Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘common sense’

Texting teen drivers

Posted by Richard on November 14, 2007

A few weeks ago, after I had a close call with a texting driver and saw a bizarre news story about another, I ranted a bit about the phenomenon, suggesting that texting while driving might just qualify as “felony stupidity.” Well, a new survey suggests that it’s astonishingly common among young people:

DENVER — A survey by AAA Colorado found 51 percent of Colorado teens admitted to sending or receiving text messages while driving. That means they were either typing or reading the screen while driving.

The survey also found that 66 percent of Colorado teens admitted to talking on their cell phones while driving. The Colorado figures are much higher than those found in a recent national survey, where the rates were 46 percent of teens who text and 51 percent who talk, AAA said.

The teens surveyed almost unanimously (97%) considered the practice dangerous, and 73% thought strict penalties would help.

I don’t want to get on a high horse regarding risk-taking by young people. Lord knows, my friends and I engaged in some behavior involving cars that โ€” well, it’s a wonder we managed to survive. But we were endangering ourselves and others because our judgment was temporarily impaired. What excuse do these texting fools have?

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Texter hits train

Posted by Richard on October 19, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving up I-25 minding my own business when the car to my left started to drift into my lane. I leaned on the horn and slowed down. The other car recovered and remained in his lane, but through the rear window, I could see that the driver was holding his cell phone at the top of the steering wheel and punching keys without pause.

That was the first time I became aware — because of the close call — of the "texting while driving" phenomenon. Now conscious of it, I've since noticed a couple of other instances. So far, thank goodness, I haven't seen the level of distraction exhibited by texter Robert Gillespie of Eugene, Oregon. He ran into the side of a freight train that he failed to notice while texting. 

As a libertarian, I'm convinced we have far too many laws and regulations. But I've long argued, semi-tongue-in-cheek, that there's a case to be made for a "misdemeanor stupidity" statute for behavior that's just too dumb to tolerate. This "texting while driving" crap makes me wonder if there should be a "felony stupidity" category as well.

What's going on here? Are we breeding common sense and even the drive for self-preservation out of the gene pool? This is stupid squared, it's apparently astonishingly common, and it gets people killed.

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More nanny-statism

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2007

A nanny is someone who watches after your children on your behalf, right? Well, according to the Christian Science Monitor, there's a growing movement to make many states more literally into nanny states. Connecticut is leading the way:

…Connecticut has become the first state in the nation to introduce legislation that would require MySpace, other social networking sites, and chat rooms to verify the ages of their users. Any postings by those under 18 would require parental permission. Failure to comply would result in a fine to the Internet company of $5,000 per incident.

The goal is for the law to become a model for national legislation. As many as 20 state attorneys general are now considering similar bills.

"The basic idea here is that the parents should be empowered, and they should be put back in control if their children are below a certain age," says Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who's leading the fight for this type of legislation in Connecticut and around the country. "That's why age verification along with parental permission is key."

How, exactly, does taking responsibility for kids' online behavior away from the parents and giving it to the state government "empower" those parents?

And how, exactly, are MySpace and the like supposed to verify ages and permissions? Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal seems to think it's a piece of cake:

The Connecticut bill would require networking sites to verify that a user either is 18 or older or has parental permission to have a profile. Dozens of Internet companies already provide age-verification tools. So this is how it would work: When a person provides information to a networking site, such as name, date of birth, or address, the site would put that information through verification sites, which would cross-check it against public records like driver's licenses, voter-registration information, land records, and local tax records. This process is already used for such things as online sales of alcohol and cigarettes.

Umm, OK —  but it works for sales of alcohol and cigarettes because those have to be paid for with a credit card and delivered to you. You can't just give the website any old name and address.

MySpace and the like face a completely different situation. Let's say Paul Pervert, 43, wants to impersonate a 14-year-old boy on MySpace in order to befriend young girls. Looking at whatever registration process they use, he sees that he needs the permission of a parent/guardian. "OK," he says, picking up a phone book, "I'm … [flip, flip, flip] … John Smith at 123 Elm Street, and my son Sammy has my permission to join MySpace."

Odds are John Smith has a driver's license, pays taxes, etc., so Paul passes the verification process. If not, Paul can try again. If they make it really tough, maybe Paul has to do some research of the most basic identity-theft variety (how hard is it to find someone's birthdate or driver's license number?). 

No, this kind of legislation won't make kids safer. But it'll make a lot of gullible parents feel better, help the sponsoring AGs and legislators flaunt their good intentions and troll for votes, and add to the revenue of the verification service providers. Someone should check into whether AG Richard Blumenthal owns stock in any of the latter.

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Veiled threat, part 2

Posted by Richard on January 3, 2007

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we learned that the burqa is the preferred dress for wanted murderers who’d like to sail through British airport security? Well, now it turns out that the burqa is also popular with jewel thieves in India. And, of course, the jewelry store owners had to apologize for being so insensitive as to suggest that they didn’t want people completely concealed in burqas snatching up jewelry and running off:

Jewelers in western India have apologized to Muslims for proposing to ban women wearing burqas from their shops following a series of thefts by burqa-clad customers.

British radio (BBC) reports that the jewelers association in the city of Pune withdrew its request Friday for a ban on serving women who wear face veils or burqas. The association says it decided not to pursue the ban for fear of offending religious sentiments.

Jewelers asked police for the ban after surveillance cameras showed veiled thieves stealing. Shopkeepers and police say they cannot identify them because their faces are covered.

The jewelers say the request was a security measure and was not targeted at minority Muslims in Pune.

The request sparked tensions among local Muslim leaders who said the ban discriminated against Muslim women.

I’ve got a couple of questions. First, why are women who aren’t supposed to show any portion of their body in public or experience any pleasure so interested in jewelry anyway? Second, when will someone have the stones to tell outraged Muslims, "We’ll tolerate your burqas and niqabs in our jewelry stores and airports as soon as you tolerate our bikinis and beer in Riyadh."
 

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Veiled threat

Posted by Richard on December 20, 2006

A couple of months ago, many Muslims were outraged when British MP Jack Straw politely suggested that Muslim women uncover at least their noses and mouths when meeting with him:

Jack Straw, the ex-foreign secretary, has angered Muslim groups by suggesting women who wear veils over their face can make community relations harder.

The Blackburn MP says the veil is a "visible statement of separation and of difference" and he asks women visiting his surgery to consider removing it.

The remarks attracted an angry response from some organisations representing Muslims.

It was "astonishing" that Mr Straw chose to "selectively discriminate on the basis of religion", said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Rajnaara Akhtar, who chairs the organisation Protect-Hijab, suggested the "appalling" comments showed "a deep lack of understanding".

Mr Straw was putting women "into a very awkward position by compromising the faith they believe in and that is ill-placed", Council of Lancashire Mosques chairman Hamid Kureshi told BBC Radio Five Live.

Well, now we know at least one reason why radical Muslims stridently defend the wearing of the burqa and niqab: it makes it so much easier for terrorists wanted for murder to travel freely in and out of countries that value political correctness and multi-culturalism above security, common sense, and equality before the law:

Only here in the UK could this happen, Mustaf Jama wanted over the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, assumed his sister’s identity — wearing the niqab and using her passport — to evade supposedly stringent checks at Heathrow, according to police sources.

The use of the niqab, which leaves only a narrow slit for the eyes, highlights flaws in British airport security. At the time, Jama was Britain’s most wanted man, while Heathrow was on a heightened state of alert after the 7/7 terrorist atrocities in London five months previously. Not so much a secure state as an episode of the Keystone Cops.

Detectives believe that Jama, 26, was allowed to board an international flight from Heathrow because no attempt was made to uncover his face.

A good libertarian argument can be made against requiring airline passengers to identify themselves. But this is simply absurd: They require IDs — and demand that the name on the ID exactly match the name on the ticket. They check those IDs against a terrorist watch list. But if you say, "I’m a Muslim woman and I don’t believe in showing my face," (actually, you don’t have to say anything, so your voice won’t give you away), they just wave you right through.

It’s reverse profiling — taking the least precaution with the highest-risk passengers. Welcome to Bizarro World.
 

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Common sense partially restored at FAMS

Posted by Richard on August 25, 2006

I was under the misapprehension that the Federal Air Marshal Service’s idiotic dress code had been scrapped after the moronic former director Thomas Quinn left. Quinn insisted that male air marshals wear suits or sport coats, dress shirts, ties, and properly shined dress shoes. If you’ve flown anywhere lately, you know just how conspicuous these guys were.

As an aside, I’ve read dozens of stories over the past few years about FAMS, many having to do with the dress code controversy, and I don’t recall a single one mentioning female air marshals. Surely, there are female air marshals — why do all these sensitive, diversity-embracing, equality-endorsing journalists churn out story after story describing a coat-and-tie dress requirement for men without saying something about the women’s dress code?

At some point, the rules were “relaxed” in undisclosed, but minor, ways — apparently, ties became optional and casual shirts were permitted as long as they still had a collar and were covered by a sport coat. Now, Quinn’s successor, Dana Brown, has gone further:

Brown told air marshals in the memo that the policy was being amended to “allow you to dress at your discretion.”

He added that the new policy was designed to let air marshals blend in while concealing their weapons.

Frank Terreri, an air marshal who is president of an association that represents about 1,500 of his colleagues, said yesterday he welcomed the changes.

“It’s really a huge step in maintaining the federal air marshals’ anonymity,” Terreri said.

Complaints that the loosening of the restrictions did not go far enough to help shield air marshals’ identities led the service to issue the new policy yesterday, officials said.

Brown is also allowing air marshals to choose their own hotels, within some spending and other guidelines:

Marshals claimed that their undercover status was threatened because they had to stay at designated hotels and show their credentials when checking in.

A recent report to Congress found that the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel in Florida had designated the Federal Air Marshal Service “company of the month” because of the number of rooms it had reserved at the hotel.

I’ll bet that “WELCOME AIR MARSHALS” sign out front didn’t help, either. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Brown sounds like a vast improvement over Quinn, but this isn’t a total victory for common sense. For one thing, Brown’s memo said the policy changes take effect on Sept. 1st — what the heck is the point of the delay? Why not immediately? “For the next week, please continue following the admittedly stupid existing dress rules. The Department of Mindless Bureaucracy requires that all changes in personnel rules take effect on the first day of the month.”

For another thing, Brown still hasn’t addressed the major remaining problem undermining air marshals’ anonymity: they’re required to board the plane before any “civilian” passengers. When you’re among the first passengers down the ramp, and you step into the plane and see a guy in a sport coat seated in row 23, well… don’t piss him off, he’s armed.

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