by a nurse increases from four to six, the mortality rate would climb by 14 percent.

The law benefits nurses as well as patients. Nurses who are not overworked are less likely to burn out and experience physical and emotional exhaustion. And they are much less likely to be injured. In fact, since the nurse-patient legilation was passed nurse injuries have declined 30 percent. Of course, better working conditions improve the quality of care for patients.

Unfortunately, however, Governor Newsom has issued an executive order that is very bad news for the California public. The governor has surrendered to the hospital industry. For a long while the hospitals have been pressuring Newsom to relax standards. The coronavirus issue has given him the excuse to do so. 

Among the major concessions he made is to allow the same number of patients to be cared for by fewer nurses. That is always bad news. In fact, it is dangerous. In addition, Newsom’s executive order gives the Department of Public Health Director power to waive licensing and staffing requirements for hospitals. This means that many of the well trained Registered Nurses (RN) will be replaced by less qualified, lower wage nurses. 

Yet Newsom justified his executive order by claiming that the hospitals would be in a position to recruit “Thousands and thousands more health workers needed to fight coronavirus.” But his decision to allow the hospitals far more leaway, which includes reducing the number of nurses that are avaiable to patients, Is exactly what the Californa Nurse Association (CNA) defeated many years ago. As a result of that victory, the number of hospital nurses increased by 15 percent. But now we are more likely to witness a reduction in nursing staff, which risks increasing the patient mortality rate. 

Governor Newsom claims that his mandate will be effective until the end of June. But significantly, this time limit is not at all included in the actual executive order. That’s very worrisome. 

That too many hospitals seem to be more profit than health oriented is suggested by their resistance to providing staff with safety masks. Incredibly, many hospitals have discouraged both medical doctors and nurses from wearing masks. According to Associated Press (April 17, 2020) “Ten California nurses suspended for refusing to work without N95 masks”. The N95 is among the masks that offer the best protection.  

But the hospitals can certainly afford to provide staff with adequate health protection. The hospital industry is very profitable and executives are well paid. In one good year, for example, the CEO of Sutters Health earned over 6 million dollars. As a result of Newsom’s executive order, profits will increase at the expense of patients and the professional staff.  

Clearly, the CNA must do all it can to prevent the governor’s executive order from being carried out. At the very least the governor must be held to his promise to end the program in June. And the CNA along with other progressive organizations must inform and mobilize the public to protect the interests of hospital patients as well as the nurses and medical doctors who serve them.

Californians in Long-Term Care Remain at Risk Under Newsom

Suzanne Gordon
Friday May 08, 2020 - 01:08:00 PM

During the current pandemic, California Governor Gavin Newsom has been widely praised for issuing a shelter in place directive ahead of other states, helping to expand patient access to intensive care beds and ventilators, and securing more personal protective equipment (PPEs) for hospital workers.

Unfortunately, Newsom’s response to the crisis facing people in nursing homes and residential care/assisted living facilities has not been praise-worthy at all.

Residents of such long-term care facilities (LTCs) are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection due to their advanced age and accumulated chronic diseases or disabilities.By the Newsom Administration’s own count, residents and staff at 191 California nursing homes and 94 small residential homes now have the virus—with far more infections expected.

Yet, in response to this crisis, the state Department of Public Health has just provided regulatory relief to the long-term care industry. Instead of increasing public oversight, California has relaxed it, allowing private nursing homes to cut staffing. In addition, California is requiring unprepared facilities to admit some of the sickest coronavirus patients. This is a recipe for disaster. 

COVID-19 has already highlighted our national failure to develop and enforce adequate patient safety protections in the for-profit nursing home industry. One of the first reported cases of coronavirus infection occurred at a for-profit nursing home in Washington state, owned by the national chain, Life Care Centers of America, which has a long history of problems. This particular facility had only 69 percent of the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and 88 percent of the total nursing staff that experts say are needed for residents with the lowest care needs. In 2019, the facility was cited by state inspectors for failing to provide and implement an infection prevention and control program. 


A Long-Standing Failure

Many of California’s nursing homes have similar deficiencies. Most are so short staffed that workers don’t have the time – or training – to follow basic infection prevention procedures – like washing hands, isolating patients, and keeping ill nurses and aide from coming to work. Nursing home aides are so poorly paid that they often work two or three jobs, thus increasing the risk that they will, unknowingly, spread the coronavirus to other healthcare workplaces and their families. 


In southern California, we are already experiencing the results of short-staffing and lack of effective regulation, particularly in situations where workers have no collective bargaining rights or protection for whistle-blowing about conditions unsafe for them and their patients. 

On April 7, the public health director for Los Angeles County had to advise families that it would be “perfectly appropriate” to pull their loved ones out of long-term facilities—after coronavirus infections were reported at 121 nursing homes and other communal living institutions in the county— including a home in Redondo Beach with 38 confirmed cases and four deaths. Meanwhile, staff at a Riverside County home were so fearful about their exposure, due to lack of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), that they didn’t show up for work, forcing the evacuation of 84 residents. 

Before situations like this become more common and dangerous statewide, Newsom must reconsider and reverse his grant of regulatory relief for an industry in need of more oversight, not less. 


Steps California Should Take

Instead of giving nursing home owners and managers a freer hand, the state should be requiring more patient safety reporting and accountability. No nursing home should be forced to admit COVID-19 patients. Only nursing homes with dedicated COVID-19 units should be accepting such patients. Because many people with the infection don’t have symptoms, it’s critical that nursing homes and assisted living facilities test all staff and residents, as soon as testing capacity increases. 


Not only should California immediately restore its minimum staffing requirements, staffing levels should be higher for any facility that cares for patients with COVID-19. Plus nursing home workers need more than the $500 additional stipend that the governor has allocated. As one nursing home safety expert told me, this payment is “a joke because it’s not enough money to keep them at work or keep them from working two or three jobs. What’s needed is hazard pay. The governor may think he’s doing something, but it’s way too little, way too late.” 

Finally, we need far greater transparency about the spread of the virus in the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The California Department of Public Health has not disclosed which long-term care institutions actually have residents with the virus. Los Angeles County is one of the few actually reporting names of facilities on a daily basis. We can’t know the full extent of the pandemic, without statewide reporting on the problem—so patients, their families, and prospective users of these facilities can act accordingly. 

In Canada and other parts of the U.S.,there have also been stronger responses to the crisis. For example, British Columbia has taken control over staffing levels in all provincial nursing homes, providing their workers with adequate pay so they don’t have to juggle two or three jobs. The Republican governor of Maryland has taken more aggressive measures to monitor that state’s facilities than Democrat Gavin Newsom has. 

It’s time for Governor Newsom to address this emergency before a crisis turns into a catastrophe for residents and staff at his state’s long-term care facilities. 


Thanks to the author for permission to repeat this article, which previously appeared in CounterPunch and Portside. Suzanne Gordon is a CWA-NewsGuild member and the author of many books about health care work and policy. She edits the Culture and Politics of Healthcare Work Series at Cornell University Press. Gordon can be reached at sg.@suzannegordon.com .  


UC's People's Park megalith and expansion plan: A brighter alternative

Michael Katz
Friday May 08, 2020 - 12:47:00 PM

Friday May 15 (at 5 pm) is our deadline to submit written public comments to planning@berkeley.edu regarding UC Berkeley's proposed expansion projects. These proposals include 16- and 11-story towers on what's now People's Park, and a 2036-37 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) that would increase the campus' overall population by 44% over the previous 2020 LRDP's target.

These proposals were obviously developed before the pandemic. If you find them remarkable in today's horizons of sustained economic distress and physical distancing, now's the time to let UC Berkeley know.

I submitted a version of the comments below. I also submitted a version to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, preceded by as polite a preface as I could dream up. I was surprised to get a cordial, personal reply a few hours later.

The world really has changed. I'm beginning to hope that through respectful dialogue, we might end up with a more-contained campus that's more realistic and sustainable, both for the university and for this city's residents. Here's my little contribution – please submit yours. 

A brighter vision for Cal's next 20 years

Bottom Line Up Front: Given current and likely future circumstances, the EIR for the 2037 LRDP should study the overall benefits of a planning alternative that shrinks the campus' local population and physical footprint. Specifically, I suggest studying a rollback to the targets outlined in UCB's 1990–2005 LRDP: 30,000 students and 14,711 faculty/staff, for a total local population of 44,711 people, with a corresponding reduction in physical space occupied outside the central campus. 

Benefits from slightly smaller enrollment (beyond the scope of this EIR) might include: higher quality of instruction, based on higher faculty/student ratios; higher quality of student life, based on a less impersonal environment; more-competitive faculty recruitment, based on more-selective student admissions; and greater resilience against future financial and natural disasters, based on lower campus fixed costs and overhead. 

My lifetime Cal Alumni Association membership reflects my enduring gratitude for the excellent and affordable graduate education I received at Cal. 

I wish I could place corresponding pride and confidence in this great learning institution's ability to learn – from evidence, and from its own past errors. 

In a changed world of global pandemics and physical distancing, Cal's proposed 16- and 11-story towers on People's Park are simply insane. New York City's catastrophic rates of C-19 infection and deaths demonstrate that high-density buildings, with elevator-only access, spread contagious diseases with hideous speed. 

Just one block north of People's Park, Cal's recently built Anna Head West dorms provide 424 units in attractive, contextual, low-rise buildings accessible by multiple stairways. For People's Park, Cal's architects offered a similar low-rise layout called 2.8 Spoke. 

But rather than replicate success, Cal is arrogantly insisting on a monstrosity that will be impossible to bond (finance) and unsafe to occupy. This is as super-stupid as the supersized athletic facility that Cal insisted on building directly above the Hayward Fault. That deficit-plagued white elephant will drain the campus' athletics and (most likely) academic budget for at least a century. 

The People's Park proposal would loom nearly twice as high as anything Cal has ever previously imposed on Southside. This proposal, alone, presents the best case ever (among many previous examples) for voters to simply end UC's archaic constitutional exemption from municipal zoning controls. In any construction outside campus' historic 1873 boundaries, UC is imposing significant impacts on what is now one of California's densest cities. In this 21st-century reality, UC's actions should be 100% subject to adjudication by local voters, and by their elected and appointed officials. 

At its Upper Hearst Project, and on the Oxford Tract, Cal threatens more out-of-scale megastructures that would degrade livability for its own students, faculty, staff, and broader community. (The Oxford Tract's rare patch of open land has provided breathing room for generations of students living on both sides of its block – making it a unique and irreplaceable resource.) 

The demolitions of Tolman Hall and 2223 Fulton Street offer ample footprints for high-capacity, truly on-campus student housing. Yet Cal arbitrarily refuses to build any housing on its main campus, clinging to an accidental precedent that has no clear rationale. If dorms are good enough for Harvard Yard, why not for Cal? 

Cal's refusal to locate even a single dorm bed on its main campus lags behind perhaps every other university and college on Earth. Comparably built-out campuses like UCLA (my other alma mater) are eagerly replacing antiquated central academic and lab buildings with needed student housing. 

Beyond the Tolman Hall and 2223 Fulton St. brownfields, what exactly does Cal intend to do with the large, seismically doomed, original University Art Museum site between Bancroft Way and Durant Ave.? Or with the nearby low-rise Hearst Field Annex temp buildings, which were erected as temporary homes for Pacific Film Archive and for College of Environmental Design classrooms? If Cal wants to put dense student housing somewhere, probably the least disruptive opportunity site is right here, directly south of looming Barrows Hall. 

Let me shift the remainder of my comments to a broader, underlying issue: This campus' fundamental problem is addiction to growth – and enslavement to a growth model from a bygone century. 

Cal's current population of 39,708 already exceeds its 2020 LRDP commitment by 19% (6,258 people), leading to lawsuits for uncompensated impacts on the City. For 2037, Cal proposes to supersize its 2020 target by an astounding 44%. 

The question for Cal leadership is not how to grow by nearly half again, by why? Does anyone seriously deny that the quality of instruction (at all levels) and administration will significantly decline at this still more impersonal scale? How many tenured Cal faculty members send their own children to Cal – versus smaller liberal-arts colleges, where students have a chance to actually interact with their professors? 

Clark Kerr, UC's president during a past rapid expansion, is notorious today for comparing the university to a corporation. Indeed, for-profit corporations must continually grow, to reward their shareholders with higher revenues and valuations. 

