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George Knapp: Thanks. Really.

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The unwritten law for columnists is that we are supposed to use Thanksgiving as a premise to unleash a list of things for which we are thankful, and then proceed to poke fun at all kinds of people who’ve got it coming. But since I pretty much poke fun at people who’ve got it coming all year, I figured I would be different by listing a few things that are truly worthy of thanks.

The first item that comes to mind is salsa bars. I don’t know the name of the culinary genius who first envisioned a bar filled with multiple salsas … the hot, the mild, the chunky and the smooth, spicy nectars both red and green, and — sometimes — with bean dip as an occasional bonus. That genius changed my life. Salsa bars remind me that life is good. I saw my first salsa bar at Boulder Station years ago and am as thankful today as I was back then.

I am thankful for the U.S. Postal Service. Yeah, I know, the price of a stamp is going to increase another penny soon. Whooptee-freakin’-do. I find it amazing that I can put a letter in my mailbox and send it to Maine or Georgia or anywhere in the country for a measly 47 cents. Seriously, this has got to be the greatest bargain of all time. Society sometimes pokes fun at postal workers because of their former tendency to occasionally spray their co-workers with machine-gun fire, but in general, I’d say that what they do is damned awesome.

As a life-long fan of the Oakland Raiders, I am thankful for fantasy football. This nerdish, goofball enterprise gives me plenty of reasons to follow the NFL long after my hope for the Raiders season is a bloody, embarrassing mess … which usually happens about Week 6. Fantasy football totally screws up the way a fan follows the sport, but it’s easily the biggest boost for the NFL since the West Coast offense. While the league has embraced fantasy football — for obvious reasons — it continues to abhor Las Vegas and any connection between football and gambling. Hate to break the news to the NFL, but nearly all fantasy leagues are founded on wagers involving wads of cash.

I am thankful for bananas that sell for 59 cents a pound. How is it possible to grow them, pick them and ship them up from Central America and still charge a mere 59 cents for an entire pound? I couldn’t do that. And I am thankful for satellite radio. No offense to commercial radio — I listen to local FM stations every morning — but I enjoy long stretches of music, news or sports without commercials, and satellite is an amazing development.

I am thankful that we still have wild horses in Nevada. The BLM is on quite a roundup rampage and seems intent on snatching every single mustang from the range. The other day, cowboy Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a Colorado cattle rancher, threatened to punch a reporter who dared to ask about the government’s shoddy handling of the wild-horse issue. Salazar’s underlings have been caught red-handed transferring wild horses to a notorious horse-meat supplier. As it turns out, the horse-meat guy has a long relationship with the Salazar ranch. What a coincidence. I am thankful there are a few hardcore horse advocates who keep an a eye on Salazar and the BLM and hope there are still a few mustangs left by the time Salazar gets canned and goes home to spend quality time with his cows.

I am thankful that the American public was not swayed or fooled by the hundreds of millions of dollars that oozed into the 2012 elections from dark, unknown places. Bigshot, egotistical billionaires did their best to buy the presidential election, and also poured an unprecedented amount of money into congressional races in order to buy insurance that would protect them from taxes or regulation. It didn’t work. For at least one more election, the public mostly was not persuaded to buy the billionaire line of bullshit, in large part because the rich guys plowed their money into the campaigns of absolute knuckleheads. I worry that this stinging defeat will prompt the billionaires (including a couple of Nevada narcissists) to be smarter and sneakier the next time — and to pick better, or sneakier, candidates. We can worry about that the next time.

I am thankful that our water officials worked out a deal to make smarter use of the Colorado River. Credit where credit is due. I am often critical of the stuff our water officials do, since so much of it is self-serving and dead wrong. But the deal that was worked out to make changes in allocations — and to start serious talks about the benefits of large-scale desalting plants — is long overdue and so much smarter than the pursuit of the environmental disaster that awaits if Las Vegas siphons those fragile rural basins. Of course, the deal has not deterred our myopic water honchos from plotting to steal rural groundwater, but it is a great first step in the right direction.

Maybe the holiday season has conquered my better senses, but I am even thankful to see the much-maligned monorail emerge from bankruptcy. No one wants to see it become an abandoned husk, its rails rusting in the sun. Current administrators were handed a raw deal by the folks who built the monorail on a faulty model and then padded their pockets on the way out. But there has to be a way to make it work, because having it collapse completely isn’t good for anyone.

Finally, I am thankful that I do not have to eat turkey or any other animal on Thanksgiving because, these days, there are so many non-flesh choices available. But, to be completely honest, it is going to be hard to avoid the temptation should I happen to see a random pile of mashed potatoes, one that is covered with nonvegetarian gravy. Wish me luck.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at