Tag Archives: federal

So Very Pedestrian

An inattentive pedestrian about to straddle a balance beam and make his nards ajar.

An inattentive pedestrian about to straddle a balance beam and make his nards ajar.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants you to know that “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes.” (Source: Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians, April 2014.)

And they’re doing something about it, too.

While other aspects of driving safety continue to improve, pedestrian fatalities due to traffic crashes are up eight percent since 2009.

Perhaps if pedestrians stopped placing themselves in front of objects with mass traveling at speed? I may not be as smart as the federal government but that seems like a big part of the problem to me.

Physics has got to physics, yo know? Physics has no desire to play nice, do what’s fair, be compassionate, take sides, or even attempt to adhere to the rules of good form. Like Dr. Momma used to say, “physics does what physics does.” It’s apolitical. Asexual, too, but if you disrespect physics it will fuck you over.

The NHTSA’s solution is one with real traction. Make $2 million in grant money available to cities with high rates of pedestrian deaths. Because, money can buy you love. The money is to be used to “influence the safety of pedestrians through public education and enforcement initiatives.”

Yeah, that’ll work.
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Unhealthy Whoregon

taxes-by-typeAdvertising. Marketing. Sales. These are a few of the things I hate.

Life is meant to be more than simply persuading each other into spending money and consuming goods and services.

The fact that “sales” is the artifice of lies, pressure and Jedi mind tricks to compel people to do things they don’t really want doesn’t help its case.

Advertising can, theoretically, be something good. If you are in the market for a thing and there’s information about that thing at a certain price, that can actually be helpful. Unfortunately, most advertising has devolved into petulant attempts at distraction and attacks on the subconscious. Not just merely advertising, they are better classified as “persuasion attempts.” Some estimates claim the average American is subjected to 15,000 persuasion attempts per day. That’s hinky.

It seems obvious the game has shifted from being informative (advertising) to persuasion warfare (psychology). And it doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention or even be honest. Not content to simply remain available in case you might need something, the free market win-based transaction paradigm is now hunting you down to make the kill. The consumer is prey.

Taxes are funds taken by the awesome power of governmental force. As such, they are sacred in my mind. Taxes must not be used frivolously. Taxes must always be respected. Taxes must not be used to benefit some at the detriment of others. There are certain things taxes should be used for and certain things that must never be allowed to happen. Because taxes are monies taken by force that’s just the way it has to be.

What happens when tax dollars are used on advertising? Bad shit.
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Hit and Run: The Solution

solutionYesterday, while feeling angry after watching the news, I spewed some aggression in the form of a blog post about the heinous problem of hit-and-run drivers.

Today, I’m back for more of the same, but this time without the aggression. This time I have the solution.

Google and the like may be feverishly pouring millions (billions?) into pie-in-the-sky dreams about cars that can drive themselves. Ostensibly this will solve the hit-and-run problem once and for all. I hope they spare a few subroutines for things like hit-and-run morality. (With embedded advertising, of course.) Perhaps a Fourth Law of Robotics? “This robot will not allow asshole human beings to override operation after an accident in an attempt to break the law. Check out the hot deals on polar fleece at Old Navy.”

One can dream.

Meanwhile, we need a solution in the here and now. We can’t afford to wait.

What I propose is simple: A federal law that mandates installation of an Accident Reporting Device (ARD) in all vehicles. This device will, when an accident is detected, immediately communicate, via satellite, the following information to a national law enforcement database:

  • Unique vehicle ID
  • Date/time
  • GPS coordinates
  • Collected accident data (location on vehicle, type of impact, force of impact, etc.)

The law will be written in such a way that operating a motor vehicle with an ARD that has been tampered with or disabled in any way will be a serious crime. This will be treated in similar fashion to refusal to submit to a sobriety test.

When vehicles are stopped by law enforcement they shall have the authority to conduct an inspection of the ARD to ensure compliance. This is similar to the authority to ask for proof of insurance.

Costs of the ARD program will be passed on to consumers.

Vehicles will be required to pass ARD compliance testing every 24 months before vehicle registration is issued.

Any ARD compliance violation will result in suspension of driving privileges for one year (or more for each subsequent violation).

The purpose of the program is to give law enforcement a simple yet powerful tool to fight crimes like hit-and-run. In the event of an accident involving hit-and-run, the database can be checked to easily determine which vehicles were involved. The database may have other uses, like identifying vehicles involved in large incidents, etc.

Some might raise objections to a program like this on privacy grounds or that it creates more bureaucracy. Both are legitimate concerns.

Regarding privacy, the program is mostly non-invasive in that it only “pings” during an event and the law should be written with privacy in mind. (For example, the database can only be queried, by law enforcement, when certain criteria is met.) Further, since the ARD only reports during an accident, privacy concerns are minimal. The ARDs shall be designed and constructed in such a way “on-demand” or continuous tracking is impossible.

As with all bureaucracy, the question becomes one of cost (both money and rights) vs. public benefit. I would argue that a program like this is minimal in cost while providing almost incalculable benefit. The cost of doing nothing is to continue to allow those responsible for death, serious injury and property damage to have an opportunity to escape unchecked. Approximately ten percent of all vehicle accidents in the United States currently involve hit-and-run. Some of them are never solved.

It’s just that simple. Problem solved. You’re welcome.

Das Gloat

Obviously those are grapes of wrath.

No, I will not gloat. I remember the dark times. So this is an opposite post. Today I offer a message of hope and caring to my friends on the other side of the aisle. Oh shit. Yet another political post. I apologize in advance. Just like my bladder, I’m unable to control myself.

It’s always darkest before the dawn. Fortunately dawn only comes every 24 hours. Actually, every 23-1/2 if we assume dawn is about a 30-minute process. That’s a lot of darkness.
–Tom B. Taker

Breaking news: Barack Obama won the election. White people, of course, loved the wealthy elderly white guy. Obama did worse with that bunch than even Michael Dukakis. (He ran for president in a losing effort in 1988. It’s true, look it up.) Meanwhile the non-whites in America basically all went for the other guy. This group includes blacks, Latinos, college students, educated professionals, gays and lesbians, and last but not least, Asian-Americans.

If you’re a Romney voter I want you to know that I understand how you feel. I’ve been there, done that. 2004 anyone? I truly understand that feeling of dispair and hopelessness. But my speciality is bringing the good times so here’s a few positive things to remember:
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Who Is Warring Whom?

Note: This might seem like yet another post about abortion but really it’s not. I’m going to try (and fail) to make some broader points. Points about Mitt Romney, Planned Parenthood, religious freedom and beliefs, the “terrible power” of government, societal control, and so much more. I’ll try to do it with my usual grace, style and aplomb…

Is this like preaching to the choir? I wouldn’t know. I’ve said some of this before and, no doubt, I’ll say some of it again.
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Luddites unite!Looking through the newspaper classifieds this morning, I came across this surprising nugget:

SHOWING HERE! Lot 666, then: a manifesto in pieces. Some of you may recall the strange affair of the Unabomber: a mystery never fully explained. We are told ladies and gentlemen, that this is the very manifesto which figures in the famous disaster. Our workshops have restored it and fitted up parts of it with a series of tubes for the new electric internet, so that we may get a hint of what it may look like when re-assembled. Perhaps we may frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination.

I put my newspaper down and shook my head in amazement. “The Federal government is selling off shit from Ted Kaczynski?” I shouted incredulously.

Then, belatedly, I added, “I gots to get me some of that!”

Neo-luddite TheodoreYes, the Unabomber is back in the news. Even though he’s locked away in the slammer (a federal maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado) serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole, the Unabomber can still bring his 15 minutes of fame.

The Justice Department has announced that it will auction 51 lots of personal property that belonged to the Unabomber, including a sweatshirt with hoodie, sunglasses, and the original handwritten copy of his manifesto. The Justice Department apparently discarded the notion of selling the items together as part of a “Unabomber Starter Kit,” instead opting to sell them as separate lots.

The auctions will have no reserve bids and no price ceilings. One way or another, the items will be sold, at whatever price the “market” is willing to bear.

Being a curious sort, I once located Kaczynski’s “manifesto” online and tried to read it for myself. The actual title is “Industrial Society and its Future.” I’m not ashamed to admit it was a tough read. I found it very hard to follow and ended up reading very little of it. My sense is that if you’re going to go to all that effort to call attention to yourself, your manifesto better damn well be easy to read. Know your audience!

Here’s an excerpt from the manifesto:

The Psychology of Modern Leftism
manifesto unabomber
Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.

But what is leftism? During the first half of the twentieth century leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing leftism is not so much a movement or an ideology as a psychological type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by “leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of leftist psychology.

Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this. All we are trying to do is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling the WHOLE truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th century.

The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization.” Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential.

If that doesn’t warp your brain then nothing will.

My manifesto is still in progress. I hope to begin shopping it to publishing houses soon.

Oh – say can you – Keefe?

Mmm, slime trail!

James O’Keefe AKA “The ACORN Pimp” is a man who has popped up on my radar in the past.

O’Keefe was arrested earlier this week for attempting to interfere with a Senator’s telephone and released on $10,000 bond.

He tweeted about his arrest the other night:

“I am a journalist. The truth shall set me free.”

Journalist. Truth. Interesting word choices. Perhaps those will apply once he get hired by FOX News? You know, the only thing that scares me more than partisan scoundrels is the true believers. At least the scoundrels know they are bad. Re-read the quote above. This dude thinks of himself as a crusader of truth. Gag me!

To get your 15-minutes of fame I think there are three likely approaches:

  1. Excel at something
  2. Be lucky/unlucky (right place at the wrong time, etc.)
  3. Use a cheap gimmick

Mr. O’Keefe is definitely a #3 kind of guy. His shtick is to make video and audio recordings of people without their knowledge and consent. A tactic which, by the way, has put him on the receiving end of some lawsuits. He was sued by ACORN last fall and again sued just last Thursday by an ACORN employee featured in one of his videos.

By the way, isn’t it generally illegal to make an audio recording of someone without their knowledge and consent?

Let’s recap:

  • In 2006 O’Keefe got his start with hidden camera exploits by teaming up with a pro-life activist and having her pose as a 13-year-old pregnant teenager. His target: Planned Parenthood. His ploy: Trying to get representatives to say his friend should lie in order to qualify for abortions.
  • In 2007 O’Keefe continued targeting Planned Parenthood, this time pretending to be a financial donor with very specific desires, namely that his donation would be limited to performing abortions on minorities because, as he put it, “the less black kids out there the better.”
  • In 2009 O’Keefe went after ACORN and hit the big time while posing as a pimp seeking smuggling and tax advice for women posing as his prostitutes.
  • On Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, O’Keefe allegedly attempted to tamper with the phone of a Senator in a federal building and was subsequently arrested. He was charged with entering federal property under false pretenses to commit a felony after they told an aide to the senator that they needed access to the office’s main phone line.

On Tuesday, January 26, 2010, O’Keefe and his three accomplices appeared in federal magistrate court, all wearing matching red inmate jumpsuits from St. Bernard Parish Prison. Apparently this was one time in his life when the camera wasn’t capturing his every move. Too bad. I have been unable to find his mugshot or a photo of him in his dashing inmate garb. The U.S. Magistrate Judge allowed the four men to be released on $10,000 bond each. If convicted, O’Keefe faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Woot!

It is unclear why Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu was targeted, but it could have something to do with her support of health care legislation currently in Congress. I’ve also heard that her phone line may have been busy a lot. Maybe she was blocking the calls of some protesters?

So, aside from being a sneaky, nefarious douchebag, and proving that he supports the concept “two wrongs make a right” (a favorite theme among the “ends justifies the means” crowd), what, if anything, have we learned from Mr. O’Keefe’s tactics and previous successes at capturing video of people making unfortunate statements?

O’Keefe’s pattern has been clear. He enters a facility or offices under false pretenses, in disguise or pretending to be something he’s not. He surreptitiously creates video and audio records of repeated attempts to get persons to make damaging statements. The audio portion of his efforts may even be illegal. He initiates the situation, selects and places the actors, sets the stage, and actively tries to illicit the responses he’s after. If law enforcement personal attempted tactics such as these against random people (no probable cause) their results would rightly be challenged and most likely invalid. Can you say “entrapment?”

Be that as it may, let’s examine the results O’Keefe obtained. He is persistent. He hits and hits and hits again until, lo and behold, he’s able to catch a few persons making statements they shouldn’t have. As a person with an agenda his targets are “across the aisle” organizations. He certainly isn’t going out of his way to make organizations he is friendly with look bad.

Yes, he has captured some unfortunate statements, but what has he proven?

  • Did he prove that Planned Parenthood was a corrupt organization or that individual persons said things they shouldn’t have?
  • Did he prove that ACORN was a corrupt organization or that individual persons said things they shouldn’t have?
  • With repeated efforts, could you eventually catch something like this in almost any organization on planet Earth?
  • Do his findings have any meaning based on the deceptive tactics he employs?

Law enforcement can’t operate using O’Keefe style tactics. Perhaps private citizens shouldn’t be allowed those tactics, either.

By the way, O’Keefe and his ACORN hating cohorts claimed that every ACORN office they visited was complicit. A police report proves that’s a lie. At least one person at ACORN that was targeted by O’Keefe “asked the filmmakers to leave the ACORN office in Philadelphia and called the police after the filmmakers asked suspicious questions.”

Crusaders of truth don’t lie. The ends don’t always justify the means. Two wrongs do not make a right. His parents must have left that stuff out during his formative years. No wonder his daddy is defending him and saying stuff like O’Keefe only used “bad judgement.” Said daddy to the media, “I know my son. My son wouldn’t attempt anything illegal.”

Bad parenting oughta be against the law! Next time try teaching some morals and values, dad.