I posted my latest report, about the Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco on April 9, at Pajamas Media.

It was actually a “preliminary” report, of sorts — I only used about half the photos I had intended to use. Eventually, I’ll be putting up a longer report, with bigger photos, and video, at zombietime.

Seven Things About Obama I Never Knew Before

Here are seven things I never noticed about Barack Obama until I met him up close and personal in front of Ann and Gordon Getty’s house in San Francisco on April 6, 2008.

This post is just a teaser for my zombietime report Obama Visits Billionaires Row, which is now online for your viewing pleasure.


1. When he makes phony expressions of recognition to acknowledge a crowd of fans, his facial contortions aren’t nearly as grotesque as Hillary’s when she makes phony expressions of recognition to acknowledge a crowd of fans.


2. He sometimes has a sort of Harry Belafonte-esque calypso sashay to his walk.


3. The chief of his security detail is way too attractive for someone in that kind of job.


4. He’s so nice (or desperate for votes, depending on your point of view), he’ll even shake hands with a guy wearing a stupid iridescent top hat.


5. The mole on his face is slightly more repellent than I had previously realized.


6. From some angles, he seems to be getting a bald spot. From other angles, he’s not. Weird.


7. When rich people invite him over to entertain guests, they make him come in through the servant’s entrance.

These three photos are from an event that happened over five months ago: the Anti-Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week rally on the U.C. Berkeley campus on October 25, 2007. Although I attended the event at the time, I never posted any pictures about it because it ended up being so small as to not merit a full-size zombietime report. But better late then never, so here’s a mini-report, long after the fact.


The name “Anti-Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” might be a bit disorienting: it was a counter-protest to an event staged earlier that same week called Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, organized by David Horowitz. “Anti-Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” wasn’t promoting awareness of “Anti-Islamo-Fascism,” but was rather was declaring its opposition to the original “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” AIFAW was put together by a coalition of Muslim and socialist campus groups, and entailed a variety of pro-Palestinian film screenings, Muslim lecturers, and so forth. The only outdoor event was the climactic rally on Sproul Plaza on October 25. This blurry photo was taken at the rally, and shows one of the scheduled speakers praying toward Mecca on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall.


The keynote speaker was radical rabbi Michael Lerner, a familiar (if controversial) figure in the Bay Area political scene. Here he is speaking to a crowd of students, many of whom were wearing hijabs.


Aside from various passersby, the women in the crowd generally fell into two categories: Muslim students wearing traditional Islamic dress, and “Radical Women” who held up signs saying (hard to see at the bottom left) “Defend a Woman’s Right to Control Her Body.”

Hmmmmm. I’ll let you ponder that.

“Vote Hillary for More Wars”


Sign spotted on a bicycle in San Francisco recently. Within the Bay Area political context, Hillary is now seen practically as a right-wing candidate. After an initial honeymoon with Bay Area voters (early in the campaign when she was regarded as a shoo-in for the nomination), Hillary has fallen on hard times around here, and is so far behind Obama in popularity that the few “Hillary” signs one sees these days are generally anti-Hillary.

Notice the afterthought on the sign: “Or draft Gore (Vidal).”

For the next few hours, I will be experimenting with the “theme” of zomblog, and the appearance of this page will likely go haywire for the rest of the day. Nothing to worry about — I just have to conduct my design alterations with everyone looking, now that zomblog has been unveiled. I was hoping to adjust the theme before going public, but the April Fool’s Day post was time-sensitive so I had to launch prematurely.

The photos in yesterday’s post might very well disappear during my experimentations. But after a few hours — or tonight, at the latest — everything should be back to normal.

UPDATE: OK, I’m done fiddling. For now at least.

Code Pink — which already has quite a track record of ill-conceived stunts — added another lamebrained publicity blunder to their resume today with a puzzling April Fools’ Day hoax in Berkeley.

This morning, a press release made the rounds of Bay Area activist groups and media outlets announcing that the Marine Corps was finally pulling its recruiting office out of Berkeley, and that a press conference and subsequent party were to be held at noon outside the office. I immediately suspected an April Fools’ Day prank, but couldn’t at first figure out who had sent the press release, since the wording only made Code Pink seem like children fantasizing about “wish-facts” that can actually come true if you just pretend hard enough. Surely it was someone yanking Code Pink’s chain, mocking them for their infantile antics. So I decided to swing by the office at noon to watch how the whole thing played out — and see if Code Pink or anybody else was actually taken in by the hoax.


Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered Code Pink themselves setting up the faux news conference. The entire thing turned out to be a Code Pink production.

But why, why? What did they hope to achieve by this?


Medea Benjamin flitted about, the apparent mastermind. Medea, I ask you: is your goal really to expel the Marines from Berkeley, or just to draw attention to yourself? Because in what way will pretending that you’ve won the battle actually further your cause of winning the battle in reality? I don’t get it.


Code Pink members assumed various mystifying personae for the prank. Here, local CP leader Nancy Mancias plays the role of a faux counter-protester, holding up a “Code Pink Lies!” sign while wearing a sweatshirt from Move America Forward, the conservative activist group that has faced off against Code Pink in Berkeley several times. Next to her is an actor portraying “Sgt. Peaceovic” in a pink Marine Corps uniform.

