Rules are made to be broken or so they say. A friend said recently it’s not so much that the rules get broken just that new rules are developed all the time. Most people take the path of least resistance, so new rules are quietly accepted.

We were talking about chow lines. Back in college we had to stand in chow lines. At Knoxville College in Tennessee there were more Charlestonians attending the school than students from any other one city. It literally took a couple of Greyhound buses to get us home at the holidays.

Some of the Charleston guys gained a reputation for being a little overbearing. We thought we were the BMOCs (Big Men On Campus) of the yard. Our numbers and attitudes gave us priority status. Or so we thought.

At meal times all a homeboy had to do was find another Charlestonian in the chow line and take a place in front of that person. The rule, of course, was to go to the end of the line, but in the case of us Charlestonians a new rule had developed. Other students would get ticked off about it, but said nothing.

This recent deal with President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence reminds me of those days at Knoxville. Some folks just don’t want to get in line. The rule says if you do the crime you must do the time. But Bush and his boys have developed a new rule — the administration can do whatever it pleases.

The rule has always been that America will line up for war if we’re attacked or to protect our interests. The Bush administration created a new rule that allows America to enter a war that benefits the interests of the military industrial complex. I guess Bush thinks if Americans will allow his administration to change the rules to create a self-serving war, it certainly can change the rules about jailing one of that war’s architects.

For the past couple of decades the Republicans have been the BMOCs of this nation’s political arena. They’ve got the numbers and the attitude. They can do pretty much as they please, so I won’t be a bit surprised if the Thomas Ravenel drug arrest goes away without much fanfare. The guy almost certainly won’t go to jail.

A few months ago the state of South Carolina sentenced a 26-year-old black man to life in prison under the three strikes conviction rule. This young man’s last conviction was for selling less than one gram of crack cocaine. Ravenel is accused of possessing with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.

Mind you, I don’t agree that anyone should be jailed for the rest of their lives over what many may consider a victimless crime, but rules are rules and the rule is you do the crime, you do the time. But we all know that’s not the case with Scooter Libby and it won’t be the case with Ravenel. Given the Ravenel family’s status in this state, it’s a cinch little Tommy won’t have to go to the end of the line like most people who get caught possessing and distributing illegal drugs.

The audacity of the Bush crew is mirrored at the local level. The Republican power structure uses its dominance to flaunt the rules. That was demonstrated a few years ago when Republicans came to power. Committee chairmanships previously had been made based on seniority. That rule went out the window and the Republicans indiscreetly put their members in chairmanship positions, irrespective of seniority. The Republican-dominated legislature also passed laws that impose stiffer sentences for possession and distribution of crack cocaine than powder cocaine.

We all know the deal, all the stuff is illegal, but the cheaper crack form of the drug is preferred by those without the big bucks of folks like Ravenel. What bugs me about all of that is the total disregard those rule changers have for the rest of us.

And as long as we quietly accept rule changes that let rule breakers off the hook, the White House crew in Washington and the Statehouse crew in Columbia will continue to gorge themselves in excess while the rest of us have to wait for our suppers. The circumvention of the rules in the cases of Scooter Libby and Thomas Ravenel should be loudly protested. But I doubt it.