Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vanity Plate

It’s offensive, but the court is right: the government can’t decide whether or not honoring the memories of rebels and slave owners belongs on a Texas license plate without violating the First Amendment.

A federal appeals panel ruled 2-1 that the Department of Motor Vehicles had violated the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ free speech rights and engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” when it rejected its specialty plate in 2011.

The judgment rekindled a loud debate among those who say the symbol honors Confederate heritage and others who see it as racially offensive and hurtful.

An attorney for the Texas chapter, John McConnell, said the ruling reaffirms that “the government cannot step into an issue and silence one side while endorsing the viewpoint of the other side.”

Nine other states have plates that honor the Confederate veterans (Florida is not one of them), and I’m sure the folks in Texas who want them will snatch them up.  Good luck parking your car or truck in certain places, though; a plate like that basically says, “Hey, vandalize me!”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No Choice

A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina’s “Choose Life” license plate is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox ruled on Friday that North Carolina cannot produce or distribute the “Choose Life” plate.

Judge Fox concluded, “The State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in Sept. 2011 on behalf of North Carolinians seeking a specialty license plate that supports a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

Florida also has a “Choose Life” specialty plate (along with about 100 others), so it will be interesting to see if that affects the rear ends of cars here.

I think it’s silly to reduce the discussion about something as deeply felt as a woman’s right to choose down to a slogan on a license plate, and I can see this escalating to a battle of the parking lot where you have “Choose Life” duking it out with “Free the Uterus.”  But as long as the state is going to go to the trouble to make these plates — and collect money for the sponsors — then they at least need to be fair about it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Short Takes

Demonstrations continued in Cairo as protestors made their feelings known about the draft constitution.

Iran claims it has captured a U.S. drone, but the Pentagon says it’s not one of theirs.

Senate Republicans blocked ratification of the U.N. disability treaty.  What a shock.

Elizabeth Warren will get a seat on the Senate Banking Committee.  Heh.

The GOP cleans House.

Tag, you’re it — Florida highway agency may be sued over license plate deal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Short Takes

More weapons in Syria could deepen the civil war.

The Nobel Prize for medicine went to two scientists for cell research.

The Mexican navy says it killed a Zeta drug cartel founder.

Meningitis outbreak tied to tainted steroid.

Outside agitators — Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal work to oust Iowa judge.

The University of Miami’s athletic program is under investigation.

Florida looks at getting readable license plates.

Tropical Update: Two little disturbances to investigate: 97L and 98L.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My Life On A Plate

[This is an update to a series I ran last year going through all the license plates I've owned since I got my first car.]

(Click to embiggen.)

No, I haven’t moved to Canada. It’s a nice country with good theatre and a working healthcare plan, but they still have winter.

One of the cool things you can do with an antique car is find a license plate that matches the year of manufacture. It lends a sense of authenticity and it helps people identify the year of the car. The antique plate hobby is a great resource for memorabilia, and their interest in the history of license plates is great companion for the antique car hobby, and I wanted to find a good match for my 1988 Pontiac.

I had a bit of a dilemma. I bought the car in Michigan, first registered it in Colorado, then moved around the country until I settled here in Florida. If the car is old enough, you can register the car with a plate from the year it was built as a vanity plate. But the Florida plate from 1988 is, to be polite, just plain ugly, and while I like living here, the car really doesn’t have much of a connection with the state.

Then, when I was on vacation in Ontario in early August, it occurred to me that since my car was built by GM Canada in Oshawa, Ontario, it made sense to have a plate from its home province. So I did a little research with my friend David Nichols and found the perfect match through a collector in Vancouver: a 1988 Ontario plate with a SEP expiration sticker and 052 in the number. September is my birth month, and I was born in 1952. According to Dave, the letter series of C, D, and E were issued in 1988, and the colors are a good match for the rest of the car.

I can’t legally drive on public highways with the Ontario plate, so I still have my Florida tag, but when I go to a car show or parade, it will be on the car. Nice touch, eh?

Friday, February 11, 2011

KKKollector Plates

Mississippi is considering honoring an early Klan leader with a commemorative license plate.

Controversies over honoring Confederate heritage are not uncommon in the South, but some activists in Mississippi are pushing the envelope even further. The Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans is proposing a license plate that honors Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Following the Civil War, Forrest was involved with the very first incarnation of the KKK. He was so closely associated with the group’s formation that he is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the KKK’s founder — though he was quickly elected Grand Wizard, and began centralizing disparate KKK groups under his authority. He believed that while blacks were now free, they had to continue to toil quietly for white landowners. “I am not an enemy of the negro,” Forrest said. “We want him here among us; he is the only laboring class we have.”

