Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for April 13th, 2007

Buckle up

Posted by metaphorical on 13 April 2007

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
—Margo Channing (Bette Davis), All About Eve

In an odd and tragic sidelight to the Imus fiasco, N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine is in critical condition after a near-fatal car accident last night.

Corzine was being driven to the governor’s mansion by a state trooper, in a state police vehicle, to chaparone the meeting between Imus and the Rutger’s women’s basketball team. Rutgers is, of course, the state university of N.J., and it’s located not far from the mansion, which is Princeton, which in turn is not too far from the state capital in Trenton. According to the NY Times account,

In a 9 p.m. news conference at the hospital here, Col. Joseph R. Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said that a red pickup truck entered the highway “erratically from the shoulder,” causing a white Dodge Ram pickup truck to swerve left. The governor’s driver, State Trooper Robert Rasinski, swerved to avoid the white truck, but hit it, and then slid into the guardrail, with the impact on the passenger side.

The red truck, which apparently caused the chaos on the highway that resulted in Corzine and Rasinski’s injuries, didn’t stop, and is being sought.

Governor Corzine was traveling, as he normally does, in a two-car caravan. Officials said the two troopers in the car following Mr. Corzine stopped to care for him rather than chase the red truck.

Let me first say that I like Corzine, and wish him nothing except a full recovery. Before moving to Manhattan last summer I was a N.J. resident for over a decade. I voted for Corzine for the Senate and then for Governor.

And I certainly wish the best for state trooper Robert Rasinski, who apparently did a hell of a job avoiding the white truck.

That said, I want to focus in on one sentence in the Times story. The Times doesn’t seem to consider it to be very important; it’s more than half-way down the article’s 1100+ word length; it’s a one-paragraph sentence that isn’t discussed further at all. (The emphasis is added.)

Mr. Fuentes said he was unsure whether Mr. Corzine was wearing a seatbelt; he often does not.

Corzine often does not wear a seatbelt–even when riding in a N.J. state vehicle, with a N.J. state police driver, in a two-car N.J. state police caravan. N.J., as I well know from having lived there when it was enacted, has a state-wide mandatory seat-belt law.

I understand it’s hard to order your boss around, but surely we have enough images of telling, when it comes to security and safety, truth to power —the West Wing, where the Secret Service puts President Bartlett through all manner of indignities whenever it needs to, comes to mind —is it really hard for a state trooper to say, “Governor, I can’t put this car in gear until you have your seatbelt on”? Is it really hard for three different N.J. state troopers to enforce the law when adherence is trivial and the violation is literally within spitting distance?

We have a reason for seat-belt laws; it’s that people are too stupid to be counted on to put them on by themselves. It may not be a great law (it may in fact be a paternalistic intrusion of state power and an instance of the losses of personal freedom, major and minor, that are all too common these days), but it’s the law. Corzine and Rasinski have already been punished for their transgressions, but it seems to be the two troopers in the trail-car, and the state police department itself, have some penance to do. And does the Times not plan to look into the illegality of it further?

Posted in journalism, politics, Times-watch | 31 Comments »