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At the Northern California Obama HQ…

…on Adeline Street in Berkeley, where volunteers are crammed in tightly around folding tables, calling Colorado voters to get out the vote. A cheer went up here a short while ago as a field organizer announced National Public Radio had called Pennsylvania and New Hampshire for Obama; now that same organizer is telling everyone Obama himself called the California field director to implore volunteers to stay on the phones.

Frankly, it looks as if you’d have to drag these people away in chains to get ’em off the phones before the polls close. They’re hunkered down with cell phones, snatching bites and sips between calls, ringing desk bells every time they hang up on a voter committed to Obama.

Now they’ve got ABC News on a projection screen… They’re so hungry for news from back east, and yet so determined to cram as many calls as they can into the time they have left, they barely know where to turn.

UPDATE @ 6:05 P.M.: Screams of joy here as ABC just projected Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin for Obama. Texas looks close at this hour, but these people know better than to think the Lone Star State’s gonna go blue. They seem delighted, however, that ABC’s not yet willing to call McCain’s home state of Arizona…

UPDATE @ 6:20 P.M.: Now they’re calling Iowa voters, and the desk bells are ringing out.

UPDATE @ 6: 35 p.m.: Adam Stern, 49, of Berkeley, said it was his daughter who brought him here.

“She’s 13, and she’s been here half a dozen times in the last two weeks,” he said. “I’m very motivated to keep working for Obama; my daughter is an inspiration to me. She actually recruited two of her best friends to join her on several of her visits here.”

Sasha Stern pauses between calls, phone still cocked by her ear, to disclose that she has placed about 350 to 400 calls by her estimation. “I’ve called New Mexico, Florida, Missouri, Colorado and Iowa,” she says, before dialing the next Iowan.

Her dad said he’s been stunned by the campaign’s efficiency. “They trained us, and in 15 minutes, both my daughter and I were on the phones making calls to voters. The level of organization is very sophisticated.”

UPDATE @ 6:55 P.M.: Yvette Stuart, 67, of Oakland, pauses between calls to snap a camera-phone photo of a fellow volunteer who’s posing with a life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama. The West African native said she has never worked for a political campaign before, but the Obama t-shirt, the eight Obama buttons on her jacket and her very presence here tonight illustrates the depth of her dedication to this one.

“I’ve been really, really energized by his message… I believe it’s a chance for all of America to have someone they can believe in,” she said. “It was better to put my mouth where my energy was than to just sit wringing my hands… Change cannot happen if you don’t work for it.”

They’re shutting down the shop here, and directing people to the big campaign party starting at 8 p.m. at the Marriott in downtown Oakland. I’ll be there too, after a few other stops…

Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Berkeley, Elections, General | No Comments »

Uh, well, what was the mission?

The CodePINK folks sent out a news release yesterday saying they and their allies who’ve been protesting outside Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station on and off over the past year were going to declare “Mission Accomplished” at a news conference today.

“CodePINK and our allies have prevailed! Major protest operations at the MRS have been ended, one year since covert military recruiting operations were first uncovered in Berkeley. Our coalition is now engaged in dis(as)sembling and deconstructing the U.S. military, making the world safe and secure,” the statement said.

But late last night, they announced they’d postponed the event indefinitely. Maybe they realized that it’s tough to call a storefront recruiting station “covert;” that the station is still there, doing what it did before they started; and that they have about as much chance of disassembling and deconstructing the U.S. military as I have of being President of the United States.

Seems like their “mission” was no more “accomplished” than that other one we all heard about

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
Under: Berkeley | No Comments »

Bay Area activism, near and far

There’s plenty of liberal activism a-brewin’, as usual.

El Cerrito piano tuner and longtime pro-Palestinian activist Paul Larudee, a cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement, and his cohorts are about to set sail from Cyprus en route to the Gaza Strip in an effort to “raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation.” It won’t be a cakewalk for this international band of activists; Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday that Israeli defense officials “favor forcefully blocking” the boats’ arrival, as “allowing the ships to reach the Gaza coastline could create a dangerous precedent.”

Closer to home, CODEPINK is gearing up for the Democratic National Convention in Denver next week. Bay Area doyenne of dissent Medea Benjamin and her group will be holding a “Peace Room” pre-convention party “to make art, friends, plans, and a peace platform” from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 19, in the CODEPINK/Global Exchange office on the second floor of 2017 Mission St. in San Francisco. Later this week, they’ll have an “All Aboard for Peace” send-off for six Bay Area activists getting on Amtrak to Denver; that’ll be at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at the Emeryville Amtrak station, 5885 Horton St. According to their news release, they’re headed to Denver and later to the RNC convention in St. Paul, Minn., to “demand, in full creative force, that an end to the occupation of Iraq, no war with Iran and a commitment to peace be at the top the political agenda… CODEPINK will also be speaking out against the financing of the conventions by oil, telecom and pharmaceutical companies, exposing how corporate money corrupts the political system.” They’ve even put their schedule of actions at the conventions online.

