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Kerry: The gift of garble.

The Fly

Kerry's Rap

Well, he's no Clinton. He doesn't have the same offhanded manner or casual effusiveness, which means that when John Kerry tries to empathize with his audience, as he did last week by describing the plight of a down-and-out New Hampshire couple at a Tech Museum fundraiser, the results were mostly bland. Kerry's problem tends to be tinny rhetoric, a habit national pundits like Joe Klein have been critical of. "With everything going up, it's time to tell them we're fed up, and their time is up," Kerry said, referring to the message voters should send Team Bush. That's about what you'd expect from a 60-year-old white boy from Massachusetts—no rhythm. But Kerry also showed he might have enough fire in the belly to ignite a crowd. He received a round of applause when he said, "No young American should ever be held hostage to America's dependence on Mideast oil." The crowd booed when he mentioned John Ashcroft, cheered when he said Americans "deserved a president who fights for your job as hard as he does for his job" and hooted when he said the three words that should drive people to the polls this November: the Supreme Court. Some folks were unable to hear the last part of the message, having headed to the exits in large numbers. The reason, though, probably had less to do with Kerry's inability to connect with voters than it did with simple comfort. Organizers of the event didn't provide enough chairs, leaving many unhappy Democrats standing for two hours before Kerry hit the stage. On the scale of priorities, sore feet trump hackneyed phrases any day.

No Room at the Inn

It's a good time to be an employee of the Santa Clara Housing Authority—if you like frozen wages, a proposed decrease in retirement benefits and an increase in medical premiums. Meanwhile, upper management accepts a 5 percent pay increase and gets a $650 per month car allowance. Sweet work if you can get it. "Some of them never use their cars for anything," says Marvin Harrell Jr., one of about 70 Housing employees who picketed their West Julian Street headquarters last week. Chanting "Housing Authority you're no good, treat workers like you should," employees circled in front of the redbrick building for about 30 minutes. They are threatening to strike next month because their collective bargaining contract expires at the end of the month, but the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners failed to meet in time to pass the new budget. The reason? Only three of seven commissioners bothered to attend the meeting. "They are so disinterested in this issue," Harrell says. The 300 workers in the bargaining unit are just the opposite: extremely interested. "We'll do what it takes to get this right," Harrell vows.

War on Error

Kathy Eder, the San Jose high school teacher who made headlines last year with her Operation Hidden Agenda playing cards (countering Iraq's Most Wanted playing cards that were publicized during war proceedings), is back with a new gimmick. This time, instead of falling into swing with the war on terror, Eder has initiated her own war, a nonviolent version of war called the War Against Error. Her first salvo has been directed against Fox host Bill O'Reilly, who appeared last Thursday on ABC's The View and said that the 142 Saudis who left the United States shortly after 9/11 were "all vetted" by the FBI in an attempt to refute Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. This, says Eder, is an error. "Yesterday, Bill O'Reilly talked to thousands of people," Eder told Fly on Friday. "When I first saw it, I thought why did Michael Moore put lies in his film. Then I found out they didn't have enough time [to vet the 142 Saudis]. This War Against Error is a war to inform us, to inform the people." Eder also released a book, No, George, No! The Re-Parenting of George W. Bush, this last May. The book, a fictitious account of the president having a dream where he is parented by the Truth Fairy, is a self-published work that Eder is busy distributing to independent booksellers (the Borders in Los Gatos wouldn't carry it, Eder says). "It's an all-out war," Eders tells Fly. "We have to be armed with knowledge."

Jail Drain

When voters approved Proposition 36 in 2000, requiring some drug offenders to be funneled into treatment programs rather than jail, onlookers assumed that the cost associated with housing diverted offenders would also decrease. According to a recently released civil grand jury report, that hasn't happened in Santa Clara County. The grand jury has found that though the county's jail population has "decreased substantially" since 2001, Department of Corrections spending has taken the opposite trajectory, largely because staffing has remained constant rather than decreased. In 1999 the county's corrections system had an average daily population of 4,800 inmates and a staff equivalent to 1,108 full-time employees. In 2004 there was an average population of 3,800 inmates and a staff of 1,094. In other words, though the jail population has been reduced by about 20 percent, corrections staff has been reduced by 1 percent. The Alcohol and Drug Services report claims that if the costs of the 1,000 eliminated beds were eliminated, about $25 million could be saved. "That question is going to be raised," Corrections' Mark Cursi tells Fly with a sigh. "But the reduction in jail population has come almost exclusively in the minimum security area. The population of medium and maximum security is relatively unchanged, and that's the labor intensive area."

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From the June 30-July 6, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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