Saturday, June 26, 2010

Life, Listeria, and Legislation in California

Living in California has its blessings:  relatively warm weather, undoubtedly beautiful scenery, and plenty of things to do and places to go.

There is always a dark lining to every silver cloud. By now, even non-Californians know our state government is dysfunctional - which is the only non-swear word I can use describe them.

When I say dysfunctional, keep in mind that there are levels of dysfunction: you have grandma and grandpa sniping at each other about the best road to take each time they get in the car, or you have pedophile Uncle Harry drooling over what's under the diaper of 2 year old nephew Johnny.

California's dysfunction is decidedly on the Uncle Harry side of the scale.

Maybe I'm being too kind.

I have a personal stake in this disastrous governorship - my husband is a state manager.  Over a year ago, we took a 15% pay cut (while legislators gave their staff members raises) due to the budget crisis.  "Furlough Fridays" came right at the time I began cancer treatment. My salary dropped, my husband's salary dropped, medical expenses rose - and the legislature fiddled.

(While the paycheck of my hard-working husband was cut by a significant amount,  it was discovered this week that all along, welfare recipients have been allowed to withdraw government assistance money at casinos - and have done so to the tune of almost 2 million dollars  in the past 8 months.)

It's budget time again.  Guess what?  These good men and women, these honored public servants sat down, worked together, focused, did their constitutional duty and passed a budget.

Um, no. They didn't.  I'm funnin' ya.

They continue to fiddle while Rome burns, and so Arnold has stated that state workers are to be paid minimum wage until the budget passes.  Which, historically, takes months.

I guess that's our punishment for having elected a rapist like Uncle Harry.

You would think at this point that the legislature would drop everything to pass the budget - after all, that is the sole reason we elect them.  That's why there are legislators in the first place.

You would think.  They don't.  

They are elected to manage the finances of the state of California, but in their minds, their jobs have morphed into passing more and more nanny laws to control our lives.  They are on a huge power trip; thinking they know more about our health and safety than we do, taking our freedoms away bit by bit. 

So, the budget deadline passed - what are they working on this past week?

They are deciding whether to boycott Arizona, which is laughable since they can't get their own act together.  Can't you just see stoned Dad slurring as he lectures his kid on the dangers of drugs and alcohol?

They have implemented a tax fine for anybody under 18 who doesn't wear a helmet snowboarding.

They want to limit juice in daycare centers to one glass a day.

And of course, the very important topic of changing our official state rock came up. "No, Ann," you are saying, "that can't be true.  Your state budget hasn't passed, people are suffering - they wouldn't take valuable time to debate what the state rock should be!  Not even California is that bad."

I give you Senate Bill 624:
SB 624, as amended, Romero. State rock.
Existing law establishes various animals, vegetables, and minerals as emblematic of the state and provide that serpentine is the official state rock and lithologic emblem.
This bill would remove serpentine as the state rock and lithologic emblem.

They used staff time to write this document, they amended it three times, debated it in the Assembly and Senate, and it's coming up for a vote.  In the meantime, in the midst of a recession,  tens of thousands of California's state workers are faced with the very real possibility of not being able to pay their bills.

Given all that,  I wasn't surprised when I read today's article in the Sacramento Bee about another bill being discussed by the legislature and supported by the 2nd worst governor in history,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, which would ban paper and plastic bags in grocery stores.  Plastics will be gone entirely, and we will have to pay a tax for paper.

Not being a control-freak in power, I am of the opinion that people should be able to decide for themselves if they wish to choose plastic bags or not, based on their own belief about recycling and harm to the environment. Maybe instead of banning books, I mean, bags, we should implement a program educating people about the harm - if any.
But, we have already established that the legislature doesn't trust the people to make good decisions; I mean, we can't be trusted to give the right fruit juice to our children anymore. 

Paper bags though?  What harm does paper do to the environment?  Why can't I put my groceries in free paper bags, as I have for years?  Why can't the store decide, based on their customer's needs, whether they want to charge for paper bags or not?

What's next?  Are we going to ban wrapping paper?  Copy paper?  Newspaper?  (Well no, newspaper is declining the way those plastic bags would once people discover better ways to do what they want to do).

How about Senate Bill paper? Can we ban that?

"I'm with you, Ann," you are saying.  "They are clearly crazy.  But, what does this have to do with breast cancer?"

I'll tell you.

And, it has to do with the law of unintended consequences.  In the legislature's Utopian vision for the future of California, we will all be carrying around fabric or reusable recycled plastic bags for our groceries.  (Except people with ADD, such as myself, who will never in a million years remember to bring them and who will be throwing loose cans in the back of her truck.)

At the very end of the Bee's article, there is this paragraph, which caught my eye and caused this rant:

Opponents counter with a study by university researchers, funded by the American Chemistry Council, which suggests that reusable bags pose health risks. Ninety-seven percent of reusable bag users fail to wash them, and 51 percent of bags carried food-borne bacteria, the study found.

Speaking as somebody who has just gone through chemotherapy and spent months with no immune system, this gives me the willies. A low white count doesn't keep you from needing to go to the grocery store.  You do your best (unlike our elected officials), you wipe down the cart, you bring your hand sanitizer.  And, I suppose, you'd wash your own bags if they can even be washed.  (Many I've seen wouldn't hold up.)

But, other people won't.  And, the thought of thousands upon thousands of bags infected with e-coli, listeria, salmonella and other food-borne diseases, placed in grocery carts, sitting on counters, in the hands of the clerk who will then handle my items -  creeps me out.  There are some people in the grocery store that you know have never and will never wash those bags.  You've seen them shop - they use the bags not only to carry things to their car, but also to carry things inside the store.

And, they change their minds and put things back.

Maybe an ADA lawsuit is in order so we can have our nice, clean, sterile paper bags for our groceries.

I won't even get into the idea that the people who run California's government this way could be in charge of my healthcare.  It's just too frightening.

I know you are wondering:  what is my vote for the official state rock?

I can't choose just one.  I think the heads of every one of our public officials qualify.

Don't you?


  1. Are you going to stop putting things into grocery carts next? Those have always struck me as much more disgusting than reusable bags...

  2. I think you've found your topic when your cancer treatment is complete. This state is completely, totally, out of control. I feel like I live in bizarro world, where everything I was taught about right and wrong and law and order is now a joke - and the comedians are our lawmakers. We need someone with your wit, and bite, to stand on the side of right.

  3. On July 29, 1990, I placed a Full page ad in the Sacramento newspaper that said

    A Plea
    To all Californians

    Our legislators have not produced a budget in the time specified by law!

    Our legislators:
    Represent themselves!

    Represent powerful special interest groups!

    Are financially irresponsible!

    Have paralyzed the political process!

    What can we do?

    Return the power to the people:

    Register to vote!


    Vote out all incumbents!
    (regardless of political affiliation or track record)

    Send a message:

    Californians demand responsible representatives

    John K. Silberman

    So after 20 years, nothing has changed

  4. I will never understand why the budget does not get passed on time. I mean, I understand WHY. I just don't understand WHY. In other words, why do we put people in charge who are unable to pass a budget? Why is that not a priority? Why is there no incentive to get a budget passed? Who do I have to F*CK around here to get a budget passed?

    And I never really thought about how germy icky a grocery store is, but now you've made it palpable why I always feel like I have to wash my hands after coming back from the grocery store.

    (btw, I hope I get to meet you at the mixer on Tuesday)

    - Margaret

  5. That SB 624 bill seems even more evil than just removing serpentine as the state rock, it also makes the law state that "all serpentine contains chrysotile asbestos", which is scientifically incorrect. The only people supporting it are unions and asbestos lawyers.
    yes I wrote this, I love minerals! Serpentine minerals are super and there is no reason to "fear the rock"

  6. Wow, so they are putting rock make up into state law now? Unbelievable. They can't just tell us what to do and how to live, they have to tell nature how to make rocks??


    I like your article and hope everybody reads it. Especially people in Ms. Romero's district, so they can see what she chooses to spend her time on - and how good her research is.

    Where did her donations come from, I wonder????

  7. The plastic bag law is a tax on families. I have 3 kids. I can least afford an increase in our food bill, which is what will happen if I have to buy them. Do you have any idea how much food we have to buy? So unless I find these silly recycle bags free I am talking about a $100 investment in the poorly made trash.. bags.

    Having three kids 4 and under I also have to schlep around a suitcase full of crap like diapers; wipes; bottles; formula; snacks; drinks...i.e. juice; emergency underwear /shorts; hand sanitizer etc. This is in addition to my mom purse. And I am a fancy shopping cart covers here. So now I have to add ANOTHER suitcase full of bags, because I have eight arms, or else pay more money? Because with 3 kids we just have so much money.

    Also having 3 kids means I have no brain. I am lucky to remember my name, and now you want me to bring a suitcase full of bags? Hey I do my "green" thing. I use cloth diapers. Wow huh. But that's a choice. I chose it based on economics and the amount of DIAPERS that go into our landfills didn't feel right.

    I want to know when the final debate is. I am going to bring my three ring circus, and our luggage and show them who this bill is really they care.


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