Volume 41 Number 38

June 20 – June 26, 2007

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The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/22/07)


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/22/07): 14 U.S. soldiers killed in two days.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Casualties in Iraq

U.S. military:

14 U.S. soldiers killed in Baghdad in two days this week, according to the New York Times.

: Killed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq 3/20/03

Source: http://www.icasualties.org/

111 : Died of self-inflicted wounds, according to http://www.icasualties.org/.

For the Department of Defense statistics go to: http://www.defenselink.mil/

For a more detailed list of U.S. Military killed in the War in Iraq go to: www.cnn.com

Iraqi civilians:

98,000: Killed since 3/03

Source: www.thelancet.com

65,880 – 72,165
: Killed since 1/03

Source: http://www.iraqbodycount.net

For a week by week assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties, go to A Week in Iraq by Lily Hamourtziadou. She is a member of the Iraq Body Count project, which maintains and updates the world’s only independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq.

A Week in Iraq: Week ending 3 June 2007:

For first hand accounts of the grave situation in Iraq, visit some of these blogs:

Iraq Military:

30,000: Killed since 2003

Source: http://www.infoshout.com


177 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war four years ago, making Iraq the world’s most dangerous country for the press, according to Reporters without borders.

164: Killed since 3/03

Source: http://www.infoshout.com/


The Bush administration plans to increase quota of Iraqi refugees allowed into the U.S. from 500 to 7,000 next year in response to the growing refugee crisis, according to the Guardian Unlimited.

Border policies are tightening because one million Iraqi refugees have already fled to Jordan and another one million to Syria. Iraqi refugees who manage to make it out of Iraq still can’t work, have difficulty attending school and are not eligible for health care. Many still need to return to Iraq to escape poverty, according to BBC news.

1.6 million: Iraqis displaced internally

1.8 million: Iraqis displaced to neighboring states

Many refugees were displaced prior to 2003, but an increasing number are fleeing now, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ estimates.

U.S. Military Wounded:

50,502: Wounded from 3/19/03 to 1/6/07

Source: http://www.icasualties.org/

The Guardian cost of Iraq war report (6/22/07): So far, $436 billion for the U.S., $55 billion for California and $1 billion for San Francisco.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Here is a running total of the cost of the Iraq War to the U.S. taxpayer, provided by the National Priorities Project located in Northampton, Massachusetts. The number is based on Congressional appropriations. Niko Matsakis of Boston, MA and Elias Vlanton of Takoma Park, MD originally created the count in 2003 on costofwar.com. After maintaining it on their own for the first year, they gave it to the National Priorities Project to contribute to their ongoing educational efforts.

To bring the cost of the war home, please note that California has already lost $46 billion and San Francisco has lost $1 billion to the Bush war and his mistakes. In San Francisco alone, the funds used for the war in Iraq could have hired 21,264 additional public school teachers for one year, we could have built 11,048 additional housing units or we could have provided 59,482 students four-year scholarships at public universities. For a further breakdown of the cost of the war to your community, see the NPP website aptly titled “turning data into action.”

Politics Blog



War at the remote


It’s a popular notion: TV sets and other media devices let us in on the violence of war. “Look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens,” President Bush told a news conference more than three
years ago. “I don’t. It’s a tough time for the American people to see that. It’s gut-wrenching.”

But televised glimpses of war routinely help to keep war going. Susan Sontag was onto something when she pointed out that “the image as shock and the image as cliche are two aspects of the same presence.”

While viewers may feel disturbed by media imagery of warfare, their discomfort is largely mental and limited. The only shots coming at them are ones that have been waved through by editors. Still, we hear that television brings war into our living rooms.

We’re encouraged to be a nation of voyeurs — or pseudo-voyeurs — looking at war coverage and imagining that we really see, experience, comprehend. In this mode, the reporting on the Iraq war facilitates a rough division
of labor. For American media consumers, the easy task is to watch from afar — secure in the tacit belief we’re understanding what it means to undergo the violence that we catch via only the most superficial glances.

Television screens provide windows on the world that reinforce distances. Watching “news” at the remote, viewers are in a zone supplied by producers with priorities far afield from authenticity or democracy. More than
making sense, the mass-media enterprise is about making corporate profit in sync with governmental power.

Exceptional news reports do exist. And that’s the problem; they’re exceptions. A necessity of effective propaganda is repetition. And the inherent limits of television in conveying realities of war are further
narrowed by deference to Washington.

Styles vary on network television, but the journalistic pursuits — whether on a prime-time CNN show or the PBS “NewsHour” — are chasing parallel bottom lines. When the missions of corporate-owned commercial television
and corporate-funded “public broadcasting” are wrapped up in the quest to maximize profits and maintain legitimacy among elites in a warfare state, how far afield is the war coverage likely to wander?

While media outlets occasionally stick their institutional necks out, the departures are rarely fundamental. In large media institutions, underlying precepts of a de facto military-industrial-media complex are rarely disturbed in any sort of sustained way — by the visual presentations or by the words that accompany them.

“Even if journalists, editors, and producers are not superpatriots, they know that appearing unpatriotic does not play well with many readers, viewers, and sponsors,” media analyst Michael X. Delli Carpini commented. Written with reference to the Vietnam War, his words now apply to the Iraq war era. “Fear of alienating the public and sponsors, especially in wartime, serves as a real, often unstated tether, keeping the press tied
to accepted wisdom.”

Part of the accepted wisdom is the idea that media outlets are pushing envelopes and making the Iraq war look bad. But the press coverage, even from the reputedly finest outlets, is routinely making the war look far better than its reality — both in terms of the horror on the ground and the agendas of the war-makers in Washington.

Countless stories in the daily press continue to portray Bush administration officials as earnestly seeking a political settlement in Iraq while recalcitrant insurgents, bent on violence, thwart that effort. So, with typical spin, a dispatch from Baghdad published in the New York Times on June 17 flatly declared that comments by U.S. commander Gen.
David Petraeus “reflected an acknowledgment that more has to be done beyond the city’s bounds to halt a relentless wave of insurgent attacks that have undercut attempts at political reconciliation.”

Of course, occupiers always seek “political reconciliation.” As the Prussian general Karl von Clausewitz observed long ago, “A conqueror is always a lover of peace.”

At the same time, the more that an occupying force tries to impose the prerogatives of a conqueror, the more its commander must deny that its goals are anything other than democracy, freedom and autonomy for the
people whose country is being occupied. In medialand, the lethal violence of the occupier must be invisible or righteous, while the lethal violence of the occupied must be tragic, nonsensical and/or insane. But most of
all, the human consequences of a war fueled by U.S. military action are shrouded in euphemism and media cliche.

Which brings us back to violence at the remote. While a TV network may be no more guilty of obscuring the human realities of war than a newsprint broadsheet or a slick newsmagazine, we may have higher expectations that
the television is bringing us real life. Vivid footage is in sharp contrast to static words and images on a page. At least implicitly, television promises more — and massively reneges on what it promises.

We may intellectually know that television is not conveying realities of life. But what moves on the screen is apt to draw us in, nonetheless. We see images of violence that look and loom real. But our media experience of that violence is unreal. We don’t experience the actual violence at all. Media outlets lie about it by pretending to convey
it. And we abet the lying to the extent that we fail to renounce it.

Artifice comes in many forms, of course. In the case of television news, it’s a form very big on pretense. We’re left to click through the world beyond our immediate experience — at a distance that cannot be measured in
miles. But away from our mediated cocoon, spun by civic passivity, the death machinery keeps roaring along.

The documentary film “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep
Spinning Us to Death” — based on Norman Solomon’s book of the same name —
is being released directly to DVD this week. For more information, go to:

Bruce blog



The Queer Issue


Click below for Pride goodies:

Our complete Pride event listings

Flaming creators: Emerging queer artists who rock our world

Flipping for Pride: Cheerleeding is so gay

Commitment slut: To bed or to wed? A bi girl explores her options

Rainbow retirement: LGBT seniors face the challenge of aging gracefully

Back to the future? Doing the queer time warp

“Out Ranks”: LGBT Historical Society explores queer life during wartime

Are you ready? Can you handle it? The cheers for the dancing Brazilian drag queens, the jeers from the God Hates Fags contingent, the tears welling up in your eyes when the PFLAG contingent marches by? Of course you are. It’s Pride time, and you really have no choice in the matter, do you? For one brief period of time, any objections anyone has about your fabulous queer life are swallowed by the all-engulfing throat of gay love. Gulp.

And what comes out the other end? Questions. What do you have in common with all these people — the leathermen, the trannies, the engaged, the homeless, the activists, the Wiccans, the dykes on bikes, the acrobatic Sunset Scavengers? What basic experience could you possibly share with (you know he wouldn’t miss it) Gavin Newsom?

The marvel of it all, for one. The world’s in a dark, dark place right now, and, as usual, it’s up to us — those hilarious, endlessly creative gays — to come to the rescue, to create a sequined supernova in the black hole of current events and show, yet again, that love unites the world and conquers all. Sigh. Well, if someone has to do it, it might as well be us — it sure as hell ain’t gonna be the politicians or the religious, right?

I’m telling you, we should unionize. Aside from all the overtime, the least the straights could do is give us dental.

Release the rainbow doves! (Marke B.)

Fighting back


› news@sfbg.com

It was a week of triumph for workers and union activists opposing the conservative agenda of the owner and operators of the Emeryville Woodfin Suites hotel.

The Guardian last week ("Calling in the Feds," 6/13/07) revealed that the hotel called on its owner’s political connections to blow the immigration whistle on housekeepers involved in a campaign to enforce a living-wage law at the Woodfin. That revelation came a day after Emeryville city officials ordered the hotel to pay $125,000 in back wages and $31,500 in fines for failing to show it was paying adequate wages.

The Woodfin chain has fought the living-wage law, Measure C, since even before voters approved it in 2005, originally refusing to comply. Then the Woodfin Suites fired workers who were organizing to enforce the measure, claiming they were undocumented immigrants. After being ordered by the city to reinstate the workers, hotel officials claimed the firings were justified by an April immigration audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Guardian found that US Rep. Brian Bilbray (R–San Diego) asked ICE to investigate the hotel after a representative of the Emeryville Woodfin Suites — whose president, Sam Hardage, has close ties to Bilbray — contacted his office for assistance Feb. 1. That revelation was at the center of a June 13 rally at the Oakland Federal Building by members of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which helped pass Measure C and supports the laid-off workers.

"It is now clearer than ever that [the Woodfin’s] real motive was to get rid of workers who were standing up for their rights," organizer Brooke Anderson said through a loudspeaker.

Among those at the rally were Berkeley City Council member Kriss Worthington, Emeryville City Council member John Fricke, and representatives of California Assembly member Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland) and US Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).

