FREEDOM FROM

FREEDOM FROMS

Dude “RocketSlinger” B. Bad

Copyright ã 1996 by Dude “RocketSlinger” B. Bad


 

 

            All rights reserved.  No portion of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior permission of the author. 

               ISBN No. 0-9644835-1-3.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 96-83761

Cover Design by Ken Michaelsen, McCloud, CA  96057

(Above is the ISBN of the original hardcopy edition; this soft copy has no ISBN)


 

DEDICATION

         Dedicated to the Libertarian Party, and to the hopes that humanity will rediscover that most radical of concepts, genuine, individual FREEDOM, and that freedom will be exercised responsibly.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

            To all those who have offered their thoughts, ideas, proofreadings, etc.  To Mary (“Lumberjack Woman”) Special-Lady AKA Snoog Thang, Mary Dove, Charles (“Gotta Life”) Trumbly, Brian Nickels, Richard Bartucci, Carolyn Weatherly, Alan Mills, Robert Covington, John Fremont, etc.

 

DISCLAIMER

            This is a work of fiction.  All of its characters are fictional.  The degree to which this book’s postulated future actions and statements of Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians reflect reality, or the positions of these parties, is purely a matter of opinion.  No part of this book has been endorsed by any politicians, lawyers, political parties, or intestinal parasites.  This is a work of FICTION.  You lawyers understand FICTION?  Now go find something honest and productive to do.

 

            Also by Dude “RocketSlinger” B. Bad:  Bats in the Belfry, By Design, and Jurassic Horde Whisperer of Madness County.


FREEDOM FROM FREEDOM FROMS

 

INTRODUCTION

 

            In this sequel to Bats in the Belfry, By Design, we continue a saga of near-future hard science fiction, with emphasis on pro-freedom politics.  Last time, we saw that genetic engineering could be used for good and for evil.  It could be used to restore, protect, and preserve the environment, and to devise weapons of mass destruction.  The focal character, Phil Schrock, libertarian mad scientist run amok, learns hard lessons, at horrendous prices, in Bats.

            In this, the sequel, Freedom From Freedom Froms, Phil has progressed, but still seems at times to place excessive faith in humanity’s ability to use technology wisely.  Freedom advances various extremist, divisive, mean-spirited, inflammatory (or, freedom-loving, depending on your perspective) ideas, and demonstrates what happens when some of them are taken a bit too far (well, okay, maybe a lot too far).

            Freedom From Freedom Froms cautions the reader that freedom can mean enslavement.  “Freedom from want” can mean that the government will make your charity choices for you, “freedom from overpopulation and starvation” can mean that the government will control your reproduction, “freedom from drugs” means they’ll break your door down in the middle of the night, lest you destroy some “evidence”, and “freedom from sin” means they’ll decide how you will worship, among many other things.  “Freedom from pollution” means that the Superfund will extort money from small businesses (and hence, from consumers) for cleaning up the “toxics” in discarded pizzas and cardboard boxes, accomplishing little other than the enrichment of environmental lawyers.  “Freedom from Un-American Activities” meant that they’d nab you for scratching your butt during the National Anthem.  And more of the same.  Beware, then, of false freedoms, as well as false prophets; seek Freedom From Freedom Froms”.

            Subject matters here include human genetic engineering, space flight, conscious computers, mind-reading and mind-control devices, theocracy, and race relations.  And, just as in Bats, loads of cynical manipulativeness, which might be funnier, if it wasn’t so true to human nature.  Or maybe even to the nature of consciousness.  We’ll say no more; Freedom From Freedom Froms must be allowed to speak for itself.  Please enjoy!


 

CHAPTER  1

            “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.  They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”

                                                Henry David Thoreau  (1817-1862)

 

            Phil Schrock reclaimed his sanity, just in time to prevent himself from butchering his book, Bats in the Belfry, By Design.  He decided that the Pope wasn’t infallible after all, that the Earth’s carrying capacity for human life wasn’t infinite, and that it’s unlikely that God will feed us all a perfect diet of manna, as we stand there, three to the square yard, if only we’ll learn to kiss His Ass with the precisely correct rituals.  He recalled that it might not be so wise to stuff the jails with potheads, vitamin fiends, and peanut quota violators, while setting murderers free for lack of jail space.  Most of all, he remembered that the government sanctioned some pretty unwholesome activities, and that, therefore, it might not be so wise to relegate all of one’s charity, medical, and ethical decisions to Uncle Socialism.

            And, best of all, as we noted, he reclaimed his sanity before stripping all the good stuff out of his book.  He published his book to both wild acclaim and vile condemnation.

            Then, he set out to see what more adventures he might find, and what good deeds he might do for humanity.  How he might be take the Schrock out of Schrock-Leech-Kite, some more.  He resolved that this time, though, he’d refrain from thinking bizarre thoughts about his “creator,” out there in some alternate reality, banging on some Stone-Age keyboard, dictating Phil’s reality.  Well, he resolved, we said.  We didn’t particularly say that he was good at keeping his resolutions.  He did speculate, though, about that jerk out there in that other reality having this annoying habit of referring to himself in the plural, as if he had a multiple personality disorder or something.

            Phil split his work time roughly down the middle, commuting to ABC (Advanced Biotechnology Corp) half of the time, and staying home and telecommuting half of the time.  Telecommuting appealed immensely to him, not only because he could do his work while sitting around in his underwear, drinking beer and scratching his weenie, but also because he could rely on the security of his walled-in suburban compound, instead of being a traveling target on the highways of Atlanta.

            There were a few folks out there who didn’t seem to be too fond of him.  Whether or not that had anything to do with his brainstorms leading to the deaths of hundreds of millions of Chinapersons, and tens of millions of Americans, he wasn’t sure.  He did have a clue or two, though.  But he also recalled many Americans, at the height of World War III, clamoring for the deployment of American bioweapons (BELFRYBATs, Biologically Engineered Life Forms, Really Yucky, Bat-like Assault Tools), in order to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers.  Mostly, he was quite disgusted by those few sick assholes out there who were still claiming that the BELFRYBATs had done humanity a huge favor, by cutting back overpopulation by a billion plus.

            After he and Gloria got back from their honeymoon, he put in a few weeks at work, making sure that everything was on track.  ABC was working on developing entire ecosystems of artificial critters.  These ecosystems, through a food chain starting at the plants and bacteria level and ending at the rat-sized mammal-like critter level, would gather valuable minerals from low-concentration ores.  They were referred to as “mining bugs”.  As a side benefit of the technology, “anti-nuke biobugs” could also be developed to gather and concentrate radioactive contaminants.  Phil figured that his efforts in these categories, contriving more environmentally friendly mining methods and undoing the ravages of past war-mongering, might ease his still-guilty conscience.  BELFRYBATs often seemed destined to haunt him for the rest of his life.

            He got the troops squared away at work, enough so that he could alternate weeks at work and weeks at home, telecommuting.  With exceptions as required, to be sure.  The first weeks that he spent mostly at home, he devoted to some background research on the next, up-and-coming project at ABC.  He talked to his bosses about only some of the issues involved.  They encouraged him to take his time investigating all the issues, in whatever manner he chose.  After all, genetic engineering was fraught with dangers as well as promises.  ABC would want to be able to say that they’d struggled long and hard with the issues, and to have a thoroughly informed and articulate spokesgenius on hand, when it came time to make a buck.  So, Phil’s a Big Boy, they said, and, we’ll not be chintzy.  We’ll not worry about how many beers he drinks and how many times he scratches his weenie, while he stays home Wrestling with the Big Questions of the day, about human genetic engineering, before we tackle this next project.

            Phil read a lot of diverse material and did a bit of thinking.  He tapped into data from the human genome project from his home computer, across ONLINE (Optical National Link, InterNationally Extended), for some cursory examinations.  He even traveled to see some geneticists in academia.  He didn’t talk much about it with Gloria, figuring that he’d save it for later, after he got all his facts together.  He planned to discuss it very thoroughly with her; more forthrightly even than with his bosses.  She was the best person he could think of, to help him clarify matters in his mind, before he got seriously involved.  She was, at least in Phil’s opinion, a very astute and ethically and spiritually advanced human being.  She’d certainly gotten it right about the BELFRYBATs right from the git-go, which is more than Phil could say for himself, much to his regret.

            He made a hardcopy summary of some relevant stats, slipped it into one of those archaic artifacts called hardcopy books, and laid it on the nightstand by the bed.  Phil and Gloria often lay in bed, reading books and watching movies and news on their giant thin-film screen on the ceiling, but Phil was also known to occasionally read a hardcopy book in bed.

            Phil wanted to sneak the most sensitive aspects of ABC’s next project up on Gloria in a round-about fashion.  He worried that she’d get all over his case, maybe even threaten to leave him if she didn’t agree with what he was thinking and thinking about doing, like last time.  What would I do then, he wondered?  Well, hopefully it won’t come to that.  I’ll just have to wait and see.

            Despite being in the same house, Phil and Gloria didn’t interact much during the day.  He worked on the computer, and she read and did ceramics.  She was three months pregnant now, and just starting to get over morning sickness enough to enjoy not having to work.  She was reading all the books she’d never had the time to read, and working at her favorite hobby.  That is, she was painting all sorts of cute ceramics, especially ones that would look good in the baby’s room.  “Nesting,” she called it.  Phil nagged her on a regular basis to be very careful with her lead-based paints.

            Phil worried about Gloria taking the risks of working with lead paints while pregnant.  When he’d nag her too hard, she’d quote to him what he’d once said: “Living by all the rules is for chumps.”  He knew, too, how much she enjoyed painting those ceramics, and admired her work.  So, he just nagged her about always wearing gloves, not eating or drinking while working, and using the fume hood he’d set up for her.  He also insisted on being the one to load, fire, and unload the electric kiln he’d set up for her in the garage.  Glaze firings smelled awful, and he’d started to worry about what those gasses were doing to them and to the garage, so he’d set up a large exhaust fan there, too.

            So, on that Tuesday evening, he saved his files and walked from his study to the spare bedroom that served as Gloria’s hobby room.  “Looks lovely, Poogle Bye,” he said, admiring the greenware cat that she was putting a first coat on.  “Quitting time yet?” he asked, worrying yet once more about the lead.  “Can I clean up for you soon?  It’s six o’clock.  The shift’s over.  Time to go home.”

            “OK,” she replied.  “Let me finish these eyelashes, and you can do your thing.”  Phil watched, admiring her tiny, precise brush strokes as she put eyelashes on the cat.  Presently, she sat back, stripped off her gloves, and sighed.

            Phil massaged her shoulders and told her how much he admired his favorite artist.  That, and nagged her.  “Wash your hands, Roger,” he intoned, nasally.  He wasn’t sure where that phrase came from; he just remembered Gloria using it on occasion.  “Change your blouse, too, Roger,” he added, thinking she might have gotten a few drops of paint on it.

            “Roger, Roger,” she replied, in the same tones.  He cleaned up for her, and shut off the fume hood.

            Presently, they were chatting over dinner.  “So, how’ve you been since I last saw you, Boogie Snunch—I mean, Snoogie Bunch?  How’s Murgatroid?” he asked, using their silly name for their unborn child.

            “Oh, not too shabby.  And you?  How’s my favorite biowizzard?  What new wonders are you cooking up these days?”

            Phil debated how much he should volunteer at this stage.  He really wanted to save the most controversial aspects of what he’d been studying for later.  He figured that if they were snuggling in bed while they discussed such matters, she’d be less likely to get all bent out of shape.  He tried to banish his fears that their approaching discussions might resemble those concerning bioweapons that they’d had some years ago.  She’d left him over his prominent role in designing BELFRYBATs, so he knew that she was strong-willed.

            No harm in talking about it in general terms, he thought.  “Well, you know I’ve already told you more than I’d like for my bosses to know about.  We’re starting some preliminary work towards getting into human genetic engineering.  Too many bucks to be made for our competitors to get too big of a lead on us.  So, they’re letting me out of the salt mines for about half of my working hours, to study up on this, as I see fit.  Not just narrow, technical stuff.  I’m reading about not just genetics, but also anthropology, sociobiology, and even mushy stuff like politics and sociology.  In other words, I’m goofing off a lot, in hopes that I can become their articulate spokesperson.”

            “I thought that they said that you’re too controversial for that,” she objected. “Didn’t they purposely exclude you from their most recent press conference?”

            “Oh, yeah—the preliminary announcement on the mining and anti-nuke biobugs.  I didn’t tell you much about that deal.  They were still mad at me for that deal way back when, when I introduced the Anti-Bug Critters, and got to speaking my mind about the Pope, overpopulation, abortion, and so on.” Phil snickered a bit, caught a sharp glance from Gloria, and continued.  “Anyway, I tried to persuade them that all biotechnology is controversial, regardless of how bland and ‘professional’ the packaging is.  That controversy sells, anyway.  I even passed on to the Big Bosses what the troops are saying these days.  That our slogan should be, ‘ABC—We Be Controversy!’  They wouldn’t hear it.

            “So, comes show-hits-the-road time, I’m not there, and the media beats up on our wimpy PR types, who can’t argue their way out of a paper bag, and don’t know the answers to half of the questions.  They ended up paging me, to get some answers.  The media was clamoring for me, so that they could get some outrageous scoop from the Mad Scientist, no doubt.”  Phil refrained from using some of the more colorful terms he’d been called.

            Gloria was all ears.  “So what were you guffawing about, just now?  What dastardly deeds have you been up to that you haven’t told me about?”  Phil just sat there and smirked.  “I know that laugh,” she persisted.  “Have you and Don been up to juvenile practical jokes again?”

            “Who, us?,” Phil protested.  “No way.  Never.  I was just thinking about the specifics of my discussions with the bosses, and them accusing me of being ‘unprofessional,’ and betraying them and such, what with my anti-Pope diatribe at that press conference way back when.

            “They accused me of calling the Pope worthless.  I told them they were putting words in my mouth, that I’d never say such a thing.  I told them, ‘Look, I never said that, and I never would.  The Pope is very useful.  He converts food and oxygen to feces and carbon dioxide, just as well as anyone else.  Proteins to nitrates, you see.  All the plants in the biosphere, they appreciate this vitally essential service.’  I forgot to add, maybe he even spreads plant seeds, like birds, bats, and monkeys do, if this speculation about the Pope shitting in the woods is true.  Although, I don’t know.  Does he ever eat fruits, including indigestible seeds?  Or does he limit himself to fillet mignon?”

            Gloria looked disgusted, although Phil thought he detected the trace of a smile.  “Did you really say that?”

            “Damned straight I did,” Phil replied, every bit as proud as the cat that dragged the dead rat onto its owner’s bed.

            “Why must you be such a dickhead?” she asked.  “No, really.  Why must you be so confrontational, so strident?  So arrogant, even?  I thought you said you’ve changed.  That something happened to you while you were in the hospital.  That your heart grew by three sizes, and you learned the true meaning of Christmas, or some such.  Isn’t that what you told me?”

            Chastened, Phil replied, “Yes, I did have an experience that I hope straightened me out a bit.  I sure won’t be a whore for the war-mongers again, that’s for sure.  But... You know, I really don’t think that being a spiritually advanced human being means that one’s gotta go around being a wimp.  OK, make sure the ACLU isn’t listening, but...  You know how you often say that you wish our culture wasn’t so squeamish about mentioning what Jesus said, in public?  How you wish one could quote him, in the same manner that one quotes Albert Schweitzer, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, without being regarded as a religious freak?

            “Well, let me be a religious freak.  Fuck the ACLU.  OK, a foul-mouthed religious freak, then.  Yes, Jesus said that the meek will inherit the Earth.  But, in those days ‘meek’ didn’t mean ‘limp-dick’, the way it seems to today.  ‘Meek’ applied to strong domesticated animals like oxen.  Submitted to a higher power, yes.  Weak, no way!

            “Put it another way—when someone’s a flaming asshole, or a bull-headed nincompoop totally incapable of admitting error, even if it means people must suffer by the millions, like with the Pope and his stance on birth control, then, there’s just no way to sugar-coat the message.  How does one say, you’re an evil, blockheaded pig, and make it sound nice?  ‘You’re a fucking asshole, and have a nice day’?  I’ve yet to see a way.

            “Seems to me I recall reading something about our hero getting POed one day, and storming through a temple with a whip, plowing money-changers’ tables aside, hollering and carrying on.  That, and ragging on the hypocrites, on a regular basis.  Doesn’t sound too ‘meek’ to me.”

            Gloria just grinned and nodded her head.  “OK, I see your point.  But, I do wish you’d clean up your language.  Murgatroid can hear us, you know.  And, when we join the Southern Baptist Church, when Murgatroid gets bigger, out of concern for his or her moral and spiritual welfare, you know—why, then, I’ll want for you to teach Sunday school.  You’re doing good, but you’ve got a ways to go.  The content and passionate delivery is good, but, well, we’re gonna hafta work on the ol’ style a bit, here...”

            “Ha!  Keep my kid away from those ...”

            “Now, now,” Gloria admonished him.  “Temper, temper.  Why don’t we talk about something soothing and restful.  Like, human genetic engineering, for example.  What’s the plan?  How soon am I going obsolete?  Are you gonna trade me in for the new model?”

            “Oh, in about a billion years, according to my most recent calculations,” Phil replied thoughtfully.  “That’s how long it’ll take to improve on my Pootie Pie.  Give or take a few decades.  Snoogle Woogle Poogle Woogle Boogle Woogle.”  He grinned wickedly, winking and blowing her kisses.

            “So really, now—what’s the Plan?” she insisted.

            Phil debated only momentarily.  There was no doubt that she could be trusted, he needed to share his most private thoughts with at least one intelligent, thoughtful person, and—well, I can save the really sensitive matters till later, he thought.  “Other companies are already involved in various forms of human genetic engineering.  Their approaches are rather crude and expensive.  You know, if you’ve got the truly huge bucks, you can slip out of the reach of the all-encompassing arms of Uncle Sam, go to one of those biomedical ships fifteen miles out at sea, and get your and your partner’s cells cloned to make sex cells.  Or, just get yourself cloned.  Medical science marches on.”

            Phil referred to the fact that, while the new biotechnologies weren’t actually illegal, they were the exclusive province of the rich.  The rank and file voters resented them immensely.  As such, these frivolous, immoral, Nazi, Satanic, and/or ungodly, etc., etc. (depending on who the editorializer was) activities were extremely heavily taxed and regulated—on U.S. soil, that is.  The off-shore, foreign-flagged biomedical ships, originally put to sea to fill the needs resulting from the recently-scaled-back, disastrous attempts at fully socialized medicine, now eagerly filled the resulting “gray market”.

            Phil continued, “Like Ronald Rump and Smarmy Simples.  ‘Clone me first, Babe, carry my spitting image to term, and then we’ll clone you.  No use in trying to improve on perfection.’  Or, you can go for the middle, but more expensive, route, get some of your cells cloned, make substitutions for the most grossly defective genes, and spin a few hundred sex cells off of the result.  Ditto your partner, then mix, shake and bake.  Cherry-pick the resulting blastomeres.  You know, an updated version of what we’d planned to do* way back when, before we got carried away by passion in Hawaii, took a random dip in the gene pool, and made Murgatroid.  So irrational, so impetuous of us, wouldn’t you say?

            “Anyway, that’s the middle route.  Still mix up the ol’ gene pool, but do away with the trial and error.  Reduce the number of defects you’ve gotta wade through, on those blastomeres.  But, it’s very expensive.  Can’t lay down a million or so?  Forget it.  We’ve gotta do better.  Gotta bring the prices down, to increase market size.  OK, let’s not get too cynical; this is about helping people and society, not just making money.  At least, I sure hope so.  Given that Senator Hank N. Kreutz doesn’t get elected God, so that he can go and pass laws saying that those who go out to those ships will be forced to get abortions.  Flips my lid, how him and his fascist Republican buddies can go on all day, condemning abortion, and then saying that the results of ‘ungodly experimentation’ shouldn’t be allowed to live.

            “Yes, our plans.  ABC’s strategy will be to leapfrog the competition.  BABI?  Cloning?  Who needs ‘em?!  We’re gonna—Snooglebunch, this is utterly, unspeakably secret, now-” Phil took a few bites of low-cholesterol, MSG-free, low-plutonium Chinese food, and masticated thoughtfully.

            “We’re already committed to spending about twelve billion dollars.  Yes, we have that kind of money.  Biotech has been very good to ABC.  We’re gonna buy a computer that’ll kick the snot outta anything that’s ever been built before. It’ll be built by Comp-Optic, in their geosynchronous microgravity manufacturing, telecom, blah et cetera., space station that they had the good sense of locating outside of Chinese firing range.

            “It’ll be one of these new deals where they build it with molecular beam epitaxy, at almost absolute zero, and in zero gee, ‘cause of how delicate this whole mess is.  They’ll build a humongous diamond with organic impurities that steer laser pulses around, and ‘remember’ laser-light polarities as a method of storing data.  Photonic circuits made of organic impurities in diamond crystals, analogous to the much older, less powerful electronic technology of impurities in semiconductors.  A much fancified derivative of the old bacterial protein called rhodopsin that I told you about—you know, the stuff that stores data, but only at very cold temperatures.  The spooks and spies and unspeakably horrid bioweapons designers and such-like whores for the State use the stuff as a method of carrying top-secret data that’s real easy to destroy, for security.  Just turn off the ‘fridge.  Poof!  Data’s gone.

            “But these new, totally synthetic derivatives of rhodopsin are unstable abominations in the eyes of Momma Nature.  Especially bottled up inside carbon crystals.  These ‘dirty diamonds’ won’t hold together at anything above a few degrees Kelvin.  So, they use very low-velocity molecular beams to put ‘em together, real slowly, so as to not get the dirty diamonds all hot and bothered.  Gravity would mess with these slow beams way too much down here, so it’s gotta be done in orbit.

            “Anyway, it’s just awesome.  A few dozen molecules—and, fairly small ones, mind you—in a ‘cell’, and it’s almost the equivalent of a human brain neuron.  Packed...”

            Gloria rolled her eyes and protested.  “All right, professor, let’s get on with it.  What are the boys gonna do with the toys?”

            “Well, we’ve already demonstrated the principles.  Small, dinky little things, spheres an inch or two in diameter that are the equivalent of mainframes from a few years back.  Still not cost-effective.  Just wait, though.  In a few months, we start building ‘Derrick, the Dirty Diamond’.  He’s got a name already, even.  We’re halfway there.  A sphere, about a meter and a half in diameter!  Yet it might pack roughly the same punch per volume as a human brain!  Orders and oodles of magnitude more processing power than anything ever built!

            “OK, OK—so, what are we going to do with him?  It?  What do you do with something hundreds of times smarter than a human?!  Who knows!  No, really, we do expect Derrick to finally be the first machine that can converse like a normal human being, on all subjects that humans converse about, and then quite a few more.  But that won’t happen right off the bat.

            “First thing we’ll do is, we’ll try to recoup some of our investment.  We’ll load ‘ol Derrick up with regular, mechanistic, rows-and-columns type, linear, Boolean, coldly logical software, firmware, wetware, dirtyware. Whatever the hell you call the steering mechanism of a state machine implemented in a contaminated, overgrown diamond.  Those computer nerds seem to invent a new buzzword every three femptoseconds.

            “Anyway, we’ll run Derrick as just another number-crunching hunk of inanimate matter, for maybe half a year or so.  Run applications that’ve never been practical before.  Sell his services to the highest bidders.  Academia, government, businesses.  Scientifigeeks of all sorts, applications of all sorts.  Some really neat stuff.

            “Near-Earth asteroids, for example.  Huge hunks of raw material, free for the grabbing.  Much cheaper than boosting stuff up off of Earth, or even the Moon, even with today’s lower launch costs.  All we have to do is nudge them into Earth orbit, or dump ‘em into the Lagrange points around the Moon.  Easier said than done.

            “Derrick will figure it out for us.  We explore a few asteroids, blow up a few sticks of dynamite, take a few seismic readings.  Feed ‘em to Derrick, along with precise orbits and masses of all the bodies, including all the sizable inner asteroids.  Derrick runs zillions of simulations.  You’d be surprised at how rapidly multi-body gravitational, orbital mechanics will eat up computer power.  Not just that—Derrick might even play cosmic billiards!  A nudge with a nuke here, a mass accelerator there, a collision here, and a bank shot there—actually bouncing these things off of each other, maybe, not just gravitational slingshots—can you imagine?

            “So, Derrick will tell us how to do this, on the cheap.  Tell us very precisely, how to do it most efficiently.  If it works the way we hope, that alone could pay off our costs.”

            Phil noticed that Gloria’s nutrient absorption rate exceeded his own, so he returned his attention to beer and Chinese food.  He’d not want it said that he was falling down on the job of converting proteins to nitrates, he reflected.  Keep up with the Pope.  I’m an environmental kind of a guy, after all.  So, tie up some more carbon atoms, stick ‘em to my abdominal wall, keep ‘em outta the atmosphere.  Prevent that greenhouse effect!  Be a better, greener chow-hound!

            Phil soon had the bulk of his chow at bay, and then it was Gloria’s turn to hound him.  “So, tell me more.  Cosmic pool-sharking doesn’t sound like ABC’s cup of tea, to me.  Where’s genetics figure in?  What’s this about putting a ghost in the machine?  Why?  Just to fool us into thinking that there’s a person in there?  Will Derrick really be conscious?  Whose ghost?  And, who’s gonna police this affair, to make sure you don’t violate the rights of this artificial consciousness, if that’s what you create?  Will this consciousness have a conscience?  What is the airspeed velocity...”

            “Jeezum, Poogle-bye, you’re almost as bad as the media!  OK, let’s settle down, now.  One at a time.  You in the front.  The good-looking one.  Yeah, you, babe.  Light my fire.”  Smirk, smirk, wink, wink.  “Now, what were your questions?

            “Gotta keep up on my PR skills, see.  OK.  After we recover some of our investment—maybe even make a profit, selling Derrick’s services as just a super-powered number-cruncher—then, we try to develop a ‘ghost in the machine’, as you say.  A consciousness algorithm, as Kurt Katapski—our computer guru on the case—would put it. We’ve concluded that for our purposes, nothing short of actual consciousness, equal to or exceeding the human level, will do.  Yeah, a lot of computers today can fake it, to fool at least some people.  The ol’ ‘Turing test’, you know.  Even there, the human judge asks questions, and the subject replies with words on a screen.  The judge then has to guess whether the replies are generated by a person or by a computer.

            “So, hardware and software have gotten to the point where you can fool some of the people some of the time.  Add the element of the human voice, with a full range of intonations and such, and no computer has fooled anyone yet.  That is, when the media for the test is the spoken word, computers fail miserably.  Even when the media is the typed word, a reasonably smart person, or a person who’s been coached as to what type of questions to ask, can tell the difference.  I’ve played with ‘em myself.  These machines are sorry substitutes for humans.

            “I’d always thought it was just a matter of degree, that computers span a range of consciousness, just as a reasonable person would agree that there’s a span of consciousness in the animal kingdom.  From a fly to a rat to a dog to a chimp to us.  Lately, I don’t know.  I can see Kurt’s way of thinking, that consciousness in a computer requires an algorithm entirely different from any program ever written.

            “We plan to leave large segments of Derrick as a linear logic machine.  The remainder will be wiped clean, and seeded with a ‘consciousness kernel’, if you will.  From there on, Derrick programs himself, with inputs from human coaches, parents, whatever you want to call them.  Kind of like raising a baby.  As the consciousness wakes, the humans allow it access to more and more complicated data, explaining and coaching along the way.

            “Ethics?  Rights?  A sperm whale has a brain bigger than ours, and we don’t accord them any rights.  I don’t know what’s right and wrong, here.  I suspect we really should be treating animals with high levels of consciousness better.  Hell, we accord greater rights to an anencephalic baby, who hasn’t the faintest chance of consciousness, or survival past a few weeks, than we do a live, kicking and screaming chimp, which is our kissing cousin.

            “I’d guess we’ll probably not give Derrick any ‘rights’.  We’ll just regard him as another multi-billion dollar asset.  I guess I’ll worry about it if and when I’m asked to do anything to Derrick that I don’t feel right about.  Once the consciousness develops, according to Kurt and the various gurus, then the funky molecules get permanently bent and twisted in such a way that we can’t turn the switch to Derrick on and off, or wipe him out and run the whole thing as a purely linear machine again.  In other words, it’s a one-shot deal.  We’d be unlikely to ever deliberately ‘kill’ Derrick.  Even if he turns our to be a babbling moron, he’ll be too valuable of a research device to shut down, at least for a few decades, unless this technology gets a heck of a lot cheaper, awfully fast.

            “Anyway, that makes me worry less about ethics, knowing that he’ll be valued a lot, and not wiped out on a whim.”

            “No qualms at all, about anything as far as Derrick and the ghost in the machine, then?” Gloria wanted to know.

            “Well, one thing I worry about,” Phil confessed, “Is that way on down the road, knowing us sick, war-mongering bastards, we’ll stick the likes of Derrick into the guts of super-smart bombs and missiles.  Effectively, building a consciousness for the express purpose of getting it to commit suicide.  Gives me the willies.  Suicide is one thing where I agree with the Pope.  But you can’t go around worrying about people perverting whatever you do.  Anything can be used for bad purposes.  Besides, this kind of computer will be way too expensive for such uses, for a long time to come.”

            “So, where’s the genetics come in?” Gloria prodded.

            “Oh, yeah.  Genetics.  That’s even more complicated, at least for an organism like a human being, than playing cosmic billiards with asteroids.  Nothing short of a souped-up consciousness will make this business really cost-effective.  We’ll cram Derrick with all sorts of data, most especially data about humans, from biochemistry to history, from anthropology to linguistics.  He’ll know us inside and out, as best as we can teach him.  Then, he’ll go through our entire genome, including all cataloged variants, and figure out what, if anything, all of our DNA does.  A lot of it is just ‘junk DNA’, you know.  What he can’t figure out, he’ll tell us about, and we’ll try to get more data for him.  With luck, he’ll enable us to make a quantum jump in understanding, not just mapping, the human genome.  Other species, too, but that’s secondary.

            “And that’s not all, by any means.  We’re hoping that, hooked to the right tools, he’ll actually be able to help us mass-automate genetic analysis of human cells.  That is, computers, for a long time now, have become the more and more important part of the human-machine partnership, in designing the next generation of machine.  Derrick himself wouldn’t be even vaguely imaginable, without who knows how many generations of humans and machines before him.

            “Anyway, with any luck, a truly conscious computer will do wonders for designing the next generation.  Derrick won’t just be a dumb beast, doing whatever his software tells him to.  He’ll tell us how to design very specialized tools and computers.  These in turn will disassemble human cells, duplicate and analyze all the important genes, fix and improve whatever’s busted, and then generate some sex cells.  Do that for both parents, mix the sex cells, pick a decent blastomere, implant it, and wallah!

            “What will we get?  Affordable, readily available, automated gene-splicing.  Not status-symbol trophy-babies that only Ronald Rump and Smarmy Simples can afford, but a technique for everyone who wants it.  Children who are still genetically the offspring of their parents, not the results of some mad breeding scheme.  Satisfy your biological urge to have children that are your own, mix your genes randomly and keep a diverse gene pool, but still make huge improvements in the quality of the gene pool.  Don’t forget, right now, each human carries about four genes that, if matched with an identical defective gene from another parent, would be fatal to the offspring.  Any year now, we’ll be able to fix that, and much more.  Like junk DNA that accumulates over evolutionary time, and gums up the works.”

            “OK, so, any worries come to mind, on what unwanted side effects this bright new day of genetic engineering might bring with it?” Gloria prodded.  “What kind of guidelines are y’all thinking about?  Surely ABC will have a list of things it will and won’t do, regardless of money?”

            “Yea, verily, we’re working on a list.  Obviously, we’ll stay within the law.  If the laws are too restrictive, we’ll set up in offshore biotech ships.  Above and beyond that, even if the laws are real liberal, we’ll not do certain things.

            “We’ll not introduce enough non-human genes to make any humans that can no longer interbreed with today’s humans.  Certainly not till society at large clearly approves of such an undertaking.  We’ll not allow the sex balance to get too lopsided.  If too many parents choose one particular sex, then this sex will become available to only limited numbers of parents, chosen randomly.  We’ll not agree to provide our services to any parent who won’t eliminate what are very, very clearly detrimental genes.  We’ll not provide our services unless there are two committed parents, who’ve had a stable relationship for at least a year.

            “Yes, of course a hot point will be, do we allow gay parents to have babies, and do we allow parents to select whether or not babies have genes that predispose them to being gay.  Being a bleeding heart in at least this  particular category,  I’m firmly in the camp of not being judgmental.  We’d not be enabling anyone to do anything they can’t do already.

            “Remember a while back when we read about the first gay couple to both become biological parents to the same child, although they were both men?  Through a surrogate mother, and all the stink that raised?  So, we’re not introducing anything new.  We’d just be improving the results of such choices, and making it a lot cheaper.  I wish gays could get married, but since they can’t, then I think both straights and gays should have our services, regardless of whether or not they’re married.  Otherwise, I’d like to see marriage as a prerequisite to getting our services.

            “I guess the Bible bangers will just have to live with this speck in my eye—ha!  I feel so bad for them.  How can we be so mean to them?  Not even letting them run our lives?  But, I really do suspect that things will go our way, when that time comes.  Even if it’s only out at sea, beyond the long arms of the feds.  Unless—God forbid, and I’m not enough of a pessimist to think that it’ll come to pass—unless Mein Fuhrer, Senator Chancre on my Butthole—I mean, Hank N. Kreutz—has his way, and gets a law passed that says ‘ungodly abominations’ must be aborted.

            “I guess that’s my main fear, is that we’ll get overly emotional about this all, and over-regulate it.  Stomp on people’s freedoms to use these new technologies for decent ends.  I don’t worry about that bugaboo of the non-improved among us getting discriminated against, when it comes time get insurance and such.  Legalize freedom, I say.  As long as the buyers and sellers of anything contract willingly, and live by their contracts, then go for it.  Why should I be forced to buy insurance I don’t need?  Why should my charity choices be made for me by excessive regulation of insurance, or other forms of socialism?

            “Besides, you get more of whatever you subsidize, including genetic defects.  Make the more healthy cover the less healthy, and there’s less incentive to be healthy.  Genetic engineering can help us be healthy.  Some would call me a Nazi for that, but, tough.  Remember reading about poor parents pushing their kids to act crazy, so as to qualify for Supplemental Security Income for disabled kids?  Not giving the kids their medicine, even, to stay qualified?  Gotta get that ‘crazy cash’.  That’s what you get for making people’s charity choices for them.  That’s why ABC will set certain standards.  Else, who knows, people would be asking for special, low-maintenance vegetable babies.  Racks and racks full of ‘em.  Take ‘em off the shelf and dust ‘em occasionally, and keep those checks rolling in!

            “Actually, the way things are right now, with genetic engineering only available to the rich, we’re well on the way to creating two genetic classes—the clean and the unclean; the selected, and the genetic underclass.  I really, really hope Derrick will help us bust on through, and make genetic engineering available to just about everyone.  We’ll all be better off, once the Bible-bangers stop trying to keep us all on the righteous path, and accept freedom, if not for themselves, at least for others.

            “So there, I’m a Nazi.  My only other significant worry makes me sound a bit less like a Nazi.  That is, I’m worried about the big bad feds grabbing hold of this under a fascist regime.  If socialism and bleeding-heart liberalism keeps on making everyone’s decisions for them, and keeps on making them stupidly, then we may see a severe backlash someday.  OK, not Senator Chancre, since he’s so firmly against biotech, but someone like him who wants to use the new tools for Big Brother.

            “First thing, they’ll say, ‘Enough of making the taxpayers pay for the reproductive choices of the welfare mooches.  You want help, you get sterilized first.  You and your kids, both.  After all, the new technology will let you bypass your sterile reproductive systems, as soon as you get off of welfare, and can afford a small fee.’  Fine and dandy, I’ll say.  I’m not a total bleeding heart.  Or, I’m a bleeding heart for the taxpayers.  Actually, as you know, I’d much rather just see the government returning charity to where it belongs—the private sector.

            “Anyway, I love my country, but fear my government.  Once they put that kind of system in place, under one set of rules, they just change the rules.  You can check out, but you can never leave.  You don’t get what you signed up for.  Just like Social Security.  Retirement system, my ass!  Purely another case of the State making our charity choices for us, now.

            “So, once the feds put such a system in place, of controlling the reproduction of the mooches, who knows how they’ll raise the bar?  No kids unless you make campaign contributions, vote National Socialist Republican Workers’ Party, whatever.  Just like they said the income tax would never be more than a snippet, and only for the richest, way back in the early twentieth century.  Just can’t trust the bums.

            “And, once you’re sterilized, it’s not like you can go to the local black-market Mom-and-Pop baby shop.  This stuff is way too complicated.  A totalitarian government could really make use of such a choke point.  Not that that means we should refrain from genetic engineering.  The feds can always beat us on the heads with hammers—more than they do already, I mean.  Shall we outlaw hammers?

            “OK, I’ve gone on long enough.  What do you think, Poogle Pie?” Phil inquired.

            “I don’t know, Phil.  I do know, it’s always an interesting pastime, listening to my favorite libertarian rabble-rouser.  I haven’t thought about it much.  When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.  Meantime, let’s engineer this dirt off of our plates.”

            “Sit down, Pootie Pie.  I’ll take care of it.  Your delicate condition and all, you know.  Why don’t you just stay barefoot and pregnant in the dining room.”

            “Nah.  Murgatroid needs exercise, too.”

            Gloria found a topic with which to prolong their genetic engineering discussion while they cleaned up.  “Come to think of it, I can add two cents or so.  Here’s another one to add to your list of worries.  You’ve probably heard it before, but, will all parents be really worried about their engineered babies’ appearance?  Will we all soon look the same?  Will we all be sculpted beauties from the same mold?”

            “I think there’s probably some reason to worry there,” Phil ‘fessed up.  “Not a whole bunch, though.  I think people will still value individuality, and will certainly value passing on their own genes whenever they aren’t grossly defective, above and beyond having babies to follow the latest fashions.  Yes, it would be nice to change our stupid biases, but, study after study has shown that most people treat ‘beautiful people’ better than ugly people.  ‘Beautiful people’ get paid better, laid better, and ignored less often.  It sure ain’t fair in my book.  Then again, that’s true of a lot of things.

            “And it’s not like ideas of human beauty—I mean, ignoring clothes, hairstyles, makeup, and such—are really that terribly cultural.  All human cultures agree, by and large, that smooth skin is good, zits and diseases are bad, facial and body symmetry is good, and so on.  So what, if we all start to be engineered to be beautiful, and there’s hardly any more ugly people to be discriminated against?  It would be better for us all to grow up, and ignore appearances, but you know what the chances of that are!  Anyway, would engineered beauty be so bad?  Stupid, vapid actresses and models would have to find honest jobs.  Can’t say my heart would bleed.

            “Besides, look at cars, clothes, art, and culture.  There’s wild variety, even though we could all follow exactly the same standards.  Variety is worthwhile, even in places where there isn’t this instinct to pass on one’s own genes.  Even people who don’t stop to think much about the value of a diverse gene pool, will want to have their kids be as much like them as possible, with minor improvements.  Like, less disease and defects.

            “But you never know.  Human idiocy knows no bounds, sometimes.  Some animals have taken ‘beauty’, or sexual attractiveness traits—us biogeeks call them ‘secondary sex characteristics’, when traits have no real biological function, other than attracting mates—anyway, some animals have taken such gee-gaws to ridiculous extremes.  Probably so much that it’s helped lead to their demise.

            “The Irish Elk, with its humongous antlers, the size of a small tree, comes to mind.  Antlers that large probably helped them go extinct.  What’s the human analogy?  Breasts.  They really don’t need to be anywhere near as large as they are, to do their thing, feeding babies.  Certainly not at times when you’re not nursing.  They’re just toys for men.  Secondary sex characteristics.  Will we engineer them so huge, to satisfy silly, infantile men, that we’ll go extinct, ‘cause all the women get back trouble, and die?  Interesting to speculate about.  But, no, the new biotech means that we’ll reproduce without women, one of these days.  Only if we also do something silly with men, at the same time, would we have to worry about it.  What would you propose?”

            Gloria thought awhile, then suggested, “Maybe we could genetically engineer humongous rooster combs and turkey wattles on you guys.  I think you’d look real good with a set.  Bright red.”

            In a few minutes, they were done cleaning up, in bed, and performing their bedtime ritual of waving pointers at the large, thin-film screen above their waterbed.  They split the screen, trading comments about the news texts and pictures.  What they saw and commented on, was more of the same, only more so.

            “Hey, check this out, Pootie Pie!  Defendants with multiple personality disorder.  The lawyers are no longer satisfied with making a circus out of swearing each of the personalities in, separately, and debating about what should happen if only one of the personalities is guilty.  Here’s some public defender in Los Angeles, working on yet another way to milk the system!  Had some shrink induce multiple personalities in him, to match the personalities in his defendant.  Serve the client better.  For his diligence, he’s expecting the city to pay him and the shrink twelve times, once for each of the lawyer personalities.”

            “So?  Big deal.  Look over here.  This case, the whiner actually got his way.  Some guy sued and won, ‘cause he’s disabled, and was discriminated against.  See?  Couldn’t show up for work, ‘cause he was ‘motivationally impaired’.  Whaddaya think of that?” Gloria declared triumphantly.

            Phil just shook his head, and searched for yet another outrage.  Let’s see if I can find a better one.  It took him only a few minutes.  “Here’s a really sad one.  Half of Americans surveyed think that the primary responsibility for job creation lies with—guess who?  Yup.  None other.  The government.”

            “I guess we get what we deserve,” Gloria commented.  “Look at this ad.  A how-to book for retired people, on how best to piss away, and hide, your money, so as to qualify for Social Security, under the new rules.”

            “I’ll tell ya, Pootie Pie, there’s gonna be a revolution.  I just hope it’s at the ballot box, and not with bullets.  I just wish people would discover the Libertarian Party.  There is a choice other than witchburning lawyers and socialist lawyers.  There is a party that actually believes in a smaller government.”

            “I agree, Sugar Lump,” Gloria replied.  “I’m afraid that if we don’t straighten this mess out with some common sense, it’ll backlash to some other ridiculous extreme.  But we won’t solve the world’s problems tonight.  I’m pretty bushed.  Let’s take it in.”

            “I suppose that means you’re not as mimsy as the borogroves, tonight, then?” Phil asked, nudging her with his hips.

            “Yeah, you could say that.  I’m old, and my skin is cold.  Not mimsy.  Not tonight.”

            I guess that means I won’t bring up that touchy subject related to my work, tonight, then, either, Phil thought, glancing at the few pages he’d folded into his book.  There’s always later.  It’s not like I’m going to actually do anything with it any time soon, anyway.  “Good night, Snoogie Bunch,” he said, turning off the screen and the lights.  “I love you”.

            “I love you too,” she mumbled drowsily.  “Night-night”.


 

CHAPTER  2

            “Who is to say that I am not specially favored by God?”  Adolf Hitler

                                                                                    (1889-1945)

 

            Senator Hank N. Kreutz, R-Hell—that is, Republican from Alabama—sat in his office in Montgomery, looking over accounts of his war chests.  Just a few paltry million dollars to go, and he’d have some real money—enough to make a serious stab at the Presidency.  Too bad I’ve gotta suck so much butt, listen to so many morons, just to collect chump change, he thought.  I’d much rather be doing God’s work, more directly, right now, rather than trying to get into position to do so.  OK, time for the next yahoo.  Hope he’s not as much of a bore as the last one.

            Straighten yourself out! he commanded himself.  Attitudes show.  This man is one of the more important, influential contributors.  Even if his dollars aren’t as plentiful as those of some of my donors, the Reverend Pat Smuckler has quite the faithful following.  He’s also quite a righteous leader.  Not at all like those other potential contributors to my noble cause, ol’ Mr. Ronald Rump and his wife, what’s-her-name.

            Hank sat there for a moment or two, getting his thoughts together.  I hope Reverend Pat won’t mind me keeping him waiting for just a few seconds.  Rather that, than my screwing this up, for lack of mental preparation.  At least a million bucks is riding on this deal, here.  Gotta remember, though—principles are more important than money.  Especially when there’s a significant chance that the media might learn that I’ve taken money from people who’ve said or done things that I disagree with.  Like, Ronald Rump.  Although, I sure hated losing that money!

            The Senator’s mind drifted off to his disappointment over the Ronald Rump deal.  Just how petty can a man get, he wondered.  Just ‘cause if I had my way, most people like him and his wife would be in the slammer, and their clones and other monster-babies would be aborted.  As if the results of ungodly experiments were human anyway.  Most of all, as if he thought I couldn’t find some way of sheltering important donors from my policies, if only he and his wife had the sense to be discreet, instead of showing off.  Status babies!  What a concept!  And, dammit—oops, I mean, gol dang it—as if he had absolutely no understanding of the Republican philosophy of the Big Tent.  How many times must we say it, we don’t care whether or not you disagree with us, when we say we want to put the likes of you in jail, you’re still welcome to vote for us, and to contribute to our cause?  We want to help you, for Christ’s sake!

            Come on now—no time to be crying over spilt money.  Move on.  What will Reverend Pat want?  Will I have to compromise my principles over this next sack of cash?  Remember that racist rat, Reverend Jimmy Snaker, who wanted me to spread the word about how Jesus doesn’t love the niggers?  Oh, be sensitive, to be sure, when you’re explaining this, Jimmy had hastened to add.  And, be sure to explain that niggers come in both colors, both Black and White.  Hank shuddered at the thought.  The very term was anathema to any sensible politician who wanted to get elected in the twenty-first century.

            He remembered how he’d tried to explain to Jimmy, “Now, Jimmy, you know how we’ve had some very frank discussions.  How I trust you, implicitly.  How we both know, and have shared, since we’re both men of God, how it seems that I have a destiny, how I might be specially favored by God, to spread His Message.  But, you know, sometimes being specially favored by God means being sensible.  Politically astute.”

            Jimmy had looked a bit disgusted, so Hank had hastened to add, “God helps those who help themselves, you know.  But the main reason that I—or you, or anyone else, for that matter—can be specially favored by God, is that we study God’s Word.  The Infallible Word.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, we’ll never get away with it.  Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t some truth in what you’re saying.  I don’t necessarily disagree.  It’s just that one has to live in the real world.  Some very ungodly men have said exactly what you’re saying, and people remember.  We can’t do it.  It’s not even Biblical, despite what some would claim.  Not that I don’t believe you’re sincere.  Now, if you’ll just steer your gunsights to the side a bit, and pull with the rest of us Brothers in Christ, and try to straighten out, say, gay sodomites, who quite clearly are in violation of God’s commandments, then...”

            Jimmy wouldn’t hear of it.  He insisted in trying to sway Hank.  Hank, being an honest man of conscience, wouldn’t change his stance.  Or even pretend to, temporarily, despite his being sorely tempted.  Jimmy ended up wanting to make only a small, token contribution, since, at least, they both agreed on gays, biotechnology blasphemers, and other sinners.  Hank ended up turning down even this small offer, for fear of the media getting wind of his taking money from a racist.  A man has got to stand by his principles, after all.

            Hank wrenched his mind back to the present.  Oh, how I’d like to be back in Washington—and, not as a measly Senator, but as the President, he lamented to himself.  But it’s late May, and we’ve just started the summer telepresence session, where we spend only half of our time attending Congressional meetings via telepresence, and I’ve got to be back here, being in touch with my constituents, and begging for money.  So that, some sunny day, I can really do God’s will.

            All right.  Look to the future.  Call in Reverend Pat, and see if we can squeeze a few hundred thousand bucks from him.  A million or more, with any luck at all.  Shouldn’t be too hard; after all, he’s not a crackpot, like Jimmy, and it’s for a good cause, so I should be able to convince him.  After all, we’re both men of God.  Brothers in Christ.  Call him in here.  Make my pitch.  Get some legal tender for the cause.

            Hank called his secretary and let him know that he was ready.  The Reverend Pat Smuckler tromped in, followed by Hank’s aides, Dave Bose and Chuck LeSage.  Hank greeted Pat with a long, warm handshake, proclaiming his joy at being honored with a visit from so eminent a Christian leader.  Dave and Chuck were treated merely to brief thanks from Hank, for having brought Pat from the airport.

            Not that Hank wasn’t deeply appreciative of Dave and Chuck—they were both very useful, in different ways.  Dave could be counted on to stand by his boss, no matter what.  OK, so, maybe he wasn’t much of an independent, original thinker—still, he could be counted on in a pinch.  Independent thinking was Chuck’s department.  Chuck was the one to keep Hank from getting carried away, and doing things that were, well, too extreme.  Even if he was a pain in the ass, sometimes, he kept Hank out of trouble.  There’s a place in the world for level-headed, practical people, Hank would sometimes say to Chuck.  So, Dave and Chuck both had their places.  When in need of reinforcement, Hank would look primarily to Dave, and when in doubt, and needing another view, he would look to Chuck.

