Jun 162008

Here’s something I never would have guessed:  The Associated Press is a non-profit organization.  It was mentioned in passing in this article I found on Drudge, “AP to meet with blogging group to form guidelines : AP and blogging group to discuss possible standards for quoting AP news stories online.”  How can they be independent of the government if they’re non-profit? 

I hope nobody is going to tell me, “What’s so strange about that?  After all, the Drudge Report is a non-profit, too.  And so is Rush Limbaugh’s outfit.”  They aren’t really, are they?   

Jun 102008

I’ve long detested the term “policymaker” as used in this sentence that I found by googling for the term:

The User Liaison Program disseminates health services research findings for State and local health policymakers in easily understandable and usable formats through interactive onsite workshops, teleconferences, distance learning programs, and research syntheses.


I understand the need for legislators, judges, and executives in our system of government.   I am not particularly fond of government bureaucrats, but I accept the fact that we need them.   But how did these beings called “policymakers” ever weasel their way into our society?    Why can’t we just eliminate those positions, and let the practitioners be rehabilitated?  Then we wouldn’t need “usable formats” and “interactive onsite workshops.”   Life would be much more pleasant.

I’ve been tilting against that windmill for some time, but now I see I am not alone!   I was about to throw out the April 21 issue of the The Weekly Standard, when I found an article abut Michael Oakeshott that I hadn’t finished reading.  I had heard of the guy before — some conservatives seem to talk about him a lot — but hadn’t read anything of his, and still haven’t.  The following has got me interested, though:

The lectures are worth reading in their own right, but Oakeshott’s admirers will appreciate them primarily for the elaboration they afford to some of the points he made in his anti-Rationalist essays. In two of those, he distinguished between the word “ruler,” the medieval term for a sovereign or head of state, and the word “leader,” which we now use to describe political officials of whose strength or charisma we approve.

The former, says Oakeshott, carries the idea of adjudicating disputes and otherwise maintaining order; the latter suggests the teleological impositions of the modern state. “Rulers” want enough money to fight wars and as few internal disputes as possible; “leaders” want to take the state in a certain direction and must persuade majorities to let them. The transformation began, says Oakeshott, when, in the early modern era, the medieval distinction between adjudication and policymaking began to fall away.

For medieval rulers, policymaking had been confined almost exclusively to foreign policy: the making of treaties, declarations of war, and so on–powers, by their nature, unlimited. But in time, governments began to pursue policy with respect to their own population.

A modern state is a ‘policy’ state; and this, in its extreme, is a ‘police’ state. For what constitutes a ‘police’ state is not the ‘knock at the door’ (that is a minor detail), but the pursuit of policy by a government in relation to its own subjects.

Unfortunately, that’s as much as the article has to say about it.

Jun 102008

Robert Rupert Murdock certainly isn’t making the Wall Street Journal into a better newspaper. He may know how to make more money with it, but it’s clear now that it won’t be by making the paper more interesting.

I refer to the lead headline on Monday’s paper: “Gasoline Hits Average of $4 a Gallon : Price Shock, Among the Worst in a Generation, Could Push Economy Into Recession.”

The WSJ used to be a refreshing change from such inanities as we’d get from tabloid journalism. The front page was never immune from the bad effects of journalism schools, but who would have thought it would make such a steep dive to the lowest common denominator?

At least in the old newspaper, the writers would have known that the price of gasoline was having effects even when it was at $3.90 per gallon.

Jun 082008

After putting down the Pugachev rebellion in 1774, Catherine decided to decentralize administration of the Russian government. But she didn’t set up a federated government with separate powers; rather, she set up a system of administrative units that were altogether creatures of the central government. They served to strengthen her system of centralized control. “Historical and regional considerations were completely disregarded in the drawing of the boundaries.” (I’m just now reading this in A History of Russia, 4th ed., by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, 1984, pp 261-262.)

Autocrats do not like local government that has any separate authority. Local administration, yes. Local authority, no.

For example, New Jersey governor Jon Corzine wants to pressure small towns to merge, according to a Jim Manzi article at The American Scene. Other pretexts are given, but one suspects the real issue is to bring local governments under the thumb of the state.

Jennifer Granholm has been trying to do the same sort of thing here in Michigan. Township government is strong here, so she is trying to get townships to consolidate, as a way of streamlining government. A streamlined government, of course, is the last thing we need.

Jun 082008

Shawn Macomber reviews Gene Healy’s book, The Cult of the Presidency.

I came of political age in the ’90s, with the conservative critique of Waco, and during a time when conservatives often opposed foreign adventurism. Though I identified myself as a libertarian, I always associated conservatism with a realistic view of human nature and, accordingly, skepticism toward unchecked power. And the conservatives I knew best had spent the ’90s trying to convince the country that the executive branch had been seized by an utterly corrupt bunch of people who could not be trusted with power. Yet here they were in the new century, endorsing every one of the Bush administration’s extravagant constitutional claims. This seemed especially odd when all the while the odds-on favorite to win the office was another candidate named Clinton.

Well, I came of political age in the early 1960s, not the 90s, and it’s just as much a mystery to me why conservatives did that. It’s just as disheartening to me as the discovery, in the very late 60s, that so many conservative Republicans didn’t really oppose civil rights laws on constitutional grounds after all. They were just racists.

It was so depressing that by 1972 I had become an anti-Nixonite McGovernite. I had partially recovered by 1976, and fully recovered soon after Ronald Reagan’s administration began in 1981.

I’m not sure what I’ll do about it this time.

Jun 072008

USA Today: “Fewer roads will be repaved this summer, thanks to soaring prices of oil-based asphalt.”
That’s pretty much what I expected. And it’s worse here in Calhoun County, Michigan. Forget re-paving. We don’t even get patches, except that here and there a road crew will throw some asphalt in the general direction of the potholes. I used to say that the worst roads in southern Michigan were in the two extreme corner counties: Berrien and Monroe. I used to defend other Michigan roads when out-of-state riders criticized them. Used to. My county of Calhoun is now competing heavily with Berrien and Monroe for worst place. At the rate it’s going, it will take 10 years to patch last winter’s damage. Pretty soon we could just replace some of the paved roads with gravel, like in Hall County, Nebraska. I can deal with it. I can get wider tires for my bicycle. And maybe it will help bring property values and property taxes down, too. That’s life under Bernanke’s weak dollar regime.

Jun 062008

Burt Prelutsky: “Barack sends Michelle out to make speeches and give interviews, but when her words suggest a certain note of bitterness, racism and disaffection for America, Mr. Obama tells us we’re not supposed to take her to task. Well, Senator, if I recall correctly, you also think your spiritual advisor and your good friends, a corrupt lobbyist and an unrepentant terrorist, should be left out of the equation. So, on exactly what basis would you have us consider your qualifications to be our president?”

Why Obama Must Go to Iraq (Pete Hegseth in the WSJ): Obama says these trips are just “stage-managed productions designed to obfuscate, not illuminate. … That Mr. Obama apparently doubts his ability to distinguish spin from reality, and to draw bad news out of subordinates, does not bode well for his possible future as our nation’s chief executive.” And I might add that this is also the person who says he would talk with the leaders of Iran and other thug states, right away, without preconditions. But to meet with Americans in Iraq, he wants preconditions.

Jun 052008

While getting ready to go to work I finished “An Amish Patchwork : Indiana’s Old Orders in the Modern World” by Thomas J. Meyers and Steven M. Nolt (2005). I’ve learned that there are several Amish settlements, some of fairly recent origin, that I haven’t yet visited by bicycle or otherwise. I wish someone would do a book like this for Michigan.

The Moral Life of Cubicles. Found in The New Atlantis, by way of Arts & Letters Daily. Cubicles were originally intended to erase hierarchical distinctions in the office, and to empower workers. But the removal of authoritarian management meant new demands on workers, which can be thought of as a loss of privacy. The article also says some things about bureaucracy that are important to keep in mind when we consider things like nationalized health care. The article doesn’t say this, but it can be deduced. Either the system has to be bureaucratic and impersonal, or the government will have to stick its intrusive nose in our personal lives in places we once would have said are none of its business.

Jun 042008

Headline: “Obama expects GOP to attack his patriotism” (MSNBC URL here)

How could a news organization possibly know something like that? They could know whether Obama -says- he expects the GOP to attack his patriotism. But how can they possibly read his mind and know that he actually expects that?

Jun 042008

Wow! Barak Obama really IS for change. He’s no different from the Clintons or Bush in that he, too, wants to nationalize and centralize our once-federated system of law enforcement. But he is different in how he’s going about it.

Back in the day, when Bill Clinton was president, he climbed into a church pulpit and proclaimed his Crime Bill to be the Will of God. He was trying to provide supplemental funding for local police departments. And funding of course gives control to the funder.

But according to this note in The Weekly Standard, (available only to subscribers), the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act,” which “would impose collective bargaining on all but the smallest local governments” would do it differently. Instead of giving money, it would impose federal control over employer-employee relations.

But the worst component of the bill is its insistence on federal authority over police and fire services. America has gone from being the most dangerous and fire-prone Western nation to one of the safest and most fire-free largely because its police and fire systems respond so well to local needs. The proposed new federal authority over police and fire labor relations opens the door to greater federal authority over every other aspect of public safety.

Here are a few links I found: