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Donít Tread on Six-toed Cats - The case for federalism in Key West, Fla.
National Review Online ^ | December 28, 2012 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 12/31/2012 12:06:23 AM PST by neverdem

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to work harder to persuade ideological friends and foes alike that the way to reduce partisanship and maximize happiness in America is to embrace federalism — the view that we should push as many decisions as possible to the lowest local level feasible.

Federalism reduces partisanship by shrinking the importance of the federal government. It increases happiness by maximizing the number of people who get to live the way they want to live.

Unfortunately, proponents of federalism tend to start the conversation with the really big issues: gay marriage, drugs, guns, abortion, etc.

I’m for making all of those things local issues wherever possible, too. But, admittedly, those questions are complicated or emotionally freighted. Some questions do cut to the heart of what it means to be an American.

But many don’t. So let’s start there.

For instance, consider the case of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats. According to legend, the writer was given a polydactyl (six-toed) feline named Snowball. Under a deadline, I could not determine whether Snowball was in fact male or female, but assuming he was a he, Snowball managed to overcome the limitations of his emasculating name to leave behind generations of progeny.

Snowball’s six-toed descendants live on at the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year to see where Hemingway lived when he wrote “To Have and Have Not” and to see 50 or so cats of Snowballian lineage lounge about the grounds of the Spanish colonial.

The cats get weekly veterinary visits and regular belly-scratchings from tourists. The Hemingway Home website says that the cats even have a corporate sponsor, Pfizer, which provides free medicine for them. Most are spayed or neutered to keep the number of Snowball’s descendants from snowballing.

The property has a high wall, but as cats are wont to do, they occasionally get out and wantonly rub up against the legs of passersby.

In short, the whole scene is one of sickening cuteness and laid-back charm, consecrated by time and local tradition.

And the federal government cannot abide that.

The Department of Agriculture insists that the cats, with their flagrant sidewalk-napping and unauthorized public self-grooming, must be regulated like lions or elephants or any other “animal exhibit.” As a result, the owners of the museum must:

obtain an exhibitor’s license; contain and cage the cats in individual shelters at night, or alternatively, construct a higher fence or an electric wire atop the existing brick wall, or alternatively, hire a night watchman to monitor the cats; tag each cat for identification purposes; construct additional elevated resting surfaces for the cats within their existing enclosures; and pay fines for the museum’s non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.

I don’t have the space here to get into all of the details of this ten-year-old legal dispute. But, in short, it’s all incredibly stupid.

The fracas began when a neighbor felt that one of the Hemingway cats — Ivan — was getting, in her words, too “macho” with the street cats she fed a couple doors down. So, obviously, she complained to the government in Washington about Ivan the Terrible, and Uncle Sam sprang into action.

After a decade of squabbling, a federal appeals court recently sided with the Obama administration, ruling that the museum must comply with the federal diktat or get rid of the cats.

To be fair, maybe the cats are a problem. But you know what? If they are, they’re not my problem. I don’t live in Key West.

In other words, what on earth is Washington doing setting cat policy — polydactyl or otherwise — for Key West, Fla.?

I’m always amazed by people who love visiting exotic locales abroad — and are often sanctimonious about keeping them exotic — but simultaneously support a government at war with exoticism here at home.

The federal government has plenty on its plate already. It should not be the cavalry of busybody neighbors or aggrieved cat ladies who can’t win an argument at the local level.

Key West is not Mogadishu. It has a functioning government, as does the state of Florida. Residents there — and across America — are capable of self-rule, which includes the right to live in ways other Americans might think is crazy or wrong. If the six-toed cats launch an insurrection, complete with an updated “Don’t tread on me” feline flag, by all means send in the feds.

Otherwise, the locals can work it out for themselves. They’ll be happier, and Key West will be a more interesting place to visit.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial; Government; Politics/Elections; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: federalism

1 posted on 12/31/2012 12:06:27 AM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem
The federal government can't come up with a sound business-like budget, protect our borders and ensure the safety of its ambassador abroad, but it can regulate the cat population at a tourist attraction in Key West.

This country is messed up.

2 posted on 12/31/2012 12:29:28 AM PST by fatnotlazy
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To: neverdem
The federal government can't come up with a sound business-like budget, protect our borders and ensure the safety of its ambassador abroad, but it can regulate the cat population at a tourist attraction in Key West.

This country is messed up.

3 posted on 12/31/2012 12:29:28 AM PST by fatnotlazy
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To: neverdem

You can’t make this crap up.


4 posted on 12/31/2012 12:53:40 AM PST by onona (Happy New Year.)
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To: fatnotlazy
There are an estimated 40,000 cats on the island of Key West. (The end of the flightpath for hummingbirds from the Yucatán peninsula).

The Keys in general are a bad mix of overlapping Federal, State, and County mandates: just the mandated 2013 sewer-line hookups—at $40,000 each—will put many of the few remaining small businesses under.

5 posted on 12/31/2012 3:28:46 AM PST by Does so (Dims don't think ... they PLOT!)
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To: neverdem

Ping this one over to Slings and Arrows. :)=^..^=


6 posted on 12/31/2012 3:30:19 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: neverdem; Slings and Arrows

kitteh ping!


7 posted on 12/31/2012 4:26:13 AM PST by Gefn ("I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder")
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To: neverdem

I’m surprised it got this far.

The Conch Republic should tell the Feds to scram.


8 posted on 12/31/2012 7:08:46 AM PST by Scrambler Bob (Honk Honk - I am the Goose that laid the Golden Eggs - so far ....)
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To: neverdem

Those who want the federal government to wipe every tear and right every wrong are quickly discovering that the same government will soon be dictating to us the right way to wipe something else. To liberals everyone save the liberal elites are too dumb to make the “right” decisions in their lives and must have big government make those decisions for us. Under Obama the federal government will soon be controlling the thermostat in our homes, the kind of car we buy, where and when we can drive, the kind of food we can eat what we can listen to on the radio and watch on TV just like they already control the toilets and light bulbs we use. The totalitarian society of Orwell’s Big Brother is rapidly coming.


9 posted on 12/31/2012 7:17:53 AM PST by The Great RJ
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To: neverdem
From 12/28: Don't Tread on Six-Toed Cats
10 posted on 12/31/2012 7:59:04 AM PST by upchuck (America's at an awkward stage. Too late to work within the system, too early to shoot the bastards.)
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To: neverdem

Robert Heinlein once said, “Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite.” I’m not surprised to see a Mrs. Grundy cat lady at the root of this.


11 posted on 12/31/2012 9:36:56 AM PST by Mr. Silverback (I want a hippopotamus for Christmas! Only a hippopotamus will do!)
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To: Gefn; Biggirl

Caught an earlier posting of this column. Thanks for the ping.


12 posted on 12/31/2012 10:10:57 AM PST by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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