Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guns and Cheese

"Guns and butter" refers to the economic calculation a (more or less) developed nation must make about where it draws the budgetary line on expenditures for international security of its borders versus outlays for the security and domestic comfort of its citizens. I have a new metric, however - I replace butter with cheese. Guns and cheese is the new calculation.

One of this country's principal exports, something we still manufacture at home and which the current administration hopes will go some way towards balancing a hopeless trade deficit, is arms of all sorts. It appears that we've increasingly been selling American-made firearms to pretty much anyone who can afford them. On the theory that the country has to get back into the business of making and selling stuff people want, it's the obvious thing. We make so many of them and people seem to want them.

Last May, Salon reported that, "Though the Homeland Security and Justice Departments say the new [export] rules could make it easier for terrorist and drug cartels to further arm themselves, the White House is nonetheless citing the 'stuff' theory of exports to ignore the objections . . . . During Obama’s first year in the White House, he began to gut the Pentagon’s approval process for arms exports, weakening controls on what could and could not be sold. Later, diplomatic cables uncovered by WikiLeaks showed, as Fortune magazine put it, 'American officials act[ing] as de facto pitchmen for U.S.-made weapons.'"

What red-blooded patriot could object to this brisk international business in fair-trade arms? If Guatemala can export fair-trade coffee and fair-trade native textiles, then we should be able to export our own native handicrafts on an open market. It's a windfall for the national GNP, and if anyone needs a boost now it's the good old U.S.of A. You need a tank, Vladimir? We got plenty.

And it isn't as though, if we export the things, we don't get to keep enough for ourselves. They're notoriously easy to get, and with 300 million rifles, handguns and shotguns in the country it's not like we're going to run out soon. But it seems that the White House should play fair with its own citizens when it comes to the things we can freely trade guns for. We ship weapons around the world now, either through military alliances or just commercial operations. And in turn we can buy arms from anywhere - Russian, Israeli, Korean, Chinese - you name it we probably have untold caches of them in citizen arsenals all over American basementhood.

"Comrade Kalashnikov"

My main hesitation here is that I don't really want a gun and I don't care to up our import quotas in that department. But there are some imported things I'm not allowed to get my hands on, and some other things that aren't imported but I'm still not allowed to have them. I'm starting to feel the rub - it seems like if you just refuse your God-given right of gun ownership in this country, you get Zimmerman-ed one way or the other.

Here's a case in point: Twenty-one states ban the sale of raw milk. Some states permit its sale in stores, while others only allow it to be purchased directly from farms - and then only in small quantities. Raw milk may harm me and I am privileged by my citizenship to be sheltered from such wanton dairy-borne mayhem. Big deal, I hear you say. Raw milk. It's not the milk I'm after, however, it's the raw milk cheese. I'm not legally permitted to buy cheese from France, let's say, or Spain, if it's made with raw milk. (And once you've tasted cheese from raw milk, you never go back. It's like converting from Christianity to Islam - you're forever lost to your better lights.)

Fromage by any other name is just Velveeta

While we're on the subject of imported foods, there's the question of haggis, the quintessentially Scotch concoction of sheep's offal. It's a safe guess that any recipe beginning "Wash, dress and clean thoroughly one sheep's stomach . . . ." ends up contraband in this land of triglycerides.  I'll be the first to admit that if it were legal I wouldn't touch it with your hands, but it's the principle of the thing after all. It can't be worse for you than a Daylight Donut, which is pretty much a nutritional benchmark.

They can make it, but they can't make it pretty

There are, however, some comestibles that I legally cannot get but do want. I'm not talking about foie gras - it's hard on the goose I understand, so I can live without it. But what about absinthe, the fin-de-siecle French version of medical marijuana. Turns out that it is not legally to be had in these United States if it contains wormwood. And absinthe without wormwood is like a grenade launcher with no grenades. Why self-lobotomize if you're just going to wake up and remember everything clearly?

By itself, sitting in its little glass, it looks harmless enough, but the wormwood is the stuff that carries it off, makes it an otherworldly experience, I'm told. Absinthe, like ouzo and Pernod, turns a milky white when cut with water, as in the glass on the table before the young cafe patroness below. You can tell by the lady's eyes that she has suffered permanent transfiguration and will be none the worse for it in memory.

"L'absinthe" (Degas)

What's more, I can't legally travel to Cuba . . . 

. . .  nor can I have in my possession a Cuban cigar.

Given that the elfin Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has refused to take our last few Presidents with the seriousness their fundamental gravitas requires, and that we are in some mysterious way beholden to the nesting mania of the Israeli nation where the West Bank is concerned, I can never lawfully acquire a Persian carpet.

But I can own one of these things with less ID than it now takes to vote in Pennsylvania and Florida.

For that matter, one of these is pretty much all the voter ID you need to vote in Florida. Freedom's just another word for nuthin' left to shoot.


  1. It's not true that absinthe makes the heart grow fonder but it does make the mind grow dimmer.

  2. I'd like to see you buy a belt-fed AK-47 with no picture ID... that would make a good James O'Keefe video, if he's still allowed to make gotcha videos after being arrested for trying to bug the office of a member of congress.