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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Stupidity reigns
Dumbfounded by motorcycle mayhem and tax breaks.

It didn't take long. Three months after Pennsylvania lawmakers repealed the state helmet law last September, the number of people who reportedly died riding a motorcycle without a helmet increased, according to figures from the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

But don't look for the Legislature to rescind its repeal any time soon, even though the new helmet law requires a study on highway fatalities within a year.

"There's a problem with it," said Philip Durgin, executive director of the legislative, budget and finance committee for the Legislature, which is charged with doing the study.

That's because the new law requires two years worth of data, something that won't be available from PennDOT until June 2006, Durgin said. "Feel free to call back in a year or two. ... I'd be surprised that it changes anything, but we'll do it anyway."

In the mean time, no one - not even PennDOT - is keeping a running tally on the number of bikers whose brains got bashed on the blacktop.

In 2002, there were 104 fatalities involving a motorcycle in Pennsylvania and 29 of the riders were not wearing helmets, six were not wearing helmets properly and nine are listed as "unknown," said PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar. 

In 2003, there were 171 motorcyclist fatalities, 38 of whom were not wearing helmets, five were wearing them improperly and eight unknowns, Chizmar said.

Despite the rise in deaths, ABATE of Pennsylvania, one of the state's leading motorcycle enthusiast groups which lobbied for the repeal, has started a letter-writing campaign on its Web site to block the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) from lobbying the Legislature to rescind its repeal.

The group suggests members write their Congressmen to say, "In 1995 Congress prohibited federal involvement as it relates to helmet legislation. Congress stated that the authority to legislate a motorcyclist's right to not wear a helmet was a state issue under the Tenth Amendment. In addition, Congress refused to punish states that did not have helmet laws through block grants, citing the Tenth Amendment.

"Despite this federal mandate from Congress that helmet laws are a state issue, NHTSA lobbied state legislatures to enact helmet legislation, spending over $100,000 on a pro-helmet law video.

"I believe that NHTSA's effort ran contrary to congressional direction through the federal helmet repeal and flew in the face of the United States Constitution. ...."


Former Gov. Tom Ridge's Tax-Free PC week may have died on the vine, but the idea hasn't.

State Rep. Mike McGeehan, D-173 (Philadelphia), announced last week that he wants to resurrect it by giving residents a 6 percent break on state taxes for back-to-school supplies.

But there's a few catches in McGeehan's bill.

  • Computers aren't among the items Pennsylvanians would get a break on, but computer CDs are.

  • Each of the items purchased must cost less than $100.

  • VCRs and DVD players are listed among the tax-exempt items.

Those are school supplies?

Let me get this straight, mom and dad can save money providing Johnny with the means to blow off his homework, but not on a tool to help him do it?

I'm so glad were sending our best and brightest to Harrisburg these days.


Stupidity knows no bounds, not even state boundaries.

Check out this little ditty from the Associated Press in New Jersey: "Following a closed-door meeting with industry representatives, state regulators on Wednesday decided not to vote on a proposed rule change that would have required cable television companies to record and report customer complaints."

"... The proposed change in the definition of a complaint would include problems handled by customer service representatives in a customer's initial call, rather than counting only problems that have to be addressed by a supervisor."

It's so nice to know that the industry being regulated gets to help set policy behind closed doors. You'd never see the federal government do that with, say, it's energy policy.

Ooops, my bad.


I'm not immune to the dumb bug, either.

Reader Jeffrey Strashun took me to task for last week's column, in which I wrote that Charles Kushner, the confident of embattled New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, was also the governor's high school classmate.

It was a throwaway line to be sure and the mistake was made by an AP reporter who misused a semi-colon in his writing. I simply passed it along and then corrected the error as soon as I got the e-mail from Strashun, who was the editor of the Jewish day school he and Kushner attended.

By the way, Kushner pleaded guilty in federal court last week for using a hooker to set up his brother-in-law so he wouldn't testify against Gary Taffet, McGreevey's former top aide, in an inside-trading scandal. It was David D'Amiano, another McGreevey friend facing federal charges for trying to extort money and political contributions from a Piscataway farmer, who went to high school with the governor.

I apologize for the error.

Dave Ralis is losing his war on stupidity. His dumb Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail of encouragement at or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

Aug. 23, 2004