Thanksgiving Links

Thursday, November 24th, 2011
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33 Responses to “Thanksgiving Links”

  1. #1 |  Difster | 

    The traffic cam story really made me laugh. Especially at the end where it says the law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against traffic cam companies.

  2. #2 |  Fritz Muffknuckle | 

    Reddit commenter ‘ihateyoursister’ noticed the story ‘Red light camera vendor sues Knoxville, Tennessee’ is not exactly as it seems. The comment:

    This story is not quite as it seems.

    The author is taking a bit of a leap when he writes: “ATS asked the Chancery Court for Knox County to declare the right turn law unconstitutional because it discriminates against traffic camera companies.” I don’t see that specific claim being made by ATS, just the author.

    Another article analyzes it this way:

    “The statute inhibits Knoxville’s ability to comply with the Agreement, a valid and enforceable contract and has caused ATS harm.”

    ATS’s lawsuit basically asks the court to either declare Public Acts 425 to be unconstitutional because it impacts existing legal contracts with cities or to clarify that the law does not apply to existing agreements.

    The issue here is not if traffic cameras are good or bad (they are fucking bad, for the record) or if traffic camera companies have certain constitutional rights, but rather, what happens if a state passes a law that makes it impossible for a city or municipality to fulfill its contracts? Whether or not those contracts are for good things or not isn’t the issue; this is an issue of legislation and contract law more than anything else.

    Link to the other article mentioned:
    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/nov/11/lawsuit-seeks-to-resume-knoxville-red-light/

    Link to discussion:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/mmx63/red_light_camera_company_ats_sues_city_of/c32alld

  3. #3 |  perlhaqr | 

    Fritz: The contract is for issuing tickets.

    Turning right on red is no longer illegal. Thus, no tickets issued. No breach of contract has occurred. ATS is not entitled to any particular level of income.

    Think about it, their argument is that the city is in breach of contract because they aren’t making as much money. What would their argument be if every motorist in the city were replaced by a robotic chauffeur who followed every traffic law precisely? That the city should outlaw following the law because they weren’t making money there any more?

  4. #4 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    IF you think about it, the red light camera fuss demonstrates two things that the proponents of red light cameras would rather not talk about;

    1) The entire thrust of the camera-enforced traffic regulation movement is based on revenue. In effect, it has turned traffic tickets into a form of taxation.

    2) Tax farming is always, Always, ALWAYS a bad idea. It inevitably ends up in a fight between the State and the designated tax agent, with the citizens/subjects caught in the middle.

  5. #5 |  rather | 

    “Penn State Sex Scandal Fueling Parental Paranoia”

    Hmm, it is reported that he had a harem of boys during the two-year investigation. Too bad those parents weren’t sufficiently paranoid.

  6. #6 |  bbartlog | 

    I’m not convinced that the brinicle is actually a ‘finger of death’. In the timelapse you can see that the critters on the sea floor make no attempt to avoid it. Maybe they can be frozen and thawed out without being killed (like flies or some other simple organisms). If it were actually lethal I would expect them to move away from it.

  7. #7 |  EH | 

    “Fritz”: It’s amazing that this is the first time a law has changed underneath a contract.

  8. #8 |  FridayNext | 

    @4 C.S.P. Schofield

    “2) Tax farming is always, Always, ALWAYS a bad idea. It inevitably ends up in a fight between the State and the designated tax agent, with the citizens/subjects caught in the middle.”

    And if your name is Antoine Lavoisier, it will get your head lopped off.

  9. #9 |  Satori | 

    Should there be no permits for fishing? Does being a libertarian mean believing humans should have unrestricted rights to fish a species to extinction? What is the libertarian answer to the tragedy of the commons?

  10. #10 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “Automated ticketing vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed suit Tuesday against Knoxville, Tennessee for its failure to issue tickets for turning right on a red light — and that is costing the company a lot of money.”

    And this is exactly why corporations should be running prisons. Remember proles, fascism has always been good for business!

  11. #11 |  CyniCAl | 

    Satori, read about private lighthouses. Tragedy of the commons and free-ridership are not insurmountable obstacles to economic freedom.

  12. #12 |  CyniCAl | 

    Poor bicycle guy killed by the cop. That’ll teach him to be black in the South.

    Didn’t everyone get the memo by now? NEVER CALL THE COPS!

  13. #13 |  Mattie F. | 

    Did the CNET article change? I don’t see any mention of the AFL-CIO or Teamsters supporting SOPA. The National Fraternal Order of Police doesn’t appear to be affiliated and the International Association of Fire Fighters, while affiliated with the AFL-CIO, hardly represents the super-union as a whole.

    And come on, complaining about fishing regulations? Are you directly advocating resource depletion?

  14. #14 |  Doubleu | 

    “Right on red”, but everyone forgets the second part, “after stop.”

  15. #15 |  Radley Balko | 

    Did the CNET article change? I don’t see any mention of the AFL-CIO or Teamsters supporting SOPA.

    Must have. Teamsters link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/opinion/firewall-law-could-infringe-on-free-speech.html

    AFL-CIO link:

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/11/at-web-censorship-hearing-congress-guns-for-pro-pirate-google.ars

    And come on, complaining about fishing regulations? Are you directly advocating resource depletion?

    The second sentence doesn’t necessarily follow the first. But I was more amused that the government sold the fish and will keep the proceeds.

  16. #16 |  Aresen | 

    I know that this blog deals with a lot of police misconduct and prosecutorial overreach, but sometimes the social-engineering aspect of criminal courts goes the other way:

    http://www.canada.com/news/British+burglar+mocks+dumb+thick+victim+apology+letter/5761541/story.html

    Granted, this is the UK, but I’ve seen the same in other places.

  17. #17 |  Juice | 

    In the light of restrictions on fishing valuable fish, the choices for enforcement are pretty limited. If the fish is merely thrown away, that’s a major waste. If the fisherman is allowed to keep the money then there’s an incentive to catch those fish. By selling the fish and keeping the money, it disincentivizes catching the fish at all. Since they’re not fining the man or putting him in jail, I’d say the way it was handled isn’t that objectionable.

  18. #18 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Juice,
    The problem here isn’t explained well in the story at the link (I read a different version yesterday). The fisherman THOUGHT he had done everything right by stocking tuna permits against the chance of one getting caught by one of his boats. He went to the right authorities, discussed the idea of getting the permits with them, AND WAS NOT TOLD that net catching wasn’t covered.

    I don’t give a good goddamn how well intentioned the regulations in question may be. The State is NOT supposed to play ‘gotcha!’ with people trying to obey the law. The man should get his fish back and the swine that took it should get his legs broken.

  19. #19 |  Pam | 

    RIP old man on the bicycle.

  20. #20 |  John Spragge | 

    I can’t think of a basis for filing this under “motorist freedom” except for the article on red light cameras. I have to admit I find that somewhat odd, on at least two grounds. First, while honest differences of opinion exist about which traffic laws really matter, red lights tend to enjoy a much greater consensus among motorists. Complaints about red light jumping certainly take pride of place when motorists air gripes about cyclists. So here we have a story about a company which, in good faith, contracted with a government and invested a sum of money to install equipment based on an expectation of a certain return. What the company themselves though of the law the governments contracted them to enforce we do not know, but if they thought of themselves as helping to enforce an essential rule that saves lives, they would have had a lot of company. While they allowed for legitimate risks every company takes in any investment, they did not reckon with the government itself changing the law in a way that harmed their investment.

    In other words, if the link headline had read “Company sues after the government undermines good-faith investment”, it would have described the story as well as the headline Mr. Balko actually posted. So why, when a government solicits a partner in enforcing what many if not most of us consider an essential safety rule that saves lives, does Mr. Balko apply a headline that makes the company lok slightly shifty? Why, in the same post, does Mr. Balko headline a case where a man caught a fish using a method he could have known (if he had researched the matter) he had no license to do as a case of brazen government confiscation?

    This gets to the heart of a basic issue with libertarianism. I get that libertarians want less government interference. And in many cases, I agree. But it seems to me that in many cases, the libertarian impulse lacks a standard by which to say the government may do this and may not do that. Such standards exist; I have no problem explaining why I oppose locking up people for having pot, but have no problem with locking up people for impaired driving. But it seems to me that in some cases, such as this one, situations escape the standard.

  21. #21 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    John Spragge,

    I’ve been following the whole Camera Enforcement trend in a somewhat lackadaisical fashion, and I think what you may be missing is that (unless I’ve missed something, which is possible) red light cameras are bad at dealing with right-turn-on-red; tending to issue tickets for people who stop a little back (back of the line, for example) and then inch forward to see if turning is safe.

    There have been a lot of cases where tickets were being issued which, when challenged, could not stand up in court. In some States there are regulations about how speed limits are set, and speed limits set below that standard do not have the force of law. In other cases, the State has set standards for the timing of yellow lights, and lights that were set too short turned up where cameras were put in place.

    As I see it, here we have a shift from what the public was prepared to tolerate as law, if the enforcement was hit and miss, and what they will tolerate if the law is enforced at all times. If the city had put the cameras up on their own, there would be no problem; the law has changed. Because the whole camera enforcement system in the U.S. (at least) is based on contracts with businesses, the issue is more complicated. Which is what I meant when I said that tax farming is always nothing but trouble.

    It is interesting to note that in the vast majority of cases, if the question of enforcement by camera is put before the public it gets voted down. So what often happens is that public servants contract with a camera company, and then the sovereign People issue orders to change matters, the company loses money where they expected to make money. The People have an undoubted right to tell their servants where to head in. On this issue I am not so much a Libertarian as a Sovereignist; the People give the orders in this society …. or should. So on this issue I must come down on the side of the State. The contract should be void, letting the company out of further expense, because conditions have changed, but they are not owed money for a service that is now illegal.

  22. #22 |  MeanDean | 

    I don’t care what he does, what his views are, or how he earns a living: ATS attorney C. Crews Townsend has a very punchable face.

  23. #23 |  Peter H | 

    @ Fritz #2

    The power over criminal law is a fundamental sovereign power of the state, and the power to declare that something is not a crime is fundamental to that power. To say that a legislature loses its power to legislate simply because third parties have entered into contracts that assume they won’t legislate is absurd. The camera people can sue Knoxville for breach, but the law (or really lack of a law) is fully constitutional.*

    They should by the way lose the suit against Knoxville. Any contract to engage in unlawful activity (and ticketing people for right on red is unlawful based on the statute), is invalid. Even if the activity became unlawful after the contract was signed.

  24. #24 |  John Spragge | 

    I see two issues in the red light camera situation: first, if the government has changed the law to the disadvantage of a company which contracted in good faith with them or their subordinate levels, I suggest they may owe the company compensation for the cost of installing the equipment and removing it again. I certainly seems to me that ordinary fair dealing requires nothing less.

    I also see this as a matter of public safety, which brings in equal protection issues. Under most conditions, a government can treat many laws relating to motoring, particularly parking bylaws, as it sees fit. Red lights and red light enforcement, however, directly affect the safety of pedestrians and other road users, and I question the right of even a majority of road users to vote against enforcement of laws that bear on the safety of everyone.

  25. #25 |  John Spragge | 

    @Peter H.: I would argue the company has two arguments: that the abrogation of their contract constitutes a taking under the fifth amendment, at least to the extent that abrogation imposes direct costs on them for installing and uninstalling equipment. The other argument holds that under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users who use, might use, or have reason to use the intersections in question have a right to effective enforcement of red light restrictions. That does not mean the state legislature cannot change the law, but it might mean that the legislature cannot recklessly punish governments and private businesses that make a good-faith attempt at enforcing the law.

  26. #26 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    John Spragge,

    Some points for thought;

    The company’s contract is/was with the City. The change in the Law was made at the State level. It would seem to me that if the company’s suit is to be based on the Takings theory, then the company must sue the State government.

    As I suggested in a previous post, there is at least some question as to whether the cameras actions do, in fact, enforce red light restrictions (in your excellent phrase), or if they merely tend to ticket anybody making use of right-turn-on-red, in accordance with those restrictions or no. If the latter is more the case, could it not be argued that the cameras protect some people (pedestrians, etc) at the expense of violating the right of drivers to make a legal turn?

    Lastly, the government may emphatically NOT treat the motoring laws as it sees fit. It is constrained (or should be, anyway) to treat them as it is instructed to do by the Sovereign People, and be-damned to all experts, and those who would impose regulation against the will of the populace ‘for their own good’. If the ‘experts’ cannot persuade the people, then the ‘experts’ can go climb a tree.

  27. #27 |  John Spragge | 

    Um… we have a language problem here. In my country, the people elect the government, which then rules, giving advice and consent that effectively binds the Sovereign. So when I say the government may, please read the government, as elected by the people, may bind the Sovereign to…

    Which brings us to the point at issue. Under your constitution as well as mine, each individual person has certain rights that no sovereign may infringe. My constitution guarantees, among other things, my life, liberty, and the security of my person against any wishes my fellow citizens of even my Sovereign might have; yours guarantees you against the uncompensated taking of your property or the withholding of equal protection of the law. And when it comes to traffic laws, if a change in the traffic laws or the enforcement thereof would reduce the safety of a specific group, and let us name them here: pedestrians in particular, then I think they do have a viable case for redress under your fourteenth amendment.

  28. #28 |  freedomfan | 

    John Spragge, I see that a company might end up disadvantaged if a law changes, but laws do change and companies can either deal with that possibility in their contracts or take their chances. No-right-turn-on-red laws are certainly not governing the majority of U.S. intersections precisely because legislatures have been eliminating them for decades. In this case, if ATS was convinced that a substantial portion of its revenue was to come from enforcement of no-right-turn-on-red laws, then it seems that they should have provided a remedy for that entirely foreseeable legal change in the contract.

    For instance, consider the (unfortunately unlikely) possibility of drug law reform in the U.S. Assume that some company has a contract to supply a police department with as much field drug testing equipment as it needs, along with lab services for other drug tests. Right now, that might be a pretty steady business, but, if the Controlled Substances Act (and corresponding state laws) were repealed, that company would lose revenue. Should the company be able to sue the police departments no longer using drug tests because that department is no longer enforcing a nonexistent law?

  29. #29 |  JOR | 

    Anyone who enters a good-faith contract to provide the state with any kind of service deserves to lose everything, let alone some of their projected returns. Deceiving the state and siphoning off some of its resources while providing it nothing in return, on the other hand, is heroic.

  30. #30 |  JOR | 

    #12, Or, at least, never call the cops on someone you’re not willing to see tortured to death. (Or unless you’re willing to risk being tortured to death yourself, in some circumstances).

  31. #31 |  JOR | 

    Or perhaps the rule should go as follows: Never call the cops on someone unless you’re willing to see that person, or someone who vaguely resembles that person in some way (e.g. same skin color), or some related or unrelated bystander in the general vicinity of that person, literally tortured to death.

  32. #32 |  albatross | 

    JOR:

    A couple years back, there was a discussion on Ta-Nahisi’s blog about when people would call the police. The answers common there closer to your answers than my default ones–basically, people were willing to call the police in real emergencies, but not for anyhting less–the line I remember specifically was someone saying he’d call the police for a beatdown (where someone might end up dead or crippled), but not for a normal fight.

  33. #33 |  CyniCAl | 

    LOL, JOR. But not a hearty LOL … more of an ironic, super-sad LOL.

    #32 | albatross — “… he’d call the police for a beatdown (where someone might end up dead or crippled), but not for a normal fight.”

    The self-fulfilling prophecy. NEVER CALL THE PIGS!

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