Posts Tagged ‘California’

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Driving While Texting Causes Deaths: But, Does Outlawing it Make Us Any Safer?

12.15.10

Many states now have laws that make texting while driving illegal, seeing as people literally take their eyes off the road for several seconds at a time, causing accidents and sometimes deaths.

Such was the case for a 20-year-old woman in Glendale. After a three-month investigation in a fatal accident, it was concluded that the driver was texting when she ran a stop sign, striking and killing an 80-year-old man.

The Glendale Mayor had this to say about the situation:

Mayor Ara Najarian said distracted driving and traffic collisions involving pedestrians had reached “an epidemic point in Glendale.”

The son of the deceased offered this:

Following the crash, the son, Roger Ranjbar, said he hoped “it was an accident, and nothing else like alcohol, or drugs, or like texting or talking on the phone.”

To which I say: what difference does it make?

Not to say that this isn’t tragic.  To be 20-years-old and facing potential manslaughter or murder charges for typing “BRB” to her friend is devastating and life-changing to say the least.  And I know how annoyed I get when someone cuts me off on the road and I see that they have a cell phone up to their ear (which is also illegal in California, but whatever), so to know that your father was killed because of similar behavior would most likely be maddening and infuriating.

But, aside from the emotional fury, what does it matter?  Whether she was texting, chatting, doing her makeup, changing out a CD, changing the radio dial, turning down the volume on the stereo, adjusting her mirrors, eating, or any number of other possible things that people do when they’re behind the wheel, the result is the same: she failed to stop at a stop sign and, now, a man is dead.

Granted, texting is by far one of the the worst activities you can do while driving. With just about everything else, you at least have your eyes up — but texting you’re usually looking down into your lap, especially now in California because you don’t want a cop to see that you’re holding your phone in your hand.  I think it’s beyond stupid to text and drive even though I’m not perfect and I used to text occasionally while I drove — now I make a point of not doing so.  Not because I’m so worried about the ticket but because I don’t want to end up pulling a 20-year-old-texting move like that Glendale girl.

At the same time, I do use my phone as my iPod, so sometimes I glance over-slash-down to change songs.  Is that different?  Is that illegal?  I don’t know how many times I’ve done that and wondered if I got pulled over if I could argue my way out of the ticket since changing the radio dial isn’t illegal, so why should this act be outlawed?  Where do you draw the line?

The reality is that driving is inherently dangerous.  Way more than most of us acknowledge.  Living in Los Angeles, it’s commonplace to hear talk about a “fatal accident” on the radio when they give the frequent traffic update on the drive into work in the morning.  Think about that: people driving to work will die every single week, just commuting, an everyday activity for most of us — for any number of reasons. So often that it’s not even shocking when I hear it from the morning shows.

My point is this: don’t trust anyone else behind the wheel. If you’re driving, be aware of everyone around you and don’t trust a soul to obey traffic laws.  No texting ban or cell phone ban or eating ban or whatever they impose will make us any safer — people will still be idiots when driving.  It’s up there with death and taxes.

Case in point: just this morning as I was driving through an intersection because the light turned green, I noticed a woman on a bike riding down an alleyway headed toward the street.  I assumed she was going to stop since, well, there was a line of on-coming traffic headed her way with the right-of-way — but, I left off the gas anyway.  Sure enough, without even bothering to glance to either side, she just kept on riding – slowly – across the street right in front of me as I slammed on my brakes.  Oblivious, completely.  Or suicidal.

The only thing you have control over is yourself, and defensive driving is your best way to stay safe.

(H/T LAist)

Image courtesy of mrJasonWeaver’s Flickr Photostream.



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Vote, Vote, Vote: Do Your Civic Duty in the General Election Tomorrow

11.01.10

I just got done researching the nine different measures on the ballot in tomorrow’s general election — it takes some work to do your civic duty right.

For those of you fellow Californians, check out this online resource for learning about each of the propositions, both sides of the story, so that you can form your own opinion on whether or not to vote yes or no.  It puts the onus on you, the voter, to read up on what the proposition actually stays and decide for yourself.

It also tells you which groups and/or companies are supporting and opposing the measure and how much they spent on the campaign, as well as which side the different newspapers took — which can be helpful if you’re on the fence or just completely unsure.

From the same link, you can check out information on the other races, the main one being for governor.

Whichever way you vote on any of the measures or races, just voting is the important factor. Especially for us blowhards on the Internet who love to espouse our opinions to the masses via blogs which sure can be productive in creating dialogue, it isn’t exactly the most effective way to change things.  Voting is.

There’s a recent thread on The Daily Dish which goes back and forth between a liberal notion that our freedom to vote is more crucial than property rights while a conservative notion values the opposite.  Both are strong arguments and I’d prefer to not have to choose either — but, being able to own my own property yet not be able to vote could allow the government to tax my property so high that it would render it nearly worthless.

Long story short: go vote.  Tomorrow.  Election day.  Make your voice heard.

Image courtesy of wallyg’s Flickr Photostream.

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If California GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman Needs a Bully to Quiet the Dissent, How Does She Expect to Govern the State?

09.25.10

Now, I know, I know. I shouldn’t generalize. But, isn’t it funny that Gov. Chris Christie, the big guy who stepped in to confront a heckler during a GOP gubernatorial event for California candidate Meg Whitman, happens to be from New Jersey?

But aside from that: is this truly the way that Meg Whitman intends to run our state of California? With some personal bodyguard from Jersey stepping in — to not even argue for her, but — to just hush the opposition through schoolyard bully tactics? I wonder if that’s her plan when she disagrees with the California Legislature on policies — just call up Gov. Christie, have him come down there to the State Senate and say, “Yell at me, but don’t give her a hard time.”

Don’t give her a hard time!? She’s running for governor in a state that can’t even produce a budget three months after its constitutionally mandated deadline! If she wanted a cakewalk, she definitely chose the wrong profession.

So, basically, we have one governor using his size and soapbox (why exactly was he there to begin with anyway?) to intimidate (I guess yelling divides the country but finger-pointing unites us?) someone exercising his civil right to question a potential state leader, and another wannabe-governor completely unable to deal with one dissenter in a sea of supporters.

These are the types of people that voters think can lead our country better? Unbelievable.

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Getting Fired for Medical Marijuana Use: Why Should Employers Drug Test At All?

09.15.10

Many people are affected by the drug war.  Just take a look at our southern border.

But those aren’t the only ones.

While the states work the whole federalism angle on the legality of marijuana use, there’s bound to be some snags.  And in the case of some people, it’s costing them their jobs.

Glenn Greenwald:

In some cases, workers have been fired for failing drug tests despite having prescriptions saying, in effect, that what they are doing is legal according to the laws of their states.

Here’s the thing: for an employer, you want your employees to be efficient, dependable, and hard-working. If an employee can accomplish all of this while smoking weed — legally prescribed or not — then what’s the issue? If he’s a total wastoid (yeah, wastoid, I said it, bringing it back along with high-tops and snap braclets), then his piss-poor performance should be enough to warrant disciplinary action, regardless of its cause.

Now, I do understand that there are HR costs involved with the hiring of a new employee so companies will want to best determine whether or not this applicant will be a quality addition to their team before they hire him — but, why test current employees?  You already hired them! They already passed your rigorous interview process (so, if they’re sucking at work then you might want to look into revamping your HR department, not firing your employee cause he takes a few puffs to ease his anxiety).  They’re doing their jobs competently, otherwise you could just drag them onto the carpet for their poor job review and cut the dead weight that way.   It’s pointless.

The problem with drug testing is that – NEWS FLASH!!!not all wastes-of-office-space take drugs and not all druggies are inept at work, despite what our current drug war culture would like you to believe. (Total mindblow, I know.)  It’s the whole “well, some pot smokers are lazy and don’t get anything done at work so we’re going to punish them all regardless of their individual aptitude” way of using a gravity bong when a simple one-hitter would suffice.

But since companies fancy themselves as some sort of moral authority now, why stop at drug testing?

  • Why not require me to bring in my hard drive so they can scan it for pirated software and music?
  • Why not scour my glove box to make sure that I indeed have proof of car insurance?
  • Why not stop by my apartment to make sure I’m not illegally leeching some wireless Internet from my neighbors?

I mean, all of those morally questionable practices could affect my job performance, believe you me. Without loads of music to fill my iPod, I’ll go insane at my desk and take my co-workers with me, kicking and screaming. Without car insurance, I could get into an accident, not be able to get a new car, be stuck taking public transport, and consistently arriving late to work irritable and making everyone around my desk miserable as a result.

And without the Internet at home… well, let’s just not imagine that dark, dark world, okay? I just had a glimpse into that lifeless hell when WordPress glitched up, forcing me to re-write this blog, nearly leading me into a total meltdown at my desk — a complete over-reaction, sure, but I almost went social (the post-modern version of going postal).

But, hey. At least I’m not smoking medical herb for my migraines, right?

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Do You Like Capitalism? Then, You Should Love Gay Marriage.

08.24.10

Marriage is big business.

Sure, it’s about love and being together forever and all that jazz, too.  But, let’s be real: it’s a serious moneymaker.

I just went to a wedding of one of my best buddies out in Rochester, NY this past weekend and it was on the second leg of my cross-country flight that it really dawned on me just how much money I was spending on his wedding.

First, there’s the flight from LAX to ROC.  It’s the summer and while Rochester is no resort town, it’s still on the other side of the continent.  I brought my girlfriend along, so multiply that by two.

Then, there’s the hotel. We went cheap and stayed at a Microtel.  But, since I was in the wedding, I arrived a couple days early to make sure I was there for all the festivities and the rehearsal dinner and everything else.  So tack on a couple extra nights.

And there’s also the rental car, the gas for the rental car, eating out for several meals, bar tabs. You can see how it adds up.  And that’s just for one guest and a plus-one.

I can’t even begin to compute how much the actual wedding cost — renting out the event center for the reception, the dress, the suit, the transportation, the hotels, the flowers, the two huge meals, the entertainment, the booze.  And this wasn’t even an overly extravagant affair; it wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t huge.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining at all. I gladly would spend it all over again in an instant to be there with one of my best friends on his wedding day.  It’s a unique, joyous occasion to celebrate love and the expansion of friends and family.  It’s moving.  It’s hilarious.  It’s inappropriate.  It’s something you don’t forget.  You make all sorts of new memories while revisiting all of the old.

But, still.  It costs everyone involved a small fortune.  Receiving that welcomed honor of being in a wedding comes with its price tag.  And while you can’t put a dollar amount on being able to sing and dance and laugh with friends that you only get to see maybe once a year if you’re lucky, you kind of can.  The flight. The hotel.  The car.  The gas.

It all adds up.

And then it made me think about all of the different industries that I, along with my fellow weddingers, were helping sustain for this four-day excursion into upstate New York in August.  The flight attendants, the fast-food-joint workers, the caterers, the chefs, the gas station clerks, the airlines, the DJs, the waiters and waitresses, the photographers, the flower arrangers, the chauffeurs, the hotel staffs.  I’m sure I’m missing plenty more, but you get the idea.

Given the state of our economy, local businesses and big businesses alike could use the help.  And even though times might be tight for everyone, it’s a lot easier to swallow some big expenditures when its in the name of something as happy and joyous as a wedding.

Let’s forget the obvious reasons to support marriage equality on an emotional level for the moment.  Instead, think of it from the capitalist mentality. This is, after all, America, so might as well speak to the language of the land: the dollar.

If marriage is already reduced to being a thousand federal benefits anyway, what harm could it to do just talk about it like it is?  A cash cow for multiple industries.  What could be more American than that?

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California Blue Cross Hikes Premiums by 39%

02.10.10

Anthem Blue Cross – California’s largest for-profit health insurance company – just sent notice to some 800,000 customers who purchase individual health plans that their premiums will be increasing by as much as 39% on March 1st.  That’s over 15 times the inflation rate.  They also told subscribers that they will be adjusting rates more frequently, perhaps many times a year.

Insurers are free to cherry-pick the healthiest customers in the lightly regulated individual market. They can raise rates at any time as long as they notify the state Department of Insurance and prove that they are spending at least 70% of premiums on medical care.

The reason for these drastic hikes?  According to the company:

“Unfortunately, the individual market premiums are merely the symptoms of a larger underlying problem in California’s individual market — rising healthcare costs.”

The company just blames that amorphous entity: healthcare costs.  I would like to see just how much those costs are to the company, actually.  I highly doubt that they have risen anywhere even remotely close to the 39% hike that premiums will take.  Did doctors just start charging 39% more per office visit?  Did X-ray technology all of a sudden cost hundreds more per scan?  Are nurses making as much as their doctor counterparts now?  That sure would be news, wouldn’t it?  I feel like I would’ve read about that if it had happened.

Adding insult to injury, it was reported that Anthem Blue Cross’s parent company, WellPoint Inc.,  earned 2.7 billion dollars in the last quarter of 2009 alone, its CEO took home $10 million just in salary, and the company “spent nearly $9.5 million on lobbying against health reforms in 2009.”

I just don’t understand why people are so adamant about keeping health insurance a for-profit industry.  Their job is not to insure us and provide us care when we get sick or injured; their job is to make money.  And they don’t make money when they spend money on cancer treatments, insulin shots for diabetics, or pain medication for people with migraines.  Their stockholders don’t profit when the company dolls out money for your health care.  They are in the business of not providing care.

How many people were denied coverage so that Anthem CEO (and soon-to-be WellPoint chairperson and member of the board of directors) Angela Braly could earn her $10 million payday?

Why is it so un-American to not want people profiting off my health problems?

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Palin Dismisses Climate Change as “Snake Oil Science”

02.09.10

Ex-Governor Sarah Palin at a logging conference in Northern California on Monday with regards to why she sued to repeal the Endangered Species Act in Alaska:

“We knew the bottom line … was ultimately to shut down a lot of our development … And it didn’t make any sense because it was based on these global warming studies that now we’re seeing (is) a bunch of snake oil science.”

Right.  Because she’s such a trusted authority on all things science.  This coming from a person who favors having creationism taught in public schools and believes that dinosaurs and humans co-existed.

(H/T LAist)