No fooling

CN&R intern Matt Graydon has an incredible quotation in a Newslines story this week, words uttered by Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico. Graydon covered the recent visit by the Chico Bill of Rights Defense Committee to Herger’s local office to ask for his support of the “Freedom to Read Protection Act of 2003” petition. I asked Graydon to cover the event, and I knew Herger wouldn’t go along with the request. The act would undo the part of the Patriot Act that allows the government to know what books you buy from a store or check out of the library, real privacy-invading stuff. But I didn’t expect the remarks from Herger to be so … so … what are the words? Incredibly dense? Herger said, and you can see it for yourself on page 13, “I would hate to be a co-sponsor of this [resolution] and have it pass, and [find out later] that the next terrorist went to the libraries and got the way to make a bomb.” Is he kidding? If somebody wants to make a bomb badly enough, he doesn’t need a library or a bookstore. Nor would the Patriot Act keep him from the library, anyway. Doesn’t Herger understand the importance of privacy and individual freedom? What would Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson say to this? Then Herger had the audacity to compare the folks asking for his support to appeasers of Nazi Germany’s rise to power. We’re living in a dangerous time, and it’s not just the terrorists we have to fear.

Got an e-mail from Monica Sheffield this week inviting me to “attend the ground breaking of a major Mendocino Forest ‘Restoration for Recreation’ project that will affect thousands of outdoor recreationists and the local recreation economy.” Well, I thought, that sounds good. Tell me more. I imagined little kids with dirt on their knees and hands, happily planting redwood trees while their parents cleared the forest floor of dangerous buildups of underbrush, the fuel for catastrophic fires. Then I came across this: “HUMMER AND TREAD LIGHTLY! LAUNCH RESTORATION EFFORT AT MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST’S NORTH FORK CAMPGROUND.”

Now, when I hear the word “hummer” two things come to mind, and one of them is the obnoxiously large squirrel-squashing SUV that offers a ridiculous street presence. Ever see one try to park in a downtown parking space? Only people with incredible inferiority complexes would fork over the money to buy such beasts. (We can only hope that current gas prices will bring these drivers back to their senses.) The e-mail said the two organizations “are launching a new initiative aimed at repairing damage caused by the 2001 ‘Trough Fire’ at the North Fork Campground in the Mendocino National Forest.” In other words, these people want to fix the damage the fire caused so they can do new damage with their eight-miles-per-gallon Hummers.

Happy April Fool’s Day. I tried to think of a good joke here, but being a serious sort of fellow came up empty. I do remember a story my dad used to tell about a trick he would play on his best friend Virgil Carter when they were young boys in the late 1920s and rode the city bus around Barberton, Ohio. While waiting for the bus to arrive,” my dad told me, “I would talk Virgil into giving me his dime for the bus fare and I would put it in my pocket with my dime. When the bus arrived, I would get on first and take both dimes and slip them into the money receptacle at the same time and give the bus driver a wink. Then I would turn with mock horror and say, ‘Great Scott Virgil! I’ve lost your dime!’ Virgil would panic and start to back down the steps trying to exit the bus. ‘Wait,’ I’d say, grabbing his arm just before he got off. ‘Maybe I can talk the bus driver into giving you a ride for free, just for today.’ Virgil would look hopefully at the driver and offer a weak smile. And the driver, in on the joke, would smile back, nod his head at Virgil and let us know it was OK, much to Virgil’s relief. I did this more than once and Virgil never caught on; more surprisingly, he never asked how I knew it was his dime that I lost and not mine.”