judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “partnership”

Gov. Wolf signs Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera bill

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and I encourage you to read my articles on this here.  The encroachment on our rights has recently crept a little further still as Governor Wolf signed a bill allowing even more cameras on our streets.

__________________________________

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill on Friday to allow the installation of speed cameras along the entire length of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill that will allow for speed cameras to be installed on Roosevelt Boulevard from 9th Street in Hunting Park to the Bucks County line as part of a five-year pilot program.

Once the cameras are set up, drivers who travel 11 miles over the speed limit or more will be ticketed. There will be a 30-day grace period during which violators will get a written warning.

Mayor Jim Kenney and safety advocates praised the legislation and said it will make the Boulevard safer.

“Our city and our families deserve safer streets,” Kenney said. “With around 100 people being killed in traffic crashes on Philadelphia streets every year, we are committed to continuing to bring to together street design, education, enforcement and policy changes that will manage speeds and, thus, save lives, making Philadelphia streets safe for everyone.”

Although the bill had bipartisan support in Harrisburg, not everyone supports speed cameras. The National Motorists Association has argued that the cameras are a money-making scheme for state and local governments.

As part of the pilot program, signs will be placed near the cameras and at two-mile intervals along the entire length of the Boulevard.

The speed camera program will be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

City Council has to pass an ordinance for the pilot program to go into effect, according to the Governor’s Office.

The bill signed by Wolf also calls for speed cameras in work zones around the state.

By Jack Tomczuk and published in the Northeast Times on October 25, 2018 and can be found here.

Kanye and Collins: Shredded by Intersectionality

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today by my old philosophy professor Dr. Crispin Sartwell from back in my Penn State days which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

________________

A lot of people who assert that Kanye West has gone mad are also angry at him, which lands him in the worst of all possible worlds: held not to be responsible for his actions by the very same people who are blaming him. I’ve been there, brother. But Kanye is being ripped apart by forces larger than insomnia. He’s like the Jesus of intersectionality, crucified for our sins on the cross of fallacious reasoning. The problem isn’t that Kanye makes no sense—though he doesn’t—it’s that everyone talking about Kanye make no sense either. The Sufferings of Kanye have been sent to us as a message from God: if you don’t generate a coherent way of thinking about race, gender, and politics, I’m going to come over and smack you.

Sen. Susan Collins has been tacked to the same wretched cross, which defines a four-box grid: male, female, minority, white. That’s the menu from which we each get to pick who we are, because it’s as many identities as political consultants can keep in their heads simultaneously.

People find a lot of ways to say “race traitor” and “gender traitor” without saying it, and now Kanye knows what it feels like to be a wigger in the whitebread suburbs, and Collins what it’s like to be a drag queen. But though Kanye betrayed his politically-unanimous race—because Donald Trump is a racist—he kept faith with his politically-unanimous gender, because Trump’s also a sexist. The people most outraged by Kanye are also those (Michael Eric Dyson, for example) who believe that a progressive future is demographically inevitable, because of a growing coalition of women and minorities. But that inspiring coalition includes one half of Kanye West (and for that matter one half of Dyson and Collins) and excludes the other.

The American political spectrum is largely collapsing into demographics: it’s not defined by what you believe, but skin-tone and gonads, and both sides are engaged in internal gender cleansing. This is one of the things you identitarians had better talk about when you talk about “intersectionality”: people like Kanye and Collins—black men and white women—have intersectional identities alright, identities that land different bits of themselves on different sides of the political spectrum. No wonder they seem a bit bewildered.

On this way of thinking, the inmost identity of each of us is a simple matrix of group memberships. But only half of Kanye’s identity is invited to the progressive party. The minority member should be piping up while the man quiets down and listens to the people he’s oppressed. That’s how you get the Kanye we saw in the Oval, or the Collins we saw address the Senate: several people at once or no one at all. Identity politics as currently conceived confronts us all with a fateful question: is Kanye blacker than he is male, or more male than he is black? Perhaps some sort of DNA test could help with this?

What’s remarkable is that Kanye is conscious of this, and he explains his own support for Trump directly as a matter of gender.

West: “You know, they tried to scare me to not wear this hat—my own friends. But this hat, it gives me—it gives me power, in a way. You know, my dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home. And also, I’m married to a family that—(laughs)—you know, not a lot of male energy going on. It’s beautiful, though. But there’s times where, you know, there’s something about—you know, I love Hillary. I love everyone, right? But the campaign ‘I’m with her’ just didn’t make me feel, as a guy, that didn’t get to see my dad all the time—like a guy that could play catch with his son. It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That was my—that’s my favorite superhero. And you made a Superman cape.”

