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I try really hard not to throw rocks at legislators. For one thing, they have a very tough job, a very boring job, a job most of us wouldn’t take unless they’d stopped hiring at the steel mill. For another thing, if you throw a rock at a legislator, you’re gonna hit him; they’re as defenseless as an animal with opposable thumbs can be. Near as I can determine, legislators use up all their instincts for self-preservation during the decennial redistricting process. Having successfully gerrymandered themselves into impregnable wards and boroughs cut and pasted into shapes previously known only to God and Gaud�, they are just plumb tuckered out. Their stores of energy and imagination are so thoroughly depleted that when one of their number comes barreling through the Capitol behind the wheel of one of those zombie Cadillac bad ideas they like so much, it never occurs to them to get out of the way. They just press the aye button and get run down like so many armadillos on a Texas highway. It’s pitiful, really, and we shouldn’t be laughing at them when it happens. Making fun of legislators for bad ideas is like kicking cockapoos for being tiny and adorable. I know that. But, sadly, while my spirit is willing, my flesh is weak. Try as I might to be nice to these people, they keep serving up column fodder, and I’m just not a good enough person to resist it. I would rather not say mean things about them. They do a lot of good, and they set my salary. But hey, I got a deadline coming up. And the folks I’m gonna throw rocks at today have nothing to do with my salary. So another chance to rise above my own base personal interests “gang aft agley.” (1) This time it’s Kentucky I can’t resist. Which is really too bad. I have a reader in New York (2) who has put together something he calls “The Bedsworth Safety Map.” It shows the United States with a big, red “X” in every state I dare not drive through because I have insulted them in print. Kentucky was my last remaining corridor to the East Coast. Sigh. On the other hand, there were only six states left on the East Coast I could safely visit, so maybe it’s just as well. The Kentucky Legislature is currently wrestling with a bill that would make Kentucky Fried Chicken “The Official Picnic Food of Kentucky.” Seriously. “The Official Picnic Food.” Rep. Charles Siler has introduced a bill that would so designate KFC’s “Original Recipe.” How could anyone expect me not to tee that up? Gandhi couldn’t resist a straight line like that. (3) SQUAWKS FROM PETA Neither can PETA. You remember PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They’re like the Sierra Club for cockapoos. They’re the kind of organization legislators should have to protect them from us rock-throwers. PETA’s very upset that Kentucky is considering “honoring” Kentucky Fried Chicken. They loathe Kentucky Fried Chicken. If PETA were Iran, they would consider KFC “The Great Satan.” So they’re on Siler like ugly on a bulldog. Their position, I think eloquently expressed, is that, “If the state Legislature moves forward with this one, then they should change Kentucky’s state bird from the cardinal to the de-beaked, crippled, scalded, diseased, dead chicken.” That lovely picture is provided by one Bruce Friedrich, identified by the Lexington Herald-Leader (4) as PETA’s vice president. If I were a state legislator, with my heretofore referenced diminished capacity for self-preservation, I would not want to run afoul (5) of Friedrich. FOR 216 YEARS But with all due respect to the formidable Friedrich, I think PETA’s missing the point here. The point is, “How has Kentucky gone 216 years without an official state picnic food?” I mean, I can understand failing to provide health care for its citizens and neglecting the state’s infrastructure and not putting up barbed wire all along its borders to protect its citizens from terrorist hordes swarming down from Ohio like so many Buckeye Visigoths … but how could Kentucky’s Legislature have shirked its responsibility to designate an official state picnic food? Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Isn’t the mint julep already the official state picnic food of Kentucky?” Well, apparently not. It isn’t even the official state beverage. Milk is. They decided that in 2005. (6) They got lots of other official stuff. They got an official state dance (clogging), an official state butterfly (the Viceroy), and an official state locomotive (Old 152). (7) They’ve even got an official state silverware pattern, for crying out loud (Old Kentucky Bluegrass: The Georgetown Pattern) and two state mottos (one in English, one in Latin, but they’re different; go figure). Yet they have no official state picnic food. God bless Rep. Siler for straightening that out. Or at least trying to. There is some opposition to Siler’s bill quite apart from its PETA-antagonizing