The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall

The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall (Simon & Schuster: 2006) is a book by political scientist Ian Bremmer. It was named a “Book of the Year” in 2006 by The Economist.[1]

Bremmer’s J Curve describes the relationship between a country’s openness and its stability; focusing on the notion that while many countries are stable because they are open (the United States, France, Japan), others are stable because they are closed (North KoreaCubaIraq under Saddam Hussein). According to Bremmer, a government’s motivations differ dramatically depending on where they fall on the J curve.

The J Curve model

The-J-Curve blanksm.jpg

The x-axis of the political J-Curve graph measures the “openness” (of freedom) of the State in question, and the y-axis measures the stability of that same state. It suggests that those states that are ‘closed’/undemocratic/unfree (such as the Communist dictatorships of China and Cuba) are very stable; however, as one progresses right, along the x-axis, it is evident that stability (for relatively short period of time in the lengthy life of nations) decreases, creating a dip in the graph, until beginning to pick up again as the ‘openness’ of a state increases; at the other end of the graph to closed states are the open states of the West, such as the United States or the United Kingdom. Thus, a J-shaped curve is formed.

States can travel both forward (right) and backwards (left) along this J-curve, and so stability and openness are never secure. The J is steeper on the left hand side, as it is easier for a leader in a failed state to create stability by closing the country than to build a civil society and establish accountable institutions; the curve is higher on the far right than left because states that prevail in opening their societies (Eastern Europe, for example) ultimately become more stable than authoritarian regimes.

Bremmer’s entire curve can shift up or down depending on economic resources available to the government in question. Therefore, Saudi Arabia‘s relative stability at every point along the curve rises or falls depending on the price of oil; China’s curve, meanwhile, analogously depends on the country’s economic growth.

Quotes by the author

More at:

Voters who object to federal spending have a racist motive: study

Noor Al-Sibai

02 JAN 2018 (

Ex-Richmond mayor looks to bring a Bernie Sanders approach to Sacramento

Gayle McLaughlin, former Richmond mayor, is running a Bernie Sanders-style campaign for lieutenant governor as an independent.

December 30, 2017

For former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, it’s time to take her city’s progressive politics on the road.

McLaughlin, a former Green Party member, is running for lieutenant governor in 2018 as an independent candidate, confident that California is ready for the type of all-in liberal politics that her Richmond Progressive Alliance brought to the East Bay city.

“I decided that at a certain point I had to do a statewide race,” said the 65-year-old McLaughlin. “If I ran statewide we could spread the Progressive Alliance farther and move it to a larger stage.”

The Chicago-born McLaughlin was one of the founders of the Richmond group, which ran a slate of progressive outsiders in 2004 to replace City Council members they said were both ineffective and too closely tied to Chevron, the city’s most powerful business.

After two years on the council, McLaughlin beat an incumbent mayor by 242 votes in 2006. She held that office until 2014, when she was elected again to the council, where members of the alliance now hold five of the seven seats. She resigned her seat this year so she could campaign to replace termed-out Democrat Gavin Newsom as lieutenant governor.

“We want to show the rest of the state how we did it, how we reduced crime, raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour and put in new rent control rules,” she said.

McLaughlin’s platform for her statewide run reads like Santa’s Christmas list for blue-state progressives. She is calling for single-payer health care, free tuition at public colleges and universities, higher taxes on millionaires, statewide rent control, a ban on corporate campaign contributions and an oil severance tax high enough to make it unprofitable to pump oil out of the ground in California.

The surprising support for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the 2016 presidential campaign sparked McLaughlin’s independent run. The progressive senator endorsed McLaughlin’s 2014 run for City Council, and she is looking for help from his backers.

The group Our Revolution, which was spun out of Sanders’ campaign, is one of McLaughlin’s most prominent supporters.

“I’ve been endorsed by 28 chapters from Del Norte (County) to San Diego,” she said. “I don’t have an endorsement from Bernie yet, but I hope to get it soon.”

But even Sanders, a veteran politician who has variously described himself as an independent, a socialist and a democratic socialist, recognized the dismal record independent candidates have in national elections and sought the Democratic Party’s nomination when he ran for president.

The prospects for third-party — or no-party — candidates are equally dreary in California. Since California became a state in 1850, there have been only three governors and three lieutenant governors who weren’t either Republican or Democrat. No one from outside those parties has been elected since 1914.

Running as an independent is “a daunting, daunting prospect,” said Larry Gerston, a former political science professor at San Jose State University. “People still tend to choose from one of the major parties or the other.

“It may not be right, it may not be fair and it may not be the way things should be, but that’s the way things are in California.”

Even in the Legislature, the last third-party candidate to win a seat was Audie Bock, a Green Party member who was elected to an Oakland Assembly seat in a 1999 special election. She immediately changed her registration to “decline to state” and ran a losing race for re-election as an independent in 2000.

“The state’s not the least bit open to independent candidates,” said Tony Quinn, a former GOP consultant who now works on the California Target Book, a nonpartisan publication that focuses on state political races. “More people are registering as (decline to state), but there’s no sign they’re looking past Democrats and Republicans in the elections.”

Then there’s the money question. State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina (Los Angeles County), had $1.5 million in the bank as of June 30, the most recent statewide campaign finance reporting date. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, reported $1.3 million cash on hand, and Jeff Bleich, another Democrat and onetime U.S. envoy to Australia, had $611,000. All three have been busily adding to those accounts in the past six months.

Although McLaughlin did not file a campaign finance statement in July, she expects to report raising about $70,000 by the end of the year and $350,000 by the June 5 primary. Her campaign isn’t accepting any corporate money and is raising cash through house parties across the state.

“I know we’ll never have as much money as the corporate Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “But we’re running a field operation with key volunteers in every part of the state … which shows the grassroots support we have.”

McLaughlin is on the road about two weeks of every month, making her pitch to progressive groups and every other organization that wants to hear from her, including Democratic political clubs.

“I know they can’t endorse me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear my message,” she said. “Then their members can vote however they want.”

The likely prospect of a long, uphill grind to the primary isn’t lost on McLaughlin, but she doesn’t let that concern her. While it’s a big jump from the Richmond City Council to a statewide office, “we know the tools we need,” she said.

“I’m running to win, but not just for that,” McLaughlin said. “We’re rallying people around our message. I want to be a conduit for that (progressive) voice.”

John Wildermuth is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @jfwildermuth


MON, 12/18/2017 – BY TIM REDMOND (


 The Bank of North Dakota has been a great success

San Francisco faces no legal obstacles and no significant policy problems with creating a municipal bank, a recent report from the city’s budget and legislative analyst concludes.

The report, released late in November with very little news media fanfare, represents a major step towards putting the city’s sizable financial resources into community development, affordable housing, and small businesses instead of the profits of giant, corrupt financial institutions.

The report hinges in part on a change in the position of the City Attorney’s Office. In 2011, when then-Sup. John Avalos raised the issue, the budget analyst reported that state law would ban a municipal bank.

But since then, after detailed research, City Attorney Dennis Herrera has concluded that “in fact, State law does not preclude the city from creating a bank as a separate legal entity.”

In fact, the budget analyst notes, “a public bank would be better equipped to meet the city’s business needs and public policy goals.”

The idea is both well-established and profoundly radical. Today, San Francisco’s short-term deposits are in Bank of America, which holds about $130 million that’s used for payroll and other expenses. That giant North Carolina-based operation charges the city $780,000 a year in fees, the budget analyst reports.

Most of the city’s money – some $8.3 billion — is in fairly liquid investments, primarily US Treasury notes.

There is, in other words, plenty of cash to capitalize a municipal bank. And the model already exists – in North Dakota, where since 1919 all state funds must be deposited in the public Bank of North Dakota.

It’s been a great success: The bank has been profitable for 13 straight years, returns money to the state – and helped the state sustain a budget surplus and avoid the financial disasters of the Great Recession.

That state “withstood the financial crisis by having a steady flow of credit available to member banks, which provided loans to small businesses and community members when it was difficult to obtain credit from commercial banks,” the report states.

