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Ask HN: What can we do to show we don't support the response to Aaron Swartz?
59 points by joslin01 on Jan 8, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments
It's clear that petitions are useless, but it's even more egregious when they're promoted by the government and left out to dry for 2 years.

We shouldn't accept this from our government.

I don't want us to be a community of sheeple who complain a little bit, but ultimately just shrug our shoulders. We shouldn't have to stand for reckless, almost-criminal, prosecutorial abuse. It's basically the same as a cop beating up somebody to "make an example"

Should we code something? Organize a rally in the major cities? Write code to make it easy to start rallies? What're some good ideas to show our discontent?




Two things.

Firstly, please spell his name correctly. It's Aaron Swartz. That respects him and makes sure that your audience isn't distracted by that tiny detail and can focus on your message.

Secondly, the petition was too narrow and targeted the individual prosecutor for that case. Even if she was removed, it wouldn't prevent the same sort of thing happening again.

The larger issue (and one closer to the point) is that the law is broken.

- There are overlapping laws such that Swartz was charged with several distinct offences for what was fundamentally a single (though repeated) action.

- Maximum sentences for such offences (crimes against property, in particular those that use technology, even crimes that are on the face of it relatively victimless) are grossly overstated when compared to violent crimes.

- Prosecutors are permitted to present the charges in a way that maximizes the sentencing, by adding them consecutively.

- All of the above points join together to maximize the number of cases where the defendant pleads guilty to avoid a court case, so there is a ridiculously small number of such cases that go to trial (and a correspondingly vast majority of cases of which the defendant is, as a result, convicted), even where the defendant is actually innocent of some or all charges, or when it is likely that a trial could result in a not guilty verdict.

No reasonable person could say Swartz deserved 35 years in prison for what he is alleged to have done. The legal system that enabled Ortiz to present the charges as she did is much bigger than any prosecutorial overreach she is accused of in that petition. Let's not make it about one prosecutor. Let's make it about all of them.


I agree strongly with the first half of your comment, but the second half, from consecutive sentencing on, is simply incorrect. Swartz faced nothing resembling 35 years, because federal sentencing does not work by simply adding the counts up for every charged offense. Like charges "group", and the convicted are sentenced according to the most severe of those charges.

The prosecutors threatened Swartz not with 35 years, but with ~7. 7 years is also a ludicrous sentence. But it was also an unrealistic sentence: under the sentencing guidelines, Swartz was likely to face (if convicted) a sentence denominated in months not years, and --- according to his own lawyer, and observable from the actual sentencing guidelines --- one that probably could have made the probation cutoff to avoid any custodial time.

So, your third bulleted suggestion isn't valid: CFAA crimes are already not sentenced "consecutively".

What seems clear now is that the prosecutors were determined to have Swartz sentenced for some amount of prison time (they offered a plea deal with a very short sentence, and rejected any deals that failed to put Swartz in prison at all). That is a problem. The first half of your comment captures it. Sentencing rules for individual CFAA charges scale up so rapidly, and people are so rarely charged under them, that CFAA cases are high-status vanity projects for the US Attorney's office.

Obligatory:

https://www.popehat.com/2013/02/05/crime-whale-sushi-sentenc...


> Swartz faced nothing resembling 35 years, because federal sentencing does not work by simply adding the counts up for every charged offense. Like charges "group", and the convicted are sentenced according to the most severe of those charges.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines work that way, but the federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory (due to U.S. v. Booker) and sentences which exceed what the guidelines allow but which are within the range specified in law for the specific crimes the defendant was convicted of are issued and upheld. So unless there is some mandatory requirement outside of the guidelines for concurrent sentencing or grouping, the maximum potential sentence is, in fact, not the maximum supported by the guidelines grouping rules, but the maximum supported by adding up the punishments for the individual offenses.

The most likely sentence may be one within the range provided by the guidelines, but that's not the maximum potential.


Let me dig around for the last time this got litigated on HN and spare us another one. IIRC, you're more right about this than I am. I'm not sure how practical the discussion is, though: again, DOJ threatened 7 years, not 35, and the 1-2 year estimate is based on the facts of the case and the sentencing guidelines, while the 7 year thing is based on fantastic assumptions.

Edit: here's one: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7999002 --- 'pdabbadabba is a lawyer, I think. The author of that Popehat post is, FWIW to other readers, a former prosecutor.


Oh, I agree that even the 7 year sentence was unlikely to have been imposed by a court given the facts (the prosecutor could seek it, of course), the guidelines, and the degree to which courts tend to adhere to the guidelines -- I was just addressing the idea that the sentence that you'd get from adding up the maximum sentences cannot be awarded, and that what the guidelines allow is the real maximum.


Thanks for the popehat link. Very enlightening.

From it:

> When the government quotes the maximum sentence, they are trying to scare you.

> When the press quotes it, they are uninformed or lazy.

The first is what I intended to imply: Prosecutors are permitted to scare the bejaysus out of defendants by quoting statutory maxima (not, as could be inferred, that they can present that to the judge.)

The second is what I was guilty of ;)


OK, but Swartz wasn't scared by the 35 year number, for two reasons: first, despite what the press release said, they were overt with Swartz about what their worst-case sentence actually was (the 7 year figure was their threat about what would happen if the case went to trial and he lost), and second because Swartz had very good legal representation.

A 1-2 year worst case sentence follows pretty straightforwardly from the actual sentencing guidelines if you look at them. However, there are mitigating factors in the Swartz case: first-time offender, non-remunerative offense, unenthusiastic victims. Probation was a real possibility. 7 years was not.


And that's why it's important for defendants to have their own counsel, to inform them of how the system actually works, as Aaron's counsel would have done.


>Secondly, the petition was too narrow and targeted the individual prosecutor for that case. Even if she was removed, it wouldn't prevent the same sort of thing happening again.

Targeting the individual is crucial.

Carmen Ortiz has already done significant damage to her career over this. She hasn't been fired (yet), but in all likelihood she is never going to rise above her current position. She's damaged goods. That's a good thing.

Any future prosecutor is already likely to approach a similar case with trepidation instead as they weigh up the risks of the public backlash vs. the possibility of making some powerful friends. That's a (small) measure of success.

>Let's not make it about one prosecutor.

To be honest, this is probably the lever that is most likely to achieve results. Indeed, it probably already has. Muted grumbling about 'the system' does not achieve results anywhere close to making a powerful individual fearful of a ruined reputation.


Right, Swartz. Moving onto more important matters..

I don't agree with your general overtone. Is it fair that they can make an example out of us, but we can't make an example out of them? Should my ire really be with the law (a tool) or the person executing the law (using her tool) to aggressively vilify an innocent, bright kid? We're humans living amongst humans; let's not forget that.

Your assertion that "the larger issue is that the law is broken" gives us nowhere to go, no way to express our discontent, and really just supports the perpetual armchair bravado. How is the law going to change if no one does anything about it? Do you think having an intelligent debate right now will solve anything? As if some senator is going to catch wind of our discussion, and think he's found himself a calling. No, the government doesn't do anything unless you make a scene; I learned that from Aaron and SOPA.

Ortiz is not just some innocent victim who was blindly following the law. She made this her case and went after it vigorously. Ortiz is the representative we use to express our hatred on because it's impossible to "make it about all of them." There's plenty of good prosecutors out there who aren't scumbags who want to see a genius rot in jail to prove a point or make an example. What're we going to do? Point our finger at all prosectuors and say "Look what you did to Aaron!" No, there's one person here who's most responsible and all eyes are on her for a reason.

I argue we want to use Ortiz the way they wanted to use Aaron. We make an example. Hopefully then, people will actually work on changing the law.

EDIT: For what it's worth, I did still find your post very enlightening and informative. I'm just not convinced Ortiz is not to blame.


Do you prefer torches or pitchforks?


Minimum sentences for certain non violent IT related "crimes" are also excessively long. I've been told one of the things I did in the past that hurt absolutely no one and had almost zero effect is punishable by a minimum 1 year sentence...


What exactly did you do? While I agree that the penalties under US law are often unrealistically severe, it is very likely that you caused unintended harm(Even if it was only money spent to investigate what you did.)


I confessed to the "crime" on the spot, and provided all proof that I did it immediately. There was a clear documented log of what I did. No "investigating" was necessary.

I would have been chucked into jail for a year in theory, if they could get it past a grand jury, since there was/is sufficient evidence. The only reason it never went that far is because I cooperated with the FBI in other regards that I cannot disclose.

I can assure you that no harm was done to anyone. It was/is a technical violation of the letter of the law.


What is the exact problem you want to solve?

What are some of the causes of the problem?

What are some of the effects of the problem?

If the problem disappeared today, what side-effects would it have on the rest of the world?

What, given all of the answers to these questions, would be a solution that solves the commonly agreed upon problem (usually by solving the causes for said problem rather than the problem itself) with minimal negative side-effects?

"Should we code something? Organize a rally in the major cities? Write code to make it easy to start rallies? What're some good ideas to show our discontent?"

No, those are actions. What good is an action without a solution in mind? Plan then act. Don't act without a plan.


The root cause of this is the influence of money on our politicians.

Symptoms include laws written for the rich and the corporations rather than for the people, causing the continued growth of inequality and a drag on the economy.

Support Lawrence Lessig in his efforts to solve this root problem!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw2z9lV3W1g

He departs on the second of his New Hampshire Rebellion walks on Sunday.


This is an excellent response. I agree with his message; his might not be the most important cause to address, but it must be the first one, because without it no meaningful changes can follow.


I mean, the answer is probably to vote, and to convince others to vote. Start locally, and work your way up the chain. Talk to your friends, get them to vote accordingly. Go to your local government meetings, raise your issues. Volunteer for campaigns for your representatives, whether local representatives or Congress people.

If there aren't any representatives that you support, run for office. Dedicate your life to making these changes. Convince others that these are important issues, convince them to donate to your campaign and to vote for you.

The problem is, this is a hard road to take. And, truth be told, people don't really care enough to do the actual, hard work. They'd prefer to retweet some quote, maybe change their facebook profile picture for a week, if they're really serious about something. But ultimately, that doesn't get people elected, it doesn't put someone in office working to make the change. Best-case scenario, it gets some lip service from a 4-term representative. How much do you care? Do you care enough to actually get out there and actually push for change? Or do you just want to sit on the Internet and complain, and do a little comfortable work that ultimately sits in a GitHub account and rots?

There isn't an easy solution. It's going to take a lot of work to convince people to collectively vote for change in this area. This is why the government is set up the way it is. Every 6 years, it's possible to replace essentially 2/3's of the government (Executive & Representative).

Unfortunately, I imagine that most people truly don't care about this "prosecutorial abuse". He knowingly broke rules & laws, and the government went after him. He had an opportunity to take a plea deal and chose to kill himself instead. Sad? Absolutely. But you'll have a hard time getting enough people motivated enough to vote accordingly. There are other issues that people care more passionately about: budgets, social issues, foreign policy, economic issues, etc. That's why I said at the beginning to start locally, because that's probably your best bet on this particular issue.


Voting is important, but it's the minimum first step toward changing the law. It's sort of like buying a computer--you'll have an easier time programming if you get a good computer, but buying the computer doesn't make the programming happen.

In the government, activism is the programming. The most effective way to get involved is to find a nonprofit or similar org that addresses your issue, and help grow their influence (donate, volunteer, etc). The EFF and CDT (Center for Democracy in Technology) are two groups that are working to adjust/clarify/fix the CFAA and how cybercrime is prosecuted.

Voting helps because activism is always easier if elected officials already agree with you. The threat of voting can also help get officials off the fence if they believe that they'll lose their office if they oppose your issue.


> Consistent with the terms we laid out when we began We the People, we will not address agency personnel matters in a petition response, because we do not believe this is the appropriate forum in which to do so.

If that's the case, why not launch a petition to, e.g. require an investigation when somebody under investigation commits suicide? (not an idea I've thought through, btw, but my point is there's ways to address this within the terms)


What's happening with Aaron's Law? Wikipedia says Oracle has interfered with the process, but there hasn't been any updates since May 2014? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Fraud_and_Abuse_Act#A...


