Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mirkarimi in the lead for another Nikita Award

According to Fog City Journal, District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has called on President Bush to resign: "Asked if he had a personal message to send to President Bush, Mirkarimi told Fog City: 'It's time for you [Bush] to resign.'"

This must have been a shock to President Bush. (Karl Rove: Bad news, Chief. Ross has called for you to resign. President Bush: Ross said that? Geez, that really hurts. I guess it's time for me to go, Karl. Make arrangements for a final press conference and for a chopper to get me and Laura and the dog out of here.)

More importantly, Mirkarimi is the front-runner to get another Nikita Award from District 5 Diary. The Nikita was created by Herb Caen to reward those who compose English sentences that read like translations from the Ukrainian. The Murk's potentially prize-winning entry:

In this time it could not be more of an opportunistic[sic] time as news reports on the adverse relations between Iran and the United States, between two presidents---you might disagree with me but I don't support at all---and the likelihood that as long as these two presidents and the geopolitical outlook continues to drive what I think is certainly the most negative of foreign relations, that I am more convinced that with the creativity and the wherewithal, and just the innovative way that I know that the Persian people can demonstrate in the warmth that has exuded for generations between Iranian people and the people in this country who have Iranian heritage, with the people of Iran itself, shall become now the front line leaders in forging a citizen's diplomacy in the same way that was forged during the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the first Iranian-American to be elected to office in San Francisco, and the event keynote speaker, used the speaking opportunity to reflect on current hostilities between the United States and Iran over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Mirkarimi said of the standoff: "In this time it couldnot be more of an opportunistic[sic] time as news reports on the adverse relations between Iran and the United States, between two presidents---you might disagree with me but I don't support at all---and the likelihood that as long as these two presidents and the geopolitical outlook continues to drive what I think is certainly the most negative of foreign relations, that I am more convinced that with the creativity and the wherewithal, and just the innovative way that I know that the Persian people can demonstrate in the warmth that has exuded for generations between Iranian people and the people in this country who have Iranian heritiage, with the people of Iran itself, shall become now the front line leaders in forging a citizen's diplomacy in the same way that was forged during the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union."

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi: "I think the the decision making policies of our federal representatives---that if they're going to syphon dollars away for the kind of illegal or misguided direction, such as the war in Iraq, or impending hositilities with Iran---then it would be derelict of my duty to not step up to the plate and say that 'I need those dollars for the unmet needs here at home.' I also believe that, as a local legislator, it might seem a far reach to anybody to hear somebody who is really a lowly elected official in the scheme of things in the State of California to be talking like this. I think the Iranian community is more than just a sleeping giant, but one that is about to awaken." Asked if he had a personal message to send to President Bush, Mirkarimi told Fog City: "It's time for you [Bush] to resign."

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Graffiti/tagging vandalism goes hi-tech

Mar 10, 2007

A new type of permanent graffiti or “tagging” — acid etching — is costing city business owners thousands of dollars because it cannot be removed and is done on expensive window glass that is costly to replace.

Windows and bus shelters throughout The City are affected by acid-etch graffiti, a form of tagging — in which a vandal scribbles his name or “tag” — that uses a hydrofluoric acid solution product called “Etch Bath” to burn through and permanently tag windows with a milky white stain.

Normally used for stained-glass art, the solution leaves behind marks that cannot be fully removed from the window surface, forcing business owners to replace expensive windows. Although some services can sand the glass to make the etch less apparent, it can never be fully removed.

“It’s a shame when you see brand-new, beautiful glass going into street-level construction,” Officer Christopher Putz of the San Francisco police graffiti abatement unit said of the acid-etching potential.

Hydrofluoric acid products are usually sold in art supply stores, but the Board of Supervisors passed legislation by a vote of 11-0 in 2001 restricting stores from selling it to anyone under the age of 18. However, the product is still readily available online, Putz said.

Steve Shinn, transit manager for CBS Outdoor, which advertises on The City’s 1,100 glass bus shelters, said the company spends about $400,000 annually to replace glass — 90 percent of that, Shinn said, is because of acid etching. Monthly, the company spends about $10,000 average on replacements, but February was particularly high — $23,000.

“If they acid etch the glass, we have to replace it. We take pictures and submit them to the graffiti task force, but that’s the $10,000 question — why they do this,” Shinn said, adding that the company offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of vandals responsible for the acts.

Small-business owners also have a hard time dealing with acid etch — such as the Cup-A-Joe Coffee House on Sutter Street. About nine months ago, an acid-etch tagger struck the café’s front left window, leaving a massive white tag.

“It’s just too expensive to replace,” employee Adalberto Gonzales said, adding that it costs $600 for a new window.

Although the Department of Public Works usually cites businesses to clean up graffiti within 30 days, spokeswoman Christine Falvey said businesses with acid etching are not cited.

“Acid etching is considered too much of a [financial] hardship on owners of small businesses to clean,” Falvey said, adding that the department does not keep statistics on acid etching.

Catching the anonymous vandals has proven difficult — Putz said the unit has only been able to catch about 10 to 15 acid etchers. Once arrested, they can face felony charges.

“To use acid etch is an automatic felony. It’s a bigger deal than spray-painting windows — it ups the ante on how you’ll be treated, because it’s most destructive,” Putz said.

Awareness of tagging up with onset of citations

Since the Department of Public Works began citing private property owners in 2004 to abate graffiti on their buildings within 30 days or face a minimum fine of $500, officials say awareness around graffiti has increased.

“I don’t think graffiti has increased overall, but now homeowners, landlords and business owners are being held accountable,” said assistant district attorney Paul Henderson, who oversees prosecution of graffiti offenders. “When I talk to community groups about graffiti, I tell them, ‘You and I may not know someone personally that was murdered or raped, but we all know where graffiti is in The City.’ We are exposed to it on a regular basis.”

Henderson and his team work to prosecute graffiti cases, with special emphasis given to acid-etching cases because of their dangerous and costly nature.
“Acid etch cases are top priority,” Henderson said.

Because the hydrofluoric acid is considered a caustic chemical and causes more damage than any other graffiti, Henderson says offenders can face up to three years of felony probation, up to a month in jail and 96 hours of working with graffiti abatement officers to remove graffiti.

Peter Vahid, manager of San Francisco-based TP Windows, has seen the damage from acid-etch graffiti firsthand. Replacing several windows throughout The City on a weekly basis, Vahid said the acid-etch damage is mostly in the South of Market area and the Financial District and causes business owners great distress.

“The cost to replace the window usually depends on the thickness and square footage,” Vahid said, adding that the range of prices is between $200 and $2,500.

One measure business owners can take to help repel acid etching is lining their windows with graffiti film, which does not allow the etch to penetrate the glass and burn through its layers.

The film, however, costs $3 to $5 per square foot, and many small businesses can’t afford the extra expense, according to graffiti abatement Officer Christopher Putz.

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The mind of Josh Wolf: Anarchism in practice

While looking for another document in my old email file, I stumbled on an exchange on graffiti/tagging that took place on the PROSF bulletin board in October, 2004, during the campaign for District 5 Supervisor. The interesting thing about it is Josh Wolf's defense of this form of vandalism:

When DPW paints over graffiti it is an act of the city exercising its perceived dominance, and anti-authoritarian graf artists see this as an act that demands retaliation...DPW's action is an institutional attack against all graf artists and actually allows fighting tag crews to unite about something and work together to ensure that DPW's clean-up doesn't stay clean for long.

In other words, any city effort to deal with this vandalism is actually a provocation to freedom-loving "artists"! D5 progressive Dave Tornheim also supported the vandals before quickly changing the subject to billboards and wicked corporations:

I'm talking about a much more grievous horror: the corporate graffiti that is virtually everywhere and pollutes our existence constantly, insufferably trying to control and persuade us to believe things that are untrue and convince us to buy things we don't need and live our lives in ways that are unhealthy, devoid of deep meaning, compassion and beauty, by using countless successful marketing gimmicks and tricks: advertisements, bill-boards, etc.

Vandals as anti-corporate freedom fighters! I suggested in response that the city should come down harder on these vandals: "Maybe it's time to up the ante and give the vandals some serious jail time, where Josh and Dave can visit them and bring them some paper and crayons."

Wolf's sarcastic response is instructive about his mind-set:

Maybe Robert's correct. Maybe what we need is to start doling out hard time to petty criminals and activists. The San Francisco economy is in need of revitalization, so maybe we should follow California's lead and jump on the bandwagon in contributing to the state's only growth industry, jails and prisons. Through this redevelopment effort, maybe San Francisco can get rich by jailing its very own leaders. If we just throw all of the activists in jail with long enough sentences, then we'll have a more prosperous city filled with the denizens that your campaign is apparently trying to reach out to. Alcatraz has been a tourist attraction long enough, it's time that we start jailing our activists there and get them out of the streets where they are clogging up the machine that is our society. With Rob Anderson as fuhrer we can embark upon a more sanitized tomorrow.

That is, the graffiti/tagging vandals are "activists," who are "clogging up the machine that is our society," which is a Good Thing. And my campaign for District 5 Supervisor was "apparently trying to reach out to" the "more prosperous" members of the community, a slur that Wolf didn't bother explaining.

Since Wolf is now in jail for withholding evidence from a Grand Jury, we have a lot more data on how the mind of this anarchist works (see his letter below). Note in his letter, published in Fog City Journal, Wolf doesn't emphasize his anarchist political philosophy. Even so, like many US leftists, Wolf is convinced that he's been targeted because of his political beliefs, not simply because he's withholding evidence: 

No, this case is not about a videotape and it's not about justice. This entire matter is about eroding the rights of privacy and those of a free press. It is about identifying civil dissidents and using members of the news media to actively assist in what is essentially an anarchist witch hunt. 

Wolf and his anarchist comrades represent such a threat to the Bush administration that the Justice Department is targeting them!

Even more interesting is how the city's fringe left is aided and abetted by the left-wing of the city's Democratic Party (see below the resolution supporting Wolf by the city's Democratic County Central Committee). It's one thing for Supervisor Mirkarimi to support Wolf's bogus cause. That's not unexpected, since he's a member of the city's fringe-left Green Party. But one would hope that members of the city's Democratic Party would know better, that they would think that possible evidence of who fractured the skull of a city cop would trump Wolf's unconvincing First Amendment argument for withholding such evidence from the authorities.
By Richard Knee
March 1, 2007

A resolution backing wrongfully imprisoned journalist
Josh Wolf and urging enactment of a federal shield law received near-unanimous approval Wednesday night from the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.

None of the delegates opposed the resolution, though proxies for Senator Dianne Feinstein, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Assemblymember Fiona Ma abstained from voting on the resolution.

Text of Resolution:

WHEREAS Josh Wolf is an independent journalist in the City and County of San Francisco who has become the longest jailed journalist for contempt in United States History and whose incarceration causes great damage to the First Amendment and to freedom of the press in the United States;

AND WHEREAS 31 states including California have shield laws upholding the rights of journalists to protect the secrecy of their sources and unpublished information;

AND WHEREAS Josh Wolf has shown uncommon valor in his principled defense of First Amendment rights, proving through his steadfast commitment that he will not be coerced, and for such actions has been awarded the highest honors of the Society of Professional Journalists;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party urges the US Attorney to cease its prosecution of Josh Wolf, requests his immediate release from prison, and urges Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to rescind the subpoena with which he was served;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party urges San Francisco's Congressional delegation to support the passage of an inclusive and robust Federal Shield Law that protects independent journalists and does not contain significant loopholes.

Submitted by Robert Haaland, Michael Goldstein, Rafael Mandelman, David Campos, and Jane Morrison.

Copies of the resolution shall be sent to the regional US Attorney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

(A Robert Haaland-authored amendment to include online journalists in any shield law legislation was also accepted.)

Letter from jailed journalist Josh Wolf

It was over six months ago that I found myself led out of a courtroom bound in handcuffs and shackles and taken to a Federal Prison in Dublin. As of today I've spent over 168 days in here and given Judge Alsup's recent ruling it doesn't seem likely that I'll be getting out any time soon.

I never thought this would happen. I grew up being taught that the United States was the greatest country on earth. That dissent was not only permitted but encouraged, and that we had a free press that was not encumbered by government interference. This is so longer the case. One night I went to sleep in a free America, but I woke up in a police state. It's hard to say when this transformation transpired. Many would contend that it began shortly after September 11th, some would argue that it wasn't until lies led us into the War in Iraq, and still others would say we started down this road soon after the American Revolution. I'm not sure who is right, but I do know that the process of waking up to this grim reality has been a painful one.

Many have asked me why I've chosen to sacrifice my personal freedom, and there are a multitude of reasons why I have taken the stance that I have. Most pressing is the fact that a free press in a democracy cannot act as an extension of the justice department. This can be summed up nicely with the words of Amy Goodman who recently stated, "We're supposed to be the fourth estate not for the State."

If the U.S. Attorney can compel journalists to testify about what they've learned through their work and to force then to turn over their unpublished materials then not only will the public be unable to trust reporters but journalists themselves will become de facto deputies and investigators---a role few of us want and one that I have refused to accept. This is not a new construct, it is one that dates back to the founding of our country and is one that is guaranteed under the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson once stated, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter." And with these words, I must wonder exactly how he'd feel about the people who took to the streets on July 8th, 2005 in protest of a government they feel no longer represents then and how he'd feel about the media that covers their struggle.

The second reason compelling me to refuse to cooperate with the Grand Jury subpoena is that this whole thing is not about what the government would have you believe it to be. This case is not about a videotape, it's not about identifying suspects of a crime and it's not about obtaining justice. If it were, then the U.S. Attorney would not have argued against the judge reviewing my outtakes in his chambers and the U.S. Attorney would have been more receptive to the inquires my defense team made.

No, this case is not about a videotape and it's not about justice. This entire matter is about eroding the rights of privacy and those of a free press. It is about identifying civil dissidents and using members of the news media to actively assist in what is essentially an anarchist witch hunt.

This is what I have suspected from the beginning, but it has been brought closer into focus with the government's recent response to our motion. I will not allow myself to be put in a position of outing anarchists who likely are guilty of nothing more that possessing political beliefs outside the American norm.

How many of the freedoms promised to us in the Bill of Rights are still in fact? How many more liberties will be eroded away? The future is uncertain, but at present the military continues to wage war in Iraq in the name of freedom. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the tragic irony of it all.

The role of the media is to ask the questions, to point at those inconsistencies, and to demand answers from the powers that be. This is why the media is under attack and this is why it is so urgent that we continue to fight back. Because without a free press we can never be free.

And I'll conclude with the word of Mario Savio that defined the Free Speech Movement sone 40 years ago and still possesses a tremendous vitality today. On December 2, 1964, in the city of Berkeley, Savio stated, "There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even tacitly take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Thank you, and I look forward to returning back to San Francisco just as soon as the government comes to its senses and realizes that I will not---that I cannot be coerced.

Thanks again,
Josh Wolf
Dublin Federal Correctional Institution
February 8, 2007

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Tes Welborn: Activist---and property owner

Several years ago, HANC's Tes Welborn supported UC's original proposal to put 500 housing units on the Extension property, arguing that "housing is the best option" for that property, even though it's been zoned for Public Use for more than 100 years

Now she's supporting the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan with the same uncritical zeal. Could that be because she owns property in the area---126 Laguna---right across the street from the old UC Extension site in the heart of the Market/Octavia Plan area?

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SF's "Transit Corridors" doctrine: All a misunderstanding

It's an article of faith in San Francisco planning circles that the city can build an almost unlimited amount of housing along "transit corridors." Both the awful Market and Octavia Plan and the UC/Evans proposal for the old extension property have the transit corridors mythology as a premise. 

Michael Bernick, one of the originators of the theory, says the city has it all wrong, still another reason to oppose both the UC project and the Market/Octavia Plan.

San Francisco's Housing Element: Built on misunderstanding
Michael Bernick
Tuesday, November 23, 2004 (SF Chronicle)

Recently, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved a change to the city's General Plan, with potentially far-reaching impacts on the city's neighborhoods. Proponents of this change, known as the Housing Element, claim that it better connects transit and land use by densifying housing and reducing parking requirements near transit corridors. In fact, the policy completely misunderstands the research and theory of transit-based housing as well as the process of community-building.

I advance this criticism as someone who has championed a better link between transit and land use for over 15 years: as co-director (with Robert Cervero) of a research center at UC Berkeley, as a BART director for eight years and, most recently, as the director of the state labor department for the five years of the Davis administration. I add immodestly that a book Cervero and I wrote, "Transit Villages in the 21st Century" (McGraw-Hill, 1996), continues to be used by transit planners and in fact was cited by proponents in the Housing Element debates ---though they misunderstood our arguments.

One goal of transit-based housing is increased transit ridership and decreased automobile use. At UC Berkeley's National Transit Access Center, we conducted several trip surveys in the 1990s of persons living within a one-quarter mile radius of stations on major rail lines of California. We found transit ridership four to five times higher among these persons than among others in their same city. Our findings were borne out by other studies of transit ridership on rail systems in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and San Diego, as well as by an updated survey of California rail-transit stations that Cervero conducted in 2003.

These studies, though, focus on rail transit, particularly heavy-rail transit, such as BART. The data on ridership for light rail and buses, the main transit service in San Francisco, show a far less significant tie between transit ridership and station proximity.

More important, transit ridership is not the only goal of transit-based housing. The main goal is community-building. Transit stations, especially heavy-rail stations, provide opportunity for new communities, whose residents are not dependent on automobiles for local or regional trips. These communities ("transit villages") mix housing with neighborhood-serving shops, public spaces, and other amenities, with streetscapes that encourage a safe and easy walk to the station.

By these characteristics, most San Francisco neighborhoods already qualify as transit villages. Their densities are far higher than in the suburbs -- in fact, they are higher than nearly all urban areas outside New York City. They mix housing (multi-family and single-family) with commercial and neighborhood-serving retail uses; and residents can get around by foot and bicycle, as well as short automobile or bus trips.

Furthermore, a key transit village concept is scale. There is not one correct density for the transit village; rather, the appropriate density depends on the scale of the surrounding neighborhood. Transit villages respect the character of the surrounding neighborhood, especially as that character is supported by existing residents.

The Housing Element, in contrast, ignores neighborhood character. It seeks to squeeze persons into these neighborhoods, often in odd configurations and against neighborhood opposition. It assumes that many new residents will not own cars---even though our research showed that transit village residents, while using transit for many trips, do own autos and need parking.

San Francisco does have areas in which higher density housing is appropriate, primarily Rincon Hill and the central waterfront. These areas are near three rail systems---BART, Caltrain and Muni light rail---and potentially a fourth rail system, the proposed high-speed rail station. Additionally, the character of the existing housing in these areas is one of high density. Mayor Newsom's housing strategy focuses on these areas, and from a transportation perspective, this is the correct policy.

Think of San Francisco neighborhoods like Noe Valley, the Inner Richmond, West Portal, the Castro, the Inner Sunset and the Marina: They are jewels in their bustling shops and stores and active street life, yet they possess a human scale and accessibility. Other neighborhoods around San Bruno Avenue, the Lower Fillmore, Third Street and the Outer Mission are improving their commercial areas and can become urban jewels.

Yet, all of these neighborhoods are fragile and can easily be undermined. City planning needs to support neighborhood-based planning and high-quality Muni service in the built communities, and encourage new transit-based communities in the city's emerging central waterfront and Southern areas. (emphasis added)

Michael Bernick is counsel with HNTB Corp., a nationwide infrastructure firm, and a fellow with the Milken Institute. His latest book, "The Director of Employment," will be published in 2005.

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In Arab countries

A poem entitled “When,” by Saudi writer Wajeha al-Huwaider:

When you cannot find a single garden in your city, but there is a mosque on every corner, you know that you are in an Arab country.

When you see people living in the past with all the trappings of modernity, do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

When religion has control over science, you can be sure that you are in an Arab country.

When clerics are referred to as “scholars,” don’t be astonished, you are in an Arab country.

When you see the ruler transformed into a demigod who never dies or relinquishes his power, and nobody is permitted to criticize, do not be upset, you are in an Arab country.

When you find that the large majority of people oppose freedom and find joy in slavery, do not be too distressed, you are in an Arab country.

When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy, but seizing every opportunity provided by democracy to grab high positions, do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

When you discover that a woman is worth half of what a man is worth or less, do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

When land is more important than human beings, you are in an Arab country.

When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people, you can be certain you are in an Arab country.

(From Thomas Friedman's March 2, 2007 column in the New York Times)

For more info: