June 30th, 2006

coyote Phil

Sentences vs. fines

I was looking thru the Fairfax County health code, to see what I can threaten my landlord with, and I found at the end of the section on health code violations, it said that violation could be punished by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

I've noticed this pattern consistently: For every crime, there is usually a "sentence and/or fine" penalty, with the sentence being much, much, MUCH more severe than the fine. For instance, on NPR I recently heard that some company executive convincted of some crime faced "up to 5 years in prison, or a fine of up to $2,000", IIRC. This isn't just a pattern; it's a rule. You ALWAYS find that the sentence is much, much higher than the fine.

This might make sense if the rule were that the person must pay the fine, and if unable to pay the fine, serve the sentence. An evil sense, that said that poor people should be punished much more severely than rich people, but still some kind of sense. But that isn't how it works. It's at the judge's discretion.

So why is this?
coyote Phil

Flag-burning

I've read some blogs recently arguing that Congress is wasting its time arguing about flag-burning.

Isn't that argument self-contradictory?
coyote Phil

Where's the left-wing hate?

On NPR, I heard an interview with the mother of one of the Marines charged with murdering an Iraqi and then trying to make it look like he'd been an insurgent.

She said that every time she leaves the house, when she comes back, her answering machine is filled up with a half hour of phone calls from strangers, and that every one is supportive. Not one person has called to say anything bad about her son.

Now, I don't think any good purpose would be served by leaving nasty messages on the phone of someone who's going through something so horrible. But it struck me as odd. The bar on what you have to do to get hate mail or phone calls in the US isn't very high. Be gay. Be a politician. Make a controversial call at a Little League game. Be elected leader of the Episcopalian church and be female. Apparently, dragging a random Iraqi out of his house and shooting him dead is much more acceptable to Americans than any of these things. Or at least to the Americans who make hate phone calls.