Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
“Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book” (salon.com)
1310 points by gabemart 1536 days ago | hide | past | web | 408 comments | favorite

I knew Sal Culosi.

He was a nice enough guy that used to hang out at Fast Eddies Sports Bar in Fairfax, VA. I saw him there often just tending a beer and minding his own business.

If you can believe it, he was an optometrist at a Wal-Mart that just measured eyeballs and wrote prescriptions. If he was a bookie (as alleged) then I never saw anything that gave him away.

I followed his story in the paper and was surprised to hear that a 17-year veteran of the Fairfax County Police was the one that shot him. Apparently, he said he was bumped and accidentally discharged his gun DIRECTLY INTO SAL'S CHEST.

The police department eventually settled with the family for negligent homicide. That was only after they fought tooth and nail to protect a cop that didn't know how to control a deadly weapon.

In the end, I think the cop got a 3 week suspension. AFAIK, he's still on the FCPD.

It's shit like this that flies in the face of all those "but most cops are not bad guys" arguments.

If an organization fights to protect bad guys, I don't care how much good they do: they are complicit in furthering criminal behavior. And they're in a position of trust, at that!

It's an open secret that cops lie to protect other cops.

Why do we allow this? Any other person in a special position of trust and responsibility that contravenes their duty gets _extra_ punishment.

Lon Horiuchi was an FBI sniper that shot Vicki Weaver in the back while holding her infant daughter in her arms: case dismissed. That cop that pepper sprayed those protesting kids at UC Davis, John Pike, was never even charged for "lack of evidence" (nevermind that video of him doing so was on every news show in the country that week). The FBI and BATFE set the Branch Davidians' home on fire, burning up the children inside.

Instead of meaningful outrage, we simply let cops get away with murder, literally.

Fuck the police.

So-called professional courtesy is the canary in the coal mine. If there's a jurisdiction where police officers can speed with utter impunity, it's a good bet that a lot worse is going on.

In my own city, I was appalled by the spectacle of hundreds of police officers protesting in and around a courthouse where officers and union officials involved in a ticket fixing ring were being arraigned.

Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/nyregion/officers-unleash-...

>Any other person in a special position of trust and responsibility that contravenes their duty gets _extra_punishment.

I completely agree, whenever politicians, CEOs of megacorporations, field-grade military officers and senior noncommissioned officers, local government officials, district attorneys, and intelligence agents break the law, the punishment is ALWAYS extremely severe isn't it? I mean, it must really suck to have to retire and collect a gigantic paycheck every month or a multimillion dollar severance package. And then have everyone forget about it a few weeks later so you can make a comeback in the political arena.

Eliot Spizter is a grand example of this. Prosecuted mercilessly the very type of crime that brought him down, of which he escaped essentially unpunished for because he had the means to evade it.

Your average cop and his buddies are of course going to look out for each other, they are usually the ones under the bus when the higher ups go on a witch hunt

don't forget bankers, whose punishment is a multi-Billion dollar gift from the treasury

Cops have no legal obligation to protect you.


You make it sound much worse than it actually is. The court ruled "a government and its agencies are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen." If the opposite were held true any person who was ever the victim of a crime could sue the government agency with jurisdiction for damages. Warren does not hold that the police have no duty to protect you if they are witnessing a crime being perpetrated upon you.

I disagree.

This ruling, and others like it hint at a fundamental flaw in constitutional law and how most people perceive their relationship with the state, particularly in regard to social contract theory. These rulings call into question the very legitimacy of state authority.

Let's assume for a moment there is a social contract with the state. Then, as in all contracts, there is a reciprocal obligation. Specifically, as a citizen, I have a duty of allegiance (obey state laws, pay taxes, etc.) in return for the duty of protection, from my government. Since the state itself has ruled it has no constitutional duty to protect, then the contract is inviolate, and long since void. In other words, there is no duty of allegiance to the state per the rulings of the courts if one takes social contract theory to be valid.

In my opinion, police corruption is one example of a foundational flaw in our current institution of governance: rule by means of coercion.

I disagree.

I think you are assuming Warren has a broader impact than it does. The state does have an obligation to protect the public at large, and to do so uniformly (unless a special relationship is created). The state has not ruled it has no constitutional duty to protect you, it has ruled it has no constitutional duty to prevent every crime that occurs. Again, if the opposite were held true the state could be sued out of existence in its own court. There was no other way for this case to be decided.

Essentially the state has ruled it cannot be perfect in terms of crime prevention, and considering the backlash against the NSA wiretapping that much of HN has been extremely concerned about, it seems that the state is not frequently rewarded for attempts to get closer to proactively preventing crime. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

I don't disagree with you about police corruption, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Warren.

Actually, our cake was taken away, and we can't eat it, or whatever.

The public is caught in a catch-22: it is illegal to defend ourselves physically against attackers (we can be held liable for harming an attacker, and often for posessing a self-defense weapon, and so criminals are emboldened, knowing we are defenseless), and yet the police provide no guarantee of protection against crime, and in fact are frequent perpetrators of violent accidents against civilians.

Like sheep to slaughter we go.

<quote>This ruling, and others like it hint at a fundamental flaw in constitutional law and how most people perceive their relationship with the state, particularly in regard to social contract theory. These rulings call into question the very legitimacy of state authority.</quote>

State protect property. There's nothing ambiguous about that.

Only problem with society is that you watch much super man cartoons and thing the state is there to protect the oppressed.

You mean say a cop is hiding behind a steel door while you go toe to toe with a knife wielding crazy?


Nah, never happens.

My point is that Warren does not address that situation, you'd need other case law to discuss it.

So your point is not that police actually do have a duty to protect you, but the legal precedent cited to show this did not do so? I have to wonder why even bother to argue that point? It strikes me as debating whether the link currently hitting you with a 10gbps DDOS uses optic or electric signal transfer, it doesn't change the facts of the issue at all.

Politics and law are sideshows to the material facts of physical reality, watching people constantly debate the edicts of hopelessly out of touch political figureheads and their bureaucratic lackeys as if it had an effect on fixing the problems they cause constantly mystifies me.

I think you need to read about the case a little more before you start arguing. Warren, and many cases before it, have held that the police have a responsibility to protect the public at large, and to do so uniformly.

The police do not have a duty to protect you specifically unless they have told you they are going to protect you. This means they are not liable for preventing a crime from happening to you. That's all it means. It does not touch on the issue of whether or not an officer who witnesses a crime being perpetrated upon you is responsible for intervening, which is what the case you linked to is about. I don't know much about that, and from what I understand that particular case has not been decided yet.

>Politics and law are sideshows to the material facts of physical reality, watching people constantly debate the edicts of hopelessly out of touch political figureheads and their bureaucratic lackeys as if it had an effect on fixing the problems they cause constantly mystifies me.

I agree with you that it is a frustrating situation. I would ask you, as an engineer, to consider the enormous complexity of a system required to provide social structure for 300 million people, and that doing so may require some very specific decisions to be made, that while seemingly small have a massive impact.

I'm with ethereal, that's arguing a point without a distinction

No, but they do have a legal obligation to not shoot me for no reason, or to not lie on the stand under oath, et c.

When not enforced, such obligations are meaningless.

So does everyone.

But guess what cops are human too ergo they will on occasion make mistakes, lie, steal, cheat etc.

And when they lie, steal, and cheat, they should be punished. In fact, they should be punished much more harshly than the general public, because it is their duty to prevent lying, stealing, and cheating. They should be held to a higher standard.

This cannot be stressed enough. Anyone who enforces a rule through violence but is not subject to that rule is nothing more than a thug.

This made me laugh. Applying this rule to the US is hilarious. The collection of Gitmo detainees, drone victims, the tortured, the extraordinary rendered, bombed, shot and otherwise victimised non-US citizens that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when Uncle Sam came knocking over their countries probably aren't smiling with me.

You're really surprised that citizens of a country expect to be treated better by their own government (which, in essence, is the expression of their own will) than non-citizens are? For examples of this, see literally every society that's ever existed in the history of mankind.

That's not to say that any of the things you mentioned are ethical or that I agree with them at all, but it's not too difficult to see the difference between being victimized by an external force (which is essentially just garden-variety "humans are shitty"-ness) and being victimized by an entity that is supposed to represent you.

The main difference with the US is that the public image and repeated, vehement rhetoric is freedom and peace and equality for all humankind. Yet dig a little deeper and the double standard about citizens and non citizens and how they are treated becomes very apparent, far more so than in (say) some of the european countries.

Having no obligation to protect is quite different to having the right to shoot and kill.

I just read this article and it blew my mind. What type of "special relationship" are they referring to in the decision?

Well that's the joke.

They can construe, manipulate and torque that to mean whatever they want or rather the lack of whatever they want.

No they can't. It's pretty defined actually. A really simplified way to understand it is: the police have specifically said "we will protect $PERSON from $THREAT." Take for instance a hypothetical domestic violence case. Say the victim reports an incident, and then is later murdered. Because the victim reported the first incident does not imply a special relationship under the law. But, if the police told the victim specifically that they would protect him/her from the alleged perpetrator of the crime and then another crime occurs they would be liable. This is why you very rarely would find an officer promising protection: it creates that special relationship. For more info check out this source: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseac...

> This is why you very rarely would find an officer promising protection:

Then we must update the motto: <strike>protect and</strike> serve.

What is a "special relationship" in this context?

Hear hear. If you are a good cop in a precinct and you do not arrest the bad cops in that precinct, your precinct contains no good cops.

These things are still pretty rare. Unfortunately, once you start raiding barber shops and pool halls with so much heat something like this is bound to happen. I still find it to be an honorable job with honest guys that put their lives on the line; however, statistically there's always going to be some hot-headed trigger-happy guy involved. Plus even if they're not on the force they're in some neighborhood as the unofficial neighborhood watch.

Give someone assault weapons, train them to believe that they are fighting for good, and remove all legal and moral contraints and watch how quick they turn into a "bad apple". It's not a personnel problem, it's a structural problem. See Stanford Prison Experiment, etc.

