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The Law of Unintended Consequences; Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining; From the Record Shelf

Wednesday, Sep 5 2001

The Law of Unintended Consequences

So, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has introduced an ordinance making it illegal for candidates to knowingly make false statements in their campaign literature within three months of an election. We're intrigued by the idea in theory, and indeed we'd like to suggest amendments to also ban politicians from pointless speechifying and not directly answering the questions they're asked. But perhaps amendments are for another day.

Still, we were wondering if the proposal had been completely thought through. The main intent of the ordinance is to prevent a political candidate from blindsiding an opponent with a last-minute campaign of lies and distortion, as they say in the trade. "It's necessary because during a heated campaign some candidates decide to make statements that are completely untrue. ... If [a mailer] goes out on the weekend before a Tuesday election, it's very hard for somebody to respond to that," says McGoldrick, who claims he was the victim of a late attack in the last election.

But here's an interesting twist. A legal expert confirms that there is nothing in the language of the proposal to prevent a politician from being sued or fined for telling lies about himself. So if a candidate exaggerates his record, say, or claims credit for something he didn't do, he could also wind up in truth court? "Absolutely," McGoldrick says.

Hmm, suddenly we're a lot more interested in the next election.

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Yes, Webvan -- the late, lamented home-delivery grocer -- is dead, but it has not been buried. Savvy bargain hunters can still feed on the Webvan carcass, if they know where to look. Berkeley-based Grocery Outlet, a discount food retailer, recently beat out two other competitors in an auction for the bankrupt Webvan's inventory.

The company picked up more than $9 million worth of fire-sale merchandise and has already started distributing the booty to its stores in eight western states (including a dozen locations in the Bay Area) at discounts of about 40 percent, according to a company vice president. It's a hodgepodge of grocery and household items that are still in their distinctive, brightly colored Webvan delivery bins. At Grocery Outlet's Berkeley store not long ago, bargains included a 24-ounce jar of French's mustard for 69 cents and a box of Post Honey Nut Shredded Wheat for $1.59.

Oh, and if you'd like the perfect keepsake by which to remember the dot-com glory years, the company VP says Webvan'll sell the bins, too.

From the Record Shelf

A Novato company called Companion Arts has released a two-CD recording aimed at an unusual niche audience: the soon-to-be-dead.

Titled Graceful Passages, the set features a variety of well-known spiritual gurus -- such as death expert Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and "renowned spiritual teacher" Ram Dass -- reading selections of Deep Thoughts in hushed and reverent tones as syrupy New Age music plays soothingly in the background. A sample:

Let yourself relax into this moment.

Let yourself be held without any need to hold yourself up.

Let yourself meet the unknown.

It's OK. It's a place we don't have to know with our mind.

The recording is not only for those on their deathbeds but "is likely to be of special interest to the 80 million members of the Baby Boom generation ... [who] are beginning to face their own mortality," the company says.

We're thinking they're a little premature on the boomer idea, but they may be right about one thing: After 73 minutes of listening to this, death might not seem so bad.

About The Author

Matt Smith


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