Hey, I'm not in favor of Moloch; I just fire up the furnace every morning

Effluvia

In the comments recently I did a brief bit of battle with the "government is just a word for all of us working together" shibboleth.

…which made me think of one of my favorite posts here at Popehat. Well, perhaps "favorite" is the wrong term.

Five years ago Patrick Non-White dusted off his Mark II outrage rifle , stuck in a large-capacity magazine of bile, and racked the slide.

I Dunno Mr. Mukasey, It Looks Like Punishment To Me.

I am on the record as hating most government.

Note that this is not because I think that most people serving in government are evil. I think that most people, in most cultures, and across most times, are more-or-less decent. The problem is best analyzed with systems theory, and best fixed with the same tool.

The government-run horror show that killed Castaneda wasn't because there were mustache-twirling villains; it happened because dozens of people were "just doing their jobs".

Every day Pakistani children are killed by US drones. On my best days I'll say that the folks in DC aren't evil baby killers, the staffers at the DoD aren't evil baby killers, the engineers at Boeing aren't evil baby killers, and the USAF drone pilots aren't evil baby killers. They're all just normal human beings doing their jobs…as part of a huge and grotesque machine that kills people.

Every day young adults are arrested for possession of minor amounts of pot, sent to jail, and gang raped. On my best days I'll say that this doesn't happen because the politicians writing anti-drug laws are in favor of anal rape, or because beat cops are in favor of anal rape, or because wardens are in favor of anal rape or because prison staff are in favor of anal rape. They're all just normal human beings doing their jobs…as part of a huge and grotesque machine that arrests people for possessing leaves of a plant and puts them in rape factories.

The list goes on and on.

Normal people are perfectly capable of being cogs in machines that engage in madness, if not evil. When pressed, these normal people tend to fall back on the phrase "just doing my job" and a hand-waving version of the just world logical fallacy.

Arguing that we shouldn't be outraged at government because "it's just us" is one of the worst lies we tell ourselves.

Frankenstein's monster was stitched together out of people like us. Nazi Germany was stitched together out of people like us. Mao's PRC was stitched together out of people like us.

And though it's not as bad, the US government is still pretty nasty, and it too is stitched together out of people like us.

There are a lot of reasons you're going to say I'm wrong. Most of them are covered here, but I'm interested in hearing any others.

Last 5 posts by Clark

177 Comments

177 Comments

  1. a.s.  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:46 am

    I like this post, and agree with you in hating most government. However, and with respect, I think you do make an error in saying:
    "Note that this is not because I think that most people serving in government are evil. I think that most people, in most cultures, and across most times, are more-or-less decent."

    They are not. To use one of your own examples, the folks in DC are evil baby killers, in that they know that babies will be killed due to their actions and don't either stop the actions which kill them or entirely avoid the death of babies in those actions. They think that a bunch of dead children are the price which needs to be paid for the comfort and security of Americans (I will leave aside whether this is a good calculation, I don't think it is, but that's what they think unless they just enjoy the killing). The staffers at the DoD are evil baby killers in that they take their salaries for killing babies and don't either resign or disobey orders that would cause them to contribute to the killing of babies. The engineers at Boeing are evil baby killers, if they know what they design and sell has been used to kill babies in the past and that the group to which the product is sold kills babies. The USAF drone pilots are evil baby killers in that… well, in that they kill babies by pressing a button. I assume that killing by pressing a button is no more or less bad than killing by pressing a trigger. These are evil people doing evil things. They need to stop doing evil and thus stop being evil people.

  2. Zack  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:51 am

    Its more than a little bit presumptuous to say that most of the arguments against you will be fallacies. This really goes a lot further towards the "arrogant jackass" end of the spectrum than you've been before. Abuses are regrettable but inevitable in a flawed system. The drug argument misses a large point: they have no legitimate cause to NEED those 'leaves' and the government has a legitimate cause for banning them. I personally disagree with the ban, but that's a political issue, not a moral one. In that context, it's their own damn fault that they got gang raped because they knew the consequences when they broke the law. Same with the bombings in pakistan. If you associate with a terrorist, you have to accept that that terrorist is a 24/7 legitimate military target so you could explode into giblets at any point in time. I don't go so far as to blame the children, but it certainly is the parents faults for putting them in that situation.

    In both cases, it's a punishment/consequence for/of an easily avoidable behavior that was known a priori to be dangerous.

    And by the way, 'poisoning the well' is a logical fallacy too. Might want to glance at it some time.

  3. David  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:52 am

  4. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:00 am

    @Zack:

    Its more than a little bit presumptuous to say that most of the arguments against you will be fallacies.

    There are a large number of arguments out there; most arguments are stupid and wrong. I do not assert that most commenters will make the stupid and wrong arguments, merely that most of the possible arguments are of that type.

    I went back and edited that last line to add something I was debating saying: "… but I'm interested in hearing any others."

  5. Kat  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:08 am

    They're all just normal human beings doing their jobs…as part of a huge and grotesque machine that arrests people for possessing leaves of a plant and puts them in rape factories.

    Stanford Prison Experiment.

  6. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:08 am

    The drug argument misses a large point: they have no legitimate cause to NEED those 'leaves' and the government has a legitimate cause for banning them. I personally disagree with the ban, but that's a political issue, not a moral one.

    The list of vital human "needs" is thin. Bread. Water. Air. A few other necessities. Does the government have the authority to define what is and is not a "need" outside that category? Does it have the authority to proscribe access to those things based on whatever assertion for cause it identifies? On what basis is a negative answer to any of the above merely "political" rather than moral?

  7. a_random_guy  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:28 am

    The scary thing is: I think Clark is mostly right. Yes, there are venal people in the world, but it doesn't even require venality.

    I remember seeing an interview with a woman whose house was…I don't remember exactly…somehow being taken by the government for reasons that were clearly unjust. Eminent domain? Asset Forfeiture? Seizure by the IRS? I don't remember, and it's not important.

    What I do clearly remember is what the woman said on television: Almost worse than the loss of her house was the fact that all of the people involved in taking it from her were so nice.

    They were all just doing their jobs. They were all helplessly caught up in government machinery larger than themselves. None of them had the guts, or perhaps the ability, to step back and say "no, this is wrong".

    It has gotten worse over the last few decades, and will continue to get worse until citizens stand up and say "no". The only question is what will spark the resistance, and when: tomorrow? Next year? In 10 years? I can't say, but I see an inevitable (and, unfortunately, violent) confrontation as inevitable.

  8. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:29 am

    The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.

    GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

  9. Grandy  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:43 am

    Stanford Prison Experiment.

    Has been subject to quite a bit of criticism, as I understand it.

  10. CWuestefeld  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:57 am

    It has gotten worse over the last few decades, and will continue to get worse until citizens stand up and say "no"

    There's a growing gulf between the rewards for public employment vs. that for private-sector employment. Public employees get salaries at least as good, if not greater, than private employees; benefits like vacation and sick time is almost universally better; and pensions aren't even on the same planet as the private sector (except for some unions).

    Doesn't that make it more likely that people will be more willing to be a little more … flexible … in their morals, if it means ensuring that their children will have better healthcare, or that they'll be able to have a long and comfortable retirement? They'll find it harder to "just say no" and walk out of the machine.

  11. Anonymous Coward  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:00 am

    Sorry guys, there is good reason to be mad at the government, but you have to make sense.

    "Every day Pakistani children are killed by US drones."

    I can't find any evidence that this is a true statement and I doubt anyone on this blog can speak to the validity of this statement. That doesn't mean that every deployment of weapons in Pakistan is good and proper. Even one dead child is easily bad enough for outrage. However, you can't just make stuff up.

    Secondly, I just can't understand why the type of an aircraft that drops ordinance makes any difference to anyone. Drones are just warplanes with the pilot seat in a different place. There is nothing more or less evil about drones compared to normal planes. I think people completely cloud the issue by bringing about a debate on drones. Guided missles, laser targeting, fly-by-wire, etc… the technology has been around for a long time.

    The issue is simply that the "war" on militants in foreign countries is causing a lot of collateral damage. Now, I'm not convinced that the collateral damage is really any greater than any other war. But that leads to a debate on the ethics of war in general and that could be argued until our deaths with no resolution.

    If you want to go into rage mode, you have to tackle the hard questions. What do YOU think that our government should do about a coordinated, well financed group of non-state actors that will attack American civilians and those of our allies, and have done so in the past? That's a tough one. I can understand how the answer may be "go find them and destroy them, and do your best not to take out their human shields." I'm not saying it's right, but I understand.

    My personal view is that the attacks in Pakistan are illegal. My argument would have been a lot different though.

  12. Richard  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:02 am

    The problem isn't that people in government are bad people (although I'm sure there are a few psychopaths mixed in there; they tend to gravitate towards power).

    The problem is that it's easy – far too easy – to think of people as not being people.

    "What does it matter that they're being raped? They'er prisoners, not people. They committed a crime, and deserve to be punished for it."

    "What does it matter that their children are being killed? They're Arabs, not people. They did those terror attacks, and they deserve to be punished."

    "Why does it matter what they're going through? They're them, not people."

    A large part of the problem is Dunbar's number. We can only really care about 150 people at any point in time – that's our definition of "us" and anyone else is "them" and not really human.

    In fact, I wouldn't blame the government for this at all – I'd blame the electorate. They see "being tough on crime" (prison rape) and "carrying out tactical strikes on militants" (killing children with drones) as good things.

    To fix the problem, we have to find a way to beat Dunbar's number. We have to think of criminals as being mostly good people who have been forced into tough situations, or have made tough choices, or have been victims of the same "us vs. them" thinkung as the rest of us. We have to think of some of these extremists as people who have had their country torn away from them, and their children killed, and their religion spat and pissed upon by people they identify as belonging to the same "them" as us.

    I'm sure some people, at this point, are thinking, "We can't just let criminals get away with their crimes!" and "We can't just let terrorists attack us again!" I would just ask you to stop for a minute, and think of whatever particular "them" you're angry at and want to punish. Is there one good person in that "them?" Are any good people getting inappropriately harmed by your desire to punish those few who deserve punishment? Then you're doing it wrong.

    Of course, that idea won't sell with the media – the media likes simple "us vs. them" stories, so "us vs. them" will spread out to the electorate, and the electorate will elect "us vs. them" to the government, and "them" ('criminals' and 'terrorists') will get "justice."

    And the cycle will continue.

  13. Curmudgeon  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:05 am

    I too share your distrust of machinery that distorts good people into participating in institutional evil. I distrust government but I also distrust non-government. Who but government can control the vast empires of multinational corporations? Who can enforce some degree of safety, equity and liberty for the powerless?

    It is inevitable that the competent, power hungry will rise to positions of power. The point is how to curb their ambition. The solution that has worked more or less badly for over 200 years in this country has been balance. Congress in precarious balance against the executive, the judiciary, the press and the massive forces of the financial/industrial world, in theory, create an unresolved contest for power that allows the rest of us to slip through the cracks and enjoy a modicum of freedom and comfort.

    I fear that in recent years that balance has been broken. For now, financial/industrial interests have bought most of congress and the executive (which in turn appoints the courts) as well as the press. The news these days reads like gossip with most of its actual content removed or distorted and the government bears a strong resemblance to a headless chicken chasing phantoms and squawking about the wrong things.

    Blogs like yours provide a refreshing counter balance to the pap that is served by the professional media and provides some small hope that there is intelligent life out there somewhere.

    Curmudgeon

  14. Lucy  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:05 am

    Are the Reservoir Dogs style author names some sort of symbolic rebellion against the machine?

    What about the collective numb? Fair amounts of beings get outraged in their twenties, take on causes, and enter careers as the fresh meat out to change the world for the better. Then after the world beats them down for a decade or two, they become less outraged and more like a scene out of Pink Floyd The Wall.

  15. Patrick Non-White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:08 am

    Lucy, please keep things on topic.

  16. joe pullen  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:11 am

    Abuses are regrettable but inevitable in a flawed system.

    So we sould just accept them? How about we try to fix the flawed system instead. Flawed systems exist BECAUSE people assume abuse is not only inevitable but acceptable. It’s not.

    The drug argument misses a large point: they have no legitimate cause to NEED those 'leaves' and the government has a legitimate cause for banning them

    Whether they NEED the leaves or not is not the relevant argument. The government in fact has no legitimate cause for banning them. If so, please present a logical reasoned argument that explains in what way marijuana differs from alcohol and more to the point why should it be.

    I personally disagree with the ban, but that's a political issue, not a moral one

    With few exceptions, almost all political issues are premised based on moral issues.

    In that context, it's their own damn fault that they got gang raped because they knew the consequences when they broke the law. Same with the bombings in pakistan. If you associate with a terrorist, you have to accept that that terrorist is a 24/7 legitimate military target so you could explode into giblets at any point in time

    Really? Where is it written that if you get busted for pot that part of your punishment is gang rape in prison? You do know that it’s illegal to rape someone right? Just because someone has broken the law does not make it acceptable for someone else to commit an illegal act against them.

    Additionally, where is the proof that civilians who have also been killed by drones as collateral damage are “associating” with the terrorists? Are you somehow arguing that a child has the intellectual capacity to “associate” with a terrorist?

  17. CK MacLeod  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:12 am

    "There are a lot of reasons you're going to say I'm wrong. Most of them are covered here, but I'm interested in hearing any others."

    Here's one:

    "Every day Pakistani children are killed by US drones. "

    US Drone Strike Statistics estimate according to the New America Foundation.
    (As of 8 February 2013)
    Year Attacks High Estimate Number Killed
    2004 1 8
    2005 3 13
    2006 2 102
    2007 4 77
    2008 36 344
    2009 54 721
    2010 122 1,028
    2011 72 599
    2012 48 349
    2013 8 58
    Total 350 3,299
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_attacks_in_Pakistan

    More generally, the so-called shibboleth seems to be a simplistic rendering of the theory of popular sovereignty in relation to a liberal democratic polity. The attack on government in general, or statements of "hating most government," turns into utopianism when a) it merely presumes that the alternative to "most government" must or can be an absolutely superior government or superior non-government, or some superior arrangement or non-arrangement of human affairs that seems never to have existed for very long if at all, and b) that there must be some path to that never-existent place. At some point "hating most government" begins to look like hating humanity or the human condition.

    I share, for instance, the blogger's revulsion at the state of America's prisons, but it's not clear to me how an emotional rejection of government in general is likely to have any effect on prison conditions in particular. Cultures that appear to have more humane penal systems also often seem to be cultures with a more intimate relationship of citizen and government – are more "statist." The alienation of the citizen from government more typical of American culture may help to explain why we find it easier to think of our "rape factories" as a reflection on someone or something else, rather than reflections of ourselves.

  18. bw1  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:20 am

    Zack, you fulfilled Clark's prediction nicely with at least two fallacies.
    The government has no legitimate interest in what individuals choose to put in their own bodies, and in places like Afghanistan, being within blast radius proximity to ALLEGED (because drone strikes are not preceded by due process) terrorists is not easily avoidable.

    The proper response to "government is just a word for all of us working together" is that corporation is just a word for many of us working together VOLUNTARILY. Government is force, and force is inherently unaccountable. If your idea for how we should work together truly has merit, then you shouldn't need to coerce participation.

    Also, let's just stop being all politically correct and admit that the world does contain some truly reprehensible people. While government is not composed exclusively of them, government work, either as an employee or as an elected/appointed official, by the power differential it typically offers, is disproportionately attractive to such people, and the more power government wields, the greater that attraction will be.

  19. mud man  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:20 am

    This sort of thing is what some of us mean by "demons". People really do get possessed by them.

  20. vb_techie  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:21 am

    Appalling doesn't even come close to covering it. While it's nice that the government finally agreed to a settlement, and that ICE "deeply regrets" what happened and that it made changes to "substantially reduce the likelihood of such occurrences in the future," (not sure why they can't just elimante the likelihood completely), that's likely small consolation to his family; I'd like to believe that my family would rather have me still around instead of a few million dollars.

  21. Mikea  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:21 am

    I think it's a great article Clark and right on. But I don't think after the holocaust anyone can claim, as Eichmann did, that you are "just doing your job". I strongly take the view that continuing to play the role as a small cog in an evil machine is an ethically unsustainable action and is in itself culpable. This is also one reason that I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty. The executioner cannot hide behind the argument that "I'm just doing my job, the legal system told me to kill that person. It's not my fault if the condemned person was the victim of a failure of the legal system." That simply doesn't wash.

  22. vb_techie  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:21 am
  23. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:27 am

    The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.

    I puzzle over this. One thing that the internet demonstrates for me daily is human beings acting indifferently to virtually every issue under discussion.

    Civil libertarians seem to look at the Watertown video and see the horrifying site of Americans capitulating their sacred rights en masse. Others look at that same clip and see police doing a difficult but necessary job. A libertarian might dismiss that POV as more evidence that people are conditioned to accept authoritarian behavior. Perhaps.

    A few weeks back I became exorcised with commentators on this very blog who defended The Onion's tweeting of a joke that called a nine year old child a cunt. To me this seemed a no-brainer. The display of indifference in this case brought my blood to a boil, to coin a phrase (looking at you David).

    My point is this. In my attempt to explain this to myself, to make sense of why this happens so regularly without simply dismissing these folks as "villains" and "monsters," " using Clark's terms, I wove together a cheese cloth "hypothesis that tries to explain human indifference in evolutionary terms.

    It's basically this: indifference is essential for the survival of the tribe. My thinking runs like this: if everyone were to simultaneously experience a deep emotional/empathetic response to a single event, the tribe as a whole would be in peril. There needs to be someone or some group outside of "normal" to provide a counterweight to tribal- or herd-driven judgements. For example, I hate to bring up here, but take 9/11.

    The march into Iraq was fueled by a herd-driven judgement supported by the common emotional response that we all shared. In fact it's binding effect is what gives it its power. All that said, I don't think that's what Clark is actually getting at. The argument here seems reall similar to David Simon's dystopian view of modern society where the whole endeavor fails because everyone is just looking out for number 1 while the society crumbles under the combined effects of mediocrity, self-serving, and indifference.

    I don't have a good answer, but I know that a functioning cooperative is necessary to a robust society. Demonstrating how they sometimes fail is not an valid argument against trying to do it better. The commitment to progress is the entailment every American is born with, like it or not. It is the commitment to progress and a cooperative society that allowed this nation to turn its indifferent eye to the horrors of slavery and the genocide of native people.

  24. Treeanon  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:28 am

    Early in my career, I worked as an attorney for a federal agency, and spent a large amount of my time working with law enforcement and corrections. It was based in a rural town, the kind of town that lacked cell phone service and paved roads.

    During my time out there, what upset me most was that I had to wait over a month to get an appointment for one of the dish type cable companies to come out and get me hooked up when I move there. Yet the inmates had cable. And would call the ACLU to complain about violations of their rights as inmates anytime the cable was out.

    I would love to say that possession of marijuana does not equal sexual assault, but the sheer volume of incidents of physical offenses in prisons is astonishing. And where pot gets you jail time, you are susceptible to becoming someone's girlfriend, whether you like it or not.

    The strain on the corrections system leaves facilities understaffed and overcrowded. Diversionary programs or legalization of lesser offenses such as possession of under an ounce or two of marijuana would really help to alleviate the burden, thereby alleviating some of the injustices that run rampant in the prison system.

  25. TomB  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:31 am

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    -C.S. Lewis

  26. mcinsand  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:44 am

    A group of people, no matter how decent, will tend to degenerate if given the ability to write their own rules. That sums up how we got to the government that we have. Overhead costs don't matter, when Congress only pauses as a formality when deciding to raise taxes and deficit. If the US Government becomes more bloated and dysfunctional, we may have to rename it Microsoft Windows.

  27. jimmythefly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:49 am

    This reminds me of the common phrase "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

  28. jimmythefly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:50 am

    And of course, substitute government for guns.

  29. mile357  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:55 am

    Stanford Prison Experiment.

    Has been subject to quite a bit of criticism, as I understand it.

    It certainly has, but there are other (significantly more reputable) sources that talk about the same problem without running a pretty unscientific experiment. For starters, "Modernity and the holocaust" by Bauman is probably one of the greatest books I've ever read, and talks about how people "just doing their job" leads to horrific consequences.

    Bauman relies fairly heavily on Milgram's shock experiment (most likely you're familiar with it, bu his book "Obedience to Authority" is still definitely worth a read).

    Those both talk about the ills of modernity and bureaucracy and how they can lead to inhuman treatment through entirely humane channels. If we're talking just about prison systems (which the linked article focuses on), Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" is incredible.

    Point is, although the Stanford Prison Experiment wasn't great, the conclusions reached and supporting conclusions have also been reached by plenty of exceedingly thorough scientists, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists who ARE great.

  30. NI  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:55 am

    Treeanon, I don't think anyone is arguing that there aren't people who really and truly belong in jail, or that being in jail necessarily involves unpleasant collateral consequences. Rather, the issue is __who__ is being sent to jail, and people who choose to use pot rather than alcohol should not be on that list.

    Legalize drugs, and you'd almost immediately clear many court dockets and reduce the prison population to a manageable level. And, just to stay on point, I agree with the author of the post that it is evil to imprison people for drug use.

  31. Shane  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:04 am

    I think @Clark your question really is, how to organize many human beings into a system that doesn't evolve to become dehumanizing.

    If there were a revolution and you (collective) were able to set in motion something, I don't care what, a constitution a monarchy, whatever. What would it be? I tried this and ended up in the War Games final scene. All human systems are corrupted. All human systems devolve. All human systems collapse. All human systems are reborn. All human systems rise. ad infitim.

    We as human beings are fallible. We do not know all of the information. We can not process all information given us. To build a system on a human being will by it's nature be flawed. But sometimes through fluke or by concerted effort a system will emerge that is good. Many will flock to it. Some of the many will, want more and will corrupt it.

    So what do we do when a system goes awry as in your examples. From the outside, nothing. You can not change the system from the outside, and any thought of it is a waste of time. Don't believe me, make a difference in the company/person that makes your favorite whatever and is devolving. It is easy to see the problem from the outside, not so much from the inside. That is why capitalism allows companies to die, because they have lost sight of their reason for being, namely their customers. Try and help an alcoholic when you are not one.

    So what are to do when we can really effect no change in systems that we are not in. Well if we are in a system and can effect change then do it. Whether it is your family or your job or your business or maybe even lawsuits that you are dealing with. Effect change were you can. Know that effecting change will be painful for you. Be willing to stand up and do what is really right. Be willing to pay the price. Don't let peer pressure stop you from doing these things.

    Most don't have the fortitude to weather the storms that they can really effect change. Think of all of @Clark's examples and put yourself in the place of any of the people in the different stages. Would doing what is right in any of those places come without severe consequences? That is why nobody is doing it.

    I will end this with a quote that I just love and is appropriate in all human endeavor … " Behind every revolution, there is one man with a vision."

  32. Treeanon  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:12 am

    @NI, perhaps my real point was lost in my diatribe about cable television – but my entire comment was specifically about legalizing possession of marijuana and other lesser offenses and the positive impact it would have on the prison system as a whole by alleviating much of the burden derived from overcrowding.

    Overcrowding is a part of the problem that allows for civil injustices to take place in corrections facilities. Obviously not the entire problem, but a large contributor. When facilities are understaffed and underfunded, the result is often less than ideal conditions, resulting in situations of physical assault amongst inmates, lack of adequate medical care, and the like. But by reducing the volume of inmates by legalizing those crimes that really ought not require jail time, such as possession of marijuana, this is a step in the right direction.

  33. Richard  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:18 am

    NI wrote:

    Treeanon, I don't think anyone is arguing [...] that being in jail necessarily involves unpleasant collateral consequences.

    I would argue against that based just upon the Norwegian prison system, where prisoners act like human beings (maybe because they are treated like human beings).

    A judge sentences you to [x time] in prison. He does not sentence you to be assaulted, raped, or otherwise abused by the guards or other prisoners, because that would be cruel and unusual punishment (and thus an unconstitutional sentence).

    The fact that the American prison system cannot stop this from occurring is a serious problem that needs to be fixed, not handwaved away as "that's what happens in prison" and especially not because "they knew that would be the consequence" or "they deserve it." Because if you do, you're doing it again. You're turning criminals from people to "them." And once someone becomes "them," and not a person, other people become okay with whatever happens to them. And that's not okay.

  34. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:39 am

    mcinsand,

    "If the US Government becomes more bloated and dysfunctional, we may have to rename it Microsoft Windows."

    Personally, I think it's already well past this point. The US Gov is already so bloated that having them consult with Bill Gates on ways to reduce bloat would be productive.

  35. Demosthenes  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:50 am

    "I strongly take the view that continuing to play the role as a small cog in an evil machine is an ethically unsustainable action and is in itself culpable."

    How to respond? I'm torn between "I hope you don't pay taxes, then"…and "Yeah, you and Osama both." The second one is admittedly inflammatory, but both nicely take advantage of the vast difference of opinion between people in what is considered "evil."

    It's a beautiful stand to take, this "not even the small cog can be excused, because it helped the machine work" bit. It's a beautiful stand right up until you go to cog jail because you didn't kick in your small share of the lubricating oil that helps keep the machine running, or until your machine is beset by a rival machine that doesn't like the way your machine runs and is very interested in damaging or destroying a bunch of little inconsequential (yet culpable) cogs like you to prove its point.

    And at this point, I'll let the metaphor quietly retire to Cuernavaca. It's been strained enough during its short life.

  36. John Thinkishness  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:55 am

    Aren't we really just talking about the banality of evil problem here?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banality_of_evil

  37. JR  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:02 am

    Whenever a part stops functioning properly in a car, you get it fixed. You do this every time a part stops doing what it is supposed to do. Since every mechanism is subject to entropy and decay, the rate at which repairs are necessary until you reach a point where it becomes more effective to get a new machine.

    Whether we are at that point now is a debate that covers a wide range of opinions, but it is inevitable nonetheless.

  38. JR  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:03 am

    the rate at which repairs are necessary *increases* until you reach a point where it becomes more effective to get a new machine.

    Sorry

  39. Daniel Taylor  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:10 am

    @Shane: I like your Wargames example, the only winning move is indeed not to play.

    Yet there is no choice, we have to play.

    So we muddle along and the best of us try to right whatever wrongs the rest of us end up falling into.

  40. Basil Forthrightly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:25 am

    "The US Gov is already so bloated"

    I hate to ruin a perfectly good rage fest with something so boring as data, but the relative size of government has been steadily shrinking for the last 25 years. In 1988, there was one non-military government employee for every 80 citizens, in 2010 that was one employee per 117 citizens (excluding temporary census employees). Thus as measured by employees, the relative size of the bureaucracy is 70% of what it was.

  41. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:39 am

    Basil Forthrightly,

    1. I don't accept your numbers without some kind of cite.

    2. Number of government employees (relative or absolute) is not the only valid measure of government bloat.

    3. Even if your numbers are accurate, saying that the government is less bloated than it was 25 years ago does not prove that it isn't still overly bloated.

  42. JimBill  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:40 am

    Anonymous Coward,

    "I just can't understand why the type of an aircraft that drops ordinance makes any difference to anyone."

    I'm not sure that there is all that much difference between pressing a button at 30,000 ft and pressing a button half a world away; but there is almost certainly a change in how easy it is to kill depending on the distance.

    Dave Grossman devoted a chapter of his book "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" to explaining war-fighters reactions to combat and susceptibility to PTSD based on the mechanical and actual distance to their targets. I can't find my copy to quote his sources, although I remember S.L.A. Marshalls work was cited throughout the book and I believe in that particular chapter as well.

  43. princessartemis  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:45 am

    It's not just the people that make a bloated bureaucracy; it's the red tape. I have a hunch 1988 red tape could be measured in miles, while 2013's must be measured in parsecs. Just a hunch though, based on anecdotal experience.

  44. Josh C  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:48 am

    I am almost exactly who you've asked to talk to.

    Looking at your post, and at the comments, why would I want to engage at all in this forum?

  45. perlhaqr  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:49 am

    "Government" is mostly just a big mass consensual hallucination. Like "currency" and "the time of day", it has meaning because the vast majority of people are willing to accept it.

    People don't obey the police because they have uniforms. They don't even obey police because they have guns. I'd even go so far as to say they don't obey the police because the police have nearly infinite backup. The obey the police (and by extension, another mass hallucination, "the law") because ultimately, they accept it, or even if they don't accept it (like me) they know that almost everybody else does, and there's just no winning against those odds.

    If I put on a clown suit and a gun, and went around enforcing rules that I'd made up that had no real philosophical or ethical backing, no one would obey me. Even if I had 10,000 other people willing to wear my clown suits and enforce my rules. Because "Perlhaqr's Sheriff's Department of Los Angeles" doesn't have that imprimateur behind it of "government". That magical word that makes people turn their brains off and go, "oh, well, if it's the law I guess it's ok then."

    Government is just us. There's not even a man behind the curtain here.

  46. steve  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:49 am

    A bit cynical, but this is how it feels sometimes:

    "America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." – Clarie Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

  47. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @12:07 pm

    perlhaqr,

    "(like me) they know that almost everybody else does, and there's just no winning against those odds."

    Just be cause something is a lost cause that doesn't mean it isn't worth fighting for.

    steve,

    I share that sentiment, but I disagree that it is cynical.

  48. Bill  •  Apr 25, 2013 @12:26 pm

    I can't even start to talk about ICE without pushing my blood pressure to dangerous levels – I remember reading the Mukasey post back in teh day and man – you just don't hear much about such govt screw ups and there's always a gazillion apologists for it. If you believe all that govt is us BS, I honestly hope you never fall in love with a federal agents ex-wife or get in a family court dispute with one. I'll bet the house the tunes will change when it's your ox getting gored

  49. Malc  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:01 pm

    Folks, at the risk of interjecting a bit of fact here:

    Clark has quite possibly libeled (in the actual legal sense, not the "you are libel" sense) the Boeing Company, because (as far as I know, and I know quite far) they do not make armed unmanned aerial systems (aka UCAVs and/or drones). Therefore attributing some responsibility to them for a horrible act in which they have no part is careless and harmful (to them).

    [ I think everyone agrees that when a child dies as a result of war, it is horrible, and can separate that from the question of whether it is avoidable or not. ]

    I could (but won't) provide the name of the company that does, since (as someone else noted above) the argument that the nature of the weapons system is somehow relevant to the morality of killing innocent people by accident is entirely bogus and demonstrates only that the people making it are either disingenuous or ill-informed or guided by some alternate motive unrelated to their actual argument.

    To anyone who claims that "a drone makes it easier to…" I simply note that since a rifle makes it easier to kill than a stick, we should revert to arming our forces with clubs. The argument is fatuous.

    And, incidentally, why single out the platform from which the weapons are launched? Why not get excited at the manufacturer of the missile (which can be launched from all sorts of vehicles)?

  50. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:09 pm

    @Josh:

    I am almost exactly who you've asked to talk to.

    Looking at your post, and at the comments, why would I want to engage at all in this forum?

    I don't know – you tell us: why are you engaging in this forum?

  51. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:15 pm

    People don't obey the police because they have
    uniforms… The obey the police (and by extension, another
    mass hallucination, "the law") because ultimately, they accept it

    I think you're almost right; I think that most people obey the police
    because they have been indoctrinated to think that it is the moral and
    correct thing to do.

    The radical message that "there's no such thing as the 'government',
    there's just an armed gang that calls itself that" is really, really,
    really hard for most people to deal with.

    I don't mean "it's hard for them to accept". I mean "it's hard for them to even hear or debate."

    even if they don't accept it (like me) they know that almost everybody
    else does, and there's just no winning against those odds.

    Indeed.

    This is what has stopped me from spitting on my hands and hoisting the black flag.

    If I put on a clown suit and a gun, and went around enforcing rules that I'd made up that had no real philosophical or ethical backing, no one would obey me.

    May I recommend this book?

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1137281650

  52. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:16 pm

    @a.s.:

    the folks in DC are evil baby killers

    Indeed. I merely said that there were some days when I was able to coherently argue otherwise.

  53. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:20 pm

    @Malc:

    Folks, at the risk of interjecting a bit of fact here:

    Clark has quite possibly libeled (in the actual legal sense, not the "you are libel" sense) the Boeing Company, because (as far as I know, and I know quite far) they do not make armed unmanned aerial systems (aka UCAVs and/or drones). Therefore attributing some responsibility to them for a horrible act in which they have no part is careless and harmful (to them).

    I hate to piss in your Wheaties (actually, I'm lying; I'm enjoying pissing in your Wheaties):

    You're full of drama and posturing, but no facts.

    The one time I mentioned Boeing was this:

    the engineers at Boeing aren't evil baby killers

    Please explain to me how this comes anywhere near satisfying the four part test for libel.

  54. En Passant  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:30 pm

    perlhaqr wrote Apr 25, 2013 @11:49 am

    If I put on a clown suit and a gun, and went around enforcing rules that I'd made up that had no real philosophical or ethical backing, no one would obey me. Even if I had 10,000 other people willing to wear my clown suits and enforce my rules.
    I'm not so sure about that.

  55. Bill  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:31 pm

    @Anonymous Coward -There's some very profound differences. For one, computers are very good at certain things that humans are bad at, but even the most sophisticated AI algorithm today is challenged by identifying a cat vs dog of the same size/color. Any two year old can easily distinguish between them. Grad students successfully hijacked a drone and so did the iranians. Then there's the accountability thing. Even if ordered, a person might choose not to pull the trigger on a machine gun in a large crowd, a computer has no such hesitation. Then there's bugs, interference etc. Think about this – Pharmacists could effectively be replaced, at least the prescription filling portion by a machine – we don't do that and it's not just b/c of not wanting to eliminate high paying jobs. Humans fail, make mistakes etc just like computers, but right now humans are way more powerful than computers in many different respects. Computers don't complain either, or leak to the press b/c they morally oppose something or know their boss is lying. Computers don't undermine things intentionally b/c they know they're wrong. Humans can be tempted and bribed, but the chances of injecting mid-air mind control are pretty inconsequential.

    I think people would be very upset if we allowed armed gunships to fly around and 'shoot at people coming out of a liquor store', but drones are a quick easy path to it.

    And note this – I personally work on drones and am very pro-drone – I'm just anti-putting guns on them and letting the govt snap video of everything – unless we can have drones flying around the homes of govt employees' and their families with guns and cameras

  56. Malc  •  Apr 25, 2013 @1:44 pm

    On the issues related to the criminal "justice" system, it is easy to blame "the system" (i.e. the courts and the jails and prosecutors), but I would observe that the United States, for all it's claptrap and being the home of the free with liberty and justice for all (for some value of "all"), is one of the most vicious and vengeance-ridden societies in the world today.

    The American[1] public (or rather, the American electorate, which is not the same thing) has created, and preserves, a system in which revenge is a key element. It is sobering to recognize that in many measures the United States ranks as one of the top abusers of human rights in the world, yet the electorate DOES NOT CARE and continues to perpetrate the abuse.

    For example, in Saudi Arabia (of all places) the family of a murder victim can intercede to save the condemned prisoner's life (should they so choose). This strikes me as reasonable… but in the USA it's considered irrelevant!

    And the practice of staggeringly large sentences for non-violent drug crimes is just another example of vengeance as opposed to "correction". The argument that there is no such thing as "non-violent" drug offenses, because of acts committed further up the supply chain, is a selective one, because you can apply it to "white collar" crimes equally well, because it is not the drugs that cause the problem, but the value of the drugs, so it all comes down to money, and therefore someone who defrauded an insurance company to have a flashier lifestyle must share the responsibility with drug kingpins who also just want more cash… (!)

    Fundamentally, there is too much of a vicious puritan streak in the average American for our society to be terribly just. This is the country that tries to block post-conviction exoneration (and absolutely succeeds in the case of capital punishment), and believes that it is better to punish an innocent man than let a guilty one go free.

    And it is horrifying, to me, that despite the huge strength of the "Christian" religion in the USA, so many of those "Christians" choose to favor the Old Testament and the various commentaries (letters) in the New Testament over the Gospels (you know, the bits about Christ). If you believe in Christ, it seems to me that you should quite possibly obey his summary of the law: Love thy neighbor as thyself…

    Ultimately, though, the country was founded by a group of bigots who got upset that other English people were having a good time when they (the bigots) believed they should be miserable. So the bigots left to found a colony where they could be institutionally miserable, and practice a bit of casual genocide if they felt like it.

    Eventually, they invented marketing, and realized that persuading people that they were wonderful and innocent and generally the bestest population in the world was much, much easier and cheaper than actually doing the hard work to make it so, and anyway with enough money, who really cares?

    However we got here, we now have institutions and public policy that facilitates abuses simply by overwhelming the mostly-good people, and so we lose sight of the horror of executing an innocent man because, although innocent, he probably isn't "nice" or otherwise "like us". So much fury is directed at those alleged "undocumented aliens" who suck up our emergency room and education dollars that we lose sight of the fact that it is often, if not usually, cheaper to ignore that issue instead of building huge elaborate systems to try (unsuccessfully) block the "wrong people" while allowing the "right people" access. Ibuprofen may be cheaper than a biopsy, but Ibuprofen plus many, many hours in court is almost certainly not…

    The flip side of that is to note that the only way to guarantee that you'll never execute an innocent person is to never execute anyone. It's cheaper, too.

    [1] Apologies to non-USA Americans; there's no good term that excludes the American citizens of the other three nations in North America.

  57. Malc  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:03 pm

    Clark,

    For someone frothing about facts, I note that you fail to acknowledge that Boeing has no involvement whatsoever with the horrible acts you associated with them.

    Still:

    1. You published a statement. Check.

    2. It specifically identifies one entity, a corporation, in that statement. Check.

    3. Whether or not it _actually_ causes harm is not for me (or you) to say. I was explicit, Clark, I said you MIGHT POSSIBLY have libeled, and this (the question of harm) is where the "possibility" enters in. But it certainly entirely possible that harm may result from falsely associating a company with killing children (incidentally, while exempting the engineers employed by that company… but not the non-engineering staff). Check.

    4. You failed to verify whether or not the entity you identified as being involved with child killing was in fact in any way involved. If you were too lazy/busy/whatever to identify which company actually builds the drones, you could always have simply been non-specific ("the engineers who designed the drones are not baby killer"). But you didn't, so… Check.

    There you go. Four parts, satisfied. You get Wheaties for breakfast!

    [ Would the injured party care enough to act on this POSSIBLE libel? I doubt it, and obviously even if they did there's no guarantee that they would prevail. But in a blog that spends a lot of time ridiculing fake libel claims, this is close to the line. Which side is not for me (or you) to judge... whatever our individual opinions may be! ]

  58. Richard  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:08 pm

    Off-topic for a moment

    the other three nations in North America

    Canada, Mexico, and…?

    (note: I am, truthfully, horrible at geography, so I would not be surprised if there was a third one I was forgetting about)

  59. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:12 pm

    Bill,

    "Then there's the accountability thing. Even if ordered, a person might choose not to pull the trigger on a machine gun in a large crowd, a computer has no such hesitation."

    Even with a drone, there is a human pulling the trigger. The only difference is that modern telecommunications and automation systems allow the human to pull the trigger from a remote location.

  60. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:20 pm

    Richard,

    "Canada, Mexico, and…?"

    For reasons I never quite understood, they got rid of Central America as a continent so there is only North and South America.

    Malc is still off his rocker as there are 7 more countries; Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

    If you're still using Central America there are only two countries in North America, Canada and the US.

  61. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:29 pm

    @Malc:

    For someone frothing about facts

    The person who is frothing about facts is you: "…at the risk of interjecting a bit of fact here…".

    It was a snide and nasty delivery. You thought you were going to school me, but you just spouted nonsense.

    1. You published a statement. Check.

    Yes. The statement was "the engineers at Boeing aren't evil baby killers".

    I'm not going to guide you through the rest of this step by step, because if you read the above sentence and still felt the desire to spout off with your sagacious pretends-to-be-a-lawyer-on-the-Internet stance, and thought that anyone would be impressed or cowed, then I can't imagine that I'll have much success.

    If you want to read up on it yourself, I've got a copy of this and have found it useful (where "useful" is defined as "learned enough from it to tell a government lawyer to shove his allegation of libel up his ass and have him slink away with his tail between his legs").

  62. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:41 pm

    @ Malc

    Your obvious ignorance of how DoD weapons procurement contracts work is painful. The fact that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is the name on the main contract does not mean it was the only corporation that had a hand in building the thing. Boeing absolutely helped to build the Predator.

    Please inform yourself:

    http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/predator-uav/

  63. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:46 pm

    So: the United States of America uses killer drones. This is fact.

    The government of the United States of America believes that it has the right and power to use killer drones. This is a fact.

    Congress has passed no law prohibiting the United States government from using killer drones (at least not explicitly), and no court has found that doing so is illegal. This is a fact.

    Boeing has long held military contracts, and continues to produce military equipment for the United States. This is a fact.

    The proposition: it is defamation, under these circumstances, to suggest Boeing produces killer drones for the United States government, because the United States government uses those killer drones in a way that some people find objectionable.

    The complication: Nobody in this thread is certain that Boeing does or does not, and given government secrecy, it is not entirely clear that it is possible to be certain.

    The further complication: if Boeing does not currently produce killer drones, it appears to be because Boeing killer drones are in development and have not become operational yet.

    The question: is it defamatory to say that Boeing currently produces weapons sought by the United States government, the use of which is defended and supported by the United States government, and which has not been found to be illegal, when in fact Boeing is only attempting to do so?

    It's a mystery.

    Note: links about Boeing discovered by methodology of Googling "does Boeing make drones," clicking first result.

    Edit: or you could be all fancy like Caleb and know something.

  64. Bob Pendleton  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:52 pm

    Which Castaneda? Carlos? If so, can you provide a link to your comment in the post?

  65. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:52 pm

    @Ken:

    Note: links about Boeing discovered by methodology of Googling "does Boeing make drones," clicking first result.

    I did that as well, and then immediately realized that "Boeing gets new drone contract" would just turn the crazy in the direction of "A-ha! NEW contract – so they're not deployed yet!".

    Having a close relative who worked for 40 years at large US defense contractors, and knowing how much sub system integration, second party manufacturing, dual-sourcing, etc. goes into weapon systems, I would bet my middle nut that Boeing hardware was involved in drone strikes against Pakistanis resulting in child casualties.

    Let's put the AWACS that vectors these things in off the table. Let's remove the military communications sattelites. Let's the Hellfire missile off the table. Let's just look at the drone and the remote pilot base-station. Dollars to donuts, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE and a dozen others all have components in the loop.

  66. David  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:53 pm

    despite the huge strength of the "Christian" religion in the USA, so many of those "Christians" choose to favor the Old Testament and the various commentaries (letters) in the New Testament over the Gospels (you know, the bits about Christ). If you believe in Christ, it seems to me that you should quite possibly obey his summary of the law: Love thy neighbor as thyself…

    @Malc
    If you're going to represent the sayings ascribed to Jesus as superior in some way (authority? inspiration? relevance?) to the epistles or to the Hebrew bible, then you might as well represent them in a balanced way.

    In Matthew, we find this at 22:37-40: "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'"

    In Matthew, we also find this at 5:17-19: "'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.'"

    That arguably casts reliance on the Old Testament teachings in a somewhat different light than you suggest, n'est-ce pas?

  67. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:53 pm

    It is also relevant to note that the DoD actively awards contracts to InSitu Inc for drone development and operational services.

    http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=5026

    InSitu Inc. is a Boeing subsidiary.

  68. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @2:53 pm

    @Caleb links to this:

    Boeing [ built the Predator's ] intelligence workstation and mission planning system.

    Thanks, Caleb!

  69. David  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:04 pm

    Boeing tried to deliver a fleet of drones, but when they were fielded for QA, the batteries kept failing.

  70. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:06 pm

    So what you are saying is that killer drones don't kill people, government drones kill people?

  71. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:20 pm

    Ken,

    "the United States of America uses killer drones. This is fact."

    This is not a fact.

    As stated it implies the use of autonomous drones that do not exist.

    The "drones" are noting more than very large scale radio controlled aircraft that have been armed.

    Every single time a drone strike is made, there is a human pulling the trigger in real time.

  72. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:25 pm

    naught_for_naught,

    "So what you are saying is that killer drones don't kill people, government drones kill people?"

    I don't know what he thinks he is saying but the truth is that the drones are nothing more than R/C aircraft on steroids and any attack made with them involves a human pilot pulling the trigger in real time. These drones don't kill people any more or less than a manned fighter/bomber.

  73. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:28 pm

    Thank you, MattS, for correcting my utterly foolish and unacceptable use of a term the way the press, military, and White House use it. I appreciate your vigilance.

    I apologize that seven full minutes elapsed before I was able to respond to you.

  74. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:37 pm

    Ken,

    I just don't understand you you can consider anything being said by "the press, military, and White House" a fact.

    If I had all three of those groups telling me the sky was blue I would look out the window to make sure it hadn't turned green or something.

  75. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:40 pm

    MattS: if the colloquial use of the word "drone" becomes a meaningful barrier to truth — for instance, if someone uses it to try to conceal that human beings are controlling the vehicles that are killing civilians — then I will care. Right now it's just a widely used colloquialism. We were discussing the government killing people, the consequences of structural indifference, and stupid defamation accusations, and you're talking about how a nearly uniformly used colloquialism isn't technically accurate. We heard you. Thanks.

  76. Malc  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:46 pm

    @Caleb… I suspect that I'm rather more informed than you think I am, for reasons I cannot go into. However, on it's face, I believe your assertion is incorrect, and indeed the link you provide does not, in fact, support it (I appreciate that it appears to, but I believe that the article is a little misleading; I could be wrong, but I do not think I am).

    @Clark, I appreciate you, like most people, don't _like_ having errors pointed out, but for whatever reason you chose to single out one manufacturer which is not (as far as I know, and I know quite far, etc) involved. And if my response did strike you as "snide and nasty", then I apologize, but make the observation that your love of hyperbole not infrequently results in your writing meeting precisely the same subjective "snide and nasty" standard you objected to! Still, I think it disingenuous to continue to suggest that your statement is inherently not POSSIBLY problematic. And I suspect you know, and are being more than a little "clever", in trying to extract a single clause from it's context and then claim that, because the isolated clause is true, the meaning of the clause in it's whole context is unimportant: "A lot of serial killers appear to be very nice and personable people, like Ted Bundy. Clark is a nice and personable person"…

    @Ken, while no-one disputes that Boeing _could_ build UCAVs to kill babies in Pakistan, the fact is that (a) they haven't (b) the X45 isn't actually a good fit for baby killing missions and (c) as and when vehicles derived from the X45 enter service, I would hope we're no longer killing babies in Pakistan.

    @MattS: No, there are four countries in North America when Central America is considered, because you cannot exclude Mexico which stands in both North _and_ Central America (oddly enough, countries don't respect continental geography, as Hawaii demonstrates). Good to see someone being so definitively certain, if not exactly accurate!

    @Richard (and MattS): France. The islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, off Newfoundland, are an "overseas collective" of France, and use the Euro and whose president is Francois Hollande. Obviously, France is not _wholly_ within North America, but there's a bit of it up there….

  77. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @3:57 pm

    @Ken, while no-one disputes that Boeing _could_ build UCAVs to kill babies in Pakistan, the fact is that (a) they haven't (b) the X45 isn't actually a good fit for baby killing missions and (c) as and when vehicles derived from the X45 enter service, I would hope we're no longer killing babies in Pakistan.

    Hmm. Before I could have sworn you said:

    because (as far as I know, and I know quite far) they do not make armed unmanned aerial systems (aka UCAVs and/or drones).

    Now you seem to concede they are making the X45. That's an armed unmanned aerial system, correct?

    So as I understand your theory of defamation: it's defamatory to say that Boeing is making drones that the U.S. government uses to kill babies, because you're pretty sure that despite publicly available information they don't make any components for the drones the government is using to kill babies, and though they are trying to make drones that will be armed, those drones will not be ideally suited for killing babies, and anyway there's a hope we'll be done killing babies by the time they are deployed.

    That's your theory?

  78. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @4:02 pm

    @Malc

    Ahh, the ol' Argument from Secret Knowledge. An oldie but a goodie; not that I see it too often. Did you even read my first link? It states unequivocally that Boeing built the Predator's intelligence workstation and mission planning system. Based on what tortured definition of linguistics is that misleading?

    If that wasn't convincing, here's another link concerning Boeing's involvement with the Predator:

    http://www.airforce-technology.com/news/newsboeing-delivers-tactical-cross-domain-technology-for-predatorreaper-rpv

    Now. You have a few options. 1) You can prove that my source is unreliable, using something other than your bare (and rather ridiculous) assertion. 2) You can produce reliable contradictory evidence. 3) You can concede your error. Or 4) you can continue to argue the point while dodging any attempt at actually verifying your claims.

    I think I know which one you're going to pick.

  79. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @4:12 pm

    @Malc:

    I think it disingenuous to continue to suggest that your statement is inherently not POSSIBLY problematic.

    Wait a second – you're moving the goalpost. First it was libelous, which I strongly objected to. Now it's merely "problematic" ?

    Sure, I accept that my statement might be problematic – because that's a meaningless statement. What kind of problem? To whom?

  80. Jon  •  Apr 25, 2013 @4:41 pm

    @MattS – about 10 seconds searching found this chart which essentially confirms Basil's statements; relevant entries: In 1985, the feds employed 2.80% of all workers; in 2010, it was 2.00%. Search for "Statistical Abstract" (a publication all dedicated data nerds should know about – I have, since the time it was only on paper) for more of the relevant charts.

  81. wgering  •  Apr 25, 2013 @4:44 pm

    @Clark: I'm a bit confused about part of your post. You seem to reject the "just doing my job" justification that so frequently comes up with government employees, yet you still refer to government employees as "[n]ormal people…being cogs in machines that engage in madness, if not evil."

    Why are these people "normal?" Wouldn't their blind acceptance of "madness" and/or "evil" make them mad or evil as well?

    If the source of the government's madness and/or evilness is not the cogs, what is it? Or is it the cogs? Please forgive my simple brain.

  82. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:19 pm

    Malc,

    Sorry, every map I have ever seen showing Central America shows the norther boundary of Central America at the US Mexico border.

    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/central-america/

    Unless you can provide a map NOT of your own making that shows otherwise, I will go with this.

  83. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:26 pm

    Ken,

    "if the colloquial use of the word "drone" becomes a meaningful barrier to truth"

    But it is a meaningful barrier to truth. There is no basis to view so called "targeted killings" using a drone as morally different from the same killing done with an F16, tomahawk cruise missile or a human sniper on the ground.

    If you want to talk about "targeted killings" by the government go right ahead, but making the discussion about the particular weapon used will not bring you to the truth.

  84. JR  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:27 pm

    @Jon
    I may be misunderstanding something. That chart shows a growth in government jobs slightly less than the growth of every other job market in the U.S. and you are saying it is a sign that our government is becoming less bloated?

  85. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:29 pm

    Jon,

    1 It's not my job to provide proof for Basil's arguments if he can't be bothered to do so himself.

    2 See my points 2 and 3.

  86. princessartemis  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:33 pm
  87. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:33 pm

    But it is a meaningful barrier to truth. There is no basis to view so called "targeted killings" using a drone as morally different from the same killing done with an F16, tomahawk cruise missile or a human sniper on the ground.

    If you want to talk about "targeted killings" by the government go right ahead, but making the discussion about the particular weapon used will not bring you to the truth.

    Except that Clark didn't say, and I didn't say, that somehow the drone strikes of children are more (or less) morally tolerable than manned plane strikes. Who are you under the impression you are arguing with on that point?

  88. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:36 pm

    Malc,

    One more point about North, Central and South America. The boundaries are and always have been as much about politics as they are about geography. Take for example Europe and Asia which many modern sources have started referring to as a single continent of Eurasia.

    If you want to go strictly by geography, there is NO reason not to abandon the north/south distinction altogether and simply have one continent of America.

  89. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:39 pm

    Ken,

    "Except that Clark didn't say, and I didn't say, that somehow the drone strikes of children are more (or less) morally tolerable than manned plane strikes. Who are you under the impression you are arguing with on that point?"

    Then why talk about the drones at all? Why not discuss targeted killings without bringing the specific weapon used into the discussion?

  90. JR  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:40 pm

    @MattS
    I believe they used drone as an example because they are topical and most people would understand they were not suggesting that, since drones became available, use of every other weapon of war was suspended.

    Also, if you do a search of this thread, you will find that you are the only person who described the drones as autonomous.

  91. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:44 pm

    Ken,

    Sorry if you think I am picking nits here on the drone issue, but I know too many people and have seen comments from too many people in other forums that as soon as you mention "drones" they think you are talking about SkyNet/Terminator style autonomous killing machines (which we don't even have the technology to build) and it's really hard to talk them out of that image.

  92. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:48 pm

    @ MattS

    While drone strikes are not of any different moral quality, their use affects the frequency of the immoral actions.

    Could we fly F-16's over Pakistan with the same linger time and same strike capabilities? Yes. But F-16's are expensive. Flying them is expensive, repairing them is expensive, training their pilots is expensive, fueling them is expensive. Drones, comparatively, are cheap. As basic economics tells you, the cheaper something is, the more you get of it.

    So drones are relevant to the degree they are the most efficient (but not only) tools of carrying out the morally deplorable actions.

  93. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:48 pm

    @Malc

    Holy crap! Attacking in five directions armed with nothing more than a red pen. It's suicide, man.

  94. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:49 pm

    JR,

    You are mistaken. The only times I have used the word autonomous in connection with drones was to EXPLICITLY state that no such thing exists. You and Ken may think I am picking nits here, but have dealt with people elsewhere, people who should know better, who think drone implies autonomous.

  95. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:52 pm

    Caleb,

    Do you have any evidence to back up the following points?

    Drones are less expensive then F16s

    Drone pilots require less training than F16 pilots.

  96. Ken White  •  Apr 25, 2013 @5:57 pm

    Then why talk about the drones at all? Why not discuss targeted killings without bringing the specific weapon used into the discussion?

    Why mention Pakistan, and not Yemen?

    Why did Clark link to that particular post by Patrick, and not some other post about abusive government?

    Why talk about abusive drug arrests, and not some other unjust government program?

    Because it's his goddamn article, and he can take whatever rhetorical approach he likes?

    MattS, we get a lot of types here. We get out-and-out trolls, we get White Supremacists, we got the guy who showed up to tell me that I am at statistically heightened danger to molest my adopted kids, we get anti-gay nutcases.

    But I really can't think of anyone who ever showed up and was so immediately entitled and irritating. We might not run things exactly the way you want. Fuck you if you don't like it.

  97. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:05 pm

    Posts talking about systemic failure of government and personal culpability: 1

    Comments discussing systemic failure of government and personal culpability: ~3

    Comments picking nits about the definition of a drone, and whether Boeing builds drones or not: ~1012

    Is there any rum left in that Kraken bottle?

  98. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:07 pm

    Soooo….This sofa is nice…

  99. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:09 pm

    Mommy, why does daddy turn red and yell like that?

  100. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:11 pm

    Raw data in this field can be a bit esoteric. Here's some good analysis re expenses:
    http://www.jameshasik.com/weblog/2012/06/affordably-unmanned-a-cost-comparison-of-the-mq-9-to-the-f-16-and-a-10-and-a-response-to-winslow-whe.html
    http://americansecurityproject.org/blog/2012/the-us-and-its-uavs-the-financial-cost-versus-strategic-value-of-drones/

    I didn't say whether drone flight training was less time intensive than fighter training. (Though I suspect it probably is.) I said it is less expensive.

  101. Jack B.  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:19 pm

    It's starting to smell like paste around here.

    But for the record — to the best of my knowledge — Boeing does not manufacture paste, and even if they did, it would not be made for human consumption.

  102. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:21 pm

    One thing that I can swear Boeing DOES manufacture: link

  103. Basil Forthrightly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:35 pm

    @MattS

    The cite you want for the steadily decreasing relative size of government is:

    http://www.business2community.com/government-politics/government-employees-per-capita-report-0275336

    They in turn cite the census data, which I trust you can find, and the Historical Federal Workforce Tables, which are here:
    http://www.business2community.com/government-politics/government-employees-per-capita-report-0275336

    As you can see for yourself, the absolute size of the executive branch peaked in 1990 at 3,067,000 (Reagan/Bush I era) and came down to 2,630,000 in 2002 (Bush I/Clinton era), crept up to 2,776 in 2010 including census workers (Bush II/Obama era) and started coming down again in 2010/2011. (By labeling eras, I'm emphatically NOT assigning credit or blame to any President, though they may well deserve a share; just some historical context for those who lived through those eras.)

    If you would like to suggest some alternative measure of bloat, feel free, I acknowledge your point that such alternatives are possible.

    You and mcinsand seem to be asserting that the government is becoming more bloated, and when I provide data showing that, by one measure, the opposite trend is occurring, you effectively reject that measure without providing an alternative. In other words, you seem to be arguing "because I said so".

  104. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:36 pm

    Here you go Clark.

    Human beings are basically self-interested mammals who have the capacity to do good but without any guarantee that they will do so. Like Milgram pointed out, the majority of human beings are wired to obey authority. It's the necessary and ugly truth of the human condition. When the State creates institutions,they are run by those same people.

    Like every great power before, America marches into conflict hungry for conquest and glory every 20 years or so, only to relearn the same horrible truth about war and those who we call our enemies.

    The problem with drone strikes, beyond the collateral damage, is that they remove the direct human connection to war. There is no one to report back on the horrors that serve to chasten a country's blood lust — until the next time.

  105. Basil Forthrightly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:37 pm

    Damn.

    Wrong second link in my comment (being moderated), the correct link is:

    http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/data-analysis-documentation/federal-employment-reports/historical-tables/total-government-employment-since-1962/

    For the Federal Workforce data.