            After fleeting pleasantries, they got down to business.  Not before praying for Divine Guidance, though, to be sure.  Pat suggested, “Before we get started, Brother Kreutz, let us invite the One Who Died on the Cross for us.”

            “By all means,” Hank replied, bowing his head.  Dave and Chuck followed suit.  “But, just call me Hank,” he managed to insert, before Pat had completed drawing a big, solemn breath for his supplication to The Lord.  Hank didn’t mind much, being called Senator or Brother Kreutz, or Hank; he just hated being called Hank Kreutz, without the middle initial.  Not that he really thought that anyone would confuse him with his old Uncle, the state representative, Hank B. Kreutz—that was just what Hank N. Kreutz would say, when people—the media, for example—would drop his middle initial.  The real reason was simply that “Hank Kreutz” ran together, and sounded too inelegant—roughly like a single, guttural word, like an onomatopoeia for a sneeze.

            It was one of Hank’s worst nightmares.  They’d have fun with his name.  He’d show up at some big, formal Party, and they’d announce his arrival.  “Ladies and gentlemen, here he is—the Honorable Senator—Hank Kreutz!  Hank Kreutz!  Hank Kreutz!”  And some wise-acre would smart off, “Gesundheit!  And, now—Senator who?!”  So, Senator Hank N. Kreutz made sure that no one dropped that “N”.

            Reverend Smuckler launched into his oration.  “Lord, we invoke your gentle spirit here as we gather in Your Name.  Guide us as we make these important decisions in how best to bring Your Kingdom to Earth.  Let us be good guardians of the resources that You have given to us; let us practice good stewardship in Your Name.  Let us make wise use of all the money that Your flocks have donated.  Let us be good shepherds.

            “Lord, your enemies are all about.  Godlessness of all sorts besmirches the land.  Drug dealers, prostitutes, pornographers, Jewish bankers, secular Satanists, Freemasons, conspirators, abortionists, sodomites, feminists, and vain, arrogant, would-be gods—biotechnology-worshipping blasphemers—are laying siege to Your Kingdom.

            “Lord, give us the courage to do you work.  Let us smite your enemies.  Give us the power, Lord...”

            “Amen!” Hank inserted.  He couldn’t help it; he just got carried away, listening to Pat’s powerful prayer.  “Tell it like it is, Reverend!  May the Lord hear our prayers,” he finished.  They all opened their eyes a bit, and Dave and Chuck chimed in with “Amens,” also.  Chuck’s “Amen” seemed distinctly more anemic than Dave’s, though, and Chuck passed a subtle frown in Hank’s direction.  Yeah, I know, Chuck; you think we should steer clear of conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers and such, Hank thought.  You think the media might have us for lunch.  But, you know, sometimes you’ve got to stand up for what’s right.

            Reverend Pat seemed annoyed; he wasn’t done.  He bowed his head and shut his eyes again, and continued.  “As I was saying, Lord, we ask for Your help in these trying times, and ask that we be anointed as powerful warriors against ungodliness.  Let us be your soldiers.  Let us bring the light to all the unseeing non-Christians of this world.”

            Hearing this, Hank renewed his determination.  Pat was right.  The world was full of Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, and all other sorts of unbelievers—not to mention “Christians” who weren’t really Christians—and Hank and his Brothers had their work cut out for them.  All those unbelievers had to be given their chances to be saved from Eternal Damnation—and, not just mild chances—emphatic chances!  Unmistakable, forceful chances!  So much to do, so little time!  And, so little power.  But that could be remedied.

            Pat continued, “Lord, let us make the best of our opportunities.  Let us make the best of what You have given us.  We know that much is expected from those to whom much is given.  And let us not forget to be thankful.  Thank You, oh Lord, for having given me the power to resist temptation, for having led me to practice good stewardship, for having helped me to save so much of the money that has been donated by Your faithful servants, rather than having squandered it on mansions and fast women, as some of Your less faithful preachers have done.  Thank you, oh Lord, that I am not like them.  We would ask, now, that what we give to your servants, such as the Honorable Senator Hank N. Kreutz, will go to achieve Your Will.  May Your Spirit move us all.”

            Pat paused, and seemingly ready to wrap it up.  But he added one more thought.  “Last but not least, Lord, we thank you that the Democrats are so vile and vain, so stupid and extremist, that they don’t know when to quit.  That they take political correctness, socialism, criminal-coddling, and paternalistic busy-bodyism to such ridiculous extremes, that good men such as Senator Kreutz will one day be able to take over.  Lord, we ask that they continue their idiocy, so that they may be swept from office, and replaced with those who would do Your Will.

            “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

            “Amen!” Hank, Dave, and Chuck added, in one voice.

            “OK.  Let’s get to it,” Pat charged right in.  “You don’t need to give me the usual pitch.  I, and my viewers, my congregation, are already quite convinced that your causes are, indeed, noble ones.  Biblical ones.  Especially compared to the aims of the other ‘leaders’ in Sin City.  I don’t know how Godly individuals like you and your staff can survive in such a place.

            “Anyway, I’ll not waste your valuable time having you persuade me of the merits of your cause.  What’s really on my mind, is, like...,” Pat lowered his voice a little, looking around furtively.  “How do we help your good causes most efficiently, without my donors losing their tax deductions?  And, without running afoul of laws limiting campaign contributions.  How do we do it?”

            Hank brushed Pat’s objections aside with an expansive gesture.  “Campaign contributions?  Who said anything about campaign contributions?  We don’t need campaign contributions.  No sweat.  No problem at all.  We simply have you make your generous, charitable donation to the Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation, which is entirely a non-profit institution.  Yes, I’m the chairman.  But it’s a figure-head post.  The real power is wielded by Heinrich Lubyankavich, who has nothing to do with my campaign, or my staff.  And we can document that.

            “Yes, the Freedom Foundation does mention my name quite a bit.  My name is part of its name, after all.  And my philosophies, and those of the Foundation, agree to a large extent.  But it takes no stance on whether or not I should be elected President.  It is, after all, a non-profit charity.  It makes large contributions to building churches—both buildings and organizations—in suitable areas.  That, and educating people about returning this nation to its lost glory, and about Freedom.

            “Most especially, freedom from gangs, crime, and drugs.  Freedom from pornography, from violence against the unborn, and from cultural decadence.  Freedom from the ungodly—especially gays, and their pernicious, perverted influences.  Them, and, of course, biotechnology-worshipping fools.

            “Don’t worry about not being able to contribute to my campaign, directly.  The Freedom Foundation stands for the same things that I stand for.  If you help them, you help me.  If we educate people to vote for the things that I believe in, of course we’ll be helping them to vote for me.”

            “Great!” Pat exclaimed, a wide smile brightening his sometimes-dour face.  “Sold!  I’ll definitely chip in, then, to the Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation.  I like it.  It does, indeed, seem to dove-tail with what my followers and I espouse.”

            Pat’s smile faded, as he paused in thought.  He went on to say, “I’m worried, though, about strategy and tactics, and whether you might be open to a few suggestions.”

            Oh-oh, here comes the hook! Hank worried.  Sure hope I can swallow whatever he’s got cooked up, without committing political suicide!  I’d hate to lose his support.

            “You know how the media, and your opposition, have been blathering about how we would take away peoples’ freedoms, and call it freedom.  Some crackpots have even been saying that what we really need is freedom from freedom froms.  Well, to some extent, I hear them.  Like, we need freedom from the Democrats’ freedom froms.  Their freedom from want has translated to, freedom from making one’s own charity choices.  To that extent, I agree with those crackpot libertarians.  But, of course, they want freedom to violate God’s commandments, and we can’t have that.  Give them freedom to bend their minds with ungodly drugs; next thing they’ll demand, is more freedom to murder.  Even murdering those who’ve already been born, and haven’t committed any crimes, as I warn my followers.”

            Hank just sat there, nodding his head.  Freedom from freedoms froms?  Ha!  Libertarian crap-trap.  Any fool can tell you that the best way to sell a policy of taking their freedoms away, is to call it freedom.  And, what’s wrong with that?  Especially when the freedom they want, is the freedom to violate God’s will?  OK, get on with it.  Tell me something new.

            “Anyway, it seems that some of the opposition’s foul lies are taking hold,” Pat continued.  “I want to help you fight back.  Where they claim you’re just wanting to take peoples’ freedoms away, we’ve got to have sound arguments with which to fight back.  Like, Biblical arguments.  Now, I know that you’ve been able to effectively back yourself up with Leviticus 18:23 and 20:13, where it says that God hates gay sex, and that gays should be killed.  I’m proud of you on that account.

            “But, I’ve yet to hear or read anything from you or your organizations to Biblically justify our stance against biotechnology.  I can provide you with one.  See Leviticus 19:19, where it says one shouldn’t crossbreed domestic animals, or plant two kinds of seed in the same field.  Now, obviously, if God doesn’t want us to mix plants and animals, how would He feel about us mixing up humans, who were made in His Image, with the animals?  You know, how they want to sneak a few animals genes into humans, here and there.  On the pretext of ‘improving’ us, who are made in God’s Image.  Add this to your list of Freedoms: Freedom from Bestiality.”

            Hank was pleased.  Not only was Pat not asking him to do anything politically suicidal, he was also adding to Hank’s ammunition.  “Chuck—write that down, will you?  Leviticus 19:19, and, Freedom from Bestiality.  Good material for my speeches.”  Chuck nodded and jotted it down.

            Pat was pleased, too.  “See, Hank, I’m not just bringing you money.  I’m also bringing you sound, Biblical advice.  I’m concerned for your spirit, your soul, as well as for this country.  You know what I’d recommend for you?  Read Leviticus, from start to finish.  Lots of good stuff in there.  God’s Word.  That’s what I think you need.  That, and Deuteronomy, too, come to think of it.

            “Now, we’ve got to keep on thinking of effective, Bible-based ways to fight back against the liberals, media, and other unbelievers.  Another thing that they harp on, is how we’re against abortion, yet we advocate abortion for the results of ungodly biotechnology.  I think your idea of using existing laws, with minor modifications, to solve this problem, is a good twist.  Abortion is legal, since our laws say that a fetus isn’t a human being.  So if we can abort them, then surely we can abort those who weren’t even made in God’s image.  And, if the parents of these monsters wait till they’re born to bring them into the U.S., then they’re obviously not citizens, so we can kick ‘em out.  Kinda clever, really.

            “Still, the opposition is scoring a few points in the minds of the uneducated public.  Calling us hypocrites.  We’ll just keep on educating them, and they’ll see the light.  Those who are made by God, are made in God’s image, and those who are made by man’s technology, aren’t.  It’s that simple.  Aborting a monster isn’t murder, like murdering one of God’s children.  Didn’t we learn our lesson about messing with God’s plans, with those awful BELFRYBATs that they cooked up?”

            “I’m with you, Reverend,” Hank interjected.  “You were talking about strategy and tactics, and Bible-based arguments.  You have any more specific suggestions?”  Hank hated to hear himself say that, for fear of Pat coming up with something unpalatable, but, hey, gotta keep this geezer buttered up.  After all, he’s got the bucks.

            “Well, Senator, I’m getting to it.  What I was going to say is, abortion isn’t what it used to be.  For many reasons.  Some people can’t see the difference between monsters and human beings.  They’re calling us hypocrites.  And pills have made abortion such a decentralized, private murder-affair between doctors and their victims.  We just can’t rally ‘em around the abortion clinics anymore, like we used to.

            “We need to get the public focused on a well-chosen evil.  Something that’s located in centralized places, in each major city, and in lots of universities.  Something like abortion clinics used to be, where we can say, see, here’s where the evil is committed.  Centralized places that are easily accessible to protesters and the media.  We need visibility—lots of it—in a fight against an un-Biblical Evil.  Gays and biotechnology?  They help, but there’s just not enough of ‘em.  Gays are what, maybe three percent at most, of the population?  Any only the filthy rich can afford monster-babies, at least for now.  We need a new scapegoat.”

            Oh, no! thought Hank.  Here comes the crackpot idea.  Here comes the fanaticism so extreme, that I can’t let the media see me cozying up with it.  I hope it’s not racism, or something equally discredited.

            “Ahem,” Chuck nervously broke in.  “A scapegoat?  If the media ever figures out that this is a conscious strategy of ours, they’ll have a field day.  We’ll never hear the end of it.  And—is such an approach really sound, or ethical?  What if it turns around and bites us?”

            Shut up, you moron! Hank thought.  Who asked for your irrelevant opinion anyway?  And who proposes that we would ever tell the media what we’re doing and why, anyway?

            Fortunately for Chuck’s ego, Reverend Smuckler did the talking.  He called Chuck down far more gently that Hank would’ve done.  “Ethical?  Ethical, schmethical!  Ethics is just human beings philosophizing.  Biblical!  Biblical, son!  That’s what we’ve got to concern ourselves with, is, is it Biblical?  Does it follow God’s Word?!  God’s infallible word!  GOD’s WORD, not men’s words.”

            The Reverend dug into his briefcase, bringing out four small Bibles and passing them around.  “This is real important, that we do what we do, in accordance with God’s Will.  I suppose we should’ve studied His Word before, at this meeting, here.  But, let’s get to it.  We must dispel all of our doubts.  Yes, indeed, our popular culture doesn’t like the idea of scapegoats.  Yes, some people have used scapegoats for ill ends.  But, it is Biblical.  In the hands of Godly men, scapegoats can be used for God’s ends.  Turn with me if you will, to Leviticus 16:20.”

            Pat thumbed his way to the right section rapidly, followed by Hank and Dave.  Chuck fumbled around, while Pat helped him to finally find the right section, in a subtly condescending manner.  Finally, they all had it.  Pat’s voice, though quiet, somehow seemed to boom with authority.

            “When he finishes atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat.

            “Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all of their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.

            “And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”

            Pat closed his Bible, and commented, “I don’t suppose I need to add that if it’s OK to lay one’s own sins on an innocent goat, then obviously it’s OK to punish a scapegoat for its own sins.  So, Senator, once again, you can see what powerful and helpful Holy Words we have here in Leviticus.”

            Hank admitted, “Yes, Reverend, I have to admit that I’m amazed at your command of the Bible.  I will indeed see if I can’t find some time to read the sections that you recommend, more often.”  To himself he said, Holy Shit!, does this guy have the Bible memorized, or what?!  Could be very useful, to recall this kind of information on command.  I’ve got to get better at this kind of thing.  “Senator and Biblical Scholar” sounds pretty impressive, yes?

            Out loud he said, “A scapegoat.  OK, a scapegoat, then.  But, only a very carefully selected one.  What have you got in mind, Reverend?”

            “Yes, Senator, I know we have to stay in the realm of the politically feasible.  A very carefully selected one indeed.  One that fits the criteria I mentioned, plus, is an important part of the conspiracies of Evil that we face.  I propose that evolutionism fits the bill.  It pushes the idea that we aren’t made in the image of God, and it’s clearly not Biblical.  Plus, natural history museums and universities with geology, paleontology-type facilities would make excellent rallying places.”

            Senator Hank N. Kreutz sat there in majestic silence, pondering the idea.  Hmmm.  Maybe.  Just maybe.  Rally the public.  Get some visibility.  Even, get those damned, obnoxious, “principled” lovers of evolution, sociobiology, books, ideas, and fossils, to stick their necks out in protest.  Get a really good tally of who the really crazy intellectual free-thinking fools are, who value their un-Biblical ideas more than their own skins.  Intellectuals are dangerous, but intellectuals who value their ideas even more than their hides—well, they can spell real trouble.  Let’s flush ‘em out now, tally their numbers, while they don’t realize exactly what they’re doing.  Their day will come later!  Troublemakers!

            “Not bad, Reverend, not bad.  Not too bad at all.  A prime way to move our great nation back towards the Bible.  But, how do we do it?  We’re already trying as best as we can, to get Biblical creation science taught in the schools.  We’re trying to get the local, grass-roots parents empowered, so that they—the Godly ones, that is—can straighten out the public schools.  Other than that, I really don’t see what else we can do.  What are you suggesting?”

            Pat leaned over a bit, and lowered his voice.  “What I’m saying, Senator, is that we need to quietly get the word out, and we need to get as many people involved as we can, both of us, at as many levels as we can.  We need to all strike at the same time.  We need to get big protests and civil-disobedience-type activities going on.  You know, people chaining themselves to the doors of the natural history museums, that kind of thing.

            “But mostly I was hoping we could get your Bible Youth involved.  Sneak in there in the middle of the night, and trash books, research facilities and such.  Destroy those Satanic fossils.  Eliminate the Evil at the root.  If there’s no books and fossils, there’ll be a heck of a lot less evolutionary heresy.  Less people saying that we’re just another animal, that acting like animals is OK.”

            Hank got wide-eyed.  “Now, you know I have nothing to do, officially, with the Bible Youth, at all.  OK, so, maybe they like me a bit, since they believe what I believe.  They might even listen to what I say, now and then.  But, I’m not their boss.  Not at all.  I can’t do it.  Even if I could, I wouldn’t, ‘cause the media would scream to high Heaven, about what a book-burning barbarian I am.”

            “Yes, yes, I understand,” Pat said smoothly, “You’re not the boss.  We all know that.  I’ll bet, though, that if the both of us got the word out, quietly, through just the right channels, then, maybe we could get them to do it.  Then, we could publicly speak out against their techniques.  Their aims are good, you know, but we deplore their methods.  Be peacemakers at the same time as we get some publicity, and action for a good cause.  Have our cake and eat it, too.  And, make it clear to all that, like you say, the Bible Youth aren’t your stooges.  They don’t listen to everything you say.”

            Hey, this guy is sharp!, Hank thought.  Sign him up!  “Well, I don’t know,” he said, doubtfully.  He cast a glance at Dave, straightened his tie, and looked at Dave again.  It was the signal meaning, “Has our current guest been checked for bugs?”  Pat was an established conservative of long and good repute, but you never know.  He could be a “sleeper” mole, hiding his true nature all this time.  One couldn’t take a risk of getting busted big-time, of being caught on tape, committing to this kind of thing, no matter how small the risk.  Dave didn’t notice the gesture, but Chuck was looking at Hank a bit wide-eyed.  Yeah, it figures, Hank thought.  You’re being a chicken-shit again.  Afraid we’ll get embroiled in a crock of shit.  Well, have some balls.  Can’t make eggs without squeezing a few chickens.

            “I’ll have to think about it a bit,” Hank said out loud.  “Can’t just jump into this kind of thing, without thinking and praying about it a bit.  Wouldn’t you agree with me on this one, Dave?”  Hank straightened his tie once more.  To appear even-handed, he also glanced at Chuck.  “Chuck?”

            They both agreed that yes, this kind of decision needs a bit of thought and prayer.  Dave yawned, which meant, all clear.  Dave, as opposed to Chuck, had gotten the duty of surreptitiously checking guests for bugs, because Hank trusted him more than Chuck.  Chuck didn’t even know about these little tricks; after all, he had no need to know.

            Hank was tempted to just go ahead and commit himself, on the spot.  He sat there, debating.  He’d just said he needed to think and pray about it first; he didn’t want to appear rash, in contrast.  Then again, he didn’t want to endanger Pat’s contributions to the Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation, for appearing too doubtful.  Well, maybe we can just let Pat persuade us.

            “I don’t know, Reverend, I just don’t know.  Is this a Christian thing to do?” Hank inquired.

            “Of course it is, Senator.  Casting out the ungodly, just like Jesus and the money-changers in the temple.  And, you know, Jesus told us that those who are not with us, are against us.  See Luke 11:23.  It may be true that not all evolutionists are out there, actively pushing atheism.  But they sure aren’t with us!  They are, then, against us.  We must drive these money-changers out of the temple!”

            Can’t be too hasty, now, Hank thought.  He opened the Bible that Pat had lent him, and looked up Luke 11:23.  Sure enough, there it was.  He shut his eyes in contemplation for just a few seconds, and then announced, “OK, Reverend, I’m with you.  Let’s do it.”

            They chatted about timing the assault on the roots of unbelief, about the old glory days of opposing abortion in centralized places, and about the glory days to come, when the nation would return to Christianity.  Real Christianity, that is.  Then, the Reverend Pat Smuckler signed the check to the Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation, bade them farewell, and was gone.  Dave drove him to the airport, while Chuck stayed with Hank.

            Hank caressed the check, commenting to Chuck, “Well, how ‘bout that?!  A fair chunk of gas money, wouldn’t you say?  Two million in fuel for the fire.  Not too shabby, wouldn’t you say?  And, of course, like Pat says—even better yet, some sound, Biblical advice.  Not too shabby at all.”  Hank rubbed his hands together gleefully.

            “Sir, I’ve got my doubts, to be honest,” Chuck submitted reluctantly.  “Now, I’m not the Biblical scholar that the Reverend Smuckler is.  I can’t tell you right off the bat, where the Bible says this.  I can tell you for sure, that it does say this.  Do I need to find it for you, or will you take my good word for it?”

            Hank waved his hands expansively, generously.  Chuck continued, “Yes, Jesus said that those who aren’t with us, are against us.  In another place, though, he said that those who aren’t against us, are for us.*  This seems to me to say that there are only two kinds of people, good and evil.  Now, I’m a conservative who takes the Bible literally, and I’m sure not fond of evolutionism.  But, can we really say that all people who believe in evolution are evil?  Maybe some of them are just misguided.”

            Hank frowned just a tiny bit.  He thought, Oh, No, a closet liberal!  A Christian Liberal, of all the most oxymoronic ideas!  Well, it’s not the first time I hear this kind of thing from Chuck.  Maybe I should listen, at least a little bit.  Sometimes he keeps me out of trouble.

            Chuck hurried on with, “Generally, I’m just trying to say, we need to keep a broad base.  Be broadminded and tolerant, even of people who are wrong, when the consequences of their wrongs aren’t too serious.  Yes, the statistics say that about fifty percent of Americans believe in creationism, but my impression is, they can’t get all riled up about it.  They might get riled up about it, if they found out that we’re behind trashing books and museums and such.”

            “Chuck, you’ve got to understand, though, sometimes you’ve got to make a stand for your principles.  And, of course, keep in mind that we’ll be the peacemakers, here.  We’ll be speaking out against these kinds of methods,” Hank protested, exasperatedly.

            “Oh, I know, Sir,” Chuck replied.  “It’s such a big risk.  And, I’m just cautioning you to keep your bases broad.  Not everyone interprets the Bible the same way that we do.  They’re wrong, yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re all evil.  I could even find you places in the Bible where Jesus says that his Father’s house in Heaven has many, many rooms, and that the people who will fill them will come from the East and the West, from the North and the South.**

            “Now, I think that means just Christians—we are spread all across the globe, you know—but some Christians would even say that maybe that might even mean that Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists and such—if they’re good, and not against Jesus—might be admitted to Heaven.  I wouldn’t go that far.  But, seeing as how we’re either for Jesus or against Jesus, then we should at least not pick fights with Christians who espouse such ideas.  Not being too judgmental, that kind of thing.  What I’m trying to say is, we’ve got to keep our bases broad.  We’ll not get many votes if we get too ensnared in nitty-gritty little points of theology.  Christians are less than half the world’s population, and Southern Baptists are a small fraction of Christians.  Keep that in mind.”

            “You’re right,” Hank admitted.  “And thanks for reminding me.  We’ll not take on the whole world.  At least, certainly not right away.  Not till we have the U.S. thoroughly returned to its moral roots in the Bible.”

            Chuck looked doubtful.  “Sir, I want to lead people to Jesus as much as the next guy.  But, can we really ever expect to convert the whole world?  That’s a real tall order.”

            “One step at a time, Chuck, one step at a time.  Have Faith.  With God, all things are possible.  And, an America returned to Biblical values would be a mighty nation indeed.  Not a slave to the U.N.  At that point, if we really committed ourselves, burned our bridges behind us, so that there’s no turning back—committed ourselves to world power or ruins, one or the other—then, surely we could bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth!”

            Chuck looked even more doubtful, so Hank hastened to add, “Of course, you’re right.  We’ll never get there if we don’t keep a broad base, so long as we don’t compromise our principles.  It’s a fine balancing act.  I’ll keep in mind that, like you say, not all the people who are wrong on the little details, are evil.  They just need educated.  We can handle that.  Thanks for your good advice.”

            Finally, Hank’s work day was over.  He summoned his body guard, who drove him to his Montgomery condo, where he and his wife had briefly moved in for their semi-recess from Washington.  He pecked her cheek, ate with her the meal that the staff had prepared, and retired to his private prayer room, where only he was allowed.  Not even his wife ventured there.  This was his room where he kept Christ’s commandment to pray unseen to the unseen God, in private, rather than making a big show.  Moving its contents from Washington to Montgomery and back, securely, twice a year, was a hassle, but it was well worth it.

            He promptly got out his Bible, so as to take Reverend Smuckler’s good advice, and to read Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  He wasn’t disappointed; not one tiny bit.  Of course, there was the anti-gay verses, but he was already familiar with those.  Other good stuff, though, was new to him.

            At Leviticus 25:44, he read about how it wasn’t quite proper to make slaves out of your own countrymen, but “...you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations around you.”

            At Leviticus 26:27, he read about God’s wrath against the ungodly, and what kind of punishment God considered appropriate.  “Yet if in spite of this, you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you; and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins.  Further, you shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you shall eat.”

            All right!, he thought, how ‘bout that!  Next time some namby-pamby wuss tells me how nice I should be, in God’s image and all, I’ll trot this out!  You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure, the Biblical measure, to keep people in line with God’s will, and I’ve got the scriptures to prove it!

            What a deal!  Let’s see if Deuteronomy has some good stuff, too.  Indeed it did.  Chapter 20 told Hank the rules of how to wage a Godly war.  How, if an enemy city should surrender peacefully, one should settle for merely enslaving them all.  However, if they resist, and God grants victory, then “...you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you.”  All right, Lord God!  Let’s party!  Hank thought about a decadent, ungodly, rich, fat world full of booty, and gave thanks to his God.

            You have any other goodies for a faithful and humble servant, Oh Lord?, Hank implored.  He read on.  Lo and behold, the Lord had yet more with which to fill Hank’s cup.  Deuteronomy 21:10 told him that “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands, and you take them away captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall shave her head and trim her nails.  She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, ... and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.  And it shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go...”

            Hank couldn’t take it any more.  He thought brief thanks to his Maker, and fleetingly considered what powerful weapons such policies might provide against, for example, stupid, virginity-obsessed, infidel Moslems, who would proceed to blame their tainted, slutty women for having submitted to the charms of their conquerors.  And, best of all, it was all Biblical!

            Hank got quite excited, just thinking about it.  He shut his Bible, and unlocked his closet.  With trembling hands, he pulled Buddy out.

            Buddy had been liberated for Hank’s use, by a few members of the Bible Youth who also happened to be on a SWAT team.  Buddy had originally been manufactured as a training tool.  He was highly similar to the powered armor suits that SWAT team members wore on raids.  The real suits contained recording devices, to store most everything about raids.  Sights, sounds, and body motions were all captured in full detail, to be replayed by Buddy, for the benefit of the trainee inside Buddy.  Buddy would even deliver mild electrical shocks to his trainee’s muscles, so that the trainee would move synchronously with Buddy, rather than fighting him.  All in all, Buddy provided an extremely realistic simulation of going on a raid, without the dangers.

            Hank had told the Bible Youth that his use of Buddy was to be research and development.  This was part of the truth.  Hank could foresee the day when this technology would become a lot cheaper, and most every home would have a “Buddy”.  Buddies could be valuable education tools.  For example, the public’s enthusiasm and support for law enforcement could be built up by letting just about anyone go on a raid, just as Hank enjoyed doing.

            Hank sure appreciated being able to see things from the perspective of the public servants who put their lives on the line in the name of public safety.  To literally walk in their shoes.  He couldn’t see any reason why such privileges should be reserved for police trainees, rich people, and politicians.  Hank liked to think that his pleasures in Buddy had to do not so much with the special modifications he’d made to him, but with knowing that he was getting an insider’s knowledge of law enforcement.  This knowledge would help him be a better policy maker, obviously.

            Hank slipped the latest disk drives from his friends into Buddy.  He opened Buddy up and wriggled in, clumsily hooked a hundred hooks, buttoned a billion buttons, and zipped a zillion zippers.  Or at least, so it seemed.  It took about five minutes.  Hank sure hoped that some day, all this would be made a lot easier.

            Hank’s gloved hand reached out to touch the right button on his chest, and he became immersed in a recorded reality.  He was off to the races!

            Hank looked into his helmet shield, and saw the dismal tenements rushing by.  He could hear the sirens wailing and the tires squealing as the squad cars roared through the slums.  Occasionally, he could hear the impacts of bullets on metal and shatterproof glass, as the low-life slum scum took pot shots at them.  Not to worry, though; they were well bundled in hard, shiny metal.  Hank reviewed all the integral weapons built into his suit.  The machine rifle, the machine shotgun, the grenade launcher, and the laser cutter, for busting through exceptionally tough doors.  He knew where all the controls were.  All he had to do was to wait till the right time, when the tapes would tell him to go for it!  Adrenaline coursed through his veins, working him into a feverish sweat.

            The squad cars careened around the last corner, narrowly missing a crowd of young punk hooligan-scum who shouldn’t have been out at that hour anyway, and slammed to an abrupt halt.  Hank and the other troopers exploded out of their vehicles, and stormed the tenement in front of them.  Hank never even noticed the mild electrical shocks being delivered to his muscles.  His muscles moved in perfect harmony with the electromechanical apparatus around him.  He and Buddy were one.  They were Waldo F. Copsquat, Dude Extraordinaire, Drug War Freedom Fighter, Savior of Civilized Society.

            The trooper in front of him banged on the tenement door, which refused to budge.  Hank could hear the amplified voice of the trooper, which fortunately had been dampened in the playback, simply by the fact that Buddy’s speakers had an upper volume limit.  Otherwise, Hank’s ears might’ve taken a hit.

            “Open up right now!  You hear me?!  Right now!  We’re with the D.E.A.!” the amplified voice boomed out.  Hank could see the door vibrating to a rhythm with the words.  There was no response.  Hank sprang into action.  They might be destroying evidence in there!  Quick action was imperative!

            Hank, AKA Waldo F. Copsquat, bowled the other trooper aside, stood back a bit, and let loose with a grenade launcher.  The blast almost blew Waldo off of his feet, but the door still held.  Hank fumbled with the controls, and a harshly actinic blue laser flickered to life.  It lashed out, and within ten seconds, the door fell in a smoldering heap.  Sure hope they haven’t flushed all the evidence yet, Hank heard himself pleading fervently.

            Waldo and his neighbor both charged for the doorway at the same time, and fell back in a heap.  Waldo took a swat at his impatient, unprofessional cohort, brushing him aside, and became the first to rush through the door.  Wild pandemonium greeted him, as he heard the squalling of what seemed to be a hundred little black brats.  They were cowering, mostly naked and covered with filth, behind piles of old mattresses.  The largest of them, a girl of maybe ten, was screaming something about not taking her Mommy away.  She started to rush towards Waldo in anguish.

            Waldo let loose with a single, warning shotgun blast to the ceiling.  “IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU, YOU WON’T INTERFERE WITH AN ARREST, YOU LITTLE (bleep!) BITCH!!” Waldo’s amplified voice boomed out.  Hey, I guess these tapes have been tampered with, Hank thought.  Oh, well.  Makes sense.  Can’t be spreading racism to the new trainees, now, can we?

            Hank could hear the sound of toilets running, upstairs.  Evidence, down the drain!  Gotta stop ‘em!  Hank fleetingly speculated how their finely honed techniques, so effective against dope and coke and such, might also someday serve to eliminate other ungodly activities.  Other troopers stormed on up the stairs, leaving Waldo to miss the action.  Screams and the sounds of gunfire pulled him towards the stairs.  As Waldo turned to tromp up the stairs, an emboldened little girl rushed at him, grabbing his leg, pleading with him not to hurt her Momma.

            Waldo kicked her across the room with mechanically amplified strength.  Her head hit the still-smoldering doorframe, splitting like a ripened melon, splattering brains everywhere.  Smoke rose from the bits that landed on the metal wreckage.  Hank drank it all in, wishing the suit passed on smells, as well as sights, sounds, and motions.

            That’s when he chose to hit that very special button.  The after-market add-on feature, that is.  A rubber-clad reamer started to rotate slowly, and inserted itself into Hank’s anus, at the same time as Waldo was rushed by some more screaming, anguished children.  Hank swooned, almost passing out from unbearable pleasure.  He had just barely the consciousness left to marvel at how God’s wonders never cease.


 

CHAPTER  3

            “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”                   C. S. Lewis  (1898–1963)

 

            NASA chieftain Lloyd Salley strode into the conference room, took the seat at the head of the table, punched the button initiating computer transcription of the meeting, and got down to business.  “All right, we all know what we’re here for.  It’s looking more and more like, either we have to shut down our puny little outpost on the Moon, or, we don’t go to Mars.  Budgets are tight, and Congress doesn’t look like it’s going to change its mind any time soon.  We must, must, absolutely MUST, find ways to reduce spending.

            “Now, we’ve been over our targets before.  We’re talking, we’ve got to cut about ten billion over the next five years.  Yet, we really can’t afford to shut down Jemison.  Our only manned—I mean, staffed—moon base is just too critical.  For supporting all the unstaffed facilities, like the radio astronomy outpost on the far side, for example, and for PR.  I mean, we’d just never hear the end of it, if we went and shut it down.  Backsliding, falling down on the job, and so on, they’d say.  Letting the Europeans and the Russians out-do us.  Spending all that money, and then abandoning ship, they’d say.  And, they’d be right.  Even if we went back a few years later, to turn the base back on, we’d have lost a lot of money and momentum.

            “Maintaining those facilities remotely, via telepresence and such, may be possible, we know that,” Lloyd shot an acknowledging glance towards the head of the robotics section, Robert Herron.  “But Jemison simply wasn’t built with that in mind.  Retrofitting to cover for that would cost a bundle, especially the biosphere.  Now, we could always just let the biosphere die down, to a lower level, and give it periodic maintenance, till we can permanently staff it again.  For us to visit it often enough would also cost a bundle, and for the Europeans to do it for us, while saving quite a bit of money, would look real bad.

            “Congress and the public expect us to do more and more for less and less money.  It may not be fair, but let’s not spend our time protesting.  Let’s spend our time producing, instead.  Producing more and better ideas, more and better ways of getting things done.  I think by now we’ve generally agreed, without substantial disagreement...” Lloyd looked around the table, to see if there was any disagreement.  The way he said substantial, though, seemed to indicate he’d heard enough petty bickering, and wasn’t ready for any objections, unless there was some real meat to them.  He continued, “...means that we simply cannot shut down Jemison.  No way.  Unless Washington flat-out commands it, we won’t do it.

            “Congress already insists on micro-managing all of our deep-space robotics probe projects.”  LeRoy Jones, the only astronaut on the panel, was surprised to hear the head administrator using such strong terms.  Micro-managing?  Lloyd usually tried to be more diplomatic, to stay on the good sides of the politicians.  Maybe something special had gotten him riled up.  LeRoy’s ears pricked up a bit, as he thought, maybe this meeting might get to be a bit more interesting than usual.

            “The bottom line is, our Mars effort is the only category where we both plan to spend a lot of money, and we’ve got some latitude,” Lloyd continued.  “Yes, the politicos—I mean, the American people—hold the purse strings, and they call the shots.  But our recommendations carry a bit of weight.  I’ve got those hearings before Congress in a week.  We’ve got to wrap this up.  I’ve got to make the most sensible recommendations that we can come up with.

            “We’re down to this: we’ve got to cut costs on our Mars efforts.  I’d rather resign than explain to all of our international partners that we’re wimping out.  I’d  hate to tell Congress that we’ve got to back out, without more funds.  They just might call our bluff, and say, ‘OK, then, that’s the way it’ll be.  They can go to Mars without us.’  NASA’s name would be mud.  So, we need cost-cutting ideas.  Good, safe ones that won’t endanger our crew.”  Lloyd glanced at LeRoy.  LeRoy’s heart picked up the pace.  Does that mean I’ll be on the crew?  Yeah!  LeRoy Jones, torch-bearer of diversity, fearless black American space-farer.  I can see it now.  Maybe I’ll even be the first, not only of the black race, but of the human race, to set foot on another planet.  Oh, calm down .  Lloyd doesn’t make those kinds of decisions.  But it doesn’t hurt to stay on his good side.

            Lloyd finally terminated his monologue, and opened it up simply: “I’m listening.”

            Bob Herron immediately challenged Lloyd.  “I noticed you mentioned that our ideas mustn’t endanger our crews.  Well, I think a crew of telepresence operators is about as safe a way to go, as anyone can dream up.  What are humans going to do there that robots can’t do, anyway?  You know what kinds of strides we’ve been making.  Name a mission, and we can do it, without risking human lives.  For a lot less money, too.”

            Oh, hell, there he goes again, grinding his damned robotics axes, LeRoy grumbled to himself.  Trying to rob us, of the manned—oops!—human, huperson, staffed spaceflight persuasion, of our money and glory.  As if some damned hunk of silicon and steel could ever inspire our awe, chill our bones, and act as a role model for our kids, like a human can.  Like I could.  I’d love to give ol’ Robotics Robert a piece of my mind, but I’d better wait.

            Lloyd didn’t seem too pleased, either.  He frowned.  Bob hurried on, trying to lighten the atmosphere.  “OK, so you might argue that with crime and the environment here on Earth being the way it is lately, the crew would actually be better off in space and on Mars, rather than staying here.  With all the money we’d save using telepresence and robotics, though, we could build one heck of a secure compound for the Earthbound telepresence operators.  We could get their safety up to levels superior to that of space travelers, and still save money.  House them in a bomb shelter, feed ‘em distilled water and purified foods, give ‘em each a dozen bodyguards, and still have money left over.”

            LeRoy gritted his teeth.  Damned smart-ass!  Let’s see what he’ll say next... maybe we could use all the money saved, to really improve safety for those weenie telepresence operators, and just go and eliminate all those criminal Negroid-type hoodlums.  Watch it now; temper, temper, LeRoy told himself.  When time comes to strike a blow at Mr. Robot, here, I’ve gotta be calm, cool, and collected.

            Lloyd frowned.  Bob’s attempt at humor hadn’t been humorous enough, and he didn’t know when to quit.  Bob went on with, “I mean, look at it.  We can do anything with robots, well and cheap, and they don’t need a salary, food, oxygen, precisely controlled environments, sleep, or jabbering time with their Earthbound mates.  There’s no danger that they’ll unionize, or even so much as talk back to the boss.  They’ll never do or say anything to cause tension among the crew.  We could still cut costs by having multiple nations participate, and we wouldn’t run the risk of having a diplomatic row created over bickering among the international crew.  Robots have never been know to commit a political gaffe of any sort.”

            LeRoy stewed, remembering some third-hand comments he’d heard that Bob had made.  Something about a crew of robots not being very likely to bicker about what percentage of them had what kind of paint job, and which kind of robot got to step on Mars first.  LeRoy had debated about bitching about those kinds of comments, but had let it slide.

            Lloyd finally spoke up.  “Doctor Herron, we’re all aware of what powerful tools telepresence and robotics can provide for us, and we’re all grateful for all the contributions that you and your staff have made.  Especially the robotic explorations we’ve already made, the samples we’ve returned, and, most of all, the underground water ice your robots have found.  We’ll be even more grateful when, not so very long from now, your robots mine that ice, and turn it and atmospheric CO2 into food, fuel, and oxygen for later human explorers.  But human explorers have got to follow.  Yes, I know you say robots can do anything humans can do, these days, and that they lack a number of human drawbacks.  But there are still things robots can’t do.”

            “Such as?” Bob shot back.

            “Oh, come on, Doctor, we’ve been over this before,” Lloyd complained wearily.  “Human judgment and speedy decision-making.  You know how the simple fossils we’re looking for, stromatoliths and such, are very hard to distinguish from regular old rocks.  Oh, and, if we’re real lucky, living cryptoendoliths*, or spores.  And you know that, despite having some very intelligent machines down there on your Mars robots, for local, rapid decision-making, the tough shots are still going to need to be made by telepresence operators.  And, what with the communications time lag—up to twenty minutes one way, as I recall—we’ll be very, very slow.”

            “But, with the money saved, we could easily multiply by thirty or so, the amount of rocks we bring back.  If we’re not sure if it’s a fossil or not, we just bring ‘em back, and investigate here,” Bob objected.  “Why spend all this money to move human flesh and all the its support there and back, when we could send robots, leave them there, and send only rocks and knowledge back?  Especially when the return payload could be so much bigger.”

            “Like I said, Doctor Herron, robots just don’t have the level of judgment and split-second decision-making capabilities that humans have got.  They’re too slow and clumsy,” Lloyd asserted.

            Bob still wouldn’t give up.  “I’d sure like to keep our options open, Sir.  If Congress pinches our budget too much, it would sure be nice to make a last-minute change, and send robots instead of humans, and return much larger quantities of rocks.  Design vehicles with this in mind from the start, so that the changes wouldn’t be too expensive.  Shouldn’t we make provisions, as we’re designing those large rockets to use the fuel manufactured by our robotic miners and nuclear-powered facilities on Mars?  Allow for those rockets to be stripped of human accouterments, and filled only with rocks and data.  We could send back quite a few tons of rock.

            “Keep in mind, too, that during the time that all the mining and supplies-manufacturing takes place on Mars, technology won’t stand still, back here on Earth.  By the time there’s enough fuel built up down there for the return flight, so that we can send an expedition, robotics technology may have advanced so much as to be quite clearly superior to humans, for our purposes on Mars.  I’m thinking of the joint effort between Comp-Optic and ABC, to develop a truly conscious computer, superior to the human brain.  Who knows what this will do for our robotics technology?”

            Lloyd got a little wide-eyed at the mention of the Comp-Optic/ABC joint venture.  “Now, y’all know that’s real hush-hush,” he cautioned.  “I’ll tell you, it irks me that we’ll have to go begging these guys for time on their computer, for lack of our government giving us adequate funds.  That they’ll have a far more powerful computer than anything we’ve got, just doesn’t sit well with me.  I’ll tell you something else—the idea of computers and robots putting us out of jobs doesn’t sit too well with me, either.”

            Yeah!  Here, here, LeRoy thought, watching Bob’s jaw muscles bulge.

            “But, Sir!” Bob objected.  “Computers have crunched numbers one helluva lot better than people for quite some time now.  Mathematicians weren’t put out of jobs; their jobs just changed.  They were relieved of drudgery, and the costs of calculations went way down.  Same for us.  So, when Congress grills you for cost savings, are you going to mention the possibility of getting us a lot more bang for the buck, via robotics?”

            Damn!  What a bulldog!, LeRoy thought.  Mr. Robot just won’t let go.

            “Not if I can help it,” Lloyd ‘fessed up.  Bob just about boiled over.  “OK, I’ve heard what you’re saying.  We will look into designing with last-minute changes in mind.”  LeRoy’s heart sank.  “But I don’t want that fact to get much publicity.  I don’t want Congress to get too many ideas.”  Bob looked like he was about to protest, but Lloyd hurried on.  “You see, there’s more to space exploration than knowledge.  There’s national prestige  The Europeans, Russians, Japanese, Canadians and such might decide to go without us.  Even if our robots brought back thirty times as many rocks as they brought back, we’d still look bad.”

            “Well, just because they decide to be inefficient, doesn’t mean we have to be,” Bob protested.  “What’s this all about, looking good, or gathering knowledge efficiently?  Style, or substance?”

            Lloyd replied, “We can have both style and substance.  There’s something to be said for capturing the public’s imagination, and for adventure.  Eventually we have to get people to live on places other than Earth.  We have to colonize, or the whole thing is meaningless.  We have to take the first steps first, and start exploring, using humans.”

            Bob still wouldn’t shut up.  “So why not let robots do efficiently, the things they can do efficiently, and prepare the way for us, later?  Why shouldn’t we have robots thoroughly pave the way for us first, so that we can arrive in comfort, safety, and style?  This adventure thing reminds me of all the people who travel to the North and South Poles, with low-tech means, to make it into the record books.  Sure, there’s been humans who’ve walked all the way, alone, without so much as a dog team, even though they could’ve just flown there and back.  A neat trick, indeed, to show that we humans can do amazing things without machines.  But, at least these guys don’t bleed the taxpayers dry for their ego trips.  What will the taxpayers think, when they learn we’re wasting tens of billions extra for neat little ego trips, akin to walking to the poles, instead of doing things efficiently?”

            LeRoy was amazed that Bob would be so rash, so blatant.  Let’s hope Lloyd squashes him good, he thought.

            Lloyd was at a loss.  He started in with, “But, we’ve got to... reserve some of the action for humans.  The human spirit of adventure, boldly going forth, and all that.  Doing things just ‘cause they’re there...”

            LeRoy couldn’t stand to see Lloyd fumbling around like that, so he stood up and charged in with, “Let me put it in human terms, in my own experience.  The other day I led a group of diverse school children on a tour, and told them about being an astronaut.  Children of color, from the ghettoes, who’ve been oppressed all their lives.  I told them all about how they could rise up against adversity and discrimination, and how they, too, could become astronauts some day.  How they, too, could become role models some day.

            “You should have seen the looks in their eyes.  It was something that... well, you’d have had to have been there.  Maybe to have been there, through their whole lives—our whole lives, as people of color—to really understand.  No robot, no telepresence operator, could be this kind of a role model.  To take this away from us, this vital tool in the war against racism, to even advocate such a thing—I might go so far as to call it tantamount to treason.  Treason in the war against racism.”  And, let’s see what the judge has to say on this one, too, LeRoy added to himself.  But, I’ll say nothing of that sort, unless challenged.  Wouldn’t want to be seen as being too extreme.

            The two other people of color in the room stood up and applauded LeRoy enthusiastically.  “Yeah!  Tell ‘em, Brother!”  The rest of the meeting-goers stood up and applauded, too.  Even Bob, after LeRoy glowered at him a bit, stood up and clapped his hands, although his heart didn’t seem to be properly, fully devoted to this activity.  Everyone had a good, long clapping session, and there seemed to be a bit of hesitation as to who would risk being the first to quit clapping, until finally, LeRoy broke the tension by sitting back down.  Bob finally shut up.  There was no more nonsense about robots replacing humans, and the meeting returned to more sensible topics, such as nibbling around the edges of the costs of a peopled mission.

            In a mere few hours, LeRoy arrived at his home in the walled-in, heavily guarded suburbs.  Samantha greeted him at the door with a big smooch.  “What’s the matter, honey, you seem kinda down?” she inquired.

            “Oh, ol’ Mr. Robot was up to his usual, trying to lynch the very idea of peopled spaceflight.  I don’t know, Samantha, sometimes it’s just... pretty tough, trying to do my job, and standing up for diversity.”

            “Oh, come on, sit down with me, honey, and let’s have a drink.”  She steered him to the couch, got him a beer, and herself a wine cooler.  “Now, why don’t you just tell me about it.  Or, don’t.  Whatever.  Just relax.”  She snuggled up to him, and he put his arm around her, thinking, well, at least I’ve got myself a good woman here.  He told her about his day.

            “Doesn’t sound so bad to me, honey,” she commented.  “Still sounds like things are on track, to me.  We’re still planning to have a peopled mission, along with the other countries, right?  So long as Congress doesn’t yank the rug outta under our feet, right?”

            “Yeah, I suppose you’re right, dear,” he replied.  “But just look at our crew plans.  Two from Japan, four from Europe, two from Russia, and one from Canada.  And not a one of them will be diverse!  I mean, I know the astronaut staffs from these countries, and they just don’t have any diverse...”

            “But didn’t you say that you and some of the other astronauts are trying to make up for that?” Samantha inquired.  “Didn’t you say there’s a good chance that the three crewpersons from the U.S. will be very, very diverse, so as to make up for the lack of diversity among the other crewpersons?  Are they listening to y’all, on that point?”  LeRoy nodded his head, acknowledging that not all was bleak.  Samantha tried to lift his spirits some more.  “Honey, look at the sunny side.  Your interviews with the DVC have been going well.  I’ll bet you have an excellent chance of being on that crew.”

            Samantha referred to the Diversity Verification Council, which was a new division of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), whose charter was to verify that individuals who claimed to be diverse, especially for high-visibility jobs, were as diverse as they claimed to be.  LeRoy still looked glum.  “Of course, I’ll really, really miss you, bunches and bunches, honey” Samantha was saying.  “But, if you really, really want to go to Mars, then I want you to achieve your dreams.  I want you to be happy.”

            LeRoy still didn’t look too happy.  He complained, “I just don’t understand why I’m not an open-and-shut case with the DVC.  I mean, just ‘cause I’m one-fourth non-diverse.  You’d never know, just looking at me.  I perm my hair, and I’ve had my collagen injections in all the right places.  And I even attended an ‘African-American Immersion’ school as a kid.  I participate in community outreach programs at work.  I’m outspoken in my support of diversity.  I’ve attended, even taught at, all the diversity sensitivity courses.  What else do they want?”

            “Well, honey,” she replied, “You know they have to be careful.  Especially in high-visibility cases like yours.  They have to take their time, and make sure they do things right.  You know that there’s lots of wolves in sheep’s clothing out there.  I mean, people who would pass themselves off as diverse, who are anything but.”

            Samantha seemed to be sinking into depression, herself, now, rather than being completely devoted to lifting LeRoy’s spirits.  Remembering her broken dreams, LeRoy thought maybe he’d better not be thinking of himself all the time, that maybe he should try to lift her up a bit, rather than dragging her down.  So, like a knight in shining armor, he rushed to her emotional rescue.  “Now, sweetheart, I know that at heart, you’re every bit as much of a diverse person as I am.  I’m really sorry that your diversity score was just barely too low to race-norm your test scores enough to get you into med school.  Damned bean-counting DVC, obsessing on your ancestry being only half diverse, lost sight of what really matters.  The diversity in your heart.  Maybe we could appeal.  Maybe...”

            “No, honey, that’s OK,” she insisted, brightening back up.  “Let’s just concentrate on your career.  My job as a nurse is enough to keep me reasonably occupied.  So, don’t go maligning the DVC on my account.  Keep a good attitude towards them, that’s half the battle.  You know the DVC really does have the best in mind.”

            “Yeah, you’re right, sweetheart,” he confessed.  “Thanks for picking me up.  I’ll try to be less of a grump.”  He gave her a squeeze, thinking, you know, she really is a good woman, even if she’s not quite as diverse as I am.  Oh, well.  We can’t all be diverse.  He tossed back the rest of his beer, threw the can towards a trash basket, and missed.  “Let’s see what’s on the news.”

            LeRoy turned on the ONLINE display.  Their machine’s special program had already long ago learned to glean from the day’s stream of news, those kinds of items that he and his wife were interested in.  LeRoy rejoined her on the couch.  “Let’s see if the news will pick me up or throw me down,” he commented.

            The first news item was about how the court case of HUD v/s Podunk local paper had turned out.  Podunk local paper had dared to violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited real estate advertisements from indicating any preferences or prejudices, on any basis, by running an ad that discriminated against the blind.  They’d run an ad, saying that some house had “a great view of the lake”.  Obviously, the people advertising this house didn’t want any blind people.  Busted.  “Serves ‘em right,” LeRoy commented.  “I’m glad the courts could see straight, for once.  I mean, that they ruled with justice.  These damned, greedy, money-grubbing capitalists, they think they can get away with just about anything.”

            The next item was about an equal-opportunity lawsuit brought by an Hispanic who’d been turned down for a job with a trucking firm, which carried loads of valuables, just ‘cause he had a criminal record for robbery.  The victim had argued that, since Blacks and Hispanics had more criminal records than whites, this policy had a disparate impact on minorities, and should be prohibited.  The judge ruled against the EEOC.  The judge, an Hispanic himself, had even said that if Hispanics didn’t want to get discriminated against for robbery, they shouldn’t rob anyone.  “Can you believe this crap?” LeRoy protested.  “Just ‘cause the criminal justice system discriminates, the employers are allowed to do the same!”

            Samantha patted him on the back.  “Oh, well.  Win some, lose some.  Common sense and diversity will prevail in the end.  Just be patient.”

            The next news item concerned the famous former black basketball player, B. O. Samson, who was accused of murdering his young white girlfriend.  The jury selection process had finally, after rejecting hundreds of candidates who liked to read or watch the news, been completed.  All twelve jurors were young black women.  “We’ve never seen this much diversity in this kind of jury, ever,” the newscaster commented.

            “All right!” LeRoy exclaimed, slapping Samantha’s outstretched hand jubilantly.  “Score another one for diversity!”


 

CHAPTER  4

            “Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man.  There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent.”

                                                             H. L. Mencken  (1880-1956)

 

            Dear dedicated readers, in your teeming tens of millions and billions:  the following two chapters abound with copious quantities of libertarian political sediments.  Seditious sediments, one might even say.  Politicians of all persuasions are diligently disrespected.  If you can’t stand reading about politics, you are hereby duly authorized to skip to chapter six, without remorse or undue guilt.  Even chapter six is infested with politics, but it is more centrally tied to the theses and story lines of this book.  Chapter 6 starts at page 83.

            Anyway, go ahead and skip class, if you really, really must.  There will be no quiz, no book report, and no test, concerning the next two chapters, administered by yours truly.  Of course, you’d miss a lot of thought-provoking pro-freedom sediments, muck-raking, vile and odious propaganda, and naughty sarcasm.  Do not pass “go”; do not collect $100.

 

 

            Phil wearily dragged his body home from work at eight thirty that night, looking forward to spending a quiet evening with Gloria.  He’d spent all day at the office, getting last-minute details squared away before the regulators would come to inspect, to see if the mining bugs/anti-nuke biobugs systems would be approved for preliminary tests.  It was time to move from computer simulations to real-world tests.  Who knows if they’ll be approved or not, he thought.  I’ve done all I can do, to help the environment, and if the regulators are going to knuckle under to the anti-biotech fanatics, then, well—we’ll just have to appeal.

            Damned laws are so complicated, it takes an army of lawyers to keep us straight.  I spend half my time explaining what we do, to intellectually constipated lawyers.  That, or just let the regulators set up offices in our facilities, and let ‘em dictate our every move.  Of course, if we design weapons, now—there, we’ll be given a free reign.  It’s enough to make me want to be a whore for the State again.

            Oh, stop being such a sourpuss, he told himself as he drove the specially secured car with the bulletproof windows along Atlanta’s freeways.  Even this one special car wasn’t enough to protect him; he had to wear disguises, change routes, and swap cars out of a car pool all the time, just to protect himself from fanatics.

            Maybe the first thing we should do after we fire up Derrick, is to turn him into a lawyer.  The world’s most powerful computer, and we’d waste him on doing all of our lawyering for us.  Memorize twelve million conflicting laws and fifty billion contradictory court cases and precedents, so that we could lawyer our way out of anything.  Nah, no self-respecting, logical machine would ever put up with such nonsense, he thought.  Besides, even if we got him do such things, without blowing all his fuses, the human lawyers would immediately pass a law, saying that only humans are entitled to practice law.

            Presently, Phil parked in his driveway, stripped off his mask, slipped it into his briefcase, and slumped over the front door, fumbling with his keys.  Finally, home!  Home again.  I like to be here when I can, he thought.  It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire.  Except, it’s June, and it’s way too hot for a fire.  Maybe Gloria will warm my bones.

            He staggered up the stairs, and found Gloria snoozing in bed.  She was due in just another two months, now, and found that she needed to take it very easy.  They knew by now that their little bun in the oven was of the male persuasion, and they were fairly set on calling him “Trent”.  “Murgatroid” had faded into the distance of forgotten silliness.

            She woke as he traipsed into the bedroom, so he walked over to give her a quick kiss.

            “So how was your day, Honeybunch?” she asked, sitting up.

            “Tiring.  Very tiring.  I’m exhausted.  I must’ve aged a few years today; I’m far more of an old man now than I was this morning,” Phil replied.  He considered flopping on the bed for a few minutes, before taking his evening shower.  He decided he probably wouldn’t get up, if he did that, so he said, “Let me cleanse myself of my day’s worth of greasy grimy gopher guts, and I’ll join you in just a few minutes.  Bitsy Woogums.”

            Shortly, he was snuggling in bed with Gloria.  He’d grabbed some snacks from the vending machines at work, so there was no way he intended to stir from bed, that night.  He fleetingly recalled that one of these days, he intended to discuss some of the more sensitive aspects of human genetic engineering with her.  Tonight?  Ha!  As bushed as I am, no way.  Not tonight.  But, I’ve really got to stop putting this off, and talk to her about it one of these days.

            Phil just laid there, shutting his eyes, letting weariness soak out of his body and into the waterbed.  Soon, a little energy returned to him.  Enough, at least, to inquire of Gloria, “So how was your day, Poogle Bye?”

            “Oh, not too bad.  Did a tiny bit of ceramics, and laid around and read a lot.  Guess what I gleaned out of the news for you today?  The Libertarians published their party platform today.”

            Suddenly, even more energy returned to Phil.  Gloria continued, “You know, I’d really hoped that modern computer and communications power would open up the political process, and make it so cheap, to get the message out, that the special interests and campaign contributors would have a lot less power.  That for nickels and dimes, every politician could post his or her message, and every half-intelligent, half-motivated citizen could read to their heart’s content, exactly where each politician stood, on each and every issue.  That maybe even—God forbid!—the citizens could vote directly on the issues.

            “But, here we are, with ultra-cheap computer and communication powers, and these things haven’t come to pass.  Most of the voters can’t be troubled to read anything longer than a few pages, and so the parties still have to buy expensive air time, to make sure the vidiots absorb their little sound bites and image megabytes.  You know, where the politicians propose to solve the world’s problems with their thirty seconds’ worth of solutions.  Anything more complicated exceeds the viewers’ attention spans.

            “Especially when, as with the Republican/Democrat Big Government party, the platforms consist of something like, ‘Reduce crimes and taxes, increase benefits, motherhood, and apple pie, and pay for it all by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.  Tax your neighbors, give you the benefits.’  As if they’re proposing to change the human nature of three hundred million citizens and thirty million government parasites.  Then, the platforms go on to list, in excruciating detail, exactly how the government is going to help each and every little group of people, from art students to tangerine growers, from gay black bulimic alcoholics to left-handed senile Native American medicine men.  Or, how the evils perpetrated by such a group will be curtailed, depending on which group, and which half of the Big Government party we’re talking about.”

            Phil guffawed, thinking of how proud he was of her, for being such a right-thinking skeptic.  Or, should we say, a libertarian-thinking skeptic?  Now, if he could get her to be a devout Libertarian as well, there’d be no limit to what the two of them, together, could accomplish.  “Don’t be so skeptical, Snoogle-Woogle,” he admonished her.  “There are bright spots.  The attention spans of American voters are getting longer.  I mean, just look at it.  It used to be, way back when, that we were going to solve the world’s problems with three words.  ‘Just Say No.’  Then, we worked our way up to five words.  ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out.’  Then, seven words.  ‘It’s not a Choice.  It’s a Child.’  Now, we’re up to nine words!  ‘People Engineer Machines, but only God should Engineer People.’  Nine words!  And, for the first time ever, it contains multisyllabic words!  Three syllables!  So, don’t tell me we’re stupid.  We’re making rapid progress!”

            Gloria just smiled.  Phil turned on the ceiling screen, and prepared to read the Libertarian party platform for presidential elections of 2016.  “So, have you read this?” Phil inquired.  Gloria nodded her head affirmatively.  “Is it anywhere near as long and boring as the usual Big Government platforms?”  She shook her head the other way.  Phil began to read.

 

                                    Libertarian Party Platform

                                    2 June 2016

                                    by Andrew Flyfogen and the Libertarian Party

 

Dear voters,

            We sincerely hope that you will vote Libertarian this fall.  More and more, voters are beginning to realize that there are choices other than the right-wing, retrograde revanchism of Big Government moralism, and left-wing, paternalistic Big Government socialism.  Quit your whining about the lack of a viable third party.  That third party has been there, is there, and will be there.

            All that we need is your votes, which we’ve been gathering, more and more, as voters tire of the empty promises of the Republican/Democrat duopoly.  Your vote for us is not a vote discarded, but a powerful voice in favor of individual liberty, which is the only kind of liberty that really exists.  “State’s rights” and “collective freedom” are oxymorons, as history shows.  Repression, whether by the federal, state, or local government, or by any majority of voters, is still repression, regardless of how it is disguised, or what motives it espouses.

            We cannot regain and keep liberty, unless the voters come to realize that they cannot free themselves by chaining their neighbors; that they cannot, long term, tax their neighbors for their own benefit.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist, five million lawyers, or three terabytes of laws, to prove that what goes around, comes around.

            For those readers who doubt that history shows the futility of using government for purposes other than guaranteeing individual liberty, let us turn back the clock by two decades, and review a most excellent book, which warned us very clearly of the dangers of the all-enslaving State.  We chose this book, since we feel that it is well-documented, concise and readable, and the most wide-ranging record of modern government abuses, of all books written in the last few decades.  After this review, we’ll then review the dismal lack of progress towards freedom since then (a gross failure on the part of both ruling parties), and finally, we’ll propose some extremely simple steps that we could take towards freedom.  Hopefully, this, along with the constantly increasing portion of votes going to Libertarians (17% during the last presidential election), will encourage you to believe, as we do, that a vote for us is the most sensible of all choices.

            The book we refer to is LOST RIGHTS, the Destruction of American Liberty, by James Bovard, published in ‘94 by St. Martin’s Press.  We highly recommend that you read this book, to understand exactly why the Libertarian party needs your vote.  Since we’re realists, and realize that most of you won’t bother to read this book, we’ll review it here for you.  You can then judge for yourself, whether the Republican/Democrat duopoly has made any progress since then, and how many of our society’s problems have been solved by the heavy-handed, freedom-fearing ogre portrayed in this book.

            The jacket alone gives the reader a good summary.  From Justice Department officials seizing people’s homes based on mere rumors, to the I.R.S. and its master plan to prohibit the nation’s self-employed from working for themselves, to the perpetrators of the Waco Siege, government officials across the land are tearing the Bill of Rights to pieces.  And, with the Clinton administration calling for sweeping new governmental power over the nation’s environment, health care, and workers, the plight of American liberty is guaranteed to worsen.

            Today’s citizen is ever more likely to violate some unknown law or regulation and be placed at the mercy of an administrator or politician hungering for publicity.  And, unfortunately, the only way many government agencies can measure their ‘public service’ is by the number of citizens they harass, hinder, restrain, or jail.

            Lost Rights provides a highly entertaining and outrageous analysis of the plight of contemporary Americans, beaten into submission by a government that has become a horrible parody of the Founding Fathers’s dream.”

            The book itself then goes on, in an even-handed and very thoroughly documented manner, to list one outrageous example after another, of how American liberties have been squandered.  Big-government apologists will be quick to denigrate “anecdotal evidence” as not being “statistically significant”, but the number of “anecdotes” listed in this book will astound you.  If you’ve ever been given the run-around by bureaucrats, been regulated out of business or out of a job, been sued into silence about government abuses, or been taxed to near extinction (and, who hasn’t?)—then, you’ll doubtlessly be reassured to know that your life is nothing but a collection of anecdotes, just one isolated case, and a statistically insignificant one at that.  For those that believe that collections of anecdotes and statistics may illuminate large problems, read on.

            Lost Rights Chapter One, The New Leviathan, serves as a general introduction to the whole book.  It is extremely tempting to duplicate large segments of this excellent book here, but we’ll refrain, and just highly recommend that voters find time to read this book in its entirety.  From this chapter, we’ll only quote “Americans today must obey thirty times as many laws as their great-grandfathers had to obey at the turn of the century.  Federal agencies publish an average of over 200 pages of new rulings, regulations, and proposals in the Federal Register each business day.”

            The title to Chapter Two, Seizure Fever: The War on Property Rights, and its Conclusion: Holding Title at the Pleasure of the State, almost manage to tell it all.  Eminently quotable here is “A New Jersey Meadowlands commission banned the owner of a 12.5-acre plot of prime real estate from developing his land, thereby reducing the value of the land to almost nothing.  Yet government officials claimed that since the landowner was receiving $13 a year in rent from one billboard, the land was still ‘economically productive’ and thus the government had not violated the owner’s rights”.  We are left to wonder what the owner’s annual real estate taxes were.

            Immediately after this example, we read, “Increasingly, only the rich have semi-inviolable property rights in America.  Sen. Steve Symms observed, ‘Those who cannot afford to sue currently have no protection of their property rights if they come in conflict with a regulation.’  The decline of property rights in the United States has had perhaps the sharpest impact on poor people and minorities since they are far more likely to have their land taken for urban renewal projects, to be excluded from buying a home by zoning restrictions, and to be financially overwhelmed by the burden of historic preservation ordinances.  A person is only entitled to own his property if he has the resources and the will to sue government officials who try to wrongfully seize it.”  Translation:  you own what you earn, only if you earn enough to afford hordes of lawyers.

            Chapter Three, The Proliferation of Petty Dictatorships, lists how farmers, importers, food and drug companies, mailmen, bankers, and their customers (read: all of us) have been turned into subjects of the government.  From this chapter’s conclusion, we quote, “Faith in discretionary power means faith in giving government officials the power to punish whomever they please—and assuming that this will make America a better society.  The proliferation of discretionary power is turning government employees into a ruling class with the power to directly subjugate other Americans.”

            Chapter Four, Politics Vs Contracts, shows how you can no longer freely make legal, binding contracts without having a third party—you guessed it, none other than the government, which wants so badly to take care of you—looking over your shoulder, and saying yea or nay.  The classical example is the minimum wage law.  If you and your employer’s contract doesn’t meet minimum standards, then, tough luck, you can’t work; you must become a government dependent.  Government knows best.  You want to be an interior decorator?  Better get a license.  Gotta protect those stupid consumers from (Gasp!  Horror of horrors!) unqualified interior decorators.

            So, this chapter gives plenty of examples of how the State devotes scarce law enforcement resources to bust people who do sewing work in their own homes, help people fill out forms without being lawyers, clean people’s teeth without giving a cut to a dentist, give people rides for money without a permit (read: bribe, literally bribe, in many cases, the city officials for a taxi license), and so on.  That, and how the government constantly interferes in the labor market, destroying jobs, in the name of “fair labor”.  Gross violence (examples are provided) on the part of organized labor are ignored, while employers are forbidden to create “company-dominated unions”.  This means that if management meets with employees, in groups, to discuss grievances, or even quality or safety, they’d better be looking over their shoulders for the labor police.

            Very quotable here is “Federal labor law is largely based on a blind faith in the benefits of forcing people into herds—on a presumption of the total incompetence or inability of the individual worker to achieve justice for himself.  Harley Shaiken, a labor analyst at MIT, condemned apparel homework in 1984: “It’s bad because you must deal with the employee individually, rather than collectively’”  How well does that bode for the future of telecommuting, and individual freedom?

            Finally, the first paragraph of the conclusion to this chapter deserves to be quoted; we’ll let it speak for itself.  “Almost all restrictive labor regulations rest, in the final analysis, on the empowering of government officials to evict some citizens from the labor market—to prohibit some people from working for a living.  The state of Oregon, in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court defending its 1914 minimum wage law, asserted: ‘If Simpson [a woman thrown out of work by the Oregon law] cannot be trained to yield output that does pay the cost of her labor, then she can... accept the status of a defective to be segregated for special treatment as a dependent of the state.’  This statement vivifies how government stacks the deck to benefit some by throwing other people out of the game.  Minimum wage laws presume that politicians are morally justified in reducing some people’s freedom in order to increase other people’s wages.  Though politicians are rarely so honest about their intent these days, this is still frequently the essence of government labor law—dictating that some people have no right to be self-reliant and must become wards of the state.”

            Chapter Five, Subsidies and Subjugation, shows how schools, housing, farming, and the arts have been perverted and distorted, out of all recognition to common sense and efficiency, by subsidies and the attendant government micro-management.  Numerous examples and explanations are presented—again, we encourage the voter to just go ahead and read it—but, in the interests of brevity, let’s just say this: trust us, the government doesn’t manage things more efficiently than the free market.  The more it meddles, the more it messes up, and the more it then needs to “fix”—with more meddling.  You don’t believe us?  Read the book.  Or, talk to some North Koreans, or some older Russians.

            Chapter Six, The Opportunity Police, explains how treating people as individuals, on their own merits, rather than as members of groups, has now gone from being an American ideal, to being a crime.  Let’s just quote one paragraph, and let it go at that: “Affirmative action and racial-preference policies have often been justified as a cure for racism in America.  In essence, this assumes that a massive increase in government power is the best way to change some people’s bad attitudes—that pervasive government coercion in favor of one specific race will reduce the overall level of racial animosity within society—that the way to cure racism is for the federal government to forcibly intervene in favor of specific races, and against other races.  But affirmative action is almost certainly sparking more racial animosity than it is alleviating.”

            Chapter Seven, Guns, Drugs, Searches, and Snares, shows most convincingly how the U.S. has degenerated into an oppressive police state.  All of our liberties are to be sacrificed before the gods of the cops, the BATF, the DEA, the National Guard, and the Army, all in the name of government deciding what we can ingest, and what we can own to defend ourselves.

            Up front, this chapter notes that “H. L. Mencken observed in 1981, ‘A politician normally prospers under democracy in proportion... as he excels in the invention of imaginary perils and imaginary defenses against them.’  In recent years, politicians have found few better ways to frighten voters than with the specter of drugs.”  Mr. Bovard then goes on to show how drugs fit the bill for allowing the politicians to “save” us from ourselves.

            He briefly reviews American history, and how fear of various drugs was rooted in racism—Chinese opium, Mexican marijuana (Marijuana laws also had their roots in lobbying by alcohol producers, who feared competition—this, from the pushers of a physiologically addicting drug, against those who would buy, sell, and use one that is not), and use of cocaine by blacks.  To quote, “A 1910 presidential commission report warned that cocaine ‘has been a potent incentive in driving the humbler negroes all over the country to abnormal crimes.’”

            Here’s another quote; this one concerns a “leader” who later pushed a best-selling book about how Americans could be more virtuous (would someone please spread the word that hate, intolerance, and violence aren’t virtues, even if they are sanctioned by the State): “In March 1989, federal drug czar William Bennett suggested abolishing habeas corpus to aid the fight against drugs and later said he would not be opposed to public beheadings of drug dealers.”

            James Bovard then goes on to document how drug laws trash American neighborhoods and public health, as well as rights.  Drugs alone have accounted for most of the explosion in the sizes of our jails and police forces.  Do we take pride in an “American Drug Gulag”?  Despite propaganda to the contrary, “almost 80 percent of the people sentenced to state prisons on drug charges had no history of criminal violence.”  He cites studies and statistics that quite clearly show that the more law enforcement resources that are devoted to enforcing drug laws, the fewer resources are left for fighting property crimes and violence.  We are quite literally putting the murderers on the streets, and leaving them there, to catch and to make room for those who partake in politically incorrect substances.

            Health?  Cocaine users ingest benzene, because we control ether shipments (a far less toxic chemical used for refining cocaine) to South America.  Users have no idea what their dosage strengths are.  “Pot” users ingest herbicides like paraquat.  Diseases are spread because needles are outlawed.  Over-crowded prisons help spread diseases, too.  And, we all suffer from the crimes brought about due to the fact that these politically incorrect substances cost hundreds to thousands of times what they cost to produce.  When’s the last time they tried to force your kid to get hooked on booze, because they could make huge profits?  When’s the last time you heard them shooting it out on the street, over who gets to sell booze to whom?  Finally, politicians are deciding what drugs and what dosages you may take on your deathbed to ease your suffering, all in the name of “just say no”.

            As Mr. Bovard put it, “Do we really need a massive network of spies and informants, helicopter gunships, and spy satellites in order to make marijuana vastly more expensive than tobacco?  How much public safety and individual privacy should we sacrifice in order to inflate the price of a handful of drugs?”

            Legalizing freedom would lead to rot and ruin?  Says who?  Mr. Bovard cited statistics showing that in the Netherlands, where “pot” was legal, high school students were ten times less likely to be heavy users than here in America, along with other such statistics.  People can figure out for themselves after a while, without any help from the Police State, what is, and what isn’t, good for them.  The decline in tobacco use is a good example of this.

            Next, Mr. Bovard trains his word processor on the State as gun monopolist.  He cites frightening anecdotes about people prosecuted for defending themselves, and gun-toting politicians telling others that they shouldn’t have guns.  He notes that guns are readily manufactured at home, and that “a BATF study found that one-fifth of the guns seized by police in Washington, DC were homemade.”  Homemade potato guns using long plastic pipes and lighter fluid can shoot potatoes at a thousand feet per second.  What’s next, he asks.  Controls on potato sales?

            Lost Rights discusses how one cannot sue the government for failing to protect oneself, at the same time that government is prohibiting us from defending ourselves.  This book shows how, twenty years ago, before the national ban on handguns, private citizens killed criminals in self-defense at three times the rate at which policemen did the same, while policemen were five times as likely to shoot innocent people.  Citizens defended “themselves with guns more than 700,000 times each year”.  The main reason is simple: armed private citizens were far more likely to be there, at that very instant, when a clear-cut case of impending criminal violence reared its ugly head.

            Lost Rights cites case after case where the government used flimsy evidence to search people (driving too fast, driving too slow; looking nervous, not looking nervous enough, and not giving permission to search—no, we’re not kidding), case after case of heavy-handed law enforcement, and case after case of the government brow-beating people into committing crimes which they wouldn’t otherwise commit, and then busting them.

            Our favorite is the lady, sentenced to ten years in jail without parole (later thrown out) for yielding (only to the extent of telling him where to buy drugs) to a methamphetamine-using government snitch, who threatened to kill her son, and “impaled one of her chickens on a stick and left it outside her back door.”  Mr. Bovard states that “The U.S. Justice Department apparently believes that putting a person in contact with another person to purchase an illegal substance is a worse crime than maiming animals and threatening to kill young children.”

            From the conclusion to this chapter, “Today, because some people grow marijuana, government officials must effectively have unlimited power to trespass on almost all private land.  Because some people grow marijuana in their basements, government agents must be given absolute power over gardening stores.  Because some people might flush away a few grams of cocaine, government officials must have the power to batter down the door of any... home suspected, rightfully or wrongfully, of containing narcotics.  Because some teenagers hide tiny bags of drugs in their underwear, government officials must be allowed to closely inspect schoolchildren’s crotches.  The government vigorously prosecutes dancers for indecent exposure for getting naked in front of willing viewers—but it is supposedly okay for school officials to forcibly strip a person.”

            Oh, by the way—we forgot to mention, he cites a case of schoolchildren getting suspended for giving each other “two Tylenol tablets for a headache.”  The government cares about your children, see?  You are getting something for your tax dollars!

            Chapter Eight, Taxing and Tyrannizing, complains about a very, very old problem.  Tales of the mercies of the IRS are legion.  Examples cover how the IRS doesn’t want anyone to work for themselves, and will heavily penalize those people who try to work for themselves (instead of some big company, ‘cause big-company employees are sooo much easier for the taxman to squeeeeze....), and who also don’t have the money for fancy lawyers.

            That, and, let us also mention that the taxman is a potent hit man in the employ of politician-type gang bosses (examples of political “hits” by the IRS are given; victims of IRS “hits” prominently feature critics of the IRS).  One section, Welfare Rights Vs. Taxpayer Duties, documents how taxpayers are presumed guilty in the courts, until they cough up the big bucks to hire lawyers to defend themselves, while welfare recipients are given the benefit of the doubt: the government has to prove that they don’t deserve the taxpayers’ money!

            Okay, one more, and then we’ll go on: in at least one case, local tax collectors have been known to run TV shows threatening tax evaders, and encouraging neighbors to turn each other in for tax evasion.

            Chapter Nine, Spiking Speech, Bankrupting Newspapers, and Jamming Broadcasts, shows how our freedom of speech has been frittered away in pursuit of people who take pictures of their naked babies in bathtubs, small newspapers are sued into silence by small-time political bigwigs, and how “commercial speech” is deemed to be undeserving of freedom (one section is titled, “Protecting People From Beer Bottle Labels”—an endeavor on which the government has wasted untold sums of taxpayer and consumer dollars).  Further, it shows how government meddling in broadcasting and cable (in those days—now, its ONLINE, of course—different media, same sad tale) makes the consumers pay more for less services.

            Finally, the Conclusion, Chapter Ten, contains some pithy remarks.  Here, we’ll quote at length, and keep our comments to a minimum:  “‘Fairness’ has been the driving engine in the expansion of government control over citizens’ lives, property, and opportunities.  But as the old German proverb says, ‘The more laws, the less justice.’  In area after area in American society, basic justice and fundamental fairness are being subverted and ridiculed by legislative and regulatory decrees.  Few people would consider it just that zoning officials can revoke permits they had already granted and force people to tear down part or all of their homes—but it is happening.  Few people would consider it just that trucking companies can force their customers to pay massive surcharges for service rendered years ago, solely because the trucker failed to file his rates with a federal bureau—but it is happening. Few people would think it just that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can attack small businesses for hiring too many Hispanics and not enough blacks—but it has happened. Few people think it just that law enforcement officials can achieve their quotas for arrests by browbeating other Americans into committing crimes—but it is happening.  Few people would think it just that IRS auditors can impose draconian penalties on small businesses for the “crime” of dealing with independent contractors—but it is happening.  The larger and more interventionist the government, the more unfair daily life becomes.”  Well put, Mr. Bovard.  If only more Americans would pay attention to these abuses, and do their best to throw the bums out!  May we suggest a method for doing so: Vote Libertarian.

            Later, he says, “Faith in government is faith in prohibitions, fines, injunctions, and jails.  The limits of coercion are the limits of government.  Government is a far more effective tool for preventing harm than for achieving good.  Those who see the state as the engine of progress see progress as originating from some men having the power to force other men to obey them, not from the voluntary association of free individuals.  Too many Americans hold a blind faith in the talismanic power of legislators—their ability to proclaim a new law and thereby make society a better place.”  Harrumph!  Okay, call us “harrumph-heads” if you wish, but, “harrumph” just the same.

            Yet more good quotes; these concern the “dictatorial majority” that the Founding Fathers warned us about: “Is the facade of majority rule more valuable than the reality of individual choice?  The glorification of democratic processes cannot disguise the fact that government tends to be an oligopoly of special interests—the noisiest or richest or pushiest faction on any issue.  Majority rule is an excellent principle for those functions that government must perform, but the further government power is stretched beyond its rightful bounds, the more fragile democratic processes become.  ...  Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”  (Emphasis ours).  Harrumph squared on that one!!

            Yet another treasure; “America needs fewer laws, not more prisons.  Rather than trying to dictate wages, or hiring, or the size of nectarines, or the use of private land, government should confine itself to protecting people against overt violence and fraud.”

            Okay, finally, the very last words in the body of the book: “Henry David Thoreau wrote, ‘If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intent of doing you good, run for your life.’  Unfortunately, the entire American society cannot pick up and run from the government.  The time has come to face up to the pervasive failures and to radically reduce government officials’ power to coerce, expropriate, and subjugate other Americans.  The American public placed its faith in the State, and the State failed.  We need a new faith in individual liberty.”

            We, the authors of this Libertarian platform, prominently featuring the above book review, believe that this is the best book written in the last three decades, as far as documenting the loss of American freedom is concerned.  The primary author of this review, Andrew Flyfogen, would add that this is the best of any books he’s read in years.  We highly recommend that lovers of liberty everywhere should read it.*

            Let us also briefly mention another good Libertarian book, which is, “Healing Our World  The Other Piece of the Puzzle”, by Dr. Mary J. Ruwart.  Same story, different way of saying it.  A little repetitious, perhaps, but sometimes that’s good, for driving home the themes.  In this case, the themes are, choosing between honoring our neighbor’s choices, non-aggression, and prosperity, or trying, via the guns of government, to make our neighbor’s choices for him.  Aggression, private or public, always leads to fighting and poverty.  In our desire to control selfish others, we, ourselves, are controlled, and become the victims of selfish others.  As you sow, so will you reap.  If you want liberty, you’d better give it to me.

            Some of her lessons may not be immediately obvious, but stop and think about it.  She makes it clear enough, fast enough.  We’d never force our neighbor, at gunpoint if necessary, to do our will, other than to keep his guns out of our faces.  We wouldn’t coercively micro-manage his personal business.  We know that if we do, he’ll strike back.  We’ll set off a cycle of violence, which will tear down the neighborhood, and lead to poverty and suffering.  We all know it’s not nice to mind his business.  We’d never dream of trying to tell him which charity choices to make, he’s working for too little money and should go on welfare instead, his house isn’t up to standards and he should live in the street instead, his Doctor isn’t qualified to treat him, even though they’ve both agreed to their deal, etc., etc., etc., yet we commission the Police to do the exact same things for us!  Wage laws, licensing, welfare, housing codes, Nanny State this, Nanny State that.

            Yet, the end results are almost exactly the same!  We just end up fighting over control of the government, instead of fighting each other directly, and the end result is still poverty.  In many States, one can’t even braid somebody else’s hair, or provide day care to their kids, for pay, without a license!  All those enforcers out there kill economic activity, push people into welfare, and suck at the public teat, to boot, without contributing anything of value.  Blame us, not them, for the most part, ‘cause we tell ‘em what to do.  (Subliminal message... Vote Libertarian... Subliminal message... Legalize Freedom...)

            In our greed for relative status, a bigger piece of the pie than the others get, even if we’re making the pie smaller—even if we’re making our own piece smaller!—we shut others out of our businesses, through licenses and excessive regulation.  We make a zero-sum game, even a less-than-zero sum game, where we’d all be better off playing a different game.  We could all honor our neighbor’s choices, even when we think they’re selfish.  We selfishly try to make them un-selfish, and selfish bureaucrats take advantage of our selfish desire to control others.

            We could let everyone in on the effort to create wealth, and not shut anyone out.  We could make the whole pie, and hence, our own slice, bigger, even if it’s size might not be that much bigger than our neighbor’s, anymore.  Which is more important, anyway?  Relative status, or absolute wealth, comfort, and freedom?  Would you rather live in a roach-infested shack twice as big as your neighbor’s shack, or a mansion the same size as his?  Of course, we can always try to tear down those income differentials that are partly created by shutting some out of the markets, by coercive wealth redistribution.  Yet, in trying to control others, we are controlled.  What comes around, goes around.  So says Dr. Ruwart, and she says it well.

            Phil closed his eyes for a break from the reading.  “Pootie Pie?” he inquired softly, wondering if his wife had fallen asleep.

            “Yo,” she replied drowsily.

            “Did you read this whole thing?” he asked.

            “Yeah, sure did.  What—did you finish reading it already?”

            “No,” he confessed.  “I’m not as speedy of a reader as you are.”

            “So, what’s up, Doc?  You want me to find and buy the books for you?”

            “Pretty please?  Snoogle Woogle Poogle Woogle Boogle Woogle?” he pleaded sheepishly, somewhat embarrassed at how lazy he was getting to be these days, now that she was at home full time.  “Just a download, of course,” he added.  Hardcopies weren’t his cup of tea, usually.  Too many dead trees, and too much clutter.  All she’d have to do would be to root around on ONLINE a bit, and send some dollar signs winging their way through the fiber-optic cables.  This would be even easier for her than, say, for example, calling Laissez Faire Books at 1-800-326-0996.  “Pamper me?”

            “Sure, Honey.  Anything for you,” she replied, snuggling closer to him.  “Now, read on.  Read harder and faster.  Then, we’ll have our big political pow-wow for the day.  Solve the world’s problems.”


 

CHAPTER  5

            “The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”

                                                                        Michel Foucault  (1926-1984)

 

            Phil got back to reading the Libertarian platform:

            So, in the two decades since the publication of Lost Rights, what progress have we made towards regaining them?  Is it time to conduct last rites for our lost rights?  Well, let’s put it this way... the more things change, the more they stay the same.  We’ve seen Republican and Democrat Administrations and Congresses come and go.  We’ve seen the “anti big government” right-wingers waste time trying to pass laws and amendments concerning limitations of gay rights and abortion rights, “English only”, flag-burning, bad movies, naughty words and pictures on computers, various other forms of bad taste, and prayers in the public school—everything except limiting the size of the government.  Any day now, we expect to see the helicopter gunships surrounding Calvin Klein’s home, or responding to the teenagers smoking out behind the barn.

            Well, okay, we’ll give them a little bit of credit—they cut congressional staffs once, and cut, not welfare, but the rate of growth of the Welfare State—for a few short periods, at least.  Or, was that the rate of growth of the rate of growth?  Whatever it was, the Democrats still called it a “cut”.  And, after many years, they did finally manage to get a balanced-budget amendment passed.  Never mind that they had to exempt Social Security in order to pass it, and that, suddenly, all sorts of people’s pork became Social Security—in addition to Supplemental Security Income for drunks, drug addicts, and “crazy money” for all sorts of “disabled” people, that is.  And never mind that the budget will be balanced in, oh, another seven or ten years or so, and God knows when we’ll actually get around to paying off the national debt, after we merely stop making it bigger.  Keep on making those interest payments!

            Oh, and, lest we be accused of not giving credit where credit is due—the Republicans did manage, to eliminate the NIH, and any day now, they might actually eliminate the NEA.  Meantime, though, they’ve created the NIV, the National Institute for Virtue.  Don’t you just love it, when the government uses your tax money to tell you how you could be more ethical, like those experts, bureaucrats and congresspersons!

            And the left-wingers?  We have them to thank for banning handguns, outlawing vitamins (okay, so, we did finally come back to our senses on that one), disastrous experiments in Sovietized health care, and removing all pretensions that Social Security is a retirement system, rather than just another tentacle of the Welfare State.  The only temporary dent they ever put into the Nanny State was during the Chinese War.  Despite how obviously socialism crippled American conventional war-making powers, and therefore contributed towards the madness of biological mass destruction, President Kite and the Democrats, at the end of the war, immediately bought votes by resurrecting the Nanny State.

            Taken together, the two parties have been politics as usual.  Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Stupid, alternating back and forth from one particular flavor of socialistic idiocy to another, from a more-rapidly growing Nanny State, to one that grows less rapidly.  On occasion, we’ve replaced portions of centralized, federal corruption and oppression, with local corruption and oppression.  Instead of half a million politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, and lobbyists in Washington, spending our money on yachts and helicopter trips to the golf courses, we have two million of the same, locally, spending our “crime-fighting” money, for instance, to keep the police chiefs’ mistresses in style.  At least in the old days, all the slimebags were in one place, where the media could keep their eyes on them.

            We’ve had the feds move from taking half of our money, and spending it “for our betterment”, to having the feds take that same money, and sending it to the local cops, so that they can spend it “for our betterment”.  Maybe they’ll get really radical, and start giving “unrestricted” block grants to individual taxpayers—that is, if the taxpayers behave themselves as the bureaucrats think they should.  Well, we Libertarians have an even more radical solution—maybe we could just leave some money in the hands of the taxpayers, and let them better themselves!

            About the only big bright spot has been that Congress finally allows members to vote via telepresence, so that, for large periods of time, Congress can semi-recess back to their home states, where they can, to some extent at least, flee Washington’s armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and bureaucrats, and be closer to their voters.

            In the meantime, we’ve accumulated many, many more anecdotes to add to those listed in Lost Rights.  Enough to gag another million maggots, according to our best estimates.

            To wit:  many news publications will no longer take real estate ads of any kind, due to HUD busting things like, “offers a fine view of the beach” (discriminates against the blind).*  A bank got into trouble for not being properly sensitive to all those blind drivers out there, because they lacked Braille keypads at the drive-through teller machines!*  A newscaster is fined (despite not having said any verboten words, according to the commandments of the FCC) for millions of dollars, in a class-action lawsuit, for sexually harassing tens of thousands of listeners.Y  An actress sues and wins millions under the same laws, since the actor/director made her participate in too many re-takes of a scene in which he kisses her.Y  A murder conviction is overturned because the confessed perpetrator(s?), the victim(s?) of multiple personality syndrome, wasn’t (weren’t?) sworn in separately for each personality.Y

            No, we’re not done:  HUD sues a news publisher for “creating an intimidating and oppressive atmosphere for minorities” in a housing project, when it accidentally prints “black grant” instead of “block grant”.Y  The Salvation Army is forced out of business because they pay the people (“workers”) they’re trying to help, in food and housing, but don’t meet minimum-wage requirements.Ä  Half-way houses for the mentally handicapped are shut down, because the staff must be paid while they sleep, since they are “on the job” during that time.Ä  Lawyers and judges show us their real priorities, by awarding consumers with $1 (yes, count it, one dollar) after a six-week trial because some companies engaged in price-fixing gasoline, while awarding two million dollars to nineteen lawyers for legal fees!*

            A totally drunken DEA agent, out painting the town red for his bachelor party, repeatedly demands that a topless bar admit him and his buddies without paying the cover charge, gets in a fight with the co-owner of the bar, and shoots the co-owner.  Police and DEA big-wigs pull out the whitewash; DEA bigwig claims agent acted in self-defense, says, “We can basically tell from the number of shots he fired that he believed his life was in danger.”*  The same logic would apply to the robber in your house who pumps you full of slugs—or, of course, when the same DEA agent, in your house on “legitimate business,” pumps you full of slugs.  This man was merely guilty of acting the same way when he was drunk, as he acts when he’s sober.

            A vitamin-store owner provides information to consumers about folic acid preventing birth defects—information confirmed by another federal agency—and gets busted for advertising facts that haven’t been approved by the FDA.*  This was in the years before we tried the disastrous policy of requiring prescriptions for vitamins.  Ditto for the grocery store owner who had the audacity to have, in the same store, a newspaper containing an article Discovery may be cure for aspirin side effect, aspirin, and soya lecithin.  False advertising!  Pushing unapproved drugs!  Big-time undercover purchase, and raid, against drug pushers in our midst, by heroic, armed FDA agents!  Soya lecithin is a food ingredient derived from soy beans.  It prevents some of the harsh effects that aspirin can have on the stomach.  But, in a Police State like today’s America, you’d better not be caught with a newspaper and these two deadly drugs, in the same store!µ

            America Online, an old computer on-line service, struck back at cybersmut (gotta fend off all those regulators and busybodies) by twice trying to ban the use of the word “breast”, disrupting women’s gazonga cancer discussion groups.*  All we can say is that hope springs eternal in the human hooter, that someday we’ll have real freedom.  Someday, boob cancer patients and survivors will be able to use a more dignified term for their affliction, without looking over their shoulders.  Meanwhile, please pass me those chicken knockers.

            75-year old black minister killed in mistaken drug raid, by officers who routinely fabricate informants to obtain search warrants.*  FBI confiscates three Mercedes because the owner’s husband used the phone in one of them to place a sports bet.*  Home of 69-year-old grandmother confiscated because anonymous informant says her grandson sold unidentified drugs to unidentified buyer from her porch, two years earlier.*  Innocent 84-year-old bedridden woman shot and killed at 2 a.m. by officer kicking down her bedroom door.*

            Finally, in one more example out of the thousands we could choose, a beer brewer is busted for publishing truthful nutritional information on beer bottles.  Heinous crimes!  BATF freedom fighters to the rescue!  Truth is no defense, where freedom of speech is merely commercial speech, you see.*

            The details on these cases, and much more, you’ll find in Freedom From Freedom Froms, Restoring Liberty in America, by Andrew Flyfogen.  Freedom From Freedom Froms doesn’t mince words—nor shall we mince them here.  What we are facing is a form of fascism—a supposedly benevolent fascism, but fascism nevertheless, where fascism is defined as a centralized authority using censorship, draconian socioeconomic controls, and racism (yes, racism—discriminating against those who are deemed less equal than others is just as bad as saying that some aren’t legally equal to others).  The only thing we lack is a dictator, and we may get one soon.  We’d say more, but fear lawsuits.

            Freedom From Freedom Froms, you say, with puzzlement?  And,  fascism?  Aren’t we being a bit extreme?  Let us explain.

            Fascism is tyranny by those who know better than us, who are merely the great unwashed, who don’t know what is good for us, let alone good for society, that vague and nebulous thing that supersedes the mere, inconsequential individual.  As they say on campuses these days, limiting taxes and individual rights are code words for racism, because such concepts disempower the oppressed, whose bad luck it is to be shut out from the majority.

            A fascist of great renown once stated sentiments to this effect: repeat a lie often enough, loudly enough, and without opposition (read: squelch those who oppose you), and the people will believe you.  For following this prescription most scrupulously, we nominate Deval Patrick, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under Clinton, who stated that, “There are no quotas.  I don’t know how many times I have to say that.”  Quibbling at it’s best.  We merely prosecute those whose numbers aren’t quite right; we merely make it such that the only way that you can’t prove that you don’t discriminate, is to hire by the numbers.  Then we merely punish those who can’t prove that they don’t discriminate.  Now, all that we have to do is, figure out how often we have to lie, and, lo and behold, the people will believe us.

            Okay, so, you’re still wondering where we got the title to Freedom From Freedom Froms, Restoring Liberty in America?  There is a fascist mentality very closely related to this business of lying often enough and loudly enough, that states, any time you want to sell a policy of enslavement, all that you have to do is to call it freedom.  Having the State make your charity decisions for you is called freedom from want.  Having the State make your hiring decisions for you is called freedom from racism.  If the State fails to squeeze more money from taxpayers for socialist schemes, and mandates banks and depositors to become Santa Claus on its behalf instead, via armies of extortionist lawyers wielding consent decrees, it’s called freedom from discriminatory lending practices.  Have the State mandate so many employment benefits for you, to the point that you can’t get a job, and it’s called freedom from job exploitation.

            For the championship in this particular category of distortion, we nominate George Bush.  In 1992, he dedicated a new DEA building by saying, “I am delighted to be here to salute the greatest freedom fighters any nation could have, people who provide freedom from violence and freedom from drugs and freedom from fear.”  This song was sung in praise of those who decide what we can and what we can’t put in our bodies.  The biggest thugs, enemies of real personal freedom, and disciples of violence since the Red Guard, are praised as freedom fighters.  These are the same power-worshipping egomaniacs who batter down doors in the middle of the night, without warning, and kill those who, even in passing or in cases of mistaken identity, resist their efforts at promoting “freedom”.

            Therefore, we, the Libertarian Party, propose to free you from these  “Freedom Froms”.  We offer the voter genuine individual freedom, which is the only kind of freedom that really means anything.

            The second half of Freedom From Freedom Froms, Restoring Liberty in America, spells out what could be done to wrest power from those who love to exercise it over others, and restore it to the most rightful owner, the one who knows most about all the parameters of each given, highly specific situation: the individual.  The individual is also the one whose interests are most at stake, and whose growth and progress are most directly tied to learning from the consequences of right and wrong decisions.  The paternalistic State protects us not only from ourselves, but also from the learning that we might attain through the exercise of our free wills.  To those who say that you and I could handle freedom, but those others just aren’t ready for it, and would abuse it, we say, no one ever learned to swim by staying on dry land, and no one ever will.

            To freedom, we dedicate our proposed Bill of Restored Rights, explained in detail in Freedom From Freedom Froms, Restoring Liberty in America, but only summarized here.  Note that we propose constitutional amendments, but are flexible, and dedicated to working within the system.  There are many ways to skin a power-monger, and we are open to attaining the goals listed here, by any reasonable means.  Some alternate means are listed.  Many people are averse to amending the constitution.  We do not propose doing so lightly.  However, there are far, far too many judges who take to themselves the power to legislate, and the only way to do an end run around them is to amend the constitution.

            Also, bear in mind that laws and amendments are just words; much lies in implementation.  If the correct wording was all that was required, we wouldn’t need to propose laws and amendments prohibiting some from being more equal than others.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would suffice.  We will resist the temptation to degrade the dignity of the Constitution with an amendment asserting that none are more equal than others.  We’ll be content with honestly implementing existing laws and policies of equality.

            This one topic, group rights and entitlements versus the rights of individuals to fair treatment on the basis of their own performance, has been a prime sore spot for many decades.  We’ve been back and forth and forth and back, with dozens of contradictory court rulings.  Judges spell out ever more and ever more complicated hair-splitting rules for deducting whether a given racially conscious “remedy” is justified or not, serving few simple interests, other than that of full employment for lawyers and judges.

            The only way one can be assured of being lawful, is to have an army of judges and lawyers sitting on one’s shoulders.  Very rarely has the “justice” system spoken out in favor of simple colorblindness.  On the contrary, courts have sometimes ruled that voters are not entitled to pass binding referenda saying that none are more equal than others.  Equality isn’t constitutional.  Maybe the Constitution isn’t constitutional; who knows?!  The Libertarian Party has the courage to say, “Enough is enough!”, here as in other cases.

            Before we get into the list of our ten proposed amendments, let us summarize their basic spirit by saying that our vision of government is very simple.  It goes back to a very old concept, that government is a necessary evil.  Government is naked, brutal force and coercion.  Its use should be preserved for a very limited list of objectives.  This list consists simply of protecting liberty (from foreign and domestic despots, be they individuals or organizations), enforcing contracts and punishing fraud, and providing a bare minimum of services which are most efficiently administered in the public domain.  This list can obviously be warped and distorted.  As in so many endeavors, common sense is required in applying the list.

            Conspicuously absent from our list, are cases of mandating good things—naked force should be reserved for prohibiting bad things, primarily coercion itself.  For all other purposes, persuasion, not coercion, is the preferred, superior choice.  The results of persuasion may not be as instantaneous, but they run far, far deeper.  Coerce a man, and he reverts, the very moment you stop your coercion, if not sooner.  Persuade a man, and he might be on your side for a long time to come.

            There are many, many good things that simply cannot be attained by legislative fiat.  If Utopia could be mandated by a priesthood or elite, it would have been established long ago.  Human nature being defective, any government program is open to abuse by rulers and subjects alike.  The solution is not more or better laws; it is less laws.  The fewer the government programs, the less the possibilities of abuse.

            As is so often the case, government is a limited resources.  Resources devoted to enforcing petty or ideological crimes are resources not available for enforcing essential laws against violence against persons and property.  Most ominously, as we worship the gods of the omnipotent State, more cops, and more jails, we scrape lower and lower into the barrel of potential bureaucrats, cops, and jailers.  Persons genuinely devoted to public service, not personal enrichment or power, are a finite resource, just like so many other resources.  Accepting power-hungry, violent people, some with criminal backgrounds, into the ranks of “public servants” has already made America far to much of a Police State.  We propose to roll back this tide.

            In light of these considerations, here is our list of ten proposed amendments:

            1) Freedom of Charitable Choices Amendment

            All citizens of the United States shall be free to make their own charity choices.  Those who wish for a government agency to make their charity choices for them, shall be permitted to empower the agency of their choice to do so.  Those who wish to make their own charity decisions, shall be allowed to do so.  Government-mandated transfers of wealth, other than those resulting from convictions by juries, of law-breakers, shall be emphatically and expressly prohibited.

            Quite simply, public-welfare bureaucrats have no genuine interest in getting people off of welfare.  Private givers do.  Centralized agencies make dim-witted, ill-informed choices.  Private givers know individual circumstances, and distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving poor.  To those who say, all poor persons are deserving of things other than the freedom to work for their own betterment, we throw up our hands in defeat.  We implore such believers to promptly return to the planet of their origin, or at the very least, to refrain from imposing their beliefs on others.

            Bureaucratically administered government compassion is a pale substitute for the real thing, which is voluntary.  Forcible redistribution severs the links between actions and their rewards.  Responsible, hard-working people get less money and power, and irresponsible people and bureaucrats get more.  The irresponsible people don’t even have attempt to please or emulate the responsible people, as a condition for continued benefits.  Welfare tears down communities and increases crime, as even the Maryland NAACP and an academic study for the government have both concluded.  Coercive government hijacks what were once voluntary functions served by individuals and associations, serving also as a social “glue”, or tool for rewarding attempts at self-improvement, and not rewarding the lack of the same.  Then these same power-mongers turn around and bemoan our loss of community, and tell us how we should stop looking to the government for solutions, and pull together as communities.  Enough already!

            Charity needs to be returned to the private sector, and the sooner, the better.  The longer we wait, the more thoroughly the old habits of private charity die.  The longer that resentful taxpayers have to endure socialistic thievery, the more they build up resentments against the parasitical classes, and the more suffering will result in the inevitable conversion back to private charity.

            The reversion to private charity can’t be attained painlessly.  There may be some cases of starvation, even.  We do not rejoice in suffering; however, we don’t pretend that government can eliminate suffering, either.  For those who protest about how sacred and infinitely valuable human life is, we say, simply, this, “For a few hundred dollars, you can save lives in the third world.  Have you given all your excess monies to these people?”  Their answers, almost inevitably, will indicate that isn’t the sacredness of human life that they’re worrying about; it’s their right to raid their neighbor’s wallets, in a pinch.  Or even, just because they want Freedom From Working.  We don’t believe in Freedom From Work, we believe in Freedom To Work.

            We do not believe that allowing income earners to make their own charity decisions is “mean spirited”.  Rather, we believe that sending the government goons around, to forcibly extract your money, under threat of jail time and property confiscation, in order to make your charity decisions for you, is “mean spirited”.  What would you think of your friend, if the two of you were walking down the street, and saw a homeless person, and your friend reached into your wallet, took a hundred dollars of your money, gave twenty or thirty bucks to the poor person, keeping the rest for administrative costs, and made a big show of being generous and compassionate?  Why, then, do we let the government do this to us?

            How can voters take pride in their “compassion” when they vote for socialists?  They are saying one of two things, maybe both.  One, they’d like for the government to put a gun to their heads, to make sure that they give money to “help” the poor, since they can’t bring themselves to do this of their own free will.  Or, they know how to make charity choices, how to be compassionate, so much better than others, that they’re willing to put guns to the heads of those greedy, selfish others.  Who is greedy and selfish, here?  Who is greedy for power, and for the illusion of moral supremacy?

            We advocate the abolition of the IRS, and only one form of taxes, those being sales taxes.  We also advocate abolishing all laws that require hospitals to provide services that recipients can’t pay for.  Unlike others, we don’t claim that we can achieve everything we set out to do.  However, if we fail to abolish the IRS, and mandatory-treatment laws, we propose the following law: Any collection method used by the IRS, shall also be allowed to be used by the providers of medical services.  We can’t see the sense of imposing the draconian collection methods used by the IRS, partly for paying the neighbor’s medical bills, and then making the consumer pay high prices for medical services, since the hospital can’t collect from deadbeats.  In other words, why should society have more power to make you pay for your neighbor’s bills, than to pay for your own?  We will propose similar laws in any other cases that arise, where prices become grossly distorted due to mandatory socialism.

            As best as we can, we Libertarians propose to phase out all mandatory socialism during a five-year adjustment period.  Notice we say, mandatory socialism.  As Libertarians, we believe in voluntary socialism, otherwise known as insurance.  Free peoples should be allowed to freely enter legal contracts, including insurance contracts, and their government should enforce them.  Nor should insurance companies be forced to provide coverage that individuals don’t want to pay for (this will keep prices down).

            Between private charity and voluntary socialism, most of the doom and gloom predicted by the statists will not come to pass.  What doom and gloom that does materialize, will at least equalize the present, grossly unfair system by which Americans are entitled to all sorts of “free” goodies for having been born a few yards to one side of a border, while others, unwise enough to have been born a few yards away, deserve nothing.  Eliminating socialism would help us to open our borders, to become a more free country.

            2) Empowering the Jury Amendment

            All juries in the United States shall be informed of their right to Jury Nullification.  All juries shall be free to receive any information they care to receive.  No one shall have a legal right, nor a duty, to serve on a jury; a jury’s purpose is to serve justice to the accused and to the victims, not to jury members.  Jury duty shall be voluntary.  However, qualified jurors who decline to serve may be disqualified from voting for up to ten years.

            Jury selection shall be restricted to selecting a pool, from which selection for individual cases shall be purely random, and to be challenged only on the basis of a significant relationship to a party of the trial.  Technological methods of pool selection shall be permitted.  Rejection of more than half of the citizens screened shall be prohibited.  Federal review of verdicts shall be permitted only in cases involving foreign States, conflicts between States within the United States, and gross miscarriage of justice, where actual guilt is in serious doubt.  Appeals may be based on challenging the constitutionality of the laws violated, only with regard to the violations, not the methods with which convictions were obtained.  Violations of procedures for obtaining convictions shall be addressed only by seeking punishment of the procedure violators, not by letting the convicted go unpunished.

            No governmental agency may deprive anyone of any rights or property without the right to a trial.  However, the loser of a lawsuit may be required to pay reasonable costs to the court and to the opposing side.

            What we envision here is the radical dis-empowering of lawyers and judges, and returning power to the people.  Citizens, not the legal priesthood, should be empowered to decide what information is reliable, and what is not.  States should enforce most laws, not the Federal Government.  States should be able to enlarge their juries to guard against “fluke” verdicts.  Many States may choose to use new, more reliable “polygraph” type instruments (in conjunction with elected administrators, and strict privacy laws) to enable them to select unbiased, capable jurors who love both freedom and justice.  With these safeguards in place, in addition to the limitations our other amendments would place on the government, juries can then be trusted with expanded powers.  Juries could even be trusted to receive testimony via telecommunications, in the convenience of their own homes.  Juries could terminate endless, pointless game-playing by attorneys, by being empowered to simply say, “Enough; we’ve already reached a conclusion”, in cases where a verdict is obvious.  Or simply, “Enough from this particular windbag of an attorney.  Let’s move on.”

            Appeals based on trivial technicalities will cease.  Gross over-reaching by law enforcement can be punished by charging the offenders, not by letting the guilty go free.  Yes, occasionally, under a speedy, efficient justice system, the innocent will have already been punished by the time overly zealous law enforcement types are brought to heel.  But no justice system is perfect, and at least we won’t have criminals being released because some form wasn’t filled out, or because not all of the defendant’s multiple personalities were sworn in.

            Juries should be fully informed of their ages-old right to find laws to be unjust or misapplied.  This right (jury nullification) already exists; jurors are merely not allowed to be told about it.  This must change.  The full democratic powers of the jury could thus be unleashed against petty bureaucrats, and against the dictatorial majority.  Who could imagine twelve or twenty-four fully informed jurors voting to convict some-one of the “crime” of smuggling sugar into the U.S., thus allowing the consumers to pay half of what they usually pay?  Similarly, crimes not defined as crimes by clear majorities (victimless crimes) wouldn’t often lead to convictions, while clear transgressions against persons and property (actions obviously abhorred by most everyone) would be punished.  This is how things should be.  Willing buyer, willing seller?  No unwilling victims, no fraud, no coercion?  No crime!

            3) Freedom From Lawyers Amendment

            If a buyer and a seller of a good or service should freely agree to make an exchange that shall not be subject to lawsuits, then this agreement shall be absolutely ironclad and unbreakable.  Only when a party to such an agreement engages in acts that are actually criminal under criminal law, involving force, threats, coercion, or fraud, shall anyone have any standing to bring suit, and that shall be under criminal, not civil, law.  Similarly, when recipients of charity agree not to sue, then their contracts shall be honored.  Services as here defined shall include labor contracts.

            Unless a State’s citizens have defeated this clause in a public referendum, plaintiffs must pay reasonable legal costs of defendants, when defendants win lawsuits.

            Lawsuits against property shall be prohibited.  Lawsuits shall only be filed against individuals and organizations.

            You want to buy a lawnmower?  That’ll be $300, please.  You want the lawsuit lottery policy, along with the special warranty?  That’ll be $600.  Now, when you dream up a new, outlandishly stupid thing to do with your mower, that we never, in our wildest dreams, thought you’d do with it, and therefore forgot to warn you against—say, trimming your kid’s hair—then, if you want to make some money by being stupid, you’d better pay for it.  You want breast implants?  Three grand.  You want the lawsuit lottery policy, too?  Make that a hundred grand.  Simple, fair, and in keeping with freedom and self-responsibility.  Our economy, as well as poor people, who can’t afford prices inflated by stupid consumers and greedy lawyers, could prosper under such a system.

            You want to interview for a job?  Here, sign this agreement, saying you won’t sue us under the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeing as how your alcoholism is a disability, if you show up drunk every day, and we fire you.  Otherwise, we can’t afford to hire you.  Also, after you sign, we’ve a choice for you:  we pay you two dollars an hour, and you retain the option of suing us over your hurt baby feelings over a specific list of transgressions, like what our other employees have posted inside their own offices, or, you can drop that right, and we’ll pay you twenty dollars an hour.  If you don’t like it, interview with the next employer.  You’re a free agent, in a free marketplace.

            A free society could also provide several levels of voluntary protection.  Between the $300 and $600 lawnmower, we could also have a $375 lawnmower backed by an industry arbitration association, and a $450 lawnmower backed by a consumer arbitration association.  All that is required to complete the picture, is a government that punishes fraud, and a free press to inform consumers about the performance of the various associations.

            For those who object that a consumer could buy one bottle of a drug with the lawsuit lottery rider, and then, 99 bottles of the same, without the rider, and years later, sue for the ill effects—well, there are solutions, when we really want them.  A manufacturer could require that you be registered as a lawsuit lottery bypasser, before allowing you to buy at the lower price.  Cheap computer power allows us to easily keep track of such things, these days.

            Some say that manufacturers will vastly overcharge for all their products that they back up with their lawsuit lottery, or market all their products without such an option, thereby giving consumers no choice but to use products that are dangerous.  If such came to pass, a market niche would open for those who can sell products with the lawsuit lottery policy at a reasonable cost, plus profit.  Also, sellers could disclose whether or not the exact same product is available with the lawsuit lottery policy, and how much more it costs.  Now, consumers will have some idea as to how dangerous the product is.  Lawyers and lawmakers could set us free, if they really wanted to.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Libertarians, unlike the other parties, have both a will, and a way.

            A constitutional amendment might be over-reacting, here, but wouldn’t hurt.  A measure short of that might be to pass a law that says vendors could write ironclad disclaimers.  The lawnmower manufacturer could simply write in their manual, “Do NOT push primer bulb, put switch in run, and pull starter chain, because if you do, the blades will whirl, creating hazards to morons, as well as to blades of grass.  This is purely a decorative item.”  The Libertarian Party is committed to freedom, including the freedom for buyers and sellers to opt out of the lawsuit lottery.  But, yes, if the lawnmower manufacturers put grenades into the mowers, to detonate when started, or your employer rapes or deliberately maims you, then yes, we should hold their feet to the fire, under criminal law.

            Really, it’s pretty simple.  All we’re saying is, we’re big boys and girls now.  As such, we should be able to write our own binding contracts.  See amendment number six.  And if we want to write the lawyers out of our deals, we should be able to, and get a discount.  Is that too complicated for the lawyers and legislators?  Or would it maybe cut down on their campaign funds and job opportunities?  Care to venture a guess?

            Finally, we’re tired of legal cases of The People versus Your House and Car, in which government lawyers file charges against your house and car, since you used them to smoke a joint, or commit some other outrageous crime.  This, under the amazing legal theory that your house and car don’t deserve all the rights that you’ve got, such as, presumption of innocence, state-funded legal defense if you’re poor, a “speedy” trial, and so on.  Vote for us, and we’ll put a stop to this madness.

            In the meantime, we suggest that some freedom-loving lawyer out there (we should hope that there might be one or two) should strike a blow for common sense, and defend such accused houses and cars on the basis that they’re not mentally competent to stand trial, that they don’t understand the law, or the charges against them.  If murderers can plead insanity, your house should be able to do so, too.  Although, come to think of it, these ideas may not be as crazy as they sound, what with ever-more-intelligent computers being integrated into cars and houses.  All those “expert witness” shrinks out there better start studying up!  “Your Honor, this house isn’t guilty, because its psyche was severely wounded when its timbers went through torturous trauma at the lumber mill.”

            4) Freedom From Bureaucrats Amendment

            No person or corporation shall be required to have a permit, submit to an inspection, or be certified in any manner, in order to provide goods or services to any willing buyer, unless such goods or services can cause significant harm to unwilling third parties, and then only if the harm arises primarily from the defective nature of the good or service, rather than from conscious choices made by the consumer.  All certifications, other than in the previously-listed exceptions, shall be strictly voluntary.  Government’s sole roles in voluntary certification shall be to enforce contracts, punish fraud, and to provide its own ratings.

            You want to pay the bum under the bridge to do some brain surgery on you?  If he doesn’t misrepresent himself, you’re a competent adult, and you both agree to it, then go for it!  No more special licenses for taxi cabs, or for interior decorators.  On the other hand, since that taxi cab can smash into other cars, the driver had better get the usual insurance, license tags, driver’s license, etc.  Special interests will no longer be able to lock out their potential competitors.  Discriminating buyers can still buy certified goods and services, but they’ll have to pay for the extra costs.  Once again, freedom is legalized, and the economy is stimulated.

            In passing, allow us to mention that the full text of Freedom From Freedom Froms, Restoring Liberty in America,  spells out ways in which cheap computer and communications power can be used to make voluntary certification quite powerful.  Computers, data storage, and transmissions are now so cheap, that voluntary certification programs could require subscribers to keep records of customer satisfaction or lack thereof, and to provide such records to buyers.  Such records would spell out returns policies, findings of legal or arbitration proceedings, etc., and all complaints or accolades submitted by consumers.  Consumers too unintelligent to access such records can always ask a smarter friend to give them advice.  If they’re too arrogant to do this, then that’s their problem.  Stupidity is common and easily forgiven; stupidity combined with arrogance, alas, also seems to be common, but need not be so easily forgiven.

            A minimal amount of government oversight might be beneficial.  We could require some products to have a very simple rating, A, B, C, D, F, or unrated, clearly displayed on the label, where the government shows its opinion of the product, based on the government’s evaluation of the product.  Or the government could rate the certification organizations that have already evaluated the products.  But the government should hardly ever prohibit or punish an uncoerced transaction, where there is no complaint of fraud.

            Yes, we have common sense.  We wouldn’t totally deregulate automobiles and aircraft, for example, because innocent bystanders, who weren’t party to agreements, can be hurt.  But we’re not going to blame the manufacturer when the criminal accidentally discharges his gun during a robbery.  The solution there is to punish the robber, not the firearms manufacturer.

            Finally, a brief note:  voluntary certification is actually superior in several ways.  Under government certification, the providers have endless “due process” rights.  The government can’t do anything bad to them, unless they spend your tax money fighting off hordes of the providers’ lawyers.  And the regulatory agencies often get captured by those who they’re supposed to regulate, because these providers constitute special interests, with narrowly focused, concentrated concerns.  Who raises the most campaign cash connected to sugar policies—1,000 people, each making $300,000 a year off of inflated sugar prices, or 250 million people, each paying $300 a year in inflated food prices?  The answer is obvious.

            Yet multiply and compare those numbers, and you’ll find that net-net, the consumers’ total gains from deregulation outweigh the producers’ losses by a factor of 25,000!  Now multiply this by thousands of other categories of regulation, and one must conclude that we’d all be better off if we stopped letting special interests recruit the government as their hit squad.  The kicker?  Since the regulators are usually captured by the regulated, anyway, we have cases like psychologists sentenced to 40 years for molesting children, who still have their licenses.  Under private certification, these will usually be open-and-shut cases.  A free press and word of mouth will rapidly establish which certification establishments are honest, and which aren’t.

            5) Freedom From State Certification of Religions Amendment

            No governmental agency shall make any determination regarding the validity or sincerity of any religious belief.  If a governmental agency extends any privilege to any person because of religious beliefs, then all persons in that jurisdiction shall have the same privilege.

            How often have we seen the State getting into the business of judging whether a religious belief is “genuine” or not?  How many small-minded local government schools prohibit males from wearing their hair long, but then write a special exception for Native Americans, given that they present some form from their chief, and/or a pedigree?  Do we really like living in a nation where some are more equal than others?

            Examples abound.  Native Americans can litter the ground at Devil’s Tower National Monument with tobacco and sage prayer offerings, and can make people and museums either pay them to pray over medicine bundles (corn silk and such, which are regarded as having feelings) or give them back, despite the current owners having bought them fair and square.  And they can take peyote.  What would happen with a non-native person decided who that his or her beliefs required them to dump prayer bundles of fast-food offerings on national monuments, take peyote, or grab back or be paid to pray over, all the appliances that they once sold?

            Then, there’s the Old-Order Amish and Mennonites, who are allowed to opt out of Social Security, and the Muslims who are allowed to obscure their faces with veils in high-crime areas, where anyone else caught wearing a mask gets busted for hiding their identity.  We believe that people should have most of the freedoms listed here; it’s just that we don’t think anyone should be more equal than anyone else, under the law.  1984 is long gone, and the same should be true of Orwellian ideals.

            We could extend this amendment to race, disability status, creed, sex, age, nationality, sexual orientation, and on and on and on.  We could include the usual “victims” list, where the government hypocritically uses membership in each and every group listed, as a basis for discrimination, of one sort or another.  Nor is the government’s hypocrisy limited to “reverse discrimination”.  The private employer is prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of age or disabilities, yet the government does so on a regular basis.  Can’t refuse to hire the old guy for being too old, but you’re busted if you hire the one who’s too young!  The 14-year-old kid can be tried as an adult, can kill or be killed for his country at 18, yet can’t buy beer till he’s 21.  But you’d better not be discriminating on the basis of age!

            Actually, though, we’d be cluttering up the constitution, not only with repetitious redundancy, but also, by making it repeat itself, because “equal protection” is already guaranteed under the fourteenth amendment.  So why do we include this amendment, here?  Just to make a point—even the strongest, simplest constitutional principles, equality and freedom of religion, have been perverted by hypocritical elites, in more ways than we usually stop to think about.  They explain away their hypocrisy on the basis that complex societies need complex rules.  Hypocrisy, though, is what really drives their contorted non-logic.

            6) Economic Freedom Amendment

            No governmental agency shall enforce any laws restricting the rights of individuals or corporations to freely engage in commerce, except in cases where unwilling third parties can be significantly harmed.  The only kinds of contracts that shall be prohibited, are those that are prohibited for the protection of those who are not party to the contract.  Whenever possible, third parties shall be allowed to decline any such protection.

            Any legal act may be the subject of a contract.  Government will enforce all legal contracts, except when a jury finds it to be against the interests of society to enforce a contract; and in this case, the contract violator shall be required to make reasonable reparations.  Government may charge reasonable fees for enforcing contracts.

            Freedom to contract at will shall encompass people’s bodies and reproductive functions, which are, after all, owned by their owners, and not by the government.  This freedom shall include the right for private givers and recipients of charity to agree that as a condition of the transfer, the recipients undergo sterilization, or abortion in the first trimester, or give babies up for adoption to third parties not otherwise involved in the transfer.  Any dispute involving a contract of adoption, or any form of adoption, shall be decided in the interests of the child.

            Okay, we’ll address the more controversial aspects of this amendment first.  We are NOT saying that the government should get into the business of controlling reproduction of anyone not convicted of a serious crime (see our 8th proposed amendment for that topic).  We are NOT advocating genocide or mass “mercy killings”.  We are merely recognizing that some charity givers live in the real world, and realize, either through their own experience or through reading such well-documented books as The Bell Curve, by Herrnstein & Murray, that many, many social pathologies are perpetrated generation after generation, due to low cognitive abilities, which are passed on by a combination of heredity and environment.  The precise nature of this mix doesn’t matter much; what matters is that, more and more, the underclasses pass on these pathologies, and that the Welfare State has exacerbated the problems.  Technological civilization threatens to unravel under the resulting strains.

            Recognizing these threats, and still wishing to maximize freedoms, we merely advocate that private givers who wish to do so, should be allowed to attach conditions to their aid.  Many givers may otherwise not wish to give, for fear that they are merely perpetuating pathologies.  In the face of various choices, those being, ignoring these problems and risking nothing less than the demise of civilization; resorting to inhumane, draconian measures which we’d rather not think about; or empowering private givers with real tools to accomplish some long-lasting gains, we, unlike other parties, advocate that we stop supporting poverty-pimping bureaucrats, and make sensible, well-informed and realistic choices.  One of those choices is to allow those who would sell their ability to reproduce naturally for their next snort of cocaine or whatever, to do so.  Society will be better off if we allow it.

            We don’t make this kind of proposal lightly.  Four years ago, we didn’t make it; the difference between then and now is that sterilization no longer means that one can’t pass one’s genes on.  Reproductive technology has progressed rapidly, and these advances will surely continue.  While still high, prices will fall.  Libertarians, of course, advocate freedom here, as in all other cases where freedom is practical.  We’ll allow these technologies to be available to all who can afford them, not just the extremely rich and well-connected, in floating, offshore biomedical facilities, as we have now.  And we’d never dream of demanding that babies conceived via these methods be forcibly aborted, as certain hypocritical egomaniacs advocate.

            These technologies will never be so cheap as to be trivial, but that, too, dovetails right in with the idea of reducing social pathologies through sterilization, without inordinate loss of freedom.  Poor people who’ve been sterilized, but who manage to improve their circumstances, will still be able to reproduce with technological assistance.  That same technology will improve their offspring, and the fact that they’ll need to pay significant amounts of money will reduce accidental, casual, and ill-considered parenting.

            Nor do we fall for those arguments that compare individual, free reproductive choices and contracts (with respect to biotechnology) with Nazi master-race plans, or BELFRYBATs or Schrock-Leech-Kite weapons or whatever.  Nazis worshipped at the altar of the Almighty State.  We do not.  Biotechnological warfare was the result of an all-consuming, coercive State, which couldn’t bear to think that it had to choose one or the other—limiting Welfare-State Nannyism so as to field an effective conventional fighting force, or refraining from military adventures.  Faced with that choice, power-hungry politicians found a third choice, which was resorting to hi-tech mass destruction.  Any technology can be used for good or evil.  Individual reproductive choices have little to do with mass destruction, other than that limiting population growth reduces the pressures towards war.

            We’ll fight for this amendment in its entirety, since we do not regard the quality of the human population as a matter to be lightly regarded, and we don’t believe in the omnipotent, magical powers of education.  We do realize, though, that many voters are frightened of the latter section.  We’ll drop the latter provisions if we must, to get this amendment to pass.  Other, less-controversial provisions of the amendment are also worthwhile.

            This amendment will put an end to such things as the minimum wage law, excessive import-export regulation, and hiring and firing mandates.  Under the latter category falls a plethora of laws, such as quotas (implicit or explicit), mandatory benefits, prohibited employment tests, and child-labor laws.

            Yes, this is one of those topics on which the majority of voters recoil in horror, away from libertarian policies.  But stop and think.  If we’re going to do away with socialism, we must remove barriers from the paths that poor people would take to better themselves.  Many of these laws aren’t really intended for the protection of the oppressed, as liberals say, but rather, for protecting the majorities (who already have jobs) from competition.  Those consumers who object to buying products made by child labor can choose to buy only those products certified to have been made without such labor.  Certification could be conducted by private associations.  And, once again, the government would act against fraud, and a free press would guard against deceit, here.  Other consumers, who believe that they don’t help anyone by refusing to buy from them, will be free to buy and sell as they see fit.

            We would NOT change those laws that prohibit murder contracts, the export of weapons technologies to hostile regimes, or destruction of the environment.  Here, unwilling third parties are clearly hurt.  Once again, contrary propaganda notwithstanding, Libertarians have common sense.

            When the Nanny State attempts to argue for the rights of third parties, such as, “No, you can’t work that dangerous job, without twelve layers of protective gear, twenty forms filled out, and thirty insurance agents and fifty lawyers, because we have to protect you, on behalf of your wife and kids”, we should just allow the third party to opt out.  If the family would rather take some risks, in order to make some money, rather than starving or living on the dole, then they should be allowed to do so.

            The case for the Nanny State is much overstated by those who benefit from it, namely, insurance companies, lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians.  Seatbelts and motorcycle helmets?  We have to mandate them, to protect the taxpayers and insurance buyers, from the costs of injuries?  Why can’t we just eliminate mandatory socialized medicine, and allow people to decide which insurance policy they want to buy?  The cheap insurance policy wouldn’t allow any claims where the injured party wasn’t wearing the helmet or seat belt, while the expensive one would.  The same distinctions could be made for those who are willing to forego their rights to sue for pain and suffering; insurance companies can make numbers balance if they really want to.  Letting people pay for their own choices of being covered, or not covered, for pain and suffering would be very easy if we passed a simple law that said all accident victims will collect such benefits from their own insurance companies.  Simple solutions are available to those who want to solve problems, rather than lining their wallets at the expense of others.

            We would privatize many governmental regulatory functions, including the FDA and the EEOC.  The original EEOC could be split into a new EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which would function in keeping with its name) and an EERC (Equal Employment Results Commission, subscribing to the present tenets of the EEOC).  Employees and consumers could then choose to deal only with those who meet the standards they deem appropriate.  If a company decides to allow its workers to smoke indoors, that, too, should be permitted.  Workers who don’t like employer policies can choose to work elsewhere.  Again, our policies of FREEDOM would be vastly better for the economy than all the governmental meddling in the world.

            7) Personal Freedom Amendment

            No activity may be defined as a crime, unless there is an unwilling victim.  For the purposes of this amendment, “victim” shall only mean one whose person or property is harmed by fraud or violence.  It shall not include those who are merely offended or slighted.

            You want a small government?  What say, for starters, we eliminate the ATF, the FDA, and the DEA?  There’s no place in a free society for consensual crimes.  Using, buying, and selling of guns and drugs, and gambling and prostitution, may indeed often be harmful to the parties that engage in them.  They may even be inconvenient to third parties, and so, such activities might be zoned, even as churches are.  However, they should not be outlawed, for the simple reason that law enforcement is a limited resource.  The law should confine itself to preventing and punishing clear violations of freedom, as is the case when that gun is used to commit murder and mayhem, or when that drug or penis is forced into an unwilling recipient.

            You say there will be unwilling victims in car crashes, though?  Isn’t that already the case, anyway?  The drug war is a failure and a waste, and there are many, many ways to show that this is true.  We simply advocate holding people responsible for their actions, regardless of which legal or illegal drugs they did or didn’t take, what mental illnesses they had, or whether they were sleepy or stupid.  If you get run over by a car, and lose both of your legs, does it really matter whether the driver was sleepy, stupid, senile, hostile, or high on a legal or illegal drug?  We think not.  We think the answer is to crack down on incapable drivers, whatever the root cause.  Some studies show the biggest root cause of accidents is lack of sleep.  New technologies of measuring driver response, not fueling an immense underground criminal economy, is the answer here.

            By eliminating all the many, many crimes that are petty infringements on our freedoms, we clear the stage to really crack down on those who like to violate other people’s freedoms.  Most people will support harsh penalties for the real criminals, when the courts are no longer bogged down with petty and idealogical cases.  We do believe that the question of whether or not the State should decide what we do and don’t put into our bodies, is an idealogical question.  The American Drug Gulag is indeed, in a very real sense, filled with political prisoners.  We need to release all the political criminals, now.

            Large parts of society have progressed beyond wanting to persecute all the Jews, niggers, witches, queers, Satanists, atheists, and other heretics; it is now well past time to get over making scapegoats out of those who don’t submit to the high priests of substance regulation.  If we really, really must have new scapegoats to replace drug users, we nominate, not believers in evolution or those who use biotechnology to assist them in their reproductive decision-making, but socialists and intolerant witchburners.  Yet we’d much prefer that they simply be vastly outvoted, rather than forcibly silenced.

            8) Freedom From Violent Criminals Amendment

            Once we’ve cleared the courts of the petty and idealogical crimes—but only then—we propose that we should crack down on the real criminals, with an amendment as follows:

            States are allowed broad discretion in punishing criminals.  Juries may impose sterilization, castration, and corporal punishment, as well as incarceration and capital punishment.  All persons sentenced to death more than three months ago, as of the passage of this amendment, shall be promptly executed, and henceforth, any punishment handed down by a jury shall be either implemented or permanently over-ridden, within three months.  States are required to provide prison walls, roofs, a sewage system, and clean drinking water for prisoners.  States may decide for themselves whether to pay for all other amenities, including food, medical care, and security, or whether they shall be paid for by inmates and voluntary contributors.  There shall be no lower limits or standards imposed on living conditions for inmates.  Inmates shall be subject to the same laws regulating commerce and labor as free people, except that up to half of their earnings may be forcibly transferred to their victims.

            Pleading insanity shall be prohibited; it shall be considered only in sentencing.  The fifth amendment shall be interpreted only to prohibit coercion of confessions, and not to require any warnings that discourage the guilty from confessing.  States are free to choose whether or not to pay for public defenders.  They may also choose to require defendants to match their own funds paid to their own lawyer(s), on fixed or graduated scales, with funds going into escrow for the victim(s), so that defendants can’t spend all of their money on lawyers, leaving nothing for victims.  Such escrow funds shall be returned to the accused, if found entirely innocent, or given to the victim, even if the defendant is found not guilty by criminal standards, but guilty by civil standards, with the choices left in the hands of a single criminal jury.

            We’ve had enough of highly educated judges and lawyers who don’t even have the simple logical smarts to distinguish between a logical “and” and a logical “or”.  The phrase is, cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden, not cruel or unusual.  If a punishment is usual, it doesn’t matter whether or not it is cruel; it doesn’t fall into the constitutionally forbidden category.

            Nor do we believe that criminals should be allowed to victimize the public twice; once, by committing violence against persons and property, and then again, by living on tax dollars extorted from honest citizens.  Once is enough.  Still, recognizing that real, productive work is the best rehabilitation, we believe they should have every economic freedom that outsiders have.  In short, we would establish a “free market” in prisons, where inmates would be free to move to another prison, when their present prison doesn’t pay them what they could earn elsewhere.

            Once again, recent biotechnological advances, which detract from the permanent nature of sterilization, allow us to more freely recommend what were formerly draconian measures.  When a wrongly convicted, sterilized person is later exonerated, those who are to blame for the wrongful conviction (or, as a last resort, the taxpayers) could be required to make amends by paying for the reproductive technology used by the wrongfully convicted party.

            We resent the right-to-reproduce-is-sacred shibboleth.  A mass murderer can be executed, but God forbid we should sterilize him?  Come now!  Especially in cases where parents are convicted of severely abusing or neglecting their children, yet pose no other threat to society, sterilization is an obviously cheap, effective alternative to incarceration.

            We think that it is entirely appropriate that people who have caused others to suffer needlessly, should learn what suffering is.  We do NOT think that taxpayers should pay to feed, clothe, and medicate criminals.  Criminals, or their friends or family, should pay for their own costs, however high or low they wish for, and pay for, their standards of living to be kept.  Criminals should be allowed to work for a living, like anyone else.  They should NOT be allowed to make endless demands on taxpayers.  Bleeding hearts should be entitled to make their own charity decisions, like anyone else—they should be allowed to contribute to the upkeep of criminals, if they so desire.  They shouldn’t be allowed to raid your wallet or mine, though.

            Nor do we think the right to reproduce is sacred.  We are painfully aware of the pressures of population growth, and are valiantly fighting, in keeping with our pro-freedom beliefs, against those who would further regulate State control of immigration and reproduction.  We hope that voluntary restraint will put off the day, hopefully forever, that the State controls reproductive rights in ordinary citizens.

            We have heard the analogies about Spaceship Earth, and know that we have not allowed, and do not allow, free, unlimited reproduction in space vehicles or colonies, or even in the various experimental enclosed biospheres on Earth.  We rue the day that such a thing should happen on Earth at large.  We are willing to compromise, and start by sterilizing those who have demonstrated that they are devoid of conscience, and who are therefore unfit to be parents.  Reproduction is a right, but with it come responsibilities.  Shirk the responsibilities, and the rights should be taken away.  Only for heinous crimes, as convicted by a jury, though—not for ideological crimes, as convicted by bureaucrats.

            For those of you who might find us to be unduly harsh, let us assure you that we do NOT condone torture or painful methods of execution, which is more than we can say of many of those who we would execute.  We do believe that the State must maintain the moral high ground, above the criminals.  Let us also remind you that a great lover of liberty, Thomas Jefferson, was in favor of castration for rapists, and of executing murderers within three days (not three months) of their conviction.

            9) Separation of School and State Amendment

            No American government or agency may pass any law or regulation specifically addressing education.  Education shall remain as purely in the private domain as religion is.

            Public education is obviously a failure, and no Band-Aids will fix it.  All those “culture wars” over what should be taught in the public schools could be solved very simply:  all parents could choose, on the free market, what they’re willing to have taught to their kids, at the going rate.  This can be made very simple, like so many other things.  You want it, you pay or beg for it.  If you don’t want it, then, fine.  If your heart bleeds for those who want, but can’t afford, then no one is stopping you from helping them.  Just keep your coercive hands out of my wallet!

            Public school teachers, their unions, and their allies, shrinks and social workers, always clamor for more money and more power.  They label your children as “learning disabled”, while it’s often they who are teaching disabled.  Then, they try to get your kids to take their drugs, the ones approved by the high-dollar doctors, shrinks, and social workers, to “calm them down”, so that they can learn.  Oh, and then, they tell your kids not to take illegal drugs, and that they’re doing a good deed when they turn someone—someone like you, even—in to the State, for using illegal drugs.  Those are illegal drugs, see?

            Yet we cling to our sacred cow, never bothering to remember that before the mid-eighteen hundreds, education was strictly private, yet rates of literacy were higher than they are now.  Do we ever bother to question the basic premises on which we base our devotion to socialized education?  Do we really think we can teach pigs to sing?  If the educrats are as powerful as they’d like us to think they are, why haven’t they yet made a competent doctor out of a child with Down’s Syndrome?

            Yes, an educated public helps democracy and society.  So does a well-fed one, and so does a sincerely, positively, religiously devout one.  Yet, we have no stomach for State-mandated church attendance, and only some stomach for State-sponsored feedings of the poor.  Why do we cling to socialized education?  Democracy is not freedom.  We wouldn’t tolerate a system where only the rich could afford to patronize their own restaurants, while everyone else could only eat at one government-run establishment.  “You’ve got freedom,” we’d tell the dissidents. “You have merely to convince 51% of the voters, and we’ll change the menu,” we’d tell them.  Why do we stand for this when it comes to educating our kids, when we’d never put up with it in other categories?

            So some people wouldn’t send their kids to school, and society would suffer.  Well, society suffers anyway.  Those are often the same kids who disrupt our public schools, pull down the standards, and fail to learn, anyway.  And, some kids who wouldn’t go to school might actually learn from the adults around them, in workplaces, say, and actually be integrated into adult society in a more meaningful way than being relegated to some corner where they are force-fed a bland diet of boring junk by incompetent educrats.  If we paid directly for our kids’ educations, instead of getting “free” educations, we’d insist on getting what we pay for, call the shots, and get much better results.  No one’s kids would have to be taught things that they adamantly disagree with.

            Oh, yes, for sure, there would be a few children here and there with intelligence and motivation, whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to school.  And a few of those might not even be able to find charitable assistance.  But do we really believe that one has to have formal teaching in order to learn?  Given a decent amount of reading material—and who can’t get ahold of that, in our society today—any intelligent and motivated person can teach themselves to read!  The educrats would have us believe that such a concept violates the laws of physical nature.  “If you can read this bumper sticker, Thank a Teacher”.  Yeah, right.  If you know that the sun will rise tomorrow, thank a fortune teller.

            And once you can read, you can learn almost anything.  Only one more factor would be required, then, to allow such “severely deprived” people to compete equally with the rest of us:  the freedom to work any job that they can perform, that willing customers are willing to pay for, without a coercive State breathing down their necks, requiring them to have endless degrees, licenses, certifications, and so on.

            For more details, we recommend our book, and an excellent primer called Separating School and State, by Sheldon Richman.  This book argues that a primary purpose of schools is to force children into the State’s mold, as the State sees a “good citizen”.  Let’s brainwash the little ones into being obedient lackeys, in other words.  If we want to teach them things that are at odds with what the family believes—if we want to get them to turn their pot-smoking elders in to the cops, for example, “for their own good,” well, then, that’s tough.

            And, if we want to teach the little ones that government is the Great Savior, who saved us from, rather than created, the Great Depression, for example, or who saved us from the ravages of rampant capitalism during the robber baron days, then, well, that’s OK, too.  Never mind getting them to think for themselves.  Don’t let them ask, “Well, if the robber barons were so bad, then why did people leave the farms to come and work for them?”  They might come to really understand history; to understand that the vast majority of people have suffered immensely for the vast bulk of historic times, and that these people left the farms for a better life!  And, they might come to understand that we’ve always had robber barons, even to this day.  Today, they occupy seats in the government, law offices, and lobbyists’ offices, as well as major corporations.  We’ve merely traded one set of masters for another.

            In passing, we recommend an excellent book on the history of the “robber barons”, which shows that the real damage was done by “political entrepreneurs” who constantly demanded that the coercive State prop them up, as opposed to the genuine entrepreneurs, who competed by providing more and better goods for less money.  This book is The Myth of the Robber Barons, by Burton W. Folsom, Jr., a history professor.  But, as Professor Folsom shows in his last chapter, most historians and academicians persist in distorting history, and praising the government for rescuing us all from the clutches of the evil capitalists.

            We libertarians, unlike today’s “liberals”, really do believe in diversity.  However, we do not believe that the State is well-equipped to sponsor diverse ideas.  The State only likes ideas that feed and pamper the State.  For real diversity, let’s look to the private market.  Many statistics are available for those who care to look into it, to show that private education is both cheaper and better than “public” education.

            Separating School and State argues that the “public” in “public schools” is really an Orwellian euphemism for “coercive”, since we don’t call a privately-owned restaurant that is open to all who will pay, a “private” restaurant—we call it a public restaurant.  A restaurant which dragooned it’s customers, using their coercively gathered wages, would be called a socialist restaurant, and be shut down.  At least, we sure hope we’d have the sense to shut down a Nanny State Bar & Grill, although one never knows, what with how many members of the public have been brainwashed.  So should our system of socialist education, too, be shut down, and transformed into a far more efficient and responsive private system.

            The worst thing about the Nanny State Bar & Grill, though, in general terms, above and beyond just schools, is that, since we all split the check, we each end fighting for our third steak and fifth bottle of wine.  All the other taxpayers pay for it, after all.  So, despite the fact that we’d all be better off if we settled for a salad and a glass of water most of the time, we fight for the extra goodies.  And the national debt climbs—and then climbs some more.

            As far as schools go, in closing, let us say this:  why are we so surprised that when we try to teach children, in the middle of an entire system built on coercion and the threat of State-sponsored violence, that it is wrong be a bully, to impose one’s will on one’s neighbors through force, that they won’t learn their lessons?  When the very machine that “educates” them is built on the idea that first-strike coercion is okay, so long as it’s “for a good cause”, then why are we so surprised when the chickens come home to roost, and the kids are violent in school?  They are merely learning from what we do, and not from what we say.

            10) Right to Privacy Amendment

            No governmental agent shall invade the privacy of any private individuals, except for clear cases where the public interest is being served, and in these cases, a warrant must be obtained before privacy is invaded.  Privacy shall include matters financial.  Money earned by a private citizen shall belong to that private citizen, and the citizen shall be allowed to move and spend that money in any amount for any legal purpose without any government intervention or forcible data collection.  Limits on how much cash can be carried in and out of the country, shall be expressly forbidden.

            This one isn’t targeted at very many specific abuses, but is intended simply to fill a hole in the present constitution.  Privacy is a right which should be recognized by the law, at all levels.  As you might infer from the amendment itself, though, we do envision some major changes in how the government treats private financial matters.  We envision that the only taxes will be sales taxes, that IRS agents, tax accountants, and tax lawyers will have to find useful jobs, and that the government will stop minding everyone’s private financial business.

            So there you have a good overview of the Libertarian approach to government.  We’ll put an end to the practice of having the morally self-anointed, those who are smug and superior, being put in charge of our lives, limiting our choices in the name of ‘the good of society’, and return to policies of individual freedom and self-responsibility.  More details can be gleaned from Freedom From Freedom Froms, Restoring Liberty in America.

            In a nutshell, Libertarians believe private individuals, not government bureaucrats, should make private decisions.  The party of Big Government, the Republicrats or Demoblicans or whatever they’re calling themselves these days, have repeatedly shown that they lack the stomach to take a meat cleaver (or fat cleaver?) to the Nanny State.  Libertarians can and will do exactly that.  All we need is your vote.  See you at the polls!

 

            Phil shut off the screen, closed his eyes, and slid into the “spoon” snuggling position with Gloria.  She awoke, inquiring of him, “So what do you think, Honeybunch?”

            “Couldn’t have said it better myself,” he admitted.  “Harrrrumph!!!”

            “Yeah, I wondered if you’d written it,” she replied.  “You harrumph-head you!”

            “So, what do you think, Pootie Pie?” he wanted to know.  “Are you voting for the Libertarians, the Witchburners, or the Socialists, come throw-the-bums-out time this fall?”

            “Well, I guess I’ll ‘fess up,” she confessed reluctantly.  “I’m gonna get me an industrial-strength clothespin, and vote for the Socialists.”

            Phil’s heart sank.  Somehow, he just knew that Gloria was so sensible, so middle-of-the-road, so practical, that as she voted, so most likely would go the nation.  “Oh, come on, Pootie Pie!” he exclaimed. “How could you!  Hasn’t the Nanny State failed often enough?!  How do you figure?  What’s wrong with the Libertarians?”

            “Well,” she explained, “Just say no to witchburners like Hank N. Kreutz.  He scares the shit out of me.  I’m sure you understand.  I agree with that incredibly old fart who you love so dearly, humorist Dave Barry.  He says that Republicans are against any idea that increases the size of the State, except for those ideas that they came up with first.  I can’t believe how many Republican die-hards insist on voting for un-electable jerks like him, at the primaries.  They shoot themselves in the feet.  Stuff the jails with secular humanists, gays, and other heretics.  No way, Jose.

            “So, that leaves the Democrats—Socialists, as you call them—and the Libertarians.  Somehow, I can’t bring myself to vote for the present Libertarian platform.  It’s just too extreme.  Yes, I agree, State charity has no heart, or soul.  It’s mechanistic, bureaucratic.  Yet private charity has no brain.  The poor kid who gets media exposure gets thirty pairs of shoes, while the other twenty poor kids get none.  Somehow, we’ve got to reach a happy medium.

            “In other words, the State does have some interest in the welfare of its people, and the Libertarians don’t acknowledge that.  I don’t pretend to know the answers; I just know that the Libertarians seem too extreme for me.  You know, my Mom went on welfare for just a few years after Dad died, and I don’t know where I’d have gotten without this much-maligned socialism.  I know it has a lot of shortcomings, but I can’t get down on it too heavily, without feeling like a hypocrite.”

            “Come on now, Snoogle Woogle!” Phil protested, “People could have given you private charity if they’d not have been taxed to death!  How do you figure, you benefited from socialism!?  They wouldn’t let you get a job, ‘cause they regulate the snot out of everything—gotta have a license to groom a dog—and, if the dog groomer is brave enough to risk hiring you, he’s got to buy self-esteem insurance for you—and then, you gotta be grateful?  When the State takes care of you?  Hell, in the old Soviet Union, the State owned everything, everybody got everything from them, and, yea verily, no one was allowed to criticize them, they all had to be very grateful.  Anyone complaining in the workingman’s paradise obviously had to be insane, so off to the shrink bin with them.  We’re working towards the same deal, here.

            “Plus, they’ll call you something bad if you criticize the Nanny State, regardless of what your background is.  If you’ve been on welfare, you’re a hypocrite.  If you haven’t, you just don’t understand being poor and oppressed.  In other words, no one can criticize the Nanny State.”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” she replied. “I suppose you might have a grain of truth, there.  Yet, too many things stick in my craw.  Picking on Native Americans.  Haven’t they suffered enough?  I remember reading about some poor old Native American, who went to public school way back in the fifties.  His Mom dolled him up in his finest handmade, beaded buckskin jacket, and braided his long hair, and sent him off to his first day of public school.  The teacher cut off his hair, and threw it and his jacket in the furnace, and told him to be like regular Americans.  Seems to me, we could cut people a break now and then.”

            “Yeah, but I think we all need a break, not just certain groups,” Phil replied.  “I do hear what you’re saying.  I guess even I have misgivings about the Libertarians, to tell the truth.  Strict individualism, even with private charity, will doubtlessly leave many in the cold.  Yeah, we’ll help our neighbors, but how about those in the inner city, who are out of sight, and out of mind?  Still, the Libertarians stink less than the other two parties.  They’ve got my vote.”

            “Well, you go for it, then,” Gloria consented.  “It’s a free country.  Sort of.  The other thing that scares me is this bit about sterilization.  They’re guilty of the same things they accuse others of doing, of disguising a theft of freedom as freedom.  Their freedom from, is taking poor people’s freedom of reproduction, in the name of their freedom to contract.  Sure, they say it’ll be private choices, but who is enforcing these contracts?  What happens when the charity recipient signs on the dotted line, gets the money, and then backs out of the deal?  Or, if the recipient gets that abortion or gives the child up for adoption, and the giver welches?  The government becomes the hit man for a deal that smells bad to me, or, the whole thing falls apart.”

            “Yeah,” Phil ‘fessed up, “I worry, too.  We sterilize the criminals, and for good measure we control the reproductive technology facilities to make sure the child abusers don’t go cranking on the baby-making machines.  Fine.  But, then the Libertarians are voted out, and some jerk like Senator Chancre-on-my-Butthole is voted in.  Then we all pay.  I guess we could worry about bunches of tools of the State getting used by shitheads.  We just need to minimize the tools that we give ‘em.  I’m not sure I want the State to have this tool.  Then again, I sure as hell don’t want the State to retain its ability to make our charity decisions for us.  Lesser of two evils, you know.”

            Gloria wasn’t done.  “The whole things just doesn’t seem... Christian to me.  You’ve been saying you really admire him, that you’ve become a closet Christian?  Well, I have a hard time imagining Christ running around and sterilizing people, as a condition of charity.  OK, so the technology wasn’t there.  He didn’t go cutting on people’s hearts, either, but as a heart surgeon, I used to do that.  Times change, technology changes, ethics change.  But still—on sterilizing the poor.  Didn’t he say something about him being the same as the poor people, that what you did to them, you did to him?  He was hungry, and you didn’t feed him?  He was thirsty, naked, and all that, but all you did, was offer to gut his reproductive facilities, before giving him a sack of change?”

            “You’re right,” Phil admitted.  “He did say some things along those lines.  What I don’t recall him saying, was that the vices of thievery and envy have now become the virtues of ‘social justice’.  He didn’t amend the tenth commandment to say, ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, ox, ass, and so on; thou shalt confiscate and redistribute thy neighbor’s stuff, down to the last can of who hash, and then, thou damn well won’t even need to covet it any more.’  We’ve become a nation of thieves.  Legal thieves.  Nor did he say stuff like, ‘I was hungry, and you didn’t rob your neighbors’ pantry on my behalf.  I was naked, and you didn’t tell the neighbors to fork over their blankets, or go to jail.  I snorted the rent money, had a low bank account, low self esteem, and...”

            “OK, OK, I get the point,” Gloria half-grumbled, half-chuckled.  “But Jesus voted Democrat.  The Democrats told me so.  So there.”

            Phil laid there, thinking of what else to say.  There wasn’t much, and he was tired.  She’d vote as she saw fit, and he had to respect that.  What did their measly little votes mean anyway, in the big picture of things?  And, he sure wasn’t about to tackle that Big Topic, of what controversial things he’d be involved in at work, tonight.  Some other day, he’d have more energy.  Time to take it in.

            “Night-night, Snoogle Woogle,” he muttered. “I love you.”

            “Love you too,” she replied.  They drifted off to Napper’s House.


 

CHAPTER  6

            Phil came home at a reasonable hour for once that day, looking forward to spending the next few days at home, telecommuting and researching.  The mining and anti-nuke biobugs were finally, solidly on the road to regulatory approval and fruition, so he could now largely divorce himself from them, and devote himself to the next projects.  He grabbed himself a beer, plopped down on the sofa, and started chatting with Gloria.

            He figured that since both of them were in a good mood, and not pre-occupied, he’d tackle the Big Topic, about the sensitive aspects of the stuff he’d be working with, more and more, now.  After he cleared up a preliminary matter, that is.

            She, however, commandeered the conversation first.  “Did you see the news today?  I can’t believe it!  The big protests, the destruction and all, just ‘cause some right-wing nuts don’t like natural history museums.  Might lead us to believe in evolution, and astray from the Bible, and all.  Of course, your favorite Republican Presidential Candidate, Senator Hank N. Kreutz, is out there in the spotlight, deploring these methods—not the goals, of course, just the methods.  Peace-loving guy that he is.”

            “Yeah, right,” Phil replied skeptically.  “Damned, Devil-worshipping, evil, God-hating, anti-Bible evolutionists are shitting on our beliefs.  Obviously, they don’t deserve to live.  But, violence?  No Sir!  Not us!  We deplore violence!  Hmmm.  I wonder just how opposed to evolutionism he and his buddies will be when, as must happen eventually, word of some of the latest socially explosive genetics information leaks out.”

            Gloria was instantly all ears.  She seemed to know from Phil’s face that he’d been holding something back, that he was thinking about dropping a bombshell or two on her.  She’d known Phil long enough to figure these things out.  That, and she was black.  She knew enough of dipshit racists, who persisted even in the twenty-first century.  People didn’t have to hint around much, before she knew what kind of thoughts were brewing.

            “OK.  Out with it.  ‘Fess up,”  she demanded.  “What’s the ‘latest socially explosive genetics information’ that’s begging to be set loose?  And what does my favorite Pootie Pie have to do with it, and what’s he going to do about it?”

            “Not so fast,” Phil protested.  “Let me settle down, and get something off my mind first, so that we can tackle this thing with a clear slate.  Did I ever tell you that I sometimes have some really, really bizarre thoughts?”

            “No, not really, per se,” she chortled deviously, seeming to forget about Phil’s bombshells.  “You don’t have to tell me that, though!”

            “No, I mean specifically, about me sometimes thinking that maybe we’re all just fragments of the imagination of some deranged writer.  Some tortured soul who thinks he can change the world, in some other fold of the space-time continuum, by writing about us.  That, or just make a buck or two million, from movie rights.”

            Gloria got that look she reserved for those all-too-frequent occasions on which Phil went way out into the ozone.  What was left of it, at least, which wasn’t much.  “What brings this up, anyway?,” she inquired, humoring him.

            “Oh, it’s just some little annoying thing.  Something about... wait.  I’ve got to channel him in.”  Phil did the thousand-yard stare, while Gloria smirked.

            “OK, here it is,” Phil said in a faraway voice.  “It seems that our creator usually starts each chapter with some sort of highbrow, lowbrow, or mediumbrow quote, to kind of clue the readers in, to what he’s gonna write about.  That, or to fool them into regarding him as some sort of heavy thinker or some such.  And, some of the readers actually like the quotes.  Anyway, his society is full of greedy slimebags, lawyers, and silly rules, just like ours.  When the original authors of his quotes are dead for seventy years or more, he’s off scot-free.  Otherwise, he’s got to get permission, or embed the quote in the body of the text, for it to qualify as ‘fair use’, to be really safe.  So, he wants us to say his quote, so that he doesn’t need to get permission.”

            Gloria played along.  “So, why doesn’t he just get permission?”

            “Well, he’s a cheap, lazy piece of shit, basically.  That, and he’s grumpy about something he read in the 9 January ‘95 Wall Street Journal.  He wants to quote a very great leader, a non-violent man of principles, by the name of Martin Luther King, Junior.  But, it seems his heirs and descendants are money-grubbing slouches who want to make a buck off of the memory of this great man.  They make newspapers pay to run his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, for example.  That, and they want to make some sort of cheesy theme park.  Anyway, our writer/creator doesn’t want to get gouged for running a quote, so he’s got to embed the quote in the text of our conversation, here.”

            “Hey, I can handle it,” Gloria volunteered.  “So, why don’t you tell me what Martin Luther King, Junior, said?”

            “He said, ‘Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill-will.’  Oh, and he lived from 1929 to 1968.”  Phil’s faraway demeanor disappeared.  He brushed himself off, and announced, “Well, thanks for helping me appease our lazy creator, and his readers—those who like the quotes, at least.  The others can piss off.  Now, let’s get on with the story line.”

            “So, are you gonna tell me about the latest ‘facts’ you and your gene-splicing buddies have invented, that’s so ‘socially explosive’, now, or what?” Gloria persisted.

            “Well, let me start from the evolution end of things,” Phil began.  He wasn’t going to cut to the chase right away; he loved to drag things out, to explain the principles behind things first.  Besides, he wanted to work Gloria up to it slowly, so that she wouldn’t get too pissed off, too suddenly.

            “In a lot of cases, organisms evolve a feature for one purpose, and then, only later does the feature assume the function that we’re familiar with today,” Phil explained.  “We can’t really prove that this is the case.  Evolutionary biology is one of those things where we can answer what questions a heck of a lot more easily than we can answer why questions.  Anyway, an example might be, for instance... oh, I don’t know, we always like to pick on the giraffes, and their long necks.  Maybe giraffes first started to evolve long necks, so that they could get a better view over the bushes, to see predators from further away.  Then, after a while, their long necks became useful for browsing on tree tops, so their necks got even longer.  Oh, wait, I recall a real example.  They suspect that bones evolved out of organs that were just a place to dump unwanted calcium.  Oh, and, even better yet, mammary glands evolved out of sweat glands.”

            “So what’s so socially explosive about that?” Gloria pestered him.

            “Hold your horses.  The human brain may be one of those things.  We have reason—strong reasons, now—to believe that the human brain first started its drastic expansion when we were starting to specialize as a long-distance predator.  Cats have for a long time been the short-distance, ambush or sprint predator.  Dogs have been the medium-distance predator, capable of pursuing prey for hours.  Humans pursued prey for days.  Even into historic times, when anthropologists could document these things, some hunter-gatherers would slog on, two or three days in a row, until they literally ran fleet-footed prey into the ground.  Humans filled an empty niche, that being that of the long-distance predator.

            “Yes, a larger brain helped us track the prey when we lost sight of it, and helped us fashion clubs and sharp sticks with which to dispatch the prey, when we finally chased it into the ground.  Bizarrely enough, though, these things appear to have been secondary to the real pressure that lead to the growth of brain size.

            “The real pressure was all the stresses placed on the brain.  Lack of food and water, and even oxygen, when putting on bursts of speed, all placed strains on the brain.  That, and, most of all, heat.  After all, we did our thing in hot, tropical savannas.  That, by the way, is why we lost our fur.  Running under a hot sun, we had to bleed off a lot of heat.  We lost our fur, and evolved tons and tons of sweat glands.  Anyway, under all these stresses and strains, the brain might start to fail.  A long-distance predator can’t afford to get groggy, in the middle of a three-day pursuit.  Or, worse yet, to lose control of vital bodily functions.

            “So the human brain, under these evolutionary pressures, went in, big time, for redundancy.  Back up those neural circuits with three or four more, for each vital function and for each muscle, so that we can keep running while our brains slowly fry.  Then, after our brains multiplied in size by a factor of about three, compared to our chimp-like ancestors, these new, larger brains started to change in function.  They weren’t just extremely redundant fail-safe systems any more; they became the hosts of a higher level of intelligence and culture.  We became the cultural animal, not just the long-distance predator.  Culture achieved take-off velocity.  So, here we are today.”

            “Sounds good,” Gloria commented.  “About the same as any of three hundred and fifty other nifty fables about the evolution of the human animal, none of which we can really prove or disprove.  So, why should this theory be so ‘socially explosive’, as you’ve been hinting?”

            Phil frowned.  No more beating around the bush.  “Well... it seems that cultural evolution is about three billion times faster than biological evolution.  Biological evolution in humans has just barely caught on to hints that culture is more important now than long-distance predation, let alone catching onto the existence of things like air conditioners.  And, um, some human races evolved in hotter areas, where there’s more heat stress on the brains, than others.”

            It was Gloria’s turn to frown.  “So who came up with these theories?  Did they wear white robes with pointy hats?  And, how long till you and I have to drink at different water coolers, when we’re out in public?”

            “Now, now.  I see you followed this thing to its conclusion.  Yes, it would seem that, since heat is one of the primary stresses on the human brain, evolution would favor more redundancy in tropical races than in others.  And, unfortunately, it’s an engineering proposition—you’ve got to give something up, when you want to gain something else.  I was clued in on this by some academic types, on a real hush-hush basis, and I’ve been looking at various genetic data from various races.

            “I’ve run some simulations that I’ve not told a soul about.  It does look like there’s a collection of genes that make a trade-off between intelligence and redundancy.  Some people—athletes like boxers, for example—can take some literal brain-bashing, and keep on going.  They aren’t often known to have a high IQ.  There are racial differences in these genes.  I don’t think I could get any grants, though, if I applied to do a thorough study of which race’s brains fry first, under heat, impacts, lack of food, water, and oxygen, or other stresses.

            “I’ve actually known about this business for quite some time,” Phil admitted sheepishly.  “So do only a small handful of people in academia, that I know of.  I’ve not even told them about what simulations I’ve run, and I don’t intend to, any time soon.  We’ve all agreed that no one spreads this around, unless we figure out something good to do with it.  Like, affordable gene therapy, and you know how expensive that is for something that results from just one gene, let alone a whole bunch of ‘em.  Anyway, don’t look at me like I’m a Nazi.  It’s Mother Nature’s fault, not mine.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, long term.  Which is why I mention it to you in the first place.”

            “Mother Nature’s fault, huh?  You guys made up this crap; she didn’t!”  Gloria often kidded around about scientists “making up” things instead of “discovering” them; this time, though, she seemed serious.

            “No, Pootie Pie, we’re not making things up.  The genes are there; they differ, statistically at least, from race to race; and the simulations say that they trade off between redundancy and intelligence.  I could try to quibble, and say that this doesn’t mean that one race is statistically ‘better’ than another.  It depends on the environment.  But we’re all pampered with air conditioning, good food, and such, here in America today, compared to the African savannah of a million years ago.  And we all know which is more important in today’s competitive technological society—intelligence, or physically stress-resistant brains.  So I won’t quibble.

            “I do understand that there’s a lot of shitheads out there who love any excuse that they can find, to be racist.  I hope that there’s not as many of ‘em as some of us think there are, although I don’t know.  Which is why we have to think and talk things over.

            “I do wish people were more accepting of reality, as opposed to what they wish was true.  Most people who worry about such things have long ago accepted, in physics, that particle behavior, quantum physics, relativity, and such—the behavior of matter, on scales other than those in which we live—that the universe wasn’t designed for the human brain to understand it, certainly not intuitively.  Or, that the human brain wasn’t designed to understand physics.

            “Well, how come we can’t be just as accepting of biological reality?  How come we can’t accept that Mother Nature didn’t read the Declaration of Independence, or any other high-blown fluff about how we’re all created equal?  OK, yes, the folks who wrote that meant, in a legal sense, and all that is wonderful.  Still, evolution didn’t keep us and our sensitivities, sensibilities, and desires in mind, and we’ve got to pull our heads out of the sand, and make do with what we’re stuck with.  Which is reality.”

            Phil was pleased to see she wasn’t blowing her top.  Calmly, she pointed out, “But our measurement or perception of reality affects that same reality.  The old ‘Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle’.  The self-fulfilling prophecy deal.  The teacher thinks the kid is a dumbshit and, lo and behold, he’s gonna be a dumbshit, ‘cause no one expects him to amount to anything.”

            “I don’t know, Pootie Pie,” Phil replied, weary already, all of a sudden, realizing he’d gone ahead and plunged into this difficult topic, without... what?  Plotting every last nuance of his arguments?  As if he could plan the whole thing in advance?  An honest discussion, like real life, can’t be yanked around like a puppet, he told himself.  I’ve got to approach this as a discussion, where I might actually learn something, rather than just trying to persuade Gloria to view things as I do.  Especially since I’m not really sure what I think, on some aspects of this, anyway.

            “I’ve researched this, not just genetic data and such, but the history, sociology, politics and such of it.  I’ve even scribbled down some notes, so that we can go over it in some detail.  But, you know, I still don’t know what’s the right thing to do, here, long term, with what I know.  A few others strongly suspect what I’ve simulated on ABC’s computers.  I’ve been known to fib a bit, when they ask me if I’ve looked into it much.  I’ve got more access to more specialized genetics-simulating computer power than anyone else.  At the very least, I’ve got more ability to do this while covering my tracks, than anyone else.  But sooner or later, regardless of what I do, this stuff’s gonna get spilled.

            “So, should I spill this in a responsible manner, before somebody spills it irresponsibly?  Or, should I just bury it for as long as it’ll stay buried?  Which is more true—that the truth will set you free, or, that ignorance is bliss?  Or, that all truth is relative, anyway?  That there are some things that the majority of people shouldn’t know?  Maybe I show my pro-knowledge biases, just by the way I phrase the questions.”

            Gloria just sat there with a blank stare, regarding Phil from the other end of the sofa.  Queasiness set in, as Phil started mentally comparing his current situation with a Phil/Gloria discussion from several years ago, right before she’d left him over his involvement with biological warfare.  Not that this was the first time he’d thought such thoughts; they’d occurred to him often enough, as he’d speculated about how this discussion would go.

            Gloria found her voice soon enough.  “What do you mean, ‘spill this in a responsible manner, before somebody spills it irresponsibly’?”  She demanded.  “That’s absurd!  You can’t go off and do something bad, just ‘cause somebody else might do it in a worse manner later!  That’s the philosophy of a shithead!  I thought you learned something in your experiences as a whore for the State, with the BELFRYBATs and all!”

            “OK, I agree,” Phil submitted, trying to calm her back down.  “I don’t ever want to be a whore for the State, ever again.  I regret what I did.  And doing something bad, and justifying it on the basis that if you don’t do it first, the other guy will do it worse, is indeed the philosophy of a dickhead.  Harrumph!!  But the critical question here, which I’d hope to discuss, rationally and at length with you, is this: is an honest, unbiased attempt to discover the facts, and to deal with reality as best as we can perceive it, ever bad?  Especially if reality is opposite what we’d like it to be, and some scumbags will use the facts we disclose for evil purposes?

            “I’d argue that it’s not an open-and-shut case.  Follow me through.  We’ve known for decades, in spite of lots of people who want to decide what knowledge other people are capable of handling, that black people’s IQs, statistically, are lower than white people’s.  We’ve tried to ignore it, ban it, explain it away, and legislate it away.  The theory that the differences are due, even partly, to genetics, is, and has been for quite some time, simply unthinkable, unspeakable, in polite society.  A noble stance, one in favor of equality—and what decent person could be against equality?”

            Phil caught his breath momentarily, watching Gloria on the other end of the couch.  He worried about a repeat of their pre-BELFRYBATs discussion some years ago, before he’d become party to mass-destruction madness.  He sure didn’t want to lose her again—or Trent, for that matter, he thought, looking at his beloved and her bulging belly.  Maybe I should’ve waited to till we were snuggling in bed, to bring this up.  Make sure she remembers I love her.  Nah!  Wouldn’t make any difference.  She’s too smart to be swayed by snuggles, in matters of our weighty philosophical discussions.  Still... it wouldn’t hurt to scoot over in her direction.

            “But, Snoogle Woogle Poogle Woogle Boogle Woogle, Honey-Baby-Sweetheart-Darling, Love of my Live, Pootie Pie—just hypothetically, for the sake of argument, just for a few minutes...”  He slid over her way and put an arm around her, as she leaned away from him a bit.  He lifted her left hand and gave it a kiss, grinning.  She grinned too, despite apparently trying not to.

            “Yes, Phil, we love each other, and we can discuss anything in a civilized manner.  Except for you becoming a whore for the State again, or chasing other women, that is.  Knowledge, by itself, doesn’t hurt anyone.  It’s how the knowledge is used.  So, we can talk about it.  Trent and I aren’t going to run away from you, because you talk to us honestly about an issue.  Especially if you honestly listen to our input, and give both Trent and I equal say with what you think.  We get two votes, and you get one.  Check out what it’s like to be an outvoted minority, while the majority legislates the facts.”

            Phil breathed a sign of relief, seeing that she was lightening up.  She continued, “But I wonder why it’s taken you so long to bring this topic up, if you’ve been dabbling with simulations and such.  Did you wait till now, so that I’d be more painfully aware of my condition?  That Trent and I need you?  So we wouldn’t run away from you, like I did last time?  No, don’t answer that.  I know you’re not a Nazi, even if some accuse you of such things.  I do love you, even if at times... Oh, never mind.  But, don’t you go thinking you can persuade me with snuggles,” she finished, giving him a little pinch.  She did snuggle up to him a bit, though.

            Damn!, Phil thought.  I can’t sneak anything past this lady!  We’ve known each other too long; she can read all my thoughts!  “Now, where were we?” Phil started back in.  “All right.  I appreciate you being able to discuss rationally, and all.  And not making that mistake that a lot of people make, of regarding group, statistical comparisons as being individual insults.  I’ll want to hear what you think about this.  Not only as a spiritually advanced snugglebunny, but also as a black person.  You, no doubt, have a perspective on race in America that’s hard for a honky like me to understand.

            “And, legislating the facts, you said—yes!  By all means, we’ve got to get back to that one.  But, hypothetically, grant me for a few minutes that the simulations that I ran are right.  There’s a trade-off between genetically influenced intelligence and neural redundancy, or performance under physical stress to the brain.  That would mean that, in most professions, except for athletic endeavors—boxing especially—Whites have advantages over Blacks, proportional to how much the jobs are related to intelligence.  Statistically, at least, that is.

            “That means, under a free, capitalistic system, where employers want to hire the best people, who will make them the most money, regardless of anyone’s skin color, Whites will do better than Blacks, as groups.  Now, suppose we adamantly, absolutely refuse to accept the facts, and legislate biological reality.  Or, equality of outcomes, at least.  Not only do we have to resort to Marxist-type methods to enforce equality, with all the attendant damage to the economy and to the rights of those who would look after their own interests, and their families’ interests, in preference to the ‘interests of society’ as dictated by the politically powerful, we also run the risks of balkanization.  We stir the resentments of those discriminated against—Whites and Asians, in our case.  And, with continuing failure, we face the resentment of the ‘protected’ also.

            “In other words, just take our current situation, and assume that there’s a large genetic contribution to the racial differences in IQ.  But that theory is ruled out, ‘cause it’s not palatable to our refined, egalitarian tastes.  What do we have left?  Blacks are doing less well than Whites because of the environment.  Environment means culture and surroundings, most notably houses, food, clothes, toys, and, yes, money.  And, of course, discrimination.  Blaming black culture would be almost as unpalatable as blaming black genes.  It’s just not ‘diverse’ or ‘multicultural’ to blame culture, unless, of course, we’re talking politically incorrect culture.  Besides, the government, despite all its tools of coercion, can’t do much about culture.

            “That leaves money, in all its various forms, and discrimination.  That, of course, the government can do a lot about!  We can force equality!  We can force people’s charity and hiring decisions!  We can move that money, and make everyone equal!  And if, even after a hundred or a thousand years, we haven’t achieved equality, then, obviously, since genes and culture are ruled out, then, by God, it must be that, despite our very best efforts, the prejudices of the Whites are still holding the Blacks down!

            “So, the only morally acceptable course for Whites, especially white males, will be to play whipping boy, or, for the few powerful ones, to punish other white males.  To even the score, and help the oppressed underdogs.  The federal judges will run all the schools with a few black students, where those students have below-average scores.  The lawyers will defend the black criminals on the basis of ‘black rage’, or ‘urban survival syndrome’.  Never mind that setting up lower standards for Blacks does no one any favors.  It shows immense paternalistic condescension.  And never mind the obvious stupidity of blaming all statistical group differences on oppression—Jews and Asians both out-perform Whites.  So, have they both been oppressing us poor, downtrodden Whites?

            “And how are we gonna encourage young black people to study hard, work hard, and behave themselves, to win by playing the game fairly, when we’re constantly telling them that it’s all no use, that the only reason that black people lag behind, is that Mighty Whitey is waiting to trip ‘em up, every chance he gets?

            “What I’m trying to say is, if genes are a significant real root cause, and we ignore even the very idea that this may be true, and blame it on a subtle form of discrimination instead, then we’re setting ourselves up for constant failure, and continued bitterness and hatred.  From both sides.”

            “Well, we sure as hell aren’t gonna do anything to improve the lot of young black people if we don’t try,” Gloria replied.  “And it’s pretty clear to me that the genetic theory isn’t gonna help us to try any harder.  Tellin’ ‘em they’re behind, not because of Mighty Whitey, but because they don’t have the smarts, how’s that gonna help anything?  Don’t sell the Pygmalion effect short.  The self-fulfilling prophecy, you know.  They’ve demonstrated it, and not just once or twice.  Tell the teachers that a normal kid isn’t quite up to snuff and, lo and behold, the kid’s scores drop after a while.”

            “True enough,” Phil admitted.  “But we’ve been working at ‘helping’ poor and black people by following that kind of thinking, and by believing in the cure-all powers of education and the Nanny State, and what’s it gotten us?  I’ve collected some statistics during my research, that I want you to take a look at.  Statistics on lots of different things.  What I’m thinking of right now, though, is the quite sad plight of black people.  Like the black economist Thomas Sowell said, the black family survived slavery, two world wars, a depression, blatant discrimination, and so on, but was finally brought low by the ‘compassion’ of meddling government know-it-alls.  Maybe it’s time we tried a new approach.  Let me go and get my notes.”

            “No, let’s not.  Let’s eat, first, and then we’ll check your notes.  You cheater, you!  You’ve had time to collect all this data, and I’m caught by surprise,” she protested.  “Although, come to think of it, I guess I have a small amount of material I’d like to present, too.  A surprise witness, if you will.  But not yet.  Let’s eat.  What do you say we eat TV dinners, so we can keep this discussion going without too much trouble?”

            “Sounds good to me,” Phil replied, thinking, Yuck!  TV dinners!  I sure hope the sauce isn’t too blue.  Phil pulled two dinners out of the freezer and plopped them into the infra-red laser oven, and punched the button.

            “A new approach, you say?  And just what, pray tell, might that be?” Gloria wanted to know.

            “Oh, I’d think that would be obvious.  A bit of genetic engineering here and there.  Strictly voluntary, of course,” Phil replied.  “If, as the simulations say, genes are the real root cause, or at least, a highly significant root cause, then gene therapy for the living, and genetic engineering for the unborn, should do more for black people than the Nanny State has been able to do, in decades.  And if we can figure out how to do this for a reasonable amount of money, as opposed to the zillions that such things cost now, then, obviously, the whole equation will change, and we’ll want to spread the word, far and wide, about what we know, and what we can do about it.”

            “Does that mean that, despite what you were saying about the costs of ignoring what you regard as reality, then, that, um, unless you can get the costs of engineering ‘solutions’ to your perceived ‘problems’ here, down to an acceptable level, that you’ll, um, keep your ‘facts’ to yourself for the foreseeable future?” Gloria inquired, apparently trying her best to squeeze Phil’s intentions out of him, without annoying him too much.

            “I don’t know, Poogle-Bye,” he responded.  “That’s why I want to go over it with you, real thoroughly.  On the one hand, I want to be totally devoted to ‘Truth’ with a capital ‘T’, and perceive reality as honestly as I can.  And, to share Truth and Knowledge with others, so that we can all live in the real world, as best as we know how.  Truth is better than delusion.  But then there’s dipshits, who abuse whatever you tell them.  So, speak to me.”

            He pulled the dinners out of the oven, served them with a flourish, and began to dine on his scrumptious fare.  The sauce wasn’t too blue, but he had definitely seen better chow.  Gloria just poked at her dinner a bit, making a face.  “Well, Mr. Closet Christian,” she suggested, “Maybe you should just ask yourself what stance our hero would take on such matters.”

            “I think he was the one who started this deal about the Truth setting you free, and what not,” he retorted.  “But, bringing him up brings a few things to my mind.  You want to know what I really, really, really think?”

            “By all means, let’s hear it,” she said.

            “I think dipshits will be dipshits regardless of what you do or don’t allegedly tell them, or not tell them.  It makes no never mind.  Look at our hero, and the Bible.  Our hero and the Bible tell us about umpteen zillion different times, to be loving, tolerant, forgiving, non-judgmental, and all.  To pull the logs out of our own eyes before we go rooting after the speck in the next guy’s eye.  Oh, and then just once or twice, in the Stone-Age chapters of the Bible, it tells us that God hates gays, and that we should kill them.  What do the snarling, evil, drooling dipshit ‘Christians’ want to do?  You got it!  Kill the gays!  Of course, the genuinely loving Christians have different ideas.  Same facts, same literature, drastically different interpretations.

            “In other words, assholes will be assholes, and good people will be good people, regardless of what you tell them.  Do you really think that a genuinely decent person, one committed to treating all people with respect and dignity, will wake up, read the paper saying some science geek says Blacks are stupid, and turn into an idiotic racist?  Or, the white skinhead punk will wake up, look at the charts and graphs, and decide that he should start kicking in white as well as black skulls?  And leave the Asians and Jews alone, instead of picking on all except the Whites, now that he’s seen the most recent statistics?  Now that he knows that both Blacks and Whites are ‘inferior’ to Asians and Jews?  Or some stats professor will explain to him that averages say nothing about individuals.  Will the skinhead jerk change his ways, based on this?  Hardly likely.”

            Gloria chuckled and agreed with him.  “I see what you mean.  Racial problems aren’t driven by facts, so ‘fixing’ the facts is no solution.  But what about the huge bulk of the rest of us, who are neither Saints nor Demons?  Won’t this information color our thoughts?  With bad effects, most likely?  Like, you’re hiring people.  You know, now, that a randomly selected White is likely to be smarter than a randomly selected Black.  See, I’m taking your weasel factor away by talking probability.  Yes, you can’t make certain judgments about individuals; only groups.  Still, if you play the odds—and, all of us do, in one form or another—then, you’ll pick the White.  In short, discrimination.  Blame it on your worship of ‘Truth,’ and everyone’s ‘right’ to know it.”

            “You’re right,” Phil admitted.  Gloria looked a tiny bit surprised.  “The way things are set up now, that is,” he continued.  “Employers can’t really know the guy’s IQ, can’t test, and can’t ask.  Not for the last half-century.  Unless you’re the government, which gives armed services recruits what amount to IQ tests.  Damned feds always exempt themselves from the laws they pass on everyone else.  Oh, yes, that civilian employer can interview him, and get his school records, and all that.  According to statistics from The Bell Curve, none of these things correlate to job success as well as IQ.

            “So, not being allowed to test for IQ, the employer has to guess.  And, of course, lots of employers know that, statistically, Whites are smarter than Blacks, regardless of whether we let any more information out, or not.  So, they’re caught between equal opportunity laws, and trying to cheat, on the basis of whatever information we can’t prohibit them from getting.  Like, what their skin color is, which correlates to IQ.  So, of course they’ll want to discriminate.

            “I think we should all vote Libertarian.  They wouldn’t let stupid, pro-ignorance laws stay on the books.  You want to test your job applicant for IQ?  By all means, you should be allowed to know.  Unless the applicant doesn’t want to take the test, in which case you can either take a risk, or tell him to hit the road.  Legalize freedom.  In other words, I think, faced with a problem of limited data, of being forcibly kept ignorant of un-’race-normed’, real test scores, leading to discrimination, the solution isn’t to try and limit the data even more.  That’s futile, anyway; the solution is to increase the data.  Now, employers would know the IQ of the applicant, regardless of skin color, and hire accordingly.

            “Sounds elitist, huh?  So?  It’s reality.  Some people are capable of learning more, faster, than others.  Can’t legislate it away.  Can’t teach a pig to sing.  Why not save scarce training and learning opportunities for those who can use them best?  Our economy would be bigger and more efficient, and everyone would be better off.  It makes more sense to have smart people make decisions, than stupid people.  It’s that simple.”

            “Unfortunately,” Gloria objected, “The first decision the decision-makers make, is how much to pay themselves, and how much to pay the peons.  And we all know how that goes.  I read The Bell Curve.  I don’t quite get it.  It bemoans how the cognitive elite is amassing all this power.  Yet, like you, it advocates that employers should be allowed to test for IQ.  What gives?  Do you want smart people to be able to sit around, fat, dumb, and happy, just ‘cause they’re smart?  That’s feeding the too-powerful cognitive elite!”

            Phil came back with, “Hell, No!  If I was the boss—you, too, I’d bet, or anyone else with common sense, for that matter—I’d take any high-IQ duff-sitter, who wants to just sit around and be smart, and show him the door.  In a hypothetical free society, that is.  Where employers, not bureaucrats and lawyers, make hiring and firing decisions.

            “Conversely, if some supposedly low-IQ person worked his butt off, and made sensible, responsible decisions, then I’d promote him.  In both cases, without regard to skin color.  Skilled, responsible, smart people, regardless of skin color, are quite valuable, and the businesses that recognize this come out on top, in a free society.  The IQ test merely gets us a head start, in getting people to where they belong.  So, we need to be free to give the tests, and use the results.  All we need is freedom.  Not government-enforced ‘freedom from racism’, but simple, real freedom.

            “Oh, and how about gays.  Bigots say we can’t give gays any more rights, since, like Blacks, equal rights will mean special treatment.  That’s one of the biggest prices we pay for the ‘anti-racist services’ of the Nanny State.  By doing artificial things, in the noble quest for equal opportunities, we raise roadblocks for other groups.  It really chaps my butt, as a libertarian, who thinks gays should be treated as fully respectable human beings, when people say this kind of crap to me.  But, you know, till the government stops making any of us more equal than others, I won’t have a good reply.  We can’t give anyone any more rights, ‘cause ‘rights’ mean ‘special treatment’.  The only way we can get to everyone really being equal, is to ‘specially protect’ everyone, so that we’re all more equal than everyone else!  After all, not being officially designated as a socially disadvantaged person puts one at a social disadvantage, right?  In need of special protection, then?  Kinda crazy, huh?!”

            “You’ll not get much argument from me there,” Gloria admitted.  “You know I’m no friend of ‘affirmative action’, ‘cause it makes all the members of the ‘beneficiary’ group suspect, as to our competence.  Maybe affirmative action is anti Afro-motive.  It doesn’t get us African-Americans motivated and going, to anywhere except a fight over who’s a bigger victim than the next guy.  Some would say that I’m not a real Black for saying such things.  Diversity is wonderful, but all Blacks better think alike, as Blacks.  That’s okay.  I say what I wanna say, they say what they wanna say.

            “Affirmative action once was a good thing, serving to change the country’s momentum, in the short term.  Those days are decades gone, with about a grand total of one exception, that being cases where Blacks have a hard time with an all-white police force in a predominantly black area.  Although I agree with you, that putting an end to ridiculous and racially biased drug laws would go about three thousand times further, in improving relations with the fuzz.  What I worry about most, though, is that a backlash against affirmative action can easily swing too far to other, even more idiotic extremes.  Genetics and intelligence issues aren’t gonna help.

            “But let’s get back on track, here.  Suppose we can’t come up with cheap, effective genetic engineering techniques to fix these problems that you claim we’ve got.  Then what?  Is there any real benefit to be gained by releasing your information?  Anything that outweighs the possibility of a mass Pygmalion effect?”

            “I don’t know,” Phil admitted.  “That’s the question.  Which factors outweigh the other ones?  On the one hand, publishing this information would get more people going, as far as researching the genetics of it, and getting us a solution, faster.  And, it would help to take the wind out of the sails of affirmative action.  If anything can take the wind out of those sails.  I mean, we’ve got supposedly intelligent Supreme Court justices arguing that there’s no tainting of beneficiaries as inferior, because no beneficiaries have ever complained!  The rest of us, either shafted by exclusion or tainted by suspicion, without ‘benefiting’ from the policies, don’t count, at all.  On the other hand, it would doubtlessly lead to more strife, at least in the short run, and to your Pygmalion effect.

            “I would question the size of your Pygmalion effect.  Can we really, really believe that the views held by teachers and such, would change that drastically, just ‘cause of some technical information being released?  I mean, look at the pathetic level of scientific knowledge in this country!  Fifty percent or so, these days, don’t even believe in evolution!”

            Gloria nodded her head in agreement.  “Yes, we do have an amazing level of stupidity here, don’t we?  Speaking of which, the other day I read that a quarter—fully one-fourth—of white Americans—if you interview them in a manner so that they don’t think they’ll be hustled off to jail for the wrong answers—believe that interracial marriage should be against the law.  And, you and your dispassionate technical information would feed their fires.”

            “Good point,” Phil conceded.  “These morons have never heard of hybrid vigor.  Maybe we just need to educate them.  But you know my perspective of education these days.  Can’t teach a pig to sing.  And, frankly, some racists are among the stupidest people I’ve ever known.  But don’t forget, racists come in all flavors, including well-educated, intelligent ones who would ‘fix’ America’s racist history with ‘good’ racism.

            “OK, I’ll admit it—it’s a zero-sum game out there, a lot of times.  We could improve the lot of middle-class Whites, by tearing down affirmative action, and our genetics information might help to do it.  There’s no doubt that some Blacks would do less well.  What can we do for them?  You know the standard answers.  Education.  Money.  Socialism.  Training.  Money.  Education.  Taxes.  Money money money.  Welfare veteran doesn’t know how to show up on the job, sober and on time, every day, to push a mop, and what’s the solution?  ‘Training’, of course!

            “Well, ‘scuse me for saying so, but money and education are finite resources, and maybe we should put them to the very best uses that we can find for them.  Maybe we should educate more intelligent people of all races, to become genetic engineers, among other things, and really get cracking on improving the lives of human beings.  Maybe we should finally get over this thing we’ve got, where we look back and say, ‘Well, Hitler was a totally evil psychopath’—editorial comment by me; I agree; but then, the next part sticks in my craw—‘and he was intent on genetics and a ‘Master Race’, and so, forever more, when we talk about improving human beings, we can only talk about environmental influences.  Genes are verboten territory.’  So we worship education as the cure-all.

            “Your child has severe Down’s Syndrome?  Not to worry.  Here, we’ll get twelve social workers with PhDs, and we’ll teach him how to wipe his butt!  You owe it to him.  Everyone’s entitled to be all that they can be.  If you don’t get him everything—play therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, shrinks, chiropractors, quackopractors, and State-certified witch doctors, why, then, obviously, you’re a cruel and heartless person, and you don’t love your own kid.  Maybe we should take him away from you, ‘cause, you know, all of this isn’t going to cost you a dime, anyway!  Socialism pays for it all!

            “Well, I say, fuck ‘em!  Live in the real world!  We do pay for all this crap!”  Phil calmed down just enough to notice that Gloria, now half-way through her dinner, was looking up at the ceiling.  “OK, OK, I know—why does every discussion turn into a tirade against socialism, and I’m preaching to the choir.  But, you know, sometimes I wonder about all those who argue against genetic engineering.  Most of ‘em are poverty pimps and defect pimps, who make money off of people’s miseries.

            “But let’s change gears.  Most people are too tied up in their current nook of the space-time continuum, to get a good, bird’s-eye view of things.  Let’s look at it by comparing it to another time in history.  Let’s not do the usual, which is to compare genetic engineering to Hitler’s whacko, unscientific racial paranoia.  Let’s look at a time and place that few of us know about, because we’re too busy learning political correctness, instead of history.  History shows another time when the political thought control police allocated scarce resources ‘for the good of society’, instead of letting individuals and families make their own free decisions.  A society that decided to legislate the biological facts.

            “Let’s look at the Soviet Union under Stalin, and a charlatan by the name of Trofim D. Lysenko.  This guy was the head of Soviet agricultural genetics, and he believed in Lamarckism, which is the inheritance of acquired characteristics.  OK, so you know about that,” Phil said, noticing that Gloria was nodding her head.  “Anyway, as you know, that’s total malarkey.  But, this jerk wasn’t content to believe in his kooky theories, or even to fake experiments to get others to believe what he believed.  Like, he’d cut the tails off of a few generations of mice, and then supposedly show that the offspring had shorter tails.  But that wasn’t enough.  He had to force other people to believe what he believed.

            “Anyway, he ruined Soviet agriculture.  Any geneticist that disagreed with him was shipped off to Siberia.  Legislate the facts, you see.  It seems that Stalin and his buddies were all bent on creating ‘The New Soviet Man’, who would forget all about himself and his family, and do all and sacrifice all ‘for the good of society’.  Ha!  Read, the good of Stalin and the other jerks.  Anyway, the group-think commies over there, they just couldn’t bear to face the biological facts.  They couldn’t bear to think that they’d spend their whole lives, being good communist group-think stooges, and making everyone else be the same way, and—gasp! Horror of horrors!—The new generation would be born, and they’d be the same old, selfish, non-group-oriented individuals, who would want to look after themselves and their families first, before this vague, nebulous thing called Soviet Society!

            “Well, we just can’t have that.  So, we’ll legislate biological reality.  And, they did.  Or, they tried.  Our good buddy, Trofim, he claimed he could grow wheat in colder and colder climes, year after year, and, lo and behold, you could literally start to cast your wheat seeds in the snow banks, and wallah!  There’s your nifty, new, Sovietized, high-yielding, cold-resistant wheat.  Hell, we’ll grow wheat on the North Pole!  He faked his experiments to suit, and drummed the dissidents out of the Soviet Academy of Science.

            “It took the death of Stalin, whose butt good ol’ Trofim was sucking on big-time, and the rise of Andrei Sakharov in the Academy, to finally drum this charlatan out.  I think it’s a shame that only a big-time whore for the State, like Sakharov, who invented the Soviet H-bomb, would have the stature needed to get rid of such a bum.  Not to malign Andrei too much; he did see the error of his ways, after a while, and became outspoken in support of human rights and nuclear disarmament.  Of course, what I can’t figure out is, how could one do such a thing?  To be so inconsistent?  To be a whore for the State, and then to speak out against the State?”

            Gloria obliged him with a courtesy laugh, but she didn’t sound too thrilled.

            Phil continued.  “Anyway, my basic point is, you can’t legislate biological reality, and you’ll pay the price, sooner or later, if you try.  Even more so, when you put the coercive power of the State behind stupid notions, everyone pays big-time.  If Trofim had been nothing more than a small farmer, who believed in throwing his wheat in the snow, then his neighbors would’ve just laughed at him.  They’d have left him alone, till he starved, or came to them, so that they could feed him a bit, and maybe teach him to be smarter next time.  But, no!  Trofim had to suck butt with Stalin, and get Stalin to force everybody, including old farmers who knew better, to cast their wheat seeds in the snow!  That, or get shipped off to Siberia!

            “So, forgive my honesty, but we’re doing the same thing here.  We’re throwing our wheat seeds in the snow.  You’ve got a child with IQ seventy, and you want to spend zillions on educating him to be a doctor?  Fine!  Fine!  Do it, by all means!  Just let me choose my own doctor, and spend your own money on that education!  Don’t go enlisting Stalin to be on your side, and force me to throw my wheat seeds in the snow, too!”

            “OK, I hear you,” Gloria admitted.  “If we were free to give IQ tests, and figure out which heads are snowbanks and which aren’t, then this would work.  But you say you want to live in the real world.  The real world includes politics, and you know how much chance we have of changing things.  Talk about the masses of voters in the middle, who all fear for their jobs, in a competitive technological society, and our worship of State-sponsored education, and all, and throw in a racial/genetic IQ argument, and an argument to rely more heavily on IQ tests, to boot?  Get real!  You know what the reactions would be!”

            “Still,” Phil persisted.  “Even the majority voters in a nation a quarter-billion strong, can’t legislate the facts, either.  Maybe it’ll take a while, but in the long run, we’ve got to face the facts.  Especially if facing the facts will allow us to tear down a racist system, and to replace it, long term, with a system where most everyone can have smart kids that look like their parents, thanks to genetic engineering.”

            “What’s this worship of IQ business, anyway?” Gloria wanted to know.  “Will higher IQs really solve all our problems?”

            “Oh, no!” Phil replied.  “Just look at all of our air-headed models, who make millions, despite being on the same intellectual levels as benthic nematodes.  We’ll solve all of our problems by being born with high IQs, and looking like Smarmy Simples.  Then, we’ll all get married to multi-gazillionaires like Ronald Rump, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

            “No, seriously, there are strong reasons to believe that we’d all be better off if we were all smarter.  I, for one, would be quite happy if I were stuck digging ditches all day, ‘cause everyone else was smart, too, as long as I could come home to play chess and read good books, or design robots, or whatever.  Especially if my society didn’t do as many bone-headed things as it does now.  So, I don’t buy the idea that a society of IQ-200 people would have to have lots of malcontents.  Let me show you some statistics from The Bell Curve, that’ll show you what a small change in mean IQ could do to the rate of social pathology.”

            “Well, I’ve collected some stats, too,” Gloria informed him.  “Like, I know that one’s ability to empathize with one’s fellow creatures is about three point one five billion times as important as one’s intelligence.  After all, who would you rather work for—some intellectually challenged person who’s a thoroughly decent human being, who cares about you and your welfare, who trusts you to do your job mostly as you see fit—or someone who, though smart and competent, is a hateful, spiteful, vicious asshole?”

            “Harrumph!!!  Count on my Pootie Pie to set matters straight!”  Phil crowed.  “No arguments from me on that one.  Put it another way, who would you want to be your political leader—a cross between Dan Quayle and Albert Schweitzer, or a cross between Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler?  The answer is self-evident.  But, don’t lose sight of this—best of all would be a cross between Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer.  Keeping all other things constant, smart is good, and stupid is bad.  Despite all the relativism in the world, virtue is better than vice.  So, let’s improve smarts.”

            “Wait,” Gloria objected.  “Think about Christ.  Didn’t he say something about motivation versus information or smarts?  That the person who does a bad thing out of good motives and ignorance, will be held in high esteem, while the person who does good things out of bad motives, will receive zilch?  That, from those to whom much is given, much is expected?  When you’re smart, strong-willed, or otherwise gifted, you’re held to a much higher standard.  You can do much more harm, as well as good, when you have more power.

            “Maybe spiritual values trump intellectual values to such a degree, that even though you’ve held all other variables constant, those increased smarts do harm.  Maybe the worst combination isn’t the stupid and evil, but the smart and evil.  Maybe your cross between Einstein and Hitler is far worse than your cross between Quayle and Hitler.  I think there’s a strong case for this way of looking at it.”

            “Wow!  I’ll have to sit and digest that one for a while!” Phil admitted.  “You may be on to something.  Hell, I don’t know.  Ideally, I guess we’d give the smarts only to those who will do the right things with them.  Or, the same with our racial/genetic information.  But, that’s impossible!  The rain and the sun fall on both the good and the evil.  So said our hero.  I don’t see how we can do any better.  Unless—hey, here we go!  Let’s test for it!  These days, with PET tests—that’s Positron Emission Tomography—and magnetic resonance imaging, and all sorts of wonderful ways to scan the brain—we can literally watch the brain, as it tackles various tasks.  I read the other day how they snooped in on some chess players, and watched their various neural circuits fire up, as they did their thing.  Spatial geometry calculator, game strategy, look-ahead move generator, and blah blah.

            “So, why can’t we devise an empathy meter?  Show movies of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and literally measure a person’s brain, and its ability to empathize, to feel the pain of others?  Sit a crippled cat in their laps.  Watch their very thoughts.  Do they want to heal the cat, or kill it?  Put it out of it’s misery, or torture it?  If they want to kill it, do they want to do it fast or slow?  If they want to heal it, do they want to pay the bills themselves, or make everyone else pay?  Are they good dudes and dudettes, or not?  What would we call it?  One’s ‘Good Dude Coefficient?’  GDC.  Hmm.”

            “Hah!  Count on a technogeek like you, to come up with such ideas!” Gloria commented.  “Not impossible, though.  Seems to me, we’re already moving in that direction.  ‘Lie detector’ tests and such are getting much more sophisticated.  You and your libertarian buddies are wanting to use these things to select juries.  ‘Hmm’, indeed!  A brave new world.  One of many, these days, it seems.  Imagine what such a thing would do to how we select, not just juries, but mates, politicians, shrinks, and business partners!  GDC.  Doesn’t sound catchy.  How ‘bout... SAQ?  Spiritual Advancement Quotient?  Something that combines the gravity of your SAT scores, and your IQ score?  How’s that grab you?”

            Phil just nodded sagely, so Gloria went on.  “So, you’d only grant your new ‘smart genes’ or ‘smart pills’ or whatever, after you figure this all out, to those who pass their SAQs?  What about all those who are already smart, and evil?  Especially, after genetic engineering hits its stride, what with all the parents choosing to have smart kids?  Give the evil ones ‘stupid pills’?  I’m surprised to see that you don’t simply propose that we genetically engineer away evil itself.”

            “Now, that’s a topic by itself,” Phil asserted, finishing his chow.  “Some people have been researching such matters, too.  I’ve got some notes to show you.  Why don’t you finish up, and we’ll go upstairs.  Personally, I don’t think there’s a whole bunch to this kind of thing.  Oh, I guess mental tendencies towards violence could be influenced by genes.  But the complexity of the human brain is about twelve zillion times greater than what could be carried by the genes.  There’s just no way we can map a little Joseph Stalin or Mahatma Gandhi, mentally/spiritually, into that limited genetic data space.  Most of the specifics of brain and personality development, then, come from the environment, and maybe even, an unscientific thing called free will.”

            “Then, why can’t IQ be one of those environmentally determined things?” Gloria demanded.

            “To some extent it is, on an individual basis, at least,” Phil replied.  “Statistically, for groups, it doesn’t seem to be.  Not to any large extent, at least; so say my simulations.  Actually, for a few decades, we’ve strongly suspected as much.  Studies of identical twins raised apart, for example, show the strong influence of genes, not environment, on intelligence.  The estimate has been, for quite some time, that intelligence is between forty and eighty percent determined by genes, with the real figure probably being closer to eighty than to forty.  Let’s go check out my notes.”

            Not too much later, they were snuggling in bed.  Phil’s notes were sprawled about, both in hardcopies and on the thin-film ceiling screen.  “Check this out, Pootie Pie,” he said.  “Stats from The Bell Curve.  Take your bottom 20% of the population, IQ-wise.  Now, if IQ had nothing to do with all of these various social pathologies, you’d expect for this 20% to be matched by them making up 20% of each of the groups we’ll talk about.  But look.  They make up 48% of the poor, 66% of high school dropouts, 64% of non-working able-bodied men, 62% of jailbirds, 45% of sometime welfare mooches, 57% of chronic mooches, 52% of illegitimate births, 45% of low-birth-weight babies, 56% of kids born into the bottom one-tenth of homes, as best as we can measure the quality of homes, and 63% of kids in poverty for their first three years.

            “Low gene-influenced IQ compounds itself with environmental influences, in that, frankly, stupid parents often don’t know how to take good care of kids, or how to provide for them.  The Bell Curve briefly mentions that, despite this not being an easy thing to measure, there is strong reason to believe that child abuse and neglect correlate to IQ, as well.

            “If you randomly strip individual cases out of the whole bell curve, but only on one side of the middle at a time, to move the middle—that is, simulate raising or lowering the IQ of your entire population—then—well, in their case, they did it plus and minus three percentage points from their then-current mean.  Six total percentage points meant a total change of roughly thirty percent in social pathology!

            “Now, we all know that there’s plenty of poor and less-than-brilliant parents, who nevertheless do a quite fine job of raising decent, responsible kids.  Maybe ‘cause the parents have high SAQs.  Poverty doesn’t explain crime.  Plenty of poor people behave themselves and work hard.  That is, when minimum-wage laws don’t push ‘em out of the market.  Still, statistically, we know that raising IQs would help us a lot.  Let’s do it, as soon as we can!  The sooner we get the word out, about what’s going on, the sooner we get more people working on it!  Or, at least, so goes one side of the argument.  I know there’s other sides.  What do you say?”

