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What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals (nytimes.com)
420 points by rooster8 on Nov 12, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments

Much of this was known before, including the FBI's anonymous letter attempting to provoke a suicide. As others said elsewhere in this thread, documents came out during the Church Committee. I wrote this 15 years ago when I worked at Time:

      The FBI's campaign to destroy Dr. Martin Luther
      King began in December 1963, soon after the
      famous civil rights March on Washington. It
      started with an extensive -- and illegal -- electronic
      surveillance of King that probed into every corner
      of his personal life. 

      Two weeks after the march, the same week King
      appeared on the cover of Time magazine as "Man
      of the Year," FBI agents inserted a microphone in
      King's bedroom. ("They had to dig deep in the
      garbage to come up with that one," FBI director J.
      Edgar Hoover said of the Time cover story.) Hoover
      wiretapped King's phone and fed the information to
      the Defense Department and to friendly

      When King travelled to Europe to receive the
      Nobel Peace Prize, Hoover tried to derail meetings
      between King and foreign officials, including the
      Pope. Hoover even sent King an anonymous
      letter, using information gathered through illegal
      surveillance, to encourage the depressed civil
      rights leader to commit suicide. 

      "The actions taken against Dr. King are
      indefensible. They represent a sad episode in the
      dark history of covert actions directed against
      law-abiding citizens by a law enforcement
      agency," a Senate committee concluded in 1976. 


      History reveals that time and again, the FBI,
      the military and other law enforcement
      organizations have ignored the law and spied on
      Americans illegally, without court authorization.
      Government agencies have subjected hundreds of
      thousands of law-abiding Americans to unjust
      surveillance, illegal wiretaps and warrantless
      searches. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King
      Jr., feminists, gay rights leaders and Catholic
      priests were spied on. The FBI used secret files
      and hidden microphones to blackmail the
      Kennedy brothers, sway the Supreme Court and
      influence presidential elections. 

Shame we never had any Church committee after the Snowden revelations. Where are all the NSA "reforms" now? They even have the nerve to say that the "pendulum has swung too far" in favor of privacy, when absolutely nothing has changed in the form of law since then.

> Where are all the NSA "reforms" now?

Yep. It's been ~18 months since we first heard of Edward Snowden, and there have been no significant policy (as in, presidential executive order) or legal changes to NSA surveillance authority.

I don't know why there's no modern-day Church committee, but here are a few hypotheses:

1. Sen. Church was running the investigation circa 1975, a few years after Watergate was exposed and a year after Nixon resigned. I suspect there was much more public concern about executive abuses than there are today, and the GOP's willingness to defend the Nixon administration was limited post-Waterage (compare to now, where nearly all Dem politicos will defend to the hilt a D in the White House).

2. Much of FedGov's surveillance abuses pre-Church were clearly illegal and criminal. The lesson intelligence agencies learned is that, no matter how dodgy the behavior, as long as there's an AG opinion theoretically blessing it, you won't be prosecuted. So the surveillance abuses today may violate the 4A and our sense of proportionality, but they aren't clearly indictable offenses. Instead of "clearly illegal" you have "AG blessed in a written opinion and lawyers may disagree."

3. There was no Intelligence Committee back then, so TLAs were more limited in being able to get congressional buy-in for warrantless surveillance. Now there is, and Feinstein (and Rs on it as well, to be sure) have been the biggest defenders of the NSA post-Snowden. They have to be: they were read in on the programs and were complicit in any wrongdoing. Answer: argue there was none!

4. Forty years after the Church Committee, people now may expect to be under surveillance (sadly) and expect FedGov to be corrupt. Look at post-1970s movies like Enemy of the State, Gattaca, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, V for Vendetta, etc. So what would have shocked the average American's conscience 40 years ago may now be almost expected. (This is the boiling-frog theory.)

5. There's a lot more inflation-adjusted $$$ to be made from the surveillance-industrial complex now especially post-9/11 than there was 40+ years ago. It may be an order of magnitude higher. More tax $$$ kicking around == more support in Washington officialdom.

I'm sure there are other explanations too but those are the first that come to mind...

> (compare to now, where nearly all Dem politicos will defend to the hilt a D in the White House).

While the sitting POTUS is in fact a Democrat, a lot of the revelations presented by Snowden (and the AG opinions blessing the illegal spying (and torture, etc)) where initiated under a Republican POTUS and for most of his tenure a Republican majority in Congress. And while we didn't have solid evidence before Snowden, it was fairly common knowledge that rights were being infringed upon in the guise of security (and ironically 'protecting our freedoms'). And I cannot really recall a GOP member being outraged about this then or now.

Regardless, both parties have been pretty absent in this debacle and typically, when a congress-person steps out from the herd and starts to question the legitimacy of it all, they typically get displaced in the next election.

This is the rule: Party X will defend unconstitutional electronic surveillance when the president is Party X. And it will attack unconstitutional electronic surveillance when the president is NOT(Party X).

The above rule holds true for both major parties.

What's changed is that a lot of this surveillance is perfectly legal now.

The surveillance state has written itself a blank check.

Well, maybe there is a committee. But for national security reasons, it would obviously have to work in secret, and it's findings would be secret. Can you prove that there haven't been a classified audit of the NSA, in accordance with the classified rules that were enacted to enable such a classified audit?

> Much of this was known before

For a time-capsule view of the mood on the issue, there's this 1965 novel by Rex Stout: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doorbell_Rang

It's part of the series about sedentary detective Nero Wolfe, one of my literary guilty pleasures. While being all for law and order, Stout was not too keen on unbridled authority, and his characters would often tweak a policeman's metaphorical nose.

Let this serve as a demonstration that government agencies actually can be comically evil.

A lot of people dismiss accusations against government agencies or fail to consider hypothetical legal abuse scenarios because "the government would never do that". Yes, the government would ever do that.

It's stronger than the government would do that. It's that the government did that. This incident of the government trashing one of the world's great civil rights heroes is a mark of shame that all of us Americans have to bear.

In J. Edgar Hoover's mind

Civil Rights Movement -> Destabilizing Effect on American Culture -> Probably a Communist Plot -> Civil Rights Movement is the Enemy

Another thing to bear in mind was that a large part of the civil rights movement was blacks trying to exercise rights which they theoretically had a legal right to exercise in the 1950s and 1960s - vote in federal elections, travel in integrated interstate buses and use the bus terminal facilities during transfers, attend all-white public schools which the Brown decision had forbid in 1954 etc. So this was the government using its intelligence powers to secretly persecute people who were trying to non-violently exercise the rights they technically had under the law.

Who know what political uses the information stored in the Utah Data Center will be used for in the future?

The case against King was a little more specific than that, though still not a reasonable basis for suspicion: One of his close associates had historical ties to the US communist party.

It was such a weak case that Hoover had to really push on LBJ to let him go after King so aggressively, and probably reflected cryptic racism as much as his fear of communism.

All governments to varying degrees seem to operate with a number of hidden imperatives, with one being "maintain the status quo." There will always be some within the government bureaucracy who see anything that deviates from the status quo of their host society as criminal or an enemy.

