L. Neil Smith's
Number 323, June 12, 2005

"News From The Belly Of The Beast"

News From The Belly Of The Beast
by Chris Claypoole

Exclusive to TLE

Living in Maryland, as I have for most of my 54 years, I get to see some of the most oppressive, politically-correct, statist crap this side of Massachusetts or California (apologies and condolences to the denizens of those states). Just thought I would pass on some of the more egregious happenings here in "The Free State" to the rest of the inmates.

The state police were participating in the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign to write tickets to drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts. This was done despite the "promise" by the state legislature when it first passed a seatbelt bill in 1988 that it would "never" be a primary offense. That is, an offender would not be pulled over just for not wearing a seatbelt, but only ticketed if they were pulled over for some other violation first. That was changed in 1997, but many people, like a co-worker who argued with me a few weeks ago, still think the law remains as originally passed. See: http://www.lawlib.state.md.us/seatbelts.html

Well, the troopers were pulling people over at night along a main road in Montgomery County, the most oppressively liberal jurisdiction in Maryland. This is where the county council once tried to pass a law forbidding smoking in people's homes if the smoke drifted into another homeowner's yard. How could they know, you ask, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt at night? They said they were using night vision goggles. This created quite a furor, and some of the local talk radio shows devoted whole days to the topic. After a few days of this, as state police and "safety" officials defended their use of the devices and the issuing of tickets for what should be a personal option, the Republican governor, Bob Erlich, ordered the state police to stop using the night vision goggles. See http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-police0606,1,953078.story?page=1 for a report.

One of the "safety" advocates I heard on a talk show was adamant that the ticketing of non-seatbelt-wearers was good "public policy." People had to be forced, if necessary, to do what was good for them. Warnings were not enough, as they did not force people to obey their masters. That's not the word she used, but that's what she meant. Nothing would satisfy her except 100% compliance with the seatbelt law. Not 70%, not 90%. Everyone must obey, for their own good, of course.

In Baltimore City, they had a "gun buyback" program again. The current mayor, Martin O'Malley, had ridiculed a previous buyback as paying money for antiques and old, inoperable guns. But the new police commissioner (the third in three years) wanted the program, so the mayor went along. They paid the most for "assault weapons", then handguns, then rifles. They did not like the offer I made to the unfortunate manning the public relations line that I would make alternate offers if I saw something I wanted. The point was to "get guns off the streets." As the following article indicates, the previous program did little to stem the tide of violent crime in Baltimore City, and this one won't either. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/bal-ed.guns03jun03,1,6496212.story. (The last paragraph shows how silly the only local daily newspaper can be about how the money could alternatively be used.)

In fact, the same day that the City announced that the program was ending early because they had used all the money allocated, the FBI crime statistics for Baltimore City came out, and it was bad news, especially for those in the police department and mayor's office that had been cooking the books on crime statistics for the last few years. (Mayor O'Malley intends to run for governor in 2006, to bring all the good stuff he has done for Baltimore City to the whole state of Maryland.) For this report, see http://wbal.com/stories/anmviewer.asp?a=31902

In the "Bad Cop, No Donut" category, we return to the aforementioned Montgomery County. A high school graduation party was being held in the rather posh neighborhood of Bethesda. The party, hosted by two sets of parents, was large (about 80 teens) but alcohol-free. There was a "blues band, a moon bounce, a popcorn machine and a pit for making s'mores." Sounds like the kind of party we all wish teenagers would have, rather than the one across my back alley a few weeks ago, which included lots of alcohol, some minor property damage, and a few instances of the "horizontal bop" done vertically in full view of our windows. (Damn camcorder just wasn't good enough for that low level of light. :-) )

In any event, someone must have complained about the noise level at the Bethesda party, and the local Gestapo showed up. When the mothers running things refused to let the cops give Breathalyzer tests to the kids, the police acted in what can only be surmised was a fit of pique. They set up roadblocks to stop kids leaving the party. None had alcohol on their breath. Then the cops started ticketing parked cars for the many nit-picky infractions that are put on the books for just such contingencies. See the story here: http://wbal.com/stories/anmviewer.asp?a=31880 Anyone want to bet on whether there will be "proven misconduct" found in this case?

On the lighter side, my daughter's boyfriend is running for class vice-president for next year, the senior class of 2006. While he realized this was far from an original joke, he created posters with his pictures in three fully-clothed, somewhat silly poses, and the caption, "Vote (name withheld)—He brings new meaning to Student Body Vice President." This guy is a skinny, somewhat doughy dude; he is smart, good sense of humor, and not afraid to laugh at himself. (His other poster was a parody of the Chinese zodiac, playing a pun on his name and citing his better qualities as a candidate.) He is not a threat to be on a magazine cover, if you get my drift. But the school principal made him take all the posters down, saying they were (of course) inappropriate. I had thought this school (one of the top 5% of academic high schools in the country, according to two different magazines) was a little more reasonable than most. They even allowed a (gasp!) Christmas carol to be sung by the choir at the "Winter Concert" last December. Another candidate's posters were also judged to be inappropriate, for a having the word "sexy" as a watermark-type background to the campaign message. The intent was a commentary on the widespread American advertising tradition (sex sells). In any event, the censorship didn't have much of an effect. Both candidates won handily.


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