WWAGD? (What Would Al Gore Do?)

Spotted at a natural foods store in an undisclosed location in the San Francisco Bay Area:

If you ever had any doubts that Al Gore is now the messianic figure of a Global Warming Religion, this should dispel them.

The message on the bag is not poking fun at Al Gore. It is completely serious.

Update (hat tip: Ringo): Also see Americans for Prosperity Crashes Al Gore’s Speech, July 17, 2008.

Back in March, I posted a short report about a protest against Chinese oppression in Tibet, put on by the large Tibetan community of Berkeley. Well, that ongoing protest is still happening four months later; every week, and sometimes more than once a week, a substantial contingent of Tibetans parade through downtown Berkeley around rush hour, decrying China’s occupation of Tibet.

Code Pink’s ongoing protest in front of Berkeley’s Marine Corps Recruiting Office (actually just one block away from where this picture was taken) gets tons of media attention — as do the tree-sitters trying to save the oak grove above the U.C. Berkeley campus; but this Tibetan protest is actually much larger, much better organized, and is (in my opinion) on a much more important topic than either of those other “standing protests.” And yet, aside from the few mentions on this site, I’ve seen nothing at all about the Berkeley Tibetans in the press.

Today I wrote a large update to a report I originally posted at zombietime a year ago:

Update to the zombietime “Al-Haramain v. Bush Surveillance Hearing” report.

If you’ve never seen this before, click here to start at the beginning.

The Obama Meme: Chapter 1

Yesterday I visited a craft fair in San Francisco. I wasn’t there as “zombie,” or looking for something political to blog about — I was just looking to shop for craft-y arts and accessories.

Luckily, I followed my new rule: Never leave home without a camera.

Because even here, in the most unlikely of places, the Obama Meme cropped up again. It seems there’s no way to avoid it. Amongst the handmade earrings and stuffed animals and trendy silkscreened t-shirts were images of our culture’s new folk icon, Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, I was more than halfway through the fair before I recognized the pattern of Obama imagery around me, so I didn’t photograph many of them. But I did catch a few snapshots of Obama idolatry as I strolled through the remaining booths.

Keep in mind that the craft fair was in no way political, and needless to say I didn’t see any other candidates mentioned or depicted. It’s just that iconic pictures of Obama have already become a standard feature in the fashion world. Is Obama the new Che?

Here’s a handmade greeting card featuring Obama as a Pez dispenser — or, in his case, “Prez” dispenser.

Here’s a hand-printed poster showing Stern Obama, making us feel guilty for our extravagances.

This blurry picture (sorry) shows a poster which optimistically refers to him already as “President Obama.”

Later, apropos of nothing, after I left the fair I noticed this “Commie” disguise in a novelty shop above a sign that said “Ready. Set. Hope.”

Right above it was an “Obama Rama” air freshener. (Note to company that makes this product: Wouldn’t “Obamaroma” have been a much better name?)

Any time I encounter further examples of the emerging “Obama Meme,” I’ll post them here.

UPDATE: The “Chicagoist” site posted this excellent collection of Obama folk designs several months ago. I didn’t realize that Obama meme-spotting was already a well-established sport!
(Thanks to reader Linda L. for finding the link.)

UPDATE #2: The “magpie and cake” crafting blog has another gallery of Obama-themed crafts from earlier this year.
(Thanks to reader Ringo the Gringo for the link.)

I’m Pro-Zombie and I Vote: our new mascot

This is NOT a picture of me. Nor is it a picture by me. It’s actually a real picture of a protester at a “zombie walk” in Seattle taken by fellow citizen journalist Byron Dazey. I just thought it was so appropriate for zomblog that I’m inaugurating Mr. “I’m Pro-Zombie and I Vote” here as the new zomblog mascot! I’m also sticking a miniature version of him permanently over in the sidebar. (Temporarily permanently, at least.)

I have no idea yet for what purpose I’ll ever use this photo (other than posting it here), but perhaps one day it will be exactly what I need. Until then: if anyone else has a reason to download and use this photo (or the mini version to the right), go right ahead (and credit should go to “Byron Dazey,” not me).

Welcome to our new mascot!

And a question for everyone to ponder: Are you pro-zombie, and do you vote?

Yes, they're at it again. Supporters and detractors of the United States military battled it out in Berkeley for at least the sixth time this year: the latest in a relentless series of protests and counter-protests trying to seize the upper hand in the controversy over the "Marine Corps Officer Selection Office" on Shattuck Square.

Saturday’s Summer Solstice showdown featured Move America Forward, the Marines Motorcycle Club, the Patriot Guard Riders and other veterans’ and pro-America groups facing off against their traditional adversaries: World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, the Revolutionary Communist Party, assorted 9/11 Truthers, far-left activists and their fellow travelers.

Let the battle commence!

Read the whole thing here, with dozens of photos, videos and more!

Following up on my posting on Tuesday about the crisis at the oak grove tree-sit:

Despite the seeming finality of the previous day’s “assault” by U.C. Berkeley on the occupied oak grove near Memorial Stadium, the standoff continued for a second day, as most of the sitters had managed to avoid capture. I swung by late on Wednesday, June 18, to see how things had progressed.

The crowd was definitely larger — word of the ongoing battle had percolated throughout the Professional Protester Community, and all the regulars came out. The atmosphere was simultaneously festive and desperate.

The sitters had constructed an insanely perilous aerie towering far above the highest branches. It was occupied by a protester with the too-perfect name Dumpster Muffin (yes, her name really is Dumpster Muffin), who would go into convulsions whenever one of the dismantlement-minded arborists neared her outpost. She’d screech and scream and shake the platform violently, forcing her opponents (who were dangling from a cable attached to a crane) to back off, fearing she’d martyr herself by plummeting to the ground rather than be captured. Using this technique repeatedly, Dumpster Muffin (seen here warily eyeing the crane in the distance) successfully defended her perch, to cheers from supporters down below.

Local TV station NBC11 captured video of Dumpster Muffin shaking her platform and screaming, with two different cameras — a zoom lens from the ground and another in their news helicopter.

At various points in the afternoon, other protesters would clamber up the Tinker-Toy-like support beams to check on Dumpster’s well-being.

A police helicopter hovered overhead, menacingly.

Late in the afternoon it was announced that a judge had temporarily halted construction on the site, causing great jubilation in the crowd. But not too long after, the University’s lawyers also declared the ruling to be a victory for their side, so as usual everything was left in confusion.

Meanwhile, some styrofoam phrenologists had abandoned their research project on the street below.

U.C. Berkeley Dismantles Oak Grove “Tree-Sit”

As mentioned in an earlier zombietime report, a ragtag group of protesters have for the last year and a half been “occupying” a small grove of oak trees near the U.C. Berkeley campus, in an attempt to prevent the university from building a new student athletic facility on the site. For unknown reasons, the university never evicted the protesters, who had taken to living in the trees themselves. That is, until today, June 17, 2008, when without warning the university began to dismantle the illegal “tree-sit.”

The eviction of the protesters and the dismantling of their treehouses and rope network began at 6:30 in the morning. This short photo essay is in no way intended to be a comprehensive document of what happened on June 17 — just one person’s perspective of a few minutes in the day-long incident, much later in the afternoon. Here, one of the tree-sit supporters expresses her opinion of either Berkeley, or (more likely, considering the red-white-and-blue color scheme) the United States.

The police had previously enclosed the oak grove in two layers of fencing, in a futile attempt to prevent supporters from delivering food to the tree-sitters. On this day, they erected a third barrier, and kept the growing crowd (estimated at about 100 people) far back from the action in the arboreal canopy above. The crowd grew hostile and began shouting insults at the police, and encouragements to the beleaguered tree-sitters.

The university brought in cherry-picker cranes, which police and arborists used to ascend to the treetops where they tore down the treehouses and, whenever possible, performed mid-air arrests of trapped tree-sitters. The crowd was kept so far back that we were not really able to get a good view of the action.

Predictably, some communists showed up and stationed themselves at the front, occasionally taunting the police in Spanish. Note the hard-hats the cops are wearing — they were forced to put them on because earlier in the day the tree-sitters were pelting the police with human feces and bits of garbage. Luckily, I missed that part.

The communists eventually gave up displaying their banner to the police, and laid it on the ground.

The crowd was frustrated but powerless. Mostly people just milled around, occasionally crying or sobbing, and then suddenly shouting in outrage when one of the tree-sitters in the distance let out a scream or a howl for some reason, which they did every few minutes or so.

Living in the trees, throwing feces at predators, howling in fear — was I witnessing de-evolution in action? Could humankind return to the trees?

But not everyone was in tears over the day’s events. A group of student athletes and other tree-sit opponents watched the action from a much better vantage point in Memorial Stadium, and cheered wildly whenever a part of a treehouse tumbled to the ground.

The police at ground level just stood there impassively.

The protesters had chalked on the ground their opinion of the police and other evil University of California authority figures: “Beyond Satan.”

This interesting sigil caught my eye: a combination of the peace symbol and the anarchism symbol — along with three mysterious short lines (which, in hobo code, mean “This is not a safe place”).

At one point, a college-age girl decided to lie down in the street. I thought — Oooh, a die-in is brewing, this could get interesting.

But after several minutes no one had joined her. So I went over and asked her, “Are you trying to start a die-in, or just sunbathing in the street?” She replied, “I feel it’s important to be in touch with the ground at this time. Perhaps someone will bring me some food.”

And on that disorienting note, I went on my merry way.

New at zombietime: Israel in the Gardens 2008

Just posted at zombietime — a new report about protests and counter-protests outside an Israeli independence day festival in San Francisco:

Israel in the Gardens 2008.

Here’s one of the videos featured in the report, as a teaser:

And here’s an exact transcript:

Israel is a racist state!
Israel is a racist state!
Israel is a genocidal state!
Israel is a genocidal state!
Free free Palestine!
Free free Palestine!
Free free Palestine!
Free free Palestine!
Long live the Intifada!
Long live the Intifada!
Long live the Intifada!
Long live the Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!
Intifada Intifada!

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

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!