Saturday, December 04, 2010

Education and economic development in Oakland

This short blog started with a tweet this blogger ran across, and now I can't find because I don't follow the Twitterer who issued it on Twitter.

At any rate the message of the tweet was that an education scholar Richard Rothstein, who talked at the California School Boards Association on Friday in San Francisco, made a comment that education and training could not overcome bad economic background.

There was no link to the tweet issued communicating that idea, or words to that effect, and the tweet didn't come from Richard Rothstein. Moreover it was all but impossible to find a blog post or news account of what Mr. Rothstein actually said.

But it made me think of how economic development and education officials in Oakland don't talk to each other. At all. Yet, economic development planners are supposed to be trying to bring jobs to the same neighborhoods the education officials, and here I mean teachers, work in. Why not talk with them about what the needs of the people in the neighborhood really are?

The view that this disconnect exists has been with me for some time. It came to a personal "head" when I was in a meeting at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in 1999, and the conversation turned to the "jobs / housing balance." That's the idea that jobs should be where the people lived.

But the problem, as I pointed out in the meeting, was that the MTC was pushing for biotech jobs for cities like Oakland where the people didn't have the education for the positions. Everyone at the table looked at me like I was nuts, and I looked at them like they were crazy. Since my ego's much larger than that collective, I left the meeting feeling that I'd just talked to a group of out of touch public execs. I was pretty steamed.

The problem is that they never talked to the people in the parts of the 'hood where jobs are needed. Look. Oakland doesn't have a near 20 percent unemployment rate for nothing. Bring biotech jobs to Oakland, and jobs open up for people who don't live here, but would be forced to commute or relocate here. That's what's happened to a degree, with many biotech jobs in Emeryville and the South Bay.

Meanwhile the people who live in Oakland, raised their kids here, and use the Oakland school system, go wanting. And their kids suffer as do the teachers. They have it the worst. In East Oakland, a friend of mine commonly tells stories of being robbed, having to spend a lot of money for her materials, and other problems.

All of this should form the template for what economic development must do in Oakland. Developers and big projects are sexy, but more often than not, they don't really change things. Nothing helps a place like East Oakland or West Oakland like the modern, environmentally-friendly version of the good old-fashioned auto plant.

Yeah, someone will chime in with the usual arguments against that, and in doing so, keep the same culture that produces our problems alive for years to come.

What is "Cammy Cam Juice"?

Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton's started another new controversy. (Well, that's not fair because arguably his father Rev. Newton started the first one.) At any rate, with about seven minutes left in the blow-out SEC Championship Game that saw Auburn win 49 to 14 against South Carolina, Cam Newton called CBS Sideline Reporter Tracy Wolfson over and talked her into drinking his Gatorade bottle of what he called "Cammy Cam Juice."

She did so on camera and said it was "too sweet " for her, or words to that effect. Meanwhile, the camera switched over to one focused on Cam and someone, a coach perhaps, looking at Tracy. Cam was bouncing up and down like he got her to do something she normally would not have done.

That action, with all television eyes on Cam because of his great play and the controversy surrounding him, caused Twitter to ignite with curious tweets about that perfect sound-bite "Cammy Cam Juice." And many to ask what Cammy Cam Juice really is.

On Twitter, many said it may be "Purple Drank." One person thought Cam had, if you will, added his internal fluid to a Gatorade. And upon reflection, this blogger thinks Cammy Cam Juice is some kind of legal, performance-enhancing drink that's sweet to the taste.

Whatever the case, people are talking.

Cam Newton, Auburn win SEC Championship; Is "Cammy Cam Juice" Purple Drank?

Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton, the focus of an NCAA investigation where the NCAA recently cleared him to play, was instrumental in his team's total destruction of the South Carolina Gamecocks. But before we continue, a hats off to South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier, who some considered past his prime, marching his student athletes to the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

But Cam Newton, throwing for over 300 yards and scoring six touchdowns, had an amazing game. And what's "Cammy Cam" juice?

Cam Newton gave CBS Sideline Reporter Tracy Wolfson a Gatorade bottle of what he reportedly called "Cammy Cam Juice."

But what is it? She said it was "too sweet" for her. Yep. She drank it on camera, live. Unbelievable.

Is it Purple Drank?

This blogger wondered because as Tracy was drinking Cammy Cam Juice, Cam Newton was standing next to some guy, and jumping up and down and laughing as if he got her to do something she would not have done if she knew what she was doing. Look, Cam Newton's still young, so it must have been a prank of some kind.

Just wondering.

Purple Drank is a Southern drink - they're playing in Atlnta, Georgia - and a mixture of cough syrup and other ingredients.

Stay tuned.

Adrian Gonzalez To Boston Red Sox from San Diego Padres

Adrian Gonzalez, the firstbaseman for the San Diego Padres, is that no more because he's been traded to the Boston Red Sox. What the Red Sox get is simply one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball.

As the video by YouTube's SportsguyShow explains, Adrian Gonzalez is a power hitter. He's above the league average in On Base Percentage (.393 to .325), Batting Average (.298 to .257), and Slugging Percentage (.511 to .403).

In turn, the Red Sox give up Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes.

No word on the dollar amount to Adrian Gonzalez as of this writing.

Due Date: Funniest Movie Ever

Due Date is by far the funniest movie in the world. This statement is true - not an opinion.

Watching this movie there is just funny moment after funny moment after funny moment the entire way through, but it never gets old or predictable. There are moments that in any other movie would make the audience cry from sadness, but instead the tears in their eyes are from laughing too hard.

Robert Downey Jr. (playing Peter Highman) really shows that he is still a great actor, and Zach Galifianakis (playing Ethan Tremblay) shows that he is brilliant.

There is just so much about this movie that makes it amazing. The two are stuck together after being put on the "no fly" list - they must spend a road trip from Georgia to L.A. together with each other and Ethan's dog named Sonny. Peter is in a rush to get back home in time for his wife to give birth to their first child, and Ethan is determined to make it in Hollywood.

The two have a crazy time together which includes ending up in Mexico.

This movie is definitely a must-see. It just keeps getting more funny. It's a knee slapper and it is definitely a perfect "first date" movie.

Five out of Five stars for this hilarious movie - absolutely nothing negative to say about it.

Unemployment News: Senate Republicans reject UE insurance extension

In this Unemployment News, while several million wait and hope that their jobless benefits will be extended, their fate is being decided by people who are employed - Senate Republicans and what The Huffington Post refers to as "a handful of Democrats."

After two bills were defeated by a combined vote of 53-36, the only way Democrats will be able to get the Unemployment Extension is to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

Rather than just plain extend tax cuts and get the Unemployment Insurance Extension, the program is being used as a political football. This blogger thinks if "the rich" want tax cuts, give it to them, just don't place people in dire need in trouble.

But that's what a good portion of Congress is doing. As of this writing, there's no extension of benefits.

Stay tuned.

Cal - Berkeley Athletics: AD Sandy Barbour letter to Cal donor community

Cal Athletics Director Sandy Barbour has taken an undeservedly high level of criticism for the dramatic changes wrought on Cal Athletics over the past few months, most dramatically marked by the initial news that Cal Rugby Coach Jack Clark would not be retained past July 2011.

To meet the flood tied of calls and emails by Cal Donors, and to counter some negative donor actions in threatening to, and in one rumored case, actually pulling their support for the program, Sandy issued the letter below, this week. It's worth a good read. In fact, this blogger put the entire letter here, to get it more "out in the open."

Some of the highlights are that the Endowment Seating Program, which Barbour had hoped would provide a good amount of revenue for all 29 Cal Athletics programs, isn't doing that. Moreover, Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said that Cal itself could not give more than $5 million annually to athletics, due to a combination of the State of California's own education cuts and rising student costs.

With this, however, some Cal Alums have asked why can't Chancellor Birgeneau AD Barbour cut their own salaries as a contribution to the cause? In this blogger's view, having the Chancellor take a salary cut just for Cal Athletics is irresponsible to the needs of the campus community; better for Sandy to give up some part of her income, but not the dramatic drop some have suggested.

In short, Sandy Barbour didn't ask for this climate, yet she's being judged, and really unfairly, for the choices she's had to make within it. She's done an excellent job given that she's stuck between the rock represented by Chancellor Birgeneau's directives (he is her boss, you know) and the hard place that is the economy itself and the expectations of the Cal Athletics Donor.


Sandy Barbour letter to Cal donor community

November 29, 2010

Dear Cal Bear Backers,

In the weeks since the announcement about plans for Cal Athletics' future, we have received a great deal of correspondence from our extended Cal community that runs the gamut from supportive, to inquisitive, to highly critical. What almost all of the letters and emails have in common is a request for additional information about how and why the painful decision to reduce the number of teams was made, and the extent to which all or part of the decision may be reversible. What they also share is a passion and concern for our programs-especially for our student-athletes. You have been there for us in good times and bad, and now, in the midst of a particularly difficult period, I know that we cannot-must not-take your continued support for granted.

After a careful review of all your letters and messages, it is evident that many of you were not aware of the FAQ we posted online after the announcement and/or had queries we did not fully address. For that reason, it is clear to me that we must provide you with more information on how the decisions were made, and we must address the lingering questions and concerns.

You will find a new, more comprehensive FAQ found by clicking here, regarding the decisions and their rationale. I am under no illusions that, after reviewing the information, criticism will magically vanish, but I believe you will find that our department faced an untenable, unsustainable financial future; that we did everything possible to avoid a reduction in our program's scope; and that the ultimate decisions were informed by values I hope we all share. I believe the FAQ will also shed additional light on the following essential elements of the decision-making process:

In recent years Cal Athletics' costs and revenues have been comparable to our peers in the Pac-10. The data will show that we have run a very lean operation on a per-student-athlete lean, in fact, that I believe we have been failing to provide our teams with all they need to fulfill their potential. While costs have increased in recent years, many were beyond our control, including a dramatic increase in scholarship costs due to rapidly rising student education fees. Our philanthropic, corporate, licensing and royalty revenues are also right in line with conference averages, and we fully intend to maintain their upward trajectory.
The Chancellor's determination that institutional support for Cal Athletics could not exceed $5 million annually by 2014 was made in the context of a campus that continues to confront a dramatic disinvestment by the state in higher education. Our students are paying more and borrowing more. More than 500 campus employees have been laid off. Vital maintenance has been deferred for much of the university's infrastructure. While the extent of funds the Chancellor can allocate at his discretion has diminished, the demand for resources has increased dramatically. Simply put, the campus is not immune to the financial forces impacting the nation and the state, and Cal Athletics could not claim to be an integrated and integral part of this university if it somehow remained untouched and unaffected by the university's predicament.
Once that $5 million target was established, we began a department-wide program of cost cutting-including layoffs and budget reductions-and pushed for even more aggressive fundraising goals. We reviewed and decided to implement just about every suggestion for offered by the Chancellor's Advisory Council on Intercollegiate Athletics. We factored in a reasonable estimate of incremental revenue resulting from a new Pac-12 media contract (scheduled for FY 13). Yet, when all was said and done, we still faced an anticipated $4 million gap (which will continue to grow over time) between the department's projected revenues and expenses.
There were only two options to close that gap: slash budgets across the board or reduce the scope of the program. Initially, we focused on the former and analyzed how, exactly, cuts totaling $4 million a year would impact every team and aspect of our program. Suffice it to say it that option left each program in a non-competitive position, including our revenue sports. Every team would have lost some scholarship positions; some would have been required to rely solely on walk-ons. Already strained resources in sports medicine, strength training and academic support would have been further diminished. In sum, we would have harmed the teams that provide essential revenue to support the rest of the program, while crippling the competitive abilities of every Olympic sport. One can only imagine how our community would have responded if we had chosen this path.
Since November 2009, I have consistently, continuously and publicly stated that our financial situation necessitated dramatic changes and that every option was on the table. The message was clear: the status quo was unsustainable and the overall program was facing the possibility of significant change. In last few months before the decision was reached, we did consider a more direct outreach to donors affiliated with the teams that might be endangered if we were forced to reduce the scope of the program. However, because campus leadership determined that our financial model must be sustainable in perpetuity in order to preclude another similar crisis somewhere down the road, the only solution would have been-and remains-a very dramatic increase in our endowment sufficient to guarantee funds necessary to meet the Chancellor's target. We believed, and continue to believe, that expecting a quantum leap in philanthropy in order to rescue sports from being cut would be unrealistic and unfair to our donors who are already supporting the non-negotiable need to modernize Memorial Stadium, as per the Regents' mandate. Having said that, we are aware of the interest many of you have in the possible reinstatement of impacted teams and have included detailed information on this subject in the FAQ.
In essence, we were caught between a rock and a very, very hard place. The decision regarding which of our teams would cease to be part of the program was the single most difficult endeavor any of us had ever been involved in. We had no "favorites." We had no ability to delay, defer or deny. We knew there would be an outcry no matter what the actual mix would look like. I accept full responsibility for a decision that, in my opinion, represented the best option among a very distasteful set of options.

I also want to say a few words about the Endowment Seating Program. When it was launched, we had no way of knowing what was lurking around the corner for the country's economy, or the state's and campus's finances. We fully expected that this innovative approach to funding the stadium's construction costs would generate an endowment sufficient to support all 29 sports that we currently field, and we are heartbroken that the program's intentions will, in all likelihood, not be fully realized. But the fact is that ESP's importance has only increased in the wake of the recent decisions. Although we will soon be back on a financially sustainable path, I know that we all share aspirations for Cal Athletics that go well beyond "sustainable." We all want the level of excellence that UC Berkeley stands for, and the Endowment Seating Program remains our best hope to realize our shared desires.

I ask that you take the time to carefully read and review our new FAQ linked above. For those who want a great deal of additional, detailed information we have posted our original FAQ on this web site. The site also contains source documents and financial data we used in our analysis, and were recently provided to individuals who asked to review these records. If questions remain, please let us know, for I fully realize that we cannot return our focus to the future until the salient issues have been fully addressed.

One definition of a crisis is that there are no easy or intuitive solutions, and for that reason every potential solution is inherently controversial. However, if we are a community in the true sense of the word, we cannot allow disagreement to overwhelm or overshadow what brought us together in the first place. I continue to come to work every day dedicated to one, over-arching goal: providing our student athletes with what they need to excel on and off the field.

Sandy Barbour
Director of Athletics
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The Hobbit: racist casting director fired

The Hobbit and Peter Jackson show the way.

This blogger has often wondered how so many movies and commercials wind up with entirely white extras. This story sheds light on that.

It seems the casting director for Peter Jackson's production of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was fired for being racist. According to, an actor named Briton Naz Humphreys, who is of Pakistani descendent, was rejected because, as the casting director told him, they didn't allow people with dark skin to play in the movie.

To his credit, Jackson, the producer of King Kong and The Lord of The Rings trilogy that swept the Academy Awards a few years back, took fast action, canned the casting director, and issued and apology, saying:

“No such instructions were given, the crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it’s not something we instructed or condoned.”

The actor reportedly started a hard-to-find Facebook group called "Hire hobbits of all [colors]! Say no to hobbit racism!."

But according to Black Voices, Briton then makes a statement this blogger finds disturbing, saying "I would love to be an extra. But it just seemed like a shame because obviously hobbits are not brown or black or any other [color]. They all look kind of homogenised beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool."

Tolkien described three races of Hobbits, including one with skin darker than the other two.  So this is a case of not just a casting director who's own racism was working to "inform" the production, but a person in Briton who seems to see herself as not fitting into it because of her dark skin.   That, even though she protested the casting director's actions.

People of color must fight through the negative images in media and realize not just that they don't apply, but to challenge their very presentation.

Meanwhile, bravo to Peter Jackson!