But UC is a nonprofit, whose shareholders are California taxpayers. And this dot-edu will soon face a massive funding deficit. If Cal's current leaders want to retain the public's loyalty – and to be remembered as visionaries, rather than reviled as punch lines like Clark Kerr – they must adapt to the new world of distributed learning and research collaborations. 

Cal should be aiming to stabilize and reduce – not expand – its local population, its physical footprint outside its central campus, and its expensive empire of real-estate follies. 

Cal has successfully moved all instruction online this spring. Its brightest future lies in expanding on this trend of virtual knowledge-sharing. In this LRDP's planning horizon of 2020–2037, there is simply no reason why all UC Berkeley–affiliated (or –branded) research and instruction must occur in jammed, expensive Berkeley. 

Harvard and other major universities earn renown for scholarship conducted worldwide, by developing funding to bestow research fellowships on prominent and emerging scholars in tenured and tenure-track positions at other institutions. Carnegie Mellon has transplanted its prominence in digital engineering to a Silicon Valley campus at Moffett Field, where it offers five master's programs. I'm aware of no Cal expansions like these, beyond a Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program that enrolled students alternately on both campuses, and was canceled in 2013. 

Cal helped build the foundations of today's Internet – through important innovations like Berkeley Unix, and through distinguished alumni like Sun Microsystems' Bill Joy. It's time for this campus to get a real return on its research investment. 

It's time for Cal to finally, virtually fulfill its promise to provide extension benefits to residents and taxpayers up and down the state. And to share its research and teaching best practices, so that undergraduate degrees from every UC campus – including newer campuses with greenfields to expand into – will be as prestigious as Cal degrees. 

If a smaller, more cohesive Cal sounds like a counterintuitive goal, this campus has interesting recent precedents for planning for – and thriving with – negative growth: 

  • Above, I recommended studying a re-adoption of the 1990–2005 LRDP's target enrollment of 30,000 students. Surprisingly, when that document was was prepared in fall 1988, the actual enrollment was 31,364 students. So Cal's own recent planning practice offers a precedent of planning for a moderate decrease in enrollment. (As newer UC campuses expand enrollment – while enhancing their research and teaching capabilities and reputations – the UC system's flagship campus can afford to be more selective.) 

  • Cal's 2005–2020 LRDP set a target faculty/staff population of 15,810 people in 2020. Yet the actual 2018/19 faculty/staff headcount was only 15,421 people. Without wading into the controversy of adjunct versus tenure-track academic staffing, this is an immediate precedent for maintaining Cal's tradition of academic excellence while hiring substantially below earlier targets – even after years of expansion in California's economy. 

In conclusion: Cal's most sustainable future lies in physical contraction and virtual expansion. Please acknowledge this new reality, and turn it into a bright reality that benefits UC Berkeley's population as well as the state's. Fiat Lux 'n' stuff. 

The Silencing of Compassion

Steve Martinot
Friday May 08, 2020 - 01:02:00 PM

As if defending itself against “no one,” Berkeley City Council, on April 21, 2020, threw equity to the howling winds. Quoth the council: “We’re in the middle of a crisis right now, so we are very busy. This is not a good time to change policy.” Because the policy in question was already in effect, it sounded like double-talk. In its bumbling terms, it harked back to that old political draw-bridge between bureaucracy and feudalism. Something nefarious passed beneath that bridge in the night.

The issue in question, against which “change-in-policy” marked an unneeded defense, was a measure proposed by one councilmember desiring to clearly state the city’s moratorium on action against the homeless for the duration of the pandemic lockdown. It halted enforcement of the sidewalk ordinances regulating homeless presence. It halted encampment raids by police, and the ticketing or towing of those mobile means of self-sheltering used by RV dwellers. While faithfully reflecting city policy (repeated during the meeting by the City Manager herself), the aim of the measure was simply to make a spoken policy official. Yet when the Mayor asked for a second to the motion, no one spoke up. The measure died for lack of a second. The silence, as they say, was deafening. 

It was a multiple act of silencing. It silenced any sense of responsibility to the unhoused residents of the town. It silenced the many souls who spoke for the measure in “public comment.” It silenced a council colleague as if drowning her under a water-cannon assault. But it loudly ratified the distrust that the homeless have developed toward City Council. 

That actually took some doing. Four levels of political representation (federal, state, county, and city) have each established a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the shutdown. Because millions of jobs have been vacated, and millions of paychecks aborted by the pandemic, such moratoria only reflect basic responsibility. The little measure proposed to the Berkeley council would have simply provided equity for those too often excluded from human or constitutional rights because they are without street addresses. 

The term "homeless" expresses that exclusion. The alternative is the term "unhoused," which seeks to undo exclusion by invoking a form of residence. Some of the councilmembers use the latter, but do so hypocritically insofar as it masks their continued exclusion of the unhoused as "homeless." 

Lest one think that council’s silence (in the event in question here) expressed a difference of opinion, be assured that there was no issue on which to differ. All had heard the policy spoken by the City Manager, and raised no objection. On the contrary, the Manager had added the need for "flexibility" in policy in order to ensure “health and safety” – terms that were to fill the balloon of silence with a little smoke and a few mirrors. 

The issue greeted by silence was whether council should state the already stated policy officially or not. It was not an idle gesture, however. In their common silence, the eight councilmembers were united around something entirely different. 


Council’s pride in outflanking Boise

The moratorium on encampment raids or unconstitutional seizure of possessions or petty sidewalk laws or bans on sleeping in RVs have essentially been ways to give the city harassment power. These ordinances, passed over the last few years, have had two purposes. One was to make rules for the homeless as if they were not residents, and had no right to city services. The other was to outflank the principles contained in the Boise decision. With respect to the first, its crowning glory was the 3 x 3 rule, which held that a homeless person’s possessions must be packed into a 9 square foot area. There was no quid pro quo when it was passed. No bathrooms or trash pickups were generated (services offered "real" residents). Indeed, the very absence of these services could be seen as threats to “health and safety,” and used as reasons to raid. Oddly enough, when councilmembers described their travails in writing the ordinances, they waxed poetic about how democratic, humane, and "nuanced" they were, though they were written without the (democratic) participation of the homeless they were to be about. And harassment capabilities are hardly a sign or democratic intent. 

The intention that needed nuancing was the desire to evade or outflank the responsibility placed on a city by the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision (Martin vs. Boise). In that decision, the court ruled that, under the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution, a city could not ban sleeping on public land if it could not provide domicile or shelter for such unhoused persons. The Court reasoned that, because sleep is a necessity for human beings, punishing sleep (by means of enforceable regulations) was to punish a person’s status rather than what they did. 

This decision put a crimp on the City’s ability to attack the homeless. The city, in its corporate irresponsibility, wished not to be shackled by this form of responsibility toward its own (unhoused) residents. Without shelter to offer, the unhoused could not be evicted. In response, if the city could not bar sleeping on public land, it could at least open the sleepers to police harassment during waking hours. The purposes of those ordinances were no grander than that. Council has been heard to have admitted as much.  

The result was to engender emotional torment on the part of the homeless. The version imposed on the RV dwellers was to bar sleeping in their shelter-vehicles between 2am and 5am. Thus, council had self-righteously labored over nuancing the Constitution’s 8th Amendment, and transformed sleep deprivation into political representation. 

It was the weight of that "nuancing" against the already deprived people that crashed against the one humane member of that council in that deadly moment of silence. 


The compassion for the unhoused in this measure

The actual purpose of the measure proposed was a form of equity between the unhoused and other city residents protected from eviction and foreclosure by official moratoria. It was to include the unincluded. The unhoused may be the unwary victims of corporate profiteering, but in that, they have fallen prey to the same force that shackles homeowners to usurious mortgage interest rates. 

The maker of the measure spoke about what it is like to live in fear of midnight or early morning assault by police, about confiscation of property essential for defense against the elements, about the stress of living the daily uncertainties of an unhoused life and its unrequited search for bathrooms, water for washing, showers, food, etc. Nevertheless, for six years, the police have chased the community called “First they Came for the Homeless” from campsite to campsite, incurring a budgetary expenditure in high 6 figures – a stiff price to pay for harassment rights. 

That persecution has continued against those now encamped under I-80, leading to the “Where do we go?” movement, which has called the human rights question on the council and the police in a massive way. The logic of that question remains unanswerable despite the fancy rhetoric of “humane and nuanced” ordinances. It comes from the daily fear and anxiety that produces sleeplessness, which produces ill health in turn, and a vulnerability to contagion that is inexcusable during a pandemic. 

But an additional issue was implicit in the silenced measure, that of trust. There is no reason why any of the unhoused residents of this city should trust the mere statements of city officials. None. It was for that reason that the measure sought to put the moratorium in writing. It was a small step designed to move an inch toward initiating trust in city government. For the unhoused to sleep in the same sense of security as the housed would not only be of rightful social benefit, and humane, but the countermanding of an injustice. 

What eight members of the council said loudly through their silence and refusal to even bring it to discussion was that they do not care about that distrust. It was totally unimportant to them. One wonders where their unanimity came from? It was not produced by any open discussion, which they themselves curtailed. What drove them to drown this simple measure? 

Two perspectives faced off in this council meeting. One was that of the proposal, adopting the perspective of the unhoused (the allegedly represented), and their need (and freedom) to sleep without fear in the midst of a pandemic, a freedom from fear that would require trust in the government. Did not FDR promise that to all humanity back in 1940? The other perspective, adept at silencing, focused on the homeless instead, and far from assuaging their experience with bureaucratic city behavior, augmented it instead. It has taken many years for the unhoused to impress upon the city that they are human, residents trying to gain human rights and due process. It is as yet an uncompleted task. 

On that score, the real issue before council was one of trust. The homeless have seen how the city cuts corners on services, refuses equal respect or status, and prefers to harass. with a great smallness of spirit. It can force the folding of possessions into small spaces each day, but it remains incapable of opening any of the long-vacant apartments or houses that exist around Berkeley for occupancy by the unhoused. (We’ve heard the story about the thousand empty apartments in Berkeley, though no one has ever shown us a list of them. They are just another unkept promise.) 

What led to the silence, however, the refusal to second the moratorium measure, was something else. 


A change in policy

Ultimately, nothing was as vapid as the notion that the moratorium measure was a change in policy. In line with the Manager having repeated the policy, the measure’s proposal was simply to write it down. To call that a "change in policy” is to lose oneself in an inane knot of language. Or, in its violation of logic, be more correctly called "corruption." Of course, when the City Manager added “flexibility” in the interest in “health and safety,” she was giving these councilmembers a bandwagon to jump on. That too was corrupt (as a bandwagon) insofar as it allowed withholding that same “health and safety” from the unhoused themselves – rendering them "homeless" (alien) in doing so. 

It was the non-curtailment of those ordinances that was the real meaning of "flexibility" allowed the council. In their unabashed pride in the harassment statutes, to have moved enforcement out of reach would have been unconscionable. The system of prohibitions was muted even by its verbal version. They could not imagine relinquishing it. Despite the postponement of hardships with respect to rent and mortgages, extension of similar assurances to homeless would be a step too far. Though the council had not the courage or temerity to oppose the Manager’s statement of the policy, they found the ability do so with their own colleague. And that means that the issue was actually one of power. 

The power in which they were interested was their own, not the power to represent, not the power to protect residents, nor the power to provide equitable services to all. For them, the question was one of power over people, a power to refuse inclusion in the city, a power to not grant belonging as unhoused residents. 

These eight councilmembers refused to vote the policy not from a need for flexibility or “health and safety.” It was a refusal to dilute that power, about which they had waxed poetic. Thus, they transformed the term "flexibility" into a euphemism for the power to control, and to expel. 

That is the real corruption exposed by this event. It marked the wholly undemocratic character of their thinking, their preference for harassment, their desire to undo the Boise decision, their adamant attitude in excluding the homeless from all involvement in making policy about themselves as unhoused. It is the power to lord over others with imposed standards, the power to make policies that affect people who will be given no participation in what will affect them. 

Inclusion in policy making by those who would be affected by that policy is the fundamental principle of democracy. These councilmembers are content with consigning the homeless to “public comment,” and glad that they come in numbers sufficient to restrict each to one minute a piece, as if that were sufficnet privilege for addressing the august council. 

To silence is to disenfranchise. It is to affirm that these people are homeless, and not actually "unhoused," with its sense of belonging.  

