Category Archives: Pet Peeves

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!

It’s long been one of my pet peeves that we’ve become a “every kid should go to college” society.  Plenty of kids shouldn’t go to college.  Furthermore, there is still a need for skilled workers in our country:  Electricians, pipe-fitters, welders and so on.  A skilled welder can easily make a six-figure income nowadays, and we aren’t doing enough to encourage kids to go into the trades.

Now, Clinton crony Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) wants to block the use of GI Bill funds from use in obtaining just this kind of training.  Excerpt:

When veterans return home after serving our nation, they should be welcomed with open arms by their local communities who stand ready to help with reentry to civilian life. For many veterans, successful reentry hinges upon pursuing higher education, including at a career or vocational school.

Legislation recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) will take these efforts a step further by removing the ability of veterans and active military to use their GI Bill or DOD tuition assistance at career and vocational schools.

These efforts are reflective of a disturbing pattern by some in Congress who have long shielded public and non-profit colleges from the same transparency mechanisms required of proprietary schools. It’s worth noting that Congresswoman Shalala previously served as President of the University of Miami, which is a school that would be excluded from her proposed legislation.

Currently the 90/10 rule, a federal student aid eligibility rule that requires proprietary schools to derive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal aid, allows GI Bill benefits to be accounted for under that 10 percent. By counting the GI Bill against a school’s compliance with the 90/10 rule, this bill groups veterans in with all federal aid borrowers. But the GI bill is different. Veterans earned these benefits and should be able to use them how they choose. Such a drastic change would completely redefine the very nature of veterans benefits by considering them equivalent to federal subsidies.

What’s worse, this legislation has very serious potential to negatively impact nearly 260 career schools serving over 158,000 student veterans. This comes at a time when in 2018 alone, over 326,000 veterans were unemployed.

I think I turn out a pretty fair piece of prose, but I’m at a loss for words to describe just how stupid this is.

This bit of horse’s-assery puts barriers in the way of veterans leaving the service who are seeking a transition to a profitable civilian career.  If I read this right, one could use GI Bill money to obtain a four-year degree in Ethnic Underwater Dog-Polishing, but not a two-year Associate’s degree in computer networking or CNC machining.

Which one of those, I ask you, is more useful to the American economy?  Which one will yield a better career to the veteran student?  I think the answer is obvious.

Rep. Shalala aims to do our veterans a grave, shameful disservice.  She should be ashamed of herself.  Unfortunately, shame seems to be a commodity that is in short supply in the Imperial City these days.

Animal’s Daily Horse Squeeze News

The outbreak of the Kung Flu has led to another outbreak – this one is an outbreak of bullshit.  Excerpt:

The FTC has offered advice for consumers to help them avoid coronavirus scammers. On March 19 they published Part 2, and the FTC and FDA have sent out warning letters to these companies:

  • Vital Silver
  • Aromatherapy Ltd.
  • N-ergetics
  • GuruNanda, LLC
  • Vivify Holistic Clinic
  • Herbal Amy LLC
  • The Jim Bakker Show

They solicit complaints from customers, and this page has an Alert button with a link to facilitate complaints relating to Covid-19.

Stephen Barrett’s Consumer Health Digest #20-10 lists lawsuits filed against Jim Bakker, Alex Jones, and others for marketing fraudulent products claimed to prevent or cure the disease. It also lists commentaries about Covid-19 misinformation and quackery. That list features my article on how alternative medicine has exploited coronavirus fears.  Another commentary from the Science-Based Medicine blog is Jann Bellamy’s article on chiropractors who falsely claim they can protect patients from the virus.

I was proud to see that my article headed the list, appearing on February 4, a month before the rest. In it, I addressed:

And I mentioned that there were many more, but I couldn’t hope to provide a comprehensive list of them all. I also mentioned social media’s efforts to combat coronavirus misinformation.

I have to say I wasn’t surprised to see that asshole Jim Bakker’s name surface in this.  Fraud seems to be written into his DNA.

Were I a believer in Hell, I would say that there is a special place in it for anyone who defrauds the gullible in times like these.  I’ve long been of the opinion that there is a point at which fools and their money deserve to be parted; but in this case, where people are facing a possibly life-threatening disease, this is clearly beyond the pale.

For the love of Pete, True Believers, should you feel ill, go to a doctor.  Pay no heed to these fraudulent assholes.

As the author of the linked article states in her closing line:

I can’t help but wonder if the widespread toilet paper shortages are a response to the proliferation of bullshit.

Ain’t that the ever-loving truth.

Animal’s Daily Stupid Games News

In the middle of all this, Senate and House Democrats are tying up a major Kung Flu relief package by adding some Green New Deal horseshit into it.  Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who I like more and more every day, is pissed off.  Excerpt:

Former Navy SEAL and Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw is responding to Pelosi’s stunt and calling for accountability.

Here’s what Queen Nancy is demanding:

  • Publication of corporate pay statistics by race and race statistics for all corporate boards
  • A bail out on all current debt at the Postal Service
  • Required early voting
  • Required same day voter registration
  • Provisions on official time for union collective bargaining
  • Full offset of airline emissions by 2025
  • Publication and reporting of greenhouse gas statistics for individual flights
  • Retirement plans for community newspaper employees
  • Federal $15 minimum wage
  • Permanent paid leave
  • Study on climate change mitigation efforts

The provisions will apply to the companies and business rescued by bill.

I’ll be up-front about this; I’m not a fan of government’s tendency to attempt solving every problem by throwing bushels of taxpayer dollars at it.  But, matters of political philosophy aside, there was a deal negotiated in good faith, and a seeming consensus among members of both major parties that there was a need to do something.

And, while I haven’t yet read the bill (and neither have most of the people who will be voting on it) adding a bunch of Green Red New Deal horseshit into it – like new fuel efficiency standards for airlines – is particularly egregious.

Chuck Schumer, Sanctimonious Prick (D-NY) was on the news yesterday bemoaning “not enough protections for American workers” and “bailouts for business.”  I wonder – just who the hell does this horse’s ass think employs American workers?

If there are no businesses, there are no workers, and small businesses, who make up the majority of employers in this company, are getting hit pretty hard.  Stop your fucking posturing, Chuck!

Rule Five Biden’s Hypocrisy Friday

Daffy old Joe Biden is many things.  A viable Presidential candidate isn’t one of them.  But he is a hypocrite.  Excerpt:

Conventional wisdom might suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden has benefited from two recent news developments: The consolidation of moderate candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar around his presidential campaign, and the Supreme Court’s decision to take another Obamacare case next fall. Biden will likely use the court case to contrast his position supporting Obamacare with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ efforts to abolish it and establish a single-payer system. But one big fact makes Biden an ill-suited fit for this pro-Obamacare message: He deliberately avoided paying a six-figure sum in Obamacare taxes.

In mid-July, after Biden and his wife Jill released their 2016 through 2018 tax returns, press reports noted that, by characterizing over $13 million of income from speaking and writing engagements as profits from two corporations rather than wage income, the couple avoided paying nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes. Tax experts interviewed at the time called the Bidens’ scheme “pretty aggressive” and not justified, given that the income came from their own intellectual work product, as opposed to any product or service created by a larger corporate entity.

The development raises several fundamental questions about Biden, starting with his blatant hypocrisy. Biden’s ads have claimed that “Obamacare is personal to me,” and that when “others propose to replace it and start over—that’s personal to me too.” But of the 3.8% self-employment tax the Bidens avoided, 0.9% funds Obamacare, and the other 2.9% funds Medicare.

Biden claims that he will defend Obamacare—especially its provisions regarding pre-existing conditions—and other federal health programs. But when given an opportunity to put his proverbial money where his mouth is, by paying the self-employment taxes that fund Obamacare and Medicare, Biden and his wife declined to do so. 

Hypocrisy from politicians is, of course, nothing new.  Both parties in Congress agree on one thing more than any other:  They exempt themselves from almost everything they hang on the rest of us, including Obamacare.