Perhaps even more disturbing, however, were Forrest’s violent actions during the Civil War, specifically a massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, TN in April 1864.

I can’t wait to see how they honor the German Heritage Society.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Life On A Plate


Unlike a lot of other states — Michigan, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania to name just a few — Ohio did not do a Bicentennial license plate in 1976. In fact, it was as plain as you could get without going to black and white. But there were a couple of things about this one that were special. First, the color of the numbers matched my car, and it was also my first personalized plate. For an extra few bucks, I had QUAKER on my plates. Of course, later on I realized that it was a rather un-Quaker thing to advertise my faith — not to mention the oatmeal jokes — so when I moved to New Mexico for a while in 1977, I was not sorry to give them up.

The other memory I carry with this plate was that 1976 was my first summer working at the summer camp in Colorado that to this day still resonates in my life. I came back from Minneapolis in late May to participate in my sister’s wedding in Perrysburg, then a few days later I drove across country to Estes Park, Colorado, returning to the camp where I had been a camper in 1964 at the age of 11. Back then, my brother and I had taken the train — the Burlington Zephyr — overnight from Chicago to Denver. Then we rode on a bus up into the mountains, through the canyons and up to the sky, it seemed. I was frightened — I’d never been away from home before — and my brother was older and in a different camp than I. At first I was homesick, but a counselor took me aside and taught me how to pitch horseshoes, and my homesickness vanished.

So there I was, twelve years later, all grown up and ready to be a counselor. It was an eventful summer to say the least, ending with the Big Thompson Canyon flood. Despite the chaos and tragedy, we all made it through, and that summer was the first of ten that I would spend in the Rockies, making friends that I still have and keep in touch with today.

Photo by David Nicholson.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Life On A Plate


The colors on the 1970 Ohio plate honored The Ohio State University’s 100th anniversary that year. The grey nicely matched the silver of the Mustang.

In those days you could go to the deputy registrar’s office and reserve a plate number at no extra charge, and the following year(s) they would hold it for you. Our family had three cars, so the lowest series of numbers we could get were three numbers followed by a letter marking the county. My plate was 783 N.

In April 1970, I acquired a silver 1957 Chevrolet Two Ten station wagon. It had belonged to the grandmother of a friend, but she didn’t want it any more, so it sat behind my friend’s garage. His dad said if I could get it started, I could have it, so armed with jumper cables and a bicycle pump to re-inflate the tires, I got it running and down to my local mechanic who gave it a once-over, replaced a couple of brake lines, and I had a car. (Remember, I shared the Mustang with my siblings, and that spring my brother had it at college.) The Chevy wagon had a huge V-8, a two-speed Power Glide automatic, it was rusted through in the rear wheel wells, no seat belts, and the factory-installed air conditioning was dead, but the radio worked and it ran. Back in those days, I named my cars. I christened the Chevy the Silver Meteor for the train that runs along the eastern seaboard and mentioned in a book that I was reading at the time.

That summer I drove it from Perrysburg all the way to Plainfield, Vermont, where I spent a couple of months working on a dairy farm. It made it there and back again without any trouble. The following winter, though, it got into a fender-bender with our garage and we foisted it off onto another family who promptly parked it in their backyard, and there it rusted away.

Photo by David Nicholson.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Life On A Plate

Bryan at Why Now? used to have a weekly feature called “Passing the Plate” where he went through all the specialty license plates offered by the state of Florida. I remembered that when I went through a box in the garage that has a collection of every license plate I’ve ever owned, plus some others of interest. So I’m following Bryan’s inspiration and starting a new feature here where I’ll put up a picture of every plate I’ve ever had going back to my first car in 1969. I won’t be putting up the actual plate, though; my scanner doesn’t doesn’t do a good job of reproducing plates, especially the reflectorized ones. So via the excellent work of David Nicholson at 15q.net, I’ve come up with a collection of plates that are from the same years but with different numbers. I’ll also have a little history on the car(s) that wore the tag and perhaps some memories of the places I took the car and the plate. By the way, feel free to share your own memories, and if you have pictures of your own plates that you’d like to share, send them along.

Here’s the first one.


In April 1969 my parents bought a 1965 Ford Mustang 2+2 from Brondes Ford in Toledo. It was supposed to be shared between my sister and my brother, but they were both off at college and I was the one who chose it, so… it was my car, basically. 1969 was the summer of the moon landing, Chappaquiddick, and Woodstock.

The number is not exactly like the series we had in Wood County; it had five numbers followed by a single letter and we didn’t have the local tax. In those days, Ohio plates were changed every year between March 15 and April 15, and you went to the local deputy registrar to do it, which in our case was a local appliance store. I have memories of standing in line with my dad between the rows of Norge refrigerators and Whirlpool washing machines as we waited our turn to get our new plates.

Being a deputy registrar in the county was a patronage appointment, so when John Gilligan, a Democrat, was elected governor in 1970, the license plate business moved across the street to the TV/stereo shop that was owned by a Democrat.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

If Everybody Had An Ocean….

Florida leads the nation in specialty license plates supporting non-profits groups like colleges, sports teams, environmental causes, cancer awareness; everything from Save The Manatees to Lesbians For The Metric System… okay, I made that one up. (I shouldn’t complain; I have one on the Pontiac supporting the arts.) The Florida legislature, with apparently nothing better to do — like find money for public education — has passed yet another nine specialty plates. Here’s one of the new ones approved this year:


I might actually get this one. I have only been surfing once in my life, and I sucked at it, but I love the music and the idea of riding the waves. I also think that this a really handsome plate and would look good on the back of my Mustang convertible. Or better yet, swap out the plate on the Pontiac, which, after all, is a descendant of the original woodie wagons:


And we’ll need a little surfing music:

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Plate Shall Rise Again

The Sons of the Confederacy may get their specialty license plate here in Florida.

State officials might soon be forced to allow the Confederate flag on specialty plates now that a Central Florida judge refuses to toss out a lawsuit by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the same group that led to the Homestead Veteran’s Day parade being axed this year.

[...]

The Sons of the Confederate Veterans proposed the design four years ago, but legislators did not approve of the idea, likely because of the expected backlash and possible media attention that would come with it.

Not to mention the fact that putting the plate on your car guarantees that it will be vandalized if you park it in certain neighborhoods. (But then again, some of the people who would want that plate drive vehicles that look like they’ve already been vandalized.)

“The people want something and it’s their right to have it,” John Adams, who is leading the license plate crusade, told WESH. “Public opinion doesn’t determine what people’s rights are, the constitution does.”

It’s interesting to note that in his statement, Mr. Adams directly contradicts himself in the space of two sentences. Not only that, his logic about public opinion versus constitutional rights is exactly the the framing that supporters of marriage equality are using to make the case for same-sex marriage. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that Mr. Adams isn’t a supporter of that cause… or would support a license plate that promotes it.

Florida has over 100 specialty plates supporting everything from protecting manatees and panthers to spaying and neutering your pets, so one more plate won’t make much of a difference. Last year the legislature approved several more but skipped the “I Believe” plate that promoted a brand of Christianity, probably realizing that if they passed that plate, there would be a call for plates that celebrated paganism, Islam, and Judaism — The Quaker plate would be very plain — and that it would be challenged in court. Giving the Sons of the Confederacy their own plate could open the door to groups that memorialize other historic regimes that lost a war, but I have a feeling that Sons of the Third Reich might not get a sympathetic hearing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jesus Christ On a Plate

The Florida legislature has given preliminary approval to two new specialty license plates.

If you want Jesus on your license plate, the Florida Senate is looking out for you.

Religious specialty plates offered by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, and Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, made it onto a bill Friday even though many members had not seen images of those plates and none were produced for the debate.

Siplin didn’t mince words when asked what his ”Trinity” plate looks like, saying: ”It has a picture of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

It, along with a ”Preserving the Past” plate offered by Siplin, would benefit the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences.

Storms’ ”I Believe” plate would benefit Faith in Teaching, an Orlando company that funds faith-based programs at schools. The design features a cross over a stained-glass window.

Several members had concerns about approving plates they had not seen. And one questioned using religious symbols at all.

”The issue is whether the state of Florida ought to be producing license plates with religious images on them,” said Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, ”and I don’t believe that we should.”

Before the day was over, the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU registered opposition, and across the hall in the House, proposals for the same plates were withdrawn from legislation.

It’s no surprise that Ronda Storms, who has made the news with her anti-gay tirades and other crazy-ass antics, is behind this patently unconstitutional stunt; she’s probably jealous that Michele Bachmann is getting all of the national attention as the current right-wing nutball and she wants to get in on the action. As for Mr. Siplin — a Democrat — he’s resurrecting a plate image that was tried a year ago and was crucified by the rest of the legislature. (South Carolina pinched the idea and now they’ve got it, proving that they may believe in blatant state support of Christianity if not the Ten Commandments.)

So let me see if I have this straight: the state of Florida has rising unemployment, a crumbling infrastructure, teachers are being threatened with layoffs and school districts are cutting back on classes and support staff, the real estate market is in the crapper, millions of Floridians can’t get decent health care, along with any number of other problems that a state faces in the middle of one of the worst recessions in memory. The annual legislation session ends next week with a ton of bills unpassed and unconsidered, but these geniuses have the time to consider adding two specialty license plates to the list of over 100 plates already available and which will most certainly draw lawsuits that will cost the state even more money to defend against… and will most certainly lose, assuming there’s a judge out there with the sense that God gave a goose.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

PS: Go here to see a picture of the sample license plate. Michelangelo it ain’t.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Short Takes

Great Depression II — Jobless rate hits its highest level since 1992, and the economy is losing jobs faster than any time since the 1930′s.

Blagojevich Impeached — The Illinois House votes to impeach the governor, and he follows that up with a press conference that can only be described as either surreal or Marxist…as in Groucho.

Two Big Steps for Equality — “The House voted on Friday to give women powerful new tools to challenge sex discrimination by employers who pay women less than men for the same or substantially similar work.” President Bush said he would veto them, but President-elect Obama is “eager” to sign them.

Saving the Everglades — The Obama administration is seen as the hope that funding for Everglades restoration will be fully implemented after being slowed to a trickle by the Bush administration.

Want to Buy a Paper? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has 60 days to find a buyer or Hearst will either make it web-only or cease publication.

Thomas Jefferson Says… P-I cartoonist David Horsey on the future of print media.

Green Stems Save Money — Florida is going to save $50,000 a year by changing the color of the stem on the orange blossom on the standard state license plate from brown to green. (Here’s an idea: how about they lose the stupid graphic design altogether? No wonder people buy the 100+ specialty plates.)

Happy to Be Here — Toledo and the Midwest are getting another big snowstorm.

Saturday Morning Cartoon — Tom and Jerry.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Florida Legislature Doesn’t “Believe”

Hard-core Christians in Florida who want to show everyone looking at the rear end of their car that they believe will have to make do with a bumper sticker or a Jesus fish.

A license plate that would have become the first in the nation to prominently feature a religious symbol is unlikely to be on the road any time soon after state lawmakers did not include it in a bill Tuesday.

The plate, which included an image of a Christian cross, stained-glass window and the words “I Believe,” is not in legislation passed late Tuesday that’s now headed to the governor.

Opponents of the plate said approving it would result in a court challenge because it violated the separation of church and state and gave the appearance the state was endorsing a particular religious preference.

Aside from the obvious lawsuit bait, it’s not like Florida needs another special plate to go with the 110 or so that we already have that support every cause from sea turtles to junior golf. (I’m still holding out for the one supporting “Lesbians for the Metric System”.)

I know it’s hard to believe, but not every proposed specialty plate passes. While the “Choose Life” plate is still out there, the legislature rejected a pro-choice plate in 2007. But at least they didn’t pass the one celebrating Confederate heritage.

Update: Stephen Colbert pitches for the plate:

HT to SFDB and Incertus.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

T*at’s That?

Somebody at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles vanity plate office needs to check up on their list of offensive four-letter words.

Veteran Miami-Dade prosecutor Abbe Rifkin, stuck in northbound traffic on I-95 near Northwest 62nd Street, did a double take at the vanity tag on the pickup truck in front of her: A four-letter word that begins and ends with T.

”I literally almost drove off the road,” Rifkin says. ”It is a vulgar term for female genitalia — and I was offended.” She grabbed her cellphone and snapped a photo.

[...]

The tag — a Marine Corps specialty plate on a 2006 white Mitsubishi Raider — is registered to Stewart Tabares, 28, of Pembroke Pines. He could not be reached for comment. However, Tabares offered an explanation when he applied for the tag at the West Regional Courthouse in Plantation. He told a clerk that the T-word ”is a tactical group in the Marine Corps he was in,” according to state records.

Tabares served with the Marines for four years, from 2002 to 2006. He did a four-month Afghanistan tour and attained the rank of sergeant, says Maj. Manuel J. Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon. He worked in telecommunications, as a ”field wireman.” From Wikipedia: ”A common colloquialism for and amongst field telecommunications personnel in the . . . Marine Corps is Tactical Wire Assault Team, abbreviated as T.W.A.T.”

Ms. Rifkin is trying to get the state to yank the plate.

Palmer Brand, assistant chief for titles and registration in the Division of Motor Vehicles, says there are 462,875 active personalized plates. Written complaints are required for tracking purposes, he says. The DMV manual tells how to lodge a complaint, Brand adds. Complaints can also be emailed to HSMV-Info@flhsmv.gov.