It wasn't just J. Edgar Hoover, it was everybody under him that cooperated with him on things like this.

I get that. And that, compared to the terrorism threat, communism was a real issue. It didn't look like we were winning, and there really were people on foreign government's payroll in the US. The problem is the ends didn't justify the means, because they were wrong.

I do consider myself patriotic, but we have to fess up when we get things so wrong.

King was "one of the world's great civil rights heroes" because he was a subversive figure. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone that subversive figures end up encountering resistance from the Establishment.

If you want an example of what the government would do and what the FBI did do, don't look at Martin Luther King. Look at Fred Hampton.

So much of the debate in discussion about this is whether police/FBI "abuse their power", are or are not "evil", if Hoover himself was obsessed, whether King was a saint or a hero or a fraud, was this or that legal, etc.

I'm wondering more about what might be called the "collective subconscious" of the elite and powerful, which knows that black America doesn't forget slavery, Native Americans don't forget conquest, the part that remembers that a government's first and foremost enemy is its own people.

The civil rights movement represented (re-presented) a direct threat to the establishment. It wasn't just the south, there were riots in every major city. Malcolm X was gunned down in NYC. The impoverished black populace, then and now, is a powder keg of rage and misery ready to explode, so targeting leaders was the tactic then. Now we have mass incarceration, with a significant percentage of the black population in jail, or denied full citizenship as felons.

I guess I'm wondering just how much "law enforcement" effort is spent on this high-value problem, instead of on the myriad fantasy "crime-solver" cases that our lovely entertainment establishment narrates in cop show after cop show.

For those who don't wish to Google, Fred Hampton was a Black Panther leader assassinated in his bed by Chicago police acting in concert with the FBI.

I was going to make an "academic"-type counter-argument that not even terrorism fears approach the anti-communist hysteria that probably drove this incident, thus it won't happen again... but then there's the NYPD mosque spying case. It's not the same active blackmailing situation. But I think we can say the fact that it happened at all in "our enlightened day and age" is sufficient evidence that, if there were a few person(s) to discredit in order to tear down movements that the government didn't like or feared, they wouldn't mind trampling civil liberties to get it done.

Are there recent, well-documented cases of government blackmailing like this?

I would not doubt at all that the government is blackmailing extremist Muslims any chance they get. (And, interpret "extremist Muslims" as anybody Homeland Security thinks might be so.)

It continually amazes me that Americans can perpetuate the myth that their government is a democratic, moral force in the world given everything they have done, and are still doing...

"Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill

I don't think the parent's point was that democracy is failing to do good, but that America is failing to do democracy.

Tell me what country isn't by your standards? Show me a list of democratic countries and I have no doubt I could dig up some really evil stuff on every single one of them.

Don't take my comment as an excuse or an argument that's it's OK. Governments are run by humans which regularly mess up despite their high hopes.

>Show me a list of democratic countries and I have no doubt I could dig up some really evil stuff on every single one of them.

If I were to pick some (e.g. Switzerland/New Zealand), what you'd dig up on the US would still be far, far, far, far worse. There's really no morally relativistic comparison between Switzerland's aiding and abetting money laundering and the US starting two wars in the last 15 years or Obama's drone murder program. None whatsoever.

This reminds me of the invective that got thrown at Ecuador's Raffael Correa after he offered asylum to Snowden.

Lots of people tried to act as if his government arresting protesters who were blocking a road (mentioned in an Amnesty report) made the country hypocritical when it lectured the US on human rights.

Not so much, actually.

If I were to pick some (e.g. Switzerland/New Zealand)

Let me give it a go! Switzerland basically bankrolled the Nazi war machine. Without Switzerland, Germany would have been unable to stash away all of the treasures it stole and likely wouldn't have been able to carry out the Holocaust with the efficiency it did.[1] Pretty bad huh?

New Zealand has a dismal record on aboriginal rights. The Maori make up 4% of the population, but 50% of the prison population. Check out Amnesty International if you want to read up on other stuff. Some have labelled it genocide.

what you'd dig up on the US would still be far, far, far, far worse

That's purely subjective and I'm sure you'd find many who would disagree.

I'm not arguing that the US shouldn't be criticized. What I'm arguing about is the utter shock that people display when they find out the US hasn't been perfect. It almost seems like the US is held to a much higher standard than other Western nations.


About [1]: IMO [2] is a much better source for what went wrong in WW2 in Switzerland. Lots of work has gone into this, and it isn't biased for the Swiss side at all, even though the Swiss government has sponsored it. IMO the gold trade was defendable, given the geopolitical situation for Switzerland during the height of the the Third Reich - it was completely surrounded. What's most despicable about that time is how Jewish refugees have been turned back (even though I have to add that this was not the case for everyone, Switzerland harboured ~115k Jewish refugees at the end of WW2 [3], while 15-25k were refused).

IMO it's commendable though that the Swiss government was not defensive at all when the gold issue came up again in 1996. Legally they could have defended themselves using the treaty signed with Washington post WW2 (~250M CHF) - instead it caused a majority of Swiss parliament to spawn quite a large program [4], which resulted in extensive documentation, a 295M CHF victim fund as early 1997 and a $1.25 billion settlement later on.

I don't know how much better you could expect any government to handle this situation after the fact.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergier_commission

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland_during_the_World_Wa...

[4] http://www.swissbankclaims.com/chronology.aspx

A study about the government funded by the government. Are you seriously suggesting it's free from bias?

Also, you're justifications of their previous actions based on forming a fund are missing the point. It's the fact that they participated in the first place that's the problem.

> New Zealand has a dismal record on aboriginal rights. The Maori make up 4% of the population, but 50% of the prison population. Check out Amnesty International if you want to read up on other stuff. Some have labelled it genocide.

Some of this is right, some isn't. I (a New Zealander of European ancestry) agree with your general point, however.

Maori are 14.9% of the population. Yes, they make up 51% of people in prison. Yes, this is bad, and there are significant ongoing social inequalities disproportionately affecting Maori.

"Genocide" has been used, but it doesn't seem to fit reality especially well (no organised extermination). Do you have a link to the Amnesty International info?

Historically, there have been both good and bad things regarding rights, e.g. Maori men had universal suffrage before non-Maori men, but the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, was violated and ignored extensively (we've been trying to undo that damage for the last few decades). The Waitangi Tribunal, which hears grievances between Maori and the crown, has settled claims totalling nearly 1 billion NZD.

So, because others are doing some evil things as well, one is not allowed to compare and hold their government to higher standards than they have now?

Not at all. Just don't act like the US stands alone as a country that has done shitty things.

I don't think anyone has ever made that claim.

I don't understand why this was directed at me.

You said America is failing to do democracy

By your standards, every country is failing to do democracy.

It was an attempted paraphrase of one party's position for two people who seemed to be talking past each other. It was not stated as my position.

Part of the myth is that the US is actually democratic. A democracy is supposed to be 'rule of the people', as opposed to aristocracy, 'rule of the elite'.

What you have in the US is a system where politicians are all either elites in society, or vetted by elites. Where they manage to convince or coerce a 'big enough' group of people to vote for them (ie. half or just over half of voters that actually turn out, which is a subset of the population). Once they're in power, they don't rule on behalf of the people, they rule on behalf of the elites that funded their campaigns. They toe the party line, and within each party is a group of elite 'thinkers' - none of whom are elected, but nevertheless direct the party.

Democracies are also supposed to represent minorities and the 'common folk'. 'Rule of the people' implies a need to either involve the people directly, or rule on their behalf, yet in the US there is a decided animosity towards the people.

In your most recent elections, 36.6% of voters turned out. Once you tally the possible margins of victory, this means that it's possible that you are now ruled by politicians that less than 20% of eligible voters actually voted for. And I wonder what percentage of the population takes part in party primaries? How representative is the US' democracy?

> How representative is the US' democracy? As representative as the people as a whole choose it to be. Which is criteria enough for a democracy.

Is it really that easy to draw a distinction between the various ways of compelling people to vote a certain way?

That's a very cute quote, but "democracy" in of itself is vague. Direct democracy is certainly not better than other forms of government that have been tried. Indeed, direct democracies are nearly non-existent. Most countries are constitutional republics, or more euphemistically "representative democracies".

That said, the United States' implementation of a constitutional republic is still worse than other forms that have been tried. It has a majoritarian voting system, an electoral college and is heavily vulnerable to gerrymandering and divide/conquer.

Furthermore, the United States usually gets more stern criticism precisely because of the idiotic lie of American exceptionalism. The United States is the only country I know of that obsesses over how supposedly "free" it is with an almost religious fervor. All of this propaganda only makes the inevitable examples of U.S. government corruption even more bitter than they would have been if only Americans had a far more realistic outlook about themselves: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unethical_human_experimentatio...

It's a common quote, but there's no argument contained within it other than an argument by Churchill's authority.

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place." - Winston Churchill

USA should try democracy then instead of being a republic.

What a hackneyed line. The USA is a democratic republic aka a form of democracy where the people elect their representatives; I'm pretty sure Winston Churchil understood the difference.

The American government is not a single entity, it is comprised of many people both good and bad.

And with the magic of compartmentalization, both kinds of people can work together to create a horrible organization that does all kinds of evil around the world.

Actually, compartmentalization allows the two to work together and only enact what they both agree to. The results are not always terrible, they're a mix.

Nah, you'll do whatever you are ordered to or lose your job. You don't need to know why. Scratch that, here's why: freedom. Now you can feel good about that wire you just cut, that letter you just signed, or that "terrorist" you tortured for years.

That's actually the best hope for America, the expectation that we should do good, do the best we can.

I don't see how perpetuating the myth helps with achieving that.

It helps and it hurts.

As GauntletWizard gets into, it helps when individuals asked (by individuals or circumstance) to be bad feel like they'd be doing something wrong and unusual, which people are less likely to do than things they just feel are wrong.

It hurts when people who have already decided to do bad things exploit it.

Because "That's just the way things are done" is the best way to continue horrible practices. Oh, I'm just going to do this little bit of bribery/corruption/racism; it's not really as bad as practice X in the past. Understanding them is the best way to promote bad behaviors. People are naturally afraid of the unfamiliar.

There's a limit; This is the same argument made by moral crusaders who're against sex education, and that ultimately causes harm. But it's the argument ignored by the D.A.R.E. program organizers, and that has a storied history of being shown (sometimes) to increase drug use[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_Abuse_Resistance_Educatio...

Maybe for some cases, but good is relative, subjective term. Good for whom?

Did the FBI agents drafting this think they were doing their best to do good?

It amazes me that people still paint an entire population with one brush.

I find it funny how people feel offended as soon as you leave out the words "some" or "most".

Why do you think that is funny?

It's like they want to be offended or something, don't you think? Isn't it pretty obvious that when someone says "Americans are silly people" they don't mean that literally every single American person is silly?

I'm not sure it's all that obvious. That's pretty much the entire foundation of the very popular practices of "stereotyping" and "racism".

Any system as large and complicated as this one will have failures. Our job is to learn from the past and try to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Yeah, failures that cost hundreds of thousands lives. We're talking about the most weaponized country in the world, and one of the least shy to use its weapons.

We are not talking about a movie maker delivering a boring scene who will try to do better in the next movie. We're talking about toppling foreign governments, invading countries, backing or installing dictatures, assassinating people, droning teenagers, dealing cocaine, torturing people, launching nuclear weapons. Doing it times and times over, never being shy about it, and never admitting any wrong.

There is zero structure of improvement in the US government behavior. Those structure exists, for example the Geneva treaty, the Rome treaty which brings trial for war criminals, but the US government refuses any accountability. There is no downside to the erratic US behavior.

I doubt change is going to come from external pressure or treaties (although those are good things). Change is going to come when a lot more people become aware of just how bad things have been going, and why. All of the atrocities you mentioned have been done to protect and expand the interests of the wealthy, and have been done in as much secrecy as possible.

I have reason to hope that things CAN change and in fact, ARE changing. Look how rapidly gay marriage has gone from an impossibility to soon being the law of the land in an incredibly short amount of time. Pot legalization is happening at the same speed. The next great wave will be atheism. These things are happening because of increased communication and awareness due to our newfound interconnectivity. That is only going to increase.

Soon it will be extremely hard to keep secrets at all, a condition that is essential to these atrocities continuing.

What country that has been considered a world power hasn't participated in the same level of "evil"? The whole "power corrupts" thing isn't an American problem it is a problem with human nature.

Why does a country need to be a singular "world power"?

That's engineering for you. Examine the failure modes, and try to design the next system so it can't fail in any of the known ways.

In fact, that's what the authors of the Constitution were trying to do...

And they did an incredible job all things considered. It's worth noticing that even quite advanced countries like France unironically put numbers before the word "Republic" to keep track of which edition they are on. The longevity of the U.S. Constitution is simply unprecedented.

... and the authors of quite a few international treaties and systems that the US refuses to submit to (the main one being Rome).

Even if you had a perfect corruption-proof government design... What can you do about it? You are not in charge, and have no way to influence the people in charge.

Even if you had a perfect corruption-proof government implementation, you still have humans composing that government, and therefore it won't be corruption-proof for long.

I don't think a design could be said to be "corruption-proof" without taking into account the elements that compose it. That may or may not be most of a proof of the non-existence of "corruption-proof" government.

Democracies don't have memory, they only have momentum.

> Our job is to learn from the past and try to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Doesn't seem to be working with Guantanamo. Or invading other countries.

As compared to exactly which other government? Anywhere?

Comparisons are a Red Herring.

The point is people erroneously "believe" in their government. That it does only the most necessarily evil and then only to bad people. Such beliefs are manifestly dangerous. They result in things such as Drug seizure laws, PATRIOT act, militarization of police, demonizaton of whistle blowers.

DON'T trust authority, DON'T give authority powers assuming they will only be used for good, DO assume authority is lying, cheating, and evil.

What people '"believe" in their government'? Do a search for "poll americans believing in government". Most polls will show < 50% of people are willing to state that they believe government officials on various issues. So, trust really isn't the problem.

I agree with your last statement completely. The trick is to get people to get knowledgeable (or even care) about history and what is happening in the country. Right about now, it seems to be we're more tending towards "Brave New World" than "1984". If people could just turn off 30 minutes a day of their "Real Housewives" and focus on learning something new, about anything, we'd start fixing the problems.

Fear and ignorance are the problem, not trust. The fear of being tossed in jail. The fear of having your children taken away. The fear of having your assets seized and your reputation tarnished forever. Ignorance of societal trends. Endless warfare, welfare and imperialism fueled by an unprecedented debt bubble. Civil asset forfeiture out of control. The TSA security theatre is encroaching on not just airports but football stadiums and train stations. Posse Comitatus overturned by the NDAA. Dissemination of outright propaganda legalized! The least transparent administration in history. The fucking _IRS_ engaged in outright discrimination against political rivals, which is unquestionably illegal.

But it's OK if you have power. "Sorry, hard drives crashed."

The rich are getting richer, the middle class is disappearing, and people are getting desperate. Western society as a whole is _one_ catastrophic meltdown away from massive civil unrest that will end in bloodshed and revolution.

Does the average American consider these trends when making investment decisions or going about their normal lives? Do they even _care_?

Most people can't afford to openly question the system, because they have too much to lose. They can't afford to be thrown in jail, or have their assets seized, or get put on a list by the NSA. Which is why Bitcoin matters.

Bitcoin enables people to dismantle the massive out of control tyranny without openly admitting or perhaps even _realizing_ their intent. The proof? Plenty of successful, educated people believe Bitcoin is an apolitical fintech innovation that streamlines payments. Success! These people of course have at best a cursory understanding of geopolitics and macroeconomics, which is all the better. Anyone can buy into Bitcoin without leaving their bedroom, and give very plausible reasons for buying in. "Because the price is going up. What's it to you?"

Bitcoin eliminates the State's ability to conduct endless warfare and welfare, because the State can't print BTC. Neither can they seize BTC, which gives _you_ the upper hand. Oh, you want my money? Sorry, can't seem to locate the wallet. Oh, I'm in violation of your moral code and you want to take my bank account? Sure, you can have the $0.00 in my bank account. Think you'll rot away in prison for disobeying tyrants? A huge proportion of inmates have smartphones, which is all you need to access your cash.

Sorry, you can seize my physical assets but you're not touching my fucking fortune. Bitcoin violently flips the power equation. Few appreciate this, but as governments around the world continue to get more and more bankrupt and desperate, having capital outside of their clutches will be a great boon.

Had me up until Bitcoin. They most certainly can seize it. They most certainly can mine it. And they most certainly could shut it down if they wanted to. With those same tactics you were mentioning earlier. Bitcoin is P2P but it is not anonymous.

Comparisons are not a red herring when the parent comment specifies a particular government.

In fact, that implicitly invites comparison.

Maybe the problem is not just the United States government, but the very idea of government and the modern nation state as it stands ever since it came into existence after the peace of westphalia?

Doen't Libertarian dogma demand that institutions can't win for extended periods of time unless they're the best solution?

What's changed that made government ideal for hundreds of years and suddenly isn't ideal now that your upper-middle-class sheltered white privilege has decided that your life would be slightly easier if you paid less tax?

No, and nothing respectively.

But I can see how this excellent rebuke actually fully addresses all possible claims that the flaws seen in modern nation states are intrinsic to the structure thereof rather than merely globally applicable aberrations caused by some other confounding factor, so well done with that. You really knocked it out of the park.

You probably thought you were cover, but if you were at all honest or smart you'd know that I wasn't trying to rebuke all claims of flaws. Hell, I didn't try to rebuke any such flaws. I didn't even deny them.

I was just pointing out that in the marketplace of societal organizational schemes, the nation-state has been winning for a long time now. You have your excuses as to why, but many competitors have been tried, and they're nearly all total failures.

Also, only a truly nutty religious zealot would claim that any system is flawless. That's the sort of shit that nut jobs like you say about your religion. It's not the sort of argument that any sane person makes about anything. The rest of us live in a world where we don't have all the answers; you're the only one in this conversation who thinks he knows absolutely everything, and who thinks he has the right to demand that I can't live in the society I prefer.

Thank you for being a truly cartoonish individual. You never stop making me laugh, you hilarious little asshole.

edit: also, LOL at how fast you responded. you really, really need a life.

edit2: seriously. you're fucking HILARIOUS. such a joke.

> you'd know that I wasn't trying to rebuke all claims of flaws. Hell, I didn't try to rebuke any such flaws. I didn't even deny them.

You caught that did you? I'm very impressed.

"Others do it therefore it's ok."

"Reality is not a moral construct."

I suppose the Demiurge should be expected to have much to say on the nature of reality as a construct. If the Gnostics have it right, I don't know if we could trust it to tell the truth though.

We do, at least, know, that voting on this particular matter is futile :)

In US schools we are taught from a young age about our "democracy" that we have here. By the time we realize it is all a big lie, we're much older. If only we were able to teach our youngsters what really happens in politics in school.

> By the time we realize it is all a big lie, we're much older

And so far in debt and worry about healthcare you never again get a change to have your head above water and have a look around.

What's the alternative, to just throw up our hands and sob into tea?

What you call a myth, we call an ideal. Are we living up to it right now? No. That doesn't mean we should discard it. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The New York Times actually broke the story.


The first words of the EFF article are "The New York Times". This article, as the title suggests, goes more into the "dangers of unchecked surveillance" in a digital age.

If you read that document carefully, you can see that the EFF edited one of passages that they quoted and did not mention their edit, which is a big no-no. The original letter says:

  (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason,
  it has definite practical significant.
which the EFF quoted as

  (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason,
  it has definite practical significance).

I expect that was accidental, but I agree it should be fixed (either corrected in brackets, or the original with a [sic]).

Yes. We changed the url to that from https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/11/fbis-suicide-letter-dr... as the "original" source.

I understand that it's policy to change the URLs to the original source, but in this case I feel the EFF article was a better discussion piece.

Yes, it's not always the case that a single URL is better in every respect. We're working on a design for associating multiple URLs with a story. Even with that, though, there still needs to be a primary URL, because the title on the front page has to link somewhere.

One thing we were stuck on for a while is how to let users vote on what the primary URL should be, but (fingers crossed) I now think we may have hit on a way to do it.

Glad to hear about these improvements in development!

The original article was submitted yesterday but got almost no traction, and the inertia of this post seemed to die off around the time it was switched to the NY Times link. Seems like the EFF one really is a better discussion piece. Would you consider changing the URL back so that the majority of the discussion reflects the original source that sparked it in posterity?

I'm not really seeing that big of a context switch.

I spent an obsessive night searching through documents via online 'reading rooms'. I don't have the links anymore but theres mounds of documentation showing intelligence agencies doing shady shit like this to try to break up civil rights groups. Fun look ups are 'blank panthers', 'san francisco', 'socialist', any black leader.

San Francisco seems like a broad term but there's so much interesting stuff, they were watching school teachers in the 60s and 70s and trying to create distrust within communities that were too left leaning.

http://vault.fbi.gov/search http://www.foia.cia.gov/

The word to search for is COINTELPRO. Tim Weiner's Enemies: A History of the FBI goes into some detail about it, and its notes probably provide pointers to the relevant documents.

they still do this. Occupy was absolutely insane on this level, and we were small fish comparatively.


Rather. Hackers political values, as stated in the jargon file, have politics:

"Formerly vaguely liberal-moderate, more recently moderate-to-neoconservative (hackers too were affected by the collapse of socialism). There is a strong libertarian contingent which rejects conventional left-right politics entirely. The only safe generalization is that hackers tend to be rather anti-authoritarian; thus, both paleoconservatism and ‘hard’ leftism are rare. Hackers are far more likely than most non-hackers to either (a) be aggressively apolitical or (b) entertain peculiar or idiosyncratic political ideas and actually try to live by them day-to-day."

Mapping this to any political ideology would be difficult.

esr's definition of hackers' political values, curiously, always seem to match esr's current political values.

The people commenting and submitting articles here have a wide range of personal social/political/economic philosophies.

If you want to destroy HN as it exists today, turn it into a political vehicle.

A Political Party is full of likeminded people. (Or it loses elections; see: Democrats)

HN is not a HiveMind.


I think almost every group is a hivemind. And HN certainly shares characteristics of groupthink.

I don't think that almost every group is a hivemind. I don't think HN shares many characteristics of groupthink.

Even if I'm wrong, that still means I'm not part of the same hivemind/groupthink as you are. And yet here we both are, on HN.

Threads about minorities or women are full of examples. And thinking you aren't part of groupthink is classic groupthink anyway so that doesn't prove anything. Just look at your response, classic HN: dismissive and flippant.

> We could be to the left what the tea party is to the right.

Extreme and uncompromising to the point of absurdity? Actually, that does sound like the HN community!

More seriously though, even if there were enough cohesion among HN thinkers to build up anything resembling a worthwhile political entity, at least in the USA, it would be a powerless symbolic party, fit only for mockery by late night television comedians. The USA's current political system is completely intractable to the point where the current two parties are the only option; the only viable path is to move the two parties in our direction, alternatives are assuredly doomed to failure.

We have the Piratenpartei in Germany, full of nerds and people who take a strong stance for privacy, net neutrality and many other things tech related. They get laughed at and ridiculed (often for good reason) and are considered "unelectable" by many, even in the tech field.

BUT they force other parties to think more about these issues and take position themselfs. I think the Piratenpartei is extremely beneficial for the political landscape here.

I have often wondered why the US seemed so slow to adopt these ideas. From my limited understanding, a good deal of the problem is probably the 2 party system in the US, but that doesn't mean a "HN party" couldn't apply a lot of pressure to democrats and republicans alike.

What would be the benefit of being a political party? If we want HN to become a political power (and I am not saying we do), then it seems like a more productive approach is to become a lobby like the EFF/ACLU/NRA/etc.

Becoming a political party means that we would need to have a stance on every issue. Being a lobby means we can focus on the issues that we know about and care about.

If we want HN to become a political power (and I am not saying we do), then it seems like a more productive approach is to become a lobby like the EFF/ACLU/NRA/etc.

Isn't that the reason? We may need a lobby too.

Why would any sane person want to be to the left what the Tea Party is to the right?

Make things. Don't engage in primate coalition building, that never helps. Having descended from a long line of hominids you should be more suspicious of your brain when it comes up with ideas that it can rationalize as "making the world better" and just coincidentally happens to correspond to "seeking power and status."

Do you realize that it was Democrats, the "left" in US politics, who were opposed to MLK's message of equality and freedom for all? that the battle for Civil Rights was won thanks to Republicans, against Democrats? that it was Democrats who were the anti-abolitionist party?

> the battle for Civil Rights was won thanks to Republicans

It was more a North-South divide than a party divide.


(Signed into law by a Democrat, incidentally)

> that it was Democrats who were the anti-abolitionist party?

And France had a Napoleon (III) at the helm, but that hardly means a thing today.

> Do you realize that it was Democrats, the "left" in US politics, who were opposed to MLK's message of equality and freedom for all? that the battle for Civil Rights was won thanks to Republicans, against Democrats?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

In the House:

- Southern Democrats voted 94% against it -- but Southern Republicans voted 100% against it.

- Northern Democrats voted 94% for it -- but Northern Republicans voted only 85% for it.

In the Senate:

- Southern Democrats voted 95% against it -- but Southern Republicans voted 100% against it.

- Northern Democrats voted 98% for it -- but Northern Republicans voted only 84% for it.

So, the strongest split wasn't party, but region -- the South was against it and the North was for it. But by party within either region, North or South, the Democrats were more for (or less against) it, while the Republicans were less for (or more against) it.

The Democratic part before the civil right era was vastly different. After the passage of the Civil Rights bill in 1964, the political climate of the party changed drastically, especially in the south[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_South


Don't know why you're being downvoted. You're absolutely correct. The Democratic and Republican parties had polar opposite platforms from their present ones until the Southern Strategy beginning in the late 1960s.

Its actually a lot more complicated than that. Prior to the Southern Strategy by Republicans exploiting this fact (and, really, for several decades after), the Democratic Party -- especially post-New Deal -- was a weird coalition between left leaning groups and southern conservatives (a result of the fact that the national parties were largely coalitions of state parties, and stretching back to the Civil War the Republican Party was the establishment party of the North and the Democratic Party the establishment party of the South, which sort of resulted in the opposite party often being the anti-establishment party in other regions if it existed at all -- and its worth noting that lots of states were effectively one-party states even moreso than is the case anywhere today.)

OTOH, the Southern Strategy was a direct result of Republicans realizing that Democrats were vulnerable in the South because the Democratic Party as a whole was no longer voting in line with Southern conservatives.

If there were HN "elections", my guess would be it came somewhat close to 40% Democrats, 30% Libertarians, 20% Republican, 10% Greens. I would say Democrats would have a tough struggle to win a majority.

HN readerbase is definitely a faction, but I haven't seen it produce anything outside of good discussion and interesting thought.

I don't think it has enough wherewithal to bootstrap something like a new political party.

The question is, are we prepared to be on the receiving end of suicide letters and terrorist charges that will inevitably come when it's clear we stand a chance of making a difference?

it doesn't matter what political party you create. vote buying is rampant and it goes to the highest bidder.

Eventually we'll know what's in his file:

The FBI spied on Martin Luther King Jr. in an unsuccessful effort to prove he had ties to Communist organizations. In 1963, Attorney General Robert Kennedy granted an FBI request to surreptitiously record King and his associates by tapping their phones and placing hidden microphones in their homes, hotel rooms and offices. A 1977 court order sealed transcripts of the surveillance tapes for 50 years.


...some people think he made extensive use of prostitutes, but I expect the FBI would have pulled an "Eliot Spitzer" on him had that been the case. Still, there's something there or they wouldn't be covering it up to protect his saintly image.

What Dr. King did or did not do isn't the point: the point is that the FBI abused its power (in a drastic fashion) in an attempt to suppress and damage King's political speech.

"... Still, there's something there or they wouldn't be covering it up to protect his saintly image..."

It's interesting... but why would it matter ???

Isn't the issue that Americans endure INVASION of private time... not necessarily how Americans USE their private time ???

Serious question. Just wondering if there is some legal justification for invading privacy to find out ... say ... what a political enemy is doing ??? I don't think they're supposed to do that ... but I'm not a lawyer.

While he was not a communist, his plans for social justice were very threatening to the establishment

If you read "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?" (which he wrote towards the end of his life), he basically says that the Civil Rights movement needs to shift from racial agenda to an agenda of helping the poor. However he never presents an actual plan other than some vague idea of a massive transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor.


I'd go farther to argue that he's not a communist b/c he wasn't really thinking in those terms and he actively tried to avoid the label (that's why he took for ever to stand up against the war in Vietnam)

It's likely that people still alive are also recorded on the tapes. Whatever else it does, the court order also protects their privacy.

Tbh, this is what scares me about tech illiterate juries. Many of these cases hang on key pieces of evidence that are literally the FBI's word against the defendants.

Good thing these things come up to make the FBI's word worth less, then!

We need some sort of standardised trust metric....

I'd prefer a better educated populace that realizes the "technical evidence" being submitted in many cases is essentially witness testimony and not physical evidence [e.g. fingerprints on the murder weapon] which I think many people believe.

Witness testimony is perfectly fine as long as it isn't implied to be anything greater than that.

Say the issue is call metadata. They showed that I called the murderer, who then murdered someone I had a grudge against. So this evidence doesn't prove that I did order a hit, but at least proves that I had the opportunity to have done so.

The metadata is technical evidence, not witness testimony. But...

Who wrote the software that collected the metadata? Any bugs in it? Any possibility that I did not, in fact, make that call?

Where was the metadata stored? Who had access to it? Could anybody have altered it, perhaps even to cover their own tracks?

Who had custody of the data after the records got pulled from the database? Any chance that they could have altered it? Maybe they knew that the prosecution's case was weak, and they wanted to make it look better?

In this way, technical evidence does in fact depend on witness testimony.

Does that happen in every case for every piece of technical evidence?

I think it has to. The only way it could not is if you had a piece of physical evidence, and you were going to extract the technical evidence from it there in the courtroom in front of the jury. But even then, you have to worry about the chain of custody of the physical evidence, and about the tool you're going to use to extract the technical evidence in the courtroom...

Perhaps it does but I'm not convinced without evidence it happens and I can't find any that shows it happens the majority of the time let alone all the time :/

Well, I think what happens in an actual court case is, you check out the chain of custody if you suspect that anything is actually fishy, or if you can make the prosecution's case look weak. If there's nothing there that you can use in your defense, then it never comes up in court.

Could be. But imo, anything the FBI touched would be suspect.

Why would a tech-savvy jury be more inclined to discount testimony or non-technical evidence from the prosecution? It seems that the word of law enforcement has an advantage in the courtroom regardless of someone's literacy in any field.

In any case, I think a bigger problem isn't juries, but the huge amount of cases that never see a jury, via absurd overcharges leading to plea bargains. Only a judge is involved, and judges are much more "reliable" than a jury ...

Besides, when would an incident like this ever get in front of a jury? I can't think of a single case where the FBI was in the dock for COINTELPRO shenanigans like this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Aleynikov would be an example of what I mean. :P

The unredacted version is really interesting historically, but I don't think it reveals much more about the lengths the FBI went to. I believe it was already well-known and believed that King was being sexually blackmailed specifically. The redacted portions all seem to deal with that exact nature of the blackmailing.

The redaction reveals more about what the FBI wouldn't do: how at least one person was reluctant to release public documentation proving that's what the FBI did.

Snopes has a good explainer largely debunking one of the nastier pieces of misinformation circulating about MLK, which touches on FBI surveillance of him:


Something that's always confused me about the world and people as a whole. Why are so many people hell bent on implementing some "moral standard" that everyone needs to follow? Honestly?

There's this bizarre projection of the individual and his/her motivations onto every living being that fails to make any logical sense.

Is there any psychological premise for why we feel the need to dictate the behavior of others such that they perfectly mirror how we behave (or in many cases, wish to)?

There appears to be a tipping point where someone agrees with a certain set of values and as opposed to stopping at enforcing those values on themselves (reasonable), they go absolutely nuts trying to push it onto everyone else.

A sort of: how dare you.

MLK was a religious ministry, so his job was to spread some kind of moral standard on other people anyways. So 1) his moral standard where known 2) it was quite fair for his opponents to use those moral standards against him.

(I'm not defending the letter or the FBI, I just think a minute detail of the story is consistent)

It's fair enough to characterize King's work as part religious ministry, and I think it's also fair to consider what it means that King's walk didn't live up to all of the standards one would assume would come with his apparent Christianity.

I'm not sure it is in fact fair "to use those moral standards against him", though, unless you're working with a conception of moral standards as a game in which the point is to cast your team into The Good Guys and the other team as The Bad Guys. And sure, some people play that exact game (the FBI is doing it here), but you can also approach moral standards as ideals which would make the world better if we could adhere to them. The latter conception still means that people who fail to keep standards can suffer natural consequences (as well as artificial ones of standing) if they don't adhere, but it's not much of an attack on the moral authority of the standard.

There's also a question of a sort of standards severability. King is known for agitating for racial equality and social justice, not for being a crusader for the virtues of chastity and fidelity. If he'd been known to privately abuse and privilege based on apparent race, or inclined to acquire wealth at the expense of others, that'd seem be a bigger deal.

Finally, a little bit of C.S. Lewis:

"The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."

Again, none of this is to discount the value it might have to consider an MLK with weaknesses and some questionable behavior. Or, for that matter, the value of fidelity.

Personally I think it's more motivated, at least in the beginning, by said person wanting them to be "better". Said person feels they should act this way, as it's "better" and tries to force it on them.

Similar to how you'd feel towards people getting payday loans. Don't do it. Because X, and X is a valid reason to me to not do it. So you shouldn't do it.

At least personally, not giving advice that's isn't asked for is really hard at times because I think I usually have good advice. But that's exactly how "those" people feel.

> fails to make any logical sense

By and large humans are not logical, our actions are not logical/rational at least on individual basis. They are rational from a evolutionary species domination POV. We are herd animals. Enforcing "moral standards" is outcome of Herd dynamics. e.g. way to maintain control / "leader of the herd" status and to distinguish other herdmembers.

Less cynically, moral cohesion is important for social cohesion, which is critical for survival. So from that perspective it makes perfect sense. It's just carried too far most of the time.

This is somewhat simplistic but consider life as a kind of prisoner's dilemma. Cooperation has many benefits and the people cooperating have a strong incentive to make others cooperate as well. It's not an exact match but try substituting "cooperation" where you would use "moral standard" and it will usually make good sense.

Is this an inditement of Dr. King, the FBI, Or the EFF?

Are you inditing all three of them?

I'm pretty sure all three parties have put their words to action, and are fully willing to follow their moral beliefs in addition to foisting those beliefs on others.

No one in particular, this article just brought the thought to mind.

Ok that's fair. A little unrelated, but fair.

It's probably not the case here, but the reason I always supposed is that people secretly resent the moral rules they strive to follow, and think, "hey, if I've got to do this, so do you!"

Ha! I like that. Never thought of it that way.

When was the letter written? What marked the significance of '34 days later'?

I think the NYT article implied that it was 34 days until the ceremony where he was awarded the Peace Prize.

The URL was changed to the NY Times article that originally broke the story, but this post originally linked to an EFF interpretation of the article:

FBI's "Suicide Letter" to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance


To me, the most ironic part of the whole situation is Hoover's private behavior...

That aside, there is very little doubt in my mind Hoover was a bad man. The sad part is, many people eventually are bad given the chance and they never even know it. This is why impartial rules and transparency are important.

This may not be a common sentiment, but I look forward to the day when we are governed by machines rather than monkeys. I mean... the constitution, the rules of state and religion, they are algorithms no? Designed to remove as much as possible the corruptible human element from the equation? So why not take this concept a level further? That's my thinking.

Eventually there will always be another Hoover. But the next one might have better tools. But I think the human race can build a better system based on principals of efficiency, impartiality and beneficence. And maybe after a bit more waste, abuse and needless suffering caused by greed (that is the bottom line with the people who run the Hoovers of the world no?) it will.

If this hadn't been labeled "suicide letter" I never would have read into it that the writer wanted King to kill himself. "You know what to do" is actually pretty vague. Do what? Come clean about his affairs? Leave the country? Quit being a pain in the ass for the government? Quit working on civil rights?

Do we have a guess as to why they wanted him dead? Was it that those in power believed the rise of African American citizens would disrupt the power structure and their position in it? Or was it purely racist, with the powerful just believing it was wrong for black people to have equal rights?

This puts in context why privacy is so important. If for some reason you were to become a leader of a movement and the NSA had swept up every digital bit about you for the last 30 years then they could potentially have a goldmine of information to soil your name and put the movement into disarray.

Wow the redacted parts read like modern day news article comment sections. I wonder, was it meant to look like it was sent from a crazy person, but to include specific facts to scare MLK, or is this aligned with the typical kinds of personality attacks done by people at the time?

How hard would it be to create a fake internet paper trail containing pornography, chat rooms, etc., as is mentioned in the article? It seems that would be relatively trivial for a sufficiently motivated state actor to perpetrate.

maybe we should compare some of these misdeeds to the misdeeds of the various communist governments that inspired those misdeeds

This was in the 1960s. Imagine the projects being conceived now for targeting individuals and population subsets to change opinion, mood, etc. using things like social media, targeted communications, etc.

The US then and now was totalitarian and authoritarian. Some of you, especially here on hn, may not fall into those mind-sets but it doesn't matter - you've lost - you're barely scraping by, working 60 to 80 hours a week and you have no time to change your environment. Meanwhile the political class is able to work full-time on perpetuating their power while taking away yours. You have no power, no rights, because they have been chiseled away the last 30 years by the authoritarians.

I've said this before and I'm always downvoted but I don't care. Just leave. Go to Berlin, or London (not much better though), Switzerland, or anywhere else. Even if you go to someplace like the UK that isn't much better than the u.s. you will at least no longer be contributing to a government spending 10X to 100X of any other country on arguably evil pursuits. Take your wealth-creation skills to somewhere else where you won't be contributing to your our demise.

I know that many of you will discount this one event as a one-off - MLK was certainly special. But it's only a one-off because it was the start of this sort of campaign against someone that can bring change.

I'll bite. From one troll account to another.

It's interesting when someone from Switzerland claims the moral high ground about a country's past wrongs. Switzerland has a colorful history of Nazi collaboration and laundering of stolen treasure by the 3rd Reich.

Is that an unfair characterization of you as a modern Swiss person? Yes.

Just like comparing 1960s America to the present day. The U.S. may not live up to the ideals that are plastered over it's monuments, but it's certainly not contributing to your demise (whatever that means).

> Just leave. Go to ...

Spoken like a true Swiss. No, we all don't have the spare funds or network of employers to travel to a different country at will. Not to mention, SV is the epicenter of venture capital in software, not Zurich. Who are the VCs who would fund a startup's relocation to Zurich?

> contributing to a government

You can be forgiven for this, but U.S. citizens are perpetually bound to pay taxes even when residing abroad. The first $90k is forgiven, but the next must be taxed. Oh, and the state (e.g. California) doesn't play by these rules; it takes the full amount.

The US will tax you after the first $90k, but you can deduct your foreign paid taxes, so this is only a problem if you live in Singapore, Hong Kong, or Switzerland where the income tax rate is lower (housing deductions can help after this point, though).

California is crazy in how they handle overseas expats.

I'm not Swiss, I'm American.

The Swiss provided a service to the Jews in Germany and helped hide their money from the nazis. Unfortunately most of their customers were killed... If I lived in a country with a corrupt or evil government I would try to move my money to Switzerland too, but the u.s. Is making it increasingly difficult to conduct finance anonymously.

Based on your other comments... I'm not sure if you're aware of the rest of the world. ETH is on par with MIT and EPFL is high up there as well. There is a good start up community here in Zurich, but it's true that VC isn't as advanced here - it's still mostly angel investors. Google has a big office here and it seems to be adding to the enovironment.

But I'm not sure if Silicon Valley is a good goal. I've live and worked there for startups and two big mainstream companies and have no desire to go back that desperate life.

The Swiss provided a service to the Jews in Germany and helped hide their money from the nazis. Unfortunately most of their customers were killed...

Oh lordy, that is the understatement of year!

"Documents recently uncovered in former East German archives suggest that in 1944, SS Chief and German Interior Minister Heinrich Himmler sent a special train loaded with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold, jewelry and art objects to Switzerland for deposit in the vaults of Swiss banks."[1]


> The Swiss provided a service to the Jews in Germany and helped hide their money from the nazis.

Why, they even cunningly tricked the Nazis into taking the Jews' money and delivering it to the Swiss for them!

>that desperate life.

That sounds like a reflection of you and not the bay area.

you are brave and honest, most people agree with you, but are afraid to put it on writing, thank you.

Chill out and pick different audience. Most people on HN are not just "scraping by" unless making >$100k first year after college is now called scraping by. I would say overall HN audience benefits much more from current political, economic and financial situation than suffer from it. It's probably not true for reddit so you can find more receptive audience there.

I don't think most people on HN are making over $100k unless they are in the Bay Area or NYC.

Many, many places that "starting salary" is more like $50-60k.

By scraping by, I mean working 60+ hours per week for those wages. Here in Switzerland we work a normal workweek (45 hours) for an average wage 2x that plus a better quality of life.

Germany and London pay much less though but experienced developers can get decent wages.

Edit: also, when I lived in the u.s. and ma"de significantly more than 100K I still felt like I was scraping by. Taxes in the u.s., especially California, are high, expenses are high, and plus I had no time to spend my money anyway. If take a couple weeks off to travel every now and then but would have to at least answer emails while traveling. No more of that.

You're inventing all of that.

1) American workers don't work 60+ hours to earn 50% less than what people in Switzerland do.

2) The median income in the US is barely below that of Switzerland.

3) The average American worker does not work more than 45 hours per week for the median income.

4) If you compare people of a similar qualification + education + demographic, Americans earn more than people in Switzerland per hour worked, and have more disposable income thanks to a lower cost of living and lower taxes. The US has a very real poverty problem that is especially bad in the black community, and it substantially alters the stats on incomes / standard of living. The asian median household income for example is 100% higher than the median black household income.

I'm talking about IT workers. Average wages are 2x-3x of the u.s. Taxes are 11% to 21% depending in the canton vs the u.s which can be up to 40% in CA. Expenses are 2x in Switzerland but if you live in s.f. probably comparable.

I don't want this to get sidetracked to be a conversation about Switzerland though. In general life is better in Europe than the u.s. - less desperate. At least you have obamacare now.

Europe is less desperate? I don't think so, unless you're only counting about five countries as being Europe.

Spain has 30% real unemployment. France's economy hasn't grown in ten years in inflation adjusted terms, and is suffering hyper stagnation; it has averaged sub 1% nominal GDP growth for that time. Italy is on its third recession in seven years. Portugal is so relatively poor their middle class would barely qualify as poor in the US. Greece is a total economic disaster still.

The Netherlands, Ireland, and Denmark are the three most indebted countries on earth per capita compared to income. Lavish spending today to fake prosperity, to be paid for tomorrow with lowered standards of living. The US has done plenty of that too, but it can more easily manage its debts than European nations can.

The total GDP of Europe is still below 2007 levels, and looks set to remain below that level for another ten years inflation adjusted. Pegging the European economy in effectively a 20 year depression.

Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Czech, Slovakia - you're telling me life is more desperate in the US, than in these countries? That's blatantly false.

Just like I wouldn't recommend a European take a job in Mississippi I wouldn't advise an American take work in Poland.

You were pretending Poland didn't exist: you said life was more desperate in the US than in Europe, while pretending most of the countries in Europe aren't in the same economic boat as Poland (when in fact they are). Europe != Switzerland / Norway / Sweden.

France just saw its unemployment rate hit new highs. The US unemployment rate is now almost half that of France.

In fact, the US unemployment rate is chasing back down toward that of Germany, and the US economy is growing faster than Germany's. And that's with a labor force participation rate higher than nearly all of Europe; ~7 points higher than France, ~3 points higher than Germany, ~10 points higher than Belgium etc.

With available labor being substantially reduced, wages are likely to begin climbing again in the US soon - you aren't going to see that in most of the countries of Europe, because their economies are not growing.

Obamacare isn't really good for anyone except the self-employed and underemployed. The bottom-of-the-barrel unsubsidized O-care option in CA for a family is about $650/mo.

Obamacare has also been a huge benefit to people with pre-existing health conditions. It's also been a huge benefit to the many uninsured who were picked up in the Medicaid expansion.

The private plans for the self-employed/underemployed do suck though. Eventually the country needs to dump the foolishness of employer-based private insurance into some more mature, rational, and responsible approach to universal healthcare, but for now it's sadly the best we could manage.

Wouldn't the cost of living and taxes in those countries normalize the incomes a little bit?

In fact it would drop Switzerland below the US. The cost of living in Switzerland is substantially higher than most of the US.

Expenses in Switzerland are very high but taxes are much lower than in the u.s. and wages are significantly higher than in the u.s. I can't help but feel like I was sold a lie when I lived in the u.s.

I'm not sure how other parts of Europe compare.

If you think you're shocking anyone with your accusations, you're kidding yourself. Paranoia is the default mindset of the American people.

BTW, it's a mindset that is often mocked by Europeans when it comes to subjects like health care, vacation, taxes, guns, etc. But the reasons for it seem obvious now, don't they?

The idea that the U.K., German, or Swiss governments are less authoritarian than the U.S. is laughable to U.S. citizens. You can't see it because you trust those governments; but most Americans got over that a long time ago.

The idea that the U.K., German, or Swiss governments are less authoritarian than the U.S. is laughable to U.S. citizens.

Considering that the UK will throw people in jail for expressing their right to freedom of speech is a slight counter to your argument.

Uh, the UK incarcerating people for speaking helps his argument...

I'll bite.

I want to move! I'm an American web developer living in California, and I want to go to Switzerland or Berlin. I only speak English. What do I do next?

Fantastic username choice.

Is there any indication that the modern FBI et al would use a strategy like this?

OMG STOP THE PRESSES I figured out the men's rights thing!

The government does more harm than good

For all the harm that government does, anarchy is almost always worse.

Anarchy => no rulers


Anarchy => no rules

Rules come from somewhere.

That somewhere is rulers.

Therefore, no rulers => no rules.

Therefore, (Anarchy => no rulers) => (Anarchy => no rules).

Well, rules in anarchy have to come from consensus of the people. So the only rules, in practice, are those that the people are willing and able to enforce against those who wish to break them.

History shows that, in anarchy situations, those who wish to break the rules are sometimes highly motivated and well armed. Thus anarchy at least means "no rules that apply to a warlord when he really wants them not to".

Now, one could argue that that is essentially the situation with the US government now. But the well-armed warlords tend to show considerably less restraint than the US government does.

There is no such thing consensus of the people in any communities of nontrivial size.

In anarchy situations, whoever is capable of filling the power vacuum creates new rules - the "highly motivated and well armed" groups don't break the rules (since if they disagree, there's obviously not a consensus about those rules); they define the rules and others possibly break them.

True enough. But, technically, once someone fills the power vacuum, it's not anarchy any longer.

(But if you're living in it, that "technically" isn't going to comfort you one bit...)

Rulers can certainly provide rules and conventions. But that is not the only, or best, place they can come from. Rules are usually emergent, and these kinds of rules are better suited to the communities they arise in, since they are tailor-made for the circumstances and preferences of the people from which they emerge. Contrast this with Federal rules and regulations which have little or nothing to do with the way life is lived in rural Alaska. But this is the same old argument about the failures of central planning that has been ignored by progressives and conservatives for more than a century.

See: English common law prior to being co-opted by the state.

Also see: David Graeber, anarchist, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVDkkOAOtV0

People who think like this suffer from a lack of imagination, in my opinion. They are people who cannot imagine that others can negotiate or have negative experiences of being ruled over, thus must be dictated to.

Hmm, humans being governed by an inhuman system is worse than humans being governed by other humans?

I find myself afraid to criticize this submission, because I don't feel an honest discourse about this submission can take place on Hacker News.

That should sadden you, as it saddens me.

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