Then on to the “hero’s journey” and “dragon energy”: straight out of the “men’s movement” circa 1986.

The gender gap right now is running at an all-time high of around 30 percent. It’s going to be something when we have pure gender parties, or straight-up politics of the playground: boys against girls. But then, if the same party that represents all the men also represents all the white people, and the same party that represents all the women represents all the members of racial minority groups, what are Kanye or Collins to do?

Our politics appears to be breaking down into two race/gender coalitions, which is a remarkable development, among other things, for how disgusting it is. But the good part is that the politics it describes is impossible, because it not only separates us from one another, but separates many of us from ourselves. It’s evil, but it’s also silly, so I suppose we just have to watch it play out.

I’d expect no wave in the midterm elections; if you ran a computer model on this incoherent way of understanding the electorate, it would show a stalemate in perpetuity. The greater the proportion of minorities, of course, the greater the proportion of minority men, who may well respond to dragon energy and hero’s journeys. More women in the Senate may well mean more white women in the Senate.

So while we may bemoan the incoherence of identity politics as it emerges from both sides now, we can celebrate that incoherence too, for even if identity politics wins, it loses.

This article can be found here.

 

What an Audacious Hoax Reveals About Academia

Over the past 12 months, three scholars—James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian—wrote 20 fake papers using fashionable jargon to argue for ridiculous conclusions, and tried to get them placed in high-profile journals in fields including gender studies, queer studies, and fat studies. Their success rate was remarkable: By the time they took their experiment public late on Tuesday, seven of their articles had been accepted for publication by ostensibly serious peer-reviewed journals. Seven more were still going through various stages of the review process. Only six had been rejected.

In the late 1990s, Alan Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University, began a soon-to-be-infamous article by setting out some of his core beliefs:

that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in “eternal” physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the “objective” procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.

Sokal went on to “disprove” his credo in fashionable jargon. “Feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of ‘objectivity,’” he claimed. “It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct.”

Next, Sokal sent off this jabber to Social Text, a peer-reviewed academic journal that was, at the time, a leading intellectual forum for famous scholars including Edward Said, Oskar Negt, Nancy Fraser, Étienne Balibar, and Jacques Rancière. It was published.In the eyes of his supporters, what came to be known as the Sokal Hoax seemed to prove the most damning charges that critics of postmodernism had long leveled against it. Postmodern discourse is so meaningless, they claimed, that not even “experts” can distinguish between people who make sincere claims and those who compose deliberate gibberish.

In the months after Sokal went public, Social Text was much ridiculed. But its influence—and that of the larger “deconstructivist” mode of inquiry it propagated—continued to grow. Indeed, many academic departments that devote themselves to the study of particular ethnic, religious, and sexual groups are deeply inflected by some of Social Text’s core beliefs, including the radical subjectivity of knowledge.

That’s why Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian set out to rerun the original hoax, only on a much larger scale. Call it Sokal Squared.

Generally speaking, the journals that fell for Sokal Squared publish respected scholars from respected programs. For example, Gender, Place and Culture, which accepted one of the hoax papers, has in the past months published work from professors at UCLA, Temple, Penn State, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Manchester, and Berlin’s Humboldt University, among many others.

The sheer craziness of the papers the authors concocted makes this fact all the more shocking. One of their papers reads like a straightforward riff on the Sokal Hoax. Dismissing “western astronomy” as sexist and imperialist, it makes a case for physics departments to study feminist astrology—or practice interpretative dance—instead:

Other means superior to the natural sciences exist to extract alternative knowledges about stars and enriching astronomy, including ethnography and other social science methodologies, careful examination of the intersection of extant astrologies from around the globe, incorporation of mythological narratives and modern feminist analysis of them, feminist interpretative dance (especially with regard to the movements of the stars and their astrological significance), and direct application of feminist and postcolonial discourses concerning alternative knowledges and cultural narratives.

The paper that was published in Gender, Place and Culture seems downright silly. “Human Reaction to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon” claims to be based on in situ observation of canine rape culture in a Portland dog park. “Do dogs suffer oppression based upon (perceived) gender?” the paper asks.

By drawing upon empirical studies of psychological harms of objectification, especially through depersonalization, and exploring severel veins of theoretical literature on nonphysical forms of sexual violence, this articles seeks to situate non-concensual male autoerotic fantasizing about women as a form of metasexual violence that depersonalizes her, injures her being on an affective level, contributes to consequent harms of objectification and rape culture, and can appropriate her identity for the purpose of male sexual gratification.

