The Curious Case of the Backchannel Notebook: An Oakland City Council Mystery

July 20, 2018

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee meeting on July 17th. Let me back up a bit. I usually sit on the second floor balcony at city council meetings and its not just because I’m a misanthrope. It lets me better focus on events. From […]

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Public Lands for Corporate Good: the Derby Street Parcel Sale Proves Oakland Needs a Public Lands Policy

July 1, 2018

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Like many public land sales that come before the Oakland City Council, the Derby Street parcel sale was set to glide beneath public notice when it began its final journey of council approval in May, 2018–a perfunctory committee nod and a quick set of ayes at an unnoticed city council meeting seemed assured. But there […]

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The United Front Against Desley Brooks

May 17, 2018

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf launched her current assault against District 6 Council Person Desley Brooks, in April–ironically, in the midst of “honoring” the work of fellow council person Annie Campbell Washington. Washington announced she was retiring, setting the stage for Schaaf’s attack with a subsoundbite against “the corruption” at city council. Schaaf picked up the […]

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The Killmonger Compromise: How a CIA Agent and a Black Revolutionary Combine Forces to Preserve the Status Quo in Marvel’s Black Panther

February 22, 2018

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Like many viewers with a general awareness of recent African history, I was shocked quite early on in Black Panther by an inscrutable bit of dialogue. T’chala tells his escort that he has “spotted an old friend who works for the CIA”. The agent is Everett Ross, played by legendary second-fiddle Martin Freeman, and turns […]

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Source File Corrupt: The Left’s Faustian Bargain with the ADL and the SPLC

February 18, 2018

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The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center were two ancient orgs slumping into the horizon with barnacled hulls and weather-beaten jackets, when antifascist fever took off around 2015. ADL’s rep as a right-wing organization that had spied on left of center organizations and Black political groups for years was common knowledge. Most of the […]

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Re: Your Bad Hot Take on Charles Manson

November 28, 2017

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Many years ago, when people still read whatever was lying around to fight downtime boredom, I picked up and read a discarded copy of the biography of Charles Manson, Manson in His Own Words, by Nuel Emmons. Like almost everyone under 60 today, my knowledge of Manson up to that point came from cultural inheritance […]

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Policing History: Peter Nicks’ Ahistorical The Force Erases Context and Facts about OPD

September 16, 2017

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There’s a scene in Peter Nicks the Force, the much hyped documentary by the director of the Waiting Room about the Oakland Police Department that is illustrative of the film’s foundational failure. Then-Captain Leronne Armstrong addresses an incoming police academy. He represents the intsitutional OPD that the young men and women are poised to enter […]

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Intersectional Feminism: Wonder Woman, Palestinians, Wakanda and Zionism

June 3, 2017

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Though I’m not by any means an expert or anything, I was a historical consultant for one of the better documentaries out there on Wonder Woman, released long before there was even the hint of any hope for a Wonder Woman film—a role I began in 2008 for a film released in 2012. That’s not to […]

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A Tale of Two Oaklands: The Ghostship Fire, The San Pablo Apartments Fire, and the Fight for Oakland’s Heart and Soul

April 20, 2017

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  Dozens of reporters, videographers and photographers thronged around the yellow tape surrounding the block containing the Ghost Ship warehouse the morning after the tragic fire that killed 36 people in the center of Fruitvale. As the hour approached noon, a group of thousands of Latino Catholics began their scheduled annual procession for the Virgen […]

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A Pointless Article About Bernie Sanders

March 27, 2016

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I’ll start by admitting this article is pointless. By this stage in the primary season, people who are backing Sanders will back him no matter what emerges about his past, his record, what current awful statements he makes, who he allies himself with.   This all started out innocently enough. People despise Hillary Clinton, and […]

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Engagement not Displacement: a story about Public Places

January 30, 2016

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The standing room-only crowd at a recent community meeting to discuss the fate of St. Andrews Plaza on San Pablo Avenue, in Oakland, waited patiently as City Council Person Lynette Gibson Mcelheney and her accomplices outlined an unusual redevelopment plan. St. Andrews is a small parklet, literally a concrete container for a few trees on a […]

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An Argument for Unsound Acts and Unrealistic Expectations: The Lakeview School Occupation’s End Run Around Conventional Wisdom

July 18, 2012

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On June 15, an Oakland coalition of educators, parents and activists moved forward with a plan to occupy a recently closed elementary school as a protest against a recent wave of closures. They had little chance of lasting the night; their funds were non existent, they lacked active public support and had few bodies. Against […]

Umbrella Insurrection at Oscar Grant Plaza

December 15, 2011

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Photo by Enrique When police looked for a code that makes physical presence in OGP illegal, they decided on a novel interpretation of a local ordinance. On three separate occasions police officers claimed that standing still with an umbrella in the plaza makes you a structure and such novel umbrella-human hybrid forms would be subject […]