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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hit the idiots!

I found this rant on the Car Talk website. It makes me wonder if all of us are doing our part to reduce the number of collisions in this country. The only way these people will ever learn not to do these is if the rest of us get involved and actually do something about it. Who knows? It could be the best way to get these idiots to stop running stop signs and stop lights. Let's give the bullies the lessons they deserve!.

There Aren't Nearly Enough Accidents: Are You Doing Your Part?
by Tom Magliozzi

The reason there are so many traffic accidents is that there aren't nearly enough traffic accidents.

The paragraph above represents the kind of in-depth thinking that goes on here at Car Talk Plaza.

And what we have here is possibly a Zen koan, maybe just an interesting paradox, or perhaps simply the raving of a crazy old man. You be the judge.
But first, allow me to explain.

If you take the time (as I did) to look up the definition of "accident," you'll discover that it means an unforeseen—or unexpected—event. Thus, if an event is foreseen or expected, by definition it isn't an accident. But unforeseen by whom? If the "incident" is unforeseen by some snot-nosed teenager, can it be considered an actual accident? Or was it simply unforeseen by someone who unforesees just about everything and therefore doesn't count—and therefore IS foreseen and therefore is not an accident?

My contention is this: most of the automobile "incidents" that we typically refer to as "accidents" aren't really accidents at all, simply because you'd have to be a complete moron to NOT expect them. Allow me, if you will, to elucidate.

We have certain mechanisms in place to help prevent—or at least reduce the likelihood of—accidents: stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits, tailgating laws, etc. Nearly all—if not all—traffic incidents occur because someone is violating or disregarding one or more of these rules, laws, etc.

Now consider the number of times that you have disregarded or violated one of these rules. These are rules that have been designed to prevent accidents. These rules are not frivolous. They mostly make sense. What they say is this: "Violate the rule and you'll probably have an accident." Therefore, if you violate the rule, a reasonable and prudent person should EXPECT to have an accident (I mean "incident").

You go through a stop sign. If an accident is the expected result, then is it an accident if you hit someone? Of course not. It's an accident (an unexpected result) if you DON'T hit someone! Are you with me? Good.

So, why do so many people disregard the laws? Why do so many people so often disregard commonsense rules? Answer: Because they get away with it so often—without, as they say, incident. And because they do it so often without incident, there are accidents. If they didn't get away with it as often, they would be more careful and there would be fewer accidents! Thus:
There are so many accidents because there aren't enough accidents.
It really does make perfect sense, doesn't it?

The prescriptive advice, then, is quite obvious. In order to reduce the number of accidents, we must have more accidents.

I warned you that we were talking "deep thinking," didn't I?
Are You Doing Your Part?

You must do your part. I can see the bumper sticker now: "Do your part! Hit someone today!"
The next time someone goes through a stop sign, don't slam on the brakes. Hit him!
The next time some jerk cuts you off, don't swerve into the curb. Smash into her!

And be sure to perform these acts of bravery and selflessness at times that will cause the most disruption. No sense getting all smashed up at 2 a.m., when there's no one around to get the message. Rush-hour traffic is best.

Every day there must be complete and utter disruption on the roads during rush hour.
The insurance companies will ultimately be eternally grateful to you. You'll be getting a letter that says something like this:

Dear Brave and Selfless Driver:
Global International Assurance and Fidelity Investment Corporation would like to thank you for doing your part in reducing the number of highway accidents by contributing to the Click and Clack "more accidents" policy. As such, you have been enrolled in the "Basically Wonderful Person" Hall of Fame.

As a company—and a corporate world citizen—Global will be forever indebted to you for your selfless acts which will ultimately make the world a better place. It is individuals like yourself—people who think not of their own safety, but for the long-term "good" of humanity—who make it worthwhile for me to get up and go to work each day.
Thank you,

Signed: J. Cheever Loophole (The president, who makes so much money that you can't count that high, of the company that owns all the real estate on the planet.)

PS: Due to the large number of insurance claims, your policy has been canceled, as of yesterday. Have a nice day.
The reason that so many people get away with these things is because they never have been caught and properly dealt with. The only reason that there have not been more accidents is because there are so many other good drivers on the road. What needs to be done is to hold these people accountable for their actions. Make it harder for them to beat the rap! Plug the loopholes in the law! In dealing with drunk driving, take their driver's licenses (and their cars) for good. Without their cars, they would not be tempted to try toget away with it again!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The mixing of technology and cars

I found this great article at Autoweb.com. The discussion in the article is about the growing use of technology commonl;y used while driving the car. It kind of makes you wish we were in the good old days when all we had to worry about was people using their cell phones while driving their cars (still a problem, though). Now we have to contend with people text messaging while driving their cars. Going online while driving is just plain stupid. Hands and eyes are taken off the road.
People should just use their brains when they drive. It only takes a second or less of taking their eyes off the road to cause a very serious collision. Anyway here follows the article.
5 Tips for Keeping Your Mind off of Gadgets – and on the Road
A new generation of technology gadgets – from Blackberries and iPods, to hundred-channel satellite radio receivers – are making the distractions associated with cell phone conversations seem almost quaint. If driving while talking, even hands-free, is dangerous – and a new study finds that it can be more dangerous than drunk driving – then just imagine how dangerous it is to type a text message with one hand on the wheel, or to find that one song among hundreds on an iPod. If you’re thinking that nobody does crazy stuff like that, you’re dead wrong. In fact, nearly 40% of the drivers polled by Autobytel say they’ve typed a text message while driving, 30% say they’ve driven while using their iPods with headphones … and an alarming 58% admit that they’ve taken BOTH hands off the wheel because they were fiddling with high-tech gadgets. It should come as no surprise, then, that when asked to describe their experience with in-vehicle gadgets and driver safety, 88% described it as either a moderate or serious safety threat, with 40% characterizing today’s tech-distracted drivers as “out of control.”
With that in mind, Autobytel's safety campaign, “Take the Pledge to Slow Down,” offers 5 basic tips for keeping in-vehicle technology distractions to a minimum, and keeping your eyes and mind focused where they belong: On the road.
1. It's the yackin’ that’s distractin’: Although hands-free cell phones keep your hands on the wheel, they don’t necessarily keep your attention on the road – and there’s evidence that they don’t greatly reduce the risk of accident. In fact, NHTSA finds that speech-based interaction, hands-free or not, is associated with a 30% increase in reaction time. So, the safest strategy is to always wait until you get to your destination, or pull over to a safe location, before making your calls. If you have to make an emergency call – to report an accident, drunk driver, etc. – pull over to a safe location.
2. Don’t be a “tech rubberneck”: Never put yourself in a position where you’d have to bend over to reach for a call or device while driving. If you’re considering a new vehicle, look for one that offers steering wheel controls for the CD player, radio, etc. If you’re an incorrigible communications junkie – and there are a lot of us out there – you might consider keeping temptation out of site (and out of mind). Put your cell phone, Treo, iPod, et. al. in your trunk, and use them to do what you have to do during stops.

3. Online and on-road don’t mix: It seems fairly obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t ever check or send email or surf the Internet while driving – period. Palm Pilots, laptops and navigation systems have all added a dangerous new hand-oriented multi-tasking to the driving experience, which completely takes eyes and attention off the road.
4. Don’t fiddle on the fly: If you have satellite radio (which often feature 100+ channels), set your favorite channels ahead of time. Many navigation systems will only allow you to program destinations before you drive, but if not, make sure that you follow that policy anyway. Choose a navigation system with a user-friendly design: large, simple and easily accessible controls, voice recognition, and clearly visible displays.

If you use an iPod (some of which now support 10,000 songs and intricate playlists) be sure to program what you want to hear before you start driving, and only make changes when you stop or pull over. No matter how difficult it is to install your iPod in your vehicle, never, ever use headphones while driving – It’s illegal, for a very good reason. If you’re having trouble finding or installing an effective iPod adaptor in your vehicle, visit the iPod center at Autobytel.com for instructions and advice.
5. Take the Pledge at Autobytel.com – Authorities are just beginning to study the effect of cutting-edge in-vehicle technology on driver distraction, accidents and fatalities – and legislation is likely years in the future. But just because something isn’t illegal yet doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Don’t become a statistic that’s later used to justify outlawing using in-vehicle technology while driving. Make a personal, predetermined decision to do the right thing NOW. If you want to put your commitment to drive safely and responsibly in writing, we encourage you to “Take the Pledge” today!
Let's just face it,being a tech junkie and being a driver just do not mix, and are just a dangerous combination. When you are behinf the wheel of a car, you really should check your ego at the door. If you don't you can really hurt someone. Or worse.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Pope's speech that has caused so much trouble

Here is a copy of the speech that Pope Benedict XVI at the unversity of Regensburg, where I believe he was once a teacher. It is in the third paragraph where the fourteenth century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus. is quoted as saying "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

If you apy attention to only this part, it is easy to see how this could be seen as offensive. However, this has to be taken into context with the rest of his speech. To do this, we really have to pay attention to the rest of that paragraph, specifically the parts saying that violence and God do not mix nicely. The Pope goes on to say that God is not pleased by the letting of blood.

Anyway, here is the speech:

Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections
Benedict XVI
September 12, 2006

Your Eminences, Your Magnificences, Your Excellencies,Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. That was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas - something that you too, Magnificent Rector, just mentioned - the experience, in other words, of the fact that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience. The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (F×<>

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the 8`(oH". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, F×<>
In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and simply declares "I am", already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates’ attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: "I am". This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature. Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God’s nature.

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul - "8@(46¬ 8"JD,\"", worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity - a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the programme of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

The liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this programme was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal’s distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959, I tried to address the issue, and I do not intend to repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of dehellenization. Harnack’s central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of hellenization: this simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favour of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. Fundamentally, Harnack’s goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ’s divinity and the triune God. In this sense, historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament, as he saw it, restored to theology its place within the university: theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason and consequently it can take its rightful place within the university. Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant’s "Critiques", but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology. On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: this basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature’s capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.
This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

I will return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology’s claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: if science as a whole is this and this alone, then it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science", so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.

Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvellous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is – as you yourself mentioned, Magnificent Rector - the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which belongs to the essential decisions of the Christian spirit. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought – to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss". The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

Muslims consider their faith to be one of peace, and for the most part they are a peaceful people. It is groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that tend to paint for their religion a very poor image. Burning churches, rioting, and general destruction of property is not the sign of a peaceful people. If these two groups woul just behave, this whole past war with the Isrealites would have been so simple to avoid.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Pope meant no disrespect

In the last few last few weeks, since the Pope made his now famous speech, it is with great dismay that I have heard reports in the news that Muslims have again way overreacted in a totally inproportionate manor. In his speech, Pope Benedict XVI quotes a 14th century text, as said by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleogolus when he said "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

The whole speech was meant to be taken into context with the rest of the Emperor's speech in which he discussed the relationship between religion and violence with an educated Persian.

The irony in this is that, in their rioting and burning of churches, all they are doing is proving the Emperor right. The way through this crisis is for both sides to sit down and attempt to solve their differences peacefully. The only result stemming from violence is more violence. It is the Muslims who should do the apologizing. Here is an article I think might be interesting.

Local Muslims insulted by pope's choice of quotes
Saturday, September 23, 2006
By Matt Vande Bunte
The Grand Rapids Press

A group of bad guys who happened to be Muslim flew jets into major U.S. buildings and an entire religion became suspect. That's how Ali Metwalli viewed the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and he was frustrated last week to hear an anti-Muslim perspective preached from the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church.

To his ears, it's almost as if Pope Benedict XVI promotes the notion that Islam is a violent religion.

"To have this off-the-cuff remark for a leader who has great weight around the world makes it surprising to me," said Metwalli, chairman of the board of directors at the Islamic Mosque Religious Institute in Grand Rapids. "(The West) basically generalized the behavior of 19 people (on Sept. 11) as if it's a common behavior. It's like the Cold War against Muslims, but it's a hot war right now."

And the holy father of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics may have spilled fuel on the fire with comments last week at a German university. In a lecture on faith and reason, Benedict referred to a 14th-century emperor who wrote "show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The quotation sparked rage in some parts of the world, with churches burned in Palestinian areas. And many believe it led to the murder of a nun doing mission work in Africa.

Local Muslims said they want a sincere apology for what feels like a slap in the face from a respected world leader. Benedict did say he was "deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries" to the quotations that "do not in any way express my personal thought."

"You are taking the prophet of Islam as an illustration. Either you talk in a responsible way about him or you don't talk at all, especially in this sensitive time," said Dr. Khaled Moustafa, a local Muslim. "If he doesn't agree with this (perspective) he should say in the same speech 'I do not agree with this.' Now, he's blaming Muslims that they misunderstood it."

Local Catholic leaders said the comments must be understood as part of an overall message calling for greater religious and cultural dialogue.

"What's offensive to me is that one sentence was taken entirely out of context of the larger speech," said Mary Vaccaro, pastoral associate at the Catholic Information Center who this summer studied Islam and Christian-Muslim relations in an institute for pastoral workers at Georgetown University. "A lot is going to depend on how things are going to be reconciled. I hope that Muslims will be able to look at the whole picture."

At the same time, however, Vaccaro and the Most Rev. Walter A. Hurley questioned why Benedict quoted that particular 14th-century exchange. A board member of the Interfaith Dialogue Association of Grand Rapids called it "inflammatory."

"I have no idea what his intentions were, but I did find it insulting to Islam," said Debbie Mageed, a convert to Islam. "Why was that even in there? It's the same old, same old things that are so untrue."

After getting several inquiries about his thoughts on Benedict's lecture, Noah Seifullah, imam of Masjid Muhammad, a predominantly black mosque in Grand Rapids, wrote a paper and then mailed it to various media outlets because "somewhere along the line somebody has got to stop all the hype."

"I don't see an intent in there to insult Muslims," Seifullah said. "(Benedict) was educating Christians...on how do you have intellectual dialogue."

Seifullah's paper stated that "any sincere seeker of knowledge would find the Pope's remarks historically enlightening and intellectually stimulating."

"His position challenged the understanding of most Christians who, in a manner similar to the emperor, questioned the rational value of what other cultures bring," Seifullah wrote.

Hurley, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, said he called the imam of a Burton Street mosque in the wake of Benedict's comments.

"It certainly illustrates in my mind as a leader that we must be absolutely careful choosing our words so they're not subject to misinterpretation," Hurley said. "Unfortunately, once the words are spoken, it's hard to take them back. We really have to work harder to mend the fences that are broken."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More debate about red light cameras

Lately, there has been a lot of debate about whether red light cameras really make drivers drive safer or are just used as money makers for cities (and an excuse for cops to hang out at donut shops)! According to The Examiner, they have really accomplished that purpose, as much as 66%. Most of the debate centers around whether they really make intersections safer or cause more accidents. According to some statistics, the number of rear end accidents has actually increase at intersections where red light cameras are used. However, it is my belief that the rise in the rate of collisions is more do to driver inattention rather the camera itself. These collisions are caused more by poor driver situational awareness.

District’s red-light cameras cut violations by 66 percent

(Greg Whitesell/Examiner)The District’s campaign against drivers who run red lights has caught 609,024 violations since 1999.

WASHINGTON - Red-light cameras in the District and Montgomery County have raked in more than $42 million in fines since being introduced in 1999, but one safety official said the number of lives that have been saved are immeasurable.

“Running a red light is one of the most dangerous acts someone can do,” said Jeff Agnew, spokesman for the D.C.-based National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. “People should be able to drive through or walk across an intersection without it being a death-defying act.”
From August 1999 through June, the District’s automated red-light cameras have caught 609,024 violators at 49 intersections across the city, officials said Wednesday. Since their installation, however, violations have dropped by 66.2 percent, D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey said Wednesday.

Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didone said the county’s 40 red-light cameras have also been successful, with an average of 8,000 citations issued every month and fines estimated at more than $500,000. Because the county has been changing technology from photo to digital images, exact numbers were not readily available, he said.

Despite opposition from Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Montgomery County is also considering allowing communities — including Chevy Chase Village — to install speed cameras. If approved, the county would be just the second jurisdiction on the East Coast to allow the cameras. The District, which has issued more than $100 million in fines, was the first.

While Virginia was one of the first states to allow red-light cameras to be installed when it gave municipalities a 10-year option in 1995, politicians allowed the law to expire and have been hesitant to restart the program, citing cost and privacy issues. Nearly all Northern Virginia jurisdictions installed the cameras, but have since been forced to cut power to them.
Del. Thomas Rust, R-Herndon, said he is leading the charge to change the perception in the General Assembly and get funding restored.

The numbers were released as part of national “Stop On Red Week” this week. The campaign handed out thousands of posters at Wednesday night’s Washington Nationals game to highlight the effort.

Elsewhere, even more debate is heating up because of the percieved invasion of privacy by these red light cameras. However, I believe that to be a moot point. These are being placed on public roads, where public safety is a concern. On a public road, there is no such thing as privacy. The safety of the pulic at large has to come first before anyone's privacy. If you operate your vehicle on public roads, you are subject to public law and should pay the consequences for your actions.

Anything that could improve safety on poublic roads would be nice and should be considered.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Situational Awareness

The reason that there are so many collisions attributed to red light cameras is not the cameras themselves. The problem is a phenomon simply called situational awareness. When a person is driving a car, that person needs to be aware of what is going around them. If all they are doing is reacting to what is happening in their surroundings, there is a term for that person. That word is tumbleweed. That is, they are not taking in the entire picture of what is going around them.

That is when that person gets into trouble and people get hurt. When a person is having a conversation on a cell phone, as much as 70% of their concentration goes from their immediate surroundings to the conversation. This is happening when all their focus should be on what they are doing and where they are going.

The situational awareness problem gets even worse when text messaging while some on is driving. To send or recieve a text message, one must take their eyes off the road. That is when they start weaving in traffic, blowing red lights, and causing general mayhem.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The debate about red light cameras

Lately, there has been a lot of debate about the use of red light cameras at intersections around the country, and about the efect that they have on the safety of drivers on public roads. Much of the debate centers around whether they are fair to drivers or an invasion of a driver's privacy. Some say that red light cameras actually increase the incidence of collisions at intersections, namely rear-ending the car in front of you.

It is not my opinion that the cameras themselves are not the culprit in these cases. Rather, the cause of these collisions can be more attributed to drivers trying to beat the light and having to suddenly slam on the brakes. This has the effect of another driver behind the first driver rear-ending the person in front. More often then not, the driver in back is simply not paying attention to what is going on in front of them. I found an interesting article on that here.

Are red-light cameras fair to drivers?
These modern-day robocops make ticketing easier and can be huge moneymakers for local governments. But critics question their accuracy and fret over privacy issues.

By Christopher Solomon

Think again before you mash the accelerator at that yellow light, and not just for safety's sake. In more than 100 cities around the country, an electronic eye is watching you. It's not inclined to cut you any slack -- or even to give you a fair shake, as many critics see it.

Despite concerns about everything from accuracy to privacy -- even about whether they reduce accidents at all -- red-light cameras that capture offenders on film so they can be ticketed are proliferating. They're in use in Denver; Atlanta; New York City; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle. More seem to pop up every month.

There is no doubt that red-light running is a big problem. Drivers running red lights account for about 22% of traffic accidents in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And that number has been growing: Deadly automobile crashes at traffic signals jumped more than 13% between 1993 and 2003, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, far outpacing the nearly 7% rise in other fatal crashes during that period. A big part of that jump is caused by red-light running, the government says. The offense now kills about 900 people annually and injures 176,000 more.

While no one denies the need to stop red-light runners, there's some debate as to whether cameras truly make intersections safer.

Easy money, low manpower The systems work like this: Cameras are usually triggered by road sensors when a car encroaches on an intersection after the light has turned red. A camera snaps a picture of the license tag and sometimes photographs the driver, too. That information is then usually forwarded to the local police department to interpret, and a citation is issued. Some systems use short video "clips" instead of a photograph. (Click here to see a cool, detailed description of how the cameras work -- and you can try running the light!)

That's work that used to tie up traffic enforcers. But freeing up police officers is hardly the only allure to towns and cities. Many (but not all) have found the traffic cameras to be lucrative as well.

Perhaps the most dramatic example is the District of Columbia's cash cow. The district likes to boast that it has reduced red-light violations at 49 intersections by two-thirds since the program started in 1999 -- but it's also raked in more than $37 million in revenue from tickets, mostly from nonresidents. (Running a red light there is a $75 fine.)

Counting D.C.'s automated speed-enforcement program, the local government has amassed some $130 million from the electronic monitoring programs, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That group has praised the results of the red-light cameras but has been wary of D.C.'s motives.
The troubles with cameras These dollars come at a price, as many towns and cities have discovered. Faced with problems in the courts and other issues, several even have switched off their cameras, or at least altered the way they operate.

The picture is muddier than you might think. According to a comprehensive, 2005 study sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, red-light cameras indeed reduced total "T-bone" crashes by 25%. But because drivers at camera-equipped intersections seem to slam on the brakes so they won't get a ticket, total rear-end crashes increased 15%, and injury rear-end crashes jumped 24%.

Rear-end crashes tended to be less severe, so the red-light cameras nonetheless do provide a "modest crash-cost benefit," the study estimated. But critics of red-light cameras say that the cameras still end up giving a financial reward to a city or town for having a poorly designed intersection that encourages red-light running.

Our argument has been the same from the beginning: Engineering is the key. It's not an enforcement problem; it's an engineering problem," says Eric Skrum, spokesman for The National Motorists Association, a drivers' rights group.

One of the easiest ways to make these intersections safer without gouging drivers, Skrum and some others say, is simply to make yellow lights linger a little longer. A 2003 Texas Transportation Institute study found that increasing the duration of a yellow light by just 0.5 to 1.5 seconds (but not to more than 5.5 seconds in total) would decrease frequency of red-light running by "at least 50%." And though some morons would run even that light, it would still make the intersection safer, the authors concluded.

A conflict of interest? There's money in traffic tickets. In California, a red-light ticket arriving in the mail will cost you at least $370, for example, plus a point on your driving record. And while some jurisdictions have only broken even using the traffic cameras, others have made a lot of money.

Since a camera system is complicated, a city often turns over its operation to a private company. These companies install the cameras and maintain them, sometimes in exchange for a cut of the fine proceeds of 50% or more. Occasionally, some contractors have even had a say in which intersections get the cameras, and they -- not the police -- evaluated the pictures.

The appearance of a conflict of interest is plain: The more citations get sent out, the more money a company stands to make. That's why courts, and the Federal Highway Administration, have frowned on both of these practices recently.

Leaders in Chapel Hill, N.C., decided to turn off that city's cameras in 2004 after a growing unease with the idea of subcontracting government functions to a private contractor.
But other problems have surfaced in North Carolina, where the use of private contractors has thrown the red-light camera network into turmoil statewide. A driver who received a citation in the town of High Point appealed, saying that state law requires that at least 90% of the fine go to the local school system. Instead, cities like Charlotte have used the money to pay the companies that run the camera systems. A higher court has agreed, and so Charlotte and other cities are keeping their electronic eyes shut while the case plays out.

The Federal Highway Administration recommends that contractors shouldn't be paid based on the number of citations issued or have any say in the location of cameras. In fact, governments should pay vendors based on a flat fee, or else install and run their own systems.

One of the nation's largest providers, Affiliated Computer Services, says it now works to structure its arrangements with new clients, and restructure its existing arrangements when they come up for renewal, so the company receives a straight fee for its services, and that all appearances are correct.

Still, the older system is alive. Last month, the town council of Swampscott, Mass., narrowly defeated a camera proposal that would have split the ticket revenue with the contractor that would install them. But the proposal, which could bring in $500,000 annually for the small town, will likely return this fall after a committee studies the issue, says the town accountant, Dave Castellarin.

How reliable are cameras? In 2001, San Diego attorney Arthur Tait defended several motorists who felt they'd been unfairly nabbed by red-light cameras. He won, big time. A judge tossed out 300 tickets, saying the systems as configured were unreliable and so the results were inadmissible. San Diego shut down its cameras while it fixed the problems. Tait has now represented motorists in about 1,000 red-light camera cases and won about 94% of those cases, he estimates.

"To this day we're still finding so much wrong with the accuracy of these programs," he says. "As long as they're being run unfairly, we're going to be able to keep winning for our clients."
But digging into the complexities of how traffic cameras work (or don't) isn't easy for the average person, he concedes. "I don't like the fact that innocent people can't defend themselves without having to hire a lawyer," says Tait, who's helped set up the Web site TrafficFighters to help people fight their own tickets. More cities are switching to cameras that use videotape instead of just take a snapshot. Video footage, while not perfect, at least gives more context, he says. "Overall, video is 100 times better."

But he adds, "I think the bigger problem, and what more cities are trying to do, I believe, is ensure an extra level of government control and oversight." In other words, workers who don't have a financial interest in the traffic cameras need to be used to regularly recalibrate the devices, and roads need to be regularly closed down for road tests, he says. "San Diego has tried to do that."

That doesn't mean the city is going any easier on drivers, however.

In July, the city also passed an ordinance allowing citations to be issued after a "grace period" of just one-tenth of a second after a traffic signal turns red (instead of the previous 0.6 seconds), which will boost the number of tickets and the dollars coming into city coffers.

Privacy and due process

A few critics of the cameras have also worried about privacy and due process. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has urged a halt to the use of the cameras until due process and fairness issues can be settled. For example, efforts to reinstate red- light cameras in 2005 in Virginia Beach, Va., and in Northern Virginia died after the state House decided to let legislation expire that permitted them. Some legislators had been troubled by the fact that owners of the car could be ticketed even though a picture is only taken of a vehicle and its license plate, not the driver. "The burden of proof usually then falls on the owner to prove he or she was not driving at the time," says the ACLU. "This is a violation of the bedrock American principle that the accused be considered innocent until proven guilty."

The rights group says it's also worried about the "mission creep" of cameras in society -- that data collected may be used to do more than tag reckless drivers.
"It's only a matter of time before these cameras are used to investigate crimes other than speeding and running red lights -- I could see them being used for hit-and-runs, or evading police," adds Lee Rittenburg, whose San Bernardino, Calif., law office, Traffic Defenders, focuses on defending against traffic infractions. "It's a very slippery slope that we're on," says Rittenburg.

"No one wants traffic accidents," he adds, but "these are the modern-day robocops, these cameras."

Rear-end collisions have so far been shown to be a magnitude less then getting t-boned after crashing a red light. Anything that can potentially reduce the occurance of fatalities on our public roads. If that means taking dangerous drivers off the road, then that is the only way to go.
I have seen quite a number of collsions in my own home town caused by inattentive drivers crashing redlights. I think that, in time, having RLCs would decrease that number and severity of these collisions. When that happens, we will also see a decrease in the number of fatalities. That should be the ultimate goal.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Using an EDR

It was in an article in todays Detroit Free Press that I saw this piece in which information recordered by an EDR was was used as evidence in an investigation. In December of 2005, a detroit teen was crossing the street on her way to catch the bus to go to school. The offending driver was excessively speeding and illegally passing a schoolbus. The man driving the offending truck, Richard Farrell, hit 58 before hitting Tiara Fisher and killing her. The one thing he did not hit was the brakes.

Speeder killed teen, cop says
Suspect hit 58, didn't brake, jury hears
September 13, 2006



Tiara Fisher, 15, a Southfield High freshman, was struck and killed by a pickup as she crossed the street to a school bus.

In the five seconds before he plowed into Tiara Fisher with his 2003 Silverado pickup, Richard Farrell was speeding, going from 55 to 58 m.p.h., before hitting the 126-pound girl and dragging her 138 feet, according to testimony from an accident reconstruction expert Tuesday.

The impact lifted the 15-year-old Southfield High freshman out of her shoes. She died at the scene while on her way to the school bus Dec. 7.

The speed limit was 35 m.p.h.

On the third day of Farrell's manslaughter trial in Oakland County Circuit Court, Michigan State Police Sgt. Timothy Brown told jurors he extracted information from the Silverado's data recording box, located next to the steering column.

The box provided data from the moments before the crash, including speed and acceleration. "There were absolutely no brakes applied," Brown said.

Brown also inspected damage to the Chevrolet pickup's front end. "I looked at the vehicle and said, 'Whoa, this isn't your typical 30- to 35-m.p.h. crash,' " he said. Prosecutors contend Farrell, 54, of Southfield was attempting to pass the school bus on Evergreen in Southfield. The bus was pulling to the curb and flashing amber warning lights, and prosecutors said Farrell darted into the center turn lane and struck Fisher, who was trying to cross to the bus stop.

Farrell's attorney, Sharon Clark Woodside, questioned why Fisher had not gone to a nearby crosswalk to get to her bus stop, rather than cutting across the street. Police said they believe she was standing in the center turn lane when Farrell passed the school bus and a stopped car and hit her.

"Did you know it is actually a violation to be walking down the center turn lane?" Woodside asked the officer in charge of the case, Joseph Taylor of Southfield. He said he was unaware of that ordinance.

How stupid do you have to be to be going that fast on a residential street? People like Lee Estes, who has written quite a few letters to Car Talk, need to pay attention to stories like this. Also, a big yellow school bus with flashing lights would seem to pretty hard to miss. Richard Farrell needs to have his eyes checked. He should have learned from his history of license suspensions, reckless driving, and speeding citations. However, in this case, like so many others, he just did not learn his lesson. Now he has learned it the hard way.

You will see a previous article on the case here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Points for and against speed limits from rants and raves

New rants and raves from the Car Talk website! Here are two letters, one from the previously mentioned Lee Estes, who previously stated his obvious distaste for speed limits on our interstates, and who has shown his lack of personal responsibility for the safety of others. He ceasely forgets that drivers regularly drive beyond the safety limits of their cars, despite cars being built better than they were years ago.

The counterpoint to his argument is written by Mark Sousa. Though his response can be a bit over the top (using Star Wars lasers to wipe out offending drivers), I would have to say that the problem is not the speed limits nor the enforcement of speed limits themselves.

The most prevalent problem that I see on the road concerns stop signs and stop lights. Namely the idiots who think of them as suggestions and not a requirement. I've lost count of all the times I have nearly become a substitute for someones hood ornament because they a) couldn't be bothered to take their attention from their cell phone, b) weren't watching where they were going, c) just plain old didn't care, or d) all of the above. Any way, here is the first letter.


Lee Estes sent the following letter:

Dear C&C:

Are you guys nuts? The entire trend of Western civilization for millions of years has been to get things down faster and go places quicker than in the previous millennium. Yet you continue to whine on about SPEED LIMITS and how the rest of us are supposed to comply with this ridiculous requirement.

First: Speed limits are arbitrary decisions made by politicians, with no basis in automotive safety WHATSOEVER. They just post those signs to annoy people like me and give complainers like you guys something to complain about and fill otherwise dead air time.

Second: America is a land where the males (at least most of us) have an abundant supply of testosterone (although you two may be an exception); therefore, high-speed travel is our natural right. Traveling too slowly causes the male body to develop an excessive quantity of estrogen.

Fortunately, here in Michigan we have the RIGHT idea. We know the posted speed limits are advisory only. Only if you are unable to drive with a sufficient degree of skill are you required to actually obey those damn signs. As a person who travels in excess of 30,000 miles per year, I say 55 or even 65 mph is ridiculously slow. If I drove within the speed limit I would still be trying to get home from last month.

(Here's the part you find really shocking.) I routinely drive the interstates in Michigan at speeds of 90 to 110 mph (no, not kph, mph). I don't get in wrecks. I don't run other cars off the road. I give other drivers room. Although sometimes I have been known to lean on a serious speed nazi (defined as anyone in the left lane traveling at less than 80 mph). The state police obviously know what I'm doing is not a problem. I rarely get pulled over, and ticketed even less. So LIGHTEN UP. Modern cars, tires, shocks, brakes, seat belts, air bags, etc., make for a safer car than a '63 Dodge Dart. If that Dodge is the basis for your opinion on what's too fast, no wonder you guys are wusses. Nobody could drive a car like that! But some cars can go faster safely. End of rant.


Mark Sousa sent the following letter:

"Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse" isn't viable for me. The last time my corpse might have been good-looking was 20 years ago. I've got a feeling it's problematic for Lee Estes, too, since most people wouldn't consider a corpse with a surprised, moronic look on its face (probably caused by the proximal appearance of the word "Peterbilt" 10 feet in front of his hood ornament and getting more proximal all the time) to be good-looking.
Speed limits aren't the problem.

Enforcement is the problem.

What we need is a device that will track and destroy the vehicle of anyone bouncing around the interstate at a speed greater that 10 percent above that of the current average in their current driving lane...while performing personal hygiene functions, while talking on a cell phone, while reading the paper (like they could learn anything, anyway) all at the same time. Hey, buddy--that's my wife and kids in this econobox you're rather erratically and intermittently aiming at. Thank God you can't concentrate on anything long enough to actually hit us (WHOOPS! CRUNCH). Please feel free to point yourself at any bridge abutment you want, BUT I don't want to go with you--not just because I'm not ready to leave this mortal coil yet, but also because I don't want to go out with anyone who is so conceited as to think that HIS 15 minutes of adolescent highway misbehavior is worth scaring the crap out of my kids or my wife or especially ME...AND I'VE BEEN COOPED UP IN THIS CAR WITH THEM FOR FOUR HOURS ALREADY TODAY....GO AHEAD, HIT ME!

What we need is to refocus the Star Wars program. Who cares if some little country tries to hit us with a ballistic missile...never gonna happen! Put this technology to work tracking the speed of vehicles on our streets and roads. Build a device that tracks vehicles moving significantly faster than the rest of traffic, or just driving stupidly, or just track the ones that annoy ME. Blow their junk off the road and do it in a way that doesn't cause a pothole or a stain on the roadway and put it under MY control.

That's what we need!

See ya, Lee.


As an answer to the above point and counterpoint, here is a follwup rant to those two points of view.

The speed wars are definitely heating up out there (i.e., "Speedy" Lee and "Idonwannadie" Mark). Both these guys are a little extreme, and both got a few points right. Most of the problems arise from speed differential, inattention (from fast OR slow drivers!), and just plain lack of skill/training. Lee's right in the fact that even a basic Honda can outperform, safely, pure racing cars from a few years back.

Unfortunately, Mark's right in that a frighteningly large number of drivers are using these vehicles' higher limits WITHOUT understanding the physics of going faster, or spending any time increasing THEIR limits or abilities.

Lee states that it is a right to drive fast. Along with any right comes responsibility. Lee's attitude shows a lack of responsibility toward high-speed driving. What training have you had? Or are you relying on "natural ability"? (By the way, I know many racers that were fast right from the start, and racers that have honed their skills for years without rising above mediocrity.)

Mark, there are a lot of drivers out there who are safer driving fast than you are sitting in your driveway. If YOU find YOURself in an emergency situation AT THE SPEED LIMIT OR BELOW, you will find your self in as bad a predicament as those speeders you despise. You need proper training to drive safely, regardless of the speed you choose to travel at.

And Mark, don't buy into state-provided statistics. The state of Washington provided a brochure on the dangers of speed when they raised speed limits. In that brochure was printed stopping distances for the average car from 55 and 65 mph. It listed the distance needed to stop from 65 mph as 900 yds. WHAT?? The only way to stop from 65 in 900 yds. is to jump out and let the car roll to a stop on it's own!! The average sedan now does it in less than 160 ft., and many sports cars stop in less than 120 ft. from 65 mph. Yet all other scare propoganda in the brochure is based on this outdated data. On the back, credit for the information is given as an NHTSA study from 1956. 1956!!!!

As it turns out, all other speed-related data the government gives out is easily checked and is, not surprisingly, just as suspect. And yet Lee's despised "speed nazis" go on believing. In accident reporting, "speed-related" is used as a catchall, and when it is brought up to scare citizens, it shows up in 34 percent of all fatal crashes.

BUT, if you remove "speed-related," that ALSO includes alcohol/drugs, bad weather (even low speeds can be entered here), and the best one--"speed too low" (a real beauty, that--using slow drivers to make fast drivers look bad!), the amount left ends up being less than 5 percent!
Now, the problem with using these stats is that no matter how you look at them, they only prove a negative number. There are no stats on "successful speed." Even if the 34 percent figure is taken at face value, that percentage of fatals could still be only 1 percent of fast drivers. There's no way of measuring. It would be sad to paint a picture of fast drivers using only 1 percent of the total information, now wouldn't it?

In conclusion, Lee, grow up; Mark, wise up, and I'll keep driving my modified car fast, quietly.


Chris V.

I would have to agree that the problem lies not with the speed limits themselves, but with our rather mediocre and hideously inadequate driver education system that does not take to develop in teens the skills that are needed to operate a vehicle. A typical sixteen year old does not have the experience necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle while doing such thing as using a cell phone. Most people I see can't even walk straight while talking on a cell phone. And they think that they are safe to drive while using them!?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Some thoughts on 9/11

It has now been five years since the day that the World Trade Center was struck down by zealous fundalmentalists who despise the freedom that we enjoy everyday, and I was remembering where I was when it happened.

I was at work when a fellow coworker told me that someone had flown into the WTC. Of course, at the time, I didn't believe him that this could happen. It was after I got home from work that I was watching television when the scene was replayed. That was when it struck home that we had been attacked on our own soil. In the replay was when I saw the towers fall. What a bold and foolish way to promote their militaristc brand Islam.

It has been five years now and, like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, for these fundalmentalists, the attack was both a tactical victory and a strategic defeat. The chaos that hoped to cause did not happen. It is because of the American spirit that we were able to return to "normal" as quickly as we were able to.

Sad to think that the President has used the attack on the Towers to justify invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. There was no reason to attack Iraq. Our goal there was to remove Saddam Hussein from power and so far we have accomplished that. No w we are stuck there until there is a functioning democratic government is set up and that country is at peace.

A cell phone user gets his just rewards!

Here is another story that I found at Car Talk.com. In this written account, the guy, Bill Hobbins, describes nearly getting hit by some knucklehead pulling out of a parking lot while talking on a cell phone. He then procedes to get his revvenge by "accidently" running over the mans cell phone. How much I would love to do that every single day. Here is what he wrote to Car Talk.

In light of your "Drive Now, Talk Later" campaign, my friends have encouraged me to tell you what happened to me on my way home from work a couple of Fridays ago:

I was approaching an equipment rental business in my aging Dodge minivan when a man who was talking on his cell phone (and pulling a small trailer with a ditch witch on board) pulled out of the rental store parking lot right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and managed to get the Caravan stopped. Annoyed, I slammed my hand down on the horn and held it for a good while as he continued his LEFT TURN ACROSS A BUSY STREET! When I blew my horn, he attempted to lift the middle finger of his left hand (the hand holding the cell phone while propped up in the open window of his Blazer) toward me, and in so doing lost control of the phone, which flew out his open window directly toward me.

Wait, it gets better! The phone flew a short distance, bounced and came to rest just in front of me. As I rolled forward, I heard the phone crunch under the left front, then the left rear tire of my van (a feat I couldn't duplicate in a hundred tries!). As I continued, I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw the remains of his cell phone in a small pile of high-tech particles on the street. I can only hope the driver of the Blazer attempted to retrieve his phone. Moral of the story: There is justice in the universe for those who talk on the cell phone while driving! Give 'em "what for," guys!

Bill Hobbins

The next story make me wonder how people think they can talk on their cell phones while driving. The man in this can't even do so while walking.

On a recent list of Darwin Award nominees (the Darwin Award is an award for taking yourself out of the gene pool in a spectacular fashion), I read about a gentleman who killed himself by WALKING into a tree while talking on his cell phone. And people think they can DRIVE?


If they can't use their cell phones while walking, driving is thousands of time worse!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The debate about EDRs

There has been a lot of debate lately about the use of EDRs (Event Data Recorders) and their being used in motor vehicles. Much of that debate can be found here and here. Most of the debate centers around the issue of privacy and Big Brother.

On one side, you have the people who think that the government has no place accessing that kind of information from a private motor vehicle. They think that no matter what, whatever they do in their cars is their own business and no one else’s. They tend to forget that on public roads, legally, there is no such thing as privacy. Everything that you do is on public display for everyone to see.

The other side says that these thing can only be a good thing. After all, what hit-and-run victim or collision victim would not want closure? Investigators and prosecutors also love these things. With the use of EDRs, defendants in these cases cannot lie to investigators and prosecutors and have any hope of getting away with it.

I am of the opinion that these things can only do good. They only record what happened just before a collsion and the data that they collect is quite limited in scope. This data includes the speed of the vehicle, what direction the vehicle was traveling at the time of the incident, and the G-forces involved.

The privacy advocates seem to have forgotten that EDRs are only one tool in the art of accident of reconstruction. The data they record can only be obtained with the permission of the defendant or with a courtr order. The court order is usually issued when it is believed that one party is lying. Case in point, in a previous post, I have shown an example of this. In New York, a couple of teens were street racing when they broadsided a nurse and her fiancé, killing them instantly. At the hospital, they told the arresting officer that they were doing 50 to 55 mph. But according to the telltale black box that was residing in each of their vehicle, it was revealed that they were doing closer 140 mph. Both teens were convicted of murder and are doing three years in prison.

The hope is that the privacy advocates out there will finally come to see that what they do in their vehicles effects not only them, but everyone else on the road. Until that happens, GROW UP AND SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Take away the power of the fundalmentalists

If there is any one to blame for the war brought upon Lebanon by Isreal, Hamas and Hezbollah are the real ones to blame. It is their terrorist attacks on the country of Isreal that initiated this conflict. Many would argue that Isreal is the aggressor, but they ignore the fact that Hezbollah has fired thousands of unguided into northern Isreali cities. Or the thousands of Isrealis that have been murdered at the hands of Hamas-backed suicide bombers for no other apparent reason that they live in an affluent, Democratic country that happens to be surrounded by countries that regularly ignore the rights of their citizens to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Hezbollah and Hamas would rather spend their time blaming Isreal and the U.S. for their problems rather than spending the effort to better them selves. They think that the elimination of these two countries would improve their lot.

They say that Isreal is the pawn of the U.S.. What about Syria? What about Iran? Hamas and Hezbollah are known to be acting on the orders of those two countries. Iran seems to be hell bent on becoming a nuclear power, and Syria is known to be a terrorist haven. Iran must not be allowed to manufacture nuclear weapons.

A thousand years ago, Islam was a grand religion. Much of the knowledge that we have of the ancient world was passed down to us by the Muslims. The ancient cultures of Greece and Rome were preserved by the ancient Muslims. The Christians of that era were Neanderthals by our standards.

Now is the time to return Islam to it’s period of greatness. But this will no tbe accomplished by force. The only way for this to happen is for this senseless violence to end. Take away the power of the Islamic fundamentalists. That is the only way for the violence to end.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Rebuilding Lebanon

So far, Hezbollah has been quick to attempt to rebuild Lebanon in the wake of the Isreali attack on the southern of Lebanon. However, their racist policies have been shown in that they are only supplying aid to the Shiite victims of the war that they have brought upon themselves. In this article, Hezbollah shows a flare for the threatrical in giving large sums of cash to it's constituency of Shiite muslims, most in the area of 12 to 15 grand.
But the question remains: where does all this money come from? And what is the purpose of suddenly coming to the aid of the Lebanese? The answer to the first question is: Iran. I believe that the answer to the second question is obvious. It's purpose is to draw world attention away from Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
Iran and Syria must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapons program. The only way to prevent this from happening is to best Hezbollah on their own turf. This has to be done by having more nations step in to help rebuild Lebanon. Already, in Stockholm, there has been a meeting of nations, spearheaded by the U.S. and Canada, to raise as five hundred million dollars. Isreal also should do their part in rebuilding Lebanon. This way, they can improve their relationships in the world.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Road rage is a crime

I saw this article at Fredericksburg.com. It left me wondering what it takes to make a person, even a professional truck driver, angry enough that they would run another person off the road. When you are on the road, sometimes you just have to keep your ego in check. When poeple let their egos get the better of them, that is when the road gets dangerous anad motorists get hurt.

Police arrest truckers

Dump-truck drivers arrested after incident on Interstate 95
Date published: 9/4/2006


Three men were arrested this weekend after an alleged road-rage incident involving two dump trucks on Interstate 95 that ended with the assault of a Dumfries man, a state police spokesman said.

Witnesses called police at 10:09 a.m. Saturday after seeing the two trucks driving erratically on southbound I-95 near the Courthouse Road exit in Stafford County, Virginia State Police Sgt. Les Tyler said yesterday.

Witnesses called again about 15 minutes later after seeing three men in the dump trucks follow a minivan off Exit 126 at Massaponax and then "forcibly remove" the driver and start beating him, Tyler said.

State police and at least one deputy from the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office caught up with the trucks on U.S. 1 just south of U.S. 17 minutes after the attack on the 35-year-old Dumfries man, Tyler said.

Patrick Wayne Nickens Jr., 21, and Franklin Benjamin Baker III, 18, both of Henrico County, and William Alfred Lee IV, 23, of Reedville were each charged with maliciously causing bodily injury by assault by mob, Tyler said. He said the charge is a felony and that a mob is defined as a group of three people or more.

Tyler said the victim was hit with an aluminum baseball bat during the attack but was not hospitalized.

"There is no indication he did anything to precipitate the attack," Tyler said.

Trooper B. A. Dunn, Sgt. T.S. Harrison and Trooper D.R. Gray were assisted by a Spotsylvania deputy in making the arrest, Tyler said. The deputy's name was not available yesterday.

Tyler said calls from witnesses were instrumental in making the arrests. He encouraged people to use their cell phones to dial either #77 or 911 when they see a crime.

Is there anyone on the road today with a shred of common sense? Or have things just gone to the birds?

Finally, some one is getting their head straight

It seems that Hezbollah is losing support in the Islamic world. I saw this article in the Jerusalem Post recently and thought it might shed some light on what is going on in the Middle East. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have come out publically and denounced both Hezbollah AND Hamas saying that thuggish and guerilla tactics do more to hurt the Islamic world than they do to help it. This discontent is not only with Hamas and Hezbollah, but also with Iran and Syria. Most of these countries bellieve that Iran and Syria are both supplying and giving orders to both parties. Hamas and Hezbollah are being blamed for Isreal's attack on Lebanon.

Arab world fed up with HizbullahBy KHALED ABU TOAMEH

With the exception of the Palestinians, the Arab world appears to be united in blaming Iran and Syria for the fighting in Lebanon. Until last week, Arab political analysts and government officials were reluctant to criticize Hizbullah in public. But now that Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and his top aides are in hiding, an anti-Hizbullah coalition is emerging not only in Lebanon, but in several other Arab countries as well.

The Palestinians and Hizbullah feel that their Arab brethren have once again turned their backs on them. On Monday, hundreds of Palestinians who marched in downtown Ramallah in support of Hizbullah chanted: "Hassan Nasrallah is our hero, the rest of the Arab leaders are cowards" and "O beloved Abu Hadi [Nasrallah's nickname], bomb, bomb Tel Aviv." The second battle cry is reminiscent of the famous slogan the Palestinians used during the first Gulf War: "O beloved Saddam, bomb, bomb Tel Aviv."

Hizbullah and their supporters were hoping that the massive Israeli military operation in Lebanon would trigger large-scale protests throughout the Arab world, creating instability and threatening to bring down some of the Arab regimes.

But the response on the Arab street has been so disappointing for Hizbullah that its leaders are now openly talking about an Arab "conspiracy" to liquidate the Shi'ite organization. The few Hizbullah supporters in Ramallah, the Gaza Strip and some Arab capitals have therefore been directing most of their criticism against the Arab presidents and monarchs, accusing them of serving the interests of the US and Israel.

The anti-Hizbullah coalition, which appears to be growing with every Israeli missile that drops on the heads of Hizbullah leaders and headquarters, is spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. These three countries, together with many Arab commentators and political analysts, are convinced that the leaders of Teheran and Damascus are using Hizbullah to divert attention from Iran's nuclear program and Syria's involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The Saudis were the first to openly criticize Hizbullah, paving the way for other Arab countries to follow suit. The message coming out of these countries is that the Arabs and Muslims can't afford to allow an irresponsible and adventurous organization like Hizbullah to drag the region to war. Government spokesmen and officials, as well as prominent Arab editors and commentators, have shown no sympathy for Hizbullah while appearing on pan-Arab TV networks like Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi position, which surprised Hizbullah and its supporters, was outlined by an anonymous official, who said that the people should distinguish between legitimate resistance and dangerous adventurism by some parties without cooperation from their governments and the Arab states.
The Saudi stand reflected the position of all the Gulf countries, which are unhappy not only with Hizbullah, but with Hamas as well. The Gulf countries are of the opinion that Hizbullah and Hamas are acting on orders from Teheran and Damascus.

That's why most Arab governments have refrained from making efforts to resolve the current crisis. As one government official in the Gulf explained: "We cannot play the role of mediators upon the request of some parties that act without taking into consideration the consequences of their actions." Similar sentiments have been reflected in a series of articles that appeared in the Arab media over the past few days. Some of the articles appear as if they had been written by Israeli government spokesmen. Ironically, the fact that Hizbullah and Hamas are now on the defensive has encouraged many Arabs to come out against the two groups in public.

Wadi Batti, an Iraqi columnist, said the Arabs should realize that militias and gangsters will only worsen their conditions. "The Lebanese example confirms the fears of Arabs about the presence of armed militias that threaten our stability and security," he wrote.

"By initiating the confrontation with Israel, Hizbullah has made a mockery of the Lebanese government and leaders, who are now seen as pawns in the hands of Nasrallah. How long will the Arabs continue to fight on behalf of Iran?"

Echoing the mood among most of his Lebanese fellow Christians, Joseph Bishara said: "Hizbullah is trying to provoke Israel into war to divert attention from the mistakes made by the Syrian and Iranian regimes. Bashar Assad and Ali Khamenei are using Hizbullah to achieve their direct and indirect goals in the region. They used Hizbullah to ease the pressure exerted by the international community on Syria and Iran.

"How can we ask Israel to have mercy on the Lebanese while Hizbullah is betraying Lebanon day and night?"

Bishara, whose article appeared on the Saudi-owned Elaph Web site, went as far as describing Syria and Iran as the real enemies of Lebanon. Today, he added, "Lebanon is paying the price for the sins of its real enemies - Syria and Iran, which don't dare confront Israel militarily and diplomatically. The time has come to neutralize and disarm Hizbullah before it becomes an illegitimate state inside Lebanon. Hizbullah's weapons threaten Lebanon's stability before they threaten Israel."

Tarek Hamo, another prominent Arab commentator, mocked Nasrallah, drawing parallels between him and ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "The statements of Hassan Nasrallah remind me of the statements made by Saddam Hussein on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq," he said. "Saddam, whose army generals fled their positions in Baghdad just before the invasion, also issued threats to destroy the Americans if they entered Baghdad. Nasrallah is now in hiding and his fate won't be better than that of Saddam, whose was hiding in a deep hole."

Writing in the influential pan-Arab London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, columnist Iyad Abu Shakra said that many Lebanese were surprised by the Hizbullah operation and the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers.

"They were especially shocked by the timing of the attack - at the beginning of the tourism season that was supposed to provide income for over two million Lebanese families at a time when Lebanon is suffering a $40 million deficit in its budget," he pointed out. "What's really amazing is that Hizbullah's supporters and officials have underestimated the damages, especially to the tourism sector, by claiming that the only ones who were going to benefit from the tourism season were those who love humous and women."

Trying to explain the Arab attitude, Palestinian political analyst Ashraf al-Ajrami noted that many Arab countries were afraid of Iran and did not want to see the Iranians spread their influence. "The Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, believe that no party has the right to drag the entire region to a military confrontation with Israel," he wrote in the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam daily.

"These countries believe that there is no room for mistakes and adventures. The Arabs are worried about Iran's plans in the region, especially with regards to Iraq and the development of nuclear weapons, and their attempts to influence events in Lebanon and Palestine. A large number of Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf, see Iran as a future adversary."

They have brought this war upon themselves. All they had to do is leave Isreal alone and everything would have worked out When do people ever learn that terrorist tactics never work?
They started this and now Isreal is going to end it.