Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 25

Back from the holidays with a full tank of piss and vinegar.


Here in Vancouver, we deal rather poorly with snow.  This stems from the fact that — on average — we just don’t get a lot of it, which manifests in a couple of ways.  First of all, municipal governments quite sensibly don’t spend much of their budgets on snow removal.  (Most of the snow we get — most of the time — disappears in a day or two, so this isn’t a big deal.)  Second — and much more to my irritation — people cultivate a wilful ignorance of the mere possibility that it might snow (even though it inevitably snows at least a couple of times over an average winter).  Thus we find that, when it snows, people haven’t the slightest idea of how to cope, and chaos ensues.  After a major snowfall like the one that’s still on the ground here, things get far, far worse.

Further inland, where the climate’s more conducive to snowfall, you’d expect a different situation.  Governments being what they are, you might not be surprised to discover these cities following their big coastal role models and making only a token effort to deal with snowfall.  However, individuals who have to deal with significant snow year after year eventually either accept the possibility and prepare for it or move somewhere else (usually here, where they freak out every time it snows).  So it is in Spokane Valley… with the dreary twist that the patricians don’t like being shown up by the plebians.

[Troy] Garcia’s been using his four wheeler with a blade on the front to plow out his neighbors and clear the street of our record snow fall. Almost all the neighbors say Garcia is the only reason they’ve been able to get out the past two weeks.

But one neighbor, who is a county roads supervisor, called police and reported Garcia is plowing snow into the street, which is illegal, so police told him to stop.


Even thought Garcia isn’t really leaving snow in the right of way, Valley police say it’s illegal to use a four wheeler on city streets and could result in a $124 ticket.

It’s also illegal for private plows, unless hired by the city, to plow residential streets because of the liability if something is damaged.

I’m equal parts fascinated and appalled by the number of ways the Spokane Valley five-oh managed to come down on Mr. Garcia — pushing snow into a right-of-way, using a four-wheeler on city streets, and plowing residential streets without a city contract. Cardinal Richelieu is supposed to have boasted that “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him”; clearly the principle still applies.

I’m also having a hard time finding an honest-to-balls “victim” of the crimes Garcia is supposed to have committed — all I can see is that he might have damaged the streets with his plow, or that he might have done something… er, dangerous and hooliganish, I suppose… with his quad.  All he’s actually done — besides helping his neighbours — is made the municipal apparatus of Spokane Valley look utterly foolish, and reading this news story you’d have a hard time arguing that they haven’t been thoroughly complicit.


Here’s another foolish law:

(Hat tip: Tam.  “In a fit”, geddit?  ‘Cause it’s clothesFit. Geddit? Oh they think they’re funny.)

Now, you might suspect that I’ve gone too far in a fit (dammit!) of knee-jerk antiauthoritarianism.  After all, how could something that protects and preserves the purity and essence of our precious… er, children — probably from those evil Chinese with their lead-based paint and melamine — be foolish?

Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children’s clothing.

The law, aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products sold for those age 12 and younger — including clothing — be tested for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. Those that haven’t been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead.

Bah, big deal — right?  I mean, you can’t be too careful with these things, and the large corporations selling kid’s clothes should just eat the cost of testing their merchandise to make sure that it’s safe for our precious little snowflakes.

And hey, poor people don’t need to clothe their kids; they can just sew new ones out of empty sacks.

Thrift store owners say the law stings because children’s garments often come in new or nearly new, because children typically outgrow clothing quickly.  Carol Vaporis, owner of Duck Duck Goose Consignment in New Port Richey, Fla., said her store stocks barely used brand-name clothing from places such as Limited Too and Gymboree.

“We really provide a service to the community to help people get clothes for their children they otherwise couldn’t afford,” she said.

Families have been bringing more clothes to consignment stores, where they get a chunk of the proceeds, to earn a little cash this winter, she said.

…but of course that’s going to stop, because those stores won’t be able to afford to have the clothes tested.  Great: we get it coming and going.  No money recouped from consignment sales of outgrown kids’ clothes, and no money saved by buying lightly-used replacements rather than paying full retail price.

I can’t imagine that the lawmakers thought about that when they passed this legislation — naturally not: it’s an economic issue and it’s well-established that one can’t reliably reason a priori about large markets — and I rather doubt that they care.  After all, they’ve done their jobs as Caring People, standing up for the poor precious chiwdwens against the evils of chemicals, and if some of the great unwashed can’t afford new clothes for their kids, well, that’s their problem.


While we’re on the subject of coercive legislation enacted by Caring People, let’s take a jaunt across both the Pacific and the Equator and examine the latest piece of for their own good idiocy to come out of Australia:

(It had a different title when I first copied down the URL.)

What’s this all about?  Taxes on and bans of “bad” food, of course.

A shadow has been cast over the future of the spread as a Federal Government taskforce considers special taxes and other deterrents on the sale of fatty, sugary and salty foods.


The Government set up the taskforce last year to recommend ways to tackle preventable health problems such as obesity, which cost Australia an estimated $8.3 billion in 2008, according to a report in today’s The Australian newspaper.

The taskforce’s final report, due in June, is one of the most eagerly anticipated of all the health reviews under way, the newspaper says. They propose extra taxes on “energy-dense” foods; regulating fat, salt and sugar content in food and drink; and banning advertising of unhealthy foods to children and eliminating them from school vending machines.

As you’ve no doubt guessed from the link’s title, Vegemite was originally on the chopping block as unsuitably salty.  However, that’s all changed; acting Prime Minister Ms. Gillard backpedaled so fast on the ‘mite that if you hooked up a generator to her feet you could power all of Asia for five years from the wattage:

But today Ms Gillard said Vegemite’s future on Australian grocery shelves was assured.

“I am a very happy Vegemite eater and there is no way in the world that Vegemite would be banned in this country,” Ms Gillard said.  “Vegemite is part of being Australian, part of our history, part of our future and I’ll be continuing to wake up in the morning and having it on my toast.”

I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.  Of course, vegemite’s not the only member of The Little List that might catch one somewhat aslant:

Sugar-rich preserves and jams, and even high-fat products such as soft cheeses and cooking oils, could be banned for health reasons, [AFGC director for health, nutrition and scientific affairs] Dr Annison warned.

Cooking oils are apparently too high in fat.  Well, yes… that’s what they’re for! Fat content in your olive oil?  Say it ain’t so!

Governments continue to amaze me with their consistent ability to be even more ignorant about nutrition than journalists.


Let’s stick with Caring People making utter fools of themselves for the sake of the children.

Remember back in April 1999, in the hysterical finger-pointing aftermath of the Columbine killings, when black trenchcoats, dark music, and anything even vaguely resembling something you might buy at a Hot Topic franchise were held to be sure and certain signs that your precious little snowflake was about to go utterly postal?  Well, black is once again the new black, but it’s apparently passed on its colour*-based magical powers to a new and sinister threat.  The tabloidastardly Daily Star reports on this abrogation of common sense:

Child expert Sue Palmer, 60, says one study showed children can easily identify the colour blue, but when shown something pink they called it “Barbie”.
She added: “I’m worried about the pink plague.”
That’s right: according to Palmer, there’s something evil about the colour pink that turns little girls into zombies.
Well, if that’s true, there’s only one thing that can help us:
May the Emperor save us all.


* Black is the absence of reflected light in the visual spectrum, not a “colour”.  I know, I know.  Shut the hell up, I’m going somewhere with this.

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