Posts belonging to Category Police State



Checkpoints: More MADDness we can’t afford

As regular as clockwork, with the beginning of a new legislative session in Texas, we see the introduction of yet another “sobriety” checkpoint bill (HB439, introduced by Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless).

And, as always, the usual people come out of the woodwork in support of it:

Sobriety checkpoints: Checkpoints such as those used in 38 other states have been illegal in Texas since 1994, when the courts ruled that they were unconstitutional because there were no uniform guidelines. Legislators have tried for years to reinstate them.

“In 2008, Texas led the nation in DWI fatality deaths,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. “That is a focus for us … to stop that kind of carnage on our roadways and our highways and to really get serious about this issue of driving while intoxicated and DWI fatalities.”

The Senate approved a bill in 2009, but it didn’t reach the House floor.

Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, has filed a bill to let the Texas Department of Public Safety set up checkpoints in counties where more than 250,000 live.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/01/05/2747820/texas-law-enforcers-urge-legislature.html#ixzz1AGyHqjJg

I wrote a fairly lengthy post on the constitutionality and effectiveness of checkpoints in late 2008 relating to SB 298, which was filed for the 2009 session.

Ultimately, aside from being an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens, checkpoints commit the cardinal sin of being ineffective at their supposed purpose: catching drunk drivers.  Even the proponents of checkpoints admit that their effectiveness is limited, but that they serve instead as a warning that drunk drivers will be caught (Behold the awesome power of the state, peon!).

So what really works?  Putting police on the street looking for drunk drivers. Amazing!  Good, old fashioned, police work beats sending a message.  From the conclusion of my 2008 post:

This style of policing keeps our officers out on the streets where they can observe other activities and help prevent other types of crime at the same time.  Further, it helps target the worst offenders, the habitual drunks, who will drive drunk regardless of what the law says.  Finally, it respects individual rights by only stopping people when there is some reasonable suspicion that the individual may be impaired.

Checkpoints do just the opposite.  They tie up police resources at a well-known stationary position, allowing drunk drivers to avoid them and giving other criminals more chances to attempt crimes in the absence of the regular police presence.  Further, they corrode respect of the police by the average innocent citizen who is caught up in them.

Let’s continue to respect the freedom of our citizens here in Texas by saying “No!” to any attempts to enable checkpoints in our state.  Our resources can be better used by aggressively pursuing criminal drunk drivers rather than sitting around waiting for them to come to us.

It’s unfortunate that we have to fight this nonsense every legislative session, but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Let’s all remember to just say NO to checkpoints and YES to liberty.

Quickie: Implosion of the Republic

I have come to suspect that the death of our republic will not be accompanied by a thunderous KABOOM but instead by a plaintive whine of it’s for the children (or perhaps its hoary cousin if it saves just one life).

Stop The MADDness in Texas

Since my last post touched on the madness of MADD, I thought this a good time to bring up MADD’s next pet project: sobriety checkpoints.  Fortunately, Texas is one of 11 states that do not allow checkpoints.  MADD, however, doggedly tries to get enabling legislation enacted whenever the state legislature is in session.  Since the next Texas legislative session begins in January, we can expect to see more MADD press-releases pushing checkpoints disguised as news articles.  We’ve already seen a couple of early ones in print and on TV over the past couple of months.  Further, State Sen John Carona (R-Dallas*) has introduced SB 298 for consideration in the coming session.

As those of you who know me would expect, I don’t like checkpoints.  I think they are an unreasonable and unwarranted seizure and that they violate the plain letter of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of what the Supreme Court may think. 

* I would have hoped that a Republican, being supposedly for limited government, would have been against checkpoints, but I should know better by now.  The only real difference between Democrats and Republicans is in which form of statism they want to enact.

The Freedom Argument

I know that arguing for freedom and for the Bill of Rights is not very popular these days, but as it’s my personal windmill at which I must tilt, please indulge me in a few words in that direction.  Those who don’t care for the freedom argument may skip down to the Utilitarian Considerations section.

