Apparently, it all started when federal officials swarmed in on a family of illegal immigrants in Berkeley. Then a few crew-cuttish types who just screamed la migra were seen scoping out fresh meat near East Oakland's Stonehurst elementary school campus. Soon the phone calls started, from both parent volunteers and school officials: the federales might be about to launch a massive raid on the children of illegal immigrants! For God's sake, undocumented PTA members, find someone else to pick up your kids! We'll do what we can over here.
By the late afternoon of May 6, politicians and reporters swarmed all over Stonehurst in a tizzy, looking for federal officers or gearing up to make a speech about the terrible insensitivity of the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums even made an appearance, ready to show a skeptical city that yes, he's in town sometimes. Teachers kept young children huddled inside their classrooms, apparently ready to barricade the doors. Finally, the word broke: immigration officers never intended to set foot on the campus. In fact, they just happened to be investigating people who lived near the school. But were school officials ready to tamp down the adrenaline? Of course not. In fact, they posted district police officers at the school, patrolling the grounds, ready to act if the immigration cops tried to nab any kids. No one really knew what they were supposed to do should ICE officials roll up, but fortunately they never had to make that decision. It was all just a bizarre, feverish dream. Is there something in the water?
Perata Gives Up Denham Recall Drive
Speaking of dreams, guess who finally woke up? Yes, that wacky ward heeler himself, Don Perata. Last week, after enduring months of growing resentment and anger, and even facing a possible criminal investigation into the alleged misuse of government staff, Perata walked onto the capitol steps and declared that he was giving up his vindictive campaign to recall state Senator Jeff Denham. In his nasty attempt to unseat the Republican state senator for daring to vote against his budget compromise, Perata strained the goodwill of newspaper editors who have always had a soft spot for him. His dirty attack ads about Denham's use of campaign funds only highlighted the Don's taste for living large off of his own pot of campaign cash. Finally, Perata surrendered and crawled off to lick his wounds somewhere.
The resulting editorials were mostly kind to Perata. The Los Angeles Times took the high road and bemoaned the misuse of the recall process in general, starting with the 2003 Gray Davis adventure. But the San Jose Mercury News put a few more teeth in their postmortem, slapping the Don around and suggesting that California politics will be better off when he retires: "Another move like this and he's more likely to be remembered for throwing political hissy fits." Unless Perata pulls off a miracle during the summer's budget negotiations, this will be how history remembers he left office.
John Yoo Takes Act on the Road
And speaking of the judgment of history, Berkeley's very own Torquemada has agreed to go to Washington and spill his guts on the Bush administration's policy of inflicting pain that's not quite at a level associated with organ failure or death. Yes, Boalt law professor and former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on interrogation techniques approved at practice at Guantanamo. You write just a few memos rationalizing the use of torture, and it seems like the whole world won't let it go! You'd think Yoo refused to put an American flag on his lapel or something.
Student Fees Go Up, Education Quality Goes Down
Speaking of UC Berkeley (yes, we could do this all day), it looks like incoming Cal students will get gouged once again next year. With the state budget deficit hovering around $20 billion, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting the University of California's budget by $417 million. In addition, the good governor has proposed raising undergraduate fees by 7 percent, and Cal administrators have decided to cut some key East Asian language courses. One former university administrator has predicted that the UC system will have to raise fees to $18,000 per year if this trend continues. Good thing the kids' college fund was top-heavy with all that Bear Stearns stock. Wait — oh, damn ...
A weekend fire killed the BART Fremont line south of Bayfair, throwing commutes into disarray. ... Oakland City Attorney John Russo ruled that only the mayor has the power to appoint people to commissions, throwing city councilmembers into disarray. ... UC Berkeley got $20 million to set up stem cell research labs, throwing Alzheimers-causing cerebral plaque deposits into disarray. ... The state's DNA crime lab has doubled its capacity, throwing people who think they got away with that rape twenty years ago into disarray. ... And Chevron has donated $2 million to relief efforts in Burma, throwing critics into disarray. Until they remember that the oil giant is part owner of a Burmese natural gas plant and helps enrich the military junta that has made life there a living hell. Then the world starts to make sense again.
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