Monday, December 29, 2008

Raiders Win. Nobody Cares.

by Chris Thompson
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 8:29 AM

Yes, the Oakland Raiders won on Sunday. They beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-24 and closed out the season with a 5-11 record, in case you're interested. But you're not. You're so annoyed at Al Davis' antics, the Lane Kiffin fiasco, the long march of losses week after week, that you're already thinking about spring training. We understand. But there was one bit of Raiders news you might find interesting: worsening health problems forced Al Davis to miss a game for the first time since 1979. Say what you want about his recent case of the crazies, the man lives for his team. That he couldn't even get on a private plane and sit in a luxury box doesn't sound good at all.

The Lunacy That Is Oakland Crime

Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 8:15 AM

For some reason, this latest round of Oakland shootings struck us as particularly arbitrary and senseless. Read this quote from a witness, as reported in the Tribune: "A big ol' muscle-bound dude pulled up and saw some young players sitting there, and he said, 'Why you looking at me?' They said, 'We ain't looking at you, man, we just checking out your ride. You got a nice ride.' "... And soon enough, the big man reaches into his car and pulls out his gun, shoots at those young players and misses. They shot back and hit him. Now he's lying on the ground, bleeding all over and he can't feel his arms and he can't feel his legs. And for nothing." He doesn't know them. They don't know him. There's no bad blood or history between them. Their eyes just lingered over his car for a few too many seconds. That's all it takes to get shot in some neighborhoods these days. Why, again, do some people think the new HBO pimp series will paint an unfair picture of Oakland?

Union Fight at Port of Oakland

by Chris Thompson
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 8:01 AM

According to the Chronicle, a contractor working with Caltrans to build the Bay Bridge tried to unload a freighter of material at the Port of Oakland over the weekend, but members of the longshore union have shut down the operation. Union leaders claim that the contractor tried to use two different unions to unload the goods, but only the longshore union has the right to unload ships at the port. Further, they claim that the contractor tried to sneak the ship in during the Christmas holiday. The contractor denies this, and all parties are presently negotiating. Mayor Ron Dellums has spoken to the union, Caltrans, and the contractor to ensure that the dispute doesn't somehow spread to the rest of the port.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The East Bay Today: December 26, 2008

Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 11:38 PM

Today's Top Event: Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show XVI. With Will Durst, Johnny Steele, Jim Short, Steven Kravitz and Arthur Gaus as well as improvisation artists Debi Durst and Mike Bossier at the Bankhead Theater.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critics recommend: Hanukkah Dinner Specials at Saul's in Berkeley.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Catch Mark Fromm performing acoustic folk and rock with Scott Waters at North Oakland's eco-friendly Nomad Cafe.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out slo-mo Mentos and Diet Coke explosion.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Signs of the New Recession: Flea Markets Thrive

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 9:53 AM

So you want to shower your friends and family with holiday goodies, but you're not exactly earning like Ron Dellums this year. The Ashby Flea Market is the place for you! According to the CoCo Times, business at the flea market has spiked up to 15 percent, owing to armies of newly thrifty shoppers looking for tchochkes on the cheap. And the market has a bumper crop of new craft sellers who used to work in the formal economy, but now sell homemade trinkets to get by. Hey, at least they're not stipping the copper pipes from underneath your house.

Must-Read on World Savings Bank

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 9:47 AM

Wednesday's New York Times featured an excellent and indispensable story on Herbert and Marion Sandler, the owners of Oakland's World Savings Bank and two of the most improbable figures at the center of the mortgage crisis. Just two years ago, the Sandlers were practically saints. World Savings had a reputation for vetting their would-be borrowers and compiling a uniquely rock-solid portfolio of reliable mortgage assets. They sold the bank to Wachovia for billions, and used the cash to seed such groups at Moveon.org, the Center for Responsible Lending (irony alert!), and Pro Publica. But as the crisis unfolded, people began to notice that World Savings essentially invented the option ARM, a loan with repayment provisions that don't just leave the borrower paying off the interest alone, but paying off less than the required interest payments, which are added to the principal. In other words, the principal actually goes up over time, despite the borrowers' attempts to repay it and get out from under such massive debt. It became one of the most onerous, predatory lending schemes around, and today, many critics regard the Sandlers as one of the worst villains in the present meltdown, for all their public spiritedness. Read the whole thing; you'll be glad, and sad, you did.

Dellums Still Won't Name City Boss

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 9:25 AM

You may have heard that after getting a tart letter from City Attorney John Russo, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums finally declared he was likely to name a permanent city administrator in December. Well, guess what? C'mon, go ahead, guess. Okay, we'll just tell you, since you'll never get it anyway. According to the Tribune, the mayor's backed off and won't even say when he'll name a city administrator. This marks the eleventh month since now-disgraced city administrator Deborah Edgerly informed Dellums of her plans to retire, and he still hasn't settled on a replacement, told the public or the City Council who the candidates might be, or even offered a timetable for when he'll come to a decision. Check out what he said at a press conference earlier this week: "I will let you know at the appropriate time." This guy knows we're paying him money, right? Does the city charter stipulate that the mayor's duties include strutting around like Little Lord Fauntleroy or something? Maybe he'd like us to reshoe his favorite horses and clean out his stables while he has tea and cucumber sandwiches on the veranda.

Nifty Berkeley Science News Alert!

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 8:36 AM

Did you know that all animals with bilateral body organization are either right-handed or left-handed? Even snails? And that the same genes in every organism control for it, dating back to the first common ancestor 600 million years ago? You do now, thanks to UC Berkeley integrative biology professor Nipam Patel.

Harold Pinter, Eartha Kitt Dead

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 8:19 AM

It's naturally standard practice to mourn the dead, but we find ourselves checking that impusle when it comes to Eartha Kitt and Harold Pinter. The fact is, both lived long, productive, exciting lives and went out celebrated by their peers and countless fans; none of us could reasonably ask for more than they wrung out of life. Kitt started life picking cotton in South Carolina by day and being beaten by her own family by night; she ended it as one of the most elegant sex symbols, songstresses, and dancers to charm the modern world. Along the way, she threw the Vietnam War right in Lady Bird Johnson's face and made her cry. Nixon put her on his enemies list, a badge of honor in most people's books. Pinter carved out an entirely new sensisbility in modern drama, got his name turned into an adjective, and spent his remaining years using his arsenal to dice up George W. Bush quite nicely. And both beat the actuarial tables, so there's that. A tip o' the hat to the both a youse.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The East Bay Today: December 25, 2008

Thu, Dec 25, 2008 at 11:32 PM

Today's Top Event: Afikomen New Owner Chanukah Celebration. Celebration with music by local artists, latkes and prize giveaways. Music by children's group Octopretzel, storytelling by Joel ben Izzy, and performances from Saul Kaye at Afikomen Judaica.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critics recommend: Christmas Buffet at Jordan's.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Go to a bar!

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out slo-mo Mentos and Diet Coke explosion.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

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