Archive for April 10th, 2012

by jhwygirl

Tucked in last week’s story on councilman and Democratic congressional candidate Dave Strohmaier and his fellow councilman Jon Wilkins bringing back the cell phone ordinance for more discussion “based on successful work in other communities,” was a little sentence or two that made me wonder just how aggressive city cops were willing to go to enforce Missoula’s texting-while-driving law

You know – the story where Jon Wilkins was quoted as saying “I think the cellphone usage is out of control in Missoula,” and that it was “just going to get worse”?

Tucked in that story were these two paragraphs, with my emphasis added:

There have been a significant number of changes around the country and the state of Montana since Missoula has undertaken to pass our no-texting-while-driving ordinance,” said Muir, who noted that April happens to be National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

It’s hard to tell if someone is texting or dialing, and police have issued just 12 citations since the law took effect, Muir said. A motorcycle cop wrote half of those because from his vantage point on the bike, it was easier to look down at a driver and see that the motorist was, in fact, texting.

Goddess bless Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller, btw. She gets those details – and most of the time probably wonders why no one ever notices.

Of 12 citations written, one cop has written half of those citations because from his vantage point it was easier to look down on the driver and see that the motorist was texting?

Really? Is he doing this while riding his bike? Or while he is stopped at a light or sign next to or behind the driver?

I don’t want to sound theatrical or unreasonable, but what ever happened to reasonable cause? The right to…awww, let’s just go right to the U.S. Constitution, Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I recognize that police have a dangerous job. I consider myself pretty well-informed of the risks they take every day when the put on that uniform and go to work. But that being said, I can’t not for the life of me imagine how one cop has managed to rack up 50% of the tickets for texting-while-driving on reasonable cause suspicions that led to him looking into the laps of drivers.

It also makes me wonder what other tickets he’s given out and under what circumstances.

Wilkins thinks cell phone use is “out of control”? I’m thinking we’ve got the cops using that cell phone ordinance for more that what it was intended.

And one cop who might be a little “out of control.”

4th Amendment be damned, Missoula! We might have someone texting-while-driving! Even while stopped at a light!


With those words, Franklin Delano Roosevelt invoked his Economic Bill of Rights during his State of the Union speech on January 11th, 1944:

“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.”

Americans cherish their creed of: “With Liberty and Justice for All” contained within the pledge of allegiance, but that is just one pillar of a society built on true democratic and egalitarian principles. Roosevelt was alluding to his economic bill of rights as being a second bill of rights in this country, needed to advance us to a moral and just society.

But this discussion would not be complete without reference to the French notion of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Liberty, equality and brotherhood (or sisterhood). The original pledge of allegiance was written with the words “equality and fraternity” in mind, but those words were rejected due to perceived opposition to the notions in the late 19th century.

Of course, I didn’t lure you all in here for just some trite history lessons. Lizard introduced us to the notion of political nihilism yesterday, which offers a nice segue into some material I’ve been thinking of writing about. And after last week’s springtime meetup between Liz, Pete and I on the deck of the Old Post (thanks Pogo!), their words of encouragement to me to do some writing was taken to heart.

Being a bit of a political nihilist myself, I mentioned that I would have a hard time offering paeans to the democratic party and most of its candidates, including President Obama, and to the theology on the political necessity of the lesser of two evils. What has interested me most about fringe traditional politics this year is the emergence of a new candidate for the Green Party, and no, it’s not Ralph Nader (whom I have voted for in the past).

Jill Stein, this year’s Green Party front runner, has invoked FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, and is sidling up to the French notion (and aborted Pledge of Allegiance credo) of Liberté, égalité, fraternité in her campaign. I thought it might be refreshing to traditional democrats to see some ideas that might inspire a current generation of democrats to embrace.

Of course, even a platform arising out of traditional democrat and american themes now seems too radical for a mainstream democratic party that has drifted aimlessly to the right, attacking any and all efforts to drag it back to its roots. For starters, I’d like to offer up a few tidbits of Stein and the Green New Deal speech she gave for the “People’s State of the Union” earlier this year, that would work to stem the rush to a fascistic dictatorship in this country.

A four part program:

  • “First, we will guarantee the economic rights of all Americans, beginning with the right to a job at a living wage for every American willing and able to work.
  • Second, we will transition to a sustainable, green economy for the 21st century, by adopting green technologies and sustainable production.
  • Third, we will reboot and reprogram the financial sector so that it serves everyday people and our communities, and not the other way around.
  • Fourth, we will protect these gains by expanding and strengthening our democracy so that our government and our economy finally serve We the People.”

The Economic Bill of Rights:

The Green New Deal begins with an Economic Bill of Rights that recognizes our rights to an economy that serves people. This means that everyone willing and able to work has the right to a job at a living wage. All of us have the right to quality education, health care, utilities, and housing. Each of us has the right to unionize, to fair taxation, and to fair trade.”

And this is just the start of a truly progressive plank by which democrats should seek to judge their candidates if they truly believe that the democratic party is of any use to mainstream politics. But it is still only the foundation for a  second of the full tier of rights and moral obligations of civilized nations.

I’ll be back for more in the future. And of course I, and others who support third party alternatives to mainstream political shlock, will most likely take a lot of heat for offering up what will be characterized as political nihilism. And you know what? I’m ok with that.

And if you want to watch a true progressive politician talk about the Green Party vision for this country, the video of Jill Stein’s speech is right after the jump.
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