Gun rights victory in Marin County (of all places)

Police chief get a gunImagine this:  You’re an elderly man driving along a quiet suburban road with your wife.  You change lanes in front of another driver.  The other driver immediately begins tailing you closely and, over the course of a ten minute drive, you can’t shake him off, even when you tap your brakes and slow down.  As the road narrows from four lanes to two, you keep driving and he keeps tailing you.  You don’t call the police, because there’s nothing yet to report.

Eventually, you turn onto your street and, to your unpleasant surprise, that other car keeps following you.  You get to your house, open the garage door using your automatic door opening, and drive into the garage as quickly as possible — only to that other driver follow you there too.  When you try to close the garage door, it actually bounces off that other car’s hood before closing.

As soon as you’re in the house, you grab your legal gun (one of 50 that you own) because you can see the other car’s driver advancing on your front porch.  You tell him to go away, but he doesn’t.  You fire a warning shot into a bush, and he keeps coming.  Finally, you shoot at him.  It takes two shots, one hitting the other fellow in the abdomen, to finally make him stop.

That’s what happened to 72-year-old James Simon, a physician, who ended shooting 70-year-old William Osenton.  It was then left to a Marin County Superior Court judge to determine whether to charge Simon with manslaughter for the shooting.  Osenton had little to say in the matter, since he claims to remember only the fact that, earlier in the day, he’d been in the hospital for a routine stress test.

This being Marin County, the District Attorney is very gung ho to press charges.  Surprisingly, though, after a two-day preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Kelly Simmons declines to press charges:

Simmons ruled against the prosecution, ruling that Simon’s actions were not unreasonable under the circumstances.

The case is a really stunning victory for gun rights, because the judge rejected completely the DA’s claim that a homeowner cannot use guns to protect himself and his family until he has exhausted all other options:

During closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, [District Attorney Edward] Berberian said Simon could have locked himself in the home and called police rather than seek a confrontation.

Berberian said Simon’s weapons supply — which included more than 50 guns throughout the house — suggested he was “hypersensitive” and had a victimization complex that led him to take unreasonably deadly action.

“It was a bad judgment call, it was the wrong judgment call, and there has to be a standard,” Berberian said.

But defense attorney Charles Dresow said it was Osenton who made the bad choices. He said Simon had a constitutionally guaranteed right to protect himself, his family and his property.

“This is a clear case of self-defense,” Dresow said.

The charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm carry a potential prison sentence of about 20 years.

Osenton was not charged with any crimes.

Simon made a short statement to the press: “I’m proud to live in America.” Since Berberian is thinking about re-filing charges, let’s hope that Simon has reason to continue being proud.

The new Golden Gate Bridge movable barrier: Is this a reasonable use of public funds?

Golden Gate BridgeAs of next weekend, the Golden Gate Bridge will have a new movable barrier in place.  It will have cost $30.3 million to build and install.

With the new barrier in place, in the last quarter-mile before getting on the bridge, drivers coming from Marin will have to drive at 45 mph, rather than 55 mph.  People who are used to driving in the right lanes heading towards the bridge (because, up until now, the left lanes vanish), will discover that the reverse is now true:  the right lanes vanish, leaving only the left lanes. In addition, on the bridge itself, the left lanes in both directions will lose 6 inches:

Once on the span, drivers will lose 6 inches of lane.

“Just getting used to driving next to the barrier may take some adjustment for drivers,” Fehler said.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Andrew Barclay agreed.

“People need to use caution,” he said. “There will be an adjustment period. But we support anything that promotes safety for the traveler.”

Maybe I’m just a nervous nelly, but I see a few drivers tangling with that barrier or, worse, getting too close to cars on their right, causing accidents.

Why all this money and all these changes?

The bridge district says the barrier will prevent potentially deadly head-on accidents.

Hmmm.  I wasn’t aware that deadly head-on accidents were that much of a problem on the bridge.  I mean, I’ve always known that they’re a risk, which is why I prefer, when driving on the bridge, to stay away from the left lanes but, again, I don’t recall a whole bunch of accidents.

It turns out that there’s a reason I don’t recall a whole bunch of accidents.  There aren’t a whole bunch:

There have been 36 fatalities on the span since 1971, the last on July 3, 2001, with 16 fatalities occurring in head-on crashes. About 40 million cars a year cross the 1.7-mile bridge.

So, not only has there not been a fatal accident in more than 13 years, you don’t need to be a math genius to figure out that, with 1,720,000,000 car crossing the bridge since 1971, 16 fatalities due to head-on crashes is such an infinitesimally small percentage that I can’t get my calculator to tell me just how small.  Perhaps one of you — less math challenged than I am — can do the numbers.

Every death is a tragedy.  Every person who dies is someone’s parent, child, sibling, relative, spouse, friend, or lover.  In a perfect world, no one would die ever.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.  So my question for you is, assuming that the Marin IJ got its numbers correct, is it smart to spend more than $30 million dollars, inconvenience drivers, and create possible road hazards, in order to protect that almost invisibly small percentage of drivers who get killed in head-on collisions, with the last death occurring more than 13 years ago?

Does this kind of project reveal us to be a society that values life or a society that could use its money more wisely to save or improve life?

As you can see, I’m inclined to think that this is a boondoggle, not a necessity or even an act of decency.  I stand ready to be dissuaded, though, with better facts, better arguments, better logical, and/or more decency than I’m showing.

Marin storm update

Radar map of California stormAs I predicted over the last few days to anyone who would listen to me, the storm (at least so far) was over-hyped.  The reason I knew this was because I check the weather regularly during the rainy season.  I do this because I like rain, and it gives me something to look forward to.

According to Weather.com and Weather Underground, the storm was originally predicted to hit by Tuesday night.  Every time I checked, though, the prediction was pushed further forward in time.  From Tuesday night it went to Wednesday morning, then Wednesday mid-day, then afternoon, then evening, than late night, then the wee hours of Thursday, then the early hours of Thursday and, finally, late morning Thursday.

Since we’re just coming up on late morning Thursday, there’s definitely the possibility that the weather could worsen, but I kind of doubt it.  The storm mostly seems to be moving past us.

I’m not complaining about the storm as is, rather than as predicted.  It’s dropped a lot of water on Marin, and we can always use that.  For about 20 minutes, it rained really hard and water ran down our street (which is a hill) in a pretty impressive way . . . but it does that at least once every winter.  As a general principle, given Marin’s and California’s terrible drought, though, any rain is a good thing.

The best thing about the failed storm from my point of view is that I’ll be able to get my Mom to her doctor’s appointment.  From the kids’ point of view, the best thing is that they didn’t have to go to school.  I would have been more excited if they had gone to school, but that’s just me….

This one is for Marin residents concerned about sustainable development

WinCup siteHere’s the text of an email I received from Sustainable TamAlmonte about the December 9 Board of Supervisors meeting regarding Marin density:

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

We only have until December 9th to convince the Supervisors to make MAJOR changes to Marin County’s DRAFT Housing Plan in order to prevent excessive high-density housing in Unincorporated Marin. The only way this will happen is if we can demonstrate STRONG political clout. Presenting hundreds, better yet thousands, of petition signatures will help accomplish this.

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The Bookworm Beat (11/15/14) — Time warp edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingWhy is this a “time warp edition”? Because even though I’m publishing it on Saturday, I actually wrote it on Friday. The reason delayed publishing is because I’m spending all day Saturday attending part II of my CERT training. I expect the training to be more of the same stuff as last week: really nice, well-informed, generous people inefficiently teaching four hours of useful information over the course of eight hours.

Rather than leaving my blog fallow for that time, I thought I’d prep a post in advance. The only reason I’m mentioning the 14-hour lead time is to explain why, if something dramatic happens in the news tomorrow, you won’t read about it at the Bookworm Room. And now, it’s time for yesterday’s news today!

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One Marin town tries to stop enforced urbanization

A bird's eye view of Corte Madera

A bird’s eye view of Corte Madera

Marin County is a very nice place in which to live and one of the nicest towns in Marin County is Corte Madera. Once upon a time, back in the 1960s and 1970s, before real estate went crazy, it was where the elite of Marin’s blue-collar workers owned houses. You wouldn’t find the grease monkey there, but you might find the guy who owned the gas station at which the grease monkey worked. Now, of course, a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom can set you back upwards of $600,000, while the nicer, bigger homes run close to about $1.5 million. It’s ridiculous.

What’s even more ridiculous as far as I’m concerned is that state judges and the state legislature have told us that it’s unfair that we live this way and, instead, that we have to increase our density to match more closely San Francisco’s density. San Francisco is a little under 7 square miles large and has a density of almost 18,000 people per square mile.  Of course, this urbanization plan is part of a general Democrat plan to destroy suburbs, which have a nasty habit of leaning conservative.

Ironically, it turns out that all the good liberals who populate Corte Madera, and who vote into office every crackpot Leftist, are NIMBYs at heart. While they’ll applaud urbanization in theory, they really hate it in fact.

Nobody was paying much attention when the Association of Bay Area Governments (“ABAG”), to which Corte Madera once belonged, through a gross error, insisted that Corte Madera provide more than 200 low-income housing units. Nor were they paying much attention when those low-income housing units went up near my home, because there’s still fairly good traffic flow where we live — not to mention the fact that the units are closer to a commercial district than they are to an existing residential district.

nmij1013wincup03

Apartments on the former Corte Madera WinCup site

When people started paying attention was when the site of a former WinCup factory suddenly started being developed. Sure, we’d had notices of hearings and such but you know how it is . . . people just kind of ignore those.

It turned out that we had ignored this one at our peril. On a street that is routinely heavily congested, a developer has built up an incredibly ugly apartment complex with more than 180 units. During the endless construction, traffic has been moving at a slow crawl for hours on a street that is the only access to places such as the Department of Motor Vehicles or Book Passage, which is Marin’s most beloved independent book seller. It’s also one of only two main access roads to the local high school and the police station.

Although miserable about it, there’s not much townspeople can do about the WinCup site. It’s a done deal. But now there’s a new fight heating up.

On the same street as the WinCup building site is a movie theater. It’s not just any movie theater. Century Theatres is a stand-alone theater (as opposed to a multiplex) with an absolutely fantastic sound system that George Lucas himself had installed when he released The Phantom Menace. It’s also one of the few places, other than hanging around malls and parks, to which local teens can go. While Corte Madera, Larkspur, and Greenbrae used to have easily accessible roller skating and ice skating rinks, as well as other youth oriented activities, they don’t now.

Century Theatres Corte MaderaThe theater’s owner is planning on selling and a developer wants to buy and build thirty-one more houses on the property. As a general principle, I am all for being able to sell ones property . . . but I’m also in favor of a community being able to have a say in its own planning.

Thanks to ABAG rules and judge-made law, though, that autonomy is gone. Ideally, if a majority of a town’s citizens want more housing, that’s their prerogative. If they want less, that should be their prerogative too. For example, here in Corte Madera, we’ve all paid a ridiculous fortune to buy into a certain type of community, subject to well-established zoning rules.  (Meaning that someone who owns commercial property can reasonably understand that he can only sell it to another commercial property buyer.)  To convert a business site into a heavily populated residential site to satisfy a leftist desire to clump people together because clumped people vote Democrat (more Democrat even than Marin already does) is irksome.

I have a special objection to all this building and it’s one that goes to the very heart of a community’s viability. Marin last put in a reservoir in the very early 1960s. Since that time, more than 100,000 people have crowded into Marin, with ABAG’s and the court’s urbanization mandates promising many more thousands of people. This attempt to pack people in, so that we’re an ugly version of San Francisco, ignores the reality of northern California, which is that, like clock-work, we have major droughts every thirty or so years. You can’t keep cramming more and more people into a place with an already finite water supply, knowing that there will inevitably be another drought coming down the pike.

Anyway, yesterday was the Town Council meeting to discuss the proposed dwellings for the theater site. Some people wanted to keep the theater. Others were amenable to another business moving into the site. All were hostile to cramming even more people and cars into a narrow corridor that cannot handle the existing number of people and cars, and into a drought-stricken community that can barely handle existing demands on water resources. The Town Council agreed with the citizens, but admitted that the judicial and state mandates left its hands somewhat tied — and this is true even though Corte Madera has parted ways with ABAG, making it the only Marin town to do so.)

What ended up happening is that the Town Council agreed to impose a 45 day moratorium on any new development in that specific area, with a hearing to determine whether to extend the moratorium to 2 years. Under the moratorium, the town can study again what the impact of new residential units will be on the affected area. As one member of the public intelligently commented, studies and real life are two different things, so it’s useful to see just how badly (or not badly) things such as traffic flow really are with the WinCup building in place.

You can read more about the Town Council meeting. I just thought I’d lead in with my two cents.

Does it make sense to spend money to entice poor people to parks?

YellowstoneOne of the things we’ve always noticed when we’ve traveled to America’s magnificent state and national parks is that we see almost no black or Hispanic faces and, when we see Asian faces, they’re almost invariably Japanese tourists.  The vast bulk of the visitors at these parks are white middle class people.  It’s obviously a cultural thing, because this holds true whether the parks are cheap or expensive, or near to or far from heavily populated areas (which implicates ease and expense of access).

Marin County has taken note of this discrepancy at its own parks and has decided to invest $84,000 in programs aimed at enticing poor people and minorities to come to parks:

Officials awarded $84,000 to six programs that encourage “a more diverse community of visitors” at county parks, with much of the cash going to a nutrition and family fitness group, LIFT-Levantate, for a “park ambassador” program.

The Board of Supervisors approved “Measure A” sales tax grants benefiting the poor and minority communities as recommended by parks officials.

I was going to say that, since their taxes help support these parks, maybe it makes sense bringing their attention to the fact that they can enjoy the parks. It then occurred to me that their taxes do not support the parks because, if they are poor, they’re presumably in the 51% of Americans who get a free ride tax-wise.

It seems to me that the parks are there and it’s kind of up to people to find them if they want to. Having said that, I realize that I live in a bubble: upper middle-class, well-connected, well-educated, well-informed — and the child of poor immigrants who thought that driving to a national park was an extraordinarily wonderful vacation for children, especially since we couldn’t afford airplane trips anywhere, whether to Europe or even the East Coast.

What do you think? I can’t decide whether my instinct — “This is silly!” — is sensible, curmudgeonly, or class-ist.

Marin County Sheriff: I love everything about the 2nd Amendment, except the part where it lets people carry guns

Heading into Marin CountyIt turns out that even in Progressive Marin County, law-abiding residents want to carry guns on their persons.  In the weeks since the 9th Circuit (!) held that county’s cannot condition concealed-carry permits on the sheriff’s determination that the applicant has made a credibly showing that he or she is in fear for his (or her) life, the upswing in concealed-carry applications has even reached true blue Marin (emphasis mine):

As Californians in some locations have flooded sheriff’s offices with applications and inquiries for permits to carry concealed guns, in Marin, sheriff’s officials say they have been fielding more calls than usual.

Demand is being driven by a federal appeals court ruling last month that made it easier for some residents to obtain the hard-to-get permits. About 56,000 Californians have a concealed-weapons permit in a state of 38 million residents. [Prior to the ruling] In Marin County, the sheriff’s office has issued only 21 concealed weapons permits.”

Those in Marin afraid of guns, though, need not worry that their perfectly nice neighbor, the one who brings casseroles when they’re sick and helps prop up fences in winter storms, will be packing legal heat any time soon.  Although the 9th Circuit may have spoken, that’s not good enough for Marin’s Sheriff:

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle said he doesn’t plan to loosen how permits are issued until the issue has been conclusively decided by the courts. He said he’s not sure how may people have applied for permits since the ruling as most of the inquiries in Marin have been phone calls.

“We’ve had more requests than usual since the ruling. We’ve told people they can apply, but we’re going to apply the same standard of demonstrating ‘good cause’ until it’s finally been decided by the court,” Doyle said. “The decision has basically been put on stay for three weeks to give the parties time to respond.”

Color me cynical, but I’m willing to bet that, if Sheriff Doyle had been in charge, Marin would have been issuing same-sex marriage licenses within minutes of the 9th Circuit’s decision striking down California’s Prop. 8, the much-maligned law holding that marriage is between one man and one woman.  A foolish consistency, though, is never the hobgoblin of Leftist minds.

What’s so incredibly funny in all this is Sheriff Doyle’s position on gun rights:

Doyle said he’s a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but believes concealed-weapons permits should be reserved for those who have some sort of verifiable threat in their lives.

“I don’t agree with the adage that the more guns we have, the safer we are,” Doyle said. “We do have business owners that have been robbed and some people that carry large sums of money in the course of their employment carrying concealed guns.”

Properly translated, what Doyle is saying is that “I strongly support the Second Amendment, except for the part where it says that the right to carry arms is inherent in the people, and not dependent on the whim of the government.  But otherwise, if I decide someone deserves to have a gun, I might actually give that person permission.  Maybe.”

I shouldn’t poke too much fun at the sheriff.  He is, after all, a perfect reflection of the county he serves.  Everyone here claims fealty to the Bill of Rights, provided that it’s eviscerated to conform with Leftist norms.

Even if Doyle is, as I suspect, a very nice man, I’d rather have Milwaukee’s Sheriff Clarke in charge of our concealed-carry licensing program:

Police chief get a gun

Marin County residents feeling Obamacare pain

obama-doctor-needleMarin County is enthusiastically Progressive.  In 2008, Barack Obama got 78% of Marin County’s votes.  in 2012, his popularity slipped only slightly, to 74%.  (Funnily enough, up until 1984, Marin was predominantly Republican.  By 1984, the county was split equally, and as of 1988, it’s been reliably Left ever since.)

Part of being enthusiastically Progressive, of course, meant that Marin County went all-in for Obamacare and its state version, Covered California.  Since 2009, with the exception of my small cadre of conservative friends in Marin, everyone else I know has supported it all the way.  And if the bumper stickers I see around are anything to go by, those I don’t know supported it just as enthusiastically.

For those reasons, perhaps you’ll pardon the unseemly schadenfreude I felt when I read this article in the Marin Independent Journal:

Marin residents who have recently signed up for Anthem Blue Cross health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act may have to travel outside the county for medical specialty care.

Kelley Eling of San Rafael said she recently swapped her Blue Shield coverage, which cost her $916 a month with a large deductible, for a gold plan offered by Anthem Blue Cross through California’s new health insurance exchange, Covered California. Eling said she pays just $250 a month for the Blue Cross plan. There is just one problem. Eling said she needs to see a gastroenterologist, and she can’t find one in Marin who is part of Blue Cross’ physician network.

(Read the rest here.)

I have enough decency to feel sorry for each individual suffering from the way in which Obamacare has (quite predictably) destroyed America’s highly functioning healthcare system, even if that individual was dumb enough to support Obamacare.  I also feel deep empathy for those few in Marin who had the wisdom to oppose Obamacare, but were nevertheless screwed by an uninformed, credulous and, it must be said, defrauded population.  Nevertheless, looking at the matter from a distance, without taking into consideration individual dislocation, this serves Marinites right.  Maybe it’s time they start re-thinking that 1988 switch in political party allegiances.

The costs of being a homeowner, and other Friday ruminations

I spent the day making house doesn't look like this one.

I spent the day making sure that my house doesn’t look like this one.

I have had a busy day.  The dishwasher sprang a leak that was, thankfully, easy to repair:  the repairman put in a new seal and the leak was over.  He was here for about 20 minutes and put in one 6-foot-long seal.  Thankfully, we have appliance insurance, because he said that, without the insurance, the repair would have cost $250.00 for parts and service.  Yikes!

The dishwasher wasn’t the only thing leaking.  The upstairs bathtub was leaking into the garage.  We had one plumber out yesterday who diagnosed a tub waste overflow and said it would cost $700 to fix.  We politely sent him away.  I called around and another guy said that he thought it would take an hour to fix, at a cost of $250 per hour for labor, plus $100 for the part — but it might be more, and could come up close to $700.  Better, but not good enough.

I called around one more time, and got a guy who said that he’d do it for a flat fee of $350 based on my say-so.

I asked, surprised, “So you’re going to base the price just on what I said?”

He answered with another question, stated in a friendly voice.  “Are you lying to me?”

“Gosh, no,” I said.  “But I’m just telling you what the other guy said.  I didn’t actually see it myself.”

He thought about that for a minute and then said, “Why don’t I just come by tomorrow [Friday] and check it out?”

That sounded like a plan.  He came by, he checked it out, and he announced that it was a simple fix that he could do right away — for $135.  When he was done, he told me, “I’m going to give you a bill, but don’t pay it now.  Keep an eye on things until Monday.  If it’s still good, put a check in the mail.  If it’s not, I’ll come out again, but I won’t charge any more than $350 if we have to replace the tub waste overflow part.”

So far, despite shower use, there’s been no further leaking.

For those of you who live in Marin County, if you’d like this honest paragon’s name, send me an email and I’ll give you the information.  You can probably find him on Yelp:  He’s the guy with 102 five-star recommendations, all saying the same thing:  incredibly reliable, honest, and good at what he does.  I can’t argue with that.  In fact, I’ll be the 103rd five-star recommendation if all continues to go well.

The plumber had scarcely left when the landscape guys showed up.  Our pool, which was the delight of the neighborhood children, is now a dysfunctional swamp.  Built 45 years ago, despite our best efforts to keep it going, it finally gave up the ghost this summer.  As is always the case, once we decided we needed to redo the pool, we realized we also needed to redo the cement surround . . . and, hey, if we’re doing that, maybe we’d better smarten up the whole place.  We hired a landscape designer who came up with a lovely idea that was more expensive than we wanted.  We’ve worked with him, though, and seem to have come up with a plan in our price range.  The only sticking point now is whether the Marin drought will make the whole process impossible.

Droughts make me very, very unhappy. I was in high school when the big drought hit at the end of the 1970s.  Despite living most of my life in semi-arid climates, I love water and I especially love rain.  Not having rain makes me feel emotionally dried-up inside.  I also hate water rationing.  I don’t know what we’d have to do this time around, but I’m sure I won’t like it.  Back in the 1970s, we bathed in two inches of water, and then saved the water in buckets so as to flush the toilets.  My mom captured the rinse load from the washing machine to use to water her garden, but all the plants died anyway.  Everything looked dead and barren — and the toilets smelled bad.  I bet many of you remember “When it’s yellow let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down”?  I really hated that.

I know that drought here is a cyclical thing.  It’s happened before and it will happen again, and it will probably be followed by winters with such heavy rains that everything floods.  The floods make for miserable driving, and periodically destroy vast swathes of homes, but I still prefer a wet winter to a drought.

This is just another reminder, as if we need one, that Nature likes to let us know that we are as nothing before her.  We can try to minimize her impact, but we cannot control her.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t read anything or written anything today.

Thinking about that last statement, it’s not quite accurate.  Oyster Books, which advertises unlimited books (the Netflix of books) is offering a one month free trial.  I thought that sounded interesting, so I signed up, remembered to calendar the date by which I have to cancel if I don’t want to continue with the service, and started reading.  Thanks to this temporary membership, between visits from repairmen, landscape designers, and plumbers, I am reading 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, a delightful social history of New York’s Lower East Side as seen through the food different immigrant groups ate. I love this kind of book (one of my favorites is No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting), and 97 Orchard is well written.

And that’s all.  I’ve a small mountain of bills to pay, so that too will keep me away from my beloved blog.  So it goes.  At least I finished my legal brief, which got filed today.  I think it’s a winner, but one never knows what those judges are going to do….

Bag bans — a microcosm of Obamacare

I went to a Safeway in Mill Valley because it was convenient.  When I got to the check-out, I was reminded why I never shop at that Safeway:  their town council banned plastic bags and you get charged five cents per bag for a paper bag.  Next year, all of the stores in Marin County will be subject to these rules.  I have no words for how much I loathe this liberal police state law.  Let me count the ways:

Let me begin by saying that the problem isn’t that I’m being charged five cents per bag.  I’m cheap, but I’m not that cheap.  I’ve understood since I was a child that stores don’t really give bags away for free.  Instead, the cost of bags is folded into the prices they charge.  I’m paying not only for the groceries, but also for the staff, the facility, the shopping carts, and the bags.  I therefore don’t mind stores such as Goodwill that charge for bags as a way to keep their overhead down.  That’s a business decision, and I’m happy then to make my own decision:  Do I want to pay the ten cents or will I just make do without a bag?  After all, I don’t need to go to Goodwill.  I can do without cheap books or I can find them at other stores (or online).

The five cents per bag charge at Mill Valley (and soon, all Marin) stores irks me because it’s not a business decision.  It’s punitive.  The local governments are punishing me for having the temerity to use a paper bag.  Moreover, once it goes Marin-wide, I can’t avoid it, unless I want to drive 50 or 60 miles to a fascism-free county.

As it happens, I adore paper bags.  I’m forced to use a recycling bin and paper bags are an easy way to collect recycling.  They can go right into the bin along with the recycled refuse filling the bag.  Paper bags also make great packing material, covers for textbooks, stable (non-tippy) bags in which to carry food to potlucks or school events, fireplace starters, etc.  I’ve already paid for them by paying a higher price for my groceries than I would in a store (e.g., Goodwill) that says “We keep prices down to help save you money.”  Marin stores, though, are being forced to say, we charge you money to punish you.

There are two alternatives to paying a fine to use a paper bag:  You can bring your own, or you can toss individual items into the car (as you do at Costco).  I’m going to opt for the latter.  I refuse to become a bag lady.  I will not be forced to buy bags, which I then need to remember to carry around with me wherever I go, and which I need to remember to wash regularly so I don’t poison my family.  As to that last point, washing bags means that I’m doing an extra load of laundry every week, which means increased water and electricity use.  Surely that can’t be green.

I go crazy when I see all the liberal drones in Marin dragging around their little bags.  It makes me feel as if I’m living in a third world country.  They look like derelicts.  They’re feeling righteously smug, and I’m looking at them and thinking that they’ve been brainwashed to accept a Zimbabwe lifestyle.  (Let me say here that, while I don’t agree with them, if people want to do this, I applaud them.  Why?  Because they’re freely making a decision and it works for them.  That’s how life in a free country should be.)

Bottom line:  The bag ban forces me to buy a product I don’t want or to pay a penalty.  It is a microcosm of Obamacare.  It is a denial of free will, it perverts the marketplace, and it is an unforgivable form of coercion against a free citizenry.

Life in the suburbs

I may not agree with Marin politically (it’s roughly 70% to the Left of Left, despite the rampant capitalism that supports its infrastructure), but it is a fabulous place to raise children.  Sure, there are problems with drugs and drinking (lots of them), but the fact remains that if you want your children raised in a child-centered community that offers safe streets, old-fashioned neighborhoods, excellent schools, and true community, you can find it in Marin.  My kids play soccer, swim, do martial arts, run around the neighborhood, play parlor games, go to their friends’ basketball/lacross/water polo/football/baseball/etc. activities, and generally live the healthy, physical, safe life that we all dream of for our children.

My kids and their friends don’t hunger for urban life.  When they go into San Francisco, none of them can leave fast enough.  To them, the City is dirty, noisy, crowded, dirty, unsafe, overwhelming — did I mention dirty? — and just not the place they want to be.  Most of the kids they hang with say that they want to attend a college in a smaller rural or suburban area when the time comes.  Put another way, Marin has some of the same downsides as San Francisco — drugs and drinking — and lacks some of the upsides — trendy restaurants and public transportation — but overall, when it comes to raising children, Marin offers much more for parents and children than the City ever could.

Speaking of public transportation, when my children were little and we had left the City for Marin, I thanked God on a daily basis that Safeway was an easy 7 minute drive from my house, and that there was clean, safe parking when I got there, as opposed to my situation in the City.  There, as the crow flew, Lucky’s was 7 minutes from my house, but add in traffic and parking, not to mention the crowded, surly store itself, and shopping for groceries in the city was one long screaming child nightmare that could last an hour or two.  And I had a car.  Had I lived there without a car, a quick trip to the store would have taken up to half a day, with an angry, temperamental child (or two).

Marin is just easy.  It is.

As for the drugs and drink, we’ve tried to instill values in our children.  It’s not the school’s responsibility to instill those values.  It’s mine and my husband’s, and I think we’ve built some pretty strong moral armor around the children.  It helps that the neighborhood shares our values.  Interestingly enough, the kids, when at school, shy away from the fast crowd.  Their friends are as wholesome as they are.

All of which means I totally agree with Mike Lanza, who adds data to my anecdotes and reaches the obvious conclusion:  for all their “it’s for the children” talk, the Democrats’ hostility to suburbs is fundamentally anti-family and anti-child.