Writing on the Double Yellow Line

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

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, May 26, 2006

Worship Gaia

Worship Gaia, if You Dare
© 2006, Ross Williams

Meet the Messiah of the Church of Gaia[1]. As with any true messiah, he's unassuming. And humble. He's got legitimately humble roots. He's got roots, period.

He, of course, is Corn. Another messiah we are familiar with, Joshua, has a Greek name – Jesus. Not to be outdone, Corn has a Latin name – Zea mays.

Every good messiah worthy of worship has its ritual practices. With some, it is car-bombing; with others it is communion. With Corn, it is E85.

Messiahs typically have prophecies written about the future of their holy swell-ness, and Corn certainly has its. Corn is here to deliver us from dependence on foreign oil, save the world’s poor from drowning, and provide full domestic employment.

Last, and certainly not least, each messiah demands sacrifices of its adherents and believers and hangers-on in order to live the sacred life and attain salvation. Corn is no different, for the nature[2] of Earth-Mother Gaia is fixed and immutable.

This is where the faith of the true believers shall be tested most strenuously. Gaia can be a cruel goddess, and in her mercy she assigns obscurity and death as punishment; when she's steamed, however, she will punish the false and failed believer with hypocritical renown and a long life to suffer it in. Witness the wunderdope Paul Ehrlich, ersatz priest of Gaiaity, who prophesied doom and gloom and a billion deaths right before the world suffered unparalleled joy and prosperity and the ability to remove entries from the Endangered Species List. The false prophet of latter-day malthusianism is suffering shame into his stammering dotage.

Every religion has its acolytes, the folks who do the grunt work. What would hinduism be without the guys who shovel out the stalls? Or judaism without the folks who remove the leavening from the matzo? Or christianity without the Chinese laborers who spit out millions of crucifii, chains of rosary beads, and the assorted protestant baubles which variously litter the WWJD crowd? Or islam without those who tirelessly churn out the remote triggers, the multi-pocket vests and the plastic explosives?

Corn has its thankless workers as well. Many are called “farmer”.

The acolytes must be given their place in the function of the religion. Without them, the religion dies. When the hindus have no one to clean out their gods’ stalls, the gods move to Bangladesh, where they are indistinguishable from dinner. Without those who pick the baking soda out of the matzo, passover is gornisht, and judaism bupkis. Without the Made-in-China kitsch, christianity might be compelled to stop asking “what would Jesus do” and actually answer it. And possibly live it. Without C4 explosives to chum the desert sands with infidels’ limbs, islam would be left as the Religion of Peace® it’s long-claimed itself to be, instead of the religion of “you wanna piece o’ me?” that it’s been since, roughly, the death of Mohammed.

Without farmers, worshippers at the Church of Earth-Mother Gaia would be doomed to fueling with gasoline, or quitting their jobs so they won’t have to drive from the suburbs, or moving back to the dirty city to be within public transportation distance of their jobs. A due respect, therefore, for each religion’s grunt workers is certainly due from each religion’s adherents.

Faith in the Messiah Corn of the deliverance from the ravages of foreign oil dependency [et al] will take an exacting toll on Gaiaists. It’s doubtful that many would have the necessary righteousness to take on these individual sacrifices. Most have demonstrated a remarkable talent for self-righteousness in demanding, and often getting, the general public to undertake collective sacrifices, but individual sacrifice as a nod toward the reality of their belief system structures seems beyond the horizon… and the believers’ ability.

Americans use 360 million gallons of automotive fuel daily. Since alcohol provides a fraction of the chemical power of pure gasoline, we’re going to need more alcohol than gasoline to get the same work out of our automobiles, i.e., driving miles. It’s only a question of how much more alcohol we’ll need.

According to the figures I’ve been able to find[3], pure gasoline provides 32 bunches of energy[4] per liter, while pure ethanol provides 19.6 bunches of energy. It would stand to reason that E85 provides some bunch of energy per liter between those two figures, closer to pure ethanol. If we are using pure gasoline for our American automobiles, then we multiply the gallons used by the energy per liter and get a figure. It doesn’t matter that this figure is in mixed measurements – gallons used and energy per liter – since we’re dividing it right back out. In order to find out how much pure ethanol we’d have to have to get that same amount of energy we divide our previous answer by the 19.6 energies and we find that we’d need to have 588 million gallons of pure ethanol to get the energy from the 360 million gallons of fuel we currently use daily – assuming the fuel is pure gasoline.

E85 is 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, so we divide the energy of 360 million gallons of gasoline by 15% of 32 energies and 85% of 19.6 energies, and the answer we have is that we’d need to have 537 million gallons of E85 a day.

But some parts of our nation use “gasohol” – 10% ethanol gasoline, which gives 28 bunches of energy per liter. Doing the same operation as above, we find that we’d need to use 514 million gallons of pure ethanol to duplicate what gasohol gives us, or 483 million gallons of E85.[5]

Essentially, and to minimize the boring math involved in making the point, we’re going to need somewhere between one-third and one-half times more fuel to be able to drive the same number of miles as we do now.[6] This translates to … carry the billion … one fucking hell of a lot of corn.

This is where the sacrifices come in. What are you, the Gaiaist purveyor of Global Warming, the barroom foreign policy expert demanding freedom from foreign oil, willing to sacrifice to your new messiah, Corn?

Are you willing to sacrifice your ability to buy up huge tracts of farmland, whimper to the zoning board, and sell that farmland off in quarter-acre parcels to spread the ooze of suburban self-righteousness? How about all the other sacrifices that go along with that?

That much corn needs room to grow, which means that the more suburbs we have carved into farmland the less corn we’ll get, and the more foreign oil we’ll need and the more greenhouse gases we’ll have. Most of the people who inhabit these new suburbs [tend to be] the ones demanding action on Global Warming and foreign oil, which means that they have suddenly become part of the problem, and their messiah Corn is blasphemed in the process.

All this room for growing corn needs to be protected from greedy county councils, who want to increase property tax revenue because the Gaiaists in the new suburbs suddenly demand a Wal-Mart and an Olive Garden and an Old Navy just down the street, as opposed to the Target and the Bennigans and the Kohl’s which are all the way across town. Corn fields will be killed to make property tax-generating shopping centers right next to the corn fields which were killed to make room for 200 quarter-acre-lot tax-generating home sites. The county council makes money and the Gaiaists don’t have to be inconvenienced by driving across town. The messiah Corn is blasphemed again. Oh, when will the heresy end?

But wait! The suburban Gaiaists who demanded Corn-killing shopping centers and restaurants down the street from their new Corn-killing subdivisions now say they aren’t happy having to drive all the way across town to go to work. They want an industrial park and a commercial center and banks just down the street from the Corn-killing shopping district. So they demand the county council change the zoning for “smart growth” [sic] and more corn fields are killed, and the property tax revenues increase. The messiah Corn is getting damned tired of the blasphemy.

But wait yet again! More of the grunt workers in the Church of Earth-Mother Gaia are called “chemical engineers”, and they have created chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides which make more corn grow on less land with less competition from weeds and bugs. But many Gaiaists oppose such chemicals for no other reason than they are chemicals, and many others oppose these chemicals because they drift from the corn fields into the lawns of their Corn-killing subdivisions. And so they sue to stop chemicals, and they demand their county councils pass laws prohibiting chemicals.[7] Chemical engineers have figured out how to recycle chemicals from one industry into chemicals for another, and so the lawsuits claim that the fertilizers might be laden with toxic waste and heavy metals and “persistent organic pollutants” such as dioxin, and because the possibility is claimed to exist, fertilizers are banned just in case.

…and the messiah Corn is being strapped to its cross.

On quiet evenings in the country in late summer, when the verdant corn stands Yao Ming tall, you can almost hear its whispered plea: “My followers, my followers, why have you forsaken me?”

That’s a good question. And there are others, as well. I wonder what sort of answers will come from the environmentalist earth-worshipers:

Are they willing to move their sanctimonious ass back to the city and leave the corn alone? Forgo selfish conveniences like nearby shopping in favor of leaving farmers alone? Demand that city, county and state lawmakers forgo possible property tax revenues that price farmers out of existence? Be satisfied with a bank on every third street corner, instead of every second street corner?

What about the chemical fertilizers? Corn depletes soil nutrients faster than almost every crop around, and if corn is to keep growing, those nutrients must be replaced. If Gaiaists want corn to oxygenate auto exhaust, and foreign policy neophytes want less foreign oil coursing through our carburetors, then the cost of that is chemical fertilizers. So how about it? Can they learn to control their tears? Not to mention their litigation?

Can they demand commercial and residential growth be done in abandoned city lots, and work to stop the ersatz “smart growth” plans which smartly kill corn fields?

Or are they the hypocrites they seem to be?

[1] Hey! Cool! That rhymes!
[2] Ha!
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline
[4] Consult an actual automotive engineer, chemist or physicist for the proper terms
[5] Engineers and other pedants are going to claim that new engine designs will allow future cars to glean just as much power out of a gallon of E85 as is now gotten from gasoline, or close to it, and they’re right. But this doesn’t affect [many] automobiles currently on the road, nor does it affect the basic conclusion that we’ll need more gallons of E85 than gasoline in general, nor does it affect the theme of this essay.
[6] and that means that the cost must by one-third to one-half lower per gallon in order to not spend more on driving, and our gas tanks one-third to one-half larger to not have to fill up more often.
[7] http://www.governor.state.mn.us/Tpaw_View_Article.asp?artid=955
you get the picture… google on “fertilizer ban”.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

When in Doubt

When in Doubt, Blame the Mirror
© 2006, Ross Williams

Why does anyone still listen to this man? He's a rich-kid dilettante with no real skills, just a lot of family money and an ideology to die for. He played soldier once, but managed to avoid any real combat. He bought his way into faux-"leadership", but the brains of the outfit belong to someone else. He just provides a figurehead; he’s the carved wooden totem perched atop the org-chart, at which detractors and enemies take occasional aim.

How many think I'm talking about George Bush?

How many think I'm talking about any number of Democratic aspirants to the presidential yoke now worn by George Bush?[1]

Quit living in your navel; the world does not revolve around US partisan self-importance. I'm talking about Osama bin Laden. The guy whose talent lies solely in being born the son of a father who actually made money – a lot of it – in Saudi construction. Osama, proving that ungrateful children are ungrateful children the world over, spent his college tuition on ideological claptrap, studying under the King Abdulaziz version of Ward Churchill, and while getting his civil engineering and business administration degrees by default he picked up a substantial education in pan-islamist political correctness.

It’s this Mideast-brand of Save The Rainforest that bin Laden has been crusading under ever since, starting in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. He used his family connections to create “charitable” organizations which could funnel money to “his” soldiers, some 12,000 of them – who were his only by dint of a paycheck. Essentially, bin Laden served the same purpose to the Afghan mujahideen as George Clooney serves to any western politically correct cause such as Global Warming: unknowledgeable and inexpert face-timer who panhandles the wealthy, and collects and cashes checks from donors. To describe either as anything but a money-funnel is a serious breach of reality.

The Afghan war against the Soviets ended just in time to volunteer his brigade to the services of the Saudi government to repulse the expansionist Hussein in 1990. But Saudi Arabia is not the ragtag nation-in-name-only that Afghanistan is, and the Saudis preferred to do things in a more traditional manner: by begging western nations for military intervention. This they did, and Osama, like every spurned lover in human history, declared war on his old flame and her new beau.

The simmering rebellion against the Saud family ruling Saudi Arabia for selling out to The West thus boiled over, and there was suddenly one more reason for Arabs and muslims to hate the cultural, economic and military center of The West, the United States. At this point, one more reason was overkill.

But overkill was exactly the plan. There is no shortage of islamist terror organizations which sees the ultimate source of their particular PC islamacy as being “the west” in general and the United States in particular. In fact, the list of islamist terror organizations which can draw a connection from, say, the Philippine heavy-handedness they struggle against to US puppet strings, or Israeli ditto to US ditto is pretty much identical to the list of islamist terror organizations.

Even the Chechen hotheads have said that the “real” reason for ending the Cold War was to free up the ex-Soviet military forces for the purpose of oppressing the muslim peoples of the southern ex-Soviet Union. Even they are blaming the US for Russian heavy-handedness.[2]

While all islamist terror organizations are willing to blame the US for their particular oppression, there aren’t many who have the paramilitary ability to do anything about it. This paramilitary ability is measured in terms of logistical support and technical competence. These are, in turn, acquired by means of cash. Cash was bin Laden’s only virtue. It takes a lot of money to run a military operation, even if it’s a highly efficient military operation – just ask the critics and quibbledicks in the American “loyal opposition” how they feel about the billions spent by the most efficient military in human history in just the past 6 years.

Running an inefficient military operation in a culture that thrives on graft, corruption, bribery and pocket-lining is an even more daunting task. It shouldn’t be too surprising that the Saudi government asked for western military assistance in driving out Saddam’s Raiders. The Saudis, for example, fought the Battle of Khafji virtually on their own, and even with US Marines inside the town[3] directing Saudi attacks, it took the Saudis two days and the addition of US artillery and air support to finally defeat the small Iraqi force. …as opposed to the US, British and French forces that took just over four days to defeat the entire Iraqi army.

Make that inefficient military operation a paramilitary operation, that is, “unofficial” and on the sly even with tacit permission, and you increase the inefficiency exponentially. Tacit permission must be bought.

And for those who want to whimper that western, and particularly American, military is rife with graft, corruption, bribery and pocket-lining, keep in mind that no matter how many misplaced decimal points you can find in Halliburton’s billing records, the US military-industrial complex is a miserly group of constipated, scrupulous and scroogean bookkeepers compared to the parallel institutions in the Arabic and islamist portions of the Middle East – legitimate or not-so.

Not only are pan-islamists inefficient from a strictly fiscal standpoint, but they are inefficient from a manpower perspective as well. Pan-islamist paramilitancy is not often driven by an overriding adherence to a cause, but by slavish devotion to personality, to tribe, or to clan. A particular militancy may be created in response to a cause – the US invasion of Iraq, for example – but over time the various competing militants find other things to squabble about, typically with each other, and those squabbles first overshadow and then overtake their original purpose. Iraqi militants are now largely devoted to Sunni/Shi’a sectarian pyrotechnics rather than driving the US out of their country. All in about three years.

Look for a brief moment, as well, at the groups which [claim to] serve the primary purpose of pushing Israel into the sea: Hamas and Fatah. There are others, most notably Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, but these will adequately serve.

Hamas and Fatah are based in the “occupied territories” of Gaza and the West Bank. If they would merge and operate a war of attrition against Israel even using the same tactics they employ today – crude bombs strapped to their waist – they could coordinate attacks, severely disrupt Israeli infrastructure, deplete its military forces and save their own money with which they could buy more guns, bullets and crude explosives. It is entirely possible to kill an otherwise healthy person by strapping him to an anthill … Israel is reasonably healthy and Palestine is [politely] viewed as an anthill.

But no. It’s more important for these pan-islamists to unnecessarily divide forces with a common stated purpose, line individual pockets, and waste their resources. As a result, when Hamas was elected to “govern” the Palestinians, the first thing they did was attack Fatah. And the Israelis watching this are biting their lower lip, trying not to laugh out loud. Israel’s survival to this point is due in no small part to the colossal incompetence of the Arab and muslim military mindset.

It was incompetence that attempted to blow up the World Trade Center with the same car bombs that work in Tel Aviv bar mitzvahs and Jerusalem’s sidewalk cafes. Um, Mr Civil Engineer, US skyscrapers are not made with the same brittle mud bricks used throughout the Middle East; a car bomb under a US high-rise will make a fire, kill some people, and make New York smell worse than it typically does, but the World Trade Center will stand.

D’oh! Back to the ol’ drawing board. The rich-kid civil engineer who knew enough civil engineering to make New York City smell bad joined forces with the cash-strapped but comparatively competent Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri [recently of Islamic Jihad] to try it once again. Together, they concocted a plan to turn airplanes into makeshift guided missiles.

And when we use the word “together” here, we need to understand that the conversation went something like this:

Osama: I’ve been aiming at the infidel zionist-crusader United States for many years and have always missed…

Ayman: No need to explain; we have all seen this and you shame us.

Osama: …but I still want to beard the zionist lion in his den.

Ayman: Write me a blank check and give me the pick of your men, and I will get it done.

Many people think bin Laden was the mastermind behind 9-11. That’s as preposterous as calling George Clooney the scientific genius who hypothesized Global Warming. Bin Laden begs for donations and that’s the end of his talent; he merely funded 9-11.[4]

Through everything, though, bin Laden has a goal: ruin, emasculate, defeat and destroy the linchpin of current Western culture and influence, the United States – the scapegoat for the morose, petulant pan-islamist blamelayer. If this goal can be aided by embarrassing the US, and fomenting partisan political bickering, confusion and self-doubt, then that’s what he’ll do.

The US recently convicted Zacarias Moussaoui, the [occasionally] admitted “20th hijacker”, for his failed role in 9-11. Last night a website loaded an audio message, purportedly from bin Laden, declaring that Moussaoui was not involved in 9-11 at all[5], with bin Laden saying, essentially, “I should know, I made the personnel assignments.”

The purpose of the wooden figurehead of the most notorious terrorist group in the US-centric worldview is to cause some people in the US to say, “Ah-HA!! I knew the government didn’t know what it was doing when they put this guy on trial. See that, US Government? You’re incompetent!!” And in the ensuing confusion and self-doubt, the US may, for a fraction of a second, forget what it’s doing in Afghanistan and Iraq and every other place it is taking on pan-islamist militancy. At the very least, one group of American know-nothings is quibbling with the next.

We’re back once again to the basic question we had prior to invading Iraq: who are we willing to believe? The leaders of the US, who are politicians baldly manipulating the voters in order to get and keep a job? or foreign tyrants who have done in the past what our leaders are accusing them of doing now, and are just a general pain in the world’s ass besides?

And what did we seriously expect bin Laden to say? “Curses! Foiled again! I’ll get you next time, America!”? Reality is not the plot from Batman: The Movie XVII.

No matter who we put on trial for complicity in 9-11, bin Laden or al-Zawahiri [or both] will tell us that we’ve convicted the wrong guy, that the real guy is still out there, or non-existent, or both. If we capture bin Laden, al-Zawahiri will be on video the next day claiming that bin Laden isn’t the right guy; if we capture al-Zawahiri, bin Laden will do ditto.

In each, there will be groups of Americans willing to believe what people sworn to kill us say; these gullible Americans will demand official investigations into how we could have been so wrong, and some in Congress will be willing to lead the investigation. Our free press, sworn to uphold the principle of objective dichotomy[6] rather than the rational sniff-test, is always willing to give our enemies the benefit of the doubt they deny our own leaders.

Just because the Justice Department had enough evidence to put the guy on trial and he confessed anyway doesn’t necessarily mean he did it, and besides, we’ve got bin Laden himself saying the guy wasn’t involved. How much more do we need to question our own government?

Thus self-doubt is spread.

It shouldn’t make any difference. Zacarias Moussaoui is a terrorist. Whether or not he is the “20th hijacker” is more or less irrelevant. He confessed to being a terrorist, which satisfies our strictly legal requirements, and that makes him one of the folks we’re at war with; he’s in our custody and he’s not terrorizing us now. If we get a belly-full of conscience and let him go because bin Laden is sneering at us, what is this terrorist going to do? attack us the first chance he gets. Even if he fails because we’re watching him doubly close we’ve still wasted our time and resources to catch him again after we let him go for committing the wrong terrorism. Even if he fails because he’s borderline psychotic and that’s the only reason we caught him in the first place, we’ve again wasted our resources. On the off-chance he succeeds in some small act of terrorism against us, then it’s one small act that was unnecessary to endure.

Pan-islamists are trying to confuse us. They’re standing behind the bushes taunting us, daring us to play their game. Their game is, again, inefficiency, wasting resources, and in-fighting. If we play their game, the one they’ve perfected over millennia, they win.

