Why Bicycle Light Laws are a Bad Idea, Part II

By Dom Nozzi

August 8, 2017

In an earlier blog, I had written about why laws requiring bicyclists to use lights at night are problematic. The following essay are further thoughts I have on the topic.

To begin with, I strongly agree that bike lights are a very important way to be safe when riding a bicycle at night. I use a light nearly every time I ride at night.

This is not a question of whether bicycle lights dramatically improve safety for cyclists at night. Clearly they do. The question is whether a law requiring cyclists to use a light at night is a good idea.IMG_8731

A question was asked on the Boulder CO “Thursday Cruiser Bike Ride” (a mass weekly bike ride which seeks to maximize the number of cyclists riding on Thursday after work) as to why some cyclists don’t use a light on these nighttime rides. I believe responsible cyclists will, when necessary, use lights, wear a helmet, and stop at intersections. I understand the safety importance. I also believe in each of those three cases, a law does almost nothing to increase the use of lights, use of a helmet, or stopping at an intersection (largely because all three can be done safely in many cycling situations, or for reasons I note below). We already have laws for certain things that distinguish between actions that are so dangerous (to oneself and others) that a law requires it, and situations that are considered relatively safe and the law therefore makes an exception (a boating life preserver, for example).

On the other hand, our society makes it very difficult, impossible, inconvenient, illegal, and dangerous in countless ways to ride a bike. There are so many of these discouragement factors that I’m shocked that ANYONE bicycles regularly. For the vast majority of people in the US, the very rare cyclist seen on American roads strikes nearly all Americans as a person who is completely out of his or her mind.

I don’t at all agree, as some claim, that lights can be attached to a bicycle and forgotten about. In America, here are very frequent worries:

  1. Bike batteries notoriously run low on electricity.
  2. Bike lights are very quickly and easily (and therefore often) stolen – particularly if they are high enough in quality to be reliable. Bike lights need to be easy enough to put on and take off a bike so that they are reasonably convenient. They are therefore inherently prone to theft. For this reason, at least in America, it is a bad idea to leave lights attached to a bike.
  3. Bike lights are very notorious for breaking down to the point where they don’t work. Often due to cheap construction, collisions with walls, racks, legs, rust or corrosion in rain, etc.
  4. It is easy to forget to bring along a light to attach to your bike (many don’t keep a light attached due to reasonable fear of theft or rain). Given how often a cyclist must attach a light to their bike for each night ride, I wonder how “convenient” a motorist would find it if they had to attach a portable front a rear light to their car each time they drove at night? And each time they went into and out of a store or restaurant each night?
  5. It is common for a cyclist to start a ride in daylight hours and not anticipate being out late enough to need to ride later in the dark. This is never a problem a motorist has to worry about.

Each of these circumstances happen quite frequently for a cyclist, and almost never, if ever, for a motorist.

So a bike light law regularly exposes a cyclist to a stiff fine, inconvenience, financial costs, and the burden of dealing with purchase and maintenance of the light.

Again, there are already a huge number of ways in which our society strongly discourages cycling.

Given the fact that responsible cyclists already ride safely and irresponsible cyclists are unlikely to be influenced by a law, why add another reason to discourage cycling?

 

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Should Bicycle Lights be Required when Bicycling at Night?

By Dom Nozzi

August 7, 2017

Using a law to require safety gear such as bike lights seems like a good idea at first glance. But there are many reasons why such a requirement is problematic.

Many cyclists don’t use lights because they easily break. Or rust from rain. Or batteries lose power. Or the lights are stolen. Or it is easy to forget them (particularly when you start a ride during daylight yet the ride unexpectedly ends at night). Or they are sometimes expensive. Or they get lost in the house or garage.

Bicycling is already much more inconvenient or difficult than driving a car in our pro-car society, and this requirement adds to that imbalance (thereby encouraging more driving and less cycling). For this reason, a bike light requirement worsens public safety and harms public health by reducing the frequency of bicycling – or punishing cycling by the increased threat of having to pay a steep fine.lights

Requiring lights is a form of victim-blaming. Instead of blaming the victim, we should be promoting effective safety tactics such as safety in numbers (ie, increasing the number of cyclists), and insisting that streets be designed to obligate slower, more attentive driving by motorists (engineers have almost single-mindedly designed roads for high speeds and inattentiveness for over a century).

Note that I am NOT suggesting that bicyclists not use lights at night. There are very strong reasons why bicyclists should use lights at night.

The question I am asking here is not whether bicyclists should use lights at night. Of course they should. The question, rather, is whether we should use the power of law to require the use of lights.

What I am suggesting in this essay is that mandatory rules for bicyclists to use lights are counterproductive.

All of the above also applies to bike helmets. I am okay with people voluntarily choosing to wear a helmet, but I strongly object to mandatory bike helmet laws. Studies show that when such laws are adopted, bicycling frequency goes down, for the reasons I point out above.

Let us avoid a double standard when it comes to safety and convenience. If our society does not have the wisdom or leadership to avoid a mandatory light or helmet requirement for bicyclists, we should require motorists to abide by the same rules. Motorists must wear a helmet while driving (after all, head injuries are far more likely when driving a car), and must carry out to their car and attach car portable headlights and brake lights each time they drive a car.

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The True Flag, by Stephen Kinzer. America is an Imperialist, Warrior Nation

 

By Dom Nozzi

April 18, 2017

The True Flag, by Stephen Kinzer, focuses on the lynchpin years of America’s fateful (and in my opinion, ruinous) decision to transition into an imperalist, interventionist, alleged “world policeman” nation starting about 1898 in the battles between the anti-imperialists (led by Mark Twain) and the imperialists (led by Teddy Roosevelt). Ever since then, those opposed to imperialistic intervention (the anti-imperialists) have been pejoratively labeled as naive, timid, weak isolationists.

I am quite proud to consider myself to be a non-interventionist. I believe it is criminal, inhumane, unrealistic, and unsustainable for the US to be a global policeman.

Most of the world now rightly looks upon the US as a Black Hat Bully. As Chomsky says, the US is, by far, the leading terrorist nation on earth. As such, the US is the leading20137256237522734_20 creator of terrorist actions by others throughout the world.

As Derber so importantly points out in The Morality Wars, nearly all infamous Empires in world history (Rome, Nazi Germany, the Soviets, etc.) firmly believed and proclaimed that their violent military interventionism was to promote freedom, democracy, security, justice, morality, and civilization. In almost all cases, this was simply a cover for grabbing natural resources, obtaining cheap labor, or opening up markets for corporations. This method of using morality as a cover for conquest has been a US tactic in nearly all US wars in history up to the present day.

By the way, the US has been at peace for only 21 of our 241 years as a nation.

The following are excerpts from the last chapter of Kinzer’s book.

“For generations, makers of American foreign policy have made decisions based on three assumptions: the United States is the indispensable nation that must lead the world; this leadership requires toughness; and toughness is best demonstrated by the threat and use of force. A host of subsidiary assumptions undergirds this catechism: the United States is inherently virtuous; its influence on the world is always benign; it must often intervene overseas because the risks of inaction are too high; its ideals are universal and can be exported; it welcomes support from other states but may act unilaterally when it chooses. Rather than see in the world a wide spectrum of forces, beliefs, cultures, and interests, Americans often see only good and evil. We rush to take the side of good. This usually brings trouble…

…we intervene because we see bad situations, not because we have a clear plan to improve them. At moments of crisis or decision, emotion overcomes sober reasoning – and emotion is always the enemy of wise statesmanship…

…History’s great counsel to the United States is that it should more carefully weigh the long-term effects of its foreign interventions…

…The United States has not discovered the magic formula that can produce happiness and prosperity everywhere…[Interventions]…are not soberly conceived, with realistic goals and clear exit strategies. Many ultimately harm the target country while weakening the security of the United States.

Violent intervention always leaves a trail of ‘collateral damage’ in the form of families killed, towns destroyed, and lives ruined. Usually these consequences are called mistaken or unavoidable. That does nothing to reduce the damage – or the anger that survivors pass down through generations.

The argument that the United States intervenes to defend freedom rarely matches the facts on the ground. Many interventions have been designed to prop up predatory regimes. Their goal is to increase American power – often economic power – rather than to liberate the suffering…

…Interventions multiply our enemies. They lead people who once bore no ill will toward the United States to begin cursing its name…Americans are shocked and incensed when that passion leads to violent counterattacks. They should not be. The instinct to protect one’s own and to strike back against the attackers is older than humanity itself.

American intervention overseas is hugely expensive. The United States spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined, including trillions of dollars to fight foreign wars. Meanwhile, American communities decay, infrastructure ages and withers, schoolchildren fall behind their counterparts in other countries, and millions go without housing, jobs, or health care. Even worse, at least symbolically, are the lifelong plagues that haunt many combat veterans. War brings ‘collateral damage’ to Americans as well as foreigners…

…The United States was once admired for its refusal to fight imperial wars or impose its will on distant nations. Today, many people around the world see it as a bully, recklessly invading foreign lands, blowing up entire societies, and leaving trails of destruction and conflict. They associate the name ‘United States’ with bombing, invasion, occupation, night raids, convert action, torture, kidnapping, and secret prisons…

…countries [battered] by foreign intervention find ways to take revenge. It comes in the forms from mass migration to terror attacks. These are bad results of assaults that we believed would have no bad results. We were foolish to presume that no matter how awful American or European interventions were, their effects would not reach the United States or Europe. The developed world – the invading world – is not an island or an impregnable fortress. Intervention takes a toll at home as well as abroad.”

“Preventive war is like committing suicide for fear of death.” — Bismark

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The US Wars of Aggression

By Dom Nozzi

April 8, 2017

There is a political consensus in the US that military aggression is desirable.

This is inexcusable.

The US has become a militarized nation that has normalized war crimes. In the name of “democracy” and “humanitarianism.”

Republicans and Democrats have both been cheerleading for more militarism for decades, which, in combination with the US being the only superpower that remains at the time of this writing, has made the US the leading terrorist nation in world history.

It is unsustainable, counterproductive, and criminal for the US to play the role of global policeman. Every war fought by every nation in world history (including Ancient Rome, Nazi Germany, North Vietnam, Iraq, North Korea, the Soviet Union, etc.) has been justified by the government claiming to bring the invaded nation more security, protection, humanitarianism, justice, freedom, civilization, democracy, and/or salvation from tyranny.

These justifications are a ruse used by the aggressor nation to convince the populace of the aggressor nation that the attack is just. The US is supremely guilty of this ploy (and the number one purveyor of this ploy in world history) ever since at least Korea and probably back further than that in many cases. For more understanding about this, read “Morality Wars: How Empires, the Born Again and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good.” Also read “The New American Militarism,” which describes the US political consensus that wars of aggression are good (as well as the bi-partisan support for the crazy high military expenditures the US now makes annually).

Since at least the Vietnam War, the US has utterly failed to learn the lesson that even overwhelming military force can NEVER defeat a guerrilla force assembled by the nation being attacked by the US, and tends to lead to endless, counterproductive wars. The only beneficiaries of endless wars are the military contractors and elected officials leveraging the military jobs for votes.

Read “War of the Flea” for an explanation of that reality.

To his eternal credit, near the end of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee refused to accept a recommendation from his generals of the Confederate Army that the South engage in guerrilla war. He knew that if that was done, the Civil War would have lasted for several decades and destroyed the nation.

The US should have NEVER invaded (or bombed) Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and other suffering nations in the Middle East. Because of our inhumane, unjust 20137256237522734_20invasion and bombing of those nations, none of us alive today will be able to escape the fact that we will need to fear the “blowback” retaliatory attacks against US domestic targets for the remainder of our lives. In other words, terrorism in the US and the rest of the world will be more severe than in the past for the next several decades — if not centuries. For the remainder of the lives of those Americans alive today, we will also have to contend with on-going violent actions in America by psychologically damaged veterans of these endless wars, and the high levels of medical expenses and homelessness that veterans bring home with them.

All of these terrible legacies are thanks to the counterproductive US Wars of Aggression (which the George W. Bush administration chose to call the “War on Terror”).

For the record, a nation cannot conduct a war against an ideology or religion or a military tactic (which the US Wars of Aggression seek to do).

I have long given up on voting for a Democrat (or Republican) for president due to the bi-partisan support for US military aggression.

Our future in America is grim, in part because we have no viable political party to vote for which will work to end the endless, senseless, obscene Wars of Aggression.

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Endless Wars

 

By Dom Nozzi

March 23, 2017

I remember when people in the US used to be outraged by things like the Mai Lai massacre. We don’t even blink an eye now, which, I suppose, is part of being a Warrior Nation. Murdering civilians has become so everyday boring. Not even worthy of reaching the newspaper.

Wantonly killing huge numbers of civilians is inevitable when a military powerhouse opts to go to war against a guerrilla force. As we saw when the Soviets were trapped in a guerrilla war in Afghanistan and the US got into the Vietnam guerrilla war quagmire, Vietnam Napalm 1972even overwhelming military force cannot — repeat, CANNOT — defeat the guerrilla force. Warring against guerrillas becomes endless, and inevitably causes the superior military force to criminally kill a huge number of innocent civilians.

