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Everything Is Under Control

With this conspiratorial look back at the most offbeat stories of the year, we show that, in 2003, Nu-z had to go to extremes to get the news

Here in the Nüz hole, we hear a lot of weird tales in the course of any given year. Horses that talk. People who see fairies. Crystals that transport you through time. Cities that try to outlaw juggling.

And we hear from a lot of strange people. Politicians, paranormals and people who, to be frank, are terminally paranoid (and think this sentence is about them).

This year was no exception. With the image of Sept. 11 still seared onto our collective psyche, a new set of conspiracy theories has popped up, some of them disturbingly credible, others downright lunatic. Did Bush know that Sept. 11 was coming? Will voicing opposition to his administration get you on a special list? Is the government spraying us with chemicals to dumb us down? Was Schwarzenegger's election as governor a Republican power grab?

Is the FBI spying on peace activists? Is Rush Limbaugh really Snoop Dogg in disguise? Did Steven King murder John Lennon?

Normally, we would write off most of the above as rantings of the day ward that hangs out on Pacific Avenue and beyond, as if Santa Cruz was one big recovery clinic. And this year was no different. No, just kidding, actually this year was a bit different. A simple glance at recent New York Times bestseller lists, where Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly have shared space uncomfortably with Al Franken and Michael Moore, shows how polarized people have become.

It's the kind of political landscape in which conspiracy theorists thrive. And damn if it isn't true that after a while, everything does start looking ... suspicious. With that in mind, here are some of the most eyebrow-raising, chin-stroking, wink-inducing, smug-nod-triggering stories and downright weird stories we covered in 2003.

The Great Marijuana Massacre (Jan. 8)

What should law enforcement officers do if they find a bunch of towering marijuana plants growing in your backyard? (A) Destroy all the plants and arrest you on sight? (B) Destroy only some of the plants, if you can prove that you really are a medical marijuana patient? (C) Count and photograph the plants, take some samples, and ask you to show a medical marijuana recommendation, ASAP?

Sheriff's deputy Kim Allyn says C is the preferred option in liberal ol' Santa Cruz County. (Let us not forget that it was machine-gun-toting feds, not the Sheriff's Department, that whacked WAMM's 167 plants back in September 2002.)

So, why then did the Sheriff's Department chop 30 plants belonging to medical marijuana patients Wilfredo DeJesus and Kali mBula, only two weeks after the WAMM raid?

"Because they were in their house with an expired prescription, shitloads of magic mushrooms and a bunch of cash. What were we supposed to do?" says an exasperated Allyn. "If the pair had wanted to be diligent medical marijuana patients, they should have kicked out the people selling the mushrooms, not grown an army of plants, and kept their prescriptions up to date."

Readers may recall that DeJesus and mBula were found with lapsed medical marijuana recommendations, 12 pounds of psilocybin mushrooms and $12,000 cash in their residence. But another tenant ended up being booked for the 'shroom possession. And after DeJesus and mBula provided updated prescriptions and enlisted the help of attorney Ben Rice, a judge ordered their 10 pounds of pot returned, which it was by year's end, which would have been a nice belated Christmas present, had it not all been "a la moldy."

Wo/Men's Medical Marijuana Alliance co-founder Valerie Corral agrees that it isn't a good idea to cloud the issue with something like an expired prescription when you're growing marijuana.

"But that still doesn't take away your right to take your medicine," says Corral, adding that there are many reasons why a person's medical marijuana recommendation could have lapsed--including the fact that some doctors may charge $250 to prescribe the green stuff.

But while DeJesus, who has had several run-ins with the Sheriff's Department before, wishes the deputies had at least left him "seven plants like before," Rice, who is on WAMM's legal defense team, says the group fears a numbers system would be inappropriate and too conservative.

Some jurisdictions, including the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, have already established guidelines as to how many plants a medical marijuana patient can grow, but, as Rice points out, legislating the number of plants doesn't address how much pot you will actually end up with.

"That's influenced by whether you grow in a container indoors, or outdoors and in the ground, and whether plants are in shade or in sunlight," says Rice, who describes DeJesus' and mBula's dopeless dilemma as "outrageous."

"Cutting down plants puts people who are ill in the position of having to buy medicine on the street, where they risk getting ripped off or buying stuff that's been chemically messed with, via fertilizers and steroids. That's bad if you're already sick. The deputies should have simply counted the plants and let the DA's office make the call."

Meanwhile, deputy Allyn acknowledges that "with the DEA eliminating all of WAMM's resources, a lot of patients are giving their excess plants to the beleaguered cooperative. But trying to regulate medical marijuana is like a can of oil--it's hard to maintain integrity."

"And don't go screaming at the sheriff's office because your marijuana's gone soggy," says Allyn. "Are we in the business of managing a marijuana farm?"

Well, hopefully not, 'cause judging from that mold it would be the crappiest marijuana farm ever! However, as huge fans of Super Troopers, Nüz has to admit that would be pretty cool. (Meow.)

The Lazy Nüz Conspiracy (Jan. 8)

With two "crimes" happening on Cooper Street in recent weeks (an anthrax scare, then a drug bust), Nüz is getting used to covering news from the comfort of our own desk.

In the case of the drug bust, Nüz took multitasking to a new level as the news unfolded right outside the door, both typing and answering phones while watching a gloved Santa Cruz police officer reach through the open window of an old green Volvo and pull out a heap of fat ol' needles.

"Silly" was how the cops described whoever it was that left their Volvo in a no-parking zone with the window rolled down and their gear in full view. "Lazy" is how people will doubtless be describing Nüz when we implement our new policy of not covering any news that happens beyond 50 feet of the office.

The Fake Tree Incident (Feb. 26)

An Italian cypress that grew 30 feet overnight on Mission Street is getting a bad reception from some typically tree-loving residents in Santa Cruz, not because of the cypress' Miracle-Gro powers, but because the tree is really a Sprint cell phone tower in disguise.

Santa Cruz resident Stephanie Michel believes the fast-sprouting metal tree is a health hazard that "fries your brains and ought to be removed."

"The radiation exposure travels beyond a 1,000-foot radius and is cumulative and causes a wide spectrum of health problems from headaches to leukemia. Children are five times more vulnerable than adults," claims a flier Michel is distributing.

While federal law prohibits local government from regulating cell towers because of health concerns, city planners insist that at peak capacity the new tower will emit less than 1 percent of the maximum wattage allowed by federal law.

Says principal city planner Alex Khoury, "The tower is a done deal. And given that the appeal period ended Dec. 18, 2001, the case can't be reopened unless some of the 21 conditions on the permit aren't complied with."

But while a 1999 report from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences concludes that there is no significant indication that chronic exposure to the electromagnetic fields around cellular sites has any potential to be hazardous to human health, activists like Michel and Aptos-based Marilyn Garrett (who co-founded the Santa Cruz Antenna Moratorium) dismiss such denials as "industry talk."

Garrett cites other reports, including the Freiburger Appeal, which contend that the current mobile communications technology (introduced in 1992) and cordless telephones are among fundamental triggers of leukemia, brain tumors and migraines.

"Historically, local governments could say no to inappropriate and detrimental projects, but there's nothing right now to regulate where cell towers are placed," says Garrett, adding that "the proliferation of these towers shows the towering power of the telecommunications industry, which is usurping the democratic rights of local planning departments."

Meanwhile, a Swedish report, published in August 2002, concluded that long-term users of first-generation cell phones face an up to 80 percent greater risk of developing brain tumors than nonusers, while the World Health Organization said more research is needed.

All of which leaves Nüz thinking that if a proliferation of cell towers equals an explosion in cell phone users, then more research subjects shouldn't be hard to come by ... though, as a FDA 2000 report points out, "the FDA does not have enough money to monitor the health impacts of cell phones and other radiation emitting devices."

Meanwhile, Levi Strauss denies that it is cashing in on consumer fear with its new line of Dockers Jeans in Europe that come complete with mobile phone pockets fitted with "radiation-reducing" linings--presumably to protect, er, future generations.

"We're not implying in any way that cell phones are dangerous," Levi's European communications manager Cedric Jungpeter said. "No study has proved cell phones are harmful. Our intention is not to cash in on consumer fears, but provide the consumers with what they want. The debate is open. Although no study has proved cell phones are harmful, no study has proved the contrary either," he added.

While there are no plans to launch the line in the U.S., things could be worse in the Cruz, at least visually. City planner Khoury says the cell tower permit originally approved a 24-foot parking lot light fixture-type antenna--a plan that then got, um, upgraded to a 33-foot Italian cypress.

"We can only review plans for aesthetic purposes," says Khoury, while Garrett urges people to attend an upcoming cell tower ordinance meeting.

"I hope an ordinance would also require cell phone companies to prove that they don't already have coverage in an area," she says.

The Curse of the 52 Pickup (March 19)

Santa Cruz, so the story goes, already has its fair share of curses. (See our story last Halloween 2002 about it ... if you dare, bwah ha ha! No, seriously, look it up!) Still, Nüz was shocked to learn that another curse could be on the cards--the tarot cards, to be precise.

Seems that a local ordinance which prohibits fortune telling for pay--yes, there really is such an ordinance, and it applies to anyone who can't foresee that they need to buy a $100 permit--has got the goat of the Reverend Dr. Electronic Galaxy Jay, a.k.a. the 52-card Prophet. The Rev was recently slapped with a ticket for giving psychic readings on Pacific Avenue, an activity he's been doing daily since he rolled into town last summer.

As it happens, the Rev was calling himself James Le Gambit when he first arrived in Santa Cruz, an intriguing choice of name given that the gambit is an opening chess move in which you sacrifice something for the sake of a compensating advantage. And now the Reverend says that for the sake of "religious freedom" he's contemplating sacrificing a goat--or a lamb, since his real name is Jason Paschal, and the Paschal Lamb is none other than the lamb of God.

"I'll come downtown in a black leather loincloth and chains, together with 20 brothers and a goat or lamb, and we'll play drums, dance and yelling, and then I'll sacrifice the goat, and put a curse on the town," says the Rev, adding that he does not want a permit and will "pull a psychic Rambo" if such a permit is insisted upon.

"I'm a sinful messiah, a voodoo child who's been a Christian, a Rastafarian, a follower of Islam and Hare Krishna, but now I'm just a crazed individual who gives psychic readings," he says. "They need to leave me alone."

Judging from the official response, it sounds like the city is trying to do just that.

City Attorney John Barisone told Nüz that "it's not unusual for cities to have an ordinance like this on the books" and that said ordinance is "primarily intended to prevent fraud."

Meanwhile, Lt. Patti Sapone of the SCPD said that the permit doesn't really apply to people on the street.

"It's designed to be applied to one specific location and to protect people from getting ripped off," she said.

Weird as they may be, however, these civic provisions for "metaphysical science and fortune telling" do not apply to such acts "performed as a religious practice by and directed towards persons who in good faith hold such metaphysical science and fortune telling to be a religious practice."

Since we'd hate to think someone would have to go to the lengths of animal sacrifice to cover their ass on "religious practices," we're praying the leather loincloth will suffice.

The Vanilla Sky Psych-Out (April 23)

White unmarked planes spraying chemicals into strange cloud formations known as chemtrails, in a government plot to control the weather, enhance radar surveillance or secretly immunize us against an imminent bioterrorist attack? Local chemtrail conspiracy theorist Vanilla Skies says that just because it sounds crazy doesn't mean it isn't happening, and he's not alone. Adherents to this growing school of conspiracy thought say the alleged spraying leaves broad white plumes that linger for hours (unlike regular contrails that they say dissipate within minutes), sometimes creating tic-tac-toe-like formations that include X's and circles.

And wouldn't you know, they're pleading their case in Santa Cruz, where residents are doing their part to keep things weird by hosting chemtrail booths at the Earth Day celebration.

Skies, who suspects our guvmint of "stealing the skies to weaken our immune system so it can finish us off with biochemical weapons, while it retreats to underground bunkers," referred a skeptical (to say the least) Nüz to Canadian Will Thomas, who claims U.S. military tankers are spraying aluminum oxide into the atmosphere to deflect a small percentage of the incoming sunlight, so as to prevent catastrophic global warming--without signing the Kyoto treaty.

Thomas, who has written a book called Chemtrails Confirmed that claims to include the results of lab tests, slides, eyewitness reports and air traffic controllers' testimony, not to mention thousands of photos and miles of videotapes from 14 countries, says chemtrails are not toxic per se. "But the small size of the chemicals involved can represent an extreme health hazard and can precipitate mold, fungi, bacteria and viruses that usually live in upper atmosphere," he claims.

Meanwhile, meteorologist Jan Null, a retired lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, says there is absolutely no scientific evidence that chemtrails are anything other than normal condensation trails, noting that when winds are light, clouds spread out and dissipate more slowly.

"Chemtrails are all just pop culture, urban myth," he says, adding that his San Jose Merc "Weather Corner" column on chemtrails "generated more emails than any other topic to date." Ultimately, he decided never to broach the topic again.

"It just brings out too many wackos," he says.

Happy trails!

The Planet X Hoax (May 14)

Every week or so, it seems, another conspiracy theory rolls across Nüz's desk like tumbleweed in need of some serious straightening out. This week was no exception. The challenge? Debunk Planet X.

It began when Boulder Creek resident Richard Shaw dropped off a copy of Blindsided, a book he said he'd had to order, thereby fueling his suspicions of a "government cover-up."

Well, duh, there are plenty of those. Except the government cover-up Shaw was tripping out over wasn't Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction, but Planet X, a 10th planet that has supposedly gone missing from the solar system, only to return every 3,600 years, and that is supposed to be coming back this week to put the kibosh on Earth for good.

It's said that a grain of truth lies hidden in most conspiracy theories. In Planet X's case, that grain was the 1982 discovery of a gravitational force causing irregularities in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. But instead of scrutinizing this discovery in the harsh light of physics, Blindsided merely rehashes wild theories, including the notion that a planet the size of Uranus will pass Earth 14 million miles away and screw things up royally, starting May 15.

But just because some wacky websites say Planet X exists doesn't mean it does, just as Bush saying Saddam had WMDs doesn't mean he did, but we digress.

"When it arrives, the Earth will stand still for three days, and then, in one hour, rotate a full 90 degrees (the pole shift), during which time winds will average 200 miles per hour," states a Blindsided excerpt, and that's just the beginning,

To get some perspective on this apocalyptic scenario, Nüz turned to UCSC astronomy major Akbar Whizin, who just happened to be hanging around the Metro Santa Cruz office, because his mom is publisher Debra Whizin. Yeah, OK, that's all the effort Nüz was willing to put into it, but on the other hand, this is just further proof that you don't have to go far to debunk this kind of crap.

"I'm willing to bet my life the world won't end mid-May," declared Whizin with that sassafras confidence of youth, adding that "it is entirely possible that a random planet could fly into our solar system without warning, but the chances are slim."

You mean, the Earth could stop spinning if some rogue planet randomly hurtled out of deep space?

"Consider that the Earth has stopped the moon's rotations, which is why the moon always has the same face to us. So, it would take Earth orbiting another planet before we'd stand still. As it is, the solar system has fallen into 'synchronous equilibrium,' in which everything is in its place," Whizin explained.

So, what about the "East Cliff becomes West Cliff" pole-shift theory? "Earth's poles flip every 27,000 years, because of Earth's shifting magnetic fields, not because of Planet X. Besides, Jupiter pretty much acts as the solar system's security guard, sucking up any stray comets, and so would screw with the orbit of any incoming planet. If Planet X, which is supposedly a repeat offender, returns every so many thousand years, wiped out the dinosaurs on an earlier trip, then Mars and Earth would not have the orbits they have today."

Just in case some mystery planet does show up next week, Whizin has one last wish. "I hope to God I see Matrix 2 before the world ends."

The Great Sex Doll Cover-Up (June 25)

By now just about everyone in town knows that Friday the 13th was the day UCSC banned Delta Omega Chi from campus, after two DOC members reportedly fried and fed a koi called Midas to the pledges. But some suspect that what may have pushed UCSC administrators over the edge is a hitherto unreported act of what one observer called "vigilante justice" involving Porter College students, a blow-up male sex doll, and human hair dumpster-dived from a downtown barbershop.

UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns confirmed that campus police were called to the scene of a possible drowning June 11, only to find said sex doll, which was inflated and dressed in a DOC jacket, as it floated face down in the Porter Pond while holding a rake (which of course is the weapon the frat boys used to hook their catch).

"The doll had been filled with water so as to float just below the surface of the pond, arms outstretched, with the head hanging low and the glued-on hair drifting in the slow currents," says a Nüz tipster, who urged us to keep the hair salon's identity a secret.

"I imagine the patrons of this establishment might not wish to know that their hair possibly adorned a frat boy, even if only in effigy," he explained.

But said informer was less, er, coy with details of the porn shop proprietor, whom he describes as being "surrounded by such jewels as virgin blow-up dolls with replaceable hymens and blood capsules, custom fail-safe nooses, and butt plugs the size of eggplants," and "at first nonplussed and then disturbed when the size of the various possible male dolls was raised."

"I mean, what do you need, guy?" he is said to have asked. "My girlfriend is only 5-foot-1-inch, and that's good enough for me."

As to whether the frat boy effigy laid the ghost of Midas to rest, our tipster had this to say: "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach the wrong man to fish at UCSC, and he might just sleep with the fishies."

The Summer Starbucks Sabotage (July 23)

Last Friday, just as we were jonesing for our end of the week cup o' joe, Nüz received a fax claiming that an elaborate prank was pulled on the downtown Starbucks the night before, involving the placing of a For Lease sign in the window in an attempt to make it appear that the cafe had fallen victim to a corporate downsizing project.

Intrigued, we moseyed on down to the place with the mermaid on the buck, bearing in our hands a copy of said prank flier, which stated that "the global economy requires a relentless substitution of quantity over quality and shareholder values over human values."

"We're part of the CIA, everything we do is very hush hush," joked one Starbucks employee. Well, duh, we know that.

Another confirmed that the prank did indeed happen, but that he wasn't at liberty to discuss the cost of cleaning up after the merry pranksters.

The Smoking Bimbo Prophecy (Aug. 27)

Remember the foiled Pentagon scheme to have a betting site on which people would have gambled on the probability of terrorist attacks and political assassinations?

Well, now comes www.UBetWHAT.com, which touts itself as the "first online gambling community where gamblers can bet on anything within the realm of good taste."

The sports-heavy site also includes several recall-related bets, such as "Arnold and the other Woman" wager, a.k.a. The Smoking Bimbo Bet.

"It's only a matter of time before a woman comes forward claiming to have had an extramarital affair with California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's just the nature of pit-bull politics!" writes bet-setter Spin Me.

Spin Me posits that between now and Oct. 7, the mainstream news media, not the gutter press, will carry such a story.

"If Arnold's honor remains unspoiled, you win! I say that someone is already mixing mud to sling around," is the Spin Me challenge.

As it happens, the Bimbo bet is already closed, but Democratic loyalists could stand to gain by putting their money where their mouths are on the "Arnie Wins" bet, which remains wide open. Kevin Mercuri of RLM Public Relations, which launched the site a month ago, says he's putting his money on Gov. Gray Davis surviving--if only by a small margin.

That said, Mercuri warns that one Arnie bet has already paid out.

"Somebody bet Arnie wouldn't run," he says. "I think they lost $50."

The UCSC Professor Switcheroo (Oct. 8)

With the FBI revealing few clues about SUV attacks at four car dealerships in Southern California, Nüz was intrigued by media reports that an Earth Liberation Front member who recently contacted the L.A. Times to claim involvement used a pseudonym that may include the name of a UCSC professor.

Using the alias "Tony Marsden," this alleged activist emailed the Times to ensure that charges would not be pressed against Josh Connole, who was held for four days before being released, having reportedly been found guilty of nothing other than protesting the Iraq war. (He was carrying a sign that said "Bush is a Nazi Fascist Corporate Pig," but apparently that's not a crime ... yet.)

