April 30, 2010

To Put It Bluntly

Here's my take on the New AriZona Immigration law:

Your actions define you; and this is how Arizona is defining itself.

April 28, 2010

Fort Lauderdale Cop Scoffs at the Law.

Bob Norman's Pulp blog brings us the story of a Fort Lauderdale cop who is basically a threat to law and order, and an affront to our justice system.  Officer Jeff Overcash arrested a man for having the temerity to ask Overcash for his name and badge number. 

According to Attorney Brad Cohen, who is representing that man, this is what happened up to the moment caught on video:
"We have several witnesses for the incident prior to the arrest.  The facts are essentially the train was going past the intersection, on SW 2nd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale.  My client,  Brennen Hamilton, was waiting with his wife and friends for the train to pass.  My client leaned up against the rear of the police car.

Officer Overcash approached my client and took him by the arm and said "Get your ass off the car.  How would you like it if I leaned my ass on your car?"  My client remained silent and rolled his eyes.  The Officer said "Really tough guy, you have something to say to me?"  My client remained silent.  Officer Overcash then said "Yeah, that's right tough guy, you've got nothing to say."  The train passed and my client and his wife went to his car and called Fort Lauderdale Police, to complain about the treatment he just received.  There wasn't a Lt. or a Sgt. working at that time, so he left his number.  During the call he was asked for the Officer's name and badge number.  He did not know that information.

After getting off the phone he went back to Officer Overcash and asked him if he could please give him his badge number and name.  That is where the video is recorded .  You can see my client approach calmly and request his badge and name.  Without hesitation Officer Overcash immediately puts my client in cuffs, and ultimately charges him with resisting without violence and disorderly intoxication."
- JAA Blog
Here's the video:

Here's the thing; this crooked cop claims that he's arresting law-abiding Brendan Hamilton for "a previous incident."  But if there was such an incident, Overcash would have been compelled by law to arrest Hamilton at the time of the incident.  So either Overcash broke the law by not arresting Hamilton in the first place, or he broke it when he arrested him on camera.  One way or the other, Overcash was clearly derelict in his duty.

But it seems pretty obvious that there was no "previous incident."  Overcash and two other officers are slouching against the patrol care, looking in a completely different direction.  There is no sign that just moments before there was any kind of scuffle that might have warranted arrest.  They're leaning against the police care (just as Hamilton had done) watching the crowd go by.  They almost look bored.

No, Overcash abused his power simply to punish a citizen for lawfully exercising his civic duty. And it should cost him his career.

We can't tolerate officers who abuse their power in this manner.  Every day that thugs like Overstreet - who don't give a shit about the law - remain on the job, we're all in danger.

Let's all remind Chief Adderly that this city belongs to the citizens, not a few
jack-booted thugs.  You can reach him at:

April 27, 2010

A Salty Rejoinder

NY1 reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is working with several companies to voluntarily reduce salt content of foods within the Big Apple.

And how does the salt industry react? 
In a statement, Salt Institute President Lori Roman said, "The Mayor's time would be better spent educating consumers on consumption of fruits and vegetables...
The problem with that approach, Lori, is that it doesn't actually help us control our salt consumption, does it?  And let's face facts: when my doctor told me to cut back on salt, he DID tell me to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.  We all know we're supposed to be eating our greens.  We just don't do it.

When I prepare foods at home, I can track how much salt I'm getting.  I can read packages in the grocery store to see how much salt is in prepared foods I might pop in the microwave.  I can decide if I really want to eat a can of soup that has over half my daily intake of salt in it.

But when we go out to restaurants, all bets are off.  There's no nutrition label affixed to my blue-plate special.  That's not to say that restaurant food is too salty;  while there are probably some meals at some restaurants that are, the real problem is simply knowing the content so we can track our intake.

Mayor Bloomberg is simply working to correct that.

Nobody is advocating the elimination of salt from our diets - that would be stupid. We need salt.  But we don't need so much.

April 24, 2010

Fascism has a New Home: Arizona

Back in the days of the Cold War, you'd have to travel behind the Iron Curtain to find a real Police State, where at any moment jack-booted troopers could demand that you prove you have the right to be out in public.  Yes, those old Red Commies expected everyone to carry around all their identification at all times, or they'd haul you away and toss you into the gulag.

Not any more; in the enlightened 21st Century, you need only travel to Arizona. The Copper State has made the logical step to The Police State.  "Innocent until Proven Guilty" is no longer a given in Arizona. If you "look" like a foreigner, Arizona will assume that you are.  Constitution?  That's just an old sailboat. Freedom?  That's just some people talkin'.

I guess John McCain is a better representative of Arizona than I thought; like his home state, he sacrificed integrity for political expediency.

I know what at least one Founding Father would have said:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty  nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

Green Light the Red Light Cams

Florida is poised to mandate the use of remote cameras to issue citations to cars running red lights, according to The Miami Herald.  And while there are many detractors, when you examine all the arguments, the rational mind can really only conclude that the cameras are a good idea.

Most of the arguments for and against deal with a specific usage: issuing red lights to cars that run through them.  We'll examine that in a bit, but first, let's address another use that nay-sayers are completely ignoring: providing an objective view of accidents at intersections.

Case in point: a co-worker was recently broadsided by an ambulance that ran a red light from a blind intersection. He and an eyewitness maintain that the ambulance did not have its lights and sirens running; the ambulance driver and an off-duty police officer that was behind the ambulance claim that he did.  No one, apparently, is denying that the ambulance ran the red light.  But with two eyewitnesses directly contradicting each, and each driver maintaining their innocence, we have no indisputable resource to settle the matter.  Why would the cop lie?  Well, why would the civilian witness lie?  I don't know what happened; I wasn't there.  Should the driver have seen the ambulance?  Was he careless?  Or was the ambulance driver recklessly ignoring traffic laws?  A camera on the intersection would settle it beyond a reasonable doubt.  I've advised my friend to find an excellent lawyer.

The arguments go like this:

It's unfair, because the owner might not have been driving the car.
Remember, you're not being cited as a driver; it's not criminal violation, it's a a civil one.  The ticket works on exactly the same principle as parking tickets: you are responsible for your vehicle, so you get the fine.  Since you should know who was using your car when it was illegally parked - or driven through the red light - you can certainly go to that person and demand that they pay you for the violation they exposed you to. But it IS your car, and you ARE responsible for how it is used.

As reported in the Murfreesboro Post, the Seventh District Court of Appeals agrees:
“Owners will take more care when lending their cars and often they can
pass the expense on to the real wrongdoer," the court’s opinion said.
The 7th District Court also addressed the next major complaint about red light cameras:

It's unfair, because municipalities make money off the fines.
So what?  As long as the picture actually shows a car actually running a red light, why shouldn't a fine be levied? A law was broken, and public safety was put in jeopardy.  If you want to deprive the city of the revenue, just stop before the light turns red.  As the court ruled:
“That the City's system raises revenues does not condemn it. Taxes, whether on liquor or on running red lights, are valid municipal endeavors. Like any other exaction, a fine does more than raise revenue: It also discourages the taxed activity. A system that simultaneously raises money and improves compliance with traffic laws has much to recommend it and cannot be called unconstitutionally whimsical."
So what's next?   An exceptionally lame argument, that's what:

But if people stop at red lights, the people behind them will be more likely to rear-end them.
Everyone is supposed to stop at the red light, not just the car in front.  If you are operating the car properly, you are watching the car in front of you, and you are maintaining the proper safe following distance, and it won't matter when the person in front of you stops.  What this argument really boils down to is "most people operate their cars unsafely and should have their licenses suspended, so they shouldn't be expected to follow the most basic traffic safety laws."  IF, in fact, cars start getting rear-ended because drivers are stopping at red light like they are supposed to, the problem isn't that the cars are stopping at the red lights, but that too many bad drivers have been issued or allowed to keep licenses that they do not deserve to have.  If people can't stop at red lights, they shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel, period.

It's unfair because it violates my right to privacy.
I can't decide if this is a more stupid argument than the "stopping at a
light causes accidents" idiocy; perhaps they are both equally stupid. You're on a public street: you have no expectation of privacy when you're out in public.  If you had a right to privacy on a public road, you wouldn't have to have a unique license tag that identifies the owner of the vehicle mounted in plain view on the bumper.  No one is issuing a ticket for the way you drive on your private property; ram that car through the back wall of your garage, if you like.   But go out on a public street, you're doing it in public.

It Violates "due process."
No, it doesn't.  You can certainly appeal it, if you're so inclined.  What's that?  "Facing  your accuser?"  The camera was decades in the future when the framers created the Constitution, so they couldn't specify cameras, but in the case of red light cameras, the photograph is your accuser, and you certainly have the right to "face" the photo.  Its testimony is unlikely to change under cross-examination, however.  About the only way to explain away a photo of your car running a red light is to claim that The State has doctored the photo to get at you.  But I don't believe that police are wasting hours doctoring photographs so they can falsely charge you with running a red light; if we're really at the point where that is a reasonable expectation,this nation is already doomed.

The bottom line is this; the cameras can't stop anyone from running a red light.  It can only photograph you doing it.  If you think you have a valid reason to run red lights, you can continue to menace society in this fashion.  And whoever owns the car you're driving is going to fork over some dough.  And frankly, I have no problems with that.  You won't be doing it in MY car.  Not more than ONCE, anyway.

April 12, 2010

Sun-Sentinel Editor Steps Down

And predictably, we have to read about it in The Miami Herald. The Sentinel will probably run the Herald story in a day or two.

Ironically, the article describes one of Maucker's greatest errors in a positive light:
Maucker also had a reputation for being financially prudent, she said. While other company papers sent staff writers to cover major events, the Sun Sentinel would often make do using sister papers' stories.
This ignores the fact that in this digital age, everyone is reading the sister papers.  Maucker's "clever budgeting" was really a death blow to the paper: instead of fresh news, the Sun-Sentinel increasingly offers only regurgitated stories that were printed somewhere else, first.

Why read Herald or Post articles in the Sentinel, when you could read them sooner in the original location?

Sadly, we can't describe this as a positive change; the publisher of the Sentinel hasn't made a smart decision in years, and there's little evidence to suggest that we'll see real news in the Sentinel anytime soon.