Monday, January 15, 2007

Echos of A Delaware Story

I've stayed mostly out of the Representative Atkins story, but I can't help noticing that it is starting to spread.

I think it is appropriate that the aspect of this story that has spread most is the backlash against Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after they issued a statement supporting Ocean City Maryland police who apparently released a driver they considered too impaired to continue driving without charges.

I note that they did not let him get back behind the wheel. That's important.

On Saturday, January 13, DelawareLiberal posted the story on DailyKos. He was interested in getting the word out beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. I haven't found any blog postings that credit that DailyKos posting as a source, but I'm seeing the story elsewhere.

The story was also on the Libertarian Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog on Saturday. Reason editor Randy Balko, a FoxNews.Com columnist, wrote MADD at Drunk Drivers, but Not Influential Ones, in which he questions MADD's motives in taking the position they took. In this he is supported by his commenters, who almost unanimously are angry at MADD.

(As I'm working on this, I see that Hube, at Rhodey, has picked up on the Reason post. And so has DelawareLiberal.)

Balko credits a DUI lawyer named Lawrence Taylor as his source. In a post on his DUI Blog on January 12 (OK to Let .14% Driver Go -- If He's Politician), Taylor wrote:
MADD has apparently developed a separate standard for politicians and police in its War on Drunk Driving.
Taylor, it is worth pointing out, spends most of his time on "Bad Drunk Driving Laws, False Evidence and a Fading Constitution." At least, that's the subtitle of his blog.

In a post on January 6, he wrote:
For many years now I've written and lectured extensively on drunk driving litigation --on the science of blood and breath alcohol analysis, the flaws in breathalyzers, the ineffectiveness of field sobriety testing. In recent years, however, my focus has increasingly shifted to the gradual erosion of constitutional rights in DUI cases.
Taylor is not the only DUI lawyer to chime in.

Atlanta attorney George C. Creal Jr. had the story on his DUI Weblog on January 11 in a posting titled "Benefit of Clergy? Ocean City Delaware Cops let drunk Republican Legislator Go!" I note that Mr. Creal has not picked up on the fact that Ocean City is in Maryland, and not Delaware.

Mr. Creal says, of the Ocean City Police Department:
It is waging a public relations campaign to explain to the public that field sobriety evaluations are relative and not pass/fail. This is testimony that you would never hear on the witness stand from a police officer and should provide excellent fodder for able DUI attorneys in the area.
What I don't understand is Mr. Creal's reference to "Benefit of Clergy."

On Sunday, January 14, Chicagoan Mark Draughn picked up the story from the Reason Hit & Run blog and wrote Not So MADD About Some People... on his WindyPundit blog. Here is another blogger, by the way, who missed the "across state lines nature" of the story. (Please, people, we don't want Ocean City. Maryland can keep it.)

It has been fascinating to watch this story unfold. It was Delaware bloggers who stayed on it and forced the traditional media to pay attention. That's good, as I think this is not an issue that should be swept aside. On the other hand, I think some folks have gone too far in using this to hammer Representative Atkins. He has issues to deal with, to be sure, but the more important aspect is the notion that some drivers get breaks that others do not.

Also, as in most stories of this sort, the real questions arise from the participants' reactions to, and efforts to manage, the story.

Meanwhile, Jud Bennett sent an e-mail to his extensive Coastal Conservative e-mail list yesterday asking for a pause in the invective:
The story seems to have taken on a life of its own with no end in sight and has turned into one of the most vicious, malicious, and cruel witch hunts in the history of the State of Delaware.
I'm not sure that this e-mail was intended to serve as a "Jud's Rant." As of this writing (10:25 a.m., 1/15/07), it has not been added in the traditional Jud's Rant spot on First State Politics. It was, however, appropriated by Dan Gaffney and posted on the WGMD blog. I don't know whether this was Jud's intention or not.

I can't fully disagree with Jud, but I think Hube puts it well in his comment this morning on the WGMD blog:
Yes, there has been ridiculous speculation and hyperbole about Atkins; however, the anger amongst the laymen results in knowing that if this was THEM, they’d have been arrested, lost their license, and would now have a record.
Finally, let me point to a MySpace posting (of all places) for one of the most thoughtful reactions
I've seen to this story.

RudeBwoy381 is a 25-year newspaper editor in Georgetown. He says:
The singular focus on Atkins' particular case, however, obscures a larger and more-dangerous problem, in Delaware and, really, all over the place.

DUI is practically a sport in Delaware. Start thinking of people you know who have a DUI on their record.. the list is probably longer than you think.
He suggests that bars be provided with Breathalyzers and that they take the lead on keeping drunks out of their cars. That might help. He goes further, though, and points to a larger problem of our perception of alcohol:
This is what truly bothers me: from the time you are young, it is beat into your head that alcohol is not really a drug. Remember MADD presentations in elementary school? They always talked about "drugs and alcohol." Drugs and alcohol?

Think about what this means. Reasonable, educated people are coming into classrooms and telling your children that alcohol is somehow separate from other drugs. So is it any surprise that kids aren't that concerned about drinking? Look at some of these MySpace surveys that ask when you took your first alcoholic drink. I didn't until I was 18, and I think I held out the longest of anyone whose survey I read, besides possibly my sister, and I'm not even sure about that.
He concludes:
With all of the damage that alcohol does to people, how can it be the least-regulated drug in the world?
RudeBwoy381, please move your writings to a platform less odious than MySpace. I'd like to read you more.

10 comments:

Sanjay said...

Man thats a nice roundup. Tip of the hat to ye!
I do agree that MADD trying to support the cops on how they handled Atkins is jut sad. This is clearly wrong. Can you imagine ordinary folks treated like this?
The Myspace guy makes a great point too.

ColossusHube said...

Well stated, Mike. Thanks for the shout outs, too. :-)

jason said...

vicious, malicious, and cruel witch hunts in the history of the State of Delaware.

He should have said, "in recent memory." Even then he would have been mostly wrong.

This is nt about getting Atkins head on a pike. He was exculpated by the OCPD. To me (and to the outside world it seems) this is about how the police and MADD are quite heavy handed when it comes to someone like me driving after two glasses of wine at dinner - and look the other way when an Atkins does it.

jason said...

Let me just add in the interest of full disclosure; if Atkins's head ends up on a pike I would not be sad about that outcome.

Nancy Willing said...

Very interesting quotes from the 25-year editor about MADD's educational take that differentiates drugs and alcohol.

The only differential is the legality of use/abuse of one or the other.

That sets up the logic for kids: if alcohol use is OK and should they try drugs and decide that there is not much of a difference, then LAW ITSELF become suspect and that loss of credibility is huge.

Donviti said...

GOOD ROUNDUP!

be it known I tried to get a tailgate party today but it was too late. Perhaps the next hearing I will get the word out a little earlier.

Anonymous said...

Benefit of Clergy is an English legal doctrine of the time of Henry VIII where clergymen and lay persons literate enough to read the Bible could avoid prosecution in secular courts. Funny how history has a way of repeating itself. Thanks for the tip that Ocean City is in Maryland. George Creal

Dana Garrett said...

Very well done. You did some great research.

Windypundit said...

Whoops! Thanks for the correction about what state Ocean City is in. It changes the story a bit if Atkins had no direct influence over officer Smith.

Anonymous said...

....and on top of the "offensive touching" charge, let's not forget Atkins is the same moron that introduced House Bill 376 last year to authorize spanking in the Delaware schools. He needs to go.

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