Put a bad apple in a barrel, leave it there for a short period of time, and observe that all the apples are now bad. Rotting apples release ethylene gas which is a ripening agent. Through the release of this gas, bad apples will "spoil the barrel" if they are not diligently weeded out and disposed of. Bad cops don't release ethylene gas. The mechanism that rot uses to spread through a police organization is called "The Blue Wall of Silence".

I love the "bad apple" metaphor because when you remember to say the whole thing it becomes clear that it is actually an argument against ignoring issues in an organization because only a few people are the "cause". If a police department "only has a few bad apples" then (according to the metaphor) those bad apples must be removed swiftly and decisively or the integrity of the entire department will be compromised.

Exactly my point above; I'm glad it came through.

I love this "bad apple" tidbit, it's going in the top drawer of the toolbox. :D

> Stanford Prison Experiment

Relevant SMBC http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=3025#comic

People would be more forgiving to individual departments and officers if ever there was fair punishment and contrition for crimes committed by law enforcement. There is always an excuse or a legal loophole, with no admittance of guilt or evidence of self-reflection.

Also, if there were even a chance of fair punishment, police would change their tactics to favor low-risk encounters rather than the Wild West raids they favor now.

> These things are still pretty rare.

Prove that. You can't, cause it's a negative. It seems much, much more likely that "The times these things are uncovered and get national press attention is rare." For the few times that are, how many are not, 10x? 100x? I can't know, but I 100% doubt we catch 100% of these things.

If you participate in a SWAT raid on a barber shop on any level, you are not an honorable or good person.

I agree with you except about UC Davis. I'm on a locked-down computer right now so I can't promise this is the correct vid, but if you see the unedited thing, those kids were 100% in the wrong:


I am astonished you think spraying people with pepper spray is the correct solution in that situation. Inconvenience is not a justification for violence. And that's what the protesters were doing. Causing inconvenience. If you can't cause inconvenience, civil disobedience isn't all that effective. Civil rights protesters were urinated on!! and had bleach poured on their faces !! by shop owners in the south. This is more of the same. That sort of violence against protesters was widely condemned then, why not now?

It's rhetoric like this that makes cops feel obligated to protect each other from other citizens. If you're accused of a crime, you deserve maximum legal effort applied for your defense.

> It's rhetoric like this that makes cops feel obligated to protect each other from other citizens.

Heh. First off, it's cops killing people, and then being squeamish about it (very contrary to how they'd deal with a civilian guilty of the same thing) that make people use these words.

Secondly, there are of course many factors that go into stuff like this; many benign like simple solidarity, some potentially sinister, like being involved in things you'd be shunned for by most of society - such as killing unarmed people and then lying about it - which is an incredibly powerful bonding agent.

> maximum legal effort

But here too, this means very different things on both sides of the "blue line", doesn't it.

Don't try and blame police corruption on people complaining about police corruption and hating corrupt police, its obviously neither the cause nor a contributing factor. Just deflecting blame to the victims.

No? Think about that every time you see "hackers" on the news.

When are police accounts ever questioned "on the news"? If anything, comparing the different media treatments of the two groups emphasizes the lack of accountability for police.

> It's rhetoric like this that makes cops feel obligated to protect each other from other citizens.

Wait, what? If citizen's lied for each other in investigations, they'd be prosecuted.

> Wait, what? If citizen's lied for each other in investigations, they'd be prosecuted.

What, the Internal Affairs division just doesn't exist? Does it not have enough power? Is that what's really being argued here?

Or is this just feel-good we're-the-good-guys they're-the-bad-guys rhetoric intended to undermine what capabilities they have, cause them to feel threatened and insecure in the midst of the citizenry they're supposed to be protecting, and motivating them to develop a similar and responsive antagonistic attitude that is precisely the seed of a police state?

Is the argument "they started it"? Is that the level of discourse that a mature, educated citizenry ought to engage in?

Fuck people like sneak. All they're good for is exacerbating problems that exist, making it that much harder to fix, fulfilling their own prophecies of doom and gloom, to no useful end other than making themselves feel self-important. It's like discovering database corruption and going, "Hell, let's run DELETE in with random WHERE clauses and see what happens. Because my job title says VP of Marketing."

> What, the Internal Affairs division just doesn't exist?

In fact yes. Many police departments do not have "Internal Affairs". Where they nominally exist, they are rarely staffed by a separate group of people, rather "internal affairs" work is handled by the same people as everything else. The same people behind the same silent blue wall...

Hollywood depictions of "Internal Affairs" are largely a "Hollywood thing".

I can support a campaign to increase staffing for more of such divisions so that they're independent and capable of successfully prosecuting cops who lie to protect cops.

One does not simply throw money at corruption.

Even if you could, that would be a hell of a lot of money. In many cases you would be damn near doubling the size of police departments.

Maybe you should avoid letting your temper get the best of you with such emotional outbursts as: "fuck people like sneak," on Hacker News.

If you can't control your temper, why are you even participating in the discussion here?

Personal attacks like that aren't acceptable here, and I'd think you would know that by now after three plus years. It's disgusting to see that level of discourse here.

"Fuck sneak" has been a common refrain on the internet for well over a dozen years. :D

Don't sweat it. I don't.

Using a personal attack to rebuke an alleged personal attack is not what I'd call a convincing argument.

> If you can't control your temper, why are you even participating in the discussion here?

Because http://xkcd.com/386/ Stop being wrong and I'll go away.

Seriously, if you want to whine about the level of discourse, then you're welcome to start with the person I originally responded to. But you won't, will you? Because you agree with him, so his emotional outburst is okay.

"Fuck the police", in addition to being a famous quote[1], is a well-reasoned and long considered personal policy.

It's about as far from an emotional outburst as one can get.

[1] http://youtu.be/1M8vei3L0L8

> cause them to feel threatened and insecure in the midst of the citizenry they're supposed to be protecting, and motivating them to develop a similar and responsive antagonistic attitude

Are we still railing against rhetoric? The argument isn't they started it, it's "they have been granted tremendous power, so they need to accept accountability."

> The argument isn't they started it, it's "they have been granted tremendous power, so they need to accept accountability."

Yes. "Fuck the police" really captures that argument well.

Argument that was actually made: "It's shit like this that flies in the face of all those "but most cops are not bad guys" arguments.

If an organization fights to protect bad guys, I don't care how much good they do: they are complicit in furthering criminal behavior. And they're in a position of trust, at that!

It's an open secret that cops lie to protect other cops.

Why do we allow this? Any other person in a special position of trust and responsibility that contravenes their duty gets _extra_ punishment.

Lon Horiuchi was an FBI sniper that shot Vicki Weaver in the back while holding her infant daughter in her arms: case dismissed. That cop that pepper sprayed those protesting kids at UC Davis, John Pike, was never even charged for "lack of evidence" (nevermind that video of him doing so was on every news show in the country that week). The FBI and BATFE set the Branch Davidians' home on fire, burning up the children inside.

Instead of meaningful outrage, we simply let cops get away with murder, literally.

Fuck the police."

What you read: "Fuck the police."

Is it really any wonder that you are having problems with this conversation? There is a lot of content in that comment; you appear to have ingested none of it.

::sniff sniff::

I smell bacon!

I was trying to find out more about this case and was surprised not to find any direct Wikipedia mention for it, after digging a little bit, I found out that this case was removed from Wikipedia entry 'List of cases of police brutality' about 3 weeks ago, under the comment "no evidence that this belongs as a brutality case"


Although I don't know anything about the facts, and it might have been technically correct by that Wikipedia editor, this just feels as the opposite of justice.

If there is a list of cases of police shootings, add it to that!

http://copsshootingpeople.wordpress.com/ was going for a while, seems dormant.

> In the end, I think the cop got a 3 week suspension. AFAIK, he's still on the FCPD.

And this is why I don't trust cops at all.

Is this really the America that America wants?

The article mentions one case where a judge refused to issue a search warrant for a narcotics investigation and instead the police brought representatives from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and raided the place with a swat team to conduct an alcohol inspection. What did they find?

Two sample bottles of beer that weren't labeled as samples and a bottle of vodka in the office. The fourth circuit court of appeals upheld the search. According to the article: So for now, in the Fourth Circuit, sending a SWAT team to make sure a bar’s beer is labeled correctly is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Sadly, yes, it is the America that America wants, as far as I can tell.

I think this is where efforts to fight these problems fall down. They're almost all based on the assumption that the populace doesn't want this stuff to happen, but that the government pushes it through by abusing power, subverting democracy, etc.

But from what I see, this is not the case. Most Americans want this. Whether it's gun-wielding maniacs, drug dealers, or international terrorist masterminds, they feel unsafe, and want the government to help. They like heavily-armed SWAT teams available at a moment's notice. They like the government spying on every communication they can get their hands on. They like x-ray machines and body scanners in airports.

There is a sizable minority where sanity remains, but it is a minority. I think that efforts to fight these problems need to recognize this, and realize that you have to convince the people as your primary action. Fighting the government won't help, because the people will insist that these things be done, as long as the majority feels this way.

No, I don't know how....

They do not "like" it. It's just that, to be very blunt, most people are basically peasants at heart. They're going to go along with whatever the king says. Twenty years ago, on that side of the line on a map, the people believed in capitalism, while on the other side the people believed in communism. On this side of the line people believed in this god, on that side, they believe in that god.

It has nothing to do with some kind economists' "rational utilization maximization" function and everything to do with basically a "k-nearest neighbours" algorithm on their social graph for assigning beliefs.

And that is precisely why control of the media is so important.

Well, "like" is a subjective term but for the most part people support it.

I hear all the time..."It's for the better. It allows the government to keep track of the bad guys and if I have to be inconvenienced a few times out of the year that I travel than so be it."

Or..."All I use email for is work and talking with family. If they want to read that stuff they can, I have nothing to hide. If it helps keep me safe then I'm comfortable."

And the there's..."God forbid we have another 9/11 because too many people are worried about what the government does. There are somethings the government has to do in secrete, there are things they have to lie to us about in order to keep us safe."

I'm 23 years old and I can't tell you where this mentality came from. I know when I was growing up my father showed me how to grow my own food, hunt, use a gun in a respectful mannor and always doubt the government. He told me that violence never solved any of his problems and it's doubtful it'd solve any of mine. He said in order for anyone to be safe they must have their freedom. The freedom to do whatever it is they seek to do. The government is only there to remove that freedom. They want to stifle your ambitions and control how you live.

