Apr 302009

Because of what happened today, I meant to include more in that last post about Free-Range kids. I’ll put it here instead.

Today just before I was about to tell my wife about Free-Range Kids and some of the recent discussions there, she told me some bad news. There had been a murder yesterday at Galesburg, on Miller Drive near the Shell station. It seems that a 67-year-old man (she said 70 when she told me about it) shot and killed a teen-age girl who had been doing some work at his house. Another girl with her, her sister, was shot, too, but ran to the Subway at the Shell Station, where there happened to be a police officer. There may have been a sexual assault, and the man shot himself in the end.

I don’t know these girls but am afraid I’ll find out that they are friends of friends. I know that street and some people who live there. We once used the services of the doctor who owns the house. I’ve ridden my bike there a few times. I sometimes stop at that Shell station on my way back home from a long bike ride. It’s a place to cross the Kalamazoo River. But more often I cross the river near the other end of Miller Drive. Either way, it’s all too close to home in more ways than one.

So how, then, can I defend that mother who kicked the kids out of the car a few miles from home? And how can I defend Lenore Skenazy when she argues back against a law-enforcement officer who wrote the following:

“I work in law enforcement in the child predator unit in a mid-size city. Kids meeting people on the Internet is the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t sound like anyone here has any idea of the extent that perpetrators use new technologies to victimize. I won’t “bore” you with details since you don’t think this stuff can happen to you anyway. No one does.

“But it is kind of sad to me to see how proud people are to wave off their responsibilities to keep their kids in check.”

First, I’m not exactly defending the mother’s decision, though I am defending her against a government that would arrest her for making it. And it’s not a matter of thinking this stuff can’t happen to you.

Even back in the 1950s, in rural North Dakota, parents knew there were bad people. In fall of 1956, when I was 8, my younger brother and I attended a one-room school a half a mile or so from home, along one of the few paved highways in that part of the world. I don’t think there were any other homes between ours and the school. It was a sparsely settled area. We walked to school and back. I was envious of an older boy who sometimes rode his horse to school and kept it in a little stable out back during the day. But even in that world, my mother told us not to accept rides or anything else from strangers.

One day on the way home after school, we were offered a ride in a horse-drawn wagon or sleigh, I disremember which, that was hauling some of the other kids we knew. It looked like they were having fun, but Mom had told us not to accept any rides from strangers, and I didn’t recognize the man driving the team, even though I thought I recognized some of the other people. I don’t remember what words I said for refusal — maybe I just shook my head — but I grabbed my brother’s arm and walked further away in the ditch. (The ditches are really wide in North Dakota.)

I didn’t say anything about it when I got home — there are lots of things I never told my parents even at that age — but they later heard about it. They asked me about the incident and after I confirmed what they had heard, they laughed, saying it would have been OK to take a ride with them. Well, just because they knew the man didn’t mean I did.

That was a somewhat different world than Galesburg, Michigan in 2009. But it’s not that people then and now don’t think there are bad people who might do bad things to children. That law-enforcement officer is mistaken when he says people don’t think this stuff can happen. They know all too well. It’s just that parents are making decisions about how best to bring up children to live in this world, and are not letting the dangers be the only determining factor. And even when the dangers factor largely in their decisions, the solution is not always to hide the kids away from the world.

Apr 302009

I’m trying to play matchmaker between The Front Porch Republic (mostly guys, as far as I can tell) and Free-Range Kids (mostly mothers). On the political spectrum it seems that the Front Porchers are a little more conservative, and the Free-Rangers are more liberal. This, btw, is one of the rare places where it’s not completely ridiculous to say liberal rather than leftish. But the important thing is that both of these groups are bridging across these political divides over topics that are far from superficial. And both are subversive of the established order.

I just posted the following in a Front Porch article by Russell Arben Fox titled, “Walking to school, slackerdom, and other revolutionary acts.”

If you folks aren’t reading Lenore Skenazy’s “Free Range Kids” blog, you should be.

Badger makes a point that reminds me of the discussion about a Skenazy post from last week, “Mom Orders Bickering Kids Out of Car–Ruining them for Life?

You can read the comments for yourself, but here is my take on it. It’s one thing (a bad thing) for the govt to arrest the mother and issue a protection order against her. It’s another thing for her neighbor to say (and I don’t know if this is how it happened), “Here’s your daughter. I found her crying, two miles from home. She says you kicked her and her sister out of your car. I don’t know the whole story, but I’m concerned that something bad could have happened to her.”

Some people conflate the two issues of the government stepping in and the neighbors being critical. But those are two different things. If we want the government to butt out, we need to let the neighbors butt in. That’s what it means when people say, “it takes a village.” Most of us don’t like the neighbors watching our every move and judging how we live. That’s a major reason people have moved away from small towns to the city, where they can be more anonymous. But if we do away with the social controls via neighbors watching each others’ business, then we’ll end up with an increasingly totalitarian welfare-police state to control our relationships.

I can resent living in the neighborhood fish-bowl as much as anyone else, but I like that a lot better than having Big Brother watch out for me.

Back when Hillary wrote, “It takes a village,” a lot of my fellow libertarian-tending conservatives criticized the concept. I tried to get those I know to think of it as a good idea, but without much success. The problem with Hillary is not that she said “village,” but that what she really meant was, “It takes a totalitarian police state to raise a child.”

I cleaned it up slightly to say it the way I should have said it.

And since we’re talking about things like neighborhoods and community, that gives me an excuse to pass on this link that I learned about from someone on the Phred bicycle touring list. There is more than one way to form communities.


The Gizmodo blog introduces it saying: “If this video doesn’t bring a tear to your eyes and make you smile for the rest of the day, you are a cold hearted bastard. Watch it from beginning to end—you won’t regret it.”

I’ve watched it twice so far and have also gone to the “Playing for Change” site to hear more.

Apr 292009

I don’t much care whether the Republican party disappears or keeps going in some form or other, but I care a lot about stopping Obama’s imperialistic power grabs and about preserving human rights. With that in mind, I suggest that it would be far better for the vote on the next such issue to be 60 Democrats Aye, 40 Republicans Nay than it would be to have 59 Democrats Aye, 1 Republican Aye, 40 Republicans Nay. The Democrats are offended when they can’t get some Republicans to vote for their programs; else how are they going to have someone to blame when those programs fail? Arlan Specter will no longer be one of those Republicans who will give them the kind of bipartisan cover they seek.

Apr 282009


This photo was taken last November 29 from the Marantette Bridge just outside of Mendon, Michigan. I often stop here for photos and a rest break when riding my bicycle through Mendon, but this time I had come by car, so it’s not really appropriate for The Spokesrider, where I’ve already posted several articles about this place.

I think of this place every time I read about South Carolina’s governor, Mark Sanford. He does not want to accept stimulus money — there are strings attached — but the left is threatening to make life very difficult for him if he doesn’t take it.

Maybe they’ve broken him by now. I have paid attention only to the headlines and haven’t kept up.

I also think of this place when I read about the Obama administration exerting enormous pressure on banks to accept bailouts, or when I read about how the Bush administration forced CEO Ken Lewis to accept government money to buy out Merrill Lynch (and forced him to keep quiet about some aspects of it).

Back in November 1833 the U.S. government was using similar tactics to finish the conquest of the Potawatomi Indians in Michigan, take their land, and evict them from Michigan. Some of the pressure tactics took place across the river, in the vicinity of the house behind the trees. That house was not built until a year or two later. In November 1833 this was part of the Nottawasepe Indian Reservation, and there was a log-cabin trading post here. It was a good place for a treaty meeting.

In September of that year there had been a treaty meeting in Chicago, by which the Potawatomi people of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan had succumbed to pressure to accept money from the government to pay off their debts, and to agree to move to the west side of the Mississippi River. The Potawatomi people tried to resist and started out by saying they would be glad to accept the hospitality of the U.S. government but had no intention of selling land and moving west. It took several days to break them down. James Clifton describes what happened in his book, “The Prairie People” (2nd ed., page 239):

…Two days later, confusion was generated by many of the assembled okamek, who declared they were ignorant of just exactly which lands the government wanted. The good Democrat Porter, President Jackson’s personal appointee, then had sternly to remind the assembled Potawatomi that what Old Hickory wanted badly enough he was prone to take by force. Thereafter there was a suspect five-day gap in the journal of what transpired, of the sort that encourages attorneys to raise the issue of collusion and conspiracy. When the official record again begins on September 26, the treaty was already written and ready to be marked and certified. During the interim, Commissioners Porter and Owens … apparently had introduced their own secret weapons, Subagent Ardent Spirits, Colonel John Silver, and the Reverend Utmost Chicanery….

But the Commissioners apparently felt they had not sufficiently bought out the Nottawasepe Indians from Michigan. They came to the Marantette trading post a month later to conclude a supplemental agreement with the people here, and to make a payment that would go directly to them without going through the Illinois and Wisconsin leaders.

By that time, the Nottawasepe people were having second thoughts. They decided among themselves to keep their land and to refuse to accept the money. But the Commissioners eventually got one of the okamek to break and to sign. Once he signed, the others had to sign, too, or they would be left out of the treaty payments, which meant they would be marginalized and lose influence even among their own people.

In 1839, the year before they were finally evicted from Michigan, the man who had first broke and signed was murdered by one of those who had resented what he had done. But by then it was too late.

(The treaty documents about this affair are online here. Some of the information above is from the 1877 history of St. Joseph County. That publication says the supplemental treaty meeting took place in December 1833. But that account is based on what people remembered 40-some years later. I’m basing the early November date on court records from a lawsuit that resulted from a dispute over whiskey and brandy on the treaty grounds. I presume the information in the court documents was given under oath, and anyway, it’s a record much closer to the time of the actual event.)

Then as now, the government can tighten the screws really hard when it wants someone to take the money. Yesterday’s WSJ had an editorial (“Busting Bank of America“) that summarized how Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson did it to Ken Lewis. If Mark Sanford or any of the Bank CEOs succeed in resisting similar pressure from the Obama administration, it can only be at the cost of becoming broken and ruined men, shunned by both friends and enemies for having behaved courageously.

Apr 272009

Here’s a cute rhetorical trick. The Reuters headline says, “Obama leading U.S. ideological shift.”

That’s like putting out a headline back in the 400s saying, “Atilla the Hun leading European ideological shift.”

Or at the 1821 Treaty of Chicago, by which the United States provided a massive bailout to the Potawatomi Indians in exchange for their ceding most of their Michigan Territory: “Gov. Lewis Cass leading ideological shift in the Northwest.”

A less genteel way for Reuters to put it would be, “Obama leading shift to robber-baron capitalism.” Or, “Obama wages aggressive war of conquest.”

Apr 252009

For some reason, the 1st of these items reminded me of the 2nd.

  1. The British Daily Mirror runs a story about using lie detectors to examine the thoughts of paedophiles, illustrating it with a thinly disguised photo of Leonid Chernovetsky, mayor of Kiev hooked up to a lie detector. (As reported on English Russia and on Ukrainiana.)
  2. Janet Napolitano uses her position as an influential government official to go McCarthyite and smear large classes of political opponents, painting them as potential terrorists. (This, from an administration that is simultaneously asking for power to control the internet and pull the plug on any groups it wants to cut off.)
Apr 232009

I presume it has happened in the movies if not in real life: The parents scrimp and save to send the kid to college. They work extra jobs on weekends and evenings so he can get through the pre-med program. Then, instead of making them proud, he drops out and rejects their ways by becoming a flower child.

Or it could happen in both the movies and in real life. Christopher McCandless graduated from college but rejected his parents’ materialistic ways. He gave the rest of his educational savings ($25K) to Oxfam and became a nomad, communing with nature and giving his parents no clue as to where he had gone. He wandered from California to South Dakota to Alaska, where he died of starvation and had the movie “Into the Wild” made from his story.

Some parents will be angry at an ungrateful child like that. Some will be manipulative and controlling. Some will handle it with loving resignation.

But what if the parent is Uncle Sam? In that case there will be no loving resignation. There WILL be anger and manipulation. The parent will NOT relinquish control, because the parent has the tax system and prison system on his side.

This type of parenthood is made clear from a letter in today’s WSJ, about doctors who are opting out of the system of government health care by refusing to take any Medicare patients. Henry A. Kolesnik from Tulsa, Oklahoma wrote:

I think it is a doctor’s right to opt out from Medicare by turning away patients, provided that he can prove that his education and training was not received at any insititution that was funded or subsized by taxpayer dollars.

Robert Kugel of Burlingame, California explains how it will be done:

If more physicians become like Marc Siegel and opt out of government insurance plans, look for state and federal governments to impose “opt-out fees” on the grounds that “it’s only fair.” Doctors will be charged a tax on their services (and pass it on to patients). The tax probably will start out at a modest level and then ratchet up to 100% or more, with the increases defended as a better alternative to rationing health care “for those that aren’t wealthy enough to pay the tax.” Such a tax will allow governments to deny that they are coercing doctors to stay in the system, while accomplishing that very goal.

And when Uncle Sam is the parent, he can also point out how kind he was to make it possible for the children to go to college in the first place — something the parents could never have done if he hadn’t taken their money to make it possible.

Apr 192009

The other day I got an e-mail from democrats.com directing me to their “No Amnesty for Torturers” campaign. I’m not sure that these people have any official connection to the Democrat Party, but they do seem to identify with it.

On the surface, one could get the impression that they are against torture:

…Torture is utterly immoral and un-American. It produced absolutely no useful intelligence . It recruited terrorists responsible for at least half the U.S. deaths in Iraq . And it endangered every U.S. soldier who may be captured in the future.

And torture is absolutely illegal. The U.S. ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture , which prohibits torture and requires prosecution of torturers. In 1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese officer for waterboarding. No lawyer can “legalize” what is illegal.

Congress must take the following actions:

1. Demand the appointment of a Special Prosecutor by Attorney General Eric Holder for torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other heinous crimes of the Bush Administration. (Thanks to Rep. Jerrold Nadler for leading the way !)

2. Prohibit the use of any taxpayer dollars to defend government officials who committed such crimes against lawsuits, or to pay for judgments against them.

3. Impeach Judge Jay Bybee, the torture memo author who serves on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California.

4. Protect human rights by restoring Habeas Corpus and the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure), including repeal of the Orwellian-named Protect America Act, U.S.A. Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments, and Military Commissions Act.

5. End secret government by prohibiting use of “State Secrets,” “Sovereign Immunity” and “Signing Statements.”

But if Democrats were really against torture, they wouldn’t have let a delegation of Democrat Congressppeople go to Cuba to fawn over the Western hemisphere’s chief torturer.

Rep. Bobby Rush even gushed, “In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor.”

Yeah, sure. Too bad not all of Fidel’s victims survived his torture chambers. Roberto López Chávez was one who was not a survivor.

And the current president, also a Democrat, recently got all friendly with Hugo Chavez, a buddy of Fidel’s who is trying to continue that man’s role in this hemisphere.

If the people at democrats.com truly want to oppose torture, maybe they ought to try cleaning up their own ranks first. But lacking any action like that, I think it will be safe to conclude that they are NOT opposed to torture after all. They just hate George Bush.

BTW, I actually support most of items 4 and 5 in the list of actions that democrats.com wants Congress to take. But I question whether democrats.com really wants all of what it says it wants.

And the U.S. should have removed its embargo on Cuba nearly 20 years ago. Democrats who want to change U.S. policy in that direction could do so by going to Cuba and showing solidarity with those victims who have survived Fidel’s torture. But getting all chummy with the chief torturer himself is not sending the right message.

Apr 172009

Headline: “McCain Strategist Warns GOP Risks Becoming ‘Religious Party’

I’d think the phrase “McCain Strategist” would be the last thing anybody in politics would want on his/her resume or business card. Even something like “Edsel Product Manager” wouldn’t have quite the same stigma. Better to leave a gap on the resume for the time spent on that campaign.

Not that I’m complaining about the way they did their job. If they had been any good at it, they might have suckered me into voting for their guy.