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the fly

Silicon Valley News Notes

Top Secret Leon

So Leon Panettahas no experience in intelligence, huh? Could have fooled San Jose attorney Bill Gates, who sat at a desk facing President-elect Obama's choice for CIA chief for two years in the 1960s, soon after Panetta graduated from Santa Clara University Law School. Gates and Panetta worked together in a military intelligence unit in 1965 and 1966, before Panetta launched a career in politics by joining the staff of U.S. Senate Minority Whip Thomas Kuchel, a moderate California Republican whose head was handed to him when he refused to kowtow to the party's nascent right wing. Gates doesn't elaborate on what he and Panetta did at the windswept, now-decommissioned Army base, other than to say it was "top secret" and involved infantry troop numbers in Vietnam. "We were a training base—we had to put out X number of soldiers every cycle, so it was important that we knew what was going on," he says. "It had to do with keeping the commanding general posted regarding how the war was building up and, interpreting from that, how many more men and draftees they would need to put through training." Gates speculates that Panetta joined the military intelligence unit not because of a fascination with all things spooky, but because it spelled a briefer commission than a stint as a military lawyer would have for the newly minted SCU Law School grad. As for whether the gig at Fort Ord was any kind of preparation for running a byzantine agency dogged by scandal and allegations of torture, Gates says nah. But he has utter faith in his old pal nevertheless. "Leon Panetta was picked for that job because of the same reason lots of people were picked for their jobs by the president-elect, and that's that he's a very, very smart man. He's brilliant. He's a genius. He can run large agencies and he showed that by running the office of the president of the United States."

A Thorny Decision

Incoming Councilmember Rose Herrera is already stirring up drama on the 18th floor after she abruptly fired her senior policy analyst Mark Tiernan—two days before the holiday break. It seemed even more odd to some City Hall staffers, considering Tiernan was the lead man on Herrera's transition team—and was her top pick for chief of staff. So what happened? It seems that Tiernan, who ran former Vice Mayor Dave Cortese's campaign for county supervisor, had told Herrera that until March he was only available to work for her part time. Herrera went ahead and hired Jennifer Malutta for the chief of staff job, and made Tiernan her policy director. Apparently, Tiernan's new job title didn't sit well with Malutta. So Herrera signed off on downgrading Tiernan's title to "senior policy analyst." (Does this sound ridiculous yet?) Sometime between his meeting with Herrera and printing new business cards, someone somewhere decided he had to get the boot. On the 18th floor, City Hall staffers watched this situation unfold and were, well, a little perplexed. As one City Hall staffer put it: "How do you go from being No. 1 to being let go the day before break? Start filling in the blanks ... the chief of staff couldn't handle having someone strong on board, and Rose, being indecisive, said 'OK, whatever, just hold my hand and don't let go.'"


Right Back at Ya

If the vote to ban gay marriage in California did anything for the conservative Christian movement, it confirmed that they have just enough political clout to get by in a blue state. It clearly boosted San Jose's Values Advocacy Council, which worked hard to pass Prop. 8 in the November election. The group isn't stopping there. The group's president, former San Jose Councilman–turned–conservative activist Larry Pegram, recently fired off an E-newsletter alerting folks of the group's 2009 agenda. The email read as follows: "There is discussion in the conservative Christian community about the possibility of sponsoring an initiative entitled the 'Children's Bill of Rights' which would do much to replace the secular, liberal teachings in our public schools with rights for children and parents to control the content of public school curriculum.  More on this as it develops."

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