Thursday, February 03, 2011

Not Making This Up: Activist Accused of Being Too Smart

I would have thought the oppressive apparatus of the state could no longer surprise me with its never-ending creativity. But...I am surprised, by this.

The NC DOT did an engineering study of a local road widening project, and concluded that no new signals were required at two intersections. A citizen, David Cox, had the gall to disagree. He did some research, and put the research in the form of an organized argument.

The state could have responded by ignoring the request. Or the state could have pointed out the errors in the study. (I myself have no position on the merits; haven't studied it, don't know the issues).

But the state engineer instead threatened the citizen with legal action... for... being smart! They investigated, saying Cox was "practicing engineering without a license." Yes, really. The state DOT head engineer, Kevin Lacy, did not dispute the facts, the analysis, or the conclusions of the report. All he did was try to get the report dismissed because it was "engineering quality work." Read that again: the citizen made a petition to government for redress of a grievance, and the state wants to prosecute the citizen because the quality of the analysis is too high. (If the petition, redress, etc. thing sounds familiar that's because it is a right guaranteed in the 1st Amendment).

Now, the citizen had NEVER claimed to be an engineer, and had simply signed his name to the report. And he had organized the report in a way that made sense to him, presenting information that he thought was important for the question of whether the intersections needed traffic signals.

The cool thing is that the state is going to say, "We never ACTUALLY brought charges!" Just like the Mafia thugs say, "Nice restaurant. It wud be a shame if sumpin wud to happen to it, like youknowafireorsumpin, capisce?" The fact is that the state can exert an enormously chilling effect simply by suggesting that citizens should be investigated.

But the idea that a citizen can be investigated for being smart and making an effective counter-argument.... wow, I did not expect the state to be willing to be that thuggish.

Finally, I should note that this may all be self-serving for the KPC staff. Because if being really smart, persuasive, and disagreeable is a crime now...well, Angus and I should just assume the position.


David Evans said...

Just like in climate "science"!

Standard operating procedure in some areas of government now. Even Nobel prize winners in physics are called nasty names for criticizing the U.N.'s preferred climate theory.

Chilling effect? Sure, worked for the first two decades. But now the number of critics is large and the climate is .. not doing what the U.N. said it would.

We predict the next step will be for the U.N. and its agencies (effectively NASA GISS, England's CRU, and the horde of western government agencies) to take a leaf out of the book of government tricks for managing inflationary expectations -- the various CPI's around the world systematically underestimate inflation.

So we predict that the western governments will mismeasure temperature in order to "prove" that global warming is happening, for which the only solution is ... a vast expansion of government power. Government power justified by misreading thermometers, who would have guessed 20 years ago!

Oh, the mismeasuring is already happening. See the pictures in

Pelsmin said...

Government missed a great chance here. Instead of going right after the wise guy, they should have just threatened him with action, and then flipped him. Get him to work with the state against other malefactors. First they can get him to infiltrate the PTA and find out how they plan to disrupt the schools' libraries with unauthorized, non-librarian-approved book purchases. Then he can get close to the lady who wrote the letter to the editor about planting wildflowers along the median (where did she get her botanist credentials?) Maybe he can finally help them bust the old guy who's been impersonating a police officer by shaking his fist at passing cars and telling them to slow down.

Lenin3 said...

Question: If Kevin Lacy, the State's chief engineer, cannot tell the difference between professional and amateur work, then should he be in his position?

Remind me never to petition the government. They can screw things up on their own.

Bill said...

That First Amendment thingy can sure get in the way of a fella's effort to protect the public from comments by the great unwashed.

Gerardo said...

Someone in NC being accused of being too smart? The jokes write themselves.

J Scheppers said...

I would argue that Mr. Cox has a reasonable cause of action against the NC Engineer Lacy.

Part of protecting the health, welfare and safety of the public must reasonable include listening to and responding comments made from those that you are protecting. Turn about is only fair play.

Hasdrubal said...

"Question: If Kevin Lacy, the State's chief engineer, cannot tell the difference between professional and amateur work, then should he be in his position? "

I see it as less a question of whether or not Lacy should be in his position and more a question of just how valuable those credentials are. This strikes me as a great example of using credentials for anti-competetive purposes.

If you read between the lines, Lacy is miffed at this "engineering quality work" because he isn't making a judgment call on his own, he's just signing off on what the contracted engineer told him. If he were using the reports as a source of information to improve his own judgment it wouldn't matter whether the writer was an engineer or not. Lacy should be able to identify the assumptions made by the writer and decide for himself whether those are reasonable, then make his own decision. In actuality he is just rubber stamping someone else's decision, and I wouldn't be surprised if a non-engineer doing "engineering quality work" exposed the fact that the emperor had no closed and shook up his world view.

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