Wednesday, July 06, 2005
What... how... who...?
This is a felony? On what planet? Yeah, if he was messing with kiddies or stealing credit info... But just using it? A felony? Explain. Why do we keep letting idiots write and interpret our laws?
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I worked my ass off to beat these ideas into my students' heads. I just wish more people would understand that those rules apply when you're behind the wheel too. A car is every bit as much a lethal implement as a pistol. The difference is that most of us handle those deadly weapons everyday and in far too casual a manner.
Familiarity breeds contempt. The average tenure for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is 7 years. Rookies don't get shot. The people who 'know what they're doing' get shot.
Certain situations require a level of attention and care unlike the rest of daily life. When you are operating a car you are operating a deadly weapon in the middle of a crowd of people. When my dad was teaching me to drive he related a lesson that his dad taught him when he was learning. They were driving down a residential street with cars parked on either side. My grandpa asked "What would you do if a child darted out between those two cars?" My dad answered, "I'd hit him." My grandfather simply said, "But you mustn't."
The first and most important of these lessons is this: it all comes down to you.Many people squirm and avoid and deny, but the fact is, you assume the same ethical burden when you step behind the wheel as when you pick up a gun. I hope you're as responsible behind the wheel as you would be with a loaded .357.
No one's finger is on the trigger but your own. All the talk-talk in your head, all the emotions in your heart, all the experiences of your past — these things may inform your choice, but they can't move your finger. All the socialization and rationalization and justification in the world, all the approval or disapproval of your neighbors — none of these things can pull the trigger either. They can change how you feel about the choice, but only you can actually make the choice. Only you. Only here. Only now. Fire, or not?
A second is this: never count on being able to undo your choices.
If you shoot someone through the heart, dead is dead. You can't take it back. There are no do-overs. Real choice is like that; you make it, you live with it — or die with it.
A third lesson is this: the universe doesn't care about motives.
If your gun has an accidental discharge while pointed an unsafe direction, the bullet will kill just as dead as if you had been aiming the shot. "I didn't mean to" may persuade others that you are less likely to repeat a behavior, but it won't bring a corpse back to life.
These are hard lessons, but necessary ones. Stated, in print, they may seem trivial or obvious. But ethical maturity consists, in significant part, of knowing these things — not merely at the level of intellect but at the level of emotion, experience and reflex. And nothing teaches these things like repeated confrontation with life-or-death choices in grave knowledge of the consequences of failure.
In that light, is it really worth it to get pissed at another driver who, for all you know, is an unmedicated schizophrenic? Would you play russian roulette? Then why do you engage in pissing matches with other drivers? Like I told my students: Let go of ego. When the stakes are this high, anything that gets everyone home alive counts as a win.
A 2 ton hunk of steel travelling at 70mph is just as lethal as a 230gr piece of lead travelling 900fps. Basic physics. Be mindful of what you're doing.
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Bekki, yeah I got the point about the first part of the penny case. I should have been more clear. My objection was to this:
"One of the consequences of your chicanery is to incur the expenses associated with it," said the judge. "This time it's $533." To exclude the possibility that Powell might again ante up in pennies, the judge specifically directed that Powell pay by cashier's check, money order or "folding money."I don't believe that the judge has the authority to prohibit payment in the form of a specific unit of legal tender, for the same reason that he wasn't in contempt of court. So, this guy should be able to pay the second judgement in 53,300 pennies, plus however many more pennies would constitute the bank fees to have it converted into folding money. I simply don't believe that the judge has that authority any more than they have the authority to mandate payment by check, visa, or silver dollars, because of the whole 'for all debts' part. Pennies are either money or they're not. Ensuring that the first guy doesn't have to bear an additional burden is one thing, ordering that an individual in possesion of legal tender not use that tender for a specific debt seems like real shaky ground.
Nevertheless, the court ordered Powell to pay $533 -- $350 of which was attorney fees. The judge said he had learned his lesson though, and required that Powell pay these expenses "by cashier's check or money order, or, if you choose to do so, five $100 bills, a $20 bill, a $10 bill and three $1 bills -- all in folding money."
I still think that this guy was being petty and spiteful in a remarkably stupid way. In Texas I believe they call this cussedness. There are ways to make someone suffer that are much less likely to irk the system. But I think the judge allowed his irritation to compromise his objectivity. (No one likes nitpicking when it favors assholes, but as recent events have clearly demonstrated, our nation needs a nitpickers guild dedicated to the judiciary full-time.)
Actually, I kinda hope that it does get taken further in court. Pennies are such a strange aspect to our currency that it'd be good to have a discussion about their place in our money system. They cost more to mint than they're worth, yet they allow our economy more fluidity than if we were limited to multiples of 5. (IMNSHO we need to revalue our currency, but that idea won't arrive for a decade at least.)
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I came across this long ago but in light of the upcoming Supreme Court nomination quagmire it seems more relevant than ever. This is exactly why I'm pro-choice. It makes me soooo nervous to hear women of my generation talking about how abortions should be more restricted, that people shouldn't be allowed to use it as birth control, yaddayadda. Well, 2 of my high school friends have had abortions, that I know of. One was raped and wasn't willing to even name her attacker. One was in a stable long term relationship, had an abortion, and continued to be sexually active though she 'couldn't afford birth control.' I've been an intimate witness to both extremes of the practice.
My position is simply rooted in the belief that the government is the worst possible decision maker on this issue. If either of my friends needed permission to have an abortion, it would have been even worse. If abortion is only allowed in cases of rape, who decides if a woman was really raped? Do we demand that the victim name her attacker or bear his product? That's barbaric. (You can't imagine abortion rates in post-war east Germany.) If my other friend was obliged to seek permission prior to a second abortion, would her earlier abortion be held as evidence against her? Shall we limit each woman to a certain number of abortions per lifetime?
It is impossible to have two bearers of a full set of rights existing within one body. Government has NO BUSINESS in a woman's womb. I can't imagine why anyone whose ever been to the DMV would aspire to give this kind of control to others of the same ilk.
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