Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 30, 2008

No top ten, instead unrelated three

It’s the end of another year, when top ten lists leave their usual haunts — the offices of the Late Show with David Letterman and the FBI — and fill news holes, columns and blogs. They’re popular because the week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically short on hard news.

I’ve seen lists covering run-of-the-mill topics like the year’s top ten news stories, books, movies and albums, and others covering niche topics like the year’s top ten green architecture projects, best and worst CEOs, dinosaur finds and media blunders.

But you won’t find a top ten list here. Instead, I’m bucking the trend by presenting three completely unrelated topics that I’ve been mulling during this dry news cycle.


Layoffs are difficult business, whether they happen in the private or public sector. Unlike private sector workers, public employees have an appeal process and political leverage. Laid-off private sector workers don’t get to plead their cases to CEOs or boards of directors.

Public employees, however, can attend council and board meetings to pressure elected officials to make different decisions, frequently supported by local residents who urge officials not to cut jobs. It’s a scenario that’s already played out in Gilroy and Morgan Hill city halls this year, and will be repeated at other area agencies in coming months.

Having been laid off myself, I empathize with anyone facing the harsh economic reality of downsizing. But I notice that when “no layoffs” advocates are asked for other ways to cut costs or raise revenue, they usually have no ideas or offer suggestions that don’t come close to the cost savings of eliminating jobs.

If you’re going to pressure elected officials not to make layoffs, at least be prepared with viable, comparable-cost-saving alternatives.


Since 2005, a giant snowman dubbed Snowzilla has risen in the front yard of an Anchorage, Alaska, home a few days before Christmas. This year, claiming that the giant snowman is a safety hazard and public nuisance, Anchorage officials tried to stop Snowzilla by issuing a cease-and-desist order to the homeowner.

Despite that order, overnight on Dec. 23, Snowzilla returned. The homeowner claims not to know how the 25-foot snowman with a carrot nose, mittens, scarf and hat appeared in his front yard. He credits Christmas magic.

In the face of Snowzilla’s defiance, Anchorage officials decided that they’ll ignore the public nuisance and safety hazard that Snowzilla presents until after the holidays. I don’t know how, if Snowzilla truly is a dangerous nuisance, those officials can sleep at night while it stands.

Meanwhile, in Harbin, China, officials aren’t trying to stop residents from creating an 82-foot high, 525-foot long Santa snow sculpture.

In matters of much more consequence than snow sculptures, China is a repressive regime and America is a free country. But based on these snowy anecdotes, could you tell?


Although I’m an avid Barack Obama supporter, I’ve predicted that I’d sometimes disagree with his decisions. I didn’t expect it to happen before Jan. 20, 2009, but Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is just such a disappointing decision.

Allow me to bust an oft-repeated myth: The reason that many are angered by the Warren pick is not Warren’s support of Proposition 8, but because Warren outrageously equated homosexual relationships with incest and pedophilia.

I’m all for reaching across the aisle, something that Obama frequently emphasizes. I understand that Warren’s presence at Obama’s inauguration will not affect the new administration’s policies toward homosexuals, and that the furor over Warren invitation gave Obama a chance to describe himself as a “fierce” defender of equality for homosexuals. (I hasten to add that I’ll be watching to see if Obama’s policies and deeds match his words.)

However, I have to believe that Obama could have found a conservative religious leader to deliver the invocation who hasn’t equated homosexuality with incest and pedophilia.

With his selection of Warren, Obama tainted his historic inauguration ceremony. As the nation’s first African-American president and as desperately needed change after eight long years of the Bush-Cheney debacle, that’s a disappointment.

It’s not a blunder on the scale of starting an unnecessary war, winking at torture or diminishing the Constitution, but it’s a disappointing misstep nonetheless, and one that targets a particularly vulnerable minority constituency. I wish Obama had been wiser about his invocation invitation.


I wish you a safe, joyous celebration of the New Year and peace, prosperity and perspicacity in 2009.


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