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, April 24, 2009

It's Dog Eat Dog Out There...

Going to the Dogs
© 2009 Ross Williams

Just over four weeks ago, my Main Dog Earnest[1] took a walk with my wife down to the corner to get the mail. My wife went for the mail, that is; our dog went for the excitement. This jaunt goes right past the territory – plotted out in urine spots and not conforming to any county plat – of the neighborhood bully dog. Marble.

Marble is of indeterminate sex, but from all indications, she’s a female. Those indications are: she doesn’t get along with other female dogs and continually attempts to pick fights or otherwise domineer any female dog she runs across. …which is an alpha female dog-type thing to do. Alpha males, on the other hand, would tend to compel submission from other males.

Marble is of indeterminate sex because she’s part husky or part malamute or part some-other-thing which grows abundant hair that collects mud and burrs and becomes matted and makes identification a rather cumbersome task; we simply haven’t checked. Shaved, she’s probably a very sleek and unimposing canine. Unshaved, she’s large and – to other dogs – very intimidating. Which works in her favor, because she views herself as the queen of all she surveys.

This, of course, doesn’t sit well with our Main Dog Earnest and her two Emergency Backup Dogs[2], the brother/sister act of, respectively, Pinky and the Brain. Both of our female dogs see themselves as the alpha females of the neighborhood, not to mention of our house. Among themselves, though, Piri tolerates Addie’s bossiness for only so long and then she’ll swat her and knock her flat. But since Marble is the neighborhood’s third contender for the throne, this leads to some spectacular posturing and theatrics whenever they all meet.

And it must be all of them which meet, for in the grand scheme of things Marble is indeed the mighty neighborhood HMFWIC[3]. When Addie meets Marble alone, they simple sniff and Marble tries to stand on Addie – to assert dominance – and usually succeeds. Addie will get up when she can and run off several paces to bark for help. When the Dynamic Dumdums meet Marble by themselves – led by Piri, of course; Ferd goes where his sister goes and does what she does – they charge Marble to a discreet distance and pace menacingly … or what passes for menacing in their world; I can spot the ersatz machismo. Marble, though, wanders as she pleases until confronted by a human who does not want her in his yard.

It’s when Addie and Piri and Ferd are all together and meet Marble that we get critical mass. Addie sees her bigger Emergency Backup Dogs as just that: the muscle to grant authority to her inconvenient smallness. Piri sees an opportunity to use Addie’s instigation to kick Marble’s ass off the throne. Ferd is big and dumb and will go along with whatever, just because he’s there at the same time as whatever it happens to be.

And that’s what happened that Saturday just over four weeks ago. My wife was walking back from the mailbox with Addie trailing along and sniffing whatever needed to be sniffed. Marble sauntered over from her yard to announce her presence. Addie and Marble sniffed and were otherwise being tolerant of each other. It was then that Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dummer – on their long legs which can cover ground like gazelles – came galumphing up out of nowhere. My wife, seeing this and knowing what was likely to happen, was this close to picking up Addie before the fight started. But Addie saw her gang, snarled at Marble, Piri and Ferd lunged at Marble, Addie jumped in the middle of the fray, Marble knocked Addie down and bit her head – which is roughly mouth-sized to most dogs.

Addie got two puncture wounds on her head, one at the top of her left ear and one behind it. And, critically, another puncture wound in her throat.

My wife picked up Addie, now bleeding profusely, and ran the rest of the way back home, screaming for me. When I got there I took Addie, yelled at one of the kids to go get a dishtowel, NOW! My wife ran to get car keys and inside forty-five seconds we were backing out of the driveway, towel around the dog’s throat, heading to the vet.

We called the vet from the car announcing the impending arrival of a mauled dog, and drove pall mall into and through town to get there. My Boy Scout training kicked in, but was in high conflict the whole way. You apply pressure to stop bleeding, but applying pressure to a gushing throat also serves to strangle that same throat. Addie’s eyes were fluttering shut from time to time and she was gasping on my lap. The towel was soaked in her blood, so it seemed like I was doing nothing right – she couldn’t breathe and she was still bleeding. I was convinced that she was going to die in my lap on the way, and as we got closer I was thinking that if we’d only saved a few seconds at this point, or if I’d heard my wife yelling from around the backside of the house a little earlier, she wouldn’t have died 10 blocks from … 6 blocks from … within sight of … in the parking lot of the animal hospital.

But as it was, we pulled up at the front door, I bailed out and some gentleman also coming in at the same time opened the door for me. I handed Addie to the nurse who came running out when she saw me and I stood there for a minute shaking, covered in dog blood. My wife came in shortly after covered in just as much blood.

So how come it is that a 15 pound dog who could easily fit into a gallon bucket has enough blood in her that she can cover two people with a gallon of blood – each – and still, as it turns out, not bleed to death? The nurse came back out after a few minutes and said that I had stopped the bleeding without strangling her. She wasn’t in shock, she was now only dribbling blood, and while worn out and lethargic, Addie was trying to lick the folks cleaning her up. We came back later that afternoon to collect her, and for a week while we went to work during the day she stayed in her dog crate so she couldn’t scratch open her wounds.

