Friday, August 22, 2014

The Ratchet of the Earth

Via New York Magazine, counterclockwise: Beyoncé, Gaga, Ratchet.  Ratchet Girl Anthem,” a parody track recorded by Philip and Emmanuel Houston, collected tens of millions of Youtube hits. In it, the Atlanta brothers pretend to be ratchet women describing their ilk: They carry outdated flip phones, go clubbing while pregnant, and try to punch other women in the face. “Ratchet is basically a lack of home training — being out in public and acting like you don’t have any sense,” Philip Houston told the Cut. “Putting a weave in the microwave just to curl it, that’s ratchet.”

Old George Will sez (and the National Review reproduces—never noticed it before, but they use as much syndicated material as the Tooterville Gazette, and much of it—this, and stupid Krauthammer—is from WaPo) that he is going to propose a kind of Unified Field Theory of politics in the form of
the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything , from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans’ comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.
He doesn't quite say how he knows that Americans have comprehensively withdrawn their confidence from government at all levels (which would be pretty interesting, given the finding from Sam Wang at The New Yorker that Republican gubernatorial candidates who elected to work with Obamacare are polling significantly better than those who refused), but jumps right in to the explaining part, which has to do with progressivism, and the fact that progressivism has a ratchet:
Washington’s response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism’s ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches’ contents, which validates regulation of what it calls “competitive foods,” such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
I wonder what he thinks a ratchet is.

Via Old Tool Heaven. I guess that's where Will is going when he dies.

To me, yes, if the feds are going to subsidize the lunches, they need to lay down some regulations as to what's done with the money. That's what conservatives like to call "accountability", only they don't like to do much about it. Not only to keep a watch on the calories and sodium levels and fiber content, but also to discourage local politicians from making those Crony Capitalist deals, like old Mayor Bloomberg making Snapple the NYC Official School Drink, with which all the district's school vending machines had to be stocked (it ended, not with a bang but a whimper, or a whine anyway, but it was pretty annoying). The bake sale standards (which do not apply to events outside school hours, when anybody who has ever been a parent knows you do not want to give the little buggers a sugar overdose) are pretty modest, too, as he'd know if he read his own paper instead of the Wall Street Panic Attack, I mean Journal.
What has this to do with police, from Ferguson, Mo., to your home town, toting marksman rifles, fighting knives, grenade launchers and other combat gear? 
Uh, nothing, actually. As Will goes on to say, the armament of the police as shock troops in the drug war, passing out free assault rifles, night goggles, and MRAPS (to protect them from the IEDs those pesky Oxycontin dealers are always leaving in the streets, not) was the opposite of thoughtful; or, in language I wouldn't really use,
Swollen government has a shriveled brain: By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.
The 1033 Program that did this starting under President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and expanding under The Great Triangulator Bill Clinton and the Newtonian Contract on America in 1997, was what our current president fondly refers to as Doing Stupid Shit.

Then, of course, after 9/11 everything changed and the free stuff wasn't enough—they had to start passing out money so the police departments could buy more, $34 billion worth in that first decade and more afterwards, to protect against what? Terrorist fanatics really coming to North Pole, Alaska, and its $557,400 worth of rescue and communications gear?

Whereas the school lunch standards were developed by people with "actual competence", came out modest and inexpensive, and allowed local districts to adopt stricter ones if they wished (as New York and Chicago did). The cases are different as day and night.
A cupcake-policing government will find unending excuses for flexing its muscles as it minutely monitors our behavior in order to improve it, as Debra Harrell, 46, a South Carolina single mother, knows. She was jailed for “unlawful neglect” of her 9-year-old daughter when she left her, with a cellphone, to play in a park while she worked at a nearby McDonald’s.
I hope you're not going to tell me leaving her kid in the park while she did her shift was a good thing (develops self-reliance in the young, that'll keep them off drugs and waiting to get pregnant until she's married). What I'd like is not putting mothers in jail but rather paying them a living wage and subsidizing day care. The little girl used to hang out in the restaurant playing computer games (it's summer, she didn't have school), but their laptop got stolen.
In Federalist Paper 84, Alexander Hamilton assured readers that, although the proposed Constitution would increase the power of a distant federal government, this government would be inhibited by scrutiny... Not now, when five of the nation’s richest 10 counties, ranked by median household income, are Washington suburbs, parasitic off the federal government. The people who write the regulations of school lunches must live somewhere.
I'm sorry, who jailed Debra Harrell? I'm pretty sure that wasn't the federal government. Nor the people who suspended Darin Simak, a first-grader from New Kensington, PA, for bringing a toy gun to school, though he realized it was wrong and turned it in to his teacher; nor the 10-year-old in Texas whose suntan lotion was confiscated for fear someone might eat it.

Hamilton was right, and righter than he imagined (or lefter, I guess): the federal government really gets much more closely scrutinized than the "laboratories of democracy" do, is better monitored by press and by voters, and more able to assemble the expertise to put together a rational policy.

What we learn from the examples Will cites is that the federal government should never just dump reform money on states in the block-grant manner for which conservatives from Richard Nixon to Paul Ryan have always cried. Left to themselves, states have institutionalized racial discrimination, as NTodd was reminding us what seems like seconds ago, and let it fester afterwards, as Bette points out, and they've allowed voting rights to be destroyed, sucked up to corporations, sold out their environments, and rolled over like a dog looking for a chest scratch for organizations like ALEC.

The problem with the militarization of police departments and border security is that the feds didn't give those people any criteria, didn't ask for a plan, just gave them, in effect, a Ryanesque block grant for weaponry. The school lunch program provides a much better model of how this ought to work, for education, food security, prison policy, and just about all the local stuff our governments do.

Via Ratchet Galaxy.

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