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

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Revenge of the Hate Speech

Revenge of the Hate Speech
© 2006 Ross Williams

Ozzie Guillen doesn't have a nickname that adequately describes his baseball-related talents. I don't mean his baseball talents; he was a darn good shortstop while he played and he's a darned good manager now that he doesn't.

But his baseball-related talents – the skills that are associated with, but not directly involving, baseball. Leo Durocher was called Leo the Lip, which fit like a glove. And that might work for Ozzie... except that it's taken. Besides, “Ozzie the Lip” doesn't roll off the alliterative tongue.

Something like "Ozzie the Ossified Ideology Ignorer" ... only shorter. And, like Ozzie himself, blunter. And, preferably, also like Ozzie himself, in strangled English.

Ozzie Guillen is, as we all know, the manager of the Chicago White Sox. The Sox, as both of their fans know, not to mention the other 39,000 who eventually showed up for the Bring Your Parole Officer to the Park night, are the World Champions. And this means that Ozzie gets special attention. His words, now, to the best abilities of the translators, are heard, transcribed, and printed everywhere. Back when the Sox played like the, um, Cubs it was much easier for Ozzie to simply speak to the fans directly. A conference call sufficed.

Oh, many of us raised our eyebrows last year[1] and some of us even raised our hackles when Ozzie called a friend of his a homosexual. This friend is not a homosexual, of course, but Ozzie called him one. Why? Because back in his native Venezuela, ribbing your buddies in such a manner is the way it's done.

Well, we can’t be completely insensitive to his native culture even if his native culture is insensitive, so let’s look the other way. But just this once.

Last week, Ozzie called Jay Mariotti, a sports reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and sometime-ESPN waggling tongue, a fag[2]. Now, Jay, of course, is not a homosexual, but some might argue that he's pretty gay, and, well, writing hatchet-pieces in a publication like the Sun-Times which is read by at least as many people as the White Sox now have fans – not to mention their parole officers – while never bothering to talk to the people he's hatcheting in print is kinda faggy. So Ozzie called him one.

Millions of Chicagoans, Cubs and Sox fans both, high-fived Ozzie in abstentia.[3] Not that it matters once the second-string “F-word” comes out – gays are going to take righteous offense no matter what – but these people celebrated the insult because Mariotti is not well-liked.

The High Commissars of Major League Baseball, on the other hand, got their panties in a wad and ordered Ozzie into “sensitivity training” for dusting off his First Amendment. Let's be honest about it, and not mince around the bush like fellow-hispanic player-turned-coach Mariano Duncan – or "Mewling Mariano" if you prefer: "We are here in America, where you can speak freely. But you don't say everything that comes to your mind."[4]

Um, Mariano, mi hombrito? If you can speak freely but get “sensitized” for it[5], then you can't speak freely. If you can speak freely but have to censor yourself to avoid being accused of embarrassing everyone else who comes from the same part of the world, then you can't speak freely.

Freedom is a simple but complicated thing… it’s simply complicated. If you are free then chances are real good you're going to offend somebody. If your society is free, chances are real good that you'll be offended, more or less on a daily basis. And you'll be free, of course, to complain, but you will not be free to stop it from occurring now, prevent it from occurring in the future, or penalize it when it occurs at any time. For the freedom to declare what is "appropriate" use of freedom and proscribe all else is tyranny – which is supposed to be against the law.

Many people who don't like being offended, and who think they are so special that they should never be offended, have complained. Well, they're entitled. Who likes being offended? I certainly don't. People who deliberately offend others are often small-minded and boorish.

But the easily-offended have convinced enough legislators that being offensive is worse than being a tyrant, and so legislatures the nation over have diluted our First Amendment to the widespread glee of the tissue-skinned. Being offensive in public gains censure, public rebuke, and sometimes criminal penalty.

Can't call a homosexual a fag; can't call a Jew a kike; can't call a black a nigger; can't call an Italian a wop; ...a Mexican a beaner; ...a Chinaman a chink [or even a chinaman[6]]; ...you get the picture. It's rude, yes, but under the law it's beyond rude. It's unlawful under many circumstances and is elevated to the level of "fightin' words!".

Fightin' Words! are words you say that simply infuriate me to the point that my only option is to slug you. They are words that are assumed to be used specifically to infuriate to the point of violence.

In other words: "I can't control myself, so it's all your fault for being rude".[7]

We have the self-righteous temerity to call it “hate speech”. The only reason anyone would be rude is because of hate. That is certainly the case sometimes, of course; one could even argue – if willing to go to the self-important degree of assigning instant psycho-babble analysis upon the roughly 300 million Americans who are routinely rude – that it’s the case most of the time. But “only”? That smacks of moral absolutism, which the purveyors of cultural and social moral relativism cannot, for consistency purposes, ever ever indulge.

…unless they can rationalize such absolutism from a relative perspective. For example, if they were to hold the position that only white males who are not gay, Jewish, Italian, Polish, et cetera can be rude absolutely due to hate, while others would have their rudeness excused part of the time – like while being rude to the aforementioned. But I’m just being cynical, here; the gatekeepers of modern social morality are neither that self-serving nor that grasping.

Of course not. Silly me.

At any rate, the “woe is me” notion of fightin’ words! is out of pandora’s box. There’s enough people who want their own special fightin’ words! – and enough others who will sympathize out of mutual back-scratching cooperation – that these fightin’ words! are not going back in the box any time soon.

And, as with so many other things, if you can’t fight fightin’ words!, you might as well get some of your own. “Nigger” and “fag” aren’t the only objectionable pieces of rudeness around that some groups find offensive. There’s some people who so love everything about the United States that those Americans who criticize it or hold it up for specific ridicule have … are you ready? … uttered fightin’ words! themselves.

Of course I’m talking here of burning the US flag. A cherished tradition among a certain segment of our self-indulgent, who are nearly equal in number to White Sox fans when they aren’t winning the World Series. But to another – rather, several other – groups of Americans [somewhat self-indulgent themselves, naturally], burning an American flag is … not to put too rude a point on it … pretty much the same to them as it would be to call a Jew a heeb, or a Pole a pollack, or an Arab a raghead[8], or … you get the point, I’m sure.

Or you should, because of moral relativism.

And, moral relativism being what it is, it should be axiomatic to those who want to ban “nigger” and brainwash Ozzie for calling Mariotti a fag that the self-indulgent simpleton who burns the US flag should be punished for it. It constitutes fightin’ words! to the VFW. American veterans just can’t control themselves, y’know. You burn the flag, it’s all your fault for getting punched in the face afterwards; the veteran with bruised knuckles is blameless. Natural reaction.

Hate speech is hate speech. Burning a flag is a form of speech, so the theory goes, and burning it demonstrates great hatred[9] … the ACLU particularly should have no problem with this potential constitutional amendment, since they support so many other attempts to prohibit “hate speech”.

As for me, I’m not enjoying this particular moment in US legislative history. At all. I find it very insulting to my intelligence. Veritably offensive[10]. The simpleton-enablers in Congress and other legislatures around the nation are making every other form of insult we have punishable. There’s just too many Americans demanding to have their own special insult declared beyond the pale of garden variety political immaturity.

I hope everyone’s pleased with themselves. You made this bed with your political bed-fellows; now lie in it. Don’t forget to leave room for Mariotti. But a word of caution: he doesn’t like bed-wetters.

[1] before the World Series, when Commiskey Park still had attendance figures in the single digits
[2] Plus or minus some modifying adjectives.
[3] http://jaythejoke.com/
[4] http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/chi-0606260095jun26,1,1680962.story?coll=chi-sportswhitesox-hed
[5] Other possible terms: indoctrinated, or brainwashed. Substitute as you prefer.
[6] http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-0606130185jun13,1,6720027.story
[7] I find it ironic that the “fighting words doctrine”, as it is pretentiously termed by legal scholars, arose in 1942 because a cop in New Hampshire arrested a Jehovah’s Witness named Chaplinsky for calling the cop “a god-damned racketeer” and a “damned fascist”. Those were “fighting words” according to the USSC, and the arrest was upheld. Yet how many of the critics of the current administration use those very words and are not arrested…? Instead, it is they, when called “terrorist sympathizers” and “treasonous”, who more often complain about being called names.
[8] Thank god it isn’t a criminal offense to call the French frogs – yet. There’s still a few allowable vices left.
[9] For the record, I agree with the theory: burning a flag is speech which shows hatred; I just disagree that hate speech of any form should be prohibitable. Nothing and no one is that sacred.
[10] …and do we really need to spell out what is possible when offense is taken?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Billions for Remedy

Billions for Remedy, Not a Penny to Monitor
© 2006 Ross Williams

I've worked for the government[1] or on government[2] contracts almost non-stop for going on three decades. I've got a clearance. I have "access".

I only use my "access" when absolutely necessary, and only after taking every possible effort to avoid it. The problem with "access" is that the information you get with it is often identical [at least in my position] to the information you get without it. Any given piece of data – let’s call it Fact ‘X’ – rarely means anything on its own. More often, it is the analysis of the raw data, Fact ‘X’ placed in the context of facts ‘1’ through ‘9’, which is the secret.

I have access only to raw, classified data, almost none of which is truly “classified”. Why is this a problem? Because if I get the exact same raw, uncontextual data from the "high side" I have to destroy it, or secure it, even if there's nothing specifically "classified" about it. And they [yes, we also worry about the nebulous and notorious "they"] know the difference.

Mishandling classified information is not only grounds for dismissal, but also prosecution. I can be sent to jail for cutting and pasting the same random string of alphanumeric gibberish into an email – if I get the random string from the wrong window. If I cut-n-paste from the unclassified window next to it, and which looks exactly like the classified window, there’s no problem.

As a result, I avoid the classified system[s] I work on with as much energy as I can muster. It's just not worth the aggravation.

So, as someone who has "access", I can sympathize with the schmuck in the VA who took home a laptop which had a disk with 26.5 million names and social security numbers – including mine, by the way – contained in it. The laptop was stolen from his home in what appears to be a routine home invasion-slash-robbery, meaning that the loss of this data was just one of those freaks of badly-timed coincidence we've all undergone at one point or another. I can very easily sympathize with the guy. Yet I still want to smack him in the forehead with my own work computer – which is not a laptop. We in defense don't rate laptops, I guess.

This twerp, apparently not fully understanding the aggravation of dealing with such classified information in the first place[3], is transferring to me the aggravation I've always sought to avoid, and which I really don't need. Along with the rest of the country, too.

It's aggravating because there is a potential, infinitesimal though it is, that this information was taken for the express purpose of using the data – names and social security numbers – for committing consumer fraud. Credit fraud most likely. Creating new credit cards using my credit rating [not to mention the other 26.499999 million other credit ratings] that can be gotten by using the name and social security number combination, and with those potentially millions and millions of new credit cards buy HD TVs and lap tops and lap dances and – if someone has a little more credit than I do – cars and homes.

Chances are real good, though, nearly 100% in fact, that the hoodlum who pilfered the laptop was doing so in order to wipe it and sell it on eBay, in which case it was wiped almost immediately and all the data is now lost, meaning the 26.5 million cases of consumer fraud are – as we say in defense contracting, not to mention in the military – OBE[4].

But if the twink who stole the laptop didn’t wipe it to sell on eBay, chances are real good that he has been listening to the news, realizes that he's got the government's black helicopters after him, not to mention the satellites with all the brain-scrambling mind-rays, and has pitched the laptop into Chesapeake Bay as hard and as far as he could chuck it – after burning it beyond recognition and battering it with a ball bat just to be sure.

But it's also possible that the creep who cribbed the computer is a crack-headed meth-mouth who doesn't pay attention to the world beyond his next fix, and saw millions of names with millions of social security numbers. Seeing dollar signs in his eyes, he might then have sold this data to someone who will indeed use my name and the 26.499999 million others as a vehicle for consumer annoyance which, to date, is only matched by telephone solicitors and mass mailings for – ironically – low 0% introductory rates on yet another credit card.

This hasn’t happened yet, needless to say.

The Veterans Administration is understandably concerned, since responsibility [though not liability] would ultimately filter back to them. So the VA is spending money I don't want to give them to mail me a letter saying, essentially, "Hey! Guess what!!" and setting up a toll-free phone line to sympathize and commiserate with veterans worried about their credit and, likely, listen to the profanity of some other veterans indignant about it. Veterans know a lot of profanity.[5]

The VA isn't stopping there, though. They're drafting a plan[6] by which they will monitor, "free", the credit data of the millions of veterans in the database – me and the 26.499999 million others – whose name and social security number were stolen[7]. I put quotes around "free" because it isn't. The cost will be paid for by the VA, which many people will think is only right. And the money for that will be appropriated[8] by Congress at the request of the White House, and that money will come from ... um, me. And the other 26.499999 million other veterans in the list. Not to mention the other 273.5 million other citizens in this nation of 300 million tax-payers.

It's one thing to send 26.5 million letters at the government bulk postage rate, and pay for a few months of a toll-"free" phone line to provide information to panicky citizens. It's another to spend tens of billions of dollars to safeguard against what isn't happening yet, and likely won't ever. I should be surprised, but in this day of exaggerated response to potential problems and no relevant response to actual problems, being surprised by stupidity means you aren't paying attention. FEMA didn't simply wait for Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco to quit dithering and pointing fingers and actually request the federal aid as the rules require they do; FEMA sent the aid-givers to a seminar in Atlanta for racial sensitivity training after aid was finally requested.

Unfortunately, it's too much to expect that our government spend money on real problems that exist now. Can't send insensitive relief workers to New Orleans to rudely push the locals onto buses and boats and get them the hell out of the hurricane – that they were told to leave several days earlier. We've got to wait for several locals to drown while we train relief workers to politely shove them onto buses and boats.

We can't wait for a veteran to experience credit fraud traceable to this incident before spending tens of billions of dollars to fix the credit; let's spend those billions now, because it might happen, and hey! let’s spend it on efforts that won't even prevent the credit fraud in the first place.

...and I work for these people.

But the final stupid word[9] on this monumental stupidity will be granted to Congressman Lane Evans[10], from, sadly, my state. He declares, presumably with a straight face, in explaining why the VA should spend tens of billions of public dollars to monitor my credit rating: "veterans and military families must not be punished for the administration's failures."

That's right. A low-level weenie – essentially, someone in the same position in the VA as I have in the DoD office I work under – broke the rules, did what we are told from Day-One we must never, ever, ever do ... and it's all Bush's fault.

I'm glad to know that the next time I cut and paste a random string of gibberish into a work email from the window logged into the high side, and which looks exactly like the same random string of gibberish from the low side, and I get fired and prosecuted for doing so, Congressman Evans will be my expert witness laying blame where it truly belongs.

What a relief!

[1] USAF
[2] DoD
[3] Technically, social security numbers by themselves are fine and not classified in any manner; they are just nine numerals. Only when matched with a name do they become “classified” and it’s not even “secret” or “top secret” or anything cool like that. It’s “Privacy Act” data – as we are told, annually, in our contractually-required security briefing.
[4] Overcome By Events
[5] Fuckin-A!
[6] http://www.chicagotribune.com/technology/sns-ap-vets-data-theft,1,7814054.story?coll=chi-news-hed
[7] …and I’m curious as to how many people thinking this data-mining ought to be done are those who, under other circumstances – specifically, phone calls to and from known terrorists – think data-mining ought not be done on a few million phone numbers … as it’s an invasion of privacy.
[8] synonym for "stolen" by the way:
[9] zymurgy
[10] “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
– M Twain

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hating Hate-Crime

Hating Hate-Crime
© 2006 Ross Williams

Someone started a small fire in a small library a few blocks from where my wife lived in Chicago.[1] The small library which hosted the small fire is in the city's gay neighborhood – locally known as Boys Town. The small library, being situated in Boys Town, held a large collection of gay and lesbian books, around 1,000. Of these thousand gay-themed books, 77 were lost to the fire, and 23 African-American-themed books on the opposite side of bookshelf were also burned beyond use. The fire occurred under a placard saying "foreign language and fiction".

It was a small fire, so small that librarians put the fire out with extinguishers.

Books may be inflammatory – particularly if written by Ann Coulter – but they aren't known for being spontaneously combustible ... even in X-Files reruns. Everything points to arson.

Because of the nature of this fire – no accelerants or notes – the arson looks to be an unplanned prank or spur of the moment disgust rather than a premeditated attack by the advance guard of an anti-gay political movement.

But even so, the mouthpieces of Chicago's gays are demanding to know why it's being investigated as merely arson and not a hate-crime. ...as if the punishment for arson is a cash reward and a Caribbean cruise.

"Rule of Law" is the legal concept of having written rules which protects society from the emotionally sweet revenge of vigilantism. Vigilantism is commonly arbitrary and, even if not, it’s circumstantial; the punishment fits the whims of the enforcers. The Law is supposed to be impartial – it doesn't matter if you're wealthy or poor: you can’t steal clothes. It's not "less of a crime" to steal clothes because you need them, and it's not "more of a crime" if you can afford to buy clothes but don't.

We've created an odd little addendum to Rule of Law in this country in recent years, stemming from the superficialities of issue "sensitivity". As a society, we've had a history of being somewhat lax in our enforcement of laws when they were broken upon certain disadvantaged groups – blacks, jews, gays, etc. So because we didn't fully prosecute [in some cases even investigate] crimes against blacks 20, 40, 100 years ago, we're think we’re going to make up for it now. We think we can make up for it now. So not only will we investigate and prosecute crimes against blacks today, but we'll create a secondary crime called "hate", and declare that committing a crime against a black is not only [e.g.] assault, but it's "hate" assault.

...the thinking [sic] being that blacks were disadvantaged originally because they were hated, rather than merely being convenient to subjugate. This disadvantage resulted in entitlement to non-blacks, and this entitlement was the manifestation of the original "hate". This, of course, presupposes that any crime now committed against such defined disadvantage is a presumptive entitlement which, ipso facto, is the result of the original "hate".

No one's going to argue [here] that blacks were not disadvantaged, or that they are not, in some ways, currently disadvantaged. Nor is anyone going to argue that homosexuals were not and are not themselves disadvantaged. Or jews. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Just that the disadvantage necessarily stems from "hate", and that a secondary crime of "hate" is appropriate to pile onto the criminal who commits a crime against certain people. It is not "more of a crime" when Winona Ryder pilfers a Gucci scarf from a Rodeo Drive haberdashery than it is when a bag lady swipes a warm winter coat from J.C.Penney.

The idea of "more of a crime" goes back to the original purpose of creating Rule of Law – indeed, constitutional equality itself – in the first place. Three hundred years ago it was "more of a crime" for a peasant to hunt in a nobleman's woods than it was to hunt in other places, and the penalty was sometimes death. As a result, when we started our country, we decided early on that no one was better than another, and that "more of a crime" was prohibited. Unfortunately – and as many will now attempt to remind me – our legal system still accepted the philosophy that some were inferior and crimes against them were lesser.

That’s correct; but again, you don’t get points for being correct. You get points for being pertinent. It is, as I’ve described countless times, the very height of impertinent to issue self-important screed that presumes one has a time machine capable of spanning the eons to drag conditions from one era to another to make your labored point. “Well, two-hundred years ago the laws said … so therefore today …”. Sorry; it don’t work that way.

We've since discovered that it's just as inappropriate to have inferior peasants as it is to have superior nobles. It means we’re trying, as a nation, to grow up. As is always the case, the details need to be worked out, but it's still a good thing.

It's just that "sensitivity" has sprung up like a noxious weed and has had the effect of ennobling the once-marginal. It is now chic to be a peasant. It's swank to be an outcast. It's vogue to be outré.

In many ways, these disadvantaged people are the new royalty, and when the neo-peasants hunt in their woods they are made subject to a new "more of a crime". It's "more of a crime" to scrawl swastikas on the door of a synagogue than it is to scribble pro-abortion graffiti on the sidewalks in front of the local Pentecostal church. It's "more of a crime" to deny an academically-challenged black admission to a college than it is a similarly dense peckerwood.

And, to some – arguably most – gays in Chicago, it is more of a crime to burn books about gays than it is to burn books about, say, refinishing furniture.

I can certainly understand their emotional response. But Rule of Law is supposed to take us away from emotion, create Equality Under the Law – and above it, as well. Just as no criminal is supposed to be adjudicated differently than another because of who he is, no victim of the criminal's crime is supposed to be granted "superior" victimization because of who he is, either. We spent decades, centuries even, coming to grips with the first concept only to abandon it and replace it with the latter.

The result is the same.

A black male who assaulted a white man committed "more of a crime" in the 1930s than a white male who assaulted a white man – because the black male was deemed "inferior". But now the white male who assaults a black man is committing "more of a crime" than the black male who assaults a black man – not because whites are inferior, or blacks are superior, but because whites "hate" blacks.

The only reason whites commit crimes against blacks is because of a specific form of “hate” called racism, and not because of any garden variety anti-social or sociopathic behavior. The only reason goyim commit crimes against jews is because of a specific form of “hate” called anti-semitism. The only reason anyone commits crimes against queers is because of a specific form of “hate” called homophobia[2]. These labels identify and rationalize “more of a crime”.

We're still stuck on "more of a crime" though we haven't got the honesty to admit it, and we haven't really learned anything in our experiment with equality.

Gays say they want to be treated equally; I don’t believe it. We can’t stand equality, any of us. We all want to be treated better than others – bigots and advocates, both – and have our betterness manifest in officially superior considerations.

But, gays, if you want to be treated equally, here's a perfect time to demonstrate it. A sinister, stupid and frankly pointless vandalism was committed in a library in your community in Chicago. All those gays who want the special treatment of inequality get on one side of the street and chant "hate crime"; all those gays who, instead, want to be equal, get on the other side of the street and call it arson.

[1] http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/06/hatred_or_no_li.html
[2] …which is a phenomenally senseless word in the first place, since its literal meaning is “fear of sameness”.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Winning Without Whining

Winning Without Whining
© 2006 Ross Williams

The Senate won't be passing any "gay marriage ban" amendment any time soon. This is good news for any number of reasons.

First, the whole subject is a phenomenal waste of time and effort – which translates into taxpayer dollars. As a taxpayer who pays more taxes than most, I object first for financial reasons, and my objection therefore ought to carry more weight.

Second, it's yet another attempt to usurp a state's jurisdiction and carry it kicking and screaming into federal territory – as if we don't have enough federal take-overs already. I object to this, as well. If a state wants to allow gay marriage, then that’s the state’s business; if the next one down the road doesn’t, that is again their business. And their business must pass their voters’ muster.

Third, it's arguably – along with the once and future "flag burning" amendment, which is not what the title implies – an attempt to subordinate a potpourri of Bill of Rights rights under another amendment; specifically and to wit: association, property, liberty, and equal protection. Because a majority of We the People find homosexuality icky, that majority seems unwilling to extend homosexuals equality and lend official sanction.

I object all the way around.

The measure failed on what is called a "cloture" vote. Our 100 Senators voted 49-48 [political math] to not bring the measure up for a vote. In other words, they voted not to vote, this being one of the many ways that parliamentary nonsense can allow our politicians to avoid having to take a stand on anything controversial. No one voted for or against gay marriage; they simply voted on whether or not to vote on gay marriage. Controversy once-removed[1].

Not that there is much controversy in the subject of gay marriage. Depending upon the wording used in the various opinion polls being taken, We the People are against gay marriage with majorities between 60% and 75%. Since we're a democracy and all, you'd think that would settle it.

It doesn’t; because interestingly 60% to 70% also do not want a whole Constitutional Amendment to be written about it.

Most of us also do not like the idea of some self-superior college-age twit thinking his two semesters of parent-paid college edumacation is the equivalent of real life and burning a US flag to light the path to his petulance – but we don't want an entire Constitutional Amendment to control this weenie. There's such a thing as proportional response. Try cutting off his allowance first.

The majority of Americans is against gay marriage; the majority is also against formally banning gay marriage. We are a democracy. So what's it mean when the majority doesn't like something, but doesn't want it prohibited?

It means leave it alone. It means it'll sort itself out in the end without the ham-fisted attenuations of government intrusion. It means we might have learned [one of the many available] lessons from civil rights[2] and are willing to allow society to grow on its own as it will.

My, aren't we the mature citizenry!

Actually, no we aren't. We are peevish and self-righteous, no matter which side of the issue we're on. We have a democracy; rather, a republic guided by democratic philosophy. And what the majority wants the majority ought to have. But we're a constitutional democracy [yadda yadda], and we aren't allowed to unfairly impose on minorities while enacting majority will. Okay, fine. That's great. All the major pedantic quibbles are thus addressed.

So some people are trying to get the federal government to prevent homosexual adults from having the same rights to association as heterosexual adults have; the same rights to property that are vested in marriage that ditto. The "same" being denied is a transparent violation of Equal Protection. Et cetera. The reasoning is varied; some is religious, some is strictly personal. It hardly matters.

But the "I can do something you can't do" is a phenomenally immature stance to take. Not that immaturity is out of bounds in politics. It is what it is. And what it is is the political equivalent of any two kindergarteners bickering over any number of highly contentious issues. Such as who gets to use the blue crayon.

Immature though it may be, the kindergarteners who wish to stamp their tiny widdow feet and tell gays they’re the only people not allowed to get married and have the joys of probate and divorce courts are allowed to stamp their feet. And that’s no different from the other kindergarteners who wish to stamp their own tiny widdow feet and tell smokers they can’t smoke in public; … drinkers they can’t drink in public; … horse slaughterers they can’t sell slaughtered horses to Frogland; … goose-fatteners they can’t make pâté; … skateboarders they can’t skateboard; … electrical utilities they can’t build a nuclear power plant; … farmers they can’t use chemical fertilizers; … et-freaking-cetera.

We all do this, every one of us. It is political immaturity; an attempt to finagle a despotism from majority will. All are guilty, no one’s hands are clean. So let’s stop with the pretense.

Since this is a democracy [yadda yadda] with rights available to all to have laws we’re comfortable with, the immature kindergarteners who want to stamp their tiny widdow feet and tell gays they can’t get married have every bit the justification to do so as those other immature kindergarteners who would rather stamp their tiny widdow feet and tell smokers they can’t sell horse meat to the pâté-eating, beaujolais-swilling Frogs. …who may or may not be on skateboards – le board au skatois.

We’re immature when we try to control others doing merely offensive or self-destructive activities in what is supposed to be a free society. That’s hardly debatable. Hi; My name is Ross, and I am a democracist.

Now it’s you’re turn at the podium, every single one of the three-friggin-hundred million others in this country.

So when we whine about, say, horse slaughterers slaughtering horses to sell to Frogs, we’re being immature. If someone buys a horse, it’s his to do with as he pleases. Right to property. Look it up.

What of the horse slaughterers, though? What of the skate-boarders? What of the smokers?

When these people come face to face with the majorities who do not like what they do, they have a few options. The first option is to say, “oh, I’m sorry, I’ll try to keep it over here” and then do so. The second is to have a hissy fit and claim, “You’re picking on me, because you don’t try to tyrannize other people who have disgusting habits!! you… democracist, you!!”

Oh, yeah, poor smoker. No one has ever been told they’re disgusting and should hide away from polite society ever, ever before.

Grow up.

And when you’re done growing up, get to the back of the line, because there are many, many people ahead of you. And – dig this – many of those ahead of you are the ones carping about your smoke. You see, we’re all in this line. Some of us are in this line multiple times.

So when a woman says “you just don’t get it” my first thought is to laugh in her face. I’m in line so many times that my split personalities are subdivided, and I could generate a whole laugh-chorus. The only thing is: I’m not in line for “woman”. I’m in line, though, for “man”.

And when the homosexual says, “we just want the same rights you straights take for granted”, I who enjoy a beer, say “damn straight: let me walk down the street drinking a nice, warm stout.” And I, who get a stiff back after driving with a seat belt inexorably tugging and contorting the same lower back that was injured several years ago and which, if I’ve driven too long, lays me up for the next day, think “double damn straight! I’d like to drive down the road and not have some sanctimonious cop a little too big for his britches stop me and conclude that, well, the Constitution doesn’t contain the word ‘automobile’ so the 4th Amendment doesn’t apply while I’m in one.”

