Friday, September 29, 2006

Orgainzied Religion


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As I have grown older, I have come to distrust organized religion. It isn't the gods, or the ceremonies or the view of the afterlife that have bugged me. It is that word; "Organized".

Why do religions have to be organized? I can see having a shaman, or a priest, or a spiritual leader like a Rabi, but since when do people of the same faith have to come together to 'knock heads' so that other folks can see the one true way? All these folks claim to support peace and harmony, but all through the centuries, they just seem to keep racking up one hell of a body count.

I ran across this little presentation on the web recently, and it compliments this thought pretty well. We think of the Middle East as some place where we can walk in, throw out the bad dudes, and install a government to the peoples liking and everything will be hunky-dory. Only problem is, we don't really understand the mindset of the folks that live there. This isn't south Jersey. It is a battlefield that has been fought over for the past 3000 years. They see history in millennia, not in centuries. They see struggle over dozens of generations and not just the loss of their last son or daughter. We see the instant fix, they see the eternal struggle. Their concept of organized religion is a bit different than ours.

Imagine living in Baghdad and growing up knowing that your city has been over run by invaders for centuries. We aren't the first and certainly won't be the last.

The thought of giving 'democracy' to these people is somewhat humorous. It is like giving a big lollypop to a starving Darfur infant. It is a nice gesture, but it won't save their life. It will only give them a sugar buzz and diabetes.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Officer Friendly Is Bored

Selective Law Enforcement

I haven't really 'ranted' much recently so I feel that it is time to blow off a little steam. This all started about 2 years ago and it just seems to be snowballing. I am sure that it isn't over yet.

This has to do with the breakdown of American culture and society, and how it catches up with all of us sooner or later. The concept of law enforcement and equal protection under the law sort of left us somewhere between when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon and O.J. Simpson bought his way off death row. Laws have to do with money, and not controling the social fabric of a community anymore.

The fact that there is a stop light in the middle of no where, right next to a convience store, isn't to control traffic. It is to get you to stop, so you are more prone to buy something. If you run the red light......more money for the city.....IF THEY HAVE PHOTO RADAR!!!

For those of you that don't know what this is (it is common in the American Southwest), it is a way of giving out traffic tickets at random, with no human interaction. Traffic lights are rigged with radar guns and cameras, supposedly to catch cars that run the light when it is red. Sounds all fine and dandy on the surface. The radar sees you in the intersection when the light is red, it takes your picture (your face and the license plate of the car). The picture is run through DMV and they send a ticket to the registered owner of the car.

Only problem is, what if you aren't driving the car and the car is stolen? What if you are racing to the hosptial with your pregant wife? What if you entered the intersection on a yellow light and it changes red when you are in the middle (the latter is what happened to me).

You get the ticket anyway, and you have to go to court to explain it to the judge. Nice to know if someone steals your new Corvette, you lose your pride and joy, your insurance company only pays you 2/3rds of what it was worth...and THEN you get a ticket from the city becuase the theif ran a red light. You have to explain this all to the judge in person.

This is what happened to me. As I approached the interesection, the light turned yellow. I had a split second to either slam on my breakes (I was doing about 35mph) or roll through the intersection, which I knew from the drivers test was perfectly legal, as long as I entered it while the light was still yellow. Only problem is, the camera didn't know that. Off go the flashes and three weeks later I get a $180 ticket in the mail.

At this point I have two options. I can take a day off work and go to court and HOPE the judge is in a good mood and dismisses it, or he can be pissed off and let it stand in which case I have to pay the fine AND I get points against my driving record, which in turn would jack up my liability insurance.....OR....I can enroll in traffic school for $220, take an entire Sunday off, and sit for 8 hours in driving school and have the ticket 'expunged' from my record. It is obvious which one I chose to do. I would pay more and make sure my insurnace rates didn't go up. (the law is a matter of economics after all).

But dosent' end there.....ow no...not by a long shot.

Since I pretty much felt 'screwed' by the system at this point. I chose to make sure this didn't happen to me again. There is a way to combat the evil scurge of the Red Light Camera. It is call the license plate lens. A peice of plastic that goes over your license plate. Viewed from the back it looks normal. Viewed from the side, it blurs your plate so that the camera cannot photograph it. The laws in this state are ambigous about these lens'. The law states only that your plate has to be visible form a distance of 150 feet. It dosen't say from any angle. So they are not illegal per sae.

So a year after this red light incident, my wife and I are heading out to do some shopping. As we pull into a parking lot and police officer pulls in behind us and turns on his lights. I had been driving with the lens on my vehcile for over a year and have seen them on other much nicer cars than mine.

The following is a segment of the conversation that I had with 'Officer Friendly';

ME: "What did I do?"
HIM: "What do you think you did?"
ME: "I don't have a clue, what did I do?"
HIM: "Whats on your license plate?"
ME: "A lens cover?"
HIM: "You think that is legal?"
ME: "Can you read my plate from 150 feet away?"
HIM: "Sometimes when we are driving around in traffic, we get bored and run license plates at random to see if cars are stolen. I couldn't read yours. Wait here."

Officer friendly departs. Sits in his squad car for 10 minutes, then returns to my car and starts removing the lens cover from my car without even talking to me. He then comes to the window, explains that it IS illegal and confiscates the cover and gives me a $115 non-moving violation ticket.

End result, it has cost me over $300 so far. I didn't run a red light, and I didn't have an illegal cover on my license plate. But the city still 'extorted' $300 from me.

While officer friendly was writing me up. A Lexus drove past us in the parking lot with a cover over it's plate and someone could be heard 'peeling out' of the local intersection. But Officer friendly chose to write ME a ticket for having a lens on my 2000 Suzuki.

Conclusion_1: I will just replace the lens cover. A $115 non-moving violation ticket is still much cheaper than $220 and a Sunday in dentention.

Conclusion_2: Beware the bored police officer. If it is near the end of your shift and you have to write at least 20 tickets per day. Look for the white folks in the late model SUV that will be easy to write up. For god's sake, don't pull over the car full of hispanics that probably don't speak english, don't have insurance, and don't have drivers licenses. That would be too much work. Lets face it, I was an easy mark for Officer Friendly.

Conclusion_3: They are going to get you one way or another. There are hidden costs / taxes associated with living in the modern world. Better put together a rainy day fund for when the city comes knocking with it's hand out.

Ow, and one more thing. My other car is a Lotus Turbo Esprit. It will do 170mph. It has a lens cover on it as well. The next time Officer Friendly wants to pull me over....he is going to have to catch me.