NYC mayor’s vendetta against bladder busters may spread

A cartoonist for the Conservative Daily News caught the mood just right here.

New Yorkers may soon need to grab a refill if they want to consume mass quantities of soda. That is, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way.

It’s just another day at the office for Hizzoner. Since taking office, Bloomberg has opened fire on smokers, trans fats, salty snacks and soft drinks. This latest has Bloomberg calling for a ban of sugared drinks in anything larger than 16 ounces, no matter what the majority of voters say.

So much for the famous Bladder Buster, or whatever it is your favorite convenience store calls its 40-plus-ounce Mt. Dew. Even the 20-ounce bottle, which is the new standard size for soda, has to go.

Keep your nose inside the vehicle at all times.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey — which is really New York South though no one will readily admit it — is considering another out-of-left-field law that will prohibit the family dog from riding in the passenger seat with his head sticking out the window. Pets must be restrained when in the vehicle, maybe even with a harness.


I don’t live in New York. I’ve never been there, and I have no desire to ever go there as long as I live. I could say I don’t understand the Bloomberg way of governance, but that would be a lie. I grew up in California, which is about like New York except the sun occasionally shines.

It’s my California experience that keeps me from laughing as I read about the latest Bloomberg Follies and about New Jersey’s proposal. I’ve seen too much, and California wrote the manual on how to be a proper Nanny State. Even New Yorkers laugh at Californians.

(A fast disclaimer: “New Yorkers” means those who live in That Big City Up North. If you call an upstater a New Yorker, he’ll hurt you and I won’t blame him. But I digress.)

But New York and California are the incubators for many of our national problems. Folks talk of street gangs now as if they’re the newest threat to our way of life; they’ve been around New York even before I was born. Illegal immigration used to be a California problem; now it’s even in the Carolinas and yes, the Midwest.

Same thing with some of the laws you used to laugh at. Now you’ll have a problem finding someplace to smoke indoors or make a phone call while driving, and many of those laws started because someone in New York or California complained.

A state with a lot of immmigration — like South Carolina — tends to adopt these laws faster than someplace like South Dakota, which isn’t exactly a hot immigration magnet. Part of it is a natural thing. We California-bred types like our Mexican food, and New Yorkers like the idea that they can call someplace and have a slice of pizza and a bagel delivered at 4 a.m. Except I still can’t find any Mexican food that is even close to the real thing out here, and the 4 a.m.  pizza/bagel runs haven’t materialized yet.

But we’ve got their laws. And we’ve got politicians who think they know what’s good for me better than I do. Something obviously got lost in the translation.

If you want to know the future here in these United States, cast your eyes on New York and California. It’s better than a crystal ball. Just hide your Bladder Buster when you see a cop, and make sure Fido’s paws and tongue stay inside the vehicle at all times.


Majority of mortgages are underwater in Vegas, other growth areas

Where are people losing their butts on their mortgages these days?

I found this in USA TODAY, and it shows that a tick more than 71 percent of the mortgages in Clark County, Nevada, are underwater. That means more is owed on the house than what the house is actually worth.
Clark County, where you’ll find places like Las Vegas and Laughlin, has also been one of the highest-growth areas of the country for at least the past decade.
Here is a partial list of counties where home buyers might do well to just junk the mortgage, take whatever lumps they get on their credit ratings, and walk away with what’s left of their posteriors:

Rank County State
Mortgages under water
1 Clark Nev.
2 Osceola Fla.
3 Merced Calif.
4 St Lucie Fla.
5 San Joaquin Calif.
6 Stanislaus Calif.
7 Clayton Ga.
8 Orange Fla.
9 Solano Calif.
10 Maricopa Ariz.
11 Washoe Nev.
12 Pinal Ariz.
13 Flagler Fla.
14 Pasco Fla.
15 Riverside Calif.