In trying to clear Connole's name, "Tony Marsden" let slip a passion for math, which led to the discovery that Jerrold E. Marsden, a professor at Caltech (the college from which Tony Marsden sent the email), had co-authored a math textbook called Vector Calculus with none other than UCSC professor Anthony J. Tromba.

Reached by phone, professor Tromba told Nüz, "Vector Calculus is a math book that has nothing to do with politics. In fact, it's probably one of the most popular books on the topic. Its been translated into six languages and been used around the world. Math is neutral."

Sounds good to us. Still, things took a turn for the weirder when, on Oct. 5, the L.A. Times revealed that in trying to prove insider knowledge of the SUV attacks, "Tony Marsden" identified a math formula that had been painted on one of the SUVs--a fact reportedly only known to police at the time.

All of which got Nüz wondering if this coy emailer was trying to call attention to some bit of mathematical cleverness that "Tony Marsden" picked up in math class and sprayed onto an SUV.

Could it be that this tag was based on an equation from Vector Calculus and if so, what message did the formula contain?

Nüz ventured onto UCSC campus on a tome-seeking expedition only to find that the campus bookstore now closes Sundays. (We don't care what Outside magazine says, UCSC still gets our prize as No. 1 party school.)

Luckily, however, Slug Books was open and we managed to locate a copy (though the revised copy, which happens to contain way more quotes and some different formulas, was sold out--guess it is pretty popular!).

Further research led nowhere conclusive, which is hardly surprisingly given that the link to Vector Calculus is tenuous at best.

Still, hearsay suggests that "Tony Marsden" used Leonard Euler's formula for regular polyhedra, and though Nüz was told there would be no math, discovering that Euler once said, "Fluids are a lot easier to drink than they are to understand"--in a math book, no less--was pretty cool.

Meanwhile, Tromba, who has not been contacted by the FBI so far, is keeping things in perspective by comparing this recent appearance of his name in national newspapers to what happened 33 years ago when he was about to give a talk at a high school, and found the San Jose Mercury News had posted messages all over his door.

"I thought, 'Gee, it's really that urgent to reach me over a high school lecture? But then The New York Times came knocking," recalls Tromba, who then discovered that he'd just been accused in the then Soviet Union of running a spy ring.

"I was never cleared, but at least I was sitting in my office in Santa Cruz and not in Siberia. If I had been, I'd probably never have survived a year," he says. "In retrospect, this latest incident seems minor."

The Santa Cruz Conspiracy Bake-Off (Oct. 15)

Will challenging the Bush administration get you on a special list? That's the question people have been asking ever since the Patriot Act was rushed into law two years ago, bringing with it the paranoid suspicion that McCarthyism was really just Big Brother Lite by comparison.

But just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you, a point that was brought home to local residents last month when a couple of seemingly suspicious, but possibly random, events went down at Emily's, the bakery owned by Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly.

As Reilly reports, her bakery was first robbed by parties unknown then surprised with a visit from the Food and Drug Administration, all within two weeks of her joining five other members of the City Council in voting to send a letter to the House Judiciary Committee demanding an inquiry into whether Bush committed any impeachable offenses.

"We voted to send the letter Tuesday (Sept. 9), and the following Saturday night my computer and all the backup files were stolen--but not the monitor--and without setting off the motion detector," says Reilly, who happened to be at the bakery six days later, when it got an unannounced visit from an FDA inspector--the first in the 21 years Reilly's been operating the bakery with the zebra logo on Mission Street.

"The guy was really nice. He wanted to know if I used artificial food coloring and whether I send a lot of stuff across state lines, but it was still intimidating and scary," says Reilly, who asked the FDA official if he had any other inspections, since the visit took less than an hour.

"When he said, 'No,' I said, 'Well, I guess you could go to the beach,'" recalls Reilly, noting that the official gave no reason for the inspection. As for her thoughts on the matter, all Reilly is saying is "that it happened, and I don't know why, but quite possibly it was all just one big coincidence."

