Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Electricity!!! Politicians Have to Act Pronto!

File:General Motors EV1 charging.jpg

Courtesy: Wikimedia 

People around the world vary in defining theft and can't always agree on what consitutes stealing. But this incident is a small example of an enormous weakness in American justice and the legal system today.

NBC News has a video about how an otherwise innocent father in Georgia plugged his electric car into an outlet at a middle school Saturday morning. He left it plugged in while watching his son play tennis. A policeman then took it on himself to arrest him at the will of a school official. The amount of electricity "stolen" was supposedly all of five cents, and policeman detained the father in jail for a day.

I think before anyone is hauled off to jail, politicians had better make laws. And make it snappy. It's surprising ordinary local policemen have the power to arrest with impunity before laws have been made to address this, and just officially and arrogantly call it "a theft." But it's unlikely politicians in D.C. will act as fast as this policeman to make laws given the glacial pace of American politics.

Oh, and have a look at the school official who did it. Is it just a coincidence the complaint was about a Muslim, Kaveh Kamooneh? I don't think so: it was clearly a racist attack. Kamooneh said in the video there was no one available to ask for permission to plug in when he looked around.

Some will say it's a matter of precedence or principle, but I don't agree that if a person takes electricity to power a car for free, then it should be a theft for everyone by law and a crime punishable by spending time in jail as this man did (I believe he spent a day).

The punishment has to fit the crime. It's a breakdown in civility, a travesty of civil law and justice for a policeman to have the power to do this anywhere in the world, and it happened in the United States. 

If America were more like Iceland politicians would take pre-emptive action, and not just allow people to be hauled away to jail as if confining dangerous feral animals into a pen. In Iceland, politicians would act on it. But in America, jail. Jail is far too heavy-handed and unfair and a symptom of a breakdown of civil society. If (and only if) politicians decide a fine is appropriate and the law is well-publicized, then I can see how it can be enforced nationally. But to detain an innocent was a clear violation of Mr. Kamooneh's civil liberties and should be an embarrassment to the school official, the local police force, the American legal system, the Supreme Court, and the political system. (I might as well drag all in so they can share the responsibility).

I think this school official is officious and misguided to have called the police to make an arrest "just because he could." I don't think this school official deserves to continue to hold a position of power.

But the police also acted on the school official's request without any consequence (except for this international exposure).

Pity visitors to the country. I hope they don't even think of powering an electric car without checking first.

Sad and it makes me upset and angry. Why can't anyone do anything about it?

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