But Groper Joe is being especially egregious here.  He moralizes constantly on the need for people – “the wealthy,” of course, of which group he is a member by any rational standard – to pay more in taxes.  And yet he engages in (admittedly legal) shenanigans to avoid paying any more than he can get away with.

Now there’s nothing wrong with taking pains to reduce your tax profile.  We do it ourselves, and Mrs. Animal is excellent at wading through the various laws and regulations governing small businesses to make sure we pay every penny legally required of us and not one penny more.  But mind:  We aren’t the ones making high-handed moral claims about how people should pay more taxes.  Biden is, and he could easily lead by example – but he doesn’t.  What a loathsome, disgusting act of hypocrisy.

The article here concludes:

Over the years, Joe Biden has repeatedly used a simple phrase: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your values.” When it came time for him to “cash in” following years in the public sector, Joe Biden’s personal budget didn’t include the taxes to pay for the Obamacare law he claims to value. The press should question him on the yawning chasm between his claims and the values he expressed in his tax returns.

The increasingly-befuddled, possibly non compis mentis Biden’s handlers should expect President Trump to hit him with this in the Presidential debates.  And frankly, the President’s advisors should know better than to leave this issue lying on the table, especially since one of the debates can be expected to focus tightly on health care policy.  It’s just too juicy a morsel not to use; not only is it a cogent rebuttal to Biden’s quote above, it also plays into another useful tactic:  Make old Groper Joe lose his cool and launch into one of his unhinged, profane rants.  That would be worth thousands of votes in and of itself.

Animal’s Daily Lady Stalin News

Know how the far left defines a “gaffe?”  It’s when one of them accidentally says what they really mean.  Case in point.  Excerpt:

It has been clear ever since the creation (and later the fall) of the Soviet Union that socialism is an inherently dictatorial, tyrannical ideology. Only those who worship the state and power want to have anything to do with it. Which is why it makes perfect sense that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a passionate Marxist.

As Madam Tyrant put it herself recently:

“To be ethical, if you’re a billionaire today, the thing that you need to do is give up control and power,” Mrs. Stalin said. “So I don’t want your money as much as we want your power,” she went on to say while quickly changing the “I” into “we.” “The people, not me,” she added.

Haha, of course not!

“That’s gonna be cut in clips,” she said after the gaffe.

You hope.

Here, True Believers, is the naked face of a would-be tyrant.  (Or tyrantita.)  This stupid, stupid girl, who supposedly has a degree in Economics and yet was working as a bartender before the people in her district stupidly put her in Congress, would cheerfully confiscate the property of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans.  Not just billionaires; if she got her way, she could confiscate the property of every billionaire in America, and it still wouldn’t pay for her Utopia.  And that’s assuming that not one of those billionaires – people with, you know, the resources of a billionaire – fled for less repressive shores.

And when her failure became obvious, she’d look next to millionaires – then the “very wealthy”, whatever that means – then to you and me.

There can only be one response to this:  Fuck off, slaver!

Rule Five Fleecing the Rubes Friday

Programming note:  At the moment this post goes live Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. will be aloft in the Friendly Skies, off to a brief yet fun-filled adventure; watch this space next week for details.

Moving along:  As documented by ArsTechnica, our old nemesis Gwyneth Paltrow is back with a new Netflix series, and she’s just as batshit crazy as ever – or is she?  Excerpt, with a few comments:

In Netflix’s own words, the show intends to guide “deeply inquisitive” (my ass) viewers through “boundary-pushing wellness topics,” such as “energy healing and psychics.” The show—like Goop—appears to be largely aimed at women, and the trailer’s release was accompanied by an image of Paltrow appearing to descend into an artist’s rendition of a vagina.

Goop critics were quick to decry the show, arguing that—like the brand—it actually intends to guide exploitable viewers (read “exploitable” as “stupid”) through unproven and potentially dangerous health practices, such as the same garbage Goop has been promoting for years. And the show—like Goop—claims to “empower” women only by convincing them to try dubious treatments and products.

