East Bay

Majority Report

Oakland's Panopticon Effort Scaled Back, Mayor Vows to Move it Forward

All eyes from civil liberties watchdogs across the Bay Area were on Oakland’s City Council meeting last night for the discussion of and vote on agenda item number 14, Domain Awareness Center (DAC) Phase 2 Contract Award. And there would be much discussion, with opponents that included the National Lawyers GuildACLU of Northern California and Electronic Frontier Foundation heeding Oakland Privacy Watch’s call to “flood the hall.” Collectively, the audience submitted 149 cards to weigh in with public comments, now being fanned perpetually above.

Five hours later, the Council voted 5-4 to significantly curtail the effort, restricting it to only the Port of Oakland and Oakland Airport facilities owned by the city (at least until the city can come up with a privacy policy). The decision was welcomed with a mix of applause and jeers, as many had hoped for the project to be scrapped entirely. Mayor Jean Quan broke the tie with a “yes” vote on the more limited implementation after showing up around 10pm and reportedly killing time going through her mail and checking out catalogs.

Those watching at home and playing bingo couldn’t see some of the more theatrical moments beyond reach of the cameras, like “One man in a balaclava [who] used his smartphone…to take close-up pictures of city staffers and interim Police Chief Sean Whent as they waited to speak” according to Chronicle reporter Will Kane. He reports another masked man using his public comment time to read Michel Foucault out loud, while Oakland North shared pictures of protestors with LED signs reading “SINK THE DAC.” Councilmembers buried their head in their hands and plugged their ears as the boisterous meeting dragged on.

Quan, who backed the full program but was forced to settle for the more limited proposal, was surprised by the vehement opposition but vowed to move forward. “It didn’t occur to us … that a system that would just help the existing cameras coordinate better in an emergency would become so controversial.” Similar systems, implemented with the help of federal money, exist in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Overtly intended to help first responders in emergency situations, the program and the technology behind it raised concerns that it was a stalking horse for the continuation of a “Total Information Awareness” approach to counterterrorism that would grow beyond emergency response to include surveilling local activists and policing everyday citizens. In the context of the Oakland Police Department’s ongoing struggles, the NSA’s widespread domestic surveillance, behavior prediction algorithms leveraging “big data” and mobile tracking and recording technology like smartphones and wearable technologies such as Google Glass, the audience’s fears don’t seem entirely unreasonable.

“You could say that we won on some level,” vocal opponent Dustin Craun told the Oakland Tribune’s Matthew Artz. “But I think they put their foot in the door for expanding it later.” Which? Pretty much!

“The most important thing is that at least the port security system will be there … and it will give us time to talk about privacy,” Quan assured fellow supporters. Once those rules are in place, the City Council will likely reconsider features, including the centralized video monitoring system and connections with ShotSpotter microphones for notifying and locating gunshots. “We’ll bring them back one at a time,” Quan promised.

Opponents were just as committed, and the issue could have implications for the upcoming mayor’s race, where Quan has been sliding in the polls. Popular Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who voted against the DAC, was the most popular choice for mayor in a December poll, with Quan in third.  Officially Kaplan isn’t planning to run until 2018, but in the meantime Occupy Oakland veteran Jason “Shake” Anderson recently announced his candidacy with the Green Party, offering guaranteed opposition from the left to the increasingly moderate Quan.

Hippie's Bite Worse Than Dog's Bark

KRON's resident voice actor and all around wonderful human hater Stanley Roberts received his inevitable assault this week.  However, it wasn't from his vilified rabble-rousing Wiggle cyclists, but instead from a crusty pair of dreaded Telegraph Ave. gutterpunks.

After they harassed him for a few minutes during the filming of one of his beloved and helium-pitched “People Behaving Badly” segments, one of them attacked him from behind. From the Oakland Tribune:

“I never saw it coming,” he said.

When the first man attacked, Roberts said he turned around, grabbed him by the throat and pushed him up against a wall, telling him to not touch him before he let him go. Roberts then said he tried to walk away but that the men followed him and attacked again.

Sleeping Bear” Stanley Roberts then woke up from hibernation and fought back, but the resulting brawl left $6,000 in equipment broken, his press pass stolen, and his back sprained.  The condition of the dog is not known at this time.

And, of course, this isn't the first time a subject of his creepshot journalism lashed out at the noted vlogger, as old school fans will recall this rather brilliant verbal assault from 2011:

(Thanks Patrick and Amanda for the tips!)

Shots From Saturday Night: Endless Canvas

Special Delivery debuted on Saturday night, and we were there to check it out. The event took place in a 36,000 sq ft warehouse around 4th and Gilman in Berkeley. Over the last few months, dozens of Bay Area graffiti artists dedicated much time and energy to covering three stories of walls, ceilings and floors with amazing art. The show was open to the public for one night only on Saturday and we were there to take it all in.

This picture represents about 1/3rd of the line. Worth every second though




Check out more shots from the event by searching Special Delivery and Endless Canvas on Flickr. 

Hunter S. Thompson on Nixon's BART Ride

Reading Peter Hartlaub of the Chronicle's piece on Richard Nixon's September 1972 campaign stop on BART, I couldn't help but think of Hunter S. Thompson's reporting from the event, buried in the latter chapters of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

At the time of the trip, Thompson had just left the McGovern press corps and recently passed his Secret Service screening to join the Presidential Press Corps. So they tossed him on the dinky press plane headed towards Oakland to spectate—from a safe distance—as Nixon marveled at BART (all pictures from the Chronicle):

The few reporters who switched off the McGovern campaign to travel with Nixon on this last trip to California were shocked by what they found.  The difference between traveling with McGovern and traveling with Nixon is just about like the difference between going on tour with the Grateful Dead & going on tour with the Pope.

My first experience with it came shortly after Nixon's arrival in Oakland.  After nervously pressing the flesh with some of the several hundred well-drilled young “supporters” who'd been rounded up to greet him for the TV cameras, Nixon was hustled off in a huge black bulletproof Cadillac for a brief appearance at one of the Bay Area's new rapid-transit stations.  The three big press buses followed, taking a different route, and when we arrived at the BART station we were hauled down by freight elevator to a narrow hallway outside a glass-walled control room.

Moments later Nixon emerged from a nearby subway tunnel, waved briefly at the crowd, and was ushered into the control room with a dozen or so local Republican dignitaries.  Two certified harmless photographers were allowed inside to take pictures of The President shaking hands and making small talk with the engineers.  His pithy remarks were broadcast out to the press mob in the hallway by means of loudspeakers.

After watching for a moment, I turned to Bob Greene, a young Chicago Sun-Times reporter who had just dropped off the McGovern campaign.  “Jesus,” I said. “Is it always like this?”

He laughed.  “Hell, this is accessible!  We can actually see him.  I spent about twelve hours covering him in New York yesterday, and I never saw him once—except on closed-circuit TV when he made his speech last night.  They had us in a separate room, with speakers and TV monitors.”

From here, Thompson travels across the Bay to cover a $500-a-plate lunch at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel (which Thompson skips to get drunk at House of Shields), but that's for another time.

One of the things that really gets me about the book is looking at it with respect to the 2012 campaign.  The parallels between Nixon's re-elect campaign and Romney's second go for the office are striking—the limited access to the press, their lukewarm support, their incessant tantrums towards the “biased” and “liberal” media…  Romney may not be Nixon in either skill, cleverness, or personality, but it's hard to escape thinking about what a Romney presidency would look like considering their similarities.

Oh, and those “pithy remarks” Thompson was talking about?

Blue Bottle Takes Another Stab at Opening in the Mission

After 2010's controversial and ultimately unsuccessful attempt at opening a Blue Bottle in Dolores Park, the ever hot SF coffee chain is fixing to open a cafe next week at the corner of 18th and Alabama, inside the Heath Ceramics factory.  Assuredly welcome news to all the folks who live and work out in the boonies of the Inner Mission, who no longer have to walk all the way to Valencia for a fix.

(Also, the factory itself, which is in the process of opening now, is of interest.  As dvtdl? points out, “not only are they bringing manufacturing jobs to the area, but they are also opening four artist studio spaces, an event space, [and] a shop.”)

New Trend in Street Food: Serving Bánh Mì From a Hotel Maid Cart

I can't lie; I've never seen a certifiable Sketchy Motherfucker serving $3 sandwiches from a device used to haul around trash and “fluid”-stained sheets that I've been so inclined to trust with my nourishment and long-term health.  I mean, he really seems like he understands the whole essence of street food, no?

(Also, he's offering up five dollar non-Freudian psychotherapy sessions right from the grill, should you be feeling a little down while waiting to eat.)

Missed Connections Comix: Emergency Enchantment

I drew this one up last night, which didn't leave me enough time to wonder about whether or not you wanted to see this much blood on your Sunday morning.  Ooh Yah, Bloody Marys do sound good.