news from absurdistan, item #2,912.

Fifth-grader points finger in gun-like fashion; gets suspended from school.

“Level 2 Lookalike Firearm” sure sounds a whole lot less idiotic than “pointing your index finger and thumb”.

Public education is on the ropes in this country not because we aren’t spending enough money on it, but because the lion’s share of it goes toward a huge administrative overhead where we pay people eighty grand of taxpayer cash a year to come up with a level system for “things that totally aren’t guns, but may be shaped that way.”

on dogs, chickens, and suburban sensibilities.

There’s a WaPo article in our local fish wrapper about the law regarding dogs who kill poultry. Current law allows for farmers to shoot dogs caught in the act of killing their poultry, and the article had a decidedly…oppositional slant. It tells the story of one Alan Taylor, a real estate developer who brought his two dogs to a farm with him on some business. He let his dogs roam free while chatting about planting grapevines (the article calls the dogs “pups”, even though the accompanying picture shows two fully-grown setter-type dogs in the 40-50lb. range), and they got shot while killing some farmer’s chickens. Both dogs survived, but the vet bills ran over $3,000. The author of the article is very sympathetic toward the dog owner, referring to laws that allow farmers to shoot livestock-killing animals as the “doggie death penalty”.

What really ticked me off about the article was the following quote from the dog owner:

“The simple solution for a rational person is to pick up a phone, but what this law allows people to do is to pick up a gun.”

Mmm-hmmm.

Look, I own dogs, and I own chickens. I understand that your dogs are your companions, and I’d never shoot someone’s pet unless it was in the act of chewing on my kids or killing my animals. But you, sir, are an irresponsible asshole.

The simple solution for a rational person?

Let’s see here and take this simple solution step by step.

There’s a ruckus outside, and when I go to check, I see two dogs in my chicken coop, killing my laying hens. (Two dogs of any size can kill the entire flock in moments. Chickens don’t have much in the way of martial prowess.)

The simple solution (rational person and all that) is for me to run out there, try to separate two riled-up dogs in a killing frenzy from my birds without getting bitten in the process, then check for the tags they may or may not be wearing, keep them away from surviving chickens while I call the number on the tag, hope that someone picks up, and then secure two strange dogs until their owner can show up and collect them?

In other words, the onus of dealing with the situation falls squarely on me, and I should deal with it in the manner you deem rational, despite the fact that it’s your irresponsibility that caused the problem? You are responsible for your animals, and if they run free without supervision, anything that is done by them or to them is squarely on your head, not mine.

“Oh, but they’re just chickens, you stupid trigger-happy country bumpkin. You can just get new ones.”

Even assuming that you’d actually be willing to own up to your dogs’ trespassing and livestock killing instead of just going “Nuh uh! Wasn’t mine! Hank and Boo wouldn’t harm a fly!”, those chickens represent a higher dollar value than even that vet bill you had to pay. Sure, the chicks were maybe two bucks a piece, but I had to build them a coop ($1,000), a covered run ($1,500), and then feed and take care of them daily for months and years. (Care to add up the labor and feed costs for our flock of seven after two years?) And you can’t just replace them on the spot because you can only get new chicks or pullets in the spring, so I’ll be out my investment and the money for all the eggs the hens would have laid in the future, had they not ended up as Hank and Boo’s chew toys.

I love dogs, and I’d be very, very hesitant to shoot someone else’s companion animal and would never do so without severe emergency. But letting your dogs roam free in farm country and then getting pissed off at others for dealing with the results of your irresponsibility in the most expedient and least expensive manner is not rational.  The rational thing would be to keep your damn dogs under control. I love my dogs just like Mr. Taylor loves his, but if I allowed them to escape the property, and some farmer down the road killed them while they were busy slaughtering his laying hens, I wouldn’t blame him in the least for shooting them to prevent thousands of dollars of damage to his poultry. I certainly wouldn’t get all in a huff and cry to the newspaper lady about rational people and the “doggie death penalty.”

the government shutdown diaries.

Tuesday:

Day One of the government shutdown. Park rangers are furloughed. The fires from the grizzly bear riots are painting the night sky over Yellowstone bright orange. Bald eagles are ditching their tracking collars and skipping the country. WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS END

***

Wednesday:

Day Two of the government shutdown. They have begun to tear up roads and dismantle all the utility wires. The garbage trucks sit by the side of the road, abandoned. We are freezing in the dark and can’t go anywhere. THANKS, NRA TEABAGGERS.

***

Thursday:

Day Three of the government shutdown. Marauding Canadians are crossing the unguarded northern border in large groups. For now we can placate them with hockey shirts and cheap LASIK, but I fear the worst.

The supermarket has no food left. Without anyone to tell them what size apples are safe to sell, they didn’t want to risk killing us all. At least SOMEONE is looking out for us.

***

Friday:

Day Four of the government shutdown. Without the FCC, everyone on TV and the radio is just screaming random obscenities. In the next town over, people drank raw, unpasteurized milk, and everyone died screaming.

Because there are no more grocery stores, we tried to go out to eat last night. Restaurant was gone. Some fool installed a bathroom urinal with unapproved water throughput and blew the place up when he flushed. SERVES HIM RIGHT, I SAY.

yes, but how is his therapy going?

On court-sanctioned liberty from prison, a convicted rapist in Switzerland killed the therapist who was accompanying him to reintegration therapy, fled the country, and was eventually captured by German police just across the Polish border a few days later.

Let’s see where the Swiss court system could have possibly gone wrong, and play “spot the error”:

  1. A 39-year-old man close to his physical prime, with a history of several violent rape offenses, gets to leave the prison for court-approved therapy.
  2. The therapist they assign to him is a young, attractive female.
  3. The rehabilitation therapy sessions take place at an equestrian center, to which the young, pretty therapist drives the offender without any police escort or other chaperone.
  4. On the way to the equestrian center, they stop at a knife store, where the convicted rapist has been cleared to purchase a hoof scraper knife, to be used for care of his therapy horse.
  5. Instead of a knife suitable for hoof-scraping, the violent rapist purchases a knife better suited for cutting and stabbing.
  6. They never arrive at the equestrian center, and the body of the therapist is found a short time later near Geneva, her throat cut.

Sending a known violent rapist out for reintegration therapy with only a pretty female therapist and then allowing him to purchase knives? Holy shit, Switzerland. I grew up in Germany, so I know a lot of “judicial offender mollycoddling” stories, but this one takes the cake.

How do they treat alcoholics there? Letting them drive to their therapy sessions in a car where “Rehab” plays on repeat, then allowing them to stop at the liquor store (“…but remember, only buy a bottle opener!”), and having them escorted by a giant anthropomorphic martini glass?

at least we didn’t fit naugahyde upholstery to the thing.

So Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to officially leave the solar system and travel into interstellar space.

Anyone else bothered by the fact that we sent a thing into space that contains a map to its origin planet and an open invitation?

“Hi, we’re a barely space-faring civilization that you could probably conquer and subjugate with your equivalent of a Boy Scout troop! Here’s a map to our home planet. Stop by anytime!”

Of course, the biggest issue is that we sent out Voyager 1 with an LP on board. We are intergalactic hipster scum.

“These are humpback whale sounds. You’ve probably never heard of them.” <derisive snort by Kurt Waldheim>

say it! say “under god”!

Okay, friends and neighbors. Let’s talk a bit about the Pledge of Allegiance.

There’s another court challenge regarding the Pledge in the state of Massachusetts right now. Some atheist parents are suing the state over the recital of the Pledge in public school every morning because it contains the words “under God”, which they consider an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment. Naturally, as happens every time when a court case regarding the religious component of the Pledge comes up, the comments of the “Under God” supporters take two very predictable thrusts:

“If those atheists don’t like saying ‘under God’, maybe they should just move somewhere else, because something something CHRISTIAN NATION.”

“The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion! It also says ‘…nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof!’”

Every single time, the comments are a variation of those two arguments. And every time, it makes me profoundly sad and upset that so many people who otherwise proclaim their love of freedom and constitutional limits on government are not only clueless about the implications of the Establishment clause, but actively in favor of government requiring the recitation of religious affirmations (as long as it’s the majority religion, of course.)

The problem with the Pledge as it is challenged isn’t that it contains the words “under God”. The problem is that the recitation is part of the public school curriculum—in all practicality a mandatory recitation—and that public school teachers, paid employees of the government, are required to lead it. They are the agents of the same state whose scope of delegated powers is limited by the Constitution. The State is not allowed to prevent students from exercising their own religion as long as it does not interfere with school business. (And don’t start the “ZOMG they kicked God out of school” tripe unless you want me to challenge you to provide a single documented incident where public school students aren’t allowed to carry Bibles in their backpack to read in their own time, or to form prayer clubs with other like-minded students.) The flip side of that coin is that the State also cannot compel the students to perform religious observances of any kind. And when you make the recitation of an oath with a religious component mandatory, you violate the religious rights of the students who do not share that faith.

(The objection that “nobody HAS to recite the Pledge” is irrelevant because it disregards that the State doesn’t even have the right to ask the student to choose when it comes to religious observances. And religious exercise must always be an opt-in rather than an opt-out.)

“But wait!” you say. “If the vast majority of students believes in God, shouldn’t the majority get to choose whether the class professes that we’re one nation under Him? Why should the irreligious minority hold the majority hostage when it comes to faith?”

The First Amendment doesn’t protect popular speech because popular speech doesn’t need a Bill of Rights to protect it. And it doesn’t protect the religious rights of just the religious majority. It protects the rights of the outliers, the oddballs, the religious minorities that would otherwise get overridden by the bigger religious factions on the block. When it comes to the Bill of Rights, majority preference is not only irrelevant, but the opposition of majority weight is the very reason for its existence. Our Founding Fathers knew from history that without strong minority protections of basic rights, fifty-one percent of the population would be able to vote the rights of the other forty-nine percent away. That’s why in our system of constitutionally limited government, we get to decide all kinds of things by majority vote, but not any of the basic rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In other words, you and your street can’t gang up on that weird dude at the end of the block and decide whether he has the right to attend the church he goes to, or whether he has the right to not go to church at all.

This is quite simply not an infringement on your right to practice your own religion, which ends when it touches on someone else’s religious rights. Your religious rights do not give you the ability to use the state to make my children acknowledge the existence and supremacy of your god. You cannot use the state for that purpose even if nobody in the room objects because they all share your faith.

This is not a matter of majority will. It’s not a matter of degree. It’s a matter of principle—the principle that it’s none of the government’s stinkin’ business if you pray, how you pray, to whom you pray, or what the content of your prayer is.

Would it be OK for the local Muslim community to require the school to make the kids recite “Allah is Greatest” every morning? What if they allow you to opt out? No? (I can just imagine the heads exploding all over the country if anyone seriously suggested such a thing—the Muslims asking for the right that the Christian majority has claimed for itself.) Well, if they don’t have that right—and the Bill of Rights says they do not—then you don’t have the right to have the teachers ask my kids to profess that there is a God, and that this nation is subject to Him.

And yes, freedom of religion automatically means freedom from religion, no matter what those bumper stickers say. If you have the right to be a Christian, it follows that you have the right to not be a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, pagan, and so on. And whether the religious majority likes it or not, it means that you have the right to not be religious at all.

well, I’m glad it won’t be war-war.

Secretary of State Lurch says that the administration isn’t asking Congress for permission to go to war in Syria because bombing Syria wouldn’t be “war in the classic sense”. You know, more of a Diet War. War Light. New War. Less filling than the old kind.

Trying to move goalposts by changing definitions—that’s pretty much the only thing both parties excel at when they get their hands on the Purple Robes of Power. That’s why everything is terrorism now, even stuff like raising concerns about water quality. (And before you Conservatives go all, “Well, that’s Liberals for you, nyuk nyuk,” remember that you guys put all those nifty tools in the shed at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. after 9/11, ready for the next guy to use.)

War in the classic sense. It boggles the mind that anyone would think this class of people fit to run anything more complex and important than a porta-potty at the county fair.

keeping safe from cylon network hacks.

Apparently, the Kremlin is putting typewriters back into service for internal documents to prevent the security issues that come with easily disseminated digital materials. No networked computers on the Galactica, and all that.

I’m a known fan of analog technology, but this is not the way to keep your communications from being sent out over the Internetworks. I can type a page on the trusty manual…and then scan it with my iPhone’s camera and send it out via email in just a few seconds. You just can’t stuff that particular genie back into the bottle.

free targa top, courtesy of the fire department.

And that’s one vintage Porsche 911 less in the world:

Man seriously injured after crashing Porsche.

That’s in New Hampshire (albeit wayyyy north of here, in Coos County near the border with Maine), and that is was a 1967-vintage Porsche 911.

One of my frivolous middle age pipe dreams is to own a restored Porsche 911 built in my birth year, 1971, but that desire has no basis in rationality. As the owner of that 1967 911 found out, cars of that vintage have pretty lousy safety equipment. A 911 of that vintage usually has an air-cooled 2.0l 128hp flat-six in it, which was a stout amount of power for a sports car of that time, but I could probably outrace one in a modern minivan, and with air conditioning, Bluetooth, a kick-ass stereo, and better handling characteristics. But those old babies aren’t about that.

Of couse, as this accident shows, you can hurt or kill yourself with just about any motorized conveyance if you don’t know or respect its (or your) limits.