What was the purpose of these characters? I couldn’t say.


But not everything at the event was even that understandable. For example, this guy stood off to the side. He seemed to be wearing a real Marine Corps uniform, but under the circumstances, one had to presume that he was part of the joke too, in some way. It was hard to tell, though, because he just stood there silently, holding a sign that defied interpretation.


However, I really got confused when Code Pink leader Zanne Joi approached him and started pestering him with questions. She did not seem to be acting — she appeared to be truly disturbed by his presence. So: was he part of the hoax, or not? Or was it a hoax-within-a-hoax? [UPDATE: See the comments section for this post -- especially comments #31 through #61 -- for reader analyses of whether or not this Marine protester was real or a hoaxer. The general conclusion is that his uniform was not quite "right," and that he must have been a fake Marine -- but as reader "Ma Sands" reveals in comment #44 below, Code Pink were themselves surprised by his presence. So my only conclusion is that he was an independent counter-hoaxer.]


Layers upon layers, people. The conspiracy goes deep!


One wonders about the psychology behind a stunt like this. What did they think the end result would be? Did they think that the Marines would actually be forced to cave in because someone play-acted their capitulation? Or was the goal simply to “get publicity” for the cause?

There’s an old saying in the entertainment industry: “No publicity is bad publicity.” In politics, however, the reverse seems to be true: “All publicity is bad publicity.” Hasn’t Code Pink yet learned that stunts like this only end up being counter-productive? That earning the derision and loathing of millions of people does nothing to achieve their “goal” — whatever goal that might be?


Anyway, the press conference skit finally got under way, with local comedian Ed Holmes portraying the building’s landlord.


This video shows how essentially amateurish the whole thing was. The first part shows the actor who was wearing the pink uniform, who was claiming to be a Marine Corps spokesman. He was so bad at reading his lines and at improvising that it was painful to watch. The second part shows “St. Stupid’s Day” founder Ed Holmes portraying the building’s landlord. Notice how in both cases, Medea Benjamin can’t stand being upstaged, and cheers louder than the speakers at the podium.

There were a handful of media members on hand, yet probably nothing like what Code Pink had hoped for. But really, they should be grateful so few people fell for their hoax. When you embarrass yourself, it’s better if no one’s looking.

* * *

For the record, here’s the email that circulated this morning (Thanks to Eclectic Infidel for forwarding it to me):

We just received great news from Code Pink: A press release received by
them reveals that the Berkeley Marine Recruiting Center has just worked
out an arrangement with their landlord whereby the center will be moving out
of the Shattuck Avenue building and leaving Berkeley altogether (see press
release below).

Of course, this means that our proposed Wednesday afternoon vigil will not
have to happen after all. It’s very welcome news and, of course, a real
victory for Code Pink and Berkeley.

You’ll notice that Code Pink will be there (54 Shattuck Square) on
Tuesday, April 1, at noon, to celebrate. Some of us will be joining them and you’re
invited as well.

With best regards from…

* * * * *

Subject: Breaking News: Marine Recruiting Station Leaving Berkeley:
Agreement Reached with Landlord, City, and Protesters

We received this press release moments ago! Code PINK intends to BE THERE
noon tomorrow with champaign, flowers & chocolate! Come celebrate with us!

For Immediate Release:

CONTACT:
Shamszad Realty, 510-848-xxxx
Marine Office of Manpower Plans and Policies, 703-784-xxxx
CODEPINK, 415-342-xxxx
WHEN: Tuesday, April 1, 12 noon
WHERE: Marine Recruiting Station, 64 Shattuck Square, Berkeley
WHO: Sasha Shamszad, landlord; Marines Manpower Division representative;
CODEPINK spokesperson

Sasha Shamszad, landlord for the Marine Recruiting Center in Berkeley, has
reached an amicable agreement with the Marines to redeploy from Berkeley.
Details of the agreement will be outlined at the press conference.

“The situation was becoming untenable,” says Mr. Shamszad. “The presence
of
the Marines sparking daily protests have had a negative impact on local
businesses. The city has been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of
dollars
in police overtime. And some groups have been calling for a national
boycott
of our city. So I sat down with representatives of the Marines and we
worked
out a solution.”

“We just came out with a national productivity study by office, and the
Recruiting Center in Berkeley was in the bottom ten percentile,” says
Michael Applegate, Director of the Marine Manpower Plans and Policy
Division. “It’s a three-person office in a high-rent district bringing in
an average of only 1.4 recruits per month. This is just not a good use of
taxpayer money. So we were happy to work out an agreement with Mr.
Shamszad.
For us, this has nothing to do with protests outside the station, but is
simply an issue of strategic redeployment.”

The protest group CODEPINK was delighted to hear the news. “While we still
don’t know the details, we are have happy to hear that the Marines will be
closing their doors and respecting the anti-war values of the residents of
Berkeley,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin.