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

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Reverse Prayer

A Reverse Prayer

© 2005 god

Hi there.

It's me, god. Or, well, i'm what you consider god, anyway. If i told you my real name, you wouldn't believe me, and you couldn't pronounce it, so why bother. It's unimportant anyway. Let's just go with god.

I prefer lower-case, by the way; i prefer not to draw too much attention to myself. It usually takes away from the important matter, whatever it might be. As it will, undoubtedly, now. I thank you for trying to capitalize me, it’s kind of you. But really, there's too much dogma as it is. Dogma doesn't feed the bulldog, as they say.

But that's not why i'm writing to you.

I've been hearing a buzz in my ears for a few weeks. I guess they're called weeks, anyway. Who can tell with 'time'?

And i don't really have ears...

My, i tend to digress a lot, don't i?

Anyway, many of you have been asking me for guidance and wisdom and intercession. Oh, yes, there's the reason. I see now: Terri Schiavo.


I'm afraid i can't help.

Well, i could. So let me rephrase that: i'm afraid i won't help. Actually, i'm not afraid at all; i just won't help.

You have all the guidance and wisdom you need to have, and i won't intercede. I made free will just so i wouldn't have to. I made the universe the way i made it so i wouldn't constantly have to baby-sit it. You aren't toys. You're people. People with free will and minds that are inquisitive and always learning and searching.

Do you know how proud that makes me? Pride isn't a sin, by the way; but arrogance is. Thomas Aquinas could have used a decent thesaurus.

You're always searching for new ways to do old things, new ways to do new things, old ways to do new things... You people are just really creative. And those of you who want to use old ways to do old things, that's good too. It always helps to remember how you got to where you are.

Nothing happens without a purpose, and the purpose is to learn. There isn't a single thing that happens that cannot be learned from.

I'm aware, for example, that many of you want to point fingers at me for creating tidal waves, and blah blah blah. Phooey. I didn't do that. I didn't even make the world; i made the universe and the rules that hold it together. 'Physics', i think you call it. Good name. The universe made the world using those rules.

The point of tidal waves is not to lament the suffering, but to learn from it. What did you learn? Please remember that there isn't One All Important Message to take away from it. Those of you who are good with physics are learning what sort of physical events occur before earthquakes, and what sort of earthquakes make tidal waves. Those of you who are good with mechanics [also a good word; i like it very much] are learning what sort of machines you can make that can warn others when those physical events occur so that you can get away from the tidal waves. Those of you who are good with... money? is it? odd concept... are learning how to alter your financial priorities so that you can make those machines and put them where they need to be.

And that's not all there is to learn.

But that's not all i'm being criticized for, either. I'm being criticized for allowing so much hurt and pain because of the tidal wave. Families lost children, or parents, or brothers and sisters ... and that hurts those who are still living.

I'm sorry ... and i truly am sorry ... but i didn't cause that pain. You did. It hurts to lose part of your family only if you allow it to hurt. Pain of that sort is what happens when you aren't learning.

Many families lost babies. But they aren't lost; those families just don't have them anymore. And they are blaming others for it. Or worse, themselves. Or, in a desperate act of futility – trust me on this – me.

There is no blame. None at all.

It doesn't matter.

Nothing was created or destroyed. Just changed. It's all still there. But those who have lost family that they love have mistaken their love for ownership and control. So when their baby dies in a tidal wave, they feel a loss of ownership, instead of the love for their baby who is only changed.

You do not own or control anything but yourself; there is free will.

I could tell you right now whether or not each of the "victims" [not a good word, i don't like it. Please stop using it]... I could tell you right now whether or not each of those who died or were injured in the tidal wave ... or the last flood, or the next typhoon ... chose to endure those conditions, because i know the answer to that question.

So do you, but you don't realize it yet. You won't realize it for quite a while. Which is fine, and it's the way it should be. You are still learning, after all, and you are making me proud when you do.

Besides, it wouldn't be good for you or me to have me to give you the answers. You'd resent it sooner or later, probably sooner, and then i'd just catch more flak. 'Flak' is also a good word; very descriptive, and fitting in this case.

I know the answers to all the questions there are or could ever be, because i choose to know. You choose to learn those answers slowly, and so i gave you 'time' to do it in. I know, for example, whether or not Terri Schiavo is aware of her surroundings, or whether she is little more than a battery-operated plastic, robotic pet dog [very clever gift idea at one time, by the way].

Many people who have learned about medicine have given their views on it, and not all of those views are in agreement.

Free will is sometimes messy, but then most things that are free always will be.

But keep these questions in mind: if Terri is aware of what she's going through, then isn't keeping her in that condition what you call cruelty? If she's not aware, but is just a battery-operated human shell, then isn't keeping her in that condition what you would consider wasteful of the resources that could help others?

Your purpose... if it can be said that you actually have a purpose, and you do... is to learn. What are you learning from keeping Terri Schiavo's heart beating, and her lungs inflating?

Are you learning medicine? Are you learning mercy? Are you learning patience and understanding of those who love a woman differently from the way you love her? Or are you confusing that love with ownership?

In the end, of course, it doesn't matter. All things are one, and everything is complete. Terri Schiavo has free will the same as her parents, and the same as her husband. What you choose to do, in the end, doesn't matter. And to be honest, 'the end' is here, right now. You only have this thing called 'time' to stop it all from happening at once, and so that you can learn. "Over time".

So let me ask you again: what are you learning?

I empathize with Terri's parents, greatly. I know exactly what they're going through. I've gone through it so much more often with every single thing ever. I see everything as my child. Rocks, giraffes, interspatial ionoids [which you haven't discovered yet], quasars -- i'm doing wonderful things with quasars now, if i may be so immodest to say. They are all my children.

I love each and every one. But i've let them all go. Because that's what love is. A parent who loves his child teaches that child and then let's the child go to allow it to continue learning on its own. To grab the child back is ownership. To accept the child back is the parents', and child's, free will.

Terri exercised her own free will right up to the moment medical science and the law says she couldn't. And now there is a titanic struggle over who gets to exercise free will in her place, in her name.

I know the answer and so, if you choose, do you. I will not give you the answers, but will only say this: Terri is still exercising her own free will, the same as she always has, and as she always will.

To many of you, this means that she is "conscious" and "aware" and that pulling the plug [quaint phrase, very descriptive, but it's somewhat unsettling] would be morally wrong.

To many others of you, this means that Terri is deliberately choosing to stay in her present condition, which means that she wants to leave it to the rules that exist. Those rules say that her husband chooses. That's as good a rule as any, i suppose.

But neither of these are necessarily how it's working. Or why. It might be, but then it might not. I'm not saying one way or another. There are many things going on all at once, and ... nope, i just checked: none of you are aware of them all.

The important thing is for you to learn something from this. Learning medicine, learning how to prevent Terri's condition, or how to pull someone else out of Terri's condition, is important, and I'd be proud of you for learning that.

Learning mercy, learning that it is sometimes important to stop the unnecessary continuation of painful conditions, is also something I'd be proud of you for learning. But what I'm not proud of is that many of you are not applying what you have already learned.

How many times do you have to learn that fighting over who loves someone else the most doesn't help?

I would be very proud of you all if you did what the parents want to do, keep her plugged in, keep her battery charged up, and everyone pull together and help each other love her and live without her really being there. For a long time, that's what you all did, and it was encouraging. It was a very proud sight for me. And sometimes such patience and hope pays off. Miracles happen sometimes.

I would also be very proud of you if you all did what the husband wants to do, pull her plug, show Terri what you call "mercy" and stop her from undergoing what you think is "suffering", and then all pull together and remember the joy that Terri provided you while she was there. Miracles are miraculous because they don't happen very often, and knowing that you cannot rely upon them is wise.

Both of those are important things to learn.

But you aren't doing either of them.

Instead you're angrily pointing at each other, and blaming each other. And you are accusing each other of "playing god", of playing me.

If there was ever anything funny to come out of this, that is it. I am offended by your "playing me" the same as you are offended by your children playing grown-up.

This may come as a shock to a great many of you [of course it will, i know it already does] but the reason you are here, alive, living your lives and learning and creating, is for one reason only: to play god.

I want you to play god. That is what makes me proud of you. So what if you don't always get it right the first time. Or the first several times, even. It doesn't matter. In the end, you will. And as i said before, the end is here, now, and only separated from this current moment by a thing called 'time' which keeps everything from happening at once.

And again, there is no blame, ever. Blame doesn't exist. It's something you created yourselves to account for the realities you don't want to accept. There are no victims, either. That's another of your creations.

See? you've been playing me this whole time.

Play god all you want. Just, and this is all i wanted to tell you, learn something from it. Learn whatever you want to learn: mercy, medicine, hope, patience, understanding, whatever. As long as you learn, you're on the right path, and i'm proud. Just as you are proud when your child learns to tie his shoes or bakes you pebble-chip cookies out of mud batter and flavored with grass.

What disappoints me is when you put your learning aside to blame, when you confuse your love for each other with ownership. Let go; it's crucial for both love and learning.

Now, if you'll excuse me, i have some cosmic forces to monkey around with [also a catchy phrase; monkeys are fascinating, if i do say so myself]. Apropos of nothing, "dark matter" isn't a good description for it, but you'll find that out soon enough.

Only a few of you truly suspect this, but i'm more like a kid playing with sticks and mud in a ditch after a spring rain than an old man sitting on a gilded throne. It's much more interesting to set forces in motion and see what happens with them than to sit in judgment of the things which happen. I don't like judgment much. It's pointless.

And in the end... which, again, is already here... it doesn't matter. Whatever will happen to Terri already has; i've seen it. Like the chess player who can see fifteen moves ahead, with every permutation of every possible choice, so can i. Only a lot farther than fifteen moves. I can see to the end. I'm god, remember?

It's all right. It will work out, it has worked out. The pain and hurt you are feeling is what you've done to yourselves. By your own free will.

