Sunday, May 24, 2009

New rules

Rule #105: Queasy rider
Stop decrying motorcycle-helmet laws as affronts to "personal freedom." There is a reason motorists are required to wear seat belts, be sober, drive safe vehicles and follow traffic laws, and it's got nothing to do with infringing upon "personal freedom." See, the thing about public highways is that we all use them, and thus everyone has a shared responsibility to ensure that no one gets hurt. Motorcycle crashes have an astonishingly high mortality rate as it is, and riders have less protection than mandated in cars simply by design. It seems in every biker's best interest to wear helmets.

I know, I know, there's that whole thing about the wind through your hair. I know the feeling just from riding a bicycle, so I can only imagine the intense rush it must be at high speeds. But there's something else I know as well: concussions. I suffered one from ice skating that nearly caused permanent brain damage, and that was probably a 2 mph impact at most. Since then, I've had no problem wearing a helmet on my bike. I don't even need a law for that.

But we do need laws mandating motorcycle helmets. Not because it's a nanny-state thing, but because bikers, like all drivers, affect the actions of everyone else on the road. Accidents don't take their toll only on those who crash. It's not an attack on "personal freedom" to reduce the risk that the wind doesn't go through your scalp as it lies on some startled driver's windshield.

Years ago, I had a friend who was killed on a motorcycle. He was wearing a helmet and driving responsibly, but someone in a van failed to yield on a left turn. He hit it broadside, flew into two other cars and died at the scene. His passenger, also wearing a helmet, was left in a coma and required a long stretch of physical therapy to recover. The biker's helmet split in half, but his head supposedly remained intact. With such high risks involved all around, it's everyone's responsibility on the road to take the most protective measures and actions. Then we can all be free to get wherever we're going.

Rule #106: No slap on the terror wrist
Some perspective is needed regarding the closure of Guantanamo Bay. You really don't think U.S. prisons could hold these guys? Are they supermen? Ramzi Yousef spent a stint in custody at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, which is about three miles down the street from where I live. I've also driven past the Supermax in Florence, Colorado, where Yousef now shares cell space with the Unabomber and other scary people. The fortress looked pretty secure to me, though, to be fair, I was looking at it from the road. Maybe if I edged a few feet closer, I would have seen a foxhole or something.

But that's the rub with the Supermax; they put all of our worst terrorists together, and even let them mingle in common areas. Somehow, this doesn't result in anything, and our highly trained guards and state-of-the-art prison technology keeps them accounted for. I'm sure Coloradoans weren't thrilled to have Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski and Ramzi Yousef enter their borders, but the Supermax has to be somewhere, right?

The home where I grew up was a few blocks away from the city jail. That might seem like a bad proposition, but to paraphrase George Carlin, anyone who escapes the jail is going to go as far away from there as they can. And I never knew any criminals to run amok there.

It seems to me the very best thing we could do is bring these inmates to the United States. Yes, I think they all deserve real trials and not tribunals. That would probably set a lot of them free, whether it's because they were rounded up by Afghan bounty hunters to beef up numbers or because our own actions undermined our cases. But for the guilty ones, the genuine threats, why not put them in our prison systems? After all, we're the best prison pros in the world, and we also have a certain je ne sais quoi that would probably keep any terrorist plots in check. It's that mythical quality called, pissed-off U.S. inmates. Oh, and supposedly the fairest justice system in the world. Here's our chance to finally prove it.

Rule #107: Jump in! The water's fine
If you think waterboarding's no big deal, then you have to have it done to you. To his credit, blowhard radio host Mancow Muller did a watered-down version of it (sorry), and in just a few seconds completely reversed his pro-waterboarding stance. Jesse Ventura went through it as part of SERE training when he was a Navy SEAL, and he can't hate it enough. Come to think of it, every single person who has ever experienced the situation seems to consider it torture. The only people who don't are such sideline soldiers as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and their supporters. Hannity agreed to do it for charity, but has since scaled back that promise. Too bad, because the moneymaking potential of that event alone probably would've ended the recession.

I think the real reason they refuse to do it is exactly why people want it stopped: because it is torture. Period. This issue is as slam-dunk as they come, so where are the prosecutions? Somebody get on that right now! Stop torturing us.

The rest of the rules


Nathan said...

The issue with these types of laws, like helmet and seatbelt laws, is that the "victim" is also the "perpetrator." The one injured by a possible violation is me... am I going to press charges against me if I injure myself? Or am I going to sue the state because there was no law in place that prevented me from injuring myself?

Laws requiring seatbelts and airbags in vehicles are fantastic, because they allow for the safer operation of those vehicles. Laws requiring me to use them, however, do indeed violate "personal freedoms." I am, by definition, less free in the choices I make when operating that vehicle, in the name of allowing me freedom from death, or apparently someone else the freedom to know that, while they did injure me, they didn't kill me (through no action or inaction of their own).

