Project Briefing

Use with caution: our intent is to singe, and not burn.

Dear Mr. President,

Do you mind if I call you Bill? It was a pleasure talking to you the other day. It's amazing what these new computers are capable of isn't it? I remember the old days when it was just me and the Woz doing this sort of stuff for kicks over at the dorms in Berkeley. Getting the Pope out of bed at the Vatican and stuff. Gosh that was fun. And then he has the gall to dump me and start running around with that other guy, Jobs. After all I did for him designing that board and everything. Anyway, thanks for hearing me out and sorry for the delay in getting this to you.

After all is said and done you might say that this video project is a combination fire prevention and habitat enhancement film or just that it straddles the fence between fire safety issues and environmental issues. Either way, this is definitely not a blueprint for the typical fire department produced video. I think you'll agree that this video is a very good way to help keep down the Federal budget deficit and achieve a balanced budget. Your house burned once a long time ago so you should know how it feels to live in a home that's survived a fire.

While it may be difficult to think about the possibility of catastrophic neighborhood brushfires when it has been pouring down snow and rain, this does have the benefit of keeping the emotions from getting out of hand when discussing the issue. I know that this is an issue that you may not be used to dealing with. There's a lot to be said for delegating but I'm taking this project directly to the people and I might as well start with you. Washington DC is kind of the armpit of the country in terms of a natural environment. I mean its where the only bobcat you'll ever see is one produced by Detroit. I don't suppose you'll have to go further than Camp David to see real deer and such. Because suburban wildlife, for the rest of us, is so nice to have around then perhaps you'll agree that the minimum we can do for the creatures that share our neighborhoods is to limit the invasion of exotic invasive plants in what remains of our wildland areas. Perhaps the nature lovers could also do a little habitat enhancement work on the side. Keeping toxic runoff out of the creeks is another worthwhile goal even if it means working to prevent our homes and cars from being destroyed by fire. Out here in the arid West it is considered the lesser of two evils.

That fire over in Inverness (just north of San Francisco) in October of '95 couldn't have happened to a nicer community. I was stunned when I got home from work and read in the paper about the $4 million it cost to control the fire and the $40 million in damages it did. I was so stunned I couldn't even inhale. That money could have been spent in so many ways to help improve the environment. Not that the costs will ever be recovered but I was so relieved when the youths who started the fire came forward. I have really stuck my neck out on this video project in a financial and legal way and believe me it was a great relief. Not to mention any names but I guess we all have our legal worries.

I realize that you must receive many requests for endorsements on a variety of issues but I think you'll find this one unique. For starters we are truly a grass roots organization. All of the people on this committee sent in letters of interest and resumes in response to entries on or fliers like the help wanted poster in my fax. We intend to use 99 and 44/100 % volunteer labor to create the video and then distribute our product for no more than the cost of copying and postage. The good news is that we now have $25 in donations for our video project and pledges for several hundred more. The bad news is that this is short of our proposed budget of $4250 (but a good start nonetheless).


As you can see from the enclosed letters of endorsement, our base of support continues to grow. I am currently seeking further endorsements from the medical community who are often called upon to deal with the burn victims that major fires leave in their wake. In another good example of multi-disciplinary cooperation, I have just received a letter of endorsement from one of the parties involved in the construction of the Stanford University/Los Trancos Creek fish ladder. CalTrout An engineer from Brian Kangas Faulk Inc. responded favorably to a sales pitch for a "water quality insurance policy " for this branch of San Francisquito Creek. Further support for this video project has come from a surprisingly wide, bi-partisan cross section of northern California society including ecologists, doctors, college professors, firemen, park rangers and local politicians. Southern California has long been aware of the kind of fire that can destroy a whole neighborhood. The kind of weather conditions that sustain that kind of fire are present in the Bay Area for only a few weeks or maybe months of the year. Please help us alert the people of the Bay Area to this problem. We believe that fire safety, fiscal responsibility and habitat enhancement are mutually compatible goals.

As I alluded to in our brief conversation, our goals include preserving the quality of life here in the Bay Area by preventing disastrous neighborhood brush fires and quietly reshaping the public's attitude toward the role of fire in nature. We also hope to encourage public involvement in volunteer vegetation management projects on open space land such as wintertime pile burning and summertime broom pulling. Our video is designed to get people to begin to look at the fuel loads and invasive species in their private backyards and beyond - in the local parks.

On a nuts and bolts level, we intend to broadcast this video over the Mid-Peninsula Access Channel (channel 6 & 77) network, KQED TV9, KCSM TV60, and possibly KTEH TV54. We will customize the video for each audience with appropriate music and physically distribute the video by mailing copies to city councils, fire stations, environmental centers, plant nurseries, hardware stores and local planning departments. Additional copies will be passed out as souvenir copies to supporting groups and individuals. Chelsea could even take one to school with her. Now that she and I are practically neighbors maybe I could have her phone number.

So that's pretty much the whole ball of wax. We think you will find this video entertaining, motivating and educational. This video would look so good with the Presidential seal of approval on it. Please don't hesitate to call if you have any questions. My new # is phone


Steven P. Kennedy

PS If you're ever out this way why don't you stop by and we'll shoot the breeze and crack open a Foster's, ok? If you don't mind climbing, I know a great place to enjoy a couple of beers. The view is just great, you can pee anywhere and smoke for as long as you like.

Dear Steve,

You really shouldn't call me like that. The boys down at Langley got all kinds of excited when that happened. Something about a buggy software patch or something. Software patch, watermelon patch, it's all the same to me. I'm just a good ol' boy from the south but they got some real assholes here and they keep me boxed up tighter than a pig in a corn crib. Inhale? I just wish I could open the god damn windows in this place.

Your project sounds pretty good from here but I'm afraid I can't say anything more. I'll talk to Pete Wilson if I can at the next governors' conference but no promises ya hear? I've broken enough of those already. I'll see if I can E-mail you something when my secretary's out to lunch. My chief of staff would get so ticked off if he knew just how much time I spend playing computer golf. I hate this job. Do you have any good ideas about blowin' the next election so Al and I can go home? America needs more true patriots like you. Keep up the good work.


PS And here's an off the wall idea. I don't much like the place and I'd like you to keep it quiet so it doesn't become a big deal but I'll be staying at the Ambassador Hotel on a campaign swing through Los Angeles. Would you like to join our motorcade out to La Raza Knoll where I plan to deliver a major gun control speech? I'd like to offer you up in my introductory remarks as an example of a man who has asked what he could do for his country. It should be a heady experience. Send your Email reply in confidence to...


Newt Gingrich 
Speaker of the House 
The Capitol Building 
Washington, DC 89823 
January 9th, 1996 


Dear Newt,

As a patriotic American I just wanted to let you know how good it is to have the country up and running again. I've been planning for a long time to go up to Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, to examine first hand the effects of the Mt. Vision Fire on the devastated neighborhoods around the town of Inverness. Because the visitor center at Point Reyes National Seashore has been closed due to the budget standoff, I've had to postpone this trip. Its been really inconvenient. I can now lay my plans and drop in on the rangers there to talk up this video project and get their reactions to how the land is recovering. Have you ever spent much time in scenic northern California? As an environmentally concerned person and professional living and working in an suburban area, I know that you have an appreciation for the environment and tremendous influence in your field. I also hope that you are more inclined to seek an environmentally acceptable solution to suburban wildfire in the Western half of the country than the average fireman, environmentalist or sportsman. We both know that we just can't afford to have more of these monster fires that destroy thousands of homes, cars, trees and the soil to boot. Something like that could create a run on a jittery Wall Street. The San Mateo County Department of Parks & Recreation hasn't planned adequately for this kind of fire disaster. The Department of Emergency Services isn't ready. The Planning Department is under a crushing workload as it is and couldn't even begin to hire and train the people fast enough to keep up with the building permits and environmental reviews that would follow a Berkeley Hills type fire. How would your federal workers out here weather the storm? With minimal effort you could write a letter of endorsement or join us on a shoot for a photo op. In return, I'd be more than happy to give you a mention in the closing credits and a copy of the video.

As you well know, our environment has really taken a beating during this past decade, and could really use some tender loving care. According to the series of articles on fires in the Sierra Nevada watersheds, (available by request) run recently by the Sacramento Bee, firefighters know what has to be done in terms of fuel reduction and defensible space but the public perception of the issue has to change before politicians like you can act. The voters take notice of issues involving big money and the education of the voters must start with an issue that they can relate to, an issue such as the $1.5 billion Oakland-Berkeley hills fire and ways homeowners can act to prevent the next big one.

I've already collected dozens of letters of interest from concerned citizens in the Bay Area and endorsements from other professionals so you'll be in good company. Take a look at the funding proposal. Also take a look at the other materials in the packet. Another similar video is in store for each of the Bay Area counties using the same basic outline and there's no reason a nearly identical version can't be done in Sierra Foothill counties as well. Please find enclosed some materials laying the ground work for creating a 28.5 minute, proactive, environmental video. If you find these materials interesting then consider that while we may have big dreams, our video project committee seeks funding for the practical reason of creating and speedily reaching a wide audience with a low cost video to be aired and viewed both publicly and privately. There is no other mission plan and no hidden agenda. This video is designed to publicize a viable solution for a public health hazard and environmental nightmare and thus create changes in important public policy.

Again, thanks for doing the budget and please find enclosed a proposal outlining our themes and strategy for creating a 28.5 minute, proactive, environmental video. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.


Steven P. Kennedy

PS The rest of the material below is grant proposal material and is recommended reading for your legislative aides.


The Cannonball Express
January 12th, 1996

Dear Mr. Kennedy,

Yes we have read your file about your stupid video. You have had our full attention and you can now remove that stupid little *#@$%& virus from our database. Yes, the one that says "Ze plane Ze plane! Newt's getting off ze back of ze plane", every damn time we log on. Very funny! You could get in serious trouble for that Mister. That's blackmail you know and... ahh... oh forget it. We've been kind of stressed out around here and we got a laugh out of it every time. Fax us the solution and we'll disinfect all our floppies and hard disks. I might keep just one copy around though, just in case Newt decides to downsize his staff. Do you have anything nastier?  As you might have guessed Mr. Gingrich has been really preoccupied these days and he's not easy to sit down and talk to under the best of circumstances. Even legislative aides like me rarely see him except in closed door meetings. So I'll do what I can AFTER we get the virus off the database ok? Maybe I'll make a hint to the USDA staff that they won't have to cut their soybean price support program by billions if the Forest Service can fund just one little private sector public service video. And no more viruses ok? We've had enough trouble with that macro virus to last us a lifetime. Ya damn yankee hacker,

Mark "Munch" Miller-Asst. Aide to the Speaker


Dear Mr. Spielberg, Here are some additional materials to bring you up to date on the video project. We are in a race with mother nature on this one and every day and dollar counts. As you know from our proposed budget, at this point I'm still searching for additional funding. (And aren't we all?) Your moral support in this project will help to wake people up to the fact that we are ready to film and that we are a worthy recipient of matching funds. I'm working on getting letters of endorsement from CalTrout and the Department of Fish & Game right now to further broaden our base of support. What I need is the backing of pro's like you (and a groundswell of public opinion in favor of the principles behind this video project). I know that you're busy but when you've got a moment won't you please write?

When our base of support and our bank account look solid enough we will interview each of our six producer candidates and select one to run the show. This will free me to rewrite the script for use in other Bay Area counties. And although I will not edit the final tape, I will see to it that all supporters get prominent mention in the closing credits.

I look forward to your reply.


Steven P. Kennedy
Project Director of...The Vegetation Management
Video Project


Dear Steve,

Thanks for your briefing packet and recent follow up letter. Every time I turn around it seems there's another guy named Steve who wants me to look at something interesting. Either guys named Steve are just naturally talented or my secretary doesn't bother to read the last names on these envelopes, I don't know. If she didn't have such a nice tush sometimes I think I'd fire her. Anyway, yeah I think you've got a good idea here. Pursue it as far as you can.

Let me know if you need any special effects and next time you're out here we'll do lunch.



Dear Pete,

I was just wondering if you had you had the chance to talk to the President at the last governors' conference in Scottsdale. He said he'd put in a few good words for me. He's a nice guy but he don't know nothin' about computers. He also gave me the code name to get this envelope past your mail room staff. (Attn: Rock Testamenti) I promised I wouldn't post it on the Internet. That was so clever. It sounds almost mafia. Did you think of that? I mean "You are the rock...last wil and testament". Nifty. I won't share it with anyone, I promise. That's what's nice about a Web site. It's so exclusive. Feel free to post anything here for me. Give me a full brain dump. Its not like riff raff are going to see it and abuse it or anything. And let me tell you in complete confidence that I think you're doing a great job. You should take another run at the presidency. It was just bad luck with the sore throat and all. And that thing with the maid? Forget it. Do an infomercial like OJ. You can say you thought she was an Indian. Now where you can't afford to take chances is with disasters. San Francisco Mayor Jordan shows up at a sink hole in a fancy neighborhood and pffft there goes his job. It would make such better press to announce a program that prevents that sort of tragedy from happening in the first place. And what with another drought shaping up here you could have a real image problem by showing up at an empty reservoir in a helicopter or at the scene of a major fire in the suburbs. Toupees flying in the prop wash and the whole thing. Bad press. Let me tell you what I have in mind. Endorse this and they'll think you're a real statesman or at least a neo- conservationist at heart.

This video project, which is designed to help prevent a disastrous Berkeley Hills type fire from happening in the Bay Area, can be thought of as a moleskin bandaid for one of our culture's Achilles heels. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?) If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance then baffle 'em with bullshit, I say. But seriously, we are so vulnerable to fire (even if only for a few months of the year) and yet burns and their treatment can be so disruptive for the landscape, humans and animals. For the sake of a little privacy and well intentioned habitat "protection", we citizens too often put the lives of our families in harms way. This is more than a fire safety issue and environmental issue. This is a land use issue with environmental complications. From my point of view, when this kind of disaster strikes, nature is insulted immediately with smoke and toxic runoff, in the short term with loss of habitat, and in the long term with the din of reconstruction. A true fiscal conservative would back this project in a heartbeat. Would you write for me a letter of endorsement that mentions a few of the issues that only your party can relate?

I look forward to your reply.

Steven P. Kennedy

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