The Bookworm Beat (9/26/14) — Friday wrap-up edition and Open Thread

Woman writingMy sister summed me up in a sentence: “For an incredibly neurotic person, you’re very normal and easygoing.” I know what she means. All my neuroses are turned inwards. They drive me crazy, but they don’t interfere with anyone outside of my brain. If you meet me, I’m friendly, good-humored, and well-mannered. I rarely take offense, and I’m always happy to help out.

I’m the living embodiment of the reminder to judge people by their deeds, not their thoughts. Unless of course, you think the deeds and the thoughts reflect on each other, magnifying each . . . which leads to me to:

The Obama latte salute

A military friend of mine had this to say:

What I find comical about this is the outrage. You’re surprised by this man? This is par for the course. And technically, he has no obligation to salute them back. A military officer not in uniform is only obligated to acknowledge a salute with a proper verbal greeting. My understanding is saluting the Marines of HMX-1 started with Reagan.

I think there are more important things to address about him like having absolutely no plan in Syria. This is comical considering the whole “what is our exit strategy?” nonsense during the Bush admin. We don’t even have an entry strategy here.

My friend is quite right, but I couldn’t resist reminding him about that outlook/action connection I mentioned at the start of this post:

I know that Reagan started it (and did you know that Reagan, whom the Left always castigated for not going to war, was in the Army Reserve as of 1937, and was barred from active duty during WWII only because of his vision?), so it’s not deep tradition, and I know that it’s not militarily necessary.

The thing is that, if it was clear that Obama really supported the military, and wanted to fight war in a way that’s not only ethical (which is a good thing), but that also keeps our troops alive and effective (another good thing), no one would have given a flying whatsit even if he’d hollered “Howdy, guys!” and blown soap bubbles at them. The optics mattered only because they were such a perfect visual representation of which we all know he actually thinks: “Blech!  Marines again! And now I have to figure out how, and how many, of those baby killers to ship overseas this time….”

And my friend, who is a gentlemen down to the marrow of his bones, shot back:

I agree, we already know how he feels about the military. Saluting is what we call a military courtesy. Failing to simply be courteous says something about character.

I have such interesting friends.

Regarding the worsening mystery virus affecting children, when does correlation equal causation?

We’ve been hearing for a couple of months now about a serious respiratory virus affecting children across America. It’s been so bad that hospitals have been turning them away.

Well, here’s some more news guaranteed to make you unhappy: the virus just got worse. According to AP, children are now showing up with a paralysis that seems to be in the polio family and that may be related to the mystery enterovirus. So far, only nine cases have shown up in Colorado, but there’s no telling where paralysis problem might end up.

The AP’s not the only one paying attention to the virus. The New York Times has a long article about its effects on children across America (emphasis mine):

An outbreak of respiratory illness first observed in the Midwest has spread to 38 states, sending children to hospitals and baffling scientists trying to understand its virulent resurgence.

I love that line about “baffled” scientists. It reminds me of a wonderful Lord Peter Wimsey remark in Busman’s Honeymoon, when he and his new bride find a dead body in their honeymoon cottage. Being famous, the Wimseys are immediately besieged the press, one of whose members, Salcombe Hardy, is an old friend (emphasis mine):

“Can I say you’ve got a theory of the crime?”

“Yes,” said Peter.

“Fine!” said Salcombe Hardy.

“My theory is that you put the corpse there yourself, Sally, to make a good headline.”

“I only wish I’d thought of it. Nothing else?”

“I tell you,” said Peter, “the evidence is destroyed. You can’t have a theory without evidence to go on.”

“The fact is,” said Harriet, “he’s completely baffled.”

“As baffled as a bathroom geyser,” agreed her husband. “My wife’s baffled too. It’s the only point on which we are at one. When we’re tired of heaving crockery about we sit and sneer at one another’s bafflement. The police are baffled too. Or else they confidently expect to make an arrest. One or other . You can take your choice.” (Sayers, Dorothy L., Busman’s Honeymoon, p. 242 (Open Road Media, Kindle Edition)).

I feel a little like sneering at some bafflement too — in this case, the bafflement of those scientists trying to figure out how a rare virus that is connected to polio managed suddenly to enter the United States and infect American children.

I know that correlation is not causation, but I also know that not everything is pure coincidence. Isn’t it at least possible that the headlines about a bizarre virus striking down American children for the past two months might have something to do with the headlines from the end of July informing Americans that tens of thousands of Latin American children, many of them sick with diseases not seen in American children, were crossing the border? And isn’t it also possible that this baffling respiratory and occasionally polio-like illness might have to do with the fact that the Obama administration popped these children on buses and airplanes and then sent them all across the United States?

Again, I’m not saying that there has to be a connection, but I’d at least like to see some scientist say, “We’ve considered the possibility that this virus came with the immigrant children, but rejected it because….”

But they’re not saying that. Instead, the MSM just pretends the children’s crusade from Latin America never happened — so much so that it won’t even assure is that there’s no connection.

The country’s in the very best of hands (a song that’s never been more timely, I think)….

The media keeps its message consistent no matter the subject

The fact is that the American media is well-trained and it follows the Democrat playbook no matter the subject. A case in point involves doggies that have been Trayvon Martinized.

About that poor woman beheaded in Oklahoma

We know a few useful things about poor Colleen Hufford’s horrible death: She was beheaded, her murderer was an ex-con Muslim convert who had just been fired for arguing that women should be stoned, and another woman was saved from a similar fate when a company official with a gun shot him.

The police are trying to play this as just another case of workplace violence, and that may be true. But even ordinary violence reflects a zeitgeist. A former convict (which is what Alton Nolen, aka ‘Keem Yisrael, is), who converts to Islam in prison, will have two seeds planted within him: violence and jihad.

As always in these cases, please remember what my cousin, the retired prison chaplain, said about those prison converts:

It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly [sic] remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.

(Roger Simon has more on prison conversions to Islam and Caleb Howe has more on the lifelong anger and violence in Nolen that found its home in Islam) In other words, Nolen’s criminal history made him the kind of person who would commit murder — but his Islamic conversion made him the kind of person who would elevate this murder to the level of a jihad killing, complete with the sharia-compliant death of choice, namely beheading.

So yes, workplace violence or not, his religion mattered.

And what also mattered is that Nolen was stopped short by a gun. Jihad in America would be stopped pretty damn short if all of us were armed.

As for the shooting death of John Crawford in a Ohio Wal-Mart

John Crawford’s death is another one about which we know little, but it does look as if police were trigger-happy. Crawford was in a Wal-Mart aisle, someone called in a 911 because he was holding what looked like a gun, and the cops shot him. The video seems to show the cops firing instantly, without warning and, given how still Crawford was standing and the fact that his pop gun was pointed to the floor, they also shot without provocation. The cops, though, claim that Crawford was being threatening, something that might have been obvious outside of the silent film.

Radley Balko offers a great analysis of the bizarre intersections of so many societal issues in Crawford’s death: race, police malfeasance, societal paranoia about mass shootings, mental illness, etc. Something bad happened in that Wal-Mart, and two children lost their father.

I’m very interested in further facts. If Crawford’s behavior was frightening, so be it. But if trigger-happy cops killed an innocent man, let justice be done.

No, the Obama economy is not thriving

A few weeks ago, I asked for help rebutting a Forbes opinion piece claiming that the Obama economy is thriving, and that it puts the Reagan boom to shame. Just the other day, Forbes itself published an opinion piece rebutting that earlier, pro-Obama effort, and it’s a humdinger:

With the stock market cruising at all-time highs and the unemployment rate sitting at quaint levels, a fashionable new argument is making the rounds. Barack Obama is better at economic recovery than Ronald Reagan ever was.

The numbers make the case. Dow Jones Industrial Average the day President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 was 7950; today it stands at 17,000. Unemployment in his first full month, that February: 8.3%, versus 6.1% today.

Ronald Reagan could not quite touch this standard. The Dow began his presidency at 950 and chugged to 1800 after five-and-a-half years. A 90% gain is nice, but short of the 115% gain since 2009. Unemployment over that span went from 7.4 to 7.1%—welcome enough, but overmatched by the post-2009 record.

And all the while under Reagan, there was double the consumer price inflation as under the comparable Obama period (26% vs. 13%). Interest rates were higher. Prime was at 7.5% in September 1986, in contrast to today’s 3.3%.

Whatever crisis, whatever “stagflation” Reagan faced as he swept Jimmy Carter from office in 1980, the results that came in well into his presidency pale in comparison to what the nation would put up under the leadership of Barack Obama.

This argument has glaring flaws, the most obvious of which (from a statistical point of view) is that the labor force participation rate has collapsed under Obama, while it surged under Reagan, rendering any kind of comparison of unemployment rates inoperable. The bald economic growth numbers, for their part, are double in the Reagan (20.3%) than in the Obama (9.7%) case.

Read the rest here.

By all means, let’s have over the counter birth control

To me, even the smallest dose of birth control pills acts like poison on my system. For most women, though, today’s low-dose birth control pills have few serious side effects, if one discounts the fact that they’re messing with women’s entire hormonal and reproductive systems.

Given all the other stuff that’s sold over the counter, there’s no reason for the Pill not to become an OTC drug too. This will lower women’s health care costs dramatically, both by increasing competition at the purchase level and by doing away with the perfunctory, but costly, doctor’s visit that precede prescribing the pill.

Obamacare supporters, of course, are incensed that conservatives believe the Pill should be an OTC drug because that would strip away large parts of their argument about imposing costly and ethically troubling Obamacare “women’s health” regulations on every employer and insurance company in America.

Could this be the reason race hustlers do what they do?

The retirement of Eric Holder, Attorney General of the US and race hustler extraordinaire, resulted in one of Roger Simon’s best posts. Simon begins with Holder’s extremely sleazy history: The same man who prosecuted Dinesh D’Souza for a $20,000 act of stupidity was the federal prosecutor who enabled the disgraceful pardon of Marc Rich, an exceptionally corrupt man who dealt with Iran during the hostage crisis and was lined up for 300 years in prison.

From that disgraceful beginning as an unprincipled party hack, Holder went on to become a hatchet man for the racism racket who turned the Justice Department into a purely political office advancing Obama’s hard Left, anti-constitutional, race-based domestic policies. That history leads Simon to this interesting thought:

Now I have a theory about the etiology of Holder’s fixation on race. When you know deep down you’re a dishonest person, when you have had to eat the bitter pill of your own corruption who knows how many times (even Clinton finally admitted that he had gone too far pardoning Rich and damaged his own reputation), you have to invent a narrative for yourself to justify your activities. So over may years Holder developed what I have called elsewhere a “nostalgia for racism.” No matter that racism was diminishing in our culture, he had to keep racism alive, believe it was alive. If racism were going away, he would no longer have a raison d’être, an excuse for his biased behavior, an excuse, as it turned out, to go beyond the law, act unilaterally and punish political enemies.

Why, yes. That sounds just right.

Think of Syria as you read this bumper sticker

It took me a couple of seconds to figure out the message behind this bumper sticker, and then I thought “That’s excellent.”

Arm tomorrow's enemies

If you’d like one for your car, you can buy it here.

You can put lipstick on a male pig, but it’s still a male pig

With self-selected sex transmutations dominating headlines lately (“Lift ban on transgender military members“), I keep harking back to what I’ve said since the headline about a “pregnant” man (i.e., a woman who had her breasts surgically removed, and took hormones to grow facial hair). At the end of the day, when the surgically-adjusted, cosmetically-mutated, chemically-altered soft tissue is gone, and the bones are all that is left, what’s left is . . . the original sex.

To hold otherwise — to say that person who made this change is now actually a man or a woman, just because he or she wants to be — is a bizarre cultural delusion we’re fostering. On the great bell curve of biology, men are men and women are women, and that’s true regardless of surgery, make-up, hormones, and magical thinking. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t accord the person the respect, when possible, of treating him or her as s/he wishes to be treated, but it does mean that we have to accept biological reality.

Case in point: Mixed martial arts. There, a man who went through the surgical, chemical, cosmetic process of appearing like a woman insisted that he be allowed to compete as a woman. The outcome was not pretty, as his opponent Tamikka Brents, who was born female, ended up with a massively broken eye socket and a concussion. Brents explained what happened to her:

In a post-fight interview this week, she told Whoa TV that “I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life.”

“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because [he] was born a man or not, because I’m not a doctor,” she stated. “I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right. ”

His “grip was different,” she added. “I could usually move around in the clinch against…females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch.”

I’m not a doctor either, but I’m pretty sure that, men have different bone structure and heavier muscle mass. Even if a man is taken female hormones, if he’s in the world of MMA training, he’s pushing those still-male muscles to the max. He’s going to be a muscle monster, with the weight of a man’s heavy bones behind him. At the end of the day, biology will not be denied.

Views from the climate change gala in New York

Power Line has a wonderful photo gallery from last weekend’s climate change extravaganza in New York. It’s got everything from the mounds of garbage left behind to the hypocritical celebrities to the hard Left people behind the climate change movement. Check it out. Laugh. Cry.

Then, if you want to laugh and cry some more, please enjoy Jeff Dunetz’s 48-item-long list of all the bad things that happen, according to the change-istas, because of climate change. Reading that list, I keep thinking of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, when Brian’s followers see everything he says as a sign of something insanely stupid:

Lies, damn lies, and British crime statistics

Since banning guns, Britain has become the most violent country in the first world. Certainly, the police are conflicted about the whole crime-fighting thing.  After all, the God of political correctness tells them that they shouldn’t fight crime if the criminals are blacks or Muslims.  The police have therefore figured out creative ways to massage the (non)crime-fighting numbers — they lie:

The culture of fiddling crime statistics is ingrained within the upper echelons of the police service where target-chasing has led to the under-reporting of serious crimes including rape, according to a report by MPs out today.

The MPs said a delay by Scotland Yard in addressing claims that rape figures were skewed was a “damning indictment of police complacency, inertia and lack of leadership”.

In attacking Rush, it appears that the female of the species is deadlier than the male

Rush Limbaugh went on the offensive to smoke out the small group of people trying to destroy his radio show through email and social media attacks against advertisers. What I noticed immediately is that, of the nine people engaged in this conspiracy, six are female. You’ll never have a 50/50 split in a group of nine people, but it’s telling somehow, that the group is heavily weighted on the women’s side.

I can’t decide if this is because women are indeed more vicious, or if it’s because the Sandra Fluke kerfuffle managed to turn Rush into a slayer of women in the deranged feminist mind, or if it’s simply random that in such a small group, there would be twice as many women as men. The fact seemed noteworthy, regardless of the reason.

No wonder women are raping as much as men are

Feminists have insisted that the definition of rape must be expanded far beyond the traditional definition, which pretty much was limited to a man using his penis to penetrate a woman vaginally, orally, or anally. Nowadays, every man’s touch, look, or verbal bullying is included in the definition of sexual assault, at least on college campuses. In this way, women can claim (and the Democrat party can campaign on) the canard that 1/5 of women on campus will be sexually assaulted.

Relying on the feminists’ own definition of sexual assault, Glenn Reynolds makes the compelling and convincing argument — supported by data — that women commit sexual assault every bit as often as men do. I believe this completely. If you read the trashy but informative Daily Mail on a regular basis, as I do, you’ll quickly discover that several times a week, and sometimes every day, there’s a story somewhere in America about a female school teacher forcing a sexual relationship on an underage male (or, sometimes, female) student. One comes away feeling that America’s students are taught by an army of nymphomaniacs.

Step back, puny mortals, and let the wind take over

One of the problems I’ve always had with the whole climate change theory is the centrality it gives humans. Humans have indeed shown themselves perfectly capable of trashing the local environment. From prehistoric man driving mammoths to extinction, to the Aztecs destroying every bit of protein in their region (hence the need for human sacrifices, which were later eaten), to the Soviets turning lakes into acid puddles, to American manufacturers doing their damndest to destroy our own lakes (until capitalism saved them), to the California Gold Rush stripping off sides of mountains, we are a destructive species. But there’s a quantum difference between making a terrible, and too often lasting, mess here and there, and altering the entire climate around the world, all the way until we touch outer space. That simply didn’t (and doesn’t) make sense to me.

What makes a lot more sense is a new theory that says that shifting wind patterns account for the changing climate along the Northwest. I find it especially intriguing giving the close connection between wind and sun (and I’m not just talking Aesop’s fables here).

I’m glad the New York Times had the integrity to report on this new climate theory, but I had to laugh at the opening sentence (emphasis mine):

A new and most likely controversial analysis of Pacific Ocean weather patterns concludes that a century-long trend of rising temperatures in the American Northwest is largely explained by natural shifts in ocean winds, not by human activity.

It must have choked the writer, Michael Wines, to concede in the next paragraph that the theory didn’t arise from the fetid swamps of whacked-out deniers but, instead, appeared in “the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences….” Oh, yeah!

America’s topmost colleges accept robots and turn out morons

Okay, I’m exaggerating for effect in that subtitle. There is no doubt that America’s top colleges get to take in America’s best and brightest students and that they turn out products with a certain sheen.  I contend, though, that these new graduates are actually more indoctrinated than educated, but that’s just my opinion.   Or maybe it isn’t….

While they do not say that America’s premier colleges are turning out mindless Leftist drones, two Ivy League instructors have come out lately to that in their pursuit of the best and brightest, these institutes of higher education are producing boring, timid robits who will not take any chances, thereby stifling their own brilliance.

At The New Republic, you can read William Deresiewicz’s Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League, which has been shared on Facebook more than 191,300 times.

And at First Things, you can read Michael J. Lewis’s Children Who Never Play, which picks up where Deresiewicz left off.

In bureaucracies, the perfect is the enemy of the good

I credit Philip K. Howard with helping me move from mindless Left-liberalism to thinking conservativism. His book The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America, which I read shortly after it was published in the early 1990s, was an eye-opener because it made me realize that government not only is not the answer but that it can never be the answer.  It took me another decade to complete my journey across the Rubicon, but I definitely couldn’t have done it without him.

Just recently, Howard authored a piece for The Atlantic explaining how the Stimulus got wasted, not because of any specific corruption, but because the money vanished into the bureaucratic crevices created by a million rules:

Modern government is organized on “clear law,” the false premise that by making laws detailed enough to take in all possible circumstances, we can avoid human error. And so over the last few decades, law has gotten ever more granular. But all that regulatory detail, like sediment in a harbor, makes it hard to get anywhere. The 1956 Interstate Highway Act was 29 pages and succeeded in getting 41,000 miles of roads built by 1970. The 2012 transportation bill was 584 pages, and years will pass before workers can start fixing many of those same roads. Health-care regulators have devised 140,000 reimbursement categories for Medicare—including 12 categories for bee stings and 21 categories for “spacecraft accidents.” This is the tip of a bureaucratic iceberg—administration consumes 30 percent of health-care costs.

And finally, some marvelous photographs and a joke

Nope, not my usual set of posters but, instead, links to two wonderful sites. The first explains why you won’t see Israeli women in burqas anytime soon, while the second is a panoramic photograph taken shortly after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. If you click on the image, you can zoom in to a specific spot; then, click again to zoom out.

Since I try to end on a laugh or uplifting note, here’s a delightful joke that a friend sent me (slight language warning), clearly in honor of Ezekiel Emanuel’s announcement that he, and everyone else, should try to die by or before age 75:

I recently picked a new primary care doctor. After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, she said I was doing fairly well for my age. (I am past seventy-five). A little concerned about that comment, I couldn’t resist asking her, ‘Do you think I’ll live to be 80?’

She asked, ‘Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer, wine or hard liquor?’

‘Oh no,’ I replied. I’m not doing drugs, either!’

Then she asked, ‘Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?’ ‘I said, ‘Not much … My former doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!’

‘Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, boating, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?’

‘No, I don’t,’ I said.

She asked, ‘Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a lot of sex?’

‘No,’ I said.

She looked at me and said, ‘Then, why do you even give a shit?’

Mistakes are human — and they’re dangerous when an entity aggregates too much power

erase_mistakeMistakes.  We all make them. Lord knows, anyone reading my blog knows that there are days when I can call myself the Mistake Queen. I’m a careless typist and a lousy proofreader, especially when rushed or stressed, two things that describe me most of the time.  I have a large fund of facts squirreled away in my brain, but I still get facts wrong and am always grateful when those more knowledgeable than I correct them.  I’m a savvy internet user, but not infrequently fall prey to false information on the internet (especially falsely attributed quotations that dovetail too perfectly with my beliefs).

Here’s the deal, though:  My mistakes have minimal impact.  They amuse some and offend others.  When I learn about them, I’ll correct them (unless they’re ancient typos).  I don’t want to make mistakes because my credibility and quality are at issue, but nobody’s going to die or go broke because I’ve made a typo.

The same holds true when individuals in government make mistakes.  For example, Earl tipped me off to a very funny one from the offices of Rep. Paul Cook (R., Cal. 8th Dist.).  I have no bone to pick with Cook.  He’s a retired Marine colonel and Vietnam Vet, and he deserves full honors for both those things.  He’s a Republican and I’ll happily assume for now that he’s not a RINO.  Without further information, therefore, Rep. Cook is all good things and I wish him much success.

But the stuff that comes out of his office!  Oy vey!!  His staff recently mailed out a flyer to his constituents.  The flyer had on its cover this stirring image:

Paul Cook flyer cover

So far so good. We like Congressmen who look first to the Constitution before passing laws. The problem comes with the survey included with the mailing:

Paul Cook survey

Please think long and hard about how you would answer Question No. 2.  If pressed, I would pick “unsure,” only because, of all the answers that make no sense, it’s most honestly acknowledges the inevitable bewilderment the question creates.

So it’s not just me messing up.  This kind of carelessness, thoughtlessness, illogical, foolishness, or whatever else you’d like to call it, is an inherent part of human nature.  The problems begin when we give these careless humans too much power.  The fact that Rep. Cook has silly people in his office says nothing about him and his agenda.  Likewise, although it was good for a laugh, you can’t fault every Democrat for some foolish drone’s reference to Reagan’s hitherto unknown years in Congress.

The contrary is true, though, when we’re looking at mistakes in an all- (or almost all-) powerful organization, such as a modern federal bureaucracy.  In that context, mistakes can be catastrophic.  And that’s precisely what Jim Geraghty touches upon in his National Review article about the fact that liberals cannot govern — they have put too much power into entities whose mistakes are devastating and whose self-correcting mechanisms non-existent:

In most professions, when you end up spending ten times what you budgeted, the consequences are swift and severe. Heads roll. Responsibilities are reassigned. Budgetary authority gets yanked. This, of course, is not how things work in the federal government.

[snip]

Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when they are occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting them too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: that the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place.

I hope I’m not being too mean when I point to Rep. Paul Cook’s silly flyer as a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with big government, even if that government is not actively malevolent and partisan.  When careless error comes out of a single Congressman’s office, it’s inconsequential; when it comes out of an all-powerful, unconstrained bureaucracy, it ought to scare the Hell out of each one of us.

A story showing everything that’s wrong with bureaucracies: rules have replaced morals and human decency

Freezing temperature thermometerIf you want to know everything that’s wrong about a Big Government world (which also means a multi-rules, heavily bureaucratic world), you need look no further than a recent news report out of Minnesota.  It took place at Como Park High School and involved teachers who, because of their bureaucratic training, completely abandoned human decency.

It all started out on a very cold day in Minnesota, with the temperature ranging between -8 and +12 degrees Fahrenheit.  The high school has an indoor pool, and that’s where 14-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz was swimming when a school alarm went off.  Before she could get to the locker to get her clothes, the teacher rushed her out into the cold.  Let me rephrase that:  A teacher in thrall to rules sent a soaking wet 14-year-old girl out into sub-freezing temperatures, clad only in a swimsuit.  She didn’t even have flip-flops on her feet.

Let’s accept for the moment that the teacher behaved correctly, since she or he had no way of knowing whether there was an imminent hazard in the school buildings.  Once outside, though, you’d think that the faculty would take steps to warm Kayona.  It turned out, though, that warming her was against the rules:

In the meantime, teachers feared to violate openly a school policy that prohibits students from sitting in a faculty member’s car.

Even the lowest intelligence can figure out that the rule’s purpose is to prevent teachers from engaging sexually with children.  The likelihood of a covert sexual contact happening between Kayona and a teacher under the actual circumstances is ludicrous.  The faculty cars were in full view of the entire school.  There was no chance of illicit sexual congress.

Fortunately for Kayona, her fellow students hadn’t had human decency ground out of them by rules:

Hagen-Tietz fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and some frigid classmates [sic], giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.

As the children were keeping Kayona alive, the teachers were working their way through the bureaucracy.  After a freezing ten minutes, an administrator finally gave permission for the soaking wet, freezing Kayla to set in a car in full view of everybody:

After Hagen-Tietz had suffered for ten minutes in sub-zero weather, a teacher finally received administrative permission to let her sit inside her car until students were allowed back inside.

Kayla suffered frostbite from her appalling experience at the hands of a government bureaucracy.

In what is an indictment of Western society, Kayla’s experience is not unique.  Back in 2009, a lot of people were very upset when they heard a story out of England:  a man with a broken back lay in 6 inches of water, but paramedics refused to rescue him because they weren’t trained for water rescues.  One didn’t have to go as far as England to see this kind of bureaucratic disregard for human life.  In 2011, Alameda police and firefighters literally stood and watched a man drown because they too weren’t certified for water rescues.  The unknown in Alameda is how deep or dangerous the water was, something that could indeed have meant that a suicidal man drowned other people.  In England, though, the rescuers took a rule clearly meant to apply to dangerous water situations, and refused to help someone lying in water that wasn’t even knee-deep.

Fortunately for me, since I have to tidy the house today, I don’t have to summarize precisely what went wrong in Minnesota, England, and Alameda.  Dennis Prager did it for me in his latest video:

A feral bureaucracy will do anything it can to protect itself

Catherine Engelbrecht’s testimony should be heard far and wide throughout America.  A feral bureaucracy will do anything it can to protect itself.  Right now, Obama’s is the lawless government, but back in the early 1970s, it was Nixon who began to push the boundaries.  Right now, the bureaucracy owes its allegiance to the Democrats.  That can change.  But no matter who’s in charge, if Americans of all political stripes do not act now to stop the federal government’s unconstitutional activities, freedom of speech and freedom of association are over:

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people has perished in America

Sometimes distance provides perspective.  My travels meant that, rather than being enveloped by news as I usually am, I read it only intermittently, and often through the New York Times’ filter, since that was the only news to which I had access for many days at a time.  The few stories I was able to follow put me strongly in mind of the Gettysburg Address, and how far away from those principles our current government has come.  Some of this is directly attributable to the current Democrat presidency, and some is an unpleasant by-product of a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own, independent of its creators’ ideas and energies.

Lincoln’s genius was that he was able to reduce to the smallest number of words the revolutionary principles that drove the Founding Fathers, as expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution:  “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Do we still have a government “of the people, by the people [and] for the people?”  No.  Our political and bureaucratic classes no longer believe that the people have anything to do with their continued existence (that is, they do not view themselves as parts of a government “by the people”); they do not believe that they have anything in common with the people whose lives they dictate (in other words, they are not part of a government “of the people”); and nothing they do benefits the people who are trapped in their web of laws and regulations (so that they are not part of a government “for the people”).

America has ceased to be a representative democracy and has, instead, become an oligarchy:  We, the People, are controlled by a proportionately small number of people who claim all entitlement to themselves and who, through laws, lawlessness, and unbridled bureaucracy (with a bureaucracy made up of people entirely beholden to the oligarchy for their continued well-being), control every aspect of our lives.  This oligarchy is separate from and unrelated to the constitutional, representative democracy Lincoln believed was the necessary underpinning for a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

A handful of stories upon my return forcefully brought home the vast chasm that has formed between “we, the People” and those who no longer represent us but who, instead, simply govern us.

1.  The people have long loathed ObamaCare, and by a significant and unchanging percentage too.  Even the President’s water carriers are getting nervous.  Those charged with enforcing it against us will not use it for themselves, nor will those who imposed it upon us.  It is a product of the oligarchy, with the benefits, but not the burdens, flowing solely to the oligarchy.  It was imposed upon the People, not through a true democratic process, but through dirty political dealing.  This is neither government by the people nor for the people.

2.  Despite the stagnant economy, the high unemployment, the rise of part-time jobs (i.e., no living wage), the number of young people stuck at home, and the continuing bankruptcy of our country’s business and economy, our President and his family continue to live like Nero or Marie Antoinette.  The Nero analogy was most recently demonstrated with the story that Obama is golfing while the world burns down around us.  The Marie Antoinette analogy can be seen in the endless round of A-list partying and multi-millionaire style vacations the Obamas enjoy, using our money (White House facilities for parties, taxpayer-funded air transport and security for offsite pleasures), even as ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet.  Obama, however, is worse than either Nero or Marie Antoinette, or any other analogous political figures (both historic and present day) who rob from the people to fund their lavish personal lifestyles.  This is because Obama is the only one of these figures who is — in theory, at least, an elected representative who is supposed to be only first among equals.  Obama’s grandiosity, however, shows that he no longer considers himself one of the people.  Worse, he is abetted in this historic break from a constitutional presidency by a ruling political and media class that has a vested economic and social interest in breaking with a constitutional republican democracy.

3.  The current government has abandoned the notion that government belongs to the people (“of, by, and for”) and holds, instead, the belief that the people and everything that they possess belong to the government.  Rep. Keith Ellison, a black, Muslim convert who is a darling of the Left, articulated this sentiment with startling clarity:  “The bottom line is we’re not broke, there’s plenty of money, it’s just the government doesn’t have it. . . . The government has a right, the government and the people of the United States have a right to run the programs of the United States. Health, welfare, housing – all these things.”  Government unions are a subset of this mindset.  In private industries, both management and the unions are negotiating with real money, real products, and real labor.  In the government sector, they negotiate with other people’s money regarding intangible products and services that are of dubious value.  (Think about the fact that California alone has more than 500 different agencies, a spectacular percentage of which are duplicative, and an even larger number of which do not serve the California taxpayers, but instead are directed at steering special interest groups into the government fold.)

4.  The bureaucracy has become an entity of itself.  It is no longer a subset of American government.  It is its own special interest group, and it advances its own agenda.  This fact can be attributed in significant part to government unions which, as noted above, sever government employees from the Peoples’ economic and practical needs.  Moreover, as the IRS scandal shows, the government bureaucracies no longer need political guidance to go after citizens who have the potential to disrupt their bureaucratic livelihood.  With little or no prompting from the political class, the bureaucracies abandoned their obligation to impose the law impartially and, instead, attacked what they perceived as threats.  If this seems familiar to you, you have only to think of innumerable science fiction books or movies (e.g., Terminator III), in which robots become sentient and turn on their human creators.

5.  Our next election is already predetermined.  Sadly, Myrna Adams makes the best argument for why Hillary Clinton will win in 2016 — and you’ll notice that none of her points have anything whatsoever to do with the will of the people or the state of America and the world, either now or in 2016.  Instead, Adams points to the political machinery which has broken down, with the dial perpetually set to “Democrat.”  Neither Hillary’s and her teams’ lack of any accomplishments to speak of nor the fact that Hillary herself is an undistinguished and inspiring human being will matter.  The oligarchy, made up of politicians, monied interests, government bureaucracies, media players, and academics, has spoken.  It’s Hillary’s turn now. After all, in 2008 and again in 2012, Obama was a candidate without accomplishments or, when off the teleprompter, charisma.  The robots — er, oligarchs . . . er, political class . . . er, media — anointed him and he won.  “We, the People” — our needs, desires, and existence — have become entirely expendable.

In the next election, democracy will be just as meaningful as it was in the old Soviet Union when 100% of the voters “freely” cast their votes for the Communist party candidate.  The Soviet Union was a nominal democracy in that the people “voted,” but it totally by-passed Lincoln’s requirement that a government worth saving must be “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people” in order to ensure that a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” shall not “perish from the earth.”

 

People worry that rather than catching bad guys, the Obama administration will use the info it gathers to create bad guys

One of the things that characterizes the rule of law is that it applies equally to all citizens.  The rich man’s son who vandalizes a shop is prosecuted as vigorously as the poor man’s son who does the same.  That the rich man’s son can afford a good lawyer is the random luck of life.  America can provide equality of opportunity, but nothing, not even socialism, can guarantee equality of outcome.  The important thing for purposes of the rule of law is that the law doesn’t give the rich man’s son a pass.

The rule of law also has to be grounded in common sense and reality.  That’s why Anatole France was being nonsensical when he famously said “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” The reality is that a rich man, unless crazy, does none of those things — but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the law is unfair if societal good demands that we value property or try to keep streets safe for all citizens. The law is what it is. In the case of theft, vagrancy, and begging, it isn’t the law that should change but, perhaps, the availability of opportunities and, as needed, charity.

Common sense has long-dictated, at least since 9/11, that the best way to stop terrorism directed at Americans is to keep a close eye on people, especially men, who practice a strict form of Islam and on disaffected young men who take psychotropic drugs.  These two categories of people have been responsible for almost all, or maybe all, of the mass killings against Americans over the last decade and more.

When it comes to the mentally ill, we keep talking about monitoring them, but we don’t do it.  Lack of political will, lack of political and social organization, civil rights issues, and the fact that it’s more fun to rail against guns than against insane people (poor things) means that this won’t change any time soon.

Even worse, our government has made the “politically correct” decision to refuse to monitor with extra focus those young men who embrace radical Islam (e.g., the Tsarnaevs or Nidal Hassan).  It’s not fair, we’re told.  Profiling will make law-abiding Muslims (and the vast majority of Muslims in America are law-abiding) uncomfortable.  It’s racist and mean to assume that, because someone is Arab-looking, and sweating, and smelling of rose water, and murmuring “Allahu Akbar” under his breath to think that he’s up to a bit of no good — never mind that, when the bomb goes off or the plane falls from the sky, any Muslims in the area will be just as dead as their non-Muslim compatriots.

Heck, we’ve allowed minority groups to prey on each other for decades for fear of causing offense.  The number one target of violent, young, black and Hispanic males is . . . violent, young, black and Hispanic males, followed closely by all the hapless black and Hispanic children, old people, mothers, and fathers who have to share communities with these monsters of violence.  Because it looks bad for white police to go after these monsters, their communities must suffer.  The Gods of Political Correctness delight in human sacrifices, and the younger, more innocent, and more tender the better.

Americans therefore fully understand that our government, for “diversity,” or “multicultural,” or “politically correct” reasons (all of those terms speak to the same end), absolutely refuses to look first at the obvious suspects (young, radical Muslim men) before casting its net wide to sweep in people who are trying to avoid capture by looking less obvious.  It’s not likely that the Minnesota granny has a bomb in her brassiere, but it’s possible.  A good national security system doesn’t assume that anyone is innocent, but it does concentrate its resources where they make they most sense.

So here’s the deal with the NSA spying:  We know with some certainty that, for Leftist political reasons, the NSA is not making an effort to scrutinize the population most likely to go all “Allahu Akbar” on us.  Instead, for politically correct reasons, it’s spying on everyone.  In essence, it’s creating a haystack of information, with extra paddings of politically correct, multiculturalist hay wrapped around any spot where a needle might hide.

If politics means that the system won’t look for the obvious bad guys, what is it looking for then?  Well, I suspect that what’s going to happen is that the system will be used to look for easy targets.  Things that are neither criminal nor suspicious, but that pop up nevertheless, will suddenly be scrutinized because they’re there.  It will be the surveillance equivalent of “If the mountain won’t come to Mohamed, then Mohamed must come to the mountain.”  Since the NSA can’t focus its efforts on finding real criminals, it will engage in some flexible thinking and criminalize whatever activity it sees.  And — voila! — it will therefore justify its bureaucratic existence and purpose.  That the country will lose its identity and the people their freedom is a small price to pay for bureaucratic immortality.

FTC v. POM — and POM’s fighting back *UPDATED*

I have no opinion whatsoever about POM’s pomegranate juice.  I do, however, have strong opinions about bullying government agencies that use threats, economic blackmail, and death by bureaucracy to further agendas that may be costly, counter intuitive, politically driven, or otherwise disturbing to someone who, as I do, has a conservative/libertarian bent.  I was therefore delighted to see that POM had a banner ad stretched across the top of today’s New York Times, inviting people to learn more about successful fight against the FTC.

When I was at law school, my Constitutional Law professor Phil Bobbitt (yes, this Phil Bobbitt) once asked the class why criminal defendants in America are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and why they have the right to counsel (this in response to a student’s observation that it just seemed wrong to work as a lawyer for criminal defendants).  After we waffled around for a while, Prof. Bobbitt provided the answer, one that I’ll never forget:  Nobody should have to stand alone when the great weight of the government is turned against him.  That imagery — of a pathetically small individual standing alone, bravely facing the might of the government — was compelling, and certainly fed my nascent libertarianism.

Sadly, in the world of administrative “law” (or, as often as not, administrative lawlessness), everything is bass ackwards.  There’s still the great weight of the government bearing down on the lone individual or corporation, but this unleashed government power is unaccompanied by the Constitutional protections that our criminal justice system extends to individuals and legal entities.  When agencies attack, they do so with bared teeth and claws.  Gibson Guitars knows thisMarylou’s knows thisMike and Chantell Sackett know this.  And now, of course, POM is learning this painful lesson.

With luck, what will happen is that the ever-expanding federal government overreaches itself while there’s still strength left in the Republic to prune it this unchecked power back to reasonable proportions.  Otherwise, God help us all!

UPDATE:  And just in today, another story of agency overreach, harassment, and intimidation.

America is buckling under the tyranny of bureaucracy *UPDATED*

When we think of tyranny, we tend to think of it in sharp, dramatic, bloody terms.  Tyranny is the stark economic divide between a corrupt leader and his starving people, or it’s the day to fear of citizens in a police state.  Few of us recognize, or are willing to acknowledge, that tyranny, at it’s most fundamental level, is the loss of individual freedoms, with a concurrent increase in state power.  When people must bow to the state’s dictates all day every day, without recourse, they are subject to tyranny, even if they’re neither starving nor physically brutalized.

The soft socialism that increasingly characterizes the United States sees us increasingly in thrall to a bureaucratic dictatorship.  A plethora of agencies at all levels of American life (local, state, and federal) ensure that every breath we take comes within a government function.  The Founders tried to balance the need for a functioning society with their fear of tyranny by making our federal government one of specifically enumerated powers, while leaving all other powers to state governments.  They understood that state governments, by virtue of their relatively smaller size compared to the federal government, are more responsive to their citizens needs and desires, and have less power.  In addition, it’s fairly easy to leave a state that is becoming oppressive, and very difficult to leave a country that is doing the same.

Today,  I reached critical mass in my email, with people apprising me of four separate posts and articles, three of which look at the dramatic increase in bureaucratic tyranny in the last few years (something prominent in, but not limited to, the Obama administration), and one of which offers some hope that there may be a way out of the soft socialism that is strangling America’s liberties:

To get a handle on the issue, begin with Wolf Howling’s magnum opus describing the way in which the federal government is stifling us with regulation sans representation.

After reading that, you’ll be able to appreciate Patrick O’Hannigan’s article detailing the way in which the Obama administration using its bureaucracy to avoid Congressional and judicial oversight, in order to carry out foreign policies and to target specific groups and ideologies at home.

Because those two articles are broad in scope, let me throw in here an article about local bureaucrats run amok, just so that you can appreciate that, once a bureaucracy takes hold, and when it becomes self-serving and corrupt, your life will be destroyed by something more than just a thousand bureaucratic-form paper cuts.

Finally, there is hope, although it’s only the smallest flicker of light at the end of a long bureaucratic tunnel.

UPDATED:  It turns out I’m not the only one with bureaucracy or, more precisely, concern about bureaucracy, on the brain.  Michael Phillips has written two delightful posts on the subject.

Penn State and the slow death of American self-reliance

In the wake of the horrific child abuse scandal roiling Penn State, many have been trying to understand how Sandusky’s predatory behavior could have continued unchecked for so long.  The focal point of this “how could this happen” question is the fact that Mike McQueary actually witnessed an assault.  Rather than rearranging Sandusky’s face, McQueary slipped out quietly, called his Daddy, and than made a chain-of-command report.  As far as he was concerned, he’d then done what he needed to do.  Paterno did exactly the same:  chain-of-command report.  And so on, up the ladder, with each person punting the problem higher, and each higher level official diluting the story so that it transformed from child rape into inappropriate behavior — and we all know that inappropriate behavior needs to be dealt with tactfully and in a way that doesn’t embarrass the institution.

So, again, we have to ask why?

Because — and this is not an idle boast — I have some of the smartest readers in the blogosphere, I can take a good stab at an answer.  In an open thread about Penn State, my readers chewed over the fact that in Pennsylvania, the law allows employees who witness a crime to go up the chain of command, whereas in Texas (for example) the law requires that every person has the responsibility to report to the authorities cases of suspected child abuse.  In other word, the culture is different in the two states, with one allowing people to pass the buck, and the other mandating that people take independent action.

There are already demands that Pennsylvania change its laws about reporting child abuse in order to bring them closer in line with the Texas standard.  While that wouldn’t be a bad idea, it would be a small bandage over a gaping wound in the American psyche:  the death of self-reliance.

Agrarian and frontier societies are, of necessity, self-reliant.  (Yes, even Europeans once knew how to make do.)  Right up until the 1960s, what separated America from other nations was that, until very recently in historic terms, it managed to be an amalgam of Western intellectualism and frontier self-reliance.  This meant that, even as increasing population density and industrialization made it unnecessary for an American family to be almost completely self-sustaining, our Judeo-Christian heritage was sophisticated enough that we nevertheless enshrines as a virtue that personal independence.

And, by gosh, if self-reliance is the standard, those pioneers were virtuous.  Here, from one of my favorite books, No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, you can get a good thumb-nail sketch of how a family prepared to leave East Coast civilization to head for the Wild West:

Once a conveyance was determined, the woman cut and sewed the double-cloth wagon tops and sides . . . with muslin on the inside and heavy linen on the outside for extra warmth and protection . . . and attached pockets or “pouches” so that items such as knives, firearms, cooking pots, mother’s sewing and knitting basket and essential toilet articles could be tucked away safely.  [Snip]  Each item — all the food, tools, bedding, clothing, a veritable pharmacopoeia of medicinal roots and herbs, axle grease, spare wagon parts, furniture and so forth — was sharply scrutinized to make certain that it was critical to the survival of the family, the wagon and the animals both on the trail and for the first homestead.  (p. 73.)

After the pioneers finally reached their destination (and truly, only the strong survived the journey), Dad (and sons and neighbors) began the backbreaking work of hunting and farming so as to tease food out of the land, while Mom (and daughters and neighbors) kept the home fires burning.  In No Idle Hands, one can read in their own words how the children of these pioneers remembered their mothers’ accomplishments:

“Mother bore and cared for the babies, saw that the floor was white and clean, that the beds were made and cared for, the garden tended, the turkeys dressed, the deer flesh cured and the fat prepared for candles or culinary use, that the wild fruits were garnered and preserved or dried, that the spinning and knitting was done and the clothing made.  She did her part in all these tasks, made nearly all the clothing and did the thousands things for us a mother only finds to do.”

[snip]

Another mother, in addition to her regular routine of “water carrying, cooking, churning, sausage making, berry picking, vegetable drying, sugar and soap boiling, hominy hulling, medicine brewing, washing, nursing, weaving, sewing, straw plaiting, wool spinning, quilting, knitting, gardening and various other tasks,” found time to exchange work with other neighbors when they gathered together to spin and knit, skeining yarn for immediate use by simply winding it from hand to elbow and hanging it from her arm while she knit.  (p. 87-88.)

I am not advocating a return to that level of self-reliance.  My family and I would be dead within week if that were the case.  I am pointing out, however, that this was normative for large chunks of America only a century and a half ago, and that, even more importantly, this level of competence became part of America’s self-image.  We were the can-do generation.  While the Roosevelt administration, in the 1930s, jump-started the notion of a comprehensive welfare system, the generation that scrabbled through the Depression and World War II did not succumb to the cultural inertia of the socialist state.

It took the 1960s and beyond to change us into a don’t-do culture.  The “why” of that change would take a whole post (no, make that a whole book), but one can target lots of wealth, lots of youth, and a media and academic establishment that relentlessly propagandized both the virtues of socialism, while simultaneously denigrating traditional American culture and playing up the dangers of America’s home grown self-reliance ethos (“So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”).

Whatever the root causes (I can speak Marxist-speak just fine, myself) the end result is that Americans are slowly put surely slipping into the type of passivity that characterizes people living in an excessively bureaucratized, government-heavy society.   Some like this.  At a recent speech to financially powerful supporters, President Obama warned that, if he’s not re-elected, Americans might have to leave the comforts of government dependence and enter a dangerous era of self-reliance:

At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.

“The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own,’” Obama told a crowd of 200 donors over lunch at the W Hotel.

“If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own. If you don’t like that some corporation is polluting your air or the air that your child breathes, then you’re on your own,” he said. “That’s not the America I believe in. It’s not the America you believe in.”

Nothing could more neatly distill Obama’s hostility to the classic American dream, one that believed it was a virtue for people to make it on their own.  That the reality didn’t always match this cultural image, since many failed to make it at all, while others made it with substantial government help, is irrelevant.  What matters is that, for ordinary people, growing up, working, raising children, personal accomplishment was the cultural paradigm.  By contrast, Obama’s American dream, the one that he desires as the overarching cultural paradigm, is one that sees people utterly dependent on the government.  It’s impressive that Obama so resolutely clings to his dream, even as the Europeans actively prove that, during the waking hours, the dream is a nightmare.

As more and more people, with media and academic help, enthusiastically turn the government into their paterfamilias, and as more and more rules and regulations mandate that people abjure individual action, we get a rash of stories, culled from headlines in both England, where the dependency rot runs deep, and America. Watching people drown is getting to be an ordinary day’s work in dependency cultures. This story comes from the San Francisco Bay Area:

The Oakland Tribune (via Mercury News) reports on a tragic story of a 57-year-old man who drowned in the bay in Alameda on Monday after wading chest-high in the water fully clothed for nearly an hour before rescuers could reach him.

Witnesses told the Tribune that police and fire crews responded quickly to the scene, but because the Alameda Fire Department is not certified in land-based water rescues, they had to wait for the United States Coast Guard to arrive.

The Coast Guard reportedly responded within 20 minutes with a rescue boat, but because the man was in fairly shallow water, they had to wait for a helicopter instead. The helicopter took 65 minutes to arrive because it had been out on another mission and needed to refuel.

In the mean time, a woman in her late 20s who’s trained as a water rescue nurse, was able to pull the man out when he was about 50 yards from shore. Unfortunately, rescuers were unable to revive him, and he was later pronounced dead at Alameda Hospital.

One can argue, as a surprising number did at the time, that the guy in Alameda wanted to commit suicide, thereby justifying the fact that rescue work suddenly became a spectator sport.  That’s not always the case, though.  In a surprisingly similar story from England, the person wasn’t committing suicide, but rescuers again stood by, watching:

More than a dozen emergency workers refused to pull a man from a waist-deep boating lake because of ‘health and safety’ fears.

For half-an-hour charity shop worker Simon Burgess, 41, was left face down in the shallow water as they waited for a specialist rescue crew.

Mr Burgess, who had gone to the lake to feed the swans, was pronounced dead at the scene but friends claim that if rescuers had waded straight into the water he could have been saved.

The crews of two fire engines, two police cars, two ambulances and an air ambulance were told not to enter the lake, which is no more than three feet (one metre) at its deepest point, in case they ‘compromised their safety’.

That’s just two stories, right?  What if I add a third, again from England?

A jobsworth ambulance boss refused to allow his staff to enter six inches of water to treat a man with a broken back – because it breached heath and safety.

Stricken Brian Bendle, 45, suffered the agonising injuries as he stood in shallow water at a leisure lake in Somerset.

He was waiting to take his £10,000 jetski out onto the water when he was hit by another rider travelling at around 50mph.

Shocked onlookers immediately ran into the lake as Mr Bendle, from Bristol, lay face down in the water.

They floated the dad-of-three in the six inch ankle-deep water, where they supported him until an ambulance arrived amid fears moving him would aggravate his back injury.

But they were stunned when a paramedic arrived and refused his pleading staff to enter the water – because they weren’t trained to deal with water rescues.

They had to slide a spinal board under him themselves and carry him to ambulancemen, who were stood on the bank just 6ft away.

At least in the story above, onlookers weren’t so shocked that they became incapable of saving the man themselves.  It’s good to see that some initiative survives.

(I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t note that we here in America have a long and surprisingly honored history of an individual cavalierly walking away from a person trapped in water.)

Passively falling back on regulations when the situation demands immediate individual action isn’t just a water-related activity.  Here’s a recent story about someone who watched an atrocious act, did nothing at first, and then acted in the most passive way possible.  No doubt his superiors approved, as they engaged in behavior that was either just as passive or, worse, actively complicit:

[Mike] McQueary, according to his testimony in the grand jury report, witnessed Sandusky subjecting what McQueary estimated to be a 10-year-old boy to anal intercourse in the showers of a football building on campus in 2002. According to his grand jury testimony, McQueary, upset, went to his office and phoned his father, who advised him to go home, according to testimony. The next day, McQueary reported what he had seen to Paterno, according to the grand jury report. Paterno passed information that an incident of “a sexual nature” had occurred to athletic director Tim Curley and vice president of finance Gary Schultz. Curley and Schultz were charged with counts of perjury and failure to report.

I’d like to think that, had I been there, Sandusky would have received some immediate, albeit crude, facial reconstruction.  I’m small, but I’m game — and a child was involved.

Looking at these few examples, I can’t help but think of another culture that allowed itself to lapse into such a bureaucratic mindset that citizens either passively watched or actively engaged in the most heinous acts.  I’m thinking, of course, of the Nazis.  If one subordinates people completely to the state, can one be surprised if they lose both will power and moral strength?

As many of you know, I’m an enthusiastic amateur martial artist.  (If only my skills were equal to my enthusiasm….)  I do martial arts because I really like it — but I also do it so that I can act.  After a long hiatus to have children, and then to moan about how having children prevented me from exercising, I read a story in the papers that send me off like a rocket to the nearest dojo.  Back in 2008, a man stomped his child to death in front of myriad witnesses, none of whom intervened.  All of them fell prey to analysis paralysis, shock, denial (“this can’t be happening!”), etc.  I’m willing to bet, though, that a fair number of them were waiting for someone else to take care of the situation.  I go to martial arts so that I can be that someone else.

Fortunately, despite socialist government’s best efforts to mandate inaction (or, at least, to give people an excuse for failing to get involved), all is not lost.  There will always be decent people who do get involved.  As I pointed out above, in the case of the man hit by the jet ski, even though the bureaucratized aid workers refused to do anything, bystanders willingly rescued the injured man.

I doubt, too, that many of us have forgotten the story of the bridge crew that acted with incredible speed and ingenuity to rescue a drowning woman:

“They just harnessed me up and dipped me down in the water and I grabbed her and the crane drug her to the boat and that’s it,” Oglesbee said. “What are you going to do if she’s like that? It’s no big deal. The whole crew did it.”

So spoke Jason Oglesbee after being the last man in the chain that daringly rescued a woman who got swept into a dam. The story says so much about the ingenuity and courage that we like to see in the average American.

Recently, a motorcyclist trapped under a car was lucky enough to find himself in the presence of proactive people, unconstrained by analysis paralysis, government regulations, or career worries.  At great risk to themselves, these people acted:

Penn State is a tocsin, warning us what happens when our cultural paradigm encourages us to pass the buck.  The nation, as a whole, hasn’t yet reached the moral abyss that is the Penn State athletic department, but Barack Obama has stated clearly that his goal is to create precisely the bureaucratic, dependency culture that makes Penn State’s (and Nazi Germany) possible.  This is not to say that Barack Obama and his team have as their goal mass child rape, genocide, crime waves, etc.  It is to say, though, that once one creates a government system that turns people into mindless, amoral automatons, the possibilities are endless for mass evil, unconstrained by individual morals.

photo by: a

Bright line bureaucratic rules that make no sense

Some friends of mine have put together a clever blog.  (If you follow me on facebook, you’ve already seen me trying to help them out.)  It’s called “A Kid’s I View” and it offers travel posts that kids write.  As a mom, I see it as a good resource for kids’ writing exercises; and as a mom who travels, I see it as a helpful place to look for travel ideas.

The biggest hurdle for my friends right now is to get content at the site.  Unlike some bloggers we know, most kids are not spontaneous writers.  Even nagging parents seem to lack the power to push their kids into writing.  When you think about it, the only people with the real power to push kids to write are teachers.  With this in mind, my friends are approaching various school districts.  Their sales pitch is that, at no expense to the school or the students, children can become published authors and, with a little luck, win cash prizes for their writing.

So far, some private schools and some public school districts have been intrigued.  One school district, however, instantly slammed the door in my friends’ faces.  The reason?  That school district has a hard-and-fast rule that it will only work with non-profit web sites.

I can understand the thinking that drove this rule.  “We’re a big school district and, even though we’re kind of broke, there’s still a lot of money here.  If we started using for-profit websites, people would think that we were trying to channel public school funds to those sites, which would look terrible and might encourage corrupt behavior from our staff.  If we use only non-profit sites, nobody can accuse us of wrongdoing.”

The problem with that line of thinking, of course, is that it rests on two completely fallacious assumptions:  (1) that for-profit sites suck funds out of school districts and (2) that non-profit sites are always on the side of the angels.

As my friends’ site demonstrates, a for-profit site can provide a benefit to a school district without imposing any costs on the district.  From the school and student point of view, it’s a fun, safe, colorful place where kids can experience the thrill of being a published author.  More than that, it’s absolutely free.  No money at all flows from school and student to the site.  To the contrary.  If a kid does well, the site sends money to the student.  More than that, if a teacher is able to encourage enough students to write (and frequent writing is the only way for someone to become a good writer), the teacher can earn money for his or her classroom.  This site puts the lie to the notion that schools appear corrupt (or are actually corrupt) if they deal with for-profit sites.

There’s evidence that the district is equally wrong with its assumption that non-profit organizations have a purity that allows the school districts to deal with them with impunity.  The most stunning example of this is Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea empire.  Mortenson wrote a book — Three Cups of Tea — describing his transformative experience following a disastrous hike in the Himalayas.  Thanks to that Himalayan sojourn, he was inspired to start schools for girls in Afghanistan.  Oprah got wind of him.  His book climbed the NYT’s bestseller list and became so popular it is now part of many schools’ curricula.  Inspired by their classroom reading, thousands of children raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund those schools.

Except, if Jon Krakauer is to be believed in his book Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way, Mortenson is a con man.  His transformative Himalayan sojourn never happened.  He didn’t build most of the promised schools and, of the few he built, many stand empty.  Most egregiously, Mortenson used his organization (funded in significant part by school children) as his own personal ATM, siphoning off millions of dollars to fund his lavish lifestyle.  (As far as I’m concerned, the early tip-off that Mortenson wasn’t on the up-and-up Oprah’s embrace.  I acquit Oprah entirely of participating in the fraud.  I’ve just noticed that she has a knack for falling for scams.)

As the Mortenson con shows, the school district’s bright line rule allowing it to deal only with non-profit web organizations provides no assurance that it will be insulating its students from scams or other improper conduct.  Meanwhile, this same misguided policy shuts the door entirely on services that could, without cost, benefit the school and the students.

I wish my friends much luck.  They’re going to need it if that school district’s rules are the norm, rather than anomalies.

By the way, if you want to read an entire book devoted to foolish bureaucracy, I strongly recommend Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America.  Don’t let the book’s title fool you.  It’s not about lawyers.  It’s about bureaucracy, and the way in which its growth stifles initiative, innovation, flexibility and adaptability.  Keep in mind as you read it that government equals bureaucracy.  The bigger the government, the bigger the bureaucracy controlling our lives.

Dealing with government bureaucracies

I do not understand the liberal love affair with government.  Government is inefficient and it bullies people.  Had a business engaged in the same conduct as the City of San Francisco, it would have apologized profusely or found itself flamed to death.  A government, however, can act with impunity, because it holds the power.

I’m not advocating an anarchic system without government.  I’m just saying that people ought to think very carefully before they vest more and more power in government’s hands.  History shows repeatedly the truth behind Thoreau’s dictum that “That government is best which governs least.”

A microcosm of big government

My child participates in a youth swim league.  In a couple of weeks, all the regional swim teams are gathering together for the big meet of the season.  Each swim team has to pay a fee to participate.  Because I’m on the planning committee this year, I learned something interesting:  the private swim clubs pay their fees the moment they’re billed; the swim clubs that are run through the cities can take months to pay their bills.  Every bill has to wend its way through the city’s bureaucracy until it finally gets to the right desk and gets the right signature.  Meanwhile, the team that hosts the event is left out-of-pocket while awaiting payment.

Government is useful and important in the right places, but it is inefficient.  Very, very inefficient.