Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Pellicle Brief

The Pellicle Brief
©2018  Ross Williams

I brew my own beer.  As a result, I get better beer for the money I spend.  Of course, it takes time, effort and a basement that hangs out in the mid to upper 60s.  Luckily, I have all three.  I can get 36 pints of an excellent Russian Imperial Stout for the cost of four pints at a local beer hall, or six at the liquor mega-store.

At this point I don’t even count the cost of the equipment in the equation.  Those costs have long ago depreciated to nothing.

The hobby started a few years back.  I told my wife that if she wanted to get me a Valentine’s Day present guaranteed to please, make it a brewing kit.  I’d watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats show where he demonstrated cooking a beer and figured if the Egyptians could do it without knowing a damn about biology or chemistry, I − a high school science geek − could do at least as well.  Seemed simple enough.

And honestly, it is.  I don’t go getting all pedantic about it.  I just sample commercial microbrews for styles I haven’t had.  If I like the beer I buy a similar beer kit.  Then I cook it, and struggle with the bucket down the basement steps.  The one major problem with making my own beer is carrying five gallons at a time up and down a staircase after having had spinal surgery.

At this point in my life, I’m content letting the beer geeks do all coping with the alphas and lovibond scales.  When they finish geeking out and get a recipe they’re happy with, I’ll buy it − or not − and compliment or criticize the result.

The only issues I have are relatively minor.  I mostly address them by ignoring them.  I encountered one issue multiple times, however, and decided that I wanted to find out more about it.  Every six or eight batches of beer, I’d notice patches of dry, powdery schmutz on the surface of the beer when I opened the fermenting bucket.

I did a quick google − nothing.  So I went to the dot-com I buy my beer kits from to talk with their beer geeks.  Surely they’d know.  They didn’t.  The beer geek I talked to kept trying to tell me that the white powdery patches on top of my ferment was soap powder − I had mentioned that sometimes I clean my beer buckets with soap.  I use cheap liquid dish soap, the kind which, for what it’s worth, doesn’t leave a powdery residue.

When I reminded the beer geek that this happened whether I cleaned my equipment with soap or not, he changed his answer to a chemical reaction between an ingredient in the beer and the chlorine bleach I sometimes use [at Alton Brown’s suggestion] to sanitize my equipment.  When I reminded him that this happened whether I soaked in a mild chlorine solution or not, he changed his answer yet again.
In short, he had no clue.  But I was still scolded about not buying one of the expensive chemical “food-safe” sanitizing compounds they sell on their website which absolutely, positively do not alter the taste of beer.  …they claim.

Thanks, no, I’m good not indulging a fallback into gratuitous chemical additive.  The beer I made tasted fine whether I ignored small amounts of this schmutz, or skimmed off the larger patches.

Still, unsatisfied with the Beer Geek Solution, I googled some more.  Finally, after about the twentieth combination of search terms [which I cannot duplicate to this day to find again what I found before], I happened across a scientific blog entry made by a guy with a PhD in microbiology who also brews his own.  His scientific essay was upon the formation of pellicle.

Pellicle is, essentially, an “extracellular extrusion” [i.e., microbiological poop] made by single-celled organisms such as the yeast which ferments the monosaccharides in a cooked beer.  These extrusions are sticky and tend to form chains.  Enough chains make a web-like structure.  When these form on the top of a liquid − such as fermented beer in a bucket − they will trap tiny gas bubbles and rise to the surface, giving the liquid the appearance of a [comparatively] dry, powdery film.

Furthermore, all single-celled organisms − yeast, algae, mold, bacteria, etc − have the gene to make pellicle.  But the yeast used for brewing have been selected in the hundreds of years of formal brewing, and the millions of generations of yeast those hundreds of years entailed, for the mutation which turned off the activity of that gene.  The microbiologist identified, by name, the gene in question.

Commercial brewing yeasts are sold from the stock having this pellicle-free mutation.  Yet mutations, being what they are, remutations can and do occur which turn this gene back on in commercial brewer’s yeast.  The result is pellicle formation on top of a fermented beer.

This happens in commercial breweries as well.  When it does, the batch of beer, all million gallons of it, is discarded.  The batch is considered “contaminated”.  The yeast stock, which the brewery’s yeast department cultivates, is tested.  If the mutation is in the source stock of yeast rather than occurring in the yeast growing in the vat, the yeast is also discarded and a prior generation of yeast replaces it.

When this happens in homebrew, the natural inclination is to say “Eww!  No one wants to drink fuzzy beer.  Homebrew suppliers are only more than happy to enable this contamination line of thought by selling another kit, or guilting the homebrewer into dousing brewing equipment in a chemical bath … witness my conversation with the dot-com’s beer geek.  This wouldn’t stop pellicle formation in any event.

The microbiologist concluded his essay by saying that you can throw away your fuzzy beer if you like, but it’s probably unnecessary.  Your beer is most likely perfectly fine and no one will know the difference.

Knowing that the substance is called pellicle, I googled some more.   What I found − and what all beer geeks working for homebrew dot-coms should know without having a novice explain it to them − is that white pellicle is from yeast or other benign organisms − like lactobacillus.  If you see white pellicle on your beer, it’s either from the commercial yeast you pitched having lost the non-pellicle mutation, or a ubiquitous wild yeast that migrated in before you closed your bucket, or a ubiquitous and wild lactobacillus.  Lactobacillus is sold in pill form as probiotics and, in combination with wild yeast, makes sourdough bread so uniquely delicious.  White pellicle may appear beige to light brown if the beer you’re fermenting is an amber or a stout.

Green pellicle is bread mold.  Unless you or your beer drinking guests have an allergy to penicillin you’re going to be fine.  But I would still dump the beer.

It is black or red/pink pellicle that is a true contaminant.  It can be anything from common shower mildew to something far, far worse.  Seeing these would inspire me to wash my equipment with soap, then soak in a high chlorine solution, and then wash with soap again.  And maybe once more.  Even then, I might just go buy new fermenting buckets and start the whole depreciation game from scratch.

Ignoring issues has limitations.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pint of excellent Russian Imperial calling my name.  It cost $1.25/pint to make.  I can stand a little fuzz.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Diogenes the Libertarian Braves a Blizzard

Diogenes the Libertarian Braves a Blizzard
©2018  Ross Williams

Imagine for just a moment a high school classroom.  Thirty or so students sitting, bored, in front of their teacher, indifferent.  Pretty typical.

