With Apologies to Dean Swift

I offer my own modest proposal.

An 11-year-old Florida student shot a smart-phone video of a teacher bullying a fellow student, publicly and in the classroom.  This same teacher has a Facebook page on which she posts photographs taken in the classroom.  The school’s principal also runs a Facebook page for the school, again featuring in-classroom media.

The student shot and publicized the video, thereby getting the teacher fired — as the teacher deserved to be.  The school’s principal then suspended the student, citing an alleged violation of the teacher’s “expectation of privacy.”  In a classroom.  Full of students.  In connection with a raised-tone-of-voice, everyone-in-ordinary-earshot-can-hear exchange with a student.  A public school teacher, paid by the taxpayers’ money.  You can’t make this shit up.  The thug rocket-scientist school principal is named Traci Wilke.

Although the student’s suspension was lifted before the five days were up, you really have to ask why this transparently improper punishment was meted out to a student who did nothing more, it seems, than identify someone who needed to be weeded out from the rest of the teaching profession.  Actually, we don’t need to ask, not at all.  As the linked article describes it, this was neither more nor less than “an obvious attempt at intimidation.”  See, kiddoes?  You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.  Shut and keep your head down.  The NEA code of omerta strikes again.

It is gratifying to report that the student’s family has already hired a lawyer.  Part of any settlement agreement should requiring the principal to be fired and to execute a consent order agreeing never again to seek or accept any employment from any school or school system, at least in Florida and preferably nation-wide.  Someone whose sense of justice and propriety is so warped should never be entrusted with any group of people who by law are restricted in their ability to fight back.

But more to the point, how about this for a state-level fix?  A very simple statute:

“(a)  Except as expressly set forth in this section, all actions and omissions of any person holding any office or position, howsoever characterized, under the constitution or laws of this state, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any agency or instrumentality thereof, in respect of all offices or positions so held by such person, shall be public matters of public import and concern.

(b)  Notwithstanding any provision of the law of this state or of the United States to the contrary, no person holding any office or position, howsoever characterized, under the constitution or laws of this State, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall have or claim any expectation of privacy or other privacy interest, howsoever characterized, in respect of any matter arising from, relating to, or connected with such person’s holding of such office or position.  There shall be no cause of action under any theory whatsoever in favor of any such person for the otherwise lawful gathering, recording, storing, publication, or other dissemination of any information in respect of such person’s actions or omissions in respect of any office or position so held by such person.

(c)  The acceptance by any person holding any office or position under the constitution or laws of this State, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any agency or instrumentality thereof, of any compensation, perquisite, or other benefit of such office or position, of any kind, character, or description whatsoever shall conclusively be deemed to constitute a waiver, for all purposes and to the fullest extent permitted by any applicable law, of any claim to or expectation of privacy in respect of such person’s actions or omissions in respect of such office or position and otherwise existing under any provision of the laws of this state or the United States.

(d)  The provisions of this section shall not supersede — 

      (i)  those provisions of the law of this state specifically exempting from public disclosure items of personal information generally exempted from disclosure pursuant to the provisions of ____________________; 

      (ii) the laws of this state in respect of defamation; or,

      (iii)  the laws of this state in respect of the permissible methods of visual or audible recording of the speech or actions of another person.”

Reference in the blank would be to the statutes containing that state’s public records disclosure statutes, and to the exemptions from them (in other words, just because you happen to be a state judge doesn’t mean your Social Security number ought to be disclosable).  On the other hand, I don’t see why that state judge should be able to claim an expectation of privacy as to any matter having anything to do with that judge’s execution of his office.

Note that “not having an expectation of privacy” is most emphatically not the same thing as “subject to public disclosure upon demand.”  A right of privacy is a right that is personal to you.  To use an example from private life:  I have no personal interest in the privacy of my communications with my clients.  Those communications are protected by the attorney-client privilege, but that’s a privilege that (a) belongs to the client, not me, and (b) can be waived by the person to whom it belongs.  Thus, our hypothetical state judge’s deliberations, either with his fellow judges (on a multi-judge tribunal), or his law clerk, or even a buddy of his who happens to be a judge elsewhere, may not be subject to forcible disclosure by some member of the general public.  But if a secretary (or law clerk, or just Joe Bloggs who happens to overhear the judge talking in a restaurant) hears the judge and his buddy sitting around a table discussing how best to screw a political enemy, or ruling a particular way in order to “send a message” to some person or group, and decides to record it, then by God that’s a public service for which the person recording should be commended (and the judge impeached and then disbarred, of course).  The judge himself should not be heard to allege that his “privacy” was invaded by someone catching him violating the trust of his office.  As Traci Wilke, whom I’ll just go ahead and declare to be the most fire-able principal in America as of this afternoon, has done.

Just my humble contribution to the good of the public.

[Update 31 Mar 15, 12:39 p.m.]:  In my discussions-in-chambers hypothetical, the judge’s not having a right of privacy in those matters is also not the same thing as public disclosure of them not being a firing offense, unless protected by a whistleblower statute or similar common law rule.  Again, it’s not the judge as an individual firing the discloser, but rather an agent of the state, and what is being punished is not some violation of the judge’s legitimate privacy interest, but rather a violation of a law to keep confidential matters that are in fact and (if otherwise lawful) ought to be exempt from public disclosure.  The long and short is that everything you do and say in your capacity as a public official belongs to your government and to the people who have constituted that government.  It does not belong to you and you have zero — absolutely bugger all — right to keep it under wraps to protect yourself.  Therefore no disclosure of it can injure you in your personal capacity.

Good News — An Embarrassment of Riches

Somewhere I ran across the observation that if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention.

Reader(s) of this ‘umble blog will scarcely accuse me of not paying attention.

On the other hand, sometimes one stumbles across a news item which allows one to break the pattern of endless carping and excoriation.  Something like The Washington Post’s report that there are more museums in the United States than McDonald’s and Starbuck’s outlets . . . combined.

Granted, most of them are tiny.  F’rinstance, on the Gulf Shores Parkway in Alabama there is a Spear Hunting Museum.  Seriously.  Not just spears, or spear throwing, but specifically spear hunting.  I wonder if they include spear fishing in there.

