Alameda Wiki War
Alameda civic politics recently took a leap into the surreal world of Internet campaigning with an anonymous YouTube smear campaign against Pat Bail, a “reform” candidate for the City Council (“Greetings from Alameda,” feature, 11/1). Now, the virtual stumping has migrated over to Wikipedia. For the last few weeks, Alameda resident and reform-slate supporter David Howard has been fighting a strange battle with an anonymous foe over the Web site’s entry for Measure A. The 1973 law limits the size of new housing construction, and is at the heart of discussions about the city’s future.
Howard claims that he first noticed a bad-faith edit in the Measure A entry just before the election, when someone with the handle “Argyriou” removed the arguments against reforming the old city charter amendment. “I noticed that he deleted the passages he doesn’t agree with,” Howard says. “I went back in and edited it in, and there is a self-governing body in Wikipedia that you can appeal to. I contacted them … to talk some sense into this guy.”
But according to Howard, the deletions continued: “We’ve gone back and forth on this a few times. He makes a change and he won’t contact me to explain why he did it.” When Howard tried to figure out who Argyriou was, he looked up his Wiki profile. There, in a truly bizarre twist, he found almost everything about Argyriou’s life except his name. Argyriou describes himself as a geotechnical engineer who’s interested in vintage dance, ragtime, anarcho-syndicalism, and Victorian architecture. “I’ve been involved with the article on Republic of Ragusa, trying to keep it from being totally rewritten in bad English by an Italian and Croatian nationalist,” Argyriou’s profile states.
It’s charming that we all have so many esoteric hobbies. Meanwhile, the fight has prompted the Wiki community at large to propose killing the entry altogether. — Chris Thompson
Taming the Riff-Raff
Oakland hip-hop clubs tend to make more money than their jazz and blues counterparts, but they’re also beset with problems. Before John Ivey shut down Mingles Martini & Champagne Lounge last week, the owner faced a spate of hearings to revoke his cabaret license, and saw his name in the papers every time a shooting occurred within two blocks of his club. Sweet Jimmie’s, Mingles’ uptown counterpart, closed its doors in April, after owner Jimmie Ward and his son David (aka Sweets) got tired of catching flak from police and city officials. “In all their attempts to shut us down, it just wasn’t worth the gamble,” Sweets explained in a recent interview, indicating that he and his dad decided to sell after their second hearing in October 2005. “My father decided to get some money out of it instead of giving it away for nothing.”
The new owners want to open yet another hip-hop club, Tycoons, in the old Sweet Jimmie’s location at 17th Street and San Pablo Avenue, and resist comparisons to Mingles or the nearby @17th. They tout Tycoons as “upscale” — a label he hopes will inoculate it against the negative press that has plagued other hip-hop clubs. In keeping with the theme, they have given the space a serious makeover. According to Sweets, they’ve rebuilt the stage, painted the whole building, torn out the window bars, and installed a new sound system to make their club resemble the joints in San Francisco. The ex-owner’s son is cautiously optimistic. In reality, Sweets says, Tycoons’ viability depends on whether the owners are willing to sacrifice the sex appeal of a hyphy club in order to attract a more “mature” hip-hop crowd.
That starts with implementing a stringent dress code, meaning no jeans or tennis shoes. “A lot of people don’t really like wearing suits,” Sweets explains. “I’m one. If I can’t get in the way I’m dressed, I just won’t come.” He adds that it’s not hard to catch troublemakers on their way in, because they usually carry just enough money for the cover charge. “The riff-raffs don’t have money,” Sweets says. “They be drunk before they get there, and they just have money to get in.” He used to weed them out, he says, by charging an extra $15 atop the normal cover for dress-code violators.
The ultimate defense against hyphy, Sweets says, is to play a varied soundtrack that places Michael Jackson and Nelly alongside E-40. “If you see the crowd getting too hyphy and starting to stand on chairs, you play an R&B song. Don’t throw on another hyphy song,” he says. “Ain’t nobody getting hyphy standing on chairs to no Michael Jackson. They might do one of them sexy dances, but no hyphy.” — Rachel Swan
Pay Me, You Motherf**ker Not long ago, this paper published a profile of John Mancini, a civilian defense worker stationed in Iraq and Kuwait who was one of the first two congressional whistleblowers to expose Halliburton’s alleged practice of overbilling the government, to the tune of as much as $1.4 billion (“Soldiers of Misfortune,” feature, 10/4). A few days after the issue came out, Mancini apparently flipped out and barricaded himself in his house, the Arizona Republic reported, and he threatened to shoot any cops who came in the front door. He was eventually apprehended, and although his phone is no longer working, his friend Barbara Friedkin says Mancini told her his prescription cocktail of morphine and antidepressants was recently altered. According to Bonnie Mancini, the mother of Mancini’s second child, the police found 18,000 rounds of ammunition in the house, in addition to his dog, which had been shot and injured.
In the news biz, this is one of those episodes that tends to, shall we say, reduce a source’s credibility, although much of Mancini’s story was confirmed by his fellow whistleblower Henry Bunting, ex-wife Susan Mancini, and a source at Congressman Henry Waxman’s office. In addition, Halliburton representatives did not return calls seeking comment for the story, and officials with his last employer, Pleasanton’s Procurement Services Associates, refused to discuss the matter. PSA’s lawyer faxed over a copy of a brief prepared during the course of mediating a financial dispute with Mancini; the brief did not dispute the essential elements of Mancini’s story, but merely took issue with whether the company was liable for any further medical expenses. Nonetheless, Mancini’s crisis may explain an e-mail he apparently sent to PSA officials, a copy of which was faxed to us too late for publication in the original story. Sensitive readers had best stop here, because this e-mail ain’t pretty.
In a message titled “Pay me you Motherfucker,” Mancini allegedly wrote, “If you think shock and awe was something in Iraq you haven’t experienced a heavily medicated, morbidly obese, old New York Italian, with attitude, who knows where you live. You will go down and i will ripe [sic] your head off and piss into your bleeding, gasping, lifeless body then shit in your mouth and you will sell your wife and children into white slavery to make certain I collect my money. … I will make you regret your faggot father ejaculated into the slut of a woman known as your mother. … If I get mad, or even mildly upset you will be selling your smooth white ass to niggers with AIDS just to pay me because NOT paying me is NOT an option.” Nice, huh? — Chris Thompson
The full text of the e-mail is reproduced below.
In a message titled, “Pay me you Motherfucker,” Mancini allegedly wrote, “I will be filing liens on all your assets, personal liability fuckhead, I will seize all your equipment if you think shock and awe was something in Iraq you haven’t experienced a heavily medicated, morbidly obese, old New York Italian, with attitude, who knows where you live. You will go down and i will ripe [sic] your head off and piss into your bleeding, gasping, lifeless body then shit in your mouth and you will sell your wife and children into white slavery to make certain I collect my money.
“NON PAYMENT is not an option you want to pursue. You would rather be Saddam’s double with my friends at CACI they know how to soften a prisoner, but I am a quick learner.
“They buy human organs, for cash You DON’T want me after you I will make you regret your faggot father ejaculated into the slut of a woman known as your mother.
“You are Very lucky I am just agitated, If I get mad, or even mildly upset you will be selling your smooth white ass to niggers with AIDS just to pay me because NOT paying me is NOT an option. I am undergoing massive pain therapy, with prescribed medication sell your soul to the devil cause if it don’t work, God can’t protect you I will be after you and all your fucking officers of the corporation. I will place your organs on Ebay, and if the debt still has a balance you will be ground up for dog food.”