News & Notes 

Starbucks, the new gay homeland; Our leaders ain't dot-communists; Oakland attorney as repo man.

Try the low-fat intifada latte: Coming soon to a Starbucks near you: a complex blend of homegrown gay-rights rhetoric and pro-Palestinian activism, infused with a shot of anticorporate flavor and topped off with a frothy acronym.

Sure to get some agitated and others steamed, Queers Undermining Israeli Tyranny, aka QUIT, is a group of local rabble-rousers whose exploits at a Berkeley Starbucks have been percolating around the Internet for the past few weeks. On August 17, around twenty QUIT activists occupied one of the caffeine peddler's Shattuck Avenue outposts, claiming it as part of "Queerkeley," a gay homeland revealed in holy writ. The holy writ in question was "QueerNation Berkeley -- God's Prophecy Fulfilled," a tongue-in-cheek manifesto in which God declares to the prophet Harvey Milk: "Lo, I have promised the land of Berkeley to the lesbians and to the gays, and to the bisexuals, and to the transgenders and to the intersexed, and to all of the gender variant peoples. And this land shall be blessed with fruits and nuts, unto fifty genderations." Thus emboldened, SuperSoaker-toting Quitters erected cardboard "settlements" outside the store and announced a curfew for straight customers.

The episode, recounted in a press release on the group's Web site (www.quitpalestine.org), was meant as political satire, says one of its founding members, Tinku Ali. Just in case you missed the intended metaphor, the silliness of gays claiming a Berkeley coffee store as the Promised Land was intended to expose what Ali calls the "absurdity" of Zionism and Israeli settlements in Palestine. The group targeted Starbucks because it claims the chain's founder and CEO Howard Shultz is a vocal supporter of Israel. Speaking from Starbucks' headquarters, spokeswoman Audrey Lincoff says Shultz is "pro-peace" and that his comments about the Middle East have been misinterpreted. As for the Berkeley takeover, she says it was just a few unruly students who ran inside the store, made a ruckus, and dispersed when the cops showed up. That, at least, was the version of events that filtered up to Seattle. The Berkeley police have no record of responding that day, and Ali says the cops never came. A manager at the now-liberated -- or would that be "reoccupied?" -- Starbucks said company policy prevented him from dishing about the incident. "I'd get my butt kicked," he explained.

And how did unsuspecting java-sippers react to being cast as surrogate Palestinians in a bit of street theater with enough mixed metaphors and competing agendas to confuse even the most practiced observer of Berkeley politics? Pretty gamely, it seems. Ali says the strongest reactions he saw during the hour-and-a-half takeover were "quizzical looks." If anything, he says, the incident raised QUIT's profile and brought in hundreds of positive responses from folks who welcomed a touch of levity in an otherwise deadly serious conflict. And QUIT's prankish prophecies may be winning over new believers. "People have asked us how they can do something like this," says Ali. With five thousand Starbucks stores worldwide, plans for implementing the next stage of God's plan for these particular chosen people are undoubtedly brewing somewhere. -- Dave Gilson

It's not available online: Back in July, Daniel Dow, the GOP state Assembly candidate for District 20 (Fremont) did something that was either smart or sleazy, or perhaps a bit of both. He registered the name of his Democratic rival John Dutra as a Web site, snapping up the big three suffixes -- .com, .net, and .org. Well, Dutra didn't like that one bit, and he told the CoCo Times as much: "It's deplorable, it's despicable, and it's absolutely unethical and dishonest," said Dutra, a longtime local politico and successful real estate honcho.

Deplorable perhaps, but at the same time funny that Dutra, an experienced candidate, wasn't smart enough to register his own name years ago. He can cry all he wants, but he should have known better.

In general, politicians have proven unbelievably slow to adapt to the computer age. Sure, most of them now have Web sites, but seldom in their own names. That's because some chump with the same name, or some mildly tech-savvy person who dislikes them, or someone who wants to divert hits to his own Web site, has beaten these suckers to the punch.

The East Bay Congressional contingent provides plenty of examples. Consider the sad case of George Miller, the Martinez congressman. The guy has been in office since 1975, and yet he couldn't see the Internet coming. To wit: Georgemiller.com is the personal site of a thirty-year-old Brit with vague musical aspirations. Georgemiller.net is a campaign site, but wait: "It's Miller Time. Elect George Miller, Constable, Ward G." Georgemiller.org is registered to one Garth Miller of Gurnee, Illinois.

How bout Berkeley's Barbara Lee? Her dot-com name is owned by NetVisibility, a company that buys domains and uses them to generate traffic for clients' sites. Barbara Lee Investments of Boston owns the .org, and look, Barbaralee.net is available -- yo, Babs, you'd better snap it up before Audie Bock gets to it. Now Richard Pombo, the CoCo County Republican, owns his dot-com, but the .org and .net are there for the taking.

Representatives Ellen Tauscher and Pete Stark get the Good Netizen award -- they both control all three of their personal Web domains, though Tauscher and a number of other Bay Area pols, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, seem to be on top of this newfangled Internet thing only because political consulting firm CTSG registered the sites for them.

Sen. Barbara Boxer's PAC for Change owns her dot-com, while some California entity called What's Right owns the .org, and a Floridian (go figure) named David Lewellyn has the .net registered. In Feinstein's case, she has to deal with the possibility of misspellings, such as Diane -- some guy named Lincoln Pickard inexplicably registered Dianefeinstein.com. A poor politician could go nuts thinking of all the possible permutations. On the other hand, there are a few free domains that savvy pols might want to get right about now. DonPerataforMayor is currently unregistered, as is JerryBrownforSenate. The ball's in your court, fellas. -- Michael Mechanic

But it'll cost you: Oakland wants you to know that it's trying hard to recover your lost money. The recent cover story on the city's embattled business-loan program ("One Stop Capital Flop," August 21) highlighted the fact that city leaders have over the years approved a series of loans ranging from merely risky to downright foolhardy, leaving it with nearly $6 million in defaults to date, including interest. (And while the city has become more prudent after being burned a few times, it continues to make questionable loans, the outcomes of which are not yet known.)

But unlike his predecessor, city attorney John Russo is aggressively going after the bad loans. For instance, the city has Blackboard Entertainment in bankruptcy court, and is trying to ferret out its assets (that loan totaled $251,000). In the case of Brew's, a failed downtown sports bar whose owner was given a sizable loan despite his patchy past, the city has a lien on the guy's $1.8 million house. Oakland also has a lien on the building purchased by the Women's Economic Agenda Project, which owes the city $3.1 million. If it's not sold by November 21, the city can foreclose. If Allan's Ham & Bacon ($151,000) doesn't pay up, Oakland has a court order allowing it to seize the owner's house. In another case, a bankrupt salon has set up a seven-year plan to repay $50,000 of the $77,000 it owes -- hey, it's something.

Of course, all these home seizures and foreclosures were hardly the intent of the One Stop Capital Shop, which was created to help the city's poor by creating commerce in the city's most impoverished areas. Collecting the bad debt isn't cheap either. As our story pointed out, the city has dropped $300,000 on outside counsel to pursue the defaults. In any case, word on the street is that the lending program is about done for. Perhaps the city was never cut out for this banking thing, anyway. -- Michael Mechanic

And you'll have to sign for it: For you readers who gripe about the faceless, nameless columnists of 7Days, you can now gripe about faceless, named columnists. Happy Sukkoth.

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