Writing on the Double Yellow Line

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

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dignity for the Undignified

Dignity for the Undignified
© 2006 Ross Williams

Some people just don’t have the sense god gave a gnat.

Illegal immigration is a problem for this nation, and for one simple reason: this nation is a better place than almost anywhere on the planet. You don’t see illegal immigration in Canada, for example. Canuckia and Canuckians often like to portray themselves as better than us.

Yeah? then why aren’t Mexicans busting down your doors to live there, eh? How many crates full of cordwood-stacked Chinese do you find being unloaded on Vancouver wharfs? The only illegals Canuckia manages to attract are middle eastern, and then only as an entry point to North America. Once the illegal middle easterner lands in Canada, it’s just a sneak across the longest unguarded border in the world to wage jihad on Great Satan America.

We’re it, folks. Everyone wants to be here. Mexicans and Chinese, because they can prosper. A few others … because they want to wage war.

But if you’re going to be here to prosper or to wage war, either one, there’s just one requirement you have to comply with: you must have the proper paperwork.

We’ve got millions of unpapered immigrants currently living here, and brainless boobs are lining up on opposite sides of the issue to squawk their equally ridiculous nonsense.[1]

First up is US Congresscritter from Wisconsin, Jim Senselessbrenner. Rather, Sensenbrenner. Too many illegal immigrants in the US taking up too much of our resources, including money, so therefore let’s call them all felons and throw them in prison for a year or more so that they can continue to use up our resources, including money, and now, also, our federal prison space.

Playing Senatorial Frick to this House Frack, is Bill Frist. Both have sponsored legislation to classify paperless immigration as a felony.

Brains, being in short supply in our capitol, it probably never occurred to anyone that if foreigners are here illegally, we probably have a good idea who they are and where they are… scoop them up and send them back home. Is the process of deporting illegals cumbersome and bureaucratic? Then address that, lawmakers.

Is the process of getting the proper papers in the first place cumbersome and bureaucratic? There’s something else to address.

If those are the problems, and there’s little doubt they are since everyone on either side acknowledges that much, fixing them isn’t done by reclassifying illegals as felons. That just makes more problems: what do you do with – estimated – 12 million individual federal felony cases?

…besides not prosecute, that is, because we have neither the room on the docket nor the prison space?

And there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the US could not even begin to prosecute the illegals we have. Don’t go suggesting that, “well, you don’t put the illegals convicted under this new law into federal prison, you deport them…” because now you’re right back at square one: having to go through the separate federal court process for deportation. Only now, you’ve spent the time and effort and money to convict them of a felony first.

So now we’re deporting them for being felonious immigrants instead of just illegal immigrants.

There must be something I’m missing, here, because either way they end up being mailed back home. Only, deporting a felony immigrant takes two steps, costs more money and takes far longer than the one step process of deporting a mere illegal immigrant. And wasting time, effort and money is so much better.


Isn’t it?

It must be, because that’s what Congress wants us to do.[2]

Wanting us to do stupid things is not just the desire of the idiots in Congress, either. All kinds of world-revolves-around-me activists want everyone to do stupid things, and they’re saying stupid things in the process.

Yes, even stupider things than Senselessbrenner, when he calls a law giving illegals a felony record a “compassionate” manner of addressing the problem.

People who don’t want immigration legislation are accusing people who do of trying to deport the estimated 11 to 12 million illegals in the US. As if that’s a bad thing, or something.

Of course they’re trying to deport illegals. Good god, grow a brain. If someone is in the US illegally, then they need to be sent away almost as soon as they’re found. It isn’t a matter of “do we deport these people”; it’s a matter of “how do we deport these people”.

The options obviously include the method used today, which is top-heavy, bureaucracy-riddled, officious and rude, and it also includes streamlining the process to make deportation almost immediate. We can even give the illegal an exit-packet – written in English – on how to properly apply for US immigration. Include the forms. Written in English. If the would-be immigrant is serious, then he can learn the English necessary to get through the forms, send the forms to the US consulate in Tijuana, and come back when he gets approved.

Then there are the activists for illegal immigration. These are the people who seem to think that Mexico and Guatemala are two US states, just really, really southern states, and moving from El Salvador to California to pick lettuce is the equivalent of moving from New Jersey to Montana. Even though the culture clash would be far more traumatic, moving from Jersey to Montana is legal to do, while moving from Honduras to the San Fernando valley is not – unless you have the proper paperwork.

Speaking of paperwork… The activists for illegal immigrants complain that immigration laws might prevent the illegal from getting a drivers license or medicaid.

Again … duh.

If someone enters your home because he’s cold and hungry, and helps himself to the leftovers in your fridge, turns up the thermostat, and co-opts the guest room, are you obliged to give him the keys to the car and put him on your dental plan?

I don’t think so.

Not even if he could really use some dentistry.

He needs to leave. It’s just a matter of what circumstances he leaves by. In the back of a cop car after being accused of stealing the jewelry and silver? Or taken to a transient shelter and given a few old clothes that were being saved for the clothing drive?

Congress prefers to accuse the guy of stealing the silver tea set; activists for illegal immigration prefer that the guy be given car keys and a dental appointment… to be paid for by the homeowner.

Has no one seriously thought of giving the guy a few old clothes from the basement and drive him to the homeless shelter? If he needs a job, can we not invite him back to mow the lawn for a few bucks?[3] If he does a real good job, can he not sleep in the shed?[4]

Apparently not. These are polarizing times, and only idiotic options can be discussed in public. And discussed idiotically. Laws attempting to deal with illegal immigration are going to “destroy human dignity”, boo hoo, and drive illegal immigration underground – as if tunnels under the border are above-board.

Um, exactly how dignified is it to cram yourselves 15 to the Buick? 300 to the crate? Got any dignity to spare after that midnight dodge across the border and over the chain link fence topped with razor wire? Bleeding foreigners with shredded clothes are chock full of dignity, aren’t they? Running at the mere mention of “INS” probably just means you’re getting exercise. Right?

People who claim that the current system is broken are correct. Those who claim that it is too difficult to be a legal immigrant, and therefore easier to illegally migrate, are also correct. Those who claim that it is too difficult to deport illegals are right as well. But being right about what’s wrong doesn’t do much good when the only solutions offered are idiotic.

Turning illegals into felons is just as dumb as giving them drivers licenses, medicaid and public education. It’s a tie; you’re both brainless. Congratulations.

Make it easier to get the paperwork for immigration – particularly from Mexico, our neighbor and friend – and make it easier to deport illegals, and be polite while doing it. Especially to the Mexicans, who are our neighbors and friends. And while deporting them, give them the forms to apply for the proper paperwork. In English.

Why does this have to be so difficult?

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/03/23/latino.march/index.html
[2] “Suppose you were an idiot. Then suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” - Mark Twain
[3] screw minimum wage laws
[4] screw zoning ordinances

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Po’ State

A Po’ State
© 2006 Ross Williams

We will never get peace and love and harmony in the world until the goddamned christian religion stops its flagrant and bigoted attacks upon islam. Islam isn't even safe in predominately muslim nations; it's almost like there's a, a, crusade or something.

It's not bad enough that muslim nations are under attack by western military forces, they're now veritably under attack by the Holy Trinity as well.

Or, well, that might be overstating the case somewhat. In all actuality, what happened is that an Afghan citizen dared, dared I tells ya, to convert from islam to christianity.[1] This makes the citizen, Abdul Rahman, in the terms of islamic law, an apostate. Apostatism, under islamic law – as if it needs to be said at this point – is punishable by death. Actually, under islamic law, what isn’t punishable by death?

And we thought leaving the Scientology fold was tough.

The judge in the case is reportedly a reasonable man. He’s been bending over backwards to explain that islam really doesn’t hate other religions. It’s just that, doggone it, “this sort of thing is against the law”.

The law is the law, and the law defines converting to another religion as an attack on islam. Or, as the quite reasonable judge declares: “It is an attack on Islam.”

His hands are tied, I’m sure. He is, after all, only the judge here. It is the prosecutor who is seeking the death penalty. If the prosecutor wins his case – proves that Rahman is indeed a christian in a nation in which being non-muslim is often fatal – then, well, the law is the law and must be upheld.

