Warning: rant ahead, do not read if easily offended
Posted by Bodie the Dog on December 23, 2002 at 12:18:27:
In Reply to: Re: advocating criminal behavior ? yeah right posted by frombadtraverse on December 23, 2002 at 01:59:52:
Thanks for taking my smartass comment with a sense of humor. Nice to be able to chat without raising hackles. I almost sent this to your email address, but in the spirit of the campfire talk, I'm posting this for all to see.
I've got a pretty negative history with law enforcement and the United States' legal/judicial system in general. No, I've never been in the system, never been arrested, haven't had a traffic ticket in about 10 years, and I'm a relatively clean-cut, nice guy. I'm wise enough to not display a bad attitude when around cops. My best friend in high school went on to become a cop. My father-in-law is a retired FBI special agent. I work closely with a woman who quit the police department due to the harassment she received there. I work with police on a weekly basis. I keep my eyes open to the world around me.
I've found that there are too many laws, resulting in criminalizing of large segments of society and selective enforcement. Do cops pull someone over everytime they see the law broken? Heck no! The "no front license plate" law in particular is used selectively to further question those who fit "the profile." Ask a cop how many times the average person breaks the law while driving a mile. So why aren't we pulled over every time? It's not the cop's role to judge, only to enforce, yet fifty times a day the average cop judges the lack of a turn signal to be ok, and not worth enforcing. Are there maybe too many laws, or do we just need more cops?
How often are laws repealed? Very, very rarely. Forming a class-action or otherwise fighting the system sounds good on paper (or in cyberspace), but does the *average* citizen really have the time and resources available to do so? Ever hear the expression, "you can't fight city hall?" That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, but most of us really canít afford to spend time in jail for protesting or canít afford to fund those who will protest for us. It's not uncommon for a state-level fundraiser to cost $1000 a plate; does that really allow Joe Citizen to rub elbows with his state representative?
So many of these laws are written by lawyers and insurance companies, whose ultimate motivation is money, not public safety. There's a reason the California Correctional Officers union is by-far the wealthiest union in this state, spending the most money on lobbyists and the political campaigns of those who support them.
Yes, the new laws usually make sense (like the helmet laws) but ultimately they're legislating common sense. When laws are substituted for one's personal responsibility and decision making ability, people tend to rely upon them exclusively, without thinking about issues of morality and law themselves. Have you seen the recent controversy regarding graphic computer games (and one called "Grand Theft Auto", in particular)? Instead of passing laws to ban the manufacture and sale of these games, how about asking parents to monitor what their kids are doing? How about asking parents to be responsible for what their kids play with? No, it's much easier to pass a law (and a cynic would say that the lawyers get rich off of the process of creating a new law).
There are too many laws in this nation. We are not the "land of the free." Were you aware that last year we finally passed Russia in terms of having the highest per-capita rate of prisoners of any (reporting) country in the world? Per the Department of Justice's own statistics, something like 1 in 110 Americans are currently in jail or prison. Closer to 1 in 30 has been in the system in some way (jail, prison, probation, parole, at-home detention) within the last year. These are the DOJ's statistics; you should see what more liberal groups like Amnesty International and Prison Watch have to say on this issue.
And where's the accountability? I know that police have a long tradition of graft, a tradition I would have supported 30 years ago. "Why not take money off of that scumbag gang banger? You're risking your life for the public, so you're entitled to steal from the thieves," goes the justification. When one reads about Abner Louima in New York, the Rampart Division in LA, and numerous other cases, one can't help but be afraid of the police. Maybe those are extreme cases, but how can the average citizen judge whether or not he's dealing with an honest cop? And the penalties for those cops whom are caught are usually minor. "Aw, he's a pillar of the community, doing a dangerous job, so please grant him leniency." You certainly can't put a crooked cop in the general prison population, say the lawyers, because it's too dangerous. I think cops, due to the power they have over us, should be held more accountable when they break the law, not less. Were you aware that LA County plans on spending its entire tobacco settlement on lawyer fees due to fallout from the Rampart scandal? What a huge waste of money.
But keep passing laws and keep locking them up. The ends justifys the means. And I can't wait until we have cameras on every street corner, with a computer behind them sending you tickets in the mail (oops, you used your turn signal, but not 100' ahead of time, as specified by law).
This has turned into quite a rant, sorry. But obviously it bugs me when people say (usually in a self-righteous, indignant tone), "but I never break the law!" We all do, many times a day, and whether or not we mean to, ignorance is not innocence.