A nasty surprise in Surprise, Arizona

I had really hoped we as a society we had moved on beyond such flagrant racism as that presented in this story. Alas, it appears there are still places where it’s acceptable to discriminate in such a shameful fashion with relative impunity.

Takepart.com brings us this story from the too-aptly-named town of Surprise, Arizona. Jessie Thornton has been the subject of police harassment many times since he has moved into the area. The most recent one is a DUI arrest–all the more surprising because the Breathalyzer reading was a BAC of 0.000%. No, that is not a typo, Jessie blew a perfect zero. Yet the arresting officer refused to believe that Jessie’s red eyes were caused by anything else but alcohol intake, and booked him anyway.

Even after the blood test confirmed the perfect set of goose eggs on the Breathalyzer test, Jessie’s problems weren’t over. His car was impounded, and the Arizona MVD received notification of the DUI charge before it was droppped, triggering a notice to attend an alcohol awareness class.

Jessie has other ideas: he’s not only not taking the class, he is suing the city of Surprise for $500,000. I would like to believe he has a good chance of winning, but I’ve seen the “justice system” fail in weird and outrageous ways before.

This kind of flagrant racism is something I would have expected to come across in a newspaper archive from the 1950s or maybe in a novel or film set in the same time period, or a dystopian work of fiction set in the present time. Certainly, this is not something I expect to read about that’s happening in real life here in 2013. It’s simply inexcusable, especially coming from men and women sworn to uphold the law.

“To hell with nature, I’m having my wedding my way”

It’s not often that I see something that really, really ticks me off. This is one of these things.

The title of this post may well be word-for-word what Sean Parker, the billionaire best known for founding Napster and later becoming the president of Facebook, said at one point when he started planning his wedding in the redwood forest in Big Sur, California. Normally, I don’t link to Cracked.com as my main source, but I think their post title hits it spot on, except for the gratuitous reference to feminine hygiene products: 4 Ways to Hold the Douchiest Wedding of All Time.

The best summary I can give: Mr. Parker shells out some $12 million for the decorations, including the wedding gate, outdoor dance floors, flowers, artificial pond, stone bridge, elevated floors, castle ruins, and last but certainly not least, planting 125 imported trees and flowers. This wouldn’t be such a big problem, were it not for the fact Mr. Parker completely ignored the law and didn’t get any type of permits, completely neglected such things as erosion prevention measures, and built structures into the protected redwood trees.

Somehow, Mr. Parker gets off with a paltry $2.5 million fine. This is what really burns me up, because compared to what Mr. Parker spent on the wedding, and his net worth, $2.5 million is at least an order of magnitude too low. I think $30 million is the bare minimum to make a real statement that this kind of thing cannot and will not be tolerated in a decent society. Ideally, criminal charges should enter the picture as well–a jail sentence, even for only a year, would be an even stronger deterrent to anyone else thinking of trying this. But Mr. Parker got off for less than a tenth of this. Pardon my French, but in effect the California Coastal Commission is saying his “fuck you money” is good, and one can buy the privilege of screwing up nature for the right price.

To put it in perspective, the Napster settlement was for a total of $36 million in 2001 dollars, or about $47.3 million in today’s money according to US Inflation Calculator. Especially with that in mind, how does $2.5 million even begin to make any sense as a reasonable settlement amount?

There were some other quirky and crazy things about the wedding. But let’s be honest, hiring the actual costume designer from Lord of the Rings and requiring all 300 guests to wear them as a condition of admittance kind of pales in comparison. Although it does help show just how inflated Mr. Parker’s sense of self-importance is. Spending money on fancy cars, private jets, or similar financial phallic symbols doesn’t offend me nearly as much as ruining an environmentally sensitive site to have a dream wedding. When I have that kind of money, I may not spend it the same way, but I believe money can’t buy everything.

Money certainly can’t buy the redwood forests again once they are ruined.