Picking scabs

Paper trails: Bites’ favorite money-grubbing media monopoly, McClatchy Co., is at it again. This week’s victims include employees of the Minneapolis Star Tribune—recently acquired in McClatchy’s $4.3 billion debt-inducing buyout of the Knight Ridder chain—who were informed that free copies of the paper they sweat bullets to produce would no longer be available, according to The New York Times.

Instead, employees now can drop a quarter in one of the boxes strategically placed about the Star Tribune offices. Anyone caught taking more than one paper “will put their job at risk,” according to an executive memo subsequently leaked to the journalism gossip column Romenesko. That spawned another executive memo decreeing, according to the Times, that anyone caught leaking memos to Romenesko would be found out and dealt with.

According to an unnamed newsroom source, draconian practices such as charging employees for their own newspaper have not filtered down to The Sacramento Bee—at least not yet.

Your money and your wife: Kudos to the Talking Points Memo Muckraker at www.tpmmuckraker.com for pinning down Representative John Doolittle like a beetle to a piece of corkboard. Recently, the Muckraker linked Bites with a Washington Post story noting that Sierra Dominion, the consulting firm run by Doolittle’s wife, Julie, has raised $82,127 for various Doolittle committees in the 2005-2006 election cycle. That’s a tidy $12,319 so far for Julie, who earns a 15-percent collection fee for every donation, a cozy familial arrangement enjoyed by only one other member of Congress.

No doubt Mr. Doolittle appreciates the extra butter and egg money, as it seems the cost of his close, personal friendship with loathsome lobbyist and convicted bribe-artist-cum-federal snitch Jack Abramoff is about to grow exponentially. This week, the Muckraker broke the story that “just three weeks after fallen superlobbyist Jack Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, Doolittle’s 2006 campaign committee cut a $10,000 payment for ‘legal fees’ to the firm of Williams Mullen.” As later reported by the Bee, Doolittle claims the firm was hired to help him field media questions related to the Abramoff scandal. Bites, for one, hopes Johnny gets a little more mileage for his money than that.

V for Venezuela: Oh thank heaven for 7-Eleven. The pioneering convenience store has certainly become a godsend to motorists weary of pumping an increasing percentage of their paycheck into their gas tanks, where it’s sucked up into some overpaid petroleum plutocrat’s pocket.

Here’s how to fight back: Local 7-Elevens get their gasoline from Citgo, the oil subsidiary of Venezuela, where firebrand sociologist President Hugo Chavez has raised the ire of the Bush administration by, among other things, daring to nationalize the petroleum industry and redirect the profits to the people. Chavez has even redirected some of those profits stateside, in the form of low-cost heating oil for low-income New Englanders this past winter.

How do we repay him? When Chavez recently offered free eye surgery to low-income Americans, the Bush administration declined, because the doctors who would perform the surgery are from embargoed Cuba. For now, Bites can only dream of the day when free eye surgery will be performed at the drive-in window of the local 7-Eleven by none other than Chavez himself, deftly wielding a razor-sharp bayonet.

Striking out: Bites hates to say it, but the River Cats couldn’t make it to first base on a date with Carmen Electra. Not as long as minor-league baseball continues to field non-union umpires, anyway.

At issue are contract negotiations between the league and the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. According to the Sacramento Central Labor Council, umpires haven’t had a raise in 10 years and actually have suffered a decrease in wages since a freeze seven years ago. Now the league has tightened the squeeze play by hiring scabs to officiate games.

Bites hopes to see union members back in the rotation soon and until then must remain absent from Raley Field. On the other hand, the AFL-CIO enthusiastically invites you out to the old ballgame, where you can scream foul to your heart’s content. You might as well—nobody else on the field will be qualified to make the call.