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Wake-up call

Wag the dog dogfights


An accident waiting to happen is not good enough. The city will not install a traffic light until an intersection has racked up a certain number of per capita fatalities. That's when the optics are most favorable to local politicians' future advertising campaign flyers, which is the inspiration for their civic intervention.  

Until that happens, community residents will petition, and complaints will accumulate to no avail. 

Timing is everything.  Elected officials await their right moment, which is too late, to deliver their words of commiseration with studied sincerity. They won't let a tragedy go to waste, when their career can bank on it.  

Some of them probably practice in the mirror.

Sammy's Law is finally being enacted, 10 years after a child, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was killed by a speeding driver.  His mother led the fight to lower the speed limit to spare other people the anguish of loss.  

She has overcome Albany's inertia and moved mountains. The state is now permitting the city to reduce the speed limit on most streets to 20 mph. At last. 

But will it make a difference?

Everybody knows that the current posted 25 mph speed limit is never enforced. Unless the violator has exceeded that limit by at least 10 mph, no enforcement action is taken. Cameras and radar are dormant.

Achieving compliance is an elusive goal when scofflaws see that both the enactors and enforcers of the law don't take it seriously. For example, cops pretend they don't notice the license plates that perhaps 10 percent of motorists have deliberately deformed or obscured to avoid tolls and image capture.

Why not make the speed limit signs mean what they say? Keep them as they are, eliminate the 10 mph of ill-advised grace, and prosecute vigorously. It'll save a fortune in new signage. 

It's better not to have a law than to have one that is a sham and mockery. That holds for academic standards too.

A 14-year-old Queens student with a perfect grade average of 100 out of a possible 100, whose ratings and reviews in every category of assessment, was rejected from Townsend Harris High School, because of a lottery system whose commendable goal is to increase diversity, even at the expense of traditional measurements. The published novelist has reluctantly renounced public school and is enrolling in a private institution instead.

Clearly the new system must be amended in a way that restores merit by partially redefining it, without sacrificing the essential objective of inclusivity.  

Although it doesn't directly bear upon this current issue, it is easy and painful to be reminded how ostracized minority people have been quite recently. Today I watched on YouTube some old television shows from the 1950s. On Groucho Marx's “You Bet Your Life,” for example, there is never a single non-white audience member. In “Perry Mason,” a top-rated series about a principled lawyer, the same thing applies to the cast.

"The center cannot hold.” That line from poet William Butler Yeats (the greatest English-language poet of the 20th century, who probably two-thirds of school superintendents have never heard of) was never more applicable to a crumbling society than it is to ours.  

Law-abiding people are made to feel like suckers and fall guys. 

The danger is that some susceptible folks may take matters into their own hands. That train of thought needs to be derailed, but first it must be understood. The cracks in our society's integrity are not from broken windows. They are catastrophic fissures.

Homeowners are arrested for changing the locks on their own house after it was expropriated by squatters. Two weeks ago, a high school soccer team with a permit to use a city field could not practice there, because non-permit holders refused to leave and the police did not force the issue, possibly because of restraints related to immigration status of those who stood their ground, although the ground wasn't heirs.

Payment for groceries and public transportation is on the honor system. The collective honor code will not sustain the pressure much longer.

The NYPD refused to not enter Columbia University, unless requested by its administration,  despite an intensifying pogrom, which by definition is a "hate crime.” This coincided with the State's recent expansion of 23 criminal offenses to the existing catalog of 66 "hate crimes.” Maybe the good luck charm they need.

Call it another Wag the Dog (which is a bitch) initiative. It will distract the public from the institutional soft-pedaling of violent crime by making the new legislation look like the prosecutors are actually cracking down.  

A mouth shooting off an identity-specific epithetic will be indicted before a gun shooting off a body-specific bullet. The system is incriminated no less than the lawbreakers.

Last month, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman published an ad in Newsday and on social media for non-unionized provisional special deputy sheriffs, who would be on call for special emergencies when law enforcement authorities might be overwhelmed or stretched thin, such as during severe storms or, by implication, major civil unrest.

Its stated purpose is for the "protection of human life and property" and would be activated "in an abundance of caution.” These private citizens would be mostly retired police officers and others with pistol licenses, but they would have no police powers until activated and would be deployed principally to guard infrastructure.

Too bad Wild West gunslinger and lawman Bat Masterson isn't available. He's buried in the Bronx, after relocating here to become a sports reporter. On his deathbed (he died suddenly at his typewriter) he reflected on the equality of the rich and poor New Yorkers: the wealthy get ice in the summer; the indigent get it in the winter.

Critics think that it would constitute a militia and appeal to vigilantes.   

Dick Morris, the noted political commentator and consultant, recently reported on his radio program that The Republican National Committee has hired many dozens of thousands of poll watchers who will be deployed to swing states and posits the somewhat scary prospect of their being deputized with arrest powers. 

The federal government has for a long time identified certain job titles whose holders would be designed "essential employees" under circumstances such as government shutdowns (and maybe showdowns?).

There are parts of the world where it remains dark half the year. Our present affair of state and state of affairs make us feel we're headed for perpetual night. But there are bright spots. 

The United Auto Workers has scored a stunning, unprecedented triumph by organizing the first factory among European and Asian automakers in the American South. It is the second time in history that union forces scored a victory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Civil War was the first.

As we reflect on the strife in our land and abroad, let's remember the turmoil that so many of us endure privately, such as the person who immolated himself at the federal courthouse downtown. 

Let's revere life and think long and hard before damning others.

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