Archive for laws
In a perfect world, Derek Flemming would have been able to march up to the driver of a car that cut him off, express some anger, and get back into his own vehicle—without fear of losing his life.
The 43 year-old husband and father of two young children would have vented his anger and frustration and still lived to re-tell the story to friends, co-workers and family at every opportunity.
We do that a lot, you know—turn storyteller when we are wronged, whether it’s from poor service at a restaurant to being incredulous at a retailer’s return policy, among other things.
But then we get it out of our system and we move on, until someone else relates a story that fires your mental file cabinet into gear and your story gets retold yet again.
But Flemming paid the ultimate price in an act that unfortunately will have people—like yours truly—getting into “blame the victim” mode.
Flemming was gunned down at a traffic light near Howell after he allegedly complained to a driver who cut him off in traffic and who was—again, allegedly—driving recklessly. The 69 year-old man had stopped in front of Flemming’s vehicle at the light. Flemming exited his vehicle and said something like, according to his wife, who was in the car with her husband, “What’s your problem?”
Then Flemming was shot dead by the older driver.
I know we don’t live in a perfect world. If we did, my knee jerk reaction wouldn’t have been (as it was when I read of the tragic story), “Ooh…you shouldn’t have gotten out of your car.”
We have all been cut off in traffic. We have all been frustrated by rudeness in public. And we have all fantasized about what we would like to have done or said, if only we had thought about those reactions at the time.
You have no idea how many fictional, imagined conversations or actions I have wistfully thought of in my head in response to surliness, idiocy and the like. Usually I think of those responses when it’s way too late.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
Certainly Flemming, who was on his way to pick up his kids after their first day of school, would have made it to his children and would have had dinner with them that night, if he had only checked himself before exiting his vehicle.
You can call that blaming the victim all you like. You can say that a man should be able to stand up for himself. You can say that rude, reckless drivers deserve to be confronted.
You can say that Derek Flemming shouldn’t have been expecting the confronted driver to have a gun so readily available and with the demented mindset to use it at a drop of a hat.
But would you rather be right, confrontational and dead, or grumble to yourself—and your wife—and live?
People gather near the area where Derek Flemming was gunned down on Tuesday
It’s sad that this is the subconscious choice that we are now forced to make in this dangerous, violent world. Maybe it’s not so subconscious.
So the rude and the reckless and the surly get a free pass? Not necessarily. There are other ways to throw the karma back into their court.
In Flemming’s case, there is a device called a cell phone. And it accepts emergency numbers.
I walk our dog every evening and in the 10 years that I have been doing so, I have called the police some six or seven times. The reasons range from chickens appearing at a strip mall (true story) to a drunk man passed out on a sidewalk to high suspicions of domestic violence taking place at a private residence.
I call the authorities, calmly describe the situation and let the cops do their thing.
And I live to tell about it, which I have, several times.
Should Derek Flemming have gotten out of his vehicle and confronted a dangerous, reckless, rude driver? Or should he have dialed 911 and reported the reckless driver? Flemming was situated behind the older man, so a license plate number could have easily been reported as well.
This isn’t second-guessing. It’s not a case of hindsight being 20/20.
We live in a world where people simply aren’t to be trifled with on many occasions. No one knows who’s packing heat these days. Worse, no one knows the mental stability of those who are armed.
Did the 69 year-old driver feel threatened by the unarmed Flemming, who approached the older man’s vehicle clearly in anger, according to witnesses?
Playing Devil’s Advocate, you can say that the older man didn’t know if Flemming was armed or not. Just because Flemming didn’t approach with a gun drawn doesn’t mean he wasn’t carrying concealed.
Maybe the older driver panicked.
Regardless, Derek Flemming is dead. And he doesn’t have to be.
His epitaph, of course, ought not to read “He shouldn’t have gotten out of his car.” Flemming was a husband and a dad, and the owner of his own landscaping business. He was much more than a man who made a split-second decision that ultimately cost him his life.
As if we need yet another reminder that things are rough out there.
The recall of a car seems to be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of proposition.
General Motors is recalling cars almost as fast as they’re making them, but what is worse—recalling cars or ignoring the problem?
If anyone knows both sides of that sword, it’s GM.
Nearly 14 million GM cars have been recalled in 2014, and the year isn’t half over.
The latest mulligan for General Motors is the Chevy Aveo, which the other day became the 30th GM vehicle to be recalled in 2014. The 218,000 subcompact Aveos brought the grand total of recalled GM cars to 13.8 million.
The latest recall involves Aveos in model years between 2004 and 2008. The daytime running light module in the dashboard center stack can overheat, melt and catch fire.
Of course, nothing is worse than a recall born out of deaths, and GM knows all about that, too—with its infamous ignition switch debacle from earlier this year that is responsible for at least 13 deaths (according to GM; suing lawyers say the number is 53).
No injuries or deaths have been reported as yet in connection with the Aveo recall.
Yes, recalling nearly 14 million cars isn’t the greatest thing for consumer confidence, but neither is under-reporting or non-reporting problems, as might have been the case with the ignition switch thing.
General Motors, which at one time was among the largest and most robust companies in the entire world, has been, to use an appropriate analogy, spinning its wheels in 2014.
The ignition switch problem, which may have gone on for about 10 years before GM did anything about it, is costing the company $35 million in fines.
But again, what is worse—recall or looking the other way?
I’m reminded of the restaurant that is cited for a slew of health violations and is then host for high profile dignitaries after the problems have been addressed, to supposedly prove how safe it is.
Well, of course it’s safe! A restaurant coming off health violations ought to be the safest in town, don’t you think?
Maybe GM cars will soon be among the safest on the road, seeing as they are being built under hawk-like eyes these days.
Regardless, the question begs: why so many recalls in 2014?
Jeff Boyer, GM’s new safety czar, recently told the media that the ignition switch problem led GM to look at a slew of safety issues with its vehicles, and that begat the spate of recalls.
Make that, dollars and cents.
So far in 2014, GM is on the hook for $1.7 billion in recall-related charges.
That’s a lot of dough, but the loss of business already incurred due to the ignition switch mess is incalculable. How do you measure the number of folks who won’t buy your cars?
GM is taking its safety concerns as seriously as ever these days. Boyer, for one, holds the title of vice president, and that’s a first in the area of safety for GM.
My parents used to own GM cars only, because my father worked for the company. Now we own Fords, because my mother is a retiree.
But in comparing the two, I can only report from personal experience that I have had good luck with both GM and Ford cars. My 1986 Chevy Cavalier, for example, was driven hard for six years, racking up nearly 150,000 miles. It was still kicking when we traded it in for our 1992 Mustang.
The Mustang, for its part, is 22 years old and is still running.
It’s been a tough year at GM for many reasons, but at least no one can say that the cars rolling off the assembly lines these days are being given the bum rush.
And isn’t the bum rush what consumers don’t want from their automakers?
It’s another of the talking points pushed by the gun camp, symbolically accompanied by the throwing up of hands in the air.
“If you ban guns, only criminals will have guns.”
First, I am not in favor of banning guns. I fully believe in the Second Amendment to the degree that folks should have the right to protect their castles—even if deadly force is required.
I do, however, believe that reasonable, responsible gun owners can darn well protect themselves—and their homes and their families—with weapons that aren’t designed to mow dozens of people down in minutes.
But here’s the thing. These mass shootings that are being committed nowadays aren’t being committed by criminals. In fact, many times the perpetrator has no previous criminal record. Not even a parking ticket.
Like Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old monster who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
Lanza had no criminal record.
Neither did the shooter in the recent mall incident in Oregon. Same with the Aurora, CO theater shooter last summer.
The kids who committed the atrocities at Columbine weren’t criminals, either. Nor was the perp in the Virginia Tech massacre.
Loners? Yes. Troubled? Definitely. But not criminals.
Criminals aren’t committing mass shootings. Armed criminals typically rob or steal. Or trade on the black market. If they stockpile artillery, it’s to sell. They don’t acquire automatic weapons so they can shoot up a mall, a school or a movie theater.
Those are facts.
The folks who are arming themselves to the hilt, throwing on military-style vests and camouflage gear, aren’t criminals. They’re suffering from mental illness.
Until we start treating root causes rather than symptoms, we’re going nowhere in the effort to try to make what happened in Connecticut on Friday a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy.
It’s time to start educating about mental illness, which is still, in the 21st century no less, terribly misunderstood.
Look no further than the reports that Lanza may have been autistic, or afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Neither has ever been directly connected to violent behavior of any serious degree. Yet you just know that there is a segment of the population that will take the autism and Asperger’s thing and run with it. And you know that those afflicted with said disorders will now be looked at sideways.
There is so much we don’t know about mental illness. I’d say we’d better start getting a handle on it, because it ain’t going away.
If there is any common ground I can find with those on even the most extreme side of pro-guns, it’s that people are ultimately responsible for their actions. The gun provides them with the means of destruction, but not every gun owner commits mass shootings, so that should be a clue right there.
Lanza’s mother, Nancy, who was gunned down first last Friday, has been taking some posthumous heat for her decision to have guns of the magnitude that was used by her son, in the first place.
But even his own mother clearly didn’t understand the scope of Adam Lanza’s troubled state.
This is a time for experts in many arenas to sit down, together, and start hashing some stuff out. To do whatever we can to prevent another atrocity like Newtown from happening again is going to require serious, honest discussion from everyone across the gun, mental illness and law enforcement spectrum.
You’re afraid that only criminals will have access to guns?
It’s not working too well when the non-criminals get a hold of them, either.
One of the greatest ironies these days is that if you’re off to Lansing via car, chances are you just might have to travel on the Reuther Freeway, aka I-696, for a portion of that trip.
That would be the Reuther, as named after Michigan labor pioneer Walter P. Reuther. The same Reuther who is spinning in his grave right about now with great centrifugal force.
If only Ford Motor Company had acquiesced to organized labor back in the late-1930s as quickly as the Michigan Legislature ramrodded the first stage of the so-called “right to work” bill through session yesterday.
Reuther, eventual head of the UAW, paid for his union organizing efforts physically, at the famous Battle of the Overpass at the River Rouge plant, in 1937, when he and Richard Frankensteen were beaten severely by henchmen hired by Ford. The auto company was unhappy about Reuther and his fellow organizers handing out pro-union leaflets along the overpass.
So what would Reuther, and other labor organizers and champions of the early movement, think of the “right to work” bill, and its potential to take down labor unions?
This isn’t exactly what Reuther had in mind when he worked tirelessly to ensure union representation for autoworkers some 75 years ago.
I wonder how many of today’s young state lawmakers even know who Walter Reuther was. I wonder if they know why the Department of Transportation named I-696 after him?
I wonder if they know the sacrifices that Reuther and others made so that the middle class could be fortified and have peace of mind?
I wonder if they care.
For now, it’s all about not only union busting, but Democrat busting. It’s no secret that labor unions, while not as strong as they were 10-15 years ago, still form a good portion of the base of the Democratic party. And wouldn’t the state GOP just love to hack away at that base, which they are now beginning to do by shoving the “right to work” bill onto Governor Rick Snyder’s desk at warp speed.
Weaker labor unions—the bill would prohibit unions from requiring membership as a condition of employment—would be a boon to the Republicans.
But of course, the bill is being propped up as something that will ensure fairness and keep Michigan competitive in terms of salary and benefits, when statistics from other “right to work” states suggest mostly the opposite.
More likely is that the bill would become a slippery slope down which salaries, benefits and the middle class itself would all slide.