Lee’s district director, Leslie Littleton, said Lee was "proud to stand strong with the Woodfin workers in support of their continued fight for the back pay that they are owed," and cited Lee’s "strong opposition to the ICE raids that have been terrorizing our community."

Littleton also said Lee was "deeply concerned by the allegations that another member of Congress — acting on behalf of a campaign contributor — may have gotten a federal agency to intervene in that dispute in a way that hurts workers in my district."

Emeryville special counsel Benjamin Stock told the Guardian that letters between Bilbray and ICE located as a result of our article will be cited in a pending lawsuit charging Woodfin officials with retaliating against whistle-blowing workers. It is against the law for an employer to fire workers for organizing for better working conditions, regardless of immigration status.

In a prepared statement, Woodfin officials said they contacted Bilbray’s office "to be certain we were in compliance with all laws governing our business." They claim that Measure C’s regulations "directly contradict federal immigration laws and violate the Constitution’s due-process clause." Both of the Woodfin’s federal lawsuits challenging Measure C’s constitutionality have been rejected; the last was dismissed June 7.

Emeryville has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars litigating these two federal court cases and a pending state court case and processing worker complaints. The Woodfin now says it will appeal the city’s decision regarding back wages. City officials are urging the Woodfin to accept defeat.

"Please," Emeryville City Attorney Mark Biddle said, "let’s move on with life. Measure C is a pretty simple concept, and all the other hotels seem to be on board." The Woodfin, he told us, can "either keep fighting a useless cause and continue ringing up the bill or pay the workers what the law requires."

True TorrentSpies


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION It’s no big surprise that entertainment megacorp Columbia is suing more file sharers. But there is something quite shocking about its latest infringement lawsuit against Web site TorrentSpy.com. With this lawsuit, Columbia is attempting to do nothing short of changing the way evidence is gathered via the legal discovery process. That means the entertainment industry has finally figured out a way to screw everybody in the United States — not just the geeks using peer-to-peer software.

Columbia is suing TorrentSpy for infringement because the site makes it easy for people to find information about where to download illegal copies of movies owned by Columbia. TorrentSpy doesn’t make the movies themselves available — it offers a search engine that locates files people can download via the file-sharing program BitTorrent. The suit says the guys who own the site are "inducing" others to infringe, as well as gaining secondary benefits from infringement because the site’s popularity and ad sales are boosted by pirates.

Here’s where things get hairy. During discovery, the period in a lawsuit in which both sides gather evidence, Columbia ordered TorrentSpy to hand over its user logs, electronic records of what people have done on the site. The problem is that TorrentSpy doesn’t keep user logs. So Columbia’s lawyers came up with a freaky, technically dubious argument. They claimed that TorrentSpy had technically been keeping logs anyway because user data passed through the Web site computer’s RAM — the part of the computer’s memory that never gets written to disk and saved. The mere fact that the data had flashed through the RAM was enough to make it discoverable, the lawyers claimed.

But all that stuff in RAM was gone. So how to get it back? Columbia’s lawyers told the judge that the owners of TorrentSpy could start keeping user logs during the discovery process and in essence re-create the missing logs. This was hugely controversial because discovery is only supposed to apply to already existing evidence. You can’t order witnesses or defendants to start gathering data today for you to subpoena in the future. But the judge, Jacqueline Chooljian, went for Columbia’s argument about the RAM: if the data had been in RAM for even a nanosecond, it existed in the past and was therefore subject to discovery.

The ramifications of this decision are far-reaching indeed. If the California ruling holds — it’s in the appeals stage right now — Columbia may have created a legal loophole that allows lawyers to order people to generate new evidence during discovery. Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred von Lohmann, who has been following the case, told me via e-mail, "Because the ruling is based on the notion that ephemeral RAM copies are ‘records’ subject to preservation and production in litigation, it reaches deep into many businesses. For example, if you have a VOIP-based phone system (where conversations appear momentarily in RAM in your data center), are you responsible for recording every phone call for potential disclosure in litigation? What about IM conversations? Does everything created by a computer become a ‘producible’ record, just because it’s digital and therefore must rely on RAM?"

While the case is on appeal, TorrentSpy won’t have to start tracking its users. But if the appeal fails, TorrentSpy will have to spy on its customers to produce evidence. There is one hopeful sign: the judge has requested that TorrentSpy not hand over the unique IP addresses of its customers in logs, so the evidence can’t be used to go after individuals. However, the precedent of asking companies to create logs as evidence may remain in place.

Does this mean that the discovery process could become a way to wiretap parties to a lawsuit? After all, as von Lohmann points out, VoIP companies preserve phone conversations in RAM for a few brief seconds. One could easily imagine a plaintiff arguing that a VoIP company should start keeping audio files of all the phone calls between two parties to a case, since those audio files should have existed before. As a result, the plaintiff will have access to everything those parties say to each other after the lawsuit has been brought. Unfair? You bet. Legal? According to Judge Chooljian, yes.

If you’re worried about government-issued wiretap orders, maybe it’s time to start worrying about Hollywood-issued ones too. *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who has a hell of a lot of information about you stored in her short-term memory.

A real dialogue on trans issues


OPINION What I love about the queers in this town is just how messy and offensive we allow one another to be in our unified goal of relentlessly trying to strengthen our community. In some circles, the evolution of dyke space into a multigender population of transsexuals, genderqueers, femmes, tg-butches, bisexuals, lesbians, and men of all birth sexes has led to tension about queer visibility and discussions about misogyny, privilege, and appropriation. I am frequently pissed but never lacking for a group of people who will continue to engage the issues and attempt imperfect solutions no matter how hurt they have become in the process.

And yet, during Pride season there will be countless potentially offensive voices we will not hear. The ex-gay and right-wing Christian movements — arguably homosexual communities in their own right — will not be given unchallenged space at our events, and there won’t be an uproar that these views should be included for the purpose of "fostering dialogue." As many journalists and artists can attest, ensuring the free exchange of ideas often means knowing what to leave out.

Still, it was predictable that supporters of lesbian director Catherine Crouch’s film The Gendercator would claim censorship and blame transgender community allies for "silencing dialogue" when the Frameline International LGBT Film Festival decided last month to pull this film from its June schedule. It was a setup; victims could either remain silent during an attack or speak up and "prove" that they have malicious intentions to take over the world.

For those unfamiliar with The Gendercator, a quick look at Crouch’s film summary and deliberately defamatory director’s note says it all: Trans people are the product of "distorted cultural norms" who uphold antigay values and change their sex "instead of working to change the world." Male-identified trans people are altered lesbians, despite the fact that many have never held that identity. And not even the femme dykes are safe, considering Crouch’s tomboy-or-else definition of acceptable queerdom.

Crouch says the film comes from her anxiety about what she perceives as the loss of gender-variant women and the rise of binary gender norms. But the film itself strikes a different note, depicting trans bodies as sci-fi horrors and trans characters as coercive perpetrators of nonconsensual body invasions — all the familiar rhetoric used to justify antitrans violence and deny basic civil rights.

If there’s a dialogue to be had about our community’s valid anxieties surrounding the spike in sexual reassignment surgeries, it certainly wasn’t raised in Crouch’s The Gendercator. Unlike the creators of other films that have been controversial in the trans community, Crouch is disinterested in the lives of the people she portrays in this work. Imagine making a film alleging an inherent pedophilia in gay people to "spark dialogue" about gay culture’s obsession with eternal youth. As Rae Greiner, a queer woman who launched the Frameline letter-writing campaign, points out, "You can’t foster genuine discussion when you demonize your subjects or when you intentionally forego nuance in favor of stereotypes, false accusations, and outdated perceptions."

In fact, The Gendercator provoked very little dialogue at all until San Francisco activists protested it. Far from trying to silence it, they aimed to call attention to the film and create an actual conversation. They distributed flyers with Crouch’s position and responded with the truth about trans people’s lives: trans people are often queer social-justice activists with a nuanced and feminist view of identity.

The reason nontrans gay people have not seen blatantly antigay or antilesbian films yanked from their festivals is that such movies don’t make it past the selection committee. To decry the ban on The Gendercator is thus disingenuous, particularly when many of the "anticensorship" and "nonbinary" voices support events that ban trans people from attending based on the presence or absence of a penis.

Yet there are some important messages about this film that should not be lost.

First, if our community artists are going to claim dialogue as justification for blatant attacks, then they should expect to have that dialogue. Some of the questions the queer community has posed in its discussion of the film are: Why does Crouch think her views are nonbinary? How do femmes, bisexuals, butches of color, nonop male-identified trans people, and dykes who choose breast cancer reconstruction fit into her limited view of sex and gender? How does the glorification of masculinity in lesbian circles and the sexism in butch and genderqueer communities contribute to this perceived pressure to transition to male?

Most important, if gays and lesbians feel that the growing transgender population means they are under attack, how can we come together to make sure this concern is heard and validated without demonizing one another? Several events exist in San Francisco to deal with such tensions, but perhaps they aren’t reaching the smart and articulate people whose need for real dialogue has been reduced to lamenting the loss of a 15-minute monster movie.

Opposing the inclusion of a deliberately divisive and dialogue-stopping film in an event designed to build community was something we did not do because we don’t want to have a community conversation, but because we do. *

Zak Szymanski

Zak Szymanski is the producer and editor of the short film The Wait.

Web site of the week



Local documentary filmmakers have put together this site about San Bruno Mountain, which sits behind the one-street town of Brisbane, off Highway 101. Described as "one of 18 global biodiversity hot spots in immediate need of protection," San Bruno Mountain and the endangered butterflies that have returned to its overquarried flanks prove how endangered species can thrive in even the most stressed locations. But just because a miracle happens doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a little protection.

Jailhouse justice


› gwschulz@sfbg.com

San Francisco’s popular Mike Hennessey — the longest-serving sheriff in the state after winning seven elections — likely won’t be facing a major challenger during his reelection bid this year. But a group of his deputies are being targeted for allegedly employing abusive tactics.

Six former jail inmates are charging in a civil lawsuit that they were beaten severely, left without medical attention, and forced to remain in administrative segregation for days, weeks, and even months. They originally filed suit in 2005, alleging that while in pretrial custody at various jail facilities in the city, including the Hall of Justice on Bryant Street, they were punched, kicked, or slammed by deputies from the Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the jails.

A judge, after dismissing an attempt by the deputies to have the suits tossed, ruled in December that at least four of the former inmates could take their allegations of excessive force to a jury trial. Some of the plaintiffs claim they were denied proper medical treatment for the resulting injuries, while others say they’ve endured chronic pain or injuries since the alleged attacks took place.

"The only reason these cases have come to light is because two of the inmates ended up in San Francisco General Hospital," Scot Candell, an attorney for the inmates, told the Guardian. "They were knocked unconscious."

