"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 3 July 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.


Nothing makes us more proud to be Americans than paid holidays. Militia members and armchair libertarians alike may prattle on about overgrown "gubbit" bureaucracy and the creeping wimpization of the American psyche, but nothing raises our flag like skipping out on work. Say what you will about going "off the grid," but we're pretty sure that even the guys in the black helicopters get days off. And while the concept of the "Fourth of July weekend" suggests to some that inflationary trends have reached beyond our budgets and waistlines and finally strangled what was left of the Protestant work ethic, we see the expansion of what was once a celebration of throwing off the yoke of Empire into the celebration of throwing back a few as proof of good old-fashioned American know-how. As E. L. Skinner notes in this piece, we let nothing - not government, not the media, not even common sense - get in the way of our precious pursuit of happiness. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to practice our God-given right to blow off our fingers with some firecrackers.

Enlightened Self-Disinterest



As if the ghost of Malthus were

coming back to haunt us in our

pending overpopulation,

libertarians may be giving us

the evolutionary kick in the ass

we need to get natural selection

dusted off and chugging along

again. On nearly every consumer

front, civil libertarians stand

poised, ready to off themselves

in the interest of almighty

personal rights. Indeed, Uncle

Sam appears to have bought

himself a clue after the Wheel

of Fortune landed on Oklahoma

City last year. Flag-burning

survivalists and code-crunching

anarchists everywhere should be

pleased as punch. The Fed is

finally backing off and letting

you do all the things you've

been dying to do to yourself.

And not a moment too soon,



[Visons of Beauty]

Aspartame - to Nutrasweet what

photocopies are to Xerox -

recently became a raison d'être

among beverage-rights activists.

Seems a study by Washington

University discovered a

substantial increase in the

incidence of brain tumors

nationwide during the last 10

years, the period in which

Nutrasweet knocked off

saccharine as the dieter's

perfectly legal carcinogen of

choice. In the meantime,

aspartame has become as American

as Mom, Apple Pie, and Fresca.

Judging from the FDA's cool

response to the findings, the

fact that it gives you brain

cancer shouldn't really be cause

for concern. Besides, we

wouldn't want to interfere with

your God-given right to lose

weight. Go ahead: Kick back and

crack another Diet Coke. Have

some Olestra-dipped chips while

you're at it. Americans'

willingness to defer pain for

short-term gain (er, loss)

brings to mind a graffito

rumored to have graced the

guillotine: "Lose ten pounds of

useless fat - instantly!"


[Healthy Kids]

Such apocalyptic truths are

apparent not just under the

knife, but behind the wheel. Not

wanting the FDA to monopolize

rule-bending in the federal

rumpus room, the National

Highway Traffic Safety

Administration recently

announced they'll allow car

owners to disconnect the airbags

in their cars. This comes as the

result of growing concern - some

would say hysteria - that the

safety devices occasionally

injure or kill motorists.

(Apparently a much more

terrifying way to go than

slamming into the steering

column or punching through the

windshield.) Given the fact that

around 30 people have been

killed by the forceful expulsion

of an airbag against some 1,300

who've been saved, it's a little

like keeping your gun loaded all

the time because you'd prefer

not to be pistol-whipped to




Guns, of course, have been a

longstanding icon of inalienable

and irrelevant rights. God

knows, you never can tell when

we might need to scramble the

well-regulated militia against

domestic enemies like crack

babies, gangsta rappers, or Barbra

Streisand. Notwithstanding the

recent image problems of the

NRA, we feel comfortable in

saying that our forefathers

would be horrified if they knew

deer populations threatened to

overrun the countryside, and

rural stop signs stood for

decades without being plugged by

a .20 gauge. We figure these

incidents wouldn't occur if

local yokels were bending their

elbows instead of pumping lead:

Forget handgun laws and assault

rifle bans - what we really need

is a unilateral elimination of

blue laws.



The deregulation of alcohol might

help facilitate a whole range of

libertarian civil programs and

social causes. Why, just last

month the Institute of Medicine

discovered that 12 million cases

of sexually transmitted disease

are diagnosed every year in the

US, not a few of them the result

of carousing after the bar

closes. On the other hand, a

University of California study

found that smoking cigarettes

significantly sharpens

short-term learning and memory.

Now, if we could just get people

to smoke before they have sex so

they remember how and why to use

a condom - it'd be a solution of

Solomonic proportions.



It all goes to show you the Net

and the PC are wimpy

second-stringers in the critical

fight for civil liberties.

Indeed, alcohol, tobacco, and

firearms are the triumvirate of

the libertarian vanguard, and

the jackbooted ATF is its

archenemy. Now if we could just

finalize the medical use of pot,

consummate it with freedom from

motorcycle helmets, and seal it

with a needle exchange, it might

have a real positive impact on

the workplace. Like drastically

increasing the morbidity of

middle management and other

paranoid survivalists in bunkers

from Missoula to Mountain View.

courtesy of E.L. Skinner


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