The manner in which the bill made its way through the Legislature, complete with protests and pepper spray, is, for now, worse than any of its residual effects. The Republicans’ zeal for this bill is so blatantly partisan and filled with not-so-hidden agendas that it’s either something to laugh or cry at. Nothing in between.
I know which one Walter Reuther would pick.
The Sesame Street Muppets have become such a part of our social consciousness that I don’t think any of us really stop to think that the Muppets aren’t living, breathing creatures—we must remember that they’re puppets, controlled and voiced by living, breathing humans.
Humans, as in imperfect beings.
The face of Elmo, one of the more popular Muppets, was ripped off in a shocking and vile manner recently, revealing that its puppeteer, Kevin Clash, has been allegedly involved, in the past, with some hanky panky with at least one underage youth.
Two accusers came out against Clash, who is openly gay. The first recanted, saying that the relationship was consensual and legal (age-wise). But then a second accuser surfaced, and this one says that he and Clash became involved when the former was just 15 years old.
The second accuser has slapped Clash with a $5 million lawsuit, claiming he (the accuser) had only recently become aware of “adverse psychological and emotional effects.”
Kevin Clash and Elmo
Regardless of the credibility of the accusations, Clash has submitted his resignation. Elmo is in need of a new alter ego.
Sesame Workshop issued this statement regarding Clash’s resignation.
“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’ This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’”
To Sesame Street’s credit, they were ready to welcome Clash back into the family once the first charge was recanted. Clash’s sexual orientation, thankfully, wasn’t enough to pull the plug on him as being Elmo’s puppeteer. But when the second charge came down, along with the accompanying lawsuit, SS felt like it had no choice but to call for Clash’s resignation.
It’s hard to argue with SS and Clash’s decision. The SS brand has been a part of American households and families for about 40 years. Why should they risk any additional bad press and scuttlebutt by bringing Clash back while there is all this legal stuff going on?
Besides, the mystique and aura of Sesame Street’s Muppets are based almost solely on the anonymity of the puppeteers. Yes, folks eventually found out that guys like Frank Oz and Jim Henson operated and voiced many of the original Muppets, but for the most part we aren’t visualizing humans behind the scenes when Kermit the Frog or Miss Piggy are doing their thing.
They’re not puppets, they’re Muppets, for crying out loud! They’re practically human.
The seedy story that is about to unfold about Kevin Clash (under-aged boys, meeting online, etc) is one that Sesame Street just as soon let play out somewhere else—anywhere else, other than behind Elmo’s back.
It looks to be the end of a 28-year ride for Clash as Elmo’s puppeteer, but it’s an ending that needs to happen.
The sooner the anonymity of Elmo’s puppeteer is returned, the better.
So did you hear about the Cleveland woman who had to stand on a busy street corner and hold up a sign that says “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus”?
To recap: 32-year-old Shena Hardin was caught by surveillance camera, driving her car on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was loading and unloading children. Her sentence, as handed down by a Municipal Court Judge, was to hold the sign for one hour each on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, in 34-degree weather and in full view of rush hour drivers.
Hardin also had her license suspended for 30 days and she was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.
Apparently, Hardin was the victim of a good old-fashioned sting, put on by the bus driver, because the incident in which she was caught by the camera was not the first time she had driven recklessly in order to avoid waiting for the kids to get on and off the school bus.
Shena Hardin serves her sentence
Whether you agree with Hardin’s “Scarlet Letter” type sentence or not, it would be hard to disagree that other offenses might merit similar sentencing from the court of public opinion, if it were left up to them.
Non-use of turn signal. This is the ultimate in arrogance. The offender is telling us, “You don’t need to know what I’m about to do, until I reveal it.” Suggested sentence: Not allowed to order own food at restaurant for next two meals out. Offender has to eat whatever the server brings, not revealed until the plate hits the table.
Rolling through/failing to stop at stop sign in residential neighborhood (where there are kids and pets about). The disrespect for those red, octagonal-shaped signs is getting ridiculous. I walk our dog daily and I see vehicles cruising through stop signs routinely. Suggested sentence: Offender must stand in the middle of a high school hallway during lunch rush, wearing a brand new, all-white outfit.
Tailgating in a residential area. Nothing grinds my gears more than being followed closely by some clod in a 25 mph residential area. I don’t like being tailgated, period, but something about cruising down a side street, usually going to or from home, with a very aggressive, very impatient dufus riding my rear is just so wrong. Suggested sentence: Offender must spend next session of opening and responding to e-mails with someone (a stranger) looming directly over his/her shoulder the entire time.
Taking two spaces in a parking lot. This one needs no trumping. Suggested sentence: Offender must watch helplessly as person ahead of them in line orders the last two pieces of cheesecake, and only eats one—throwing the second one in the trash.
Cutting across two lanes of a freeway in order to exit, last minute. This one is not only annoying but freaking dangerous. Most people know, way ahead of time, which exit they’re taking. Why you decide at the last possible moment that you suddenly need to bid farewell to the freeway is beyond me. Suggested sentence: Since this is usually a male offender, sentence is for offender to be cut in front of, at the last moment, by a counterpart who wants to use the only available urinal in a public restroom. And I do mean at the last moment.
Those sound like apt punishments, eh?
Sex, lies and…e-mail?
Videotapes are so passe. And who has a VCR player anymore, anyway?
E-mail (and its evil spawn, texting) is the smoking gun of the 21st century, when it comes to catching those engaging in extramarital affairs. And it seems no matter how powerful and how high up the food chain you are, you’re not impervious to its tentacles.
Witness what’s happening at the CIA and the Pentagon these days.
First, General David Petraeus (rhymes with Betray Us) was busted, and subsequently resigned his post as Director of the CIA, for engaging in hanky panky with a mistress, much of it via e-mail.
Now the military’s top man in Afghanistan, General John Allen, might be in the same kind of mess. E-mails, once again, are being scrutinized.
It’s a sort of love triangle, with Petraeus’s mistress allegedly sending threatening e-mails to the woman who Allen has been allegedly fooling around with.
As The Pentagon Turns.
Gen. David Petraeus
This, of course, is unbecoming no matter what, but when it involves men of the stature of Generals Petraeus and Allen, well then it moves into another category of unbecoming.
Women might be right. Maybe men do think with their penises—in general (sorry, pun intended).
Recall how text messages and e-mail helped bring down Detroit’s young and promising mayor.
There really isn’t any shock value, anymore, to the philandering powerful man story, even when it comes to Petraeus and Allen. I mean, did your jaw drop when Petraeus resigned, and you found out why he resigned?
Surprised? Sure. Shocked? Maybe not so much.
At this point, only such an affair involving the President of the United States would be shocking enough for us to be, well, shocked.
One by one they fall, betrayed by their own anatomy below the belt.
Politicians. Corporate leaders. Entertainers. And now, CIA directors and generals.
The question isn’t really “Who’s next? but rather, “When?”
When will be the next time we read of a powerful, entrenched man toppled by his pee-pee?
There are 48 days left in the year. Plenty of time to squeeze another scandal in, maybe before Christmas.
I don’t ride a motorcycle, but if I did, and decided that I wanted the “freedom” to go sans helmet, I think I’d be cursing that freedom as I was hurdling mid-air after being thrown from my bike.
And that’s the point, I suppose, of Governor Rick Snyder’s signing off on a change in the state law that now makes the wearing of a motorcycle helmet optional.
Read: to each his (or her) own.
Personal freedom is a great thing, but you know how that goes: as long as it doesn’t infringe on the freedoms of others.
That’s why I applaud the removal of virtually all cigarette smoke in public places.
And that’s why I’m, ultimately, OK with the new motorcycle helmet thing.
