August 3, 2012

"Oakland, the Last Refuge of Radical America."

A long NYT Magazine article.
In a sense, Oakland is the last place you would expect to find the most stubbornly active outpost of the Occupy movement. It’s a city almost entirely devoid of financial or corporate institutions, a city that “capital” fled decades ago. The shimmering skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco, packed with Pacific Heights investment bankers and venture capitalists, are all of 12 minutes away. Silicon Valley, bursting at the seams with dot-com millionaires, isn’t much farther. Why not take the fight there, to a more plausible surrogate for Wall Street?...

Why are radicals so inexorably drawn to Oakland?
Good question. And I have another question, about that photograph of "Boots Riley... a rapper and activist who doesn't want to see capitalism reformed; he wants to see it toppled." Does he always sit on chairs like that, was that his idea how to pose for this article, or did the photographer position him like that? I don't know, but I'm nevertheless going to recommend that revolutionary-type Americans wedge their chair into a corner (so it won't topple, like capitalism) and then sit on the seat back with your shod feet on the arms. Your feet may be shod in sneakers if your name is "Boots" or in boots if your name is "Sneakers." Your choice.

60 comments:

edutcher said...

It's part of the Bay Area, after all; where all the losers who can't afford to live in San Fiasco have to go.

cubanbob said...

Why are radicals so inexorably drawn to Oakland?

Because no gives a shit what happens in Oakland. If the radicals tried that shit in SF or the Valley to the point it actually becomes a problem for the monied class the cops there would have a field day busting heads. They are very liberal until it gets personal and in their pocket.

Oso Negro said...

In all of my travels, I have never heard people express racist sentiments more openly than in Oakland. Riding on the BART one day in the 1980s, two black gentlemen sitting behind me were talking about killing the white motherfuckers as casually as if they were talking about where to go for lunch. The temptation was to turn around and ask if either of them felt like having a go, but neither of them looked particularly equal to the task.

Freeman Hunt said...

Even Boots does the concerned progressive head tilt.

Michael Haz said...

If you are a leftist radical and broke, you move to Oakland because (1) The rent is cheaper than in San Francisco or Palo Alto, (2) There are many more like yourself there, and (3) Oakland condones all kinds of violence and nonsense. And weed.

traditionalguy said...

I always thought Oakland was a live fire training urban area set up for Berkeley students and their professors to run revolution practice drills.

Kirk Parker said...

"a rapper and activist who doesn't want to see capitalism reformed; he wants to see it toppled."

May we assume he wants to be part of the ensuing die-off, too?

Paul Zrimsek said...

The only reason rappers haven't already gone over to Marxism en masse is that bit about losing their chains.

Seeing Red said...

--"a rapper and activist who doesn't want to see capitalism reformed; he wants to see it toppled."--


IF I were rich, I'd offer him a 1 way ticket to Zimbabwe so he could experience his wish.

One 1 catch, he has to give up US citizenship.

Ann Althouse said...

From the article:

"In 1999, the corporate-America-bashing former-and-future California governor Jerry Brown swept into the mayor’s office and promptly set about undertaking an ambitious, aggressively pro-business agenda for the city. Brown, who had a Labrador named Dharma, was soon cozying up to real estate developers, lobbying the state to loosen its environmental review process on urban construction and conjuring visions of a new Oakland, with a downtown ballpark for the A’s and a luxury resort hotel and casino. The centerpiece of his redevelopment plan, the 10K Project, was to lure 10,000 well-off residents to gleaming downtown condominium towers, establishing a new tax base and driving the growth of retail stores and restaurants."

Sounds like a great idea! But what happened?

shoutingthomas said...

Oakland is next door to Berkeley.

White revolutionaries from Berkeley have always dreamed of inciting racial warfare to set off the revolution. Oakland is where they go to find violent, racist blacks to join the conspiracy.

The white revolutionary women from Berkeley head over to the Oakland border to mate with the violent racist blacks in the hopes of birthing the next revolutionary Jesus. And, most of them are Jewish. The Jewish revolutionary girls love to shock Mom and Dad by bringing home a big black stud from the ghetto.

Years ago, I played in the biker bars and (inexplicably) folkie joints along San Pablo Avenue on the border of Oakland and Berkeley. (What can I say? I'm ecumenical.)

It's a hell of a carnival show. Apparently, nothing has changed. Robert Crumb had it down pat in Zap Comics.

Kirby Olson said...

It seemed sad they weren't willing to talk with the Oakland administration. Probably because these people are preoccupied with a framework that doesn't really say anything to anyone, and they know it. Even Obama is with them, but even he can't come out with what he really believes (although he occasionally has slip-ups) because he knows that no one would ever accept his true thought for anything but laughs. No one who's ever worked deserves what they have. The only ones who deserve anything are those who get it for "free" from the gummint.

Patrick said...

Who is the man
That would risk his neck for his brother man? BOOTS! Damn Right. Can you dig it? Right on.

Or maybe Jesse Jackson

TWM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TWM said...

Do they have Chick-fil-As in Oakland? Are there any attractive lesbians kissing there?

**hate typos, especially my own.

Meade said...

Boots Riley is 6'5....
6'9 with the afro.

Muns said...

"Even Boots does the concerned progressive head tilt."

Ha - never noticed that before. It'd be a funny photomontage.

Tim DeRoche said...

They got priced out of San Francisco.

shoutingthomas said...

And, I forgot.

Add into the carnival mixture copious servings of coke, weed, alcohol and random screwing in a variety of groupings.

The weed is top notch, too.

This really gets the party going.

FleetUSA said...

There is always a need to have a center for the crazies of the world.

Ann Althouse said...

Meade's last comment — he tells me, I would never have known — is an allusion to "Fletch."

raf said...

Sounds like a great idea! But what happened?

The objective was never to revitalize Oakland, it was to revitalize Jerry Brown's political career. It worked; project over.

Balfegor said...

Oso Negro:

In all of my travels, I have never heard people express racist sentiments more openly than in Oakland.

Honestly, I think the entire Bay area is probably the most racist part of California -- I think I've mentioned this in comments here before, but San Francisco is literally the only place in the US where I've heard white people express casual anti-Asian racism in public. And of course, there's the Jew-hatred in Berkeley -- significant enough back when I was applying to law schools that Berkeley dropped right off my list even after I was accepted and visited the campus. It's a beautiful part of the state with an ugly, ugly culture.

Patrick said...

Perfect answer, raf.

Ann Althouse said...

"Even Boots does the concerned progressive head tilt."

Maybe they're doing their Natalie Wood imitation.

Sorun said...

"Maybe they're doing their Natalie Wood imitation."

Natalie's was more like Nipper's

Moose said...

So lets see if you're poor and black and disaffected you're being oppressed by the capitalists. If you're poor and white and disaffected you're ungrateful Tea Party scum.

Did I get that right?

Paul said...

Berkeley and Oakland are the white and black bastions of Marxist moonbattery in the Bay Area. Not surprisingly they have the most deteriorated infrastructure out here too. Ron Dellums, Barbara Lee, Black Muslims in Oakland, and the hordes of grey ponytails and wire rimmed pinch faced harridans to the north.

If you want to see the true, ugly visage of modern American liberalism this is the epicenter.

cassandra lite said...

A few months ago I had a signing scheduled at a black-owned, black-themed bookstore in Oakland for a book of great interest to the black community.

I brought with me--and the owner knew he was coming--a friend who is one of the remaining luminaries from the MLK era. He normally draws hundreds, even thousands, to hear him speak. So the woman who owned the store, had she actually told anyone ahead of time that he was coming and would be introducing me, could have earned more in a single night than she does in a month, maybe longer.

But it was more important to her to humiliate a white author by making sure that her store was empty. She had told no one; no signs in the store, no mention in her newsletter, no word on her website. You could see the smirk on her face.

My friend was furious. And as we driving back to Stanford, where he's a scholar-in-residence, he said angrily that he'd heard about such things but had never actually seen it before. "Why would she hurt herself just to hurt you?"

His wife supplied the answer: "That's Oakland."

Scott said...

Revolution is the opiate of the intellectual.*

And there is nothing more revolting than a bourgeois progressive.

*(Scrawled on a wall in Lindsay Anderson's film "O Lucky Man!")

Michael said...

The professor asks whalt happened to Gov. brown's splendid plan to revitalize Oakland. "Activists" like the Rapper Riley is what happened. You cannot just wave a wand and have all of your green apparatus disappear you cannot wave a wand and make getting a building permit easy. You cannot wave a wand and have people pour tens of thousands of their money into housing in such a place that you have constructed to be unfriendly to them, that you have erected to tell them they are garbage.

Calypso Facto said...

Sounds like a great idea! But what happened?

Mitt Romney would correctly tell you that culture matters.

campy said...

But it was more important to her to humiliate a white author by making sure that her store was empty.

Why should she care if she loses money? She didn't build that business.

Moose said...

Said it before and will say it again - when your power structure is built on a single issue, you have no reason to see that issue resolved. You just keep finding additional issues to reinforce your minority status.

Just to say it - its like the Palestinians - as soon as they become part of the main stream in the middle east, they become unimportant.

As soon as "Boots" gets a job and a 401k he's nobody.

shoutingthomas said...

cassandra lite,

Here's one of the favorite jokes that black blues musicians in Chicago like to play on white musicians who show up at the club's jam session in the hopes of playing with some certified down home brothers.

The black guys play a set, and then they call up all the white guys to play with each other.

It's hilarious!

Seeing Red said...

--Why are radicals so inexorably drawn to Oakland?--


No snow.

hawkeyedjb said...

Occupiers are drawn to the weak cities with feckless leadership and little will to resist. Cubanbob is right, the Occupy shtick wouldn't go far in Silicon Valley, where people actually count on the government to supply things like police protection and public order. Like any parasites, the Occupiers would move on to the next easy target if they were rousted. Poorly-governed places like Oakland are natural ground for them.

Crunchy Frog said...

What do you expect from the birthplace of Ebonics as an offical language...

Carnifex said...

@shoutingthomas

about your screed concerning Jewish women...

C4, shoutingthomas. Shouting thomas, C4.

(try to keep the Seig Hiels down)

Paddy O said...

Ann, don't give away the allusions!

I was all excited about adding "This gritty kid from the streets of Oakland really adds excitement. Looks how he shakes off 4, 5 defenders with ease!"

shoutingthomas said...

Why Were There So Many Jews in SDS? An article by Mark Rudd, who is Jewish, and one of the founders of SDS.

You are the usual fucking moron.

Fucking morons haven't changed either. Same old idiot shit.

PatCA said...

Oakland has been a Dem plantation for years. Of course it has failed, just like Detroit and Chicago and now L.A.

Big redevelopment is classic top down central planning. San Pedro, for example, is going to redevelop the beach area again. New buildings and airport-style restaurants apparently will draw people down there, despite drug trade and gang violence!

These schemes benefit unions and campaign supporters and ivory tower planners -- not people, not cities.

cassandra lite said...

@shoutingthomas,

You're right about the radical mating in Berkeley/Oakland. I was there, same as you, same time you were playing on San Pablo.

If the Jewish girls weren't hooking up with the radical brothers, they were going for each other. Remember Phranc?

Then there was the time I ran into an old girlfriend on campus; hadn't seen her in a while. She said she'd dropped out of school to become...a topless dancer in Livermore. Apparently it was quite the thing for a while.

Lots of people were searching for authenticity in all sorts of inauthentic ways.

shoutingthomas said...

Don't remember Phranc. There were so many.

I was living with a very lively Jewish woman at the time. We lived in SF, first in the Western Addition and then in the Haight.

I was having a great time, but I was only there for the sex, drugs & rock & roll, not the politics.

cassandra lite said...

@shoutingthomas,

I'm trying to remember why I was there.

Come for the education; stay for the lack thereof.

Kevin said...

"Sounds like a great idea! But what happened?"

Oakland briefly got some tech spillover from San Francisco during the dot-com boom. When the boom busted, bye-bye Oakland.

Oakland is going to be bankrupt in a few years - it has unbelievable pension liabilities, and the city has gotten so poor that the cops have largely stopped patrolling the rich and middle-class areas of Oakland that provides all the tax base. Crime is exploding in those areas, and those residents are starting to flee Oakland, which will destroy the remaining tax base. Detroit II.

Hope Boots is happy with the result...

creeley23 said...

My favorite progressive head tilt -- the Bill Ayers arrest photo.

It's a combination of effete and smug that seems calculated to infuriate the police and normal Americans, and probably was.

Oso Negro said...

@cassandra

If I remember Phranc properly, she was the one who didn't like female mud wrestling.

Michael K said...

The Oakland Hills are a white bastion with Bay views from many homes. The rest of Oakland is liquor stores and vacant lots. My Obama fan son has his office there but lives in Alameda. None of his law practice is in Oakland but office space must be cheap.

Amartel said...

"'The centerpiece of his redevelopment plan, the 10K Project, was to lure 10,000 well-off residents to gleaming downtown condominium towers, establishing a new tax base and driving the growth of retail stores and restaurants.'
Sounds like a great idea! But what happened?"

The City used Other Peoples' Money to build a Potemkin Village and, predictably, the Other People did not get their money's worth. The housing came on the market after the housing bust and, predictably, the goal of the project was not achieved and will not be achieved in the foreseeable future. (Of course, everyone now denies that the real goal was to lure 10,000 people into the City. Even though that's the name of the initiative. Whatever. It's more important to emphasize the lie that it's not Jerry Brown's fault that there was a housing bust, no one could have foreseen the economic downturn, etc. lieslieslies.) Meanwhile, no effort whatsoever was made to address the real underlying problems in the city, the corruption, cronyism, and the grotesque provincial inbred racism. For the politicians of Oakland, that's a feature not a bug.

cassandra lite said...

So not only is there no there there, it's the place where everyone went broke overestimating the intelligence of the narrative.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

shoutingthomas,

Used to live in the Bay Area. I miss Freight & Salvage. How many clubs do you know that regularly host string quartets?

cassandra lite, was Phranc Bay Area? I didn't know that -- or forgot it, more likely; I know of her only because a fellow grad student at Cal wrote an article on music and the butch/femme aesthetic. What I remember is the album cover for "I Enjoy Being a Girl": ultra-butch Phranc (very short hair, some sort of masculinish clothes) sitting at a backyard table with a glass of ... milk.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Michael K,

The Oakland Hills are a white bastion with Bay views from many homes.

Yeah, well, even better views than there were before the 1991 fire. You burn off all the vegetation (and houses), have everyone rebuild an average of 10% or so bigger, and make them damned nervous about letting anything taller than a tulip grow near the newly-rebuilt houses, and the view of the Bay certainly improves, though the view of everything else, alas, does not.

The rest of Oakland is liquor stores and vacant lots.

Not entirely true. There are places neither in the hills nor as you describe. Rockridge (I lived there for, oh, seven years, I think, in the 90s), for example, has its points.

Pros: Can walk to Berkeley. Decent Safeway open 24/7. Zachary's Pizza. Actual news stand with decent magazine selection three blocks away from our rental, and polling place literally across the street -- to vote from our place, you literally went down the driveway, kept going in a straight line, and were there in 20 seconds.

Cons: Well, Oakland. Piss-poor street repair. (I used to walk up to Ashby Ave -- just past the border -- to catch a bus to Emeryville, and you knew exactly where the border was during the winter months, because it was where the street intersections suddenly stopped being flooded. Oakland never ceased to be surprised, year after year, that if you don't clean out your storm drains, they don't perform their intended function.) Crime. (We had a broad daylight break-in once, during an hour and a half that I was at work and my husband was out of the house, which suggests someone was keeping watch.) Really shitty neighborhoods a block or two away, such that it made sense not to walk the most direct route to (say) Berkeley Bowl.

wv: 7 tiescump

The Crack Emcee said...

Boots Riley is a personal friend of mine, who isn't speaking to me right now, because I told him in-no-uncertain-terms his leading role in Occupy Oakland was counter-productive and getting people hurt. I don't see his behavior as too much different from how you boneheads (full of piss and disses) react to my admonitions about Romney, so I'd check the comments if I were you:

You're more like Boots, in your single-minded stupidity and lack of moral compasses, than you like to think.

Oakland, despite it's many problems, has a vibrant arts culture - in many ways more creative and exciting than SF's - but you'd have to live there to be let in on it. They know they've got a good thing and fuck letting everyone ruin it. Better you all think it's a city of losers. Utah's got something in common with Oakland that way.

I've had some pretty hair-raising experiences in Oakland, but it was this cult murder - occurring on my way to work - that finally broke it's hold on me. (If Ann wants to know why JB's plans didn't work out, you'll notice that, whether it's The People's Temple or Your Black Muslim Bakery, Jerry Brown played a role in each killer cult's progress. The man is simply a bad judge of reality,...)

Anyway, I'm getting back outta here. You guys can go back to playing your silly left-right sniping game, devoid of reality, without me:

I'll be back to nah-nah-nah-nah-nah you when it's time,...

cassandra lite said...

@The Crack Emcee said

"...
I'll be back to nah-nah-nah-nah-nah you when it's time,..."

One more nah and you've got the chorus to Hey Jude.

Penny said...

"Oakland, last refuge of radical America"?

Oh, REALLY?

Not if the hippies, radicals and unions of Madison, Wisconsin have their way!

Penny said...

And they're working damn hard at it, too!

Hard WORK is what built this country, and Midwesterners have always been known for their work ethic.

"Move over big dog...cause the little dog's movin' in."

el polacko said...

berkeley blends into oakland with no discernable border (other than a sign) and oakland has the downtown/city center location that berkeley lacks so it is not too suprising that public protests (which aren't specifically university-related) would head to oakland rather than to wander around the streets of berkeley. the same groups and faces, linking all the way back to the sixties, can still be found riling up the youngsters to rebel against whatever is the theme of the day...and, of course, against the pigs/the man/mommyanddaddy...but even at the height of their numbers, we are talking about a very small part of the local population who participate in these protests. when anyone bothers to ask, most of the protesters aren't oaklanders at all but rather the afore-mentioned berkeleyans, san franciscans, or suburban-dwellers drawn here by a romantic notion of some sort of people's revolution that they suspect will spring up from allegedly downtrodden minority populations. but to paraphrase gertrude stein's infamously mis-understood quote, there's no such revolution here.
if there is any exodus from oakland it's among those who simply can no longer afford to live here. while it may be less expensive that the outrageously over-priced san fran, it's not that much cheaper. what oakland does offer, however, is the space and greenery that that the cramped, dirty san fran does not. the popular image of oakland as a 'grand theft auto'-style city is pretty much nonsense. sure, there are expanses in this large city where the residents consider a life of drugs, crime, and violence to be the ordinary way of life (and, indeed, those areas are where nearly all of oakland's crime is committed) but that is, by no means, all there is to the city. there are many neighborhoods, ranging from the flatlands up to the hills that are charming, quiet, and verdant parts of town where one will find fine examples of victorians and craftsmen-style homes bordered by neat lawns and lush gardens. just about any sort of plant can thrive in this environment. for lovers of a temperate climate, there's no place on earth to compare to oakland. sunny days with the hint of sea breezes; not as hot as it gets over the hills but neither as wind-whipped, chilly and foggy as san fran, the weather here is what goldilocks would call "just right".
for all of his failings as a governor, jerry brown (who still resides in oakland and can often be seen jogging around picturesque lake merrit in the heart of the city) made a terrific mayor. all of the changes he promised for downtown have come to pass. many new restaurants, bars, and clubs have sprung up to serve the tenants who were drawn to the residential buildings brown pushed for. the historic fox theater has been returned to its original grandeur to join the glorious, art-deco paramount theater in luring the a-list talents away from the dowdier venues in san fran to, instead, perform in oakland. old warehouses and industrial buildings have been converted to artist lofts to accomodate the explosive expansion of the art scene. workshops and galleries are popping up all over to complement our museums...
well... before i start sounding like i work for the chamber of commerce, i think you get the idea. there's an oakland that is not presented in the 'if it bleeds, it leads' news. yes, it's a heavily left-leaning part of the country and there are some entrenched politicians in city government who don't do the city any favors,but we're not all nuts...well, maybe a little nuts but nuts like a fox...or something like that. i moved over here from san fran 35 years ago and hardly a day goes by that i don't pat myself on the back for making a wise decision.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

el polacko,

I spent about 25 years altogether in the Bay Area, living in Berkeley; then Kensington; then Emeryville (but three blocks from Oakland in any of three directions, i.e., just east of San Pablo Ave. in the mid-40s); then Rockridge (a.k.a. North Oakland); then San Rafael; then Novato. In only two of these places was I or my husband robbed or our home burglarized. Care to guess which two?

I said earlier on this thread that there is a lot of Oakland that is very attractive; I should add that there's a lot more that, even if not exactly attractive, is admirable. Our very-nearly-in-Oakland rental place in Emeryville was in a tiny neighborhood, a couple blocks each direction, that was roughly one-third each black, white, and Indian subcontinent; it was the sort of place where total strangers wished one another "good morning" from across the street. Unfortunately, it was also near enough to thug territory that it was not terribly comfortable after dark. And as for New Year's Eve ... well, there's "celebratory gunfire," and then there's knowing that someone a few blocks away has something with a forty-round clip that he can fire off in five seconds or so. That was the year that police found 200+ shell casings in a single block of a single street, a block about ten blocks away from us. (It was also the year I spent that night trying to calculate how long it would take a bullet shot straight up to come back down, given such-and-such muzzle velocity; and how much would air resistance dampen the velocity; and would it be able to penetrate the roof of our cottage?)

If this is your idea of fun, large swaths of Oakland are perfect for you.

I should in fairness to my old neighborhood add that it is probably very different now; the whole huge development at Yerba Buena and San Pablo hadn't yet broken ground when we moved out. But, again, that's Emeryville at work, not Oakland. (Emeryville in those days positively lived to tweak Oakland -- by, e.g., running free shuttles from Macarthur BART to the middle of Emeryville for anyone working there; luring companies from Oakland to Emeryville by lower taxes &c.; and the like.)

I do hope that Jerry Brown doesn't try to sit down on the grass after jogging round "picturesque Lake Merritt," by the way. Unless the goose-poop problem has been assuaged since I've been there.

Paul said...

Gotta disagree with you folks gushing over Oakland. I spend plenty of time there as a working musician in the Bay Area, my wife works there daily, and we both agree it's a depressing place.

We hate the weather...we like sunshine and warmth and while there are some good neighborhoods, as in all Bay Area towns, overall it is a grim place, particularly compared to where we live in the Clayton Valley. (No crime. Normal, friendly people. Great mountain scenery and recreation opportunities. Abundant sunshine and very little of that god damn marine layer that has you bundled up in July west of the hills).

We are 35 minutes from the SF anchorage of the Bay Bridge but in another world with a real California lifestyle.

I get my fill of Oakland and SF. I'll be playing at one of the big SF clubs tomorrow night, and trust me regardless of what another poster said, Oakland can't hold a candle to SF for the arts, clubs, music scene, etc. And it's a mere shadow of what it was even a few years ago. SF is still vibrant. Oakland is moribund.