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Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Let's be careful out there

Let’s be careful out there

Do you remember those films in driver’s training classes, the ones that are supposed to teach you about the hazards of the road? Inevitably, at some point, a child rushes out from behind a parked car and you have only a moment to avoid hitting him.

Tonight was one of those moments.

I had gotten off the #12 Santa Monica Bus at my usual corner, Palms and Sepulveda Blvds. Now, before I go any further, you have to understand this is a busy, dangerous intersection. It’s not Wilshire and Sepulveda, thank Heaven, but it’s heavily traveled, and I regularly see bad accidents and near misses there. People rush yellow and red lights, they turn after the lights have changed, the setting sun is often right in your eyes, pedestrians regularly do dumb things… the whole nine yards. (1)

So, just before 5PM, I’m waiting to cross Palms to go home, keeping my usual eye on traffic. Sure enough, there is a car with a couple of people in it (older, but not elderly I think, and I believe a woman was driving), next to me, waiting to turn right, across my path. And, of course, the driver is watching the oncoming traffic on her left, never once looking right to see anyone on her right, the direction in which she’s turning. I can’t tell you how often I curse under my breath at people who do that. (I was once nearly run down by a USPS driver doing just that. But, hey, he yelled “sorry,” so it was okay.)

So, I take note of her, but then I hear a man yell “STOP!!” and a little girl of around five goes zipping past me into the intersection trying to beat Daddy across the crosswalk, which was already flashing red.

Naturally, this was the moment the car, whose driver had never looked right, chose to start her turn.

And also the moment the little girl, in her pink outfit with a pink helmet on a pink bicycle (still had the training wheels on) heard her Daddy and stopped right in front of the moving car.

I of course, am standing there like a moron not believing what I’m seeing.

Thank God the driver must’ve heard the father or caught a glimpse of the girl, or both — she stopped in time so the child experienced only the barest tap (I heard her say “OW!”). The kid then rode to the other side, while the Dad stopped long enough to slam his fist on the hood of the car and yell a choice word or two (I’ll leave them to your imagination) and then catch up with his daughter, who I imagine was in a deserved bit of trouble.

The driver sat there in shock, and I walked home imagining the horror I’d just missed.

Naturally, the vast majority of the blame is on the driver. Too damn many people never look right when turning right, so focused they are on the oncoming traffic and looking for a chance to go. If the girl had been injured or, Heaven forbid, killed, I’d have gladly testified against them.

But the father bears a bit of blame, too. Let’s face it, little kids are often idiots, blissfully unaware of the dangers of the world. She’s out on her bike, riding with Daddy, the crossing signal goes red, and I can just imagine her saying “I’ll beat you!”

Now, such a moment is unpredictable, but what on Earth was he doing letting her ride along Palms at rush hour, with that intersection in their path,exposing her to foolish drivers? His own carelessness could have cost him his daughter.

Thankfully, no one got more than a fright this afternoon. I hope they all learned a needed lesson.

Footnote:
(1) The LA City Council deserves a lot of criticism for this. While they concentrate on tree-trimming regulations and more benefits for their union cronies in order to buy votes for reelection, an intersection like Palms and Sepulveda (and its twin Palms and Sawtelle) have inadequate traffic control: no turn signals, leading to all sorts of messy, hazardous situations. Daily. Their neglect of street maintenance and traffic signals is scandalous.

 

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"Banned by Nanny State"

“Banned by Nanny State”

I want to congratulate my city councilman, Mike Bonin, for his support of Los Angeles’ ban on plastic grocery bags.

You see, earlier this evening, I was at my local Albertson’s (1). While there, I had trouble finding a handbasket to hold the items I was buying. The manager saw me and came up to apologize. You see, they were low on baskets and had to order 200 more because…

PEOPLE WERE STEALING THE BASKETS BECAUSE OF THE STUPID BAG BAN!!!

Which phenomenon, by the way, has happened before.

Knowing our city council, they’ll probably pass an ordinance against stealing the baskets, rather than admit their mistake and rescind the bag ban.

Great work, guys.

Note:
(1) Sepulveda and Palms, if you want to know where the cool kids shop.

