July 2, 2011

Should We Even Be Celebrating Independence?

Justin Katz

Mark Steyn's Fourth-of-July-weekend column is a doozy:

Big Government on America's unprecedented money-no-object scale will always be profoundly wasteful (as on that Williamsburg flight), stupid (as at the TSA) and arbitrary (as in those waivers). But it's not republican in any sense the Founders would recognize. If (like Obama) you're a lifetime member of the government class, you can survive it. For the rest, it ought to be a source of shame to today's Americans that this will be the first generation in U.S. history to bequeath its children the certainty of poorer, meaner lives — if not a broader decay into a fetid swamp divided between a well-connected Latin-American-style elite enjoying their waivers and a vast downwardly mobile morass. On Independence Day 2011, debt-ridden America is now dependent, not on far-off kings but on global bond and currency markets, which fulfill the same role the cliff edge does in a Wile E Coyote cartoon. At some point, Wile looks down and realizes he's outrun solid ground. You know what happens next.

One could go quite a bit farther. The retiring generation has left the rest of us a decaying culture after decades of knocking chips from its foundation. Arguably, the lunge of government into this disconnected realm in which budgets are optional and unimaginable debt defines the new baseline for spending is a crass manifestation of the broader collapse.

It might be a manifestation that we could actually repair, though... if only so many Americans weren't dependent on government profligacy in one way or another.

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3000 constituents to 1 representative seems to be about the right ratio for a meaningful, well-informed, and functioning republican form of government. This is what is in place in New Hampshire, and from what I've read and personally witnessed, citizens there feel empowered to direct their future and hold their representative accountable. They take an interest in their government and keep it at bay. At higher ratios, representation is so far removed from any one citizen that government is an unalterable abstraction taking place in the distant background of their lives, like the slow heat death of the universe. Needless to say, the artificially low cap placed on our Federal Congress has resulted in effectively no representation at all. How can somebody meaningfully represent the interests of 500,000 or a million people? It's absurd - a legal fiction. Attorneys have immense difficulty representing 2 or 3 clients in a given case because their interests conflict so often.

Posted by: Dan at July 2, 2011 9:05 AM

"For the rest, it ought to be a source of shame to today's Americans that this will be the first generation in U.S. history to bequeath its children the certainty of poorer, meaner lives —"

Is he talking about my kids? If so, he's got it all wrong. They have more "devices" than I even knew existed, drive newer cars, actually go on vacation and think nothing of spending $200.00 on a night out. They do quite well, thank you, and work far fewer hours that I do.

Maybe he's talking about my kid's kids. My parents would roll in their graves if they heard how tough my kids have it, they of the one car, one night out a month, rice and beans generation. And their parents? Imagine telling my grandmother as we drove down Atwells Avenue on any given night, and saw the $80,000 cars and lines to get into the hundred dollar a cover restaurants about the recession. Or, maybe I could text the information to her from my cell phone and tell her this is the biggest economic crisis since "The Great Depression."

She'd beat me with a stick.

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 9:25 AM


Putting aside the question of whether you're arguably a member of the "government class," I'd note that your professional experience is quite different from mine.

Our kids have lots of toys and perks of modern life, but whether that is proof against "poorer, meaner lives" is a matter for debate. The test will come when subsequent generations progress to adulthood, and as I said, our experience differs and I suspect that we're both on the advantaged side of the bell curve — advantage defined by attitude and worldview rather than money.

Arguably, what we're witnessing with colossal debt and the dependency and pending troubles that it will cause is the end of the brief period during which the government was able to hold back poverty and meanness with its programs.

Text your mother all you like, but I think she'll be less impressed with the technology with old-age benefits begin to run out of money, or your children will be less impressed with their gadgets when they're having to work eleven months of the year to fund benefits to others who don't work so hard.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 2, 2011 10:26 AM

For Michael's generation, graduating from public high school was enough to get you into a plum government job with great benefits and gold-plated pension for life - enough to sustain their kids even into early adulthood. Need a new car or addition to your house on top of that? Just put in for some overtime. Most of those positions don't exist anymore, and the few that do are closely guarded within union family nepotistic or political circles. For my generation, it was common knowledge that settling with a high school diploma meant a hard life of low-paid menial labor and no job security. Federal loans drove up the cost of college tuition 3-fold within our lives to that point, so we took out the necessary loans and went into debt to attend higher education. But everyone else was doing that too - and now we had those loans to think about. So out of desperation, we went on to grad school, law school. Took out even more loans to cover $30k-50k year in tuition. I got off light graduating with $80k in total debt because college was paid with scholarships, most in my class were $100-150k+ in the hole. I was lucky/smart enough to get into a non-competitive employment program based on standardized testing. Most of my friends are now unemployed or grossly underemployed, their merits lost in a 1000-high stack of resumes. While Michael's generation is getting ready to retire to a pristine Social Security/Pension/Medicare system, I know that these ponzi-scheme government programs will not be in place for my generation. I'm on the hook for around $50k in future taxes right now, and I'm sure that amount will rise over my lifetime to pay down the excesses of generations past. My grandmother quit school in 8th grade to work as a waitress. Now social security and Medicare pays for her Florida condominium, health care, daily restaurant outings with all of her friends (she doesn't cook anymore), and Indian casino slots, poker, and entertainment at least twice a week. While frontloaded with a lower standard of living, her generation paid essentially nothing into the system and was set for the rest of their lives on a myriad of social safety nets. I don't even want to think about what my own children will be facing someday. It makes me sick.

Posted by: Dan at July 2, 2011 11:30 AM

Here is a way to reconcile Michael's observation with Steyn's:

Beginning with the New Deal, turbocharged by the Great Society, and accelerated by the Community Reinvestment Act and the GSE mortgage companies, America has financially been enjoying the flight that follows a leap out the 20th-floor window. We have traveled about 18 floors down and it still feels like flying. But our children will feel what it's like to pass the 19th floor down.

Falling feels like flying until you land.

Posted by: BobN at July 2, 2011 12:49 PM

"Should We Even Be Celebrating Independence?"

Harvard has just released a study that 4th of July parades may he deleterious effects. For instance, if you attend a 4th of July Paradfe before reaching age 18, you are 2% more likely to vote Republican. You'll have to Google it for more.

Google "Harvard Study 4th of July"

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 2, 2011 2:45 PM

I you have probably noticed, I care little about politics and know less about economics. I was in high school in the seventies, not that I paid much attention, but what little sunk in was grim. Interest rates in the twenties, American jobs going overseas, botched military missions, zero pride, zero confidence, Japan was beating us in manufacturing and quality and on and on.

I honestly have no idea how the government affords Medicaide and Medicare. Just the people I bring to the ER in a week cost these programs five times my yearly salary and benefits, and that is being conservative.

Justin, you are correct about our worldview and attitudes putting us at an advantage. People like us are not going to be crippled by anything but our own unwillingness to do what needs to be done to survive, and hopefully thrive. As long as outside forces are kept reasonably at bay, we will be okay, and our kids and their kids will as well. I imagine since the beginning of mankind our worries about the next generations have been similar, but humanity is blessed with the gift of making due, with a healthy sprinkling of making due better.

I don't think government debt or inability to pay promised benefits will matter all that much as time progresses. We'll get by.

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 3:03 PM

It's not "government debt," Michael. It's "United States public debt." We are the public of the United States. We have to pay it. Or at least I will. You'll be retired when it *really* hits the fan, so from an amoral perspective, I suppose you are justified in not concerning yourself with such things. However, as somebody who willingly inserts himself into the public debate, know that it was precisely your mentality, that the $14.5 trillion we collectively owe is just some abstraction of how modern governments operate, that got us into this terrible mess with a very real threat to future generations. Perhaps a little more concern and attention to "economics" could have made a big difference around 20 years ago from (publicly employed) individuals like yourself.

Keep in mind that the Greek public debt was just an abstraction to its population as well until very recently. Reality has a way of catching up with us, even when we make it our routine business to ignore it, as you admit doing. Unfortunately, saying all will be well does not make it so.

Posted by: Dan at July 2, 2011 3:31 PM

Keep worrying about things you have little or no control over, Dan, and see how quickly your life passes by, and how little satisfaction you will have gotten from it.

I do what I can, pay taxes, vote my conscience and take care of what I can.

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 3:39 PM

So that's why you frequent political blogs, Michael? To tell everyone else to chill out and stop caring? That none of it matters? That's why you check in here every day?

It seemed like you cared an awful lot about the public discourse several posts down when you blasted half of the conservative commenters on this blog in a long, angry tirade. When the subject matter is *your* money, and *your* employment, and *your* public union, all of a sudden you seem to care a great deal. There's a considerable gap between how you see and describe yourself - as the cool, collected, responsible public servant - and how you come across in reality - as a head-in-the-sand ostrich of a man rowing everyone blindly over a waterfall, concerned only about "getting his" before the entire scheme comes crashing down ("let somebody else figure out how to pay my paychecks").

It's great that signing up with your RI public union with great benefits, perks, and retirement options out of high school has worked out so nicely for you over your career - it really, truly is. Some of us aren't looking at such glowing golden years ahead of us, and for our children. Maybe you're content with how things are right now - $14.5 trillion in public debt and growing nationally, your own city of Providence in tatters under the crushing weight of your pension system, but this blog gives us, the watchful, a voice. We are going to use it to express our discontent and advocate for change. You may be correct that, in the end, I will have to pay all of the outstanding bills of your grossly irresponsible generation and have no say in the matter. But I'm not going to take it lying down.

Posted by: Dan at July 2, 2011 4:00 PM

Now that was a tirade.

I didn't get a "union" job until I was twenty-nine, and this is the only political blog I frequent. It's kind of addictive. And you are an angry young man.

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 4:45 PM

"For my generation, it was common knowledge that settling with a high school diploma meant a hard life of low-paid menial labor and no job security."
Dan there was nothing preventing you from taking your HS diploma and applying for Michael's job if you wanted it. For your own personal reasons you didn't want to be a firefighter. Or is firefighting the equivalent of "menial labor". Hell, you could have stopped at any point along your educational journey and had my job with the HS diploma, college diploma, or JD (like I did).
You seem to be resentful that someone with a lesser education has attained some level of success without incurring the same level of debt that you (and I) have saddled ourselves with. Although we were always told "stay in school" "go to college" I don't think we were guaranteed a high paying job if we did.
As for the nepotism, I think so many fathers, sons, grandsons end up as firefighters and cops because you grow up around it, your family's closest friends are in it, your childhood friends are the sons and daughters of other cops/firefighters. Frankly, its what you know, its comfortable and feels like home. No of it, however, prevents anyone else from applying for the same job. And to avoid the inevitable questioning, yes I come from a long line of cops, part of the reason I chose to do what I do after I burdened myself with so many damn school loans.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 2, 2011 5:35 PM

Having my future sold out from under me makes me angry. When those who sold it to fuel their families' lifestyles and pad their retirement years tell me to simply shut up and take it, that makes me angry also. I don't think any psychologist would fault me for having that kind of reaction. Apathy and total abdication of responsibility are the real sicknesses here.

Posted by: Dan at July 2, 2011 6:00 PM


I've been collecting readings from history, to try to figure out what's happened in the past as the result of financial chaos. It's actually a pretty well developed academic specialty; you could lose yourself for hours on the subject of how medieval English taxes on wool imports ultimately shaped English society, if that's the kind of thing you're into.

At a broader level, I've come across some interesting descriptions of history, that seem to parallel what's going on in the world today. Here's an example from Francis Fukuyama's latest book, The Origins of Political Order...

When Louis XIV died in September 1715, his state was completely bankrupt...France's creditors had claims on future tax revenues stretching all the way up to 1721; debt service alone exceeding anticipated tax revenues for the forseeable future.
That certainly sounds like it could be Central Falls and maybe all of Rhode Island.

I've also always been kind of mystified about exactly how a bunch of financial paper-pushing translates into real social and political consequences, but it definitely has in the past, and I don't think that our current political class knows as much about the subject as they should, to be able to head off a potential trend towards French-revolution type developments.

Posted by: Andrew at July 2, 2011 6:34 PM

I'm curious, how much of the downfall of our society will be caused by paying cops, firemen and teachers for the work they do and how much of it will be caused by paying people to sit in their subsidized housing, eat their subsidized food, pop out their subsidized kids, and generally contribute nothing of value to our society? (Although their actions frequently keep me employed) A serious question, I'm looking for an honest answer.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 2, 2011 6:50 PM

"None of it, however, prevents anyone else from applying for the same job."

The cop and the fireman gang up on Dan. You make it sounds so easy but in reality it's not. The reality is that there not enough of those jobs to accommodate the numbers whose dreams are to become cops and firemen. If you abandoned education to pursue that track, you may have no shot at all. The colleges are full of ciminal justice and fire science majors that will not see their dream come true. Be it nepotism or political connection, without it, it's a tough racket to break into.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 2, 2011 6:59 PM

Max, I started applying for fire departments when I was twenty. I got hired when I was twenty-nine. Didn't know a soul, have no firefighters in my family and my kids want nothing to do with it. If it were easy, everybody would do it.

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 7:05 PM

"Be it nepotism or political connection, without it, it's a tough racket to break into."
No Max its when 4000 people apply for 6 jobs that make it a tough racket to break into.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 2, 2011 7:12 PM

Sorry, I've been in the racket and yes, like I said, there are not enough of those jobs to accommodate the numbers that want to be cops and firemen but are either of you denying that nepotism and politics doesn't play a big roll? You maybe the exceptions but really, you can't deny it.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 2, 2011 7:36 PM

A roll, sure. Big roll, definitely not. I work with several people who are the sons or daughters of cops, I work with a significantly higher number of people who are not.
Max I don't know if you are a former or current cop/fireman and what your experience is but my experience is that the 2nd or 3rd generation officer is a far better cop than the 1st generation one. They also seem to get into far less trouble and far less significant trouble.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 2, 2011 7:52 PM

What's going on over here! I just wrote two of the longest responses I've ever taken the time to write and both disapeared!

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 8:17 PM

"Max I don't know if you are a former or current cop/fireman and what your experience is but my experience is that the 2nd or 3rd generation officer is a far better cop than the 1st generation one."

Absolutely agree but in most cases that's not what gets them hired and it doesn't always work out. Their experience doesn't get them through the door and in some cases, the son or daughter can turnout either as bad if not worse than the parent. For some stupid reason, we forget that mom or dad wasn't really a good employee in the first place and then we hire their kid.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 2, 2011 8:21 PM


I don't know. They aren't in the junk/spam folder.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 2, 2011 8:23 PM

Shoot, it said the server at dust in the light had "timed out" and wasn't responding.

I wish I could remember what I wrote, i think it was pretty, good, something about how history will repeat itself in the near future, and some kind of upheaval is bound to happen when the money runs out, and how some how, some way when it is all settled the same people will end up with the same wealth, minus a head or two like in King Louis day.

And Dan, your anger is misguided, people are not out to get you and yours, we are out to get ours, legally, ethically and responsibly. Your opinion that firefighters and cops are worthless is where you go off track. I went into much more detail before but I'm beginning to bore myself. (Snarky comment bait)

Posted by: michael at July 2, 2011 8:31 PM

Max, I'm sorry, by 1st generation I didn't mean the father or grandfather of a current employee but a current employee with no law enforcement in their family tree. I just re-read my post and can see I didn't word it very clearly. I knew their was a problem when you started out that you agreed with me.

I'm curious to read Michaels post though, hopefully it is not lost forever in cyberspace!

Posted by: sierra1 at July 2, 2011 8:35 PM


LOL. You still won't get an argument out of me on that one but I stand by my comments. You won't know how they turn out until you hire them.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 2, 2011 9:08 PM

Seirra - I wasn't too scared/lazy/whatever to become a firefighter or cop. Those are all just fallacies, and I'm always disappointed to see those besides-the-point arguments trotted out on projo.com, boston.com, and the RI political forums by those who did happen to choose those career tracks. It's actually quite simple: I didn't want to become a cop because, even though I minded my own business and never victimized anyone, all of my interactions with the police to that point had been extremely negative. "Speeding" ticket for going 34mph in Pawtucket, threatened with indecent exposure charges for entering the woods to pee at 10PM on a jog (told me I'd go on the sex offender list), just generally yelled at and insulted by fatass Boston policemen for a variety of inane reasons, etc. I had no interest in arresting peaceful people for ingesting various substances - never understood the drug war and didn't want any part of it. Plus I had heard that there was extremely limited hiring and the hiring that did occur tended to get "political." I was born and raised in Providence - I knew very well that certain names found their way to the top of the resume pile for state/local positions. According to the later Stanton book, $5000 cash was the going rate during the Cianci years to get moved to the top of the list, and I certainly didn't have that kind of money to shell out, nor would I have. Neither did Michael, apparently, based on his 9 years on the waiting list.

As for being a firefighter, I just never saw what the fascination was and didn't think the work would be intellectually challenging enough to keep me interested long-term. The "they're running out while we're running in" slogans just never did it for me, nor did all the paramilitary ranks and medals. Whether the same families getting hired over and over again is just self-selection or some kind of nepotism - there's probably some of both going on there, but perception is reality.

I've never understood this argument that everybody should sign up for the military or be a cop or something. We need all kinds of professions in a society and I don't view them as a hierarchy of nobility. Nor is that fact that "you too could have applied" any justification for the pay, benefits, and retirement pensions that police and firemen do receive. If people are getting fake disability pensions - and everyone here knows very well that they are - how is it at all relevant that I could have potentially got one as well? I don't want anyone getting what they don't deserve, myself included.

Michael - When you get an error message from this blog and your comment disappears, right click and select back. You can then copy and paste the text of your comment into another text box. I always ctrl+c as a precaution here for that reason.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2011 6:36 AM

I've been flat out all week digging shellfish. I could be out right now, but I'm beat and I want to visit with my son and granddaughter. At the shellfish dealer every last clam and quahog was being purchased by a steady stream of customers preparing for the long holiday break from work and the unofficial start of summer. I doubt that many or any knows anything about Mark Steyn and if they did would not take his advice and not celebrate this weekend. Maybe we will have meaner and poorer days ahead but I am still going to be happy for the next two days off. Happy Fourth.

Posted by: Phil at July 3, 2011 6:59 AM

Sierra hit on a good point above. The government's creation of a permanent underclass that is dependent on the government for its food, housing and medical care while producing nothing is the greatest damage that the Progressives have done to our society. Their direct costs are equalled and possibly dwarfed by their indirect costs: illegal aliens coming to do the jobs they should do, addiction and the illegal drug trade, healthcare costs (look at the rate of diabetes along) from their obese, sedentary lifestyles, the costs of gang crime, police and security costs to fight it,and incarceration, the denigration of education making schools into hellholes for the kids who do want to learn, and their the dropout rate...I could go on.

Thanks, Progressives.

Posted by: BobN at July 3, 2011 9:01 AM


To start to answer your question, one general theme we've returned to at this blog is how the cost of government has been growing faster than-inflation for several decades running. That trend cannot go on forever. Eventually, government will be demanding to spend more money than exists (but before you get to that point, other kinds of catastrophic impact will kick-in).

It seems to me that, about 50 years ago, we used to able to afford basic public services, decent (at least) schools, and things that we are now being told belong category of luxury items, like being able to keep the streetlights turned on at night. I don't buy the answer that 'life is just too complex now, and the only way we can do everything we did before is to raise taxes and give more power to unaccountable bureaucracies to decide things'. Any program where the amount of spending grows faster than inflation over many years has to be carefully examined.

Posted by: Andrew at July 3, 2011 10:51 AM


One of those recent historical cycles (European fascism) was pretty bad one, and it's a pretty good case for showing that outcomes related to such cycles could get worse, instead of mellowing. I figure that by the time we're on the brink of something similiar to 1930s-1940s Europe really coming into being, I won't be in much of a position to do anything about it. But if a few people can be convinced -- in real, local situations occurring right now -- that there's no such thing as a dictator with magic powers to fix the mistakes of the past (even if his title is "the receiver"), maybe our society's responsiveness to even worse ideas in the future can be blunted a little.

Posted by: Andrew at July 3, 2011 10:56 AM

That is a scary thought, Andrew, and we're seeing it happen. Scapegoating, extreme nationalism, no real leadership, anger and class division, hatred, I could continue but I'm preaching to the choir.

Just my perception, not looking to get into a big thing, but whenever I see Chris Christie on TV I think of Hitler, thinking he is just the right kind of person to "rally the troops" and start the fascist regime.

Posted by: michael at July 3, 2011 11:24 AM

Dan, I never said or meant to imply that you were too scared to do the job of firefighter or cop, just that you, for whatever reason, decided not to be one. (By the way, the examples you list, exposing yourself to pee is Disorderly Conduct by definition and add the fact that you were in the woods along a hiking trail adds in the possible pervert factor of someone exposing themselves to unsuspecting runners. Pawtucket has a very well known and effective traffic enforcement program, with only two roads in that city with speed limits above 25MPH you were speeding. My guess is you were far over 34MPH but the cop knocked it down and saved you a day at RITT and about $100 in fines and court costs.)

Andrew, I agree the size and cost of government far exceeds what is necessary. The only way to fund these jobs is through taxation and we're all taxed far too much as it is. I think it goes back to the creation of the welfare state we live in now. More people receiving public services the more people we need to hand out these public services. Whatever happened to sink or swim. Immigrants used to come here, learn the language, get a job, and work so their children could have a shot at a better life. Now, in most cases, the first stop is the Social Security Office to get signed up for their bimonthly check. Last I checked public housing was designed to house generation after generation of the same family. Elderly housing is no longer elderly housing. People with "disabilities" now share the hallways with your grandparents, bringing in drugs, housing hookers and drunks, and generally causing chaos for the rest of the residents. I have had the misfortune of seeing this system and its abuses first hand, its not just something I read or heard about. Its widespread and infuriating. Its time to cut off the free rides. If they can't "swim" then let them "sink". The rest of us shouldn't have to shoulder the burden any longer.
Wow long rant, anyways, to get back to the real message of the original post, Happy Fourth of July to you all, I plan on celebrating it surrounded by family and friends, hope all of you are too.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 3, 2011 1:59 PM

Sierra - That you would attempt to justify the actions of the police in either of those scenarios is precisely why I had no interest in being a cop. I definitely wouldn't fit in with that "the law is the law" culture of automaton black-letter-law enforcement. See, it's not about meeting legal elements to me, it's about common sense problem solving and doing what's best for everyone involved. I was going 34mph in a 25 zone, no more, no less - $100 + court costs. It was an industrial road with light traffic, no homes, pedestrians, or children around. Was I breaking the law? Yes. Is it a stupid law? Absolutely. Should the cop have used discretion and let me go about my business since I was endangering nobody? We'll likely disagree there. As for relieving myself in the woods, it was 10PM - absolutely nobody around. I wasn't near a path. I was 16 years old - a kid - with my mp3 player and jogging clothes. There was no "pervert factor." Technically a violation of the law - a totally bogus one that everyone has been "guilty" of at some point in their lives. Threatening with me with arrest and sex offender registration was a totally uncalled for abuse of police power and you won't convince me otherwise. If a police officer brought me a case like that as a prosecutor, I would chew them out and tell them they should be ashamed of themselves. The thing that scared me off of that career path for good was I could tell the cop was so enraptured by his position of authority and police culture that he *actually* believed that what he was doing was right. It's a truly frightening thing to behold, how the common sense humanity of somebody who is probably an okay person in everyday life is lost the minute that uniform goes on and they go into "enforcer" mode.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2011 2:47 PM

Dan, their actions don't need defending, I'm explaining. Could the cop have used his discretion and not cited you for speeding and given you a verbal warning instead, sure. But just because he didn't doesn't mean he was abusing his power either. He gives you a ticket and the next time through Pawtucket you said to yourself, "@!#$ing Pawtucket cops I better watch my speed." Deterent effect, fewer speeders, fewer serious accidents, fewer dead and maimed people, public goal of reducing traffic accidents met.
As for the other incident no cop would would lock someone up for peeing in the woods at 10PM especially a 16yo juvenile, too much BS paperwork, my guess is he was hoping to scare you enough that you didn't do it again. Whatever that facts are for some reason you were brought to his attention for doing something we've all done but really shouldn't. You were a kid at the time and he treated you like one. By the way, the "asschewing" given by a prosecutor to a cop looks good on TV but doesn't happen too often in real life. Its a professional working relationship, we try not to F each other over. Its happened to me twice, both times the prosecutor was trying to cover up something they screwed up and pass the blame. I called them on it and set it straight. They won't last long with a reputation like that and they know it.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 3, 2011 3:11 PM

Did a lot of speeding. Did a lot of peeing in the woods, never got a ticket or a warning, or any trouble at all, and I've been around twice as long as you, Dan. There is something to be said for the law of attraction.

Posted by: michael at July 3, 2011 4:00 PM

This has been a splendid post. Independence.
It is posted by a born again catholic guy that kneels to a god and proclaims his subservience. It is delicious. Me-- I like government-at a distance. I don’t want to build roads, or stock libraries, or worry about bookkeeping regularities. I pledge my independence from government of any stripe. But the only way I can do this is if there actually IS a government that organizes all the things I can be opposed to!

Posted by: DavidS at July 3, 2011 4:39 PM

Sierra - my whole point is that cops are supposed to use discretion to compensate for overly broad laws and the lack of nuance built into these statutes, but most cops don't because they simply enter into enforcer mode and start connecting elements like a computer program instead of stepping back and asking what needs to be done from a humanitarian perspective. It's not illegal, of course, but I do consider it an immoral abuse of authority. You'll never convince me that driving down an industrial road at 34mph endangered anybody, regardless of what some statute says. It's revenue generation, plain and simple, and cops shouldn't be complicit. There are real crimes that are not getting attention because of that nonsense, and it erodes respect for rule of law when good, productive citizens are harassed and treated like criminals for such harmless everyday behaviors.

I understand the prosecutor-police officer relationship very well since I assisted on numerous cases and tried a few myself. I'm all for peace and understanding and professional courtesy, but if I saw a police officer railroading some poor kid because he peed in the woods I would definitely not let it slide without some sort of admonishment. The same phenomenon I described is unfortunately true with a lot of gung-ho prosecutors as well, intent on racking up convictions. I'd go so far as to say that 9 out of 10 cases I saw in the sex crimes division I worked in would have been better off dismissed at the outset. Let's just say a lot of them involved husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends who made the mistake of calling the police in a moment of anger and thought better of it weeks later, only to find out then that the wheels of "justice" aren't so quickly braked.

Michael - I don't "speed" in any meaningful sense of the word. I sometimes exceed ridiculously low speed limits, but I never endanger anybody with my driving and I have a perfect record with no accidents.

The cop obviously followed me while I was jogging because he was bored on night patrol and saw me go into the woods for a few minutes. I didn't do anything to warrant that kind of attention or conduct from him, and I was polite at all times. If one of your straight and narrow A-student children had been threatened to be arrested and placed on the sex offender list while basically minding their own business, I doubt you'd have such a smug little response. It's not at all funny when that happens to you or one of your kids. A common thread with you is your inability to separate the merits of a situation from the individuals involved and how you happen to feel about them.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2011 4:53 PM

I don't know why Michael would associate Gov. Christie with Hitler, and am astonished at his admission. Christie is trying to shrink the government of his state, lighten the burden on government on the people, and put more power and freedom into individual citizens' hands. A totalitarian government, of whatever name, tries to do the opposite.

Michael, it's good that you said you don't get involved in politics, because your thinking on the subject is awfully muddled.

Posted by: BobN at July 3, 2011 5:05 PM

BobN - You are essentially correct, as any detached observer would recognize, but there is an important factor left out of your analysis. Christie stood up to the completely outrageous behavior of the public teacher union leadership in New Jersey. That makes him "Hitler" in Michael's eyes. If you saw Michael's ludicrous and error-riddled rant against "the free market" a couple of months ago, these analogies of his shouldn't be astonishing to you at all. Comparing extremely minor union concessions (pay freeze and 1.5% of salary towards healthcare) with Nazism isn't the first whopper he's served up to us on this blog.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2011 5:36 PM

Judging by your responses to sierra1 and your descriptions of the situations you found yourself in, I could be wrong but my guess is the officer thought you needed an attitude adjustment. No offense but as they say, the pen is mightier than the sword. Some people just come across the wrong way and can be their own worst enemy. At the risk of your retort, some times it pays to just keep your mouth shut but maybe that's not what happened at all.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 3, 2011 6:54 PM

Bob, it isn't his politics that conjure the image in my head, it's just the way he carries himself, his "stand" against the teachers union comes to mind when he used his powerful personality and ability to intimidate against a teacer, essentially dressing him down in a crowded room for having the audacity to question Herr Christie. Like I said, just a feeling I have about the guy, do with it what you will.

Posted by: michael at July 3, 2011 7:48 PM

"I could be wrong but my guess is the officer thought you needed an attitude adjustment."

I can see how one who is generally sympathetic to the police might assume that, but I was actually very respectful and apologized to the officer in an attempt to defuse his aggressive behavior. Initially, I didn't even understand why he was detaining me and didn't think I did anything wrong, so I was just listening, hoping to get more information. I understand that trying to correct or shame a cop while they're in full enforcement mode is futile and counterproductive. I don't argue with police and as an attorney I advise everyone else not to do it either, to always be polite. It's not the time or place and can only make things worse - court is the place to make your case where the power balance is a bit more equal.

As a side note, I don't think effecting general attitude adjustments through use of force is the proper role for a police officer in the first place - we might disagree there. I certainly didn't need straightening out or benefit from his threats against me in that particular scenario, and I still don't think I did anything morally wrong, even if it was "technically" illegal.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2011 8:10 PM

Michael - Please provide one of the many online videos of Governor Christie that particularly reminds you Adolf Hitler, so that we may compare it directly to some public appearances of the Fuhrer and come to understand your point of view.

Or, alternative, please explain what about Christie's lengthy explanation to this teacher is fascistic or Hitler-like:

He seems very calm and reasonable to me, pretty much the opposite of Hitler's impassioned diatribes. I guess that means I'm a Nazi? You won't be the first person to confusingly accuse libertarians of authoritarianism on this blog.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2011 8:26 PM

Stand by, Dan, I'll be working on putting a montage together.

Posted by: michael at July 4, 2011 8:48 AM

Well then, Michael, I think you were duped by the Marxist/Progressive tactic of "playing the victim". A union agitator deliberately asks a provocative question and Christie rises to the challenge and wins the debate. The provocateur then plays for the audience's sympathy because the big, bad governor call him out on his BS. The vid that Dan linked to is an excellent example.

Christie makes clear that he stands up for taxpayers and children. The unions, too long accustomed to winning their peculiarly corrupt political games, play the victim. They can eff off.

Posted by: BobN at July 4, 2011 3:43 PM

"I wasn't too scared/lazy/whatever to become a firefighter or cop"

Mythology, on any list of "dangerous jobs" they come in around 15th and 17th. It is far more life threatening to be a lumber jack, or ironworker. I have seen two ironworkers fall to their deaths, one right past my office window.
The only cop I know who was killed was on the Boston Bomb Squad. Unfortunately, he taught his son to make bombs. The kid put one in his car.

Recently, a local fireman died of a heart attack while driving to a fire. For his funereal, streets were closed, trucks attended from all over, flags were at half mast, they played "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes. My friends came home in body bags "members missing", they got nothing like this.

When the movies have cops referring to police work as the "Family business", the "word" is out.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 4, 2011 8:13 PM

"When the movies have cops referring to police work as the "Family business", the "word" is out"
Anyone have any idea what the hell this means?
Any one of us who refers to police work as the "family business" does so with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Although I guess if your family was in the same line of work for 70 years calling it a "family business" isn't too far off the mark.
There's been 93 police officers killed in the line of duty so far this year, sounds dangerous enough to me. How many office workers have been killed in the course of their employment so far this year? If you don't think its all that dangerous check out the videos on policeone.com, officer.com, or the officer down memorial page. Things go from routine to dangerous very quickly.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 4, 2011 9:11 PM

"There's been 93 police officers killed in the line of duty so far this year, sounds dangerous enough to me."

Most of which are traffic related. Handing out less revenue generation traffic tickets would go a long way toward getting that number down. I know that the Boston cop killed recently was standing in the middle of the road in a highway tunnel trying to flag down a motorist - no disrespect intended, but that is a totally needless risk of life.

Posted by: Dan at July 4, 2011 10:55 PM

"Most of which are traffic related. Handing out less revenue generation traffic tickets would go a long way toward getting that number down."

Come on Dan! Most cops are killed because they're handing out traffic tickets? That's absurd and I find it quite offensive and disrespectful to the memory of those officers lost.

Here's the running total as of today,

Total Line of Duty Deaths: 93
Aircraft accident: 1
Animal related: 1
Assault: 4
Automobile accident: 20
Duty related illness: 4
Explosion: 1
Fall: 1
Gunfire: 38
Gunfire (Accidental): 2
Heart attack: 7
Motorcycle accident: 3
Struck by vehicle: 3
Vehicle pursuit: 3
Vehicular assault: 4
Weather/Natural disaster: 1
Gunfire deaths up 23% this year, auto accident deaths down 20% this year.
Figures from odmp.org
I think the numbers speak for themselves.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 4, 2011 11:27 PM

Those are just the officers killed. How many have suffered life threatening injuries. How many have been on the wrong end of a gun. Your venturing into territory where you have no business. I support your libertarian views but when it comes to the dangers of police work, let me know how it feels to be on the wrong end of a shotgun and then I'll respect your opinion of how dangerous it is to be a cop.

Posted by: Max Diesel at July 5, 2011 12:00 AM

It concerns me how little attention the two cops here are paying to detail. It seems to be enough to just focus on a few keywords and extrapolate based on what helps fuel the most self-righteous outrage instead of actually reading a statement carefully and making distinctions.

I never said that being a cop isn't dangerous - it is. I definitely never said that "Most cops are killed because they're handing out traffic tickets." Please practice semantic hygiene and summarize accurately, it is important.

As for the statement that was actually made, I know better than most the difficulty of classifying causes of death, but it is supported. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, more police officers died in car crashes in 2009 and 2010. Maybe not in 2011 statistics you cite, but the year isn't over yet.

Since car crashes and struck bys are what are killing so many police officers, all I said was that we should minimize the time police are exposed to such hazards by redirecting them away from revenue generating traffic stops and into more legitimate and safer areas of law enforcement. I also stated that police shouldn't be running out into the road to flag down cars, and police departments should do a better job training officers against such senseless actions - what part of that do you find so offensive? I want them to go home to their families as much as either of you do.

Posted by: Dan at July 5, 2011 8:33 AM

Just to be clear - I do respect police officers and firemen - no more and no less than any other profession, including attorneys, doctors, engineers, sales clerks, and fry chefs. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing the careers they do, and nobody except the individual can know what is right for them. We need all of these jobs in safe and productive society.

What I don't buy into is the hero worship or dramatization of any of these professions, or turning a blind eye to abuse or fraud. I think each profession has its own set of unique problems and should take responsibility for acknowledging and correcting those problems. In the case of police officers, I think those unique problems include a tendency to forget one's compassion and common sense in favor of enforcing black letter law, and I don't think it's right or fair to them that many cops have effectively become highway tax collectors. Besides turning public safety into just another regressive tax, it erodes respect for rule of law in our society and creates an "us versus them" environment of citizenry against the police that shouldn't exist in the first place. It should be "us versus the criminals," with productive citizenry and the police working together, but traffic laws and various victimless crime laws (marijuana, underage drinking, peeing in the woods, etc.) effectively make everyone a criminal (regardless of how you classify the "offense") and break down that network of mutual respect. I have a number of ideas on how to correct that situation while still maintaining safe roads, perhaps for another time. And believe me, I could go and have gone on for hours about the problems plaguing the legal community.

Posted by: Dan at July 5, 2011 8:52 AM

Dan 7/5 at 8:33AM:
"I definitely never said that 'Most cops are killed because they're handing out traffic tickets.'"
Dan 7/4 at 10:55PM:
(speaking of police line of duty deaths)"Most of which are traffic related. HANDING OUT LESS REVENUE GENERATION TRAFFIC TICKETS would go a long way toward getting that number down."

I think that's pretty good "semantic hygiene " and an accurate summarization.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 5, 2011 10:00 AM

Keep letting Dan talk, (write) the rest takes care of itself.

Posted by: michael at July 5, 2011 11:04 AM

"There's been 93 police officers killed in the line of duty so far this year, sounds dangerous enough to me."

Here is a list of the 10 most dangerous jobs in America, listed by number of deaths per 100,000 (BLS)

1. Logger
2. Pilot
3. Fishermen
4. Iron/Steel Worker
5. Garbage Collector
6. Farmer/Rancher
7. Roofer
8. Electrical Power Installer/Repairer
9. Sales, Delivery, and Other Truck Driver
10. Taxi Driver/Chauffeur

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 5, 2011 11:53 AM

It's not accurate, Sierra, and what you have quoted directly proves that. I never drew the conclusion you are attributing to me, and any math or philosophy student can prove to you through simple formal logic that it does not logically follow.

Michael - Yet another fine example of your hypocrisy. Despite your constant belly-aching about other commenters, you do *nothing* to improve the level of the discourse here. Your comments are a constant stream of ankle-biting potshots and substanceless insults and only reflect poorly upon you and your union. Don't kid yourself - you're just a Tommy Cranston for the union side.

Posted by: Dan at July 5, 2011 11:54 AM

"When the movies have cops referring to police work as the "Family business", the "word" is out"
Anyone have any idea what the hell this means?"

Perhaps it is less so in smaller cities, but the chances of getting on the dept in New York, or Los Angeles, Chicago etc are slight if a member of your family wasn't on the dept. New York has "police neighborhoods", Boston has "Police nightclubs". Inroads are being made to accomodate women and minorities. In NYC, the catch phrase is "My uncle is a Rabbi".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 5, 2011 12:01 PM

Hey sierra1, Warrington says ours jobs aren't as dangerous as we think they are. Whew, all that stress was getting to me!

Posted by: michael at July 5, 2011 3:36 PM

Dan, I don't feel like going back and forth on this, I drew the logical inference anyone would have gotten from reading the above quotes. Although I was never a good math student I excelled at the philosophy/ethics/logic courses I was required to take in college many moons ago.
Faust, all dangerous jobs though all will be killed via accidental death as opposed to being murdered due to their employment.

Posted by: sierra1 at July 5, 2011 3:44 PM

Michael, What a relief!!! To think of all the stress I've put myself through over the years! Thanks Warrington for setting me straight!! We should get you on our critical incident debrief team, maybe even a peer counselor or department therapist!

Posted by: sierra1 at July 5, 2011 9:31 PM

Warrington-I won't dispute that the occupations you mentioned are empirically more dangerous than firefighting and law enforcement,but it's the way the danger comes that makes a difference-firemen run into places eveyone else is running out of and law enforcement officers are frequently killed or injured on purpose.
People don't normally attack fishermen or sanitation workers with weapons

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 6, 2011 5:50 PM

Joe and Sierra - dead is dead. Would you rather be shot to death by a drug dealer or drown under a fishing boat? Stupid question.

Posted by: Dan at July 6, 2011 6:47 PM
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