Chris Powell: In Conn., on the nanny state and big wars

An old wet nurse symbolizing France as nanny-state and public health provider (color photomechanical reproduction of a lithograph by N. Dorville, 1901).

An old wet nurse symbolizing France as nanny-state and public health provider (color photomechanical reproduction of a lithograph by N. Dorville, 1901).


Almost any issue will do when Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal craves attention, so the other day he joined some pediatricians at the state Capitol to warn the world about computer games that contain advertising aimed at young children. Blumenthal said such games are against federal law and he asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate them.

The senator's complaint implied a belief that parents and guardians are incapable of protecting their kids against mere advertising and that, as a result, the federal government must do it, as if kids who are not yet even 10 can buy much if anything on their own. That's a good definition of the nanny state.

Meanwhile Connecticut's other U.S. senator, Chris Murphy, is pushing through the Senate a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's intervention in the civil war in Yemen on account of the suffering there.

But Murphy acknowledges that the other side in that war is awful too, and the war in Yemen is not as much the United States's war as are the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Those wars have caused even more suffering and the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq have been continuing without victory and without even an idea of victory far longer than the war in Yemen. Unlike the war in Yemen, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have killed or injured nearly 60,000 U.S. soldiers, while their civilian casualties and refugees are in the millions.

So where is Murphy's resolution to terminate the stupid, futile, imperial wars for which the United States bears primary responsibility? Opposing the war in Yemen while letting the bigger wars pass, Murphy is just striking a humanitarian pose on the cheap.


MISSING THE REAL RACISM: Some people in New Haven are purporting to be shocked -- shocked! -- that the city's school system imposes serious discipline disproportionately on black students and especially black boys. The implication of the shock is that New Haven's school administration is racist.

But New Haven's school superintendent is black, as is the city's mayor, and New Haven may be the most politically correct city in the country. While racism can be found nearly everywhere, school discipline falls more heavily on black boys nearly everywhere for the same reason criminal justice does, including in Connecticut's criminal-justice system, which strives to keep people out of jail even when they are chronic and incorrigible offenders.

That is, black boys and young men misbehave more.

This results from their coming disproportionately from an environment of disadvantage -- poverty, child neglect and abuse, and fatherlessness, an environment increasingly perpetuated by the welfare system. All children need fathers but boys especially do to tame their natural aggression.

But the racial disproportion in child neglect and fatherlessness still cannot be discussed in polite company even in supposedly sophisticated Connecticut. So people who know better are left to suggest that the big problem in racially disproportionate punishment is the prejudice of those in charge of keeping order in school and on the street.

Child neglect and fatherlessness do far more damage than guns. Coming out of anarchic homes, neglected boys suddenly collide with authority, end up suspended or expelled from school or imprisoned, and never understand what hit them. The racism isn't in their collision with authority but in the indifference to their upbringing.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester.