Perhaps it's only fitting that a city known for its defiant yet futile gestures should become the target of one. Ten months after Berkeley failed to jump on the post-9/11 patriotism bandwagon, the town remains the focus of an economic boycott of sorts. This may come as news to liberal Berkeleyans, who barely registered the initial calls for a boycott after controversial votes by their city council and local Congresswoman Barbara Lee were deemed un-American by the nation's pundits and politicians. As for any effect on local business? "That's a closed subject," scolds a staffer at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. "The boycott ended months and months ago."
It is still very much alive, however, at Berkeleyboycott.com, a site that popped up last November to rail against the "City of Treason" and has shown no signs of abating. Since then, the site's focus has graduated from merely assailing local officials' lack of enthusiasm for the war effort to portraying them as covert supporters of Palestinian terrorists. A recently posted photo montages depicted Mayor Shirley Dean and other councilmembers as Nazi soldiers. Yet if the site's relatively stagnant hit-counter is any indication, it has fallen short of fueling the anti-Berkeley sentiments of the masses.
So is this "movement" anything more than a lone, quixotic die-hard determined to continue until the Clif Bars go stale on supermarket shelves and the last hemp-bracelet vendor on Telegraph Avenue returns to Humboldt? A search for the media-shy Webmaster's identity was less than conclusive. The site is registered to one Bubbie Katz of Broadway Terrace in Oakland. The listed street number, however, doesn't exist, and a reverse lookup of the phone contact leads nowhere. Nor is Mr. Katz -- as lone, quixotic die-hards are usually Misters -- in the habit of using his real name online, or replying to e-mailed inquiries in advance of press time.
James Sparkman, creator of Chronwatch.com, a site dedicated to exposing what he believes is liberal bias in the San Francisco Chronicle, says he knows Mr. Katz's real identity but is not at liberty to reveal it. Sparkman, who occasionally posts Bubbie's missives to the Chronicle on his own site, confirms that the boycotter works alone and prefers to stay anonymous, lest he be swamped with threats and hate mail. Of course, our mystery man appears to have few scruples about dishing out his own vitriol, dare we say it, liberally.
But the secretive Mr. Katz, who also uses the handle "sneddren," has left some online bread crumbs to follow. His Yahoo profile lists him as an attorney. The one on FreeRepublic.com puts him in Oakland. And it turns out, in addition to feeling strongly about Berkeley's status as the fourth member of Dubya's "axis of evil," Bubbie is quite opinionated about consumer goods. Over the past two years, he's been an active contributor to consumer-ratings site Epinions.com, where he has posted lengthy critiques of everything from his hand-held vacuum cleaner and digital cameras to his car insurance. In the process, he's revealed himself as a six-foot, 180-pound San Francisco native, a graduate of the Cardozo Law School at Manhattan's Yeshiva University, and the happily married owner of a puppy, two cats, a Dodge Dakota ClubCab 4x4, and a BMW 528iA with leather interior, moon roof, sports package, and Xenon headlights.
With Mr. Katz throwing around so much disposable income, perhaps Berkeley should be worried he's not spending it there. Then again, maybe it shouldn't. This is the same Internet, after all, where teenager Jonathan Lebed made a fortune posing as a securities expert, and Sparkman admits he's never met Katz in person. When he's finally outed, Bubbie may turn out to be a precocious fifteen-year-old with free time to spare, a disdain for Berkeley, and a gift for diatribe.
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