Candell has been a criminal defense attorney in the city for 10 years, working most recently out of an aging Victorian with mismatched carpets on Webster Street. He’d never handled a civil suit before but said he took the cases, along with cocounsel Mark Marin, an attorney based in Sacramento, because the allegations represented a disturbing pattern of inmate mistreatment by the accused deputies.

He was aware of such complaints made by inmates in the past but says they were often unfounded or he chose not to take them seriously. Candell says he still believes most of the department’s deputies handle inmates appropriately. But he argues that these cases went too far and the inmates had no legitimate venue for complaining about them afterward.

"In general with people in custody, there are a lot of problems representing them both criminally and civilly," Candell told us. "They don’t have a lot of credibility. But when I saw Mr. Henderson, there was no denying that there was a problem. You don’t just get a broken back from falling out of your bed."

Earnest Henderson claims that in December 2003, following a verbal dispute with deputies involving an extension cord, three of them trapped him in a utility room, slammed him to the ground, and punched him repeatedly in the head until he slipped in and out of consciousness and was left naked in a padded cell.

He later fell to the floor twice in his cell because of a pain in his back, jail medical records show, and finally had to be transported to San Francisco General Hospital after the second fall knocked him out. There, doctors discovered a broken lower vertebra, which attorneys for the city later characterized as "minor." The city attorneys insist Henderson was inciting inmates by yelling and kicking his cell door and the deputies were merely working to contain him using only constitutionally permitted "nonlethal force."

Inmates in county custody have basically one avenue outside civil litigation for pursuing grievances against deputies alleged to have used excessive force. But the inmates complain that the Internal Affairs Division of the Sheriff’s Department didn’t thoroughly investigate their grievances, while the deputies continued working in the jail.

Voters created the Office of Citizen Complaints in 1983 to serve as an independent watchdog over the San Francisco Police Department and a place where civilians can go to protest law-enforcement misconduct. But no such equivalent exists for the Sheriff’s Department, which, in addition to managing jails, also provides security for City Hall and San Francisco’s criminal and civil courts.

Candell argues that something similar should be created for the Sheriff’s Department. Even though allegations of institutional shortcomings (such as flawed training and oversight) have been removed from the case, Candell hopes a large monetary award paid by the city’s taxpayers would prompt local lawmakers to demand greater oversight.

The suit originally charged the city and Hennessey with medical negligence and wider-ranging inmate abuse resulting from a lack of proper training for deputies. But those allegations were dismissed by Judge Vaughn Walker, who held in part that the city and Hennessey were not deliberately indifferent toward inmate grievances.

"We already know there are a bunch of allegations in this case that did not rise to a legal standing," Hennessey told the Guardian. "I believe that’s how the case will resolve itself ultimately as well."

Nonetheless, allegations by four of the six original plaintiffs, all targeting a deputy named Miguel Prado, appear likely to go to trial after brief settlement negotiations between the City Attorney’s Office and Candell deteriorated. Two other deputies, Glenn Young and Larry Napata, are also defendants in excessive-force claims made by Henderson.

Mack Woodfox alleges that in October 2005, he had an argument with Prado over a breakfast tray he was trying to give to another inmate. The two exchanged words, and Woodfox alleges the deputy removed him from the cell, took him down the hall to a different area, and punched his head and banged it into the floor.

Two days later Woodfox lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital, where doctors found he had a broken nose and broken blood vessels in his eye. Candell said the District Attorney’s Office is investigating the alleged attack on Woodfox and could bring assault charges against Prado, but a representative in the office contacted by the Guardian would neither confirm nor deny that such an investigation was taking place.

Several inmates filed declarations stating they had either seen or heard Prado attack other inmates, and two claimed Prado and other deputies beat them last year. One testified he was told by Prado to clean the cell in which Henderson’s alleged attack occurred. "There were pools of blood on the floor and a smeared bloody handprint on the wall," the inmate stated.

Michael Perez claims that in July 2004, Prado punched and kicked him after they argued over whether Perez could stay behind in a gym at the end of an exercise period to look for a screw missing from his eyeglasses. Arturo Pleitez alleges that in November 2004, Prado punched him several times, stripped off his clothes, and dunked his head in a toilet. In both instances, the city argues that the inmates assaulted Prado first, and Perez was even charged with battery and resisting arrest, but those allegations were eventually dismissed.

Messages left for deputies Napata, Young, and Prado seeking comment were not returned.

Hennessey told the Guardian that force is sometimes needed to subdue defiant inmates who threaten or attack other inmates and deputies. He told the court in a declaration that "rare" instances of excessive force do occur at the jails, and when they happen, he doesn’t hesitate to discipline or fire the deputies involved if necessary.

"It’s a difficult environment to work in…. Two-thirds or more of the people in that jail have been to state prison before," Hennessey said, referring to San Francisco’s Bryant Street jail. "Most of them are going to state prison when their time in San Francisco is done. It’s a very tense environment with very sophisticated prisoners, and the deputies have to be very sophisticated as well."

Hennessey has a reputation as a progressive who shows more compassion toward inmates than most sheriffs, but he arguably can’t oversee all of the 850 sworn employees under his supervision. Hennessey told the Guardian that he’d directed investigations into complaints about Prado’s conduct in the past, but he insisted they had not resulted in discipline, and he remains confident of all three deputies.

"Mike Hennessey is probably as good a sheriff as you’re ever going to get," said Dan Macallair, a criminal-justice expert at San Francisco State University who specializes in corrections policy. "But Mike Hennessey is one person. The Sheriff’s Department is a big bureaucracy. Law-enforcement bureaucracies tend to be very closed, and there’s a code of silence…. They don’t do well at policing themselves."

In response to the allegations, the City Attorney’s Office was sure to remind Judge Walker exactly what the court was dealing with: hardened criminals. Perez, a purported member of the Norteños gang, is now in San Quentin doing 25 years to life for murder. Henderson was awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder and eventually pled guilty to robbery.

But not everyone in jail is prison bound. All of Candell’s clients were in pretrial custody at the time of their alleged abuses and simply too poor to afford bail before they had their day in court. Woodfox was eventually released after attempted murder and carjacking charges against him were dismissed.

"The bad guards are the ones that control the culture within the institution typically," Macallair told us, noting that he supports the establishment of outside oversight bodies. "The good people don’t speak up…. There’s always going to be problems in correctional institutions. It’s just their nature. But you can at least help promote a humane, better-managed environment when there’s accountability and monitoring."<\!s>

Hot Secs


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Readers:

Since every third column I’ve run recently has harked back to one I wrote about the movie Secretary a couple of years back, I thought I’d bring it full circle, and then let’s all move on to something else. Here’s the original (published in fall 2005).



Dear Andrea:

My manager is leaving at the end of the month. I’m pretty sure from hints that he’s dropped that he’s into S-M, particularly whipping. I’m attracted to him and I believe it’s mutual. I’m not interested in pursuing a dominant–submissive relationship with him but am definitely interested in having a one-off because a) he’s my boss, b) he’s kinky, and c) he’s my boss. I’d like to initiate an encounter between us, preferably on his last day at the office, but I am new to the scene and I’m not sure how to go about it.


Ms. Secretary

Dear Sec:

Two things come to mind when I think about Secretary and its stars, the unaccountably attractive Maggie Gyllenhaal, who has a face like a none-too-bright, six-month fetus, and creepy-sexy James Spader, who is at this point indistinguishable from the waxwork simulacrum of himself that undoubtedly exists in some museum somewhere, although I kind of dig him anyway: a) it was hot, and b) it was fiction.

I was listening to a colleague-friend give one of my favorite talks this weekend, the one about acceptable and unacceptable objects of desire and how they shift over time and space, and I thought about Secretary too. "Think about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky," my friend says. "Where we are right now [San Francisco in particular, but any blue-state bastion with a women’s studies department will do], the socially acceptable response was, ‘Oh! She’s just an intern! Think of the power imbalance! Uncool! Unclean! How could she give consent when he was so powerful and she was so lowly?’ But what do you think was really going on for 22-year-old Monica, on her knees in front of Superpower Man, the one and only leader of the free world? What do you want to bet that the power imbalance was exactly what was hot for both of them?"

More fantasy, of course. We have no idea what was really going through either of their heads (well, hers, maybe, but — hey! — that’s not what I meant!), and it doesn’t really matter, since we’re just using them as puppets called "Bill" and "Monica," not seriously examining the ethics of seducing interns or flashing your thong at the leader of the free world, depending. I liked your list (he’s my boss, he’s kinky, he’s my boss) and certainly trust you to know what’s hot for you and why, but let’s remember that this is neither a quirkily erotic indie movie nor a puppet show; it’s part of your actual life, and his, and it has consequences. Hot as a last-day quickie may sound to you, chances are he will be a little busy that day, plus, until all the paperwork is done, he is still your boss, and it could still go rather poorly for him to be found in the supply closet, whaling on the clerical staff with a … what? Unless he’s far kinkier than we ever suspected, he will not have his gear with him, so unless you want to get spanked with a three-hole punch while bound with extension cords and blindfolded with Post-its (wait — this is sounding kind of hot, isn’t it?), maybe you’ll want to wait.

Look, give him a break. Let him pack up his stuff and make his good-byes like a grown-up, and then corner him very late in the afternoon, just as he’s leaving, and tell him you’re sorry to see him go and you wonder if he’d like to get together sometime. Ask if he likes indie movies. Tell him you really dug Secretary. Really, really dug it, you know? That should work. To tell you the truth, I have some reservations about a boss who would drop hints about his kinky sex life around the office — that seems kind of, well, actionable to me, really, plus just kind of indiscreet in an icky way, but hey, he’s your fantasy, not mine.

One thing people who know nothing about S-M (I’m not necessarily talking about you here, Sec) might miss about Secretary is that the way Gyllenhaal’s character, Lee, is initiated into the joys of submission isn’t exactly the way it goes down most of the time. In real life, at least where there’s an organized "scene" with rules and regs and a public image to maintain, no mysterious and compellingly attractive Mr. Grey would, all unannounced and uninvited, order our heroine to bend over for a spanking, thus unleashing her deep longing to find freedom through submission and so on. Instead, he would have invited her to a "munch," where they could negotiate their scene, choose a safe word, and exhaustively disclose their physical limitations ("I have hypoglycemia — you’ll have to feed me." "I had tennis elbow but I think it’s better now"), emotional vulnerabilities, and time constraints. Then they would shake hands and agree to meet at his place on Friday evening to "play." Safer, more ethical, and much, much more boring.



Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.

Tamale soup


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Some week for the chicken farmer. Starts out in the city, my hand in a late-night pot of boiling water, fussing with unthawable frozen tamales, and ends in moonlight in the woods, digging a very sober hole for a very dead chicken.

Foxes have found me.

