Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friday random thoughts...

• The government snooping on its citizens is a worlds apart from citizens trying to keep tabs on what their government is doing. One is the tool of a tyrannical state, one is a feature of a democratic republic.

• For the transcript of the Tracy Press v City of Tracy decision, visit Cheri Matthews' blog here.

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "Virtue needs some cheaper thrills."

• Things don't look to great for our county neighbors to the south: "If the San Joaquin Valley were to become a new state in the country, we would rank last or second to last in per capita income," said state Assembly Member Juan Arambula, D-Fresno. "I think the figures show that our people are worse off even than those in the Appalachians."

• Those Iraq WMDs were finally found — in New York City.

• A sign of the apocalypse? President Bush today uttered these wise and compassionate words in announcing a new government program: "It’s not the government’s job to bail out speculators or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford. Yet there are many American homeowners who can get through this difficult time with a little flexibility from their lenders or little help from their government."

• Can't help but wonder if Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and other torture proponents would have the same views if they went through what Sen. John McCain did...

• Hope it lives up to the hype: This year's bean festival sure is getting a lot of publicity. The Saturday "Our Town" is even dedicated to the upcoming celebration.

• And Enjoy the final Saturday publication of the Tracy Press. (Until we decide to change publication schedules again.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The belief of the beholder

Since people have believed in God, people have been seeing the image of God in many things: clouds, shadows on a wall, even jars of peanut butter. This week, a Lodi woman says that an image of Jesus has appeared in her backyard fence (as shown, with the help of my Photoshop skills, below).

I think it goes without saying that in this case, as with other Godly sightings, the image of Christ is in the belief of the beholder. To some people, it's a discolored patch on a fence. To Ana Garcia, a devout Catholic, and other believers it appears to be her Savior.

Put it another way: When a friend of mine first saw this picture, she said: "It looks like the Geico caveman!"

It goes to show that rather than being "out there," God might really be in us. (Interpret that how you will).

Monday, August 27, 2007

A picture is worth how many lives?

Reckless drivers take note. This is what your car looks like after a 100 mph crash:

I hope someone sees this and decides not to be a little more sane next time they're out for a joyride. Tracy's had enough auto-related tragedy already this year.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A loophole to drive a truck through

Friday, Aug. 24, the Tracy Press lost its lawsuit to compel Vice Mayor Suzanne Tucker to release e-mails regarding council business.

Judge Lauren P. Thomasson, by denying this Public Records Act request, has essentially neutered that law as well as voter-passed Proposition 59, which are designed to make government actions transparent — and therefore make government accountable.

This ruling essentially means that any public officer or agency, if they use private equipment to conduct public business, suddenly make their business beyond the public purview, even though these dealings clearly impact their role as public servants and not their role as private citizens.

Thank you, Judge Thomasson, for giving shifty government officials a way to evade oversight. Richard Nixon is applauding from his grave.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friday random thoughts

• Believe it or not, the Tracy Press' move to a 3-day-a-week publication schedule and online focus puts it on the cutting edge of what newspapers are doing. This is the wave of the future.

• Teaching kids about religion without indoctrinating them? This new TUSD program might have just stumbled on something really smart.

• On Thursday's "Daily Show," Lt. Col. John Nagl said that the Iraq conflict is a "thinking man's war." Too bad there wasn't more thinking before the war started.

• Sunday is the fifth anniversary of the day Vice President Cheney began the march to war with a speech delivered to the VFW. Read his speech with the benefit of five years of hindsight here. The Iraq stuff begins about halfway down the page. It's gold. Pure ironic gold.

• For those who merely say "illegal is illegal" when it comes to issues like illegal immigration: Something is not automatically immoral just because it is illegal. Just food for thought.

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "You know, before there was television, kids actually did things on nice days like this." "Times sure change, huh?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cagey council consent

Some branching, beautiful shade trees that give character to Tracy's downtown are probably going to be chopped down.

That's because of the passage of a consent item on the City Council agenda regarding a contract to rebuild the sidewalks and pavement of 10th Street between E and East streets (as reported here in the Tracy Press). It was not debated. It was approved unanimously.

It's assumed the green beauties will be ripped out with the aging concrete that makes up the 10th Street sidewalk.