[Aside:  The link goes to a page in Atlas Obscura, a truly wonderful outfit dedicated to the unusual.  I forget how it was that I first came across it, but one day a few years ago they sponsored a specific day for everyone to get out and go somewhere way out of the way.  As things happened I was in a position to visit the Berman Museum of World History in Anniston, Alabama, which is right next door to the Anniston Museum of Natural History.  Both are city museums, and the Berman is especially fascinating.  It was founded by this couple who had met during the war in North Africa, where both were working for different outfits, both doing Things That Don’t Get Into Newspapers (if you know what I mean).  Over the course of what appears to have been a very long and very successful life, they seem to have managed to acquire any number of intriguing objects.  Like Hermann Göring’s Reichsmarschall’s baton.  Not a field marshal’s baton; Hitler made more field marshals at one shot than the Kaiser made during all of the Great War.  But there was only one Reichsmarschall, and ol’ Fat Hermann was it.  They’ve also got a complete toilet set that belonged to Napoleon; let’s just say that however much hair the dear ol’ Emp. had or didn’t have, if he couldn’t comb it, brush it, and perfume it with all the trinkets, unguents, and whatnot in that set, he should have just given up and shaved his head.  But they’ve also got tons of ancient history stuff, stuff from the Far East, piles of Great War weapons, equipment, and uniforms, and all in all just about anything a reasonable person could want to see.  When they died they left it all to the city, for the specific reason that joints like the big cities already had enough museums and why couldn’t Anniston (apparently he was from there) have a nice one too?  The natural history museum is also very well done, I have to say.  Add in the side benefit that I got to spend the day with one of my Favorite. People. Ever. and it was just about perfect.  Cannot recommend both places too strongly.]

Or there’s the Corning Museum of Glass, which the wife and I stumbled across many years ago while wandering around in upstate New York.  It was there, it was about the only indoors thing to do in town at that time of year, and so I figured I was going to squander an afternoon doing something so this might as well be it.  It turned out to be one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  Fascinating stuff, really, and I can only speculate that it’s got even better in recent years.

Then there’s the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, with emphasis on the three eponymous car manufacturers.  It’s in the old factory museum, which includes the original, and wonderfully restored, factory showroom, the height of 1920s art deco design (it’s so glam that people have their weddings there).  They’ve got several of the 481 total J-Series cars ever made, including one of the only two short-wheelbase models.  Back then, if you were as rich as God, you drove a Rolls; if you were actually richer than God, you drove a Duesenberg.  They’ve got some absolutely priceless other specimens there, including the only Type E-2 prototype which they discovered in pieces, re-assembled and restored, and there it sits with its 193-inch wheelbase.  Think about that:  193 inches between the axles; hell, the radiator isn’t even in the same ZIP Code as the gas cap.  But it’s not just Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs they’ve got; there’s an entire wing devoted to Indiana-built pre-1920 cars, a large proportion of which are pre-World War I.

If you like really off-the-beaten-track car museums, it’s hard to beat the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.  It’s in an old commercial bakery, and like the Berman Museum, it was the collection of a single collector.  They specialize in foreign oddball cars most Americans have never heard of.

If you’re into things a bit less greasy and noisy than cars, and a bit less dusty than Napoleon’s dandruff, there’s the American Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

This is one of those areas where the internet really earns its keep.  If you’re even a tiny  bit interested in something, chances are someone out there has collected a bunch of it and for a nominal consideration will let you look at it.

Happy exploring.

One More Level of Unanswerable Questions

At least part of me hopes the questions remain unanswerable.

One refers to the conclusions reached by the German and French investigators into the crash of the Germanwings Airbus flight from Barcelona to Germany.  It took off, headed briefly out over the Mediterranean, then turned north over the French Alps.  Almost immediately after it reached cruising altitude it nosed down and in a perfectly orderly fashion drove into a mountainside, killing all 150 or so people onboard.  There were no distress calls from the cockpit.

Slightly more than half the victims were German, among them a group of students from a small town in Nordrhein-Westfalen who had been on a student exchange visit.  There were fewer places available than students who wanted to go, and so they resolved the issue the old-fashioned way: by lottery.

So far they’ve found only the cockpit voice recorder.  They found the casing for the flight data recorder but the actual device itself remains missing.  If it got smacked about hard enough to break open the case I have to wonder whether the recording mechanism will have survived.

The families of the victims of course are consumed with why?  Why my child?  My husband?  My sister?  Why couldn’t they have taken the train to Barcelona?  Why was my grandchild on that flight and not one later in the day?  Those questions can never be answered.  In fact they’re pretty pointless when you think about it.  Your daughter was on that flight because she wanted to get from Spain to Germany in a hurry and there was a seat on that flight she could pay for.  Full stop.  Yes, that’s one of those things you know, in purely mental sense, but for someone who woke up this morning with an intact family and is now a widow with no surviving children, that’s not an answer.

And now we’ve got a whole litany of other, more sinister, unanswerable questions.  It appears that the co-pilot intentionally crashed the plane.  In a press conference the French crash investigators have shared the results of the voice analysis.  That they were able to do so as quickly is itself ominous, for reasons that will become clear.

After take-off, you can hear the pilot, a long-experienced aviator, and the co-pilot, much newer at the trade but well able to fly the plane, talking between themselves.  That takes up about twenty minutes.  Then the pilot excuses himself from the cockpit, apparently to use the toilet and, true to protocol, formally requests the co-pilot to take command of the ship.

Those are the last words recorded originating from within the cockpit.  There is nothing from the co-pilot, not even murmuring to himself.  You can hear the air traffic controllers attempting to contact the plane when they see it begin its controlled descent into the middle of a mountain chain.  There is no response from the co-pilot.  You can hear him breathing normally.  Apparently you can hear as the co-pilot commenced the controlled descent.  There is no sound of emergency indicators, except for — again — towards the end when the plane’s sensors trigger at the approach of ground.  There is no sound of anyone attempting to regain control of the plane.  After a brief time you can hear knocking on the (now locked from the inside) door to the cockpit, then banging.  Only towards the very end can you hear screams from back in the cabin, as the passengers awake to the fact of what’s about to happen.

According to the Lufthansa press conference, there is an emergency code to achieve access to the cockpit when the armored door is locked.  There is no reason to suppose that the pilot, outside and banging on the door, would not have entered that code.  The problem is that even that code can be over-ridden . . . from within the cockpit, but it requires an intentional pressing of a specific button to accomplish that.

According to Lufthansa, immediately after the crash they conducted an examination to see what, if any, associations might exist between the flight crew and known terrorist organizations or individuals.  According to them, all such inquiries came back negative.  It’s only been a couple of days, however, and one has to question whether such an investigation by an airline can be as complete as going back and tracking this fellow’s movements and communications for weeks.  Unfortunately in today’s world you simply cannot exclude the involvement of the Religion of Peace without pulling someone’s life to pieces and seeing where the clues lead.

