On the way home from work yesterday, a Louisiana State Trooper pulled alongside the passenger's side of my little red 92 Ford Festiva. She was on a motorcycle and I was in the far right lane, so the only thing between me and the curb was her. Normally we don't have state troopers roaming around New Orleans or Metairie, the suburban area where I work and where this particular trooper was cruising with her partner on motorcycles. There was a parade that night in Metairie and another one in the city, for it is Mardi Gras, yesterday having been the second to last day of the season.

My friend and co-worker Sandi was driving because this car she bought used was turning out to be a real lemon and because it wouldn't stay running after all the repairs she'd done to it, she was currently out of a car. I'd been picking her up and bringing her to work with me, but yesterday we decided that she would drop me off and pick me up on the way to work Wednesday. You see, today is Mardi Gras and most people in the city have the day off. Sandi lives in a different suburb so by picking her up, I'm going further out of my way. This last Monday, Carson, who is living with me until he gets his own place and who parks his car right out front of our apartment building like I do, got his rear door window broken out by someone who wanted the portable CD player in the backseat (which doesn't even work). Things like this happen during Mardi Gras, but my neighborhood is so sketchy that the meter maids and cops stay away from it. In fact, during the entire week of parades, the only time Carson and I received parking tickets was when we parked in a different, nicer neighborhood. Before that, I had never gotten a parking ticket in my life. So the reason Sandi was going to pick me up with my car tomorrow morning was so that Carson could follow us to our body shop, leave his car with me so I could get his window replaced and he could take my car to work with him for the day.

"Who's the owner of this car?"
I am.
"Ma'am, do you realize that it's illegal to have curse words on your vehicle?"
No, I wasn't.
"What if a child were to read that?
How would that make you feel?"

On the back of my Festiva there are 6 stickers purchased from unamerican.com, only one of which has a curse word on it, the one that says FUCK YEAH, I'M WEIRD. After the lady state trooper suggested that I remove this sticker and sped on ahead of us, I felt like I had just gotten out of the principal's office. Sandi said a similar thing happened to her friend Blaise because he had a Fuckin' Gonuts bumper sticker on his car. He didn't get a ticket, but he did get pulled over and hassled.

I don't speed. I can't really speed in a Festiva, but for being such a dinky car, it is zippy, and most people around here either fly 20 miles over or creep 10 miles under the speed limit. I have driven drunk before, but rarely and when I did so, it was through the Quarter, where no one really gets pulled over because the cops patrolling that area have either better things to do or would rather do nothing than pull you over unless you hit something. I haven't received a moving violation in my life. Swerving is not a proper indicator of drunkeness because the streets are so riddled with potholes that zig-zagging is a prerequisite. My car is legal in every way. I wear my seatbelt. All my lights work. I have a valid brake tag, registration and insurance, and I know many drivers here have none of the above.

Sandi told me that if a cop actually did give me a ticket for my sticker and I contested it, they would likely drop the charges, since it seems there is no firm law on the subject. Here in New Orleans, we are still subject to the Napoleanic Code, which loosely means that the cops can make up pretty much any law they want and the judicial system is so corrupt that you wouldn't have a fair trial if you begged for it (if you paid for it, maybe). She also told me that if someone is breaking into your home in Louisiana, it's legal for you to shoot them (certain circumstances notwithstanding, of course) and that your car is viewed as an extension of your home, so if someone is stealing your car, same goes. As because of this, they cannot censor your car's right to free expression. At least, that what I'd like to believe.

During Mardi Gras, state troopers abound. More often than not, they have nothing to do; it's called command presence. Still, I was shaken up by the whole thing, contemplating if I should remove the sticker. I'd had these stickers on my car since this last summer, and I've never been hassled before. I'd been told that I was cool once, though. If I did end up taking action with the sticker, the most I would do would be to put an "*" over the U, and even that would go against my beliefs on the subject. I remembered earlier last week when I was picking a friend up from uptown and we were trying to get around a street that was blocked off for that night's parades. In front of us was a truck with huge posters on it of blown up pictures of fetuses that were aborted at what looked like full term or close to that. I doubt a state trooper would have said much to that driver, nor to any of the religious fanatics in the Quarter this weekend that hold up signs that present lists of those who will burn in hell, that wheel around small scale crosses like the one Jesus was crucified on, or the people pushing pamphlets into my hand as I walk around, showing friends who came from out of town what Mardi Gras is like.

One time, Sandi was pulled over at midnight in her neighborhood because one of her license plate lights was out. While having her on the side of the road, the cop struck up a conversation about her Marilyn Manson and Betty Page stickers. All she could think was, you know, I know places where real crimes are being committed right now, if you need something to do. But of course she couldn't say that. God forbid. I find the whole deal amusing, since no one was around to prevent Carson's car from being broken into (to be sure the only reason it was broken into was that is was assumed from his Mississippi plates that he did not live on the block, as many out of town visitors found when they tried to park on our block; the theives assume the cars will not be back after Mardi Gras, and usually they're right). But after the same thing happened to a guest at a hotel down the street, the cops came in droves to investigate.

I'll be glad when midnight comes tonight, when they kick everyone off the streets of the Quarter to clean up the filth and stench brought on by nearly 2 weeks of solid partying. I wish I could stand there with a sign that says, Goodbye. Get out of my city. Get OUT. But I'd just assume not get into another tangle with the state troopers this week, thank you very much. Some battles are so moronic they're not even worth fighting.

Property rights can be generally defined as the set of actions which an individual may perform upon an object which will not lead to reprisals from the powers that be. This is usually the government, but if an area has no government, it means the stuff the person can do to the land, buildings, and stuff without the bulk of those around him trying to stop him.

Well, even that is a bit of a light definition. Part of the problem is due to the fuzzy nature of the word right in the first place. There is some disagreement what are natural rights, artificial rights, and even whether or not there is such a thing as a natural right in the first place. Some say might makes right, in which case, if you got the guns to do what you want, those are the rights you have. If you don't, you don't have the right to remain silent, you don't even have the right to keep breathing. Others say rights come from God, and carry moral force as such, and violating rights is a sin. And it's not like anyone ever disagreed about religion, is it?

For practical purposes, property rights are the things the government lets you do with what it and you both agree is your property.


Cletus the Foetus suggests "set" or "domain" instead of "collection" of actions. I agree.

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