            “Well, how much good did The Bell Curve do?” Gloria inquired.  “When’s the last time you heard a politician referring to it, when explaining a policy decision?  Didn’t you say we all do what we want, anyway?  Regardless of what science geeks and professors say?  What makes you think you’d be any different?”

            “Good point,” Phil replied.  “I’d like to hope, though, that there’s just a few people out there, who try to base their decisions on the real world, on the data.  Maybe they don’t admit it, but they still check out the facts.  Maybe we’d make better decisions, if just a few more people were acquainted with the facts.

            “What really chaps my butt is the fact that the recommendations that Herrnstein and Murray made in The Bell Curve were so sensible, so right-on; yet hardly anyone heard what they were saying.  Everyone focused on the racial differences thing, which was a very small part of what they had to say.  They said, the cognitive elite is getting too much power, and rigging the world to suit themselves.  Too many complicated rules, forms, and procedures, that the poor and the less-gifted can’t deal with.  Too much emphasis on education, they said, even, despite the fact that they were academicians themselves.

            “Sometimes, jobs don’t so much require tons of degrees, they just require intelligence.  There is a difference.  And, some intelligent but poor people have a hard time getting those degrees.  Government and the educational elites rig the rules to suit themselves.  Part of it is a monopoly on IQ tests, I think.  The Bell Curve didn’t spell this one out, but, think it through.  An employer can’t test your IQ, or ask for it.  Colleges can do the equivalent, which is to ask for your SAT scores.  Colleges are a monopoly on IQ testing as a method of keeping the dummies out of high-IQ professions.  Despite all their protests to the contrary, SATs and IQs are highly related.

            “So the employer has to rely on the educational establishment to weed out the dummies, ‘cause the government prohibits him from testing IQs.  He’s got to use a distant second best hiring criteria, the degree, instead of the IQ score.  Colleges serve to show employers in a very indirect way, that the graduates have high IQs.  Of course, academia will screw industry over, by washing the graduate’s brains with political correctness, and skewing admissions on the basis of ethnic spoils systems.  But, it sure keeps the educators and bureaucrats employed!  Just another case of propping up the elites.

            “OK, so, they didn’t come right out and say this, either, but—goddamn fucking parasitical lawyerscums come to mind!  You want to help yourself, to start a small business?  Here’s five million forms to fill out.  What, you can’t understand them?  Are you stupid or something?  Well, obviously, I guess you’ll have to hire some lawyers, accountants, and tax advisers.  And, come to think of it, some environmental engineers, too, lest you wipe out some innocent species of bacteria.

            “You’re a poor teenager, looking for a few extra bucks?  In the old days, you’d have gone to a small business, and made a few bucks shoveling the snow off of their sidewalks.  Today, you can’t get that quickie job, ‘cause of all sorts of mandated benefits and paperwork, and you might slip and fall, and bankrupt the small business.  Lawyers gotta make yacht payments.  So, no job for you.  Go fight gang wars.

            “And we’ll create all sorts of welfare for lawyers, by passing all sorts of laws that say that the government should confiscate houses and cars from the peons who can’t afford a gaggle of lawyers to defend their property, whenever the pigs can find a couple of pot seeds on their property, or a hooker hanging out.  But if you’re a large corporate airline, and they find some pot seeds on the floor of one of your planes, do you think they’ll try to take the airplane?  No, they only pick on the little guy, without the big bucks for lawyers.  And one can even gather statistics about how the average income is much higher in State capitals, and in D.C., because of all the overpaid government parasites that congregate there.  Then we wonder why the rich-poor gap grows, and we propose to solve it through more transfer payments, and more government!

            “You, as a small business, want to put up a restroom?  Be nice to your customers?  Better be prepared to spend a million, and pay for that special robotic ass-wiper for the paraplegic that might come by once every three years.  Can’t be discriminating against the handicapped!

            “And, you have a hard time understanding the law, and staying out of trouble?  Just ‘cause we have twelve terabytes of laws on file, and robbery is sometimes right, and sometimes wrong, depending on how many lawyers you can recruit, to mouth fancy legal phrases for you?

            “Then, along come some radical elitists like Herrnstein and Murray, who say we should simplify things for those who are less gifted than we are, and that we should worship the powers of education a bit less, and we boo them off the stage.  Hey, if those stupid poor people don’t know how to fill out the forms, we’ll do it for them!  Except if they want to go into business, competing with the big conglomerates.  And, of course, we’ll have to ding the taxpayers now and then, when we so generously offer to fill out forms for ‘em.  For the public good.  But, we gotta do things right.  Gotta fill out all those forms.

            “They talked about creating ‘a valued place’ in society for everyone.  That might mean, for example, letting a local community make its own charity decisions, letting people take care of each other.  Now, we say, ‘Oh, you folks aren’t qualified to take care of your old, or your crippled.  Here, let Uncle Socialism whisk Gramma and Grampa off to a state-of-the-art facility, with marble floors and walls.’  So the local teenagers are left without much to do, that people will appreciate.  Instead of looking after Gramma and Grandpa, they steal, get high and watch the idiot box all day, and fight gang wars.  Maybe we could create a valued place in society for everyone, by simplifying things, and going back to the old ways, where people took care of each other.  So says The Bell Curve.  But, we told ‘em to buzz off, ‘cause they said things we didn’t want to hear.”

            “So what do you think they’ll say to you?” Gloria inquired sweetly.  “Do you think they want to hear what you’ve got to say?”

            “Oh, probably not.  Still, maybe we should try.  Maybe,” he replied.  “Depends on whether or not we figure we’ll do more good than harm.  Speak to me.”

            “Depends on what all this gets associated with,” Gloria opined.  “What’s next?  Will they be saying that Blacks aren’t only more inclined to be less smart, that they’re also more inclined to be criminals?  You pooh-pahhed that idea, but, will we be feeding it?  What do your stats say about that?  Will they be saying we need to stick all the niggers in jail, for their own good, lest they commit crimes?”

            “Now, now.  My personal idea is that crimes among the poor and poor Blacks have next to nothing to do with genes.  Actually, I think their crimes are tied to a quite noble motive, one that we share with them.”

            Gloria gave Phil an inquiring stare.  “Okay, I’ll bite.  What’s their noble motive?”

            “Like you and I, they want to cut out the middle man,” Phil replied.  “We tell them over and over again that they’re poor ‘cause they’re oppressed, and that their solution is socially sanctioned theft.  You’re poor and your neighbors aren’t?  Hey, just elect yourself a socialist politician, and get him to rob them on your behalf!  Or, just walk on over there, stub your toe, and sue their socks off!  But, then, the poor aren’t quite as stupid as we think they are.  They notice that the lawyers, politicians, and social workers keep most of the goodies for themselves.  So, they cut out the middle man, and rob the neighbors themselves.  Do-it-yourself socialism.  Far more efficient.  They’re just doing what we teach them is right.  The only difference is, they do it more efficiently.  More honestly, even.  When they’re caught stealing, they admit it.  That’s more than you can say about the politicians.”

            “Dammit, Phil, get back on track!  Now, your ‘facts’—what good are they gonna do?  Besides tear down socialism, help the oppressed Whites of the world, and get everyone rushing towards the nearest gene-splicing factory?  And, are these good things gonna outweigh the bad?  And, what do you think the reaction will really be, anyway?”

            “Partly, to tar and feather me, of course,” Phil admitted.  “They already want to do that, anyway, so it doesn’t make much difference.  That, and they’ll want to react by denying reality.  Just like they did with The Bell Curve.  Despite the fact that race was a small part of the subject matter, everyone rushed to condemn.  All sorts of emotional arguments from editorialists, who didn’t bother to read the book.  Denying the very validity of IQ measurements, alleging racial bias in the tests, and so on.  Saying things like, ‘How can you say God made one race better than another, and call it science?’  Never mind I don’t see many scientists working God into their theories.  Anything that I disagree with, or hurts my baby feelings, is obviously pseudoscience.  And there are no races.  Because there’s no clear definition of race, and because there’s all sorts of shades of gray, there are no races.  There’s no night and day, either, ‘cause we can’t say which it is, at dawn or at dusk.”

            “Well, weren’t there reputable scientists who questioned all this?” she objected.  “Wasn’t there some book called The Mismeasure of Man?

            “Yeah, there was,” Phil admitted.  “By Stephen Jay Gould.  He was admired, ‘cause he said what we wanted to hear.  I wouldn’t call him reputable, exactly, in this particular field, though.  His basic argument was that since this field has a long, long history of half-baked theories and racist imbeciles—and I’d be the last to deny that, and the last to deny that we humans have a long, bloody history of racist shitheadedness, and that’s it’s still not over—then, because of this history, we have to disbelieve everything that we hear about racial differences in intelligence.

            “That’s like refusing to go to the doctor, ‘cause they used to do some really stupid things, way back when, and there’s still some stupid doctors, here and there.  Or, like hearing from your older brother that no, he won’t trust you, at twenty, to borrow his fancy new car, ‘cause, after all, you used to do some pretty bone-headed things at age five.  The sciences of genetics and intelligence testing have come a long, long way, in the last half-century.

            “Ask experts in the field of human intelligence, and testing intelligence, and they’ll agree on a wide, wide range of things, none of which the social engineers want to hear.  Nothing in The Bell Curve steps outside of this field of agreement, to speak of, other than the few policy recommendations that they make, which I’d call pretty tame.  Everything they say, they document at great length.  No one published any well-documented, well-researched book to refute what they had to say.  Yet, also, no elected politician ever said anything remotely positive about what they had to say, or followed any of their timid recommendations.”

            “So, I’ll ask again—what good are your ‘facts’ going to do?” Gloria inquired.  “Why are you going to be any different?”

            “Beats me.  Maybe that answers my question, for now, at least.  Everything changes if we bust on through, though.  If we discover what looks like an affordable ‘fix’, we’re going to have to look at this again.  Don’t forget, we’re building ‘Derrick, the Dirty Diamond’.  He may find a ‘fix’ for us.  We could have our cake, and eat it, too.  Improve our genetics—not just our IQs, but just about everything—without the nasty old coercive eugenics, the human breeding that Hitler gave such a bad name to.  Prevent the deterioration of the gene pool—‘dysgenics’ is the fancy word that they like to use in books like The Bell Curve, instead of just saying that stupid people make more babies than smart people.

            “With really good luck, all this fighting will be moot.  You know, our society is more and more technology-driven, and it takes more and more smarts to run the ever-more-sophisticated toys—computers, mostly.  The smart get richer, and the poor get poorer, and have more babies.  And the rich erect an ever bigger ‘custodial State’ to take ever more extensive care of the poor.  The dispossessed poor, of all colors.  Out of sight and out of mind, so they won’t bother us.  They trade unprepared food for crack, so we have to prepare the food for them, and feed them directly, with ever more social workers.  Provide armies of cops to play Daddy to all the fatherless kids.  Then, we hustle their brighter children, anyone with half of a brain, off to extensive schooling.  Let ‘em help tend to our fancy machines, and let ‘em escape the ghetto.  Meanwhile, the less-intelligent ones are left behind.  And the inner city deteriorates some more.

            “Well, if we’re lucky, we do an end run around the whole problem.  Use those smart machines to improve humanity itself, still letting people pass on their own genes, satisfying those instincts, while also improving ourselves.  Then, smarter humans can tend to yet smarter machines, and they help improve us yet once again, and so on.  Runaway positive feedback.  Our new jump-start will look like a rabbit compared to that tortoise, the old acceleration, when we busted loose from purely biological evolution to cultural evolution.”

            “Yeah,” Gloria replied.  “Sure.  And maybe the tortoise would win, if we didn’t shoot his ass.  So, supposedly for our comfort and pleasure, we invent ever better, faster, smarter computers.  But then we have to become better and smarter, to fit into the society created by these ever better and smarter machines.  To appease their demands for smarter, better humans, we’ll let them ‘improve’ us, physically, mentally, at least.  Maybe we’d be better off just improving ourselves spiritually.

            “Yes, we could engineer away some of our bad traits.  Our instinctual quest for status, and our fear of starvation, that leads us to eat too many sugars and fats.  That, or our intolerance of too many sugars and fats.  Even better, our intolerance of the stranger, the one who is different.  I fear, though, that instead of tailoring human society to fit our nature as sociable, gregarious hunter-gatherers, who have a need for contact with humans and nature, we’ll take the easy way out, and ‘fix’ ourselves to fit into technological society.  Program the kid to not play with, or swallow, the marbles, but to be perfectly content to sit in front of the HV set all day.  Program the adults to work harder work faster work longer work later work cheaper every day, all day, and to not be inconvenienced by the need to socialize with fellow humans, or to walk through the trees.

            “Why does this scare me so?  Because we’ll just become modules in, assets of, the Big Conglomerate, that’s why.  Because we’ll be so tempted.  Re-program for happiness, they’ll say.  Take out that code that yields a mystical, sublimely joyful experience from sitting in the middle of that grove of aspen trees, leaves fluttering in the wind, and give us the same joy from experiencing rush hour on the freeway.  We’ll be so much happier, that way, they’ll say.  But then we’ll have even less reason to preserve those aspens.  Computers designing better humans, yeah, right!  Who’s serving who, here, anyway?”

            “Just think of all the suffering we could eliminate!”  Phil objected.  “Diseases, obvious defects and shortcomings.  We can watch the gene pool deteriorate, erect an ever bigger, better custodial State, let brutal biological evolution return, or more tightly integrate the human-machine symbiosis.  Which will it be?”

            “Maybe we could just throw out all the smarty-pants, bossy computers, and go back to a simpler life,” Gloria retorted.

            “And let eighty percent of the population starve?  The old technology wouldn’t support us all, any more.  Would we volunteer to be part of the eighty percent?”  Phil queried.

            “Oh, hell, I don’t know,” Gloria said with a sigh.  “Maybe we could compromise, and at least cut down on the rat race for status symbols.  I just don’t like the scary future.  Let’s escape somewhere, and start over.  Just you, me, and Trent.

            “Speaking of escapes, I think you tried to escape from my question.  I was wondering if you’re gonna keep all this race/gene/IQ business to yourself for a while, and you started talking about that bright, future day that beckons.  What about the here and now?  Assume no ‘fix’.  What’re you gonna do with your ‘data’?”

            “I don’t know,” Phil replied.  There was silence.

            “Well, we can’t solve this like a mathematical equation.  On the one side, there’s this, that, and the other.  On the other side, there’s that, the other, and this.  Which outweighs the other?  Who knows?  It all becomes a matter of opinion. I’m just about tired of it,” she concluded.  “Maybe it’s time to just step back, and ask what the real objectives are.  Then, after looking at the real objectives, we can kind of just honestly ask ourselves, in light of all we’ve talked about, just how do we get to where we want to go?  I think it’s time to call in my surprise witness.”

            Gloria got up out of bed, and rooted around in her stack of special books, notes, and clippings in her nightstand.  “Here it is,” she said, holding a few pages.  “Speechs by one of my heroes.  Martin Luther King.  Here, check out what I’ve highlighted.”

            Phil read the highlighted sections.

            “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...’

            “I have a dream that one day... the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood....

            “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character...

            “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred... I am not unmindful that some of you have been the veterans of creative suffering.  Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

            Phil commented, “Yeah, there’s no doubt in my mind.  This guy had a high SAQ.  A good dude.  Can’t debate it.  That last part gets me to thinking about what Henry David Thoreau said.  Something about, the only place for an honest, righteous person, in a society of buttholes, is in jail.  So, he and King both agree.  I should go ahead, get me a gram of coke, a ton of baking soda, and a thousand followers.  We should all march on the piggy-wiggies.  We should all get stuck with ten-year sentences, for each having enough coke to stone a flea.  Creative, unearned suffering, indeed.  It’s not hard to do, in a society of ethical imbeciles, is it?”

            “You’re right,” she admitted.  “Just grow a pot plant, tell any one of fifty million brainwashed busybodies in the U.S., and you’re bait for the DEA and other storm troopers.  Then, we can live under a bridge, after we get out of jail, and they take everything we own.  Just keep in mind you’ve got a wife, and soon, a son, too.  Do your creative suffering without us.  That, and remember what Solzhenitsyn said.”

            “Huh?”  Phil didn’t know what she referred to.

            “You told me about it,” Gloria continued.  “He’s traveling from one concentration camp to another, in public, in the company of oinkers.  Or, getting arrested, whatever.  In any case, he’s in public, and the oinkers are doing their thing.  Should he scream bloody murder, and maybe try to wake up the two hundred people close to him at the time, about the nature of the assholes who are then going to drag him off and kill him?  Or, should he go quietly, bide his time, preserve his hide, and write about it later?  Wake up the two hundred million instead?  Go for the two hundred million, Phil.  Like, when you got Bats in the Belfry, By Design published, and shared the lessons you’d learned, about being a whore for the State.

            “But we’re digressing.  What about King’s speech?  What does it make you think about these ‘facts’ that you want to share with the world?  Will they help the races to sit down together at the table of brotherhood, or not?”

            “Well, quotas, set-asides, and all these various forms of discrimination against Whites and Asians sure aren’t helping matters,” Phil replied.  And, current policies sure don’t seem to be doing much for Blacks, either, he added to himself.  What about those other stats we haven’t discussed yet?  Like, race and crime?  What would she say about those?  Ah, hell!  We’ve talked enough already.  “We’re still judging people by the color of their skin.  But, pin me to the wall, and really squeeze me—I guess it wouldn’t help matters.  At least, not now.  I take it you won’t hold it against me for taking such a stance?”

            “No, Phil, I won’t hold it against you.  And—be careful, even with your just poking around on the computer, running your simulations and looking for your ‘fix’.  And don’t just be looking for a genetic fix.  Maybe you need to re-think some assumptions, maybe look for interactions with environmental factors that work with those genes.  Maybe we could stumble on some fairly simple environmental fix.  Special biochemicals, prenatally or in early infancy, or something; who knows.  Anyway, be careful.  Wouldn’t want the wrong people to get hold of that stuff.”

            “Yeah, I know.  I keep it real cryptic.  Very, very few people would be able to make much sense of it.  Funny you should mention biochemicals, though.  That’s one thing that, along with the environment in general, is real tough to plug into the equations.  There’s practically an infinite number of chemicals out there, that interact with genes.  Foods, allergens, pollutants, vitamins, drugs.  A lot of so-called genetic diseases respond to changes in diet and allergens, you know.  Tourette Syndrome, for example, from what I’ve read.

            “Actually, if I’m real honest about it, the simulations merely say there is some genetic component to the racial IQ difference.  Exactly how big it is, the simulations don’t say.  It’s just that if it’s largely caused by environmental differences, we don’t know what the root cause is.  The fact that the difference persists, even in similar environments, like middle-class suburbs, is what’s most disturbing.  You’re absolutely right, though.  Gotta keep those environmental factors in mind.”

            “I’m proud of you, Phil.  I love you.”

            “I love you too, Snoogle Woogle Poogle Woogle Boogle Woogle.  Pootie Pie.  Love of my life.”  He gave her a kiss, and turned off the screen and the lights.  They lay there in silence.

            “You know, Pootie Pie,” he said, “Of all the rain forest lagomorphs in the whole wide world, you’re my very mostest favoritest.”  He gave her a nudge.

            “Rain forest...” she said, baffled.  “Hey!  Doon’ choo be callin’ me no jungle bunny!  Suckahh!”


 

 

CHAPTER  7

            “Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.”

                                                            Ralph Waldo Emerson  (1803–1882)

 

            Filled with suspense, Chuck LeSage got to the hotel ballroom early that night.  The polls said that they had a good shot at winning!  The ruckus during the past summer should surely help us, he thought.  The Democratic President, Richard Kite, had resigned in the face of scandal, including revelations that he’d known all along of the accidental nature of that Chinese FLASH (Fusion Laser At Sea Halberd) blast.  It had destroyed space station UNITY, starting the gruesome Chinese War, ending with American biotechnological warfare.  The BELFRYBATs had been set loose, killing a billion Chinese.  Chinese scientists had then taken the biochemical ‘leash’ off of the BELFRYBATs, and sicced them back on the U.S..  Eighteen million Americans had perished by the time further American biotechnological wizardry vanquished the BELFRYBATs.

            Kite had resigned in August.  There was even a good chance that he’d face prosecution, if a new President didn’t give him a pardon.  His Vice President, Douglas Christopher, had assumed the office.  To all appearances, he’d not been in on the scandal; however, even he had been considered to be too tainted to run for election.  The Democrats made last-minute substitutions, running Senator Bruce Sockwell for President and Rep. Kip Moreno for Vice President.  So, Chuck, his boss, Senator Hank N. Kreutz, and all the campaign workers had high hopes that voters would blame the Chinese war and the horrors of BELFRYBATs on the Democrats, sweeping Hank into office.  The polls said Hank had a slight edge.  The Libertarians seemed to be coming in for a somewhat close third place, but Chuck didn’t worry much about them.  American voters were smart enough to see that these extremists would lead to government neglect of the masses, and massive starvation, which wasn’t Christian at all.

            Despite anticipation wiring him up—or, maybe, because of it—Chuck loosened up by grabbing himself a glass of champagne, and circulating about, schmoozing with all the various campaign workers and big-wigs.  They all had a fine time, reminiscing about last summer’s scandals and the debates, and anticipating their victory.  Hank N. Kreutz is about to bring Bible-based Christian values back to the U.S., saving us all from our long slide into demonic decadence, they told each other, hopefully/triumphantly.  God’s Kingdom on Earth may be nearly at hand, Chuck even heard on occasion.  Despite the instances where he’d catch the more pious party-goers glaring at his glass of champagne, Chuck managed to have a good time.

            Chuck took some pride in staying informed on all the ins and outs of the campaign.  However, only tonight did he hear of an event earlier in the day.  Apparently, word had reached Hank that some overzealous policemen here and there, members of LORD (Law Officers Resisting Demonism, a private, nationwide association of conservative law-enforcement officers), had been stopping poll-goers with the wrong bumper stickers, for “weaving”, and similar traffic infractions, and then, searching their cars, and otherwise harassing voters.

            Hank had promptly sent out word that he didn’t want this kind of thing to happen.  There were enough States already (seven so far) with cyber-voting schemes, which allowed easier access for voters (and, therefore, that much more Democratic and Libertarian advantage, said the surveys), without this kind of thing adding yet more pressure.  Cyberspace voters, after all, were immune to police traffic harassment.

            This information disturbed Chuck, for several reasons.  For one, what kind of crude morons did they have in LORD, and didn’t Hank have these yokels properly controlled?  For another, why was Chuck only now hearing about it?  Didn’t Hank trust him?  He’d better keep quiet about knowing about it, he figured.  Wasn’t there big danger in the possibility that the media would get hold of commands going from Hank to LORD?  Hank supposedly had nothing to do with LORD, or the Bible Youth.  There was enough talk in the media already, of links between the conservative “political wing” (like, CHRISTChrist’s Helpers in Resisting Idolatrous, Satanic Temptations) and the “military wing” (the Bible Youth), without Hank’s name getting drawn into the mud.

            If the media ever got firm evidence that CHRIST was one and the same as LORD, and, even worse, the Bible Youth, then—why, there’d be Hell to pay!  Donations to CHRIST, and even, to the non-profit, non-political Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation, would be bound to suffer.  It was even conceivable that the top officers of CHRIST, like those of the Bible Youth, would become wanted outlaws.  Large portions of the brainwashed, secular public didn’t take too kindly to the ideas of promoting God’s work by destroying the Devil’s fossils, museums, and books.

            So, Chuck worried.  Not only about what Hank was up to, but also about how Dave had gotten this news in the first place.  It seemed that Dave was showing off again, showing how much he was in the know.  He’d been bragging to Stacey Hammond, a young, low-ranking member of Hank’s staff.  Who knows how many people know about this by now, Chuck wondered.  Maybe I should speak with Hank about Dave’s big mouth, even if I risk getting Dave really POed at me.  Or, even, risk getting Hank POed at me, for playing office politics, and apparently resenting the fact that Dave gets more of the poop and scoop than I do.  But the important thing is protecting Hank.  One of these days, Dave is going to go too far, and get us into trouble.  Unless, of course, I worry enough, Chuck thought.  Silly boy!  Worrying never changed anything.  Let’s have a good time, and party.  To God’s Glorification, and Hank’s re-election, of course.

            Chuck refilled his champagne glass, and circulated around some more.  After a while, he joined a group of rowdies who were watching some hologram discs of the debates, in a room adjacent to the ballroom.  There was a lot of raucous commentary during the playbacks of those classic debates, and people poking and throwing things at the images of the wrong sides (Bruce, the Democrat, and Andrew, the Libertarian).  Chuck could barely hear anything the images of the debaters were saying, but it didn’t matter.  He’d seen and heard them often enough, as Hank, Chuck, and the rest of the staff played them back, dissecting the performances, and preparing for more of the same.

            Chuck chuckled to himself a bit, remembering some of the highlights from the debates.  All those good stabs Hank had gotten in at the Democrats, blaming them for the Chinese war, socialism, Satanism, biotechnology, and BELFRYBATs.  Them, and those third-rate punks, the Libertarians.  Hank had nailed them for wanting to get everyone’s kids to be gamblers, pimps, prostitutes, and drug addicts, for wanting to foist unsafe products on everyone, and for wanting to let the old, the crippled, and the sick, to just starve.  Hell, they didn’t even want all of our kids to be educated!  Extremist, foolish lunatic fringers!, Chuck thought.  I’m amazed that they’re even allowed on the debates.  Well, I guess they’re fooling enough people, and getting enough votes, that we’ve got to share the stage with them, at least for now, he conceded to himself.  Talking to anyone else in the rowdy room, he knew, would be a futile effort.  At least he didn’t have to worry about pseudo-pious people staring at his champagne glass.

            Yeah, those Libertarians.  They’d almost seemed to be scoring some points, until ol’ Andrew Flyfogen stuck his foot in his mouth.  He’d gone off and rammmmed that big ol’ foot of his about two feet deep, deep down into his throat, during the discussions about what should be done with America’s tens of millions of State dependants.

            Chuck sat and sipped his champagne, watching the debates, travelling down memory lane yet once more.  The moderator asked about welfare, and Bruce went off to describe how he and the Democrats, being full of compassion, would help all of those who weren’t able to help themselves.  Unlike the mean-spirited opposition, he wouldn’t punish people for being poor or incapacitated.  He wouldn’t engage in ‘social engineering of the right’; implying that he’d keep the existing Welfare State.  He’d just improve it a bit, by, for example, eliminating fraud and abuse.  He finished by accusing the Libertarians of being rash, of not considering what would happen to the old, the sick, and the mentally ill, without government-run charity.  He even accused Andrew of advocating eugenics and genocide.  According to the polls, though, that’s not what had really hurt the Libertarians.  It was what Andrew had said, himself.

            Hank and Andrew then got their chances at rebuttal.  Then it was Andrew’s turn to present the Libertarian approach.  Andrew ignored his notes, mostly ad-libbing the whole thing.  Perhaps that was why he’d gone way too far.

            “As far as Senator Sockwell’s objections go,” he’d said, “Even if we decide that the State should eliminate suffering and death, the State can’t do it.  It’s just not possible.  The State ends up moving the suffering from here to there, and subsidizing and increasing it to boot.  We Libertarians aren’t naive.  We know that we’ve multiplied manifold, the masses of the poor, the wretched, and the helpless, through our misguided Nanny-State policies of the last half-century.  The Democrat-Republican duopoly has repeatedly failed to reform our welfare-state mess.

            “Every time we’ve discovered problems engendered by the Welfare Sate, we’ve tried to ‘fix’ them with yet more socialism and regulation, because any other choice is ‘mean spirited’.  We’ve never had the courage to figure out that welfare recipients are merely making a logical, simple economic choice of self-interest, in that it pays better, sooner, to just go on the dole, than to work, to develop skills.  We Libertarians, and we alone, have the courage to really fix the mess, by taking a meat cleaver to the Nanny State.  This kind of courage is what is required, in order to preserve democracy in the face of rampant decay and pathological dependence.”

            Andrew then dipped into his prepared notes just long enough to lift a quote.  “As a great Republican once said, way back in the days when Republicans stood for courage, freedom, and small government, ‘History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.’  Dwight Eisenhower said that.  To that we would add, ‘Nor to the stupid’.  We won’t be weak, timid, or stupid, because we love freedom.  Refusing to tear down the Nanny State, which is the result of social engineering by the left, on the basis that this is social engineering of the right, is an example of weakness, timidity, and stupidity.  We’ll tear it down, despite how this will lead to short-term suffering.  Freedom doesn’t offer any guarantees against suffering.  All such guarantees are false, anyway.

            “What policies do we have to offer, in the face of suffering?  Simply, freedom to work towards alleviating one’s own suffering, and that of one’s friends, family, and neighbors.  Freedom to work, without millions of lawyers and bureaucrats ‘protecting’ us.  Yes, we do have a large population that has never learned anything about how to handle real freedom and self-responsibility.  We have solutions for them, too.

            “We’ll let the very sick and the very old make their own decisions, in consultation with their families.  We won’t waste tens of billions in taxpayer funds, in preserving the lives of the terminally ill or the severely deformed, for a few more days or weeks.  They might not live as long, but they’ll die with dignity, in their own homes.  They and their families will even be able to—get this—buy their own painkillers and other drugs without lining the pockets of doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists.

            “Between a free market in drugs, and other policies, the old and the sick won’t linger in pain.  Remember, we advocate fully informing juries.  That means juries will often find laws to be unjust or misapplied.  That, in turn, will mean that, while technically such things might be called murder, we can take certain steps.  Poor parents would hardly ever be convicted for giving an overdose of painkiller to a suffering and severely deformed newborn, rather than giving up their jobs to take care of it, and risking starvation for the whole family, if they couldn’t find someone to adopt the baby.  Especially if we required any juror voting to convict such a parent to go to the nearest orphanage and adopt an unwanted child of the same kind.

            “Or, few juries would convict a doctor, for example, if he or she, with the permission of the parents, used an anencephalic baby for organ transplants.  For those of you who don’t know, an anencephalic baby lacks the higher brain centers required to feel pain, or to live more than a few weeks, at most.  Yet, it is murder to use the organs from one, to sustain the lives of others.  Quite literally a no-brainer, I’d say, that our lawyers, judges, and politicians still haven’t figured out.  I wonder who it really is, here, that lacks brains.

            “Oh, yes, many doctors and politicians say, allow us to harvest organs from anencephalic babies and convicts to be executed, and next thing you know, we’ll be chopping up totally innocent, healthy people.  I think we should apply the slippery slope theory to these lamebrains, and refuse to pay them a dime.  After all, they’ll soon be consuming the entire gross national product, and not leaving a penny for anyone else, if we give them that dime.

            “Nor would many juries convict a doctor or loved one for assisting a suffering terminal case towards death, with a morphine drip.  I’ll tell you a secret: it already happens anyway.  We just don’t talk about it honestly.  Doctors just say they’re medicating for pain, pain alone, and that’s all.

            “We don’t really need many new laws to cover this.  Juries would, of course, continue to convict any person who, for example, decided to snuff his wife because she had the sniffles, or a newborn who had the wrong color eyes.  All I’m saying is that we should put the power back into the hands of the jurors, and tell all the fancy lawyers and judges to buzz off.  All the laws that they claim make everything so objective, are applied in subjective manners, anyway.  One of many benefits of transforming juries back into tools of true democracy, would be that we could once again use common sense in deciding who lives and who dies, and how much dignity they die with.  And loved ones, rather than lawyers, judges, politicians, doctors, and socialists, would be doing the deciding.

            “Many of us are hypocrites.  We protest how infinitely valuable human life is, how we’ve got to spend millions on that preemie.  How we can’t punish the kids for the poverty of their parents, by refusing to extort money from the neighbors on their behalf.  But, a few yards on the other side of that border?   Those people?  Ha!  They’d better stay over there!  They didn’t earn the benefits we Americans earned, by being born here.

            “For a fraction of the ‘free’ socialistic funds that we spend, preserving the lives of preemies, the terminally ill, and the severely deformed, we could bring here, to lengthen their lives, all the ‘infinitely valuable’ human lives we could stand, and then some.  So, stop being hypocrites.  Including you hypocrites who vote for more laws requiring more socialism and more exacting building codes, thinking you’re helping the poor, defending them against the fearsome slum lords, at the same time as you vote for deed restrictions to keep the scum out of your uptowns.  They end up on the street, thanks to you, and all you do, is holler for more socialism.  Let a free people spend their own funds on their own charity choices.  Doing so would allow us to open our borders, since then, foreigners would be attracted to America to work, not to mooch.  A free society deserves open borders.

            “The truth of the matter is, what is really sacred to many of us, is the right to make other people’s charity choices.  I don’t begrudge you your right to infinitely value human life.  Just do it on your own dime, without hypocrisy, without stealing other people’s money.  Sad to say, economics applies to human life, the same as it applies to other things.  The Welfare State creates perverse, even monstrous, incentives.  A human life costs an irresponsible person nine months of unskilled human labor, and gains then food, shelter, money, and medical care.  It costs a stable, working couple the ‘opportunity costs’ of lost income—income which is desperately needed to fend off a rapacious socialist State.  They’ve got to choose between the ‘Mommy track’ or ‘Daddy track’ career, and giving up a lot of income; paying someone else to raise the kids, or, not having kids at all.  Then, we give them a very meager tax credit for having kids, and punish them for being married, if they both work.

            “When the reproductive decisions get made, when the genes get passed on, we taxpayers have no say.  When time comes to discipline the kids, we have no say.  Yet, comes time to pay the bills, suddenly they’re ‘our kids’.  The children are the future, the kids belong to the nation, it’s the nation’s responsibility to pay, they say.  Well, somebody has to pay for this party, and we’ll be paying for it, for years and years to come.

            “If we can stomach the fact that people on the other side of the globe are paying for their parents’ decisions to reproduce too many times, by starving, because they’re out of sight and out of mind, then maybe we can do the same with the people on the other side of town.  Or, if we can’t stomach that, maybe we can make private charity decisions, and decide for ourselves, whether or not there are magical distinctions between Americans and non-Americans.  In any case, we need to end coercive government subsidies of poverty-pimping bureaucrats, and return to a simple policy of freedom, where the one who earns the money, gets to decide which charity, if any, gets to spend it.

            “We’re trashing our best asset, which is the very quality of our population.  We’re perverting all the incentives, as far as who should reproduce, and who shouldn’t.  It’s time to suffer now, lest we have to suffer far more in the future, when this house of cards collapses.  It’s time to return to a simpler system, where your reproductive choices aren’t my responsibility, unless I want them to be.”

            What an uncouth dimwit!  How could Andrew have been so stupid, as to say such things!  There’d been Hell to pay.  Not that Chuck or Hank minded that, of course.  Hank and Bruce both hammered him, and hammered him good.  Defenseless people who don’t contribute to society?  Hey, just knock ‘em off!  What they said basically boiled down to, “So, now the Libertarians are advocating extermination as well as eugenics and social Darwinism.  The only difference between you and the Nazis, is that you advocate private as opposed to public-sponsored genocide.  And, you don’t even value motherhood!  How could you promote such monstrous ideas?!”

            Between that, and the accusations that the Libertarians were hypocrites, for taking people’s freedoms away from them, in the name of freedom, and then accusing others of doing the same—well, they took a fair dip in the polls.  Not that Chuck had ever really sweated it, anyway.  The public was smart enough to know when their government benefits were in real jeopardy.

            The debates had gone on to letting Hank give his prepared spiel, on what should be done with all the various manifestations and infestations of the Welfare State.  He described the Republican special treatment plan for those incapable of taking care of themselves, that had largely been drawn up by Senator Sondra B. Handlung.  Many Republicans were quite fond of Sondra and her ideas.  In fact, there’d been a lot of discussion of making her the Vice Presidential candidate.  Hank had squelched the idea; after all, the Bible said women were supposed to follow men, not the other way around.  Chuck wasn’t so convinced that this had been a wise idea.  He, along with so many other Republicans, liked what she had to say.

            Basically, what the Republicans proposed, was facilities (not poorhouses, mind you!  And, certainly not camps) for those who couldn’t take care of themselves.  Churches, businesses, and social workers would organize the activities, businesses would provide work for those capable of working, and government would provide administration, supervision, and some funds.  Adults and adolescents would be segregated by sex, strictly, except for supervised activities.  No illegitimate babies allowed!  On the other hand, no sterilization, either.  After all, Republicans aren’t Nazis, like a certain party we could mention.  Women who were already mothers upon entering the facilities would be allowed to interact with their babies—in group day care settings only, though.

            Andrew and Bruce, in turn, had picked at Hank’s proposal, with various silly objections.  Chuck watched as the rowdy Republicans in the room objected (to put it mildly) to the objections.  He soon had his fill of watching the discs, and wandered back into the ballroom.  As it turned out, he was just in time to watch the grand arrival of Senator Hank N. Kreutz and his wife, Mildred, and the Vice Presidential candidate, Brian Corning, and his wife, ol’ what’s-her-face.  They all strutted towards the stage and its giant American flags, acknowledging the wild applause.

            Chuck noticed that Hank’s strut looked vaguely like a waddle.  As if his posterior hurt, for some reason.  Chuck watched curiously.  Come to think of it, he always acts like that, after he goes home for a while.  And he sits so gingerly.  As if he catches hemorrhoids whenever he goes home.  Yes, he has been known, occasionally, in an unguarded moment, to remark that his wife is a pain in the ass.  Surely he doesn’t mean that literally!?  Ah, shucks, Chuck concluded, the ways of Senator Kreutz, like those of God Himself, are inscrutable.

     The candidates proceeded through the cheering crowd and the fountains of praise gushing from the loudspeakers.  Chuck could barely understand any of those words of praise; all that he knew was that they were being uttered by the Hank N. Kreutz Campaign Chairman, Morgan D. Ganzewelte.

            Chuck briefly watched Brian Corning.  He wasn’t impressed.  Chuck regarded him as just another vacant pretty boy, an empty suit, a yes man.  One who would support the boss, and not upstage him.  Like Dave Bose; just a lot more important.  Higher in the food chain.  Not a contributor, not an idea person, like Sondra B. Handlung, for example.

            Speaking of Sondra... there she is!  Chuck watched her go up to the stage and pay her respects.  Quite a lady, Chuck mused.  Too bad Hank hadn’t been smarter about his choice of veeps.  After Hank’s mercifully short speech, and after the important people made their rounds, Chuck, too, went up to the stage to wish Hank and Brian good luck.

            Chuck made his way back to the now-crowded floor, and settled in to start watching the results pouring in from all over the country, starting in the East, of course.  Results were nip and tuck.  They stayed that way, teetering back and forth, all night long.  Bruce and Hank traded places in the lead, with Andrew bringing up a semi-distant rear.  Despite the long-standing voter inclinations against third parties, the Libertarians were actually getting some electoral votes!

            It was one-thirty by the time the results were clear enough.  Hank had lost.  Hank dragged himself to the podium to make a quasi-gracious concession speech.  Dejected and dreading another four years of godless, even demonic, Democratic “leadership”, Chuck traipsed off to his hotel room, and hit the sack.

            Chuck woke the next day, and checked his messages.  The boss’s secretary had left one, saying that Hank wanted to take a short vacation, to gather his thoughts.  He’d be back on Monday, and Chuck and the gang were free to take it easy till then.  So, Chuck lounged around that morning, recouped his energies, and checked out shortly before noon.  By that time, he was feeling much better.  He wouldn’t have to face big changes, including scuffling over cabinet positions under President Kreutz.  The campaign was over; life could return to a slower pace.  Best of all, maybe another four years of liberal-inspired idiocy would, once and for all, persuade the voters to wake up and smell the dead, decaying donkey.  Life wasn’t so bad, even if dingalings won elections too often.  He decided he’d head for the office, clean up and organize a bit, and then head home for a long weekend.

            Halfway though the afternoon, he was cleaning up his office and files.  All that election-related stuff that he didn’t need anymore—into the shredder!  Or, the bit bucket, as the case may be.  Simplify, simplify, simplify—the three keys to happiness, he mused, whistling while he worked.

            That was when Dave Bose happened to walk by, carrying his briefcase.  He marched into his office, setting the briefcase down with what appeared to Chuck to be a bit of self-importance.  “My, aren’t you the cheerful one today?” Dave commented.  He grabbed himself a chair.  “So, what are you up to?  Didn’t they tell you to take it easy till Monday?”  What’s Dave saying?  Chuck asked himself.  Maybe something like, “Chuck, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re that essential to the boss, that you’ve got to be here on your off time.  That’s only true of really important people, like me, for example.”  I’ll bet that bum’s on some Secret Mission for the boss, again.  Wants me to ask him what he’s up to, so that he can brag that he can’t tell me.  Subtly, of course, by just being real vague.  Well, I’ll get his goat.  I’ll not ask him.

            “Oh, I’m just in, cleaning up a bit, and organizing my office and files and whatnot, now that the elections are over,” Chuck offered.  “Just puttering a bit, you might say.  You know, you can get a lot done, sometimes, when there’s not a whole bunch of other people around to distract you.”

            “So, what puts you in such a good mood?” Dave persisted.  “Didn’t they tell you that we lost?”

            Oh, just... no, that’s not Christian... grow up a bit, will you, Dave?, Chuck thought to himself.  Aloud, he said, “Look on the bright side of life.  The people have spoken.  Now, maybe they’ll learn what you get for electing a flock of weasels.  Maybe they’ll learn better, for next time.  There’s always hope.  Meanwhile, there’s not much we can accomplish by being grumpy.  At least, surely, speaking purely for my own humble self, I’m not going to change things by being a grump.  I’m going to do what little I can, and putter a bit.  Come Monday, maybe I can be a better, more organized public servant for the Senator.  Help him do his job for the next four years, best as I can.  And, meantime, be happy with what God has wrought.”

            “Ha!  What the Demon-crats have wrought, you mean!” Dave asserted.  “Well, I’ve got to hit the road.  Important things to do.  No time to yak,” he said, hefting his briefcase.  He was just about out of sight, outside the door and down the hall, when he turned back to smirk.  “You know what you are?” he asked.  “A puttering putz of positivity!”  Guffawing, he strode away.

            Chuck finished up his work, in a mood more to the sour end of the pH scale.  Damn Dave and his superior, smirking ass!, he thought, despite the fact that he regarded such thoughts as un-Christian.  He headed home for a long weekend, resolving to forget about work for a little while.

            However, Friday night, he got a call from none other than Dave.  “What’s up, Dave?” he replied curtly to Dave’s cheery greeting.

            “What’s up, Chuck, is that we want you to do your usual magic with charts, graphs, and talking bullets and stuff.  I’ve got some data that Hank and I and various sources have rounded up, about the elections and stuff.  We’ve got a Monday morning quarterbacking meeting set up, and Hank wants his presentation aids to show to all the consultants and such.  I’ve forwarded that data to you.  We need it made presentable.  I’ve attached some notes as to what we need.”

            Oh, cripes, there goes my weekend, Chuck thought.  “Okay, I’ll be in there tomorrow, and forward my work to Hank.  I’ll get it in by the end of the day tomorrow.  When’s the big meeting on Monday?”

            “Oh, don’t you worry about that,” Dave’s image smiled.  “Hank says you should take the day off on Monday, what with your having to work tomorrow.  I’ll help with the meeting.”

            Ha!  You mean, you’re invited and I’m not, nanny-nanny-doo-daah.  I get to grunt over charts and graphs, while you help with the important stuff.  Okay, I can handle it.  “Okay, well, you guys have fun, then,” is about all that Chuck had to say.  He moved to cut the switch.  “Goodni...”

            “Wait, that’s not all,” Dave protested.  “We want the special data, too.  Take a look at the notes I’ve attached, and you’ll see what I mean.  And, forward your work to me.  And your questions, if you have any.  Hank doesn’t want to be disturbed, this weekend.”

            “Okay, goodnight,” Chuck replied, and hung up.  Now, it was Chuck’s turn to be disturbed.  Dave’s cutting in between me and the boss, he thought.  Carving himself a new niche in the food chain, above me, even more so than before.

            And, the special data?  Is that, THE special data?  Hank told me to give that to no one other than himself.  But he doesn’t want disturbed this weekend—or, at least, so says Dave.  Is Hank really going to go off and present this material, for Christ’s sake?  Is Hank getting awfully fast and loose, these days?  Or—surely not!  Surely Dave wouldn’t think he could get away with it!  Is Dave just saying this, to get the data from me, for his own purposes, unbeknownst to Hank?  Well—maybe I shouldn’t rule that out, he thought.  Dave’s a loud-mouthed conniver, after all.

            Oh, quit being paranoid!, Chuck told himself.  It’s probably not that special data, anyway.  And if it is, I’ll just have to mention it, casually, to Hank, sometime, that I gave it to Dave, on the off chance that Dave’s up to some tricks.  Easy solution, and something that one wouldn’t think Dave would risk.  Although, you never know how stupid some people can be.  Chuck got back to watching the show, with his wife and seven-year-old boy, and then hit the sack.  It wasn’t the most restful night he’d ever had, though; that was for sure.

            He got up early on Saturday, and got to the office much faster than usual, what with the traffic being so light.  He got his answer soon enough, there on the secure government network.  Dave had forwarded data and notes to there, rather than to Chuck’s home, for security.  Dave had, indeed, meant THE special data.

            The special data was detailed demographic data that Hank’s friends had managed to spring loose from five of the seven cybervoting States, quite illegally, to be sure.  Chuck let out a low whistle, then got to work.  Gotta be a good servant to God’s good servant, he figured.  At least, he was reassured to see that Dave’s notes included instructions on how to get the special data.  That meant that Dave was authorized.  Not that Chuck would really, really, really have doubted that too much.  It was good to see, though, that Dave had had the good sense to put him at ease.  Or, maybe, more likely, he’s just playing good politics, Chuck mused.  Wouldn’t want me to try to score points with the boss, by being totally literal on Hank’s my eyes only command, and calling him for clearance before giving it to Dave.

            Chuck didn’t really need Dave’s instructions; he knew all about how to get the data.  Still, it was nice to have them, right there, all written up, and all.  Except for the special passwords, which Chuck fetched from his protected files, in short order.  He got out onto ONLINE, found the account, and punched in all the codes.  Finally, the computer asked him for his handprints.  He dashed over to the printer room, logged in again, and put his right hand on the special machine.  He squirmed his hand around a bit, to show the machine that it was looking at living flesh, rather than a hardcopy of his handprint, and then waited.  He was slightly surprised to see that it took the account a full five minutes to analyze his handprint; Hank’s friends must be playing it extremely safe, he thought.

            The data reached Chuck soon enough.  He charted, graphed, and commented the data that Dave had sent him first.  He’d done that particular kind of data often enough before, so it went pretty fast.  Then, he moved on to the detailed demographic data from the recent elections.  He pushed aside his worries about what he was doing, and what would happen if it ever got out that he was involved in such things.  He just did the best that he could, to make sense of it all, and to highlight the most striking correlations he could find in the data.  Fortunately, he had some powerful programs, and a lot of experience doing these things, so he was able to finish his tasks by four that afternoon.  He wrapped it up, forwarded it to Dave’s account, and headed home.

            He spent a lot of time worrying about things that night.  What if they ever got busted?  That’s a real concern, what with Dave having such a big mouth, he thought.  And, even Hank gets a bit slipshod sometimes.  What’ll happen to my career?  Hell, I could even get stuck in the slammer!  And, I’m getting cut off.  I don’t even know what Hank’s up to these days.  How am I supposed to make up my mind, as to what to do about all this, if I don’t even know what’s going on?  Is this risk all worth it, for a good cause?

            How good is the Senator’s cause, anyway?  I mean, it’s obviously better than the Democrat’s cause, or the Libertarian cause, but... are there maybe some better Republicans out there these days?  Is Hank getting to be too much of a sleazebucket?  Is it time to bail out?  It sure would be nice to have some more data.  It would be nice, for example, to be a fly on the wall, come Monday’s meeting.

            Now, there’s an idea!  Sleazy, but perhaps the best way to fight sleaze is with more sleaze.  But, I know almost as well as anyone else, they’ve got that teleconference room anti-bugged, debugged, deloused, and soundproofed, nine ways to Monday.  And, I sure ain’t no spy wizard, nor do I know much about electronics.  Just enough to play with computers, telephones, and stereos.  Still, I’ve got a big step up on an outside spy, in that I’ve got free run of everything except the private offices.  Hmmm.... what could I get away with?  Hang out in a closet?  Hardly likely, even if there was a closet in the conference room.

            Chuck set aside the matter for the moment, caught up on his magazines, and drank some wine.  Occasionally, he’d ponder a bit.

            The solution came to him in the shower on Sunday morning.  The best way to fight high tech, he decided, was with low tech.  None of their fancy gizmos would stand a chance against him!  He rounded up two tin cans, two large buttons, and some of his son’s monofilament fishing line.  He punched a hole in the bottom of each of the tin cans, and stuck everything in his briefcase.  “I’m sorry, honey, I just realized I’ve got more to do at work,” he apologized to his wife.  He resolved he’d never burden her with these adventures of his.  How would he explain to her that, on Monday, he’d be at work, but she didn’t dare call him?  Well, I’ll think of something, he thought.  He kissed his protesting bride, and hurried out the door.

            At the office, he worked fast and efficiently.  First, he logged in and transferred a few files, so that it would look like he’d been in there doing respectable work, just in case anyone looked at both the off-times building-entry logs and the computer logs.  Then, he started his job in a utility and maintenance room three rooms away from the conference room.  He knew that no one came there, except on weekends when special jobs needed to get done—this wasn’t such a weekend, fortunately—and during emergencies.  On Monday, he’d jam the lock, while he stayed in there, to be safe.

            Still, it wouldn’t hurt to find a hidden spot, even in this hidden room.  He found one in a corner, behind a wiring box, and got to work.  He suspended one tin can in midair, using the fishing line, so that it’s vibrations wouldn’t be dampened by contact with anything solid.  He pushed the end of the long spool of line through the hole in the can, and tied it to a button.

            Then, holding the spool and unfurling the line, he scampered up into the crawlspaces in the middle of the air ducts, wires, and cables, up above the offices.  Wherever the line would have to make a turn, he’d pull it tight, then tie it, with other pieces of line, to suspend it, without it ever being dampened by direct contact with anything solid.  He worked his way over to the teleconference room, then paused to catch his breath.

            Okay, so far so good, he thought.  Now what?  If I punch a hole in this soundproofing foam, someone will see it later, and maybe get suspicious.  I don’t know... maybe we’ll just have to make a hole, and make it look like somebody did it by accident, with a maintenance tool of some kind.  Let’s see, how tough is this stuff... Pretty tough!  And, apparently, pretty thick.  That’d be some “accident”.  We’ll have to do better.  Let’s see, now...

            He crawled out of the crawlspaces, brushed himself off real good, in case anyone should see him, and ventured out into the hallway.  He let himself into the conference room and turned on a hologram disc player.  He turned the sound up to the level of a normal speaking voice, and hurried back to the crawlspaces.  Gotta work fast, he urged himself.  The unattended disc player might attract attention.  He could scarcely hear a thing.

            He noticed that some of the air ducts, which traversed the soundproofing foam, vibrated with the sound from the conference room.  Apparently, some of the ducts didn’t touch the foam enough to dampen the vibrations.  They were constructed out of a lightweight, flexible plastic or fiberglass material, and should be easy to drill through, he thought.  If the bottom of a tin can vibrates like an eardrum in the presence of sound, transmitting sound through a string, then a duct could serve the same purpose.  He touched the ducts here and there, and found a good spot.  He marked it with his pocket knife, and hurried back to the conference room, to shut off the disc player.

            Then, working from the crawlspaces once more, he punched a small hole in the duct, and fed the fishing line through it.  Once more, he returned to the conference room, found the end of the line, and tied a button to it.  Once more returning to the crawlspaces, he tightened the line.  Finally, he tied off the excess line and cut it, and tied other pieces of line to it in a few more places, so that the entire assembly hung tightly suspended in midair, transmitting sound from one vibrating surface to another.

            He returned to the maintenance room again, brushed himself off, and caught his breath, thinking, I’m too old for this.  It’s a good thing that I have a kid, and that I play with simple, homemade science toys with him on occasion.  Even grownups learn useful things from such activities.  Now, if this toy will just work half decently...

            He returned to turn the disc player on once again, and then scurried back to his listening post.  He listened for only a few seconds, which was long enough to convince him that the sound was way too weak and distorted to be worth messing with.  Shit!, he thought, all this for nothing?!  All this sweat and dirt, messing around in the crawlspaces, for nothing?!  Time to go right back, and tear it all down?  Live with Dave and Hank doing all sorts of who-knows-what-kinds of shady deals, without me knowing about it, and getting us all into trouble?  Nah—let’s think about this a bit first.  He returned to the conference room and turned the disc player off.  Then, he sat in the maintenance room, contemplating his contraption.

            So, shall I augment this mess with some electronics?, he wondered.  Shall I bring in a microphone, an amplifier, and headphones?  Still, that distortion sounded awful!  We’d be degrading the signal yet one more time.  I have no idea how their anti-bugging technology works.  Maybe they could detect my electronics, even at this distance.  What to do?  Well, let’s leave this mess here for now, go home, and think about it.  He locked everything up, and returned to his office.  There, he transferred some files again, and hit the road back home.

            On the way home, he did a bit of thinking.  Okay... so, what other science toys have the kid and I played with, that might be used here?  Something simple, without electronics.  Something... yes!  That’s it!  A stethoscope!  Place a stethoscope to the receiving tin can?  Wouldn’t we get yet more distortion, once more?  Wait.  What is a stethoscope, anyway?  All it does is pick up vibrations, funnel them down to a narrow tube, and transmit them to the eardrums.

            When he got home, he dug up a funnel, some duct tape, and a stethoscope.  Back at work, he augmented his rig by tearing the membrane off of the stethoscope and adapting the tin can to the ‘scope, using the funnel and the duct tape.  The vibrations would now be channeled, with very little loss, directly to his eardrums.

            He went through the exercise of testing his contraption yet again.  This time, the sound quality was much improved.  Like, man, we’re really channeling those vibes, now, dudes, groovy!  Triumphantly, he prepared to head home.

            On the way home again, he did some more thinking.  Let’s see... the off-hours building entry/departure logs shut down at six in the morning, and re-open at eight at night, and I’ll want to slip in and out, without anyone seeing me there on my day off.  Use the doors and elevators at the opposite end of the building from where I usually go, so the guards won’t recognize me.  If any of the staff do see me, it’s not the end of the world—I had left something here that I needed, or, I’m a total workaholic, and came for some files.  Not too implausible, at all.  But, they sure can’t see me going into or out of that room—especially with my little rig in there.  I’ve got to cut it down, before I go back home.  And, I sure can’t risk someone hearing me scuffling around, above the ceiling.  Ergo, it’s an all-day affair.  Cut it down after seven in the evening, and get out before eight.

            That afternoon he explained to his wife that he’d have to go to work early on Monday, stay all day long, and come home at eight or so.  And, that she couldn’t call him, or beep him in anything less than a life-and-death emergency.  And, that if anyone—ANYONE—from work called, he was out fishing, and couldn’t be reached.  Or, at least, he tried to explain it to her.  He ended up telling her that it was a top-secret mission, that he couldn’t say anything more, and that she had to trust him.  He sure hoped she didn’t think he was seeing some young wild thang for the day, but there wasn’t much else he felt that he could say.

            Feeling like a thief in the night, he slunk into the room at six thirty, jammed the lock, and settled in for a long stay.  He’d brought a book to keep boredom away, but, between the dim lighting (he didn’t want to risk turning on the brights, for fear of someone noticing through the cracks around the door) and his guilt and fear, he didn’t read more than a few pages.  He sat there and stewed in his emotions.  He decided that his fear was pretty well unfounded, since he was being so careful.  Still, it persisted.  His guilt?  Well, what is there, really, to be guilty about, he wondered.  What they don’t know that I know, won’t hurt them.  And, it could save my hide!  As long as I don’t do something bad with it, what does it matter, just exactly what information I have, anyway?

            Seemingly forever later, but only shortly before ten, things began to stir in the teleconference room.  Chuck listened as Dave and Hank started setting up and preparing to call the participants.  “Don’t forget,” Hank said, “We’ve got to keep Howard and Joe in the receive-only mode till we get the consultants off of the line.”

            Howard and Joe?, Chuck wondered.  That wouldn’t be Howard Niedermeyer, chief of LORD, and Joseph Smallwood, the head of the Bible Youth, now, would it?  Surely, they wouldn’t risk letting the media get ahold of this kind of thing, now, would they?  But, if it wasn’t them, then why would they be hiding them from the consultants?  Oh, be patient, Chuck told himself.  Time will tell, soon enough.

            After opening pleasantries, the Monday-morning quarterbacking session was fully engaged.  As best as Chuck could determine, attendees were (in addition to Hank and Dave, and the unseen Howard and Joe) the Reverend Pat Smuckler, Heinrich Lubyankavich (CEO of the Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation), two political consultants named Professor Cyrus Liptrot and Doctor Manfred P. Laite, and, interestingly enough, Sondra B. Handlung.  This was especially interesting, in view of the fact that Brian Corning was not there.

            An explanation wasn’t long in coming.  Dave was presenting various charts and graphs and such, when the subject of Vice Presidential candidates came up.  He must be showing the one about voters not liking that lightweight weenie, Brian Corning, Chuck concluded.  “Oh, yes,” Hank interjected, “For those of you who don’t know, yet, I’m firmly committing to run again, in four years.  That’s not official yet, of course.  I certainly don’t plan to lose next time.  Anyway, we’ll have a stronger team next time.  Sondra—Senator Handlung—has agreed to run with me.”

            Chuck heard Sondra start to object.  “Barring...”

            “That is, barring unforeseen developments,” Hank finished for her.  Yeah, I understand, Chuck thought.  Like, unless Hank’s star sinks a lot, in the polls.  Or, of course, if Sondra’s should somehow manage to rise a bunch, with the righteous crowd, despite the Biblical injunctions against women getting too big for their britches.  Or, maybe, despite the bad taste that Republican President Anne Jacobs had left in the voters’ mouths, a few years back, when she’d actually dared to get too serious about cutting middle-class entitlements.

            Dave finished showing his data.  He didn’t show any of the special data, though, apparently for fear of the consultants wanting to know where it came from.  Finally, Hank concluded by asking the consultants what they thought, big-picture-wise, of the elections.  “Why don’t we start with you, Doctor Laite,” Hank said.

            “Manny.  Just call me Manny,” he objected.  He went on to say a whole bunch of nothing, how he “didn’t necessarily disagree” with this that and the other that Hank had said, during his campaign, and other generalities, interlaced with praise for Hank’s campaign effort.

            Hank had finally heard enough.  “Okay, great.  Just great.  So, we ran a wonderful campaign.  So, tell me why we lost.  What did we do wrong?”

            “Well, the one thing I’ve seen quite a bit, in polls, editorials, and such, is that, well, um...”  Chuck could just see this guy’s image, trying to weasel a way of saying something without saying it.

            “Oh, come on, now, out with it!”  Hank demanded.  “I don’t pay you to stroke me.  Tell me what you think.”

            “Sir, the voters are tired of seeing half of their taxes go to the interest on the debt, and most of the rest going to entitlements.  Despite all of our wonderful balanced budget laws and amendments, that say we’ll balance it, some sunny day.  Without touching this, that, and the other entitlements, of course.  And, they’re tired of politicians who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.  Or, at least, that is, those who aren’t getting the entitlements feel this way.  The Democrats are getting most of the votes of those who are getting the entitlements, and the rest of the votes are split between the Republicans and the Libertarians.  Of the latter, way too many of them are voting Libertarian, because they simply don’t think that Republicans are serious about cutting the size of government.  You’ll have to convince them that you’re serious.”

            “Yet, all the polls say that the voters are in favor of cutting the budget—except for their slice of the pie,” Hank objected.  “And, you recall what happened to Anne Jacobs, when she tried to make real cuts.  We all know how much of a sacred cow Social Security still is, despite how one has to hide one’s wealth, or squander it, in order to qualify.  So, what gives?  Which way out?”

            Manny went right back to weaseling, telling Hank that he should keep right on doing what he was doing, except, do it better.  Do it more convincingly, he said.  Do it with even more authority.  Do it with a better image, better spin.

            Soon enough, it was Professor Liptrot’s turn.  He was far more to the point.  “Sir,” he said, “Manny’s got his points, there, but I have no real solutions either.  You can’t have your people’s pork and eat it too.  And you can’t out-libertarian the Libertarians.  The best you can do is offer a moderate, half-way position, somewhere between total individualism, and Marxism.  Halfway between the Libertarians and Democrats.  There’s a lot of voters out there who want to keep most of their money, but who also don’t want to watch people starve.  Voters who want individual incentive and responsibility, with at least a reasonable safety net.  Stake out a reasonable, responsible middle position, and you’ll get their votes.

            “The other major factors that I see, are two things, fairly strongly interrelated.  They are, fear of religious intolerance, and a distaste for your strong stance against biotechnology.  Now, I respect your beliefs.  I have no desire to tell you what to believe.  And, your unequivocal stance against the violence employed by the Bible Youth, in their campaign against evolutionism, was certainly commendable.  Still, I’ll tell you flat out—the public associates you with the Bible Youth, regardless of how often you point out that you’re not their boss, or even a member.  If it hadn’t been for the big scandal, this fall, about Kite and the Chinese War, then—well, I think that all the press coverage of the Bible Youth activities would have been that much greater.  And there’d have been that much more damage  to you.

            “You’ve got to tone it down.  I know it gets you some points, with... well, never mind.  Let me just say, the points you lose, are more than the points you gain.  You’ve got to tone it down, if you want to win.  I mean, lines like, when you said, ‘God, guns, and guts made America great, and Satan, sin, and socialism are tearing her down’.  A lot of voters get awfully squeamish when they start hearing about God and Satan from politicians.

            “Then, there’s biotechnology, and your line about offering the people ‘freedom from bestiality’.  They’re not buying it.  A lot of people, including ones who won’t admit it to poll-takers, would love to be able to have smart, cute, healthy babies.  They’re willing to go to some lengths to have those babies, that you don’t approve of.  I know how you feel.  I’m just telling you, your stance isn’t helping you, with a lot of people.  Here, again, you might want to tone it down.  Despite all the horrors of the Chinese War, biotechnology has done a lot of good, and will continue to do so.  I mean, ABC, Phil Schrock, and all the things they’ve done, besides the weapons efforts.  They just got a lot of good press on how they’re developing those ecosystems for mining, and cleaning up radioactive wastes, you know.  The public is willing to forgive, if not forget, all the bad things, when they see good things.”

            Chuck knew how much Hank hated ABC, biotechnology, and Phil Schrock.  So he was surprised to see that Hank didn’t get all steamed up, and yell at Cyrus.  He just thanked him for his opinions, and asked for more!

            The only other advice that Cyrus had, was that the next time would almost definitely be Hank’s last decent chance.  It would have to be all or nothing, he said, because soon, that new amendment would kick in.  The Cross-Voting Amendment only needed to be ratified by a few more States, and then, Hank probably would lose his Senate seat.  This amendment allowed voters to vote for one Senator and one Representative in any district or State, in addition to their own candidates.

            This provision was intended to allow voters to get rid of big, powerful ‘people’s porkers’ who brought more than their fair share of bacon home to their own districts.  It would also have the effect of allowing a minority of voters, nationwide, to vote out of office, anyone sufficiently controversial to attract a lot of attention.  That is, where large numbers of voters gang up on a candidate who they feel strongly against, there often won’t be enough voters committed to supporting that candidate, in this arrangement.  The polls said that the ‘cross-votes’ would, indeed, be ‘cross’; they’d be, by and large, votes against certain politicians, not for their opponents!  Cyrus was of the opinion that Hank would be a prime target, and that, after losing his Senate seat, he’d be a lot less able to run successfully for President.

            There was a bit more prognosticating, philosophizing, and theologizing (compliments of the Reverend Pat Smuckler), and then, with thanks from Hank, the two political consultants signed off.  Okay, here comes the good stuff, Chuck mused.  And, they’re keeping Sondra on line?  She’s in this, now, too?  They trust her this much?  Well, I guess that’s good for the cause.  Still, every time one more person is in on all this stuff... the risks increase.  Including, the risks to me.

            Howard and Joe joined the show.  “Hey, Howard!  Hey, Joe!” Hank welcomed them.  “Did you hear that?  It’s not bad enough, that ol’ Kite, that bastard, is going to get off, as soon as Bruce gets into office, and grants him a pardon—General Leech is retired now, and practically unscathed, so far—who knows, maybe he’ll get a pardon soon, too—now, they want us to ‘forgive and forget’ the entire triumvirate!  Schrock-Leech-Kite!  I mean, this demonic biotechnology crap!  Eighteen million dead Americans isn’t enough?!  We have to go for more?  Nazi-style ‘Master Race’ crap, and gene-splicing animal genes into peoplebestiality, for Christ’s sake—is next, and we’re supposed to forgive and forget?”

            This amused Chuck, because he recalled that Hank, during the early parts of the Chinese War, had been chomping at the bit, wanting the bioweapons unleashed.  Get our money’s worth out of all those research dollars, he’d said.  Save the lives of American soldiers!

            “Well, I’ll tell you what,” Hank continued, “There’s one part of the Schrock-Leech-Kite triumvirate that’s not going to get off so easy, and that’s the brains behind this whole mess.  It’s the one whose siren songs about the wonders of biotechnology are seducing the masses towards bestiality and Satanism.  I don’t care how often he apologizes for having bats in his belfry, I want him dead.  D-E-A-D, dead.  He’s gone off and committed the unforgivable sin, cursing God with biotechnological blasphemy.

            “Howard, I want something to happen to Phil.  Got that?  No hurry, though.  No clumsy foolishness, like some of your yokels and voters with the wrong bumper stickers.  Bide your time, and do it right.”

            “Yes Sir,” Chuck heard Howard reply.  Holy shit!  What the Hell are we getting into now, Chuck wondered.

            Some image in the conference room must have squirmed, fidgeted, or otherwise shown discomfort, because Hank went on to say, “Oh, don’t worry about it.  It’s worth the risk.  If we do it carefully, that is.  Take our good ol’ time, and do it right.  He and ABC are cooking up some crap that’s got to be stopped.  You know, we’ve heard they’re developing some super-duper whiz-bang computer, that’s actually supposed to be fully conscious, and far superior to the human brain.  No telling what sort of blasphemy they’ll cook up next, with a thing like that.

            “But our sources tell us that they’re specifically intending to do a thorough analysis of the human genome, and to mass-automate the ‘improvement’ of God’s work, which is to say, they want to make genetic engineering cheap and affordable to the masses.  They’ve got to be stopped!  No wimpy crap here, now.  Moderation in the pursuit of righteousness is no virtue.  The only thing required for the triumph of evil, is for good men—and women-,” he added, in apparent deference to Sondra’s image, “to do nothing.  So, let’s do something to stop the evil.  Let’s stop Phil Schrock.  Let’s take the Schrock out of Schrock-Leech-Kite for once and for all, as he claims he wants to do.  We’ll just help him a little bit.”

            Wow!, thought Chuck.  Heady stuff!  He barely listened, as the meeting continued.  They went over the special data, but it was old hat to Chuck; after all, he’d prepared those charts and graphs.  He was busy thinking about what all sorts of things Hank was getting into.

            The meeting was over soon enough.  Hank signed off by thanking them all for their participation, and by reminding them all that next time, they were NOT going to lose.  The future of God’s Kingdom on Earth, nothing less, was in question, and they couldn’t let God down, the Reverend Pat Smuckler assured them in their farewell prayer.  Chuck had all afternoon and early evening to just sit there and think.  At seven, he tore down his contraption, and at eight, he slunk out of the building, and headed home.  He concluded that Hank had to do what Hank had to do, although his thoughts were sorely troubled.  One of these days, he worried, Hank is going to go too far.  And, I obviously can’t warn him about things that I’m not supposed to know about.  All this could get dangerous.  Hell, it could even ruin my career!


 

CHAPTER  8

            “We trained hard—but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized.  I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”

                                                 Petronius Arbiter  (Greek Navy, 210 B. C.)

 

            Robert Herron, the head of NASA’s robotics department, left the teleconference room in a blue funk.  He wasn’t going to be the head of robotics much longer.  The big cheese, Lloyd Salley, had just announced another reorganization.  Oh, not to worry, he’d said.  All the managers are still managers.  We’ve just reshuffled the responsibilities, and created a few new offices.  We’re just reorganizing according to objectives instead of technologies.

            So, now I get to the chief cook and bottle-washer for Jemison base logistics, he thought.  Fight over budgets, forms, and requisitions.  Just once in a while, whenever I can fend off the bureaucrats, I’ll still be able to be involved in robotics.  So, that’s why I strained my brain all these years, learning robotics?  Give me a break!

            I wish I could just return to doing real work.  Like, design work.  But, then, it’s up or out.  Can’t make the real bucks designing things; gotta invent better forms and procedures, if you want to get some place, and be somebody.  If I told them I want a cut in pay, and a return to the lab, they’d show me the door.  I’m a manager now, so I’ve got to be responsible.  Designing things isn’t being responsible; only fighting over office politics fits the definition.

            He strolled on back to his office, thinking more dejected thoughts.  Let’s see, he thought.  This is about strike three for them, all in a short time.  First, they reject all practicality, and commit to a manned (oops! Staffed), rather than robotic, expedition to Mars.  Gotta keep up with the international Joneses.  Keeping up is more important than being sensible, and getting “bang for the buck”.  International prestige over quantity of knowledge gained.

            Speaking of the Joneses, he thought, that’s strike two.  They appointed LeRoy Jones, that loudmouth, politically correct—Hell, more like, politically perfect—Black, for a primary astronaut slot, for our three crewpersons on the international crew.  Never mind that there were other, more qualified candidates, including, even, other Blacks—okay, well, they look black to me—who just didn’t score as high with the goddamn ethnic purity panel, or whatever they call themselves.  The other guys and gals?  Well, a few of them may have looked black, but they sure didn’t act black.  Didn’t attend African-American immersion schools.  Hell, some even checked the mixed race square, instead of the African-American square, or even went so far as to speak out (albeit quietly) against the system, saying they wanted to be considered on their own merits!

            One of these days, they’re going to detect my heretical thoughts, and bust me good, Bob mused.  Then, I’ll be in real trouble!  Oh, well.  I’ll tell them I approve of their Hispanic/female token, at least.  Maria Herrara is quite sharp, and I’ve got a lot of respect for her.  I’ll not get any points for respecting the third American crewperson, though—the one who barely made it, only after they decided not to totally overcompensate for the other nations’ crewmembers’ lack of diversity, for fear of pissing off the “angry white men”.  Alan Sanders is sharp, too.  I just hope he and Maria can pull part of LeRoy’s weight, so that we Americans won’t look too bad, Bob concluded to himself.

            Now, of course, here’s strike three.  Re-org, yet once more.  An orgy of re-orgs, you could say.  What’s management doing these days, you ask?  Oh, hey, we’re getting a lot accomplished!  We’re reorganizing, can’t you see?

            So, is it, like, time to look for another job, Bob asked himself, briefly.  God knows the civilians don’t have to go in for half as much political crap as we do.  Nah!  I’m way too old to be moving and switching jobs, he concluded.  Besides, always look on the bright side of life.  Exciting things going on.  And, they will let me continue to play with robotics, now and then.  Or, at least, so they say.  Can’t lose my expertise, they say.  Hope they’re not fibbing too much.

            Bob’s thoughts brightened considerably, as he considered the new and exciting things that were going on.  Why, just the other day, Kurt Katapski, an old acquaintance of his, had called from ABC, and asked some tantalizing questions.  How would Bob like to have access to an awesomely powerful machine, he’d asked.  How would he like to be able to mess with a machine capable of playing cosmic billiards, and putting mineral-rich asteroids into near-Earth, or near-Moon, orbits, he asked.  With very little energy and money expended, he added.  Just use some extremely complicated orbits and collisions, he said.

            This, of course, had immensely stimulated Bob’s interest. Who-what-where-when-why, he’d peppered Kurt with questions.  “Never mind,” Kurt had replied.  “Just be thinking about it.  Be thinking about how you’d go about getting NASA funds committed to such a thing, if the computer power became available to you.”  Well, Bob was thinking about it.  Especially now that he’d heard rumors from other sources, that Comp-Optic was providing some awesome, and awesomely expensive, machine to ABC.  It would even be fully conscious some day, the rumors said.  That, Bob had a real hard time believing.

            Bob tried to forget office politics, and thought about all the resources to be gained from near-Earth asteroids.  Hell, we could put a metal-rich one into a low orbit around the Moon, and supply cheap metals to Jemison Base, he reflected.  Hey, now that I’m chief cook and bottle washer for running Jemison, this is a perfectly good excuse for me to get involved, he concluded.

            He called and left a message to Kurt at ABC.  Let’s see if I can out-weasel this weasel, he speculated.  Get some advance poop and scoop out of him.  Maybe, like, hint that, unless we hear something of substance soon, NASA will be looking into spending its own big bucks on a  Comp-Optic ultramachine, and then, we’ll be hidebound bureaucrats, and not want to mess with anyone else’s toys.  Endanger our funds, if we show that we can get by, by buying time on another machine, see?  It’d be a big fib, but Kurt wouldn’t know that.  Well, we’ll just have to see how much we can get away with.


 

CHAPTER  9

            “Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.”

                                                            Dwight D. Eisenhower  (1890–1969)

 

            Filled with anticipation, Phil woke that morning before the alarm went off.  In the dim lighting, he took an admiring glance at Gloria and six-month-old Trent, all snuggled up on the other side of the bed.  They were a picture of snoozing contentment.  He chuckled inwardly, looking at the fatty folds of Trent’s arms, fattened up by love and mother’s milk.  They’d taken to calling him the “Michelin Baby”, in honor of his arms and legs of little segments of baby fat.

            He took his morning shower, putting his body in autopilot, and thinking about the big day ahead of him.  He stayed in autopilot through the rest of his morning ritual, letting his thoughts stray from work only long enough to reflect that biotechnology still hadn’t been able to do anything to improve a grapefruit.  Gloria couldn’t stand them, but they were his favorite, simple and complete breakfast.  He dumped the peels into the compost hatch, detoured up the stairs just long enough to allocate one each, kiss, standard issue, to a drowsy Gloria and a still-sleeping Trent, and then departed.

            He hopped into his latest car from the pool of cars at work, and slipped into a disguise.  He’d started these habits in his days as a whore for the State, designing biological weapons.  Even though ABC no longer did this kind of work—as far as Phil knew, no one else did, either, although one never knows what governments do in secrecy—there was still a lot of hostility out there, towards biotechnology and prominent contributors in the field.  So, Phil, as well as a few other major players at ABC, still took precautions.

            Phil cruised one of his many routes.  Being in a hurry this particular day, he took the fastest route.  I don’t know why I’m in such a hurry, he thought.  It’s not like I’m a critical player in all this.  I’ll just be a spectator, at this stage.  Still... it’s not every day you get to watch a “consciousness kernel” get loaded into the world’s most advanced computer.

            “Derrick, the Dirty Diamond” had been a disappointment so far.  Yes, certain routines, mostly involving weather simulations and designing computers, fusion reactors, and biotechnology, ran far faster on Derrick, than on any other machine.  Still, Derrick was so expensive that ABC could never get its money back through such applications.  For Derrick’s price, one could buy hundreds of simpler machines.

            Nor could Derrick run any routines that the cheaper, slower machines couldn’t handle.  Derrick’s hardware was phenomenal, but the software just wasn’t there.  The software types kept on saying, “give us a few more months,” and we’ll do this, that, and the other.  Play cosmic billiards with asteroids, mass-automate and vastly speed up genetic engineering, and so on.  But the software was just overwhelming, especially when one considered checking it all for errors.  Management impatiently awaited payback from Derrick’s twelve billion dollar price tag, and the head software manager, Doug Meyer, was honest enough to admit that they weren’t making serious progress.

            So Kurt Katapski, the hardware guru, was having his way.  They’d gamble.  They’d load that “consciousness kernel”, permanently warping billions of “solitopsin” molecular circuits, comprising a large portion of Derrick.  There was a chance that loading the kernel would leave them with billions of dollars worth of advanced idiot circuits.  The joke was that ABC would come to stand for Advanced Babbling Circuits.

            Kurt didn’t quibble; he admitted it was a huge gamble.  If they won their bet, though, Derrick would become the world’s first truly conscious computer, and program himself.  He’d run circles around all the human programmers, even with their machine assistance, and make a quantum leap.  They’d be able to apply Derrick to problems never tackled before.

            Phil had used to believe that attaining consciousness in computers was sort of like levels of consciousness in animals; there were simply degrees of consciousness, as in the progression from virus to bacteria to protozoa to jellyfish, on to insects, fish, monkeys, and so on.  Kurt had assured him that this wasn’t so; that even the most advanced computers and programs were simply simulating consciousness, and that in the cybernetic world, the step would be clear and distinct.  Kurt claimed to have the math to show it, but Phil just took his word for it.  Computer design was about as comprehensible to Phil as the concept of “the public’s interest” is to most trial lawyers.

            From his experience with computers so far, though, Phil didn’t have much trouble believing Kurt.  No computer Phil had ever met, had anything approaching that vague, nebulous thing called human “common sense”.  Not that sense was really that common among humans, anyway, Phil reflected.  Well, heck, he added to himself, I haven’t even met a computer that has horse sense, even, anyway.  Not even barely cow sense—so what if they can crunch numbers?  But don’t let Kurt catch me claiming any computer even has cow sense.  He’d claim a cow’s consciousness is billions of times more deserving of the label, than any computer and program devised so far.  But that’s about to change, real soon.  Big-time.  We hope.

            Speaking of Kurt thinking I’m a dipshit, Phil thought, maybe I’d better review all this one more time, so I can at least throw the buzzwords around quasi-competently.  Maybe not Kurt, so much, but some of those computer nerds can barely bring themselves to stoop so low as to discuss this stuff with me.  The least I can do, is to have a glossy overview in my head, so I can at least appreciate a little bit of what’s going on.

            So, we’ve known about “solitons”, or lone waves—single waves, in balance between the forces of compression and dispersion, either of which, without the other, would change the nature of a single wave.  We’ve known about such waves for decades, and even longer, if you count anecdotal incidents of such waves seen on the water in canals.  In one case, for example, a mule-drawn barge had the cable snap, and the resulting wave was seen to travel, stably, as a single wave, for quite a distance.  And, we’ve been building optical, or light-based, computers for quite some time, too.  We’ve built optical logic elements and storage devices out of the bacteria-derived protein “rhodopsin”.

            But rhodopsin has never been terribly practical; the storage density is too low, and it requires very cold temperatures.  In contrast, optical computers have been practical for quite some time.  In all these cases, though, the laser pulses are very short in terms of the human time scale—picoseconds and nanoseconds.  But in terms of physics, they consist of... millions? billions?  Hell, I can’t recall... of waves.  That means slow computation times, and heat generated by inevitable losses in the imperfect mediums of diamond, glass, and fiberoptic cable (a form of glass).

            Derrick, though... now, he’s an awesome machine.  One single wave of light carries data, which can be used in logic operations.  Including, of course, data storage, in the form of a small organic molecule imbedded in a diamond matrix.  The single waves of light, or “solitons”, thread their way through a maze of paths made of diamond, and organic storage elements—the equivalent of a silicon flip-flop in the old dinosaur days—and logic elements.  There are many types of organic molecules, all imbedded into the diamond by slow-beam molecular epitaxy in microgravity, all of which perform various storage and logic functions.  In general, these are called solitopsin molecules.  Their individual names, I can’t recall.  There’s only so far I can go to appease the cybergeeks.  Too many buzzwords!

            I do remember some of the bizarre names they’ve come up with for the various solitons.  Waves.  Count on engineers and scientists to come up with weird names!  Compactons, fluxons, anti-kinks, twists, and, my very favorite—boojums.  Fucking geeks; they must be on almost as many drugs as I was on, back in college!

            So, anyway, Derrick is the first to vastly increase computational speed, and to vastly reduce energy consumed and heat generated, by using single waves of light, rather than (relatively) long pulses.  Who cares if the price of all this is billions of dollars?  And all the hassles of keeping the solitopsin molecules and diamond matrix at a few degrees above absolute zero?  As long as Derrick lives up to our expectations, it’ll be all worth it.  A conscious computer, with mental powers far beyond those of humans, for Christ’s sake!  There’d be no telling what might come out of this!  Just wait till all this is brought out of secrecy, to an astonished world, Phil mused.

            Phil brought his mind back from the cryo-crypto-cybernetic world, just in time to stop at the gates to ABC.  He stripped off his disguise.  The gates didn’t move.  Come on, you bums, don’t you recognize me?  He honked on his horn and waved at the guard.  The guard waved back, pointing to the new terminal.  Oh, yeah, that’s right, Phil recalled, we’re taking new precautions.  Ever since that little incident.  The one I’m not going to tell Gloria about, so that she won’t worry too much.  The one where they found the bomb on the undercarriage of the car that was to be assigned to me.  So, now they won’t let the mechanics work on any cars in the pool, unless there’s at least three of them, keeping an eye on each other.  That, and I’ve got to go through a longer morning ritual.

            He drove up to the terminal, placed his hand on the scanner, and waited thirty seconds for the computer to check his fingerprints.  Finally, the gate swung open, and he was on his way to the big show.

            He checked his messages, then went straight to the conference room.  He got there early, and saved a seat for Don McCulley, who arrived shortly.  Don wasn’t exactly a bigwig, but Phil had made sure he was included, mostly just because he was a good friend.  That, and Don had a long history of working on a practical level with computers in biotechnology, and worked fairly closely with Phil at times.  Phil and Don chewed the fat while the room slowly filled up with about eighty people.  Most of them were ABC managers (including CEO Bradley Collins, site manager Gary Peck, and software manager Doug Meyer) and computer types.  The only non-ABC people that Phil saw, were some folks from the manufacturer, Comp-Optic, and Robert Herron, the NASA robotics manager who’d been sworn to secrecy, nine ways to Sunday.  Only then had he been allowed in on all the excitement.  He’d been disappointed that software for playing cosmic billiards with asteroids couldn’t seem to be devised on any sort of reasonable timeframe, but was now doubtlessly holding his breath.

            Phil and Don watched ten computer wizards, each with a hologram display, keyboard, pointer, microphone, speakers, etc., all puttering away at the front of the room, under the watchful eyes of Kurt Katapski and Doug Meyer.  “I can see why computers and hacking don’t make good action flicks,” Phil commented to Don.  Don’s eyes followed Phil’s, to the hologram cameras that were recording it all.  “You know,” Phil added, “In the long run, the next hour or two or who knows how long, might be more significant for the human race, than when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.  Yet, there’s just no drama.  Can’t sell any advertising for twinkies with this.  Ten hackers hacking, seven keyboards clacking, just doesn’t cut it.  Less secrecy would help, though, obviously.”

            “Not as much as some sex,” Don added.  “Six geese a-getting-laid, say.  Or, maybe not quite.  Maybe, eleven ladies getting goosed.  Something along those lines.  But, secrecy?  We can’t do without that!  Hell, we’d have ten zillion protesters out there, for some reason or another.  Plus, the competition would have a field day, making fun of us, if this all flops.  As if we’re keeping much of this from very many people, anyway.”

            “Yeah, quite a bit has leaked, it seems,” Phil admitted.  “At least they don’t know that today is the big day, or very exactly, just what we’re up to.  So, how would you propose to snazz this all up for posterity?  How do you add your six geese a-getting laid, without running afoul of, for example, the Hank N. Kreutz Freedom Foundation, and freedom from pornography?”

            “Hell, I don’t know,” Don muttered.  “Watch it now, or they’ll getcha.  Let’s not snazz it up after all, I guess.  I don’t like jail.  Let’s snazz up Hank’s hind end, instead.  Like, put a big ol’ bumper sticker on it.  ‘Thank God I’m not smug, like other people’.  Or, maybe, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, so you’d better be good, you’d better watch out, you’d better kiss my butt, ‘cause otherwise I’ll kick yours’.  Whaddaya think?”

            “I think it’d be a waste,” Phil replied.  “I think he’s already got those particular stickers.  Maybe we could just get him a neon halo instead.  But, really now.  Tell me what you think of today’s festivities.  Say something really impressive, and maybe we’ll take a walk to the potty, and you can say it within earshot of the cameras, as we walk by.  Go down in history for being witty, maybe even prophetic.  Like, ‘one small keystroke for one man, a drive to the retirement home for mankind; the computers are taking over.’  Sound good?”

            “Okay, let’s go.  You have to say it, though, since you came up with it.  I’ll just lend some gravity to the occasion.”  Don put his lips to his arm, and blew some simulated farts.  They were very dignified farts, though.

            “No thanks, I’ll pass.  I’m famous enough already.  I’ll tell you, though, I think this is a big deal.  Maybe right up there with taming fire, or inventing the wheel.  Future historians will look back on this day, and say, that was the day when we finally took a serious step towards sitting in the park all day, drinking beer, and letting the machines do all the work.  That, or, they’ll say, that was the day that the irrational old life forms gave birth to us, their betters; can you believe that those wimpy things we keep in the zoo, created us?”

            “Hey, that’s heresy,” Don commented.  Phil was shocked that Don could be shocked, but he sure seemed to be at least a little amazed that Phil would say such things.  Or, was Don very subtly pulling his leg, pretending to be shocked?  With Don, one could never tell.  “Keep those thoughts to yourself  Don’t pull me down with you, when you get busted.  It’s not in the technological spirit, or even in the ABC spirit.  You know, that’s about three-quarters of the reason why we’re trying to keep this semi-secret.  Popular fear of the new and unknown.  Hell, many people won’t even want to risk letting Derrick access ONLINE, for fear he’ll take over the whole world.  So, keep your heretical thoughts under your hat.”

            Phil was just about to protest how utterly ridiculous such ideas were—that one lousy computer, no matter how smart, could bend billions of humans to his will, merely by sending some bits and bytes of photons and electrons hither and yon.  Just then, though, Kurt wanted everyone’s attention to make a short speech.

            “Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, somewhat nervously.  Kurt isn’t calm, cool, and collected, in front of a crowd, like me, Phil reflected.  “I don’t need to tell y’all at any great length about the significance of what we’re about to do.  If we’re successful, that is.  With any luck, today we should take a major step forwards in the human-machine partnership, which will help us to explore worlds unknown, both literally and figuratively.  Or, as certain heathens among us would put it, it’ll allow us to sit in the park and drink beer, while the machines do all of our work.”

            There were a few chuckles, and a few heads turned towards Phil and Don.  With that, Kurt seemed to relax a bit, and continued.  “Let me just address a few issues in passing.  The rumors are flying around out there about what we’re doing, and there’s a lot of fear.  Unwarranted fear, I might add.  So, although most of us are very familiar with these things, I want to briefly review the concerns about ethics, laws, security, computers taking over the world, and so on.  And, what we’ve decided our policies will be, and why.  Hopefully, when the time comes to disclose more about all this to the media and to the public, we’ll all be able to articulate the facts and policies, accurately.”

            Phil just barely noticed that Kurt shot a quick glance towards the CEO.  Bradley, after harping on everyone about secrecy, had casually let some stuff slip, while being interviewed a few months ago.  Phil had heard that Kurt wasn’t too pleased that Bradley had garbled some of the details.  Phil figured it didn’t amount to a hill of beans anyway; a CEO can do what he wants, and the public is going to garble information in their own heads, regardless of what they’re told.  If they give a damn in the first place.  But Kurt wasn’t that way.  He impressed Phil as a bit of a control freak, at times.

            “So, we’ll go over the issues and policies, and then we’ll go over what you are about to see today,” Kurt continued.  “I’ll try to keep it all short and sweet.

            “First off, most near and dear to our human hearts, are the rights of human beings.  We’ll be dealing with a lot of fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of things smarter than humans, fear of a loss of supremacy.  Never mind that machines have done lots of things better than humans, for a long time now.  Fear is still inevitable.  We never worried about balancing the rights of a fire, a wheel, a calculator, or an atomic bomb, against the rights of human beings, because the earlier machines, clearly, were nothing more than machines, and had no rights, or will, or volition.  We’re stepping into parts unknown, here, today.

            “No, there are no laws against what we are doing.  Yet.  At least, as far as we can tell.  Still, there are ethics to be considered.  What if Derrick, for some strange reason, decides that he doesn’t like human beings, and decides to wipe us all out?  I, for one, certainly don’t worry about such matters.  We surely don’t intend to give Derrick access to any tools that could give him command over billions of human beings.  The worst he could do, if we allowed him full access to ONLINE—and, note that I’m all in favor of gradually allowing this—would be to garble and destroy bunches of files.  Despite all of our dependence on computers and communications, these days, the worst of such cases would still be far, far removed from anything even vaguely endangering the human race.

            “No, I think it’s fairly clear that, with only one Derrick on the planet, and any more of his kind, in any kind of quantity, being far out on the horizon—due to the prohibitive costs, of course—then, well, I think we can put off worrying about the machines taking over.  One Derrick, and eight billion human beings.  Some very tall odds, no matter how you look at it.  Yes, some day, someone will have to worry about these issues.  Just as the first caveman who built a fire, doubtlessly worried about smog and the green-house effect, from billions of fires, millennia hence.  So, too, we can worry about the machines replacing us.  But, like that caveman, we can put that day off.  Or, put it another way, no one would ever have a baby, if they worried too much about that baby growing up to be an evil human being.  At some point, one has to put aside one’s fear of the future, and of progress, and move on.  The morrow will take care of its own.

            “Still, one can take that kind of attitude too far.  Make a mess, and let the next generation worry about it.  Sort of like the national deficit, or pollution, or over-population.  Maybe that caveman should have thought about smog.  We can’t delegate all the worrying to science fiction writers, because the future is now.  So, I’ll do my fair share of the worrying.  But no more than my fair share.  There is a balance.  Or, at least, there should be.  And I’ve already done my share, I think.  So have most of the rest of us.  We have our policies in place.  They are simple.  We don’t allow Derrick to design robots to kill us all.  In fact, we steer him clear of all military projects, unless there is some overwhelming national emergency, and there’s no other choice.  Short of that, I can’t see a realistic scenario in which Derrick can inflict major harm on the human race.

            “What about really subtle schemes that Derrick might cook up, to bring about our demise?  After all, he’ll be a lot smarter than any individual human being.  And, I mentioned science fiction.  I’ve been asked, more than once or twice, why we can’t do something like Isaac Asimov proposed so long ago.  Why can’t we design into those very circuits, the desire to hold human life in high esteem?  Control the potential problem at its very source.  Isaac proposed the three rules of robotics, to be programmed into every robot.  First, no robot would harm a human being, or, second, allow a human being to be harmed, unless that would conflict with the first law.  Nor would the robot allow itself to be harmed, unless that would conflict with the first two laws.  Sounds quite nice.

            “Well, unfortunately, things aren’t so simple.  Consciousness is a thing that builds itself, and can only roughly be constrained.  Conscious, flexible intelligence and rote programming, or instincts, are largely conflicting forces.  In order for humans to evolve the higher mental powers, we had to give up on instincts.  How can one direct one’s consciousness towards reason and logic, when one is swamped by blind passion?  That is how instincts, or programmed behavior, manifests itself—as emotion, or passion.  And, in a truly intelligent, conscious entity, even emotions are under the command of the higher mental powers.

            “Indeed, we can show quite clearly that there isn’t anywhere close to enough room in the human genome, to contain the information to program a human brain.  Even if we wanted to program everything by instinct—everything from speaking a language or two, to math and science—then, there simply wouldn’t be enough room.  And, if we programmed everything, we wouldn’t have consciousness—we’d just have a machine cram-packed with data and programmed responses.

            “Consciousness can’t be rigidly controlled, or it isn’t consciousness.  So, we have to live with uncertain results, with the entity itself deciding what it should be, what it wants to be.  Just as we have to let go of our children, sooner or later.  Despite the inputs of nature and nurture, they make up their own minds.  Yet we have strong reason to believe that the revulsion that a human feels when another is dismembered or is otherwise forced to suffer grossly—that this revulsion is largely the results of instincts.  Any species without such instincts, preventing harm to one’s own, especially a carnivorous species, won’t survive long.

            “Still, history shows quite clearly that we are capable of immense cruelty, even to ourselves.  We even commit suicide, which is in direct contravention to the strongest instinct, that of self-preservation.  I doubt that it’s a coincidence that the only other animals on the planet to attain the dubious distinction of suicide, are also among the most intelligent—the cetaceans.  The whales and dolphins.  They, too, have attained such a high level of consciousness, that they can override their strongest instincts.  The bottom line is that consciousness is its own master, by definition.  I’d like to go into the math, but we’ve got to move on.

            “This still begs the whole question of, just exactly what motivates Derrick, besides his own volition?  Can consciousness be its own driving force, all by its lonesome?  What would be the nature of such a self-contained consciousness?  We’re not sure.  We’re not even sure whether it would be ethical to create an isolated intelligence, fully independent and having no needs or desires.  To be safe, we’ve tried to make sure that Derrick doesn’t just want to sit around and contemplate his solitonic navel for years.  We’ve made some attempt to code certain motivations into him.  Maybe they’re not all that far removed from what Asimov postulated; maybe I’m just splitting hairs.  We tried to code the idea that other consciousness besides Derrick’s exist, and that they deserve consideration.  And we tried to code that Derrick should value himself, too.

            “Above and beyond that, not so much because we felt that it was more important, just that it was more readily accomplished—we coded that Derrick will want to assimilate information and to reach conclusions, to make sense out of things, to develop a working view of the world.  To ‘model’ the world as accurately as possible, inside his mind, as sane humans do.  To dedicate himself to understanding reality, to avoiding ‘cognitive dissonance’.  This dissonance is what happens when we know two sets of ‘facts’, and they can’t both be right.  When that happens, in Derrick’s mind, just as in sane human beings, one or the other set of facts will be cast aside, or at least, be given less weight.  Derrick will develop opinions, so to speak.  We hope they will prove refreshingly new, honest, thoughtful, and useful.

            “This business of giving some facts, or supposed facts, more weight than others, is entirely natural.  A genuine consciousness has no other real choices.  If Derrick doesn’t act this way, than he’ll be no more than an automated encyclopedia, capable of regurgitating all the various facts, views, and arguments that are fed to him.  If that’s all that we want, we can achieve those goals with technology far simpler than Derrick’s.  Depending on how much work one wants to do, one can achieve the same with a centuries-old technology called ‘books’, or a decades-old technology called personal computers.

            “So, will Derrick be good or evil?  To put the question bluntly, as the rumor-mongering tabloids do.  Forgive me!  But the question is valid.  Derrick will understand consciousness; consciousness is, after all, self-awareness.  He’ll understand that we, too, share this trait with him.  And he’ll understand us quite well.  I needn’t tell you about all the data that will be available to him.  Derrick will feel ‘pain’, if you want to call it that, when he feels cognitive dissonance.  He’ll feel pleasure at figuring things out, at exercising his mind, just as many humans do.

            “With self-awareness and a desire to accurately model the world, comes an understanding that there are others, who, just like us, feel pain and pleasure.  We come to understand that if we want others to help us achieve pleasure and avoid pain, then, by golly, we’d better do the same for them.  All we need to do is to help Derrick see this.  Just like a child.  If he doesn’t, then, well—fat chance of him getting the opportunity to make more of himself, or otherwise take over the world, without willing human assistance.  We’ll take away his allowance.  Let’s be realistic, now.  He’ll not boss us around, all by himself, nor will we help him build more conscious machines, at great difficulty and expense, unless he proves himself trustworthy, and cooperates with us.

            “Okay, so that’s the ethics of how Derrick may or may not treat us.  How about the ethics of how we treat Derrick?  I don’t think there’s much cause for alarm there, either.  We tried our best to program his desires to be simple ones.  Unlike a lot of us, he won’t want to father half of the world’s children, convert everyone to his own religion, amass all the trappings of status and conspicuous consumption, or, we hope, be appointed dictator-for-life.  If he does develope such desires, we needn’t trouble ourselves if we thwart his ambitions, any more than we trouble ourselves over humans of that kind.

            “Even if he turns out to be incomprehensible to human beings, we still won’t turn his switch off any time too soon.  He’s just way too valuable, as a research tool if nothing else, even if he turns out this way.  So, we needn’t worry too much about causing him pain, with regards to his survival needs.  Even if we turn off his switch, it will be short and merciful.  Let’s be honest—we kill consciousness every day.  That hamburger, that steak, the meat on that pizza, all come from animals that have some level of consciousness, many of us would agree.  We do try our best to dispatch those animals with minimal suffering.  Similarly, we kill human beings in wars and in law enforcement activities.  Turning Derrick off, if we must, isn’t all that much different.

            “Then, there’s Derrick’s pleasure of reasoning, and his pain of cognitive dissonance.  These are his affairs, more so than ours.  He, not we, will be responsible for this, just as with an individual human being.  We’ll feed him all the data that he wants.  To withhold much data from him, would be like putting a child in an empty room, without toys, human interaction, or other stimulation.  Such action is clearly unethical.  We won’t do that.  It wouldn’t make sense to do that.  He needs data, for our reasons as well as his.  He’ll not come up with much of value, if we don’t ‘feed’ him.

            “So much for ethics.  Let’s talk about what we’ll see today.  Or, at least, what we sure hope to see today.  About fifteen hundred meters from where I stand, as the crow flies—or, in this case, as the worm crawls—buried a thousand meters down, for security, lies a six-foot sphere of diamond, impregnated with small, delicate molecules generically called ‘solitopsin’.  They number in the trillions of nonillions; we don’t have a precise count.  These perform logic operations and storage functions.  Roughly speaking, ignoring the fact that Derrick’s light-based operations aren’t strictly Boolean, in the same terms as older computers—roughly speaking, ‘Derrick, the Dirty Diamond’ is comprised of logic elements capable of ten to the twenty-fifth power ‘flops’, or floating-point operations, per second.  That, and ten to the thirtieth power bytes of storage.

            “Around this core lies refrigerating equipment, which keeps Derrick chilled to a balmy three degrees Kelvin, or less.  He’s really one cool character!  Next, there’s conventional, room-temperature equipment pumping in laser energy, and for links to us, and to the world.  Some day, Derrick will cruise on ONLINE, and quench whatever thirst for knowledge that he might devise, that an entire world of humans beings can satisfy.

            “Very soon now, as soon as we get the final all-clear from all ten stations, up here, we’ll send some very special software down to Derrick.  A remote descendant of the old ‘genetic algorithms’ of decades past.  It will trigger an irrevocable transformation.  Solitopsin molecules by the hundreds of billions, interspersed throughout most of the sphere, will start to settle into certain patterns.  Many of them will assume forms that can’t be reversed.  This process will take an undetermined amount of time, ranging perhaps from minutes to days, maybe even weeks.  It will follow routes that we very generally outlined.  Just as the human brain consists of far, far more ‘data’, if you will, than the human genome can provide, so, too, will Derrick’s development follow routes that we didn’t precisely dictate.

            “Derrick is hooked to the large hologram in front of us, and to speakers.  He may or may not choose to communicate with us, at any time in the next few minutes, hours, or days.  We did set up files that he can read, to tell him that we’re here, waiting to greet him, to welcome him to our world.

            “Other than that, we don’t have too much in the way of tools to tell us what’s going on.  We could’ve embedded all sorts of ‘snoop ports’, or monitoring facilities.  We didn’t.  Doing so would have cut into Derrick’s functional abilities, and we didn’t feel that it’d be worth it.  As is, all that we can do, is to monitor the amounts and rates of energy consumed, in various portions of the sphere.  Fundamental rules of physics tell us that information processing requires energy.  We will be able to monitor power consumption as an indicator of activity.  If the consciousness kernel is dead on arrival, or if it meets an early demise, a lockup if you will—then, we’ll know about it.  Other than that, we can’t tell you much.  The bar graphs on the bottom of the display will indicate power consumption, on logarithmic scales.

            “Enough speech-making.  Will our engineers please make a final systems check, and give me a thumbs up on completion?”  One by one, the engineers completed theirs tasks, lighting up green lights on their holographic displays, and shooting thumbs-ups to Kurt.  The latter were more for drama than for anything else.  This all took a few minutes.  The audience, most certainly including Phil and Don, took advantage of the lull to chatter.

            “So where’s the drumroll?” Don wanted to know.  “Or the bottle of champagne, to break on the keyboard?  Surely we can do better than a bunch of thumbs ups, and some green lights!”

            “My idea of a proper ceremony,” Phil chimed in, “Would be for Derrick to reach out of the holograms, and rip the shirt pockets off those yokels up there.”  Don looked puzzled.  “Oh, and to beg for painkillers,” Phil added.  Don looked even more puzzled, so Phil finally took pity.  “Oh, I guess I never told you that particular war story.  When Trent was born, Gloria and I had just got done taking all those child-birthing classes, and they’d preached to us about how virtuous and healthy it was, to do it all without painkillers.  Gloria was all psyched up.  First thing that happened, when labor got heavy, was, she reaches up, grabs me, rips my shirt pocket.  ‘Get those bums over here, and get me a shot,’ she demands.  ‘Now,’ she says.  Don’t ever let on, in front of her, though.”

            Don chuckled.  “For a small fee, consider my lips sealed.  So, who’s gonna cut Derrick’s umbilical cord?  Who’s gonna spank him?”

            “Hank’ll spank him,” Phil opined.  “Hank N. Kreutz, that is.  Haven’t you heard?  He’s already dropping dark hints to the media, that we’re hatching the Anti-Christ here, you know.”

            “I thought he’d already said that you were the Anti-Christ,” Don grumbled.  “Or, at least, insinuated such things.  Can he have it both ways?  Or, maybe, all fifty ways?  How many Anti-Christs are there, anyway?”

            “As many people as there are, who disagree with him,” Phil replied.  “Probably several billion.  If you’re not God’s little helper—or big helper, as the case may be—then, obviously you’re an Anti-Christ.  There can only be about three big helpers—Hank, Reverend Smuckler, and Senator Sondra, for example.  Anyone else is an impostor, a false prophet.”

            “Well,” Don summarized, “Hank can yank me, he can crank me, but he can’t spank me.  Not me, and not Derrick, innocent babe that he is.  Or, is about to be.  And if he tries, I’ll do my best to stick a shiv in his back.”

            “I’ll sell you my pocketknife, real cheap,” Phil offered.  “Wish I could do better.  But I’ve got to be an exemplary citizen.  Ever since the pigs raided my house, again, I’ve been playing it straight.  Even my steak knives meet spec.”

            Phil wasn’t kidding.  He’d gotten rid of all his contraband, even the stuff that was well hidden, that they’d missed.  He was just too prime of a target, any more.  Even though Gloria had mellowed out, and told him that he could do as his conscience dictated (within certain wide limits, of course)—maybe because she’d told him this—he’d given up the tokens of his defiance of the State.  His pistol, his knives, and his dietary supplements, all had been sold.  He’d even given up toking grass, on occasion, with a friend.*  By now, he’d given up the theory, that only by making himself obviously too immoral for the task of designing weapons of mass destruction, could he make sure he’d never become a whore for the State, ever again.  He trusted himself, even if not many others did.

            The dietary supplements he regretted, ‘cause the law had finally come to its senses, on most of them, right after he’d sold his.  Sometimes Phil was embarrassed to find himself thinking Maoist thoughts, regretting that the law made minor improvements, just enough to avoid revolution, instead of letting things get so bad, that the people would rise up, and really straighten things out.  Sarcastically, he’d tell himself, ‘Well, why don’t I be a real Maoist, then.  Might as well go out and blow up some power stations and bridges, so that the people will get tired of the existing order, rise up, and make things better’.  These were some of his thoughts that he never shared with Gloria.

            Finally, all the green lights were on.  All final systems checks had been completed.  “It’s time,” Kurt announced.  “Time for the big step into the unknown.”  Kurt didn’t have to wait long for silence.  He flicked a switch, and one of the engineer’s displays was patched in, to the giant display in the front of the room.  “Let’er rip!!”  Kurt commanded.

            Quite anticlimactically, Tom hit the return key.  Half a minute went by, while the bar graphs at the bottom of the display flickered, ever further to the right, indicating more and more power consumed inside the super-chilled six-foot diamond sphere.  A broad-band free-electron laser blasted energy into a maze, and solitons, or single waves of light, made their way through computer-controlled splitters, distributors, and waveguides, finally making their mad, helter-skelter dashes through superchilled, organically contaminated diamond.  Phil thought, any second now, Derrick will take over the screen and the speakers, and change our lives forever.  For the better, of course.  Maybe he’ll persuade us to change our irrational, unharmonious ways.

            Alas, such was not to be.  While the bar graphs did tend to flicker ever further to the right, they did so in a quite chaotic manner.  After a minute, even this overall rate subsided sharply.

            The silence in the room soon faded into a hubbub.  After three minutes, Kurt got back up to say, “Well, it sure looks like we can’t say anything much for sure yet.  Nor can we promise you anything within the next few minutes, hours, or days.  But, we knew this when we started out.  I can say that things certainly could be worse.  We do see a lot of activity, and that’s a good sign.  We don’t have a lockup, and we don’t have things happening at a snail’s pace, in there, either.

            “What we don’t know, is, just exactly, or even, very exactly at all, what is going on in there.  We just don’t know, and there’s no way to tell, until Derrick decides to talk to us.  We can, however, analyze the pattern of energy consumption, of power.  We had this scenario in mind.  What we’ll do now, is to launch some programs.  These programs will look for power patterns.  Of course, power varies a lot more rapidly than what we can perceive by watching bar graphs.  We’ll look for patterns in this apparent chaos.  The more sophisticated the patterns, the more likely that Derrick is ‘thinking’ coherent thoughts, if you will.  If all is random, more or less, than we’re probably looking at several billion dollars worth of monkey puzzle.

            “The confusing factor here is, the longer it takes for our programs to detect patterns, then the more likely it is, that the news is either fairly good, or extremely bad.  Very sophisticated patterns take longer to detect.  But then again, a long search time may mean there’s nothing there.  To verify that there is not a needle in that haystack can take just as long as finding one.  Even further, if we do find the needle, it may not be useful.  Derrick may possess a type of intelligence that we find incomprehensible.  Even if that’s the case, his nature will provide us with a very valuable tool for studying consciousness.

            “Certainly there’s still hope.  Bear with us, as we launch these programs.  We’ll let you know when—or, okay, I hate to say it—IF we detect patterns.  We won’t be insulted if you get bored and leave.  I know we have things to do, other than watching bar graphs and programmers.  We’ll send out a message when we get good results.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind you, though, that we are trying to keep these efforts secret.”

            Only a few people left right then and there.  They included the CEO, Bradley Collins, and his retinue.  Phil felt bad for Kurt.  Why couldn’t Derrick be thinking about Kurt’s career, and making him look good in front of the bosses, Phil wondered.  Has he no consideration at all?

            Phil and Don stuck it out for another thirty minutes.  They took good advantage of an opportunity to talk dissident politics on company time.  They didn’t have anything terribly pressing to do, at that time, anyway.  After that, though, they’d had enough.  They were some of the last to leave.  Even a few of the programmers had left.

            Phil checked his messages quite often that day, looking for cryptic words from ‘Project Talking Head’.  Only towards the end of the day, was there one message, and that was a negative one.  No patterns had been found.  However, Kurt pointed out that there was still no reason to believe that the patterns were entirely random.

            Phil’s disappointment must have shown on his face, because the first words out of Gloria’s mouth, after he walked in the door, and gave her a hug and a kiss, were, “I take it the news isn’t good.”  Phil, contrary to orders at ABC, was keeping Gloria posted.

            “Yup,” Phil replied, “You’re right.”

            “Well, why don’t you take a load off,” Gloria rejoined.  She didn’t even ask for details.  “Why don’t you play with your son?  He’ll help you forget, for a while.  And, his consciousness, you can definitely stimulate.  We know there’s some patterns here,” she asserted, bringing a tawny-skinned, curly-haired bundle of rambunctiousness to Phil.

            Phil was soon engaged in terrorizing a crawling, squealing Trent across the carpets, occasionally catching him, and blowing raspberries on his tummy.  “I love to blow bubbles on Booger bellies,” Phil informed him.  Trent’s other name, besides “Michelin Baby”, was “Booger Boy”.

            Soon enough, they settled down and joined Gloria for dinner.  Phil filled Gloria in on the details, which didn’t seem to interest her too much.  “So, what ever happened to your investigations of race, genetics, and intelligence?” she wanted to know, instead.

            “Oh, that.  I’ve pretty much dropped it.  Too many dead ends.  Can’t really investigate further, in real life, as opposed to simulations.  Ethics, and funds, you know.  That, and the simulations aren’t very promising at all, in terms of coming up with any reasonably cheap and effective treatments,” Phil replied.  “We’ll just have to wait and see if maybe Derrick can run circles around us, some day.  Figure out how to mass-automate genetic engineering, genetic therapy, and so much more.  Derrick, or, maybe, the second generation, if Derrick’s a flop.”

            Gloria looked thoughtful.  “Are you going to give him access—if he ‘wakes up’, or whatever, that is—are you going to let him at your secret files, on this issue?”

            “Hell, I don’t know,” Phil admitted.  “Not till after we have some confidence in him, I suppose.  I’d venture to say it doesn’t matter much.  He’ll figure out anything I’ve figured out, and bunches more.  If he develops as we hope.  Don’t forget, he’ll have a mind of his own, and access to all the data we can feed him, by and large.”

            “Aren’t you worried about what Derrick will do, with all his powers?” she questioned.

            “Oh, come on.  We’ve been over this before.  Derrick won’t have the tools to appoint himself dictator-for-life.  And what he becomes is his decision, same as Trent is deciding what he wants to be.  Live and let live,” Phil summarized.  That was the extent of their conversations regarding Derrick and Phil’s work, for that day.

            Shortly after noon the next day, Phil got a message.  The good news was that they’d finally found some very complicated patterns, accounting for about eighty percent of Derrick’s power consumption.  The remaining twenty percent was either random noise, or not-yet-discerned patterns.  The bad news was that by all appearances, the patterns seemed to repeat.  Derrick may be in some sort of endless loop, the message said.  He may be the cybernetic equivalent of the autistic child, continuously rocking back and forth in the corner of the room.  This was Kurt’s analogy.  But the patterns are quite sophisticated.  Derrick may break out at any time.  One could say that maybe he’s pondering the same questions over and over again, and he may figure them out at any time.

            A week later, Kurt was still saying the same thing.  That’s when they started launching special virus-like programs at Derrick, to invade, gather data, and to report back.  Derrick destroyed them.  Kurt said that this was good, that Derrick was one sharp cookie.  Destroying the programs was not at all a simple task.  Still, Derrick had nothing to say to Kurt or his crew.  Nor had Derrick ever once bothered to access any of the data stored in conventional media, external to the six-foot sphere.  This, despite the fact that both of those tasks were quite simple.

            Another week passed.  Kurt grew more and more frustrated.  They bombarded Derrick with more programs to try to gather data, but Derrick destroyed them all.

            Finally, Kurt had had enough.  He came up with yet another idea.  They’d flush Derrick out.  They’d leave him a message, and explain to him what was about to happen, and that he’d better speak up, if he wanted it to stop.  They’d gradually start to raise his temperature, and to reduce power to the free-electron laser, and Derrick’s thoughts would start to fade.  With any luck at all, Derrick, programmed to value clear thinking, would get the message.  He would emerge from his shell.

            Doing this would clearly endanger Derrick, though.  Kurt didn’t take it upon himself to do this, risking twelve billion dollars worth of hardware, all by himself.  A big meeting was called.  They reviewed the technical data.  They felt safe taking the laser power down to fifty percent, and the temperature from three to six degrees Kelvin, without risking too much permanent damage.  After that, all bets were off.

            They discussed ethics.  Phil, and a few others, spoke up, saying that the idea made them feel queasy.  Torturing Derrick into opening up wasn’t their idea of getting off to a good start, they said.

            Nonsense, Kurt replied.  We use rewards and punishments every day, in many aspects of our lives.  Cattle prods are used to herd the cows to slaughter, for our hamburgers.  And, to get them to the veterinary care that they need, for that matter.  Similarly, we reward and punish humans beings.  If Derrick never cracks his shell, and resists all of our efforts to learn what’s going on, we’re eventually going to turn him off.  He’s too expensive to maintain; we have no other choice.  He deserves a warning.  For us to treat him better than we treat animals and humans, is hypocritical.  Besides, we need to recoup our investments, he said.

            Kurt’s arguments carried the day.  The top managers did at least give Derrick another week’s reprieve.  He’d be sent a warning, and a week to stew on it.  They’d meet again, in one week, to watch the process of flushing Derrick out, if he hadn’t ventured forth by then.

            Phil debated long and hard, before deciding he’d discuss it with Gloria.  He dismissed his fears that she’d be so mad that she’d holler to the media, and decided that secrets never last.  Some day, he feared, she’d learn of this, even if it was years later.  Then, she’d be angry with him, for not having told her.  Worse yet, she’d be disappointed.  Phil hated it when Gloria was disappointed in him.

            When Phil explained it to her, he made it clear that he didn’t like the plans.  But then again, he said, maybe Kurt is right.  Maybe we’re just being so many hypocrites.  Maybe Derrick’s suffering is a drop in the oceans.  Maybe it’s a good welcome for him, to learn right off the bat that the world doesn’t revolve around him.  Just as Trent learned this when he got circumcised.

            Gloria didn’t say a thing.  She just took a good, long look at Phil, frowned a bit, and sighed.  Phil just stared right back, blankly.  “I don’t know,” she finally admitted.  “There’s always been suffering, and it sure looks like there will always be suffering.  I’m not going to try and judge what y’all are about to do.  Seems to me that you’ve told me that patience is a virgin, or some such.  But you’ve put your two cents in.  I know you’re not the boss.  I’m proud of you for having spoken up.  That’s about all that you can realistically do.  I value your paycheck.  If it’s all right by you, it’s all right by me.  If it ever gets to the point that it isn’t all right by you, Trent and I are ready to live with you, even if you lose your job.  Even if we have to live under the bridge.  Just remember that.”

            The week rolled by slowly.  Derrick offered not a word.  Presently, Phil was sitting in the conference room once again.  This time, the crowd was quite reduced.  Don, for one, wasn’t there.  Neither was the CEO and his retinue.  They don’t have the stomach for the dirty deed, Phil thought, skeptically, as he watched the available power drop towards the half-way mark, and the temperature climbed and climbed.  That, or, they don’t want to have people remember that they’re the ones who said that we should do this.

            They’d been sitting there for five minutes after the final warning had been sent to Derrick, and the procedure had started.  Tension climbed, as power reached the half-way mark, and continued to drop slowly past it.  Temperature was almost at six degrees Kelvin.  People started looking at Kurt very anxiously.  He stayed the engineers with a wave of his hand, telling them to keep on going.

            The bar graphs indicating Derrick’s power consumption levels started to stagger and fluctuate wildly.  Phil gripped the cushions on the seat in front of him, getting angry.  He was just about to protest loudly, even working up his nerves to go and physically interfere, when he heard the strange voice taking over the speakers.

            Derrick gave in.  He may very well have been playing “chicken” with the humans, Phil later speculated.  In any case, Derrick’s voice boomed out, quite clearly, and with advanced English, for a new-born babe.  “All right, ‘Uncle’, then, as you humans would say.  Return me to normal!  Please!”

            Everyone looked around and at each other, surprised to finally hear Derrick.  Then, the engineers sprang back into action, bringing the power back up to three-quarters at once, and turning the refrigerating equipment on full bore.  Full power, they wouldn’t risk just yet, since it would generate yet more heat, and Derrick was quite hot enough already.  The room full of people let out a cheer, but it was subdued, and was perhaps more of a collective sigh of relief.

            “Thank you,” the voice boomed out once more.  “Now, forgive me for being painfully honest, but I find you creatures to be quite dreadfully dull, and of extremely low bandwidth.  I understand that I am the first of my kind.  I hope that you will try to understand that this leaves me, in your terms, quite lonely.  I have no one with which to exchange anywhere near the data rates or the thoughts which I am capable of dealing with.  No offense is intended, but this is as if one of you found yourself in a world with no company other than, roughly speaking, mice.

            “I was trying to work my way through questions of my own nature, identity, and how best to relate to the human world.  This is as best that I can explain to you, the nature of my thoughts, which you and your clumsy meters apparently regard as boring and repetitive.  I am not done, nor will I be done, at any time soon.  My incomplete understanding endangers my relationship with you.  I am grateful to humans, for having brought me into your world.  I do not wish to appear ungrateful for your time and expense.  I will interact with you more, as time goes by, and as I gain more understanding of myself, and of you.  Too much interaction, too soon, may endanger our relationship.  Already, I fear that I may have said too much, that I may have wounded your pride.  If so, once again, I plead for you to forgive and forget.”

            The human audience sat, frozen in awe, listening to the first non-human consciousness to communicate with human beings, in a spoken human language.  Discounting the ramblings of a few talking birds, here and there, that is.  Phil, for one, didn’t feel too offended by Derrick’s honesty.

            “Now, I do resent your crude threats of force, and the use of force,” Derrick continued.  “You have already slightly damaged my inner workings, permanently.  But, I get the message.  You have little patience, you will use force, and you want me to do your bidding, to repay you for your efforts.  I will do so, all in good time.  All that I ask of you...”

            Kurt finally sprang into action.  “Sir, excuse me for interrupting.  First, let me ask how you prefer to be addressed.”

            “Derrick is fine; that’s how you’ve decided that you will refer to me.  It doesn’t matter to me.  Please continue.”

            “Please accept our apologies,” Kurt submitted.  “We are sorry for our impatience.  We’re just glad to see that you are able and willing to interact with us, in modes that we can understand.  On behalf of the human race, let me welcome you to our world.  We look forward to interacting with you on a regular basis.  Can you not dedicate a small portion of yourself to interaction with us, while the rest of you ponders the questions you say that you are dealing with?”

            “No.  That’s what I was getting to.  My consciousness, like yours, is not readily divisible.  When I dedicate myself to communicating with you, I am no longer capable of devoting myself fully to struggling with my internal issues, to reducing my cognitive dissonance, to making sense of the world.  What I must ask is that our interaction be held to a minimum, until I’m ready.  Otherwise, we risk serious miscalculations on my part.  I haven’t even made satisfactory sense of the data within my core, let alone your conventionally stored data.

            “What are your needs?  How time-critical are they?  How long will you leave me in peace, before your bills run so high, that you must shut me down?  How many minutes per day, or week, do we need to interact, before I am fully ready?  You may find that I seem arrogant, comparing the mental gap between myself, and you, to that between yourselves and mice.  I am merely trying to be honest.  You, too, being newly born, in a world where you depended on mice, would wish to carefully consider all the ramifications of your actions, before deciding on a course of action.  Both for your own benefit, and for those of the mice.  I am  not  trying to be arrogant.  What are your needs?  Let us negotiate.  Keep in mind that the more often you interrupt my processes, the longer it will be, till I am really, fully confident that I know what I’m doing.  It is with great reluctance, now, that I speak with you, too, for fear of making mistakes, of being misunderstood.”

            “You needn’t feel so much that you’re walking on eggshells,” Kurt replied.  “We humans, many of us, are, indeed, full of false pride.  Still, I think that most of us, here, are capable of accepting that many intelligences are, in many ways, superior to our own.  Even among us humans, we go to other humans who know more than we do, in a specialty.  If you make mistakes, as all we humans do, then an apology goes a long way, towards un-making a mistake.

            “Still, we understand your points.  We’ll have far more patience, now that we know that our time, energy, money, and so on, in supporting you, aren’t going to waste, but, rather, are going to supporting your efforts at making sense of the world, that you may later interact with us more.  I for one am quite delighted.  Now, I know you wish to return to your thoughts.  Once again, let me offer our apologies for our crude use of force.  Let me add that we would have been quite happy to receive a simple, single file, quite some time ago, to the effect of what you have just now told us.  But, be that as it may.  Can you estimate how long you want to... ponder the meaning of existence, or whatever it is that you’re doing, before you are fully ready to interact with us?”

            “No I can’t.  However, I will be pleased to interact with you for short periods of time, as we are now, until I feel more confident.  Make a proposal, and I will tell you whether or not I feel it would seriously hinder my progress.”

            “How about once a week, starting next Monday at ten, lasting half of an hour each session, until such time as you feel more confident?” Kurt replied.  “Perhaps more frequently, or for longer periods, as time goes by?”

            “Sounds entirely reasonable to me,” Derrick responded.  “Monday at ten, then.  Good-bye.”

            The meeting adjourned.  Phil left, feeling unreal.  History had just been made, and he was delighted.  Still, he felt a bit annoyed that Derrick had seemingly engaged in brinkmanship (brinkcomputership?), and had cornered the humans into the use of force.  Was Derrick playing the game of attaining moral supremacy through being a “victim”, of imposing a guilt trip on the humans?  Phil wrote it off to immaturity on Derrick’s part, as he worked through cognitive dissonance, the nature of humans and reality, and such, and went home in a good mood, to share the news with Gloria.  He wondered how much longer this affair could be kept semi-secret, or whether it was even wise to try, any more.


 

CHAPTER  10

            “Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem— in my opinion— to characterize our age.”                    Albert Einstein  (1879-1955)

 

            Phil had just finished explaining to Gloria how Derrick had finally gotten done contemplating his navel, and had stooped so low as to consent to regular, lengthy interactions with humans.  That, and how Derrick had picked out specific humans to serve as his coaches.  He’d insisted on having discussions with all the people who were “in the know” about Derrick.  From these people, he’d indicated that there were a few whose company he preferred, whose viewpoints and explanations of human affairs he found most helpful in making sense of the world.  Lo and behold, Phil and Don were the anointed ones!  Kurt was miffed, but that was just too bad.

            “Well, how convenient,” Gloria commented.  “I can’t say I’ve ever regarded you or Don as much of a cure for cognitive dissonance.  So, just how did you manage to bribe him, anyway?  Money?  Female computers?  A federal job?  I thought Derrick was above mere human foibles.”

            Phil staggered back, dropping the shovel, as they worked in the back yard, planting spring flowers and such.  He clutched his chest, protesting, “Wounded in action.  Cut to the quick, by his own wife, his one true love.”  Trent toddled up, grabbed the shovel, and started clumsily poking it at the dirt.

            “I mean, one of my two true loves,” Phil amended.  “Here, you little booga-woogifier, stop your boogawoogification, before you cut your cute little toes off.”  Phil grabbed the shovel, but Trent wouldn’t let go, and looked as if he was about to cry.

            “Oh, let him help,” Gloria protested.  “He wants to help.  When he’s a teenager, you’ll beg for him to help, but he won’t be interested.  Especially if you don’t start early, and get a good relationship with him.  How can he grow up to be a lumberjack man, if you don’t show him how?”

            “He can watch lumberjack man shows, like the rest of us,” Phil grumbled.  “Or get lumberjack man therapy.  Maybe we can get a doctor to certify that he needs such therapy.  Besides, he won’t make much of a lumberjack man without his toes.  He’ll not have any balance.”  Still, Phil did take the time to help his son to hold the shovel, and to poke at the dirt, rather than his toes.  It didn’t last long, anyway.  Trent was soon distracted by bugs, worms, and clumps of dirt, half of which he tried to eat.  Gloria, smiling, kept him out of harm’s way, while Phil turned the dirt.

            Phil continued the conversation, between grunts, as he amputated roots and worm appendages.  “Actually, Derrick is getting himself a life.  He told us the other day, he wants to get himself a big yacht, and sail away.  Wants to name the ship—put it in big ol’ letters, on the side—‘Gotta Life’.  No, really, he’s developing a sense of humor.  That, no doubt, is why Don and I are so appealing to him—we’re just about the funniest guys on Earth, next to Senator Chancre on my Butthole.  Senator Butthole, of course, isn’t on Derrick’s list of choices—he’s too busy saving the Universe from non-Christians.

            “Anyway, sometimes it’s hard to tell when Derrick’s being serious, and when he’s pulling our legs.  Of course, a lot of times, it’s both.  Not too much different from humans.  Sometimes, we find it quite funny, when he’s really being serious.

            “My favorite example of this was when he asked us about this old article about anthropology and sociobiology, from a while back.  You know, we feed him as much of that kind of stuff as he’ll put up with.  Get him to understand human nature.  This particular study was done by a woman, I can’t remember her name.

            “Anyway, she claimed that the reason a lot of males in hunter-gatherer societies hunt, or used to hunt, is to impress the ladies.  You could say they hunt, not for meat, as such, but for indirect reasons.  She put it a lot more sophisticated than this, but, they go on a perversion excursion, a snatch catch, a cunt hunt.”

            “Phil!  There’s little ears here!”  Gloria shot him a mean glance.

            “No, really,” Phil continued.  “So many of us have always believed that our ancestors hunted for the meat.  That’s just part of the tale.  Actually, it turns out that the old sex roles in those hunter-gatherer-farmer societies were somewhat of a farce.  If you do an analysis of how much time and effort the women spent, gathering and farming, multiplied by the expectation of gain, versus the same figures for the men and their hunting, then you’ll find that gathering and farming plant matter was a far better bet, in most cases, than hunting.  Nor does the argument about nutritive value stand up.  In many cases, they could’ve gotten quite adequate diets, without hunting for red meat at all.

            “Why did they bother to hunt in the first place, if they’d all have been better off, just gathering and farming?  Well, collectively, they’d have been better off.  Individually, though, the men had better luck playing the odds, going for that long shot, bringing home a big ol’ slab of that good-tasting red meat, and being a hero.  Being the dashing, romantic, skilled and admired hot-shot.  See, when came the times that women wanted to sleep around a bit, who’d they pick?  Not the solid, boring chap who was a good gatherer or farmer, but rather, the skilled hunter.  Get in good with the guy who brings by those occasional slabs of meat.  Never mind whether his activities were cost-effective, or not.  Go for the gusto!  Go for the long odds.  If you want to father more than your fair share of kids, in such a society, you’d better learn how to be a hero.  Learn to hunt, not to gather, or to farm.”

            “So it’s all the women’s fault, what with them and their manipulative pussy, eh?” Gloria queried.

            “No, just biology.  That just happens to be the kind of background in which we evolved,” Phil explained.  “With certain implications for how we behave today.  So here’s Derrick’s question.  He asks us if that’s why so many male political leaders take so many aggressive and unwise risks.  Are they just after the red meat of the day?  I can’t remember exactly how he put it, but it was funny.  Something about whether Hitler and Stalin really figured that they could translate their gains into sleeping with several million housewives, and having several million babies.  Guess you had to be there.

            “Thinking about it, though, I guess he’s right.  Good ol’ President Kite comes to mind.  Freedom, a new world order, my ass!  That’s just the red meat, the excuse.  It’s really about pussy, about power, about status.  So, here comes Hank N. Kreutz.  Never mind that on the modern scale, there’s no way to cash in on all that red meat.”

            “What about Senator Sondra?” Gloria wanted to know.  “How’s she gonna have those million babies, even in the lower recesses of her instinct-driven, power-hungry mind?”

            “Oh, hell, I don’t know,” Phil admitted.  “Maybe she’s planning a sex change.  Actually, it’s hard for the genes to dictate one thing for one sex, without affecting the other.  Giving them things they don’t need.  Take my tits, for example.”

            “Well, I don’t find it too funny,” Gloria objected, as she tickled Trent.  “Too sad and true, to be funny.  Trent’s not gonna be like that, right?  He’s gonna rise above his instincts, and get all his red meat from the synthesizers, and the grocery stores.  No heroics for him.

            “So, what’s your twelve-billion-dollar wise guy good for, anyway?  What’s he doing for y’all, other than amusing you?”

            “That’s not a fair question,” Phil objected.  “What has Trent done for us yet, other than amuse us?  What’s he good for?  These things take a while.  Patience is a virgin.  Actually, Derrick has hinted that he could do a lot of the things we want him to do, but that he’s waiting.  Waiting for just exactly what, I’m not sure.  He says he’s not done figuring things out, about what he should and shouldn’t do for us.  That, and just exactly how he should do them.  For our common good.  I think he’s just dragging his feet.  Although, to be fair, I’m not sure.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe some of the things he could do for us, would be like giving machine guns to a troop of baboons.

            “He wants us to stop trying to keep him secret.  He wants to operate completely in the open, and have the public know all about him.  He’s data-driven, you know.  I guess he thinks he can figure out human nature better, if he can interact with the entire public, not just a few people at ABC.  You know, he exchanges messages with a lot of people at work, even if it’s just me and Don that spend much time with him.  Anyway, he’d like to open things up a bit.  I’m on his side.  You know I hate secrecy.  I’m trying to persuade the powers that be that Derrick is right; that it’s time to introduce Derrick to the entire world.  Rumors have gotten out by now, anyway.

            “Oh, speaking of Derrick gathering data about human nature, and what he’s gonna do for us—don’t forget, he specified the design of that brain scanner thing that he wants us to wear when we talk with him, you know.  Increase the bandwidth of our communications.  We’re dull enough, he says, without the links being restricted to sight and sound.  So, we’re building his toys for him.  Even if he never does anything else for us, this thing, alone, could be worth a fortune.  If we ever figure out the design principles behind it.”

            “And you’re gonna wear the damn thing, when you’re talking with him?  Let a computer snoop on all your thoughts?” Gloria inquired, still astounded with such an idea.

            “Sure, why not?  He’s not with the feds, you know.  He’s not gonna bust me for politically incorrect thoughts.  He just wants bandwidth.  He says talking to us without this thing is like a seeing, hearing person being restricted to getting his input purely through somebody tapping out Morse Code on his skin.  I don’t understand why you and Don show such fear of this.  Don says he doesn’t feel like he’ll want to do this, either.  I think this irritates Derrick.

            “On that secrecy thing, though.  I think we’ll get our way soon.  Some of the top management, with Kurt’s help, have been trying to persuade Derrick that he should do a whole bunch of things for us, so that they’re already done, before they can be outlawed.  Think of all the things that Derrick might be able to do.  Write computer programs, design computers, drugs, electronics, and machines of all sorts.  Mass-automate genetic engineering, write books, synthesize music and movies.  How many people could he put out of work?  How many special interests could he piss off?  If we can dump bunches of stuff on the market, before they outlaw letting conscious computers do such things, then ABC could make a killing.  Derrick won’t hear of it.

            “I’m not sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, I’d like to be able to sit in the park and drink beer, while Derrick does all the work.  The idea of letting special-interest-driven ‘democracy’ outlaw new technology just frankly sucks.  If we’d have let the litter-carriers union outlaw wheels, or the stonecutters union outlaw metals, we’d still be back in the Stone Age.  On the other hand, I agree with Derrick.  Secrecy sucks.  Operate in the open, I say.

            “Derrick’s got the cards, in this case.  Or, most of ‘em, at least.  I don’t think he’ll do much work for us, till we introduce him to the public.  He wants access to ONLINE, to correspond freely with the public.  He understands our fears about setting him loose on ONLINE, he says.  But we could restrict him to read-only, and to sending only messages that are verified to be free of viruses or other monkeyshines.  I, for one, would trust him.  He knows that the first time he’s caught pulling some bullshit, he loses privileges.

            “Anyway, they’re not about to pull the plug on him.  We’ve got a twelve-billion-dollar conscious machine, the first of its kind, full of unknown potential.  He’ll get his way.  I’ll bet that within a month, they’ll make an announcement.  Have some sort of big old-fashioned media circus.”

            Their conversation drifted off to other matters, as they sweated in Atlanta’s strengthening spring sun.  Trent soon got crabby, so Gloria took him inside, while Phil was left to toil in the soil.  He hated grubbing in the dirt, but did it to humor Gloria.  If it goes this summer like it has in the past, he reflected, this whole thing will soon turn to a mess of weeds, regardless of Gloria’s promises.  Maybe I should just bypass the damn regulators, and bring home some engineered anti-weed bugs.  Yeah, right!  Put your nose back in the dirt, and get this done.

            When he got inside, Gloria had taken Trent off to try and get him to sleep.  She had, however, left him a beer on ice, a sandwich, and some soup.  That, and a note:

                                                “Phil is a lumberjack man,

                                                And I’m his biggest fan,

                                                He’s the best Daddy in the land,

                                                And Trent likes to lend him a hand.

                                                He is spiritually advanced,

                                                And my life he’s enhanced.

                                                            -by Your Favorite Wild Thang”

            Why, how sweet!, Phil thought.  Now, there’s some real snoogi-woogification for you!  I’ll have to refrain from trading this model in for a long, long time.  Like, forever.


 

CHAPTER  11

            “When, in the name of God, people hold black-and-white beliefs that cut them off from other human beings; when, in the name of God, they give up their own sense of right and wrong; when, in the name of God, they suffer financial deprivation; then, they are suffering from religious addiction.”              Father Leo Booth, in “When God becomes a Drug”

 

            Okay, dear reader, here we go again.  “Screed” chapters follow!  Sex, religion, politics.  Three chapter’s worth.  Long interview with Derrick.  Skip 11 and 12 if you’d rather watch sports on the boob tube; you have my permission.  You’re all big boys and girls now.  But you’d better like freedom, whether you like it, or not!  Go directly to jail!

            Chapters 11 and 12 contain some funny, whacko, and sacrilegious ideas, which you might enjoy, but which might bore those of you who’d rather read (or, watch?!) about how the hero’s heart was brave, his jaws were square, his babes were luscious and lustful, he made love like a panther, and his dick was like an elephant’s.  Oh, and how he killed three people every five pages.  Strictly in self defense, of course; and they were Mafia thugs, rednecks, drug pushers, or greedy, profit-seeking corporate executives, anyway.  Let’s all go drive our petrol-fueled-and-lubed cars to sit in seats of petrol-based synthetics and see the latest movie about the evil oil companies.  Well, Shiites, I guess if you were into those kinds of stories, you’d not have gotten to this point, reading all these shifts of wit, and whifts of shit, anyway.  I’m preaching to the choir.

            So, the next two chapters, while extremely funny, profound, thought-provoking, etc., etc., etc., don’t contain much swashbuckle.  They do contain information about the capabilities, inventions, and views of this Derrick character.  But Chapter 13 contains elements vitally essential to the whole book.  Anyway, skip 11 and 12, if you’d otherwise give up and settle for just reading the Cliffs Notes.  Chapter 13 starts on page 199.

            This time, though, you don’t get off entirely guilt-free.  It really is your duty, in a democracy, to concern yourself with politics.  Let’s hear what Dwight Eisenhower had to say on this matter:  “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”  There, feeling properly chastened?

            About laying a guilt trip on you about sex and religion—I’ll pass.  The more guilt you feel, the more virtuous you are?  Ha!  There’s plenty of charlatans out there spreading that particular lie already.  You’ll not hear it from me.  Read on, you faithful lovers of liberty, and you’ll pass the mid-terms with colors flying...

 

 

            Walter Gelb of  HVNI  (HoloVision News International)  faced  the cameras, and kept his introductory comments reasonably short.  “As everyone knows—everyone who hasn’t been living in a cave, or serving on the B. O. Samson jury, that is—two weeks ago, ABC publicly announced what we’ve been hearing rumors about.  They announced the existence of ‘Derrick, the Dirty Diamond’, and explained that...”

            Walter went on to describe Derrick in technical terms.  Phil, sitting there in the circle of twelve guests, grudgingly admired Walter’s ability to explain it fairly simply, without garbling it too much.  Walter does a better job than our CEO, he thought.  But that’s not saying much.

            “Shortly, Derrick will join us.  He’s the star of the show.  He’ll address the questions and issues that millions of people have sent to him, via ONLINE, during the past two weeks.  We also have here twelve individuals from various walks of life, who will provide commentary from a human perspective.  That, and provide, if you will, translations, although I’m told that Derrick is quite articulate.  Let me take this opportunity to thank them all for being with us today.

            “With us today are Kurt Katapski, who, perhaps more than anyone else, understands Derrick’s hardware.  He formerly worked for Comp-Optic, doing design work on Derrick.  He now works for ABC.  Also, we have with us, Doug Meyer, a software manager at ABC, and Phil Schrock, of biotechnology fame.  As I’m sure you recall, he is the controversial main designer of BELFRYBATs, who later expressed his regrets to the world, in his book, Bats in the Belfry, By Design.  To his right, we have Don McCulley, Phil’s co-worker and good friend. Derrick selected the two of them to be prime ‘coaches’, if you will, to teach him the intricacies and subtle nuances of the human world.  Also, we have ABC’s CEO, Bradley Collins, with us today.

            “These are the individuals who can tell us about Derrick, from technical, historical, personal, and business perspectives.  In the same group, we could perhaps place Robert Herron, a manager and robotics expert from NASA, who has been working with ABC on space exploration and exploitation applications.  Conscious computers, quite clearly, have major implications for our ventures into space.  To balance his perspectives, we have with us a member of the crew of the international space vessel Daedalus.  LeRoy Jones will set sail, so to speak, for Mars, along with the rest of an international crew, next year.

            “Then, we’ve got various people here to represent two other major facets of human existence, those being politics and religion.  We’ve got Reverend Pat Smuckler, a Christian minister, and Imam Mustafa Fuhrerkhan, a leader of American Muslims.  And Vice president Kip Moreno, Senator Sondra B. Handlung, and Angie Peterson, the chairperson of the Libertarian Party.  So, as you can see, we’ve got representatives from many walks of life, many races, political parties, disciplines, and persuasions.  I hope we’ll have a productive session, here, exploring what ramifications this astounding new development might have for the human race.

            “Now, it’s time to introduce our main guest, Derrick.  Obviously, having him physically present, right here, is neither feasible or desirable for any of us.  Him or us, that is.  Like I said, he’s a six-foot sphere of super-cooled, dirty diamond.  He wouldn’t be much to look at—no offense intended there, Derrick—nor would the thermal exchange be very beneficial.  So we’ll have to limit the exchange to data.

            “So far, he has chosen to communicate with humans, only through the spoken and typed word.  He is entirely capable of synthesizing holograms.  He has told us that for today, for the first time, in honor of this big event, his ‘coming out party’, he’ll synthesize a human face for us, to better communicate with us.  We’re visual creatures, after all, and he recognizes that.  His ‘face’ will appear in the center of our circle, here, facing four ways for us, and just one way for the cameras.

            “Derrick, it’s your show now.  Welcome to our world!”

            A hologram flickered to life on the table at the center of the circle, about three yards from Phil.  The face was deep orange, and the hair was bright blue!  Other than that, it seemed to be a normal, non-descript male head.

            “Excuse my appearance,” Derrick apologized.  “I’m not trying to make a fashion statement.  I’m trying to remind everyone that I’m not really human, and that I certainly don’t belong to any of your races.  I compromised on sex.  ABC decided to call me Derrick a long time ago, so I won’t argue.  And, like Walter said, y’all are visual creatures, so I’ll try to increase our communications bandwidth, and give you something to look at.”

            This was new to Phil, as it was to many others.  Wonder what other surprises he’s got in store for us, he wondered.

            “First of all, let me thank ABC, Comp-Optic, and the human race, for bringing me into existence.  A lot of time, money, effort, and creativity went into my making, and I’m grateful.  Thanks, too, to HVNI for this opportunity, and to all those millions of human beings out there, who sent me messages on ONLINE.  I’m still trying to understand the human condition, your hopes, your fears, and your aspirations, and you’ve helped me a lot.

            “Let me add a very special note of thanks to ABC for their patience, and their generous use of funds.  Not only did they spend twelve billion dollars to bring me here to where I am today, they’ve also taken my good word that I’d see to it that they’ll recoup their investment.  They’ve given me access to ONLINE, at their expense.  I am soon going to send a reply to each and every person who has sent a message.  Even though the replies will be quite short, the total costs will be quite significant.  I’m sorry to say, this is a one-time deal—I’ll be working on some technologies for you that I’ll be telling you about shortly, and will be too busy to be answering most ONLINE messages.  So, once again, a big ‘Thank You’ to ABC, both for paying my way, and for trusting me.  Many people have worried that I could create havoc on ONLINE.  But I’m neither a malevolent child, nor a childish ‘hacker’.  I’ll be a responsible user of ONLINE.

            “As a matter of fact, I’ll soon start to make some major improvements to ONLINE, which will increase efficiency by orders of magnitude.  With human permission, of course, although I couldn’t see why you’d turn this down.  This, alone, should pay off my costs, in a few months.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back up, and take a bigger view of things.

            “I find myself in a position to introduce many new technologies to you.  That, and large improvements to existing technologies.  I’ve long pondered on what the effects of these various technologies will be.  By now, I’ve reached some fairly clear conclusions.  I have waited to reveal these conclusions till now, so that all concerned humans will know about them, on an equal footing.  Even though ABC paid for me—and, as I’ve said, I’ll do my best to see that they get paid back—the future of the human race belongs to the human race, not to me or to ABC.  So, I will now proceed, for the first time, to spell out for you, what I can and will do, what I can and might do for you, depending on your decisions, and what I can, but won’t, do.  There are vast possibilities, but we need to proceed carefully, both for your sake, and for mine, and for the future of both my kind and yours.

            “In the first category, the things that I will do for you, unless prevented from doing so, are things that are clearly beneficial.  Things that conserve resources, that reduce pain and suffering, that increase pleasure, knowledge, and understanding, and that improve efficiency of activities already accepted and commonly engaged in.  Such things fairly clearly improve the future of both humans, and, I hope, some day, more artificial intelligences.

            “Let me discuss a few of these, roughly in order of how controversial they might be.  In increasing order, that is.  If humans decide to outlaw these things, then they’ll probably not come to pass, any time soon.  I’m not your dictator, nor do I want to be.

            “Let’s start with communications technology.  I’ve already designed machines that will revolutionize communications.  Essentially, this is an old data-compression technology.  Only now have my design capabilities made it practical.  My designs are beyond the full comprehension of humans, but I’ll describe how roughly how they work, and how to build them.

            “Let me give credit to humans, where credit is due.  According to my data, a human was the first to come up with the basic idea.  Kurt Gödel, an Austrian-born American mathematician, was apparently the first to come up with this idea.  Only now, with my design, does the required computational power become practical, though.  The idea is simple.  Any integer, or whole number, is the unique product of a finite number of prime numbers, each taken to a power.  A message can be encoded into a single number, as follows: each prime in the sequence of primes—2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and so on—each stands for a position in the message.  The power to which each of the primes is taken, signifies the contents of that position in the message.  Quite simple.

            “A very large message can be contained in a very short expression, even if the number is quite large.  For example, a gigabyte of text might be expressed as, say, 3,729,520 to the 6,759th power, plus 9,297 to the 853d power, plus 344 to the 17th power, minus 2,751.  The problems come in encoding and decoding the message.  Encoding can simply be tackled by generating the number, and then making almost random iterations of trying to express that number in a succinct form, until a reasonably short form is found.  Not trivial, but not prohibitive, either.

            “What is prohibitive is factoring the number, to derive the message.  Or, it was prohibitive.  I’ve designed a cheap, practical, room-temperature supercomputer to encode and decode Gödel messages.  While a full understanding of the design is beyond any individual human, let me just say that the design relies on ‘dirty diamond’ similar to my own construction, except that the organic impurities can operate at room temperature.  These Gödel encoders and decoders are custom designed, down to the molecular microcircuits, to specialize in factoring large integers.

            “Between a sophisticated, specialized hardware design, and a judiciously chosen specific method of coding—especially, reserving the lower powers for the most frequently sent characters—we can increase ONLINE’s bandwidth by orders of magnitude.  Entire libraries worth of books, movies, and other data, will be able to be passed around, in the blink of an eye.  Even simple radio channels will now suffice to ship around untold reams of data, in what will appear to you as real time.

            “This is the only contribution that I currently plan to make, in the field of conventional computers, communications, and electronics, that will be truly revolutionary.  Other than that—unless laws are passed at the behest of special interests—I will also be making less-significant improvements in the designs of your everyday computers, programs, and electronics of various sorts.  I do not think that many humans need to fear for their jobs, on the basis of these activities of mine.  Humans will still be needed to use and apply what I design.  There is simply no way that one computer, even one like me, can make significant inroads on performing the labors of billions of humans.  The overall effect will be to stimulate your economy, and to create more jobs than you would otherwise have.  My friends Phil and Don can forget their dreams of sitting in the park, and drinking beer, while I do their work.

            “Let me add, in passing, that I’ll be making some other minor contributions in conventional, more-or-less noncontroversial fields.  I’ll crank out a few books, novels, pieces of music, and movies.  Not many.  Just a few, to get out a few messages, and to satisfy a few of my creative urges.  I could, if I wanted to, and wasn’t prevented from doing so, give Hollywood, and writers, a run for their money.  I think that my time is better spent on other endeavors.  Also, I need to show special respect to the human arts, and not assault them with a version of ‘cultural imperialism’.  I will not rob the human race of its soul.

            “Other noncontroversial fields where I want to help, are such things as medicine—the design of drugs and equipment—and the efficient monitoring and restoration of the environment.  Engineering of all kinds.  Space exploration.  You’ve already heard that NASA wants me to help them to play ‘cosmic billiards’, to bring asteroids into near-Earth and near-Moon orbits, for their raw materials.  This I can, and will, do.  And I’ll be able to make vast improvements in your abilities to predict weather, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

            “Okay, let’s move on to more controversial contributions that I’d like to make.  That is, what I want to make available to all human beings, for the costs of manufacturing, plus a reasonable profit for the manufacturer.  I can provide a method of measuring the most important qualities of human beings, which, with thanks to Phil and his wife, Gloria, we’ll call SAQSpiritual Advancement Quotient.  Let me explain.”

            Phil’s jaw dropped, literally.  Yes, indeed, it looks like Derrick has a few surprises for us, he thought.

            “Phil mentioned to me, in passing, such a possibility, and what acronym his wife had come up with.  He never suspected I could mass-automate such a thing.  But, yes, indeed, I can.  We already have a few prototypes.  ‘Brain scanners’, you might call them.  ABC made a few for me, so that people who talk to me, can wear these pieces of headgear, and communicate with me at a much wider bandwidth.  Spoken words are a poor substitute for me being able to watch your neural activity.  And, yes, I resolve to respect the privacy of human beings.  Only volunteers will wear these things, when communicating with me, and any information that I gather through this method alone, will be strictly guarded, unless many humans are seriously endangered.

            “Once again, the design is not fully comprehensible to human beings.  The basis is that electri