Cat and dogma

Perspective is everything: Max the cat is like a Rorschach test. In the animal’s violent death and the ugly saga that followed, people have seen their biggest concerns about contemporary American society.

The Sacramento man accused of beating the cat to death with a golf club in 2000, James Lacy, became the poster child for animal cruelty, vilified by animal rights activists in the press and on the Internet as the sub-human embodiment of evil, or a sign of how animals need more protection.

Racists also jumped on that cyber-bandwagon, posting vile messages calling for Lacy, a black man, to be tortured and lynched and trying to make his alleged crime emblematic of what they saw as the inherent savagery of his race (and, by extension, the supremacy of whites).

SN&R and freelance writer David Kulczyk looked at the case ("Trial by Internet,” SN&R, February 7) and saw how the Internet is a tool for rallying public opinion, for good or ill, and how in this case, it had vilified a man on slim evidence.

That perspective got some validation last week when prosecutor Hilary Bagley dropped all charges against Lacy for lack of evidence, an action that created its own Rorschach test, showing either that the system works (either because Lacy didn’t do it or that the high “reasonable doubt” standard sometimes lets the guilty free), that government doesn’t care about animals, or that SN&R articles can poison the justice system.

Unfortunately, the tenor has only intensified since Bagley’s decision. She, Kulczyk and Lacy have been targeted by angry threats, and now so has Jamie Knight, the East Coast host of the anti-Lacy “Justice for Max” Web site, who says Lacy’s attorney threatened her with a defamation lawsuit.

Lacy has also been sued by Max’s owner, Denise Baltrons, who has gone from grieving victim to perhaps the most active perpetuator of this ongoing, shameful saga, fueling much of the vitriol on the Web for reasons that only she can know.

So what does Bites see? Just a dead cat, the reality that life is messy and dogma only makes it messier, and good fodder for a column. What do you see?

Bike bait: As regular readers of this column know, Bites is no big fan of proactive police efforts to snare bad guys with stings, false fronts or other entrapping tactics like last year’s prostitution sting by the Sacramento Police Department, or the Placer County Sheriff’s Department‘s perjurious efforts to bust pot growers.

But Bites just has to appreciate the latest high-tech effort to bust bicycle thieves in Sacramento. Sacramento-based Pegasus Technologies Inc. has equipped a mountain bike with a sophisticated tracking device and started placing it in areas where lots of bikes get stolen.

Once it gets nabbed, the company will then alert either the Sacramento Police or sheriff’s departments that it was stolen and where it is. “We are making the ‘bike bait’ available to local law enforcement agencies at no cost to help reduce bike theft in Sacramento,” said company president Jason Cecchettini, a Sacramento native.

Sure, there are some troubling undertones to setting bait for thieves, but you gotta give these guys some points for creativity.

See the truth: Unions and the auto industry—under the guise of a front group called Council for Citizens Against Government Waste—are about to perpetrate another dangerous fraud on the American people.

They are once again lobbying Congress against increasing fuel efficiency standards in automobiles—something we need for both environmental and national security reasons—trying to make the issue about consumer choice, the economy, free markets, safety or anything else that will cloud the real issue.

A recent Frontlines program showed what an ugly façade the safety argument is, which goes that greater efficiency necessitates smaller, lighter cars, which are more dangerous in accidents. Largely on that argument, new standards were defeated in Congress several years ago.

Since then, as SUVs have come to dominate the market, accident fatality rates have increased, as smaller cars get crushed by these massive machines. Our decisions have consequences from which we can’t isolate ourselves, whether in the security of a massive military or an SUV.