03.04.07

Marriage and the State

Posted in Just A Thought at 2:10 pm

I’ve been following the marriage for gays controversy with some disbelief. I have decided however that conservatives have a point. Religious marriage is between a man and a woman. (Secular marriage performed by a judge is between whoever the courts say it is and in the future it may change.) Religious, indeed all marriages, have no place in our legal system.

We should purge all mention of marriage from our legal code and replace it with commitment. We still need laws governing the legal obligations, taxes, and breakups of committed people; we just should not be in the business of legislating what marriage is.

Obviously if you get married religiously you are committed to each other. Same sex couples could also be committed to each other. More importantly, people who have children together are committed to each other. Government should be codifying this relationship – all children deserve the same rights and protections regardless of their parent’s marital status. Obviously a person can only be committed to one person at a time without a formal plan of breakup.

It used to be (& I really don’t know if it still is true) that parents didn’t get married because tax and benefit implications made marriage prohibitive. Sometimes people went so far as to get religiously married but failed to file the civil papers.

Marriage would still be a highly desired state. Since we live in a graphical age, perhaps each religious group could permit people married under its auspices to use the word marriage with an icon indicating the flavor – fish for Catholic, three stars of David for orthodox Jews, one star for reform Jews, cross for Protestants, lambda for the Church of Gays Wishing to be Married. Churches could then use the full force of trademark law to insure that their marriage is what they say it is.

Just a thought.

Send Eco-elegant flowers

03.02.07

British Airways Lost Baggage Policy – Wrong

Posted in Just A Thought, Uncategorized at 1:31 pm

British Airways has a quaint notion that if they tell their clients with lost baggage that it is not their policy to address the issue they can ignore the problem. This is not legally correct since Britain is a signatory to the Montreal Convention and they certainly don’t even mention it in court when they are taken to small claims court.

BeNetSafe - Helping keep children safe onlineIf you check your baggage with Bristish Airways and they say even once that “it is not their policy to handle your claim and you need to go to some other carrier” ignore the customer service communications and take them straight to small claims court. 

Carrier liability for luggage is limited by the Montreal Treaty  which explicitly states the maximum liability based on the weight of the luggage and nullifies any claims of reduced liability.

Prepare for Potential Baggage Loss 

Most luggage is lost during service disruptions when everyone really wants to move along – don’t let yourself be rushed.  British Airways does not document for you the weight of  your baggage. You must write down the weight of each item on the correct baggage ticket. This may be on your boarding pass but don’t leave the counter until you know how much each item weighs. If your luggage is especially valuable – which it will be if there is a terrorist disruption and they force you to check your cameras, computers, IPODS, etc. – buy a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination. The airlines-issued equivalent of baggage insurance.

Also, be sure the luggage is evenly distributed amongst all the people in your party. If your luggage is lost and you need to sue, you want to go to small claims court. If they helpfully assign all the luggage of a family to one person the single claim will be above the small claim court limits.

British Airways has decided that not delivering luggage when there are massive delays and then only paying claims to those who are persistent is the most cost-effective way to deal with lost luggage. If more people are assertive maybe they will purchase corporate baggage insurance and automatically treat everyone fairly.

02.20.07

Seeing Red on the Sidewalk

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 7:01 am

Bergen County has some of the best traffic markings in the country. Signs showing directions to other towns are plentiful, lights are intelligent and crosswalks are clearly marked. Several years ago they started painting the sidewalks at corners red.

BeNetSafe - Helping keep children safe online
This is an eyesore that people gladly accept because it is suppose to draw the motorist’s eye to all four corners of an intersection so they see and avoid the pedestrian about to cross. But does it?

It definitely draws the eye to the corners. Unfortunately, if you are an elderly driver with minor short–term memory loss, it is entirely possible that your eye goes to the pedestrian then is drawn to the next corner, which is redder because it is empty, and YOU FORGET ABOUT THE PEDESTRIAN.

Were these markings based on any kind of study? Did it include elderly drivers?

Maybe we could just go back to teaching that you make eye contact with drivers before crossing and forget about the expensive paint job.

02.14.07

NJ and Your Wallet – Traffic Court Wastes Taxpayer Money?

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 2:07 pm

Yesterday’s minor disaster involved traffic court.

The major disaster started last Valentine’s Day when I hit an 8″ snowbank on an otherwise clear dry highway – a car somewhere in front of me had not cleared the foot & 1/2 of snow off the top of his car before entering the highway & managed to drop most of it in one spot as he accelerated onto the road. My high-top full-sized van was beyond terrible on snow so I fishtailed until I went up the ramp of snow along the side of the rode.  In action worthy of Evel Knieval I did a 360 degree flip, landing softly in the previously mentioned foot and a half of snow. I didn’t puncture the tires but I did touch lightly with my roof on my way over blowing out all back windows.  I was fine but somewhat shaken. (I hate roller coasters. This was worse.)

I walked away

Many Palisades Parkway Police, who were as nice as possibly could be, arrived almost instantly on the scene (It was about 200 yards from the police station & occurred right before shift change so this wasn’t too remarkable.)  I had no idea that the snowbank I’d hit had come from a car in front of me. Instead I babbled to the poor officers about the snowbank in the middle of the road.

Rule No 1 of accidents – Do not be shaken. Think clearly & completely about what happened, recalling everything, or you will be sorry.

I violated rule no. 1. Instead of figuring out where a snowbank could have come from on a 40 degree, dry road day I just reported what I saw. The officers:

  • made sure I was fine,
  • got my cell phone & wallet from the car (the entire contents of the car- I was carrying boxes of papers for a community project & my  purse open – looked like I’d decided to make a tossed salad of paper – lots of colors & textures everywhere.),
  • took statements from all the witnesses that had kindly stopped to help and
  • listened to my statement about the snowbank . . .
  • then the police officer escorted me back to the road where I’d claimed there was a snow bank.

It was 20 minutes and 5 million cars later & the road was just wet with a little slush. No snowbank.

If a little slush made me go off the road I must have been driving badly, so of course he gave me an unsafe driving ticket.  At least he mailed it to me so I didn’t have to fret about it on top of the car.

The disaster came trying to get my temporary lack of clear thought corrected. I was given a court date in June, just 4 months after my accident. Court cancels so it’s rescheduled to November.  Terrible storm, so I cancel. Rescheduled for February 13th, the eve of another terrible storm.  Just lucky I guess.

Roll call 3 pm.  You plead guilty or not guilty. Five plead guilty, 60 plead not guilty. Five no-shows – $200-$1,000 fine to the court. Policeman – go find them. Judge deals with guilty pleas.  4:30 pm  Prosecutor deals with those who have lawyers. 5:20 pm Bad drivers from the local hoosegaw are prosecuted.  5:30 pm Prosecutor explains that everyone gets benefit of doubt once; he will reduce your fine if you don’t have a prior traffic history. No one should question his judgment since it will hold up everyone else & he’ll increase the fines/suspend your license if you try to bargain down your ticket with a prior conviction. I go to back of line since I’m stubborn & I don’t want to hold everyone else up. 6:45 pm My turn with Prosecutor. He determines no witnesses in my car. Other witnesses unavailable (officer misplaced cards of witnesses). Decides to dismiss because he can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I was driving badly. 7:30 pm Appear before judge. Prosecutor recommends dismissal. Case dismissed. He warns me to drive safely on snow in future. What snow? The roads were dry. Does he have a clue what kind of driver he just released onto the road?

New Jersey is throwing money away on this process.

First time offenders, guilty

They did not need the space & 3-4 highly paid court staff (Judge, Prosecutor, court clerk, & cashier, at least) processing the 50 people with no issues. People with a first-time conviction in 5 years could log on to a website, enter a ticket number, select a no point penalty or low immediate payment penalty & pay the fine.  The state would have received their money 8 months earlier. If the state is counting on the court fees, roll the cost into the fine structure & be done with it.

Stagger Appearance Times

All 70 people were instructed to arrive at 3 pm even though most didn’t have prayer of something happening until 5 pm.  The appointments were made with a pleasant, helpful woman who seemed more than capable of asking if you were bringing an attorney. Schedule those with attorneys at 3 or 4 pm, everyone else at 5 or 6 pm. Should all the attorneys move to adjourn & no one comes early, fill in with those waiting in the jail in back. 

Schedule Expected Dismissals Last

Have all the people who were not imperiling their neighbors because they’d forgotten their license when they went to the grocery store scheduled last. The cashier can finish up the payments while the dismissals are being processed and they’ll not tie up the system. Better yet, have them take the documents to their local precinct where they can prove they have them and let the officers enter the dismissal in the computer system. Since licenses, registrations, insurance and inspections are all a matter of computer record I don’t think police officers would be in any danger of being tempted to enter fraudulent waivers.

Spend More Time on the Chronic Bad Drivers and Other Exception Cases

I am an extremely conservative driver (friends who have had the misfortune of driving behind me in school caravan events thought it extremely funny that I got a summons for bad driving.) I could have just as easily been an older driver starting to lose control of my car. Watching other cases, I get the feeling that spending a minute or two with someone in danger of loosing his license just didn’t seem adequate.

We live in an information processing age. Could we try and use it’s tools to save the state money and not pile a time penalty on top of legally sanctioned penalties for traffic violations?

01.18.07

DPW Truck Flashers – Hazardous to Worker Health?

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 3:19 pm

When new ‘safety equipment’ for municipal workers is required in NJ how extensively is it tested?

The strobe lights that are showing up on trash trucks and police cars make me wonder.  If you are over a certain age, bright lights can be problematic when driving.  I’m just arriving at this age and have noticed that where I once looked carefully at a trash truck to watch for feet that might back out unexpectedly, I now tend to look away because the flashers are so bright they hurt on a foggy day.  The trucks are bright yellow.  Do they really need flashers to make them more visible?

I really don’t want the disaster of hurting or killing someone. I’m sure the workers don’t want the disaster of being hurt or killed.  Were these flashers really tested?