Thursday, January 31, 2008


In commenting on San Francisco’s shameful response to the tiger mauling incident at its zoo, I mentioned the name of the Zoological Society head, Nick Podell [left in photo below], in less than flattering terms.

It turns out that Nick is a stand up guy. When things go wrong, the person in charge is supposed to take responsibility, not dodge it. It’s simply part of the job.

According to Fog City Journal’s excellent coverage of a special BOS committee meeting, Mr Podell spoke like a leader.

Zoological Society board chairman Nick Podell told the committee, "Under no circumstances is it OK for an animal to escape."

"I want to deliver a mea culpa for the zoo," he said. "There is no excuse and the focus of the Zoological Society is to make sure it will never happen again."

What a breath of fresh air!

As this blog continues to predict, Tigergate has just begun. The SFPD coverup-investigation, seeking to frame the victims, has officially come up dry. The investigation into criminal culpability on the part of present or past zoo officials has yet to begin.

Podell’s mea culpa may signal that the Zoo management coverup is starting to sink. His candor may serve as a personal floatation device.

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Monday, January 28, 2008


I have this vague memory of my mom explaining the meaning of the phrase, “Throw the bums out.” I was probably five years old.

She said that no matter who’s in charge, the people eventually get tired of them and want to “Throw the bums out.”

The same Sisyphean paradigm is central to Kenneth Burke’s The Philosophy of Literary Form.

It’s a cycle that repeats on it’s own.

In this context the Obama phenomenon finally makes sense to me.

When Obama promised a new kind of politics, I wanted to think he found a way to break the vicious Circle of Strife. I was of course skeptical.

Hope, I realize, is not a promise, it’s just a phase in a familiar, mostly dreary cycle.

Now I feel comfortable with what a vote for Obama means: Throw the bums out!

Bring the new bums in!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


City Powers' attempt to pin the tiger escape on the victims has failed, at least according to this SFGate story:

S.F. Zoo mauling investigation winding down

The purpose of the SFPD investigation, it seemed, was to turn up evidence that the victims had committed a crime, also (and I wonder how legal this was) to discover evidence that would help the City defend any tiger related law suits.

Anyway, the victims were treated like criminals.

The police investigation into the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo will soon be reclassified as "inactive" after a search failed to turn up evidence that the victims taunted the animal or committed other crimes, authorities said Friday.

With plenty of leaked information about marijuana, vodka, eyewitnesses, and rap sheets, everything was done to vilify the victims. I’d like to know Manuel Mollinedo’s blood alcohol level at the time of the attack.

No wonder poll results (non-scientific) show overwhelming public opinion still blaming the kids.

This graphic appears right next to the news story cited above.

I guess San Franciscans don’t require evidence to form an opinion.

Meanwhile, what about criminally negligent homicide charges against Mollinedo?

1. He knew (or should have known) it was unsafe.
2. He told potential visitors that it was safe.
3. A visitor died.

Clearly so far, City Powers is incapable of investigating itself, proving once again, that when push comes to shove, SF behaves like a xenophobic little hick town.

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Monday, January 21, 2008


It was probably the early 1980’s. My boss and I, which constituted the entire “company,” decided to hire a part time clerical employee.

I placed a notice with the student employment office at my alma mater, San Francisco State, and we eventually hired two of the eight or so people who responded to that notice.

One of the first calls came from a young woman I guessed was African-American. She was kind of difficult on the phone, as if she didn’t really want a job. I got the picture of her mom or dad standing over her while she made appointments for interviews.

There was difficulty nailing down a good time for the interview. I spent much effort explaining how to get to our office on public transit (something an enthusiastic applicant could easily figure out on her own). She had other probing questions, designed, I felt, to find something objectionable about the job.

I would have told her to forget it, she’d already failed the “excellent communication skills” part of the job description, but, because she was African American, I went ahead and scheduled the interview.

About half an hour later she called back.

“Monday,” she said, “is Martin Luther King’s birthday.”

This didn’t register at first. We were a small contracting firm, we worked when there was work. The only thing different about weekends and holidays for us was the availability of vendor services (UPS pick-up, the copy place’s hours). We took plenty of time off, but not necessarily on weekends or holidays.

“So…?” I responded.

“I can’t come in on MLK day”

I asked her to name a day that week that would be better for her.

“No,” she said, “I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t take Martin Luther King’s birthday off.”

“Ok,” I said, “ thanks for your interest.

This always seemed ironic to me.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I’m sorry. Call me prejudiced, but this headline scares the sh*t out of me:


I’m not the only one. According to this AP report via Raw Story:

The Teamsters Union, Sierra Club and Public Citizen joined together in a lawsuit filed in August seeking to block the program.

Teamsters AND Sierra Club?

According to the article, Congress passed legislation forbidding the program. The White House is claiming some semantic loophole, but basically they’re ignoring the will of the legislature, and my will also.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who won a 74-24 vote to block the program,

"When you open up U.S. highways to long-haul Mexican trucks without equivalent safety standards, it poses risks for American drivers,"

And/or, “Duh!”
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Saturday, January 12, 2008


The upcoming special election on February 5, is already too depressing.

After so many years of human meat-grinding in Iraq, the presidential primary doesn’t offer an electable anti-war candidate to vote for. On other issues I’m agreeing so far with sfmike over at Civic Center Blog.

Actually the Let’s Buy Alcatraz proposition on San Francisco’s ballot will provide some amusement. I’m like, I thought we were saving up to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

Anyway, local politics junkies are already talking about the November ’08 election, in which 7 of the 11 seats on Board of Supervisors are on the ballot.

Eleven of anything is too many for me to remember, so I made myself a visual aid.

First, from the Board’s webpage, a broad map of the districts.

Usually, half the board seats are up for election every two years. All the evens, then two years later all the odds. This November is the odds, plus, because of Ed Jew and all his strageness and alleged criminality, the seat for District 4 is also up for election.

I’ve taken the liberty of color-coding the current board members: red is conservative, yellow is moderate, and green is liberal. The Current Supe column shows who's there now. The Next Supe column shows who will be there after the November '08 election. The four solid-bars-across represent seats not at stake in November. A blank box means I don't know.

This analysis assumes that incumbents will hold their seats. With such an assumption, we see that conservatives are already guaranteed four seats on the new board, at least the same number as on the current board. And we see that there are only four seats really up for grabs.

Please note: three of the four conservatives achieved their incumbency through appointment by Gavin Newsom. The blog urges, once again: END APPOINTED INCUMBENCY!

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Friday, January 11, 2008


It’s a sad and tedious task, perfect for an intern team.

SFGate has presented San Francisco’s 2007 homicides as clickable markers on a Google Map. Here’s a capture.

No number of words can describe the uneven geographic distribution as clearly as this one picture.

The map on SFGate’s site is interactive—by clicking on a marker you get the details of the particular homicide plus a link to the SFGate story about it.

Very sad.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008


As a student poet, say 19 years old, I was working assiduously though the melancholia part of the curriculum. A couple of fog-layered afternoons while I was still living at home by the zoo, I’d walk down to visit the largest land mammal in North America, the Kodiak bear.

I seem to remember two, but brown bears couldn’t be that social, so there was probably just the one.

Anyway, the Kodiak bear lived in a grotto similar to the now famous tiger grottos, a concrete platform separated from the public by a dry moat, with fake rocks sloping down into the moat on the bear’s side.

The nearby snack stand (now the Terrace CafĂ©) sold standard snack stuff including, oddly, bags of full sized marshmallows at prices that even indigent melancholy student poets could afford. [Note: “indigent melancholy student poets” would be all one word in German.] The zoo had very few visitors on dreary weekday afternoons.

I’d feed a whole bag to the Kodiak bear. Once getting his attention with the first one tossed onto his platform, he’d come to the edge of the moat for more.

I’d throw the marshmallows (I was a baseball player) and he’d catch them in his mouth. If he missed (usually my fault) he’d retrieve the errant piece.

I made the bear do more for each succeeding marshmallow until he wound up sitting on his haunches on the edge of the moat with his feet dangling over the side, the way a human sits on the edge of a swimming pool.

I made him wave one of his forpaws to ask for another marshmallow. We got the routine down before the bag was finished.

A couple of passersby marveled at the interaction, but I’m pretty sure a bear will do anything for marshmallows. I would.

The third time I returned to feed the bear, the snack bar had ceased selling marshmallows. Someone snitched.

The Kodiak bear is long departed. Zoogoers must content themselves with “grizzlies,” whose name sounds fierce, but who are in truth puny cousins to the mighty Kodiak!

Throwing marshmallows to bears today would probably get you arrested.

Marshmallows can’t be good for a bear’s digestion or dental health. But heck! Could you imagine being locked up and forced to eat only “healthy foods” for the rest of your life?

Who’d want to be a bear under those conditions?

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In last Saturday’s New Hampshire Democratic Debate, there was a remarkable TV moment. Here's a one-minute clip.

The massage of TV is rhythm. Dead air, and stoppage are the mortal sins of broadcasting.

So, when local newsman Scott Spralding asked Mrs Clinton a question in which he stated that she is not likeable, the rhythm was broken. Hillary paused, and gave a human (as well as gently rebuking) reply, saying that the question had hurt her feelings.

Dumbshit Spralding apologizes.

Hillary praises Obama for being such a likeable guy, then begs for some reassurance.

We see Obama think, then speak:

You’re likeable enough, Hillary.

Talk about damning with faint praise!

Talk about ungracious!

Who the hell is Barack to pronounce on Hillary’s likeability.

When New Hampshireites saw this condescending superiority they didn’t like it. Those three words, I surmise, made up a lot of last-minute minds.

I guess nobody briefed Obama on New Hampshire’s thing about whippersnappers.

A gracious response from Barack or from Edwards would have been:

With all due respect, Mr Spalding, I think that question was rude. I like Hillary a lot.

Even stepping over and giving a hug would have been in order.

No, Obama and Edwards are at least as plastic as Hillary.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Tigergate promises to surpass last winter’s Gleegate as a blemish on San Francisco’s reputation. Once again City Powers is failing us.

Blaming young visitors from San Jose for getting tiger-mauled is similar to blaming visiting choirboys from Yale for getting curb-stomped.

The Tigergate story is easy to follow on SFGate and elsewhere.

Just a couple of comments:

City Attorney Herrera instructed the surviving victims to preserve phone related and other data. No mention of zoo records.

How about a letter and newsconference instructing Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo and all zoo and city personnel to preserve all records especially any documents containing tiger grotto measurements?

It’s my suspicion that Mollinedo’s assertion of 20 foot walls is the continuation of a deception. Mollinedo said he was relying on an office document that gave 20’ as the tiger wall measurement.

If there is such a document he should produce it. And, if there’s one document, I bet there are many others containing the same falsehood. Insurance and accreditation documents containing the 20’ measurement could indicate possible fraud.

These documents could be the most important element of the investigation.

Sam Singer coming in to help Mollinedo with PR makes me ask, Why is Mollinedo getting the big bucks when he needs a babysitter when trouble arises?

Mayor Newsom announces a special Rec&Park Commission meeting for Friday to discuss zoo issues. Whoa! Rec&Park cancelled their regular meeting scheduled for last Thursday. I don’t think this is legally sufficient notice for a public meeting. I checked Rec&Park’s website and saw no agenda posted.

I wonder if it’s going to be another Newsom fake question-time with Gavin doing his Phil Donahue imitation.

An unknown attorney on a cable news panel discussing Tigergate defended the surviving brothers’ decision not to talk to SFPD. The attorney said that such failure to cooperate

“would be suspicious in almost any circumstance, except when dealing with the San Francisco Police Department. Gavin Newsom and Heather Fong run that department like no other in the country,” he said. “These kids were smart not to talk to SFPD.”
[Quoted from memory.]

This seemed pretty harsh for a national news show. But when you consider the treatment the Yale choirboys received from the same cast of characters, you gotta go hmmm!

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Monday, January 07, 2008


We remember how the “Judgment of Paris” brought about the Trojan War. If not, Wikipedia reminds us.

I came across this quote, which applies to the bleak corporate futures faced by young princes and princesses these days.

If Paris lived now, and preferred beauty to power and riches, it would not be called his Judgment, but his Want of Judgment.

Horace Walpole (1717–1797)
Columbia World of Quotation, via Bartleby

Paris might have been more prudent if he’d graduated with a big student-loan debt.
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Sunday, January 06, 2008

GOOD NEWS '08 (Symbolic)

We thank PageOneQ for pointing us to AARP’s fitness page and this terrific photo.

