Thursday, March 31, 2005

Editor Hooked to VegOmatic

Regardless how one feels about the Terri Schiavo imbroglio, Diana Diamond's editorial in today's paper reveals a surprising level of ignorance.
"Terri Schiavo's story moved the nation, because it dealt with the ultimate definitions of what life is. If a person is not conscious, if a person is brain dead, is that life? If a person can live only with the assistance of a machine, is that life or is it artificial life?"--Diana Diamond

Can it be that Diamond thinks any of those applied to Sciavo? This* answers such questions and in so doing indicates how little effort some members of the press put into the story?

*Real One Player needed. Download player here.

Hot Off the Press

With a name like 'The Burning Squirrel Report' you can hardly expect anything other than appreciation for news photos that involve fires. Today we see a truck on fire in Los Altos. Still, the news value of a vehicle fire is suspect. Enterprising editors might justify ways of using these pictures by turning the event into a profit center. The lunchtime edition might find this useful.

Improvements Noted

As compared with yesterday, the editors offered up a much improved front page story selection. A local paper should favor local news--as they've done today.

That said, consistent with the Daily News' history, staying away from the UN Oil for Food scandal shows a pattern of hiding significant news for what would appear to be partisan motives. The first time the story appeared in the paper was not as news but in a William Safire column. This was significantly larger and more immoral than Enron. It allowed the arming of a tyrant who ensured that his people died in order to exert pressure designed to do away with the UN embargo. It's a neat trick to both promote UN decisions and then turn a blind eye when they become subverted by UN officials.

Yesterday's article about the Boy Scout official only involved charges dating back to March 21st. Following publication of that story he was convicted. If the story was important enough to receive above the masthead treatment yesterday, why no follow up today? Is the ten day lag rule still in effect?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Left Behind

Some days you look at the front page story selection and wonder whether stories were selected at random. But on any given day looking at the front page of a newspaper can tell you alot about what editors think about the news. A story positioned at the top or one with bold type or stories with photos all tell readers what the editors felt were important. Editors are also aware that readers like a mix articles in order to draw in readers with different interests--some local others national. Today, for instance, the Daily News has the following front page story headlines as they appeared from top left to bottom right--I leave it to you to decide if the bicycle story or the new HP/CEO has a greater level of local interest:
  • "Ex-Scout exec is sex suspect"
  • "Inventor's bicycles recovered"
  • "Defeated" (Stanford women's basketball)
  • "Debris project resisted"
  • "Johnnie Cochran Jr., who won acquittal for O.J. Simpson dies at 67 (see story page 9)"
  • "Hewlett-Packard names new president, CEO"
Frequently, stories miss the front page that are none-the-less important. Among those today are the following:
  • "Accused officer on stand"
  • "Court to reconsider Schiavo"
  • "Pope may have to have feeding tube"
  • "Committee releases storm drain donors"
Story selection is a judgement call. Some days are better than others. Today that judgement was extremely poor. The story deemed unworthy of coverage appeared prominently on the front page of the New York Times and details a report commissioned by the United Nations about a multi-billion dollar fraud involving the Secretary General, his son, the head of the UNs Oil For Food Program, shredding of thousands of potentially relevant documents, and persistent sexual abuse by UN personnel. Maybe the editors are right--you wouldn't be interested in that.

This is that report.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Public Servants

A page 14 story about a truck overturning and spilling wine in Sonoma County uses CHP officer Dill Brewer as its source. The story also mentions that clean up was done by the Department of Fish and Game. Of course they would be most helpful in trying to figure out what sort of animal to serve with the wine.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Home Cooking

Along with increasing frequency of mountain lion sightings in the area comes word that a bill has been introduced into the state assembly that would allow sport hunting of the animal in California where it has been off limits. Other states, notably Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Washington, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa have seen an increase in mountain lion populations too. Recent sightings on the peninsula, especially in a Palo Alto neighborhood last spring, have lead to concerns ranging from trapping and moving to shooting them outright. This is sure to be controversial. As a compromise, I suggest a hunting license be issued to Michael Schiavo. In the future, feline references could appear on the menu at The Old Pro. It may take some time--so play it safe and bring your own feeding tube.

Riding Shotgun With Frank Rich

It sure is tough getting Frank Rich to focus, 'God racketeer, from deMille to Delay' on the opinion page. Rich takes readers on a reckless ride through his dream world with a column crashing its way past show business references, bashing into religion, not to mention the multiple story lines colliding into one another. Like a demolition derby, this column is difficult to unsort and Rich seems intent on destroying his own fevered thesis.
"At a time when government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat for an emboldend religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma (pause to catch breath), the half-forgotten show business history of 'The Ten Commandments' provides a telling back story."

Rich uses this to get to the point that various displays of the Ten Commandments were installed in the 50s as a promotion for the movie by the same name and the Supreme Court is considering whether they can legally remain on government property. He then suggests this is an example of minority religious views being forced on the public but he seems to forget that the case is about removing the display not installing it. If anything religious views are under assault--not the other way around. Turning to the Schiavo matter Rich says the following;
"Within hours he (Bush) turned Ms. Schiavo into a slick applause line at a Social Security rally. "It is wise to always err on the side of life," he said, wisdom that apparently had not occurred to him in 1999, when he mocked the failed pleas for clemency of Karla Faye Tucker..."

