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April 26-May 2, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Overseeing Herself

Talk about multitasking: County Counsel Ann Ravel has set teeth gnashing in two election races. Incumbent Larry Stone thinks it's outrageous that she's endorsed his opponent, soon-to-be-termed-out County Supervisor Pete McHugh, in the assessor's race. "I seek legal advice from her about running my campaign at the very time she's endorsing my opponent," he says. "If there's ever a blatant conflict of interest, that's it! She ought to stay out of these things, just as a matter of good judgment." Chief Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu felt the same way when Ravel endorsed her opponent in the district attorney's race, Superior Court Judge Dolores Carr. "The bottom line is, she's the person overseeing ethical campaign activity," Sinunu said. "I think she should remain neutral, just like a judge would." Ravel says she has every right to endorse any candidate she wants. Wait, according to who? Oh, that's right, Ann Ravel! In a memo she sent last year to all county employees about these ethics issues, she wrote that "restrictions shall not be placed on the political activities of any officer or employee of a local agency." All right, then, what's her opinion on name changes? Seems McHugh's campaign contribution report lists Ravel's $250 gift under Ann Miller, her maiden name, and her profession as "attorney" instead of county counsel. Stone calls it straight-up deception, and wonders why no one wants to take responsibility for the unaccountable accounting. Ravel says the person who submitted her check—again, whoever that is—made an error in recording her name. Uh, and her title. We've heard about how civil servants toil in anonymity, but when even the folks who handle their personal banking don't know their name, that's just sad!

Bad Press, No Cookie

President Bush swaggered his way into San Jose this past Friday to take part in what turned out to be only the most boring panel discussion ever, hosted by Cisco boss John Chambers at the Cisco campus in north San Jose. He was greeted by about 300 enthusiastic guests—all invitees of the president, the guv (Arnold also sat on the panel) and Cisco—and of course the press, who practically outnumbered the guests. Not everyone who showed up was welcome, of course, and with San Jose police controlling the perimeter roads around Cisco's campus, it was unlikely the president saw the protesters who had also lined up to greet him from his motorcade. For Fly, the metal detector was relatively painless, but the M&M cookies promised by Cisco organizers were nowhere to be seen once inside. Duped again! Inside, the only interesting conversation was the chilly body language between Bush and Arnold. What did Fly learn? Innovation and technology are good. We need more of it. Math and science are also good. Humanities—ah, who needs 'em? They just lead to more negative stories about the president, after all. Oh, and you know how the two biggest issues in the last couple of weeks in the national media were America's possible attack on Iran, and the nationwide immigration marches? Nothing against panelist Arash Shokouh, an Iranian-American engineering student from San Jose State, or Marisa Jimenez, a Latina engineering student from SJSU selected to meet with Bush, but man, that Bush PR machine doesn't miss a trick.

Pink on the Inside

If South Bay activist Sam Joi had her aura photographed by the Poltergeist-psychic-look-alike at a recent benefit party in Santa Clara, it would be pink. Bright pink, just like the T-shirt she wore in support of the national women's peace organization started by outspoken progressives like Medea Benjamin and Starhawk. "People started freakin' out with Bush's code reds and code oranges," Joi told Fly, peering through her horn-rimmed glasses. "Then these brilliant women came forward and said, "Hell no, we're gonna be Code Pink, for peace." The grassroots movement has been building for 3 1/2 years, but a local chapter has now sprung out of a San Jose living room. With the help of proceeds from this eclectic fundraiser at the Avalon nightclub, they're gearing up for a protest push on Mother's Day—the holiday Joi says is not for giving flowers but for demanding disarmament. Revelers at the hippie bash, though, had a lot of other things on their mind: throbbing ethno-house beats, belly dancers, impromptu massage sessions, and yes, the aura lady. She sat inquirers in a chair and snapped their photos with an old-fashioned Polaroid. Lo and behold, their faces materialized surrounded by colorful hazes. The crowd was a mix of countercultural types and Silicon Valley tech nerds. A few trendy club-goers walked in with raised eyebrows, unsure of what they had gotten themselves into. A handful of partiers grooved on the dance floor to the global trance rhythms of the San Francisco band Hamsa Lila. And, of course, the evening's feminine undercurrent wouldn't have been complete without twirling pink skirts.

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