Sokal Squared doesn’t just expose the low standards of the journals that publish this kind of dreck, though. It also demonstrates the extent to which many of them are willing to license discrimination if it serves ostensibly progressive goals. This tendency becomes most evident in an article that advocates extreme measures to redress the “privilege” of white students. Exhorting college professors to enact forms of “experiential reparations,” the paper suggests telling privileged students to stay silent, or even binding them to the floor in chains. If students protest, educators are told to

take considerable care not to validate privilege, sympathize with, or reinforce it and in so doing, recenter the needs of privileged groups at the expense of marginalized ones. The reactionary verbal protestations of those who oppose the progressive stack are verbal behaviors and defensive mechanisms that mask the fragility inherent to those inculcated in privilege.

Like just about everything else in this depressing national moment, Sokal Squared is already being used as ammunition in the great American culture war. Many conservatives who are deeply hostile to the science of climate change, and who dismiss out of hand the studies that attest to deep injustices in our society, are using Sokol Squared to smear all academics as biased culture warriors. The Federalist, a right-wing news and commentary site, went so far as to spread the apparent ideological bias of a few journals in one particular corner of academia to most professors, the mainstream media, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

These attacks are empirically incorrect and intellectually dishonest. There are many fields of academia that have absolutely no patience for nonsense. While the hoaxers did manage to place articles in some of the most influential academic journals in the cluster of fields that focus on dealing with issues of race, gender, and identity, they have not penetrated the leading journals of more traditional disciplines. As a number of academics pointed out on Twitter, for example, all of the papers submitted to sociology journals were rejected. For now, it remains unlikely that the American Sociological Review or the American Political Science Review would have fallen for anything resembling “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” a paper modeled on the infamous book with a similar title.

That too is intellectually dishonest. For one, Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian describe themselves as left-leaning liberals. For another, it is nonsensical to insist that nonsense scholarship doesn’t matter because you don’t like the motives of the people who exposed it, or because some other forms of scholarship may also contain nonsense. If certain fields of study cannot reliably differentiate between real scholarship and noxious bloviating, they become deeply suspect. And if they are so invested in overcoming injustice that they are willing to embrace rank cruelty as long as it is presented in the right kind of progressive jargon, they are worsening the problems they purport to address.It would, then, be all too easy to draw the wrong inferences from Sokal Squared. The lesson is neither that all fields of academia should be mistrusted nor that the study of race, gender, or sexuality is unimportant. As Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian point out, their experiment would be far less worrisome if these fields of study didn’t have such great relevance.

But if we are to be serious about remedying discrimination, racism, and sexism, we can’t ignore the uncomfortable truth these hoaxers have revealed: Some academic emperors—the ones who supposedly have the most to say about these crucial topics—have no clothes.

By Yascha Mounk and published in The Atlantic on October 5, 2018 and can be found here.

 

 

How My Husband’s Porn Fantasy Obsession Led Him To Be Disgusted With My Body

Six years ago, when I first met Tim*, everything seemed to be perfect. We clicked immediately and were married within a year of meeting. It seemed fast, but we loved all the same things, could talk about anything, and worked in similar jobs. I really thought I’d found my soul mate.

But six years later, last November, we split and Tim moved out. I filed for divorce in January, and it was official by June.

Everyone wanted to know why: Why weren’t we trying counseling first? Why didn’t we tell anyone we were having problems? Why couldn’t we work it out for our son? And, of course, why did we get divorced?

I can tell you in one word: porn.

It sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth. The porn wasn’t just a part of some bigger problem, it was the problem.

I never took issue with porn, before…

I’ve never had a problem with porn or with people looking at it in their free time. When we were dating, Tim told me he started looking at it, like most boys, in his young teens. I didn’t worry too much about it, chalking it up to just a thing guys do. But then our sex life started to suffer. To be honest, it was never amazing. I thought that was from the stress of working, living with roommates, and planning a wedding, and figured once we settled down we’d work it out. Not so much. Sex always seemed like a lot more work for Tim than it should be, and the longer we were married, the less sex we were having.

At first, I wondered if Tim was suffering from depression, had a low libido, or might even be gay (even though he’d never shown any interest in men). But then I saw his open laptop one evening and read all the tabs he had open, and realized that he had an enormous sexual appetite—just not for me.

Instead of coming to bed with me, he was choosing to stay downstairs every evening with his laptop, watching porn. We were down to having sex maybe once every three months. And it definitely wasn’t good sex. So not wanting to be a nun in my own marriage, I finally confronted Tim about what I had found.

He couldn’t get aroused with me because I’m real

I told him it wasn’t the porn itself I was worried about, but that he preferred it to me, a living, breathing woman. Plus, we had talked about wanting to try getting pregnant, and that just wasn’t going to happen having sex every three months. Tim agreed it was an issue and then he said something that really shocked me: he was having a hard time being physically aroused by me.

