More recommended reading for your weekend! About politics, democracy, and freedom.

These articles are about politics in America and our cousins in the UK.

  1. Damian Green’s arrest shows parliament in decay“, Henry Porter, blogging at The Guardian, 1 December 2008 — “How do we mark 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? With the arrest of an opposition MP by terror police.”
  2. Arresting MPs and nationalising banks happen in dictatorships“, The Telegraph, 30 November 2008 — Let’s not kid ourselves.  If this can happen in London it can happen here.
  3. California Focus: Political class looks out for No. 1“, Jon Coupal (President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association), op-ed in the OC Register, 3 December 2008 — “Politicians hide behind the vulnerable, but primarily protect themselves.” We’ll see a lot of this in 2009, as our interests 2nd to our political class. 

Why do these things happen?  Sheep exist to be sheared.  Peons must be governed, as they cannot govern themselves.  If we choose to be citizens, we must take back the reins of government.

Excerpts

Damian Green’s arrest shows parliament in decay“, Henry Porter, blogging at The Guardian, 1 December 2008 — “How do we mark 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? With the arrest of an opposition MP by terror police.”

How is Britain to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

With the continued development of £12bn plans to set up a vast data silo to store information on all phone calls, emails and internet connections? Another soviet style article form Jack Straw, which tells us how the inventory of freedoms has increased under Labour? Or the issue of ID cards to foreigners by a government that knows the public don’t give a damn about the rights and privacy of foreigners?

Somehow we always knew that Jacqui Smith would be at the centre of this important anniversary but you have to hand it to the government: nobody had predicted that human rights and freedom in Britain would be celebrated with the arrest and fingerprinting of an opposition MP by terror police, the search of his premises, hard drives and telephones, the taking of his DNA and the attempted intimidation of his wife, Alicia.

And no one foresaw the good fortune that Green’s young daughter arrived from school to find her home swarming with police. Why is it so important to the symbolism of the affair? Because her appearance allows the police to enter her name on the Merlin database which requires them to take the details of children who come to their attention when a premises is being searched.

No action by the authorities could have better revealed the decay in the chassis of parliamentary democracy. It captures everything – the seeming politicisation of the police, the unprincipled brass neck of the home secretary, the degradation and failure of the parliamentary authorities and the growing confusion in labour between the roles of the government and state.

Arresting MPs and nationalising banks happen in dictatorships“, The Telegraph, 30 November 2008 — Let’s not kid ourselves.  If this can happen in London it can happen here. 

Anyone who thinks that this incident is being somehow blown out of proportion by opposition politicians and an excitable media had better think again. A senior opposition spokesman has been arrested and detained, had his personal possessions and confidential correspondence examined, and his family home occupied, without being suspected of any criminal offence.

The object of the exercise seems to have been intimidation and the flaunting of power. Short of an outright, totalitarian suspension of democracy, this is about as serious as it gets. Freedom is under threat in ways that we would not have thought conceivable a generation ago. The threat seems to be coming in various forms from a government desperate to save its own credibility and to be so convinced of its moral righteousness that it can justify the most blatant abuses of what we had taken to be the fundamental principles of a free society.

Infuriated by the banks’ unwillingness to lend money readily (even though it was lending money too readily that got them into so much trouble in the first place), the Government threatens to take them over. It uses the language of moral outrage to justify the threat of nationalisation: the banks are behaving “selfishly” and “irresponsibly” by refusing to offer easier credit (even though it was also “selfish” and irresponsible” of them to offer credit that was too easy).

Such a nationalisation of the banking system would constitute nothing less than the true Marxist dream of “seizing the commanding heights of the economy”. And since financial services are now Britain’s most important industry, taking over the banks could be understood as achieving the chief communist goal of taking “ownership of the means of production”.

But no one is going to put it quite like that. The language of all this is terribly important. The modern parties of the Left make use of the most attractive words, such as “fair” and “progressive” in which to package their attacks on personal freedom and private responsibility.

California Focus: Political class looks out for No. 1“, Jon Coupal (President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association), op-ed in the OC Register, 3 December 2008 — “Politicians hide behind the vulnerable, but primarily protect themselves.” We’ll see a lot of this in 2009, as our interests 2nd to our political class.

If Abraham Lincoln were delivering his Gettysburg Address today, he might feel compelled to conclude, “that government for the government shall not perish from this earth.” He was “Honest Abe” after all. Let’s take a look at how Sacramento really operates.

Those in power in the Capitol – as well as many local politicians – make skillful use of those who rely on government services to advance their spending agenda. They use children, the disabled, the elderly and others who appear vulnerable to justify increasing taxes. When reasonable arguments are made that higher taxes in an already high-tax state could lead to fiscal ruin and less for everyone, politicians and bureaucrats use these dependent classes as human shields.

But who really is at risk if spending is curtailed modestly or if the rate of increase is limited? A number of years ago, David Doerr, who is probably California’s foremost expert on tax policy, observed that, during budget negotiations, 90 percent of those testifying in support of greater spending are the providers, not the recipients, of state services. If the ratio has changed at all, it is surely higher.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California has the highest-paid public employees in the nation. Additionally, our state has the highest-paid Legislature. And it is not an exaggeration to say that, for these folks, the No. 1 priority of governing is taking care of state employees, lawmakers and their friends. In short, they look after themselves.

… The existing legislative leadership has already begun the bi-annual process of providing welfare to their outgoing colleagues. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has just appointed termed-out Assemblyman John Laird to the Integrated Waste Management Board. The job pays $132,178 per year.

On the Senate side, President Pro Tempore Don Perata has selected the soon-to-be-jobless Sen. Sheila Kuehl to replace former Sen. Wes Chesbro, who was appointed to the panel after he left office in 2006, but who no longer needs the cushy job because he has just been elected to the Assembly.

Other members of the Waste Management board include the wife of another former lawmaker, and a former scheduler for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – and this is just one board out of many.

For those who may have wondered why the state spends millions each year on scores of little-used and often worthless boards and commissions that pay handsomely for only a few hours of work each month, these appointments may provide clarification.

So as our political class shrieks and bellows that without major tax increases there will not be enough to support the needy, remember, on their list of the truly needy, these folks rank No. 1.

Afterword

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3 thoughts on “More recommended reading for your weekend! About politics, democracy, and freedom.

  1. Ah, yes–the deathless quote from the Mexican bandit (Eli Wallach) in “The Magnificent Seven”: “If God had not wanted them to be sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”

    Pretty true. Choices have consequences.

  2. {FM note: Great material! I have edited this slightly for clarity and added more information}

    More about Green: “The politics of intimidation“, John Kampfner, op-ed in The Guardian, 29 November 2008 — “The Damian Green arrest confirms my fears about a vengeful government and a supine media.” John Kampfner is chief executive of Index on Censorship:

    {It is} Britain’s leading organisation promoting freedom of expression. Our award-winning magazine and website provide a window for original, challenging and intelligent writing on these vital issues around the world. Our international projects in media, arts and education put our philosophy into action.

    Also good article on opacity of US legislative branch: “A Dome Under Lock and Key“, CQ Weekly (published by Congressional Quarterly), 30 November 2008 — Opening:

    In early August 2007, as the House moved rapidly to pass legislation modifying the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before its summer recess, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seemed uncertain about the details of the bill they were debating. There had been intense negotiations with the White House, and only a handful of House members had been briefed on the details of the bill.

    “I have some confusion over here,” Republican Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico complained to Jane Harman of California, the Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence. Harman said she had just come to the floor for a procedural vote and acknowledged that she didn’t have a copy of the latest draft. “It may be one I’ve seen,” she said, “but I’m not absolutely positive.” That moved California Republican David Dreier , the former chairman of the Rules Committee, to voice his frustration. “I think it is just absolute lunacy,” he said, “to believe that we are, at this moment, in a position to go ahead and vote upon something that we don’t know what it consists of.”

    In fact, the House was being asked to vote on something that was too secret to fully explain in public.

  3. Sheep to be sheared… that pretty much sums it up. OK, now to the hard part: Given that perhaps 2% of us are wolves and the rest sheep, what course of action do you recommend? What would Boyd recommend, what would he do?

    Just wondering…

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