For those on the council, the power to enforce obedience is the power to reduce residency (as unhoused) to special alien status (subject to special enforcement). It is the power to reduce people to lesser human status. We see it all the time in its racialized guise. When Katrina hit New Orleans, black people were condemned for doing the same thing for which white people were approved. Today, black communities are feeling the brunt of Covid far beyond their numbers because medical services have been skimped for them and unfunded. 

We know the term that describes the structure of thinking that reduces a group to second-order human status. That term is bigotry. It is always, in whatever guise it appears, a form of racialization. And so too is the silencing and shunning of the maker of the motion’s attempt at equity a form of racialization. 

Updated: People’s Park: Chancellor’s Mistakes Redux

Christopher Adams
Sunday May 03, 2020 - 03:48:00 PM

Here we are locked down in our houses, unable live normally and certainly unable to conduct public business as usual, and the Chancellor at UC Berkeley insists on forward march with her plans to build on People’s Park, without even the usual public hearings that would give Berkeley citizens a chance to comment and discuss these plans. And so the story of the University ignoring its host community continues.

In 1873 the University of California moved from its one-block site in downtown Oakland to a farm at the mouth of Strawberry Canyon, in what is now Berkeley. Legend has it that the University then sold a portion of the land south of the creek for building lots in order to buy Strawberry Canyon and its springs to provide water for the new campus. Whether that legend is true or not, by the 1950s the campus was eyeing much of the area south the campus for expansion. Its first move was to buy the commercial blocks on Telegraph Avenue just south of Sather Gate (actually the “gate” is a bridge over the creek).

That move precipitated the University’s first big fight over land use in l964. The students had used the public sidewalks leading up to Sather Gate to set up tables for every sort of political and social cause. Once the land became part of the campus, the chancellor, Edward Strong, decreed that the tables would have to go. The students rebelled, and the Free Speech Movement was born.

I came to Berkeley four years later as a graduate student in the College of Environmental Design. A few years after that I joined the UC Office of the President, where I worked for 30 years. I read studies about the University’s plans to clear the land south of the campus for housing, and I listened to the University’s real estate officer give me his backstory on the acquisition of the land where People’s Park sits. Even later I worked closely with and got to know Roger Heyns, who had been the chancellor during the creation of People’s Park and resulting protests.

The intellectual and political underpinnings for the south campus clearance and redevelopment were articulated in a University report called, as I recall, “Students at Berkeley.” It was a classic example of 1950’s slum clearance or “urban renewal,” justifying wholesale destruction of old housing and its replacement with high-rise towers. Photos of the existing south campus brown shingles, taken with the maximum effort to show deterioration and decay, were juxtaposed with sketches of new dorms in the brutalist style of the French architect Le Corbusier.

Armed with this kind of intellectual underpinning the University moved to acquire entire blocks of south campus land. Then came a revolt by students to living in typical dorms—tiny rooms, one bathroom per floor, etc. (This revolt was not limited to UC; on a visit to the University of Maryland, I once toured a dorm complex that was being completely reconfigured into clusters of co-ed student apartments.) UC’s dorm building slowed down, but the properties were already acquired. UC was not good at maintaining rental properties in old brown shingles. As my real estate officer colleague told me, they were expensive to repair, and the tenants were smoking marijuana. “We had no choice but to tear them down.” The land remained vacant.

In 1969 the memories and passions of the Free Speech Movement were still strong and simmering. Activists began planting trees at what became People’s Park. Roger Heyns, forgetting or ignoring the experience of his predecessor Edward Strong five years earlier, ordered a 10-foot fence to be built around it. The fence was an irresistible attraction for Dan Siegel, the student body president, who perhaps dreamed of becoming another Mario Savio, and who urged students to tear it down. Alameda County deputies were called in, and one of them killed a protestor. Governor Reagan sent in National Guard troops and put the city under curfew. Protests and the police reaction embroiled the campus and the town. While studying in my apartment north of Hearst I was left choking in teargas fumes which were released by helicopters flying overhead.

I detail all this to emphasize that these memories are still with us. I am now on the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission. Even though it was not an agenda item, People’s Park protestors appeared at a meeting of the Commission last year. All of them were loud and vigorous, and all had very gray hair. I also want to emphasize that Chancellor Heyns over-reacted. This was not the only time. When the Wheeler Hall auditorium burned in the same year, which I remember well because I had a class in Wheeler, he immediately posted a letter blaming the fire on arson. Later it was determined to have been caused by an electrical malfunction. In my much later encounter with Heyns, which involved investigation of the malfeasance of the Santa Barbara chancellor, he acted with wisdom and patience that were sadly lacking in 1969.

We live in a very different world now. The errors of urban renewal have been recognized. The California Environmental Quality Act requires public comment and technical review before projects can be approved. Sometimes, as I can personally attest from my experience planning the new campus at UC Merced, these processes can be frustrating and block things that should not be blocked. But we have these processes because of errors made in the past. Without reminding ourselves of these errors and learning from them we risk making new mistakes. That is precisely what the current chancellor is doing in forging ahead in this time of the coronavirus pandemic to get University projects approved.  

Let me explain just one small part of the process that will not go on as it should. Because of the shelter-in-place order the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s meetings have been suspended; the Commission cannot meet in May and will only meet in June subject to pending approval of Berkeley’s Director of Emergency Services. The Commission has no jurisdiction over the University, but it does have some say over 16 designated landmarks which are in the vicinity of the People’s Park site. The First Church of Christ Scientist is a National Historic Landmark, one of only 2,500 buildings so designated in the entire United States. There is no way that the Commission or the Berkeley citizens whom it serves can learn about the University’s plans or discuss their impact on the adjacent landmarks under the current shelter-in-place rules. Every sort of University activity is stopped or slowed down by the current rules, so why must it charge forward with the LRDP and housing project EIR? In my 30 years working for the University in ordinary times I do not recall any project that was ever seriously damaged by a delay caused by compliance with CEQA. And these are not ordinary times.  

In a small way the University’s intransigence is analogous to the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to not allow a delay in Wisconsin state elections. Despite a situation of crisis caused by the pandemic the court ruled that the elections had to go ahead on schedule, many presume because the court majority thought it would be to the advantage of one political party. Here the University has decided it must go forward in the face of the same crisis, one presumes because the University thinks doing so will suppress opposition to its plans. This reminds me too much of Roger Heyns. It is hubris and impatience combined. It will not ultimately benefit the University. It may likely harm it. And it undoubtedly will increase the mistrust and animosity of Berkeley citizens.  

Make no mistake. I am not happy with the current People’s Park. I served on a sub-committee of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider how to build a fence around the First Church of Christ Scientist in order to reduce vandalism from People’s Park occupants and to prevent its use as a night-time toilet because the University won’t maintain one on the Park. As it exists the Park is a blight. Under the right conditions I would support the University’s use of the site for housing or other purposes.  

That does not mean supporting the tower currently proposed, which from an urban design standpoint will overpower all the historic landmarks around it. What is needed a design that respects the low-rise character of the adjacent historic landmarks and recalls the historic memory of the low-rise neighborhood which was destroyed. Codes have changed since I was involved in plans for student housing at UC Merced, but I think it is safe to say that mid-rise, that is up to six stories, would be less expensive and provide an acceptable density. The proposed building on People’s Park is ten stories.  

While the Chancellor proposes a monument or plaques recording the history of People’s Park, that is not enough. The University must in a real way acknowledge the entire sorry history of its land acquisition, its destruction of housing, the death of protesters, and the military occupation of the city. What gets built cannot simply memorialize that history, it must attempt to make up for it by building something that is still appropriate to its surroundings. 

Finally, it does not mean the University can ignore public process and the interests and reactions of the citizens of its host community. 













Stable Genius Unravelling?

Jagjit Singh
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:32:00 PM

The White House coronavirus medical team were aghast at Trump’s medical musing on disinfectants. He has become a global laughing stock and the widespread ridicule has clearly bruised his fragile ego. He withdrew sulking but was back a few days later, snarling at reporters and deflecting embarrassing questions of disinfectants claiming that he was being “sarcastic.” Scarce medical resources were squandered warning Americans of the dangers of ingesting disinfectants. 

Instead of denouncing his comments leading Republicans like Sen. McConnell chose to drink his Kool-Aid and remain silent. His servile “Christian” VP Pence gazed loving towards his boss gushing at his “incredible leadership”. Trump has never been a paradigm of calmness or competence but has become more and more erratic and irritable lashing out at reporters. His misspelling of (Noble instead of NOBEL) is only his latest assault on the English language. He blasted at a NYT article which accused him of spending his days eating junk food and watching TV. 

He tweeted that he does not eat hambergers (misspelled). His previous attempt was “hamberders”. Trump would be star performer in a misspelling BEE contest. 

The only people deserving more public ridicule are his “basket full of sycophant deplorables” including FOX News who applaud his incoherent ramblings. 

It is baffling why Trump has stubbornly refused to release his “amazing” school and college transcripts or his tax returns to prove he was an academic superstar and a successful businessman. Is the “very stable genius” beginning to unravel? For more go to, http://callforsocialjustice.blogspot.com/

North America Needs Immigrant Workers, And We Should Appreciate Them

Jack Bragen
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:27:00 PM

President Trump touts keeping undocumented immigrants out of the U.S., with a wall, claiming "They certainly aren't sending us their best." I differ from that opinion. The actual motive of the President is not to keep out immigrant workers. These are men and women on whom our economy depends, something the President very well knows. The President wants to keep this designated category of human beings down at the bottom, with no opportunity for bettering their conditions, so that these hardworking, brave individuals will be barely more than a slave population.

Latino workers and immigrants from other countries less affluent than the U.S. often come from incredibly harsh living conditions, in which survival is not considered an inalienable right, it is something you get only if you are strong enough, if you work hard enough, and if you don't complain.

Anyone who can make it on the arduous, dangerous, hazardous trip from there to here, without dying from the rigors of the journey and without being apprehended, is a brave and strong individual at the least. And these are people with families to feed, which is probably their biggest motive for attempting such a daunting undertaking. And since they are coming here with the expectation that they will work, we are not getting lazy individuals. If criminal invaders were coming here to do harm to naturalized citizens, previous administrations (whether Republican or Democrat) and the Congress would have put a stop to this activity decades ago.

This is not to say that that among undocumented immigrants there are not a few bad apples--but you'd get the same thing among any designated group of human beings. I expect that statistically, the number of criminals among undocumented immigrants is about the same as among Caucasians. 

My wife and I had occasion to witness three Latino workers do hard work on our behalf, because we had to move from an upstairs unit to a downstairs unit in our building. I've been taking heavy dosages of antipsychotics for nearly forty years, I am sedentary, and I am in my fifties. I am in no condition to do for myself what these three miracle workers did for us. The men were not impressively big--they were about the same size as me. Yet the performance I saw was something I would never dream of being able to do, at any age, medicated or not. 

They carried heavy loads to the limit of capacity of their muscles, yet with total focus and incredible balance, at a very fast pace, for about eight hours steady with just a few short breaks. When I would walk the same staircase, I was fortunate not to stumble and fall while carrying nothing. 

Legitimizing immigrants who have come to the U.S. to work--at jobs that ninety nine percent of Caucasians would categorically refuse--is the only human thing to do. The supposed deportation and the wall--theater. Trump's actual agenda is to keep people down, so that the U.S. will be an increasingly classist society, essentially a caste system. 

This is not what the U.S. is about. The President is a descendant of immigrants. The only ones who aren't descendants of immigrants, are the immigrants themselves, and Native Americans. And look at what the U.S. has done to Native Americans. I say it doesn't matter where you come from geographically, all people are created equal, everyone has to eat, and everyone has to go to the bathroom. 

This is aside from the fact that the U.S. economy depends heavily on immigrant labor in order to buoy the standard of living to which Caucasian Americans are accustomed. If Trump truly did kick out all the Spanish-speaking immigrants, the U.S. economy would collapse in short order. 

Let's get a President who has a little bit of empathy for fellow human beings and let's restore the U.S. to having a compassionate society. 


Ending Violence Against Women

Harry Brill
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:35:00 PM

Although the problem of gender inequality is on the minds of many Americans, among the worst manifestation, gender violence, does not receive the widespread attention that it deserves. The extent that women are severely assaulted is worrisome. Incredibly, one in four women are victims of physical violence committed by an intimate partner. Particularly terrifying, every year over 600 American women are shot to death by an intimate partner. In fact, 4.5 million women have reported being threatened by a gun.  

The economic and social impact are also serious. According to one estimate, women lose an aggregate of 8 million days of paid work that exceeds $8 billion per year. It is no surprise that victims of domestic violence are more likely to develop addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.  

The concern about women victims of violence did not escape Congress. Particularly important was the role of Joe Biden, who as a Democratic Party U,S. Senator in 1994 proposed and strongly advocated the very important Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It is a landmark law that has changed the way our country responds to domestic violence.  

VAWA recognizes that domestic violence is a federal crime. The law has doubled penalties for repeat offenders. Also, VAWA has created a network of services for victims. The legislation provides funds to investigate and prosecute those who commit violence against women. As a result of the law intimate partner violence declined from 1994 to 2010 by 64 percent. 

Also, congressional support for the law has encouraged the adoption of similar legislation by many states. One of the states, California, also prohibits an abuser with a police record from owning a gun. A violation could carry a heavy prison sentence. 

Since VAWA has been enacted Biden has maintained his commitment to addressing the problem of gender violence. Twenty years later, in 2014, when Joe Biden served as Vice-President to Obama, he worked with the President to create a task force to protect students from sexual assault. 

Also, many states have enacted similar progressive legislation. But the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is the major lobbyist for the gun industry, is unhappy about any law that sets a limit on owning a gun. So it has developed ways to bypass progressive federal and state laws. One major alternative is conducting gun shows. At about 5,000 public venues a year guns are displayed on tables for those who want to purchase guns. Moreover. background checks of buyers are rarely required. So there is no legal mechanism to prevent an abuser in an intimate relationship from repeating his abusive behavior with a weapon in hand. 

Also, the same principle applies to those who sell guns privately, that is, from their own homes and even via the internet. And just like the gun shows, no background checks are required.  

But since committing physical violence against woman has been defined as a criminal act shouldn’t women call the police? Surprisingly, according to a national survey only 12 percent of women who did not call the police were fearful about doing so. Rather, most women complained that the police were not helpful. 

Nevertheless, despite the complaints, contacting the police does matter. Among married women who were assaulted, 41 percent who did not contact the police were assaulted again within six month. But only 15 percent who notified the police were victimized again. Although 15 percent is still too high, the gain in calling the police is substantial. So even though many women were unimpressed with the police, their presence apparently intimidated many men. 

So despite the problems, the police should not be ignored. Instead, it is immensely important that they be persuaded to do their job, which is to support the safety and well-being of abused women. For police are in a position to play a major role protecting women against assaults. Even the threat of arresting abusers could deter many men,  

It is important for communities to develop good relationships with their police departments. They can do so by supporting some of the concerns of the police, including for example, testifying on their behalf for an increase in the police budget. Cooperating with the police will encourage the police to cooperate with the community, 

Together, the police and the community can develop programs to educate the public on the issue of domestic violence. The role of the community is to make it clear to the police that complaints of abuse by women be taken very seriously. There are no exceptions to the legal and moral obligation of the police to defend the safety, dignity, and human rights of women. 


Women who would like to discuss confidentially at no cost their physical mistreatment by a male with a trained and experienced person should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. The service is available 24 hours a day, and can provide a staff member to speak to you in any language.

May Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 04:04:00 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! 


THE PUBLIC EYE:California’s Recovery Problem

Bob Burnett
Friday May 08, 2020 - 12:33:00 PM

Most of California is still under strict "shelter-in-place" guidelines. It appears as though we've flattened the curve and, as a result, can ease up on the "lockdown" rules that have chafed most citizens. However, before we do this, we have a couple of big hurdles to overcome.

On April 29, Governor Newsom amplified his plan for reopening the golden state. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/us/california-reopen-coronavirus.html ) We're in phase one: "[G]overnment and private organizations are working to make it more consistently safe for essential workers, like grocery store employees or nurses. Those workers need more protective equipment and a more robust testing and tracing system." Phase two will involve opening lower-risk businesses, such as retail stores with curbside pickups, and "schools and child care facilities." (On May 4th Newsom, was more specific: "Under the new guidelines... bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods retailers and others can reopen for pickup as early as [May 8].") 

Phase three would see reopening of higher-risk businesses "[such as] nail and hair salons, gyms, movie theaters and sports without live audiences, as well as in-person religious services." "Stage 4 will be the end of the state’s stay-at-home order. That will be when concerts, conventions and sports with a live crowd will be allowed to reopen." California is stuck moving from phase one to phase two. It's one thing to open lower-risk businesses and quite another to open schools and child-care facilities. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are six criteria that will permit this to happen (https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Bay-Area-has-6-criteria-for-loosening-coronavirus-15242821.php) -- these are criteria jointly developed by the six major Bay Area counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin: 1. Case counts; 2. Hospital numbers; 3. Hospital Capacity; 4. Testing; 5. Contact Tracing; and 6. Personal Protective Equipment. (Governor Newsom indicated that these criteria will be applied throughout California but he is giving individual counties discretion on the pace of reopening -- for example, Los Angeles County -- which has the largest number of COVID-19 cases -- will proceed more slowly that the Bay Area counties.) 

Case Counts: Newsom has consistently been concerned that California's hospitals might be overwhelmed by a sudden influx of new COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, he wants the number of new cases to stay flat, or decrease, every day for a two-week period. At the moment, the six Bay Area counties are meeting this measure. 

Hospital Counts: Not every new case of COVID-19 requires hospitalization -- some new cases are mild or asymptomatic. The six Bay Area counties have seen hospital counts slightly decline over the past 14 days. 

Hospital Capacity: Governor Newsom wants to ensure that no more than 50 percent of hospital beds, in a county, are occupied by COVID-19 patients. In fact, in the six Bay Area counties, it is believed that less than 30 percent of beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

Testing: The six Bay Area counties set a goal of administering 200 Coronavirus tests a day for every 100,000 residents. So far none of these counties are meeting this objective: San Francisco, a county of 870,000 folks is conducting about 900 tests per day. 

It's clear that the pace of testing is the biggest impediment to completing phase two -- to opening schools and child-care facilities. 

A recent NPR study ( https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/03/849243723/californias-coronavirus-testing-still-a-frustrating-patchwork-of-haves-and-have-) examined California's testing problem: "It's hard to overstate how uneven the access to critical test kits remains in the nation's largest state. Even as some Southern California counties are opening drive-through sites to make testing available to any resident who wants it, a rural northern county is testing raw sewage to determine whether the coronavirus has infiltrated its communities. County to county, city to city — even hospital to hospital within a city — testing capacity varies widely, as does the definition of who qualifies for testing." 

But the testing situation is improving. As of May 8, California has administered 842,000 tests and for the past week, has tested an average of 30,000 per day On April 29, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all Los Angeles residents will have access to free coronavirus testing — even those without symptoms. 

Contact Tracing: Contact tracing requires investigating every reported case of the coronavirus, identifying those who may be at risk of infection, and ensuring they are quarantined, to prevent further COVID-19 spread.(https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/27/health/contact-tracing-explainer-coronavirus/index.html) It's estimated that each county will need trained contact tracers at the rate of 25 per 100,000 population. Early indications are that all the counties are very short of skilled contact tracers. (The University of California at San Francisco has just launched a contact-tracer training program ( https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/05/417346/ucsf-partners-state-develop-public-health-workforce-covid-19-response).) 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The six Bay Area counties set a goal that each would have a 30-day supply of PPE including face masks, gloves, and gowns. Governor Newsom is working with them to meet this goal. In April he signed a $1 billion deal with Chinese manufacturer to obtain million of PPE units. This is the website (https://public.tableau.com/profile/ca.open.data#!/vizhome/COVID-19CountyProfile/COVID-19CountyProfile) the Golden State provides in order to track the acquisition of PPE: this shows that million of items have been procured, including 45.9 million n-95 respirators. 

Summary: California is stuck moving from phase one to phase two. On May 8 we're going to open lower-risk retail businesses. 

Nonetheless, it will be a while before we open schools and child-care facilities. These openings will depend upon the availability of testing -- we're getting there -- and contact tracing -- the critical path activity. Opening schools and child-care facilities will also depend upon a rigorous testing protocol which has yet to be made public. (For example, for a child-care facility: test all staff and students before opening; take everyone's temperature every day, test staff once a week; and test students randomly.) 

Governor Newsom has California moving in the right direction but it will be a while before we meet our phase two objective. Prediction: July for child-care facilities; August for schools. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Those Who Instill Doubt

Jack Bragen
Friday May 08, 2020 - 01:27:00 PM

When we have enthusiastic ambitions for something, and we talk about it because we can't keep the enthusiasm contained, and then someone revels in shooting it down before it happens, we could be getting a message of realism or we could be prey to a mild form of abuse. 

Many people have ambitions about doing something with our lives. And there is nothing more painful than to have someone instill doubt into our minds and hearts. Someone speaking negatively and doubtfully about our ability may accomplish that. Sensitive people are not immune to what people say about us. In the words of a very smart and well-educated man (whose identity I am not at liberty to share): "Words are weapons." 

Many mental health counselors are good at instilling doubt. They feel very superior to us, and they're happy if it remains that way. If we express that we'd like to try something in a professional realm, their temptation is to shoot it down before it happens. When people tell us we can't, we are affected. Suddenly, in order to try what we want, we have to battle against that doubting message. At that point, success becomes a fight, rather than merely an ascension. 

When a person says something and you hear it, this is an instance of data in the form of sound waves being picked up by your auditory nerves and entering your brain. Only a deaf person or someone with very good earplugs can prevent this. When we try to fight this, we may find that we are in a "me vs. them" scenario. This, in itself, hinders our efforts. Not only do we have the difficulty of achieving the goal, but we must somehow negate, nullify, or tune out the negative messages of others. 

The goals and aspirations of those of us with compromised minds are fragile. Goals for us are like a fire being built by a caveman with a piece of flint. In early stages, the flame must be protected from wind, must be given just the right amount of breath, and must be nourished by twigs and brush. Not until the caveman has a roaring fire should he boast about his fire-making. And with mentally ill people, the goal begins with a seed. That seed is a mental idea. It is a fragile idea and it should not be shared with the wrong individual, who might snuff out the beginnings of a goal with negative words before we can even get started on it. 

When in my twenties, I set up a television and video repair and resale shop. I could fulfil the role of owner/operator of a repair shop--I didn't lack the necessary skills and experience. Yet, on an emotional level, I did not have what I needed. Counselors provided that. And then, when my shop was close to becoming prosperous, support was withdrawn, citing that a program was being ended. I was left with a poem on a piece of paper to put on the wall, titled, "don't quit." 

I gave up my shop, not because I couldn't make it succeed as a technician, but because I lacked a source of encouragement. When a person wants to do something ambitious, their heart must be fed. I should not blame a mental health organization for the fact that I gave up on success. If I'd had any understanding of myself, I could have found encouragement elsewhere. Also going against me, I wasn't far enough into recovery to have a steadiness of purpose. I've seen people succeed in the repair businesses and I've seen them fail. What makes the difference isn't always ability to do the job, often it is the presence or absence of relationships, and whether they are supportive. 

We cannot convince anyone of anything they don't want to hear. If I say I'm a writer, a mental health professional or someone who knows that I'm mentally ill will automatically assume I have a delusion of grandeur that I think I'm a writer. People make assumptions. We cannot convince them of anything otherwise. Instead of a poem titled "don't quit," a better poem might be one titled, "don't listen, and by all means, don't tell." Let the flames of success grow large enough so that a doubting or sabotaging person can't extinguish them. Our aspirations are our property.

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday May 08, 2020 - 12:38:00 PM

lHappy Mothers' Day

A short note to a quartet of imminent men who have a unique bond—they've all recently had children out of wedlock.

Best wishes to the moms and new fathers: British PM Boris Johnson, Jailed Wikileaks Whistleblower Julian Assange, Tech Mogul Elon Musk, and CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper. (And, yes, Musk and mama Grimes apparently did name their first-born "X Æ A-12.")

This Dog Needs a Buddy

That was the gist of a leaflet tacked to a North Berkeley phone-pole. "Puppy Playdate" it announced, followed by these details: "My puppy needs a companion. Hasn't had his shots. Looking for same." Sounds like a relationship that might require some social distancing. 

Pollen's Next Book 

Berkeley's Michael Pollan did a great job of personal journalism with his latest book, Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World—especially when he subjected himself to coffee abstinence to see how going Cold Turkish would affect his mind and body and then charting the renewed buzz he got from climbing back onboard the Java Express. 

Now that I've spent another pandemic-panicked week sneezing, coughing, and trying not to rub my eyes, I've got a suggestion for a topic Pollan could tackle in his next book. Pollen: Why Nature's Reproductive Dandruff Is Nothing to Sneeze At. 

To the Rescue 

The air has been so clear since shelter-in-place became the norm. It's like that moment when you wipe your glasses clean and pop them back on your nose. Everything is so clear! So bright! The vegetation is so colorful and the seedlings in the garden are flourishing so quickly it's like watching a time-lapse movie. 

These pleasant thoughts were beaming through my head as I wandered outside to soak up some sunlight. And that's when I heard the familiar buzzing of a bee. But the buzzing seemed louder and more persistent than normal. 

"That bumblebee is trapped!" a friend shouted, pointing to a spot beneath an eave on the south side of our house. 

Sure enough. A large black bumblebee had bumbled into a large spider web and was struggling to break free. I ran to the garage to grab a ladder. I got back just in time. A large, black spider was now alongside the thrashing bee and preparing to immobilize it. I tried to reach for the bee and managed to knock the spider off its web. But the bee was still entangled in the web. (I'd just learned an important lesson about nature: while spider webs are sticky and dangerous for bugs, flies, moths, and bees, spiders have a unique ability to scamper over their silky nets without getting stuck.) 

The immediate danger was gone but the bee was still trapped in the web. I placed a piece of clean paper next to the insect. The bee immediately seemed to recognize that the scrap of paper offered a means of escape. It kept trying to pull itself free of the web and clamber to safety on the paper. But it couldn't get free. 

I repositioned the paper so that the bee could hold onto it while I pushed it away from the web. The strands attached to the bee stretched but remained intact. Balancing on the ladder, I continued to draw the bee and the paper further from the web and the wall. The bee seemed to realize that the paper was a lifeline and I was not a threat. We were working as a team. 

Finally, the strand broke, the web snapped back, the bee managed to hold on, and all that was left was several inches of silk attached to the bumblebee's ankle. Moving up close and carefully using both hands, I was able to pinch off all but a one-inch scrap of web. 

It was enough to free the bumblebee. I climbed back down the ladder and lowered the paper so the bee could rest on a flower. 

I figured my work was done. I folded up the paper and was preparing to return the ladder to the garage when, once again, I heard a buzzing sound. 

It was the bee. It had left the safety of the flower petals and was now hovering in the air next to my right cheek. It held that position for nearly ten seconds, appearing to observe me. I watched with a smile on my face as the bee finally turned away and flew toward our backyard garden. 

It may have been my imagination, but it felt like that bee had just given me a hive-five. 

Biden's Great Idea 

Joe Biden just did something I have to applaud. In addition to offering to name a female running mate, he's also volunteered to name members of his prospective Cabinet. This echoes a March 2016 proposal that I made in the Daily Planet—a call to all candidates to consider appointing a "Peoples' Cabinet." 

The proposal was intended to provide potential voters with a chance to nominate a roster of people they would like to see elevated to serve in the cabinet. This would enable activists who campaigned for "loosing" presidential contenders to vote for their favored candidates as part of a Team Ticket. 

Some examples? Bernie Sanders as Secretary of Labor; Elizabeth Warren as Treasury Secretary; Kamala Harris to head the Department of Urban Housing; Andrew Yang for Department of Commerce; and (why not?) National Guard Major Tulsi Gabbard to reform the Defense Department. 

Mark Tatulli's Surprising Scoop 

In the past, I've taken issue with the Chronicle comic strip Lio. The anti-hero of Mark Tatulli's cartoon series is a creepy kid with a cowlick, a pet squid and a penchant for playing with skulls, zombies, and nuclear missiles. The strip occasionally indulges in grotesque and squirm-producing (in me, at least) adventures that seem to border on sadism. 

But I'm happy to report that Tatulli's May 3 strip was a delightful surprise. 

The first two panels showed Lio and his squid companion climbing into a large, green street-sweeper equipped with an oversized broom hanging over the gaping mouth of their motorized bin. The last panel showed Lio, squid, and vehicle lumbering into the distance. past a road sign that read: "Corporate America." 

The small type on the back of their truculent truck was the payoff. It read: "Lio's Billionaire Be-Gone: A Free Community Service." 

Trump Encourages Fellow Citizens to Accept Death 

Trump wants to "open the country for business" at a time when the US still leads the world in COVID-19 cases and our national death count continues to rise. On May 6, a reporter asked this pressing question: "Will the nation just have to accept the idea that, by opening, there will be more cases, there will be more deaths?" 

Trump, the self-declared "wartime president," replied by telling his fellow Americans: 'You have to be warriors, we can't keep our country closed down for years." Trump paused to offer an afterthought: “Will some people be affected badly? Yes.” 

Apparently, this is Trump's way of saying that he expects tens of thousands of Americans to sacrifice their lives and die to protect the country's "bottom line." 

As the Washington Post noted: "After failing to act to contain the virus in the first phase, and after failing to lay the groundwork for a safe reopening in the second, Trump has concluded he has no choice but to push forward with the reopening regardless of the risks." The risks to other Americans, that is: not to Himself. 

While other "wartime presidents" have asked American soldiers to die "For God and Country," Trump is telling tens of thousands (and perhaps millions) of American civilians that they must be prepared to die "For Gold and Bounty." 

Trump Orders Sick Meat-plant Employees Back to Work 

On another level, our 243-pound hamburger-and-fries-loving Leader has acted (with uncommon speed) to preserve a special section of the US economy that he truly cares about. Instead of concentrating on increasing stockpiles of COVID-19 testing kits or N95 facemasks, Trump's rushed to rescue the livestock death-plants that assure his continued access to beef, pork, and chicken meat. 

On April 29, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order the immediate reopening of crowded, unsanitary slaughterhouses closed after COVID-19 infections sickened hundreds of employees. 

Essentially, Trump was using the DPA to order slaughterhouse workers to risk their lives to assure continued access to his favorite meaty treats. (As guests privileged to join Trump on the presidential jet have noted: “On Air Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza, and Diet Coke.") 

With this action, Trump has come chillingly close to replicating the kind of deadly WWII forced-labor work-camps established by Germany's Third Reich. As a consequence, the names "Smithfield" and "Tyson" may someday have the same historical resonance as "Auschwitz." When Trump uses a piece of WW II-era legislation to order workers to march back into Midwest livestock death-camps for the greater good of the US economy (and his own gastronomical satisfaction), he's veering uncomfortably close to uttering the cruel slogan spelled out in iron over the entrance to Auschwitz: Arbeit macht frei — "Work Sets You Free." 

Trump's Pandemic Insanity


Global Warming Is Nothing New 

Planet-cooking pollution is "nothing new." Just ask NASA. According to the nation's preeminent space agency, the acceptance of climate change has been long established as a scientific fact. "The science is very well established and goes back a long way," NASA writes. "The Victorians knew about it. John Tyndall (born 1820) knew about it. So did Svante August Arrhenius. In April 1896, Arrhenius published a paper in the London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science entitled 'On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground.' (Arrhenius referred to carbon dioxide as “carbonic acid” in accordance with the convention of the time.)" 

NASA further identified another person "who knew”—legendary Hollywood filmmaker Frank Capra, the director of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Capra nailed the threat of global warming in a film called “Meteora: The Unchained Goddess” that was released way back in 1958, when Eisenhower was president. 

Why has Capra's dire warning gone unnoticed? Was "Meteora" intentionally suppressed by Big Oil and Big Coal? Listen to this clear warning—from 62 years ago! 


Breaking News: Captured US Mercenary Reveals Details of Venezuela Coup Plot 

On May 6, Venezuela's state-owned Multimedio TV (VTV) broadcast an interview with Luke Alexander Denman, one of the US mercenaries captured in a failed attempted to kidnap Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Because of Denman's position as a hostage, it's likely the interview was conducted under duress but Denman's answers do not seem forced. Notably, Erin Berry, another captured US mercenary who was interviewed by VTV, refused to answer several questions that were put to him and was allowed to proceed unchallenged. Berry's statements largely corroborated Denman's account of the plot. (Note: Some of the Spanish language transcriptions of the VTV interviews were incorrect or misleading.) 

Denman explained that he expected to be paid as much as $100,000 for his services. The money was to be paid by Silvercorp, a company owned by former Green Beret Jordan Gouodreau. In the interview, Denman reveals that he worked with three groups of 20 soldiers who were engaged in the operation. Denman stated that he had seen a copy of the coup plan contract and that it contained the signatures of "Jordan [Goudreau] and [US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader] Juan Guaido." 

Denman said his role involved capturing Venezuela's main airport and communicating with the tower to secure the arrival of "several planes, one of which includes one to put Maduro on and take him back to the United States." 

In response to the question, "Who commands Jordan?" Denman replied: "President Donald Trump." 


All the News That's Fit to Reade 

Addressing former staffer Tara Reade's accusation of sexual assault, Joe Biden assured “Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski: “I’m saying unequivocally it never never happened.” 

That wasn't the best denial. It was, in fact, a double negative. It was like Bill Clinton saying: "I did not not have sex with that woman." Biden, of course, was probably just trying to be emphatic. The press abetted Biden by inserting a comma between the two "nevers." (A big favor since Joe is in the habit of voicing his own punctuations. As in: "It didn't happen. Period.") 

Also, there's a difference between saying, "It didn't happen" and, "I have no memory of any such thing." The latter leaves open the possibility that maybe something DID happen "but I just can't recall it, 27 years later." How would it sound if Biden had been accused of committing a bank robbery in 1993 and, instead of simply, flatly, denying it, he replied: "I have no memory of such a thing"? 

Sen. Kamala Harris chimed in with a declaration that "women must be able to speak without fear of retaliation"—a defense that served to link Biden to the world of male privilege. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein equivocated, stating: "I can't comment on these accusations" while calling Biden "a man of integrity." 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Biden's call to respect Reade's "right as a woman" to speak up and added that she did so "with all the respect in the world for any woman who comes forward and with all the highest regard for Joe Biden." But Pelosi's message of support only rings right if one assumes that she believes Reade's complaints against Biden are true. Otherwise, that leaves Pelosi "defending" the "right" of any woman—or man—to make unsubstantiated, untrue, and slanderous charges. And that's not what Pelosi meant. 

The Great Realization: Hindsight 2020


THE PUBLIC EYE: California’s Unemployment Problem

Bob Burnett
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:00:00 PM

We're in the second month of what looks to be a prolonged recession. In this article I'll examine how this savage economic downturn has impacted California and what will likely happen. While the situation in California will be somewhat different from that in your state, it is informative to consider the largest state and it should be relatively straightforward to extrapolate to your situation.

The United States has a population of 331 million and a labor force of 165 million. The April 30th report indicated that there are 33 million unemployed (20 percent). (On March 23, St. Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard warned the U.S. unemployment rate could hit 30 percent in the second quarter.)

California has 40 million residents and a labor force of approximately 18 million. Between March 15 and April 18, 3.4 million Californians applied for unemployment insurance (19 percent). According to the Public Policy Institute of California (https://www.ppic.org/blog/early-insights-on-californias-economic-downturn/?), "The lion’s share of job loss (more than 80%) occurred in three service sectors: arts, entertainment, and recreation; accommodation and food; and 'other services' (a category that includes automotive repair, personal care, and dry cleaning)." These sectors fell significantly faster than they did during the first month of the great recession -- December 2007 through January 2008. (In contrast, during the great recession, the sector experiencing the most impact was construction.) 

In Sonoma County, where I live, the biggest impact has been on the "accommodation and food" sector, which has, for the most part, shut down. (Accommodation and food is the largest industrial sector in the county; it includes hotels, motels, vacation rentals, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and brewpubs.) Outdoor recreation has also cratered. As a result, the unemployment rate in Sonoma County is also about 20% and will likely increase. In my small community, we all know someone whose business has shut down or whose friend or relative has lost their job. Looking at the Bay Area, in general, we all know someone who was working a couple of jobs, in order to make ends meet -- participants in the "gig" economy. Typically, one of those jobs is now gone -- such as driving for Uber. For those who rented out a room or "granny unit" via Airbnb, this source of income has also dried up. 

The question is what to do about this job loss. California, and Sonoma County, are in the process of slowly opening up -- easing shelter-in-place restrictions in a manner that does not cause our coronavirus cases to spike. In Sonoma County it appears the job sectors that will first reopen are residential construction and related services such as landscaping and gardening. 

