Showing posts with label policeState. Show all posts
Showing posts with label policeState. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Amerika's Most Obscene National Holiday

Is "obscene" too harsh of a word? It could be. For many years I called Christmas the most obscene national holiday. But that was a mistake. The commercialism (and endless, stupid music) of Christmas might be objectionable on the basis of taste, but it doesn't really offend important values held by serious and sincere people. After all, Christmas really isn't a Christian holiday; it never was. It's simply about fun.

But the hypocrisies of the modern Fourth of July do offend the values that most Americans used to take seriously. What could be more disgusting than pretending to care about "freedom" one day a year when, in fact, freedom means little to the average Amerikan today.

Too bad I haven't paid more attention to politicians' speeches; it would be great to have statistical proof of a mere suspicion of mine that Democratic politicians don't even bother bloviating about freedom -- nobody would believe them if they did. The whole notion seems hopelessly retrograde, archaic, and embarrassing to them. In contrast, neo-con, police-state Republicans still pay lip service to "freedom." They don't mean a word of it.

If a Democrat gave a traditional Fourth of July oration s/he would probably blush, whereas a Republican wouldn't even see a problem, since the modern version of the Fourth of July has moved towards themes that he genuinely cares about: jingoism, militarism, and global imperialism.

We must go to words of the prophet (grin), Fred Reed (#348):
I gather that Americans tend to regard their national character as comprising such things as freedom, independence, individualism, and self-reliance. One thinks of Daniel Boone or Marlboro Man.
In fact we no longer have these qualities and probably never will again. Generally we now embody their opposites. Modern society has become a hive of largely conformist, closely regulated and generally helpless employees who depend on others for nearly everything.
Character springs from conditions. Consider a farmer in, say, North Carolina in 1850. He was free because there was little government, self-reliant because what he couldn’t do for himself didn’t get done, independent because, apart from a few tools, he made or grew all he needed, and an individualist because, there being little outside authority, he could do as he pleased.
All of that is gone, and will not return. Freedom has given way to an infinite array of laws, rules, regulations, licenses, forms, requirements.
And so, my fellow Americans, I say unto you that you should ignore this dreadful farce of a national holiday.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Update on Surprise Speeding Tickets in the Mailbox

When I got together with a Tucson friend yesterday my first question was about the photo-surveillance cameras used here; then a ticket is mailed to the citizen-criminal. I was concerned about tardy payment penalties being added to the speeding tickets of travelers who only get snail-mail forwarded every month or two.

My Tucson friend has indeed gotten a camera-based ticket the past year, and his wife got three. Each was over $200. Hers were at the same intersection, but on different days, which helped her think that they were repeated notices of the same "crime". (She didn't read the dates or times apparently.) She didn't pay all three tickets and got her driver's license suspended.

The good news is that the Tucson reich sends somebody to your house before raising the stakes. At another time they called on the telephone. What a relief that was. It keeps the citizen-criminal from being completely at the mercy of snail mail delivery, which alarmed me the most.

How will they handle an out-of-stater? 

So far, I've tried to relate the facts with a minimum of spin. Obviously I can't keep this up or I'll bust! Let's back up to the big picture: in a democracy politicians get reelected (for an entire lifetime, typically) by promising key voters (in organized constituencies) benefits, freebies, and goodies at somebody else's expense. Democracy was pretty satisfied with this arrangement for a century or so.

But then this arrangement became passe. Democracy took the next step up in its evolutionary progress: it started promising even more goodies at nobody's expense; that is, it learned to just borrow money for whatever goodies it takes to get reelected.

Ever since the financial turmoil started in 2008, states needed to become more innovative. They couldn't just raise taxes; the voters were too accustomed to free lollipops. So the states had to step up penalties and fines as a stealth tax increase. Imagine the "revenue enhancement" that just one of those surveillance cameras produces. It probably pays for itself on the first day. And it will never get sick or need a pension. If I were a donut shop owner, I'd start looking for a new line of work.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Surprise Speeding Ticket in Your Mail Box

In Tucson yesterday I noticed a sign alerting drivers of photo-enforcement of the rules of the road. As a bicyclist I should probably approve, but I don't have the guts or the foolishness to ride my bicycle on these busy highways anyway, despite all their efforts at putting in shoulders for bicyclists.

What happens to a traveler who is caught by one of the surveillance cameras going ten miles per hour over the speed limit? Is a $350 ticket mailed to his mail box in South Dakota or Livingston, TX? There must be a time limit for paying the ticket. What if the traveler only requests his junk mail be forwarded every month or two. Has the speeding ticket now become a $1000 ticket? Does he need to appear in court because the ticket is unpaid? Will he need to hire an attorney?

At the end of the year, I wonder how the traveler would categorize that expense? I would put it in the "transportation" category or whatever you call the cost of being mobile.