I know I'm not alone but I'm afraid we are outnumbered.

I think it's sad how a default distrust of the government gets one painted as a crazy gun-toting militiaman, or a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist. These are after all, the people who founded America, not out of paranoia, but from deep reflection on the nature and history of government.

Default distrust everyone is one thing. But when you single out government (as if the "government" where a thing and not just comprised of people) and not recognizing government is a symptom of more fundamental causes that I'm gonna "default distrust you as a crazy at best, or ignorant at worst".

What a ridiculous straw man you've thrown up here. Government isn't singled out because it is somehow distinct from the people. It's singled out because it has defacto power over my person in a way no individual does. Furthermore, that power is recursive, which is why you see so few whistleblowers actually speaking about unconstitutional and illegal action behind closed doors. We can argue about the causes all day, but the dangers of government overreach are far more sinister than anything an individual actor can do.

I think you are oversimplifying things.

People comprising the government are not "just" people.

They may have personality traits that compel them to seek out high-power positions.

They may suppress their natural good intentions because where they work, "things are done that way and everybody does that". After several years of such cognitive dissonance, they may just completely change personality-wise.

&c., &c.

This is a somewhat ugly and self-aggrandizing view. It's easy to let people you don't know and will never meet become sub-human, but it's dangerous and harmful. The relevant xkcd is of course, http://xkcd.com/610/.

I don't presume to know why most people are not particularly vocal on these matters, but it's certainly not because they lack critical thought.

It's not wrong though. Most people don't care about politics. They don't research economics or anything like that, at best they hear the news sometimes and discuss stuff with their friends.

That doesn't make them sub-human. There is no real incentive to care a lot about politics or do all the research and thinking necessary to come to correct conclusions. It's not like your vote is going to change the outcome of the election.

But no it's not terribly self-aggrandizing to assume that most people don't have a lot of interest or education in politics. It's true.

This is precisely it: its not economically beneficial to be involved in politics, unless you basically make it your absolute sole concern. That is to say, there are clear benefits to becoming a politician, or a lobbyist, or interest group. However, just becoming "informed" generally has a lot of negatives (depression), with no real positives (as you said, its not like you can do much about it other than complain). So unless your goal is to make a living in politics in one way or another, it is completely rational to be apathetic towards politics and put your focus somewhere else.

>This is precisely it: its not economically beneficial to be involved in politics

That was the case at other times and places too. And their solution to that, was to shame citizens that only cared for what's economically beneficial.

The solution is to make active participation in politics (= active citizenship) a virtue that people want to be identified with in the same way being "in fashion", "in shape" or "rich" is one.

Of course we have the contrary. Active participation is actually discouraged -- except if you are a career politician.

A huge, enormous part of this is having a vigilant press. It's impossible for everyone to individually do investigative reporting on every relevant issue. You may be able to shame people into reading good investigative reporting but first somebody has to write it. That is really where we've failed today: People get their news from outlets that run stories about Obama's birth certificate and what color Phil Zimmerman's lawyer's tie is and what a shame it is that the cops have dirty shotguns (never mind that the dirt is the blood of innocent civilians' innocent puppies) so now we had better give them a trillion more dollars for additional military surplus equipment or the terrorists will win.

Job One should really be to solve the problem that the most popular news network is also the most factually inaccurate.

>Phil Zimmerman

Did you maybe mean George Zimmerman? That would be a more topical example of media stupidity.

Here in Brazil not only people are usually like that (the "shocking" protests here, were still a minority... 1 million people in total, spread over the entire country, when the country has 200 million people... Compare that with european countries with a history of population fueled government changes, that regularly do protests with more than 1 million people and have less population), but people in Brazil are PROUD of it.

Here when you attempt to talk about politics, a common reply is: "Dude, I don't care, and I like it that way, don't come with that politics bullshit toward me."

This applies even during the elections...

In fact, here vote is mandatory, because when it wasn't, less than 5% voted at all, but making vote mandatory only made the thing poisonous, people vote because they must, usually on whoever they see most on TV, or some random candidate or another, if you ask a random brazillian who he voted for as representative, most of them don't remember at all, not even the party they voted for.

Also we have plenty of proof, that all elections since electronics ballot were introduced here, were cheated, and people DON'T CARE. I show videos of people hacking our machines and showing how they can steer election to whatever way they want, and most people react with complete apathy, they feel that politics is irrelevant, that all politicians are the same, thus it does not matter if whoever wins won cheating or not, because the result is not important to them.

Obligatory Douglas Adams quote, from Thanks For All The Fish:

"It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"


"I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"

"I'll look. Tell me about the lizards."

Ford shrugged again.

"Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."

>In fact, here vote is mandatory, because when it wasn't, less than 5% voted at all

But voting being mandatory, is a very alarming thing. Does not sound like democracy at all. What happens, when one does not vote?

When you are a non-voter you can fix your situation by paying a fine.

If you stay non-voter, you cannot get hired by government, cannot ask loans from government owned banks (or from the government itself), cannot get issued a new passport, cannot get issued a new id, cannot vote, cannot study in government schools and universities, your companies cannot provide services to the government, and you are considered a draft dodger (ie: for example if you want to join a private school that requires you to have completed military service, the school would be breaking its own rules if it allow you to study there)

If you do that in three elections in a row (here we have elections every two years, thus this is 6 years) your document related to voting is revoked. (meaning that you become de facto stateless, although de jure you are still brazillian).

"government" here apply to all levels (example: the part where you cannot join government schools, apply to federal, state and city schools)

Also this applies to overseas citizens (you must to the embassy and vote there).

You can "justify" your vote, this is showing up into any random voting zone (not necessarily the one where you are registered) and explaining why you won't vote, but usually the only explanation accepted is that you are away from your zone (ie: if you are into a city where you are not registered as resident).

Mandatory voting is essential for a healthy democracy.

It's scary, because what do you do when 58% of the total electorate tick the "None of the above" option?

2001, 2005, and 2010 UK elections had less than 70% turn out. That's a scary 30% to 35% of people forced to tick a box.

I'm not sure having that many people randomly ticking a box is good for democracy, especially because it's probably not a random choice but determined things like position on the ballot paper.

Do you have an explanation for why OP is wrong beyond that you find his claim aesthetically displeasing?

If someone says "most people are peasants", why would that be a statement about their personality, rather than their situation? To me that's still an objection to something read into it.

Describing them as sheep seems a lot less dehumanizing than depicting them as out of their minds with fear.

In a strange twist, I think one of the problems is that the more we celebrate the American ideal and elevate it above other nations, etc., the more difficult it becomes for people to mobilize for change, or even believe that change is necessary.

It's a strange groupthink that makes anything our government does the de facto morally superior action. It's an inherent trust by the masses that turn questioners into conspiracy theorists. The irony, of course, is that mentaility among the populace is perhaps the single most destructive threat to a true democracy, which demands vigilance.

And all of this is propped up by a corporate-political state that controls a media, which works tirelessly to maintain the image while also distracting us to no end with trivialities.

They do not "like" it. It's just that, to be very blunt, most people are basically peasants at heart.

I don't see any reason to believe this is true. The problem is most people don't have any contact with the police, and they're using a mental model that's about fifteen years out of date. They don't know what's happening out there. It's hard to imagine, but most normal people still get their news from television.

Blame our compulsory state education? http://school.neocities.org/

You think trained submission to authority is scary? How about being trained for constantly being monitored and brain washed?

[…] as much as the program offers freedom and continuity, it also comes with a substantial monitoring component. The iPad keeps teachers and parents constantly informed about what children are doing, what they have learned and how they are progressing.

Better technology in education is clearly the future and, in many ways, the way to go. The mind boggles with possibilities. But, but… we need to put much more thought into it than just the implementation of another nifty feature. We also need better laws and regulations that constrain the authority of the, uhm, authorities. And a government we can trust would be nice too.

The way things stand today, this article just scared the bejesus out of me.


[1] M. Evers. Radical reform: Dutch iPad schools seek to transform education. Der Spiegel, Jun 28 2013. (http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/new-ipad-schools-...)

Fascinating - I've honestly never actually considered that.

How do you believe that social media and the like are playing into this long standing control of the media? What are the implications for the future (of both society and social media)?

> Sadly, yes, it is the America that America wants, as far as I can tell.

Many young people coming out of school seem to have no conception of rights. To them, it's excusable for rights to be violated if they feel enough justified anger. They are unclear on the concept that rights apply to people and situations in ways they may not like.

Is this any surprise for people who grew up in a country where invading countries on false pretexts was seen as the right thing to do, where criticizing the government was seen as bad no matter what the reasons are, and where the threat of terrorism is somehow hyped up far beyond the perceived threat of nuclear annihilation in the Cold War?

I saw this coming when the WTC rubble was still smoking. The government could have potentially worked to calm down the populace, but instead they amplified the fear. We've been paying the price ever since.

Well, they did just come out of schools where metal detectors and police patrolling the halls was the enforced norm. They rode to school in busses with cameras that watched their every move.

How can we expect them to suddenly expect freedom, when they've never had it?

> To them, it's excusable for rights to be violated if they feel enough justified anger.

I don't think this is specific to young people, or to the present time. Everyone will be very noble when talking about rights in the abstract, but they quickly throw that away when it's the rights of a specific group they don't like. I was struck by it after the London riots last year, when there were loud calls for looters to be punished beyond what the judicial system normally allows. You can see the same attitude to terrorism.

Don't even try to blame this on the youth. They are still to apathetic to even count. We only have ourselves to blame for this. It is our mess to fix.

Thanks for that! We're just now trying to establish lives for ourselves in one of the worst economic climates since the great depression. That's hard enough without having the responsibility of fixing politics and government foisted upon us as well...

I think he was actually saying that this responsibility should be on the 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds, who are already in the working world and are old enough to have seen (and voted for/against) several of the people in all levels of government who have made the choices that brought us here.

For now, focus on your life, and getting yourself in a position to contribute to the movement in the future.

They also believe anything that makes them unhappy is a violation of their own rights.

This seems like more of a personal opinion of yours than anything based on fact.

It's what I've observed.

