In Berkeley. . .: a new series at zomblog

Today we will be inaugurating a new series at zomblog. Each post’s title will begin with the words “In Berkeley…” and then go on to describe a specific fact which makes Berkeley different from any other city in the country. The text of each post will then always start, “Berkeley is so left-wing…“, followed by a photo and an explanation.

I’ve got several of these already lined up, with more in the works. Barring any time-sensitive posts covering possible breaking current events, over the upcoming days and weeks every zomblog post will be an “In Berkeley…” post. Keep checking back for more!

A final note: In previous writings here at zombietime, I’ve said that I think the left-wing/right-wing dichotomy is no longer a meaningful way to describe the political spectrum; and yet here I am describing Berkeley as “left-wing.” The reason I’m doing this is that Berkeley is so stuck in the past that it still is left-wing — even while the rest of the world is moving toward a new paradigm. By pointing out how ludicrous Berkeley’s anachronistic leftist identity appears in the context of the modern world, perhaps I can knock some sense into a few people.

Anyway — look for the first installment later today, with many more to come.

Between 2000 and 2008, a widespread deep loathing of George W. Bush now known as Bush Derangement Syndrome grew to such a fever pitch that it threatened to tear the country apart. Political analysts — at least those who weren’t BDS sufferers themselves — were astonished to observe what seemed to be an unprecedented level of not just political vitriol but personal hatred directed at Bush and his view of the world.

Bush Derangement Syndrome was described as unprecedented in American history. But was it really? A recent find throws that supposition into doubt.

Reagan Derangement Syndrome?

At a garage sale not too long ago, I bought for 50¢ a tattered poster entitled “The World According to Ronald Reagan.” Judging from the historical clues of locales emphasized in the map (Grenada, Beirut, The Falklands) the poster appears to have been made at the end of 1983 or early 1984, and possibly was sold in connection with the 1984 presidential election. Here’s what it looks like:

What’s remarkable about this map is how little has changed in the 25 years since it was made. True, a few of the geo-political features are now out-of-date, but the overall point of view remains the same.

The map — obviously designed by a leftist and/or a Democrat — purports to be a clever parody of the Republican mindset, but we can in retrospect now see that the map is not so much an insight into Reagan’s world but rather a peek into what the leftists imagined Reagan thought. As a result, the map serves to illuminate the leftist worldview of the time, filtered through a parodic lens. Think of the map as an archaeological document that reveals the unconscious biases of its creators.

Let’s take a closer look at the portion of the map which depicted the leftist version of Reagan’s America:

The first detail that jumps out at you is how similar this map is to the well-known “Jesusland” map that emerged after the 2004 election, highlighting the geopolitical divide between Bush supporters and detractors. In this version, the area later dubbed Jesusland is instead labeled “Republicans and other real Americans.”

Of course, if the map truly reflected the right-wing worldview, then California and New England would be especially small (to reflect their ideological unimportance), whereas “real America” would be greatly enlarged; this map shows the exact reverse, with California bigger than the rest of the country all combined, thereby revealing the political bias of the mapmakers, not of Reagan.

“Ecotopia,” in the Pacific Northwest, is a reference to a 1970′s novel of the same name which visualized the Pacific coast as an autonomous utopian commune, hewing to hippie values and separate from the rest of America. Though now largely forgotten, in 1983 Ecotopia was still widely enough known to be used as the the name of the place where all the “environmental freaks and quiche eaters” live.

Because of Reagan’s stance as an anti-communist hawk, Central America and the Caribbean are simplified to show only those areas with relevance to the Cold War in the early 1980s — the Salvadoran civil war, the invasion of Grenada, and Castro’s Cuba. But a notable difference between then and now is that Mexico is given essentially no relevance whatsoever, being relegated to “Mariachiland.” If the map had been made today, there undoubtedly would have been some reference to Mexico as the source of most illegal immigrants to the U.S.

The other half of the map is even more interesting. Here’s a detailed close-up:

Even 25 years ago, there were two primary areas of focus: the struggle between capitalism and communism/socialism (with the left favoring communism), and the Middle East (with the left favoring the Palestinians over Israel and also obsessing over oil). Of course, the mapmakers never imagined someone would ever come to this conclusion just from looking at their parody.

This portion of the map reveals a behind-the-scenes struggle to control the narrative which had already started back then and which still continues essentially unchanged to this day: The “right” identifies foes of the Western world (communism and Islamic extremism) and the “left” responds by satirically mocking the very notion of there being evil villains out to get us (by sarcastically calling the USSR “Godless communists, liars and spies,” and by laughing at the fear of Islamic extremists by labelling them “Muslim fanatics”). In the 21st century the left still dismisses fears of “Muslim fanatics” as paranoiac warmongering, and still mocks anyone who is anti-communist or anti-socialist.

Or course, with the benefit of more historical hindsight we now know that the leftist tactic of pooh-poohing the very notion of there being a struggle against “the bad guys” is simply a clever way of sidestepping being perceived as siding with those very same bad guys. The dynamic goes like this: The pro-America right posits an us-vs.-them framework, such as “We are freedom-loving pro-democracy capitalists; those bad guys are freedom-hating anti-democratic communists/Islamists/etc. We conservatives choose the side of freedom; what side do you choose?” Now, many on the far left do side with the enemies of capitalism; but strategically, they don’t want to be identified as such. So, in response to this framework, instead of taking sides in a good-vs.-evil narrative which they can’t win, they try to demolish the whole framework altogether. Hence, as in this map, they mock the very notion that there is a good-vs.-evil struggle going on, and portray it as the sad violent fantasy of a Reaganite right-wing which can’t comprend the shades of gray.

But were the USSR and “Muslim fanatics” (most likely referring to Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution) imaginary bogeymen concocted by the right to justify their warmongering, as the leftist mapmakers would have us believe? Or were they real threats after all? I know what I think — what do you think?

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the map is the inflated focus on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Western Europe is barely even depicted, and is not named, whereas by comparison Israel is shown as being immense (its depicted size mirroring its psychological significance rather than its geographical dimensions), while a tiny dot in the Arctic Sea is identified as being the “Palestinian Homeland (proposed).” I never realized just how long ago the left had switched allegiances and fully embraced the Palestinian view.

Israel is so big in this rendition that it’s actually larger than the entire Muslim world — while actual maps show the situation is quite the opposite. (And why is Beirut shown as being inside Israel?)

For the last decade, the left has focused almost obsessively on oil, claiming that the Iraq War and the entire “war on terror” were done simply to garner oil profits for Bush’s cronies. Oil is also now seen as the virtual lifeblood of evil capitalism, a symbol of everything the left hates. But I didn’t realize how far back this approach went: oil is the only commodity mentioned anywhere on the map (“Our oil” on Saudi Arabia and offshore drilling next to California).

Another map detail shows a tactic which is still commonly used today: to suggest that the right is inherently racist, without any evidence to back up the accusation. In this case, all of Africa is dismissed (remember this is a leftist fantasy of how the right thinks) as “Negroes,” while India is filled with “Injuns.” Yet Reagan never did or said anything that could be interpreted as racist. The exact same accusations were leveled at Bush, with a corresponding lack of evidence.

“Derangement Syndrome” is not unique to the Bush era. Many on the left had a visceral hatred for Reagan, and (a decade earlier) for Nixon as well. Looking at this map is like looking at a mirror reflecting another mirror reflecting another mirror in which, somewhere in the distance, one can see the early-’80s leftist worldview — a worldview which bears a startling resemblance to the worldview the left still holds to this day.


(Analyses, rebuttals and other observations about “The World According to Ronald Reagan” can be posted in the comments section below.)

Swastika and "SS" symbol . . . in Berkeley?!?


Spotted in Berkeley, in the middle of downtown: a swastika and SS symbol written on the sidewalk.

I thought it bizarre enough that swastika graffiti cropped up in Richmond recently, but it’s even more strange — and unsettling — to see this in Berkeley, of all places.

On Thursday, May 28, the Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper published an article encouraging people to join a vigilante-style protest in front of the private home of Professor John Yoo. The article read in part:

Neighborhood Alert: Berkeley Home to Possible War Criminal

Last week the Grizzly Peak neighbors of John Yoo received a “Neighborhood Alert” regarding Professor Yoo, in the form of a flyer letting them know he lives among them and providing information about his crimes, namely providing unethical and shoddy legal advice and cover to Bybee, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. …

Unlike a sexual predator or burglar, Mr. Yoo is a criminal whom the police are not likely to point out to Berkeley citizens, though his crimes are horrific. …

I question the acceptability of sheltering a war criminal in Berkeley. I don’t feel safe living in the vicinity of someone who believes torture is legal. …

Finally, there is a growing group of Berkeley citizens who are standing in witness in front of Yoo’s house on a weekly basis, starting this Sunday, May 31, at 2 p.m. Join this group on Grizzly Peak for an hour or so. If there’s any justice in this world John Yoo is going to have problems living a normal life now, unless he apologizes to us all.

So, like the vigilantes of old, these freelance protesters have decided on their own that John Yoo is guilty of a crime and needs to be punished. No longer content to let the courts decide whether he is even to be charged with anything, much less found guilty, much less determine the punishment, the anti-Yoo protesters have decided to stalk him at home, menacing him and making sure that “John Yoo is going to have problems living a normal life now.”

IndyBay, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Indymedia, then published a detailed guide for how to attend the “protest” in front of John Yoo’s home; because Indymedia routinely redirects incoming links, copy and paste this URL into a new browser window to see the listing:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/05/29/18599330.php

Zomblog correspondent Chicken Kiev pedaled by the rally on a bicycle and snapped these pictures of the vigilante protesters stalking John Yoo in front of his private home:

Chicken Kiev reports via email:

“I snapped this photo as I passed the protest on my bicycle. There were actually five or six people there, but some were across the street talking to someone in a car.”

“This picture shows that they went up onto John Yoo’s private property and wrote graffiti in his driveway (I think it says ‘All torture is a crime.’) Sorry that it’s blurry, but it’s hard to control the camera on the bicycle.”

Is it proper to harass and menace people in their private homes? Have we entered a new era of vigilante justice? Or have the protesters crossed a line into illegal territory? Is it OK for the protesters to tell John Yoo’s neighbors he is a criminal? Are they allowed to write slogans on his private property? Did the Berkeley Daily Planet violate journalistic ethics by promoting this event?

Readers, whatever your opinion on waterboarding and torture and the “War on Terror”: What do you think?

Protest Against Prop. 8 Gay Marriage Ruling

New at zombietime:

Protest Against Prop. 8 Gay Marriage Ruling

If you’d like to comment on this report, you can do so here.

While visiting downtown Berkeley yesterday, I became intrigued by this ad on an AC Transit bus stop:


Say what? A boycott Israel ad? The propagandists are certainly getting bolder, and better funded! I came in for a closer look.


Turns out the ad’s words referred to the fact that the University of California recently reinstated its study-abroad program with Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which apparently has infuriated the many virulent anti-Israel activists in the U.C. system. (Pay no attention to the fact that U.C. has nearly 100 study-abroad programs in 35 countries around the world including Egypt and Turkey; while there are several programs each in many of the participating countries, there is only one in Israel. As usual, Israel is singled out for criticism by the academic left.)


But something seemed “wrong” about the ad. A more detailed inspection revealed that various graphic components had been glued in place, such as this tank. Not Photoshopped — but literally glued onto the background image.


The word balloons spoken by the students were also later additions.


When seen from above, some of the word balloons were coming unglued.


I then realized that the main body of text was itself glued into place. (Notice the edge peeling up at the lower left.) The whole ad was faked!


The final piece of the puzzle: The locking mechanism for the glass cover had been broken, allowing vandals to access the billboard inside.

I suspected that the ad had originally been an ad promoting study in Israel, which was then later vandalized and doctored by anti-Israel activists to reverse the message.

But who did it?

Didn’t take me long to find out. Because the culprits bragged about it online.

A press release issued by the “U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel” gleefully described the organized “guerrilla ad campaign,” and was reprinted in various publications and on various Web sites, including (for example) the Socialist magazine The Monthly Review. The press release reads, in part,

Guerrilla Ad Campaign Replaces “Study in Israel” Billboards
by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

Students and community members near the UC Berkeley campus were surprised one weekend to see a series of bus shelter billboards …
The guerrilla ads replaced ads which also featured photos of groups of people, beneath the headline, “Study in Israel? You’d like it here.” The ad campaign was part of an intensive campaign to promote study in Israel at California universities. The University of California recently reinstated a study abroad program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, after years of strong lobbying from pro-Israel students and professionals.

The press release then goes on to describe a whole series of earlier ad defacements, of which the one I saw was merely the most recent example.

The press release was also printed on the Palestinian Birzeit university site and U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. Note, however, that the press release says the guerrillas wish to “remain anonymous,” even though they freely give quotes in interviews with USCACBI.

One posting about the press release, by a blogger on the “Body on the Line” site, says that the fake ads were made by “friends of mine” — implying that he knows who did it.

I became curious as to who put up the original ads in the first place. I noticed that one of the original ads, as seen in the Monthly Review article above, shows some young women crossing a street. That same image is used in a different ad put up by the pro-Israel organization BlueStarPR, leading me to the presumption that the guerrillas were targetting BlueStarPR ads. But a quick review of the full list of all BlueStarPR images does not reveal the original version of the defaced ad I saw. So I’m still not sure who placed the original ad.

If you know who designed and paid for the authentic advertisement, please inform them, and/or post the information in the comments section here!

In a related incident, the Muslim Association of Britain is calling for similar pro-Israel bus advertisements in London to be taken down, and several of those ads are reported to have been defaced. Could there be a connection?


UPDATE: BlueStarPR confirms that they indeed are the group which designed and placed the ads, in conjunction with the U.C. Berkeley Study Abroad program.

Several readers have pointed out that defacing or replacing ads counts as either criminal vandalism or outright theft, and is punishable by law. Perhaps the sites linked to in the defacement (http://usacbi.wordpress.com/, http://www.stopthewall.org/ and http://www.bdsmovement.net/ merit a little investigation in relation to this crime?


UPDATE 2: The BlueTruth blog earlier this month had a post about an identical ad defacement in Berkeley, along with excellent background info on the relationship between U.C. Berkeley and Hebrew University: BlueTruth: For Marla Bennett

Obama’s rejected campaign slogan: Alteration!

Obama’s campaign slogan was “Change” — but a sewing shop in Berkeley gives a glimpse of what his slogan would have been like if his advisors had chosen a more pretentious latinate version of the same concept:

Communist rally fizzles in the rain

San Francisco’s May Day political rally, sponsored by a variety of communist groups and labor unions, found itself drenched by some unseasonably wet weather. Only a few hundred people showed up for what was advertised as a major event. The Bolsheviks, for example, put a tent over their booth, but even with the protection from the rain, attendance was extremely sparse . The “4″ superimposed on the hammer-and-sickle is the symbol for “The Fourth International,” or the form of communism promoted by Leon Trotsky.


In order to attract a larger crowd, the event had also been billed as a pro-amnesty rally. Despite there being no real connection between International Workers’ Day (May 1) and the immigration issue, most of the attendees carried signs about amnesty, and most of the speeches and signs were in Spanish. Some groups combined the two themes, such as the pro-amnesty socialist group seen here.


And as always, the Revolutionary Communist Party tried to come up with the most attention-grabbing slogan.


Several people in the crowd carried mysterious messages about “melting the ice.” I’m not quite sure if they were advocates in favor of global warming, or if they had some other agenda in mind.


Some took a different approach and suggested we crush the ice instead.

Down with ice!


The usual socialist literature was on sale, with some stuff seemingly left over from 2004 and 2005.


And of course the usual obsession with Jews and Israel. Par for the course.

All in all, the soggiest and smallest San Francisco rally I’ve seen in years.


Berman Post has a photo gallery of a very similar May 1 event in New York — same small crowd, same weather, same focus on amnesty and communism.

SFGate has a huge gallery of Associated Press pictures of May Day rallies around the world.

On a recent visit to Berkeley last Saturday, I ran into the Dalai Lama quite by accident:


I noticed that a street had been cordoned off and I saw a huge crowd down the block straining to catch a glimpse of something. Out of curiosity, I came closer just in time to see the Dalai Lama arrive in a limousine and bless the crowd before heading into the back door of the Berkeley Community Theater to give a speech. To mark the occasion, the city of Berkeley was flying Tibetan flags on city-owned flag poles at Civic Center Park.


For some reason I was struck by the memory of a different world leader who came to Berkeley nearly nine years ago to give a speech in the exact same theater — but who was given a rather different kind of reception: When Benjamin Netanyahu arrived to give a speech at the Berkeley Community Theater in 2000, the protests were so violent that the speech had to be cancelled at the last minute.

Which got me to thinking: The average Berkeley resident is pro-Tibet, yet anti-Israel. But how logical is that?

Consider the following: Which side do you support in this scenario:

A large empire controlled by a dominant ethnic group tries to seize a comparatively small piece of territory that is the ancestral homeland of a minority ethnic group.

Now, being Americans, our natural urge is to root for the underdog. But the scenario outlined above could apply equally to Tibet or Israel. The only difference is how the story ended up.

The modern nation of China is the contemporary name for the vast empire of the Han Chinese ethnic group. Tibet had been mostly independent for the past two millennia, with occasional periods of domination by the Han. In 1913 Tibet officially declared itself a modern independent nation, and stayed that way until 1950, when a newly re-unified China invaded, seized total control of Tibet, and absorbed it inside the Chinese borders. The Chinese government in the intervening 60 years has encouraged massive migration of millions of Han Chinese into the region, to dilute the power of influence of the vastly outnumbered ethnic Tibetans.

The story of Israel, which in specifics seems totally different on the surface from the history of Tibet, in fact has many fundamental parallels. The ancient nation of Israel had been independent for many centuries, with periods of domination by the Romans and others. Some time after Rome fell, Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, newly unified under Islam, spread out across the Middle East, central Asia, north Africa and parts of Europe to create a vast Arab empire. The land of Israel was one of the many former nations absorbed into the Arab empire. After a long history far too complicated to summarize in a sentence, the Arab empire eventually fractured into dozens of modern independent nations, all of which still have Arabic as their primary language and Islam as their primary religion. After this fracturing, a minority ethnic group, the Jews, returned to their ancestral homeland in 1948 and declared themselves to be an independent nation. Now, there are many pan-Arab transnationalists who want to re-establish the Arab empire under a caliphate, and that would include abolishing national boundaries, including the one separating Israel from the surrounding Arab world.

In both cases, a large ethnic majority (Han, Arab) wants to subsume the land and national identity of an ethnic and religious minority (Tibetans, Jews) who have a legitimate historical claim for independence. The main difference is how things currently stand: The Tibetans’ homeland has been successfully invaded, conquered and partly ethnically cleansed by the Han; but the Jews have been able (so far at least) to defend their homeland of Israel from invasion and ethnic cleansing by the modern Arabs.

And it is this success at clinging to their independence that is apparently the Jews’ main moral flaw in the eyes of Berkeley. Oppressed people who remain victims deserve our sympathy; but oppressed people who fight back and reclaim their sovereignty are no longer pitiable, and lose their underdog status.


Hence when the former leader of one ethnic group (the Tibetans) arrives in Berkeley he is greeted by cheering crowds like this. But when the former leader of the parallel ethnic group (the Israelis) arrives in Berkeley, he is greeted by riots and threats of violence. The inconsistency is breathtaking.

But what, you may ask, about the Palestinians? How do they fit into this equation? Well, remember that the word “Palestinian” was until 1964 simply an adjective, the first half of the phrase “Palestinian Arab”; it was only with the rise of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian nationalism that the separate ethnic identity of “Palestinians” was invented. I need not go into the well-trod history of the Near East between 1917 and 1967, when the struggles between the Ottomans, British, French, Arabs, Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis left those Arabs who had been living in the area around Jerusalem and who had fled in 1948 as the only population without a nation to call their own. The revisionists are trying to claim that the land now called Israel is their ancestral home, and that they thereby have a right to it in its entirety; but from an outside strictly historical point of view, the Jews have a prior claim on the land by about 2,000 years, and the Arabs who later settled there are similar to the Han Chinese who are currently settling in Tibet: subsequent immigrants. Just because someone tried to change the ethnic labels doesn’t mean that the Palestinian Arabs are suddenly native to the region: They remain Arabs, and are being used by the larger Arab world as a tool to re-establish an Arab empire.

I realize that I’m not going to settle any arguments with this post, but I ask: What is your view of the parallels between Tibet and Israel? Do you accept my basic historical framework? Is it logically and morally consistent to support the independence of Tibet and Israel? Or do you reject this paradigm, and adopt some alternate historical structure, as do apparently most of the residents of Berkeley?

Saint Obama, Arabic Obama

Spotted recently at a trendy fashion boutique in San Francisco:


When a different store in San Francisco (a novelty gag store) stocked the same candles (which feature Obama’s head on St. Martin de Porres’ body), the local Catholic priest called for a boycott of the store. I can’t decide which is more amusing: San Francisco’s non-religious hipsters worshipping Obama like a holy saint — or a priest actually thinking such worship is blasphemous.


The same boutique also featured these Obama T-shirts with an Arabic slogan above his face. Anybody able to translate it?