Suffice it to say that, for the moment, the indications are a psychically disturbed individual.  Lufthansa has, as you would expect, a company-wide policy of mandatory reporting of unusual behaviors among co-workers.  See someone act like he may be wigging out and you report it.  That can’t be more than a very imperfect screen, though.  How many people have had a family member commit suicide or otherwise snap, and afterwards everyone sits around racking his recollection for something, anything, that might have seemed amiss . . . only to come up empty?

As it turns out, the 28-year-old interrupted his pilot’s training for a time.  He seems to have shared with a female friend that he did so for emotional reasons:  “burnout” and “depression” are explicitly mentioned.  Afterwards he picked back up and finished his training.  Lufthansa’s psychological testing of its prospective employees does not appear to have caught any anomalies, or recommended any further testing or probationary periods.  What this suggests to me at least is a reminder of how fundamentally impossible it is to get inside another person’s head and really know what’s moving around in there.  At least if he doesn’t want to let you in, and one of the characteristics of depression is a self-imposed isolation, shutting yourself in and everyone else out.

So now all the victims’ families get to add some more questions:  How did a crazy man survive the screening process to become a commercial pilot?  What did his co-workers see?  Why did he pick the flight my husband was on to decide finally to end it all?  Why couldn’t he have just jumped from the observation deck of headquarters, like a decent chap?  Why didn’t the pilot pee before they left?  How can you reach up and turn a knob 360 degrees (as apparently had to be done to commence the kind of descent observable here), knowing you’re killing 150 people who just want to get to Duisburg (correction 27 Mar 15) Düsseldorf?

[Update 27 Mar 15]:  Well, that didn’t take long.  Already there is at least one German blog that openly accuses the co-pilot of having converted to Islam during the six-month break he took in the middle of his pilot training.  I’m not linking to that site or to any translation of it, however, for three reasons, viz. (a) as easy an accusation as that is to make, and as viscerally attractive a conclusion in a world where the Religion of Peace seems to miss few chances to kill lots of innocent people, I want to see some proof of this alleged conversion before I accept it; (b) conversion is inconsistent with the story he apparently gave to a childhood friend at the time, that he was suffering from burn-out and depression; and, finally (c) when I tried myself to look at the German-language site, I got an Error 404 message.

Even more suggestive that we’re dealing with a crazy man (by the way, at least the German press is being honest enough to label him with the correct name:  “mass murderer”) is the fact that during the search of his apartment the police found (a) no suicide note and (b) no statement of religious confession;, but rather (c) a torn-up medical excuse from work, together with other evidence that Lubitz (the co-pilot) had been for some time in psychiatric treatment.  The medical excuse apparently covered a period inclusive of the day of the crash.  The airline was quick to point out that if he did not voluntarily submit it to his employer, the employer would have no way of knowing.  [I’ll observe that unless there is some exception that I’m unaware of, under HIPAA the same result would obtain for an American pilot.  Isn’t that comforting?]

In more encouraging news, at least for those who fly on American-flag carriers, the FAA has since September 11 followed a two-man rule in the cockpit.  No pilot is ever alone; if one needs to go unburden himself, one of the other flight crew comes in, the remaining (co-)pilot puts on his oxygen mask, the remaining two lock themselves in, and they jointly await the return.  In fact, pilots and co-pilots on US-flag carriers are not even permitted to eat the same in-flight meal, it seems, lest the inedible “chicken” or “beef” give both of them a fatal case of the colly-wobbles at the same time (and it’s good to see the FAA recognizing the safety implications of airline food; now if we could just get them to conclude that charging $4.00 for a 16-oz. bottle of Coke in the concourse junk food shop represents a hazard to aviation).

[Update: 30 Mar 15]:  Now it turns out that Lubitz had been mustering with the rubber spoon platoon for some time, before, in fact, he ever got his pilot’s license.  He was specifically diagnosed back then as being at risk for suicide, and was all the way up to the time of the crash in psychotherapeutic treatment (although apparently his most recent trick cyclists hadn’t noted any suicidal tendencies).  The Düsseldorf state’s attorney’s office has 100 people combing through physical and documentary evidence, interviewing people from his personal and professional circles of acquaintance.  So far they disclaim any provable motive.  Stay tuned, I suppose.

[Update: 01 Apr 15]:  Reports are now that Lubitz informed the aviation school (owned by Lufthansa) of his depressive episode in connection with re-admission to the course, from which he’d taken a six-month break.  Medical records were provided by him as well, it seems.  He claimed, however, that his condition had dissipated.  And of course, he passed whatever medical examination is required for a German pilot’s license.  His report of the episode appears to have been voluntary, by the way.

In further news, the crash site investigators have found a cell phone storage card containing video of the plane’s final seconds.  Although individual people are alleged not to be recognizable, it seems that the passengers were fully aware of what was happening and about to happen.  Screams of “My God!” in multiple languages are to be heard.

Now comes the battle of whether and under what circumstances to release the video.

On which last point I’ll observe that I have mixed feelings about the existence of this video and its contents becoming general knowledge.  However cold comfort it might be to think this about your family’s victim, in plane crashes up until now there was always the thought that, well, maybe the passengers didn’t know and so at least their final moments were not be spent in searing terror.

Where everyone is a videographer now, the existence of such evidence has to be reckoned with from here on out.  We who have not lost a friend or family member to something like this cannot truly think ourselves into the shoes of those who have, of course.  But if I were among those secondary victims, would I want to know that my beautiful teenage child, on whom I’d lavished so much affection over the years and in whom so much of my hopes for the future of my family and of the world in general were bound up, died in gut-wrenching, terrified certainty of his/her imminent violent death?  The mere suspicion that it played out that way would be bad enough, but up until now I could always tell myself that perhaps it was not so.  Perhaps she nodded off listening to her iPad and that’s how she died — with the music she loved best in her ears.  Did whoever shot this video do me any favors?

May God spare me from ever knowing the answer to that last question.



From the Dept. of Better Late Than Never

. . . Division of Oopsies! Our Bad, we have the news that, 700 or so years after it turned over their grand master to be burned at the stake, the Vatican is “partly” rehabilitating the Knights Templar.  Or maybe not.

Whether the supposedly blockbuster manuscript was or was not “perfectly described” in a 1912 catalogue, or whether or not scholars have simply been over-looking its existence for however, long, one thing is clear:  The charge that sent Jacques DeMolay to the stake — heresy — was not found to be meritorious by Pope Clement V himself.  His own preference was to reform the order (as happened many times to different orders and houses within orders), rather than suppress it and turn its members over to the civil arm for punishment.