But even the prosecutor was willing to be reasonable about it as well, and drop all charges if only the infidel apostate would convert back to islam. Rahman refused.

So, as you can see, it is not the fault of islam here; islam is a reasonable religion – a religion of peace®. It is christianity which barges in and disrupts everything, and it is the secular, liberal, Western society with its religious tolerance that presupposes people of differing religions, or even no religions[2], can all coexist. Silly Westerners.

Silly, silly Westerners.

Christianity cannot get along with anyone. That is the historical lesson here. The religion of peace® swept out of central Asia in the 800s attacking everything in their way until they got to the christian Byzantine Empire who, intractably, put up resistance. It took the religion of peace® nearly 300 years to push the intolerant and belligerent christian empire back to its capital city walls.

Just when the peace-loving and tolerant muslims thought the world was safe for everyone to love their peace and tolerate everything islamic, the various tribal kingdoms of western christendom took up arms and invaded the Turks in their religion of peace® center.

How dare the christians do such a thing? Islam is, after all, a religion of peace® – their gospels even say so – and when this religion of peace® wars with its neighbors and beheads infidels by the city square-full, it is only from the purest of motivations. However, when christianity attempts to stop the religion of peace® from accomplishing their pure and holy mission of making Europe an islamically peaceful and tolerant province of a Turkish empire, it is because christianity is, at its heart, a uniquely warlike religion.

Not at all like the religion of peace®.

To think: if only the belligerent Franks hadn’t conjured up that Crusade to stop the peaceful muslims from invading Europe in the 1100s to put an end to the warlike christians, all those who are descended from European lineage might likely be living today under the peace and tolerance so rampant across the rest of the muslim world.

If only!

Instead, we have material comforts and industry, a thriving middle class and near-universal literacy, health and technology, social liberalism and political liberties. All are symptoms of Western decadence, and just proves how corrupt Western civilization really is.

We can immediately see why the Afghan courts are doing what they’re doing. They are defending themselves against the mere existence of someone other than themselves. But this realization hasn’t stopped the corrupt and warlike Western nations from bitterly complaining to the Afghan leaders.[3] From the sounds of it, there’s at least one nation willing to forcibly halt any attempted execution of Rahman.

But then, that’s so like the West, isn’t it? We just can’t bring ourselves to leave the religion of peace® alone while it peacefully and tolerantly kills those who, say, criticize them for being indiscriminate murderers or something. How can anyone accuse fundamentalist muslims of being indiscriminate? They very clearly delineate between muslim and infidel before they do their murd… er, peaceful and tolerant holy work.

Lest anyone be motivated to criticize Afghanistan itself for perpetrating this exercise in peace and tolerance, rest assured they have nothing to do with it. Just because this case is occurring in Afghanistan, just because it is taking place in an Afghani court led by an Afghani judge being paid by the Afghani government, just because the charges were officially filed by an Afghani prosecutor employed by that self-same Afghani government, citing Afghani laws that were allegedly[4] broken, it cannot be presumed that the Afghan government is involved in any way. Afghani Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has cautioned everyone that this case does not involve the Afghan government at all. He should know.

There; that ought to settle that. Now let’s leave them alone, shall we? They obviously know what they’re doing and aren’t grasping at straws to rationalize themselves in any way.

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,188364,00.html
[2] yes, atheists, really
[3] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/03/21/afghan.christian/index.html
[4] another of our corrupt Western influences: I will not assume the outcome of the case before final verdict; it is still an “alleged” crime

Friday, March 17, 2006

The ePink-Slip of Courage

The ePink-Slip of Courage
© 2006 Ross Williams

As you may be aware, Acton Gorton got canned by the University of Illinois' independent newspaper, The Daily Illini – hereinafter referred to only in snotty, unflattering euphemisms. Prior to that he was on some form of administrative leave. Gorton was the paper's editor in chief. The paper uses [mainly] journalism students from the UofI to fill its ranks of reporters, editorialists and editors in, from what I can gather, a sort of revolving org-chart of responsibility. In the process, everyone gets experience in a newspaper in several capacities, and they're that much more qualified to work in a newspaper once graduating – for as long as newspapers still exist.

Some may recall that the Daily Planet was one of – at the time – three newspapers which published the infamous Danish Dozen, twelve cartoons that dared to satirize muslims as violent, and which used Mohammed to make the point. That is the reason that Gorton was suspended in February, and that is the reason Gorton was fired in March: he authorized their publication in the Daily Antagonizer.

The sequence of events is still somewhat debatable[1], but not by a lot. The main points of contention here seem to deal with attitude and motivation; specifically, Gorton's attitude and motivation while he was busy making a chief editorial decision.

Everyone seems fairly clear that on the evening in question, Gorton and another junior editor approached the night editor with a change to the contents of the next day's publication. This change included six of the Danish Dozen along with a sniveling – in my opinion – commentary on how these monumentally tame editorial cartoons were some huge offense, but they needed to be published anyway.

Both Gorton and the remnants of the Daily Bugle are pretty much in agreement on at least that.

Where they differ is this: Gorton claims that he merely made the alteration; certain junior editors and the publisher, Mary Cory, aver that Gorton – figuratively speaking, naturally – swooped down upon a defenseless night editor, bound and gagged him and, with the help of his evil minion, Opinions Editor Chuck Prochaska, pulled off a journalistic hijacking. Gorton quite possibly grew a handlebar mustache in the weeks before to twirl while doing it all.

I'm sure, as is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Imagine the staff ‘s surprise when, the next day, they opened the Daily Drip expecting to see the usual gripes on campus housing and whines on the war in Iraq and the pro and con badgering upon Chief Illiniwek, only to find that[2] someone had shoved that all aside to commit islamic heresy. That would be ...

I don't know. I've worked in the real world for over two decades now, and I've undergone a fair number of expect-one-thing-get-anothers, often after having been given explicit, even written, assurances that I'd be getting what I expected. Even in the hours or minutes beforehand.

Getting the rug pulled out from under your feet is a yearly – in some places, monthly or weekly – occurrence. The content of the Daily Wheezer changed after the various editors submitted their finals? That is met, in most of the publishing world, not to mention other parts of reality, with grousing over the morning coffee and grumbling questions about when the delayed works will see ink.

What we saw at the Daily Tattler was a mass uprising among the editors who were not involved in the decision to publish excerpts from the Danish Dozen. Some objected to them being published at all, other objected saying that the sniveling side piece wasn't "context", or that the sniveling side piece was tantamount to inviting sectarian warfare.

Those who objected to publishing them at all were quick to cite the rationalization used by the mainstream media – hereinafter referred to as Ledbelly the Dinosaur – who unanimously[3] refused to publish the Danish Dozen saying that a description was sufficient to give the reader the message the cartoons conveyed.

In other words, we can describe the pictures, and the description works just as well as seeing the real thing. Not one to pass up an easy chance to prove idiot rationalists wrong, but: Eugene Armstrong had his head cut off by militant islamists, and there was much spurting blood and gurgling and gasping for that one last blood-filled breath before his head was finally sawed from his shoulders and was placed on his own back, mouth agape. Sickening description, idnit? Now here is the link to the video of it:
http://www.ogrish.com/movies/ogrish-dot-com-eugene-armstrong-beheading-video.wmv [search for ‘armstrong’]
Watch the video and come back and tell me that even my nauseating description was an adequate substitute for the real thing.

"Oh but that's different!"...? The only thing that's different about it is that it's not so easily trivialized. Editors of the national Ledbelly are whistling past the graveyard, and from the unscientific polls I've seen, not many of Ledbelly's readers are buying it.

Next, there's the dodge that anyone who wants to can look up the cartoons on the web. And, yes you can. But only half of all Americans own computers[4] and not all of them are webbed. Then, there are people who own computers, are connected to the internet, who send emails, who click on web links, and everything... but when you tell them "google for ... " they reply, "What are you talking about?" Even if you can get them to follow your instructions by rote so that they get a page of hits, they look at it and ask, "Alright, now what does this mean...?"

I'm thinking of, for example, my mother, who required two months of instructions over IM and one tutoring session in person before she could save a website to her "favorites". People like this are not going to voluntarily undertake the technological frustration just to satisfy the news curiosity that Ledbelly won't provide.

And then there are people like, well, me. I'm perfectly capable of googling for what I want, but goddammit, why the hell should I? I’m reading the paper now. The paper is supposed to cover the news, somewhat completely. At least make the attempt. If I want the complete story, I shouldn’t need to put down the newspaper, walk upstairs, turn on the computer, start a web browser, get to a google search pane, type in a few keywords, hit ‘enter’, wait for the pages of hits to come back and then sift through the thousands upon thousands of ‘Mohammed cartoon’ web hits to find which ones actually show the damned things and which ones – like Ledbelly – merely talk about it.

“You can look that up on the web” isn’t safe advice for Ledbelly to be giving its subscribers; enough of that, and pretty soon the web will be the only source tech-literates will use for news, and the newspapers will be out of business.

I shouldn’t need to do the research that should have gone into the story in the first place. That’s the job of the newspaper. In February of 2006, the Danish Dozen was news; it was the cartoons themselves that were causing riots. It was the context.

"There were three firebombings in Damascus today, and two people were killed by riot police in Kandahar, but we're not going to tell you why..."

Oh, gee, thanks for the information. Let me know if reporting the news is too difficult for an organization which is paid to, like, report the news.

This is where Acton Gorton comes in. With Ledbelly turning it's massive tail toward Yucatan[5], a brave little amphibian stuck its nose out of the water and declared that he was willing to evolve. Or, well, that’s what Gorton’s self-image says. Trying to do the job of Super Journalist; striking the blow for free press, information, news coverage, etc.

Gorton was aware of two things that many “real” journalists were too afraid to admit:
1] the cartoons, by this time, were themselves the news and could no longer be easily ignored; and
2] ignoring the cartoons at a time when their mere existence was causing riots and death in many parts of the world would be subverting western freedoms to the demands of thugs… thugs who didn’t even live here.

Self-respect, not to mention self-defense, required something more tangible than citing “sensitivity” to others’ religious dogma. Many of Gorton’s supporters called his decision to publish the Danish Dozen “principled”. I agree, although his side-piece[6] fence-straddles, and is perilously close to the same mincing and mealy-mouthed self-loathing so common today among those who refused to publish them.

Many of Gorton’s critics have called his actions various things, and much of it boils down in essence to “high-handed”. Honestly, I also agree with them. There’s very little that is as frustrating to any employee anywhere than to come to work in the morning and find that the entire office structure is changed. Work you did is gone, wholesale modifications are in its place, and the boss says, benignly, “…we’ve made some alterations...”

No shit. How about a little warning next time?

While I understand, and frankly sympathize with, the staff who knew nothing about the surprise content of the Daily Gargle, it is never too soon for them to learn a cold reality of the rest of their working life: that’ll happen, and in any other environment than a student newspaper, there’s nothing you can do about it but grimace and bear it, or seek employment elsewhere.

This staff, though, would have nothing of reality. They revolted.

…it might do well to inject a little background on the players in question at this point. Acton Gorton is a mid-twenties Iraq War veteran, a medic, if I recall correctly, and is now getting his bachelor’s degree. He’s tasted the real world, albeit from the bizarre and confining viewpoint of the military[7], and he has perspectives that have been molded by his experiences. Most veterans tend to be more conservative than others; they are at least more understanding of the “conservative” viewpoint.

The rest of the Daily Quibbler’s staff are mainline college students, fresh and sparkling from their cloistered high schools, and living in the cloistered environment of a university. Neither high schools nor colleges are known for being steeped in practicum, and the notion that college babies are pampered, naïve and simplistic is a near-universal belief held by those who have been out of college for at least two years. You show me someone who is more than two years removed from his graduation who feels differently, and I’ll show you an Adjunct Professor.

College students tend to be Liberal. But not merely “Liberal”; they tend to be the worst form of Liberal: naïve and simplistic. They are the ones who flesh the ranks of all the popular, one-size-fits-all Liberal -isms. Environmentalism, pacifism, anti-globalism... Believe it or not, Liberals are the ones who coined the term “global village” to describe their utopian ideal of world-wide group-hug harmony, but they believe that it’s bad, wrong and evil for that village to act like a single entity preferring, apparently, a global Balkan village. I can’t make sense out of it[8], and it’s doubtful any of them can articulate any sense upon it, particularly since they invariably support “global government”. It’s just another cause to march and throw stones for while believing they are making a difference.

So the staff editors rebelled against the editor in chief. Show of hands: who is surprised? They outlined their rebellion, in petulant nanny-booing, in an editorial two editions after the cartoons.[9] Needless to say, it’s fairly ironic that persons claiming pride at being in the “professional journalistic community” would make so many UNprofessional charges against Gorton, culminating in: “the callous bravado of a renegade editor in chief”. This writer is someone that any organization would want to hire…

Also ironic is that this editorial claims publishing the cartoons hadn’t opened any dialogue “because no one's mind is open to discussion”[10], yet they would likely have printed the cartoons themselves.

The last of the ironies I shall point out concerns criticism of the method by which the cartoons were published. The editorial declares that there was a tactful way to do it, and Gorton didn’t use it. There’s also tactful ways of criticizing your superior for his business decisions, and public finger-pointing and tantrum-having isn’t it. There’s also tactful ways of declaring, in print, that a decision made earlier in the organization wasn’t the best, and name-calling and sneer-filled mud-slinging isn’t it, either.

In the grand scheme of professionalism, no one’s star shines brightly, here, and the staff’s “professionalism” actually sucks light out of the day. But never fear, just when you think it can’t get any cheesier and petulantly self-righteous, it does. The next day, the staff of the Daily Grudge voted Gorton and his evil sidekick out of a job. That’s the fantasy of every cube-farmer in the nation, but it cannot happen anyplace but the reality-free environment of a college newspaper.

It’s around this time that the publisher of the Daily Strumpet arrives. Mary Cory, publisher of the university-independent[11] Illini Media, and who, to my knowledge, has never consented to an interview with anyone seeking clarification of the situation, issued a long email to a wide distribution that served in the place of a press release.[12]

Cory makes any number of disingenuous statements, and I could write long, boring parses of her double-talk[13]. But given the events, one paragraph now stands out in glowing, neon irony:

We are confident that the Illini Media board members do not question the right of the editor in chief to have full editorial control of the paper; neither do they have any intention of arbitrating on matters involving competing personalities or viewpoints among students in the newsroom.

For a board that had no intention of denying the authority of the editor in chief to control the paper, or to intercede in personality conflicts, they sure have a funny way of going about it. Firing the editor in chief for not getting permission from underlings before making an editorial decision – albeit, high-handed – and choosing sides in a tweedle beetle battle pretty much contradicts everything the Illini Media board set out to do.

Not only was Gorton fired, but he was fired by email.

This is 2006, and as we would expect, Gorton has a lawyer. He’s mentioned “wrongful termination”. It might work; at the very least, he was given conflicting work rules to comply with, and the stated reasons for termination were:

The Illini Media Co. board of directors - following a thorough review, a report by a student task force of senior members of the staff, and a hearing with Gorton - found that Gorton violated Daily Illini policies about thoughtful discussion of and preparation for the publication of inflammatory material.

Yet, amazingly[14], no one can find these policies of the Daily Drivel. I guess it will have to come out in court. The case of the high-handed dictator versus the cowardly accommodators. Great theater.

Gorton’s future is assured. America loves a guy who stands on his principles and takes the slings and arrows of outrage from the masses of orthodoxical dweebs. America loves the champion of principle even if he acted out of self-promotion in taking his stand – which, frankly, is most likely true. Even Gorton’s shadow, Chuck Prochaska, has a rosy future awaiting him. Mr Shadow was offered his job back and he turned it down. This was the predictable third act of any Hollywood script that would be written about it.

