Kings and desperate men

Kings in China? Bites loved hearing the rumor that National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern has been chatting recently about a preseason exhibition game planned for China next fall featuring Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets and (drum roll, please!) the Sacramento Kings. Whoa, cool! But, lest fellow Kings fans get too excited by the prospect of Webber, Bibby, Divac et al. traipsing around Beijing in their sweats, Bites must repeat the watchword: r-u-m-o-r. A call to Stern’s New York office did not produce the rock-solid confirmation we had hoped for. NBA spokesman Mike Bass did admit, however, that the NBA is “looking at possible exhibition games in Asia, Europe and Latin America.” So, at least Bites can dream.

Damned dirty ape: Just when Bites was getting used to the idea of UC Davis putting a Level 4 biocontainment lab in our backyard, along comes news of a daring escape from an existing UC Davis facility by a wily female primate. Embarrassed university officials assured the community that the monkey is disease-free and that her facility was just Level 2 anyway, but the specter of compromised security still hangs in the air. Even the Sacramento Business Journal’s rally-around-the-lab cover treatment, complete with headline proclaiming “Life near biolab is routine in Atlanta: Contrasts sharply with vocal opposition to UC Davis plans,” now feels less reassuring, especially with that accompanying photo of a hermetically sealed scientist going about his daily routine. With Davis Mayor Susie Boyd announcing opposition to the lab over the weekend, the prospects for Davis becoming a hotbed of Department of Homeland Security-funded research projects do seem to be dimming.

I don’t remember, I don’t recall: Nothing brings strangers together like impotence, so Bites felt right at home hanging out at the Gray Davis Recall Rally Saturday morning. How refreshing to see ordinary folks and fringe opportunists all coming together in a shared spirit of contempt and derision.

While most Republicans in town for their party convention stayed away from the rally, Recall Chairman Howard Kaloogian was unbowed. “The ruling elites can protect each other, and that’s fine,” said the former Republican state assemblyman, when Bites asked why advertised Democratic and Green Party speakers also failed to materialize onstage. “This is a grassroots, populist movement that’s being organized through the Internet, a tool that was not available to previous recall efforts, as well as talk radio. So, we, the people, are doing this.”

While a few hundred people swayed to the sounds of the Steam lyrics “na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye,” chanted “Dump Davis” and loudly enunciated the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance, the podium was mostly dominated by fading Republicans (including feisty outgoing GOP chair Shawn Steel), pissed-off talk-radio hosts, and fringe politicos from the Libertarian, American Independent and Peace & Freedom parties.

Representing this last group was the “semi-homeless” Don Lake, who promised to give Davis a ride to the airport in the pickup truck Lake had just slept in after a long drive from a veterans hospital in Chula Vista. Also onstage were Republican Senator Tom McClintock and Assemblyman Ray Haynes, who read the opening prayer. Before the weekend was over, even mild-mannered conventioneers had voted to support the recall.

Organizers say everyone’s welcome to join the recall effort, even the guy with the truck sporting depictions of chopped fetuses and a flaming World Trade Center, the one with the hastily added “Recall Gay Davis” sign strapped to its roof. Fund-raising strategies are no less inclusive, with donations already coming in from outside California and potential donors “on the cusp” of making large donations. So, are any sources in Washington offering to lend a hand? Kaloogian smiled. “I’m not asking for them,” he told Bites. “But if they want to send money, it’s fine with me.”