Lobby groups spent more than $3.2 billion trying to sway federal lawmakers and officials last year. Yet like Washington's solitary UFO lobbyist and fake-meat lobbyist, some would-be influencers are pushing some pretty specific, even obscure, agendas. Here are six of America's most specialized influence groups:
The Balloon Council: "To educate consumers and regulators about the wonders of foil and latex balloons," it spent $80,000 on lobbying in 2014—not adjusted for inflation, of course.
Families Conserving Antiques: Three families who own collections of elephant ivory formed this organization in 2014 to lobby against federal bans on the tusk trade.
US Association of Reptile Keepers: This group of "herp" lovers fighting prohibitions on certain types of pythons has been lying quietly lately—like a snake waiting to strike.
Dollar Coin Alliance: Switching from greenbacks to coins will save America billions of bucks, according to this group backed by vending-machine and copper-mining companies.
Victoria McCullough: This oil heiress and equine philanthropist has spent $135,000 spurring lawmakers to keep American horses off foreign dinner plates.
California Dried Plum Board: Don't you mean "prune"? Yes—but in 2000, the then-California Prune Board successfully lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to let it use the more female-friendly (really, that's what it said) "dried plum."
Yesterday, a video posted by Anonymous announced that the hacktivist entity has declared "total war" on Donald Trump, the possibly computer-semiliterate Republican front runner. This is the shadowy cyberactivists' latest vow to annihilate a formidable enemy—an expanding list of foes that includes terrorist groups, multinational corporations, several countries, and an Australian bowhunter who was killing cats.
So far, the vast majority of Anonymous' targets have survived the much-hyped digital onslaught. As The Hill notes, the newest opening of hostilities with Trump follows a similar declaration last year that "never made much of an impact."
Here are more than 40 targets that Anonymous members—and eager headline writers—have claimed it has "declared war on":
A history of the nickname that's been driving a proud city nuts for more than a century.
Dave GilsonJan. 29, 2016 5:17 PM
When they're not arguing about lettuce in burritos or their love-hate relationship with tech, San Franciscans are duking it out over "Frisco"—the 165-year-old nickname for The City that inspires a remarkable amount of vehemence. For many years, "Don't call it 'Frisco'" was a kind of shibboleth for SF natives. But a backlash to anti-"Frisco" hegemony has been growing, culminating with today's Buzzfeed-sponsoredCall It Frisco Day. In the interests of teaching the controversy, here's a timeline that will provide plenty of ammo for partisans on both sides of the "F word" debate.
The earliest recorded uses of "Frisco" in writing. Folk etymologist Peter Tamony theorized that this syncope was in widespread use during the Gold Rush, having originated as "an Americanization of 'El Fresco,' the name of Mexican gold seekers for the 'refreshing, cool' city to which miners sojourned after long, hot months in the Sierra foothills." (Though he also speculated that it's related to the Old English term frip-socn, meaning "refuge of peace.")
Beloved local eccentric/crank Emperor Joshua Norton I bans use of the word "Frisco." Or not: See below.
Emperor Norton supposedly declared "Frisco" off-limits with this 1872 decree: "Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word 'Frisco,' which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars."
Disappointingly for anti-"Frisco" purists, this decree is likely apocryphal. The earliest citation I could find is in David Warren Ryder's 1939 biography of Norton, which offers no sourcing.
The Dictionary of Americanismssays that "Frisco" is used "throughout California."
The "feverish campaign against 'Frisco'" can be traced back to this year, according to lexicographer Allen Walker Read.
The New York Sun relates a humorous anecdote about a San Franciscan with a complaint:
"Easterners call my city out of its name with malicious purpose, and that none of them have been hanged for it shows that we are forbearing people beyond all others. They call my city"—the speaker choked at the word—"they call it 'Frisco!'…Ding 'em sir, they seem to think they are doing something pleasant and smart; yet every San Franciscan loathes, with a murderous loathing, to hear his city so called."
"No, we don't call it Frisco, that's tenderfoot talk," states an old-timer in an article in The Reader.
"Anyone who goes about the country asserting that his home is in 'Frisco' may at once be set down as an imposter," saysThe Advance.
"There never was and never will be a 'Frisco,'" asserts the San Francisco Call: "Neither before the fire nor since has this shabby abbreviation, born of vulgarity and laziness, ever been tolerated in this neighborhood. Of course, the name is applied in a merely heedless spirit; but to the ears of the true San Franciscan it is offensive."
The federal government decides not to refer to the city by "the flippant 'Frisco'" anymore: "The term 'Frisco' as a name for San Francisco, employed by nonresidents, is objected to by a majority of the citizens of San Francisco and is never used by them. The term has been condemned by the press and civic organizations…" • The Arizona Republicanascribes "Frisco" to telegraph operators and traveling salesmen who condensed "a pretty long name for one who is in a hurry." (It also claims that Los Angeles is known by the shorthand "Loss.") • The San Francisco Chronicle editorializes, "There is only one San Francisco in the country, and to call it 'Frisco' is not only erroneous, but substitutes a rather ordinary name for a very beautiful one."
Poet Berton Braley takes to verse to question San Franciscans' aversion to the term:
Why not call her "Frisco?"
Brethren, what's the harm?
Good old San Francisco
Will not lose her charm,
Just because you name her
With a nic-name brief;
How can "Frisco" shame her,
Pain or cause her grief?
Why not call her "Frisco?"
She'll be still the same
Gay old San Francisco
Under any name.
California Outlookreports: "The influx of eastern visitors who have 'come to see the 'Frisco exposition' is causing the native San Franciscan to boil with wrath." • The same year, a traveler to the city confirms that he was warned "time and again not to refer to it as ''Frisco.'"
"San Francisco is all puffed up with itself," declares the editor of Reedy's Mirror. (What's new?) Also: "Worse than saying 'Earthquake' is to call the city 'Frisco.' The word invites physical assault."
A resident observes, "I think we are comfortably informal—although we do insist on the full name San Francisco rather than Frisco." • An almanac published by the Federal Writers Project offers this advice for tourists:
If you want to be liked in San Francisco,
Remember not to call it "Frisco."
If you'd rather not arouse our ire,
Remember the earthquake was "the fire."
If you want to earn our friendliness, Remember to knock Los Angeles.
Timereports: "Because 'Frisco' is a contraction abhorrent to all San Franciscans, roly-poly Mayor Angelo Rossi sped to Hollywood to take issue with 20th Century-Fox, about to release a picture called Hello, Frisco." Rossi reportedly convinces the movie's producers to promote it as Hello, San Francisco, Hello within city limits.
"If you want to win friends and influence people there, don't call it Frisco," a guide to California advises visitors to the city.
Herb and legend
Legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen had an odd relationship with "Frisco." In 1941, he insisted that "It makes you feel good all over once in a while to say 'Frisco' right out loud." Then in 1953 he wrote a book called Don't Call it Frisco. He flipped-flopped a lot. In 1993, the three-dot scribe praised "the F word" as "a salty nickname, redolent of the days when we had a bustling waterfront." Yet in another column that year, Caen observed, "I no longer hear people say either 'Frisco' or, in automatic reproof, 'Don't call it Frisco.' An ominous sign…" But then: "Adolescence is believing that 'Frisco' is a racy nickname for a city; senility is automatically saying 'Don't call it Frisco'; maturity is figuring it doesn't matter all that much…"
Hells Angels Frisco motorcycle club opens. They seem like nice guys. (A knowledgeable source informs me that the club picked "Frisco" because it fit better on the rocker patches on the back of its leather jackets.)
Future San Francisco Chronicle scribe Stanton Delaplane explains to delegates coming to the city for the GOP Convention, "You can call Los Angeles 'L.A.' You can call chicago 'Chi.' But if you call San Francisco 'Frisco,' they cut your Republican buttons off and drum you out of town."
"We wished each other luck," writes overrated khaki-wearer Jack Kerouac in On the Road, "We would meet in Frisco."
A headline in Life magazine that mentions "Frisco" draws angry letters. Cynthia Woo demands, "What made you think you could get away with 'Frisco'…? No San Franciscan uses or likes the name."
Visiting journalists receive an official city press kit titled "Don't Call It 'Frisco'." (The visitors' bureau still issues this advice.)
