View from the pit

What would you do with this doll? Write in and win!

What would you do with this doll? Write in and win!

We try harder: Now that Sacramento is being vilified on a daily basis by a bizarre array of recall candidates—Arnold is promising to clean and pump Sacramento up, and Gary Coleman is terrified that if he wins, he’ll have to go live in “the armpit of California”—here’s a little more fuel for our failing self-image. Sacramento has just been named the 11th “meanest” city in the country.

Conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless, the report ranks 147 cities, with Sacramento being not quite as mean as New Orleans but not quite as nice as Milwaukee. It does cite some improvement in recent river sweeps by police—no more kicking people or brandishing of guns—but that’s still not enough to get us out of that top 10 percent.

California, meanwhile, was named the meanest state, with Florida coming in second. So, if you’re one of the unprecedented number of Americans who are considering homelessness as a viable career alternative, you’ve been warned.

Emperor’s new clothes: Bites should have seen this one coming the moment Tom Delay started fantasizing about the commander-in-thief before an audience of college Republicans: “To try to gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror,” declared the House majority leader, “just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to see Teddy Kennedy in a Navy flight suit anytime soon.”

Never mind the fact that—his military-drag act notwithstanding—passenger George “AWOL” Bush had no part in “landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier.” It was only a matter of time before that most opportunistic of photo ops was distorted into the stuff of revisionist history.

To wit: KB Toys is already taking pre-orders for the September 15 release of the “George W. Bush Elite Force Aviator” action figure, which the company’s Web site describes as “a meticulous 1:6-scale recreation of President George W. Bush’s historic landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln.” Attired in full naval-aviator flight equipment, the little guy struts his stuff complete with “oxygen mask, survival vest, g-pants, parachute harness and more” (keg of beer and stash of coke not included).

To celebrate this Orwellian delight, Bites has devised a very special contest for SN&R readers. Just tell us, in 75 words or less, exactly what you would do with your George W. Bush Elite Aviator action figure. The grand prize—a George Bush action figure—will be awarded for what Bites considers the most creative, original or disturbing entry. Runners-up will receive the honor of having their responses published in a future column or turned over to the Department of Homeland Security—possibly both.

Send your entry to BUSH BITES CONTEST, 1015 20th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. Or, e-mail it to And always remember to void where prohibited.

Move on: “Is McClatchy Different?” That’s the headline on an article by Susan Paterno in the August issue of the American Journalism Review, which provides an interesting look at the history of the Sacramento-based publishing empire. The article concludes that McClatchy—the company that owns the three Bees (Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto) as well as eight other dailies across the country—has slipped to some degree from its early ideals but is still a better parent than the other chains.

“I’d rather my paper be bought by McClatchy than Gannett or Knight Ridder any day of the week,” says Bee reporter turned Columbia professor Dale Maharidge in the article. Still, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist speculates that the chain has a “collective mindset on top, as if there’s a bar the bigs cannot or do not want to rise above. My advice to young journalists is: Yes, go to McClatchy for three or four years, five tops, and then move on. If they are good, that is about the point they will outgrow the mindset of management.”

In light of this, Bites has begun to see Dan Weintraub’s work in a whole new light. We’ll miss you, Dan, but all of Sacramento understands that a talent like yours needs to, you know, move on.