A Berkeley Photo Safari

Recently I had reason to take an excursion to Berkeley, California. And there’s one rule of thumb whenever you go to Berkeley: Always bring a camera. And a keen eye. Because you never know what you might see.


The era of anti-war street protests is pretty much over these days, and the city has returned to calm. But Berkeleyans still like to wear their politics on their sleeves — that is to say, bumpers — so it’s possible to take the city’s political temperature simply by strolling around and noting the messages displayed on cars.

So join me on a photo safari to Berkeley, the most liberal city in America. What’s the mood there these days?

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Sure, there were plenty of old “Obama ’08” stickers to be seen around town. But they were all faded and peeling, seemingly from a now-forgotten distant era. How many residents have recently tiptoed out at midnight into their own driveways with Goof-Off and a butter knife to remove lingering evidence of the 2008 mania? Fresh “Impeach Obama” stickers are now starting to appear instead.

But surely, this being Berkeley, the residents are disappointed in Obama for not being radical enough — right? Right??

I have to admit, I just stood frozen on the sidewalk in shock when I came across this car. “Sarah Palin ’12” — in Berkeley? Is that even legal?

Yet Sarah was not the most popular potential female candidate to challenge Obama in ’12. I only saw two Palin stickers all day. But “Hillary 2012” stickers were bustin’ out all over.

If Barry’s losing the hearts and minds of Berkeley of all places, 2012 may turn out to be much more interesting than I ever imagined.


On the way into town, I noted this advertisement at a BART station. Looks like Pelosi, Obama’s main lieutenant, isn’t very popular these days either. Not only was the original ad critical of her for not increasing federal funding to pay for AIDS patients’ expensive treatments, but subsequent passersby added various mustaches and rotten teeth. Pelosi is already the least-popular politician in the rest of the country; now she’s an outcast in the Bay Area too?

(Don’t worry — she’ll win re-election in her district with at last 70% of the vote. Always has, always will.)

Ahhhh — now we’re back in a Berkeley groove. A Rastafarian “JAHLOV” license plate over a “Fuck Israel” bumper sticker. Berkeley is the only place in the world where cognitive dissonance is the status quo.

For the curious, here’s the wide-angle view — the prototypical Berkeley car, advertising practically every far-left ultra-radical cause in existence. (The sides and front were plastered in stickers too.)

Later, I captured this specimen “on the hoof” as it were, speeding down the street with an “Israel Out of U.S. Congress” sticker.

The car was full of the predictable Berkeley types — aging former ’60s radicals. I tried to snap a better view of them, but only got one grey-haired head as they sped away. Luckily, this entire species is rapidly heading for the nursing home and politically ineffectual obsolescence, and all I can say is hurry up already.


This sticker has been on the bumper for a while, but I liked the way it encapsulated communist economics in just six unexpected words:

Global Minimum Wage
Global Maximum Wage

That really just about sums it all up, doesn’t it?

The sentiment practically debunks itself, so I won’t bother dissecting its laughable aspirations.

In what? Chemistry? Economics?

I’ve got three words for you: Only in Berkeley.

[Photo by Henry K. Lee]
When I said “photo safari” I wasn’t kidding around. Incredibly, for the first time in recorded history, a wild mountain lion was recently spotted on Shattuck Avenue, the city’s main downtown business thoroughfare. The police were called but had no tranquilizer darts powerful enough to render a full-grown lion unconscious. The animal was running freely through the North Berkeley neighborhoods, so the decision was made by the police, for the safety of the residents, to shoot the lion before it killed someone.

You guessed it — this being Berkeley, instead of thanking the police for preserving public safety, people were immediately outraged that the police had killed the poor widdle kitty-cat.

[Photo by John Bennett]
A shrine quickly appeared at the intersection of Shattuck and Cedar to memorialize the lion and complain about the hated police: “Please forgive the ones who killed the mountain lion. They know not what they have done.”

Yes, there is still a vicious anti-police mentality among a certain percentage of the Berkeley population, as this graffiti in the middle of town reveals. The hatred extends from the street gangs up through the left-wing radicals who see the police as agents of capitalist oppression, all the way up to the city government itself, which has a confrontational Police Review Commission famous for relentlessly harassing any cop who doesn’t conform precisely to the politicized dictates of the anti-police radicals appointed to the commission. Meetings usually devolve into cop-bashing tirades.


Stickers mocking police can be spotted all over Berkeley. As noted in an earlier report, there was a recent upsurge in such stickers after the Oscar Grant incident (in which a transit policeman accidentally shot and killed a passenger).

The fuzzy dice (visible in the background) are a nice addition to this ACLU pro-illegal-immigration sticker.

And finally, as a palate cleanser, a poster we can all agree on, seeking the release of a democracy activist imprisoned by the theocrats of Iran. Sometimes, Amnesty International and even the radicals of Berkeley are on the correct side of an issue.


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