Viewing Kennedy’s Life Through Different Lenses

I have been dismayed by how seldom Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick are mentioned in any discussions of Teddy Kennedy. Somehow, I guess, it’s in poor taste to remember the woman whose death he caused, or worse, to remember it as though it was something that happened to him, rather than something he did to her. Poor Teddy. He’s had such bad luck.
Mark Steyn calls it airbrushing out Mary Jo:

When Kennedy cheerleaders do get around to mentioning her, it’s usually to add insult to fatal injury. As Teddy’s biographer Adam Clymer wrote, Edward Kennedy’s “achievements as a senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne.”

You can’t make an omelette without breaking chicks, right? I don’t know how many lives the senator changed — he certainly changed Mary Jo’s — but you’re struck less by the precise arithmetic than by the basic equation: How many changed lives justify leaving a human being struggling for breath for up to five hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy’s Oldsmobile? If the senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been okay to leave a couple more broads down there? Hey, why not? At the Huffington Post, Melissa Lafsky mused on what Mary Jo “would have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history . . . Who knows — maybe she’d feel it was worth it.” What true-believing liberal lass wouldn’t be honored to be dispatched by that death panel?

We are all flawed, and most of us are weak, and in hellish moments, at a split-second’s notice, confronting the choice that will define us ever after, many of us will fail the test. Perhaps Mary Jo could have been saved; perhaps she would have died anyway. What is true is that Edward Kennedy made her death a certainty.

It’s true we are all human, weak, prone to errors and horrors of our own- we all have something in our past we’d rather not haev made the subject of public discussions over the internet.

But we aren’t all politicians from privileged families, politicians who claim to hold the moral high ground when it comes to issues of compassion and the treatment of women. Often in discussions when those on the left are asked why they seem to have such a double standard- why America is held to one nearly impossibly high standard of behavior and other countries are given a pass for their treatment of women, for their use of torture involving maiming and for beheading prisoners the answer is, “Of course I hold America to a higher standard. We’re better than that.”
I happen to think that an alleged champion of woman’s rights ought not to be famous for having left one of his victims to die in the back of a car he left beneath a lake while he visited with his lawyers, made over a dozen personal phone calls, goes back to his motel room, changed his clothes, complained to the manager about a party in the room next door, and waited until the car is spotted before admitting he was the driver, and, oh, yeah, there’s possibly somebody in the back seat. Nor should said champion be infamous for drunkenly making a waitress sandwich of a very unwilling waitress with his carousing buddy Chris Dodd. Nor should he be known for publicizing the name of a rape victim and blackening her character because it’s his nephew who is the accused.

There was a time when a couple of people on the left acknowledged that Kennedy was not the person he should have been and it hamstrung him:

Journalist Anna Quindlen, then with The New York Times, wrote that Kennedy “let us down because he had to; he was muzzled by the facts of his life.” And The Boston Globe, a steadfast ally of Kennedy, editorialized that his “reputation as a womanizer made him an inappropriate and non-credible” leader in the bid to scuttle the conservative Thomas’ nomination.

In fact, I read it at the time and still remember Quindlen’s cogent commentary on the double standard around Senator Kennedy well enough that I was able to google it out. She writes of Kennedy being hamstrung by his personal life when Anita Hill’s allegations against Thomas came out, and says:

It was during the 1988 election that the great debate erupted over the impact of personal behavior on political fitness. Gary Hart. Donna Rice. Monkey Business. There were many who proclaimed that the private life of a public man is not the point and that the public had no need to know about behavior after hours.

I’ve never believed that. It is difficult for me to imagine the same dedication to women’s rights on the part of the kind of man who lives in partnership with someone he likes and respects, and the kind of man who considers breast augmentation surgery self-improvement. That was my argument in ’88, that I had problems with the kind of guy who thundered against sex discrimination but couldn’t keep his hands off women. And it continued to be my argument, as issues affecting the way we live moved to the forefront of national affairs.

Yeah, I know which president we’re all thinking of right now, but she meant it when she wrote it.

I do believe it is time for our elected officials to act like men and not overgrown fraternity boys who use political position as the ultimate pickup line. And it’s time for us to be realistic about the inevitable nexus between the personal and the political, about the essential contradiction between voting on issues that empower women and seeing them as inflatable dolls in private.

She wrote that in 1991. But back to Mark Steyn:

In response to the scandal:

Ted Kennedy… got kitted out with a neck brace and went on TV and announced the invention of the “Kennedy curse,” a concept that yoked him to his murdered brothers as a fellow victim — and not, as Mary Jo perhaps realized in those final hours, the perpetrator. He dared us to call his bluff, and, when we didn’t, he made all of us complicit in what he’d done. We are all prey to human frailty, but few of us get to inflict ours on an entire nation.

I am sure he was affable in most social situations- although I know he was also not adverse to demanding special privileges (“Don’t you know who I am?”), and he had apparently mastered the personal touch in the political. I am sure he was a devoted Uncle and many of his flaws were directly connected to the suffering from two brothers assassinated, a son with cancer, and other tragedies outside his control.

But, again, his life of privilege insulated him from the consequences the rest of us would pay for behaving the same way, and he relied heavily on that. I don’t think it’s appropriate to pretend otherwise just because he is no longer in a place where the Kennedy name will protect him.

Mommy Life has more.

And although it is extremely long, Alfred Boyo has the most even keeled, fair, even neutral bio of Kennedy that I have seen on the web.

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A nation of Informants

Watch this video encouraging citizens to report each other for child abuse based on nothing more than a ‘bad feeling.’ Please.

There are several underlying fallacies at work here. Here’s a few:

1. Citizens should not just talk to each other if they have a concern. They should not get to know one another, or in any way communicate concerns to each other. They should always go directly to the government- secretly informing on their friends and neighbors.

2. False allegations of child abuse, and unnecessary government interference in a family have no negative consequences in a child’s life.

3. Slander, defamation of character, false accusations- these are actually noble, so long as it’s ‘all about the children.’

Never mind that the children are directly harmed when their parents are slandered and forcibly separated from their children because somebody had a ‘bad feeling.’ Never mind that there is no such thing as ‘erring on the side of the child’ when we’re talking about forcibly removing a child from his family.

Over at Free Range Kids, where I found the link, Lenore Skenazy writes:

Too bad the Ad Council sat out the McCarthy hearings — it could have had a field day! “If you even SUSPECT your neighbor is a Communist…” And it’s really sad we didn’t have 30- second TV spots in Salem in the 1600s: “If thou even SUSPECTETH sorcery…”

The problem is: In our commendable desire to keep kids safe, we have gone overboard and turned into a country where all parents are suspected of not being good enough, or — now — even actively bad.

Unfortunately, when the parents are falsely accused of child abuse, it is the children who suffer, the very people who claim to care about the children are actually thoughtlessly subjecting those children to unspeakable pain. They will be removed from the home and family they know, subjected to intrusive, often painful and humiliating physical and psychiatric exams, touched where they do not wish to be touched by people they do not know and cannot help but fear- before a child is subjected to this trauma, there should be a better reason for it than a funny feeling in a chance coffee shop encounter.

Posted in CPS, parenting | Leave a comment

Government Nannies and the Nature Study School

I have learned to be a bit less of a fraidy cat mom from my friend with four boys. Her boys climb trees up into the stratosphere, or so it seems to me, they jump off a small tree onto their trampoline, they roll, tumble, and do competent things in the kitchen and out in the woods.
In the five years we have known them, we have seen the boys climb so high my heart nearly stops, and in all that time the only injury has been when the littlest one broke his arm in a fall from a fat, stable tree where he could hardly have been two feet above the ground- a tree I would not ever have hesitated to let even a toddler climb.

The FYG was our most risk-taking child- she climbed onto the roof at two, went hand over hand on the monkey bars at the same age, scrambled up and down bunkbeds, in and out of trees- and the two most serious injuries she has sustained happened in ‘safe’ places. In one case she was simply walking on what had formerly been a safe, firm, flat surface- only it was the lid to our well pit cover and construction workers had put it on upside down so it wasn’t stable, and in the other she was simply jumping in the bathtub and severed four tendons to two toes when a sister’s razor fell from its shelf onto the bathtub floor and the child jumped on it (she was not allowed to jump in the bathtub, btw, but sometimes children are forgetful and sometimes they are just naughty).

Quite frequently, you cannot judge whether an activity was safe or not by whether or not somebody was injured- contrary to many of the comments here. However, there is a bigger issue here.

Lia Grippo runs a Waldorf oriented preschool/nature school in Santa Barbara, California. Or rather, she did run such a school. She took some children to the beach and allowed two or three of them to climb the hill labeled 1 here.

At Classically Liberal she tells what happened:

A few weeks ago my school met at a local beach. The beach is sandwiched between the ocean and some steep hills and bluffs. The hills sit in the sand, not above the water. My 7-year-old and his 6-year-old friend – an equally competent as a climber and also the son of my dearest friend and school teaching assistant — climbed to the top of one of these hills. As they climbed they chatted, and moved at a steady pace, which meant to me that they were not at the edge of their abilities, which would have been evidenced by their silence or by announcements of fear, tense body language, or frequent stops in search of how to proceed next. In imitation of the older boys, the younger children began to climb the hill as well.

I stopped them by saying, “That’s high enough,” when I saw they had reached the point where they would not be able to come down by themselves if they were to continue. The three younger ones (ages 4, 5, & 5) stopped and began to climb down. By this time, a group of people had gathered to watch. My 4-year-old son slid a little down the hill on his bottom. I was right below him to catch him should he continue to slide. But with the combination of the sliding and, I believe, a frightened group of strangers staring up at him, he became too afraid to come down the rest of the way. So I climbed up and coached him down, staying just beneath him. He calmed down to the point where we were laughing and joking as we made our way down.

A lifeguard showed up and took a trail around the other side and walked the older boys down- Lia says she agreed to this not because the older boys could not get down on their own but because the gathering crowd was making the boys nervous. Incidentally, one of the older boys was naked, having gotten his blue jeans wet in the ocean, he took them off to dry. I know this sounds odd, but I’ve been on the beaches around Santa Barbara and the central coast, and surfers strip naked out in plain view all the time, and generally the ‘free beaches,’ that is, beaches where you are not charged a fee, are beaches where you should not be surprised to see a naked person or two. In fact, when we lived there, it was a year before I realized that ‘free beach’ really wasn’t intended to mean ‘free of clothing.’

That, I guess, was just a happy coincidence.

So anyway, Lia’s son was climbing with the son of her school teaching assistant and one of them was naked and this bothered somebody in the crowd so much that instead of asking if they could lend a hand or in anyway communicating with the teacher, somebody called the police. The police took a statement and left. Lia told each parent what had happened that day as they picked up their children. Lia says:

A few days later the agency that licenses my school came to my door to begin an investigation. This included calling all of the parents at the school, who were all in complete support of me and thought the incident was blown completely out of proportion. Each parent called me afterward to lend support and to share their outrage at this agency.

At the end of this process, the agency has revoked my license saying that I endangered the children by “exposing them to the natural hazard of the hill and the ocean front,” and by allowing them to climb, made worse by the fact that I allowed them to climb in beach attire, and my son was naked. (As result of ditching his freezing wet pair of jeans.)

A lot of people read what Lia did and think she exercised poor judgment. I don’t know about that. I wasn’t there, I don’t know those kids, I don’t really know that particular hill. People probably think I exercised poor judgment by letting the Boy dig his tunnels in my front yard,or take his fishing pole and pocket knife off to the creek alone where he does actually catch fish (which he then releases) and comes home positively lighting up the house with his positive, self-confident, energy. He skateboards without kneepads, too, and does not always wear a helmet on his bike. I am in favor of children feeling competent, strong, and independent. I do not think a skinned knee or a few scrapes and bruises from a tumble are terrible tragedies. In fact, for most kids these are marks of glory- marks of glory which it seems none of these children acquired. They climbed up the hill, and then they came down. The naked child and the school group itself probably attracted more attention than usual, and the adults, most of them more than likely childless, freaked out and called the police- as though a crime had been committed.

And Lia lost her license, which means the parents who loved and trusted her and the children who learned many lovely things from her have lost, too. Calling the police and getting social serviced involved was overkill, and revoking her license is draconian, but typical of the government nanny types (that, yes, ironically are just as ubiquitous a part of Santa Barbara’s culture as nude people on beaches).

Lia writes in an email:

Have you noticed a shift in the societal and official stance towards what is safe? Do you remember having the freedom to climb trees and hills, and roller-skate without armor?

Americans are currently experiencing a rising tide of fear; a “culture of fear” that is propagated by news programs, advertising, politicians and pundits, and mass media in general. Most humans have a healthy innate urge to protect children but, in this climate of fear, the act of protecting children is becoming a detriment to their very wellbeing.

In 20 years of teaching experience, 11 of which have involved wilderness mentoring with young children, the worst injuries I have seen on my watch have been bee stings. This summer, during my outdoor program, two remarkably skilled climbers (ages 7 and 6), climbed a steep hill at a local beach. No one was hurt. No one came close to being hurt, but some bystanders on the beach were scared and called the police. Despite overwhelming statements of support and no complaints from any of the parents, the state has decided that I am too great a liability and is revoking my license to operate my school and teach in general.

I am charged with “exposing the children to the natural hazard of the ocean front,” allowing the children to climb the hill, to climb in beach attire, shoeless, and more. This case has the potential to set a terrible precedent, discouraging other schools and groups from taking children into Nature’s playground, where they can intimately know the land and learn to know themselves in the process.

With the state removing my family’s source of livelihood, paying for an attorney to appeal this action is challenging. Therefore, I am asking for donations however large or small. A small amount from many can make a tremendous difference. Donations can be made to our paypal account: [email protected] or checks can be made payable to my attorney, Andrea Marcus and mailed to 6163 Stow Canyon Rd. Goleta, CA 93117.

Even though not one of the actual parents involved complained- but rather, they support her, Lia cannot currently teach children anywhere in California in any capacity, and I do not believe any children are safer for this. In fact, I believe quite a few of them have been cheated by the state.

Posted in CPS, government, Mothering, Nature Study | Leave a comment

8 out of 10 Construction Workers Now Barred from Fed Projects

Barack Obama and his administration are about to significantly drive up the costs of federal building construction. This is an astonishing reach. The Office of Management and Budget has directed that any federal construction over $25 million benefit unions.

The order would make all federal construction projects 10-20% more expensive by requiring all contractors to either use union workers or apply inefficient union apprenticeship and work rules to their employees. Contractors would also be required to make contributions to union pension funds and other union programs that non-union workers will never benefit from.

This will hugely drive up the cost of construction of federal buildings and line the pockets of unions without even having union workers involved in the projects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only 15.6% of private construction workers in America belong to unions. In other words, 8 out of 10 construction workers in America will be legally denied the right to work on federal building projects.

More here.

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Another Good Article On Inflation

I just read this yesterday with the FYB and FYG- only it was in our textbook, the study guide to Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, not online. So I was tickled when I ran across this essay by Henry Hazlitt online:

1. Inflation is an increase in the quantity of money and credit. Its chief consequence is soaring prices…

2. The most frequent reason for printing more money is the existence of an unbalanced budget.[the causes given for this unbalanced budget are blood pressure raising]

3. The causes of inflation are not, as so often said, “multiple and complex,” but simply the result of printing too much money. … Higher costs can only be passed along in higher selling prices when consumers have more money to pay the higher prices.

4. Price controls [don’t help] All government price and wage control, or even “monitoring,” is merely an attempt by the politicians to shift the blame for inflation on to producers and sellers instead of their own monetary policies.

5. Prolonged inflation never “stimulates” the economy. …

6. To avoid irreparable damage, the budget must be balanced at the earliest possible moment, and not in some sweet by-and-by. Balance must be brought about by slashing reckless spending, and not by increasing a tax burden that is already undermining incentives and pro­duction.

Posted in economics, government | Leave a comment

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