Asked if any other bakeries in town have been inspected recently, FDA public affairs specialist Mary Ellen Taylor said the agency "doesn't do too many bakeries, but we definitely do inspections in Santa Cruz area every year."

According to Taylor, inspections fall into three categories--random, complaints and assignments-- with the FDA looking for specific things, "such as food allergens in bakeries," when conducting inspections that fall into the "assignments" category.

Asked if the inspection could have been connected to a recently announced requirement that all food products be registered with the FDA to guard against terrorism, Taylor said that provision does not become law until Dec. 12.

The Case of the Missing Energy Money (Nov. 12)

The California Democratic Congressional Delegation has highlighted the 10 top issues it believes Governor-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger should raise with President-Select George Bush, ASAP.

Top of the list is the matter of the missing energy rebates, which at $9 billion represent about half of the state's estimated budget deficit.

Local Congressmember Anna Eshoo, one of only three Dems who got to present the list to Arnie during his recent two-day visit to Washington, D.C., told Nüz that while she didn't get to read the full list of questions, she did get to speak to him on the issue of refunds.

And as she points out, it's a misnomer that a governor can cancel any energy contracts.

"Only the FERC can," Eshoo said. "With $9 billion on the table, I urged him to lead on the issue of pressuring the FERC to see to it that Californians get refunded."

As for Arnie's response, Anna recalls that "he nodded, he listened. It remains to be seen what he does."

The Protocols of the Elders of Sausage (Nov. 19)

"Much of what the world knows about sausage is owed to our Teutonic cousins," writes Bruce Aidell in his Complete Sausage Book, a tome Nüz hastily consulted following news that no fewer than three types of sausage--bockwurst, bratwurst and weisswurst--were being served in Sacramento to celebrate Arnie's swearing in.

As it happens, Aidell's book focuses on bangers, chorizo and salami more than it does wurst, and it took us perusing Kay Shaw Nelson's All Along the Rhine to learn that the humble würstel, as sausage is called in Arnie's Austrian homeland, should be served hot, juicy--and smoked.

Which may explain why here in sausage-phobic Santa Cruz, the local Lefties for Arnie celebrated not by chomping on bockwurst or scarfing down headcheese ("Clean the teeth of the calf heads before boiling them with veggies," states the recipe) but with a smoky screening of Pumping Iron, in which Arnie famously puffs on a doob.

Local hemp activist Tim Rinker, who actually voted for Peter Camejo in the recall election, said now that Arnie's in, we should appeal to his interests.

"And Arnold should appreciate the strength of hemp, which is the strongest fiber on the earth and could form the basis of a strong ecology and economy," said Rinker, who, although concerned about education, offshore drilling and energy deregulation, added that "if he legalizes hemp, I might vote for him in the next election."

Meanwhile, medical marijuana advocate William Malphrus hopes Arnie doesn't pull a George Bush on the crazy lettuce now that he's guv.

"Arnie doesn't seem two-faced," Malphrus mused. "People don't perceive him as a liar, but as someone with a pot-smoking, hippie sex-and-love background that is too far in the past for anyone to give a rip."

Indeed. Asked what she thought of the gropenator allegations, fantasy wrestler and Arnie supporter Gabriella Nicander, who wrestled--and beat, 6 to 3--Democratic men "for fun and humiliation" on Pacific Avenue last week, bent over and stuck out her butt.

"If Arnold was groping, I'd be, like, 'Come here!' I wouldn't mind if he groped my ass," said the 200-pound, rock-hard Nicander, noting that Arnie is the first candidate to ever get her interested enough to vote.

"Up until now, I've not put enough thought into politics, so I'll be interested to see what will happen and whether education will backslide any further," Nicander said.

No kidding. At the risk of being accused of sour grapes or, in this case, sauerkraut, we can't help noting that before he got elected, Arnie asked us all to be part of a movement to put "the people" back in charge of Sacramento. So how come only "the beautiful people"--like Rob Lowe and Vanessa Williams--got invited to his actual swearing in? The upside is visualizing Lowe et al. having to chow down all that bratwurst, which is made of pork butt, before doing the obligatory 500 sit-ups.

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From the December 31, 2003-January 7, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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