On a tangent (but hopefully quite relevant):

Does anyone else feel that perhaps a lot of what we're seeing is a case of "Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them"? As I look back on all of the history education I received in school (the compulsory part, not college), it occurs to me that it was largely a lot of propaganda. With the exception of black slavery, a brief mention of WWII internment camps for Japanese-Americans, and some ambivalence over the war in Vietnam, there's hardly any mention of anything the United States has done which is bad.

And unfortunately, this is all the history education the average voter has.

I'm studying applied math at an almost exclusively STEM college. I've taken one history class (European history from 1300-1600) and will not be taking any others.

However, I wouldn't consider my public history education to be "largely a lot of propaganda". I did take the advanced (AP) history courses at a public high school in Texas, and I might have just been lucky and great teachers, but my teachers discussed:

-British/US troops infecting Native Americans with smallpox by giving them infected blankets -Trail of Tears and how Andrew Jackson was generally pretty horrible to Native Americans -Wounded Knee Massacre, and in general how much we (as Americans) screwed over the native people -a little bit about eugenics in the US -Watergate scandal -showed us a documentary about how Walmart achieves such low prices by brutal business practices (and has hurt many American companies by moving production to China)

in addition to your points above. I don't feel like my history education (solely from public school) was "largely a lot of propaganda".

One of your examples is about a private business. All but one of the others describe simply the brutality of colonization. It wouldn't be good propaganda if it looks 100% squeaky clean.

Think about what meaningful questions are left unanswered. Why is it that any serious examination of the US' covert wars across the world is skipped entirely? Why is the entire era 1945-1991 painted in communist vs capitalist terms? The US participation in WW2 is reduced to "we saved europe and asia from hitler and japanese imperialism".

The overarching theme is of American moral superiority, unassailable founding principles, and a government by the people, for the people.

None of those are true, and I am thankful we live in an age when access to the writings of accurate historians is just a click away for those who care enough to discover.

I learned about the covert wars in South America. I also learned about the establishment of Israel after WWII, and how US / Allied Forces were involved in that, the Palestinian perspective, the 6-day war and the establishment of Israel as a dominant military power.

The only major stuff I think I missed out on was the history of US involvement in Iran (of which I later learned in College history classes). But global covert actions (and not-so-covert: ie Vietnam War) during the Cold War era was definitely taught to me in general. High School History may have missed a few countries, but I hardly think it was propaganda from my perspective at least.


The closest thing to "propaganda" I can think of was the Civil War saga frankly. Abraham Lincoln is considered an extreme hero up here in the North, who prevented our country from falling apart. Later in college, I learned that Southerners have a different perspective... even today. Extremely interesting to me.

Also, a friend of mine from Hawaii told me the Hawaiian perspective on the Annexation of Hawaii. Apparently... there is a bit of controversy on that subject in Hawaii that wasn't taught to me.

My experience is far more like your parent commenter's than to yours. Very pro-America, all black-and-white, no need to reason about or analyze murky grey areas or anything that is recent enough to possibly offend somebody's parents (eg Vietnam War wasn't covered). None of that was ever mentioned in my schooling. US schools do vary a lot.

AP is a whole different best for any class, much less history! I took AP US and non-AP World history in high school. The depth and breadth of material covered was just ridiculously, obscenely different between the two. I'm not sure what graduating high school even means these days if you don't have a bunch of AP credits, but it certainly doesn't make you an informed citizen with basic competencies.

It is this way. I think largely in part due to the way that the textbooks and curriculums are put together. It all seems to funnel through some group in Texas for 'approval,' IIRC. I'll bet that sticking to much about the bad things that America has done.

Anecdote time:

1) I remember reading about what US did to the Native Americans, but I remember it being rather dry reading. It was presented more as a series of facts rather than, "this was an evil thing that we shouldn't do again." "Oh yea, by the way, all of the women and children were slaughtered. Moving on..."

2) We never discussed anything more recent than maybe WW2 in history. The only exception here is that in high school you could choose, Pre- or Post-Civil War US History. I ended up choosing pre-Civil War.

3) One of my history teachers in 7th or 8th grade would add some flavor to the texts. Things like disagreeing with the book's assertions that Ben Franklin modelled the Contintental Congress after Native American political organization. His assertion was that the Native Americans were seen as inferior, so even if there was influence from them, it wasn't conscious, or openly admitted to.

From what I understand Texas and California have the most school districts and buy the most textbooks so what goes for them goes for the rest of the country.

Here in Brazil even the black slavery part is propaganda, using half truths and exaggerations to portray slavery as result of monarchy and monarchy as absolute evil.

Professional historians already found out that slavery here is not a black and white issue, but also found that the republican government made law that schools were to teach anti-monarchy propaganda, even if it meant using half-truths about how slavery worked here.

As far as I know, the last Brazilian emperor Pedro II fought against slavery all his life, and slavery was abolished during his reign. At which point the rich planters turned to republicanism and instigated a military coup that deposed the emperor and made Brazil a republic. I find it amazing that republican propaganda would attempt to blame the monarchy for slavery!

Yes, but they do...

Here, schools are obliged to teach that who abolished slavery was Princess Isabel, like if she was some sort of heroine and the emperor had nothing to do with it, also all the other anti-slavery laws he passed, are usually dismissed (for example, one of the laws the emperor passed was prohibiting the slavery of children of slaves, schools here dismiss that law by saying that it is so impratical that noone would obey anyway, without even giving proof if people obeyed or not).

Also, several of the things done in the first years of the republic were for example rename streets and parks that had any relation to the monarchy or slavery (even if it had to do with slavery abolition)...

During the school I (and everyone else I asked) was taught that Emperor Pedro I independence was shit because he did not abolished slavery with it, and thus if existed non-free people the country was not free at all and still a pawn of Portugal (as with one thing had to do with the other), and all school books give much emphasis on how slavery was not abolished during the independence... I even saw one book that teach (Wrongly) that during US independence they abolished slavery, as a sort of "proof" of how true republics are inherently better because they get rid of slavery.

Also, NONE of the history books mention slave demograhics, and only teach about plantation slavery (that was really akin to US slavery), I don't found a single school book that mentions other forms of slavery (like voluntary indentured servitude), or urban slavery (that in Brazil was the majority, despite most of the free population living in rural areas), or that only 1% of the slaves were actually chained into the infamous "Senzalas" (plantation slave barracks) that he books teach so much about (all history books explain of all evils of the "Senzalas").

Also, not one single book mention who broughts the slaves here in first place (it was not white people... the brazillian first generation slaves were almost all war prisioners or imprisoned criminals that africans came here to sell... Yes, they came here, many people believe portuguese bought the slaves at Africa, this of course happened, but was not the normal course of action, black slavers came to Brazil in portuguese ships, bringing the slaves they wanted to sell here).

Also most school books here don't talk at all about Pedro II technology achievements for example (even in Campinas where I lived most of my life, people don't know that most of public colleges there were made by decree of Pedro II, neither they know that Campinas was the second city in the world to have a telephone system, that Pedro II in person brought there after visiting Mr. Bell in the US during his vacation).

Here's what I learned in history class: * Civil Rights Movement * Jim Crow Laws * Trail of Tears * Vietnam War * LA Riots / Rodney King * Great Depression * Chicago Fire * WWII Internment Camps / War Propaganda * Bay of Pigs in Cuba * Other failed Coups in South America * Sherman's March to the Sea * "The Jungle" (disgusting food) * Child Labor * Growth of Monopolies * Haymarket massacre

What the were YOU doing in school? Mine was mostly a public education, so... plenty of "US mistakes" taught throughout US history from my perspective. Plenty of good and bad in history.

Middle School was mostly basic stuff, borderline propaganda from my memory. (But LA Riots were in fact covered in Middle School, perhaps because they were more "current events" rather than "history" at that point in time). But High School was filled with "TRUTH", in depth analysis and so forth. It was quite eye opening from my perspective. My High School US History class didn't cover "modern US History" however, and stopped in the late 50s. "Modern US History" was an elective at my high school... so my knowledge past the 50s becomes a bit incomplete.

The school cop even ensured a visit to many classes, to describe the rights of citizens in the state. Along the lines of: "In this state, you have the right to know a Cop's identity. If he refuses, take down the number on his car. Here's the police number where you can complain about this stuff". Very specific advice on how to cooperate, and if necessary, complain, about cops.

I know this was unusual and probably specific to the school cop who was assigned to my school. He was African American "and proud of it", to describe his attitude. (may have contributed to his emphasis on teaching citizens rights).

This was the case for me. We spent most of our time reading about the civil war in elementary school. Not the policy part either but more about all of the activities of the war and battles. Post that it was mostly "Western Civilization" meaning Antiquity and European and American history.

The only time I really got to study about the rest of the world was in a semester-long class that was optional! My AP History class was the closest thing that delved into the negative aspects of US history. I really didn't start questioning things until I read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" shortly after graduating college.

What fascinates me about this is that the SWAT team and the spies are people too. Which sounds obvious but it isn't. Take a guy off the street and he believes about himself, and the government believes about him, that he needs to be surveilled constantly and if he acts suspiciously, violently confronted. But what if that guy is a bureaucrat or a policeman himself? What happens in the recruitment/training process to turn a person from one of the watched into one of the watchers? Does he flip back whenever he clocks out for the day? Are the cops happy to know that they or their families could find a SWAT team on their doorsteps one day for no apparent reason? Are the spooks happy to know that another spook is reading their families emails and judging them? The whole situation is so surreal as to defy easy comprehension.

Bad things happen to other people, and sometimes it's easier to get their job done if they skirt the rules a bit. The target-du-jour would be fine if they hadn't been doing activity-du-jour anyways, so it's not like the person didn't deserve it.

Few believe that it will happen to them.

Humans are really good at denial, rationalization and ignoring the plight of people they do not directly care about.

It's a damning combination.

This type of thing is well studied in e.g. the Stanford Prison Experiment. People's behavior is far more influenced by the environment and circumstances they are in than by their beliefs or opinions.

People are constantly drinking the koolaid, and readily. They want to fit in, want their boss to like them, want to do as well as their colleagues, and don't want to confront anyone. It's the human condition, and takes effort and introspection to do otherwise.

Ok so now we can all see why the founders created a union of states, rather than "America". The correct place to address topics that "America" can't agree on (clearly this community doesn't agree with the "America" that we're talking about) is at the state level. It's a much easier task to get a smaller group of people to agree on something than a large one, and if I could move to a state that had some sane regulations on police power I would probably move there.

I don't think your logic is sound. It's a tautology to say that this is the America Americans want because this is the America that Americans have, and to say that in a democracy that this is the America that Americans desire because, well, here we are is just as much of a post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc.

Part of the reason we find ourselves here is because the government has lied and kept what it isn't lying about in secrecy. A fundamental aspect of the Declaration of Independence is "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." You cannot assume consent regarding government powers that have been built upon secrecy and lies. Likewise, complacency is not consent.

One of the most insidious and pernicious lies has been the implication that perfect safety is not only possible, but desirable. Note that this lie is being told by omission: US citizens are not being told that the government will make them perfectly safe, but that whatever the citizens find out about what is being done is being done for "national security" or to keep "the nation" safe.

The current uproar about government spying on its citizens, not to mention spying outside of "terrorist" suspicions, is evidence that spying programs conflict with the implication that safety is what is being provided by these programs.

My thoughts exactly. One way of changing public opinion would be to use the same tactics that the opposition uses. Mainly taking back the airwaves and presenting unbiased information, rather than pre-chewed, here's what you should think, distillation of ideas. Unfortunately that takes tons of money and those with the money aren't going to do something that takes their own power away. Fortunately there are future generations that are more apt to find their info on the internet, which isn't perfect, but at least there are many perspectives presented. That is why it is vitally important that we continue to evolve our free networks, whether it be darknets or balloon nets, or whatever.

> ...find their info on the internet, which isn't perfect, but at least there are many perspectives presented

But how many people will actually go out of their way to look for those perspectives? The down side of having a thousand voices speak is that you can easily listen to twenty you agree with, and ignore two hundred opponents. I know I do that a lot of the time.

Ben Swann[1] isn't having much luck at raising funds for that either.

[1] http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/439668500/liberty-is-ris...

> Fortunately there are future generations that are more apt to find their info on the internet, which isn't perfect, but at least there are many perspectives presented.

Oh please. Compared to what you find on the Internet, FOX looks like a paragon of bias-free and rational reporting. Look no further than the recent rash of conspiracy theorists on HN.

I think the conclusion of the article nails what's at the heart of the issue. Most of the country is either left or right, and is perfectly comfortable with paramilitarized police forces being used against 'the other side'.

America's polarization is likely deliberately promoted by the elites. When a society is occupied by infighting over wedge issues it's not looking at the big picture and power can be more easily consolidated. In Rwanda, the colonialists arbitrarily split the population into Hutus and Tutsi "ethnicities" then showed favoritism to one group. They eventually got infighting which diverted energy from possible insurgence.

Chomsky said this:

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."

The colonialists emphasized the split for political gains, and there must have been some arbitrariness in assigning each person to exactly one category, but they certainly didn't pull the distinction out of thin air. Just look at the pictures in the infobox in their respective Wikipedia articles.

"No, I don't know how...."

A lot of these same Americans are betting on football and in NCAA pools, play poker, drank when they were underage and likely have underage kids who drink now.

So if you want them to wake up, it must be driven home over, and over and over, and over again, that these are the kinds of activities that could result in a SWAT team breaking down their doors, and maybe them or their good friends getting shot.

I think the main obstacle will be an unwillingness to comprehend that things have really gotten this bad.

It's not that America wants this, it's that the politicians we elect do not keep their promises. Those that try are forced out, shaken down, relegated to stay at the bottom of the ladder. In our current political climate, a politician must barter ethics and morality for the power to do what they promised. And by then, it's too late, they're already gone.

A few don't, but most politicians run on a platform of being tough on crime and tough on terror, then do exactly what they said they'd do.

Well, they do things that will make them look tough on crime without really carrying if it will actually reduce the level of crime.

Well, yes, but you can't elect politicians who aren't like that because that's all of them.

Survival bias. Those who are not like that have trouble getting elected.

That is a problem with the people who vote. We either will not vote for people who fail to over-promise, or fail to continue to support elected officials who make reasonable efforts to follow through, or both.

But when do we stop to ask why we are living in this constant state of hyper-fear? When do we start asking whether the scale of our "security-state" is asymmetrical to the actual threats? When do we ask how much Terror is still left in the War on Terror?

IMO, it really started in earnest on 9/11. It's like people are in this strange state of psychological terror without realizing it. I swear, we've never recovered on the whole and it feels like something on the PTSD "spectrum".

Of course this fear has been fanned and used to justify an egregious power grab, costly wars, and untold billions in profits for the security-military-industrial complex, and so much more. See The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Is it a coincidence that fear is so very profitable or that people are willing to give up their freedom to quell it?

When do we shake off this fear and say "enough!"?

Americans vote for those who are tough on crime. I think CATO estimated (on the high end) about 40,000 SWAT/paramilitary raids a year and the public perception is that the targets are all criminals. To them this is just "acceptable collateral damage."

The problem is the public thinks that those being targeted are all dirty evil criminals, and I also think America as a whole doesn't have an "innocent before guilty" mentality. It's not just the American leaders that have corrupt minds. It's also a lot of Americans, who are supporting this sort of stuff.

The media is also not helping at all, and making the problem worse, because they are usually on the government's side when it comes to such issues.

The presumption of innocence is not directly enshrined in the constitution, and in the case of some crimes, like rape, has been deliberately and explicitly weakened.

This is a bit off topic for this thread but given that you brought it up:

It is hard for me to look at, say, Steubenville[1] (to take just the most publicized of several examples that I've seen in the news lately) and understand how anyone can suggest that accused rapists aren't given a presumption of innocence in our society. The blame heaped on rape victims is often tremendous, even when everyone knows that it happened.

(In the Steubenville case, there were widely shared photos documenting what happened to the young woman in question and at least one video of a guy at the same party laughing about what his friends had done to her, and most of the local community evidently still strongly sided with her rapists.)

[1] http://sports.yahoo.com/news/highschool--steubenville-high-s...

If you look at the community of Steubenville, yes.

If you look at the wider picture of media coverage, quite the opposite. Reddit started the witch trial pretty much instantly, with some of the most upvoted comments being for life in prison or worse.

Look at the backlash when CNN referred to the accused as boys with a formerly promising future whose lives were now ruined. God forbid you show an ounce of sympathy for accused rapists, because it's impossible to be sympathetic to the victim and not want anyone to go through the hell that the rest of their collective life is going to be.

It is hard to look at this case and find any presumption of innocence:


Sample size: 1.

There are dozens of examples in local jurisdictions, as well as lots of policies in private institutions. Unfortunately, someone as yet needs to talk about this who doesn't manage to come across as an angry male loser. AFAIK, this hasn't penetrated the popular consciousness yet.

I had a very charged discussion with friends just the other night about this very idea. I argued that even if a defendant has the resources to get to a jury trial, the jury is prejudiced against the "criminal" from the start.

It turned out, however, that each person in the room had either been wrongly accused of a crime or knew someone that had been railroaded by the system. They knew that the prosecution wasn't perfect. My sample size is 6 people, myself included, and we are all fairly educated.

Regarding the media, everyone in the room agreed that the Nancy Graces of the world are actively harming our society...

FWIW, I was on a jury for the first and (so far) only time, about 2 years ago. It wasn't a big, flashy murder or rape case, just a guy being accused of breaking into a cop car and stealing a flashlight and a handheld radio. But, I found that the other jurors, by and large, took the "innocent until proven guilty" thing VERY seriously. I know that most of us thought he was "probably" guilty, but in the end, we actually acquitted him on all charges because we didn't believe the State had proven he was guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Granted it's just one anecdote about one jury on one case in North Carolina, but this jury was not prejudiced against the "criminal" from the start. And, if anything, by the end, most of us were biased against the State for being (or appearing to be) some combination of: incompetent (the investigator from the Sheriff's department), abusive / a plain dick ( the prosecutor), and/or dishonest (the cop who had his car broken into).

The media's on sensationalism's side, and the mob's side.

Unfortunately this is more being dumb on crime. Just think about all the criminals they could have investigated insted of thus amatur rides.

Her in Norway its can sometime take 10-20 minutes just to get thru to the police if you have an emergency at night. I hope the local SWAT time at least is out chasing real cals and real criminals instead of shutting security guards and raiding the local veterans clubs for some $5 dollar poker fee.

There have been incidents like the Oaksterdam raid where the DEA took up all SWAT resources for a raid of a civillian, unarmed (and legal state-wise) marijuana cooperative. Meanwhile, there was a school shooting minutes away. [1]

The reality is that crime is falling in the United States and has been for a while (Freakanomics has a decent piece about the relationship of crime and the availability of abortion, with a time lag in the former that showed a correlation with the latter) and I think this paramilitarization is an attempt to fill up budgets and give reasons so that they aren't reduced in the future.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/oakland-sc...

There's debate about whether increased availability of abortion really accounts for the decline in crime; one alternative hypothesis is that reduced rates of childhood exposure to lead (mostly from leaded gasoline and the resultant exhaust) is at least as responsible.

I remember reading a fantastic article on that topic, have you got a link?

No, of course it's not the America we want. It's the America we get though due to our longstanding apathy and inability to curb special interest groups and corporate control of politics. I think things will change though. Things have been pretty nice in the US for a while. We're now seeing the dark side of apathy and people are starting to care again (in my opinion). It had been pretty easy to shrug off politics as corrupt and not care when we still had relative normalcy. But a lot of Americans have awoken in recent weeks to find themselves living in a sci-fi dystopia that we were warned about in the classics of literature, the kind that had always been eerily similar to our lives but never quite reached. We're now in full on 1984 and Americans won't accept that, I guarantee it (we're the country that ended slavery and celebrate our roots as rebels: we shall overcome).

I agree with much of what you say, but I'm not sure I agree that "Americans won't accept that".

- Obama has a secret "kill list" and has bragged about killing Americans without due process of law.

- We have widespread surveillance of our phones and email.

- The FBI admits that drones are now being used for domestic surveillance.