In other news, there’s a spot on the back of humans, below the neck, below the first few vertebrae, between shoulder blades, the soft, special niceness of which will haunt me now for the rest of my life. I woke up one week ago with my nose there, and I nuzzled and kissed and breathed in the catastrophic smell of someone else for a change. It was way too early to even wonder where I was.

I was in a strange bed, with an even stranger stranger, whose waking words were, "Don’t write about the tamales."

Still in that same sweet spot, I had no intention of ever leaving, let alone writing about tamales. I smiled and spoke into it. I said, "Okay." I was thinking that there would be more meals together, more sober ones, with every chance in the world for redemption and reduction sauces. No need to dwell on drunken, emergency snack-food soup.

Oof. This is going to make a weird country song. My new best friend is the bottle. But it ain’t me doing the drinking. It’s everyone else in the world, and it will be interesting to see how many times out of 10 they already have a girlfriend. They’re in love. Why one would want to drink enough to forget that spectacular fact, even for one night, both baffles and thrills me. And that’s why you will find me now in bars.

In search of temporary sweet spots between shoulder blades.

Neither forgetter nor forgettee, I’ll be the designated driver. You’ll invite me in. Whether you have a long-distance lover or nothing but dead and doomed chickens to occupy your mind, a body gets tired of sleeping alone. I know that, and I know things happen in bars that have absolutely no relevance in the world outside bars. No problem.

If it hurts a little, so does life. A lot! Like one minute you’ve got your eyes closed and headphones on and telephone ringer off, and you’re recording your heart out into a microphone, imagining a small cult following, and the next minute, click track marching in place behind you, you’re chasing a fox through blackberry bramble, tripping over tree trash.

It did let go of the chicken, and my farmerly diligence was rewarded by getting to lie in the dirt and watch my penultimate hen die a slow, useless death. This took days. I’m hungry and scratched, and I need a bath.

In retrospect, I should have Dr. K’d her immediately. But retrospect is easy. She wasn’t bleeding and didn’t look broken. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but it’s hard to tell with chickens — unlike chicken farmers, who put it in the newspaper.

My new favorite chicken, by virtue of being the last one standing, was my least favorite only yesterday. It’s the egg eater. Chickens are intensely social animals. They go around together, they have their pecking order, and at night they line up on the roost, all tight and snuggly, for warmth. Or, for all we know, for love, comfort, reassurance …

Teeth hurt. Thorns hurt. Biting into a dumpling full of scalding pork juice hurts. I didn’t do this, by the way. I’m a patient and paid professional Shanghai dumpling eater. It happened to a personal friend of mine, in Millbrae. She grew up there and still knows where to go.

The Shanghai Dumpling Shop, for example, rocks — even the things we got that weren’t dumplings, and weren’t pork buns, and weren’t "lion head" meatballs. I’m thinking of the "bean curd sheets" with spinach. It was like fettuccini, and it was miraculously, meatlessly delicious.

Wednesday we went. Lunch time, and it was like an oasis, a rest stop, a catchy chorus or bridge. We all need little islands of sanity (or, in other words, rivulets of warm pork juice on the tongue) in the middle of our crazy work weeks full of chasing foxes, being foxy, and digging deep holes in the moon.

I have one last, live chicken to be with, and I’m going back outside now to be with her. Sorry I wrote about the tamales. *


Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5 p.m.–9 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.–9 p.m.

455 Broadway, Millbrae

(650) 697-0682



Wheelchair accessible

Canton Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant


› paulr@sfbg.com

If children should be seen but not heard, and writers should be read but neither seen nor heard, what does this tell us about restaurant signage? Certainly that it should be seen and, ideally, read. Signage isn’t everything, but it tells us a lot about a place even before we step inside. If signage is going to be conspicuous, it ought to be stylish, as at Dosa and Ziryab, and if it’s going to be inconspicuous, as at many of the highest-end places around town, then the place had better be so good that we’ll find it despite the lack of a beckoning beacon. The splendor inside had better balance the lack or near lack of street presence.

What, then, are we to make of conspicuous but unstylish signs, such as the one that hangs above Canton, a Cantonese seafood and dim sum restaurant on Folsom I’ve zoomed past a million times over the years without pausing to consider because the cheap, blaring, generic yellow sign above the door all but dared me to stop in for some mediocre, greasy food, and who needs that? Bad Chinese food isn’t hard to find in San Francisco, alas, and one of the easier ways to find it is to look for those turmeric yellow signs that are the Asian equivalents of all-American roadside-diner signs, complete with a Coke (or Pepsi) blurb and logo.

Canton, moreover, has hung its jaundiced shingle in a part of town that’s moved notably upmarket in the more than 20 years the restaurant has dwelled in the neighborhood. The old warehouses and industrial plants are gone or transformed now, and the area’s restaurants are tuned into the tourist and convention frequencies being broadcast from the nearby Moscone Center and its coterie of hotels and museums. Canton looks like a throwback, a piece of old furniture abandoned by the curb with a hand-lettered "free" sign taped to it — but it is not.

For one thing, the restaurant is one of a handful in town to offer the Cantonese specialty nor mai gai ($20), the skin of a whole chicken, stuffed with sausage-dotted sticky rice and deep-fried. The dish is more interesting for its presentational value and as a textural adventure than as one of taste, since in the mouth it’s basically rice with a hint of salty sweetness (from the Chinese sausage) and a bit of poultry crunch (from the skin). Much of the flavor comes from the accompanying mystery sauce, a kind of sweet-sour vinaigrette laced with rounds of scallion.

We could not say where the rest of the chicken went, though some of the meat might have found its way into the chicken chow mein ($7), fat noodles tossed with chopped scallions and a soy-based sauce. And the remainder of it, cut into strips and sautéed to a golden crispness, might have ended up in the excellent chicken salad ($7.50), with a thick honey-soy vinaigrette served on the side. The kitchen, in fact, does a nice job all the way around in the crispy department, from salt and pepper spare ribs ($8.50) to the similar but even better salt and pepper sea bass ($18), slightly curly flaps of creamy flesh within a delicate golden envelope.

Cantonese cooking is known for its seafood variations and for its mild subtleties. These themes intersect in the seafood combo ($12), a large clay pot filled with prawns, squid, and scallops atop a medley of vegetables, among them snow peas, water chestnuts, and shreds of carrot and napa cabbage. The broth that hydrates this little world tends toward reticence, but you will find that the vegetables, when you reach them, have been tarted up nicely with ginger, whose clear, strong flavor shines like a light in a dim room.

But not all Cantonese subtlety has to do with seafood. Snow peas beef ($8.50) proves that meat too can show well with gentle handling, although it must be said that beef is among the most forgiving of ingredients and is often excellent with little or no help at all. Here the supporting cast includes a shower of snow peas, bright green as spring, and a slightly sweet sauce with flecks of crushed peppercorn.

Practically every Chinese restaurant of note in town offers some version of duck buns, and Canton ($13) is no exception, although there is a twist. The half duck is brought tableside and first stripped of its reddish gold skin, which is then served in steamed buns, along with plum sauce and scallion tips shredded to look like pieces of frisée. While these are eaten, the skinless bird is carved up and the meat passed around the table. I liked this little drama in two acts, but I did find the skinless, bunless meat to be a bit naked.

Although Chinese artistry in soup making cannot be doubted, and although I have had some excellent dessert soups over the years — fruit soups, mainly — I just don’t warm to the sweet red-bean soups that bring many a Chinese dinner to a close. Canton’s entry ($3) looked quite familiar, like muddy river water with bobbing unmentionables, and it tasted like what it was: cooked beans with some sugar added. I would recoil less, I think, if it weren’t served hot. Heat, on the other hand, became the shredded pork soup ($3.50), an early-on course made memorable by the ghostly intensity of dried scallops.

Canton is modestly if neatly fitted out, but the space is magisterial: as enormous as a ballroom, with a coffered glass ceiling and a far wall lined with aquariums in which the more alert members of the day’s catch await some sign that their turn is imminent. *


Daily, 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

655 Folsom, SF

(415) 495-3064


Beer and wine


Comfortable noise level

Wheelchair accessible

Green City: A wiser Earth movement


› amanda@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY Have you ever wondered how many environmental and social justice nonprofits are really out there?

Noted local environmentalist Paul Hawken estimates there are at least one million and as many as 10 million do-gooder alliances throughout the world, toiling away at their local niche problems or tackling the grander crises of the day, staffed by volunteers sacrificing time and desperately trying to raise enough money and political will to rebuild from the ruins.

And while environmentalists often are derided — and even criticize themselves and their allies — for being too fractured, lacking focus and an overarching leadership, Hawken thinks that’s actually a good thing.

Hawken is the founder of the gardening and tool company Smith and Hawken and author of several books, including The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism (the latter with energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins). He runs the Sausalito research group Natural Capital Institute, and that is where the research began for his new book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.

Hawken attempted to quantify the entire environmental and social justice movement. He quickly realized its ever-shifting nature would make that impossible, and instead he’s qualified the movement into 414 taxonomies, from prison reform to chemical pollution, from ecopsychology to worker health and safety.

Blessed Unrest is both a history of environmental and social justice activism and an account of its modern efforts. Hawken traces the roots of the movement back to a meeting of a dozen abolitionists in 1787, identifying them as the first group of people who fought to better the lives of others they didn’t know. He lays bare the chilling truth that business owners then made the same economic arguments in support of slavery that corporations now make to justify the continued extraction of natural resources at the cost of human and planetary health.

Hawken contends that the environmental and social justice communities, despite their different objectives, actually function with the same core values. He thinks this plethora of small groups is a good thing and likens the overall movement to an immune system for the earth. The immunology of the human body became an even apter metaphor when he learned that the ability to heal doesn’t follow any top-down management but instead depends on cellular growth and change.

Now, rather than trying to count all the organizations, he’s invited them to account for themselves through WiserEarth (www.wiserearth.org), a Wikipedia-like database in which groups can post information and outreach.

"WiserEarth is a tool," Hawken told the Guardian. The "Wiser" part of the name is actually an acronym for World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility, and Hawken hopes activists use the site to pool scant resources and spread their rich loam of knowledge. It’s a place where philanthropists can find organizations of a similar ilk, and perhaps most important, the Web site reflects the real identity of a group that could never find a room big enough to host all its members.

"It brings more awareness of the scope and diversity of the movement," Hawken said. "You can see yourselves as part of a larger whole. That’s very assuring and helpful."

The Web site is only a couple of months old, but there are already 106,000 organizations listed, and it’s growing daily. At his public appearances, Hawken now stands in front of a large screen scrolling a list of all the names. "People cry when they see it," he said. "Repeatedly, everywhere I show it. And I don’t try to make it emotional. The reason, I think, is it’s a relief. The relief has to do with scale."

Fighting the good fight can feel like an exhausting, frustrating, and lonely battle, an overextended run of a play called David and Goliath that should have left the stage long ago. Hawken said he never imagines an audience for his books, and though this isn’t exactly a rallying cry, there is an affirmation coming across that flagging activists, freedom fighters, and friends of the earth need to hear: keep it up. And add your org to WiserEarth.*

Cemetery gates


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Perhaps the only nonzombie movie in recent memory in which the dead outnumber the living, Colma: The Musical did not appear to be a hot prospect when it premiered at last year’s San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. A musical suburban-youth angstfest made locally on a shoestring, starring and produced by no one you’ve heard of? A movie originally intended to be an indie concept album and a stage show? It is the nature of such things to be cute in theory and adorable in execution — but only if one is friends with the cast and crew. If not, it might prompt the type of frozen smile reserved for requests such as "Will you go with me to see my old college roomie play Evita?"

The high energy at the packed Kabuki Cinema for Colma‘s first big screening didn’t necessarily raise my expectations. So the cast and crew have a lot of friends, I thought. Add a decent percentage of the burg of Colma’s approximately 2,000 current residents — hey, I’d go see anything named after my hometown too — and indulgence could be counted on, no matter how lame or amateurish the movie turned out to be.

It’s normal to go a little nuts when something you expected to be so-so at best emerges as totally ingratiating instead. The worthy underdog is usually a little overrated; one current case in point is another movie musical, Once. But in the case of Colma: The Musical, over the past 15 months a number of newspaper writers and people at subsequent festivals have been as surprised and delighted as I was at that first screening. Now Richard Wong’s movie is at a theater near you — at least in San Francisco, with New York City and Los Angeles showings soon to come — and it’s possible it could become a feel-good sleeper around the nation. Like, well, Once.

Almost everywhere anyone grows up seems like Deadsville at the time, boredom being the glue that holds adolescence together. But of course in Colma, the Bay Area’s ruling burial site (breathing-to-decomposing ratio: 1 to 1,500), that notion is redundant. The protagonists of Colma: The Musical are three best friends who’ve just finished high school and have no idea what they’ll do with the rest of the week, let alone the rest of their lives. Equal parts awkward and deadpan, they love and torture one another as if going through naturally spazzy growth spurts.

Jug-eared Billy (Jake Moreno) is a wannabe actor and serial monogamist with the attention span of a gnat, so his head-over-heels crushes come as fast as reprises of the ironically titled lovesick song "Mature." His parents are weird, but at least they’re trying hard to relate to him, unlike the militarily stern widower dad of Rodel (scenarist, composer, and lyricist H.P. Mendoza), who does not react well when his son’s crackhead secret ex-boyfriend reveals Junior is a ‘mo. Much like Rodel, Maribel (L.A. Renigen) is privately crushing on Billy. Even though she’s an aspiring slut, she’s probably the most grounded of the three.

Crises happen, feelings are hurt, and production numbers are born. Two particularly resourceful, near-spectacular highlights of this $15,000 production are the drunken barroom kiss-off "Goodbye Stupid" and "Deadwalking," a wistful lament sung by Maribel and Rodel while innumerable white-gowned ladies and black-tied men waltz through one of Colma’s oldest cemeteries. The sassy humor at play is perhaps best defined by Mendoza piping the tune "One Day" to a car-alarm accompaniment. But nothing is quite so exhilarating as the opener, "Colma Stays" ("like rigor mortis"), a snarky anthem that introduces the Bay Area, the movie’s lead characters, and Colma‘s droll tenor in a sugar rush of split-screen, lip-synching joy.

Colma: The Musical was shot on mini-DV in a widescreen format, and in his first directorial feature, cinematographer-editor Wong already knows how to fill the screen and cut images to music with a genius simplicity that shames most Hollywood (even MTV) veterans. The filmic energy ideally complements performances that are deadpanned to perfect al dente density.

Irresistible at first listen, Colma: The Musical‘s songs haven’t held up quite as well as I’d hoped over the last year’s repeat listens on CD. But as someone who still treasures the ’80s college rock likes of Game Theory, Let’s Active, They Might Be Giants, and subsequent torch carriers, I’ll happily note that a musical that sounds like those groups rather than the usual bad MOR (a description applicable even to the pseudosoulful Dreamgirls and the garish top 40 pastiche Moulin Rouge) is a step in the right direction.

On the other hand, the movie has improved. Clocking in at a generous 113 minutes during its festival travels, Colma: The Musical has since been tightened to a lean 95 without losing poignancy, hilarity, or nuance. "Listen, things got outta hand, things were said, basically everybody’s at fault here," Rodel quasi-apologizes at a late point after an instance of much interpersonal ado about basically nada. The makers of Colma, by contrast, have made something remarkable from almost nothing. Their film is as sweet, funny, and dweeb-pop catchy as anything you’re going to see this year.*


Opens Fri/22

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com


Editor’s Notes


It’s Pride, and I’m going to shamelessly plug something. ‘Tis the season for shameless plugging! Whatever your orientation, take a break from strutting your sizzling stuff soon and visit the GLBT Historical Society on Mission Street (www.glbthistory.org). The archives are a treasure trove, and "Out Ranks," the current exhibition displaying the effects of queer soldiers from World War II through Iraq, is a must-see.

To my mind, the only place gays in the military belong is on a porn DVD — definitely not on an aircraft carrier deployed to Kuwait. But there are incredible personal stories in "Out Ranks," scattered among the crisp dress uniforms and bright blue dishonorable discharge papers, many faded to a trendy shade of robin’s egg.

Stories like that of Sylvia Rivera, a transgender woman drafted in 1967 who fought police at Stonewall. Or Helen Harder, a Women’s Army Air Corps member who signed up during WWII with her girlfriend (how hot is that?). The show also contains relics of queer antiwar protests, including a poster of a hunky, half-naked Jesus screaming, "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" Yummy.

Recently, board member Gerard Koskovich gave me a tour of the society’s archives, the largest collection of queer historiana in existence. He showed me underground newsletters for queeny World War I GIs and photo albums of ’70s lesbian weddings. There were boxes of flyers for ancient gay bars like the Anxious Asp and Fickle Pickle, Super 8 reels of street riots and disco dance floors — and a container holding Harvey Milk’s bullet-riddled clothing.

"Here’s a gown the first Gay Empress, José Sarria, wore," Gerard said, unfurling a brittle re-creation of Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot ensemble from My Fair Lady. Tears sprang to my eyes. "And that," he said, pointing to a nondescript sewing machine, "is what Gilbert Baker sewed the first Pride flag on."

I lost it. All that fabulousness up close was just too much. I bent down quickly, pretending to tie my shoelaces to hide my exploding sobs.

It was then that I realized I was wearing pumps.

Sequined pumps. Purple sequined pumps. I stared down in astonishment. A pair of leopard-print hose raced up my legs, blooming at my upper thighs into a dazzling Lycra minidress. Enormous pads sprouted from my shoulders, and my hair kinked out into a frizzy bleached mullet. Good lord, I was becoming Sylvester. I was riding a giant mirror ball through space. "Yooou make me feel!<\!s>/ Mii-ighty real!"

It was all a hallucination, of course. Family can make you do that, hallucinate. Love is a drug indeed. And the glittery fabric of history, despite its many bullet holes, still connects us all.*

Remove Jew now


EDITORIAL Sup. Ed Jew should have resigned from the Board of Supervisors immediately after admitting to reporters that a May 18 FBI raid of his homes and offices recovered $40,000 in cash that he demanded from a constituent with regulatory issues.

Even if one believes his implausible story about intending to give the money to a playground project, Jew’s actions are still unethical, unseemly, and illegal. Politicians must never, under any circumstances, accept cash payments in exchange for services, and those who do belong in prison.

But he didn’t resign, choosing instead to put his personal ambition and stubborn refusal to take responsibility for his actions ahead of what’s best for the city and his constituents. Then, when public records and testimony from neighbors made it clear that Jew didn’t really live in District 4, as the law requires and as he declared in sworn statements under penalty of perjury, Jew should have been honest with the public instead of spinning still more elaborate and unbelievable lies. Again, he should have done the honorable thing and resigned.

But if the surreal rally his supporters staged June 15 at City Hall is any indication, Jew intends to keep fighting this until someone drags him from the building.

That’s what needs to happen now. It’s no longer about Jew but about whether a system designed to prevent these kinds of abuses works. People need to have their confidence in city government restored, and that requires immediate action by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Jerry Brown, and the courts.

District Attorney Kamala Harris did her job when she investigated the residency issue and filed nine felony charges against Jew on June 12. City Attorney Dennis Herrera did his job when he set reasonable deadlines for Jew to prove his residency, then announced June 18 that he was pursuing action to remove Jew from office.

Now it’s Newsom’s turn. The time has come for him to do his job, and that means doing everything in his power to ensure that Jew is ejected from City Hall as soon as possible.

Same thing for Brown, who should immediately certify Herrera’s request to file a quo warranto lawsuit that would deem Jew unqualified for the office he holds and remove him. Whatever Superior Court judge gets the case should put this on the fast track and help give District 4 residents a qualified, reputable representative.

They don’t have that now. And until they do, there is a dark cloud hanging over City Hall that affects everyone inside. It’s time for Jew or the system to remove that cloud. *

Suburban stasis


Colma is not Daly City. Apparently I’m the only San Franciscan who’s failed to comprehend the pronounced distinctions between these neighboring municipalities, outside the selection of merch at their respective Target stores. Daly City has Serramonte Center and the rows of houses made famous by Malvina Reynolds’s anthem to architectural sameness, "Little Boxes" (the song that opens Showtime’s fabulous stoned-in-suburbia sitcom, Weeds). Colma’s got car lots and a few square blocks of single-family dwellings, enough for the approximately 2,000 residents who live surrounded by a whopping 17 graveyards, most catering to specific ethnicities, if not deceased pets. According to the Colma civic Web site, the price of an average home here is a grounding $280,000. Necropolis is too harsh a word — there’s something truly adorable about a town whose official motto is "It’s great to be alive in Colma."

I learned this on a drive through the town with Richard Wong, the director of the wonderfully assured Colma: The Musical, a film that uses this unlikely and oddly ordinary community as a font of artistic inspiration. For Wong, who grew up in San Francisco, the burg recalls childhood trips to Toys "R" Us after visiting family tombstones at the Chinese cemetery. He brings me to the surprisingly expansive Colma Historical Association, a museum charting the town’s lore with binders on each of the memorial parks. Then we coast through the self-contained pocket of homes and the location where Rodel, one of the three restless, fresh high school grad protagonists of the film, fictionally resided. Wong notices a bit of improvement to the place — new brick-patterned siding spruces up the garage — and a couple of houses under construction at the end of the block. Other than that, nothing’s changed, he says.

"One of the inspirations for the film came from the idea of a small town — one that doesn’t really change much — next to one of the most progressive cities in the world," Wong remarks. "Colma is almost exactly the same as it was when the houses were first built."

Colma is a character in the movie — a collaboration with Wong’s college pal H.P. Mendoza, who wrote the script and songs and capably plays Rodel — whose opening musical number, "Colma Stays," is a peppy celebration of suburban stasis. It takes Wong’s expert use of split screen to enliven the carless boulevards and the encroaching sense of teenage ennui. (Befitting its location, Colma: The Musical does wonders with its garage-sale budget and rumpus-room laptop audio- and video-editing marathons.) Billy, another of the main characters, points to a rare new feature on the landscape: a just-built police station. It’s difficult to imagine the crimes the cops must contend with.

The film, however, vividly illustrates how three Colma youths occupy themselves: crashing generic college parties, working at the mall, and hitting the bars with fake IDs. (Wong had to excise a drug-use reference — another stereotypical suburban teen activity — in order to gain permission to shoot a moody musical number in the Italian cemetery.) The fog that envelopes Colma serves as an almost too-perfect metaphor for the insularity of dead-end streets, which engender the claustrophobia of neighborhood inertia in the characters. "There’s no conflict in their lives, and that’s the problem," Wong explains. "They just don’t have that much going on." With nothing to do, people can get bitter — or they get out. The two guys manage that — Rodel, shunned by his family because he’s queer, heads to New York to pursue his dream of being in the musical theater, while Billy, an aspiring actor, packs his car to move to San Francisco. Their female cohort Maribel, the tart character who holds them together, plans to stay — though her motivations are self-deprecatingly ambiguous.

There is a genre of suburban films that usually involves teen suicide, superdepressed moms, or scary skeletons in the linen closet. If this were a Larry Clark film, the kids would be shooting up or shooting themselves. If it were a John Hughes picture, there’d be prom-related antics in the McMansion. In Colma, they sing their suburban sorrows. Wong suggests his film might be a regional music-theater production of a suburban drama, and it’s a wacky idea that’s far more satisfying than you might expect.

Mendoza, in a phone conversation, admits that he prefers films that have some empathy for tract-house dwellers. He feels that Napoleon Dynamite sneers at its characters. "I did not want that for this. I find Colma endearing," he says. "This is not an indictment — it is a locale. We’re just portraying these kids saying it’s boring." Mendoza lived in Colma during his high school years, moving there after growing up in the Mission. "At that time, all the Filipino families moved to Daly City so their kids could go to Westmoor High."

While it finds comedy in the notion of living in a generically small locale, the film exudes an affably focused sense of place. Mendoza tells me that his best friend in high school cited a particular Colma cul-de-sac as his favorite place because it had a great view of the mall. He reveals his own beloved spot, an underpass at the intersection of an up-and-coming Filipino street and a dicey neighborhood. On the sloped, stagelike hill, Mendoza and his pals would have water-balloon fights and — "This is so gay," he warns — reenact scenes from Little Shop of Horrors. Given his movie, that makes wonderful sense.

The image also fits the satisfying, hometown-boys-make-good narrative of the film’s critical success. Since Colma: The Musical scored on the festival circuit, Wong has hooked up with the more seasoned director Wayne Wang, with whom he’s currently working. Future collaborations with Mendoza are imminent, including a Colma sequel: Serramonte: The Musical. That narrative will follow, in song, Maribel’s future in retail. As a career path, that may seem like a dead end, but for Wong and Mendoza, creating a movie about it affirms that their little town of graveyards is ripe with artistic joie de vivre.

The Muppets take San Francisco


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Be warned: the following is in no way a professional, measured critique of the career and oeuvre of one Jim Henson, master puppeteer, kiddie empire creator, and upcoming Yerba Buena Center for the Arts retrospective honoree. Oh, no. Below are the semicoherent ravings of a Muppet-philiac Henson fangirl. One whose first experience of the legitimate thea-tah was not The Pirates of Penzance but "Pigs in Space." One whose initial exposure to the ways of l’amour involved a pig and a frog getting it on after extensive rounds of bike riding and loaded sexual repartee. One who breaks into Muppet palsy — spastic flailings of staccato, head-wagging ecstasy — whenever she hears The Muppet Show siren song of "It’s time to play the music / It’s time to light the lights." One who, in her aggressively weird late teens, sported a sassy shag haircut dyed a deep shade of Grover blue because, perhaps, she secretly wished she were a Muppet.

And who could blame me, uh, her? After all, Muppets can do anything, and they usually have a good time doing it. These anarchic, orgiastic amalgams of felt, foam, and fun fur are investigative reporters, musicians, demolition experts, hack comics, boomerang-fish throwers, mad scientists, misunderstood performance artists, masters of the ancient art of ka-rah-tay, and so much more. Above all, they are vaudevillians with the incessant desire to entertain — just like their ingenious creator. Part Walt Disney (minus the Nazi sympathizing), part Groucho Marx — and looking like the cloned offspring of Lyle Lovett and Jesus Christ — the late Henson was nevertheless about as unassuming as they come. He is universally remembered as the nicest guy you’ve ever met (or, in my case, wish you had). But while his Muppets may have gained superstardom on Sesame Street, it may surprise some to know that cooperation didn’t always "make it happen" in Henson’s working relationships.

"We were very competitive with each other," director and longtime Henson collaborator Frank Oz (the voice of the inimitable Miss Piggy) admitted when I used a recent promotional tour for an Oz project as a chance to quiz him, quickly, about his Muppet past. "We put each other in lousy situations and tried to screw each other over." Of course, that’s not to say Henson was the Eve Harrington (as in All About Eve) of the puppet world. He valued collaboration with his fellow artists above all else; competition was a creative catalyst. "He appreciated everybody else’s work too," Oz, who calls Henson a "genius," clarifies. "There was a camaraderie, a great affection amongst all of us."

Henson’s creative fervor and Puritan work ethic helped make the Muppets a success, but so did his business acumen, something he leavened with that patented nice-guy attitude. "He really wanted everyone to be happy in a business deal," says Muppet performer (the Great Gonzo) and Marin resident Dave Goelz, who worked with Henson from the early ’70s until Henson’s sudden death from pneumonia in 1990. "The reason Jim was such a good businessman was very simple: people loved to work with him." Goelz, who will make appearances at the YBCA on June 21 and 22 to introduce "Muppets 101," fondly remembers the sense of community Henson fostered, having never experienced the tug-of-war that characterized Henson’s relationship with Oz.

The YBCA retrospective is thrillingly comprehensive, although it could be more cohesive. The three Muppet features being screened comprise what I like to call "the real original trilogy": 1979’s The Muppet Movie, 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper (viva Charles Grodin!), and 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan. Also included are assorted Muppet marginalia (Mike Douglas appearances, the infamous "Sex and Violence" Muppet Show pilot, some fantastic behind-the-scenes footage), forays into less kid-friendly puppetry (a betighted David Bowie in the Terry Jones–penned Labyrinth, the gloriously strange Dark Crystal), early commercial and experimental work, and later TV work like Fraggle Rock, the corny yet inspired (the Muppet modus operandi) ’30s gangster-movie send-up Dog City, and episodes of the gothic fairy-tale theater The Storyteller.

The Muppets aren’t lowering the stage curtain anytime soon. In addition to a planned Dark Crystal sequel, a Fraggle Rock movie is in the works. Disney bought the rights to the Muppets in 2004 (something, believe it or not, Henson was trying to make happen shortly before his death, recognizing that the juggernaut could give his franchise the protection it deserves). And the Jim Henson Co. continues to produce work in part inspired by Henson, like the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s MirrorMask. Still, no one has the gall to suggest it’s like it used to be. "Sammy Davis Jr. died on the same day," Oz notes. "There’s no other Sammy Davis Jr., and there’s no other Jim Henson."

Why exactly have the Muppets managed to endure? The answer, according to Goelz, is simple. "They are us," he says. "They describe a world that’s filled with conflict, but nonetheless they’re motivated by charity. It all came out of Jim’s philosophy. He believed that people are basically good, and he operated that way."

So it turns out I am a Muppet after all. The really good news, it seems, is that we all are. Corny? Maybe. But also pretty damn inspired.*


June 21–July 1; $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787


More cops are not enough


EDITORIAL There was a telling trio of events June 13 that illustrated what’s wrong with the current debate over public safety issues in San Francisco and why real police reform is needed before we spend $33 million to bolster the ranks of the San Francisco Police Department, as Mayor Gavin Newsom is proposing.

Newsom and his supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall to blast a proposal by Sup. Chris Daly to remove from the budget an extra class of police cadets (which the SFPD will have a hard time even filling, given its recruiting problems) and make other changes, denouncing the supervisor for supposedly endangering city residents.

It was shrewd yet shortsighted politics for Newsom to grandstand on public safety. But it was also demagoguery. Newsom is playing to people’s fears, pandering to the Police Officers Association, and hoping that people won’t notice how little he’s done to actually make San Franciscans safer, something that simply dumping more cops into a dysfunctional system won’t help.

The murder rate has soared under Newsom, who never followed through on his promise to "change the culture at the SFPD," content to let this deeply troubled agency manage itself. Newsom opposed the requirement of police foot patrols, helped kill violence-prevention programs, watered down an early-intervention system for abusive officers, and sabotaged an innovative community policing plan. Instead, he simply throws money at the department, tells us how deeply he cares, and calls that a commitment to public safety.

On the evening of June 13, San Francisco once again experienced the price of this lack of leadership when four young men were shot in the Friendship Village public housing complex in the Western Addition, which the SFPD had promised to regularly patrol. To bring the tragic point home, there was another shooting at the same spot the next morning.

"Today I’m all over the mayor and all over the police chief and all over city agencies to give me a detailed plan," Sup. Ross Mirkarimi told Bay City News. As well he should be. For all its resources, the SFPD has yet to work with the community on a comprehensive plan for keeping it safe.

The SFPD’s wasteful overkill by cadres of do-nothing officers gets displayed for all time and again: at peace marches, street fairs (particularly last year’s Halloween in the Castro, where hordes of cops standing around doing nothing failed to catch the guy who shot nine people), and now Critical Mass, where the 40 cops who accompany it seem to have no plan for managing the event and refuse to even take reports when cars hit bikes.

How are more cops going to help this problem? What we need is real reform, but unfortunately, Newsom and his allies keep trying to give this department more authority and resources without asking for anything in exchange.

Case in point: a charter amendment by Sup. Sean Elsbernd that was heard June 13 at the Police Commission meeting. In the name of reducing the commission’s disciplinary backlog and improving officer morale, Elsbernd proposed gutting civilian police oversight by handing the police chief much of the power now held by the commission and the Office of Citizen Complaints. The proposal was blasted by the OCC and the American Civil Liberties Union as a giant step backward.