Interesting mix. A whole lot of Florida. Several counties in California — including Riverside County, where I grew up. Several Arizona counties, particularly around the population centers — Maricopa County is basically Phoenix.
And unless I’m mistaken, nearly every one of these counties has experienced off-the-charts population growth for about the past three decades. The Inland Empire, which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, was THE high-growth capital in the nation before the Las Vegas metro area took over.
Coincidence? Forget it. There ain’t no such animal, you should know that.

Website breaks down the In-N-Out secret

This is one of the things I miss from out west — In-N-Out burgers.
I got this from Lifehacker:

Make Your Own In-N-Out Double-Double Burger at Home [Recipes]: “

You already know how to make your own Shake Shack burgers, but if In-N-Out is more your style, food blog Serious Eats has once again reverse engineered this well-known burger so you can make it at home. More »

I fell in love with In-N-Out burgers in California, but only after laughing my (_|_) off at the name first. Two double burgers and a chocolate shake — now, that was the perfect meal when I was on a heavy deadline.
Sonic makes some really good burgers; I discovered them in Kingman, Arizona. There’s a Sonic a couple of miles from my house, but they can’t touch In-N-out.
How good are these In-N-Out burgers?
I’ll tell you. When I lived in Arizona, the closest In-N-Out place was in Las Vegas, 100 miles away. And I made the trip a time or two, just for burgers.
I repeat that: Just for burgers. Not even playing a slot machine, or to hear a band, or visit, or anything like that. I just wanted burgers.
People still don’t believe me when I tell them that. (I wonder which part won’t they believe?)

Fire season starts in southern California

The Southeast coast (including Charleston) has its hurricanes. The Midwest, tornadoes. The upper East Coast has New York City.
Every place has a specific disaster to call its own.
Southern California has its floods, earthquakes, landslides, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, and a porous border. And fires — the season for them is starting. Growing up out there I monitored a few, and I know how to soak a wood-shake roof.
Hot dry Santa Ana winds, desert-like conditions, and dry brush give a fire all it needs.
This one pictured is out near Palmdale.

40 years ago: Reflections on a no-hitter

I hate these reminders of how old I really am, especially when I’m still trying to convince myself I’m still 22.

But some random Internet surfing reminded me that July 3 was the 40th anniversary of the greatest baseball game I’ve ever seen, when Angels pitcher Clyde Wright threw a no-hitter at the Oakland A’s.

I was 12 then, and I grew up in a family of incurable Angels fans. We went to a few games every year, and we were at Anaheim Stadium, third base side in the terrace level on that July evening. My family accounted for four of the 12,131 butts in the seats that night.

OK, as I get older my memory tends to fire more at random, but it seems we were at the ballpark a lot when historic things happened. My grandmother (who was even more incurable than the rest of us) took my brother and me to an afternoon doubleheader the previous year (again the Angels were playing the A’s), and when the announcement came that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin safely landed on the Moon, play stopped on the field and we got all misty. But I digress.

The left-handed Wright came off a miserable 1969 (one win, eight losses. But he was pitching like a monster in 1970. Won 22 games that year; only Nolan Ryan was able to match him four years later. Made the All-Star team, during the time the American League was always getting slaughtered — Wright was the losing pitcher in that midsummer game.

And that no-no. It was right around the sixth inning when I noticed those zeroes on the board. And of course, there’s this old superstition that no one on the bench talks about a no-hitter when it’s in progress. Out of respect, neither did we.

After his great season, Wright wasn’t quite the same. It turned out he had some problems, something about a well-fought bottle. It was years later when I saw a film clip of him finishing his no-hitter, and it was used as a lead-in to a commercial for an alcohol-and-drug rehab hospital. But after his career in the bigs was over, he spent some time in Japan. From Baseball Reference:

In the sixth inning of a 1-1 game early in his first season in Japan, Wright was removed after the first two batters reached. Manager Shigeo Nagashima yanked Wright, who refused to give over the baseball, then charged off the mound and fired the ball into the dugout. After leaving the field, Wright tore off his uniform and threw it into the bathtub and kicked over a garbage can. Wright was nicknamed “Crazy Righto”, a name that stuck throughout his time in Japan. Fans and sportswriters called for Wright’s release but Nagashima stood by his pitcher …

1970 was a strange year for no-hitters. Less than a month before Wright’s, Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates threw one at the San Diego Padres. His control was way off; he walked eight batters that day. He later said he was in mid-LSD trip during that game (which probably explains why his fastball had a tail).

Wright’s boy, Jaret, was a pitching phenom for the Cleveland Indians in 1997, coming out of nowhere to win a bunch of games for them. He started Game 7 of the World Series that year, as a 21-year-old rookie. Arm trouble, though, curtailed his career.

The Angels’ leadoff hitter in Clyde’s no-hitter was Sandy Alomar, who himself had two sons in the bigs (Sandy Jr. and Roberto). The Angels had some real characters in the lineup that day: Alex Johnson, who had a good bat and serious issues. Jim Fregosi, who later managed the Angels. And noted prankster Jay Johnstone, the man our household referred to as “Ol’ DM” for “dirty-mouth.” Seems one of us noticed Johnstone had trouble getting through a sentence without uttering a profanity. Being earthy folks, we thought it was funny.

I might as well forget about claiming I had a deprived childhood. How many kids got to see a no-hitter?



The box score, from

What’s Wright doing now?

Arizona threatens to pull the plug on L.A.

This just came in over the news transom, from the Huffington Post:

Arizona Threatens To Pull The Plug On LA

The LA Weekly reports:

An Arizona public utilities official on Tuesday dared Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to follow through with the city’s economic boycott of Arizona by giving up the 25 percent of L.A’s power he says the city gets from the desert state.

The HuffPo says:

In a letter obtained by the Weekly, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce writes to Villaraigosa to express that he was ‘dismayed’ by the boycott over the state’s controversial immigration law and noted that ‘twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.’

Now, I’m wondering if The City of Lost Angels is still indulging in empty rhetoric (the smart money says yes) or is actually willing to put a little substance in their stance. Arizona does supply a good chunk of L.A.’s electricity. As far as I know, the state can’t do a thing with the Colorado River Compact, else L.A. will be in a world of hurtin’.

Stay tuned. Arizona and L.A. will be in the schoolyard soon, comparing ‘nad sizes.



Earthquake map brings seismic updates, anxiety

How close are we to the Big One?

Or, was that last shaker really the Big One?

Might it be a good idea to buy property in Arizona, thinking it may become coastal land?

Or am I talking through my tinfoil hat again?

Anyway, here’s a Web site that gives the latest fault line activity, by the hour, by the magnitude, and all that good stuff. If you live in,  say, California (like I used to), this might give you hours of anxiety-fueling entertainment. Or not.



Everyone wants to crash Cinco de Mayo party

Or something.

This video was shot over a 35-day period in mid-2009, with the camera perched over one trail. Notice how well-enforced our borders are.

Understand, not all illegal aliens are Mexican. They’re not even all Latinos. Not all Mexicans are illegal aliens, either. In fact, many second- and third-generation Mexicans do not like illegal aliens. Let’s get that up front.

But this invasion — and I can’t think of a cleaner word here — has changed the population dynamics in the southwest. And the southeast. And everywhere else in the country. While it’s an underhanded compliment that people would want to sneak into this country, it’s also a slap in the face to working people everywhere, our policy makers, and our law enforcement.

Just sayin’.


15 years later, Oklahoma City terror attack recalled

I don’t rightly remember what I was doing when I heard about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I was probably on my way to work. But the bombing, which for the next six years was called “the worst terrorist attack on American soil,” became part of my life over the next few weeks. Now, 15 years after the attack, memories come back in a flood.

It’s one of those things that you can’t forget unless you’re lobotomized. Nor is it something that should be forgotten. Maybe if we Americans had a lot more memory and a lot less wishful thinking, we’d be much better off as a nation. But I digress.

I do remember a rather strange incident a few weeks earlier. A bomb went off in a vacant lot near where I worked, and being the dutiful reporter I went to check it out. As far as the cops were concerned, evidence was pretty thin. It didn’t merit a lot of attention at the time, and the story didn’t get more than a paragraph or two. I could have ended the story with that horrendous news cliche, “the investigation is continuing, police said,” and I wouldn’t have been far off.