Frank Rich feels the rule of law is threatened and he uses an example of then Governor Bush allowing the law to prevail in the execution of an axe murderer. Is Rich now saying that Bush should have overturned Texas court decisions based on his religious views?

One can forgive the sense of looking through a broken windshield given off by this column. After serving as theater critic for the New York Times, Frank Rich was installed as a regular columnist on the op-ed pages of the Times. Then Rich was put back to writing about cultural issues. Earlier this month he was returned to the op-ed pages and now he's got to be wondering about where he is and where he's going.

Note: Regular readers of The New York Times will recognize this familiar story telling device. "At a time when (insert frowned upon activity here), the administration has said (insert statement unrelated to the frowned upon activity as if to say there is some connection between them)." This device is nearly always an opportunity to convey opinion.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


A corrrection appeared on page 4 that reads:
"A story appearing yesterday about a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a boy who claimed to have been manhandled by a Palo Alto police officer incorrectly stated the number of tickets that the officer named in the suit had issued within a 36 month period.

The article stated that the officer Brad Kilpatrick had issued 17 helmet violation tickets to whites and three helmet violation tickets to blacks--two of those tickets to the same boy, Jameel Douglas.

The article should have stated that Kilpatrick had issued 12 helmet violation tickets to whites."
This is a federal lawsuit which means that it is a civil rights case and, if the report is accurate, whites would be the object of racial profiling since they were singled out disproportionate to their percent of the local population. Of course it could also mean that they're not as bright for not wearing helmets.

Tom Talks to the Squirrel

The Sunday paper has this Tom Friedman column:
(BSR comments in red)

TF: How will future historians explain it? How will they possibly explain why President George W. Bush decided to ignore the energy crisis staring us in the face and chose instead to spend all his electoral capital on a futile effort to undo the New Deal, by partially privatizing Social Security? We are, quite simply, witnessing one of the greatest examples of misplaced priorities in the history of the U.S. presidency.

BSR: Yoo-hoo, Mr. Friedman, over here. The president's energy policy has been announced and already you've forgotten. Your complaint seems more inclined undo his efforts to reform social security. Walking does not necessarily mean not chewing gum.

TF: "Ah, Friedman, but you overstate the case." No, I understate it. Look at the opportunities our country is missing - and the risks we are assuming - by having a president and vice president who refuse to lift a finger to put together a "geo-green" strategy that would marry geopolitics, energy policy and environmentalism.

BSR: Geo-green you say? Of course you refer to chapter 3. Protecting America's Environment and chapter 8. Strengthing Global Alliances of the president's energy policy. Consider fingers lifted.

TF: By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases. The oil boom is also entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, which is becoming Castro's Cuba with oil.

BSR: So if I have this right, if we only get oil from non-terrorist sources, terrorists wouldn't have any money? And in the process we wouldn't kill our economy?

FT:By doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are also setting up a global competition with China for energy resources, including right on our doorstep in Canada and Venezuela. Don't kid yourself: China's foreign policy today is very simple - holding on to Taiwan and looking for oil.

BSR: Last week you said. "I am not a China basher. We need to engage China, and help accommodate its rising power with the world system, but the only way to do that is from a position of strength." I understand--that was last week.

TF: Finally, by doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are only hastening the climate change crisis, and the Bush officials who scoff at the science around this should hang their heads in shame. And it is only going to get worse the longer we do nothing. Wired magazine did an excellent piece in its April issue about hybrid cars, which get 40 to 50 miles to the gallon with very low emissions. One paragraph jumped out at me: "Right now, there are about 800 million cars in active use. By 2050, as cars become ubiquitous in China and India, it'll be 3.25 billion. That increase represents ... an almost unimaginable threat to our environment. Quadruple the cars means quadruple the carbon dioxide emissions - unless cleaner, less gas-hungry vehicles become the norm."

BSR: Stop. You started by scolding the president about US policy. Now you want him to control China and India too? Even Kyoto gave China and India a pass.

TF: All the elements of what I like to call a geo-green strategy are known:

We need a gasoline tax that would keep pump prices fixed at $4 a gallon, even if crude oil prices go down. At $4 a gallon (premium gasoline averages about $6 a gallon in Europe), we could change the car-buying habits of a large segment of the U.S. public, which would make it profitable for the car companies to convert more of their fleets to hybrid or ethanol engines, which over time could sharply reduce our oil consumption.

BSR: I don't know about you Tom, but $2.50 a gallon does it for me. Now that you've taken a shine to price controls what else might we raise prices on?

TF:We need to start building nuclear power plants again. The new nuclear technology is safer and cleaner than ever. "The risks of climate change by continuing to rely on hydrocarbons are much greater than the risks of nuclear power," said Peter Schwartz, chairman of Global Business Network, a leading energy and strategy consulting firm. "Climate change is real and it poses a civilizational threat that [could] transform the carrying capacity of the entire planet."

BSR: Agreed, we should build new nuclear energy plants as it says in Chapter 5. Energy for a New Century. When you say WE, do you mean the US government building nuclear power plants? Consider the unlikely prospect of both business and environmentalists teaming up against that.

TF: And we need some kind of carbon tax that would move more industries from coal to wind, hydro and solar power, or other, cleaner fuels. The revenue from these taxes would go to pay down the deficit and the reduction in oil imports would help to strengthen the dollar and defuse competition for energy with China.

BSR: Someone has to break it to Senator Sheets about that coal tax. As long as we're talking about hydo power you did see this didn't you?

TF: It's smart geopolitics. It's smart fiscal policy. It is smart climate policy. Most of all - it's smart politics! Even evangelicals are speaking out about our need to protect God's green earth. "The Republican Party is much greener than George Bush or Dick Cheney," remarked Mr. Schwartz. "There is now a near convergence of support on the environmental issue. Look at how popular [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, a green Republican, is becoming because of what he has done on the environment in California."

BSR: Smart, smart, smart...careful, patting yourself on the back you could pull a muscle. The crack about the Republican's being greener than George Bush serves your purposes, but you seem unaware that for all Governor Schwarzenegger's green policies it matters little to his opponents.

TF: Imagine if George Bush declared that he was getting rid of his limousine for an armor-plated Ford Escape hybrid, adopting a geo-green strategy and building an alliance of neocons, evangelicals and greens to sustain it. His popularity at home - and abroad - would soar. The country is dying to be led on this. Instead, he prefers to squander his personal energy trying to take apart the New Deal and throwing red meat to right-to-life fanatics. What a waste of a presidency. How will future historians explain it?

BSR: Armor plating a Ford Escape is one sure way to kill fuel efficiency. Oh, and...nice gratuitous shot at right-to-lifers. This comes right after talking about building alliances--does anyone edit your copy?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

I see a lot of people like that.

Police Blotter--Thursday, 3000 block of El Camino Real, 1:45p.m.: An Atherton man reported that someone had stolen his identity.

Say No, Details Later

Tom Elias has an op-ed column that takes Schwarzenegger to task for "blurring real life and the world of the imagination" and stitches together the following grievences:
  • The governor gave a speech to travel industry investors that had Hollywood production values.
  • The governor prepared media reports that promoted his agenda.
  • The governor said using steroids was a bad idea but didn't regret using them nor did he shun a bodybuilding event produced under his name.
  • The governor traded on his body builder image to become wealthy.
  • The governor has a friend with a phony image.
So what would Elias want us to do with this information? First, don't be confused by fantasy, and then, don't vote for anything the governor wants. By following Tom Elias' list of items that have nothing to do with ballot measures you can save yourself alot of time mulling over issues. Let Tom blurr reality for you.

Accentuate the Negative, Eliminate the Positive

When the Daily News reports on the California Governor it isn't hard to know what they think. When they don't report it you still know what they think.

Saturday--page 8,' Widows at rally angry with governor's policies'. This is about those who oppose changes to the state employee pension plan. Speaking out against the plan is state Senator Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, widows of police and firefighters and an official of the firefighters union. Speaking on behalf of the governor's position is............

Okay, what's the plan? According to the story the governor proposes to pay widows of public safety officials a lump sum payment in lieu of a monthly check. Left out of the discussion is what the lump sum payment is and how it compares with the monthly check. Apparently, the governor got up one day and felt like making some changes for no particular reason--at least nothing you'd care to read about.

The Daily News cares what various protesters think about the governor, but a superior court decision on Friday that favored the governor had no news value.
"A Superior Court judge cleared the way for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to raise unlimited cash to promote his agenda to voters, ruling Friday that the state's political watchdog improperly limited donations for ballot measures.

The ruling overturned a Fair Political Practices Commission regulation that would have restricted Schwarzenegger's efforts to raise $50 million for a package of constitutional amendments he wants to put before voters in the fall.

Schwarzenegger and political allies sued the commission earlier this month to overturn the limits on contributions to ballot measure committees controlled by a candidate. Judge Shelleyanne Chang agreed that the rule conflicted with the constitutional right to participate in the political process."
--Tom Chorneau, AP
Clearing the way for more fundraising as hypocrisy stories.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Lip Service

Friday, page 6, 'Governor's event draws protesters'.
"A crowd of roughly 2500 angry schoolteacher, firefighters, union workers, nurses...gathered yesterday outside downtown San Jose's swanky Fairmont Hotel where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was inside holding a fund-raiser."
Each of the groups mentioned in the article were union workers. Their anger was in support of union causes. What purpose is served by mentioning 'union workers' as a separate group?

Last week Governor Schwarzenegger spoke at Stanford. Reporter Jean Whitney cast admiring glances at the manicure of one of those in attendance. Today we learn that the governor's staffers were tight-lipped. Although lip action of the union protesters was not discussed in the article, it could fairly be concluded that their lips were considerably looser.

