Yet on they go, happily complaining about the need for funds while they add to the public liability. Moreover, our innumerable little towns are seemingly awash in graft of an intensely local but nevertheless enormous nature. Millions upon millions were squeezed from the denizens of Bell, California. One can only speculate about what might have happened if all of that money that lined the pockets of various civic parasites had instead gone into city services. Bell would be renowned across the globe for its excellent schools, library, police, and firefighting. Alas, Bell is not alone in its leadership’s iniquity.

Bell’s scandal broke right before the election campaign was winding up last November. On the California ballot was Proposition 22, designed to prevent Sacramento from filching funds from the state’s municipalities. I voted for the proposition, although my suggested motto for the campaign”€””€œKEEP GRAFT LOCAL”€”€”was not used.

Sacramento’s state government is made of much the same stuff.  Last year, outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a ban on smoking in state parks and beaches that both houses of the legislature had happily passed. Now that Jerry Brown has returned from the dead to the governorship, a similar measure will likely find favor with him. He has a more pressing task ahead of him at the moment”€”browbeating the electorate into voting for a tax extension to pay the pensions of the public unions that paid for his election.

The smoking measures are driving me mad. I can accept that our system is half-libertarian and half-socialist: We are taxed as though we were the latter and served as though we were the former. I can also understand and rally behind the nanny state”€”as with any child, I have no control over the person (or persons) placed over me to run my life.

What I object to is that our nanny, in her fourfold incarnation”€”federal, state, county, and municipal”€”while quite rigid with me and my fellow infants in the public nursery, has rather a different standard for herself. Were she as nasty as any of the rejects of her trade in Mary Poppins, yet withal as respectable, I could tolerate her strictures and demands. But this is a bad nanny. This is a nanny who pilfers the family silverware and empties the liquor cabinet. This is a nanny who stakes out a spot on Sunset Boulevard during her off-hours and plies her trade. Then she comes home and spanks me for smoking and wallops my younger brothers and sisters for drinking (though she happily sends them off to fight, vote, and fornicate).

I can”€™t seem to vote her away. But just as though she were a real person, I”€™ll sneak out and do something really bad: I”€™ll go to a smokeasy.



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