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

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tawana Brawley, Redux

Tawana Brawley, Redux
© 2006, Ross Williams

I'm starting to lose my faith in democracy. There's the two-party histrionics which obliges adherents of one party to declare in straight-faced prevarication that anything said by someone of another party is absolutely wrong regardless. We had the Republicans' "wag the dog" whining in 1998, and now we've got the Democrats' "WMD" panty-wetting now.

Intra-party politics is also rife with delusional manipulation of the public. A party primary race for district attorney is playing in the national media to nearly unanimous unfavorable reviews. It hardly matters which political party is embarrassing itself, since neither are above or beneath local self-stupidity. But, for the record, it's the Democrats, which should be fairly obvious from the demographics about to be described.

Raleigh-Durham North Carolina is a "working class" community where nearly half the population is black. The median income is modest, to say the least. It is also the home of Duke University, a prestigious campus which draws poorly from the local community due to its high tuition, but exceedingly well among the wealthy families of the east coast.

There has been historic tension between the locals and the learners, the "towns" and the "gowns" as they've called it. They don't like each other, they've tended to segregate themselves, and that's worked reasonably well.

Until late last month. The Duke University lacrosse team held an unofficial team party with booze and strippers. The booze was drunk, at least in part, underage. Both strippers were locals. Lacrosse is a sport which originated among the Iroquois indians of upstate New York and tends to be played by the males in upper-crust New England who would, were they working-class North Carolinians, play football instead.

The Duke U lacrosse team, apart from being largely snooty children of privilege, are doubly-damned since they are too good for the Dixie state religion of football. Let's just forget about the other Dixie state religion of NASCAR.

So the hoity-toity lacrosse team hired two local bimbos to come to their party, take off their clothes, and leave. And from most accounts, including all tangible and objective documentation, that's exactly what happened. A few accounts diverge wildly from that. Those few accounts are either personal and therefore subjective, or entirely hearsay … or bought. And the only reason we in southern Illinois, and you in where ever you are, are hearing about it is because a perfect political storm of self-seeking has converged upon the incident.

One of the two strippers claims to have been raped in a bathroom at the party by three members of the lacrosse team. The other stripper said "balderdash" [or words to that effect]. The entire lacrosse team said "balderdash" [or words to that effect]. Everyone at the party, or who visited the party, said "balderdash" [or words to that effect].

Except the one stripper. Who is black. In a town where almost half the population is black. She is making her accusation at a time when the prosecuting attorney is up for re-election against two Democratic party challengers who have accused the prosecutor of being "soft".

The strippers were there for around an hour and performing for much of that time – to the degree that disrobing to music is a performance. This is verified by time-dated digital photos taken during the party, the veracity of which is not being challenged. The “raped” stripper arrived "impaired" by her own admission, as well as by implication from the photographs. Somewhere during this hour she claims to have been dragged into the bathroom and raped by three men for half an hour.

Yet nowhere in the time-dated sequence is there a half-hour gap allowing such. She's photographed performing at shortly after midnight, one of her rapists is passed out at ten minutes after midnight, she's on the back steps looking bored before 12:30, she's lying down on the back steps at 12:35 with a cut on her foot and her ass, and what appears to be blood on the porch rail, and she gets in a car and leaves at 12:40. This is from the unchallenged photographic evidence. The other rapists left the party at 12:15 in a cab, stopped at an ATM, and arrived at their dorm about the time the stripper left the party.

Cabs are time-tracked. ATM transactions are time-tracked. No one is challenging these, either.

A gap does exist in the photographic time sequence; the last photograph of the “victim” for approximately a half hour is at a few minutes after midnight. She is performing. The next photograph of her is just before 12:30. She is outside, looking bored. In between these two photographs, the strippers themselves claim to have stopped performing and left the house, only to be cajoled back inside to continue stripping. There simply isn’t a half hour available for a rape. There isn’t even 15 minutes.

She was "raped in the bathroom" after performing but before leaving. By three men, one of whom was passed out and the other two who seemed to have gotten bored and left.

As soon as the claim of rape was made, investigators took DNA samples. No DNA from anyone at the party matches anything the stripper had on her. None.

The stripper claims to have been held captive in this bathroom – unlawful restraint or kidnapping – by these three men, one of whom was passed out and the other two who had gone home.

Most prosecutors would compile this objective evidence – the time-dated documentation from the digital photographs, the taxi dispatcher, the ATM, all of which corroborate each other – and match it up against the objective lack of DNA evidence and implausible course of events, and tell the woman, "Um, miss, that's an interesting story, but we're going to need something more to go on, here..."

Not this prosecutor at this time in this community.

This prosecutor, Mike Nifong, polluted the airwaves with around 70 press conferences in the days after the "rape" claiming first that it occurred and DNA would prove it, then claiming that DNA is unnecessary to prove it, that the lack of opportunity shown during the photo sequence is meaningless ... an entire laundry list of excuses why this rape at this time doesn't need to have evidence. His actual presence in the media, his media saturation, effectively tried the case in the press in a jurisdiction predisposed to bias against the putative rapists.

Can you say "prosecutorial misconduct"?

The challengers for his job are remaining silent. They cannot risk prejudicing themselves in the event that charges are upheld and they win the job and have to prosecute the case. One challenger is a deputy prosecutor and may get the case even if she doesn’t win the election. The townies seem to be in favor of prosecution – it is, after all, one of their own against three of the outsiders they don’t like and never have. And the townies got to listen to Nifong go on and on and on about how they don't need DNA to prove rape, how they don't even need to have time for the rape to occur to commit rape. He ought to know, he's a loyyer with a degree, and everything.

Now we hear that the second stripper at this party, Kim Roberts, also black, the one who said "balderdash" about the first stripper's claim of rape, and who is being separately prosecuted by Nifong for an unrelated embezzlement charge, was given a ... let's say "unusual" ... quid pro quo. In her embezzlement case the requirement for bond was suddenly and mysteriously dropped. Miss Roberts is now saying "why yes indeedy, a rape is definitely most likely."

I.e., eye-witness testimony bought and paid for.

Can you say "witness tampering"?

Let's add, in no particular order, the remaining inconsistencies – and let's be polite to Mr Nifong and only use the term "inconsistency" to describe them:

The stripper claims to have been injured during the course of the rape, to include bruises and cuts and losing artificial fingernails. Yet photographic evidence demonstrates that she arrived bruised and with missing fingernails, and didn't seem to get cut until sitting on the back porch railing a few minutes before she left;

Artificial fingernails were found in the bathroom, but it would require a time machine to have put them there after a rape subsequent to her performance during which she was missing those same artificial fingernails;

Only two of the three rapists have been formally charged because there doesn't appear to be enough evidence, in this evidence-less crime, to support charging a third;

The stripper claims to have been raped between performing and leaving; two of the putative rapists left before she did and during the middle of this rape. Yet both strippers admit to having returned to the party where one of them had just been raped, apparently to partake of the party;

It was after this second visit to the party – when the putative rapists were no longer there – that a cab driver overheard a black girl threatening to call police;

Kim Roberts called the police because she had been called a "damn nigger" at the party during the second visit. No one called the cops about a rape, no one even called the police about threatened broomstick sodomy – name-calling? “HELP!! Police!!”;

Kim Roberts paid no attention to any of the players at the party except "the little skinny one" who – and you can take my word for this – will be conspicuous in any crowd of typically-built male athletes;

Kim Roberts contacted a New York City public relations firm by email to learn "how to spin this to my advantage" and signed the email "the 2nd dancer".

Weird, huh?

This bizarre episode ought to have everyone's head reeling – on the assumption that one's head is filled with more than air. The stripper who was "raped" – while legally anonymous – is rumored far and wide to have had many, many brushes with the law, including auto theft and vehicular assault upon a cop. She is also rumored to have told acquaintances that “this is her chance”. She has children, and could easily lose those children to the state if caught leaving them unattended late at night while she was performing "indecent" acts and while "impaired".

Personally, I find stripping to be a noble undertaking, but then I might be prejudiced. Others, though, are quick to call it "indecent" and child welfare agencies are particularly tight-assed about that sorta thing. One of the cops arriving at the party after being called by Miss Roberts – who called the cops for being called a "damn nigger" – described the "victim" as being "a passed-out drunk". That’s a motherly image, ainnit?

...and her kids were ... where? She's got legal anonymity, so we are prevented from investigating her. We are left with speculation about her motivations for making a false allegation.

But the prosecutor, who knows who she is and her legal status, has an obligation under the law to prevent the law from being maliciously and fraudulently used by those who might wish to divert attention from themselves to another. A woman seeking to protect herself from having her children taken by the state might use the first opportunity to do exactly that.

A prosecutor who does not look into all possibilities isn't doing his job well, and may even be doing it wrong to the point of criminality himself. The bugaboos of prosecutorial misconduct, malicious prosecution and witness tampering remain visible.

So here's the most plausible explanation of the uncontested events:

Two strippers show up, strip, leave, figure out they may as well party with some guys who have free beer, and go back. They can ignore being threatened with sodomy by a broomstick; it was obviously a stupid frat-house joke, but when rich, white outsiders call them "nigger" a stripper calls the cops. The cops show up to break up the party and shoo everyone off home, and the first stripper gets spooked: "I've got a record; what if they ask about my kids?" and she cries "rape". She makes what are, at the time and on the surface, plausible claims: missing fingernails, bruises, cuts. She claims three rapists and identifies the three she can recall – including the "the little skinny one". Unfortunately, the three identified either left before the fictitious incident or were in no condition to perform the fictitious incident, but this doesn't surface until later.

Meanwhile, the claim hits the DA's desk in the morning; he is behind in the polls for the imminent primary election. He sees in this a serendipitous convergence of forces: he can make a name for himself among a large voting bloc without alienating many of the remaining voters. All he's got to do is prosecute the "rape" of a local black girl against her three out of town rapists. So he talks to the local media about it, and talks and talks and talks. Free political advertising.

One problem: Duke University isn't Bubba's College of Cosmetology. The university cancels the lacrosse season drawing national attention to what might otherwise fly under the radar. This attention is spurred on by Duke’s president issuing a mewling, simpering apology to the community for running a university that has tuition so high that only “privileged” rich kids can afford it. Yes, Mr Brodhead, you are forgiven for existing… now dry your eyes.

The DA sticks his neck out further and further by counting votes before they’re cast, and so makes incredible claim after incredible claim about the case. First, DNA evidence will support the case; then when none exists, it isn't necessary. Then the injuries support the case, and when they are found to pre-exist any “attack” they become irrelevant. Then the opportunity for a half-hour rape was there and when a half-hour can’t be found in the time-stamped photographs, it’s not needed to commit this gang rape. But through it all, he believes the stripper's story. Too bad it's only him and the stripper who do. Never mind, "the 2nd stripper" can be bought by dropping bond in her embezzlement case. There's now three.

And Jesse Jackson makes four; Jackson – like clockwork – has arrived in full armor upon his rainbow steed to denounce the objectification of women who must use their bodies in such a way just to put themselves through school. He has vowed to support the "rape" "victim" even if – and what are the odds of this? – her claim should prove false.

The second stripper, for her part, found herself playing the role of the fifth wheel on this out-of-control car wreck, and is going along with whatever she needs to in order to grab whatever she can out of it. Basking in the glow of reflected glory is better than not basking at all. Just ask Homer Simpson.

I have no prediction on the outcome of the prosecutor’s election. My feeling is that if Nifong loses, his successor will look at the evidence in the case and conclude that only a jury of imbeciles could return with a guilty. Nifong’s successor will drop the charges. But my feeling is that Nifong played enough race cards that he stands a good shot at winning. Apparently, the area is known as a death valley for Republicans – they can only be found hiding under rocks – and the winner of the Democratic primary is de facto winner in the general election. If Nifong wins, he’ll probably prosecute the case to save face.

And lose. Badly. Even money, he’ll lose on procedural games: “Yeronner, the defense moves to dismiss charges on the ground that they’re ludicrous…” “The court agrees; case dismissed.”

He’s sufficiently poisoned the local community with his free political advertising press conferences; no untainted jury could be found within a hundred miles. Put this case with this evidence before a jury of unbiased North Carolinians, …

The individual citizens involved in this amorality play might be forgiven their self-service, most humans rarely lift their noses above their own circumstances long enough to notice anything going on around them. But Nifong is supposed to know better. He is supposed to be impartial until presented with all the evidence; he is supposed to apply healthy skepticism to any claims made – if he has to bend himself into pretzels to rationalize the objective evidence, then what is any jury going to think? Is a re-election that important to him that he is willing to prostitute his office and ruin several lives in order to get it?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Ignoring the World

Ignoring the World, One Neighbor at a Time
© 2006 Ross Williams

The farm field across [what passes for] our road is sprouting 2,500 square foot and up homes. I tend not to notice much about them. I have a rural mentality: if I don’t like what the neighbors are doing, I don’t look and let them do it. Likewise, if I want to drink beer on my front porch naked and the neighbors don’t like it, I expect them to remember where they are and not bother me with their personal prejudices.

That’s just the way we are in the country.

My wife, though, somewhat a voyeur, has been watching what the new neighbors are doing and keeps me up to date. She, of course, characterizes this as me not paying attention, which is a common criticism she levels at me, but I prefer the truth: I am willing to allow the neighbors to do as they please. Alright, so I already don’t like them and I’m trying to ignore them. Same difference in this case.

Last week she pointed out the family in the teeny-tiny, rinkiest of dinky houses at 2,500 square feet, which was finished last summer. They moved in before last labor day. They’re still growing dirt in their lawn. Perfectly uniform, cinnamon-colored dirt. The guy’s been watering his dirt religiously for the last week, and this is what my wife pointed out. “Did you see? One of the new neighbors is watering his dirt.”

No, I didn’t see. But I looked and sure enough, he had his fan-tail sprinkler going last Saturday and was turning his cinnamon dirt into milk chocolate dirt. Funny thing, too. It’s now mid-April, and not the time to be trying to start a lawn. Particularly in the central midwest. Hopefully, he’s just trying to keep his dirt from blowing away in the breezes we were having last week while he waits to start his lawn at the right time of the year.

Not that I have any confidence in that, though. Most consumers believe what advertisers tell them, and the advertisers are busy clogging the airwaves with “Now’s the best time to spruce up your lawn…!

Which would be true except that it’s not. Springtime is the second-best time to work on a lawn. The best time is when nature itself starts lawns: late summer. Not that the advertisers or the lawn-care retailers will tell you that. Unless you know who Jerry Baker is, you have to find that out on your own. And if you do know who Jerry Baker is, you have to wind your way through endless do-it-yourself recipes for non-toxic lawn fertilizer [generally, ammonia and liquid soap, with or without a beer], and non-human-toxic insecticide [generally, tobacco-tea and liquid soap] in order to find it.

Ten years ago I found myself the proud and overwhelmed owner of 5 acres of ex-wheat field that I could not mow [major back injury], my then-wife wouldn’t help me mow [man’s work], my 11 year-old son could be forced to mow but would “accidentally” run over the trees I’d planted and turn them into toothpicks. Additionally, the then-wife wouldn’t let me get the sheep I’d always wanted. “They smell”. Well, yeah, what’s your point? “They’re wild and dangerous.” Oh, good grief.

Three years later, I had these 5 acres all to myself and had room to experiment with lawn-making techniques.

I visited the warehouse home centers and the nurseries. “Uh… I’ve got five acres of ex-wheat and want a lawn instead.” They invariably recommended doping up my yard with fertilizer/weed-killer combo in the early spring. I’d tell them, “but all I’ve got are weeds, and if I kill them, then the fertilizer fertilizes dirt and the weed seeds which blow in”. Well, then, they recommended I plant grass seed a few weeks later, but cautioned that I’d have to make sure I watered it all summer long because the central midwest has hot, dry summers which kill young lawns. “But I’m on a well,” I’d say; “I can’t take water out of the ground just to dump on top of the ground. Besides being stupid, I wouldn’t have enough water left to brush my teeth.”

Their final recommendation: live with weeds.

Uh, no, sorry. I don’t buy that. Nature has been growing grass for millions of years, and never once required homo erectus to siphon water out of the lake in a long series of connected hollow reeds to keep it alive. How did Gaia do it? Let me do it that way. Humans, on the other hand, have only been growing grass for a few thousand years, and mostly for food – wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn, all are grasses. “Lawn”, until less than a hundred years ago, was what was left after the sheep finished lunch, and it was both grass and weed.

Besides, five acres at 43,500± square feet per is about … carry the 1… carry the 1 again … far-too-many bags of fertilizer/weed killer, at far-too-much per bag.

And far too heavy to carry with a major back injury in the recent past.

Duplicating nature required I learn about the life-cycle of perennial grasses [cool-season grasses, for the pedantic]. This is how nature designed them: they grow, grow, grow all spring, sprout a seed stalk in early summer which matures and drops its seeds in late summer. The seeds sit on the parched, dry ground until the weather cools down and the early autumn rains come, at which point they germinate and grow until the first freeze of winter. After this, the top stops growing but their roots continue all winter long until the next spring when these little nubbins of grass plants have roots fully as long as the one which dropped seeds the August before.

Ah, nature, right?

Plant grass seed in the springtime, the plant will take root but it’ll spend most of its energy growing above ground in order to compete with the established weeds, and it will have short roots. Short roots when there’s no rain either means you need to water a lot or the new grass will die. So why don’t the nurseries and garden centers tell you this? Mostly, near as I can figure, for a couple of self-reinforcing reasons:

1] Springtime is when homeowners emerge from their winter hibernations, look at their dandelion-choked yards and declare a yard crisis; by late summer, after suffering through a progression of yard crises, they’re so tired of mowing the weeds and struggling to get actual grass to grow that anyone who mentions taking on more lawn care when it’s 100 degrees in the shade is apt to get punched in the nose;
2] yard-care product manufacturers and their retailers are aware of this and have historically geared their merchandising toward springtime when customers are more willing to buy yard-care stuff and when they’re not likely to get assaulted by irate homeowners.

Homeowners are more inclined to take on big outdoor projects in the springtime, which means the people who sell that kind of stuff, the experts, say “oh, what a coincidence, this is the best time to do it” and then the homeowner is fooled into thinking that it is the best time. We have arrived at mutually-agreeable delusion.

It’s too bad that everyone’s wrong. As I say, I’ve been experimenting with my yard for most of the last 10 years. There are sections where I tried the spring-sowing/fertilizing/watering thing. I’ve even done the Jerry Baker’s Kitchen treatment.

To be honest, I have fallen into the same traps that so many others before me have fallen, and I learned the same things. We all start out gung-ho. Then we forget to water one weekend, and it rains on Monday so we rationalize not watering. We get in a habit of not watering because we’re rationalizing, “well, the forecast says ‘chance of showers’, so it’s okay…” and before we know it, it’s July, it’s been three weeks since any meaningful rainfall and the existing grass is turning brown [dormant], but the new grass is black and crumbling [dead]. Another season wasted.

On top of which, misapplied fertilizer/weed-killer either doesn’t do anything, or it kills your grass. It must be applied correctly. And on top of that, if you apply the fertilizer/weed-killer correctly on a lawn that has 50% weeds, in two weeks you’ll have killed the weeds and then have 50% dirt. Which is not a lot of improvement, to be honest. At least weeds are green. If you keep it mowed and only look at it from a distance, you can hardly tell.

I’ve noticed that homeowners, as it relates to their lawns, fall into a few discreet classes of lawn-carers.

First, you have the anal-retentive lawn snobs. They are the ones who actually do everything the nurseries recommend, as they recommend it, religiously, using Evian® if necessary to keep their lawns watered, thriving and healthy all summer long. They are extremely wealthy in order to accomplish this, or they are very unwealthy after having done it.

Next, you have the typical homeowning slob who sincerely tries to do what the experts recommend because, after all, they are the experts. The slob universally fails because he’s not religious about his lawn like his lawn-snob neighbor. The slob is either well-established in lawncare cynicism, or he’s about to be after another few seasons of failure.

And finally, there’s the religiously anti-lawn-religion anal-retentives, who hear the experts recommending chemicals and reflexively turn away. If it’s a chemical, it’s environmental poison, they chant, and so they rationalize to themselves [and not uncommonly to everyone within earshot, loudly] by declaring dandelions, buckhorn, mouse-eared chickweed and curly dock to be “bio-diversity” and refuse to listen when told it’s also the sign of unhealthy soil. These people commonly refer to themselves as “environmentalists”. With a straight face. These people will hand you recipes for dandelion wine, dandelion, radicchio and endive salad [“dandelion greens taste like spinach!”], and dandelion root extract as a cold remedy.

They’re trying to make themselves feel better for having a yard that looks like hell. As opposed to the typical homeowner who simply mows his weeds and no longer thinks about it.

Some folks I used to work with would talk about their yards, lamenting how nothing they did, though always recommended by the experts, ever really worked. I’d tell them about my laboratory yard. Part of the yard was commercial chemicals and it looked like everyone else’s yard and was a lot of work and expensive to boot; part was Jerry Baker’s recipes with late-summer oversowing and looked better with less work, but still more than I wanted to do; and most of it was just late-summer oversowing and frankly it looked a lot like the Jerry Baker corner, but didn’t take any extra effort at all.

Here’s the way it works: spread grass seed in the last month of summer [Labor Day ritual at my house], quit mowing until after it germinates [lawn mowers chop grass seed into confetti very nicely], and start mowing again in the spring time. Not a problem.

I was always asked a few questions, mostly about bugs and birds eating the grass seed as it sits on the hot, dry ground. The question was: “Don’t the bugs and birds eat the grass seed?”

The answer is: probably. But lookit: you’re throwing grass seed out in the late summer. Everything is going to seed in the summer: weeds, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, everything. Birds and bugs are in a smorgasbord, they nibble here, nosh there, sample a little of the other – and each other … and they’ve been eating all summer long anyhow. They aren’t all that hungry.

Spread grass seed in the springtime? Birds and bugs have just woken up, they’re famished, nothing to eat except each other, and some schlub of a homeowner throws grass seed all over… feast time in the ol’ front yard. Your choice.

Five years ago I stopped experimenting with my yard. Got tired of buying bags of fertilizer/weed-killer and spreading it around; got almost as tired of homemade water-on recipes. Tobacco tea is disgusting, and I’ve got better uses for beer than spraying it all over the yard – like drinking it on the front porch naked. I went to Labor Day seeding five years ago. Every year; grass plants die, and when they do, there’s no shortage of weeds willing to replace them. I’d stack my yard up against most others in the area on looks alone; looks for the money… dollar for dollar I’d win.

Now because I live in the country, it’s my neighborly duty to offer help to the poor slob in his itty-bitty 2,500 square foot house with the amply-watered cinnamon dirt. But I don’t like him; he ripped out a perfectly good corn field to grow … dirt. I’ll just watch him from my front porch as he runs up his water bill.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

When in the Country...

When in the Country, Do as the Bumpkins
© 2006 Ross Williams

The soybean field across the road is growing a bumper crop, and I'm none too pleased. The crop it's growing is Subdivision. I moved to a dirt track to get away from these people, and they're following me. I know better than to think my magnetic personality is attracting them. I also know better than to think it's the smell of my barnyard or the look of my neighbor's scrap iron "art". So it must be something else.

I moved to the country to, like, be in the country. Trees, well water, no sidewalks, no traffic, no light pollution, late-night sounds of coyotes rather than teenagers' car stereo speakers rattling the windows, early morning sounds of roosters and not the grinding gears of delivery trucks, my dogs can run free, I can raise sheep, I can drink a beer on my front porch in the evening naked ... The soybean houses, on the other hand, are all suffering from deed restrictions, the dry-rot of property rights. The country is gone in a puff of self-righteous contract law.

A few things come to mind as I watch 3,000 square foot houses pop up like dandelions. I'm going to complain about the first of them today.

Many of the people destined to be my new neighbors are going to be uber-enlightened idiots. They're going to look at the scrap-iron art in my neighbor's yard, declare it an eyesore, and erect privacy fences. Apart from making it suddenly easier to drink beer naked on my front porch, and the joy of watching these homeowners re-erect their fences after each major thunderstorm and blizzard blows them down, I find little as unequivocally ugly as a privacy fence outside of an urban setting – where privacy doesn't grow on trees. In the country, it does if you let it.

These people are also going to take a whiff of the first north breeze and gag on the smell of my horse shit, sheep shit and – my son's doing 4H and insisted on this – chicken shit. Then I'll be thought a nuisance and, well, it's not like I particularly care what they think, it's just awfully sanctimonious of them to move into my neighborhood and then turn up their nose at what's already there.

We already got a small taste of this last year when I walked my girl scout daughter around the new 'hood to sell cookies. At one of the soybean houses we were asked which house we lived in. When our answer, to be made understandable, was forced to include "...the place with the sheep..." the young housewife turned away, almost imperceptibly curled her lip, and emitted a clipped and snooty "...oh!" I sneered right back.

Don't go pretending you're better than me, toots. I don't have to have white-backed curtains if I don't want them, I can lay a tractor tire out in the front yard, fill it with manure and plant petunias in it if I want, and I'm not the one whose conversion of 2 acres of soybeans into manicured lawn caused the property tax rates in the township to jump 5% in one year. You are literally money out of everyone's pocket. We are paying for your presence, and don't you forget it.

It hasn't happened yet, but this has happened within 50 miles of us: Suburban nitwits move to the peaceful country to get away from suburbia, get offended at the reality of country living and so recreate suburbia in the country, and finally start petitions, and sometimes NIMBY lawsuits, to close down the same peaceful country that they wanted to move to because the country, though peaceful, looks junky and smells shitty. They move to the country and kill it.

"NIMBY", of course, means not in my back yard, and besides the self-righteousness associated with telling others what they can or, most often, cannot do on their own property, there's the inescapable fact that the sheep are shitting in my back yard and not theirs; where the smell goes is – like the smells of diesel exhaust on crowded city streets – up to the wind and is part of the environment. My neighbor, as well, is creating scrap iron art in his own back yard; if you don’t like it, don’t look. Keep your anti-rural demands in town, folks.

What most NIMBY despots are saying is not “not in my back yard”; it is, instead, “not in anyone’s back yard”.

And this is what tends to make some of the more aggravating public hypocrisies of the uber-enlightened imbeciles. Almost half of my pre-subdivision neighbors are outright farmers, small-lot cattle ranchers, bee keepers, summertime vegetable stand operators, eggs sellers, hay field lessors, firewood sellers, christmas tree growers, riding stable operators or just recreational horse owners, or some combination of these … or they used to be. On my road, three of the four are now, or once were, involved in agriculture for fun or profit. And the fourth wants to, but not enough to actually do it.

The scrap iron artist used to run cattle in his back lot that his in-laws now hay for their own cattle. The old couple on the corner who died in the last few years used to own all the land around and farm it; a grandchild is now living there, and he works his father’s farm just down the road. I’ve got horses and sheep. The only holdout is the family to the west of us – and they talk to my horses when they tend their blackberry and grape arbors.

…and the only reason I’m not counting their blackberries and grapes as agriculture is because the birds eat their entire crop. I don’t count my apple trees, either.

Agriculture abounds within 3 miles of my barn, in any direction you care to travel. …except for the 40 acres across the road from me that has been rezoned and subdivided into privacy fenced yards filled with snooty suburbanites trying to kill their new environment. They are making farmland disappear. They are forcing the remaining agricultural land to take on a heavier load per acre. This heavier load requires more chemical fertilizers and herbicides for the nation’s crops, and tighter quarters for the nation’s livestock.

But we all know that chemical fertilizers, herbicides and cramped living conditions for livestock is unacceptable. Although, in a great spasm of cosmic irony, the folks to whom it is the most unacceptable are subdivision-ites, as well as their college-bound children who, through the omniscience bestowed upon them by their upbringing of limitless Nintendo and Pokemon, know all there is to know about how to feed a nation of 300 million by having farmland swallowed up in huge, corporate developer land-grabs and turned into deed-restricted suburban wastelands.

My scrap iron artist neighbor is afraid that the zoning changes occurring no more than a wadded-tissue’s throw from his front door will ooze across the private gravel track that serves as our common “road”. He is afraid that he will be forced to stop welding steel pipes onto old iron drums and making … whatever it is they make when welded together. Since our side of the road is [currently] zoned as agricultural we can do, almost literally, what we want – including making scrap iron art.

A residential zoning would prevent him from doing that, of course. And since zoning board are subject to the same short-sighted political pressures that lead to Patriot Acts, mandatory seat belt laws and the rationalizations of both, it’s only a matter of time before enough of the new subdivision’s mental troglodytes convince the zoning board that, y’know, the township will get a larger tax assessment and more property taxes if only the zoning on both sides of the road was residential…

Scrap iron art doesn’t tend to grandfather well, but livestock does. The artist next door is thinking of refencing and getting more cattle. He’s also thinking of razing his house and getting the hell out of dodge. He’s undecided on the matter, needless to say.

I’m not. The new neighborhood is an invasion. Despite the donations any of them may make to Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund or the Sierra Club, they are all, everyone of them, anti-environmental planet-rapers. They are marching into an environment that is not their own, which has an ecosystem as well as an econo-system firmly established, altering it to suit their own selfish tastes, and thus killing the environment they invaded.

Calling it “progress” doesn’t change the fact that subdivisions with deed restrictions exist for the sole purpose of elevating property values. Not only are they killing their environment, but they are doing so for the basest of purposes: personal greed. It’s one thing for a corporation which employs thousands and makes stuff to spit sulphur dioxide into the air and make the weak atmospheric tea of sulfuric acid in the name of company profit, but it’s another when an individual homeowners’ net worth is derived from killing farmland by the hectare.

Many of them, with the fresh blood of another soybean field dripping from the jaws of their hedge trimmers, will then turn around and scold the remaining soybean farmers to grow more soybeans on less land without using the fertilizers and herbicides which pollute the subdivision’s lawns. Environmental murder combines with self-righteous sermonizing to form the pseudo-environmental hypocrisy which dominates so many land-use discussions these days.

Well, folks, not in my back yard. If you move to the country you’d better like the country just the way it is. If you don’t, either remain silent or move back to town.