Monday, January 26, 2009

A meta-review of a mini-book

I want to make two things clear at the start of this post: I have not read Richard Sutherland's 43-page "book" None Dare Call it Reason, nor do I plan to.

However, I did read the Town Crier's review of it. Given that the book criticizes the Republican Party, and the Town Crier's publisher is a leader in a local Republican Party organization (a fact once again mentioned nowhere), you can probably guess that the thing did not get four stars.

This is my favorite part:
What the book doesn’t have is a consistent sourcing of the facts Sutherland cites. Considering his indignation over government officials’ so-called lies that the American people have embraced, Sutherland should have meticulously footnoted attributions lest readers suspect he is duping them, too.
Considering the Town Crier is consistently unable to point to any supporting evidence (let alone "meticulously footnoted attributions") for many ridiculous claims and assertions while ignoring overwhelming evidence against others, I hope somebody over there got the irony.

At least the review didn't criticize it for being a book.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A new entry for the Town Crier's greatest hits album

This week, we find the leaders of the fifth-most educated small town in America trying to one up each other with dumber and dumber reasons for opposing a tax on plastic bags. The Los Altos City Council began the shenanigans by voting 4-1 against Santa Clara County's proposed 25¢ per bag fee. The reasoning (apparently provided for them by the sinisterly-named American Chemistry Council) seemed to be that people ought to get paid for things that they should be doing already. A few days later, the award-winning editorial pages of the Town Crier joined the fray, and you can imagine where it went from there.

County should ‘bag’ the bag tax


A recent proposal by the Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission for paper and plastic grocery and retail bag reduction and a 25 cent per-bag tax received a cool reception from the Los Altos City Council. The issue wasn’t so much bag reduction – in these “green” times, reductions are appropriate. It was the "tax" part of it that council members rejected.

I'm sending both this headline and opening paragraph to the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

We’re glad they did. Councilwoman Val Carpenter hit the nail on the head when she said the city would be better off implementing incentives for residents using fewer bags than agreeing to impose a tax. And the prospect of another tax in this weak economy is equivalent to hitting the taxpayers when they’re down. Frankly, there are far bigger environmental issues to tackle, such as toxic waste disposal and water conservation.

The Town Crier editorial writer may be happy about this, and Val Carpenter did in fact say that, but everything else in this paragraph is wrong.
the city would be better off implementing incentives for residents using fewer bags than agreeing to impose a tax.
My idea to give people an incentive to use fewer bags: charge a fee that they can avoid by using fewer bags.
And the prospect of another tax in this weak economy is equivalent to hitting the taxpayers when they’re down.
Three issues here: 1) Technically, it would be the tax itself doing the hitting, not the prospect of it, 2) this fee would be especially easy to avoid, and 3) I'm pretty sure Los Altans can afford an extra quarter in the extreme circumstances where it becomes necessary.
Frankly, there are far bigger environmental issues to tackle, such as toxic waste disposal and water conservation.
This sentence is particularly egregious. Its premise is a false dilemma that imagines society can either address the problem of plastic bags or deal with other environmental concerns, but not both. It also lacks any evidence for its claims. And given that the Town Crier still pretends that we are not changing the climate, I find it a little hard to trust assertions like this one. In fact, I even question the writer's frankness.

The editorial goes on to argue that the market should magically provide reusable bags, missing entirely the idea that plastic bags are artificially cheap because of the external costs that the market is not capturing. And in a coup-de-grace against both logic and the English language, we get this:

For anyone who’s been in Whole Foods Market, an occasional price break would be quite welcome.

Let's leave aside for now the irony of complaining about high food prices and then letting it slip that you shop at whole foods. Also, let's ignore that one of Whole Foods' main selling points is that the food it sells has fewer associated externalities than does the food from Safeway, Trader Joe's or Ralph's, thereby justifying the higher costs. The main problem with this is that Whole Foods presumably sets its prices in a way that takes into account the discounts it gives shoppers for using renewable bags, essentially taxing shoppers in the same way that the County's proposal would.

Hopefully Mountain View will have a more intelligent debate when it takes up the issue this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Are they civilians now?"

How are we saying goodbye to the Bush Administration?

Having lost my motivation to write a big angry blogpost after then-President Bush paid tribute to my college teammate and his father in his farewell address, I figured I'd check out the tubes to see how other local groups are marking the occasion. (Oh sure, some people are celebrating the historic nature of Obama's inauguration, but we're not here to spread positive feelings.)

Ed Sheldon (and maybe MoveOn) reserved Civic Center Plaza in Mountain View for a "Goodbye Bush" party this afternoon.

Gimmicky new Castro St. restaurant uWink attempted some old-fashioned profiteering.

Karen Meredith mooned her tv.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A customer then fell down

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman advocated that Israel conduct terrorist attacks against civilians. But, being a local blog, we'd much rather make fun of the Town Crier's parallel construction error.
... police and fire department officials responded to a pedestrian accident and alleged fraud at US Bank. Los Altos police arrested a woman on suspicion of attempting to cash a fraudulent check, according to Detective Wes Beveridge.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Skanks for recycling

As many readers know, I license modeling shoots for my company. My favorite content harmonizes the beauty of the model with her surroundings, whether it be the mountains of Alaska, beaches of the Caribbean, or train stations of Mountain View.

Catcall-inspired HotChixDig is a burlesque modeling site that purports to raise money for environmental protection. These local envirosluts really know how to turn a fella on... to the value in replacing his water heater or clumsily attempting to fix his decades-old alarm clock.

Non-profit pimp Avida Verde who maintains a blog on the site, reports that an increasing number of prospective Hot Chix are lining up to be photographed half-naked. She indicated that she may "auction off the privilege of having the shoot at someone's house," and is currently editing video to put on the site.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Quest is back

For those of you who travel overseas (so this applies to everyone but xenophobic NOE), the name Richard Quest may ring a bell. He's the over-enthusiastic presenter/journalist on CNN International who has been away awhile since his April arrest in Central Park under particularly perverted circumstances. Up until now, I thought he'd lost his job. But alas, CNN International decided to keep him on and he's back this week with a new episode of CNN Business Traveler where he shows us about planes at London's City Airport. Check local listings for air times.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Army sends John Doe letters to 7,000 Gold Star families

Just in case anybody had any lingering feelings of positivity about the Iraq War. Len Ramirez of KPIX interviewed Karen Meredith on this story earlier today.

UPDATE: Karen, who has plenty of experience dealing with the army's bureaucratic errors (not to mention its substantive errors), puts it in perspective on her blog:
This "Dear John Doe" error is not the worst thing the Army has done and sadly if won't be the last "unfortunate mistake" they make. These kinds of errors, however unintentional, are so painful to a family member who lost a loved one. I wish the Army could get it right the first time. We deserve better.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Los Altos marches to the left

Eight years ago, when Los Altos voters favored Al Gore over George Bush, the Town Crier predictably made sure to mention "the city's rich Republican history." (Just as predictably, the paper failed to mention its publisher's prominent role in local Republican politics). Four years later, a similar article by Miss Mischief characterized my hometown as "typically a Republican stronghold."

It's time to dispense with that idea. Los Altos is a place with many problems. But I am happy to report that Republicanism is not one of them.

Since the 2000 election, the margin by which Los Altos voters have favored the Democratic candidate for President has tripled, with Barack Obama pulling in more than twice as many votes as John McCain this year.

In Los Altos Hills, the margin is slightly smaller, but the trend is the same.

The local electorate's take on Prop. 8 is further evidence of the city's liberal tilt: despite the Town Crier's courageously bad endorsement of the measure, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills strongly rejected it (63-37 and 60-40, respectively).

Has Los Altos changed, or has the Republican Party?

Nationwide, voters with postgraduate degrees went Democratic by as much as 64-36 margin. (This is not surprising given their choice between a former law professor with Joe Biden as a running mate and Warren Buffett as an economic advisor and, on the other hand, the trio of a gas tax holiday advocate, Sarah Palin and Joe "the Plumber"). With 40% of its population over the age of 25 holding advanced degrees, Los Altos is likely lost to the Republicans for the foreseeable future. It may not be long before reporters are referring to its rich Democratic history.