Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

April 27, 2016

Gender Privacy

Filed under: Culture,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 4:58 pm

This bathroom thing has, pardon the expression, gotten out of hand.

Those of us in the punditry industry have been saying for a while now that it’s hard to do satire anymore because life has gotten so absurd it’s hard to tell the difference.

So now all we can do is give examples from the news and say, “You can’t make this $#!+ up!”

I never in a million years would have imagined so many people would be passionate about asserting the rights of guys to use the ladies bathroom.

“But I identify as a woman!”

Yes, and I’m really sorry about that. Honest to God I am, and I’m not being facetious. It must be living hell to live with that kind of confusion. But the fact is, you’re not.

“What about people who’ve undergone the gender reassignment surgery?”

Then you’re an unfortunate human being who has found a doctor willing to surgically mutilate you. But you still have an XY chromosome set. In my humble and Johns Hopkins University’s not-so-humble opinion.

(Johns Hopkins university hospital pioneered the surgery, and has abandoned it after concluding that the surgery does not turn a man into a woman or vice versa in any meaningful sense.)
However that law in North Carolina so many think is the Confederacy rising again specifically excepts those who have had the surgery.

“Transgendered persons aren’t all sex offenders!”

OK, but beside the point.

This is the point. I have a nine-year-old daughter. I don’t get to go into the ladies room with her, and she certainly doesn’t want me to although when she was younger I changed her diapers more often than I can count.

Why in hell should she want a stranger who is capable of standing up to pee in the ladies room with her?

It’s not about my fear of sex offenders preying on my daughter – it’s her privacy!

Is that so hard to understand?

Yes, ladies rooms have stalls. Yes we have public restrooms. And we have certain social conventions of behavior in them, which I think but do not know for certain are different for men and women.

I had a young man of confused gender ask me why he couldn’t keep using the bathroom of his (?) choice and what are you going to do, have a pantless inspection before anybody walks in?

Could we solve this the way we always have, with a certain benign hypocrisy?

If you can’t tell the difference between a lady and a drag queen, ignore it!

If you are a business owner, set your own policy and see if your customers can live with it. Target has already begun that experiment so we shall see. That North Carolina law is about public accommodations.

And why did they have to make an issue of it to begin with?

Well I can think of a couple of reasons.

One is that this is in no way shape or form a battle for “rights.” It’s a case of “Notice me damn it!” from a bunch of, again pardon the expression, drama queens.

And for a number of straight men and women, it’s virtue signaling.

“Look at me! I’m a civil rights hero!”

Sorry ladies and gentlemen, the Freedom Riders risked being murdered and buried in the swamp. You might get unfriended on Facebook. Oh the horror!

You risk nothing while making countless women uncomfortable in their most private moments on behalf of a tiny minority of pathetically confused individuals. They certainly deserve our compassion, but not turning our lives upside down to humor their delusions.

Behind that smug, I’m-so-much-more-enlightened-than-you posturing is a smarmy let’s-freak-out-the-squares attitude that I remember from my hippie days when I was that kind of @$$#0!e too.

April 14, 2016

The silly season

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:53 am

In the United Kingdom and in some other places, the silly season is the period lasting for a few summer months typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media. It is known in many languages as the cucumber time. The term was coined in an 1861 Saturday Review article,[1] and was listed in the second edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1894) and remains in use at the start of the 21st century. The fifteenth edition of Brewer’s expands on the second, defining the silly season as “the part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts are not sitting (about August and September)”. – Wikipedia

In the early ‘90s I was living in newly-liberated Poland and working in a bank one day a week helping employees improve their English conversation skills.

The bank offices were being renovated and a glass door had been installed in the offices. This was kind of a new thing those days. To give themselves a greater feeling of privacy, some of the guys had put up some Playboy centerfolds on the glass.

Surprisingly to me, it didn’t seem to bother the ladies who worked there. I pointed out to the group that in America the ladies could sue the pants off the bank.

I don’t know how I expected them to react, but it did surprise me.

One employee just looked terribly sad and said, “You must have a wonderful country you can afford to worry about such things. We have real problems.”

Well, our country must still be pretty wonderful.

If I had to name the top things that worry me right now, they’d be:

One, the growing suspicion that in spite of the administration’s crowing about their signature accomplishment, Iran has not given up their program to acquire nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

Two, that Putin is bent on creating a resurgent Russian Empire, skillfully spreading subversion, disinformation, and encouraging terrorism and small wars around the world. Worse, he’s good at it.

The KGB or whatever they call it these days, is better at stirring up trouble than we are at figuring out what kind of trouble it’s stirring up.

Three, the Third World is moving in with the First World. Everybody by now must have seen those pictures of hordes of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims battering at the gates of Europe, while inside Europe their cousins remain largely unassimilated minorities whose effect on their host societies is overall pretty negative.

In our country we have a milder version of the problem. We have large and increasing numbers of illegal residents, although of a culture closer to ours and a higher degree of assimilation.

So how we can maintain these democracies so painfully built over the last few centuries if we have such large numbers among us who have no comprehension of how democracies do things nor any particular desire to learn?

So call me a bigot, many have. But first, answer the question.

And lastly but perhaps most immediately, we have two rogue candidates running for the presidential nomination of their respective parties. And though I’m not particularly thrilled with the prospect of either of them becoming president I do like the way they’ve shaken up the ossified party system.

To a point that is.

What if come the election, the nominees are Cruz and Clinton as seems more and more likely?

Then we’re going to have substantial minorities in each party convinced the nomination was stolen from their candidate. And people convinced one candidate is in fact ineligible to run, only the Republican this time.

Has that ever happened before? It’s happened with one party, but to my knowledge not both at the same time.

So with all this happening around us, what are we concerned about? What are we arguing passionately about? What are friendships breaking up over?
Bathrooms!

Because one state passed a law requiring people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender on their birth certificate, the nation is passionately arguing about the comfort of a segment of society no larger than three-tenths of one percent at most.

Why did they even pass that law? I presume those unfortunates could either pass as members of the opposite sex or not. If they could, I suppose they used their bathroom of choice.

If not, what do drag queens do? Did anybody even notice before this blew up in our faces?

We could have continued with the mild hypocrisy we indulge in for these situations but somebody had to make an issue of it and then somebody had to pass a law. And now we’re at each others throats over…?

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. We appear to be peeing.

We’re making Nero look sane.

April 6, 2016

The dialog we’re not having

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:23 am

Note: A slightly different version of this appeared in The Farmers Independent as my weekly column.

“The spirit of liberty is one that is not too sure it is right.”
– Judge Learned Hand

Because I’m not God, I make it a practice to cultivate acquaintances outside my comfort zone.

By that I mean I don’t think I have all the answers, I don’t think I’m competent to run anybody else’s life, but I do think I’m probably wrong about some things. And by the way, I think that goes for you too.

Accordingly I try to listen to people who have different opinions.

Once upon a time that meant arguing with other people. I don’t do that much anymore, it’s seldom productive. Although just last night I found to my surprise I was expressing opinions with some
heat on an emotion-charged issue. So sue me.

At this point in time in this election cycle, with our country more dangerously polarized than any time I can recall I think it behooves us all to remember the injunction in the Torah that the first duty of a man in a dispute is to hear the other out.

So what have I heard?

Nothing that brings me much comfort I’m afraid.

But what worries me is not so much positions one could support or oppose, but a set of attitudes, held mostly but not exclusively on the “progressive” left. These include:

– Taxation is morally superior to voluntary giving.

A progressive friend supports universal government-supported health care. I disagree with his contentions it would be cheaper, fairer, etc. But at one point he said he supported it because, “People shouldn’t have to start a GoFundMe campaign to save their lives.”

What? Disregarding the desirability of socialized medicine for a moment, isn’t it inspiring that anyone can start a fund for friends, acquaintances and even strangers of good will to support someone in a time of dire need? Evidently some consider charity vaguely disgusting.

And in fact we now have a presidential candidate who has expressed his dislike of the whole idea behind charity.

– Unwillingness to live and let live.

Nobody can fail to notice there are gay marriage advocates who not content to have won the legal battle are now seeking out Christian business owners to drive out of business for not hosting same-sex marriages?

It doesn’t matter if you support same-sex marriage or not, this should scare you.

This is not the case of a hypothetical scarce good, there are plenty of people who will take your money. They are punishing you for your opinion, and claiming it is right and proper they should do so.

This leads to a question; why would you go where you are not wanted?

And the question itself suggests the answer; to show them that you can.

– Disdain for experiment.

There are demands for changes to long-established law and custom. Well perhaps some should be changed. And perhaps some laws and customs are long established for reasons we have forgotten.

So why not try it out locally and see what happens?

This seems to be unworthy of consideration. Everything must be changed everywhere, right now!

– Impatience with procedure.

The Founders put together a system in which innovations had to move slowly through the constitutional process, to insure changes were not forced upon society by ill-considered passions or passing fads. They understood that even with desirable change, how something is done is at least as important as what is done. Because unchecked power to do good can do harm just as easily.

Now many are possessed with the spirit of reform, procedure be damned! May I point out this is also the spirit of a lynch mob?

Hey, if we know he’s guilty why do we need a trial?

– Contempt for experience.

Beautiful theories of how to set everything right often conflict with experience. Theory without experience drifts into fantasy.

The reaction of those intoxicated with utopian theories is to dismiss objections based on experience. Worse, they often reject any suggestion they get some experience.

Recently I suggested to a couple of acquaintances who uncritically accept every, literally every, charge of police brutality that they read Rory Miller’s book, Force Decisions.

One rejected the suggestion out of hand as “propaganda.” I actually bought the book as a gift for the other. He hasn’t read it.

On another occasion I suggested to someone contemplating a run for congress as a libertarian that he start with more modest ambitions by attending city council and county commission meetings to observe and learn how government works at the local level.

“Learn what?” he sneered. “How to sit around and shuffle papers?”

This is one reason old codgers like me are so cussed.

– Unbearable self-righteousness.

All of us are of have been prey to this at some time in our lives, it’s one of the less attractive facets of human nature.

But today too many people seem convinced they are not only right, but morally superior to those they disagree with. Unwilling to even consider that someone not any worse than themselves could disagree in good faith.

Does that scare you? It does me.

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