South Carolina: The Shakedown State

06 Aug

By Brian M. Howle

(Note: This was written July 14, 2005 – long before S.C. Governor Mark Sanford’s now-infamous tryst with his Argentinian hike buddy. This just underscores his longtime propensity for the political play based on Mark Sanford’s needs, not an ideology, poltical party or – God forbid – ethics and character, slathered in a thick coating of hypocrisy.)

As the years have rolled on by in my life, some things have become apparently clear to me, much to my absolute dismay. And despite my most honest efforts to avoid becoming cynical, jaded, skeptical, doubtful, and pretty much wary of everything that moves in general – well, it just ain’t happening.

Take that whole “be honest” bill of goods that our political, religious and business leaders – along with our parents and teachers – sold us when we were just small, malleable little tow-headed kids.

The concept was, always tell the truth: no matter how much it may hurt YOU to do so; no matter how much trouble it may cause OTHERS to endure; no matter what OTHERS may think – if you know it to be true, and honest, and good, THAT’s what matters.

This idea was so important, that we were given constant examples of the practice by our wonderful role models – political, religious, professional and, of course, our own parents.

Heck, they even went as far as coming up with that whole George Washington “I cannot tell a lie” scenario. We should have been more than a little suspicious when it was accompanied by that “I threw a coin across the Potomac River” sidebar. I mean, seriously, go look at the river, and try to imagine a child pulling that off.

Well, the point I’m careening toward here is courtesy of the honorable and honest governor of our fair state, Mark Sanford.
Gov. Sanford ran for the office as a proud Republican, and often touted those good ol’ Republican mantras, like “We’re dedicated to keeping government out of the lives of the people.”

Thanks for selling us out, Gov. Sanford. We appreciate it so very much.

Oh yeah, you were all over pimping out the media when you had your little scuffle with the boys in the domed funhouse over that whole “Pork Barrel” legislation brouhaha. You even enlisted the help of non-voting, non-taxpaying, artery-clogging. doomed-to-death farm animals – in the form of loveable little piggies – so all the TV stations would run you holding the cute little squealing porkers as you chided the lawmakers for their wasteful ways.

So where was our in-your-face governor last week, when the unbelievably invasive and un-constitutional mandatory seatbelt law was on his desk awaiting either a signature or a veto?

Why, he was taking the middle-of-the-road, gutless, and not at all Republican position of electing not to sign the bill at all, which in turn automatically made the horrible legislation law in South Carolina, that’s where he was, folks.

Don’t give me that argument about how Gov. Sanford had to let it go into law, because the Federal government threatens to pull highway funding dollars if states don’t tow the line like good little boys and girls, just like back when we were kids.

That’s another kettle of fish that needs attention – among dozens of others – on a national level, but it’s not more important than some simple rights of the state’s citizenry.

Before you get all bent over my attack on the honorable Governor Sanford, allow me to clarify a few things.

I have nothing but the highest respect, admiration and support for ALL law enforcement officers. These folks are underpaid, overworked and put their lives on the line every day so that you and I can tell the rest of the world we live freely in the greatest nation on earth. They are not the ones creating laws; that’s what the House and Senate do. So don’t attack these folks for doing their job.

The seatbelt law means police now have the right to pull you over and issue a twenty-five dollar ticket for those who decline to buckle up. It’s a cute little end-game law that circumvents the state’s old “license checkpoint” tactic that was struck down by a higher court as unconstitutional.

I personally believe that EVERY man, woman and child SHOULD wear a seatbelt when riding in a vehicle. I also believe that motorcyclists SHOULD wear a helmet, regardless of age.

My belief was confirmed in glorious fashion when a seatbelt literally saved my life in TWO separate accidents. I’ve worn a seatbelt since earning my beginner’s driving permit, and I would hope that everyone use the same common sense – and tons of corroborating data on the use of seatbelts that uncategorically proves that they DO save lives.

However, there are some folks who – for various reasons – absolutely do not want, intend or ever plan to strap on a seatbelt.

I personally know people who have had friends or family killed in auto accidents where – and this is against all normal conditions and circumstances, but, nonetheless – victims were trapped in submerged or burning vehicles by jammed seatbelts.

There are those among us who have varying physical reasons for avoiding the belts, mainly due to painfully constraining tightness that doesn’t affect the rest of us as it does them.

And, sadly, there are those who are just stupid and don’t want to be told anything.

However retarded, though, that’s the whole point of living in a free society, where there is supposed to be some measure of honesty in purporting that we actually have some freedom of choice.

Government – whether Federal or State – has no business whatsoever intervening in our personal transportation seating choices. Why on earth would they even find the slightest interest in doing such a thing?

Could it be a heartfelt concern for the health and well-being of the public?

Could it be an overwhelming desire to prevent family members from experiencing the grieving process by avoiding unnecessary deaths when unbelted victims are ejected from vehicles in crashes?

Or could it be an easy, easy, oh, so easy way to produce revenue?

Damn smart way to raise revenue, don’t you think? Oh no, we won’t subject the citizens to another tax increase – at least, not where they can figure it out. Why, we’ll just whittle out a leetle bit of change from the pockets of motorists all over the state, and the next thing you know, we’ll have enough money to pay for legislators to take junkets around the world, encouraging businesses and tourists to come visit the Palmetto State. And then they can contribute to the scam when we write them up for not wearing seatbelts, too.

Oh, and it gets better.

It’s not just the state of South Carolina who gets the windfall. Every county, city and municipality will rev up the ticket writing machine, as the budget deficit woes go away, twenty-five dollars a pop.

Ooooo … and what about all that other revenue that gets generated by ancillary fines resulting from the seatbelt infraction?

Back to that part where we don’t get federal funding if we don’t abide by the Feds edict on seatbelts …

We won’t need the federal funding for roads, because no one is going to come to a state where law enforcement can shake you down the minute you cross our fair border.

Kibbles & Bits
How To Lose The War On Terrorism Without Really Trying
Hey, is it just me, or does anyone else find it slightly unsettling that our border situation – both with Mexico and Canada – is a world-wide joke? Have the anti-terrorist experts who keep coming up with these brilliant solutions – like banning lighters and nailclippers on airliners – ever wondered how illegal drugs get into the U.S.A.?

I’ve supported my President and my country, wholeheartedly and without a bit of cynicism since 9/11. Whether we had a valid reason to invade Iraq or not does not bother me, although being lied to does (if that ever proves to be the case). Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out. But stop jerking the people around when it comes to Homeland Security.

The next 9/11 won’t come raining down from the sky in the form of a highjacked airliner. It will be some form of dirty bomb or conventional nuclear weapon, brought unencumbered across the porous borders of our nation by those who hate us most.

The government in Mexico is an open joke that slaps America in the face with each morning’s sunrise. The leftists in Canada are doing their dead-level best to do the same.

Yeah, I know – that whole scene recently with the southwestern border and those yahoos who volunteered to patrol it and all made for interesting video reports. But during those days when the yahoos made their presence widely known, illegal entry into the United States dropped like Monica Lewinsky in a windowless room.

Y’all don’t come back now, ya heah?

Talk Radio Burnout
About two years ago, I began listening to talk radio on a daily basis. I figured it was time to give those with whom I often disagreed a fair shake and listen to what they had to say.

Oh yeah, what do you call a right-wing talk show host with a prescription drug addiction?

An oxymoron.

(I have to admit, I am soooo proud of that one).

If you truly believe everything you hear on talk radio, consider yourself a truly stupid person.

The rest of us sure do.
The previous article originally appeared in Alternatives NewsMagazine, July 14, 2005.

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Posted by on August 6, 2009 in Along The Watchtower


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