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  • Hitch Those Pants Up!

       February 09, 2005

    It's no secret that Virginia as a whole skews to the very conservative, at least culturally. We have our traditions, we honor our traditions, and woe to the Yankee who tries to muck with them.

    So perhaps it should come as no surprise that our House of Delegates recently approved a measure allowing for a fine for....improperly belted jeans.

    You know the kind I'm talking about. They are the ones worn by those dadgum kids where the waist rides low across the hips, allowing everyone to see one's underwear...or lack thereof. And yes, I can already hear the catcalls and jeers from the principled conservative readership wondering if the HoD thinks our cops have nothing better to do than measure how low someone's pants are being worn. Put in those terms, I certainly agree.

    But contrary to the reasoning offered by the bill's sponsor, I actually see something beneficial to this bill. What could it be? More after the click:

    See, in a couple of areas in Northern Virginia, there exists a double whammy of a problem. First, it's home to an extremely large illegal alien population. If you ever visit, fly into Dulles International, rent a car, and take the toll road to Centreville Road. Drive north until you get to, oh, Alabama Drive or so. Stop at the light and look to your right. Now I don't know for absolute certain that all 75 or so guys in that parking lot are, to use the New York Times vernacular, undocumented...but I wouldn't bet against it either.

    So dovetailing with the illegal population issue, some of the kids invariably associated with it have brought along charming traditions of their own...like MS-13. That's the name of our local Mega-Gang, brought to you courtesy of El Salvador. They are responsible for such charming things as machete attacks against people who don't knuckle under...hence my keeping a 12 gauge loaded with no. 6 Hevi-Shot Nitro Magnum loads within easy reach when in Castle Tant. So what do we do about them? Let's ask Jerry Kilgore, our recent Attorney General, soon to be successful gubernatorial candidate:

    "The key to eliminating gangs is to know where they are and what we can do to stop them," Kilgore said. "Knowledge is key."

    To that end he set up a few initiatives which provide for vigorous prosecution of gang members. Now what does this have to do with somebody's pants? Well, if you ever notice MS-13 members strolling down the block, they don't always have their machetes in hand...but pretty much every man jack of them has his pants right around his crotch. Now the police have an opening to, frankly, approach said gang member and say "Excuse me, fine young fellow. I notice your pants appear to be low. That's a $50 fine here in Virginia, and by the way may I see your identification? Oh, that appears to be a forged green card. Come with me." In other words, for the initiatives to be successful, we first have to know who the gang members are. Do we wait for them to cut someone's hands off with a machete, or can we use something humiliating (to them) like their dress code?

    Now there are entirely reasonable arguments about this being a gross misuse of governmental authority. I largely agree, although I don't know about "gross." To me it seems we have indecent exposure laws which seems to pass muster, and this doesn't seem all that different. But while the core issue is about governmental "harassment," I think there's room for recognizing exactly who we're harassing (call it Burkean hidden law). The way I see it, as long as government exercises a little responsibility, I can see this bill being a useful tool to help end gang presence in Northern Virginia.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy a belt.


    Posted by John Tant at February 9, 2005 07:36 AM

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    Comments

    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: kris at February 9, 2005 10:03 AM

    John,

    While you may have some good points, I just don't believe that my government has any business telling me how to wear my pants. The cops can find another way to confront possible gang members without so grossly infringing on our freedom.

     
     
    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: james at February 9, 2005 01:02 PM

    you're forgeting why they use machetes - use a gun in the commission of a crime, get an automatic 5 year sentence enhancement. use a machete, no such problem exists.

    passing a law like this "to target gangs" will simply cause gangs to pull their pants up, "yo, yo, here comes the po-po, button that fly, dog"

    choice of clothing is expressive conduct entitled to first amendment (1A) protection. the easiest way to get out from under that is to tie your law to obscenity somehow, as obscentiy isn't entitled to 1A protection. i cant think of any precedent off the top of my head, but think it's pretty self evident that wearing your pants low isnt obscene by any community's standards. indecent perhaps, but not obscene.

    failing the obscenity tie in, the government may have a case for regulating the conduct if it 1) uses the least restrictive means necessary to 2) achieve a valid govt objective and 3) if they leave sufficient alternate ways for people to engage in the same type of speech. while combating gangs may be a valid govt objective, a blanket dress code certainly isn't the "least restrictive means" necessary.

    i dont see how this measure passes any sort of 1A muster.

    this is pretty much just like trying to justify a ban on redskins clothing just b/c gangs happen to wear it.

     
     
    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: John Tant at February 10, 2005 06:54 AM

    For what it's worth, I don't like the bill on its face. I do agree that Virginia cops have better things to do than check the pants height on people, and scorn on that basis is merited.

    My main purpose wasn't so much to look narrowly at the bill on its own merits, but to explore possible ways this law, should it be enacted (chances of which are statistically zero, I should point out...), could have some benefit. One source of that merit could be, for lack of a better term, selective enforcement. Does this mean I'm applying a double standard here? Yes, I suppose I am. If police were hassling everyone because of their pants, I'd be 100% opposed to it too. But (and I know this isn't a terribly Libertarian viewpoint), if it were only used as an avenue to confront MS-13 members, I can't say I have a huge problem with it.

    I also don't know if my scenario would even be workable. Certainly it fails the 1A test. But I do believe, based on my knowledge of Virginia politics, that the reasoning behind this bill goes far beyond some good ol' boy fat-chewing at a Norfolk barber shop.

    By the way, James...I believe it's "Button that fly, DAWG."

     
     
    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: Diane at February 11, 2005 12:13 AM

    I think it is a good bill and it should be for the whole USA. And that goes for thong swim suites also Men and womens!! I Think they should be outlawed...If they want to show their buts to all why don't they go work at a strip joints ?They will make money there!And I don't think it's funny how they put naked women on t.v. but rarely have men romping around naked! Whats the problem? Thats really insulting to me! I have eyes and want to see men too! EQUALITY for all!
    and it is pregidistic that they hide them but not women. It SUCKS! Lets have some comersials with men taking showers and good lookers and don't do stupid stuff that hides them..not unlike what they do to women..It's like a freaken fun for all just for men! No-wonder why there is so much devorces...They spread the wemon on TV like a freaken magnet reciever...for men only t.v. is what they should call TV these days.and they don't even have to go to the bad station..Hell you know what I am talking of! Lets get this straightened out! Whats god for one should be for the other Too! Lets stand together women and get this one sided issue fixed!Yes and I am married but I want equality tv if I have to watch this stuff!It Is Not Fair!or else cover those women vbecause TV gives people bad ideas also! No-wonder why there is so much murders and rapes Tv promotes this stuff by showing to much and they all ready have a bad station for pay...why do they have it on the regular stations too! I hope you got the messages here..Either fair up or clean the newdy stuff on TV..becaus it just a promotional publicity page for rapers and other creepy crawlers of the dark!

     
     
    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: Jena at February 28, 2005 09:12 AM

    um, HELLO!?!? Low jeans are the fashion statement of our time, what was the crazy things that you did in the 70's and 80's? Hmmmm, lets see how about the debut of short shorts, did the government interfer then? How about the weird hair, and madonna gloves? No. I do agree there should be a limit to how low their jeans are, because as a 13 yr old female that attends a fairfax public middle school I dont appreciate turning around the corner and seeing some guy bend over so i can see his butt, and boxers. But there are wayyyyyyyyyy more important things the government should be thinking about! This law is petty! Also lets see how long it lasts with, freedom of expression (aka the government cant tell u how to dress)

    And, in response to Diane above me, OH MY GOD, theyr wearing thong bathing suits!? GASP! No one cares, sure if they want to walk around looking like sluts go ahead, whoop-de-do, their just letting everyone else know this, and its not like anyones ever seen a butt before, please. I dont like them though, but im not going out for a law banning them. Oh, and by the way they can't put naked women on tv commercials! Sure they can put them in a shampoo commercial with steam around them but theyr trying to promote to us females, about "oh my, look you can be as sexy as us if u use this new improved shampoo!" so theyr not doing a very good job, oh well. And as for those beer commercials, well they have a guy drinking beer with hot women all around him the guy will think, "Hey if I drink that beer I'll get all these hot babes" and will run to the nearest safeway. It's just advertisement, sure some of it offends me too, but hey what can you do, they have freedom of speech also. And as for plain all out nudity on tv shows, well u pick what u get to watch! It might me rated R or for mature audiences or pg-13 or something like that! and what do "hot" women on tv have to do with divorces, and if it does the men was a chavonuist pig to begin with. Sure I suppose men can just go to an R or Nc-17 movie on a movie channel and kazam, instant playboy station but again they CHOOSE to watch this, but anyone ever heard of a channel blocker? And I'm sorry to break it to u, but U DONT HAVE TO WATCH TV! There ur problem is settled. But I don't think tv is a really really big cause of murders and rapes sure maybe a few sick people maybe 1-5% of people that cause them. But I really and truly think that most of it has to do with rap and hip hop songs. If youv ever listened to the lyrics were allways being refered to as mens "property" or their "Ho", do i appreciate this type of music? HECK NO, but as a 13 yr old f, this is most of the music we listen to at dances and on the radio (not me :). I think it promotes violence way more than tv, and I dont mean to stereotype gangs but thats the kind of music their probably listening to anyways, and their seeing their idols in gangs so they think its the cool thing to do. I hope u can see my point of view on the subject.

     
     
    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: Brentney at March 2, 2005 10:32 PM

    I personly think the bill is taking it way to far. I hate seeing guys with their pants to their knees but making them pay a fine? If you don't want to see that you don't have to look. There's a lot of things I don't like looking at, but is the government gonna pass a fine about that too? I mean thats just crazy. What next? Tank tops? Skirts? I think our freedom is going down the drain!

     
     

     

     


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