Protect me? Oh, really?

In Warren v. District of Columbia, DC’s highest court ruled it is a “fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.”

The Supreme Court has upheld such decisions.  Police have no duty to protect individual citizens.  (See here for several citations; the Wikipedia citation is down on SOPA protest day.)

So why do they rule that speed traps and drunk-driving checkpoints are legal?  Aren’t those designed to protect individuals?  Some states get it right, and either prohibit them or don’t conduct them because police lack the statutory authority.     I like this page about the legality of the checkpoints, noting the “DUI exception to the Constitution.”

What could possibly be the states’ vested interest, other than – wait for it – protecting individuals?

So what the courts are really telling us is that governments (police forces) don’t have to protect individuals unless they can potentially make money from it.

NRA being hypocritical AGAIN

We’d been talking about perhaps heading to Charlotte, NC for one day of the NRA annual meetings.  After all, we’re both life members.

Then we learn the NRA has contracted to hold its annual meetings in a place that does not allow the carry of firearms.

What hypocrites.

The NRA is supposed to be fighting working for the rights of law-abiding, gun-owning Americans.  Unless it’s inconvenient.

Ted Nugent, supposedly a fighter for our rights, is quoted in the latest issue of America’s First Freedom as saying Americans have to make their voice heard.  Yeah, right.

THIS American will be letting the NRA know what I think.

I’ve come to the realization that the NRA’s greatest strength is it’s propensity for self-promotion.  Second is it’s ability to try to guilt its members into sending donations.

Explaining my faith (?!) in elected officials

Earlier I posted about the issues with entering Fairfax County courthouse – a taxpayer-funded, publicly owned building – with a cell phone, recorder, camera, etc.  I sincerely do NOT understand how this makes anyone any safer, where the authority to ban these items comes from (though I quoted the code sections that are posted), and I wrote my supervisor.

The supervisor’s aide answered, with poor grammar and spelling.  I posted that as well, and invited him to read that post.

Now it appears I should accept the staffer’s word because he is or was a Captain in the Marine Corps.  Whether he thinks I should be shamed into accepting his position out of patriotism, intimidated by a (big-shot, I suppose) Captain, or simply impressed by a lot of words after his name, I don’t know.

Looks like spell check didn’t run before I sent the e-mail.  I believe all cell phones and PDAs will be restricted in the future since most have cameras on them in order to protect the identity of people testifying in court.  Feel free to post this online as well.
Semper Fi,
Captain Brett W. Kenney, USMC
Operation Iraqi Freedom

Still hasn’t answered the question about how the ban makes us safer.  Still hasn’t responded to what gives the authority; I asked how these code sections give authority for a ban.

Now, somewhere in this answer is a response I could almost understand – protecting the identity of those testifying.  That is not the cited reason, however, in either their first response or the posted code sections.   It would justify, in my mind, a ban on video – perhaps even audio – recording in courtrooms, but not in the courthouse as a whole.

‘Nother question.  Should a Marine be using his official title in conjunction with a paid position as a staffer?  I think it unethical, if not contrary to regulation.  Might have to check that one out.

By the way, I tried to copy my response to Supervisor Hyland.  His e-mail is not listed; clicking on his e-mail link takes one to a form.  Please, if you’re so inclined, you might also request of Supervisor Hyland a response.

Response from Supervisor Hyland

I wrote Supervisor Hyland regarding the issue of phones/cameras in the courthouse.

A staffer responded; Hyland apparently doesn’t care.

The response:

“Ms. xxxxx – I have shared your email with the Court.  The Chief Judge in cooperation with the Clerk to the Court and the Sheriff propogate rules to keep our resident’s safe at the Fairfax County Courthouse Complex.”

Aside from not answering the question, expecting me to buy the security theater answer, and blowing me off, he blew me off with a staffer who can’t spell and doesn’t understand the rules of grammar.

The word is “propagate” and the plural of “resident” is “residents” — no apostrophe.

If this isn’t a “shut up and color” response, I don’t know what is.

Fun with Fairfax County … NOT

Dummy here let a Concealed Handgun License expire.  My fault, and I have no excuse, so some of this I brought on myself.  Had I mailed the renewal, I could have avoided some of this frustration.  Still, I have to wonder who thinks this stuff up.

According to Virginia law, I carried my firearm openly to the courthouse, and safely secured it in my vehicle prior to entering the courthouse.   FAIL #1.  At the entrance to the courthouse proper, though (NOT in the parking garage, where one could be proactive) is a sign that prohibits all kinds of things bureaucrats are afraid of — knives (no matter the blade length), firearms, cameras, voice recorders, etc.  You know, the stuff that might show what they do, or do not do, as the case may be.

Daughter had her camera in her purse, so she returned it to the car.  She was going to take our phones, which have cameras, but we discussed and decided they wouldn’t take our phones.  WRONG.  They don’t care that people might need to get in touch with one another from inside the courthouse.

So at the door, when the guard wants to take my phone, I told him I had to wait until my daughter returned, as she’d never find me inside.  FAIL #2. He informed me I couldn’t wait for her inside the doorway.  Not “please step outside so others can come through this narrow walkway” but “you have to go outside to wait.”  I told him of course I would, but I resented being ejected from my courthouse.  That was where he told me it was his because he worked there.