Next imagine that one student decides he’ll be a petulant contrarian that day.  Still pretty typical.

And finally, imagine that the platform chosen for the petulance is a hat being worn in class.  The hat has a decidedly political patina to it.  It is a baseball cap with a Mexican flag across the front with large embroidered letters framing the flag and spelling out, in Spanish, “Viva la Reconquista!

For those who don’t know, reconquista is the Spanish word for reconquer, or reconquest.  And in geopolitics, it describes a populist Mexican sentiment to retake the entire US desert southwest from Texas to California, south of a line from generally San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Omaha and return it to Mexican rule.  Mexico feels they got rooked out of this land by the westward expansion of the United States in the mid-19th century, and they want it back.

Of course, wearing hats in class violates the rules of all public and private schools that I know of, and this school is no different.  And in fact the teacher informs the petulant student of this.  You can’t wear a hat in class.

The student, petulant and contrarian, quibbles this direction.  Why?

Because the school’s rules disallow hats in class.  Take it off.”

Petulant contrarians being what they are, the student continues the quibble.  Who is it hurting?

And here the teacher dives headfirst into a long, rambling explanation that life is full of rules, many of which are dumb on their face, but that the student will get nowhere in his life if he doesn’t obey those rules.  This is true enough, and the encounter should end at this point with the student either taking off the hat or being sent to see the school’s enforcer.

But it doesn’t end.  The teacher then embarks on a grand rationalization that despite the school having rules, most such rules are continually bent simply for the sake of practicality.  And the rule about hats could be one of them.  Except that this hat contains a message that distracts the rest of the class from the subject being taught, and is interfering with school.  This astoundingly ignores the reality that the class was not being distracted until the teacher told the kid to take off the hat.

Bickering ensues between the petulant contrarian on one side, and the teacher and other students on the other, with one other student chiming in with a snarky comment about illegal immigrants.

The teacher then calls the petulant contrarian a vulgar name and issues an ultimatum: “Take off your hat, or the rest of the class will leave and go to another classroom without you.  The hat remains undoffed, and the teacher and other students get up leaving the petulant contrarian behind.

The ideological fallout from this scenario is trivially simple to predict.  Conservatives will fail to hear the conversation beyond the identification of Rules Violation, and crawl out their own ass rationalizing why it doesn’t matter that the teacher went out of his way to explain that it was the political message at issue.  Liberals and “progressives” will assert that the teacher is a racist xenophobe because it was very clearly the message on the hat which caused the issue.  Libertarians will acknowledge that the message was indeed the issue, and that the teacher tipped his own biased political hand by refusing to stop the discussion at Rules Violation.

False libertarians who are really conservatives will make excuses for the teacher; false libertarians who are really “progressive” numbskulls will ladle value judgments on the teacher.

The teacher, in this scenario, is being a transparent political huckster, arbitrarily willing to allow rules to be “bent” as long as the bending doesn’t bother the teacher.  This is a fascist implementation of policy, where the rules being imposed are dependent on the whim of the enforcer.

Most importantly, this scenario would create a shitstorm of public outrage, carefully choreographed by the popular US media, which absolutely does not have an ideological agenda in its editorial policies whatsoever.  Perish the thought!  The school would investigate, state and federal human rights investigations would take place, the teacher would be fired, and counselors would be provided to mollify any student traumatized by the mere mention of illegal immigration in a classroom.

We can all breathe a deep sigh of relief that this event did not occur. 

Something similar, though, did take place.  The actual event, like the scenario I just described, involved a petulant contrarian student in a high school classroom wearing a hat in contravention of the rules.  Instead of a Mexican paean to the absorption of a fourth of the continental US, the hat being worn said “Make America Great Again.”  There was the same discussion of rules.  The same willingness to dispense with the rules but for the message conveyed.  The same snarky comment by another student, this time the hat was “racist”.  The same vulgar term directed at the petulant contrarian student by the teacher.  The same ultimatum and the same result.

And, in this actual event, the ideological fallout was identical, if mirror image.  It was liberals and “progressives” making excuses for the teacher not stopping his sermon at Rules Violation and continuing on to conveyed message as the true issue.  It was an identically fascist implementation of policy.  What mattered was that the hat bothered the teacher, not that it broke the rules.

Yet this got no coverage.  The popular US media, which absolutely, positively does not have an ideological agenda behind its editorial policies, has utterly failed to bring this to light.  It is only available to those who dig through the bowels of youtube.com.  And those, like me, who find reposts.

There are no investigations, let alone for civil rights violations.  The teacher will not be fired, or even scolded.  If the student’s parents object, it will almost certainly be dismissed as a racistsexisthomophobe tantrum.  Legal challenge will almost certainly be decided in favor of the Unequal Protection offered up by this student not being a member of a Suspect Class.

Because Make America Great Again is, as explained by the off-screen girl in the video, a racist notion.

If truth be told − and god forbid that ever happens − every American wants America to be great again.  It’s just that most people don’t say so, and their notions of what makes greatness differ.  Sometimes wildly.  But, as a unique and singular phrase, “make America great again” carries with it a whole slew of connotation entirely invented by those who are offended by it.

When the offended encounter the phrase on a shirt, a hat, a bumper sticker, a keychain fob, a poster, or through the compression of sound waves in the atmosphere, they come unglued.  The phrase serves primarily as a Snowflake Detector.

Two or more snowflakes, or one snowflake having perceived or actual authority can, as we see in the video, create a blizzard.  Whiny, panty-wetting hypocrisy justified by feelz.

That libertarians willingly join this parade of intellectual anti-integrity is appalling.  Making excuses for any form of official bigotry by denying the landscape on which it occurred is sufficient cause, in my book, to invalidate one’s claim to libertarianism.  And this is official bigotry.  The teacher is a government employee, invoking the undefined power of government to censor some sentiments after explaining that he’d allow others to pass unchallenged.

The correct answer is as follows: Wearing hats is against the school’s rules, but the teacher made the message on the hat the issue.  If you understand this you can be libertarian.  If you don’t, you aren’t.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Doctor Mengele, I Presume?

Doctor Mengele, I Presume?
©2018  Ross Williams

Have you tried going to the doctor recently? the optometrist?  Any place that accepts health insurance?

