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Fawn of a New Era

An eleventh-hour Republican counterattack to last month's fete of Bill Clinton by 75 high-tech execs has been mounted by some of Silicon Valley's biggest wigs, evident last week when 198 high-tech business names heralded the Dole-Kemp ticket and its championing of tax cuts and less government--at least for big business and their well-compensated executives and shareholders. Among them were Apple Computer president and CEO Gil Amelio and CEO of Netscape Communications, Jim Barksdale. As if on cue, two days later Gov. Pete Wilson appeared at Apple central in Cupertino to announce the signing of Senate Bill 38, which doles out tax cuts and incentives for R&D. A few days later, vice presidential wannabe Jack Kemp flew in for a private visit with Netscape executives in Mountain View, though officials were coy on the details. ... Pieter Hartsook, tech industry newsletter scribe, reminds Eye that despite its image as liberal and laid-back, Apple is very much a part of the political and corporate establishment. "There is a history of political engagement with Apple officials," Hartsook informs us. "The most visible Apple CEO was John Scully, who some thought had political ambitions himself." ... Election-year fawning over Silicon Valley by both parties can be seen as further mainstreaming of industries that began with a bright idea in someone's garage. Quotesmiths Hartsook: "I think it's further recognition that these are not rogue elements of our economy, but part of the establishment."

Debatable Value

Last week's debate between state Senate incumbent Byron Sher and his Pete Wilson-backed GOP challenger, Patrick Shannon, was a good example of why most people don't attend political debates these days. The highlight of the event, broadcast live on Palo Alto's city-run cable channel, was the disgusted, eyes-rolling look on Sher's face when Shannon charged that the incumbent Democrat doesn't care about rape victims and has never done anything to help them. Sher, who ignored Shannon throughout most of the encounter, preferring to concentrate on larger issues, was clearly taken aback by the attack. Unwilling to allow himself to be tagged as a friend of rapists, he responded to Shannon's charge by ticking off a series of anti-rape, pro-victim bills that he supported. But it was the look in Sher's eyes that was most precious, a you-can't-possibly-be-serious expression. Sher didn't seem terribly worried by the hit, though, and used the rest of his response time to dis Shannon by denouncing Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, which Shannon supports and the former Stanford Law School professor opposes. Sher is particularly agitated by CCRI's Clause C, which would permit the state to discriminate against women in cases where "bona fide qualifications" are "reasonably necessary" in the performance of a job. CCRI's authors say the clause was inserted to prevent instances where a male prison guard might demand the legal right to search a female prisoner. But Sher, shortly after fending off the pro-rape accusation, maintained the clause would permit new forms of job-related discrimination against female applicants.

Zoe Power

And while we are on the subject of debates, there was another odd encounter on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week that featured a face-off between San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren and fellow Democrat Mel Watt of North Carolina. The subject was a bill sponsored by Wired magazine subject Lofgren and GOP Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida that tightens the registration provisions for convicted child molesters. Under Lofgren's bill, convicted child molesters would have to register with their local police department upon their release from prison and would have to maintain a current registration, letting the authorities know whenever they move for the rest of their lives. Under current law, the registration period lapses after ten years if there are no further offenses. Lofgren's bill also makes failure to register a federal crime, punishable by one year in prison for the first offense and ten years for subsequent non-registrations. Democrat Watt objected to those two provisions, claiming they violate constitutional rights. Once a "debt has been paid to society," Watt said, the child molesters should be free to get on with their lives. "Under this law," Watt charged, "a person can become a criminal and be sent to prison for not registering even if they have done nothing wrong," which he said violates the presumption of innocence. ... But Lofgren was hearing none of it. "The presumption of innocence is removed upon conviction," Lofgren answered, adding that she prefers life sentences for first-time child molesters but "since that still isn't uniform," the beefed up registration bill, which passed overwhelmingly, would have to do.

The Thin Vote

Meanwhile, Eye bumped into north county supe candidate Joe Simitian last week, and there is a lot less to bump into. Simitian has lost 25 pounds since his March primary battle with Cupertino's Barbara Koppel and credits his daily precinct-walking regimen in San Jose, Cupertino and Mountain View for the weight reduction. "It's been really healthy for me," says Simitian, who took a leave of absence from his law firm to campaign full time. "July was very, very good," the candidate continues. "Walking door to door in 95 degrees, it's hard not to lose weight." Simitian is not sure if a new diet book will come out of all this, but "it is a lot cheaper than joining a health club," he assured Eye before setting off on his daily rounds.

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From the October 3-9, 1996 issue of Metro

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