Hoop Nightmares 

UC Berkeley men's basketball team was the second worst in the NCAA tournament in terms of graduating its players.

UC Berkeley is one of the world's most respected universities. And yet one of the campus's premier sports teams has a dismal academic record. According to a recent report, the UC Berkeley men's basketball ranked 64th out of the 65 teams in the NCAA tournament when it comes to graduating its players. The Cal men's basketball graduation rate was just 20 percent, second to last to the University of Maryland's appalling 8 percent. Talk about a March Madness hangover.

So what's going on? Is Berkeley accepting great basketball players who have no business in the classroom just to win games? If so, the record of other teams suggests it doesn't need to. NCAA basketball men's champion Duke University, also one of the nation's top academic institutions, managed to graduate 90 percent of its players, according to the report by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The study looked at the graduation records over the past several years that universities reported to the NCAA.

Or, if you don't like Duke as an example, how about the Cal women's basketball team. Last weekend, it won the National Invitation Tournament for the first time, the very definition of a successful season on the court. It also graduated 100 percent of its black players and its white players. In other words, the athletic record of the women's hoops team was nearly as good as the men's, and far better in the classroom. Cal's overall athletic graduation rate also was a strong 80 percent.

But for the Cal men's basketball team, academic failure has been an equal opportunity endeavor. The team graduated zero white and zero black players. The only players who did graduate were international students. Cal's crummy record also can't be blamed on b-ballers turning pro before graduation day. The study didn't count players as not graduating if they had strong academic records before leaving the school. In short, there appears to be no excuse for the ugly classroom performance by the men's team.

Chevron Tries to Bankrupt Richmond

Chevron has stepped up its game of hardball against the City of Richmond. The oil giant is sponsoring a ballot measure that would slash city tax revenues by more than $8 million annually, a move that could bring Richmond to the brink of bankruptcy, the CoCo Times reports. Chevron is sponsoring the measure as payback for a city-sponsored initiative that seeks to raise Chevron's own tax bill.

Chevron's measure also reaches new heights in political cynicism. That's because it promises to tap into voters' distaste for taxes by lowering business and residential taxes across the board. The oil company is tapping further into anti-government fervor by arguing that Richmond's council can't be trusted.

The oil company's attack is part of an ongoing war with the city ever since voters voted out Chevron-friendly councilmembers in the 2008 election. Since then, the new council has tried to get Chevron, which reaps billions in profits every year, to pay for the pollution damage it has caused Richmond over the past several decades. But the oil giant has fought those attempts vigorously, and by all indications, it plans to use whatever means necessary to achieve its goals.

Court Discredits John Yoo, Again

A federal judge issued another embarrassing blow last week to UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, ruling that the warrantless wiretapping of American phone calls was unconstitutional. Yoo developed the legal opinion that authorized the wiretapping — and torture — while working for the Bush Justice Department.

The decision by Chief US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker was just the latest example of the courts invalidating Yoo's far-right legal theories. And it came on the heels of a Los Angeles Times interview in which Yoo derided Berkeley for being too extreme and referred to himself as a "beacon of democracy."

Shop Oakland Condos Now

If you've been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for prices to hit bottom before buying a home, maybe it's time to get back in the game. Particularly in Oakland. Condo prices have dropped more than 13 percent, on average, compared to a year ago, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, citing a report by the Polaris Group. The median condo price is now just $272,500, the lowest it's been in nearly a decade and $42,500 lower than it was last year at this time, during the worst part of the recession.

Three-Dot Roundup

The Oakland City Council delayed making a decision on a proposal to slash arts funding by 50 percent until the end of April. The council had been scheduled to make a decision last week, but put it off after about 200 arts activists showed up at City Hall, including Oakland East Bay Symphony maestro Michael Morgan. ... Councilmembers, however, did agree to cut funding to their own offices by 15 percent. ... The new management of Berkeley's Oaks Theatre plans to showcase international films, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet web site. ... State Attorney General Jerry Brown decided not to file criminal charges against the group ACORN, following an investigation into secret recordings made by right-wing activists. ... And a new poll commissioned by the San Jose Mercury News appeared to show strong support for the Oakland A's planned move to the South Bay. However, the poll results are suspect because the newspaper did not inform voters of the potential public costs associated with moving the team.

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