He's Goin' Long 

Chron's grizzled sports veterans going for paper's buyout offer; no more un-American crazy talk; and Feeder investigates Cal Playmates.

Sports fans take note: This will be the last NFL season columnist Ira Miller will cover the league for the San Francisco Chronicle. Miller is a salary-cap victim, as it were, of the paper's efforts to scale back its staff. Earlier this year, the Newspaper Guild worked out a deal with management that would allow its members to ask for a buyout. Miller was one of those who applied and was approved. "They are making it worthwhile for me to leave," he says.

He isn't the only recognizable byline on his way out. According to guild prez Michael Cabanatuan, 220 employees, including several newsroom regulars, have applied. The guild and the paper's management had agreed upon 120 buyouts, and there's been some grumbling that Chron execs have rushed some unwanted folks out the door without giving them a chance to negotiate the terms of their departure. But that's another story. According to Bay Area media watchdog Grade the News, columnist Ken Garcia, religion writer Don Lattin, and sportswriter Glenn Dickey will also take the money and run.

For this Chron reader, Miller will be the most sorely missed. In an era of sports-shout radio (à la Jim Rome), Miller is the thinking man's football analyst. A member of the NFL Hall of Fame selection committee, he had a knack for getting coaches and players to talk about the state of the game without clichés. Miller says his last day will be February 18 -- after the Super Bowl. However, he tells Feeder he'll likely continue writing for America Online and maybe other venues. "I'm not ready to play golf every day," he jokes.

Dog Foes Miss the Point

Sometimes when columnists call people names, it can distract readers from the point of the story. So for all those friends of Marie Bowman's who didn't like Feeder calling her a "busybody," thanks for your angry letters. Feeder still thinks someone who makes citizen's arrests against neighbors for alleged leash-law violations qualifies as a busybody. That said, let Feeder remind readers of the column's main point: That Marie Bowman is a busybody. No, no, that wasn't it. The point was this: That there's something wrong with a citation system that assumes someone is guilty until they prove themselves innocent against a neighbor's allegation.

A quick refresher: Based on a complaint by Bowman, the city fined Kathleen Hanley and her husband, Lonnie White, for $100 for walking their dog off-leash. The couple protested, telling a Berkeley administrative hearing officer, a quasijudicial person employed by the city, that while they do walk their pooch off-leash, it is obedience-trained and responds to voice commands. Berkeley law allows owners to walk their dogs off-leash if the mutts are obedience-trained and stay within six feet of their owners. Bowman had no proof that Hanley and White's dog was beyond six feet on the day in question. No matter. The hearing officer concluded that the burden was on the dog owners to prove otherwise. Which, let's face it, is totally un-American crazy talk.

And, hey, Feeder isn't alone in thinking this way. Even lefty Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington is concerned by the hearing officer's conclusion that the accused parties are guilty until proven innocent. He says he is putting an item on the council's October 18 agenda to ensure that Berkeleyites get due process. Actually, Worthington says he thought the council had already made sure of this in a vote its members took a couple of years ago cleaning up city regulations. "I guess it didn't do what we thought it was going to do," he says.

Epilogue: Hanley and White appealed their fine to Alameda County Superior Court Commissioner Jon Rantzman, who last week ruled in the couple's favor, saying the city hadn't proved its case.

Bearing It All

The great thing about writing a column called Bottom Feeder is you get to buy Playboy and expense it 'cause you're doing a "story." Yep, I'll be submitting this $6.52 receipt for the October issue at the end of the month. Which means I have to write about something. Excuse me for a few, Feeders, while I scan this thing for, um, news. ...

Okay, I'm back. I strongly recommend the George Carlin interview. It will make you laugh, think, and, for some reason, feel vaguely aroused. Oh, wait -- there is something local in here: It just happens to be the "Girls of the PAC-10" issue, in which Playboy features a couple of Cal coeds -- or at least lists them as Cal students. There is a paucity of biographical information about these young women!

All Playboy says about the first bare Bear, Cynthia Popper, is that she "is aiming to write the great American novel." Maybe that's because she's an English major. Or was. She graduated this May and apparently has taken all the things she learned as an English major to become an expert on ... money management? Popper, who has written for the Daily Cal in the past, has a regular segment focusing on women and investing for KRON-TV's finance show, Rob Black & Your Money. Feeder had never heard of the show either, but it's listed on the station's Web site, so it must be real. Anyway, it's a big step up from TV's Blind Date, which six years ago featured a date between Popper and Santa Rosa auto detailer Ben Smith. (The date quickly went awry, as they so often do on that show.)

Rob Black, by the by, also has a blog offering financial info and stock tips. Last week, interestingly enough, he plugged Playboy's stock, noting that the company had launched the magazine's digital version for the PAC-10 issue. "This equals wider margins via new content delivery methods," he opined, "including video on demand." Oh, Rob. You so nasty.

As for the other Cal coed, Catherine Kelly, what can we say about her? Unlike Popper, she doesn't seem to have a TV gig -- or even a student ID, for that matter. UC Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore says she could find no record of a student by that name attending UC Berkeley. Could she be using a pseudonym to ward off nosy reporters? Playboy publicist Theresa Hennessy didn't return messages requesting answers. Yo, Cathy, baby, where you at? If you're reading this, look me up.

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