Saturday, February 6, 2016

I-98: Episode Eight -- Pork: The Other White Meat

a syndicated television series spanning one decade, 2040 - 2049
Chronicles from The Bakken
Starring Samuel "Oilman" Goshwin & Liam Nikolai Gjorkstad
with occasional appearances by Archie McCool
initial funding from Apple Prairie Broadcasting  
matching grant money from The Legacy Fund
continuing support from viewers like you.

In the last episode, Amtrak had cleared Minot, heading west, bringing Sam and Liam closer to Boomtown every hour.

Somewhere west of Ray, Sam asked Liam what kind of car they should buy at Northstar. Liam was surprised Sam would ask. Wouldn’t they simply replace the Lamborghini with another Lamborghini?

“I don’t understand. Aren’t we just going to get another Lamborghini?”

“I suppose. I was just thinking about an electric car. A Tesla. A Model XS.”

Charging stations were now ubiquitous across the US. Tesla and GE had merged in 2030 after realizing they were pretty much in the same business: making money off government subsidies.

GE-Tesla cars now had a 650-mile range on one charge.

“But this time, driverless.”

Driverless cars never were perfected. Funding for that research died out when Congress realized that with 34% unemployment among the country’s youth there was another solution to driverless cars. Uber-all and Lyft-us received government contracts to train inner city youth, ages 14 to 19, to drive. Once they had their commercial small-vehicle driving licenses (CSVDLs), they were matched with owners of cars who no longer wanted to drive or were physically unable to drive.

Not only would the cars technically be “driverless” from the owner’s point of view, the owner had his own personal valet who could drop off the dry clearing or pick up dinner-to-go. Pizza delivery companies like Dominoes pretty much folded once “driverless cars” and Amazon drones appeared on the scene.

“You know, if we got a driverless car, ….

“ … pizza delivery would be a snap.”

“Speaking of which, I’m hungry. What about you?”
 “I’ve been thinking about pulled pork and a Dr Pepper when we get to Williston.”

“That’s right. There’s a Jimmy Deen’s Pulled Pork and Billiards at the mall.”

Williston was a “Pork Sanctuary City.” In 2015, federal prisons quit serving pork with the explanation that it was a financial decision. There just wasn’t much demand for pork in federal prisons, officials said.

After the pork ban in federal prisons, the #PigsLivesMatter snowballed. PETA stole the hash tag from some police union in Missouri confusing donors. It was a fortunate turn of events. Over the next decade the number of Muslim immigrants streaming into the US resulted in tense situations in Detroit, Cedar Rapids, the Twin Cities, and Kansas City. The Pork Party was using pork to instigate and incite demonstrations, not always peaceful, by throwing pork at undocumented residents. Things got so out of hand that by 2027, Congress felt there was no choice but to ban pork across the continental US and Alaska. Due to the popularity of Spam in Honolulu and the fact that Hawaii was now home to the first presidential primary, Hawaii was exempt. Hormel’s Spam Museum was moved from Austin, MN, to Makakilo, Hawaii.

The Pork Prohibition Amendment never passed; it became a state issue. Forty-nine of the fifty-one states banned pork but no less than 65 major metropolitan areas declared themselves pork sanctuary cities. Iowa declared itself a “pork sanctuary state.” Iowa was punished; the “Iowa caucuses” were shut down and Iowa lost its bragging rights as the first state to vote in the presidential primaries. Texas banned pork but the state claimed to have more pork sanctuary cities than any other state, though Illinois was not far behind.

Pork wasn’t the only issue dividing America by 2025. Other Congressional bans that resulted in sanctuary cities included urban rap (music), automatic weapons (such as “machine guns”), NASCAR racing, curling, and kite-flying. Most of these wedge issues resulted in multiple sanctuary cities, with one exception. For inexplicable reasons, there was only one NASCAR sanctuary city, Daytona Beach, and much of that was under water much of the year due to rising sea levels due to global cooling. As the polar sea water froze, it expanded, and earth’s oceans rose precipitously. NOAA had tweaked its thermometers and moved them closer to the tropics but to no avail. It was only a matter of time before NASCAR racing would be a thing of the past. No one would notice.

Williston was one of five pork sanctuary cities in North Dakota. The others were: Alexander, Watford City, Rugby, and New Ulm. Three of the cities were in the Bakken; many of the roughnecks were from Texas and there was a risk they would leave if pork was banned. New Ulm’s strong German heritage explained why it was a sanctuary city. New Ulm, in fact, boasted two "sanctuary" designations. In addition to being a pork sanctuary city, New Ulm, located in south-central Minnesota, tired of ever increasing utility rates, declared itself a "North Dakota sanctuary city." The issue was tied up in court, but for all practical purposes, "New Ulm, MN" was now "New Ulm, ND." The zip code did not change.

No one could ever explain why Rugby became a pork sanctuary city. Rumors were that the city fathers hoped Harold Hamm would build a $4 billion pork processing plant in the city. The city fathers did not know that although Harold had the "right" last name, he had nothing to do with pork. 

The sanctuary cities were clear proof how Balkanized the United States had become over wedge issues. One agency that seemed immune to this was the EPA. No jurisdiction was able to successfully challenge EPA rules and regulations, no matter how bizarre, in the early decades of the 21st century.

The last straw was the EPA rule inserted into the 6,000-page omnibus bill as a footnote designating oxygen as a toxic gas. An EPA bureaucrat had noted that oxygen was toxic for anaerobic bacteria and, as they say in the Smithsonian, "the rest is history." In general, most Americans felt oxygen did more good than harm, but it depended on how the pollsters asked the question. 

The EPA had pretty much brought the US to an economic standstill by 2030. The states that did challenge the EPA found themselves in court for years. It was at that point that Congress stepped in again, forming a cabinet-level department to expedite the challenges: the Department of Conflict Resolution, Arbitration, and Policing. If conflicts between the states and the EPA could not be resolved within one year and a day, the parties were referred to a Department of CRAP arbitration committee which would impose a solution. [EPA rules did not apply to the Federal government, the District of Columbia, or Hawaii.]

These arbitration committees were patterned after the North Dakota Industrial Commission which had been so successful in managing the boom-bust cycle of the oil and gas industry in the early 2020’s. Of course, that was all in hindsight. Badda-bing.

Like the NDIC, the federal arbitration committees were composed of three members, but the director did not vote unless there was a tie between the two voting members. In the case of a tie, the director cast the deciding vote. There was talk of eliminating the two other members who seemed superfluous, leaving just the director as the only commission member, but then it wouldn’t have seemed like a real commission. So, in the end, the panels were left with three members. The commission was given 45 days to come up with a decision. There was no appeal process.

Once a conflict was resolved, with or without arbitration, it was DeptCRAP’s responsibility to police the decision, to make sure both parties complied with the decision.

Sam and Liam were getting their stuff together. Amtrak would soon be pulling into Williston's Northstar Center.

[The I-98 theme song crescendos as the camera pulls away with an overhead shot. In the distant, the Bakken is coming into view. Rolling credits.] 

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