Let us begin by considering they very plain, and easily understandable, language of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Being stopped by police is a seizure, as you are not free to leave.  The SCOTUS acknowledged that a checkpoint constitutes a seizure in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990).  Unfortunately, the court somehow then leapt to the conclusion that while the seizure is an intrusion on individual rights, it’s somehow “reasonable” because it is “minimal” as balanced against the costs of drunken driving.  I think this is one of those cases where the majority got it wrong. 

The ability to go about your business without being seized and searched is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of our freedom.  In general, if you’ve done nothing wrong, then the police have no business detaining you.  This principle goes to the very heart of what is wrong with sobriety checkpoints.  If an officer observes a vehicle being operated in a suspicious or unsafe manner, he or she may stop the vehicle and investigate the driver to ascertain whether the driver is impaired.  In this instance, the officer is operating on “individualized suspicion.”  In other words, the officer has some probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that the driver may be in violation of the law.  With a checkpoint, we have all people going through the checkpoint being seized for investigation without any suspicion whatsoever. 

The dissent from Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz captures the essence of the constitutional argument:

The majority opinion creates the impression that the Court generally engages in a balancing test in order to determine [p457] the constitutionality of all seizures, or at least those “dealing with police stops of motorists on public highways.” Ante at 450. This is not the case. In most cases, the police must possess probable cause for a seizure to be judged reasonable. See Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 209 (1979). Only when a seizure is “substantially less intrusive,” id. at 210, than a typical arrest is the general rule replaced by a balancing test. I agree with the Court that the initial stop of a car at a roadblock under the Michigan State Police sobriety checkpoint policy is sufficiently less intrusive than an arrest so that the reasonableness of the seizure may be judged, not by the presence of probable cause, but by balancing

the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty.

Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51 (1979). But one searches the majority opinion in vain for any acknowledgment that the reason for employing the balancing test is that the seizure is minimally intrusive.

Indeed, the opinion reads as if the minimal nature of the seizure ends rather than begins the inquiry into reasonableness. Once the Court establishes that the seizure is “slight,” ante at 451, it asserts without explanation that the balance “weighs in favor of the state program.” Ante at 455. The Court ignores the fact that, in this class of minimally intrusive searches, we have generally required the Government to prove that it had reasonable suspicion for a minimally intrusive seizure to be considered reasonable. (emphasis added)  See, e.g., Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 661 (1979); United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 882-883 (1975); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27, (1968). Some level of individualized suspicion is a core component of the protection the Fourth Amendment provides against arbitrary government action.  See Prouse, supra, 440 U.S. at 654-655; Martinez-Fuerte, supra, 428 U.S. at 577 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting) (“Action based merely on [p458] whatever may pique the curiosity of a particular officer is the antithesis of the objective standards requisite to reasonable conduct and to avoiding abuse and harassment”).  By holding that no level of suspicion is necessary before the police may stop a car for the purpose of preventing drunken driving, the Court potentially subjects the general public to arbitrary or harassing conduct by the police.  I would have hoped that before taking such a step, the Court would carefully explain how such a plan fits within our constitutional framework.

Presumably, the Court purports to draw support from Martinez-Fuerte, supra, which is the only case in which the Court has upheld a program that subjects the general public to suspicionless seizures.  But as JUSTICE STEVENS demonstrates, post at 463-466, 471-472, the Michigan State Police policy is sufficiently different from the program at issue in Martinez-Fuerte that such reliance is unavailing.  Moreover, even if the policy at issue here were comparable to the program at issue in Martinez-Fuerte, it does not follow that the balance of factors in this case also justifies abandoning a requirement of individualized suspicion.  In Martinez-Fuerte, the Court explained that suspicionless stops were justified because

[a] requirement that stops . . . be based on reasonable suspicion would be impractical because the flow of traffic tends to be too heavy to allow the particularized study of a given car that would enable it to be identified as a possible carrier of illegal aliens.

428 U.S. at 557.  There has been no showing in this case that there is a similar difficulty in detecting individuals who are driving under the influence of alcohol, nor is it intuitively obvious that such a difficulty exists.  See Prouse, supra, 440 U.S. at 661.  That stopping every car might make it easier to prevent drunken driving, but see post at 469-471, is an insufficient justification for abandoning the requirement of individualized suspicion. (emphasis added)

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not free to leave, I would consider myself “seized,” and not quibble about how “slight” the seizure is.

Unfortunately, though, the majority opinion is what we’re stuck with, which (at least at the national level) makes these things “legal.”  Fortunately for us in Texas, though, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Holt v. State, 887 S.W.2d 16 (Tex. Crim. App. 1994) (no online cite available) interpreted the 1990 Sitz decision to mean that checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment unless specifically authorized by the legislature.  So I am somewhat heartened to see that at least our own Texas courts understand the U.S. Constitution and its amendments. 

Beyond the legalities, though, these checkpoints also provide another avenue for police to go on a fishing expedition for other activities.  Consider the following bit from the CDC about how to get police officers to get behind checkpoints:

Support among the police officers conducting checkpoints is important. Because checkpoints tend to result in few arrests for alcohol-impaired driving, it is important for officers to understand that the primary goal is to prevent such occurrences. Checkpoints can also lead to the arrest of drivers for other offenses, such as weapons possession. (emphasis added)

Ah… the good-old CDC… they’ve never been known to pass up a chance to stick it to gun owners in this country, constitution be-damned.

Anyone who truly understands the concepts of freedom and liberty that were gifted to us by the founders will abhor sobriety checkpoints as an unreasonable search and seizure.  Those who would ignore and limit our freedom are not so moved, which leads me to the next section.

Utilitarian Considerations

If our freedom is to be limited in trade for some nebulous assurance of “safety,” then we should examine these claims to see if that will truly be the case or if we’re being sold a bill of goods.  In addition, what are the costs of running checkpoints and do they provide a useful return on investment?

First, I’ve learned that checkpoints aren’t so much about arresting drunk drivers as they are about “education” and “awareness.” 

Consider the following from Battling DUI: A comparative analysis of checkpoints and saturation patrols – driving under the influence – FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Jan 2003:

Used to deter drinking and driving, sobriety checkpoints are related more directly to educating the public and encouraging designated drivers, rather than actually apprehending impaired drivers. Typically, sobriety checkpoints do not yield a large volume of DUI arrests. Instead, they offer authorities an educational tool. Education and awareness serve as a significant part of deterrence. Frequent use of checkpoints and aggressive media coverage can create a convincing threat in people’s minds that officers will apprehend impaired drivers—a key to general deterrence. In addition, public opinion polls have indicated that 70 to 80 percent of Americans surveyed favored the increased use of sobriety checkpoints as an effective law enforcement tool to combat impaired driving.

As an aside, I really have to wonder about who was surveyed and how the questions were worded if 70 to 80 percent of Americans really favored checkpoints.  Or perhaps not, given the sad state of understanding that most people have of their civil liberties these days…

Also consider some numbers related to the number of arrests with checkpoints as compared to saturation patrols and other methods:

Since 1989, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has participated in 156 sobriety checkpoints and arrested 807 drivers for DUI.

The agency arrests an average of 25,000 DUI drivers per year through all DUI-related operations.

Think about that for a moment.  If the period of operation is 1989 through 2002 (the article was written in early 2003), that means that over 13 years they arrested a total number of DUI drivers at checkpoints that comes to only about 3% of what they arrest in a single year! 

But then, if all of the above is true, the “authorities” don’t care how many arrests they make.  They will simply declare checkpoints a success just because they existed!

Although the program only netted 773 arrests for DUI, the deterrent factor created by the continuous use of the checkpoints and the media attention received resulted in the program’s success.

But even if these checkpoints are effective at raising “awareness,” they’re very costly PR:

This holiday weekend, New Jersey’s “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign will assign hundreds of officers to run sobriety checkpoints throughout the state. Officers spend hours screening hundreds, sometimes thousands, of vehicles that pass through a previously announced location.

Expensive

These roadblocks demand considerable staffing-hours and extensive funding, as towns that participate in the campaign receive $5,000 in federal funding. Across New Jersey, $875,000 has been distributed by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety for the 175 participating law enforcement agencies. But checkpoints yield precious few drunken driving arrests.

With our slowing economy and rising gas prices, resources are tight and getting tighter. That reality makes the $29 million in federal funds earmarked to help run these pricey checkpoints in 2009 a luxury we can’t afford.

With overtime for a dozen or more officers, the costs of everyone’s travel delays and the value of other materials and equipment, the average checkpoint costs about $8,800. (emphasis added)

In 2006, states that relied on checkpoints averaged 7 percent more alcohol-related fatalities than those that used other tactics.

The reason for that discrepancy is readily apparent when considering programs like South Dakota’s, where officers ran more than 300 checkpoints in 2006. Even though the overtime alone cost taxpayers $177,000, the roadblocks, on average, only yielded a single arrest.

Just last week, a checkpoint held in Readington caught only three drunken drivers out of 1,100 motorists stopped and inconvenienced. That is a dismal 0.2 percent success rate.

These examples aren’t unique, and supporters often scramble to defend the low numbers. Last week, New Jersey’s director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, Pam Fischer, said of checkpoints: “This initiative increases public awareness.”

But this claim that checkpoints raise “awareness” of enforcement efforts reduces the tactic to little more than an overpriced publicity stunt.

Finally, roadblocks commit the cardinal sin of not actually being effective. Or at least that’s what some data suggest (unfortunately, finding non-suspect data is difficult, as all of the major players such as CDC, NHTSA, and IHS seem invested in supporting checkpoints).  Looking at data from 2004 and 2003, the ABI found some interesting results using NHTSA’s own numbers.  It turns out that there was a reduction of 411 alchol-related deaths in 2004 as compared to 2003.  Of those, 95.9% came from the 11 states that do NOT operate roadblocks, as compared to only 4.1% from the states with roadblocks. 

Despair Not!  There Is A Solution

It turns out that there is a tactic that works for getting drunks off the road and that respects the Consititution and our liberty: increased patrols.  Wow, imagine that!  Good, old-fashioned, police work gets results! 

Some refer to “roving patrols” while others talk of “saturation patrols.”  These refer to dedicated efforts targeting a specific location or time in an effort to catch impaired drivers.  But here in Keller I think we have a great example of where aggressive traffic enforcement works in getting drunks off the streets. 

Consider these remarks from Chief Mark Hafner in the last issue of the
Keller Police Neighborhood Newsletter:

We continue to take a stance against intoxicated drivers on our roadways. Last month we removed 20 individuals from the streets for DWI. We want the message loud and clear “Don’t drive intoxicated in Keller”. By taking this stance our roadways are safer and hopefully we can reduce the amount of alcohol related deaths. Late evening/early morning hours are the prime time for intoxicated drivers. This is one of the reasons why we stop vehicles for minor traffic violations like wide turns, crossing the center of the roadway, failure to use turn signals, and slow speed. Officers will stop you for these violations. If you are not intoxicated they will send you on your way and thank you for being patient during the brief stop. Please understand we are not “harassing” you but doing our job of removing intoxicated drivers off the roads before a collision occurs.

I’ve done a couple of ride-alongs and I’ve observed our officers in action.  Not only do they target infractions that may indicate impairment, they also keep an eye on the local establishments at closing time to catch anyone who may have had a few too many.  This style of policing keeps our officers out on the streets where they can observe other activities and help prevent other types of crime at the same time.  Further, it helps target the worst offenders, the habitual drunks, who will drive drunk regardless of what the law says.  Finally, it respects individual rights by only stopping people when there is some reasonable suspicion that the individual may be impaired.

Checkpoints do just the opposite.  They tie up police resources at a well-known stationary position, allowing drunk drivers to avoid them and giving other criminals more chances to attempt crimes in the absence of the regular police presence.  Further, they corrode respect of the police by the average innocent citizen who is caught up in them.   

Let’s continue to respect the freedom of our citizens here in Texas by saying “No!” to any attempts to enable checkpoints in our state.  Our resources can be better used by aggressively pursuing criminal drunk drivers rather than sitting around waiting for them to come to us.

iBreath announced: MADD jumps shark

A company is introducing a product called the iBreath, which is a combination breathalyzer and FM transmitter for your iPod.

I heard about it this morning on KRLD.  What really got my attention, though, was the fact that MADD doesn’t like it.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn’t like the iBreath saying it might encourage young people to drink as much as they can so they can make the numbers go higher and higher.

I think this statement is perfect proof that MADD has strayed from its original (and laudable) goal of preventing drunk driving and has turned into a temperance organization.  If they really still cared about preventing drunk driving, they would welcome this device as one more tool that people can use to be more responsible by avoiding driving if they’re over the limit.

I was initially taken aback that MADD would not like this device, but on further thought I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised given their recent direction.

You Must Smile For The Camera!

There were a surprisingly high number of bank robberies in the area last year (and the trend seems to be continuing this year):

Last year, Dallas police reached a 15-year high for the number of bank robberies they investigated.

In an effort to avoid breaking that record anytime soon, officers plan to visit banks robbed recently to discuss ways to deter criminals. Police hope a better partnership with banks will help hold the numbers down.

So, just what are the police advising?

Some of the measures Dallas police will encourage banks to take:

  • Put up signs asking customers to remove hats, sunglasses and other items that hinder identification.
  • Place height-markers at entrances and exits to help identify suspects.
  • Update camera and alarm systems.
  • Place an employee near the door to greet customers.
  • Educate employees on how to spot potential trouble and report it quickly.
  • Make sure employees’ views of the teller area are unobstructed by desks, banners or other items.

Most of it sounds fairly innocuous, except for that first one.  Now I realize that banks are private property (or as private as property gets these days, what with the meddling health nazis, etc).  But something about this still rubs me the wrong way and it feels like the edge of a slippery slope.  Of course the police say it’s “voluntary,” but as with everything of this ilk, what is voluntary today soon becomes mandatory tomorrow.  There has been a time or two where I’ve nipped into the Chase branch in Town Center while I’m out walking, and if it’s particularly hot or sunny I wear a hat to cut the glare.  I’d be a bit miffed if told to take off the hat, because by then I’ve got sweaty hat head. 

Rather than concern about annoying regular customers, the primary reason that some banks haven’t implemented the hat suggestion is fear of offending people who wear head scarves or turbans, though.  Ah.  Finally something that multiculturalism is good for.

Anyhow, should this catch on with banks, I guess I’ll just have to drive over to the bank from now on (or perhaps frequent the drive-up window more often), thereby emitting more Gaia-destroying carbon-laden greenhouse gases.  cool smirk

And Again…

It seems a bit of Ego Googling has brought some life back to the comments on my post about MADD’s plan to embed passive alcohol detection devices in all cars.

I suspect it might be a bit annoying to Mr. Murray that the comments page for that post is the Number 1 hit on Google for the string “MADD Florida Murray.”

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

   — C.S. Lewis

Offensive beyond words

So I see this morning that the good folks at MADD have announced their latest Utopian idea to prevent drunk driving.

In a bold new effort designed to eradicate one of the nation’s deadliest crimes, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) today launched its national Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, which aims to literally wipe out drunk driving in the United States.

*  Exploration of advanced vehicle technologies through the establishment of a Blue Ribbon panel of international safety experts to assess the feasibility of a range of technologies that would prevent drunk driving. These technologies must be moderately priced, absolutely reliable, set at the legal BAC limit and unobtrusive to the sober driver;

Proving once again that advocacy organizations sometimes go off the deep end in their obsession with a problem, the above means that they want every single vehicle to have an interlock device to prevent it from starting should the driver be “impaired.”

The first commenter thinks I misunderstood what the devices would be like, since I used the term “interlock.”  I fully understand that this is a passive technology.  That doesn’t change the fact that in engineering terms this device would still be an interlock, which is a device that serves some protective function by disabling the mechanism when certain conditions are observed.

I’m not sure I have words to express my disgust with the idea of being treated like a potential criminal every single time I start my truck!  It offends me on a level that’s difficult to express.

Now before I get a lot of hate mail from the MADD folks who will likely end up here eventually from the good offices of Google as part of their astro-turf campaign, I need to say that I absolutely despise drunk drivers.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to put up with being treated like a potential criminal at every turn and being forced to prove my innocence to go about my daily routine. 

I’m actually the last person who would need an interlock.  I’m usually the designated driver for my friends when we go somewhere.  But MADD would have me treated just the same way as someone who had killed someone by driving drunk and force me to prove my sobriety every time I get in the truck. 

Does anyone else see how offensive this is?  Am I the only one?  Have we become a nation of damn sheep who meekly roll over for whatever “safety” demand that comes forth from whatever advocacy group is the media darling today? 

Real Punishment

If we’re really serious about stopping drunks, we should be concentrating on removing the chronic drunks from the road and making examples of the first-time offenders.  Current law in Texas makes drunk driving a Class B misdemeanor with only a 72-hour minimum confinement.  A Class B misdemeanor carries a maximum jail term of 180 days and/or a fine not to exceed $2,000. 

How about we start getting serious with these jokers?  Maybe a mandatory 6 month sentence for first-time offenders (no parole, no early release, etc), followed by interlocks (I don’t mind interlocks for someone who’s already shown they can’t be trusted).  A second offense gets you two years and permanent loss of license.  Of course, these drunks don’t seem to mind driving without a license, so maybe a third offense is worth 10 years or something. 

My hope is that the threat of real jail time instead of deferred adjudication or other coddling would help a lot.  It certainly addresses the problem WITHOUT treating the innocent as criminals until proven otherwise.

The technology problem

Ok… so let’s say this technology does get pushed on us whether we want it or not.  Just how reliable does it have to be?  MADD claims they want it to be “absolutely reliable, [...] and unobtrusive to the sober driver”.  That would appear to me to require 100% reliability.  What do you want to bet that if someone comes up with a 99.5% reliable device that MADD decides that it’s just reliable enough?  What?  You won’t take that bet?  Smart move since we know how these advocacy groups work.

A 99.5% reliability rate means a 00.5% failure rate.  Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  Well, let’s do some hypothetical calculations.  I’m going to base it on my own driving habits, but you can substitute your own numbers if you like. 

First, let’s consider how many times I start my truck per year:
– I generally take one trip per day, every day of the year, which means two starts per day:  365*2 = 730
– I also generally take a second trip at least once per week (grocery runs, etc): 52*2 = 104

So, that comes out to 834 starts per year.  At a 0.5% failure rate, this means that I will be stranded by my truck approximately 4.17 times per year.

Doesn’t sound so good now, does it?  Can I call Glynn Birch (national president of MADD) to come get me each of those 4 times my truck arbitrarily decides not to start each year? 

Note:  For those that would accuse me of attacking a straw man, I will certainly admit that the 99.5% reliability rating is somewhat arbitrary, but I think the argument is still sound.  I work in a technology-based business and I understand the ways in which systems can be flawed.  Making a system that is foolproof and that can stand up to use by hundreds of millions of people without any failures is a very tall order.

Now consider that spread across 133.6 million automobiles (2000 number, see link) and the potential for false positives becomes staggering.  For the sake of argument, lets boost the reliability to 99.99% and assume that those vehicles are solely used for trips to and from work on week days.  Let’s further assume that these drivers get two weeks vacation.

This means that each vehicle is driven on one trip per day, five days per week, for 50 weeks per year.  There will be two starts per trip (one at the beginning of the day and one when leaving work).  So, that’s 5 * 50 * 2 = 500 starts per year per vehicle.  With 133.6 million vehicles, that comes to 66800000000 starts per year (yes, that’s 66.8 billion).  At a failure rate of 0.01%, that comes to 6680000 denied starts per year.  So people will be arbitrarily stranded by their vehicles 6.68 million times per year.

Still think it’s a minor inconvenience and worth the hassle?  After all, it’s always worth it even if it saves just one life?  Right?

Can we all call you for a ride when the system arbitrarily denies us the use of our own property and leaves us stranded?

The friendly camel’s nose

So what’s the big deal, some will say?  Don’t you want to stop drunk driving?  It’s for your own good.  Relax and go with the flow…

The question becomes, “Where does it stop?”  Of course the current advocates of this sort of thing will tell you that you’re being silly and paranoid.  But whenever you propose something like this, it’s best to stop and think for a minute about whether you want to live in a world where this type kind of power is given to your worst enemy.

So let’s say we get nationalized health care.  Will your car measure you against your ideal weight and decide you should walk today?  Is you job nearby and would the busy-body urban planners decide you should walk there? 

Let’s imagine that to combat drive-bys that your car won’t start if it detects gunpowder or a firearm?  How does a law-abiding citizen go to and from the range?  What if you got powder residue on your shoes yesterday during a legal trip to the range?  (Meanwhile the gang-bangers are driving their illegally modified cars to and from their drive-bys…)  Do you have to call the cops to get an override code so you can go to work?  (Prepare to assume the position, as you get treated to a felony stop because you called and mentioned guns and cars.)  What about legal concealed carry?  (Of course if we get this nannified, I guess concealed carry would be right out.)

It doesn’t hurt to consider these things now.  The original proponents of Social Security said that the SSN would never be used for an identifier and that such objections were ill-founded.  I’ve lost track of the number of places that now demand it or they won’t do business with you.

Making enemies

Up until now I’ve regarded MADD as a bit obsessive, but ultimately not worthy of much further thought.  At first I was even with them, since I hate drunk drivers.  But this has gone too far.  If they pursue making this technology mandatory I will make it my mission to vote against any politician that sides with them.  I will boycott any business that supports them.  Whatever it takes to try to stem the tide of statist, intrusive technology into every facet of our lives.

A slow wave of stupidity

I have a very bad feeling about this.

   —Luke Skywalker

Unfortunately, MADD’s announcement that this is a 10-year project is actually a good bit of strategy on their part.  It allows the idea to slowly infiltrate the population.  Combined with a regular drumbeat from the media who will just run MADD press releases as news, people’s defenses will slowly be eroded.  Ultimately, those of us who find it offensive to be treated as criminals until proven innocent may be ground under the swell of popular opinion.  I really do fear that we’ve become a nation of sheep who will accept any level of intrusion for that illusive little bit of extra safety.  It’s hard to maintain opposition over a long term against those who paint you as hating “the children” and being in favor of getting people killed because you won’t support their pet program.  Against all that, liberty is a hard sell.

At times like this I really fear for our Republic.  Forget the Islamofascists.  We’re going to nanny ourselves to death.  We’ll go out not with a bang, but with a soft baby-like whimper.

Coda: Private vs Public actors (added after original post)

One thing that I probably failed to elicuidate in the above is that my concern reflects any legal requirement to include these “passive” devices in vehicles.  If it were strictly a private initiative, such that one could purchase the device as an option and receive an insurance discount, I would be less bothered (although I would still be concerned that it’s the camel’s nose under the tent in furtherance of legal requirements).  Given MADD’s history, I am not sanguine that it would content itself with a market-driven solution, however.

Update:  Some additional reaction to this technology proposal…
Questions to ask MADD before every car has a Breathalyzer
Drunk Until Proven Sober

Why Am I Not Surprised?

This situation has got to be one of the most egregious examples of bean-counting bureaucratic thinking I’ve seen in a while.

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they’re reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they’re required to submit at least one report a month. If they don’t, there’s no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

“Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft … and they did nothing wrong,” said one federal air marshal.

These unknowing passengers who are doing nothing wrong are landing in a secret government document called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR. Air marshals told 7NEWS that managers in Las Vegas created and continue to maintain this potentially dangerous quota system.

Whomever decided this was a good idea needs to be dragged off and shot.  Air marshalls are supposed to be there to stop trouble if it should start.  I can understand the purpose of this “SDR” system, but I absolutely cannot understand the rationale behind generating at least one such report per month. 

