Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Slow Death of Law in Valkenvania

Starting July 1, Virginia will have “traffic tickets that come with assessments of up to $3000 in addition to an annual point tax that tops out at $700 a year for as long as the points remain.”

Driving as little as 15 MPH over the limit on an interstate highway now brings six license demerit points, a fine of up to $2500, up to one year in jail, and a new mandatory $1050 tax…Although the amount of the tax can add up quickly, the law forbids judges from reducing or suspending it in any way.

Can you imagine getting a $3000 fine for a traffic violation? That would be painful for me, and my income is pretty decent. For a poor person, this would be a devastating financial setback. It’s pretty clear this is all about raising revenue and has nothing to do with safety.

It also has nothing to do with justice. Everybody breaks traffic laws all the time, and the cops and the prosecutors have broad discretion over who to charge. If every cop can essentially impose a $3000 fine on any driver who pisses them off, it’s just one more nail in the coffin of rule of law.

Read the whole ugly story.

The Coolest Group at the Gay Pride Parade

These women on motorcycles were the coolest part of the show at the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. They’d stop and hang back for a while to open up some room in front of them, then they’d punch it and come surging forward, engines growling obnoxiously as they roared past the crowd.

It was really cool.

Hmm. Did I call them “women on motorcycles”? That’s kind of an unwieldy phrase, isn’t it?

I sure hope they thought up something catchy to call themselves…

in Gay

Gay Pride 2007: A Few More Pictures From the Party

Pride Banner
Larger ImagePride Banner

Here are a few more pictures from the big party in the street.

Notice the woman in black? She was in front of me on the sidelines and I got a piece of her in many of my photos. My whole collection of photos is pretty much a documentary of her visit to the Pride Parade, so I might as well throw in a clear shot of her.

Also, despite the number of times the Midas sign appears in these photos, they didn’t have a float at the parade. What would make this collection perfect is a photo of the woman in black with the Midas sign behind her…hmm, that’s probably her head at the bottom of the next one…

in Gay

The Most Disturbing Sight at the Gay Pride Parade

Police Superintendent Phil Cline
Larger ImagePolice Superintendent Phil Cline

The guy sitting in back on the driver’s side and wearing a white shirt is Police Superintendent Phil Cline, who’s retiring soon—probably a little sooner than he planned, due to the Abbate mess. Given the long history of police harrassment of gays, transvestites and, well, almost every other group represented at the parade, it is kind of nice to see police brass showing some respect.

But check out that cool car he’s riding in. Many of the nice new cars in the parade are provided by car dealers doing a favor for a local politician, but those aren’t dealer plates. Where do you suppose Superintendent Cline got a classic old muscle car like that?

According to the sign on the back, he stole it.

Seized Car
Larger ImageSeized Car

Well, the department seized it from a drug dealer, and maybe you can’t get too worked up about some gangster losing his sweet ride. The truth is, neither can I. Part of the reason I oppose the War On Drugs is because I don’t want recreational drugs to be distributed by hardened criminals.

That said, it’s important to remember two things: First, catching real drug dealers is hard work, so to accomodate lazy police forces, the law defines drug dealer much more broadly than many people realize. If you hand a friend a joint or a pill at a party, you are dealing drugs, and if you simply have more than some legally defined “personal use” quantity of drugs, the law defines you to be a dealer.

Second, the forfeiture laws allow police departments to seize vehicles and other property without actually convicting anyone of a crime. Through some bizarrely twisted legal logic, the police can take your stuff merely by accusing you of a crime, and then they can make you prove your innocence in court before they’ll give it back.

So while I don’t know this car’s history, it’s entirely possible that this car was taken from someone who was never caught dealing drugs and was never convicted even of possessing drugs.

So be proud of who and what you are, unless drugs are involved.

A Stressful View of the World

Former sex crime prosecutor Sarena Straus posts a moving account of some of the unpleasant psychological aftereffects of years of seeing the world through the eyes of its child victims.

I start to get the shakes. My eyes well up with tears. I want to tell my parents not to take the kids – there are too many kids and too few of them, it’s crowded at Coney Island. I suppress this urge to a degree. I know I’m damaged, that all those years of prosecuting child abusers has made my tolerance for taking children to normal, fun places, like beaches and playgrounds, very low.

Read the whole thing.