The War Against the Middle Class

It’s one of those things of which I was mildly aware for decades, mostly through the medium of novels with an English setting … but now it has become painfully and bitterly obvious that there is an American class system, and in it’s present incarnation, malignant. We had always prided ourselves on being relatively class/caste fluid, a place where one might go from rags to riches through striking it rich, developing a better mousetrap, investing cannily, and still be on the same social level as ‘old money’. This new divide is bitter, hostile, and possibly lethal. It’s the social and political authoritarians, who crave power over the rest of us, pitted against the working and middle classes – those who have a degree of control over our own lives, enough income to be at least tenuously comfortable, the leisure and energy to take part in public matters, even if only in a small way. The middle class have the effrontery to believe that yes, we ought to be able to control our own lives, rather than have every aspect controlled by the authoritarians.

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The Johnstown Flood

Pennsylvania borrowed more money to build infrastructure supporting canals than any other state to take advantage of the trade opportunities of the Erie Canal. Construction started on the South Fork Dam in 1838 with scheduled completion within a year, but by the time it was finished in 1852 the railroads had made it obsolete. The state wrote it off and it eventually provided a fishing lake for Pittsburgh’s elite. When it burst in 1889, causing the Johnstown flood, the total loss in life and property was probably 100 times the initial construction cost. Pennsylvania, having long since declared bankruptcy in 1841, blamed the rich.

Most every year the Congress metaphorically dances on top of the earthen South Fork Dam looming over Johnstown with the water lapping at their feet. Their solution is always the same: Let’s throw some more dirt on top this year. We’ll drain it when we drain the swamp, after we eliminate the air pollution in Johnstown, the price paid for the industrial revolution raising American living standards in the late 1800s.

The primary issue facing America during the post WW II era was whether its consumerist economy could continue to produce rising living standards for all, the cornerstone of political legitimacy. The leader of America’s competitor Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union put the issue crudely six decades ago: “we will bury you” with a savings and investment rate several multiples of yours. America’s intelligence community and economic elite were shocked by the sudden collapse of the Soviet economy – like a dam bursting – less than three decades later.

Khrushchev, like most of America’s development economists, understood the role of saving and investment but not how important the private capital markets were to the allocation of capital to its highest and best use, politically directed credit being the main cause of their collapse. In Johnstown everyone knew that the valves to lower the water level in the lake had been removed during the last amateurish reconstruction, but fixing or removing it was opposed by rich land owners. The debt ceiling has similarly proven an ineffective mechanism to control America’s flood of debt, with the central bank standing ready to buy it all to the benefit of the wealthy. American politicians, feeling unbound by constitutional constraints, are addicted to issuing debt, the birthing person’s milk of politics. The Biden Build Back Better Plan promises to strengthen the dam, but like the amateurish repairs to the South Fork will weaken the dam’s foundation while causing water levels to rise, possibly to a critical level.

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We Need to Talk About Joe

The fictional mass murderer Kevin is most often described as a psychopath and his mother Eva a sociopath in book and movie reviews, the latter defined the same as the former, but without the insanity defense, i.e., a physical brain disorder rather than a choice. President Biden isn’t suspected of any such brain disorder (although dementia has long been suspected, common for his age). But Bruce Cannon Gibney argues that Baby Boomers, those born between 1940 and 1964, are A Generation of Sociopaths (2017) based primarily on their over-consuming at the expense of future generations, a massive inter-generational injustice. He allows for exceptions, but not among the Baby Boom political leaders, of which Joe Biden was the first on the national scene.

Sociopaths are defined as narcissists with additional characteristics, among which are: superficial charm, glib, manipulative, self serving, grandiose, pathological lairs, without remorse, self-centered, untrustworthy, physically aggressive, impulsive, blaming others, lacking in empathy, break promises, an ability to avoid persecution for illegal acts, and a belief they deserve to rule the world. As a result of the Obama/Biden “Good War” over half the current population of Afghanistan was born under American protection. These and thousands of those who assisted the American occupation and their families have been left behind by Joe to meet repression, and, for many, death at the hands of his captors and other Islamic radicals. His press conferences revealed almost all these sociopathic tendencies, leaving no doubt as to the applicability of Gibney’s diagnosis.

Like Kevin, Joe is competitive among his sociopathic political peers. For sheer narcissism it would be difficult to top former President Trump, and the Clintons are unlikely to ever be surpassed in the team sociopath competition. But Joe Biden, whose first attempt to rule the world over three decades ago was thwarted by a plagiarism scandal, seeks to exceed FDR, the record holder by size of Mall Monument, as a world leader not on his foreign policy experience, but by spending his way to a risky “fundamental transformation” of the US economy and society. Should we trust in Joe, or is he the “Borax Man” (a soap salesman)?

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The Night Chicago Died – Part 2

(Part 1 is here.)

A Chicago Boyz reader writes:

In addition to their own command structure and internal affairs division, there are now several additional entities that review officer involved incidents. These entities are staffed almost exclusively by people with no law enforcement experience or understanding of law enforcement. These include the Chicago Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and the recently constituted Civilian Oversight Panel. In addition to having no training in investigation, police procedure, and the use of force, these groups are largely composed of people with a strong anti-police bias. There is no due process, and there is not even the pretense of “balance” in their deliberations. From the comfort of their armchairs, these Monday morning quarterbacks sit in judgement of the actions of sworn officers who are compelled by circumstances to make life-or-death decisions under incredible pressure and often in a matter of seconds. Since it is functionally impossible to comply with all applicable policy and adhere to all applicable procedure in the real world, they have a near 100% success rate in finding fault with what is otherwise reasonable and appropriate law enforcement activity. The most charitable interpretation is that it is bizarre theater intended to allow the City to reap the benefits of policing at the cost of the unjust destruction of the lives of a steady stream of police officers. The least charitable is that it is intended to destroy the CPD. Ironically, the lesson of the Laquan McDonald and Anjanette Young cases is that the CPD brass and the City’s mayor will head off the referral of any really inflammatory cases if they can.

Chicago Police are no longer allowed to pursue offenders in their patrol cars or on foot. There is a very strict no-pursuit policy in place. That is correct: if you attempt to flee arrest, the CPD will not chase you. Pursuit in any context now requires the approval of a supervisor, which, realistically, cannot be obtained in a timeframe that matters.

Chicago’s criminal elements have learned this, and have built it into their modus operandi. If you are wondering why so many people are shot by assailants in cars, you now have the answer: in Chicago, they can drive away without risk of apprehension. For rank-and-file officers, to pursue is to risk everything for nothing.

Meanwhile, the rank and file of the CPD have come to understand that their every action is subject to review under a microscope by multiple entities, that their livelihood, their career, their pension, and their freedom are on the line every time that they act to enforce the law. The recent Toledo case is an excellent example. The officer’s body-camera footage was edited and broadcast in slow motion by television news in a manner intended to make the officer’s actions appear criminal. Anyone who bought the media coverage will be astonished and upset that the officer’s actions have been deemed completely justified. The quest to prosecute police misconduct to the fullest extent has brought about a situation where charges based on overwhelming evidence are dropped against a suspect, and brought against the officer on the basis of the flimsiest of evidence.

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The Night Chicago Died

(Part 2 is here.)

A Chicago Boyz reader writes:

Recently, two CPD uniformed officers were shot in the head during a traffic stop.

How did this happen? What happened? The detailed answers to these questions will be unfolded as the post-shooting investigation discovers the facts and assembles them into a narrative that “explains” what happened. As is so often the case, the analysis will focus on the actions of the officers, their failures to act as policy or training requires, and their poor performance even when they were acting as they were supposed to. All such analyses are riddled with hindsight bias, and invariably neglect the forces that now shape the interactions of the CPD with the public. You might ask: “What are you talking about?”

Several years ago, the City of Chicago signed a consent decree with the (Obama) Justice Department. The decree required that an officer formulate articulable suspicion prior to initiating any contact with a member of the public. As part of the decree, officers were and are required to fill out a detailed form every time they initiate such an interaction. Failure to fill out the form completely or accurately carries a risk of sanction. Net effect? Contact with the public went down by 80-90%, as did arrests. It turns out that seasoned police officers can talk people into disclosing a lot of information about criminal activity just by talking to them. A conversation that began with a hunch and without articulable suspicion often ended with probable cause for arrest.

No matter, the drop in arrests has become less important. Why?

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