Squeal Points

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There’s a guy on our street who likes to open the trunk of his car, roll down the windows, turn the bass up to 11, then go into the house to drink beer with his sound system parked in the driveway, rattling windows to the end of the block.  On a Tuesday morning.  He does this frequently.  The house is a rental, paid for by the government. The owner lives in the Hollywood Hills. Somebody had enough and called the police with a noise complaint.

“We’ll send a patrol car over,” said the LAPD.

Two hours later, no police.   Okay, perhaps not the most pressing issue the LAPD has on its hands.  Then again, it’s a weekday morning in the Valley. How much action can there be?

Have we crossed the rubicon beyond which quality of life issues are no longer enforced?  Or do we have a supply chain problem in public safety?

Fewer people are willing to be cops anymore. Urban cops. During the summer of George Floyd, young men delighted in going nose to nose with police lines for the benefit of cameras:

Punk ass bitch.
Make a move, Opie.
Where you gun, 5-0?
Whatcha gonna do, bitch?

The cop is required to be unflappable, at parade rest,  in a mimicry of boredom while aerosolized spittle pocks his face. Cell phones record his every twitch, waiting on the slightest crack in composure. Black cops? Even worse. Uncle Tom. Why you cooning? 

Raise the cost on enforcing laws enough and below a certain level they won’t be enforced anymore.   This is the squeal point.

Gadsden flag on the tarmac

The Biden administration, because it is totally, absolutely not authoritarian and only here to restore our democratic norms, is telling every company in America to fire vax-resisting workers six weeks before Christmas. Blue state governors and local officials, eager to play along, have similar mandates.

Because Americans are a free people, essential workers are pushing back. Nurses. Truckers. Railroad engineers. Cops and firemen. Sheriff Alex Villaneuva isn’t enforcing the mandate, so now the county has to fire 25% of its uniformed personnel. Only it hasn’t done so yet. They supervisors keep delaying. In New York, the fire department has 18 fire houses unmanned this week, the squads on unpaid leave. Garbage is piling up in the street after Mayor DeBlasio laid off 20% of the Sanitation workers.

Two weeks ago the pilots of Southwest Airlines staged a sick-out, resulting in the cancellation of 2000 flights. The CEO blamed it on anything but the the vax mandate, before quietly dropping vaccination requirements.  Then over Halloween weekend American Airlines cancelled 1,500 flights due to “high wind gusts” and…staffing shortages.

Union Pacific just dropped its vax mandate when 44% of railroad workers refused to comply.

The squeal point works in two directions.

Today America is the snail on the edge of a straight razor with edicts being handed down, then ignored. Then threatened again, and postponed once more.

There’s a financial economy and then there’s the real economy and logistics is the field on which they meet.

Kyrie Irving, integrity in motion

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets is forgoing a $35 million salary and a chance at a championship ring on a super team that was built for him.

“To him, this is about a grander fight than the one on the court and Irving is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood, according to sources with knowledge of Irving’s mindset.”

“Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” a source told The Athletic. 

The smart money says Kyrie will fold.  When the Nets begin to make a run, and he’s on the couch getting fat, and all of the Big Apple is blaming him for denying the city its first NBA title since 1973, he won’t be able to hold out.

It’s only been three weeks, but so far Kyrie is sticking to principle. He’s losing more money per day than most of us will make in a year.

Today the L.A. vaccine mandate goes into effect and today is the day I stop spending money in my beloved Los Angeles. My impact won’t be Kyrie-like in scale, but it will be felt, in the aggregate.

We should each of us think seriously what our squeal point might be, and why, and then try to hold out a little longer. If the state prevails on this, there will be no limiting principle to freedom of movement, of association, or commerce.

After that, its going to be Irish democracy, the refuge of a conquered people.

13 thoughts on “Squeal Points”

  1. I think most would think Kyrie is stupid; and soft; able to leave the money on the table.
    Never heard that he was for the greater good.
    After crying to get Boston; he was injured for the playoffs his first year there, but instead of sitting with his team on the bench he decided to get some dental work done instead.
    I only get what I read in the media, so I only think I know that he believes the world is flat; and his actions are obtuse.
    Nothing wrong with that per se, but voice for the voiceless?
    Nah, just a court entertainer

    1. You don’t actually believe he is motivated by the vax mandate and the contrary risks of the Pfizer shot for someone his age?

    1. That’s funny
      We can get into a whole other discussion one day about life one pointed focus vs resting on talent.
      I could see how interiorized Danny Ainge was when he lost with Phoenix; while Barclays who apparently didn’t like practice didn’t have enough down the stretch
      Anyway good comment

  2. No Admin, Kyrie isn’t motivated by mandate. Kyrie needs attention. I don’t think he is interested or gives a damn about vaccination, although there may be an underlying fear re:Tuskegee study.
    He is drawing on the situation to hedge sympathy until he’s ready to play…maybe mid season, playoffs. As alluded to before many can survive on talent alone, but they will not self realize

  3. «Have we crossed the rubicon beyond which quality of life issues

    The number one quality of life issue for most voters (especially older ones on a fixed income, or for people looking to sell their property) is LOWER TAXES.

    In many european countries for example property crimes like theft or burglaries are ignored by the police, because they regard that as something that citizen should pay for themselves, by paying for better security (for example gated community fees) and for insurance if that is not enough.
    In the USA the same attitude is applied to all crime in low income (especially if colored) communities: many higher income residents in a county see no reason why they should pay higher taxes to provide police enforcement to areas of the county where “losers” live,

    By doing that the police forces are shifting the cost of property crimes from their own budgets onto higher spending by residents on security (or gated community fees) and insurance, and that means LOWER TAXES.

    Consider again gated community fees: every resident that moves into a gated community means LOWER TAXES for everybody else.

    « are no longer enforced? »

    For the people who want “quality of life”, those issues are enforced strictly in gated communities: pay higher (private) taxes (the community fees) get better service. In the USA, “pay per play” rules.

    Just like for health care or schools,, there are “bronze” (economy class), “silver” (business class), “gold” (first class) plans for everything, including neighborhood services, police enforcement, etc.; of course many people would like to live in a cheap “bronze plan” neighborhood and yet enjoy “silver plan” or “gold plan” services paid for by “someone else”. That is not the american way.

    1. Blissex, I agree that we are rapidly going down a road heading to de facto Gold/Silver/Bronze plans in the realm of public safety. However, that was not the case two years ago. From 1993-2019, Broken Windows policing prevailed in urban America and due to its efficacy enjoyed broad societal consensus. Economy class earners got to enjoy the meaningful safety once only enjoyed by people in first class. The de-policing of society is now lead by elites not personally effected by the new rules.

      The pendulum is going to have to swing back soon, if cities are to hold together. There’s too much worker mobility and cheaper real estate elsewhere.

      1. «Bronze plans in the realm of public safety. However, that was not the case two years ago. From 1993-2019, Broken Windows policing prevailed in urban America»

        I think that happened only here and there, and certainly not in lower middle class and working class areas, where policing has been largely absent for a long time. The issue here as I tried to argue in the previous comment is that every policy needs to be funded, and “BW” policing therefore means higher taxes. It is not something that police forces can just decide to do. So “BW” policing has always been done, and continues to be done, in gated communities, where it is indeed funded with higher taxes.

        Put another way, gated communities existed for decades before 2019, precisely because “gold plan” or “silver plan” policing was not available otherwise in most areas.

        «and due to its efficacy enjoyed broad societal consensus.»

        There are strong arguments that crime rates dropped a lot mostly because of the progressive reduction in lead in the air in cities rather than “BW” policing.

        Anyhow I am in favour of paying higher taxes to fund policing of non-violent or non-sexual issues, but many/most voters want lower taxes more than that, especially those who already are paying gated community fees, or live in “gentrified” areas, and I have to acknowledge that the market offers a private-sector option in the form of gated communities,

        «Economy class earners got to enjoy the meaningful safety once only enjoyed by people in first class.»

        This is written as if higher levels of policing were cost-free, and police forces in “bronze plan” areas have simply decided to stop caring about non-violent or non-sexual issues, even if they have the funding.

        But having a “gold plan” police system costs more than having a “bronze plan” one, and I don’t find much evidence that voters in “bronze plan” areas do want to pay the higher taxes of “gold plan” areas. Instead I have seen a lot of articles where local governments have pressured the police forces to focus on raising revenue through fines to cover budget problems without raising taxes.

        However, even assuming that during 1993-2019 “someone else” really volunteered to pay for the higher costs of “gold plan” policing in “bronze plan” areas, there is an important detail: starting in 2020 COVID-19 has significantly increased local and federal government costs, including the costs of policing (my random guesstimate is around 20%), yet no politician has dared to raise taxes. The federal government has instead borrowed fantastic amounts from the Fed, but local governments cannot, so I guess something had to give.

        1. While people of means are willing to pay a premium to not live around certain other people, to gate themselves, they are still being assessed taxes to pay for law enforcement they may not need. LAPD has enough money to put officers in the streets. Broken Windows is a policy choice which requires the application of will, something which has been badly undermined in the past two years. We don’t arrest, let alone incarcerate for non-weapons offenses. We also don’t levy fines anymore for quality of life infractions on the grounds the people most likely to incur them will not be able to pay, the fines will accrue and in some imagined day in the future when they turn their lives around there will be this onerous overhang of debt. These are arguable positions, but not cost-free.

          A good example of this is downtown. The old mercantile buildings are converting to urban playground spaces, with rooftops pools and gyms, while a state of nature lurks right outside the doors. You have both LAPD and Security Ambassadors hired by the BID always visible on the street, but neither are putting handcuffs on anyone. Or writing tickets.

          Would you be in favor of bringing back the pillory? It would offer deterrence while satisfying the present political requirement of no jail or fine. I made a joke of this once, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. It also might compel people to follow their arguments to a logical conclusion.

  4. «to stop caring about non-violent or non-sexual issues»

    There was a series of speeches by Newt Gingrich in the 1990s about environmental policy (the transcripts have since been disappeared from the http://WWW...) where he made a very good point about USA culture:

    If you have a society where almost every middle class person routinely fudges the law, that’s telling us something.
    We have laws that matter – murder, rape, and we have laws that don’t matter.
    The first thing that every good American says each morning is “What’s the angle?” “How can I get around it?” “What does my lawyer think?” “There must be a loophole!”

    In this discussion the “angle” being sought is some way for “economy class” taxpayers to get the same level of police service as “first class” taxpayers, without actually paying “first class” taxes or paying gated community fees. The benefits of a gated community, without the costs. Who would not want that?

    What is missing is figuring out who is the “someone else” willing to generously pay for “first class” police (or garbage collection, etc.) service for the benefit of “economy class” taxpayers.

  5. BTW in the “gold”, “silver”, “bronze” plan logic I have only passingly mentioned “gentrified” areas, but there is an important aspect to that term, as the plan structure works like this:

    * “Platinum plan” means private huge mansions with their own security troops. Most of their income and wealth is offshore in tax havens.

    * “Gold plan” areas are gated communities with their own police teams. Their residents already pay community fees, so their priority is to defund country-level services.

    * “Silver plan” areas are gentrified (upper-middle class) estates, with high property values, of relatively recent construction, not subject to Proposition 13, and thus able to fund their police forces fairly adequately without resorting to using fines as a major source of revenue.

    * “Bronze plan” areas are lower-middle class and lower class areas, often with a lot of pensioners, built decades ago, and usually subject to Proposition 13. In these areas LOWER TAXES are the absolute priority, and the police is often pressured to be a profit centre, focusing on collecting fines and politically sensitive violent crime and sexual issues, rather than property or quality of life issues.

    * “Plywood plan” areas are the underclass (usually colored) areas where the police forces, if they are other than vestigial, don’t bother even about most violent or sexual crimes, and focus on survival, avoiding the risk of getting maimed or killed in action.

    What I suspect has been happening in parts of Los Angeles and other cities is that those areas have been slowly de-gentrified, changing from “silver plan” areas to “bronze plan” ones, and long term residents of course remember the good old days when their neighborhood was richer.

    1. «What I suspect has been happening in parts of Los Angeles and other cities is that those areas have been slowly de-gentrified»

      There are entire books about this, as many USA cities or substantial parts of them have gone through cycles of gentrification and de-gentrification (most notably in recent decades: NYC).

      But there is another issue, sometimes but rarely debated, in the financial cycle of USA local government:

      * Local governments in areas where lots of new housing units are being built benefit from the up-front payment of urbanization fees by real estate developers, and sometimes from selling the land to the developers.

      * The fees that are charged are usually a lot lower than the long term cost of maintaining the urban infrastructure that the new housing units require, and often lower than the cost of building them, and the latter gap is often bridged with loans and bonds.

      * The too cheap urbanization fees however help attracting new residents as they result in both lower purchase prices as well as higher real estate developer profits (giving them an incentive to build more and more cheaply and to sell hard)..

      * The up-front payments of the urbanization fees and the borrowing to cover their real costs also help attract more residents, because they allow keeping property taxes unrealistically low for a decade or two or even three.

      * In successive waves of real estate development in the same area the urbanization fees of one project often fund part or all of the initial build and maintenance, for a while, of the infrastructure for the next project, and as long as this keeps happening, the Ponzi scheme keeps working.

      * Eventually the local government has to repay the loans or bonds, and to maintain or rebuild the aged urban infrastructure, leading to either sharp cuts in all local services (for example in Proposition 13 areas with many pensioners), including the police, or much higher local taxes; both possible outcomes result in the more affluent residents to move to newer developments, and general de-gentrification.

      That’s how a once-middle class neighborhood gets as residents those who “go into the house to drink beer with his sound system parked in the driveway, rattling windows to the end of the block”, and that is how the “The owner lives in the Hollywood Hills” rather than in the de-gentrifying neighborhood, and that owner absolutely does not want to pay a cent more in taxes to fund more police for that neighborhood in which they no longer live.

      Bad news for those who got sucked into such schemes and got stuck in them, but that’s how America works: only winners (real estate developers, the local government people they “sponsor”, those who understand the schemes and move to Hollywood Hills the right time, …) do win in the long term. “Buyers beware”.


      1. It might be a reach to say developer fees are intended to finance public works on an ongoing basis, or even used in that way at all. In California they are used as a very grey slush fund with little oversight. You charge whatever you can get away with up front, but there is no requirement for municipalities to invest or spend that money wisely or to put X amount aside for a rainy day fund.

        I pay all manner of assessments and user fees for public works, on top of my property and sales taxes, including…a brand new special parcel fee on my house to pay for the streetlights on my block installed last year. Money inflows are not a problem in California. Service delivery is.

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