March 28, 2005
We're All Paranoid
The media discovers (surprise!) that people espousing
9-11 conspiracy theories other than the offical
9-11 conspiracy theory sound remarkably sensible.
The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland was filled almost to capacity March 10, just
as the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park was the night before and the Herbst Theatre
in San Francisco would be the next night, all for a documentary with bad production
values and even worse leaps of logic.
This was the local premiere of The
Great Conspiracy: The 9-11 News Special You Never Saw, a benefit screening
for the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance, whose activists have been laboring
for more than three years to dispel popular belief in the government's version
of the events on that fateful day.
And to fill that void, they offer a wide
variety of alternative theories, carefully laid out in the dozens of books and
DVDs that local truth-movement leader Carol Brouillet sold from a table in the
theater lobby, or in the hundreds of Web sites devoted to debunking the official
Brouillet is what most people think of when they use the term "conspiracy
theorist." Ever since she saw the Oliver Stone film JFK which
she describes as her moment of awakening she has been trafficking in the
dark world of a shadow government executing secret plots. She's been gathering
every relevant document she can find, meticulously connecting every dot into an
It is a worldview in which there are no tragic accidents or
strange coincidences, no pieces that don't fit into the puzzle, only a carefully
orchestrated grand plan by powerful interests to achieve world domination. And
for those who tend to see the world in this way, as Brouillet and others told
me, "9-11 is the mother of all issues."
The film by Canadian television
producer Barrie Zwicker rehashed much of the disparate "evidence" that
has been developed since 9-11: indications of an intentional military stand-down
on the morning of 9-11, the belief that the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and
Building 7 couldn't have fallen the way they did without being laden with explosives,
speculations as to what really hit the Pentagon.
The most disturbing thing about the 9-11 truth movement is that its
critically important questions are being ignored by the mainstream media.
The crowd at the Grand
Lake was mostly true believers who had heard it all before and seemed a little
bored by the event. After all, the presidential election is over, and the best
opportunity to do something with this evidence has passed, turning the whole movement
into little more than a giant echo chamber. More than half the crowd left after
the film without staying for the discussion afterward with the filmmaker and other
Yet Zwicker and Brouillet feel hopeful that things are about to
change, that the mainstream media will have to deal with this stuff at some point,
that somehow, in some way, the people will rise up and finally demand a real investigation
"Belief in the official story is a mile wide and an inch deep,"
Zwicker told me. "There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that the movement is
They may be wrong about their chances for success anytime
soon. Some of their theories are completely ridiculous. And when you talk with
many of the people in this movement, they are passionate to the point of seeming
Yet the most disturbing thing about the 9-11 truth movement, something
you learn when you really dissect their most compelling evidence, is that the
activists are raising critically important questions about the Bush administration's
lies, cover-ups, and geopolitical strategy questions that are being almost
entirely ignored by the mainstream media.
And they may well be right that more
went down on 9-11 than the government wants us to know.
Pick a Theory
who has seriously considered the 9-11 attacks is a conspiracy theorist. To not
try to put the pieces together is to be incurious about the most profound event
of this new American century.
The Bush administration offered its conspiracy
theory while the buildings were still ablaze, has done little since then to deviate
from it and has done almost nothing to prove its veracity beyond a shadow
of a doubt.
It goes like this: Nineteen fanatical Muslims conspired with Osama
bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to plan and execute the hijacking of four
commercial airplanes using box cutters and the element of surprise, and to fly
those planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and probably the White
Three of those planes hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy before
the U.S. military could react two of them causing the most catastrophic
structural failures of steel skyscrapers in history while a passenger rebellion
in the fourth airplane forced the hijackers to crash it into a Pennsylvania field.
All this was unexpected and couldn't have been prevented. The attacks were an
act of war launched by a well-organized and well-funded international terrorist
To believe this theory, you must accept that, despite receiving
an unprecedented flurry of intelligence warnings about imminent terrorist attacks
on the United States, the military was caught so off guard that it couldn't even
pull the commander in chief out of his elementary-school photo op or get fighter
jets in place during the 34 minutes between when the second tower and the Pentagon
were hit even though everyone knew that the United States was under attack
and that Flight 77 was known to have been hijacked and was being tracked on radar
the entire time it barreled toward the nation's military headquarters. (Each of
these facts is from the official 9-11 Commission Report.)
And you have
to believe that the Bush administration cover-ups that came next from denying
information requests from the commission, Congress, and criminal courts to telling
lies about its intelligence and actions were entirely about avoiding political
embarrassment or for some undisclosed national security reason, and that nothing
more ominous (or related to the geopolitics of oil) was remotely intertwined with
any of this.
You have to believe, in other words, that one of the most secretive
and manipulative administrations in U.S. history is telling the whole truth and
nothing but the truth about an event it has aggressively exploited to implement
long-standing and far-reaching political plans, from the USA PATRIOT Act to the
invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 9-11 truth movement has it own theories,
which range from the plausible to the preposterous. One of them goes like this:
A pair of Texas oilmen become president and vice president in 2000, thanks to
support from the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, and neoconservative
ideologues determined to have the United States retain its dominance as the last
Those political leaders and strategists believe the key
to continued U.S. economic and military supremacy indeed, the American
way of life is control of Eurasia and its vast oil reserves. It's a belief
they've openly expressed in lectures, papers, and books. And their meetings with
top energy officials confirm that the United States will need to have that control
sooner than later, despite rising anti-Americanism in an area that also happens
to be the center of the Islamic world.
They know the American people won't
support such crude empire building without some trigger, some "new Pearl
Harbor," as Dick Cheney's Project for the New American Century called it
in a paper it put out in 2000. So when they start getting intelligence briefings
with titles like "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.," they either
simply do nothing, or maybe some faction of them actively facilitates this attack
by the former Central Intelligence Agency asset's terrorist group.
this theory, you have to believe U.S. officials are willing to allow the deaths
of thousands of innocent people and to perpetuate a vast set of lies and
cover-ups in order to further what they consider to be vital U.S. strategic
and economic interests. Put another way, you have to believe the attacks of 9-11
could have been another in a long line of appalling events in U.S. history that
were manipulated and, in some cases, entirely fabricated as a pretext for war
from the sinking of the Maine to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
not terribly surprising that a lot of people including people who are by
no means crazy conspiracy theorists are willing to consider that possibility.
"The official story of 9-11 is a conspiracy theory," researcher Ken
Jenkins told the International Inquiry into 9-11, a conference activists staged
at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre a year ago. "So it's not a matter of whether
you believe in conspiracy theories, but a matter of which theory you believe."
To blindly believe the U.S. government at times
like these is to ignore history and dismiss warnings from people in positions
to know how power is really wielded in this country.
Even before President
Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in 1961 about the secretive power of "the
military-industrial complex," a significant segment of the public already
understood the world in those terms, employing what groundbreaking historian Richard
Hofstadter in 1952 dubbed the "paranoid style of political thought."
He didn't necessarily mean it in a derogatory way. As the old joke goes, just
because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
dawn of civilization, there have been people whose worldviews were formed by the
fear of enemies, real or imagined. But it was the 20th century that ushered in
conspiracy theories as an important form of political communication, used by people
to understand an increasingly complex world and by governments to manipulate their
It has little to do with ideology. Both Stalinist Russia and Nazi
Germany effectively used conspiracy theories to maintain their power. In the United
States, the paranoid style of political thought was most pervasive among conservatives,
starting with the Russian Revolution, but it spread across the political spectrum
after U.S. excesses in the cold war came to light.
Suddenly, it seemed crazy
not to be paranoid, as people were targeted by a series of terrifying plots by
mysterious forces: the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation's COINTELPRO, CIA-backed revolutions, medical and nuclear tests
conducted on unknowing citizens, the rise of deceptive advertising and public
relations campaigns, the recently declassified Operation Northwoods plan for the
CIA to stage the downing of a commercial airliner as a pretext for invading Cuba,
the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra.
The Muslim world was also given
good reason to be paranoid about covert U.S. influence as it watched the CIA help
install the Shah of Iran and the Saudi royal family before propping up and then
taking down Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In fact, many Muslims saw the first Gulf War
as nothing but a pretext for building U.S. military bases in the region, which
al-Qaeda cites as the reason for its terrorist attacks.
Under President George
W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the paranoid style of political thought
has become the dominant U.S. worldview, animating the administration's foreign
policy, its domestic suspension of civil liberties (and even its views on Social
Security), and the themes and language of the president's speeches which
are almost always based on the perception of threats to the American way of life.
Just consider this analysis from Hofstadter, which could today be applied equally
to bin Laden, Bush, and the 9-11 truth movement writers: "A feeling of persecution
is central to the paranoid style, but whereas the clinically paranoid person perceives
a world hostile and conspiratorial against him or herself, the spokesperson for
the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life
whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others," Hofstadter
wrote in his 1965 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." "His
sense that his political passions are unselfish and patriotic, in fact, goes far
to intensify his feeling of righteousness and his moral indignation."
The Movement Begins
Michael Ruppert approaches investigations like a cop, which
is what he was with the Los Angeles Police Department until 1978, when he says
he got mixed up in an elaborate plot involving the CIA, Iran, international smugglers
of arms and drugs, the Mafia, and the company Brown and Root, which (as Kellogg,
Brown, and Root) is now a subsidiary of Halliburton.
Ever since then, he has
been an investigator and journalist out on the political edge, using books, lectures,
and his From the Wilderness Web site (www.copvcia.com) to build the case that
the United States is run by a shadow government controlled by military and financial
elites, funded by laundered drug profits and control of world gold and oil supplies,
and bent on world domination.
So when 9-11 hit, Ruppert was one of the earliest
and strongest critics of the official story, laying the foundation and basic framework
for many truth movement researchers and writers who followed. All the 9-11 researchers
and activists interviewed for this story give credit to Ruppert.
argument is that there were just too many breakdowns in the intelligence and defense
systems, too many facts that can't be explained by the official theory, and too
clear a motive and opportunity for Cheney (whom Ruppert, like many of his allies,
believes is actually running the White House) to execute his imperial designs
for this to have been anything other than an inside job.
"When you get
to the bottom of all this, nobody did what they were supposed to be doing, and
it shows very clear criminally negligent behavior at best, and I think you have
a clear case for conspiracy," he told last year's conference in San Francisco.
That conference was convened by Brouillet, who told me she "knew it was
a cover-up from the very beginning" but really became the untiring hub of
the Bay Area's 9-11 truth movement in February 2002, after seeing Ruppert speak
in San Francisco.
Much of Ruppert's theory sheds light on aspects of the Bush administration's behavior that didn't make sense before.
Also involved from the beginning was longtime San Francisco
writer, poet, and activist Don Paul, who wrote a column for the San Francisco
Bay View newspaper a week after the attacks that said, "We can allow
the possibility that at least part of the U.S. government at least allowed the
attacks of 9-11."
Ruppert elaborated on his theories in the book Crossing
the Rubicon: The Decline of American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil,
which is divided into sections on motive, means, and opportunity.
Ruppert bristles at the "conspiracy theorist" label, his theories about
what happened on 9-11 can get pretty elaborate and hard to believe. He has argued
that some of the planes were actually remote-controlled from Building 7, which
was then demolished to destroy the evidence. He claims that a missile was actually
what hit the Pentagon, while Flight 77 was secretly diverted to an evacuated airport
in Cleveland, that the Twin Towers were felled by planned explosive demolitions
and that they were likely looted of gold and other valuables first, and that the
entire plot involved less than two dozen people.
Yet there is much of Ruppert's
theory that sheds some light on aspects of the Bush administration's behavior
that didn't make sense before. For example, many pundits have puzzled over why
Cheney has fought so voraciously to keep secret the records of the National Energy
Policy Development Group he convened shortly after taking office.
fought efforts by Congress, the General Accounting Office (which sued the White
House for the first time ever, backing off only after getting its budget threatened),
Judicial Watch, and the Sierra Club to get those records, taking it all the way
to the U.S. Supreme Court, which seemed strange for something as seemingly benign
as energy policy particularly given that the politically embarrassing revelation
of Enron's involvement had already been reported by the press.
postulates it was those meetings held between January and April of 2001
that confirmed for Cheney that the United States would face economic collapse
unless it was able to take effective control of Eurasia (including Afghanistan,
Uzbekistan, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia), where 60 percent of the world's
oil reserves lie.
And as was made clear years earlier by the Project for the
New American Century convened by Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliott Abrams,
Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and other powerful neocons such
a venture would require a "new Pearl Harbor" before the American people
would support it.
"I'm convinced the deepest, darkest secrets of 9-11
are buried in that task force," Ruppert told me.
The only records from
the task force that have been released, seven pages Judicial Watch persuaded a
judge to hand over, give a certain amount of credence to Ruppert's view. They
include detailed maps of the oil fields in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and
Saudi Arabia and projects and contractors involved with those fields.
men, led by Dick Cheney, chose what they thought was their only logical option.
I believe it seemed to them the 'right' thing to do; after all, it was only a
few thousand lives," Ruppert wrote. "I believe bin Laden was and remains
a CIA/U.S. Government/Wall Street asset. That would explain why he has never been
While Ruppert and a few other writers and
activists were developing and promoting their theories about what happened, the
Bush administration did little to try to advance or prove its own explanation
of the events of 9-11. In fact, the entire way the administration has operated
in the past five years has only given the conspiracy theorists more grist for
It's absolutely true, for example, that the government's theory
has never been subjected to the usual rigors applied to a case of mass murder.
The government has never sought to have any of its evidence heard in a court of
law. In fact, its refusal to make relevant witnesses and evidence available has
caused the only successful 9-11-related prosecution a German court's conviction
of Mounir el-Motassadeq on charges of helping alleged 9-11 ringleader Mohamed
Atta's terrorist cell in Hamburg to be overturned on appeal last year.
Even Zacarias Moussaoui an alleged coconspirator who acted suspiciously
at flight school and was arrested by Minneapolis FBI agents the month
before the attacks (agents who at the time told FBI headquarters they
were "trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into
the World Trade Center," according to testimony to the 9-11 Commission)
has been denied access to three key witnessses who are al-Qaeda
operatives in U.S. custody, as well as other government-held evidence,
but will face the death penalty anyway. His trial, the first related
to 9-11, could begin as early as September.
Congressional inquiries were obstructed and denied documents and testimony
by the White House, yet even with a cursory review of the intelligence documents
they could get, the hearings revealed the fact that the Bush administration had
received dozens of urgent, credible warnings that the attacks were coming.
now becomes clear why the Bush Administration has been vigorously opposing congressional
hearings," Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the only member of Congress who has consistently
challenged the White House over 9-11, wrote on Truthout.org in May 2002. "The
Bush Administration has been engaged in a conspiracy of silence. If committed
and patriotic people had not been pushing for disclosure today's revelations would
have been hidden by the White House."
Until then, Bush had opposed the
creation of an independent commission to look into 9-11, even though such commissions
have been formed immediately after every major U.S. tragedy, such as Pearl Harbor
and JFK's assassination. He finally bowed to political pressure from the victims'
families to allow the creation of a supposedly independent 9-11 Commission.
who did Bush name to head the commission? Henry Kissinger, the man who oversaw
more dastardly covert operations designed to further U.S. realpolitik interests
than any person alive, someone who can't even travel to many foreign countries
because he's sought as a material witness for so many ongoing war-crimes prosecutions.
If you're looking for someone to cover up your official misdeeds, Kissinger is
the man. Unfortunately for Bush, Kissinger refused to disclose his client lists
something required under federal conflict of interests laws so he
didn't get the job.
Instead, Republican Thomas Kean was picked to head the
commission, and for executive director, he chose one of Bush's own staffers,
Phillip Zelikow, a neoconservative hawk who had cowritten a book with then-national
security advisor Condoleezza Rice a key figure in the intelligence breakdown
who has since been promoted to secretary of state. Oh yeah, and she just
recently hired Zelikow as a member of her staff.
It's absolutely true that the government's theory has never been subjected to the usual rigors applied to a case of mass murder.
Zelikow and Kean were also nice enough to let Bush and Cheney both of whom 9-11 activists accuse of culpability in the attacks testify together, in private, and without being placed under oath. And even after all that, the administration used its executive authority to classify whole sections of both the commission and congressional reports, most notably the section on Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden and 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers are from.
Despite consistent denials that the administration
could have foreseen the attack, the New York Times recently reported on
a classified section of The 9-11 Commission Report from the spring of 2001
in which the Federal Aviation Administration warned airports that if "the
intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit
suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable" to a flight from overseas.
And the report that was released is riddled with
contradictions, conclusions unsupported by the facts, apologias for gross incompetence, and the omission of any facts that don't neatly fit with the official theory. It was, as a Harper's Magazine cover story labeled it, a "whitewash" that "defrauds the nation."
Investigation as Whitewash
are some obvious signs that the 9-11 Commission hadn't sought for its report "to
be independent, impartial, thorough, and nonpartisan," as the authors billed
it. Rather, it seemed to see its charge as providing a detailed proof of the government's
theory. One key sign is that it didn't actually try to investigate who really
hijacked those planes.
The 19 hijackers were identified by name on the morning
of 9-11, names that were taken from the passenger logs and haven't changed since.
But in the days after 9-11, several of those identified hijackers contacted a
variety of reputable news outlets including the Guardian of London,
the London Telegraph, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times,
the BBC, Arab News, and Asharq al-Awsat to say they were
alive and innocent.
One of those alleged hijackers, Waleed al-Shehri
whom the U.S. government says was one of two "Shehri brothers" who helped
crash Flight 11 into the World Trade Center told the BBC, other journalists,
and U.S. authorities just after the attacks that it was his picture in the papers
and that he had indeed attended flight school in Daytona Beach, Fla., during the
time the government says he did. But he was living in Morocco on 9-11 and working
as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Another alleged hijacker from the same
flight, Abdulaziz al-Omari, told journalists he had lost his passport while studying
Now, it's entirely possible the real hijackers had stolen the identities
of these and the five other identified hijackers who have turned up in various
press reports. Yet what's amazing is that the 9-11 Commission never even addressed
the issue and stated the identities and backgrounds of the hijackers (all gathered
from U.S. intelligence services) as if they were incontrovertible facts.
ambiguities would have really mucked up riveting prose like "As it began,
some of the hijackers most likely Wail al Shehri and Waleed al Shehri,
who were seated in row 2 in first class stabbed the two unarmed flight
attendants who would have been preparing for cabin service."
9-11 Commission Report wasn't really intended to be an investigation as much
as it was meant to bring closure to this terrible period, to reassure everyone
that the system worked, that problems were being fixed, and that everyone was
going to be OK. And in that respect, it was a phenomenal success.
with its built-in drama and relevance, spent weeks atop the best-seller lists
and was even a finalist for the National Book Award. Like all good conspiracy-theory
proofs, it explained everything in such staggering detail and such a tone of certainty
that the casual, uninformed reader came away feeling convinced.
Curiouser and Curiouser
Most people's understanding of 9-11 snapped into place at
some key moment, in most cases on that heart-wrenching morning as we watched the
unspeakable tragedy unfold. We accepted the dominant story because the alternatives
were too horrible to consider and we just haven't wanted to revisit it.
why haven't the mainstream media raised the possibility of official complicity,
or seriously questioned flaws in the official story?
"I think it's a good
question, but I don't think we have a good answer," said Aly Colón
of the Poynter Institute, a media foundation.
Modern standards of objective
journalism make it difficult to raise speculative questions that reflect badly
on official sources, but Colón said the galvanization of patriotism that
followed the 9-11 attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made it
even tougher for journalists to question the accepted reality of 9-11.
is more challenging now to raise these kinds of questions than it had been before,"
he told me.