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"Banned by Nanny State"

“Banned by Nanny State”

I’ve already made clear my opposition to Los Angeles’ ban on plastic shopping bags handed out by stores with your purchase. Now, here’s an example of why that law is just plain stupid:

Today I had to stop at the grocery store to pick up some vegetables for dinner. (Broccoli crowns, to be precise.) I did not have my “environmentally friendly” (but health-hazardy) reusable bag with me. As I ride the bus to and from work  (environmentally friendly! Yay, me!), I didn’t have one with me. So my choice was to either walk all the way home, get a bag, come back, and walk home again, or just go inside, buy the broc, and “go bagless.” I chose the latter.

Kind of. You see, I still had a Dread Plastic Bag with me: the transparent plastic bag we put our vegetables in before buying them, which I used to carry the crowns home in.

So what’s the point of the ban, man?

Repeal it.

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"Banned by Nanny State"

“Banned by Nanny State”

Starting today, plastic grocery shopping bags have been banned in the city of Los Angeles. Shoppers are now required to either bring their own reusable bags, pay extra for paper bags, or… grow extra arms?

Proponents claim the bag ban will be better for the environment. This is disputable.  A 2012 article in Reason described the reality of plastic-bag pollution:

First, banning free plastic grocery bags won’t reduce waste. California’s Statewide Waste Characterization Study [pdf] shows that “Plastic Grocery and Other Merchandise Bags” consistently make up just 0.3 percent of the waste stream in the state. That’s three-tenths of 1 percent. In comparison, organic waste such as food and yard clippings makes up 32 percent while construction debris comprises about 30 percent. The effect of eliminating free grocery bags on the amount of waste generated in the city would be insignificant.

Second, despite misleading claims from environmental groups and the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation, banning free plastic grocery bags won’t do much to reduce litter in the public commons. Litter studies from across the country demonstrate that, on average, plastic retail bags make up about 1 percent to 2 percent of all litter.

Even that small amount of litter doesn’t decline when bans are enacted. In San Francisco, plastic bags comprised 0.6 percent of litter before the city banned plastic bags and 0.64 percent a year after the ban took effect [pdf, pg. 35]. Since plastic grocery bags make up less than 2 percent of roadside trash, banning them will affect neither the total amount of litter nor the cost of cleaning it up.

Third, banning free plastic grocery bags won’t reduce our consumption of foreign (or domestic) oil. L.A.’s Bureau of Sanitation claims [pdf] that “approximately 12 million barrels of oil go into the US supply of plastic bags.” But plastic bags made in the U.S. are not derived from oil; they’re made from a byproduct of domestic natural gas refinement. Manufacturing plastic grocery bags does not increase our need to import oil, and banning them in Los Angeles or anywhere else will not reduce US oil consumption.

Despite claims that plastics threaten our oceans and sea life, there is no evidence that free plastic grocery bags make up any significant portion of the plastic waste found on beaches or in the ocean. In fact, reports from environmental groups doing beach and ocean clean-ups show that plastic bags make up only about 2 percent of the debris.

There’s a lot more in that Reason article about the myths and realities of plastic bags, including the economic harm it will likely do to thousands who will lose their jobs. I recommend reading the whole thing.

And what about public health? And I’m not just thinking of what people are going to use to pick up their dog’s droppings while on a walk. This 2010 Washington Post article describes the inherent health hazards of reusable plastic bags, themselves:

Nearly every bag examined for bacteria by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found whopping amounts of bugs. Coliform bacteria, suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination, was in half of the bags, and E. coli was found in 12 percent of the bags.

Running the bags through a washer or cleaning them by hand reduced bacteria levels to almost nothing, the study reported, but nearly all shoppers questioned said they do not regularly, if ever, wash their reusable bags. About a third said they also used their food-shopping bags to haul around non-food items.

In fact, in 2012 athletes came down sick with norovirus, thanks to their reusable grocery bags.

Sure, we can wash them and even bleach them, but is it your business to put us in a position of having to do that? We’ll come back to this in a minute.

Finally, there’s a crime issue. Seattle banned plastic bags in  July, 2012. Since then grocery stores have reported a sharp increase in shoplifting:

Mike Duke, who operates the Lake City Grocery Outlet with his wife, said that since the plastic-bag ban started last July, he’s lost at least $5,000 in produce and between $3,000 and $4,000 in frozen food.

“We’ve never lost that much before,” said Duke, who found those numbers through inventories of stolen and damaged goods.

The Dukes opened the Lake City grocery store in June 2011, and Mike Duke said in the year before the plastic-bag ban losses in frozen food and produce were a small fraction of what he’s seeing now. As he explained to seattlepi.com and also the North Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the shoplifters’ patterns are difficult to detect.

They enter the store with reusable bags and can more easily conceal items they steal. The reusable bags require staff to watch much more closely, and even though the store has a loss-prevention officer and more than a dozen security cameras, it’s tough to tell what a customer has paid for and what they may already have brought with them.

They’ve even seen an upswing in plastic hand-baskets being stolen (Hey, shoplifters have to carry their loot in something!) and then found dumped around the city. Shall we ban those, too?

More importantly –and this ties into the health issue– is it the place of the Los Angeles city council to impose these risks on residents and businesses?

The answer is no. When our streets are falling apart, when the city’s finances are a wreck, when the schools badly underperform, there are far better uses for councilmen’s time (and the salary money we pay them) than to pass a needless, possibly harmful law for the sake of “promoting environmental awareness” or “making a statement.” The intentions may be good, but we all know where that path leads.

Returning to the Reason article, author Jay Beeber speaks for me when he touches on the larger issue the bag ban is a symptom of — government that has grown too large and too intrusive in people’s lives:

But the real crisis—the one that rarely gets discussed—is that these types of bans require another public acceptance of total government intrusion into our lives. Is it a legitimate role of government to prohibit one individual from giving a free bag to another individual on the pretext of a supposed societal benefit that does not withstand even friendly scrutiny? Doesn’t every human interaction, no matter how small, have some arguable effect on society? And if so, what’s to prevent those who seek to dictate how everyone lives from invoking that argument at every turn? The crisis in Los Angeles and around the country is that too few people are asking those questions.

As an Angeleno, a taxpayer, and a voter, I ask that you members of the LA city council ask these questions of yourselves and then do the right thing.

Repeal the ban.

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Noodling around on Google Maps, I searched the Casitas Pass and saw a link to the Albertson’s in Carpinteria. Look at the picture below, and tell me if you can spot something a bit off about it….

Google Oops

I know people are fleeing California, but I didn’t know a whole town had relocated.  Tongue

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Normally I don’t put politics on this blog, but there are reasons to make the occasional exception; this is one of them. My State Assemblywoman, Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass (D), voiced some opinions regarding the rights of free speech that I found, well, objectionable. The following is the letter I sent her:

Dear Speaker Bass,

As a resident of the 47th district, I’m writing to express not just dismay, but absolute shock at the opinions you expressed in an interview with Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times. This is the exchange in question:

How do you think conservative talk radio has affected the Legislature’s work?

The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: “You vote for revenue and your career is over.” I don’t know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it’s about free speech, but it’s extremely unfair.

So, wait a second. Calling up a talk show or the legislator’s office directly and expressing a strongly-held opinion is the equal of terrorizing someone? Promising to oppose their candidacy or even to attempt to recall them -a process provided for under state law- is terroristic? For a talk-show host to call attention to legislation he opposes to try to gather opposition to it is extremely unfair?

Perhaps it’s slipped your mind, but Americans, even Californians, have the right to free speech and to petition for the redress of grievances, even if rudely expressed. It’s protected under the 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights. May I also remind you of Article 1, Section 2(a) of the California Constitution:

ARTICLE 1  DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 2.  (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.

Everything you complained about is protected political speech under both the US and California constitutions and surely cannot be considered “abuse.” They are expressions of the natural-born rights of all people, and for you as a public official to accuse political opponents exercising these same rights of being terroristic is elitist, insulting, and profoundly anti-democratic. That you, one of the highest officials of our state government, should complain that free speech allows this to happen is appalling, and it calls into question your qualifications to serve in any elected office.

So, let me engage in a little free speech of my own: I do not want someone with your cavalier attitude toward the rights of citizens to represent me in any capacity, and I will work to see you replaced in the next election.

with regards,

–Anthony Ragan

Is it any wonder that the state of California is in the mess it’s in, when its so-called leaders hold the electorate and democracy itself in such contempt?

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