Which is too bad, because the lack of mature trees in the rest of the Downtown Streetscape area is one of the project's most glaring shortcomings. It makes the place terrible to walk around in during the summer. And wasn't the point of the whole project to make people want to walk around? The city's ripping off its toenails after buying a multi-million dollar pedicure.

It will be a real failure if the trees of 10th Street are cut down during this project that is supposed to enhance, not deflate, Tracy's downtown.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pismo Portuguese

While taking a weekend vacation in Pismo Beach, I was witness to the St. Anthony's parade.

There were the standard brass bands and girls in dresses that likely cost as much as a wedding gown, but there was also the unexpected: representatives from Tracy.

OK, so it wasn't like there was a whole troop marching down the main drag (in fact, it was two men with a "Tracy" banner and one guy in a modified bike with an orange flag sticking up from it). But Tracy was represented nonetheless.

I didn't get a chance to track down the intrepid marchers from Tracy. But if anyone knows who those guys were, I'd sure like to know.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday random thoughts

• This morning's LAFCo meeting could be pivotal for the city's future growth. In my opinion, Tracy should just accept the guidelines the agency's laying out. After all, isn't it reasonable that a city shouldn't be allowed to expand unless it can prove it can provide the necessary infrastructure?

• I guess the cows are more crafty than the inmates: On Monday morning, 59 bovines escaped from the Deuel Vocational Institution. No prisoners were able to follow suit.

• Although it probably turned out for the best that no inmates followed the cows to freedom — more than 20 of the cows were killed by a train and a big rig. And, it is rumored, a CHP cruiser.

• Credibility? Who needs credibility?: The White House is going to interview U.S. commanders and then report to Congress about the progress in Iraq in September. Something tells me Congress won't get the unvarnished truth.

• The $250 per ticket pricetag at the Grand Theatre's Friday, Sept. 14, opening night charity fundraiser is drawing flak. I guess some folks forgot that Saturday's events are mostly free, and "Gone With the Wind" is showing Sunday for 25 cents.

• United States citizen Jose Padilla was convicted Thursday of "helping Islamic extremists and plotting overseas attacks." Of course, he was arrested for plotting to set off a radioactive bomb inside the U.S. — nevermind that that original charge was so bogus his attorneys weren't allowed to bring it up in court.

• Overheard quote of the week: "How come we don't run Molly Ivins' column anymore?" "Because she died." ~ overhead at the Tracy Press

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "I think we'd know normal if we saw it."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No more big boxes

Earlier this week, Stockton became one of a growing number of cities to ban stores of more than 100,000 square feet that have a grocery component — they're looking at you, Wal-Mart.

I honestly wouldn't be sad if Tracy took a similar stand. The market's great, and so is competition, but Wal-Marts tend to drain some of the soul from communities. I'd rather see the the city's current businesses — especailly the lagging grocery sector — solidified before a giant enters an already saturated marketplace.

An expanded Wal-Mart — or some other impersonal big-box store — just doesn't add that much to the community. Maybe if they tried adding a Miller brewery...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Selling points

Another story that shows how bad the housing market has become.

I park my 1966 Rustbucket in my grandparents' garage when I'm not trying to kill myself by driving it. My grandparents have been trying to sell this house for the past six months or more, so quite a few people have seen both the house and the car.

They've received more serious offers for the car.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday random thoughts

Another installment of the weekly random thoughts, cheap shots and bon mots.

• "I'm not dead! I'm not dead!" Mayor Brent Ives is breathing political life back into the Tracy Hills project/development deal. The matter will appear on a future City Council agenda.

• My broker gave me this advice Thursday afternoon: "After today I think a diversified portfolio of canned goods and bottled water might be most appropriate." Yeah, Wall Street might be in trouble.

• The folks who live near Bakersfield are not surprised: The town of Arvin is the smoggiest town in California.

• A recent poll says fewer Americans trust the media than did 20 years ago. That might be true, but I still trust the media a whole lot more than politicians. Well, maybe except for stuff owned by this guy.

• Random thought of the week: "Exercise. Eat Right. Die Anyway."