Brand says he would not have let this tag through. ”I know pretty much every dirty word around — in several languages.” Department spokeswoman Ann Nucatola, who serves on the license plate review board, says she didn’t know its derogatory meaning. ”I had to call my husband.”

That must have been an interesting phone call.

Some motorists can become very creative when it comes to requesting a vanity plate, using code words or acronyms for obscenities or descriptions of intimate conduct (I saw BOHICA on a plate once), so the DMV’s have to be on their guard. Sometimes they go overboard; a couple of years ago Florida tried to recall “JEWBAN,” which is an affectionate term in the Cuban community for people of the Jewish faith. Someone in Tallahassee thought it was a call to ban Jews. The owner got to keep the plate after enough people said it wasn’t offensive.

On the other hand, some states let questionable ones go by: I had a roommate who’s name was Jerry Aronson. He had a film company called Jerry Aronson Productions, so his Colorado plate was J.A.P. Apparently the Colorado DMV was unaware of epithets for people of Japanese ancestry or stereotypes of wealthy young Jewish women.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Short Takes

- The Tigers beat the White Sox last night.

- Cubans can now buy the homes they’ve been renting from the government.

- Another shining example of how the Florida legislature is taking care of the really important issues that face the state today.

- Bush approved of the high-level meetings at the White House that discussed “enhanced interrogation.” Of course he did.

- Another airline in trouble.

- It’s the Frontier Days Antique Car Show today in Homestead, Florida from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free to the public, but if you have an antique or classic car (1983 or older) vehicle, it’s $25 registration, which gets you a goodie bag of cool stuff and a chance for a trophy.


1939 LaSalle

See you there.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Better Late Than Never

The State of Florida has formally apologized for slavery.

The Legislature issued an apology Wednesday for the state’s ”shameful” history in enslaving black people and passing laws that called for savage lashings and even the nailing of their ears to posts for crimes like burglary.

”The Legislature expresses its profound regret for Florida’s role in sanctioning and perpetuating involuntary servitude upon generations of African slaves,” said the resolution, sponsored by black lawmakers.

Democratic Sens. Larcenia Bullard of Miami and Arthenia Joyner of Tampa sobbed during the reading of the resolution and the recounting of the slave codes passed by the Territorial Council in 1822 and struck down in 1868 — three years after the Civil War ended.

”I knew the facts, but to hear it put in those terms, I just fell apart,” Joyner said. Said Bullard: ”I felt a pain that wouldn’t go away.”

After the measure passed on a voice vote without opposition in the Senate, where President Ken Pruitt wanted no discussion or recorded vote, the House did the same. House Speaker Marco Rubio thanked both Pruitt and the black caucus for bringing up the resolution.

The measure stops short of calling for reparations for descendants of slaves, though Republican Gov. Charlie Crist said after the vote that he was open to the idea ”if we can determine descendancy, certainly.”

Well, if they really mean it, then the legislature will give short shrift to this stupid idea, don’t you think?

(HT to Why Now?)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tag, You’re It

When I was a kid in Ohio, we changed license plates every year, and we had between March 15 to April 15 to take off the old ones and put on the new ones. That doesn’t happen any more; most if not all states have gone to semi-permanent plates that are renewed every year or two by stickers. Plus, a lot of states have come out with special plates that show your allegiance to a college, a cause, or a sport. Florida offers over 100 “specialty” plates for just about every charity, NGO, sports team, and college and university in the state; I’m surprised they haven’t come up with “Lesbians for the Metric System” yet, but the Legislature is still in session, so anything can happen. (You can see the entire list of available plates here.) So I’m thinking about getting one of those.

My current plate is the old standard-issue Florida tag:

Not my real plate; this is from David Nicholson’s excellent license plate site 15q.net.

That plate design was superseded in 2003 by this one –

– so when my current plate expires this year, I’ll be sent of those, complete with the double oranges and the “MyFlorida.com” web address. Feh.

I currently have the State of the Arts plate on the Pontiac.

I like it; it has a flair to it, I do believe in supporting all of the arts, but I’m not sure I want both my cars to have the same plate serving the same NGO.

Perhaps I should go with the Support Education plate:

I do work in education and I know we need all the help we can get.

One more thing to consider, however; how would either plate look on the back of my car? Well, here’s what it looks like now (click on the image to enlarge):

The license plate frame would stay. (Oh, and if you want one for your own car, you can order one here.)

So, dear reader, what do you think? I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to two choices: Arts or Education, but I’m open to suggestions.