Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Missive From the Ministry

Silly me. I had no idea when I lampooned the proposal of New Jersey Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker to require every bicycle on the road or trail here in the State of Concrete Gardens to have a license plate affixed to it that she was merely the Tip of the Spear as it were. While Ms. Tucker's convictions proved to be short on courage - she withdrew the proposal if not in the next breath then in the one only one or two removed from its original utterance, she has been proven to be but one mason puttering around on Hell's highway.

Perhaps because I am not a cyclist but a runner - or more properly "a person who runs" as the former denotes a proficiency level not required by the latter and not present in Yours truly - the latest barrage of proposed personal policing legislation seems to me more intrusive than amusing. According to an article in the New York Times, "The ubiquity of interactive devices has propelled the science of distraction - and now efforts to legislate against it - out of the car and into the exercise routine." In New York and in several other states across the U.S. of A. there is a move afoot (pun intended) to enact legislation of various types regulating the wearing of and listening to iPods and other devices by runners, joggers, walkers and by that great unlicensed scourge known as cyclists.

The New York legislation proposes to ban the use of mobile phones, iPods and other electronic devices while crossing the street. The article in the Times employed the word "use" to describe the conduct that the legislation proposes to proscribe. Having not seen the proposed legislation, I am curious as to how the word "use" is defined within it. Is the mere wearing of an iPod or the carrying of a mobile phone "use"? If it is not - and I would presume that it would not be, then how is "use" defined? And more importantly, how is "use" to be enforced? Theoretically an officer would have to be able to hear the sound emanating from the device or to see the person talking into the phone receiver while the offender was in the process of crossing the street. Good luck with that on a crowded Manhattan street.

And presuming that the officer can detect a sound emanating from an electronic device, at what decibel level is the noise deemed to be a distraction. Candidly, while I presume that the legislators who propose such nonsense would like their enactments to be strict liability statutes (a/k/a "any audible noise is illegal noise") it would surprise me to see such legislation withstand judicial review. Think not? Try this on for size: every State in these United States has an established blood alcohol concentration that when one meets or exceeds it he is presumed to be legally intoxicated. Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, our "limit" is 0.08% BAC.

New Jersey law requires that the State prove beyond a reasonable doubt not simply that a person has consumed alcohol but that a person has consumed an amount of alcohol sufficient to meet or exceed a specified limit to prove that someone has operated a vehicle while intoxicated. Does it not follow therefore that the law shall require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that not simply that a person listened to his iPod while running across a street but that he did so at or above a level where he was running while distracted? How much noise is too much noise? More importantly, upon whose back is the impossible task of making that determination going to be placed? While I do not pretend to know the answer to the former, you know the answer to the latter as well as I.

Human beings are animals. Animals are creatures of habit. Animals shall engage in the same self-destructive, counter-productive, injurious behavior irrespective of how much effort is expended preventing us from doing so. Protection against stupidity is a noble cause but a fool's errand. I prefer the Social Darwinism construct myself. Stupid, inattentive people will continue to get struck by automobiles and other such horrible things until such time as they lower the decibel level on their iPod or put down their cell phone and concentrate sufficiently on what it is they are doing and the environs in which they are doing it. At some point if enough of them are killed in this exercise, then their genetic lines will die out. Survival of the fittest; right? If one really is too stupid to live, then who are we to intercede? That might be a touch cruel. We could perhaps erect signage in areas where we know these idiots are likely to cross streets much the same way that we post "DEER CROSSING" signs in high-traffic areas. I have no objection to the signage. However, it remains my position that it is neither the responsibility nor the right of the government to remove the "self" from self-regulation.

I am not the cutlery drawer's sharpest knife, although with the over sized nature and round shape of my head I am sometimes mistaken for the largest ladle. Even I possess the common sense and self-awareness to recognize that when I run through my neighborhood in the pre-dawn hours of the morning I leave my iPod at home and put on my reflective vest and my head lamp in an effort to not only heighten my sense of what is occurring around me but also to increase my visibility to those motorists who are .....well who are out motoring at 3:00 a.m. and might not expect to see some idiot running towards them. I police myself. I neither expect nor invite a member of the 'NTSG PD to do so.

I am not sure but I fear under the new world order envisioned by the do-gooders, this just might be an offense punishable by a hefty fine and a mandatory minimum hitch in the county jail. Potentially lousy day to be a jogger but one hell of a day to be a lawyer......

.....and who did you think comes up with these stupid laws anyway; the Teamsters?


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