John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 28, 2007


To: Commissioner Mark S. Borrell
Superior Court of the State of California: Ventura
July 8, 2007

Dear Commissioner Borrell,

When you entered the traffic court you appeared to be a rational human being, so I was hoping that you would show some common sense when my case came up about allegedly not wearing a seat belt. Alas, it didn’t take long for you to show yourself as the same neutered parody of a ‘judge’ that one usually encounters in these rigged courts. I can honestly state that I have never ever attended a traffic court where even a single case was adjudged not guilty.

We are all aware that for a judge to disagree with a police officer is putting the judge’s career in jeopardy at the next election but, of course, it is also true that these traffic courts are invariably a farce, a charade held to give the (erroneous) impression of fairness, despite the case that the actual facts are never taken into consideration. In insignificant cases such as mine, they are just a moneymaking racket, in which you play your important part.

You may remember that the officer admitted that he could not see from across the street that my seat belt was around my waist. Nowhere in the California Traffic Code does it mandate that the belt be worn over the shoulder, although most of us usually wear it that way because we are told it is safer.

However, in this case, as I told you, I had had an accident, cracking some of my ribs. I proffered the hospital report which you declined to even look at, telling me it was necessary to have a note from my doctor. As if anybody is going to pay for a $100 doctor’s appointment three weeks ahead for such a triviality. Get real.

Frankly, I am sick to death of the petty persecution and harassment of drivers who might be flexible about seat belts or who ease around a corner at 2mph when there is no person or vehicle in sight, and end up having to pay $200 for the ‘offense.’ (There are nine stop signs between my home and Ojai, a mile or so away which means that on the 24-minute round trip to the post office I must stop 18 times. Ample opportunities for an oft-lurking cop. And the fine for a single slide is $196). It seems to me unreasonable that one can never take even the shortest drive without constantly having to look over one’s shoulder for some busy-body cop who has nothing more important to do than make his quota for the day.

I think you should be ashamed of yourself for participating in this hypocrisy and, before you are too old to care, maybe you will make the effort to gain at least a little awareness of what a travesty is the administration of these laws. When you were at law school did you have airy fairy dreams about the even-handed administration of justice? Bad jokes about lawyers should really be about bad judges. (Take the Supreme Court. Please!)

When I told my friends I was going to fight my citation in court, they all laughed at my naivete. And of course they were right. Do you ever wonder why so few people have any respect for the law? It’s because everyone knows from experience what a parody of ‘justice’ is served up by this supposedly impartial court, presided over by political hacks who sit on the bench parroting their master’s voice.

The self-importance of those who sit in judgment is almost beyond belief, the way, for example, they issue peremptory warnings about speaking without their permission. What makes you so much bigger than me or most of the other people who must be servile in your presence? Because politics handed to you the right to bully, a power — which you undoubtedly paid for in one way or another — and which you can use virtually unchallenged to lord it over your victims.

The price of justice is eternal publicity. — Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)

John Wilcock



THOSE RIDICULOUS HORSE-HAIR WIGS worn in certain courtrooms — “a ludicrous, outdated, 18th century practice” — may not be around for much longer. England’s Lord Chief Justice has already eliminated some of them and in October may replace this court costume with something more contemporary. Harry Mount, a former barrister himself, reveals in the Spectator that although High Court judges receive a $30,000 clothing allowance to pay for their $4000 wigs (different ones for different seasons), barristers have to buy their own and yet are strangely attached to the ridiculous things “thinking that these absurd anachronisms confer some kind of superiority and solemnity.” American courts just rely on intimidation.

THE CUTPRICE DECISION by Costco to sell gasoline up to 15c cheaper than regular gas stations has angered the industry which has already pushed through legislation in 11 states to prohibit selling below cost. Costco, whose gasoline sales now bring in $3 billion a year — 5% of its revenues — denies it’s using gasoline as a loss leader, while admitting its profits per gallon are around a single penny. “We’re willing to make less money than everybody else” ingenuously says the company’s vp of financial planning, Bob Nelson.