• Cavlin and Hobbes quote of the week: "If mom and dad loved me at all, they'd buy me a pair of night-vision goggles."

• Attention all alert readers!!! Send me your own random thoughts for publication in a column (if I get enough) or for posting right here on the blog.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Sorry state of education

It strikes me as odd that the Lammersville School District would choose to close its charter school at the same time educators are clamoring for new and novel learning approaches to bolster California's sometimes-pitiful education system.

Charter schools, like Lammersville, New Jerusalem, and Millenium in Tracy, offer students who struggle in a traditional classroom a second chance at getting the education they need. That and the pleas of parents served by the school weren't enough to keep the place open.

Stagnant test scores and low test scores were the reasons given for the closure. Still, it seems a shame for those affected. If we want our students to excel, we should be finding ways to open more possibilities for success, not finding ways and excuses to shut them down.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What about the homecoming?

Tracy's Tyler Jackson came back from Iraq a lance corporal. He leaves the Camp Pendleton brig today a private after spending about 17 months locked up for his role in the killing of an Iraqi civilian.

No one knows what is next for this young man who went to serve his country and got mixed up in the fog of war with a commanding officer who decided killing an innocent civilian — Hashim Ibrahim Awad, if you care to put a name to the father, grandfather and longtime police officer — was as good as killing an insurgent.

Pvt. Jackson deserves to be welcomed by his community. A ticker-tape parade and hero's welcome are not necessary. But he should be given the respect and understanding due anyone who enters a war zone and does not emerge the same person.

He deserves to be able to start his life over. Hopefully, Tracy can grant him that second chance.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mind the signs

Word on the street in downtown Tracy is that Steve Flores — the police officer whose new beat is the town's central business district — isn't just looking for ne'er-do-wells causing trouble for business patrons. He's also on the lookout for cars that have overstayed their welcome.

A few folks who work downtown have told me that officer Flores is making it a priority to enforce the downtown's 2-hour street parking limit, as some business owners have evidently complained about cars that take up semi-permanent residence on the streets.

Downtown visitors, you have been warned.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Friday random thoughts

This week, a special "Animal House" version of the Friday random thoughts.

"Remain calm. All is well.": While some pundits and the Bush Administration claim there's a lot of improvement in Iraq because of the surge, basic essentials like running water are still hard to come by. So, what's that about positive progress?

• "Face it Kent, you threw up on Dean Wermer.": All that pressure might be getting to Barry Bonds — he's having more than a little trouble hitting that magical No. 755, and Bud Selig must be tired of following him around.

• "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." "We're just the guys to do it.": White House staffers won't answer Congressional subpoenas, and the Justice Department refuses to investigate contempt charges levied at those White House staffers by Congress. A futile gesture indeed.

"Oh boy, this is great!": There's still plenty of time left this summer for another vacation.

"Now, she should be good-looking, but we're willing to trade looks for a certain morally casual attitude.": A study done by folks at the University of Texas found that the reasons men and women in college have sex are pretty much identical. And love isn't the No. 1 for either.

"May I have 10,000 marbles, please?": Boundless hope and optimism will only get you so far, but dark glasses, a trenchcoat and a the magic word can get you enough marbles to disrupt a parade. (I'm sure there's a life lesson there somewhere.)

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "We're studying geography! Now which state do you live in?" "Denial." "Sighhh... I don't suppose I can argue with that."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

This is success?

More than a few writers and pundits are saying what a resounding success the military surge in Iraq has been already, including this Wednesday Tracy Press commentary.

However, most of these fail to cite hard facts and statistics about the situtation, relying instead on the same type of anecdotal evidence that has been used to demonstrate success in Iraq for four years. I hope that the stories of improvement and achievement are true, even though it might not be enough to stave off the county's eventual collapse.

The political situation in Iraq is falling apart. Just today: "Baghdad shook with bombings and political upheaval Wednesday as the largest Sunni Arab bloc quit the government ... ."

Not positive news.

How much ineptitude on the part of the Iraqi government can we tolerate? How much money will be spent, and how many soldiers will be killed or injured before the United States decides enough is enough, regardless of how effective and skillful our military actions are? Or will we simply stay forever and essentially annex Iraq as part of the new U.S. empire?