And, speaking of the conventions, some prominent Bay Area activists — including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley and “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan, who’s now running an independent Congressional campaign to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — are among those who’ve issued an open, online letter calling on people to go to Denver “to protest war, torture, and repression.” Other signatories include Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney; historian and activist Howard Zinn; and Vietnam veteran and activist Ron Kovic (“Born on the Fourth of July“).

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Democratic Party, Elections, General, Green Party, Iran, Iraq, Nancy Pelosi, Republican Party | 1 Comment »

Anti-Yoo activists unveil Berkeley billboard

The No To Torture/John Yoo Must Go coalition — targeting the University of California Boalt Hall School of Law professor, former Justice Department attorney, and torture-memo author who tried to blow a gaping hole through the Fourth Amendment — has unveiled its first billboard, located on University Avenue near Milvia Street in Berkeley.

“Not speaking out and acting against torture allows torture practices to continue uncontested in violation of treaties against torture, to which the United States is a signatory,” said the news release. “The billboard expresses a call to action to stop gross misrepresentations of the law to continue in our names.”

Speaking at a news conference Thursday were human-rights activist Gerald Gray, who wants Cal alumni to withhold contributions until the school dumps Yoo; geographer and author Gray Brechin, who wants Cal faculty to publicly disavow Yoo; and Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission member Elliot Cohen, speaking about a proposed John Yoo resolution before the City Council. Collectively, they and the coalition want Yoo — who was rotisseried by the House Judiciary Committee last month — to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes; they’re trying to organize a “war crimes tribunal” this fall.

You might notice the billboard doesn’t actually name Yoo; coalition coordinator Curt Wechsler said a proposed design with Yoo’s name and an iconic Abu Ghraib figure was rejected by the billboard company:

Posted on Friday, July 25th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, War on Terror | No Comments »

Berkeley health officer named to state job

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today named Dr. Linda Rudolph, 57, of Oakland, as deputy director for the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The center, within the state Department of Public Health, includes the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Control and the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control. It administers programs addressing diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes; the prevention and control of injuries; and, the prevention and control of environmental and occupational diseases.

Since 2005, Rudolph has been the health officer and the director of public health for the city of Berkeley. From 2001 to 2005, she served as chief medical officer for the California Department of Health Services and as a medical consultant in Medi-Cal Managed Care. Earlier, Rudolph was the medical director for the Division of Workers Compensation with the Department of Industrial Relations from 1993 to 2001, and executive medical director with the Industrial Medical Council from 1991 to 1993. From 1982 to 1992, Rudolph served in various positions within the state DHS.

This position does not require state Senate confirmation and pays an annual salary of $172,680. Rudolph is a Democrat.

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Berkeley, General | No Comments »

Ukrainians to visit Berkeley for democracy lessons

Leaders from a former Soviet Socialist Republic are coming to develop partnerships and exchange ideas with the city some half-jokingly call “the People’s Republic of Berkeley.”

A delegation of ten government and non-governmental organization leaders from Ukraine will be in the Bay Area from July 26 through Aug. 3, sponsored by the Open World Program of the U.S. Congress — an effort to have leaders from former Soviet states experience U.S. democracy and free enterprise in action, firsthand — and coordinated by the Berkeley-based Center for Safe Energy, a project of the Earth Island Institute.

The visitors will start their week by meeting with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who’s to explain his city’s programs and local government accountability; they’ll also meet Berkeley’s Sustainable Business Coordinator, Jennifer Cogley, about the city’s green certification programs and with Energy & Sustainable Development Officer Neal de Snoo, who will give a tour of energy efficiency measures in municipal buildings. They’re also scheduled to meet with Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak and with Anne Taylor, Rep. Barbara Lee‘s district director.

Among the delegates are Maksym Levchuk, a member of the Poltava regional legislature; Stepan Barna, a Ternopil Regional Council member, and Konstyantyn Pidhornyy of the Kharkiv City Council.

Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Berkeley, U.S. House | No Comments »

No Bay Area small-business love for McCain?

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain‘s campaign today announced its California Small Business Leaders for McCain coalition members, a day after a few of the state’s small business owners endorsed McCain’s economic plan.

