Welfare-police state

Jun 012008

Karl Marx said religion is the opiate of the people. Paul Greenberg doesn’t believe it. He says socialism is the opiate of the people.

Not quite. He should have said socialism is the crack cocaine of the people. It makes them feel they can do anything, such as enact nationalized health care without having any idea how to avoid the adverse effects it has had for every nation that has tried it. It’s a sense of hubris much like that which made George W. Bush take us to war in Iraq. It’s not unlike the user who said,

Socialism made me feel beautiful and powerful. … This is what I had been looking for all my life. The socialism gave me confidence, it made me feel accepted, it diminished and minimized my fears … With socialism I was invulnerable; nothing could touch me.

Well, it was actually a cocaine addict who said that, and she didn’t use the word “socialism.”

May 312008

NYT: “Deal to return children to sect breaks down

  • A deal?   Who said anything about a deal?   The Texas state supreme court ruled that the state acted without authority when it confiscated the children.   End of story.   What’s there to break down?
  • I thought the children were to be returned to their parents, not to a sect.

Still, plans for the release had seemed to be moving toward resolution in her courtroom. Then came the snag over conditions.

Under one provision, the parents would have had to stay in close touch with state child protection officials and could have been subjected to visits by inspectors and state caseworkers at any time.

Further, in the absence of results from recently administered DNA tests, families were asked to sign affidavits agreeing to take from the state only their own children. They would also have had to take parenting classes.

I have a better idea.  How about if the state child confiscation officials who did this deed sign an affidavit agreeing not to act without authority in the future, and agree not to have contact with other peoples’ children until they’ve shown evidence of good behavior.   How about if they be required to take classes on the Bill of Rights?

Mar 182008

As a cost-cutting measure, we went without the Wall Street Journal for a few years. What I missed most during that time was Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s column about the Americas. She writes about things that I don’t know where to find elsewhere.

I liked Monday’s column about Hugo Chávez’s worst nightmare.

It’s about a student leader, Yon Goicoechea:

Mr. Goicoechea is the retiring secretary general of the university students’ movement in Venezuela. Under his leadership, hundreds of thousands of young people have come together to confront the strongman’s unchecked power. It is the first time in a decade of Chávez rule that a countervailing force, legitimate in the eyes of society, has successfully managed to challenge the president’s authority.

There are lessons in what he says that conservatives in the U.S. ought to take to heart if they ever expect to defeat Leviathan. Conservatives have won some electoral victories, but even while doing so the welfare-state has only grown. Here are clues as to how to make real progress, say, in health care:

Mr. Goicoechea takes a different stance, stressing reconciliation. He speaks about understanding the grievances of the disenfranchised, and looking for common ground that can give rise to solutions. The student leader says that two ideals hold his movement together: liberty and democracy, both of which he says have been absent in Venezuela for a long time. “Populism is not democracy.”

I ask him if he wants to restore the country’s institutions. “No, we want to build institutions. To say that we are restoring institutions would be to say that we had democracy before President Chávez, and I don’t think so. We may have had an independent Supreme Court, but the poor had no access.”

Mr. Goicoechea sees the current state of affairs as a continuation of the past, with different players. “Mr. Chávez says that his government serves the lower-income classes, but the reality is that the system still only serves those in the middle and high-income classes.” That resonates with people.

Ensuring access to legal institutions, so that all Venezuelans are guaranteed the protections of the state, is for Mr. Goicoechea the path to “social justice.” As an example he cites Petare, a notoriously poor Caracas barrio. “Private property rights protection does not exist there,” he says. “No one owns their own land, even though the laws say that you earn that right if you live there for a certain number of years. We will have a true revolution in Venezuela when we have strong, liberal institutions that defend the rights of the people.”

Mar 092008

I’m currently reading Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag : A history” (2003). In the introduction is a section about pre-Soviet times, which tells about an earlier version of Soviet justice.

The practice of exiling people who simply didn’t fit in continued throughout the nineteenth century. In his book, Siberia and the Exile System, George Kennan–uncle of the American statesman–described the system of “administrative process” that he observed in Russia in 1891:

The obnoxious person may not be guilty of any crime…but if, in the opinion of the local authorities, his presence in a particular place is ‘prejudicial to public order’ or ‘incompatible with public tranquility,’ he may be arrested without warrant, may be held from two weeks to two years in prison, and may then be removed by force to any other place within the limits of the empire and there be put under police surveillance for a period of from one to ten years.

And now that type of justice is coming to the west. Great Britain now has “Anti-Social Behaviour Ordinances” by which that country has casually tossed aside a thousand years of progress in the rule of law.

Consider the information on the web at scotland.shelter.org.uk:

The law says that someone is behaving in an antisocial manner if:

* they are acting in a manner that is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress, or
* they are doing several things over a period of time that cause, or are likely to cause, alarm or distress to at least one person living in another household.

This definition also covers verbal abuse, so if someone has been shouting and swearing at you or even saying things which make you and others feel uneasy, then it could be classed as antisocial behaviour under the law.

Whatever the problem is, it has to have happened more than once to at least one person. If it’s an isolated incident, it won’t count as antisocial behaviour, although there may be other things you can do to solve the problem, such as getting an interdict from a court

You don’t have to be guilty of any crime, you only need to be doing something the local authorities don’t like. It’s a rather arbitrary power. There is an appeals process, and the power isn’t supposed to be completely arbitrary, but words like “alarm,” “distress,” and “feel uneasy” can cover just about anything.

Why do I care what the Brits are doing? Well, we seem to be following in their path to a welfare-police state. That’s what a lot of Americans are counting on the coming elections to do for us. I am not sure how something like this cannot come here in the aftermath.

Feb 062008

The WSJ editorializes on the “stimulus”.

President Bush and Congress are marching arm in arm to pass their economic “stimulus,” but it’s clear that at least one group of observers isn’t impressed: investors. They blew right through all the Beltway happy talk yesterday, selling off the major stock indexes by some 3% or so on an ugly day.

I suppose an alternative possibility is that investors are spooked by the prospect of a Clinton, Obama, or McCain becoming president and are bailing out while they can still cut their losses.

But more likely they’re spooked by the results of bipartisanship.

I’m guessing the reason the Congress and President are acting so quickly on this package is that they need to do it quickly before people learn that it won’t do any good.  The important point for them is to expand the size and scope of government  while they have a chance.

Yes, the rebates are mostly temporary, but the expansion of government will be permanent.  The new spending will have to be paid for, which will create pressure for higher taxes, which will create pressure for more spending.

Dec 072007


This photo belongs in my Spokesrider blog, but it belongs here, too. It was taken at the end of the most unusual segment of a 3-day Labor Day weekend bike tour back in 1998. There is a connection to that article that Eunice Yu and Jianguo Liu wrote about the “Environmental impacts of divorce.” (I’ll get around to explaining the bike tour part over at The Spokesrider.)

I’m going to get started here WITHOUT explaining just yet how that photo fits.

In their conclusions, Yu and Liu explain that their paper is about more than just divorce.

Divorce is just one mechanism that leads to a decline in household size and extra households. Other mechanisms include declines in multigenerational households, delays in first marriage, increases in empty-nesters, and increases in separated couples. These alternate lifestyles may create environmental impacts similar to divorce through a reduction in average household size and an increase in the number of households. As global human values continue to shift toward greater autonomy and choice, the environmental impacts of increasing divorce will continue unless effective policies to minimize household dissolution are implemented or divorced households are able to improve their resource-use efficiency.

That last sentence seems to be a call for greater government action of a kind that leftwingers might like (though the very next sentence gives an example of how government restrictions on divorce don’t necessarily work). But I would like to point out that maybe it’s too much government action that has caused some of this autonomy that degrades the environment in the first place.

Take SCHIP, for example. It’s far from the first instance where government has taken over the role of parents, making their role less important. When government plays daddy and mommy to kids and provides their health care, then the decision-making process that led to daddy and mommy getting married in the first place is not such a terrifyingly important one. They can marry for what seems like love, or excitement, without really asking themselves if the other person is a good one with whom to make a lifelong committment. If it doesn’t work out and it ends in divorce, well, the government will help pick up the pieces. SCHIP just carries this shift in the role of marriage and parenthood a little further.

And if the Yu/Liu connection is correct, things like SCHIP may be responsible for environmental degredation.

There are some counterarguments that I’m not going to go into just yet. Nor have I explained yet what that photo has to do with it. Later.

Sep 282007

1959 vacation camp

This photo is one of my father’s 35mm slides from 1959. It was deteriorating badly, but I did what I could with it, along with a bunch of others I did for my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary this summer.

So what does it have to do with George Bush and SCHIP? Well, now that the Senate has passed the expansion of SCHIP, the script calls for George Bush to let some of his followers go out on a limb and support his threatened veto, then cut them down and stab them in the back by signing it anyway. Then conservative commentators will be bewildered as to why George Bush would have done such a thing, given that he’s done the same thing every time he’s had an opportunity to do so up to now.

That still doesn’t explain the photo.

I put it here because the problem with SCHIP is not so much that it will be an expensive boondoggle (though it will be that) as that it helps destroy families.

We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, but my parents managed to save enough so we could have one good travel vacation every summer. Dad built the travel trailer shown in the photo, and for a few years had to explain what it was every time we stopped at a gas station. Later pop-up campers became common. This one may look clunky, but you ought to have seen the one we borrowed for a trip to California in 1956. Dad improved on the design, substituting aluminum framework for the steel bedposts used as a tent frame on that one, and using thinner plywood.

In 1959 (the year of this photo) we went to the Canadian Rockies. I remember that Nikita Khruschev’s upcoming visit was in the news, and the idea of it was about as controversial as the recent one by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I remember Dad getting into a conversation with someone in Canada, saying maybe it was good that Khruschev would come for talks. It surprised me somewhat to hear him say that.  (Now that I think about it some more, I remember it better.  Dad did not say that.  It was a topic of conversation at more than one campsite, and someone else said it. )

We managed to have money for a vacation every year, but to do that we had to do without other things. For example, I have crooked teeth because my parents couldn’t afford to get them straightened. I’ve always been grateful that they chose to take us on travel vacations instead. There are lots of good memories from those trips.

When I mentioned this a few years ago to my sister (who is in the photo, as am I) she said no parent should have to make such choices. I retorted that who could better make that choice than the parents? Do we want governments making those choices for us?

Resources are limited, and such choices will be made at one place or another.

But the real problem is that if you take away all of those terrifying decisions that parents have to make for their children, they cease to be parents and the children cease to be their children. The family community is replaced by an extreme individualism in which each individual’s relationship is more with the state, and less with the family. And that results in social pathologies such as we see in Great Britain, which is now carelessly throwing away its hard-won advances in human rights in order to deal with it. (Anti-social behaviour orders, anyone?)

Would our government really be breaking up families on purpose in order to replace family relationships with others more to its liking? Of course it would. It wouldn’t be the first time. Listen to James Monroe’s state of the union address in 1818:

Experience has clearly demonstrated that independent savage communities can not long exist within the limits of a civilized population. The progress of the latter has almost invariably terminated in the extinction of the former, especially of the tribes belonging to our portion of this hemisphere, among whom loftiness of sentiment and gallantry in action have been conspicuous. To civilize them, and even to prevent their extinction, it seems to be indispensable that their independence as communities should cease, and that the control of the United States over them should be complete and undisputed. The hunter state will then be more easily abandoned, and recourse will be had to the acquisition and culture of land and to other pursuits tending to dissolve the ties which connect them together as a savage community and to give a new character to every individual. I present this subject to the consideration of Congress on the presumption that it may be found expedient and practicable to adopt some benevolent provisions, having these objects in view, relative to the tribes within our settlements.

He says he wants to break up the community relationships of the Indians so they can be more easily controlled by the government. That’s what was done then, and that’s what’s happening now with things like SCHIP.

There! Not only did I tie together George Bush, SCHIP, and our family vacations from the 50s, but I tossed in a bonus connection to James Monroe and the conquest of the Native Americans, not to mention Nikita Khruschev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It’s not for nothing that I’m called The Reticulator. (Other people tend to use slightly different language for it, though.)

Sep 272007

Buckle up on buses?  The Kalamazoo Gazette asks whether Michigan should require seat belts on school buses.

A better question would be why we have such abominations as school buses in the first place?  Someday people are going to look back like we now do on child labor in factories, asking what kind of brutish people those were who could make their own children waste hundreds of hours of their childhoods on those things.

I wish I had back all the time I spent on school buses during my high school days.  (For most of my elementary school, I usually walked to school — a quick walk across a hay field in good weather, maybe a little longer if I had to go round by the road.)  I wish we had never had to put our own kids on those things.   I still remember the first day our oldest got on a bus to go to a pre-school class.  It was probably more traumatic for us than for her, but those things don’t do anyone any good.

How will kids get to school without buses?  Well, we sometimes put some extra CO2 in the atmosphere to drive our kids to school instead of making them take the bus.  But the real solution is to break up large school districts in favor of neighborhood schools closer to homes.   If we put kids on buses, the least we can do is keep the time spent there as short as possible.   It will do until an enlightened age comes that does away with them altogether.

Sep 242007

One of the most despicable acts of the Clinton administration was the way it turned an innocent young boy over to the murderous dictator Fidel Castro.   A lot of people pretended to uphold parental discretion in this matter, saying it should be up to the father where the kid should go.    Of course, this is probably the only time in their lives that these people ever favored parental custody.  When it comes to abortion, or sex education, school choice, or health care — they are usually in favor of the government’s prerogative over parental control.

There were also a few gullible conservatives who actually bought this line about parental rights, too.  In their case, they probably thought they were being consistent in upholding their principles.

The problem is, we don’t have any way of knowing what Elián’s father really wanted.  The Clinton administration took pains not to find out.

Here’s an example of how parents are not allowed to be parents when they live under the thumb of Fidel’s soulmates:

The KBG’s long war against Rudolf Nureyev

The KGB, however, wanted him back. His celebrated teacher, Alexander Pushkin, and his devoted student friend, Tamara Zakrzhevskaya, were ordered to write pleading letters; his father, a loyal communist, was pressed to fetch him; and Soviet sympathisers in Paris tried to destroy his confidence by pelting him with missiles and catcalls on stage.

When these efforts failed, the KGB made other plans, one of which was to break his legs. He was tried in his absence and sentenced to seven years in prison as a traitor.

Next, the KGB turned to his friends. Pushkin was repeatedly questioned, and suffered a heart attack.

The careers of Leonid Romankov and his twin sister Liuba, scientists whose interest in literature and art had stimulated Nureyev, were blighted because of their friendship with him. Tamara Zakrzhevskaya was expelled from university, and forbidden to travel even to Eastern Europe for 30 years, for the crime of knowing him.


In the weeks after his defection, Nureyev was lonely and depressed. He telephoned home: his father refused to speak to him, but his mother tugged at his heart-strings, with the KGB keenly listening in.

He called East Berlin to speak to the handsome German student, Teja Kremke, with whom he had had an affair in Leningrad. This time the Stasi were listening.

I suspect that many of those on the left knew very well that they were partners in a similar action against Elián.   They certainly tried very hard not to show any glimmer of understanding when things such as this were described to them.


Sep 222007

From The Economist:

To eschew such tools is to fight terrorism with one hand tied behind your back. But that—with one hand tied behind their back—is precisely how democracies ought to fight terrorism.

Exactly so.  But we’ve spent many decades getting used to the idea that there really are no limits on what government can do.    The General Welfare clause tells us that anything goes, they say, no matter that the Constitution says no.   Interstate Commerce is defined to include much more than interstate commerce.   So how are we going to all of a sudden ask our government accept the limits of the Bill of Rights when it comes to spying on citizens?