[1] Not to mention names, but those who fit this description might be Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.
[2] It was this once-claimed conspiracy that served as the backdrop for a recent season of 24.
[3] they had been trapped by the invading Iraqis, but the Iraqis were too dumb to realize they were there
[4] And frankly, spending a lot of effort to capture bin Laden is more or less a waste of time, although it might be viewed in the same vein as catching Al Capone’s bookkeeper: it ultimately led to the downfall of the Capone dynasty in Chicago.
[5] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/05/23/binladen.tape/index.html
[6] Objective Dichotomy: if the President says “2+2=4” he’s either right or he’s wrong, which makes it even odds either way, so we shouldn’t assume that the President is right; he’s just as likely to be wrong.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Full Nancy

The Full Nancy
© 2006 Ross Williams

High and tight is just as valid a pitch location as low and away, and the mixture of both makes a pitcher imposing. But in the creeping nancification of baseball, high and tight – once called a "purpose pitch" – is viewed largely as an attempt to hurt the hitter. It would seem that the purpose of such a pitch is presumed, and the presumption is universally sinister.

Even low and tight is frequently seen as the big bully pitcher picking on the poor defenseless batter. It's gotten to the point where, in order to avoid the widespread beanball wars of baseball's Classical Era[1], any pitch that sails in too tight to a batter requires the umpire to warn both benches, such that the very next inside pitch results in the expulsion of the pitcher and his manager. Then, if the other team's pitcher "retaliates" by so much as throwing a strike over the inner half of the plate, another pitcher and manager get tossed.

The league office will then usually hand down suspensions and fines, and the game of baseball is saved from having batters getting the dickens frightened out of them by a pitch coming anywhere near them. Well, fine, girls, if that’s the way you want it.

The rationalization used is that the only reason for throwing inside is to hurt someone. And the batter can get hurt, yes. Sometimes severely. I'm a Cubs fan, and in my lifetime I've seen Andre Dawson get plowed in the face by a fastball from Eric Show[2], and Sammy Sosa get hit in the face by a fastball from Salomon Torres. Sosa, afraid of a repeat, altered his batting stance by hitting from the fungo circle and his batting average and power numbers dropped precipitously as a result. However, his strikeouts increased, so at least something went up afterwards.

One-time Cubs manager Don Zimmer wears a metal plate in his head after getting beaned in 1954. And Ray Chapman died from injuries sustained by getting hit in the head by a pitch – which was a strike. Chapman was the Craig Biggio of the 20s. So batting can be dangerous.

But pitching can be, too. Matt Clement of the Boston Red Sox [nee Cubs] had his head used as a pinball bumper by a line drive off the bat of Carl Crawford. The Cubs Mark Prior had his throwing arm broken by a line drive. Apparently, the only reason for hitting a ball back through the box is to hurt someone. Line drives up the middle should be met with expulsion as well.

...and don't tell me you can't control where you hit the ball. You don't see "pull hitters" by accident. "Oh, it's just a coincidence that most power hitters pull the ball..." Uh huh, right. And it's a similar coincidence that Pete Rose gets defensive whenever someone says “Dowd Report”.

Be consistent, people.

You don't slide spikes up unless you're trying to hurt someone. This is hardly news, and it really should go without saying ... but let's just casually mention the bastard Ty Cobb and his bastard file for the heck of it. Consistency demands immediate expulsion for the spike slider. Can't tell when the spikes are up? That's easily solved: if they're showing then they're up enough to hurt. Therefore you slide while wearing spikes, you're out of the game. Many recreational leagues have this rule already, for this reason. Others have prohibited spikes. If baseball's going nancy, then they need to do it without the half-measures. Get on the ball, folks.

You also don't slide out of the basepath on a double play unless you're trying to hurt a middle infielder. Apart from violating the rules that have existed in baseball since Abner Doubleday stole the game from the Algonquin Indians or from some kids in New Jersey or whomever it is convenient among sports conspiracists to theorize upon, "breaking up the double play" has never been accomplished once with the maneuver. The old "fake to third throw to first" has worked more often[3], as has the hidden ball trick. So therefore ... the only reason for sliding out of the basepath is to try to put a shortstop or second baseman on the DL.

Since rules are arbitrary, capricious and quasi-totalitarian unless they are consistent ... you slide outside the basepath, you leave the game. And sliding can only be done now while wearing sneakers or "turf shoes", of course, since spikes can't be worn by nancyboys afwaid of being huwt – insert gratuitous Jim Edmonds reference here.

You also don't slide elbows out and knees up unless you're trying to hurt someone. If you've watched baseball recently you know exactly what I'm getting at. Michael Barrett got cheap-shotted by A. H. Pierzynski at home plate on Saturday, May 20 2006. A. H. "slid" elbows out and knees up in a manner entirely consistent with professional wrestling, and A. H. being a catcher, he should really know better than to do that to another catcher.

If I'd been Barrett and A. H. had done to me what he did to Barrett, A. H. wouldn't merely be nursing a sore jaw, he'd have a dent in the back of his skull roughly the size and shape of a baseball bat the next time I came to the plate. Sorry, there, A. H., I lost the grip on the back-swing. My bad ... asshole.

I come by my attitude about these matters honestly. I'm smaller than your average adult male, but I've always liked baseball and tried playing as often as possible. Being smaller, though, I was never allowed to play actual baseball. Coaches and gym teachers in high school kept saying I'd get hurt[4], and none of the kids playing would ever pick me, even if it meant that one team had fewer players and not enough on the field. They'd share players before allowing me to play.

But I was better than most of them anyhow, and I played church league softball. I was 15 and playing second when one of the players on the other team[5], a college-age guy who played baseball in high school but was too dumb to make it to college, hit a double to short left. A good throw might have gotten him at second and I was straddling the bag on the right field side to take the throw. The guy "slid" knees up and shoulder out as I was catching the ball, shoved his shoulder into my stomach and flipped me – not a real show of strength by any means, since I probably didn't weigh a hundred pounds at the time. I landed flat on my back and lost the ability to breathe for a good minute and a half. Still had the ball though.

My shortstop, George, who could easily have passed for Charles Bronson's younger brother, did his alpha-male chest-butting on him. "Clean slide, clean slide," the guy kept saying as he was being backed around the infield, chortling about taking me out. What George said in response was impolite and did not fit the demeanor of a church league game, but was entirely appropriate.

Once I could breathe the game resumed. A few innings later, the bad-ass dude who flipped me was on first base and the batter up after him hit a grounder to short. George underhanded me the ball to get the force at second and I saw Mr Cleanslide running straight up towards me as I turned to make the throw to first to complete the double play. I threw towards first as hard as I could, but the ball didn't get more than 25 feet before it bounced with a thwack off the runner’s forehead. He hit the ground in a tangle and the ball bounced to Vinny in right field, who kept the batter from advancing. No error since you can’t assume the double play.

Once the ball came back to the infield, George, who knew I had virtually impeccable aim, asked me in a whisper, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?"

Of course I did. And so did the base runner. Flipping me was about as fun for him as denting his face was to me – he had visible stitch marks over his right eyebrow for the rest of the game. You don't slide like that unless you’re trying to hurt someone. Doesn't get any simpler. Doesn’t matter if you’re some punk ass church leaguer or some punk ass big leaguer: if you want to hurt someone, slide knees up and lead with your shoulder or elbows.

That’s exactly what A. H. Pierzynski did. And he got immediately clocked for it, which merely lacked subtlety. The press has been quoting everyone declaring that it was a clean slide – A. H. and his teammates because they have a vested interest in maintaining the fantasy, and Barrett and his teammates because they have a vested interest in acknowledging the inappropriateness of actually throwing a punch in order to keep Barrett’s suspension to a minimum. But for everyone else to say anything other than the truth is inexcusable. The only reason for A. H. Pierzynski to slide the way he did was to hurt Barrett.

For those who’ve seen the video clips who will continue to maintain a right-angle-to-reality view and insist that the slide was clean, let me just recite the names Pete Rose and Ray Fosse. Pete Rose “slid” elbows- and knees-first into catcher Ray Fosse during the 1970 All Star game, scored the winning run, and injured Fosse so badly that he never played a meaningful game of baseball again. “Clean slide” was the claim then, as well, by the handful who were happy to see Charlie Hustle getting the glory for the National League; “dirty play” and “cheap shot” was the claim by those who weren’t – which is nearly everyone else.

Today’s hypocrites are going to claim that, well, an All Star game isn’t quite the same thing; Fosse wasn’t expecting such an aggressive slide and that’s why he got hurt. Sorry, but it is the same thing, and that same thing is: the only reason you slide elbows-first is to try to hurt someone. The only difference is that Barrett stood up and clocked Pierzynski; Fosse’s shoulder was separated and he couldn’t take a swing.

The nannies of Major League Baseball are going to review the film, give Barrett a five- to seven-game suspension for taking a swing at a guy who was trying to hurt him. And they’re going to do nothing to the guy who started it all by trying to hurt Barrett. This is then going to pass as “discipline”.

Baseball has a ways to go in attaining complete sissification. And if I were in charge we’d do one of a few things here:

1] Michael Barrett would get a five-game sit-down and so would A. H. Pierzynski. Both of them tried hurting the other. Similarly, inside pitches would be met with suspension, as would people who charge the mound after being thrown at, or slide spikes up, or slide out of the basepath. Consistency, and we get the full nancy that so many seem to want[6]. Or:

2] What happens on the field stays on the field, and if A. H. Pierzynski wants to pretend he’s Hulk Hogan or Sgt Slaughter by pulling a Tombstone Piledriver, then he can get cold-cocked for his trouble, and it’s all even. Both players will get tossed out of the game, but that’d be the end of it. And similarly, the pitcher who wants to throw inside can thrown inside, and when he comes up to the plate he gets to face a pitcher who may want to throw inside himself[7]. More consistency, but it assumes that the grown-ups who play the game are, like, adults or something.

Pick one.

[1] No legitimate “beanball wars” have been found, ever, at any time in baseball’s history, though many are claimed. http://www.thebaseballpage.com/features/2003/beanball_history.htm
[2] who then got tackled by former linebacker and sometime-third baseman Keith Moreland
[3] and half the time it’s the Cubs who get caught by it
[4] this was before even the professional ball players went all sissy on us
[5] Choconut Center
[6] http://www2.jsonline.com/sports/brew/ap/jul01/ap-bba-blue-jays-y072201.asp?format=print
[7] and if I were in charge, there’d be no DH

Friday, May 05, 2006

Crime-Fighting by Proxy

Crime-Fighting by Proxy
© 2006 Ross Williams

I pay a lot in taxes. More than most, not as much as some. Taxes on income, taxes on purchases, taxes for living on a piece of land. Taxes to the county, to the state, to the federal government. Fees to drive a car so that I can go to work and earn the income that gets taxed. Fees to avail myself of specific government services.

...which has never, ever made sense to me. We pay taxes to, among other things, create national parks so that we can go to them and get warm fuzzies while cuddling nature. Yet in order to go see the national park, we have to pay a fee. They tell us, "...because the National Park System is paid for by user-fees."

Then why am I paying taxes? and why is there a line-item in the budget for national parks under the Department of the Interior?

Courts, same thing. If anyone's been to court, you're going to be hit with "court costs". Doesn't need to be anything criminal. Don't even need to sue anyone, get sued or even have a speeding ticket. Change your name, change the title on your home, or just look up your property tax records, they'll charge you a filing fee, administrative fee or court costs. Sorry, but taxes pay these costs. It's your job to do this stuff, courts and courthouses, and you are paid by my taxes to do it. I already gave at the office.

It's infuriating when the government I pay to provide a service won't provide that service unless I pay them more money. That’s called bribery. When I slip the maitre'd a five-spot I expect to get seated ahead of the riff-raff, or get the corner table away from the main traffic lanes. Bribery and fine dining traditionally go hand in hand.

Bribery and government officials traditionally go hand in hand as well, but it's supposed to be illegal. It is when the citizen initiates the bribe, at any rate. But if the government official initiates the bribe transaction, it's often called a "fee". I'm required to slip the clerk of the court a seventeen-fifty-spot just to get them to do what they are already paid to do: change the title on my property.

How long would people go to a restaurant that required the customers to kick in a fiver just to get seated at all, even near the kitchen, a buck each time to get water and refills, two-fifty to give your order and another two-fifty to get it served, two bits each for the salad and rolls, and then have to pay the check besides? I'd pay to have the waitress not come around and ask "how's everything tasting?" -- I can flag her down if something isn't acceptable -- but for the rest of it, it would never fly. That's one out-of-business restaurant.

When we pre-pay for services we shouldn't have to pay when we get them. That's the government or the restaurant not doing its job.

But it's not only the government getting pre-paid to do a job and then demanding to be paid again when asked to get off its ass and do it that infuriates. It's the government getting pre-paid to do a job and then turning around and pawning that job off on others. And usually onto others who aren’t even in the government.

That's a lot of gall, right there.

Why exactly do we pay taxes? Why do we even have a government if they can't, don't or won't do their jobs?

We don't want kids to drink, and so we make underage drinking a crime. That's reasonable. But there's a whole lot of kids and not so many cops to watch them. If they watch for drunk kids they can't watch for murderers. So the government creates proximate crimes, and what is legal to do becomes illegal under specific circumstances because the government doesn't have the time or ability to police the matter. The government pushes the responsibility for policing underage drinking off onto retailers.

We start with underage drinking being a crime but it can't be adequately enforced, so we demand that retailers do the policing instead. If the retailer refuses, or does it improperly, we penalize the retailer. Under threat of penalty, the retailer imposes all sorts of nosy, busy-body rules and starts "carding hard" and annoying people because the real crime of underage drinking is too difficult to enforce by traditional means. A crime-once-removed is substituted and we have people and institutions not trained or authorized by law or constitution to enforce laws being commanded to enforce a law. And the cops who would otherwise be looking for underage drinkers…? They’re now setting up sting operations to catch retailers not “carding”. SO much easier.

Retailers aren’t obliged to follow “equal protection” or other such constitutionalities, and so we see spotty, haphazard and frankly capricious and arbitrary rules on how to enforce this crime-once-removed.

“We card everyone”. If the government said that, they’d actually have to do it. If the local convenience store says it, they don’t. So if you’re standing in line with a sixer of cheap American beer behind five others with ditto, and they let the first five pass without checking and only annoy you by demanding you to justify yourself before daring to buy beer, they can’t be held liable. You can’t sue them for not following their own rules. The government would be on the hook for “equal treatment” and any conviction would be tossed. Even your refusal to comply would be dismissed as unenforceable.

“We card under 35”. So if you’re 36…? You can still get carded. They don’t have to follow their rules. What it amounts is, in other words: “We demand that you justify yourself!!”

Here’s the thing: I don’t need to; I’m a free citizen in a free country. “But, but, but … what if you’re underage?” Indeed. What if? If I’m underage then I’ll be the one responsible, won’t I? That’s the price of freedom: responsibility. Underage drinking is the real crime – and I’m old enough that I passed “underage” when I turned 18 in high school – and selling to minors is proximate. It is cowardly governmental capitulation.

