Archive for May 2008

On Saturday, May 17, U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law held its graduation ceremonies. As graduates approached Boalt Hall for the reception, they were greeted by protesters.

In fact, more than just “greeted” — they had to run a gauntlet of demonstrators just to reach the entrance to the party.

Why would anyone protest a law school graduation? Because Boalt Hall is home to controversial law professor John Yoo, who in 2002 co-authored memos which theorized that the President of the United States would not be liable under the War Crimes Act if under times of national emergency he sanctioned “enhanced interrogation techniques” to get information from terrorism suspects. Setting aside whether or not “enhanced interrogation techniques” count as torture, and whether or not Yoo’s opinions were legally sound, it should be noted that the Bush administration formally repudiated the memos, and the Supreme Court rejected some of Yoo’s arguments, so the memos’ actual importance seems to be wildly overblown. Yoo’s opinion seems to be based on the argument that Al Qaeda terrorism suspects are unlawful combatants and thereby are not protected by the guidelines of the Third Geneva Convention, which they themselves violate — so they would have no legal basis for complaint if they were mistreated in custody. I’m not going to get involved in the cacophonous debate over the significance of these papers, which have come to be called “torture memos” by Yoo’s detractors. The internet is awash in information — and even greater amounts of misinformation and disinformation — about Yoo’s opinions, so if you’re interested you can Google his name for an avalanche of conflicting claims. This photo essay is just a report on the protest of May 17, not a legal brief.

Most of the protesters seemed to be members of various communist groups — primarily World Can’t Wait, but also (as seen here) the Spartacus Youth Club, among others.

Also present was a large contingent of 9/11 Truthers.

In fact, if you looked closely, most of the pre-printed signs (even those carried by protesters with other affiliations) seem to have been supplied by the Truthers.

As it turned out, the protest had reached its crescendo hours earlier a few blocks away when attendees were filing into Berkeley’s Greek Theater for the commencement ceremonies. There’s no way I’m getting up at 7am on a Saturday morning to cover a protest, but luckily Paul Chinn of the San Francisco Chronicle was on hand to capture the early-morning action. I arrived just as the protesters departed the Greek Theater and relocated to the reception at Boalt Hall, creating a surrealistic parade of John Yoos down Gayley Road.

The shadows across Yoo’s face gave the (unintentional) impression that he was already behind bars, which is exactly what the protesters were wishing for. Should a professor be fired and jailed for expressing unpopular views? If he’s a conservative professor, a lot of people would apparently say “Yes.”

Photos of the Abu Ghraib scandal were propped up around the reception, a sure way to garner sympathy from all the parents and students trying to have a celebration.

And while the majority of celebrants tried their best to ignore the protest, a surprisingly large number proudly wore the orange ribbons handed out by World Can’t Wait at the entrance to the reception. Did these people even know they were identifying themselves with a radical communist group? Doubtful.

Back up on the sidewalk, even the BP furries made an appearance — last seen at the Oak Grove Tree-Sit Anniversary Protest.

As a final aside: I’ve more and more begun to notice a substantial amount of overlap among the various far-left political groups behind these protests. For example, this World Can’t Wait member protesting against John Yoo was also seen in my previous report as a member of “Queers for Palestine” at the Nakba-60 Palestinian Festival a week ago. A woman of many identities!

I’ve just uploaded a new report to zombietime about the Nakba-60 Palestinian Festival in San Francisco.

If you wish to comment on this report you can do so here.

Please, God, make it stop!

Or should that be “Goddess” instead?

On Friday, May 9, Code Pink dressed up as “witches and crones” in front of the Marines Recruiting Office in Berkeley — though how this differed from their normal appearance was not explained. Seeking (as their flyer stated) to “invoke the Foremothers” in their ongoing attempt to use any means — physical, magical, self-defeating — to win their metaphorical war against the United States Marine Corps, Code Pink posed for the cameras as they always do, and (as they also always do) achieved absolutely nothing other than to discredit themselves.

Fortunately, I missed most of the action, swinging by later in the day to find this incomprehensible scene of a virgin bride holding a bloody baby. Tell me again what this has to do with witchcraft and cronery?

Note, also, the sign on the right: after four years of dedicating themselves to the “peace movement,” Code Pink has still yet to master the impossibly convoluted intricacies of the peace sign, and often as not will produce a Mercedes Benz logo instead.

Luckily, Fox News also got wind of the witch-themed protest, and was on hand earlier in the morning to capture some cauldron-stirring and moaning, which undoubtedly was enacted solely for Fox’s benefit. Note how the Fox reporter makes no mention of what seems to be the most newsworthy incident, shown without comment in the background, when Medea Benjamin, in crone mode, enters the recruiting office uninvited and — as her only act of civil disobedience — proceeds to open the window shade so the cameras will have a better view of her. A Marine runs over to close the shade moments later.

By the time I got there, the day had degenerated to its usual level of pointlessness, as eight or so Code Pinkers loitered around with not much to do, behind a sign that read “Sign Up Here to Die for Empire.”

They had set up a makeshift magical witches’ shrine in front of the office, including some “bloody” broken sugar cookies representing victims of war.

The Fox crew was still there hours later, pointing the camera at Code Pink all day as part of what must have been a rather boring “live protest feed” of the witch event. With nothing to fill the hours, the Berkeley cops struck up a friendship with the Fox crew, and they joked about the absurdity of it all.

Just posted at zombietime:

Palestinian Checkpoint on the U.C. Berkeley Campus

if you wish to comment on this report, you can do so here.

Here come the pro-Expelled demonstrations

Oh dear.

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the classroom…a protester promoting the claims put forth in Ben Stein’s controversial film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed showed up on the U.C. Berkeley campus today to argue with students about creationism and atheism.

When I stumbled across this scene, I didn’t at first notice the Expelled card on his sign. It’s rare to see anti-atheism protesters in Berkeley (as you might imagine), so I stuck around for a while to eavesdrop on the ongoing arguments.

It wasn’t until I circled around to the back that I got the full gist of his intent.

And then it hit me — Oooooohhhhhh, he was inspired to confront the UC students by Ben Stein, who thinks creationism should be given equal time in science classes alongside evolutionary biology. (Which, in my opinion, is a completely ludicrous demand, seeing as creationism is not science. Teach theology in Sunday school; in biology class, stick to the scientific method. This review of the film pretty much sums up my opinions on the matter.)

The story behind my presence on the U.C. campus adds another bizarre dimension to the scene. I had gotten a tip that the group “Students for Justice in Palestine” was going to set up a “checkpoint” near Sproul Plaza to force passing students to experience what life is purportedly like in the West Bank — as SJP’s way of marking the “Nakba,” the Arabic word for “catastrophe” that is used in Palestine to describe the founding of Israel. But when I showed up, no faux-checkpoints were to be found — only this table for the Muslim Students Association. I guess I either missed the action, or the whole event had been cancelled.

So instead I hung around and listened in on the arguments for and against God. I don’t think too many minds were changed.

There are many aspects of the left-wing bias in Berkeley’s liberal arts departments that merit criticism — but insisting that the school’s world-class science departments abandon their fundamental principles is the wrong way to confront the problem.

Michelle Obama for First Lady

Spotted in Berkeley:

This is the first sign I’ve ever seen explicitly in favor of Michelle Obama as First Lady.

I’d say “Only in Berkeley,” but I think that should be obvious by now.

Here’s the same sign in context, on the off-chance anyone thinks this couldn’t possibly be real.

I won’t describe the exact location, to protect the privacy of the Michelle fans.