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Cover Your Face: The Covid-19 Pandemic Isn’t Over

Kelly Hammargren, R.N.
Saturday June 13, 2020 - 11:12:00 AM

Wear your face covering, the Covid-19 Pandemic isn’t over. And in fact, no matter what the enthusiasts for reopening are saying, hold onto to your socks. We are not even through the first wave.

Do you know that on March 16, 2020, the day the order for shelter in place in the Bay Area was called, there were 131 new infections recorded that day in California? It would be weeks before we would learn that the first death in the US from Covid-19 was February 6, 2020: Patricia Dowd, 57, in Santa Clara County. [1]

The rate of transmission [2] was in an upward spike, meaning we were at the beginning, and even without knowing how this new virus was spreading something scary was happening for those who understand epidemiology and exponential growth. Taming a deadly new infectious disease where no one has immunity, there is no treatment other than supportive care, and no vaccine, requires informing the public and public cooperation to contain it.

As the epidemiologists were trying to figure just what this new infection is, the White House was in full propaganda mode with popular Fox host political commentators to dismiss SARS-CoV-2 as nothing to worry about: It will all go away over the summer. Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has repeated the summer story over and over. With many believers and wishful thinkers in the summer story and impatience with sheltering in place, the attitude that the pandemic is over is spreading at about the same speed as the infection. 

Last Friday, California hit an all time high with 3,603 new infections only to be broken by yesterday’s June 11 count of 3662.[3] California is hovering around 28th in the nation for the number of tests performed per million population.[4] 

The incidence of new Covid-19 infections in New York is in the decline, but that is not the picture for other parts of the nation. California, Texas, North and South Carolina, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Arizona are showing increased new cases of infection and hospitalizations. Arizona is running out of ICU beds. 

The challenge with Covid-19 is the delay between exposure and visible infection, and a hefty percent of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are asymptomatic or have symptoms so mild they don’t raise alarm. People who never perceive symptoms or are in that pre-symptomatic stage are still able to infect others. 

Troubling reporting is surfacing that some people who test positive for Covid-19 and report no symptoms still have abnormal lung findings. Radiologists are being alerted to suspect Covid-19 when what is described as “ground glass opacities” (scattered opaque spots) are seen in the lungs.[5] 

The reopening of businesses, even with restrictions, still gives the message that the pandemic is over. 

The young have been told over and over they really may not have any symptoms at all and need only to worry about transmitting an infection to their parents or grandparents. 

It is true, the young are less likely to have serious complications, but this is not an absolute free ride to throw away those inconvenient facial coverings and forego handwashing. There are formerly healthy children, teens and young adults becoming desperately sick from Covid-19 and having terrible complications. 

A woman in her 20’s who had no underlying medical conditions had so much lung damage from Covid-19 that she had a double lung transplant last Thursday.[6] Fourteen-year-old Jack McMorrow shared his experience with pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome (PMIS also MIS-C). He has some residual heart damage which all hope will resolve over time.[7] Another 14 year old was not so lucky and died. 

Some researchers are now describing Covid-19 as a blood vessel disease, not a respiratory disease.[8] That analysis connects the dots: the blood clotting disorder, strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, diarrhea, the attack on the lungs, the brain, neuropsychiatric disorders. For the sickest patients the virus is everywhere.[9] 

In a few weeks we’ll see the risk and impact of large crowds outside. We know wearing masks, and even homemade facial coverings do help in reducing risk as long as both the nose and mouth are covered. The better the fit, the fewer leaks, the better the prevention and protection. Some materials are better than others and none are as effective as the N95.[10] 

There is still much to learn about Covid-19. Lack of a nationally coordinated approach, fudging on numbers of deaths and the whole approach to testing and reporting has made matters worse by interfering in the collection of data and analysis. 

The door to containment of SARS-CoV-2 is closing. Some might say it is slammed shut. Herd immunity is when so many people have had the infection and either recovered and developed immunity or died from it that the infection fades away. That is about 60% to 70% of the population. Are we ready for that? The death count so far is over 116,000; penetration of infection into the US population of 330,000,000 is a wild guess. Mine is maybe 4%. 

Our bodies are not machines. We do not respond exactly the same way every day or even every hour of the day, but there are things we can do. Wearing facial coverings, imperfect as they are, masks if you can find them, is not just for preventing spread if you are infected. It is also to reduce the viral dose you receive if you are exposed to someone who is infected. 

We can’t see if there is virus floating toward us from someone coughing, sneezing or even just talking, but we can keep the facial covering on, keep our distance, keep our hands off our face and wash our hands before and after applying or touching any facial covering. It shouldn’t be too much to ask of ourselves. Countries where wearing masks is accepted normal culture shine in containment of infection. 

Anyone working in healthcare or who has multiple exposures to large numbers of people in enclosed spaced like workers in grocery stores, bus drivers, clerks, etc. needs to be in a properly fitted N95 respirator mask and those masks need to be fresh with a good seal, not reused for days on end. 

And last pay attention to that phone in your hands and next to your face. It is probably the most contaminated object in your possession. 

[2] Rate of Transmission (RT) is the number of people each infected person will infect. Any number greater than 1 is an infection that is expanding. The bigger the number the more people who are getting infected from a single person. When the Transmission Rate is under 1 that is infections that are declining. The http://91-divoc.com/pages/covid-visualization/ includes RT and offers multiple ways to look at incidence of infection, hospitalizations and deaths. Day to day (RT) can vary so looking at trends is better.
[5] https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/02/studies-profile-lung-changes-asymptomatic-covid-19-viral-loads-patient
[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/11/health/coronavirus-lung-transplant.html
[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/17/health/coronavirus-multisystem-fnflammatory-syndrome-children-teenagers.html
[10] https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/best-materials-make-diy-masks-virus/



Not Just About the Money

Becky O'Malley
Friday June 12, 2020 - 02:17:00 PM

One day last week I got an email from my neighbor across the street inviting me to join her and others in what she described as “a #blacklivesmatter #endwhitesilence ‘honk and wave’” at the nearest big intersection, the corner of Ashby and College. British-born, she’s a recently naturalized U.S. citizen, so this was her chance to exercise her newly-minted first amendment rights (and duties) in the company of friends.

Since at our house we’re older these days than we once were, we hadn’t joined any big marches as we might have done earlier in the last 60 years, so we appreciated the opportunity to speak out close to home. What’s been so remarkable about the actions all over the world this week in response to the death of George Floyd is how spontaneous they’ve been, with no apparent international central organization.

This one was BYO sign, but my neighbor, a skilled graphic artist, generously offered to make one for us. What should it say?

Well, Black Lives Matter, of course, but what about Ending White Silence? It’s true that my personal gene pool came from in Europe in the last millennium or so, and my skin is melanin-challenged, so I’m certainly White.

But I’m seldom considered silent on any topic. Here’s what came to me instead: Black Lives Matter to All of Us.  

What’s seemed different to me, as I watched a revolution being streamed as well as televised, is the huge representation of non-Black demonstrators, especially the young ones. It was not like this in the civil rights demonstrations in the 60s, perhaps with the exception of college towns like Ann Arbor and Berkeley.  

What I see, both in the media and when talking to the two generations behind mine, is that many ordinary people are just plain fed up with the racism that they see all around them. They genuinely appreciate everything that Afrocentric culture has contributed to their lives: music, fashion, sports, food, the whole nine yards. And even if they are White, they’re tired of seeing Black people abused.  

This phenomenon has caused understandable unease among Black people, particularly African-Americans. They fear that their White supporters (now politely called allies) might turn out to be, in the words of Thomas Paine, summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who will get going away from the fray in the winter when the going gets tough.  