Daughter returns from the car; we’re going to give up our phones.  FAIL #3. Guard tells me I have to give up my holster too.  Never mind that it’s empty.  He tells me gun paraphernalia is not permitted in the courthouse.  I ask for a citation, since the law says firearms are not permitted, and he tells me not to quote the law to him; he knows what he’s been told. (BTW, this is not the first time an official in Virginia has used that line — “don’t quote the law to me”; I know it’s been used in Prince William County and have now heard it myself in Richmond and Fairfax.)  After I asked for a citation, he called a deputy.  When she arrived, I asked her the rationale for having to give up my holster, and she informed me, and the guard, I needn’t.  Of course, I did have to remove my belt and holster to go through the metal detector; I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to remove my shoes and underwear as well.

FAIL #4.  NO SIGNAGE. I knew I needed to submit the application to the clerk of the court.  On the first floor, that office is listed as room 304 — which we never found.  Eventually we found a sign that said for information go to 301, which we did find, and that person told us to go to 319 — which is in no way marked for clerk of the court; it says Civil Intake.

KUDO. Debby.  I didn’t bring extra copies, or a self-addressed, stamped envelope.   Nothing on the state police web site or the application says these are required.  Nice lady at the window tells me the state police website says these are jurisdictional (which means exactly what to me?) and I need to go to the Fairfax County website to see this information.   When I said “Oh, yes, the extra-legal requirements” she immediately made copies for me and handed me an envelope to address.  Perhaps they’ve heard that before.

Back to the front door, gather up confiscated phone.  Outside, I took a photo of the sign prohibiting recording devices (photo).  At this point, I truly expected to be stopped from doing so.  When I got home, I uploaded this photo, and looked up the authorizing sections of the code (cited below).  I sure don’t see authority for him to prohibit recording.  I suspect there are two factors at work — protecting the unions that the transcriptionists belong to, and protecting court employees who do stupid things.  I come from that old school, apparently, that believes court transactions are supposed to be open, protecting ONLY the identities of the innocent.  Where I’d draw the line is:  Proceedings = public; Records = private by default, with discovery being the point where a release/no-release determination is made.

The security at the courthouse might make some feel safe, but could likely easily have been circumvented (she posits, given the way in which they dealt with my mentally retarded son, who wasn’t in any mood to empty his pockets or give up his belt or radio, despite my best efforts to get him to comply).  The efficiency with which business could be transacted could be improved hundredsfold with some appropriate signage.  I’d bet a month’s pay that the number of people needed to run the courthouse could be significantly cut with some appropriate policies put in place (or a bunch of policies rescinded), some decent signage, and a culture that believes MOST people are there to take care of business quickly and professionally, not to thwart the bureaucrats.

——————————————-

Code sections referenced by the sign:

8.01-4. District courts and circuit courts may prescribe certain rules.

The district courts and circuit courts may, from time to time, prescribe rules for their respective districts and circuits. Such rules shall be limited to those rules necessary to promote proper order and decorum and the efficient and safe use of courthouse facilities and clerks’ offices. No rule of any such court shall be prescribed or enforced which is inconsistent with this statute or any other statutory provision, or the Rules of Supreme Court or contrary to the decided cases, or which has the effect of abridging substantive rights of persons before such court. Any rule of court which violates the provisions of this section shall be invalid.

The courts may prescribe certain docket control procedures which shall not abridge the substantive rights of the parties nor deprive any party the opportunity to present its position as to the merits of a case solely due to the unfamiliarity of counsel of record with any such docket control procedures.

17-116.2(B) The chief judge of the circuit shall ensure that the system of justice in his circuit operates smoothly and efficiently. He shall have authority to assign the work of the circuit as between judges, and in doing so he may consider the nature and categories of the cases to be assigned.

Carmax blows a *CASH SALE*

Friend of mine had Carmax tell him “No thanks, keep your money.”

(Because I’m such a stickler for punctuation, etc., I’ve cleaned up his rant to meet my publication standards.   His story, though.)  Italics are my comments.  I’ve also left out the model name (though there was some interesting geek humor involved) to protect his privacy.

I went to Carmax because they had the lowest listed price on replacing the (vehicle).

Arrived there with cash – “genyouwine ‘murican greenbacks” – in hand, ready to conclude the deal right then and there.  Everybody was salivating, including some folks not connected to me or Carmax, but that’s a  story for another day.  (I want to hear that story, too!)

Got all the paperwork signed and put together, including the stuff to transfer title from them to me and have my license plates  transferred from the Isotope to the new Element.  I went and sat down with the free coffee while I waited for them to peel the advertising off the back end and screw my plates on.  (YES!  Another person who thinks as I do — I don’t pay to advertise for someone else!)

Cutest little thing comes in, looking all sorts of sad and confused, and says i have to re-do 2/3rds of the paperwork because their system will not accept a line drawn through all the blank spots where a co-purchaser’s  name would go if there were one.  Now i’m a bit put off by that, but am willing to accept that their scanner sees any squiggle as a signature and gets kerfuffled when  told there was only one buyer but sees 2 ‘signatures’.  We re-did the paperwork and I hauled out the red ink pen to insert ‘and no other’ on the blank spaces. The drone who does the paperwork-filling-out — or is it filling-in — takes the new set back into the bowels of ‘authorized personnel only’-land.

Three minutes later, cutest little thing comes out and says ‘and no other’ is also being recognized by their system as a signature and kerfuffling the bejabbers out of the system.

I attempt to have a conversation with cutest little thing about my aversion to  signing any legal document with a blank space on it.  She says she is understanding, but wants to assure me that nobody would ever insert anything on  those lines.  Yeah — I think but manage not to say out loud “and how much are you asking for that bridge as an aftermarket accessory”?

I suggested she go call someone with some sense and authority to see how we can resolve my determination not to sign a contract with blank spaces. She goes off, and I drink more coffee.  I wander around looking at overpriced add-on radios, CD  players, DVD systems, and GPS combined with either, or, or all three.

After about 20 minutes I get  told that she called all the  way up to the top of the Carmax ladder and the answer is, and forever will be, and I quote here — ‘ our system will not accept that.’

I thank her for her patience and assistance, even though she isn’t looking quite so cute now  that she senses the deal about to die right there in front of her.  I ask  that my plates be taken off the vehicle and that I be allowed to witness each and every piece of paper I signed or initialed be shredded

I get told  that some of the forms are those that go to Department of Motor Vehicles and they cannot destroy them.  After suggesting I will call the State Police and a DMV investigator, suddenly everybody is agreeing that not only can all the  paperwork be shredded but that I can even do it myself, as long as they get to hand me each page. (What would have to go to DMV if no vehicle gets sold or registered?)

Because ‘our system will not accept that’  the deal is dead right there.  Several customers have overheard my discussion of why I would not sign a document with blank spaces, and I’m out the door and on my way to Dealer Number 2, who has another (vehicle) on the lot for only a few hundred  more than Carmax was asking.

Carmax lost.  Dealer Number 2 was willing to take a deposit, order/install accessories, and hold until Monday, And understood and agreed that I should not accept a contract with blank spaces.  Apparently their system has no problems accepting ‘and no other’  where names are supposed to go and line-throughs everywhere else there was a  blank.

Thanks for listening.  I just could not  believe Carmax would blow a cash sale over lining through blank lines on a sales contract.

The news is telling me retailers are hurting and needed their sales.   Apparently, not if they have to offer logic and customer service as well.

Published in: on September 20, 2009 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Got a dictionary? What part of “No” don’t they understand?

For the second time in as many days, I’ve gotten phone calls from companies who want my business, but who didn’t want it enough to earn it the last time we had contact.

This time it was Homefix Corporation.  When the woman asked if I had any roofing or other work for which I’d like an estimate, and I told her “not from Homefix” she at least asked if they “hurt” me.  I informed her that when I had considered doing business with them, they never showed up for the estimate.  I didn’t bother telling her the next time they called, and I informed them of this fact, they argued with me, insisting their records showed they did.  Then I politely thanked her for her time, and hung up.

Some people have more nerve than a toothache.  The woman called back!  She offered to “make it up to” me.  At least after the second time I told her “I choose not to do business with Homefix” and hung up, she didn’t call again.

So far.

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

72 hours from Thursday at 1800 is …

WAY PAST.

The Cox Customer Service technician said “24 to 72 hours”. We’re nearly at double the outside estimate, and Cox has not made good on their word.

Others must be having the same issue; I had more hits yesterday than I’ve ever had on a non-Brady post, and nearly all of them got to me by searching on some combination of “cox lost e-mail 12/31/2069”.

From the Washington Post

I had to be signed in to read this article:

Aging Red Line to Get $177 Million Overhaul

Metro Rehab to Begin Early Next Year

Let’s go back a few years.  Metro found funds were being embezzled.  What did they do to solve the problem?  They instituted new systems whereby riders paid more:  eliminated parking attendants, forced riders to pay $5 for a $0.10 piece of plastic fare card, and raised rates.

So what do you expect will happen here?

Combine it with the news story today that Metro is bracing for a flood of lawsuits (because even if you weren’t injured, your poor, poor brain has to fight the memory of a crash, and besides, the taxpayers will pay your settlement).  We’re going to see hundreds of suits, probably some even from people who weren’t there and didn’t know anyone there, with various levels of merit, and we’re going to pay for all of them.

Anyone think s/he will be able to afford to ride Metro in a couple of years???

Not that it will matter.  Once the administrations of DC, VA, MD and the federal government get involved, it’ll be mandatory.  Just drop off your paycheck on the way.

Cox lost e-mail, again …

Though one tech told me he’d never heard of this issue, and another said he saw “one” other case like this, it’s interesting to note I’ve had over 15 hits on this blog posting just from people searching on some combination of “cox lost e-mail 12/31/2069”

Methinks Cox might want to look more closely.

But then, that would be proactive customer service, and I think they’d rather try blamestorming first.

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 8:54 am  Comments (2)