Birdfeeding Brouhaha: Final Act?

Birdman's Weekly Letter #152

September 21, 2001

In an earlier Weekly Letter I described the conflict I was having
with the people who live across the road from the park where my wife and I
feed birds every morning.  To recap briefly for all you newcomers, the
cross-street folks wanted us to leave the park, and in pursuing this object
they persuaded the police to 'investigate' us and give us a ticket for
violating a city ordinance -- one which actually allows bird feeding in
public parks, but creates certain restrictions which the police claimed we
violated.  The principal one they tried to hang on us went belly-up after
my clever wife figured a way to torpedo it.  A second one stuck, however:
Turns out the cross-street folks had been videotaping us for awhile, and
they taped me dropping some food for birds in the street, which -- not
being in the park -- constituted a violation of the ordinance.  There were
other items too, which couldn't quite be made out to be violations, but
were at least intended to prejudice my case.  These included various
whinings about bird droppings and their 'threat' to health, plus the
allegation that I pissed in a jar and dumped it in the park.

The pissing allegation is interesting for several reasons.  One is that the
distaff side of the prosecutorial team that was set against us made what
will perhaps go down in history as the silliest claim ever made, viz, that
we were attracting birds by dumping urine (The notion that the birds are
attracted to food was evidently much too incredible for her feminine mind).
Another interesting thing about the pissing allegation is the divide which
it shows between two important philosophies of health: The standard, or
Pasteurian (or Howard Hughes) philosophy, which maintains that 'germs' are
the essential cause of disease; and the holistic or naturopathic philosophy
(of which I am an adherent) which maintains that the principal cause of
disease is a compromised immune system, usually due either to insufficient
nutrition or insufficient exercise.  These schools are now in serious
contention, with almost half of all visits to healers being made to the
naturopathic variety.  This shift in paradigms has been accelerated by the
fact that an aging population has discovered that MDs and their ilk have no
viable treatment for most geriatric diseases, and by the additional fact
that the MD fraternity kills legions of people with their standard
procedures of 'poison, slash and burn' (medicine, surgery and radiation) --
over 100,000 deaths per year for properly-prescribed medicines in 
hospitals, and don't ask about improperly-prescribed ones, or the
you take at home.  Needless to say, you still want an MD for a severed
artery or a broken bone, but there really isn't much else (OK, maybe
ingrown toenails, if your mother isn't around).

There are a couple of other reasons that the pissing allegation is
interesting.  One is the cognitive dissonance between the situation of a
human dumping 'dirty' urine in a park (in fact, urine is virtually sterile,
and only gets smelly when left in the hallways of negroidal-inhabited
apartment buildings) and a dog who can piss freely in the same place -- a
matter which also brings up the tricky legal question of whether animals
actually have more rights than humans (after all, nobody objects to a dog
urinating in public).  A second interesting point is that piss, like shit,
is actually a fertilizer (wasn't that OKC fertilizer bomb just Tim
McVeigh's way of showing the government he was pissed off?), and in fact
the best fertilizer comes not from the back of a truck, but the back of an
animal.  In this regard, pigeon droppings are superior because they are so
high in nitrates -- a fact that once caused the droppings of pigeoncotes to
be considered the special possession of the King because the droppings were
especially valuable in making gunpowder (What was that, Tim?).  And of
course we can't pass up mentioning that the burgeoning business of organic
farming depends for fertilizer on what comes out of its animals' -- uh --

As I pointed out in my earlier newsletter, the Pasteurian prejudice has
come about in part because we are two or three generations off the farm,
where cow plops wiggle their way beneath your feet, and where shoveling
shit -- and getting it under your fingernails and probably in your food --
was just a part of everyday life.  Now, however, people seem to think that
meat comes from shrink-wrapped packages rather than dead animals, and that
bowel movements find their way to heaven when the toilet is flushed; so it
is little wonder that we are beset with Auntie Deahs with their raised
pinkie fingers ranting and railing about dirt, filth and smut, as if they
didn't have plenty around their own arseholes.

To my way of thinking, there were two important features of this brouhaha:
First, that it was a training exercise, and second, that it was a morality
play.  As to the training, there is absolutely nothing like actually going
thru something like this -- reading the law, becoming familiar with the
procedures, planning your strategy (and seeing if you can anticipate that
of your opponents), dealing with your own emotions, and attending to all
the other myriad details that something like this entails.  The best part
of the training, however, was that it could be carried out without any
significant risk -- I wasn't going to go to prison for throwing bird food
in the street.  This meant that I would not be weighed down by emotions
that might cause me problems in, say, a murder trial; but I could benefit
from learning from my mistakes, of which there were plenty, tho none that
would have changed the outcome.

As to the morality play, one thing to be said is that this situation
exhibited in a very clear way that being a moral person gives you powerful
advantages.  In particular, at both the trial and the sentencing hearing I
was able to make the point -- which I did at least a couple of times --
that every one of the principals involved in the prosecution had behaved
unethically, while the prosecution could say absolutely nothing against
Truthfully, I don't know if this impressed the judge; but even if not, it
serves as a defense if these guys want to try to make further trouble.  In
particular, if they try to get a law passed that will succeed in getting
rid of me, it is likely to end up an even bigger brouhaha than the one 5
years ago when the St Pete Beach folks passed a law against me -- that one
made all the papers, TV stations and talk radio, and I even had a debate of
sorts with the St Pete Beach mayor (ironically named Kevan Finch), whom I
naturally trounced.  All of which means that the folks who want my scalp
are going to have to risk having their behavior scrutinized by the press,
and I think they may find the result not pleasant.

But there is more to the morality play than just my accusations.  For
example, one of the guys who opposed me used to walk his dogs in the park
in the mornings, but since the brouhaha started, he has disappeared as if
he were ashamed of himself, or at least embarrassed that I have prevailed.
Likewise, one of the guys with a house directly across from the park put in
a fancy security system, apparently feeling that his improper behavior
invited some sort of retaliation.  This is amusing because it probably cost
him a couple of grand, so in effect he is paying a hefty penalty for his
behavior.  And of course there are the penalties that I can't see but can
imagine: The fact that these guys with their half-million-dollar houses
have lost face with their neighbors because they couldn't even run off a
couple of pigeon-feeders; or the fact that they spent a bunch of time and
effort getting the police to move on us (they probably spent more on liquor
for their get-togethers than I had to pay for my fine, and who knows how
much they spent on lawyers and palm-greasing).  But the unkindest cut of
all for them was the fact that we trashed all their major moves: They tried
to prove that our regular feeding was occurring on a place not legally in
the park (we presented a legal definition of the park that proved us right,
thanks to my wife); they tried to ban us from the park by police order (we
got it quickly rescinded); they tried to prove that pigeons were a health
threat (I trashed the doctor -- one of the complainants -- with documents
from the Net, again thanks largely to my diligent and far-sighted wife);
and even tho I was adjudged guilty, my wife was not (Oy vey!  How will the
prosecutors ever make their big career move if they can't even convict a
pigeon-feeder?)  In short, what these guys did in trying to beat up on us
is that they beat up on themselves while making us stronger.  I can only
wonder whether they will ever realize that morality is just informed self-
interest.  For their sake as well as ours, I certainly hope so.

In conclusion, it bears remarking that, while I can't say I felt exactly
good about paying the $150 fine, neither can I say that the judge was
unfair, since I obviously was guilty, even if the offense would never have
rated a prosecution except for the fact that it was motivated by an attempt
to run us off.  In fact, His Honor seemed to be as much a politician as a
judge, since he seemed to be trying to satisfy what he thought was
'community concern' while at the same time upholding my right to feed).
But if I felt bad about the fine, I felt really good when, as I was leaving
the courthouse, I passed a lawyer who had been in the courtroom when I made
my presentation and who stopped me to compliment me on my performance.
Hey, did I miss my calling?  (Just call me Sharkie, baby.)

From Mortal Words v10:

Sex is recreation in marriage, but wreck-creation outside.

Nut: Someone with a screw loose.

Tight nuts: The reason for screwing.

Screwing: What you have to do to keep from going nuts.

AIDS: Grim fairy tale.


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