Bad con, no donor

Compassionate conservatives: California legislators returned from the holidays to shower love on their incarcerated brethren and sistren last week, sending out press releases on not one, but two pieces of legislation aimed at our state’s prison population.

First out of the fax machine Tuesday afternoon was an announcement from Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, proclaiming that his bill to banish all tobacco products from California state prisons had passed a “key legislative hurdle.” The Leslie-sponsored Assembly Bill 384, newly approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee, would extend the no-smoking ban currently in effect at three state institutions to all state prisons.

Noting that the one dissenting vote came from “notoriously liberal” Los Angeles-area Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, Leslie goes on to describe the bill as a way to save the state money on health-care costs. “And it will help make our prison population healthier,” adds Leslie. “We’re not looking to further punish prisoners. We see this as a way of helping them, that if they can survive their quitting this habit, then maybe they can reform their lives in other ways, too.”

Not to be outdone, state Senator Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, sent out a press release five hours later touting his own contribution to inmate welfare. Denham’s Senate Bill 38 would give organ donors “the opportunity to opt out of having their organs donated to an incarcerated inmate” just by checking a handy box on their organ-donor cards.

Who knows? If Denham gets his way, it’s just a matter of time before we’ll be able to withhold our organs from members of specific political parties.

Bad sex: When Sacramentan Robert Berry wants to find out just how often he’s been plagiarized of late, all he has to do is run a Google search for the phrase, “munchkins got a shot at Dorothy.” That’s how Berry characterized the cinematic coupling of Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone in his article “The Worst Sex Scenes Ever.”

“I think that’s a unique enough quote where you wouldn’t see it very often,” said the creator of the Web site, whose November 20 article since has found its way—sans credit—into some 30 publications worldwide.

“I actually had to reverse-engineer it,” said Berry about how he tracked down the theft. What he did was to trace the various reprints back to an international wire service, which, in turn, had picked up the story from the December 30 edition of the Daily Star, a British tabloid that Berry said is “akin to the Globe; it’s not even the Enquirer.”

Instead of crediting Berry, the tabloid story carved up his remarks and attributed them to the readers of an apparently fictitious American magazine called Film. The Star borrowed other one-liners from his piece but stopped short when it came to his description of Deliverance (“Sometimes a man just wants to be held, not made to be a farm animal”).

The RetroCRUSH creator said he was amazed when a Daily Star editor told him anything on the Internet is fair game, but he opted not to sue because of both expense and inability to prove substantive damages. Berry now bills his site as “The World’s Finest Website and UK Tabloid Muse.”

Disappearing dissent: When Bites last harangued graphic designers at The Sacramento Bee—for creating a recurring icon that could be read as an endorsement for the recall of Gray Davis—editors were quick to replace it with a nonpartisan icon. Now it seems the Bee’s graphics department is at it again. The front page of last Thursday’s edition boasted an above-the-fold chart that misrepresented public support for Proposition 57, the $15 billion borrowing spree Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed on the March 2 ballot.

The Field Poll graphic uses a bright red bar to represent the Yes vote. An equally bright yellow bar represents the Undecided vote. And the No vote? At first glance, there wasn’t any. That’s because, forced to find a complementary color for red and yellow, the Bee naturally opted for … transparent! (A closer look at the chart reveals that the No vote actually was 40 percent, compared with 33 percent voting Yes and 27 percent voting Undecided.)

Then again, maybe the paper is just preparing us for the inevitable, knowing that Arnold and his cronies will shell out some $6 million to $8 million in advertising to make that No vote go away between now and March.