Finger Food

Friday, page 2--'Finger's source sought'. A Wendy's in San Jose reported that a customer found a partial finger in her chili. (The photo shows a cup of chili with the words Rich & Meaty printed on the side.) An investigation turned up no missing fingers at the San Jose restaurant and according to officials "All employees digits were accounted for..." which we understand to mean that the fingers were on worker's hands. Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch added, "All of our employees have 10 digits." Aside from wondering whether that will show up in company advertising, perhaps the question should many digits did they start out with?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Army Corps of Artists

Much has been said about flooding along the San Francisquito Creek. Little has been actually done in the last seven years about the problem beyond forming new commissions, holding hearings and producing studies. Now we learn that the Army Corps of Engineers (Thursday, page 6) wants to resolve matters further downstream at the bay outflow. So this is good news right?

Soon after the flooding, residents affected by the flood wanted to remove upstream impediments such as the artificial narrowing caused by the Chaucer Street bridge. At that time residents were assured that unless problems were fixed upstream, on watershed land, and downstream where the flooding occured, altering the bridge would only lead to more flooding. At that time the Army Corps of Engineers had already been working on upstream issues for over 30 years--with nothing to show for it.

Communities of problem solvers who also like to pride themselves on a measure of visual sophistication will therefore appreciate the following useful solutions:
  1. link
  2. link
  3. link
  4. link

Making the Grade

The auto accident that lead to a car being struck by a passing CalTrain at the Charleston Road crossing now ping pongs into a discussion about underpasses. Grade separations would create safer crossings as well as relieve traffic congestion and create a faster CalTrain commute--all good. Neighbors counter that reasoning with concern for construction problems as well as the feeling that it would lead to more traffic.

Viewing the grade separation work done in San Carlos provides a handy example of what Palo Alto might be likely to see. As more people become aware of that, expect a new objection to develop--in some cases grade separation work requires train tracks be built at a higher level. This essentially splits the difference between the underpass and the overpass. Effectively a wall would be built between the east and west side of the tracks. Where there is a border there is the possiblility of conflict. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hypocrisy Watch

The Daily News does worry about hypocrisy quite a bit. Larry Magid's editorial on the Schiavo case made hypocrisy his focus. Hypocrisy as thematic material is offered up in twice on Tuesday, page 1, 'Governor accused of fund-raising hypocrisy' and in Nicholas Kristof's column on page 13, 'Hypocrisy costing lives in Zimbabwe'. Having never witnessed death by hypocrisy I would have to defer to Kristof's unique perspective. (Note: The New York Times headlines Kristof's op-ed column differently--'A Morsel of Goat Meat')

As for Governor Schwarzenegger, he was widely quoted as saying that he wouldn't be captive to special interest fundraising and he is getting funds from special interests. That's hypocritical. The governor says he is doing so in order to take his initiatives directly to voters as an end run around the legislators and not to change policy to favor donors. Special interests opposed to Schwarzenegger are free to raise whatever funds they wish--free of hypocrisy.

However, could it be that hypocrisy is merely a useful method when opposing Schwarzenegger's goals. In other words, if the Daily News supported the Governor's objectives would they have any need for the hypocrisy angle? I'm trying to think of a word for that.

Burning Man letter writer (Tues. page 13) Robert Burns of Mountain View mad at Republicans. His description reads; "despicable as the Taliban...imposing extreme provisions of Islamic law...ultra conservative Christian theocracy...religious zealots". And why is Mr. Burns so..burned up? He doesn't want Republicans interferring with Terri Schiavo's life.

Leaving aside whether Mr. Burns disparages Ms Schiavo's own religious beliefs as well as the failure of her husband to produce the living will that would have resolved the matter, the Burning Squirrel feels Mountain View's Robert Burns might sooth his savage breast by reading Scotland's Robert Burns:

Here's to Thy Health

Here's to thy health, my bonie lass,
Gude nicht and joy be wi' thee;
I'll come nae mair to thy bower-door,
To tell thee that I lo'e thee.
O dinna think, my pretty pink,
But I can live without thee:
I vow and swear I dinna care,
How lang ye look about ye.

Thou'rt aye sae free informing me,
Thou hast nae mind to marry;
I'll be as free informing thee,
Nae time hae I to tarry:
I ken thy frien's try ilka means
Frae wedlock to delay thee;
Depending on some higher chance,
But fortune may betray thee.

I ken they scorn my low estate,
But that does never grieve me;
For I'm as free as any he;
Sma' siller will relieve me.
I'll count my health my greatest wealth,
Sae lang as I'll enjoy it;
I'll fear nae scant, I'll bode nae want,
As lang's I get employment.

But far off fowls hae feathers fair,
And, aye until ye try them,
Tho' they seem fair, still have a care;
They may prove waur than I am.
But at twal' at night, when the moon shines bright,
My dear, I'll come and see thee;
For the man that loves his mistress weel,
Nae travel makes him weary.

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

He Thought He was at a Raiders Game

Saturday's editorial taking the Palo Alto police chief to task for supporting two officers left out some details that got added today. Officers Craig Lee and Michael Kan asked to see the identification of Albert Hopkins whom they considered a suspicious person. Hopkins refused the request and in the process of removing him from his vehicle he was injured. Today we learn that Hopkins, according to Lee and Kan's attorney, was 'rude, hostile, angry assaultive, profane'--but not cooperative. Later, Hopkins charged the officers with racism. It would be interesting to find out what some of Hopkins well-chosen words included. There just may be a racism angle to the story.

Note: The headline 'Lawyer: Conduct brought beating' seems to imply that Hopkins was beaten--not injured while being subdued. The difference being that beating someone because of the language they use would not be acceptable police behavior.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Magid on Hypocrisy

Larry Magid writes knowledgably about technology and health issues for the Daily News. But today he is given space for an editorial comment on the Terri Schiavo matter. To his credit Magid doesn't pretend to know more about the case than the most diligent reporter; his effort is directed towards ferreting out political hypocricy. Magid feels groups--'the religious right'--that establish a framework from which to base decisions on a variety of issues, should adhere to this framework in all cases. Failure to do so brings on the charge of hypocrisy--surely one of the most heinous charges that can be made.

Magid feels that because 'the religious right' has expressed a high regard for the life of the brain damaged Terri Schiavo, they should therefore sign-up to all forms of legislation that contribute to health and safety, including lower priced drugs for seniors. How convienient, how sweeping, how without regard to possible problems. For instance; A group supporting the slow starvation of Schiavo they would then, for the sake of consistancy, be obligated to allow starvation as an appropriate means to carry out the death penalty--or suffer being labeled a hypocrite.

Magid is free to make up his mind on a variety of issues using whatever complex thoughts he decides to use. His decisions shouldn't have to meet an unchanging litmus test. Unfortunately, Magid does not want others to have this choice.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Diamond in the Rough

The kinder and gentler Daily News under the guidance of Diane Diamond is made clear from a story that formerly would have made a larger splash; 'Mummified body found in kitchen' was only able to make it to page 4.

90 Day Travel Advisory

Sunday, page 5; Police in East Palo Alto have announced that they will be tracking down and arresting people with outstanding warrents. Five people were arrested in raids on Friday and four or five other raids are expected during the next 90 days--afterwhich criminals are hereby alterted that the coast will be clear.

The report does not specify the race of any of those arrested nor does it indicate how police will avoid being charged with racial profiling should the long hand of the law fall disproportionately. Now might be a good time to review your travel plans and how they fit in with your racial make-up.

LaRussa Neuters Dogs Not Ballplayers

A story on page 3 of Sunday's paper announces that the Peninsula Humane Society and the SPCA are holding 'Pit Fix Day 2005'. The event will be for the purpose of spay or neutering pet pit bull dogs. Several agencies including Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation will be providing funds for the surgeries. Considering the sorry display by Mr. LaRussa's bash brothers at last week's congressional hearings on steroids in baseball, one has to wonder why he didn't find it necessary to fix that problem when it was under his nose.

Blotter Paper

Atherton, Thursday
  • First block of Linda Vista Ave., 7:24 p.m.:A resident reported seeing a woman climbing over his fence. When he approached her, she said she was doing a survey. Police contacted the woman, who indentified herself as a Sierra Club solicitor who had got herself locked into the property and had to jump over the fence to get out.
  • Dinkelspiel Train Station, 8:51 a.m.: Police received reports of a suspicious looking man pushing a wheelchair on the train tracks. he was described as white, 6 feet tall, with a coat and a towel on his head. Police were unable to locate the suspicious man.
  • 100 block of Watkins Ave., 10:06 p.m.: A police officer saw some suspicious activity in the park and stopped two people. They told him that they were playing hide and seek.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Shame on You

After reading Friday's editorial dealing with Palo Alto police chief Lynne Johnson the only conclusion rational readers could come to is that the editorial writer is irresponsible or crazy.

The editorial claims that Chief Johnson has put her job on the line because she has backed the findings of an internal investigation of a case involving Palo Alto resident Albert Hopkins, who, according to reports, refused a request to show identification to police officers. Hopkins claimed he had the right not to produce identification because he had not broken any laws. (Try that one where you live.) Subsequently, Hopkins was injured at the hands of the officers. Hopkins has also leveled unsubstantiated charges of racism. Against the findings of an internal investigation the editorial writer accepts at face value Mr. Hopkins' version of events. On these claims the paper expects Chief Johnson to be staking her future. Nowhere does the editorial say where the paper gets the authority to make such a claim.

In order to bolster their opinion that the chief is wrong to speak in support her officers, the paper lists four recent cases of police activity on the Peninsula; none involve the Palo Alto police department and none involve the officers in the Hopkins case. The paper fails to say how these other cases apply to Palo Alto or chief Johnson. Moreover, the paper is willing to use cases still under investigation or those in which officers were cleared in order to cast the police department in a bad light--which speaks volumes about their contempt for police officers.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Tone Down, Town Deaf

The announcement this week that Diana Diamond would be assuming the job as executive editor was met with favorable nods from the Burning Squirrel Report. Diamond, to our ears, is sensible, which isn't to say that from time to time we don't have our differences. Case in point;
"I will be the first to admit that the Daily News has run some pretty sensational headlines, which I hope to tone down considerably."
--Diana Diamond
Big mistake double D.; consider the name of this blog. Where'd you think that came from? When newspapers get written to impress their owners they lose touch with their readers. Now go out and find more gorilla stories.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bulk Mail

"Everyday while I am sitting in front of Whole Foods Market, panhandling for dinner...", starts a letter today from veteran homeless guy Victor Frost. Frost goes on to discuss political delusions, peanut butter, homeless gardens and jobs--all without resorting to irony. Frost is a frequent letter writer as can be expected from someone of leasure. Expectations being as they are, its somewhat surprising that Frost has resorted to recycling this very same letter; previously it appeared in the Palo Alto Weekly. Frost ends his letter with advice for mayor Burch; "It's time for Jim to get to work." Advice better given than taken.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Funny Papers

Tuesday a letter writer Jan Lyman took issue with the 'anti-reporter' cartoon printed above. The writer offered a serious rebuttal to the rather benign Dan Rather cartoon and compared his mis-reporting to statements made by President Bush, including references to 'dancing in the streets of Baghdad when the U.S. troops comes in (sic)."

Today the same cartoonist, Dana Summers of the Orlando Sentinal, appears with a cartoon comparing blossoming democracy in the Middle East with the Chinese threat to democracy on Taiwan. Hmm, perhaps the critical letter writer forgot to update her anti-Bush sentiments with what is happening today. Pretend all this democracy talk arrived without the encouragement of a U.S. president. Pretend dancing did not happen in Baghdad following the invasion--just as it isn't happening in Beirut.

Of course if you insist on cartoon accuracy, let's have a look back at this cartoon by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe (another Daily News favorite) published prior to the Iraq elections incorrectly predicting massive death. Wasserman quickly acknowledged his error.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Jean Whitney has a front page story about Governor Schwarzenegger's appearance on MSNBC's Hardball program broadcast Monday from Memorial Auditorium at Stanford. Whitney covers both the governors comments and those of his supporters as well as the people gathered with various grievences including nurses, teachers, firefighters and embittered students that were not able to get into the program.

Whitney describes those allowed in as "...well-groomed 30-somethings climbing into late-model cars." She also takes note of the manicure of one of the attendees Christina Benitez. A photo run with the article shows one person wearing a Schwarzenegger mask and two others have what appear to be pig masks, but Whitney's account does not mention the masks nor how they are manicured or what kind of vehicles they arrived in.

Thus we have a template for future reporting. Will we now note the shine on Bern Beecham's cowboy boots or will comments on Mayor Burch's bicyle be in order? Apparently the new nail salons on California Avenue are in for more business.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Old News Fresh for Lunch

The Daily News late morning edition made it's debut today. Given time it may prove worthwhile, especially when a story breaks after the morning edition has been put to bed. Today seemed more like reshuffing the deck than rolling out news. The thinness of of the late edition isn't very satisfying but that could change. It's advertised as coming out just before lunch. Which, no doubt, means they've calculated out how much a noontime reader can stomach.

Big city newspapers used to print various editions throughout the day. Distribution was usually accomplished using news vendors in downtown areas. Next, the Daily News should bring back street corner newsies shouting out headlines from the latest edition; fight cutting edge internet news distribution with retro-news. Taking it a step further, and eschewing sissy editorial snipping (wink), the two local papers could stage raids on the other's news racks using hired thugs with shady union backgrounds--smokers no less.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Columbo of Atherton

Police Blotter, page 2. Atherton, Thursday, 500 block of Fletcher Drive, 10:33 p.m.: A resident reported seeing a suspicious looking person driving a dark-colored Toyota pickup truck going through recycling bins. The resident told police that the suspicious person stole recyclables every other Thursday night around 11 p.m. The resident followed the suspicious person to southbound Highway 280 to obtain the truck's license plate. The truck's identifying information was given to police.

An Atherton resident begrudges someone less fortunate the opportunity to earn a couple of bucks. Recycling programs are mandated because they are thought of as a public good, not because they make money for the city. The thief was doing the city a favor. Next Thursday a police escort would be in order.

Slip Sliding

I had a laugh at the page 1 headline that reads, Grease notes slipped by prosecutor. Then I noted the small type directing readers to the jump page, See GREASE CASE, page XX. There is no page XX...just an editorial 'slip up'.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Hearing Voices

On the letters page Richard Sutherland of Los Altos makes the charge that President Bush, under a mandate from God, is responsible for killing thousands of innocent women, children and the unborn. Sutherland assures readers that God does not communicate directly with him, but he fails to clear up just how such bad information was beamed into his skull. We seem to remember that the topic was widely discussed in the UN as well as in our own legislative bodies without a single reference to God. A popular notion seems to have taken hold that accusations can be leveled without referencing the historical record. President Bush is disparaged for mentioning God in any context, meanwhile statements by the pope that are useful for to the anti-war movement get bandied about as if Mr. Bush was insufficently religious. Mr. Sutherland,the devil is in the details.

Teacher's Pet

Jean Whitney writes on page 1 about a science teacher arrested on child pornography charges. The article mentions several short term teaching positions he held at various schools including several Catholic schools. The spokeswoman for the San Jose diocese uncorked what has to be considered the most telling comment saying that she "had no way of was such a long time ago...Our HR department does not give out information." Despite having newspapers filled with charges against pedophile priests, the diocese demonstrates how little was learned. How else would a school know about problem empoyees unless another school told them of past problems. I suspect that HR departments avoid lawsuits from employees who object to bad job reviews. In an attempt to avoid lawsuits, schools avoid comments that can be used against them. The problem extends to schools who, upon reviewing the teacher's checkered employment history, avoid drawing conclusions from the evidence.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Government Work

Diana Diamond writes on page 12, "Nothing seems simple when the government gets involved." San Francisquito Creek flooded in 1998 resulting in the flooding of 1700 homes. After 7 years still nothing has been done to lessen the possiblity of another flood west of the 101 freeway except to create additional layers of government. Diamond goes into a fair amount of detail about buracracy and appropriations which seem to indicate a lot of wasted motion and waiting are involved. In all the time gone by and thought put into the problem, still a $6 million long term feasability study is being contemplated which may not happen unless federal funds are able to be tapped into.

As one of the area residents of the FEMA declared flood plain, but who did not receive any flooding, I have been required to pay for flood insurance. Government could do that with the stroke of a pen. What government can't do, it would seem, is to solve problems such as flooding along one creek. All of which puts me in mind of an Italian highway built in Sicily. Italian legislators put up the money for the highway having been assured that it was needed. After construction money ran out the legislators again were asked for money to complete the project and they complied. Continually the highway ran out of money and yet the legislature continued to fund it. As it turned out, the construction project was run by the mafia and as long as funding was available there was little incentive to finish.

After the Northridge earthquake near Los Angeles damaged freeways, restoration was completed ahead of schedule. In order to insure speedy repair contractors were paid more for finishing early. For flooding along the San Francisquito Creek there seems to be insufficient incentive to complete the project. And as long as that continues to be the case expect nothing to be done for which we will pay dearly.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Rock Star 0, Classical Musician 10

An opinion column on page 16 written by Paul Collins rehashes the Carly Fiorina-HP saga with an eye towards propping up the fired CEO. Fiorina has enjoyed a great deal of hope in her succeeding at HP. Perhaps it was a story of a woman hired to run a technology company and fight with the entrenched males, or the fact that she was easy on the eyes that caused it to morph into an almost biz-tabloid feature. In any case a lot of ink was spilled on her behalf. Prior to the board giving Fiorina her walking papers, the biggest aspect of the story was the showdown with board member, and son of one of the founders, Walter Hewlett over the merger with Compaq. Hewlett was portrayed as bookish and not particularly given to change. He was the classical musician, she the rock star. Public relations-wise it was no match and Hewlett lost, left the board and sold his stock. Through it all, in failure she gets the send-off. Walter Hewlett gets nothing--except to note that he had the right thought and sold high.

First Things

page 1,headline: Pro-choice forces lose first test.
page 10, headline: Bush presses Syria to leave Lebanon soon.

The abortion story starts out with a nod to some sort of legislative activity in the US Senate but quickly confusing the reader it becomes another story whose focus is on the effect recent Republican electorial gains has on abortion issues. The Lebanon headline deals with a major speech given by president Bush at the National Defense University in Washington. In it he pressed Syria to leave Lebanon and generally promoted democratic change through out the region. The speech is universally understood to be a leading method to directing communicate US intentions to the world. Around here discussing abortion policy trumps peace in the Middle East.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sally 'Gwen' Leiber

Only a cynic would suggest that Assembywoman Sally Leiber, D.-Mountain View, has issues with panic reactions to dates. Her legislation dealing with unacceptable strategies defense lawyers can use to represent their clients seems to have struck a chord. Leiber would not want someone charged with a crime to claim that they attacked out of panic when they learned about their date's 'diversity'. Defendants in the murder of Eddie 'Gwen' Arauyo Jr. used the panic defense to no avail. This might also suggest that defense lawyers were not particularly big contributors to her election.

Tom Lantos Clears His Throat

Precisely when events in the Middle East are looking up, Tom Lantos suggests we breakout the democracy banners. Although Tom was outspoken in voting for the Iraq War Resolution and took his share of grief from the appeasement lobby on the Peninsula, his voice got very muted when the effort was floundering. A check of the congressman's website shows the issues that interest him and it would appear that democracy in the Middle East couldn't break into his top 16 list. Leadership takes place when the possiblities aren't so bright Tom. Your follower-ship, however, is appreciated. Better late than never.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sporting News (Sunday edition)

Item 1. Headline; Police brutality trial to kick off.

Item 2. From the Police Bloter (sic): 500 block of Middlefield Road, 5:31 p.m.: People were playing soccer without a permit at Menlo-Atherton High School.

Item 3. Schwarzenegger...recommended changing the way bodybuilding is judged so that demonstration and display count more than muscle size.

Like figure skating perhaps.

Pow Wow Over Cadillacs

The Menlo Park Cadillac dealership on El Camino will soon be closing, according to Sunday's Daily News. Auto dealerships provide substantial tax revenues to local communities and are highly sought businesses. It was revealed last week that the Palo Alto Toyota dealership is looking to move to Mountain View in order to have a larger facility. Menlo Park city councilman Andy Cohen has spoken out against a proposed luxury hotel on Sand Hill Road near interstate 280. His concern was to preserve open space. Now Cohen has another chance to show his resolve by pushing to bulldoze the car dealership and replace it with tax supported open space. To improve his chances Cohen might get the land declared federal wetlands, or, failing that, rename the land in honor of Ohlone Indians. That tactic might require the citzens to forget how the Ohlone Indian gambit was previously attempted along Sand Hill Road.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

How to Be a Political Player

The city that considers the laborious process that preceeds nearly every decision 'the Palo Alto process', is now considering passage of an endorsement of same sex marriage. Beyond making a statement, it is unknown what affect the vote would have on municipal activities but it seems most likely to fan the flames of this so called wedge issue. Pointless gestures have a way of making their way into legislation with a degree of regularity. Politicians are keenly aware of their accomplishments and attempt to burnish their reputations with a long list items that can be worked into campaign literature. Little is accomplished here in city council sessions that drag on interminably and contentiously, so what could be better--a quick, cost free, generally acceptable but wholey ineffective resolution that plays to the crowd whose only traditional value is intruding on your neighbor's property rights. Authentic proposals intended to resolve pressing problems just won't do. Nothing is more valued in Palo Alto than a show of the proper emotion. We learned that lession by shooting mountain lions.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Correctional News

Martha Stewart got out of jail and we are about to get a tsunami of stories dealing with her. Before this thing gets going let's put some predictions on the table about the sort of things we'll be reading about in the future.
  1. Martha's Jailhouse Diary will be put up for bid for the major New York publishing houses.
  2. Martha's company, Omnimedia, will extend it's empire to include retreats for the wealthy. Rich people with guilty consciences will spend lavishly to be confined in prison-like settings. Weight loss will be one of the primary goals.
  3. Martha will announce a key hire in her company. A fellow inmate at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia so impressed Ms. Stewart that another employee was moved out to make room.
  4. In an effort to normalize Stewart's misdeeds, Omnimedia will require all of it's board members to have a criminal record.

Ken Jennings

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Psychological Divide

CROSS-TOWN NEIGHBORS UNITE says today's headline. The story discusses how some Palo Altan's feel excluded from having a say about controversial building projects--namely those where someone else is building a home they object to. Groups from two areas of Palo Alto are banding together to challenge the planning process. One of the groups is south of and the other is north of the Oregon Expressway which is described as a 'psychological' divide. I'm willing to bet that Palo Alto has no shortage of 'psychological' divides.

The prolonged battle over street blockages in the Downtown North neighborhood last year is a recent example that it isn't crosstown issues that form psychological divides. More often the battle is house to house. California Avenue merchants complain about too many hair and nail salons, as if it were their place to determine how a business owner risks their money. Sometimes the pettyness is between competing business without a border to defend. The Palo Alto Weekly is consumed with their hatred towards their newspaper rival the Palo Alto Daily News. A recent edition filled the front page and other inside pages scolding the paper for having the audacity to be different. Their anger seems to have more to do with not being able to have a monopoly on the market. Sometimes the divides are merely imagined slights; such is the case with racial profiling charges.

Common among the groups is the need to control others in order to advance a utopian vision. They feel that the greater good is only accomplished with their values alone. Palo Alto isn't a big city, nor is it especially diverse, but the prolonged bickering rivals much larger more diverse communities. At some point you have to go back to the psychological divide and wonder just what is the psychological make up of the city.

Palo Alto recently awarded a $10,000 grant to an artist currently camped out in front of city hall. His project is to photograph each house in the city and somehow determine the color most representative of Palo Alto. It just might be worthwhile to do something similar with the psychological make up of the city.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Planet Palo Alto

It's always fun to see a politician fight to win an election by highlighting his differences with other candidates, then, in victory, urge everyone to forget their difference in favor unity. At the very least it's a self-serving Rodney King type 'Can't we all just get along' statement. Such was the case with Palo Alto mayor Jim Burch in giving his state of the city message. He won, now its his job as a politician to convince others to follow not ask for a blind following.

Burch comes to office by way of a career in advertising--the Cling Peach Advisory Board was one of his clients. Currently he serves with the social activist organization Foundation for Global Community--one of the many groups that dot the landscape of every college town. They have a modest agenda of saving the planet using mind numbing proposals as their tools.
...but his heart is in more significant issues affecting society well beyond our community, such as what he calls the relationship of the human species with the living earth.
--Palo Alto Weekly
Mayor Burch stepped out smartly in his state of the city talk by suggesting that everyone walk, bike, car pool, take public transit or work at home one day a week in order to help with traffic congestion. No doubt this "eat your broccoli" idea bubbled up in a FGC focus group. I wasn't aware that traffic congestion was that big of a problem, but traffic congestion, or lack of congestion, is a measure of the local economy--more congestion indicates a better economy. Mayor Burch seems to be tacitly endorsing the Bush economy. This, in turn, goes a long way towards demonstrating how to put aside political differences.

Burch singled out the new bicyle tunnel on Homer Street as a plus for the city and the budget deficit ($5.2 million) is a minus. Interestingly, without the $5.2 million bycycle tunnel the budget would balance. Of course that would burden bicyclists into pedalling two more blocks to the University Avenue underpass. Looking ahead, Burch indicated a few things he wanted to accomplish during his mayoral term; a new children's library, renovating park bathrooms and play equipment, building a new police station as well as 'putting in a plug for storm drains', although the idea probably involves the opposite of plugging.

Planet Palo Alto is off and running (or car pooling).