It's like a giant vending machine

 A fully automated stop'n'rob store lets you in with a smartphone swipe and checks you out the same way.  No one gets a part-time job operating it, but on the other hand no one gets shot and killed, either.  The whole thing folds up into a nearly impregnable containing-shipping steel box and can be deployed with minimal risk even into an area populated with youths who need to turn their lives around, temporarily engaged in undocumented shopping and reparations programs.

When peace intensifies into violence

 Watching different movies:

On August 31st The Point, CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza’s newsletter, ran with the headline “‘Protests’ or ‘riots?’ It makes a BIG difference.” Cillizza can’t have thought very hard about the photograph he chose to feature: two law enforcement officers in full riot gear stand by a hulking truck labelled “SHERIFF” while a building in the background goes entirely up in flames. The orange light of the fire engulfs the whole frame of the picture. It sure doesn’t look like a protest—even one that’s only mostly peaceful. Yet that’s the spin Cillizza pushes. Anything else is a vast right-wing conspiracy: “Trump’s efforts to label what is happening in major cities as ‘riots’ speaks at least somewhat to his desperation, politically speaking, at the moment,” writes Cillizza in the missive. The bad man is just trying to scare us. Everything is fine. Pay no attention to the man behind the flaming curtain.
Subjects on the right, meanwhile, receive none of the sympathy and credulity afforded to our mostly peaceful arsonists. It was apparently necessary for the CBS News report mentioned above to remind us that the left-wing protestors “include moms and veterans,” but no such human casting of right-leaning protestors can be found in any major outlet. In fact, the New York Times practically presents the last 3 months as a bit of lighthearted roughhousing between benevolent demonstrators and police. “But in recent days,” the report goes on, “the protests in Portland and in Kenosha, Wis., have taken a more perilous turn — right-wing activists have arrived, many carrying firearms, and they are bent on countering the racial justice protests with an opposing vision of America.”

I worry about the backlash

 Please observe rioting safety protocols.

Portland keeps getting weirder

Yesterday the "100% Antifa" fellow who had previously been identified from video as the shooter of the "Patriot Prayer" anti-Antifa protester in Portland several days ago broadcast an interview claiming he shot the Patriot Prayer fellow in self-defense.  Last night U.S. Marshals tried to arrest him and returned fire when he began shooting at them.  Now he's dead, too.

It's hard to find any coverage of the event that doesn't identify the Patriot Prayer guy as a "far-right protester."  Maybe "far right" is fair, but it sure looks as though he was walking quietly down the street, having incautiously found himself separated from his friends, and was shot in cold blood after someone called out "We got two right here."  I guess we'll never know what the self-defense argument was going to look like once it got developed.

No U.S. Marshals were injured.

Notes from the underground

Don't try this at home.

What are school taxes for again?

Way to convince me that schools are mostly a childcare program operated by a government monopoly:  complain that the big problem with shuttering the schools is that parents don't know where to park their kids during the day.

Some enterprising school systems have stepped up their game:
Perhaps the most puzzling option, at least for parents, has been the opening of day camps in public schools and other spaces. In addition to public schools, 28 states and the District of Columbia now have YMCAs that operate virtual-learning labs for small cohorts of school-age kids.
These labs and camps operate very much like schools. Kids come in wearing masks, work all day on a computer, and then do an enrichment activity before returning home. To reduce the risk of infection, they don’t intermingle with other cohorts or eat in cafeterias. But there is a twist: Parents pay for this privilege. Judging by local news stories, the rate is about $100 to $200 a week.

"We were outgunned"

Sometimes spouting two contradictory rationales, without making any attempt to reconcile them honestly by trading off risks and benefits, leaves you in a really tough spot:

[B]ig-city mayors including Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms, New York’s Bill de Blasio, and Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot face a daunting challenge. They have to navigate two problems at the same time: reining in overpolicing while also preventing underpolicing, the consequences of which are every bit as dire. And a great many lives are riding on how well they pull that off.

It's almost as if lying to people and betraying their trust ensured they won't be there for you the next time you need them.  Life is terribly unfair for people who think they can do what they like and still count on commandeering the heartfelt efforts of their neighbors.

