Don’t Call the Cops

They won’t come. Not for a long time, anyway. Unless it’s a real emergency. And even then…who knows?

That’s essentially what’s happened here in our county. While most people are aware of the dramatic police and firefighter layoffs in big cities like Camden, NJ, there is a somewhat different — and more interesting — dynamic at work here in our little corner of Michigan.

Like most counties in our state, the territory is divided up into large townships of about 30-35 square miles. Within these, there are pockets of incorporated municipalities which are administratively separate from the surrounding township. Our particular rural township has about 2,400 rural residents, and there are about 2,300 people living in its one incorporated municipality.

Most of the incorporated municipalities, including the one we live just outside of, have a small police force. (They seem to spend much of their time camped out with a radar gun at the municipal line, where the speed limit suddenly drops from 45 to 25.) However, that police force will not respond to crimes on our property; their responsibility ends at the municipal border. We and all other rural residents are under the jurisdiction of the County Sheriff, whose services are paid for by our property taxes.

Last summer, the County announced that they would need to slash the Sheriff’s budget by $2.2 million for 2011, and that they would no longer have the resources (i.e. deputies) for routine patrols or response to non-emergency rural calls. If we wanted more police coverage than that, we would need to approve a special millage on the November ballot. The money raised would be used to contract with the county sheriff or a local municipality for police coverage, or to form a new rural police force.

The assessment would’ve been about $150 per residence and $250 per business. Of course, Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I voted in favor. We tend to oppose most millage proposals, but police coverage should be a no-brainer. Public safety is one of the few truly essential and appropriate functions that government provides. I simply assumed it would pass, and didn’t even bother checking the election results for several weeks.

As it turns out, the millage in fact failed. Miserably. Each of the thirteen townships voted separately, and the measure only (barely) passed in one. It came close (49%) in one other township. Five other townships were in the low forties. None of the remaining seven townships, including ours, could muster a “Yes” vote in excess of 37%.

Interestingly, the one township which passed the millage has chosen not to contract with the County Sheriff for services. They are instead going to hire a local municipality’s police force to cover them.

Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I have been scratching our heads and trying to understand the election outcome. MYF’s working theory is it’s similar to the “boy who cried wolf” one too many times not getting taken seriously. She reasons that voters have gotten sick of being told the sky would fall down if they didn’t approve an additional property tax hike, and finally decided to stop listening. That’s a plausible explanation, especially given that our property taxes are supposed to be covering police protection in the first place — and that, according to some locals we’ve spoken to, the county commission has proven itself less than trustworthy on some occasions. No doubt, some voters thought the County was playing “chicken” with us, and would blink if we didn’t.

The County didn’t blink. The first week of January, they in fact cut the Sheriff Department’s staff from 223 to 187 employees. That leaves exactly two deputies on duty at any given time to respond to calls in the entire 440 square miles they are responsible for.

What does that mean, exactly? We’re starting to find out. Earlier this month, when a student took a loaded handgun into a rural middle school, it took deputies 20 minutes to get there.

Fortunately, our townships are not high crime areas. But many of us are concerned that could now change. If you’re a burglar, what better place to ply your trade than one where, even if you’re surprised by a homeowner, it takes the cops 20 minutes to show up?

Of course, burglars know that most of us here in the country are fairly well-armed. Few would be stupid enough to break in when a rural resident is at home. Our family is especially fortunate in this regard; because we homeschool, and because I work on the property, someone is nearly always here. We’re also on a fairly well-traveled blacktop road that’s not far from a municipality, so lots of eyes would be upon someone carting property out of our house. But that’s not true of most other rural homes; many sit empty all day, and are on isolated lanes. What better target than a house where it’ll take a deputy several days to come out and even file a police report of your burglary? Just imagine how contaminated the crime scene will be by then!

Already, there is talk of putting another police millage on a future ballot; it’ll be interesting to see if, as residents experience the reality of life with reduced sheriff coverage, support for a special assessment increases.

In the meantime, what’s especially heartening is the grassroots response in some townships. People aren’t just sitting back and waiting for the criminals to strike, or for government to act on our behalf. In the true American civic spirit, they’re forming voluntary associations to address the problem themselves. Residents of one township, for example, have been extremely aggressive in forming a neighborhood watch. Signs like these:

have popped up all over the rural roads. The churches, including the Catholic church in that township, have been especially active as centers of coordination. Down in the church basement, there’s a big stack of these signs that the Knights of Columbus and others have been working to distribute.

It reminds me a lot of something that happened when we lived in Illinois, and someone in our rural county began setting fire to barns on isolated properties. As the size of territory was too large for police to keep an eye on, a group of locals began organizing active patrols of roads with likely targets. I myself started taking a different route into town, just so I could drive past and keep an eye on more isolated structures. Anyway, after just a couple of weeks, one of the local patrols caught the arsonist fleeing the scene of a fire. They held him until the cops could arrive.

I’m sure hoping it doesn’t come to that here in Michigan. But we’re all ready to step up for our community if it does.

Why So Unusual?

I’m sure we’ve all been following news about the recent events in Arizona. Saturday’s shootings were especially personal for me because Gabrielle Giffords is my parents’ representative in Congress, and my folks live a short distance from the Safeway where everything happened. My mother learned about the shooting when a concerned friend called, frantic, wanting to make sure she was okay. As it turned out, my mom had gone grocery shopping that very morning at a Safeway not far from the one in question.

In the days since, I’ve read a great deal of material about the shootings. I’ve been particularly moved by what’s come out about the victims themselves (especially Judge John Roll), and by the heroism of those who stopped the perpetrator from firing more rounds. I’ve also been appalled by attempts to ascribe the attacks to some sort of “climate” generated by those on the Right, especially after details about the shooter became known. Even though his victim was an elected official, he was clearly not motivated by ideology or partisanship.

I’ve noticed, however, that one question has gone largely unanswered: why is it that ideologically-motivated attacks on American elected officials are so exceedingly rare? In a sense, this is the “dog that didn’t bark” of American public life. That dog didn’t even bark in the current instance.

It took an article-length article to organize my thoughts. The good folks at MercatorNet have published the piece here. It begins like this:

In the hours following the horrific shooting at Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event in Arizona, the rush to explain the perpetrator’s motivations began. Giffords had recently survived a hotly-contested re-election challenge from a Tea Party-backed candidate who was her ideological mirror image. In the absence of hard information about the shooter, it might be natural to wonder if he had been discouraged at the election outcome or otherwise inspired by the Tea Party’s anti-Washington rhetoric. Indeed, many on the political left ─ including the local county sheriff ─ speculated aloud in just that manner.

Although the investigation is ongoing, the principal suspect is actually a registered independent who was so disconnected from politics that he didn’t bother to vote in the 2010 congressional election. By all accounts, Jared Lee Loughner appears to be an isolated, deeply mentally ill young man suffering from multiple psychoses.

As analysts continue to debate the reasons for the Arizona events, a potentially far more interesting question has remained largely unasked: Why are violent attacks on American elected officials so exceedingly rare?

But please do read the whole thing. And comment if you feel so inclined.

More Hate

All readers know that the election didn’t turn out the way I would have liked. I’ve thus far put up a couple of posts referencing the results; once I’ve caught my breath from the campaign season, I intend to put up a longer post with my thoughts about the outcome and what it means for the country. (As many of you are aware, my day job involves political polling and microtargeting on behalf of GOP candidates.)

Though I have strong partisan and ideological convictions, I am not a confrontational person by nature. As such, in addition to work for Republican candidates, I’ve been able to develop a strong “secondary” client base among left-leaning nonprofit organizations and foundations; they appreciate my insights, and the balance I bring to their research. In return, I have enjoyed the relationships I have built with them, and the opportunity to work on some important causes (not all of which I have agreed with).

Two months ago, I put up a post describing my first excursion into the fever swamps of the Far Left “net roots.” Not a few readers of this blog are themselves left-of-center, and I appreciate the respectful tone they have always used in their comments and/or personal correspondence. But somehow or another, someone seems to have crawled out of those fever swamps and has taken it upon him/her self to tell me (and you) what they really think about this author. He/she seems to have gravitated toward my first post-election post, in which I jokingly speculated as to whether the liberals who had moved to Canada after the 2000 and 2004 elections might begin returning soon. I also joked about the rest of us trying to find Galt’s Gulch before January 20th — a literary allusion which seems to have gone over this person’s head (as Galt’s Gulch is decidedly not in Canada, but rather somewhere in the Rocky Mountains).

As this person did not leave an email or web address, it’s impossible to verify his/her identity. But I will preserve his/her comment for the rest of you to get a good look at what crawls out of the fever swamps from time to time.

If you wish to criticize me or my ideas, please do so. I ask only that you be respectful of me and of those who take the time to comment on my posts. And leave my wife out of it. It may infuriate some of you that Mrs. Yeoman Farmer is a black conservative and did not vote for our current President-elect. You may disagree with her and my belief that these election results are good for neither blacks nor the country as a whole. Despite the highly personal investment in and commitment to racial equality that Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and our children have, I understand that others may have a different point of view. I ask only that you be as considerate and thoughtful in your commentary as I have been — and always will be — in writing these posts.

Say No to the Bailout

I’ve been wanting to comment on the financial crisis, and the proposed bailout, but have been far too swamped with work to organize my thoughts into a coherent post.

Rod Dreher over at the Crunchy Con blog has had some excellent commentary, and has summarized many of my own thoughts.

Donald Luskin is up with a piece today at NRO that really nails the critical reasons why this is a terrible idea. In part:

Even if you grant that this really is a “crisis,” and that it justifies an extraordinary intervention, there can be no doubt that the $700 billion authority being sought for the purchase of distressed mortgage-related securities is far too great an amount. Of the $1.26 trillion in non-prime mortgages — that is, “sub-prime” and “Alt-A” mortgages — $743 billion is already either owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, companies that were shored up by a government rescue earlier this month. That leaves $521 billion, which means the Treasury’s $700 billion would be more than enough to buy them all. And that’s even if the Treasury paid full value. In fact, the Treasury will get a steep discount, considering that many of the mortgages in question are in delinquency or default. Does the Treasury really have to buy every single non-prime mortgage — even the healthy ones — twice over?

And if the Treasury’s authority were scaled down to something more in proportion to the size of the asset market it claims to address — say $350 billion — must that authority be granted all those dollars at once? Couldn’t we start with $100 billion and see how it goes, and go back later for more if necessary?

In order to restore confidence in these shaky markets, there’s no doubt the administration would claim that its commitment must be both large and irrevocable. But considering the enormous powers being vested in the discretion of a single unelected official — the Treasury secretary — markets may also find solace in the idea that there will be an accountable process for learning from mistakes and making appropriate corrections.

I should note that Luskin goes on to discuss some mitigating reasons that could justify the bailout, and he does say that he’s currently leaning toward supporting it — just that he wishes it was smaller. I agree that some action needs to be taken to address liquidity in the financial markets, but the current proposal’s massive size and delegation of authority to the Treasury Secretary are deal-breakers for me.

I’ve written my congressman to express my opposition. Whatever your position, I encourage you to let your own representative know what you think. You can follow this link to do so.

Motherhood and Vocation

The Sarah Palin nomination has led to some passionate discussions in the Catholic blogosphere about the responsibilities of mothers with young children, and whether such mothers ought to be running for public offices which demand so much of their time. These discussions have tended to be quite thoughtful, and a welcome contrast to the way these issues have been framed and discussed in the MSM.

Catholics understand motherhood to be much more than a biological function; it is above all a vocation of service, love, and self-sacrifice. Perhaps the most powerful and eloquent explanation of this is John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem. This letter is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand the beauty of grandeur of the role of women in God’s design. I first read it as a young single man, long before I even met Mrs. Yeoman Farmer, and it gave me a tremendous appreciation for what my future marriage and family life could be — if I married someone who shared the Church’s understanding of the vocation of women. Fortunately, I found that “pearl of great price,” and the rest is history.

In Mulieris Dignitatem, the holy father does not give guidelines or instructions as to when or whether mothers should stay home full-time with children, or what kinds of jobs they ought to engage in outside the home. But given his discussion of motherhood as a vocation to complete self-giving and love for one’s children, it seems that the normal thing is for a woman with a family and young children to devote herself to them as completely as possible. This is the course we have followed in our own family; MYF left her job as an attorney shortly before our first child was born, and she has been home with our kids full-time ever since. She never speaks of having “given up” her previous career, because she knew all her life that marriage and motherhood were the ultimate vocation to which she aspired. Practicing law was merely an interlude between college and that ultimate vocation.

But God has different plans for some mothers. In some extraordinary cases, in addition to granting them children, God gives women special talents and gifts that he expects to be used and invested and shared to enrich the greater community. He calls these women, and their families, to prayerfully discern the best way to fulfil their vocations to both motherhood and community service. This service can take any number of forms: education, health care, government, nonprofit organizations, charities, foundations, and so forth. In discussing this, Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I quickly came up with several examples of extraordinary mothers whom God called to extaordinary vocations of public service:

St. Gianna Beretta Molla. She is primarily known as the “pro-life saint” who chose to carry her fourth baby to term, even though that meant delaying treatment of cancer. As a result of that choice, she died a very painful death just six days after giving birth. But what is less often remembered is, despite having three children under the age of four, she worked full-time as a physician — even while her husband was overseas on business. (Doctors and medical facilities were scarce in post-war Italy.) As the Vatican’s own website explains, “With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.” Clearly, she and her family viewed her medical practice as a vocation of service to others, something at which she was especially talented, and something extraordinary to which God was calling her to continue doing, even after the arrival of her babies.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had five young children, and with the death of her husband was in the position of raising them on her own and in great poverty. And yet, while those children were still young, Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore invited her to move to that city, found a boarding school, and then a religious order. That order grew to be enormously important in establishing Catholic education in the United States — so much so that she is known as the patroness of Catholic schools. But she did all of this while raising her young children.

Queen Isabella, perhaps more than any other person, helped make Spain a great nation. At a time of enormous tumult, she and her husband (King Ferdinand) laid the foundation for the unification of her country under their grandson, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. In addition to defending against external threats from Portugal, and leading a fierce “reconquista” to take Granada back from Muslim occupiers, she was also the one who financed Columbus’s voyage to the New World, which opened Spain’s golden age of exploration and spread the Catholic faith around the globe. She and Ferdinand were also instrumental in confronting and rooting out corruption in the Church and elsewhere in their country — so much so that the pope bestowed on them the title “Los Reyes Catolicos” (The Catholic Sovereigns). And she did this while raising five young children. (Do we see a pattern here?)

Isabella was one very tough lady, who challenged nearly every cultural norm of her day. Take a look at this exerpt from one junior high history book, which describes a time when Castile was under seige and on the brink of disaster: Isabel, now pregnant again, rode from town to town to get help. She raised troops, money and supplies. Isabel put her trust in God and spared herself not at all, riding tirelessly. At the end of June she took personal command of several thousand troops and drilled them expertly. They were animated by her spirit and her faith. Eventually she had assembled an army of 42,000 in Valladolid. (In the months leading up to the birth of one of her children, Isabella rode over 2,000 miles on horseback.)

Wiktoria Ulma was a Catholic wife and mother in Poland during the Nazi occupation. She and her husband Jozef had six young children and were expecting a seventh. But in those extraordinary times, they believed God was calling them to an extraordinary level of service to others: they sheltered several Jewish refugees in their home, despite the danger this might mean for themselves and their children. Eventually, Nazi patrols reached the Ulma home and caught them harboring these Jews — and the entire family was dragged into the street and shot. The story can be found here and here.

MYF and I can’t presume to read the mind of God, and aren’t privy to any requests He may have made of Sarah Palin’s family. But it seems to us that it is quite possible, and perhaps even probable, that at this extraordinary juncture in our nation’s history she might be one of the instruments He has chosen to share her gifts of leadership — five children and all. And perhaps it is precisely because she has five children, including the one whom 90% of other families would have exterminated, that God has chosen to call her onto the national stage at this time. She may be the one God wants to use to promote and defend an authentic culture of life, at precisely the time when the other side has nominated a man who thinks basic questions about when babies get human rights are “above his pay grade.”

As I said, I can’t presume to read the mind of God. But I do know this: I’m sure glad Queen Isabella didn’t retreat behind the castle walls with her kids, when it was clear God was calling her to a great role on the world stage. If God is calling Sarah Palin to that same stage…well, God bless her and her family for answering that call.

You Go, Girl

Lest any doubts still exist as to children’s absorbing the political orientation of their parents, I offer the following incident.

One of eight year old Homeschooled Farm Girl’s books had a discussion today about the importance of being democratic on the playground. It was the usual stuff about giving everybody a turn, allowing everyone to have a say about the rules, and so forth. At the end, there was an assignment:

9. Write a short paragraph about how you can be more democratic.

Homeschooled Farm Girl used only a small portion of the allotted space. Her paragraph was very concise:

I don’t want to. I’m Republican.