  106. Clark  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:39 pm

    @Basil Forthrightly,

    measures that I suggest:

    * pages of federal register
    * budget
    * interpretations of the commerce clause, which tells us how many areas of the economy the government can regulate
    * number of compliance officials in regulated sectors of the economy
    * amount of required paperwork (SarbOx, HIPPA, etc.)
    * ADA lawsuits, both quantity and damages
    * number of people employed as tax preparers
    * etc

    I think that the governing class has done a really good job of increasing the reach of government even as headcount has been somewhat constrained.

  107. NI  •  Apr 25, 2013 @6:52 pm

    It occurs to me that the real problem is not with government, it's with the people, and more specifically people who serve on juries. Government agents know that anyone who resists, and who isn't killed, will be sent to prison for a very long time. If, instead, there were good odds that juries would simply refuse to convict people who shoot DEA agents, and absolutely would not convict people for drug crimes, the war on drugs would be over tomorrow. From that standpoint, we get the government we deserve.

  108. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:08 pm

    @NI

    If…there were good odds that juries would simply refuse to convict people who shoot DEA agents…the war on drugs would be over tomorrow.

    Please forgive the harshness of what I am about to say — sit down if you feel that it's needed, but you have yet to identify the real problem facing you.

  109. Shane  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:31 pm

    I guess we are all out of ideas on the original post ::sigh::

  110. NI  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:31 pm

    I'm not sure which "real problem" you have in mind. I personally have nothing to do with drugs. I have, however, read entirely too many reports of DEA agents terrorizing families at gunpoint (in some cases completely innocent families because the DEA went to the wrong address), killing the family pets and forcing the children to sit next to the carcasses, trashing people's houses beyond any actual search needs, and themselves killing people who had often done nothing wrong, to think that people who work for the DEA are entitled to any respect. And that's before we get to the massive damage to liberty and the Bill of Rights that the war on drugs has wrought, and the millions of lives ruined, not by drugs, but by the war on drugs. In my view, the DEA is barely a step above the Spanish Inquisition, and I wish them all the misery that karma dishes out.

    I'm not anti-police when the police are protecting us from real criminals. I don't think the fact that armed thugs are wearing DEA uniforms changes the fact that they are armed thugs. And if you think that's harsh, then maybe you're the one that needs to sit down.

  111. Basil Forthrightly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:44 pm

    @Clark

    The Federal Register peaked in 1980 at 87,012 pages. However it jumps a good bit from year to year and my stats-trained eyeball suggests that a moving average would show a sharp increase into a "modern era" beginning around 1975 with averages above 50k, a downward trend during the Reagan years and a return to higher averages in 1990 with a slow increase of maybe 15% over the following decade.

    Data here:
    http://www.llsdc.org/attachments/wysiwyg/544/fed-reg-pages.pdf

    As to budget, I'm not sure if you mean the paperwork or the bucks. Assuming the latter, ill argue that that's not a particularly good measure of bloat because the budget is dominated by money transfers ("entitlements", bailouts, unemployment, etc.) that don't have a direct connection with the size of the apparatus of government. If one excludes those, one is left approximately with the discretionary budget. As measured as a percentage of GDP, the discretionary budget peaked in about 1968 as 15% of the GDP, and is now below 10% and trending down. See page 14:
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34424.pdf

    Federal EEOC lawsuits with ADA claims, the quantity trend is down:
    http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/litigation.cfm

    However, ADA action is better viewed from the administrative action statistics, since getting to a lawsuit's an anomaly, here:
    http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/ada-charges.cfm
    This shows a pretty complete statistical picture, with the number of complaints up, the percentage found meritless up, and the payout up. ADA enforcement has clearly increased over the last few years,

    The others, a source of numbers doesn't come to mind, and I've got better things to do with my life.

  112. Malc  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:45 pm

    @Clark, it would be lovely if you'd refer back to what I originally wrote (and have since repeated), where I used the phrase "quite possibly libeled". Compare and contrast that with, say, "has libeled". It's a small difference, I agree, because 13 or 14 additional characters is such a tiny drop in the ocean of letters published every day. Still, should I point out AWACS doesn't vector the platforms that Boeing doesn't make? Or that the Scan Eagle (that Boeing does make) isn't armed? Or that… no, probably not worth it.

    @Ken The X45 is Boeing funded development/prototype/test thing, so by definition it isn't a combat vehicle, and it isn't armed (at least, not yet). But I suspect you don't really care.

    @MattS Yeah, there is a reason to have North & South America, and it's about plate tectonics. But I suspect you're not really interested. And if you want to claim it's all political, ponder what the first two letters of NAFTA might mean, and which three countries are involved.

    @Caleb It's very hard to prove a negative, but as I said I believe the source you cite is mistaken or misleading (golly, not on the Internet, surely?). Here is Boeing's own blurb about how great their Mission Planning stuff is, and you'll note that while they warble about the Scan Eagle and Hummingbird MPS, they don't talk about Predator (granted, they have a picture of one), while they do mention the other non-Boeing platforms (e.g. the B2).

    Another suggestive point can found by looking at the picture of a MQ-9 Reaper mission station on Wikipedia. While it's hard to make out, the logo on the top of all three racks looks more like that of the vehicle manufacturer than Boeing's. Of course, that doesn't mean (as Clark correctly points out) that Boeing doesn't have some involvement at some distance, but on that rationale so does the US Postal Service (I'm sure something was mailed which eventually supported the mission), which means we can blame Lance Armstrong, right?

  113. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:54 pm

    Ken,

    "But I really can't think of anyone who ever showed up and was so immediately entitled and irritating. We might not run things exactly the way you want. Fuck you if you don't like it."

    I asked one time, I thought politely, for a response to a specific comment. I have no idea why this would annoy you so, but it clearly has since you're bringing it up three days later. What ever the reason, I apologize.

    Now, I took issue with the wording of one sentence, in a comment, not the main article and somehow I am questioning how you run the site? I don't get that, but clearly it has upset you so I apologize and you can consider the issue dropped.

  114. JR  •  Apr 25, 2013 @7:58 pm

    Regarding the post to which we are all supposed to be commenting:

    It's easy to predict that the government will fall for the simple reason that it happens so often. History is replete with conquerors and revolutions.

    It's harder to get people to agree on why it will fall. Historians are constantly looking for, and occasionally finding, new information that will help them better understand why things happened the way they did. It doesn't help that there are so many new factors for which there is inadequate comparative data.

  115. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:10 pm

    @NI

    I'm not sure which "real problem" you have in mind.

    The real problem that you refer to when you write the "the real problem", the one that requires us to corrupt the justice system through jury nullification, green light the murder of any and all DEA agents and use the Constitution as toilet paper all in order to save it. That the real problem.

  116. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:17 pm

    Basil Forthrightly,

    "If you would like to suggest some alternative measure of bloat, feel free, I acknowledge your point that such alternatives are possible."

    How about total federal spending as a percentage of GDP?

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/spending_chart_1792_2018USp_14s1li111lcn_F0f

    It's currently a little over 20% and it didn't even cross 10% long term until the 1930s.

    It may not be growing very rapidly, but it isn't shrinking by this measure.

    1990 21.5%
    2012 22.7%

    I have no trust in the future projections on that graph.

  117. azteclady  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:24 pm

    :

    Sorry, every map I have ever seen showing Central America shows the norther boundary of Central America at the US Mexico border.

    You must be much younger than me–for I grew up in Mexico and we never considered our country to belong in Central or–seriously?–South America.

  118. John David Galt  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:26 pm

    I believe that the principle "'only following orders' is not an excuse for violating human rights" must be absolute. Therefore, it doesn't matter that government functionaries are "only doing their jobs" without ill intent — they need to be held fully accountable to victims, including those who are bullied even if they're never actually arrested or shot at.

    Don't like it? Quit the bureaucracy and find an honorable job.

  119. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:30 pm

    Malc,

    I did not say the divisions were entirely political, I said they were as much about politics (and some of those politics go back 400 years before plate tectonics was even an idea).

    Mexico's inclusion in NAFTA is about politics and the trend to moving from a 3 way division of the Americas (north, central, south) to a two way split of just north/south. The two was split includes all of what was Central America as part of North America.

    I will admit to being unaware that France still had territory on this side of the Atlantic.

  120. zaq.hack  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:31 pm

    What a bunch of crap (most of) you people have written for comments. Jesus Rollerblading Christ. Do any of you actually care about how government works, or are you just being contentious for the sake of making yourself feel intelligent?

    Clark, the original article was brilliant.

    Here's what I deduce from the history of this "experiment in freedom." We were given a minimal government and most citizens were free to participate. The document forging the union was done with many joints and hinges so as to be flexible enough to accommodate slavery apologists and abolitionists, the rich and the poor, varied economics of agriculture, textile manufacturing, fur trading, and shipping goods over seas. It needed to be loose-fitting so that it covered everyone in a diverse country. A very strict Constitution may have fit 2-3 states at a time, but would not have covered a new nation based on young colonies. It wasn't perfect, but it was minimally capable … and that turned out to be one of the greatest strengths.

    BUT — even THAT minimal government committed large-scale genocide against the indigenous people.

    So the moral of the story is that you can't trust people with power. The more power a person has, the greater consequences of its misuse. Even if that misuse is accidental, why give a single entity so much power that it could kill thousands or millions "by accident?"

    Today, the last thing our political parties want to do is SOLVE a problem. To solve a problem means to take away the power which would accumulate to the person proposing the best near-solution. Take illegal immigration. SOLVING the problem is stone simple: (1) Put up a fence. (2) Actually pay attention to said fence and checkpoints. (3) When you catch an illegal for any other crime, deport them immediately beyond same fence. At which point you have net-negative growth of illegal immigrants. (This is just an example – not trying to start a debate on whether we should have a border or how to treat it.) BUT … if we solve the problem, we can't talk about it next election. Illegal immigration has been an issue for AT LEAST FORTY YEARS. We talk about it. We talk some more. And all the while, nothing ever actually happens because R's and D's get votes from what they SAY about it but lose no votes for doing nothing.

    The answer is diffusion of power. Push power back down to the people. Let us buy our own damn light bulbs. Quit offering tattoo removal. Let the states have education back (if not counties). If there must be a tax, move to a flat tax that doesn't require a zillion auditors to support. Empower the citizens: Good Samaritan laws, right to bear arms, right to free speech, you know – the basics. Disempower the special interests: Giant companies, giant banks, groups that only exist because they are propped up with tax dollars. Graft is misappropriation of power, anyway.

    Any time power is consolidated – by enforced monopoly (copyright/patent), or by hoarding (banks), or by force (government), the people have less control of their own destinies.

  121. NI  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:31 pm

    I don't see jury nullification as corrupting the justice system so much as serving as a check and a balance on tyrannical government. Granted, there are problems with jury nullification; I'm just not convinced that those problems are worse than the alternative, which is basically to have the jury serve as a rubber stamp for whatever idiocy Congress chooses to pass. And I don't see "we were just following orders" as being a defense to a jury that brings back an unjust verdict; "we were just following orders" has not been an acceptable defense since at least Nuremberg.

    And I also don't see anything in the Constitution that forbids jury nullification. We can debate whether it's good policy, but if you are seriously going to argue that it's unconstitutional, please cite me to the specific section of the Constitution you think it violates.

    Here's the bottom line: Most people here agree that the war on drugs is an utter atrocity, though not everyone hates it with the intensity that I do. Well, that atrocity continues because the representatives of the community on juries continue to enforce it. Once they stop, it will stop too.

  122. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:41 pm

    azteclady,

    "You must be much younger than me–for I grew up in Mexico and we never considered our country to belong in Central or–seriously?–South America."

    I'm 43, and I never said or implied that Mexico was part of South America.

    I live in and grew up in the US State of Wisconsin. The difference may be more a statement on the quality of teaching geography in US public schools (which has never been great) than a matter of age.

    Given the trend towards a two way split that eliminates Central America, I don't particularly think it's all that important where the line separating North from Central America was drawn. I don't know why the change from the three way split to a two way split, but I can live with it.

  123. Caleb  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:42 pm

    @ Malc

    Well, I called it. You make for a very hard round of C/S/T. The fact that you continue to press this point is absolutely baffling. (And, at the same time, fascinating.) So:

    1)That press release is the single most laughable piece of "evidence" I have seen presented to prove a point. That say a lot. You will notice that the passage you cite says:

    Our team supports
    bombers, fighters, weapons systems unmanned air vehicles, special mission aircraft, and training aircraft
    including:

    (emphasis added) It then goes on to list a handful of platforms.

    On the very next page it has a chart which shows their previous and current mission planning systems for a metric ton of platforms not mentioned in that list! Including UAVs! On what basis would you say that list is anything CLOSE to exhaustive?

    Again, on what basis do you assert that the articles I cite are misleading, other than 'nuh-uh!'?

    (Oh, and to boost the credibility of my most recent link to you, here is Boeing's own press release talking about the exact same contract delivery: http://boeing.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=2240
    You will notice there are no contradictions between that press release and the industry mag I initially cited.)

    Of course, that doesn't mean (as Clark correctly points out) that Boeing doesn't have some involvement at some distance, but on that rationale so does the US Postal Service…

    My first link characterized Boeing as 'one of the main subcontractors.' You have given me no reason to doubt that source, other than your vaunted word. (Which is quickly losing purchase.) Regardless, your analogy is mindbogglingly daft. Even if Boeing cannot fairly be characterized as a main subcontractor, the evidence still shows that Boeing provided direct material support to the platform. That is orders of magnitude closer than the Postal Service.

    [Apologies to Clark and Ken for perpetuating the train wreck. This is more an exercise in forensic psychology than anything else at this point. I will cease engagement if you so desire.]

  124. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:51 pm

    azteclady,

    The state of education for world geography when I was in grade school (we didn't even get geography as such in high school) was be able to name the continents and find them on a globe. As for individual countries, if the US hadn't fought a war with it or in it they didn't much care if we even knew it existed.

  125. azteclady  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:55 pm

    zaq.hack:

    Do any of you actually care about how government works, or are you just being contentious for the sake of making yourself feel intelligent?

    Or perhaps some of us care and are interested in the discussion and either don't know enough or can't articulate what we know/think/believe/see well enough to participate in it, and we choose to only address the tangential points that have been raised in some of the comments.

    As for the post itself, it makes me think about things I often don't, but that's pretty normal for all things Popehat.

  126. Basil Forthrightly  •  Apr 25, 2013 @8:59 pm

    To return to the original post: our government's sort of like life – it can really really suck but its better than the alternative.

