Bouazizi1.jpg

Mad as Hell: From the US to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Moscow

Back in mid-December, Hernando de Soto published on the Foreign Policy website a detailed study of the background to the uprising in Tunisia that brought down the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali (pictured below). As you may remember, the incident that set the whole thing off was the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit-seller in the little town of Sidi Bouzid.

De Soto, who knows a thing or two about the informal sector in third-world economies, has this to report:

Ben-Ali.jpgBouazizi wanted two things: to earn a living for his family and to accumulate capital (ras el mel). He was a young man, only 26, of no other discernible interests. His life was consumed by his role as the primary breadwinner for his family of seven — a role he had played, according to his mother, ever since he started working in the market at age 12. His father died when Bouazizi was 3. He had five siblings. His mother later remarried, but his stepfather, also his uncle, plagued by health problems, was unable to support the family.

As those who knew Bouazizi tell it, he was the very opposite of an activist. “He never even watched the news,” his mother told us. “People like Mohamed are concerned with doing business. They don’t understand anything about politics.” The $73 he earned each week was the family’s main source of income.

Above all, he was a repressed entrepreneur — which is why Bouazizi’s death resonated so strongly and became a unifying force across the culturally, politically, and religiously diverse Arab world, from Morocco to Syria. For decades, market economies have been growing in the Middle East and North Africa, albeit in the shadows of the law. The ILD has estimated that 50 percent of the region’s entrepreneurs operate outside the law. They share Bouazizi’s desire to prosper — and his despair in the face of the insurmountable obstacles in their way.

Bouazizi’s talent was for buying and selling. Each evening he picked up fruit and vegetables from the wholesale market to sell from his street-side cart at a spot facing the office of the district administration. His dream was to buy an Isuzu pickup truck to get his supplies directly from the farmers. He was known in his neighborhood for his shrewd practicality. He was trusted by his peers: His colleagues in the wholesale fruit market sometimes hired him to do their accounts. “He also wanted a permanent stand at the wholesale market,” his mother Manoubia told us. “If they had given it to him, it would have changed his life.”

For years, Bouazizi had endured harassment at the hands of deeply corrupt petty officials — most notably, the municipal police officers and inspectors who lived off street vendors and other small-scale extralegal business-people. The police officers helped themselves to the vendors’ fruit whenever they felt like it or arbitrarily fined them for running their carts without a permit. Bouazizi complained about the greed of local officers for years. He hated paying bribes.

But on Dec. 17, 2010, this otherwise uneventful life took its place in history. That morning, Bouazizi got into a tussle with town inspectors who accused him of failing to pay a fine for some arbitrary infraction. They seized two crates of pears, one crate of bananas, three crates of apples, and his electronic scale — worth some $225, the entire capital of his business. A municipal police officer, a woman named Fedia Hamdi, slapped Bouazizi across the face in front of the crowd that had gathered at the scene. With his uncle’s help, Bouazizi appealed to the authorities for the return of his property. But he got nowhere — a common outcome in a society where small-scale business-people were treated with contempt by local officialdom. One hour after the confrontation with Hamdi, at 11:30 a.m., he doused himself with paint thinner and immolated himself in front of the governorate building in Sidi Bouzid. Bystanders tried to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher. But it was empty.

According to de Soto, the key to understanding why Tunisia exploded – followed by Egypt, Libya, and Syria – was the fact that Bouazizi’s disheartening experience with the authorities matched quite well that of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who eke out a living in the private sector. In the face of corruption and petty tyranny, Bouazizi became as mad as hell and decided that he was not going to take it any more, and his suicide made his fellow Arabs across the entire region profoundly ashamed of their own passivity in the face of corruption and petty tyranny.

Alexei-Navalny.jpgLast week, Anne Applebaum, the author of a fine book on the Soviet Gulag, picked up on the argument advanced by de Soto and suggested that the turmoil in Russia has the very same root:

Anger about corruption is now fuelling protests in Moscow, too. Although the two extraordinary demonstrations in the past month were provoked by the stolen parliamentary elections, the groundwork was laid by the anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and his colleagues. In recent years, Navalny founded, among other things, a website dedicated to the investigation of local and municipal corruption and a website which collects and publishes photographs of potholes, cracking bridges and other examples of slovenly road construction and repair.

Navalny writes a running commentary on the nefarious activities of Russia’s largest companies, on their profoundly opaque business practices and their attempts to avoid real scrutiny. He advises readers how to confront and complain about such behaviour in their towns and villages, and how to use the legal system to get satisfaction. By doing so – and by maintaining clarity about who funds his efforts (reader donations, largely) he has won himself a kind of credibility that Russian political leaders lack.

Anna-Hazare.jpgAnd she cites India, where “Anna Hazare, a 74-year-old activist, has used civil disobedience and hunger strikes to force the Indian parliament to pass anti-corruption legislation this year,” and Brazil, “where public campaigns have also forced politicians to act,” adding that “bubbling under the surface, anger about corruption in China is widespread.” The rebellion against corruption and petty tyranny is a world-wide phenomenon.

Applebaum misses the mark, however, and misses it badly when she turns to the United States. “I don’t care for the tactics of the Occupy Wall Street movement (let alone its ridiculous Occupy St Paul’s offshoot),” she writes, “but I see why the protesters are angry.”

In 2008, greedy and incompetent bankers provoked an enormous financial crash. The bill for that crash was paid by taxpayers. There might be good explanations for why that was necessary, but it still feels deeply unfair, as though the financial markets had rigged the system so that they never suffer for their mistakes. The person who figures out how to turn this theme into a mainstream political issue (as opposed to a reason to construct tent cities in municipal parks) might enjoy enormous popular success.

Barney-Frank.jpgApplebaum is very capable, and she should have known better. With regard to this country, she is wrong on all counts. First, as Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times and Joshua Rosner have shown in fine detail in their splendid book Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armaggedon, the financial crash of 2008 was not “provoked” by “greedy and incompetent bankers.” The verdict is now in: it was caused by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the individuals in the federal government who forced banks to issue subprime mortgages to individuals highly unlikely to keep up with the payments. It was facilitated by Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and those on the Federal Reserve Board who kept interest rates artificially low for a very long time and nourished the dot-com bubble and then the housing-bubble. Responsibility belongs to the admirers of “enlightened administration,” who supposed that the experts could successfully manage and manipulate the markets.

I do not mean to say that the bankers on Wall Street were not greedy. They are so almost by definition. They are in business to make as much money as they can, and, if the government distorts the housing market, they will play along. Nor do I mean to suggest that these bankers were impressive for their competence. Some of them saw what was coming, but most were bamboozled by the wizards at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Fed. What I am saying is that the real villains – and Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Maxine Waters, and the people running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac really were villains – were in or closely associated with the federal government.

Chris-Dodd.jpgApplebaum’s other blunder is to suppose that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is in any way comparable to the movements sweeping the countries of the Arab world, Russia, India, and Brazil and that it has anything in common with the sentiment threatening the Communist Party dictatorship in China. The angry people in these other lands are ordinary hard-working individuals – often petty entrepreneurs – trying to make a living in circumstances where they are threatened by government corruption and the petty tyranny of officials. The real analogue is the Tea-Party Movement, which emerged in the Spring of 2009 in response to the Democratic Party’s passage of the so-called “stimulus bill.” It was a spontaneous eruption very much like what happened in the Arab world. It was set off by a single remark on CNBC, and it was driven by the well-founded suspicion that the immensely long and complex “stimulus bill” was nothing more than a massive pay-off to favored constituencies – an attempt to secure the re-election of the Democrats by means of a redistribution of the wealth of the small businessmen and other ordinary hard-working Americans who would ultimately be left with the bill. “Honk,” read the placards of these American demonstrators, “if I am paying your mortgage.”

Maxine-Waters.jpgOWS was not a spontaneous eruption. It originated as an ACORN operation backed by the Service Employees International Union and the American Association of University Professors. As the arrest records in New York revealed, the participants were for the most part young people in or just out of college who belonged to well-to-do families, and it quickly garnered support from the sponsors and admirers of government corruption and the petty tyranny of officials: starting with the current President of the United States, the Mayor of the City of New York, and the mayors of the other cities where ACORN and its associates set up encampments, and going on to include Columbia University, which will even be giving students academic credit this term for participating, and Newsweek magazine — which just published a piece by Michael Thomas designed to deflect attention from the purveyors of of government corruption and petty tyranny with inflammatory rhetoric like the following:

As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government’s fault. This time, however, I don’t think the argument that “Washington ate my homework” is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street’s head—and about time, too.

It’s funny; the Big Lie has a long pedigree. A year or so ago, I was leafing through Ron Chernow’s indispensable history of the Morgan financial interests, and found this interesting exchange between FDR and Russell Leffingwell, a Morgan partner and Washington fixer, a sort of Robert Strauss of his day. It dates from the summer of 1932, with FDR not yet in office:

“You and I know,” wrote Leffingwell, “that we cannot cure the present deflation and depression by punishing the villains, real or imaginary, of the first post war decade, and that when it comes down to the day of reckoning nobody gets very far with all this prohibition and regulation stuff.” To which FDR replied: “I wish we could get from the bankers themselves an admission that in the 1927 to 1929 period there were grave abuses and that the bankers themselves now support wholeheartedly methods to prevent recurrence thereof. Can’t bankers see their own advantage in such a course?” And then Leffingwell again: “The bankers were not in fact responsible for 1927–29 and the politicians were. Why then should the bankers make a false confession?”

This time, I fear, the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be exacted. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling; you may not think much of OWS—I have my own reservations, although none are philosophical or moral—but it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands. A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that.

Over the next year, I expect the “what” will give way to the “how” in the broad electorate’s comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of “Tobin tax” on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.

But it won’t just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm. Humiliation and ridicule, even financial penalties, will be the least of the Street’s tribulations. There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced. I just hope that this time the mob targets the right people in Wall Street and in Washington. (How does a right-thinking Christian go about asking Santa for Mitch McConnell’s head under the Christmas tree?) There will be kleptocrats who threaten to take themselves elsewhere if their demands on jurisdictions and tax breaks aren’t met, and I say let ’em go!

It is, I think, telling that Thomas makes no mention at all of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and their enablers — mainly from within the Democratic Party — in Washington, DC. Of course, if the folks at Newsweek were to tell the truth, it would strengthen the Tea-Party Movement and reveal OWS for what it really is: an instrument deployed by those seeking the re-election of Barack Obama. And this they will not do.

As my colleague Paul Moreno pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, on Friday, to find something similar to Occupy Wall Street, one would have to turn back seventy-five years to 30 December 1936 – when the United Auto Workers staged a “sit-down” strike in the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan, and the recently elected New-Deal Democratic Governor of Michigan sent in the National Guard to prevent the police from clearing the UAW toughs out of the plant and arresting them for trespass. OWS was not directed against government corruption and the petty tyranny of officials. Like the “sit-down” strike in 1936-37, its purpose was to bully private corporations and promote a redistribution of wealth at the behest of the government and its officials – and it was far less effective initially and backfired far more quickly than the “sit-down” strike of 1936-37, which — with its lawlessness — struck fear into ordinary Americans and helped bring the second New Deal to an abrupt halt.

Here is a sign that the thuggery openly encouraged in the pages of Newsweek by the likes of Michael Thomas is backfiring. When asked by pollsters what we should most fear — big government, big business, or big labor — 48% of Democrats now single out big government. With every passing day, the impulse represented by the Tea Party in 2009 gets stronger and stronger. Barack Obama’s efforts to secure re-election by promoting class strife  serve only to reinforce the trend, as does the work done on his behalf by those in the mainstream press who once belonged to Journolist and still function as “the unofficial campaign.”

So I say, “Give us more, Michael Thomas! Give us a whole lot more! Do not restrain yourself! Vent your hatred! Tell us what you really think!” For, when, at your instigation and that of Organizing for America, OWS demonstrators try to shout down speakers and break up Republican Party rallies, as they did in Iowa on Monday night, it will only serve to unmask the Democratic Party and instruct the American people as to the tyrannical ambition of Barack Obama and the thuggish demeanor of his minions.

  1. Illiniguy

    There’s a book floating around somewhere in that post. Adam Smith to the Bouazizi incident is a straight line, while the corruption of government is a twisted branch that disfigures the entire tree. Soft tyranny, indeed.

  2. DocJay

    What a great article. I do not think think this election is winnable without exposing the corruption of the current regime as well as the blame for our economic plight being leveled upon those whom you detail in your article. The 48 % has far more to do with corruption issues than disillusionment with milquetoast Barry.

  3. flownover

    Obama’s sponsorship and his friend’s subsidies of the OWS campaign is shameful. But what to do about it , can you imagine Newsweek printing that in 1980 when they were actually read by a large number of Americans and believed by almost as many ? 

    I’m afraid that American’s have for the most part tuned out. How many of the 48% of the population on food stamps,welfare, etc. actually read the news or watch news programs on TV ? What media do they consume ?

    Obama is trying to build a really simple and visual argument for his minions and the independent dumb . Us v Them. Black v White, Rich v Poor, Legal v Illegal , 

    You and I have read Reckless Endangerment, maybe the Big Short as well, we know Frank and Dodd, and Raines and Johnson and Gorelick, for what they are. But I am very worried that we can’t get the message out about just how dangerously they treat our country.

  4. Misthiocracy
    flownover: [C]an you imagine Newsweek printing that in 1980 when they were actually read by a large number of Americans and believed by almost as many ? 

    Hmm…

    Anybody know if there are any studies out there on a possible correlation between declining readership and increased left-wing bias for print publications?

    Is there any empirical evidence out there to support the theory that when a publication has to cater to fewer readers over time, it increases the amount of freedom (for want of a better term) that editors and writers have to include their personal biases into the content of the publication?

  5. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    BlueAnt:

    Prof Rahe:  in podcasts and posts over the last month, you pointed out that the philosophical problem with the GOP was their acceptance of the managerial progressive way of governing, incarnated in their top two candidates Romney and Gingrich.  For all its failings, the managerial approach does preserve at least the appearance of rule of law, which is not the case with Tunisian police bribes or Russian oligarchs.  Do you think this will shield such politicians from widespread political discontent?

    In other words, does the perceived violation of rule of law spark illegal riots, while hiding arbitrary interventions behind the law blunts frustration into mere politics? · Jan 3 at 11:45am

    Let’s hope. In a sense, every election is a peaceful, orderly revolution.

  6. Aaron Miller

    Agreed, DocJay. Perception of corruption is a powerful motivator for voters. It is also a simpler campaign appeal than convincing voters to sign onto any particular legislative or executive proposal. Should that be the focus of the Republican candidate’s campaign?

    I share flownover’s concern. Elections are determined by perception, not reality. I have no idea what swing voters think of the OWS protests, but their perceptions of that “movement” will depend heavily on media coverage. Most voters don’t see these groups with their own eyes. The same goes for government corruption.

    On a side note, public suicide is not a sacrificial act of heroism. I’m glad our own resistance movement was inspired by a well-reasoned rant.

  7. Flagg Taylor

     Excellent, excellent essay.  A reminder of the extreme stupidity of equating all “protesters” (this means you Time magazine). 

  8. James Gawron

     Dr. Rahe,

    First, thank you for the help and inspiration with my post “Understanding Perpetual Peace”.  I should also thank Claire Berlinski for giving me a sisterly little boot in the behind about the links.  Thanks Claire.

    Now let me try to comment on your post.  You are right on the fault line of the problem with your rational management criticism.   America is a huge highly bureaucratized place.  Large free market corporate structures are sources of bureaucracy too.  Universities are large corportate knowledge enterprises.  Their payoff structure is a little idiosyncratic but thats the only difference.  The American Government itself is a massive bureaucratic structure.

    I had a unique perspective to look at this when I was young.  I was a process control sales engineer.  Our manufacturers representative company had Ohio, Western Pennsyvania, West Virginia, Michigan, and part of Indiana as it’s standard exclusive territory.  We were a small company of about 20 employees.  This was actually large for this kind of manufacturers rep. at the time. (cont.)

  9. liberal jim

    When Appleton says the WS bankers “provoked” the crisis she is probably correct.  I do not disagree with the Fanny, Freddie, Democrat connection, but failing to mention Bush and his “ownership society” and the GOP who controlled Congress reveals bias or ignorance.  Washington is the culprit when it comes to the sub-prime mortgages and much else, but it was WS who leveraged up this junk and knowingly purchased the fraudulent AAA ratings for their MBSs and it is this that provoked (not caused) the debt crisis.  Most tea party people are fed up with the corrupt bipartisan politicians in DC and they are equally fed up with the corrupt WS bankers who purchase them.  It is interesting to note no one from either location has yet to be charged with any crime.  Could it be that they a scratching each others back?    OWS is nothing more than a the left taking advantage of a situation.  It is note worthy that the Dems are willing to give more support to this group of losers than the GOP insiders are willing to give to the hard working tea party folks.  I think this says a lot about the GOP.

  10. James Gawron

     (cont. from #10)

    Here is the question.  Why would a huge august American Industrial Firm with billions in budget, a huge corporate R&D facility full of the best equipment money can buy, staffed by the best PHD level engineers and scientists with resumes as long as the federal code, be interested in doing business with a tiny local area rep. whose people had no more then undergraduate degrees?

    The short answer is that when push came to shove, as it often does, we could get things done when their own genius level people couldn’t budge their way past the bureacracy.  The myth of rational management is so strong that it drives us to absurdity.

    Story #1)  The US EPA and the largest private industial corporation in America were locked in a wrestling match.  The EPA had just instituted their requirement for an Environmental Audit of any site for one year before any pollution producing plant (all of them) would be allowed to commence construction.  The l.p.i.c. in America had built a research mobile analysis system at it’s tech center.  However, this system was extremely fragile and costly. (cont.)

  11. James Gawron

     (cont. from #12)

    The l.p.i.c. in America decided that with it’s massive staff of engineers and scientists it was best to let this out for bids.  When the bids came in for these mobile systems, sophisticated instrumentation in trailers, the l.p.i.c. would require the equipment to be tested at it’s proving grounds.  The environmental reps were being driven nuts by the impossibly high standards of the proving ground.  Meanwhile the l.p.i.c. was trying to build a plant in the state of Michigan.  Michigan DNR (the state EPA) was trying desperately to intercede because if they couldn’t get the permits the l.p.i.c. was going to build the plant in the south.  This craziness went on for 2 1/2 years with the reps trying to satisfy the proving grounds and the DNR & the Governer begging the US EPA for mercy.

  12. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    James Gawron:  (cont. from #12)

    The l.p.i.c. in America decided that with it’s massive staff of engineers and scientists it was best to let this out for bids.  When the bids came in for these mobile systems, sophisticated instrumentation in trailers, the l.p.i.c. would require the equipment to be tested at it’s proving grounds.  The environmental reps were being driven nuts by the impossibly high standards of the proving ground.  Meanwhile the l.p.i.c. was trying to build a plant in the state of Michigan.  Michigan DNR (the state EPA) was trying desperately to intercede because if they couldn’t get the permits the l.p.i.c. was going to build the plant in the south.  This craziness went on for 2 1/2 years with the reps trying to satisfy the proving grounds and the DNR & the Governer begging the US EPA for mercy. · Jan 3 at 1:45pm

    Amazing, but not entirely surprising.

  13. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    liberal jim: When Appleton says the WS bankers “provoked” the crisis she is probably correct.  I do not disagree with the Fanny, Freddie, Democrat connection, but failing to mention Bush and his “ownership society” and the GOP who controlled Congress reveals bias or ignorance.  Washington is the culprit when it comes to the sub-prime mortgages and much else,  Jan 3 at 1:15pm

    When the whole thing exploded, 3/4s of the existing subprime mortgages were on the books of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You are right that Bush and co. are partially at fault, but they tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie, and Chris, Barney, Maxine, and, yes, Barack stopped them.

    I did not mean to say and did not say that Wall Street was innocent, but Wall Street greed is a given. Channeled in the right way by the market, it can serve us. Channeled in the wrong way by our administrative elite, and it can sink us.

  14. BlueAnt
    James Gawron:  The short answer is that when push came to shove, as it often does, we could get things done when their own genius level people couldn’t budge their way past the bureacracy.  The myth of rational management is so strong that it drives us to absurdity.

    I have worked for one of the biggest private insurance companies in the USA, and one of the biggest banks in the world.  Bureaucratic inefficiency and political roadblocks scale with size, whether you talk about government agencies or private corporations… but now we’re wandering into organizational theory.

    The market handles inefficient firms via profits reduced by competition, but there is no profit motive in politics, and no competition with a government monopoly on coercive power.  The conservative argument is that reducing roadblocks in government is largely a function of reducing the scope and power of government control.

    A government without the power to “encourage” home ownership would not have mispriced risk, mishandled sub-prime mortgage selling, or misshaped the underlying incentive structure of the housing market.  Bankers and brokers responding to those distorted incentives were acting rationally.  The collapse was not a “market failure”, it was an incentive failure.

  15. James Gawron

    (cont. from #13)

    Enter the totally irrational management element.  Rookie Salesman.  Rookie is sort of a cross between the sourcerer’s apprentice and spider man.  He only knows a little technically but he has a great flair for finding out.  He doesn’t actually know what a debit or credit is at this point so we can’t rely on his micro economic knowledge.  However, strangely Rookie understands Macro Economics very well.  He knows what M1 and M2 are but not a debit or a credit or even what an invoice is.  It’s a strange world.

    Rookie, has an old hand for a big boss and very bright mentor for his senior partner to advise him.  Neither man has more then a B.S. degree but boy do they ever know the ropes.  Rookie doesn’t even have a B.S.  He took some engineering courses and then got his degree in History.  However, the Universtiy that he went to had some of the best macro-economic modelers in the world.  Rookie picked it up by accident. (cont.)

  16. Hang On

    I’ve lived in countries where there’s constant, petty police harassment. You couldn’t go out on the last Saturday of month without lots of cash in your pockets to pay the policemen because it was the end of the month and the money they received as salary didn’t last until then. There, it’s in your face. It’s constant and you figure out ways to get around it. When you turn on a light switch here, the light comes on.  You don’t have to go down to the house of the district manager of the power company with a case of beer and ask him to make things ok. You don’t receive a bill for the telephone and figure they’re dividing up the cost of running the system and dividing it by the number of ex-pats in the country.

    No, it is different here. I’ve been there. It’s different.

  17. James Gawron

    Because Rookie understood the dire macro-economic political situatiion faced by everyone, he knew the pressure that everyone was under and how critical was the need.  This was his one advantage.  As far as the US EPA and environmentalism, Rookie from his experience in the History department knew that is was all likely to turn out to be a left wing hoax.  Take one part Marx, one part Malthus and stir in a little Jungian psycho-babble and you had the Gaia hypothesis.  Rookie then decieved himself into believing that when he sold the epa certified monitoring equipment and all that highly reliable data came flooding in (from his site and the thousands of others like it) that “cooler heads would prevail”.  Of course, as we all know cooler heads never prevailed.  Environmental demogoguery is still running strong.  As of late though maybe just maybe somebody will throw a monkey wrench into the evil environmental obsessive machine. (cont.)

  18. James Gawron

    (cont. from #19)

    Back to the story.  Rookie (with the help of the worlds leading EPA certified monitor maker that his old hand big boss had snagged) cooks up a complete system.  He finesses the proving grounds by quoting a custom built trailer that has better specs then the actual special environmental trailers quoted at half the price.  (the guy built horse trailers, boat trailers, or any damn trailer you wanted.  You give him the specs and his guys would fire up the welding equipment and build it.)

    However, the proving grounds didn’t give in so easily.  They demanded that Rookie bring the new microprocessor based (first of it’s kind back then) data logger in for “proving” (what else).   They ran the thing with every input and output hooked up for a week continuously.  The timing chip that controlled the multi-plexing wore out and failed.  There was a big grin on the proving grounds Ogre when Rookie showed up.  They had stopped the little upstart or so they thought.  However, Rookie, hungry as he was, didn’t give up so easily either. (cont.)

  19. James Gawron

    (cont. from #20)

    He called on the phone and the bright young, just out of University, Electrical Engineer who designed the data logger got on.  He knew what it was immediately.  He fedxed the solution to Rookie and Rookie came back to the proving grounds the next day with it.  Using only a phillips head screw driver he opened the data logger and found chip #19 (written right on the circuit board how convenient) he pulled the chip that was there out with a small pair of pliers he had brought.  Now he opened the fedx and took out the replacement chip.  It was the same chip exactly but it had a piece of alluminum foil, you know like you get at the supermarket glued to the case.  The two ends were turned up like wings.  Now the timing chip had it’s own heat exchanger (the aluminum foil).  Rookie closed her up with his trusty phillips head and walked out past the Ogre with his head held high.  The Orge looked at him still smiling and said “We’ll call you in a week.” (cont.)

  20. James Gawron

    (cont. from #21)

    The heat exchanger did the job.  The data logger ran and ran no problems.  The proving ground Ogre found a way to get Rookie later on but that’s another story.  The largest private industrial corporation in America bought the system.  The plant got built in Michigan.  The guy from Michigan DNR almost burst into tears when he finally shook Rookie’s hand.

    Now here is the question.  Could anyone have rationally predicted this?  Forget about it.  Life doesn’t make all that much sense.  That’s why freedom is so important.  The situation needed something so outlandish as Rookie to make it work.  Who could have predicted the existence of Rookie.  Well maybe Gd.  I don’t think anybody else could.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In