Wrap it up!

Shopping fool: Bites is a hopeless procrastinator. This column gets written when Bites’ unpredictable muse dances her way down into Bites’ brainpan—and no sooner—even if the rest of the paper is waiting on idle presses. The editors here can threaten, cajole, extort—but it does no good.

So, as you can imagine, Bites hasn’t bought a single Christmas present yet, even though we’re just days away from Santa’s arrival. Some might be panicked to find themselves in such a predicament. Ah, but Bites has a plan, and it’s one that only works in downtown Sacramento.

You see, all you residents in the ’burbs would be scee-rewed if you tried to do a last minute mall crawl to fill an entire Christmas list, what with your climate-controlled indoor mega-malls bursting at the seams with frantic holiday shoppers.

But here in Sacramento, we’ve got the Downtown Plaza, which has all the shopping fare of your Arden Fairs or that grotesque monument to consumer excess that you folks built on your farmland out there in Roseville. But one thing Downtown Plaza doesn’t have is a roof.

So all Bites has to do is pick some bite-ass-cold evening between now and Monday; throw on a hat, scarf and some mittens; and pop quickly from store to store filling its proverbial gift bag, away from the pampered shopping masses fighting over the last PlayStation 2 at Sunrise Mall.

Ho, ho, ho; hee, hee, hee.

FPPC, BFD!: It ain’t easy surviving on the peanuts they pay Bites to write this here column, so Bites has been perusing the ads for state government jobs, hoping for some cushy way to feed at the public trough and get that key civil service protection against being fired for having a bad attitude (an inevitable reality for Bites).

So Bites was bummed-out to read that the newly created Publications Editor job at the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) went to Sacramento Bee reporter Jon Matthews.

A press release announcing the appointment gushed about what an “invaluable asset to public understanding of the agency” Matthews will be, and about how “he is a gifted writer with a remarkable talent for explaining complex subjects with clarity and accuracy.”

Yeah, but can he take a punch? Because that’s the real question for someone taking a position that was created to help fend off attacks by the anti-government conservatives, small-town treasurers and big-time campaign consultants who have been taking pot shots at the FPPC of late.

They’ll be lining up behind legislation expected to be introduced next month to implement many of the McPherson Commission’s recommendations for scaling back the number of people required to report sending or receiving campaign cash.

To push their agenda of public unaccountability, McPherson’s henchmen have sought to paint the FPPC as a confusing, meddlesome bureaucracy in need of a drastic overhaul, but Matthews’ job will be to present a face that is helpful and informative.

If a little light sparring is all that’s needed, Jon will probably do OK; but if it degenerates into bare-knuckle brawling, FPPC honchos are gonna be sorry they passed Bites by.

Peace pipe: Speaking of fisticuffs, this week’s big conference on implementing the treatment-not-jail drug measure Proposition 36 was billed as the chance for supporters and opponents of the measure to put aside differences and come together to make the new law work.

Yet rather than a love-fest, watchers of the Sacramento conference noticed that contentious campaigns die hard, as some probations officers and other cop-types who opposed the measure struck bitter chords about having to supervise more druggies.

But their residual grumbling was balanced out by Rep. Maxine Waters’ evangelical declaration of victory over California’s drug warriors, and her pledge to carry the drug law reform flag forward to the federal level despite a less-than-sympathetic incoming commander-in-chief.

And who knows, maybe George W. Bush’s inner partier will ultimately cause him to be more receptive to scaling back his daddy’s oppressive War on Drugs than our current president, who couldn’t even smoke pot right.

After all, it’s the hypocrisy, stupid.