To his immense credit, General Robert E. Lee refused recommendations from his Confederate generals to engage in guerrilla war and instead opted to surrender. He knew a guerrilla war would extend the Civil War for decades and destroy the US.

In contemporary times, our “commanders in chief” do not have that wisdom. They have not learned the glaring lessons of history, and have not read such classics as War of the Flea.

Since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 220 out of her 241 calendar years of existence. Warrior Nation indeed.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/america-has-been-at-war-93-of-the-time-222-out-of-239-years-since-1776/5565946

 

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Democrats are now Republicans

 

By Dom Nozzi

March 3, 2017

Now that both the Republicans AND Democrats have been corrupted by big money lobbyists, it should come as no surprise that the Democrats are now sounding like Republicans during the Donald Trump era.donkey-elephantcelebratingtogether

For example…

It was just a short while ago that Dems hammered Repubs on warmongering and hating/fearing the Russians. It is now the Dems that lead the effort to beat the war drums and engage in McCarthyism. For instance, more than any other presidential candidate in 2016, Dem Hillary Clinton forcefully assured us that she was going to ramp up warfighting in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. It was Dem Obama who increased the number of wars the US was fighting in the Middle East from two to seven or eight.

In the past, Dems accurately criticized Repubs for taking enormous amounts of lobbyist (donor) money from major corporations. It is now the Dems who lead in taking money from Big Pharma, military contractors, and Wall Street. Indeed, Obama accepted more contributions from Wall Street than any Repub challenger when Obama ran for president.

Previously, Dems rightly attacked Repubs for ignoring the working class. Now it is the Repubs who at least pay lip service to the needs of the working class. During the campaign, Trump promised he would bring jobs back home from overseas, attacked NAFTA, called for the deportation of illegal immigrants (who could be seen as taking US jobs), and punish foreign corporations which had taken US jobs and are now exporting to the US. Soon after being elected, Trump ended US involvement in the TPP. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Dems did not even pay lip service to the working class needs. Obama and other Dems openly supported NAFTA and TPP.

In past decades, it was the Repubs that were most eager and successful in spending money on the Pentagon. But during his two terms of office, Dem Obama set all-time records for the amount of money allocated to the Pentagon.

When Obama was president, nearly all Dems BLASTED Repubs for ridiculing Obama, accusing him of being a liar, laughing at him, obstructing EVERYTHING he proposed, opposing ALL of his appointments, joking that he should be assassinated, never giving him credit for ANYTHING, and stating that “Obama is not my president.” Today, a day does not go by where Dems are now joking about Trump’s appearance, calling for his assassination, calling him names, blaming Trump for everything imaginable, and lampooning him in cartoons.

In the past, Republicans were infamous for calling Dems traitors for what Repubs considered excessive friendliness toward “enemies” of the US. Today, Dems regularly engage in calling Trump a traitor for wanting to work with the Russian government.

In the past, Dems lead the fight for freedom of speech and attacking Repub efforts to engage in censorship. It is now Dems who are mostly leading the fight to censor public speakers or silencing speech that they consider “hateful” or “racist” or “sexist.”

In previous decades, it was the Repubs who were the loudest advocates of being “tough on crime.” Under Dem Bill Clinton in the 90s, Dems showed they could build more prisons than Repubs, have more crimes be eligible for the death penalty (from 3 to 60), fund 100,000 more cops, and create a huge increase in the number of mandatory minimum crimes. Dem Bill Clinton also significantly increased the penalty for crack cocaine vs powdered cocaine (100-to-1). Bill Clinton escalated the drug war far more than the Repubs could ever imagine, leading to the largest increase in prisoners ever.

Repubs used to be the most regressive when it came to taxation. But then Dem Bill Clinton successfully passed a capital gains tax cut that was one of the most regressive tax cuts in history.

Repubs were formerly the party most responsible for eliminating regulations that protected us from socially undesirable actions by the powerful. But then Dem Bill Clinton’s deregulation of the investment banking industry played an enormous role in creating the crash of 2008. He repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial from investment banking since 1933, and directly led to the 2008 crash and the need to bail out the too-big-to-fail banks.

Repubs have long attacked Dems for supporting the public nature of Social Security. They proposed such things as investing social security dollars in the stock market. But then Dem Bill Clinton, while in office, nearly succeeded in privatizing social security (another Repub dream) had the Lewisky scandal not led to his impeachment.

I remember when it was Repubs who far outspent Dems in presidential races. In the 2016 election, Dem Hillary Clinton outspent Repub Donald Trump two to one.

Repubs have long lead the charge to engage in invasive surveillance of US citizens. But it was Dem Obama who established, by far, the most extreme and comprehensive surveillance of US citizens in history through the NSA and other agencies.

For a long time, it was the Repubs who were vocal opponents of what they called “The Welfare State.” But it was Dem Bill Clinton’s gutting of welfare that led to a huge increase in poverty. Some have called Clinton’s action “one of the most regressive social programs promulgated in the 20th Century.”

Only a Dem (Clinton) could have rammed a right-wing program such as NAFTA through Congress. No Repub president could have ever hoped to adopt such an anti-worker program.

The Repubs have always been considered the party most hostile to the environment. But in 2016, the Democratic National Committee came out against the carbon tax and against a fracking ban.

Repubs have a long, disgraceful history of calling people un-American! Or treasonous traitors! Over and over, Repubs were seen attempting to prevent people from protesting (often by claiming that the protest would “incite violence”), attempting to censor comments they do not like, and associating the actions of a lone protester with the behavior or beliefs of an entire protest movement. But in response to the violence at the Univ of Virginia protest in August 2017, a great many Dems are screaming to prevent future protests by extreme right wing groups (and wanting to prevent people from boycotting Israel), calling right wing protesters un-American. Or treasonous traitors. Such Dems are demanding censorship of right wing speakers at universities, stopping speeches because they will “incite violence,” and linking a lone protester (who drove his car into a group of counterprotesters) with the agenda of the right wing protesters. In American history, progressives have rightly objected when protests have been prohibited due to fear of “inciting violence.” Feminists, gays, blacks, and atheists have been stopped from protesting discrimination in the past for this reason. Labor rights activists have been stopped because their protests against unfair labor practices would “incite violence.” Peace demonstrators protesting a war have been told they are not allowed to protest because it would “incite violence.” Even Jane Jacobs, the great American urbanist, was charged with “inciting a riot” when she protested the Lower Manhattan Expressway that Robert Moses tried to ram through New York City in the 1960s. Since when is it acceptable to be able to pick and choose which protests or speeches are okay and which should be prohibited? To be able to engage in such a double standard? Does not true support for free speech demand that we tolerate speech that we hate, and not just speech that we agree with? “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.”  — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. “There’s no fine line between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’: Free speech is hate speech; it’s for the speech you hate – and for all your speech that the other guy hates. If you don’t have free speech, then you can’t have an honest discussion.”  — Mark Steyn. “Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we’re in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it’s time to make a run for the fence.” ― Daniel M. Gilbert. “[First Amendment protection] must be accorded to the ideas we hate or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish.” – Justice Hugo Black. “One way that speech restrictions often grow is through what I call ‘censorship envy.’ Say one group wins a ban on speech that it finds offensive. It’s human nature for other groups to then ask: What about speech that offends us — harsh criticism of Israel, or of certain religious belief systems, or of abortion, or of America?… Oddly, many of these [speech] restrictions come from political groups that see themselves as outsiders fighting the powerful. If that’s really so, how can they give the government extra censorship powers that can so easily be used against future ‘progressives’ like them?” — Eugene Volokh.

Journalist Amy Goodman, in February 2017, noted that Dem Elizabeth Warren has said she’s not so clear she’s going to be working with Donald Trump. “I mean, very interesting, [said Amy], when Dem Barack Obama came in, Repub Mitch McConnell made it very clear they won’t work with Obama at all.”

I am not a partisan extremist (everything the other party does is WRONG, says the partisan extremist). But apparently in America today, nearly everyone else IS an extreme partisan.

Extreme partisanship (and the extreme double standards that both the corrupt Democratic Party and the corrupt Republican Party) is toxic to democracy. And guarantees that nothing will be accomplished by our elected officials.

Is it any wonder that our Founding Fathers opposed the creation of political parties?

 

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Boondoggle or Quagmire?

By Dom Nozzi

February 16, 2017

Not only are our road “improvements” counterproductive (our road system is more dangerous and congested now than it has ever been — after a century of “improvements”), but our 15-plus years of fighting against terrorism has created way more terrorists today than existed when the fighting started in 2001.

Our nation (and Europe) is more in danger of terrorism now than it has ever been. This would all be comical were it not so tragic. Let’s see…how many trillions of dollars have we spent on road “improvements” and the “war” on terror?headlineImage.adapt.1460.high.US_war_on_terror_a.1428940320745

Isn’t this similar to how the Roman Empire fell? Or the Soviet Union?

This is the very definition of a boondoggle. Or is it a quagmire?

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