Reader Mail

Up to Speed

Driving on the left. Double terrorism -- nothing new. Laura's Saturday Surprise -- one last encore. Plus more.

5.6.05

Send to Kindle

MOVE OVER
Re: Eric Peters's Passing Fancy:

Mr. Peters, that was another excellent article. I hope you're right that things are beginning to change but, if so, it's hard to tell that from my vantage point. Along the interstate highways in Virginia are signs admonishing the slower drivers to keep to the right. No one pays any attention to these signs because the police do not enforce them. The result is that cars become clustered together into formations tight enough to make a Blue Angel sweat. Meanwhile the police perform their revenue enhancement services by writing tickets to the safest drivers on the road, those who know enough to (when possible) maneuver away from the dangerous clusters of cars the left lane road hogs cause.

It's a serious safety issue but to even broach the subject in a sober manner you have to be prepared to endure accusations of being afflicted with "road rage." I suppose the same feeble minds who can't comprehend what's at stake are the same ones operating the vehicles causing these traffic hazards in the first place. Or, equally likely, they are just garden-variety control freaks who enjoy the power they have over the people whose passage they are impeding.

But through efforts of folks like yourself perhaps things can change; keep reminding everyone that the emperor and his carriage drivers are nekkid.
-- R. Trotter
Arlington, Virginia

Don't believe I'll hold my breath while this takes hold in the remaining "lower" 46 states. (Does Alaska and Hawaii need something like this?) I can sense a howl of protest over this seemingly simple action required from responsible drivers. Let's hope the ACLU doesn't notice it. The police may be sued for interfering in left lane blockers' civil rights. However it is good to see something getting done about idiots thinking it's their "divine right" to travel in the left most lanes regardless of how much they impede traffic. It will take a whole bunch of education on the part of the states' "public service" programs and a fistful of tickets to punctuate the effort, but not in all cases! Baby boomers (on the leading edge of the curve) got their drivers license when many states with "no passing on the right" rules enforced them along with turn signal use (and if you didn't have blinkers, hand signals) so they would simply be reverting back to an earlier time when they actually practiced some common courtesy.

Far more needs to be done regarding issuing licenses backed up by driver education (say maybe realistic simulators throwing in emergencies to test reactions and periodic retesting) but in doing that in an organized way, it will likely open the door to hard-over federal guidelines. Is that a bad thing? I think not, based upon our driving habits and distances traveled routinely.
-- John O'Grady
Knotts Island, North Carolina

Left lane hogs are indeed swine and should be targeted. I would like to note that we in Central California have an additional problem, the right lane speed racer. Highway 99, which connects Bakersfield to Sacramento and bisects Fresno, is mostly two lanes that were poured in the '60s. It's overwhelmed with traffic. Typically, a line of cars (sometimes more than 20) in the left lane will be spaced and paced perfectly, doing 70-75 mph with a line of trucks in the right lane doing 60-65 mph. But every time there is a space between lines of trucks, some jerk comes flying up the right lane, reaches the trucks and dives into the left lane. This causes everyone in line to have to hit their brakes. I've driven Barstow to Vegas on a Friday evening with bumper-to-bumper traffic doing 85 mph and it's not nearly as scary.
-- Earl Wright
Clovis, California

As a reader of your online magazine predisposed to agree with much of what is written within, I am compelled to write and express an opinion that disagrees with your views in the abovementioned article. While I agree that Left Lane Hogs (LLHs) are a nuisance and, possibly, even a hazard. This issue is not black and white.

When driving the highways of our country, I am frequently frustrated by these LLHs as well. However, I believe there are two types of drivers that are categorized in your article as LLH, but must be distinguished from one another. The first is a true LLH who plants themselves in the left-most lane as it is most convenient for them. Or, worse, it is some sort of vigilante move to slow all traffic to the posted speed limit. These drivers are characterized by the fact that their speed is often exceeded by the drivers to the right of them. In fact, they are moving slower than nearly all drivers on the road.

