For some reason, Dog Bites has been consumed of late by food, drink, and the increasing prospect that sanity is returning to the nation's political realm. It started on a sunny Mission District afternoon on Medjool's rooftop Sky Terrace. As we watched a layer of fog rush at eye level across the city to swallow the Financial District, we couldn't help wondering: Would special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald eventually devour Ahmed Chalabi mouthpiece/New York Times reporter Judith Miller; Time scribe/Casper the Friendly Ghost look-alike Matthew Cooper; Dick Cheney water boy/future trivia question answer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; Bush administration Rasputin/ Svengali/scapegoat Karl Rove; or all of the above, and perhaps many more? We used a light white Bordeaux to wash down the delectable transcript of the White House press corps grilling poor, chubby Press Secretary Scott McClellan with dozens of nasty, nearly identical questions and were suddenly struck, full force, with the Watergate-ishness of it all. Dog Bites knew the nickname of a minor White House functionary. It had to be a real scandal!
Déjà vu returned all over again, though, at Bistro Annex, an intimate Italian restaurant on Valencia that seems, to Dog Bites, the perfect place to plan a third-rate political burglary or its 21st-century equivalent, the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Revealing Plame's name -- in an apparently political act of retaliation against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had criticized some doctored intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq -- was a revolting act, made all the worse because the outing was done through a loathsome toad named Bob Novak, whom some call a journalist.
Even so, an early White House admission of stupidity and an apology likely would have ended thoughts of criminal prosecution, and certainly would have kept the Plame Affair from becoming, to borrow a phrase, a cancer on the presidency. To put it more plainly, the president might have had to shove Karl Rove off a White House balcony. But isn't that what presidential aides are for, Dog Bites thought, while savoring the last bites of a pleasant little seafood paella and paying an extra-large tip for Bistro Annex's great service and wonderfully conspiratorial atmosphere.
Over an after-dinner Pimm's Cup at the ever-cosmopolitan Orbit Room, Dog Bites and friends mused about the possibility that the Plame Affair could ingest not just the president's top men, but the president himself. Once again, the apparent cover-up is being seen as worse than the initial crime. Once again, the when did/what did the president know question is edging itself onto the platter of national consciousness.
Because journalists have been subpoenaed to testify about the leak of Plame's identity, the news profession, in all its lowly public standing, has also become part of the meal, sort of a side salad. It's unfortunate that Judith Miller, whose previous claim to fame was being fabulously wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is the unappetizing poster child for journalism's need to protect confidential sources, and the press' ability to report news the government wants to conceal.
So it's up to the rest of the press to reset the table on this one, showing why reporters are the good guys of a democratic system by doing what reporters are supposed to do: dismember abusers of government power in the exacting, implacable way that a good chef beheads, de-feathers, washes, and then disjoints a fat, tasty chicken. It's a dish -- let's call it Coq et la Plame -- that, if properly prepared, will bring lasting renown to its chefs, prosecutorial and journalistic.
On a less appetizing note, Dog Bites couldn't help but notice one particular house ad in last week's San Francisco Bay Guardian. (And by "couldn't help but notice," Dog Bites means "the ad was attached to a senseless rant that Guardian Publisher Bruce Brugmann e-mailed to half of SF Weekly's staff.")
Though incoherent, the ad made clear that Bruce and his Guardianistas are still mightily upset by the naming-rights deal that SF Weekly recently struck with Bill Graham Presents for the storied Warfield Theatre. Because the venue will now be called the SF Weekly Warfield Theatre, and because BGP is owned by Clear Channel, and because Satan is everywhere, and because the moon is in the Third House ....
OK, Dog Bites can't really explain why Big Bruce and his tribe are so wound up, so we'll just describe the ad, which is topped by the headline "Who's in bed with Clear Channel?" Below the headline is an illustration, but just who's portrayed in it is anybody's guess: It looks to Dog Bites like Keith Richards, as drawn by Jim Henson, but wearing a Weekly T-shirt. Keith is in bed with a cigar-chomping Kenneth Lay look-alike who's sporting a Clear Channel button. Below the drawing, the Bay Guardian conspiracy hounds accuse the "silly, soulless" SF Weekly of everything from homogenizing the media to being "pro-war." Not "pro-Iraq War," mind you, but "pro-war."
After burning half a page with hackneyed whining about Clear Channel's credentials as a media monopoly, the ad asserts that, by cutting one rather ordinary, not particularly large deal to sponsor a local music venue, SF Weekly now ... um ... equals Clear Channel. Even for the Guardian, it's a gargantuan, Michael Moore-on-bad-acid leap of logic, based, as the ad boastfully cites via asterisk, on an article by the Bay Guardian itself. Well, that's not quite right. In the citation, the Bay Guardian house ad mentions something called the SF Bay Guardain. Which means that:
1) Some heretofore unknown knight of King Arthur's Round Table has been writing about the SF Weekly Warfield Theatre.
2) Bruce Brugmann has forgotten how to spell the name of his own newspaper; or ...
3) Sic. Very, very sic. (Ryan Blitstein)
After a yearlong undercover investigation, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control says it has found no racial discrimination at two Castro District bars, directly contradicting the findings of a report previously issued by the city's Human Rights Commission. ABC spokesman John Carr says department investigators looked seriously at allegations of racial bias at the bars -- SF Badlands and the Detour -- but "were not able to substantiate the complaints."
The complaints, lodged by the activist group And Castro for All, also led to a San Francisco Human Rights Commission investigation. The HRC claimed in April that the owner of SF Badlands, Les Natali, had discriminated against patrons and potential employees. Based on the HRC's report, San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty -- the admitted "best friend" of a Natali competitor -- pushed for city and state agencies to put Natali's bars out of business. Activists repeatedly picketed Natali's clubs. News stories repeatedly suggested the clubs had refused admission to blacks.
But state investigators, who interviewed bar patrons undercover, substantiated none of the allegations of bias the Human Rights Commission supposedly found.
The state investigation began after Natali applied for a liquor license for another one of his Castro bars, the Pendulum, which has a primarily African-American clientele. The findings mean that Natali's liquor license will likely be approved. It appears, however, that he will not use it for long. Natali announced last week that he plans to sell the Pendulum to settle a lawsuit filed by a group that also tried to buy the Pendulum. Natali's lawyer says selling the bar is "a way of wrapping up a number of things." Perhaps. (Cristi Hegranes)