Oh. A little footnote about work. I was editor/reporter/photographer/layout man for The Mohave County Standard, based in Kingman, Arizona.

As news of the Oklahoma City bombing became public and a suspect was named, I knew I was going to live with this story for a while. The prime suspect, Timothy McVeagh, lived in Kingman.

There was more. He worked at a hardware store in town with another Kingman resident named Michael Fortier. He kept a mailbox at a local mail-drop business. He rented his movies at a local video store. He was all over Kingman, and soon the FBI was also all over Kingman. For a while the FBI worked with the theory that the vacant-lot explosion was a test run; if I remember straight, evidence suggested fuel oil and fertilizer was the explosive agent — same stuff that was used to destroy the Alfred Murrah Federal Building.

I don’t know if Mac McCarty is still around. Mac was in his early 70s at the time, and I knew him quite well. Mac was the one who reminded me it is grammatically incorrect to refer to someone as an ex-Marine. Mac always carried a gun — in Arizona you could carry one openly back then — and he was upset that he had to check his weapon in at the door whenever he went into the county courthouse. He’d staged one-man protests defending his Second Amendment rights in front of the courthouse, with a sign in his hands and his weapon on his hip.

Mac had a little side business when Arizona revamped its weapon-carry laws. To legally carry a concealed weapon, you needed to take a class in handgun safety, and Mac was accredited as a teacher. For a time, he had two students in one of his classes — Timothy McVeagh and Michael Fortier.

Mac wasn’t sure why these two were in his class. They both knew their way around a firearm, he told me. The closest he could figure was that maybe they were involved in militia activity and they were looking for interested people. Mac said he would have been interested in hanging out with the two if that was the case.

While the FBI staked out Kingman, the national and international media also swarmed my town. And many of the foreign reporters — from the Sydney Herald in Australia, and the L.A. Times in California — thought the town was a real hoot. Militia types everywhere, they reported. Strong anti-government sentiment all around. Most people lived in mobile home parks, flush toilets had just arrived, and FAX machines had yet to be installed. Or something.

It’s true the folks in northern Arizona are a little different from the rest of the country. We Southwesterners (and I freely use “we” because I lived out there for a long time and these roots still show) don’t usually recognize foreign powers, and Washington, DC is about as foreign as it gets. We tend to take matters in our own hands and go to the government later, if we think
about it.

But in the weeks and months after that bombing that killed 168 people — many of them children at a day-care center — my memories come out in chunks:

  • Spending an evening on a press stakeout in front of Michael Fortier’s house while the FBI executed a search warrant. His was easy to pick out; it had the Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flying proudly in the front yard. I talked my way into his next-door neighbor’s living room for a chat; she was in her 80s and rather thrilled at all this drama in her neighborhood. The FBI sprung for about a dozen large pizzas for the press, so they got on my good side for at least a few minutes.
  • Stopping in at a military surplus place, Archie’s Bunker, to pick up a gas mask bag — which is great for carrying cameras and film. The place was across the street from the National Guard Armory, which served as the FBI staging area. I know they were monitoring the doors of Archie’s Bunker; I’m probably on some federal film archive somewhere.
  • Talking to a man who was bicycling from Kingman to Oklahoma City. He wanted to raise funds and awareness, and to let the people in Oklahoma City know we’re not all bad in Arizona.
  • Meeting a delegation of visitors from Somalia. I’m not sure why they visited Kingman, but they sure had some preconceived notions about the place. In broken English, one told me he’d heard about “these people who did bad things and now they’re …” That’s when, searching for the right word, he held his wrists together in that international gesture. In handcuffs.
  • Hearing from a magazine called Media Bypass, an alternative publication that was self-described as somewhere to the right of Attila The Hun. They were particularly interested in my editorials, where I suggested the bombing took a lot more financing and organization than what two clowns making minimum wage at a hardware store could muster. 

I’m no conspiracy nut, but I still think McVeagh took a lot of secrets with him when he was executed; secrets that the federal government wanted to stay hidden. But then, I don’t recognize foreign powers.


Pass the salt … while you still can

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after introducing laws regulating smoking and trans fat in his city, is asking restaurants and food packagers to hold the salt.

Here’s a story about it in The Guardian, a publication from The United Kingdom:

… the campaign, called the National Salt Reduction Initiative, aims to cut the quantities of sodium in packaged and restaurant foods by a quarter over five years. The city claims that if the 2014 target is met it will help save many thousands of premature deaths … Americans consume on average about 3,400 milligrams of salt a day ? well above the recommendation of the American Heart Association of less than 2,300 milli­grams. Most of that is out of the individual consumer’s hands as almost 80% of salt intake is already added to packaged and restaurant foods and only about 11% added in the home … high salt levels can raise blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and strokes … Dr Thomas Farley, New York’s health commissioner, said that 1.5 million New Yorkers already suffered from high blood pressure … “If we can reduce the sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods we will give consumers more choice about the amount of salt they eat, and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke in the process,” he said …

OK, you might think. Let those New Yorkers live their lives any ol’ way they please; what does this have to do with everyone else?

Here’s the thing: New York City, like California, is a testing lab for strange new laws. Give it a few years, then what happens there will eventually happen in the rest of the country.

Back in the 1980s, writer John Naisbitt penned “Megatrends,” a futuristic look at American society, and while he missed the mark on some of his guesses he was spot-on with others. In Megatrends, Naisbitt listed five states as “bellwether states,” arguing that, as I am, what happens there will happen here. He kept up on trends by following the news in those five states. To Naisbitt, California was a bellwether state then, but New York wasn’t. He did list Florida and Connecticut as two of the other states to watch 30 years ago.

Although it’s not something I’d brag about, I grew up in California. But one thing I did gain from my 30 years there was that I had a sneak preview of today’s and tomorrow’s headlines. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see the number of illegal aliens in South Carolina; in fact some folks in the Palmetto State thought I was some sort of mad prophet because I was predicting this here 10 years ago. I’d already seen it happen on the other coast. And I wasn’t shocked to see new laws regulating smoking here; in the late 1980s California cities were already banning smoking in public places. We California products — and New Yorkers now — already know what’s going on.

But then, Californians and New Yorkers know what’s going to happen because they’re often the trigger for new laws elsewhere. The more folks emigrate from these places, the more they’ll bring their laws and customs with them. They become missionaries, trying to bring “civilization” on those poor backwards country boys in the South and Midwest. Shoot, no wonder folks in the South don’t care that much for strangers. It’s like what the late Lewis Grizzard, a great American, said of the southern states: “Come on down. Marry our daughters. We just don’t want to hear how you did it in Cleveland.”

Partly because of health concerns (but mostly it’s nothing but preference), but I don’t use much salt myself — and I’m glad to share some of my own cooking hacks here — but I’m not about to ask the government to regulate other people’s salt usage. Are you kidding? Even if I could, the feds are the last folks I’d want to involve in this.

Again, from Guardian:

… the difference between the salt drive and the previous health initiatives is that this new mission will be purely voluntary. Smoking and trans fats were both banned, and the posting of calories imposed on larger chains, but in this case food manufacturers and restaurants will be encouraged to participate out of concern for public well-being rather than by compulsion …

Yeah, that’s what they all say.

Almost everything starts off as voluntary.

But here are a couple of things to chew on here:

The federal government is on the verge of taking over our health care system; it’s just a question of how thorough a takeover will be at this point. The feds will then have an interest in cutting health care costs one way or another. While there’s this talk of rationing health care and cutting back on Grandma (some of this is pure smoke, while some is actual fire), they’ll start looking more at the prevention angle. Smoking is definitely a factor in respiratory and circulatory problems, fats fill your thighs and arteries with all kinds of sludge, and too much salt does a number on your blood pressure.

So you know it’s coming.