A former Seattle police officer who was on the force during the consent-decree period explained how this dynamic often played out. . . . Among the elements of the city’s consent decree was a broadened definition of “use of force,” which required reporting even an arrestee’s complaint that handcuffs had caused physical pain. The decree also put in place an early-warning system for officers racking up use-of-force incidents at a high rate. Many officers concluded that it wasn’t worth the hassle to arrest someone for relatively minor offenses, such as public disturbance or loitering, the former officer said.
“I made two arrests two days in a row one week, and both turned into paperwork cluster****s,” the former officer said. “When you’ve accumulated two or three use-of-force complaints in a week, you’ll say, ‘I just need to stop. I need to stop doing this.’” Among the sort of policing that fell away, the former officer said, was officers’ routine sweeps of areas where drug users congregated, to check their names for outstanding warrants, which would often net suspects in local burglaries. Meanwhile, he said, several dozen of the department’s more proactive-minded officers responded to the new rules and paperwork by simply deciding to “lateral out” to a job in another police department.
The article goes on to argue that voluntary, institutional moderation of stringent "broken window" policing does not result in crime waves, but informal rank-and-file pullbacks responding to overpunishment of police in "excessive force" incidents do. After the Freddie Gray crisis in Baltimore in 2015,
the underpolicing was so conspicuous that even some community activists who had long pushed for more restrained policing were left desperate as violence rose in their neighborhoods. “We saw a pullback in this community for over a month where it was up to the community to police the community. And quite frankly, we were outgunned,” the West Baltimore community organizer Ray Kelly told me in 2018. In fact, the violence got so out of hand—a 62 percent increase in homicides over the year before—that even some street-level drug dealers were pleading for greater police presence. One police commander, Melvin Russell, told New York in 2015 that he’d been approached by a drug dealer in the same area where Freddie Gray had been arrested, who asked him to send a message back to the police commissioner. “We know they still mad at us,” the dealer said. “We p***ed at them. But we need our police.”
The effect of police demoralization is slow to dissipate, and even slower if the igniting incident leaves behind ambiguous police-control protocols under which officers never know what misstep will end their careers and expose them to criminal prosecution.
In Baltimore, the pullback has persisted five years later, in an evolved form. The resentment that police harbored over the charges against the six officers has dissipated; none of the cases ended with a conviction. Now, the veteran officer said, the continued decline in arrest rates and proactive-policing levels are driven more by uncertainty over what is allowed under the city’s new consent decree, even after multiple training sessions. Some of the sessions have been useful, the officer said—for instance, on the rules regarding searches and seizures. But officers are still uncertain about the expanded use-of-force definitions, he said, which include forcible handcuffing, as in Seattle, and about when and how they are allowed to clear crowds from major drug corners. So they often choose to simply drive by them. “The officers are confused. I have no idea what I can do and what I can’t do, and I’ve been an officer for 20 years,” he said. “The good members of the community want us to do our job. But the small number of noisy people who are getting in trouble over and over are out there dictating policy to the detriment of the city.”
Police officers don't want to die in service of the desire of party bosses to have the hard issues both ways.

Political permission slips

Neo has a post up about trends in sociopathic behavior that features a brief excerpt from a YouTube interview with a lawyer named Robert Barnes, addressing the best explanation for Antifa outbreaks.  He studied peaks and troughs of violent Klan behavior between 1870 and 1960 and concluded, first, that it's primarily a function of sociopathy, for which racism is just the handy excuse, and second, that it rises and falls with what he calls "political permission slips."  He believes that the incidence of sociopathy in humans is fairly stable over time, and found you could best match the changing pattern of politicized violence by examining the message put out by people in positions of political prominence.  In the case of the Klan, the key was local White Citizens Councils.  In the case of Antifa, the key is the Democratic Party leadership.

Could it be, as leftists are arguing, that it's really President Trump who hands out the permission slips to white nationalists, who are stirring up violence among mostly peaceful but fiery protesters?  Daniel Greenberg notes Joe Biden's recent speech claiming something of the sort, in which Biden argues that there were no riots when he was in the White House.  Greenberg counters that there were no riots, except when there were riots, and asks:  If the current riots are Trump's fault, whose fault were the Ferguson riots?  Who misreports racially charged incidents so that riots are in full force before anyone even has a chance to examine the evidence and figure out who did what?  Who painted Trayvon Martin as a small, innocent 12-year-old murdered without provocation by a "white Hispanic"?  Who perpetrated the myth that a Ferguson cop shot Michael Brown while he had his hands up in an unthreatening posture?  Who pushes the narrative of vague "systemic racism" when nothing about a particular incident supports the charge of individual racism?

Who preaches violence?

How to destroy a chameleon

Powerline muses on the exhausting life of someone who tries to curry favor by matching a constantly shifting milieu.

The thing about chameleons is that they mostly work only against a solid background. Franklin Roosevelt loved the joke about how he once placed a pet chameleon against a plaid background: “The chameleon died.” Trump is the ideal plaid background against which to place Biden, which is why Democrats are spinning so furiously to get Biden out of debating Trump.

Courage is contagious

Rasmussen noticed that its usual polling competitors have been strangely reluctant to post the usual polling updates since the party conventions.  It suspects that left-biased pollsters don't want to give Trump supporters the sense that public opinion is shifting their way, for fear of inspiring their courage to take a public stand in an era of violent retribution on the streets.  American Thinker agrees that it's very dangerous when even a few begin to take a stand, linking to this classic scene:

Effective politics, effective citizenship

 A Trump-campaign-endorsed group called "Black Voices for Trump" is moving in to clean up riot-ravaged neighborhoods.

Exit, Voice and Loyalty

In part because of my county's local upheaval, but also because of the national balkanization, I've been reflecting on Albert Hirschman's 1970 "Exit, Voice and Loyalty."  The thesis is that if people don't feel they have a way to influence a response to an institution's problems (voice), they'll vote with their feet (exit).  Loyalty discourages exit, but can be built only by supporting voice.  I guess you could say voice = loyalty and gag = exit.

It works for me.  If I feel I can speak up and achieve healthy change, I'm not only more likely to stick around, I'm also more committed to the institution.  Remember a time you've had a problem with a merchant, which was promptly fixed when you spoke up.  Not only do you not take your business elsewhere, you're positively warm about sticking with the store and recommending it to your friends.  It works that way for local government, too, not to mention clubs, friends, and marriages:  any conflict successfully resolved makes you want to stick around.  A silent resentment festers until one day you hit the road.  In the meantime, the attitude tends to be "Fine, be that way, but you'd better not count on me for anything, because, oh, are you listening now that you need something from me?"

If you block both exit and voice, you not only forfeit loyalty, you back people into a corner in which sullen disengagement or even violence will seem the only choices.

Back to our regularly scheduled darkness


On a lighter note

 My pastor's hair isn't anything like any of these, nor is his theology, thank goodness.

This is a bad idea

The little people

Salena Zito continues her valuable and nearly solo effort to listen to what real voters think. I read constantly that it's intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that Trump is incompetent, dishonest, and divisively racist. Clearly I lack the imagination to understand how anyone reaches these positions, and I take some comfort from the fact that a large swathe of voters are as puzzled as I am.

Mahoning Valley, Ohio, suffered when a GM plant was shut down. Biden's campaign blames President Trump, just as it blames him for COVID deaths and the lockdown's brutal destruction of jobs--but voters don't necessarily see it that way, according to Paul Sracic, a political science professor at Youngstown State University:

“These voters are not hung up on how Trump talks," said Sracic. "He delivered on the issue that they care about: trade. On that issue, he is the most honest politician that they’ve ever heard.”
* * *
“Ironically, the closing of a manufacturing plant might actually increase support for Trump’s anti-globalization message,” he said. "This also goes to COVID-19. To argue that Trump is to blame for the explosion of cases and deaths in the U.S. assumes that Americans agree on a way that the virus could have been stopped. Masks and lockdowns, however, remain hugely controversial."
Sracic says the national press located far from this region and national Democrats holed up in the same bubble see a floundering president too preoccupied with bashing his opponents on Twitter to deal with a national crisis such as COVID-19, his supporters in the Mahoning Valley and in similar places may see a president who, for the first time in their lives, says what they believe about globalization and has actually delivered on some of his explicit promises.
“Democrats seem to think they steal these voters back by arguing, on the one hand, that Trump is incompetent, and on the other hand, that Democrats also want to protect American jobs and have a better plan [than] Trump. These are going to be hard sells,” said Sracic.
“How was renegotiating NAFTA to provide more protection for labor incompetent? Because it didn’t go far enough? Is a politician like Joe Biden who voted for NAFTA, been in government for nearly 50 years, eight as Vice-President, while never changing a word of NAFTA, going to be able to make this argument effectively and believably?” Sracic wonders, adding: “The result could be even more votes for Trump.”


Michael Goodwin, like many commentators this week, sees a preference cascade building over revulsion for the pretense rioters, looters, arsonists, and murders are "protestors."  Then he touched on an issue that's puzzled me for a long time:

A laughably biased [Saturday NYT] story on the campaign dynamics called the president’s handling of the coronavirus the most important issue and reduced crime to a “wedge” issue, meaning it is divisive without being significant.
In every election someone complains that an opponent's effective issue is only a "wedge" issue. Goodwin explains the implication well:  the issue doesn't deserve attention, but inexplicably is costing votes on one's preferred side. So what do we mean by insignificant? Obviously the issue is significant enough to a lot of voters to make them switch sides over it. All that's left is the complaint that those bad voters are switching sides over an issue we good guys are convinced is "insignificant." Well, keep that attitude up and see how it works for you.

Every time the mask slips on the Marxism that increasingly motivates the mainstream Democratic Party, I'm torn between a hope and a fear.  The hope is that normal people will turn their backs once and for all.  The fear is that fewer and fewer people seem to understand what's wrong with Marxism.  The execrable Vicki Osterweil isn't beating around the bush:
[Looting] does a number of important things. It gets people what they need for free immediately, which means that they are capable of living and reproducing their lives without having to rely on jobs or a wage—which, during COVID times, is widely unreliable or, particularly in these communities is often not available, or it comes at great risk. That's looting's most basic tactical power as a political mode of action.
It also attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed. It attacks the idea of property, and it attacks the idea that in order for someone to have a roof over their head or have a meal ticket, they have to work for a boss, in order to buy things that people just like them somewhere else in the world had to make under the same conditions. It points to the way in which that's unjust. And the reason that the world is organized that way, obviously, is for the profit of the people who own the stores and the factories. So you get to the heart of that property relation, and demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.
Osterweil defends looting on the ground that not only should people not be put to the pain of paying for what they need, they shouldn't even have to pay for whatever they want.  By paying, all they're doing is supporting the same system that forced distant strangers to make the goodies as a condition of receiving a living wage.  In the socialist paradise, distant strangers would satisfy our desire for widescreen TVs out of solidarity, and we would naturally reciprocate.  A century of murder and famine will never convince Osterweil that she's a deadly raving fool, or many voters that they should never cast a ballot for any party that doesn't ride her out of town on a rail.