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December 10, 2012

It's virtually impossible not to be a criminal in the United States.

Years ago I recall reading of a research team that monitored dozens of motorists and recorded the number of infractions they committed every mile. It was virtually impossible, the researchers concluded, for a motorist to drive one mile without committing several law violations.

They can always get you on something.

For example, do you know which of the following is illegal in Forida: a) Hitching a ride on the back of a giant tortoise, b) hitching a ride on the back of a dolphin or, c) hitching a ride on the back of a manatee? Most people could guess with 33% accuracy. Few actually know which could result in arrest. Click here for the correct answer.

When I was pulled over by a traffic cop in June, I was told it was illegal to travel with prescription drugs in a generic container. How could I have possibly known that? Later another policeman told me the first cop was incorrect, that the container law had been changed several years ago. The law came and went without me knowing it. It went without the first cop knowing it.

A nation of criminals

Commenting on the increasing weight of over-regulation, Dr. Ron Paul notoriously observed that there were about 40,000 new laws that came into effect on the first day of 2012. How many of those new laws do you know? I can think of none. In other words, there are more laws than we can possibly keep track of. Being a criminal in the United States is virtually unavoidable.

The problem is a priori. It's obvious. The government can snag you on a whim. It -- or they -- can arrest you at any time on multiple charges.

Quotas are common

A 2010 newscast reported that New York police are required to meet arrest quotas. One whistle-blowing officer, Adrian Schoolcraft, secretly recorded his supervisor demanding officers meet summons quotas. His supervisors refer to citizens as "bodies." One supervisor is heard telling officers, "You can arrest someone walking down the street."

Schoolcraft maintained a now-defunct website,, where other cops posted their frustrations with arrest quotas. One NYPD policeman revealed that each officer in his precinct was expected to make one arrest and twenty summonses per month.

Details of Schoolcraft's 17-month undercover operation was first published in The Village Voice.

The black box mandate

Random arrests of otherwise law-abiding citizens -- motorists in particular -- will become easier in 2014. That's when the feds hope to force manufacturers to equip every passenger vehicle with an event data box, commonly called a black box.

On December 7 the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a press release that announced the department was calling for a mandate that requires "automakers to install event data recorders (EDRs) — devices that collect specific safety-related data — in all light passenger vehicles beginning September 1, 2014."

Note the purpose of the black boxes is for our safety.

Ostensibly, the recorders would capture driver behavior in the moments prior to crashes. The news release fails to indicate how that information will assist the NHTSA or automakers in averting future crashes.

The announcement did, however, offer an assurance that the recorded information would not include private conversations nor would the data be made available without the consent of the vehicle owner. We've heard such promises before.

(My state, Indiana, initiated seatbelt laws by promising motorists that such laws would not be used to arrest drivers but that citations would only be issued if the the motorist were stopped for other violations. That changed. Today in Indiana police departments set up check points with the express purpose of peeking through the windows of moving vehicles to determine if motorists are wearing seatbelts. In other words, the government lied to us to get us to go along with the new law.)

Erosion of personal rights

Considering the documented practice of law enforcement agencies issuing quotas and disregarding the rights of citizens in order to meet those quotas,

considering the history of governments making promises as a means to gain the public's approval of invasive laws, then later changing those laws,

considering the history of law enforcement and prosecutors using court precedence to circumvent the rights of citizens,

and considering the common practice of government agencies using safety and security as an excuse to gain acceptance for abusive regulations

we conclude the black box mandate will not bode well for our individual rights and personal liberties.

Discussion room is

Go ahead. Hang around a few minutes. See who checks in.

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