Bette Midler plays Bimbo's: "They told me, 'Don't call it Frisco, don't call it Frisco… It'll upset the natives.' Well, FRISCO, FRISCO, FRISCO!" The Los Angeles Times reports that the audience loved it.
A mock trial is held for the F-word. Despite pro-"Frisco" testimony from Peter Tamony, the judge rules against the syncope, arguing that it demeans the city's namesake, St. Francis. (The same judge later heard a moot case on whether there is any there in Oakland.)
Herb Caen observes San Franciscans backsliding: "Two hallowed precepts of my childhood—that you never call it Frisco and that you always call the 1906 earthquake 'The Fire'—seem to have become outmoded. It is now accepted that Frisco suffered a quake in Ought Six…"
Caen covers his bases again: "It's San Francisco…Not Frisco but San Francisco. Caress each Spanish syllable, salute our Italian saint. Don't say Frisco and don't say San-Fran-Cis-Co. That's the way Easterners, like Larry King, pronounce it." He also notes that reminding people to not call it Frisco is "a conditioned reflex that is wearing out."
Writing about the proud use of "Frisco" by black San Franciscans, the SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi writes that "the only people driven to complain about 'Frisco' appear to be aging Caucasians."
Nearly 80 percent of respondents to the second semiannual unscientific Blue Angels survey say that it is not okay to say "Frisco."
A digital media company valued at $1.5 billion encourages San Franciscans to "reclaim 'Frisco'" to honor "the vital blue collar core of our city" and because it "pisses off tech bros."
The E. coli outbreak at Chipotle puts burrito safety in the spotlight.
Dave GilsonDec. 16, 2015 7:00 AM
This image is for illustration purposes only and does not reflect the proper way to serve or consume a burrito. Especially the Doritos.
As of December 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had found 52 cases of people in nine states who had gotten sick after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill. The outbreak, which involves a strain of E. coli, has hospitalized 20 people and has forced the fast-casual chain to revise its 2016 financial forecast. The illness may or may not be linked to what passes for burritos at Chipotle; so far, the ingredient to blame hasn't been identified.
How many Americans get sick from eating burritos each year? According to the CDC's mouth-wateringly named Foodborne Outbreak Online Database (FOOD), there were four burrito-related outbreaks resulting in 83 illnesses reported last year. That's about 0.5 percent of all cases of foodborne illness recorded by the CDC. In comparison, tacos were linked to eight outbreaks and 73 illnesses in 2014; hamburgers were tied to five outbreaks and 59 illnesses. The burrito's culinary nemesis, the wrap, was connected to two outbreaks claiming 61 victims.
While those numbers are relatively low, there have been big burrito outbreaks in the past. In August 1998, a "burrito associated outbreak" in Hillsborough County, Florida, caused 644 elementary school kids in 66 schools to lose their lunches after eating lunch. (Not to be confused with the Hillsborough County Schools Soft Taco Outbreak of October 1998.) The culprits were identified as frozen beef and bean burritos made in Chicago. That incident was one of 16 gastrointestinal outbreaks "associated with eating burritos" between 1997 and 1998. A 2006 article, titled "Mysterious outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness associated with burritos supplied through school lunch programs," ruled out "mass psychogenic illness" as the cause of these types of unfortunate events.
Burritos often contain common pathways for foodborne illnesses—beef, chicken, and/or lettuce. (This is not a comment on whether a real burrito has lettuce in it; I'm just stating facts.) But burrito-related sicknesses have also been linked to contaminated tortillas. The CDC's data doesn't point to any one filling being more likely to make you sick.
Most burrito-based outbreaks can be traced back to restaurants; schools are the next most common source of bad burritos. (The CDC has recorded two burrito-linked outbreaks at prisons and jails.) Not surprisingly, no state has had as many burrito-related outbreaks as California, home of the galaxy's best burritos.
So if you do get a bad burrito, what's gonna happen? The good news is that you won't die. The CDC has no recorded cases of anyone dying from eating a burrito. But you'll probably feel pretty rotten. The most common cause of burrito-borne illness is Clostridium perfringens, which usually causes stomach cramps and diarrhea for a day, but not vomiting. The type of E. coli behind the Chipotle outbreak is relatively rare, but it's nasty. It can cause cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting, and can lay you low for as long as a week.
