Wednesday, May 21, 2008

California's 'Nanny' Legislature

In a previous post, I suggested that every time a new law is enacted, we should unenact another one. The California State Legislature doesn't read all of my posts, apparently. Nine new laws regulating driving are being proposed. My personal not-so-favorite is Senate Bill 1361, introduced by Louis Correa, D-Santa Ana (Orange County!? Who would have thought?!). The Bill would require those convicted of a dui (just one dui) to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. In this unique circumstance, I'm going to side with the Republican, Assemblyman Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) who said, concerning another related Bill, "We're a state that gets around by car. We are a car culture...Couple that with legislators who think government is the answer to everything, and you end up with the perfect storm". Amen. This bill, and others, like the one that prohibits driving with a live animal in your lap (no joke), are an example of the government run amock. Incidentally, driving with dead animals in your lap is going to remain legal; not to worry.

Cars are dangerous objects, weighing mostly between one and two tons, traveling through space at often unreasonably fast speeds; within inches of (and sometimes containing) our children. And there are millions of these objects all around us at all times. People get hurt. People die. It's tragic. However, lets look at the core issue: We shaped a society around cars, and we need, therefore, to confront the basic truth that there are going to be car accidents no matter what. So, what's to be done? You mean besides funding public transportation (i.e., the only change that is going to make a dent in the numbers of accidents)? I'm not sure. But what I am not in favor of is enacting law after law on false promises that doing so will make us any safer. The quote of Benjamin Disraeli, "lies, damned lies, and statistics", came to mind when I read that the CHP reported that 128 accidents in the state last year were caused, in part, by inattention due to an animal in a vehicle. Let's see, how many acts of driving were there last year in the State of California? (33 million (vehicles) times 365 (days in a year) times 4 (excursions per day)) = 48,180,000,000 (aka 50 billion). So, roughly speaking, the chance of being in an accident caused, in part, by inattention due to an animal in a vehicle is one in 376,406,250. But, hey, who said the Legislature isn't working hard to make a real difference in our lives? What will they think of next?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Word to the wise...

It happens that innocent people are charged criminally every day. Note that I didn't say that the majority of criminal charges are unfounded. However, don't think that just because you didn't do something illegal, you won't get accused of doing something illegal. Having said that, I wouldn't want to cause a law abiding person to stay up at night imagining that they are going to be whisked away to jail in the middle of the night by the SWAT team. That's called paranoia, and it's not what I'm trying to engender... Here's what I am asking you to worry about: If you are hanging around people that are up to illegal conduct, you are at far greater risk of being criminally charged for something you didn't do. Consider the plight of 96 young men arrested at San Diego State for alleged drug sales. Are all of them guilty? The truth is, I don't know. However, based on my experience, I would guess it is likely that some of the arrests were made largely by association. Whether it was membership in one of the fraternities targeted and/or being a recipient of a group text message or an email by a drug dealer concerning drug sales, it is not unlikely that at least a few of those 96 never sold drugs, nor did anything in furtherance of drug sales. If a large scale sting operation can happen at San Diego State, it can certainly happen at UCSB (and probably already is happening). So, aside from quitting your fraternity, and disassociating with drug users (which may have its advantages), what else can you do to protect yourself from being falsely accused? Well, first read about what happened at San Diego State. Young looking cops working undercover befriended fraternity members by showing up at parties and acting like college kids.

Ask yourself if you really know the people you are hanging with. What is it about them that would cause you to conclude that they couldn't be a cop? What you shouldn't ever think is that they are not a cop because you saw them get drunk, get in a fight, rent an apartment in IV, get high, buy drugs, share drugs, or sell drugs. You should neither rely on any statements that they make that tend to suggest that they are not cops (including, but not limited to, "no, I am not a cop", "I hate cops", "cops are pigs", etc.) The thing to understand is that cops are not only capable of lying, but lying is part of their day to day professional life. They lie frequently when they work under cover, and even in uniform they lie when they are investigating crime. They do so with the complete approval of their department when it is done for an approved purpose. In fact, they are trained to lie. Unlike any other set of professionals, they may lie with absolute impunity. What other group in society can say that about? None. Even used car salespeople (and most certainly lawyers - sorry, lawyer haters) face negative consequences if they are caught lying.

Another thing a UCSB student might do to avoid getting roped in with those who are up to no good is avoid people who are not affiliated with UCSB. It is true that a lot of City College students live in IV, and are, perhaps, planning to transfer to UCSB next Fall. However, if you don't go to school with them (i.e., see them in class, etc.), do you really know that they go to City College? And can't anyone, including a cop or someone who is up to no good enroll in one class at City College at a minimal cost and hassle in order to "fit in" in IV? Of course they can.

The best thing you can do to avoid being arrested is to obey the law. And to greatly limit the possibility that you will be accused of something you didn't do, you should avoid those who are breaking the law.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Graceful Parting

Judge Joseph Lodge (1932-2008), a pillar of the local criminal justice system, passed yesterday. He was the longest seated judge then on the bench in California (49+ years!). I knew him to be a highly intelligent and creative thinker, with a keen and personalized sense of justice who possessed a wealth of knowledge on a variety of topics, including medicine, psychology and, specifically, drug addiction. You never knew exactly what to expect from him on the bench, and I believe that's the way he wanted it. I thought I would publish the obituary he wrote himself, because I certainly can't say it any better than he can...and, what's more, he wouldn't want me to write it...of that, I am 100% certain!:

As fits with my character, I have written my own obituary. I was born February 21, 1932, in St. Paul, MN, and now I have died in Santa Barbara, CA. My peace in life was my wife, Sheila, and my dear children.
My journey, from my 1950’s days as a philosophy major at the University of Michigan, has been the exploration of all the great cosmic questions surrounding our lives. For some years I have felt at peace with the answers and insights I have found. I wish I could pass them on to those I love. It cannot be done. Each of us must find our own pathway through the density and darkness to at last find that you are "back in Kansas", standing where you were, so to speak, with everything so clear and obvious as to make you even question whether in fact you did "journey”.

I now end this with a deliberate (and important) misquote from Dylan Thomas -- I "DO go gentle into that good night".