Martina has been named “Fitness Ambassador” by the American Association of Retired People.

In the picture first I see the lean strength of Martina’s arms. Then I see the totally weird look on her face.

It is not the look of roses that are looked at.

It’s the look of someone who’s been through a lot. The outstanding tennis career, her face says, is only one of the major stories in her life, and maybe not the most dramatic.

The part about her being an out of the closet Lesbian doesn’t bother AARP, the largest lobbying group in America. This is a good sign for the advancement of personal liberty everywhere.

Martina’s advocacy on non-gay issues is actually more controversial than the gay stuff.

Here’s a snippet, culled from wikipedia, of a 2002 exchange on air between Martina and (ick) Connie Chung:

Connie: (finishes reading a newspaper quote of something Martina had said) “…It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of how much money will come out of it and not on the questions of how much health, morals or environment suffer as a result."

Martina: Yes, in America we are seeing centralization of power and the loss of personal freedom.

Connie: Can I be honest with you? I can tell you that when I read this, I have to tell you that I thought it was un-American, unpatriotic. I wanted to say, go back to Czechoslovakia. You know, if you don't like it here, this a country that gave you so much, gave you the freedom to do what you want.

Martina: And I'm giving it back. This is why I speak out. When I see something that I don't like, I'm going to speak out because you can do that here. And again, I feel there are too many things happening that are taking our rights away.

So, Martina don't take shit from Connie.

AARP loves Martina. So does most of the world. Including me.

Speaking of identity politics, the current primary match-up between Hillary Clinton, who could be the country’s first woman president, and Barack Obama, who could be the country’s first black president, has revealed to me (again) how little I care about race or sex when it comes to hiring.

When the work is important, and when there aren’t many people who can do the work well, I’m hiring based on ability, not sex or race or sexual preference. US President is such a job.

When it comes to a triple bypass, even the dumbest racist from the deepest backwoods will choose an African American surgeon over a Caucasian auto mechanic.

America obviously needs a major operation.

Even if we have to elect some straight white guy.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008


The idea that a convicted swindler and two-time bail jumper belongs anywhere but in jail is preposterous.

Yet, that’s what lawyers for notorious ponzi-artist Norman Hsu argued in San Mateo Superior court earlier this week.

During his fifteen years as a fugitive Hsu maintained a surprisingly high profile and was a significant donor to Democratic candidates including, ta-da!, Hillary Clinton.

According to this SFGate story, Hsu’s lawyers don’t shrink from preposterousness:

Hsu's attorneys had sought to have the 1990s case dismissed or to allow Hsu to withdraw his no contest plea, saying his right to a speedy trial had been violated because authorities made little attempt to locate him - even as he attended fundraising events and was photographed with political candidates.

The idea that a man who jumps bail after pleading guilty (nolo), even has the right to a trial is ridiculous. The trial was over, the guy pleaded guilty, he escaped before sentencing.

Basically, the lawyers are saying that a fugitive (escapee) has the right to be hunted down assiduously, and that failure of the government to do so exonerates the escapee for the original crime.

What kind of intelligent, self respecting human beings could advance such arguments?


Every so often we read about an escapee apprehended after many years on the lam during which time he (or she) has led an exemplary life. We are conflicted, at least in some cases, about sending such people back to jail.

To their credit, Hsu’s lawyers are not painting that picture. That would be just too preposterous, seeing as how their client is under Federal indictment for his (alleged) ongoing criminal career, and how he tried to commit suicide during his second interstate-flight.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008


I’m pretty sure I’ve never paid for admission to San Francisco’s Zoo.

Once, a friend and I went there for lunch on a pretty day; he was a Zoological Society member so entry was free. My impression then as decades earlier, was that zoo visits are a lot about birds and birdshit.

Whatever other species he or she might seek out, a zoo visitor will definitely experience birds: seagulls, pigeons, and those nasty little black things (“pickies” we called them in babytalk).

Governance of the zoo is murky.

The land (presumably improvements also) and animals are owned by the City and County and are administered by Rec and Park.

There is an entity called San Francisco Zoological Society, an organization with a 60-member board of directors.

And there’s some “joint board.”

In the wake of Tatiana’s breakout we learn the name of the SFZS board’s chairman, Nick Podell, whom a Bizjournal story states is a partner in a Burlingame real estate firm, MH Podell, Company. Nick is on the left in the below Chronicle photo.

Elsewhere, MH Podell Company is said to a sole proprietorship of someone named Michael Podell.

Certainly, anyone who can figure out how to be a partner in a sole proprietorship can run a zoo, or a spaceship for that matter.

There is so much to learn about San Francisco’s zoo, for instance:

A zoo seems mostly a family oriented entertainment venue. And zoo supporters are stereotyped as dodderers with just a bit more spunk than, say, Botanical Society members.

Recognizing an untapped constituency, SF Zoo reaches out to the city’s hordes of young professionals with Zoo II.

Zoo II is a social club of young professionals dedicated to expanding conservation, awareness, providing and encouraging financial support of the San Francisco Zoo while connecting to others in the community and enjoying a variety of social activities.

I’m sure that Zoo II admits “young professionals” of all ages, at least judging from this photo of the committee’s leadership.

Strangely the accompanying caption on the zoo’s website names only three of the four people pictured.

The 2007-2008 Zoo II Committee is led by Jeff McNulty, Chair and co-Vice Chairs, Ann Cheney & Sarah Gammill.

There is another “mystery” fourth person with the group of Tatiana’s victims, at least as reported in today’s SFGate.

Jennifer Miller, who was at the zoo with her husband and two children that ill-fated Christmas afternoon, said she saw four young men at the big-cat grottos

All previous reports mentioned only three young men in the group of victims. The victim-mystery deepens.

Anyway, no speculation yet on how the demise of Tatiana will affect Zoo II’s signature annual event, the Fur Ball, featuring

music from the DJ, cocktails and a variety of heavy hors' dourves.

The second annual Fur Ball is scheduled for June 28, 2008. The venue, get this, is the Lion House at the zoo. The Lion House is home, also, to the zoo’s tigers, and was home to Tatiana before she was gunned down.

How Tatiana’s absence will affect the Ball’s mood, or even attendance, is to be seen.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if they got a cute little kitty cat to fill Tatiana’s former place, I mean, in time for the party!

I wonder if the big cats are forced attendees at these Fur Balls. Talk about cruelty! Locked in a cage, perfectly sober, watching a bunch of young professionals drinking, and eating heavy hors’dourves—I’d be planning a breakout, too.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Voters in California Congressional District 8 (shaded green below) have an opportunity to be heard nationally.

Nancy Pelosi, the poster girl for Democratic Party complicity with Satan, ur, I mean George Bush, pardon me… This gal Nancy must face the judgment of the voters in her safest of safe districts to gain re-nomination to be the most powerful woman in congress.

The primary, to be held in June ’08 should be a referendum on wars of aggression and on the use of torture. Pelosi’s complicity in Bush’s Iraq War and in the use of torture is, in the blog’s opinion, indictable in any reasonable war-crimes-prosecution venue.

Unusual in this race is Pelosi’s opponent, Cindy Sheehan, a woman as recognizable to TV viewers as Ms Pelosi herself.

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, as made herself a thorn in the side of Bush’s Iraq propaganda machine. Ms Sheehan brings national name recognition and media interest along with a simple platform: immediate, unconditional removal of US forces from Iraq, and strict adherence to the Geneva Conventions by all US personnel and by all US citizens.

Ms Sheehan should be able to attract sufficient resources to frame the race in her terms, and if she sticks to Iraq and torture, she could very well unseat Nancy the war criminal.

Cindy might also suggest to Bay View Hunters Point residents that a vote for Pelosi is a vote for Lennar.

Anyway, just having the option is a ray of light in an otherwise dismal June for Congressional District 8 voters.

Fog City Journal recently reported that Cindy Sheehan has moved into a residence in the 8th Congressional District. This encourages us that she’s serious about putting up a fight.

Regarding “calendars”: 2008 is different from other years because it has three different elections for national office. Usually the most we get is two, but the shuffling of states to increase the influence of their own presidential primaries has resulted in an additional California election, coming up on February 5, 2008.

Here’s the Schedule of Elections for San Francisco in 2008.

I believe that ballots for all three elections with also contain various State and Local propositions.

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