But then the mind of a bureaucrat is a nasty, vile place.  Check out this bit:

A second management memo, also dated July 2004, said, “There may come an occasion when you just don’t see anything out of the ordinary for a month at a time, but I’m sure that if you are looking for it, you’ll see something.”

Sounds like management wants the air marshalls to just make crap up if there’s nothing happening.  That is absolutely, positively, wrong.  Especially as it means that innocent people get put on a secret list without any knowledge of why or how it happened and for having done nothing wrong other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

To borrow a phrase:  Bureaucrat.  Rope.  Tree.  Some assembly required.

Meth Madness and Hayfever

I know it will seem hard to believe, but even with all its pain-in-the-ass record-keeping requirements, the new Federal pseudoephedrine law seems marginally better than the Texas one.  Or so it seems to this frustrated allergy sufferer. 

Before this asinine law was passed, I used to buy the generic stuff at Sam’s in 30-packs.  That was very convenient, as it was approximately a month’s worth (it was also a lot less expensive at about $18 for 30, compared to the $10-or-so I pay for a box of 10 now).  Now, the stores following the Texas law appear to be tied into some kind of database that keps you from buying or possessing more than about 10 Claritin-D 24 pills at a time.  I don’t know this for certain, but I do know that after buying a piddling little 5-pack at Wal-Mart, I tried going to Target and was told that I couldn’t have any, as it would put me over the limit.  This was becoming increasingly frustrating to me, as it prevented me from keeping any extra on hand.  I pretty much had to run out of them before I could buy more. 

Now one of the local pharmacies is observing the Federal law.  The Federal law limits you to 3.6g of pseudoephedrine per day, or 9.0g per month.  As it happens, a 10-pack of Claritin-D 24 is 2.4g, so I can at buy one per day, up to the monthly limit.  30-days of Claritin-D 24 would be 7.2g, so at least I can accumulate a month’s worth.

Regardless, though, this situation sucks.  I can almost buy a gun with less paperwork (the pharmacy clerk had to fill out almost as much info as is on the 4473; all that seemed to be missing is the set of yes/no are you a felon/fugitive questions).  I can certainly buy ammo with less hassle.  I asked the pharmacist if I could get a prescription and get around this nonsense.  The answer?  Nope.  Prescription doesn’t matter.  I’m tempted to ask my doctor for a prescription for Allegra-D.  At least with that I can get it online from my drug plan in 90-day increments (delivered right to the door without nanny looking over my shoulder).

And if I hear one more idiot droning on about how “It’s For The Children™” I’m going to slug them.  Right after I finish blowing my nose…

The High Cost Of (State) Voyeurism

Not only does the state want to hear everything you say, it doesn’t want to pay for the privilege.

Hoping to contain “skyrocketing” costs, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has asked the Federal Communications Commission to limit how much U.S. cell phone service providers charge law enforcement to wiretap calls.

After a period of spiking prices, Spitzer’s office now spends a budget-busting $400,000 to $500,000 annually on wiretaps, while some smaller law enforcement agencies aren’t using the basic crime-fighting tactic at all, according to a document Spitzer filed Monday with the FCC.

“Such a cost-recovery scheme (makes) intercepts prohibitively expensive for virtually all law enforcement agencies, and result in depriving law enforcement of an essential crime-fighting and anti-terror tool,” he added.

Cell phone service providers have warned for more than a decade that wiretapping would be an expensive proposition, much more so than traditional phone networks. Furthermore, there are mechanisms in place that allow law enforcement agencies to dispute any wiretapping costs if they feel they are being overcharged, a representative for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), a cell phone industry trade group, said in response to Spitzer’s request to the FCC.

According to Spitzer, a yearlong wiretap costs between $5,000 to $26,400, depending on which U.S. cell phone service provider is doing the setup and maintenance. The CTIA representative did not comment on figures Spitzer’s office provided.

Poor big brother… can’t afford to listen as much as he wants…  <Screaming Baby>Waaaaaaa</Screaming Baby>

Can you tell that I’m not entirely sympathetic to Mr Spitzer? smile