Apr 11

To Yosemite and Back in Chevy’s Bolt EV

Bridalveil Fall

“Let’s go to Yosemite!” said Sheila, my wife, pointing to a San Francisco Chronicle photo of raging waterfalls in the fabled valley.  We checked our calendars. We had the time for a quick visit, two nights, allowing one full day of hiking. There was only one problem. We had just become a one-car family, and that car was Chevrolet’s new all-electric vehicle, the Bolt. Bolt with a B, not the hybrid Volt with a V.

The Bolt has an advertised range of 238 miles on a full charge. Yosemite Valley, according to Google Maps, is 204 miles from our Berkeley home by the fastest route. That should be within the Bolt’s range, theoretically. But after three years’ experience with our all-electric Nissan Leaf we knew that highway speeds and uphill stretches could dramatically reduce the actual distance yield.  We weren’t ready to take a chance on sitting stranded with a drained battery on some desolate upslope in the Sierra foothills.

Moreover, once we arrived, we’d need a full charge to get back home again. That charge would have to come from a Level 2 charger, minimum, which can refill the Bolt’s battery pack overnight.  Going to the Plugshare app on the web, I found two  possible stations in the valley with that capacity.  One is located on the wall of a little shed in the parking lot for the Yosemite Village store.  Another is in the back of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, the former Ahwahnee.  Two other stations in the valley offered only 120-volt Level 1 charging, which might be good for golf carts but is useless for modern electric vehicles.

Neither the Village store nor the hotel charging site showed recent user check-ins.  That’s a bad sign suggesting that the stations may not be working or accessible. Thoughtless drivers of gas engine cars sometimes block electric charging stations.  Site management sometimes doesn’t maintain the equipment. Bottom line: we decided to look for lodging outside the Valley.

A lodge and resort with reasonable room rates located along the Merced River on Highway 140 seemed like a good deal, but its website mentioned nothing about electric vehicle charging, and it had no entry on the Plugshare app. But perhaps they had an accessible 220-volt outlet where we could plug in our portable charger? A phone call to the front desk reached a desk clerk who knew nothing about the topic, but suggested I call the manager later in the afternoon.  I asked to leave my number and have the manager call me back.  No, the manager doesn’t do phone calls.  Forget that place.

Tenaya Lodge now has eight Tesla superchargers, but that’s no help for the Bolt

Tenaya Lodge, in Fish Camp, is a longer drive to the Valley floor, but much more hospitable to the electric visitor. Late last year, the Lodge installed no fewer than eight Tesla charging stations. That shows a strong commitment to electric travel, but it didn’t help us because the Chevy Bolt can’t feed at Tesla chargers. The electric charging market is still fragmented between three incompatible plug formats: Tesla, ChaDeMo, and CCS. (There’s a potential niche market here for an adapter maker.)  The Bolt requires CCS.  However, Tenaya Lodge also has a combo Level 2 ChaDeMo/CCS charger, and Plugshare showed recent positive reviews.

A phone call to the lodge met with a friendly and cooperative staff member, who forwarded me to the head of the valet service. Yes, the CCS charger was working. There would be no charge for charging. I should tell the front desk when I checked in and they would handle it from there.

That was all the reassurance I needed. We booked two nights at Tenaya Lodge, at a rate not much higher than the electrically dead place on Highway 140.

But we still had the problem of getting there.  After considerable hunting on Plugshare and similar sites, I planned a pit stop in Madera, 158 miles out.  Madera is a bit of a detour but looked the safest bet for recharging. The Save Mart on Howard Road in Madera had a pair of Level 3 Fast Chargers with CCS connectors. Level 3 chargers can top up a Bolt in about the time it takes to have lunch. Recent check-ins gave assurance that the chargers were working.

The Bolt is smooth and comfortable on the freeway. We ran at the speed of traffic – mostly seventy or a bit more — on Highways 580/205/5 out to Manteca, and then south on the four-lane 99, passing endless lines of trucks. We found the Save Mart in Madera with no trouble.  The big fast chargers stood empty in front of the “Bakery – Deli” sign to the left of the storefront. The Bolt’s dashboard showed 59 miles left in the battery.