The other type, of which I am one, is merely passing drivers in the right lane at a pace slower than some who occupy the left lane would care to tolerate. In other words, my driving slows some faster drivers because the rate at which I am passing others is too slow for their taste. Nearly always, I am exceeding the posted speed limit. Even more often, I am aware that I am slowing others to do so. However, I do not believe it is my rate of speed which is hazardous, but that of a few others which is the problem.

For example, let's say that the posted limit is 65 MPH. Also, assume I would like to travel at 75 MPH, but the trucks (who may be limited to 55 MPH) and other right lane denizens (assuming for a moment this is a four lane highway, with two lanes traveling in either direction) are traveling around 60 to 65 MPH. If I pull out and accelerate to 80 MPH, this maneuver may require several seconds to accomplish, i.e. to pass the slower drivers and merge back ahead of them in the right lane. As often happens, someone going 80+ MPH will quickly accelerate to cut me off, and having anticipated this, I will reach the lane before this person is able to do so. The person directly behind me will often take up a position within a foot or two of my back bumper, wildly gesturing and flashing their brights and or other rude behavior. The key here is the rude behavior.

Don't I, having been slowed by the right lane occupiers I am trying to pass, have just as much right to vent my frustration at them, thereby hastening the level of hostility of all drivers? Or, should I merely pass them without comment and merge back ahead of them as soon as possible? It is much better if all drivers show courtesy and patience for others, acknowledging that some may wish to operate within the law. Or, perhaps these slower drivers may not possess the skills or wherewithal to pace themselves to my liking due to any number of factors (driving in an unknown area, chauffeuring a child or elderly person, be of advanced age, carrying cargo that may be upset with more advanced speed or tactics, etc.).

In short, I think that operating your vehicle with some caution and courtesy towards others is the way to go. Rather than assuming all drivers who aren't facilitating your immediate desires are poor drivers or merely "refusing to allow other motorists to get by" as you state in your article.
-- Steve Keller
Edina, Minnesota

Eric Peters's use of Germany as an example of drivers not hogging the left "fast" lane is perhaps not the best example. In the U.S. getting a drivers license is at best a day long event with no follow up training required no matter how long the driver has been at it or how technology or conditions change. To obtain a German drivers license requires years and thousands of dollars of persistent effort to keep and maintain that most treasured of documents. Only a minority of people in Germany have one. I also find the author's focus on "left lane hogs," while failing to acknowledge the physics of increasing speed, lack of continued testing/training, the limits of human reflexes vs. speed attained and geometrical increases of stopping distances with increased speed also troubling. But then he has an axe to grind against "passive aggressives."
-- Det. Craig C. Sarver
Seattle, Washington

Great article, and right on point. Except, the German Autobahn example is a distortion of reality. It is UNLAWFUL to drive in the left lane on the Autobahn UNLESS you are passing another vehicle in the right lane. You WILL get a ticket if observed doing so. You are NOT required to immediately move to the right lane until it is safe to do so, no matter if the car behind you is doing 300 mph. If you are directly beside the vehicle you are passing it is obviously not safe to immediately move to the right lane. This information is not a state secret of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is easily discoverable by those interested in accuracy in punditry. Google.com reveals this information to everyone, although I knew it from personal experience.
-- C. R. Melton
Arlington, Virginia

Another problem we see in the Washington area is what I call the "40-footers." These are people who leave an inordinate amount of space between them and the car in front of them (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway is notorious for this). In heavy traffic the large gap encourages others to change lanes in front of this person. When they do, the 40-footer hits their brakes to regain the lost space, creating a rolling backup. These drivers are infuriating.
-- unsigned

Simply put, I have often been one of those "left-lane hogs" about which Eric Peters complains. When I am on a relatively uncrowded Interstate, I set my cruise control to the speed limit and leave it there. When I come across someone going below the speed limit, I move into the left-hand lane and continue on at the speed limit. The length of this process is dependent on our relative speeds. If a speeder overtakes me while I am passing I have three options. I can hit the brakes and fall behind the slower driver, thereby potentially trapping myself behind a pokey driver. I can speed up and complete my passing, thereby exposing myself to a ticket by speeding myself. Or I can continue on my merry way, disregarding the speeders who are piling up behind me in the left lane. I have been trapped in the first scenario a number of times and have received one of the two speeding tickets of my life (in over a third of a million miles of driving) in the second. As long as there are laws against speeding, I will continue to follow my own course and refuse to give deference to those who violate the law and will resent any law which says I cannot drive the legal limit in the left-hand lane.
-- Stephen J. Mosier
Los Alamos, New Mexico

Yea, verily. When I learned to drive in Pennsylvania, they actually tried to teach "drive on the right, pass on the left" and occasionally ticketed accordingly. Now I live in California where the left lanes seem to be reserved for SUVs.

You make an excellent point that road rage is bad and maybe we should address the causes, not just the effects.
-- Dan DeLong

DOUBLE TERRORISM: NOTHING NEW
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's Coalition of the Evil:

The mush-mouthed appeasers of old Europe will not act in their own defense until the Islamofascist hordes enter Paris.

Against all odds, against popular opinion home and abroad, against Security Council wishes, against the liberal, agenda-driven MSM, President Bush and America's best allies have planned and executed a multi-disciplinary attack against the heart of evil in the modern world. Modern evil is Islamofascism. Iraq is only the latest and most visible battlefield in the broader attack. The selection of Iraq as the next target following rapid success in Afghanistan was based in part on Saddam's deprivations, but tactical and strategic factors played a larger role.

Tactical in the sense that it is better to fight our enemy in the enemies land allied (to the extent possible) with his neighbors and fellow countrymen. This draws the enemy to the battle and prevents him from coming to the U.S. Many other positive factors accrue from this tactical battle plan that must be obvious to a serious observer.

Strategic in the sense that the presence of a large, mobile, aggressive, and uniquely flexible American military in the heart of the Islamofacist breeding grounds sends an important message to our current and future enemies. American presence in this area allows better intelligence, closer scrutiny of enemy operations, and important surveillance opportunities of rogue nations. On the whole, the effort has been a tremendous success. The ramifications of American and coalition actions are only too obvious: Libya's decision to give up WMDs, Syria's decision to leave Lebanon, popular uprisings for democracy in Lebanon, Egypt's decision to allow somewhat free and contested elections, Saudi Arabia allowing some free elections. Even hard-core Bush haters grudgingly admit the President's plan is working.
-- Doug Santo
Pasadena, California

Mr. Tyrrell makes an uncharacteristic error when he describes as "innovative" the use by Saddam regime loyalists/Zarqawi militia of secondary attacks on emergency services attending the scenes of their bombings. The Provisional IRA used secondary devices throughout the 1980s and 1990s against police and ambulance services attending victims of their murders in Ulster.

Your readers might also be interested to learn of a further IRA innovation, that of the "proxy bomb." In this ingenious method, a family is held hostage in its home, the head of the family is chained to the steering column of a car packed with explosives, and told to drive the car/bomb to the nearest Army or police base, whereupon it is detonated. He is warned that, if he decides not to comply, his family will be murdered. He is tailed by "volunteer" of the Irish Republican "Army" to ensure he does as he is ordered.

This method was used against the British Army, thousands of whom are currently fighting alongside your Soldiers in the War on Terror.
-- Captain Rob Walker
UK Army
The Black Watch

The IRA used to do the same thing -- set off a bomb, people run away in fear or run in to help -- straight into another bomb.
-- unsigned

During the Vietnam War, it was fairly standard for the VC to set of a bomb at a restaurant or market, then set off claymore-type mines when the crowd gathered to help the casualties.
-- John Manguso
San Antonio, Texas

As I recall, the idea of "secondary" terrorist bombing is nothing new. The Palestinians have used that one for years -- using a second bomb to blow up those who might be "attracted" to the first one. It's also happened here, with a couple of the "abortion clinic" bombings.

Hardly a new idea...
-- unsigned

Yes, Communist revolutionaries did us such tactics before. The VC used it in Vietnam among other nasty tricks. The tactic was dubbed "Tickle-Pop" according to an old friend of mine who was an SF NCO there on one of his tours.

Set off a small bomb or grenade to cause a few casualties, and when others come around to investigate or aid the injured set off the main charge.

Even Eric Rudolph did that in one of his abortion clinic bombings, and I believe either CBS or NBC News got the second detonation on camera.

There's always somebody out there to teach these bastards how to cause as much misery as possible.
-- Cookie Sewell
Aberdeen, Maryland

I am somewhat surprised at your ignorance of 20th century history. I do not know whether the Nazis or Communists employed the tactic of setting off one explosion, waiting for rescue equipment to arrive and setting off a second explosion. However, I do know that the Allies employed a very similar tactic for incendiary bombing attacks like the one on Dresden, Germany. These attacks consisted of two bombing raids. The first raid caused some damage to which the German firefighters and rescue workers responded. The second, more devastating bombing raid came later after the Germans had deployed their fire and rescue equipment and personnel. This second raid not only set fire to a very large number of structures, but also destroyed the fire and rescue equipment and killed the rescue workers that the Germans needed to respond to the incendiary attack. The two bombing raids were carefully timed for maximum destructive effect and casualties. Sadly, when it comes to mankind's evil genius, there is very little that is new under the sun.
-- John Hockert, Ph.D.
Albuquerque, New Mexico

After all that's happened between Old Europe and the U.S. since 9/11, any question as to whose side Old Europe is on is either a bad joke or rhetorical.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

CRUEL ISN'T BRAVE
Re: George Neumayr's The Perfect Child:

Your analysis and insight into the subtle (and not so subtle) evolution of the eugenics movement and the logic from which it grows, is another alarm being sounded.

I direct you and all your readers who are interested in the history of this philosophy (eugenics) to the website "The Human Life Review," and specifically to a carefully researched article by Rebecca Messall entitled "The Long Road to Eugenics: From Rockefeller to Roe v. Wade."

As an afterthought... If homosexuality is found in the genetic code, I'm sure the new standard bearers for pro-life, anti-eugenics will be the pro-abortion homosexual-lesbian lobby.
-- Fred Edwards
Tucson, Arizona

So we've finally reached the Brave New World and it isn't so brave after all. In a war such as the First World War, when our ability to produce effective weapons exceeded our tactical ability, the result was slaughter. Here is the reproductive equivalent. Huxley, Orwell, Bradbury; all of these foresaw this time approaching. Of course, the "for the children" mantra from the left has been used for a generation to validate the most egregious inroads into the sanctity of the family. Two gay parents are just as good as two heterosexual ones, and even if they aren't, they are better FOR THE CHILDREN than an orphanage. It takes a village to raise a child is precisely the opposite of the truth. Perhaps it will be easier to raise perfect children if we can start with perfect fetuses. Well, at least the Hollywood Left will be happier; the children will all be prettier.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

BETTER USES
Re: Andrew Cline's Giving Republicans a Gay-Marriage Wedgie:

As for me, the only time I might buy the Boston Globe would be during fishing season. Need something to wrap the catch in. For that purpose, it's cheap and there is a lot of useful paper. Other than that, the only downside is ink stains on my fingers from the wet, meaningless, useless words. But, that's just me.
-- Jim
Cape Cod, Massachusetts

SIGN ME UP
Re: Brandon Crocker's Theater of the Absurd:

Please, for the love of God. Sign me up for that filibuster of Barbara Boxer's next campaign run. I beg of you! Please!
-- Sarah R. Palmer
California

LAURA ONE LAST TIME
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Milking the Horse and the letters in Reader Mail's How Funny Was She? and Lightened Up:

What a disappointment to witness the First Lady entertaining the world with the lowest of the low kind of humor. It would have been more the style of a Whoopi Goldberg type.

Well, I guess she never was a lady, if that's her kind of humor. It was really disgusting.

Trouble is, she disgraced not only herself, she disgraced the presidency, the White House, and the conservative base. I hope I never have to listen to one word out of her mouth.

I wish, someone would tell her how outraged "some" of us are. I have a feeling it's quite a few of us, actually.
-- Vera Voelter

Mr. Pleszczynski's incisive comment of First Lady Laura Bush was right on target. It was a sad spectacle to see someone of her stature lowered herself to such a vulgar level. As a true supporter of President Bush, and a person who believes that Laura is a beautiful, and classy lady, I can not understand what makes people of her stature do such foolish things.

I'm terrible disappointed and saddened that President Bush and First Lady Laura threw away (for a moment, I hope) the mantle of dignity, for a few cheap laughs. The horse joke, the stripper joke, the belittling of the President, was all in bad taste. To laugh is good and healthy, but not at the gutter level for people who should be lifting up the spirit of our embattled culture.
-- J.M. Albaine

We live in a de-sensitized world where people are so jaded they don't even recognize what was once considered coarse, vulgar humor. We can thank Laura Bush for breaking new ground. Her defenders accuse her critics of prudishness. Conversation once restricted to bar rooms and adolescent boys is now fare for mixed company and public consumption. Somehow I suspect Mrs. Bush's ardent supporters would be less approving if this had been Mrs. Kerry or Mrs. Clinton. But, what's one more sacrifice on the altar to the god of GOP Solidarity?

It's a shame that Laura Bush feels she needs to cater to the lowest common denominator instead of appealing to more noble ideals. Once upon a time, the common people looked to their leaders for an example of proper behavior and dignity. Someone to emulate. Now they look for their leaders to mimic their own lowbrow behavior. Could it be this is really just a crude attempt by the masses to justify their own behavior?

The whole concept of a "Roast" is an insult to the dignity of the Office. Is it so difficult to see that by diminishing the man, we diminish the office he holds? In addition, Mrs. Bush's supporters accuse critics of "reading too much" into the horse joke. Perhaps it was too subtle for many Americans whose reading consists primarily of People Magazine, comics and trashy beach novels. Either they are too ignorant or too naive to grasp that jokes often have a deeper meaning beneath the surface.

It's too bad that we didn't have more feminists and pro-choicers like Mrs. Bush in the past. Then our grandmothers and great-grandmothers could have also experienced the joy and satisfaction of coarsening society. Instead, Mrs. Bush only encourages men's lack of respect in women which we see exhibited in contemporary morality: illegitimacy, divorce, and adultery. Sadly, this widespread approval for Mrs. Bush's remarks only demonstrates that propriety and dignity truly are dead.
-- A. R.
New Orleans, Louisiana

As a great American is reported to have said, "You can't please all of the people all of the time." The reaction to Mrs. Bush's comedy debut proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Whatever the reason for her performance, it was interesting at the least and possibly even humorous, if you appreciate that type of humor. The reactions from your readers was even more interesting, but not humorous.

North Korea is lobbing missiles all over the Sea of Japan, the Iranians have just told the rest of the world to go pound sand, Osama bin Laden is still among the missing, Iraqi terrorists are blowing up innocent job seekers in Baghdad, the US military is stretched so thin that a crisis is near at hand, gasoline is over $2 a gallon in the US, small children are being abducted and killed all over the country, the Congress of the United States is poised to fight pitched battles over Social Security reform, Red China is demanding that Taiwan renounce any thought of Independence or face invasion and there is an unfettered tide of undocumented humanity streaming across our southern borders. But it is only a five-minute stand-up comedy routine by the First Lady that can stimulate three days of this amount of correspondence.

Absolutely amazing. Humanity never fails to amuse me.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Hurrah for you. My feelings exactly. How tacky it all seemed, and so sophomoric, to this "sophisticated" crowd. Why is there no other criticism from the Press Corps? Are they all just in the Bushes' pockets?? Thank you.
-- Adele Gorham

Waah! Bitter, party of one?
-- Bruce Maiman
Sacramento, California

I'm with Wlady.
-- Bob Martini

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article