Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Officer Friendly is Dead

The Chicago Police Department was forced to release a video today—one that they went to court to keep from publicly releasing—of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. He was shot last October by Officer Jason Van Dyke. Despite the fact that Mr. McDonald fell to the ground after being shot once by Officer Van Dyke, Van Dyke proceeded to shoot Mr. McDonald 15 more times as he lay on the ground, then proceeded to reload his pistol, apparently to shoot some more, until stopped by his fellow officers. Thanks to this video, Officer Van Dyke is now under charge for 1st Degree Murder, which as far as I can tell from the video, is entirely appropriate. As I write this, protests are happening on the streets of Chicago.

This video has prompted further thought.


On 14 September, 1984, I graduated from the USAF Security Police Academy at Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, TX. On that day, I was issued Security Police badge number H3329. For the next decade I wore that badge while working as a security specialist, patrolman, police supervisor, desk sergeant and, somewhat to my surprise, as an Air Base Ground Defense Specialist—an infantry grunt—since Security Police were tasked with providing defense of air bases against ground forces.

The recruiter failed to mention that last bit when I signed up.

I learned a lot during that time, like how to de-escalate conflict and use verbal judo to disarm hostility. I learned about use of force, and to always use the absolute minimum of force necessary to effect an arrest. You’d think that military police would have a more leeway than civilians to knock heads, and deliver a little street justice, but that’s not true. We were held to high standards, on duty and off, and were expected to meet those standards. And we knew, without question, that any use of force on our part would be thoroughly investigated to ensure that it was justified, and that we would be severely punished if it was judged excessive.

We’d go to work every day decked out in crisply starched shirts, razor-creased pants, mirror-shiny shoes, carrying a loaded pistol or rifle and given the authority to use those weapons, if necessary, to arrest or detain anyone of any rank. In return, we’d adhere to rigorous standards of appearance, behavior, and conduct in exercising that authority. That was the deal. I can remember a number of fellows who couldn’t keep their end of that deal, and finished their short careers handing out ping-pong balls at the rec hall as Recreational Service Specialists.

After I left the service, I worked part-time for a number of years in Orange County, doing armed, high-risk security in gang areas. Again, we were required to wear sharp uniforms, and maintain high standards of professionalism.  Even though we regularly had to detain gang-bangers, druggies, and other riffraff, not once did we engage in any excessive use of force, perforce being more limited to persuasion and advice than head-knocking.


That’s me, second from the left. All of us were either ex-military police, or graduates of a California POST academy, except for the fellow in the middle, who was attending the Academy at Golden West at the time this photo was taken. A few months later, he graduated, and started with Westminster PD.

That Sig-Sauer P229 I’m carrying, by the way, is the best duty pistol I ever carried. Loved that pistol. Great trigger pull. 

Ah, memories.

But, that was long ago, and much has changed.

I was at the shopping mall in my little suburb of San Diego recently, and a local police officer was walking through the mall on patrol. He was decked out in combat boots, black BDUs, full body armor and SAPI plate, and a Molle vest covered with flex-cuffs, extra magazines, and other gear. His uniform was far more appropriate for a patrol in Fallujah than a suburban shopping mall in a community where the rate of crime has declined by half over the past 20 years.

That change is, I think, symbolic of a deeper, more fundamental change to policing that has occurred.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, many police departments participated in the “Officer Friendly” program, whereby elementary school children were introduced to amiable police officers, given coloring books that contained exhortations to remember that police officers were their friends, and were generally given to understand what wonderful fellows the local constables were. Now, of course, “Officer Friendly” is the sarcastic name given to abusive police officers.

I get the sense that police today are quicker to use force, less interested in de-escalating conflict, and far quicker to take offense to any suspected questioning of their authority. There seems to be a new class of crime today, one that isn’t actually the subject of any legislation. I call this offense “Insufficient Servility.” 

There is a web site that you should read regularly. It’s called Photography is Not a Crime, and it catalogs, on a daily basis, the darker underside of policing in America today. It contains interesting stories on a regular basis. For instance, just culling from today:

  • There are the NYPD cops who, after making some aggressive arrests at a restaurant, returned a bit later to delete the restaurant’s surveillance video.
  • Or the homeless fellow who was beaten to death by the Fullerton, CA, police.
  • Or the Delaware State Police, who decided they needed to use a SWAT team to serve a warrant on a home that was occupied only by a dog, which, of course, they shot.
  • Perhaps you’d be interested in the story of the San Antonio man who was taking photos of his wife’s business, when he was jumped by three SAPD officers without warning, and left paralyzed from the beating they gave him, thinking he was someone else.

Even more amazing is how often the police escape all but the most minimal of punishments—if they are punished at all—for incidents like this. Sure, you’ll be in serious trouble if you’re videotaped unloading an entire magazine into a suspect on the ground. Absent that, however, you have an excellent chance of not being charged with any crime at all, usually because the fellow you shot started to “reach for his waistband”. 

We are told of course, that there are bad apples in any basket, and most officers are very professional. In other words, the bad cops are a tiny minority of police officers. Much like Jihadists are a tiny minority of Muslims, presumably.

But now that video cameras have become ubiquitous, we sure are seeing a lot of video of this tiny minority, and as far as I can tell, the vast majority of the good officers don’t seem to be falling all over themselves to report and discipline the bad apples. In other contexts, that lack of enthusiasm might be referred to as “being an accessory”.

And I wonder, if there hadn’t been video of chunks of pavement and Mr. McDonald’s tissue being flung into the air from the impact of Officer Van Dyke’s bullets, if Officer Van Dyke would ever have been charged with anything. I wonder why we’re routinely using SWAT teams and no-knock entry for warrant service. I wonder why the new term “puppycide” has entered the lexicon. And, I wonder why, when violent crime has declined by 50% since 1993, police officers are shooting as many people today as they did when violent crime was at its height.

Policing, we are told, is a tough and dangerous job. Not as dangerous as, say, being a taxi driver or construction worker, but, still, dangerous, and they need to be proactive to protect themselves. Maybe so, but, frankly, I have little sympathy with that argument. No one is holding a gun to their head, so to speak, to remain a police officer. And in return for that danger, they are among the most highly-paid blue-collar workers, and certainly have among the most generous benefits and retirement.

In short, if the job is too dangerous for you to do in a courteous, professional manner…do something else. Otherwise, I suggest you find the physical courage to do the job properly, and deal respectfully with the public, rather than acting as if you were an armed overlord who is due whatever level of servility you judge acceptable, and empowered to punish those who refuse to offer it.

Certainly, it’s unacceptable to disguise cowardice as aggression, which is, I suspect, what Officer Van Dyke is guilty of. In addition to, you know, the murder. Allegedly.

What we should demand—indeed, the minimum we should demand in a free society—are police forces that live and work by the principles of policing laid down by Sir Robert Peel, nearly two hundred years ago, in 1829, when he created the modern police force:

1. The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.

3. The police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.

4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.

5. The police seek and preserve public favor, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws; by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of society without regard to their race or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. The police should use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to achieve police objectives; and police should use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the intent of the community welfare.

8. The police should always direct their actions toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

 If the police want to make their jobs less dangerous, then they need to pay particular attention to Principle #2, because if they lose public respect—which I submit they are moving awfully close to losing—their job will become effectively impossible.

The police are given wide authority, and the authorization to use deadly force, when necessary. They owe us, at minimum, 1) a commitment to uphold the very highest standards of professional behavior, including using the absolute minimum of force necessary, and 2) to ruthlessly extirpate from their ranks those who fail to meet those standards. Anything else creates, to a greater or lesser degree, a police state.

In the interim, however, my advice to you is to avoid committing the crime of Insufficient Servility, and to never, ever, “reach for your waistband”. Because we all know how that will turn out.

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The updated version of “you reap what you sow”

The subject is academia.   The writer, Bret Stephens at the WSJ prefaces his results with this:

“Liberal Parents, Radical Children,” was the title of a 1975 book by Midge Decter, which tried to make sense of how a generation of munificent parents raised that self-obsessed, politically spastic generation known as the Baby Boomers. The book was a case study in the tragedy of good intentions.

“We proclaimed you sound when you were foolish in order to avoid taking part in the long, slow, slogging effort that is the only route to genuine maturity of mind and feeling,” Miss Decter told the Boomers. “While you were the most indulged generation, you were also in many ways the most abandoned to your own meager devices.”

To say that as a generation, Boomers were over indulged, is a bit of an understatement.  And the indulgence that has done the most damage to the fabric of this country is tolerating leftist orthodoxy.  That orthodoxy, of course, found its unchallenged home in academia.


For almost 50 years universities have adopted racialist policies in the name of equality, repressive speech codes in the name of tolerance, ideological orthodoxy in the name of intellectual freedom. Sooner or later, Orwellian methods will lead to Orwellian outcomes. Those coddled, bullying undergrads shouting their demands for safer spaces, easier classes, and additional racial set-asides are exactly what the campus faculty and administrators deserve.

In other words, the radical children who grew up to run the universities have duplicated the achievement of their parents, and taken it a step further. In three generations, the campuses have moved from indulgent liberalism to destructive radicalism to the raised-fist racialism of the present—with each generation left to its increasingly meager devices. Why should anyone want to see this farce repeated as tragedy 10 or 20 years down the road?

No, because this is the idiocy it has spawned.  Like this:

One of the panelists at the event was black Columbia student Nissy Aya. Aya was supposed to graduate in 2014, but instead is only on track to receive her degree in 2016. That, Aya says, demonstrates “how hard it has been for me to get through this institution,” though it’s worth noting she is an exceptional case, as Columbia has one of the highest four-year graduation rates in the country.

Aya attributed some of her academic troubles to the trauma of having to take Columbia’s current Core Curriculum, which requires students to take a series of six classes with a focus on the culture and history of Western, European civilization. Aya says this focus on the West was highly mentally stressful for her.

“It’s traumatizing to sit in Core classes,” she said. “We are looking at history through the lens of these powerful, white men. I have no power or agency as a black woman, so where do I fit in?”

As an example, Aya cited her art class, where she complained that Congolese artwork was repeatedly characterized as “primitive.” She wanted to object to that characterization but, in the Spectator’s words, was “tired of already having worked that day to address so many other instances of racism and discrimination.”

And this:



Yes, in terms of today, Lincoln was racist.  But this campus protester in Missouri likely has no idea Lincoln also sacrificed very heavily politically to do what was done to abolish slavery.  Historical context, however, is another victim of this nonsense.

This is what academia has become.

“The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.” -Professor Thomas Sowell

And it’s even unravelling there.

Pretty, isn’t it?


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Redefining language to reap an unjust reward

An article sampling how some words used today by SJWs have been redefined from a more positive sense to a negative one which supports victim hood.  The article then asks:

What Has Happened to Language?

This tiny vocabulary sampling reflects another recent epidemic of victimhood, as the English language is further squeezed and massaged to create reality from fantasy.

First, over a half-century of institutionalized equal opportunity has not led to an equality of result. Particular self-identified groups feel collectively that they are less well off than others and are bewildered that this is still possible, since they can point to no law or custom that precludes their opportunity by race, class, or gender. Therefore, inventing a vocabulary of grievances is far more effective in gaining concessions than self-criticism and self-reliance are in winning parity.

Second, in an affluent, leisured and postmodern society of $300 Jordan-label sneakers that sell out in hours, big-screen televisions at Walmart that become prizes for warring consumers on Black Friday, and over 50% of the population exempt from income taxes, it is becoming harder to define, in the material sense, oppression-driven victimhood. In such a world, even multi-billionaire Oprah has difficulty finding discrimination and so becomes reduced to whining about a perceived snub in a Swiss boutique that sells six-figure purses. Language is pressed into service to create victims where there are few, but where many are sorely needed, psychologically — and on the chance such a prized status might lead to a profitable trajectory otherwise impossible by passé notions of work and achievement.