At the twin Level 3 chargers in front of the Save Mart in Madera

Moments after we pulled in, a Nissan Leaf pulled up next to us. A couple a bit younger than our retired selves got out and ogled the Bolt. They had seen us on the road and followed us in. They had tried to buy a Bolt, they said, but no dealer in this inland area carried them.  Their other car is a Tesla. They asked a dozen questions about the Bolt and we invited them to sit in it and check it out.  As I was plugging the Bolt into the charger, the man pulled out his Leaf charging card and activated the charge. Nissan, he explained (as I knew), offered free charging for two years for Leaf owners.  He was happy to pass the freebie along to us.  Chevy, are you listening?  Great idea!

After chatting more with our new friends, we headed into the Save Mart and bought some lunch. The market is similar to the larger markets here in the East Bay, offering a wide range of deli and prepared food items.  It only lacked a picnic table out front to enjoy them, but we made do.

At the Level 2 overnight charger at Tenaya Lodge

Forty minutes later the Bolt’s dashboard showed 145  miles on the battery. That should be plenty.  We unplugged and headed toward Highway 41 northbound for the last 56 miles.

Madera sits at 272 feet above sea level.  Fish Camp at 5,062 feet.  When we arrived at Tenaya Lodge, the Bolt’s battery showed 44 miles left.  In other words, on this uphill stretch of nearly five thousand feet, the car used about 100 miles of battery charge to go an actual 50-odd miles, or roughly two battery miles for each road mile.  Without the pit stop in Madera, we would not have made it.

Recharging at Tenaya Lodge turned out to be easier than advertised.  We did not even have to go to the front desk and ask.  As we unloaded our bags from the car, a valet noticed that we only had 44 miles left on the battery, and volunteered to take the car and plug it in for us.  Why not?  Valet service is included in the room price.  The next morning, another man brought the car back.  For some reason, it only showed 194 miles on the meter, instead of the full 238, but we didn’t care, that was plenty to get into and around the Valley.

Sheila and I at Tunnel View vista point

The drive through the South Entrance of the Park into the valley floor is 35 miles of winding forest road at 35 mph.  Because of its low center of gravity, the Bolt is a dream to drive on curvy roads. No leaning. Tracks like a railroad.  In between glances at the scenery, I kept an eye on the battery meter.  When the road climbed, the charge level dropped at one point to 174 miles. When we went downhill, the battery filled up again.  Yosemite Valley lies at 4,000 feet, a net drop of about a thousand feet from the Lodge.  When we arrived on the valley floor near the Merced River, the meter showed 205 miles in the “tank” – more than we started with.  Try that in a gas engine car!

It felt good to cruise the valley in an all-electric vehicle. No tailpipe emissions.  Absolutely silent except for tire noise.  It would be a blessing for this much-abused valley if more visitors could move electrically and fewer relied on internal combustion of petroleum products.

Hiking on the Valley floor

We had picked a magnificent day. We could see snow in the higher elevations.  Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls came thundering down at full throttle, as described in the Chronicle, sending up clouds of almost icy mist as they hit bottom.  The loop trail, on which we walked half a dozen miles, had some muddy spots but was otherwise in excellent condition.  We felt uplifted and humbled by the valley’s magnificence.  At hike’s end we drove back to Tenaya Lodge with 161 miles showing on the dashboard.

Yosemite Falls

Valet service brought our car back the next morning charged to 210 miles.  Because our return trip was mostly downhill and because the East Bay suburbs have an adequate supply of fast charging stations should we need one, we did not plan for a pit stop.  We did not need one.

We normally drive the Bolt in “L” mode, and we did so on this trip.  The L stands for low gear in a gas engine car, but not in the Bolt. Like other electrics, the Bolt uses no gears, and “L” here doesn’t mean “Low.”  The engineers at Chevy just haven’t figured out a better one-letter label.  In L mode, the Bolt recharges its battery so aggressively when decelerating that it actually brings the car to a stop. L  mode enables “single-pedal driving,” where you accelerate by pressing down on the accelerator, in the usual way, and you slow down and stop by letting up on the same pedal.  You only need the brake pedal for unexpected sudden stops.

As we descended from Fish Camp in L mode, the battery charge meter kept climbing.  It soon hit 238 miles, the car’s nominal full range, and kept rising.  When we coasted into Oakhurst, the first town outside the National Forest, at 2,200 feet elevation, the charge meter showed 261 miles.  I wondered whether we might be doing the battery some harm by overcharging, but no alarm bells went off.  The only change I noted is that when I took my foot off the accelerator, the expected  deceleration was almost absent and I had to touch the brake. We got all the way to Merced, elevation 171 feet, a distance of almost 80 miles,  before the charge meter dropped to 200 miles.  Cruising on the freeways at the speed of traffic, we made it home to Berkeley with 65 miles left in the “tank.”

El Capitan seen from the Valley loop trail

The Bolt has greatly extended our travel range, compared to the Leaf with its 80-mile range. Our Leaf carried us reliably to and from Pt. Reyes National Seashore, with a recharging stop in the town of Point Reyes Station.  But Yosemite was out of its reach.  Still, even with the Bolt, a fast trip to a mountain destination like Yosemite required careful advance planning for a pit stop with a Level 3 fast charging station.

Yosemite National Park has gone through a change of management recently. Hopefully the new crew will take measures to enable more electric visitors. A new electronic firm on the market, Evrus, is advertising an express charger that can charge a Bolt from zero to 238 miles in less than 25 minutes. A bank of those in the Valley could bring much-needed relief to this majestic valley’s environment.

An unexpected sequel to our return trip is what seems to be an expansion of the car’s battery capacity. When we plugged in overnight upon reaching home, the next day the range meter read 240 miles.  We drove about 150 miles around town in the next week.  Last night I plugged it in again, and this morning the range indicator said 265 miles.  A short drive mostly downhill toward the Berkeley Marina brought it up to 266 miles. The car’s dashboard also estimates minimum and maximum range, depending on driving style and environment.  With 266 miles as the average, the estimated maximum was 313 miles.  Apparently the long downhill trip back from Yosemite has somehow stretched the battery.

I’m thinking that if we took local roads, kept the speed at about 50 instead of 75, and headed straight for the Valley floor, we might be able to reach Yosemite without a pit stop.  Next time.

Bolt battery range meter a week after Yosemite trip shows 266 miles average, 313 miles maximum.

Mar 11

Take Back Red

International Women’s Day demonstration at UC Berkeley campus

Berkeley’s local election continues to provide fuel for celebration as Kate Harrison won her race for the District 4 seat vacated by Jesse Arreguin when he became mayor.  The city council now has a 6-3 progressive majority. No doubt it’ll be a challenge to keep that bloc from splintering, but that’s another story.

Meanwhile another hopeful event took place on the UC Berkeley campus on International Women’s Day, March 8. The organizing group focused the rally on the grievances of university non-academic employees, the great majority of whom are women. What I found particularly heartening was that the rally organizers called on participants to “wear red.”  And indeed, many participants in the rally crowd made a vivid circle of bright, resplendent red. Yes!

Republicans have stolen the color red, and it’s time to take it back. The appropriation of red by the party of billionaires ranks high among the monstrous hypocrisies of our time. This hijack rips off not only a symbol, an element of a brand. It ruptures the chain of continuity between the progressive peoples of today and a long history of revolutionary struggles.

In Royalist France, the Garde Nationale raised the red flag to try to terrorize demonstrators on the streets.  “L’étandard sanglant” — the bloody banner — warned that the authorities would shoot.  And shoot they did, killing 50 people in a demonstration on July 17, 1791. Thereafter, the most fearless revolutionaries adopted red as their own flag, to commemorate the martyrs and to demonstrate that they would not be intimidated. The democratic revolutionaries of 1848 raised the red flag on their barricades.  Red was the color of Garibaldi’s struggle to unify Italy.  The Paris Commune of 1871 fought under the red flag, as did the Russian workers in the October revolution a century ago.  At the time I was a college student, the so-called “red states” were Russia, China, Vietnam, Albania, Cuba, and so on.

Red has for ages been the color of everything left of center in the British parliamentary democracy.  In most of Europe, red is the color not only of the Communist parties, but of the whole spectrum of social-democratic and left-liberal movements. It was no different in the U.S. Red was the color of the left, blue the color of the right throughout the twentieth century.  During the McCarthy persecutions — the “Red Scare”– nobody who read newspapers or listened to radio would associate millionaires and billionaires with the red flag.

How did we get to the current chromatic perversion?  A 2012 article in the Smithsonian points to the election of  2000 as the flipping point.  From the advent of color TV to the end of the century, TV newscasts by CBS and NBC generally showed Republicans as blue and Democrats as red. Only ABC experimented with the opposite. But within days of the 2000 vote, the New York Times and USA Today published detailed county maps using red for Republicans and blue for Democrats. According to Archie Tse, senior graphics editor for the Times, quoted in the Smithsonian piece, “I just decided red begins with ‘r,’ Republican begins with ‘r.’  It was a more natural association. There wasn’t much discussion about it.”  That became the new standard under which we suffer today.

At the risk of disclosing my native streak of paranoia, I have to say that I don’t buy this explanation.  The claim that the senior graphics editor for the major metropolitan daily of its time never eyeballed the political implications of the color scheme, and that nobody higher up said anything about it, insults the intelligence.  Nevertheless, until someone comes forward with a more credible story, we’re stuck with this one.

Today’s reportage from Moscow says that the Putin regime intends to ignore the 100th anniversary of the October revolution later this year, largely because it does not want to celebrate citizens taking up arms and overthrowing their rulers. There’s an argument to be made that the implosion of the Soviet Union in the late 80s, and its internal purge of most of its revolutionary history, amounts to a forfeiture of its moral claim to the color red, placing red, as it were, in the public domain, for anyone to grab. Once detached from its Soviet historical linkage, the color red is an attractive commodity. It’s warm, and it comes forward to the eye. It expresses love, passion, emphasis.  In Chinese culture, red stands for courage, loyalty, honor, prosperity, and other good things. All things the Republican party is not.

All the more reason for the people’s progressive movement to reclaim red as our color.  The great Women’s March this past January boldly established pink as a color of protest on an unprecedented scale. That was a great step toward red. The International Women’s Day rally on the UC Berkeley campus clearly and strongly put red back on the progressive banner.  Let’s take back red!

Sources:  Smithsonian, Wikipedia


Feb 15

An important local election

Kate Harrison

With the election of a progressive slate to Berkeley’s city council last November, former District 4 city council member Jesse Arreguin became mayor and vacated his council seat.  A special election to fill that seat is taking place via mail balloting only.  Mail ballots have been sent out to District 4 voters and are due in by March 6.  The candidates are Kate Harrison, a long time Berkeley activist with a successful government consulting business, and Ben Gould, a failed candidate in the Mayor’s race who is a graduate student in an M.A. program at UC Berkeley.

I don’t live in District 4, but the election of a city council member — especially in this district, which includes downtown Berkeley and a large slice of UC students — is of concern to all city residents.  I’m therefore reposting here, from Berkeleyside, an op-ed by my wife, Sheila Jordan, endorsing Kate Harrison.  I personally have donated money to Kate’s campaign and have done some telephoning and canvassing for her.


By Sheila Jordan

Sheila Jordan recently retired as the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools. She is a Berkeley resident and is volunteering for Kate Harrison’s campaign.

As the recently retired Alameda County Superintendent of Schools and a Berkeley resident, I am supporting Kate Harrison for City Council District 4.

Kate looks like the girl next door but make no mistake: Kate is a heavyweight. In addition to the list of Berkeley commissions and committees on which she’s served, she’s worked successfully with the leaders of the City of San Francisco and the State Courts of California. She’s successfully consulted with 29 California counties and ten foreign countries. Her independence is an important quality. While a team player and excellent mediator, no one is going to intimidate her, overwhelm her, or take advantage of her.

Kate is a nuts-and-bolts kind of woman. As a Berkeley citizen activist, she’s been an advocate for the principles of a diverse, participatory and caring city. She knows that in government service, “the devil is in the details.” Government means delivering concrete benefits: potholes fixed, people hired, scholarships granted, tress planted, doors opened, paperwork handled – nuts and bolts. She’s made a living advising other governments how to deliver those kinds of human friendly services. Today she advocates for strongly supporting our prized public K-18 school systems as well as responsible affordable development that provides adequate housing for students and families. We need these qualities on the Berkeley City Council.

Kate knows how to focus on “getting the best bang for the buck.” In my 16 years as head of Alameda County’s K-12 school systems and in charge of approving all Districts’ budgets, I know that without the foundation of a stable budget, the city will flounder. Kate isn’t running for office as a topic for her graduate thesis. Although she has a graduate degree from UC Berkeley, she does not live in a campus bubble. She’s made a career of understanding how to achieve smooth running organizations. She and her husband own a home. She runs a business. She has been tested and vindicated in the real world. Kate will work with the Mayor, Council and community to find and cut waste. She will provide our new Council with vital expertise in finding and spending available resources to make this the best city we can be.

Sheila Jordan

Kate’s endorsements are many and impressive. The California Nurses’ Association, the SEIU, Berkeley Fire Fighters, Central Labor Council, UCB Progressive Student Association, Sierra Club, Berkeley Tenants Union, Alameda County Democratic Party, Hotel Workers Local 2850 … These endorsements testify to a recognition that in this council race, the best candidate by far is Kate Harrison. I’m proud to be part of her long list of individual endorsements!

Please remember to vote and mail your ballot!

Feb 07

Trump Looking for Violent Incident as Pretext

The Reichstag Fire in 1933, regardless of the culprit, gave Adolf Hitler a pretext for consolidating power as quickly placed blame for the fire on anarchists and Marxist elements. Now, writes Connolly, “the very visibility of our public actions against Trump—and they must be continued—encourages them to find a pretext of violence to escalate their demands and public support for more extreme action.” (Photo: Wiki Commons)


Donald Trump is sounding very dangerous these days.

He attacks the very legitimacy of the courts, for instance, when he tweets that a “so-called judge” will be responsible if there is a terrorist act during the stay he has imposed on the ban against Muslim entry to the U.S. from seven countries. This is one more example of Trump’s demand that his executive commands be obeyed, regardless of other legal and constitutional considerations. Unfortunately, his actions also alert us to previous periods in U.S history when events were created to create a false context for reckless actions leaders wanted to take. LBJ’s production of a false Gulf Of Tonkin attack to press Congress for a war resolution and George W. Bush’s manufactured “facts” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to pressure congressional support for the Iraq war are key examples. Trump has not moved there yet, but he is looking for the opportunity to do so.

“We must continue our protests, while publicizing how they will be nonviolent. They WANT us to be violent; they even hope to construct the appearance of it to justify their repression.”

Reckless, authoritarian leader are periodically tempted by what might be called the “Reichstag Syndrome.” In 1933 Hitler was handed the Chancellorship of Germany by President von Hindenburg, even though he had not received a majority of votes.

Within three months a fire occurred in the Reichstag—the building in which the parliament met. Was it started by anarchists and Marxists as Hitler claimed? Was it started by Rohmer as Rohmer himself asserted much later? The cause is unclear. But Hitler used the event to announce the necessity of Martial Law to protect the regime. It was used as an occasion to destroy the opposition parties. The event became the cover under which he became Fuhrer.

Do I suggest that Trump and Bannon may follow that precedent? Not exactly. However, they are looking for an incident, an event, whether real or contrived, that allows them to take more extreme action without interference from demonstrations, the courts, or the Congress. The very visibility of our public actions against Trump—and they must be continued—encourages them to find a pretext of violence to escalate their demands and public support for more extreme action.

Our job as citizens is to spread the word about the Trump-Bannon temptation before such action is taken. Doing so to increase the likelihood of resistance against it if and when it happens. We must continue our protests, while publicizing how they will be nonviolent. They WANT us to be violent; they even hope to construct the appearance of it to justify their repression.

Trump is a very dangerous president; we must continue to define him as such even before he escalates his Big Lies further.


William E. Connolly is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent book is, Facing the Planetary: Entangled Humanism and the Politics of Swarming (Duke, 2017)

Jan 21

Talking Carnage

Pat Brown, the current California governor’s father, observed somewhere that in politics, the language always rides off in the opposite direction from the policy. So, if the policy promotes war, its advocates profess nothing but peaceful intentions, and if the policy gouges the poor, the language that wraps the package sparkles with phrases of equality and charity.  

President Trump’s inaugural address can stand as a blue-ribbon model of this rule.  The key phrases aim resentment against elites, express love for the common people, and lay out a vision — an unshakeable dedication — to enter “a new millennium” of greatness.  

“Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth … The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country … there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our country … The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer … Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation … the crime and the gangs and the drugs … This American carnage stops right here and stops right now… From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land … America first, America first … We stand at the birth of a new millennium … You will never be ignored again.  Your voice, our hopes and dreams will define our American destiny.”  

It doesn’t quite have the revolutionary thunder of the Communist Manifesto, but if you read it out of context you might think that it came from the lips of some modern-day Spartacus, seething with rage against the machine and incandescent with a fever to turn the world right side up again.  

Unfortunately, there is a context.  There is the man from whose mouth it came, there is his history, and there is the crowd he is bringing into power with him. He’s no Spartacus.  He’s the son of a rich man. In his own real estate holdings there has been “little to celebrate for struggling families,” especially not for those who are African-American.

He has made his reputation building palaces and clubs for the rich, forgetting entirely the “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities.” He has invested nothing in reviving “rusted-out factories” here, preferring to have his branded commodities manufactured in Turkey and in China. Even the official inauguration caps with his name on them were made in China.

There has indeed been carnage in American cities, with hundreds of unarmed black and Latino men, women, and children murdered by men in uniform, who in some cities form the most dangerous of gangs. Has he spoken out against this carnage? Never. Does he show sympathy for the victims?  On the contrary.  He blesses the perpetrators, and throughout his campaign he has given aid and comfort to elements who emulate the Klan in all but the bedsheets.

He says, “For many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry.” Who’s the “we” in this sentence? It’s not you and me but the owners and bankrollers of American industry who have moved millions of jobs abroad by outsourcing manufacturing to lower wage areas. The resulting super-profits have vastly enriched the American billionaires.  Never in history have so few individuals owned so much as they do today.  

The most effective way to stop outsourcing is to tax those profits, cutting them to the rate that would have come from American labor.  Another cure is to tax the trillions in profits that American corporations stash abroad as if they were generated in America. Does the speaker have the courage to propose this kind of action? Only look around at the folks he is bringing with him to Washington. Never in American history has there been a cabinet so stunk up with billionaires. Nothing in the president’s history nor in his campaign statements hints at any intention to touch the golden river of profits that flows into their pockets. On the contrary, his proposals aim to widen and deepen that stream, on the pretense that jobs depend on it, even though American banks are already choked with trillions in corporate profits that nobody knows what to do with.  

Patriotism, the English wit Samuel Johnson observed, is usually the last refuge of a scoundrel.  Case in point: “America First.” By the sound of it, as patriotic a policy as could be imagined.  But then consider not only the Trump merchandise manufactured abroad, but also the source of the man’s wealth.  Because he burned most American banks with his bankruptcies and broken deals, much of his business financing has come from Russian sources. The hundreds of millions he spent to turn the old D.C. Post Office into his branded hotel came as a loan from Deutsche Bank.  Deutsche Bank is a scandal-plagued foreign institution that has been accused, among other frauds, of acting as a pass-through for Russian capital. And Trump comes into office with the major US intelligence agencies having concluded that the Russian government actively intervened in the US election in his favor. Any scoundrel in his precarious position would need to thump the tin tub of patriotism very hard indeed.  

“The time for empty talk is over.  Now arrives the hour of action.”  So he said, and by his actions he will be judged.  The first thing he did was to repeal an Obama executive order that eased the path to ownership for first-time home buyers. Next, he is dismantling the Affordable Care Act, which is providing health care coverage to more than 20 million Americans.  On his early list is defunding Planned Parenthood, cutting services for victims of domestic violence, and a series of other attacks that will entail widespread suffering and loss of lives.  Much worse is to come.  

No shroud of inaugural rhetoric can mask the calculated evil of this new administration. In earlier administrations, a Marxist had to put in some effort to expose the hands of the billionaires who were directing the ship of state from behind the scenes. Now the manipulative moguls have stepped in front of the curtain and dispensed with the bother of using front men to do their bidding. They’ve little acquaintance and much contempt for government ethics. If they have to put their assets in trust, it’s with the assurance that they’ll take them back again, with tax-free gains, when their term is over.  Their administration will be a carnival of corruption and corporate welfare.  They’ll run a garage sales of public assets for favored private hands. No protection, no safety net for “the struggling families all across our land” will be safe.  You’re talking carnage?  You ain’t seen nothing yet.  

(To be continued)


Jan 18

Berlin Bulletin

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

By Victor Grossman

Berlin Bulletin No. 125, January 17, 2017

Rosa and Karl: Like every mid-January Sunday in Berlin, their names are recalled by those with a social conscience. Once again thousands laid red carnations, brightening the snowy surroundings, at the monument honoring them and those named nearby who lived and died for a good cause. Karl Liebknecht was a fighter, the one Social Democratic delegate in 1914 to defy a party decision and vote against the World War, and to keep opposing it until he was jailed. Rosa Luxemburg, with him in opposition, and also jailed, wrote bitterly, “The dividends rise and the proletarians fall.” In the bloody days of the November Revolution at war’s end they fought for a socialist Germany, helped found a Communist Party and, two weeks later, 98 years ago, were both brutally murdered by forerunners of the Nazis. Rosa is still especially loved; she was not only a truly revolutionary fighter against injustice, war and oppression, but could also dream. Even in prison she described the sky, songbirds, even the ants and beetles she could observe, and wrote: “I feel at home in the entire world, wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”

The “old faithful” and many young people, too, walk several blocks from the subway to the site. And, as every year, a militant mix of leftist parties, grouplets and national groups from all Germany and beyond, Czechs and Turks, Kurds and Basques, Austrians and Danes, prefers to first parade for several kilometers through East Berlin, with music, slogans, banners and flags (also a few of the forbidden Kurdish People’s Party, whose bearers were again nabbed by the police).

The day before,  as ever, the newspaper Junge Welt organized a leftist conference. 2800 people, a record, heard reports on events in Brazil, the Basque country, Mexico, Turkey, Cuba and the USA, also a taped greeting from Mumia Abu-Jamal, the framed Black journalist in prison since 1981.

In the crowded rooms two themes could often be heard: Donald Trump and the position of the LINKE party. Not surprisingly, there was little affection for Trump; some were planning to demonstrate in Berlin against him. But some expressed fears at the unprecedented movement of US tanks and weapons through Germany and Poland to the Russian border. Could war hawks be planning some provocation there and using it to oust Trump, not because of his racism or misogyny, but because he wants to negotiate peacefully with Putin? Was the hectic, more than dubious hacker campaign so planned that Trump could be labeled a pawn of Putin and potential traitor in the face of a new emergency? Heightening such fears were reports of a  US Marine unit just arriving in Norway to “learn skiing” and “get used to polar conditions” near the Russian border and then join the big units gathering near St. Petersburg. What would the next days bring?

As for the LINKE, debate centered on its willingness, or refusal, to join the Greens and Social Democrats in a coalition government after the September elections. Would the LINKE join up, if the results permit, dropping its strict opposition to deploying troops outside German borders? Thus far it had voted solidly, often alone, against involvement in  Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria and Mali. This was the basis of its claim to be the one party of peace. Social Democrats and Greens insist it cannot be so stubborn on this if it wants to join in and some LINKE say, “OK, let’s agree on some exceptions”. Others recall the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent, soon followed by legs, hump and all!

But those elections are nine months away, and one difficult baby has already been born in this connection. In Berlin just such a  three-party coalition is now in charge, its joint program supported per referendum by almost 90 percent of all  LINKE members in Berlin. The new LINKE cabinet minister in charge of city planning, herself an engineer, courageously chose as deputy Andrej Holm, an expert, and known as a militant fighter against gentrification and for the rights of low-income tenants, for keeping rent rates down and building more homes for those who need them most.

Then it was found that Holm, after high school, had followed the bidding of his father (the son of an anti-Nazi concentration camp prisoner) and his feelings for the GDR and,  in September 1989 signed up for a uniformed sector of the State Security Ministry or Stasi. Four months later came the end of the Stasi, and soon after the GDR.  But not the animosity of its foes, not in 27 years. The masters in digging dirt found that when Holm applied for a university position in 2005 he had admitted to joining the Stasi but not that he had received pay for three or four months. Had he forgotten after 15 years? Was he trying to save his livelihood and career against the lasting taboos? For his foes that was unimportant. The city, they insisted, could not have such an untrustworthy man in office!

All this landed in the middle of  the Liebknecht-Luxemburg Conference. Then came the news that Mayor Michael Müller, a Social Democrat, without waiting for a university report, as agreed, had decided to fire Holm. One speaker recalled bitterly how Hans Globke, one of those most responsible for preparing the Holocaust, remained a deputy minister and “second most important man in West Germany” until 1963. And so many others had cleansed or concealed a Nazi past! The conference ended with a unanimous call on the LINKE to answer this move by quitting the city government coalition. Yet it was clear to most that this would not happen. The real estate sharks won out, and a day later Holm decided to quit before he was fired. But he vowed to stay militant!

This was no pleasant start for the Berlin coalition, and may even have relevancy for the national election campaign. It was good, therefore, that Sunday ended with a wonderful meeting in a big theater, with all top leaders of the LINKE party in a friendly row of brief speeches, also the LINKE candidate for German president, speakers from other countries and good music, German and Turkish, all under the slogan “Labor Unions strengthen Humanism (Anti-Communism destroys it).”

In conclusion Sarah Wagenknecht, the party’s most prominent leader, made a powerful, fighting speech. She denounced the forces in  Germany and elsewhere who are responsible for wars, death, destruction and poverty, with resulting waves of refugees. She accused German rulers of bribing some groups of workers into acquiescence while pushing others into ever worsening part-time, temporary, unprotected jobs, divided in each plant to prevent unity, and thus lowering wages. The cheaper-built products helped force countries in southern Europe into “austerity” measures and those in  Africa or Asia into extreme poverty, with half their young people facing joblessness and hopeless futures. Only if the LINKE hits at these problems, offering German working people a true alternative to establishment politics, can right-wing extremists be beaten back. It was a wonderful speech, the crowd was galvanized into new determination to fight back and to fight forward. This meeting, like all the weekend’s events, was truly in the spirit of Rosa and Karl!

[Reposted by permission]

Jan 14

Open Letter from Vets About Haiti

Open Letter from Military Veterans about the 2016 Stolen Elections in Haiti
January 9, 2017

President of the United States Barack Obama       Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
The White House                                                    United Nations Secretariat
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW                             405 East 42nd Street
Washington, DC 20500                                           New York, NY 10017

Your Excellency, President of the United States Barack Obama

Your Excellency, Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres

We in Veterans for Peace urge you to reverse your policies which have trampled on the democratic rights of the Haitian people. Today a stolen election, or “electoral coup d’etat” is taking place in full view, with your support. Today, almost daily marches of tens of thousands, demanding free and fair elections, are being brutally repressed by Haitian police and U.N. soldiers, with your support.

As the attached Veterans for Peace resolution makes clear, the origins of the current crisis can be traced back to the Feb. 2004 coup, when an invasion force of U.S., French and Canadian armies overthrew the elected government of Haiti, kidnapping President Aristide and flying him to exile in Africa on a U.S. military plane. The coup led to a wave of killings and persecution of Fanmi Lavalas, Aristide’s party and long the most popular political party in Haiti. Since then, Haiti has been placed under U.N. military occupation, which continues today. 

Since the 2004 coup, Haitians have been deprived of the right to a free and fair election – first by excluding Lavalas from participation in elections, and later in 2015 and 2016 by massive and well-documented electoral fraud. The fraud involved U.N. officials, the U.S. Embassy, and Haitians who had backed the 2004 coup – and who hold key posts in the Electoral Council and Vote Tabulation Center. Operations to suppress the vote were rampant and widespread.

On Nov. 29 at 1:00 in the morning, UN-trained-and-supervised police launched a tear-gas attack on the sleeping La Saline neighborhood, killing three babies by suffocation and hospitalizing others. On Dec. 24, police attacked a peaceful Christmas eve demonstration on Martin Luther King Avenue in Port-au-Prince – beating and shooting journalists and people protesting the electoral coup d’etat.  Police deliberately shot up and smashed windows of cars belonging to Lavalas parliamentarian Printemps Belizaire and Lavalas senatorial candidate Dr. Louis Gerald Gilles. Journalist Thomas Jean Dufait, from Radio-Tele Timoun, sustained bullet wounds.

Veterans for Peace has over 120 chapters across the U.S. and abroad. Recently we sent a
large group to support Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, N.D. One of our
principles is “to restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the
internal affairs of other nations” – precisely what has happened in Haiti – historically, and including today’s blatant interference in Haiti’s election.

As a veterans’ organization, we appeal to U.N. soldiers assigned to duty in Haiti, to refuse to obey unjust orders to repress Haitian citizens who are exercising freedom of expression and assembly. It is their right to have their votes transparently and accurately counted, and to oppose the “electoral coup d’etat” being imposed by foreign powers.

Please act to stop this injustice and protect the democratic rights of the Haitian people.


Barry Ladendorf
President, Veterans for Peace



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