By MANIFESTO JOE
Just as I was recovering from the shame of having my home state produce U.S. history's worst president, Texas has subjected its progressive minority to yet another embarrassment. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Reuters reports, has "temporarily suspended" a program that had undercover officers arresting alleged drunks in bars.
The Houston Chronicle, Reuters said, found that 1,740 people across the state had been arrested on public intoxication charges as part of "Operation Last Call." The TABC spokeswoman said that though the program "has room for improvement," officials still believe that it was worthwhile.
News flash, bluenoses: If you really want to rid Texas streets of drunken drivers, all you would have to do is stake out police near every dive, after midnight, every morning.
But then, there's this bothersome thing called "probable cause" -- plus all the cop man-hours this would require.
As a form of DWI prevention, the TABC operation was comparable to citing someone for littering while they still have the garbage in their hands.
Also, it's absurdly naive.
Texans have a thing for motor vehicles -- pickup trucks, SUVs, Cadillacs, vans -- usually, the bigger the better. Mass-transit propositions in this state tend to lose at the polls, no matter how badly the programs are needed. There are obvious reasons: The oil industry has long dominated Texas politics, and it doesn't make much off mass transit; and, there are countless fools who would rather spend on Playboy mudflaps than pay a bit more in taxes so they won't have to drive themselves to and from beer joints to get swacked on Saturday nights.
Reality check, Texas neo-Puritans: In a culture that is (1) automotive, (2) known for some heavy drinking (booze has mostly been legal here since Prohibition), and (3) has lots of long distances and little mass transit, guess what? Some drunks are going to drive. It's against the law, as it should be. But this state seems to have been all but designed to encourage the practice.
Back around 1933, when the 18th Amendment was about to become history, Will Rogers joked about New Yorkers complaining about how the new bars would only be open until 3 a.m. Any man, he said, who can't get drunk by 3 in the morning just ain't trying.
New York City has its share of drawbacks. Their picante sauce is notoriously lame, like ketchup with a few chopped onions. But they have plenty of mass transit, and cabs, for their drunks.
Rogers also once said that our Constitution "protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators."
Two out of three ain't bad, Will. Or is it now only one?
By the way, mass transit is usually a good thing for one other group: the poor. But our Constitution hasn't done much for them lately, either.
MANIFESTO JOE IS AN UNDERGROUND WRITER LIVING IN TEXAS.