Based on the evidence assembled, Vatican scholars say Pope Clement’s suppression of the Knights Templar was dictated by a combination of political events and ecclesial pressures.  Beginning in 1307, King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured many knights, extracting false confessions of heresy and ordering assets seized.  Pope Clement wanted to end abuses in the order and reorganize it, but eventually he bowed to the king’s pressure and formally dissolved the Knights Templar, because he feared a schism of the church in France.”

Another profile in courage, in other words.

I guess asset forfeiture and the concepts behind RICO aren’t all that new after, all, are they?

Der Himmel Lacht; die Erde Jubiliert

The heavens laugh; the earth rejoices.  The title of Bach’s Cantata No. 31.

The heavens must have been laughing on March 21, 1685, on which date, 330 years ago today, Johann Sebastian Bach was born into a family of very accomplished musicians in Eisenach, previously best known for being the town at the foot of the Wartburg, where Luther translated the Bible.

I know bugger all about the technical aspects of music.  I can’t play an instrument (although I once picked at the banjo).  So I can’t explain just why it is that for over 30 years now I’ve felt deeply moved by his music.  It’s a pleasure I get to enjoy pretty much all by myself, at least among my acquaintances.  Perhaps there are others of my acquaintance who guiltily slip off and let the mysteries of the C-minor Passacaglia wash over them, but if there are, they’ve managed to keep their identities a dark secret from me.

While I was in college, a small church just off campus put on an organ marathon on the tercentenary, March 21, 1985.  I packed by book bag as full as it would go, grabbed a thermos of coffee, and camped out for several hours, studying and listening to relays of organists put the instrument through its paces.  That summer I was in Germany and the local cathedral, which every summer has a weekly organ concert, performed everything Bach ever wrote for organ over the course of the season.  With a student identification it cost may $0.75 to get in, and man alive it was something to hear.

A few years ago the symphony near where I live put on the B-minor Mass (link is to an excerpt) which by way of gentle irony Bach himself never got to hear performed end-to-end in his lifetime.  By an even gentler irony the text is the Roman Catholic Latin mass (Bach composed it for an R.C. prince). I can’t think of anything in Italian, French, or English that Bach ever set to music.  Most of his choral/vocal works are in German (he never worked in any really cosmopolitan city, and the place of his longest tenure — Leipzig — was regarded as being thoroughly provincial).  He did some work in Latin, perhaps most memorably (other than the B-minor Mass) being his absolutely breath-taking Magnficat:

At my age I’m starting to think in terms of bucket list items.  Last month I got to go see a basketball game on Larry Bird’s home court.  I’ve seen Earl Scruggs play at the Ryman, and once, many many years ago I got to see Bill Monroe.  Arlo Guthrie I likewise checked off the list.  Recently I got to see the Wiener Sängerknaben on tour.  I’ve been to Bach’s “home” church, the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, but I do want to hear his choir, the Thomanerchor, perform (well . . . perhaps it’s not strictly speaking accurate to describe them as “his,” since they’d been around over 500 years before he became the director, but nonetheless he spent the final 25 or so years of his life as their director and ever since they’ve been keepers of the flame, so to speak, to the extent that The New York Times once described them as a “Bach re-enactment society,” which I thought was a bit tacky of them).  While not on tour they still sing two or more times a week at the church.

A further bucket list item is to hear Ludwig Güttler and his brass ensemble play.  I have a CD of him performing sundry Bach trumpet pieces with the Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum and the Leipzig University choir, the disk ending with the final choral of the Christmas Oratorio, “Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen” — Now are you well avenged.  This stuff just puts me in a good mood, no matter how lousy a day it’s been.

At the risk of getting all morbid and all, among my regrets — irremediable, unfortunately — is that when it comes time to go to such eternal reward (for certain values of “reward,” of course) as is in store for me there will be no one and nothing around to play or perform those pieces which I’d most want to have played at my funeral.  Such as, for example, the last movement of Cantata No. 31 — “So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ” — “So I go to Jesus Christ.”  Or, even though the tune is well-known in the Anglo hymnary, “Nun danket alle Gott”:

Although most in the English-speaking world don’t seem to realize it, “Bist du bei mir” is actually a death-bed song; the narrator is singing to his love: “Be thou with me, so will I go joyfully to my dying.”  One of my favorite cultural uses of it is in “Joyeaux Noël,” the polyglot dramatization of the 1914 Christmas truce.  They don’t give the entire rendering, but among the most touching moments of the film is when the old couple whose house has been commandeered by the German Crown Prince for his headquarters can hear the protagonist couple singing for the high brass, and the old man wordlessly grasps his wife’s hand.

Lest Gentle Reader suppose I’m thinking of an all-Bach funeral, I’m not.  I have a disk of 18th Century Moravian Brethren music.  On it is “Lob Gott getrost mit singen,” (can’t think of any terribly good way to translate that title), which dates to 1544.  It’s now firmly established as part of the Lutheran tradition in Germany; the link is to an ordinary congregation singing the choral as part of their ordinary Sunday service.  And while we’re reaching back into the very early days of the Reformation and its music, I’d really, really like to have among the chorales sung “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” — “To God in the Highest Alone be Honor” — which, at pre-1525, has to be among the very earliest Protestant chorales.  They sang it at the re-consecration of the re-built Frauenkirche in Dresden (bonus Brer Güttler, who personally raised a boat-load of the money to build it, leading his ensemble):

Even if I can’t have my favorite hymns sung because they’re pretty much all in German, maybe I could have a competent organist?  Contrary to my wife’s assertion, organ music is emphatically NOT all gloom-and-doom.  As brief exhibits I refer to Triosonatas Nos. I, V, and VI.  Those can only be described as jolly.  Same for his transcription for organ of Vivaldi’s A-minor concerto (bonus: this recording is on the re-built Silbermann organ in the Hofkirche in Dresden, the pipes of which had fortuitously been removed for maintenance before the bombing).

Not that Bach’s organ works can’t be rich in dramatic tension and energy.  Here we’ve got another piece recorded on yet another of Johann Gottfried Silbermann’s organs:

In addition to his enormous outpouring of sacred music (some 200 of his cantatas survive, and that may not even be a complete muster of them), he spent a large amount of time exploring the “standard” forms of music in different keys and in different structures.  Perhaps his most thorough exposition is “The Art of the Fugue,” which has fugues in every major and minor key, and in nearly every combination of structure (“similar” motion, “contrary” motion, similar and contrary together, “inverted” motion, and so forth).  As an exercise book he put together the Two- and Three-Part Inventions for harpsichord.  No. 8 is among my favorites.  No. 13 was, for those of a certain age, the background music for the old Commodore 64 television commercials.

