Sunday, July 19, 2009
OK. I just got a ticket.
Let me be specific: I was just issued a "No Seat Belt" ticket.
Here's the thing... I was wearing my seat belt!
And, no... before anyone asks... no, this wasn't a situation where the officer and I engaged in a bit of "informal" plea bargaining and what might have been a speeding ticket with points attached became instead a no points "No Seat Belt" ticket with the understanding I'd simply pay it and everyone would walk away a winner - the trooper adding a "notch" towards fulfilling his quota, the state getting its money, and me getting a "break."
No. I just got written up by a New York State Trooper for not wearing my seat belt when I was wearing my seat belt and had been wearing my seat belt!
This is nuts. And frankly... I'm not just pissed, I'm concerned; deadly concerned. I mean if this state trooper can make such an observational error with regard to this, what in God's name would his testimony be worth recounting the events in the aftermath of some panic inducing high stress emergency situation, perhaps where bullets had been flying?
Mary and I were returning from racquetball. We were driving down a local road (17M) where the speed limit fluctuates between 30/45 mph. I was probably traveling at 40 mph. (*SHRUG*) I remember passing the trooper. He was heading north, I was heading south, I'm guessing we were both going the same approximate speed as we passed each other.
As I left that road to hop on another road I passed one of my local cops hanging out on speed enforcement duty. These guys all know me, I know them, it's a small village. As usual, I waved at "my" cop as I passed.
Well... next thing I know... there's a trooper car behind me. OK. Fine. Nothing unusual. Only... he turns his lights on and pulls me over.
So... I pull over. I'm driving. Mary's in the passenger seat. I'm wondering why the trooper has pulled me over - especially in Harriman when there was a Harriman cop on duty just a block down the road (the one I - and the trooper - had passed).
So... you folks know the drill. The trooper gets out of his car, walks over to me, leans in and asks, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" I answered "no, to be honest, not really; do I have a light out?" (See, I was thinking maybe one of my brake lights might have burned out.) Well, the trooper replies "No, I'm stopping you for not wearing a seat belt." I replied, "but trooper, I am wearing my seat belt!" He replies, "Yes, now you are, but when you passed me you weren't; I saw you put it on."
Folks. I was literally flummoxed. Because... you see... I WAS WEARING MY FRIGG'N SEAT BELT... I HAD BEEN WEARING MY FRIGG'N SEAT BELT... I ALWAYS WEAR MY FRIGG'N SEAT BELT...!!!
Now I'd say the odds are pretty good that if I had just said, "Yes, Trooper, you're right, stupid of me... blah, blah, blah..." he might have let me go with a warning. I mean, we were literally maybe 100 yards from our home.
Hey... it ain't right... but Mary and I are in our mid-40's, we're obviously white middle class, I have short hair and often get pegged as a cop myself... I'm guessing the odds of the trooper giving us a break had I just said "Yes, sir, you're right, it was an error of judgment on my part that won't be repeated," stood at 70% or better.
But no! Bottom line... I had been wearing my seat belt! I always wear my seat belt. Mary was wearing her seat belt. Mary always wears her seat belt. Only morons don't wear seat belts! We're not morons!
So the trooper returns to his car. The Harriman cop passes by as the trooper is writing me up. They spoke for a moment, obviously I don't know what was said, but tomorrow morning I'm going to share this experience with the Chief of my local Harriman Police Department.
Well, when the trooper finishes writing me up he comes over to me to give me the ticket and gives me the official spiel about my "options" regarding pleading guilty or not guilty. I tell him he's making a mistake. I point out to him that I'm wearing a dark blue tee shirt stained with sweat (again... we had been returning from racquetball) and that my exterior car paint is dark green contrasted with a dark gray interior - including dark gray seat belts.
I was polite, respectful, the trooper even acknowledged this as I was say, "hey, I'm not trying to be disrespectful here..." I didn't call him a liar. I kept on using the word "mistaken" with regard to his insistence that I hadn't been wearing a seat belt. His attitude... tell it to the judge.
Well... I will. I'm going to tell it to the judge. I'm going to tell it to my local Police Department Chief whom I've known for almost 20 years. I'm going to tell it to the Troop Commander of our local Trooper Barracks.
Seriously... this bothers me; this scares me. If I get "nabbed" for a burnt out tail light or head light or speeding or not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign or running a yellow light... hey... I'll "cop" to it and hope for the best. I don't lie. It's the worst thing you can do! Hey... I'm well aware that the officer... the trooper... the deputy... whomever... has "discretion." I know these guys (and gals) can give out tickets all day long if that's what they want to do. Me? I consider myself "one of the good guys" and play it that way when I'm pulled over. Unlike my blogging persona, Bill the pulled over driver is always polite and respectful.
So... what do I do? What should I think? I'm off course going to plead not guilty. Mary will testify that I was wearing my seat belt and had been wearing my seat belt. I'm actually thinking of getting some signed and notarized statements from the guys at the park (where we play racquetball) who saw me leaving attesting to the fact that I was wearing my seat belt both when I entered the park and when I left.
I want to believe that the trooper actually does believe he saw me not wearing a seat belt. But I've gotta tell ya... it's a hard sell.
I mean... again... we were PASSING each other, both driving at say 40 mph. I'm guessing the trooper was wearing sunglasses - they usually do. As I note above, I was wearing a dark blue sweat stained tee shirt driving a dark green car with gray interior and gray seat belts. I can see how a quick glance might give the illusion to the trooper that I wasn't wearing a seat belt (with all the dark colors blending in), but what doesn't fit in with this version is the trooper telling me that he supposed saw me putting my seat belt on after he had passed me. Now THAT'S simply not possible. It's simply not possible because I was wearing my seat belt all along!
So what's the deal...??? That's what I want to know. I'm trying my best to give this trooper the benefit of the doubt; perhaps after mistakenly thinking he saw me driving without my seat belt on, with that in his head, perhaps when he turned around to follow me and came within sight distance again he saw me fiddling with the radio or something and mistook that for me "suddenly" putting my seat belt on when I noticed him behind me.
As I've written... I'm going to contact the trooper's commanding officer. I'm going to make it an "unofficial" contact - an FYI - with the hope that this will avoid turning this matter confrontational.
I'm going to describe exactly what happened to me - just as I've done so here - and suggest that the commander check into the trooper's records to see if there are any patterns that might reflect upon this particular incident. In other words, does this trooper issue more than the norm of "no seat belt" tickets? Do this trooper's traffic citations lead to an unusual number of complaints from those issued ticket that they're "sincerely" not innocent - that they didn't commit the traffic offense of which they've been accused?
I have no doubt I'll "beat" the ticket "at trial," but I'm beyond looking upon this as a personal annoyance. If this can happen to me...
Scary. This shakes me up. I've always understood that our justice system - both criminal and civil - is flawed and open to miscarriages of justice, but what if instead of imagining that I had been driving without my seat belt this trooper had imagined it had been me fleeing from the scene of a crime I had nothing to do with?! What if we're talking REAL crime and not traffic court nonsense? If this trooper's word, his sworn affidavit, can't be trusted in terms of issuing a simple traffic citation... what faith can I have that this trooper's observational powers could be trusted on a much more serious matter?
Again... scary. Come what may, this incident will stick with me the next time I'm called up for jury duty.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
...an article or op-ed that I wish I could forward to every single one of my fellow citizens.
This op-ed surely qualifies.
The author is John Lehman, 65th Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan and immediate predecessor to James Webb, who now serves as the senior United States Senator representing the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Secretary Lehman notes:
When John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he was flying an A4 Skyhawk. That jet cost $860,000.
Inflation has risen by 700% since then. So Mr. McCain's A4 cost $6.1 million in 2008 dollars. Applying a generous factor of three for technological improvements, the price for a 2008 Navy F18 fighter should be about $18 million. Instead, we are paying about $90 million for each new fighter. As a result, the Navy cannot buy sufficient numbers. This is disarmament without a treaty.
Scary stuff, my friends... scary stuff...
"...'83 vintage IMB software that runs them..."?!?! Can this be true? It sounds impossible, doesn't it? But would Lehman make the claim if it weren't true? Would the Wall Street Journal publish the claim without fact checking and verification? And finally... is this not in line with what we know of government technology practices across a wide range of federal responsibilities, ranging from FBI crime fighting and homeland security responsibilities to FAA Flight Control operations?
There are other problems. Navy shipbuilding fiascoes like the staggering overruns on new surface combatants, the near total failure of the Army's Future Combat System that was meant to re-equip the entire army, the 400% cost overrun of the new Air Force weather satellite - to name but a few - all prove that we are currently unable to design, develop and deliver major weapons systems in anything approaching a cost-effective and timely manner. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that the cost overruns for the top 75% procurement programs were over $295 billion. We are rapidly disarming ourselves, even as defense spending grows.
And let's bear in mind... these fiascoes were the norm when Bush was president and when so-called self-identified "conservatives" ran Congress. If the situation as outlined by Secretary Lehman was the best we could get out of the Bush administration what may we expect during "The Age of Obama?"
Lehman provides an answer to that question:
On May 22, President Obama signed the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act. Despite the grandiloquent name, it is in fact just an addition of 20,000 more bureaucrats who will only make matters worse.
Within the Pentagon, there has been an obliteration of clear lines of authority for managing procurement programs. What there has been is a steady growth in the size and layers of civilian offices, agencies and military staffs, resulting in severe bureaucratic bloat. In the private sector, a specific person is always responsible for the success or failure of a program. When it comes to the Pentagon, no one person is held accountable for good performance or punished for failure.
As a direct result of this lack of accountability, there has been a loss of discipline and control over equipment requirements and a surge in gold-plating in all Pentagon programs. New requirements and design changes - originating in more than 30 different bureaus in the Pentagon - are constantly being added, wreaking havoc with costs.
(Now... just as an aside... with that example in mind just imagine the results of Obama's and the Democratic Congress' "healthcare reforms." God help us. Just take a gander at this chart!)
Lehman isn't shy regarding specifics:
On the Navy's new small warship building program (the LCS), for instance, change-orders have at times averaged 75 per week. Because of these constant changes, cost-plus-contracts have become the norm far into production, instead of fixed-price contracting when development is complete.
The Pentagon has surrendered control of many programs to large contractors. During the 1980s, the Pentagon employed thousands of experienced project managers and engineering professionals. Today most of this talent has gone to work for the contractors, and their duties have been contracted out to those same contractors. It's a classic case of the fox running the chicken coop. To make matters worse, the bureaucracies did not shrink because of this exodus, but actually grew as experienced engineering professionals were replaced by administrators and bookkeepers.
Listen, folks... as tempted as I am to simply repost Lehman's op-ed in it's entirety, I'm not going to do so; I want you to read the full op-ed on your own... make up your own minds.
Lehman doesn't simply point out problems. He offers solutions!
Read Lehman's piece. If Lehman's critiques and suggestions for true reform make sense to you, call your federal representatives. Tell the staffers that answer the phones that at a bear minimum you demand their boss(es) - your Congress Member and your two Senators - READ Lehman's piece and respond to you with their reactions.
The Capital Main Switchboard Number is 202-224-3121.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Any of you folks curious to get a glimpse of my "out in the wild" persona? Here's your chance! Call it a short survey course - Barkerism 101.
Head on over to NewMajority.com. There you'll get a fairly broad tutorial concerning my views on various topics. There you'll also find the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly as far as my "style" is concerned.
I attempt to explain basic economics to David Frum.
Here's what I think of "stimulus."
California... New York... the Federal Government... three incompetent entities.
Defending Sarah Palin against fools, hypocrites, and those lacking a shred of decency.
Witness yours truly continue to (figuratively) beat the anti-Palin crew senseless - which... upon further thought... is the perfect word to describe them - SENSELESS.
Call this one "Here... allow me to deal with public school disciplinary problems."
A primer on how to deal with the dishonest and the deluded.
The underlying realities as they apply to the health insurance/healthcare debate. In fact... this debate had two threads going simultaneously!
Finally... one of my finest rants... along with "the best of Bill's sarcastic, take no prisoners debating style."
Enjoy! Heck... add your voices to any or all of the debates going on over at NewMajority.com.
Folks... I freely stipulate that I'm not the most diplomatic guy on earth. I'm honest, though. I call 'em like I see 'em. I hold myself to the same high standards I hold others to.
Anyway... (*SMILE*)... if you've got some time to kill and view blogging as entertainment as well as a source of gaining and sharing information... check out the links I've provided.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Bill the Luddite... Bill the Technophobe... Bill who believes that simply shouting out "V = IR" while making the Sign of the Cross with my fingers will serve as magical protection against the evil plots of Lord Gates... this Bill - the Holy Trinity of Me, Myself, and I - has discovered...
I know... I know... a bit behind the curve; better late than never, though!
To my fellow old fogies... give Pandora a try!