Critics on Twitter have been particularly merciless at trashing and mocking the show (and Goop) all day. The announcements of the show’s trailer have been bombarded with disapproving memes, viewers noping out, and messages scolding Netflix for getting involved with the notorious business. (The responses were overwhelmingly negative, but there were some solid puns in there, too.)

Despite the swift backlash online, the most cutting and concise critiques of the show seem to appear in the trailer itself. As the teaser notes, the unproven wellness practices and products shown are “unregulated” and simply “dangerous.”

In one clip, Paltrow herself asks one of the show’s guests “what the fuck are you doing to people?”

Yet, the trailer also offers Paltrow’s justification for the show’s—and Goop’s—existence. In an apparent rejoinder to the unspoken-yet-blaring question of “dear lord, why?”, Paltrow explains: “We’re here one time, one life. How can we really milk the shit out of this?”

Note that last quote from Ms. Paltrow.  Here it is again:

Paltrow explains: “We’re here one time, one life. How can we really milk the shit out of this?”

Well, let’s give her some points for being unintentionally honest for once.

I’ve long said that there is some point at which fools and their money deserve to be parted, and make no mistake, those are precisely the kind of fools that are Gwyneth’s target audience for this latest outpouring of woo.  And as a staunch minarchist, I can only reaffirm that caveat emptor applies here, and stupid people will usually get what’s coming to them.

But, as I’ve mused before, I have to wonder about Ms. Paltrow’s motivations here.  Is she really dumb enough to believe in the ridiculous snake oil she hawks?  Or is she, as she unwittingly let slip, just milking the shit out of this for big fat sacks of cash?  Honestly, is Gwyneth a simpleton, or is she secretly thinking “I can make huge bags of cash off these morons?”

And what the fuck, Netflix?  Why on earth would you give a platform to this enormous outpouring of absolute, steaming horseshit?  How much is Gwyneth paying you for another opportunity to sell jade vagina eggs and $85 plastic water bottles with healing crystals in them?

ArsTechnica concludes:  With the new show, Paltrow remains steadfast. In a statement to Cosmopolitan, Paltrow said that the show takes the same “open-minded approach that we’ve cultivated at Goop and applied a different, visual lens with Netflix.”

This, True Believers, is a textbook case of folks’ minds being so open that their brains have actually fallen out.

Animal’s Daily Lotto Winner News

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Before we get going, make sure to check out my latest article over at Glibertarians – especially if you’re a fan of old Colt cap-and-ball revolvers.  And if you like that, you can read the rest of my Glibs articles at the link on the right.

Now then:  I’ve long referred to the various state lotteries as “a tax on stupidity.”  The New York Post’s Howard Husock agrees, but I do take issue with a couple of his points.  Excerpts, with my comments:

The advent of government-organized gambling, in the form of state lotteries, is one of our age’s most unnoticed social transformations. Before 1964, America had no such lotteries. Today, only five states don’t run their own, and most others permit interstate games such as Powerball, which jack up prizes to extravagant levels. Lottery participation has skyrocketed. Overall revenues total some $80 billion; New York is the state leader, with $10 billion in ticket sales. The spread of lotteries has played a leading role in the normalization of gambling, once considered a vice akin to drug use or prostitution — and lottery sales are boosted by publicly funded advertising campaigns that prey on the weakness of gambling addicts while encouraging non-gamblers to get involved, too.

Now, let me tell you where I sit before I tell you where I stand; I think that gambling should be legal.  It’s not the role of government to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions.  But with that said, I agree, the various levels of government should not be spending tax dollars to encourage people to play state-sponsored lotteries.  It’s a stupid waste of taxpayer’s money, which is, of course, money confiscated from the citizenry with the implied use of force.

At least the lotteries are voluntary.

It’s common for states to frame lotteries as being for a good cause — for public education, say. The claim is meaningless, though: All state money is fungible. The lottery proceeds go into the state’s general fund; one could just as easily say that they’re used to pay down interest on debt.

In Colorado, the money supposedly goes to parks and open spaces – but as Husock points out, that’s all fungible.  Money is money is money, and once absorbed into the State, it’s impossible to control where it goes.

But here’s where Husock and I part ways:

It’s time for states to ban lottery advertising. Sure, let people play, post the winning numbers — but stop selling the dream.

Let’s be careful with the terminology here.  I think the various state governments should cease wasting taxpayer dollars on advertising the lotteries – and lots of other things.  But a complete ban on advertising?  That would imply a prohibition on a private store owner putting up a sign stating “Lottery tickets sold here!”  That’s not reasonable.

Weaning government from our addiction to promoting lotteries wouldn’t be easy. An adjustment period would be necessary as lottery revenues fell — though perhaps the adjustment would not be dramatic. Massachusetts, among the first states to mount a lottery, later moved to limit advertising — at one point, cutting it from $12 million to just $400,000 a year — but the state has not seen lottery revenues crater.

I doubt many states would see much difference.  Everyone knows the lotteries are there.  Everyone knows where you can get tickets.

On the positive side, tax revenues might even increase as citizens, freed from such dispiriting messages, re-embrace working and saving. In any case, though, getting states out of lottery advertising is the right thing to do.

I doubt that.  If you were to draw a Venn diagram with one side being “people who embrace working and saving” and “people who plan on the lottery as their retirement plan,” you’d have very little overlap.

Most people don’t want to make money. They just want to spend money.

My issue with state lotteries, and the reason I call them “a tax on stupidity,” is primarily this:  The odds are awful.  And why?  The vigorish.  That’s the cut the house takes in any gamble.  If you want to gamble, your odds are much better if you just go to the nearest casino and play slot machines.  In Las Vegas, most slots pay out between 95 and 98 cents on each dollar gambled.  The state lotteries?  Under 50 cents.  The vigorish on state lotteries is awful, which is why the states love them.

So, play the lotteries if you like; it’s a free country, and there’s nothing wrong with paying a couple of bucks for the chance to fantasize about what you’d do if you won.  Just be aware that the odds are astronomically small.  And, yes, be aware that your state may well be wasting taxpayer dollars encouraging you to indulge in a bad deal.

Rule Five Shoe On the Other Foot Friday

Parties, Not Principles.

It’s interesting to note how many folks think that someone is stupid just because they disagree on any certain issue.  Granted, some people really are stupid; some people in public life, for instance.  But plenty of people are not, and plenty of people hold variety of opinions on plenty of topics.  Someone who disagrees with you isn’t necessarily stupid; they just disagree.

I’ve written on this phenomenon before.  It’s long been a pet peeve of mine.

But there’s a corollary of this; people who form opinions of any person, event or policy based on the political affiliation of the person or persons who are involved.  Let’s look at the current impeachment circus, for example.

Reversals

This whole mess brewed up over a phone call between the President and the President of Ukraine.  Here’s a relevant statement from the transcript by the President:

The other thing, there’s a lot of. talk about Biden’s son, that Eiden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.  Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.

Now, that’s a very small excerpt of a five-page transcript, but I’m not going to analyze the whole thing; that’s not what I’m aiming to do here.

Let’s hypothesize the exact some statement, only coming from President Trump’s predecessor:

The other thing, there’s a lot of. talk about Cheney’s son, that Eiden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.  Cheney went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.

Would Barney Google-Schiff have been gung-ho to impeach President Obama over this?  Hell no; he would have said the same thing that some in the GOP are saying now, that the President has the right and, indeed, an obligation, to investigate corruption in a country that will be receiving millions in American taxpayer dollars.

And they’d be right.

Principle-Free

But the order of the day now is partisanship, not principles.  And, to be fair, both sides are guilty of it.  If they had principles, then those principles would not change with the political affiliation of the object; but they have no principles, only partisanship.

To a certain extent, I find this excess of partisanship strangely comforting.  When the Imperial government is hopelessly deadlocked, as they seem to have been for some time now – even when the GOP held both houses they couldn’t seem to get anything done, leading to the obvious comparison of them to The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight – at least they can’t hurt us.

But while this kabuki theater in Washington is still going on, while Barney Google-Schiff keeps bringing forward “witnesses” who heard from a guy who heard from a guy who may have heard the President say something, the Imperial  government continues to pour trillions of taxpayer dollars every year on millions of ratholes, the Imperial debt continues to rise, and the Washington establishment grows more and more entrenched.  And all in the name of naked, toxic partisanship.

There doesn’t seem to be any end to it.

There’s an answer, of course.  We spoke of it only a week ago, if somewhat obliquely; tear the whole damn thing down.  Hogtie the Imperial government behind restrictions they can’t break:

  1. Term limits, to eliminate the permanent ruling class we have now.
  2. A balanced-budget amendment, to keep the new class of pols from spending our grandchildren into bankruptcy.
  3. Voting security, to make damn sure our elections are valid.

I could name a bunch of other ideas, but these would be a good start.

None of this will happen, of course.   The toxic atmosphere in the Imperial City today won’t allow the necessary cooperation to achieve anything positive.  The current impeachment circus is a symptom, not a cause, but it’s a damn telling one.

Rule Five Oblivious Friday

Oblivious  (adjective)

  • unmindful; unconscious; unaware (usually followed by of or to): She was oblivious of his admiration.
  • forgetful; without remembrance or memory: oblivious of my former failure.
  • inducing forgetfulness.

There’s a disturbing trend among the everyday Americans you meet in your daily doings, one that you may have noticed.  That is the trend among people to be oblivious as to how their behavior affects those around them.

I’m not talking about those people who are deliberately rude; that’s a topic for another day, and to be honest, those kinds of people have always been around.  We call them “assholes.”  I’m not talking about stupid people; that’s likewise a topic for another day, and besides, a lack of capacity is something we pity, not something we grow angry over – unless the stupid people are in Congress.

And let’s be honest, the list of Congress-critters who aren’t stupid would be shorter than the ones that are.

What I am talking about are people who are so clueless, or maybe self-absorbed, or both, that they simply have no clue how annoying their behavior is to others.

A few examples I’ve observed recently:

Last Sunday Mrs. Animal and I attended the Raritan, NJ annual John Basilone Day parade.  Now a parade honoring a military hero is always punctuated by the various color guards of the organizations marching in the parade, and I was already mildly annoyed by the fact that Mrs. A and I were the only ones who made a point of standing when the color guards went by – Mrs. A leveraging herself up off of her walker to do so – and I was the only man to remove his headgear at that time, even though there were several self-professed veterans in our immediate vicinity.

But that wasn’t what got me.  What got me was the young man who parked himself just to Mrs. A’s right front and stood there, through the whole parade, in the exact middle of the sidewalk, forcing families and groups of onlookers to wedge around him to proceed down the sidewalk.

Now this dumb son of a bitch could have taken one long step to his front or rear where there was plenty of room and left ample space for passerby.  But despite some very pointed looks and remarks, he didn’t bother.  He stood in the middle of the damn way throughout.

Another:  While here in our temporary New Jersey lodgings, Mrs. A and I generally set aside an hour or so on Friday afternoon to hit the grocery store and do our trading for the week.  It’s usually a good time to go; I can set aside time early enough in the day when most folks are still at work, and the store isn’t too crowded.

But on Friday last, one week ago today, we ran into another oblivious person.  This one was in the baking aisle; she was standing to one side, comparing labels on two or three different brands of olive oil.  That would have been fine, except…  that she left her overloaded shopping cart exactly in the middle, blocking the entire aisle.

We waited a few moments.  She ignored us.  I finally said, “excuse me, but we need to get by,” and moved her cart myself, at which point she gave me a mildly annoyed look (who dare I presume the aisle should be left clear for others to navigate!) but said nothing.

For what may be the best one I have to take you back to about 1978.  This example is a case study in obliviousness and stupidity, which makes it even more befuddling.

It was a Friday night; I had just gotten off work and was on the prowl for a bit of adventure.  As I needed gas and had just gotten paid, I want to the nearest Quick-Trip, which had two gas pumps, to fuel up for the weekend.

Just ahead of me was an old Chevrolet, who had pulled up to the pump just ahead of me.  The driver got out of his car, took the nozzle off the holder, flipped the lever to turn the pump on – and then tucked the nozzle under his arm to light a cigarette.

I hit Reverse, punched it, shot into the street, did a reverse bootlegger spin that would not have been out of place in a Hal Needham/Burt Reynolds movie, and got the hell out of there.

I’m not sure why this is becoming a more noticeable trend.  Airports are one of the worst places to see oblivious people.  On almost any given flight you can see some jackass parked in the Handicapped seating nearest the gate, with his ass on one seat, his suitcase on another and his backpack on a third.  And driving – don’t get me started!  Coloradans, I will say, are a little better than New Jersey or California folks about remembering that their vehicles have turn signals, but only just.

It’s not necessarily stupidity.  I’ve known, personally, people who were frequently oblivious but not necessarily stupid.  It’s not necessarily meanness.  I’ve known, personally, people who were good-natured and even fun, but still were frequently unaware of how their behavior affected people.

The problem is, oblivious people may be even more dangerous than morons or assholes.  Stupid people and assholes are a different beast.  We know them, we can predict their assholery/stupidity and deal with it.

Oblivious people?  There’s no telling what they may screw up next.

Rule Five Red Light Cameras Friday

Our own Aurora and the neighboring city of Denver have experimented with red-light cameras.  I think it’s a terrible idea, and almost certainly unconstitutional.  Here’s an interesting take on the topic.  Excerpt:

Speed and red-light cameras are the bane of many motorists. A modern idea made possible by technology, they have been installed in at least 24 states. Although these cameras are a revenue boon for governments across the nation, their intrusion into daily life is disturbing, and their constitutionality is dubious.

Specifically, use of these cameras could violate the Sixth Amendment. The Confrontation Clause grants criminal defendants the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them. Since it is a camera and not a person that witnessed the offense, such violations generally cannot be considered a criminal offense. The ticket is issued to the owner of the vehicle, not to the person driving it, leaving a lack of certainty as to the identity of the offender.

Therefore, the “ticket” in most places is nothing more than a civil fine, making enforcement and collection difficult. To date, governments have avoided this problem by requiring payment of the fine before motorists can renew their driver’s license or auto registration. Although there generally are appeals procedures, they typically do not give drivers a day in court. In other words, what happened to being innocent until proven guilty?

There are several for-profit companies that install and operate the cameras, some of them foreign-owned. In a typical arrangement, a camera company will contract with a local government to pay the capital cost of installing the cameras in exchange for a share of the revenue generated via fines. In short, governments get a new revenue stream without any operating cost, and the camera companies make a tidy profit.

Stop right there.  Take a look at that last sentence.  Here, read it again:

In short, governments get a new revenue stream without any operating cost, and the camera companies make a tidy profit.

Did you get that?

In short, governments get a new revenue stream without any operating cost, and the camera companies make a tidy profit.

Now there, True Believers, you have the key to the whole thing.  These red light cameras, which almost certainly violate the Sixth Amendment – how can you confront your accuser when the accuser is a camera? – aren’t about traffic safety.  They are all about generating revenue for city governments.

Most of the citations issues are civil fines, meaning you have no recourse in the courts.  And since these are based on photos of moving vehicles and are focused on the plates, the better to ID the owner, they are issued to the owner of the vehicle.  So if you loan your car to a friend, or let your teenager drive, you are fiscally liable for a minor infraction you didn’t commit.

Crap like this lessens respect for the law.  It’s capricious, lacks even a pretense of due process, and is clearly and transparently a revenue-generating tool for city governments.

Last year our own Aurora put the issue on the ballot.  The residents of our town, yr. obdt. among them, voted to get rid of the cameras.  That’s a step in the right direction.  Let’s hope more municipalities follow suit.