For the record, I wear seatbelts and helmets. I just think it rather dumb that the state thinks it needs to make that decision for me, and that making a different decision should be a criminal action.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nathan, my point is precisely that your actions on the road DO affect others. By not wearing helmets or seat belts, you increase your risk in an accident, and you increase the risk that any accident you get in could be worse for all involved. The latter is where laws come in, because it becomes a public issue.

I have no problem with sensible regulations on public roads. You could argue that a lot of traffic laws are infringements on "personal freedom," but the need for public safety overrides that. Anti-smoking laws are a good example of that as well. Introducing hazards where none is necessary is not "freedom."

Part of my job is to post updates to our Web site whenever there is an accident in the area. Almost to a person, whoever dies in a crash is not wearing a seat belt/helmet. To read the reports, they would have helped. It's too bad enough people don't realize this on their own.

Jack said...

Why is it we are so afraid of following our own rules and ethics? That really bothers me. Suspending our morals is not Christian and it is not ethical.

One Pew Study found that people who attend church regularly are more apt to approve of and support torture than non-church goers. How's that for irony?

NOLA Progressive said...

Ian. I couldn't agree more with you on bringing the detainees here to the states. Heck, they can put right in Angola here in my home state if that makes others happier. My concern is that they are tried and given basic rights at that trial. I think Obama is succumbing to various pressures lately with his announcement of "preventative detentions". I don't know if you watch Rachel Maddow, but that announcement by Obama almost put her into apoplectic fits!

TJenkins said...

Yeah Ian, you go boy, fight for those poor, down-on-their-luck terrorists!

Ian McGibboney said...

Yeah, the trials are very important. It seems to me that fair trials would be a critical step in reestablishing the U.S. as a nation of laws and an antidote to extremism. I just wish Obama would decisively do the right thing. He's got the support.

TJenkins said...

An "antidote to extremism", yeah their big beef with us is the fact that we don't give them trials. You're a damn genius.

Obama will do what's best for Obama, that's what narcissists do.

NOLA Progressive said...

He is moving in the right direction, but just not quite getting to the ultimate destination. I don't know if it's political pressure or indecision or some information yet to be determined, but understanding that justice is not a gray area is necessary here.

TJenkins said...

Oh this is hilarious, the past 8 years Bush doing this exact same shit was OMGFASCISM! But now that a Dem is in charge it's suddenly all "complicated"!

You fucking people are so transparent.

Stephanie Bemrose said...

Helmet law: The law requiring helmets SHOULD continue because it is not a personal liberty matter. I'm trying to find the News-Leader story that quoted the Missouri state police officer (some dude) who said insurance rates would go up because of the change in not requiring helmets. So, I'm sorry, but I don't want to pay more insurance because you'd like to split your own head open on the pavement.

And, yes, just like Ian said, there are SO MANY accident updates in the paper and on our Web site, and I can't believe how many people were NOT wearing a seatbelt. Oh my word ... STILL? It's 2009, and there are people who still don't wear seatbelts? I guess they think they're above the law ... of physics.

Guantanamo Bay closure: As I've told you offline, Ian, bringing convicted (not "alleged" but "convicted" -- after trial, I mean) terrorists to U.S. soil, in prisons that employ U.S. citizens may not be the brightest idea. For example, how do we think these people who are convicted of crimes AGAINST the U.S. will suddenly submit to the authority of those FROM the U.S.?

These are not POWs. They have not agreed to follow a set of universal laws (like the Geneva Convention). If they are out to "get" America, it'd be just like throwing inmates into a confinement facility run by their victims -- and by "run" I mean "guarded by." Basically, if a crime had been committed against you (I mean not just Ian, but you, the reader), would you want to work in a facility and be in direct contact with that individual? I'm sure you might say, "HELL yeah," but I don't mean to have your justice, but to actually continually interact with that individual REPEATEDLY, as in you work with them, as the confinement worker. Maybe that's too broad of a statement, to generalize the victim/perpetrator scenario as a terrorist/American connection. But that's how I see it. Do you think there might be some retribution between the two (guard/inmate) on a continuous basis?

Also, you can't house these criminals WITH American criminals, side by side. Same scenario. And yes, I am aware we have gang members side by side in state and federal prison facilities. Luckily military confinement facilities have many fewer issues with that. But, similar to the perpetrator/victim scenario above, the terrorists (who I am guessing haven't pledge to follow the Geneva Convention) may try to 'attack' their fellow inmates. You know, now wash their hands, spread infections/bacteria, give them dirty looks ... whatever.

Stephanie Bemrose said...

Oh, but if the Montana facility wants them to fill their $20-something million facility built "in the vain hope it would be a moneymaker" (see Montana town says it wants prisoners from Guantanamo, and they think they can hire people ("soldiers" and "attorneys" it says, wow) who would want to really put their lives on the line to work with terrorist (again -- "convicted," after trial, not "alleged"), then I guess let 'em have 'em.

I'd be AGAINST a military confinement facility housing them. Because military members wouldn't have a choice but to have to work with them. Let private contractors who wish to be a terrorist guard do so.

But, geez, Hardin, Mont., is right ON I-90. If anyone escapes, they have a quick jump to a nearby interstate.