- The activist Supreme Court is continuing to gut our laws and give Big Business everything they want.

- The TSA is groping and nude scanning everyone, they've never caught a single terrorist, but are expanding beyond airports.

- Half of the inmates at Guantanamo have been cleared for release but are still detained a decade after incarceration.

- Half of America is in poverty.

- The Obama administration is trying to gut the Freedom of Information Act by denying certain doesn't even exist.

- The Supreme Court and various politicians are finding more ways of restricting the right to vote.

But people won't shut the fuck up about Kim and Kanye's baby.

It's 1984 meets Brave New World.

- Internet regulation justified by copyright protection

- Continued unconstitutional wars again "terrorism"

- Continued imperialism

- Whistleblower vilification

- Implicit taxation through unbridled govt debt

On Facebook, some friends are even afraid to "like" these stories now.

Most friends just ignore my posts. I can't tell whether they're apathetic, or whether they're suppressing it in fear. Or whether Facebook is throttling my posts using their "spam" algorithm. Maybe I've been throttled by my friends.

Most friends on Facebook post about how ugly or pretty something is, about the food they consume, or they're pushing some agenda of their own, as everybody has them nowadays.

Then you start wondering whether you're just being paranoid. Of course in normal pre-media life, such an inconsistent state of existence would be impossible. Can you imagine everybody around you being happy with ice-cream cones after being abused by yet another "lawful" breach of your liberty by the SWAT team, joined by some "celebrity"?

So it's easy to ignore the signs and live on earning your paycheck. Every day is exactly the same. You can't stay here, keep on moving on.

Dude, how do you even watch sports right now? There's so much work to do.

Yet days go on, everybody is chasing a paycheck or chasing a paper pyramid scheme. Or chasing fame, or chasing tail, anything to help take their minds off the now-ordinary horrid reality.

Some see the problems and can't help but feel that something is wrong, that something is unjust in this world. They're searching for a real purpose, as they stumble with potential solutions that have been tried and have failed.

While we ignore the children.

I understand your sentiment but if there's anything positive to hold onto it's that we're not the cliche frogs in water that slowly comes to a boil. Snowden alerted us in stark terms almost overnight that the water was boiling. We were in 1984 but the reality of our world was classified as top secret. In the tech community many of us saw the water slowly coming to a boil since about 2003. I think to most Americans though all the recent events comes as actual news. Yes, hopefully we can focus on matters of substance and not the mindless drivel we normally occupy ourselves with. Humanity, though, has always been the same I think. It's a case of "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". I really don't think anyone is the US gov't has malice or ill will or a truly evil side. It's inertia and apathy that have led us to our current state. And so I think that if we decide to change course, we will.

Not disagreeing with your entire post, but

> I really don't think anyone is the US gov't has malice or ill will or a truly evil side.

Of course it depends on what you call "truly evil", but I believe that in any sufficiently large government (not just US) exist a significant number of sociopaths. It's just that, sociopaths exist, smart sociopaths also exist, and those are qualities that make it easy to find their way into politics. (and on an even more cynical note, a combination of qualities of particularly evil + intelligent + sociopathic, sounds like an even more likely profile to find itself in a position of power)

It's the America you paid for. Three trillion dollars on a decade of war does not just vanish, it does not stay abroad. Demobbed soldiers, private training and supply companies, attitudes and expectations - they have to go somewhere, do something, affect someone.

You have the America you paid for.

This has nothing to do with war.

lifeisstillgood is talking about the cultural expectation that problems are solved by throwing overwhelming force at them.

True. Fallujah, being an example of SWAT team over-reaction On a nationstate level.

the more direct problem that there is no a preponderance of ex-soldiers, weapons, and an entire industrial base massively expanded and looking for civilian roles now everyone can see wars winding down and this kind of thing will be more prevalent.

All the forces mentioned in the article (including "militarisation" are conspiring in a self-reinforcing system)

It's hard to see how to move away ("what you think our boys in blue should not have body armour? APCs?")

>True. Fallujah, being an example of SWAT team over-reaction On a nationstate level.

That's so daft I don't know where to start. There's no such thing as an overreaction in war.

>the more direct problem that there is no a preponderance of ex-soldiers, weapons, and an entire industrial base massively expanded and looking for civilian roles now everyone can see wars winding down and this kind of thing will be more prevalent.

All these things were true to a much greater extent at the end of the Vietnam war and again at the end of the cold war.

>There's no such thing as an overreaction in war.

There is when we (a) don't know who the enemies are and (b) live in a post-Geneva world where the international consensus is that yes, there are lines that can never be crossed.

a) We knew who the enemies were. We let civilians out of the city before it was attacked.

b) We didn't gas or nuke them. In terms of the amount of conventional firepower you can bring to bear on enemy combatants... there's no limit.

So for now, in the Fourth Circuit, sending a SWAT team to make sure a bar’s beer is labeled correctly is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Oh, it goes much, much farther than that.

The US Supreme Court has ruled (see Raich) that the federal government is justified in sending an armed raid into a terminally ill old lady's home because she allegedly was growing six marijuana plants under her doctor's supervision & approval for her sole personal use in accordance with state law. The "justified" rationale? Her home-grown state-legal personal-use herbs decreased demand in illegal inter-state commerce, therefor affected inter-state commerce, therefor was subject to federal regulation. I kid you not.

(Consequential tangent: if the court had not ruled that way, a pending related case (Stewart) would have permitted felons to home-build their own machine-guns. The court was faced with bizarre rulings whichever way they went with Raich.)

> if the court had not ruled that way, a pending related case (Stewart) would have permitted felons to home-build their own machine-guns

This is false. The related case would have left machine-gun building a matter of State law. Pure-Federalism is not the only possible form of governance, and it's not the US Constitution's approved form.

Not false. There is currently a federal prohibition on anyone making machineguns at all (military contracts of course exempted); if Raich had been ruled to the contrary, it would have applied to Stewart in such a way as to remove machinegun construction from the federal prohibition IF the item in question remained entirely in-state, consequence going so far as to restrict the federal government from prohibiting felons from making them (as Mr. Stewart was, in fact, a felon convicted of making a novel home-brew machinegun). Thus, the federal government would have permitted felons to home-build their own machineguns.

We were talking about federal laws and courts. I assume that in a short blog post I'm not expected to address the proliferation of overlapping jursidictional priorities and conflicts. But since you insist on taking the discussion where it wasn't going...

Fact is, majority of US states do permit machinegun ownership, so long as it complies with federal law; thus if federal law permits felons building machineguns (so long as it remains in-state), majority of states would not prohibit it. Now that the discussion has clarified that the remaining prohibitions would occur in a minority of more than four dozen states, and that the federal government would have at least had no say in the matter (as opposed to compulsive legalization in all encompassed jurisdictions), and that the discussion had not been addressing state laws (or if it did, it was that the applicable state ALLOWED the activity), that for most practical purposes the one-sentence summary of the horribly verbose & convoluted verdict in question and its consequences was sufficiently accurate?

(Pardon me. I'm getting increasingly irritated by exchanges that amount to: "X." "X? You're WRONG because you didn't address minor tangential issues Y, Z, P, D, and Q in comprehensive detail, all of which had little to do with the discussion at hand.")

Of course it isn't the America that America wants. But the problem is that most people are not aware of the connections between the incentives and the policies and actions those incentives produce. Indeed, most folks, harbor some bit of political ideology which is in some way counter-factual and they refuse to acknowledge that being the case. That applies to EVERYONE of EVERY political party. Period. What's worse is that now our public political discourse is so tainted and poisonous that it is nigh impossible to actually have a frank and honest discussion about any matter of public policy. It's almost all just games and shouting instead.

There is hope, but it's going to take more hard work than most people believe to make things significantly better.

It's not the America I grew up in, nor the one I want to live in. So I left and have no plans to go back anytime soon. The land of the free isn't so free anymore, which makes me incredibly sad. And my parents live in VA!

well, the America has definitely changed during last decade+. Yet, still it is somewhat surprising that there is a place you found you think is more free.

I now live very happily in Australia. It's not perfect by any means (nanny state comes to mind), but I feel safer here. More importantly, my wife feels safer.

The issue was never one of safety, the odds were never high that you would be on the receiving end of one of these SWAT attacks. The issue is the rights of citizens and their protection from unwarranted searches and unreasonable uses of force.

Australia has it's own issues on that front, look up Labor's recent proposal of data retention for electronic records or the infamous great firewall of Australia.

And as far as government's with regulatory zeal go, you've hit the motherload.

It's a lovely country (I've spent the last three years in Sydney and really and truly loved it) but don't kid yourself about the level of government intrusion in every. last. bloody. thing. It's maddening.

The safety issue is not about the government but the level of violence in general society, schools, etc. IMHO, Australia as a whole is a safer place to live than the US right now. You don't hear about people shooting up schools, etc in Australia because it doesn't happen. It feels to me that the rate of this type of incident in the US is increasing.

As I said, Australia isn't perfect by far. But at least the government isn't ignoring its core, founding principles like the US government has been doing the last couple decades.

I did mention nanny state in my original comment. To each their own. :)

Agreed. I would ask where you found, but then I don't want to jinx it.


In order to stay safe from the government,

1. Don't buy sparkling water if you're a college student

2. Don't bet with friends because an arbitrary threshold of about $2k warrants your execution

3. Don't tell American citizens that their government abuses its power, or you'll be charged with espionage

4. It's probably a bad idea to bear arms these days, because saying "Officer, I have a weapon in the trunk of my car" might give him reason to shoot you in self defense

5. You don't actually have free speech anymore, so be careful about that. If you threaten to shoot up a school, even jokingly and totally within your rights, you will be incarcerated for half a year before your trial. And who knows if the judge will let you off? You just have to pray for one who knows and abides by the constitution.

Also don't be black, poor, trans, or a sex worker (and if you're black, poor and trans, you'd better dress like a nun, or the police will read you as a sex worker). People in those categories usually don't even make it as far as an outraged Salon article.

What a sad truth, especially the last part

yep, as they say - being black is a probable cause.

And lets not pretend that it isn't a stereotype without warrant. Not going to go into the racial factors, more the cultural. It's just simply more likely that blacks will be criminals in certain areas - humans have evolved to generalize things like this for survival's sake.

