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Lawmakers Issued License Plates That Make Them 'Invisible' To Traffic Cams And Parking Tickets

from the and-yet,-reps-complain-about-the-public's-cynicism dept

There are rules for the common people and rules for their "leaders," and only in rare cases do the same rules cover both. Chris Morran at the Consumerist points out how politicians (yet again) are being allowed to ignore the same laws that affect their constituents. Colorado legislators are immune from speeding tickets and parking tickets thanks to the special plates issued to lawmakers -- ones that aren't included in the DMV database.

According to CBS Denver, the info for these particular license plates is never entered into the DMV database, so when some state senator goes zooming by a speed camera, he or she won’t get a ticket, because the camera system looks up the license plate number through the DMV. Since no info comes up, no ticket is given.

This appears to be true for parking tickets as well. See, even though a parking enforcement officer might leave a ticket on the car, cities like Denver that rely on the DMV for addresses of vehicle owners come up empty when they try to collect on those tickets.
On the parking ticket side alone, there are $2,100 worth of unpaid tickets linked to these "invisible" plates. The Dept. of Public Works has decided it's "too costly" to pursue collection of those fines. Of course, now that this is public knowledge, a politician has "stepped up" to right the wrong.
One state lawmaker recently stated his intention to close this loophole through legislative action in the next session, by simply doing away with the plates altogether.

“[I]t’s absolutely unfair,” said state representative Chris Holbert. “We should be held accountable like any other citizen. We are elected to represent the people and there’s no reason for us to be treated differently.”
If only this sort of behavior were an aberration. Earlier this year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's speeding SUV was pursued by a highway patrol officer who decided (or was instructed) not to pull it over after realizing whose vehicle it was. Like in Colorado, certain public vehicles are issued plates that aren't listed with the Iowa DMV, which makes these vehicles automatically exempt from traffic cam tickets, parking violations and apparently, even speeding clocked by an on-duty state trooper. It should be noted that the trooper raising the complaint about the governor's speeding driver (another state trooper) was placed on leave after making this public.

After this small debacle, Governor Branstad too "stepped up" to rein in the injustice, except that his idea of "reining it in" falls far short of Colorado legislator Chris Holbert's plan. In Branstad's view, the problem isn't with the plates, per se. It's that there are too many of them.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is upset about the number of specialized license plates that have been given to state, local and federal agencies.

More than 3 thousand plates have been issued that exempt the vehicles from getting traffic camera tickets. Brandstad has ordered state transportation officials to cut the number of the special plates.
Over 350 agencies in Iowa have these plates at their disposal (over 3,000 issued so far), a ridiculous amount considering the plates were originally intended for undercover use by various arms of Iowa law enforcement. Branstad probably isn't looking to give up his ticket-dodging plate but presumably will be forcing several others to play by the same set of rules as the public -- that same public these public servants are supposed to be serving.

But that's nothing compared to the staggering level of abuse (ranking between 'Chris Brown' and 'Foster Home' on the Abuse Chart) taking place in our nation's capital. Back in 2008, a report by the US Committee on Transportation detailed the astounding number of violations racked up by government employees and officials.
Municipal, state and federal government agencies are among the biggest offenders when it comes to illegal parking and non-payment of parking citations. A report released last week by the US House Committee on Transportation documented 4000 cases last year where employees in federal vehicles skipped out on paying parking tickets worth $700,000 in Washington, DC and New York City. The total does not include unpaid tickets in foreign countries and other cities throughout the fifty states where 642,000 automobiles registered to the US government are in use.

"Over one-half of all workers in the southernmost section of Manhattan are government employees," the report explained. "Essentially, all of lower Manhattan is a free parking lot for government vehicles."

Federal workers were not alone in ignoring parking laws. City workers in Washington and New York also disregarded citations issued by fellow employees. DC government vehicles generated 329 unpaid tickets worth $33,360 while New York city and state vehicles skipped out on paying 2562 tickets worth $490,939.
The worst offender? The FBI, which the report found to be responsible for the largest number of delinquent parking tickets by a single agency. The FBI, properly chastened, examined the cases listed and, because it's such a shit-hot investigative agency, found itself "unable to come up any suspects who may have been responsible for illegally parking FBI vehicles on 218 occasions."

To the surprise of roughly no one, those responsible for enacting and enforcing laws are seldom as interested in following them. Apparently, performing the "business of government" is such a total sacrifice that illegal parking, speeding and other traffic violations should be waved off so that our nation's do-gooders are unimpeded in their good doings.





Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Rich Fiscus (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:22pm

    Earlier this year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's speeding SUV was pursued by a highway patrol officer who decided (or was instructed) not to pull it over after realizing whose vehicle it was.


    It wouldn't have been worth his time to write the ticket anyway. Terry Branstad isn't a crony capitalist so much as the old school political machine, Boss Tweed / Richard Daley sort of political hack.

    In 1991 his 16 year old son caused an accident on a rural highway which killed an elderly couple. He was attempting to pass another car while speeding in a van paid for by campaign contributions and, despite protestations to the contrary from the governor's office, almost certainly drunk.

    He was fined a whole $15.

     

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  2.  
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    Transmitte (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    Ah yes, tax dollars not so at work...

    Getting real sick of your shit government.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:38pm

    didn't you fight a war got overthrow the those that thought they were above the law.

     

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  4.  
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    DCX2, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    Can these cars be reported stolen?

    I mean, if they don't exist in the DMV, how are you supposed to prove who the rightful owner is?

     

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  5.  
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    Rich, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:41pm

    I guess some animals are more equal than others.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Please stop calling them 'leaders', even in jest.

    Leaders lead by example. Rulers are exempt from their rules.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    If parking tickets go to the owner of the car, and the government owns the car, should the government be fining itself? What's the point?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:56pm

    At what point do we start calling obama "Your Grace"?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 12:57pm

    Re:

    1) From the sound of it, at least some of these are legislators getting the special plates for their personal cars, rather than government owned ones.
    2) Some of these cases are of the state government fining federal vehicles, or local governments fining state governments (probably anyways). So it's one government fining another, not one government fining itself.

     

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  10.  
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    Felipe Lopez, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Can these cars be reported stolen?

    Having worked at the Washington state Dept of Licensing I can tell you that it is not that they are "not in the database". It is that a lookup by anyone without special permissions gets back no information. It's all there -- just hidden.

     

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  11.  
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    Coogan (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 1:05pm

    While reading this I'm reminded of the little South African bastard in Lethal Weapon 2 who plugged a dozen bullets into Mel Gibson then had the balls to hold up his papers and yell "Diplomatic Immunity!"

    It didn't end well for him...

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 1:10pm

    "when some state senator goes zooming by a speed camera, he or she won’t get a ticket, because the camera system looks up the license plate number through the DMV."

    So the plate does not exist.

    State Trooper
    Runs Plate
    Responds -> No such plate
    State Trooper -> Call for back up as chase starts.
    State Trooper -> in pursuit of Drug Running Car with illegal plates.
    State Troopers (by this time there is a dragnet out) - Detains everybody still alive after shoot out.

    Great Idea.

    And if you think that will not happen just wait until one of Colorado's drives their car into one of the border states like Texas or Arizona.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Can these cars be reported stolen?

    I would think such cars would be pretty well secured and probably registered in a secret database...

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 1:28pm

    That's why my plates are a mixture of 0, D, and O it really fucks with the system.

    A cop buddy of mine told me this lol.

     

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  15.  
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    Rich Fiscus (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    Municipal, state and federal government agencies are among the biggest offenders when it comes to illegal parking and non-payment of parking citations. A report released last week by the US House Committee on Transportation documented 4000 cases last year where employees in federal vehicles skipped out on paying parking tickets worth $700,000 in Washington, DC and New York City. The total does not include unpaid tickets in foreign countries and other cities throughout the fifty states where 642,000 automobiles registered to the US government are in use.


    This reminds me of when I worked at a convenience store in my youth. We accepted state charge cards, but not federal cards because it took forever to actually get the money.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 2:06pm

    How do I get my plate on that list

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 2:07pm

    An annoucement to all criminals

    If you want to be untraceable use license plate numbers that don't exist yet, problem solved. You can even flee from crime scenes at one hundred miles an hour and not get pulled over! Or if that is too much trouble for you just steal a lawmaker's car. It would serve them right.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 3:03pm

    Why steal the car, just steal the plates.

    We have again the evidence of a two tier justice system. One for the common man, one for the political 'royalty'. We no longer have the beginnings of a banana republic with the NSA, FBI, TSA, DHS, and local SWAT teams everywhere.

    We are that banana republic.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 4:02pm

    Re:

    How about this little tidbit from the CONstitution?
    "They (senators and representatives) shall, in all cases, except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to and returning from the same."
    A sweetheart deal not offered to us peons. But who are we compared to our mighty overlords?

     

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  20.  
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    tracker1 (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 4:09pm

    Tow the vehicles...

    One thing I thought was funny, in an episode of Vegas, the Sheriff had the FBI agents' vehicle towed for illegally parking. It would seem to me, that booting, and towing said vehicles would be a natural step.

     

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  21.  
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    Anon E. Mous (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 4:47pm

    you have to be fu%$ing kidding me. I guess it isn't enough that besides the salaries, gold plated pensions, benefits, health insurance and money that every lobbyist can throw your way isn't enough, you get to drive with full immunity in a sense.

    What's next free cover-up's and your first liquor store hold up on the house.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 4:54pm

    Re: An annoucement to all criminals

    That's actually a really great idea for the next time I rob a bank.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 6:27pm

    Re:

    I thought motor vehicle licensing was a function performed at the state level, not federal level. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    The feds have, in the past, coerced states into things, like the 55 mph speed limit for example. President Richard Nixon proposed the legislation in 1973 and it was passed in 1974. Nixon was (R) and Congress at the time was (D) mostly.

    Obviously Obama has nothing to do with the states giving politicians carte blanche on the roadways. This partisan bullshit is getting old - and stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 6:30pm

    Re:

    Hollywood gets many things wrong, reality is not their strong suit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    David (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 7:58pm

    They should get a ticket for driving an improperly registered vehicle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 8:15pm

    Last Time Around, The Same Thing

    A lot of you kids probably don't remember back to Iran/Contragate back in the 1980's. At any rate, one of the major fixers in that was Colonel Oliver North. He had been given a credit card account tied to a slush fund, so that he could buy stuff for the Contras, and he promptly started using it to cover his own ordinary household bills. When the records were eventually subpoenaed, it emerged that he had run up a bill at the Parklane Pantyhose store at the mall. It turned out that his daughters were taking ballet lessons, and his wife had called him at work with a shopping list, and he had gone to the mall on his way home, and used the credit card he didn't need to worry about paying the bill for. So... leotards, tights, slippers, etc., all on the government tab. Still, on reflection, government money has been spent in a lot of worse ways... At any rate, it was so very undignified that it did a lot of damage to the President's credibility.

    I think you can assume that there is a lot of that kind of petty corruption going on, through all the secret agencies. It will come out in due course.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 9:01pm

    "It should be noted that the trooper raising the complaint about the governor's speeding driver (another state trooper) was placed on leave after making this public. "

    So the honest cop gets fired and the crooked government official keeps his job. Then you wonder why people think so many cops are corrupt (though I think most cops are honest). What a world we live in.

    What's the excuse for the government keeping this secret? National security? No, the only reason for this being kept secret is because the government knows the public would not approve.

    Kinda leads credence to the argument that the real reason the government kept what Snowden and Manning leaked a secret is because those leaks embarrassed the govt and that the real reason they went after them after the leaks had little to do with national security or the public interest and more to do with the fact that they embarrassed the government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Deez, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 9:05pm

    Re:

    Drop the "Obama" crap and realize the problem is bigger than that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    John Holsten, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 9:10pm

    Source? I have never heard of a governor driving himself, let alone without a police escort.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 11:03pm

    Maybe the traffic officers issuing parking tickers should have an easy way of checking whether a plate is in the database or not and if not, instead of issuing a ticket, apply a wheel clamp or have the vehicle towed....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 12:21am

    Re:

    "In 1991 his 16 year old son"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 12:25am

    Re: Re:

    Actually in London foreign diplomats owe something like £60m in traffic charges. So yes they do yell 'Diplomatic Immunity' to get away with shit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Lurk-a-lot (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 12:26am

    If the FBI can't trace the plates of cars that they themselves have allocated to their own staff, what makes them think they can catch an actual terrorist?

    Thinking about it though, perhaps this is why they have to keep setting up their own terrorist plots

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Steve, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 1:50am

    Why is it we consistently call these people leaders, they are NOT leaders, they are REPRESENTATIVES.
    I believe the language here is very important in creating the idea of what these people can/should get away with.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I read that story also. I doubt the diplomats yell anything, as their staff simply ignores the tickets as the UK government whines.

    In addition, (I can't believe this needs to be said) parking tickets are not the same as aggravated assault.

    Hollywood and other media have a bad habit of what might be referred to as misrepresentation of the facts, some claim it is intentional. Incompetence is rampant and apparently getting worse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:26am

    Re:

    The question is, what or whom do they represent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Greg (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:38am

    Re: Re:

    I think this is kind of nitpicking at this point.

    To say that "the police have to wait outside of the building to arrest a congressman until after the session has ended", is a minor thing compared to saying that "Thousands of government officials all over the country are free to break the law c and not even be cited, nevermind punished for it."

     

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  38.  
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    Tom, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    What?

    What's good for the goose is not good for the gander, so say the Fed's....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:32am

    Not Always Illegal Parking

    There's a bit more to this story than was reported. When I worked in DC, our agency was exempt per DC Code from having to pay parking meters as long as it was an official vehicle and the driver was on official business.

    This legal exemption, however, didn't matter to the meter maids, who would write you a ticket anyway. They didn't care if the ticket would ever be paid or if it was even valid. All they cared about was making their quota and a whole line of government vehicles (legally) parked at expired meters was an easy way to make the day's numbers early on, which meant they could go sit at Starbucks for the rest of the shift. I actually had one of them tell me all this one day when I happened to come back to my car as she was writing me one of these invalid tickets.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Coogan (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re:

    The hell you say. I know for a fact that Pacific Rim actually happened just like in the movie.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    This is what happens in airports and what will happen with RFID implanted in our bodies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:57am

    We have gone so far that armed revolt is going to be the only option left, Be ready the day is coming.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Amy Barnes, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 12:38pm

    Clone Wars

    This reminds me of the earlier cell phone tech, and stories of cloned phones surfaced. You watch, there will be cloned license plates. :/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 2:43pm

    Abraham Lincoln
    First Inaugural Address
    Monday, March 4, 1861

    "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    wallry, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 4:33pm

    Laws mean nothing anymore. The public knows they are money makers, so why respect the law and those idiots enforcing them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Pragmatic, Aug 8th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Re:

    Be sure to let me know how you get on with that. Epic fail in 3...2...1...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    Mike Libby, Aug 9th, 2013 @ 7:16pm

    For more about how laws are just to control working people

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2013 @ 5:57pm

    Re: govenor

    Well as governor, he could just pardon himself anyway, so this actually saves time. The problem is that they try to regulate speed in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Re: Lincoln Inaugural Address.

    "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

    As said by the man fighting to FORCE the South back into the government they had just used REVOLUTIONARY RIGHT to leave.
    Poor choice of quotes, unless you intended to highlight the very fact that the SOB's in charge haven't changed one bit - nor will they ever.

    We are to be robbed and killed - THEY get to enjoy the spoils of fleecing us.

    Why are they still alive? NO ONE has done ANYTHING, we just drone on and on and rattle like a toothless rattlesanke - but no one ever DOES anything.
    (And yes, I've written to my representatives, and been politely told to f*ck off, they'll do what they please. It is NOT acceptable, and NOT something we can just endure. We need to "talk" in a language they will understand, the ONLY language they EVER understand: FORCE.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2013 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re:

    It won't fail, it will merely have a high turnover.
    You cannot kill the IDEA of freedom. You can only imprison the man's body (so far).

    When they do finally attempt to enslave our minds as well - via the organic computers and implanted nanotech already on the horizon - people will rebel, en masse, and kill everyone they can find, man woman, child, wealthy, poor - you never would know who was an ally you could trust, and who was a programmed organic machine.

    Think fully-organic terminator, or programmed assassin a la MKULTRA. Or, more likely, a permanent Prole class, with implanted or "immunized" nanotech organic computers, designed to regulate body functions. Secreting serotonin when you pay your taxes to Big Brother, for example...

    Since nothing will ever be unhackable or fully contained - it will end badly, just like all such previous attempts have.
    Doesn't mean anyone will wake up, mind - but it will mean lots of unrest and civil strife, possibly even a global war...
    And that might be the BEST-case scenario, which is what's most concerning...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Dusty, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:04pm

    Cali. has weird priorities ..millions of no-stop lic. plates

    Even a bigger problem and threat to public safety in Cali!! The children of these politicos and street workers, agency workers, et al, are tearing around getting away with traffic violations at will under this flagrant abuse of rights!

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/08/05/equality-in-california-magical-plates-prot ect-public-employees/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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