Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Government Bait-n-Switch

Government Bait-n-Switch
© 2009 Ross Williams

My state just decided it was time to get super-serious about drunk driving. We tend to get super-serious about certain things in this state from time to time[1]. A few years ago we got super-serious about the manufacture of methamphetamine, and went all overkill about it. Of the dozen or so ingredients necessary to manufacture meth, only one is a widely used consumer product – pseudoephedrine, the effective ingredient in most over-the-counter cold and allergy medication – and so the state of Illinois declared that if you wish to purchase OTC cold medication, you need to submit yourself to more governmental intrusion and tracking than you would endure by having a prescription for methamphetamine itself[2].

Sadly, this state law was picked up in short order by other states and Congress, too.

Interestingly, neither the state law nor the federal law, for all the interference it creates in obtaining this necessary ingredient, has resulted in less manufacture of methamphetamine. If those passing these laws were to have had a basic course in The Realities of the Early Twenty-First Century it would have been immediately apparent why this law to reduce meth-making utterly failed to do so. But that would necessarily presuppose that the legislative branch of our various governments:
1. know what they’re doing
2. wish to be effective in doing it, and
3. are actually interested in serving these purposes … as opposed to simply getting themselves reelected.

Needless to say, none of these are the case.

In no particular order, this meth-reducing law failed to reduce meth manufactury because:
· laws which interfere with the acquisition of consumer-packaged pseudoephedrine only affects small-scale producers of meth – and that portion of the general public who has, or routinely gets, the sniffles;
· the large-scale meth distribution network – which are the folks who make large amounts of meth, transport it across state lines, and sell it to school children – does not get their pseudoephedrine from the infernally blister-packed boxes of Sudafed ®; instead, they buy it in bulk from other countries and have it shipped to their professional meth lab by US Mail;
· small-scale producers are a rather self-limiting phenomenon anyway, since they mainly produce what they can use themselves, and they either debilitate themselves by drug use, or they blow themselves up cooking it … frequently because they are drug-addled.

To combat both large-scale and small-scale meth-making, it would have been far more efficient and effective, not to mention far less intrusive to the consumer, to control the access to one or more of the non-consumer products in the Necessary Ingredient list. And I offer up red phosphorus just as a conversation starter. “What’s ‘red phosphorus’?” Exactly. It’s arcane, and those who need it for some reason, legal or otherwise, are the only ones who know what it is. …with the exception of those who research subjects like this in order to know what the hell we’re talking about.

In order to get red phosphorus, an average person would be required to purchase it from a scant handful of chemical supply companies, or else invest in a fairly complex chemical derivation process. Notwithstanding that meth-making requires a whole series of chemical derivations to begin with [including the derivation of ephedrine from pseudoephedrine], adding one more chemical derivation makes it just that much more difficult to make in your garage, and it would be an effective deterrent to the large-scale manufacture that we actually want curtailed – the small-scalers can blow themselves up for all I care.

It is simply far easier to track a chemical compound only available from a limited number of supply sources than it is to track a consumer product through – literally – tens of thousands of retailers in millions upon millions of transactions annually. But the latter effectively [and coercively] deputizes drug stores, grocery stores, department stores, health and beauty stores … and all those who work for them. It becomes yet another example of untrained law enforcers enforcing wide-scoped laws that the real law enforcers do not have the manpower to enforce themselves, because the law is unnecessarily fish-eyed. This ultimately results in the infringement of civil rights – made possible because the clerks who work for 7-11 are not constitutionally required to uphold the rights of the public under threat of penalty. … the way cops are [supposed to be].

Choking off a limited-use chemical ingredient is effective, but not many of us will actually know about it; when our legislator wants our vote in the next election and he tells us he was critical in actually reducing the scourge of meth by prohibiting some arcane substance that no one knew existed … he might not get our vote. What good is actually protecting the public if the public doesn’t recognize it and reward him for it by rehiring him? It is better to pretend to protect the public by interfering with the majority of free citizens at every turn and tell them it’s for their own good.

Choking off a widely-used chemical ingredient and interfering with the lives of, arguably, most Americans at some point or other is certain to get our attention. Interfering with the lives of most Americans has become the habit for legislators wishing to impress upon their voters that They Are Doing Something. Who cares if it works? They got press.

As a result, consumers with the sniffles are required to submit to police tracking, and governmental busy-bodies populating data-minable databases of their over-the-counter drug purchases for [let’s face it] ever[3]. All this to have no effect on the meth business, but to convince us all that our lawmakers are Doing Something enough to be worthy of reelection. Isn’t that helpful!

Unfortunately, this is the most common result of our lawmakers getting super-serious about helping us: they don’t, they don’t even come close, and they piss us off in the process while constructing a faux-moral rationalization to explain why our being pissed off over governmental intrusion is actually our own fault. “Oh, so you must like drug abuse…”

This is an example of legislation which outright failed. And which was never going to work. Far more insidious is legislation which was created for one reason, and enforced for another – and sometimes far different – reason.

…like Child Support.

We are all aware of the horror stories of uncollected child support. What most people are not aware of, however, including those who work in the field of imposing, collecting, and administering child support [not to mention those who receive it], is that most of what we know about the subject is apocryphal. It’s urban legend. It’s old ex-wives’ tales. It’s a series of finely-honed lies.

It’s bullshit.

Yes, there are many fathers who do not reside with their children and do not pay child support. About half of them were never married to the mothers of those children, and in order to establish a child support order the mother must prove [burden of proof in our liberal legal system rests with the accuser] that the putative father is the actual father. Because of the demographics involved, almost all of these marriage-less children belong to the poverty class where the mother doesn’t typically have the job to get the money, nor the education to get the job in order to front the cost for the sometimes-expensive process of establishing paternity.[4] Hence, no paternity is established. Hence, no child support orders are made.[5]

Most of the other half of the fathers who do not pay child support do not have jobs that pay well enough to support more than the father himself hand-to-mouth, and in many cases he does not possess the education [or the resources to improve his education] to get a better job.

Of all the fathers who do not pay child support, only a very small share of them are those who have the money to pay it, but willfully fail and refuse to do so. Of this very small share, the vast majority of them never see their children, and mostly because the mother refuses to allow it, or has otherwise interfered in contact for so long that the father has given up trying. It is pointless to attempt to chicken/egg most of these into which violation of the divorce decree occurred first. “She stopped me from seeing the kids, so I’m not paying child support!!” Versus “He stopped paying child support, so he can’t see the kids!!” Grow up, both of you.

Honestly, you’re both wrong, you’re both criminal [though only one is enforced on even a semi-regular basis[6]], and anyone who does this is showing less maturity than the children and – frankly – demonstrates a gross inability to have custody or visitation, either one. Sorry, but babies shouldn’t be raising children.

Back a generation ago, when the issue of child support escaped state jurisdiction and was commandeered by the feds[7], Congress heard an elephant’s earful on the horrors caused by the non-payment of child support by those who were never married and therefore had no child support orders. Poor kids with poor single mothers, almost exclusively on welfare, and none of them have enough to eat. It was sad, Congress agreed it was sad, and promised to do something about it. Congress decided to get super-serious.

Congress also heard an elephant’s earful about those who do have child support orders but who don’t pay them because the job they have does not pay enough money to support an adult and underwrite the living expenses of children in separate housholds; this is also a sad situation which Congress promised to do something about. …the non-payment part only; notably not the “getting a better job in order to have enough to pay” part.

When Congress had heard enough sad tales of woe from poor women with poor children who didn’t have enough to eat and who had to use the oven for a furnace in the winter, they asked what could be done to fix it. …only they didn’t ask those who used their ovens for furnaces. Congress didn’t even ask advocates for these poor people. Congress instead asked women’s groups, who are populated by women whose children [if they have any at all] do not have too little to eat, but instead have the middle class jobs and are thus able to provide for their [sometimes] single-parent children; they also have the spare time to join a Cause.

What can we do to help you?” Congress asked these middle-class women.

And the middle-class women in these women’s advocacy groups told Congress:
· automatically take child support from a guy’s paycheck [useless when he has no or variable employment]
· force the guy to make payments through the state [useless when he has no money at all, or only what it takes to provide for himself]
· make it a crime to not pay child support – a crime punishable by jail – and not because of nonpayment, but because of failing to comply with a court order [debtor prison once removed]
· …and because it’s now a debt owed to the state instead of the ex-wife, it becomes the state’s obligation to prosecute [how many other civil debts are co-opted by the state under conditions which pre-exist claims of, proof for, and conviction of non-payment?]
· et cetera – sadly, there’s much, much more to this litany of pointless and misdirected legislation ... some of which appears herein.

These are all measures that are useless in collecting child support for the poverty class women whose children do not have enough to eat, but they sure are handy to the relatively rare example of the middle-class woman who doesn’t get child support because her ex-husband is a baby who doesn’t want to pay it. And if she wants to be a baby herself and not allow visitation? With automatic garnishment … she can do it! Isn’t that convenient! Everything middle-class divorced women want with none of that pesky quid pro quo.

When the state prosecutes child support scofflaws, they don’t target the guys who are required to pay just a few hundred dollars a month, and whose children to whom that few hundred dollars represents the difference between being fed and going to bed hungry. Why not? Because the state knows that those fathers don’t have the money, and the state knows they don’t have the prison space for all the fathers who don’t have the money, and the state knows that making even a token example of a poor guy with a lousy job and no education to speak of will ultimately run afoul of a poverty rights group who will sue [and win] over the issue of debtor prison – which is [supposed to be] forbidden in this country. Besides, the prosecutors’ offices themselves don’t have the funds or manpower necessary to track down the hundreds of thousands of marginal males in our country who don’t pay child support, collect the documentation necessary to make a case, drag them into court, and convince the judge that it’s necessary to nail them over trivial amounts of uncollected child support[8].

So the state prosecutes only those fathers who do have good jobs, and do have good education, and who merely choose to not pay child support[9] in non-trivial amounts, and who therefore would never receive the necessary political sympathy to sue and win upon the issue of debtor prisons – which are suddenly legal for middle-class [and wealthier] fathers.

Did I mention that the incentive for all this is that the state gets free federal money based on the number of dollars it collects and not on how many children of divorce have enough to eat? This virtually guarantees that prosecutors will only enforce child support against those who have large monthly payments [i.e., good jobs], and who have not been paying for a long, long time. It virtually guarantees that those who have no job [or variable jobs], little or no education to get jobs, and who tend to father scads of children among similarly situated women will continue to father these children and not have to pay child support for them. And it may explain why, after the feds got hold of the Child Support Issue, most states fell all over themselves raising child support amounts for the middle class fathers who work, and sometimes even lowering the child support rates for the poverty class fathers who don’t.

Remember, this solution was created on the back of Congressional testimony which heard that unpaid child support means children go to bed hungry and they have to use the oven to heat the apartment in the wintertime, so now anyone who complains about the bait-n-switch is automatically labeled a deadbeat. And those who run the child support system [not to mention those who receive child support] feel better about themselves after imposing a set of onerous, draconian and presumptuous requirements upon a group of folks who by and large were not, nor were they likely to be, in violation of anything to begin with.

Brings a super-serious tear to your eye, dunnit?

Well, here’s a tear for the other eye.

Illinois passed a law last year while everyone in the state was watching our governor sell himself to the highest briber. This law was a super-serious response to what is, to many, a legitimate issue: drunk driving. But it’s another bait-n-switch. And it took effect January 1st. That’s when I first heard about it. I’m willing to bet that almost everyone in the state except members of MADD didn’t hear about it before then, either.

We’re all aware of the horror stories associated with drunk driving, as well. And it’s true: it happens. Far too frequently.

But in our zeal to sympathize with the families who’ve lost children, or parents, or friends due to the callous and misguided selfishness of those who drive while blotto, we are neglecting to account for a large batch of reality. And the cops are less than no help in remembering the realities, either – they have a vested interest in being very, very forgetful, in fact.

It is worth saying – and critical to understanding the subject right off the bat – every driver is capable of running over children, and killing parents and friends. Those who are drunk, and those who are stone cold sober, both. Sober drivers kill by far the most people on our roadways, in fact. But it is in terms of miles driven that the meaningful ratios are gotten. Per miles driven, sober drivers are relatively safe drivers … all else being equal. It is when the ratio of safety per miles driven changes negatively that we have a legitimate need for government action – and what governments do best is pass laws.

When legislatures are super-serious in law-making, the laws they pass tend to be super-stupid. Rather than basing our drunk driving laws on the relative dangers associated with driving while being this-amount of drunk versus that-amount of drunk, we have defined “drunk” to be what a group of self-professed Prohibitionists are satisfied with. They have declared any drink to be drunk – and they have been getting state legislatures [and ever since the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, Congress as well] to go along with them in incremental chunks.

The neo-prohibitionists at MADD have gotten statutory BAL lowered from .12 to .10 to .08[10], and taken from the realm of state jurisdiction, where traffic law constitutionally belongs, to the bailiwick of Congress, where it doesn’t. Their next declared target is .05. After that [some of their literature says] is .02. Point-zero-two is a dose of cough medicine before going to work. Point-zero-two is communion wine on an empty stomach and driving home all born-again.