3. Don't tell American citizens that their government abuses its power, or you'll be charged with espionage

Point 3 is patently false. All of my Facebook friends, and I, regularly say that the United States government abuses its power, some from the right, some from the left, and many from a general freedom-loving perspective, and we all go on posting as we please. All of these statements are exaggerations. Many of these statements refer to problems that are much worse in other places. (If you think that arbitrary abuse by the police is the worst it can be in the United States, you haven't traveled very much.) Sure, protest fearlessly about any abuse you find anywhere. But don't lose sight of reality.

AFTER EDIT: People who follow my comments on Hacker News


will be well aware that I participate in public protests here in the United States, in full view of TV news cameras and police observers. (The last protest I participated in was across the street from the headquarters of the Minneapolis police department.) I am an equal-opportunity democracy movement activist, desiring more power for the people in every country of the world. As one of the grandchild comments to this comment has now said, it's silly to exaggerate conditions in the United States, as that just robs a comment of credibility. If you want to establish a better trend line for United States policy, be specific in your policy proposals, and make your policy proposals public fearlessly, early and often. Don't be an anonymous coward. Put your name behind your convictions.

People power democracy movements that nudge countries from dictatorship to democracy can really work. I have seen it done. A successful movement for greater freedom requires great courage, and a degree of social trust among the movement participants that is not easy to find. Allow me to repeat advice I have shared here on Hacker News before. If you really want to be an idealistic but hard-headed freedom-fighter, mobilizing an effective popular movement for more freedom wherever you live, I suggest you read deeply in the free, downloadable publications of the Albert Einstein Institution,


remembering that the transition from dictatorship to democracy described in those publications is an actual historical process with recent examples around the world that we can all learn from. You can find publications in more than a dozen languages there to share with your friends around the world.

Ahhh yes, the "these problems are worse in other places" Okay, you're right, so lets never try to fix them. Because Russian police are abusive we should count ourselves lucky that our own police force isn't AT LEAST that bad. Sure, they go out of their way to murder people for no reason, but we can't be man about that, we should simply be thankful that there are worse police agencies that exist.

And yeah, your point that the govt won't abuse the shit out of its power if you are a whistleblower makes me wonder if you've been living under a rock recently. I imagine you don't think it was any big deal that the US coerced other countries into not allowing the Bolivian President use their airspace because the US was upset with Bolivia offering Snowden asylum? But yeah, you're right man, no abuses whatsoever will occur if you are a whistleblower...

The type of self awareness one would have to lack to get to the point where they are making the point you just made is staggering.

Oh yeah it's all much worse in other places. We're still "better" than all the dictatorships and authoritarian governments in the world, and that makes it all just fine and dandy. The only people losing sight of reality are the ones deluded into thinking that America/ns is/are immune to what appears to be a fundamental feature of power: corruption.

By point 3 he meant actions by USG whistle blowers with access to classified information, not a civilian's facebook account.

There is a problem with broad statements like the grandparent comment. College students buy water everyday without trouble, people own guns without being harassed daily, people makes bets daily without any trouble, people make joking threats daily without incident. There is plenty bad going on without the need for exaggerations and outright lies.

If you want reality to change, you have to accept reality. Skewing it to the most sensationalistic interpretation only makes it easier to dismiss.

If you're going to talk economics, politics, sociology, or just about any massive and complex systems, you cannot avoid broad statements. I dislike them, but that's just the way it is. I notice a lot on HN that broad statements generally are called out and (usually without being defensive) clarified in the discussion.

However, in this case, there is no clarification needed. Compare the United States across whatever subjective experience and online indices you can find (economic freedom, press freedom, happiness, quality of life, etc but take them with a grain of salt) and make up your own mind.

After having traveled a little bit and lived in circumstances very different from my current life in SF, I have become less concerned with the water, guns, bets, and bad jokes and more concerned about the creeping changes in massive institutions like the US government. After all, one of the hallmarks of a democracy is how it protects the minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

> If you're going to talk economics, politics, sociology, or just about any massive and complex systems, you cannot avoid broad statements.

Of course not, but they need to semi-accurately reflect the way things are going on a broad scale. If someone steps on my toe at the convenience store and doesn't apologize, I don't start a rally cry about how America is full of toe-hating assholes. If it starts happening systemically then I might be more willing to make that charge.

There is some irony in chiding someone for hyperbole while claiming 'at least it's not as bad as some other places', an argument that can be made of almost any aspect of the human experience.

I mean, if you set the bar as low as "better than living in a dictatorship" instead of "comparable to western democracy -foo-", you're engaging in some pretty solid resetting of the frame of reference.

People also break into cars to finance their crack addiction everyday without trouble. The incompetence of the police does not excuse their overreach.

Point 1 is also patently false: I have bought sparkling water and I'm not a felon! Obviously the GP is not making logical declarations. To stay SAFEST, one must avoid sparkling water, threatening jokes, and any statements the DOJ would disapprove of. Your friends on Facebook do not invalidate that point.

6. Don't have $20 buy-in poker games

and Steven Seagal driving a tank into that guys living room for fighting chickens...wow.

Additional things to not do:

6. Write 'disturbing' material (for any definition of disturbing)

7. Own a permanent marker

8. Connect to an unsecured WiFi

9. Use a fake name on the Internet

6. Do not come into posession of short lobsters. http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/rightsandfreedoms/a/alobsterst...

6. Become a mormon (mormons are highly regarded by the NSA as naturally suited to following orders).

7. Become a cop. A proper one, not just a security guard or something.

I wonder how applicable 7 is if you're an immigrant. You might get charged with espionage or something.

My family is Mormon (LDS) and two of my brother's are cops, so we definitely have this covered.

What I can say is that cops seem to get indoctrinated as part of their training about the rule of law and the need to enforce laws "because it's the law" without thought or common sense applied to each situation.

Again and again we see questionable or outright illegal police shootings of dogs and people and nothing ever comes of it. The responsible parties are never charged with manslaughter or even fired. I want to support the police, but the thin blue line bullshit has to stop!

I get that police work is often dangerous but individuals that have shown poor judgement are retained on the force. That police officer that shot the dog 4 times had already shot and killed a developmentally disabled guy who was brandishing a knife but could have been tazed or bean-bagged.

These are not the sorts of people to be handing out guns to.

Police shoot dogs because black and brown people own dogs.[0]

The developmentally disabled guy was black.

Of the people raided by SWAT teams in the article, the ones who did not go to court (regardless of whether or not they won excessive force settlements) and had a violent or lethal encounter were all black or in that one case, hispanic.

Police officers aren't punished because the victims of police brutality are overwhelmingly nonwhite. It's not that the victims are poor, or of mysterious sexual orientation. It's really because they are black and hispanic.

To get a good grip on how segregated U.S. cities are, here is the Census rankings of "dissimilarity," or measure of how unmixed the population is geographically[2], of every metro area.[1] The lowest of all metro areas is 32%, which suggests that about 1/3 of black people would have to move to white parts of town to achieve balance.

Routine brutality against blacks, as opposed to routine brutality against protesters (an equally heinous but different problem), is ignored because the victims don't live next to us.

[0] http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=police+shoot+dog [1] http://www.censusscope.org/us/rank_dissimilarity_white_black... [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_dissimilarity

It's easier to mistreat minorities, but the behavior is no longer bounded to being perpetrated against minorities.

Police, searching (in the wrong town) for a man wanted for an expired vehicle registration, shoot family dog while searching in a gated back yard for their suspect.


>Leander Police say the officer never noticed the child, and it’s policy to use lethal force on any animal they think is attacking.

Fortunately, they missed the child.

That police officer that shot the dog 4 times had already shot and killed a developmentally disabled guy who was brandishing a knife but could have been tazed or bean-bagged.

It gets worse. The person being arrested already had a lawsuit filed for police brutality. According to his lawyer on NBP, he recognized the police officer who killed his dog - that was one of the officers who had been part of giving him the beating that his lawsuit was about.

Let's just say there is a history there.

I think the thing that frustrates me the most is that in situations like the one you describe where developmentally disabled guy is killed and there were 100 ways to avoid it. Those ways simply are ignored after the fact because people feel such a need to defend the cop that they can't even acknowledge that they might have done something wrong. It creates a situation where improvement is pretty much impossible, because to improve one generally has to admit that there is a problem.

Are there any reliable statistics quantifying this? I found some numbers for Germany on Wikipedia [1] but not for the US. The article states that per year for the period of 2007 to 2011 the German police fired between 36 and 57 bullets at humans killing between 6 and 12 of them. Older numbers are less reliable but similar regarding the number of people killed (peak since 1970 24 in 1983) but with a larger number of bullets fired where reported. Are the numbers for the USA way worse after compensating for the difference in population?

[1] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waffengebrauch_der_Polizei_in_D...

I'm astonished by the total lack of conversation around the actual data here. Both the article itself and the discussion below are predicated on the assumption that this is a rampant problem in the USA, but not a single subthread on the actual incidence of this.

I'd expect better from Hacker News.

For what it's worth, Wikipedia has a complete list of people killed by US Police Officers and the police reports from them. In 2012, there were 587 people killed by police [1]. This is much, much larger than in Germany, even accounting for population difference.

I would argue that more relevant than pure population is differences in homicide rate. By the data you've given, approximately 1-2% of all homicides in Germany are by police officers (6-12 officer killings, 690 homicides in germany [2]). It's worth noting that in the USA, approximately 3% of all killings were by police officers (547/14748[2]) which seems in line with what my understanding would be -- it's worse in the USA but not ridiculously disproportionate.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforce...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentiona...

A lot of the abuses don't have good statistics around them.

I personally know a guy who was put into a private jail on trumped up charges and denied bail. He fought in court, won, and has been presented with a large bill from the private jail. The kicker? The DA, the sheriff and many in the police force are investors in the private jail!

Can you say "conflict of interest"?

That sounds terrible, I'm sorry for your friend. Systemically that's broken and represents the potential for massive abuse.

That said, I assume you'd agree that anecdotes don't constitute data, and that we shouldn't develop strong beliefs on the backs of them. To assume the prevalence of something on the basis of loud anecdotes leads us to being easily manipulated -- in the absence of data I believe should keep our priors weak and seek better data.

Actually I believe that our brains are wired to work from anecdote to theory, not from statistics to theory.

In a small group this is a pretty good strategy. Where it breaks down in life is that the odds that we hear about an anecdote depend on the anecdote. This leads to all kinds of bias.

I know the limits of my conscious analysis. I therefore have come to accept that there is value for me in filtering out "something that happened to someone I directly know" from "something I heard about". Since this happened to someone I directly know, it affects what I think.

YMMV, and if you follow my rule, definitely should. But you'll at least understand why I might come to different conclusions than you do.

Epistemology is not my strong suit so please excuse me here, but how can you reasonably advocate for your positions in a worldview that specifically privileges personal experience?

I tend to agree that we infer theory from anecdotes not data and even that that is a good thing. But don't we have a responsibility after developing a theory to evaluate it before making claims about it?

Epistemology is not my strong suit so please excuse me here, but how can you reasonably advocate for your positions in a worldview that specifically privileges personal experience?

Epistemology is about how we know what we think we know. This is very separate from rhetoric, the art of trying to convince others with your words.

I personally focus on epistemology, which includes clarifying what I believe, why I believe it, how strongly I believe it, and what different things I could reasonably believe in different circumstances. Knowing these things often leads me to conclude, "I believe X, you seem to believe Y, there is no way that I am going to change your beliefs." This seems to me to be a feature, not a flaw.

I am unable to be friends with strongly religious types who are unable to muster the same feature.

I tend to agree that we infer theory from anecdotes not data and even that that is a good thing. But don't we have a responsibility after developing a theory to evaluate it before making claims about it?

In my world view, yes.

If you see me failing to properly qualify what I claim, then please call me on it.

That said, when I make a claim, I'm almost never going to give my full supportive reasoning for my world view. Life is too short.

Data is only as good as the interpretation of it. You've just handwaved away a police homicide rate of an order of magnitude because the general homicide rate is also much worse. Other western democracies are bunched around a homicide rate of around 1.0/100k (Germany is 0.8), and the US is a clear outlier at 4.8. Having double the proportion of this significantly higher homicide rate is not something to claim as 'proportionate' and hence not a particular concern for the issue at hand.

One wonders at what point you would consider it 'ridiculously disproportionate'? 10%? 20%?

We (US residents) haven't posted annotated lists because this is in our face via newspapers and TV news and viral videos passed around on the Internet.


Here's one take, which is focused on black folks shot and killed over the past year. Note how many were armed.

I'm american as well.

When TV news and viral videos and newspapers make us feel like terrorism or kidnapping is more prevalent than it actually is, we call it sensationalism. Why is this any different? Is it because it confirms things you already believe to be true?

I looked at the list you provided, and tried to correlate it against the Wikipedia list. Many of the dates etc don't match up but I tried. A number of the cases where the suspect is listed as "unarmed" don't jive with the police reports, at the very least. Others involve things that are clearly assault even if there was no gun (like assaulting someone with a car).

That said, I do think in particular if you are a black male you are likely to be mistreated by police. That's not justifiable. But I still don't see real evidence that this is an epidemic or particularly pervasive.

Well, believe what you want to believe.

I have friends who are police officers so it's not like I hate cops. I do hate the fact they close ranks and protect the bad ones though.

I wrote a response here, but with the current state of government surveillance programs, I thought it was better to remove it.

Why exactly did you feel the need to tell us either how paranoid you are or how much of a coward you are?

Some numbers from a 2011 NYPD report (only New York City):

Situations where firearms were discharged

36 - Adversarial Conflict

36 - Animal Attack

15 - Unintentional Discharge

02 - Unauthorized Use

03 - Suicide Attempt


124 - Total officers firing

416 - Total shots fired

003 - Total officers shot and injured by subject

001 - Total officers shot and killed by subject

019 - Total subjects shot and injured by officer

009 - Total subjects shot and killed by officer


The fact USPS receives training but our Police don't was astounding to me. "To serve and protect and kill you chihuahua if it barks at us wrong."

you mean aggressive dog training?

Ahh yes, I accidentally missed a few words there.


I think he meant "training in dealing with barking dogs"

No American police are generally resistant to training of any type, such as firearm training. They don't like other people telling them they don't know how to do their jobs, that would make them lose confidence. It's why they need to shoot at you sixty times in order to hit you once.

A refusal to take advice is asking for trouble and paints a bad picture of any profession. Always take the advice, you don't have to use is, but you do have to take it in. How do people get like that?

They aren't exactly rocket scientists to begin with. Hell, the police in America have won the right to discriminate against candidates with high IQs...

Also please not that shooting a gun under stress is probably not going to be easier. However, this should not be an excuse.

We have to ask ourselves: where is the money? Our rights aren't being lost to a sprawling military-police state just because there's a Big-Brother wannabe conspiring to destroy the constitution. Police departments grow the same way our project departments grow in engineering companies: by managers arguing for bigger budgets and spending more, sometimes wastefully, to justify bigger budgets come next fiscal year.

These hyped-up (sometimes roided-up) SWAT teams do what they do to justify their existence....no manager wants to preside over a shrinking department. It takes a lot of thinking and long-term policy making to reduce this perverse yet basic economic incentive

Don't forget all the war-on-terror funding and politics that have provided even rural police departments with armored personnel carriers and the like.[1] Or outfitting police departments with tons of equipment in advance of protests planned there which then filters down into daily use. In some cities, there is so little for the "anti-terror" cops to do that they have been conscripted into arresting drunk people and pot smokers.[2]

1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/12/police-militarizati...

2) http://www.startribune.com/local/209811381.html

There's another side to that, which is that overfunding of the police is coupled to underfunding of other institutions; too many social issues are framed as law-enforcement problems, and tackled with a militarized version of the law enforcement mindset.

A lot of the funding comes from seizures of cars, houses, cash, anything that can be grabbed. Then it's up to the citizen to "prove" it isn't ill-gotten goods.

Some of the money, in some areas, certainly. Any idea how much?

I don't have any figures for local municipalities, but US Attorneys have been pretty prosperous. In 2010, the seizure total for the Feds was over $1 billion.



This link is from 2008, but it seems to state that local governments get about $1 Billion/year also...


Just think of how fun the bottom 1/4 of the U.S. will be once the border patrol gets to double its numbers.

Bottom in economic status, or Bottom as in South?

because there's a Big-Brother wannabe conspiring to destroy the constitution

"Yes we scan"

Reposting this from the killed-dog-thread. It certainly won't help when the SWAT team is already in your home, but for the creeping sense of out of control cops everywhere:

"Most of us carry video cameras in our pockets now. Filming police needs to become ubiquitous. There should be no police officer in the United States that doesn't know that at any time they could be being filmed and held accountable for their actions by the public they are paid to protect and serve. It is one case where I think constant citizen surveillance could be useful. After a few years of it and constant court rulings that it is protected, perhaps cops would stop yelling at people and arresting them for doing nothing wrong. Yes, I'm talking to everyone on this site. If you are walking back from grabbing a burrito and see the cops "talking to" a homeless person on the street, or pulling over a driver for running a red light or detaining someone, /you/ need to stop for 5-10 minutes, get out your camera phone, and start filming. Please. For the love of a police state run amuck."

I don't live in the United States, but the LAST thing you want to do over there is to film an officer.


By the way, my father recalls from when my country was a dictatorship that "you couldn't take photos of police or military, or you were arrested". Democratic U.S.A. is doing the same..

You may be harrassed if you film cops, but it is plainly legal[1], and the courts have recently begun to be more aggressive about slapping down municipalities that try to restrict it.[2] Normalizing it will go a long way to keeping police from thinking they can harass activist-types that are filming cops. I have been filming cops with copwatch groups from the days we had to carry big shoulder mounted video cameras.

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glik_v._Cunniffe

2) http://reason.com/archives/2012/04/05/7-rules-for-recording-...

Legality doesn't stop regular occurrences of filmers being arrested for "obstruction of justice".

Like I said, I have filmed a lot of police interactions. I have been harassed many times, but never arrested. I /have/ been arrested for obstruction of legal process once. Ironically, it was a time when I wasn't filming and just standing off to the side taking notes.

If you do get arrested, you can both win damages for yourself and often change the entire written rules of a police department by suing.

But again, normalizing this will go a long way to people not getting harassed and cops knowing that they could be being filmes in any public interaction at any time.

I am arguing only that you suggest harassment is the worst that will happen. There is much much much documentation that the worst is far worse than harassment. I am not disputing the potential (not at all as certain as you seem to think) of getting damages even. Merely that arrest and court is far beyond harassment. I agree with the normalizing of the circumstances aspect of your argument.

Basically I am saying the fact that you haven't been arrested does not in any way (logically, evidentially or even anecdotally) suggest that this the case one should prepare for.

Then get arrested. What ever happened to civil disobedience?

The fact that people get arrested for exercising their rights is a fantastic reason to exercise those same rights as often as possible. Would you have told civil rights protestors to stop sit-ins or marches?

Arrested with potential consequences is not the same as the mere "harassment" claimed by the parent. This is the only point I was making. I think you misunderstood my intent.

Thankfully those (grand jury...) charges were thrown out. The judge established, at least in Maryland, that police DO NOT have a reasonable right to privacy while carrying out their duties in public.

Is there a service to record live streams online (easily, cheap/free) from phones? The key is to send the live stream out for storage. Common "we'll sync after the video is recorded" services are no good if you get your phone destroyed half way through trying to record.

A lot of Occupy Wall Street folks were using Bambuser (http://bambuser.com/) to do this, check it out.

I just read about a service that covers this use-case (sorry, I can't for the life of me find it now). It streams low-quality video to a server to cover for the eventuality that the phone is destroyed. I'm pretty sure it was some sort of open-source software that wasn't Bambuser.

On slow connections you can use Robotsanywhere. No audio, but it will work well at 1G/2G speeds. If you can't find it on google play email robotsanywhere@robots-everywhere.com to get the latest build and/or source.

This may be one beneficial side-effect of Google glass and related products.

An affordable Google Glass could make this a reality.

unless they see the camera and kill you for "espionage"


Applications are open for YC Winter 2018

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact