Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

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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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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Should we panic at the many warnings about domestic terrorism?

Summary:  Since 9/11 the security services have repeatedly warned about domestic terrorists of the Left and Right. The  important conclusion from these — and the numbers — is that domestic terrorism is probably a relatively small problem, one that our security agencies might give too much attention. This diverts attention and burns resources that could go to bigger and more likely risks.  (2nd of 2 posts today.}

Keep calm and carry on

Contents

  1. 2007: Islamic terrorist attacks in the next 3 years!
  2. 2009: right-wing terrorist attacks in the next few years!
  3. What do state and local police think?
  4. Again warning about domestic terrorism.
  5. Rise of the Lone Wolf Terrorist!
  6. Conclusions.
  7. For More Information.

(1)  Islamic terrorist attacks coming to the Homeland!

The July 2007 a summary was released of an National Intelligence Estimate about “The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland“.  This alarming forecast proved quite wrong, but that has not slowed the gravy train to the security services. Excerpt:

We judge the US Homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next
three years. The main threat comes from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, especially al-
Qa’ida, driven by their undiminished intent to attack the Homeland and a continued effort by
these terrorist groups to adapt and improve their capabilities.

… We are concerned, however, that this level of international cooperation may wane as
9/11 becomes a more distant memory and perceptions of the threat diverge. … As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.

(2) Rightwing extremists might attack the Homeland!

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Good news about the fear epidemic: we’re learning!

Summary: Today’s post gives good news (too rarely found here). ! I have long warned about the fear epidemic where our elites use fear as the most effective way to mold public opinion. That explains the near-constant fear barrages. But our ruling elites (and me) might be wrong about us — and the effectiveness of fear as a tool to rule us.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The brave man is not he who feels no fear,
For that were stupid and irrational;
But he, whose noble soul its fear subdues,
And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from.

— Joanna Baillie’s Count Basil (1798).

Fearful faces in the dark

America overflows with fear. Both Left and Right rain daily fear barrages on us, warning of a multitude of certain dooms ahead. Countless foes foreign and domestic. Ten percent of us suffer from a hundred or more serious diseases. So many of our foods are poisonous, as are the chemicals we drink, eat, and breathe — from industrial pollution, contact with our consumer goods (soda bottles), or waste (hormones from birth control pills). The very weather threatens to destroy us, as our society disintegrates.

As I have shown in scores of posts, our elites increasingly attempt to influence by appeals to fear — rather than to higher qualities, or even other low traits. I assumed they were correct to do so, but now suspect I am wrong.

A paradigmatic fear barrage was the early 1980’s “nuclear winter” campaign to force unilateral disarmament by the US. It gained wide support in academia, on the Left, and among journalists — but failed to gain traction with the public.  It did not fail because of its shaky scientific foundations, or its somewhat fraudulent marketing (a theory unveiled in Parade magazine rather than peer-reviewed journals) — but because the public didn’t believe.

Fast forward to the fear campaigns of today, such as the Right’s crusade against Obamacare and gays and the Left’s crusade against global warming (rebranded as climate change). These have been conducted with skill and professionalism, supported by lavish funding. All have failed.

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