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« Political Soapbox - 1 (on no! he's numbering them!) | Main | Merger Mania »

Political Soapbox - 2 (digging the hole deeper)

I didn’t plan to be back on my political soapbox so quickly, but Harry’s recent email on federally mandated ignition interlocks set my teeth a’ grinding again. As a side note, if you don’t read Harry and Benj, I recommend you start. To quote Harry’s Monday, October 29th email, (underlining is mine):

“You will no doubt recall how the federal government got all fifty states to adopt a national minimum drinking age of 21 and then a national maximum blood alcohol threshold of 0.08 for DUI: threaten to withhold federal highway funds to states who balk. The legality of the technique was iffy, but it worked.

Today, the federal government is considering a similar ploy to get states to make ignition interlocks mandatory throughout the U.S. for anyone convicted of drunk driving, where a driver must blow into a tube to unlock his or her ignition. The bev-al industry generally supports ignition interlocks, but for repeat offenders and high BAC offenders.

One of the things that MADD is proposing is getting the federal government to initiate "soft sanctions" for states that fail to pass first time DUI ignition interlocks, and "substantial incentive grants" for states which pass such legislation… Only Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico require ignition interlocks for first time DUI convictions. First time DUI interlock legislation is MADD’s “highest legislative priority.”

While MADD doesn’t support federally mandating that automobile manufacturers put ignition interlocks in all vehicles, clearly that is the end-game. MADD does support “increased federal funding to help with the cooperative research initiative between the automotive industry and the federal government to support new technologies that may eventually prevent

Indeed, Senator Barbara Boxer from California remarked that “if the device was in every car, what harm would it do?”

Our new “partner” MADD (we think they’re helping us protect the 3-tier system, they see us as Lenin’s “useful idiots” as they relentlessly move the football down the field), has requiring first time DUI interlock legislation as their “highest legislative priority”. And of course after that they desire the devices to become mandatory on all vehicles. And after that perhaps we need to look at people drinking in their homes if children are present… oh my, they might be at risk! And of course if “we” have to pay for your health insurance, perhaps “we” need to restrict and regulate your personal alcohol consumption. Think these are off-the-wall comments? Look how far they have moved the football in just the past 20 years or so.

They are our partner? The only reason MADD supports the 3-tier system (in some situations) is that it allows a better regulatory framework for them to accomplish their goals. If they could accomplish their goals by destroying the 3-tier system, do you think they’d be on our side? Do we really believe they and their ilk have any bias towards the 3-tier system? Please. Do they seem to believe and support state’s rights?... a bedrock principle upon which the entire 3 tier system is based. Sure doesn’t seem like it.

Ask yourself, do you support state’s rights? Do you consider legal words to have a true, unalterable meaning… or are laws fluid and ever changing? Their ultimate meaning to be determined by a handful of “learned” people? If you work in this industry and are not a strong supporter of state’s rights in all areas and individual liberty, then you are making a very short-term and foolish decision which is most certainly going cost you some time in the future.

Where to begin on the entire concept of ignition interlocks? Let’s start at the very high level… regardless of your involvement in this industry; this is just one more in another long line of assaults on constitutional government. Either the words in the Constitution mean what they say, or they mean whatever 51% of the judges and Supreme Court justices in the country want them to say. Just because 5 Supreme Court justices state something is constitutional, doesn’t necessarily make it so… the consequences of the power grab of Marbury vs. Madison reverberate to this day. I think I understand English as well as the next guy and I challenge anyone to find the words in the Constitution which would remotely allow the federal government to demand ignition interlocks, or mandate a 21 year old drinking age, or a 0.08 DUI threshold… or a very long list of other things.

The Founding Fathers would be shocked to see that we allow the police to set up check points where free, law abiding people are randomly stopped for absolutely no probable cause. Literally thousands of people are stopped to arrest a handful of people. And even these people arrested, how many of them were true dangers to others on the road? Have you noticed that they don’t report how many cars are stopped versus DUI arrests made anymore? Ever wonder why this is? Because they are incredibly ineffective in really getting the hard-core drunk driver off the road. Of course the dirty little secret of sobriety checkpoints is that they have become huge money makers. Every poor schmuck who owes a fine gets popped. Talk to those in the know and you’ll find this is what is driving many of these checkpoints, all wrapped under the protective covering of “getting tough with drunk driving”. In fact the whole DUI “industry” has become a fairly large honey pot for a whole range of folks.

Instead of taking a narrow view and looking to only attempt to protect our little world, perhaps the beer wholesaling industry needs to spend a little of its time and money spreading the word on state’s rights. Perhaps we should join hands with others who hold similar views. I’m not talking about Republican or Democrat here. The party in power will always change; we need to have friends on both sides of the aisle. I think we will find politicians of all stripes who support individual freedom and liberty.

I think this industry headed down the wrong road long ago when we sought compromise from our enemies. In a nice bit of political jujutsu, they positioned us (or we allowed them to position us) as being FOR drunk driving if we were against their ideas. This continues to this day. Think about the days of old, let’s give a little on the drinking age or blood alcohol content or check points and then THEY WILL SEE that this industry isn’t so bad and we really are against drunk driving and under-age drinking. First, whoever said we were for these things? Second, have we figured it out yet, they don’t want to see nor do they care to see, nothing we do will be enough. How many hundred’s of millions have the brewers and wholesalers spent on fighting under-age drinking? Don’t you get it, it doesn’t matter to these groups.

We were afraid to make the case for state’s rights and individual freedom and responsibility because (oh my gosh) they would paint us as being only concerned about our narrow business interests and our desire to have only more drunk driving and under-age drinking. Guess what; many still paint you the same way. Let’s at least fight based on what is true and right, rather than going along, throwing our enemies a bone and hoping that will placate them for a while.

The quote from Senator Barbara Boxer illustrates it well… “if the device was in every car, what harm would it do?”. How will this industry answer this question? Will we even have the courage to question the premise of the question? Why can “they” make cars which are designed to go over the speed limit? Why shouldn’t we have governors on all vehicles which keep them from going over the posted speed limit? (That technology wouldn’t be that difficult to install). Why do “they” allow vehicles to be built which have far more horsepower than is required for legal driving activity? Why even allow a private vehicle market, think of the savings if the government controlled this! What would it hurt to know where all the legal guns are in this country? What would it hurt to have mandatory DNA, finger print and eye scan databanks on every citizen in the country? I realize I might be going to extremes to make my point, but I can guarantee you that there are many people out there who strongly support these and far worse ideas. What would it hurt? … How about it is simply wrong.

Will some extreme governmental action stop some drunk driving, sure. Getting rid of the concept of search warrants and giving the police the right to enter anyplace, anytime and interrogate anyone they desire would also help them fight crime… this is an absolute fact. It is also a very bad idea. But I do not support increased crime just because I support the concept of search warrants and innocent until proven guilty. Why is it so easy to make this point yet our collective industry finds it so difficult to strike back at the insulting canard that if we don’t support this or that further restriction, we are for drunk driving (oh wait, MADD has already changed that to be drinking and driving… was this a compromise we also accepted?)

As perhaps some of you might have figured out by now, I believe the battles this industry is fighting (and will continue to fight) are part of a much larger erosion of our individual rights. Until the underlying cultural issues that drive these erosions of our cherished liberties are addressed, we will find that far too often we are fighting battles which we lost long ago, only we are just now realizing it. So let’s start addressing these issues. It won’t get better unless we do something. And short-sighted compromises are most definitely not the way to go.

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