Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John Russo Is Right About the A's

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 1:23 PM

Readers of these pages know we haven't always seen eye-to-eye with Oakland's city attorney, but John Russo's op-ed in today's Tribune is on the money. Russo rightly calls out A's co-owner Lew Wolff for disingenuously claiming that the team had "exhausted (its) time and resources over the years" with the City of Oakland. Anyone who has followed the process knows that Wolff never looked seriously at Oakland before his failed side trip to Fremont. Our only quibble: Russo didn't put all of the blame for Oakland not having a downtown ballpark where it belonged. Sure, the A's never stepped forward to back the downtown stadium plan. But it was then-Mayor Jerry Brown who killed it in favor of a now mostly empty apartment complex. The question now is - who among city leaders will step up to the plate to make sure the team doesn't leave for good. Mr. Russo?

Slap Hitter: Beating a Dead Horse (not the Kentucky Derby blog)

Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 11:13 AM

The Raiders drafted foolishly! The Sharks choke in the first round of the playoffs! Eric Chavez is hurt and will be back any day! The Bay sports news is as steady as the weather. No need to consult your wheezing daily paper, just pick up any edition over the past five years and you'll see it's the same story. Oh, and Don Nelson and the Warriors are dysfunctional!

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Why John Yoo and Dick Cheney Were So Wrong

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 10:50 AM

In an eye-opening interview with a former top FBI terrorism investigator, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff provides startling insight into why UC Berkeley prof John Yoo and other Bush officials were so incredibly wrong about torture. In early 2002, Ali Soufan was the United States' lead interrogator of Abu Zubaydah, the first high-ranking Al Qaeda operative captured after 9/11. Zubaydah was seriously injured during his arrest, so Soufan and his partner nursed him slowly back to health. Using the traditional FBI interrogation technique of rapport-building, Soufan, who speaks fluent Arabic and is an expert on the Koran, convinced Zubaydah to identify the planner of the 9/11 attacks and give up other crucial details about Al Qaeda. But then a CIA contractor showed up and took over the interrogation, and began torturing Zubaydah, in apparent belief that that was the only way the prisoner would tell all he knew. Soufan was horrified: "I swear to God," he shouted to his FBI superiors in Washington D.C. after learning some of what the CIA contractor had in mind. "I'm going to arrest these guys!"

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Ariel Schrag Finishes High School ... Eleven Years Later

by Rachel Swan
Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 9:26 AM

When Ariel Schrag entered Berkeley High School as a freshman, she was a geeky grunge kid with a fixation on actress Juliet Lewis, and a best friend/boy toy who followed her everywhere. She chronicled her freshman year adventures in the comic book Awkward, penning events as they happened and self-publishing the following year - she then signed to Slave Labor Graphics at age 15, and began her sophomore year comic, Definition. In eleventh grade, Schrag's life got more and more interesting. She lost her virginity to a boy, got down with a girl for the first time, and earned membership in a hip crowd of dykes and punk chicks. Meanwhile, her comic book artistry got a lot more sophisticated.

Roughly a decade after graduating high school Schrag inked a deal with Simon & Schuster, which published Awkward & Definition as a paperback memoir last April. One month later the company released a paperback version of Potential, Schrag's episodic series about junior year, when she fell for the beautiful and enigmatic Sally Jultz. It took roughly ten years for Schrag to finally complete her high school chronicles with Likewise, which came out on April 7. During that time she studied English at Columbia University, shacked up in a windowless basement in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, worked as an envelope stuffer and phone sex operator, and served as story editor for the popular Showtime series, The L Word. She also signed on with Killer Films (producers of Kids and Boys Don't Cry) to write a screenplay for Potential.

At 359 pages, Likewise is Schrag's most ambitious and expressionist book. It starts off with an insular tale of heartbreak, self-doubt, identity affirmation, and girl angst, but ultimately devolves into experimental wordplay and frameplay (what some fans would call "Joycean"). It's by far one of the best artistic attempts to document life at Berkeley High School.

Ariel Schrag appears Tues., April 28, 7:30 p.m. at San Francisco's Booksmith (1644 Haight St.) with Gabrielle Bell.Check out Schrag reading Chapter 4 of Potential:

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Will Toll Lanes Make Traffic Worse?