The report mentions the cannabis industry as a potential major client: Since federal law still treats weed as an illegal drug, commercial banks typically refuse to serve cannabis-based businesses.

But if the bank were properly set up – and it would start with billions of dollars of city money as assets, and could be further capitalized with a General Fund grant or philanthropic money – it could provide low-cost funding for some of SF’s greatest needs.

If we want to be serious about ending homelessness, for example, we need to look at something like $5 billion or more for supportive and affordable housing. Bank of American won’t fund that. A city bank could. A city bank wouldn’t charge the city fees. It could work with existing microlenders to fund small businesses owned by people of color and women. And it could provide another stream of revenue to the city. It could also create a national model for how cities can use public money to leverage public needs, instead of relying on commercial banks.

This is potentially a huge deal – and one that the private banking industry will almost certainly oppose and try to derail.

Sup. Sandy Fewer asked for the report. She and Sup. Malia Cohen are talking about holding a hearing in February. I can almost see the Bank of America lobbyists lining up right now.

Originally published by 48 Hills

A New Year’s Day Parade for ‘Medicare for All’ Signals Energized Battle Ahead in California

“People are hip to faux solutions and incrementalism and are not buying it. They want Medicare for All—and they want it now.”

Advocates for ‘Medicare for All’ and the state-level single payer bill, SB562, marched in the immediate wake of the Rose Parade in Pasadena on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (Photo: Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)

In the immediate wake of Monday’s Rose Parade—which takes place annually on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California—hundreds of residents and advocates took over the parade route with a march of their own as they called for ‘Medicare for All’ and demanded passage of a bill currently stalled in the state legislature that would provide every Californian with healthcare coverage.

“People should pay attention to California because it is the example, the model, the bellwether, for what is possible and as California has set the trend for the rest of the country on a myriad of other important issues, it is and will set the trend on guaranteed, single-payer healthcare for all.” —RoseAnn DeMoro, CNA/NNU

Those who marched, reports the Pasadena Star-News, waved large banners reading “Medicare for all” and “Public health not corporate wealth” as they sang songs, danced along the streets, and emphasized to onlookers the need for a universal healthcare system that excludes nobody.

“What we’re saying is health care for all, rich, poor, and no matter what race you are,” Sam Schwiner, a local resident and one of the marchers, told the newspaper.

“SB… 5… 6… 2!” chanted members of the parade. “It’s good for me! It’s good for you!”

As Common Dreams has reported, the progress of SB 562—the proposed bill that would establish a single-payer system in California, the nation’s most populous state—was derailed in June of 2017 when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, decided to pull the plug on its progress by shelving it for the legislative session.

Though Rendon received plenty of criticism from the major backers of the bill, including the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) and the Healthy California campaign, its supporters have continued to push for its passage, sweeping the state with a tireless door-to-door campaign and vowing to see it brought back before state lawmakers in 2018.

According to RoseAnn DeMoro, CNA/NNU’s executive director, support for the single-payer cuts across ideological divisions and remains extremely popular across the state.

The parade on Pasadena on Monday “signifies the ongoing popularity of the issue among all facets of our society,” DeMoro told Common Dreams in an email.

“There is nothing more mainstream in California than the Rose Parade and to see this level of turnout, enthusiasm and commitment in the early morning of a New Year’s Day is impressive,” she continued.

Despite the ongoing hostility from its opponents—which DeMoro identified as “establishment Democrats” and financial donors from the insurance and pharmaceutical industry, for-profit hospitals, right-wing operatives, and corporate interests—she says support for SB562 is only getting stronger.

Quoting longtime organizer Bill Moyer—who once said that “movements succeed when they win over ever-greater levels of public support for their cause and undermine the pillars of support” of the status quo—DeMoro says that is precisely what’s happening in California’s ongoing battle for single-payer.

“People should pay attention to California because it is the example, the model, the bellwether, for what is possible and as California has set the trend for the rest of the country on a myriad of other important issues, it is and will set the trend on guaranteed, single-payer healthcare for all,” she said. “And people are hip to faux solutions and incrementalism and are not buying it. They want Medicare for All—and they want it now.”

The time for Medicare for All, she said, has finally come.


ACCESSIBILITY: Please include Accessibility Information on Events! This is a JUSTICE issue

Check Indybay for other events:


A. Israel indicts Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi (January 1, 2018)

    See item # 1

B. Crowded West Bank refugee camp is the most tear-gassed place in the world — Berkeley Law School study(December 30, 2017) 

C. Nine Years After Oscar Grant’s Death, His Mother Continues to Speak Out (January 1, 2018)

D. Erica Garner, Activist and Daughter of Eric Garner, Dies at 27 ( December 30, 2017)

     Rest in Peace and Power ♥ Erica Garner ♥ 

E. Extreme poverty returns to America (December 21, 2017)

WARNING: The SF Police Officers Association is circulating a petition to place funding for TASERS on the June Ballot 

 Please Don’t Sign it!! When the SF Police Commission had hearings on this the community – especially young people came out in mass against TASERS! Four of the seven commissioners did not listen to what the people were saying. Many who are circulating the petition are not informed on the topic and are getting paid for each signature obtained. 

TASERS are lethal weapons!! 


Wednesday, January 3 – Monday, January 8 

Wednesday, January 3

1.  Wednesday, 5:30pm – 6:30pm PEACE VIGIL – Focus this week: #Ahed Tamini & Imprisoned Palestinian Children in Israel

One Post Street in San Francisco.
(on the steps facing Market Street, below Feinstein’s office,
directly above the Montgomery BART/Muni station).

If it rains we will meet below the stairs to BART/MUNI

Themes vary weekly on  local, national and global issues

All are welcomed.

Fliers / Signage are provided. 

2.  Wednesday, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, Help Plan 96-Hours of Non-Compliance Over King Day Weekend 

ACCE Action
2501 International Blvd. Suite D

96 Hours of #NonCompliance Over #King Day Weekend

Bay Area! For the fourth year in a row, for #96hours over the King Day Weekend, the Anti Police-Terror Project calls our comrades into the streets to stand in solidarity and say no to white supremacy, say no to state sponsored terror, say no to development over people, say no to misogyny, say no to homophobia and transphobia, say no to the targeting of immigrants, say no to the targeting of Muslims. We call on you to join us and show the Trump-Schaff Regimes that WE WILL NOT COMPLY with their corporate agenda.

We call upon groups large and small, well-established or brand new, to plan your own action(s) within a commonframework:

On Friday, January 12, 2018, we are calling for actions that focus on State-Sponsored Violence.
On Saturday, January 13, 2018, we are calling for actions that focus on Housing.
On Sunday January 14, 2018, we are calling for actions that focus on Indigenous/International Solidarity.
On Monday, January 15, 2018, we reclaim MLK Day.
Our #96hours culminates with a mass mobilization, and we ask everyone to come together for the Reclaiming King’s Radical Legacy March through the streets of Oakland. 

Spokescouncil schedule of meetings:

we call upon both individuals and groups in our community (whether you’re planning an action or not) to come together in a series of spokescouncil meetings in order to coordinate and support the many actions that will be planned:

Wednesday 1/3 7:00 – 9:30 pm
Saturday 1/6 1:00 – 3:30 pm
Monday 1/8 7:00 – 9:30 pm
Wednesday 1/10 7:00 – 9:30 pm
(separate Facebook events will be posted for each meeting)

Host: Anti Police-Terror Project


Thursday, January 4 

3.  Thursday12Noon – 1:00pmInternational Day of Action To Defend Framed Lac-Mégantic Rail-Workers Stop One Person Trains

SF Canadian Consulate
580 California St.

Press Conference & Rally

day of action to defend three USW Canadian railway workers. Locomotive engineer Tom Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railroad employees along with operations manager Jean Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie who were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions at Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people. As a direct results of the elimination of crews leading to a one person crew, this disaster was man made by the corporations which are eliminating railway safety protections and who control the politicians. The Canadian government in fact like the US government is controlled by these same rail bosses who are only interested in more profits at the cost of lives, communities and the environment.

Increasing rail wrecks and explosions throughout North American are endangering workers, members of the community and creating havoc. These so called “accidents” around the world are a direct result of deregulation, privatization and the attack on transportation workers and their unions.

The scheme to blame the workers for these disasters is a cynical ploy to shift the real responsibility for the growing number of transportation catastrophes taking place in North America and in country after country.

We call for the dropping of charges and for the real criminals who are the executives of MMA and the government officials to be prosecuted for endangering the community and the workers.

Host: Rail Workers United & Workers Solidarity Action Network


Friday, January 5 

4.  Friday, 3:00pm, Rally to Save Temporary Protected Status for Immigrants

SF Federal Building
90 7th Street

The Trump administration is threatening to remove Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from Salvadorans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, Syrians, and Haitians and send them back to situations of life-threatening violence. Many came to the U.S. because of wars and natural disasters and have been here for years. Moving TPS will put hundreds of thousands of people at risk fo deportation.

Bay Area Coalition to Save TPS
RENASE- Red Nacional Salvadoreña en el Exterior; AHNCA- Asociaciòn de Hondureños de Norte California; Centro Latino Cuscatlan; Bay Area Chapter Committee in Solidarity of People of El Salvador (CISPES); SF Living Wage Coalition; African Advocacy Network; CARECEN- Central American Resource Center; Immigrant Legal Resource Center; SEIU United Service Workers West; Bay Area TPS Committee; Haiti Action Committee; Nicaragua Center for Community Action;  Labor Council for Latin American Advancement-SF; Faith In Action; East Bay Sanctuary Covenant; Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

Info: CISPEs 415-503-0789  &

 Saturday, January 6

5.  Saturday, 11:00am – 1:30pm, Self Defense Training

ACCE Action
2501 International Blvd.

We will be giving an overview of the A.R.M.E.D. Combative System, covering concepts like
• Anatomy Of Intimidation
• Brave Breathing
• Composition Of Fear
• Hunters Mentality vs Hunted/Victim Mentality

A.R.M.E.D. Means:
A (ggressive)
R (esponse)
M (ethod)
E (qually)
D (istributed)
Concrete self-defense for concrete conditions. Using the best of classical martial arts and real-world fighting techniques, we equip our students with concrete capabilities for self-defense.

Host: Armed Combatives


6.  Saturday, 11:00am – 4:00pm, No Eviction w/o Representation Signature-Gathering Mobilization (pick-up petitions) 

Democratic Socialist of America Office
350 Alabama St.

Only one month left to gather signatures to stop unfair evictions!

Tenants and activists have already gathered thousands of the signatures needed to put the No Eviction Without Representation Initiative on the San Francisco ballot for June 5, 2018! But we need your help to get the 17 thousand we need!

This historic measure would make SF the first city in California, and the second in the nation, to provide a right to counsel to tenants facing eviction.

Eviction is one of the main indicators of homelessness in our city, and responsible for the mass displacement of many of our neighbors and most vulnerable communities. No one should have to give up their home because they can’t afford a lawyer.

Come at 11 for the festivities, to learn to gather signatures, and turn in petitions, but note that a staff person will be there until 4. If you’ve come before, PLEASE bring your old clipboards and badges to reuse!

Hosts: SF Right to Counsel Committee, Democratic Socialists of America – SF, SF Tenants Union


7.  Saturday, 12Noon – 6:00pm, Refuse Fascism California Student Conference

Sports Basement
1590 Bryant St.

CALLING ALL STUDENTS IN CALIFORNIA! Students have played a major role in almost every movement for social and political change and this is needed now more than ever.

Are you tired of the Trump/Pence Regime? Are you tired of hearing about human rights and the environment being under attack daily? Tired of hate speech and bigotry filling your campuses and communities? Most importantly are you tired of feeling helpless against a system that seems larger than you?

If any of the above applies to you than join us for this statewide organizing conference. This conference is part of the Refuse Fascism national tour, in the Bay Area Jan. 5-10.


8,  Saturday, 1:00pm – 2:30pm, Help Plan 96 Hours of Non-Compliance Over Kind Day Weekend 

ACCE Action
2501 International Blvd., Suite D

See item #2 for details

Host: APTP


9.  Saturday, 2:00pm – 4:00pm, City Rising: Public Land for Public Good 

First Congregational Church of Oakland
2501 Harrison St.

Free – Register:

join First Congregational Church of Oakland and KCET City Rising for a screening of the new documentary special, CITY RISING, examining gentrification in California, followed by a discussion about the use of Public Land in Oakland.

The multi-platform documentary series shows how gentrification is deeply rooted in a history of discriminatory laws and practices in the United States that have disproportionately impacted and continue to impact marginalized communities. The film follows the journey of California communities that are fighting displacement and features a growing movement of advocates seeking responsible development across the state.

Following the film, a group of local advocates from the Citywide Anti-Displacement Network will speak about the work they are doing to end displacement in Oakland.


10.  Saturday, 5:00pm – 7:30pm, Walk a Mile Storytelling by Marginalized People

Meet at:

Oakland Women’s Center
2811 Adeline St.

$20. Ticket info:

Join Women’s March Oakland and Spirit of Oakland as we “Walk a Mile” or attempt to by learning a few empathetic listening tools. Popular Storytelling host Ted Lee will set the stage as people living in encampments share their stories.

Each giving season people routinely feed the homeless but not so much after. This season we will dine together as organizations like Feed the People and Alpha Omega Foundation share their stories of trial and triumph in serving meals daily and securing land to build shelters. This will serve to empower us with information to help or at least no longer harm systemically marginalized communities in our society.


Sunday, January 7 

11.  Sunday, 10:00am – 11:00am, 1Y + 9M, Life of Luis Celebration with Rosca de Reyes

Altar at Shotwell & 19th Streets

HAPPY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018! This is an important year for the family of Luis Góngora Pat! Gascón needs to make the right decision and the civil trial starts Oct. 22nd. We would like to start off the year right by breaking bread with you. Rosca de Reyes to be precise! See you on Sunday the 7th at the altar.


12.  Sunday, 11:00am – 4:00pm, Demonstration First Aid For People with Medical Experience 

Location TBA

RSVP for location:

RN? MD? NP? PA? Paramedic? Student of one of the above?
Want to put your skills to use but not sure about the specifics?

Don’t believe the hype around the “Alt -Left”, and want to keep those fighting fascism safer in the streets? Excited to participate in the 96 hours of action for MLK day but not sure how to best plug in and be helpful?

Come to a street/community medic training happening in Oakland for folks with medical training to use their medical knowledge in the street and other emergency situations. In moments when we are so intensely under attack, the need to keep each other safe becomes even more heightened.

No street/protest first-aid experience is necessary, just a desire to bring your medical knowledge outside of the 4 walls of the clinic/hospital. 

The training will be participatory: primarily hands on practice. We will cover scene safety, chemical weapons, penetrating wounds, blunt trauma and other timely scenarios. 


13.  Sunday, 3:00pm – 6:00pm, Mass Meeting with the Refuse Fascism National Tour 

Sports Basement
1590 Bryant St.

Nearly one year after the 2017 presidential inauguration, it is clear that Refuse Fascism’s initial analysis was right: the Trump/Pence regime is a fascist regime, and it will destroy millions of lives soon, ultimately humanity and the planet itself, if it is not driven from power. Since the Muslim ban, since Charlottesville, since the threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea, many have woken up to the reality and imminence of this danger.

While millions of people want Trump and Pence gone, they haven’t acted in a commensurate way. Why is this? What has been holding people back from taking to the streets? What is the role of the Democratic leadership in keeping this regime in power? What can we do to break the silence of normalization and give people a way to make real change?

These are some of the questions we’ll discuss at a mass meeting with the Refuse Fascism NATIONAL TOUR! Volunteers will travel to Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York to organize and strengthen Refuse Fascism, and this meeting is your chance to hear a presentation and engage in discussion with national representatives of the organization working to stop Trump and Pence.

Hosts: Refuse Fascism Bay Area


Monday, January 8 

14.  Monday, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, Help Plan 96 Hours of Non-Compliance Over Kind Day Weekend

ACCE Action
2501 International Blvd., Suite D

See item #2 for details


Feds Press Lawsuit Against Berkeley’s Historic Civic Center District

The City of Berkeley and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), acting on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, will be in Federal Court on Thursday January 11, 2018. This hearing is the result of a suit filed by the DOJ against Berkeley on August 22, 2016. The DOJ suit alleges that Berkeley’s Civic Center Historic District Zoning Overlay is not permitted under the United States Constitution.

Some background: In 1998 the City of Berkeley designated our Civic Center as an historic district and the same year Berkeley’s Civic Center Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

In September of 2014, responding to community demand, including numerous public hearings and a ballot initiative, the Berkeley City Council passed the Civic Center Historic District Zoning Overlay. The Overlay protects and preserves our Civic Center from commercial activities that are different in character than its current and historic civic, institutional and community-serving uses.

The federal lawsuit asserts that the Zoning Overlay is an unconstitutional attempt by a local government to interfere with a function of the federal government.  In this case that function is the Postal Service plan to sell our historic Berkeley Main Post Office. Possibly, the Postal Service argues, it could get more money for the building if a new owner could develop the property for whatever uses would fetch the highest return.

The City of Berkeley and the DOJ/ USPS have filed competing motions for summary judgment. At 8 a.m. on Thursday, January 11, 2018, arguments will be heard before Judge William Alsup, Courtroom 12, 19th floor, 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

It is wholly remarkable that in the space of a very few years our federal government has transformed from being a cornerstone of civic life in America’s communities to filing a lawsuit against the City of Berkeley alleging that its attempt to preserve its Civic Center violates the United States Constitution.

In the 1998 nomination for National Register listing the late Susan Cerny wrote: “By its very nature, Berkeley’s Civic Center District has been intimately intertwined with the political/social history and welfare of the city. Every civic and social function within the district promoted the welfare of citizens. The district is significant for efforts during the first four decades of the twentieth century to establish good public parks and buildings — not only as a way to beautify communities, but as a means of fostering public-minded behavior and good citizenship.”

If you want to witness the hearing on January 11th, be advised that entry to 450 Golden Gate requires presentation of government-issued photo identification and that visitors are required to pass through electronic security equipment. Both the Golden Gate and Turk Street entrances have ADA access.

Read the City of Berkeley and the DOJ/ USPS arguments in their motions to dismiss.
Confirm time and date of the hearing on Judge Alsup’s calendar.

The Zoning Overlay boundaries are identical to the Civic Center Historic District as listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Berkeley Aquatic Park camp needs food (from JP Massar)

Subject: Aquatic park camp needs food

We need some more non perishable food like canned soups and top
Raman. That kinda of food last longer. We also need paper plates and
cups. We are so gratefully for all your help.

Top Raman
Canned soups
Canned fruits
Paper towels
Paper plates

Thank you

The Aquatic Park camp is on Bay St, just North of Ashby and just
south of the South entrance to Aquatic Park.

Easy access: San Pablo – 67th St (west), cross the tracks –
Shellmound/Bay St (right/north), camp on right


December 29, 2017 (

In response to criticism of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin from a German politician, the art collective Center for Political Beauty (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit) set up a replica of the memorial next to the home of a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

The miniature replica of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Source: Kai Pfaffenbach/ArtForum

According to Deutsche Welle, Afd’s senior leader Björn Höcke referred to the memorial as a “monument of shame” earlier this year and called on Germany to make a “180-degree turn” in the way it addresses World War II.

Artists build a small replica of the monument and installed of 24 concrete slabs of different sizes on the private property near the politician’s house in a village in Thuringia. The art group’s leader, Philipp Ruch, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper about the project: “We are doing our neighbourly duty. We hope he [Björn Höcke] enjoys the view every day when he looks out the window.”

Ruch added: “He will now have to deal with the fact that he has neighbors who don’t consider the Holocaust Memorial a ‘monument of shame’, but who try to remember what had happened, to prevent it from happening again.”

The Center for Political Beauty launched a fundraising campaign to rent the property for two more years. The group says the installation will be removed if Höcke falls on his knees in front of the memorial and asks for forgiveness, as former chancellor Willy Brand did in front of Warsaw’s Ghetto Heroes Monument in the 1970, ArtForum reports.