Politicians catch hell from all quarters these days, and most of it is deserved. They're generally a pathetic bunch, partisan and petty, and do little for their constituents—and even less for the good of the country as a whole.
But there are a few people in office who are breaking away from their humdrum existence of pointing fingers, rubber-stamping bad laws and kissing the collective ass of the gun lobby. A handful of bold individuals are challenging what we think we know, and why we think we know it.
For example, our beloved governor, Jan Brewer, this year signed into law a brilliant piece of legislation that calls for longer yellow lights at intersections across our state. You probably didn't know she was a physicist/engineer, did you? She hides it well.
You see, while yellow lights are a point of contention for bad drivers and the butt-licking politicians who pander to them, the math and physics behind the concept are really pretty straightforward. Four factors go into determining the length of a yellow light. They are:
• Perception-reaction time. The industry standard is a rather generous one second. This allows the average person to see the light change and mentally formulate a response to the change. This time is a little bit longer for older people and those with poorer vision, and it apparently doesn't exist at all for people with cell phones.
• The speed limit on the road for drivers approaching the intersection. Speed limits vary, and this would suggest that the length of the yellow light should vary directly with the speed limit as well. But that's only if you allow yourself to be tied down to boring stuff like math and physics. To paraphrase Richard Pryor, "This is politics, baby!"
This measure was written by Frank Antenori, who was a state rep a few months ago, but who is now a state senator, and is on track to become emperor someday. Antenori works at Raytheon so ... what's the phrase I'm looking for here? He should know better!
• The standard deceleration rate. This is going to vary somewhat depending on things like how well a vehicle's brakes actually work, but engineers adopted the worst deceleration rate as the industry standard, just to be safe.
• Finally, there is the matter of whether there is an incline or decline on the road. Visualize the intersection of River and Oracle roads. Southbound traffic on Oracle is coming down that hill, so they should have a longer yellow than northbound travelers. But traffic engineers, so as not to confuse people, just give everybody the longer yellow. But that's not good enough for Brewer and Antenori, et al., who obviously know better than civil engineers.
You should also know that there is a period of time when all of the lights in an intersection are red, allowing for, say, east-west traffic to clear the intersection before north-south travelers can proceed. It's called the all-red period, and its length is determined using a variety of factors, including the distance one travels through the intersection itself.
The really funny part is that Brewer says the law calls for standardized signals throughout the state, while Antenori says that it allows for yellow-light times of three, four, five or even more seconds, depending on whether there are red-light-runner cameras installed at the intersection.
At first thought, Brewer's praise for a standard-length yellow light reminds me of the classic Family Feud moment when a woman was asked, "In what month does a pregnant woman start to show?" and she responded, "September."
Don't try to do the math. It's beyond us normal folks.
Then there is former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is on trial for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, and is expanding the English language. When federal wiretaps catch him saying things like, "How much are you offering?" and, "I'm not giving it up for f---ing nothing," that doesn't mean that he's trying to get money or advantage out of naming Obama's successor. He's just looking out for his constituents. And when he says, "I want to make money," one shouldn't jump to the conclusion that he wants to make money. It's a whole new way of looking at language.
Then there's New Geographer/Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy West, who called for a boycott of Arizona after the passage of SB 1070, partly because she didn't think Arizona shares a border with Mexico. Peggy West said that, unlike Texas, Arizona is not a border state, describing it as "a ways removed from the border."
She has already picked up a few converts, as local cynics note that the border has moved about 50 miles north from its previous location, since that's where the Border Patrol does most of its work.
Locally, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup is challenging Newton's first law, which, in part, states that a body at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by outside forces. There are all kinds of forces acting on Walkup, and yet, somehow, he remains perpetually at rest.
Darn! We've run out of room, and we didn't even get a chance to look at Grijalvanomics, that advanced field of study that explains how telling individuals and companies not to do business in Arizona is actually good for Arizona.