I was young and kept myself healthy. I waxed, I wore deodorant, I dressed well. It didn’t make any sense! Then he told me that my body disgusted him. He said it didn’t react the way he thought it should, that I made weird noises, and that my bodily fluids grossed him out. He also mentioned that he wished I looked more like the porn stars, with bigger breasts, etc. Then he said he just couldn’t get hard, plain and simple, when he was with me.

It was the most devastating conversation of my life and I still cry when I think about it. Can you imagine having your body picked apart piece by piece like that and being told you’re not good enough? That the natural way your body responds to sex is wrong?

Still, Tim wanted to try to make our relationship work and because the rest of our life together was so good, I was willing to go along with that if he went to counseling. Things seemed to be getting better—we were having more sex—but I started to notice something.

Tim always wanted to reenact things he’d watched while asking me to dress or wax or talk like his favorite performers. And a lot of the things he wanted to try, positions or toys that seemed to work so well in porn, involved rough, violent sex that treated women in a very degrading way. Even then, it still took a lot of effort for him to climax. There was nothing fun about that sex for me, nothing. It was getting to the point that it was actually traumatic for me.

All this seemed to make him more sure that something was wrong with me, and I was starting to believe he might be right. My self-esteem was destroyed; I hated my body. But one good thing did come from it: I got pregnant.

The downward spiral, and the lies

Pregnancy was a massive turn-off for Tim, so we took a nine-month hiatus from sex. And I was okay with that. The rest of our life was good, our son was amazing, so I kind of gave up caring about sex for about two years. I knew he was downstairs with his laptop again, but I didn’t want to deal with that. It wasn’t perfect, but it was okay. Plus, Tim was still attending weekly sessions with the therapist.

Eventually, though, I decided I couldn’t live without sex for the rest of my life. So I made an attempt to initiate sex one night after our son was asleep, only to discover that Tim had been lying about seeing the therapist and he was more dependent on porn than ever. I felt so angry and betrayed. I packed up my things and the baby and went to stay with a relative.

A week later, Tim called, saying he was sorry, and asked to meet at a hotel to try and “work on things.”

“No laptop?” I asked.

“No laptop,” he promised.

So I left my son with a sitter, dressed up, and met Tim at the bar in the lobby. He said he wanted me back and was willing to get treatment for his porn addiction—for real this time. He listed all the good things we had together and I began to remember why I fell in love with him in the first place. After a few drinks, we headed up to the room. But as soon as I started trying to kiss him, he involuntarily shuddered and turned away.

I knew then it wasn’t ever going to work.

As a real woman, I didn’t fit into his porn perfection

Instead of learning to see me as a woman, he was still trying to fit me into his porn fantasies. But I wasn’t going to compromise my body and my wants anymore for his. I was done. I’d spent years being compared to completely unrealistic women, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I haven’t told many people the real reason for our split. I’m worried they’ll think I’m being dramatic or overreacting. And there’s a lot of shame. Part of me still thinks I did something wrong, that if I could have just been that fantasy for him, we’d still be together. It’s humiliating.

I’m not ready to talk about it with other women yet, but I do wonder how many other wives like me are out there, suffering and wondering how they’ll ever measure up to the pornographic ideal. I think there are a lot more of us than anyone knows.

J.

*Names and identifying details have been changed

Betrayal isn’t uncommon, it’s the norm

There are definitely a lot more of these stories than anyone knows, and far too many. We receive countless emails and direct messages from significant others who have been betrayed by their partner’s porn habit. Unfortunately, this woman’s story is as common as it is heartbreaking.

Porn reshapes expectations about sex and attraction by presenting an unrealistic picture. In porn, men and women always look their best. They are forever young, surgically enhanced, airbrushed, and Photoshopped to perfection.  So it’s not hard to see why, according to a national poll, six out of seven women believe that porn has changed men’s expectations of how women should look.

As writer Naomi Wolf points out, “Today real naked women are just bad porn.”

While porn is something that both men and women struggle with, it seems that a large number of the messages we get are from girlfriends, wives, and female partners. We summed up the damaging effects of porn in a letter we wrote and released on social media:

Two of the most respected pornography researchers, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman at the University of Alabama, studied the effects of porn and media for more than 30 years. They found that consuming pornography makes many individuals less satisfied with their own partners’ physical appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and affection.  They also found that, over time, many porn users grow more callous toward females in general, less likely to value monogamy and marriage, and more likely to develop distorted perceptions of sexuality. Other researchers have confirmed those results and added that porn consumers tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners, less committed in their relationships, less satisfied with their romantic and sex lives, and more likely to cheat on their partners.

In reality, there’s nothing sexier than authentic love built on trust, mutuality, and honesty. That’s what we’re fighting for.

Originally published on Fight the New Drug on September 12, 2018 and can be found here.

 

Divorce is hard enough on children — why are our courts making it worse?

Divorce is difficult for children. It disrupts their lives in ways they are often ill-equipped to handle. It can have life-long adverse effects.

The good news is that the long term harms of divorce on children can be largely avoided if adults properly handle post-divorce parenting. And a compelling and growing body of scientific research tells us how to deal with parental separation to minimize the damage done to children.

National Parents Organization has just completed a ground-breaking study—the first of its kind—of the local default parenting time guidelines of all 88 of Ohio’s county courts of common pleas. These guidelines, required by state law, indicate default parenting time schedules and significantly shape the actual parenting patterns of divorced parents.

The results are illuminating, and depressing!

The best research on the well-being of children when parents live apart shows that children typically do best when they enjoy substantially equal time in the care of each of their parents. And this is true for infants and toddlers as well as for older children; and it’s true even when the parents have a high level of (non-violent) conflict. On all measures of child well-being, children raised in shared physical custody score about as well as children raised in an intact family; and they do much better than children raised in sole-custody situations. (Some of this research is listed on the NPO website.)

The Ohio parenting time guidelines of most counties are not only sadly behind the times, they lead to results that are capricious and bizarre.

One would think, then, that court rules, which are supposed to be guided by a “best interest of the child” principle, would be encouraging shared physical custody. Unfortunately, most of them are not; instead, steeped in a 1950s mindset, they are imposing rules that harm children.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 64 have parenting time guidelines that allow children to spend only two overnights and 60 hours or fewer in a two-week period with one of their fit parents. Some of these have schedules that prevent the children from being in the care of one of their parents for 12 consecutive days during that two-week period.

None of these counties have parenting guidelines that allow the children to be in the care of their non-residential parent on a school night. What that means is that this parent, now demoted to a second-class status, is never charged with ensuring that the children do their homework, get ready for school, and so forth. This takes one fit parent out of a true parent-child role at a time when it is more important than ever for children to be reassured that both parents are fully engaged in their lives—that both parents are doing the hands-on, day-to-day tasks of raising them.

There were bright spots, too, but only a few. Just three Ohio counties have adopted guidelines that provide children with equal, or almost equal, time with each of their fit parents.

The Ohio parenting time guidelines of most counties are not only sadly behind the times, they lead to results that are capricious and bizarre. For example, children whose parents divorce in Sandyville, Ohio (Tuscarawas County) will presumptively be in the care of each of their parents for seven overnights and 168 hours in a two-week period. Identical children in an identical family, just 4 miles away in Magnolia, Ohio (Carroll County), will presumptively be in the care of one of their parents for just 2 overnights and 48 hours in the same period—and those children will go 12 days straight without seeing that parent.

NPO has published the results of its study of Ohio parenting time guidelines as well as an interactive map showing county-by-county results. We believe that Ohio is, unfortunately, typical of the approach that many courts across the country are taking toward parenting time guidelines: behind the times and ungrounded in research. We encourage those who are concerned about the effects of divorce on children to call for changes that will truly promote the best interest of children.

Sadly, many courts are failing our children. Our children deserve better.

By Donald C. Hubin and originally published on FoxNews.com on September 16, 2018 and can be found here.

 

Iowa Supreme Court Says DOT Doesn’t Have The Authority To Regulate Traffic Cameras

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

__________________________________

DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in favor of cities and their use of traffic cameras.

Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine argued the DOT does not have the right to make rules that forced them to move or take down traffic cameras. The Supreme Court ruling agrees –saying while the Iowa Legislature gives the agency specific authority in other areas — traffic cameras are not included.

The DOT had argued the camera rules fall under their authority to remove “obstructions” from highway right-of-ways. But the Supreme Court says that’s a stretch because the cameras are on poles over the highway and the DOT was okay with cameras just being shut down and not removed.

The ruling says under the DOT argument, if the cities decided to station numerous patrol cars on Interstates 380 and 235 to catch and ticket speeders, the DOT could not issue a rule banning the practice on the grounds that it has “jurisdiction and control” over the highways.

The Supreme Court says when the legislature has given an agency general rulemaking authority but has also granted specific authority in particular areas, the agency cannot then extend the specific grants beyond their scope. It cited an earlier case where the court ruled that the DNR had the authority to quarantine a deer with CWD, but did not have the authority to quarantine the land where the infected deer was discovered, because the DNR was not given that specific authority.

The ruling says the ban on the use of drones for traffic enforcement passed in 2014 shows the legislature has the ability to enact rules for new types of traffic enforcement, but says lawmakers have not taken the step for traffic cameras.

