Archive for April 2008

Pipes and VDH at Berkeley: No news is good news

Nothing happened when Daniel Pipes and Victor Davis Hanson showed up to give a talk on the UC Berkeley campus yesterday.

Nothing at all. No protests, no interruptions, no shouting, no disruptive audience members, no threats, no cries of “Racist!“, no verbal attacks on Israel — nothing.

Which — considering what happened the last time Pipes spoke at UC, in 2004 — is just about the most remarkable news to come out of the Berkeley campus in a while.

Pipes and VDH had been invited by the Objectivist Club of Berkeley to talk about “The Threat of Totalitarian Islam,” which is the kind of topic that usually brings out all the local leftist and Muslim groups. But at this event — not a single protester in sight.

There was tight security at the event, with policemen lining the walls of the auditorium — in anticipation of disruptions that never arose. The third person on the panel (on the left) was Yaron Brook, who was the Objectivist Club representative.

(Photo courtesy of ProtestShooter)
Fellow photoblogger ProtestShooter has also posted a short report about this event, showing the security precautions outside the venue. He also used his nice camera to take some clear shots of the speakers, as seen here.

This is a video of Pipes giving part of his introduction, and another snippet from later in his talk. There was an embarrassing glitch in the sound system, and the Objectivist Club audio technician never could get the microphones to work correctly. As a result, much of the audience had to strain to hear what the speakers were saying, and hence the audio in this video is less than ideal — though I boosted the decibel level, so it should be audible.

My hidden pocket camera, which doesn’t have much zoom, isn’t quite up to snuff when it comes to taking indoor photos under dim lighting conditions. This shot of Pipes is the best I could manage.

(Photo courtesy of ProtestShooter)
ProtestShooter’s shot of Victor David Hanson is a little clearer.

Here’s a portion of Hanson’s speech. Again, apologies for the audio (and video) quality. Note to Objectivists: objectively speaking, you need a new sound technician!

Yaron Brook, with an accent (he was raised in Israel) and some quirky speech mannerisms, was particularly hard to decipher, to be frank.

What has changed at UC Berkeley that this event elicited not a single protester, when in the past (as recently as six months ago) any similar event would have brought out throngs of naysayers?

Did the event simply pass unnoticed because it wasn’t sufficiently advertised? No. Has the climate changed on campus? Doubtful.

No, what seems to me to be the explanation for the unremarkable nature of this event was that the campus is actually becoming de-politicized: fewer and fewer students seem to give a damn about politics of any stripe. Outside the building where the talk was being held, thousands of students could be seen streaming by in every direction, loaded down with science and engineering textbooks, intent on studying. Fancy that! Despite the radical nature of many of the professors in the liberal arts departments, the days of Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement and mass rallies and riots are long gone. Even when there are protests on campus (as at the two previous events linked to above), many of the protesters are non-students who still hang around Berkeley, dreaming of past glories.

I covered the April 9 Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco for Pajamas Media and posted on their site a “quickie” report about the protests (and other goings on that day) a couple weeks ago. I have now completed a full-length, three-part report about the Torch’s journey through San Francisco, and posted it here at zombietime.

It’s a big improvement over what originally appeared on Pajamas Media: This version has full-size vivid photos (PJM shrunk the pictures down substantially), ten action-packed videos that were not there before, and about three times the number of photos.

Here’s one of the more interesting videos that are in this new version of the report, showing a hair-raising clash between Tibet supporters and China supporters:

Mark Steyn portraits

Here are two pictures I took of Mark Steyn, the brilliant essayist and author, at an event in the Bay Area sometime last year:

Due to privacy concerns, I’d rather not say exactly where or when these photos were taken. Which is actually why I never made a zombietime report out of this photo series in the first place (I have many other pictures of Steyn besides these two). But I thought it would be a tragedy to let them go to waste, so…here they are as a zomblog post, stripped of all context.

If you are a blogger and would like to use a photo of Mark Steyn to illustrate a future posting about one of his essays, feel free to use either of these, with my blessing.

For over a year, the radical group Code Pink has been protesting in front of the Marine Corps recruiting office in Berkeley. Today, April 19, a group of Marine Corps veterans turned the tables and protested in front of Code Pink‘s recruiting center just a few miles away in the adjacent town of Albany.

The Marines Motorcycle Club had gotten a protest permit from the Albany Police Department (protests are an extreme rarity in Albany, which is a quiet little city on the north edge of Berkeley). Barricades, banners and signs were set up in front of the Code Pink office, which is in a commercially-zoned single-family home on Solano Ave., Albany’s main shopping street.

About 50 or 60 veterans showed up to protest against Code Pink on their own turf — taking the battle to the enemy, in typical Marines style.

And yes, the Code Pink office does count as a recruiting center of a sorts, since they hold “Working group meetings” for potential volunteers at the office.

But wait! Code Pink wasn’t even at home during the protest, having instead decamped for the Earth Day celebration in Berkeley. Was this missed connection by design, or just a bit of bad timing for both sides, who might have enjoyed a good political confrontation?

The veterans’ motorcycles filled the nearby streets.

An advertisement for the aggressively anti-war film Rendition adorned an adjacent bus stop; part of the protest is visible in the background.

Political rallies happen so infrequently in Albany that even the Mayor of Albany, Robert Lieber, showed up to give interviews to the few media outlets that were on hand. I listened in on his interview for a while — he took a sort of middle position: he was against the war, and against the recruiting center in Berkeley, but as a veteran himself supported the Marines’ right to protest. Politicians are the same wherever you go, aren’t they?

But poor Code Pink! For the first time ever, TV crews showed up at their home office, and here they are, five miles away in Berkeley, stranded at a back corner of the Earth Day celebration. What a tragedy. All that camera time and they weren’t even on hand to take advantage of it.

They looked balefully at the Earth Day festival in the distance — few people hung around this part of the event.

Instead they crowded around the more popular booths, like the Cannabis Action Network, always a Berkeley favorite on Earth Day.

Even the Truthers had a more centrally located booth.

Oh well! Ms. Chicken says goodbye from Berkeley!

Spotted in Berkeley:

(Full license plate number blurred for privacy.)

Let the conspiracy theories begin!

Are you looking for a clear, short audio file of the controversial statement about “bitter” small-town Americans which Obama made immediately after the Getty mansion fundraiser in San Francisco on April 6, which I had exclusive coverage of last week? If so, you’re in luck, because I just uploaded the best, cleanest and most audible version available. And it’s only 44 seconds long — much more manageable than the 50-minute-long file that originally cropped up on the Web. It also sounds much better than some of the other clips that have subsequently been made available. This is THE best version you will find!

Click HERE to listen to the audio clip — an mp3 file — on its own Web page.
(Alternately, you can right-click [Windows] or control-click [Mac] the link to download the mp3 to your computer.)

Here is a transcript of Obama’s words (this is an EXACT transcript — versions posted elsewhere had some minor errors):

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, a lot of them — like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they’ve gone through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

This speech was made at the mansion of Alex Mehran, just a few blocks from the Getty event I covered, and just a few minutes afterward.

I’m not going to join the chorus of pundits analyzing this speech — everything there is to say has already been said! I’m just providing a service to make the audio available to everyone. Feel free to download it and post it on your own blog or site.

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).”