The Daily Cowpie, however, is tarnished. What was viewed, nearly unanimously on February 8th, as a courageous David in a nation of pusillanimous Goliaths, is now being viewed as a craven capitulator with a staff of self-important revolutionaries. You take a journalism degree from UofI to any media outlet in the US, the interviewer is going to recall recent events and think, “gosh, do I want someone working for me who, when he doesn’t like the decisions I make or the philosophies I espouse, will undermine my authority and create conflict in the office…?” Needless to say, the UofI “journalists” who staged their cute little coup d’Fourth Estate are going to be eyed suspiciously as they leave their comfy coven and try to make their way in the real world of adults … and responsibilities … and, well, everything, where such mass-petulances are viewed dimly.

Mary Cory, frankly, needs to hang it up. She’s as visionary as any of the moles in my barnyard. Gorton put her and her “independent” student newspaper on the journalistic map, and rather than accept the spotlight for the courage and principle thrust upon her by her self-seeking student editor, she bolted from view. The shrinking, shirking violet might have levied this publicity into a larger empire, or greater ad revenue, or something in her benefit. Instead, Feckless Leader capitulated to a group of whimpering pissants. That is neither an appropriate management model for a business nor an adequate teaching model for an academic activity. No matter which side of the fence she tries to climb down in explaining or justifying her actions, she failed.

As with so many other human conflicts, everyone’s right about something and everyone’s wrong about something else. Add to it the plausible accusations of Gorton’s self-promotion and high-handedness, the raging immaturity of the staff under him, the poltroonish publisher and her Board of backbiters … we’re left with a mess. An amusing, eye-rolling mess.

[1] http://thesquire.blogspot.com/2006/03/setting-record-straight.html
Squire Trelawney is a whiny and peevish ankle-biter, who is capable of fantastic contortions in order to construct each new criticism of Gorton, but he did an admirable job of tabulating, with linkage, the Essential Timeline
[2] gasp!!
[3] save two, the Austin Statesman, and the Philadelphia Inquirer
[4] the rich half, big surprise
[5] the current scientific explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs avers that an asteroid hit Earth in what we now call the Yucatan peninsula, creating a dust cloud that eliminated the vegetation for long enough that the high-carb veggie-sauruses died, and the high-protein meat-osaurs who ate them died right after. Only the few who were willing to evolve into birds survived, along with one or two Philadelphia Inquirers and Austin Statesmen who inhabit the cold, dark depths of Loch Ness
[6] http://www.dailyillini.com/media/paper736/news/2006/02/09/Opinions/Editors.Note-1622265.shtml?norewrite&sourcedomain=www.dailyillini.com
[7] the real world doesn’t operate that way either; trust me
[8] unless it’s based solely upon the capacity for corporate greed to use this Global Village to make the obscene and rapacious profits that keep the free world free and basking in the materialistic modernity that affords western Liberals the luxury of backbiting the system that provides them this luxury.
[9] http://www.dailyillini.com/media/paper736/news/2006/02/13/Opinions/Editorial.Staff.Breaks.Ranks-1610154.shtml?norewrite200603161013&sourcedomain=www.dailyillini.com
[10] especially, it would seem, their own
[11] ha ha, right; we’ll see about that
[12] I can only find a reprint of the email’s contents: http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/02/an_open_letter_.html
[13] not that I do that sort of thing…
[14] or not; you know how these things sometimes go, especially when the “policies” were invented after the fact…

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Gender Snowball

A Gender Snowball
© 2006 Ross Williams

Here's a bit of news that may startle: women have more options than men do.

Pause here if you need to catch your breath.

Women can be corporate ladder-climbers; women can also retreat behind the walls of a man's castle. There are enough men out there, and more, who are willing – some exclusively so – to have a woman behind the walls of his castle that women who desire to be kept in the keep shouldn't be alone for long. Men are even importing women to keep behind their walls because the domestic supply is drying up.

Men can't retreat behind the walls of a woman's castle. Not very often. First, there aren't many women willing to keep a man. Are there, Mr Streisand? Second, even when men find such a woman, they get people like me mocking them every chance available. Don't they, Mr Spears?

Women can get law or business or hard science degrees and turn it into a lucrative profession; women can get degrees in Russian Literature and then grouse to everyone around because their career advancements aren't coming at the same pace as those men[1] who got degrees in law, business or hard science and, by complaining, compel unwarranted career advances. A woman’s inappropriate educational choices are obviously the fault of someone other than the woman, and should in no way impact her or her life. They're being kept down by da man which, often, is all men in general, since no man specifically held a gun to the idiot chick's head and forced her to enroll in a worthless degree program.

If a man makes an inappropriate educational choice, he becomes a manager at Denny's or lives in his parents' basement – or both. And the rest of the world tells him impolitely to shut the hell up if he complains. You're the one with the Art History degree trying to find the elusive 6-figure entry-level position. Your choice, buttwad, not mine. Grow up and kwicherbichin.

Say that to the woman with the Russian Lit degree? Better hire a loyyer.

To declare that women also have more reproductive options than men do really shouldn't be stretching anyone's credulity too far, either. Women get pregnant but want to dodge the responsibility of raising a child? There's adoption. If they also want to dodge the responsibility[2] of pregnancy and delivery, there's also abortion.

Men get a woman pregnant? They are given two options and one choice: option one, support the child if the woman chooses to have it; option two, support the woman's choice to abort if she doesn't. His lone choice: do what the woman wants.

This is where the sneering and sanctimonious gender-based fun starts. The typical woman, always able to spot and pontificate on the incredibly obvious, will inform us that men can't get pregnant – are the presses sufficiently stopped? – so therefore abortion is not really the purview of a male.

It’s the reciprocal curse of biology, we are told. Women get pregnant, men get the bills. It is ironic that the people telling us about this curse of biological imperative are usually those who refuse to concede innate biological differences between men and women that manifest themselves in, say, a greater ability among men for complex mathematics, or, say again, a greater ability among women for detailed handiwork. Let’s just leave the fundamental feminist hypocrisies for a later discussion.

Apart from the conclusion of “men have no valid post-conception input” not logically following from the premise of “women are the only ones who get pregnant”, there's the uncomfortable implication that men have no valid input into the reproductive rights debate at all. Reproduction, as women in general and certain types of women loudly and particularly will tell us, takes place in, on and upon women. They are burdened by reproductive responsibility. All the work is theirs.

According to certain women.

So therefore men can just piss up a rope. Apparently.

While that might be an amusing frat-house activity after consuming much beer, it doesn't much help in these circumstances. It's sorta like saying that women can't aim while they pee – as in pissing up a rope – therefore women have no legitimate use for rope. The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

The premises are undeniably true: men can't get pregnant and women can't aim while they pee. But the conclusions we want to draw from those facts are based entirely on selfish, subjective and political desires, and not much else.

We exclude men from the reproductive rights debate simply because it is convenient to do so. We wish to frame reproductive rights as a women's issue, therefore we do. Therefore, whenever men talk about reproductive rights and ask, "Hey! Where's mine?!" he is only doing so in order to somehow interfere with a woman and her rights. Because men just have to be the boss.

Two can play that game: the plethora of choices belonging to women and the disparate limitations placed upon men's choices are there only because women are truly the boss and want to keep it that way.

Isn't sanctimonious presumption fun?

Unless petulant feminist grousing has succeeded where religious legislation has failed, science is still dominated by science and not dictatorial fiat: it takes a man and a woman to accomplish human reproduction. We've managed to make sex sometimes clinical and irrelevant, but we still need one of each in the clinic to not have the sex that leads to the reproduction.

We are, biologically, equal going into reproduction. Politically, we are required to be treated equally, given, if not the same opportunities, then an appropriate equivalence. Think ADA or potty parity. The law can't make a legless man able to climb a mountain, but it can give him a ramp for his wheelchair. The law can't make women pee in whip-it-out mass micturation, but it can require enough toilets that the lavatory throughput rate is the same for both sexes.

So, given biological equality going in, and required political equality regardless, why do women get the choices and men are left pissing up the rope? And what's to be done about it?

That's what Matt Dubay is wanting to know, and he's going to court to ask the question.[3] Millions of other men want to know, as well. As do some women. I've been predicting this for over a decade, myself.

