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“This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” Will Rogers said it, and we’ve all felt that way on occasion. No matter which side of the Schiavo fiasco or the filibuster/nuclear option debacle you were on, you must, at some point, have found yourself wondering if there wasn’t a provision somewherein the Constitution entrusting somebodywith the responsibility of taking the hammer away from the baby. In fact, there is not. The Framers did not provide for a constitutional au pair who would monitor the congresskinderwhile the rest of us were busy handling non-governmental functions. All we have is the dysfunctional nanny cam provided by CNN and Fox News and the three major networks and Time and Newsweek — all of whom have been so anxious to sacrifice their credibility on the altar of the great god “IReportedItFirst” that a lot of us just don’t much believe anyof them anymore. The result is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell what’s straight news and what’s not anymore. The stuff Jon Stewart reports on “The Daily Show” and the stuff Jim Lehrer reports on PBS are pretty much indistinguishable. Let me try to illustrate this point, and also prove the truth of Will Rogers’ boast: “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” According to Time magazine, the state of Montana has just passed legislation making it illegal to drink while driving. Yep. Just now. Takes effect in October. This year. It is 2005 and the Montana legislature has just gotten around to saying you can no longer swill Wild Turkey while driving through a school zone in Bozeman. This may come as a shock to you if you live in a state where even driving AFTER drinking is frowned upon. It might seem to you that screening out drinkers who are so blitzed they cannot even walk from the bar to their car would be a good — if modest — start to eliminating DUI. So eliminating the possibility of going from a blood alcohol level of .00 to a blood alcohol level of .30 without ever letting go of the steering wheel might seem like a reasonable starting point. Certainly that has been the conclusion of most of this nation’s elected leaders, and, out of fairness, I should point out that rolling down the highway pouring Rolling Rock down your gullet is illegal in most states. Montana just wasn’t one of them. Montana only has about 900,000 people. And they’re spread out over a state larger than several of Jupiter’s moons — and with less paved highway than Ganymede or Callisto. So the Montana legislature might reasonably have been putting this off until the statistical probability of two cars occupying the same square mile reached a higher level. That would be a legitimate legislative consideration, it seems to me. I mean, until we reach the point where the Thornton boy can drain a six-pack before he reaches the next ranch, thereby enabling him to hit something other than his own cattle, it’s not a pressing problem. Besides, they had to know they’d long since reached the point where everybody else in America would say, “What? You mean that’s been legal up to now? What are you, crazy?” That probably acts as something of a brake on the legislative process. And, of course, as the folks in Montana would probably point out, rushing into legislation often turns out badly. Consider the plight of the Brits.
After years of lobbying by animal rights activists and others, Parliament last year outlawed the traditional English fox hunt, in which the hunters on horseback follow dogs chasing a fox, until the dogs catch the fox and rip him limb from tree. Fox hunters responded this year by — what shall we call this — amendingthe hunt so that instead of ending its life as exhausted kibble, the fox is now shot. “But,” according to The Week, “new research shows that up to half of the animals shot with guns are only wounded, not killed outright, and they die a slow and painful death.” Animals rights advocates are going back to Parliament in high dudgeon.[ 1] The debate’s gonna start all over again. “Now see,” say the Montana people. “That’s what happens when you rush into something. Venery[ 2] came to England with William the Conqueror. That means Parliament considered this issue for less than a thousand years; no wonder they got it wrong. Haste makes waste.” Or consider Germany. In Germany, they’re re-thinking their legislative decision to legalize prostitution. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the idea two years ago, when Germany legalized prostitution, was to bring it under state control and provide labor rights and health benefits to prostitutes. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Probably seemed at least as overdue as Montana’s decision to criminalize DWC.[ 3] But now they’re not so sure. Seems an out-of-work waitress was told this year that she was in danger of losing her unemployment benefits if she turned down a job . . . as a prostitute. Oops. Of course, the government is backpedaling furiously, insisting that no one is going to be forced into prostitution in order to obtain unemployment benefits, but as an employment lawyer pointed out, “The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral anymore, and so those jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to [unemployment] benefits.” This is problematic for several reasons. For one, The Monitorinsists there are an estimated 400,000 prostitutes working in Germany and they service about 1.2 million customers a day.[ 4] So this is BIG business, and the various German municipalities are raking in a ton of euros taxing it. The city of Cologne makes 700,000 euros every month taxing its prostitutes. The good burghers of Cologne are going to have to put up with a lot more potholes if we can’t work out this little unemployment benefits snafu. It’s also going to complicate things in the German town of Esslingen, “where officials from the unemployment department have been offering those willing to exit the profession double welfare — 600 euros instead of 300.” So a prostitute in Esslingen could leave the profession and go on welfare, and get double the benefits. But, of course, once her welfare benefits run out, well . . . there’s almost certainly going to be a position[ 5] available in a brothel, so she’ll have to go back to work as a prostitute. But if she leaves prostitution and reapplies for welfare . . . well, you can see how circular this could become. Sweden’s frustration over similar problems with legalized prostitution caused it to re-criminalize the activity in 1998, roughly 30 years after legalizing it. I’ll bet it was fun to be a smart-alecky columnist in Sweden in 1998. Or, for that matter, this year.
Here’s Sweden’s current dilemma. While they outlawed prostitution again seven years ago, they left bestiality legal. Honest. If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’, folks: It is perfectly legal to have sex with a horse in Sweden. Or a pig or a duck or a — oh hell, insert the perversion of your choice here. I’m sorry. I try to keep my mind open to the customs and values of others. I’m pretty sure that’s required by law in California. But I can’t claim much impartiality here. This one disturbs me. This makes it hard to get too worked up about anything the Montana legislature has or hasn’t done. And it makes it difficult for me to deal with the eurosnobbery that seems to have flourished around here the last five years or so. I’m not sure how much moral high ground you can claim while you’re diddling a duck. According to The Week, the only limitation on such conduct in Sweden is that “the animal is not harmed.” Now we could waste a lot of time debating the definition of “harm” as applied in these circumstances. Maybe I’m just squeamish[ 6], but I have difficulty believing there isn’t some harm, somewherein the equation — whether it be human, animal or societal — when this happens. But the Swedes obviously see it differently. So when Swedish veterinarians reported an increase in sexual abuse of animals, the Swedish government commissioned a study to see what was going on. Really. A commission. And they wrote a report. The report “looked at more than 200 cases of human-animal sex — 161 involving horses, 18 with dogs and 17 involving cattle[ 7] — and found that many of the animals had genital injuries.”[ 8] I find this whole thing so completely baffling, I hardly know which question to ask first. I mean, how do you suppose they did this?[ 9] You think they went door to door and just asked people if they’d been having sex with Bossy or Flicka, and if the answer was “yes” they went out back to the barn and examined the animal? Or do you suppose vets were trained to call the commission whenever farmers attributed suspicious injuries to their cow having fallen down the stairs? Who gets appointed to a government commission investigating human/animal sex injuries? What kind of qualifications did the Swedish government look for in these appointments? Was the pay good? Is there prestige? “I’m sorry Baron Trygstad, the royal family is terribly grateful for all your help, but I’m afraid the ambassadorship in Swaziland has been filled. We do, however, have a rather unusual commission appointment you might be interested in.” Does serving on the commission go down as a “W” or an “L” on your permanent record? If you get laid off from the Human/Animal Sex Injury Commission, do you have to go work in a bordello? Do you get a bump in your welfare payments if you resign in indignation when the first chicken case comes up? And, of course, the ultimate question: What on earth is wrong with these people? So you know what they decided? They decided they needed stronger laws to protect the animals. Apparently no one suggested an outright ban. You see what I mean about it being hard to tell the real news stories from the phony ones? And can you imagine what a field day Will Rogers would have with government studies like this one. My God, he would have gone through a keyboard a week. So Montana, I’m sorry. I spoke too soon. You’re looking pretty good to me right now. Have another beer. No, I’ll open it; you keep your eyes on the road. Contributing writer William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can read more columns like this in “A Criminal Waste of Time,” a book fromThe Recorder featuring more than 30 of the best columns from Justice Bedsworth. Order by calling (800) 587-9288 or visiting www.lawcatalog.com/bedsworth.
Footnotes: [ 1] Many of us here in the states operate under the mistaken impression that Parliament is located in London. It’s not. It’s located just outside London in the Warwickshire hamlet of High Dudgeon. [ 2] Montanans KNOW about hunting, so they know the word for hunting with dogs. [ 3] Driving While Chug-a-lugging. [ 4] Don’t ask me who provided these estimates. 1.2 million Johns every day in a country whose entire population is 82 million suggests a side to the national character my German relatives never mentioned. Eliminate women — most of whom will not be using prostitutes — and children from the population figure, and it seems to indicate that 25-30 million men are visiting prostitutes 8.4 million times a week, a statistic which, especially if you factor in the availability of non-prostitutional sex, seems to me to indicate a libidinal capacity in the modern German male previously ascribed only to rabbits. [ 5] So to speak. [ 6] Though not as squeamish as my wife, who begged me not to write about this. [ 7] Now why do you suppose Swedish men find horses so much more . . . attractive . . . than cows? [ 8] The math indicates that of the 200 cases studied, 196 involved dogs, horses and cows, and 4 involved animals we don’t even want to think about. [ 9] The report, that is. I have absolutely no questions about how they accomplished the subject of the report.

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