Sonoma County has 500,000 residents and a workforce of 211,000. One-third of our workers are in the arts, entertainment, and recreation; accommodation and food; and 'other services' sectors that are predicted to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. May 1st is the beginning of what, historically, has been a vibrant tourist season throughout the county. Because of the pandemic, it's not going to happen. This is going to impact wine tasting, river rafting, music festivals, camping on the coast... all the activities that have historically been associated with a visit to "wine country." 

California has "flattened the curve" but has yet to relax most of the "shelter-in-place" rules. In the San Francisco Bay Area, shelter-in-place will last at least until the end of May. But on a county-by-county basis there is some relaxation of the definition of "essential" businesses; that is, those business -- such as markets and pharmacies -- that are deemed to be essential to public health and safety. 

It's unclear how long it will take to reopen the hardest hit sectors: arts, entertainment, and recreation; accommodation and food; and other services. In Sonoma County, there's no indication when the "arts, entertainment, and recreation" sector will reemerge -- this summer there's not going to be any music festivals and access to our beaches and rivers is likely to be severely restricted. "Accommodation and food" is similarly challenged -- some restaurants are surviving on a "take-out" basis but others have chosen to stay shuttered or go out of business; many motels are closed but a few have opened as temporary refuges for the homeless. "Other services" is a big category that includes automotive repair, personal care, and dry cleaning; automotive repair is a permitted activity, as is dry cleaning; on the other hand, "personal care" services -- barbers, beauticians, fitness trainers, etcetera -- are moribund. 

California's Governor Newsom has proposed a program where the state would pay restaurants to prepare and deliver meals to shut-in seniors. This will provide employment for some dormant workers. There's also talk of hiring folks -- with little experience -- to do the leg-work required for COVID-19 contact tracing. In Sonoma County that will provide a few thousand jobs. 

By June, Sonoma County is likely to have 50,000 unemployed workers, who have little hope of returning to their jobs until at least 2021. Their lives will not return to "normal" until shelter-in-place is lifted and that won't happen until there's a COVID-19 vaccine (or the equivalent). 

We're entering a depression. To help these workers, we need a massive Federal/State program on the scale of those seen during the Great Depression -- the Works Progress Administration. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Dehumanizing People with Mental Illness

Jack Bragen
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:23:00 PM

Note: in this piece, I am using the term, "designated group." That is because any grouping or lumping together of human beings is artificial. You could put people in a category of those with large nose size or of having type II diabetes. Yet, these are criteria that allow people to be put in a group, and it is based on the thinking of one or more persons. I hope that helps the following make more sense.

Historically and today, preliminary to pseudo-scientific abuse is to paint a designated group as subhuman. If we are speaking of people with disabilities, this perception may include depicting people as cute--e.g., "It was only a hamster."

Painting someone as sick or subhuman are tools used by an abuser to gain collaboration with peers in organized and systematic abuse of an intended victim, and in some instances it is sanctioned by governments, or at the very least, by organizations.

When people are put into categories, e.g., psychiatric "clients," they are considered objects of study and not human beings. This is a way of hiding behind the cloak of supposed science to subjugate and harm a designated group. 

When the U.S. perpetrated slavery, Americans of African ancestry were bogusly considered property and not people. Following slavery, the U.S. Military Public Health experimented on the Tuskegee Airmen (a division of fighter and bomber pilots who fought in WWII, who were/are black--some may still be living) by giving them syphilis and not treating them, in order to study the progression of the disease. This is an infamous example of committing an atrocity in the name of science. It wasn't science, it was a war crime, and it was done by and to Americans. 

Human beings who behave in a disorganized manner, if not incarcerated, are often funneled into the mental health treatment system. Once firmly established in that system, it seems that there is no exit route. While I am not denying that treatment is essential for psychiatric illness, the treatment system is set up to keep us down. 

Abuse, as it continues today, also consists of tying patients to a restraint table, overmedicating by force, and subtler actions, such as brainwashing. In the not so distant past, the abuses were worse. 

Information about us is disseminated, while we are told that our information is confidential. This is a complete misrepresentation. As soon as we sign a release of information, information can be shared about us. These releases are standard practice, are often presented to us when we are not prepared to think about what we're signing, and the implication is that we must sign, and that signing is mandatory. 

Sadistic people sometimes find it satisfying to read books and to study works concerning atrocities that have been perpetrated on human beings in history. It may never occur to some browsing individuals that their fascination is not purely that they are seeking knowledge, it is sickness. 

E. Fuller Torrey, unpopular among mental health consumers, has said something with which I fully agree. (This is not an exact quote): There has not been enough brain research, and we do not yet have medications available that are any better than what we had more than twenty years ago, when Clozaril was discovered. 

The current medications treat symptoms well enough so that we have a semblance of normal thinking. Yet, the medications, dubbed "atypical antipsychotics" then recently renamed "second-generation antipsychotics" do a tremendous job of shutting us down, both physically and mentally. 

Studies on better medications can be done with subjects who are aware of being in a study, who are aware of the risks, and who have agreed to participate. But there is not much motive among mental health professionals to have better medications, because the current meds do a good enough job of keeping patients subdued. People designated sick are bread and butter to those whose profession is in mental health. 

To summarize all the above, pseudoscience, and the warped perception of intended subjects as not being human, is used to justify maltreatment of mentally ill people, and many other human beings in selected groups. 


Jack Bragen is author of "Understanding People with Schizophrenia," and other books. He lives in Martinez.

ECLECTIC RANT: Stumbling Through the Pandemic
Without A National Leader

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday May 03, 2020 - 03:53:00 PM


April was a cruel month thanks in part to President Trump. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of April 30, the U.S. had 1,031,659 cases of COVID-19 and 60,057 deaths. Less than 2% of all Americans have been tested for COVID-19 — nearly 5.5 million people. 

According to a Harvard University study, the U.S. needs to be testing 5 million per day and up to 20 million by July in order to safely re-open the country. Thus, the number of Americans infected by the virus is vastly undercounted. In other words, the U.S. doesn’t know what it doesn’t know to make any decisions about re-opening the country. 

Trump took no leadership role in ensuring nationwide testing, and did not take charge of securing and distributing masks, personal protective equipment, or other necessary equipment. Instead, he said it was the states’ responsibility to cope with the pandemic. His role has been limited to daily briefing full of disinformation and misinformation. Who can forget his suggestion that all that was needed was a beam of light or inject disinfectant in our veins to wipe out the virus. 

During the crisis, Trump isn’t distributing aid but meting out “favors” based on his relationships with particular governors. It has become a patronage system that required flattery and public expressions of gratitude toward the president, with thousands of of lives at stake. Recently, Trump is suggesting a trade-off if states want aid money, they may need to make “sanctuary-city adjustments.” 

Although delegating responsibility to the states, Trump has undermined their efforts. For example, he sent three tweets: "LIBERATE MICHIGAN, LIBERATE MINNESOTA, and LIBERATE VIRGINIA” in support of those protesting state shelter-in-place orders. There are also protests in other states. In many instances the protesters — some armed with weapons — were violating Trump’s own social distancing guidelines. Are these protests or insurrections?  

Note that these misguided protests against state shelter-in-place orders are not grassroots, people-driven. Rather, they are a rightwing movement backed by wealthy conservative groups and promoted by Trump. The Michigan Freedom Fund, co-host of the Michigan ally, is funded by the family of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, regular donors to rightwing groups. The other co-host, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, was founded by Matt Maddock, now a Republican member of the state house of representatives. The MCC also operates under the name Michigan Trump Republicans, and in January held an event featuring several members of the Trump campaign. 

A majority of Americans support the lockdowns, with a Pew Research Center poll finding that 66% are concerned state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly. 

Some companies and politicians have been busy mounting legal challenges to the variety of shelter-in-place orders imposed throughout the country. Attorney General William P. Barr threatened to support the plaintiffs and told federal prosecutors to “be on the lookout” for unconstitutional restrictions. 

Meatpacking plants are where, as of April 29, an estimated 3,300 workers have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 20 have died. Trump, using the Defense Production Act, ordered these plants to stay open with no mandate to provide adequate protection for their workers. Notice he did not use the Act to order companies to produce personal protective equipment or testing kits. 

Nearly 2,500 long-term care facilities in 36 states are battling coronavirus cases, according to data gathered from state agencies. Nursing home residents are among those most likely to die from the coronavirus, given their advanced age and the prevalence of other health conditions. Yet, the federal government does not keep track of the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes or the number of facilities with infections. 

Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been magnified since in his late response on March 31. His failure to act when warned about the virus in January and February has caused untold deaths.  

I fear we will reopen too soon, causing a resurgence of COVID-19. Will the public tolerate another shutdown or will we take our chances and ride out the resurgence hoping for “herd immunity” or a vaccine to save us? There is, however, currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. 


SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:36:00 PM

The Pandemic's East Bay Hot Spots 

The East Bay Express (currently reduced to a napkin-thin 16 pages) came up with some interesting figures on COVID-19 cases in the Oakland neighborhood. The EBX reported "more than half of the current cases coming from what the country describes as the 'Eden Area,' the unincorporated hamlets of San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland, and Hayward Acres" — populated, in large part, by low-income and uninsured residents. The Eden Area, along with Castro Valley, Hayward, and East Oakland have "the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the county." 

Will the Coronavirus Reinvent the World? 

It's a bit creepy to say it, but the coronavirus seems to have a "green" agenda. COVID-19 has been accomplishing transformations that eco-activists have been demanding for decades—reducing air and water pollution; slowing global heating by halting jet travel and auto traffic; crashing the profits of Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Gas; thwarting the massive munching of meat by shuttering major pork plants; reducing human impacts on wild nature by confining billions of people inside their homes; causing the Pentagon to cancel global war-games; forcing the Navy to abandon nuclear-powered ships; and, last but not least, making Donald Trump look like the fatuous, frivolous fraud that he is. 

It's also creepy to realize that there is a powerful argument that the GOP's Trump-enablers could use to downplay and minimize the COVID-19 death count—but I can guarantee they won't use it. 

They could argue: "COVID-19 should be viewed in perspective. Sure, it's killed 62,000 Americans but, last year, tobacco killed 480,000." 

Tobacco is a commercial pandemic that Altria and other Nicotine Kingpins intentionally unleashed upon the world—a scourge that has proven deadlier than any virus. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco eventually "kills up to half of its users." That amounts to more than 8 million tobacco deaths a year. 

And why don't we see TV images of tobacco-sickened victims dying as they are hooked up to ventilators in hospitals from Wuhan, to Sicily, to Ohio? Because powerful corporations control the national news media and most of the planet's smokers (around 80%) live in low-income and middle-income nations. 

Planet of the Humans Generates a Heated Debate 

Planet of the Humans, the new Jeff Gibbs/Michael More documentary (featured in last week's Smithereens) has been watched by nearly 22 million viewers. The film has inflamed emotions, anger and outrage. Democracy Now! described the film as "misleading and destructive." Common Dreams called the film a "demoralizing" attack on the climate movement. The Nation called Moore "the New Flack for Oil and Gas." Naomi Klein called the film "damaging" and noted that while "there are important critiques of an environmentalism that refuses to reckon with unlimited consumption + growth. But this film ain't it." Environmental filmmaker Josh "Gasland" Fox characterized the film as "dangerous" and called for it to be taken offline. And then there are supporters like Michael Donnelly who railed against "highly-compensated, thoroughly-compromised Climate Warriors" who have nothing to offer "but pie-in-the-sky 'renewable' energy myths." 

There are many views and critiques erupting online. Phil Cafaro, a professor at Colorado State University writes to recommend the following reads: "The best critical view of the film is a long analysis from Ohio environmental activist Cathy Cowan Becker." While Cafaro views the film as "flawed in important ways…, I think it has value in opening up questions about the essential goals of environmentalism." He recommends this article from the Overpopulation Project. "And if you want a more conventional analysis of the film as a film, you can check out the review in Variety." 

Here are some other responses, ranging from eco-unfriendly to industry-friendly. 

Why Planet of the Humans is Crap

"Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore wind up carrying water for people who want us to believe renewable energy is an illusion, or even a con," Tom Athanasiou, Earth Island Journal. 

Michael Moore Produced a Film That’s a Gift to Big Oil

"Planet of the Humans deceives viewers about clean energy and climate activists," Leah C. Stokes, Vox 

Mobilizing Climate Action in the Face of Planet of the Humans

"Michael Moore's new film is so full of weak analysis, misinformation, and misplaced invective that I worry it will cause more harm than good," Cynthia Kaufman / Common Dreams 

Hurry, See Planet of the Humans Before It’s Banned

"A stunning evisceration of so-called green energy and the people profiting from it," 

Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute 

Rest Easy and Don't Bite Your Tongue 

Sleep-aid businesses are making piles of money today because millions of Americans are finding it harder to breathe at night. The Sleep Apnea industry is raking in breathtaking profits from the sale of Sleep Apnea Pills, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing masks, Mandibular Advancement Devices, and battery-powered tools inserted inside the chest to keep airways open "at the push of a button." 

But the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has discovered a surprising cause of the basic breathing problem—people who are overweight and suffering from "fat tongues." When patients lost pounds, they found themselves breathing a lot easier. 

This, of course, opens up new commercial opportunities for the merchandising of tongue-slimming medicines and therapies. But if you are one of the millions of Americans suffering from "Plump Tongue Disorder" and you're looking for a cure, let me offer the following free exercise regime that you can practice at home to "slim your licker"—courtesy of Tongue Gymnastics specialist, Dr. M. Cyrus. 


Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture? 

Marvin X Jackmon has proudly announced the latest release from Black Bird Press. Tarik, a book based on a filmscript by Michael Satchell, presents a "historical fiction" treatment of the life of Tarik Ibn Ziyad, a charismatic African general who led an army of Moorish and Arab warriors to battle in Spain in 711 A.D. 

You may not have heard of Tarik before but you've heard of the famous promontory named in his honor—"Gibraltar." 

The book focuses on Tarik's relationship with his childhood friend—and later wife—Umm-Hakim, the aunt of Muhammad (her twin brother was the Prophet's father). This remarkable woman followed Tarik's march into Spain at the head of her own army. She was known as Al-Baydaa ("the White One") because she was her family's only fair-skinned daughter. 

Umm-Kahim's first husband was killed in the Battle of Yarmouk in 634 CE. Her second husband was killed in the Battle of Marj al-Saffar. After his death, Umm-Hakim took her revenge by "single-handedly killing seven Byzantine soldiers with a tent pole" on a bridge that still survives near Damascus and today bears her name. 

In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-Hakim stood at the front of a legion of Quraish women beating drums as she lead them into battle. (Wouldn't that be a "movie moment"?) 

Satchell spent 20 years working on the screenplay and now Marvin X has transformed the script into a book. Satchell still hopes Tarik's saga will make it to the Big Screen but, with an estimated shooting budget of $150 million, that's going to take some serious fund-raising. The publication of this "limited edition" of Satchll's book is part of that effort. Black Bird is offering the book for a donation of $99.95 (but "any amount will be appreciated"). In the meantime, a live reading is in the works. For more information, contact Michael Satchell at satchellmichealj@gmail.com 

Trump Lies All the Time about Lysol and Grime 

The April 23, 2020 headline in The New York Times was succinct: "Trump's Disinfectant Remark Raises a Question About the 'Very Stable Genius,'" 

Trump's total failure to respond to the pandemic threat began in January. Thanks to his inaction, 1 million Americans have been stricken and more than 62,000 have lost their lives—most in the month of April, at the same time Trump was calling for a return to "business as usual." 

Could it be that Trump's become so unhinged that he's testing his kingly powers by suggesting that people-at-risk be injected with household disinfectants—and then waiting to see if anyone takes him seriously? (Sure enough, a number of Trump supporters soon started turning up in emergency wards after dosing themselves with home-brewed disinfectant cocktails.) 

Despite his utter failure to promote nationwide testing, to provide essential protective equipment for doctors, to secure ventilators for victims, and supporting fringe-movement/big-business calls to "reopen the country" while deaths were still rising, 

Trump continued to proclaim his administrative prowess. At one long March 9 press conference, Trump reportedly praised his leadership skills more than 600 times. The same news analysis that counted those 600 instances of self-congratulation also noted that Trump "expressed empathy" or called for "national unity" only 160 times. Nonetheless, the Republican National Committee is preparing a $1 million ad buy to hype Trump's "leadership." 

In response, MoveOn.org has launched the first in a series of digital and TV ads targeting key voters in battleground states that tell the real story of Donald Trump's abject failure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Here is one of those ads. 


MoveOn is asking for donations to place this (and forthcoming) ads on TV screens across America. 

Trump's "Small Business" Relief Act: Who Really CARES? 

Congress passed a COVID-19 relief bill with emergency loans to small businesses. The money ran out within days, with many legacy small businesses left stranded. $300 million went to just 75 large companies. Trump's former ambassador Gordon Sondland landed a loan, as did other wealthy businessmen connected with Trump. Pulling the mask off these Loan Arrangers reveals a virtual Who's Who of corporate America. 

For a full accounting of the Big Bizzers who made out like bandits, check out Documenting The Trump Administration’s Mismanagement Of The Paycheck Protection Program During The COVID 19 Crisis at TrumpBailouts.org. 

Trump's Rap Sheet 


Didja know that Donald Trump has been named in at least 169 federal lawsuits. LawNewz.com reviewed a sordid trail of cases dating back to 1983 and ranging from "business disputes, antitrust claims, and … accusations that Trump's campaign statements are discriminatory against minorities." In addition, Trump's record shows that he has been sued by "celebrities, personal assistants, prisoners, people in mental hospitals, unions, and wealthy businessmen." And, since LawNewz only burrowed into US Federal Court records, "who knows how many others were filed in state courts…?" 

Who knows, indeed. It turns out this LawNewz investigation was published in 2016—nine months before the presidential election that Trump lost by 3 million votes. (That election should have been the subject of a federal lawsuit, as well.) 

The Most Outstanding Member of the Trump Administration? 

Donald Trump likes to boast that he has accomplished "more than any other president in history." Well, there is one area in which that claim has merit. Trump has hired and fired more members of his administration than any other leader—many, if not most of them, individuals that he had personally chosen for those positions. According to a recent Brookings Institute study, Trump's executive staff turnover has been higher than the five most recent presidents

When Trump sacked his National Security Adviser Michal Flynn—in the first weeks of entering office—it was just the beginning of what the Brookings Institute called an "avalanche" that saw 21 members of Trump's "A Team," booted out in just the first year of the Trump Era—a record 85% turnover of top officials. 

So let us pause and salute one of the most distinguished members of Trumplandia—Presidential Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. Grisham followed in the muddy footsteps of such polarizing press provocateurs as Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders. 

But Grisham stand alone at the only Trump flack who never routinely insulted or demeaned members of the Fifth Estate. 

How did Grisham succeed where others had failed? Simple: although she was a constant guest on Fox News, she refused to hold any formal press briefings—for a total of 365 days!—prompting CNN's Anderson Cooper to question whether taxpayers should be fronting Grisham's $183,000 salary. 

Trump's latest appointment, Kayleigh McEnany, comes to the position with a long history of making anti-science and racist wisecracks. In February, she assured Fox Business viewers that "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here." She later defended Trump's plan to hold mass rallies despite the advice of health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, by telling the press "The president is the best authority on this issue." 

On March 12, McEnany boasted that 1 million COVID-19 test kits had been distributed nationwide. Turned out, only 10,000 people had been tested. McEnany also assured the press that Trump had not terminated the "pandemic office" when, in fact, Trump had done just that. 

McEnany also railed against Barack Obama's "missing birth certificate" and once Tweeted: "How I Met Your Brother — Never mind, forgot he's still in that hut in Kenya." In 2017, she accused Obama of going golfing the day that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. (Wrong: George W. Bush was president at the time.) 

After the long do-little tenure of S. Grisham, the advent of Kayleigh "The President Doesn't Lie" McEnany makes one thing clear: In Trump's Washington, things are back to normal. 

Don't Look at What's Around You—Look Up in the Sky 

While residents of Trumpanistan were dying by the hundreds, The Donald continued to blurt fantasies that the pandemic would "magically disappear by April" and publicly dithered over fantasies about miracle cures involving hydroxychloroquine (made by a French company Trump has invested in) and injections of Lysol and "healing light." When the states asked for protective gear, Trump was not there for the hospital workers on the front line. Instead of offering medical supplies and financial support, Trump offers distractions and dismissive insults. His latest distraction: claiming to "honor" doctors and nurses by ordering Big City flyovers by a dozen military jets. 

This tantalizing stunt was intended to suggest a link between domestic security and military weaponry (instead of drawing attention to the increasingly wasteful increases in military-industrial spending). In New York, Trump's fly-over stunt did accomplish one thing: it drew thousands of New Yorkers out of the safety of their shelters to gather outdoors and gape, open-mouthed, at the aircraft roaring overhead. Two teams of six fighter jets managed to turn thousands of gallons of jet-fuel into greenhouse gases and colored smoke as streams of toxic particulates descended over the city. (We now know that coronaviruses can latch onto particulates in polluted air, enabling them to expand their range.) 

Is American Health Care Part of the Problem? 

In May 2016, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article with the headline: Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US. There's even a word for this: "iatorgenesis," meaning a preventable adverse effect caused by medical error. 

The BMJ article estimated that as many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States were caused by medical error. The medical profession in the US disputed these findings, with some arguing that medical errors only accounted for 5.2 percent of in-hospital deaths—no more than 35,000 deaths, tops. 

So it was disturbing to find an April 12 Chronicle article on "The Science of Coronavirus" that contained the following statement: "Most deaths occur from secondary bacterial infections, sepsis and kidney failure often exacerbated by strong antibiotics that can be toxic to the kidneys." 

A Double Plague: Coronavirus in a Time of War 

The next time you hear someone complain about the inconvenience of "sheltering-in-place," tell them to be thankful they aren't in Libya. The following video from the New York Times provides a wrenching look into the legacy of Washington's invasion and overthrow of that beleaguered country. 

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, May 10-17

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday May 09, 2020 - 02:58:00 PM

Worth Noting:

There are five public meetings this coming week. The agendas are just too long to list everything, use the provided links in the by day posts to read the full agendas.

Monday: 2 pm is the Agenda and Rules Committee and the proposed agenda for May 26. The list of consent items contains the usual list of new contracts and amendments to existing contracts and several are worth attention. Item 16 adds $2.1 million total $6.1 million on recycling. Items 17, 18, and 19 relate to Parking for a total of $10,193,704. A mind-boggling amount to generate parking tickets even with some contracts over more than 1 year. The license plate reader contract which was controversial to begin with is amended to add $175,000 total $1,825,000. The General Fund Revenues lists the usual income from Parking Fines as around $6.2 million/year with an anticipated drop of about 40% for 2020.

Critical to tenant security in the proposed agenda is item 24 the Urgency Item to protect tenants from evictions during the pandemic and for 90 days after the pandemic emergency is declared over.

Tuesday: 6 pm is the City Council Regular Meeting. Item 24 is the proposed mid-year budget update. The vote on the budget will be in June.