But some items did break through the media filter, causing people
to reexamine their beliefs about 9-11. One was the commission's only true investigative
success: its overcoming of White House opposition to publicly releasing the Aug.
6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike
in U.S." It mentions "patterns of suspicious activity in this country
consistent with preparations for hijackings." Bush was handed the memo at
his ranch in Crawford, Texas, at the start of a monthlong vacation.
was the much-anticipated release of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9-11,
which carefully avoided suggesting official complicity in the attacks, taking
issue only with how the White House used the attacks to further its imperial agenda
and with Bush family ties to Saudi interests that might have facilitated the attacks.
But the film did expose people to the infamous video of Bush continuing to
read to schoolchildren even after being told by an aide that the second tower
had been hit and that "America is under attack." We all got to watch
our commander in chief do nothing for an unbearably long time as people were jumping
from the Twin Towers, a hijacked plane was barreling toward the Pentagon, and
Cheney was being whisked to a bunker by the Secret Service to take control of
Later, as the war waged in Iraq, it became increasingly clear
the White House had lied about that country's weapons of mass distraction. And
we learned from former White House terrorism expert Richard Clarke that the Iraq
plans had been laid on 9-11 even though the officials acknowledged Hussein wasn't
People began to take note. A Zogby poll taken just before last
year's Republican National Convention showed that 41 percent of New York State
residents, and 49 percent of New York City residents, agreed with the statement
that some U.S. officials "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or
around 9-11/01 and that they consciously failed to act."
A Fragmenting Movement
But as the public reached its pinnacle of being open to considering
alternative views of 9-11, the truth movement fractured into disparate subgroups,
each pushing its own pet theories, torn by internal divisions over strategy, and
unable to mount a cohesive strategy that would break through the din of election-year
Ruppert implored the attendees at last year's conference to keep
it simple and break down their theories into 20-minute presentations based on
direct evidence that U.S. officials had the motives, means, and opportunity, rather
than on complex analyses of the physical evidence.
"We have to find the
same sheet of music so we can sing the same notes," Ruppert told the crowd.
Yet against the backdrop of a bloody war in Iraq, a high-stakes presidential
race, and new 9-11 revelations unearthed by the commission and independent researchers,
his warning went unheeded. There was just too much juicy stuff coming from all
And frankly, the Rupperts of the world weren't doing themselves
any favors: their refusal to consider anything less than a grand conspiracy made
it hard for the press to take them seriously. In the wake of the presidential
election, Ruppert tells us he left the movement in frustration because "there's
no other public forum. There's no other place to go."
But other 9-11 activists
soldier on undeterred, just as their compatriots in the effort to uncover who
really killed JFK still meet to pore over the yellowing evidence of that crime.
Time may prove them correct just as polls now show most Americans don't
believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone but justice is probably a long way
Bay Area residents Don Paul and Jim Hoffman recently met me at Café
Abir in San Francisco to run through their evidence.
"Everywhere you probe,
you find a hole, and the more you probe the hole, the more other problems come
up," Paul told me, later adding, "Internal explosives must have brought
down the Twin Towers."
Paul and Hoffman deeply believe this to be true,
something they say is proved by the way the buildings fell straight down,
unslowed by their load-bearing steel frames and by the way fine powder
shot out the sides of the towers as they fell.
Having recently seen a PBS special
and read the Popular Mechanics investigation that tried to debunk the explosives
explanation and supported the government's "pancake theory" the
notion that the upper parts of the buildings crushed the lower floors into one
another I argued with them for a while: Why wouldn't the pressure of this
collapse cause the dust? Why haven't any reputable structural engineers supported
your theory? How could they have planted so many explosives without being noticed?
Pretty soon our heated conversation was drawing attention from people around
us, and random people started jumping in. And to my surprise, all of them expressed
doubts over the official 9-11 story.
"It did not go down the way they
said," bystander Eric Basher said. "I don't know if Bush did it, but
something isn't right here."
T. Jones is City Editor at the
San Francisco Bay Guardian.
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