Sunday, March 25, 2007

They still haven't apologized for this

The Onion is commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war by running its greatest hits from coverage of the war. My favorites include "Bush announces Iraq exit strategy: 'We'll go through Iran'" and "Point/Counterpoint: 'This war will destabilize the entire Mideast region and set off a global shockwave of anti-Americanism' vs. 'No it won't.'"

What if another of NOE's favorite newspapers decided to rerun its greatest coverage of the war? Read on to find out...

Waiting around for war
(published February 19, 2003 in the Los Altos Town Crier)

Arguments for and against are strong: those for it see war as a must to prevent dictator Saddam Hussein from producing weapons of mass destruction that could kill millions, if not now, then later.

Those against it say there is not enough proof that such weapons exist, and war would incite even more terrorist activities.

Give peace a chance, they say.

Some say peace has been given a chance. President Bush says Saddam has had plenty of opportunities to reveal and surrender his most dangerous weapons. Peace promoters say United Nations weapons inspectors need more time.

There are cynics among us who feel Bush is pushing for war because Saddam can be had. Bush can continue to ride the war on terror that has helped his popularity since Sept. 11, and he can finish up what his dad, George Sr., failed to do during the Persian Gulf War.

War also serves as a deterrent to our failure to find the chief culprit of the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, despite his taunting video messages that are surfacing with increasing regularity.

However, we're mostly in agreement that Saddam is a dangerous dictator. He's freed criminals at the drop of a hat while torturing and killing his own innocent people. Such an unstable person, combined with deadly weapons, is a recipe for disaster.

War should always be the last resort. But history is replete with examples of countries reacting too late to dictators bent on conquest. Europeans tried to look the other way while Adolf Hitler strengthened Germany's military might throughout the 1930s. The result was an invasion of Poland and the start of World War II. Would the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have taken place if the United States had entered the war earlier?

Yes, a war with Iraq will result in American casualties. However, many, many more are likely to perish if Saddam is left alone. A man of Saddam's nature does not stockpile weapons for purely defensive purposes.

The best option for the United States is to take out Iraqi forces quickly, using precision air strikes, as was done in the Gulf War. The worst scenario would be a ground war in the streets of Baghdad that would result in many more casualties.

Beyond Iraq, North Korea, with its dubious leadership and nuclear weapons allegedly capable of reaching the West Coast, poses another threat. We would love peace. But in the face of such leaders, the best defense is a good offense.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Town Crier eliminates the amendments

Points to the first Town Crier staffer who can correctly identify what is wrong with the following paragraph, the lede in this week's article on the Los Altos Hills general plan:
"Unlike the nation's Constitution, which remains untouched through the centuries as the country's guiding document, towns regularly revisit and revise their municipal constitutions, known as General Plans. Los Altos Hills' plan has gone mostly untouched since it was extensively revised in 1975, and with some prodding from the state, the town has taken on the challenge of updating it.
Here are hints 11-27.

Just like the cotton gin helped end slavery

The nation's paper of record is tripping over itself this morning as it backtracks from Wednesday's apparently poorly-researched puff piece on the greening of Silicon Valley venture capital firms. It seems someone alerted the Times to the fact that many of the firms it had written so glowingly about for their support of clean energy are actually heavily invested in fossil fuels. Oops.

Here's a sampling of quotes from the article, in which the writer and the subjects continue to defend the industry as "helping to save the world:"

First up, Andrew Tudhope, CEO of Sub-One Technology, a Pleasanton company that manufactures a chemical to make oil drilling cheaper and, not coincidentally, has benefitted from millions in venture capital funding:
“We’re not trying to push an agenda. We’re trying to make money.”
Fair enough. Now how about Erik Straser, partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures in Menlo Park:
"I’m here to make the kind of green my limited partners can spend."
A terrible pun, but at least he's telling the truth. Next up: Joseph Lacob, managing partner at Kleiner Perkins, just down Sand Hill Road:
“If we can improve the efficiencies of the oil and gas exploration, in some ways that’s a green message as well."
I think Joaquin Phoenix said something like this right before he killed his emperor father in Gladiator. To wrap this up, we turn to Wes Raffel, partner at Palo Alto-based Advanced Technology Ventures:
“Is it irresponsible? That’s a good question,” he said. “The answer is: I try not to do irresponsible things. It’s improving efficiency. People are going to use these Earth-given resources to provide energy. It’s going to happen. If you can create infrastructure that helps them do it for less costs” that is a good thing, he said.
We'll take that as a yes.

What trial lawyers should know about Los Altos

Apologies for the recent slowdown in posting. Unfortunately, most of the amusing news has involved my future employer, so I've had to hold my tongue.* The D.A. down here finally brought charges against the former head of UCLA's body donor program for allegedly stealing bodies and selling off their organs through a middleman.

More on that later, I suppose. For now, I would like to give you a profile of Los Altos (or at least the 94022 zip code) from the Claritas jury selection service on Lexis Nexis. This is the census information supposedly most helpful to trial lawyers in assessing a potential juror's fitness to serve. As Gunn grad and fellow UCLA Law student Josh Mukhopadhyay pointed out when he showed this to me today, people pay a lot of money to have this information.
JURSEL SOCIAL-GROUP: Suburban Wealthy & Affluent
Elite Super-Rich Families
Percentage of US Households: 1.18%
Predominant Adult Age Range: 45-54, 55-64
Key Education Level: College Graduates
Predominant Employment: Professional
Key Housing Type: Owners, Single Unit
Lifestyle Preferences:
  • Played tennis 20+ times last year
  • Traveled to E. Europe last 3 years
  • Have $200,000+ homeowners' insurance
  • Watch Wall Street Week
  • Read Architectural Digest
Socio-Economic Rank: Elite (1)
Ethnic Diversity: White, Asian
* (Yes, that is a backwards way of saying I will be working at the Department of Justice this summer).

Friday, March 09, 2007


That's how much I'm worth. Or, as my friend and classmate Hadley Erskine observed after carefully tracking the bidding patterns at last night's bachelor auction for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, that's what I'm worth if you're also giving me credit for the public's desire to donate to a good charity while drunk.

I was a little nervous when bidding stagnated at $70. But putting on the bandanna earned an extra $20, and taking my shirt off $20 more. According to Hadley's calculation, "as a person," I was worth about $30. It is probably a good thing that I didn't have the emcee mention this blog or give anyone my "business" card.

EDIT: For some reason (perhaps because I was still holding onto a shred of dignity), I forgot to mention the woman who came up to me, pointed at my PILF (Public Interest Law Fund) shirt and asked, "Does that stand for 'Person I'd Like to F*ck?'"

Naturally, I replied, "That depends how much money you've got on you."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pimping and whoring

One of the Democratic Party's second-best orators was on campus this afternoon.

LA Voice mocked Edwards as a multi-millionaire who lives in a six million dollar home and talks about the class divide, but at least his event was open to the public. Of course, I still didn't go, because I am working on the real cant-miss events campus events this week. The Public Interest Law Fund auction on Saturday raises money for students (like myself) who work for non-profits, government agencies, et al. The Team in Training bachelor auction I agreed to do raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and enables me to get back some of the karma I lost cold-calling every restaurant and law firm in Los Angeles.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mountain View week in review

Last week was a busy one so far as Mountain View news was concerned. An antagonistic city council meeting threatened the 530-unit Mayfield project. Sears extended its lease at San Antonio Shopping Center at the last minute (news first broken in the comments section of this blog). Sally Lieber rewrote her proposed spanking ban so that, in the words of one staffer, an open-hand smack on the butt is pretty much the only thing not covered. And Cuesta Park squirrels continued their campaign of terror (I don't think Bay Area Parent will be handing it any awards this year).

But instead of stopping there, the Voice gave us this nugget, about a sexual harassment complaint (not, as it seems, a lawsuit) filed against the Mountain View police department two years ago.
Details of the incidents were not included in the court records, probably because the case has yet to make it to trial...
Okay, maybe "nugget" is overstating the depth of the article, which goes on to include no details, comments or explanation.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ready those pointing fingers

There is going to be a lot of blame to go around if the Mayfield Mall project falls through, something that's looking quite possible after Tuesday's night city council meeting, which left Mountain View nonsensically poised to preserve the vacant office building and surrounding parking lots while developing one of the city's last farms.

The Voice's account of the meeting makes it all seem like a lot of standard negotiation posturing (read: bullshit) from both sides:
Toll Brothers spokesperson Kelly Snider repeated a cautionary message about the financial viability of the project several times, saying that fewer units or more park space would "push us towards the tipping point of non-viability," and make it "difficult to move the project forward."

Honestly, what else would you expect them to say? Every single concession Toll Brothers has to make pushes them "towards the tipping point of non-viability." The issue is how close they are. This the equivalent of asking for a raise and, when the boss returns with a counteroffer, saying that is going to make things "difficult"

[Jac] Siegel shot back.

"I think it's an absurd project as it's proposed," he said, after declaring he had "no baggage" connected to the project as a new council member.

Jac Siegel, of course, was the chair of the environmental planning commission during the environmental impact report hearings. Granted, he only oversaw the environmental review, but, as baggage goes, he has quite a lot of it.

"It's going to hurt the entire area." He added that if Toll Brothers needed more than 500 units the developer "should look in a different area."

Siegel invoked an image of grid-locked streets when he talked about San Antonio Road, Central Expressway and nearby Rengstorff Avenue as already having some of the worst traffic in the city. He said he preferred that the site remain office space.
Here's a win-win solution for both sides. Drop the minimum parking requirements for the project. Just eliminate them altogether. Toll Brothers can adjust their plans to make a little more profit, Monta Loma can move to a permitting program for on-street parking to keep Mayfield residents from overflowing onto neighborhood streets, and the city can stop encouraging people to drive everywhere.

Fighting Rickenbacker, one myspace friend at a time

At first, Rickenbacker Collections ignored Erik Koland. Society mocked him. After that, they fought him. And ultimately, just as is supposed to happen, he won.

But Erik being who he is (see below), he has not stopped fighting. This would be laughable if not for all of the people that he has helped or even just given some hope. (Okay, it's still laughable, but that doesn't make it any less impressive).

They come to Erik from all walks of life -- an ex-marine, an AIDS patient, a forest activist. Down on their luck and tired of being pushed around by the system, they find Erik. More accurately, they find his alter Ego, Fight Rickenbacker. Their e-mails and messages begin as pleas for help, but by the time they finish writing they have been inspired by the mere fact that someone is listening.
"I plan to retaliate big time against them."

"I'm with you on anything you can do to put these criminals out of business...& behind bars!"

"I ... want badly to hurt these people's business without mercy. I signed up at the myspace site going for Rickenbacker's blood, and I want a pint of it for my own."
Many readers will remember Erik as the man who talked his way on to the Los Altos High School Talon student newspaper by telling the advisor about his plan to hold an ultimate frisbee game between the cheerleaders and the mutants. Others will remember him as the man who led out water polo team in purchasing cheap suits to wear to tournaments, or as the man who accrued unreasonably high amounts of store credit at Tower Records, or, alternatively, as the man who carried around 50 pairs of women's shoes in his trunk, or even as the man who broke his wrist skateboarding down a small cliff in Half Moon Bay, tore off his cast bit by bit in the face of common sense and his doctor's advice, only to miraculously recover in time for our West Bay Water Polo trip to Hawaii, where he organized the 14-under water polo team we were coaching in using a garbage can to switch the water in the hot tub with the water in the pool (each of which were reportedly too extreme in temperature).

The list, as you might imagine, goes on. Today, on the occasion of his 27th birthday, we may add one more description: He is the man who beat Rickenbacker.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Just the guys to do it

Does anyone else like to imagine the Los Altos City Council sitting around before their meetings and watching John Belushi's motivational speech from Animal House? I picture the members using it to psyche themselves up before charging out the door into the chambers and passing unconstitutional laws targeting day workers*, bravely taking stands against gay kids, or voting on land use decisions in Mountain View.

*Lucy Carlton's recollection of our conversation (which took place through an eyehole I had cut out of the hat) is not entirely accurate.