…the same health insurance that Obamacare mandates everyone have, that only a small share of the uninsured who demanded health insurance actually went out and got when they were given the chance?

…because it suddenly got even more expensive than it had been?

…when it was merely obscenely expensive before?

…because “Affordable Care Act”?

You’ve noticed what they make you do now.  Apart from filling out your health history [4-12 pages], reading through the dozen or so sheets of HIPAA disclaimers, signing a few HIPAA consent forms which effectively negate any benefit HIPAA was written to provide, and forking over your insurance card, they now require that you provide a photo ID that they will scan in a little ID scanner with Ethernet connection.

I’ve asked why they were doing this [I already knew the correct answer] and they told me “It’s our policy.”

Incorrect.  It’s not your policy.  You didn’t come up with it.  Not one doctor’s office, hospital, clinic, or optometrist in the land came up with this idea.

I’ve asked what they do with the ID they’re scanning [I already knew the correct answer to this, as well] and I eventually got told “We forward it to our head office…”.  This is true enough, but grossly incomplete.  It’s like asking facebook what they do with all our mouseclick captures and being told, “We save them.”   Yes.  True.  But you’re hiding quite a lot with that answer.

Also hiding quite a lot is the hefty staff of each and every medical office which accepts health insurance when they evade direct questions and dissemble their answers regarding a patient’s healthcare.  …which the patient has a moral and − significantly more importantly for most − a legal right to have a correct answer about.

Late last winter I developed a minor medical issue that resulted in major pain and I spent three weeks being shunted around from one medical office to another, until someone was willing to actually do the very trivial medical thing that needed to be done.  Each stop on this miserable journey saw me spending forty-five minutes filling out the health forms listed above, and providing my documentation.  And because I abhor bureaucratic impertinence of every form regardless where it occurs, I did what I’ve done for almost forty years now: I quizzed them about why we were going through bureaucratic impertinence.  I never once got an honest, accurate or more-than-partially truthful answer.

The stop at my primary care physician’s office whom I’d seen for over a decade, toward the end of this maze, I’d had my fill.  It wasn’t enough that they had bureaucratically purged me from their patient files, thus rendering me to “new patient” status where I had to fill out all the health history forms again.  The pretty young fräulein who demanded my ID  was a complete snot about demanding my ID.

I asked her why I had to give it.  She said, “It’s our policy.”

I said no it isn’t; you didn’t come up with this idea.  Unless you tell me why you want it, it’s not happening.

She asked one of the eight other clerical nazis behind the large check-in desk why they wanted ID.  The answer came back “It’s our policy.”

“See?” the pretty young fräulein said, “It’s our policy.”

I informed her that two people being incorrect don’t cancel each other out.  I’m going to go sit over there until I get to see the doctor. 

And I did.

Just a note about this doctor…

About 18 years ago, my previous doctor − a young guy just starting his practice − discovered that his having a private practice not associated with a “medical group” did not earn him enough money to pay malpractice insurance premiums for working in the “legal hellhole” that my county was [and still is] known as.  So he quit his practice, went back to his alma mater to teach medicine and do some doctoring on the side, and he politely gave all his patients a list of doctors in the area he respected.

So my wife and I needed to find a new doctor.  Our local newspaper had a health column, where a local doctor answered letters from the readers.  One such letter was extolling the virtues of various forms of government-controlled medical care, and it asked the doctor, “Wouldn’t you love to have this kind of system?”

The doctor wrote back, “Not at all.  Such systems make doctors into technocrats allowed to do only what bean counters in government permit them to do, and not necessarily what is wise or necessary for the patient.   These systems turn doctors into government employees who have no incentive to see the last few patients in the waiting room at the end of the day.  In the end, patients suffer and doctors don’t get paid well.

My wife read the column to me, and we both concluded − after looking him up in our phone book and learning that his office was relatively near us − that we had found our new primary care physician.  We transferred all our medical stuff to his office.

It was this doctor whose nazi staff couldn’t even bother being polite nazis to me this day.  I got called into a room.  Had my weight, temperature and blood pressure taken by a P.A., who not so subtlely inquired as to why I didn’t feel like complying with their policies.

That wasn’t the issue, even though I will not politely submit to justifying my existence for anyone.  The issue is that I could not be given a correct answer to my questions.  The P.A. spent a good three minutes futzing around the office, doing nothing meaningful, just to have an excuse to scold me for being a pain in their bureaucratic ass.  It doesn’t take long, she rationalized.  You aren’t ‘justifying’ anything.  Heck, I have to give my ID when I take my kids to their pediatrician.  Everyone does it.  Just go along with it.

When I didn’t budge, she sighed loudly, said the doctor would be in shortly and left.

The doctor was in shortly.  He immediately remembered me, despite my being a “new patient” and all.  Hey! Long time no see!  So … why be rude to my staff?

I don’t recall being particularly rude, although your staff was rude to me.  I was just unwilling to cooperate with bureaucratic nonsense when I couldn’t get an honest answer to a question I am entitled to know the answer to.

Well, she wasn’t trying to be rude….”

Irrelevant.  She succeeded in being rude.  Doesn’t matter if I’m trying to run over little children by driving 75 miles an hour on your cul de sac.  It only matters if I succeed.

He saw my point, but was curious about the “honest answer” I didn’t think I got.  Why do you think you need to supply an ID?” he asked.

I had been in fairly major pain for over a month, and was not up to a discussion where I didn’t have rehearsed retorts already in my head.  Government, I explained.

His reply was almost exactly as follows, “Government doesn’t have anythi… well, yeah, you’re right.  But still, we have to do this.  I have 4,000 patients, and I’m not going to make an exception for one.”

This, at least, was honest, if not exactly full disclosure.  I briefly thought about asking what happened to the medical columnist who had been so dead-set against government control of the medical system because patients would suffer and doctors would not be able to pay off their student loans.  But I didn’t.  I decided to allow him his own Winston coming to terms with Big Brother moment in his own time.

He checked me out, sent me to a specialist, and reminded me that if I didn’t submit to his fräulein, he could no longer see me.

I exited the room, went to the front desk, handed my ID to the girl and told her to not say a word to me because I find it very difficult to be polite to nazis.

She complied.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

The basic bottom line is this:

The thoroughly misnamed “Affordable Care Act” had the net effect of nationalizing the health insurance industry.  By the government buying health insurance from private carriers on behalf of the uninsured working poor, those health insurance carriers must agree to comply with federal regulatory requirements.

The major problem with government requirements is that the government doesn’t care about cost or cost-effectiveness.  Their intention is not to make a profit, hence they don’t care about profit.

It doesn’t matter what it costs to comply with a government regulation; failure to do so is illegal.  If a business cannot make a profit and comply with government regulation at the same time … oh well.  We have seen the failure of many insurance carriers in many states due to this exact cause.  They cannot comply with regulation and earn a profit at the same time.  They fold.  Their customer − the uninsured working poor this whole thing was designed to help − are hurt.

The government regulation in question is that which seeks to reduce-to-elimination the occurrence of health insurance fraud.  Health insurance fraud − when perpetrated against a private insurer − is weighed against the cost of tracking it down, prosecuting, and recovering damages … which are almost never recoverable.  As a result, the health insurance industry routinely failed to do much about health insurance fraud.

Health insurance fraud − when perpetrated against a government-controlled health insurance industry, however, is considered a crime against the government, and it doesn’t matter what it costs to track down the perps, prosecute them and fail to recover damages.  It also doesn’t matter what it costs to prevent it from happening in the first place.  Or how many provisions of the Constitution need to be sidestepped, or outright trod upon, to do it.  The government has an obligation to spend a thousand dollars to prevent the loss of a single dime.

And that is just about the size of it.  It is historically far simpler for uninsured healthcare-seekers to get medical attention from an emergency room and dodge the bills than to sponge off someone else’s insurance policy.  Insurance sponging is what the government is trying to prevent with its in-clinic policies that I balked at.  These policies are imposed upon every “health care provider” by insurance companies, which are required to adopt federal anti-fraud practices irrespective of cost or cost-effectiveness, simply because they take government money under the auspices of Obamacare.   And despite identifiable health insurance fraud being, quite frankly, microscopic.

I looked up some stats this morning.  The annual cost of paid  healthcare in this country, nearly all of which is covered by insurance, is $3.2 trillion [as of FY 2015].

A watchdog outfit for insurance fraud [insurancefraud.org] reports that the amount of health insurance fraud identified for FY 2017 was $2.4 billion. They estimate that it might reach tens of billions.  …which includes Medicaid fraud − which is extant.  Medicaid fraud is the elephant in the room; health insurance fraud is a mouse.

$2.4B into $3.2T results in two-thirds of one-tenth of one percent loss to fraud.  Name any for-profit industry anywhere which cannot swallow, whole, without so much as a hiccup, a two-thirds of one-tenth of one percent loss to theft.  Internal auditors would be dancing naked in their cubicles.  Two-thirds of one-tenth of one percent loss to theft is so close to zero as to be, well, zero.

But when the government gets involved, this doesn’t matter.

The government has mandated all health insurers, through insurance regulation imposed upon any health insurer which accepts US government premium payments [which is all health insurers], to require any health care provider accepting their insurance to screen all healthcare seekers by demanding a photo ID which is forwarded − ultimately − to a government database.  Every time you seek medical attention, this process occurs. 

The cost for establishing this process − in millions of healthcare providers’ offices − is tens of billions of dollars [I’ve read an estimate of $50B, but don’t know how reliable it is].  The cost for establishing a database large enough to hold the data being collected is billions of dollars.

The cost for hiring new office personnel in each of millions of healthcare providers’ offices just for the added work of complying with the new regulations imposed upon those millions of healthcare providers through the nationalized health insurance industry is hundreds of billions of dollars in on-going costs of wages and benefits, which include − ironically − healthcare.  The maintenance costs of the data system, and those employed to make them work, is tens of billions annually in recurring cost.

And simply because it’s the government doing all this, my years as a DoD data analyst suggest that you double it and add a zero just to the left of the decimal point in order to get a figure in the same universe as the correct final cost for any government program.

All to save two-thirds of one-tenth of one-percent of the cost of insured healthcare lost to the theft of fraud, that the for-profit health insurance industry largely ignored as “not worth it”.

The government is spending tens of billions annually, and demanding that the healthcare industry spends hundreds of billions of its own annually, all to prevent the fraudulent use of health insurance of $2.4 billion annually … of which only a tiny fraction is owned by the federal government.  The rest is owned by the privately insured, which the insurance companies themselves − rapacious, money-hungry bastards − have concluded is not worth pursuing.

I really hope I don’t have to remind people that the bottom line effect of all this is increased cost of healthcare.  The doctor has to hire new office staff to do the new tasks required by government regulation.  The doctor has to buy new equipment to comply with government regulation.  Every new expense imposed upon the doctor by government regulation means higher costs to the patient for every doctor visit.

Oh, but insurance covers that cost!!!

The insurance company has to hire new employees to perform the new tasks imposed by government regulation.  The insurance company has to buy new equipment to comply with government regulation.  The insurance company has to reimburse doctors an increased amount due to the doctor’s increased costs of complying with government regulation.  Every new expense imposed upon the insurance company by government regulation means higher insurance premiums for everyone who buys health insurance.

The nazification of every medical office in the land is just a side effect of all this.

And if the nazis don’t wish to have me call them nazis when they act like nazis, then here’s what they need to do:

Provide a correct answer when I ask them why they are demanding I justify my existence just to see my doctor.

That correct answer is: Barry Hussein nationalized the health insurance industry with Obamacare and required that health insurers demand documentation to eliminate the trivial likelihood of insurance fraud.  Because we accept their insurance as payment, we are required to collect data for the insurance companies.  All this information ends up in yet another government database that is used to track what you do.

If this is too difficult for the nazis at the front desks of health care providers, then they may substitute the following phrase:

Die dokumenten, mein Herr.

They may add a nazi salute at their own prerogative.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Naked Emperor and His Nude Critics

The Naked Emperor and His Nude Critics
©2018  Ross Williams

One of the disadvantages of a being libertarian is that political news is dominated by blue-nosed republicans and idiot democrats; hearing about either is tiresome.  We are constantly accused of being the other whenever one of them does something phenomenally stupid and we laugh or criticize.  The cross to bear for libertarians is to point out all the naked emperors in the major parties’ parades.

Similarly, one of the disadvantages of living in the metropolitan area of a fairly major city of another state is that your own state’s news tends to get drowned out.  Even though I live in Illinois, I seem to know more − I certainly hear more − about the Missouri governor and his travails than I do about the travails of my own … which are numerous.  At this point, though, I’d have to admit that the Missouri situation is a lot more salacious.

I’ve snickered about the Missouri governor’s problems and have been called a hypocrite liberal for it − the Missouri governor is a republican.  I’ve criticized the things being done to and about the Missouri governor, and have been called a hypocrite conservative − these things are being done by democrats.  In truth, the republican governor is stupid, but not by so much that it rises much above background political stupidity; the democrats’ response to it is political sour-grapesing.

The Missouri governor, one Eric Greitens, is an ex Marine officer with many combat deployments under his belt.  He returned home from war and decided that his first real job after leaving the service would be to run the state of Missouri despite having no political resume.  His claimed charter was to clean house; neither democrats nor republicans want that. 

He entered the republican primary field against several names with more and fuller pedigrees, and beat them all.  He then faced a probably-can’t-lose democrat and won against all odds.  As a result of this, Missouri democrats loathe the guy, and republican mainstays aren’t all that happy with him either.

Three years ago, a year before he decided to be Missouri’s next Chief Executive Without Credentials, he had an affair with a woman whose own marriage was faltering.  At the beginning of this tryst, he was reported to have snapped a photograph of his mistress, naked, without having her express prior consent.  Millions of Americans in relationships having a strong sexual component have done the same thing.  This includes hundreds of thousands in the state of Missouri, and a few tens of thousands in St Louis and St Louis County.

Greitens’ affair lasted for several more months, so the putative photograph had no bearing on anything, and it’s not even meaningfully deniable that even if prior consent was not obtained, there was consent after the fact.  In short, the woman didn’t care about the photo.

Then Greitens decided he was going to run for governor, and − to clear the decks − he confessed to his wife that he’d had an affair.  The two “worked through it”, as the saying goes, and by all indications seem a happy couple today.  No one would be able to gotcha the Greitens!  Indeed, rumors of the affair circulated from the day he tossed his Marine dress blue hat into the ring.  Essentially, everyone who mattered knew about it; the guy’s affair was not a secret.

The mistress’s marriage, in long-standing decline, however, collapsed and her husband caught wind of the affair and who it was with.  As his cuckolder was a budding politician, and because rationalization runs deep among those in failed marriages − particularly when they have been … um … intimately betrayed − he secretly taped the future governor’s mistress confessing to the affair with Greitens.  Her confession mentioned the photograph.

To this date, the tape recording − hearsay in its truest form − is the only evidence of the photograph in existence.  No one who didn’t take it or was in it has seen the photo, and there’s some doubt that it existed at all, though it probably did.  Whether it still exists today, though, is extremely doubtful.  Greitens is not, after all, Anthony Wiener.

Yet this photo, despite its extremely dubious existence, has formed the basis of at least two extortion plots conspiracy theories jabbered about in local media.  Neither of these extortion plots is the one run by the jilted ex-husband of the governor’s mistress − as no one seems to acknowledge it being an extortion plot though it most certainly is.  None of them, however, save the one started by the jilted ex-husband, have any physical evidence to support them.  The mistress, officially anonymous, has stated [through her attorney] there is and was no blackmail, by photo or otherwise.  But because Greitens couldn’t be gotchaed by the affair, he’s being gotchaed about the photo.

Whereas secret audio recordings without express prior consent are perfectly legal in Missouri, photographs without same are not.  It constitutes the “class D felony” of Invasion of Privacy.  The St Louis Circuit Attorney, Kim Gardner − a democrat, as if it needs be said − recently concluded a kangaroo grand jury inquest into the governor’s affair-slash-blackmail and returned with an indictment for felony invasion of privacy.  The invasion of privacy charge is predicated upon the naked photograph of the mistress. The only evidence of this photograph is the hearsay tape recording.

Political opposition to the pedigree-less Greitens demands he be removed from office because the state of Missouri cannot properly function with a governor that no one from either party likes.  Scratch that: because the governor is a blackmailer.  And to properly ensure that the state function improperly for long enough and thus prove their point, the Circuit Attorney, Kim Gardner, requested a trial date for felony invasion of privacy in November, right around the time of the mid-term election.  Both the official and cynical explanation for this is self-serving moronitude.

The cynical explanation is that a state government squabbling over unknown outcomes of an evidence-less criminal trial against the governor will work in favor of the opposition party being able to collect enough seats in the legislature to impeach the guy anyway in case the criminal trial results in a not guilty verdict.  The official explanation offered up by the Circuit Attorney’s office is that, essentially, they need time to look for actual evidence; the tape recording is inadmissible hearsay.

The judge tasked with this circus on his docket ruled against Gardner’s argument.  Apparently, if there is enough evidence to indict there is enough evidence to try.  The state will have only two months to find − or concoct, as it may be − non-hearsay evidence that the governor of Missouri blackmailed his mistress from three years ago into silence for his political ambitions.  One can almost hear the photoshop presses grinding away in the Michigan private detective firm Gardner hired for $250 per hour on St Louis city residents’ dime.

For what it’s worth, the mistress has − through her attorney − repeatedly said there was no blackmail attempted, and she is effectively not cooperating with The State’s attempt to remove the governor by criminal proceduralism.  The State’s only meaningful witness left would seem to be the scorned ex-husband of the mistress, and he is largely reduced to providing jilted hearsay.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner insists that the indictment and future trial of the republican Governor that Missouri’s democrats loathe and Missouri’s republicans merely, by contrast, intensely dislike is not, not, NOT political.  Further, she makes this claim with a straight face.

In this day of iPhone cameras, revenge porn, Ashley Madison and craigslist, there are between several hundred and a few thousand examples of nude photographs taken without express prior consent within Kim Gardner’s jurisdiction.  All these photographs actually exist, on the cloud, cheating spouse and dating websites, and on-line personals ads.  They do not rely on allusion in non-consensual tape recordings for their veracity.  It doesn’t take a $250/hour private dick to find these photographs, either; a minimally google-literate prosecutor could find enough evidence to convict a dozen privacy invaders a day.

Yet, how many of them are being prosecuted for felony invasion of privacy?  The answer is none.  Not one.  The apolitical prosecutor is setting her sights, instead, on the high-hanging fruit [grapes, perchance?] of the almost literally one-in-a-million case where the evidence is elusive … if it still exists at all … if it ever existed at all.  The fact that the guy being prosecuted is the outsider governor hated by the opposition and disliked by his own is, we are solemnly informed by politicians, purely coincidental and not political at all.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Diogenes the Libertarian Surfs the Neutral Net

Diogenes the Libertarian Surfs the Neutral Net
©2018  Ross Williams

I spent three years and five months − to the day − in the US Air Farce.  I loathed it; it was hell.  I volunteered for a RIF and got paroled from hell seven months early.  By AFSC I was considered a computer programmer.  By actual day-to-day activity I was a copier operator, parade marcher, and gig line adjuster.

I originally joined the service because I’d run out of money for college, and wasn’t about to indebt myself with student loans during Carter’s reign of fiscal psychosis just to continue my education.  The military would cover 75% of my tuition, and the Air Farce was the place least likely for an enlisted swine like I would be to be shot at.  Plus, I was a geek who aced every part of the ASVAB and could choose my own career path.  I chose computer programming.

I understood that basic training and tech school would be bastions of psychological breakdown of individual ego to be replaced with militaster collectivism.  That’s possibly why it didn’t work particularly well on me − I understood their game going in at least as well, if not better than, the ones playing it on me.  But when I got to my first assignment I was astounded that the meaningless games didn’t end.

No one cared all that much if I could program a computer, despite that being my job.  What they cared about was my gig line.  For those not privy to military priorities, the gig line is the seamless visual connection between the overlap of the two sides of your buttoned shirt, with the right edge of your belt buckle, and the flap of your fly.  The three components have to line up straight, with no wrinkling, no meandering, and no other funny business.  Mine never did.  I didn’t see the point.  I never deliberately misaligned them − it just happened.  But I never took the effort to straighten them up.  I was considered a malcontent for this.  Well, for that and for saying that it was a pointless waste of time.

I worked with countless other military professionals [sic] in my AFSC of computer programming − all of whom outranked me, by the way − who couldn’t avoid an infinite loop if their life depended on it.  They came to me for professional help.  But their gig-lines were always straight.  They got promoted.  I did not.

Gig lines were just one idiotic aspect of AFR [“Air Force Regulation”] 35-10, the Air Farce dress code.  I was constantly being bawled out for one or another critical uselessness contained within it.  Shoes, hair, the zipperedness of my lightweight dress jacket …

One day, after having been bawled out for about the zillionth time, I decided to go look up this AFR 35-10 to see for myself.  I got to the base library, asked for the military reg section, and after a short time found AFR 35-10.  The shelf units in the base library were in four-foot sections.  AFR 35-10 took up nearly two shelves.

That was eight feet of regulation detailing how members of the Air Farce are to visually present themselves.

I was boggled.  Eight feet of regulation?  Seriously? 

I forget how many individual volumes it contained.  Just for grins I checked out one of the volumes and took it into the office the next day to show a few of those who’d been bawling me out for being in constant violation of it.  I was intending to quiz them on the fine points of the dress code to see if they actually knew it or if they were really, as I suspected, just giving me a hard time because I was smarter than they were about everything except military comportment.

We pored over the thing all day long for a few days − as I say, no one much cared whether we could do our job; the important thing from the military mindset was that we looked good while goldbricking.  In the volume I’d checked out was the section detailing the criteria necessary for a single item of the male uniform: the short-sleeved dress blue shirt.  This one section was three-eighths of an inch thick, and it covered − in excruciating detail − button size, button spacing, button composition; it covered fabric material, thread count, necessary weave criteria; it detailed pocket placement, pocket depth; it directed stitching and thread requirements for same; it mandated the range of the visible light spectrum − in angstroms − necessary to be reflected by white light to meet necessary “blueness”.  And these are just what I can recall from 35 years ago.  It prattled on and on for another 23/64ths of an inch.

By the time we were done digesting this dizzying display of bureaucratic diarrhea, we all agreed that the entire subject of gig lines, shoe reflection and haircuts was a waste of time and effort.  From that point on, and from those in my office, as long as I was not outright slovenly, I was left alone. …which is all I wanted anyway, for I am a libertarian.

Regulations − military or otherwise − will say in 10,000 pages of loyyerly gibberish what a normal person can say on a single sheet of paper − double-spaced.  Loyyers are the only ones who can decipher regulations.  And because they are, regulations have the net effect of loyyer proliferation among those upon whom the regulations are imposed.

Regulations do this indecipherable verbiage for one primary purpose: to expand the power of government as pretentiously as possible, and using a fleet of mindless drone bureaucrats to do it.

To be a libertarian, though, means to be against the expansion of government power outside of those areas it was defined to live in.  All human activity, in the libertarian political philosophy, is either: 1] defined to belong to the government, or 2] a right belonging to the people.  This is a true dichotomy.  It’s a coin-flip.  There is no third option.

Yet a third option is concocted by a class of special libertarian whenever the subject of the Net Neutrality regulation comes up.  Oh sure, they’ll say, we support elimination of regulation in general, but this is different … IT’S THE INTERNET!

And this makes it different … how?  Oh yeah, that’s right.  It doesn’t. 

Oddly, the most popular claim made by these Dark Side libertarians is that they fear the lack of government regulation − and federal regulation, at that − will create a monopoly on access to the internet, which will, in turn create a throttling of download speeds.  God help us all if we have to get our porn and music the old-fashioned way!  Goodbye viral kitten vids!

The prime example offered up to flesh out this paranoia?  Cable TV.

Cable TV is a monopoly … created by … government regulation of “public utilities”.  Cable TV is a government-created monopoly.

Let me repeat that for the irony-deficient: cable TV is a monopoly created by the government.

Cable TV has branched out into the internet service providing business.  Which means that in an area covered by a cable TV company, there is only one means of accessing the internet.

… um.


You gonna stick with that? or will you drop your hair-on-fire histrionics and stop bouncing off the walls?

In any given area, there are nearly a dozen ways to access the internet; cable TV is just one of them.  There’s your phone company − also a government regulated “public utility”, by the way − and the land-line connection that some of us dinosaurs still use with our desktops.  There are cell phone plans, virtually endless cell phone plans.  There is satellite TV and its own side line of internet service.  There is satellite internet.  In many areas, for those predating the dinosaurs, there are still dial-up services for those who like being lulled to sleep to the sweet refrain of “BWEE drp drp drp CCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.

The fear of unregulated monopoly is the least rational of the paranoias adopted by that subsection of libertarian whose libertarianism extends only as far as his television remote signal.  The only ISP they can see is the one from their cable TV − that is being ditched in droves in favor of Hulu and Netflix, anyway.

Still, the stammering complaint never quite dies: “Yabbut … yabbut … yabbut … wuttif I live in an area that doesn’t have these other ISPs …?

Here’s the thing, non-libertarians: if you live so far out in the sticks that your cable TV ISP doesn’t have competition from a half dozen cell phone data plans, and a land-line DSL service, AND various satellite services, then I can guarantee you don’t have cable TV ISP, either … because you don’t have cable TV.  Hell, I don’t even have cable TV.  Their service ends a quarter mile from my house.

Just remember, “Net Neutrality” was crafted by the same brilliant minds that gave us Obamacare.  “If you like your ISP you can keep it.”

In the mean-time, the cable TV megalith that this drang is essentially sturming around is already a regulated industry.  Best part is: it’s regulated at the arguably best level of governance for doing such things: local, where individual citizen voices actually mean a damn.  If you don’t like how the local public utility board is regulating the local public utility that runs one of a fleet of ISPs available to you, then gather up a passel of your “Net Neutrality” buddies, descend upon the next meeting of the utility board, and give them what-for.  Rinse and repeat until they regulate the hell out of your cable TV franchise’s internet service.

Sorry to have to remind some libertarians what they’re already supposed to know, but …

The alternative is to have eight feet of regulation that accomplishes next to nothing and serves even less purpose.  Because that helps everyone.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Re-Patriarchy of Post-Feminism

The Re-Patriarchy of Post-Feminism
©2017  Ross Williams

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m enjoying this immensely.  The smug, condescending, self-righteous champions of women’s political nobility, dignity and worth are being paraded in public as the very same manipulative, lecherous, womanizing bounders that their pre-Savior savior, Cuckold Bill, was.  And likely still is.

The fact that it is now backfiring on them is delicious.  Hoisted on their own petard.  One can always count on “progressive” nitwits not looking more than two moves ahead on the chess board.  Sometimes not even that.

Imagine the giddiness of their perceived impunity when, at the very same time they were rewriting the narrative around Cuckold Bill from abuse of power to mere and irrelevant sexual dalliance − and getting large parts of the public to buy into it − they were ousting Bob Packwood for sexual misconduct that didn’t coincide with cheating a bimbo of her day in court.  It’s good to be the king.  By which I mean: it always helps to have a latter-day Lady Macbeth running interference on the bevy of crumpled tartlets left in the king’s wake.

Modern “progressives” had the temerity to offer up mocking contempt of Mike Pence for never doing any business with women, alone.  After all, marriage vows are pre-dinosaur; they went out with the trilobites.  Yet who’s laughing now?  It’s not Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, John Conyers, Charlie Rose, Louis C K, Dustin Hoffman, Matt Lauer or Garrison Keillor.  By the time I finish this essay there’s likely to be another dozen names, big and small, added to the list.  And if the current political alignment continues, eleven of those names will be “progressive” liberals in politics, media or Hollywood.

…which is the next hilarious aspect of all this.  “Progressive” liberals are uniquely supportive of women, women’s rights, and whatever version of feminism the feminists claim it currently to be.  No other political alignment shares that inane sensitivity.  Conservatives and republicans are all neanderthals, and libertarians are − in this equation − republicans-once-removed.  We simply advocate too much separation of personal interaction from the controlling ministrations of government to sufficiently combat the sexual predation of women beyond outright rape.

Yet who are women’s predominant predators in this new agitprop?  “Progressive” liberals, hands down.

Puns aside, the truly tasty irony of this, though, is − if the conspiracy theories are even partially true − it’s backfiring on them.  Remember, this was designed to eliminate Foxnews as the only significant non-liberal media propagandist, and Donnie Combover, the political interloper who declared war on the entrenched bureaucracy of “progressive” liberalism and its liberal and conservative keepers. 

Get rid of Roger Ailes and Foxnews crumbles.

Well, that didn’t happen, so get rid of Bill O’Reilly and Foxnews loses all impact.

That didn’t happen either.  Instead, the media outlets depleted so far are NBC, CBS, CNN and PBS.

Wait! was that Candidate Combover, the liberal New York democrat who told his fellow democrats to get bent, explaining how to “grab ‘em by the pussy”?  Turns out the people who are weary of the entrenched, self-serving, self-pitying establishment didn’t give a damn.  And it turns out the ones who do give a damn are all liberal hypocrites or hypocrite-enablers.  And the political hucksters being pilloried are Conyers and Franken who, turns out, people don’t like as much as he thought.

The Left seems to have declared a prudish culture war and the only ones showing up for the fight has been the Left.  The only real casualties here are from friendly fire.  It’s been a two extra-grand tub o’ popcorn spectacle, twenty-five years in the making.  1992, and the election of “Cuckold” Bill Clinton.

Paula Jones, look what a mess you made!  How on earth can you be so dim as to accept an interview for an Arkansas state clerical position − at 10 PM − in a motel room − from the Governor of Arkansas himself?  Now, I love to mock Lady Macbeth as much as the next libertarian, and will often do so gratuitously, but when the crone is right, she’s right.  You’re what happens when you drag a dollar bill through a trailer park.

There was a time that feminism would have hounded Paula Jones out of the club.  The thought of having special protections granted by society − let alone government − for the fact of one’s gender was appalling.  It was termed patriarchy and it was universally sneered at, because each and every special protection seen by feminists was granted exclusively to men.  [Feminists ignored those granted to women; they didn’t count for some reason.]  Feminism demanded the end to male specialness; and no, women didn’t deserve them either.  Women are not little girls; they’re fully-formed adults able to take care of themselves.

If a woman was so stupid as to be in Paula Jones’ position in the first place, or not leave once she figured out what the evening was turning out to be, she deserved what she got − short of forcible rape.  If she could be talked into doing things she was not originally intending to do, then she’s simply a slut.  Making it safe − and socially-acceptable − to be a slut was among the first non-economic objectives of feminism.  Why should guys have all the fun?

The thought of criminally or civilly penalizing “sexual harassment” − hounding and badgering a woman with sexual innuendo, demeaning commentary and crude, boorish proposition − would have annoyed an original feminist.  She’d have embarked on a tirade against the patriarchal trivialization of women and not taken a breath for a fortnight.  The sexual harassment itself would simply have inspired the feminist to retort with the uninspired rejoinder: male chauvinist pig.

By contrast, most of what passes for “sexual assault” today would have made the feminist seethe with rage.  Original feminists were wholly unsympathetic to anyone, male and especially female, of the attitude that women needed or deserved special protections just because they were women.  After all, among the special protections granted to men by society and its government, those against being touched were not among them.  A man would have been laughed out of the human race for complaining about having his package fondled − by anyone.   If a woman couldn’t emasculate a male grabbing her butt or other private parts in less than five words, she had simply not been paying attention.  ...and she had no one to blame but herself.  Feminist philosophy was born a libertarian adjunct.

By the time Slick Willy was boorishly seducing Paula Jones in that Little Rock motel room, feminism was morphing into a socialist construct.  This was ably womansplained to me in the feminism seminar I took while in grad school for sociology − an awkward place for a libertarian to find himself.  Feminism had recently dropped the W C Fields outlook on self-worth: “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to”, and backslid into grade-school infantilism: “He’s calling me names!!!”

I’d made the mistake − apparently − one night in class of referring to what some lady I knew…

The term is WOMAN!” I was brutally reminded by a tandem of tender little dumplings on the other side of the room.  They were both over a decade older than me and would now easily be in their seventies.  I begged their rude pardon.  They snottily informed me that terms used to refer to females alter any female the term is directed at.  The term “woman”, though, can never be demeaning because it is what women chose as their designation … or some such pretzelled logic as that.

Ah.  Right.  The old Chesterfield Sofa Syndrome.  If I call you a Chesterfield sofa, you become a Chesterfield sofa, or at least its matching ottoman.  Words are now magic spells and have powers imparted by the speaker of those words.  Mystical incantation makes a triumphant return in the waning days of the 20th Century, and − thank Goddess − it took the social equality of women to discover this new-is-old witchcraft.

No, no, they insisted; I was missing the point.

Yet I wasn’t.  Words, I told them, only have magic powers if the hearer of those words chooses to allow that power.  Further, it depends on a sane and intelligent navigation of context to determine whether the assertion of power is rationally inferred or a paranoid presumption.  They quibbled over this.

I would, I promised, demonstrate all this to them before the night was out.  They scoffed and snorted.

For the next hour of class, every time one of these two women-girls would open her mouth about anything, I would interrupt as rudely as I could, and start a critique of their position by stating, “Woman…!” and proceed to rip apart their comments.  By the first break, the rest of the class had settled into mostly watching the show while eating their popcorn; the two women-girls were foaming in outrage.  They approached me at the coffee machine to bawl me out once again − in private this time − about my patriarchal attitude. 

But women, I told them; I couldn’t be patriarchal, because I’d used the proper term.  It was, after all, their notion of propriety to which I was strictly adhering.

It turned out that it was the way I said it and the context surrounding the term that made the difference to them.  …as I had told them it would be.

Ahhhh.  So, you’re going to drop your infantile notion that words mean anything other than what the hearer chooses to hear in them …?

Well, they weren’t going to go that far, but they’d ease up on the whole “some terms are sexist in and of themselves” thing.

Curiously, or not, one minor semantic victory in an out-of-the-way feminism seminar in a state college sociology graduate program did not stem the rising tide of feminist puerility.  And we fast-forward to today where we find the unholy combination of micro-aggression awareness among a generation of people who admittedly need a safe space for when they have trouble adulting …   It is no wonder that any little inconvenience results in entire populations of erstwhile grown-ups rushing off to find their crayons for comfort.

We’ve spent two generations sturming und dranging over the role of female equality in our society, only to end up back where we started … if that enlightened.  Female equality now demands the same − and further − special protections from society that are not granted to men.  And simply because they’re women.

Two generations of agitation by women about their equality in all matters has concluded that women are uniquely unsusceptible to the frailty of memory in sexual matters that uniformly plagues the rest of humanity in every other subject, and which makes the contradiction of eye-witness testimony and physical evidence so troubling under every legal circumstance.

Demand physical evidence that the defendant killed the victim, absolutely; to do less is a breach of justice.  But demand the same physical evidence for an alleged rape forty years after the fact that the woman − gosh − never got around to reporting…?  That’s flagrant sexism.  “Why would a woman lie?!

Women are also apparently immune to the mind’s habit of constructing elaborate excuses, fabricating miles of new facts out of whole cloth if necessary, to protect themselves from psychological trauma of being told they have nice hooters and the guilt those traumas inspire.  Suggest that a woman is inaccurate about who goosed her in a crowded elevator? or that it was not a pervert at all, but that she backed into the corner of a briefcase?  Not permissible, and you’re a sexist if you try. 

Modern gender preferentialism would, instead, have us kill Due Process − the Liberty plank requiring accusation, whether criminal or civil, be proven and not merely alleged before The System is permitted, even backhandedly, to penalize the accused.  Women’s words are and must be above − and beyond − reproach; unimpeachable.  Even decades after the fact.  Who cares that this obliterates Equal Protection?

What worth are sentimentalist abstractions of theoretical liberty when stacked up against a real woman’s feels relating to her personhood in its most private and intimate manifestations?  Words do have magic powers, as my two boorish denouncers claimed.  Western sexist society casts spells of every sort imaginable to reduce each woman to a jellied serfdom that islam could only dream of imposing with its primitive tools.  Accusation is sufficient in this spectacle; Cotton Mather’s ideological descendants will conjure up the appropriate rationale to justify the QED.  And they’ve been doing just that.  Goody Gillibrand, Goody Pelosi and Goodyhontas Warren are leading the way against their own.

So yes, it’s fascinating to watch the [mostly] idiot Left implode in self-pitying sanctimony.  But social spasm such as this rarely stops until it infects everyone around it.  I don’t think even a pink pussy hat is enough of an inoculant.