COWS ON A FARM in Spain have produced up to six liters of milk more per day since loudspeakers were installed to relay to them the music of Mozart. Or claims Nicolas Sieber of the Chirigota farm near Madrid. “It is relaxing music for them at the same time it is dynamic, it keeps the cows active” he explains.

JAPANESE READERS ARE switching to mobile-phone novels in huge numbers, a business that is already worth $82 million a year. Known as keitai, novels are usually downloaded one installment at a time and read mostly by people on the move. Publishers have found that traditional novels aren’t as popular as those written specially for this new medium but that’s not true the other way round: a keitai by Yoshi, the best-known of the new authors, was turned into a conventional novel, True Love, and sold 2.7 million copies. Of course, it did happen to be about teenage prostitution.

“All knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it,” declared Albert Einstein. “Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics — indeed of modern science altogether.”

THE DAY OF the instant book has finally arrived with the installation of the first Espresso Book Machine in the New York Public Library. About 18 more of the $50,000 devices will appear around the country in the next few months, all of them able to print, glue, bind and add a laminated color cover from a data bank of 100,000 books scanned and digitalized by the non-profit Open Content Alliance. Choose any of these public domain titles and at an estimated cost of 1c per page you will have your printed copy within minutes. Reporting this development in Publishing News, Natasha Randall speculates that the machines might pop up all over, even Starbucks where the Espresso (Book) Machine could be installed next to the Espresso (coffee) machine.

SHOPPERS WHO DRIVE to Oklahoma City’s AutoTram will never need to leave their cars as customers make their selections at a touch screen kiosk and within minutes the items will be bagged and placed on a high-speed conveyor belt to be delivered to the exit ramp. Described as the world’s first “conveyance store” will open next month.

ACCIDENT VICTIMS SO OFTEN carry no identification that a California attorney, Tony Capozzola, dreamed up the idea of a laminated ID tag that can be glued to the inside soles of shoes. As many as 900,000 emergency rooms patients a year are unable to provide contact information because of their injuries so Capozzola has been seeking sources of mass distribution for his Sol-ID. One breakthrough was the giveaway by a Houston hospital of 50,000 tags for runners in that city’s marathon.

PREPARING FOR NEXT YEAR, when the city will become the European Capital of Culture, Liverpool’s Tate Art Museum is offering free courses in art history to taxi drivers. “We want you to be able to get into a taxi when an exhibition is on and have your cabbie chat knowledgeably about the show” explains the Tate’s Neil Peterson.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Why bother with an election? Just declare as winner the person who raises the most money…. A Poupon Coupon is a discount chit given to visitors to use in the souvenir shop at Wisconsin’s Mount Horeb Mustard Museum which just happens to be celebrating National Mustard Day next week (first Sunday in Aug)…. The latest thing in showers is promoted by E-Gear magazine: a Kohler hydrotherapy system whose “media module” controls steam, music, internet radio input and overhead lights that “cycle through a spectrum or create an effect such as a sunny day with clouds or sunset”…. The premier issue of Conde Nast’s new business mag Portfolio had a lead piece by Tom Wolfe and defines billionaire asset manager Bruce Sherman as ”the scariest man in media….” For about 12 bucks a night, nostalgic visitors can stay in a drab Communist-era apartment in Berlin, its ancient wallpaper dotted with portraits of long-dead East German leaders…. “Sport doesn’t build character” declared former CBS sportscaster Heywood Hale Broun, “it reveals it….” Keeping its promise of “free ‘taters to out-of-staters,” the Idaho Potato Museum at Blackfoot (which features a potato signed by Dan Quayle) gives departing visitors a box of hash browns…. Research in 32 cities around the world by a psychologist at England’s University of Hertfordshire claims that on average people are walking 10% faster than in the 1990s…. Environmentalists claim that 10,000 people buying their weekly fruit and vegetables from a farmers’ market has an impact equal to removing 17 cars from the road each year…. “The law does not content itself with classifying and punishing crime, it invents crime.” — Norman Douglas (1868-1952)