As do Board of Supes meetings: I was pleased to see San Francisco's Clown Conservatory and its new training program receive attention in your pages ("Beyond Bozo," Sept. 26). The city has a wonderful history of clowning. The article might have mentioned that the Pickle Family Circus and New Pickle Circus also provided superb spaces for clowns to learn while in the ring, in front of a live audience.
Sorry in more ways than one: I applaud Jill Stewart's article on the knee-jerk reaction of Bill Maher's corporate sponsors by pulling [their support of] Politically Incorrect because he exercised his First Amendment rights ["Crushing a Contrarian," Stewart, Sept. 26]. I painfully watched Maher's cowed apologies on [The Tonight Show], and his wimpy hosting of his next show.
PI is one of the few places on network and cable where there is a true, open debate about positions. People from different political spheres can shout out their views, with the once-uppity Maher egging them on. In these times of lock-step patriotism, we need public personalities like Maher to voice the dissent of those who have no big money in their PR department.
The coward's way out: In my opinion Maher wasn't wrong to say what he did (in fact I kind of agree with him). But I think the dude is an ass from the word go because he didn't finish what he started. His opinion that the suicide bombers had more guts than our government that lobbed missiles from afar may well be accurate. But guess what, Maher was a coward too. He expressed an opinion on a nationally televised political commentary/satire show. And then when he took heat for it, he backed down.
If he was not a coward, he wouldn't have apologized; he would have stood up and said on all of those talk shows: "Here is exactly what I said, here is a clip of the whole content of the comment, here are the facts on which I based this opinion (like the facts included in the SF Weekly article written in his defense), and we should all thank our lucky stars we live in a country where we still have the right to speak so freely."
The network knows it has a jerk for a host. The show is called Politically Incorrect for crying out loud! What do these people expect?
What you say as a public figure does have an effect on those who hear you. And it can have consequences. So speak freely. But say what you mean and mean what you say. If Maher wasn't prepared to do that, he should have stayed in the stand-up circuit and left national broadcasts to the pros.
Amanda Huntzinger Copeland
New York, N.Y.
Heroes and zeroes: Jill Stewart falls into the same delusion she accuses other people of, only on a slightly different scale. Politically Incorrect is a sponsored TV show. What is the purpose of sponsored TV? To entertain and sell products. Maher is not a political activist. Why not be angry at Maher, who is obviously more worried about his career than about his right to free speech?
Making the case for how the U.S. got into this mess can't be done on a talk show with a bunch of self-promoting performers struggling for a soundbite. It's complex, and done right would take hours, maybe days.
Maher censored himself. The others involved -- shock jocks, the outraged callers, the sponsors, the producers, etc. -- acted predictably, given who they are. As for [Oakland Rep.] Barbara Lee, it was a no-brainer she'd get death threats [for being the only member of Congress to vote against a bill granting expanded presidential military authority]. She knew the risk she was taking and did it anyway. She's a real hero. No comparison to some smug little prick who makes his living running his mouth on the idiot box.
Nice guys finish first: Mr. Bush, I implore you, think before you strike! ("The Tangled Path to a Response," Mecklin, Sept. 19.) You may be lighting a match in a darkened room filled with explosives. Even if Osama bin Laden were taken down today, his work is done. He has already had a successful career. He has become a significant figure, a role model, an icon, and we have helped make that image.
It would appear that the president, senators, congressmen, and even military leaders are unfamiliar with the tenets of guerrilla warfare and in particular with partisans, nationalists, and zealots. You cannot defeat a foe that is willing to give his life for a cause except by the extermination of his race. Each "terrorist" that you strike down becomes a martyr to be followed by the succeeding generation.
The solution is twofold: diplomacy and action. It is indeed time to call in our markers and for the rest of the world to shoulder their portion of the burden; to make as many nations as possible our allies without compromising our principles; and to withdraw from those places where we are not welcome or comply with local custom.
It is not a matter of giving in to terrorism. It is a matter of recognizing our mistakes as a nation and a people and being willing to admit to them and redress them before the world. We can no longer do business as usual and maintain our credibility as a democracy.
This is an opportunity to begin a new world community, to break clean with the dubious methods of the past. We have ever been a world community; only now do we have the knowledge and the resources to make it a reality. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, heal the sick, educate, and respect all, and you will see a new renaissance. We have the means; it is simply a matter of will.
Feeding our words back to us: I am writing in response to Harry Coverte's column Side Dish ("Foie Gras for the Soul," Sept. 19). It was stated that I "hosted" San Francisco Chronicle [Food] Editor Michael Bauer and columnist GraceAnn Walden on opening night at my new restaurant, Alma. Since "hosting" often implies that guests have been invited to dine or that their meals have been paid for by the restaurant, I want to clarify that Bauer and Walden dined at Alma on their own. They were neither invited (although they're always welcome) nor given complimentary meals. I would appreciate if you could be more sensitive with your choice of words in the future.
In the Oct. 3 Side Dish, we said Alma is located at 16th and Guerrero streets and offers international small plates. It is, in fact, at 1101 Valencia at 22nd Street and features Nuevo Latino cuisine. SF Weekly regrets the error.