The Saturday noon Town Halls with the Mayor continue. Since questions need to be submitted in advance by 9 am on Saturday using this form and there is no live interchange with the public watch anytime on the Mayor’s YouTube site or watch as it is live streamed on jessearreguin.com. Video Updates from the Mayor on COVID-19 are on Mondays and Wednesdays and are posted on the Mayor’s YouTube page, the same site as the posted Town Halls. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgXaP2idglejM_r7Iv7my6w

Sunday, May 10, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Monday, May 11, 2020

City Council Budget & Finance Committee, 10 am,

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85761580384

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 857 61580384

Agenda: 2. Auditor Recommendation to Determine Purpose, Time Frame, and Amount before Using Reserves, 3. Budget Timeline, 4. Center Street Parking Revenue Bonds, 5. Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Update, 6. Open West Campus Pool and MLK Jr. Pool (King Pool) for community shower program, 7. Housing Trust Fund Resources – Balance 3/3/2020 $6,704,128, 8. Homeless Services Report, 9. Review of Council’s Fiscal Policies. (Agenda packet 60 pages)


Agenda and Rules Committee, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89665366733

Teleconference: 669-900-9128 Meeting ID: 896 6536 6733, 6. Amend Contract add $603,874 and extend for 1 year total $960,874 with Berkeley Food & Housing for Berkeley Food and Housing Project, Berkeley Mental Health, Flexible Spending Programs and Russell Street Residence, 11. Contract $436,000 6/1/2020 – 6/30/2023 with Software AG, Inc for software, maintenance and professional services for Data Integration Middleware Platform webMethods, 12. Amend Contract add $95,451 total $399,411 9/14/2016-6/30/2022 with Geographic Technologies Group for Geographic Information system (GIS) Master Plan, 14. Lease 235 University with Hana Japan for 5 years, 16. Amend Contract add $2,100,000 total $6,100,000 with Community Conservation Centers, Inc for Processing and Marketing Services of Recyclable Materials, 17. Amend Contract add $111,150 total $1,335,257 with SKIDATA for Parking Access and Revenue Control System Maintenance Services and Warranties, 18. Amend Contract add $1,513,540 total $7,033,457 thru 6/30/2022 with IPS Group for Parking Meter Operations to provide parking meters, replacement parts and support services, 19. Amend Contract add $175,000 total $1,825,000 with Portable Computer Systems dba PCS Mobile for Automated License Plate Reader Equipment, ACTION: 20. Electric Bike Franchise Agreement, 21. Public Hearing #2 FY 2021 Proposed Budget Update, 22. Establish COVID-19 Business Damage Mitigation Fund (related to vandalism of business closed due to pandemic), 23. Support Global Ceasefire during COVID-19 Pandemic, 24. Urgency Ordinance – COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance to Amend BMC13.110Title 13 to enhance emergency Tenant protections consistent with recently adopted County Laws,

(Packet 207 pages)


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Berkeley City Council

Videoconference https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85809429003 or

Teleconference 669-900-9128 meeting ID 858 0942 9003,

Special Closed Session, 4 pm, Agenda: Conference with Labor Negotiators,

Regular Session, 6 pm, CONSENT: 2. A=FY 2020 Annual Appropriations $47,602,843 (gross) $42,647,016 (net), 3. Formal Bid and RFP various funds $729,806, 46. Dorothy Day House License Agreements – Veterans Memorial Building and Old City Hall, 7. Contract $187,401 with CycloMedia Technology, Inc. for Geographic Information System Infrastructure Asset Data Acquisition, 8. Contract $727,821 with Integration Partners for Avaya Upgrade, Support and Maintenance, July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2024, 10.Amend and extend contract to June 30, 2023 add $31,500 total $81,167 with 3T Equipment Co, Inc, for Maintenance of Pipeline Observation System Management (POSM) Software, 11. Contract $900,122 (includes 15% contingency $117,407) with ERA Construction, Inc. for Strawberry Creek Park Play Area and Restroom Renovation Project, 12. Contract $1,969,056 (includes 10% contingency $179,005) with Suarez and Munoz Construction, Inc. for San Pablo Park Playground and Tennis Court Renovation Project, 13. Contract $200,000 term 5 years with BMI Imaging for Data Conversion Services for Berkeley Police Dept. Systems, 14. Contract $4,598,942 (includes 15% contingency) with Bay Cities Paving & Grading, Inc. for Measure T1 Street Improvements & Green Infrastructure, 15. Amend and extend contract to Dec 31, 2022 add $200,000 total $1,200,000 with AECOM USA, Inc for On-Call Traffic Engineering Services for Design and Construction for Ashby-San Pablo Intersection Improvements Project, 16. Amend contract add $338,000 total $862,900 with SCS Engineers and SCS Field Services for Cesar Chavez (Park) Landfill Post-Closure Maintenance and Monitoring, ACTION: 23. Public Hearing Mental Health Clinic Charges, 24. a. FY 2021 Proposed Budget Update, b. FY 2020 Mid-year Budget Update, 25. Surveillance Technology and Acquisition Report and Surveillance Use Policy for Automatic License Plate Readers. (Follows proposed agenda review) Discussion and Direction Regarding Impact of COVID-19,


Wednesday, May 13 2020

Police Review Commission, 7 – 10 pm,

Videoconference https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84784915028 or

Teleconference 669-900-9128 meeting ID 847 8491 5028,

Agenda: 3. PRC Officer’s Report, Closed Session Consider whether to accept two late filed complaints 4. Complaint #2469, 5. Complaint #2470.


Thursday, May 14, 2020 and Friday, May 15, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Expect a Town Hall announcement from the Mayor, no announcements yet,

Sunday, May 17, 2020

No City meetings or events found


Use Appeals

1533 Beverly (single family dwelling) - July 14, 2020

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir - June 9, 2020

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline

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

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period

1411 Allston 5/19/2020

1711 Allston 5/28/2020

1042 Ashby 5/19/2020

2417 Browning 5/28/2020

2945 College 5/26/2020

933 Creston 5/26/2020

1500 Fifth Street 5/14/2020

2417 Grant 5/12/2020

2246 San Pablo 5/14/2020

1224 Sixth 5/14/2020

2252 Summer 5/21/2020

2539 Telegraph 5/21/2020

611 Vistamount 5/28/2020

2870 Webster 5/21/2020


LPC NOD 2043 Lincoln – 5/12/2020

LPC NOD 2133 University – 5/12/2020

LINK to Current Zoning Applications https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Land_Use_Division/Current_Zoning_Applications.aspx



June 23 – Special Meeting on City Budget

July 21 – Crime Report, Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update,

Sept 29 – Digital Strategic Plan/FUND$ Replacement Website Update, Zero Waste Priorities

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

Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations

Cannabis Health Considerations

Vision 2050

Ohlone History and Culture (special meeting)

Presentation from StopWaste on SB1383

Systems Realignment


To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to


To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to



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

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

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

If you wish to stop receiving the Weekly Summary of City Meetings please forward the weekly summary you received to kellyhammargren@gmail.com,

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, May 3-10

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:17:00 PM

Worth Noting:

There is no City Council meeting in the coming week, however, the City Council Budget & Finance Committee will be meeting Monday and plan to meet weekly to assess the projected changes in City revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently the projected drop in City revenue due to the pandemic is $25,500,000 (12.6%).

The May 12 City Council meeting agenda is available for review and comment and item 24 in the agenda includes budget updates.

At the April 27 Budget & Finance Committee there was discussion of needing to re-evaluate expenditures, but so far this does not seem to have much impact on Council decision making except to postpone amending the contract with Youth Spirit Artworks to provide case management to move homeless youth into transition Tiny Home housing and to postpone until June the final decision on the ballot initiative to make Mayor and City Council positions fulltime.

The Saturday noon Town Halls with the Mayor continue. Since questions need to be submitted in advance by 9 am on Saturday using this form and there is no live interchange with the public watch anytime on the Mayor’s YouTube site or watch as it is live streamed on jessearreguin.com.

Video Updates from the Mayor on COVID-19 are on Mondays and Wednesdays and are posted on the Mayor’s YouTube page, the same site as the posted Town Halls. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgXaP2idglejM_r7Iv7my6w

All City meetings and events are either by videoconference or teleconference.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Monday, May 4, 2020

City Council Budget & Finance Committee, 10 am,

Videoconference https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83737566663 or

Teleconference 669-900-9128 meeting ID 837 3756 6663, Agenda: 2. FY2021 Budget Update, 3. Strategic Plan Quarterly Report, 4. Proposed Budget & Finance Committee Priorities, 5. Measure P Revenues and Allocations, 6. Open West Campus Pool and MLK Jr Pool to implement City of Berkeley Shower Program – financial implications $270,100, 7. Housing Trust Fund Resources, 8. Homeless Services Report, Review of Council’s Fiscal Policies, (Packet 144 pages)


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Public Financing Program/BERA Seminar, 6 – 7:30 pm,

Videoconference https://zoom.us/j/91717917378 Meeting ID: 917 1791 7378 Password 943191,

Agenda: Informational seminar on Berkeley Election Reform Act (BERA) and public financing. Seminar to cover public financing, contributions and expenditures, requests for matching funds, disbursement of funds and what to do after the election. Candidates and committee officers are encouraged to attend.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID-19 & Black Communities: Crisis, Opportunity and Prescriptions for Change, 3 – 4:30 pm PDT, Sponsored by Center for Urban and Racial Equity, Panel discussion, Register: https://bit.ly/COVIDBLK for more information


Friday, May 8, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Expect a Town Hall announcement from the Mayor, no announcements yet,

Sunday, May 10, 2020

No City meetings or events found


May 12 City Council meeting agenda available for comment, email council@cityofberkeley.info

Videoconference https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85809429003 or

Teleconference 669-900-9128 meeting ID 858 0942 9003,

CONSENT: 1. Citizens Redistricting Commission – 2nd reading of ordinance, 2. A=FY 2020 Annual Appropriations $47,602,843 (gross) $42,647,016 (net), 3. Formal Bid and RFP various funds $729,806, 4. Revenue Grant Agreements – to submit grant agreements (1. CHDP $352,000 FY 2021, 2. MCAH $336,000 FY 2021, 3. Tobacco Trust $300,000 FY 2021, 4. Immunizations $42,204 FY 2021, 5. Public Health Emergency Preparedness COVID-19 $401,462, March 4, 2020 – March 15, 2021, 7. Infectious Disease Prevention $210,468 Feb 1, 2020 – June 30, 2023), 5. Revenue Grant Agreements – grant application funding support from Essential Access Health to Conduct Public Health Services, 6. Dorothy Day House License Agreements – Veterans Memorial Building and Old City Hall, 7. Contract $187,401 with CycloMedia Technology, Inc. for Geographic Information System Infrastructure Asset Data Acquisition, 8. Contract $727,821 with Integration Partners for Avaya Upgrade, Support and Maintenance, July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2024, 9. Removed by City Manager - Amend Contract add $30,000 total $117,175 with Santalynda Marrero DBA SMconsulting for Professional Consulting (coaching) Services, 10.Amend and extend contract to June 30, 2023 add $31,500 total $81,167 with 3T Equipment Co, Inc, for Maintenance of Pipeline Observation System Management (POSM) Software, 11. Contract $900,122 (includes 15% contingency $117,407) with ERA Construction, Inc. for Strawberry Creek Park Play Area and Restroom Renovation Project, 12. Contract $1,969,056 (includes 10% contingency $179,005) with Suarez and Munoz Construction, Inc. for San Pablo Park Playground and Tennis Court Renovation Project, 13. Contract $200,000 term 5 years with BMI Imaging for Data Conversion Services for Berkeley Police Dept. Systems, 14. Contract $4,598,942 (includes 15% contingency) with Bay Cities Paving & Grading, Inc. for Measure T1 Street Improvements & Green Infrastructure, 15. Amend and extend contract to Dec 31, 2022 add $200,000 total $1,200,000 with AECOM USA, Inc for On-Call Traffic Engineering Services for Design and Construction for Ashby-San Pablo Intersection Improvements Project, 16. Amend contract add $338,000 total $862,900 with SCS Engineers and SCS Field Services for Cesar Chavez (Park) Landfill Post-Closure Maintenance and Monitoring, 17. Navigating Impact COVID-19 Pandemic on City Finances (from Auditor) , 18. Repeal SB 872 – call to State Legislature to overturn SB 872 prohibiting new taxes on Sugar Sweetened Beverages. 19. Support CA Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Legislation, 20. Berkeley Juneteenth, 21. Board of Library Trustees reappoint John Selawsky, 22. Budget Referral Telegraph Shared Streets refer $500,000 to FY2021-2022, ACTION: 23. Public Hearing Mental Health Clinic Charges, 24. a. FY 2021 Proposed Budget Update, b. FY 2020 Mid-year Budget Update, 25. Surveillance Technology and Acquisition Report and Surveillance Use Policy for Automatic License Plate Readers. (Follows proposed agenda review) Discussion and Direction Regarding Impact of COVID-19,


Use Appeals

1533 Beverly (single family dwelling) - July 14, 2020

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir - June 9, 2020

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline

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

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period

1411 Allston 5/19/2020

1042 Ashby 5/19/2020

2715 Belrose 5/5/2020

1500 Fifth Street 5/14/2020

2417 Grant 5/12/2020

1205 Parker 5/5/2020

2252 Summer 5/21/2020

2870 Webster 5/21/2020


LPC NOD 2043 Lincoln – 5/12/2020

LPC NOD 2133 University – 5/12/2020

LINK to Current Zoning Applications https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Land_Use_Division/Current_Zoning_Applications.aspx



June 23 – Budget

July 21 – Crime Report, Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update,

Sept 29 – Digital Strategic Plan/FUND$ Replacement Website Update, Zero Waste Priorities

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

Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations

Cannabis Health Considerations

Vision 2050

Ohlone History and Culture (special meeting)

Presentation from StopWaste on SB1383

Systems Realignment


To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to


To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to





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

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

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

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