Bouquets and Brickbats: Ranch’s bully tactics may backfire

We’ve never personally met Michael Pollan, but he must be a charismatic fellow indeed.

Apparently, a single hour in his presence is all it takes to transform a roomful of normal college students into a herd of elitist, arugula-chewing foodies who turn up their noses at the mere mention of feedlot-raised beef.

Why else would Harris Ranch honchos have raised such a stink over Pollan’s appearance at Cal Poly — going so far as to threaten to withhold big donations to the School of Agriculture if Pollan’s speaking engagement went forward as planned?

The threat — contained in a letter to Cal Poly President Warren Baker — seems to have been at least partially effective. Pollan’s one-hour lecture was canceled, and instead the bestselling author took part in a panel discussion.

It’s unclear whether that change was enough to appease the powers at Harris Ranch — they were still “rethinking” their donations to Poly on Wednesday.

Given what we know about human nature, we suspect this attempt at suppression may backfire. Students who didn’t give an organic fig about Pollan before may be tempted to sample at least a chapter or two of one of his books, just to see what all the fuss is about. That’s our hope anyway.

Not that we necessarily agree with everything that Pollan has written — to be honest, we haven’t read everything that he’s written — but we absolutely defend his right to present his views.

College students are supposed to be exposed to a variety of viewpoints — that’s what a well-rounded education is all about.

For giving academic freedom the old college try, we’re serving a bouquet of organically grown, edible nasturtiums to Cal Poly organizers who arranged Pollan’s visit. As for the Harris Ranch honchos and the Poly administrators who were cowed by their small-minded demands — let them eat a steaming heap of factory-farmed brickbats and a side of stringy beef.

Costume recycling a scary-good idea

Forget the tricks. David Serwitz deserves nothing but treats for leading a campaign to recycle gently used Halloween costumes for needy children. Great idea. As important as it is to ensure that all kids have the basics, it’s often the little luxuries, like Halloween costumes, that make the biggest impression on children.

Serwitz, who owns an in-home tutoring business, is smart to come up with an excellent use for costumes that might otherwise be consigned to the rag bag. We offer candy corn bouquets to him and to other businesses and nonprofits that have offered to help with this worthy project.

For more information about how to donate or collect a costume, contact Heather Hellman at 215-8545 or log on to www.gradepotential.com.

Props to Liddell for showing moves

Come on, Chuck, spit out those sour grapes.

Just because you were ousted from “Dancing With the Stars” doesn’t necessarily mean the judges don’t know what they’re talking about.

Then again, what do we know? We still can’t tell a paso doble from a fox trot. So, Chuck, we’ll toss you a box-step bouquet for a good effort — and for outlasting Tom DeLay.