Send in the clones

Bites everywhere: Despite all the hand-wringing over genetic engineering, Bites sometimes wishes for a clone. Even a scaled-down Mini-Bites would do, just something that would allow Bites to be in two places at once, finding ironic and insightful contrasts in simultaneous events.

It’s a thought Bites has every January when the California Legislature gets cranked up, holding big public hearings in the spacious California Room while pulling little-noticed fast ones in the smaller committee rooms. And it’s a thought Bites had last week when the political events seemed to travel in pairs.

On Thursday, for example, the governmental watchdog Little Hoover Commission held a hearing in the Capitol examining California’s teacher shortage, taking testimony from educational muckity-mucks about how to keep the best and brightest instructors in the classroom.

Meanwhile, across town at California State University, Sacramento, the California Faculty Association was holding a day-long meeting on the “crisis facing the CSU system” brought about by “a troubling decline in working and learning conditions that are exacerbated by increasing enrollment.”

So while CSU bigwig David S. Spence was under the dome talking about ways to retain quality professors, those same professors were in full revolt just down the street, protesting low wages, increasing workloads and lack of a state commitment to improve the system.

Does the irony just escape these people or what? If Spence had the answers, perhaps his natives wouldn’t be so restless. Even Mini-Bites would have picked up on this delicious contrast, and he’s not in charge of running this wealthy state (which segues nicely into Wednesday).

Just about all of the Capitol press corps’ pens and mikes showed up to hear legislative analyst Elizabeth Hill toss out descriptors like “gangbusters” and “extraordinary” for her annual fiscal outlook.

With the high-tech new economy still cranking out more millionaires than widgets, California coffers are expected to be in the black by $10.3 billion—yup, that’s Billion with a capital “B”—by fiscal year’s end.

“Our fiscal outlook provides a unique opportunity for the governor and Legislature to position California well for the future,” Hill said. That’s Legi-speak for, “Gray and the boys should have big boners when the political orgy gong sounds in January.”

Oh, yeah, baby, the conservatives will be talking that dirty tax-cut talk that really turns the voters on, while the liberals indulge their fetish for creating new programs to save the world. And everyone will be slinging more pork than a line cook at Pancake Circus on a busy Saturday morning.

Of course, that’s not how the mainstream media wonks talk in their out-loud voices. Instead, they asked Hill about her basis for certain fiscal projections and comparisons to years’ past and other earnest, objective, unbiased topics.

You see, having the respected and respectable Ms. Hill talk about what California should actually be doing with its windfall crosses that key line between analysis and advocacy, and that violates a decorum rarely breached in this indecorous town.

Spending our newfound wealth is the realm of our elected leaders, those people who pander to special interest campaign contributors for the money to lie to us in glitzy ads. In fact, the freshman variety of said panderers were across the street touring the Capitol (you know, learning where the bathrooms and lobbyists are) as Hill spoke. And they’re the ones who will spend our dough, not Hill.

Because if such decisions were up to the respected and respectable Ms. Hill, she just might point out that our $10 billion windfall is precisely the amount that her office projects it will take to fix our crumbling infrastructure over the next 10 years.

Or she might note how a report her office issued earlier this year points to a persistent and growing income gap that could cause major social upheaval in this state if it isn’t addressed before the economy tanks again. But she didn’t, thus ensuring she’ll be the one delivering next year’s fiscal outlook.

How about one more “meanwhile” for the road? Meanwhile, on Wednesday, two blocks down from Hill’s gathering and across the street from our giddy new legislators, supporters of the drug reform measure Proposition 36 gathered for a lunchtime discussion with the media.

In addition to sending drug users into treatment instead of jail, the measure forces this tight-fisted state to cough up $120 million to meet the drug treatment needs of Californians. That’s a paltry sum compared to the $4 billion in tax cuts our state’s elected leaders approved this year, but still a sum these bozos haven’t been able to come up with on their own, creating long waits for addicts who need help.

Come to think of it, maybe Bites doesn’t want to bring a clone into this twisted world after all.

Bunny stuff: To keep y’all informed about the latest political trends, hubbub and happenings that impact our fair city, Bites tries to read every word available, scanning all the magazines, newsletters, propaganda pieces and other screeds to find tasty tidbits on which your minds can nibble.

Why, just the other day, Bites was reading the latest issue of Playboy… OK, OK, don’t even start, because Bites just isn’t in the mood to defend its strange affinity for photos of Carmen Electra wearing nothing but airbrush paint. If months of intensive therapy can’t solve the problem, then you’re petty moralizing certainly won’t help, so just back off!

Besides, Bites reads Playboy mostly for the articles. Really. And good old Sacramento appeared in a blurby little article in the magazine’s Newsfront section about last summer’s public art controversy, when those zealously puritanical home-schoolers who gathered at the Convention Center were so offended by our nude Poseidon statue that they put clothes on it every day.

Hefner’s people even quoted a local quote by one Dick Barb (and with a name like that, you can see why he has issues with sexuality), who said, “In a store, when you have pornography on a shelf, a decent owner covers it up. Here, we actually set in place and ask people to stare at it.”

Playboy gave Sacramento a little dig by noting that “the city gave tacit approval” to the home-schoolers, “but later admitted it has a policy against covering public art.”

Of all the things to end up in Playboy over, it’s gotta be this, huh? C’mon, Sacramento, we can do better than this. So shape things up, get naked and do something nutty. I’ll keep scanning Playboy to look for more news. This can be such a tough job sometimes.