What’s really scary this Halloween week

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By Jim Tortolano

E Pluribus Unum

It’s a doubly scary week. Not only is it Halloween on Thursday, we are now steeped in a culture wherein monsters and terrors are all the rage.

Books, movies and TV series celebrate the shivery appeal of vampires, werewolves, zombies and such.  Who you gonna call?

After I passed through grade school, such creatures never frightened me much. There were too many genuinely scary things to waste energy on fictional threats.

In adulthood, it would take a personal visit from Dracula himself to distract most of us from stagnant incomes, crazy politics and angry weather, and maybe not even then.

However, in the spirit of the week (and the times) here are three things that scare the water out of me. You may have your own suggestions for the list.

1.  Anything From China:  It started with toys painted with toxic lead. It’s progressed to poisonous pet jerky treats which are responsible for the death of hundreds of canines. In between there have been reports of toxic toothpaste, tainted seafood and auto tires that tend to disintegrate. In fact, 60 percent of the product recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission come from China.

These days when I buy something I look for the “Made in China” label.  If I spot it, I leave it behind.

2.  Parking lots.  Driving (or walking) through the vast asphalt spaces of a shopping center or college is always a challenge, well on the way to becoming a hazard.  More vehicle accidents occur per mile driving in parking lots than on public roadways.

Trucking companies report that anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the accidents a fleet experiences are parking lot and parking-related collisions.

Why is that? There are lots of reasons. Backing out is inherently chancy; almost all vehicles have blind spots and even back-up cameras don’t solve the problem.  Another is the way people ignore traffic rules, stop signs and the use of turn signals.

I’d rather be racing along a freeway than creeping through a parking lot. A shopper hurrying to Walmart may be more dangerous that the speeder a lane over.

3.  One-party politics.  In states where one party thoroughly dominates legislatures (often with the help of gerrymandered districts) all kinds of extreme and silly laws get passed since there is no political counterweight to lead to moderation.

In Texas, for instance, where Republicans rule, there are not only highly restrictive laws related to abortion (partially struck down this week by a federal judge), but lawmakers now require welfare applicants to take drug tests and curbs on free breakfasts for poor children have been enacted. On the plus side, switchblade knives are now legal.

In California, famous liberal Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, the governor, has found it necessary to rein in the excesses of his Democratic colleagues. He vetoed seven highly restrictive gun control laws, while signing 11 others.

One law that did make it into law is one that provides rights related to “gender identity.”  One possible outcome: a boy who self-identifies as female could be allowed to use the girl’s locker room. Or vice versa. Hmmmm.

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