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May 30-June 5, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Sunnyvale's Trivial Pursuit

You'd think Sunnyvale might have learned its lesson after the recent slap down by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury. The Grand Jury report sided with an earlier DA finding that Sunnyvale violated election code on Nov. 29, 2005, when it installed three newly elected councilmembers. The state stipulates that election results aren't official enough for swearing in new folks until after a 28-day canvassing period, which would have been Dec. 6. (The report also suggested the Grand Jury wasn't thrilled that officials announced the election winners—albeit with disclaimer—the day after the Nov. 8 election.) Now, Sunnyvale officials could have played this cool—because really, which of their constituents hasn't post-dated a check around the holidays? All they had to do was follow the Grand Jury recommendation and touch up the charter to avoid fuzzy election math in the future. Instead, they're busily "responding" to the Grand Jury, arguing that the Nov. 29 "official numbers" match the Dec. 6 really, final "canvassed and certified" official numbers. Seriously, let it go.

Perfect Disaster

Last Tuesday, 11 Stanford students were arrested by campus police for holding a sit-in at Stanford president John Hennessy's office to protest the use of sweatshop labor in the production of the university's apparel. The students arrived at Hennessy's office in the late morning and were lead out by campus police at about 4:30pm. Unfortunately for the sweatshop-free campaign, the event's publicity tapered off quickly after initial media reports when the Stanford Daily's lead story on Thursday—about a young woman who lived in Stanford's dorms for eight months allegedly pretending to be a university student—turned into a national story, blowing coverage of the sweatshop protest out of the water. The poor students had even tried to give the event a little ooh-la-la with some nekked protesters; unfortunately for looky-loos, there were only two or three nudists (a few participants also went topless). But for Stanford, it was a start. It was nothing, of course, compared to Berkeley, where just two months ago, 78 people disrobed to protest Cal's plans to level an oak grove to make room for an athletic training facility. It's called commitment to a bit—study up, Stanford brainiacs.

Talk of the Nation

Last year, Fly spotted a blurb in San Francisco Magazine about San Jose's SoFA district that managed to get pretty much everything wrong. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that we approached last week's New York Times travel piece on San Jose by that magazine's foodie scribe Josh Sens. At least he did a decent job. Predictably, Tom McEnery<'b>'s name pops up as the fountainhead of downtown while Ron Gonzales is not even mentioned by name, only as "a more recent mayor," whose corruption scandal "swept him out of office." The SoFA District's First Friday art gallery-hopping events, which Metro wrote about first, are now blasted across the country. And Anno Domini's Brian Eder got to refer to Santana Row as "Satan's Row," which you know made his year, and what's good enough for Brian is good enough for us.

Ragged Glory

Fly saw a lot of flags on Memorial Day, but one you may have noticed more than once over the last few years hangs from the flagpole on Hanchett Avenue, just off the Alameda, behind Peet's Coffee & Tea. It's literally falling apart, but a red sign on the flag explains the neglect. Inscribed in white lettering on it is a poem of owner Dave Thomas' own rendering, which reads: Though tattered and worn I may be/ A job yet unfinished just for me/ 9/11, brand new, first day I flew/ Mission Flag:/ You must fly until bin Laden dies. Thomas, a 59–year–old former Vietnam Army captain who now specializes in building parade floats, lives with his wife, Odette, and three dogs (one of them, he says, is a medical marvel; it only has a mouth, a bladder and a wiener) and indeed put the flag up almost immediately after 9/11, vowing not to take it down until Osama bin Laden was found and killed. And while in the intervening six years both Saddam and Zarqawi have both bit the dust ("I didn't even bat an eye over that," Thomas says), bin Laden is, unfortunately for Thomas' flag, nowhere to be found, making Thomas feel more than a bit sheepish about the vow that he cannot break. The flag has only come off the flagpole three times, each for a very short period to allow a seamstress to patch it up. The darker colors have all but faded and a new union has been stitched onto the original, which is fraying fast. He describes himself as a "patriotic guy to the bone" who in Vietnam won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Thomas supports the war (though he would also support American troops leaving if Iraqis democratically voted that they do) and still feels the president is doing everything he can do to capture bin Laden, despite the war in Iraq. The 2008 election, he notes, would be a great time to pull bin Laden out. "My fantasy," he says, "is if bin Laden ever gets killed—and I know that this is never going to happen—but it sure would be nice if the president takes the flag down for me." He quickly lowers his expectations. "OK, maybe the PTA president. Or the mayor. Maybe we'll just do a family ceremony."

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