The same free will can stop it from hurting. If you choose. I could make it stop, too, but i won't, because then you’ll learn nothing and just resent the intrusion. You don't really want the intercession you're asking for. And you already have the guidance and wisdom to stop the hurt, if you choose to.

Please choose to.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Outsmarting Human Intelligence

Outsmarting Human Intelligence
Too Dumb Moralism

© 2005 Ross Williams

This probably won't be a newsflash to anyone, but 9-11 really sucked. Majorly.

The newswatch never stops: our intelligence services failed us.

The CIA is the group of spooks and spies we have that are licensed under US law to collect information in foreign countries about nations and individuals trying to do things to hurt the US. But we don't want the CIA to collect information in the US, because some of the people on whom they’d collect information would be US citizens who are in a snit over some thing or another. Most snit-having people say they’re really gonna show somebody or other a thing or two, and otherwise make wildass threats. And, well, we have free speech. If we can’t blow off steam by making wildass threats, then what good is free speech? So we passed a law back in the Sensitive Seventies that prevents the CIA from operating in the US.

Domestic spying is done by the FBI.

There. Doesn't that make you feel better?

So here we've got the CIA collecting information on foreign hotheads when they're abroad, but they can't follow them into the US because our laws prevent that, so the FBI picks them up in the US and follows them around. ...if they're alerted to their arrival by the INS folks, which most often they aren't.

You might think to yourselves, "But, but, but the CIA knew they were coming to the US, ..." usually, yes, "... so why didn't the CIA tell the FBI themselves?"

Oh, you naive and simplistic people. The CIA didn't tell the FBI what the CIA knew because that's not the way it works. Should it work that way? Maybe, but it doesn't, and it wasn't, and it never has, and it likely won't. Ever.

For a few reasons.

First: the more people who know the secret, the less secret it is. That's the purpose of making something secret: not everyone gets to know. Not everyone is important enough. The FBI isn’t as important as the CIA. …to the CIA. And the CIA doesn't want the FBI to know what the CIA knows. And vice versa, for that matter.[1]

Second: if the CIA is supposed to tell the FBI what it knows, then pretty soon the CIA will be irrelevant. And there'll be a whole agency-worth of people looking for work, and lining the off-ramps of the DC Beltway. "Will be nosy for food". No agency, office, bureau or department in the government – in any government – is ever, ever, ever going to do anything to make themselves irrelevant. They may, like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, reduce their workload to nothing, but the BIA is still the only ones capable of doing it. Sharing work in a bureaucracy makes the sharer downsizable.

Now, I'll admit right up front that the CIA and the FBI should cooperate, should tell each other what they know, should share secrets. For I am as idealistic as the next guy. I just don't advertise my idealism very often, because stated idealism makes you sound like an idiot whenever you leave the bar.

The world does not work that way period end of discussion. It doesn't get simpler than that. And it won't be made to work that way no matter how many idealists collect in front of the White House to wet their panties by listing the million and one reasons why it should. It won't be made to work that way until after a crisis. Even then it won't be because everyone agrees. "Oh, yes, the CIA and the FBI were both being selfish and short-sighted brats. They were each trying to take their ball of secrets and go home."

Well, we may agree on that, but we don't count. The only people who count are the pinheads and the weenies who run the country, and they have to go through their episodic ventures of blame-laying and partisan catcalling first.

Did the US have enough information to piece together the whole 9-11 plot – or at least enough of it that the "other nineteen" should have been red flagged even to the Logan skycaps? Yes, in spades. But ... the CIA knew part of it, the FBI knew another part of it, and neither were sharing because they don't do that. There was no unifying, kingly piece of information that would have caused either the CIA or the FBI to have the cartoonish light bulb over their head turn on

Jumping ahead a few rounds of recriminatory posturing, we find that the government has attempted to eliminate the intel bottlenecks by putting our spies – both foreign and domestic – under one roof. They both answer to Homeland Security. There's a whiff of the Orwellian in the name. Even though the creation of Homeland Security presumes that creating more government to cure a government-made stupidity is not laughably preposterous to all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, the move is, at least, on the right track. Somebody needs to make the CIA and the FBI talk. To each other, that is.

That said, kill DHS. Now, before it mutates – and all government departments mutate. Put these people back in their old jobs. The noble purpose of making the CIA and the FBI share the same sandbox[2] isn't worth the overhead of a ganglionic governmental cancer. We've got too many as it is. Besides, the CIA and FBI already do operate under one roof. Last I checked, they were both Americans. One would think that would be enough.

The fact that no one US intel agency had enough information of their own to piece together the 9-11 plot is a direct fallout of the law passed over 30 years ago prohibiting the CIA from domestic spying. The purpose behind preventing the CIA from spying in the US was that our 60s anarchists and bomb-throwing radicals were Really Good Kids®, just mixed up with the Wrong Crowds® and shouldn't be spied on. They were still spied on, just not by the CIA. The FBI took the job. And after that, the FBI and the CIA had their own little fiefdoms of information, and the secret-keeping started.

Give the CIA their job back, or at least most of it[3]. That's solution number one.

The second part of the solution goes back to the unifying, kingly piece of information that we didn't have, and increasing our chances of getting it. The reason we didn't have it is because, starting around the same time we gave the FBI the job of domestic espionage, we started giving ourselves a national lobotomy. By which I mean: killing off our "human intelligence". We passed laws, by which I mean budget appropriations, that de-emphasized HumInt, and threw more money at space-age high-tech gizmory instead.

This started around Nixon-Ford, proceeded apace during both Carter and Reagan [Reagan was particularly enamored of gadgets], accelerated under Bush the Elder, and attained warp speed under Clinton. The Sensitive Seventies gave way to the Outrageous Eighties, which then leaked into the Neophytic Nineties. We went from being too demure to dirty ourselves with HumInt, to being too keen on ostentation to have time for it, to being too naively unaware of its purpose in the first place.

An entire generation raised on the pablum of human dignity for all, including the undignified, came to believe that only rotten people do rotten things for rotten reasons, forgot that good people can do rotten things for good reasons when it’s us doing it, and declared that when anyone else did these rotten things, well, it didn’t make them rotten, since they probably had good reasons. …like resisting the rotten ol’ US.

It's one thing to stick an American microphone in a foreign diplomat's hotel room to eavesdrop. It's another to stick a hot American chick in the diplomat’s bed to fuck for America. We can get the diplomat’s words from the microphone, yes. But we get the diplomat’s heart from the slut.

It's one thing to stick a camera on an American satellite and watch the troop movements of the nations we don't like. But it's another to hire some slimeball to move with those troops. The camera will find out where they're going, but the slimeball will know why.

Our seventies sensitivities told us to cease trading in sluts and slimes. How dare we resort to running a patriotic escort service? How dare we hire the scums of the earth to do our bidding? We are a civilized nation; that sort of lowbrow, barrel-scraping activity is beneath us. Isn’t it? Hiring whores and scuz isn’t dignified. Is it?

But our seventies sensitivities imposed another hair-shirt straightjacket on the US that has caused us far more harm than the noble idealism that frowned on our mere pandering. Or, rather, these idealistic sensitivities had our nation fitted for the hair-shirt straightjacket, and demands we don it every time our foreign policy dares to consort with a third world tyrant.

How dare we do that, too.

The reality is, though, third world kingpins to whom we give tokens of our esteem give us most of the really juicy information we get. For the price of a crate of Stingers, cluster bombs, or other assorted military hardware, not to mention plain old cash, we get The Goods. All this booty tends to prop up their tyrannical governments – or depose the tyrannical governments who won’t cooperate with us – but at least we get something out of it.

And that makes a bunch of idealistic Americans dampen their drawers. It doesn’t matter that we’re getting anything from third world misery, they claim, we’re consorting with tyrants!

Yes, indeed we are. Do you have a point, other than to exclaim the obvious?

Well, their point – as has been repeatedly imparted to me by the spluttering idealists – is that only a cold-hearted cynic could rationalize third world tyranny by saying “at least we got something out of it.”

When I say “Yeah? And?” they typically launch themselves into the same Sea of Impertinence that makes being a public idealist such an easy person to mock. Apparently, if it weren’t for the insufferable international intrigue that only the United States dispenses, the rest of the world would be living in well-fed peace and group-hug harmony, employing native craftspeople as industrial CEOs, and just generally respecting the hell out of each other’s personhood. You may recall how a few thousand years of traditional African infibulation was inspired by American cold-war coercion.

The basic bottom line is this: the third world is run, and overrun, by despotic turdballs. We can’t ignore them; that causes tall American buildings to fall down. We can’t stop them all from being who they are; if we arrested every tyrant and wanna-be, we wouldn’t have any room for our own drug addicts and campaign finance scofflaws. If we went to war to remove every tyrant from his throne, we’d have the Iraq/2003 wailing self-recrimination every day in hundreds of different ways. No, no, “regime change” is acceptable for Democrats to accomplish in [white] Serbia in favor of the [white] outcasts, but unacceptable for Republicans to try in [brown] Iraq in favor of the [brown] outcasts. And there’s absolutely no racism being implied, or anything. Good gosh a’mighty, no!! Perish the thought.

The tyrants are going to be there, tyrannizing their people, with our help or without it. Refusing to help them won’t make them go away. Witness Castro’s Barrel o’ Laughs Land. Refusing to sell them F-16s doesn’t drive them from power. They’ll buy French Mirages or Russian MiGs instead… and then get friendly with the frogs and the bears. Which leaves good ol’ noble Uncle Sam with a dopey grin on his face at the Diplomats’ Ball because he’s the only guy there without a clue what’s going on in the rest of the world. Which is true enough in the first place; we don’t need to compound the problem by deliberately cluing out for high-minded nonsense.

With most of the world being run by tyrants, and several of those tyrants not liking the United States, how do we tell which of those tyrants are likely to actually do to the US what they say they’ll do to the US? We can listen to them with microphones, and watch them with satellites. But there’s a discreet limit to the amount of information that electronics can get for us.