The only problem with all this is that there’s no evidence that .08 is any more dangerous per miles driven than driving home from church stone-cold sober.[11] There’s also no evidence that .10 is any more dangerous. You don’t start getting more dangerous driving until you get north of .12 … and the graph curves upward very, very quickly at that point. At .15 your speech is severely slurred and you wobble when you stand. At .23 you fall over when you stand. Much beyond that, you cannot stay conscious. It is the folks who drive at .15 and .23 who do the killing on the roads.

What’s the most ironic is that everyone who is involved with this subject – including the fine little Nazis at MADD during their more lucid moments – agree on this. The road-safety issue is not those at .08 [nor ten years ago, those at .10, nor 25 years ago those at .12]; the issue is those above .12. Those who drive at above .12 have typically been caught and ticketed so many times, frequently while involved in accidents, that they commonly have no license to drive anymore. They are long past the “suspended license” stage. They are license-less and not likely to be otherwise again during this lifetime.

And yet they are still driving.

And the cops can’t stop them.

Nor can the courts.

Legislatures? ferget it.

So what do they do? What do the cops and the courts and the legislatures do? They get their empty little blockheads together and concoct a plan whereby they get super-serious about stopping drunk drivers who kill by seeking out and penalizing those who don’t, and inventing out of whole cloth a brand new definition of “drunk” each time they want to justify writing more DUI tickets to fill their coffers so they can hire more cops to write DUI tickets. They’ve effectively given up on the true problem and decided that tackling a non-problem is easier. But in order to get the public to buy into the non-problem solution, they have to sell it to us in terms that dishonestly describe “buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

They’ve spent the last 25 years demonizing social drinking as indifferentiable from being a stumbling drunk, and the general public has bought into the fairy tale. We’ve been successfully preconditioned. So now the legislature can do what it wants to the .08 drivers who are no more dangerous than the .00 drivers, because most of us believe .08 is the same as .15 and .23, and few of us will quibble. After all, we don’t want to be seen as trying to make excuses for drunks killing kids. Do we? No we do not! Just like we don’t want to be seen as making excuses for meth manufactures. Or be accused of being a deadbeat.

It no longer matters what the Illinois legislature passed last year to fight the false issue of drunk driving[12]; it’s stupid and the wrong people are going to get scapegoated. No children will be saved, but many, many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic fines will be generated … which might actually be the ultimate objective [gee, ya think?], and from which police departments get a large statutory kickback, which is why cops have a vested interest in being very, very forgetful of reality as pertains to this subject.

The benefit of a democracy is that the citizens get a government they deserve. That is also the drawback. We have a government full of superficial, self-serving simpletons more interested in doing what a few minority groups want than in doing what the majority wants… which is mostly to be left alone. If Thomas Jefferson is correct and this lame-brained excuse for nickel and dime incremental tyranny is what we deserve, then my questions are not so much with the government, but with the rest of the retards who are my fellow citizens: what are the major problems in your personal lives that you feel it necessary and appropriate to be shovel-fed large amounts of steaming bullshit by power-hungry simpletons? And how does it not make you gag?

[1] Another super-serious bit of Illinois legislation has been to require car seats for all children under the age of 8, which everyone acknowledges are rarely used properly, thus making them more dangerous to the child; recent super-serious federal legislation includes 95% of our legislative response to 9-11 including, but not limited to, The Patriot Act, the creation of – ha ha ha – “Homeland Security” and their subspecies, the trained apes at TSA; additionally, HIPAA, which has done more to increase the cost of health care in this country than any other single cause since its implementation without any consequential increase in health or meaningful guarantee of insurance portability or medical privacy; the ADA, which has created a rush of new “disabilities” on the promise that those so disabled can skate; and Sarbanes-Oxley, the uber-stupid response to Enron, which makes lack of precognition by corporate leaders a criminal offense.

[2] Methamphetamine is legally prescribed for major weight reduction, attention deficit disorder, and narcolepsy.

[3] And where is the ACLU while all this is going on? Is governmental data-mining only tortable when it’s phone records of those who call terrorists?

[4] By the way, statistically, virtually all the fathers in these cases are in the same predicament as the mother: lousy jobs if any at all, little or no education

[5] And according to federal law, if and when these poverty-class cases have paternity established, any child support collected must reimburse the state for the costs it incurred in providing the mother and children any welfare payments they have ever received. So if the mother suddenly finds herself with the money to pay for paternity tests, and those tests prove some guy is the father, the guy’s child support check – assuming he has any money that can be squeezed from him – will be going to the state and not the mother whose children don’t have enough to eat. The money the mother spent in court to prove all this? She’ll never see it again. And aren’t we glad the government is on our side? Imagine the harm they could do if they weren’t!

[6] …and when the law plays favorites, as it does here, the law is also wrong.

[7] Family Support Act of 1988

[8] Before anyone wets their panties over the phrase “trivial amounts of uncollected child support” you are advised to remember who and what we’re talking about here. We are not talking about a poor mother to whom $150 a month means full bellies for her babies. We are talking about the state government to which that $150 a month requires the outlay of $20,000 of prosecutors’ office budget and 2,500 staff-hours only to result in not being able to collect it from some schmuck who doesn’t have it to give, and to which the arrearage of $1,800 per year of non-payment of that $150 per month is peanuts compared to the $180,000,000 per year that the same state government can collect from middle-class fathers just by doing nothing… because middle-class people, by and large, pay their bills, even if they disagree with them.

[9] While sending this treatise off to my proof-reader, I was scolded that I’m failing to make enough distinctions here in the “Child Support as legal bait/switch” section: there are some not-so-middle-class fathers, I was reminded, who lose jobs and get nailed … not to mention that it’s even sometimes the [token] woman who is required to pay child support. And while these are true, the point here is to describe idiotic government, and not to issue a detailed description of every corruption in the entire child support system, for that would take volumes – the entire concept is corrupt in its design and implementation. But with respect to the forlorn father who loses his job and drops out of the ranks of “middle class” and winds up in jail over it – and it does happen – the courts do not agree that he is forlorn. Once the courts establish that an Obligor has the “ability” to earn a given amount of income, that will be the minimum amount of income upon which his Child Support Obligation will forevermore be based – it can only increase from there. The courts either have not heard of, or do not care about, recession or depression or layoffs or job exports to third world countries. Nor disablement and loss of income. Nor military activation for war and loss of income. In the courts’ eyes, the newly-unemployed, disabled or deployed father chose to lose his job, chose to be disabled, or chose to start a war, and his children should not be required to financially suffer – because married fathers never, ever lose their jobs [et al] and have it affect their kids … EVER – and that’s the way they will continue to see it. Because that’s what the law says. Needless to say, these courts pick odd times to claim to be “constrained by the letter of the law” in a matter which is “in equity”. Equity means that the court can deviate from the law any time it wishes – provided it can give a reason for doing so. It doesn’t even have to be a good reason; note all the nonsense lawlessly perpetrated under the guise of “best interest of the children”. “Hands are tied?” Aww, poor judge! No, courts simply don’t wish to; they don’t want to. They are perfectly happy issuing despotic edicts that are sometimes prohibitively impossible to fulfill, and often unnecessary, simply because it gives the corrupt court a sense of power. This entire system is corrupt, and there’s not enough pixels in the world to describe it all in appropriate terms; I will not try to do so here.

[10] And let’s not even get into the notorious problems associated with breathalyzers, from artificially calculating results based on “average” lung capacity and respiration rates, to magnifying the spectrographic results from alcohol-derived wavelengths, to not differentiating between alcohol and other similar substances in the spectography, and the rest. Breathalyzers can give results that are up to 100% INaccurate. But their word is virtually unimpeachable. The technology is, at any rate; in order to beat a breathalyzer, you have to be able to prove that the cop used it wrong. You can’t question the machine itself even though the machine is inherently flawed.

[11] There is evidence that .08 brings motor skill impairment – which is not and never has been the issue. But everything causes motor skill impairment, from too much caffeine, to too little; too much sleep, to too little; being ill; being angry; being excited; being sad; being anything. Sneezing fits, coughing fits, allergic reactions that cause itchy, watery eyes and for which you can’t take allergy medicine to fix, an out-dated pair of eyeglasses. Being too old, being too young… anything which interferes with your perceptions and the ability to translate those perceptions into control of a motor vehicle. The issue is not motor-skill-impairment; the issue is whether you are too motor-skill-impaired to safely operate a vehicle. And the statistics do not support that the motor skill impairment consistent with .08 is any more dangerous than .00 and coming home from a church service where you didn’t take communion.

[12] But just in case you want to know, here it is: first offense gets a driver an ignition interlock breathalyzer deal, which must be “rented” from the state, and if it shows more than .025 – just a tad more than cough medicine – the car cannot start. Remember that .08 is the legal limit, so what’s going on is not merely an unproductive [but lucrative!] punishment for the wrong people, but an Equal Protection issue as well. Not that anyone else will see the Equal Protection issue. Only recognized minorities and terrorists trying to kill American soldiers have Equal Protection in this country.


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