Feeling the spirit

Just breathe: It’s a sad day when Bites has to admit to not being 100-percent dialed in to the frat-party scene. It’s a sadder day still when state Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr. knows, before Bites, about that scene’s newest alcohol-related paraphernalia.

Enter the AWOL Machine. Alcohol without liquid. Yes! You can vaporize your vodka and simply inhale your liquor. Breathable booze. The machine makes alcohol into air and rushes it into the bloodstream alongside a healthy dose of pure oxygen. No hangovers. Plus, according to the manufacturers of the magic machine, Spirit Partners Inc., it reduces the carbs and calories in alcohol, since none of the drink actually hits your belly.

This is one of those “… since sliced bread” moments. And Bites is still stinging from the idea of being beaten to it by a state legislator. Baca’s from San Bernardino, fer chrissakes!

So, Bites searched the Internet to see who else out there was privy to this.

The only state newspaper to make mention of the machine: The Orion, the student newspaper of California State University, Chico. Of course.

Now the bad news: Baca has proposed a bill—mimicking legislation pushed by the national Distilled Spirits Council in Illinois, Maine, Tennessee and other states—to outlaw the machine. And that bill survived the California Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee last week.

A Colorado congressman has even proposed a federal ban.

So … wait a sec … hold on … Bites just has to type the old credit-card number into the Internet order form …

Further off the record: Steve Maviglio—the former Gray Davis spokesman now with Fabian Núñez—has won the latest round in what appears to be an ongoing battle with Jason Leopold, the former Dow Jones bureau chief now shopping for a new publisher. The Assembly speaker’s deputy chief of staff recently sent Bites a Washington Post column reporting that Leopold had been dropped by his publisher in the wake of Maviglio’s threatened legal action (see “Power struggle” by Bill Forman, SN&R News, February 24).

The controversy began after Maviglio’s lawyers sent the publisher a January 27 letter concerning his portrayal in the tell-all tome. They particularly objected to the book’s characterization of Maviglio being nervous about his energy stock holdings at a time when the Davis administration was negotiating long-term contracts in the wake of Enron gaming the state’s energy market.

“The true facts,” wrote Maviglio’s lawyer, “are that Mr. Maviglio never discussed with Mr. Leopold any alleged use of alleged ‘inside information,’ and/or that he ‘might have broken’ any law or regulation whatsoever.” He went on to argue that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the charges and found no violations of law.

Earlier this week, Leopold confirmed the news by e-mail: “Publication of my book, Off the Record, has been canceled by Rowman & Littlefield, my former publisher. I’m currently sending my book out to publishers who have balls. Hopefully, you’ll get to read it one day.”

Public Endangerment Committee: In one corner, you have the most liberal of the state’s Assembly members: five Democrats from the Bay Area and Los Angeles led by

San Franciscan Mark Leno. In the other corner, you have two of the more conservative: Assemblymen Jay LaSuer, from eastern San Diego County, and Todd Spitzer, from inland Orange County.

The sparring partners could not be further apart, philosophically, when it comes to law-enforcement issues. It’s a recipe for getting absolutely nothing done in the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee.

Some examples: Bills that would have given parents better access to information about child molesters in their neighborhoods, ended overnight conjugal visits for prison inmates convicted of violent felonies and increased maximum fines against identity thieves all were killed in the committee last month. Each of those bills was authored by a Republican.

Democrats, however, passed out of committee several of their own bills—the kind Governor Schwarzenegger rightly pokes fun at—including one that would outlaw the practice of cropping dogs’ ears and another that would lower crack cocaine penalties. Attempts to rename the committee from Public Safety to Public Endangerment presumably will not make it out of committee.