Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Back To Normal, But Not in Oklahoma

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So, here’s how it looks–we seem to have gone back to real life just in time for what the British would call a bank holiday.  Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, which means no mail and no banks. 

This will not be a holiday for me.  Partly that’s because I don’t take them.  I like to write, and right now I’m sort of writing frantically.  Maybe fiction is my drug, because I think that week of not being able to put me into a kind of withdrawal.

Part of it is because school isn’t taking the day off.  It’s “observing” the holiday on Tuesday the 15th instead.   This is a little difficult to understand.  My place is not only not anti-military, but is positively military friendly. 

Part of it is surely that very few of us teach on Friday, so taking Friday off is like taking nothing off for most of the teachers.  But then, why not take off Monday, when practically everybody is teaching? 

Never mind.  This is the kind of thing that occupies my mind when I’m tired.   And I am, at the moment, fairly tired.  It’s exhausting to have nothing to do.

So, still in disorganized mode, a few notes for the day:

1) As to laws that have to be passed because some people have no common sense–I’d say that describes, exactly, what laws I think should NOT be passed. 

And it’s not just that grown ups should be allowed to take their own risks, which I think is true enough.

It’s also that one person’s idea of what’s “common sense” is another person’s idea of sheer idiocy.  I know a lot of people who ride motorcycles.  Most of them think helmet laws are not only not “common sense,” but put them in active danger–they may or may not be more likely to survive an accident while wearing a helmet, but they’re definitely in more danger of getting into an accident in the first place, as the helmet plays hell with peripheral vision.

I have no idea who”s right or wrong on this issue.  The last time I rode a motorcycle I was 25, and I rode in back while the man I was dating did the actual driving.

But I do know that this is just the kind of law that makes me both crazy and angry–it is government treating its citizens not as citizens, but as children, or patients, who have to be disciplined “for their own good.”

I’d support a Constitutional amendment that would bar the government from ever passing laws for such a reason, and I’d change the laws having to do with children so that government was no longer allowed to judge or interfere with anybody’s “parenting skills.”

In cases of assault or clear physical neglect (not feeding the kid till he starves would be a case; homeschooling would not be one), I’d use the crimninal justice system and give the accused parents full due process rights, including the presumption of innocense.

And that brings me to

2) I’m with Cheryl and Robert.  I don’t think “compassion” means supporting some government program or other.  Compassion can only be an individual trait, and it can only be practiced on an individual basis. 

That doesn’t mean that there should be no institutional provision for the people who are truly unable to take care of themselves.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve been vocal on this blog in support of a vastly expanded version of the Earned Income Tax Credit for people who do for themselves but don’t have the intellectual ability to do much better than the minimum.

But I know for a fact that what “compassion” is NOT is supporting programs that look as if they’re doing more harm than good.

And the program described in that essay by the last psychologist (I wish somebody would tell me if it’s psychologist or psychiatrist) is a system that is postively malevolent.

A system set up to bribe people into redefining themselves as “sick” is not an act of compassion, and it is not helping anybody.

Every single person who takes that bait is worse off in the long run than he would be if he was left to starve in the street. 

There is more to being human than eating, breathing, copulating and defecating.  A person who is entrapped–and there’s a lot of entrapment in these programs as described in that article–into lying, cheating and faking to get mere subsistence has not been helped–he’s been destroyed. 

So I’ll repeat–if that’s really what we’re doing, we should stop.  We’re not helping anybody with that.

My EITC approach would at least treat people as actual people, and not as children or patients. 

And that has to be a step in the right direction.

3) I forgot mm’s thing about the mythical liberal university.

And I don’t doubt Cathy is right that she doesn’t deal with universities like the ones we were describing.  I don’t either, these days.

But that such exist is not in question, and you don’t have to take my word for it.

Go here


That’s the website for The FIRE–The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

They were founded as a sort of ACLU for college students forced into some truly bizarre and Orwellian nightmares by campus speech codes, brainwashing-technique “orientations” and other administrative depredations of the modern upscale university.

The latest upset has to do with Department of Education regulations–issued by unelected bureaucrats, don’t forget; I want to get rid of that for a reason–

Anyway, by regulations that say colleges and universities must, when dealing with allegations of rape on campus, apply a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in determining guilt, and not the usual “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Why is that?

Well, one university official explained, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard gives “too many rights to the accused.”

Right, exactly.

For what it’s worth, ROTC returned to Harvard just this year, and you can’t major in business in the Ivy League.

Yes, they’ve got business schools, but those are graduate schools.  You want a BA from the Ivies or the Seven Sisters or the Little Three, business is not a major on offer.

And then:

4) I have been reading things.  Lately, what I’ve been doing is rereading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers for the first time in close to thirty years.  And on that I’ve got one thing to say.

This is not only my favorite Dorothy L. Sayers novel, it’s the favorite Dorothy L. Sayers novel of just about anybody I’ve ever met who reads Sayers.

That’s good, as far as I’m concerned, but I’d like to point out one thing:

This is a mainstream novel, not a genre one. 

Not only does it barely qualify as a detective novel on any level, what detective elements it contains are largely ignored while the plot concentrates on character and character relations. 

I’m having a very good time with this thing, and it’s a very good book.  And I’m hardly the person to complain about calling something a detective story because you can get it into print, while actually writing a different kind of novel altogether.

But, you know, I just thought I’d mention it.

I have to go give an exam to students who probably ought to be shipped off to day jobs for a few years until they grow up enough to know if they actually want to be in school.

Written by janeh

November 10th, 2011 at 9:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

13 Responses to 'Back To Normal, But Not in Oklahoma'

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  1. “As to laws that have to be passed because some people have no common sense–I’d say that describes, exactly, what laws I think should NOT be passed.”

    In my profession I have seen numerous human atrocities against other humans … senior citizens and especially children and the average Joe and Josephine … I guess I have made the mistake of assuming just because I would not take a butcher knife to enlarge the vagina of an 8 month old baby girl so that a penis could be inserted , that I would not do that deplorable act.

    Yes, lack of common sense is the bane of humanity and ya’ll have pointed out that laws would hender or not make a difference in human behavior.

    I stand corrected … but what on earth can be done if anything to prevent such acts … as far as parenting skills … I meant someone should follow-up with parents and new borns if they did not have a support group about how to feed, clothe and bathe an infant or how to nurture an infant.

    I know that such behaviors have existed since time began but what can be done ??

    Oh well ….


    10 Nov 11 at 10:18 am

  2. I’m with Jane. The only thing I fundamentally disagree with her about among these sorts of issues is that I support laws requiring the wearing of seat belts (in cars, trucks, and planes) and she doesn’t. That is basically because bodies flying around loose in confined spaces cause injury to other people. There are other good reasons too, but we’ve argued about this many times in the past without persuading each other.

    As for the abuse of children, there are more than adequate laws to forbid the sorts of abuse that you describe. However, no laws will ever prevent a tiny minority of people from committing such atrocities. Moreover, even if it were desirable, it would be impossible for government authorities to monitor child welfare to the degree necessary for those authorities to be reasonably assured that such problems never occurred without creating an enormous bureaucracy to control an even more numerous army of social workers and other child welfare “experts”. Most of the soldiers in the front lines will inevitably be, as they are now, young people with no personal experience of their own in childbirth, child care and child welfare. They may be full of book learning and all the latest theories, but will have little or no relevant experience. Changing a diaper will be a new experience for most of them, and given the disastrous experiences of the British families affected by the child abuse witchhunt in the UK a few years ago, not even fully trained doctors and nurses can be trusted not to over-react to trivial incidents. Falling out of trees is what kids routinely do, and a broken arm or even neck from such an event is not evidence of child neglect no matter what the current fads on child rearing might insist.

    And what happens if the armies of bureaucrats and social workers actually arrive at a significant period when there are no instances of child abuse/neglect? Will those armies by down-sized or even dismantled. Will they heck! First of all they’ll probably claim that this marvelous state of affairs did not result spontaneously from a combination of possibilites such as better educated parents, fewer children, or whatever. They will argue (as do all bureaucracies who unintentionally find themselves with little or nothing to do) that this happy situation will only exist while the monitoring forces are retained at full strength. If that doesn’t persuade the bean counters, they will then resort to Plan B, which will be along the lines of identifying new scourges to monitor.

    Oh, wait, they’re already doing that! Fat kids, skinny kids, kids with ADHD or whatever the latest psychological issue (pace, CathyO) might be, and their parents are already being harassed by the outriders of the busy-bodies. Soon we’ll be seeing bed checkers patrolling the streets several times a night to ensure that the infants are abed by 1900, primary schoolers by 2000, junior high schoolers by 2100 and senior highs by 2200 OR ELSE.

    In Australia after World War II, the then Labor Federal Government retained food and other rationing and, the huge rationing bureaucracy that controlled it, for years longer than necessary for no better reason than to keep the people concerned in work lest they vent their unemployed spleens against the government of the day and add to the industrial disruption that was endemic in the country at the time. So, the great mass of the population suffered considerable inconvenience and even hardship to pander to a tiny minority.

    Bottom line: a burgeoning government bureaucracy is a very costly and inefficient way to deal with social problems like these.


    10 Nov 11 at 11:15 am

  3. Causing physical damage to another human being (including, of course, death) would be one obvious point at which making and enforcing laws to control or reduce the behaviour would be appropriate. Not eliminate, sadly. No human system is perfect, and no legal system is going to catch all malefactors before the damage is done.

    The tricky part is figuring out what to do about the kind of behaviour is risky, maybe even to others, but far less clearly risky than a knife in the vagina. Smoking with children in the car/house for example. I speak as a lifetime non-smoker who still gets carsick in the now very rare situation of travelling in a moving vehicle with a smoker, and yet I think our (I’m in Canada) recent tendency to forbid smoking in cars with children as an absurd over-reaction. The evidence for actual physical damage, as in cancer, is extremely thin and I don’t really think I needed legal protection against something causing car-sickness when I was a child.

    I think the compulsory home visits to infants was in the UK – it’s not done here, although there are well baby clinics run by nurses, subsidized or free daycare for children identified as risk, foster and group homes for children proved to be at risk etc, none of which I object to (although I may have reservations about the way some of the private businesses some of this is contracted out to operate). I don’t see why every mother needs a home visit, I’d hate to spend money on it, and if I were the mother, I’d really resent having to have a stranger visit when I was barely home with a new infant. If I were at risk – turned up in the delivery room drunk or high or obviously delusional, perhaps – that would be different. If I confided to the nurses or my doctor that I was feeling depressed or overwhelmed, I’d expect a referal and maybe a home visit. But ALL new mothers? I don’t know where the UK gets the money, and I don’t think it’s necessary.


    10 Nov 11 at 11:29 am

  4. Psychiatrist.

    And yes, I support FIRE. I just wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t ubiquitous. Yes, if it happens at all, it’s atrocious; but it’s not every college and university on the planet.

    Cathy F


    10 Nov 11 at 11:35 am

  5. OK, with you right up until GAUDY NIGHT, which is also my favorite Sayers and one of my favorite mysteries. I have a serious quarrel with “not genre” and “barely qualifies as a detective novel.”
    “Not genre” first. There is an old and bitter routine told by science fiction fans:
    CRITIC: “No science fiction is any good. It all lacks X.”
    FAN (waving book) “But this one has plenty of X!”
    CRITIC: “Then it isn’t science fiction.”
    If a book is predictable, formulaic or event-driven, we have words for these things. They have meaning, and accusations can be rationally disputed. “Genre” already means a type of story and a setting. We don’t need it to mean “unripe” as well.

    As for “barely a detective novel” let’s take a quick look: we have improper actions escalating into crimes by a person or persons unknown. We have accusations of murder. We have our viewpoint character putting together a scrapbook of clues and summoning the Great Detective, who reads the book and points out the salient features in a style strikingly reminiscent of Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen. The Great Detective then assembles suspects in the manner of Nero Wolfe and explains how the clues, rationally considered identify a single perpetrator, and provides motive in the bargain. What else, pray tell, ought a mystery to do? Were the characters cardboard, GAUDY NIGHT would still be a better fair play mystery than several Nero Wolfe novels I could name. And to suggest that having satisfactory characters somehow disqualifies a book as a mystery is—well, self-defeating comes to mind.

    Nor, indeed, can it be anything else than a detective novel. With due respect to Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, their relationship in this novel hinges on the mystery—not just having a mystery, but the events of the mystery and how and by whom it is resolved. For contrast, I offer Jennifer Crusie’s FAST WOMEN, which contains four homicides, the perpetrator of which is revealed only in the next to last chapter. It’s a good book and I enjoy it, but it’s a romance and not a mystery. You could remove all four murders without affecting the relationship between the principals. Mystery is a component of the Crusie, and the spine of the Sayers.

    Sayers does describe a contemporary mainstream realist non-genre, of course: MOCKTURTLE, winner of the Book of the Moment award. Josephine Tey, in THE DAUGHTER OR TIME, describes another such: Silas Weekly’s THE SWEAT AND THE FURROW. I commend them both to all who are in search of such. But I’m going back to shelves full of mystery, romance and adventure–where, incidentally, I shall find no lack of interesting characters and social and political commentary, but the story drives.

    May your way prove as pleasing.

    Oh? Texas? Just in case you’re not being deliberately obtuse, the objection was not to laws preventing me from injuring or endangering someone else, but to laws assuming that I am not the best judge of my own interests–the difference between, say, requiring that I stay on my side of the road and have my brakes checked at intervals and telling me I can’t buy a car without an airbag–even one which endangers older and smaller passengers. It’s a subtlety commonly lost on the political activist these days, I know, but a few antiquarians try to maintain it.


    10 Nov 11 at 7:20 pm

  6. Thank ya’ll for listening to my ramblings.

    When I had open-heart surgery last year , I developed “pump brain ” an inability for some ( including me ) to remember vocabulary words and to form cohesive , coherent ideation , sentences, etc.

    I am much better but still have difficulty getting my opinions across to others by using words.

    I shall not partake of further posting but will continue to read Ms.Haddam’s blogs and the replies which all of you write.

    Thank you for being patient.


    10 Nov 11 at 8:26 pm

  7. Nought of Oklahoma e’er was “normal” – yet ever it doth revere the Pearl of Texas.


    10 Nov 11 at 10:51 pm

  8. Texas, as an Australian, I have a little bit of trouble with your Texas drawl, but your ideas are coming across just fine. :-)

    Please don’t stop posting if you feel the urge.


    11 Nov 11 at 2:02 am

  9. Thank you for thefire link. It brings back a mixed collection of memories.
    Thank you for reminding me of Gaudy Night. I collected and reread Sayers. Sometimes I read Gaudy Night for the love story, sometimes for the perspectives on academia and principles of scholarship. I always remember whodunit, and the wonderful line about a mind that flowered early and went to seed.
    Staffing budgets in tax-supported organizations raise issues. You probably don’t want to budget tax money to pay people to sit around or meddle in your business, but generally if it’s your house that’s on fire, you prefer to have firemen on call and free to make the run. Perhaps cops, social workers, and judges would have had decent results sooner than coworkers, parents, and administrators at Penn State.


    11 Nov 11 at 9:19 am

  10. mm, you mean the way the cops social workers and judges got “decent results” in the cases of mass child molestation in day care centers? I’d be careful what I wished for.

    I’d also keep in mind that one of the reasons firemen are held in higher esteem than government mental health workers is that firemen don’t get to redefine “fire,” barge into my apartment, hose down my shelves and haul me in for arson.

    On the Penn State business–sadly, university athletic departments aren’t the only ones covering things up to make their organization look better. Consider Surgeon General Elders and the leaky condoms. Or try to get straight talk on race out of university admissions offices.

    But when the people with knowledge of a crime won’t come forth, I don’t know what you’d do with more government. I have this mental image of social workers trolling neighborhoods offering children candy or small sums of money in return for accusations, but I’d prefer to leave it a fantasy.


    11 Nov 11 at 6:34 pm

  11. Down here, even firemen, thankfully few and far between, we hope, have been known to start fires in a misguided and perhaps insane attempt to justify their own existence. I believe California has experienced similar “zealotry”. Many of their fires have grown into conflagations of epic proportions that have taken human lives and destroyed hundreds if not thousands of millions of dollars worth of property and livestock.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Riiiiiiight! Yet more bureaucracy.


    11 Nov 11 at 7:54 pm

  12. Some custodians clean up after themselves, most clean up their designated area, some are busy-bodies who harrass others. Some watchmen watch out for themselves, most watch their designated area, some are busy-bodies who harrass others. That makes supervisors’ lives interesting.

    (Requiescat in pace Mrs. Ross, Latin teacher and church organist in Kingfisher, OK)

    Generally it’s best not to select any answer that includes “all,” “always,” “none,” or “never.” Perhaps all corporations are not evil “persons,” exhibiting all the chararacteristics of Saturday morning cartoon villans. Perhaps all bureaucracies (for profit, non-profit, and tax-supported) are not totally infested with monstrous busy-bodies, crawling out to wreak havoc on practicing Libertarians who are no danger to others, and minimally dangerous to themselves. Perhaps all politicians are not bond servants for life to their owners/donors. Be that as it may, keeping a close eye on corporations, bureaucrats, and politicians seems like a good idea.

    Jane: Your fiction writing seems to be like insulin. It takes care of you, and you produce enough to share with those of us who need extra.


    12 Nov 11 at 9:55 am

  13. Ah, mm? A subtle distinction missed: the contrast in my mind is not politician vs bureaucrat nor whether the bureaucracy is profit or not profit, but whether they have the power to compel me. If Microsoft makes an unsatisfactory operating system, or Chevrolet an unreliable or expensive vehicle, I have the option of spending my money elsewhere, or not spending it. I can, in fact, IGNORE a corporation to death, and have done so.
    This is not an option when Congress and the Presidency have a wonderful idea, nor when the mental health professional/equal opportunity activist has the full force of the law behind her–or when the government makes a power or telecommunications company a legal monopoly. Love a politician? Hate a bureaucrat? Slander or extoll a legal monopoly corporation? All one to me. I don’t care how they’re viewed, nor the proportion of little tin gods or total staff. What I want is for them to be restrained–severely.

    The United States has gotten itself into a good few messes in the last few generations. I don’t believe any of them came from the Federal government having insufficient constitutional powers, nor from giving inadequate legal authority to our governmental bureaucrats.

    If anyone tells you a system will work because it has or will have virtuous people running it, flee from that person, and that system. It will be easier now than later.


    12 Nov 11 at 10:17 am

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