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Willie's Wonks and the Profit Factory
The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) wants to go on record as stating that the article "W.L. Brown, A Public/Private Partnership" (May 12) is shoddy journalism. It contains many false and misleading statements and is replete with innuendo.

To suggest that a public official's expression of support of the Mission Bay development can have a material effect on CalPERS investment strategy is laughable, and is analogous to suggesting that SF Weekly's editorial stance in any given week could have a material effect on the stock market.

Your reporter's glaring lack of understanding of CalPERS, our real estate portfolio, and the real estate development business in general is the only explanation one can have for producing such a shoddy report.

We would have been able to show your reporter why, but he never offered up his conspiracy theory prior to publishing. If he had, we could have demonstrated easily why his analysis is so off-base. Unproven conspiracy theories make for interesting conversation, but when irresponsibly published, it is the paper that is left without credibility. That's the real shame.

Patricia K. Macht
Public Affairs Chief

Editor's note: Ms. Macht claims there were "many" false and misleading statements in our story, yet is unable to articulate a single one of them. That is a shame.

Salon's Shaky Fortunes
As a consultant in the Internet field, I read with amusement Matt Smith's piece "Salon.con" (Bay View, May 5). Although was singled out, its story is hardly unique. With the amount of money being thrown around currently, one can hardly blame and hundreds of other companies for attempting to cash in.

Greed breeds irrational behavior, both by companies and investors alike. Much like the gold rush of the 1800s, people will continue to flock towards the apparition of easy money, and, while a few strike it rich, most will end up getting burned.

Yes, there are legitimate Web-based companies and business models out there, some of which will continue to be very successful. Salon in fact, as a well-respected online magazine, had an opportunity to become a solid media company given a sensible growth strategy. But, like many other fledgling Internet companies, it has sold out a long-term approach in favor of a "get rich quick through Internet IPO" scheme.

Good luck.
Dean LaTourrette
Now Valley

Salon's Pathetic Users
One important thing your piece failed to mention was Salon's pathetic number of registered users ("Salon.con").

Salon's online communities included approximately 109,500 registered users, including approximately 102,500 for Table Talk, and 7,000 for the Well. These are some seriously horrible numbers for a Web site. Especially after four years.

Scooter Jonez
Via Internet

Salon's Cafe Intellectuals
Tim Smith's piece on the Salon IPO set me atwitter ("Salon.con")! I had long thought I had known my cafe-intellectual intimates on the Well -- sorry, that's "," I suppose. How surprised I was to find that I had been communicating with people who were actually anonymous!

That feature that revealed to me the identities of my peers -- why, that must have been a clever ruse installed by hackers to perpetuate the myth of identity.

To follow up on your apparent practice of having a wannabe art critic write on business, I trust we will soon see financial reporters penning reviews of local galleries in SF Weekly. So much better to write off a prospectus as a surrealist work than to have someone with the chops to actually understand it explain it to your readers!

Owen Thomas
Via Internet

Editor's note: Owen, you make this way too easy. The story was written by Matt Smith. Tim Smith must be one of your imaginary Well buddies. We don't expect cafe intellectuals to be able to read a financial prospectus, but we thought you could handle a simple newspaper article. By the way, our Smith -- Matt -- came to us from the Dow Jones international news wires, and has never, to our knowledge, reviewed a gallery opening.

The Vision Thing
Grampa politics, what a great article ("The Problem With Grampa Politics," Cothran, April 28)! Willie Brown and Terence Hallinan are a tired bunch. A few more news writers like George Cothran and the politics could really change. Demographically too, as the San Francisco Chronicle's readers die off.

Good luck, and hope you keep up with helping to create a new vision for the city.

Richard Petersen
Via Internet

Bathhouse Imbroglio
The article by Joel Engardio "Private Places" (Bay View, April 28) was good for getting this issue discussed outside the lesbian and gay press. For this effort to make the issue understandable to straight progressives, you are to be applauded.

Unfortunately, factual errors and omissions of contexts blemished this article:

1) It is not true that bathhouse owners and AIDS educators "struck a deal" with the Health Department to follow guidelines requiring monitored areas. The owners refused to agree to the DPH proposal at a January 1997 meeting, and at the next meeting the AIDS office unilaterally imposed these regulations on so-called sex clubs.

Further, this was done without any public discussion by the Health Commission. Even now, the president of the Health Commission, Lee Ann Monfredini, professes not to understand the DPH's forced distinction between sex clubs for gay men and bathhouses for straights and for women.

2) The story is misleading when it asserts that activists are "demanding science that says locked doors increases HIV transmission." It is stupid to imagine anyone requiring science to come up with a certain answer. Rather, what we are saying is that if the director of health, Dr. Mitch Katz, is going to curtail the right to privacy for gay men to have sex (and in so doing he follows Bower vs. Hardwick in Georgia), then the burden of proof is on him to show that there is strong scientific evidence that allowing private spaces in bathhouses increases the transmission of STDs. So we demand that Katz show us such evidence since he has denied us privacy.

In fact, no such evidence exists. Rather, the only available scientific evidence indicates strongly that, when bathhouses promote safer, healthier sex, then patrons of these bathhouses practice safer sex in all their sexual interactions compared to people who never patronize such bathhouses.

It is unfortunate that SF Weekly's story missed the fact that the Health Department is contravening available scientific evidence when it restricts privacy rights. To reduce STDs, public policy should promote privacy and education; it should open, not close, bathhouses. This is WEAK reporting, since I described this research to Engardio when he was first getting started. This issue will continue to be on the public stage, so I urge SF Weekly to ensure this discussion is covered more accurately in the future.

Richard Cornwall
Via Internet

Foundation's Ends
I regret to find that some have misunderstood the position of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation regarding the bathhouse debate ("Private Places"), and I would like to clarify.

As I have repeatedly informed media and other callers, our concern is with behavior, not with whether a given establishment should or should not exist. It is precisely for this reason that we have not taken a stand on the bathhouse debate.

We do believe that sex environments, be they clubs or bathhouses, should support sexual behavior that prevents the transmission of HIV by providing patrons with condoms, lubricants, and information on safer sex practices and HIV transmission.

It is of the utmost importance that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation not lose sight of its goal of ending the HIV pandemic and the human suffering caused by AIDS. Given limited resources, it is crucial that our focus be on issues we believe are most important to that end.

Among these are serving the many needs of our clients, advocating for government policies and funding that address the needs of the HIV community, maintaining a robust needle exchange program, and devising effective prevention programs for populations most at risk for HIV infection.

It is for this reason that, despite many attempts to make us do so, we refuse to take a stand on an issue that is peripheral to our goal.

Though my remarks as quoted in SF Weekly are correct, they were part of a longer discussion.

My use of the term "sideshow" was in relation to the foundation's work. I used it by way of explaining that the bathhouse debate is not central to our work, adding that, as this is the case, we would not take a stand on the issue.

Gustavo L. Suarez
Communications Director
San Francisco AIDS Foundation


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