We can also follow them with trenchcoated CIA agents wearing fedoras, talking into lapel pins and being generally unobtrusive.

It’s time to hire the sluts and the slimes. A slut is a good weapon to throw at a diplomat or other individual. A slimeball is a good weapon to throw into a known group of ne’er-do-wells. But they don’t work very well collecting information on new threats from new sources.

So we get some of those tyrants working for us. Tyrants arrest thousands of dissidents at a swipe and ask them electrode-loaded questions anyway, why not buy some of that information? We’ll sell you some really sleek airplanes for your air force if you pass along anything you uncover during your human rights violations which may be of interest to us… We’ll sell you the bombs that go on the F-16s if you pass along what you find out about some of these other countries as well…

Know which tyrants are on the US payroll? Those who have F-16s. Know who’s on the French payroll? The tyrants who have the Mirages. Know who’s owned by the Russians? The ones who have MiGs. While rocket science is necessary for modern jet fighters to fly, you don’t need it to figure out the politics.

Batista was a corrupt nogoodnik, yes. So’s Castro. Difference: Batista was “our guy”. Castro has MiGs. Read the tea leaves.

Noriega was a despicable, drug-running bully, certainly. But he was “our guy”. And when he went into business for himself, we … um … “extradited” him.

Caldera was the typical Banana Republican, but he was our Banana Republican[4]; he got F-16s. Chavez is another typical Banana Republican, but from the super-Socialist side, and he can’t get parts for those F-16s; he’s buying weapons from Russia now.

The Saud royal family has F-16s as well. And the Saudi people, generally Wahabi-sect Sunni like their hero Osama bin Laden, hate the royals. The Saud family is “our guy” as well, when they aren’t trying to curry favor with their own peasants. They usually fail when they try, so the F-16s might actually come in handy some day.

The Shah of Iran had F-16s … he was a tyrant. And he was becoming more of one as time went on. Enduring 25 years of attempted ouster by self-righteous Islamic fundamentalists, luxuriating in Paris exile and with French protection, will do that to you. He was “our guy” right up until he wasn’t anyone’s guy. And that brings us to the source of so much of our current partisan finger-pointing.

Saddam Hussein, whose air force was filled with Mirage and MiG fighters, was famously[5] photographed in 1983 shaking hands with Don Rumsfeld. We sold Iraq helicopters and cluster bombs in return for …? Not goat cheese and dates. Try intelligence on the recently Shah-less Iran, and his cooperation on maintaining world oil price stability[6]. While gassing Kurds[7] is an efficient manner of being a thug and running afoul of our fickle intellectual moralists, invading Kuwait clearly violated the nature of our agreement, not to mention constituting an act of war against the world. For the same reason that free access to the High Seas is considered a strategic resource by every nation – and an act of war when it’s denied – so is a stable market for necessary commodities such as petroleum.

We tried cozying up to Hussein. So what? We wanted him to be a junior “our guy”. He was fighting the Iranians, who were no longer “our guy”. He was already killing Kurds with his Mirage and MiG fighters, additional hardware from America wasn’t going to materially affect his habits one way or another. And because being an idealist does not necessarily preclude also being a cold-hearted cynic, we all know what his having MiGs and Mirages means… right? Hussein was himself trying to cozy up to as many nations as he could, but then decided, a la Noriega, to go into business for himself.

In the bilateral super-power scheme[8], you don’t go into business for yourself. Even the Russians and the French agreed on that one. Buh-bye Iraqi imperialist expansion; hello latter-day-Versailles peace.

This is the way the world works. It worked that way 2,000 years ago, as well. But instead of jet fighters, Rome gave away indoor plumbing for being “Caesar’s guy”.

Our choices are to operate in the World As It Is and work with tyrants and despots who are willing to be “our guy”; trade jets for intelligence. Or we put on the Pat Buchanist motley, pull the borders up around our ears and pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist while we wait for the next Pearl Harbor or 9-11 to wake us up. Or we can cry the big crocodile tears so common among the collegiate omniscients.

Tyrants impose human misery in great gobs; it’s what they do. It’s in their job description. They will continue to do this irrespective of what we do. We can stand back and scold the tyrant, in the same way that our college perfessors scold American foreign policy. But past history indicates that this is a losing game plan. Foreigners dislike, more or less intensely, know-it-all Americans telling them how to behave. Go to your in-laws sometime and correct their child-rearing practices – or their children – if you wish to quibble. Once you get out of divorce court, tell me how it went.

We can ignore the tyrant and his nation. But tyrants have a tendency to be self-centered minor megalomaniacs, and we ignore them at our peril. In terms of child psychology, the ignored tyrant, like the ignored brat, will “lash out” in ways that are disruptive to peace and tranquility. So even though you may be very right in scolding your in-laws for how they raise their children, you don’t get points for being right. And ignoring the tyrant doesn’t stop his imposition of human misery in any event. We’ll end up having to replace the carpet or large sections of major cities.

Those are the realities. Tyrants dispense misery whether we’re involved or not; we are risking Americans’ lives and America itself by not knowing what is going on with the world’s tyrants. The tyrants won’t tell us what’s going on with them unless we deal with them … which usually involves making deals with them.

So, there you have it. Profiting from other’s human misery keeps our pampered professors in tenure, and it does not mean we cause it. We can’t end it by scolding, but we have reduced it, some places, by buying tyrants with jets. South Korea is a damned sight better than it was, even twenty years ago. So’s China, for that matter. And South Africa. Saudi Arabia just held their first-ever election. Okay, so it was only men, but so were our first elections.

The next time someone says “we’re in bed with tyrants”, the appropriate response is “Yeah? And?”[9] The alternative is to deliberately avoid getting information about when and how that tyrant’s human misery will be on the next airplane leaving Logan, and blame ourselves for being so immoral in a world where, frankly, we’re saints – comparatively.

And comparatively is all we’ve got.
[1] This is called “compartmentalization”, the term used to describe when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. US intelligence has about a dozen hands, all in their own compartments. 9-11 was inevitable.
[2] and FBI/INS, CIA/NSA, etc
[3] Hoover’s dead now, folks. So are most of the people he was blackmailing. Capitulating to FBI whim might be political habit, but it’s no longer a matter of career-saving discretion
[4] more or less
[5] or otherwise
[6] at a low price, to undercut Soviet exports and add another millstone around the Brezhnev neck
[7] with Russian chemical weapons and French delivery systems
[8] tri-lateral, according to certain out of joint Froggish noses
[9] Alternatives: “Better us than the French/Russians/Chinese”. “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer – and what’s closer than sharing a bed?”

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Second Verse, Same as the First

Second Verse, Same as the First

© 2005 Ross Williams

It would seem that Hugo Chavez is having political troubles at home. Señor Chavez is el Presidente of Venezuela.[1] He hates the US. He's best buds with Fidel Castro. When Chavez was running for office in 1998, his pal Fidel gave him advice on getting votes: hire thugs to threaten and harass voters who oppose you. If that doesn't completely work, steal vote boxes.

Chavez did these, and voila! he was elected el heffe in 1999, just seven years after failing to take the job by force. Not exactly Horatio Alger, but whatever works in a pinch.

Once in office, he proceeded to effect much the same policies that his mentor has used for the economic powerhouse Cuba has become. Chavez absconded with private property – if it belonged to those who voted against him – he declared disliking him a crime punishable by jail, disappearance or death, and nationalized whatever industrial concerns the nation held.

The last is fairly critical in this day and age: Venezuela is a member of OPEC. If a tarantula falls out of your banana bunch in Caracas and you stomp on it, oil comes gushing out somewhere. Venezuela's oil production is nationalized. Which is to say stolen from its owners, and managed by socialist bureaucrats who know not how to turn a profit.

Now, Chavez supporters are going to claim that prior to his election, there was a wide disparity between the nation's richest and poorest, and that the poorest made up 80% of the population. And they will be correct. They will claim that today there isn't such a wide disparity, and they will continue to be correct.

Chavezistas will claim that prior to his election, unemployment was rampant. They will be correct again. They will claim that unemployment is now greatly reduced, and – happy day – they'll still be correct.

What Chavezistas won't tell you is that Chavez virtually eliminated the disparity between rich and poor – not to mention between middle-class and poor – by criminalizing wealth, and penalizing middle-classness. Chavezistas won't tell you that his nation is suffering from full employment today because it hired the poor and uneducated masses to do what the jailed, disappeared or dead opposition voters used to do prior to his election.

Why worry about the details when a nation has attained social justice and full employment?

The Chavezistas will claim that the prior government was corrupt and wasn't fulfilling its social obligation of educating the masses for productive use in a modern socio-political structure. And these whiners will be correct yet again. The Caldera government of Venezuela – not to mention the 50-some-odd governments preceding it – made the nation a prototypical banana republic.

Guess what? It's still a banana republic, and the programs implemented by Chavez are largely geared toward keeping it one. But now, instead of the bananas serving the whims of Group A, criminalizing Group B and ignoring Groups C through Z, the bananas serve the whims of Group B, it has run off [or killed off] Group A, and it's acquired the same sort of instant-but-temporary adulation from the dispossessed Groups C through Z that tends to accompany "people's revolutions" the world over. Instead of being a poor subsistence hunter-gatherer in the jungles of the Amazon basin, they are poor working stiffs doing a job they aren't trained to do ... but a job that they have been given only because the last jobholder has emigrated. In one way or another.

Best part of this deal? No one can tell whether or not the newly-employed are doing a good job.

That's what happens when you fire the boss and hire the janitor to replace him, and turn the supervising board of directors over to the first dozen bums you find on the street. The Caldera corruption ran the nation's coffers dry, and the oil price boom has helped Chavez blacken the red ink, but circumstances shouldn't be construed as a vindication of neo-socialist philosophy. The exact same methods are being played in Cuba – which has no oil – and they're still panhandling on the world's street corners for leftovers and handouts, and dumpster diving for the rest.

Chaveznik policies are being played in North Korea as well – plus or minus Kim's deification – and they've resorted to nuclear blackmail to acquire food and energy, they've achieved full employment only by drafting who it can for the army, and starving to death those who offer up so much as a "...but".

No matter. Venezuela has oil, it can make do. But the glue that holds this people's paradise together is the widespread belief that the house of cards, engineered by a guy who, until 6 years ago, was trained as a military coupist, is stable. There's some amount of evidence that it's not.

The funny thing about mass-pilfery and murder is that those you plunder and plow under have a tendency to get a wee bit miffed. It doesn't matter whether you steal from the rich and give to the poor, or you steal from the middle-class and give to the poor; it doesn't matter whether you steal earned money, stolen money, jobs or lives. It's still stealing. Consequently, there was a coup in Venezuela, in 2002, led by workers protesting the mass job-stealing in the now-state-owned Venezuelan petroleum industry.

They were joined – as irony would have it – by certain sections of the military, which figured that if Chavez himself could lead a military coup in 1992, they could lead one themselves today. The coup took a matter of minutes, almost literally. Chavez, properly deposed, was all set to accept exile in – where else? – Cuba, when a rumor got started that all those untrained people hired to work the nation's petroleum farms would be getting their stolen jobs stolen back away from them, and a counter-coup was orchestrated by the uneducated masses – perennially good for such things – and supported by the police. "Police", in Venezuela, is a proximal term used to describe "roving hooligans, thugs and tough-guys given guns and badges after their cousin was appointed mayor by the president who stiff-armed his own election".

The Venezuelan military, not one to be trusted, is now overseen by Cuban advisors... by the way.

The counter-coup out-couped the coup, Chavez was shouldered through the streets by adulant crowds within hours of getting his plane ticket to Havana, and there was a whole new crowd of disgruntleds to steal jobs from and heave into jail. In order to make it all work, though, Chavez would have to exhort the dubious population.

Chavez couldn't very well call huge wads of his citizens rabble-rousers, not publicly, anyway; his type of government – like the Caldera government before it – is built on shooting rabble. That response so soon after leading those same rabbles through an arm-twisted election would make most Venezuelans consider themselves in his fire rather than Caldera's frying pan. They'd think, "we're next". So he took the disgruntled rabble out back privately, and yanked another page from the Castro playbook: blame the US.

Castro has made a living blaming the US. Kennedy made the mistake of attempting to re-install "our guy" back on the Cuban throne after the Castro coup – and then backed out at the last minute. It conflicted with his date night with Marilyn, or something. So, there we've got a few hundred US operatives and a few thousand Cuban nationals cut off and without support in the Bay of Pigs landing zone, Kennedy back in DC saying, "Oopsy, my bad", and Castro had all the ammunition he'd need to embarrass the US for the rest of his life.

Whenever things go wrong in Cuba, and Fidel's poll numbers slip a tick ... accuse the US of planning another invasion. Why not? The US invaded before, it could do so again. It's not a surprise that invasion – or widespread belief in one – increases support of an otherwise disliked head of state. Even Democrats liked Bush the Younger on September 12th.

So Chavez, after his three-day imposed vacation, informed the world that it wasn't really his own countrymen indignant that he'd stolen their jobs and their fortunes who had organized the general strike cum coup – besides, can you find any of them? It was... [drum roll...] the mean ol' US of A. Yes indeed. The CIA, masters of stealth that they are, infiltrated his country, organized a coup and slipped out again without anyone noticing. The clincher? There was no evidence of it.

The fact that there was no evidence that the US was involved proves that the CIA was behind it. Because only the CIA could organize a coup that left no evidence, and instead make it look like his own incompetent domestic policies caused the locals to blow their own lids.

Darn that sneaky US intelligence community, anyhow! And to think, the whole bickering and feuding thing over who had the lead authority to track foreign hotheads on American soil before 9-11 was just an ingenious device to make everyone in the world think the CIA was run by Keystone Kops. Very clever diversion. The real plot was to overthrow Chavez and steal Venezuelan oil. And, of course, the "bad intel leading into a second war with Iraq" thing was just a cover story concocted after el heffe Hugo uncovered the CIA's plot. 9-11 Commission? Part of the conspiracy.

Agent Mulder, call your office.

But anyway, as I say, President Chavez is having domestic problems. There's a few pieces of evidence for this. First, Chavez offered the city of Chicago last week to sell them oil, cheap, to help keep the poor people warm this winter. On the surface this looks like a good PR move; sell at a discount to America and curry some favor. Maybe he'll get those F-16 parts he's wanted for 6 years... but probably, he'd just get cash on the barrelhead for the oil. Socialism is a notoriously profit-indifferent enterprise, and it tends to have somewhat more difficulty staying in the black. Second, Chavez just addressed his nation and claimed the US was preparing to invade Venezuela[2]. Yet again. By the military, this time, instead of by Christian Soldiers under the leadership of Reverend-General Marion “Pat” Robertson. His speech was concurrently translated into French, not that there's any irony in that at all.

What difficulties are in the Card House of Venezuela is anyone's guess. Not that it probably matters... unless the saber-rattling against Columbia and Guyana is heating up, in which case he's got more Russian arms to buy and might not have the cash to do it. But it serves to point out, for the umpteenth time in the last decade or so, that the US needs to limit its liability on foreign oil. The longer we're beholden to tin-pot tyrants and minor megalomaniacs for the juice that keeps us turning a profit, the longer these world-weenies have a say in what we do and how we do it. And, more importantly, what it costs us in the process.

To that end, here again are the realistic requirements for our energy future:

Get our own petroleum; we've got bunches sitting under our soil just waiting for us. Stop wetting your panties about getting it. No other north shore drilling has harmed the tundra, there's no evidence anything would change by drilling 200 miles to the east.

Save petroleum for those things that only petroleum can be used for: like making cars go vroom.

Stop using petroleum for those things that other energy sources can do: like making electricity.

Make electricity with nuclear power and coal. Stop "helping" by preventing nuclear waste dumps from being built; stop "helping" by getting in the way of coal-powered electric plants. We have the technology to make coal as environmentally safe as grilling steaks on a gas grill. If you insist on following the Global Warming lemming train, then the answer would seem to be CO2-less nuclear.

Make our gasoline go farther by adding homegrown alcohol to it. And lots of it – like 600% more per gallon. Use other plant material than corn to make this alcohol.

Where possible, use the faddish "alternatives". Solar in the southwest, wind on the coasts. And for godsake stop with the endless fantasy that these alternatives are anything but small scale. The object is to be realistic. Realism precludes building solar powered castles in the air.

Not doing these – all of these – means turning your future, and your wealth, over to yuck-meisters like Hugo Chavez. Won’t that be fun.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Ch%C3%A1vez
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americas/10/20/venezuela.chavez.ap/index.html

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My Letter to MLB

Oct 18, 2005
Allan "Bud" Selig, Commissioner
Bob DuPuy, President & COO
Jimmie Lee Solomon, Executive VP, Baseball Operations
Frank Pulli, Umpire Supervisor
c/o Chicago Cubs
1060 W Addison
Chicago 60657

Dear Sirs:

I am a Cubs fan; I do not like the St Louis Cardinals -- mostly because of their self-righteous and smug fans -- who are as far from the "best" and "most knowledgeable" in the game as Dave Kingman was from being a .400 hitter. I do not respect Tony "Mumbles" Larussa; I believe he is a coward and a skank. I think Jim Edmonds is thoroughly overrated as a player, a delicate daisy and a whiner to boot. If you wish to doubt my sincerity by the end of this letter, you are free to call me on the phone and I'll give you succeedingly longer versions of my opinions on the team, its fans, and persons mentioned until you are satisfied that I have no outstanding affection for them.

I watched the playoff game between the Astros and the Cardinals on Sunday [Oct 16] and was rooting for the Cardinals to lose. Preferably badly, but any loss would have sufficed. ...and I watched Mumbles get tossed out of the game by Phil Cuzzi. I know as well as you do that both players and managers get heaved sometimes well after the specific incident they are griping about. So I wasn't confused that Larussa came out in the 7th to argue with Cuzzi after a pitch quite wide of the strike zone on which Berkman walked.

But frankly, Cuzzi was incompetent all night long.

But if Cuzzi had quit right there, I wouldn't be writing to you now. He didn't, and so I am. I watched Edmonds walk in the top of the 8th, and I watched Cuzzi call the ball four pitch strike two. There is no way on earth that anyone marginally familiar with both the rules of baseball and the composition of the strike zone could watch -- back to back -- the high and inside ball four to Berkman in the bottom of the 7th and the high and inside "strike" to Edmonds in the 8th, and determine:
1] that both pitches were not in the same location relative to the strike zone, and
2] that the umpire made anywhere near a correct call in both cases.

You are going to interject the standard rationalization "umpiring is hard; mistakes are made; judgment calls are final; rules are rules; they're only human..." Frankly I don't accept that, and I will be exceptionally insulted if anyone replies in such a manner. So let us just assume for the sake of future politeness that you have made those idiotic arguments, and just leave them unsaid.

A baseball game is a contest between two sets of athletes using a standard set of rules, arbited by a set of umpires. Each set of athletes has a legitimate expectation that if their athletic activities fall within the parameters of those rules, that the umpires will make certain and specific rulings. If a running back crosses the goal line with the football, he has a legitimate expectation that his team will get six points -- penalties notwithstanding. When the pitcher throws the ball over the plate, between knees and nipples, he has a legitimate expectation that it will be called a strike if not swung at. If it isn't, then there is something wrong -- and it's not with the pitcher.

When players cannot get their legitimate expectations met, then the game -- baseball, football, or basketball -- ceases to be an athletic competition between two teams of athletes following rules; it instead becomes politics, with the "impartial" umpire imparting favors outside the bounds of the rules. I've had quite enough of the "Smoltz zone" by which an uncommon share of umpires gave John Smoltz [et al] 6-8 inches off the outside corner. I've had more than I can stand of the umpires who call a sine wave strike zone, in which part of the game has high outside strikes, later it's low and in, later still it's low and away, and then it become high and in ... and then repeats, seemingly randomly, for the remainder of the game. I've also had my fill of the trapezoidal strike zone which awards strikes from low and in to high and away, as well as the short zone, with versions of all the above variants, but which only allow strikes from sock top to jock top.

And I further cannot tolerate the standard rejoinder given by announcers and other rationalists: "well, at least he's consistent..." He's consistently WRONG, yes. You are correct about that.

Frankly, gentlemen, this is unacceptable. On top of the players having a legitimate expectation of proper rule enforcement by the umpires, so do the fans. In my personal and subjective opinion the fans have the superior expectation for an accurately called ball game. We're the ones who pay your bills, your wages and your way, either directly by buying tickets at grossly inflated prices, or indirectly through patronage of your television sponsors.

A fan who's been watching baseball as long as I have knows what a strike is, what a ball is, and what is close enough that the TV perspective isn't adequate to judge. And fans like me have no tolerance for umpires who get it blatantly wrong and then rationalize why "wrong" was, in this case, right. Then -- as if being wrong and called on it weren't embarrassing enough for many current umpires -- they chase players and managers all over the field to instigate the player, of all arrogant things. The modern "blue" version of a juvenile temper tantrum.

Cuzzi, on Sunday night, was wrong pretty much the whole game. Whether he was wrong "consistently" or randomly is immaterial; he was wrong. Tossing "Mumbles" for pointing it out is one thing; managers sometimes need to make points to the umps and their teams. But tossing Edmonds after being wrong and then being petulant about it is something else entirely, and exceeds even my tolerance for wishing ill upon the Cardinals.

Here, again, there is a standard rejoinder, "Well, Edmonds argued balls and strikes; those are judgment calls -- even if wrong -- and cannot be argued. The umpire is within his rulebook authority to toss the player in that circumstance."


But that does not alter the fact that Cuzzi was wrong about the pitch call in the first place. If you’re going to cite “rules are rules”, then so am I. I'm willing to concede that mistakes are made by umpires -- I wouldn't take their job for a second, because I know I couldn't do better. And if you want to, or need to, justify the mistake by that means, go right ahead. Just don't do it to me.

We are left with a situation, though. A situation that I, as one of the fans who pays you for your front-officership, demand you address to my satisfaction. And just to demonstrate that I'm capable of more conciliation than Donald Fehr when discussing steroids, I'll give you a choice of solutions that would be acceptible:
1] you publically acknowledge that Phil Cuzzi was calling an incorrect strike zone during the playoff game, acknowledge that even though he had the authority to throw Edmonds out of the game, that tossing Edmonds was exacerbated by Cuzzi's own actions, and "fail to renew" Cuzzi's contract for next year; or
2] you publically acknowledge that the current crop of Major League umpires is a confrontational and combative lot, announce a complete ban on umpires baiting players, cite Phil Cuzzi's actions on Oct 16 as an example of what is not acceptible, and "fail to renew" his contract for next year; or
3] you impress upon Phil Cuzzi that no longer are players the only people who are infuriated by umpiring excesses and incompetences, the fans are nauseated as well, and get him to publically acknowledge that, upon review, his strike zone was not in conformance to the rules of the game, that he exacerbated the situation with Jim Edmonds beyond what was reasonable or necessary, and that he submits -- and you accept -- his resignation.

You may have noticed a theme; I want public acknowledgement of glaring umpire incompetence and combativeness, gentlemen, along with public announcement of their punishments, and I want Phil Cuzzi gone. He is among the embarrassments to Major League Baseball, and his embarrassment was coupled with unmitigated arrogance -- in contrast to, for example, Doug Eddings, who was also wrong, but bumbling instead of arrogant and confrontational.

I hope I've made my point sufficiently clear for you to take the corrective action.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Silent Scream of the Lambs

Silent Scream of the Lambs

© 2005 Ross Williams

I love animals. I've had animals all my life, with few exceptions. I collected cats when I was a kid, growing up in upstate New York across the road from a dairy farm. Cats would wander in, emaciated, hang around for the bowls of milk I'd give them, and then wander off days or weeks later. Once one wandered in, emaciated and car-bit, mangled and ripped open with various gooey parts of its insides hanging out, and I gave it its last bowl of milk. Every day for three years. It had two litters of kittens – small litters, since it's innards were compromised. It died, young for a cat, but old for a cat that had been splattered on the road a few years before.

We usually had dogs. I grew up with a black cocker named Pinky. Then a setter-lab mix – lab personality on a setter frame – named Killer. Or Casey. Or Dog. Depends on who you asked. Dog would smile every time he saw someone new. Or someone old. He was indiscriminate that way. All dogs smile with their butts, but this one also smiled with his face. To someone timid around dogs, particularly large dogs, and who doesn't understand the very keen relationship that a dog's ass has with its current temperament, the mere sight of a dog pulling up its lip and baring its teeth means that it's snarling and will soon take a chunk out of someone's leg. Doesn't matter that the dog's tail is flapping like mad and knocking over half the furniture.

Then I became an adult and spent several years as an apartment-dwelling troglodyte. No animals allowed. Besides, I'm allergic to most animals, and I can't have them inside too long. Particularly cats. Then I became a man of property, with a wife who believed that animals are fine – in a zoo. So no animals still. But then I became a man of larger property, in rural southern Illinois, and cats started wandering in again. We quickly collected two. My wife declared that these big bruising cats were scaring the children – who were busy chasing the kitties around trying to play with them. My wife declared this bit of mother's intuition while cringing in a corner of the garage, eyes wide and face pale, trying to find footholds in the wall to climb straight up it.

I confessed to my wife that, seeing as there's all this property which needs to be mowed at least once a week and it takes a week and a half to mow it, that I'd like to get sheep. I was serious. One thing led to another, which led to even more others, and this wife left. She's taken her pathological fear of animals with her. And, to her chagrin, the kids display my animal sense.

Soon thereafter, I fenced in the back half of my land, built a barn, and bought a horse. "Eat!" he was instructed. He nibbled. He tasted. He cribbed the willow trees, one to death, and I had to hire someone to come and hay the backyard. Or, rather, the pasture.

I collected new friends, and two of these friends gave me a dog for halloween. A cross between a terrier and a spaniel and a gyroscope. Came advertised from the pound as a "lab-mix". Addie might have been mixed in a laboratory, but there was no Labrador Retriever anywhere near this mutt's conception. But still, we called her an "apartment lab". And it became "we" because I married one of the friends who gave me this whirling dervish. My new wife came with a cat.

Now we were up to two cats – one for inside – a dog, and a horse who picked at his dinner. I still wanted sheep. We got another dog instead. An innocent trip to PetSmart to get fish[1] turned into adopting Kiki. A large, lab-shepard which made eye contact but had worn incisors from trying to chew through the small metal crate its owner's new husband insisted on placing it in. He should have married my ex-wife. After realizing that we weren't going to put her in a crate every night, the new dog was reasonably calm. Still preferred obeying my wife instead of me, though, probably because the last man she knew caged her.

That changed, somewhat, after she kebobed herself on some sharp object out in the dark one night. She managed to rip open her chest just as if she had a shirt-sized pocket that had been ripped off and was hanging by one side. The dog which made eye contact didn't make eye contact that night. She was embarrassed. We bundled her off to the emergency vet – where we'd been just a few weeks before with our outdoor cat who got mauled by a coyote or a neighbor's dog and was now in a cast on her mangled left front leg. A few dozen stitches and a soda straw later, this dog came home, blue daisy cone around her neck. Animals, like the car-splattered cat from a few decades earlier, will lick their wounds, and the daisy cone prevents them from doing so. Antibiotics now do the job of killing the germs that were once licked from infected gashes and sores. And to help the antibiotics, a soda straw was sewn into the pocket flap to drain the ick and goo out onto the laundry room floor. Yum.

Normally I would doctor my own animals for the semi-life-threatening injuries they all find themselves acquiring. Outdoor cats, in particular, have a remarkable capacity for getting mauled by other animals. Bigger cats, dogs, coyotes ... large birds who disapprove of a cat getting too hungry in the vicinity of its eggs. I've got iodine and peroxide and alcohol and eyedroppers for dispensing liquid medicine down reluctant throats. I've even got hypodermic needles and can inject my own animals with anything they might need. I'll just spread a towel on the counter, clean wounds, scrub animals with disinfectant and even though hissing and spitting and obviously in pain, they always allow me to do this. I have yet to get bitten, and I've never been clawed. But I don't set bones and I don't sew skin.

The dog healed, but the casted cat kept jumping around, refusing to let her bones heal. It took the vet threatening to amputate before she settled down. That, and being confined in a much smaller room with nothing to climb on. ...and then we got sheep.

Amazingly, the farmers in the area who hay their own fields and feed their cattle and horses with it all winter and spring do not want to come hay me, even if they get half my hay for free, even if I pay them. My two acre pasture is too small for them and I'm too far out of the way ... all of a quarter mile down the road. Plus, they don't want to risk running over a thirty-foot weeping willow or any of a dozen ten-foot pines or maples with their mower or rake.

Or something.

So I needed sheep. All the books said that sheep could be contained with electric fence. My horse was fenced with electric[2]. So I restrung the fence with electric at the recommended heights, and my wife and I went off down the road to a farm that had a few cloven-hoofed lawn mowers we could buy. I bought three yearling ewes. These are girl sheep, more than a year old, who've never been bred. That is, they're still virgins. And no, virgin wool doesn’t mean the wool from a virgin.

The farmer sold us three ewes, and said they'd be fine going ten miles down the road in the back of my pickup truck. ...with their feet bound with electrical tape. ... and sliding around every time I turned a corner or came to a stop. He's sold dozens over the years like this. He said.

We got home with our mowers, I backed into the barn, opened the corral gate, unwound each ewe in turn and pitched them into their new home. The smallest ewe, who we've named Lambchop[3], went trot, trot, trotting out of the barn, into the pasture, and unbeknownst to me, did a nosedive through the electric fence – which was turned on.[4] I closed the gate behind me, came out of the barn satisfied with a job well done, and heard my wife hollering "There's a sheep loose!"

I looked up, and my tiny, whirling dervish dog was racing around the yard after a fluffy cotton ball, and trying to nip its ears. Apparently somewhere back in her mutterly genes was a great-great grandparent of a border collie. So dervish herded the ewe in all kinds of directions, and even several directions at once, and it wasn't until the ewe exhausted herself, face-first in a pile of junk in my neighbor's barn, that she stopped running. I angrily tromped into the barn next door, unceremoniously grabbed the sheep by two fistfuls of fleece and carried her back home to my barn. My wife opened the gate, I pitched her in, and followed her out into the pasture where she bounded through the fence once more. Dervish-dog herded her around the house, and – still being worn from her first Great Escape[5] – she hid, face-first, in a holly bush within seconds. Brilliant animals that sheep are, if they can't see us, we can't see them, and it was only by luck that every time she hid her face from me I managed to grab her. Apparently.

This time, my wife stood in the pasture door of the barn with the lab-shepard on a leash. Kiki is imposing. She would only have wanted to sniff the sheep[6], the animal equivalent of a howdy over the back fence, but the sheep didn't know that. I grabbed some two-by-fours, my cordless drill and some drywall screws and nailed the damned critters into the barn. The next day I went to the farm supply store, bought a few hundred yards of mesh field fence, and we spent the next week and a half refencing the refenced fence. The horse was put out that his spot in the barn was taken over by these annoying little fluff balls; the sheep were annoyed that they had been taken out of their idyllic pasture with 45 of their closest cousins and placed into this strange barn where they had moldy, year-old hay to eat and the occasional fistful of crabgrass yanked from a flower bed; and I was annoyed at having to refence for the second time in a month. Two acres is not an awful lot to fence in, compared to the open ranges of the west, but it's still a pain in the ass.

A few months later, we bought a registered yearling ram fresh from the 4H show circuit. His name is Homer. I can't describe how pleased he was to find himself instantly married to three sheepy-chicks.[7] And the next spring we were blessed with lambs. ...which started popping out a week after the large animal vet came to inspect the ewes and declared "They aren't pregnant." He's the only large animal vet in town, so I haven't switched vets.

The deal I made with myself when I started this enterprise was that girl lambs were going to be kept for breeding, while boy lambs would be kept for gracing a dinner plate. All three lambs were boys. They were named Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Breakfast was born last, a few weeks after Lunch and Dinner. Breakfast didn't make it much beyond, well, breakfast. It was born on a cold, windy Sunday in late April, and didn't move very much. The other two lambs were up and wobbling within a half hour; Breakfast wasn't. So that afternoon, my wife and I chased Breakfast's mother, Lambchop[8], around the pasture until we wore her out, while my son held the lamb and kept it warm and out of the wind in the barn. The ewe, bigger than when I manhandled it the previous summer, took both my wife and I to carry it. The two, ewe and lamb, were locked in the barn, given straw and hay and water, and the opportunity to get the lamb healthy enough to survive until slaughter.

The next day, I stopped at the farm store on my way home from work and bought instant colostrum and more lamb-feeding supplies. The lamb had hardly moved all day, the ewe was distraught, and the other sheep were milling about in sheeply concern. I bundled Breakfast into the house, wrapped in my fake-fleece lined denim jacket, mixed the colostrum, filled a bottle and tried getting it to nurse. It didn't. It died on the kitchen table about an hour later, still wrapped in my coat. Lambs cry, by the way.

I laid it out in the barn to let Lambchop sniff it and understand it was dead, and buried it way in the back of the pasture the next day after work. It was weeks before the ewe stopped bleating for it.

Raising sheep entails doing much that is annoying and distasteful, to both the sheep and the people raising them. Most people would naturally suspect the smell to be the biggest annoyance. And I've got to admit, sheep shit does have a distinct odor that's taken a while to get used to. But I spent most of my childhood living across the road from a dairy farm that pastured horses. Cow and horse shit smells like home. Horse shit, as a matter of fact, once you get beyond its initial fresh-poop stage, dries out and has a sweetly fecund aroma. Sheep shit smells rancid and even though the little pellets dry out rapidly, it reconstitutes quite well in rain, piss or spilled bucket water and regains the fresh poop rancidity. But the smell isn't really too bad once you get used to it, and shoveling shit out of the barn becomes annoying only for the shoveling.

What's difficult is the actual interaction with non-pet animals. Unless you've raised them as pets, they tend to not trust humans which make dealing with them difficult. I've had to wrestle lambs away from their mothers in order to band their tails. Lambs come with tails damned near as long as they are. If you don't cut tails off when they're young, they'll poop all over their own tails, the poop collect flies in the summer, which then breed maggots, which infect the hind ends of the lambs, and they will get sick and die. And sick sheep seldom survive. That's a favorite phrase among sheep familiars – the Four Esses: sick sheep seldom survive[9]. So you bob their tails.

There's two methods of doing this. First, a cold chisel and a small sledge hammer[10] – the old school method. Gotta get through the bone and cartilage on the first whack, otherwise you're just mangling the tail, causing more pain and probably inviting infection. The second method is to take a castrating bander and band the tail an inch or so from its butt. The band will cut off the circulation to the tail, and the tail will die and fall off. I banded the tails. One of the lambs' tails fell off in the barn and I gave it to my son to look at and hold. His reaction to it, once he found out what it was, was to toss it immediately to the ground, wipe his hands furiously on his pants, and say, "Eeeeewwwww!! Da-a-a-a-a-a-ad!!!"

No matter which way you bob the lambs' tails, they don't like it, they bleat in fear, and their mothers are panic-stricken. I had my wife helping me hold the lambs and warn me if mom tried circling me. You never want to turn your back on a frightened sheep. They have hard heads[11] and they aren’t reluctant to use them. And once you band or bludgeon the tail, you need to give the lamb a tetanus shot. These critters live, literally, in the dirt. So does tetanus. And open wounds and dirt are a dangerous mix. I've given animals injections before, and had no problem poking the lambs after I banded them. I just didn't know where to stick them. Dogs and cats are normally injected in the scruff of the neck, or back along the waist, where you can grab lots of loose skin. But I had to look in the book to find where to inject a sheep. The answer is: in the granny-flab behind their front leg. So I did.

Five minutes after I turned the lambs and their mothers out, my wife informed me that the lambs were flopping over. Sure enough, they were. They'd bounce for two or three steps – young lambs don't do anything as prosaic as walk, they either bound, or they hop, or they prance, or they bounce – and then keel over on their sides. Their mothers would kick them and head butt them to get them up: “quit fooling around there on the ground, get up and stop lollygagging.” They'd get up, shake like a wet dog, take a few more hops, and hit the dirt. I did a quick check of the book and a paragraph after it says where to inject a sheep, it says, "please note... if you're going to inject a lamb, make sure that the stuff you inject them with is body temperature. Cold liquid injected into a lamb can cause lameness..."

...temporary lameness, it turns out. Amusing lameness, in retrospect, as well. A half hour later they were back to bounding all over the pasture. So, next time, I'll get the tetanus antitoxin out of the fridge a few hours before I do the banding. Live and learn.

I didn't castrate the lambs this time. They're going to fill someone's freezer before they can use their mountain oysters anyway, so why add indignity to the indignity? I'll learn to do that next.

But sheep don't like anything you do to them. Their fleece is hot and scratchy, and they spend uncommon amounts of time scraping up against fence posts and corral rails and maple tree trunks scratching and rubbing. How would you like wearing woolen skivvies over every inch of your body, that you couldn't take off, and that probably had bugs and critters crawling around inside and underneath? You'd do the same. Yet you try to help sheep out and get the scratchy wool off them before it turns hot, and they don't like that either.

I hired a shearer to come give them a haircut, and you'd think, from their reaction, that I was having them killed. All of them, at that moment, instead of just select ones at a later date.

They also don't like me coming out to fill up their water pail – the pail that one or more of them has graciously deposited turds into. They don't like me cleaning out their dirty turdy water pail. They don’t like me shoveling their shit out of their barn so they won’t have to lay down on their dried out turds or, worse yet, their fresh ones. They don't like me walking around the pasture checking on the condition of their salad-on-the-hoof – they eye me suspiciously and stamp their petulant little feet the whole time. They don't even like me leaning over the corral fence and saying "Good morning, sheepy people." About the only thing they like me to do is to get into the grain bin and scoop some sweet grain mix into their trough – which they also fill, from time to time, with sheep shit. Only one of the ewes will stick her head into the trough while I'm anywhere close.

The horse doesn't much mind me doing anything, except cinching up the saddle. He was perfectly content to wander around the pasture, thankyouverymuch, and he had other plans for the afternoon than for me to park my fat ass on his back and yank his mouth this way and that. And sometimes when I try to lead him into the barn for some reason or other he’ll rear and whinny, but not often.

But sheep are a different story. They're skittish, easily frightened and more mob-mentality brainless than a crowd of undergrad war protesters. I've seen diary cows – they're more docile and manipulable than sheep – but they don't like much of anything either, although they appreciate being milked. Horses are compliant and like the attention we give them, but unless they're trained to within an inch of their lives, they act like they'd prefer doing anything other than what we're making them do – even though they usually do it.

That's the basic reality of livestock. We humans are getting them, making them, do things they don't want to do just because we can make them do it. Whether it's lining up to be herded into this feed lot, or getting cornered to have tails hacked off, ears pierced with tags, fleece shorn, hooves trimmed, saddles cinched and bits shoved into mouths, forced into pens, wings clipped, eggs collected or just getting generally disturbed by the two-legged brutes with opposable thumbs and tools, they don't like it. They aren't pets. They instinctively know they aren't pets. They don't like us manhandling them.

Even our pets don't like being manhandled. Photograph me with my cat on the counter while I'm trying to wash out some of her wounds, and you could easily mistake the cat, hissing and spitting and in all manner of odd contortions, for being tortured by a sadist.

A castrating tool in the hand of a bestial pervert, with a lamb in the other hand, is a sick sex toy. The manipulations required to get sheep shorn can easily be seen as cruel ovine bullying.

Animal husbandry, the process of using animals for the betterment, and not uncommonly the diet, of the human race is full of activities that causes animals discomfort, often causes pain, and frequently causes death. While you can get a scrambled egg and butter for your toast without killing the chicken or the cow, you can't get a side of bacon by performing outpatient surgery on the pig. The pig bought the farm – which most certainly concerned the pig greatly for that portion of its existence in which it knew it its existence was in peril. Which probably wasn’t for long. But up until that time, and unbeknownst to it, it's whole life was predicated on its future as food, and included us making the poor little porker do exactly what we mean old humans wanted it to do every day of its doomed life. That's just the way the ham gets canned. Sorry.

There's more or less several billion people on our planet, and all wanting to eat is my guess. What does anyone plan on feeding them? Soy protein capsules and gruel only go so far, and someone, multiple someones if I understand humans well at all, are eventually – like within a few minutes of starting their tofu diet – going to take a knife to the throat of the first animal smaller than himself, and roast up a leg for dinner. And then one by one, or one million by one million, the rest of the human race is going to ask if Leg of Smaller Animal is on the menu. And then they’ll order it anyway. Here we are back at the doorstep of animal husbandry, trying to feed our faces with dishes that make the soy protein capsules and gruel tolerable.

We are meat eaters. Period. That's not going to change. Time was, not too long ago, in fact, that most families in this country lived on farms. Had to if you wanted to eat. Most families in the world still do live on farms. Grocery stores don't exist in most of the world as we know them, and only exist here and now because we have large-scale farms – "factory farms", in the lexicon of the hyper-enlightened, who use the term pejoratively – growing and herding food in large enough quantities that it frees Americans, by the hundreds of million, from the daily drudgery of farming for themselves. Those millions can now go on to be investment bankers, office workers, college professors and other jobs doing all the rest of the technological whizbangery that makes modern civilization so ... so modern.

But some people have forgotten what is required for us to live like this, of escaping basic subsistence. Or they don't care. In either case, they are trying to force us to stop doing what it takes to survive, as a human race, as the civilization we have become. And they tell us that the way we treat animals is cruel.

Well, frankly, duh. Can't eat it if we don't kill it. Killing is pretty much, by definition, cruel. So is raising something to be killed. I, myself, am a scoundrel. And proud to be, in fact. I am currently raising two lambs – now more or less fully grown – only to have their throats slit in around a month and a half, and chopped up into stew meat. For profit, no less. I would be a three-time scoundrel, but one of the future-foods died on my kitchen table – ironically. Which undoubtedly indicts me further by the fact that I wanted the poor thing to live only so I could profit by its more mature and fattened death at a time of my choosing rather than Mother Nature’s.

Shame on me, the bastard that I am.

Humans do not treat future food this way for our amusement. It does not give us sadistic pleasure to inform our livestock, "Y'know Bessie, this time next month, you'll be under plastic in a couple hundred packages at Safeway..." No satisfaction from that at all.

Now to be sure, there's a few people in this world who do enjoy hurting animals for the sake of hurting animals. But largely they do so privately, by themselves, in secret, because what they do is, even to those of us who hurt animals for profit, indefensibly despicable. I'll hurt animals by banding their tails and nuts to make them die and fall off, or by scrubbing out their wounds; I'll annoy the hell out of them by shoving tubes full of medicine down their throats to worm them or disinfect them, and cinching saddles to their backs and shoving rusty bits of metal into their mouths so I can force them to go where I want them to go, and kick them in their sides to make them move as fast as I want them to move. I'll pay someone to force them to stand still while he pesters them by trimming hooves, and someone else to frighten them to death by cutting off their hair. And I will pay to have some of my animals hurt to the point of death just to feed someone else – for my financial gain.

I will gladly do these things, but it gives me no jollies.

Those who fret and fume over such things are going to say, “Oh, well, you’re excused, because you’re a small producer of animal flesh, and you have a personal relationship with your animals before you mercilessly end their lives.”

That’s a rationalization? I have them killed for godsake. I conspired to have them killed, months even before they were born. I treat them as food while they’re living, calculatedly depriving them of antibiotics that might prolong their lives if they weren’t going to die just so I can advertise them as organic and charge more per pound. They are almost exclusively pasture-fed, which means less fat, which means more money per pound. And over the last month or so of their lives, they’ve going to get grain to quickly add a few pounds to their frames and change the taste of their meat … so that I can get more money per pound and there’ll be a few more pounds to get money for.

I’m a bastard through and through! And I’m not ashamed.

The difference between me and the factory farmer, to the animals we husband, is bupkus. They will still die, and they will still be pestered, annoyed and hurt pretty much every day of their existence until they do. But to the hyper-enlightened, the fact that I have only a few animals to which I am cruel means that I have a relationship with those animals. I’ve named them, after all. Except for my ram, which came named when I bought him, the ewes were named after sheep-as-food: Racko lamb, Leggo lamb and Lambchop. Their offspring were cruelly[12] named Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I can guarantee that the ewes had no names when I bought them from the farmer – he was a bastard too – and were selected only because they weighed less than the others. I was paying by the pound, cynical bastard me.

But yet, there’s still this rationalization of ersatz nobility that is attached to us small-scale animal torturers which is denied to the factory farmers. The mass-producers of dead animal carcasses number their livestock – which is impersonal, and so much less dignified than me naming mine Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner[13]. Factory farmers attach these number-names to their livestock by means of ear tags or inner lip tattoos – which is painful and cruel according to the exhortations of those who not uncommonly have pierced ears, tongues, navels and whatever else, not to mention various indelible “body art” that is so in vogue today, as they grouse their way to uber-sincere social credibility.

Or else the factory farmer keeps track of his livestock by means of penning them in tight quarters, so they can hardly move, and all they are able to do is eat and poop, and sometimes lay eggs, until they are mature enough and fat enough to get in a truck and go off to stand in line to get their heads lopped.

The fact that the people who cruelly cage chickens grants others the idle time to complain about those who cage chickens doesn’t seem to enter the little minds of the complainers. You dislike factory farm-raised chickens, then quit complaining and do something about it. Go to your local farm store some spring, buy a boxful of baby chicks, and turn them loose in your back yard. They’ll eat your bugs and fertilizer your lawn with high-quality chicken shit – not that you’ll have much of a lawn left after they’re done pecking and scratching their way through it. You’ll find you also have wonderfully supportive neighbors on the governing council of the subdivision’s Homeowner’s Association who will unanimously grant you an exemption from the cares of abiding by the Covenants and Restrictions on your title deed. Every time you want to give a lunch of chicken tenders to your petulant and whiny children, why just run out to the back yard, grab the first six chickens you can find, lop their heads off with the hedge shears, pluck and gut them on the patio, and part them out, taking a single slice of meat from each breast[14], dip them in bread crumbs and deep fry the suckers. Who doesn’t have four hours to indulge the whims of the over-indulged modern American child?

Zoning restrictions? What are they?

The only reason we have groups of animal welfarists running around like headless chickens whining about the caged chickens about to lose their heads is that they themselves don’t have to go to the time and trouble of raising their own chickens. Subsistence farming is an eighteen hour per day job – just ask anyone from sub-Saharan Africa, or the poorer parts of rural China … or some really old person in America who grew up that way.

If you want your food to be found in a grocery store, then the cost of that is having factory farms. If you can’t abide the thought of factory farms, then the cost of that is raising your own. That is the choice. It is not possible to raise 30,000 chickens on a dozen acres of disappearing farm land and have them still be “free range”.[15] It’s hard enough to walk across the yard with a dozen chickens flapping and squawking at your feet. Try it with 30,000. Do you know what the shit from 30,000 chickens looks like? And do you know that 30,000 chickens isn’t within a stone’s throw of being a significant digit in our nation’s annual chicken consumption?

Which of America’s roughly 300 million people are you willing to let starve in order to eliminate the blight of factory farms? I’ll let you in on a little secret: raising plump, meaty chickens is expensive unless mass-produced. Fifty years ago it was trivially easy to spot a home-raised chicken: they subsisted on bugs and weeds. They were scrawny and their meat was stringy and tough. Want a chicken to feed your family of four? Gotta be grain-fed and that’s gotta be done factory-style unless you want the price of chicken to be similar to Kobe beef. And then who will starve? It won’t be the self-righteous middle class suburbanites complaining about factory farms. It won’t be the factory farmers or their corporate suppliers, either – those millionaire bastards. Ain’t many demographic groups left to choose from…

It is popular today for the hyper-enlightened to fertilize their subdivision yards with pre-bagged chicken manure. Chicken manure is so much more natural than chemical fertilizers, which makes it better for the environment. But not one of the people who laud chicken manure knows where it comes from – specifically. They certainly know that in general it comes from the back ends of chickens. Here’s a hint: small-scale animal husbanders like me do not follow our chickens around with teeny little pooper-scoopers. Those bags of expensive chicken manure you smugly purchase are a by-product of the factory farms that keeps its chickens in cramped little cages, only allowing them to eat and poop.

You’re a bastard too, you factory farm enabler, you.

Some people like pork. Now I’m used to animal shit, both the smell of it and the texture of it when I get it on my hands and shoes. But pig shit is disgusting. I wouldn’t go near it for anything. My guess is most people who like pork – or sausage, or bacon, or ham – wouldn’t go near it either. So how do you plan to get your pork fix? I plan on allowing the big pork producers to raise pigs and not complain about how they do it. I like my bacon crisp, if you don’t mind.

