8 Ball In The Wind

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thought Police

Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed a High School graduating class.  In her speech, Mrs Obama told the students that "There's no court case against believing in stereotypes or thinking that certain kinds of hateful jokes or comments are funny.  So the answers to many of our challenges today can't necessarily be found in our laws."  Does Mrs. Obama think there should be such laws?

At first, this brought to my mind the question; "Why is she  talking about 'court cases' and beliefs?"  Then I realized that she is using a stereotype in her speech.  There is obviously more to this than meets the eye.  If there was a "court case against believing in stereotypes", I have a feeling Mrs. Obama would be in violation of it.

Mrs. Obama continued; "As you go forth, when you encounter folks who still hold the old prejudices because they've only been around folks like themselves, when you meet folks who think they know all the answers because they've never heard any other viewpoints, it's up to you to help them see things differently."  Is she talking about herself and her husband here?  Because I haven't seen people so quick to play the "race" card without hesitation as they have.

But of course, we should all know that she is referring to those whose viewpoints are different than hers and her husbands.  Part of Dr. Martin Luther Kings " I Have A Dream" speech in Washington DC mentioned a society where a mans skin color made no difference.  Although I rarely hear anyone supporting Civil Rights, and opposing racism, referring to that part of his speech.  That was always the most powerful of his speeches to me, because it spoke about true equality.  Sadly, that is far from what we have in America today.  It has been getting even worse, and more strident for several years.  If a white person in our country kills or injures someone of color, the media almost instantly turns it into a racial issue.  Yet when a person of color kills or injures a white person, if the mainstream media even covers it, it seldom is protrayed as a "hate crime".  The White House certainly doesn't interject itself into a local matter claiming it is a "racial" issue.

Mrs. Obama continued, and this is where I really started having red flags start coming up; "Maybe that starts simply, in your own family, when grandpa tells that off-colored joke at Thanksgiving, or you've got an aunt talks about 'those people'.  Well, you can politely inform them that they are talking about your friends."

Hmmm, let's see more vagueness.  The implication is there, that the 'off-colored joke at Thanksgiving' is a racial one.  Fortuneately, she has never been to one of my family Thanksgivings.  While there are plenty of 'off-colored jokes', they tend to have very little to do with race, if anything at all.  As for comments about 'those people'; think of any group of people, and I would virtually guarantee you that there is someone else who considers them 'those people'.  hell, I am one of at least three groups of 'those people'.  How many folks do you know that look down on bikers, or low income, or rural folks ( I am not a "redneck")?

But what really seems to put a burr under my skin, is the way the current administration seems to be turning on those who have opposing views to theirs.  Wanting more and more control over ever broadening aspects of the American publics private lives.  It does seem to have shades of an Orwellian mentality.  Especially when you look at Mrs. Obama's speech to the Kansas High School students, encouraging them to watch their own families for expressions of Non-PC thinking.  The government already monitors our phones, our internet use, and through GPS our travels.  Do we really need the thought police in our lives too?

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cancer Of Entitlement

I can remember when Food Stamps were a new thing.  Meant to help people get enough food for their families when they couldn't afford it.  I remember the slight stigma associated with being on Food Stamps.  To the public, they were meant as a helping hand to get through a families rough spots until they could start getting themselves more money.  But as politicians added more benefits (and more restrictions) to the programs, It wasn't long until it became quite difficult to get over the hard times and support oneself after getting on the program.
If you got ambitious, and started making more money, you could quite easily find yourself without health coverage, Food Stamps, or possibly even your public housing.

Once the government has you in its pocket, they want to keep you there.  Adding more and more "free" perks and "entitlements" and making it more and more difficult to do anything to better yourself without risking what you have coming in.
The lawmakers don't really care about that.  They know that as long as the people are getting free money and other things they have grown to feel 'entitled' to, they will keep voting in the people who give them the entitlements they feel are needed.

It used to be that the welfare system was to help people out of poverty.  Now, it has them trapped.  Rarely does someone through their own initiative and ambition use the system to get out of poverty and make a success of themselves.  That is why it gets used as such a success story when it does happen from time to time.

