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Willie Brown, San Francisco's only black mayor (1996-2004) and a fixture in local politics for more than 40 years, has popped up as the Chronicle's latest columnist. Brown's first offering reads like a mix of Herb Caen and Dave Winer — short, first-person musings on current events, ending with a namedrop of Willie's rich neighbors at the St. Regis. It's pro forma to hate on Brown in San Francisco, even though he helped legalize oral sex and badgered President Clinton to leave the city's pot clubs alone. Willie's real crime? He always plays to win, and he usually does. For most politicos, a newspaper column would signal early retirement. In Brown's case, I can't wait to see how he parlays the Chron gig into his next big score. (Photo by AP/Eric Risberg)