Ruminations on traffic laws.
kitten   September 21, 2002

Let's be honest for a moment and face a cold, indisputable fact: Traffic laws are not designed for safety. They are designed for one thing, and one thing only: the extortion of money from citizens.

Take, for example, speeding laws. You could make the argument that speed limits are there for our safety, although I'd argue that the limits are set at such artificially low numbers that virtually everyone is forced to speed just so they get where they're going. There's a lot of straight, mostly level roads in my area, perfectly safe to travel 60mph or more, and they're set at 40mph, sometimes as low as 30mph, and these are major artery roads. (This is Atlanta, but this phenomenon is by no means unique.) Why? It would take three weeks to get anywhere at these speeds, but if you go faster, you're a demon on wheels who should be curbed and shot, you menace to society, you.

My conclusion is that often, speed limits are deliberately set low, just to increase the number of 'speeders' and thus, the number of tickets, and thus, the amount of money for the government. Consider the police officers who set up "speed traps". I cannot think of a more apt name for this practice - the officers will go to a road and set up a laser gun and a few motorcops, lining up citizens one after another and ticketing them. It's like a slaughterhouse.

Why do the cops select certain roads to do this on? Because they know that almost everyone exceeds the speed limit on these particular roads. And why does everyone exceed the speed limit on these roads? Because they're travelling at a perfectly safe velocity, and the speed limit is just set ridiculously low.

Anyway, that's just speeding. Think of all the other nonsense traffic laws that are out there. Does anybody really care if I have a tag light out? It's not as though someone behind me is unable to read my plates because of it. Laws like that are in place for two reasons: To generate revenue, and to give a cop an excuse to pull someone over in order to look for something more serious. Stop signs are placed in areas they are not needed, just to generate more tickets (or to appease whiny busybody housewives whose indignant bleatings about 'maniac teenagers' prompts the city to throw stop signs all over the place.. meanwhile said housewife knocks over three trash cans with her shiny new SUV while jabbering into her cellphone and putting on makeup).

Safety indeed. Someone please explain to me what is 'unsafe' about travelling more than the posted speed limit at 3am when no other cars are on the road? How about those times in the middle of the night when you're idling at a red light for two minutes when no other humans are visible for miles in any direction? What is 'unsafe' about just going through the damn light?

Oh, safety, yes. I deserve a ticket because, oh horror, I didn't "register" my car this year. In my state and many others, vehicles are required to have their tags 'renewed' yearly, which means you get a sticker with the current year to slap on the plate. The cost for this service you are so generously being provided is based on the value of your car. Apparently it costs more for the government to give a sticker to a Porsche owner than a Honda owner.

Now, I understand why a car needs to be registered.. once. Obviously the government needs to know who owns what car; the reasons for this are endless. But once I register my car, I should never, ever have to do it again, until the car leaves my possession. I should not have to pay outrageous amounts of money every year just to tell the government what it already knows: This car belongs to that person. If that hasn't changed since last year, fuck registration, I say.

Traffic court itself is designed as a collection plate for the state. A citizen doesn't stand a chance; the cop's charge on the books is received as wholly sufficient evidence that a law was broken, and sentence is passed without a word really being asked of either accused or witness. If a cop says you ran a red light, you did. If he says you were speeding, you were. If he says you 'rolled through' a stop sign, you did.

The judge is there only to tell you what law you broke, not to listen to your case. (Not that you have a case: How can you 'prove' your innocence? Are they going to take your word for it, or listen to the cop? Yeah.) And there is no trial - they merely read your "crime" to you, tell you how much you owe, take a portion of your money, and send you on your way.

Does this sound like a system that is interested in making the streets safer to drive on? Or merely one that provides revenue?

What about the quota system? A cop must write a certain number of tickets per month, or be subjected to some penalty or other - I'm not really sure what. But regardless, this arbitrary number of tickets exists and the cops must fill it. That is why you'll see them hanging around high schools with speed traps at the end of every month - what an easier way to fill your ticket quota in a hurry at the last moment before it's due?

Can someone explain to me why there is a quota system? Oh, on some level I can understand the need to make sure the cops are actually doing their job and not just slacking off, but with high quotas limits set, your friendly neighborhood law enforcement officer is now forced to make criminals out of people who are not really causing problems, set up assembly-line ticket factories (sorry, I mean speed traps), etc.

Liability insurance is a slightly different issue. I can understand, conceptually, why it is a good idea to require that drivers carry a minimum amount of insurance. The problem is that since it is a law that we must pay private companies for the service (a service which we will most likely never, ever use or need), said companies are free to charge whatever they wish to charge. The notion of capitalist competition fails to apply here, because it is a service required by law, and furthermore, as long as all the insurance companies (and there aren't that many) overcharge for their "protection", they can get away with raping their clients. I realize that my case is not typical, but to give you an idea, I pay more than my car is worth every six months, to be "insured" against an accident that will probably never happen. I drive ridiculously defensively, have avoided countless dozens of collisions due to my foresight and safe driving practices. I always wear a seatbelt, never ever take risks, and can always tell when someone is about to do something stupid, thereby avoiding a potential accident. Yet because I was in a wreck three years ago, I'm a "big risk" to insure and thus end up having to sell my internal organs every six months to a private company so I can pay for a service I don't want, don't need, and did not ask for.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words:

Car insurance!

Overall, the traffic laws and courts are a shite state of affairs, and unfortunately I see no way to end it. The very people who make these laws are the ones who benefit from it. No politician is going to vote to remove the very trappings that are providing his funding, so it's not as though we can just 'vote the bums out' (fanciful dreaming as that is anyway).

I guess there's nothing for it but to be bitter and resentful.

You know I'm not a saint.
kitten   September 12, 2002

There is one particular tree I pass five mornings a week, situated between a small veterinarian's office and a roadside cafe, that has now begun to turn all shades of burnished copper, heralding autumn alone next to it's peers which steadfastly refuse to believe that summer's reign is ending at last.

forever in your arms, you said forever in my eyes
Vicious winds swept over the perfectly manicured lawns and machine-fabricated office buildings and vaccuum-extruded gas stations, and twisted every leaf on that tree into a spinning array of beautiful fiery karma, twirling and flashing like some Biblical tree that stayed intact while ablaze.

It reminds me of the color of your hair, curling, falling against your shirt the same shade as the cold morning sky.

you hold me close and whisper, love is forever
It no longer surprises me, this rememberance and longing. It's you that I see in these seemingly mundane things that render them remarkable rather than commonplace - your voice cobbled up from the drumming of rainwater on glass, and your words coming forth to describe a small square of moonlit carpeting slashed horizontal by the windowblinds. It's your reaction I envision to the day's occurances, and your beauty I feel on my skin at night, time and space and the seven seas be damned.
i will drown again, into your arms tonight
A candle flickering and hissing in the fan's breeze, the clink of winebottle against glass as the contents are poured. Sounds and echos of your presence in these things, and reminders of words spoken long ago, to the machinations of the future. The wine in it's glass, full of potential, and it saddens me that I pour only one, rather than a companion glass for you to share with me.
come and lie next to me
I can hear your sleepy voice beckoning me back to bed in these times, reminders of you next to me, things that never were but one day will be. Each of these nights empties into longing and needing and wanting and always always you.
finally to close my eyes with you to hold me tight
I wonder how Vancouver is, Seattle, San Fransisco, this time of year. We'll find out, together, someday.

On the events of AD 2101.
kitten   September 5, 2002

We have only fragments of data regarding the events of a particular fateful day, a day which will live in infamy and be heralded by future historians as one of the most critical turning points in history. However, despite the small quantity of information available, thousands of people from around the globe, both professional and laypersons alike, have speculated, analyzed, discussed, and evaluated the situation and its surrounding circumstances - this is evidenced by the countless number of charts, diagrams, computer-enhanced audio and visual records, and the like.

As we all know, or should know, in AD 2101, war was beginning. The most substantial information regarding the war comes from a recorded transmission from an unknown ship commanded by Captain. The communication suggests that Captain's ship and it's fate were the impetus for the war itself.

Captain is on patrol in an unspecified sector of space, when a catastrophic explosion rips through his craft. "What happen ?" he demands of his crew. Clearly, the explosion was not expected or anticipated. It is not until Mechanic answers that we get a clear picture of the situation: "Someone set up us the bomb."

I wish to draw attention to Mechanic's careful wording during his reply. He states that "someone" has set up them the bomb, failing to name a specific source. Surely, by AD 2101, spacegoing vessels have some sort of sensor technology that would enable Mechanic to identify the attacker in a more clear manner than this, but he chooses not to. It is my suspicion that Mechanic is a saboteur, a double-agent of sorts. He deliberately avoids using the sensor array to identify the attacker, a task which any competent officer should be able to accomplish. Some may argue that the sensor cluster may be inoperative for whatever reason, but this only casts further suspicion on Mechanic and his motives, for as the ship's engineer it is his duty to maintain the upkeep on such devices.

However, we must also question Captain's competency. Standard procedure for any ship patrolling in any sector during wartime is to maintain general alert. Why did Captain not have his sensors running to begin with, that he might have detected the unknown attacker before being set up the bomb? Such an effort would have allowed him to avoid being set up the bomb, or perhaps discover that the sensors were not functioning, which would have allowed Captain to investigate Mechanic. But instead, he chooses to wander blindly through space during wartime conditions, displaying a defensive posture approaching that of Teletubbies.

Captain does not even have the sense to turn his sensors and viewscreens on after being set up the bomb. He leaves it to his crew of questionable character to engage these devices; when Operator states that "We get signal," it is Operator himself who orders "Main screen turn on", and not Captain.

It is vital to note that although Operator announces he is engaging main screen, the signal he refers to actually appears via some sort of holoprojector and not a screen. Why the ruse from Operator? Is he, too, a traitor like Mechanic? I find this unlikely: the trickery would be exposed as soon as the signal comes in, and Operator would gain nothing by having lied about it. I suspect that Operator is merely a moron.

At this point, the signal is obtained, and it becomes clear that Captain recognizes his attacker: "It's you !!" he cries out, apparently overcome with the rapidly unfolding series of events.

The attacker, who appears to be a human with various cybernetic implants (including a Voice Modulation Device, as provided by extensive audio enhancement of these records), identifies himself only as Cats. Once the transmission linkage has been established, Cats queries, "How are you gentlemen !!"

Some would say that Cats is showing a great deal of respect for Captain and his crew by posing this question, not unlike the suave (if arrogant) demeanor of many a James Bond nemesis. I must take issue with this suggestion. Cats is obviously engaging in a bit of gloating here, and posing this question only helps to solidify the fact that he is in control of the situation. He has already set up Captain's ship the bomb, and therefore does not need to inquire as to their condition.

Before Captain can reply, however, Cats continues: "All your base are belong to us." This is crucial to understanding Cats' methodology in battle. Obviously he did not seize control of all the base in between the time of setting up the bomb and now - therefore, he had already captured all the base before setting up them the bomb. It is also worthy to note that Cats employs both stealth and cunning, but not without a bit of dishonor: He establishes communication with Captain only after crippling Captain's ship, rather than declaring formal hostilities beforehand.

Cats makes his intentions clear when he explains, "You are on the way to destruction." He has already deprived Captain's ship of power, and when he swings back around, he means to deprive Captain of his life. Captain is visibly upset by this; as he holds a hand to his forehead and curls the other into a fist to show his anguish, he cries "What you say !!"

Cats is less than impressed with Captain, who is rapidly disintegrating into an emotional heap rather than attending to the matter at hand. One wonders how such a man obtained a command position within his fleet in the first place. At any rate, Cats cuts short Captain's drama-queen routine and declares, "You have no chance to survive make your time," as if by way of clarifying his earlier remark.

The ship-to-ship communication ends abruptly when Cats decides he has had enough fun tormenting Captain, and with a parting shot - "HA HA HA HA..." - kills the two-way transmission.

By this time, Captain has regained a bit of his composure, or so it initially seems. Captain draws a sharp breath and orders his weapon systems engaged. "Take off every 'zig'," he orders. I wish to stress this: Captain orders that every 'zig' be taken off. Not one, not half, not most, but every 'zig' is to be taken off. Apparently Captain is not as mentally composed as he seemed. While it seems likely that Cats is indeed the attacker, Captain makes no effort to confirm this, nor does he attempt to contact his superiors to determine whether or not Cats' claim to all the base is legitimate. All Captain knows is that his ship has been set up the bomb, and he has no further information other than Cats claiming credit for it; now we find him sending every weapon he has hurtling off into space at an enemy he can't even see because main screen has been turned off.

Captain's next utterance seems to be one of reassurance: "You know what you doing." Given the emotional and mental state of Captain, as well as witnessing his prior decisions, one wonders if he is addressing his crew, or himself.

"Move 'zig'," orders Captain. He does not even wait to see what effect taking off every 'zig' will have before moving them. At this point I am seriously considering the possibility that Captain is on the verge of losing his mental faculties completely, but he surprises me with his follow-up: "For great justice."

Captain realizes that his situation is almost hopeless and he has little (or zero, if you ask Cats) chance for survival. He further realizes that most, if not all, of this could have been avoided had he paid attention to protocol and procedure and displayed even a tiny bit of sense. Captain knows that he is to blame for this atrocity, so he reaches deep into his bag of tricks and comes up with his Great Justice line.

You see, if his 'zig' stratagem works, he will be hailed as a hero. But if, as is more likely, he is on the way to destruction, these words will be remembered and he will become a martyr. Either way, he wins - he will keep his pride and dignity no matter what the outcome, and possibly his own life.

The events of AD 2101 are complex and their ramifications far-reaching, able to chill the blood of even the most steadfast of heart: An inept Captain, a subtle saboteur, implications of incompetence and possible mutiny, theft and destruction, and a cunning adversary behind it all.