Those would be swell. But, gay guy, get behind me. As it were. Everybody is being denied rights in this country. Without exception. Even the miserable, outright bigots who specifically want to deny you your rights to be married because they are small-minded cretins are being denied rights.

And I’d suggest that the first right they are being denied is the right to say, in public and without penalty, that they want to deny someone his rights. For one of the things that us monumentally immature people have done in this country recently is made being offensive in public a punishable offense. Officially, or otherwise; universally or in select environments.

Don’t think so? Use the word nigger sometime. Publish the Danish Dozen. Deny the Holocaust. Burn the US flag in front of the VFW on Memorial Day. Dress in black-face for a costume party. Wear fur in Hollywood. Drink in public. Smoke almost anywhere, now. Skateboard on the sidewalks. Refuse to wear seatbelts, or remove your shoes at the airport.

When any of these people can do those things without hassle and without censure, only then will we be mature enough to accept freedom with all its assorted warts. And only then will homosexuals have a leg to stand on when they insinuate that everyone else has their full battery of rights.

Until then, though, gays who want to be married are just one in the crowd. And, like children who are precious to their parents and annoying to strangers on the street, the issue of gays being married is special mainly to gays who want to get married. To most others it is impertinent.

It is so impertinent to most others that it’s only when asked if they like they idea that they say “no, I don’t”. But they don’t dislike it so much that they want to prohibit it.

Which means they don’t care. This is a victory, folks. Accept it without whining.

[1] Sergeant-at-Arms, please remove Controversy from the chamber…
[2] Plessey is equal protection; no it's not, Brown is; no it's not, let's have quotas and set-asides to create "equal", and oooo! what about forced busing?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

USDA Prime Manure

USDA Prime Manure
© 2006 Ross Williams

The government wants to keep our food supply safe from a terrorist attack. Good for them. It's a great idea. ...which, coming from the government, is conspicuous in its rarity.

The government also wants to maintain the credibility of our beef exports from the damage – real and imagined, er, rather, "in image" – of BSE. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. "Mad cow disease". Another really good idea.

The portion of our government tasked to simultaneously protect our food supply from terrorist attack and our beef exports from the image problems associated with having a cow or two over the past 10 years being found having BSE is the US Department of Agriculture. The USDA.

Terrorists would most efficiently attack our food supply by poisoning one or several cattle breeders – the farmers who have thousands of female cows and buy both bull sperm and turkey basters in bulk, breeding thousands of calves each year from which they keep the females for breeding, select a few males for stud, and the rest of the males will be castrated and sold off as steer to large- and small-lot cattle ranchers who’ll feed them for two years until mature enough to be turned into steaks and burgers. You decimate this part of the cattle supply, you not only hurt this year’s beef supply, but the beef supply for years to come.

Or chickens. Poison the livestock in one of the chicken breeder farms, the ones which have 30,000 chickens at any given time.

Or any of the large, “factory farms” for pigs. The ones that snooty suburbanites who’ve moved to the country to get away from the crowding and noise of the city continually demand be closed down, and sue to eliminate.[1]

The guy who’s got a dozen chickens for the eggs and the occasional Sunday dinner, a few goats for weed control, a horse to ride and a steer to slaughter for the freezer is, let’s face it, not high on the islamist terrorist priority list. Let’s face this also: he’s not on the list at all. A scattergun policy that treats all livestock operations as if it were a viable terrorist target to harm our nations food supply is, first, idiotic and, second, overly-costly and, third, ineffective.

BSE – bovine spongiform encephalopathy[2] – is a disease that affects bovines. Cows. Cattle. It is a remarkably rare disease. Of the billions of cows in the world who’ve lived and/or died in the last decade, only a few thousand cases have ever been found – almost entirely in Britain. Do the math. Of the hundreds of millions of cows in the US over the same period of time, only 2 – or was it 3? – case have been found. Do the math again.

It is transmissible from one cow to another. Almost all such transmission from one cow to another is done by one cow eating the other who has the disease. Since this is not something that cows normally do, it has taken the combined efforts of modern science and British governmental ineptitude to make it possible for cows to eat each other. Cow parts left over from slaughter are mixed in[3] with plant material in order to make cow feed. This is then fed to cows in someone’s feed lots and the net result is, when a BSE-diseased cow is ground up and used in cow feed, a few cows down the food chain will get it.

It is virtually unheard of for cows living off pasture or hay to get BSE. It happens, but the disease is strikingly rare in the first place, even with the “epidemic” of cannibalistic cows.

But when an American cow gets BSE, other nations – like Mexico and Japan – don’t want to buy American hamburger because of the infinitesimal chance that eating a burger made from a cow that had BSE will give that person the human equivalent of BSE – or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The scientific explanation for the connection goes something like this: there’s a rare brain-spongifying disease in humans called Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and of the people who get it, almost all of them have had a hamburger at some point in their lives … connect the dots.[4]

BSE is not, despite the panicky claims, readily transmissible to or from other species. Horses don’t have to worry. Nor do chickens. Or goats. Or pigs. Or sheep. And, most importantly, cows don’t have to worry about getting it from any of them.

If the US wants to protect the integrity of our beef exports from BSE, then they need to target our cows. A scattergun policy that treats all livestock as if it were a likely vector for bovine spongiform encephalopathy is, first, idiotic and, second, overly-costly and, third, ineffective.

In response to both the potential for terrorist targeting and BSE in our beef exports, guess what the USDA is wanting to do?

That’s right. The USDA wants to treat the small and hobby farmer exactly the same as it treats corporate ranches, and it wants to treats horses, pigs, chickens, llamas and goats as if they were cows capable of spreading a cow disease.[5]

The USDA has gotten together with “industry stakeholders” and concocted a plan by which all livestock in the United States will be marked and registered with the USDA, along with the “premises” such animals are living at.[6] NAIS; National Animal Identification System. Currently voluntary, but will be mandatory in all phases by 2009.

Any animal which dies unexpectedly must be reported to the USDA, any animal which leaves its “premises” for any reason must be reported to the USDA, any transfer of livestock from one person or “premises” to another must be reported to the USDA, any sale or slaughter must be reported, every hiccup and cough … and, okay, I’m exaggerating somewhat, but not by a lot. A straight, lawyerly reading of the USDA’s draft regulation doesn’t give exaggeration much legroom.

The USDA has, though, come out with a guide for “small-scale or non-commercial producers”[7] which says that the intention is not to force hobby farmers out of existence. Nice words, but there doesn’t – as yet – seem to be a change in their draft rule. So it’s sorta like the police chief assuring the citizens that, no, they won’t be handing out tickets in the new speed trap if you’re driving 5 miles over the limit and slowing down; but this assurance doesn’t change the speed limit, and the cop will issue the speeding ticket if the department is short of cash. Good luck in traffic court.

The USDA’s rule was drafted by commercial agricultural interests – Monsanto, Cargill, American Farm Bureau – and not publicized among small and hobby farmers. Monsanto has known about this for years. I, as a rancher with 2 horses, 4 sheep and my son’s 9 4-H chickens in residence, found out about it last month. And while I will admit that the purpose of having such a thing in place is a good idea for their stated reasons, the method which they have proposed, in writing, to meet those needs places a disproportionate burden on the folks who are not subject to those conditions in the first place.

In other words, my sheep are not going to be the source for another round of national export embarrassment over BSE, and my son’s chickens will not be the target for al Zawahiri’s next foray into imported terrorism. Making me register my home and my livestock isn’t going to do anything for anyone – constructive, that is. It’d piss me off, and make the USDA have to take an awful lot of reports every time I saddle up Bones and ride him down to the mailbox, which is not as often as I’d like.

But as far as meeting the Department’s aims … won’t work.

I remain skeptical that an online .pdf page which may not exist tomorrow will be an adequate defense against a federal seizure of my livestock when I refuse to comply with NAIS. I predict that a lawyer working for the USDA will point out that the regulations don’t exempt any livestock for any reason, and that an explanatory “guideline” doesn’t carry the weight of law. The administrative law judge will not disagree simply because I declare – correctly – that their rules are monumentally retarded.

[1] Attacking our food supply isn’t necessarily a terrorist tactic; many “sensitive” liberals are already doing that with their NIMBY lawsuits and rural development.
[2] Bovine == cow; spongiform = in the form of a sponge; encephalo- = brain; pathy = disease. BSE is a disease that affects cows brains and makes it look like a sponge, i.e., full of holes. This then affects the cow’s behavior, making it act “mad”, or insane. Bellowing, falling down, running around. Much like some of the people you see who fret about it.
[3] Mmmmm! Protein!
[4] Purists and pedants will say that it’s variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Yadda yadda; that’s merely the Creutzfeldt-Jakob you get when you aren’t a vegetarian.
[5] “The attention garnered from the BSE case last December, coupled with the increasing
number of animal disease outbreaks worldwide over the last decade, has intensified the
level of interest in developing NAIS. September 11, 2001, also taught us that we have to
prepare for potential intentional disease introductions. NAIS is a top USDA priority.”
William “Bill” Hawks
Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs
[6] http://reliableanswers.com/politics/nais_draft_strategic_plan.pdf
[7] http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/downloads/print/Guide_Smal_NonCommercial_6_2_06.pdf

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Future's all Yours

The Future's all Yours, You Lousy Bicycles
© 2006, Ross Williams

Ideologues are funny, funny people.

That's the cynic's code for "clueless hypocrites".

Robert Redford wrote an op-ed piece about E85, and which was pasted on cnn.com this morning[1]. Having just written about E85 myself, I read his bit to see what he had to say on the subject. He's academically correct, of course. Being dependent upon petroleum in order to get to work has required us to buy it from people we’d rather not deal with, at their prices, et cetera. If we had another fuel source, one that used an American product, we could save money, employ Americans who’d pay taxes, not be in so much foreign and fiscal debt, et cetera. We’d be causing less self-righteous indignation among the Global Warmers and other environmentalists, not to mention less damage to the environment, et cetera.

On paper it all looks very good. It was most likely designed to look good on paper. E85, the savior of the Futureworld. Any solution should, though, look good somewhere other than paper, and I’m not sure their solution does. It would cost too much; not necessarily in dollars, but in ideological distress.

Mister Sundance Kid directs our attention to an activist website to funnel our outrage against the “big oil” chimera[2]. Here on this website you will find the snide, backhanded swipes at the easy target [Dubya]; direct, forehanded swipes at the convenient targets [“big oil” and CEOs of same]; pleas for donations; self-congratulatory lauds of the “coalition partners”; and an on-line form-letter to whine at the convenient target for being the problem.

E85 is the mission of this activist coven, and E85 is a good idea. So it isn’t the intentions of these masturbatory twits that lodges sideways in rational minds causing grave discomfort. Their problem is the sanctimoniousness, the smug self-righteousness, the superficiality. In short, their problem is them.

They haven’t thought out the full implications of the “energy problem” before declaring the causes of it and deciding the solutions to it. They haven’t even thought out partial implications before doing so. These anti-big-oil ideologues have simply decided, as so many have before[3], that the problem is “big oil” and the politicians which support same.

In doing so, they’ve presumed that “big oil” is the equal-n-opposite ideologues to the anti-big-oil ideologues.

One problem: they aren’t. “Big oil” does not have an ideological imperative to obliterate every last drop of oil on the planet; their purpose is to convert petroleum into cash. They’d be willing to convert anything into cash, frankly. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

Oh, no, I’m sorry; we would never lower ourselves to profit on auto fuel made out of hydrogen, or alcohol or even chicken shit; our earthly mission is to refine every last smidge of petroleum, bwa-hahahahaha! We’ll go broke if we need to. We must refine oil… Oil… oil… must... refine… oil…

Sorry, but that’s retarded.

They’re in it for the money, not the ideology.

If auto fuel made from bird droppings were profitable, you’d see Texaco and Chevron all over it with poop scooper-bearing engineers. What it would take to make such a fuel profitable is customers to buy it and pour it into their gas tanks. And, of course, customers will only buy it if they think they’re getting a good deal.

That’s it.

Nothing more.

Texaco and Chevron don’t like buying raw materials from dubious foreign suppliers with bad tempers and anti-American sentiments any more than you like having them buy raw materials from dubious foreign suppliers with bad tempers and anti-American sentiments. They’d just as soon get their raw materials from peevish American suppliers with an over-priced union labor force.

The problem with peevish American suppliers providing our raw materials is not simply the over-priced union labor force. Nor is it simply the hobbling effect of the burdensome federal and state regulatory agencies imposing layer upon layer of [I laugh at this word] “oversight”. Nor is it simply the sneering self-superior ideologues making sanctimonious declarations about “big oil” claiming it to be some corporate boogey-man intent on planet-raping and resource-plundering – the latter-day equivalent of yanking Tokyo’s skyscrapers up by the roots and eating them whole.

All of those are part of the problem, but not the biggest part of the problem – even combined.

The biggest part of the problem is that petroleum has huge amounts of energy stored in it, and the work of storing that energy was done by mother nature; the energy is also very easy to get out again. This makes energy made from petroleum very inexpensive compared with other forms of energy in which we and our industry must do most of the work. Work costs money.

Scratch that; work done by humans costs money, work done by nature comes free. The work of putting energy into petroleum was done for us by nature. We only have to work to get the energy out of it. In order to use alcohol as energy we have to first work to make alcohol out of sugar. We must also work to make sugar out of corn.[4] All this work makes alcohol more expensive.

Which means that the condensed version of the biggest problem of getting away from petroleum is that consumers don’t want to buy something more expensive; in other words, consumers aren’t getting a good deal on it. “Big oil” would just as soon make it, but they need people to buy it. That’s why, until the war in Iraq, and Iran’s and Venezuela’s snit-fit-having, and Nigeria’s political decomposition, ethanol as an economically viable substitute for gasoline was not an option.

Again, “big oil” is in it for the money. Not a hard concept to wrap your brain around.

…unless you’re an ideologue who, by nature, doesn’t have much of a brain to start with. Or a socialist who, by nature, is an ideologue and, well, et cetera.

So let’s eschew the ideology. Getting the US off the foreign oil addiction and the greenhouse gas gravy train requires, again, exceedingly mundane and prosaic sacrifices … of everyone, not just those of us who [proudly] drive SUVs.

The sacrifices which need to be made by individuals, and mostly those who claim to want less foreign oil and fewer greenhouse gases, are, generally as follows:

1] pompous neo-suburbanites must move back to the cities, plow under their 3,000 square foot manses and leave room for corn to grow;
2] we must penalize those who turn agricultural land into residential or commercial zoning;
3] voters must reduce local governments’ addiction to property tax revenues from rezoning agricultural land as residential and commercial by asking local governments to do less for us;
4] environmentalists must welcome chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides as the means by which more corn can be grown on less land, and resist their natural impulse to file tear-stained lawsuits;
5] everyone[5] must start signing YIMBY petitions to attract the smelly and waste-making ethanol distilleries to their neighborhoods;
6] everyone, including our obstructionist regulatory agencies, must allow Big Business, including that heinous subset “big oil”, to do what it does best: efficient large-scale production for profit.

“Big oil” wants to profit from their efforts to make auto fuel. If people and regulations don’t get in the way of making E85 cheaply, “big oil” will manufacture it for us; if people buy E85 once made, it’ll make money for the manufacturer. Basic, garden variety capitalism.

But that’s a bad thing. For the main problem with “big oil” seems not to be that it deals with petroleum, but that it’s “big” and generates profits for itself without sharing[6]. The subtext of nearly all environmentalist groups and many of the faux-foreign policy “experts” who gather at Happy Hour to solve the world’s problems is that “big”, when followed by “business”, is bad.

If and when “big oil” converts to E85, it’ll still be “big” and generating profits for itself, and that will become the second-wave criticism: “’Big oil’ only went to environmentally-safe, domestic fuel when they could make money from it, just like the selfish corporate bastards they are!”

Well, frankly, duh.

If it worked any other way than that we wouldn’t have fuel much less the cars to put it in, nor would we have the corporations we all work for, which we need to drive to every day, so we can earn the money that buys us those cars and the fuel to drive them. Instead, we’d be subsistence farmers with a life-expectancy of 55, watching the sky for signs of weather.

You know, it could be worse. You get a lot more for your money in Bolivia, I checked on it.[7]

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/05/30/redford.oil/index.html
[2] http://kicktheoilhabit.org/
[3] i.e., the “real problem”® is Detroit won’t build the right cars; the government won’t impose higher fuel economy standards, etc.
[4] …or any other plant material. Brazil, which is a completely E85 nation, uses sugar cane, for example. Corn is North America’s most plentiful high-sugar crop.
[5] I’m thinking mainly of Californians, here…
[6] with people other than shareholders.
[7] http://imdb.com/title/tt0064115/quotes