Elsbernd tells us he’s working with those groups to maintain civilian oversight while accomplishing his goal of allowing the commission to focus on big policy issues rather than individual disciplinary actions. We’re not sure that’s possible without the establishment of a new body or substantially more resources going to the underfunded OCC.

But we do share his goal of creating an open, public dialogue about the SFPD within an agency that has the authority to implement reforms. Newsom has been unwilling to facilitate a frank public discussion of the SFPD’s practices, where they can be improved, and how much money the department really needs to do the job we want it to do.

Maybe the Police Commission, under progressive new chair Theresa Sparks, is just the place to talk about real police reform. *

Newsom cuts poverty programs


Mayor Gavin Newsom is publicly claiming to support the city’s poor and homeless, but his budget would quietly cut 4 percent from the Department of Public Health’s annual funding, eliminating key support services to the city’s most vulnerable residents.

What the mayor calls his "back-to-basics budget" would double the number of outreach workers for his signature Homeless Connect program and establish a community court to punish "quality-of-life crimes" as they occur, but it also would cut substance-abuse and mental-health services, close homeless shelters, and eliminate funding to various services for the poor.

"It’s probably the most hypocritical and damaging budget for the city’s homeless and poor that we’ve seen in years," Juan Prada, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told the Guardian. "We have all this new money going to a community court system to force people into treatment programs that he’s defunding."

Now the budget is in the hands of the Board of Supervisors, which is hearing appeals from health care advocates and people who depend on such services to survive. Some say this is a familiar game. Debbi Lerman, administrator for the San Francisco Human Services Network, says that every year the mayor recommends such cuts and the supervisors restore the funding.

"It’s a dance. Everyone has to go to the Health Commission, everyone has to go to the board. It’s a dance we have to go through every year," Lerman told us. "It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. It’s a bad process and we shouldn’t have to do it…. What the city needs is a long-term planning process."

Even Sup. Bevan Dufty, a Budget and Finance Committee member likely to be a swing vote between the mayor’s budget and the demands of board progressives, calls the process of cutting and restoring funding a "fire drill" in which people who depend on city services are forced to come out and comment in front of the board.

"It’s difficult and disheartening to see people in fragile health being forced to come to the board to petition us to restore funding to services that are a lifeline for them," Dufty told us. "This board has not accepted cuts to health programs even in difficult years, and I don’t anticipate that we are going to accept any this year."

But if the board cannot find additional funding, many programs that were at risk in past years could be eliminated or weakened. One new cut would eliminate $1.1 million in funding for Buster’s Place, a drop-in homeless center on 13th Street. James Stillwell, Alcohol and Drug Program administrator for the DPH, told us the department provided the seed money to open that shelter in March. Now the shelter is scheduled to close at the end of June.

The mayor’s budget also would cut 150 outpatient and residential treatment slots for substance abusers and replace them with a methadone van for recovering heroin addicts, with a $1.3 million net reduction in services. Larry Nelson, managing director of Walden House, which likely would lose some funding if those cuts go through, told us that more methadone treatment is needed but it should not come at the cost of other services.

"I personally was on methadone for nine years. I’m an advocate. It’s a great tool in this war on drugs, but it’s not a great idea to cut one service to fund another," Nelson said. "Methadone treatment is long-term. Way more clients will be served with standard outpatient programs."

Newsom press secretary Nathan Ballard didn’t directly address the Guardian‘s questions on the mayor’s proposed cuts, focusing only on new initiatives: "In the area of substance abuse, the budget proposes $525,000 to expand existing partnerships and foster new alliances to provide an additional 50 emergency and stabilization beds for the city’s homeless."

Prada said Newsom’s budget is vague on how it intends to meet such goals with reduced funding. One thing poverty advocates and the budget numbers make clear is that the mayor is proposing significantly reduced resources for the poor, homeless, and drug addicted — money that he wants to divert to police, street cleaning, and other "back-to-basics" proposals. (Chris Albon)

The budget’s opening battle


› sarah@sfbg.com

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sup. Chris Daly have been engaged in a high-profile clash over city budget priorities in recent weeks. Newsom appeared to win the latest battle when he galvanized an unlikely coalition and Daly clashed with some of his progressive allies, prompting Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin to remove Daly on June 15 as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

"This is not about personality, and it shouldn’t be about the mayor’s race. It should be about making sure we have a good budget," Peskin told the Guardian shortly before announcing that he would be taking over as Budget and Finance chair just as the committee was beginning work on approving a budget by July 1.

Yet this latest budget battle was more about personalities and tactical errors than it was about the larger war over the city’s values and spending, areas in which it’s far too early for the Newsom camp to declare victory. The reality is that Newsom’s "back-to-basics budget" — which would increase spending for police and cityscape improvements and cut health services and affordable-housing programs — is still likely to be significantly altered by the progressives-dominated Board of Supervisors.

In fact, while the recent showdown between Newsom and Daly may have been diffused by Daly’s removal as Budget and Finance chair, it’s conceivable that a clash between Newsom and the supervisors is still on the horizon. After all, eight supervisors voted for a $28 million affordable-housing supplemental that Newsom refused to sign, and the mayor could yet be forced to decide whether to sign a budget that lies somewhere between his vision and Daly’s.

Stepping back from recent events and the supercharged rhetoric behind them, a Guardian analysis of the coming budget fight shows that there are difficult and highly political choices to be made that could have profound effects on what kind of city San Francisco becomes.

If Daly wanted to spark a productive dialogue on whether the mayor’s budget priorities are in the best interests of the city, he probably didn’t go about it in the right way. But the approach seemed to be born of frustration that the mayor was refusing to implement a duly approved program for an important public need.

Daly has argued that when he introduced his $28 million affordable-housing supplemental in March, he thought it would be "noncontroversial." Last year the board approved and Newsom signed a $54 million supplemental budget, including $20 million in affordable-housing funds. Daly wrote on his blog that he hoped his latest $28 million request would help "stem the tide of families leaving San Francisco, decrease the number of people forced to live on the streets, and help elders live out their days with some dignity."

But Newsom objected, first criticizing Daly in the media for submitting it too late, then refusing to spend money that had been approved by a veto-proof majority, with only his supervisorial allies Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Ed Jew opposed. Daly pushed back against what he loudly labeled the mayor’s "backdoor veto," which he considered illegal.

"You may not believe the question of affordable housing and affordability is more important than redesigning the city’s Web site or perhaps installing cameras in police cars or fixing a pothole, but to say that the money does not exist is a lie," Daly said at a board meeting.

So when Newsom submitted his final budget June 1, Daly proposed restoring the funding and taking away $37 million from what he called the mayor’s "pet projects." His suggestion triggered a political firestorm, since his targets included a wide array of programs, including $700,000 for a Community Justice Center, $3 million for one police academy class, $10.6 million for street repairs and street trees, $2.1 million to expand the Corridors street cleaning program, and $500,000 for a small-business-assistance center. In their place, Daly argued, the city would be able to restore funds cut from affordable housing, inpatient psychiatric beds, and services for people with AIDS.

In addition to uniting against him those constituencies whose funding he targeted, Daly’s proposed cuts in law enforcement — and his brash, unilateral approach to the issue — threatened to cost him the support of Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, a progressive with public safety credentials who represents the crime-plagued Western Addition. So it was a precarious situation that became a full-blown meltdown once the Newsom reelection campaign started phone banks and e-mail blasts accusing Daly of endangering public safety and subverting the normal budget process.

Pretty soon, with Daly’s enemies smelling blood in the water, it became a sort of feeding frenzy, and various groups urged their members to mobilize for a noon rally before the June 13 Budget and Finance Committee meeting. "We are a sleeping giant that has awakened," small-business advocate Scott Hauge claimed as he e-mailed other concerned stakeholders, who happened to include Friends of the Urban Forest and public housing activists, thanks to Daly’s call for a $5 million cut in Newsom’s Hope SF plan, which would rebuild public housing projects by allowing developers to also build market-rate condos at the sites.

"Mirkarimi seems to feel strongly about having cops and infrastructure, which are typically the priorities of conservatives," Daly told the Guardian as he announced plans to cancel the June 13 budget hearing, which he did after accusing Newsom of engaging in illegal electioneering.

Daly also accused Newsom of abusing his power by securing the City Hall steps for a budget rally at the same time, date, and place that Daly believed his team had secured — a mess-up city administrator Rohan Lane explained to us as "an unfortunate procedural thing."

But while Daly told us he "needed to hear from progressives who enjoy diversity, because if we don’t get more affordable housing dollars, San Francisco is going to become increasingly white, wealthy, and more conservative," all anyone could hear the next day was a pro-Newsom crowd chanting, "No, Supervisor Daly, no!" outside City Hall.

Newsom spoke at the rally and claimed that Daly’s proposal to cut $5 million from Hope SF would eliminate "$95 million in local money to help rebuild San Francisco’s most distressed public housing," a figure that includes the bond issue Newsom is proposing. With the 700 to 900 market-rate units included in the program, Newsom claims the cuts will cost the city $700 million in housing.

"Stop the balkanization of San Francisco!" Rev. Al Townsend roared, while Housing Authority Commissioner Millard Larkin said, "People are living in housing not fit for animals. Protect policies that give people a decent place to live."

"This is about your priorities," Newsom said as he made the case that fixing potholes, sweeping streets, and putting more cops on the beat are now San Francisco’s top concerns.

"I’ve never seen this type of disrespect to the public process," Newsom said, addressing a crowd that included a couple of Daly supporters holding "Homelessness is not a crime" signs alongside people dressed as trees, a dozen people in orange "Newsom ’07" shirts, Newsom campaign operative Peter Ragone, and former Newsom-backed supervisor candidates Doug Chan and Rob Black (the latter of whom who lost to Daly and now works for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce).

"Gavin Newsom’s budget reflects that he has been listening to you. It’s not something he has dreamed up is his ivory tower," Townsend said, while Kelly Quirke, executive director of Friends of the Urban Forest, pointed out that Daly’s proposal would mean the 1,500 trees that the Department of Public Works planted this year "would not be watered," and Police Commissioner Yvonne Lee said the proposal would "eliminate 50 new officers that could be on streets, plus a $400,000 system to identify the source of gunfire."

What Newsom’s supporters didn’t mention was that his proposed budget, which would add $33 million for the Police Department to help get more officers on the streets and pay existing officers more, also would drastically shift the city’s housing policies by transferring about $50 million from existing affordable-housing and rental-support programs into spending on home ownership and development of market-rate units. And that comes as the city is losing ground on meeting a goal in the General Plan’s Housing Element of making more than 60 percent of new housing affordable for low-income residents.

Daly doesn’t think people fully understand the implications of Hope SF and said public hearings are needed so they "can understand it better." Yet the Newsom rally still touted the mayor’s concern for those in public housing projects.

"We’re not interested in rebuilding unless the tenants are supportive," Doug Shoemaker of the Mayor’s Office of Housing told the Guardian, promising that existing public housing units will be replaced "on a one-to-one basis" and noting that 85 affordable rentals, along with 40 to 50 units for first-time home buyers at a below-market rate (for a household of two with an income of about $58,000 annually) and hundreds of market-rate condos, will be built.

"The market-rate condos will cross-subsidize the rebuilding of public housing," said Shoemaker, who claims that the "lumpiness of the mayor’s budget" — in which home-ownership funding increases by $51 million, while programs benefiting the homeless and senior and families renters appear to have been cut by $48 million — "is best understood over the long term" and is related to the redevelopment projects in Bayview–Hunters Point and Mission Bay.

"The hardest thing about explaining these figures is that it sounds like a game of three-card rummy, but we need to fuel whatever is coming down the pipeline," he said.

The confusing fight over affordable housing has even split its advocates. Coleman Advocates for Children and Their Families publicly urged Daly not to hold Hope SF funds hostage to his housing supplemental, while the Family Budget Coalition urged Newsom and the supervisors to "work together to find at least $60 million during the add-back process to prioritize affordable housing."

But with Daly gone from the Budget and Finance Committee, how will his proposals and priorities fare? Sources say Peskin was irritated with Daly’s budget fight and his recent Progressive Convention — both actions not made in consultation with colleagues — as well as his increasingly public spat with Mirkarimi. Yet Peskin publicly has nothing but praise for Daly and supports many of his priorities.

"We are working with the same schedule that Daly’s office laid out," Peskin said, noting that a lot of the decisions about funding will depend on "what ends up coming from the state." San Francisco could still lose money from the state or federal budget. During a June 18 budget hearing, Sup. Bevan Dufty introduced a motion to amend the mayor’s interim budget by appropriating $4 million for HIV/AIDS services, to be funded by General Fund reserves, for use by the Department of Public Health.

This was one of Daly’s top priorities, and as the hearing proceeded, it became clear that there was a method in the former chair’s apparent budget-dance madness. Newsom’s budget would restore $3.8 million of the $9 million in AIDS grants lost from federal sources, with Newsom asking Congress to backfill the remaining reductions to the Ryan White Care grant. Sup. Sean Elsbernd questioned the wisdom of appropriating $4 million now, when the feds may yet cough up, and Mirkarimi questioned whether doing so would send Washington the message that it doesn’t need to help us.

"It’s a discussion we have every year," Controller Ed Harrington said. He recommended appropriating $4 million now and sending the following message: "Yes, we think this is important, we’ll try and figure out how to fix it, but this shows it isn’t easy. It’s a political call rather than a technical one."

In the end, the Budget and Finance Committee voted 3–1, with Sup. Tom Ammiano (the only supervisor to publicly support Daly’s alternative budget) absent and Elsbernd dissenting, to appropriate $4 million, on the condition that if additional federal and state funds are granted to backfill the Ryan White Care grant, the controller will transfer the $4 million augmentation back to the General Fund.

The same kind of balancing act is expected on Daly’s other suggestions to restore funding for affordable housing and public health departments, so it’s still too early to tell whether his priorities might ultimately win the war after losing the battle.*

Steven T. Jones contributed to this report.

For more details on the city budget process and a schedule of Budget and Finance Committee meetings, visit www.tiny.cc/BJRSN.

Wayfaring stranger


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"I never imagined doing this." It’s a sentiment that Mariee Sioux, a singer-songwriter from Nevada City, returns to many times in our phone conversation: specifically, her genuine surprise that adapting her poetry to music has resulted in a life as a touring musician. "I was terrified playing at that show," she says mirthfully, describing her first big out-of-town gig at Brightblack Morning Light’s Quiet Quiet Ocean Spell Festival in Big Sur. "The whole tour that followed helped me get used to performing…. It sucks being scared all the time."

Sioux did seem a little shy — or quiet, anyhow — the first time I saw her play, but it only served to underline the concentrated energy of her music. Spiritual poems attuned to animals and ancestors, songs like "Wizard Flurry Home" and "Buried in Teeth" burrow deep inside you, with reams of words propelled by intuitive, circular guitar patterns. The circumstances of the show — organized by friends in a eucalyptus grove overlooking Berkeley — certainly helped, though I imagine Sioux’s diamond-in-the-rough talent would have been just as readily apparent in a club.

The compositions Sioux performed that night — most from her self-released EP, A Bundled Bundle of Bundles — seemed pointedly unhurried, more akin to the folk sprawl penned by Michael Hurley and Joni Mitchell than your typical verse-chorus-verse songwriting. Her guitar melodies are often a step behind her alliterative narrations, so it makes sense that the words came first. "I always wrote, since I was little … weird writing," she explains. "And I was just surrounded by music, so I guess this all started when me and a couple of friends wanted to start learning guitar. We formed this little girl band." She laughs. "And on my own time I started making these songs."

As is so often the case, the turning point came on a journey. "I left for Patagonia for three months, and I took my guitar with me because that was my new thing I had found. So I took it with me, and I had lots of solitary time in Patagonia," she recalls. "So I just wrote more songs and practiced and basically taught myself guitar." It was only through the prodding of friends that Sioux entertained the idea of recording these new songs: "I wouldn’t have even thought that people would want to hear it."

If word hadn’t gotten out of Grass Valley, it’s easy to imagine Sioux’s music being rediscovered some years down the line. Unshaped, personal to the point of being hermetic, this is the stuff record collectors live for. As it happened, though, Brightblack Morning Light has employed the singer-songwriter in a steady opening gig following that Quiet Quiet appearance, and now Nevada City’s Grassroots Records is readying her first full-length album, Faces in the Rocks, for a September release.

When talk turns to the album, Sioux gushes about collaborating with Gentle Thunder, an American Indian flute player who "felt this immediate connection to the project," and her bluegrass musician father (the two duetted at the Great American Music Hall a few months ago). And it sounds like she’s found a good partner in Grassroots, a homespun label with plenty of singer-songwriters on the roster. Label founder Marc Snegg writes, "Mariee’s songs, poetry, singing and performance dig deep in time, soar high in spirit, and possess a breadth of natural wisdom beyond her years or any years."

Still, while it might just be the jet lag following a European tour with Brightblack talking, Sioux sounds a little tentative about the musician’s life on the phone. She’s stoned on the album but wondering when things might settle down. "I’ve just been going for over a year. I haven’t really lived anywhere. I need a fixed point…. I want to decorate a room," she says. When focusing on the music, though, her view on itinerancy takes on a different, more redemptive cast. "It’s hard to pour your heart out so many times," she muses, "but it’s also refreshing, or even renewing in a way."*


With Alela Diane, Aaron Ross, and Lee Bob Watson

Tues/26, 9 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923


Revenge of the nerds


"Hey, everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!" Rodney Dangerfield’s character, Al Czervik, says in one of the classic lines from Caddyshack. Oakland’s Replicator sample the line as the tag end of "Delicious Fornicake," the opening track of their new album, Machines Will Always Let You Down (Radio Is Down). The inclusion is telling: Caddyshack celebrates the redemption — nay, triumph — of the little guy, the lowly, the nobody, the nerd, the caddy, for chrissakes, despite the oppression of greedy, classist boors. Machines is, in its way, a tight, terse, aggro, nerd-rock opera, with tweed cubicles replacing expansive set pieces, and hard, noisy post-punk reminiscent of geek-rock kingpins Big Black, in an alternate universe where Steve Albini doesn’t take himself so seriously. "It’s kind of, for lack of a better term, big rock," vocalist-guitarist Conan Neutron says over the phone from his apartment. In the opening track, the narrator, with the help of "a few beers, some Scotch, and a pack of cigarettes," builds "a robot with which to have sex." In "Payment www.yzzz.rd" (pronounced "wizard"), Neutron, an IT guy for a "major financial institution" when not living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, sings, "I just got paid / So come get my cash / Come take my money / Come get it fast," the refrain of wage slaves everywhere.

The next track, "Assloads of Unrespect," is in the voice of a degenerate dot-com millionaire, the kind who crawled the Bay Area like a new species of roach in the mid- to late ’90s: "Let me begin / By saying I’m rich / I’m well-dressed / Good-looking / Hey — ain’t that a bitch? / Because I own you / That’s right, I own you." In an example of Neutron’s biting, often hilarious lyrics, the boss we love to hate goes on: "I heard it said the meek shall inherit the earth /Well, just make damn sure to shine my shoes first." The album goes on to tackle such subjects as time travel, the Enigma machine, and the spy-versus-spy uses of nanotechnology, before ending with the Office Space–like "Login with My Fist" — the battle cry of cubicle commandos everywhere — which winds down in a cacophony of screams and guitar squall, an implacable Commodore VIC-20–style voice repeating, "It does not compute," in the background.

It’s worth noting that the disc isn’t a celebration of all things techie, often a nerd stereotype. Rather, it’s a scathing denunciation of technology, or, more accurately, the devious and inhumane uses that technology has been put to in the hands of the powerful and ethically impaired. When the nerd class stops letting itself be pimped out for the glory of so-called pure science, then maybe it’ll inherit the earth. And when people stop being enamored of machines making life easier, maybe they’ll realize they’re being enslaved by technology — that, indeed, machines will always let you down.

"We make music for very pissed-off smart people," Neutron says. He goes on to acknowledge that this target demo is a small slice of the music-listening public: "Our music isn’t very popular." Formed in 1999, Replicator — Neutron, Ben Adrian on bass and keyboard, Chris Bolig on drums, and "junior partner" Todd Grant on guitar — have seen trends come and go. "First everyone was really into indie pop," Neutron says. "Then everyone was into sounding like Radiohead and then garage rock and then everyone wanted to, like, wear a mask and not really play music."

Through it all, Replicator have released three pissed-off, smart records, toured heavily, and brought to mind a time "when it was not an insult to be considered brilliant," as the lyric on "Login with My Fist" goes. I’m not saying they’re brilliant — nor am I saying they’re not — but what they’re attempting doesn’t accept mediocrity. This uncompromising approach often seems to have relegated them to the middle slot of shows while the underground flavor du jour headlines above them. Like Dangerfield, they get no respect.

One of the titles kicked around for the new album was Fuck You, Still Here. "I see bands that are more careerist," Neutron says. "They have this idea: ‘Oh, we’re going to get signed and then we’re going to make this video and go on tour with this band.’ That seems to be their end goal.

"Our end goal is to return the ass-kicking that music has given us."


With Moggs and Colony of Watts

June 30, 9:30 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923