In Which Bruce B. Brugmann Writes a Letter Longer Than the Article He Is Criticizing

After months of getting a series of hit-and-run whacks by anonymous writers in the New Times/SF Weekly, I was startled to find George Cothran actually calling me about a story he was doing on the “Bay Guardian banned by Viacom” story (“Grudge Match,” Bay View, Aug. 9).

However, it quickly became apparent that Cothran wasn't really interested in the facts or the journalistic or political issues herein, but was trying to make this a New Times-style gossipy, personality-clash story with “alpha-baboon behavior,” “pimp-slapping,” “fanny whack[s],” “widdle feet,” and “pissy mess[es].”

Somehow, no matter how I labored to answer his one-sided questions, I wasn't able to budge him from his preset position that I was somehow at fault for regularly protesting the 7-year-old blackball and ban of an independent Bay Guardian reporter for political reasons from Viacom's City Desk show by reporters from the monopoly Ex/Chron/JOA dailies.

Even worse, I couldn't budge him from his fixed position that I was somehow at fault for seeking to negotiate reasonable guarantees from Viacom so that the Bay Guardian (or any other independent) wouldn't be similarly blackballed and banned by the JOA gang from our local city cable franchise station.

Our demands, I tried to point out to Cothran, were the same now as they have always been: (a) an acknowledgment by Viacom of what happened (the JOA reporters did blackball and ban us from the 1988 show, as even Cothran's story was forced to admit); (b) an apology from Viacom; (c) some reasonable assurances from Viacom that the station wouldn't again let the JOA gang kick the Bay Guardian, or any other independent publications, off the show.

Cothran, if he had been doing an honest story, would have asked Viacom about our reasonable demands and published a specific response. He didn't.

In fact, Cothran refused to see any of the journalistic, political, or public policy points. Instead, he concluded in his story that I was indulging in “alpha-baboon behavior” and that I had been “pimp-slapping” for seven years with Viacom. These are new ones. I've been called many things, but not an alpha baboon or pimp-slapper — where in the world do phrases like these come from and what do they mean?

Sorry, George. I consider this to be serious business — monopoly journalists banning independent journalists for doing the big scandal stories in town (stories that monopoly journalists can't or won't do in their JOA papers or on City Desk, such as their current blackouts on the new Presidio and PG&E scandal stories). Beyond Cothran's newfound vocabulary of New Times-style invective, there is a tantalizing journalistic question: What are the ethics and the politics of the New Times/SF Weekly? Specifically, does the New Times/SF Weekly have any professional written guidelines for its reporters and editors, or a code of ethics, or even some sort of serious statement of journalistic purpose?

If so, let's see them. I'm putting out a call now to all New Times papers in Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Denver, and San Francisco. Do you have ethics, politics, and some serious purpose for being — or do you just have a lot of alpha baboons and pimp-slappers out there engaging in fanny whacks?

Bruce B. Brugmann
Editor and Publisher, Bay Guardian
San Francisco

The Bugs and the Trees
The idea that destroying over 100 acres of blue gum eucalyptus will somehow create habitat for the Mission Blue butterfly is fanciful at best (“The Mission Blue Mission,” Aug. 9). After the loggers have wreaked their destruction, the soil will be ready to receive the plants that best respond to a disturbed environment: gorse, fennel, blackberries, broom, and many other plants, including grasses. To stop the eucalyptus, the biologists will spray repeatedly with herbicides. God knows what they can do to stop the exotics from growing where the biologists want to see lupines for the rare butterflies. Man is the root of the problems, the truly invasive exotic. He should just stop building on San Bruno Mountain and trying to play God with the plant and animal communities there.

James K. Sayre
Foster City

Molehill for a Mountain
With respect to your puff piece about the “wise use” of San Bruno Mountain's unique habitat (“The Mission Blue Mission,” Aug. 9), I have a question: When the writer said developers set aside a total of $70,000 per year for habitat maintenance, was that a typographical error? That is not enough to do anything for the damage done to the mountain. Please tell me you mean $700,000. Please.

Alvin Warwas

Ellen McGarrahan replies: No typo. At this point, the trust fund for San Bruno Mountain, created under the terms of the habitat conservation plan, has about $400,000 in capital and $70,000 in annual income.

He's Man Enough
Although “Shut Up, Little Man” (Aug. 2) conveyed vital and compelling information about Peter Haskett and the late Raymond Huffman and the media blitz surrounding the CD, it viciously misrepresented both myself and Zebrafilms. It is unfortunate that what resulted from my 40-minute-plus interview with George Cothran is a series of half-truths and slander against me and my associates. Zebrafilms' position in these events is crucial, and my actions and intentions have been completely rearranged and taken out of context.

