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, February 01, 2018

Diogenes the Libertarian Surfs the Neutral Net

Diogenes the Libertarian Surfs the Neutral Net
©2018  Ross Williams

I spent three years and five months − to the day − in the US Air Farce.  I loathed it; it was hell.  I volunteered for a RIF and got paroled from hell seven months early.  By AFSC I was considered a computer programmer.  By actual day-to-day activity I was a copier operator, parade marcher, and gig line adjuster.

I originally joined the service because I’d run out of money for college, and wasn’t about to indebt myself with student loans during Carter’s reign of fiscal psychosis just to continue my education.  The military would cover 75% of my tuition, and the Air Farce was the place least likely for an enlisted swine like I would be to be shot at.  Plus, I was a geek who aced every part of the ASVAB and could choose my own career path.  I chose computer programming.

I understood that basic training and tech school would be bastions of psychological breakdown of individual ego to be replaced with militaster collectivism.  That’s possibly why it didn’t work particularly well on me − I understood their game going in at least as well, if not better than, the ones playing it on me.  But when I got to my first assignment I was astounded that the meaningless games didn’t end.

No one cared all that much if I could program a computer, despite that being my job.  What they cared about was my gig line.  For those not privy to military priorities, the gig line is the seamless visual connection between the overlap of the two sides of your buttoned shirt, with the right edge of your belt buckle, and the flap of your fly.  The three components have to line up straight, with no wrinkling, no meandering, and no other funny business.  Mine never did.  I didn’t see the point.  I never deliberately misaligned them − it just happened.  But I never took the effort to straighten them up.  I was considered a malcontent for this.  Well, for that and for saying that it was a pointless waste of time.

I worked with countless other military professionals [sic] in my AFSC of computer programming − all of whom outranked me, by the way − who couldn’t avoid an infinite loop if their life depended on it.  They came to me for professional help.  But their gig-lines were always straight.  They got promoted.  I did not.

Gig lines were just one idiotic aspect of AFR [“Air Force Regulation”] 35-10, the Air Farce dress code.  I was constantly being bawled out for one or another critical uselessness contained within it.  Shoes, hair, the zipperedness of my lightweight dress jacket …

One day, after having been bawled out for about the zillionth time, I decided to go look up this AFR 35-10 to see for myself.  I got to the base library, asked for the military reg section, and after a short time found AFR 35-10.  The shelf units in the base library were in four-foot sections.  AFR 35-10 took up nearly two shelves.

That was eight feet of regulation detailing how members of the Air Farce are to visually present themselves.

I was boggled.  Eight feet of regulation?  Seriously? 

I forget how many individual volumes it contained.  Just for grins I checked out one of the volumes and took it into the office the next day to show a few of those who’d been bawling me out for being in constant violation of it.  I was intending to quiz them on the fine points of the dress code to see if they actually knew it or if they were really, as I suspected, just giving me a hard time because I was smarter than they were about everything except military comportment.

We pored over the thing all day long for a few days − as I say, no one much cared whether we could do our job; the important thing from the military mindset was that we looked good while goldbricking.  In the volume I’d checked out was the section detailing the criteria necessary for a single item of the male uniform: the short-sleeved dress blue shirt.  This one section was three-eighths of an inch thick, and it covered − in excruciating detail − button size, button spacing, button composition; it covered fabric material, thread count, necessary weave criteria; it detailed pocket placement, pocket depth; it directed stitching and thread requirements for same; it mandated the range of the visible light spectrum − in angstroms − necessary to be reflected by white light to meet necessary “blueness”.  And these are just what I can recall from 35 years ago.  It prattled on and on for another 23/64ths of an inch.

By the time we were done digesting this dizzying display of bureaucratic diarrhea, we all agreed that the entire subject of gig lines, shoe reflection and haircuts was a waste of time and effort.  From that point on, and from those in my office, as long as I was not outright slovenly, I was left alone. …which is all I wanted anyway, for I am a libertarian.

Regulations − military or otherwise − will say in 10,000 pages of loyyerly gibberish what a normal person can say on a single sheet of paper − double-spaced.  Loyyers are the only ones who can decipher regulations.  And because they are, regulations have the net effect of loyyer proliferation among those upon whom the regulations are imposed.

Regulations do this indecipherable verbiage for one primary purpose: to expand the power of government as pretentiously as possible, and using a fleet of mindless drone bureaucrats to do it.

To be a libertarian, though, means to be against the expansion of government power outside of those areas it was defined to live in.  All human activity, in the libertarian political philosophy, is either: 1] defined to belong to the government, or 2] a right belonging to the people.  This is a true dichotomy.  It’s a coin-flip.  There is no third option.

Yet a third option is concocted by a class of special libertarian whenever the subject of the Net Neutrality regulation comes up.  Oh sure, they’ll say, we support elimination of regulation in general, but this is different … IT’S THE INTERNET!

And this makes it different … how?  Oh yeah, that’s right.  It doesn’t. 

Oddly, the most popular claim made by these Dark Side libertarians is that they fear the lack of government regulation − and federal regulation, at that − will create a monopoly on access to the internet, which will, in turn create a throttling of download speeds.  God help us all if we have to get our porn and music the old-fashioned way!  Goodbye viral kitten vids!

The prime example offered up to flesh out this paranoia?  Cable TV.

Cable TV is a monopoly … created by … government regulation of “public utilities”.  Cable TV is a government-created monopoly.

Let me repeat that for the irony-deficient: cable TV is a monopoly created by the government.

Cable TV has branched out into the internet service providing business.  Which means that in an area covered by a cable TV company, there is only one means of accessing the internet.

… um.


You gonna stick with that? or will you drop your hair-on-fire histrionics and stop bouncing off the walls?

In any given area, there are nearly a dozen ways to access the internet; cable TV is just one of them.  There’s your phone company − also a government regulated “public utility”, by the way − and the land-line connection that some of us dinosaurs still use with our desktops.  There are cell phone plans, virtually endless cell phone plans.  There is satellite TV and its own side line of internet service.  There is satellite internet.  In many areas, for those predating the dinosaurs, there are still dial-up services for those who like being lulled to sleep to the sweet refrain of “BWEE drp drp drp CCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.

The fear of unregulated monopoly is the least rational of the paranoias adopted by that subsection of libertarian whose libertarianism extends only as far as his television remote signal.  The only ISP they can see is the one from their cable TV − that is being ditched in droves in favor of Hulu and Netflix, anyway.

Still, the stammering complaint never quite dies: “Yabbut … yabbut … yabbut … wuttif I live in an area that doesn’t have these other ISPs …?

Here’s the thing, non-libertarians: if you live so far out in the sticks that your cable TV ISP doesn’t have competition from a half dozen cell phone data plans, and a land-line DSL service, AND various satellite services, then I can guarantee you don’t have cable TV ISP, either … because you don’t have cable TV.  Hell, I don’t even have cable TV.  Their service ends a quarter mile from my house.

Just remember, “Net Neutrality” was crafted by the same brilliant minds that gave us Obamacare.  “If you like your ISP you can keep it.”

In the mean-time, the cable TV megalith that this drang is essentially sturming around is already a regulated industry.  Best part is: it’s regulated at the arguably best level of governance for doing such things: local, where individual citizen voices actually mean a damn.  If you don’t like how the local public utility board is regulating the local public utility that runs one of a fleet of ISPs available to you, then gather up a passel of your “Net Neutrality” buddies, descend upon the next meeting of the utility board, and give them what-for.  Rinse and repeat until they regulate the hell out of your cable TV franchise’s internet service.

Sorry to have to remind some libertarians what they’re already supposed to know, but …

The alternative is to have eight feet of regulation that accomplishes next to nothing and serves even less purpose.  Because that helps everyone.