Okay, you may now fight over burritos in the comments.
Meet the members of the National Rifle Association's board of directors.
Dave GilsonDec. 11, 2015 7:00 AM
NRA board members Ted Nugent, Tom Selleck, Ollie North, and R. Lee Ermey
The National Rifle Association claims to speak for more than 5 million gun owners. But most of the shots at the organization are called by a hush-hush board of 76 directors. The majority are nominated by a top-down process and elected by a small fraction of the organization's life members.
Since 2013, when we last looked at the NRA's board, only five new members have joined. Two of them, Timothy Knight and Sean Maloney, played roles in the successful 2013 effort to recall two Colorado lawmakers who had voted for stronger gun laws. (A complete list of current board members is at the bottom of the page.)
by the numbers
Overall, the NRA board members are 93 percent white and 86 percent men. Most are hunters, shooting competitively or for sport. About a third are current or former lawmakers or government officials. About one-tenth are entertainers or athletes; nine percent own, work for, or promote gun companies. Here's a breakdown of the current board, based on bios posted by the NRA (since deleted) and other sources:
According to the NRA's own tax documents, all its board members reside at the office of its general counsel. Here's where they actually hail from:
Some noteworthy members of the current board of directors include celebrities, politicians, and a few whose family histories with firearms the NRA prefers not to publicize.
Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. Globe Photos/Zumapress
The Magnum, P.I. star, gun buff, prolific water user, and vocal gun rights supporter was the top vote-getter in 2008's board election. (Fellow '80s TV heartthrob Erik Estrada sought a seat on the NRA board in 2011 but eventually withdrew his candidacy when the chips were down.)
The president of Americans for Tax Reform is an NRA Life Member and a member of the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association. After Newtown, he echoed the NRA's line: "We have got to calm down and not take tragedies like this, crimes like this, and use them for political purposes."
J. William "Bill" Carter
Carter is a retired Border Patrol agent whose record was cited in a 1994 New York Times investigation into "the agency's historic failure to hold managers accountable for egregious wrongdoing." He is the son of former NRA executive vice president Harlon Carter, who helped set the organization on its current hardline course and who, as a teenager, shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in Laredo, Texas.
Mercedes Viana Schlapp Schlapp, a new board member, is a former Bush administration spokeswoman. She runs a Virginia public-affairs firm with her husband, Matthew, who is a former Koch Industries vice president and the current chairman of the American Conservative Union.
H. Joaquin Jackson
Jackson is a retired 27-year veteran of the Texas Rangers.His son Don Joaquin is currently serving a 48-year prison sentence for his involvement in a double homicide. In his memoir, One Ranger, Jackson quotes his son's partner in crime, who said he had committed the murder because he was "drunk and the gun was available."
Oliver North Globe Photos/Zumapress
"I love speaking out for the NRA in large part because it drives the left a little bit nuts," says the Iran-Contra conspirator turned conservative pundit, who was once better known for invoking the Fifth Amendment rather than the Second.
In 2010, the retired NBA player upset some gun fans when he penned a column for Sports Illustrated in which he opined, "The big picture is that guns won't protect you. If someone really wanted to get you, they would…For you to say you need a gun for your protection? My goodness gracious, how are you living that you need that?"
A record-holding shooter, Clark has been on the NRA board since 1999 and is the head of the NRA's nominating committee, which helps pick the majority of board members. She lived in Newtown, Connecticut, at the time of the 2012 school massacre there.
Carl T. Rowan Jr.
Rowan was formerly a cop, an FBI agent, and the vice president of the private security firm Securitas. He is the son of columnist Carl Rowan Sr., who once caught a teenager swimming in his backyard pool and wounded him with an unlicensed handgun.
R. Lee "The Gunny" Ermey Gene Blevins/Zuma Wire
R. Lee "The Gunny" Ermey
This former Marine gunnery sergeant turned actor is best known for his turn as a drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket (who is gunned down by a suicidal recruit). He's also a spokesman for Glock.
He's the head of the Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights organization that's morphed as a climate-denyingastroturf outfit. While representing the United States at a UN arms conference in 2001, Innis explained, "The Rwanda genocide would not have happened if the Tutsis had had even one or two pistols to fight back with."