Here’s the full ruling: Traffic-Camera-ruling-PDF

Originally published on April 27, 2018 by KGLO and can be found here.

Are Traffic Cameras Rigged Against Drivers?

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

__________________________________

There are some studies that have found that traffic cameras slow down traffic, increase wait times, and fuel an increase in rear-end accidents.

And critics say that they are more about trying to make money for the state than they are about trying to keep the roads safer. The intentions behind them might have been good, but in the end the cameras might be causing more harm than any good.

While some studies have found negative results from the traffic cameras, there are others, such as one that was funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which found different results; that they allegedly reduced collisions.

However, it appears that a growing number of people are starting to question the efficiency of the cameras; considering the resources that go into maintaining and replacing them etc. As well as the billions of dollars in funding that they are helping to collect for the state.

Are they causing more harm than good?

One recent study that looked at 148 intersections that were located in at least 28 different cities in the US, found that the total number of crashes had increased roughly 10.14 percent compared to the data they had collected prior to installing traffic cameras.

There have been several attempts to ban red-light traffic cameras and to have them removed from various jurisdictions, some public officials have even including it as a campaign promise to voters. But many efforts thus far have failed. However, they did have some success recently in Arizona a few months ago, after House legislators there decided to pass a bill to get rid of traffic cameras; sending it to the Senate for further approval.

The Senate in Texas has also recently voted to ban the use of traffic cameras statewide. One Senator from Texas, Sen. Don Huffines, previously declared that he wants the state to reimburse the victims of these traffic cameras and he wants the entire program turned off; he’s made multiple attempts to try and see that happen.

Regardless of the growing number of critics who are trying to make efforts to have the cameras removed, there are still a great deal of law enforcement personnel and other public officials etc, who maintain that there is a need to continue using them across the country.

One critic of the cameras, an engineer from Sweden, Mats Jarlstrom, who now resides in Oregon, decided to conduct his own investigation on the cameras and he was slapped with a fine from the state for having engaged in unlicensed practice of engineering because he isn’t a licensed professional in the eyes of the state of Oregon.

Jarlstrom launched his mission several years ago and he’s been looking to prove that the cameras are setting drivers up for tickets; they’re rigged against the laws of nature, he says.

He’s even taken his findings to the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying so that those who have the ability to, might possibly work to make the appropriate changes if there is such a problem with the cameras. That didn’t happen however, instead they decided to accuse him of having practiced engineering without the appropriate permission from the state.

He’s already been fined hundreds of dollars by the state and been under investigation, simply for trying to point out what he believes is a problem that they should be concerned with correcting.

It all started several years ago after Jarlstrom’s wife allegedly received her own ticket and he became interested with the math behind the traffic lights, and he says that because of a flaw with its timing that it’s rigged against drivers.

He fought back, and won.

Jarlstrom filed a federal lawsuit in defense, he argued that their crackdown equated to a violation of his 1st Amendment Constitutionally-protected right to free speech. After all, shouldn’t free speech apply to discussions about math? It took several years but recently the attorney general in Oregon allegedly admitted that they had violated his free speech rights with their actions. Jarlstrom has partnered with the Institute for Justice and he isn’t over yet because he says that he wants the law declared unconstitutional; he doesn’t want to see others fall victim just like he did for what should be considered protected speech.

Sources:
http://time.com/3643077/red-light-cams-rear-end-collisions-chicago/
https://globalnews.ca/news/2853066/turning-off-red-light-cameras-can-be-deadly-study/
http://abcnews.go.com/US/red-light-camera-backlash-cameras-causing-accidents/story?id=13925887
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-red-light-cameras-crashes-20170106-story.html
https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/legislature/2017/02/21/arizona-lawmaker-travis-grantham-wants-get-rid-photo-radar/98199096/
http://tucson.com/news/local/no-more-tickets-from-tucson-s-red-light-cameras-radar/article_c4b350cf-2e9a-59ef-b644-ce83fca30896.html
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/5gkgxn/the-shady-municipal-business-of-traffic-cams
http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-debates-red-light-cameras-tools-that-save-lives-or-police-state-tactics-9114403
http://kxan.com/2017/09/11/abilene-mayor-we-did-red-light-cameras-the-right-way/
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/texas/articles/2017-03-29/texas-senate-votes-to-ban-red-light-cameras-statewide
http://koin.com/2016/08/10/are-red-light-cameras-rigged-against-laws-of-nature/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/12/08/criticizing-red-light-cameras-is-not-a-punishable-offense-oregon-concedes/?utm_term=.49814732d3b0
https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2017/04/28/do-you-need-a-license-in-engineering-to-criticize-red-light-cameras-oregon-says-yes/

This article was published in Steemit and can be found here.

 

A Collection of Traffic Law Writings by James W. Cushing

Over the course of my career, I have written extensively on traffic law.  These writings have been published in The Legal IntelligencerUpon Further Review, and The Pennsylvania Family Lawyer as well as posted onto my blog.  I have collected these articles and blog posts and have listed them below.  Thanks for reading!

Articles:

Blog Posts:

A Collection of Law and Religion Writings by James W. Cushing

Over the course of my career, I have written extensively on how law and religion intersect.  These writings have been published in The Legal IntelligencerUpon Further Review, and The Pennsylvania Family Lawyer as well as posted onto my blog.  I have collected these articles and blog posts and have listed them below.  Thanks for reading!

Articles:

Musings:

 

Justices Carve Out Religious Exemption From the ACA

In recent weeks the news has been dominated with stories on the significant United States Supreme Court case Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al. v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al which laid out, at least in part, how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”) interacts with the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“ACA”, also known as “Obamacare”) in the context of the mandatory contraception coverage.

 

The terms of the RFRA prohibit the “[g]overnment [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” 42 U.S.C. Sections 2000bbb-1(a) and (b) The aforesaid prohibition only applies if it can be demonstrated that the law from which the exception is sought is not in furtherance of a compelling government interest and/or is the least restrictive means to accomplish that compelling government interest.

 

The ACA requires employers, such as those like Defendants Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. (“Defendants”), to provide health care plans which include “preventative care and screenings” for women without any cost sharing. Congress did not specifically define what “preventative care and screenings” precisely means; instead, Congress delegated to the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), which was the Plaintiff in this matter, the power and authority to formulate the definition. The definition of “preventative care and screenings” formulated by HHS includes twenty (20) different methods of contraception.

 

The Defendants are closely held companies owned by families who are self-described as practicing Christians. The Defendants are large enough companies to fall within the above described requirements of the ACA, including the providing of twenty (20) different methods of contraception. The Defendants believe that four (4) of the twenty (20) forms of required methods contraception are abortifacients that offend their Christian beliefs which view abortion as inherently sinful. Accordingly, pursuant to the RFRA, the Defendants sought an exemption from the ACA’s requirement to provide the four (4) abortifacient methods of contraception.

 

The Court ruled that the RFRA applies to Defendants and, as a result, their Christian believes must be accommodated relative to the four (4) abortifacient methods of contraception; therefore Defendants are exempted from having to provide the aforesaid abortifacients under the ACA.

 

When rendering its decision, the Court had to leap the first hurdle of establishing Defendants as “persons” under the terms of RFRA. The argument was made that Defendants could not be persons as they are for-profit corporations. The Court observed that such a strict definition is not warranted by applicable law. Indeed, the Court noted that RFRA is specifically designed to help business owners avoid the difficult decision of having to choose the benefit of acting as a corporation on one hand and the benefit of judicial protection of their religious liberty on the other. The Court indicated that the protection offered by the RFRA is very broad and, in fact beyond the requirements of the U.S. Constitution and prior precedent. The RFRA does not define the term “person” so the Court looked to the dictionary for guidance. According to the Court, the dictionary’s definition of person includes corporations and, the Court noted, the terms of the RFRS do no suggest that the term “person” cannot refer to corporations.

 

Tellingly, as the HHS conceded that a non-profit corporation can be a “person” under the RFRA, the Court found no compelling reason to distinguish between non-profit and for-profit corporations. It was argued that a distinction between non-profit and for-profit corporations could be that non-profit corporations seek altruistic ends; however, the Court observed that for-profit corporation can as well. Arguments were raised suggesting that the RFRA ought not apply to a for-profit corporation due to the impracticality of discerning and assigning religious beliefs to an inanimate legal fiction. The Court rejected these arguments noting that ultimately corporations do not exist independently but can only act at the direction and control of human beings who can, in fact, hold religious beliefs and could be forced to act contrary to them if left unprotected by the RFRA. The Court specifically indicated that its ruling is only applicable to closely-held corporations which, by definition, are not publicly traded and its owners/directors, and their religious beliefs, are clearly identifiable. Indeed, the Court cited to precedent which ruled that a sole proprietorship, which makes a profit, can assert a religion claim, as a result it saw no justifiable reason why a business of a small number of people, also making a profit, could not do so as well. To that end, business practices compelled by the government, which may conflict with the limitations of one’s religion, are within the application of the RFRA. Arguments were raised that it would be burdensome to determine the religious sincerity of parties like Defendants but as the Court has been tasked with that under the RFRA generally, the Court did not think cases regarding the ACA would pose any additional or greater challenge.

 

Upon establishing that the owners of closely-held corporations can have protected religious beliefs under the terms of RFRA, the Court then engaged in an analysis of the application of RFRA to the Defendants. As noted above, the application of a law over a religious objection pursuant to RFRA requires that the law at issue advance a compelling government interest and provide for the least restrictive means to accomplish that compelling interest.

 

If Defendants do not comply with the terms of the ACA, specifically refusing to provide all twenty (20) of required methods of contraception, they would be taxed $100 per day for each applicable employee. For Defendant Hobby Lobby it could amount to $475 million dollars of penalties per year. If Hobby Lobby simply elected to not provide health insurance to its employees, it could be saddled with $26 million worth of penalties. Needless to say, the penalty for Hobby Lobby to comply with its religious beliefs and refuse to provide the four (4) required abortifacients is very steep and substantially burdens their practice of religion.

 

An argument was made that even if the Defendants did have a legitimate religious objection to the abortifacients, they would not be compelled to perform an abortion, merely to provide insurance coverage which just so happens to include the abortifacients which may never be purchased and/or used by the insured person. In response, the Court refused to engage in any sort of analysis into the above as it is not up to the Court to determine whether one’s religious beliefs are flawed or reasonable; especially because this may be an unconstitutional entanglement with religion. The Court was satisfied that Defendants believed that providing the insurance coverage for the abortifacients violated their religious beliefs. Instead, the analysis of the Court is merely to determine whether a religious belief can be accommodated using the two (2) prongs of compelling interest and least restrictive means now that it had been shown that the ACA substantially burdened Defendants’ religious beliefs.

 

When evaluating whether a compelling government interest was at issue, the Court simply assumed that ensuring that cost free access to contraception was a compelling government interest. Therefore, the main item at issue was, then, whether HHS can demonstrate that the terms of the ACA are the least restrictive means to achieve that government interest under the RFRA. The Court noted that the least-restrictive-means test is extremely demanding. Ultimately, the Court ruled that HHS did not prove that it lacks other less restrictive means to achieve its compelling interest under the ACA without substantially burdening the religious practice of the Defendants.

 

Specifically, the Court suggested that less restrictive means the government could employ would include simply providing the abortifacients directly to employees of corporations seeking protection under the RFRA. This is not outside the realm of possibility as the RFRA already requires government to expend additional funds to ensure protection of religious liberty, although the Court doubts the exemption sought by the Defendants would cost the government much money at all when all is told. Further, the Court pointed out that the government has already established similar accommodations to exempt coverage for contraception to non-profit corporations; it would be a rather simple, and similar, process to allow corporations like Defendants to seek and secure a similar but less expansive accommodated exemption (Defendants wanted an exemption from only four (4) contraception methods whilst the aforesaid non-profits received an exemption for all of them); indeed, the Court’s suggestion was prescient as, within days of the Court’s handing down the ruling in this case, President Obama announced this very exemption was to be established. Therefore, according to the Court, this accommodation satisfies all parties: it enables Defendants to enjoy religious liberty whilst ensuring the government interest in providing cost-free contraception is accomplished. It is also worth noting that even if the exemption is granted Defendants, the compelling interest to provide cost-free contraception is still met as the sixteen (16) other methods of contraception would still be provided, therefore, even on its face, Defendants’ requested exemption did not impair the government from achieving is compelling interest. Ironically, the Court pointed out, the arguments against Defendants’ position would likely lead to corporations simply dropping health care coverage for its employees instead of violate their religious beliefs, thereby undermining the goal of maximum contraception coverage.

 

Finally the Court emphasized the following: first, the application and interpretation of the RFRA is determined by its plain language; it was not persuaded by claims of legislative history to interpret it otherwise. Second, its decision ought not be understood to countenance just any religious claims seeking exemption from generally applicable laws. The Court drove home the point that any exemption under the RFRA must show the three factors noted above: (1) a given generally applicable law substantially burdens religious belief; (2) the aforesaid law advances a compelling government interest, and; (3) the same law is the least restrictive means to achieve that interest. Therefore, the Court gave no credence to the dire predictions that its ruling would open the flood gates to all manner of religious exemptions from laws ranging from other parts if the ACA (e.g.: vaccination or blood transfusion requirements) to discrimination laws to tax laws to anything in between. The Court simply did not think that most of the claimed potential exemptions had a likelihood of meeting the above three factors. This case, per the Court, addresses a religious exemption from the ACA’s contraception mandate by a closely-held corporation only.

 

As the months and years pass, and as the ACA continues to become part of the fabric of American law, it will be interesting to see how this case will influence its application. Although it was headline news when handed down, will it become a landmark case or just another case in long line of litigation under the ACA? Only time will tell.

Originally published on August 15, 2014 in The Legal Intelligencer and can be seen here.

Post Navigation