The didactic, sometimes nearly mathematical elements of Bach’s music make it particularly well-suited to electronic format.  I’m proud to say I’ve got both Walter Carlos’s Switched-on Bach albums on vinyl at the house.  On the first one he gave us the first movement from Brandenburg Concerto No. 3; on the second we got the complete Brandenburg No. 5.

I supposed I could go on.  But either one is a bit nutty about this or one is not.  De gustibus non disputandum est.  All I can say is Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen — praise God in all lands, that talent, inclination, and opportunity converged so magnificently in central Germany, beginning 330 years today.


Ferguson and the Department of Justice

Sometimes when the outrageous material that seems to make up so much of life in today’s world, and especially today’s America, gets too thick in the air it produces something not unlike vapor lock for me.

I’ve sadly neglected this humble little blog for several weeks now, and although no one’s going to suggest that the absence of its voice has diminished public discourse to any degree, I still feel guilty about it. But what to write about? Hillary Clinton turning out while Secretary of State not only never to have used anything but a private e-mail address, maintained on a server physically located in her private house in New York, but never even bothering to have a State Department e-mail account set up for her? It’s not just her, either, but also her Muslim Brotherhood operative of an assistant who used a private e-mail account on that same server. We’re supposed to accept at face value her suggestion that she never, ever, not once, discussed any classified material by e-mail the entire time she was tramping all over the world? Breaking every previous record for miles travelled and places visited and time spent away from her office, the head of the U.S. Department of State was able to forego classified communication for weeks on end? Even better, two years after she leaves office we’re supposed to trust her assistants (including the Muslim Brotherhood’s representative) to tell us what we need to see from all those e-mails? Remember Hillary is a person with a documented track record for making important records disappear. She’s been that way, so far as we can tell, since Day 1: She disappeared public records while on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee, preparing articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, and she disappeared the Rose Law Firm billing records that later surfaced (will wonders never cease?) in the White House private quarters. Her explanation was, “Shut up.”

The comedy that is Greece? They’re running out of money, have no intention of altering the habits that got them into this fix, and their only response to the rest of the continent’s reluctance to keep them afloat indefinitely is, “Shut up and pay.” They have the Hellenic equivalent of Dear Leader – mouthy, sarcastic, vastly-overly-impressed-with-himself, skilled skirmisher from the faculty lounge, but no, absolutely no idea of what it means to pay one’s own bills – as their finance minister. He’s scared the bejesus out of the guys with the money and irretrievably pissed off his peers who might lean on the guys with the money to get over it. It’s like the entire country’s been taken over by petulant sixteen-year-olds.

Closer to home, how about the EPA? Having already pretty much banned the production of wood stoves – notwithstanding large numbers out in flyover country heat with wood – now they’re wanting to come after your backyard cook-out. No, seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Or maybe, on the theory that the knee is closer to the shin, as they say, how about Washington State’s idea of having “limited license legal technicians” out there practicing law without supervision? They are supposed to be the “nurse practitioners” of the legal services industry. Sounds nice, and in truth there are many hundreds of thousands of people out there, without law licenses, doing what for all intents and purposes is indistinguishable from practicing law. You’ll find them working as lawyers’ paralegals and assistants. What’s novel about this new suggestion is that the legal “technicians” are going to be operating completely without supervision. After someone has worked for a skilled lawyer for twelve or fifteen years, she (most frequently she, but sometimes not) will not only have the skills to attend to a huge amount of the nuts and bolts of a client’s needs (and very frequently those will be some extremely complicated nuts and bolts), but she will also know the boundaries of her competency, and will never be more than a door or two away from the person she needs to kick an issue upstairs to see if this cow is or is not spotted. In other words, your highly-experienced assistant to a lawyer complements the lawyer’s skills and efforts; she does not substitute for them. The State of Washington is proposing to unleash on the unsuspecting world people with a year or so of junior college behind them. But don’t nurse practitioners do much the same thing in medicine? Well, yes. On the other hand if you’re going to see a nurse practitioner for a specific problem, you, as the owner/operator of your own body, are going to have some independent feedback to tell you whether what this person is doing is or is not getting you better. Not always true, of course (there wouldn’t be medical malpractice cases for failure to diagnose if you could always tell what was going on inside your own skin), but for a large slice of what ails you, if your nurse practitioner is tinkering around with you and you’re not getting better, you’ll know it. That’s simply not the case with legal services. Your legal position and problems do not produce unmediated physical manifestations and sensations. How you deal with a legal problem today can lay a land mine which won’t blow up for years, but when it does, will produce a blast out of all proportion to the legal issue of today which you thought you resolved, and will eviscerate your personal or financial existence. I do business organizations as part of my practice (in fact over the years I’ve done a fistful of seminars on LLCs, corporations, and LPs for one of the larger continuing education operators). An enormous portion of the mental effort involved in setting them up is working through with the client the numerous questions that all start with, “What happens when . . . ?” Even for the nominally purely domestic matters which the Washington program contemplates these “technicians” working around regularly implicate the substantive laws of property, taxation, and creditors’ rights. They also frequently involve financial planning and related economic principles as well. I beg leave to question whether a couple of years of junior college is going to prove sufficient to instruct them on when they’re out of their depth.

OK, how about Ferguson, the little town that last summer became America’s favorite place to hate? Gentle Reader will recall that a very large young thug attacked a police officer and got his ass shot for his troubles. The professional grievance-mongers assured us that the shooting was in cold blood, while the young scholar (nay, choirboy) was attempting to surrender. The left – which is to say the lamestream media and their pet constituencies – uniformly demanded the police officer’s head. Then the actual physical evidence was laid before the grand jury and it got to see what actually happened, and it declined to indict the officer. Ferguson exploded. Lost in the lamestream hand-wringing about “racial justice” and all the rest was the fact that they’d demanded the criminal prosecution of an innocent man, and it was the refusal of the responsible authorities to pursue that innocent which prompted the destruction of a city.

And it was all a lie, as even some lefties are now admitting. This thug, who matched the description of the suspect in a just-completed violent felony the report of which had within recent seconds been disseminated by radio and heard by this officer, was hailed by the officer and then reached into the police car, physically attacked the officer, attempted to seize his weapon, then when the officer attempted to arrest him for that attack, attacked again, and was shot with his head down, charging the (physically much smaller) officer. He got, in other words, neither more nor less than precisely what he deserved.

Enter the most politicized Department of Justice since the Palmer Raids. The everything-is-about-race minions of Eric Holder’s DOJ swept down on Ferguson, looking to act where the locals wouldn’t. In something of a surprise move, after parsing back through the physical evidence, even the race baiters of the DOJ concluded that the police officer acted in legitimate self-defense, and lawfully employed deadly force, thereby neither depriving this thug of any “civil right” he might otherwise have enjoyed nor committing any crime.  Even Dear Leader, whose politics are so steeped in race-mongering that he claims opposition to any single one of his policy preferences must necessarily be a function of his skin color, is defending the DOJ’s decision not to press on.

But the DOJ didn’t stop there. It conducted a wide-ranging investigation of the entire law enforcement system of Ferguson, including its police department, its prosecutor, its municipal court, and its general government. It has now released its report.

The DOJ came looking for racism and – mirabile dictu! – they found it. In truth that’s not the interesting part of the report. It’s not interesting because it’s expected, both objectively and subjectively. I say “objectively” because you’ve got a nearly all-white police force in a part of the country that has a track record of racial animosity, policing a city that is almost exactly two-thirds black, but that as recently as 25 years ago was only a quarter black. I say “subjectively” because we’re talking about investigators from Eric Holder’s DOJ, under the overall command of Dear Leader, and those ass-hats can make talking about adding a turning lane at the corner of Main Street and Vine into a racial issue.

Before we start on this, let’s remind ourselves of some universals. Observation No. 1: Every institution out there which intentionally sets itself apart from the rest of the citizenry, and which enjoys rights and powers not enjoyed by citizens in general, will inevitably develop an us-versus-them mentality. That is true of the armed forces. It is true of the IRS. It is true of the DOJ’s very own FBI. It is true of the NSA and the CIA. It is true of the police forces of every penny-ante town in America. [Irrelevant aside; rant to follow: I hate it when I hear a police officer or bureaucrat refer to ordinary citizens – in contrast to themselves, of course – as “civilians.” Listen, jack-ass, unless you are a member of the United States Armed Forces actually on active duty, you are a civilian. Period. That you cops like to dress up in military gear and play around with weapons you’re not trained to use correctly does not make you anything other than a civilian. You’re just a very dangerous civilian. The contrast to “civilian” is not “government,” it’s “military”; when you bust someone for stealing, that person goes before a civilian court, not a court martial. End of rant.]

Observation No. 2: Every group which thinks of itself as “not-them” is going to seize upon every last point of distinction between “us” and “them,” and highlight it. It is simply not human nature to ponder the points of commonality that “we” share with “them.” It’s precisely why fraternization in the midst of combat, e.g. the Christmas truce of 1914, is so vigorously discouraged and punished. When you think of the guy in the trenches opposite yours as being even a tiny bit not-fundamentally-distinguishable from yourself, you lose a little something of your moral capacity to blow his brains all over that corner of Flanders.

Sub-Observation No. 2.1: Noticing easily-observed physical distinctions between “us” and “them” is hard-wired into the human animal. It is the vestige of survival instincts the failure of which meant, in a world in which humans were not even at the top of the local food chain (let alone a world in which luxuries such as “social justice” could be even imagined), death by violence or starvation. When there is never enough food to go around, every other group of hominids, Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, or Clovis People, is a potential source of food. Successfully take theirs and your little band of hunter-gatherers survives for another day, another week, another season. Lose that fight and you and your little band (with all of whom you’re blood kin, by the way) dies. Just that simple. Agriculture and husbandry, the twin innovations which for the first time allowed humans to enjoy Enough to Eat on even a precarious basis, are less than 10,000 years old. Neanderthals, from whom we get something like 10% of our DNA, survived the world that preceded those innovations for something like a quarter-million years; Cro-Magnon Man had evolved by fully 43,000 years ago. Whatever may be the morality of it in today’s world, it is not realistic to suppose that police officers will fail, in seizing on points of distinction between “us” and “them,” to seize on observable physical differences as well.

Observation No. 3: Institutions which enjoy, relative to the people or groups among which they exist, rights and powers not enjoyed by those other groups or people, are going to be exposed to a powerful temptation to engage in predatory behavior. It is why the medieval nobility rode pell-mell through the peasants’ fields, trampling their crops, in pursuit of game. They did it because they could and the peasants could do nothing about it. It is why whites in the Jim Crow South were so routinely abusive towards blacks. They did it because they could, with no consequences to themselves. It is why historically civilian populations have fared very poorly when invading armies move among them, at least when the soldiery is not restrained by threats of draconian punishment from its commanders. [Wellington understood this when on the Peninsula. He once came upon a group of his troops outside a peasant’s house. One of his soldiers had taken an apple without paying for it. Wellington turned to the junior officer among them and told him in ten minutes to report to him that this man had been hanged. Which he was, with the apple jammed into his mouth. Compare and contrast the behavior of the French armies among the same populations at the same time, and how they were treated when caught alone or in small groups.]

Observation No. 4: Most people are no better behaved than they are compelled to be.

Observation No. 5: Things like how a police force lives with the population it supposedly serves do not develop or exist in a vacuum. This is not to play who-shot-John; in fact, I say that more to point out that games of who-shot-John in situations like Ferguson are nearly always going to steer you into a dead-end. Mutual hostility breeds . . . mutual hostility. It needn’t start with any clear-cut or even specifically identifiable data point, such as a horribly tragic – and all too frequently occurring these days, it seems – sequence where young child is, whether aware or not, acting as if armed and threatening, and a police officer over-responds, whether out of inexperience, or fear, or excessive zeal, or whatever, and shoots the kid dead. The thug that Officer Wilson shot was not that hypothetical child, by the way. But at least that’s the kind of incident you can point to and say, “That was when the walls went up.” I didn’t see anything in the Ferguson report to suggest that such a point ever occurred. I get the impression that, little by little, through thousands of points of interaction, the Ferguson police force and the population each came to the conclusion, each seemingly justified by the other’s behavior, that the other side was the Enemy.

All of that having been said, the DOJ report does recite several instances of what can only be described as explicit bigotry of white police officers about and toward blacks. It recites several anecdotes which are explicable only in terms of overt racial animosity. The report does not say that each of the reported incidents was corroborated by the investigator, either through independent witnesses or documentary sources, although I’d hope that were the case. Objectionable? Absolutely. Surprising? Not really.

Here I may as well shove in a general comment on the DOJ report. In the race-specific discussion I found it to be somewhat light on numeric data, and sketchy on cause-and-effect discussion. For example, for each of the instances discussed where the Ferguson police engaged in behavior that was pretty plainly tinged with – even if not actually arising from – racist animus, you have to assume that some number of people would have heard the story from the mouth of the protagonist. How many? You can’t know for sure, but my question is how reasonable is it to assume that each of those stories became widely enough known to seep into the consciousness of the black population of a city of roughly 21,000 people? On the other hand, replicate enough such events and no single one of them needs to get widely known before some critical mass of the population personally knows someone who has had a bad experience with the Ferguson police where any objective, reasonable observer would agree that the police’s behavior was racist. What would be that critical mass? I can’t say, and I don’t know that anyone can.

A good deal of the DOJ’s analysis of the racism problem in the Ferguson police department relies on so-called “disparate impact” analysis. I’ve already vented my problems with “disparate impact” analysis elsewhere on this blog. What I would have preferred to see is a more detailed statistical analysis – neither more nor less than a multi-variate regression analysis – of their data. In several places there are statements that blacks experienced Outcome X more frequently than whites, “even after accounting for” a litany of stated factors. Did they in fact “account for” all these other things? Statisticians, sociologists, political scientists, economists, and others in the behavioral sciences have a great deal of experience in such numerical analysis. How much of that kind of rigorous number-crunching went into the DOJ report? I’d remind Gentle Reader that it’s been only roughly six months since the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson. I must question whether the data could be assembled, modeled, and tested with anything like mathematical rigor in that time. Gentle Reader will further bear in mind that any given statistical test can only look for correlation, really. Causation has to be teased from the results of multiple tests, each subjecting the observable data to stresses from different approaches.

Just for example: Let’s take two of the concrete data points given in the report. Ferguson has a population of roughly 21,000 people and roughly two-thirds of them (by the 2010 census data) are black, or roughly 14,000 people. We know nothing much at all about the individuals who make up that 14,000 people. We do know, on a purely random sampling of them, that among those of them who are males between the ages of 18 and 34, they are significantly more likely than the general population to have a conviction for a serious crime in their history, or to have pending charges for a serious crime. Again on a purely random sampling basis, we know that the females of that group are much more likely than the general population to have a child who was born while they themselves were still teenagers. Since that latter pattern has existed for some time, it’s not unreasonable to expect that, among all individuals of that 14,000, those who are in the 18 to 34 age bracket – those who were born between 1981 and 1997 – many more than in the general population were born to women who had their first child while still a teenager. We can expect those patterns to emerge because they’re generally true of the American black population. Those patterns almost assuredly do not hold true for all of the 14,000 black residents of Ferguson, and you wouldn’t necessarily expect each to be equally true – statistical variation is an ever-present phenomenon – but you’d have to be a fool or a charlatan – like Eric Holder or Dear Leader – to suggest that none is true for any statistically significant proportion of them.

So what? Well, each of those data points is a strong predictor for future involvement in the criminal justice system. And like it or not, people who are involved in the criminal justice system are seldom involved at only one point of contact. They tend to have multiple points of intersection, and to have repeated intersections over their lives. So just based upon those two data points – 21,000 population, 14,000 black – even with a 100% black police force we’d expect any police behavior patterns which can be described as unduly aggressive for any reason at all to have a “disparate impact” on Ferguson’s black population. Is there anything that might throw some cross-bearings on that? I suppose you could look at those persons from the 14,000 for whom none of the general patterns is true. Go find those black inhabitants of Ferguson who have no serious criminal past, who were born to women whose first birth occurred at age 20 or later, and look at their interactions with the Ferguson police department. Now do the same thing for the 7,000 Fergusonians who aren’t black. Some of them will fit into either of the criminal-history or teenage-mother groups, and others won’t. Figure out how many of each there are, and then see how their interactions with the Ferguson police play out.

How would those numbers look? Can you even assemble the data for such analysis in six months? I’d wager that you’d find some irreducible statistical disparity between blacks’ experience of the Ferguson legal system and whites’, but that disparity would be nowhere nearly the strength reasonably sufficient to indict the entire force for pervasive racist behavior.  I’d like to see, for that matter, some data on the distribution of use-of-force incidents among the individual officers who have served on the Ferguson force over the past decade or so. Are they concentrated among identifiable individuals?  But I’m just guessing; I could be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. My point on all that is that the DOJ report just doesn’t give the impression of being the result of the kind of rigorous mathematical analysis that would allow it to reach the conclusions it does, whether or not those conclusions are in fact true.  Even a blind pig will find an acorn every so often.

Last point on the racism angle of this report: Ferguson may present a marvelous chance to conduct precisely that kind of statistical examination. It’s a small town, but still large enough that there will be lots and lots of data to measure. Its institutional omerta has been shattered; you show up with the proper credentials and my guess is you’re going to get to see the actual records necessary to figure out who has been doing what, how, when, and to whom.

The genuinely interesting point of the DOJ report, in contrast, is the first part, which throws a really glaring spotlight on the monetization of the American criminal justice system. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the entire system – the city manager, the council, the chief of police, the command structure, the field officers, the city judge and court staff – viewed enforcement of the criminal law and civil fine system as being neither more nor less than a revenue source for the city. Attempted summary is pointless; as the Blogfather would say, read the whole thing.

It wasn’t just that the city intentionally set its fines and penalties as high as they could. How offenses were charged and prosecuted was viewed as a revenue function. If a given offense could be charged as a state crime or a violation of a municipal ordinance, the offense would be charged under the city code, explicitly so that the city could keep the revenue. Officers’ individual responsibilities were structured so as to favor generation of municipal violations rather than investigation of state crimes, which is to say felonies (you know, the serious crimes). Jail time for offenses was not favored (in fact the judge could recall only a single instance), but rather imposition of fines and penalties. Missing a court date, however, was greatly frowned upon (and was itself the subject of still more monetary punishment); most people who went to jail in Ferguson did so not because they committed an offense, but because they missed some court date or other obligation imposed with respect to the monetary punishment imposed on the underlying offense. A treadmill, in other words.

The city court routinely set over 1,000 cases for each docket call. Each docket call was scheduled for no more than three hours. The judge – who was also the city attorney, and so tasked with rendering general legal advice to the city council and its officers, including in respect of its financial affairs one would assume – regularly refused to permit witnesses to testify, or heard all the available proof, in order to get through the docket. Just handed down decision after decision after decision. I have a stupid question: Why does this individual still hold a Missouri law license? How in the hell can you advise a city on how to structure its municipal code and ordinances so as to create revenue streams, and them impartially preside over the tribunal at which the translation of those laws into revenue occurs?

The DOJ report documents numerous examples of correspondence within the system in which everyone is in the know and everyone – including that judge – discusses how to collude to extract the maximum revenue from the legal system. It is really sickening. It is, in fact, nothing less than a chicken-shit town’s version of the same idea behind Stalin’s Gulag. As Solzhenitsyn relates, the Gulag in the form it became was a specific economic response to the industrialization question in the Soviet Union. Solovki began as a more-or-less straight-up extermination camp. Then Naftaly Frenkel arrived and showed them how the prisoners could make money for the system. At first they worked principally in logging and other extractive industry in the Karelian peninsula, but then Frenkel showed Stalin how the system could be scaled, massively scaled, upwards. The Belomor – the Baltic-White Sea Canal which ate several hundred thousand dead – was merely the first big industrial project. After that and for the next 25 years they never looked back. Ferguson, Missouri could not – thank God! – establish a network of camps fed on eternally-replenished supplies of enemies of the people, but they by God could float their lousy little patch over hell on the revenue from their criminal justice system.

The drive for revenue was relentless, and produced what the DOJ was able to document as pervasive violations of constitutional law, both in its processes and the substance of its law enforcement.  One example:  The police would regularly do what they call a “ped check,” or the pedestrian equivalent of a traffic stop . . . for no reason at all. Hint: You’re no more entitled to pull a pedestrian over without probable cause than you are a motor vehicle. They’d demand to see identification, which you are constitutionally entitled to refuse to produce except as a result of a lawful stop . . . which these “ped checks” were not. Then when people would refuse, or dog cuss the cops (which you’re constitutionally entitled to do, actually), they’d arrest you for “failure to comply,” which you’re likewise constitutionally not permitted to do except in respect of a lawful order, which demanding identification without constitutionally permissible basis is not. And not infrequently while they were arresting you for “failure to comply,” they’d go ahead and beat the shit out of you or taze you for good measure. Because. See Observation No. 3 above.

I do think that the DOJ reports gets it right when it points out that, at bottom, it was the single-minded focus on money which drove the police to a place where all of those constitutionally objectionable behaviors were not merely likely, but nearly inevitable.

But why do I describe that as the “interesting” part of the report? Because it rips the curtains off what the criminal legal system in the United States has become. It has become an enormous apparat whose acknowledged (at least within itself) purpose is not the protection of public health and safety, but rather the feeding of itself from its own population. Civil forfeiture; these cock-eyed “drug task forces” out on the interstates who never seem very interested in catching mules carrying smack, or grass, or blow in one direction, but rather cash in the other; the crazy over-charging of everything (see the Blogfather’s wonderful, short, and very distressing “Ham Sandwich Nation” in the Columbia Law Review) in an effort to extort guilty pleas; the hamster wheel of probation which artificially produces violations which artificially produces yet more fines and penalties, and longer probations – the legal system can no longer exist without creating offenses. Short of going out and hiring people to commit crimes, the only way the money can be brought in is precisely the sort of behavior documented in Ferguson, Missouri.

While outside the scope of the DOJ report on Ferguson, it is not at all inappropriate to ask to what extent the last several decades’ lavish municipal spending on benefits contributes to this unslakable thirst for revenue. Unlike the feds, cities like Ferguson can’t just print up the money to fund their health insurance and retirement programs. Unlike the State of Missouri, they are subject to oversight by state-level officials who likely won’t let them get too far off the balanced budget reservation. So the only way they can put people in their early 50s on long-term, 80% of highest-average-five-years’-salary (or whatever other unreasonable measure) retirement is to haul in more money. Taxes are an imperfect method; in fact, one of the communications the DOJ report cites is one city official reminding his interlocutor that, sales tax revenue being problematic, the court system needs to step up to the plate. Jack the city’s property taxes too high and people leave.

You have, in fact, to wonder how much the city’s financial (mis)management is to blame for the shift from one-quarter to two-thirds black in a single generation. Blacks, being as a group less well-off, are more immobile, and those who cannot easily move are more likely to congregate in areas where property prices are lower than elsewhere . . . like places where the whites are leaving as fast as they can price their houses and businesses to sell. Thus you get several reinforcements to a vicious cycle: City spends beyond its means; those who can begin to leave, and the more who have left or are leaving, the lower the prices the next to leave can obtain for their properties; property tax revenue begins to fall off, which means the city must charge a higher tax rate to produce the same overall revenue; more people leave, driving property values still lower; the city begins to fill disproportionately with those who can’t pay a lot for their houses and don’t go shopping at the more expensive stores; now sales tax and property tax revenues are down; the city’s pension obligations are unchanged through all of this and the state comptroller keeps busting them for under-funding their obligations; so the city jacks up its tax rates some more. At some point you’ve hit the practical upper limit to what you can raise by way of tax revenue. What’s left (remember we decline to consider spending less as an option, Gentle Reader)? What’s left is funneling 1,000 people an afternoon through a court on bullshit charges of “failure to comply” with some swell-head cop’s demand to cough up identification on the street corner.

I am afraid there is no cure for Ferguson, in the sense of restoring it to a functioning municipal corporation. Every single member the police force, every single staffer on the court, the judge, the mayor, the city manager, and every member of the council should be removed from public employment and barred from ever being employed by the State of Missouri or any of its agencies, instrumentalities, or political subdivisions. I know that’s harsh; there are probably a few police officers who have long wanted to vomit over how they have been made to do their jobs. But the problem is that those officers don’t bear the mark of Cain; you can’t tell them apart from the guys who’ll taze some 18-year-old kid whom they just decide to hassle on the sidewalk one afternoon because they’re running behind on their monthly ticket quota. It’s not, in other words, that we know that they are “bent coppers,” it’s that we cannot know that they’re not, and when you’re talking about the kind of power that goes with a badge and a gun, the people are entitled to more assurance than that. The city leadership can go to hell; every stinking one of them had the chance to raise six kinds of hell over what was going on and they all not only chose not to, they played along.

The Assistant Chief Race Baiter, Eric Holder, famously accused the United States population of being “cowards” because we didn’t want to talk about – “conversation” is the word you hear, by which is meant, “You people shut up and I’m going to harangue you” – race all day, every day. We sure do need to have a conversation, that much is undisputable. But it’s not the conversation he’s wanting to have. We need to discuss to what extent it is or is not Good Policy to give the criminal law enforcement authorities such a direct financial interest in the continuance and expansion of criminal behavior. I humbly suggest it is Bad Policy to align the interests of the police and the interests of the criminal so closely. At some point, after all, you get to the point that the money extracted from the crook by the criminal law system, to be funneled into the police officer’s pocket, becomes nothing more than a cost of doing business for the criminal element, to be built into its financial calculations. It’s overhead to be recovered from the criminal classes’ customers . . . by which is meant you and me, tovarish.

Where are we headed?