propensities. The Ashland Daily Independent, for example, has editorialized that the official state picnic food should just be generic, unbranded fried chicken. As it cogently points out, “not all chicken served at picnics in Kentucky is from KFC.” (8) Which reminds me, didn’t the KFC people become KFC by deleting the words “Kentucky,” “Fried” and “Chicken” from their corporate moniker? (9) Didn’t they make a corporate decision they did not want to be identified with Kentucky, fried foods in general, and fried chicken in particular? Are these really the people the Kentucky Legislature ought to be honoring? If California Pizza Kitchen decided to call itself CPK so it could better market itself to Texans, wouldn’t we be a little offended? I would be. Especially if we’d put a bust of the founder of the company in the state Capitol. Yep, there is a bust of Harland Sanders in the Kentucky state Capitol building. I know this because I almost wrote about it when Pamela Anderson tried to get the governor to remove the bust a couple of years ago because of her concern about KFC waterboarding chickens. (10) I spent an hour trying to write the column before deciding it was not worth all the effort just for the Pamela Anderson/Colonel Sanders bust/bust double entendres. (11) So I can certainly understand the feeling of some Kentuckians that they’ve already done enough for a company that jumped ship years ago. WHEREAS Besides, there are some disturbing questions raised by some of the whereases in Siler’s bill. According to the first whereas, (12) Harland Sanders opened his first restaurant in Corbin, Ky., (13) in 1930. But according to the third whereas, Colonel Sanders’ “Original Recipe” fried chicken was first cooked in Colonel Sanders’ restaurant in 1940. Which means it took 10 years for the colonel to come up with his “Original Recipe”? I’m sorry, that’s a use of the word “original” I — the English major — have a little trouble with. What fried chicken recipe was used for the 10 years before the “original” recipe? What was the universe like before the Big Bang? If I were Kentucky, I would want answers to these questions before I enshrined that finger-lickin’ good stuff in my codified statutes forever and ever. (14) Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to have to stand in Costco parking lots gathering signatures for the initiative to repeal your Official State Picnic Food designation? But the biggest reason not to name Kentucky Fried Chicken the Official State Picnic Food of Kentucky is found in the second whereas of the resolution in support of it. It says, “ Whereas Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon made Harland Sanders an honorary Kentucky Colonel in recognition of his contributions to the state’s cuisine in 1936 …” Gov. Ruby Laffoon?!?! That alone should be enough to keep this bill from ever becoming law. It would violate Bedsworth’s Third Law of Statutory Interpretation: No statute that requires an admission the state once elected a man named Ruby Laffoon as its governor can possibly be a real law. Ignore it.
William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. His book A Criminal Waste of Time , featuring more than 30 of his best columns, can be ordered at LawCatalog.com. This column previously appeared in The Recorder , an ALM publication in San Francisco.
1. 2. Probably only one. We’d have to appoint attorneys for everyone in the state before questioning them to find out if there are more, so let’s just assume there’s only one. 3. OK, maybe Gandhi could. Gandhi did not have to fill column space every month. 4. “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport.” Me and ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” 5. Or, in Kentucky’s case, a-fowl. 6. And wouldn’t you want to hire the lobbyist who was able to get milk declared the official state beverage in the state that invented bourbon? 7. Hell if I know. It’s a locomotive. What would an English major know about locomotives? 8. Now there’s an editorial board not afraid of controversy. 9. Or at least “entucky,” “ried” and “hicken.” 10. At least I think it was waterboarding. I know it was torture of some kind. I tried to double-check with the Department of Justice, but they informed me Gen. Mukasey is still working on that one. 11. And because at that time there were still East Coast states I wanted to visit and I was hoping to keep Kentucky open on “The Bedsworth Safety Map.” 12. This word apparently can only be printed in boldface fonts. I went out and looked at a couple of documents I have that contain whereases, and, sure enough, boldface. 13. Which, lo and behold, is in Rep. Siler’s district. 14. Well, at least the first one. Maybe it is asking a little much to expect the Kentucky Legislature to explain the Big Bang thing. At least right now while they’re gearing up for redistricting.

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