Monday, June 23, 2014

Sacrificing Horatius Triumphant

To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods.”

In recent days, pictures from various news outlets and on social media have shown the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These include several of children who had been beheaded. Let me state that again…BEHEADED CHILDREN. If that description alone does not churn your stomach, you are no better than the monsters who did it. Perhaps worse. Even al-Qaeda – which carried out the worst terrorist act in modern history with the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 – called them “too extreme” when cutting ties with them. Although the “blame Bush” crowd has tried, this is not the time for such nonsense or even accurate; if anything, blame President Obama for withdrawing troops and support from Iraq before ensuring its security, and failing to follow General George S. Patton’s standing orders of constant advance against the enemy. There is little doubt that a comparable situation could occur in Afghanistan, especially with Taliban and al-Qaeda resurgence.

My Spanish ancestors fought similar Islamic fundamentalists centuries ago, and they were as fanatical then as now. They are not “misunderstood”; they hate and seek to destroy non-Islamists and Western society as a whole. Theirs too is a real war on women, where it is considered rights of men to brutalize, mutilate, rape and put to death women for not obeying their husband, family and societal rules that dictate behavior. The only way to confront such evil is to annihilate them before they can annihilate you – something we have failed to do with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and innumerable terrorist sponsors and organizations around the world. If you disagree with that strategy, thank the architects of the United States that we live in a country that allows it; if that does not satisfy, then continue living with rose-colored blinders securely in place while screaming about pseudo oppression and self-righteous entitlement…but think of those beheaded children whose voices have forever been silenced. Where is the call to arms for them?

The United States may not have been born of perfection, but we have come a long way in two centuries. If we are no longer willing to sacrifice for the good of so many, who will? The Useless Nations? Russia, China or Iran? (Seriously…IRAN???!! They are as much a contributor to the world’s problems rather than a solution.) Maybe the hipster doofus in a penis thong and fedora spouting end-of-the-world climate change nonsense unless we have a meaningful dialogue about redistribution while living under the protective umbrella of innovative capitalism! Despite our domestic differences, international infamy and exaggerations of demise, the United States is still the world’s last, and only, beacon of hope. At least, we were once not that long time ago, holding the bridge against fearful odds.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Friday, June 13, 2014

Motorists Assist Revenue

As many cities and municipalities across the nation, including the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, continue to confront budget challenges – no doubt due to their own fiscal waste and mismanagement – critics frequently cite traffic citations as a means from which they illicitly generate revenue in order to close the gaps. Politicians and police persistently counter those claims that any citations are in the name of “public safety,” the revenue generated from them negligible and secondary to any other concerns.

When visiting the City of St. Louis, three main options, all fee-based, exist for parking: garage, lot or metered. Garage and lot parking can cost anywhere from a dollar an hour to $20 per visit. As for metered parking, the Parking Commission, a division of the Treasurer department, oversees approximately 10,000 parking meters whose operation and cost depends on the day of the week. Monday through Saturday parking meters are in operation from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with the exception of “multispace” meters that are in effect 24-hours a day; on Sundays and certain city holidays, all metered parking is free. Currently, the city is field testing new meters that will allow the use of cash, credit cards and even your mobile phone to pay for parking. With the number of violations in the hundreds of thousands each year, parking fees combined with fines that range from $10 to $100 create a steady revenue source for the city.

Compiled from information provided by the Parking Violations Bureau (P.V.B.), the City of St. Louis municipal court system and alleged violators themselves, data shows an inordinate number of vehicles ticketed despite parked legally at the time. The majority, but not all, were parked at meters on weekends during free periods; yet, they have been cited for a variety of alleged violations of city ordinances that include fire lane violations, parking near a mailbox and general prohibited parking. According to alleged violators, the qualifying justification for issuing the ticket was not a factor present at the time; categorically, the fine schedule and appeal procedure is as puzzling, if not more, to these violators as the infractions for which they have been cited. As outlined by the P.V.B., a parking ticket must be paid within 15 days of issuance to avoid additional fees; if the ticket is not suspended or payment is not received within those 15 days, the fine increases by 100% the original amount; after 45 days, the fine increases 300% of the original amount. Despite being in the process of appealing the citation, a number of those ticketed have had their fines double and triple between the date of issuance and a scheduled appeal hearing. Some see it as an unfair practice with only one purpose:  revenue generation, through a means city officials know that most will just pay.

Now, the use of red light and speed cameras has raised questions in both the city and county. Are these simply for public safety, or further means to raise revenue thinly justified by it as critics contend? Like the city, a handful of municipalities in the county currently face legal challenges over their red light cameras; a similar battle has been taking place across the state in Kansas City. While the courts continue to debate their constitutionality – the most recent concerning the city’s red light cameras – several members of the Missouri General Assembly have introduced legislation not only to regulate but also to outright ban the use of either. Co-sponsored by Representatives Bryan Spencer (R-Wentzville), Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters) and Michael Frame (D-Eureka), House Bill 1533 would prohibit automated traffic enforcement systems; similarly, House Bill 1557 and Senate Bill 746, would exempt from the license point system any violations resulting from such systems. More intriguing, Senate Bill 540, introduced by Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis), seeks to raise the fine for seat belt violations from $10 to $50. There is no indication whether the increase would go toward a seat belt safety education fund, or simply into municipal coffers as a non-moving violation that many motorists simply would pay rather than dispute in court. All would take effect starting August 28, 2014; presently, none are scheduled for hearing or on the respective legislature calendar.