The Hess Report

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Seat Belt Nazis and Other Lowlife 

Things with which I am officially disgusted:

1. Pennsyvlania's children's bicycle helmet laws.
2. Click-It Or Ticket
3. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
4. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
5. PennDOT

Hmmm. All but one of those is transportation related. I wonder why? Could it be that transportation is one of the only areas of our lives where we have surrendered a significant portion of our personal responsibility to the government in the form of the whole Driver's License thing? I'm not bashing the licensing of drivers or even the need to do so. I've not given it careful enough consideration to rip it a good one yet.

But I am forced to wonder if the acquiescence of the population to licensing for something as basic as personal transportation hasn't resulted in the government simply having waaaaay to much power in this area. And we all now what happens, always always always, when someone, or worse yet, an organization, acquires too much power. They abuse it. You've heard their argument: Driving isn't a right, it's a privelege, so we have the right to regulate it. In whose world, exactly? Which of us doesn't depend for our very lives on our ability to get around in a car? I call bullshit. Moving yourself from place to place as you see fit is about as basic a right as there is. We need some rules (of which we have too many already), and some way to enforce those rules. But the licensing of drivers is not about safety. It's about control and about information.

Thanks, Tom Ridge, for making it a freaking law that my kids have to wear helmets every time they ride their bikes. Want to know a secret? I don't make them. I won't. The only time they'll have to wear them is when they'll be riding their bikes when they might be seen by the police. It's unnecessary. But even more than that, it's my decision as a parent, not the state's. How many kids a year were dying or being maimed in Pennsylvania before this law? What is the horrible price that has lead us to this? Honestly, I'd like to know. How many kids did Tom Ridge save by forcing my kids to wear a helmet? Tom Ridge, I'll call you a Nazi Schoolmarm just for that. He'd look good with a Hitler mustache and a Mrs. Doubtfire wig.

And thanks, MADD and SADD, and all of those other groups who couldn't stop at drunk driving awareness, and had to then go on Holy Crusades to compel people, under force of law (and remember: once a fine is involved, you could go to jail for not paying it; and once jail is involved, you could possibly be killed for resisting imprisonment; so any implementation of a fine by the government had better have a damned good reason), to do common sense things like wearing their seat belts. I think that not wearing your seatbelt is foolish. I also think that the police setting up roadblocks to check for seatbelt compliance makes me so angry that I almost lose my ability to reason and subsequently swerve off the road into the most visually attractive things available, which in this case is probably orange cones and flashing lights. If they were only a bunch of whining crying Nannies, it wouldn't be so bad. But now they're whining crying Nannies with the force of Law behind them, and it makes me want to bite through a steel cable or something.

Pennsylvania LCB? The Liquor Control Bullies? What exactly are you guys protecting me from? From being able to buy beer, wine, or liquor at a true market price, instead of at your Great Wise State Decided Socialist pricing? As I've pointed out before, you're nothing but a bunch of pirates (a large organization of swarthy individuals that takes your money, in this case the difference between the market price of the goods and the State price, without your consent and under threat of arms). Ahoy, mateys. Ye should be keelhauled. Then we'll pass the rum around.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission? More thieves. Never before has so much money been put to so little public use. The nepotism. The toll booth workers who bitch when they have to make any kind of change, even though they're making $18/hour. The pot holes. The chronic lane closures. What? Tolls just went up 40% last year? The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the Shame of the Nation, as far as I'm concerned.

PennDOT. I take back what I just said about the Turnpike Commission. PennDOT is the single most useless, corrupt organization to receive public money in the State of Pennsylvania, bar none. The only thing that would fix PennDOT would be to nuke it. Get rid of it entirely, then find the best, most cost-effective state DOT in the country, hire away their officials, and rebuild from the ground up. One rule: not a single soul that worked for the old PennDOT can work for the new one. Not a secretary. Not a contractor. No one. Every person who received money from PennDOT in any capacity was essentially stealing money right out of my pocket, and they knew it. Screw them.

I'm just glad that the DVR has been working well lately, because if I had to sit through a live "Click-It or Ticket" commercial, I'd probably go ballistic and start breaking things. I'm trying really hard right now to stop myself from saying nasty, awful, and possibly legally actionable things about our public officials. So I'm going to stop. And imagine that they're all raccoons, trying to get into my trash. And smile.

Legislating "morality" and "common sense" just seems like such a good idea... But it is not.

Oh, may I add a couple of points? The Liquor Control Bullies not only set a price (and that is done in other ways in some other states) but also do not allow you to buy brands they do not carry. I am not sure, but I think the recent court ruling allowing internet/mail-order sales was narrow enough that the LCB is not affected.

Setting price: a number of states set a minimum price on tobacco. So Marlboro and Maverick are within pennies of each other at the store, albeit until they cross the state line one is priced at nearly three times as much as the other. The big brands love this...

And internet/mail-order sales are under attack. The Federal Congress passed, again, a temporary restraint on interstate charging of sales tax. But a number of states recently noticed they also had an "excise" tax, which was not included. So they are subpoenaing the records of web vendors and taking people down for the excise - the kiker being that by paying the excise, you become liable for the sales tax as well - and obscene gesture to Congress... At the moment it is mostly tobacco being targeted - who can object to that? - but Amazon, ITunes, EBay and others should take notice...
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