The moment we made selling alcohol to minors a crime the government admitted the following:
we are incompetent;
we can’t do our job;
we demand that you still pay us for doing the job we can’t do;
we demand that you do the job for us.

And if we don’t? We get punished. Boy, if that don’t show those underage drinkers a thing or two…

Here’s what it shows kids: “Hey, if we try to buy booze and they card us, they’ll turn us down and at most we’ll get embarrassed. If they don’t card us we’ll have booze. Since it’s too hard for the cops to check us all we’ll be able to drink until we puke. And if they get caught selling booze to us… they’ll be the ones to get in trouble, not us.” It’s a win-win for the kids, ainnit?

You don’t think the kids don’t know that?

You’re the cops; you enforce the law. Don’t make the retailers do it for you. And don’t penalize retailers for not doing your job for you the way you want them to. It’s your job, not theirs.

Other incompetent government agencies who can’t do their job, demand we still pay them for not doing what they can’t do has been in the news recently. A lot. The INS.

It’s the INS’s job to ensure that the people in the US are supposed to be here. Being here when you’re not supposed to be is against the law. When you are here against the law, you’re supposed to be escorted to the border. “We know there are many choices in emigration today and we thank you for choosing the USA, but the next time please have your boarding pass filled out before you come. Buh-bye now.”

But the INS can’t do their job. They’ve capitulated. Thrown in the towel. Some Mexicans cross the border with marijuana, so let’s make DEA watch the borders for a while. Other Mexicans cross the border with weapons – like … um … Pancho Villa – so let’s have ATF do some border patrol as well. For a while, the raging paranoiacs declared that Mexico was the perfect conduit for pan-islamist terrorists and so therefore the US military should be doing border patrol. Not only does that plan run smack up against posse comitatus, but the premise behind it is laughably absurd if you know anything about Central America or Central Americans.

Not to belabor a point, but pan-islamist terrorists wouldn’t survive Mexico or Mexicans.

The government agency whose job it is to control immigration can’t do that job and has declared that other people need to do that job instead. Congress has given us laws that erect private-industry pseudo-cops … essentially: the HR department at Wal-Mart. As one of the nation’s largest employers, Wal-Mart is required to police the nation for illegal immigrants.

Except that Wal-Mart has no law enforcement training, nor do they have the legal authority. But if they don’t do this policing they will face civil or criminal penalty, and they are thus coerced into becoming a pseudo-cop in proxy for the incompetent INS. Untrained law enforcers who are not required to abide by constitutional precept thereupon demand that free citizens in a free country justify themselves before daring to get a job – on the off-chance that they’ll snag an illegal immigrant.

It’s not only Wal-Mart required to do this. Every employer is required to do INS’s job for it. Even for jobs – like mine – which do not get filled by illegal immigrants because foreigners who do what I do are going to stay in their own countries where they will be considered upper class; here, they’d be just another face among the faceless middle class dweebery.

And the illegal immigrants, at least as clever as our teenagers, are savvy to the methods used to catch them, too. This is why they have social security cards and drivers licenses. Properly- or improperly-acquired is irrelevant[1]; the illegals have the documentation that citizens have, and when Wal-Mart asks for their documentation, the illegals provide it. Yet Wal-Mart is still legally liable if illegals are caught stocking the shelves. Which means that Wal-Mart’s nosiness and intrusion must elevate to keep themselves from being penalized for being unable to do INS’s job for it, and which even INS can’t do.

It’s like kicking your cat because you bounced a check when buying cat food. Balancing the checkbook is your job, not the cat’s. You can tell the cat all day long that if the check bounces you’ll kick it, but there’s nothing that the cat can – or should – do about it. When you kick the cat it doesn’t fix the bounced check but it advertises yourself as an irresponsible cat-kicker.

I’ve mentioned before the analogy that’s most useful here: when a homeless guy [nee: bum on the street] breaks into your home because it’s warm and dry and you have food in the fridge, our national dialogue can only think of two things to do with him. The first suggestion, proffered by the moronic and paranoid right wing of our political spectrum is to accuse the guy of stealing the silver and put him on trial for burglary. The second suggestion, tearfully advocated by the brainless and simpering left wing of our political spectrum is to provide your intruder the spare bedroom, an extra set of house and car keys, and require that you put the guy on your medical insurance plan.

We are bandying these idiotic notions around because the idiotic solution we’ve been operating under for years hasn’t worked a lick. The solution we’ve been using is, of course, to punish you, the homeowner, for having a warm, dry and food-filled house that the homeless guy wanted to break into. Shame on us.

The government needs to start doing what we pay it to do, and stop pushing off onto us the responsibility for those things it has failed at doing – and then punishing us when their job doesn’t get done. Underage drinking is being policed by retailers; the war against meth is being fought by drug stores; and responding to illegal immigration is being done by HR departments across the nation.

Proximate crime isn’t the way to police a free country.

[1] although I find it quite ironic that when Wal-Mart gets fooled by an illegal immigrant with a phony Social Security card and drivers license it results in a fine imposed on Wal-Mart, but when the government gets fooled into giving out those Social Security cards and drivers licenses that fooled Wal-Mart in the first place the government is immune from penalty.