Friday, October 9, 2009

We Need More 'Highway To Heaven' Trust, Less 9-11 Paranoia

As a (nearly) 41 year old I'm prone to "back in the good old days" wonderings of the brain if I'm not careful. However, the more I live & experience, to more I feel inclined to simply state this--I do not subscribe to the whole "it's a different world since 9-11" paranoia that seems to be sweeping the nation.

As one example, one recent story1 commented on how big-city random police street-searchings have doubled in the past 2 years or so, and people applaud this--after all, crime has dropped. Others do not, they consider it a violation of privacy and demeaning--even going so far as to change their route to-from home/work to avoid them. I subscribe to that mentality myself. Believe me, I am thankful for attempts to reduce crime, but at some point it begins to make me uncomfortable, as if we are pushing our society towards a police-state of sorts. I want no part of it.

Like the person highlighted in the story who started taking a different route between home & work because he found the constant searchings demeaning and a nuisance, I myself just want to live and be left alone. There is a reason we moved from the big city (Tucson AZ) to the "boonies"--to live without being bothered and hassled by, among other people, the police.

By the same token, I don't agree with warrantless wiretapping of phones, photo-finishers phoning police over every bathtub photo taken by parents of their children (in fact I applaud the parents who sued WalMart2 for doing this), I think it's totally ridiculous for someone like me to encounter "don't take photos of my kids, you pervert!" when I'm at the lake snapping photos of the ducks as part of my legitimate (and legal!) photography hobby (I don't snap photos of their kids, but in fact, it's legal to do, it's called Freedom of the Press).

Likewise I do not act all nutty and crazy if my daughter Helen (2½ years of age) is friendly with people she doesn't know. I don't want her running off with a stranger obviously, but I don't want her being all scared of everybody either. I much prefer a friendly, trust-presuming type of society myself. I watch old DVDs of "Highway to Heaven" and love it when the Michael Landon character, in response to someone saying to him "but why would you help me, we're strangers" and he responds "because people CHOOSE to be, I would rather choose to be a friend." I love it, too, when he asks someone he barely knows if they'd like to go with him to do whatever--young females, even, and they trust him. Right on. That is my kind of society.

That society is dead, you say? As he would say--only because we choose to do so. Just because 9-11 happened is no reason for us to lose our heads and assume a "trust no one" stance. I want no part of a world like that.

We need more of that "Highway to Heaven" type of thinking, and less of this crazy paranoia that I'm seeing in the 2000's & beyond. At the same time, those of us like me who value our privacy and being left alone by the police when we've done nothing wrong are not nut-cases with something to hide, we just don't like being hassled--and freedom from a police-state type of society is something that should ever go out-of-style, 9-11 or not.


1 Police Stop more than 1 Million People, source: Yahoo.Com
2Parents Sue WalMart For Bathtime Photos, Text-Based Article
3Parents Sue Walmart, Video Clip

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rat-Running, and 18-Wheelers/Tractor Trailers

One aspect of daily life that has always bugged me is driving--or at least many aspects of it. That is a post all its own--heck, that's a BLOG all its own. Today, I will deal with 1 aspect, or 2 combined into one (sort-of)--"rat-running" (or "shortcutting") and tractor-trailers (or 18-wheelers).

First-off, tractor-trailers/18-wheelers. I have long disliked the presence of 18-wheelers and/or tractor-trailers on the roads. At best, they're a necessary evil; at worst, dangerous and noisy monsters that dramatically damage the quality of life of anyone or anything within range. They block traffic, they're loud, they make you cough (especially if you're bicycling), and--frankly--too many of their drivers take advantage of their vehicle's size to bully people.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that they're necessary for deliveries and the operation of commerce. Truckers have a hard job in providing the services they do. That said, this doesn't mean that their presence everywhere is appropriate.

The main behavior I take issue with, and 18-wheelers are not the only ones that do it either, is "rat-running." This Wikipedia article describes what rat-running is. Basically, it's short-cutting through roads that aren't meant to handle large volumes of traffic. More to the point, it's shortcutting down roads which were designed specifically to be quiet and--paradoxical as it may seem (as these are roads, after all)--which were designed for residents who want as little traffic as possible so as to have a quiet, peaceful environment around them.

I learned of this while living in Tucson, AZ. At first I didn't see it that way myself; when I'd read articles about residents complaining of traffic on a certain road close to where they live, I thought they were being a hypocrite. I mean, gee whiz, Tucson was a city of 500,000 people, who were they to think their road was special? Why was it okay for the road near the mall to be packed with cars, but not the road near their house?

Over time, I came to see that I was wrong.

Different streets have different intended uses. A narrow 2-lane road, well away from the main streets, with speed-humps and houses lining the sides, has a far different intended usage than a wide 8-lane highway next to the mall and car dealerships. The latter is meant to handle large volumes of the traffic of the entire city as they commute to work and shop etc. The former is not. The former is designed for the residents living in the nearby houses to be able to walk-around, bicycle, jog, etc--without large volumes of cars polluting the environment. By pollution, I don't just mean fumes, but also noise and even just the irritation of cars being in the way.

What happens in "rat running" is that people use these residential roads in large numbers rather than using the main roads which were designed for heavy traffic-usage. In Tucson, this meant that work commuters would travel on these small, residential roads commuting to work. These small roads weren't intended for large volumes of commuters to use in that manner, and the residents of those roads were right to be upset at people using those roads instead of the 8-lane highways.

Around here, the common form this takes involves, often-times, 18-wheelers/tractor trailers. Rather than, say, taking a 4 lane state highway to go from the Interstate to the ultimate destination, they will instead take some narrow country-road--sometimes 1-lane roads--as a shortcut, often-times to avoid road tolls. These small roads were never designed for that volume of traffic, and in fact persons living on such roads often-times made the choice to live there specifically to avoid such large trucks to begin with.

In some communities, people have complained and laws have been passed forbidding 18-wheeler from being allowed on such narrow country roads. I support this. I get sick & tired of hearing the truckers whine about how they're not appreciated. Again, as annoying as 18-wheelers are, they are a necessity, and on major 4/6-lane state highways and the Interstate, so be it. But they have absolutely no business whatsover on narrow county roads. We're talking about places with no businesses, no employers, dotted with quaint farm houses--these are places people move to in order to get away from traffic, including 18-wheelers/tractor trailers.

In my opinion, it is amorale behavior for someone to shortcut through minor roads that they don't live on, especially when it's large numbers of persons doing this to save 2-tenths of a mile n their work commute, and then large 4-6 lane highways are readily available for them to use.

Think of it this way--you realize that loud shouting is inevitable at a rock concert. Would you appreciate someone doing this while you're researching in the library? Of course not. Same thing here. It's out-of-place and completely inappropriate--and downright immoral.


1Tractor Trailers Not Allowed in Left-Hand Lane, Source: Wral.Com
2Tractor-trailer Ban on Local Roads - New Jersey, Source: NewRules.Org
3Damage, danger spur possible Oglethorpe ban on tractor-trailers, Source: OnlineAthens.Com
4SAVE proposes truck ban on local roads, Source: Save41.Org
5State Funds to Pave Way for Truck Ban, Source: La Times
6Rules banning truck traffic on Central New York roadways move closer to being final, Source: Syracuse.Com

Monday, August 10, 2009

Legal Kidnapping: Passengers on Planes

I read this story today1, about passengers stuck on a plane for 6 hours, not allowed to leave. I have heard of a few such incidents the past few years, and I can only call it one thing--legal kidnapping.

I also imagine how I'd respond if I were in that situation. I tend to think that I'd respond along the lines of doing whatever I had to in order to leave the plane, even if it involved activities along the lines of a Chuck Norris fight scene (and I think anyone caught in this situation should do exactly that, although in all likelihood I probably would end up wussing out), because to me it is a clear case of kidnapping--yes, kidnapping--to not allow me to simply leave an airplane. Gee whiz, do these people think they own me?

I have heard that the laws, part of the Homeland Security Department regulations if I'm correct, are a large part of this. My response--I don't care. It matters not to me what the law is, and what the reasoning is (at least in principle), I don't care if it has anything to do with this whole post-9/11 paranoia sweeping across the country. (I need to do a blog entry about that very thing sometime.) It is totally a violation of my rights to make me stay on a plane that has landed on the ground. I don't care if the security screeners were not present, that's not my problem and it's not my fault.

My tendency, when I hear of these issues, is to say--if I were ever in that situation, then I'd do whatever I had to, even to the point of performing Chuck Norris-like karate moves on anyone, including air marshals if necessary, in order to not be a participant in what is, in my view, downright kidnapping. In fact, I think every person on a plane in this situation should do exactly that, if that's what it takes to protect one's right to freedom from improper (notice I didn't say unlawful) detainment.

Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of violence per se, at all, I am not at all saying every disagreement with someone in authority should be handled by acting like a Chuck Norris wanna-be. As a general rule, "play the game" as it were. It's just like with being pulled over for speeding--maybe you don't agree with that particular speed limit, but that situation is not the time to address it; just accept the ticket and do your advocating later. Same here, perhaps. But I do believe that, if a person is being kidnapped--and that's what I consider this to be--I think they're entitled to do whatever they have to do in order to no longer be under such improper detainment.

This site dedicates itself to the premise of flier's rights, and I myself strongly support them. This, also, is an issue where I (potentially) cross party lines--I don't care what the party affiliation is of a Senator that supports this, they are someone I'd vote for. Period.

This is just insane.

1Passengers Stranded on Flight, 08-10-2009, Source: Yahoo!
2Flyer's Rights, Founded by Kate Hanni
3Bill O'Reilly Clip About This Clip, Featuring Kate Hanni

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Texting/Writing: TOATLT (Tired of All The Lazy Typists)

This article1 highlights one of the petty/little things that annoy me--people that abbreviate excessively, especially in a manner similar to text-messages, even when the writing is more formal.

You know--LOL (laughing out loud), BFF (best friends forever), WRUD (what are you doing), blah blah blah.

You know what I call it? LTBLP (Lazy Typing By Lazy People).

What really irks me--frankly, I dislike seeing that even in text messages, but you see it everywhere, even in more formal writings, even in places where you're not limited to 140/160 characters. Letters, emails, online postings--some teachers have even reported seeing it littered all over the place in formal term papers.

Enough already.

Call me an old-fogie who "doesn't understand" or "is from the dark ages," but where I come from, you spell your words out. You do so because it makes you easier to understand, you're not placing a burden on your recipient to have to do any unnecessary work figuring out what you mean--and also, because it's just respectable, and juvenile to do otherwise.

One should take pride in knowing how to spell something correctly--that's what spelling bees are for, with children--and using proper grammar, etc. What is an education for, anyway? Why educate yourself to a collegiate level but then dumb yourself down to the level of a 3rd grader with your language & writing mannerisms?

I admit to being un-mainstream here. I spell out my words, even when text-messaging (granted, having a Palm Treo or Blackberry, with a full keyboard, makes it easier). I even capitalize the 1st word, I use the apostrophe, and I put a period/question mark etc at the end of my sentences. In other words:

Other people type: what r u doing 2day cant u cm ovr
I type: What are you doing today, can't you come over?

Yes, even in text messages, I do it like that, "all-the-way"--the first-word capitalized, the comma in-between, the ' in can't, and the question mark at the end. I do likewise with my emails--I receive emails all the time from people who abbreviate all over the place like that, never capitalize anything, mis-spell half their words, and they act like it doesn't matter a wit.

I think it's just plain lazy and tacky. I would never pick a fight or degrade someone over it, but I do think it's, at the least, sloppy and "dumbed-down" writing.

I do understand such things as, say, NASA, VCR, DVD, CD, A/C (for air conditioner), NASCAR, MSNBC, torn ACL (the common sports injury). I have no qualms with the use of acronyms with things of that nature. And don't even ask me what the heck "radar" means (radio detecting & ranging, maybe?). Those I understand, and use all the time myself.

But when someone says "My MIL [mother-in-law] came over and gave my DH [dear husband] a recipe for cake, and I shared it with my BFF [best friend forever] Pam," I'm sorry, I'm thinking--where do you work at, Irene's fish market? Did you not take any English and writing classes past the 3rd grade? Do you have any typing/word processing classes in your entire educational career? If you have, what was the point, if you're going to dumb-yourself down like that?

It makes me want to be an English teacher. I would immediately flunk any papers turned in written this way. Some teachers do this, and I applaud them. I know every student would call me an "old fogie from the 80s," so be it--but I believe in proper English, grammar, spelling, and yes--freedom from stupid acronyms like WRUD (what are you doing), especially in formal writing. Enough already. You're above the age of 7, talk like it, quit making yourself look dumb & lazy in your writing, it's undignified and unbecoming.

1Learning To Text. Source: Wall Street Journal

Why I Will (Likely) Never By an iPod/iPhone (Petty)

This is one of my "petty" posts, if you will (perhaps a refreshing change from the last post dealing with the Henry Louis Gates/Cambridge police department controversy).

Today's post deals with: why I, likely, will never buy an iPod or an iPhone.

Short answer: I hate anything proprietary, any attempts to cripple and/or dumb-down a product just for "coolness," and because better options exist and I don't care how un-hip it makes me look.

Don't get me wrong, I love modern technology toys. For the sake of clarity, for the sake of those that don't know--I do own an MP3 player. I do NOT own an iPod. What many don't realize is that iPod is a brand, it's not the type of product itself. In other words, iPod is to MP3 player as Pepsi is to cola.

I own an MP3 player, but it's not an iPod. It's actually a SanDisk (e280), to be exact. More on that in a bit.

I've owned PDA/Smartphones since January 2008, either a Palm Treo 650, 680, or a Blackberry Curve/8310 (as of this writing I'm using a Palm Treo 680 again after 7 months with the Blackberry). I text-message, email and browse websites everywhere I go with this thing, and it may be the coolest device ever. I embrace such toys.

But, unless something changes, I will never own the iPhone.

Let's revisit the iPod subject matter first.

I did briefly own an actual iPod, late 2008, bought it on eBay on the cheap, and in fact it was an older model (4th generation, circa 2004 if I recall). It barely worked at all, battery life was horrible and the battery needed replacing. I gave it to my best friend shortly after while visiting--I told him, it might work if someone fixes it for you, knock yourself out. (He had an old 4G Nano, this was a 40G model, so if he could get it going, it represented a 10x upgrade for him.)

If you know anything at all about iPods, you know the battery isn't user-replaceable. Also, you can't just "drag & drop" the songs on there, like you can with almost all other MP3 players, you have to use install Apple's iTunes to do so--and it's a huge, computer-hungry program. Not only that, the player goes out of its way to prevent you from restoring songs from the player to the computer again, so if your computer's hard drive goes toast, no dice with simply connecting the device to your fixed (or new) computer and restoring the songs device-to-PC. It won't let you.

Practically no other MP3 player, including the SanDisk e280 I own (and owned at the time, in fact), has any of these limitations. With my SanDisk e280, I can "drag and drop" the songs on there without the need for any bloated, computer-hungry software to be installed. I can backup from player to PC, too, it doesn't try & prevent me from doing this. If the battery stops recharging, I can buy a replacement on eBay for 10 bucks and swap it myself in 5 minutes, without having to do any fancy footwork--something that was not true with my iPod (and that's the case with ALL of them, in fact).

Much of the same goes with the iPhone--sort of a combination smartphone-iPod.

I almost got one back in Jan 2008, when I got my 1st smartphone (the Palm Treo 650). Why didn't I? No copy & paste. This is a glaring omission, only recently since fixed, for any smartphone device. I mean, gee whiz--you're basically talking about a pocket-sized PC (in fact, some of the first such device years ago were called that), and of all things to not have--copy & paste? Totally asinine. How stupid can you get?

Also, just as with the iPod, you can't change the battery yourself. It is, in fact, (as far as I know), the only cellular phone of any type--however fancy--that does not let you change the battery yourself. Any other cellular phone on the market, however cheap or expensive--if the battery stops working, you can buy a replacement on eBay for 5-10 bucks and you're back in business. No having to spend time migrating your contacts to a new phone or, depending on your service plan, having to sign 2 more years to your contract to replace it. Not so with the iPhone--you have to send it to Apple, wait, and pay about 100 bucks for the privelage. (Or, you could buy another one, which--some say--is Apple's thinking as to why the battery is sealed up.)

Am I the only one that finds this practice downright anti-competitive, and even borderline monopolistic in nature? As much as I am for a minimalist government in most cases, I think it perhaps should be required by law that all such devices allow the user to change the battery yourself. (In fact, the NY Consumer Protection Board addressed this sometime ago1). This should apply to all devices--MP3 players, phones, flashlights, watches, remote controls...

But then, have you noticed--all these devices are already that way.

That's my point, really--it amazes me that I can replace the battery in my 5 dollar watch I bought, encased in a cheap-skate blister-pack, at Family Dollar--even though I can't imagine anyone wanting to. I mean, gee whiz, you go buy another one for 5 bucks, spend (maybe) 1-2 minutes setting the time--you're golden.

I guarantee you it takes much more than 1-2 minutes to restore 5,000 songs to your new iPod (or any MP3 player), or migrate your contacts from one phone to another, and it sure costs a lot more to replace one than 5 bucks. But that's what you'd have to do if it was an Apple product & the battery quit on you.

It gets worse. Apple's new MacBook Air, a thin notebook PC (laptop), is a new, highly popular laptop and it is--you guessed it--the only laptop on the market that doesn't let you replace the battery yourself.

And just like with the iPhone and iPod, people are buying it like crazy--because it "looks cool."

No Apple products for me, no thank you. If I can't replace the battery myself, like I can my 5 dollar Family Dollar watch, I am not buying it--I don't care how it looks. I'm not that stupid.

1New York Complains to Apple About Battery Policy, Source:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Louis Gates and Police Abuse of Power

Most of you by now have now heard of Henry Louis Gates, the black scholar in Cambridge MA who was arrested in his own home after someone mistakenly thought he was a burglar and called the police; he was arrested for disorderly conduct, despite the fact that he had established himself as the proper resident of the home.

I will admit to bias here, because, frankly, I don't really have very much respect for the police so much, I particularly don't care for how much of the culture--particularly the Christian community, for whatsoever reason--seems to go so far as to downright worship the police; they constantly call on us as citizens to be "good citizens" but they never call out police abuse-of-power, they never call out police people as being responsible and accountable for how they treat the population as a whole.

It gets tiring, and frankly at this writing I am looking for any sermons I hear regarding this to totally speak about citizens' responsibility to "not be rebellious" but to say nary a word regarding how there are cases of abuse of authority and how wrong it is.

This has been painted as a racism aspect, and I don't know that I view it that way, but as a possible police abuse of power, certainly yet another case of police arrogance and lack of respect. I think this articile5 and this article6 (even better) nails it.

I think the fact that all the police unions etc are backing this is more proof of this; all they can do is talk about how hard their job is, blah blah. Big deal. Life is hard for a lot of people, that doesn't make abuse of power an okay reaction, ever. An average citizen entering his own home ought to not have to deal with a bunch of bologney and be totally okay with it just because the police think their job is hard. Yeah, so your job is hard--what's new? Lots of people have hard jobs, they don't go arresting people just because they don't like their attitude.

I think that Crowley, the arresting officer, simply arrested Gates because Gates challenged his authority and the legitimacy of the investigation. Sorry, but I'm not brown-nosing the police on this one. I think it's completely reasonable that if someone has been falsely accused of breaking into his own home--no matter what behavior proceeded the investigation--to be upset and not particularly warm & fussy (if short of verbally abusive) with any police presence at that point. Once the police had established that the person he was speaking with was not a burglar but in fact the proper home owner, they have no right to expect such a person to respond in anyway but something along the lines of, respectfully as possible, "time to leave; you're not needed here at this point."

I am one that tends to think that a lot of racism complaints these days are illegitimate. I don't agree with reparations, I don't believe in affirmative action. I don't think Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to go to every alleged racist incident and stir trouble up.

However, situations like Henry Louis Gates DO call for such "stirring up" if you will. It is outrageous that something like this would happen.

In a country that can elect a black man for president--granted, I don't like Obama because of his policies (I would have preferred someone like Walter Williams or Clarence Thomas), but I think it's great that the country is now at a point that a black man can be elected president--it is amazing we still deal with things like this. This is simply ridiculous. I don't think there was any racism element here, but certainly the police were arrogant. I agree with Barack Obama here (for the first-time--and maybe last-time--ever)--the Cambridge police did "act stupidly."

Thankfully all the charges have been dropped; that's as it should be, but more needs to be done. The police in this situation should be dressed-down for their behavior in the most strict manner. The message needs to be delivered--racism and police abuse-of-power is WRONG and will never be tolerated. Few things are more irritating than an arrogant policemen, and to behave this way in someone else's home is the most outrageous of all.


1Yahoo! Article
2Washington Post Article
3Wikipedia Article on the incident.
4Excellent opinion article on this topic.
5Obama Was Right About Gates Arrest
6Best Article About This, Talks About Police Abuse of Power & How Conservatives Are Too Prone to Siding with Police in Every Situation
7Video Clip at YouTube Explaining Why Arrest Was Wrong & Right-Wingers are Wrong About This
8Bill Maher's Comment, Around 6:25 Mark (YouTube Clip)
9Bill Maher's Comment, Clip #2, Around 1:03 Mark (YouTube Clip)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Privacy and RFID Chips

In a way I am a very paradoxical person. I love Internet access, I love being able to receive email and browse sites anywhere using my "smartphone" (either a Palm Treo or Blackberry, so far), I think it's wonderful. I also highly support the rights of candid/street photographers to photograph public life, without asking those around if it's okay, because of 1st amendment issues and because candid/street photography only captures the essence of life as it genuinely is when the subjects are unaware and not posed.

Yet, at the same time, I very highly value my privacy.

I have had enough bad experiences with society at large, and even the police, that Jenifer and I were, frankly, relieved to be able to move to the "boonies" as it were, away from the large city and out in the woods where we don't have the whole world meddling in our business. We can shout when fighting if we want to, when I become angry I can shout and break a drinking glass in the sink if I want to--no worries about the police showing up and refereeing it when neither of us want the government involved in private family matters. That's just the way we like it.

Personally, I don't think of our country in the same post 9/11 regard many others do, including fellow conservatives. This may be a key area where I'm more liberetarian than conservative--I am appreciative that no new attacks have occurred in our nation since 9-11-2001, but I do not agree with warrantless wiretapping, NSA, "data-mining," or any of that type of civilian surveillance to achieve it. I don't for one minute think that September 11th 2001 instantly made invalid my privacy concerns, or anyone else's either. I think airport security, school campus security, and the like have all gone completely overboard.

Anyone that thinks my stance is lunacy in light of such acts as the Virginia Tech massacre don't know their history: the worst school disaster in history actually occurred in 1927, go here1 to read all about it. Yes, before we had Internet, digital photography, violence in the movies, and 9-11 itself, school violence was taking place--in 1927 (before the Great Depression, too). That revelation is astounding to me, and really drives home the point--all this rush to squash people's liberty and privacy for the sake of safety under the premise of "9-11 changed everything" is brought on by people operating in pure ignorance of history and the proper perspective of it.

Some 3-4 years ago, I read about RFID tags in Consumer Reports, and then I read this article2 today, which served to remind me of just what is at stake here with RFID tags.

RFID tags are chips that contain unique information about a person and transmit this information wirelessly to detectors that can acquire this information. RFID tags commonly exist in clothing and other items, mainly for the purposes of allowing easier inventory tracking. However, RFID tags can sometimes be found in driver's licenses and other sensitive documentes as well--including credit cards (commonly called "PASS").

In theory, this actually would allow individuals to be tracked, 24-7, anywhere they're at.

This ought to scare the pants off of anyone.

While I love computers, Blackberries and Internet where it allows you to use such sites as Wikipedia and Yahoo! to search for information on a certain topic and acquire it quickly, I dislike it just as much when it prevents a person from being able to live their life without it being an open book. For example, I personally think someone should be able to, if they move from one state to another, be able to do so without their past following them and preventing them a chance to "start fresh"--so long as they're not a serial killer, obviously. Trouble is, databases and Internet--and now maybe RFID tags as well--make it to where you can't start over and just live life anonymously without intrusion.

A good example of this involves us and our attempts to be parents. Anyone who knows me well knows of our past struggles with child protective services (CPS). Problem is, CPS is everywhere. Take your child to the doctor with a bruised eye resulting from a baseball game, and it can turn into a full-blown investigation. Drop your child off at daycare and do so where you haven't had time to Barbie-Boll polish them to the nines (I don't mean covered head-to-toe in mud, either), and it can turn into a full-blown investigation as well.

The real problem: if you've ever encountered any such struggles, even years ago in a different location 3,000 miles away, that history will follow you and haunt you all these years and miles removed from it. It's despicable, and undermines your attempts to just parent your children free of hassle.

RFID tags really could mean yet more liberties eroded, and I have no interest in it happening. Just because 9-11 happened does not mean we should trade any of our liberties for the allusion of being more secure. The government is already too much in our business as it is anyway.


1 Bath School Disaster of 1927, source: Wikipedia
2 Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears. Yahoo!, 7-11-2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: Nothing Lasts, Everything Dies

I was eating at Taco Casa, about 5 pm Texas time, waiting for my wife to get off work. I saw the newsflash at FoxNews1, playing on one of the TVs in the lobby, "Michael Jackson Rushed to UCLA Medical Center."

This sort of thing I would normally look at and brush-off, but for some reason, I was compelled to check this out. While I waited, I loaded up a website (not sure which one) on my Blackberry 8310/Curve, and kept updating/refreshing the website periodically while seeing what FoxNews was saying on the TV.

Then I saw it before my eyes, on my Blackberry Curve, "Michael Jackson Pronounced Dead" (approximate quote). Seconds later, the FoxNews broadcast updated with the same thing. (Eventually, so did Wikipedia News2.)

There I stood, in the lobby of Taco Casa, standing in the booth above the TV, my ear pressed to the TV speaker so I could hear the sound, and employees behind the counter looking at the television with absolute shock plastered all over their faces.

I will never forget it, if I live to be 100.

To be sure, I've encountered the death of important people, and--in the case of my grandfather in 1997--people close to me. Between John Lennon, Len Bias, Redd Foxx (of Sanford and Son), Lucille Ball, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Landon, Kurt Cobain (I wasn't a fan of his, but I knew he was a big name), James Brown, Johnny Carson, (recently) Ed McMahon, the lead singer of INXS, Don Knotts, actors in "The Jeffersons", I have seen greats pass-on. All of these have saddened me and spooked me as they reminded me of the temporary nature that is life. Also, Elvis Presley died in 1977 when I was about age 8, although I was too young to really understand it.

This one may well outrank all of them.

What has been said about John F Kennedy, John Lennon, and others--that is, "I will never forget where I was when I heard the news," applies here as well.

Only 2 other such events in my life can claim to have effected me enough so as that I have never forgotten where I was when I learned the news. I remember where I was when I learned John Lennon had died; I was a young 11 year old carpooling with our preacher on the way to school, just by Bob Aiken's house when I heard it on his radio. I remember where I was when I learned Dean Smith retired as the Tar Heels coach; I was in Phoenix AZ staying in the Clarion hotel for work-related reasons when I saw it at the Tar Heel website on my computer, then subsequently on the hotel television on ESPN.

This one has easily taken the lead as most-shocking thus far and most unlikely to ever be forgotten by me.

Most of all, it as really has shaken me to the very core. It has reminded me of one hard, cold, blunt and unavoidable truth.

Life is temporary. Nothing we do here is going to last.

Michael Jordan has aged, and no longer can play in the NBA. The Three Stooges are dead and will never perform again. There will never be a "The Jeffersons" or "The Andy Griffeth Show" reunion. We never got to see Len Bias dunk in the NBA, and never will.

All those attractive women in bathing suits at the lake and pool, even super-attractive ones like Farrah Fawcett (who also died today, lest we forget) are going to age and look totally unappealing to the eye eventually. This has happened even to all-time greats like Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, and Bridgette Bardot. The same thing will even happen to current sex symbols like Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hiton, Beyonce, Salma Hayek and Britney Spears--if they even live that long. Laura Ingalls isn't a little child anymore. Neither is Opie. And eventually, they'll all be dead.

Wilt Chamberlain, one of the best basketball players ever, now doesn't even exist. Neither does Len Bias (already mentioned). One day, Michael Jordan will not even exist anymore. Bath Ruth doesn't exist anymore. Ronald Reagan doesn't exist anymore.

Everything here that humans do, however great or not-so-great, it all fades away.

Sure, I can go to YouTube and look at clips of Michael Jordan's outstanding play of the 80s and 90s, but it will never be that way again in the present-time or future-time. I can still listen to Michael Jackson on my MP3 player anytime I please, and the music will be just as clear, vibrant and alive as it ever was. But people eventually forget, tastes change, especially in pop music that is so short-term to begin with. What's more, I am harshly reminded that I will never had any opportunity, even if I win a million dollars tomorrow, to ever witness such a performance in person.

Besides all of that, how can I ever listen to his music again without thoughts of how he passed away polluting my attempts to just enjoy the music?

The innocence is over, the jig is up. The King (of Pop) is dead, and will never moonwalk again.

Like other persons, I remember owning Michael Jackson music way long ago. The first recording of his I owned was "Rock With You" as a 45-rpm record. "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" followed. Like most 80s-era teenagers, "Thriller" was so good it blew your mind. The music was simply incredible, his dancing--better than you could even imagine a human-being dancing. Surely, you said to yourself, even in heaven no one dances that good.

Unlike the case with other persons, though, the music of his that really moved me to the very core of my musical soul was "Dangerous" from 1991-2. I was well known in my circle of friends as a really hard-core Phil Collins/Genesis fan, and Genesis had a new album "We Can't Dance" that had appeared that year which I was thoroughly enjoying. Yet, amazingly enough, Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" surpassed it, and has lived on--even in recent years--as one of my favorite albums ever. The music was so outstanding, so ground-breaking, it blew your mind that music such as that could even be imagined, much less actually exist in reality.

But, like all other things, it faded into history, even as I continued to enjoy it on my SanDisk 8G MP3 player.

And now, the man has faded into history.

We will never see him dance again. Those comeback concerts he planned--they're never going to happen. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever, in this life anyway, we will ever see him perform again, ever, never even hear him share his thoughts and his experiences with us in interviews in his older days.

And so it is with everything.

Enjoy LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, or whoever your favorite athlete is. One day, they'll grow too old to do it anymore, and they'll pass on. That girl you knew in high school that was cute? She may still look good now, heck she might even look better, but in time, she'll be as wrinkled and unappealing to the eye as Janet Reno. It happens to everyone, it will happen to me, and it will happen to you.

I love to bike-ride and play basketball, although I'm not spectacular at either. I take pride in the fact that I'm 40 and can still do those things. But if I live long enough, the day will come when I will never be able to do those things again, at least without considerable pain. The day may come in just a few years in which, like what occurred with Michael Jackson, I'll suffer a sudden cardiac arrest and it'll be over, just like that.

Anyone remember Pistol Pete Maravich? He was one of the greatest basketball players of the 1970s, but he died in 1988 at age 40--of a heart attack. Age 40. For Pete's sake, that's how old I am. And here was a man who had the financial ability to have any sort of medical checkups he wanted so as to screen for these things. Yet, even he was felled by surprise, out of left-field--at age 40.

Age 40, the age I am.

If it could happen to him, it could happen to me. It could happen to my best friend KSG. It could happen to my wife, that guy at the local store who's friendly with me when I ask for more ice with my soda, it could happen to my mother tomorrow (she's 68), it could happen to my father (he's 70)--heck, it could happen to my 2-year old daughter.

Nothing lasts. Not even the King of Pop is immume, and certainly the same goes for us.

Don McLean needs to update his "American Pie" song--today is the day the music died.

Enjoy what you have, what's around you, and enjoy it with all the passion you can muster. But never forget what the death of Michael Jackson has reminded me, and should remind all of us.

Everything dies. Nothing lasts. Nothing.

1CBS Clip
2 FoxNews Video Clip of MJ's Death, #1
3 Wikipedia News Article about MJ's death
4 FoxNews Video Clip of MJ's Death, #2
5 FoxNews Video Clip of MJ's Death, #3
6 MSNBC Video about his death
7 CNN Clip #1, Best One of All Clips I'd Say
8 CNN Clip #2
9 NBC Clip #1
10 NBC Clip #2
11 FoxNewsClip

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We're Way Too Safety Conscious

I long ago came to the conclusion that we have become way too safety conscious. Between airport security, not letting our children into the water at the local lake even when they're practically old enough to fly an airplane, wearing (or even requiring) helmets for everything, people freaking out if you have a camera with you taking photos of ducks at the lake (they're frightened you're a child predator)--this world has just become annoyingly worried about everything.

In a real eye-opening clip from 19991, before 9-11 paranoia hit, George Carlin did a great bit on excessive airline security and excessive fear in general. (Warning, the clip has explicit language, I'd rather it didn't.) He talks about how over-the-top we've become with security and how we're willing to trade liberty for security--this was before 9-11. I disagree with George Carlin about a lot of things, and his tone is definitely vulgar--but he really hit the nail on the head with this one. I find it applies even more now, in 2009, than it did 10 years ago in 1999 when it was recorded. This blog poster2 also thinks that airport security is over-the-top.

Call me a jerk, but I have no desire or intent to be "understanding" about the long lines and overzealous measures they engage in nowadays. That's not to say I will make a scene, but I reserve to right to grumble about it, and when I do, I have no interests in your rebuttal of "they're doing their job, shut up and quit whining" or "they're trying to keep your worthless behind from being hurt, you should be thankful." I appreciate security, but that doesn't mean something over-the-top doesn't deserve criticism. I'm just glad I hardly ever fly to begin with.

It isn't just airport security that we have turned into a nation of wussies. Just look at the parents at your local swimming lake. I have, and let me tell you--if I were the children of some of these parents, I'd run away. I have seen and heard of accounts of 9-year olds--yes, 9-year olds--not being allowed in the lake at all by their overprotective parents, not even the very edge of the water, not even when it's a public pool and lifeguards are present. I have seen parents not let their children play outside if there are any mosquitoes at all. I'm not talking about being in a swamp or somewhere where there are hundreds of them, but even in the city where maybe 1 or 2 have been spotted. Gee whiz, how many mosquito bites did I & my contemporaries used to get as children, from all that playing in the woods, none of us ever got a disease.

I have even seen parents yell at their children to "stop running." Was this poolside? No. It was in the park. Yes, the park! If you can't run in the park, where and when can you run?

I recall playing in the woods outdoors for hours at a time, I was probably 8 years of age or older. In fact, I was forbidden from coming in the house for a good 2 hours or so--that let my parents have some sanity, and let me have some childhood adventures without excessive oversight. How many parents do you know that allow this now? They're too worried about predators, mosquitos, snakes, imaginary serial killers, the list goes on.

