Blogger slams columnist on speed cameras
One of Washington's fiercest (and best) bloggers has ripped a Washington Post writer over a column that all but condoned arson when directed against speed cameras.
David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington does a pithy job of taking apart the Post's Petula Dvorak for her obsession with the sheer injustice of being caught breaking the law by one of those "horrid contraptions" in a column today. Instead, Alpert refocuses the debate where it belongs: the threat to human lives from speeding drivers.
Dvorak dwells on the persistent canard that the speed cameras are only put up for the purposes of extracting a "speed tax" from innocent motorist victims. Her column comes about as close to applauding the commission of crimes -- vandalism, arson, malicious destruction of property -- as anything I've ever seen in a respected daily newspaper.
At first I thought Alpert had crossed over a line by calling Dvorak someone "who clearly likes to speed herself." But a second look at her column shows a passing reference to the church benefits "where I'm always going when I get one."
So maybe Alpert wasn't being unfair after all. Dvorak didn't exactly come out and offer her readers full disclosure of how many times she has been caught speeding by the cameras. That's something readers really have a right to know so they can judge the degree to which she has a conflict of interest. They should know whether her obvious passion arises from a concern for justice or simple petulance over getting caught.
Then that becomes a question for the newspaper itself. If you're an editor and your columnist has collected a bunch of camera-generated tickets, do you then let that person use that platform to advocate for a position in which she clearly has a vested interest? Especially when she pushed it to the point of asking people to report camera sites for the purpose of publicizing them?
I can only tell readers that if I ever use the platform of the column or the blog to denounce a law enforcement practice, I will fully disclose whether I have ever been accused as a result of that practice. If I ever come to the defense of U-turns in defiance of clear signs, you'll know about the ticket I received for that violation in 1997. (I was acquitted but only because the officer was late for court.) Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe readers have a right to know.
By the way, I'm not sure a "speed tax" is such a bad idea. Speeders are by definition bad drivers and bad drivers impose more costs on the public than responsible ones. Why shouldn't they pay an additional "tax."
Can you name the Maryland governor who proposed just such a system to raise revenue?