Mad-cow blackout

Meat as murder: Dave Cox gets this week’s Bites Award for Bluntest Response to a Constituent. A duck-loving (as opposed to duck-eating) reader wrote to the assemblyman in support of Senate Bill 1520, the bill that would ban foie gras, and subsequently forwarded Cox’s response to SN&R: “The legislature has numerous pressing issues to deal with,” replied an unsympathetic Cox. “The forced-feeding of ducks is not one of them.”

Yes, it’s that time of year again. And while the usual variety of quirky animal legislation has made its way to the governor’s desk, Bites is particularly interested in the fate of one bill that isn’t getting so much press. SB 1585 would require the public to be notified whenever stores in California have received contaminated meat or poultry.

We’re not talking about the vague warnings favored by the commerce-conscious likes of Homeland Secureaucrat Tom Ridge and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ann Veneman (you know, that whole “something’s terribly wrong, but we won’t tell you what it is, so go about your business but stay paranoid” shtick). No, this legislation would let California consumers know exactly which local supermarket shelves that tasty shipment of mad-cow-suspected beef ended up on.

But surely our government would never withhold information that’s so obviously in the public interest—would it?! According to an analysis by the Assembly Health Committee, the system did not perform well during the mad-cow recall: It took three weeks to inform local health officers about specifics sites, after which they were “instructed that information could not be divulged to the public because of a standing agreement” between the USDA and California’s Department of Health Services.

Will Arnold Schwarzenegger be manly man enough to stand up to the secretary of agriculture and the cattle industry on behalf of the people of California by signing the bill that now sits on his desk? Sure he will! You just watch him.

Never mind: Sacramento Bee readers could be forgiven if they felt a little confused after reading two stories last week about former Congressman Gary Condit’s libel suits against author Dominick Dunne and some Florida tabloids. The first story, written September 6 by Washington bureau reporter Michael Doyle, was headlined “Condit may face tough questions.” It told of how Condit soon would undergo “interrogation by hostile attorneys” for the writers, who’d linked Condit to the disappearance of murdered former intern Chandra Levy. “The stakes still remain infinitely high,” Doyle wrote. Three days later, however, Doyle reported that Condit’s suit against the tabloids had been “quietly” settled—nearly a month before his first story appeared! Moreover, Doyle noted, “the lawsuit was settled while it was in a relatively preliminary stage. Consequently, the discovery proceedings that threatened tougher scrutiny both to Condit and the tabloids’ newsgathering practices never went very far.” In an e-mail, Doyle explained to Bites that he was unable to reach either Condit’s attorney or the lawyers for the papers, so he didn’t know of the settlement when he penned his first story. Condit’s suit against Dunne is still pending. We think.

The big endorsement: Maybe it was that SN&R photo of him shooting skeet—or just the general feel-good blowback from ArmaLite rushing those AK-47s to market this week—but politician/marksman Rico Oller is about to leak some very big news.

Or, that was the suggestion, anyway, when a local Deep Throat insisted we call him/her/it back during non-business hours from a land line. Although our informant did stop short of meeting us in an underground parking lot while dressed in a gray raincoat, the promise of a “major endorsement” in the 2006 4th District Assembly race had Bites thinking Oller had managed to line up Representative John Doolittle (See “Boss Doolittle” by Jeff Kearns, SN&R Cover, July 22).

Turns out it was just a bunch of GOP senators like Dick Ackerman and Sam Aanestad. “These legislators know my track record of experienced conservative leadership,” Oller told Bites. “They know I will stand with them when it comes to issues like fighting higher taxes and driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.”

As consolation, Oller invited Bites to go bear hunting with him this weekend. So, if there’s no column next week, somebody please call the sheriff, OK?