Some people like beef. Cows require huge amounts of forage to grow from cute[16] little[17] dewy-eyed calves into steak-bearing steer. You got a couple acres to devote to getting a freezer full of burgers? I do, but we’re not talking about me. I’d have no problem with it. We eat cows in this country, and by the boatload. But we’re subdividing the land they used to graze in favor of strip malls and homeowners’ associations. So that means cows are living on smaller and smaller plots of land, with fewer and fewer ranchers raising them. And this means factory farms for cows, a lack of personal relationship between the farmer and your future food, and heightened anxiety for the poor heifer. Aw, ain’t that a shame!

Other people like veal – baby cow, never allowed to mature into full cowhood, and indeed barely allowed to move. In order to get velvety-tender meat, the calf isn’t allowed to exercise. This means it’s put on a short leash. Or in a cage. Somewhat like we do with our pet dogs. But it’s cruel to do with calves what we do with dogs, because … because it is. It’s different, entirely. Completely. The calves watch TV and read magazines, they know that there’s more to life than being tied up, unable to buff up their shoulders and flanks. Oh, but the calves instinctively want to move and romp around their pasture, and it’s cruel to prevent that. And my sheep instinctively want to graze my neighbors’ soybean field, but the cruel fence prevents that.[18] The coyotes who live near me instinctively want to graze on my sheep … darn that cruel fence of mine. My horse would instinctively like to wander around and find the horses who live up the road, but there’s that cruel fence that cruel old me put up again. My wife’s cat would instinctively like to raid the bird feeder and prepare for same by sharpening his claws on the furniture, but she cruelly had him declawed and won’t let him outside. And the dervish dog would instinctively like to catch and gnaw on most animals but I cruelly holler at her for chasing anything but rabbits.

And some people like foie gras. …don’t ask me why. Foie gras is fattened goose and duck livers. You get fattened goose and duck livers by having fat geese and ducks. But you don’t get fat geese and ducks the same way you get fat Americans: geese don’t eat cheezy doodles and ducks won’t sit in front of the television eight hours a day. We get fat geese and ducks by force feeding them for a few weeks before killing them.

Force feeding fowl requires annoying them. They don’t like having a tube stuffed into their gullet and being squirted full of grain to the top of their neck. Why … why, they get fat and waddle around[19], and they, omigish, wheeze when they’re fat!

…and my sheep don’t like me banding their tails, they won’t like me banding their balls, they don’t like me chasing them around so I can do either. It’s stressful. Their adrenaline pumps in great gobs of fight or flight instinctiveness. Ditto when the shearer comes over with his dog to chase them around the pasture so he can barber them.

We are brutes to animals, and to the animals we brutalize there is no difference in the human purpose behind the brutality. My sheep have no comprehension that I’m cutting their tails off for their own good. To them it is grade-A sheepy terror, the stuff of bucolic nightmares. My sheep have no comprehension that I’m having them sheared for their own good. To them it is only more torture. Being bound with electrical tape to slide around a moving truck bed. Chased all over creation by a crazed yappy-dog and an angry man in leather gloves. Torture.

Is it torture to the ducks to have a metal tube stuffed down their throat? force fed? made fat to waddle and wheeze? and only to make their livers tasty to Frogs and Frog-wanna-bes?


But I’m given a pass when I torture my animals, and the factory farm in California which mass-fattens ducks by the thousand so they can get $30 or more per pound for fat duck liver is not. They are picketed; they are catcalled; they are invaded by self-righteous mobs of amateur videographers[20] who break in during the dead of night and catch glimpses of fat, wheezing ducks waddling around. Some ducks are even, sadly, ill. Awww. When you have a few thousand of any kind of life form in any one place, some of them are going to be under the weather at any given point. Put even twenty-five children in a classroom and three of them will have sniffles.

Will some of the ill ducks die from their illness? Yet another duh. That happens. Again, you put a few thousand anything in a group, some of them are going to be ill, and a few of them will die from it. Go to any hospital in any small town in America sometime, and ask how many otherwise young people have died in the past month from some stupid thing or another. Hell, I had only seven sheep and one of them died. One that was destined to die for my financial benefit, no less.

Videos which purport to demonstrate mankind’s intolerable cruelty toward our future-food to convince the masses of farm-ignorant Americans to cluck disapprovingly at the stress and annoyance we put animals through – and for the purpose of criminalizing that stress and annoyance – are, quite literally, propaganda. This stress and annoyance must be done in order to keep food on our plates. It doesn’t matter that you, personally, can do without certain foods. If you think it does, then you are declaring yourself to be king, your opinions to be facts, and your whims to be laws.[21]

We can either have a few people do these cruel things so that millions won’t have to and can, instead, go to college and get good jobs in an office that pays mega-bucks, so they can afford to move to the suburbs and acquire the leisure time that gives them the opportunity to get outraged about the people who feed them. Or we can have these same millions raising their own food, thus ruining their chances of going to college and getting the mega-buck job in the office and the suburban lifestyle that accompanies it, … and they won’t have the time to worry about whether their food is happy about being dinner, and how it’s treated until then.

Videos of “cruel” treatment of foie gras in the making was acquired by criminal trespass, and has objectivity which is, at best, dubious and might be, at worst, staged and dishonest. In either case, they represent, for the animal welfare ideologues, the same sort of blunt-instrument manipulation of our emotions that any of the films in health class provided us. Want to see the dangers of promiscuous sex? Watch this movie. Want to see the horrors of drug addiction? Film to follow.

But that’s not quite it. It goes beyond the health class horror movies. The force-fed duck videos are the ideological equivalent of “Silent Scream”, the anti-abortion propaganda piece which claims to demonstrate the pain a fetus goes through when it is aborted. The force-fed duck video shows ducks being fat. Gosh. Whoda thunk? Some ducks – like all fat animals will – are wheezing. And it is claimed to be real and not staged, but one duck is seen “bleeding from its rear” and a rat is “gnawing” on the duck[22].

That last bit shows, by its nature, nothing more than animals being animals. Wild Kingdom or any of a hundred documentaries on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet will show much the same thing. A fat duck waddles into something sharp and injures himself; that’ll happen to animals even if they aren’t fat. I’ve got Kiki’s vet bills to prove it. Rats are scavengers and will go after anything they can get their scrubby little paws on. A fat and injured duck that can’t move fast enough to escape? fair game. That’s life on the farm, folks.

Undoubtedly, some of the hyper-enlightened whiners about factory farm methods are the militant vegetarians who don’t want people resorting to … to being people. Which is to say sitting high on the food chain. They want to compel, to force, the rest of us humans into being, essentially, two-legged cows. Or sheep, perhaps. Like they are, in any event.

But most of the people donning their bossy britches are undoubtedly meat eaters themselves, who simply – and sincerely – wish future-food animals to be treated nicely.[23] But what they don’t understand is that “nicely” means different things to different people. I believe I’m being nice to my sheep while I’m trying to hack their tails off; the guy who shoves a tube down a duck’s throat believes he’s being nice to the duck.

Nice, to suburbanites who have leisure time to fret, means individual attention given to food animals and laws which require same. Individual attention, to the large-scale farmer, means going out of business or reducing the scale of their business. Out of business or reduced business farms, to the grocery store, means less food on the shelves. Less food on the grocery shelves, to the suburbanite with leisure time to fret, means more expensive food. More expensive food, to the government, means that the citizens who just finished caterwauling to have laws passed making it harder to get huge amounts of food as efficiently as possible are now caterwauling for laws to make it easier.

It’s time to quit while we’re ahead. If you don’t like what humans do to the animals we eat and raise for the purpose of eating, then don’t look. If you want to look anyway, then don’t be surprised if what you see disgusts you. But to take your disgust and whine and carp that those who do the disgusting things must stop because it’s disgusting is, at the same time, to set yourself up as a dictator-wanna-be as well as asking that huge sections of the human race be starved to death. Those sections will mostly be the poor sections, in case it wasn’t obvious, and that will make the swell intention of treating animals nicely be yet another paving stone in the road to hell.

Enjoy your trip; I won’t be coming with you.
[1] Did I mention the wife's fish tank?
[2] The ex-wife had screaming hissy fits over that, too. Electric fences are notorious for killing children, according to her.
[3] to go with Racko and Leggo
[4] Surprisingly, the ewe wasn't fried as a child most certainly would have been
[5] Starring Steve McQueen and Lambchop
[6] Kiki, that is. My wife could already smell them well enough
[7] My daughter insists that marriage is necessary before having babies, and I’m not about to argue. Hence, the ram is married to the ewes
[8] what is it with her?
[9] say that ten times really fast
[10] this crushes the blood vessels, which inhibits bleeding. A bladed tool, say, an axe, would slice right through the blood vessels more or less cleanly and there will be much more bleeding.
[11] in more ways than one
[12] not to mention cynically
[13] and I couldn’t tell you which was which, except that Breakfast is buried in the ass end of the pasture
[14] freeze the rest; waste not want not
[15] I don’t see many suburban hyper-enlighteneds pooling their money to buy their subdivision and pay off $75million in mortgages just to knock it all down for a free-range chicken farm. I also don’t see too many municipal zoning boards rezoning residential districts with an assessed valuation in the hundreds of millions of dollars into agricultural with assessments in the tens of thousands of dollars, either.
[16] comparatively
[17] comparatively
[18] If my cruel fence didn’t, my cruel neighbors would cruelly shoot my instinctive sheep, and then instinctively sue me
[19] ducks waddle??! NO!! It can’t be!
[20] http://www.stopforcefeeding.com/
[21] Do you know what we call those kinds of people?
[22] I’ve seen it. It’s not all that impressive. My dog does worse to the bunnies she catches, and that is truly unappetizing.
[23] If you’re going to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite. – Winston Churchill