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Pranks and politics on April Fool’s Day

I am not fond of pranks. Practical jokes are very popular on this day of the year. I believe these shenanigans are perpetrated by people who have way too much free time on their hands.

My colleague Bill Coate and I once discussed planting a fake April 1 news story in the Tribune about a newly discovered antique diary filled with salacious and graphic details about some of the early settlers of the county. The story could list local prominent names and allude to their ancestors’ alleged misdeeds and peccadillos. Of course our publisher looked at us like we had lost our minds and said, “No, you’re not doing that!” But it was still fun to think about.

Planting fake stories as an April Fool joke severely damages a publication’s credibility. The idea of fake news such as President Trump rants about isn’t a new concept. Internet satire publication “The Onion” has been doing it for years.

The cliché “Take a button and sew a vest on to it” can mean to take a small kernel of truth and embellish it with so many fake details that the truth becomes totally obscured. The reason to start with a small amount of truth is to lend the falsehood a confusing sense of familiarity.

The search engine Google is famous for April Fool hoaxes, according to Wikipedia. The not always reliable Internet encyclopedia also lists many of its own jokes including the offer of a 3-D version of the page. The gags are typically launched late on March 31 so beware.

What feels like the worst April Fools joke ever is the $2 a pack increase in cigarettes that begins today as a result of California voters passage of Proposition 56 during the Nov. 8 election. It still passed in spite of the $70 million expended by the tobacco industry to defeat the measure. Taxes on all tobacco products will increase proportionally and for the first time electronic cigarettes will fall under the tobacco tax umbrella.

“The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Proposition 56 could raise at least $1.3 billion a year, with most of the money going toward the state’s Medi-Cal health care program for low-income residents,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The website Ballotpedia swears the money will not become part of the state’s General Fund and siphoned off for other means.

I don’t trust the state to keep this covenant no matter how the statute is written. This is the same cabal that assured Madera County residents the single prison they built in Chowchilla would only house low-level and non-violent female inmates. We all know how that played out. Then a second prison for women was built in 1995 and by 2013 Valley State Prison for Women converted that facility to house male inmates.

The state can’t be trusted. Gov. Jerry “Moonbeam,” Brown is scrounging around all the piles of money in Sacramento to find money to fund his boondoggle bullet train. He will figure out a way to divert this money. It might not happen this year but I believe it will happen.

Taxes on fuel and automobile registrations will increase if the bill making its way through the legislative process promises it will be used to strengthen California infrastructure repairing roads and bridges. Part of it will be used to improve public transportation as well. Again the high-speed rail project will find another source of funding while repairs on our roads and bridges will continue to be ignored.

My well-meaning friends are quick to tell me that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to quit smoking. The former smokers, what I think of as the born-again-non-smokers, are especially helpful.

I find it interesting that local institutions believe they have the right to designate entire tracts of land as tobacco-free zones. Madera Community Hospital and all of the Madera Unified School District are just two such locations. It is no longer enough that we must smoke outside of every building in the state, now they are trying to police the outdoors too.

The part of me that once smoked in the bathrooms during class at Madera High School really wants to walk into the lobby at MCH or the principal’s office of an elementary school and light up. The rest of me know an arrest, even for a misdemeanor, looks very bad on one’s permanent record.

Remember how our teachers and counselors threatened us with information being placed on one’s permanent record? Ever wonder who is in charge of those records and where they are kept? Can anybody access those records? Maybe it is the FBI.

If they wanted to dig in my background, could they really find out about that time I sassed my eighth grade math teacher because she was old and mean and I hated math? How long does a permanent record follow one around? Is it truly permanent?

Some people play pranks and I think about things that are a bit bizarre. We all have too much free time on our hands. Have a great weekend.

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