Heat strokes

Let’s get sweaty: During the recent triple-digit heat, the air conditioner dials in our homes and cars developed a gravitational pull, beckoning sweaty hands to just touch them, please. Yet resisting that impulse this summer will make the difference between blackouts and business-as-usual.

Sure, we can try to all do the right thing, but that kind of personal willpower and sacrifice-for-society ethos is difficult to sustain, especially when the brain is boiling and the body is covered with a sheen of sweat.

So that means that we’re all gonna need each other, and together we’ll have to stigmatize the use of air conditioners. Just as social stigmas cause many people not to use drugs or talk during movies, so too can we put interpersonal pressure on those around us to do the right thing.

Let’s make a sweaty brow a mark of virtue. Let’s start frowning upon those who wear coats and ties to work instead of labeling shorts-wearers as the unprofessional ones. Have your “wimp!” taunt at the ready for those who whine about their need for air conditioning.

Bites will try to help out, too. Whenever you learn about any Sacramento area entities who aren’t sharing the pain, drop Bites a line so we can use this column to publicly shame and humiliate them.

Pass it around: Also under the heading of energy self-reliance comes the call to declare the first day of summer to be “Roll Your Own Blackout Day,” in which citizens across the country are urged by anonymous e-mail sources to go without power from 7-10 p.m. on June 21.

The idea is to send a message of solidarity and protest to the energy companies and their White House enabler, President George “The Oil Dipstick” Bush. Let’s show how demanding the demand side of the equation can really get.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but Bites plans to do all it can to support the idea. Anytime that millions of citizens can do anything that defies the powers-that-be, well, that’s got to be a good thing.

SMUDly Do-Right: OK, just one more energy item before we move on to something a little more fun. Didja hear that San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown last week tapped former Sacramento Municipal Utilities District board member Ed Smeloff to head the city’s Public Utilities Commission and spearhead a drive to create a regional public power authority?

Smeloff is the man who almost single-handedly led the effort to shut down the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant and turn around SMUD’s then-beleaguered financial condition, so he definitely has the bona fides to lead a populist takeover of Pacific Gas & Electric’s infrastructure, and to go chest-to-chest with the gouging power generators.

Just as SMUD created a public power model that other cities could follow, so too does Bites hope the SMUD veterans Smeloff and S. David Freeman (Governor Gray Davis’ top energy advisor) can lead California into a future powered by public, not corporate, interests.

A-changing times: It’s a frightening prospect when journalists start using their contacts in the Capitol to push their own policy proposals, but it does happen. The latest episode involves Capital Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief Mike Montgomery.

He’s already pitched his concept to Assembly members Fred Keeley and Hannah-Beth Jackson, and gotten some favorable press in the Capitol Morning Report.

So what bold new initiative are we seeing from a newsroom that broadcasts mostly short and superficial blurbs about press conferences and other official happenings? Montgomery wants official recognition for Bob Dylan’s birthday, which is Thursday, May 24.

The Dylan fan said he got the idea after watching the worldwide media mentions garnered by a recent resolution by Assemblyman Kevin Shelley to recognize the death of a fictional character on the West Wing television show. Surely, someone as real and important as Dylan, a California resident, deserves at least as much, Montgomery reasoned.

At press time, prospects for the Montgomery Manifesto were still blowing in the wind.