Monday, May 28, 2007

A "Lite Brite" moment

On March 31, 2007, the enhanced punishment provisions of "An Act Further Regulating Driver Education and Junior Operator’s Licenses" (signed January 3, 2007) went into effect. (See

"State officials" said, "The new law is meant to create a zero-tolerance environment for speeding or other unsafe driving by teenagers." ("Young drivers face stiffer penalties starting today," Boston Globe, 3/31/07;

On Saturday night, while discussing the absurdity of a law that sends a polite, teen who was only going 7 miles an hour over the limit to "Road Rage" classes; WTTK's Michael Graham referred to it as "a Lite Brite moment".

Meanwhile, last night, Peter "Zebbler" Berdovsky and Sean Stevens were on Fox News Channel's "Geraldo at Large;" still apologetic for the inconvenience the ATHF Mooninites caused in the Boston area. Zebbler urged us to have open discussions about the causes of the fear that led to an L.E.D. cartoon causing roads, waterways and public transportation to be closed. Stevens suggested that we need to consider whether we want more love or more fear.

I have found that often the administration of zero tolerance policies result in actions with zero intelligence. I hope we can add some intelligence to the Junior Operator’s Licence policy and the justice system overall by looking to Restorative Justice principles (as the AG mentioned in her nolle prosequi documents in the Charlestown District Court and at her May 11, 2007 press conference). Restorative Justice and other diversion programs examine the specific needs of offenders like the teen whom Graham was discussing.

It would serve our society better if we were to explore opportunities for expanding justice, tolerance and education. We need to shift the emphasis from fear and punishment toward "a better way" of dealing with danger and harm. (See "Your View: Another way to handle hazing," Robert E. Heskett, New Bedford Standard-Times, May 22, 2007,


BGR said...

I believe that although young drivers are often not obeying the rules, neither do experienced drivers who speed, weave in and out of traffic, tailgait, drive too fast, drive too slow, don't stop at stop signs, drive with a suspended or no license, etc. In my opinion, it is very unfair to subject these tough rules to teens and look the other way when "more experienced drivers" get off with a slap on the wrist. If anyone is caught speeding there needs to be some consequence but it needs to be fairly administered. The teens of today are always being picked on... like a punching bag. I would not say that speeding is ok - it is not. I do want to see the driving laws enforced even-handedly on a case by case basis. What happens to a teen who is driving a few miles over the speed limit - we all do it - but now loses their right to drive and cannot keep their summer job because of an overly strict and unfairly applied law. Some of the best drivers I have seen are teens, and some of the worst are over 70 but with a lot of "experience" so lets be fair. I can just see a police officer pull over a teen driver and say they are going too fast - but not pull over a middle aged driver going at the same speed. With this new law in these two scenarios the penalty would not be applied evenly. The teen would be in much more serious trouble.

MLR said...

The ATHF Mooninite Scare is still coming up in the news.

In the article in the May 31st Boston Globe about the May 30th BankofAmerica fax that caused building evacuations around the area and a huge bomb scare in Ashland, MA, John Drake, Globe reporter, opens and closes with comments about the Cartoon Network case.

Drake opened with "In a scene reminiscent of the Cartoon Network bomb scare that paralyzed the Boston area in January, police shut down a strip mall yesterday in this small western suburb after employees at a Bank of America branch mistook a botched fax for a bomb threat."

Toward the end of the article he wrote, "A reimbursement would add to the similarities to the Cartoon Network scare in January. The guerrilla marketing campaign, in which two artists hung 40 battery-powered light screens around Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, shut down major streets and subways as bomb squads rushed to remove the suspicious-looking devices.

"Turner Broadcasting System, Cartoon Network's parent company, reimbursed local, state, and federal agencies and governments $1 million for the cost of the response and paid an additional $1 million in goodwill cash."

The closing comment in the article was, "I wouldn't have taken it as a bomb threat, personally," said veterinary technician Amy Tatreau. "However, you have to, I guess, treat things seriously these days."

It seems to me that a rocket launch would have been a better graphic than a bomb being lit for the countdown theme of the fax.

This fax being sent despite the "terrornoia" in our society is evidence that the Globe editorial about the ATHF case saying that even a 9 year old would have the common sense to anticipate the response to the Mooninites was in error. But we can't have all our communications ruled by what gets nervous people upset.

I hope that the injured parties and the community can get together in a Restorative Justice process, outside of the court system, that will compensate the community for its emergency response costs and the local businesses for their lost revenues while at the same time addressing the needs of the broader community to be in right relationship with each other.