The situation in a nutshell: Matt and an ex-girlfriend are the unwed parents of a child. The ex-girlfriend chose not to abort, which means that she chose to make Matt pay her money for 18 or more years. Matt claims that despite her choosing not to abort, she still had the option, whereas he did not. He didn't even have anything equivalent.

So even though biology requires equality in order to reproduce, and our laws require equality in everything anyway, Matt ended up pissing up the rope.

Now the feminist/traditionalist position will be: "Matt needs to take responsibility for his actions". Okay, that's fine. But we have legal equality in this country, and that means so does his ex-girlfriend; the same legal requirements must be given to all parties. So the feminist/traditionalist will next argue: "But she is taking responsibility...".

But she didn't have to. The same legal requirements did not exist for both. There were legal avenues available to her that were not available to him. Specifically, abortion and adoption.

And the feminist/traditionalist argument next asks: "Are you trying to deny a woman the right to control her own body...?"

Nope. Not at all. But the feminist/traditionalist is arguing to deny the man the right to control his. Whenever the subject of abortion rears its ugly little head[4] and someone suggests that things are not equal, the inevitable response from the pro-abortion shrill squawkers is: "You want to reverse Roe!!!" Nope. We want to make Roe apply to both parties necessary in reproduction.

When women can reproduce by themselves and will rely upon no one else for the consequences of reproduction, short-term as well as long-term, then and only then can the woman have an exclusive lock on the rights associated with reproduction. To do less denies, first, biological imperative and, second, legal equality.

I've had this discussion countless times with people speaking on behalf of feminism or legal traditionalism. Many, particularly in the legal traditionalist ideology, will say, "Yeah, I understand it may not seem fair to this one guy ... but it's less fair to the rest of society to pick up his responsibility for him."

Is it fair to the rest of society to have to pay for building more ladies restrooms in places where women don't generally go just because movie theaters have long lines of women waiting to pee? Is it fair to burden the rest of society with the hundreds of billions of dollars of reconstruction costs to make the entire world "handicapped accessible"?

Many people believe it is fair. Women and cripples shouldn't have to be shunted off to the side, they say, just to get the same treatment as others. So the legless man can now take his wheelchair to the top of Mt McKinley, and all the peep shows on Times Square have twice as many ladies restrooms as men’s. And all it cost was the rest of society to pick up the tab.

The "it's not fair to the rest of society" argument is vacant and meaningless. Why are we suddenly concerned about society now, when men’s reproductive rights are on the table, when we weren’t concerned about the consequences to society before any of the critical phases which led to one and a half million abortions a year – a figure that even pro-abortion activists routinely declare is too many?

There's any number of things that aren't fair to the rest of society but we still do them. One airline passenger in a hundred million has a box cutter that he will use to turn the plane into a makeshift guided missile, so the rest of society is required to pay higher fees and more taxes to hire officious weenies who make everyone stand in long lines which treat them as if they were all box cutter-wielding terrorists. How fair is that?

The rest of society be damned. We have equal rights in this country. If women get a post-conception choice to be parents or not, then so do men. And if you don't mind me saying so[5], I find it more than a little duplicitous[6] for those who argue against male choice to phrase the issue in terms of the man just wanting to avoid responsibility.

How many are willing to say that a woman seeking an abortion is trying to evade responsibility? They exist, but who are they? In short, they are the ones carrying signs in front of abortion clinics and screaming at pregnant women. We've come full circle. The supporters of abortion rights have adopted the tactics of their enemy when the subject becomes extending those rights to others ... as a nation with Equal Rights® requires.

If a fetus is, as pro-choice requires us to believe, just a mass of cells that has no rights of its own until it is born – thus allowing abortion – then they should have absolutely no problem with the man who was 50% responsible for creating that mass of zero-rights cells from disavowing himself of those cells – as one-point-five million women literally do annually. And what's more, our courts, which are obliged to impose "equal treatment under the law" regardless of consequences[7] should have even less of a problem with the man walking away.

Freedom means walking away when we want.

Women walk away from abortion clinics every day. But when women don’t walk away from abortion clinics…? When they don’t walk away because they never walk into them…?

They are left with a child. And that child costs money. Again, another unassailable fact. Kids cost, sometimes out the wazoo.

This creates a dilemma. Where does the money come from? Legal traditionalists will tell us: the parents. Fifty-percent woman, fifty-percent man. A whole legal-bureaucratic industry has sprung up to define what “fifty-percent” is, and why a man’s fifty-percent is largely all cash and a woman’s fifty-percent is largely anything but. This legal-bureaucratic industry is long on rationalization and short on Constitutional justification.

We are Constitutionally required to treat everyone the same; that’s not debatable. Equal treatment under the law is so important to us we put it in there twice, just to make sure we could get it through our thick heads.

We don’t require unwed women-parents to fork over cash for their own children, why do we make unwed father-parents do so? The answer is: because we can, and we hide it under the pretentious and sanctimonious phrases of “responsibility” and “accountability”. Yet, unless we do the same to the mothers that we do to the fathers[8], we are creating an unequal treatment under the law.

Okay, let’s suppose that we make unwed women-parents cough up cash, send it to the state only to be sent back to them, thus treating all unwed parents the same across gender boundaries. We will not be treating divorced parents like unwed parents.

Grrr. Alright, let’s just suppose that we make new laws and bureaucratic rules that require divorced mothers to send some of their money to the state each month just so it can be sent back to them, thus treating divorced mothers and unwed fathers and divorced fathers and unwed mothers all identically… We still won’t be treating them the way we treat “parents”.

Homes where Mommy and Daddy come home from work, make dinner, eat it at the table, play with little Susie and little Bobby, help them with their homework, read them a bedtime story and kiss them goodnight aren’t required to send cash to the state so it can be sent back to them to pay for raising the kids. We assume that’s what the parents will do without prodding.

We all recall what happens when we make assumptions.

The only thing that all parents are required to provide their kids are:
1] adequate food;
2] adequate clothing; and
3] adequate shelter.

Within those vague guidelines there’s a lot of wiggle room, and notably absent from these requirements are cash values. The entire concept of “child support” is – or should be – Constitutional anathema. As long as a child is “adequately” cared for, the government has no justification in stepping in and laying down specific requirements such as: “you must spend – or send – ‘X’ dollars on raising this child”. If the government doesn’t do that for parents of intact families, they have no business doing that for parents of non-intact families. “Equal protection”.

For the sake of making yet another point, let’s accept for the space of the next several paragraphs that the concept of “child support” is a valid legal construct under our Constitution. How is child support determined? What happens if it isn’t provided?

Child support is determined by a fairly superficial method called, in most places, the “income shares model”, which relies heavily upon statistical chicanery.[9] In short, Ozzie and Harriet spend ‘X’-percent of their income raising one child, ‘Y’-percent raising two children, etc, therefore the law demands parents of non-intact families to use that same percentage of their income, without deviation, to devote to their children – a large share of which is presumed to be for holiday gifts.

But the law assumes[10] that the mother, by virtue of having the child live in her home the vast majority of the time, is paying her share without actually paying it. The law requires only the father to pay it.[11] This constitutes unequal protection.

When Ozzie and Harriet do not meet their “income shares” statistically average expenditures, does Ozzie go to jail? No he does not. We simply say, “ah, well, y’know, parents don’t have to spend that much … it’s only the national average.” If Ozzie and Harriet are atheist and don’t celebrate Christmas, Easter and Halloween, or Hanukah, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we don’t thrown them in jail for not using the portion of “income shares” averages for gifts. We dismiss it as “parental rights” to raise their children as self-important heathen.

When a divorced or never-married mother doesn’t spend her “income shares” portion on the child, we similarly declare it to be the untouchable bailiwick of parental authority.

When a divorced or never-married father doesn’t “spend” his “income shares” portion? There’s court; there’s garnishment; there’s attachment; there’s jail. With attachment or jail there’s also a felony criminal record that trails behind. The divorced or never-married father is not granted the same parental authorities every other parent in the country is granted: the authority to say “I don’t believe my child needs to have a Sony Game Cube®.” Unequal protection.

The common rejoinder here is “But he’s responsible!!” Aye, that he is. But what of it? As long as the child is provided what the laws require of all parents, there is nothing – under equal protection – that can, or should, be done about it. Again, we don’t criminalize Ozzie and Harriet, who are just as responsible, because they don’t buy Ricky Nelson the Frankie Avalon records he wants. Food on his plate, clothes on his back and a roof over his head are all that Ricky needs, and all that can be demanded from his parents.

Even when the basic minimums are not provided, it is rare that criminal charges are ever applied. If the school nurse sees Ricky Nelson and determines that he’s undernourished and not dressed for the weather, she’ll kick off an investigation after which Ozzie and Harriet will likely only be sternly scolded and warned to feed their kids and dress them appropriately. On rare occasions, and only after much legal wrangling, Ricky may wind up in foster care, living with Ward and June Cleaver. Essentially, the government will have said Ozzie and Harriet haven’t got a clue on how to be parents so their parental rights are stripped. But they still don’t go to jail.

And neither does the divorced or never-married mother who cannot feed or clothe or shelter her kids.[12]

When the divorced or never-married father doesn’t provide what it costs to get the kids’ Christmas or Hanukah gifts, we take him to court, take his money or, if he has no money, throw him in jail. When the divorced or never-married father doesn’t provide what it costs to feed, clothe and shelter the kids we take him to court, take his money or, if he has no money, throw him in jail.

Being “responsible” is a self-righteous dodge when it’s not applied equally. And it’s not being applied equally.

The concept of throwing the father in jail for non-support is fraught with Constitutional problems, especially. In late January of 2004, Joseph Smith was in a Florida court being scolded for being in violation of his parole. He had been arrested on some drug charges, and one of the conditions of his parole was that he pay restitution to somebody or other, and pay fines and quite possibly court costs. The only thing was: he wasn’t paying his fines. Hence his court appearance for parole violation. He walked out of court just as much in violation of parole as he was when he walked in.

On February 1st, he raped and murdered Carlie Bruscia. A few days later he was caught and confessed. Almost immediately it was learned that he’d been in court just a few days earlier not being thrown into jail for violating parole. The judge presiding over the parole hearing said at the time that “the United States does not allow debtor prisons”…

…except when it comes to non-support.

We rationalize throwing the father into jail for failure or refusal to follow the orders of the judge – for contempt of court. Yet, Smith failed and/or refused to follow the judge’s order to pay his fines and restitutions and whatnot, and the judge couldn’t throw him in jail – which would have saved Carlie Bruscia’s life – because “the United States does not allow debtor prisons.” When the contempt of court consists of not coughing up cash, of being in debt, we are not allowed to use jail for punishment or remedy unless you’re a father.

So, unless you’re mentally retarded, you understand the uncomfortable corner that the legal-traditionalists have painted themselves into here. There isn’t a single aspect of reproductive rights – either in the denial of reproduction, or in the commission of reproduction – in which the playing field is anywhere close to level. Women own it. What’s more, they know they own it, and they aren’t, as a political force, giving an inch.

Those who speak for women’s political group-think will trivialize challenges to the status quo as attempts to turn back abortion rights, or impoverish women, or as harmful to children. They will dismiss attempts to get equal reproductive rights with “He shoulda kept it in his pants.”

But here’s the thing: so should she have. If he shoulda kept it in his pants if he didn’t want the repercussions, she shouldn’ta let it in her pants ditto. We grant her the ability to get it out of her pants long after it’s been left there, but we don’t allow the same for him. Unequal protection.

There are consequences. And there are ways to mitigate consequences. Our current laws grant women all the mitigations and assign men disproportionate consequences.

Those who vapidly dismiss equality in reproductive rights with “he shoulda kept it in his pants” are making an anti-abortion argument. Something tells me they haven’t thought the parallels completely through. Yes, there’s the “it’s her body” argument. And it’s a fine argument that I have absolutely no quibble with.

It’s just that this principle isn’t being equally applied, as required by our legal principles. We’re back to equal protection of the law. The father has a body as well. The mother’s body is used for nine months as a gestation-mobile. Then for roughly 18 years as a caretaker which, as we’ve seen, has vague and ill-defined performance guidelines at best. If she does a tremendous job she’ll be treated the same as if she does a lousy job.

The father, on the other hand, has well-defined parameters applied to him: he must use his body for 18 years in a remunerative trade through which he provides a specific amount of cash to the mother. He will have no assurance save the assumption[13] imposed by the courts that the mother is even using the money for the purpose it is being provided – again, there are no specific requirements placed upon her.

Her: body used for 9 months during which she has the opportunity to mitigate the consequences before birth as well as after; if unmitigated, 18 years of requirement-less caretaking.

Him: no options for mitigation of consequences; body used for 18 years as a labor-for-cash machine.[14]

We are in clear violation of equal protection.

Equal protection of the laws is a national constant, and it will ultimately be the fulcrum upon which our legal landscape rests on this issue, despite the faltering and politically-charged invectives that fly around while the dust is settling. Eventually men and women will have equivalent reproductive rights. The only question is: on which side of the liberty scale will those equivalent rights be located?

If the equivalent rights are to be located on the “he shoulda kept it in his pants” side, then say goodbye to abortion rights, ladies. You shoulda kept it out of your pants in the first place; you didn’t, so now live with it.

If the equivalent rights are to be located on the side which allows the mitigation of consequences, then say hello to “Roe for Men”.

Again, men cannot get pregnant. Therefore they cannot abort.

Women are not the property of, or legally subordinate to, any man. Therefore a man cannot compel a woman to abort.

But women have several means to mitigate unwanted reproduction; a man has zero. Roe for Men will get here sooner or later; it is inevitable[15]. When it arrives, it will probably be equivalent to adoption, which unmarried pregnant women have been doing on their own for centuries. Even today, with laws that prohibit it, unmarried pregnant women are still unilaterally adopting out their children.

And men are left pissing up a rope.

[1] and women, too, but let's forget about them
[2] not to mention the pain, discomfort and the plain old annoying lifestyle disruption
[3] http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/03/08/fatherhood.suit.ap/index.html
[4] if you'll pardon the imagery
[5] and even if you do... especially if you do
[6] substitute freely with hypocritical, disingenuous or plain old liar, liar pants on fire
[7] witness Plessy v Ferguson or Brown v Board for consequences
[8] or, conversely, not do to the fathers what we don’t do to the mothers
[9] http://www.supportguidelines.com/book/chap1b.html
[10] there’s that word again
[11] Once again, I am fully aware that there are custodial fathers in this country. But custodial fathers are, even at present, a single-digit percentage of single-parent householders, and thus they are tokens. I refuse to discuss the subject of non-intact families using the terminology of equality until there is some equality manifest. Tokenism does not count any more today with fathers than it counted in the 60s with working women or in the 50s with blacks.
[12] Such parents only go to jail when the child dies. Divorced or never-married fathers go to jail when the child doesn’t get Nintendo®.
[13] and there’s that word yet again
[14] if anyone can give me a valid and unrationalized distinction between this and the 13th Amendment-violating “involuntary servitude” please drop me a line…
[15] again, the alternative, under Equal Protection, is the elimination of abortion rights

A Brief History of This Moment

A Brief History of This Moment
© 2006 Ross Williams

Mohammed wasn't even buried before his followers started choosing up sides. Who was going to inherit the already sizable islamic kingdom?

Having no sons, it couldn't go to any of his children. But he had a daughter[1]; his son-in-law claimed rightful inheritance. Heaven forbid, literally, a woman gets anything of her own. Many of Mohammed's cousins and uncles and, probably, in-laws of both, also claimed rightful inheritance.

But then there were the non-relatives. There were a lot more of them, naturally. They believed that the line of succession should belong with those who supported the movement – and weren’t related.

Martin Luther King started a movement for civil rights in the US. When King was killed in 1968, there was no civil war between his widow and Jesse Jackson. His widow got the estate and the book deals, Jesse Jackson got the movement. Everyone came away happy. Well, as happy as they could be under the circumstances, considering.

