Harriet Is Dead: When parking in the snow is outlawed, only outlaws will park in the snow.

Guys, Harriet has died.  This is very sad news.  She didn’t go out doing what she loved. She didn’t go down fighting.  She quietly rolled away in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

I loved that Ford E250 cargo van.  Yes, she was white.  Yes, she had a sliding door.  Yes, she was what people around the neighborhood horrificly referred to as a “molester van” or a “creeper van.”

Harriet in Wisconsin
Harriet in Wisconsin

I still loved that van.

It was a sadly short relationship for Harriet and I- we only came together in June.  Even so, we had some great times together.  In July we spent a week hauling The Boss, and Bacon the Vizla around Lake Michgan (seen above).  Harriet helped me moved bikes and canoes and all sorts of fun stuff.

Harriet hauling toys.
Harriet hauling toys.

I’ll never forget that van.

Sadly, though, we grew apart.  By late September I had the opportunity to make an even better buy on a truck that probably would run for more than another six months without leaking oil (and all sorts of other fluids) everywhere we went.  So, Harriet was parked.

I had intended to either sell Harriet for cheap to some young person who, hopefully, was getting into the trades or was starting some sort of business who could use cheap wheels.  If I couldn’t do that, I was going to donate her to charity.  I tried to list her before Christmas, but couldn’t find her title.

On the 26th, while sifting through my things getting ready to take a little trip, I happened upon the title.  As soon as we came back, I listed her.  Sadly, it was over between us.

Then it got weird.  Before I received much action on the ad, the cold and snow came.  Lots of cold. And lots of snow.  With a dead battery, I couldn’t fire her up to move her to safety before the plows rendered her immobile.

“No problem,” I figured, “snow melts… I’ll sell her when I can move her.”

Snowed in!
Snowed in!

Shortly after stepping out one night, I got a frantic text from The Boss- the cops had come to the house complaining about Harriet.  The Boss told me that she thought it was a cop and she thought he was talking about the van but she couldn’t be positive because, well, she didn’t open the door far enough to look out (or, even better, for him to look in… THAT’S MY GIRL!).

What, exactly?
What, exactly?

When I got back, I saw this little notice.  Even though the officer marked the completely wrong time on there (he was there in the pm) and even though he didn’t let me know if it was days or hours,  and even though the van was absolutely not abandoned, I think I understood what he wanted.  He wanted Harriet gone. Quickly.

So, I obliged.  I called the closest towing company I could find, offered to sign the truck over to them if they could get there within the hour.  Then I hung up and wept- even though it was over between Harriet and I, it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

An hour later, Harriet was gone.

I’m not intending to relay this touching, heart wrenching, somber tale to ruin your day or make you sad.  I’m sorry if you’re as broken up reading this as I am writing it.  I know how bad it hurts.

I’m also not intending to have this come off as some sort of complaint about the police or how silly the laws are when there’s snow.

I am intending to highlight, however, that there’s one law none of us control and all of us are subject to: the law of unintended consequences.

I’m sure that when the founding fathers of this little village so bravely signed their names to the aggressive parking ordinance which caused the departure of Harriet, they figured they would just be keeping the roads clear and safe for the children.  I doubt they had any idea that a car would never get donated to a charity devoted to, say, fighting juvenile diabetes or breast cancer.  I’m sure they had no idea that they might be hampering the ability of a young man to get his new business off the ground with a cheap van.

And so it is with every law passed.

Laws passed to keep drug dealers away from schools actually increase crime near those same schools.  Being tough on DUI gives drunk people more incentive to speed home than to pull over and sleep it off in a parking lot.  All the traffic laws that have been increased to misdemeanors for illegal immigrants have cost millions in taxpayer dollars by giving those illegal immigrants the right to free (to them, not the taxpayer) attorneys.  There is no end to it, no matter what the law seeks to punish.

And so, Harriet is gone. Not to a charity. Not to a startup business.  To capitalist vultures who roam the streets at night looking to prey on scofflaws like myself.  Nobody is immune from the law of unintended consequences. Not even Harriet.

Godspeed, Harriet.

Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan
Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan

That thing where cops increase drug dealing in your neighborhood to look like heroes.

Doesn’t happen, right?  The fuzz is there to serve-and-protect.  They’d never do anything to bring otherwise disinterested drug dealers into your neighborhood.  That seems silly.

Unless you live in Sunrise, Florida, anyway.  There, they think it’s a great idea.  According to the Sun Sentinel:

A money-making venture to lure out-of-town drug buyers into Sunrise to purchase cocaine from police has been halted as a result of a Sun Sentinel investigation.

* * *

The newspaper revealed that police enticed buyers with bargain prices and offers of coke on consignment.

You can see the city officials engage in some grade-A law enforcement boot-licking, and media bashing in this quick clip:

I find this amusing on two fronts. First, the cops aren’t trying to address any potential problems that may already exist in Sunrise, Fla.  They’re trying to create a problem. Second, their motivation is money.  They’re chasing Benjamins. You can learn more about chasing Benjamins in this quick clip:

How do they make money? Fairly easily, actually.  They arrest the drug dealers they’ve lured into town.  Then they “take all their stuff.”  If you didn’t already know, “take all their stuff” is lawyerspeak for what law enforcement calls “seizing” and “forfeiting” stuff (of course, if you did it to them, they’d call it “theft” or “stealing”).  So, after they’ve lured Johnny Drug Dealer into town, they arrest him, take all of the cash he brought with him, and also take his car (and possibly everything in it).

The Sun Sentinel published the results of a six-month investigation Oct. 6 and 7 exposing how the police department’s narcotics unit has made millions of dollars in recent years — not by capturing local drug dealers but by drawing high-dollar cocaine buyers into Sunrise from far away and then seizing their cash and cars.

Pretty awesome business plan, no?  You’ve already got the cops on the payroll, so there’s no additional overhead. Just sit back and watch the free money roll in.  Except, you don’t:

 The city also paid one lady informant — a charming, shapely brunette — more than $800,000 since 2008. She was credited by police with helping Sunrise set up 63 stings and reel in at least $5 million in cash and assets seized from criminals, according to a court record.

The newspaper also reported that a dozen undercover officers regularly working the stings made a total of $1.2 million in overtime over three-and-a-half years.

The hidden costs always get you, don’t they?

Thankfully, I’m not the only one that thinks intentionally luring gun-wielding drug dealers into neighborhoods with kids is a bad idea:

“It bothers me that they don’t see a problem with it,” Sunrise resident Roseanne Eckert told the Sun Sentinel Friday.

The mother of a teenage boy, Eckert wrote to the mayor earlier in the week, expressing concern about the safety of her son and his friends riding bikes near Sawgrass Mills, the sprawling outlet mall where undercover police and informants posing as cocaine dealers have staged stings.

“I now have to worry that your … police will be out guns blazing because of criminals they brought to our city?” she asked the mayor.

Nevertheless, the city officials support the program.  Sadly, they’ve been forced to shut it down because of the media attention.  The damn media always screws up every good law enforcement program.

Somewhat lost in the article is the scariest thing of all.  That’s the idea that even local policing isn’t about policing anymore.  In your state, in your city and in your neighborhood, there very will is a police department putting together a policy that looks more like a business plan than guidelines for being decent cops.  That may not bother you now, but it will once it makes good business sense to ignore your rights and arrest you.

PSA: How to Protect Your Autistic Kid From Predators

The predators are everywhere. Especially the child predators.  They’re peeking in your back window. They’re hiding in your attic.  They are running the internet.  Just ask the FBI.  They’ll tell you.  Scary stuff.

I can’t imagine what’s got to be like for parents raising autistic kids, either. Or a kid who is bi-polar, has Tourettes or has any anxiety disorder.  What about a kid with all of those?

The predators have to be twice as scary.  Thankfully, Hillary Clinton taught us all how to minimize the exposure.  It takes a village to raise a child.  The Village will keep an eye on your kid.  They Village will help keep him safe.  Just lean on the Village.

The modern day “village” is the friendly folks in the neighborhood, the public schools and the fantastic local cops.  There has never been more police or school supervision than now.  They are keeping an extra eye on these kids.  They keep the predators at bay-  it would be a shame if the kids were left to fend for themselves against the predators.

That’s why I’m completely shocked by this story that ran on Reason.com.  It seems that at least one cop or one school didn’t get the memo:

Riverside Cop Tricks Autistic Teen into Buying Pot

21 Jump Street in Real Life

“We felt like our family was totally violated by the sheriff’s department and the school district,” says Doug and Catherine Snodgrass of Temecula, California. Last December their 17-year-old autistic high school son was arrested after twice buying marijuana for an undercover Riverside county police officer.

The undercover operation, titled “Operation Glass House,” spanned a few months and included undercover officers in three area high schools: Chaparral, Temecula Valley, and Rancho Vista Continuation. The officers posed as regular high school students and would ask other students for drugs. Twenty-two students were arrested – the majority of them are reported to be special needs students like the Snodgrass’ son.

Their son, who wished to remain unnamed, is noticeably handicapped and has been diagnosed with autism as well as bipolar disorder, Tourettes, and several anxiety disorders.

If you’ve been following along here, you know I have an extra level of rage reserved for the mistreatment of the frail (like the man with Downs Syndrome they killed at a movie theater, the grumpy old man in Chicago they tazered to death, or the guy on the roof who’s head they bounced off the stairs on video).  Even so, I get that some of these special people make things difficult for the police. I understand that a man with Down’s Syndrome crying for his mom and refusing to leave a movie theater is a delicate situation.

I also get that modern police training and procedure really don’t train the police for these situations. Often, police “policy” should get chucked out the damn window in favor of acting like a normal human.  That whole common sense thing, you know?  Cops aren’t allowed to have that. They have policy.

Common sense says that you shouldn’t befriend a special needs kid with no friends if you’re a cop and you’re trying to get him to buy pot.  My common sense does, anyway.  Not the common sense they teach at the academy, I guess:

The ordeal began on the first day of school last fall. The family had just moved to a new neighborhood and their son began his senior year at a new school, Chaparral High, in the Temecula Valley Unified School District. Their son rarely socialized, so his mom was thrilled when he announced that he had made a new friend in art class on the first day of school.

“We were so excited. I told him he should ask his friend to come over for pizza and play video games,” says Catherine Snodgrass, “but his new friend always had an excuse.”

His new friend, who went under the name of Daniel Briggs, was known as “Deputy Dan” to many students because it was so apparent to them that he was an undercover officer. However, to their son, whose disabilities make it hard for him to gauge social cues, Dan was his only real friend.

At least the operation was a success and dangerous drugs were taken off the street.  It would have sucked if they played on this kid’s disability and didn’t even make our world a safer place:

The Snodgrass’ son finally agreed to buy Dan the pot. Dan give him twenty dollars and it took him three weeks to buy a half joint of pot off a homeless man downtown. This happened twice. When Dan asked a third time, their son refused and Dan cut off all communication.

“Our son was pretty broken up about that and he was back to having zero friends,” says Doug Snodgrass.

So successful, in fact that they made an example out of this kid.

On December 11, 2012 armed police officers walked into their son’s classroom and arrested him in front of his peers. He was taken to the juvenile detention center, along with the 21 other arrestees, where he was kept for 48 hours. First hand reports claim that the juvenile center was caught off guard by the large number of arrests and that some youths had to sleep on the floor, using toilet paper as pillows.

Their son was also expelled from high school.

So, how do you keep your autistic son safe from the predators? Sounds to me like you keep him out of school and away from the cops.  I guess Hillary got it backwards.  It takes protection from the village to raise a child, because the cops are no less predators than anybody else.

Watch the video here: