Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

On Memorial Day let’s admit what we’ve done to America & begin its reform

Summary: It’s not too soon to begin preparations for your Memorial Day celebrations. I suggest starting with a public reading of the documents (suitably redacted) which create a New America on the ruins of the Republic. Let’s remember the Republic that our fallen fought for — and how we we threw it away. I can imagine no better way to honor their sacrifices than by taking the first steps to rebuild America.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury … nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United State (1788 — ????),

Memorial Day

On  16 July 2010 the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provided Attorney General Eric Holder with the “Memorandum for the Attorney General Re: Applicability of Federal Criminal Laws and the Constitution to Contemplated Lethal Operations Against Shaykh Anwar al-Aulaqi” (see the document’s history on page 40, and the document itself starting on page 67; dating it 12 days earlier would have been quite apt).

Originally classified secret, last year a Federal Judge ordered release of this heavily redacted version in response to litigation over a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU and the New York Times. It’s a historic document, declaring that the Constitution requires “due process” that can be provided by action of the Executive branch alone, without judicial review or action — for actions up to and including execution of citizens

It, along with the OLC’s 2002 memorandum declaring that torture is legal, are among the great documents creating a the New America on the ruins of the Second Republic (built on the Constitution). It’s fitting that the Second Republic was created in daylight — public debate followed with votes by elected representatives — while government attorneys issue in secret the documents creating its replacement. It’s fitting that both parties drive this process, the first issued under Bush Jr and the second under Obama. Bipartisanship!

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No need for police reform, since only criminals have trouble with police!

Summary:  This post continues from yesterday’s review of the most common reasons given why we need not reform policing in America. Whatever you think of them, they speak for the great forces in America — the interests of the 1% and the apathy of middle America. Unless people speak loudly demanding reform, we’ll get only minor changes on the road to an even more militarized police.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Police: To Protect and to Serve

How will Americans react to the revelations this year about the behavior of police in America? The police are the second most trusted American institution (behind the military), with confidence ratings in the mid-50%s since the survey began in 1993. But this varies strongly by race, with 59% of whites having strong confidence vs. 37% of blacks (average of 2011-2014 polls).

The police will not reform without a strong public pressure, which might not appear. The revelations about NSA surveillance produce carpet-chewing by the chattering class, but no disturbance in the apathetic majority — and so far few reforms. We might see the same with the police (with one exception: crackdowns on serial police offenders, whose legal settlements add up to real money).

We already see the first responses by the police and their defenders. We discussed and refuted the first wave yesterday: that this is nothing new, that nothing has changed, it’s just business as usual in America. This post looks at the second line of defense: only criminals have trouble with police!

Police tackle & cuff dying boy's sister

Tell it to Tamir Rice

“Only criminals fear the police” is among the oddest delusions given as rebuttals to warnings about the dark evolution of law enforcement in America, given by those who refusal to see the increasing number of videos showing police abusing people committing no crime. Tamir Rice was executed in a playground. The video shows an officer jumping out of his car and immediately shooting him. His sister rushed to him, to be tackled and handcuffed. These videos show only the small fraction of such incidents that happen to get recorded and distributed.

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We get a new police for our New America, but prefer not to see these changes

Summary: Today we look at changes in American law enforcement, another aspect of the New America rising around us. We have been slow to see this, despite increasingly loud warnings during the past 2 decades. Now that the evidence has become too loud to ignore, many American respond with active denial. It’s a test of our ability to see the world and respond to it. No republic, no matter how powerful, can prosper with apathetic and passive citizens. Either it will fall, or others will take the reins of government.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Police are our Standing Army

 

Contents

  1. Denial of New America.
  2. Mass incarceration.
  3. Shoot first!
  4. Spread of the SWAT teams.
  5. Militarization of police.
  6. For More Information

(1)  We’re changing, but deny it

By now everybody sees to some degree that a New America arises on the ruins of the America-that-once-was. Our reactions to this will determine our future. So far as I can see in the comments to my posts about this, the most common reaction is denial. We see this with the people on both the Left and Right who refuse to see that the world has been warming for 2 centuries — due to both natural and anthropogenic causes, and to a score of other problems as or more serious. It’s obvious in the comments to yesterday’s post about the evolution of police in America.

It works well for us, defusing any need to act — and justifies our apathy and passivity in the face of otherwise terrifying trends. Such as the evolution of law enforcement in America, trends with few precedents in our history or western history — excerpt in nations facing outright insurgencies.

(2)  Mass incarceration

Perhaps nothing shows the scale of the madness in our dysfunctional law enforcement system as our incarceration policies. Notably the acceptance of routine rape in prison and the fantastic increase in the prison population.

For evidence of the latter see this brief report by the Population Reference Bureau, and especially these graphs. These 2 graphs tell the tale. Has anything changed in the past few decades? For more details see the links at the Wikipedia entry. Click here to see the incarceration rate over time in your State.

Number of people incarcerated in the US

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Tips for preventing conflicts with the police

Summary:  We interrupt our on-going series to bring some practical information about dealing with police. A previous post gave the good advice to Beware of the police — and especially not talk to talk with them until you have an attorney present. That does not help in more casual or early stage encounters; this post gives some tips for these occasions.  This post was suggested by Joe Bonham.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Danger: Police in Area

Today’s advice for life in New America comes from “5 ways to manage conflicts with cops in a medical emergency” by David Givot at EMS1 (a website for the emergency medical services community). Givot has decades of experience as a paramedic, director operations for paramedics, and as a defense attorney. This was written for EMTs, but much of it can help regular citizens.

1. Don’t waste your breath! Police officers are trained to be aggressive, assertive, controlling, and correct in all situations. Going head-to-head is not a winning strategy and going toe-to-toe is not going to end well, either for the patient or for you. Don’t waste your breath telling them how much they don’t know or why they are wrong.

Calmly state your case. Make it their idea to let you go.

5. Stay calm! Do not let your frustration or fear spin you out of control. Your interaction should remain cool, calm, and professional. If the officer escalates or attempts to escalate, don’t fall for it.

Remember: you are an innocent citizen and these are your streets. Let nothing shake you. This is essential. If you cannot do so, then answer only necessary questions. Otherwise stay silent. Next Givot explains why police tend to act as they do.

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Taylor Swift shows us love in the 21st century

Summary: We spend too much time seeing the world as abstractions. As polls, statistics, satellite photos, arrows on maps — dry and lifeless data. Here we also show culture in motion by our popular art. It gives us a living mirror to see who we are in real time. Today Taylor Swift explains how women deal with men in the new world of the 21st century. She speaks to her peers, which has made her one of the top singers of her generation. This is another in a series exploring this new world.

Gender Roles

Contents

  1. Beta males: use ’em and dump ’em
  2. Alpha males: bad but fun
  3. The game is fun but doesn’t work
  4. For More Information

(1)  Beta males: use ’em and dump ’em

Taylor Swift gives us a brutally honest account of beta male’s role in the new gender economy, providing high status women with ego boosting light entertainment. Betas are the warm-up act before the real action. AKA, they’re exploitable fools, wining and dining a girl while she waits for a booty call. Here we see why “hook ups” replace dating, and the genesis of the blowback known as game.

“The Way I Loved You” (2008)

He is sensible and so incredible
And all my single friends are jealous
He says everything I need to hear and it’s like
I couldn’t ask for anything better
He opens up my door and I get into his car
And he says you look beautiful tonight
And I feel perfectly fine

But I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain
And it’s 2am and I’m cursing your name
You’re so in love that you act insane
And that’s the way I loved you
Breakin’ down and coming undone
It’s a roller coaster kinda rush
And I never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you

He respects my space
And never makes me wait
And he calls exactly when he says he will
He’s close to my mother
Talks business with my father
He’s charming and endearing
And I’m comfortable

He can’t see the smile I’m faking
And my heart’s not breaking
Cause I’m not feeling anything at all
And you were wild and crazy
Just so frustrating intoxicating
Complicated, got away by some mistake and now

And that’s the way I loved you oh, oh
Never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you

(2)  Alpha males: bad but fun

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We can’t fix police violence because we don’t know the cause

Summary: Police violence is a hot issue in 2015, as NSA surveillance was in 2013. Activists probably will make the same two mistakes now as they did then. First, they’ll build an inadequate political coalition (many whites fear blacks more than the police). Second, they’ll fail to understand the roots of the causes of the problem, making effective treatment difficult or impossible.  Here we look at the latter problem.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Police: To Protect and to Serve

The pressure grows for reforms to the US law enforcement apparatus as the number of police brutality reports grow. By now it’s well documented, as in this detailed report by the ACLU: “War Comes Home – The Excessive Militarization of American Policing“. Of course resistance from the police has arisen along with opposition from the Right (see this and this story).

Yet the debate includes little discussion about the nature of the problem, which remains on the simplest level. The violence results from “bad apples” among police, plus “insufficient training” and “racism.” There are excuses also, such as “the police shooter was nervous because so many criminals have guns” and “the police shooter feared for his life.”

These are partial truths, at best, on which we’ll build controversial solutions with high odds of failure. Accurate diagnosis should precede treatment if we’re to have good odds of success. Agitating for change is nice, but not enough. Let’s review some important factors at work here.

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Samuel Adams started the Revolution because he didn’t have Twitter

Summary: We don’t eat kippers for breakfast because Samuel Adams didn’t have the temptation of running the Revolution by Twitter instead by snail mail. Social media are a powerful tool for organizations, but no substitute for them. The delusion of a self-organizing crowd appeals to people seeking easy low-commitment ways to reform America. Perhaps repeated failures will eventually teach us this. This is the 3rd in this series.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Contents

  1. High-tech failed revolutions.
  2. Why social media isn’t a magic bullet for politics.
  3. Organizations: a key to successful reform.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

 

(1)  High-tech failed revolutions

Contrast this with the color revolutions which began with such promise — easy, fast revolts using Twitter! — but most of which ended with such disappointment. Techies hoped that social media facilitated self-organizing networks that would reach critical mass, somehow producing complex political change.

Consider the Orange Revolution in Ukraine: protestors overthrew an elected government (the vote certified as fair by domestic and foreign observers) with the aid of western intelligence agencies (working through various NGOs), resulting in a rise of neo-Nazi groups and civil war. It’s a story as common as dirt.

Social media can effectively mobilize public support, but that’s a snare. Not only do movements created by social media lack a leadership structure, their flat communications networks tend to suppress the rise of leaders. Social media networks center on nodes: people with connections to many other people. The skills needed to become a node are not those of leaders. Most of all a node is an individual, a leader is one who assumes some personal responsibility for the movement (that is the sine qua non of leadership).

Except when used by an organization, social media excels at creating mobs (especially flash mobs). As we saw with Occupy, mobs are easily misled into folly. As we saw with the Tea Party, they’re easily led to aims quite different to those they intended (born in opposition to bank bailouts, they helped elect the most bank-friendly Congress since 1932 (as Chairman Bachus explained).

What have we to show for the movements of the past decade? How many of the “Twitter revolutions” on the the following map accomplished much?

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