E-mail from a cultured canine

Duncan, mascot and leading connoisseur of The Haggin Museum, writes:

“Dear Mr. Fitzgerald:

“Just wanted to thank you for running my  favorite Leyendecker painting. Dad takes it down occasionally so that I can study in greater detail.”

“You’ve got to admit, that turkey looks mighty tasty. My best wishes to you and your family for a very happy Thanksgiving.”


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The adamancy of union greed

“That’s right,” writes George Skelton of the L.A. Times.”The treasury is spilling over, but some unions want to keep collecting income taxes at the highest rate in state history.”

“Some unions” meaning primarily the California Teachers Union.

The state is projected to amass a reserve of $11.5 billion, with a b. Yet the CTA wants to extend the tax. Other unions want to make it permanent.

That, writes Skelton, is “the sort of thing that makes so many voters cynical and motivates some Californians to still list themselves as Republicans.”

We are approaching a time when even pro-union people will have to concede that enough is enough. Or our state will drown in debt and cease to function as a state should. If the unions will not moderate their appetites, voters will have to do it for them.

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More local Thanksgiving

The Haggin Museum's collection includes this oil painting, "Barking Up the Wrong Turkey," by famed illustrator Joseph Leyendecker (1874-1951). The image became the cover of the November, 1926 Saturday Evening Post. Norman Rockwell donated the painting to The Haggin in 1954. Courtesy The Haggin Museum.

Mysteriously, my editor did not think a column about the impact of decreasing investment revenues on public employee pensions was a fitting subject for Thanksgiving.

So I wrote this.

But I left some stuff on the cutting room floor.  Here it is.

• Hebert’s Meats in Louisiana claims to be the inventor of the turducken, a combination of turkey, duck and chicken.

• Mesoamerican peoples of present day Mexico were the first to domesticate the turkey. Mexican cuisine features many turkey recipes, reports history.com. “Turkey moles are especially popular in Oaxaca, with chocolate and pumpkin seeds adding a luscious flavor to the meat.”

I could not find a turkey mole in Stockton. The “house special” at Acapulco Gardens is chicken Mole. Anybody know of a turkey mole in Stockton?

• Writing in the New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks suggests you should add one more ingredient: gratitude for everything, even small things.

Brooks cites numerous recent scientific studies showing that gratitude causes your brain to make you happier.

“Be grateful for useless things,” Brooks advises. “It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life — a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles.”

• American patriots tried to move Plymouth Rock to Plymouth’s town square during the revolution of 1774. The rock fell off the wagon and broke in two.

• In its first year of publication, the Daily Record of Nov. 28, 1895 featured “Thanksgiving Reveries.” The prose of this piece unexpectedly degenerates from purple to black.

“Time in its relentless flight has ushered many happy Thanksgiving days into the closed past …” an editor wrote. “We recall, the kindly faces of those near and dear to us, who at some point in time gathered with us around the festive board.

“The kindly faces into which we gazed, the gentle hands which soothed away our pain are stilled in the unfathomed mystery of death,” the editor said, starting to sound like Edgar Allen Poe. “We fain would clasp again those hands in ours and hear those voices, but the tomb vouchsafes no explanation and we know that in the temporal body we shall never experience the satisfaction of longings.”

So happy Thanksgiving!


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The case for less experience ?!

Ralph Lee White

Read this provision of Stockton’s Charter:

“No person elected as either Mayor or Councilmember shall be eligible to serve, or serve, as either Mayor or Councilmember for more than two (2) terms.”’

I read that sentence the way city official say it was intended: council members get two terms and mayors get two terms.

But I grant that the sentence’s murky syntax admits for Ralph Lee White’s interpretation: that office holders are limited to two terms, either on the council or as mayor, but not both.

OK … so?

White has never explained why it is beneficial to the city to further restrict council/mayor terms in Stockton. His version, if affirmed, would mean that leaders could not gain two terms of experience before running for mayor. That’s a good thing?

It is, only if you believe that the council or mayor’s seat is intrinsically corrupting. If that’s true then we should be rooting out the causes of corruption.

If it’s not true, then what’s the point?

There’s more. White himself ran for mayor against Ann Johnston, though he previously served numerous terms on the council. So by his logic he ran when he was ineligible.

The logic escapes me.


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Franklin Templeton’s lonely war

Franklin Templeton Investments, the lone holdout from Stockton’s bankruptcy, is beginning to remind me of Hiroo Onoda.


Onoda was that Japanese soldier who refused to surrender when Japan did. He held out on an island in the Philippines for 30 years. 

Franklin, too, refuses to face the reality that they lost. The company reportedly refused to negotiate with the city in good faith, stonewalling during pre-bankruptcy negotiations and again later when ordered to negotiate as part of the bankruptcy process.

They thought they could pull some legal lever and get a better deal. They still do.

So they’re still fighting. Perhaps we should drop the sort of leaflet the defeated Japanese military did. “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!”

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Atheists criticize Silva’s prayer day

Lawyers with The American Humanist Association sent a strongly worded letter to Mayor Anthony Silva  demanding he “stop this excessive entanglement with religion and with religious organizations.”

The letter came after a local atheist complained about Silva’s all-day prayer rally Nov. 16.

“Mayors and other public officials cannot use the machinery of the state to push their religious agendas,” the humanists say in a press release. “Using the state to promote prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and alienates community members of minority faiths and of no faith.”

Though he meant well, the mayor may indeed have violated the Establishment Clause. I’ll leave that one to the lawyers.

What I would say is that Silva came to office saying that there is another Stockton, a less powerful Stockton, and that it deserves a voice. The same can be said about atheists, agnostics and people of other faiths in a Christian-majority community. Sensitivity to Stockton’s diversity should extend to religion, too.

Another way to put it: imagine if Silva converted to Islam, held a Muslim prayer day and gave the key to the city to Allah. Imagine how you’d feel passing the plaza by City Hall and seeing the mayor and hundreds of Muslims prostrating themselves toward Mecca. You might very well feel that a city mayor should confine himself to government business.

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The return of Walmart City

Things have changed since Stocktonians, appalled at plans for six Walmarts in Stockton, supported a big box ordinance banning Walmart superstores.

The city went bankrupt. It may be heading into dire straits again, thanks to those disgraces at CalPERS (see this post). So it needs sales tax revenue.

Plus, Weston Ranch is restive. Residents, feeling their neighborhood was never completed, want standard retail amenities. One group even made noises about succeeding.

So the city manager’s office seems to support revising the ordinance to allow big boxes back in.

If the argument is primarily financial, City Hall should make its case in dollars and cents that the city really needs the millions it could get from a new Walmart or other big box. Because Walmarts are a big trade-off. Even as they enrich city coffers, they destroy higher-paying jobs. That’s not what a City Hall is supposed to do.

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Will CalPERS bankrupt Stockton again?

CalPERS, the state pension manager, has long hidden the true cost of pensions by exaggerating their rate of return on investments. Now, the pension Hogzilla is moving to correct that — and it will cost the already strapped city of Stockton millions.

The deceptive execs at CalPERS projected a rosy 7.5% return on investments. With all that ROI, cities wouldn’t have to pay as much, they said. Falsely. Nobody makes that much return on investments.

Getting real, the pension giant is revising its ROI projection to 6.5%. But if Hogzilla is going to make less money on investments it will demand more money from taxpayers. Including Stockton.

“Increases in taxpayer contributions would range from 6% to 20%,” reports the L.A. Times.

I haven’t done the math, but an increase at the higher end of that range could sabotage Measure A by sucking money designated for cops into pension payments. That would be a calamity. Worse case, the hit to the city’s general Fund could push the city into bankruptcy all over again.

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Channel head happenings

A water hyacinth-gobbling boat worked on the mass of hyacinth at the Channel head today.

The weed whacking boat reportedly got much of the stuff, but not all. Meanwhile a harbor seal was seen swimming about.

It’s not easy to see, but the seal appears to be eating a fish, as an envious seagull looks on.

Video courtesy Frank Ferral.

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Smith Canal and the rich jerk syndrome

"Be quiet over there!"

A small knot of rich people are fighting the Smith Canal floodgate, even though if they win thousands of economically disadvantaged people will be burdened with costly flood insurance.

This reminds me of several studies around 2012 that showed wealth reduces compassion.

Why? Scientific American wondered, too. “But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others? After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness. Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused.”

And rich people buy into that whole “greed is good” idea, the magazine reported.

The Smith Canal issue is reminiscent of the way Riviera Cliffs residents fought expansion of the Port of Stockton. Even though they chose to live across form a port, even though expansion meant many new and desperately needed jobs, they were “self-focused” on noise and other potential disruptions.

Port expansion opposition leader Anne Chargin was featured in this memorable line: “Chargin, who’s group of neighbors call themselves Stockton Standing Up, dismisses claims the expansion will mean more jobs for San Joaquin County residents.”

The implications to Stockton’s social fabric are worth pondering.



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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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