A number of Black writers have expressed this concern in op-eds in the last week or so.  

Here’s the headline on a column by my favorite, Charles Blow, in the New York Times:  

Allies, Don’t Fail Us Again  

“Many white people have been moved by the current movement, but how will they respond when true equality threatens their privilege?”  

That’s a good question. But when I look at the spectrum of faces in the demonstrating crowds, and also at the faces around the Thanksgiving table at our house, I see a different answer from the one the inimitable Mr. Blow worries about.  

Many families like ours, especially in the United States but also in Europe and even in Asia, are already firmly multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-national (not all the same thing.) The hard line which once separated descendants of enslaved Africans and their European-descended allies is fading in the upcoming generations.  

Black Lives Matter to All of Us because they are all of us. That’s the future, and we celebrate it.  

But when the sins of the past are still perpetuated against our children and grandchildren because some of their ancestors were brought to this country in slavery, there’s work for all of us to do in the present.  

Where to start? The ultimate precipitating event has been the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. In the United States, the criminal justice establishment is the most visible and shocking manifestation of racism, in everything from policing to incarceration to capital punishment. The Floyd video supplied graphic evidence in every medium everywhere in the world.  

Police oppression of minority residents exists world-wide, especially of those with dark skins. A French friend of African descent, now a U.S. citizen, says that in Paris where he was raised he is continually stopped and searched by the police for no particular reason--he was once kept in jail for a weekend because he protested a raid on an African party in a public park. He prefers the United States, where he’s been stopped just a couple of times, because he firmly believes that police don’t have the legal right to do so, even though they still do it illegally.  

But our police can find plenty of quasi-legal excuses for harassing African-Americans. George Floyd was killed because he might or might have tried to pay for some cigarettes with a twenty-dollar bill which he might or might not have known to be counterfeit.  

The solution du jour is the demand that police be defunded. I agree with my old friend George Lakoff, the advocate of effective framing of political messages, on this one. He’s quoted in the Chronicle as saying” ‘defund the police’ is a terrible phrase.”  

It’s a terrible phrase because it’s endlessly subject to misinterpretation.  

It’s true that police forces consume huge percentages of the normal city budget. Policing is 44.5% of Berkeley’s fiscal year 2021 General Fund budget, as outrageous as that seems.  

But even worse than the expense, police officers now do a huge number of duties that they’re in no way trained or qualified for. They are asked to be social workers, mediators, psychologists and even medical providers when they’re dealing with addicts. They’re tempted to use force to solve these problems because that’s all they know how to do.  

Yes, the part of the police budgets that now pays them to perform these services should be redirected to professionals who are appropriately trained. If that’s what “defund” means, well and good, but unfortunately the average Joe (including Biden) takes it to mean that when you call 911 no one comes to help. It's supposed to mean that the right kind of help arrives, most often not armed.  

But now even the traditional “crime fighting” role of the police is done wrong much of the time. The problem is not just budgetary.  

At Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting, Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said, perhaps somewhat sarcastically, that if he wasn’t allowed to fire teargas canisters at demonstrators he’d just need to shoot them. That’s pathetic. 

He and police in general sorely need training in conflict avoidance and strategic retreat. The whole militaristic culture that infects police officers in this country must go. In the time that I've been working on the Planet, I've reported on all too many instances where Berkeley police have relied on a show of force when patient non-violence would have worked much better to solve a problem. 

Let’s ask Charles Blow to chime in again: 

“We will have to come to see and accept that this system of oppression has been actively, energetically designed and deployed over centuries, and it takes centuries of equally active and energetic efforts to dismantle it.” 

Exactly. Americans of African descent have been oppressed for 400 years. There’s no silver bullet for that, no easy two word slogan, as resonant as “Defund Police” sounds when chanted. 

Defining problems specifically should come before solutions are delineated. It will take a while for us to fix this mess, even if we can manage to work patiently together on complex long term solutions. 

But this week has shown that there’s a new will shared among many different kinds of people to get started with “active and energetic efforts”, and where there’s a will there’s a way. Recent polls show that Black lives do matter to almost all of us. All over the world this week, many of us have made it clear that we demand racial justice as well as peace, and the time is now.

Public Comment

New: Defunding the Police

Steve Martinot
Monday June 15, 2020 - 04:33:00 PM

For two weeks now, massive crowds have been in the streets of the US, marching to end police brutality, and demanding justice for the many people, mostly black, who have been killed by police in the last couple of weeks. The latest one, June 8, occurred in East Oakland in the wake of two weeks of demonstrations against precisely what happened – the CHP shot and killed the driver of a car. 

Not all victims are as famous as George Floyd. Most don’t get on youtube. But the cops all know about the outrage and opposition to police murdering people on the street. They are, most of them, involved in suppressing those demonstrations, starting violence against them so that the violence in retaliation to the police can be used to disparage the demonstrations. But since Floyd’s death, there have been people killed by cops in Vallejo, in San Francisco, and now in Oakland. Is it not that the cops are not listening. They just don’t care. 

One thing that is new, however, is that the cop who killed Floyd was fired, and not just put on paid administrative leave. And then he was charged with second degree murder, along with his accomplices who held Floyd down while his life was taken from him. Can we breathe a sigh of relief, that finally we have a city government that rises above that oxymoronic phenomenon of the forces of public safety killing those they are sworn to protect? 

Floyd’s murder, and the other cases of police brutality that have gone on for two weeks, have become an international issue. There have been demonstrations in places like England, France, and Germany. In the US, demonstrations have been daily in every state, and in over 140 cities. That is how widespread opposition to police brutality and its murderousness has become. Some cops have even given respect and recognition to the demonstrators by joining their marches or “taking a knee” at the side of the crowd. That kind of gesture is hard to respect because it is an admission that these cops were powerless to stop the brutality-ethic inside their own department. One has to ask, since they are "police," what has made them so powerless? 

At the center of this upheaval, there is now a loud call to "defund the police." It has become so unignorable that 9 members of the City Council of Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, have made public their support for "dismantling" the police department. In metaphoric terms, it says that, since the police don’t listen to the people, pull the rug out from under them. Since the brutality continues, this reveals a true sense of justice. It is significant that these councilmembers think in terms of a super-majority. It means they recognize the possible need to defeat the Mayor’s expected veto. (Is the Mayor pro-police? Does that mean he is okay with burying their dead victims?) 

For the Minneapolis City Council, "dismantling" the police does not mean just cutting their appropriations tomorrow, and sending them home. It means initiating and fulfilling a long process (they envision a year) of conversation with the communities and neighborhoods of the city to figure out how to construct an alternative agency that will actually serve and uphold the safety and well-being of the people of the city. In other words, it won’t be another agency imposed by political power from above, but something evolved out of dialogue by the people themselves, facing the need to replace what does not serve them. At least, that is what is proposed. Spoiler Alert below. But it is absolutely real that the necessary purpose must be to involve those communities and neighborhoods in participation. It must go beyond just being input, or “public comment,” such as we find so familiar here. In Minneapolis, it is envisioned as actual participation in figuring out how to replace the police with a new structure that will serve the people. 

If it succeeds, it will amount to a significant change in power. Will that make it a revolution? No, since no group has a perspective of actually seizing political power. But this last two weeks have been recognized as a turning point in dealing with these issues. And "revolve" means to turn. The greater significance for the Minneapolis City Council is the fact that they understand the necessity to go slowly on this, and be both intelligent and democratic. 

This is a process that has been emerging in the thoughts of social justice movements against police brutality for years. What the Black Lives Matter movement has brought to a head now is the racialized nature of police brutality and murderousness, the endlessly racialized nature of what "matters." It is the inseparability of the white supremacy of the US from that endless racialization and re-racialization – built upon its original dependence on enslavement, an then upon the alternate form of subjugation of people of color instituted (Jim Crow) when enslavement was abolished. 

That earlier dependence has today become the adamance of police refusal to give up the power to shoot people of color. Even after massive demonstrations bring about murder charges against the Minneapolis cops who killed Floyd, other people of color are being shot by cops – Tony McDade, Sean Monterrosa, Erik Salgado. 

Defunding the police is not just a question of taking away money, and therefore hours, and therefore also bullets (rubber and otherwise) from the police. What defunding the police means is disempowering a cultural structure that should have long ago been dismantled, the structure of racialization in the US. Today, it has three sources of power upon which it not only stands but rebuilds itself after (and against the gains of) the civil rights movements: the police, the prison-industrial complex, and the two party system. 

The Two Party System?? Think back, who among the 20 candidates running for the nomination in the Democratic Party had to drop out of that race first? Everyone knew that Trump had to be deposed for his white nationalism and his misogyny and his gangsterish style of dispensing with thought. Now, in the wake of Biden clinching the nomination, black people throughout the country are talking about the necessity for a black political party, and a black-latinx alliance. 

The police, as a cultural institution, have brought misery to uncountable families, to whole communities (mostly of color) by killing and massively incarcerating people. To dismantle the police through defunding them is not to reform an agency of government but to transform a cultural structure. And what this last two weeks has shown the world is that the structure of racialization that the police compose marks a dimension of criminality at the core of governmental officialdom. 

The movement of people speaking together about how to change this cultural structure, and beginning to conceive of the steps necessary to build a replacement for it, is a profoundly pro-democratic movement. It will be (hopefully) a process of people discovering an alternate cultural structure that will be humane and democratic. The steps proposed by the Minneapolis City Council are focused on going to the neighborhoods and the communities and initiating talks and dialogue on how to do this. The idea is to replace policing standards that are imposed by power and an elite from on top (and by the police themselves) with standards of peace and respect for the sacredness of human life and human being that can only come from the people themselves. 

How will this process of dismantling the police begin? What will "defunding" the police entail? 

While this extended process of evolving and inventing a humane alternative, there are certain aspects of the situation that we are given that can be rectified immediately. There are areas of social life in which the police don’t belong. These areas can be removed from their control right now. 

For people whose mental health has been infringed in some way, and who go through severe episodes of emotional upset or trauma, the police should not be the ones responding. They are not trained to treat people gently or with human compassion. Others who are so trained in mediation and therapy should be the ones to respond. Militarized personnel only know how to come waving guns and giving commands that are irrelevant to the situation. It is the mentally ill and traumatized people who bear the brunt of police torture techniques (“in the interest of obedience”). This issue is specifically relevant to the Bay Area, and Berkeley in particular, since the killing by command and asphyxiation of Kayla Moore by the Berkeley police still has not been recognized as murder. 

Police in the schools can be defunded. Schools don’t need police to arrest, handcuff, and brutalize students (think of that 10 year old taken away recently in handcuffs). Education does not fair well under threat from fearful presences. Schools need to be other than disciplinary institutions. Guns don’t teach people how to think critically or knowledgeably. What they do is prevent us from thinking clearly and critically about how to get rid of them, and build a peaceful culture for ourselves. 

The homeless need services just like the housed residents of a city need them. But they are confronted with the police rather than with care and facilities that would advance their ability to survive. From the police, they do not get recognition of social membership. And the city uses the police in order to avoid providing the trash pickup, the housing advocates, the toilets, the health care and trauma counselors, and the protection against the elements and pandemics into which the homeless have been thrown by economic greed (high rent and low wages). The encampments provide the needed community that unhoused people depend on for survival on the street. The only thing the police know to do about the encampments is trash them (unconstitutionally). So a third function of policing that can be defunded immediately is their enforcement of harassment rules against homeless people. Sending the police waving guns or pepper spray is only to engage in criminal activity against harmless people. 

There is another arena of police activity for which defunding might save a lot of grief and hardship, that dealing with domestic disputes, or drug overdoses, or a host of other personal conflicts that the stresses of society produce through its refusal to take responsibility for the welfare of its residents. People who are on the edge of the abyss (low wages, greedy landlords, pest-ridden buildings, self-medications, etc.) don’t need cops arriving and waving guns. They need ombudsmen and ombudswomen to act as mediators and de-escalators and advocates. 

"Defunding" the police means taking some of their money and giving it to institutions that are professionally trained to deal with these sectors of the population that have been pushed to the edge in a humane and caring way. It is something that can occur right away. These are all areas of contemporary society where the police can be defunded while the communities and neighborhoods sit down with each other and work out a replacement that will be focused on people’s well-being, safety, and freedom from fear. 

Mayor DeBlasio in NYC has put forth his own mini-version of the defunding idea. He will take a chunk of the funds budgeted for the police and use it for services for the homeless and against evictions. A variety of Newyorkers involved in the demos who have appeared on Democracy Now have essentially said with respect to DeBlasio, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” 

The city council in Minneapolis is saying is that they have 9 votes, which is enough to outvote the mayor’s expected veto. The worldwide expression of outrage against police brutality however is also a call to get rid of political leaders who wish to suppress these demonstrations and who support beating up homeless and mentally ill people. 

Spoiler Alert: As inspiring as this seems to me, I can’t help being a bit sanguine about it. I think it possible that the police reaction in opposition to this kind of movement will be enormous. It occurs to me that, as this defunding process moves forward, suddenly our communities will find themselves oddly flooded with drugs, drug trafficking, and a rise of petty crime by poor people getting more strung out than before (possibly followed by not-so-petty crime). And the cops will then say, “you see, you need us.” We have seen that before, during the 70s and 80s. Gary Webb reveals its inner dynamic in his book, Dark Alliance. John McCoy has unveiled the connection between the CIA and heroin. Peter Dale Scott has written endlessly on the police and drug trafficking. 

When the forces of “law and order“ play with illegal activity for political purposes, it is not for justice but for political power that it occurs. The mass incarceration campaigns begun in the 1980s, which produced the largest prison system in the world, could not have happened if the police had not adopted it. Though trumpeted as a "war on drugs," drug trafficking only increased. Today, some 70% of the prisoners are in for victimless crimes. And only about 5% are actually in prison for violent crimes. Nevertheless, there is a publicity campaign to create the impression that 100% of the prisoners were violent criminals. Well over half the prisoners in the US are people of color. 

The prison system is another pillar of the structure of racialization. Defunding the police will only be part of the job. 


The Unemployment Issue: The Good News Is Really Bad News

Harry Brill
Friday June 12, 2020 - 02:06:00 PM

Probably most of you are aware that the unemployment rate reported monthly by the Department of Labor (DOL) appreciably understates the actual unemployment rate. But what we have recently learned is especially astonishing.

The good news reported by the DOL to the mass media is that the workforce gained 2.5 million jobs in May. That’s because the official unemployment rate presumably declined from 14.7 percent in April to 13.3 percent in May. However, some insider leaked to the media what really occurred. Actually, the May unemployment rate had not decreased. Instead, it increased by 3 percent, 

So the real rate in May, then, was not 13.3 but 16.3 percent. So rather than the labor force increasing by over 2 million, more than 2 million jobs were lost. Because the evidence was irrefutable, the DOL has been forced to acknowledge its “mistake”. 

The agency, however, claimed that the miscount was only an error, which it called a “misclassification error”. But it is highly unlikely that the agency mistakenly miscounted as employed 4.9 million unemployed workers in May. 

Among the so called mistakes were unemployed workers caring for a child, taking a vacation, and serving one morning on jury duty. It is quite a jump classifying these worker as gainfully employed. The DOL admitted that for the last two months it was aware of the problems. Nevertheless, the agency did not take the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments. 

About the so called new jobs created in May, a substantial number, 40 percent, are part-time. These jobs are low paying-- averaging about 30 percent less than full-time jobs-- and rarely provide benefits. 

But even more troublesome from a labor market perspective is how these jobs are being created. It is not only that among the new jobs reported are also these marginal positions. Actually, what has been occurring more frequently, are employers converting their full time jobs into part-time work. In other words, each full time job becomes at least two part-time jobs. So the growth in the size of the labor force increases considerably. It looks good. But statistically speaking, no additional value has been added. 

The DOL management owes both the public and the thousands of its hardworking and dedicated employees a commitment to doing an honest job.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Chaos

Carol Denney
Saturday June 13, 2020 - 11:47:00 AM

If you're paying attention you know that it is currently mandatory to wear a mask if you're going to or are attending a protest in the City of Berkeley, and that it is also, simultaneously, illegal to wear a mask if you're going to or attending a protest in the City of Berkeley.

Mother Jones magazine remarked on 2017's mask prohibition: "Last month in famously liberal Berkeley, California, where right-wingers have been planning rallies that seem intended to stir up raucous counter-protests—and which have drawn hundreds of masked opponents—city leaders passed an ordinance allowing the city manager to set ground rules as to what kinds of items cannot be worn or carried into protest areas. Masks and other face coverings have been banned at every local demonstration since."

The Berkeley City Manager and mayor appear to have forgotten the mask prohibition in all their coronavirus pandemic pronouncements, so I sent an inquiry their way. The City Manager sent back this reply, saying "the current health order is a mandatory order. We are requiring that face masks or coverings be worn under this order. The health order supersedes the below prohibition as we are in a pandemic." 

This joins the wealth of flatly contradictory health guidelines characteristic of our shared pandemic moment. If you wear a mask to a protest, well, good luck. And if you don't wear a mask to a protest, well...good luck. This is yet another clue to the real police accountability issues which almost never rise to the dignity of notice, let alone discussion, all of which have one thing in common; they were never about public safety.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump’s Three Bets

Bob Burnett
Friday June 12, 2020 - 02:02:00 PM

On June 6th, Joe Biden officially won the Democratic nomination for President. There's a stark contrast between the style and policies of Biden and the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. At the moment, Trump is the underdog; however, we all remember what happened in 2016. Trump is planning another come-from-behind victory; he's betting that his positions on three national problems will swing the election odds in his favor.

The current Real Clear Politics polling average shows Joe Biden with an eight-point lead over Donald Trump (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2020/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_biden-6247.html) Most of the swing-state polls also show Biden with a lead; for example, in Pennsylvania, Biden has a 3 point edge over Trump.

The Trump campaign is betting that, over the next 140+ days, Donald's contrarian positions on three national problems will favor his candidacy: 1. Nothing will come of the death of George Floyd and the associated protests. 2. The pandemic will fade away. 3. The U.S. economy will bounce back from recession -- there will be a "V-shaped" recovery. 

1. The death of George Floyd and the national protests for racial justice. After the horrendous death of George Floyd, some hoped that Donald Trump might change his tone and step forward as a unifier: make an appeal for racial justice and an end to police brutality. Trump has chosen not to do this. 

On June 1st, Trump ordered the police and national guard to break up a peaceful demonstration outside the White House in Lafayette Park. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/06/08/timeline-trump-church-photo-op/? ) Since then Donald has adopted a hardline position: the protestors are terrorists, the police require unwavering support, and "systemic racism" is a myth. He's running as "the law and order President" and assumes that his base, and undecided voters, will buy this stance. 

Trump's inflexible attitude means that whatever racial-justice legislation passes the House, it will probably die in the Republican-controlled Senate because Trump, and his crony Mitch McConnell, won't approve of any changes to the status quo. 

By taking this position, Trump and the Republican Party are misreading public sentiment. The death of George Floyd, the wave of videos of police brutality, and the enormous protests indicate the American psyche has reached a tipping point: white voters are ready to tackle systemic racism. The New York Times reports (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/us/politics/polling-george-floyd-protests-racism.html): 


"In a Monmouth poll released this week, 76 percent of Americans — including 71 percent of white people — called racism and discrimination 'a big problem' in the United States. That’s a 26-percentage-point spike since 2015. In the poll, 57 percent of Americans said demonstrators’ anger was fully justified, and another 21 percent called it somewhat justified."  

Prediction: Trump will lose his bet that the American voters don't want significant changes to promote racial justice. 

2. The COVID-19 pandemic. Here in California, we've been operating under the coronavirus "shelter-in-place" order since March 17th. When will things be back to normal? Some would say, "Not until there's a COVID-19 vaccine. Later this year or next." 

Donald Trump mismanaged the US handling of the coronavirus and, now, desperately wants the pandemic to go away. Late in March, Donald tweeted: "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF." Recently Trump suggested that "shelter-in-place" policies were more harmful than COVID-19. On May 14, Trump remarked that Coronavirus testing is "overrated," adding "When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing we would have very few cases.” (https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/497846-trump-says-testing-may-be-frankly-overrated

Writing in the Medium ( https://medium.com/@ASlavitt/the-economy-will-not-open-up-without-a-credible-plan-to-address-the-public-health-crisis-28eac8d5a425), former Obama-era Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA head, Andy Slavitt observed: "[The U.S.] had a [pandemic] strategy. Trump gave it a few weeks and then decided 'liberate!' Basically, he’s a quitter." Donald Trump has turned his back on the pandemic and is now solely focused on opening the economy. 

Nonetheless, the problem persists. As of this writing, more than 2 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 -- those that we know about -- and more than 110 thousand have died. The U.S. has reached a plateau and is adding 21,000 cases each day. California has had an uptick in new cases and is adding 3000 cases per day -- mostly in Los Angeles County. 

In his most recent interview ( https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/health/fauci-vaccines-coronavirus.html), Dr. Anthony Fauci said the pandemic is far from over: "Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of really understanding.” 

Prediction: Trump will lose his bet that the COVID-19 pandemic will suddenly disappear. 

3. The economy. Although the United States is officially in a recession, the stock market apparently believes the financial anguish will be of short duration. Donald Trump hopes this is the case. On June 5th, the national unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent. Trump hailed this as "the greatest comeback in American history." Adding, "This leads us on to a long period of growth. We’ll go back to having the greatest economy anywhere in the world." 

Writing in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/08/trump-is-running-economy-without-plan-rebuild-it/? ), Catherine Rampell took issue with Trump's enthusiastic outlook: 

"All net U.S. job gains since 2011 have been wiped out [by this recession]. The unemployment rate remains higher than it was at any point during the Great Recession, and millions of people who have jobs still can’t secure enough hours. Once we adjust for such underemployment, people who want to work but have given up looking and a persistent worker misclassification issue that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has struggled to solve, it becomes clear that about a quarter of all Americans who wanted to work last month couldn’t find sufficient work" 

The Public Policy Institute of California (https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/ppic-statewide-survey-californians-and-their-government-may-2020.pdf ) describes a more dire situation for California: "More than one-third of adults (35%) report that they or someone in their household have been laid off or lost their job due to the coronavirus outbreak, and half (51%) report someone in their house having work hours reduced or pay cut." [Emphasis added] 

On June 10th, Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, gave a sombre assessment of the economy (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/business/economy/federal-reserve-rates-unemployment.html?). He said, "millions of people could remain out of work for an extended period as central bank officials estimated unemployment will be at 9.3 percent by the end of 2020. 'This is the biggest economic shock, in the U.S. and the world, really, in living memory.'" 

Prediction: Trump will lose his bet that the US economy will quickly recover. 

Summary: The economy has been the centerpiece of Trump's presidency, but now it is in the tank. Donald can't brag about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, because he's done a terrible job -- shown no leadership. 

As the summer drags on, Trump's shortcomings will become more apparent and his poll numbers will fall. As Donald gets desperate he'll double down on his claim to be "the law and order President." Expect more racism and calls for violence. 

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


ECLECTIC RANT:A Recession, Protests & a Pandemic: Trying to Reconcile the Irreconcilable

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday June 13, 2020 - 11:59:00 AM

On May 8, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom started reopening the California economy. On May 25, after the Memorial Day weekend, California had its highest one-day total of 2,565 new positive COVID-19 cases. There were similar spikes in many other states due to re-openings and the disregard of social distancing and wearing of masks over the long holiday weekend.

In addition, there are now continuing nationwide protests of George Floyd’s in-custody death by Minneapolis police, where masks are not always worn and social distancing is not always observed. It takes up to fourteen days after exposure to the virus for respiratory symptoms to appear. Soon then, California and other states can expect more significant spikes of infections as a result of the protests. 

According to a University of California, Berkeley study such preventive measures as shelter-in-place orders and social distancing saved 500 million lives from COVID-19 infections in the six states studied — including 60 million in the U.S. 

And according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers, if the U.S. had enacted social-distancing measures a week earlier than it did — in early March rather than mid-March — about 36,000 fewer Americans would have died. If enacted two weeks earlier, 54,000 fewer Americans would have died of the illness. So yes, such preventive measures do work. 

The University of Washington model projects 145,000 deaths from COVID-19 by August 2020. Now that we are loosening these preventive restriction or just ignoring them, what will the death rate be before a vaccine is discovered and administered — 250,000? 500,000? 

Under present federal leadership, or lack thereof, we may not be able to adequately address a recession with a May unemployment rate of 13.3%; nationwide protests; and a COVID-19 pandemic with 2.0+ million cases and 115,000+ deaths in the U.S. With abundant evidence to the contrary, Trump has declared, “we are largely through” the pandemic, and he is leading the charge for a large-scale reopening of the economy. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the other hand, warned that the pandemic is far from over. Dr. Fauci is an expert worried about the public’s health whereas Trump is worried about his reelection. 

COVID-19 doesn’t care about George Floyd’s death or our shattered economy. The virus is gonna do what viruses do. Because there seems to be little or no interest in new shelter-in-place orders, I suspect we will stumble along as we are now until there is a vaccine — probably sometime in 2021 or even later. We won’t have a second wave of COVID-19; we will just have a continued initial wave until then. 

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday June 12, 2020 - 02:09:00 PM

And Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

In these troubled times, KCBS has been broadcasting the following uplifting media meme: "We're not afraid to look backward to move forward."

(Warning: Don't apply this advice when you're out jogging.)

SWAT the People

There are too far many TV shows that glorify police violence, intelligence investigator interrogations, and soldiers fighting people-of-color/"terrorists" in far-off countries. (At the core of these testosterone-fueled fantasies you can find a common message that is shared with TV shows featuring doctors, hospitals, and firefighters. The message: viewers must live in constant fear of sudden death—from some random attack or disease—and your only security lies in submitting to and trusting "the authorities.")

Given the current state of alarm over police violence, it's no surprise that Paramount Television recently canceled “Cops,” a wildly popular reality show that aired for 33 seasons. Civil rights groups had repeatedly faulted the show for it's negative portrayal of African-Americans and other people-of-color.

So, with Paramount's prized Blue Tribute de-cop-itated, what does that leave on TV? A quick survey of our local networks reveals the two broadcasters with the most violent content.

The most violent displays of fist-fights and gunfire can be found on channel 5/KPIX, which airs: Survivor, SEAL Team, SWAT, NCIS: LA, NCIS New Orleans, NCIS, FBI, FBI Most Wanted, Hawaii 50, and Blue Bloods. (Six, a violent legacy series based on the Pentagon's Seal Team 6, debuted on the History channel in 2016.) 

The runner-up appears to be Channel 11/NBC with: Sheriffs, Law & Order, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and WWE Smackdown

Switch the Channel 

The universe of streaming video is also rife with cop strife. The activist group, Color of Change (CoC), recently declared: "It’s time for Netflix to remove all cop shows from the streaming platform." 

In January, CoC called out Netflix for promoting “Border Security: America's Front Line,” a reality show "that glorifies border patrol agents." 

CoC has posted a petition calling on Netflix to "take a strong stand against police violence" by removing "all cop shows from its platform.

CoC pointed to Live PD, Cops, and Law & Order: SVU, as shows that "heroize police" at the same time real-life police are "out in the streets of cities and towns across America right now, tear-gassing Black people and beating protestors until they bleed." 

Pushy Cops and Bleeding Victims 

The flood of videos showing demonstrators falling to the ground after being suddenly shoved by police officers suggests that our urban "peacekeepers" are being trained to deliver unexpected blows intended to knock people off their feet. 

Among the victims who were violently "sucker-shoved" by cops are Dounya Zayer, a 20-year-old woman who suffered a concussion after being decked by a Brooklyn Blueshirt and 75-year-old Martin Gugino who was shoved off his feet and left lying unconscious and bleeding in the street—ignored by the officers who attacked him. Gugino is a long-time peace activist and (ironically) a member of Witness Against Torture. He is currently hospitalized. Get-well cards can be sent to him at: Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Room 2206, 1540 Maple Road, Buffalo, NY 14221. 

Muhamad Ali: "Why Is Everything White?" 

In 1971, boxing legend Muhammad Ali explained on the BBC how he used to ask his mother about white representation in American culture. 


Another quandary that might be pondered: Why was George Floyd's body taken to the cemetery in a white hearse pulled by two white horses? Also, why do church choirs, pastors, and the Pope favor white gowns? 

In Case You Missed It 

On June 7, in newspapers across the country, the Sunday Comics featured a hidden salute to hospital workers forced to deal with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Readers of the Chronicle might have missed this salute entirely had it not been for cartoonist Mark ("Lio") Tatulli, who included a note from the National Cartoonists Society in his strip. It read: "Dear Comic Strip Character. In honor of our first responders, health workers, medical researchers, grocery workers, essential drivers and deliverers, teachers, restaurant workers, and businesses that have stayed open . . . we ask that you ADD THE ENCLOSED SYMBOLS to your comic strip as a small way of saying THANK YOU and acknowledging their tireless work and dedication to all of us." 

The symbols included: a facemask, a shopping cart, a microscope, a fork, a steering wheel, an apple and a mail carrier. A search of the Chron's comics section revealed six other strips that joined in the salute: Baby Blues, Curtis, Family Circus, Foxtrot, Luann, and Rhymes With Orange (very subtle!). 

(Blondie missed a chance to score when Dagwood Bumstead failed to dash out the front door and collide with his postman.) 

Ron Reagan: "Not Afraid of Burning in Hell" 

I did a double-take when I heard the ad on the radio. "I'm Ron Reagan. A lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell." 

Was this really "Skipper," the son of the Gipper, the 40th president of the USA? The kid who dropped out of Yale to become a ballet dancer—with the Joffrey Ballet, no less? 

It's true. In 2014, the younger Reagan recorded a 30-second radio spot for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a 32,000-member group that lobbies for the separation of church and state. Ron Reagan's ad was basically banned from the airwaves for most of the past six years but it sprang to prominence when it was briefly broadcast during the 2020 presidential debates. 

In April, Capital Journal columnist George Skelton interviewed Reagan to learn how the son of "The Great Communicator" became "The Great Excommunicator." Here's some of what Ron Jr. had to say: 

“I was 10 years old or so when I concluded that the [Bible] story told to children had little more validity than stories about Santa Claus, another white guy who knows what you’re thinking and can punish you. 

“If he’s sufficiently displeased with what you’re doing, he will send you to a dark corner for eternity while your family goes to a nice place. It doesn’t take a budding Einstein to realize there are some problems with this.” 

Ron Junior was particularly troubled to hear the tale of God ordering Abraham to murder his son. 

“What kind of thing is that for a little kid to hear? God wants Abraham to prove his faith by slaughtering his son Isaac like a spring lamb? Are you kidding? Kill your child? Abraham went along with this. The proper reply would have been, ‘Go to hell.’" 

“I know the angel intervened, so it didn’t really happen," Reagan conceded, "but think of the psychological damage” inflicted on Issac. 

According to Reagan, when the FFRF's 30-second ad was being taped, it kept running short by three seconds. So Reagan ad-libbed the closing line about "burning in hell." It turned out to be a masterstroke that has granted the spot a shot at immortality. 


Trump Sides with the Heroes of the Confederacy 

Recently, the Marines Corp officially called for the removal of all Confederate symbols and flags from its facilities, and the Navy has ordered Confederate flags to be stripped from its battleships and submarines (who knew Confederate flags were being displayed in subs?!). Now VoteVets is calling on the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard to follow suit. 

You thought statues of Confederate generals were an abomination? How about the fact that ten US military bases were named in honor of Confederate generals? VoteVets is petitioning the Pentagon to rename the following bases: Camp Beauregard, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Fort Gordon, Fort A. P. Hill, Fort Hood, Fort Lee, Fort Pickett, Fort Polk, and Fort Rucker. 

In response, Donald "Cadet Bone Spurs" Trump has stepped up to tweet that he will never allow the Pentagon to strip the names of these hallowed pro-slavery renegades from America's military outposts. 

Trump's Bible-op Blunder 

It was a blame game worthy of a Superbowl of Shame: I'm referring, of course, to the frenzy of finger-pointing over who was responsible for Donald Trump's deplorable posturing with a borrowed bible on the steps of the St. John's Episcopal Church. Trump's vanity parade required an armed assault on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights near Lafayette Square. After the pepper spray and smoke grenades cleared, White House officials rushed to inform the media that it was Attorney General Bill Barr who gave the attack order and that "Mr. Trump had no knowledge of the security arrangements for his walk." 

Barr quickly denied that he gave any orders to tear-gas American citizens to expedite the president’s walk to St. John’s. Barr called the charge a “canard.” As the New York Times reported (with a delightful dose of snark): "Barr would not say whether it was a good idea for Mr. Trump to have a photograph taken in front of the church holding up a Bible brought by his daughter in her $1,540 MaxMara bag with a group of all white officials in the middle of protests about systemic racism." 

Defense Secretary Mike Esper also changed his story from "I did know that following the president's remarks on Monday evening that many of us were going to join President Trump and review the damage in Lafayette Park and at St John's Episcopal Church" to "I didn't know where I was going." 

And, on June 11, the country’s top military official, Gen. Mark A. Milley, apologized for donning combat camouflage to join Trump’s vanity stroll across the battlefield of Lafayette Square. 


Bunkergate: Lights Out at the White House 

More chinks have opened in Trump's "iron-clad" refutation that he only disappeared into the White House bunker for a brief "inspection" tour during the day on May 29. Trump denied a New York Times report that the Secret Service had hustled him off to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center "for nearly an hour" while protests and fires flared nearby. 

As the New York Times subsequently reported: Attorney General William Barr's account "stood in direct contrast to the version that the president offered last week when he suggested he had merely been looking the place over." 

During the evening of May 31, while an extended exchange of fireworks and teargas raged nearby, the White House went black. As the New York Times reported: "The White House went dark, turning off almost all of its external lights, as protesters set fires nearby." A frantic sign of alarm? Nope, administration officials responded. They claimed that all the building's lights—external and internal—were "regularly" turned off at 11PM. 

Meanwhile, what was happening inside the White House? Earlier in the day, Trump had been busy tweeting and, thanks to the Trump Twitter Archive, we can quickly review each and every one of his unhinged presidential tweets. 

At 7:20 PM, on May 31, Trump thumbed the following: "The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!" 

And then a strange thing happened. Trump's tweet-feed inexplicably went dark for 12 hours. 

His next message did not appear until 7:20 the next morning. It read: “I don’t see any indication that there were any white supremest [SIC] groups mixing in. This is an ANTIFA Organization. It seems that the first time we saw it in a major way was Occupy Wall Street. It’s the same mindset.” @kilmeade @foxandfriends TRUE! 

Trump, an apparent insomniac, is notorious for launching tweet-strikes during late-night and pre-dawn hours. 

Why was he silent during the hours that the White House lights went dark? Did the Secret Service usher him into the buried bunker once again or was the Commander-on-Chief trapped inside an unlit White House where he found it impossible to tweet by candlelight? 

(An unexpected anomaly: According to FactCheck.org (a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania), while there were many photos of the darkened White House, the most widely circulated photo of the unlit edifice turned out to be an image taken in 2014.) 



Chris Hayes and Sarah Cooper 'Perform' Trump

Sometimes the best way to expose Donald Trump's propensity for failure disguised as bravado is simply to quote him. Here are two videos in which a TV commentator and a stand-up comic do just that. 





100 Years of Radio? Make that 111 Years! 

Last month, CBS News Radio and the National Press Club partnered to produce “Celebrating a Century of Sound,” a 10-part series marking the role radio has played in the lives of Americans for the past 100 years. The series was anchored by CBS News correspondent Sam Litzinger. In addition to 10 one-minute chapters, the package included a mini-documentary chronicling the history of radio "from crystal sets to digital platforms, and from soap operas and symphonies to rock-n-roll, all-news, talk and sports radio." 

In a press release, CBS News Radio Vice President and General Manager Craig Swagler boasted that “our CBS stations have also been there from the start, inventing many of the formats we know and love, while also creating our successful path forward into the 21st century.” 

Michael Freedman (President of the National Press Club and former General Manager of CBS Radio Network) has rhapsodized that radio is nothing less than “an art form, painting pictures for the mind’s eye. It is a world of information and entertainment, a lifelong companion and a trusted friend. It is part of the fabric of America and, indeed, represents the sound of our lives.” 

But when a reporter with KCBS radio in San Francisco interviewed Friedman, she challenged him for falsely attributing the country's first radio broadcasts to KDKA in Pittsburgh and WWJ in Detroit — which both began broadcasting in 1920. 

No sir, she insisted: broadcast radio was born right here in the Bay Area, in San Jose. And 'way back in 1909. 

As the Bay Area Radio Museum explains: 

"A great milestone in the history of broadcasting occurred in San Jose on January 1, 1909. That date marked the opening of an obscure engineering and wireless school. Its proprietor, Dr. Charles David Herrold, would be recognized by many, decades after his death, to have been the 'father of broadcasting.' 

"He would discuss news items and read clippings from the newspaper, or play records from his phonograph. This got to be a more and more important part of the school’s operations, and regular programs were heard from the station as early as 1910." 



Dr. Herrold's pioneering station first went on-air using the call letters KQW. The station began regularly scheduled broadcasts in 1912. It became KCBS in 1945 when it was purchased by CBS. To listen to “The Story Of KQW” click here

Chuck It to Him 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently sent out a campaign fundraising letter that contained a surprise enclosure—an April 2 letter from Donald Trump written on White House stationary. 

The two-page letter (reproduced in full in Schumer's mailing) reveals that Trump (perhaps with the help of aides) may actually be able to compose a letter longer than the combined text of three Tweets. It also confirms that Trump's demeaning demeanor can survive on the printed pages as well as in the twittered Tweet. 

Some outtakes: 

"Thank you for your Democratic public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way…." [A letter containing "sound bites"?] 

"If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers) … the New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the 'invisible enemy.'" [Here Trump appears to blame Schumer for failing to be prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic!] 

And finally: "I've known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became President." 

Savor this thought: Picture the moment when Trump discovered that Schumer is using this White House diss-note as part of the Democrat's fund-raising pitch! 

Arts & Events

BOOK REVIEW: Berkeley Noir

Steven Finacom
Saturday June 13, 2020 - 12:13:00 PM

The astonishing and ever-changing events of the first half of 2020—the COVID-19 pandemic and attendant economic collapse, the rapid resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the debate over the direction of policing and racial relations, the twists and turns of politics as we approach both a momentous and fraught national election—all of these events will ultimately produce not just history but powerful, and probably disturbing, fiction.

If you want to get a head start on dark reading about our times during “shelter in place”, there’s a new book out filled with mystery and noir fiction set in contemporary Berkeley. Berkeley Noir is an anthology edited by Jerry Thompson and Owen Hill and the latest work of fiction set in Berkeley in a long and distinguished literary history that goes back to the 19th century

Although it appears there were some advance readings in 2019 the book was published in 2020 and the introduction is dated February, 2020. I found online mention of some scheduled publicity events and readings that were cancelled after the COVID-19 crisis and “shelter in place” began.

The “Noir Anthology” series is published by Akashic Books, based in Brooklyn, and there have been dozens of books, each focused on dark doings in a specific city or region. There are already San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz Noir anthologies. 

At first consideration one might wonder if Berkeley has enough of a seedy underbelly to produce credible settings and stories for such an anthology? The writing proves it does. Most of the stories are very short and a quick read. Susan Dunlap’s is the longest, but still under 30 pages despite cramming in a murder in front of Peet’s Coffee, crime scene investigation, and somewhat accidental identification of the killer. 

The protagonists and storytellers include police, career criminals, a high school student, runaways, and mostly just ordinary folks, most of them down on their luck or making the worst choice from a series of unpalatable options. Some are trying to do right but end up in serious trouble. One narrator is a rat—not a metaphorical conman, in this case, but a genuine four footed rodent with a fear of heights. 

There are lots of characters who are not as they seem or who hide dark secrets, including fictional law enforcement officials, a UC graduate student, an administrator at Berkeley High School, fisherfolk on the Berkeley Pier, and some fictionalized UC professors. A number of murders occur, or are alluded to, but a couple of the most compelling and interesting stories don’t directly involve crime. 

The settings include brown shingle houses in the hills, Telegraph Avenue (of course), Willard Park, the Berkeley Marina, Berkeley High School, the Berkeley Central Library (where you DON’T want to arrive early, if the story is any guide), Mortar Rock Park, and a gentrifying West Berkeley neighborhood where a tech tycoon is the newest resident. There is one tautly narrated account of a night time storm weather sail on San Francisco Bay. 

Noir is an appropriate title. These are not upbeat stories. There is considerable irony but little light humor. Few, if any, of the characters emerge in a good place, even if they are alive at the end. 

A couple of the stories have occult or a-cult overtones but most draw their inspiration from ordinary human behavior and misbehavior. 

I’m not conversant enough with contemporary mystery authors to recognize most of those in this anthology, but some names are familiar, including experienced writers Susan Dunlap, Barry Gifford, and Owen Hill. (The prolific Dunlap, in particular, has used Berkeley as a setting for many of her crime novels.) 

Like almost all books published about Berkeley, this one has a couple of vexing editing flaws. The location map for the scenes of the crimes at the beginning of the book places the Berkeley yacht harbor in Emeryville and “Oceanview" in Oakland’s Rockridge (how did THAT happen?). 

There are some annoying misstatements such as street names (“Ashby Street”, “Bancroft Street”) and a few improbabilities. For example, someone being closely pursued by police during daylight across the Berkeley Marina is unlikely to be able to slip undetected on foot all the way back to San Pablo Avenue. But these are very minor issues within a basically solid work. 

You can get copies directly from the publisher’s website—akashicbooks.com, or contact your favorite local bookstore, or get a copy, as I did, on Ebay. The publisher’s website has the price at $11.96, reduced from $15.95.

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, June 14-21

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday June 13, 2020 - 11:45:00 AM

Worth Noting:

The City libraries are still closed, Book-drops are open check link for services and answers to common questions https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/coronavirus

Monday – Agenda Committee 2:30 pm includes major proposals for the June 30 Regular City Council meeting item 26 from Cheryl Davila (author) and Ben Bartlett Declaration of Racism as a Public Emergency with actions, 29. From Droste,(author) Robinson and Kesarwani to reorganize the boards and commissions under City Departments and dissolve and/or combine so final number is greatly reduced

Monday and Wednesday - Police Review Commission Use of Force Subcommittee 5:30 pm

Tuesday City Council starts at 2:30 pm budget, 5 pm Closed session, 6 pm Regular Session. The items carried over from June 9 are listed as A. – E.

Thursday – City Council Budget Committee 10 am

Design Review Communication 7 pm from Steve Finacom provides the basis for thoughtful elements of design for livability. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Development/Level_3_-_Commissions/Design_Review_Committee/2020-06-10_DRC_Finacom%20Memo.pdf

Saturday, June 13, 2020

March for Black Lives Matter, 11 am - 2 pm, meet at Rockridge BART Station, Plan: 11 am program led by Oakland leaders, 12 noon march to Sproul Plaza, followed by program led by Berkeley leaders

Town Hall from the Mayor at 12 noon, Watch live at jessearreguin.com or since there is no live interchange with the public watch anytime on the Mayor’s YouTube site https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgXaP2idglejM_r7Iv7my6w

Sunday, June 14, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Monday, June 15, 2020

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


Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87314106547

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 873 1410 6547

Agenda planning for June 30 Regular City Council meeting: CONSENT: 6. Reaffirm Investment Policies, 7. FY2021 Appropriations Limit $284,280,447, 8. Grant Agreement Amendment: Alameda County Coordinated Entry System (CES) Grant, 9. Mental Health Services Act Contract Amendment: Covenant House (YEAH), 10. Contract Amendments: Mental Health Services Act, Prevention and Early Intervention, 11. Contract Amendment with BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, 16. Support Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s legislation to establish a US Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, 

19. Support ACA 5 to place statewide ballot to repeal Proposition 209 (1996) and allow C=State of CA to pursue minority equal opportunity and access initiatives, ACTION: 20. Amend One-Way Car Share Program: Electric Mopeds, Fees Deposits, 21. Amend Berkeley Election Reform Act (public election financing), 21. FY 2021 Mid-Biennial Budget Update Adoption, 23. FY 2021 Annual Appropriations $521,674,251 (gross), $452,409,230 (net), 24. Borrowing of Funds and the Sale and Issuance of FY 2020-21 Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes, 25. Resolution to Incorporate the Practice of 1 minute and 46 seconds of mindfulness into Council meetings to remember the loss of lives due to police violence, 26. Declare Racism as a Public Health Crisis, a Threat and Safety Issue in the City of Berkeley and commit to eliminate all socioeconomic barriers to health equity (see packet for description of measures and actions pages 117 - 136), 27. Ordinance: Public Right to Identify Officers, 28. Resolution: No Police Revolving Door, 29. Commission Reorganization for Post-Covid19 Budget Recovery (pages 151-164 in packet) 1. Reduce to 20 Commissions total (table created for weekly summary lists 42 boards, commissions and task forces) 2. Reorganize existing commissions within various departments to ensure no single department is responsible for more than 5 commissions, 3. Public Works oversees no more than 3 commissions, 4. Refer to City Manager 

to agendize at next meeting to discuss commission in their purview, commission members should be notified and chairs should be invited to participate. Policy committee members are encouraged to consider renaming of some commissions to ensure all policy areas are addressed. (packet 258 pages)  


Police Review Commission – Use of Force Policy Subcommittee, 5:30 pm


Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81617389997 

Teleconference: 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 816 1738 9997 

Agenda: Develop Use of Force Policy 


Tuesday, June 16, 2020 

Berkeley City Council https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Agenda_Index.aspx 


Special Council Meeting 2:30 pm 

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85616992854 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 856 1699 2854 

Agenda: 1. FY 2021 Proposed Budget Update Public Hearing #2, ACTION: 2. FY 2020 Mid-Year Budget Update, 3. Amendments to General Fund Reserve Policy 


Council Closed Session 5 pm 

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88962338205 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 889 6233 8205 

Agenda: Conference with labor negotiators Employee organizations Berkeley Fire fighters, Berkeley Police Association, Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 


Special Council Meeting 5:45 pm  

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81458990553 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 814 5899 0553 

Agenda: Resolution Reviewing and Ratifying the Proclamation of Emergency Due to Spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness Caused by Novel (New) Coronavirus (Covid-19) 


Regular Council Meeting 6 pm 

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81458990553 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 814 5899 0553 

Agenda: CONSENT: 4. Appointment Liam Garland as Director of Public works, 5. Urgency Ordinance Declaring Fiscal Emergency in Response to Pandemic, 6. Contract $11,906 total $107,154 with Paw Fund for Spay Neuter Services, 7. Assessments Berkeley Tourism Business Improvement District, 8. Temporary Appropriations $50million for FY 2021, 

Items 9 – 19 FY Tax Rate (9. $0.0125/ sq ft of improvements for funding procurements of disaster fire equipment - Measure Q, 10. Neighborhood Branch Library Improvements - Measure FF Nov 2008, 11. T1, 12. Measures G,S & I, 13. Library services $0.2272/sq ft dwelling units, $0.3435/sq ft industrial, commercial, institutional, 14. Business Licenses Large Non-profits $0.6659/sq ft improvements, 15. Measure O, 16. Measure M, 17. Maintenance Parks, City Trees, Landscaping $0.17.93/sq ft improvements, 18. Measure E Emergency Services for Severely Disabled $0.01699/sq ft improvements, 19. Emergency Medical Services Paramedics $0.0397/sq ft improvements, 20. Contract $106,428 with Kings View for Mental Health Reporting Services, 21. Grant Application $500,000 for state Local Early Action Planning (LEAP), 22. Contract $210,000 for 1600 new recycling carts and $3,850,384 for 1yr extension, total $4,060,474 with Ecology Center, Inc. for curbside recycling, 23. Referral to FY21 Budget Process: Housing Retention Program - $1,000,000 and Basic Needs Fund - $250,000, 24. Referral to CM lessons learned regarding organizational response to COVID-19, 25. Support Collaboration between US and Cuba in fighting COVID-19, ACTION: 26. Re-establish North Shattuck Business District, 27. Levy and Collection of FY 2021 Street Lighting Assessments, 28. RPP 2900 Block Lorina, 3100 Block Deakin, 29. ZAB Appeal 2650 Telegraph, A. Changes to BMC and City Policies with Respect to Local Emergency Declarations and First Amendment Curfews, B. Community Survey Results and Direction for Possible Ballot Measures, C. Charter Amendment to change Mayor and Councilmembers to Fulltime Status, D. Ballot Measure to Create Climate Action Fund, E. Amend Berkeley’s Minimum Wage Ordinance, impacting youth training programs, 30. Charter Amendment Ballot Initiative to repeal residency requirement for sworn members Berkeley Fire Dept, 31. Contract CycloMedia for GIS Infrastructure Asset Data, INFORMATION REPORTS: 32. Refunding General Obligation Bonds, 33. 2nd Qtr Investment Report (ended Dec 31 2019), 34. 3rd Qtr Investment Report (ended March 31, 2020), 


Wednesday, June 17 2020 

Police Review Commission – Use of Force Policy Subcommittee, 5:30 pm


Check for Agenda, materials, Videoconference and Teleconference after Monday meeting 


Thursday, June 18, 2020 


City Council Budget & Finance Committee, 10 am, 


Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83187601060 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 831 8760 1060 

Agenda: 2. FY21 Budget Update, 3. Councilmember Budget Recommendations, 4. Homeless Services Report 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, 7 – 11 pm 


Agenda, videoconference and telephone codes not posted yet, use link to check after Monday 


Design Review Committee, 7 – 10 pm 


Videoconference: https://zoom.us/j/91775256852 

Teleconference: 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 917 7525 6852 


2590 Bancroft – demolish existing 2-story commercial building and construct 8-story mixed use building with 87 dwelling units (includes 5 very low income), 4490 sq ft commercial space, 2767 sq ft open space, 40 long-term bicycle spaces, 0 vehicle parking spaces 

1367 University – construct 9273 sq ft 4-story 40-unit Group Living Accommodation (GLA) operating as a single-room occupancy (SRO) residential hotel on a vacant parcel 

3000 San Pablo – demolish 2-story commercial building and construct 6-story mixed use building with 78 dwelling units (includes 7 very low income), 1248 sq ft commercial space, 2320 sq ft open space, 52 long-term bicycle spaces and 43 vehicle spaces 

Communications: S Finacom Memo to DRC Design Implications of Pandemics and other regional and national crises 

2000 Dwight Way @ Milvia – Use Permit referral to merge six parcels into one, demolish six existing non-residential buildings and construct 6-story, 124 unit senior housing facility (27 senior congregate housing units at 2nd floor, 97 dwelling units at 3rd – 6th floors and 46 parking spaces. 


Fair Campaign Practices Commission & Open Government Commission, 7 pm 


Teleconference: 1-213-279-1690, Access Code: 727864794 

Agenda: 5. Changing start time to 6 pm for future meetings, 7. Approval of Public campaign financing certification applications, 8. Regulations defining a “minor violation” 10. Councilmember office budget relinquishments and grants to organizations. 


Friday, June 19, 2020, Saturday - June 20, 2020 Sunday - June 21, 2020 


No City meetings or events found yet  




Public Hearings Scheduled 

2650 Telegraph 6/16/2020 

0 Euclid 7/7/2020 

1449 Grizzly Peak 7/7/2020 

1533 Berkeley Place 7/14/2020 

Use Permits and the Appeal End Date 

1037 Creston 6/18/2020 

1001 Dwight 6/16/2020 

1348-50 Euclid 6/30/2020 

1380 Hearst 6/23/2020 

920 Heinz 6/16/2020 

977 Keeler 6/25/2020 

2139 Oregon 6/18/2020 

1700 Seventh 6/16/2020 

1500 Shattuck 6/16/2020 

2129 Shattuck 6/16/2020 



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





June 23 –, HOLD – 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 SB 1383 

Systems Realighnment 



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