When Mohammed died everyone wanted everything. The battle lines were drawn up accordingly. On the one side were those who believed, generally, that the islamic movement needed to be inherited by the family of the founder[2]. On the other side were those who believed the islamic movement should be inherited by – in our judeo-christian terminology – the disciples of the founder[3].

The family inheriting branch of islam is now called Shi'a islam; the disciple inheriting branch of islam is called Sunni islam. They hate each other. And they've been killing each other for the past 1,300 years.

Now, a lot of people are going to say that this is one of those "religion causes all wars" things. Baloney. Double baloney. And bullshit to boot.

This is one of those tribal things. The relatives of Mohammed belonged to one tribe. A tribe is, in tribal cultures, a family grouping. Mohammed briefly united various tribes under a larger ideology, and collected a modest amount of political power – under religious auspices – using that ideology. So when he died there was a classic power struggle. The battle lines were drawn up under classic tribal affiliations: one tribe versus another.

At the time this schism developed there were no doctrinal differences; it was based purely on who would inherit the power[4] associated with the islamic religious movement. Even today, almost 1,400 years after Mohammed's death in 632AD, the major doctrinal difference consists of who should be the main spiritual leader of the One True Islamic Faith. About the only thing that changed in all that time was due to the normal and expected exigencies of tribal culture: tribal conflicts tend to expand and collect allegiances and enmities among the neighboring tribes.

The islamic religion started among the Arab people of Arabia who were, up until that time, mostly zoroastran. Zoroastranism is a vaguely monotheistic religion which, like judaism, christianity, islam, hinduism and essentially all the rest, posits a Good versus Evil dichotomy that plays out in the temporal world, and to which our individual allegiances determines our spiritual fate.

In other words, there’s no fundamental difference between one religion and the next.

But that didn’t stop people from using it as an excuse to swipe power from the controlling interests in Mecca. Mohammed wanted to change the basic economic structure of Mecca, which was based on pilgrims coming to see the statues in the Kaaba. Essentially, tourists visiting Mecca spent money to go to a museum. Mohammed didn’t like the museum, because the statues in it were one-time gods of old religions, which were polytheistic, which meant that Mohammed’s hometown dealt in heathen practices. For money. How crass!

So Mohammed made a deal with Mecca’s main enemy – Ethiopia – to assist him in putting a stop to it. The Mecca city council was understandably annoyed. Not only was this upstart attempting to decimate the city’s treasury because of his artistic tastes, but he was allowing enemies to infiltrate. Mecca kicked his followers[5] out of town.

They went to Ethiopia; Mohammed stayed in Mecca. From all accounts he was miserable. So he went to Jerusalem, gave a speech on the Temple Mount[6] which muslims have taken to calling Dome of the Rock.

From Jerusalem, Mohammed went to Medina[7], which was a rather cosmopolitan trade city at the time. There were no offensive museums in Medina, or pesky pagans attempting to practice their idolatry, and Mohammed thrived. He built a huge following in Medina, mostly by convincing the two tribes squabbling for control of the Medina city council that they should join him in conquering Mecca.

Which they did.

Our story so far: Arabs are squabbling zoroastran tribalists. Mohammed shows up, gives them a new religion that is essentially the same as every other, but demands that their politics adhere to his tastes. This would severely impact their finances, so they decline. Mohammed takes this to be an act of war. He gets other tribes to join him in the war, and thus islam spreads. By the time Mohammed died many of the tribes in the central Arabian desert were united under the islamic religion, and the fledgling empire would have been quite a prize to one who inherited it. It would be like inheriting Microsoft© today.

Which brings us back to the Sunni/Shi’a schism. One of the tribes unified under Mohammed’s rule was Mohammed’s own tribe; this tribe believed – per cultural practice – that the proper succession went to the family. The rest of the tribes, big surprise, felt otherwise.

Arabs, the nomadic tribes stretching from Morocco in west Africa to Mesopotamia in the east, the entire Arabian peninsula in the south to Byzantium in the north, were unified within a few generations of Mohammed’s death. The unifying concept was, essentially, “there’s one tribe seeking to control all Arabs, so join us to stand against them … and by the way, here’s your new religion.”

Mohammed’s tribe, finding some but not many Arab tribes to join them in their squabbling against the majority of the other unified Arab tribes, found more allies outside the Arab peoples. Specifically, the Persians[8]. Persians historically hated Arabs who, when some of those Arabs were known as Babylonians, periodically invaded Persia; Persia then returned the compliment, usually with greater success. So pariah Arab tribes and Persians lined up against the rest of the Arabs was how it broke down.

Religion has what to do with this? Nothing; religion is simply the superficial excuse used to exploit traditional, in this case tribal, rivalries. Tribe X hated and periodically warred with tribe Y long before Mohammed left a religious/political empire to the one who could grab it. Persians hated and periodically warred with Arabs long before outcast Arab tribes convinced Persians to join them in the sectarian bickering that masked their own tribal squabbles.

Religion is irrelevant here. They’d be at war with each other regardless. The only thing religion adds to it is the monumentally pious self-righteousness that is so wedded to the ultra-religious.

So, recently the sacred Shi’ite shrine in Samarra Iraq was blown up. Odds are it was Sunni thugs, seen entering the shrine moments before it blew up, who did it. Hussein was Sunni and spent his entire career killing Iraqi Shi’a. Iraq is one of the few muslim nations which has sizable populations of both Sunni and Shi’a. Shi’ite populations in all muslim nations except Iraq and Iran[9] are extremely small.

Iran, which hates Israel and the US more than it does Sunnis and Arabs[10], has blamed Israel and the US for destroying the shrine. Persia, pushing pan-islamism, is intent on defeating the West, and they don’t have time for any such sectarian nonsense. …until the West is defeated, that is, and then Iran would undoubtedly like to rule the West-ruling Greater Islamia under a reanimated Persian Empire.

Iranian desires notwithstanding[11], Iraqi Shi’a took the opportunity afforded by the destruction of their shrine to go on a rampage against Sunnis. See? it’s not just cartoons they object to. So the Sunnis retaliated by dropping out of the Iraqi government. What we have shaping up is an Iraqi civil war.

Many people who know what they’re talking about[12] are going to be claiming that an Iraqi civil war was virtually inevitable. Take Tito’s iron-fisted tyranny out of tribalist Balkans, within a decade you’ve got civil war. Or, as fate would have it, two. Take Hussein’s iron-fisted tyranny out of tribalist Iraq, … you have peace and stability?

Don’t be silly.

The odds-on likelihood for civil war led many cynics, including myself, to oppose a full-scale invasion just because it would have been trivially easy to get Iraqis to do the job themselves with very little US expense or manpower. A Desert Storm/Desert Fox-style air war could be coordinated with anti-Hussein forces, Shi’a or Kurds, or both, who would take out Hussein on their own … It’s not like RealPolitik is a modern American invention that hasn’t practiced around the globe for millennia.

A civil war among the people who hate you and wish to see you destroyed is a good thing. The US should embrace an Iraqi civil war, and get the hell out of their way while they fight it. The more they fight amongst themselves, the less we’ll have to fight against them. Our job would be to prevent them from spreading the civil war to the neighbors’ yards. Well, the neighbors who like us, anyway. Turkey, Saudi, Kuwait, Jordan and Israel.

If it spreads to Iran and Syria … darn the luck. The last man standing wins. If no one’s standing, so much the better.

[1] Fatima
[2] they settled on the son-in-law, Ali, who was also Mohammed's cousin, thus serendipitously marrying the immediate family to the extended
[3] specifically, the disciple named Abu Bakr, who conveniently claimed that Mohammed rewrote his will at the last minute
[4] and the rich, trade center cities of Mecca and Medina, conquered by the Mohammedans a few years before Mohammed’s death
[5] i.e., his family
[6] hence the historic squabbling between jews and muslims over ownership of same
[7] let’s just skip merrily past his abortive war on the Byzantine Empire…
[8] …and by the way, here’s your new religion
[9] Babylon and Persia, respectively
[10] now, anyway; that may change at any moment
[11] and their desires have no standing as far as I’m concerned
[12] which leaves out anti-war weenies in the US and Europe

Another Dime

Another Dime in the Fame Machine
© 2006 Ross Williams

Hugo Chavez can't stand being out of the spotlight. In the night sky of megalomaniac tinpot tyrants, he is Sirius[1]; but then, aren't they all?