Point one – this is what “1984” talked about.  The subversion of language to fit an ideology or agenda.  The SJWs of today do have a difficult job of assigning blame, so they’re twisted words to enable that.  “Privilege”, which used to be a positive word, is now coupled with “white” in a decidedly negative way.  The entire point, of course, is to “gain concessions” by producing guilt in the target audience. In this way they remain the “victim” class and it is the responsibility of the victimizers to subsidize or ensure advantage in life to the “victims”.  It’s one of the reasons we see so many grievance movements popping up now … it works.

The second point – as we’ve all been made aware, our “poor” live at a level that would be considered middle class in Europe (speaking of “privilege”). But the world evolved now where equality in opportunity, at  least in Western countries, isn’t at all hard to find.  But, of course, that means “work and achievement”.  Why do that when you can “suffer” as a “victim” and be forever subsidized in some way or another in the name of “equality” or whatever “ism” you prefer.  That shaming and guilt production produces rewards from those who buy into the guilt and shame.  And often they are politicians who are quite happy to use your money to assuage this assumed guilt.  And, as we all know, we get less of the behavior we punish and more of that which we reward.

Guess which form of behavior we’re getting now, and why?


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Forget the extremes on the Syrian refugee crisis

On the one extreme:

“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” [Obama] said. “We don’t make good decisions if they’re based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”

There you have it, folks: If you doubt any portion of our current refugee policy, you’re “hysterical.” Never mind that a recent poll showed 13 percent of Syrian refugees declaring a “positive” or “somewhat positive” view of ISIS, or that at least one of the Paris attackers apparently arrived in France posing as a refugee. Never mind the 26 charges of terrorism brought up against foreign-born individuals in the U.S. in the past year, as Sen. Jeff Sessions documented this week, or the fact that in October, FBI Director James Comey testified that our current system likely can’t effectively vet Syrian refugees.

More importantly, never mind the fact that opposition to current refugee protocols doesn’t necessarily translate into opposition to helping refugees altogether; had Obama led with an acknowledgment of the system’s weaknesses and showed genuine concern towards fixing them, we might be in a different situation today.  As it is, a new Bloomberg poll shows 53 percent of Americans opposing the current settlement plan.

Yes, that’s right, our President is on extreme.  And of course he considers the GOP to be the real extreme, characterizing them as wanting no refugees from Syria at all.  Granted there are certainly those who do indeed want that.  But broad brushes are a little, well, broad.

In effect, no one is saying turn away “widows and 3 year old orphans”, as some on the left have characterized the attitude on the right.

What is concerning everyone is the number and percentage of young, military age men in this mix.  Are they jihadists that ISIS is trying to smuggle into the US. Despite their claims, the administration has no idea.  That’s a national security issue and the safety of the citizens of the US take priority over a bunch of refugees.  Of course that’s how the job description of President goes, but apparently, Obama is trying to rewrite that.  Risk is a matter of opinion, and a good leader would develop a process that would be transparent and assure the public of its safety.  But then, we have Obama …

And what most want is a “pause” before wholesale importing of refugees, to review the vetting process and tighten it up if necessary.  In the meantime, I’m sure, if the US asked nicely, these refugees could be placed in a neutral middle Eastern country until that process is complete. That would assure their safety.

But to hear Obama and his supporters, it is as if the right is just so damned racist and xenophobic that they can’t tolerate the thought of helping any foreign refugees by placing them here (of course, history tells a different story).

Tell you what.  To show your good faith Mr. Obama, let’s first start by giving refugee and immigration status to our Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who are at daily risk for helping us and many on the right have been trying to get here for years.  That’s been a hill the left just doesn’t seem to have been able to climb.

Then they can again assume their superior attitude and lecture the rest of us on our “responsibility” to others.

Seem fair?


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Economic Statistics for 19 Nov 15

The Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey moved back into positive territory in November, rising from -4.5 to 1.9.

The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6% in October.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 5,000 to 271,000. The 4-week average rose 3,000 to 270,750. Continuing claims rose 2,000 to 2.167 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.4 points to 41.2 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-5.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.487 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $7.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-13.4 billion in the latest week.

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Liberals in Wonderland

As exemplified by Margaret Carlson on “Morning Joe”:

Carlson said of assimilating immigrants, “we do know how to do it. Europe doesn’t know how to do it. France especially doesn’t know how to do it. England not very good at it. And so, we have less of a problem. You know, those people who have snuck in, that, I don’t know if they’ve snuck in, but maybe they become Americanized, maybe the anger goes away. Maybe what they snuck in to do they’re not going to do, because we do have an acceptance of these people, as Congressman [Keith] Ellison (D-MN) said. They’re more patriotic because they’re here and they work harder.”

Because that’s why jihadists came here – to assimilate, get jobs, work harder.

Remember when we were told that all the members of ISIS needed were jobs?  If we’d provide that, well, they’d just settle down and quit trying to impose a 7th Century caliphate on the world.  And then there’s Mohammed Atta, who basically came here, hung around, tasted the “good life”, learned to fly and shopped at Walmart and ate at Pizza Hut the day before he flew a hijacked plane into one of the twin towers.  He “assimilated” quite well didn’t he, Margaret?

The fact that the left will not admit to or recognize the fact that this is a war of ideologies and the radical Islamist ideology isn’t about “assimilation”, any more than was the Nazi ideology, is dangerous.  They also apparently  can’t admit that there is evil in the world and in this case, it is epitomized in ISIS, and one must confront evil head on.  If they did any of that they’d have to admit their “tolerance” and “multicultural” arguments are nonsense. Admitting all of that would also demand they take action.

None of that is going to happen with this crowd.  Just look at the man in the White House.  He’s all about pretending.  He’s pretended for quite some time that ISIS isn’t really a threat.  His failure to admit, recognize and confront the evil that is radical Islam has helped lead us to this point.  And he still won’t take action.  But he’s not going to.  In a recent speech, he as much as said that:

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

Whether or not he goes to Walter Reed, this is just an excuse leveraged off of the military.  My first thought was if he’s not able to make the hard decisions that will keep the American people safe, he needs to resign from the job. The second thing I thought was, just as I did, these young men and women were willing to pay the price necessary to keep this country safe, and he’s just made that effort worthless.  It has been all OJT for him anyway, and he has failed miserably.  As to playing “political games”, that’s all the man does. This play on wounded military is just that.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Of course the CJCS have presented numerous proposals that he wouldn’t even entertain, much less approve and none of which included the dreaded “boots on the ground”.  He’s simply not going to do anything serious.  The above is politics.  He no more wants to meet and debate than he wants to strike ISIS.  He’s “too busy” being arrogant and inept and leaving a huge mess for whomever it is that has to fill the vacancy we’ve actually had for 7, going on 8, years. As for doing “what’s required to keep the American people safe”, apparently importing possible jihadis from a hot bed of them how this is done.

This is the legacy of liberalism

Beautiful, ain’t it?



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Economic Statistics for 18 Nov 15

Today’s release of the minutes of the October FOMC meeting hint strongly that an interest rate hike may be in the cards for December.

The Atlanta Fed reports that annual inflation expectations for business were unchanged for November at 1.8%.

Housing starts fell sharply in October, down -11.0% to a 1.060 million annual rate.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 6.2% last week, with purchases up 12.0% and refis up 2.0%.

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Economic Statistics for 17 Nov 15

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey improved a bit, but still stayed deeply negative at -10.74 in November.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% at both the headline and core rate in October. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 0.2% overall, but 1.9% less food and energy.

The Fed reports industrial production fell -0.2% in October, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories was unchanged at 77.5%. The production drop is misleading, since it includes big drops in mining and utilities. Manufacturing actually rose 0.4%.

The NAHB’s Housing Market index declined -2 points to 62 in November, signaling some weakness in home construction.

Growth in e-commerce sales remained strong in the 3rd quarter of 2015, up 4.2%.

Net foreign demand for US long-term securities rose to $33.6 billion in September vs a revised $20.8 billion in August.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales rose very slightly to a weak 1.2% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.1%.

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