Forget Big Brother: If you're breaking the law while driving, you should be subject to punishment

On our radio show, Emil Franzi and I got a call from former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack.

A hero to many in the gun-arsenal crowd, Mack is best known for refusing to execute a part of the Brady Bill that he unilaterally decided was unconstitutional. He chose to fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and darned if he didn't win.

Alas, while he was making it easier for gun nuts to go nutty with guns, the people in Graham County were more concerned with things like burglaries and assaults, and they unceremoniously voted him out of office. National celebrity, local dud.

Mack had been the speaker at the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club, a really fun gathering (if you consider it fun to see just how scary some of your fellow citizens can be). Actually, I've been to the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club a couple of times and, both times ... well, I'm not going to lie. It's been scary.

The former sheriff was in his car, heading back to Eastern Arizona, when he called us. That meant that someone who should have known better was driving on an interstate highway and talking on a cell phone when he should have just been driving. However, as we would find out during the brief conversation, Mack's definition of personal liberty is based on being able to do whatever he wants, even if it endangers others, because, by golly, that's America.

Mack has written a book about how county sheriffs are the last bastion of freedom in the United States. I think you can get it on Amazon; it's in the "Yeah, Right!" section.

Quickly growing weary of the gun chatter going back and forth between Frick Franzi and Frack Mack, I asked the former sheriff about speed-enforcement cameras (not left-turn cameras). He launched into this diatribe that went on for freakin' ever. I can't remember what he said at the beginning, but I'm pretty sure that his last paragraph went, "Orwellian 1984 Orwell Orwellian Thought Police Orwell 1984 Orwellian."

For a long time, it creeped me out when people on the right would invoke Orwell. I had grown up thinking of Orwell as a lefty, what with his having put his life on the line to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. But I came to realize that Orwell's genius lies in his ability to see that both sides tend toward tyranny if given the chance.

Mack went on to praise the members of the Arizona State Legislature who are trying to permanently ban the use of any cameras for traffic-control purposes, even though such cameras save lives and generate much-needed revenue for states, counties and cities. (I'm sorry; call me cold-hearted, but I have no problem with governments getting money from people who break the law.)

Some of these legislators are sincere, while others have probably gotten popped a couple of times on Loop 202. Some try to make these grand arguments about the constitutionality of it all, but most can't tell the Constitution from constipation. I asked three such legislators to tell me how many amendments there are to the Constitution; not one got it right. Currently, there are 27. One guy said 36.

I asked Mack if it would be OK to have some sort of electromagnetic system in the road to keep people from exceeding the speed limit over an extended distance (allowing people to speed up to pass before settling back into a reasonable rate). He said something like, "No, Orwellian 1984 Gestapo Orwellian!"

Then he said one of those really stupid things, the kind of thing that makes you wish you had a rubber chicken with which to beat somebody. He said, "What if you have one of those situations where you really need to exceed the speed limit? I want to have that right."

First of all, there is no such "right." Then, I asked him if he meant as a law-enforcement officer or as a private citizen. He said the latter. I was about to chew on him when his phone went dead. He had either entered Texas Canyon or had run a family of four off the road because he wasn't paying attention.

Be honest here, people: How many times in your entire life have you really, really needed to exceed the speed limit over an extended period? I'm not talking about being late to work or trying to get to the theater before the movie starts or being bored that it's taking so long to get to San Diego. Those aren't needs; those are just situations in which a selfish jerk thinks his destination and time are more important than everybody else's, and everyone best get out of the way.

I could only think of two real-need situations (neither of which, thankfully, I've ever been involved in): Your wife's contractions are 12 seconds apart, or your homie got shot at a party, and you need to get him to the hospital before he bleeds out all over your upholstery.

Richard Mack wants all of those cameras gone yesterday. That way, he can exercise his personal liberty, which apparently is defined as being able to break the law, without a high probability of getting caught, when it suits his purposes.