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Close the App Loophole

There are some things worthy of being consumed. Fortunately, the Virginia legislature is still turning its attention to distracted driving. Because drivers do more than text.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog just reminded me that in Virginia, it is still legal for drivers to view apps on their phones like Facebook or Twitter, while they are driving. But the Virginia legislature is paying attention.

Del. Christopher Collins, R-Winchester has introduced House Bill 181 to broaden the existing distracted driving law. It would make it a violation of the law for any use of a cell phone while driving. It would also remove a defense. Currently if a police officer wants to cite you for texting and driving, you could presumably just say that “No, I was just checking my Facebook“.

As Delegate Collins explained,  “This law goes after those individuals who are staring at their phone to the point that it diverts their attention from driving along the road“.

As noted in the blog, Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, has indicated that her organization supports the bill.  She explains, “If the bill doesn’t pass, people are going to continue to die,” She referenced that there had been an 11 percent increase in traffic fatalities in the past year in Virginia.

This bill is really about saving lives and changing behavior,” she said. “This is an issue that has to be addressed.

On its face you are probably thinking, “This sounds like a good idea”. Here’s the opposing side according to the blog,

Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. He said that while he agreed with the bill in theory, he felt it was written ambiguously and could be used as a precedent for bad acting officers to pull over and harass people, particularly people of color.

My heart goes out to every family who has had to deal with a fatality because of a distracted driving accident,” Bourne said. “But equally important and valuable are those drivers who after a pre-textual stop had a fatal encounter with a bad actor who was charged and responsible for keeping our community safe.

He has introduced a different bill to stop distracting driving, that would make it so that police could only pull people with phones…if they are driving recklessly. I guess his reasoning is a “cause and effect bill“.

So there are two sides of the issue. I am glad that no one is trying to introduce No driving with a coffee cup in hand! Just sayin’!

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And for pic o’ day, all I can say is Hahahahahahahaha!

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The Statistics of Danger?

The World Health Organization tells us that every 8 seconds, someone dies from tobacco use. Cigarettes cause more than one-in-five American deaths. Yet, people continue to smoke. They don’t consult statistics to determine whether they should start smoking; and they don’t continue because of them.

Where are we going to eat tonight? On any given night, that’s said in many households. How often do you think that someone then picks up their iPad and looks up recent health inspection reports, to determine if their choice of restaurant that night is a good place to go? A restaurant health inspection typically does not go into that restaurant decision process.

It’s very easy to look at neighborhood crime statistics, to determine how safe a neighborhood might be. When did you last Google the crime statistics for your neighborhood. Or, how often does a realtor hand crime statistics for a geographical area, when showing a house to a potential buyer? It makes me wonder (as I type this) why I haven’t.

So here is another consideration on statistics. Shaina, a paralegal in our Virginia Beach office, forwarded this article from WAVY-TV, about car crashes where you live. If you knew that more crashes occur at specific intersections throughout Virginia, would it cause you to be more careful at those locations?

Educating drivers is an important part of crash prevention,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “This new feature allows Virginians to see where crashes occur most in their neighborhoods and the factors causing those crashes. With this information, you might use extra caution when traveling through a particular intersection or remind a new driver of the hazards of driving at an unsafe speed on a road near your home where speed-related crashes happen regularly”.

Obviously, the DMV Commissioner thinks that statistics and knowledge will affect our driving. According to the article, the data provided gives a breakdown of high crash locations in the state of Virginia. Of all non-interstate crashes in 2016, 7 of the 10 top locations were in the Hampton Roads area. Would that mean that someone right now is saying, “Best not drive in Hampton Roads”?… said no one anywhere!

Still…the greatest commodity is information!

And for pic o’ day, some motivation of no limitation! Or… be what you want to be?

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Why Cat Shaving?

The management at the Houston airport made an interesting discovery about human behavior. After an increase in complaints about delays in their baggage handling, they moved the baggage claim carousels farther away. Now, passengers have to walk farther to get to their bags.

The complaints about baggage delays have dropped to almost zero. Keeping people busy by walking has reduced their dissatisfaction. Or, maybe the bags were there by the time they got there.  Sometimes you just have to match up human behavior to solve it!

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Which brings me to a story in Waynesboro, Virginia. Someone is shaving cats. Not their own cats. That’s the mystery. And there is no law against cat shaving.

It’s just that people are reporting that their cats are returning home unharmed, and shaven. PilotOnline calls it a “mystery in Virginia”.

The “feline barbering spree” includes a total of 7 cats, and their owners are bothered. They can’t even come up with a reason for it. The cats are unhurt but the owners “just want it to stop”.

Now why is someone shaving these cats’ legs and stomachs? Maybe the shaver just needs something to do like the baggage walkers. Or maybe, someone is just ticked off that dogs can’t roam and cats have free rein. A dog lover with a razor. Or maybe, it’s just plain crazy.

Might just be better to take up reading on a cloudy day! That’s a better “busy”.

 

 

And for pic o’ day….

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Alpacas, not a Pony?

Here we go with tax time!

I get various newspapers in my in box each morning. When I saw an article in the Washington Post that told me that Americans are using alpacas to dodge taxes, I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s not a pony that I’ve always wanted after all“. Well, that’s not what I really thought. But I also didn’t think that I was missing out on something by failing to have alpacas walking around the office. Just thinking out loud.

The US federal income tax was first enacted in 1862 as a way to support the Union’s Civil War effort. It was eliminated in 1872. In 1894 it was again enacted, but then declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court the very next year.

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture in the US tax system.

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Initially when this amendment was being debated, taxes were argued against as “wrong in principle”. Forty-two states ratified this amendment including South Carolina (1910) and West Virginia (1913). By a vote of 54-37, Virginia opposed the Federal Clause for taxation. To date, Virginia has failed to ratify the amendment. Unfortunately, it’s not an argument that can be won with the Federal Government.

Just some history as tax filing day is bearing down on us.

And for pic o’ day, this was sent to me… and it made me laugh:

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Preparation Reminder

Recently I have spoken to many people who are going through tough times. I saw this posted from a church in Norfolk. I thought is was a good Monday morning good reminder:

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So that’s the unrelated introduction. Now let me jump to the Monday thought because I know you only have a little bit of time to read. Some things are certain in life! In a hurry on Monday meets that certainty.

This really is to highlight a PilotOnline.com article under the Courts and Crime section. In an article titled Juror’s post about thugs, Black Lives Matter went unnoticed before Norfolk officer’s trial, we read the story about the recent Norfolk verdict involving the police officer who was charged with killing a mentally ill black man.

Once the officer was found not guilty by the jury, a reporter followed up and determined that the Norfolk prosecutors did no research on the background of the jurors. Their jury research in determining who would be best suited for the presentation of their case. If they had done some research, they would have learned that some of the jurors had postings on social media that showed their affinity for police.

The reporter contacted prosecutors in the surrounding cities to determine if they utilized social media in researching prospective jurors. Then, the article cites sources who make reference to the thought that it is legal malpractice to not do jury research.

The attached article is interesting reading. As one expert was quoted as saying, that wouldn’t you want to know that one of the jurors who was chosen for the trial had previously written on her Facebook page? Would it impact you if you found out that the juror had written, “America should be ashamed of how we treat cops”. I suspect that if the defense attorney had done his research, he gladly accepted that juror on the panel. Did that impact the finding of not guilty?

Life isn’t just playing with monopoly money and hoping to collect the railroads. Many times, cases are won and lost before the trial starts because of pretrial preparation. Coach Bear Bryant said, “It’s not the will to win that matters. Everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters“.

 

 

And here is a timely pic o’ day:

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A Monday for Thoughts

You might have noticed that there was a couple of days last week, where I did not write a blog.  I was in the Washington D. C. area (Crystal City) attending my uncle’s funeral. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

I have attached the history of the Cemetery. The land was originally in the family of Robert E. Lee. It was confiscated by the Federal government and then returned to the family because the Supreme Court ruled on a 5-4 vote that the land had been improperly seized without due process. It was later sold back to the government. Quite a tangled history.

On Sunday, my wife and I attended an Easter sunrise service at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.  It also has quite a history that includes legend and even a reference to a Richmond vampire.

Both of these attachments make for some interesting history reading. At the sunrise service, a group played bagpipes to start the service.

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The song Amazing Grace filled the air as darkness began to give way to light.

 Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
   That saved a wretch like me!
   I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.

Finally, I want to mention my Easter lunch. I guess they knew how much I would enjoy being seated near the desert table.

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I noticed that people went into the “desert room” with a smile… and came out with full plates. Good eating! I like the quote attributed to Ernestine Ulmer, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first!”

And for our pic o’ day, this made me laugh:

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Making it Politics

“Did you see the news?” That was repeated among us yesterday after two journalists were shot here in Virginia. When I initially pulled up the story online, I saw a darkened image of the supposed shooter. Later I learned his identity.  At no time did I hear anyone here at the office express anything politically about the shooting.  Instead, I repeatedly heard how awful it was.

Later I read more on the shooting and the unfolding events. Then, I started to see politicians coming out of the woodwork to express their sympathies. Then, I saw several take the opportunity to express the need for gun control.

Based on the minimal information that I know about the events, I suppose that someone could express an opinion about gun control, depression, discrimination lawsuits or even what can be easily uploaded to social media.

I wonder if there is a politician that can stop themselves from seizing the opportunity to express immediate opinion. Instead, maybe they could just remember humanity. Everyone around me just felt terrible about what had happened. No one was talking about political issues. It was all about why someone would be so cruel.

More Than Employment Cheerleader

The announcement came though Executive Order of the Governor. Ban the Box in all state employment applications.(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

When I saw the announcement to ban the box, I had no idea what it meant. Then I learned that state employees will no longer have to indicate on their employment applications whether or not they have been convicted of a crime.

According to the Governor, the order is supposed to remove a current barrier of employment for anyone who has not applied because of a past crime. According to the Governnor’s spokesman, Virginians who have done their time and paid their price should not be excluded from state employment. It means “forgiveness and second chances”.

I assumed that this meant that it was basically an order of encouragment. “Don’t be afraid to apply”. That Human Resources would still do a criminal backround check.

Like buying a chicken rotisserie from an infomercial… but wait, there’s more. The caveat. The order states that a background check can only be conducted after a prospective employee has been determined to be qualified and is being considered for the job. Basically, getting through the door and being considered for hiring. Maybe the perverbial phone call that says, “You are now one of three still being considered”.

One legal note on state law regarding employment for the state. This does not apply to applicatons for state jobs that involve money or the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. I almost feel like inserting a punchline there.

For positions categorized as state “sensitive” such as state troopers, child care and corrections and prison officers, background checks will still be required. A waiver will have to be signed for those to be conducted.

Does this mean that child molesters are now able to work at Medical College of Virginia hospital? That computer hackers and identify thieves will be working at DMV?  According to the Governor… No. It just means that individuals convicted of a felony are not automatically disqualified from applying for state jobs.

Does this mean that private businesses will soon be subject to this change in hiring because of a state law change? Well, such companies as Walmart, Home Depot and Target have already “removed the box”. However, I’m guessing that Virginia still does not want to upset the apple cart of being considered as friendly for business and will not take the next step to apply this to all private businesses.

This same bill had been presented in the Virginia legislature this past session. It passed the state Senate but got defeated in the House. That’s why the Governor took the step of issuing the Executive Order.  Virginia joins 14 other states who have embraced this second chance employment opportunity in “banning the box”.

One final thought. More than 650,000 are released from prison nationwide every year according to the Department of Justice.

 

And for pic o’ day, a high five for Monday!

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Just Another Wednesday

Here’s some trivia. Who was the highest ranking Union soldier to die during the Civil War? Answer: Major General John Sedgwick. IMG_0129

Unfortunately, his death was the result of false confidence, bad planning and bad leadership. Part of the reason for his confidence was probably because he had previously been wounded in the Battle of Glendale and then shot three times during the Battle of Antietam. I’m guessing he started to believe that he was untouchable. Unfortunately, here’s how history records his death.

      Major General Sedgwick chastised his men for acting scared of nearby Confederate sharpshooters. He had directed the soldiers in placing ammunition and artillery around them in preparation for what later would be known as the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.  It irritated him that they were acting so squeamish.

With Confederate sharpshooters only about  1,000 yards away from them, the soldiers kept running for cover every time a bullet would be fired.

History tells us that Major General Sedgwick walked right out in the open and was quoted as saying, “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line?” Apparently, his confidence did nothing to calm the soldiers, which only incensed him more.

He then hollered, “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” (From the book Who’s Who in the Civil War and historian Gordon Rhea)  Reports then say that he was shot moments later, under his left eye. There, he fell down dead from a sharpshooter’s bullet. Despite being on the opposing side, even General Robert E. Lee expressed sadness over losing his old friend.

And for pic o’ day, just taking it easy… or something like that:

summer day

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