If some nut cares not to wear protective head gear that can save his life, then who am I to tell him he can’t? More importantly, who is the state to tell him?
Because, you see, a biker going bare-headed doesn’t impact me, really. I venture onto the roads in my car aiming not to get into an accident, anyway. Much less with a motorcycle, and much more less with a motorcycle whose rider has eschewed a helmet.
Now, if said bare-headed rider was somehow infringing upon me, or was making me uncomfortable or ruining my good time on the highways and bi-ways, that’s a different story.
What about insurance rates, you might ask.
What about them? Seems that they’ll raise your premiums for one thing or another, anyway. I don’t think I was saving any money by Michigan having a mandatory helmet law, and nor am I expecting my rates to shoot up because of the change.
If my insurance carrier wants to raise my premiums, they’ll find a reason. They don’t need a change in the motorcycle helmet law to provide it for them.
The funny thing is that both sides on this issue claim the facts are on their side; the pro-helmet people say the law saved money, while the let-me-go-without-a-helmet people say states who have mandatory helmet laws realize no savings whatsoever.
I don’t really know who to believe, but the bottom line is I really don’t care.
I am tempted to now call for a repeal of the seat belt law, but two things about that: 1) I wear mine all the time anyway; and 2) accidents involving only cars far outnumber those that include a motorcycle. So I do believe that seat belt laws directly influence insurance rates; that makes sense to me.
With motorcycles, not so much.
Personally, I would no sooner hop on a motorcycle without donning a helmet than I would step off the roof of a tall building, but again, that’s just me.
So all you motorcyclists out there longing to ride with the wind whipping through your helmet-less hair: more power to you.
Your guts may only be exceeded by your stupidity, but what do I know?
Again, that’s just me.
The National Transportation Safety Board has spoken, and there are two ways that you can look at it.
First, here’s what they said, according to a story in today’s Free Press: “The National Transportation Safety Board says distracted driving has claimed too many lives and made a sweeping recommendation today calling on states to ban the use of portable electronic devices for everyone behind the wheel – even if they have a hands-free device.”
In other words, no talking on a cell phone, period. Even if both hands are on the steering wheel.
As promised, here are the two ways to look at this recommendation—which is all it really is, because the states pretty much write their own traffic laws.
First, seems that we all got along just fine for decades without talking to people on phones inside our cars. It’s not so much that we have to talk—but that we can. So, we do.
Second, I think the NTSB should extend their recommendation to other distractions that I have seen, like the application of makeup, shaving and eating, among others.
Ask yourself: could YOU give up chatting on a phone in the car? And I mean, cold turkey?
“It may seem like it’s a very quick call, a very quick text, a tweet or an update but accidents happen in the blink of an eye,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, the chairwoman of the NTSB, was quoted in the Free Press story. “We’ve investigated a lot of accidents and we know a lot of times the distraction that’s there is not just about manipulating something.”
There’s no question that the number of accidents involving drivers distracted by electronic communication gadgets is increasing. And the incidents aren’t limited to the average Joe or Joanne on the road; people in whom we place our trust, like those who are in charge of commuter trains, tugboats and the like, are being distracted by laptops, texting, etc.
In fact, Blogger’s spell check just flagged “texting,” which is an accepted 21st century word but apparently isn’t in their dictionary yet.
So it’s an ever-changing world.
The NTSB might be overreacting, but it’s hard to make that case when people are dying.
I am just like everyone else. I talk on the phone in the car, while driving. And mine isn’t a hands-free model, either.
And I’ve looked down to change a CD or reach for a beverage.
So far, I’ve been lucky that none of those actions have resulted in me getting into a wreck.
If the states began implementing bans on devices, period, whether they were hands-free or not, I know there’d be an adjustment I’d have to make. It seems so natural, anymore, to pick up the phone and dial my wife or home. But, frankly, most of those conversations are mundane and can occur after I get home.
Safe and sound.