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WTF of the week


So I was stumbling to work today when a horrible sight stopped me dead in my tracks, made me drop my purse, and burst me into tears. SOMEONE had painted over the Positive Visibility/Women Fight HIV and Invisibility mural at Haight and Scott.


Summertime snow


By Kimberly Chun

It’s trippy but true: if you feel nostalgic for snow in the middle – or well, the tail end – of summer, you should head up to Lassen Volcanic National Park, north of Sacramento and chock-full of geothermal drama like boiling rivers, gurgling mudpots, and jagged rock formations. When I headed up with my veteran camping pal D, the campgrounds were relatively unpopulated; purple, yellow, and pink wildflowers were abundant; and dang, but wasn’t there an amazing amount of snow and ice on the ground – still dirty and frozen and seeded with pine needles at 7,000 feet. And ready to be fashioned into summer snow poodles (with thumbs, to boot).

Frolick in the snow in late August. It’s possible at certain altitudes, dudes.

Bailed Wolf worries proposed federal reporter’s shield laws won’t protect independent press


By Sarah Phelan
Like a mole emerging from a hole, bespectacled freelance journalist Josh Wolf squinted into the September sunlight, as he stood on the steps outside the U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit building on Seventh Street in San Francisco. It was the 24-year-old’s first taste of freedom after a month-long stint inside Dublin Federal Correctional Institute for refusing to give a federal grand jury video outtakes of an anarchist protest turned violent.
During his stretch at Dublin, Wolf was only able to breathe fresh air for an hour each day, and he looked as if was relishing the feeling of the sun on his skin, as he voiced his belief that what should have been a SFPD investigation into an assault on an officer, turned into a federal witch hunt, which so far has involved the FBI, the Joint Taskforce on Terrorism, a grand jury—and the thousands of tax payers’ dollars to prosecute and jail him.
As Wolf, who’d traded prison dudes for black jeans, blue shirt and white sneakers, began to speak, jackhammers went off across the the road, as if some evil mastermind was making a last ditch effort to censor the truth. The crowd of camera wielding, microphone-holding paparazzi pressed closer, as Wolf expressed his hope that the 9th Circuit’s decision to grant him bail was a positive sign. (A month earlier, District Court Judge Alsup denied Wolf bail, calling his case “a slamdunk for the federal government.”)
“The late Senator Paul Wellstone once said that significant social change comes from the bottom up,” said Wolf, who hopes his case will ultimately help cement the rights of the independent, as well as those of the traditional, media. Expressing concern that the federal shield laws that are currently on the table “do not encompass people who meet my criteria,” Wolf critiqued the proposed laws for only protecting those who are employed by or under contract with an established media outlet.
‘There should be a common law to protect journalists,” he said, voicing the belief that anyone who is involved in gathering and disseminating news and information is a journalist, whether they are paid for their activities or not.
“I am a journalist, I have a website, I’ve sold footage, including to MichaelMoore.com,” said Wolf, who worries that proposed federal reporter shield laws will create two classes of journalists, those that report and get paid, and those that do it out of volition. “It will create a corporatocracy in which only corporations are media,” he said. “It goes against the idea of a free and independent press.”
He also critiqued what he saw as an increasing abuse of grand juries, which were established to protect the rights of those accused, but increasingly appear to resemble military tribunals and are used so the feds to secretly coerce and investigate targets.
“There is no means that any extended stay in jail is going to bring about a coercive effect,” said Wolf, who believes the case of former New York Times journalist Judith Miller, as well as those of the two BALCO reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle who still face jail time, helped publicize his plight, as well as the blogosphere.
‘It’s egregious that the feds took up an investigation into an assault in a SFPD office,’ said Wolf, who believes that the alleged arson to a SFPD car was used as a hook, simply because SFPD receives federal funds.
“In my tape you hear someone yell, ‘Officer Down!’ That’s the extent of it,” said Wolf, in reply to the question of what interest the feds could possibly have in his clips on the cutting room floor.”
“I don’t want my case to be a reason why people don’t get involved in grassroots journalism,” he said,a cknowledging that his case shows there are risks, “An individual can decide what’s important and truly change thw world we live in,” he said, comparing that freedom to the restrictions imposed on journalists who work for corporate media.”
To help freelancers, Wolf would like to see more information out there on what independent journalists should do if they are subpoenaed. “Know your rights and how to protect them,” he advised.
By the way, when was the last time that an assault on a SFPD triggered a federal investigation, involving the FBI, the JTTF, a grand jury and a reporter doing jail time?

Small Town Living


by Amanda Witherell

I just returned from ten days on an idyllic island in downeast Maine. For the seaside hamlet from whence I hail, it’s local custom to leave your car keys in the ignition so you don’t lose them and your front door unlocked, or even wide open, so the cat can come and go while you’re at work. After a few days of openly worrying about my friends’ unlocked bicycles, I settled back into the local population and the comfortable human trust they maintain, where everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Welcome back to San Francisco, where a Honda Pilot is the new street weapon of choice and the annual murder rate is climbing to fresh heights. Scan the daily headlines and it’s easy to believe the streets are not safe and no one is watching your back. Again and again I hear people say San Francisco isn’t like other cities. It’s small for a metropolis and each neighborhood is like its own little town taking care of its own, clustered among dozens of others on a peninsula that acts more like an island.

Well, if that’s true, then in the Guardian’s hood, all hail the New Portrero Market. A couple days ago I ventured up the hill to buy a bottle of water and inadvertently let $60 fall out of my wallet. I’m not really in the financial position to be so cavalier with money and I was dismayed by the loss. I figured it was payback for my preadolescent penchant for the five finger discount, and let it go. Who the hell tries to track down the owner of sixty bucks?

But I was thinking about it today on my lunchbreak and stuck my head into the market, just to see if maybe there’s an honest soul out there…

Well hell yeah! There are two. As I made my meek inquiry, Marwan punched the “No Sale” button on the register and immediately handed me my wandering Jacksons. Mike, who I’d been chatting with while I wasn’t paying attention to my wallet, had found them after I left the market, and Marwan had tucked them under the drawer for safekeeping should I ever return for another bottle of water. I’ll be certain to now. Hooray for the small town neighborhoods we still have in this city!

1000 years of fuck


By Tim Redmond
You learn something new every day. I just learned from the Philadelphia Inquirer that fuck has been in the English language for more than 1,000 years.

They worry abuot that sort of thing in Philly

The fools running the hotels


By Tim Redmond

Interesting analysis in BeyondChron on the impact of a hotel strike. I think Randy Shaw has it right: The union is ready for this, the city will be behind the workers — and the hotels will be up against the wall. The hotels ought to settle; pushing Local 2 to strike is really, really dumb.

When the assholes take over


By Tim Redmond

What happens when the people who run the SF Weekly take over a paper in Seattle? It’s not pretty. No more endorsements, no more politics, half the staff flees … Too bad for Seattle.

RIP Leather Tongue


You will be missed.




Pandora boxing


OK OK yes I should be getting back to work, but hey — I’m the clubs columnist, it’s my job to be braindead on Mondays. So I’m about to slip into the wormhole of Pandora.com, which got a few good mentions on NPR (I heard this from friends — I can’t get NPR where I live). It’s part of the Music Genome Project, which aims to categorize music by subjects other than “scene” or “genre.” Basically, you type in a song or artist you like, and a virtual panel of distinguished musicologists creates a radio station of songs that share basic affinities to your choice — I’m imagining things like “melancholy” and “string section” and “Peruvian by way of Iceland” to be examples of the qualifying characteristics that link all the songs together. Or maybe it’s colors and flavors — like “Since U Been Gone” is brunette cheesecake and “Hollaback Girl” is purple baking powder. Or maybe it’s like computer dating, MP3-style. But who knows? I’m always game to learn more about myself from computers, and lord knows with all the wealth of music out there in Webland I’m totally eager to have someone pick out my jams for me. — Marke B

Why WiFi?


By Steven T. Jones
Mayor Gavin Newsom and his administration are so intent on following through with their promise to deliver free wireless Internet to SF residents that they’ve basically dispensed with seeking input from the public or Board of Supervisors, locked into private and protracted negotiations with Google and Earthlink, and simply decided not to do the board-approved study of Sup. Tom Ammiano’s plan for a municipal broadband system. The unilateral, secretive approach has driven journalists and activists nuts. But there is an opportunity tonight at 6 p.m. to weigh in during a hastily called and little noticed hearing before the Department of Telecom and Info Services. Media Alliance has been raising hell over the issue and this week the group is releasing a study showing that the city could make $2 million per year with a municipal Internet system, as opposed to going with Newsom’s so-called “free” system, which wouldn’t make the city any money and would subject citizens to targetted advertising. The tradeoff might be worth it, but there are still too many unknown details to know that, so show up this evening to talk about it.

The best things in life aren’t free


By Cheryl Eddy

Maxing out my inbox’s credit line today: a press release heralding the Westfield San Francisco Centre‘s September 28 grand opening. The $460 mil project is sandwiched between Walgreens and the mall that’s already down by Fifth St and Market (you know, the one with the spiral escalator — across the street from that “Jesus Loves You” guy). It’s freakin’ huge — 1.5 million square feet, to be exact.

From the curiously punctuated PR missive:

Accordion to our party sources ….


The pics from last night’s debaucherous Best of the Bay party are just beginning to flow in and be edited by our censors, but here’s a couple to whet your whistle, courtesy of Kielbasia, winner of Best Drag Queen with an Accordion. (Accordion not pictured, but very present.) Go, Kielbasia!


Kielbasia and Willie Brown (his show won Best Herb Caen Column on the Radio)


Kielbasia and Guardian editor and publisher Bruce B. Brugmann — the man!

we’ll keep you updated as much as our hungover bandwith will allow. — Marke B.

Halloween Not a Friendly Ghost


by Amanda Witherell

At the Guardian’s Best of the Bay party last night, we caught up with city officials fresh from a meeting on what to do about that pesky Halloween party in the Castro. Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s attempt to quash the celebration last week caught the ear of Mayor Newsom, who quickly mobilized city department heads including the SFPD and the Entertainment Commission, to brew up an agreement that protects the sacrosanct Castro event.

The Entertainment Commission took the stance that cancelling the city-run event would never work: it is ingrained in the Bay Area psyche to report to the Castro for All Hallow’s Eve, whether the people who live there like it or not. Police Chief Heather Fong said she would cancel cop vacation time instead and a full force would be dressed in blues and billy clubs for October 31. The plan is to shift the event from Castro to Market Street, but most importantly, the right to costumed revelry is no longer under attack.

A true radical thinker dies at 85


By Tim Redmond

t’s hard for me to imagine talking about leftist political theory in the early 1980s without the works of Murray Bookchin. His ideas were new, fresh, sometimes to radical for the radicals I hung out with — but always inspiring. Back in the days when I was working with some serious malcontents at the Abalone Alliance, Bookchin referred to our newspaper, It’s About Times, as “the only antinuclear publication that doesn’t make me puke.” We were so proud.

Bookchin, who died July 30 in Burlington, VT at 85, was known as the founder of social ecology, and one of the people who first inspired me (an economics major) to think about economics and ecology as potential partners in a new kind of political theory. (Hazel Henderson and Jane Jacobs were the others.) His base concept, laid out in a book called “Post-Scarcity Anarchism,” went like this: The reason that human beings institute powerful government, with powerful military and police forces, is that we’ve always been engaged in a struggle for survival, fighting each other for scarce resources. In the modern era, for the first time in human history, we have the capability to eliminate scarcity as a basic part of human life — to provide the basics of food, clothing, shelter, education and freedom to all. At some point, Bookchin argued (he was forever an optimist) the entire concept of scarcity would be meaningless — and at that point, the whole idea of a powerful, centralized state would become meaningless, too.

He was often cranky and generally impractical, and never fully accepted by mainstream academia, and I haven’t heard much from him in about a decade, but once upon a time, he was a force in a lot of our lives.

This is chilling


By Tim Redmond

Check this out, which I first saw on Daily Kos. Watch all the way through to the end; it’s only a couple of minutes.

SF’s real sister city


By Scribe
Like most of the roughly 16,000 San Franciscans who attend Burning Man, I had a hard time focusing on work this morning because of the announcement of where all of this year’s theme camps would be placed in Black Rock City. It’s like suddenly finding out whether you get to live in a cool neighborhood like the Mission or the Haight, in a party zone like SOMA, or whether you’re going to be way out in the avenues or the Excelsior (Tribesters spent the morning commiserating or celebrating). Personally, I was stoked that my Ku De Ta camp was placed right next to Camp Katrina, the Burners Without Borders project that did hurricane cleanup on the Gulf Coast after last year’s festival (which I covered and wrote about). In addition to burning art projects in the neverending campfire, just like we did in Mississippi, they’ll be collecting used lumber at the end of the event to recycle through Habitat with Humanity. It’s just the beginning of a concerted movement within the burner community to offset our environmental impacts. My sources say to look for some big announcements coming soon. I’ll keep you posted on an exciting effort to combat criticisms of the event’s consumptive role.

Dufty wants to cancel Halloween


By Tim Redmond

Yeah, it’s true: Sup. Bevan Dufty wants to cancel the official Halloween celebration in the Castro.

Of course, nobody — not even a district supervisor with the full backing of the Police Department and the mayor — can actually cancel Halloween in the Castro. I doesn’t work that way. But Dufty hopes that if the music, the road closures, and the city sponsorship go away, and the word is put out that Castro Halloween is over, not so many out-of-towners and troublemakers will show up.

“It’s not a draconian, fascist thing,” Dufty aide Rachlle McManus explained to me. “But frankly, we want to make it uncomfortable for people who want to cause trouble.”

$349 health care and $10 beers


My love for baseball dates all the way back to childhood, when my dad used to let me stay up past the seventh to watch the Sox on TV. Once a year we made a pilgramage to Boston, where my family dominated a whole row of seating in the nosebleed section, and I got to drink a soda and eat a hot dog and watch my hero, Roger Clemens, pitch from his own mound. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I went to see my native team outside of Fenway Park, and was shocked by the greeting I got at the gate.

Habitat Potential


The biggest deterrent for the east-west migratory subset of species homo sapiens is a lack of niche habitat in San Francisco. While a unique western habitat like San Francisco offers much “to do” for the migrating easterner, the difficulty has been ingratiation with local population. Repeatedly, the search is for “common ground.”

On a steamy Sunday afternoon bird walk along Land’s End, this is how the ecologists were rapping — about pigeon guillemots and oystercatchers, and not bereft New Englanders. But during the three hour tour from Suttro Baths along the cliffs toward China Beach, the crowd of twenty or so had a chance to get pretty chummy. My own recent migration from east to west has left me looking for a niche, and I felt a bit at home with this pack of ornithologists. I am not a bird nerd, but in my past life I spent some serious QT with researchers on an offshore island so I can at least feign binocular interest. Mostly I was there to hear what the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has planned for the area. Within the 49 square miles of San Francisco, there are 41 natural areas, some as well-known and loved as the Presidio, and others as small and locally cherished as Kite Hill. They are all considered potential habitats where a coyote, a California Quail, or a native live oak could find a home, and a human could find a place to connect with the wilder aspects of the city. Much of that area has been invaded by non-native species like eucalyptus, nasturtium, feral cats, and pet dogs, and on Wednesday, July 26, the Recreation and Parks Department will be holding a special meeting to decide how to proceed with protecting these areas. There’s been a lot of controversy between dog owners and native species advocates, and this is something of a final showdown between the two factions, so it should be interesting to see how the commission decides.

-Amanda Witherell

Why land trusts work


By Tim Redmond

We’ve been watching the community land trust concept for years, and I’ve personally pushed this as a major solution to the housing crisis in the city. And now even the Chronicle is noticing: In a recent Chinatown deal, tenants are able to buy their apartments for just $10,000 — and those units will be affordable forever.

The beauty of a land trust is that it takes housing entirely out of the speculative market. Not to go all Marxist or anything, but it separates the “commodity value” (what you can sell a piece of property for) from the “use value” (the fact that it’s a place to live, not some sort of stock-market index option). Since the private market has been utterly unable to provide affordable housing in San Francisco, and public-sector resources are far too limited to solve the entire problem, land trusts are a great way to keep low-income tenants from losing their homes.

So I’m not the only crackpot …


By Tim Redmond

… who thinks that this latest heat wave means global warming is here.

More mess at New Times


By Tim Redmond

Catch the Seattle Times story on the ongoing meltdown at the Seattle Weeklyl. Another sign that Mike Lacey and New Times (now Village Voice Media) management are driving away staffers and changing the basic mission local alt-weeklies.

Here’s how David Brewster, who founded the Seattle Weekly, puts it: Commenting on the old Weekly, he says:

“It’s been about building a better city, rather than just reveling in how bad the place is.”

That’s not how New Times thinks.



By Tim Redmond

We knew this was coming, but the California authorities just announced that there may be rolling blackouts today as the searing heat overwhelms the state’s creaky old electricity grid.

That’s lovely: It’s 115 degrees in the Central Valley and senior citizens are going to lose their air conditioning.

Two things:

1. Global warming is here. It’s not coming soon. It’s here, and the climate change Al Gore warns about is happening faster than anyone anticipated. No, I’m not a climate scientist, but I don’t need a weatherman to know how hot the sun glows.

2. Responding is going to be a massive challenge, even more than Al Gore suggests. Step one: take the entire system of providing electricity (and eventually, all energy) out of the private sector.

Local blog roundup


By Tim Redmond

Not a lot hot on this steaming day. A few choice bits:

Randy Shaw hates Aidin Vaziri.

Robert Haaland points out that Jake McGoldrick is trying to get a municipal WiFi network — and explains why he’s against tearing down the Hetch Hetchy dam.

The Sentinel has some great photos of protesters getting arrested while DiFi and the Israeli consul general try to defend the assualt on Lebanon.

Carla Marinucci, who has a thing for Arnold, attacks the latest Angelides ad — but this time, she has a point. The last time a Democrat tried to dismiss a GOP candidate for California Governor as just an “actor,” it was 1966, and the Dems didn’t do so well.

Okay, it’s not local, but if you have any ties to Connecticut (where I used to live) or you hate Joe Liberman (as a lot of us do), you’ll love this.