Chavez is in some kind of high school bad-ass, can't-find-a-date-to-the-prom posturing deal. He isn't exactly sour grapesing the thing, since claiming sour grapes is a rationalization. "I spent all day trying to get those grapes, but I couldn't reach them, but now I'm glad because they were sour grapes anyway." He’s more desperate than rationalizing.

Poor ol' Hugo really really wants to be Prom King. Darn it! he's a big shot! He desperately needs to go to the prom, but he doesn't want the stigma of going stag. Who’s gonna respect a guy who can’t get a date? Oh sure, he could go with his smoking-under-the-bleachers buddies – Cuba and Bolivia – but how pathetic is that? You can't find a date to the prom, so you go with two other guys who don't have dates. Bad-ass guys like Chavez? Wouldn't do; folks whisper.

Here's his evening in a nutshell: He hopes to score, but won't. He'll end up making crude pick-up attempts at every girl at the punch bowl, get slapped a half dozen times for his efforts, leave by himself and sneak a few of the old man's beers out of the mini-fridge in the workshop and stay outside until 3 A.M. just to give everyone the impression he got lucky. Somewhere around midnight he’ll raid an all-night laundromat to steal some woman's panties to stick in his glove compartment to show off when someone asks how the prom was. Just his luck: they're size 16.

Hot time in the old banana republic tonight!!

Chavez desperately needs cred, but he's used up his fifteen minutes of fame long ago. The world looked, and the world looked away.

Hey! Wayda minnit!! Hugo wasn't done trying to impress everyone that he could be interesting. He's got another act. Okay, so his latter-day Che dance is hackneyed and derivative, but stick around for the comedy. US President Bush is called "Mr Danger" – when he's not using such terms as "nut case" and "Adolph Hitler". He's been making kissy-face at US Secretary of State "Condolence" Rice for over a year; funny she hasn't agreed to go out with him yet... And if that wasn't funny enough, he's added irony to the routine by formally protesting remarks made by British Prime Minister Blair which, Chavez claims, violate international standards of good taste and decorum.

Chavez wants Britain to give the Falkland Islands back to Argentina – even though they never belonged to Argentina except for the few weeks in 1982 when Argentina squatted on them. When Britain declined Venezuela's kind demand, Chavez told Blair to "go to hell" – international standard and chock-full-a-good-taste diplomatic jargon for "Blair is a great big poopy head".[2]

Who wouldn't want to stick around for the second act? It promises to be full of surprises.

But no, everybody would rather watch oil-rich Iran claiming energy poverty and build nuclear bombs with the enriched uranium it's claiming is for electricity. Chavez showed up on Iran's doorstep to be photographed with Ahmadinejad at a critical point in the tension. It was the equivalent of dropping another two bits into the megalomaniac meter.

Everyone else would rather watch the poor and uneducated from west Africa through the Middle East to central and south Asia riot over cartoons. Little food in some of those places, no political freedoms in any, but doggone it! you draw rude pictures half a world away, we'll go nuts!

All Chavez can offer is standard regional arms races, clichéd saber rattling, a little last-gasp exported socialist insurgency, and trite taunts of his economic and military betters. It's so... 20th Century. For encores, he's willing to cut off his nose to spite his face.

That might be worth the price of admission, come to think of it. Hugo attempted to steal Venezuelan power in 1992 by staging a coup. It failed. He was elected in 1999, took office in 2000, and proceeded to treat the nation as if he had stolen power anyway. He nationalized the nation's major industries – by which we mean petroleum – fired everyone who could run the business for a profit, and installed peasants and cronies in their place.

It’s one thing when you install a crony to run FEMA. The head of an agency usually has talent confined to making long, boring speeches, dissembling before Congress and the press, and delivering reports compiled by the bureaucrats who actually do whatever work gets done. He isn’t allowed near enough to the buttons to do any real damage, and when he gets into trouble it’s normally because he failed at being a functionless figurehead.

But Chavez not only put cronies and other incompetents in charge of the state-run Venezuelan petroleum outfit, he put incompetents in the real jobs there as well. Part of his give power to the people platform. …which was part of his stick it to the imperialist man platform. …which was part of his it’s all America’s fault platform.

Socialism isn’t dead, Chavez is busy exhorting. It can work, despite every attempt to work it failing from economic dead-weight. The last few outstanding examples of socialism are still running on the fumes of inertia [Cuba], or nuclear blackmail and handouts [North Korea], or is busy trying to redefine socialist theory as neo-capitalism [China]. Upstarts like Venezuela are stuck in a petroleum bubble, and the most recent entry, Bolivia, is willing to underwrite its economic incompetence by legitimizing cocaine. Bolivia’s President Morales is a coca farmer, and has equated the world’s war on drugs to an international effort to impoverish Bolivia[3] – whose major export is cocaine.

The problem with Venezuela’s economy, Chavez said, is that it’s all run by the US. Venezuela pumps the oil, but it’s shipped to the US to refine. Most of the oil Venezuela pumps is used in the US as gasoline… so that makes some sense. But, okay, you want to take a page from the Japanese vertical-integration business model, refine your own oil and sell the finished product.

Only one problem. Venezuela doesn’t have the capacity to refine their own oil in the amounts necessary. They’re short the industrial infrastructure to build the refineries, and they’re short the technical expertise to run them. To get either, they’d need to hire an industrial nation to do it for them. The nearest industrial nation is, um, the US. China is too busy building their own.

If Venezuela really wants to get their oil processed elsewhere they’d be forced to ship crude oil to other petroleum refineries around the world, all of which are farther away than the Citgo refineries in Houston.

Social programs cost money. When the government gives stuff away for free, it’s not really free. It costs somebody something, even if it’s an artificial ‘somebody’ named The Government. No matter what is given away or to whom, somebody has to come up with the money to pay for it. No exceptions.

Chavez built his presidency on giving stuff away; he veritably bought votes from the poor by promising them the world. In a way, he’s the only honest politician in the hemisphere in over fifty years, since he’s actually delivered on a lot of it. But he’s been paying for his own largess by oil profits, which he’s been able to do because:
1] the market price for oil is way way up due to Middle East wars and China’s and India’s growing demand; and
2] Venezuela’s low production and transportation costs.

It doesn’t cost Venezuela any more to pump oil out of the ground now than it did in 1998 – and since the people who do the pumping are essentially new-hires, it should cost them less. Because Venezuela gets its refining done after a short 3-day cruise across the Gulf of Mexico, their transportation costs are fairly low. Sorry to apply basic Capitalism 101 to the socialist pipedream, Hugo, but you’re in about the best position you can possibly be.

For Chavez to cease selling his crude oil to the US for market price of $60/barrel, which includes the 3-day tanker trip from Caracas to Houston, he’d be selling it to, say, China or India for the same $60/barrel and absorbing the fuel and labor costs of the 30-40 day trip to Shanghai or Bombay. Venezuela would get significantly less profit per barrel, and therefore less money to run his vote-grabbing social programs, and therefore fewer votes in the next election.

Not that votes really matter to someone willing to stage a coup, but it makes for a messy press conference afterwards. Not that messy press conferences are especially troubling to someone who desperately craves the attention of the world and so often resorts to high school bad-ass techniques to get it. Where it might hurt Chavez is when he can no longer pay for the vote-buying social programs because he’s spending his profits to ship his oil to anyplace but the US. Venezuelans are not above – or beneath – replacing heads of state by force. Chavez already survived one coup attempt.


Politics, like baseball, is a game of inches.

Chavez has too many socialist social programs to fund, and too many Russian weapons to buy to be spending his oil profits on 30-day tanker cruises. He has too many FARC guerrillas in Columbia to arm with those weapons. He has too many socialist neighbors to keep on life support. And he’s got to have pocket change to dump in the megalomaniac meter to keep the rest of the world paying attention to him.

[1] the brightest star in the sky
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/02/10/venzuela.chavez.reut/index.html
[3] which was poor even before the world discovered cocaine