Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oakland Shootout and Sideshow - a review

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Yesterday I posted a blog entry which contained set of videos from the YouTube channel of "EASTOAKLAND106", and contained scenes that were shocking. One showed two young black men basically exacting an ugly form of "street" justice on a white man in East Oakland. The other videos were created during "The Sideshow", an activity featuring muscle cars revved to full-throttle by their drivers, spinning donuts in the middle of the intersection of 106th and Mac Arthur Blvd. The YouTube channel contained other videos that together gave the viewer a real picture of what was going on (or "going down") in that part of Oakland.

I made the decision to create the blog to get the attention of the normally placid blog reader, tossed a steady diet of texts about celebrities, sports, and Erin Andrews. These videos showing the real life in East Oakland are there, but bloggers generally ignore them. I thought it was time to change that state of affairs, so I did.

The reaction on my blog Oakland Focus was basically normal, one email of concern about what's happening in that part of our city. But on, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, it was different. At first, some were hostile, angry that I placed such videos up for public view (forgetting that the videos were already up and out in the open on YouTube), others accused me of trying to "glorify" what they saw as "black culture". Still, others said that by installing that blog post I was simply advancing how whites saw blacks. All of these views I take issue with to a degree.

Yes, I know the old saw that "if it bleeds, it leads" but my intent was to poke and prod at a system of local bloggers that has ignored East Oakland. While there's a blog called "Oakland North", which focuses on a part of our town that, considering the Rockridge scene, can be as sexy as it is charming, there's no blog called "Oakland East" or "East Oakland" for that matter, and some of the blogs that certain Oakland Councilmembers read give only one view of Oakland. And and the w Oakland Tribune website only report crimes that happen in East Oakland, but don't give one an idea of what it's like to be there. So, with the help of the SFGate staff, that all changed.

I thank the SFGate's Vlae Kershner for taking the daring leap of giving my post the visibility "above the fold" of the front page and in the face of the visitor. The result - in part because of this and because of Google News and the way I designed the post to trigger it - was 149 comments, and it was gratifying to see the outpouring of emotion, the dissension, and eventually the melding of views and ideas. People who started out far apart were able to find common ground: we agree that some set of policies must be enacted to change East Oakland beyond just "more cops" and even though some don't think anything we try will work, they agree something must be done.

I still favor a return to a manufacturing-based economy in East Oakland. I'm tired of seeing whole states like Alabama work to bring auto plants and steel plants to those areas, while people here who have low-skills struggle to find work while the government tells them to get "retrained" for jobs that others move here to get, and land them. California as a whole has forgotten how to compete for industry, and has become lazy: more willing to build prisons and lock people up than assure the maintenance of a well-funded education system and a great jobs-building economy. The objective should be "a job for everyone" and not "I will arrest you."

All that and we're surprised at what we saw in East Oakland, or for that matter, the riots after the shooting of Oscar Grant? That is us, not the black "us" or the white "us, or the Asian or Latino "us", but us as Americans, or as Oscar Goldman said to "The Six Million Dollar Man", Steve Autin, "This is your arm, Steve." We have to deal with the reality we face and change it.

Some lament the passing of "old media," and I certainly mourn the loss of giants like Walter Cronkite, but new media - open, in your face, connective of everyone, and rapid in motion - is the social mirror we've never had before. We can see who we are, talk about what needs to change, then go out and do it.

Michael Vick - The "Anti-Vick" team list

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After much discussion, polling, and commenting, Michael Vick's back in the NFL. As I mention in my video created two day ago, he has to wait six games (which I called a suspension but as it turns out, it's not). Rather than blast another post about Vick's return, I took a look at the results of my poll (still a small majority favored Vick's return to the NFL this season, including me), and waited for more information. During that time, several NFL teams openly expressed their lack of desire to have the double-threat quarterback join them, but it took my friend Mike Florio of (the "" of the NFL) to make an "anti-Vick" team list. He updates the list periodically; here's what it looks like as of this writing, and Mike has notes explaining if the teams made their views known before or after Vick was invited back to the NFL by Commissioner Roger Goodell:

Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Pre-reinstatement)
Detroit Lions (Pre-reinstatement)
New York Jets (Pre-reinstatement and last week)
New York Giants (Recently)
San Francisco 49ers (Pre-reinstatement and post-reinstatement)
St. Louis Rams (Pre-reinstatement, and possibly post-reinstatement)
Dallas Cowboys (Pre-reinstatement and recently)
Washington Redskins (Pre-reinstatement and recently)
Houston Texans (Pre-reinstatement)
Indianapolis Colts (Pre-reinstatement)
Seattle Seahawks (Pre-reinstatement)
Buffalo Bills (Post-reinstatement)
Cincinnati Bengals (Post-reinstatement)
Miami Dolphins (Post-reinstatement)
Kansas City Chiefs (Pre-reinstatement and post-reinstatement)
Philadelphia Eagles (Post-reinstatement)

Here are the teams that to my knowledge have not made a statement (if you have new information, please let me know:

Oakland Raiders
Cleveland Browns
Houston Texans
Chicago Bears
Minnesota Vikings (Didn't say "no," but did not say "yes either)
St. Louis Rams

No statement from the Raiders

Now before you scream "The Raiders have said they will pass on Vick", no they didn't say that, a San Francisco Examiner columnist speculated they would do that, and it showed up in Google News. Offically, the Silver and Black have said nothing. Moreover, it's in the Raiders history to give a player like Vick a chance and if he's still able to run as he did two years ago, could give a defense fits in a kind of "Wildcat" formation with running backs Michael Bush and Darren McFadden.

Coach Tony Dungy is Vick's NFL-appointed mentor

Tony Dungy, the legendary Super Bowl-winning former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, is Vick's NFL-appointed mentor. Commissioner Goodell himself asked Dungy to help in this role and he could not have made a better choice. Dungy has taken his time to counsel men in prison and many players and former players look to him for advice. Based on what Dungy wrote, Vick may not be in a hurry to play football In his blog, Dungy explained:

I believe it (allowing Vick to return to the NFL) was the right call and I am glad that Michael is going to get a chance to re-start his football career. But, more than that, I’m happy with the position Michael has taken. I’ve met with him twice and spoken with him on the phone a few other times and I believe he is really focused on putting his life back together. Sure, he would love to play football in the NFL again, but I think he has other priorities. He has missed his family and looks to get those relationships going again, especially with his three children. I think he realizes not only how important they are to him, but also how important he is to their development. He has missed 18 months of that development and he wants his whole family together again.

With that, look for Vick to keep a low public profile and catch up with his family. Football's there but what we all forget is he's been away from society for two long years. He's got a lot of catching up to do. Heck, he's not even on Twitter!