Now please don't tell me that this wouldn't happen to a traveler because it's "unfair" or shows no "common sense". You aren't living in Mayberry anymore, and the post-9/11 police state is not Sheriff Andy. You should have realized that much when you saw the surveillance cameras going up in the first place.

If you got the ticket the old-fashioned way -- with a police officer stopping you-- you'd have an easy time paying it off punctually. (You'd would make sure the police officer used your mail-forwarding address; then you'd ask how long it takes to mail out the ticket; finally you'd call your mail forwarding service to see when it arrives.)

But with photo-enforcement, a ticket could show up any time with no warning. The penalties about late payment assume that you're a normal person who gets mail every day. No allowance will be made for someone with a "weird" lifestyle. The post-9/11 neocon reich is hostile to the very idea of mail box addresses. This is just speculation. If somebody knows different, I'd like to hear it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Discontented Canadians near the Border

In Ajo the other day I noticed a nice-sized fifth-wheel (small but practical) and I complimented the owners on it. As it turned out, they were from British Columbia. One thing that you notice on the Snowbird Trail is a type of prejudice that could be called "longitudinalism". People migrate as efficiently south-ish as possible, with little veering to the east or west. Some of this is to save fuel, but much of it is geographical and cultural affinity. There are cultural differences between the Left Coast and the so-called Hinterlands or Fly-over states. From the point of view of the former, the Great Lakes and the Texas coast are still isolated in the hinterlands, despite being accessible to ocean-going vessels.

But the prejudice works in both directions. For instance, "BC" is not my favorite province. Too many trees. In the winter most of the Canadian ex-pats in Mexico are from BC. They are stereotypical left-wingers, whose praise of Mexican culture really comes down to the fact that Mexicans aren't Americans.

But the BC couple in Ajo was headed into the hinterlands of Mexico, the high plateau in the center, away from the warm air and palm trees on the coast. The husband loved getting away from the over-regulation and micro-management of Canada. (I used to think of Canada as being 20% worse than the USA in this regard, but 9-11 might have made the USA worse.)

After he vented on this topic awhile I confessed to him that I had RVed in Canada only once, and had always felt on the edge of getting in trouble with common things, such as parking, camping, driving, throwing a little bag of trash away, or walking my dog. Imagine a sign telling you that dogs must be on a leash no longer than 1.82 meters, but my non-metric dog leash turned out to be 0.008804 meters too long, since it's a 6 foot leash intended to comply with the latest California nanny-state regulations. It wouldn't have surprised me to see Sergeant Preston jump out from behind a spruce or birch tree, whip out a laser-based measuring tape, and give me a stiff fine.

I never went back to that country, and always felt bad about that. Had I practiced "confirmation bias" in Canada? That is, had I carried a prejudice into the country and then consciously noticed only those things that confirmed my already-formed opinion? Perhaps. But my recent conversation with the fellow from BC shows that some people in Canada feel the same way.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Should I Go to an OWS Rally?

No matter how much a person might like their mobile lifestyle, there must be times when it seems frivolous and vacuous: when it degenerates into "channel surfing with gasoline". In the back of his mind, the traveler might yearn for experiences more substantial and challenging than mere sightseeing. But it would still be nice if mobility enabled these deeper and richer experiences.

For instance, during the Arab Spring, I was in the habit of reading bicycle touring blogs. Most of them were pretty boring: "...yesterday I was there, today I'm here. This morning I had instant oatmeal instead of corn flakes for breakfast." Then they photographed the oatmeal.

In contrast, one of these cycle tourers was staying in a Bed and Breakfast in downtown Cairo, right next to Tahrir Square where all the demonstrations took place. What an experience he had!

Driving to an "Occupy Wall Street" rally could be one of those experiences, and one that an RV is uniquely advantageous for. The famous ones are a long way from where most RVers are, at this time of year. But there are smaller rallies, closer.

Does this imply that I support the "OWS" movement? I'm not sure because of the wide variety of grass-roots opinion in it, and because of its overall vagueness. There is something about it that reminds me of "Howard Beale's" famous rant in the classic movie, Network.

But no matter what your politics you should be relieved that there is enough grass-roots guts left in this declining country and the para-militarized police force is still restrained enough, that peaceful protests are still feasible, although just barely. (You are probably aware of  the famous You Tube video of pepper spraying peaceful protesters at the University of California, Davis, who were sitting down.) What a marvelous article Glenn Greenwald wrote recently on this topic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Early Fourth of July Celebration

After the threats and warnings that prospective jurors get about talking about the questions on the questionnaire, the next step is to drag the prisoners -- I mean 'citizens', patriots, lucky Americans -- halfway across the state, so that lawyers and judges can subject them to enhanced interrogation techniques. Try this one on:
We welcome you as a Juror in the United States District Court for the District of [X]. The United States jury system is among the best in the world. Its success is due largely in part to willing participation of citizens such as yourself.
"...due largely in part to..." Let's hope that the federal government presses a new prose stylist into their service.