Take out a full page ad in the New York Times about the issues he stood for.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/439578912/nyt-ad-challe...


Propose a ballot measure in your state.


A ballot measure...to do what, precisely?


What was their decision?


It's on the front page too, but here's the link:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-stat...


Total brushoff.


I'm buying more bitcoin


Swartz was a member of a group that was intentionally pirating and distributing large amounts of copyrighted material to which he did not have permission to do so.

He is also an idiot for killing himself. If he believed what he was doing was right he should have been willing to face the consequences. To me, killing himself is an admission that what he did was wrong and stupid.

Should he have been thrown in jail for 7 years? Well; he would have had more years alive after he got out then he does now.

Edit: Fuck Swartz. More clear?


> intentionally pirating and distributing large amounts of copyrighted material to which he did not have permission to do so

Pirating is bad because it supposedly takes money out of the content producers' pockets (let's ignore the studies that suggest the contrary).

The people who produced the content for the journals he "intentionally [pirated]" were not paid for the content they created. They, the content creators, are not hurt by someone pirating their research (most of which was funded by taxpayers).

Additionally, society is benefited by more people being exposed to the knowledge of publicly funded scientific research.

Legally, you are correct, but outside that microcosm, conflating what Aaron did with piracy misses the point.

> He is also an idiot for killing himself

Oh just fuck off.


He wasn't pirating directly from the journals, though. He was pirating from JSTOR. JSTOR spends a lot of money to legally take journals that are not available online and make them available. They pay for the rights to do this, and then they pay for the costs of digitizing the material.

JSTOR are good guys, with the same mission Swartz claimed to have--they were making journals more available and at less cost than they would have been without JSTOR.


> JSTOR are good guys, with the same mission Swartz claimed to have--they were making journals more available and at less cost than they would have been without JSTOR.

Most scientific research done in the United States is publicly funded and therefore should be publicly available at no cost to the public. Less cost might sound like a good idea on paper, but no cost is fair.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23canhazpdf&src=typd

I support what Aaron wanted to do, and hope to dissuade as many people as I can from publishing their research in closed-access journals.


> Most scientific research done in the United States is publicly funded and therefore should be publicly available at no cost to the public. Less cost might sound like a good idea on paper, but no cost is fair

It costs JSTOR money to get permission to use the material from the publishers. It costs JSTOR money to digitize print journals. How would you suggest that JSTOR get the money for that?

Because of JSTOR, public libraries, community colleges, non-profit research institutions, and many universities outside of the top tier research universities can get organization wide access to large collections of journals for orders of magnitude less than it would cost them without JSTOR, and they can let the general public use their access for free.

Individuals can buy JSTOR subscriptions covering thousands of journals for less than it would cost to subscribe to one individual journal directly.

Yes, that's not as good as no cost, but it is a tremendous improvement over what the world would be like without JSTOR, and that's a good thing.


> Yes, that's not as good as no cost, but it is a tremendous improvement over what the world would be like without JSTOR, and that's a good thing.

I agree, but that's not really my concern.

> How would you suggest that JSTOR get the money for that?

I don't suggest they get the money for that. I'm more of a "let's topple the giants" sort of guy.

JSTOR's survival/profitability is not my concern. The free diffusion of publicly funded research is. And, frankly, I don't care if that makes me a bad person.

I feel the same way about the for-profit closed-door academic research publishing model as I do about the fossil fuel industry. :)

> It costs JSTOR money to get permission to use the material from the publishers. It costs JSTOR money to digitize print journals.

JSTOR can keep doing what they're doing. I have no problem with their existence. I just want to stop people from publishing exclusively in journals that can only be made available to the public for a cost.

Then eventually we won't need JSTOR anymore.

> Because of JSTOR, public libraries, community colleges, non-profit research institutions, and many universities outside of the top tier research universities can get organization wide access to large collections of journals for orders of magnitude less than it would cost them without JSTOR, and they can let the general public use their access for free.

But it's still a cost that can be avoided by scientists boycotting the publications that JSTOR has to spend money to obtain permission from and digitize.


Stop paying taxes, stop voting. Stop enabling the government altogether. If they refuse to accept that the people own the government, and not the other way around, then there is no reason to recognize its supposed authority. Live a moral and ethical life, but live as though the government does not exist. It will never willingly relinquish its power. You cannot change the system from the inside out. Every politician is a liar. All of this needs to be acknowledged. Rallies and demonstrations and petitions are entirely useless and wasted efforts.


>Stop voting.

Being "apolitical" actually turns out to be a pretty naïve stance on politics. There's a great David Foster Wallace quote about "protest by non-participation" like this:

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.”

DFW wrote that 15 years ago at this point. Non-voting isn't some radical new way of showing your disapproval in politics. The fact that you're not voting means they don't have to give a shit about what you think.


If you attend a protest you probably have 100x as much impact on the political system as somebody who votes.

If you strike you probably have 200x as much impact on the political system as somebody who votes.

If you are ready and willing be tear gassed, arrested or beaten up for your beliefs you can help shape politics in a way no voter ever has or will.

Non voting isn't some radical new way of showing your disapproval in politics. It doesn't show that they don't have to give a shit about what you think. It's just tacit recognition of the truth. Individual votes are close to insignificant. Real politics happens elsewhere.


I agree but the idea of "voting" here can be extrapolated into striking, attending protests, etc. as it's really a stand-in for the idea of "making your voice heard", as opposed to "completely opting out of the political process and telling yourself that doing so is making your voice heard".


>the idea of "voting" here can be extrapolated into striking

I don't think that's true in the slightest.


DFW would be correct if it weren't for the fact that every candidate for a major office that you are likely to encounter in your lifetime will be one of the garden-variety shitbags that's already a part of the entrenched establishment.

On paper, voting for a president vs not voting increases your chance of changing the world by about 1 in 50 million. In actuality, no matter who you vote for, its essentially going to be the same type of person.

I think that we are at a point where its still useful to vote in local elections and even in the presidential primaries (in some states, only a few thousand people show up for presidential primaries), but after that, the odds of making a meaningful impact are astronomical.

I still vote in all elections, but when I do it I fully understand that I am wasting my time.


That or in the face of majoritarianism, gerrymandering and electoral colleges - you realize that the odds are stacked against you, and simply choose "not to play".


The fact that your vote may have less impact than you might wish doesn't mean that it has literally zero value.


If your vote has less value to you than the time it takes to cast the ballot, it has zero economic value, and will therefore not happen, regardless of its nonzero absolute value.

A cynical potential voter may recognize that the net effect of laws and rules set up around the voting system is to alienate his or her opinion from the results of elections. In that case, declining to vote is a rational and reasonable decision. Most people judge the value of their votes by the perceived impact that their votes have on the results of the election. If you cannot detect a change in public policy as a result of your votes, your vote does literally have zero value.

In that case, you should be doing something else to effect a change in your own situation. I suspect that for most people, working during the time you would ordinarily spend voting then spending the profits on a lobbyist to directly influence an already-elected policy-maker for a specific issue that interests you would be more effective than casting a free ballot.


> If you cannot detect a change in public policy as a result of your votes, your vote does literally have zero value.

So the person who casts the deciding vote in a race decides 100% of the election and everyone else 0%? That doesn't sound right...

I'm all for making it easier to vote, though.


The person who casts the deciding vote probably won't know that they had done it, so that vote could also have zero value. All they know is that the voted for the winner.

Every vote in the entire election could have zero value, if none of the winners change their political stances as a result, and public policy is essentially unchanged from the period before the election.

That's why I see votes on a binding referendum to have more value than races for office between two essentially indistinguishable candidates.


In U.S. politics (and I suppose generalizing to other majoritarian voting systems), the only realistic option for a major party shift to occur is a schism in the ruling dichotomy - as happened with the Whigs being torn on issues of slavery and fizzling out to Republican and Democratic. Or, more recently, the Southern Strategy morphing the Republican Party's platform into a more populist one, taking over the role of the Democrats prior to the 1960s, and dramatically transforming the formerly blue Deep South into a firmly red bloc.

Trying to break a third party in any other way is remarkably difficult, as a result of the inertia caused by reasons I listed previously. It's been engineered this way for well over a century by now.

Until you reform ballot access laws, introduce proportional representation on the federal and state level (which will break so much shit it's not funny) and have fairer debate coverage, trying to wrestle in third party candidates through mere vote will be exceedingly implausible/impractical.

Entryism, I suppose, is another option, though it has not been used effectively at all thus far.


Here's the thing with voting: the person with the most votes wins. Even if they're a third party candidate and even if they weren't "supposed" to win. I think this is a really cool!

There are examples of this happening. Surprise progressive wins. The system doesn't make it easy, but it's possible. It will happen again. But it's a whole lot harder when their supporters choose not to vote.


When enough people stop calling in to vote on American Idol, the show will be cancelled.


You are totally deluded if you think that way. I used to refute this sort of sophism when I was 12.

Let me paint you a picture. Imagine all there is is the town you live in with your local community. All of a sudden a gang comes in and demands protection money from everyone once a year, or they will cage non-payers. This gang then champions an idea called "democracy" whereby the oppressed sometimes have a cathartic moment where they think they are telling the gang their opinions and making choices on how the gang will run their criminal deeds. Of course, the gang does all in its power, with a lot of rhetoric, to convince the oppressed that only through this "voting" thing that this gang made up, can you really change things in your town. The gang gets every townsfolk to believe it is their duty to participate in this ritual. More importantly, through this propaganda, the gang is able to inculcate in the oppressed that they must shun and mock those that see through the whole charade and refuse to be enablers in this act of submission to the wills of the gang.

You and DFW are both brain-dead.


Lets call our two-party-government "democracy". It will be fun.

Is it the same as voting for mtv awards ? If i don't like any of the "chosen" artists do I still have to vote ?

It can surely save me countless hours of mind numbing music.


We don't have a democracy in the United States. We have a representative republic. There is a big difference.

Not being involved in the political process just completely removes any influence you have on the process and the outcomes. However, if your belief is that not voting is the right thing to do, then by all means, please abstain from voting. I'd rather only have engaged people vote anyway.

EDIT/Clarification: We don't have a pure democracy in the United States. We have representative democracy and a republic as pointed out below.


We have a representative democracy in the U.S. We also have a republic. The two terms are not contradictory.

"Representative democracy" tells you how decisions are made--we select a few citizens to make decisions on our behalf. "Republic" tells you who is sovereign--in the U.S. the individual citizens have the right and power to rule, and have used that to construct our own government.

Counter examples:

The U.K. is a representative democracy, but not a republic. It's a monarchy.

North Korea is a republic but it's not a democracy. It's an autocracy.


What you have, in particular, is a "I'd rather only have engaged people vote anyway"-cracy

Not very democratic eitherway.


Unfortunately, we don't have a "I'd rather only have engaged people vote anyway"-cracy because the get out the vote crowd will bus in people with the bribe of a free lunch.

I never claimed I wanted a pure democracy...


This amounts to abandoning the system to those that are messing it up, and will only result in things getting worse and worse until revolution is the only possible fix. I can't believe that's the only fix.

I think your attitude is what's causing the problem. Many politicians realized, decades ago, that fear and social issues could be used to redirect people's attention (abortion, gay marriage, flag burning, threat of terrorism). They also realized that frustration is an effective weapon to disarm the people--a frustrated population is much more likely to turn away from the process, like you have, and disengage. Once you disengage, you have no voice and no power.


Look at the system this gang you call "government" has created.

They tell you you rule the country, but you have to tell them what you want, through these voting things.

Then they ignore those voting things and just do as they please.

Then the fools that believed they could change their oppressor's mind with voting things, get upset that the voting things didn't work.

The gang assures you that voting things work.

So you're left to believe that the reason the system doesn't work is because not enough people are using the voting things.

Yeah! They're the problem! Oh no, look away! - the gang threatening to throw you in a cage for not paying protection money isn't the problem, because you see, they are you since they have assured you that you are in control, through these voting things.

That's the circular reasoning they use to take down your thinking skills. I'm impressed it only took this much to fool you, as this is really basic rhetoric that most children can see through.

Yes, let's change our oppressor ways through oppressor-approved means, because there's no oppressor, as our oppressor keeps telling us. Genius.


Sorry, I like not being in prison for tax evasion.


I disagree, this is a sure fire way to keep going down the wrong path. I feel that the problem is that Americans for the most part only participate in democracy 1 day every 4 years. To make a difference people need to care and get involved on a constant basis. We get the government that we ask for.


If every politician is a liar, then why don't you run for office? If all of the honest people that complain that politicians are dishonest actually got off their butts and started taking over their local governments, then you wouldn't have that problem. Almost all of the state and federal politicians have started at local levels, especially the congressmen.

The issue is that it is easier to say they are all corrupt than it is to go out, do the homework, speak to the candidates, and then determine which ones mean what they say.

Instead of complaining about the system, why don't you learn the system and then do something about it.


>If every politician is a liar, then why don't you run for office? If all of the honest people that complain that politicians are dishonest actually got off their butts and started taking over their local governments, then you wouldn't have that problem.

In the off chance you see this (since this post has been flag-killed), I'll answer this question for you.

I worked on the tech team of a well-known political consulting firm for a few years out of college. While I was not a consultant myself, nor have I run for office, I have seen up close what it takes to get elected.

First of all, by far most politicians are egoists to the point of being sociopathic. This is not a coincidence, this is who our current political system favors. It's not necessarily all the fault of our forefathers, however (who definitely had the right idea, just the wrong implementation). It's the particular combination of two-party democracy with mass media that has led to this state of affairs. To get ahead in this environment, it's a huge help if you believe that you are dramatically smarter, better-looking, and more charming than the next guy or gal.

Rational people, who are able to quantitatively and honestly say to themselves, I'm pretty smart, but X and Y are better analytic thinkers, and Z and W have better social intelligence, are at a distinct disadvantage in this kind of system.

And then, there are a handful of true idealists who have succeeded in this environment. Without exception, and regardless of party, all of these people have compromised at least some of their core values, and few of them are able to even accomplish the smallest of tasks to further their ideals, because of all the moral and ethical compromises that they have made to get to where they are.

And then there are a very small handful of idealistic people who hang on to most of their ideals, and manage to gain a respectable number of followers. When they move to make big gains, the system crushes these outliers. I give you Howard Dean and Ron Paul as examples of this phenomenon on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

So no, individual honest people, by their very nature, have very little chance at winning elections in this kind of system. Collectively, they have no chance.

The system is fundamentally broken, and the sooner smart, intelligent people are able to admit this, the sooner we can fix things.

Edit: I will add one thing that you're absolutely correct about. Local (county and municipal) government is the last bastion of honest people (and the only elections I still vote in), because it's the one place where traditional campaigns are not run. Particularly in small counties and cities, people are elected on their actual reputations instead of how they run a campaign.

But when they try to move up to Congress, they have little chance against a well-funded politician of the type I describe above (and absent self-funding by a wealthy candidate, the dishonest politician will inevitably raise more funds, since it's easier to raise funds if you have no moral or ethical boundaries about who you accept funds from, and how you raise them).


So if a family is kidnapped and the kidnappers establish a system where the family members can leave one by one if they can win at the challenges the kidnappers come up with, and one of the family members has a few ideas of how to break free of this oppression, but none of those ideas are within the "system" put forward by the kidnappers, then you'd tell that family that instead of daydreaming about these other possible solutions, that they should just accept the oppression and only work within the framework of this oppressive environment and its system which was architected by the oppressor?

Because the way you put it makes it seem like you are blind to some of the most basic government propaganda. Of course oppressor gangs will want you to believe you can only change the way you're oppressed through their approved means. That's part of being an oppressor, lying to your victims to keep them from revolting, convincing them the only way to change is through these meticulous set of steps, that they have to talk to so and so, establish this and that, fill this form out, sign here, fingerprint this, get in line, come back tomorrow, we'll let you know when we've made a decision on your case, to finally tell you nothing will be done regarding your concern.

Wake up.


Right, because that's how democracy works.




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