I encounter this, also, when I take my camera to the lake and take photographs of the ducks on the lake--such a photo of mine turned out so good, I enlarged it 16x20 (you can go here 3 to see it). Time and time again I encounter people, apparently scared I'm John Wayne Gacy4 or something, screaming at me "don't be taking photos of my children." Now, besides the fact that it's legal to take photos of children or anyone else in public--yes, that is correct, it is perfectly legal and they have no legal footing whatsoever--but besides that, it's highly irritating and my reply tends to go like this: "don't worry, I only take photos of things that actually LOOK GOOD."

All this over-worrying that people do nowadays, I call this the "Dateline NBC", "20/20" and "America's Most Wanted" phenomenon. People watch these shows all the time. Just try watching any of those shows yourself for more than 5 minutes, and I promise you'll be so frightened at the world around you that you'll be motivated to construct a bomb shelter, go out and get a lifetime supply of pork & beans and battery-operated appliances and NEVER come out the rest of your life. We've allowed them to brainwash us with the notion that the world is so crazy you can't dare adventure any.

Yes, I know, I know, it's a different world since 9-11. I for one think that refrain is the most overused and overdone sentiment of all, and it's gone way overboard. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate efforts to protect me and my loved-ones from another attack, and I understand that we are fighting terrorism. I am NOT one of those that screamed "war for oil" during the Iraq conflict of 2003. I didn't think that then nor do I think that now.

But even with that understanding, I think it's possible to take things too far, and if it leads to us never again being able to just enjoy life and have fun, then the terrorists have accomplished the very thing they set out to do, and you might as well declare us dead as a nation.

I think that people need to relax and take it easy. Just because 9-11 happened doesn't mean we need to throw all fun to the wind and worry so much about everything. Yes let's be careful and let's take reasonable measures, and by all means any reasonable parent doesn't want their children to get hurt--but sometimes you can go too far and worry too much. You get ulcers that way. Besides being a child out to be fun, let's stop taking all the fun out of being a child. Life is too serious as it is.


1 George Carlin "You are All Diseased", 1999. Start around 1:20 to hear relevant portions (warning, explicit language)
2 Fixing Airport Security, Bruce Schneier, 06-24-2009
3Duck, Lake Gladewater, from my PBase.Com photos website
4Wikipedia Entry for John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Parental Rights II: Daniel Hauser (child w/cancer)

I write again today regarding parental rights, something which has become a real hot button for me in recent years.

Basically, my view is--parents should be able to parent however they choose, even if everyone in society disagrees with their choices. I definitely don't object to, and even appreciate, advice from family members and best friends, but the government butting its nose into a family affair and telling us what to do is not American in the least. Neither is it proper for strangers amongst me to butt their nose in, either.

The case of Daniel Hauser, the 13 year old who has cancer and whom doctors say needs chemotherapy, but doesn't want it1, and whose mother wants alternative medicine treatments instead on his behalf, is a perfect example of the government butting its nose in where it doesn't belong. Here you have the state of Minnesota using the legal system--even to the point of employing international agencies like Interpol--to strong-arm the mother & son into returning home to be forced into a form of treatment neither of them agree with.

Once again, the government tells you how to parent your children. It doesn't suggest or advise, or even strongly advise, it orders.

Who is the parent here anyway?

Granted, this is apparently a serious life/death situation, but as one reader wrote in a letter-to-the-editor2 in the NorthJersey.Com newspaper, this form of government intervention doesn't stop here. Further, as the letter-to-the-editor stated, this is a God thing; God placed these parents in charge of these children's lives, not the state or government. This is nothing less than the government disrespecting God and his principles full-blown.

Except in extreme cases, we're supposed to let parents decide, but we don't. Already, you are not allowed to decide for yourself whether or not to let your children enjoy the back of an open-bed pickup truck due to safety, whether they should be confined to child seats in the car (miserable in the process, often-times) or be allowed some freedom to move about, and some states are doing their best to eliminate the option of home-schooling your children, so tough luck if you don't like what they're teaching your children in school these days about homosexuality, evolution or the like.

Here we go with yet another intrusion--the government can order the parents to provide the type of medical treatment they think is right, and can even force the child to accept it if they don't want it. This sort of thing is actually happening in the USA?

I sure am glad this type of ridiculous oversight didn't exist when I was a child. All those wonderful times riding in the back of my father's open-bed pickup truck--at highway speeds, mind you, all those times my cousins and sister rode in the back of my aunt's camper-shelled Toyota during the summertime on the way to White Lake, all the times I rode my Big Wheel® on a 55 mph rural highway as an 8-year old (with my mother inside, mind you), playing unsupervised at my grandaddy's home with all that junk he had outside there (and in the barns I used to sneak into also), I am so glad there wasn't some busy-body with a cellular phone (or CB radio) calling the government and using them as a tool to impose their parenting views on my family.

What does one have to do now to parent as one sees fit, move to a 3rd world country, or never leave the rural country for the city?

Growing up, I always saw my parents--not my government, not social services, not CPS--as the final authority as to what went down in my life. Heck I didn't even know who CPS was. At times I hated it, sure, but I respected it--and for the most part I wouldn't have had it any other way. Really, the only time I would've had it any other way was when I wanted to be mischievous and get away with it.

Which brings up another aspect--how is anyone supposed to parent if their children know that there's always someone they can go to outside their home that is above their parents? Growing up I always believed that, if I didn't like how my mother parented me, the only option I had was to run away, period. Any family members I went to backed my mother up, and rightly so. No one in school or anywhere else would referee and force my mother to do as I wanted her. And so it should've been.

I understand that parental rights doesn't mean a parent should be able to be deliberately negligent or deliberately harmful, I certainly wouldn't agree with a parent taking their child to one of those "fringe" churches where people let poisonous snakes bite you while you trust in God to heal you. But some examples where I've seen people call for intervention I haven't agreed with it being done--Michael Jackson and the "baby dangling," Britney Spears and her forgetting to buckle her children up, Steve Irwin holding his child in his arm while feeding a crocodile. Granted those were risky behaviors, and I understand that they shocked people, but do we really think it's any of our business to use the government to butt into their affairs and tell them how to do their job as parents? Where does it end? Who gave us the right to judge others, when we're not perfect ourselves?

To be sure, this is why even more mundane adventures such as taking a child to the pool with you in the deep end (even with floaties), letting a child ride in the back of an open-bed pickup and feel the wind in their hair, letting them ride a bicycle without those stifling (if protective) helmets--now parents aren't able to make such decisions about such matters for themselves. Previously, it was left up to US to decide what safety/adventure ratio position we wanted to take. Maybe our choices weren't agreed with by everyone, but our right to choose as we saw fit was respected--even though some deaths occurred. It should still be this way, I strongly feel, even with the occasional death, yet it isn't, and that's wrong.

I will recreate the Letter To The Editor which I linked to above, in case the link has expired:

The Daniel Hauser case should outrage all Americans ("Boy in need of chemo can stay with parents," Page A-8, May 27).

I understand that Daniel's life may or may not be in danger depending on whom you believe: his medical doctors, who feel chemotherapy is necessary to save his life, or his parents, who believe there are other methods of curing cancer without chemo or radiation.

The Hauser case cuts directly to the heart of the American dream and the American promise: freedom and the right to self-determination. For generations, people from around the world have sought to come to America not just because we are such a wealthy nation, but because we are supposed to be a nation that allows people to determine for themselves how to live life and raise families. Here people may live as they choose and worship, or not worship, as they choose. Freedom also includes the right to choose how to care for disease.

Daniel is a minor, and I would agree that he is not capable of self-determination. Further, it's probably true that Daniel does not fully understand his condition. However, I believe Daniel's parents do. The doctors in this case might argue that his parents don't fully understand his condition and therefore are not fit to make decisions about his medical care. But that is a slippery slope. Where does that end?

America was based upon this ideal: "In God we trust." If we, as a nation, still do believe in God and still trust in God, then we should accept that Colleen and Anthony Hauser are exactly the right parents providing exactly the right kind of care for Daniel.

The Hausers were given the task of raising and caring for a child, Daniel, by their creator. It was the Hausers who were assigned the job of Daniel's decision-making until he is an adult, not the government of the United States or the state of Minnesota. The Hausers are not neglecting Daniel. They are providing care they believe in, which is outside commonly accepted medical standards.

When the Hausers disappeared before a court hearing, U.S. marshals were sent to search for them. Is this how our tax dollars should be spent — sending marshals to search for a mother who has determined what she and her husband believe is best for their child?

As a parent, I can tell you that I do not want the government telling me what is best for my child. This should outrage every parent. Cases like this one set a dangerous precedent for government to tell us how we should raise our children. Even worse, this case gives way too much power to medical doctors to dictate, backed by the government, what kind of medical care families choose.

My heart goes out to the Hausers, not only because they are dealing with their son's health challenge, but also because now they must cope with the government dictating to them which course of care is best. Making our children's health decisions is nerve-wracking enough without our government and a group of medical doctors forcing their will upon us.

I believe Colleen and Anthony Hauser should be honored as true, brave Americans who are bold enough to follow their own path and stand up for the right to freedom and self-determination, instead of being pushed into following "accepted doctrine," if they honestly do not believe that is what is best for their child.

Please don't tell me how the Hausers are putting their child at risk. We allow our children to experience risk every day. We allow them to play football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and all manner of violent contact sports. We take them skiing, surfing and skydiving. We put them on bicycles, dirt bikes and quads. We let them snowboard and skateboard while doing flips and tricks. We travel in airplanes, and we allow them to scuba dive — not to mention all the more mundane risks we live with every day, such as driving on America's highways.

I understand Daniel has cancer and many of us feel that he should be receiving certain care. However, before we push too hard for this family to do what we think is best for their son, we should all think long and hard about just how soon we want Big Brother knocking on our door, telling us how to raise our family.

Gary Stewart

I couldn't have said it any better, and it is so refreshing to see a letter-to-the-editor from someone that gets it, as opposed to the Communist-types prevalent nowadays who think the government most certainly should be in everyone's business, and heck should be in it even more than they already are. I mean, after all, parents can't be trusted to know what's best for their children, in the name of "protecting the children" we butt into their business and say that it's a wonderful thing we're doing.



1 Yahoo! Story, Minnesota teen says he's angry about continuing chemo.
2 Letter to the Editor regarding this case, in support of parental rights

Monday, June 22, 2009

Domestic Violence: Private Family Matter

This whole Rihanna and Chris Brown affair1, and the news today that Chris Brown has been sentenced to probation2 and that both he and Rihanna are under a "stay away order" that legally requires them to not be in contact with each other, it all highlights, for me, the appalling downright communist nature of the laws involving domestic violence.

In a way, this whole Rihanna/Chris Brown affair is a departure for me, as I really don't get into celebrity news, but this one is an exception.

I have learned much about domestic violence laws over the years, and have been absolutely shocked at what the laws state nowadays. It has totally changed my mind about the supposed "need for reform" with domestic violence, and has totally tainted my view of all of these "stop the violence" and "end the silence" slogans I read about nowadays.

My question simply enough is this: if Chris and Rihanna want to be in contact with each other, how is that anyone's business? Since when does the law have any right to tell the two of them they can't get together if that is absolutely what they want to do? Moreover, no one can play the "children will be affected" card, as they don't have any children.

Yes, it would likely be foolish for Rihanna to "take him back" as it were, given his behavior, but hey--if she wants to, that's her business, and I cannot fathom laws that would actually penalize either of them for being in touch with each other if that's what they want to do. It's not any of our business--I don't care what the law says, it's wrong and should be changed and, dare I say it, even ignored--yes, ignored--by the both of them if they want to be together.

It really appalls me to read this, given that today you can't state, without resulting ostracizing by society, that marriage is between a man & a woman. Just ask Carrie Prejean3 about that--you know, the one that lost her 2009 Miss California USA Crown4 because she replied (when asked!) that marriage should be between a man & a woman. These days the laws increasingly recognize the rights for gays to marry, let alone to be together--something I don't agree with--yet we can't recognize the right of two heterosexual persons to simply be together (not just married) if they want to? Since when is that anyone's business whatsover?

But such is the state of domestic violence laws today. I have discovered, in fact, that one can get legal punishment simply for destruction of property--even if the property belongs to the one doing the destruction--under the heading of "domestic violence, criminal damage." So in other words, you could be a Tar Heel basketball fan and, while watching Duke & Carolina play, become incensed at Duke winning a game and respond by breaking a remote control. If someone hears you shouting and so forth, the police show up, and you admit to breaking a remote control, that alone could cause you to be whisked away to jail for "domestic violence, criminal damage."

What's worse? Your spouse could vehimently disagree with this, not out of ignorance but out of understanding you better than those outsiders do (which shouldn't be a surprise), yet the "outsiders" (re, the police) will totally ignore this and arrest anyway. What's worse, the supposed "victim" doesn't even have the choice to not press charges, because the presumption is made that she is only doing this out of "economic dependence" (that is, she needs his money from him working) or fear of retaliation.

Imagine that--the system assumes that you don't know any better, or that when you tell them that you don't wish to press charges that you're only lying to protect your spouse even if you actually DO NOT want to press charges. Absolute liberalism on display here.

It gets worse--when my wife & I had our car stolen in 2005 (we got it back, thankfully), we had to persist very strongly with reminding the police that we did wish to press charges. So, in other words, the option for us to not press charges against a car thief exists, but yet if a domestic violence situation were to occur between my wife and I, she wouldn't have the option to refuse to press charges against her own husband? Are you kidding me?

It's no wonder that many people say that society is losing respect for marriage. This only serves to prove it even more.

Well I take the "neanderthal" stance that domestic violence is a "family issue," it is not the government's business or anyone else's business, unless the "victim" wants to press charges. If the "victim" of her own free fill and educated thought process wishes to remain in a relationship with a man who allegedly beat her, that is between the two of them and no one else. If he ends up killing her, by all means--charge him with murder, but otherwise--it is not anyone's business.

I mean good grief, we're legislation private relationships now? To quote Larry the Cable Guy, "what the hell is this, Russia?"


1 Link. Look for comments by "jasugarcane," her posts reflect my opinion.
2 Yahoo! Story
3 Link to article from Catholic News Agency
4 Link to FoxNews coverage of Carrie Prejean (video link initially)
5EJFI.Org, Great Domestic Violence Site: Chapter 3>>Chapter 1>>>Domestic Violence Is A Human Problem
6 Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse
7 Domestic Violence: The 12 Things You Aren't Supposed to Know
8 Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cellular Phone Laws: Bigotry In Action

I have long held the belief that we have a group of people in this country--a large group, actually--that are what I would call cellular phone bigots. These are people that have a bigoted attitude about someone simply because they use a cellular phone in a situation they think is unnecessary or unacceptable.

These are the ones that express glee at the banning of cellular phone usage in places such as doctor's offices, subways, restaurants, even grocery store lines--while expressing no such views with other noises like crying babies, people talking loudly to someone in person. They also strongly support the banning of usage of cellular phones while driving, while expressing no support for the banning of other driving distractions like eating, reading maps, etc.

I have long felt this way, however as I have just created this blog barely a week ago at this time, I had not yet added a post about this topic, though I knew I was due for one. This story inspired me to do so, it's a story about how North Carolina (where I formerly lived) has now passed a law banning texting while driving (unless you're stopped and/or pulled over). (You can click here to read my comment, #86, page 3.)

Again, my position is--laws like this are inspired by cellular phone bigotry. Simply enough, cellular phone users are the new smokers, as they are increasingly ostracized and made to feel like dirty maggots anytime they dare use a phone in a situation people think to be inappropriate. It's a type of hatred that is becoming--or has been, really--downright bigoted in its nature.

So, laws like this are written, and they come from a double standard type of attitude that picks on cellular phone users as if they're the AntiChrist--again, much as smokers are often-times picked-on.

Think I'm joking?

Then how come doctor's offices ban the usage of cellular phones commonly, but they NEVER address other irritants such as noisy children, people talking loudly to their friends who are present with them, or listening to an MP3 player so loudly neighbors can tell which song is playing (despite the earphones)? Many restaurants do the same thing. Subways exist that have "no cellular phone" cabins, but they don't have "baby-free" cabins or "no talking to your neighbor" cabins--those are sources of noise, too. How come many jobs will fire employees for using a cellular phone at work, but often-times won't fire these employees for using the company phone for making personal calls?

I think it's striking, too, how the haters can be so against cellular phones not just supposedly due to safety, but in fact merely where it regards social acceptance. I wonder how such types would respond to this story--the story of a woman who was kidnapped but rescued due to the presence of a Blackberry cellular phone in the trunk of the car? They'd probably oppose the woman being rescued since a cellular phone was involved in it.

A lady friend of mine recently told me of a situation where her child got in trouble at school for using his cellular phone to call her to pick him up from school as he was sick. He was in trouble for using his cellular phone even though he wasn't in class at the time. As the story was relayed to me, he would've been in no trouble at all had he used the phone in the principal's office to call her--something which would've required him to walk all the way to the other side of the building. The mother stated that she told the principal that she gave the phone to her son for such specific reasons and that they were wrong to punish him for it, and that her son had her permission to use it under such circumstances and, basically, to heck with their rule.

Way to go, I say.

But such is the case in today's cellular phone bigoted society. You see this in particular with the big mama of excuses for anti-cellular phone bigotry and legislation--highway safety. Granted, there are people swerving around almost hitting others due to usage of cellular phones while driving, but you also have the same thing happening due to other distracting behaviors: people waving at their friends on the sidewalk, eating, rummaging through the glovebox looking for a pack of cigarettes or a map, refereeing noisy children in the backseat, reading a map, looking at something on the roadside (like a house or car for sale), applying makeup--you name it. All of these are distractions, too, but no one ever pushes for legislation regarding any of those things.

Heck, here is the story of someone who was killed, admitedly at his own hand, due to a distraction from dimming his lights. Are we going to outlaw dimming your lights while driving?

In 1999, in Tucson AZ (where I lived at the time), a teenage-driver hit and killed a woman on the roadside while she was jogging. They later-on determined the crash was due to his being distracted while changing a song on his car stereo. That's a distraction, and one that lead to a death. BUT, here's my point--was there the same level of outcry for that analogous to what would've occurred had the accident been due to a cellular-phone based distraction? Not at all. The uproar that occurred was downright minuscule compared to the uproar that occurs when a cellular-phone accident occurs, even if no one is killed. Here you have a lady killed due to a distraction, but since the distraction is not due to cellular phone usage, there's no uproar.

Call me crazy, but I call that bigotry.

This is a type of double-standard, and even, I'd say, a form of discrimination similar to racism, or discrimination based on religion, sex, politics--anything. I agree with none of it. I will even go so far as to state that I think anyone who is for this is as much of a bigot as someone who dislikes minority groups, Jews, women, African-Americans--any of it. Yes, I said it--you're a bigot.

Bigotry is the only word I can describe to explain why there is such a heated push for the banning of cellular phones while driving, but no such push to ban things such as the application of makeup, eating, waving at a friend on the sidewalk, reading a map--any of that. If there is going to be such a law, what they should do is lump all of it under a "driving while distracted" type of rule that covers all types of distractions and doesn't single out one particular type over all others based on sheer hatred and bigotry.

Besides that, though, there are those that can, somehow, perform such tasks and never crash. I personally feel that if someone has an excellent driving record free of accidents (or they're, say, 10 years or more apart), they should be left alone to drive as they please--eating, texting, reading, all of it. After all, it's all about safety, right--and they're proven they're safe. Let them be, leave them alone. I would say the same thing for speed limits and "rolling stops" as well--but that's for another posting.

In closing, I will say it again--if you support the banning of cellular phones in doctor's offices, restaurants and the like but don't express any such opinions regarding noisy children, noisy talking in general, and other disruptive behaviors--but simply the cellular phone usage, then yes you are a bigot. If you support the banning of cellular phone activities while driving but are fine & dandy with eating while driving, applying make-up while driving, waiving to your friend walking on the sidewalk while driving--then again, you are a bigot.

Besides all of this, though, I guarantee you that 95% of the persons that approve of this law engage in other distracting behaviors like what I listed, but would not appreciate any laws intruding on their "right" to do those things. You can't have it both ways--if you are going to stick your nose into my business inside my car regarding what I'm doing or not doing with my cellular phone on the road, I think it only fair we start sticking our nose into your business regarding whether you're eating in there, whether you're reading a map (or GPS) in there, any of it. It's only fair.


(with a description of content or where the pertinent information is located within the page)

(Story #5)

(last 3 paragraphs)

("Opponents of the legislation, "I think some people")

(California bans carrying pet in laps while driving, a distraction) (alternative link)

RushOnLine, an apparent "non-official" Rush Limbaugh site with article, including various letters (written to Rush, or whom?) with opposition to cellular laws expressed.

#25 is the Best, But All Of It's Good

Movie Theatres Considering Devices to Jam Cellular Phones, Includes a Comment by Me Link #2

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dog Responsibility

No kidding--today, on the day I'm posting this, down the road from here, a 10-year old was mauled to death by two dogs, you can read the story here1 and here2. (Both links also show comments I posted.) This actually happened barely a mile from where I live, and in an area I'm known to go bike-riding sometimes.

Apparently, the 10 year old was visiting his friends' house, as opposed to (say) roaming around (I don't know why that matters, if it does), but regardless, I find this sort of thing outrageous, and an affront to responsible dog owners everywhere. I've railed and railed to no end about how annoying, for instance, the noise of a dog barking is, about neighbors who let their dogs run loose and then blame you for not erecting a fence when their dog roams into YOUR PRIVATE YARD and causes destruction (tore-up trash bags, food eaten, holes dug, chasing your cat, etc).

I often-times wonder--would such dog owners appreciate it if I were to, say, get a wild tiger or giraffe without restraining it, and then upon it wandering into their yard causing destruction respond "well they're just doing what comes natural to them, nothing I can do, maybe you ought to put a fence up if you hate giraffes so much." Or, say, if I get a wild bear and it roars all the time and wakes people up, respond to their complaints "I have him for protection in case a stranger comes up, that roar makes me feel safe."

Of course they wouldn't appreciate it, as well they shouldn't. Fine, then--how come these ignoramuses around here think dogs are any different?

Here is a letter to the editor3 from me, it appeared in the Longview News-Journal newspaper:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm new to the Leverett's Chapel area and live about 1 mile away from where Justin Clinton was mauled to death by two pitbulls.

I mean no disrespect, but what is with the people who have no sense of responsibility for their dogs? I've been known to bicycle in the area where this occurred, which I have every right to do, and dogs are constantly running out in the road upon sight. Is it really that difficult to put a dog on a chain, or erect an invisible electric fence? I have every right to bicycle on a public road without that sort of harassment, or worse. I'm not going to stop bike-riding, but do I now have to seek legal counsel to find out what sort of weapons I can start carrying with me?

I own a dog, but it is chained every minute I'm not home and outside supervising it, every minute, even though I'm well off any roads, secluded in the woods. I do so because what few neighbors I do have are perfectly within their rights to not want my dog wandering on their land or bothering them, even though my dog is harmless.

There is no excuse for the sort of irresponsibility I'm seeing around here.

— Larry R Harrison Jr, Laird Hill

Hey, I love dogs in general, and if a stray dog approaches me from the road but is actually acting friendly, I will WELCOME it and pet it in return. No reason to get upset in that case, just be friendly back I say. I'm easy-going in those cases. But when they come into the road shouting (ok, barking) at me, nipping at my heels? Like I said, I'm on a public road, I have every right to not have to put up with it for a single minute.

I don't know the details of what happened here, yet anyway, but I do know that this sort of thing is outrageous and should not be happening. What's also messed up is that responsible dog owners, like my best friend, people like that who would never be in the middle of something like this, are the targets of scorn & backlash when he & others like him are nothing but totally responsible dog owners who deserve no backlash at all. It's unfair for him and others, I've said about him that if all dog owners were like him there would be no trouble, and that's true.

I love my dog myself, but it doesn't walk on water and not everyone around me feels the same about it as I do. It has no business trespassing on other people's land or bothering someone on a public road. That is my responsibility, not someone else's to learn to live with it.

Or, in this case, (apparently) die on account of it.


1KLTV Story #1
2KLTV Story #2
3Longview News-Journal, letters to the editor, 6-23-2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Noise Pollution: One Area I'm Not Conservative


One area where my opinions, perhaps, don't line up with what I hear from other conservatives is with regard to noise.

I totally believe in the idea of the existence of noise pollution.

I make no bones about it: especially in the privacy of my own home, but even to an extent when I'm elsewhere, I have the expectation of quiet. Yes, I have children, and yes I still expect it. Yes I have a dog, and yes--I still expect it.

The term noise pollution is used because, to me, it applies. It really is a form of pollution, just like smog in the air or bad chemicals in the water. It is a degration of the environment. It may not lead to cancer or lead poisoning, but it will effect you enough that the stress from it can certainly adversely effect the quality of your life and, possibly, even your health.

As such, I believe we are obligated to not make noise that bothers other people, especially at their home environment or in inherently stressful locations like waiting rooms, or especially "dignified" places like church. The ones being exposed are NOT obligated to "tune it out." The noise-makers are obligated to "turn if off."

Many more liberals, it seems, are "on board" with the idea of the existence of noise as at least a serious nuisance and possibly even a form of pollution, I hear far fewer conservatives speak of this. So be it. If this makes me a "sort of" liberal, or at least a non-consistent conservative, then so be it.

Many of you who've known me for years know that I grew up in eastern NC until age 27, I lived for 10 years in Tucson AZ, since 2006 I now live in eastern TX. I will say that Tucson AZ, although it was the noisiest place of them all (because it was a large city of 500,000 or so), it was a place that had much more respect for this concept. That may be because Tucson AZ is considered a liberal-biased city, and this concept seems to have more liberal connotations to it for some reason.

Again, so be it--I'm all for it.

Especially now that we have a place where the nearest neighbor is some 100 yards away, through a decent patch of woods, and we live in a private road that only services about 5 households total (including ours and the one 100 yards away), and since the others are even further away than this, and especially since (again) it is a PRIVATE road--my expectations for quiet are extremely high. Thankfully, they have been met here for the most part.

As I tell people all the time, there is a reason we live in the boonies.

I have the expectation that, simply enough, if a noise is irratating, I shouldn't have to hear it. Period. I shouldn't have to "learn to live with it," or find coping measures--it simply should be dealt with, simply enough--eliminated.

Again, this especially applies for me if I'm on my property.

Main Sources

The 4 main sources of irritating noises for me

  • Barking Dogs
  • Crying Infants, Other Loud Children
  • Loud Car Mufflers and Engines
  • Sirens

The 1st one is one that I have run into problems with in eastern TX, where apparently if some one's dog is barking and it bothers you, then it's YOUR problem and not the responsibility of the source person to eliminate it. I find that puzzling. If I had an exotic tiger or hippopotamus and it roared loudly, I guarantee you half the block would be all over me to get rid of it. How come, with dogs, it's a different story? I don't get that, and I don't accept that double standard either. I should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER (and I stress--never) have to hear my neighbor's dog bark. Period. 3 seconds in a 5 year period? Yes, that's too much to listen to. I am serious.

I am happy to say, at our current location, this isn't a problem. If it were, I'd be all over it, no apologizing. And yes I have a dog, and yes I am all over him if he barks for any reason at all. Burglars, mailmen, UPS delivery guys, the man on the moon--it makes no difference. ZIP IT, I tell him, and I take care of business emphatically if he doesn't.

Crying children also is a huge problem for me--and again, I blame the source. I don't understand why, in waiting rooms, airplanes, grocery stores, church and the like, I have to listen to this. It's irritating, and yes I am a parent and yes I forbid children under my care from being noisy--not just for my sake, but for everyone else's. It is my responsibility to not inflict noise on others through my children. If others are okay with it, fine, but they are under no obligation to be, I am the one under the obligation--to stop it, by any means necessary (and yes, that would include discipline if they're old enough).

Much in the way of car noise bothers me too. Sirens and cars with loud mufflers are key issues. However, I also dislike the noise of 4-wheelers, jetskiis, motor boats, and even cars themselves in some situations. Again, there is a reason I live on a private drive. I don't want cars around me, and I really don't want to hear a siren wailing or a car with no muffler roaring so loudly you can hear it on Jupiter.


Gosh I love it out here. So quiet you can hear the crickets, the frogs, and practically nothing else. That is the way it ought to be everywhere. (Well maybe except at a Tar Heels basketball game.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Long Monologue on Freedom, Circa 2002

I originally composed this 8/3/2002, and it was part of the opinions section of my personal web pages back then. I've slightly edited it but it basically is left unchanged from then.

I am sick of tired of these communist, socialist types thinking that any single solitary thing that has the slightest, most minuscule chance of affecting them in any way at all should be subject to governmental interference in our lives. With people like this, there is never an end to it--no place is considered sacred and private enough for the government to just leave us the heck alone and quit micromanaging everything.

Already we require people to wear seatbelts, and some states ban the usage of cellular phones while driving--and we applaud this as "safety." You think it's going to stop with the inside of your car? It ain't. It ain't even going to stop with seatbelts, or cellular phones; it's merely the start.

Next thing you know, they are going to want to ban all music in the car--and I'm not talking about regulating volume, but totally abolishing all music listening. Why? Because changing the CD, radio station or cassette may distract you. Then, no eating in the car. Drive-thrus will be banned. Cup holders. Makeup holders. Ashtrays. Smoking in the car will be disallowed because of the off-chance that you might hit a bump and burn yourself with a cigarette butt. Or, we may require all drivers to wear sunglasses, to protect from the chance of a crash occurring due to sun-glare.

At some point, it may be decided that children are too much of a distraction in the car, so all children will be banned. Then, it will follow that sticky leather seats are uncomfortable and may lead to the driver being less focused on driving due to the discomforts of the seats, so now all cars will have to be brought in and brought up to code--even if you don't want it that way. Then, it will be discovered that any conversation with anyone in the car at all can be distracting, so no more conversation. If a crash occurs, hidden tape recorders or satellite spy system will reveal how much conversation occurred in the car. If it's deemed excessive, you will be cited.

It doesn't stop with the inside of your car.

Next thing you know, all snow skiing will be banned. Someone will decide that snow skiing is a stupid and useless activity, and if you dare to engage in it you risk hurting yourself and thus effectively increasing medical insurance rates for everyone else. So under the guise of "everytime you go skiing you risk increasing my insurance rates so it IS my business," all snow skiing will be banned. Next, they will discover that hang-gliding is dangerous and risky, and those who engage in it create excessive medical insurance rates for everyone else. So now you will no longer be allowed to hang-glide--unless of course you follow governmental regulations in how you do it.

Meanwhile,in southern AZ (where I lived at the time I wrote this article) you can't go diving into the lake from the rocks at Lake Patagonia--even though in spots it's 30 feet deep--because someone is worried you might hurt yourself and require expensive medical treatment, increasing medical costs for everyone else. (Either that or they're worried about lawsuits.) What's funny, and great to see frankly, is that I've observed plenty of people jumping from that spot regardless--totally rejecting such governmental busy-bodiness. I say "right on" to them.


Next thing you know it will be announced that 80% of all injuries occur in the home. No sooner does that little nugget of information get announced than the government (and communist/socialist types) will use this as an excuse to regulate what you do in the privacy of your own home! No more using inverted 5 gallon buckets to reach the ceiling to change a light bulb. Doing this will risk you getting a governmental fine, and someone like these socialists will consider such busy-bodiness totally justified because "when you hurt yourself behaving foolishly it affects my health insurance premiums," and you will be made to feel like a selfish, ignorant, uneducated, "stuck in yesteryear" good-for-nothing Big-Red Tobacco- chewing backwoods dumb-blinking pickup truck-driving mobile-home dwelling embicle for thinking that what you do in your own home is, (egads!), no one else's business. After all, if it can be established that what you're doing effects someone else in ANY way, why then you no longer have any rights to freedom whatsoever.

And those of you who like to smoke? Oh, you've felt plenty of aggravation already, but beware those who would try & prevent you from doing this in your own home either. Even though it's your health and hence your own business--and certainly you've heard all the warnings by now--nonetheless, someone will, under the guise of saving you from yourself OR more likely
under the guise of protecting their health insurance premiums from surcharging--they will use this as a justification for thinking it's okay to invade your privacy in your own home and tell you that smoking is now illegal and not allowed any longer.

All to save themselves a few bucks a year on their insurance premiums.

Meanwhile in southern Arizona it has now become law that all new homes built in Pima County must conform to handicapped accessibility rules--PRIVATE built homes. Not apartment complex, not office buildings, not governmental buildings, restaurants, etc. YOUR PRIVATE HOME for crying out loud. And to think there are those who applaud this!

What is so scary to me is that such idiots like this exist in this country, and still think this way even after September 11th should've waken them up.

Well to me it's proof that there is no hope for these people, for if even September 11th couldn't wake them up, NOTHING can.

I say:

If you like to smoke, fine. Frankly, smoking is just about the stupidest thing a person can do. It's unhealthy and it's a burden to our public health system. But before I concern myself with that, I am more concerned with preserving the freedoms that make this country what it is. If that means I have to resist the urge to butt my Pinocchio-sized nose into someone else's business and meddle in their private life under the guise of protecting them from their stupid choices, and if my health insurance is a little higher because I'm subsidizing their doing this---so be it. The preciousness of freedom is worth it to me.

Folks, you should be scared off of your carcus that there are idiots out there who, knowing fully well the sacrifices our forefathers made to establish a country of freedom and staying out of other people's affairs, nonetheless are willing to trade all of that away just to save a few bucks a year on their medical insurance rates. They can NEVER be satisfied and place limits on how much of your private life they make your business under the guise of safety, insurance rates, etc. You think seat belts is as far as that will go? Think again.

They think it's okay to make you wear a helmet on your motorcycle, when it's YOUR HEAD and not theirs--all because their insurance rates are more important to them than the privelage of freedom which our forefathers fought and died for. (Thank God where I live that's not the law; common sense still exists by God!) They think it's okay to butt their nose into the lives of
smokers even if they're smoking in their own home. They think it's okay to get inside your car and micromanage every single thing you're doing and try and stop you from doing anything that may increase their insurance rates or risk a bit--however minscule it may be. They think it's okay to tell you that you HAVE to build your home to suit handicapped people--even those who
don't live with you--even though it's your house and you have every right as far as I am concerned to make it as inaccessible to anyone as you jolly darn-well please.

Folks, you should be scared off of your carcus that such meddling socialists-types exist in this country. You should tell them to mind their own business. Tell them to get a history book and learn something about the history of this country, because apparently they are totally ignorant about it.