Friday, April 13, 2018

California Cancer Warning and The Boy Who Cried Wolf

When absolutely everything is labeled a carcinogen, then nothing is a carcinogen.

I ordered a new hall-tree and hat rack for the garage makeover.  It gives us a place to sit down and put on our shoes, and a place to store hats and jackets.   It's OK, I guess - sort of an IKEA-style particle-board POS that you assemble with barrel nuts.   It's fine for the garage, but I would not put it in the house, of course.  By the way, Wayfair seems to change prices in real-time.   The listed price for this item is nearly $100 more than I paid for it!

It came with about six "California Proposition 65" cancer warnings, which we all end up seeing these days, as if you want to sell product in California, you have to put these stupid labels on everything - and they are seen by people who don't even live in California.  And indeed, they are on everythingThe latest victim is coffee. A "non-profit" citizens advocate group (did the citizens vote for them?) sued the coffee roasters and won a "settlement" (I wonder who gets the money?).  So now coffee is labeled a carcinogen.

The problem with this well-intentioned law, is that it has backfired.   It is a classic example of the boy who cried wolf - so many things are now labeled as carcinogens, that no one will take the warnings seriously.  And there are a lot of things that can cause cancer.  The sun.  The air (when polluted).  The water (ditto).  And of course, the biggies - smoking, asbestos, and toxic chemicals - in large concentrations.   But coffee?   Furniture?   It is hard to parse.

The problem with this law is multifold.  First of all, it was a voter-initiative proposition, which are damn hard to get rid of, once they are enacted.  California's experiment with direct democracy has resulted in insanity, in some instances.  Cut our taxes!  Make corporations pay!  Mark everything as cancerous!  It gives liberalism a bad name.  Come election time - in the rest of the country - the Republicans need only point to California and say, "Is this really how you want to live?  Paying $1.5 Million to live in a ghetto and pay 70% of your income in taxes?  Really?"

And it doesn't matter if it is true or not - if the President tweets it, his followers believe it.   And they've seen enough of these bogus "cancer warning" stickers to validate the issue.

The second thing is, it negates real science and gives people the impression that real cancer warnings are bogus.   "Smoking is bad for you?  HA!  They said the same thing about coffee!  You can't trust those scientists - they don't know what they are talking about!"

The idea behind the law was valid - give people the opportunity to look at a product and determine whether it has carcinogens in it or not - and then make a judgement as to whether to buy and consume that product.   In theory, it would result in a more well-informed consumer and a better marketplace. Vendors would seek to eliminate carcinogens in their products, as it would help sales.   But the reality is, of course, it is nearly impossible to eliminate every single carcinogen from every product. Because every single thing in the world has the potential to cause cancer.

And when every single thing is marked as cancerous, then the law no longer has any valid effect. The consumer cannot make an "informed choice" other than to simply not consume at all, starve to death, and crawl into the grave - the exact outcome the law was designed to avoid.  So the marketplace is not better informed by these warnings, it simply creates a useless regulation that is complied with by slapping stickers on everything.  In fact, as a manufacturer or vendor, it is simply safer to put these stickers on, rather than try to determine whether the chemicals in your products actually do cause cancer - and to try to eliminate them.  No one cares anyway, and since everything has such a label, no one is the wiser.

Cancer is not some abnormality or "disease" that you catch like a cold.  It is the background noise of life.  Your DNA comes unraveled over time, and occasionally some cell will go berserk and take over your body - killing it in the process.  This is why God (or Darwin, or both) decided that it would be a better idea if each generation produced new, fresh offspring, untainted by cosmic rays, excessive sunshine, and exposure to an environment that is constantly trying to kill them (and eventually succeeding, in all cases).  The model of making people live forever, just doesn't jive with survival of the fittest.

So, if you live long enough, you get cancer.  Period.  For men, this means prostate cancer - we all get it, eventually.  But something else kills us long before it does.  And by the time "something else" kills us, we've all had a chance to sneak one by the goalie and produce a little carbon-copy (so we believe) of ourselves.  The replicator lives!

The problem is, it is getting harder and harder to take California seriously.  And sadly, this nonsense isn't dampening down, but accelerating.  As the far-right moves further right, the far-left moves even further to wackier left.  Guaranteed Annual Income!  Tax the 1%'ers!  Outlaw firearms!  The message on both sides resonates with fewer and fewer people.  And the last time the world was this polarized - in the 1930's - bad, bad, bad things happened.

The entire Magic Kingdom is apparently a big toxic waste dump.  Or is it?