Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pardon me, Ms. Wal-Mart greeter

... but Halloween isn't exactly an actual, authentic holiday. So unless I'm a little kid in costume trick-or-treating at your house, there's no real need to wish me a happy one. Thank you anyway.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are all Giants fans potheads?

Some TV commentators in Texas apparently think so.

From NBC Bay Area:

Reporters from around the country are in San Francisco this week covering the World Series and that means the eyes of the nation are on us.

If the reporter from our sister station in Dallas is any indication, the country thinks we are potheads.

Newy Scruggs from NBCDFW said during his live report that people next to him "are smoking weed." The anchors then asked, "Is it legal there?" Ask that question again next week.

Scruggs didn't do any real trash talking, unless you consider saying Giants fans are high on pot. He quickly added that we were "nice people," but said that was in part because we were "half buzzed out."

The anchors back in Dallas recommended Newy hold his breath.

Newy came back at the following newscast and went even further. He claimed to have found the location of the pot smokers behind a rock on the banks of McCovey Cove and whined, "Police aren't even doing anything!"

Newy sounded a little worried he might get high off the air, warning if he was a little jumpy in his next live report people would know why.

Hey, why shouldn't people think Giants fans are dopeheads? The team's star pitcher is.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The boys of November

It's Oct. 27, and the World Series is just starting. Barring rain, it's guaranteed that we'll have baseball on Halloween night. And if the series goes seven games, they'll still be playing on Nov. 4.

So we have the Super Bowl in February, the NBA Finals at the beginning of summer and now baseball in what's darn close to the dead of winter.

But wait, it gets better. The National Weather Service is predicting rain in San Francisco starting Thursday, just in time for Game 2, and not clearing until next Monday. And Arlington, Tex.? Clear and mild for the next week or so, with a slight chance of rain next weekend, according to AccuWeather.

Actually, baseball should probably be thankful that the series is happening in California and Texas, instead of, say, Minnesota and Philadelphia or Cincinnati, where it can actually snow.

But wouldn't it be great if the World Series kept getting postponed until they finally played Game 7 around Thanksgiving, when all of its relevance is lost because nobody is really thinking about baseball? It would serve them right.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Many ways to tell ag's story

Cyndie Sirekis, the American Farm Bureau Federation's director of news services, writes:

As an increasing number of farmers and ranchers recognize the value of forging connections with their non-farming customers, many are changing the way they communicate. With millions of Americans using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms as their primary source of information about the food they eat and how it’s produced, farmers are proving wise to dive in and join them.

But social media are just one of many tools farmers use to connect with consumers. With more than 2,800 county Farm Bureaus across the nation, it’s likely most of us have the opportunity to learn about agriculture in a more tactile way.

Farm tours, school field trips, mobile agricultural science labs and virtual combines that simulate harvesting crops remain popular, according to Farm Bureau members.

More of her commentary is here.

The only thing we don't have is Boss Hogg

Redding, Calif.'s city government has about the worst reputation for arrogance and thuggishness of any city I've ever lived in, and I've lived in big cities such as San Diego and small towns like Colusa. Threats of eminent domain. A major sex scandal several years ago involving liaisons in city offices involving multiple people. City councilmembers shouting down citizens' group members for daring to speak out at meetings. The public utility evicting people from their homes for not making their payments. Cops shooting a mentally ill man in his front yard and, on a separate occasion, ramming a loose dog to death with their car. You name it, it's probably happened in Redding.

In many residents' minds, a big reason for the arrogance and poor public image has been the power of its public employee unions, which in this election season alone have spent upwards of $100,000 to propel its slate of three City Council candidates. And if you're a local business owner who happens to support the three hopefuls' opponents, watch out.

From the Record Searchlight:

Redding is investigating a complaint three of its employees threatened a local business with an election-related boycott.

City Manager Kurt Starman confirmed today the city has hired a private investigator to look into the accusation.

“I think it’s a very serious allegation,” Starman said. “At least one employee on city time may have attempted to intimidate a business to influence the outcome of an election.” [...]

The Largents initially decided not to say anything about the threats from city employees. But soon rumors of other businesses getting boycott threats from city workers for displaying campaign signs supporting fiscal conservatives began circulating.

The police and firefighters unions have generously supported council candidates challenging Jones and Bosetti. Many observers have suspected the powerful public safety unions have incited their members to boycott unfriendly businesses.

No, it appears the Chicago Way doesn't stop at Chicago's city limit signs.

UPDATE: A Facebook friend sends me this video about a Vancouver, Wash., city councilwoman's total meltdown.

It's pretty scary the length to which even local government officials are going to smack down citizens whose views they don't like.

Monday, October 25, 2010

That's rather fitting

According to the TV show "American Pickers", the numbers on a roulette wheel always add up to 666.

Are legendary chupacabras just victims of a tiny mite?

An article in Science Daily suggests that they are. (Hat tip: Bruce Ross)

As Halloween approaches, tales of monsters and creepy crawlies abound. Among the most fearsome is the legendary beast known as the chupacabras.

But the real fiend is not the hairless, fanged animal purported to attack and drink the blood of livestock; it's a tiny, eight-legged creature that turns a healthy, wild animal into a chupacabras, says University of Michigan biologist Barry OConnor.

The existence of the chupacabras, also known as the goatsucker, was first surmised from livestock attacks in Puerto Rico, where dead sheep were discovered with puncture wounds, completely drained of blood. Similar reports began accumulating from other locations in Latin America and the U.S. Then came sightings of evil-looking animals, variously described as dog-like, rodent-like or reptile-like, with long snouts, large fangs, leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and a nasty odor. Locals put two and two together and assumed the ugly varmints were responsible for the killings.

Scientists studied some of the chupacabras carcasses and concluded that the dreaded monsters actually were coyotes with extreme cases of mange -- a skin condition caused by mites burrowing under the skin. OConnor, who studies the mites that cause mange, concurs and has an idea why the tiny assailants affect wild coyotes so severely, turning them into atrocities.

So why do these animals attack livestock? The article explains:

Do mite infestations also alter the animals' behavior, turning them into bloodthirsty killers? Not exactly, but there is an explanation for why they may be particularly likely to prey on small livestock such as sheep and goats.

"Because these animals are greatly weakened, they're going to have a hard time hunting," OConnor said. "So they may be forced into attacking livestock because it's easier than running down a rabbit or a deer."

NCBA: Vilsack ignoring the concerns of Congress

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:

In responding to calls from 115 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and several U.S. Senators, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack ignored requests for a comprehensive economic analysis of the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed rule on livestock and poultry marketing under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The proposed GIPSA rule was written in response to a directive made by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill. However, as the 115 House members cited, “GIPSA also included additional proposed regulations that greatly exceed the mandate of the Farm Bill.” The members also stated that “the analysis contained the proposed rule fails to demonstrate the need for the rule, assess the impact of its implementation on the marketplace, or establish how the implementation of the rule would address the demonstrated need.”

The Vilsack response stated, “Beyond the cost-benefit analysis we have conducted for the proposed rule, we look forward to reviewing the public comments to inform the Department if all factors have been properly considered, if or how changes should be incorporated, and to aid more rigorous cost-benefit and related analyses pursuant to the rulemaking process.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Steve Foglesong said Secretary Vilsack, the entire Obama Administration and the proponents of the proposed rule continue to ignore the needs of rural America.

“Secretary Vilsack’s response may work for bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., but for those of us out in the countryside, he has done nothing more than ignore the pleas of thousands of cattle producers. His refusal leaves my fellow cattle producers and me asking, “What are they trying to hide?,” said Foglesong. “The GIPSA rule will further inject the federal government into the market and could very likely result in financial devastation to a critical part of our country’s economy and in thousands of lost jobs at the time when economic growth and job creation are what we need the most.”

Foglesong said it is irresponsible governing on the Administration’s part to advance this rule without providing all stakeholders, including those supporting this proposal, a clear and comprehensive analysis defining how it would affect the marketplace.

“There is bipartisan concern for the proposed GIPSA rule, and rather than ignoring reality, it’s time for Secretary Vilsack and the entire Administration to put partisan ideology aside and listen to the calls of cattle producers and lawmakers across the country,” he said.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Divine disaster

Just caught a snippet of a program on the History Channel called "Mega Disasters," which was wondering how a "mega tsunami" could have pushed water over mountaintops and buried entire countries in the Mediterranean region.

Gee, I think I've read about that sort of thing somewhere before.

Friday, October 22, 2010

California's pot prop is losing

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Californians are souring on a ballot measure to legalize adult recreational use and cultivation of marijuana, according to a new poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The poll found that 44 percent of likely voters support Proposition 19, the marijuana ballot measure, while 49 percent are opposed. The results are a significant decline from last month, when the same survey found Prop. 19 leading 52 to 41 percent.

Prop. 23, which would suspend the state's greenhouse gas law, lost support in the latest poll as did Prop. 24, which would overturn corporate tax breaks. Prop. 25, which would allow the Legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority vote, gained slightly, and is the only measure of those polled that is winning. Five other measures on the ballot were not polled.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Forget principle, let's take a vote

Our local PBS station in far Northern California has found itself in a bit of a quandary over whether to adhere to its stated principles of fairness and inclusion or cave to the mostly left-wing audience that contributes money to the station. (I won't say they pay the station's bills, because you and I do that through the taxpayer-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.)

Blogger Marc Beauchamp forwards an explanation from Phil Smith, GM of KIXE-TV in Redding:

"One of the first changes made since I arrived was the canceling of a program called "Democracy Now!" that aired at 5:00 a.m. I did this because I believe that KIXE should strive to be a station that brings our communities together, not to serve a particular political ideology from the right, left or center. I felt this program represented itself as a newscast while containing political bias and this contradicts the PBS goal of being trustworthy and fair.

The PBS goal is to be trustworthy and fair? Really? But I digress.

"During this controversy, I've had letters, calls and e-mails from folks, withdrawing their support from KIXE and encouraging others to do the same. Some have said that, "they choose to sit back and watch the programming, without financially supporting it." Sad thing is that over the past 4 years, enough people have chosen this path to jeopardize the existance of the station. Almost 1/3 of our revenue comes from local donations and members and as the membership has dwindled so has our ability to serve the community.

"Given the strength of the political divisions in our country and the 'passions' that go with it, my intent was to move KIXE away from the types of controversy found on politically charged cable stations and chart a course towards programming that a community of different interests can agree on; or at least civilly discuss.

"That being said, 'Tis the season to be voting' so I believe that the best way to settle the matter of "Democracy Now!" is to practice a little democracy of our own. I think that this particular issue should be decided by the members of KIXE. You are the ones who have faithfully supported the station over the years and so the decision will be yours."

It's all so hilarious! First of all, we've all heard in local public television pledge drives the obligatory threat that the station could go broke or certain programs may no longer air if there aren't enough donations. But is there any PBS station anywhere in the country that's gone under or suddenly switched to being a Fox affiliate because of a lack of finances? Certainly no privately owned TV station in this market has the financial wherewithal to broadcast three separate digital HD feeds over the air.

Secondly, note that Mr. Smith isn't saying he was wrong to think "Democracy Now!" is a biased program. He's just saying he might reconsider his decision to pull it because some people are complaining. Never mind that airing such a program serves as Exhibit A in critics' claim that PBS is little more than a taxpayer-funded propaganda arm. After all, integrity only goes so far when the babies are crying, don'tcha know.

Hey, I used to work with that guy

I read with interest this report from the Financial Times, which was picked up yesterday by the Drudge Report, detailing the sometimes rocky relationship between the Tea Party movement and the media.

It observes:

However bizarre in its particulars, the arrest on Sunday of Tony Hopfinger, a journalist, by security guards working for Joe Miller, Alaska’s Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for the Senate, was an incident waiting to happen.

Although fuelled by dislike for taxes, hatred of the “liberal media” – including virtually all channels, barring Fox News, and most print publications – is a central tenet of the Tea Party’s world view.

Mr Hopfinger, who had written stories questioning aspects of Mr Miller’s background for his website Alaska Dispatch, was handcuffed after he approached the candidate at what his campaign said was a private event. “I am leaving and this guy is just hounding me – he was right in front of me, blocking the way,” Mr Miller told Fox News after the incident.

You see, I worked with Tony Hopfinger at the Redding Record Searchlight in the late 1990s. I don't remember him striking me as any kind of an ideologue, although the incident with Miller has made him a sort of hero in the eyes of predictably left-wing outlets such as NPR and the Huffington Post. What I do remember is him doing a fair amount of investigative reporting on the local hospitals, which were a mess. He was -- and apparently still is -- a gritty reporter who wasn't afraid to ask tough questions.

Although some of us may prefer them over the same tired, old, establishment candidates, a downside with the often lesser-known Tea Party candidates is that they're not as accustomed to the white-hot spotlight of a general election campaign, and thus they tend to make highly visible mistakes under pressure.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seattle paying through the nose for Obama fundraiser


From the Seattle Times:

President Obama's visit to Seattle this week may be a boon for Sen. Patty Murray and Democrats, but it could prove costly for city taxpayers.

Mayor Mike McGinn recently estimated Obama's stop could cost the city $100,000 to $150,000 in extra police security for the president and his motorcade.

"It's expensive," McGinn said on the Seattle Channel's "Ask the Mayor" show last week. [ ... ]

The city of Seattle faces an estimated $67 million budget shortfall next year, and McGinn has recommended cuts including layoffs of 200 employees and holding off hiring of new police officers, as well as increases in downtown parking rates.

Still, McGinn gave no indication Seattle will try to recoup its Obama-related costs from Democrats. He said Obama has been good for the city.

Yeah, at least some city employees may be given the privilege of providing logistical support for The One before they get their pink slips.

Is California's pot crop worth more than its wine industry?

So asserts NBC Bay Area:

The most persuasive argument for legalizing pot might just be a dollar sign.

California's pot crop is worth $14 billion, according to a state report. The Press Democrat points out that crushes the wine crop which comes in at $2 billion.

Legalization would be a huge shot in the arm for plenty of ancillary industries, such as banking and construction.

But even a vote to legalize pot likely wouldn't give it the kind of respectability that wine has, acknowledges the report.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the federal government would crack down. That risk might make investors too skittish to get involved. Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the government would continue its dangerous raids.

If Eric Holder is going to come after pot plantings, think of what a Republican AG will do in 2013, if there is to be one.