Are There Too Many Chicago Police Officers?

I don’t usually butt my nose into other cities’ and states’ problems but I found this editorial from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette thought-provoking. It’s notionally a lament about the paucity of police officers in Pittsburg:

Last March, the Post-Gazette Editorial Board revealed that “the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police faces a staffing crisis unprecedented in its modern history.” Nearly a year later, that crisis has only deepened — at an even faster pace than predicted.

On the night of Monday, Feb. 26, the Editorial Board has learned, only 14 officers patrolled this city of 300,000 people.

How does that compare with other cities?

At 743 officers for about 302,000 people, there’s one cop for each 408 Pittsburghers. Compare that to benchmarks Baltimore (271 people per officer), Cleveland (308), St. Louis (322) or Cincinnati (344). The idea the Pittsburgh Police are overstaffed — peddled by last year’s controversial Matrix Consulting Group staffing study — is absurd.

Chicago has one police officer for every 227 Chicagoans. But that brings us to the actual subject of the editorial. It’s actually a complaint about the consultant’s report:

When the Matrix study was released, both Mr. Scirotto and Mr. Gainey praised the document while distancing themselves from its most eye-popping recommendation: taking one-third of patrol officers off the streets. But they’ve done just that, and more. In fact, many of the changes to the bureau announced last week come directly from the study.

The Post-Gazette Editorial Board reported exclusively that members of the Gainey administration had lied as part of securing a no-bid contract for Matrix. Further, the consultants only visited Pittsburgh once in compiling the study, whose recommendations are nearly identical to other studies completed by the firm. It’s a cookie-cutter, slapdash document.

But it’s quietly determining the future of policing in Pittsburgh, even though those in charge won’t admit it.

and the city officials embracing it.

I have no idea how many police officers Pittsburg should have. Or Chicago for that matter. I do know that at 11,900 police officers Chicago was unable to dispatch police officers to more than half of the 911 calls deemed to require police intervention. And that arrests were only made in a fraction of those.

Although I’m sure there is some number of police officers, population of the jurisdiction, and geographical size of the jurisdiction below which there is a direct relationship among number of police officers, crime, and civil order but I’m skeptical there is any general relationship. There is definitely no straight line relationship among those things.

At least in Chicago I don’t believe that compensation has much to do with staffing problems for the CPD. As I’ve said before I think that the cops on the beat, the CPD, City Hall, the Cook County District Attorney, and the members of the judiciary need to be aligned better in their commitment to law enforcement. What impedes hiring police officers is widespread discontent. When police officers aren’t respected by City Hall, the Cook County DA, or the judiciary and when arrests are made they rarely come to trial and even when they do come to trial they rarely result in convictions, what’s the use?


Why Are European Leaders Behaving the Way They Are?

After recounting what European leaders have been doing, Thomas Fazi gives his answer to the title’s question at UnHerd:

I see three options, all equally alarming.

The first is that European leaders have started to believe their own propaganda and are truly convinced Russia is bent on attacking Europe. If this is the case, it risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: Putin would view an increase in defence spending as a sign of a growing threat. The second explanation is that Europe’s leaders know that Russia is unlikely to invade, but are raising this phantom threat to justify the continuation of the proxy war in Ukraine, as part of a wider strategy aimed at containing the Russo-Chinese challenge to the US-centric system. The third possibility is that the continent’s leaders have simply gone bonkers and are deliberately trying to precipitate a war with Russia, for reasons unfathomable to sane-minded people.

I think it’s a combination of his first and second explanations but it’s the first that should concern us. I don’t believe that Russia is preparing to invade Poland but I do think it could be pushed to doing so. The typical “look what you made me do” explanation is disheartening.

I don’t believe that Russia has no agency but do believe that we have agency, too.

I think the sole moral reason to support Ukraine is for the Ukrainian people. Consistent with that I think that if the U. S. objective was to hurt Russia and the Russian economy, that was immoral because it was treating people (the Ukrainians) as means rather than as ends. Note also that objective has flopped. The other possible objective, to sunder the growing ties between Russia and Germany, has been a resounding success. Whether it will stick or not as the costs to Germans increase as they will I can’t tell you.


The Story of the Day

The story of the day, of course, is Mitch McConnell’s announcement that he’d be leaving his Republican leadership position including resigning as Senate Minority leader.

I try to avoid getting involved in party politics or partisan squabbles. I’m more interested in policy. McConnell has played a relatively weak hand pretty well in the Senate but I think his record on policy is mixed and that’s because the establishment Republican record on policy is mixed. As I’ve said before at this point the only thing I’m sure Republicans can agree on is that marginal tax rates should be cut. And that Democrats are bad, of course.


The “Strategic Moment”

George Friedman writes about “Europe’s strategic moment”. This is the passage that caught my eye:

The wars on Russia prosecuted by Napoleon and Hitler were foiled by the great distances the invaders had to travel to reach Moscow – and by no small amount of Russian blood. That distance exhausted the attackers, breaking them by the time they reached the Russian heartland. The events of 2022 to me were no different: The war was intended to put more miles between Moscow and the West, especially NATO. Russia’s suspicion owes to the Maidan uprising in Ukraine in 2014, which toppled a pro-Russian leader and installed a pro-Western government and for which Moscow believes Washington was responsible.

In my opinion, America’s intentions were not to launch an eventual invasion of Russia, though it did have a small interest in limiting Russian influence. Russian intelligence is competent, and it is unlikely that the Kremlin received reports of American invasion plans ahead of the war in Ukraine. But in statecraft, intention is simply the quacking of ducks. Intentions can change in minutes. What Russia paid more heed to was capabilities. Whatever their intentions, the U.S. and NATO were in no position to invade Russia. Yet Russia feared that their intentions could change, as could their capabilities. A war should begin when the enemy has no intention to fight and has limited capability.

This calculation led Russia to invade Ukraine and thus acquire a vast buffer against American incursion if the U.S. changed its stance.

I think that’s a mixture of the actual thinking and imagination or, more accurately, lack of imagination. I agree that Russia seeks a buffer between itself and its neighbors. That’s rooted in Russia’s historical experience going all the way back to the 13th century. Russia has few natural boundaries other than “great distances”. What I think is being neglected is the interests of Russia’s neighbors. All of Russia’s neighbors have border disputes with Russia. Poland’s pre-1772 borders have been a political issue for the Poles for 250 years, cf. the Polish-Soviet War. It might well be the case that the U. S. has no plans to invade Russia but our NATO allies would very much like to whittle away at Russia to reduce its power and influence. Could we be drawn into such a conflict? Note that I’m not justifying Russia’s attack on Ukraine. I’m just pointing out that it’s not entirely baseless.

I don’t think that any consideration of “Europe’s strategic moment” is complete without considering the recent statements by the presidents of France and Slovakia about the need for NATO troops to enter the war in Ukraine. Here are France’s military expenditures as a percentage of GDP since 1960:

Do you see a ramping up of France’s military spending in reaction to the war in Ukraine? If there is any it has been slight. That pushes me to the conclusion that France and Slovakia are playing a very dangerous game, namely “Let’s You and Him Fight”. Do they actually have any intention of sending their own troops to fight in Ukraine? What’s holding them back? Or do they want the United States to be an active belligerent in the war between Russia and Ukraine?


What Is the Complaint?

At The Nation via MSN there is a jeremiad by Jonathan Kozol about the schools in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Here’s a snippet:

There is an elementary school in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood that bears the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s an old and tired-looking structure, built in 1937 and originally named for a former school official. In 1965, Dr. King stood on the front steps of the building and spoke through a megaphone to a crowd of parents and religious figures who were leading the charge in the integration struggle. Three years later, after his assassination in April 1968, the school was renamed in his honor.

But ironies abound. In a building that held about 500 students, as the principal told me when I visited the school in 2019, “I think I may have 12 white children.” In academic terms, the school was rated in the bottom 10 percent among public elementary and secondary schools in Massachusetts.

The building had long been in a state of disrepair. There was an ugly water hole in the ceiling of the first of several classrooms that I visited and peeling paint in the gloomy metal stairways. I sat in on an eighth-grade science class (the school included seventh and eighth grades at the time), which took place in an ancient-looking lab that had no lab equipment on the tables. It was a long and narrow room in which the rows of science tables took up so much space that the students in a back row, beside whom I was sitting, could barely hear the teacher and couldn’t see what he was writing on the whiteboard. One of the students, a tall Black girl who was toying with her cell phone, turned to me with a friendly but sardonic smile. She shrugged her shoulders, with her hands spread out, as if to say, “This is what we’re used to.”

For the life of me I can’t quite tell what he’s complaining about. Is it racism? Is it the poor upkeep of Boston schools?

The author implies without actually stating it that the federal government should take action:

In a column for The Washington Post in 2018, the journalist Rachel Cohen noted that public schools in the United States were, on average, 45 years old—and in former industrial cities, usually much older. “The last time Congress debated school infrastructure spending was in 2009,” Cohen wrote, when school construction funds were initially included in President Obama’s “stimulus deal.” But the line item was subtracted from the deal when the president found himself unable to win even minimal Republican support. Over a decade later, the infrastructure bill passed by Congress in November 2021 still did not include funding for schools. And President Biden’s ill-fated Build Back Better bill, although it did originally include funding to build new schools and modernize old ones, was taken off the table when congressional conservatives rejected it. By the fall of 2022, the average age of a public school had risen to nearly 50 years.

The piece concludes with a plaint over shaming students for the condition of the schools:

Shaming or otherwise penalizing children for the damage we have done to them is, sad to say, not a new phenomenon. During the civil rights campaigns in Boston in the late 1960s, one of my mentors, the psychologist William Ryan, coined the term “blaming the victim” to describe the way that people of color were held to account for their social disadvantages and suffering. He later used the phrase as the title of the enduringly important book he published in 1971. Putting a child in a shaming zone in order to control the behavioral consequences of the toxic setting in which we’ve placed that child is a telling example of blaming the victim for the sins of our society.

When state and city leaders tell parents in poor neighborhoods that they empathize with their concerns about the presence of lead and other toxins as well as other dangers in their children’s schools, but say they cannot act on those concerns for now, they typically claim that their hands are tied because of fiscal shortages. And sometimes, this is obviously true. When the local economy goes into a sudden steep decline, cities are forced to put off renovations for a period of time and also cut back on routine funding for their schools. When the economy recovers, parents are told, the needed funds will be restored.

Here in Chicago lead paint and asbestos are issues that have been remedied for at least the last ten years. As new issues are discovered they are addressed quickly. The State of Illinois mandates it.

Mr. Kozol never quite makes an argument that the schools of Boston or Philadelphia are a federal responsibility. He seems to assume it. I would contend rather that the states of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have been remiss and should take action.

What appears to be the case is that the Democratic mayors of Boston (Democrats for the last century), Philadelphia (Democrats since 1952), and Washington, DC (Democrats since home rule began in 1975 have had priorities other than the schools which took precedence. My conclusion is that they need better Democrats.


Now You See It…

At SpyTalk Matt Brazil reports that the large dump of intelligence on the Chinese that had been post by who knows who on Github and I posted on last week has vanished:

That big data leak of 571 files of data posted on GitHub had researchers and journalists salivating for five days—but on the sixth day, GitHub’s Terms of Service were invoked. The biggest leak of data ever from any Chinese hacking organization was replaced overnight on 21-22 February with this notice:

“This repository has been disabled. Access to this repository has been disabled by GitHub Staff due to a violation of GitHub’s terms of service. If you are the owner of the repository, you may reach out to GitHub Support for more information.”

That is entirely unsurprising. Clearly, the data’s remaining on Github was not in Microsoft’s interest so into the memory hole with it! If it had not already been copied by one or more of our intelligence agencies we need new intelligence agencies. Further, if it was not copied by one ormore of our major media outlets, we need better journalists.

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Opinions on Ukraine

I have seen quite a few contrasting if not conflicting opinions on Ukraine today. It reminds me of the opening of A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Complaining about diffident Western support by Jamie Dettmer at Politico:

Western powers have failed Ukraine by dithering and delaying when it comes to supplying munitions and weapons systems, offering them on a just-in-time basis at best or way behind schedule at worst. And they’ve held back on state-of-the-art longer-range munitions and fighter jets that could have made a crucial difference to the counteroffensive.

Declaiming that we owe Ukraine nothing by Francis Sempa at RealClearDefense:

We can admire the courage of Ukrainians fighting for the independence of their country, but we owe them nothing.

or arguing that the most benign strategy for Ukraine is “Finlandization”, as I did twenty years ago, by Christopher Fettweis at Responsible Statecraft:

NATO expansion was a necessary condition for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It was not sufficient, since Putin has agency and made a catastrophically bad choice, but it was necessary. Those in the West who blame the United States for the war are as myopic as those who claim that Western policies had nothing to do with it. Putin remains a cold warrior at heart, and talked about NATO obsessively in the years leading up to the invasion.

Expanding NATO further would again provide the necessary conditions for tension and conflict. Russia will not stand by while Ukraine joins the enemy camp. A second invasion – perhaps before Ukraine formally joined the alliance, or perhaps afterwards – would be extremely likely. Those who suggest that deterrence would keep the Russians in check should listen to the rambling interview Putin just gave to Tucker Carlson. Ukraine simply matters more to the Russians than it does to us. Putin would calculate that no American president would be willing to sacrifice New York for Kyiv.

Another solution exists, one that might well assure Kyiv’s security without exacerbating Russian paranoia. Ukraine should be “Finlandized.”

During the Cold War, Finland was essentially a neutral country. It took no official positions on the pressing issues of the day, and was careful not to criticize the Soviet Union. Leaders in Helsinki made it clear to those in Moscow that they had no desire to join the West. They resisted pressure to join both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and discouraged their citizens from openly criticizing either side. Finland avoided the Soviet embrace by making it clear that it would avoid the West as well.

I am materially in agreement with the first two sentences of the quoted passage of Mr. Fettweis’s piece.

Complaining that we aren’t supplying the Ukrainians fast enough is facile. We aren’t able to supply the Ukrainians fast enough. We stopped being able to supply the Ukrainians fast enough when we started deindustrializing the United States which I would put more than 50 years ago. I’ll write a post on that subject at a later time.

Here’s my question. In 1942 would anyone have argued seriously that if we just supplied the Filipinos fast enough Philippines could prevail against the Japanese? That’s what we’re talking about in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Ukraine was not self-sufficient in 2014. Russia, very nearly an autarky, remains largely self-sufficient. That along with a couple of other factors are the reason that the sanctions we’ve imposed on Russia have failed.

We will not go to war directly with Russia over Ukraine. As long as that remains the case Ukraine cannot prevail. If we do go to war directly with Russia, the conflict is likely to go nuclear very quickly. How does that help Ukraine?


Missing the Point

I don’t think that Joel Kotkin actually comprehends the enormity of the problem we are facing in education today. In his piece at UnHerd, after listing some of the shortcomings in Illinois’s public school systems (Illinois is always a good example of a bad example) he remarks:

It is no surprise, then, that the education system fails to produce the workers needed by employers. The latter, in particular, note a lack of “soft skills” in young workers, such as the ability to think critically, as well their “unrealistic” expectations about work. Even as business schools, particularly elite ones, push such themes as critical race theory, roughly half of all major corporations are now eliminating college degrees as a perquisite for hiring.

“When you hear these things,” Arizona State professor Paul Carrese tells me, “you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.” Yet, despite all this, he also suggests that “we are at the end of a downward spiral”, where “loss of confidence in education has become a wake-up call”.

To name just a few things the Chicago Public Schools have clearly demonstrated do not improve outcomes:

Low student to teacher ratios

The present student to teacher ratio in the CPS is 14:1. That’s the lowest it has been for years. Lowering the ratio has not resulted in improved outcomes. Note that the student to teacher ratio does not include the substantial number of administrators employed by the district.

High per pupil spending

The spending per student in the CPS is roughly $17,000. That’s considerably higher than in any adjoining state, more than Los Angeles Unified and almost twice as much as in Texas.

A union-organized labor force

The Chicago Teachers Union is basically running the City of Chicago at this point. It has been on strike twice in the last five years.

A large district

The CPS is the third-largest school district in the United States. Whatever economies there are to scale in K-12 education they are not reflected in outcomes.

You can’t even urge a “back to basics” approach to education because there is no consensus on what the basics are anymore. When John Dewey laid the foundation for today’s public schools more than a century ago he had a very clear objective for the public schools: acculturation. Detach the students from the cultures of their parents’ countries of origin and inculcate in them the ideas and values of the United States. Such a strategy would be castigated as racist, genderist, and ableist today.

At this point about 25% of students in K-12 public schools do not speak English at home. I don’t have good statistics on this but many of their parents are functionally illiterate in English and, probably, in their native languages. That itself is an impediment to learning.

Finally, as I have been pointing out for some time, in our post-literate society the “soft skills” to which Mr. Kotkin refers are practically impossible to teach. They are the products of a literate society not a visual one our present society.

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It’s the Scale

I found this interesting. At the Washington Post Christian Shepherd, Cate Cadell, Ellen Nakashima, Joseph Menn and Aaron Schaffer report on the release of a sizeable cache of emails, chat logs, images, etc. documenting the Chinese government’s massive cyber-spying program against foreign governments, companies, etc.:

A trove of leaked documents from a Chinese state-linked hacking group shows that Beijing’s intelligence and military groups are attempting large-scale, systematic cyber intrusions against foreign governments, companies and infrastructure — with hackers of one company claiming to be able to target users of Microsoft, Apple and Google.

The cache — containing more than 570 files, images and chat logs — offers an unprecedented look inside the operations of one of the firms that Chinese government agencies hire for on-demand, mass data-collecting operations.

The files — posted to GitHub last week and deemed credible by cybersecurity experts, although the source remains unknown — detail contracts to extract foreign data over eight years and describe targets within at least 20 foreign governments and territories, including India, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Malaysia. Indian publication BNN earlier reported on the documents.

“We rarely get such unfettered access to the inner workings of any intelligence operation,” said John Hultquist, chief analyst of Mandiant Intelligence, a cybersecurity firm owned by Google Cloud. “We have every reason to believe this is the authentic data of a contractor supporting global and domestic cyberespionage operations out of China,” he said.

In one sense none of this is surprising at all. It has been widely believed that the Chinese government has been engaging in cyberattacks against foreign governments, companies, and individuals for years. In my own case I eliminated almost all of my unwanted traffic and intrusions into this blog by the simple expedient of blocking China-based IP addresses.

I’ll make a very clumsy analogy. The shocking part of Germany’s official murders of certain segments of its population in the 1930s and 1940s—Jews, homosexuals, communists, etc.—was not the fact of it. There had been massacres and pogroms for millennia. It was the sheer industrial scale of it and systematic approach to it.

Similarly with Chinese hacking. Countries have spied on each other for as long as there have been countries. We do it. The Brits do it. The Canadians probably do it for goodness sake. The scale and scope of Chinese cyberattacks is something else again. I see no way of having an even semi-secure Internet as long as that’s the case. I only see two alternatives. One of them is to prohibit by law access to the public Internet by any organization you want to avoid being hacked. That includes government offices, utilities, hospitals (as we in Chicago have learned lately) and many others. The other is to block Chinese access to the Internet.

Since both of those are deeply unpalatable, I suspect we’ll just accept an insecure Internet with periodic attacks and takedowns of government offices, utilities, hospitals, etc.


Two Years After

Russia’s war with Ukraine began in earnest two years ago. Arguably, it began almost ten years ago but technically it began two years ago when Russian regulars invaded Ukraine. Since then the media coverage, much of it of dubious credibility, has driven us from outrage to exaltation to determination to despair and back again. At RealClearDefense retired colonel Joe Buccino characterizes the first two years of the war like this:

In the first year after the full-scale Russian invasion – February 2022 to February 2023 – Ukrainian troops overcame massive disadvantages in technology and mass. They did so mainly with American Javelins, Stingers, and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. During that period, Ukraine had largely bipartisan support in D.C. Throughout the following year – February 2023 to today – American aid – including dozens of tanks, more than a hundred Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and more than a hundred Strykers – kept Ukraine in the fight. During this period, support among Republicans in Congress began to wane. Even if the House approves the current proposed aid package, the flow of weapons is coming to a close. Without a continuing stream of those weapons, Ukraine will ultimately fall. Even the F-16 fighter jets the U.S. will ship to Ukraine in the coming months will not turn the tide. F-16s require long, smooth runways; the fighter aircraft will struggle to land and take off on Ukraine’s bombed-out runway.

Arriving at this conclusion:

The reality two years in is that there is no path to victory for Ukraine – not in the sense of pushing Russian troops back to the pre-February 2022 lines of control. After the Ukrainian troops abandoned Avdiivka – the most significant loss or gain by either side in nine months – following some of the war’s heaviest fighting, almost all advantages accrue to Russia. The seizure of Avdiivka does not materially change the war, but it does change the momentum. Moscow can throw mass in terms of bodies, tanks, artillery, and drones at the exhausted Ukrainian forces until they crack. Ukraine is exhausted and outnumbered and struggling to recruit new troops. The best Ukraine can do now is fight Russia to a negotiated settlement that allows sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security from another Russian invasion. Even these provisions now seem unrealistic.

After initial setbacks at the onset of the invasion, the Russian military now displays the resolute determination initially witnessed by the other side. Russian generals have adapted to Ukraine’s offenses after initial setbacks. Russian commanders are now building the kinds of defenses in depth that Ukrainian forces struggle to fight through. Russian ground forces now routinely defeat Ukraine’s drones. Russia’s formidable arsenals of attack helicopters, drones, and mines pound Ukraine while the Ukrainian troops resort to rationing artillery shells and long-range rockets.

Castigating that as Putin apologism or pro-Russian is fatuous. It is realistic, merciful even.

The only thing I would change from Col. Buccino’s post is that I do not believe that victory has ever been been possible for the Ukrainians as they are defining victory. Nonetheless I continue to believe we must support the Ukrainians’ war effort. However, its objective must change to gaining the best achievable terms for the Ukrainians for the conclusion of an armistice.