My primary concern is to clarify my association and rights agreement with Peter Haskett. In response to Rosenthal's implication that “you can't liquor someone up and get them to sign something,” I simply have this to say — I agree. On Aug. 3, 1993, when I arrived at Haskett's house to discuss having him sign the agreement, he was still in bed. I never, despite Rosenthal's offensive assumption, liquored up Haskett to have him sign the agreement.

During that morning, we held an informative interview, discussed the agreement, and signed it. It was later on in my conversation with Cothran, in response to another question, when I said that “We left [Haskett] in a Castro bar.” I have had several informal and friendly meetings with Haskett and we have gone out for drinks more than once. Many hours into one of these outings, I announced that I was leaving and offered Haskett cab fare home. He declined, as he wished to stay and drink more. I, therefore, left him; not out of neglect or insensitivity, but because he is a grown man and he wanted to stay.

If Rosenthal, Gibbs, et al. were so concerned with the victimization of Haskett, why then did Gibbs comfortably and successfully run his own show for over two years without ever once contacting Haskett? How is it possible that Mitchell D., Eddie Lee Sausage, and Ectoplasm Records commercially released the CD without ever contacting Haskett? SF Weekly has further propagated the finger-pointing tactics of the same individuals whose refusal to act in accordance with California law has made it impossible for anyone to successfully complete or market any film project associated with Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman.

I commend the SF Weekly for allowing its staff writers the freedom to stoop to the level of degenerative tabloid journalism worthy of the Enquirer.

Patrick J. Lavache
Producer/Director, Zebrafilms
San Francisco

George Cothran replies: Lavache told me he and two Zebrafilms colleagues took Peter Haskett “barhopping all over town” the first time they met him in August 1993, noting that Haskett “was already trashed” when they arrived at his hotel in the afternoon. Moreover, Lavache said the discussion over buying the rights took place in a Castro District bar after a seven-hour drinking binge, during which he said he bought Haskett numerous gins. Asked specifically, “Did you buy the rights for $20 and a bottle of gin?” Lavache answered, “Something like that. We offered him $400, but he signed off at $10 and several gins.” Nowhere in my article do I assert that leaving Haskett in the Castro bar constituted neglect or insensitivity.

Taxing Matters
I enjoyed Jeff Stark's article on “Death, Taxes, and User Fees” (Aug. 2). I would like to point out that the $22.9 million Stark cited as revenue that would result from a 0.5 percent increase in the business tax is actually the budget analyst's estimate for the revenue from an increase limited to the 200 biggest businesses in the city — those with a payroll over $6.6 million a year. This proposal, along with a decrease in business taxes for about 2,500 small businesses, is part of Supervisor Tom Ammiano's progressive tax package.

Marc Norton
San Francisco

Buff Garcia Rebuffed
Knowing firsthand the pain and humiliation of public ridicule, I could not help thinking of the recent scathing attacks upon local musician Jerry Garcia in Smart Feller (July 12) when I read of Garcia's demise.

It was public knowledge that the beloved leader of the Grateful Dead was battling poor health. I feel that to add more stress to his problems with the vulgar caricature of a naked Garcia gallivanting about was a tasteless breach of journalistic responsibility.

As San Francisco mourns the loss of another icon, your “political cartoonists” continue their smartass ways, oblivious to the damage and pain they have caused.

Paul Allen Musso
San Francisco

This Is a Test
One of the easiest ways of identifying an asshole is through this simple test: If the person thinks anything he or she doesn't know how to do must be easy, that person is an asshole. With that in mind, Tim Kenneally's recent review of the Foo Fighters (Recordings, July 26) qualifies him, in this drummer's mind, as Asshole of the Month.

I'm rather tired of hearing ignorant non-drummers claim that I'm a drummer, not a musician. But I've gotten used to it. I will not accept ignorant non-drummers claiming that conventional wisdom indicates that rock drummers are inherently less intelligent than other musicians. Obviously, Kenneally falls into the category of “those who can't, become music critics.” Fine. I can accept the fact that he can only feel like a celebrity through criticizing musicians; it's his inferiority complex, not mine. But the least he can do is restrict his idiocy to his own personal world. The rest of us can do without his particular brand of myopia.

And if, by some chance, Kenneally happens to be a musician, he should be ashamed of himself. Perhaps he meant his comments as a joke of some sort. I'm not laughing — and he shouldn't be either.

Bruce A. Norbeck
San Jose

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