“John McCain’s long standing commitment to keep government spending in check and to promote a healthy environment for small businesses is why I support Senator McCain,” Herb Morgan of Del Mar-based Efficient Market Advisors said in the news release. “Senator Obama has put forward an economic plan that will saddle small businesses with higher taxes, expensive mandates and that’s change we can’t afford.”

But while the release named coalition members grouped by regions — San Diego, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Orange County — it included nobody from the San Francisco Bay Area!

Maybe that’s because this the kind of place where people are apt to rally in the streets for an “oil-free president,” calling attention to McCain’s close ties with the oil industry. That’ll be late afternoon tomorrow, Wednesday, July 9, at lots of locations around the Bay Area, courtesy of

Complete list of coalition members, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Elections, John McCain | No Comments »

Cal’s John Yoo grilled by Judiciary Committee

University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law Professor John Yoo — a former Justice Department attorney and torture-memo author who seems to have painted a bulls-eye on the Fourth Amendment — testified today before the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on interrogation rules applied by the Bush Administration in the war on terrorism.

And it wasn’t pretty.

From Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.:

From Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who has been chairing the interrogation-technique hearings:

From Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Nadler:

I’d guess there’ll be lots of talk about this at the “No To Torture! John Yoo Must Go!” town-hall meeting tomorrow (Friday, June 27) night in Berkeley.

Posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, War on Terror | No Comments »

Activists step up efforts to oust John Yoo

Activists are stepping up their grassroots effort to get John Yoo — the former Justice Department attorney not only wrote memos advocating the possible legality of torture and denying enemy combatants protection under the Geneva Conventions, but also rode the Fourth Amendment hard and put it away wet — fired from his job as a UC-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law professor.

Yoo will testify tomorrow, Thursday, June 26, before the House Judiciary Committee as part of its ongoing investigation of the Bush Administration’s interrogation rules.

A day after that, the National Lawyers Guild and The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime! will convene a new coalition with a town-hall meeting at 7 p.m. Friday, June 27, entitled “No To Torture! John Yoo Must Go!” (They! Sure! Do! Like! Their! Exclamation! Points! Don’t! They!?!) It’ll be in the Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St. in Berkeley, with admission costing $5 to $20 on a sliding scale; nobody will be turned away for lack of funds. The event will feature Stephen Rohde, past president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and audience members will be invited to comment and debate.

Don’t expect anyone at this event to take Yoo’s side, however. The coalition says it has been founded “to demand that John Yoo be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes;” it aims to rally the campus community, the legal community and the East Bay at large to demand Yoo’s ousting. It’s planning a “war crimes tribunal” for this fall and a public advertising campaign, among other things.

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, War on Terror | No Comments »

Robert Reich: ‘An amazing ride,’ glad it’s over

I just spoke with Robert Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton and now a University of California, Berkeley professor, who endorsed Obama in April. He said he’s glad to see the presidential primary endgame upon us.

reich.jpg“It’s been an amazing ride — I don’t remember a primary that’s attracted more excitement and attention. People who are enormously cynical about politics have been glued to their televisions. What happens from here? Hopefully Senator Obama will make a victory speech that is extremely gracious toward Hillary Clinton, which compliments her on her campaign, gives her credit for whatever Obama can possibly find to give her credit for, and in general holds out the olive branch to her and to all of her supporters.

“Hopefully likewise, she makes a concession speech that praises Senator Obama, focuses on what he has done right, celebrates his talents and character, wishes him the best in the general election and asks her supporters to come to support him, saying in no uncertain terms that she will fully support him. Hopefully then there is a photograph, or abundant photos of the two of them together with one arm around each other, the other raised almost as if they are president and vice president. The symbolism is very important, the graciousness is very important, the positive tone will be important.

“Democrats have fought during many primaries; almost always they come together. The only exceptions were in 1968 when there was so much animosity, and perhaps in 1980 when Ted Kennedy ran against Carter… and both of those concerned real ideological divides. Here there is not much of an ideological divide — both candidates have stood for much the same thing. So despite the bad feelings that some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters may harbor toward Obama right now, I am confident they will disappear.”

Did the race go on for too long?

“I thought we were rapidly approaching the tipping point where the benefits of the excitement and enthusiasm and interest were just about to be overwhelmed by the disadvantages of not having a clear nominee this late in the game, when McCain is well into the general election.

“But I don’t think that there would have been this much party-building had it not been for this competition between Obama and Hillary Clinton. It had an enormously positive effect on politics in terms of getting people interested again. I don’t think that’s going to end now. Obama has a very good chance of being what’s called a ‘transformative candidate,’ someone in the image of John F. Kennedy or Robert Kennedy who is seen to change the way we do politics in America.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Berkeley, Democratic Party, Elections, Hillary Clinton | No Comments »