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 7:02 AM

A plan to create an 800-mile network of toll lanes in the Bay Area has won the support of a key state legislative committee, according to the Contra Costa Times. The Assembly Transportation Committee passed the toll-lane bill yesterday 12-1. The bill by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico of Fremont would allow the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to create carpool lanes on Bay Area expressways that also would accommodate solo drivers if they pay a toll via FasTrak. The amount of the toll would depend on the time of day and the levels of congestion. The plan sounds intriguing, because it likely will raise funds for transportation projects, but we're not sure how it would ease nightmarish traffic, since it might encourage more people to drive to work.

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Dellums Demands a Pay Raise?

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 6:39 AM

Ron Dellums, Oakland's part-time mayor, is demanding "a substantial pay raise," according to the Chron. Columnist Chip Johnson buried this mini-bombshell in today's column. It's not clear who Johnson's source is. He doesn't cite one. But if true, then Dellums has far more chutzpah than we ever imagined. The mayor already rakes in about $184,000 a year, plus is chauffeured around in a Lincoln Town Car at taxpayers' expense. And as we reported last year, Dellums only scheduled himself to work about 25 hours a week during his first two years in office, according to his official calendar. Doing the math, that means he's already making in excess of $140 an hour. And he wants a raise? At a time when the city is facing an $83 million budget deficit and is about to lay off hundreds of workers plus shut down city government several days more a year?

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Real Reason for Why We Tortured

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 10:50 AM

For years, Bush administration officials, including UC Berkeley professor John Yoo, and even some Democrats, have defended our country's use of "harsh interrogation techniques" on the premise that they were trying to stop another 9/11. In other words, protecting innocent Americans from a deadly terrorist attack was worth abandoning one of our core principles - that civilized countries don't torture people. But we've known for a while now that this premise was likely false - despite the fact that Yoo, Dick Cheney, and Fox News keep repeating it. There is no evidence in the public record that torturing prisoners produced any reliable information that helped us foil terrorist plots. Quite the opposite. Torture got us nothing of value, while it ruined our country's moral standing in the world and put our soldiers at unnecessary risk of being tortured when they're captured. But now, we're starting to learn what may have been the real reason for why we tortured. And it's unbelievably outrageous.

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AAAHHH, We're All Going to Die!!!

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 10:07 AM

Is swine flu a significant threat, or just another example of mainstream media hype? Yes, more than 100 people have died in Mexico, at least 40 have been sickened in the United States, our country has declared a health emergency, and Europe is telling people to put off their travel plans to North America. Those are all troubling developments, but if you paid attention to the wall-to-wall media coverage in the past few days, you might be convinced that the world is coming to an end. However, before you go out and buy a surgical mask, here's what our president had to say this morning, according to the Washington Post: "This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it is not a cause for alarm." (Emphasis mine).

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The Return of the Electric Car!

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 6:42 AM

The electric car, which was effectively killed earlier this decade, is making a comeback. According to the Chron, Nissan says it plans to release its mass-market electric car by late 2010. Unlike last time, the electric cars won't be lease-only; you can actually buy one. New, more efficient batteries will allow Nissan to sell its model for between $20,000 and $30,000. The new electric vehicles will have a range of up to 100 miles and can be recharged at night. They'll be perfect for a short-commute car or for driving around town. Other auto makers also developing electric cars for 2010 include Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Ford, and Tesla. In addition, GM plans to release its Chevy Volt next year, a plug-in hybrid. Plug-ins get 100 miles per gallon or more, have the range of a traditional gasoline-powered car, run on electricity for around-town driving, and then turn into traditional hybrids on the freeway. Toyota also plans to introduce a plug-in Prius soon.

California Budget Deal in Big Trouble

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 6:37 AM

The state Democratic Party has refused to endorse Proposition 1A, the statewide measure that is the linchpin of California's budget deal. According to the Chron, Prop. 1A failed to get the necessary 60 percent of the vote at the Democratic state party convention yesterday, meaning the party will remain neutral on the issue. The state Republican Party opposes Prop. 1A. The Dems' vote spells big trouble for the state's budget deal brokered by Dem legislators, the governor, and a handful of GOP state senators after months of negotiations. If the proposition fails in next month's special election, then the state will face another multi-billion-dollar deficit. Many Dems oppose Prop. 1A, because it institutes state spending caps that will be difficult to repeal when the economy rebounds. The measure also increases the state's rainy day fund and triggers $16 billion in tax extensions.

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