That was a fairly memorable early afternoon; not a good memory, but memorable just the same. If only someone had been there with a video camera to record it. I would not have personally have found such a video to be enjoyable to watch, per se. The events were emotionally traumatizing the first time, not to mention fairly disgusting. When we got back home from the vet after dropping Addie off, we found my wife’s leather work gloves and the mail[4] on a bucket in the garage, both sitting in a pool of still-liquid blood. We delicately picked through the mail to see if there was anything we absolutely had to have, like bills or tax refunds, and we chucked the rest. Along with the gloves.

But heck, somebody would have wanted to watch that video. That’s one of the things we’re guaranteed in this country of 300 million people: there’s an audience – however small – for everything you can imagine, including the grotesque and traumatic. And why not? Capitalism, free speech, craigslist.com … I’m pretty sure at least one of them is mentioned in the Constitution by name.

So what if I think it’s disgusting? So what if it actually made me cry while I was simultaneously strangling my dog and not stopping her throat from gushing blood, and so what if I would have the very same reaction were I to see it all over again on instant replay? Some people would get off on it, and I could have made a buck or thirty. On each of them. Why shouldn’t I be able to do that?

Because videos of dog fights are against the law. Robert Stevens of Virginia was arrested for, convicted of, and served time for selling videos of dog fights[5]. He sued the government and lost, he appealed and won, the federal prosecutors then appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear it.

The issue in a nutshell: selling videos of dog fighting is against the law because dog fighting is against law, and presumably you have to participate in the one to get the other. Since the state has a compelling interest to criminalize dog fighting, it therefore has the same compelling interest to criminalize video depictions of dog fighting. …because, after all, there is no difference between video and real life. Video IS real life.

Everyone born after 1955 knows that!

The Appellate Court drew a distinction between this and the only other depiction of criminal activity to also be upheld as similarly criminal: child pornography. It was “unwilling” to carve out another exception to free speech.

And this, as one might expect, drew the hoots and hollers of every emotion-laden dimbulb the Chicago Tribune could collect on its political blog pages. What were the odds that the Chicago Tribune would be a natural collection point for soft-skulled dinks?

Among the various vacuous arguments put forward to rationalize eliminating free speech for the marginal interests among us were:

1. Watching animals being mauled is disgusting – to which: yes it is, but so are half the folks caterwauling on American Idol and three-fourths of those who try [and inevitably fail] to sing the National Anathema. Not to mention that many many many people view pornography, the “real” adult kind, to be similarly disgusting but which has been consistently upheld as a protectable Free Speech;

2. Videos of dog fights are the same as videos of the “unreal”, child-form of pornography, because the victims in either case don’t know better and need to be protected – to which: while there are many similarities between children and animals, including an inability to find appropriate spots to poop and piddle for several years, not to mention trying to cram all the food they can into their mouths all at once and chew with their mouths open, animals do not have protectable rights under our Constitution. Laws we have against animal cruelty and abuse are only made because we are fundamentally a democracy and the majority of us want those laws. But laws which protect non-rights are [supposed to be] trumped by the Constitution[6] in support of the individual over the angry majority mob wishing to force the guy to conform. One of those rights is the free speech ability to make videos of every disgusting thing you can name and sell it on eBay. Civil liberties work that way;

3. It’s “torture” or other such made-up-on-the-spot crime against nature – to which: I understand it’s ever so much fun to impose your self-righteous, emotional outrage over and on top of and superior to a legal definition in our nation of laws which never, ever indulges vigilantism,[7]. But “torture”? Torture must be statutorily defined before it can be used here, and it isn’t. Not with respect to animals, anyway. Without a legal definition, “torture” means exactly what the speaker wishes it to mean. And with that in mind, “torture” is listening to half the folks on American Idol, and self-important idiots opining about fake rights and false freedoms for dogs. Get over yourselves;

4. Animal abuse is a “gateway” crime to people abuse, and videos of it are therefore the same as the act itself – to which: yes, the first part of that is correct: animal abuse is one of the very elementary predictors of certain violently abusive crimes, just as pot smoking is a similar predictor of heroin abuse, while poverty-class pot smoking is a predictor of street and property crime, and an obsession with fetishistic pornography is a predictor of sexual … “maladjustments”, let’s say. But smoking pot is not shooting heroin; smoking pot in the inner city is not car-jacking a late model sedan; and watching Behind the Green Door is not kidnapping, rape, and forcible sodomy. We have the right to fantasize about all these antisocial behaviors and use visual aids in the process; we just don’t have the right to actually do them. A video of a gateway crime is not a gateway crime. It’s a video of one. If you can’t tell the difference, then the one with the fantasy-reality conflict is you;

5. Dog fighting is still animal cruelty, which is a crime, and depictions of crime are not “protectable free speech” – to which: ever watch Cops? The low-budget, high-revenue reality TV show? Does nothing but broadcast one crime after another, for the profit of those with the camera. Now most of the people who watch it are doing so to laugh at the peckerwoods, while some are watching home movies-once-removed. Still others are undoubtedly watching for the purpose of picking up pointers on what not to do after getting caught slapping up the old lady. Each person sees something different in everything. But the law does not see “videos of crime” the same as “crime” – with the lone exception of child pornography. The law likely sees “profiting on videos of crime” the same as it sees “profiting on books of crime”, which is to say, not something that a convicted criminal can do. You can’t commit a crime, write a book [or sell the video] and make a million dollars so you can live idly rich after getting out of jail. So convict the guy of arranging dog fights – which is a legitimate crime. Once you’ve done that, then you can properly stop him from profiting on the video sales. But not until[8];

6. “Free Speech” doesn’t count unless you are giving an opinion or issuing a point of view or something else that is generally seen as “redeemable” – to which: congratulations; you’ve just obliterated 98% of all television [including American Idol, so thank you], rap music [thanks again], all radio except AM Talk Radio [dominated by superficial conservative wags, so you might want to think again], and everything that is remotely seen as pure, saccharin, shallow “entertainment”. Needless to say, this is not now, nor has it ever been, the case under American Constitutional interpretation. Pointless drivel for the purpose of inciting base emotional impulses is just as protected as NPR’s All Things Considered[9] and the Rush Limbaugh Show[10]. Virtually all speech in this country does nothing but regurgitate a few standard, dull, tedious axioms; almost nothing is original and therefore little is justifiably “redeemable”[11]. Funny, though, that our nation isn’t quieter than it is…

7. Well, dog fighting is not something that we want to encourage as a society, so videos which glamorize it should be properly prohibited … it’s common sense – to which: almost EVERYthing is “not something we should encourage as a society”, including [but not limited to] American Idol and other self-lobotomizations, partisan politics and other pot-kettling, “wholesome” entertainment and other oxymorons, soda-pop and other recreational drugs, microwave meals and other slow poisons, and college basketball tournaments. So. Fucking. What. Want to know what a society would be like which prohibited everything it didn’t want to encourage? It would be Amish on a grand scale and from which you couldn’t go home after visiting it the weekend, with imperious governmental “oversight” on everything. Think the Patriot Act was heavy-handed? Try Iran, without the beheadings. Or maybe with beheadings, who knows.

Face it folks, it’s a losing argument no matter which tack you take. It means nothing to protect someone’s right to issue banal blandishments. Free speech is only worth a damn when it protects the antisocial jerkwad who gets off on the disgusting, the cruel, the offensive and the criminal fantasy. Decide now whether you like freedom or would choose tyranny. Because if you want to have disgusting videos shelved because you, in your self-righteous self-importance, think they are disgusting, then you’d better not complain the next time someone else thinks something you do is just as disgusting and wants to criminalize you.

Be outraged if you wish, be disgusted. Feel your stomach turn and tie itself into knots just thinking about endless loops of dogs ripping out the throats of other dogs. I’ve actually seen it, in my own front yard, on my own dog, not to mention on my jacket, shirt, pants, gloves, boots, driveway, garage and wife, and I’m all those things and more. But we are either a free nation, or we are not. It’s either-or; you gotta pick one.

[1] A paean to Dave Barry. Our “Earnest” is named Addie, short for Addison, the street on which Wrigley Field is located. Addie weighs maybe 15 pounds if she’s both soaking wet and has just glutted herself on a dinner of wild-caught moles and bunny ears – and just before she barfs them up on the carpet. And earnest she is: she’s part terrier and is therefore long on self-esteem and short on everything else, including humility; she believes she’s Dogzilla.
[2] The natural, followup paean to Dave Barry. “Pinky” is Ferd, the male, and dumb as a box of mismatched doorknobs. “The Brain” is Piri, the female, and she’s the plotter and schemer. They are part pyrenees – hence their names – and also part lab, and weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. They aren’t small.
[3] A USMC term meaning head mother fucker what’s in charge.
[4] remember the mail?
[5] http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/04/supreme_court_dogfights_v_free.html
[6] Notable exceptions are made subordinating property rights when the property you own is a duck you wish to fatten for pate du foie gras, or a horse you wish to sell as steaks to Frogs; also due process, equal protection, and freedom from involuntary servitude if you are a divorced father; not to mention freedom from warrantless searches if you are an airline passenger; additionally, freedom from warrantless searches and from compulsorily providing evidence against yourself if you are driving and a cop thinks you have been drinking …
[7] This is heavy sarcasm, in case you had trouble spotting it.
[8] Did I mention that you can still buy The Anarchist’s Cookbook? Even after 9-11, the Patriot Act and all those paranoiac, self-righteous Republicans ran the country “like dictators” for eight years. This is a criminal How-To manual, ferdgodsake.
[9] Which routinely fails to consider anything other than what it finds in its own navel, but that’s beside the point
[10] Which can hardly be said to even have a navel of its own, which is also beside the point
[11] Notice how I neglected to mention the “piss on Jesus” “art”? Find something socially redeemable, or “opinion-stating”, about that. If you wish to claim that it rejects mainstream social values, which becomes a valid, if cliché, opinion, then what the hell do you think a video of dog fighting does?


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