    But look at history. 800 years ago, if you were the wrong kind of Christian, the Pope would declare a crusade and have you exterminated (Albigensian Crusade to southern France). 350 years ago New England governments brutally persecuted Quakers to the point of executing 4 missionaries (Mary Dyer and 3 others) and "the divine right of kings" was a working theory of government (see Louis XIV). 100 years ago, 7 nations allowed women to vote (not us just yet) and colonialism was still in flower, albeit wilting and about to deliver us WW One. Sixty years ago, the color of your skin effectively controlled whether you could vote or not in large portions of the country, and limited who you could marry in many jurisdictions.

    The long term trend in the world has been away from totalitarian/autocratic/violent governments and towards better, more egalitarian ones. There's certainly been regression and bumps and horrible awfuls along the way, both in the US and around the world, but the idea of America -and its government – has historically led the way to a better world.

    Government is a human institution and inherently imperfect; as a conglomeration of imperfect humans how could it not be? I don't see a way to eliminate it without winding up in some dystopian nightmare; the alternative of course is to try and improve it.

  127. azteclady  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:00 pm

    MattS

    As for individual countries, if the US hadn't fought a war with it or in it they didn't much care if we even knew it existed.

    I'm sure now (meaning, as an adult) you can see why that was so utterly irksome for the rest of the world.

    (Has that truly changed, by the way? anyone with grade school kids willing to comment?)

    (Unless that's too much derailment of the comment thread, in which case, please ignore me)

  128. princessartemis  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:05 pm

    At least one reason I don't say much on posts like these until they get going is I don't feel I've got much to say. More sit back and learn I guess, and think, which your posts so far have always gotten me to do, Clark.

    People have just got to recognize their fellows are people too, that even the lowest of us are humans just like anyone else. (People need to recognize the highest of us are just people like us, too.) I don't know how we can achieve that. The things in my life that have helped the most to make that clear to me aren't really experiences I'd recommend to others.

    And that seems stupid to me and not really on topic, so, I'll just leave it like that.

  129. JR  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:12 pm

    Hopefully, if/when this government is replaced, enough data survives that researchers will be able to draw accurate conclusions. If we are to evolve as a society past this point, I firmly believe we will need more knowledge and ideas than we currently have.

  130. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:13 pm

    azteclady,

    "I'm sure now (meaning, as an adult) you can see why that was so utterly irksome for the rest of the world."

    Kind of. :-P

    "Has that truly changed, by the way?"

    I don't have kids of my own, but from observing the younger generations, if it's changed at all, it's gotten worse.

  131. MattS  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:21 pm

    Basil Forthrightly,

    "Government is a human institution and inherently imperfect; as a conglomeration of imperfect humans how could it not be?"

    I think the US founders did a reasonably good job given what they had to work with. The big problem (which I don't think anyone has a solution for) is preventing the combination of corruption (including noble cause corruption) and creeping featurism from causing the government to grow out of control until it inevitably collapses under it's own weight.

  132. Josh C  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:24 pm

    @Basil: You may need to check whether the head count includes CSS contractors.

    @Clark: Because you usually make elegant, reasoned arguments, I would gladly answer you on the ethics of DoD acquisition, but that you opened with ad hominem built on a fallacious foundation, and declared that any response would fall on deaf ears. The comments in response have not been any more encouraging.

    Because of your usual poise and restraint, I took you at your word when you asked for a reply, but I must answer: who would be foolish enough to provide one? You explained up front that the game is rigged; the spectators hostile. Churlish, perhaps, but it seemed worse yet to stay entirely mum, having found this rare arena where I could do more than beg explanations.

  133. naught_for_naught  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:27 pm

    @NI

    To get answers to the questions you pose and uncover what may be some inconsistencies in your reasoning, I would urge you to explore the separation of powers doctrine. The Courts do have check on Congress, but it's not through jury nullification. Best of luck to you.

  134. David  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:35 pm

    @azteclady
    In no context I can recall, including maps, have I ever seen it considered normal or conventional to include Mexico in Central America.

    Google image search shows that the lonelyplanet map MattS adduces is not at all typical: examples.

    The convention in the US is, and has long (and possibly always) been that North America, the continent, consists of Canada, the US, Mexico, and Central America; and that Central America is everything non-insular between Mexico and South America.

  135. En Passant  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:38 pm

    NI wrote Apr 25, 2013 @8:31 pm:

    And I also don't see anything in the Constitution that forbids jury nullification. We can debate whether it's good policy, but if you are seriously going to argue that it's unconstitutional, please cite me to the specific section of the Constitution you think it violates.

    The US constitution does not prohibit jury nullification. Many court rulings have vitiated the right of juries to be informed of their nullification power in states where a jury's right and power to judge the law as well as the fact appeared as a state constitutional provision however.

    Nullification can involve more than a jury merely ignoring a law. It can also involve a jury interpreting a law in a way that contradicts or is in variance from a judge's instruction.

    It also need not involve only criminal cases. But in a criminal case, the Fifth Amendment double jeopardy clause renders it more powerful; a jury's acquittal is final even if it was made due to nullification. That is why prosecutors despise and fear it.

    Jury nullification has been a power of juries since before the founding of the USA. Court rulings in the 19th and 20th centuries have not forbidden it. They have generally, however, forbidden lawyers from arguing to a jury that the jury can or should engage in it. Some rulings have even forbidden lawyers from mentioning to juries that they have that power. But any jury still has that power.

    Some states still have constitutional provisions permitting juries to judge both fact and law. Off the top of the head I think Indiana and Georgia are among them. California's 19th century constitution expressly permitted that in cases of criminal libel. But "revisions" made by the legislature in the 1980s eliminated both criminal libel and the constitutional provision.

    New Hampshire has a 2012 statute expressly permitting jury nullification. Apparently some judges have already sought to undermine it.

    However, contrary to the hysterical prognostications of lawlessness and anarchy by those who oppose jury nullification, none of those states have devolved to that condition or appear likely to do so.

  136. Terry Gibbs  •  Apr 25, 2013 @9:56 pm

    When considering the bloat of the federal government, the number of employees is not a good determinant.

    1. Outsourcing since the Reagan administration has increased the number of people who are doing the work of federal employees without being counted as employees.

    Examples: Air traffic control workers. Also inspectors on construction projects that make use of Federal money are sometimes contract employees.

    2. Block grants and laws have caused states and cities to hire people and contract with companies using federal money or the city/state's own money to do things dictated by the feds.

    Example: Here in AZ we have a large complex of workers doing emissions checks on automobiles to meet federal requirements. These employees are a direct result of federal laws/regulations, but would never show up on a census of federal workers.

    3 As a result of productivity gains the federal government needs fewer people to do filing and other office type chores. This is also true in the private sector, but when a private sector a worker goes from the filing room to working at McDonald's the number of private sector jobs stays constant.

    I might look this up and come back, but I'm sure the number of federal employees to oversee the food stamp or snap programs as a percentage of the distributions is lower today than it was in the 1970s.

    As a side note for those of you who live outside Arizona. . . Studies have shown the emissions requirement for checking newer autos for compliance is no longer effective at lowering emissions in Maricopa county. (That's the PHX area.) But, the law is the law, so we still have to take our cars through every year or two because the EPA won't allow us to stop. Our air quality problems are a result of naturally occurring dust, but we have to have our car emissions check because that used to be a problem, and if we didn't check, we all might start buying Trabants.

    Emissions are an example of legacy programs causing bloat.

    Terry

    PS as far as I'm concerned EVERYONE who runs or hold an elected office above the school board level is EVIL. This doesn't mean the dog catchers and school board members aren't evil, it just means SOME of them aren't evil.

    I think the only way we can stop the growth of government is to start treating our elected representatives with the DISrespect they deserve. No special treatment. No special honors. We can start out by making them fly coach and go through the same screening lines the rest of us use at the airports.

  137. zaq.hack  •  Apr 25, 2013 @10:00 pm

    @Basil – The long term trend in the world has been away from totalitarian/autocratic/violent governments and towards better, more egalitarian ones.

    I so wish it were true. In actuality, the chains are simply forged in iron, anymore. At least shackles had an honesty about them. Surveillance at every intersection, smart meters on your electric usage, every electronic purchase, every whimsical jot in the wonder of cyberspace – it is ALL tracked. We are heading toward the Matrix: You are a cog in the machine, but you have been tricked into thinking it is not a machine and that you are free. Our overlords are the Agent Smiths of the world. The little secrets that machines report to people with power, money, and/or force.

    Sure, sure, it all has this nice egalitarian veneer. For the environment. Or for your own safety. Or for your health. Or to stop cyber-criminals. Or to keep drugs out of the hands of your kids.

    Power is a coagulant: It accumulates and sticks to itself and is a bitch to dissolve.

    "Government is a human institution and inherently imperfect;"

    What a fantastic argument to have as little of it as possible. If you know it's flawed going in, WHY MAKE MORE OF IT THAN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?

  138. bw1  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:09 pm

    @Basil:"The long term trend in the world has been away from totalitarian/autocratic/violent governments"

    Actually, it's the opposite. The historical trend has been overwhelmingly toward more government power and less freedom, and the only times this trend has been slowed or reversed is via violent insurrection (1776) or societal collapse (AD 471)

    A thousand years ago, it was possible to live totally independent of and beyond the reach of government.
    Try that now.

    You are confused because the ends for which that growing power have shifted. Just because government is standing on your neck in order to make you (in its view) a better person doesn't make your neck feel any better.

  139. AlphaCentauri  •  Apr 25, 2013 @11:14 pm

    @MattS: The issue you need to deal with is your grasp of abstraction. Clark has written a very thoughtful post. Many of us disagree with parts of it. But if we can keep the overall theme in mind, the nitpicking doesn't become trolling. If you're getting deeply embroiled in arguing about which countries are part of North America and getting into head-to-head side discussions with everyone on the comments, it looks like you're demanding that everyone talk about what you want to talk about instead of the original post.

    Do you have any opinions about what the role of government should be, how broad its reach should be, what the alternatives to the current US government could be? Not just contradictions to various concrete details others others have mentioned in the course of their comments, not just statements floated in hopes of eliciting a response from someone else, but your own abstract ideas and opinions? That would work better.

  140. Bill  •  Apr 26, 2013 @12:05 am

    @MattS: I guess I got a little ahead of myself and as stated, you're absolutely right and on that note, what I said is incorrect and needs some explaining.

    The future being hard to predict and all – I can't prove it with any existing blueprints and signed contracts, but I'd bet a year's salary that AI will be driving large portions of the targeting systems in the very near future. Not full automation but a significant portion of it. I haven't had any personal involvement recently and things have no doubt gotten better, probably much better, but drones aren't nearly as reliable and resilient as many would have everyone believe. On that same note though – look at how the drone spoofs. While it's true that the navigation and weapons systems operate quite differently – one is predicated on the other's ability and there's very solid reason to believe the feedback loop can be interfered with enough to cause things to go terribly awry. The govt knew of the vulnerabilities beforehand and just gambled on it not happening – there's been enough shenanigans on security to seriously doubt the security.. and while it's true that they are constantly monitoring and patching holes, at the same time, a hostile agent may have discovered some bigger ones and not exposed their hand yet. We're pretty good at cryptography and signal manipulation, and we do have a lot of experience bouncing data off satellites, but if we can control something remotely, so can someone else and all the crypto in the world won't help if it's not implemented or the front door is left open. While a tangential point too – if a drone's targeting system was compromised – is there any way the govt would admit to it absent hard core evidence being flaunted by the attacker? I realize it cuts both ways and I do like the idea of someday, wars (since they have to happen for some reason) being our robots against theirs. If we have to have a war I'd much rather see a drone shot down them my neighbor, but it also takes a lot of risk out of the equation and reduces the costs of implementation and f*ckups – and the thought of lessening costs for political f*ckups doesn't fill me with confidence.

  141. Malc  •  Apr 26, 2013 @12:40 am

    @Caleb I appreciate that you're too busy getting all excited and stuff, but at the risk of incurring yet more of your Google-inspired "evidence", I'd like to point out that you started by claiming Boeing "had a hand in building the Predator" and supported that with a link that asserted that Boeing built the "intelligence planning and mission workstation" (which is not actually "the Predator", but close enough).

    Based on my personal knowledge, I dared to suggest that your vaunted link may in fact be incorrect, and offered some evidence suggesting as such (and acknowledging that suggestion is not proof).

    You then follow up excitingly pointing out that that Boeing's chart includes UAVS! I'm not entirely sure what your point is, given that I explicitly discussed UAVs (you do know Scan Eagle and Hummingbird are UAVs, right?).

    Finally, you triumphantly find a press release talking about Boeing delivering what is effectively a network firewall for use in the Predator ground system, which does rather totally refute the position in your first link ('cos if Boeing built the sodding thing then they would have been delivering the firewall to themselves).

    As I said before, I BELIEVE your initial link to be mistaken or misleading. I'm not sure why you're so determined to assert that it is absolutely correct, but this obviously matters a lot more to you than probably anyone else, and your efforts to prove me wrong aren't doing so well.

    Anyway, my base position is, and remains, that if one were to pick out one defense contractor as being involved with killing babies in Pakistan, it is lazy and careless to have chosen to name Boeing. And while it is generally entirely harmless to be lazy and careless, sometimes it isn't.

    Have a nice day.

  142. MattS  •  Apr 26, 2013 @1:16 am

    AlphaCentauri,

    From the original article:

    "There are a lot of reasons you're going to say I'm wrong. Most of them are covered here, but I'm interested in hearing any others."

    The problem is I don't think he's wrong. And I don't think it can be fixed. The government ignores the constitution now whenever they think it is inconvenient so even if we could get a new constitutional convention going, amending the constitution is pointless.

    The only solution I see (and I am NOT advocating armed revolution) is to burn the whole thing to the foundation and sterilize the ground it grew from so we can start over from scratch.

    Going forward from there:

    Political parties can not be allowed to control the elections process itself as they do now, And no, I have no idea how to do that.

    Subject matter restrictions have mostly failed to control the government so go with size restrictions and make it harder for the government to do anything.

    A strict limit on the total size of the federal code, by page or word count. Something that an ordinary person would be able to read front to back in a reasonable amount of time. Once they fill that up, if they want to pass something new they have to get rid of an old law first. Rules made by executive agencies that have been delegated rule making authority count against the limit.

    Super majority required to pass anything, not just 2/3, 75-80%.

    Limits on government debt, but not in strict dollar terms, debt service can not exceed say 5% of total federal expenditures.

    Tighter controls against ambiguous laws. It should not be the job of the courts to interpret ambiguity out of the law. If a law has more than one reasonable interpretation it is unenforceable (not void, it still counts against the size limit for the federal code) until congress fixes it.

  143. Guns  •  Apr 26, 2013 @2:00 am

    "I am on the record as hating most government."

    You are, as far as I know (which is not very far, admittedly) on the record of hating the US government. And Nazi Germany, of course, which you mention now and then so that you can say "see, it's not just the US government, I really hate all government because it is all the same as you can clearly see from these two examples which encompass every possibility."

    I'm exagerating somewhat unfairly to make my point, no doubt your opinion is more nuanced than that. Even disregarding the exageration, you should ask yourself very honestly if you really hate most government.

    See, I also think the US government is quite a disgustingly malfunctioning aparatus of death and misery. However, I do not live in the United States.

    I live Somewhere Else.

    Somwhere Else's government is pretty neat.

    Oh, there's a bunch of idiots in the government, obviously. But when they're idiots, they tend to be the rolleyes-silly-bean-here-you-go-again type of idiots. Not the you-did-what-to-that-baby type of idiots.

    I can live with that. Because there's not really an acceptable alternative for "government". There is for "the US government", obviously, but that would require things like looking North or accross the ocean, without immediatly going "OMG SOSHULUSM", which seems to be pretty hard for many a 'muhrican.

  144. Justin Kittredge  •  Apr 26, 2013 @4:30 am

    Clark,
    It seems what you really want is to just abolish Evil in general. Well, Goodluck!

    I would sorta love to just leave it at that, but I guess I shall not.

    Oh wait, *smacks forehead* what you want is to simply rid The American Government of Evil! Not be rid of Evil entirely or Evil in people, just Evil in American Government? Well Thats a piece of cake! Why didn't you say so!

    I don't really believe that marijuana use necessarily should be criminalized. Even though I grew up with a guy of above average intelligence who began using pot at in middle school and got continually more stupid, more slow witted, and very easily confused over the years, I'm not gonna argue over it. I guess its his right to turn his brain to mush. Though he started at an age that would be illegal even after the laws change. I also had a friend who occasionally smoked pot and was a friend right up until she developed a continued problem with cocaine, and I watched her turn her brain into mush. I also saw her before our friendship dissolved with her two kids. She seemed like a horrible parent. But whatever. You say pot doesn't need to be illegal, I don't really want to fight you on that. Because all you need to do is to get your state to pass legalization through a voter ballot and you can have things your way. If the 50 states make it legal even a crappy legislature should be able to make it legal on the federal level. Problem Solved.

    On to the "rape factories" comment. Whee. When a rape happens out in the free world, outside of prison, the raper is the one held responsible for his actions. As it should be. If all prisoners were kept in seperate little cells it would cost more, and they may even go mad crazy. Which would be a new problem for you to complain about. As it is, prisoners form gangs, shank others, try to find ways to trade favors or make money, and people get raped. Or in the cases of many, they serve their time and just get out. You want to blame the government for all this. It is the people in some jails that have constructed their own societies/rules in such a way, and make their own decisions to continue doing horrible things, or not. It is individuals, people, grabbing other people, and raping them. You want to blame government for allowing this to happen under their watch. Well if you want to make a change to this, this is a democracy, why don't you try to start a movement, maybe get a voter ballot going that says all prisoners in your state's prisons must wear a dick-muzzle. Kind of like a chastity belt for men. With a tiny hole you can piss out of. Thick material secured with a padlock maybe. I imagine you would want it clunky and large made out of thick leather. Doesn't currently exist now because not everyone in jail goes around raping people. But you can claim its for the greater good. Oh wait you guys hate it when government restricts liberties for the greater good. I guess you are gonna have to wrestle with how much or little government should micro-manage the day to day activities of inmates and their underwear choices. I kinda like the Dick-muzzle idea, should I patent that? Or I guess you can just fix people so they don't rape each other. But you aren't blogging for that, cause you have no idea of how to do such a thing. I love the idea of prisons used for correction and not solely for punishment. But I don't know how to outline a system so incredibly different, do you? Sounds kind of like its just sending them back to school.

    Drones now. And personal responsibility. Enemy military combatants for instance are responsible for whether they choose to live among civilian populations or not. You can of course argue all day about where to draw the line on WHO is an enemy military combatant. But once you decide who is or is not one, It is still the combatant's decision whether he chooses to make a military base away from populated areas his home. Or whether he chooses to mix with civilians. If he trained and lived and planned out attacks on America from a big military style compound of his making I am positive the American Government would like nothing better then to kill him there. Our enemies used to live on nice seperate compounds. And we used to kill them there happily. Maybe you fell asleep during the part where the enemy adapted because they are not static. We, the United States, are also responsible for taking them out with as little collateral death as possible. But unless you believe all those crazy conspiracy theorists you will know that we only have information on their whereabouts with irregularity. And even this irregular information is imperfect. So we never attack? Let them just go on going on? We live in the now. And in the now there is no magical missle the size of a bullet that can find and kill one enemy target with no collateral damage. In the now we can either let the enemy plan and train and attack us and do nothing, or we can hit them with what weapons currently exist. I look forward to a bullet missle that can zero in on the one bad guy. Thats science-fiction though.

    Finally this Castaneda case. And if they had caught this as early as possible? Flown him to cancer treatment facilities, he had undergone all the tests treatments over whatever period of time until he was cured, couple of years likely; You would not have complained about it if the guy could not pay for it himself? Are all legal residents who commit a crime and are about to get thrown out of the country guaranteed access to free treatment paid for by taxpayers? I guess his family living in America would have just needed to take on the debts his treatments produced? No that doesn't seem right either. They could have found it as early as possible and expedited his exodus back to El Salvador where he would have got whatever treatment he could afford. That is the best solution, it didn't happen. So the government is evil. Seems more a case of incompetence to me. Its odd people will argue the government is bloated and inefficient, incompetent and evil. They'll argue of personal responsibility for safety rather then police, personal responsibility in all things. Then they will take a case like this, and use it in one dimension. You could argue it was Francisco Castaneda's responsibility to get regular medical check-ups, and to have the money to afford such a thing. And to not simply wait until he was in government custody to ask for medical attention. Preventive medicine is better then after the fact. You could argue its his personal responsibility to obey the laws of countries he is a guest in, as legal resident or whatever. You could argue if he is using meth and getting cancer at 35 he is not being responsible with his body. Or maybe he just won the shit-luck lottery. But what happens when an irresponsible person gets put in an inefficient establishment that has low resources for certian areas, like medical care? When low paying medical fringe work for criminals attracts incompetant people who are not up for the task? Are you gonna argue people responsible for medical treatment of criminals should be paid more to attract people better at the job? Ha! I doubt you would argue for that. No, you don't mind he didnt get medical check-ups, don't mind low paying work attracts exactly the kind of people it does. No you want a perfect system that never screws up and costs little, otherwise its evil. Sure. Thats it. You got everything figured out.

  145. AlphaCentauri  •  Apr 26, 2013 @5:39 am

    We've got a government where those in power peacefully surrender power every 2, 4, or 6 years to the winners of elections which permit the participation of all adult citizens. In the course of human history, that's a pretty bad-ass accomplishment. So the idea of "burning it all down" isn't going to fly with anyone who knows about what life was like before. You'd better have a much better plan, and it would have to withstand a lot of criticism. All those regulations you complain about are protecting people who could be legally exploited under the non-bloated US law 200 years ago: females, children, non-land-owners, non-Whites, non-Christians, non-Protestants, homosexuals, people with funny accents or names, etc. If you're going to change things, you're going to have to convince those people that you aren't just trying to reclaim White male privilege. The size of the legal corpus alone is not a convincing argument for people who don't have to read the whole thing, nor for people who don't encounter a lot of situations where it meaningfully restricts their lives. The fact that we're killing babies is very, very, bad. But our non-bloated US government was killing lots of babies and allowing many more to die due to the circumstances of their births. The countries with lower infant mortality tend to have more socialistic governments than the US rather than being libertarian paradises.

    If the anti-government people want to be taken seriously, they need to present a comprehensive alternative corpus of laws and let people determine whether they consider it superior to the one we have. You're going to have to explain why government regulation is too burdensome to people in urban centers, and you're going to have to convince them how their lives are going to be better when the people next door will not only be permitted to open a legal crack-house/bar/brothel on their private property but will also be permitted to erect an animated LED billboard advertising it.

  146. joe pullen  •  Apr 26, 2013 @6:04 am

    What a bunch of crap (most of) you people have written for comments. Jesus Rollerblading Christ. Do any of you actually care about how government works, or are you just being contentious for the sake of making yourself feel intelligent?

    @Zaq.hack – sorry I must have missed the memo that this was a popularity contest to impress you with our wit and knowledge. I enjoy reading the commentary of others whether I agree with it or not or whether I think it particularly brilliant or not because it gives me addition perspective on issues and input to critical thinking. You might try it sometime. Meanwhile if you find someone’s commentary not up to your esteemed intellectual level, you can always just use the scroll key.

  147. Zack  •  Apr 26, 2013 @6:17 am

    @Alpha: For me personally, I think the best approach would be to rebuild the legislation we have, but in a simplified manner. Basically, I envision the "new" brand of legislation as having 3 parts:

    1. Guidelines.
    2. Statement of intent.
    3. Legalese.

    The guidelines, 1, would be the 'outer limits' of the law- that is to say, if a citizen follows the guidelines, they would be in zero danger from the law. It's not what would be criminal, but it would be part of a 'reference book' for citizens to serve as a very brief primer on a given law or set of laws.

    The statement of intent would be the "definitive" version of how the law functions. Congress would state what it wanted the bill to do, and why. The Supreme Court would be directed to consider the statement of intent the definitive version of the bill, and any language in 1 or 3 that runs counter to it, would be struck down.

    3, the legalese, would cover all the definitions, the standards, the other things (which comprise 99% of law right now). The difference is that this would no longer be the definitive part of the law- this would merely be the implementation of Congress's statement of intent.

    Hundreds of thousands of pages of legalese would still exist, but the "definitive" body of law would be rendered down into a few hundred pages, with a set of guidelines (bullet points, essentially) a few pages long to supplement them- short enough for every citizen to study and understand.

    That allows transparency- which is generally the most universally accepted aspect of libertarian thought- to become almost total; the government's capacity to misdirect and obscure would be reduced (albeit not eliminated), and the people could work from there- and decide what they believe the role of Congress and the States are, respectively.

    Alpha: it's also worth considering that government wasn't what solved any of those problems. Brown v. Board was in the 50's. George Wallace still existed in the 70's. 14th amendment was in the 1800's. Civil rights act was in the 1960's.

    Government has been a tool to help in some cases, but what makes the most difference is persuasion and changing social mores and popular attitudes toward the subject.

    Imagine if the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were repealed today. What difference would it make?

    Imagine if, after that, Chicago tried to ban black people from voting. How long do you think the ban would last? The name and shame campaign, the protests would get them to resign within days.

    Imagine if a Kansas bistro refused to serve black people. How long do you think it would remain in business? How long do you think people would keep eating there?

    Government is a tool, but it is a tool whose use must carry immense cautions and whose use comes with a heavy collective and individual price. The primary goal of libertarianism, at least as far as I am aware, is to make people aware of that price- to make people aware that government is a weapon that hurts the wielder as severely as it hurts the victim, and that the wielder must make sure the result is worth the price. If people decide, with full information on the cost and consequence of government, to voluntarily opt for a stricter government, then that is their right. But it is not a choice to be made blindly.

  148. zaq.hack  •  Apr 26, 2013 @8:48 am

    joe pullen – I enjoy reading the commentary of others whether I agree with it or not or whether I think it particularly brilliant or not because it gives me addition perspective on issues and input to critical thinking.

    Which is why we all read Popehat. However, tangential nonsense like whether Boeing makes drones or not seems a bit ludicrous given the original post. And … there is a LOT of tangential nonsense above. Like this very post. Especially when, like me, you are a regular visitor here to get to the chewy center of things …

  149. Shane  •  Apr 26, 2013 @9:05 am

    @Zack, no one is bound to the law or the rules. This is the hard part. Anyone at anytime can break the rules, and for any reason of their choosing. This is fact. Human beings will distort, twist and corrupt any system they touch, and the worst part is that they will do it in ingenious ways. Your system (or any system) relies on humans to support, otherwise it is a pipe dream of your making. And trust me, no matter how logical or self-evident what you conceive is, there will be groups of people that oppose it.

    We have what we have because of cost benefit. The cost of changing the whole system or some aspect of it, out weighs the resources people are willing to commit to do so. And to change the whole system at once is a very high price indeed.

  150. MattS  •  Apr 26, 2013 @9:36 am

    Shane,

    Very true.

    However, the cost/benefit of changing the system is not a constant. The bigger the government gets the more it will shift in the direction of change.

    Additionally, the path the current system is currently on is NOT sustainable long term. Without changes it will eventually self-destruct. If the system collapses, people's willingness to commit to change becomes irrelevant.

  151. Jack  •  Apr 26, 2013 @10:33 am

    In an odd coincidence, I found myself confronted with someone using the "I'm just doing my job" excuse while discriminating against me due to my being disabled, just a couple of days ago. He claimed he was just doing what his boss told him to, and that I was thus unjustified in being affronted.

    I will be going to his place of business tomorrow (the soonest I was able to arrange transportation there, as I can't drive due to the same set of disabilities) in order to discuss the matter with the employee's boss. I'm hopeful that it will turn out to have been a misunderstanding, rather than the malicious discrimination it appeared to be — and felt like.

    The employee's repeated excuse that he was only doing what he was told, while behaving in a manner that was clearly wrong (and possibly illegal), did in fact make me feel worse. Obviously I can't speak for everyone in a position like mine, but I would advise anyone in a position where they feel a need to tell someone who feels they're being wrong "I'm just doing my job" might want to bite that excuse back, unless they can also offer a sincere apology and/or a suggestion for how to make a complaint (since an employee is more likely to know of formal processes of a company or agency they work for). Otherwise, all you're doing is grinding salt into the wound, and lowering the other person's view of humanity in general.

  152. Clark  •  Apr 26, 2013 @10:46 am

    @AlphaCentauri:

    We've got a government where those in power peacefully surrender power every 2, 4, or 6 years

    Politicians win or lose, but the bureacracy always wins.

    Your comment makes it seem like you think that "those in power" are the politicians, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    "Those in power" are the three million federal government employees, the 3.8 million state employees, the 4.3 million on welfare and the 47 million on food stamps, the 12,000 lobbyists, the hundreds of thousands who get farm subsidies, the 5.4 million on disability, the 52 million on social security, the employees of the drone manufacturers and the workers at the BearCat APC factory, and so on and so forth.

    We've got a system where 500 people play music chairs up on stage while the taskmasters surround us in the audience and we all cry "look how fair it is! Look! Look! Upon the stage!"

  153. Orv  •  Apr 26, 2013 @12:31 pm

    @Clark: I'd argue that the number of paid tax preparers isn't a good indicator of tax code bloat. While the tax code *is* very complex, often pointlessly so, most Americans rarely deal with the most complicated parts. What's driven the rise in paid tax prep is the discovery of a lucrative new business model. The same people who brought us payday loans also realized that there was money to be had in making "refund anticipation loans" at usurious interest rates to poor people who get the Earned Income Tax Credit. Most of these employees are seasonal and don't understand the tax code either; they just know how to punch numbers into computer software.

    @zaq.hack: Your explanation for why we don't "solve" the illegal immigrant problem misses the fact that illegal immigrants are performing an economically useful service. The reason there's little political will to really solve the problem is that business interests would stop giving money to the party that solved it, and everyone else would complain that they couldn't afford to buy strawberries anymore. To keep both these important donors and the general public happy, it's important to maintain the illusion of policing the border while still letting in this cheap labor force. Amnesty and guest worker programs are politically problematic precisely because they make this trick a bit too obvious.

    A flat tax income tax would not eliminate the need for auditors. Tax brackets are just numbers in a lookup table; they're not much harder to calculate than a flat rate. The most common tax fraud is failing to report income. A flat tax does nothing to change the need for that. If you want fewer auditors, you have to switch to a tax that's levied on something easier to track than individual income. This is where the national sales tax people have a point — there are a lot fewer businesses than there are people with incomes.

    @bw1: I think there's a fundamental clash of perspectives that makes the size of government a difficult issue to have an honest discussion about. In the absence of government everyone is theoretically free, but in reality there are winners and losers, with the new-found freedom going to the winners at the losers' expense. It's easy, for example, for a white person to see federal government's encroachment on states' rights as a loss of freedom; for black people affected by Jim Crow laws, however, it seems rather the opposite.

    I find that extreme libertarians tend to identify with groups of people who historically have always had power. (For example, they idolize the Founding Fathers, who were all land-owning Caucasians.) For that reason the argument for them is simple; they can operate on the subconscious assumption that if government disappears, they will still come out on top, and everything will be hunky-dory.

    Me, I tend to part ways with libertarians after a certain point because I have no illusions about this. I know that once government gets small enough that society reverts to a man-against-man contest of physical force, I will lose. Even reverting to a corporation-against-corporation contest, which seems much more likely, is not going to go well for a lot of us. (Arguably, with the fervor for "deregulation" in the last few decades, we're already close to there.)

  154. soandos  •  Apr 26, 2013 @1:56 pm

    I'm not sure if it matters whether or not the government is evil, or the people in it are evil, or even if we really do create this evil machine overall.

    The question should simply be what is the better system? For all the damage that the government does, I think that most reasonable people will admit that it makes many great things possible (infrastructure, and a consistent set of rules spring to mind) that would not be possible otherwise.

  155. Guns  •  Apr 26, 2013 @3:30 pm

    @Clark:Politicians win or lose, but the bureacracy always wins.

    Your comment makes it seem like you think that "those in power" are the politicians, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    "Those in power" are the three million federal government employees, the 3.8 million state employees, the 4.3 million on welfare and the 47 million on food stamps, the 12,000 lobbyists, the hundreds of thousands who get farm subsidies, the 5.4 million on disability, the 52 million on social security, the employees of the drone manufacturers and the workers at the BearCat APC factory, and so on and so forth.

    We've got a system where 500 people play music chairs up on stage while the taskmasters surround us in the audience and we all cry "look how fair it is! Look! Look! Upon the stage!"

    You are batshit insane, Clark.

    I can't even see what point you're trying to make. I'd see something if it were just the lobbyists and, possibly, the arms manufacturer employees, I guess I could see the beginnings of some kind of flawed argument, but please, if you know of any secret government influencing superpowers one gets from not being able to buy food, I'd like to hear of it.

    No, really, if the nickname above that post had been "Glenn" or "Alex", I'd be all like "yeah, that looks pretty legit."

  156. Orv  •  Apr 26, 2013 @3:51 pm

    @Guns: I think his argument is that people on welfare will aways vote in favor of bigger government. Romney was articulating the same sentiment when he said that Obama was "buying votes" with Obamacare.

    I'm not sure of the truth of that. Some of the most hardcore anti-government conservatives I've known were on government assistance, and some of the most conservative states also receive the lion's share of federal subsidies. People are entirely capable of hating that which they're dependent on; just look at how many people hate their own employers.

  157. mind_remnant  •  Apr 26, 2013 @4:19 pm

    By Odin's beard, all you guys miss the crucial problem with the US use of drones.

    If it's OK for the US to do it, it automatically follows that every other nation is allowed to do it too, against the US for example.

    So, are those of you that support the US use of drones OK with drone strikes against US targets from Pakistan/Iran/Iraq/Serbia and several dozen other nations the US has bombed/regime changed/corrupted during the years (targets that those nations decide all by themselves are legitimate targets) ?

  158. JR  •  Apr 26, 2013 @4:55 pm

    @Orv
    I think whether or not they are living in urban, rural, or inner city areas might play a part in the political leanings of the poor. People that can't afford the things they want are willing to take a piece of that pie regardless of politics. The relevant factor would seem to be how much people have to do to get to it.

    This could just be observational bias on my part, since I am not able to find any data to cite that supports my theory.

  159. AlphaCentauri  •  Apr 26, 2013 @5:29 pm

    We've got a system where 500 people play music chairs up on stage while the taskmasters surround us in the audience and we all cry "look how fair it is! Look! Look! Upon the stage!"

    Completely true. Do it better. Produce a comprehensive legal code to define the government and cover all the questions about "what happens if…" Let people decide which they want. Napoleon wrote a whole damn legal code himself; it can be done. A lot of the problems with the current system are the result of it being patched together bit by bit over a couple hundred years with no one responsible for reorganizing things and retiring programs that have outlived their usefulness. It's easy to be against something, but if your solution is to dissolve the current system and just have faith that something better will happen all by itself, you aren't going to convince many people.

    If your argument is that libertarians can't get into power because a majority of Americans either don't care about the issues or find the current system more to their liking, well, yeah, that's how democracy is supposed to work. Maybe people really do want socialism, but have been taught to fear a word without knowing its meaning.

    Unless there's going to be a libertarian nanny state telling everyone else how it should be done, you're going to have to convince all those people who benefit from government jobs and programs that you have a better alternative.

  160. Orv  •  Apr 26, 2013 @7:11 pm

    @JR: Possibly true. The people I've known who were both distrustful of government, and utterly dependent on government benefits, were mostly rural. One Tea Party type that I knew not only was himself on welfare, but actively encouraged his kids to spend down their assets so they could go onto it as well.

  161. Anony Mouse  •  Apr 27, 2013 @12:31 am

    So… um… any follow-up on Ms. Castaneda's case?

  162. ShallNOTBeInfringed  •  Apr 27, 2013 @4:52 am

    Holy monkey thats alot of slap fighting right there! Can I play too?

    Stats, numbers, citations on the rape claim?

  163. JR  •  Apr 27, 2013 @9:37 am

    @mind_remnent
    I think it's more like how a bully in school can thump your ear until the bell rings, but if you try doing that to him in the next class he'll stomp you into the ground at recess.

  164. princessartemis  •  Apr 27, 2013 @10:35 am

    @Orv, I am disabled and get SSDI. Due to the timing of my disability, it's really not very much, just enough to take the edge off my family whom I am financially dependent on, and I was just a hair too old to remain on my parent's insurance. It is not outside the realm of possibility for our hosts here at Popehat to make more in a week than I net in a year from SSDI. I really, really hate that I take even that much. Unfortunately, our society is not such that someone like me could substitue that assistance with real charity. I wish it were; help given out of love for one's fellow and help extracted from the masses by a leviathan bureaucracy as a duty really does have a qualitative difference.

    One thing I will not do is spend down what I have saved so that I would qualify for state assistance or MediCal or any of that. I'm enough of a libertarian hypocrite as it is, and I need that to last me.

  165. AlphaCentauri  •  Apr 27, 2013 @12:50 pm

    @princessartemis, like a lot of government programs, SSDI is demeaning because it is framed as charity, something we give because "the true measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members." SSDI didn't survive multiple efforts a budget cuts because Americans are charitable. Every disabled person is part of a social group that would have to change the way it lives if that support weren't available. In many cases it would mean that adults who were educated for many years at great expense would be putting much less value into the US GDP because they would not be able to work full time or would not be able to do work that is as demanding. It's about more than just money spent or tax dollars returned.

  166. princessartemis  •  Apr 27, 2013 @1:25 pm

    @AlphaCentauri…and yet, somehow I find actual charity to be the better alternative. My family supports me quite a lot. I wish they didn't have to, of course, and I'd feel better about Life, the Universe, and Everything if they didn't. But I do not find their charity in the least bit demeaning. I did not feel disgusted with myself for taking part in a system that forced people to write out checks to one of the more formal charities I have benefitted from once upon a time, because that charity existed in a consensual relationship with its donors.

    Other people feel differently about it, I know. But, really, I just told you that I'm on SSDI and prefer real charity as a less demeaning alternative, and your response to me is to tell me that SSDI is demeaning to me because it is considered charity! That's pretty bold.

    I'd prefer a society that takes the American charitable drive and channels it through consensual activities. You're right, American's are very charitable. I am convinced that with less government interference, our society would find it easier to be charitable to one another without defaulting to, "Go see if you qualify for Federal and state help first, then maybe we'll pick up anything left over."

  167. Bill  •  Apr 27, 2013 @2:38 pm

    @Clark – at the risk ofsounding like a suck-up – the book link looked too irresistible so I got it. I haven't finished it yet but so far, freaking excellent. Got me thinking – if the Popehat crew wanted to add a post with favorite books – I know at least one reader would love it and I'm pretty sure he's not the only one. Anyway, unless it takes a serious downward turn, I love it – thanks for the tip.

  168. mind_remnant  •  Apr 27, 2013 @3:38 pm

    @JR
    So you really think the US can wage even limited war on up to 30-40 fronts at once?

  169. JR  •  Apr 27, 2013 @4:57 pm

    @mind_remnant
    Not at all. But continuing my analogy, how often does an entire class team up to fight the bully? Also, the U.N. (teacher) may prevent overt acts of aggression at school, but there's a good chance the bully will be waiting at your bus stop the next day.

  170. mind_remnant  •  Apr 27, 2013 @5:07 pm

    True that. Though another question would be how much bullying is too much, pushing other nations to start using the methods of the US against the US. Like freezing US government and corporate [as if there's a difference ;) ] foreign assets, classifying the CIA as a terrorist organization and all that jazz.

  171. Clark  •  Apr 27, 2013 @5:16 pm

    @mind_remnant:

    So you really think the US can wage even limited war on up to 30-40 fronts at once?

    Well, the feds are doing a pretty good job of carrying the battle to all 50 states, plus Iraq and Afghanistan. I note that USG isn't doing quite as well in the last two, though – folks there aren't forced to pay tribute at a top marginal of 39.6%.

  172. JR  •  Apr 27, 2013 @5:48 pm

    @mind_remnant
    Think Columbine on a national scale and look at North Korea. It's interesting how closely international politics resemble a school full of teen angst and hormones.

  173. mind_remnant  •  Apr 27, 2013 @5:52 pm

    @Clark
    True too, I didn't think of the domestic side since I'm not from your country. :)

    Also, when the US attacks to help the jihadists… err… rebels, yes rebels ;) win in Syria and also get pushed into attacking Iran by some unnamed nation, isn't the US going to get irreversably far down the rabbit hole of bankrupcy?
    Even fiat money must have some max limit to the amount printed/created from thin air before the system collapses, or am I naive now?

  174. ChristenIson  •  Apr 27, 2013 @8:00 pm

    @clark:

    I think you need to re-read Mary Shelley. Frankenstein's monster was not evil, tried very hard not to be evil. Victor Frankenstein is much more morally ambiguous.

  175. Bill  •  Apr 27, 2013 @8:03 pm

    @Orv – With respect to tax preparers, it never dawned on me until you said it but then i felt like "how could I have missed that." I'm going to sound very very out of touch & Kaelish , but no one I know would dream of doing a payday loan (pretty sure all of my immediate peer group actually dreads April 15 b/c they have to pay money) other than my brother in law/his wife. Any guess of what percentage of people do them (no reason in particular, you just got me wondering).
    I ran a search & one article said "… (RALs) enticed millions of consumers …" so apparently it's more popular than I ever imagined. I'm just curious how prevalent it is (just one of those strangely ponderous things)… and can't seem to find any hard numbers – but 'millions' speaks volumes and i'm convinced that's why so many prepares set up shop. (I didn't think about it at the time, but I saw several ads at Shady 'buy here pay here' car lots and the Rental furniture places offering that to do your taxes. I wonder how long before the SC runs them all out of business so they can set up their own chains that benefit education as the private businesses aren't the only ones likes preying on the naive.

  176. AlphaCentauri  •  Apr 27, 2013 @8:38 pm

    The people who resort to payday loans and instant tax refunds may well understand they're getting ripped off, but you're talking about people who literally have no money until payday … or people who are unemployed and not eligible for unemployment compensation, but who are hoping to get a job really soon. They incur costs for not being able to pay bills on time. For instance, if their utilities get shut off, the late charge and reconnection charge and required deposit may be more than the amount that would be subtracted from the payday loan.

  177. Bill  •  Apr 27, 2013 @11:19 pm

    @AlphaCentauri – Yah, I'm sure for many it's sheer desperation. I've heard that Dave Ramsey dude really go off on people about them – he says if you are so broke you would even entertain a Payday advance, you're way too broke to afford one. I've been quite broke in my younger life and know that's also when I made the majority of all really bad financial decisions. It's so frequent it's cliche' but if I had a lottery ticket for each time I'm at the conveince store being held up by someone buying lotto tickets but using an EBT card for another order, I'd probably have won the lotto by now. I guess it's not just here, but they sell these "Lotto tip sheets' at many of the stores… perverse curiosity took over and I asked how much they cost – they vary but typically are in the $7.00-$15-00 range and the counter clerk said it's pretty common for people who use EBT to buy those things. The saddest thing here in SC is that the same bill authorization the lotto also banned private gambling machines b/c gamblin is a sin and the lotto supports education (they really go overboard to call it the South Carolina Education Lottery.) Desperate times, desperate measures I guess