Now, the people have grown so accustomed to not being allowed to earn more than a specific amount of money or lose their benefits.  So they don't seem to look beyond that monthly check.  They don't have to worry about losing their "job"  (Unless they get caught in outright fraud.  Even then, they are likely to still get money for their children.) so they don't think, or care, about what an employer would want in an employee.  They grow so accustomed to the money coming in without really doing anything for it, that they begin to feel it is their due.  That the government needs to support them.  Which is just the opposite of what the programs were originally designed for.  Or so the government would have us believe.

Once you are under the governments thumb, that is where they want you.  You have to jump through hoops, and if you make enough money to get out of the system, you find they want their money back.  Tell me that isn't a very potent way of keeping people on the rolls, and under control.

Now a growing number of people don't seem to be as ambitious as when I was younger.  They expect good wages from the start.  Don't show respect, but demand to be respected without it being earned.  Demanding a family living wage for an entry level workers position.  Giving up on the idea that a fast food job for example is not a career, but a starting point to learn work ethics, and give you a basic wage.  Something to hold you over until your ambition takes you to the next level.  Now many of them are expecting their entry level jobs to pay as much as skilled labor, or jobs requiring special licenses and training.  Because they feel  they are 'entitled' to a living wage, for an entry level position.

Entitlements are a cancer that is finally beginning to matastasize throughout our society.  Low income families can have 'free' phones, 'free' internet, and seem to have a growing number of new high tech devices as they become more and more affordable.  Since many of these things are bought with the money the government allows them each month, the value of them isn't felt as deeply as if they had to work for the wages to buy them.  I have seen this myself, the things have no real value, except as toys for the children to keep them occupied.

Answer me this; if a person can have a roof over their heads, money coming in, and food on the table, and still be able to just sit around and watch TV all day...why should they want to go to work and improve themselves?  Working is a lot harder than hanging out and cashing that government check every month.

Good people have begun to lose their way.  No longer desiring to improve their situation, because their parents weren't able to, they haven't been able to, and their children won't be able to.  As long as they get what they are 'entitled' to, they will keep electing the same people over and over who give them what they are 'entitled' to.

That is how the government control of the people is maintained.  Threaten their entitlements and the people will tow the line.  The government has the control in these situations.  Control that the government will go to extremes to keep over their citizens.  Keeping the citizens addicted to their entitlements.  And thus to government control.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Unequal Rights

I know that the government claims to want to protect us all from ourselves.  They think they know better than the rest of us, about how we should take care of our own individual selves.  But quoting statistics about how much safer we would be if we were mandated to wear helmets while riding a motorcycle or bicycle really twists the truth.  I mean really now, are those the only way people can get head injuries?  There are statistically much riskier things that we do everyday, but the idea of being mandated to wear a helmet while doing them is considered laughable, ridiculous in the extreme.

Think about what I am about to say for a moment, and try to follow along with what I describe, you might see my point before long.  Let's say, for purposes of argument, that I am not typing this but I am actually riding my Harley.  I'm riding Gypsy from, Oh let's say Forks all the way across the state to Walla Walla.  Because I am in Washington, I am mandated to wear my helmet.  At the end of this trip, I arrive with no difficulties, safe and sound, and in a refreshed and content frame of mind.  Throughout this several hundred mile road journey, did my helmet protect me from head injuries?  If it did, it did so in exactly the same amount that my skull protected me from head injury.  There was no accident, no crash, no impact for the helmet (or my skull for that matter) to protect me from.  I have no idea how one could possibly do a study, without estimating, how many miles are ridden each year without need of a helmet.  Because all of these studies are comparisons of people who have already suffered head injuries.  I have rarely found anything that even remotely compares ridership to accident ratios with accident to head injury ratios.  In other words, how likely are you to have an accident in the first place, and then, how likely are you to have a head injury?  Then you can compare whether your head was better protected with or without a helmet.  Until then, quit discriminating against motorcyclists and bicyclists, by forcing us to put a helmet on our heads!

Recently I ran across a head injury study that had a bit of a different spin to it.  It was broken down by the percentage of head injuries by how they occured.  I was pleasantly surprised to see it didn't show motorcycles or bicycles near the top of the risk factors.  There was even a category entitled 'non-vehicle, non-bike' and the percentage of head injuries was the same as mototcycles and bicycles combined!!  But the government doesn't try to force a helmet on your head to protect you from injuring your head if you trip and fall.

It seems almost farcical to even suggest wearing a helmet to protect your head doing anything other than riding a bike or a motorcycle in our society.  Doesn't it?
Yet, according to a 1978 study of head injury causes in San Diego, California, bicycles and motorcycles only account for 16% of head injuries combined.  The largest source of head injuries, a full 53% are accidents involving automobiles.  Think about being forced to wear a helmet that meets government standards while driving your car.  If you tell me that I have to wear a helmet because it reduces my risk of head injury by 85%, and my risk of brain injury by 88%, then you damn well better be wearing one driving your car.  Because automobile accidents accounted for roughly 320% more head injuries than motorcycles and bicycles COMBINED!!  Yet how likely is it that a law will be passed mandating helmet use in automobiles in this study?  I have no illusions that will happen, because automobile drivers and passengers wouldn't stand for it.

The following graph is from the study; "The Epidemiology Of Head Injury, A Prospective Study Of An Entire Community-San Diego, California, 1978"

Which brings to mind my next question; "What gives you the right to choose not to wear a helmet to protect yourself against a higher risk of head injuries, while taking away MY RIGHT to make that same choice about a lesser risk?"

It is a clear case of discrimination, based on perceptions of a group, and not on any unbiased data of the comparison.  Either everyone at risk of head injury should be mandated to wear a helmet of comparable effectiveness, or they should have the  right to decide not to.  All people should have the same right to choose.  That is the essence of freedom.  Equally exercising each individuals right to decide what is an acceptable risk to their own person.  Not these unequal rights that the government imposes on some people and not on others.

As a child growing up during the 1960's and 1970's, I saw first hand the power of the people to get discriminatory laws changed.  There is still much work ahead of us as a society.  We have a long way to go before we are all truly equal under the law.  It won't be until society stops discriminating against groups who are different out of perceptions of fear instead of logical, factual information that we can begin to truly have equal rights for all citizens.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lane Splitting

It sometimes makes me wonder, why virtually the entire planet allows motorcycles and scooters to split the lanes, except 49 of the 50 states in America.  Yes, the land of fruit flies and nuts, is the only state in the Union to allow lane splitting.  Albeit with some general guidelines.

The act of splitting lanes, while it may irritate automobile drivers (who studies have shown that only 53% even know that lane splitting is legal), does help with the flow of traffic.  Well, unless you're riding a big bagger with hard bags and a fairing.  If that's the case, then you are just stuck.  Because you're not going to fit between two lanes of traffic anyway.  In urban areas, motorcycles splitting lanes can help keep traffic moving as they aren't taking up a full lane area.  Allowing other vehicles to take up that space.

The CHP has issued 5 "guidelines" for safer lane splitting.  They are simple, and common sense, and if used properly lane splitting can help ease traffic flow in urban areas.  Here are the five "guidelines" per the CHP:

1.  Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic
2.    It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster
3.   Typically, it is safer to split between the #1 and #2 lanes than between other lanes
4.   Consider the total environment in which you are splitting
5.   Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users 

Okay, let's take each of these five guidelines, and take a little closer look at each one.  Then, perhaps you'll see that lane splitting is a helpful thing in the urban traffic environment.

1.  Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic

This is really pretty basic common sense.  If you are going much over 10mph faster than the flow of traffic a couple of things tend to happen.  Both your sight lines, and reaction times start getting reduced.  Making it more difficult to avoid a sudden hazard...like the asshole in the car who decides you aren't going to pass them on your bike if they have to sit in traffic too. When splitting lanes (and I am saying this from personal experience) while it allows you some freedom of movement compared to other road users, you are still rolling along between many tons of metal whose drivers aren't going to always appreciate your not being stuck in traffic like they are.  Don't be surprised if a door suddenly flies open in front of you, or a vehicle edges into the gap between lanes cutting you off.  Also, splitting the lanes at 50mph through traffic that is stopped, or flowing at 5 or 10mph is just being an asshole, which is even more likely to get some other asshole in a cage fired up to cut you off.

2.    It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster

This is just a slight variant on the first guideline.  Basically, it is saying that you shouldn't be splitting lanes when traffic is flowing normally on urban streets.  You're not going to have a lot of time to react to some idiot realizing they're in the wrong lane and changing at the last second without checking what is along side of them.  Or other such hazards.  Besides, city street speed limits tend to be 30mph or lower anyway.  On the freeway, it probably isn't a real good idea due to the fact you're going to startle some cage driver who'll swerve into you or someone else.

3.   Typically, it is safer to split between the #1 and #2 lanes than between other lanes

The furthest left lanes (#1 and #2 lanes) tend to be where traffic is flowing smoothest anyway since there aren't as many exits or other disruptions to traffic flow.  That is also why the traffic tends to move faster in those lanes.  With less opportunity for some cager to suddenly cut across lanes of traffic to hit an exit at the last possible second, you are better off splitting lanes between the "fast lanes".

4.   Consider the total environment in which you are splitting

This not only means the weather conditions, but the pavement conditions, whether it is light or dark, the width of the lane (it's a lot hard to split lanes on a 10 ft lane than a 12 ft lane...I wouldn't even try it on an 8 ft lane) or if you're riding a bike with wide bars  and saddlebags (sorry all you bagger riders...lane splitting tends to be a sport bike, smaller bike, or a chopper riders haven) and the cause of traffic slowdowns (if that is possible to know).

5.   Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users 

Here's that guy in the big boat SUV that is stuck in traffic and tries to squeeze into  a gap the size of a VW in the other lane because it will give him a half car length of movement forward.  Even if it makes everyone else wait.  Or the dude in the Prius who is aware of someone splitting in the other lane, and moves to give them a bit more room and cuts you off.  Then there is the ever present idiot who just has to open up the cage door and step out to see why traffic is stopped on the freeway, and doesn't even look to see if anything is coming (hey, traffic is stopped, right?).  Watch yourselves out there.

So, you may be asking yourself, if California is the only state that allows lane splitting, why am I even talking about this?  Because.  I have enjoyed the ability to move through slow and stalled traffic in California.  I know how much safer it can be in those conditions for a motorcycle rider to be able to move up between the lanes.  That allows other vehicles to creep forward, without rear ending a bike because the driver isn't paying as close attention driving at 5 mph on the freeway.  It is much safer to be able to move through traffic, and get out of the jam quicker than to sit in it and bake your air cooled motor.  Not being able to move can cause a number of safety issues for the rider in heavy stop and go traffic.  In addition to the effects of overheating and adding to the congestion and gridlock.

If you haven't guessed by now, I support the idea of making lane splitting legal in Washington state as well.  While it doesn't really make sense on rural roads, unless there is some traffic hold-up, it does work in urban areas and freeways.  Those are the same two places with the highest fatality rate among motorcyclists as well, urban areas and freeways.  Think maybe lane splitting might help that?

Catch you on the road sometime...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pay Attention Damn It!!

Once again, I am blown away some of the self recorded videos of people crashing into things on their motorcycles posted on youtube.  It seems that in so many of these, the rider has his head in the ozone somewhere.  It sure isn't on the road they are traveling on.  While watching them, many have several seconds from the time the hazard is noticeable in the video until impact.  But the riders all seem to freeze mentally.  As if they have some sort of 'deer in the headlights' syndrome.  I have noticed some of the objects they crash into up to a full 7 or 8 seconds before they make impact.  Many of the riders in the videos don't seem to notice until maybe a second or two before impact.  Come on people, I know riding is a great relaxing experience and all, but take your heads out of your asses and PAY ATTENTION!

No one else is going to do it for you.  It isn't their responsibility to keep you from hitting them, it is yours.  Man, it is hard enough to keep them from hitting us when they are looking at us (and that will be a blog post all of its own soon enough).  You can't expect them to watch what they are doing, and still pay attention to what you are doing while NOT paying attention.  We won't even talk about hitting permanent and well marked stationary objects....just open your eyes, and pay attention!!  The person you run into, and ruin their (and your) day might be ME!!  Okay, rant over now.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Overstating The Obvious

I was reading a press release from the Washington State Patrol about how motorcycle fatalities take an abrupt rise at the beginning of every riding season.  That actually struck me for a couple of reasons.  Here in Washington State, the number of people who actually ride year around is significantly lower than during 'riding season' (call it late March thru late September).  So, for arguments sake, let's say that maybe twenty percent of motorcycle riders ride year around.  There aren't that many riders out on the roadways to get into fatal accidents.  So yes, just by the fact that 80% more people are on the road enjoying their bikes, it only makes sense that the number of fatal accidents are going to increase.  Still, in Washington state there were 82 motorcycle fatalities during 2012.  In a state of almost 7,000,000 people that is a pretty low number.

There are approximately 200,000 motorcycles registered in Washington state.  Even if only half of those motorcycles were ridden every year, 82 is still an incredibly small number of people dying.  A tragedy for each of the families and friends involved to be sure.  But in the broader picture, not a very large percentage.

The saddest thing about the number being even that low, is that roughly 50% of fatal accidents are single vehicle accidents.  The rider losing control and crashing,
or striking an object.  Alcohol plays a major factor in some 40% of these accidents.  Inexperienced, and unlicensed riders are also key factors in the death rates.  When you first start driving a car do you go out and drive a high perfomance race car?  No, but I am amazed at how many new bike riders go out and buy high performance 'race replica' bikes that have a thrust to weight ratio approaching that of a jet plane.

That is why, it strikes me as strange that the WSP would even issue a press release about the sharp increase in motorcycle fatalities during 'riding season'.  Until I actually did the research myself and found out the actual numbers, I had supposed them to be a great deal higher...by a factor of ten at least.  But the fact that the WSP press release doesn't give the actual numbers of fatalities, only reinforces the concern over the increase in the death rate, makes me wonder what their real agenda is.  With 80% more people riding, it is only common sense that more fatal accidents would occur.

With the WSP making their little announcement every year, they are putting the bullseye on motorcyclists.  We are their distraction.  Warning motorists to watch out for us is a good thing, and I have no doubt it may prevent a few accidents.  But when the WSP announces to the news media that the head of their agancy isn't going to issue any special orders regarding the abrupt increase in the rate of motorcycle fatalities, what is the point?  They issue a press release to say they aren't going to issue any specific orders to the Troopers about enforcement of traffic laws involving motorcycles because the Troopers are already personally 'aware' of the steep increase in the fatality rate.

All that does is put the words "sharp increase in motorcycle fatalities" in the media.  That is simple disinformation, by overstating the obvious, to confuse the ignorant.  The WSP didn't make any similar statement regarding the increase in fatal automobile accidents during the same months of the year.  But automobiles, and their drivers aren't depicted as dangerous in the media either.  Yet there were 356 non-motorcycle collision fatalities in Washington state in 2012.  Including 87 "Non-Motorists" (pedestrians).  That is a higher fatality figure than motorcyclists.  But the WSP doesn't issue a press release saying they aren't going to issue special orders to Troopers about the pedestrian fatality rate.

They do it for motorcyclists as a way of isolating us in the publics eye.  Keeping the conceptual link between 'death' and motorcycles in the backs of the non-riding publics mind.  Motorcycles are dangerous and their riders need to be protected from their own reckless tendencies.  But what more can you really expect from a bunch of "bikers" anyway.  In my mind it is simply an backhanded way of keeping us separate from the rest of society, in the minds of society.

I just find it amusing that the powers that be have to stoop to such measures to gain some form of control.  But that is what government is becoming, a machine for controlling the masses.  Using age old techniques, and subtle new age ones, to shape and control the publics perceptions and opimions.  While creating and keeping the perceptions that control is needed.  Think about it.  Why else would they play on the prejudices against bikers, with such overstated obvious factoids to make us look bad without doing anything?
Catch you on the road sometime...