Dear Reader (which doesn’t include David Brock, who apparently is buried deep in a concrete bunker, receiving messages only by Gunga-din-like messengers, for fear that Roger Ailes or SkyNet will triangulate the frequency of the fillings in his teeth),
What speaks barely any French, is sitting by a pool in Hawaii, and has two thumbs?
That’s right. I’m in Hawaii. In what has become something close to an annual tradition, my father-in-law has rented a house here on the big island as part of a fiendish plot to con his children and grandchildren into visiting him.
It’s also pretty much the closest warm beach to Fairbanks, Alaska, from whence my in-laws hail.
I was in Fairbanks a few weeks ago. It dipped to a frosty minus-51 degrees while I was there.
Winter is better here.
As this “news” letter demonstrates, this is a working vacation. Indeed, in an effort to dispel prevailing myths about people with names like “Goldberg” I am eager to find a way to write off this trip for my taxes (“I don’t think you know what the word ‘dispel’ means” – The Couch).
I know what you’re thinking, “Good lord, how much does it cost to fly a couch to Hawaii?” Rest assured, if I can hallucinate a wise-ass couch that always criticizes me, I can imagine him into my checked luggage as well.
Personal demons don’t even need a companion ticket, and neither does my dyspeptic sofa.
Anyway, as some of you may recall I recently wrote about the grave problem of illegal-immigrant snakes from Myanmar (formerly Burma) waging an unchecked killing spree in the Florida everglades. I wrote, in part:
Invasive Burmese pythons have nearly wiped out populations of white tail deer, raccoons, and other mammals in the Florida everglades. Now I am not an absolutist when it comes invasive species. I like wild horses and tumbleweeds, for instance. But I am biased against giant frick’n snakes that can eat small children and large dogs illegally sneaking into our country. That’s just me. (Oh and my one word response to the objection that there are no reports of feral Burmese pythons eating children: “Yet.”).
I’ll go one further: I think it is the right and proper role of government to protect us from giant alien snakes that are destroying our environment, threatening our children and pets. If you want to call me a RINO for that, go for it. I can do without the cowboy poetry festivals, but invasive giant snake genocide: mark me down for a yes.
Or as Homer Simpson might have said, “People, giant foreign snakes are eating American dogs with impunity, did we lose a war?”
Among the more asinine responses to this post was the charge that I am a hypocrite for endorsing government action to deal with huge rib-crushing snakes, but not when it comes to, say, the mohair subsidy. I loathe this sort of argument because it contains so much stupidity compacted under a nougat-y layer of ignorance. Conservatives and most libertarians acknowledge that there are times when government must take action. The Constitution begins:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
One can forgive the Founders their love of concision and brevity that they did not explicitly state “this includes eliminating the threat of an invading army of 400 pound, 30-foot long, serpents from the lands of the dictatorial junta of Myanmar.” But I don’t think I’m going down the road of Roe v. Wade or genuflecting at the altar of the living constitution when I assert that it is implied there. And I ain’t talking about no emanations of no penumbras.
The upshot of this sort of argument is that if I am to avoid the charges of hypocrisy or inconsistency and I am in favor of government officials taking seriously the threat of man-eating snakes, I must therefore also endorse the full scope of the New Deal and FDR’s economic bill of rights.
And while I don’t think we necessarily need the federal government to get involved, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine the Burmese pythons mutated in Floridian climes and sprouted hands with opposable thumbs and brains sufficient to the task of constructing rudimentary laser weapons. Would I still be a hypocrite if I had no principled objection to the federal government getting involved?
More realistically, I think that if the feds got out of the way, the state and local governments could do a lot to eliminate the Burmese menace pending such aggressive mutations. As I argued in the Corner, funding bounties and other incentives to hunters should be sufficient to the task for a good old-fashioned “whacking day.”
At least that is what I believe. I’ve proposed to Rich Lowry that I go down to the everglades to report on the situation as part of a larger piece on invasive species.
You’re Reading This to Help Me Avoid Taxes
Which brings me back to my tax write off my working vacation in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian Islands are a perfect place to research invasive species. There are no native non-marine mammals or reptiles here (with the exception of one ludicrous bat). Everything that walks or crawls here was brought either by the original Polynesian settlers or by Whitey®. In the late 1800s, sugar-plantation owners imported mongooses (not mongeese, alas) in the hope that they’d kill the invasive population of rats. Unfortunately, this was what biologists call “a really stupid idea” (the phrase sounds smarter in Latin). The rats are mostly nocturnal. The mongooses are diurnal (which is not to be confused with “die urinal!” – something Gary Busey screams when trying to punish bathroom fixtures with his highly acidic pee).
The result is that the two mammals basically pass each other like the sheepdogs punching in and out of work in the old Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
The islands have a huge population of lizards – all of them were introduced as well by the tag-team of Polynesian and the Man (not to be confused with the short-lived NBC 1970s crime-fighting “dramedy” Polly Nezian & the Man.
I like having the lizards around because they eat bugs and I don’t like bugs. The downside is they crap all over the place like Keith Moon in a hotel room.
There’s a lot of hoopla over the horrors of invasive species, but my view is that they are a mixed blessing. They do less damage than people usually claim. My friend Ronald Bailey has written a lot on the subject and notes that invasive species increase biodiversity and do not lead to extinctions. Indeed, Macalester College biologist Mark A. Davis wrote in the journal BioScience in 2003 that “there is no evidence that even a single long term resident species has been driven to extinction, or even extirpated within a single U.S. state, because of competition from an introduced plant species.”
But that doesn’t mean that invasive species are always a net good. I’m not a biological egalitarian. I think some species are better than other species. Better how? Well, for lots of reasons, but most of them boil down to “Better because I like them more.” I would be heartbroken to see the tiger go. The loss of a species of dung beetle wouldn’t bother me too much, if there were no significant larger ramifications.
Anyway, I’ll be researching these ideas intensely between tropical drinks because Goldberg never takes a vacation, Mr. Taxman.
Various & Sundry
Fascinating examination of whether this gun should come with the advisory “WARNING: DO NOT POINT GUN AT FACE.”
Behold: Lego Jonah Goldberg!
My regular column today
Oh, and lastly, if you pre-order my new book. Nay – when! – you preorder my new book, save your e-mail receipts. We are working on a Goldberg File subscriber-only premium giveaway. Sort of like a right-wing Happy Meal toy. Haven’t figured out what it is yet, though. But that shouldn’t stop you from pre-ordering now.