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December 11, 2009

Peter Watts, distinguished Canadian SF writer, arrested by US border police while trying to re-enter Canada
Posted by Patrick at 12:51 PM *

From Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing: Dr. Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border.

I already linked to this from the sidebar, but on reflection, I have a little more to say.

First, it’s worth noting that comment #2 to the Boing Boing post observes “And now the inevitable ‘we don’t know the whole story so we shouldn’t pass judgments but he probably did something to provoke them’ comments can commence.” Indeed, there seems to be a kind of person who makes it their business to hover around at sites like Boing Boing or Consumerist to explain that probably the police had no choice but to beat up that guy, or that we don’t know that Wal-Mart abused that customer, since after all it’s her word against theirs. And indeed, comment #5 shows up right on schedule: “It’s my observation that most of these cases begin with a person who becomes belligerent when asked to do something he doesn’t want to do (get out of the car, step away from the car, etc.) These officers may very well have overstepped their bounds, but I doubt very seriously that Watts is completely innocent.”

For what it’s worth, I don’t know exactly what happened, but a couple of things seem pretty evident to me. One is that this wasn’t a routine border search. Rather, American border guards in Port Huron, Michigan demanded to search Watts’s car as he was leaving the US for his native Canada. This is very squirrelly. We’re conducting exit searches now?

Another is that Peter Watts is, as Charlie Stross observes, the kind of person who’s extraordinarily unlikely to throw the first punch, as Watts is being accused of having done.

The final thing I want to note is a comment to John Scalzi’s post on the matter, from one-time Watts co-author Derryl Murphy, who says:

Part of me rolls my eyes at Peter for being the person he is, climbing out of the car to question these yahoos. But the smarter part of me realizes that because of people like Peter, we have someone who can push back at the bullshit the first time so that the rest of us don’t get the shit kicked out of us when we finally get tired of it all and push back as well.
And that’s why I’m donating to Watts’s defense fund.

UPDATE: Watts on what happened:

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

It’s possible that Watts’s failure to immediate comply with the order to get back into his car constitutes “assaulting a federal officer” according to some point of law. If so, the law is a travesty.

Of course, these things happen all the time, more frequently to young persons of color who don’t have readers on several continents. But the macro and the micro both matter. We should fight for justice in general—and we should have our friends’ backs.

UPDATE 2: Watts posts again, to clear up a few points, not least the demonstrable mendaciousness of the Port Huron Times-Herald story.

Comments on Peter Watts, distinguished Canadian SF writer, arrested by US border police while trying to re-enter Canada:
#1 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:07 PM:

!

I may have other comments later, but that's the first thing that came to mind.

*budgets for a contribution to his fund*

#2 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:20 PM:

Yes. As far as infuriating me goes, this attitude of "well, he should have cringed more" is making me almost as angry as the whole US policy that led to this in the first place.

Yes, it probably wouldn't have happened if he had cringed more, but is that really the world you want to live in?

#3 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:22 PM:

This sucks.

The problem is that you don't actually have to assault an officer to be charged with assault. I saw an interesting piece on civil disobedience recently—the lawyer pointed out that people can be charged with assaulting an officer if they so much as pull away when an undercover (i.e someone you don't know is an officer) cop grabs their arm. The only way NOT to be charge with assault in such situations is to go totally limp, and that of course is not a normal human reaction to being grabbed by a stranger.

I'm a Canadian, and they were talking about Canadian law, but I assume the same kind of law applies in the US, and to border guards.

#4 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:28 PM:

"The only way NOT to be charge with assault in such situations is to go totally limp..."

Ah, but "going limp" has also resulted in charges of "resisting arrest". That's some catch, that Catch-22.

#5 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:33 PM:

Goddamn it, I pay those assholes' salary.

Off to make a donation to the defense fund.

#6 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:35 PM:

Folks, AFAIK, in US law "assault" is "verbal" -- i.e. making an audible threat to someone.

"Battery" is actually throwing the punch.

#7 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:36 PM:

And another thought about the people saying "He should have cringed more" -- what they're really saying is "He did something to deserve it, I wouldn't, it couldn't happen to me". This isn't true. It could happen to any of us.

#8 ::: ebear ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:44 PM:

Jo, I think you have it exactly.

Peter's version of events.

He could possibly have avoided the abuse by cringing more. But that's a slope we're already too far down.

#9 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:47 PM:

I've updated the main post with a link to, and quote from, Watts's own account.

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:47 PM:

Livid.

Did what I could, and posted about it. Fucking Livid.

#11 ::: ebear ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:50 PM:

Thank you, Patrick.

Peter is a beloved friend of mine, and I am beside myself over this.

#12 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:56 PM:

And I'm updating mine. Thanks for having this up. Marna called me, and I had to write something.

Mind you, this is going to hurt my final exam (in three hours), but happily I don't have to do very well to ace the course.

#13 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:56 PM:

Jo Walton @ 2: "Yes, it probably wouldn't have happened if he had cringed more, but is that really the world you want to live in?"

Or not; bullies don't necessarily react to submission with magnanimity. He might have been perfectly inoffensive and found himself in exactly the same situation.

@ 7: "And another thought about the people saying "He should have cringed more" -- what they're really saying is "He did something to deserve it, I wouldn't, it couldn't happen to me". This isn't true. It could happen to any of us."

Yes, precisely.

#14 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:12 PM:

$XX sent from a USian.

Hate it that I'm paying both ways - the salaries for the persons who did this to Mr. Watts, and for his defense...

This stuff makes me too angry.

If I let the angry out, I'd be at my desk all day typing...

(P.S. just noticed that I'm probably varying my e-mail from post to post. I should check one of these days and tie 'em all together.)

#15 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:16 PM:

Cringe "more?" Jo, that's a marvelous statement, so accurate, and also so funny, because Peter is definitely not one to cringe at all.

I'm pleased to see that the majority of responses have come down in line with "it doesn't matter. This is BS and it has to be stopped." Good on everyone for that.

#16 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:18 PM:

Awwww, fuck! Dammit! And a lot of other rude words.

I remember Peter telling me last year that he didn't really fancy going to the US while they were seizing laptops during border crossings and so seeing this news this morning rather shocked me. Likes Charles Stross notes, Peter doesn't seem like the guy who is going to throw the first punch. (He will, however, not take verbal guff from anybody and he certainly is not a cringer. Anybody who implies that he should have watched his tone or been more circumspect is contributing to victim-blaming.)

#17 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:19 PM:

FWIW I have been searched on the US side while entering Canada. I gather it's not common, but not unheard of.

#18 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:30 PM:

I just sent Peter 75 bucks. The story Peter tells accords with my sense of the nature of US reality, complete with cops' disrespect for Miranda rights.

This makes me so upset I don't even want to talk about it except to refer people to my post from last month about Homeland Security's bizarre hunt for an Icelandic woman who escaped after her arrest a the US border.

#19 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:30 PM:

I said this on John Scalzi's site, but I'll say it again here. This is literally one of my worst nightmares.

Back when I lived closer to the US-Canada border, I got harassed almost every time I had to deal with US Customs. I doubt it'd be different now. I just haven't had the chance to cross the border at all since moving deeper into the US. They never escalated to physical violence with me, but I could totally imagine them doing it.

Jo Walton has it exactly right @2 and @7.

#20 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:31 PM:

Who's supposed to be controlling the border guards? Is there anyone worth pressuring to discourage this kind of thing?

#21 ::: Alex von Thorn ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:32 PM:

"Assault" is the threat of violence (through words or gestures). Any crime involves intent. I cannot imagine Peter threatening armed federal officers, and I can't imagine said armed officers interpreting any questions or comments he may have offered in any tone as an intended physical threat of any kind.

I crossed the border at Port Huron last month (and stopped there for a Michigan Coney Dog), and I will cross again next month on the way to and from ConFusion. This hits home for me.

So I have sent some money to Peter via PayPal and I have passed some URLs to a local media contact. I have three fannish events to go to tomorrow, so I will be passing the word along.

#22 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:34 PM:

It's dreadfully fascinating to watch the new Google real time search feature updating Twitters and blog posts as they happen on this topic; there was a surge, but it's slowed down a bit. A 21st Century Moment, with a minty fresh dystopian topping. "The apocalypse will be Twittered".

#23 ::: George ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:39 PM:

Yeeesh, that's awful. I believe a call to the Canadian consulate in Washington is in order. Rattle some sabers for this blatant and thuggish mistreatment of a sitizen of an ALLIED country.

Oh, and if it is possible, file a criminal complaint against being mugged and robbed by the US border guards involved. It doesn't matter that they are DHS, they beat you up, restrained you, and took your stuff. Where I come from, those actions are all felonies.

#24 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:41 PM:

I have had nothing but civil encounters with police officers, and yet I think of Sturgeon's Law. Which means I'm disheartened, but not surprised, that this sort of thing happens.

On the WTF? side, who the hell releases anyone into winter without a coat? That's beyond inhumane, it's stupid. (From the publicity standpoint alone, if that's all they care about.) I really hope the defense plays that up, because even if everything the Border Patrol said were 100% true, that's still extraordinarily wrong.

#25 ::: Tiferet ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:42 PM:

I don't know why I'm so shocked. Except that I thought things would get better after November.

I'm so horrified. Also irritated that I didn't find out until after I spent nearly all my non-necessity money this month, but I expect they'll still need donations in January.

~Tif (formerly known as ataniell93)

#26 ::: Peter Wilkinson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:42 PM:

Clear provocation. Getting Out Of Your Car and Asking The Same Question Twice.

Just the kind of attitude that only a damn idiot would take to border guards - in Ceausescu's Romania.

#27 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:52 PM:

Gee, I wonder what the odds are that any videotape of this incident will have accidentally been deleted by now.

Bowing and scraping before the cops is something we're all learning to do in the US. Meekly submit, and maybe they won't beat you up too badly.

This is excellent advice for dealing with any powerful criminal gang, right? It's the advice you'd give someone visiting a police state, too--if the authorities take you in for questioning, remain polite at all times and keep asking them to call the embassy for you, and maybe you'll keep all your teeth. For God's sake, don't provoke them.

As an individual, this is sound advice. But as members of a community, as voters and taxpayers, this is not good advice. We somehow need to get the people in power at all levels to understand that their continued employment depends on managing to treat the people they deal with properly, to respect the rights of citizens (and anyone else) they deal with, etc.

I have a sort of theory that for a lot of jobs, a large fraction of the effective pay for the job involves the ability to bully people with few consequences. Yes, if you smack around the mayor's kid, or cavity-search a senator's wife, you'll lose your job. But if you can avoid the small fraction of actually important people, you can mostly smack people around who mouth off to you, and bully countless others who put up with it to avoid missing a flight or getting arrested and maybe maced. I wonder if it would be possible to get a different kind of person for those jobs, if we paid better, but then made it clear that you'd lose your job at the first whiff of bullying, and made that stick.

#28 ::: Beable ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:53 PM:

"We’re conducting exit searches now?"

I have been in a car that was exit searched by US border folk on my way back to Canada, as much as 10-11 years ago.

At the time my friend and I were a) arriving at the NY border at a weirdly early time because we had driven through straight from Florida without stopping b) in a large utility van c) ungainfully underemployed (in my case) and ungainfully unemployed (in my friends case) and d) probably extremely spacey and underslept (see a.).

Thus, we both complied with the search, they established we were slobs but not drug smugglers and sent us on our way.

Even had we not both been grossly underslept, I'm not sure we would have questioned it at the time. Though being profiled as possible criminals took us both somewhat aback, we could see why we were hitting several of their red flags, and in our case the border cops were polite and did not give us the impression that we were in immediate danger to body or soul.

#29 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Over on Peter Watts' blog, someone asked him why he didn't just get back in his car, since doing so could have avoided the 'unpleasantness' of being beaten, arrested, detained, having his car and everything in it impounded, and having charges of 'assault on a federal officer' brought.

Because we all have the right to question mother fucking authority.

He had every right to ask them what they were doing. He had every right to expect an answer, and when they ignored him (could be they didn't hear him), he had every right to ask again.

They did not have the right to pepper spray him, beat him, kick him or otherwise harm him for ASKING A QUESTION!

Have we forgotten that we have rights? Have we given so many away that we don't even remember what it is to be free?!

Fuck. That. Noise.

We have the right, the OBLIGATION, to question those in power.

As patriots, as citizens, as fucking human beings, we have the obligation to question.

We are required by our children, by our fellow citizens, by the world! to question those in power.

Gods damn it. DAMN IT. We must must MUST question those whom we have given power over us, and where we find that they have abused our power, we must take it back.

I'm so mad, sad, upset, wound up that I'm on the edge of those tears of frustration. Wake up, my fellow citizens. This is not right, we have given away our power to bastards and corrupt men; we must take it back.

#30 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:03 PM:

This is completely unacceptable. I really want to be proud of my country again, where basic rights and decency are more than only pretty words, and this is not helping. I'll definitely donate once I get back home.

Random idea for Obama: slip the security detail, dress like a lower-income person, then try crossing the border a few times.

#31 ::: Leah Bobet ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:11 PM:

Patrick, thank you for the signal boost. Watts is my friend, and I have spent my day working down the urge to hurt people very, very badly.

#32 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:15 PM:

I hate crossing the border; it seems that at any moment one can be subject to hours of bad experiences for pinging a personal squick of a BP officer, or happening across somebody who's angry from some totally unrelated incident.

That said, and in no way excusing this enormity, Tuesday was almost inevitably going to be a bad day for LEO encounters. Somebody, somewhere was going to get bad treatment for no reason other than enhanced "us vs them" emotions. Human beings are stupid that way, and the worst thing I know about police and border patrol officers is that they are subject to the daily failings of average human beings.

And I fear that there are more people who are not Peter Watts who had the same sorts of events rained down on them, without the support of friends with public voices.

#33 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:17 PM:

I think Xopher's comment over at Boing Boing bears repeating here - leaving someone outside at night in a winter storm in Michigan with no coat and no transportation is attempted murder.

I'll add that it should be prosecuted as such, along the entire chain of command.

#34 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:21 PM:

It's stories like these that are the reason I now feel strangely relieved every time I step out of passport control into an EU airport terminal. The spring generally remains in my step until the morning when I have to go back to the airport and return to the U.S. I usually don't calm down again until I'm sitting in the back of a cab headed for San Francisco.

I've noticed that Canadian passport control officers have gotten a bit testier with me when I show them a U.S. passport, and I can only imagine the reason is that they rightly feel that escalations should be met with measured response. All this makes me very sad. Especially saddening are the comments at BoingBoing and elsewhere from foreigners who quite naturally view the U.S. as an unsafe place to visit and work. That not a week goes by without a viral video showing a completely excessive use of a Taser or a stun-gun by U.S. police— (It's always U.S. police, isn't it?)— certainly doesn't help.

I wonder what horrors await me when I return for IETF 79 next year. So not looking forward to finding out.

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:22 PM:

I'm so angry about this I don't know what to say or do. Donate, of course, but I'm struggling with whether I really want to give up my credit card information to PayPal.

I don't feel that writing to the President, or to my Congresman and Senators, will do any good at all. Obama could have demolished the Department of Stupid Assholes when he got into office, or at least reined it in, but as far as I know he's done NOTHING to restore the civil liberties that were taken from us during the Shrub years.

To be fair, he's had other things on his mind. But he needs to take action. Honest, law-abiding people from other countries should feel safe coming to the US. They don't, and they're right not to. It's getting so I'm afraid to leave in case something happens on the way back in.

DSA is way out of control. Is there anything at all we can do about it?

#36 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:24 PM:

Tossing a little bit to the defense fund.

A common nightmare of mine is an extremely powerful authority figure, angry at me and threatening to punish me for something minor or accidental. My parents weren't abusive, but I observed friends frightened of their parents' wrath (screaming, cursing, hitting) for small things and things they hadn't done purposefully. They'd grovel and apologize in stark terror, hoping to stop the rage. It scared me, and stuck with me.

Dealing with the police shouldn't be like dealing with an abusive parent.

To head off the inevitable "but the police do a hard job!" I understand that it's not always like that. I've had plenty of interactions with police officers in which they were polite and respectful and helpful. But it happens too often to ignore. And if you don't look white, or you look poor, or you look like an immigrant of whatever group is currently disliked in your location, it happens a lot. Or if the officer is on a particular power trip -- like TSA and border police often seem to be.

#37 ::: Erin Kissane ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:27 PM:

Thank you for this. I don't know Peter personally, but I'm a huge fan of his work and his blog is one of my favorite things on the internet. That said, I hope I'd be this outraged even if he weren't one of my favorite writers.

As Jo Walton (among others) has noted, the fact that so many commenters crop up *every time this happens* to chastise the victim of police abuse for insufficient cringe. So many. And they vote. That kind of internalization and reinforcement of abuse of power as normal completely freaks me out. (In my less optimistic moments, I despair of fixing this horror of a system when so many have bought in so completely.)

DSA is way out of control. Is there anything at all we can do about it?

This.

#38 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:27 PM:

Jo, #7: In fact, it's exactly the same kind of magical thinking and victim-blaming that happens to any woman who's been raped or sexually assaulted.

Michael, #32: Echoes of Matthew Shepherd...

#39 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Read about it over on Boing Boing. What pisses me off even more is how they treated him after he was arrested.

Tiferet @24: US Customs has always been kind of hard ass, screw off in their mentality. They have always had a lot of powers beyond normal law enforcement. Combine that with the fact you are dealing with the bureaucracy and any change will be slow.

#40 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:30 PM:

I've talked with a friend who's worked for Customs and Border Protection, and he says that people to pressure would be the CBP (though I'm not sure who you'd contact as a concerned person rather than the person who'd been attacked), your congress members, the Department of Homeland Security, and the president.

#41 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:31 PM:

Apologies for this hit-and-run comment: The US customs hassles people in rental cars. Emma has a bit to say about that here. It's information more people should have. Sorry I didn't realize it earlier.

#42 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:33 PM:

Have donated, and now calling my congressmen & senators. They can sometimes help.

#43 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:34 PM:

There were several jackbooted policeman--one with a semi-automatic gun on prominent display in his arms--in the lobby of my New York office building this morning. Standing next to the big Chistmas tree. I felt as if I were living in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil."

No particular reason for them to be there, according to building security. Just "police presence."

It is incidents like these, and the one with Dr. Watts, that remind me we live in a police state. All it takes is poverty or bad timing and suddenly you're on the wrong side of authority.

As an SF reader, I often feel like an internal emigre from the society I live in. Hell, as a reader of any kind.

What's that Orwell quote about the boots?

#44 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:34 PM:

I was literally about to post that same link to Emma Bull's LiveJournal post on the subject, which is righteous and magnificent.

#45 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:44 PM:

I wish I could say I was surprised or shocked by this.

Putting someone out in winter with no coat and no access to transporation is abuse, pure and simple. However they think they can justify their other actions as "appropriate use of force," the only possible reason for doing that is to be cruel.

#46 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:47 PM:

It seems to me that that the effective pressure in this could be applied by the Canadian government.

#47 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:48 PM:

I have bad news for you. You do not have to be entering the US to deal with US border guards. I was stopped twice by them last winter on I-8. You merely have to be within 50 miles of a border. I regret to say I merely sat in my car, eyes downcast & took it. My brushes with TSA in airports having already taught me it is futile and dangerous to ask questions. (TSA will not answer questions about their procedures and policies. They're just trying to keep you safe. Only a terrorist would want to know those things - in order to avoid them. You should just trust us. Because if you don't we'll declare you hostile and deny you boarding.)

#48 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:53 PM:

I guess I will let another 40 years pass before crossing that border.
What everyone else said, about those in power misusing it. And the rest of us letting it slip away somehow. And how all this victim-blaming sounds alike.
Dredging the depths of my memory, I kinda-sorta seem to recall that there was a constitutional amendment or something prohibiting unfair search and seizure. That might apply here, and those who actually know how to be activists in cases like this will no doubt make use of it.
And no, just because some nutcase in my neck of the woods just bumped off 4 cops, that doesn't mean that people just trying to get home again need to be mistreated.
You'd think they'd train them better, how to restrain people without hurting them, etc. How to better recognize someone who might really be a danger, as opposed to, say, someone who did enough cringing when young and doesn't aim to do any more.
I am disgusted, and unnerved.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:54 PM:

There's a diary on this up at Daily Kos.
With a commenter who refuses to believe that anything like this actually happened, and is hassling the one person who actually knows Watts.

#50 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:55 PM:

I was gonna say. Anyone who lives in southern Arizona knows that the border police's writ runs miles and miles north of the border. Beth Meacham, Teresa and I went through a border-police checkpoint this past July, just driving from Tucson to Kitt Peak -- nowhere near Mexico.

Another excellent post about all of this: Terry Karney's.

#51 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 03:57 PM:

If anyone knows how to get CNN to pick up the story, now would be the time.

Particularly if you can connect Dr. Watts with global warming.

#52 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:01 PM:

For those interested: the White House comment line direct number is 202.456.1111 I just spoke to a very nice young lady; she seemed unnerved and shaken by the time I was done speaking with her. While a single message from one pissed of Texan likely won't make an impression, I imagine that lots and lots of pissed off people would...

I also left a note via the website www.whitehouse.gov In the upper right corner is a link for 'contact us' which takes you to a page where you can fill out a comment form.

Using words like 'police state', 'institutional terrorism', and telling them that you bloody well WILL question authority, seem like awesome things that we can all do, right now, while the steam of righteous indignation is hot within us.

I urge everyone to contact the White House, with no regard to your nationality, and tell them how you're feeling.

#53 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:03 PM:

I'm always nervous when I cross the border into US, but I thought that giving up traveling to see my friends and attend conventions just because the DHS creeps me out was an overreaction.

Not so sure about that now.

Since I've heard the news I have been veering between disbelief and impotent rage. I don't know Peter Watts personally, but even by reading his blog and his books I felt he was somebody I really liked - "one of us", as my dad would say. And of course he's a friend of a bunch of my friends.

And, not being an American OR Canadian citizen, I don't even know who to write (look how British I have become - my first reaction is writing a Very Stern Letter to somebody and signing it as Outraged of Kilburn).

#54 ::: Paul (Jvstin) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:03 PM:

I had a long and unpleasant (although nothing like this) at Customs at Grand Marais last spring. I was stopped, my car searched, and grilled for over an hour about who I was, where I worked, and why I had gone to Canada and back within a day. It was Kafkaesque in their attempts to ask me the same question five different ways.

I guess I cringed enough for their taste. I now realize what happened to Watts could have easily have happened to me.

#55 ::: Ken Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:09 PM:

+1 to Jo's comment about the outrage over "he should have cringed more". Responses like that make me a little crazy.

#56 ::: Dave Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:12 PM:

Every time I see things like this there's only one thought that runs through my mind:

The Terrorists have won.

When you change society to "fight terrorism" you're playing into their hands. Every time civil rights get eroded, society takes another step down the road toward becoming what the supporters of stricter controls and greater repression say they are fighting.

What happened to Peter Watts was a victory for everyone who has ever called the US "The Great Satan" and a defeat for everyone who believes in the Bill of Rights.

#57 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:14 PM:

It strikes me that this could hardly be the first time that border guards have been thuggish assholes. Any info on the outcome of other confrontations?

I could see enough heat coming from this to lead to charges being dropped.

#58 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:16 PM:

Evan #42: What's that Orwell quote about the boots?

"But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."

#59 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:19 PM:

Mary Kay @ 46: "TSA will not answer questions about their procedures and policies. They're just trying to keep you safe. Only a terrorist would want to know those things - in order to avoid them. You should just trust us. Because if you don't we'll declare you hostile and deny you boarding."

Speaking of cringing, I wish I could disclose the instructions and advice my employers give me for protecting company confidential information when crossing international frontiers. The ones that apply specifically for crossing U.S. borders are illuminating. I don't think they like the idea of DHS confiscating their laptops any more than the rest of us.

#60 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:35 PM:

jh: Unless there's a huge amount of information you need, isn't it easier to just cross without the information, and then download it inside the US?

#61 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:41 PM:

#57 j h woodyatt - We just got back from a trip to Belgium & Luxembourg. The only border crossing Jordin worried about with respect to the integrity of his employer's data on his laptop was, yes, coming back into the US.

#62 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:45 PM:

Patrick, I want to thank you for sharing this. I burst into tears yesterday afternoon knowing that Peter was still being held. I haven't really relaxed in the past two days, knowing he couldn't come home yet.

My mother has donated to his legal fund, because she knows how much this means to me. I just got a check from Nature for a story Peter encouraged and edited, and I plan on donating the proceeds.

They crossed the line when they attacked my family. Full stop.

#63 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:46 PM:

albatross @ 58:

As far as I recall, that's exactly what a lot of companies have suggested. Leave the laptop at home, and use the corporate intranet once you've crossed the border and are in the office.

#64 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:48 PM:

And the National Post is the first newspaper out of the gate, with a brief blog entry in the literature section. Keep working those media contacts, folks.

#65 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:57 PM:

I keep thinking of the questions the International Olympic Committee asked Obama when they were considering Chicago's bid, and how clear an illustration this is of the validity of their concerns. I dunno if there's a chance that this will ever make it to the Oval Office, but if it does I think there's a fair chance Obama would be listening.

#66 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 04:58 PM:

58,59...

yes, the advice from my employers for crossing U.S. borders begins with: "Don't take your electronic equipment with you without wiping its contents. Have the backup media shipped separately, or better yet, download it over VPN from your destination."

It then proceeds to explain what to do and how to behave if you are carrying confidential information on you when the TSA demands to inspect your person and effects.

Reading it, I get the strange feeling that they're only secondarily concerned about the possibility of their employee being confiscated along with the data. That's probably because of the ambiguous way it simultaneously advises behavior that seems a bit cringey to me, while it also advises me to resist any unlawful orders to surrender confidential data without giving much guidance as to what sort of things are clear examples of cause to resist TSA authority. Hence, circling back to the initial advice and instructions for U.S. borders. Shorter employers: don't give them anything to seize.

#67 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:02 PM:

*if it did*

#68 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:03 PM:

That border crossing seems to have a routine exit check -- I had my trunk opened and my luggage inspected there when driving to Toronto back from Confusion last year.

#69 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:06 PM:

Signal boosted x4. No matter what the situation, I cannot see how this was not a case of, at the very least, excessive force being used.

#70 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:11 PM:

Signal boost notes: I submitted a few pertinent links to the Democracy Now! story idea contact page. Various other members of the punditocracy might be interested, too.

#71 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:19 PM:

I absolutely hate how, of all the border crossings I do, the only one I dread is the one returning to the country of my birth, my primary citizenship, and my true identity.

#72 ::: RP ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:20 PM:

My spouse was jailed for 6 hours for assault on a police officer some years ago. What he did was (as a pedestrian in t-shirt and shorts) yell across 2 lanes of traffic at a guy driving with a kid on his lap. I take it back, the kid was driving...3 inches from the air bag. The guy was an off-duty Chicago police officer and, thus, armed. He, apparently helpless in his car with his gun, called in the yelling as a police officer being assaulted.

While not quite as bad what happened to Watts, it rather illustrates the same mindset.

#73 ::: J. Brad Hicks ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:22 PM:

Correlating this with Emma Bull's observation about US border patrol agents going nuts over every rental car, and recent news stories about them removing patriotic decorations from US border patrol buildings along the Canadian border for fear that they'll attract terrorists, I have a sinking feeling that I can guess what's going on here. Someone, whether it's a torture victim having to make up yet another purely fictional terror plot to get the torture to stop, or someone selling a fictional terror plot to a CIA agent in exchange for money or drugs or other privileges, or maybe even a legitimate intelligence lead (but what are the odds of that?) has resulted in the DHS telling the border patrol that there may be a terrorist plan to use rental cars to blow up US customs posts along the Canadian border. And somehow, something about Dr. Watts fit the profile they were looking for, and they became convinced that if they didn't immediately swarm and subdue him, that he'd trigger his suicide explosives in the car and kill them all.

I could be wrong. But it seems to me to be the hypothesis that fits the facts the best.

V said that "People should not fear their government. Governments should fear their people," but I'm afraid that he was wrong. A government that's afraid of its people is a terrifying, deadly dangerous thing. Wild. Feral. Undomesticated. Prone to lashing out at imagined threats.

I really wish I hadn't lived to see this decade.

#74 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:27 PM:

RP @70 -- Yelling at anyone, whether they be an LEO or citizen is assault.

I am extremely upset by the thuggist behavior of the Customs Officers, and I hope they are punsished for their actions.

#75 ::: Simon Bradshaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:32 PM:

Almost as depressing as the story of what happened to Peter is the slew of drive-by comments on his blog to the tune of "you had it coming, you disobeyed a police officer, and by the way be fucking grateful you're allowed into the U!S!A! in the first place."

I think I may have used the phrase 'lickspittle aspiring Stasi' in my own response to some of this.

#76 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:32 PM:

Bah, hit "post" instead of "preview" --

There is no excuse for what happened to Dr. Watts, and I'll be calling my Congress-critters and the White House about this outrage on Monday -- I doubt anyone is manning the phones now since it's beer-thirty in DC...

#77 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:34 PM:

Considering the Attitude I got from the border guy at DTW when I came back from a trip to Japan 2 years ago ("Why did you go over there? What did you do? Who were you with?"), I can't say as any of this surprises me. As a frequent international traveler, my ultimate nightmare is that one of these days, for some random arbitrary reason I will not be allowed to come back home.

Earl Cooley #68: Amy Goodman was detained at the border not two weeks ago attempting to go to Vancouver for a conference, and not allowed to cross. I would imagine that this is exactly the sort of story Democracy Now would be interested in covering.

I also wonder if anyone at The Daily Show is paying attention to BoingBoing ... sadly, of all the television news outlets, they seem to be the most likely to actually do something about this story. Which really tells you all you need to know about American society. :/

#78 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:42 PM:

Nice. I just reviewed the policies. Gone are the sentences about resisting unlawful searches. I probably misremember them ever being there.

The message seems pretty clear: you do not have the right to refuse any searches at border and customs checkpoints. They can search and seize anything, and in the U.S. they're notably unpredictable about what's in their ambit. Be cooperative and polite. Don't carry company confidential information on you in any format when you cross U.S. borders. In short: cringe when you're there, and act like a spy before you get there and after you leave.

#79 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:43 PM:

Having trouble finding the link for making a contribution.

#80 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:50 PM:

Continuing 76...

Perhaps they should append the words to their advice and instructions to international business travelers, "...or they might beat your ass, charge you with a felony, and leave you to risk dying of exposure after you post bail."

Do they issue tasers or stun-guns to CBP these days?

#81 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 05:52 PM:

Erik @ 77 et al

PayPal direct to donate@rifters.com

That way you can leave a comment indicating it's for lawyers as well as cats.

#82 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 06:02 PM:

Following up on my own recent comment, I had a brainwave and e-mailed the contact address for the Rachel Maddow show to let her know about this story.

If anyone else would like to second, third, fourth etc. my motion, the e-dress is rachel at msnbc dot com.

Who knows, she might actually see it.

#83 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 06:09 PM:

Here's a totally weird question: if Peter was driving a rental car which was then impounded by the thrice-damned Border police, does he remain responsible for the rental fees? The Border police could be adding immeasurably to his financial burden just by holding on to the car...

Meanwhile, I've sent some money. Now, to call the White House.

#84 ::: woody ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 06:34 PM:

Cops are pigs.
US cops are wallowing swine.
Federal "cops"--especially border cops--are assholes by design.
End of story.

#85 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 06:39 PM:

@ 81: No, that's a totally reasonable question. I suspect that Peter Watts is responsible for the fees and that "proper procedure" is to get reimbursed by the Border Patrol, which can then proceed to delay and lose the paperwork.

After all, airlines tend to work on the same theory, and they're theoretically held more to the wishes of their customers.

(Oh gee, is that my cynicism showing through again?)

#86 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 06:41 PM:

I have donated via the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund. Lawyers need kibbles too.

#87 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 06:43 PM:

Thanks for the email suggestion and address, Meredith. I've sent one off to Rachel - which is good, since I'm unfortunately just not in a position to donate money.

#89 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 07:25 PM:

I've passed the link to this along on Facebook to Pulitzer Prize-winning Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz, who happens to also be the wife of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

And I'm just getting started.

#90 ::: Paula Liebeman ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 07:31 PM:

#25 Peter

The previous occupant of the White House I consider the US counterpart to Ceaucescu (I think that I made such correspondence at least once here on Making Light during 2001 - 2008). The appartchiks he and his buddies inserted into US Government at all levels are still in US Government, and surrounded themselves with more of the same. The Ba'athists in Iraq, had less scope for natioal manipulation--Iraq's population is under 25,000,000 and it is a much poorer, less internationally powerful country than the USA.... The neocons and apocalyptics and Luddites are burrowed deeply in and running office all over the country. And digging them out, means crossing the likes of Orrin Hatch, Inouye, etc.... and having to deal with the offices run by the neocons an apocalyptic and Luddites and global warming deniers and the ruthless in the true sense of "having no ruth" intolerant bigoted extremist planted in US Government 2001 - 2008, and determined to continue their agenda.

#91 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:03 PM:

All these apologists seem to have grown up with the "crossing through the Iron Curtain" rules: Don't bring newspapers or music, don't look the border guy in the eyes, have your papers in hand, be polite, don't laugh, don't joke, keep a level voice, do whatever they say, don't protest when they steal your stuff, because they can let you wait until you grow moss, or just detain you until your goverment buys you back.

And of *course* you were not "innocent" when you carried newpapers or laughed. You had just outed yourself as an Enemy of the People. You were stupid when you did these things, but your government would still bail you out, because, hey, commies=evil, and what are we paying taxes for, again?

Seems that Canada is less enthusiastic about protecting its citizens, or less able.

Having grown up with these rules myself, I never found getting into the US uncommonly stressful except that the officials seemed more nervous than the Stasi guys.

Bottom line, I wonder if the apologists just enjoy a cynical pose, or if they actually believe that they have to play by police state rules. And if the latter, if they are right.

#92 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:07 PM:

inge, #89: "Seems that Canada is less enthusiastic about protecting its citizens, or less able."

Um, you are clear that Watts was stopped, beaten, and arrested by US border police, right? Not Canadians, although he was in fact trying to cross the border into Canada.

#93 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:07 PM:

First news article, as opposed to news organizations just blogging about things, and also the first to try to get a response from the authorities:

http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20091211/NEWS01/91211010/1002/Science+fiction+writer+charged+after+bridge+struggle

No surprise that they have a different take on things.

#94 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:12 PM:

Re #91:

It appears they have events turned around about, oh, 180 degrees.

#95 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:13 PM:

I don't know Peter Watts--I'm just a fan of his writing--but this has me surprisingly upset at a time I don't need something else to be upset about. (This has, among other things, been a month of bad news about writers I respect.)

I guess this story triggers a couple phobias... first my irrational fear of being accused of something, which is probably the reason Hitchcock movies make me nervous. Second, my slightly more rational fear of bullies. Faced with a hostile and apparently unreasonable person, I'll instinctively back down, even when I ought to stand up for myself. I have a lot of respect for people willing to ask a few polite but pertinent questions.

#96 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:17 PM:

Also, it seems that Paypal has taken a dislike to my credit card.

#97 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:26 PM:

And now there is comment #3 at the Times-Herald article linked above, which goes quite a bit beyond the ordinary level of "well, he should have cringed more," to an outright fetishistic revelry in authoritarian violence directed at the hated Other.

#98 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:27 PM:

It is somewhat ironic to me that Israel's customs are so much easier to get through than the US's version.

#99 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:28 PM:

Um, you are clear that Watts was stopped, beaten, and arrested by US border police, right? Not Canadians, although he was in fact trying to cross the border into Canada.

I understood that Watts is Canadian, and one of the benefits of citizenship should be some protection from abuse by foreign government officials. I admit that the way it happened, Canada didn't have too much of an opportunity to interfere, but the general doubt in the comments that they'll do anything at all I find disquieting. I am willing to be positively surprised.

#100 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:33 PM:

Terry: And you were magnificent, on the phone and in your post.

Xopher: if you want to send me a money order, we'll be sending or delivering a cheque. He's still going to need money in a couple of months, and we'll be able to do more then than we can now, so we're holding off until the dibs are more in tune.

My MP is the NDP Foreign Affairs Critic, and I worked on his last two or three campaigns. I will be digging up my Srs Bznss suit and heels and going down to the office, I think.

I`m kind of sick with rage at the moment. I`m not as close as ebear or Leah are to Peter, but I try to catch him for beer when I`m in Toronto. He is fine people.

If he engaged without severe, panic-inducing threat or provocation in any behaviour that any reasonable person would define as an assault or even a threat, I will eat that damned rental car.

#101 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:40 PM:

It is amazing that a question to a border guard could result in an innocent traveller being beaten and then thrown into the cold Canadian night. I'd say Jo hit the nail straight on the head.

#102 ::: John Boston ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:41 PM:

Another thing people can do--though not without discussing it with the defense lawyer first--is organize a support group to show up in court. But just sit there--no shows of support in the courtroom, or you won't do Peter Watt any good and you will have your own problems. A press conference outside the court might be a way of getting media attention that won't happen otherwise. Again: not without discussing it with the defense lawyer first. A competent local lawyer should be able to make a judgment whether this sort of thing will do more harm than good. But in general, letting the government know that people are watching and are not going to stop or shut up is a good thing in these situations.

#103 ::: Eloah James ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 08:56 PM:

I would recommend we all write to the White House about this, instead of just throwing money at the problem. If we flood WhiteHouse.gov with messages, they will have to pay attention to this.

So far, it's one case, but if this really is a case of border police against an innocent man, then it won't stop at one innocent man.

#104 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:11 PM:

Mary @46, it's even worse than that. Actually, 100 miles from the border is where the Border Patrol has full reign.

points out that nearly 2/3 of the U.S. population lives in that area.

#105 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:21 PM:

Regarding that Port Huron Times-Herald story: good for Kevin Standlee (SF fan, well-known Worldcon smof) for wading into the comment section to lay down some righteousness.

#106 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:21 PM:

Derryl Murphy, #91, they don't just have a different take, they have a different direction. The article says that the police chief read the report to them:

Jones said Watts was crossing into Michigan from Point Edward

and he was crossing into Canada, not the US.

Hard to take that kind of paper seriously.

(I need to wait until next week to see if I have extra money, but I'm really sorry and angry this happened.)

#107 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:26 PM:

I have been stopped exiting the US at this same crossing on my way home to Canada - the guards sometimes set up a blockade right after the toll booth when they're bored (a Canadian guard told me that). A little scary for me (a 20-something woman alone), stopped in the dark at 3 a.m. by 3 male guards who went through my car - not a comfortable experience.

#108 ::: Heather Bungard-Janney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:40 PM:

While the following two articles from Homeland Security Watch (one report and a followup) pertain specifically to TSA procedure in airports, I find the observations made by the author to be extremely telling, and relevant to this discussion:

http://www.hlswatch.com/index.php?s=deirdre+walker

The author points out that what we have *permitted* security personnel to do does not necessarily match, in any way, what we *need* them to do, with the very dangerous result that security personnel have been allowed to forget what the actual nature of their job is. She details a lack of training in proper search method, data-gathering procedure, and - most relevant here, I think - training the staff AND citizens to understand the citizens' rights during the search, including the right to refuse a search at all.

If someone knowledgeable could let us all know how much of TSA policy applies to border patrol officers - as both are part of Homeland Security - I would be grateful.

But I'm pretty sure the right to ask what the HELL is going on, is still permitted by law.

#109 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:50 PM:

Whatever happened to the concept of the Peace Gardens?

This is beyond sux, but then, what the Canadian guards did to Amy Goodman when she tried to get into Canada does too.

Yeah. Whatever happened to the North Dakota / U.S.A. / Canadian Peace Gardens?

Guess nobody's planted bulbs this fall on either side.

Love, C.

#110 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:51 PM:

FWIW, a colleague posted to my Fb that he was pretty sure that things happened exactly as Watts describes. He bases this on his knowledge of how the Border Patrol operated when he worked for INS. A current colleague in campus security also told me that one of our other officers used to be Border Patrol, and has talked about this sort of thing happening all the time. Both anecdotes are wrt the SoCal borders, but ...

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:58 PM:

And there is another - at least the second - diary on this up at Daily Kos. The persistent request from the skeptical is for a story in the major media or for another witness.

(As if these days the major media would notice anything that didn't involve firearms, explosives, or missing white women.)

#112 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:02 PM:

Bruce Schneier emails to observe that this post from Digby is relevant:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/gatesgate-by-digby-i-have-been.html

Especially:

Now, on a practical, day to day level, it's hard to argue that being argumentative with a cop is a dangerous thing. They have guns. They can arrest you and can cost you your freedom if they want to do it badly enough. They can often get away with doing violence on you and suffer no consequences. You are taking a risk if you provoke someone with that kind of power, no doubt about it.
Indeed, it is very little different than exercising your right of free speech to tell a gang of armed thugs to go fuck themselves. It's legal, but it's not very smart. But that's the problem isn't it? We shouldn't have to make the same calculations about how to behave with police as we would with armed criminals. The police are supposed to be the good guys who follow the rules and the law and don't expect innocent citizens to bow to their brute power the same way that a street gang would do. The police are not supposed to wield what is essentially brute force on the entire population.
Very similar to what Terry Karney has been saying.

#113 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:03 PM:

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) linking to the Boing Boing posting about Watts, says that Joe Lieberman is the chairman of the Senate committee which oversees the Department of Homeland Security.

#115 ::: Heather Bungard-Janney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:07 PM:

I have no money, but I have lodged a complaint on Dr. Watts' behalf with the Department of Homeland Security, Traveler Redress Inquiry Program: trip@dhs.gov

#116 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:13 PM:

I think it was mentioned in a different thread here on Making Light, that what is really screwed up is that the way to survivably deal with an encounter with the police at any level in the US is to take the same tactics of someone who is unaffiliated and forced to deal with a criminal gang.

This is just so reinforcing of that situation.

"not cringing enough," indeed

#117 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:15 PM:

Re #111, PurpleGirl:

Joe Lieberman is the chairman of the Senate committee which oversees the Department of Homeland Security.

Well, there goes that possible area of redress. As a resident of Connecticut, I can say with all certainty that he would absolutely side with the border agents in this case.

I cannot WAIT for the day when we can manage to vote that jackass out of office.

#118 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:18 PM:

I've just boosted signal on my LJ page. I don't know how much audience I get, but I do think this case may be critical in determining whether we will live in a Republic in which law enforcement is answerable to the people, or a police state.

I think we know the poem that begins, "When they came for the Communists..." Maybe working together we can keep history from repeating itself.

#119 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:23 PM:

Watts posts again, to clear up a few points, not least the demonstrable mendaciousness of the Port Huron Times-Herald story.

#120 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:41 PM:

In case folks weren't aware, there's also a Slashdot thread:

http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1475922

#121 ::: Trialia ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:42 PM:

I'm British, and I love to travel when I can afford it (which is not often, sadly). I've been to Germany, Canada and the US so far, and only in the case of that last have I encountered belligerent Customs officers (partial strip-search, luggage search, breaking of possessions - of a petite, geek-dressed teenage girl? really, people?).

So I can perfectly well believe this happened the way Peter says it did.

I would donate if I could, but I can't afford to this week. Maybe next week, though. Good luck.

#122 ::: jsgbs ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:43 PM:

Customs and Border Protection is the first reason why no one of sane mind should ever visit the United States. The TSA is the second reason why no one of sane mind should ever visit the United States. There is nothing worth seeing in the United States that justifies the risk of dealing with a police state that engages in torture and indefinite detention without trial.

Canada's Border Services Agency is the first reason everyone should think very carefully before visiting Canada. As Amy Goodman discovered, they share a common harassment list with CBP and they seize laptops, too. Carry "too many" MP3 files into Canada and they'll take all your electronics.

#123 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 10:57 PM:

I have a half-baked thought, and I'm not sure if it's right, but maybe it's useful here.

What determines your willingness to see the police get rough with people? To err on the side of accepting more police brutality or abuse or even corruption, rather than on the side of letting some criminals get away or hurt or kill cops?

My guess is that the main thing is how you assess the threat from the criminals (or at least the people the cops are arresting/hassling) vs the threat from the cops. In places and times where there is a strong "us/them" divide and a lot of fear about "them," people become more willing to give the police a lot of freedom to do whatever they have to, in order to keep the community safe.

So, the obvious two examples that come to mind here are the post-9/11 terrorism fear cascade, and places with serious racial tension in which the police are on mostly one side of that tension. In both cases, you've got everyone's us/them circuitry engaged, and you've got the fear going. Also in both cases, most of us can remind ourselves that we're not the targets--the cops usually don't bust the heads of white drivers for driving while white, white Americans are mostly not at risk for a midnight flight to Syria and a few months of brutal torture, etc.

And once that gets going, some people have an enormous investment in keeping that fear cranked up to 11, and that us/them circuitry engaged. All that benefit of the doubt for the cops translates into wonderful opportunities for corruption, bullying, settling of scores, silencing of opponents, etc. The atmosphere of fear keeps the money flowing to the police or homeland security guys. It keeps the Klan in members and money, it keeps the talk-radio whackos in advertising dollars, it keeps the defense and homeland security contractors on the payroll, it helps politicians retain power and divert attention from their own corruption and incompetence. The fear keeps people reading the newspapers or glued to the TV. All this becomes self-supporting--millions of people benefit from keeping that fear and that us/them distinction going strong.

Since 9/11, fear of Muslims and foreigners has been being pumped out by a hell of a lot of people. And that's gotten a lot of people to do just what Patrick pointed out--to jump up and defend the cops, who might be thugs, but at least they're our thugs, and they're defending us from the scary Muslims or scary foreigners or things that go bump in the night or whatever.

The people who rely on that fear, at least the smart ones, are also scared. Because they know it's not going to last forever. One day, sanity will return, and we'll laugh at the stuff we now just nod silently at. And then, lots of people will lose their power, their jobs, and their no-bid contracts. Lots of guys who now get to play superhero in their own minds (And wear a uniform! And boss people around!) will go back to stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, or maybe to being the security guards there.

#124 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 11:19 PM:

Dena at #102 - Ah. I had remembered it as being within 50 miles, but it's completely likely I've remembered it wrong. (Brain like a stainless steel sieve these days.) In my case I was driving from San Diego to Tuscon on I-8. Did not involve crossing any international borders, but I ran into 2 Border Patrol roadblocks. At one of them, my car was thoroughly sniffed by one of the biggest German Shepards I have ever seen. At no time did anyone say anything to me - all hand signals. It was both scary and infuriating. And in the 2nd case, there was no way I was getting out of my car with that dog around. Ya know, these people are supposed to be working for me, not on me. And I was too scared to roll down my window and ask what was the deal. Thank you TSA.
MKK

#125 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 11:31 PM:

Marilee, #104: I do not in fact doubt that the cop said Watts was crossing into the country. It's a plausible lie, and one of the quickest ways to start muddying the waters. But the newspaper should have done some fact-checking, and I fault them severely for that.

#126 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:56 AM:

I got as far as Jennifer @50 before I skipped to here.
I got as far as Mike @17 before I did what Jennifer later requested. I filled out the ContactUs form at whitehouse.gov. I used words like WTF? and phrases like "who's watching these guys?"
A good question I did not ask is, what recourse do we have? If I can prove bullying and thuggery, not thru "my word against yours," but honest to gods proof (video, audio, security cams), where do I go? To whom do I complain? Someone higher up said "chain of command." Just what is the chain of command for TSA? For the border guards.

I recently went thru airport security at LAX. The person who checked my boarding pass was in my opinion, not simply a few kernels shy of a cob, but a whole freakin' lot of kernels. He never shut up, he repeated himself over and over, all his phrasings were simple, easily memorized sentences. His tone of voice was forceful, his movements abrupt and jerky. He scared me spitless. I tell people I'm 5ft4 with a 6ft attitude, but facing this guy, I would gladly have been 2ft tall or as invisible as it was possible to get.

#127 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:58 AM:

I made the mistake of reading the Slashdot comments. Oh, wow. Where did people get the idea that talking back to a police officer was a crime and is sufficient justification for a beating, a pepper spraying, etc, etc, etc? What ever happened to the practice of talking down an unruly suspect?

#128 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:06 AM:

Electronic correspondence sent to Congressional Represenative....

I am utterly horrified and appalled at the treatment of Dr Peter Watts, a Canadian scientist and writer, at the hands of the Border Patrol, when he was returning to Canada after helping a friend in the USA move. His account is at http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=932
There are literally hundreds of people in the USA along with people in Canada and other countries, who can vouch that he is not a terrorist, not a threat to democracy, not a violent person.... there is an account on line which looks like an intentional blame the victim disinformation campaign.

I am, again, appalled and horrified that the US Border people are assaulting people, confiscating their possessions, sending them out into freezing weather minus their coats, and charging them with felonies. This is NOT the way a civilized country behaves, and particularly not one which DESERVES anyone else in the world visiting it....

#129 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:27 AM:

Albatross @ 121: The people who rely on that fear, at least the smart ones, are also scared. Because they know it's not going to last forever. One day, sanity will return, and we'll laugh at the stuff we now just nod silently at. And then, lots of people will lose their power, their jobs, and their no-bid contracts. Lots of guys who now get to play superhero in their own minds (And wear a uniform! And boss people around!) will go back to stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, or maybe to being the security guards there.

I wish I was as sure of that as you appear to be.

#130 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:20 AM:

Something to remember: the Border Patrol is the same organisation on the Mexican border as on the Canadian border. The attitudes and habitual behaviours they learn in the South, even when it's not officially trained, will percolate through the whole system. It doesn't even need front-line staff to transfer across the country.

I remember reading, over a quarter-century ago, of the violence of policing on the Mexican Border. You probably know better than me how police procedures err on the side of caution ("Keep your hands visible"), and the ineluctable tensions of a police stop in the USA.

None of that makes the reported events into something right and proper. And the apparent lies, already evident, suggest that the multiple agencies at that border crossing know that.

Something to think about: chucking your prisoner out into the night without even a coat seems a very different thing to do along the Mexican border. But I expect Terry will be able to explain the recklessness that exists in that situation.

#131 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:20 AM:

I've been seeing people talking about denial as a result of the desire for a belief in control. I think there's another, much less savory, reason: there are people who seem to identify with the police in this situation, and who want to be the agents, rather than the victims, of justice.

#132 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:07 AM:

MRL F TH STRY: Don't get out of the car when stopped by law enforcement. Jss Chrst, hw mny tms d ppl hv t b tld ths?

Were the guards aggressive? It seems so.

Bt kds, dn't knw f y knw ths, bt Canada is a major gateway for drugs like meth/arms OUT of the USA. Y dn't nd t qstn th SBP fr dng thr dty. Y d nd t qstn thm fr th mthds mplyd n ths xtrm cs.

I feel sorry for Peter, but s n ll css, thr s vry rrly nythng dn by lw nfrcmnt wtht prvctn. f w dlv nt ths dpr, 'm pstv w'll fnd t tht wrds lk "Nz" "jckbt" "d lk lk blpng trrrst" nd thr smlr hystrcl nd rrgnt rctns t bng srchd, wr sd by th dfndnt.

#133 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:24 AM:

Shorter Fe1: "He was asking for it."

Croak!

#134 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:32 AM:

there is very rarely anything done by law enforcement without provocation

That sounds like white male with secure job/income.
('Driving while black' is not a joke.)

#135 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:36 AM:

albatross #121: There's a worse problem, that's been developing since the "So-called War On Drugs" got started: Increasing parts of the population consider the police as "them" -- menaces instead of protectors. And yes, that's a positive-feedback loop.

#136 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:40 AM:

Fe1: MORAL OF THE STORY: Don't get out of the car when stopped by law enforcement. Jesus Christ, how many times do people have to be told this?

This is pretty much the opposite of what we're expected to do in the UK.

You're projecting your quaint local customs on the rest of the world. Don't do that.

#137 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:18 AM:

Canwest has the story and they're a big Canadian news service, owning the Montreal Gazette and the Edmonton Journal and lots of other papers across the country.

I'm not seeing any US papers displaying any interest.

#138 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:29 AM:

PNH @117: That Times-Herald story makes perfect sense once you look at the timeline. The Port Huron PD was called to the scene after the "scuffle," so their report on events prior to the "scuffle" - such as whether Peter was entering or leaving the US - is almost certainly based on what the Customs & Border Patrol guards told them.
(http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20091212/NEWS01/912120305/Writer+faces+assault+charge)

Of course, the clear implication is that either (a) Peter's misinforming us about which way he was going, (b) PHPD screwed up their own report, or (c) C&BP misinformed the PHPD about what happened. I don't know Peter at all, but based on the character references others have given about him, (a) seems highly unlikely, and there's no reason I can see to presume (b).

Lee @123: The reporter tried; neither Peter Watts nor the C&BP replied to his calls, and the Port Huron PD wouldn't give him a copy of the police report. Hopefully he can do some more digging.

#139 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Here in the UK they want you out the car, so you don't just drive away/ drive your car at an officer. Also if you are out the car you can watch them search it and witness anything they find/ don't find/ plant on you.

#140 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:39 AM:

Fellow indignant Canadians may wish to contact the following folks to ask pointed questions regarding this event:

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Peter Kent , Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)
Bob Rae, MP, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic
Paul Dewar, MP, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic

I regularly make the 20 min drive across the border into upper NY state for quick shopping trips, and on one or two occasions, my family/vehicle has been subjected to inspection by Homeland Security on the way *out* of US for no apparent reason. It's all been friendly and inconsequential, but I can easily imagine things turning wrong on the basis of an ill-timed comment or question.


#141 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:43 AM:

You're projecting your quaint local customs on the rest of the world. Don't do that.

I'm British. D nt prjct r stndrds f bhvr n mrc nd ll wh vst t.

#142 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:44 AM:

Fe1: Have you stopped beating your wife?

#143 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:51 AM:

Here in the UK they want you out the car, so you don't just drive away/ drive your car at an officer. Also if you are out the car you can watch them search it and witness anything they find/ don't find/ plant on you.

That is because the most powerful weapon we have in our possession is our vehicle. Stepping away from one's automobile is a way of relinquishing our most violent option. Bt tht's ltgthr dffrnt n th S.

d nt knw wht hppnd ( pt t t vryn hr tht n n ds, vn hs mny spprtrs). nd I am sure Dr. Watts is a gentle person usually.

But our personalities change when accused of something vn s nncs s hvng t b srchd -- t sms lk thy'r qstnng s, r ntgrty, r vry hmnty. Hw mny tms hv sn n rrgnt mltdwn, wth srly cmmnts bt "D LK LK TRRRST!", whn pssngrs r bng wnnd by scrty t th rprt.

'll bt my Chrstms pddng tht Dr. Wtts rctd ngrly t th cr h ws drvng n hvng t b srchd by SBP. We'll see, won't we. Th stry hs qt wys t g bfr sng fll dylght.

#144 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:54 AM:

Fe1: Have you stopped beating your wife?

Gd grf. t dsn't vn ccr t y tht 'm wmn? I'm British and a woman. I also live in the US. dn't knw why 'm thrwng ths t thr, bt snc y'r nw mkng ths cmmntry sctn bt m, thght 'd gv y sm ctl mm t wrt bt, nt jst t dsply yr prchl vwpnts.

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Fe1
We don't make that kind of assumption here, but your snark isn't coming through the tubes so well.

#146 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:06 AM:

Edmund @ 136: The Times-Herald story still has holes, even with that timeline. The story quotes from Dr Watts' blog about his version of the events but the reporter failed to notice that it claimed he was travelling in the opposite direction to what the police report said. Not questioning that is pretty sloppy work.

On a related note: Many months have passed since Tor reissued Starfish and Maelstrom in trade pb. Any word of plans for Behemoth? (One volume or two, I don't mind. I just like to hold dead trees when I read.)

#147 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:17 AM:

Fe1: I was quoting a well-known trap question, that seems to share the same assumptions you were making in your post.

Obviously I mistook you for somebody who was clued in. Or at least somebody who knew how to use Google. Sorry. My bad.

I need to go now, so I will leave it as an easy exercise to you to guess why I used that phrase.

BTW, if you don't feel brave enough to post under your name, I'm afraid I don't feel much incentive to listen to your opinions.

#148 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:19 AM:

We don't make that kind of assumption here, but your snark isn't coming through the tubes so well.

I see. spps ths s why y prsmd ws wht ml wth scr jb/ncm. Bcs wmn cnnt pssbly hv th pnns d, r t wrt bt thm th wy dd. gt t nw.

It's gratifying to know that Dr. Watts has as many friends or supporters as he does, visible in this blog. Truly, I do mean that.

Bt ls mn t whn sy tht f th rctns nt hr by ths slf-sm spprtrs r ny ndctn f th cmpny h kps r tlrts -- ccstry, dfmng, hstl -- thn prhps w dn't knw xctly wht mndst h hd whn crnrd. Nevertheless, I wish him well.

#149 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:20 AM:

Anna, t's th ntrnt. Even a full name can be a pseudonym. Hnstly. Ths s vry wk sc s rply.

#150 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:24 AM:

142@Fe1: What does your gender have to do with whether or not you have a wife? (I live in Massachusetts, where same sex marriage is legal. For all I know, you may too.) For that matter, it's kind of interesting that the assumption of marriage in the first place seems to have not been worth mentioning.

Why is it ok for you to say, "I'll bet my Christmas pudding that Dr. Watts reacted angrily to the car he was driving in having to be searched by USBP" when you take such umbrage to "Have you stopped beating your wife?" You know about as much about what really happened with Peter Watts as Anna Feruglio Dal Dan knows about you.

Speaking from personal experience, I know that it's possible for border agents to exercise their power in unsavory ways even without an arrogant meltdown to prod them. (No, fortunately, they've never physically assaulted me.) And if we go out on the metaphorical limb and assume, as you have, that Dr. Watts behaved that way, do you really think that excuses the border agents' behavior? That is, several angry words merit pepper spray and physical assault?

Finally, it's a bit disingenuous to say "I don't know what happened" in one paragraph then write as if you do in the following ones. If you truly don't know what happened, then leave it at that.


#151 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:31 AM:

I suppose this is why you presumed I was a white male with a secure job/income. Because women cannot possibly have the opinions I do, or to write about them the way I did.

What you originally posted sounds like white-male-privileged-commenter-in-US. And we can't tell otherwise, unless you clue us in, somehow.

#152 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Fe1@146:"But I also mean it when I say that if the reactions I note here by these self-same supporters are any indication of the company he keeps or tolerates -- accusatory, defaming, hostile -- then perhaps we don't know exactly what mindset he had when cornered."

Wow, the tone argument. Bingo!

So what your saying is that Peter Watts must be guilty of the actions you've conjured out of thin air because you don't like the way with which his supporters have expressed their outrage?

In any case, that's just a distraction. You keep sidestepping the important point. What people are reacting to is your assertion that a perfectly reasonable response to a few angry words is to be pepper sprayed then physically assaulted.

The way the border agents treated Peter Watts is inexcusable whether he had an arrogant meltdown or not. You can go ahead assume whatever unsavory things about him under the guise of "not knowing what happened" you want and it doesn't matter. That doesn't make what the border agents did right.

#153 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:35 AM:

Fe1, you came in with plenty of hostility of your own -- expostulating "Jesus Christ, how many times do people have to be told this?", addressing everyone else as "kids", and asserting that "there is very rarely anything done by law enforcement without provocation" and that "if we delve into this deeper" we'll find that Watts was "hysterical and arrogant."

That's quite a performance. Perhaps you've encountered some dismissiveness and hostility. If so, it's hardly more than you showed up with. Don't complain when you reap what you sow.

And no, you don't do yourself any favors when you respond to "have you stopped beating your wife" by hotly asserting that you're a woman. I'll give you another tip: If someone says "that's begging the question," they're not actually accusing you of being a beggar.

#154 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:36 AM:

Wht ds yr gndr hv t d wth whthr r nt y hv wf?

cld qlly qstn why ddn't th cmmntr sk f bt my byfrnd. Nt nly wld tht b s srcstc n nsntn, t wld ls b blck y t th ptrrchl ssmptns scty hlds bt wmn.

Y knw bt s mch bt wht rlly hppnd wth Ptr Wtts s nn Frgl Dl Dn knws bt y.

'm bttng nt ssrtng. Hrs ws sttmnt f fct bt wht d.

That is, several angry words merit pepper spray and physical assault?

I've also been treated in less than a respectful way by authority figures (in my case, by police in the many countries I've lived in). The way to react is not to react. B plt. D nt ct rrgntly, vn f y'r rght. Sty clm. nly th mst drngd cstms ffcrs wll rct wth nprvkd vlnc n n g f CCTV nd cllphns wth cmrs.

Finally, it's a bit disingenuous to say "I don't know what happened" in one paragraph then write as if you do in the following ones. If you truly don't know what happened, then leave it at that.

Thanks for your suggestion as to how I should behave, but s lng s hv smthng t sy, nd t's nt cnsrd n ths blg, shll sy t. thnk ll f s hv th rght t spclt gvn th drth f dtls t th mmnt.

#155 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:42 AM:

"I think all of us have the right to speculate given the dearth of details at the moment."

Yes, and all of us also have the right to decide that someone's being a tendentious nincompoop.

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:42 AM:

I'd suggest not feeding the possible troll.

#157 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:44 AM:

@Fe1 Except that you are speculating about the behavior of a man you do not know, in the presence of many people who do actually know him personally.

And you are treating our actual, personal, experiential knowledge of the man as if it were the same kind of speculation you are engaging in.

#158 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:46 AM:

Patrick, one of the Canadian commenters at Emptywheel's place has noticed this story. (That blog comes with lawyers attached. And a tendency to dig.)

#159 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:46 AM:

That's quite a performance. Perhaps you've encountered some dismissiveness and hostility. If so, it's hardly more than you showed up with. Don't complain when you reap what you sow.

Well, Patrick, thanks for your reply. I do have to say that I won't be using the exact same reply of the Raven above to me, when s/he wrote:

Shorter Fe1: "He was asking for it."

Croak!

What you said and how Raven replied is, of course, is the Watts situation in a nutshell.

Like Watts, I was judged to say things with an attitude that wasn't to the taste of the commenters. They let me have it. Fortunately, in my case, it didn't involve violence to my person, nor incarceration. I am thankful I'm just in front of a keyboard and monitor, not in front of border patrol.

The lesson here is that when a person has an attitude that doesn't match up to the expectations of behaviour and language of the majority, said interloper will get grief because of it.

There is very little left to say other than to quote Michel Foucault when he wrote, "Freedom of conscience entails more dangers than authority and despotism.".

#160 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:46 AM:

Snark and countersnark is not helping here at all. This is not about winning the internets, this is about someone in the science fiction community who needs non-judgmental help and support.

Gah, what am I saying? If this had been a 1980's BBS flamewar, I would have launched MIRV-memes by now. heh.

#161 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:49 AM:

Tum-te-tum-te-tum ... give me just a moment here ...

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:49 AM:

157
Let me introduce you to Troll Bingo.

#163 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:51 AM:

Fe1: How many times have I seen an arrogant meltdown, with surly comments about "DO I LOOK LIKE A TERRORIST!"

What kind of verbal meltdown, in a country that espouses freedom of speech as one of its highest ideals, justifies pepper-spraying, beating, incarceration, robbery, defamation and eventual abandonment?

it's the internet. Even a full name can be a pseudonym.

A full name can be a pseudonym; "Fe1" seems unlikely not to be one. While you might not be sure if we're hiding, we're pretty certain you are. You have come into the home of strangers (and Patrick and Teresa most certainly are not made-up names) and pseudonymously impugned the integrity of their friend with your very first post. How did you expect them to react?

#164 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Fe1@157: Are you saying that to pepper spray you and physically assault you now is a perfectly reasonable course of action? I am not being snarky. I am trying to understand your position.

#166 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:54 AM:

Oh, dear. I made the mistake of starting to read the comments on the Times Herald story. As I know perfectly well, it's always a mistake to read comments on a newspaper site. There must be a vicarious thrill that some people get from expressing opinions on the side of violent authority figures.

#167 ::: Daveon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:56 AM:

Only the most deranged customs officers will react with unprovoked violence in an age of CCTV and cellphones with cameras.

Of course, pulling out a camera or a cellphone at a US border crossing is an even faster way to a beating, pepper spray and a night in the cells. My brother-in-law almost got it at the Peace Arch crossing, if the bus driver hadn't caught him taking a picture he'd have been in serious trouble.

While the sensible course of action is probably to sit meekly saying and doing nothing, I'm with the majority that we shouldn't expect that to be the case.

I'm disturbed to hear another Brit accepting that you should behave like that towards authority figures just because they're wearing a uniform.

I'm a US resident and even I pick my entry points and borders with great care to avoid the trouble I know the border guards are capable of and have visited upon me. You should try travelling through an entry point with a person on a South African passport sometime and hitting a border official with something to prove.

#168 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:57 AM:

"There must be a vicarious thrill that some people get from expressing opinions on the side of violent authority figures."

Simon Bradshaw addresses himself to this in a brilliant LiveJournal post. Good stuff in the comments, too.

#169 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:57 AM:

#164 - Have you read this:
http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

The authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer. I'm sure it has been brought up on here before. It seems accurate enough on the kind of people you are talking about.

#170 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:59 AM:

#130 Fe1: You don't need to question the USBP for doing their duty.

Yes, you do.

First, to question whether it is their duty.

Next, if it was, did they do their duty properly?

Last, you need to question whether that duty is one that we wish anyone to perform, properly or not.

Who watches the watchmen? We do. Let's not fall down on our duty, okay?

#171 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:01 PM:

165
Using a camera in an LA subway station - with no train in the area - gets you yelled at by remote security guards. It isn't posted as 'no photography or cameras', but that's about the only non-transit thing you might want to do that's not explicitly prohibited.

#172 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:02 PM:

I am not being snarky. I am trying to understand your position.

Thanks, John. Seriously. I realise my position is unpopular here, and I'm sorry I interrupted the flow of love towards an obvious friend, which wasn't my intent. I reacted as I did at first because I detest people who blame authority figures like police, guards, and other badged individuals reflexively.

My position, such as it is, rests on trying to make a correlation in how people deal with behaviour or language that isn't to the taste of those currently wielding power. You, the commentary section, wield the collective power to shame, hound or insult ("troll") those who do not jibe with your viewpoints. If we were face to face, your responses might've been either kinder or even more challenging, I really don't know.

Anyway, I continue to express my sympathy for Dr. Watts' and his many supporters, even if you think it belated.

#173 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:10 PM:

First, to question whether it is their duty.

Next, if it was, did they do their duty properly?

Last, you need to question whether that duty is one that we wish anyone to perform, properly or not.

And therein lies the crux of our collective disagreement. I question Number 2, even if you do not think I'm questioning it in Watts' case (I do want to know what really happened to make the guards behave as they did, believe me). I do not question Number 1 nor Number 3 which are predicated in feeling suspicion, perhaps even loathing, towards security/military-type hierarchies and their purpose.

This, of course, is why my views met with such hostility here.

#174 ::: ghn ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Whenever I read a story like this, I reflect on how fortunate I am that I live in a civilized country (Norway)

#175 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:15 PM:

fe1, it's that word "reflexively," and the fact that you can still use a word like that after participating in the discussion for a while, that costs you every last particle of respect and sympathy I'd normally extend a brand-new commenter.

You are not a nice person. You're not a thoughtful one, either. And you're not just trying to understand what's going on here.

Watch the vowels disappear: Bingo!

#176 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:24 PM:

#171 Fe1: I do not question Number 1

Then you jolly-well ought to. Soldiers are trained to question whether their orders are legal. If you are trying to support badge-wielding individuals, the first and most important support you can render them is to question whether some action or lack of action is part of their duties.

#177 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:25 PM:

Watch the vowels disappear: Bingo!

Interesting trick. I was just about to ask why my post read like a text-message of a sudden. b

Now I see that after everything I have said, explained, in with as neutral a tone as I could muster afterwards (even to the point of keeping a friend of mine waiting to go out, so as not to appear either rude nor a shrinking violet in the face of followups) that the moderator feels I am not a nice person, nor a thoughtful one. Very well. What can I say, certainly not to give you my academic bona fides, for one. I know when I've been effectively shut up so goodbye to the thread.

#178 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:38 PM:

fe1 @171:

I do not question Number 1 nor Number 3 which are predicated in feeling suspicion, perhaps even loathing, towards security/military-type hierarchies and their purpose.
You're so sure you're right about that. It's central to your arguments. But you aren't right. What Jim Macdonald was saying is textbook Democracy 101. It's also what he was taught in the military. He's a retired Navy officer. He's currently an EMT in his small New England town, where he's on excellent terms with the local police. Jim's got much better law-and-order credentials than you do, and he's not the only person in this thread of whom that can be said.

You're not arguing for a well-ordered democracy. The governmental system implied by your remarks is some variety of police state.

I don't care how indignant you get, and at this point I absolutely don't care whether you dismiss what I'm saying as political cant, since it's clear that those are your standard responses to disagreement. I just observe, as a matter of objective fact, that you're one of the kinds of people who encourage and support the formation of police states.

#179 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:43 PM:

I was hoping for a better-quality flounce.

#180 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:44 PM:

fe1, if we all started hauling out our academic bona fides, it would use up the next hundred messages, and you wouldn't end up holding the high cards.

#181 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:44 PM:

We're getting signal boosts from computer gaming sites now, due to Dr. Watts' work with Crytek.

#182 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:47 PM:

I have to go get a flu shot, so I'm leaving fe1's last four comments to my fellow bloggers.

#183 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 12:50 PM:

P J, the flounce may not have been up to standards, but what a lot of material there is for the wiki!

#184 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:03 PM:

The story has been greenlighted over at Fark. (I've mentioned Fark here from time to time, but this is just to say that I'm not the subby).

#185 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:20 PM:

People like fe1 disturb me. There are a lot of them out there. We don't see a representative sample of them on Making Light because we we're a responsive and interactive site, and their arguments don't hold up well.

If we let such comments stand, we'd see lots more. People like that are strongly encouraged when they see comments that match their own opinions. If you get a full-scale pile-on of them, you can get multiple comments that duplicate or nearly duplicate each other's text. It's not a discussion; it's a mob shouting "Me too! They had it coming! You'll be safe if you do what the police tell you! It's their job! They protect us!"

There are a lot of them.

#186 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:22 PM:

Shorter fe1: You're all a bunch of dirty commie-loving hippies!!

#187 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Any time there's an incident involving a military member, the first thing the investigating officer does is make a line of duty/misconduct determination: Was the member acting in the line of duty? Was the member engaged in misconduct? That's step one, before you get to any other questions.

And that's internal to the command.

A great deal of confusion in the civilian community (and at least one Kennedy Conspiracy Theory) comes from not understanding this.

#188 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:23 PM:

We don't object to the existence of Fark.

#189 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Fe1 @ TNTC comments.

Do yourself a favor and NEVER visit Colorado. Our police officers are for the most part pretty intolerant, verging onto mean, with a few crazies thrown in for the express purpose of keeping the native Coloradans on their toes. (I know, I'm a native Coloradan.) Why do you think the Democratic Convention in Denver was so peaceful?

A Denver cop once killed a guy for wielding a soda can. We all know how dangerous a soda can is in the wrong hands.

Whenever a cop patient comes into the office, I yell at my staff to put down their sodas. The ones that stick with me have at least a rudimentary sense of humor.

Our police believe citizens have the right to STFU. That's about it.

My husband was badly beaten by a cop for not being the guy they were looking for.

I have no trouble believing Dr. Watts' side of the story.

#190 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:47 PM:

Re. Fe1 @ 171: (I do want to know what really happened to make the guards behave as they did, believe me).

The assumption that he must have done something bad, because otherwise the guards would not have behaved otherwise than with civility, is - worrying. I grew up thinking policemen were always nice, always in the right etc. Sadly I've learned that people in positions of authority are not always there for the best of reasons, and do not always behave well. It's a sad world we live in

#191 ::: Bobbie Wickham ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 01:50 PM:

Sadly, even in Simon Bradshow's journal, there's some fool saying innocent people should always obey police orders.

#192 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 02:17 PM:

This was originally a response to Fe1, filled out a bit and made more general.

I do not believe that it is right or proper for authority figures to pepper spray, beat, confiscate property, leave in a cold cell in winter, then release without a coat in winter aggressive and dangerous people. And if that's not right, what about doing that to anyone, just because?

I don't want to live in a country where law enforcement officers get to enforce whatever they make up on the spot. I want them to uphold the law, not be above it. I want to have rights because I'm a person, not because I'm a white, male citizen with reasonable income, who doesn't look too scruffy. Those aren't really rights any more, and I don't think they're a very good facsimile.

Like abi above, about the only border crossing I really worry about is when I return to the US. Me, a US citizen. If it's that bad for citizens, what happens to anyone else? And Americans wonder why no one else believes the US is the greatest country on earth.

Including by reference dcb @ 188 and everyone else who points out that the assumption that he must have done something because the border patrol did something to him is both invalid and troubling. A therefore B does not imply B therefore A.

#193 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Bobbie Wickham @189: No, there's Mishalak saying that cops tend to react badly if you don't, and that therefore it is often most productive to note down names and badge numbers at the time, and protest AFTERWARDS.

#194 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 02:22 PM:

It would be useful to know if these security hooligans are subcontracted via a private corporation rather than bona fide federal employees, as are nearly everyone in a federal position these days ....

These kinds of behaviors are unavoidable consequences of that, as Gail Collins describes so vividly today in her NYT Op-Ed column, "Going Naked in Kabul," here:

"The guards at the American Embassy in Afghanistan worked for a private contractor called ArmorGroup. A few months ago, a nonprofit watchdog organization reported that some of the guards were being pressured to have sex in a “Lord of the Flies environment.” Whistle-blowers turned over pictures of men in various states of undress, fondling and urinating on one another."

Love, C.

#195 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 02:49 PM:

@Teresa, I was about to ask Peter to moderate his comment thread, and then I slapped myself in the face and told myself he's got better things to think of.

But really, this has made me so angry that whenever I read another "He should not have got out of the car" comment I feel the almost irresistible urge to say something useless, pointless, counterproductive and that reflects badly on myself.

I do think that a lot of the one-line haters on Peter's site are the same person, they sound like the same voice. But, yeah, this doesn't mean there aren't a whole lot of idiots and authoritarian personalities out there.

May I once again steer people towards Altemayer's online free book? It's a great read among other things.

@Fe1, in case you're still around: the "have you stopped beating your wife" question is often quoted as the kind of question you can't answer without incriminating yourself. If you answer "No" (because you have never beaten your wife), then you are accusing yourself of still beating your wife on a regular basis; if you say "Yes", you admit that you did use to beat your wife.

What you did in your first post was to infer from the consequences (he got a beating) that Peter was guilty, and from this assumption you constructed a scenario. In short, has he stopped beating his wife?

You justified your inference with the idea that "very seldom law enforcement officers beat people up without cause".

Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "cause". If you mean "he looked at me wrong"; "he was one of them hippies"; "we all know that his kind only come in this part of town to cause trouble", then, yes.

What we are taking issue here is precisely the nature of this "cause". Police have a right to use force that goes beyond the one we have, but only when they have to prevent a crime, or make an arrest. And even then, they have to use reasonable force. You don't react to a 12 year old shoplifting by shooting his kneecaps out.

I have also seen the "but they're scared" defence raised. Correct me if I'm wrong, but no member of the police force has any right to inflict injury in self-defence more than a regular citizen has. They can't shoot somebody dead "just in case" he or she had a gun. (They do, but they are supposed to get in trouble for it. Which they mostly don't. But they are supposed to - see Amadou Djallo, for example).

Police officers are paid to risk their lives and often lose them to protect us. This is why they are honored. They fact that they wear a uniform and carry a badge does not mean that their life is worth more than a regular citizen. If anything, they must act as if it was worth less: they are the ones that are supposed to take a bullet for us.

They're not the ones that are supposed to beat us up if we get lippy. They are not honored for that.

#196 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Elliott, #191: There's a really disturbing parallel between the way a lot of people are responding to this story and the way a lot of people respond to rape, and it's in the assumption that the VICTIM can control the behavior of the ASSAULTER. Magical thinking: "If they had just done everything right, this wouldn't have happened." Even in the face of compelling evidence that you don't HAVE to do anything wrong to be raped beaten up by the cops -- just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and encounter a cop with an attitude problem.

#197 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:08 PM:

Fe1, since when is talking back to a border guard a justification for a beating? When and how did you come believe that? And you also can't know what-would-have-happened-if: Dr. Watts might have gotten the same treatment if he'd done as you suggest. Don't assume that doing what the officer says will make you safe. Usually it does, if you are white and male and inoffensive-looking. Usually. But not always.

The following remarks from "wyld_dandelyon" over on LJ (comments in Emma Bull's journal) perhaps explain some of the police behavior here:

The last time I went over the border, I realized as I was pulling into line that my receipts were in the back seat. Being in line, I unbuckled my seat belt and twisted around in my seat to rummage around and grab them.

The border guard asked me what I'd been doing. I explained, and she told me not to do that ever again. That if they needed some papers I didn't have in the front seat, they would ask me to get them after I was in the checkpoint.

I realized she was scared. Of me, even though I don't in any usual sense look scary. All it took to shake her up enough so I could hear it in her voice (as soon as she figured I wasn't a threat, her voice shook) was doing something--anything--that wasn't part of the script

Police captains, and the executive authorities they answer to, are supposed to calm the police, and restrain the temptation to violence. Post 9/11, led by the Bush administration, they instead fed the monster. The Obama administration appears to be less willing to do so, but it's not clear how much restraint they are exercising, or how much leadership.

#198 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:15 PM:

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan @ 145: "BTW, if you don't feel brave enough to post under your name, I'm afraid I don't feel much incentive to listen to your opinions."

Not to defend fe1 in any way, but hey! Us pseudonymous-Fluorospherians can too converse in a civil, constructive way. Fe1's got a lot of problems, but that's not one of them.

Fe1 @ 157: "What you said and how Raven replied is, of course, is the Watts situation in a nutshell."

Given that your argument on this thread is that Watts should have known better than to engage in such terribly transgressive behavior as (whatever it is that he did), drawing on his example to enoble your own savage! mistreatment! at the hands of the ML commentariat strikes me as a self-defeating move at best. Coherence is not a strong suit of yours, I gather?

This is leaving aside the monumental incongruousness of the two situations, and the fantastic arrogance of equating the disagreement you have face with the physical assault inflicted on Watts. Despite your confusion, there is a perceptible difference between the two: one is the parent of rational discourse and the other is its sworn foe.

"There is very little left to say other than to quote Michel Foucault when he wrote, "Freedom of conscience entails more dangers than authority and despotism."."

The black comedy of hearing that quote come from your lips leaves my gast flabbered beyond repair.

#199 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:28 PM:

Lee @ 194: "There's a really disturbing parallel between the way a lot of people are responding to this story and the way a lot of people respond to rape, and it's in the assumption that the VICTIM can control the behavior of the ASSAULTER."

Yeah, I'm tempted to go around and start writing comments faux-greeing with the authority-worshippers saying things like, "He should've known better than wear that short skirt! He knew what he was getting into when he let the customs agent come up for a cup of coffee! Everyone knows that that's what happens to Canadians who get dressed up all slutty and go out to the US and get drunk!"

#200 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:42 PM:

Not directly related but still a useful tale of Federal bureaucracy in a related field.

In the old days - in fact before either Bush was President - there were once two Filipino skilled nurses
(who might well have qualified legally through appropriate channels for their desired skills)
who walked into the Chicago INS office (before it was ICE) looked around and said (paraphrased):
"Our usual bagman isn't at his desk, who do we pay off?"
As a result the FBI did a full field investigation, secret police (undercover if you prefer) working in the office, posing as legal and as illegal documented and undocumented with a great deal of effort. The final result: a report that said these folks have so much discretion and so few checks and balances that we the FBI don't know what's appropriate and what's not and we the FBI certainly can't make a case for the Federal Attorney.

Chicago police corruption was much the same way.

Oddly enough Chicago was also a hardship station for the Border Patrol - people then mostly joined the Border Patrol to work with some independence outside the cities - riding horses around the Big Bend country and such (the old phrase He'll do to ride the river with) - after some familiarity with forged documents acquired along the border the folks would be assigned to Chicago for their expertise in documents and chains of forged documents though it wasn't what they signed up to do.

My point to the extent I have one is that it was ever thus - and the cargo cult thinking that some particular action or inaction will change events - switch us to that nicer timeline as a reward for doing the right thing - is indeed a superstition - why is an itch for which there is no scratch - post hoc ergo propter hoc is a fallacy.

I'd like to suggest that the appropriate response to have our friends' backs is to ask the state to do less for us in all things that is to limit the power of the state.

#201 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:46 PM:

hersiarch @ 196: The black comedy of hearing that quote come from your lips leaves my gast flabbered beyond repair.

"Fe1": Iron-y?

#202 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:48 PM:

clarkemyers: I'd like to suggest that the appropriate response to have our friends' backs is to ask the state to do less for us in all things that is to limit the power of the state.

Er, no. The correct response is to fix your state, because it is broken. What you're describing is pathological, but it's by no means the universal mode of operation of governments the world over.

#203 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:58 PM:

"[...] limit the power of the state."

Are you never concerned about the vacuum of power this will create?

#204 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 03:59 PM:

#198 ::: clarkemyers

Freedom seems to be a public good.

#205 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:01 PM:

@ heresiarch: I know that anonymous people can converse civilly. But for me, who have always spoken and written under my own name, even when I said foolish things that cost me much, they start with a disadvantage. Often they overcome it. Sometimes they don't.

In this particular case, too many people have appeared out of the blue on several venues, left suspiciously similar one-liners, and vanished forever. (Of course I know you're not one of them).

I know a lot of people are passionate about anonymity. I am one of them. I don't like it. Not, let me correct that: I disapprove of it. I am not saying that you are a horrid person because you disagree with me in this (lots of my friends do), but I will not try to politely hide my dislike of anonymity.

I actually am strongly in favour of the right of people to be anonymous. I just think that, like taking arms against one's governament, it is a right that should be reserved for very special and extreme circumstances, and in normal situations is not a very good idea.

#206 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:01 PM:

I'd like to suggest that the appropriate response to have our friends' backs is to ask the state to do less for us in all things that is to limit the power of the state.

From what I've seen so far in life, what a government does for its citizens has remarkably little relationship to what it does to its citizens. For example, are you under the impression that Stalin's USSR or Mugabe's Zimbabwe were so brutal because they were so concerned with meticulously caring for the well-being of their citizens? Or are you under the impression that socially-oriented democracies like, say, Sweden or the Netherlands are police states where people live in dread of the midnight knock on the door?

How oppressive a governments is, in my observation, has mostly to do with two things: how undemocratic they are, and in the case of a democracy, what their citizens expect from them.

One of the biggest reasons people get this kind of treatment in the US - whether from border guards, TSA, big city police departments, or small-town sheriffs - is that citizens consider this kind of treatment by public servants acceptable. The more they're told, and tell each other, "this is what you can expect from your government", and fail to act to change it, the worse it will continue to get.

#207 ::: Mrs. Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:02 PM:

I'm an expat who lives in Vancouver, and crosses the border weekly (will do so again on Monday). Rule One about that crossing is that, whether it's ICE or CBP, you have no rights the minute you drive up to the line. Any civil rights you might think you have further away from the border do not exist in any form while you're crossing. You're their bitch, and they can do what they want to you.

Which is what Peter will be told if any of this gets into a courtroom. Sorry, dude.

I also know that there's vast discrimination based on how people look. If you look like a white, middle-class, employed person, you're not the droid they're looking for. If you are brown, have dreadlocks, visible ink, and/or an errant piercing, God help you. This goes for the officers working both directions.

The exit checks have been going on a long time. On our border, they usually conspicuously feature an Arabic translator, which we believe hints at what they're looking for.

@187: I was in Denver for the convention, living in the Big Tent for the duration. Yes, the cops were everywhere (and, judging from the badges and uniforms, they were borrowed from every agency in the state); but I was actually impressed with how polite and well-behaved they were, especially when compared to the goons who policed the GOP convention the following week (when Amy Goodman got arrested).

This police-state attitude has definitely taken hold in Canada, though. I posted last week on how Vancouver is cracking down on civil liberties as we gear up for the Olympics. Peaceful protesting is now a terrorist act, subject to Canadian terrorism laws; and you can be arrested right now for for being seen downtown carrying a sign that says rude things about a sport event.

There's nowhere to hide from this crap any more.

#208 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:10 PM:

Oh, and to Clark, I should note that I'm not in basic disagreement with a large part of your point about a lot of big city institutions we have lived with a long time.

I also lived in Chicago in the '70s, when it seemed the general sentiment was that it was a bad idea to call the police if your apartment was burglarized, because 1) they'd never catch the thief, let alone get anything back, and 2) there was a significant chance that the renter or homeowner would end up being threatened, harassed, or occasionally shot by the cop responding to the call. I'd also note that '70s Chicago, by most peoples' account, was pretty far from a democracy in substance - a solid machine-run city where neither politicians nor cops were accountable to the public. To my mind, these two are in part connected.

#209 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:12 PM:

"[...]citizens consider this kind of treatment by public servants acceptable."

Not exactly. Mostly, they consider it acceptable, as long as they believe that other people are subject to it, and they are not. I believe this is ape tribalism hard at work. The tribes are getting smaller and smaller, and so there is more and more the perception that these things are done to "other" people. Until, of course, they are done to you.

#210 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:17 PM:

This has reminded me of the impotent, helpless rage and feeling of disgust I felt on reading John Conroy's Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People. A large part of it comes from his chronicle of a series of trials for police brutality in Chicago. It busted a lot of my fond ideas on how nice the police were.

I now know that L&O is fiction.

#211 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Heresiarch @ 197: You and Lee are absolutely correct. Blaming the victim is a method people use to convince themselves that they are part of the in-group and not the out-group. It's cargo-cultishness. It's a way of saying, "Bad things could never possibly happen to me, because there's order in the world and I do things in that order."

What the people currently engaging in this behaviour regarding Peter fail to recognize is the fact that their words and deeds reveal more about themselves than about him. They unveil a fundamental insecurity, weakness, and innate desire to submit to abuse and abdicate all responsibility for considered decision-making. They want to dance on strings. It's easier than thinking.

Conversely, Peter is a strong man. A very strong man. And the people who think that their victim-shaming will have any impact on him whatsoever are in for a very rude disappointment. He possesses something that they do not and likely never will: intellect, integrity, and an incorrigible lack of shame. He will tell you all his most embarrassing stories with a smile on his face. Calumny, when heaped upon him, turns to carbon fibre.

In short, these people don't really know Peter. But then again, they don't really know much at all.

#212 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:28 PM:

@130: MORAL OF THE STORY: Don't get out of the car when stopped by law enforcement. Jesus Christ, how many times do people have to be told this?

I have no idea what the normal expectation is in Canada, but in no other country with which I am familiar is getting out of a car seen as an aggressive act. Indeed, my first instinct would be to assume that getting out of the car is an act of elementary politeness. Surely part of what one might hope for from a border patrol is some realisation that it might come across foreigners, who may not be hard wired with the local cultural norms.

#213 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:31 PM:

Vancouver has taken denial of freedom of expression to new lows: Anti-Olympic mural designated "graffiti," orders it removed.

#214 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:47 PM:

#202 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan :

Havng a longterm pseudonym can also be a matter of playfulness, though this may be more of an old fannish tradition without being as common on the net.

For reasons which are not clear to me, I have a strong preference for posting under my own name, but (without denying your right to your own reactions) I actually prefer most pseudonyms (that is, the ones that don't scream trollishness)) over most names-- the pseudonyms are generally easier to remember.

#215 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 04:48 PM:

Apologies, I came back to this after a time away and forgot to refresh the screen - so I wrote #208 expecting it to appear around #131, having not seen what followed. But it still worries me that behaviour I think of as normal should, through other eyes, be seen as threatening.

#216 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 05:06 PM:

I Facebook linked to the Boing Boing story, only to have a college acquaintance link directly to Terry Karney's blog. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when circles intersect, but the Venn diagram of my online life just got more complicated.

#217 ::: Danielle Ritter ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 05:52 PM:

I'm a white, female, American citizen and I've been scared of the cops and the border patrols on the Canadian border for as long as I can remember. I stand fully behind those saying that the "cringe more" attitude of people today is terrible, but it's really hard not to.

Here I am, a twenty-something with very little understanding of actual law, or of my rights these days (something I think should be taught in schools, to everyone, but don't get me started on education), I'm not strong, I'm not famous and I'm dealing with (probably) a man with a gun and authority who might not be having a great day. How does it not make sense for me to be scared?

I think a good idea, rather than for people to suggest that we just bow our heads and hope they're in a good mood, to educate ourselves and our children about what our rights are and how to properly use them. It probably wouldn't stop all incidents like this one, but those in authority might think twice if they know that once they're done beating the crap out of someone, that someone is going to get them fired or put up on charges.

Doesn't it make sense that a class or two in law should be as important as sex education or a CPR/Safety course? I think we'd get a significantly fewer number of people siding with authority out of fear if they knew what they could do to protect themselves, aside from groveling. Legal condom, anyone?

As for what happened to Dr. Watts, I'm sorry for what happened and wish I could donate, but am sadly broke.

#218 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 05:56 PM:

"With great power comes great responsibility."

#219 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 06:01 PM:

clarkemyers, #198: I'd like to suggest that the appropriate response to have our friends' backs is to ask the state to do less for us in all things that is to limit the power of the state.

That is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit Libertopian fantasyland territory. As you yourself point out in the story you chose for your illustration, the problem is not government per se, but a lack of checks and balances on that government.

Therefore, by your own argument, the proper response here is not "less government" but "more checks and balances" -- more governmental ACCOUNTABILITY. Which is what we're striving for by spreading the word and contacting the appropriate officials. We are, as Jim points out above, fulfilling our own duty as Watchers of the Watchmen.

#220 ::: Mike Gallagher ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 06:28 PM:

I still have problems with Paypal, but I sent this to the Canadian consul in Edinburgh this morning and copied it to the White House:

Harassment and abuse of Canadian citizen at US border crossing

Dear Sir,

As a Canadian citizen living abroad, I am appalled at the treatment of one of my countrymen by foreign border guards on trying to re-enter Canada.

On the 8th of December at the Port Huron border crossing, Dr Peter Watts was beaten, maced, kicked and finally after being detained and posting bail, released in his shirtsleeves in an Ontario winter storm by the US border guards. To add insult to grievous injury, he was also charged with assaulting a federal officer.

Dr Watts' offence was to get out of his car and ask the guards what was going on, then to repeat his question when they refused to answer. His subsequent treatment is a blatant abuse of authority, with justification at the level of "looking at me funny."

I wish to register my deep unease that this kind of behaviour is practised by the public servants of any democratic country, and to request that my concerns be raised with my government as a citizen living abroad. I am as proud of my Canadian citizenship as I am of my British citizenship and rely on both to protect me from foreign abuses. I hope that the Canadian diplomatic services will raise these concerns in the strongest possible manner with the United States government.

Regards,

Mike Gallagher

#221 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 07:06 PM:

Coming in late, and just as glad to have missed out on high blood pressure via troll.

1. I've donated some money to Peter Watt's PayPal account, and also bought a copy of Scalzi's chapbook, hoping I'd be in the group whose payment was sent to Peter's defense fund. I heard Scalzi read Judge Sn's golf adventure at Powell's a year or two ago, and it's funny as hell; something I need to rinse out my mind after hearing what the Department of Holy Shitheads did to Peter.

2. I've never met Peter in RL, but I've hung out on his blog and had some conversations with him about his posts; I am quite prepared to believe that he would push to find out what the busies were doing, but there's no way I believe he'd assault anyone.

3. This attack is (sadly) not surprising. For those who came in late, US police, local and federal, have a long history of beating up on people who piss them off, and a long history of being pissed off by totally innocent behavior. In some ways Peter was lucky; if he'd sustained serious injuries he might very will not have gotten any medical care until he was bailed out. NYPD, for instance, used to love hitting protesters and other offenders in the head with their billy clubs hard enough to cause concussion, then toss the "suspect" into a jail cell and lose the paperwork for a day or so; so it might be up to 48 hours before the concussion was treated.

Every so often I'm led to hope that police in this country are cleaning up their act; usually I'm proved wrong withing days. There isn't likely to be any real change until police forces stop treating civilian oversight as a mortal insult. Here in Portland quite recently, the entire force voted no-confidence in their chief and the police commissioner because the chief suspended a cop with a history of excessive force, because he fired a bean bag round at a 12-yo girl who was being subdued by 3 large cops. But as Patrick pointed out above, the citizens are precisely those who should have oversight of the police.

#222 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 07:19 PM:

Various - To some extent I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt
- and I couldn't/wouldn't live in Singapore
- my impression of the "socially-oriented democracies like, say, Sweden or the Netherlands" is that so long as the population is relatively homogenous their bonds don't chafe. For those who don't fit in life is not so easy.
Frex:
The results clearly show that employers have stronger negative implicit attitudes toward Arab-Muslims relative to native Swedes as well as implicitly perceive Arab-Muslims to be less productive than native Swedes.
Implicit Prejudice and Ethnic Minorities: Arab-Muslims in Sweden
Jens Agerström
Kalmar University
Dan-Olof Rooth
Kalmar University
and IZA

See especially the place of minorities in Japan.

It would be going far afield to bring up the ASBO's in the UK or the political correctness vs. free speech issues in Canada but for my money there is no Utopia.

In my own limited observation power corrupts in fact: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Putin is currently engaged in a great struggle which might be briefly described as rewriting Soviet history once again (for pedagogical examples of historiography if the former U.S.S.R. didn't exist it would be necessary to invent it) to say Stalin bad Stalinism good.

In comparing the failures of the actual to the Utopian ideal the (unobtainable) Utopian ideal will always come across better. In the example I cited all the power of the FBI and of the United States District Attorney could not rein in corruption - in some part I think because corruption was then and is now pervasive in the local community.

The end of watchers of the watchmen then watchers of the watchers of the watchmen (ob sf Small Change) is littler fleas to bitem and so on ad infinitum

#224 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 07:33 PM:

Constance @ 218:

I really like how the AP manages to only say that he was "arrested" and "detained". Yeah, because beating the shit out of someone is arresting them now.

#225 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 07:42 PM:

Ah, you noticed that too?

Clearly this is a conspiracy of Those Who Notice ....

Love, C.

#226 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 07:55 PM:

On the general question of staying in/exiting the car in the United States - discussion emphasizing traffic stops and so traffic stop training as dominant in other dealings with law enforcement.

For most of the history of the automobile in the United States it was sound practice - polite and deferential - when pulled over at a traffic stop to exit the car promptly and walk toward the LEO with his/her lights on. This deference tended to show a respect for authority - law and order - and was therefore part of negotiating for a warning instead of a ticket.

Today the wiser practice in a traffic stop in the U.S. of A. is to remain seated and put the hands on top of the steering wheel - dash - back of the seat in front - with the dome/interior lights on as appropriate. Always keep the hands visible and make no sudden moves - think Simon Says or Mother May I.

Along with this change in practice has come a change in police expectations and training. As noted above there is a positive feedback system in which increased police activity reinforces bad acts and bad acts reinforce police activity. Law enforcement is being trained to actively control all situations from the get-go while being denied some traditionally effective techniques - nothing quite like breaking somebody's collar bone with a night stick/ Mag Lite/ Monadnock Enforcer (tonfa analog) to enforce compliance. Past practice was to allow more leeway followed by more violence. For better or for worse training and practice today is to go Taser and spray early to reduce the opportunities and so the need for more violent action later.

For those who want to hire only perfectly polite Kung Fu masters who can handle anything I suggest a reading of Jim Cerillo on hiring gunfighters for the NYC stake out squad - it was easy to find folks entirely too willing to shoot first and ask questions later and equally to find people who would get themselves and their parters killed - it was hard to find people who both mentally and physically could shoot effectively when necessary and not when it wasn't. I knew a fine officer C with great gun handling skills. In a year when two of his friends had recently been shot down then shot in the head execution style by a criminal who was shown too much politeness my friend talked down an armed criminal who was waving his own gun around. I said to my friend C that in his shoes I'd have shot (I worked for the defense team on that one and saw the facts presented in the light most favorable to the defense IMHO); my friend C said that if he wanted to shoot people he'd had a half a dozen chances to run up his score that would have been written up rightous - and he was right - and he retired early with stress related disabilities.

I've actually walked across national borders without showing any papers at all in modern Europe myself and there was a time common folks didn't much need passports or anything else for many borders. That's a much surer guarantee of no unpleasantness than trying to find the perfect border guard and finding the perfect border guard guard and the perfect border guard guard guard.

And to repeat myself from another forum - how about saying to Detroit that Maker Faire Detroit will bring more business to the depressed city if Canadians can come and go freely rather than taking a lantern and going into the day looking for the ideal border guard guard.

#227 ::: Fe1 ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:13 PM:

fe1, if we all started hauling out our academic bona fides, it would use up the next hundred messages, and you wouldn't end up holding the high cards.

OMG, Teresa. Do you know just how snobbish that sounds? For all you know I am an Oxford University graduate 1998, with a distinguished academic record afterwards, including two publications -- hypothetically, of course. I wouldn't want to blow your estimation of my low intelligence out of the water.

Frankly, I can take the pile on by the commenters here because in a sense, I asked for it. It's sadly to be expected on the internet when one argues a minority viewpoint.

But you are mistaken to think that it's anything to do with the group think, which makes people hesistant to come here to comment.

Having experienced the collective treatment of ridicule and insult first hand now, I can say that attitude doesn't help, but what really bothers people are not the elitist opinions so much as the bad faith manipulation of someone's words by altering what they wrote, like you did. I'm sure you've done it before, when less civil persons came to make their arguments.

My God, many hours later, and I still am in shock about seeing my comments altered that way. It's far preferable to have one's comments deleted, because at least one doesn't feel one's words to have been altered (it raises a more troubling spectre of power wielding abuses, such as changing the words without knowledge or consent). That's beyond the pale.

I know that there must be some posters here, stepping back from this specific instance about Dr Watts, who are appalled by this type of manipulation, even if they don't say it out loud and risk ostracism.

I am so sorry that you feel the need to do this to anyone.

#228 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:44 PM:

Rereading "The Shockwave Rider", and came across this incredibly appropos quote:

The easiest population to rule is weak, poor, superstitious, preferably terrified of what tomorrow may bring, and constantly being reminded that the man in the street must step into the gutter when his superiors deign to pass him by.
-- John Brunner

#229 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:47 PM:

For all you know I am an Oxford University graduate 1998, with a distinguished academic record afterwards, including two publications....

Is that the best you've got? Only two publications?

Really, this isn't the place for academic dick-measuring. It gets no one anywhere.

A professor with a string of degrees who is talking nonsense is still ... talking nonsense.

#230 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:47 PM:

fe1
Disemvowelling is the standard method here of dealing with bad behavior (look it up on Wikipedia). It does not, in fact, change the content of your comment, it just makes it hard to read. If you weren't new around here, you'd know about it.

(We didn't start a round of troll bingo, we didn't play troll pinata, we were polite by local standards. It isn't always that way.)

#231 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:48 PM:

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan @ 202: "I know a lot of people are passionate about anonymity. I am one of them. I don't like it. Not, let me correct that: I disapprove of it. I am not saying that you are a horrid person because you disagree with me in this (lots of my friends do), but I will not try to politely hide my dislike of anonymity."

Well, fair enough. I have seen enough trolling by people with real-looking names that I don't consider it a strong correlation with bad behavior. But then, bias.

Madeline Ashby @ 202: "Blaming the victim is a method people use to convince themselves that they are part of the in-group and not the out-group. It's cargo-cultishness. It's a way of saying, "Bad things could never possibly happen to me, because there's order in the world and I do things in that order.""

I think that's one half of it. I think the other half is people who get a psychological charge from identifying with what they see as a powerful and feared authority figure. It makes them feel very much like they are themselves feared and powerful. Bullies get consent from both those who look away in fear and those who look on in excitement.

#232 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:49 PM:

BTW, I call a BINGO! Anyone want to certify it?

#233 ::: Zora ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:50 PM:

Fe1, I suggest you visit the Wikipedia article on disemvoweling.

#234 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:50 PM:

Fe1 @ 222:
I know that there must be some posters here, stepping back from this specific instance about Dr Watts, who are appalled by this type of manipulation, even if they don't say it out loud and risk ostracism.

This has been discussed at great length in several threads on this blog, and many posters, including a number of regulars, have expressed objections and/or concerns about disemvoweling. No one was "ostracized", and there were no flame wars; people wrote with conviction on several sides of the issue with the intent to present their views for rational discussion, not as "talking points" or dogma. That's the custom here; too bad you don't seem to appreciate it.

#235 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 08:52 PM:

Fe1, I for one am glad your posts are still here, even if disemvowelled, because thinking about what you've had to say has really helped me in coming to some understanding about some of this. I personally think you've gotten somewhat short shrift here -- personal opinion, nothing else, and I'm not a moderator.

What you've pointed out to me is how easily many people have internalized the sense of "guilty until proven innocent" that seems to have motivated these border guards. When we meet people in this sort of power, we're expected to be submissive, on our least confrontive manners, because they're assuming that we're incredibly guilty and mortally dangerous. Because they've been taught to, in part by folks who've been incredibly guilty and mortally dangerous.

I don't want to have to deal with a power structure which assumes that, and we've got a Constitution that says I shouldn't have to. In a practical sense, I might have to -- and you're looking from the practical point of view here. But the practical-in-the-moment view is not always the long-term best one. And I'd like to think we can do some work to change the mindset, rather than saying "Ain't it awful." I think you've been caught by people who don't want to hear the despairing voice of "That's just the way it is, some things never change." Well, we've changed to this -- now it's time to think about, and act towards, changing away from it. Because this is not the way it's always been. And with luck, it won't be the way it is in the future.

#236 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:22 PM:

Fe1 #222: Having experienced the collective treatment of ridicule and insult first hand now, I can say that attitude doesn't help, but what really bothers people are not the elitist opinions so much as the bad faith manipulation of someone's words by altering what they wrote, like you did.

Disemvoweling is a successful online moderation tool, and not a "bad faith manipulation of someone's words". Its application makes it completely unambiguous that a comment has breached community standards without seriously affecting the flow of the conversation (the way a deletion might); in fact, I wish it had been used more often on some of the awful things I've said here in the past.

I won't lecture you on how to recover from a disemvoweling except to say that some people do and some people don't.

#237 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:25 PM:

I know that there must be some posters here, stepping back from this specific instance about Dr Watts, who are appalled by this type of manipulation, even if they don't say it out loud and risk ostracism.

You cannot possibly imagine how much I love that this got said in a thread where Jo Walton had the second reply.

#238 ::: DP ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:39 PM:

For whoever is interested in going to Michigan to protest, I'm volunteering to be the contact point for US caravans, particularly ones going North from or through SW Ohio.

No event is scheduled at this time, but, if you would like to stay informed of events or be included in carpooling, send me an email at

peterwattscaravan@yahoo.com

Feel free to post the above email address and its purpose (coordinating US protest caravans) far and wide.

Please be open to altering events based on requests for prudence from Dr. Watts's legal team.

,Dora P.

#239 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:43 PM:

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan @193:

You justified your inference with the idea that "very seldom law enforcement officers beat people up without cause".

Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "cause".

Also depends on what is meant by "seldom". I forget where I read it (Pogo?) but, paraphrased, the quote stuck in my mind is, "that 'seldom' has a depressing ring of frequency to it."

Once we knock out both 'seldom' and 'cause', the part about beating people up kinda stands out. Beating people up is not a proper function of law enforcement. It really isn't.

#240 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:52 PM:

Fe1 @222: But you are mistaken to think that it's anything to do with the group think, which makes people hesistant to come here to comment.

People actually hesitate to comment here? Really?

I think I'll just meditate on that idea for a while. It'll go well with the Bizarro World Mobius strip I've been mentally building over the last few months.

#241 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:56 PM:

I have nothing but a college degree, but I'm smart enough to know that an outraged departure off the stage loses some of its impact when the departed returns so soon. And watch out for the orchestra pit.

#242 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 09:56 PM:

Constance @ 220: The AP story is actually better than I'd expected. Unlike the few previous stories we've seen, it at least gets it right that he was traveling from the US into Canada. I also like the quotation marks:

Smith said Watts got out of the vehicle and became "noncompliant" and "aggressive," so officers detained him.

Maybe it's just me, but I read that as being a bit dubious about those claims. I do wish that the story also mentioned the beating. I have a question for the hive mind about this:

Smith said the U.S. attorney's office declined to prosecute and that the case was turned over to city police in Port Huron, across the border from Sarnia, Ont.

Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, for Peter?

#243 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:02 PM:

pericat @ 235: People actually hesitate to comment here? Really?

Oh, gosh, yes. Speaking only for myself, at least — there are so many smart, funny, sharp folks here that I definitely consider whether what I'm considering posting is worth adding to the conversation.

But I kind of think that's a good thing, y'know?

#244 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:17 PM:

Fe1 @ 222: "OMG, Teresa. Do you know just how snobbish that sounds?"

Expressed mathematically, approximately one twenty-seventh as snobbish as "For all you know I am an Oxford University graduate 1998, with a distinguished academic record afterwards, including two publications -- hypothetically, of course." (It's 1/34398th as smug and 1/12000th as self-satisfied, for the curious.*)

*Modern smug detection technology allows us to measure smugness to a very high precision. Sadly, self-satisfaction measuring technology has not yet caught up.

#246 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Heresiarch @196:

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan @ 145: "BTW, if you don't feel brave enough to post under your name, I'm afraid I don't feel much incentive to listen to your opinions."
Not to defend fe1 in any way, but hey! Us pseudonymous-Fluorospherians can too converse in a civil, constructive way.
But we know who you are! You're Heresiarch, author of 1434 comments (so far), and an essential part of Making Light.
Fe1's got a lot of problems, but that's not one of them.
Showing up here for the first time already convinced that our opinions were merely reflexive, and addressing us collectively as "kids." Just for starters.
Fe1 @ 157: "What you said and how Raven replied is, of course, is the Watts situation in a nutshell."
Given that your argument on this thread is that Watts should have known better than to engage in such terribly transgressive behavior as (whatever it is that he did), drawing on his example to enoble your own savage! mistreatment! at the hands of the ML commentariat strikes me as a self-defeating move at best. Coherence is not a strong suit of yours, I gather?

This is leaving aside the monumental incongruousness of the two situations, and the fantastic arrogance of equating the disagreement you have face with the physical assault inflicted on Watts. Despite your confusion, there is a perceptible difference between the two: one is the parent of rational discourse and the other is its sworn foe.

Pwnd! Écrasez l'Infâme!

That was Johnsonian. Only better.

"There is very little left to say other than to quote Michel Foucault when he wrote, "Freedom of conscience entails more dangers than authority and despotism."
The black comedy of hearing that quote come from your lips leaves my gast flabbered beyond repair.
But yes. They're always sure they're the underdogs/victims. It's why they love the authorities for protecting them.

#247 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:39 PM:

janetl: The AP is following standard journalistic practice of writing in an "innocent until proven guilty by a court of law" standard. In other words, it doesn't matter if a thousand impeccable witnesses, including the Pope and the Dalai Lama, swear that a person committed an act of malfeasance; the crime is "alleged" until the verdict is guilty.

It's easy to cast aspersions while still sticking to those rules*, but in this case it reads as though they are strictly reporting the official word as alleged because there has been no guilty verdict.

*A course in Mass Media will, if taught correctly, show how various and sundry practices manipulate people. Whether the students pick up on this is another matter.**

**Don't get me started on the students in media courses. The professor was a very sarcastic man and I really don't blame him.

#248 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:43 PM:

Lexica @238: you are so right. I was thinking more of the gross number of comments. And yes, I do think it's a good thing. Keeps me from making quite so much of an ass of myself than I might do otherwise.

#249 ::: Carol Witt ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:43 PM:

The Globe and Mail picked up the AP story. The Toronto Star has a story by a staff reporter.

#250 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 10:56 PM:

Heresiarch @ 226: Good point. Any element of showmanship is difficult without an audience, and bullying is nothing if not a variety of showmanship.

#251 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:05 PM:

Carol Witt @244: The TS story ends with Dr Watts responding to boingboing comments suggesting he had "attitude". He said:

"The question is what is attitude?" he said. "I've been told by cops in the system that the mere act of getting out of a car, the mere act of taking any action at all, not simply responding to an order...is considered attitude...what they take offence to is not necessarily what anyone else would find offensive."

The set of behaviour patterns so described is that of prison guard and prison inmate. The responsibility for communication that does not result in pain or injury to the inmate is entirely that of the inmate. Earlier, someone wrote of rummaging in her back seat for papers, and then being told quite seriously not to do that again, unless she was told to do so.

WTF, eh?

#252 ::: Shan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:06 PM:

Ditto what Lexica said.

This whole thing put me in mind of a Colbert Report "Nailed 'Em" segment from a couple of years ago:
http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/183244/august-20-2007/nailed--em---northern-border

There should be no place where you give up your rights so completely, where everything hinges on the whim of some tin pot god. It would be terrific if this incident turned into a prod to change the laws regarding the borders (though I sadly doubt it).

#253 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:13 PM:

Woo. fe1 thinks she's the only Oxford graduate who comments here. Academic publications, too.

That funny squeaking noise is mass synchronized eye-rolling.

#255 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 11:51 PM:

Fe1@222: The only person who said that you have "low intelligence" is you. What Teresa said was that you wouldn't have the most impressive set of academic credentials of the readers here. It's possible to have amassed quite the impressive set without having the most impressive set in this group. What did you think she meant?

More importantly, she also said that revealing your academic bona fides would be a waste of time. Your academic record is not important in this context. The mere fact of having attended Oxford doesn't automatically make one right in any argument. Surely someone of your supreme intellect easily sees that credentialism is a fallacy.

(For the record, I have more than 2 academic publications. This is not even remotely impressive. And as I said, in this context, this is also unimportant. )

Since you've come back, I hope you will answer the question I've asked you several times now that you keep dodging: Is pepper spraying then physically assaulting someone a reasonable way to respond to someone having said several angry words?

#256 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:07 AM:

Fe1, it's not that everyone was assuming you to be an idiot when mentioning that academic-credential-waving would be futile ... it's that many people here are familiar with the sheer number of known-to-be-extremely-professionally-qualified people who post here.

And that it is exceedingly statistically unlikely that you could beat them all out.

So it's not that you're assumed to be an ignoramus, honest.

#257 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:14 AM:

On Academic bona fides - I get to say "I have a Masters Degree - in Science!" and leave people guessing about whether that's a "Dr. Science Knows More Than You Do" reference or not :-)

Throwmearope @187, my experience with Colorado cops as an occasional visitor has been much better than yours as a resident, I guess. Other than asking directions from downtown beat cops, my last interaction was getting pulled over out in the mountains "Sir, we clocked you going 64 mph, and you're inside the town limits here so the limit's 55" "I'm sorry, officer, I should have been paying attention" (both of us knew that I hadn't been going anywhere near that slowly, and that the penalties for 9 over are typically a lot lower than 10 over) - he let me off with a warning.

But yeah, I've known a number of cops, and most of them use aggression to stay in control and prevent situations from becoming scary; it's mainly the older ones who are self-confident enough not to feel they need to do that, and even some of them are bullies. And too many social trends have been putting cops into an increasingly adversarial relationship with the public - the war on drugs particularly, and the whole post-9/11 xenophobia. And aside from my general opinions about the evils of borders, border guards get to be adversarial all the time; at best they're tax collectors or bored bridge-toll collectors, but they see everybody around them as smugglers, terrorists, and illegal immigrants rather than as citizens and visitors that they should be welcoming.

#258 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:27 AM:

Elliott Mason #251: many people here are familiar with the sheer number of known-to-be-extremely-professionally-qualified people who post here

Yeah, a lot of times what might seem elitist here may well be simply elite.

#259 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:43 AM:

Fe1: What Elliott said in #251... with the caveat that you appear to be rapidly demonstrating that you are, in fact, an idiot. Maybe an ivory-tower-intellectual idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

You are shocked, shocked, that you can come in here patronizing, pontificating, and bullying, and the people already here do not immediately defer to your magically-greater expertise, but in fact engage with you, point out the logical flaws in your reasoning, and take exception to your rudeness. Then you pull a classic troll flounce-and-return, and then start screaming bloody blue murder that your Precious Words have been altered! Manipulated! Oh, the shock, the horror!

I have one response. (Well, actually, I have several more, but only 1 that won't get my vowels pulled): I play the world's tiniest violin for you.

#260 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 01:28 AM:

I have written in via the whitehouse.gov comment form saying that I damned well expect to hear something about this in public form his office. And mentioning that yes, I contributed to his election *and* worked on the campaign too.

#261 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 01:44 AM:

Fe1, "My God, many hours later, and I still am in shock about seeing my comments altered that way. [...]"

You make me doubt that you've been through a graduate program or professionally published in academic journals. A thesis committee can tell you to rewrite, or end your academic career. An editor can require you to rewrite. And you're bothered by having vowels dropped in blog comments? Say what?

"It's sadly to be expected on the internet when one argues a minority viewpoint."

At least, you are a member of a large minority. "Blaming the victim" is, as Teresa observes, depressingly common. Do you want to win this argument? Do you want to be told, after being beat up or worse by a police officer (electroconvulsers are depressingly overused these days) that it was your fault? Do you want to say this to anyone you care about?

#262 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 01:48 AM:

Bill Stewart, I think you're talking sense. Question is: what do we do about it? How do get to a state where the police are "of us?"

#263 ::: Lupin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 05:56 AM:

Frank Kafka's THE TRIAL is an excellent novel, but it shouldn't be a blueprint on how to run a country.

#264 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 06:21 AM:

The RAve #256-
"Question is: what do we do about it? How do get to a state where the police are "of us?""

Firstly, I'm not sure you can, without a magic time machine. There has been so much in the way of specialisation and expectations of the police encourage specialisation as well, that, depending on your definition of 'one of us', something much more citizen based is probably not likely.

So leaving aside the fuzzy definition of 'one of us', I'll remind you of the UK. A country in which the police do not go armed. In which the police service was, wait, there's that word service, why's that in there?

Now we all know that the police get used by the ruling party to beat up people they don't like. But leaving that minority of occaisions aside, British police ideally practise policing by consent. It goes all the way back to Robert Peel in 1829 or so:
http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/policeNine.php

Have a read. One way to improve things would be to try and get these principles embedded back in your law enforcement types. Of course that might require a cultural shift, but there's lots of other resons why you'd want one in the USA.

The first principle is:
"To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment."

Simple, huh? Some might refer to the minimum crime stuff about fixing broken windows. I prefer to go a bit further back, to the 1930's when my grandfather was learning to be a policeman in Edinburgh. One of the few things he said about policing which I actually recall is that when you are a new policeman to an area, you go and talk to the minister, headmaster, shop keepers and other central figures in the community. You find out from them who causes what sort of trouble, then you are better placed to see it coming and head it off. The original community policing, as later practised by my dad and many others successfully for many decades.

Now modern policing has a few disadvantages in that respect. More paperwork, radios and cars which end up directing the police attention towards firer fighting actions rather than precautionary ones. Moreover the growth of society and loss of types of community don't help either. But I'm sure various people have come up with various solutions.

The second principle is the one really relevant here:
"To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect."

The Met totally failed in this regard back in the 70's and 80's because of racism which became damn near institutionalised. This contributed to riots in which a policeman died and lots of other nasty things happened. You can see that large swathes of US police have never been in touch with this principle at all, I suppose in some areas that goes back to the settlements of them a mere 3 or 4 generations ago.

I could go on. But suffice to say that you should read those Peelian principles and see what relevance they have to the modern USA.
What is more troubling to me is the discarding of these principles by the UK police under central gvt direction. I've seen lots of police on police blogs complaining about the loss of these principles, and whilst I disagree politically with many of the persons making such comments, I totally agree with them on this.

As for my grandfather, he joined the police aged 18, and retired at 65 after 18 years as a Chief Constable. Ok, so there's lots of politics at that level, but I like to think he knew something about policing. And my dad had 30 years on the front line.

#265 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 08:22 AM:

Anticorium: People actually say it directly to me sometimes, which is even funnier.

#266 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 09:08 AM:

Lupin @ 257... The movie by Frank Capra starred Jimmy Stewart, didn't it?

#267 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 09:18 AM:

Carol @ 244

Thanks for that link - I note that the Star has details that I hadn't seen in any of the other coverage and must have spoken to Watts and/or his companion or seen blog-comments by Peter that are not on his own blog.

#268 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 10:06 AM:

All of the Peelian Principles for Protective Proactive Police.

The question isn't so much how you establish a decent police force from scratch as how you reform an abusive police force. Any historical examples? Did anyone them happen when a sizable proportion of the population liked the idea of an abusive police force?

#269 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 10:18 AM:

Be aware: spam bots that construct fake blogs have started to use "Peter Watts" as one of their honey pot search terms; I received a couple of bogus Google Alerts a few minutes ago. If you are using Google Alerts or a similar automated search to help track the current situation, I recommend you look at the sample text before clicking any link it presents, to check for the kind of nonsense word combinations that spam blogs construct to draw people in. Be safe.

#270 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 10:55 AM:

Nancy #262 - not off the top of my head. But the probable reduction in racism and reduction in the Metropolitan police force might give a few pointers. Large parts of the force were infamously corrupt and racist by the 80's, but things seem to have improved. Its a matter of leadership, holding people to justice and so on.
In the USA you aught to be able to do it a bit quicker, don't you have elected people in charge of your police?

#271 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 11:04 AM:

re: me @263, in addition, you should avoid clicking on similar oddly-worded entries in regular old-fashioned search results; they may not be ESL, they could be nastysites designed to exploit unpatched browser vulnerabilities. Some are probably just SEO manipulation sites, but still....

Thank you for observing all safety precautions.

#272 ::: Eirin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 11:06 AM:

Anticorium @ 232:

You cannot possibly imagine how much I love that this got said in a thread where Jo Walton had the second reply.

Could someone unpack this for me? I often miss the obvious.

#273 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 11:24 AM:

On a similar note, Copenhagen police committed "preventive detention" on 900 people, keeping them sitting in the cold for four hours. (Link in French; the English stories don't seem to include the "sitting still in the cold, hands tied behind their backs, being urinated on by passers-by" parts.)

#274 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 11:49 AM:

Eirin: What Fe1 says about lots of people holding the same opinion but not being brave enough to post -- I once wrote a song on that subject on rec.arts.sf.fandom which was in some ways an ancestor of Making Light.

While it's all over the net, because I gave blanket permission to repost, it hasn't been here for a while.

The Lurkers Support Me in E-mail
(To the tune of "My Bonny lies over the ocean")
Lyrics: Jo Walton (bluejo@gmail.com)

The lurkers support me in email
They all think I'm great don't you know.
You posters just don't understand me
But soon you will reap what you sow.

CHORUS: Lurkers, lurkers, lurkers support me, you'll see, you'll see
off in e-mail the lurkers support me, you'll see.

Oh it's true, and you know they support me.
There's thousands of lurkers out there!
They all understand my intentions
You posters are not being fair!

(Chorus)

The lurkers support me in email
"So why don't they post?" you all cry
They're scared of your hostile intentions
They're not as courageous as I.

(Chorus)

One day I'll round up all my lurkers
We'll have a newsgroup of our own
Without all this flak from you morons
My lurkers will post round my throne.

(Chorus)

#275 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:12 PM:

#267 - Myself I'd consider the Beeb the primary source here but perhaps the language loses something in the original - eux-meme perhaps. Formatting - emhasis - added.

Ms Evans said the actions of the police were appalling.

"People were very scared and they were held for about four hours on the ground. They weren't able to have any medical attention, any water, and weren't allowed to have any toilet facilities," she told BBC Five Live.

"People were there in freezing conditions urinating on themselves and being held in lines like, essentially like animals."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8410414.stm

L'une de ses porte-parole, Mel Evans, a souligné auprès de la BBC que plusieurs centaines de personnes avaient été "menottées et gardées environ quatre heures assises dans la rue, sans assistance médicale, sans eau ni possibilité d'aller aux toilettes". "Alors qu'il gelait, des gens urinaient sur eux, parqués en ligne, comme des animaux", a-t-elle insisté.
http://www.lemonde.fr/le-rechauffement-climatique/article/2009/12/13/copenhague-polemique-apres-les-nombreuses-arrestations_1280059_1270066.html#ens_id=1275475

#276 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:51 PM:

#258 is very good, and I'm glad to see someone piped up with the question of how to make the changes incrementally.

In post-Soviet Georgia, where I live now, the traffic police regarded citizens basically as prey. After the Rose Revolution in 2003, the new regime fired them all. Every last one. Then it boosted salaries to a level that would make corruption unnecessary and hired a new force that was about 20% the size of the previous one. The new force is as good as any in Western Europe.

Obviously, the US is not in that sort of overall situation, but the enforcement parts of La Migra (whatever their current acronyms are) have been so bad for so long, that a root-and-branch approach may be the way to go.

(And while I'm on the subject of Central and Eastern Europe, someone saying "but they must have done something" appears somewhere in every camp history or memoir that I have read. People, even people in notorious dictatorships, find it hard to believe that state authorities will beat or imprison folks for no reason. Someone, often many people, will always say, "but surely they must have done something to deserve it.")

#277 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 12:54 PM:

clarkemyers @ 269: Yes, it looks like the BBC version is correct. The French version is either a mistranslation, as you suggest, or perhaps an idiomatic use of eux that I'm not familiar with. Of course, either way it represents a failure on the part of the Copenhagen police.

#278 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 01:07 PM:

I believe, and have taught my kids, that "you can't win a fight with a cop". In other words, whether you're in the right or not, keep your head down and your mouth shut, because they hold all the cards.

Which is PRECISELY why it is incumbent on me, my kids, and every other citizen to be as sure as possible that bullies and thugs do not become cops, and if they do, to get them booted the hell off the force ASAP.

[Disclosure: I'm friends with several law enforcement officers, and though I've been treated rudely by the police from time to time, I've also been treated very well, most notably when I was a murder witness. They do a horrible job for horrible pay and deserve respect. That doesn't mean they get carte blanche to abuse anyone they feel like abusing.]

#279 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 01:30 PM:

Odd that Copenhagen lying as it does between the two socially oriented democracies of Sweden and the Netherlands should be a place where "the Danish police need little excuse to detain people."*

But perhaps the Times as a right wing Murdoch paper dislikes right and proper police powers and so casts them in a bad light??

*Tom Whipple and Philippe Naughton in Copenhagen
The Sunday Times December 13, 2009
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/copenhagen/article6954981.ece

The current AP story on American Customs in Michigan strikes me as perhaps more balanced and certainly in the face of the current decline in original reporting has been reprinted in an amazing number of places - this time classic media won't be taking a backseat to the blogosphere. On the whole I think this a good thing in general but I wonder what the impact on the man at the center of the story will be - high profile cases often bring out the worst in those elected to serve the public.

#280 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 02:24 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 241: "Pwnd! Écrasez l'Infâme! That was Johnsonian. Only better."

*chuffed beyond words*

"But yes. They're always sure they're the underdogs/victims. It's why they love the authorities for protecting them."

If only their words were backed with batons and tasers we wouldn't be so blatantly and deliberately cruel as to point out their illogic!

#281 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 02:47 PM:

Re: Copenhagen protests

I am so sick of environmental protesters being trussed up like criminals for daring to exercise their right to protest.

"In a statement, Copenhagen police said a large group of protesters had organised themselves in a so-called "black bloc", in which they put on masks - an illegal action at a demonstration in Denmark. Officers then decided to "seal off" the group from the march."

It's so very easy to invent rationales for any abuse of power you feel like when there are laws like that on the books. "Well, there was that one fellow with a scarf rather high on his face, it was very like a mask!" In fighting "black blocs," they're engaging in exactly the sort of abusive tactics that make black blocs seem necessary.

This isn't going to end until people lose their badges for this, until individuals go to jail. The 2008 RNC proved that money settlements aren't going to do it: a simple promise to cover costs and they bought themselves an army of enforcers trained on the public dime. Police officers need to know that justice will be administered individually, ranking officers need to be held accountable for the actions of officers under their command, or it'll be easy for them to justify going along.

What the hell is happening to free speech in the world?

#282 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 02:54 PM:

Mrs. Robinson (who may know me better under a pseudonym I use at Orcinus) writes: "Rule One about that crossing is that, whether it's ICE or CBP, you have no rights the minute you drive up to the line."

This is an exaggeration.

If I properly remember the class on International Law I took long ago when I was a midshipman, then it's pretty much settled law that customs and border police have almost unlimited powers of search, arrest and seizure at the frontier, but everyone has inalienable Human Rights that cannot be violated, anywhere, under any circumstances. It's possible that Mr. Watts offered some resistance to a lawful search, but that didn't relieve the CBP from their duty to respect his human rights during the execution of the search.

It's this that so many of our apologists for authoritarianism are rejecting: the idea that people have certain inalienable rights, which no Authority is empowered to deny. Anybody earnest enough to express that idea in public poses an existential threat to whatever is occupying the place in their heads where the rest of us keep a pragmatic system of morality.

On a related note, I'm inclined to think, given the sparse and conflicting information from the primary sources in the case at hand, that the question of whether Mr. Watts was unlawfully the subject of excessive police force will be answered by the CCTV recordings. If the character of Mr. Watts has been accurately assessed by his supporters, then I suspect it will be a long time before any footage that supports the CBP version of events makes it into the evidence locker.

#283 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 04:20 PM:

guthrie @ 258:

Community policing has been somewhat rediscovered. When I was a councillor in Cambridge a few years ago, I was quite impressed by our local Community Beat Officers. These were junior police officers, attached to a specific area, who would do much as you said your grandfather did - get to know the community, speak to the people who know what is going on locally, and develop a sense for likely sources of trouble.

In my limited experience, this seemed quite successful. Certainly there were some arrests made directly as a result of the CBO developing this kind of community-based intelligence.

Some people in policing are very dismissive of the idea of "bobbies on the beat", and insofar as this refers to cops walking around aimlessly they are quite right. But police officers dedicated to working a specific local beat can be very valuable.

The only real problem with the system was that it was quite a low-level job, so if the CBO was any good then he or she would be promoted out of the job just as they were starting to really get settled into it.

#284 ::: Eirin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 04:42 PM:

Jo Walton @ 268.

Oh, I see now. I know the song and have in fact quoted it myself, but I didn't know you were the creator. Thanks for enlightening me.

If I ever have occasion to throw it at someone again, I can now do so with proper attribution :)

#285 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 04:59 PM:

clarkemyers@221 I've actually walked across national borders without showing any papers at all in modern Europe myself and there was a time common folks didn't much need passports or anything else for many borders.

But part of the reason in modern Europe is that it's infeasible to secure the borders effectively, so there's much less point in controlling the main crossings. Places like New Zealand and Australia, where it's much harder to circumvent the border checkpoints, often have quite strict controls in place.

New Zealand Biosecurity has the most stringent inspection system I have encountered (more so than the US, more so than 1980s China), but (at least in my experience) they aren't hostile or rude about it. They just make it clear that you aren't going to be able to get any contraband past the friendly sniffer-beagles and the x-rays of all baggage, and that it will be embarrassing and expensive when you get caught.

When you have the sort of power that customs and immigration people have, you can afford to be polite. More relevantly to the topic at hand, you also shouldn't be easily upset if people are rude to you -- and verbal 'assault' requires not just that a threat was intentionally made, but that the victim was scared by it.

#286 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 06:14 PM:

#279 When you have the sort of power that customs and immigration people have, you can afford to be polite.

I remember riding the train through East Germany to Berlin as a teenager. The man sitting next to me was very drunk and had a hard time finding his ticket and passport but eventually managed. As the East German border guard was handing back the man's passport and ticket, the man said "I hope I haven't misbehaved." The border guard smiled and said very warmly and politely, "Oh, no sir! If you'd misbehaved, you would already be outside!"

(At some point, a little later in the trip, I did see a young man being lead from the train by the East German border guards.)

#287 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 06:31 PM:

Re #273: But perhaps the Times as a right wing Murdoch paper dislikes right and proper police powers and so casts them in a bad light?

It appears that we have a visitor from Bizarro World. I can't think of any other plausible explanation for (1) referring to the kind of behavior described here as "right and proper police powers" AND then (2) going on to say that right-wing media disapprove of and deliberately misrepresent such actions.

Thomas, #279: When you have the sort of power that customs and immigration people have, you can afford to be polite.

Yes, exactly. More to the point, if you're not polite under those circumstances, UR DOIN IT RONG.

#288 ::: chang ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 06:31 PM:

This just sucks.

All I can think of is what is this world coming to? I hope Watts can get this off his record.

#289 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 06:57 PM:

Kathryn Cramer wrote at #280:

I remember riding the train through East Germany to Berlin as a teenager. The man sitting next to me was very drunk and had a hard time finding his ticket and passport but eventually managed. As the East German border guard was handing back the man's passport and ticket, the man said "I hope I haven't misbehaved." The border guard smiled and said very warmly and politely, "Oh, no sir! If you'd misbehaved, you would already be outside!"

(At some point, a little later in the trip, I did see a young man being lead from the train by the East German border guards.)

This reminds me of the YouTube documentary about the fall of the Berlin Wall which Abi linked to in her post here "It Was 20 Years Ago Today."

The East German boarder guards, that night, had good reason to be scared, facing a crowd determined to break the law as it existed at that time, and existing orders to stop people from crossing the boarder. But they had the grace and wisdom to have self-control that night, and to recognize that orders needed to take a second place to doing what was right.

That is the standard by which law enforcement and the military should be judged.

And it's sickening that people in the US today must say that our police and boarder guards have less self control and less respect for the rights of the public than East German boarder guards under Soviet control.

#290 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 07:14 PM:

guthrie, #264, depends on the location. Some places police chiefs/sheriffs are elected; some places they're appointed.

#291 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 08:20 PM:

#281- Read that although the Times is not a primary source and to that extent any such statement is hearsay, it should be admitted as an admission against interest - that is if even the Murdoch press says "the Danish police need little excuse to detain people" then likely enough there's a grain of truth - and this despite their police position between the two socialist democracies of the Netherlands and Sweden which seen from Hawaii must themselves approach that happy Utopian state of freedom from fear of police detention (at least for the native population but then Hawaii has long had issues of the native population vs the rest of the world).

It should be obvious that my notion of right and proper police powers is more that Libertarian insanity that citizen's arrest ought to be good enough for anybody - as it pretty much was for Federal authorities in state jurisdictions for many years - absent a warrent.

#292 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 09:23 PM:

I've got a friend with good language skills who used to cross the border there with a friend - a last friend, though not a tooth. I'm not sure there was a universal and broad respect for human rights during Soviet control - but maybe we were all mistaken despite the rather expensive effort to track what was going on.

For my money people in the United States today need not generalize to the effect that our police and border guards have less self control and less respect for the rights of the public than East German border guards under Soviet Control - folks born in 1962 who saw Berlin when in their teens may have a different view than folks who were around earlier - and perhaps more correct and perhaps not.

die-berliner-mauer
160 km Grenze
46 km Mauer zwischen dem Ost- und dem Westteil der Stadt
45.000 Einzelteile (3,60 x 1,20), 2.75 Tonnen schwer
116 Wachtürme
450.000 m² Todesstreifen
10.000 Grenzsoldaten und Offiziere
knapp 5.000 Fluchtversuche
239 Tote enphasis added
100 miles border line around West Berlin
29 miles Wall between the Eastern and Western Part of Berlin
45,000 concrete segments weighing more than 2.5 tons
116 Watchtowers
10,000 border guards
5000 escape attempts
239 deaths emphasis added

FREX
The Uprising of 1953 in East Germany started with a strike by East Berlin construction workers on June 16. It turned into a widespread uprising against the Stalinist German Democratic Republic government the next day. The uprising in Berlin was violently suppressed by tanks of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany and the Volkspolizei. In spite of the intervention of Soviet troops, the wave of strikes and protests was not easily brought under control. Even after June 17, there were demonstrations in more than 500 towns and villages.Uprising of 1953 in East Germany
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I grant you individual Guards might have acted differently than they did in Noveber of 1989 and so changed timelines if you will - but I would not give the armed guards quite all the credit - given the initial statement was by a member of the Polit Bureau

Die Mauer wird versehentlich geöffnet - durch einen Versprecher des SED-Politbüro-Mitgliedes Schabowski, der ankündigt, die Grenzübergänge zu öffnen (Dokument at http://www.die-berliner-mauer.de/schabowski-maueroeffnung.jpg).
„Um befreundete Staaten ( in Anspielung an die Besetzung der Prager Botschaft und die Massenflucht von DDR-Bürgern über Ungarn) zu entlasten, hat man sich entschlossen, die Grenzübergänge zu öffnen."
"A journalist asks when this new regulation will take affect. Schabobowski stutters, "If I am informed correctly, this regulation becomes effective immediately."
Upon hearing these unbelievable words, thousands begin their journey to the West. The border guards do not know how to react to the mass movement of people. The checkpoints are opened and the East and West German fall into each other's arms."

Is the ideal model for the United States a UK force that shoots electricians in the head for boarding a subway while foreign? There is no Utopia created by perfect regulation.

#293 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 09:34 PM:

"People, even people in notorious dictatorships, find it hard to believe that state authorities will beat or imprison folks for no reason. Someone, often many people, will always say, "but surely they must have done something to deserve it.")"

Pol Pot.

And anyone who can defend the actions of somebody who killed off roughly 90% of the population of his country with "They must have done something to deserve it," should resign citizenship in the human race.

Honestly, one of the biggest steps to maturity is realizing that the world and the people in it DON'T react in a strictly reciprocal fashion. Bad things happen to good people. Bad people happen to good people. Somebody can hate you for no other reason than that THEY'RE having a bad day.

And police are human, and therefore liable to the same fallacies as every other human. They don't magically become infallible when they get the badge.

#294 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 09:50 PM:

Surely someone has asked some of those guards what they were thinking, that day, when they *didn't* shoot at all the people crossing. I wonder what it was? (I wonder how accurate their memories would be if asked now.)

Other days, those same guards were sure as hell willing to kill people for trying to cross, so it's not like this was the default.

When people are given enormous amounts of power, it's almost inevitable that many of them will abuse that power--they'll bully people, rob them, rape them, abuse them for being the wrong religion or color or having the wrong politics or just flat being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They'll demand a great deal of deference and make people who don't give it to them pay.

That's human nature. Not everyone with great power will behave this way, and hardly anyone will do so all the time, but put those huge power imbalances in place, and you are pretty much assured of getting the misbehavior.

The only way to avoid that is to put some checks on that power imbalance. That can be private lawsuits, or stringent procedures for the cops with teeth, or genuinely independent internal investigators that can and will fire bad cops, or any number of other things.

#295 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 10:09 PM:

Carol Witt #244: The Globe and Mail picked up the AP story.

Interesting that the Globe and Mail story has a link to an article which mentions the border trouble that other notable people have had recently (journalist Amy Goodman and anti-Olympic activist Marla Renn). They're starting to usefully connect the dots.

#296 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 10:26 PM:

To be clear, I'm not saying that East German guards generally during the Cold War, were the standard by which police/military should be judged.

I'm saying that the East German guards that night are the baseline by which police/military should be judged. People able to weigh the legality of their orders, the morality of their orders, the larger context of their orders, and the morality of the government and leadership that is giving them their orders, the morality of the end to which those orders are given, as well as the specific context they find themselves in during any given interaction.

You need leadership that knows when to question and ignore orders. You need leadership willing to "play dumb" if necessary, rather than doing what they know is expected of them.

There were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of soldiers and guards at various points along the East/West German boarder that night. Given the size of the crowds, it would have taken only a few, or perhaps only one, to turn the celebration into a bloodbath. Once the first shot is fired, it's too easy for the expectations of "brothers in arms" to lead to solidarity in a massacre. It needn't even have been a guard doing what he thought was right - a guard firing out of fear or confusion could have had just as disastrous a result.

You can't get good police/military merely by finding and stopping those who act wrongly. You need to find the times in which people do right, and in particular, the times when people do right when the right thing isn't the obvious thing or the thing expected of them.

Particularly because the institutional force of the police and military tends to be hard on people who disobey orders for moral and ethical reasons. Unless refusing orders unless you are 100% sure they are morally right is the value being fostered in an organization, the pressure will be towards compliance rather than decency.

#297 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 10:34 PM:

You can't get good police/military merely by finding and stopping those who act wrongly. You need to find the times in which people do right, and in particular, the times when people do right when the right thing isn't the obvious thing or the thing expected of them.

And to tie this back to the original post - we know that US boarder guards who use excessive force and conduct unreasonable searches are getting plenty of institutional support - we see it in how the official reports are written, and the way in which the press and the local police deferred to the decisions of the boarder guards.

So my point is, what can we do to find the guards who have good judgment, and who might find themselves institutionally penalized for their good judgment (e.g., "there are fewer searches on your shift than on the others - why aren't you doing your job?") and protect/reward them, encouraging that type of job performance to be seen with respect?

#298 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 11:04 PM:

An alternative to PayPal:

David Nickle says:

Cheques made out to Peter Watts can be mailed to Bakka Phoenix Science Fiction Bookstore at this address:

Bakka-Phoenix Books
697 Queen St. West
Toronto, Ontario
M6J 1E6

Folks in Toronto can also drop by with cash, and Chris or anyone else on staff there will make sure Peter gets the money.

#299 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2009, 11:22 PM:

Perhaps we can't have border guards exercising independent judgement for the same reason school rules in the United States of America must show zero tolerance - but I'm not sure what that reason is.

- rumor says that a guard who does enhanced searches by hunch or by profile has to balance statistics after the manner of a stratified sample - stop a minority for (assumed) cause then stop two above suspicion majority types so the racial numbers balance in statistical reports.

It doesn't seem to be productive to fire for the first mistake no matter how trivial - that leads to coverups and the retained are perhaps after the manner of Teela Brown the lucky ones who haven't made a mistake and so perhaps never learned better - or just the ones who were clever enough not to be caught and so more not less likely to transgess in the future.

Might start with the educational practices of The Republic or maybe Jannisaries make the best guards? Perhaps enforced service after the manner of jury duty - that would only be involuntary servitude for some; others might enjoy the job? Federal Service in Starship Troopers terms?

Obs SF - there's an SF short story where all the power of the Space Patrol is vested in idealistic young short service Space Cadets - their commander has real personnel shortages so he asks his older brother about retaining older ex-Cadets - the older brother says in effect that after you get interested in girls you just aren't that idealistic any more.

#300 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 12:19 AM:

You know, there is some range between "no latitude for independent judgement" and "no oversight, and the thugs can do whatever they want".

#301 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:39 AM:

Fe1 @ 170: I detest people who blame authority figures like police, guards, and other badged individuals reflexively.

Where do you imagine those reflexes came from?

#302 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:51 AM:

Eirin@278: Don't feel too bad -- I didn't get it either, even though I was on rasff when it was first posted (and indeed contributed to it in a small way).

#303 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:52 AM:

clarkemyers @217, 273, 285 and 286- to whom or what, exactly, are you trying to respond? How do the points you make in these four posts relate to anything in any other comment in this thread?

It looks like you're trying to refute the points of people who say that you can have Utopias that don't have problems, or at least that there are no police abuses in countries with extensive welfare states. But as far as I can see, noone in this thread has said either of these things.

#304 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 05:37 AM:

Maybe because I am sensitised to this issue, I keep seeing it everywhere.

For example, this is on Randy McDonald's LJ today (I'm sure he's sensitised too): What national institutions of yours aren't doing so well lately?.

Lest somebody thinks I am not keeping an eye on my houses, there was a rogue group of police in the UK as well. (I can't find the Guardian article now, but it's connected with this story).

And there was the horrible case of a young man beaten to death in custody in Italy and then left to die in a prison hospital ward because found with a few grams of marijuana, which uncovered the fact that abuse is routine from every link of the chain of custody, from police to prison guards to prison hospital staff). And I'm sure people won't have forgotten what happened in Genoa.

And of course, there is a common factor to all these events, as depressing as it is maddening.

In all cases, the officers involved were not ultimately sanctioned.

Why? There is, of course, a deep and understandable solidarity among people serving together, so it is natural (if wrong) that a certain amount of cover up goes on.

But there are, or there should be, counterbalances: after all, judges are condemned by other judges, doctors are expelled from the order, and soldiers are disciplined.

One of the reasons for this regular, apparently unassailable invulnerability is that there is a groundswell of approval for this kind of behaviour. People want the police to beat up people. Yes, even if they might one day be on the receiving end. A lot of people think that social order can only be maintained with violence and fear.

They are wrong, of course, but this is not a rational thought. Just as parents beat up children, often because they don't know better, so the silent majority wants miscreants beaten up, and no matter that this actually decreases the authority and effectivness of the police.

I was listening to a podcast some time ago about the fabled days of the friendly bobby. Which, it turns out, never existed. There never was a time when bobbies walked the beat regularly being greeted by apple-cheeked grocery ladies. What happened was that they roamed the streets of East London clamping down on unruly working-class behaviour, for example unlicensed betting, and where seen as an instrument of class control, and resented as such.

A lot of the attitude in certain areas of Italy is also explained by this. The reason street crime - petty theft, pickpocketing - is so rife in some street of Naples is that police will not walk there, because the inhabitants would turn on them if they did. As they have done repeatedly, in cases of various arrests. Which seems mad on the face of it - organized crime strangles and chokes those same communities. But - thank in part to the fact that when the police does arrest somebody, broken bones accidentally happen - the police is still seen as the enemy, an occupying force.

So yes, while we think of what we would like the police to be, on our side, it is probably a good thing to remember that one of their unspoken tasks, not recognized or known probably by most of them, is to keep the riffraff and the subversives down.

#305 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 05:39 AM:

Maybe because I am sensitised to this issue, I keep seeing it everywhere.

For example, this is on Randy McDonald's LJ today (I'm sure he's sensitised too): What national institutions of yours aren't doing so well lately?.

Lest somebody thinks I am not keeping an eye on my houses, there was a rogue group of police in the UK as well. (I can't find the Guardian article now, but it's connected with this story).

And there was the horrible case of a young man beaten to death in custody in Italy and then left to die in a prison hospital ward because found with a few grams of marijuana, which uncovered the fact that abuse is routine from every link of the chain of custody, from police to prison guards to prison hospital staff). And I'm sure people won't have forgotten what happened in Genoa.

And of course, there is a common factor to all these events, as depressing as it is maddening.

In all cases, the officers involved were not ultimately sanctioned.

Why? There is, of course, a deep and understandable solidarity among people serving together, so it is natural (if wrong) that a certain amount of cover up goes on.

But there are, or there should be, counterbalances: after all, judges are condemned by other judges, doctors are expelled from the order, and soldiers are disciplined.

One of the reasons for this regular, apparently unassailable invulnerability is that there is a groundswell of approval for this kind of behaviour. People want the police to beat up people. Yes, even if they might one day be on the receiving end. A lot of people think that social order can only be maintained with violence and fear.

They are wrong, of course, but this is not a rational thought. Just as parents beat up children, often because they don't know better, so the silent majority wants miscreants beaten up, and no matter that this actually decreases the authority and effectivness of the police.

I was listening to a podcast some time ago about the fabled days of the friendly bobby. Which, it turns out, never existed. There never was a time when bobbies walked the beat regularly being greeted by apple-cheeked grocery ladies. What happened was that they roamed the streets of East London clamping down on unruly working-class behaviour, for example unlicensed betting, and where seen as an instrument of class control, and resented as such.

A lot of the attitude in certain areas of Italy is also explained by this. The reason street crime - petty theft, pickpocketing - is so rife in some street of Naples is that police will not walk there, because the inhabitants would turn on them if they did. As they have done repeatedly, in cases of various arrests. Which seems mad on the face of it - organized crime strangles and chokes those same communities. But - thank in part to the fact that when the police does arrest somebody, broken bones accidentally happen - the police is still seen as the enemy, an occupying force.

So yes, while we think of what we would like the police to be, on our side, it is probably a good thing to remember that one of their unspoken tasks, not recognized or known probably by most of them, is to keep the riffraff and the subversives down.

#306 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 05:41 AM:

Sorry about the double posting. Grrrr.

#307 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 05:43 AM:

#288 ::: albatross:

I assume the East German border guards were feeling much the same loss of belief in their government that East Germans in general were.

Dictatorship 101: if the locals are restless, bring in military from another district!

#308 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 06:32 AM:

Words of wisdom from Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin:

"This drug thing, this ain't police work. No, it ain't. I mean, I can send any fool with a badge and a gun up on them corners and jack a crew and grab vials. But policing?
"I mean, you call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts. And when you at war, you need a fcking enemy. And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your fcking enemy. And soon the neighborhood that you're supposed to be policing, that's just occupied territory."

#309 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 08:24 AM:

Actually, the situation of the border guards in Berlin (and the rest of East Germany) the night that the Wall opened was that the political leadership had issued new regulations. The orders had changed, and citizens were now free to leave, effective immediately.

I think that in Abi's "20 years ago" thread there are links to videos of the press conference where the announcement was made, and to rebroadcasts from West German TV. (If not, note it here and I'll go hunting.)

So the question was how quickly the news would go down the chain of command, and how the front-line people would react.

#310 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 09:44 AM:

Doug @ #303:

There was the press conference, where an offhand comment was made that the boarders would be opening. There was no intent to change policy that night, just a comment that was meant to mean that policies would be changing, but which was clumsily phrased and open to a wide variety of interpretations.

But the bureaucratic procedures that go with changing policy hadn't happened, and there was no actual change in the guards orders.

The German public (on both sides) chose to interpret the comment as "the boarders are open, now", and showed up. The guards didn't have instructions to do anything differently, and had to choose between doing what they knew they were supposed to do, and do what the growing crowds wanted them to do.

It's a bit as if someone at a press conference asked Obama a question about Peter Watts situation, and he commented that "US and Canadian citizens should enjoy the free travel over the boarder that our treaties always allowed" - and everyone living within 100 miles of the boarder on either side showed up in the next hour and demanded to cross according to pre-9/11 rules.

The boarder guards would mostly have not seen the press conference, would have received no official change in instructions, and would be the same sort of people as those who went after Mr. Watts.

What would they do?

#311 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 09:53 AM:

Someone may already have mentioned doing this (the entry of the troll kept me from reading through the entire comments thread), but I have just sent a link to your story to Jon Carroll, columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. I don't know if he'll look at it, but he has commented on government abuses in the past, and I've sent him emails about other, milder topics so I'm not a total stranger.

A horror like this should get the widest possible publicity -- anything except tabloids read only by yahoos -- since that *might* provoke some belated governmental justice, if such a thing is still possible.

#312 ::: Brendan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:13 AM:

We’re conducting exit searches now?

On the subject of exit searches... yes, the US does occasionally conduct exit searches. In November, I flew home to London from Baltimore(BWI). After entering the gate doorway, passengers were confronted by a gauntlet of approximately 1 dozen armed uniformed customs agents, who lined the walkway. Passengers were being randomly pulled aside to be questioned, and in some cases searched. I was one of the passengers questioned, and was asked repeatedly how much money I was carrying, and if I was aware of the export limits on currency. After some aggressive questioning, I was let go, but several passengers were searched.

#313 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:20 AM:

A lot of people think that social order can only be maintained with violence and fear.

In recovery New Orleans the National Guard knocked heads and rousted and arrested like crazy, and for the first time ever, last year, it felt safe enough.

Nowthe National Guard is gone and New Orleans is beginning to not feel safe enough.

I hate hate hate hate hate typing these words, but it is my personal experience and that of our friends.

However, having said that, New Orleans cops are simply not up to the job and never have been because, among other factors, they don't care to be. Other factors are enormous factors, such as lack of affordable housing and resources for law abiding people with families to raise. Most of Louisiana is doing its best to see to it that the schools, health care and housing will not return for these hard working people of New Orleans, so they can't return either and keep NO a blue voting electorate in a red state.

The thing is thugs and un-documented workers do not need housing (they can squat, live in a tent city, etc.), schools for their kids, and they have never used medical facilities other than emergency rooms anyway.

Oooops, this getting way off the thread topic. Apologies.

Love, C.

#314 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:26 AM:

I posted 'Comment #5' at boingboing, as mentioned in the original post. I would have loved to stick around and discuss my thoughts more, but was banned from that site in short order, though I was engaged in what I considered to be respectful debate on the subject (contrasted with those who responded to me with such names as "anonymous asshole, clearly looking for a fight.")

Anyway, maybe I can clear up a few points here.

First, in a situation like this, anyone on any side of a law enforcement dispute who talks about what a person "deserved" is missing the point. I don't think a uniformed authority should ever do or not do something because of what a person "deserves." Those decisions should be based solely on what the situation requires to fulfill their duty, which in this case includes controlling the movement of people and vehicles crossing the border.

The one actual news report that I have seen on this story says that Watts got out of his car, and was told to get back in it, and that he refused to get back in it. Now, I suspect that many people here and elsewhere on the web would imagine that the best course of action would be to discuss the situation with Watts and either to convince him to get back in, or just let him ignore the instruction and remain outside the car. Please take a step back and imagine what it would be like if border guards had to engage in thoughtful debate with everyone who disagreed with the procedures. I assure you the border would be neither secure nor easy to cross without hours and hours of waiting for everyone ahead of you to air their grievances.

It appears that the prescribed course of action, after Watts refused to return to his car, was to handcuff him. I suspect that this is where the struggle began, if Watts felt that they had no right to cuff him but they felt that they must. Again, should the guards stop their efforts to cuff a person if he really, really thinks that they shouldn't?

It's interesting that among my posts on that thread in boingboing, the one that drew the most attention was my hypothetical guess at what took place. And with the news report I mentioned above it appears that I was pretty dang close to right: Watts was asked to do something that he refused to do, the guards tried to force him, and there was a struggle. I think that comments about "unprovoked beatings" and similar are really directed at the policy of searching vehicles and controlling people. But those are fundamental policy questions that can't be changed by arguing with and then struggling with a guard.

Whether it was the guards or Dr. Watts who were at fault here, it's highly likely that at least one person was being a jerk at that crossing!

Show us the tape!


#315 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:29 AM:

Oh, and I should add that if Watts was indeed released without transportation or adequate clothing, that's a serious problem that I would side with him on.

#316 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Constane #313- I have come to the general conclusion that a very small percentage of people will likely need some violence inflicted on them because its the only way they'll agree that they are not the boss, there's rules to follow and if you break them unpleasant things happen to you.

On the other hand the police have often based their applied violence upon personal prejudice rather than actual resistance. One or two people are so warped that violence doesn't work on them at all, I'm not sure what to do about them, since we don't seem to be able to take peoples minds apart and rebuild them in a more socially acceptable fashion - and would you trust any organisation or branch of government with that ability?

The more secret story about the Glasgow razor gangs of the 50's or so is that apparently the other side of the control, apart from harsh sentencing, was vans full of large policemen who would drive around until they saw such a gang, then jump out and beat them up. Soon the gangs got the message and began to behave themselves more.
On Glaswegian violence:
http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/special-reports/crimes-that-rocked-scotland/2007/10/19/razor-gangs-ruled-the-streets-but-even-in-the-violence-of-pre-war-years-one-man-stood-out-86908-19978261/

(Ok, its the Record, but seems accurate enough)
But that sort of thing is not universally applicable, and also there seems to have been social changes in terms of how much violence people will accept/ dole out, and drugs do seem to play a part. Oh, and guns of course.

#317 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:42 AM:

Anna #304:

I think there are several large patterns here, which recur all over the place.

Get a group of people. Let them see themselves as "us," in some sense, and the rest of the world as "them." Give them a shared purpose/mission, shared experiences of hardship and sacrifice to become a member of their group, and a sort of community of people who share similar experiences and personality types and such will arise. Add in a narrative of their being on the side of good, fighting the forces of evil. Add in common uniforms or dress or appearance. Add in a belief that the common purpose requires keeping up the reputation of the group.

Do those things, and you have made an interest group who will lobby for their own at the expense of others. Worse, you've probably forged a cohesive group which will largely cover for other members of the group through a wide range of behaviors.

In recent years, we've seen horrible sex scandals arise in the Catholic church. There are surely a lot of problems that led there[1], but one striking problem is the willingness of the church hierarchy and other priests to cover for the ones abusing kids--presumably, a lot of the people covering for them didn't know exactly what they were covering for, but some higher-ups clearly had to know what was going on. (Why they went along is an interesting question, and one that's never been clear to me. Did some of the pedophile priests have damning blackmail material on them? Was it just a matter of creeping precedent, so that the policy of quieting down the scandal and transferring the priest[2] just kept being used for worse and worse cases?)

Policemen covering for one another is extremely common. I suspect it's more the rule than the exception, at least for some range of misbehavior. There's a huge "us/them" dynamic, a desire not to see the reputation of the police force besmirched, and over time, you can get entrenched corruption and thuggishness, with even the good cops willing to at least turn a blind eye to it.

Or think of doctors. Note how few doctors are willing to testify in malpractice cases, and how popular they are among other doctors. Look at the attitude of most doctors w.r.t. malpractice cases. There's a shared group identity, a shared set of sacrifices and hardships getting there, a shared mission. I've seen polls suggesting that a lot of doctors are willing to ignore evidence of incompetence or negligence on the part of their colleagues, and it totally fits this pattern. It's human nature.

In all three of these cases, we're talking about people who are in positions of enormous trust, and who are expected to devote a big chunk of their lives to making the world a better place. And in all three of these cases, we also get an ingroup whose members are often willing to cover for their fellow members, and unwilling to accuse them of misbehavior or help outsiders against them.

I don't know how to fix this. I am pretty sure that training members of the ingroup better, or demanding more stringent oaths from them, or whatever, can only go so far, and I strongly suspect that the real answer lies in having some kind of meaningful oversight by outsiders. And damn, but high-status ingroups *hate* that kind of idea. (With some reason, since outsiders may not fully understand what they're dealing with. For example, doctors have a real complaint here w.r.t. malpractice--I probably can't distinguish surgical malpractice from bad luck in a lot of subtle cases, lacking the specialist knowledge necessary to evaluate it.)

[1] I think a core problem is that there are more alternatives to the priesthood that appeal to men, which means a smaller pool of applicants, which means lower standards and more tolerance of questionable behavior.

[2] Note that this is probably a pretty sensible way to deal with the (I assume) much more common sex scandals involving adults--the priest is transferred far away from his lover, and the whole thing is handled as quietly as possible.

#318 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 11:06 AM:

Scratch:

I agree that the surveillance tape will cast a lot more light on this, and I hope it surfaces.

Other than Peter, we're all reasoning on incomplete information, here, and filling in the details according to our prior information, assumptions, and models. That means it's easy to come to different conclusions from the same available facts. Now, we're handicapped in this, because:

a. Our personal experiences with border guards in particular, and police in general, are mostly quite limited. The police have always ranged from friendly to formally polite with me. Always. The border crossing people, too. And the TSA. Their rules may be dumb, their policies may be bad (as with having local police raise revenue via speed traps), but my experience has been broadly positive. But I honestly don't have much contact with the police--I'm not a criminal, I don't really associate with many criminals, I'm an educated middle-class white guy with a job living in a nice suburb, I'm not really living in a way that draws a lot of police attention.

b. We hear anecdotes from friends that paint a different picture, but of course we're getting them second hand. A lot of black guys seem to find being pulled over by the cops scary as hell. Various people I know have had bad experiences with the cops--not being beaten or shot, just being treated very shabbily. I wasn't there for any of that, and don't know the full details, though. I have to fill in the blanks.

c. We have media reports. We know these are filtered by the needs of the reporters/news sources, that they're not a random sampling (we hear only about the worst abuses), that reporters aren't always very careful about getting the details right, etc.

d. We have broad mental pictures provided by fictional books, movies, and TV shows.

e. We also have nonfiction books, autobiographies, history books/articles, documentaries, and conversations with informed people[1], etc.

From that, we have to piece together a model for what happened in some case. I'll admit I don't know how to do this in an optimal way, but I suspect that (d) is massively distorting, and that (c) is also pretty distorting.

I have seen enough evidence to be convinced that unaccountable police violence/bullying/abuse is a problem in the US, and that there have been some really awful cases where policemen and prosecutors got away with murder (or railroading an innocent man). I don't have a good intuition for how common it is, or how uniformly it's spread across the nation, or what the probability is that it will happen to, say, a white middle-aged Canadian crossing the border into Canada. That's all inference.

[1] A good friend of mine is a criminal defense attorney. She sees a very, very different slice of the world than I do, on a daily basis. Abusive cops and unethical prosecutors harassing genuine career criminal dirtbags are just part of her world.

#319 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 11:06 AM:

Scratch, under the scenario you describe, it would be appropriate for the customs officer to say, "Sir, I'll be happy to answer your questions once you're inside the car, but if you don't get back in the car at once I'm going to arrest you." Immediate escalation to the most brutal option available at the first indication of noncompliance is not acceptable behavior for anyone, and it's totally inappropriate for law enforcement officers who are presumably trained in how to handle such situations.

#320 ::: Richard Duffy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 11:08 AM:

Interesting: the Port Huron Times Herald story now has a correction on Watts's direction of travel. I wish I'd saved a copy of the original version to find any other changes. It does still have this '[sic]'-adorned quote near the end:

"My friend, the wonderful sf [sic] writer Peter Watts was beaten without provocation and arrested by US [sic] border guards on Tuesday," Doctorow wrote on BoingBoing.

So the second "[sic]" should have been zapped as part of the correction, clearly (would it be worth writing to the paper to point that out?). The first one also seems silly and pointless, particularly in a non-fannish publication, but that's of little import.

#321 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 11:12 AM:

Scratch @ 316:

I don't think that anyone here or at BoingBoing is suggesting that border guards should have to engage in debate with anyone who doesn't want to be handcuffed. But there is a lot of middle ground between turning the border guards into a debating society and immediately responding to every person who disobeys an order with the maximum possible force. The thing that is disturbing is that border guards and law enforcement generally seem to see escalation of force to be the default response to anyone who doesn't immediately respond with complete submission. I suspect that a level-headed officer who had said something like "Sir, we're going to search your car, you have to either get back in your car or we'll have to handcuff you." could have de-escalated this situation rather quickly. But nobody seemed interested in deescalating the situation.

And the thing that really seems like something out a dystopian novel is that the person is then blamed for that very escalation of force.

#322 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 11:18 AM:

#319 Steven...

I agree 100% with each of your two sentences. Hopefully my longer post does not imply otherwise.

Consider this: neither Dr. Watt's account nor the news reports give us enough information to know whether or not either of these things happened (polite request or immediate escalation.) That brings us to Albatross' points in #318 about how we fill in the details ourselves, perhaps without realizing how we have painted our own scenario.

#323 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 11:27 AM:

#320 Chris...

...immediately responding to every person who disobeys an order with the maximum possible force...

I suspect that a level-headed officer who had said something like "Sir, we're going to search your car, you have to either get back in your car or we'll have to handcuff you."

Again, we have no indication that the first point happened. There seems to be an ASSUMPTION that it happened that way, but no account including Dr. Watts' own actually suggests that it did.

As for your second point, I absolutely agree 100% that this type of polite but firm approach would be the most appropriate way to handle the situation. It's after such a request is ignored that things get tricky.

Also, if the officer was not so polite...well, sad but true that it's not illegal for a cop to be a jerk just as it's not illegal for a citizen to be a jerk.

#324 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 12:01 PM:

Scratch @ 322:

I said this above, and I'm going to say it again:

I do not believe that it is right or proper for authority figures to pepper spray, beat, confiscate property, leave in a cold cell in winter, then release without a coat in winter aggressive and dangerous people. And if that's not right, what about doing that to anyone, just because?

Now, of course, all we have is the word of Dr. Watts on one hand, and the word of the border police on the other, right? Except that that's not true. Dr. Watts's rental car was impounded, which is easy enough to check. His computer was confiscated. Unless he threw it away and is now lying about that, the fact that he doesn't have a laptop any more should settle that. Same goes for his coat. Oh, yeah, being kicked should leave some bruises too. I suppose that to be perfectly rigorous we should ask for some photos of them. I do notice that the border patrol isn't releasing CCTV footage that supports their side of the story against him.

It seems fairly simple: unless he was waving a gun around or something, there is nothing that justifies the use of force against him; there is also no reason to use any more force than is necessary to subdue a person. And once he was subdued, what justification is there for treating him inhumanely?

And why is the (I'll stick in alleged, if it makes you happy) victim being blamed here? If he was asked to return to his car and he didn't, does that really justify what happened to him?

The powerful do not need others to jump to their defense; by definition, they can defend themselves. It's the powerless who need as much help as they can get.

See also posts two and seven in this thread. There is much wisdom there.

#325 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 12:08 PM:

People I respect are supporting Dr. Watts; at this point, I don't really need to know more than that; I expect that more information will eventually become available. That's not to say that I haven't been tracking this in some detail, because I have. It's fascinating to see how the different communities affected by the situation react and form their own memewar propagation beachheads.

#326 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 12:26 PM:

The Globe and Mail links Obama administration comments on Canadian privacy rights with the Peter Watts incident.

#327 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:24 PM:

I just got to see this original post and the particles on the sidebar. I'm appalled. I was under the mistaken impression that LEO had steadied down since the first couple of years after 9/11. Apparently not.

#328 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:30 PM:

Scratch, you're speculating extensively, and privileging third-hand accounts (news reports) over reports from people who were actually there.

And for heaven's sake, man, whatever happened to talking someone down?

#329 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:44 PM:

326: What's happened to make Low Earth Orbit unsteady?

#330 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 01:56 PM:

re comment @ 72: yeling at someone is always assault; it ain't so.

California Penal Code §240. An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability to commit a violent injury on the person of another.

10 U.S.C. § 928 : US Code - Section 928: Art. 128. Assault

(a) Any person subject to this chapter who attempts or offers
with unlawful force or violence to do bodily harm to another
person, whether or not the attempt or offer is consummated, is
guilty of assault and shall be punished as a court-martial may
direct.

THat, of course is from the UCMJ.

In california, "mere words can never be assault" was what I was taught (and tested on) when doing various things related to being a security guard (since I did guard work in hospital ERs, there was a fair amount of dealing with people who were a bit less restrained in sharing their feelings).

But even in the federal code an overt act (an offer) of unlawful force/violence is required. Merely yelling at someone isn't assault. A reasonable person would have to be able to conclude that an attempt was about to be made.

But, for the relevant bit to this conversation:

18 U.S.C. § 111 : US Code - Section 111: Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees

(a) In General. - Whoever -
(1) forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates,
or interferes with any person designated in section 1114 of this
title while engaged in or on account of the performance of
official duties; or

(2) forcibly assaults or intimidates any person who formerly
served as a person designated in section 1114 on account of the
performance of official duties during such person's term of
service,

shall, where the acts in violation of this section constitute only
simple assault, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more
than one year, or both, and in all other cases, be fined under this
title or imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

I suspect the weasel word here is, impedes since the asking of questions (even when pertinent) could be defined as making it harder for someone to carry out "official duties." It strikes me as an overbroad restriction.

What I don't know, based on the reports, is that this is the statute being used (becuase the charge apparently carries as much as a two year sentence), or if they have added something like, "resisting arrest" to it.

#331 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:01 PM:

A few months ago, we were pulled over during for an expired vehicle registration (my fault, oops, we were three days past the expiration date and I'd been sick and forgot) and the cop we dealt with was a complete idiot. Without any provocation he screamed, threatened, and generally bullied us. There was NO reason for his behavior whatsoever. I wish I'd had some way to record his behavior -- if we'd offered any resistance at all I'm sure we would have been arrested.

Among other things, the guy demanded to smell my boyfriend's bottle of ice tea ... and then when it turned out to really be ice tea, he poured it out on the ground. He also shone his flashlight in the back seat and when my boyfriend looked over his shoulder to see what the cop was looking at, the cop went ballistic, demanding to know if my boyfriend was looking for a weapon, wanting to know why my boyfriend was sweating/nervous (err, August in Arizona, and being screamed at by a cop?), asked my boyfriend if he was, "Stupid or something?" when he started to get rattled and tangle his words up, and repeatedly kept asking if we had a weapon.

He got impatient when I was too slow to find my insurance card, ordered us to stare straight ahead with our hands on the dash while he inspected the vehicle, and then tried to ticket us for failure to present insurance. (I'd quickly found the insurance card when he went back to his car and could no longer see our hands.)

There are some very awesome officers out there I respect completely, but there are also some real idiots. I met an idiot that day. It's entirely possible Watts ran into a whole cluster of them ...

#332 ::: Shan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:01 PM:

albatross @317
I'm not sure this could transfer adequately to police forces (since they are already publicly regulated) or doctors, but in general lawyers have a strong interest in regulating themselves carefully enough that outside control is kept at bay. Perhaps it would be something those professions should think about. For example, every state has a bar disciplinary committee that regularly suspends, disbars, or reprimands lawyers that screw up, whether intentionally or not. Most states have some kind of "client security fund" to which lawyers must contribute, so that clients that have been wronged can be made whole. As far as I know, doctors don't have anything like that, thus patients have only malpractice claims. This quote explains the rationale better than I can:

"Few, if any, would extol the virtues of transferring responsibility for regulating the practice of law from the judiciary to either an executive or legislative branch of government. Yet public outcry for accountability can translate to voter accommodation by those of the political persuasion. Proper stewardship of our ethical obligations can serve as a powerful bulwark against the improper and truly frightening specter of political intervention in disciplinary regulation. A naïve notion? Not at all. The ‘privilege’ of self regulation could so easily drift towards the view that it is but an ‘option’, one that can be easily removed if not treated with the serious sense of purpose it deserves.

"Self regulation is no myth. It is at the core of a viable legal profession. The duty to report ethical misconduct rests within the nucleus of that core, often hidden from view but as real as are the consequences should we fail; for if we do, 'we forfeit that trust and have no right to enjoy the privilege of self-regulation or the confidence and respect of the public.'" Self Regulation and the Duty to Report Misconduct, by Charles B. Plattsmier, quoting In re Riehlmann, 891 So.2d 1239 (La. 2005) at 1249.

Maybe if we the public could see the police fairly discipline their own instead of circling the wagons every time an officer screws up, intentionally or not, we'd have better trust in them as a whole.

#333 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:13 PM:

Terry Karney @#329: The sections of 18 U.S.C. § 111 you quote, (both (a) (1) and (a) (2)), start with "forcibly".

I'd like to open this up to everyone, not just put Terry Karney on the spot: Since I am not a legal scholar, grammarian, lawyer, or similar: how does that word in those sentences modify the following terms, if at all? Does it read "forcibly assaults", "forcibly intimidates", "forcibly impedes", etc. or does it only go with the "assaults" bit? And does "forcibly" follow the common lay interpretation of "using physical force"?

Essentially, though Terry Karney @#329 notes that the specific code he cites may not be the one being used, I'm curious as to when the usage of spoken (or shouted, for that matter) words moves into the legal assault realm.

Kinda OT/nitpicky, but this whole "within 100 miles of the border you gotta bow and scrape to the Man or pay the consequences" thing sickens me and I'd like to know whether I ought to just not speak at all in encounters with the relevant agents. I can squash lippy comments much better when I have to write them down. Not that I should have to, but it'd be nice to know where the "bright line" is, at least in non-secret laws.

#334 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:13 PM:

Ok - Terry @329 - Years ago, a friend who is a policeman told me when I asked, "What doess 'assault' mean?"

He said, "Assault is the verbal threat of violence to the victim." Up until that time I had believed that "assault" meant hitting, shooting or stabbing someone.

He didn't go into detail about how assault charges escalate (battery, with a deadly weapon, etc.) and I'm guessing they have different penalties under law, which no doubt varies from place to place?

The more details I get on this situation the angrier I am at the border patrol -- when did it become a crime to get out of your car and ask a reasonable question?

#335 ::: Ed Chan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:18 PM:

Few years ago I went through Niagara Falls by train. I went to USA with an employment letter and a Canadian passport. The US Home Land Security border guards turned me back to Canada on the spot. Before I could return to Canada, they asked me to fill up a form that required 4 generations (my children, myself and my wife, my parents, and my grand parents) of personal details. The US wanted the names, dates of birth, addresses of home and work, medical conditions, etc. It took me 2 hours to fill half of the information they wanted, because the other half information I simple did not know. Of course, mug shot, and finger printing were part of the treatment. The guards told me all those information would be entered into US Home Land Security database, so I better filled the form carefully. The guards took my cell phone right away when I tried to contact my employment agency for help. I learnt real quick not to offend them in any way, otherwise I was sure I would be ended up like Peter in US jail that day or they would point their guns at me.
The irony was that there was a big poster in the US border guardhouse. It reminded the guards "you are the face of USA, smile and be helpful to the visitors entering USA."
Anybody doubts Peter's mistreatment, maybe he should get a taste of the US Home Land Security border guard’s hospitality, get a real feel about getting humiliated, then he probably won’t side with US border guards so fast.

#336 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:26 PM:

#310: I agree that not all the procedures were in place, but when the responsible Politburo member says "Ab sofort. Unverzüglich." in response to a direct question about when the new rules go into effect, that's a pretty clear meaning. Schabowski also tells the assembled journalists "You should have a copy" (of the Politburo's decision), so it seems logical that at least some of the border guards and crossings had the new policy as well.

Videos here and here.

So a more precise analogy would be the Secretary of DHS holding a press conference and explaining at the very end that regulations would be rolled back to whatever, and that although the decision had been taken that day, the press should already have copies. No guarantee that it would have gotten to every crossing so fast, but not exactly leaving them hanging either.

#337 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:33 PM:

#328 - Global warming by the day has raised the atmosphere - increased drag - like solar wind as on Mercury - leads to orbital changes mostly decay.

#338 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:34 PM:

Eh, somewhat answering my own question @#332, If ound this: findlaw.com

Aand, re-reading the thread I'm being even more redundant than I thought. Crap. {deletes most of post, returns to lurking}

#339 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:42 PM:

scratch @ 314: Here is a well-known video of a Maine State Trooper who cannot be provoked. At a routine traffic stop, he encounters a driver who is enraged, verbally abusive, and clearly dealing with some issues. Throughout the entire traffic stop, the trooper remains utterly calm, and keeps total control of the situation.

Now, I don't expect the average peace officer to be quite this skilled. But you can witness several important principles at work in this video:

1. The trooper isn't aiming to dominate the driver through intimidation. He's attempting to deescalate the confrontation. And even though the trooper doesn't calm the driver down[1], the trooper does get the driver to obey his orders.

2. At all times, the trooper clearly explains the consequences of non-compliance: "If you don't pick this up, sir, I'm going to summons you for littering."

For the sake of argument, let's say this trooper is our ideal peace officer: He enforces the law, he deescalates bad situations, and he doesn't resort to violence even when someone gets in his face and acts like an idiot.

Now, I've only met Peter Watts briefly, but he seemed like a normal human being. Even if he was having a bad day, I can't remotely imagine Peter Watts acting like the driver in this video. Normal people generally fall on a range between "polite" and "cranky". When they're cranky, it's perfectly possible to calm them down using the techniques displayed in the video. For example, a customs agent can say, "Please get back in your car, sir. If you do not get back in your car, I will have to arrest you. Sir, please get in your car now."

In the last year or so, I've witnessed several customs agents who started using intimidation techniques right from square one. Now, this may (or may not) help them keep control of a "situation." But it has a real danger of escalating a routine border crossing into what happened to Peter Watts. When possible, I think it's much better to avoid "situations" in the first place.

[1] Calming this driver down would probably require horse tranquilizers.

#340 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 02:44 PM:

I posted a link to this Facebook group as my Facebook status and 20 of my friends joined. If we all did that...

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=348936790393

#341 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 03:15 PM:

#329 and others -
No doubt some here have from the horse's mouth knowledge of the particular Court room in which the 22 December appearance is scheduled - and perhaps are already making arrangements to be there.

For the rest of us unreliable sources strongly imply Michigan jurisdiction and laws will be applied -
Port Huron police Capt. Jim Jones would not provide the Times Herald with a copy of a police report about the incident Friday. He did read the police report to a reporter.....Jones said Port Huron police were called to the scene after the scuffle and took Watts into custody.

....
St. Clair County District Court records show he is due back in court Dec. 22 for a preliminary examination on charges of assaulting, obstructing and resisting a police officer. The charge is punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.... http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20091212/NEWS01/912120305/1002/Writer-faces-assault-charge - a local paper on the US side.

Folks who care to may want to contact that Court for copies of the official records. Others may discuss hypotheticals.

#343 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 03:36 PM:

I see the ''NYT'' has a story, so now the incident has officially happened. I see also the the feds refused to prosecute.

#344 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 03:41 PM:

#329 - Terry says:
"A reasonable person would have to be able to conclude that an attempt was about to be made."

IANAL but therein lies the nub of it. Of course CCTV may be useful, or it may not have worked or have gotten lost. But to an aggressive sob on a hairtrigger, anything including moving towards them with your hands at your sides will indicate that you are about to assault them. And they'll stand there and say so, supported by all their pals.

You can buy recording spectacles I think. How about people tooling up with them when going through customs? Would your t-shirt have to say "CCTV in use"?

#345 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 03:49 PM:

#342: isn't that, word-for-word, the AP story all over again?

#346 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:04 PM:

From the NYT story: "On Watts' blog, comments attributed to him Friday denied he had been aggressive and said he had been punched in the face during the arrest."

Isn't kind of weird to say that Watts' description on his blog was attributed to him when there's been no question that he wrote it?

#347 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:04 PM:

I see that the NYT version starts with the statement after he became aggressive and refused to comply during an inspection and follows this with "a government official said" - cleaverly making the first part appear as a fact rather than hearsay. They follow with more of the version from Customs spokesman Ron Smith and Port Huron police Capt. Jim Jones - who "told" press what happened. They decline to give the alternate version according to Peter Watts, nor do they recount the later events such as being turned out coatless in a Canadian December night.

The more I read press stories regarding which I have alternative knowledge, and see how much is biased and/or left out, the more I worry about how much is wrong in other stories regarding which I don't have access to other sources of information.

#348 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:07 PM:

Dcb, that's a good point.

#349 ::: Sam Wright ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:16 PM:

There are obviously issues with the way the Border Patrol forgets to use common sense while on duty. Sadly, I believe it is true that they have more authority than the average cop to rifle through anyone's belongings on a whim.

#350 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:25 PM:

#338 Eric, I thought of that very video while I was discussing this event over the weekend. That was indeed a very fine example of restraint.

#323 Keith, I don't think any of the physical measures you mentioned are ever appropriate (or legal) as punishment, retribution, or ventilation of anger. I think that many of the people who tend to side with Dr. Watts imagine that his physical treatment was some combination of these three things. But I am open to the possibility (consistent with Dr. Watts' own statements) that he was selected for a random search which he argued against; he was asked to return to his car and he refused; he was, because of the first two items, going to be put in cuffs and he "pulled away" (his own words); he was forcibly placed in cuffs because of his resistance. A great many people seem to have an idea that a person can persuade the police on the spot which treatment is appropriate and which is not. In actual fact, I think it makes much more sense to do as you are told and take up any disagreements later. None of this would have happened if he had simply allowed his car to be searched, as I myself would have done no matter how annoying it may be at the time.

By the way, I originally reacted to this story because of the suggestion that Dr. Watts was "beaten without provocation." Arguing about a search, refusing to get back into your vehicle, and "pulling away" when the police try to put cuffs on does not earn a person a beating, but it certainly cannot be described as unprovocative.

#351 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:29 PM:

#327 Raven, I don't think the news accounts and Dr. Watts' account contradict each other on the points of fact.

#352 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:41 PM:

Scratch @349:
he was selected for a random search which he argued against

That's not quite what Watts said happened. He said that in the alternate universe where this did not happen,

I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle.

Perhaps asking why you're being searched is a form of arguing against it, but it's actually a legitimate form of argument in the society we hope we have.

I think it makes much more sense to do as you are told and take up any disagreements later.

Assuming that any disagreements would have been dealt with later. Are you confident that that would have occurred? Considering that the information the police have given to the press is demonstrably false (stating that he was entering, rather than leaving, the US), I certainly am not.

In practical terms, your recommendations come out to suck it up and don't ask questions. Is that kind of unquestioning obedience the best that we, as citizens, can do for our civic body? Is it good for the security and happiness of our community to do that? Heck, it's not even good for the police themselves, having that kind of power; it bends good people into bad ones.

#353 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:45 PM:

A couple of points, with my Michigan criminal defense attorney hat on:

(1) an assault can be committed by oral threat, but only if the threat is couple with an immediate ability to put the threat into action. "I'm going to shoot you" is an assault if said by someone pointing a gun at you; it's not an assault if said in the course of a long-distance telephone call.

(2) Mr. Watts is charged in state court rather than federal court. I don't do federal law much, but I suspect this is a good thing for him.

(3) The district court in Port Huron has some of its records online (access through the St. Clair County website, here: http://www.stclaircounty.org/DCS/search.aspx)

Mr. Watts is charged with "assaulting, resisting, or obstructing an officer," MCL 750.479 (see here:
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(rx2gyt45ejsbhw45b0bc5tfi))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-750-479 )
That crime can be committed by simply "a knowing failure to comply with a lawful command".

(4) I've done enough of these cases to say that, assuming no real physical injury to the officer and no significant prior record on the part of Mr. Watts, the expected sentence on a conviction would be probation. The maximum possible sentence would be an indeterminate term of 16-24 months in prison, but that kind of sentence of course has to be reserved for the worst possible violations.

#354 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 04:51 PM:

Scratch @ 349:

Please read Dr. Watts's account of what happened, flagged as "UPDATE" in the original post here. All my examples come from there.

Also, how far do you want to take the line that he provoked them? Was it real provocation (e.g. saying that he's going to kick their asses and then attempting to follow through on that action), or was it something that other people call provocation (e.g. she must have wanted it because she was wearing that short skirt)? I'd also wager that a lot of people react unfavorably when someone powerful tries to restrain them, enough for a certain amount of that to be a reflexive action. Whether "pulling away" means resisting or flinching, I don't think that either really counts too much in the realm of provocation.

#355 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 06:06 PM:

That isn't a NY Times story. As Summer Storms says, it's the AP wire service story.

At Boing Boing, I think, there were posters who insisted that Mr. Watts would have been far wiser to sit still and record everything with his phone or digital camera, or that his companion should have done so.

Now -- do any of us believe that these thugs would have allowed him to do anything of the sort? That this too wouldn't be classified as resisting arrest or assault or whatever they chose to label it?

I just love how people are so smart about what somebody else should have done in a tricky situation that they were not in and did not witness. Not.

Love, C.

#356 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 06:28 PM:

(yeah, I said I'd relurk, but this isn't redundant yet!)

rea @ #353: "assaulting, resisting, or obstructing an officer," MCL 750.479

Hmm. All the same law, eh? Makes me wonder how many news reports and/or press releases about "assaulting an officer" are actually "assaulting ... an officer" with the ellipsis omitted prior to writing it down - thus casting the accused in a much worse light than warranted.

That kind of subtle omission/confusion making the "assault" part prominent may be why there are so many people defending the officers so vehemently. "Resisting" or "obstructing" don't carry the same "he/she did something violent, so the cops *had* to use force" ring to it.

#357 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 06:34 PM:

KeuthS, #324: I do not believe that it is right or proper for authority figures to pepper spray, beat, confiscate property, leave in a cold cell in winter, then release without a coat in winter aggressive and dangerous people.

Scratch, #350: I think that many of the people who tend to side with Dr. Watts imagine that his physical treatment was some combination of these three things.

We are not "imagining" these things; this is what Peter Watts states was done to him. Unless you are intending to imply that Watts is lying a blue streak, you owe KeithS and everyone else here an apology for having accused us of making shit up out of whole cloth.

#358 ::: Ed Chan ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 07:38 PM:

Constance at #355: "At Boing Boing, I think, there were posters who insisted that Mr. Watts would have been far wiser to sit still and record everything with his phone or digital camera;" The person suggested that must be a very patriotic US citizen and was trying his best to defend his country's reputation. If Mr. Watts ever tried to record any evidence, Mr. Watts' recording devices would be confiscated in no time like my cell phone. Mr. Watts probably would face additional charges like taking photos of state facilities for terrorist purposes, etc.

#359 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 08:35 PM:

#357 Lee...thanks for the response. The "three things" to which I referred were not the physical things that happened to him, but the three possible motivations that I listed (punishment, retribution, or ventilation of anger.) I believe that the use of force for these reasons is never appropriate or legal. Dr. Watts' account of the incident does not give the reasons for the use of force but the response from online discussions makes it clear that many people think the motivation was some combination of these three things.

#360 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 09:15 PM:

A great many motivations have been suggested.

#361 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 09:33 PM:

Hi Teresa...thanks very much for the forum!

Yes, there are a great many possible motivations. Some would be proper and legal, and others would be improper and illegal.

#350 Keith, from what I've read, I don't think that Dr. Watts picked a fight, which would be a common use of the word "provoke." The accounts I've seen, including his own, do suggest to me that by his actions he provoked the guards to try to physically enforce their lawful instructions. I don't know what sort of security arrangements they have at this border station, but it's very common to require a specific action from a driver whose car is being searched. Depending on the situation, this may mean remaining in the car, standing by the car, or going into a waiting area. I'm quite certain that the procedures do not call for the driver to make his own decisions about what to do. So, in my experience and in my opinion, a driver who does not follow the instructions he is given is provoking SOME sort of response to get him to comply. How that response works or how it is escalated depends on the situation and the people involved.

#362 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 09:39 PM:

Cygnet's story at #331 upset me enough that I had to stop reading for a bit. That guy wasn't simply an idiot. He was a bully, and maybe a psychopath.

Some people shouldn't have power over others. Unfortunately a lot of these people aspire towards jobs that give them that kind of power.

#363 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:14 PM:

Speaking of the stories people imagine into the blanks, I wonder how much the prevalence of cop shows feeds into authoritarian apologetics. People spend an awful lot of time watching stories about essentially good cops dealing with (necessarily, for the sake of the plot) bad civilians. When they shoot someone, arrest someone on BS charges, or do anything else sketchy, it's almost always for the greater good. I wonder how much of that story logic gets subconsciously internalized and then is applied when people hear stories like Watts'.

#364 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:19 PM:

Scratch @ 361:

First, my apologies to you. I read your initial comment to me in the same way that Lee did.

You and I seem to be dancing around a central point, which I have used too many words to try to get across. I will try once more.

  1. A dangerous person needs to be subdued. However, there is no reason to use any more force than necessary, and no force at all (see Eric K at 339) is even better.
  2. There is no evidence whatsoever that Dr. Watts, or the commenter mentioned in The Raven's post at 197, were dangerous in any way at all. Asking reasonable questions about what's going on are perfectly normal and deserve reasonable answers. Acting like others are always a threat merely manufactures threats.
  3. It is completely and utterly wrong to beat a person, or to subject them to the elements without proper protection. This means that even a crazed loon who was trying to kill everyone in sight, once they had been arrested, should have been treated as a human being.

Ignore for now the question of what they were even doing pulling him over in the first place.

Now, I would have stayed in the car and said "yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir." Why? Because I'm an abject coward who doesn't like pain. Because big, scary policemen with attitudes and guns frighten me. I do not believe that this is right and proper. They're supposed to be protecting me, not scaring me. Not abusing their positions of power. This is why we're upset.

Again, please see Jo Walton's posts at 2 and 7.

It's all very well to say that he should have known what was going to happen. I say that it shouldn't have happened at all.

#365 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:47 PM:

Keith...

I completely agree with your points #1 and #3. I agree in principle with #2, but when a person gets out of a car that has clearly been stopped for a search, and asks ("angrily," if you believe the police report) "What's going on here," then I have a hard time imagining that person being satisfied with the answer and getting back in the car. It really and truly seems reasonable to me for the guards to ask the driver to return to the car before they offer any sort of explanation. I learned that in high school, when a cop pulled up behind my parked car one night (dark parking lot, I was not alone...you get the picture.) She (the cop) shined the spotlight on my car and I got out to walk back to the squad car to talk to the her. She immediately got on the loudspeaker and said, "Please return to the car sir." So that's been a common-sense rule for me since then, don't get out of the car. Return to the car if told to. Plus get a room if at all possible, but that's another thread.

Dang, I used too many words again.

#366 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2009, 10:50 PM:

Tangent to Albatross: "Why they went along is an interesting question, and one that's never been clear to me. Did some of the pedophile priests have damning blackmail material on them? Was it just a matter of creeping precedent, so that the policy of quieting down the scandal and transferring the priest just kept being used for worse and worse cases?"

Something I only heard recently pointed out that at the time period in question (where most of the worst abuse happened), they had not yet come to the conclusion that pedophilia was "incurable." So couple the concept of forgiveness— very important to the Catholic faith— with the idea that you might be able to "treat" pedophiles by taking them out of the original situation, and you have a culture that is more inclined to dealing with problems by moving people around.

Patterns of thought can get groups into trouble. It seems as though the Border Patrol has an internal culture that is escalating into the danger zone. I hope we don't hear about a shooting, next.

#367 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:27 AM:

Scratch, #359: I offer a fourth motive that you seem not to have considered, and which (from the data that's been collecting here and in other venues) seems more likely to me than any of the others: Because they CAN, secure in the knowledge that they will never be called to book for it.

#368 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:44 AM:

albatross #317: Was it just a matter of creeping precedent, so that the policy of quieting down the scandal and transferring the priest just kept being used for worse and worse cases?

If the law enforcement community is transferring and concentrating too, that would explain Maricopa County....

#369 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:52 AM:

This seems like an appropriate commentary.

#370 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:06 AM:

Scratch:

I can't speak for everyone here, but I don't disagree with you that the border guards had the right to use some modicum of force to ensure that Mr. Watts complied with their requirements, but what happened is that Mr. Watts ended up charged with assaulting an officer, and claims that he was beaten and pepper-sprayed. It seems to me that there are only really three classes of explanations that can explain these facts:

1) Mr. Watts behaved aggressively such that officers legitimately feared for their safety or that they would be unable to restrain him. I don't know Mr Watts from Adam, but plenty of people here do, and their judgment is that this is not credible. I'm willing to acknowledge it as a possibility, but from where I'm sitting it doesn't seem likely. Notice how much of the police account is largely dependent on subjective descriptions of how Mr. Watts behaved, rather than what he actually did. Cut out all of the adverbs and adjectives and see how it reads.

2) The officers went overboard in their subduing of Mr. Watts, and needed to charge him with something as a way of justifying their actions. This applies both to their own psychological need (he was a bad guy who wanted to harm us, so we had to kick his teeth in) and from a legal standpoint (police brutality? let me remind you that this is a man accused of assaulting an officer!)

3) The officers lost control of the situation and in the resulting scrum Mr. Watts' attempts to disengage and avoid physical violence were read as attacks, and the whole affair devolved. (One is reminded of videos floating around of the use of a Taser, which basically turn into "Stand Up!" ZAP "Stand Up" ZAP "Stand Up!" with the officer never seeming to realize that the reason the suspect won't stand up and come quietly is because it's not physically possible while they're getting tasered repeatedly.)

Maybe there's some other scenario that my brain can't come up with at this hour of night, but that seems to cover all of the bases to me. And in looking at the border guards' behavior I'd boil down the possibilities thusly:

1)The border guards were in the right, Mr. Watts is either lying by omission or has a warped view of what ocurred, and a whole slew of people who know Mr. Watts badly misjudged what he is capable of.

2) The border guards are evil.

3) The border guards are incompetent.

2 and 3 don't sit well with your argument, but 1 seems to rely on you knowing what happened at that checkpoint a lot better than people who know at least one of the principals involved.

#371 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 06:11 AM:

I almost hate to post my comments here, so many have said things much more clearly than I tend to, but I would like to address a couple of points appearantly brought up by people from England and Canada.

First, that this happened makes me deeply ashamed of what some of the people in authority here in the United States have done. However, as much as the way Dr. Watts was treated was deeply wrong, I can unfortuneately understand both sides of the story due to personal experiences and because I have family members in both LEO and the military. I could be considered to be the blacksheep of my family since inspite of my advanced education and my job in the healthcare field, I am (to the dispair of many in my family) a biker. Thus I tend to see the worse side of most police officers who don't already know me, but even so most police officers would try to de-escalate a situation in a way that does not appear to have been used in Dr. Watts case. Yet, from what my family members on the force tell me, most Border Patrol personal are not trained to think like police officers and thus less likely to try to defuse a situation. Another problem, and one I feel needs to be address most strongly, is that their superiors and our politicians are giving them the impression that they are "The First Line Of Defense" as if they were a unit or division of the military; yet they are not really given any military training beyond what they may have had when they joined the service. And this can assuredly add to the problem, especially if they had previous military training but NOT military police training. When standing guard in a war zone, one doesn't ask someone approaching your guard post to stand down twice. If they ignore your instructions the first time you give them, you take them down anyway you can before they can take you out; and by making our officers in the Border Patrol feel like they are on the front lines of a real war against terrorists and drug gangs who are known to use violence with the drop of a hat our political leaders during the last 8 years have encouraged that type of thinking among them.

Secondly, in most of Europe and Asia, hand guns and small fully automatic weapons such as Uzi's and Ingram Mac 10's are almost unkown, or at least so my British and Italian friends tell me. So making a suspect get out of his or her car makes sense in that it separates the suspect from the most dangerous weapon they are likely to have. Unfortuneately here in the United States, history has contributed to a different culture with regards to guns. After all, during Europe's and most of Asia's "wild and wooly" days the average man on the street was not allowed to own weapons because he might use that weapon to overthrow the local Noble (cough - armed bandit - cough). Besides, learning how to use a sword and sheild or a bow effectively took so much time that the average commoner wouldn't have enough time left over to grown the crops, take care of the cattle, weave the cloth, etc. As a result, the local Noble and his men-at-arms had to be near enough to be able to adequately protect them; and this continued untill most of Europe was reasonalby settled and civilized, and all before guns became accurate enough AND cheap enough for a commoner to be able to protect himself. On the other hand the United States was not settled by white men until guns WERE that accurate and cheap. Thus by the early 1800's, anyone in the United States who didn't own at least one gun either lived in a city or very close by a military fort. Everyone else either owned a gun, or had a rather short life expectency. Thus police officers in the United States had to deal with suspects who were probably armed from the very beginning, and the best way to deal with them is to keep them in a restrictive enviroment where they can't move or turn quickly and make them keep their hands in sight such as on the steering wheel or the back of the seat in front of them. As a result, a suspect who gets out of his or her car and then refuses to get back into their car when ordered to do so is going to make any United States LEO personal very, very nervous. Does this excuse what happened to Dr. Watts? No, not in any way shape, or form. But one still has to say that even though the Border Patrol officers appear to have been in the wrong, Dr. Watts could have eased their nervousness a great deal and increased his chances of getting a civil explanation of what was going on if he had gotten back in his car when told to do so. And, before I get jumped for saying he should have "cringed more", I do not equate getting back in the car with cringing. It would be very possible to get back in the car and STILL maintained control.

#372 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:30 AM:

347 (somewhat belatedly): That style of opening a wire story is standard. The journalist presumes readers are interested in what the person said, not who said it. Otherwise an awful lot of stories would begin "President Obama said..." or "A spokeswoman for President Obama said..."

I've written dozens of stories along those lines: "Biotech Company XYZ Ltd expects to make an initial public offering next month," said Dr Mary Sue, XYZ's chief financial officer. Or, "Positive results in the latest clinical trial indicate that Goodforyouix may be effective against early stages of cancer of the ellipsis, according to Dr Gary Stu, chief medical officer of Suchandsuch Inc."

Anyway, I wouldn't read any intent into the arrangement of the sentence.

#373 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 08:41 AM:

"(1) an assault can be committed by oral threat, but only if the threat is couple with an immediate ability to put the threat into action."

Interesting. My neighbor verbally threatened to attack me Friday when I argued with him about why he piled his leaves on my yard a few weeks ago (long running problem with this guy). I remained calm and tried to explain how I interpreted what I saw; he became more and more agitated that I didn't see that he had cleared part of my yard (and in the process left a windrow of leaves on the uncleared part), and finally told me he would knock me right to the ground if I kept it up.

This isn't the first time this has happened, either, just the latest. Only my wife warning him she had her cellphone out and was ready to dial 911 if he didn't calm down and listen to me got him to stop with the belligerent talk. Of course, then he tried to say my arguing with him was what made him angry to the point of making threats.

I wonder if the Border Patrol guys are like my neighbor; anyone questioning their authority or actions, no matter how calm, creates a situation that demands they exert even more aggression to dominate the situation.

#374 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 09:52 AM:

Interesting to watch folks here there and everywhere tar with the same brush the (CBP) Customs and Border Protection Officer and the Border Patrol Agent right along with any and all of the divisions of (ICE) Immigration and Customs Enforcement as though they are all the same thing. Maybe they are.

Sometimes piling on is more important than piling on right? Maybe folks can tell say Jack McDevitt about customs enforcers and how evil they are in dealing with SF writers?

#375 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 10:31 AM:

371: When standing guard in a war zone, one doesn't ask someone approaching your guard post to stand down twice. If they ignore your instructions the first time you give them, you take them down anyway you can before they can take you out

Not so. You realise this is basically the death sentence for Not Being Able To Speak English, right?

After all, during Europe's and most of Asia's "wild and wooly" days the average man on the street was not allowed to own weapons because he might use that weapon to overthrow the local Noble (cough - armed bandit - cough). Besides, learning how to use a sword and shield or a bow effectively took so much time that the average commoner wouldn't have enough time left over to grown the crops, take care of the cattle, weave the cloth, etc.

Not so, as (eg) a lot of heavily perforated Frenchmen at Agincourt could have told you.

the United States was not settled by white men until guns WERE that accurate and cheap.

Not so. (1620?)

in most of Europe and Asia, hand guns and small fully automatic weapons such as Uzi's and Ingram Mac 10's are almost unknown

Not so. They're rare by US standards, but, regrettably, far from unknown. Certainly in a criminal context they're reasonably available, and British criminals use handguns or sawnoffs.

There's really no excuse for using force like this against an unarmed, non-threatening person, however disobedient he is - and that's all there is to say.

#376 ::: Sean ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 10:57 AM:

I am not a regular sci fi reader, but I do cross the border a fair bit. I am always scared when I do so, due to the attitude and power of these thugs.
Just for my own comfort and inspiration, does anyone know of a successful bid for redress from these goons? I cannot think of any that come to mind. That scares me too.

#377 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:18 AM:

Come on man. They told him to stay in his car and he didn't comply. They told him to get back in the car and again, he didn't comply.

Try the same moves the next time you get pulled over by a police officer and see how that goes.

He may not have deserved what he got, but he sure as shit was asking for it.

#378 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:20 AM:

Scratch @ 365:

Ah, good, we've narrowed down the point of contention.

You said:

I agree in principle with #2, but when a person gets out of a car that has clearly been stopped for a search, and asks ("angrily," if you believe the police report) "What's going on here," then I have a hard time imagining that person being satisfied with the answer and getting back in the car.

I'm going to disagree with that. First, whether or not Dr. Watts was angry, it's a very natural question to ask why people are going through your stuff. It's a question that deserves a response, and a real, polite response goes a long way to keeping a situation under control. Sure, someone who's already extremely belligerent will probably not back down, but that's not the common case except on cop shows. It's also rather nice to know whether what they're doing is legal.

Also, remember that while customer service people have to deal with a number of jerks, they also deal with plenty of people who are simply angry and upset that their product isn't working/the service they received wasn't that good. It's often quite easy to mollify a customer by fixing the problem. In fact, if you do a good job of it, the customer is actually happier. It seems to me that if a restaurant manager or a help desk person can answer someone's questions and have them regain their temper, border guards can do the same thing. I'd also argue that they have more of a responsibility to do so, since they are in a much greater position of power.

All that said, given their treatment of him, it does not look like they were interested in anything other than abusing their power, which makes the whole rest of the discussion moot. What happened to him was wrong. No amount of saying that he should have immediately returned to his car excuses his treatment, any more than saying that someone shouldn't have walked down that dark alley excuses them being mugged. Perhaps staying in the car would have been wiser. Perhaps not walking down the dark alley would have been wiser. But I don't want to live in a world where there are bad consequences for those actions.

Other people have noted that police abuses of power in general seem to be increasingly common. This is not an isolated incident. See this comment at BoingBoing.

See also the link that Patrick quotes from in post 112.

Don't worry about your word count. I'm making fun of myself, since I know that my prose could do with a good bit of excision by Teresa's red pen.

#379 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:27 AM:

Duh: What people are trying to say is that, regardless of whether he was "asking for it" by wearing that skirt disobeying the officers, there is no excuse for beating up and pepper-spraying a person who can be restrained by any other means, and even if he had been even that wouldn't have excused turning him out into a winter storm in his shirtsleeves.

The fact that Dr. Watts didn't immediately obey an order he didn't understand is not "asking for it", period. The correct response was to say, "Sir, I need you to get back in the car before I can explain this search." It was not to go into full-on aggression.

#380 ::: twif ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:39 AM:

#104 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 09:11 PM:

wow, the entirety of new england is in that zone. except a little piece of vermont.

disturbing.

#381 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:40 AM:

He may not have deserved what he got, but he sure as shit was asking for it.

Assuming you're not just an anonymous drive-by jackhole, could you explain the difference (in what passes for your mind) between "asking for" something and "deserving" that thing?

Also, try reading the thread before making an idiotic comment that has been dealt with over and over—assuming you can read and aren't just copy-and-pasting that same text wherever you see a discussion of this case.

#382 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:45 AM:

And of course, someone else gets in with a civil response to Duh. We'll see if Duh deserves one, or if Duh was just a driveby, or sticks around but continues to make a jackhole of duhself.

#383 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:49 AM:

#378 ::: KeithS:

Thanks for the information about police behavior getting worse. I'm merely been reading The Agitator. In addition to reporting on police aggression towards people, there's also news about police killing dogs for no reason has become standard.

What I've been seeing is white middle class Americans becoming more afraid of the police-- but it's shown up as "be totally compliant" advice, with no consciousness that anything as changed, or that this is an outrage, or that it could become better.

It's not exactly full-fledged denial, but I'm not sure what to call it, other than scary.

I'm not absolutely sure that the problem started after 9/11. It may go back farther.

#384 ::: Tim Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:49 AM:

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the head of the Border Patrol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_V._Aguilar


We need to apply pressure to that man right there. Call your Representatives and Senators, write letters to the editor, make a ruckus.

It should be noted that Aguilar is already under a lot of pressure from within. He has received two votes of no-confidence from his own ranks but nonetheless remains in charge from what I can tell. He also recently assumed a chapter presidency for NAMBLA?? Not sure if that's accurate or if Wikipedia has been vandalized.


With a Bush-era appointee at the head of the agency, it's no wonder we're getting Bush-era results (that is to say, miserable).

#385 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:56 AM:

371:

...the United States was not settled by white men until guns WERE that accurate and cheap.

Not so, since settlement began in the 16th century, and increased throughout the 17th century run-up to the 18th, in which settlement and immigration and slavery increased, as it has every since -- except during those periods shut off by the powers.

Anyway, Canada is also North America, with many of the same conditions and landscape as most of the north Atlantic colonies that became the U.S.
This includes hunting, for food. Like fishing, most families did this wherever they lived, until very, very, very recently, whether living on a farm or in the relatively few urbanities.

Love, C.

#386 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:00 PM:

reply to #379 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:27 AM:

"Duh: What people are trying to say is that, regardless of whether he was "asking for it" by wearing that skirt disobeying the officers, there is no excuse for beating up and pepper-spraying a person who can be restrained by any other means."

Equating someone disobeying a lawful order with a rape victim's clothing choice is a seriously shabby approach here. No need for that kind of nonsense.

It's simple as it gets - if a cop or a border guard tells you to get in the car and you don't, then they're going to move on to the next stage - you're not cooperating, so they're going to subdue you physically. If they're good at their job, then they're only going to use the force required to restrain you. If they're not good at their job, or if you fight them (at all), then they're going to use more force than necessary.


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reply to #381 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:40 AM:

"Assuming you're not just an anonymous drive-by jackhole, could you explain the difference (in what passes for your mind) between "asking for" something and "deserving" that thing?"

Weird how you start attacking me personally because you don't like my opinion. :)


#387 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:20 PM:

Damn. That's not quite a bingo in one.

#388 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:25 PM:

Bill Stewart & Throwmearope: To add balance, I want to add my experience with Colorado (well, Boulder, anyway) police: universally good, polite, cheerful. Even when I was on the "wrong" end of the law.

Now, granted, I'm in a favored demographic (white, female), and I have heard one report from a friend who got pulled over for "Driving while black."

But another friend, who is black, reports having gone to some pains to evoke negative response from cops. She was a recent rape victim, still in the raw reaction stage and was, she tells me, spewing Attitude in every possible direction. She provoked (again, by her own account) Boulder police into arresting her. She started spouting off (and she's got a mouth on her, when she's of a mind) about "whitey" etc., and "white cops." They put out a call, and one of Boulder's African-American officers was brought to the scene so she could assure herself that she wasn't all alone in Boulder.

The whole experience left her plainly and resolutely croggled.

They booked her, and she wound up in jail. Where she got...wait for it...classes. In anger management. And, I gather, she got some counseling.

"Classes!" She says. "Where the hell do they put you in jail and give you classes!"

So. Just my 2¢.

Which all, to return to the original subject, makes Peter's experience all the more terrifying.

#389 ::: clarkemyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:29 PM:

#384 - Typical of folks with a Huffington connection to have an agenda. Here the suggested target however deserving in his own right is the wrong one if a connection to the current incident is intended. Of course if a general assault on dubious characters is the idea there are many out there.

Folks who want a target actually connected with what reportedly started as a random

(but see my own comments above on what random often means in context - this may make it hard to explain to someone why the selection and to justify the intrusion)

search might start with the Office of Professional Responsibility under ICE and go up the line to the Assistant Secretary who leads ICE. The post is of course a Presidential appointment with the advice and consent of the Senate. Perhaps ask the White House to use more care in appointment and the Senate to oversee?

It hadn't occured to me but perhaps Federal Service suggested to Mr. McDevitt a universe where all intelligence had fled?

#390 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:30 PM:

a car that has clearly been stopped for a search

Clearly? Are you sure?

Outgoing searches aren't standard.

And "What's going on?" isn't a question you'd expect from someone who understands "clearly" what's happening.

#391 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:38 PM:

Weird how you start attacking me personally because you don't like my opinion.

Weird how you haven't answered my question.

I asked that assuming you weren't an "anonymous drive-by jackhole." You've proved you're not a drive-by. Start working on the jackhole part.

#392 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:50 PM:

Equating someone disobeying a lawful order with a rape victim's clothing choice is a seriously shabby approach here. No need for that kind of nonsense.

You don't think? They're both blaming the victim, after all. As one does when the phrase "s/he was asking for it" comes up.

It's simple as it gets - if a cop or a border guard tells you to get in the car and you don't, then they're going to move on to the next stage - you're not cooperating, so they're going to subdue you physically. If they're good at their job, then they're only going to use the force required to restrain you. If they're not good at their job, or if you fight them (at all), then they're going to use more force than necessary.

No, not really. The first response to someone not cooperating is not to move to physical restraint, it's to say that you're going to move to physical restraint if they don't comply*. If officer's any good at their job, that is.

I don't think anyone's argued that the border cops didn't "use more force than necessary", here, unless I was missing your point? Thus the response should be to train them better--not to make apologies for their behavior or talk about how their victim was "asking for it".

* Barring values of "not cooperating" that involve foaming at the mouth, waving an obvious weapon, being physically aggressive, etc.

#393 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:55 PM:

I can testify that, when you are white and middle-class, the routine harassment of underprivileged people by the police can be nearly invisible.
It took being subjected to it once (getting insulted, told to STFU, frisked, etc...in short being treated like a criminal, just because we were long-haired dudes in the wrong part of town) to make me realize how soul-destroying it must be to have to put up with this on a daily basis.

And this type of behaviour is getting more widespread and "normal" here in France as well. The security/anti-immigrant tack of our government is no stranger to that fact...

Let me also say that, when travelling around Asia two years ago - and crossing the borders into Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, NZ - the most unprofessional and demeaning conduct by Border Police I ever saw was after landing at CDG airport in Paris.
They blocked the way right at the door of the plane, preventing everyone from disembarking, and controlled the passports of dark skinned people exclusively (Indians mostly) and NONE OF THEM SPOKE ENGLISH. They just kept repeating their questions louder and louder in French, using derogatory terms and trying to look intimidating.

#394 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:58 PM:

One of the big sections in the Minnesota Carry Permit course I taught is on interactions with police, both for routine stops, and if you actually have to use your gun some day.

From his own account, it sounds like Peter Watts did stuff that we very strongly advised against -- getting out of the car without instructions, and refusing to obey instructions.

Traffic stops are scary, high-risk situations for police. Border patrol should be a bit LESS risky, as everybody at the border came to the border by intention and is not surprised to find themselves at the border; then again the Border Patrol are being told they're the "front line" in the war on terror, which makes them rather nervous I imagine. But on the third (or "gripping") hand, LEAVING the US for Canada is not a place we catch a lot of terrorists. Anyway -- officers feeling they're losing control of the situation get nervous.

When teaching students about how to minimize negative consequences in encounters with police, we mentioned civil rights issues only in passing. Our primary goal was for our students to understand the situation, and the choices they were making. And, mostly, individual uncoordinated civil disobedience is unlikely to be a good strategy.

The question of exactly how interactions between officers and civilians should go, where the boundaries should be, is a very complicated one. Police absolutely do behave badly sometimes. Civilians often don't understand the situations police work in, either. If officers were told (even if it was incorrect) that they're looking for a gray Camry driven by a big hairy guy, and they pull me over, to me it's the police being weird about an upstanding citizen who's even white; whereas to the cops, it's a stop that might be the guy who just gunned down 5 people in a bank. And is reasonably likely not to be; but the downside of getting it wrong if I *AM* the guy from the bank is really huge for them.

I do not see how it can be good tactics to resist officers ineffectively. I think that complaints about their attitude and behavior are best addressed later, generally away from the scene of the encounter.

I do hope the video tape of this incident is available. It does sound like these officers behaved improperly. Peter Watts may have behaved unwisely; that's his choice. And doesn't justify improper behavior by the officers ("proper" for officers depends, of course, on the situation confronting them).

#395 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Duh (what an appropriate moniker!), #386:

Suppose you have a mother who tells her kid to pick up his toys from the floor. The kid asks why, since he isn't done playing with them yet. The mother proceeds to beat the kid black and blue, dislocates his shoulder and knocks out several of his teeth.

Was the kid asking for it?

#396 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:22 PM:

Duh @386: Bingo!

Scratch @365:

#350 Keith, from what I've read, I don't think that Dr. Watts picked a fight, which would be a common use of the word "provoke." The accounts I've seen, including his own, do suggest to me that by his actions he provoked the guards ...
Provoked how, Scratch? Do you have an actual reason to believe that, or are you going on the assumption that middle-class white people -- or people of any sort -- don't get abused by border guards for reasons unrelated to their own behavior?

If so, you're wrong. There's a large amount of clear, objective, unambiguous evidence that this has been happening. Unless you have some specific analysis of Peter Watts' known behavior, you're basing your argument on "that's not how things work." But it is, in fact, how things work now. It doesn't happen to every person in every case, but it's an increasing problem; and when it does happen, it's not the victim's fault.

Does this mean it can happen to you? In a word, yes. You, personally, Scratch, are one of the people who are now less safe when crossing a border than you were ten years ago.

My current working model for people who post blame-the-victim comments is that they have a sense that as a society, we've become less free, less just, and less equal over the past ten years. Some dislike that more than others. But what they have in common is their insistence that those changes won't affect them. In effect, they're saying "It can't happen to me -- I'm not stupid (or imprudent, or mouthy, or suspicious-looking) like they are. Those people brought their sorrows upon themselves. I will not foolishly go out of my way to bring myself sorrow, and so I will be spared." They blame the victim so they can go on believing they're safe.

This would fit with the same kind of comments and behavior turning up in discussions of unemployment, homelessness, and mortgage foreclosure -- which they do.

Such commenters don't want to think about it. They may or may not acknowledge that the last decade's social changes are a bad thing, but if so, what they acknowledge is that they're unfair to other people. In the meantime, they want to believe that they, personally, are still living in the version of the United States (or Canada, or Britain) where such things don't happen.

#397 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:31 PM:

By the way, Duh, did you read the entire thread before posting?

#398 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:44 PM:

And a general observation: "Provoked" is a weasel word, and should not be used, when you're discussing the use of violence by law enforcement personnel. The minimum standard should be "made it necessary," though "made it unavoidable" is preferable.

If mere provocation is enough to set them off, those officers shouldn't be working in law enforcement.

Scratch, Duh, I'm directing you both to watch the video Erik K linked to at 339, though I'd rather you watched the version I've just now linked to. It makes it clear that the footage of the Maine State Trooper making a routine traffic stop is being used as a training film for other officers.

#399 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:51 PM:

Quill and Quire picks up the story.

Another way to support Dr. Watts: Buy his books.

#400 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:04 PM:

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#391 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:38 PM:

"Weird how you haven't answered my question."

I didn't answer because you came out swinging. Pretty simple. Don't overthink it. :)

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#392 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 12:50 PM:

"Equating someone disobeying a lawful order with a rape victim's clothing choice is a seriously shabby approach here. No need for that kind of nonsense."

You don't think? They're both blaming the victim, after all. As one does when the phrase "s/he was asking for it" comes up.

Sorry but it really doesn't hold water. The phrase "asking for it" has all sorts of contexts, very few which can be equated with a rape victim's wardrobe choices.

I got bitten by a tiger I was poking with a stick, is blaming me the same thing as blaming a rape victim for wearing revealing clothes?

No, not really. The first response to someone not cooperating is not to move to physical restraint, it's to say that you're going to move to physical restraint if they don't comply.

I don't think so. You might luck out and get a officer who is cool enough to use that approach, but there's no guarantee of that. The only guarantee is that if you don't comply they will escalate the situation until you do comply. That's just the way it is.

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#395 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Suppose you have a mother who tells her kid to pick up his toys from the floor. The kid asks why, since he isn't done playing with them yet. The mother proceeds to beat the kid black and blue, dislocates his shoulder and knocks out several of his teeth.

Was the kid asking for it?

Of course not, what are you crazy?

Last week my 11-year old nephew blew off his right hand when he was messing with black powder and gasoline, trying to make a home-made bomb.

Was he asking for it? Yes.

Does he deserve to go throw life without a right hand? No.

This isn't rocket science people.

#401 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:07 PM:

Teresa, one aspect of it is that my behavior is the one part of the situation I can actually control. Focusing my tactical planning on that is a good choice. (And one obvious tactical choice is not to cross the US border.)

In a broader view, of course we want less random intimidation and beat-downs by border guards and LEOs in general. I personally don't think it's a useful tactic to try to push the limits in my interactions with individual LEOs; I think doing my best to be non-threatening and compliant makes everybody happier, even if people want to describe it as "cringing". And I've spent time and money on political action on this issue in response to this incident; I think that's the level where action is useful.

#402 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:18 PM:

I got bitten by a tiger I was poking with a stick, is blaming me the same thing as blaming a rape victim for wearing revealing clothes?

Rape victims usually aren't wearing revealing clothes, nor are they 'asking for it'.

Your comments are very revealing: you're still a troll.

#403 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:19 PM:

Carl @ 371: "the United States was not settled by white men until guns WERE that accurate and cheap."

ajay @ 375: "Not so. (1620?)"

Ah, but you're missing the subtlety of Carl's argument! He isn't denying that settlement took place; just that that settlement didn't include any white men. It's a little known fact that early American settlement consisted almost entirely of white women and blacks, with the white males staying on the boats and sipping tea. The rare exceptions, like John "Good Christ, he actually went ashore?" Smith only serve to prove the rule. George Washington fought the entire Revolutionary War from a dinghy anchored in the middle of the Delaware! It wasn't until Samuel Colt, working on his clipper ship/iron works, invented the revolver that white men felt safe to step on American soil. True story!

#404 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Duh, I don't know how to break this to you, but police officers aren't inanimate objects nor are they wild animals.

If you feel that police officers are inanimate objects or wild animals, or that they should act like inanimate objects or wild animals, you have more problems than I can help you with.

#405 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:32 PM:

James D. MacDonald @ 404: "If you feel that police officers are inanimate objects or wild animals, or that they should act like inanimate objects or wild animals, you have more problems than I can help you with."

Yes, that. As if border cops lack human agency, and are as inexorable as the weather.

#406 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:40 PM:

Duh #400:

I don't think so. You might luck out and get a officer who is cool enough to use that approach, but there's no guarantee of that. The only guarantee is that if you don't comply they will escalate the situation until you do comply. That's just the way it is.

This is right and wrong at the same time.

In your or my individual interactions with policemen, it's right--you're wise to avoid doing anything that might upset or annoy a border guard who, in practice, has a lot of power over you and will face few consequences for roughing you up short of serious harm or death. This is the same advice I'd give you if you were going to be dealing with the authorities in Burma or Iran, or with street criminals--don't provoke them, because they can and will bust your head in for it.

In our role as citizens and voters and taxpayers, I think it's wrong. The rules under which border guards and policemen are hired and fired, the laws which cover their behavior, and the policies of their employers are things we have some control over. This isn't just some theoretical thing, either--we've seen big changes in police conduct over the years, because of court decisions and popular pressure. If enough of us push for new rules that require better behavior on the part of the border guards and police, we can probably cause that to happen.

Is there a reason why we should not push for different rules, more demands on police and border guard conduct? Would the cost in policemen getting hurt by losing control of more situations, or in the difficulty of getting people to work as cops under such rules, outweigh the advantages of decreasing the number of innocent citizens getting roughed up for being insufficiently deferential or for misunderstanding the situation they're in?

#407 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:41 PM:

#402 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:18 PM:

"I got bitten by a tiger I was poking with a stick, is blaming me the same thing as blaming a rape victim for wearing revealing clothes?

Rape victims usually aren't wearing revealing clothes, nor are they 'asking for it'.

Your comments are very revealing: you're still a troll.

You completely misunderstood. You and I agree. Someone else injected the blame-the-rape-victim-for-her-short-skirt analogy into the discussion.
I think it's nonsense.

If I poke a tiger with a stick and get attacked I was asking for it. I would never consider a rape victim to have been "asking for it". Never.

#408 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Duh, you still aren't making any progress on that jackhole thing.

#409 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:49 PM:

I've sent an email off to Matt Galoway at Here and Now on CBC Toronto. It sounds like the sort of story he'd be interested in. I hope he picks it up, it's important and I know that people would come out to support Peter in droves if it was mentioned on air.

I haven't read the whole comment stream so I don't know if anyone else has done that yet. Sorry if I'm duplicating efforts.

#410 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:04 PM:

Duh, #400:

Me: Suppose you have a mother who tells her kid to pick up his toys from the floor. The kid asks why, since he isn't done playing with them yet. The mother proceeds to beat the kid black and blue, dislocates his shoulder and knocks out several of his teeth.

Was the kid asking for it?

You: Of course not, what are you crazy?

How is it any different from the scenario with the border patrol? Border Patrol Officer tells Peter to do something, Peter doesn't do it, Border Patrol Officer beats the crap out of Peter, and you say Peter was asking for it. What makes it ANY different from the mother and her son?

Xopher's right on the money with "jackhole", methinks.

#411 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:15 PM:

Y'know, rereading Duh's comments I can't help but think that there's a critical element of this in the makeup of most trolls.

The existence of a 300+ post thread on a subject doesn't mean that the majority view of that subject is right, or even well-considered, but it does mean that it will take considerably more thought and effort than can be fit into a one-sentence post to convince the participants that they are 180 degrees wrong on the issue at hand.

#412 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:16 PM:

#404 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Duh, I don't know how to break this to you, but police officers aren't inanimate objects nor are they wild animals.

If you feel that police officers are inanimate objects or wild animals, or that they should act like inanimate objects or wild animals, you have more problems than I can help you with.

I guess it boils down to how much you enjoy being hassled, beaten and detained for dumb reasons.

If you insist on holding a police officer to the same standard of behaviors you'd hold an average human being to, then you're risking hassles and beatdowns.

I prefer to avoid senseless hassles and beatdowns, so around police or border guides I act a little different than I do around an average human.

#413 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:18 PM:

#411 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:15 PM:

Y'know, rereading Duh's comments I can't help but think that there's a critical element of this in the makeup of most trolls.

It's astonishing to me that you think "troll" means "someone who disagrees with me".

It really doesn't.


Anyway, later everyone. Good luck figuring it all out.

#414 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Duh just filled the last square on my bingo card with that flounce. It's a cover-all!

#415 ::: Peter Wilkinson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:23 PM:

In my teens and early twenties (between 1970 and 1981), I tagged along with my parents in their camper van on several holidays to the then Communist bloc - specifically to Hungary, East Germany and Romania.

In Hungary, the police seemed to be fairly relaxed about enforcing rules - you were obviously supposed to keep to them but in the case of minor unintentional breaches, the police would briefly and genially explain to the stupid tourist what he or she had done wrong and wave them on their way. Hungarian border inspections were if anything less intrusive than British ones today - a series of questions, but no searches if they were satisfied with the answers.

In East Germany, the police insisted on enforcing rules, and you were supposed both to make sure that you knew what the rules were and to obey them in full. However, the police were also supposed to be obeying rules - and, provided you kept to all the requirements of the rules (or, like Kathryn Cramer's drunk, were clearly intending to keep to them), you would not otherwise be interfered with - though you might be spied on. It could take hours getting through the East German border by car - but most of that was waiting. Your vehicle would invariably be searched by the border guards - but they would know where they wanted to look and, if they found nothing amiss, take only a few minutes before passing you on to the next bit of bureaucracy.

In Romania, there seemed to be no fixed rules - except that you probably didn't want to come to the attention of the local (or other) bosses in even the most marginally unfavourable way. And that while foreign tourist probably weren't spies, contact with them was probably unadvisable. Both on the way in and out, the vehicle search took an hour or two and did everything short of taking the vehicle to pieces.

In both Hungary and East Germany, some of the rules were definitely ones that shouldn't have been there - but you could feel reasonably sure that if you kept to them, you would be OK. In Romania, you couldn't.

On a Hungarian border, Peter Watts would almost certainly not have been beaten up. On an East German one, he might well have been if he had acted as he did at Port Huron - but he would almost certainly have known not to do so. In Ceausescu's Romania, he would probably have known not to act that way - but he might have been beaten up anyway for some other unexpected infraction of local rules.

Both Britain and America now are at their best still probably better than Hungary. The trouble is that at their worst, they seem to be indistinguishable from Romania.

#416 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:42 PM:

If you insist on holding a police officer to the same standard of behaviors you'd hold an average human being to, then you're risking hassles and beatdowns.

I hold police officers, as well as other public safety personnel, to a higher standard.

As do the ones I know and interact with on a daily basis.

As should you.

#417 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:43 PM:

Both Britain and America now are at their best still probably better than Hungary. The trouble is that at their worst, they seem to be indistinguishable from Romania.

However, since you can't tell, for any given interaction, whether the government official you're dealing with is of the Romanian type or not, psychologically, you're stuck in Romania, having to weigh every word and action with the possibility of arbitrary, irrational "rule" enforcement that has little to do with the rule of law.

#418 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:57 PM:

Here's another important consideration for the mix of how you are supposed to, expected to, told to, etc. behave when armed authority rousts you for no reason that you know of.

Until Homeland Security went live most non-criminal, while, middle class males did't have contact with weapon-wielding authority, backed by all the powers of the judicial state. So people like us, i.e. Peter Watts doesn't know the rules, particularly the rules of weapon-wielding authority that isn't of his own country which has different expected behaviors and rules than in the U.S.

Even I, a white, blonde female, when we got stopped in Texas some years back because Spouse was two miles over the speed limit(TEXAS! nobody was driving the speed limit on that highway -- but they had Texas license plates, we didn't) in one of those counties that fund their expenses with speeding tickets, didn't know I wasn't supposed to get out of the car. Spouse was directed to get out of the car and sit with Mr. JackBoot Ain't I A Dominator in HIS cop car while he went through all the paper work on the rented vehicle, checked the Spouse's driver's license etc.

I got bored. It was a hot August day. So I got out of the car to look at the wildflowers that Lady Bird had so thoughtfully provided. Mistake.

I didn't know I wasn't allowed to get out of the car. I've never been in a car stopped by a cop before.

Love, c.

#419 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 04:01 PM:

The trouble I have with Duh and his ilk is that they've decided that cops are, universally, the enemy; that the enemy is sub-human; and that everyone should know this.

I'm not sure how a cop would react to me saying that cops who beat someone up or use a taser inappropriately should be fired and barred from ever serving as cops again, but that's certainly less contemptuous of cops than treating them as dangerous animals.

#420 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 04:01 PM:

It's funny how Romania keeps coming up. When I was backpacking in 2005 I entered Romania along with a mixed bag of local travellers on a minibus from Budapest. One of the men on the bus decided to hassle the guard who came to collect our passports. I speak only basic Romanian, but the sharpness of his tone was unmistakable. The guard just mumbled and shuffled his feet as the traveller gave him a piece of his mind.

When the guard left the bus to write down our passport numbers, one of the women demanded "What did you do that for? Now they're going to tear this bus apart and we'll be here all night."

"It's a free country now," the man said. "I can speak my mind if I want to." Everyone else on the bus just rolled their eyes.

Surprisingly, a few minutes later, the guard came back with our passports and waved us through with no further delays. The man and the woman commenced a long political debate that lasted for the next three hours and slowly evolved into continuous flirting.

#421 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 04:10 PM:

No, I think that a person who enters a thread by declaring everyone else wrong without any indication of having read or understood the arguments advanced in the conversation prior to his/her entry is a troll. And you fit that definition to a t. And you'll continue doing so until you show the slightest evidence of having seriously considered and thoughtfully responded to any of the 300+ posts that you dismissed so breezily with your first post here.

Anyone want to offer odds on whether Duh is really gone? There are still a few spaces unfilled on my bingo card.

And if my post was the straw that broke this particular troll does that make me an honorary trollkiller?

#422 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 05:06 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ #416

Thank you for saying that.

#424 ::: Duh Back From Lunch ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 05:24 PM:

#416 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 03:42 PM:

"If you insist on holding a police officer to the same standard of behaviors you'd hold an average human being to, then you're risking hassles and beatdowns."

I hold police officers, as well as other public safety personnel, to a higher standard.

As do the ones I know and interact with on a daily basis.

As should you.

I didn't say higher standard or lower standard. I said different standard. If a police officer orders me to get back in my car then I'm highly motivated to do so. If someone non-police orders me to get back into my car, then my first reaction is "who are they to order me around?"

A different standard.

-------------------------------------------------
#421 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 04:10 PM:

No, I think that a person who enters a thread by declaring everyone else wrong without any indication of having read or understood the arguments advanced in the conversation prior to his/her entry is a troll. And you fit that definition to a t.

Nah, you're wrong. I didn't do any of that. I just posted my honest opinion that if one doesn't comply with a lawful order, then like it or not one is asking for an escalation.

Not that the world should work like that, but that's the way it does work.

#425 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 05:28 PM:

Peter@415 - disregard this flinch in my eye, but Hungary is a damn sight better now than the United States.

Um, in many ways. Still not all. But certainly the activities of the police are quite circumscribed; the populace is allowed to sue them for breaking regulations, you see - so they're waaaay more circumspect than they used to be. I'd feel safe with a policeman in Hungary, but not so safe here.

Of course, there's more ethnic violence than there was in the 70's. Guess you can't have everything.

#426 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 05:32 PM:

Duh, you're still not reading us correctly.
Start reading the comment thread from the top, and note that what's being said is that the police should not use force as their first option, not that they should never use force.

(You sound like you might be someone who gets called for jury duty and tells the court that people who are arrested must be guilty, because otherwise they wouldn't have been arrested.)

#427 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 05:38 PM:

PJ Evans @ 426... people who are arrested must be guilty, because otherwise they wouldn't have been arrested

Ximinez: Now, old lady - you have one last chance. Confess the heinous sin of heresy, reject the works of the ungodly - *two* last chances. And you shall be free - *three* last chances. You have three last chances, the nature of which I have divulged in my previous utterance.
Dear Old Lady: I don't know what you're talking about.
Ximinez: Right! If that's the way you want it - Cardinal! Poke her with the soft cushions!

#428 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 05:55 PM:

Now we get the blackout Bingo, with the Return From Flounce within three hours.

Poor Duh thinks that he's clever enough to avoid bad consequences from having poorly-trained-and-supervised police who aren't held to account for their actions.

He's wrong.

#429 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 06:12 PM:

Unless the VAB system has gone wonky, Duh used the same email address for his first two posts, and a different one for each one since. Duh Back From Lunch's VAB shows only corrected spam posts, and doesn't even include the one at 424.

#430 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 06:29 PM:

He has seven posts from the same IPN.

#431 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 06:30 PM:

Xopher, I expect that means he's using anonymizer sites, though I can't imagine why; their primary use is to avoid detection as a sockpuppeteer. Since his trollishness is evident in the language of his comments, his IP address doesn't matter.

It's just as well no one's ever written a FAQ or how-to for trolls; but still, there are times when all I can do is pinch the bridge of my nose.

#432 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:08 PM:

Nah, no anonymizer. He's just typing a new, different, fake email address in the blank each time.

That's a kindergarten-level troll/flamer trick. No biggie, as long as you recognize that the guy is a troll/flamer. Which isn't any surprise to anyone who's read even one of his posts.

#433 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:10 PM:

T@431 - uh, I was under the impression that back in the Good Old Days when trolling was invented, there was indeed a FAQ/how-to, and in fact an entire Usenet thread devoted to the sport. Of trolling.

Fortunately, in these latter and lesser days, that knowledge has been lost, and small-letter trolls are generally just jerks who think they know it all anyway, and thus don't need a how-to. Thank God.

You think Duh is a real troll? As in, just trying to disrupt the forum, not trying to espouse a view truly held? I might believe that from hir incredibly adept raising of my own blood pressure (I mean, the bingo cards are getting just a little blackened here), but ... why?

It would be interesting to see where Duh came from.

#434 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:11 PM:

My primary definition of a troll is someone who's incapable of understanding that it's his manners, not his opinions, that are causing problems. That's why I immediately cried Bingo! when I read Duh @386:

Weird how you start attacking me personally because you don't like my opinion. :)
Putting a smiley at the end of a comment with aggressive overtones? Just the icing on the cake.

#435 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:15 PM:

I get a mark on my own bingo card, for my use of "Uh," above. Sheesh. Duh's very presence is acid.

#436 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:23 PM:

Michael, that's a longstanding problem with the use of "troll" to mean "one who posts with bad intent," which has become its established meaning. The older sense of "one who disrupts a forum for fun" is sloughing off.

We have a shortage of terminology for this stuff. For example, I find myself having to use terms like "demi-troll" or "rhinoceros/rhinoceri" to describe users who are capable of understanding why they're getting unfriendly results, ditto capable of getting attention via normal, laudable means; but who have acquired bad habits that cause them to function as trolls part of the time.

#437 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:27 PM:

But what I meant was to draw the distinction between people intentionally trolling for fun, and those who are just abrasive jerks who think that insulting their audience in every other sentence is equivalent to scoring points in the argument itself. I figure Duh for the latter, but ... (s)he's just awfully consistent about it. Or I'm paranoid.

OTOH, being banned obviously is no fresh experience for Duh, or (s)he wouldn't be resorting to fake emails so quickly.

Was it here that there was a troll a while back who said he was only using sockpuppets as a general online strategy, and he taught his kids to do the same? You just never know whether somebody is a troll-for-fun or just plain wacko.

#438 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:31 PM:

Lesser trolls and greater trolls. Ha. Trolls in china shops. I really like your demi-trolls and rhinoceri.

They have the same effect on the venue, that's for sure.

I'd still like to know where a parachute like Duh comes from. I always want to find astroturf.

#439 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 07:59 PM:

I think "griefer" has become the standard term for those who's primary intent is to disrupt conversation and spread misery online.

#440 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 08:13 PM:

Xopher @ 419: "The trouble I have with Duh and his ilk is that they've decided that cops are, universally, the enemy; that the enemy is sub-human; and that everyone should know this."

Not to mention the additional insult of having to sit through a lecture from someone who insists that you should be instructed in how it's unwise to provoke wild and dangerous animals into attacking, as if you're one of the rare, full-grown adults who— despite knowing all their letters and numbers and who can spell their own names correctly every time— still fails to grasp this concept and needs some friendly know-it-all on the Internet to explain it to them before it will finally sink in.

"Gee, thanks Mr. Wizard. Now it all makes sense to me!"

#441 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 08:15 PM:

Michael Roberts #433: It would be interesting to see where Duh came from.

(more or less SFW) (And when you've seen one, you've seen them all.)

#442 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 08:25 PM:

Treresa @ 436... the use of "troll" to mean "one who posts with bad intent," which has become its established meaning. The older sense of "one who disrupts a forum for fun" is sloughing off.

Gnomenclature change?

#443 ::: Holly P ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 09:29 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 440 -- Well, I did know someone who went for a walk on a nature trail near Lewes, Delaware, and upon seeing a large snake near the path, actually got a stick and poked at it. He was telling me about it when he got back; he said it was the strangest thing, the snake made this funny noise. I asked him what kind of noise. He said it was kind of a rattly noise, and wasn't that weird?

Swear to God. He was a mathematician. And had apparently never been outside before. I do hope he's still alive.

And but so anyway, I guess there are some adults who do need to be instructed not to poke wild animals with sticks. But Duh is still a prat.

#444 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 09:47 PM:

Duh: Not that the world should work like that, but that's the way it does work.

This is the true line of the authoritarian. First, the hedge -- X is bad -- then the statement -- X is natural. So the A then can claim both the moral high ground while still making the opposite moral claim (for how can thing be otherwise than the way they are?).

Now, it's interesting -- because we always know that the inevitableness claim is untrue. Not everywhere and everywhen is it necessarily the case that the police behave this way. Anyone who ever left his hometown in Alabama knows that. So what is the value of the claim?

To blame the victim for not knowing a universal truth that is only a local fact. For decrying the outsider for being an outsider. Not knowing X is a sure sign that the victim is simply not conforming to local expectations. He's a Jew -- he's a Gypsie -- he's Black...

Which then justifies the victimization. Now that we know that the victim is an outsider not behaving by local norms, we know that the victimization was necessary. How else will he learn? Otherwise we'd have people running amok, being different all the time, demanding that we show tolerance, that we meet them 50%.

Otherwise, what does Duh's comment mean? It's just semantically empty. It makes no moral claim on the victimizer. It makes no moral justification of the treatment of the victim -- it's like saying "Rocks fall". Ok, we all know that -- why would someone repeat it?

He said that it's like "poking a stick at tiger and getting bitten". The moral claim there is that the tiger is not a moral or legal agent -- it's a natural force, and moral responsibility for the interaction naturally falls on the entity with a conscious mind.

How is a cop like a tiger? Is he an amoral, unintelligent beast? Is he a helpless automaton with no moral responsibility? Again, what is the point of this statement -- other than to point out, again that the victim is a foreigner. He doesn't know how tiger's behave. Foreigners are dangerous, and we're all better of that the tigers eat them.

The other possibility is that Duh came here with compassion. He's worried that the naive folks here just don't know about tigers -- that everyone is a weird Eskimo who's never heard of one, and it's better that we learn with the victim as an example. It's a Christ-like demeanor that he brings, to teach the ignorant heathens how things are -- like a professor teaching Newtonian mechanics to first year students.

But then, "he was asking for it" doesn't quite fit -- because if you ignorantly poke a stick at a tiger, you're not "asking for it", you're just ignorant. And finally, if you have such a tiger in your neighborhood, you kill it. So we return to "guilt by foreigness" -- that you can claim that someone is "asking for it" purely for non-conforming.

Maybe Duh is arguing for "killing all the pigs"?

Or maybe Duh is just real, real slow.

#445 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 09:54 PM:

Serge, it's wonderful how those just naturally occur to you.

#446 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 10:18 PM:

Or maybe Duh is just real, real slow.

Well, DUH. :-)

#447 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:02 PM:

Duh, Scratch, have you watched that video yet?

#448 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:19 PM:

fishyfishy @444 - so true. The authoritarian is also explaining why he is protected from the scary world. That's why there's so much cargo-cult thinking among authoritarians; they don't really understand it all, they just know it's real scary when you leave the village.

It's sort of the flip side of the same coin; you need to declare the victim the Other so you can believe it can't happen to Us. Nobody ever seems to get that when the police get like this, we're all the Other to the cop.

The more I think about this entire mess, the more I see that the failure isn't just that there are thugs running the borders - there have always been thugs running the borders - but that said thugs aren't trained to do their jobs. Their job is not to mace innocents or to cover their lying asses; their job is to uphold the law, which they didn't do.

The reason they didn't do their jobs is that they haven't been taught to do so - it's a failure of training, and it's a culture of fear. It's just like every other damn thing American conservatives ever touch. We can't talk about the problem, because acknowledging the problem means we're not perfect.

And Obama will never do a damn thing to change it, because (charitably) he thinks bipartisanship is more important than anything - that seems to be the Change he was talking about - and the conservatives just want to win no matter what the cost and won't ever back him up, even if he proposes to call the sky blue and bunnies cute.

On my worse days, I agree with my wife that Obama just lied better than anybody else, and was in it for the power/money/whatever the hell a well-situated law professor thinks he needs for a better life.

Either way - I still want my America back, and I'm still not getting it.

#449 ::: fishfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:31 PM:

MR: It's sort of the flip side of the same coin; you need to declare the victim the Other so you can believe it can't happen to Us. Nobody ever seems to get that when the police get like this, we're all the Other to the cop.

I'm not sure that's driving the mechanism. Often it's paired with a cry of "elitism!" against the victim. It's not that it "won't happen to us" -- it's that, "why do you think it shouldn't happen to you too?"

It's like the old women who hold down the teenage girl for circumcision. "Why do you think you shouldn't put up with the crap that we do?"

That's my reference to "The Jew". "The Jew" is a victim of xenophobia because he isn't just "outside" -- but because he's "exceptional". He has different fast days; he can charge interest; he takes off different holidays. What gives him the right to that freedom that I don't have?

That's the "naturalness" again. The victimization must be naturalized -- cause otherwise the gig is up. If it's simply a sub/dom relationship, and a demand that everyone partake of their particular perversion -- they'd be laughed at. So they claim "it's the way things are" -- so anyone who demands to be let out of their little game of tickle is a freak -- a dangerous crazy anarcho-commmie-fascist hippy trying to destroy NATURE.

There are the cases of cloistured ignorance -- "white privilege". But I think that's fairly rare. Most folks take abuse somewhere in the authoritarian world view. Daddy beat them. The Priest molested them. Their boss bullies them every day. They live an analogy, and they never stand up for themselves -- they says it's cause it's natural, but the truth is because they like it. They like the humiliations, the abuses, and they like to return it.

They don't want anyone to stop playing this fun little game.

#450 ::: fishfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 11:31 PM:

MR: It's sort of the flip side of the same coin; you need to declare the victim the Other so you can believe it can't happen to Us. Nobody ever seems to get that when the police get like this, we're all the Other to the cop.

I'm not sure that's driving the mechanism. Often it's paired with a cry of "elitism!" against the victim. It's not that it "won't happen to us" -- it's that, "why do you think it shouldn't happen to you too?"

It's like the old women who hold down the teenage girl for circumcision. "Why do you think you shouldn't put up with the crap that we do?"

That's my reference to "The Jew". "The Jew" is a victim of xenophobia because he isn't just "outside" -- but because he's "exceptional". He has different fast days; he can charge interest; he takes off different holidays. What gives him the right to that freedom that I don't have?

That's the "naturalness" again. The victimization must be naturalized -- cause otherwise the gig is up. If it's simply a sub/dom relationship, and a demand that everyone partake of their particular perversion -- they'd be laughed at. So they claim "it's the way things are" -- so anyone who demands to be let out of their little game of tickle is a freak -- a dangerous crazy anarcho-commmie-fascist hippy trying to destroy NATURE.

There are the cases of cloistured ignorance -- "white privilege". But I think that's fairly rare. Most folks take abuse somewhere in the authoritarian world view. Daddy beat them. The Priest molested them. Their boss bullies them every day. They live an analogy, and they never stand up for themselves -- they says it's cause it's natural, but the truth is because they like it. They like the humiliations, the abuses, and they like to return it.

They don't want anyone to stop playing this fun little game.

#451 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:15 AM:

385

May I respectfully point out that most of the "settlement" done during the 16th century (which, just to be sure we're using the same definitions, ran from 1501 to 1599) was done by the Spanish and consisted primarily of Conquistidors heading up military units backed by (mainly) Dominican Monks reporting to the Spanish Crown. It is true that as such, they primarily used Match-Locks (not very accurate by any means) and Wheel-Locks (not exactly cheap), but by the time that true civilian settlements started in 1620 with the settlement of Jamestown and the Pilgrims just slightly latter at Plymouth Rock guns were starting to get much cheaper, lighter, and more accurate. By the time civilian sttlement of North America started to really hit high gear in the early 1700, the Flint Lock had replaced the earlier versions and several gunsmith had started to play around with rifling which increased the accuracy of firearms to an extent which I at least am unable to adequately explain. Indeed, while Colt and several other gunsmiths may have increased the speed at which guns could shoot by coming up with the revolver and other "repeating" guns in the late 1800, none of them increased the accuracy as much as those of the early to mid 1700's did; nor did they do as much to lower the cost of a gun. Thus, by the time the majority of North America was settled, namely that part west of the Appalachian Mountains both here in the United States and in Canada with the exception of a few cities and towns such as New Orleans and Los Angeles here in the States (there may be some likewise in Canada, but to my regret I cannot honestly claim to know of any) guns WERE accurate and cheap compared to any time earlier.

All of which is beside the point. The point I was trying to make to those who live in Europe is that here in the United States Law Enforcement Officials tend to assume anyone they need to pull over is armed until proven otherwise, and thus not obeying their instructions to stay in your car (or in Dr. Watts case, to get back into his car) is going to make them very, very nervous. And when you combine that with a group of officers who IMHO is as undertrained as our Border Patrol officers tend to be, and then add in the type of hype and pressure our lovely politicians tend to feed them; then situations such as what we have been discussing here are almost certainly going to be the result. How we are going to correct the problem, I'm not sure. But it IS a problem, and one that we as Americans (Lord I hate that phrase, but United Statesian sound so stupid) are going to HAVE to do something about.

#452 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:27 AM:

#451
Coronado had crossbows on his expedition into the plains.

(Also, it's easier to read a comment if the paragraphs are short, and there's white space between them.)

#453 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:30 AM:

375

"371: When standing guard in a war zone, one doesn't ask someone approaching your guard post to stand down twice. If they ignore your instructions the first time you give them, you take them down anyway you can before they can take you out

Not so. You realise this is basically the death sentence for Not Being Able To Speak English, right?"

Yes, it is; and it's something that bothers me enough that I would never be able to make it as a soldier. But none the less, in a battle zone that IS the way it goes. Especially when the enemy likes to use such "asymetrical strategies" as suicide bombers, etc. It is also the reason so many soldiers returning from that miserable mistake called the War in Iraq are having psychological problems that must be worked through before they can return to civilian life. Besides, think it through. If you're walking around in an area that you know is a battle zone, and a heavily armed man suddenly shouts at you in a language you don't understand, are you going to keep walking towards him? If you do, then you sir are certifiably suicidal. Me, I'm going to freeze right where I am and do my best to pretend to be a small rabbit or mouse.

#454 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:35 AM:

452

"Coronado had crossbows on his expedition into the plains.

(Also, it's easier to read a comment if the paragraphs are short, and there's white space between them.)"


Point.


And Point. My apologies.

#455 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:40 AM:

I believe they actually only found the crossbow evidence in the 1990s: some bolts turned up, along with other hardware, in a canyon in west Texas. The archeologists and the historians were quite happy.

#456 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:50 AM:

455

Neat!! I didn't know that. Have to check that out later. Thanks.

#457 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 01:20 AM:

Teresa: ...For example, I find myself having to use terms like "demi-troll" or "rhinoceros/rhinoceri" to describe users who are capable of understanding why they're getting unfriendly results, ditto capable of getting attention via normal, laudable means; but who have acquired bad habits that cause them to function as trolls part of the time.

Your use of the term "rhinoceros" has me wondering what troll-like behavior would necessitate the term "unicorn." It would be rarer, surely.

#458 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 01:32 AM:

Anyone who wants to hit a piñata (though not one with much candy, I suspect) is more than free to swing by my place and whale on someone who said Peter Watts deserved more than he got by way of a beating.

#459 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 01:37 AM:

Teresa @ 445... Wonderful? That's a relief. I was concerned you'd find my talent ignominious.

#460 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 01:53 AM:

I'm starting to wonder just how many of the various anti-Watts ranters (not just here, but elsewhere) are actually the same person.

#461 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 05:16 AM:

453: I can only say that, to my knowledge, and unless there's been a very recent change, no rules of engagement dictate that unarmed civilians approaching on foot get one warning and then get shot dead. There's a whole series of 'escalation' steps in between: repeated warning, aggressive warning, hand signals, making weapon ready, pointing weapon, use of nonlethal/miniflare/smoke as available, warning shot.

If you're walking around in an area that you know is a battle zone, and a heavily armed man suddenly shouts at you in a language you don't understand, are you going to keep walking towards him? If you do, then you sir are certifiably suicidal.

Well, at this point, entire countries count as "battle zones"; you might not hear the man shouting, or think he's shouting at someone else, or think he's telling you to come over here. That's why we have escalation rules; so you don't end up murdering too many people.
And don't call me 'sir'. I'm not an officer, I work for a living.

I'd also add that you'd have to get to the 19th century before a) rifles were in any sense widespread and cheap and b) man-portable firearms were superior to bows in any respect except ease of use. The Duke of Wellington, famously, requested a unit of archers for his army; the English longbow had double the effective range of the Brown Bess musket, four times the rate of fire and considerably better accuracy. The only problem was, as he was told, that it took a few weeks to train a musketeer and many years to train and physically condition an archer, and the skill base of the thousands of English yeomen training (by law) at the village butts every Sunday had been lost for ever. But put the archers of Agincourt up against the musketeers of Waterloo, and it's no contest.

#462 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 05:35 AM:

I must start reading the news more. I had no idea suicide bombers constituted a realistic threat at the US/Canada border, or indeed that anything else was going on there that could qualify it as a "battle zone".

It used to be the longest undefended border in the world. I guess those Canucks finally cracked and showed their wild-eyed spittle-flecked terrorist side, huh? I mean, the mounties even wear RED, and we know who else wears red, don't we?

COMMUNISTS.

(And Santa)

#463 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 05:56 AM:

461

"And don't call me 'sir'. I'm not an officer, I work for a living."

Forgive me, I did not realise. As I hope I have made clear, while I do work with many current and former military, I myself am not military so it quite possible that I have misunderstood what I have been told. If so, then I owe an apology to all our military men and women. Still, it was my understanding that, especially in an active warzone at night, one challenge and then move to take down at any post other than an approved traffic check point was the general rule.


As for rifles not being wide spread and cheap untill the 19th century, nor accurate compared to a long bow, please read my post again. Rifles and musketts began to be mass produced (as in assembly line production) in New England in 1788 or so. And other than a few exceptions (such as New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Harrodsburg), to the best of my knowledge there were no permanent settlements west of the Cumberland Gap until after that date. I will happily admit the truth of your statement about archers though. Even today IMHO it would be a rare marksman who could beat some of the old English Yeoman archers even using a match quality rifle. But as you pointed out, archers of that quality had to train at least weekly; and most trained daily. And THAT required that they be prosperous enough to have the free time not only for practice but also to make arrows, new bowstrings, and do upkeep on their bow (which most of the time they had made themselves).

#464 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 07:30 AM:

The 'don't call me sir' remark wasn't meant seriously...

we know who else wears red, don't we?

COMMUNISTS.

(And Santa)

Santa is a Communist. He's got a funny foreign-sounding name and he thinks it's OK just to go around giving stuff away to everyone, whether they deserve it or not. And, like all filthy Russians, he has snow on his boots.

#465 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 07:51 AM:

Abi @ 462... we know who else wears red, don't we?

The Canadiens hockey team?
The Royal 22nd Regiment in Québec City?
Canada's flag?
Montgomery Scott?
NCC-1701's security people?
Alan Arkin as Captain Invincible?
Superman?

#466 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 08:04 AM:

Obey the Police is certainly good safety advice; so is Stay Out Of That Thar Neighborhood and Always Wear Shoes You Can Run In. But gangs, muggers, bad police, etc, are not forces of nature; they are human members of our society and are responsible for what they do. If you get out of your car in a hailstorm, you deserve to get hit in the head, because the hailstorm has no agency and can't choose to respond in a more civilized fashion. The police can, and should.

#467 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 08:08 AM:

The importance about mass-produced firearms wasn't that they were more accurate than other projectile weapons of the time (they weren't), but that anyone could use them with a bare minimum of training.

A skilled archer took a lot of training to get to that point. A man with a musket needed only to load and shoot it a few times and he was competent enough to kill someone with it. Mass production made them affordable as well (previous firearms were hand-made individually by craftsmen), so the combination of ease of use and affordability was IMO more important than any accuracy issue.

And the Jamestown settlers hardly had what I'd call "accurate" firearms. In fact, even as late as the American Civil War some combatants went into battle with muskets, shotguns and other unrifled weapons (some had lances, in fact).

#468 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 09:07 AM:

we know who else wears red, don't we?

The British are coming!

#469 ::: Duh ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:02 AM:

#431 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2009, 06:30 PM:

Xopher, I expect that means he's using anonymizer sites, though I can't imagine why; their primary use is to avoid detection as a sockpuppeteer. Since his trollishness is evident in the language of his comments, his IP address doesn't matter.

It's just as well no one's ever written a FAQ or how-to for trolls; but still, there are times when all I can do is pinch the bridge of my nose

Sorry, but I'm not a troll.

I stumbled on this site when reading up on what happened to Dr. Watts at the border. The discussion looked interesting so I joined in. I don't have an account and I didn't want one, so I used a dummy name and made up different emails each time. Zero malicious intent, just a desire to not have my email exposed to spammers.

I've done nothing but present my reasonable opinions in a respectful way and all I've gotten in return is abuse, total misrepresentations of what i've said, baseless accusations of trolling, and now speculation about who I am and what my IP is.

Good thing I didn't put my real email out there, huh?

Obviously I made a mistake in thinking this was a place for open and reasonable discussion. I'm sorry for that, I'll stay away in the future.

You win, groupthinkers. Your forum shall be safe from my dangerous and unpopular idea that in this reality, when you disobey a lawful order from a police officer or border guard, you are asking for an escalation that is just about guaranteed to turn physical.

#470 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:02 AM:

At last! A chance to modify a poem with neither plums nor refrigerators!

"Greater trolls have lesser trolls upon their backs to bite 'em
And lesser trolls have lesser trolls, and so ad infinitum."

#471 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:16 AM:

Ajay #464:

We're gonna sing you this Christmas carol. It's for all you bastards out there in the audience tonight. It's called "The Pause of Mr. Claus".

Why do you sit there so strange?
Is it because you are beautiful?
You must think you are deranged.
Why do police guys beat on peace guys?

You must think Santa Claus weird.
He has long hair and a beard.
Giving his presents for free.
Why do police guys mess with peace guys?

Let's get Santa Claus 'cause
Santa Claus has a red suit.
He's a communist.
And a beard, and long hair,
Must be a pacifist.
What's in the pipe that he's smoking?

Mister Claus sneaks in your home at night.
He must be a dope fiend, to put you up tight.
Why do police guys beat on peace guys?

-- Arlo Guthrie

#472 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Wow. Return and reflounce in the same post. If this were Scrabble, there'd have to be triple points or something.

*starts a fresh Bingo card, sits back to wait*

#473 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:44 AM:

Whatever weaponry involved -- and I believe it was the more sophisticated gunpowder ones that were invoked -- it was germs that allowed for the rapid conquest. And slavery, for rapid extraction of wealth.

Love, C.

#474 ::: Sean ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:56 AM:

Hello again. I hope everything is going well with regards to the defence of Dr. Watts and/or prosecution of the border agents.
Just wanted to ask again if anyone has information on successful prosecutions or lawsuits against border guards for this type of incident. Thanks to anyone who can help out!

#475 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:21 AM:

471: also, of course, like the Stasi,

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness' sake!

#476 ::: Becca ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:30 AM:

fishyfishy @450

Most folks take abuse somewhere in the authoritarian world view. Daddy beat them. The Priest molested them. Their boss bullies them every day. They live an analogy, and they never stand up for themselves -- they says it's cause it's natural, but the truth is because they like it. They like the humiliations, the abuses, and they like to return it.

No, I don't think they like it. They may be used to it, but they don't like it - I wonder if this sort of casual institutionalized bullying by almost anyone in authority isn't a significant source of the political rage that seems to be infecting the religious right: they want to be on top for a change.

#477 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:33 AM:

Duh, you do not have to register to comment at this joint. The e-mail address requirement is to assist in tracking down spammers and the destructively malicious.

You are missing another point altogether, one that has been made to you over and over again, sometimes in very clear language, sometimes not. Please pay careful attention:

While many people who have posted here are willing to say that in the current state of things here in the US a meek and acquiescent profile is very likely the best approach to take in dealings with CBP and other LEO representatives (see David Dyer-Bennett, among others), there are also many who keep insisting (rightly) that as citizens we have the right to expect better behavior and training and a greater degree of accountability from these persons and the agencies who employ them, and that we should not hesitate to insist on this. Some of these are the same as people who acknowledge that docile and unquestioning compliance is at this point the safest bet (see again, say, David Dyer-Bennett). You keep dodging that point.

Do you honestly and sincerely believe that you are not entitled to demand good and effective service from your government and its employees? Are you saying here that we have no alternative but to accept that this is the way things are and that they cannot (and perhaps should not) be changed? Because this seems to be the point where you find yourself moving at right angles to nearly everyone else here--most people here (whether they are from the US or elsewhere) seem to feel that a system of law enforcement and customs and border monitoring that has to rely on the immediate threat of violence in the face of even the mildest of questioning, no matter what the situation may be, is a dysfunctional system that requires urgent attention and reform.

No, we're not arguing that you never know what you're going to get when you find yourself dealing with local law enforcement--or when dealing with CBP. This is not news. We're arguing that these jobs can usually be performed at least as effectively, and probably more effectively, when they are handled differently than what far too many have reported. You are not addressing this. Do you have no answer for that argument? Has it never occurred to you that this sort of thing is, in fact, among the least effective of policing methods (no matter what Darrell Gates did his dead-level best to instill into the police force of LA, and any other spots that fell within his influence) and that US citizens (as well as citizens of other democractically-elected regimes on this planet) are entitled to expect better and demand it? All I see from you is whining that we aren't getting the point you want to make and aren't prepared to tolerate disagreement, while you are unable or unwilling to address the counter-argument so many here have made: Things do not have to be this way, and we should insist upon change for the better.

This is why you are being labelled a troll by the locals: instead of realizing that this is a choir, with solos, duets, trios and so on, performing descants, variations, anthems and so forth, in the Making Light Chorale and Gourmet Society, and learning to pay attention to everything that goes on around you, you're insisting on being Johnny One-Note, whether that note is of value to what's being said or not.

As many others have said here, you are not telling us anything new. You are not making useful suggestions about how to deal with this issue as a long-term problem, or making convincing arguments as to why it either cannot or should not be dealt with. No, you're Johnny One-Note, and whether that's an intentional approach, or something you can't help, the end result is the same: You make no useful contribution to the discussion, but demand attention and acceptance at the same time, which are qualities we associate with trolls.

Stop claiming you're not a troll, and show us instead (I'm from Missouri, I get to say that). Should there be better training and methods used by the CBP? If not, why not? If the experiences of Peter Watts and others are typical rather than anomalous, must we accept this as the only viable manner in which this job can be handled? If so, why? Also, in the words of math teachers everywhere, show your work. Don't just give us your conclusions; explain how you got to that point. If you can't or won't do this, please get over the fact that we are all rolling our eyes over here while you declaim (Poor Johnny One-note!) that LEO/CBP = brutal and thuggish the way water = wet.

It's not the disagreement that irritates us, it's the limitations of your repertoire.

#478 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:34 AM:

The interesting thing about the 'Net is that if act like a troll you are one.

#479 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:39 AM:

Wasn't it Pogo that had the description of Santa Claus as a "A fat old party in a red suit"?

#480 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:40 AM:

Teresa @447 -- I've now watched the video, and I believe it's not of an actual stop, but entirely staged. Biggest clue -- the quality of the sound, and the lack of any noises like passing cars other than the two voices. We know the video's been modified by the blurring of both license and perpetrator. And the material at the start of the second version you cite doesn't really indicate how it's used -- the trooper asking "What do you think of the tactics used? Would you have done the same?" shows this is probably taken about as seriously as the traffic safety films we all watched in high school. They may modify behavior a bit, but they're not an indication of what happens in real life.

It's a lot easier to remain calm when you know the script-writer is on your side.

I applaud the behavior that the film seems to want to promote; I don't think it represents a large part of reality. And I have a great deal of experience in calming situations down in some notably hazardous places (well short of open warfare, though, thank TPTB!); I doubt I'd do that well without knowing the whole thing was scripted in my favor.

This is not saying that the way things were done in Dr. Watts' case was reasonable, or appropriate; it's just saying that the video is probably not representative of actual behavior in the wild.

#481 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:54 AM:

fidelio @ 477:

I think it's also worth pointing out that while Fe1 and Duh came in swinging and got punched back, Scratch got treated reasonably because they acted like a reasonable person. If there is groupthink here, it's that we don't appreciate being treated like idiots.

#482 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:16 PM:

Bruce 470: At last! A chance to modify a poem with neither plums nor refrigerators!

I'm confused. Perhaps the extra characters don't show up in your browser? Here's what I see:

"Greater trolls have lesser trolls PLUM upon their backs to bite 'em
And lesser trolls have lesser trolls, and so REFRIGERATOR ad infinitum."
I'll have another look when I get home and have Firefox to use instead of this crappy browser.

#483 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:22 PM:

KeithS @ 481... Fe1 and Duh came in swinging

Râ should start posting any time now. This trick is becoming old-hat.

#484 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 12:53 PM:

#461, #471,#475:

And of course there's the ritual singing of The Red Flag at Santa time. Yes, they try to hide it by replacing all the words with "Christmas Tree" -- but could anyone really believe those were genuine lyrics to anything?

#485 ::: fishfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 01:50 PM:

Becca: No, I don't think they like it. They may be used to it, but they don't like it - I wonder if this sort of casual institutionalized bullying by almost anyone in authority isn't a significant source of the political rage that seems to be infecting the religious right: they want to be on top for a change.

They may resent it -- but they simultaneously like it. It's what makes the Fuehrer worship possible, and why authoritarian "logic" is never consistent.

An example: how can an authoritarian ideology simultaneously claim that group X is an inferior, parasitic group, while claiming that that they are able to dominate their group? You'd think that if what mattered was success, the success of X would be proof of their "superiority" and therefore the authoritarians would acquiesce to their power, right?

They want it both ways. The problem with X is neither their submission nor their dominances -- it's that they're outside the system of dominance and submission. Antisemitic literature is very clear on this point -- it's the "modernism" the "liberalism" that's at the core of the problem. "X" want anarchy!

The authoritarians resent their masters and love them. So they project the dominance/submission hierarchy on the very group that wants to eliminate that hierarchy! They love being a sub -- but part of loving being a sub is hating it. Otherwise, you can't get off on it... It's the demands for acts contrary to interest that is the crux of the pleasure of submission.

Let me put it this way. If someone were to go to a dominatrix, and the dominatrix demanded that they do exactly what they do every day, that they be dignified, successful and act on their own accord -- would they pay them? Would they go to a dominatrix if putting on the diapers without orders were satisfying in itself? If licking someone's heels was something everyone did of their own accord -- if it wasn't something degrading, humiliating, and unpleasant?

Yes, it's crazy, it's irrational, it inconsistent. But whoever said humans were anything but?

They want to be on top and bottom -- they want an outgroup to beat up on, and an ingroup to beat up on them. The game is two-way -- they want the game to continue. So the "political rage" is the flip-side of their submission -- it's necessary for full satisfaction.

They want a preacher to rob them and abuse them, while they keep their wife cowering at home in fear of them.

#486 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 02:10 PM:

Doug @ 372 That style of opening a wire story is standard

Yes, I know. However, the whole tenor of the piece implies that the version of events given in the statements by officials is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and minimises the possibility that this viewpoint may be biased - including by omission of any mention of information readily available regarding Peter Watt's statements regarding the initial events, and the later happenings (such as confiscation of belongings and being dumped coatless into a Canadian winter storm too late to catch public transport).

My main point was that unfortunately the press are not always unbiased and good headlines/catchy initial sentances or paragraphs too often win out over accurate reporting.

#487 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 02:46 PM:

Serge, #465: Superman wears blue -- only the cape and boots are red. The Flash wears red, though.

Fidelio, #477: I think the entire root of the issue with Duh is contained here:

I've done nothing but present my reasonable opinions in a respectful way

Anyone who can consider #377 (Duh's first appearance) to be either "reasonable" or "respectful" is living in one of those "we create our own reality" fantasies, and beyond the reach of rational explanation.

#488 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Bruce @471, I'd like to propose version 1.1:


Greater trolls have lesser trolls upon the Net to fight'em
And lesser trolls still lesser trolls, and so ad infinitum

#489 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 03:10 PM:

fishfishy @485 -- you appear to be dismissing the possibility that people may act submissively, and remain in a degrading situation, out of fear. Plain and simple fear, and nothing else.

Your speculation about subconscious desires to be humiliated may be true for a subset of people, but there are many other explanations for the perpetuation of violence. One size does not fit all.

Oh, and people who participate in dom/sub games often have safe words, and they can choose to play with others when their boundaries aren't respected. Not having these options changes the situation entirely.

#490 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 03:31 PM:

BTW, coverage of the Copenhagen arrests, via Boing Boing. Notable for similarities to the US policing attitude ("I was simply told that all of Copenhagen was a 'search zone'"--at least the author wasn't beaten for asking) and also the similarity of the political process to the current corrupt US process, croak.

#491 ::: Richard Duffy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 03:40 PM:

On the seemingly counterfactual use of "US [sic] border guards" in the Port Huron Times Herald article that I noted (see #320), I did finally write to the author to ask about it. He responded that it was not by way of disputing the nationality of the arresting agents, but simply that the paper's style mandates "U.S." with periods. This strikes me as a bit silly and, more importantly, accidentally misleading, given the article's initial confusion about Watts's direction of travel. But I suppose it's too trivial to be concerned about.

#492 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 03:45 PM:

Lee @487--Well, there's always the chance they have never had the benefit of a better example and because of their limited frame of reference have no notion there is a better way for them to behave. *whistles innocently, examines nails*

And hey, pigs can fly--but getting them through airport security, now there's the real challenge.

#493 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 03:50 PM:

Carl@463: I believe a just-trained WWII private could hit a human target at 300 yards MUCH more reliably than an experienced man-at-arms from the Crecy period with a longbow. And of course the amount of time invested in marksmanship training between the two is VERY heavily weighted towards the bowman; they were expensive.

The longbow was very accurate, and had a very long range, by the standards of the time, but it did not have both at once even by the standards of the time. Military formations would fire in volley at enemy formations, not at individual enemies, until they closed in a bit. (It also had an exceptional rate of fire for the time, not surpassed until breech-loading magazine-fed firearms.)

#494 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 03:52 PM:

fishfishy @ 485: "They may resent it -- but they simultaneously like it. It's what makes the Fuehrer worship possible, and why authoritarian "logic" is never consistent."

I don't think secret sexual fetishes really explain the structure of authoritarianism very well. To be sure, there are plenty of bizarre fetishes within the movement, but I don't think they have much causal power: they're epiphenomena, not fundament. The fundamental dynamic of authoritarianism is a belief that hierarchy is a source not just of power but of truth as well, and creates a profound confusion between the two. Everything else emerges from that and can take a multitude of forms, including power-oriented sexual fetishes like masochism and sadism or a blend of the two. Or not.

#495 ::: fishfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 04:32 PM:

Becca: you appear to be dismissing the possibility that people may act submissively, and remain in a degrading situation, out of fear. Plain and simple fear, and nothing else.
Your speculation about subconscious desires to be humiliated may be true for a subset of people, but there are many other explanations for the perpetuation of violence. One size does not fit all.

Sure -- it's a complex social movement. But the fact that the system is reproduced generation after generation, that folks raise their children in fear, live in fear their ENTIRE lives, and die in fear -- that they build religions out of it...

Well, I just don't buy that it isn't a fundamental need of their personality. You can be afraid of a specific event. But to be afraid of life? Of everything? Nope -- that's a need, not a response.

Oh, and people who participate in dom/sub games often have safe words, and they can choose to play with others when their boundaries aren't respected. Not having these options changes the situation entirely.

Some do -- those who are sublimating, who are rationally trying to work out some very troubling issues. That's an intellectualization of the orientation. But most folks aren't at that level -- they just live their needs. That safety cushion means you've already moved it into a little box.

#496 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 04:36 PM:

Duh @469

I stumbled on this site when reading up on what happened to Dr. Watts at the border. The discussion looked interesting so I joined in. I don't have an account and I didn't want one, so I used a dummy name and made up different emails each time. Zero malicious intent, just a desire to not have my email exposed to spammers.

That's an understandable motive, but you've managed to insult the administrators, and shown you didn't even bother with the simplest checks.

Spammers don't easily get email addresses from websites, the people writing the code used have been avoiding this for years. They're not displayed anywhere. And you could have checked that. Instead, you behave like any internet low-life would.

Faking email addresses has been part of spamming and trolling ever since the days of the Green Card Lawyers. I don't recall they faked the email address, but within a couple of months the spammers were faking it.

I'm not sure that you can get yourself out of this hole that you're digging, this is almost the least of your faults, but this is something which you need not have done.


#497 ::: fishfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 04:40 PM:

heresiarch: I don't think secret sexual fetishes really explain the structure of authoritarianism very well. To be sure, there are plenty of bizarre fetishes within the movement, but I don't think they have much causal power: they're epiphenomena, not fundament. The fundamental dynamic of authoritarianism is a belief that hierarchy is a source not just of power but of truth as well, and creates a profound confusion between the two. Everything else emerges from that and can take a multitude of forms, including power-oriented sexual fetishes like masochism and sadism or a blend of the two. Or not.

Well, that depends on what you believe drives humans fundamentally. Is it a logical structure, or a psychological orientation? I say we're monkeys that act from primitive drives, and our reason is primarily used to rationalize those underlying "orientations".

And to be clear, I'm using sub/dom as a poetic device. It's not the "sexual fetish" per se that I see driving this -- it's the kind of orientation, the kind of emotional make up and needs, that can be expressed in common between the two. It comes to mind know because of the recent "Green Balloons" incident.

But there's not very much good formal language for this -- it's best expressed poetically. Strictly psychological language misses it all -- it's not an aspect of personality, it's the personality, the world-view, the epiphenomena that I'm describing, not the bits and pieces.

There's just folks who expect and need the world to be painful, to be humiliating, to be bossed around (and who enjoy acting this way towards others). They may do it sexually or politically; but the "truth claims" are secondary to the interpersonal relationships that they choose and enforce. That's what makes monkeys tick; the beliefs, that's how they bullshit themselves and others.

#498 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 04:44 PM:

Yeah, I also find fishyfishy's model pretty unconvincing. But the more I think about this, the more I find that my own explanation for this phenomenon sounds less like a coherent model of the world, and more like telling myself a set of reassuring/self-congratulatory stories. I don't know why people so often react this way to authority.

#499 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 04:52 PM:

...though I'll admit, as I read fishyfishy's last paragraph in #497, I had the opening of Depeche Mode's Master and Servant going through my head.

#500 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 05:16 PM:

albatross: I don't know why people so often react this way to authority.

Well, my explanation is: they just do. That's it, they've developed that way, they get some satisfaction from it. It's not an effect, but a cause. Their religion, their politics, their ideology come from that reaction -- not the other way around.

Just like some folks automatically respond badly to being bossed around. They've grown up hating it, they invent a politics or religion around it, they choose their work environment, their career on that basis. But why? Well, that's a question of the mish-mash of development, of family life, genes, tragic events, etc.

It's causal. Reasons are just rationalizations, which is why they're so often incoherent.

#501 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 05:24 PM:

The reason, I think, that folks are resistant to this model -- is that it applies to everyone equally as well. So, I say the authoritarians are responding to a basically unchosen, irrational need for authoritarian relationship. That implies that everyone else is as well -- we didn't choose rationally our love of freedom, our politics, the course of our lives -- we just rationalize it to ourselves that way.

We are humane because we have an irrational need for humaneness. Not because we have rationally decided it was a good thing; no, we knew it was a good thing, and constructed our reason around that.

It also implies that discussion of the matter is quite secondary. That there's no rational argument to be made here to "convert" people -- one must mostly raise humane children and treat others humanely if you expect a humane world.

Not a real pleasurable prospect for the ultra-rationalists.

#502 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 06:12 PM:

After chasing pointers on a link that James Macdonald gave on the ABM thread, I found an automated flounce generator. Just the thing in case Serge's proposed Râ never hangs their hat here.

#503 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 06:23 PM:

Let me put it this way. If someone were to go to a dominatrix, and the dominatrix demanded that they do exactly what they do every day, that they be dignified, successful and act on their own accord -- would they pay them?

Isn't that the paradox in Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Triumph of Capitalism? Exactly the people who believed, fervently, passionately, to the point of waging war, enduring torture, and cutting the king's head off, that their spiritual future was entirely predetermined and that there was nothing at all they could do about it, became a world icon of work ethic, professionalism, and civic responsibility. Indeed, they took it all rather too far...as far as the killing fields of Tasmania, Ernest Bevin, and the Moon. Arguably, it didn't stop there - Lenin wanted the state to work like the Prussian post and telephone service, Trotsky felt the same about their army, and Prussia was the quintessential Protestant state for good and ill.

Also, someone whose feelings fascinate and terrify you to the degree that you would do anything at all for them, but who wants you to be dignified, successful, and to act independently - that's a working definition of love.

How far have we got off track? To me punk rock means bikes not cars...we were meant to be agreeing about the border patrol mistreating Dr Watts.

I think fishyfishy has a point, up to a point - read Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah. And Eric Altemeyer's The Authoritarians. I think there's a reason why James Dobson is so keen on thrashing your kids - so many senior rightwing figures are sexually troubled people with very bad relationships with their fathers. So were a hell of a lot of important Nazis, including the man himself. It's also telling that they lay a lot of stress on The Other missing their fathers - young inner city blacks, etc. Projection.

Anyway, I can say that I travelled to the US during squidgate and I was in no way inconvenienced by border guards, customs, immigration or anyone else - less so than by the security guards at London-Gatwick, who demanded that I put liquids they had already cleared in a clear plastic bag before moving on, and made everyone who had passed the checkpoint take off their shoes and pass them back over the checkpoint to pass them through the x-ray machine.

I was almost disappointed - haven't I said enough shit yet? And the laptop - there's all kinds of weird shit on the laptop! But I was still almost physically relieved at wheels up.

#504 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 06:29 PM:

Holly P @ 443 writes: "And had apparently never been outside before. I do hope he's still alive."

...and not trying to lecture somebody on why it's a bad idea not to cringe when you're within arm's reach of any on-duty U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers.

#505 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 06:38 PM:

Regarding the discussion of trolling, it is important to remember that what this is about is that our friend was beaten and arrested and thrown in jail under circumstances that we find upsetting. The trolls are not important and should be ignored.

#506 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 06:40 PM:

Alex gets me! Yes -- the same impulse and orientation can be harnessed to make excellently disciplined soldiers, office workers and bureaucrats. It just requires a very constricted social life in the office -- an atmosphere of control, of discipline, of interdomination. Cogs in the machine. See Switzerland as well for an example.

we were meant to be agreeing about the border patrol mistreating Dr Watts.

I think we all have -- at least anyone who has an opinion worth considering. The question is, why? how? It's way down-thread -- that makes asking these questions fair game.

Why has every anti-authoritarian movement ever since Roman times been for free-love? For completely different reasons, with different justifications?

Punk-rock is about piercings.

#507 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 06:51 PM:

fidelio @ 492

And hey, pigs can fly--but getting them through airport security, now there's the real challenge.

Simplicity itself. Remove flying pig from carrier; put carrier on x-ray belt. When signaled, walk through metal detector carrying flying pig. Once carrier clears x-ray, put flying pig back in carrier and proceed to gate.

Why, yes, I did use to fly with show cats. Once, memorably, I flew into New Orleans with two wiggly Maine Coon kittens. Good times, good times.

#508 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 07:07 PM:

fishfishy @ 497: "Well, that depends on what you believe drives humans fundamentally."

The evolutionary necessity of survival.

"Is it a logical structure, or a psychological orientation? I say we're monkeys that act from primitive drives, and our reason is primarily used to rationalize those underlying "orientations"."

You're trying to avoid having to address logic by placing the origins of human psychology back in the misty dawn of history, but that's just a variation of "turtles all the way down." You have to hit ground eventually: whenever it originated, human psychology emerged in the form it did in response to real environmental conditions. Logic isn't relevant because it governs the way humans think but because it governs the way the world works, and human psychology necessarily exists within that framework. Psychology needn't be logical in itself but it must serve a logical function.

Less abstractly, "primitive monkey drives" are objectively a pretty poor explanation of why authoritarianism exists. If they're primitive, universal drives, then why aren't we all authoritarians? If it's a drive with a randomly-determined, variable strength, then why aren't authoritarians distributed randomly through all populations, times, and cultures? Why does authoritarianism adhere within particular cultural contexts, and get passed from generation to generation? Authoritarianism no doubt depends and draws upon primitive, universal human drives, but it can hardly be argued that it is defined by them. It is more sophisticated and more particular than that.

Authoritarianism is a self-perpetuating social movement, and has both psychological and structural elements. Authoritarian environmental conditions create authoritarian individuals who re-create the environment, which re-creates the individuals, and so on. Both its psychology and environment are centered around an identity between truth and power: the environment serves to make this true to the fullest extent possible, and the psychology that accompanies it treats them as synonyms. Within that broad frame, any number of interpretations can and do co-exist: some people see it as necessary for the survival of society, some as the only way to find truth, others as a sexual game, and infinite variations and combinations. Some of these are compatible and some are diametrically opposed. There's no way to determine how any particular individual interprets their desire for authority short of interviewing them personally.

#509 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 07:29 PM:

heresiarch: Less abstractly, "primitive monkey drives" are objectively a pretty poor explanation of why authoritarianism exists. If they're primitive, universal drives, then why aren't we all authoritarians? If it's a drive with a randomly-determined, variable strength, then why aren't authoritarians distributed randomly through all populations, times, and cultures? Why does authoritarianism adhere within particular cultural contexts, and get passed from generation to generation? Authoritarianism no doubt depends and draws upon primitive, universal human drives, but it can hardly be argued that it is defined by them. It is more sophisticated and more particular than that.

Well, I agree 100%. But first comes the personal orientation. You can't look at any of the constraining factors, the developmental factors, the cultural factors, until you face what the essential drive is that keeps people, personally, from rebelling against oppression.

And that's they, personally, like it. It satisfies a personal need.

That determines whether it's useful to argue logically with the victims of of this mental disease (I've obviously taken my position). This determines the time frames of the social forces involved. This determines what social elements may be involved.

Do you bother to deconstruct the logic of authoritarian ideologies? That's determined by the personal driving motivations. Is it like string theory -- that ultimately a rational discussion can persuade/dissuade someone from following that line of inquiry? Or is it more like trying to convince someone that they "should" be X-sexual?

The fact is we know that practically all authoritarian ideologies are riddled with self-contradiction, factual errors, and simple dadaistic nonsense. No one has ever been able to explain what the "ideology" of fascism actually is.

If you want to know whether the cultural driver is some avante-guarde artistic expression, or the structure of the corporate workplace, you must first isolate the PERSONAL driving force. Then you can identify what potentiates it, and over what time frame -- years? decades? generations?

You don't start out with the semiotic analysis, the structural analysis, until you know what the perceptional structure underlying it is, to grossly disagree with Eco.

To put it another way, there are multiple levels of analysis. The lower levels don't determine the upper levels -- but they do constrain it. You need to know chemistry pretty damn well to do molecular biology; psychology is meandering BS if you lack good knowledge of the underlying brains.

People have two legs. You need to know that to even begin talking about modes of transportations. I feel as if everyone tries to talk about bicycles, but no one ever mentions that two leg thing -- I don't think any of them have ever seen a person before. The bike designs, therefore, look a little funny to me.

#510 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 07:47 PM:

Ambar, surely you'd check through an animal the size of a pig? It's not going to fit under your seat.

#511 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 07:57 PM:

fishfishy @ 501: "The reason, I think, that folks are resistant to this model -- is that it applies to everyone equally as well. So, I say the authoritarians are responding to a basically unchosen, irrational need for authoritarian relationship. That implies that everyone else is as well -- we didn't choose rationally our love of freedom, our politics, the course of our lives -- we just rationalize it to ourselves that way."

I don't think so. I'm happy to admit that my love of rational discourse or whatever else is as much something that happened to me as something that I chose for myself. I've no problem at all with the idea that who I am isn't purely a result of my pure, unsullied me-ness.

No, the problem I have with your account is that it doesn't make any sense and it doesn't explain anything. Why do authoritarians have their irrational, unchosen need for authoritarianism and I don't? Why do I have an irrational, unchosen need for love of freedom or whatever, and they don't? Is it just happenstance? Pure luck?

It's not, actually, that your ideas are just so shocking to our pedestrian minds that we cringe away to preserve our fragile sensibilities.

fishfishy @ 509: "But first comes the personal orientation. You can't look at any of the constraining factors, the developmental factors, the cultural factors, until you face what the essential drive is that keeps people, personally, from rebelling against oppression."

What, you mean in like in babies? Like a baby is just personally oriented towards enjoying being oppressed, or not, and everything else flows from that? Seriously?

And b), you seriously believe that every woman who stays in an abusive relationship does it because she is secretly enjoying it, not because she terrified that he will kill her if she tries to escape, or that she's been beaten down to the point that she can't even imagine an alternative? Do you think that the Russians deep down enjoyed being accused of anti-revolutionary sentiment by their children and sent to die in the gulag?

#512 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 08:14 PM:

heresiarch: And b), you seriously believe that every woman who stays in an abusive relationship does it because she is secretly enjoying it, not because she terrified that he will kill her if she tries to escape, or that she's been beaten down to the point that she can't even imagine an alternative? Do you think that the Russians deep down enjoyed being accused of anti-revolutionary sentiment by their children and sent to die in the gulag?

Well, that's just silly. You don't distinguish between a woman who's made a mistake and gotten stuck in a terrifying situation, as against women who choose, over and over again, abusing boyfriends and husbands? Does "fear" explain the latter? Just ask a social worker -- both patterns exist. The second pattern frustrates the hell out of them, because all the solutions that ignore the basic emotional make-up of the victim just perpetuate the cycle.

The same thing with the latter. You had, what, 200 million Soviet citizens? So who are these "Russians" you speak of?

Yeah -- there was a subculture that reveled in the degradation; and a whole bunch of people who were helpless in the face of it. Just intro Russian literature shows the panoply of folks who positively enjoyed smacking and getting smacked.

So yeah, you can spend decades discussing the issues of patriarchy, institutionalized gender bias, etc. But you want to pretend that the bias isn't internalized -- that in sub-saharan Africa it's not the old woman who enforce female circumcision. The the beaten wife isn't often a child-abuser herself. That the camp guard isn't some guy who's lived a life of poverty and abuse.

And that's why folks are always shocked! shocked, I tell you! when the victim turns around and becomes the abuser -- or when the abuser settles down quietly to live a life of desperation in some crappy job that is a constant collection of humiliations. That's why Weber is a "paradox".

No -- you can't even begin to discuss the culture until you know the private minds behind the culture. Why aren't YOU an authoritarian -- how the hell could I know, when I don't know YOU?

Give me a full biography, family photos, interviews with your sibs, cousins, neighbors, and I can begin to tell you. Do you think you can explain why YOU're not an authoritarian by some nonesense about "cultural milieu"?

#513 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 08:27 PM:

h: Authoritarianism is a self-perpetuating social movement, and has both psychological and structural elements. Authoritarian environmental conditions create authoritarian individuals who re-create the environment, which re-creates the individuals, and so on. Both its psychology and environment are centered around an identity between truth and power: the environment serves to make this true to the fullest extent possible, and the psychology that accompanies it treats them as synonyms. Within that broad frame, any number of interpretations can and do co-exist: some people see it as necessary for the survival of society, some as the only way to find truth, others as a sexual game, and infinite variations and combinations. Some of these are compatible and some are diametrically opposed. There's no way to determine how any particular individual interprets their desire for authority short of interviewing them personally.

See -- that's a long-winded way of saying "cause they like it". Lot's of fancy talk that obscures the underlying reality -- they like what they like, and people like what other people liked around them.

So why don't we just say it? Why the academic style BS'ing? What does it gain to say the "self-perpetuating cycle of environmental historical contingency and the contextualized individual development in light of the detailed interplay of prerational cognitive processing with higher order skills over multiple temporal and spatial scales, with multiple frame of references and interpretations in an intertextual narrative"?

Now, I'd be impressed if you could give me an actual equation for defining and analyzing authoritarianism. But short of that, jargon is just a way to hide from the plain reality. Some folks do like the threat of a Gestapo. It feels right, and it has since they were kids.

#514 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 08:46 PM:

fishyfishy, you'd be impressing me a lot more if your response to every rebuttal wasn't just "See, you've proved my point" followed by a restatement of the original argument, only using a lot more words than that.

You appear to be the person with the hammer, to whom every problem looks like a nail. The universe just isn't that straightforward.

#515 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 09:00 PM:

Lee: 'cept the only time I've used that argument is #513? Other than that, you're right on the money!

Descriptions of systems give you two choices: a formal, mathematical description, or words. The former is preferred. If you have to resort to the latter, you may just as well giving a simple, pithy statement, or a poetic description, as a fancy postmodern Sokal type philosophical discourse.

"Survival of the fittest" is just as good as any complex "environmental transform over historical contingencies with adaptive retransformation" mumbo-jumbo -- at least until the neo-Darwinian synthesis came around, and equations like the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium could be formalized.

I'll stick to simple and evocative with words, thank you. You just can't do any better. I prefer novels to philosophical treatises, scientific papers to theological summa, and a stiff drink to Gorbachev's book Perestroika.

#516 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 09:09 PM:

Lee@487: Well, and the trunks. Other red-wearing superheroes include the Golden Age Green Lantern (a red shirt and boots), Captain Marvel (aka "the Big Red Cheese"), the Red Tornado (and his siblings, Red Torpedo, Red Volcano, and Red Inferno), the Scarlet Witch, the Red Arrow, the Crimson Avenger, the Shining Knight, and the Red Bee.

#517 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 09:09 PM:

A simpler take on heresiarch's position: humans are evolved to characterize the social environment they find themselves in, and (developmentally) adapt to that environment.

Among other issues, this has the effect of making many "non-optimal" social patterns self-perpetuating, and authoritarianism is one of those. ("Stockholm syndrome" is a short-term -- less than a year -- expression of the same adaptive behavior.) That little poem about "a child learns what he lives" is a summary of some of the parts of the adaptation.

#518 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 09:33 PM:

fishyfishy @ 512: "You don't distinguish between a woman who's made a mistake and gotten stuck in a terrifying situation, as against women who choose, over and over again, abusing boyfriends and husbands?"

Of course I do.* I'm trying to figure out if you do. "Both patterns exist" is a new statement from you: so far it's sounded an awful lot like you think there's one explanation that fits all authoritarians. I'll ask you straight out: do you think that every authoritarian likes being abused?

"So yeah, you can spend decades discussing the issues of patriarchy, institutionalized gender bias, etc. But you want to pretend that the bias isn't internalized"

No, I don't, actually. I think it's pretty clear from my post @ 509 that I think that environment and psychology work hand in hand to perpetuate the system. My point is that it's a system, not just a personal kink.

"And that's why folks are always shocked! shocked, I tell you! when the victim turns around and becomes the abuser -- or when the abuser settles down quietly to live a life of desperation in some crappy job that is a constant collection of humiliations"

Nobody here is shocked! by that. It flows pretty obviously from a systemic, environmental interpretation of authoritarianism. It's individualistic interpretations that have trouble explaining why people who grow up in abusive environments often become abusers.

"No -- you can't even begin to discuss the culture until you know the private minds behind the culture. Why aren't YOU an authoritarian -- how the hell could I know, when I don't know YOU?"

Then how can you possibly feel comfortable making claims about all authoritarians everywhere? As universal claims go, environmental factors seem much more amenable to explication than individual psychology.

@ 513: "See -- that's a long-winded way of saying "cause they like it". Lot's of fancy talk that obscures the underlying reality"

You could say the same thing about studies of the role nicotine plays in cigarette addiction. "It's just a fancy way of saying 'cause they like it.'" Explaining why people like things, or why things happen the way they do is the first step to figuring out how to change them.

"Some folks do like the threat of a Gestapo. It feels right, and it has since they were kids."

And you know what? No one is arguing with this. It's self-evidently true. The debate isn't there; it's about why they like them. And some people like it, like you said, because they enjoy being controlled. And some people like it because they empathize with the controller. Some people like it because they ARE the controller. Some people like it because it makes them feel safe. Some people like it because it orders their universe. Some people like it because they can't see any alternative other than anarchy. Some people combine more than one reason in their own personal cocktail, and some people hold to one and whole-heartedly oppose the others. (And some number put up with it because they can't escape.) It's complex because a) it doesn't really matter why people perpetuate the system as long as they do, and b) authoritarianism is inherently unequal and so the view that serves to justify someone in position A in the hierarchy won't necessarily work very well for someone in position B. Regardless: the point is that simplifying it down to "cuz they like it" conceals important distinctions and hinders a fuller understanding.

*Which isn't to say I think the latter does it because they secretly enjoy being beaten.

(Also, sorry for getting your name wrong in my previous posts. I could've sworn it was fishfishy. My bad.)

#519 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:06 PM:

What heresiarch @518 said. For every jerk-authoritarian that just plain likes seeing others suffer, there are ten people who just need to believe they can keep the scary world at bay, and if cringing before border cops needed to protect us from terrorists is the price, they reckon it's cheap. Why would anybody really want to leave home anyway? If they left, well, they shouldn't be too surprised if some goons beat them up somewhere.

I'm not disputing there's not a healthy dose of Schadenfreude - but I think, from the authoritarians I know (to wit, my family members mostly), it's fear that motivates them, not just liking things that way.

#520 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:09 PM:

"not disputing not" - that didn't come out quite right.

#521 ::: fishyfishy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:09 PM:

h: You could say the same thing about studies of the role nicotine plays in cigarette addiction. "It's just a fancy way of saying 'cause they like it.'" Explaining why people like things, or why things happen the way they do is the first step to figuring out how to change them.

I think here is the crux (and apparently the only major point) of contention.

Give me a full statistical analysis of nicotine addiction. Or describe it exactly as -- people smoke 'cause they like nicotine.

There is no more verbal explication to do. Anything else is confusing the matter. There is no more power in words than what can be advanced by a fairly short phrase, or a collection of short phrases.

An abused woman who has accidentally entered an abusive relationship isn't "an authoritarian". A Russian who happened to live in Soviet Russia isn't necessarily an authoritarian.

An authoritarian is someone who has an authoritarian kink. Top or bottom, or both. There's not much more to be said in WORDS. You can write poems that evoke the experience. You can write novels that give you the subjectivity.

But at the end of the day, you're a committed authoritarian (not a spectator) because you like smacking and getting smacked. There's no deeper verbal explication -- the 200 word variety is no more expressive nor powerful than the five word variety.

As I said, you can reduce Darwin's evolutionary idea to "survival of the fittest". He spent numerous book length works supporting it -- but that was the nub. Anything more would have been bullshitting.

At least until some better theorists put some equations in.

#522 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:22 PM:

people smoke 'cause they like nicotine

Nicotine is highly addictive, as much so as heroin. 'Like' doesn't really cover it: smokers need nicotine. There's also some evidence that genes are involved in addiction.

(You might want to choose your examples so that they actually apply to whatever the hell argument you're trying to make here.)

#523 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:27 PM:

meredith @ 423:

That's bad. Whatever legitimate security concerns the border guards may (or may not) have had, shooting Lily Sussman's laptop seems clearly to have more to do with intimidation and bullying. If they had seriously suspected it was a bomb, I doubt that's they way they would have dealt with it.

However:

1) She does not seem to have been physically mistreated
2) She was able to retrieve all her data intact
3) Officials have promised (though not yet followed through, so far as I can tell) to replace her laptop
4) She does not now face criminal charges

None of this excuses the way that she was treated, of course, and I would not now be defending the people who treated her that way, except inasmuch as you implied that it was worse than how Peter Watts was treated. This strikes me as patent nonsense.

#524 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Michael Roberts @ 510:

Ambar, surely you'd check through an animal the size of a pig? It's not going to fit under your seat.

Well, the question was about getting it through airport security, so I assumed it was cabin-sized, perhaps a flying Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.

Of course, if it's a service animal, fitting under the seat becomes irrelevant.

#525 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 10:37 PM:

Oh, and I was going to add about the Lily Sussman case, that it is relevant to Making Light's interests in another way. Here's another example of citizen journalists not getting the same protections as those working for big media. At least, I suspect that Lily Sussman does not work for a major news outlet, and would have been treated differently if she did. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

#526 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:18 PM:

People don't smoke because they like nicotine; they smoke because they are addicted to nicotine and smoking is an efficient mechanism of delivery.

My partner is involved in addiction research, particularly of nicotine.

#527 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2009, 11:58 PM:

So, does YOUR driver's license match the name on your Social Security card and passport? Exactly?

Because these same guards are going to protect you from flying, as of next year, if you haven't made the database situation a perfect match.

It's the law.
Cringe, now.
http://www.google.com/search?q="driver's+license"+"passport"+hyphenated+name+match

Apropos Peter Watts, a tall man --

if a tall man _tries_ to cringe around a short asshole, he'll be taken to be looming and leaning over the jerk. Tall people don't just _contract_, they have to put their height somewhere, which makes them, you know, wider.
Therefore threatening in a different way.

#528 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 12:28 AM:

@Hank Roberts #527: One of our dreams for the future is to drive the AlCan as a family. I doubt that that's going to happen. My husband is a very big man with broad shoulders, a booming voice, and a naturally intense gaze under a heavy brow; also, he likes to wear all black (because he knows that everything coordinates). I do not want to watch him humiliated by some jackbooted creep who needs to flourish his metaphorical penis. Not to mention wondering what might end up stolen out of our car by an officer of the law.

Here's a little bit of good news: La Migra had an office on our equivalent of Main Street until a few years ago. One day, somebody walking by noticed that there were two big men with sidearms posted on either side of the door. Regulations, you know.

They were, essentially, laughed onto the first plane out of town. The office closed later due to budget cuts. In the meantime, La Migra somehow avoided being attacked by whoever the men with the firearms were supposed to be protecting it from. As somebody quipped at the time, "What, they think that somebody is going to charge in screaming, 'Gimme my green card or I'll blow you up?' Or maybe they're afraid of bears?"

#529 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:02 AM:

fishyfishy @ 521: "There is no more power in words than what can be advanced by a fairly short phrase, or a collection of short phrases."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is ridiculous and insane. There are any number of topics which are irreducably complex, that cannot be simplified beyond a certain point without fundamentally damaging their meaning. Or, to put it in your preferred mode: compression = signal loss.* Sometimes, the necessary level of analysis to grasp all the major factors affecting an issue is a thousand-page tome. Honest to goodness, Darwin didn't write On the Origin of Species because he was bored. He wrote it at the length he did because that was how long it took to make the case he was trying to make.

Ask anyone who has made an indepth study of any topic to summarize their work, and they'll give you the same pained look. It's because they've spent huge chunks of time absorbing complex arrays of information and synthesizing it into new insights, and they understand exactly how flawed, always and inescapably, generalizations are. You always lose something. Sometimes what you lose is worth the sacrifice of detail, and mostly it's not. But to act like complexity and details are useless is the height of foolishness.

(Not to mention that your point swallows itself: if you really believed that nothing useful could be said beyond a few short phrases, then why are you even engaging in this discussion? Surely you've written more than enough already; aren't you now just wasting time?)

*Not in every circumstance of course, because OMG THERE MY POINT IS AGAIN!!1! Complexity! It's all over.

#530 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 02:09 AM:

Fishyfishy @521 -- except, as a few evolutionary biologists have pointed out, "survival of the fittest" is a circular phrase -- we only know something is fit because it survives. Fitness is defined as surviving.

That's why Darwin and others have written so many books.

Sorry about that.

#531 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:42 AM:

fishyfishy passim and

@513 -- "See -- that's a long-winded way of saying "cause they like it". Lot's of fancy talk that obscures the underlying reality -- they like what they like, and people like what other people liked around them."
@521 -- "There is no more verbal explication to do. Anything else is confusing the matter. There is no more power in words than what can be advanced by a fairly short phrase, or a collection of short phrases."

Except that you also said that one needs to understand brains and the fact that humans have two legs in order to understand the person-as-individual. True. Which, sadly, involves lots of words. Precision can be concise, but it's not always short.

You need to understand something about the chemistry of nicotine and brain physiology to understand addiction, but you also need to understand something about social triggers, too. Another example: People with severe OCD are not happy people and are not getting a thrill out of hand-washing; rituals allay anxiety, but that is not at all the same as, say, sexual satisfaction. And when we see that sometimes antidepressants are helpful for these people, that's a clue that something neurochemical is going on, too.

When you start talking about why large numbers of people perpetuate X behavior (good or bad - take altruism for a positive counter-example to authoritarianism) then you do need to discuss all those boring social structures. I would say especially if you say we're monkeys; social species, the lot of them.

It's a hard slog, but human behavior can be described (and in some cases, even explained) by terms that are precise rather than "poetic". I'm personally suspicious of terms like "poetic", because that often gets into Humpty Dumpty territory, with terms like control, submission, or pleasure having eccentric meanings. Not ultimately useful.

#532 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:59 AM:

"Blood at the polls and blood in the streets, but Scudder won the election. The next election was never held."

-RAH

#533 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 07:42 AM:

#518 ::: heresiarch: I could've sworn it was fishfishy.

It was, at the time.

#534 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 08:34 AM:

Heresiarch #529 - I've seen arguments about climate change where the uninformed party has misunderstood the point of the simplification made by experts so that things can be understood and siezed upon the lack of precision and slight errors that inevitable exist when you are distilling amillion words into a few sentences. It just gets really annoying.

#535 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 09:37 AM:

guthrie: That's common in discussions of evolution, and crackpot conversations involving crypto. I expect it's a feature of all kinds of other discussions, too.

The problem we all have, which ties in with fishyfishy's point about more verbose explanations not being better, is that we often don't know which world we're in:

a. The world in which the expert describing something to us is doing his level best to explain things and give us good advice, but is stumbling over the genuine complexity of the subject.

b. The world in which the expert describing something to us is trying to obscure the areas in which he really doesn't know what he's talking about, or is trying to deceive us to drive us toward his beliefs or agenda.

I'll use an example from voting security: Several years ago, when DREs[1] were becoming controversial, several manufacturers and state election officials had an answer: They could not only claim that "these machines are as secure as Fort Knox," they could point to an elaborate procedure for getting the machines and their source code approved, with independent testing labs and somewhat detailed standards and source code escrow and an independent layer of tests done by state officials, and more layers of procedural defenses around the voting machines to protect them even further. It took a long time to learn about all this stuff, and it was true that there really was a lot of detailed stuff to understand there.

But the argument the manufacturers were making was nonsense. The machines were amazingly insecure, as was demonstrated time and again when independent computer security experts got a chance to review them[2]. Other researchers pointed out various strategies for compromising whole elections using the weaknesses in individual machines, and even went as far as trying to count the conspirators necessary for an attack to succeed.

I think the manufacturers mostly believed their own BS, and most election officials were completely sold on it.

Now, more recently, some cryptographers have developed entirely new voting schemes. These are still kind-of experimental (at least one real local election has been run using one of them), but they honestly provide an amazing set of security guarantees. And yet, if you want to understand why, I can explain, but it will look about as plausible to a non-expert as the blizzard of procedures and standards and independent labs and such that the DRE vendors' boosters provided. (Mixnet? Homomorphic encryption? Non-interactive zero knowledge proof? Commitment? Threshhold decryption? WTF?)

This is a problem that plagues our society. It comes up in discussions of vaccine safety, of evolution, of global warming, of forensic evidence used in criminal trials, of what safe levels of various pollutants and contaminants should be, of the right way to respond to the global financial meltdown, of the right way to deal with Islamic extremist terrorists. On one side, expertise matters, and long study often counts for something. On the other hand, sometimes a huge amount of scholarship is built up around nonsense or an opinion dressed up as deep insight. And on the gripping hand, reference to that deep expertise is a way of winning arguments and silencing critics, which means it's useful to people with an agenda, and useful to attack when you have the opposite agenda[3].

[1] Computers dressed up as voting machines, in which the computer's recording of your choices is the only record of how you voted.

[2] These reviews were, of course, all attacked by manufacturers and some voting officials as "silly academic exercises" or "unrealistic," since these researchers, not wanting to go to prison, didn't mount the attacks during actual elections.

[3] For example, my sense is that some huge fraction of people with a strong expressed opinion on global warming, especially the skeptics, are responding much more to their policy preferences or their team identification than to any particular evidence they might have for their viewpoint.

#536 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:19 PM:

I don't know whether the entire theory holds up, but seems to me that fishyfishy is talking about behavior I've seen in real life.

There are social contexts I'm familiar with where people constantly trade and pass on reasons to be afraid. This was going on well before the internet, when the stories were passed around by word of mouth. When I read Jan Harold Brunvand's first few collections of urban legends, almost all of which were framed by their tellers as cautionary tales, I was struck by how few of them were unknown to me.

Now that those people have gone online, they constantly forward emails to each other that explain that pushers are getting schoolkids started on drugs by handing out innocuous-looking temporary tattoos soaked in LSD, or that Obama isn't an American and is going to give all their money to his Kenyan relatives, or that street gang members play a game where they cruise around at night with their headlights off, then shoot anyone who flashes their headlights at them.

People who exchange these stories pretend to deplore them, but in reality they hug them to their bosoms, and don't want to see them refuted. This is something I've observed many, many times. Having someone plausibly and authoritatively explain to them why a particular story can't be true, and reassure them that they don't have to worry about it, does not relieve their anxieties. They almost never say they resent having their scary story debunked, but they do. It's like they've had something taken away from them.

I don't need to understand what they get out of these stories -- which is good, because I don't. What I do know is that they're getting something out of the transaction. A few notes:

1. In my experience, their favorite scary rumors involve things which, if true, aren't going to happen to them, but which they can imagine happening to people they know, or people their friends know.

2. There's some kind of bonding or group-affirmation aspect to trading the stories. To be a member of the group, you have to act like you're taking the story seriously when they tell it to you, agree that it's scary, and acknowledge that the person who tells it to you has done you a favor by passing it on.

3. If two people in a group have both heard the same new story and want to pass it on, protocol is that the person with higher status in the group either gets to tell it, or gives the story their nod of approval after the other person tells it.

4. You can get extra points by occasionally replying that "OMG I [saw a story about something like that in the paper!/heard about that happening to a FOAF!/nearly had that happen to me!] but didn't understand what was really going on until you told me just now," but you lose points if you do it too often. Providing an occasional authenticating detail is good. Providing too many is an offense to the solemnity of fear-exchange, and to the oneupmanship of the person telling you the story.

Onward.

I don't know whether there's a sexual dimension to this behavior, or whether it affects anyone's chances of surviving to breed. What I do know is that a lot of non-ideological, essentially non-political conservatives put a lot of effort into staying scared, and that they identify emotionally with people who do the same, and who agree with them that the world is a scary place.

One more datum:

I have never lived in any area of the country where I didn't hear or overhear locals -- most often females -- going on about how they don't like leaving the area where they live and shop in order to go into The Big City, on account of not feeling safe there. I heard Mesa residents say it about Phoenix when the place was still a poky little state capital with a single stretch of freeway. In the early 80s I heard it said about Seattle's ring of sedate older suburbs by a couple of girls from a town some miles farther out, and about Toronto (which at that time was a remarkably safe place) by a luncheon group of prosperous young matrons from Scarborough. When I first moved to NYC, I heard a co-worker who lived in a middle-class Queens neighborhood say it about the busy, upscale, well-policed Columbus Circle/Lincoln Center area in the middle of a weekday.

What caught my interest, and led me to keep track of these and many similar occasions, was how much they all sounded like they were reading off the same script, and how little their tone and phrasing varied. This wasn't risk assessment; it was a bonding ritual. The core message: I don't like going among strangers. I don't feel safe there. There are people out there just waiting to do bad things to you.

There's a set of irrational but emotionally significant transactions going on in our countries. I don't think we understand them yet. I just know they exist.

#537 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:41 PM:

Teresa @536:
In my experience, their favorite scary rumors involve things which, if true, aren't going to happen to them, but which they can imagine happening to people they know, or people their friends know.

Thank you for finally explaining the popularity of the Left Behind series among its target demographic.

#538 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:47 PM:

My personal anti-authoritarian stance is profoundly aesthetic. It's ugly in execution and creates ugly faces. It's hard to avoid seeing what a large role those photographs of hate-distorted visages on the bodies hating on the little African American girls looking for a better education played in the national support for Civil Rights and integration. That's what you see in the sp rallies and fauxnoose people daily. They provide the authoritarians mulitple daily segments of time to hate in public with their own kind. Ugly as sin.

As for what punk rock was about: it was about Malcolm McLaren making shyteloads of fula, and additionally about not needing to be able to play your instrument, i.e. be a musician.

Then it evolved. Or devolved. Depending on your point of view from the moshpit.

Love, C.

#539 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 01:49 PM:

"In my experience, their favorite scary rumors involve things which, if true, aren't going to happen to them, but which they can imagine happening to people they know, or people their friends know."

Doesn't this describe bad horror fiction? And perhaps even good horror fiction? The normal, cleancut characters who would never believe something like this could happen to them are out there facing the monsters while you and yours are safely at home, with a light.

#540 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 02:42 PM:

Teresa, some of that "not safe in the big city" talk may also be that women hear that from the time they are little girls - don't take risks, stay safe, don't go out alone, or after dark. In her own neighborhood, a woman know that nothing is going to happen, because she has experience in which nothing happens. Learning to navigate a city alone is a risk, and a big one for someone who was never encouraged to do it, and we train girls to be risk-averse.

#541 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:14 PM:

Paul A. @ 533: "It was, at the time."

Well, that makes more sense.

guthrie @ 534: "I've seen arguments about climate change where the uninformed party has misunderstood the point of the simplification made by experts so that things can be understood and siezed upon the lack of precision and slight errors that inevitable exist when you are distilling amillion words into a few sentences. It just gets really annoying."

Yeah. The rhetorical position of "everything worth saying can be easily summarized" is a powerful one for people whose views are hard to defend on the details.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 536: "I don't know whether the entire theory holds up, but seems to me that fishyfishy is talking about behavior I've seen in real life."

Me too! I think most people have: the Bush years were abundant in authoritarian apologetics. Everyone agrees that people with big old authoritarian kinks play an important role in authoritarianism; the debate is over whether fishyfishy's theory is a sufficient and complete explanation, whether there's more to be said on the subject than "people just like it."

"Now that those people have gone online, they constantly forward emails to each other that explain that pushers are getting schoolkids started on drugs by handing out innocuous-looking temporary tattoos soaked in LSD, or that Obama isn't an American and is going to give all their money to his Kenyan relatives, or that street gang members play a game where they cruise around at night with their headlights off, then shoot anyone who flashes their headlights at them."

These posts by Fred Clark discuss the same ritualistic rumor-mongering.

#542 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 03:37 PM:

Teresa, #536: locals -- most often females -- going on about how they don't like leaving the area where they live and shop in order to go into The Big City, on account of not feeling safe there

I hear that too, sometimes from people who live in the suburbs of Houston. I've had people refuse to come to my house because "I'd have to drive thru downtown, and it's just not safe". (Although, to be fair, they may have been thinking about the traffic rather than Big Scary Not-White People.)

Me, I have rather the opposite reaction: I don't like to go out into rural areas because I don't feel safe there. Just driving thru on the interstate is okay, stopping for gas and a meal at an exit is okay, but you won't catch me getting off the beaten path anywhere smaller than a medium-sized city. And this is even though I know that my camouflage is fairly good; most of the people I might meet there would probably take me for a Respectable Lady. But I know I'm not, by their standards, and I know that not meeting the standards -- hell, being accused of not meeting the standards, whether it's true or not -- turns a woman into acceptable prey.

There are things I can do to protect myself against someone who only wants to take what I have. Against someone who wants to "teach me a lesson" for being uppity, there is no adequate protection -- not even a gun.

#543 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 04:16 PM:

I grew up in the country and I don't feel safe there, unless I'm with people I know.

What I mean is alone, on the roads, or living on a farmstead, etc.

However, when I was growing up, it was as safe as anywhere can be. Things are a lot different there now.

Love, C.

#544 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 04:16 PM:

Lee: "being uppity" == "failing to cringe."

I know you know that; just making the connection explicitly.

#545 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 04:28 PM:

It also seems likely that people can be easily trained into an authoritarian mind-set. There have been torture experiments that show that.

And in the Deep South, after so many generations of keeping the slaves from exhibiting the least sign of uppityness in aqny way, and particularly toward their white superiors, the entire region got inculcated with the dogma that this is the only way to behave with 'those people' who aren't like 'we people.'

This has nothing to do with kink, but eventually, as you can see so well in the histories of the fancy slave trade, it turned into kink beyond belief -- for everyone was touched by this, which was, fundamentally insanity. For you cannot proclaim and live daily with the proof that you are wrong proclaiming 'those others' are beneath humanity, don't possess anything even approaching human intelligence, etc., without going somewhat insane.

Generations of that .... We are living with the consequence of that this very minute.

Love, C.

#546 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 04:34 PM:

Abi: My goodness. I hadn't seen that. I think you're right. That makes those books a sort of fearmongering pig-out. It would also help explain why the characters are so cardboardy: they're all FOAFs, an inherently unreal species.

Randolph, I don't entirely get horror fiction. I do understand some, and have enormous respect for some of those works; but there's enough horror I don't get to make me leery of saying anything about the genre as a whole.

Nancy Mittens, that would make sense. Thing is, they almost always describe it as "a thing I don't feel safe doing any more."

Also, the participants in those conversations don't exhibit different levels of comfort and familiarity with the environment they're supposedly discussing, and they never get into specifics -- "this neighborhood's worse than it used to be, especially near the mall and in the parking lots of the big-box stores; this one's gotten a lot better since the police started patrolling on foot; and while this one may look scary, the supposed teenage toughs hanging out on the streetcorners are actually the older siblings of the children playing nearby, and can't move away from their spot because they're keeping an eye on the kids." If they did, they'd be doing real risk assessment.

Instead, one says "Things just keep getting worse, the world is scary, I'm not safe;" a second says "I just don't feel safe with things getting worse out there -- it's scary;" and a third says "It's scary how much worse things are getting; no one is safe!" And so forth, around and around; with everyone affirming that going into the big bad city is something they used to do, but don't do any more.

They may in part be using it to stave off the unwelcome reflection that the life they once imagined for themselves seems to be passing them by. I'll have to think about that.

Heresiarch: I think fishyfishy's overextended on explanations for the origins of the behavior, but I didn't want to lose the substance of ff's core observations, which are solid.

Those are good Fred Clark posts, not that I can easily remember any bad ones. I was struck by this bit, in the second post:

Those spreading this rumor can be divided into two categories: Those who know it to be false, but spread it anyway, and those who suspect it might be false, but spread it anyway. The latter may be dupes, but they are not innocent. We might think of them as complicit dupes. The former group, the deliberate liars, are making an explicit choice to spread what they know to be lies. The complicit dupes are making a subtler choice -- choosing to ignore their suspicion that this story just doesn't add up and then choosing to pass it along anyway because confirming that it's not true would be somehow disappointing and would prevent them from passing it along without explicitly becoming deliberate liars, which would make them uncomfortable.

What I want to explore here is why anyone would make either of those choices. In both cases, the spreading of this rumor seems less an attempt to deceive others than a kind of invitation to participate in deception.

That's the same thing I'm talking about when I describe some body of thought as "the kind of thing no one was ever convinced of against their will, on account of its irrefutable logic and the strength of its evidence." People don't find themselves regretfully obliged to believe The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, or Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons, or Orly Taitz's batshit Birther theories. They believe them because they want to believe them.

To loop back to Peter Watts: the multitudes of online cranks we see who insist he deserved to be beaten and abused don't believe it on evidence. They believe it because they want to believe it.

Would they circulate scary stories about godfearing evangelical patriots getting mistreated by LEOs while crossing a border? It would be interesting to find out. Probably not, though; given the increasing numbers of these incidents, it's got to have happened already, and there aren't stories about it in circulation.

#547 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:00 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 546: "I think fishyfishy's overextended on explanations for the origins of the behavior, but I didn't want to lose the substance of ff's core observations, which are solid."

Do you think you could you restate those for me? I'm afraid I'm too deep in to see them clearly.

#548 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 546:

I would suspect, based on my experience of the seeming perilousness of one's position of being saved in Evangelical circles, that there are no stories of mistreated God-fearing, evangelical patriots, and never will be. The very fact that they were mistreated means that they weren't God-fearing, evangelical, and/or patriotic enough to begin with.

Sickeningly, today I saw some idiot claim that the Peter Watts story can't be true because the US has never conducted exit inspections. I'd dearly like to know what universe that person lives in.

#549 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:20 PM:

Xopher, #544: Yes, but also: being a liberal; being a woman with a college education; being a woman who has chosen not to have children; being an unmarried woman; not being Christian; believing in civil rights for gay people; the list goes on and on, well beyond "being insufficiently deferential to men".

#550 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:34 PM:

I would argue that all those are forms of non-submission to the social norms those people expect. But that way lies madness, I suspect; one could argue that ANY kind of being "different," in opinion, hair color, or anything else, and not being ashamed is an FTC* offense.
_____
*Hmm, better specify Failure To Cringe, not Federal Trade Commission, or Serge will make some godsawful pun. On second thought: go for it, Serge!

#551 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:40 PM:

TNH #546: Recently I read an assertion that there were areas of metro Atlanta that a white person just could not go to any more. One of them was the south Fulton county area where Gail and I live. Gail, be it noted is not the only white person on our street, nor in our sub-division, nor are we the only interracial couple here. Nor have we ever been treated with any disrespect.

This was part of a larger "Look what we're suffering" whine, in which the existence of HBCUs was also mentioned as proof that white people were victims of some sort of horrid discrimination. This even though no HBCU discriminates against white people: for example, Morehouse College's valedictorian last spring was white. What, I wonder, are some people smoking?

#552 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:41 PM:

There's some current research - omitted - suggesting lessons for understanding some of the more general population of neuro-typicals by differences from the Asperger's-Autistic spectum.

- the notion is that for some folks along the Asperger's spectrum reading people is a blind spot so figuring things out logically is all.

For the opposite some folks along the neurotypical spectrum - sort of the anti-Aspergers - rely too much or even entirely on emotional reaction to what other people say or convey without saying and so ignore logic almost entirely or to a substantial degree. Emotional truth is all the truth there is.

This may depend on early conditioning and arguably where the individual falls on the neurotypical spectrum. That is for folks who in childhood, before exposure to formal logic and some language development and other brain changes, learned that emotional reading and reactions worked - often inside the (extended) family - the critical facility and logical analysis is stunted in favor of the emotional bonding agreement reaction. Salesman and demagogue techniuques perhaps? When you can fake sincerity you've got it made. Some form of eternal (sunlight?) childhood perhaps?

#553 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 05:47 PM:

Some thoughts:

• Since I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, I've paid a lot more attention to the specifics of what makes me feel anxious.

What I've discovered is that in a lot of cases, it's not that something "makes" me feel anxious. It's that I'm feeling anxious and so I look around for the first and most obvious likely cause.

If I address and successfully overcome the anxiety-causing situation, more often than not, I still feel anxious, so I go looking for the next most obvious cause.

I finally worked out that it's turtles all the way down. Which is to say, the feeling of anxiety seems to be endogenous. Blaming it on external causes allows me the (slight) relief of (the illusory) feeling that if I deal with this situation (e.g., the illusion of control), I'll Be Okay.

External threats then become, in a weird sort of way, a sort of anti-anxiety drug. And I can clearly see how that drug (especially if this whole process operates outside of awareness) could become addictive in its own right.

I have a strong suspicion this dynamic accounts for much of the "trading terrors" behavior that Teresa reports. It sounds like a variant of the game Eric Berne calls "Ain't It Awful" in Games People Play. Of course plausible and authoritative challenges to their narrative aren't reassuring: the narratives aren't the source of the anxiety. They are a response to it.

(I suspect it's also tied in with the whole human story-telling impulse. It's sort of improv a capella theatre, if you will. Not dissimilar in structure to sittin' round the cracker barrel tellin' tall tales.)

• Second thought: our culture actively cultivates anxiety as a means of control, as a means of influence—hell, as a profit center.

• Third thought: I used to puzzle mightily over many of nonsensical, illogical, and often outright incomprehensible behaviors and decisions I witness human beings make.

Until one week in quick succession I saw PBS specials on dolphins, wolves, and baboons. Suddenly, human behavior made a lot more sense. It's all about status. Which, of course, is a primitive but very powerful means of managing resources, safety, and breeding rights. Furthermore, it's emergent; it doesn't have to be imposed from the top down. It evolves naturally in any social group.

Which all, I think, goes a long way to explaining fishyfishy's idea of "enjoyment" of abuse.

Actually, rather than "enjoyment," I would offer "satisfaction."

The scariest thing in life is not knowing what's going to happen next. In an abusive situation, one at least has the satisfaction of predictability. Which is, on the flip side, why abusive relationships are so hard to get out of.

(And any time "frustration/satisfaction" energies come into play, you invoke the sex drive machinery.)

Status games are, I'll wager, very possibly hardwired.* Abusive relationships are extremely simple dynamics. Further, if you know how to be a victim, you also know how to be a perp; it's intrinsic in the paradigm.

Supportive and nurturing relationships are, while more pleasant, far more complex, rare, challenging to learn, and hard to implement unilaterally.

--

*Humans really like to pretend they're not animals, and therefore not subject to the influence of physiological drives. In my observation, the more dedicated they are to this proposition, the less they seem to be able to manage those drives.

#554 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 06:52 PM:

One sure-fire way you can tell that a scare story is rooted in manure:

"You haven't seen it in the news because the police are afraid people will panic and [stop going to the mall|be seen as politically incorrect|don't want to patrol that part of town]"

#555 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 08:47 PM:

Xopher, #550: I should have noted that none of that applies when I'm with my partner; having a visible owner makes a huge difference. Also, my paranoia wariness isn't at the same level once I get outside the South. But I do travel alone to various cons and shows, and it's an issue on the same level as the calculations women routinely have to make about strange men. Not fear exactly, but awareness and concern.

#556 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 08:55 PM:

#526 People don't smoke because they like nicotine; they smoke because they are addicted to nicotine and smoking is an efficient mechanism of delivery.

This is true in the same sense that people don't do cocaine because they like cocaine but because they are addicted to it or people don't do heroin because they like heroin but because they are addicted to it. It elides the very important fact that the vast majority of people who get hooked on a drug (nicotine, heroin, speed, caffeine, whatever) get hooked on it because they like the way it makes them feel.

Yes, the physical addiction starts occupying a larger and larger space as time goes on, but ignoring that they really do like the drug and that's usually why they got addicted in the first place is about as useful as doing the opposite and ignoring the addiction.

#557 ::: Grinder ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:12 PM:

S s t t lt t jn th fry cncrnng Ptr Wtts? Th grp hr sms t hv dn wht ntrnt flshmbs lwys d nd drvn ff th n pstr, "Dh," wh md ny sns, wth th sl dsmssv "trll" lbl. S hr m, rdy t tk p th cdgl.

BTW, pstd tw tms bt t n my blg. n s clld "Pr, Smg Ptr Wtts" nd th thr s clld "Ptr Wtts nd Smg Wht Prvlg." Th ttls ght t gv y flks sns f hw thnk bt hs trvl nd tht nlkly stry h cm p wth. Brfly, dn't by t.

f ppr trclnt, t's bcs Mr. Wtts, wh prvkd th ncdnt nd hs rfsd t nswr bsc qstns sch s, "Wht ws yr brnng qstn?" nd "Why ddn't y gt bck n th cr whn tld t d s?" nd "Why dd y strggl wth th plc?" hs cnsrd my pstngs n hs blg. S hv hs fllwrs, sm f whm r pstrs n ths thrd.

t's th sl thng: W r ll bt "dssnt," xcpt whn y dn't gr wth s.

S, fgr w cn gt th "trll" trd rght t thr n th tbl frm th gt-g. Lk Gdwn's Lw, t's n rtcl f fth tht tnpts n th ntrnt, b t Fr Rpblc.cm r th Dly Ks, wll vntlly cll nyn wh dvts frm th cnsnss thr "cmm trll" r "fscst trll," bt lwys "trll."

S hv t t, flks. Blst wy.

T rcp, my bsc pstn s ths:

1. Wtts ws lkng fr fght. cn nly spclt s t why; my gss wld b rrttn cmbnd wth smgnss t gt hs jcs gng.

2. Th cps ctd prprly. Thy sbdd hm, stck hm n jl cll t cl ff, fld chrgs, nd thrw hm t.

3. dn't blv th tls bt bng "btn" nd mcd.

4. Wtts's spprtrs r kn-jrk fx nrchsts, nfsd wth gnrs hlpng f wht prvlg, n ths cs th d tht, bcs smn s rdnrly mld-mnnrd wht Cndn thr wth dctrt, h cn xpct t scrw rnd wth th cps nd gt wy wth t.

Lt th brckts bgn. Brng t n.

#558 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:17 PM:

Grinder, we don't need to do anything yet.
Read the comments from the top, then, if you still want to be a trollish commenter, we'll deal with it.

Warning: we like 'troll bingo'. You've made a good start already at filling our cards ....

#559 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:18 PM:

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

#560 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:21 PM:

Wow, a clairvoyant who knows what really happened despite not having been there and having no personal acquaintance with any of the parties concerned.

He is also able to discern that a group of people that merely APPEAR to have been together for lo these many years is actually an "internet flashmob".

I bow in your general direction. Oops. I think I missed it by 180 degrees.

#561 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:23 PM:

I'm sorry, it's just so beautiful.

Grinder, don't you know that you have to ease your way into it? Come on too strong and people will write you off before you have a chance to get under their skin. You've gotta make us think reasoning with you is worth our time before you reveal how batshit you are. Pace yourself, big fella!

#562 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:23 PM:

Grinder, what kind of candy do you have in you?

#563 ::: Grinder ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:26 PM:

Y'r ctng xctly s prdctd. Ths wll b fn! Lrd hlp th trll wh dsn't lv th lbrl!

#564 ::: Grinder ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:32 PM:

@561

ctlly rd ths thrd bfr pstng my cmmnt. ftr sng wht th flshmb hr dd t "Dh," fgrd thr ws n prcntg n "sng" nt t. Y cn rd my cmmnts n th blg t lngth. My rsnng s fr, fr sprr t yrs, bt tht's nt gng t mttr. Y knw nd knw t, s lt's ct t th chs. :-)

#565 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:33 PM:

So far, we're just laughing at you. You haven't seen us do a pileon yet. Trust me.

#566 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:33 PM:

Uh, why are we paying the slightest bit of attention to this attention-grabbing,deliberately obnoxious asshole? He's here to entertain himself.

Disemvowel and move on.

#567 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:35 PM:

Oh.

My.

Ghu.

This is so perfect.

#568 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:46 PM:

My reasoning is far, far superior to yours, but that's not going to matter.

Stefan, you're clearly right. DNFTT. I keep thinking it will be fun, but it's the wrestling-a-pig thing.

#569 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:48 PM:

#556: "It elides the very important fact that the vast majority of people who get hooked on a drug (nicotine, heroin, speed, caffeine, whatever) get hooked on it because they like the way it makes them feel."

You have just defined addiction and then compared it to itself. Addiction is a disease process that does not require drugs; gambling is an example of an addiction where there is no illicit drug to get hooked on. The drugs of addiction do share an important factor: they generate intense feelings of euphoria. Non-addicts do not seek to recreate the euphoria, nor do they require higher doses to get the same effect. This difference in addicts is specific to addiction, and is generated by gambling and other non-drug addictions as well.

The drugs themselves are not the dangerous factor. The same drugs are used for controlling severe chronic pain, and these patients demonstrate completely different usage profiles in comparison to addicts. Even in people without chronic pain, exposure to -- for example -- narcotics for pain relief does not generate addicts. How many of us have had codeine or similar opiates for post-dental surgery treatment? How many of us needed them once the pain was eliminated?

Smoking is a complex behavior that is learned, but the reason smoking is perpetuated is because it is a highly effective means of delivering a dose of nicotine directly to the bloodstream. Nicotine is highly addictive, and is usually compared to heroin in terms of addictive potential, as well as difficulty of withdrawal. It should come as no surprise to anyone that drug addicts often also smoke and abuse alcohol. They are addictive personalities; their brains do not self regulate as well as the brains of non-addicts. If you're interested, I'll dig out the presentations on dopamine receptors and the reward pathways, which are very interesting studies.

#570 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:50 PM:

#556: "It elides the very important fact that the vast majority of people who get hooked on a drug (nicotine, heroin, speed, caffeine, whatever) get hooked on it because they like the way it makes them feel."

You have just defined addiction and then compared it to itself. Addiction is a disease process that does not require drugs; gambling is an example of an addiction where there is no illicit drug to get hooked on. The drugs of addiction do share an important factor: they generate intense feelings of euphoria. Non-addicts do not seek to recreate the euphoria, nor do they require higher doses to get the same effect. This difference in addicts is specific to addiction, and is generated by gambling and other non-drug addictions as well.

The drugs themselves are not the dangerous factor. The same drugs are used for controlling severe chronic pain, and these patients demonstrate completely different usage profiles in comparison to addicts. Even in people without chronic pain, exposure to -- for example -- narcotics for pain relief does not generate addicts. How many of us have had codeine or similar opiates for post-dental surgery treatment? How many of us needed them once the pain was eliminated?

Smoking is a complex behavior that is learned, but the reason smoking is perpetuated is because it is a highly effective means of delivering a dose of nicotine directly to the bloodstream. Nicotine is highly addictive, and is usually compared to heroin in terms of addictive potential, as well as difficulty of withdrawal. It should come as no surprise to anyone that drug addicts often also smoke and abuse alcohol. They are addictive personalities; their brains do not self regulate as well as the brains of non-addicts. If you're interested, I'll dig out the presentations on dopamine receptors and the reward pathways, which are very interesting studies.

#571 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:50 PM:

Oh, troll, we don't have flashmobs here.
(Except for the incoming trolls, of course. Funny thing about that: they usually slink out after while. Can't keep up with the regulars, I suspect.)

#572 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:55 PM:

Ginger, have you read about the studies (using rats) that indicate that junk food is addictive?

#573 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 10:56 PM:

Ignore Grinder. He was doing the troll dance on my blog, too.

#574 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 11:00 PM:

Trolls can dance?

I guess you could have a rave under a bridge.

#575 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 11:29 PM:

Now, see, that is a greater troll! Thanks, Grinder, I'm happy your species hasn't yet died out. Although your posting here after we dissected actual trolling in this very thread is quite meta.

#576 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 11:36 PM:

Trolls can dance?

Sure. Think about the Ferengi in ST:TNG "The Last Outpost".

#577 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2009, 11:58 PM:

PJ @ 572: No, but I'm not surprised. Anything that can generate pleasure can become addictive -- it seems to be linked to the dopamine receptors, and having those light up in response to something "rewarding" is what turns one person into an addict and leaves another just enjoying the reward.

#578 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:06 AM:

577
The results were classic addiction: they needed more and more junk food to get the same amount of pleasure.
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/issue/id/49233/title/November_21st%2C_2009%3B_Vol.176_%2311

#579 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:08 AM:

Grinder @557, you're clearly looking for a fight yourself. Why should we put up with you?

#580 ::: Grinder ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:13 AM:

Yh, "dsmvwl." Cnsrshp s wht Ptr Wtts nd hs fllwrs d. D y rlz jst wht slf-prdy y flks r?

H Wll Shttrly! Dsn't srprs m tht y hng t n ths cwrdly crwd!

#581 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:17 AM:

Hmm, Avram? Do you have the keys to the disemvoweller? I'm bored with this loser.

#582 ::: Grinder ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:18 AM:

@565, pls d pln. wnt t b brd n yr Mrmn hvmnd's lvn' smgnss! BTW, why sch fr t th brdr? frd thy'r gng t sz yr cllctn f hrd-t-fnd prcln btt plgs?

#583 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:22 AM:

mythago, discussing the ABM meltdown on Scalzi's blog:

A sufficiently advanced wingnut is indistinguishable from a troll, and vice versa.
While I think the current moron is clearly a troll, if he'd been a little less over the top, he might easily have been mistaken for someone who actually believed the nonsense he's spouting to try to rouse us.

#584 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:31 AM:

I'm going to dock Grinder 5 points for being too meta and self aware and 10 points for being too obvious. I give him a B, a solid B.

#585 ::: Grinder ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:32 AM:

Rddl m ths, Btppl: Wht dd yr dctrt-dgrd hldng, dstngsshd thr thnk ws "gng n" whn h ws stppd, nd why dd h nd t strm t f hs cr t sk th qstn, f nt t prvk n rgmnt wth th plc?

Nt tht ny f y wld vr sk ny qstns f Pt. Y s, h cld tll y nythng nd y'd tk t s trth. Tht's why s thrghly dsrspct y. lng wth th Lvly Srh Pln, y ntly llstrt th dcln f ny ctl thght n mrc.

Jst lk th nhbtnts f Jsslnd dwn Sth, y'r nt cntnt t b mrly stpd. Y rgrd ntllgnc s rl prblm, nd thrfr y ggrssvly flnt yr stpdty. t's wht w mght cll th mrcn Dss ths dys. Wht's n th gddmnd wtr, nywy?

#586 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:33 AM:

Xopher, I tend to agree about the qualities of this one. Accusing us of being a flashmob in one post, and cowards in another, indicates to me that it believes that being disemvowelled is a reward of some kind. Probably puts it on the wall right next to its 'banned from Argo, dead and alive' poster.

#587 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:36 AM:

OK, #585 goes way over the line. Goodbye, Grinder.

#588 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 01:34 AM:

Ginger @577:

You know, for a moment I thought you were posting that comment as an explanation for Grinder's behavior.

#589 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 02:07 AM:

Abi @588: It does explain a lot, doesn't it?

#590 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 02:18 AM:

Did anyone save the original texts of Grinder's comments? I'd like to have them for the troll-wiki.

#591 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 02:34 AM:

Responding to two older comments --

Tom @480, IIRC, the first time I saw that video, it was on TV, and they said it was footage of an actual traffic stop. I could be misremembering of course. Also, if it were a scripted performance, I doubt they'd have written in the part about voting for Clinton. Partisan politics don't belong in training films.

Alex @503, my understanding of Predestination -- which has always struck me as an incredibly creepy doctrine -- is that persons who are members of the Elect naturally tend to behave as though they were. Therefore, the way to ward off worries about whether you're Elect is to observe yourself behaving in ways the Elect would behave, without prompting or force acting as motivations.

We really need some people who grew up Calvinist to discuss this. Paging Elise Mathesen, Lydy Nickerson, Cally Soukup, and ...?

#592 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 03:54 AM:

It appears that the Times Herald has obtained a copy of the police report.

#593 ::: Shan ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Because no one ever falsifies the facts on a police report.

#594 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 12:16 PM:

tnh @591

I happen to have Calvin's Institutes open on my desk at the moment. (Don't ask.) He's not necessarily super clear on this, but:

"Thus there will be no impropriety in considering holiness of life as the way, not indeed the way which gives access to the glory of the heavenly kingdom; but a way by which God conducts his elect to the manifestation of that kingdom, since his good pleasure is to glorify those whom he has sanctified." (III.xviii.4)

In other words, the Elect tend to behave in a holy fashion because that is how it pleases God to have his Elect behave.

In even fewer other words, "Yep."

#595 ::: Sandra Bond ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 03:09 PM:

Xopher @574: oh, absolutely. There's a whole village full of them in a certain MMORPG. (Wish they'd stay there, though.)

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2371033/dancing_troll_village_in_world_of_warcraft/

#597 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 04:20 PM:

Sandra: ROFLMAO!

#598 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 07:59 PM:

"Mrmn hvmnd"? LOL! (I didn't bother interpreting any of the troll's ravings, but that bit just jumped out at me.)

#599 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 08:15 PM:

Avram, you forgot to disemvowel Grinder's link to his blog. He shouldn't get ML's Googlejuice, methinks.

#600 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 08:36 PM:

Xopher, he's pretty much alone there (I went visiting at lunch). Few comments, and his posts on Watts's arrest weren't any more sensitive (or sensible) than his comments here.

#601 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 08:42 PM:

598
That was 'Mormon hivemind'. I don't know what the heck he was babbling about with that.

#602 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 09:12 PM:

Coming up on Sunday Kos ...
[snipped]
* DarkSyde will post some exclusive material from author Peter Watts, who recently had a terrifying experience at the US border.

It won't do anything to quiet the trolls, I think, but it should be interesting.

#603 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 10:58 PM:

@592: I just read that report properly and I'm now in a state of Heisenbergian uncertainty over whether I should be awestruck at Peter Watts' Conan-like ability to wrestle several officers to the ground, shrug off numerous blows, and ignore pepperspray — they must build them tough in Canada, if even the SF writers can take on several border guards — or laughing uproariously over the astonishingly transparent mendacity.

For pity's sake, can anyone besides PCP abusers and internet tough guys actually ignore pepperspray? How do they expect anyone to believe that pack of lies?

#604 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2009, 11:57 PM:

Mormon hivemind? Sure, we discuss Mormonism from time to time, but ... what is this guy smoking?

Does he have some kind of freak immunity to noticing that he'd embarrassing himself?

#605 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 12:50 AM:

That just means he probably read your Wikipedia page.

#606 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 01:33 AM:

(reading from bottom up -- when I get too far behind in threads.... my Internet access at home was out Tuesday and Wednesday, back midday Thursday--junction box had deteriorated to dysfunctional)
# 586 P J

Banned from Argo
Dead and alive
Banned from Argo
We contrive
Banned from Argo
We've been bad
Banned from Argo
Now we get mad!!!

Our crew is top notch
And we play,
When we have fun
Get out of our way!
If you're not serving
We can't buy
We want our rec time
Where we don't die!

Banned from Argo
Dead and alive
Banned from Argo
We contrive
Banned from Argo
We've been bad
Banned from Argo
That's so sad!!!

Civilians they
Don't understand
How we're desp'rate
When we land.
Cooped up in a
Metal tank
Locked for months
Got funds in the bank!

Banned from Argo
Dead and alive
Banned from Argo
We contrive
Banned from Argo
Funds we've got
Banned from Argo
Sorry's our lot!

Banned from Argo
Dead and Alive
Banned from Argo
We contrive
But Argo doesn't
Want our pay
Guess have to
Go elsewhere to play!

#607 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 01:53 AM:

Pylon, pylon, pylon
I've got a Bingo card
Pylon, pylon, pylon
Tow'ring over o'er the yard.

A troll I see underneath a bridge
Pylon, pylon, pylon,
Up to sky
We'll piss in his eye
Pylon, pylon, pylon!

Pylon, pylon, pylon
I've got a Bingo card
Pylon, pylon, pylon
Tow'ring over o'er the yard.

A disemvolling we now see
Pylon, pylon, pylon,
Alas for the fun
That's not to be
Pylon, pylon, pylon!

Pylon, pylon, pylon
I've got a Bingo card
Pylon, pylon, pylon
Tow'ring over o'er the yard.

And why is our fun not going to be
Pylon, pylon, pylon,
That troll is gone
Now we can't jump on
To pylon, pylon, pylon!

Pylon, pylon, pylon
Filled is the Bingo card
Pylon, pylon, pylon
The troll feathered and tarred.

NESTOR!!!

#608 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 02:03 AM:

Trolls can dance?

The Basic Troll goes:

in your face, in your face, stomp your toes, repeat....

Until banned.

#609 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 02:08 AM:

(Ignoring the troll.)

Teresa @536:

On people "Not feeling safe" in other neighbourhoods.

This wasn't risk assessment; it was a bonding ritual. The core message: I don't like going among strangers. I don't feel safe there. There are people out there just waiting to do bad things to you.

It goes past that level. I had one Winnipeg woman use that line of talk about my current neighbourhood, Osborne Village (Near downtown, full of college kids, artsy types, and shops catering to various subcultures). Thing is, she herself lived in the North End, a neighbourhood considered by the rest of the city to be the scary place to avoid (on the fringes of which both our workplace and my then-apartment were situated). Because Osborne Village has weird people in it who dress funny. she could cope with gangs, crime, and tragically painful levels of poverty.

But she still *needed* someplace she could point to to do the bonding ritual of "It's scary out there".

(These bonding rituals are everywhere. Some speaker on CBC radio was trying to say that the real reason people talk about the weather is to talk about their own state of mind, their personal emotional weather, and I instantly growled that it was nonsense. Because I don't discuss my emotional state with strangers I walk past on the street. I've had multiple two-line weather discussions with people at bus stops, or standing in their yard, or walking their dogs.

People do, however, sometimes get asked to show that they're part of the neighbourhood / tribe / common culture / species / herd. Or someone feels the need to flash their own common credentials, and so starts the discussion, hoping you'll answer in like kind. To prove either you or they aren't a strange threat.

And weather is certainly common ground enough for anyone.)

#610 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 03:54 AM:

#512 fishyfishy

Well, that's just silly. You don't distinguish between a woman who's made a mistake and gotten stuck in a terrifying situation, as against women who choose, over and over again, abusing boyfriends and husbands? Does "fear" explain the latter? Just ask a social worker -- both patterns exist. The second pattern frustrates the hell out of them, because all the solutions that ignore the basic emotional make-up of the victim just perpetuate the cycle.

The two can overlap--the repeating pattern is one that involves something deeper causing the "mistake" in the first case, and the repeating mistake in the second. What are the tipoffs, if any, of a potentially abusive spouse? And is the abusive spouse, going to be an abusive spouse in subsequent relationships, or not?

In the second case, I suspect it's not limited to emotional makeup issues--there are taught or otherwise inculcated behaviors, expectations, training, perhaps some innates drives for security which mix with other factors... a need to be needed, a need for closeness, hopes, training to be looking for certain attitude and values and power (im)balances.... Change is threatening to a lot of people, and the prospect of change is also threatening. The unknown is not only a threat, it involves having to deal with change, having to perhaps even start over, change culture, change values, consciously deal with having to learn entirely new patterns, have to rebaseline perceptions, reactions, actions, responses, reset what's a threat and what "comfort" is... the defaults and baseline are gone. The cues and clues are gone.

In the microcosm, consider the person who wanders into this forum from outside SF/F fandom, outside the SF/F convention circuit, who blindly websurfs in, without any presupposition about what the community here is, without knowledge an on- or off-line experience and interaction with any of us in here, except what the person sees in a random thread they person has dropped into.

The random thread may or may not be full of whimsical verse. It may or may not be a thread dicussing a political hot potato topic. It may or may not have multiple levels of discourse in it, the unsaid material supplied by the persons reading a post being familiar with the idiosyncracies of particular poster and automatically doing in effect a reading adjustment--adjustment that the casual popper in hasn't got a clue about.

There is a community in here, and a set of community values--but they differ from what the assumption of e.g. TV land characters have as baseline. The typical person in here probably reads more book in a year than the average US citizen reads in two or more decades, or maybe even, a lifetime....

So yeah, you can spend decades discussing the issues of patriarchy, institutionalized gender bias, etc. But you want to pretend that the bias isn't internalized -- that in sub-saharan Africa it's not the old woman who enforce female circumcision. The the beaten wife isn't often a child-abuser herself. That the camp guard isn't some guy who's lived a life of poverty and abuse.

They may be, they may not be. And the reasons may vary. Unthinking passing on of mindsets and behaviors is one thing, it's not the only cause or possible cause of particular behavior. Not all bullies are/were victims themselves of abuse/bullying--far from it in a lot of cases, I suspect/saw. Bullies who have made my life miserable, got way too much enjoyment and self-validation and pleasure from it. They enjoyed the power, the control, and the feelings of grinding other people into misery....

I can tell you why I'm not an authoritarian. I can tell you that that the age of six I realized that being a deliberate conscious manipulator of other people was sometime I decided against, for reasons which included:
1) I would have to remember what I was telling had/told to whom and would have to keep track of it all and not say something to Person A that would contradict what I was saying to B... I would have to keep my stories consistent with one another and remember, again, what I had told to whom--which seemed like a level of effort and memory which was beyond my inclination/interest/abilitie
2) I regarded as immoral and unethical and morally and ethically repugnant.

Additionally, I don't want the responsibility and never have wanted it, for making other people's decisions for them and directing how they live their lives.... I believe that people should have self-determination and shouldn't hand it over to someone else to direct their life for them.

Finally, I don't appreciate other people telling me how I should live and demanding I submit to their authority because they say so etc.

#611 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2009, 08:00 AM:

in re Grinder:

He has a website. I went and checked it out. I'm not going to link to it, because that would imperil the only noteworthy thing about it: its near-total absence of incoming links.

#613 ::: John Hawkes-Reed ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 01:51 PM:

Paula @ 607: Top quality Big Black lyrics there. (I'm sure I'm missing a reference)

#614 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 02:33 PM:

Re ##612

What Peter Watts is referring to re ICE -- a story on the current The Nation's site. It's chilling as hell, so much so I could barely stand to read it.

Here it is.

We have more than one friend who has actually been in one of these prisons: just blindsided, had no idea of what was coming, arrested and treated like what is described.

Love, C.

#615 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 03:22 PM:

I don't believe this has been linked here yet, so I'll link it now. Update from Dr. Watts:

Happiness is a Warm Parka. And Friends I Didn’t Know I Had.

#616 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 03:55 PM:

My comment from about an hour ago seems to be in limbo.

I was instructed it was held for moderation for excessive urls.

But there was only one url link, to the Nation's article on the ICE black depots for illegally arrested prisoners, whose names are not released, that PW referred to.

Love, C.

#617 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 04:01 PM:

616
It's out of limbo now; I can see it.

#618 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 04:06 PM:

Constance @616:

It wasn't the quantity of URLs in this case; it was the quality. I've pasted the URL from your latest comment in to clean it up, but you malformed the link.

If your link is neither your "visited color" nor your "unvisited color" at preview, check your syntax. Or click on the links themselves at preview.

#619 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 08:37 PM:

That wasn't the link -- the link is the same as in the second comment.

Have no idea -- but it took forever to load the preview -- I mean like nearly 7 minutes. The internet has been wonky for the last two days. Am assuming the storm is responsible.

Unless it's this crud that has me in its claws ....

Love, C.

#620 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 09:10 PM:

Constance, are you using AVG, and if so, might it have done a major update recently? I was having problems with a lot of net-access stuff, and wasn't sure which of several upgrades might have caused it. A few days ago, I removed AVG and installed Avast (which had caused me some problems before), and everything seems to be running smoothly now.

#621 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 09:23 PM:

This story still depresses me.

#622 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2009, 11:37 PM:

TNH 611: The links from Grinder's name are still intact, so there are links incoming to the bozo's website from here.

#623 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 01:13 AM:

I think it might be important to highlight, for the "He had it coming" trolls and even those saying he should have been meeker. In his new update, Watts points out that he had a passenger (even mentioned in the news reports):

He did nothing wrong even by the insane post-9/11 standards of Homeland Security. He behaved. And he, too, was taken from the car, handcuffed, interrogated, detained for hours, and finally spat out at the Canadian border on foot without transportation. He was treated less harshly than me in terms of physical brutality; but he was treated more harshly in the sense that he had done nothing to to give these people any kind of excuse, however trivial.

#624 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 03:00 AM:

Darksyde's interview, with comments here.

#625 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 03:40 AM:

It hasn't been given much attention, what with Grinder's troll fest and all, but anyone following this case really should read the Times Herald follow up with the bits from the police report. What occured was obviously far beyond what I was picturing.

It describes a significant struggle with multiple officers wrestling Watts to the ground, Watts somehow escaping and fleeing back into his vehicle, the officers attempting to wrestle him out of his vehicle at which point (the report claims) Watts choked one of the officers. After he was wrestled out of the vehicle pepper spray was used but was (it is claimed) ineffective at which point Watts was very forcefully attacked with elbow strikes to the chin, knee strikes, etc. And, it claims, it was only after batons were deployed (!) that Watts was successfully arrested.

Like I said, that is extremely different than what I was picturing and sounds incredibly violent. Attempts to wrestle him out of the vehicle? Batons? Elbow strikes to the face?

The Times Herald has filed a FOIA request for video of the incident, and the video has to be released by the 23rd. Unless it is lost or accidently erased. Which it will be.

#626 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 03:54 AM:

Given the description of the arrest in that article, I think it safe to predict we won't see the video online any time soon. Warner/DC are very protective of their Superman copyrights.

#627 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 05:13 AM:

Re. David Bilek @ 625

Don't read the comments following that linked story - it's not worth the blood pressure rise.

#628 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 05:28 AM:

dcb, #627: oh, the comments are so over the top they're funny. And Watts has at least as many defenders as attackers.

Paul Duncanson, #626: well, you may have just earned my coveted "Croak of the Day" award, at least unless something about health care takes first place.

#629 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 10:10 AM:

Paul @626: I'd've thought Marvel's Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk would be a better match. Mild-mannered ex-scientist transforms into rampaging monster! I hope the video's in colour, so we can see his skin turn green as he Hulks out.

#630 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 01:17 PM:

For what it's worth, Spouse sent out the PW story via KOS plus the Nation story today to his private e-mail list, which is filled with bold type journalists and so on, and which is quite large. So hopefully this will generate more investigation.

As for my antivirus program I use SuperSpyWare, but it did just update last week. Though when I don't know, as I wake up more sick every day than when I went to bed.

However, Spouse had the same problems, and had them up at CUNY on their system too, so I think it is the environment. As like, today? No hot water or heat in our building ....

Thanks! It seems to be better today. But I just got up.

Love, C.

#631 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 01:25 PM:

David Bilek @ 625, that really makes me want to see the video, because it sounds like a fish story that's grown quite a lot.

#632 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 01:30 PM:

That T Herald story was carefully written. Sheesh it even includes this:

The writer was denied a public defender Wednesday because he exceeds the financial criteria, which is based on a person's income.

To make PW appear as a spoiled Ph.D. fat cat thinking he's better than all the little guys.

The story doesn't include the fact that PW's friends who he hasn't met have been fund-raising, since he can't afford the legal costs.

Love, C.

#633 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Goodness, I sure am glad that several plucky policemen, equipped only with nightsticks, mace, guns, body armor, and numbers, were able to defend themselves against this one rampaging and dangerous writer. I shudder to think what might have happened, had there been *two* writers in the car.

I hope the video does come out. It's possible that the border cops were entirely in the right, though it seems kind of unlikely. But the video will probably make it a lot clearer. Unfortunately, I doubt that anything short of unambiguous evidence of a felony (say, stealing stuff or raping someone) on the part of the police will lead to any consequences for them, whereas any evidence that suggests Watts did anything wrong will of course require prosecuting him. And if the video is "lost," there will of course be no consequences for anyone.

#634 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 03:36 PM:

The video won't be lost.

It will be damaged enough to be unwatchable for any real conclusion, or it will be fiddled.

Those are my predictions. Because NYPD cops have managed both of these more than once in high profile cases.

However, nothing happened to them, except desk duty.

Love, C.

#635 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Not Watts, but video.

Scene: Washington, DC, with snow coming down; a neighborhood gathers to celebrate with a snowball fight. Everyone is having fun, and there are no problems, until a guy gets out of a car waving a gun. The guy is an off-duty cop, and he starts yelling and threatening people, and eventually the whole thing is ruined for everyone who was there.

He DREW HIS GUN. Over a SNOWBALL FIGHT. Go on, trolls, tell me how those snowballers were really terrorists in disguise, and how a riot was breaking out and he had to step in and stop it (no, he CAUSED any civil unrest that might have happened), and how everybody just needed to shut up and slink away as soon as the gun came out. You'll be shouting into the wind, because that's a LONG chunk of video and it shows EXACTLY what did and didn't happen.

#636 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 07:22 PM:

Lee, that's not all of it. The snowball fight had been stopping when cars came through, but he stopped in the middle of the fight, after a while got his Hummer snowballed, and got out of the car with his gun drawn. There's plenty of video showing him yelling at people telling them he's going to get them in jail because they threw snowballs at his Hummer. The police chief put out a statement that it was inappropriate and the detective is now on desk duty until he gets some level of discipline.

#637 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 10:04 PM:

As I predicted in #634, ay-up. Desk Duty. The dorkdong's still gettin' paid in full. And benefits.

I really really really hate living in a police state.

The sense of release we feel when we get to leave the USA is astonishing.

Love, C.

#638 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 01:33 AM:

I suspect one of those ICE sites is within two miles of the hotel Readercon is at--there was a loud outcry in Burlington, Massachusetts a while back about the relocation of a detention center from Boston, to Burlington. Burlington did not want people being detained by the US Government in which is a large town full of houses, some apartments complexes, office parks, a few hotels, and shopping malls, which is NOT on a border, NOT a port city (unlike Boston, which has an international air terminal, a mass transit hub--there is NO rail service and no interstate bus service in Burlington--, and a seaport mostly for freight shipping and LNG tankers bringing fuel to the northeast, also to a minor degree for passengers, and fishing port--the fishing boats are US-flagged but fish in international waters).... lots of rats were smelled. The leasor was looking at "money! income!" in an overbuilt and full of signs reading "for sale" and "for lease" market. The town was saying, "why is the US Government wanting to put a detention facility -here-?! This does not make any sense from a reasonable, open, honest perspective, and from a perspective of keeping the detention facilities colocated to or located physically nearby a port of entry...."

#639 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 12:54 PM:

Xopher@622: They're rel="nofollow" links tho', which means search engines won't index them.

#640 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 01:16 PM:

Has anyone seen any news about PW's court appearance, which is today?

Love, C.

#641 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 02:06 PM:

The Port Huron Times Herald reports that the preliminary examination was to be at 1.30pm local time today. I guess that's about 6.30pm GMT, about a half-hour ago? We may have to wait for a few hours yet, depending how it goes.

#642 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 02:33 PM:

As the Times Herald is owed by Gannet, no wonder the rag's taken the tone it has.

Will we learn whether or not video is shown? Or maybe this is the preliminary, a hearing, to decide whether or not more judicial action will be taken. Argh.

Love, C.

#644 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 06:02 PM:

A Michigan attorney writing about this term--"bound over"-- described it as:

"the judge has issued a finding of probable cause to proceed. This is much different than the burden of proof required at trial (“beyond a reasonable doubt”). In fact, the burden of proof in preliminary examinations is so low that I’ve never seen a case not bound over to Circuit Court unless the prosecution failed to produce any witnesses..." [bolding mine]

#645 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 07:09 PM:

Paul Duncanson @ 626:

Maybe they'll substitute a Road Runner/Coyote cartooon for the security video, claim Peter was the Road Runner, and explain that they had to beat him because he was making that terrorist "meep meep" noise.

#646 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 08:44 PM:

TNH@536, on people finding the need to think it's scary outside. My wife had a friend from high school who lives in LA and thinks that big cities are generally scary and doesn't go out a lot (though she managed to be in a hotel off Tienanmen Square the day things happened there.) She came to visit us in New Jersey, and she and Laura went up to New York City to see museums, and she even let herself be talked into going in the (gasp!) *subway*. "Don't worry, it'll be fine, worst that will happen is we miss our train and have to wait for the next." So then as they're walking down the stairs, some crazy woman hits my wife over the head and starts yelling at her about something unintelligible. Fortunately there was no long-term damage, though she was a bit disoriented and sore for the day. But fat chance we'll ever get the friend in a subway again, having confirmed her fears about subways and New York both.

#647 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 09:33 PM:

Bruce Cohen #645: they had to beat him because he was making that terrorist "meep meep" noise.

There is, of course, ample precedent for that.

#648 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 02:45 AM:

Bruce @ 645: That probably wouldn't work. They caught him.

(Wile E. Coyote did actually catch the Road Runner once, but I don't think Dr Watts is tall enough for that clip to work.)

#649 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 07:45 AM:

"To no one will we sell, to none will we deny or delay, right or justice." [Precise translations of the medieval Latin vary]

So they chuck 'im out, the brute. And then expect him to keep coming back to stand in front of a judge. How long is this going to run for?

Remember, he has to keep crossing the border, maybe past the guys who will be witnesses against him.

#650 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 10:07 AM:

Peter Watts writes: Best. Border Crossing. Ever.

"See how easy that is, guys?"

#651 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 10:34 AM:

There will be a trail the Gannett rag reports in today's coverage of the court hearing.

The story told by the prosecution is toldby the guard who allegedly was PW's primary target -- who jumped in after the action began. It's all very weird.

Watts will face trial in circuit court on a charge of assaulting and resisting arrest after Beaudry's testimony in the preliminary examination in front of District Court Judge John Monaghan.
Officer Andrew Beaudry said he had a physical altercation with the Canadian science fiction writer Dec. 8 while Watts was crossing the Blue Water Bridge into Canada.
Beaudry testified he noticed three of his partners had a black vehicle pulled over east of the booths about 3:20 p.m.
He said he went to assist them after seeing Watts resisting as they tried to handcuff him outside of the vehicle.
Watts then struggled and entered the vehicle, not complying with verbal orders, Beaudry said.
The officer, who has been with the agency for six years, said he attempted to get Watts out of the vehicle. In the process, Beaudry said the defendant grabbed either his uniform or jacket collar, choking him.
Beaudry said he used an elbow and leg strike to free himself and Watts exited the vehicle.
When the writer refused to follow orders to get on the ground, Beaudry said he sprayed him with pepper spray, and when Watts again didn't respond to commands, he deployed his baton. He said Watts then got on the ground.

Love, C.

#652 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 10:37 AM:

Constance #614:

Excuse me, but did I just read an article describing a network of secret prisons inside the US?

The author of the article didn't have an explanation for why the authorities would build such a thing. I mean, what possible use could a network of secret prisons, into which you can toss people indefinitely without having to account for their whereabouts or let them communicate with their family or lawyer, have? It's certainly hard to imagine what uses someone with no morals but a lot of power might come up with for such a thing.

Of course, nobody will find himself shuffled among a dozen of those jails for weeks or months, then deported to some remote country, just because they have p-ssed off the wrong person. I mean, not unless they've *really* pissed off the *wrong* person.

Where are we headed, as a country? We've entirely accepted the mechanisms of the police state, in hopes that we can democratically and legally control the management of it. If a bunch of armed goons in masks bust in your neighbor's door in the middle of the night, shoot his dog, drag him and his wife and kid out into the cold half-naked, beat the crap out of him for complaining, and haul him off to some undisclosed facility, you're supposed to assume the goons are the good guys. (Probably, he didn't have his papers in order. Or maybe he bought too much sudafed. Or perhaps someone misentered the address.) If you see armed goons dragging someone in chains to an office complex in the middle of the night, similarly, they're the good guys, the forces of law and order intended to protect us from scary things that go bump in the night. Questioning the armed goons is unsafe. Taking pictures of them is liable to get your camera and your head busted.

What kind of country is this going to be for our kids? What kind of country is it going to be for *us* in another ten years? Voting the Republicans mostly out of office hasn't fixed this. Putting in a smarter and better man as president hasn't fixed this. What will?

#653 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 11:57 AM:

Um, rather, what kind of country is it for us now.

It was pretty clear -- these are what Immigration pretty much always was like for non-citizens, but now, with homeland security and progressively less and less oversight and regulation for decades, has gotten beyond any regulation of any kind. Your feds and senators and representatives have allowed this to happen by doing nothing for generations. Now it's part of the darthvader toolkit as well.

One of the reasons the border guards at Port Huron behave as they do.

What I can't figure out is the commentors to the reports of the PW case: are the USian? Canadian? Both? That is the country we live in, yes. I don't know these people -- except many in my family are them.

Otherwise, I live in a bubble of progressive, multi-cultural, multi-lingual artists and intellectuals, all of whom are condemned out of hand by these people of which my family, by-and-large, are a part.

Love, C.

#654 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 12:29 PM:

Re: the snowball video.

It appears that the young man was disobeying a lawful order from a law enforcement officer.

The officer is seen showing a badge, gun, and saying "Throw another snowball" repeatedly.

The young man is then shown saying "I didn't throw it" as he's arrested. This appears to be an admission that he did not obey a lawful order.

or something like that.

#655 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2009, 03:57 PM:

The two reports referred to in the Nation article outline the problem in more detail. Amnesty International's Jailed Without Justice describes the human rights violations against immigration detainees, and Human Rights Watch's Locked Up Far Away describes the bouncing of detainees to various remote locations, where it's harder for them to get assistance, or have their custody overseen.

In part to help folks place this in context, I've added them to The Online Books Page, where the subject map for Detention of persons -- United States now shows both of these reports alongside various other reports about detention issues in the US and elsewhere.

I'm happy to hear of suggestions of other online books to add for these and other subjects.

#656 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2009, 07:05 PM:

Constance @ 651:

Reading the Times Herald story, ISTM that Beaudry raised the possibility (perhaps unknowingly) that he had attacked Peter Watts for obeying the orders of one of the other officers. I think we're going to see some changes in the description of events by the officers involved as they realize that they're not providing a coherent or consistent description. And I'll bet my next paycheck¹ that the security video will never be seen, or will not show crucial parts of the action.

1. This is a cheat: I've just retired.

#657 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2009, 07:23 PM:

An op-ed on the snowball fight by the guy who was accused of throwing a snowball at the detective.

#658 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2009, 07:43 PM:

That's what they get for detaining a policy wonk. Priceless!

That should darned well go on his resume. heh.

#659 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 03:13 AM:

EClaire (@ 216): May I ask whom it was who linked to me?

#660 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 09:45 PM:

I got a wonderful New Year's present. I thought I would share.

I was going to write you a love letter tonight.
But I was restless
and I missed you
And I knew you were
coming soon.
So I washed your sweater and
aired out your coat and
waterproofed your boots and
hung up
your pants and found your socks and
all I wrote was I love you in cotton
I miss you in wool
Come back in black
shoe polish.

I don't get so many poems written for me.

#661 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 09:50 PM:

Oops, I shall move that to the open thread, where it belongs.

#662 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 11:32 AM:

Updates?

#663 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 12:11 PM:

So, not to trivialize the horror that Dr. Watts went through, but did anybody else out there read one of his books for the first time after hearing about his run-in with the border police?

I bought Starfish in December, read it, and discovered that his fiction is ... amazing: intense, paranoid, stylish.

I am in no way implying that any of this was meant to sell books, but am I the only new reader he's gained since his arrest?

#664 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 07:55 PM:

Evan, I have two of his books, but haven't read them yet. I'm about eight years behind on my to-read piles and I think the books are about seven years away.

#665 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 02:58 PM:

Teresa...

Thanks for the response...I stepped out for a moment and I just now checked back on the thread.

You left some important words off my statement, "...suggest to me that by his actions he provoked the guards to try to physically enforce their lawful instructions."

Physically enforcing an instruction can be as simple as firmly grasping and leading a person in the direction you want them to go. It can escalate to various types of holds, use of a baton, pepper spray, etc. In a confrontation that is "by the book," these techniques should stop as soon as the person complies with instructions.

I agree with you that the word "provoke" is a bit dicey. To me it belongs with words like "fighting," "beating," etc, none of which have any place in police work. A well-trained police officer uses specific techniques to enforce a lawful instruction, and knows ahead of time what to do and when.

You won't be surprised to know that I don't agree with your breakdown of my "blame the victim" approach. For starters, I've had the same view in these matters for many years...much earlier than the ten years you selected as the beginning of some sort of societal breakdown. I've lived and worked and traveled through many areas that involved some sort of control or security, and I quite simply have never been bothered by routine searches (even random ones) or other procedures. If Dr. Watts' situation was brought about because he didn't obey a few simple, lawful instructions, then that would in fact be a situation that couldn't happen to me, because I do obey simple and lawful instruction. And more to the point, if I get out of my car and the law enforcement person who has stopped me asks me to get back in, then I am going to do that.

If, on the other hand, he was treated unlawfully, then I do recognize that this could happen to me. Fortunately, it never has in all of my dealings with armed officials in this and other countries.

My strong suspicion is that Dr. Watts was given a LAWFUL INSTRUCTION which he failed to obey, leading to a procedural escalation to get him to comply. I suspect this because I have seen it many, many times (mostly through news reporting...but that's a tangent I don't want to get on right now.) Do I know this to be the case? Of course not. But the familiarity of the circumstances, from my point of view, is perhaps similar to how you might feel if Dr. Watts' legal team requested the video...and the border patrol said that it had been "lost." You may not know the actual facts, but things seem eerily familiar.

Thanks again for the space to discuss this...

#666 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 03:26 PM:

Ironically, I get the comment numbered 666 instead of someone named "Scratch."

#667 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 03:36 PM:

#665 Scratch ...then that would in fact be a situation that couldn't happen to me, because I do obey simple and lawful instruction.

What would happen if you didn't understand an instruction?

#668 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 05:40 PM:

He would listen MORE SLOWLY and LOUDLY.

#669 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 05:43 PM:

Ah, dangit Xopher, I came this close to posting a brief follow-up to my #665.

Mr. Macdonald, if that happened then hopefully I would not end up getting the sh*t kicked out of me by a poorly trained official. The closest I ever came to that was a train conductor in Hungary who was trying to tell me something or other. Fortunately he just gave up and walked way. At any rate, there's no indication that this was the situation with Dr. Watts.

Actually, I had some fun with your question, but it leads me to a moment of clarity. I make no apology or defense for an officer who does not follow procedures, or who is poorly trained. I guess in situations like the one at hand, what I am really defending is the established procedures. And generally the procedures will give an officer the authority to physically control a situation. But that is certainly not a blanket approval of any and all use of force.

#670 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 06:25 PM:

#669 Scratch: At any rate, there's no indication that this was the situation with Dr. Watts.

You mean that you don't think the fact that he got the shit kicked out of him is just that indication?

#671 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 08:07 PM:

Jim...

I haven't seen any indication that Dr. Watts did not understand the instructions he was given. In fact, on his own blog he says that he was asked to get back into the car.

#672 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 08:56 PM:

And we've also seen, according to one of the guards' statements, that he was beaten for trying to get back into his car.

I can't think of any circumstance, or set of circumstances, given what we know, in which the guards acted correctly.

#673 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 10:54 PM:

That's interesting Jim. Where can I see that statement?

#674 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 11:50 PM:

That's interesting Jim. Where can I see that statement?

Quoted in post #651 above, with links to the newspaper story.

#675 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:49 AM:

Thanks Jim. It appears the guard is saying that Dr. Watts was not following verbal instructions, whatever those may have been.

#676 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:56 AM:

It dismays me greatly that the US entertainment industry portrays law enforcement officials and federal officials as gratuitously violent and violent aggreggors, physically assaulting suspects and beating up arrested suspects, for purposes apparently of "dramatic suspense" and titillation of audiences. This leads to not only the general public, but officials considering this to be appropriate, ordinary, reasonable, acceptable behavior...

Tailhock before Top Gun was a Navy Aviation conference and convention which lacked the the general tenor of the abusive drunken partying and assaults on women which attracted Congressional attention and action, which developed massively in the wake of Top Gun. Apparently naval aviators felt challenged to compete with the fictional character played by Tom Cruise in the matter of being an obnoxious alcohol-drenched asshole....

Then there was the Tenn story "The Seven Sexes" and the real world examples of the development of eating disorders such at anorexia nervosa and bulimia, in parts of the world following the introuction of film and TV from the USA with the size 00 femle role models on-screen....

#677 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 01:39 AM:

Scratch:

We're back to a fundamental disagreement, or rather, we never left it.

Should a civilian have the right to ask an officer of the law why said officer is making a request of said citizen? Leaving aside any questions of "hot pursuit" or urgency of time, which are not a factor in this story, are police officers ex officio beyond questioning? And if they are, what is the legitimate punishment for violating that immunity?

Now me, I think that police officers are my employees and my fellow citizens. I don't consider them immune from questioning about their actions. And even if I did, I don't think that violence as a means of enforcing that immunity is consistent with our values as a society.

I'm with Jo @2: his real crime was failure to cringe sufficiently.

#678 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 07:00 AM:

A Port Huron Times Herald FOIA request for video of the Peter Watts incident was denied by U.S. Customs and Border Protection because it is an ongoing investigation.

#679 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 07:36 AM:

Terry @659 - His name is Ben, and I believe he's a librarian in Chicago. It's just one of those weird convergences, like realizing that Diatryma graduated from the same small university, only a few years after me. Also in this category, my husband working with a man in rural Louisiana who was born in the same hospital in Reading, Berkshire as he was. One more example of the world getting smaller.

#680 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 09:05 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 676... an obnoxious alcohol-drenched asshole

Diapers, please.

#681 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 10:23 AM:

Hi abi...

I agree that citizens have the right to ask questions of police officers (who are also, as you pointed out, fellow citizens.) I don't think the claim has been made that these things happened to Dr. Watts because he asked a question. It seems clear to me that the use of force came into play when he did not do something that he was instructed to do. I personally think the officer should have offered a polite answer, but I think it's a stretch to suggest that the whole escalation hinged on his failure to do so.

#682 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 10:46 AM:

Scratch @681:
I don't think the claim has been made that these things happened to Dr. Watts because he asked a question. It seems clear to me that the use of force came into play when he did not do something that he was instructed to do.

Well, Watts himself does contend this in the blog entry excerpted in the start of this post:

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle.

That sounds to me like a police officer used the order as a means of denying Watts' right to question him. The consequent threat and reality of violence afterward was merely the extension of that first choice: the refusal to answer Watts' question.

Had it been a matter of wanting Watts back into the car without denying his right to an answer, the officer could have either:
(a) answered the question, then ordered Watts back into the car, or
(b) told Watts he'd answer the question once he (Watts) was in back in his car.

#683 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 11:00 AM:

Scatch --

By definition, a peace officer has no right to tell anyone about their lawful occasions what to do.

Exceptions may be made in cases of public emergency. There is nothing about this situation that even begins to suggest the possibility of a public emergency.

That being the case, the assertion that the use of force against Dr. Watts was lawful must rest on an assertion that he was *not* about his lawful occasions. Said assertion is provided as "he didn't do what we said".

Aside from being problematically circular -- a peace officer's authority can never rest on "because I said so" -- and, by the border control officer's own accounts, problematically unclear (they were, by their own admission, not all communicating the same instructions), this presents a situation where someone cannot request clarification or dispute the lawfulness of an instruction without being subjected to extensive and intemperate assault intended to produce submission.

That behavior on the part of the border control agents indicates that they are acting out of a desire to feel safe, and the only way they feel sufficiently safe is if everyone obeys without question.

Like ever other peace officer, they have no reasonable expectation of safety; their job involves dying to uphold the law, and they may legitimately be required to die, suffer, or be maimed in preference to failing to uphold the law.

Like every other servant of any level of government, they have no just or proper expectation of obedience. (Co-operation, yes, but co-operation is in no way obedience.)

Confusion of these points is unacceptably corrosive to the social institutions of representative democracy, and should not be tolerated. I would not (initially) go so far as advocating hanging border guards who act like that for cowardice, but it might be (part of) what is required.

Fear makes you stupid. Justifying the stupidity later by saying "I was afraid" doesn't make it stop being stupid.

#684 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:03 PM:

By definition, a peace officer has no right to tell anyone about their lawful occasions what to do.

What?! In the U.S., law enforcement officers most certainly do have the authority to issue basic instructions in the performance of their duties, especially in an area requiring physical control, such as a border.

Basic example: I approach an intersection in my car. The light is green. A cop in the middle of the intersection tells me to stop. I am "about my lawful occasions," so can I ignore the cop and proceed throught the light? Does this cop have more authority than a border guard?

Or more to the point, are you suggesting that the border patrol has no right to search cars in the first place? After all, there is no public emergency, yet they are ordering people to stop and allow their cars to be searched.

What sort of law are you talking about?

#685 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Scratch:
They can give necessary orders in the performance of their duty, but they should first REQUEST, if at all possible, before they ORDER.
And they should not give contradictory orders without expecting anything other than questions.

#686 ::: Scratch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:45 PM:

PJ, I agree completely.

#687 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Scratch @684 --

The officer directing traffic is doing so as part of a defined delegated responsibility under some (wildly variable by jurisdiction) traffic act or other. They're not doing it by direct virtue of being a police officer. The motorist stopping at the officer's signal is obeying, properly, not the officer but the law that governs use of the public roads, under which they are licensed to operate a motor vehicle; their lawful occasions do include their following the law.

Often, people elide all of this; certainly there is an unsavory authoritarian trend to try to elide all of this into "obey the police" when you aren't obeying, and never should obey, the police; you and the police should obey the law.

There is an enormous difference between "Sir, under the authority of the cross-border traffic and general security act of 1997, amended in 2009, I am declaring probable cause to search your vehicle. Here is your detailed written statement of probable cause; please exit your vehicle and stand in the marked waiting area over there" and commencing a search without notice with no statement of intent or explanation of the derivation of the authority granting the power of search. The first is a necessary legal mechanism; the second is an act of tyranny.

It is important to avoid confusion on these points. That includes the obligations of various peace officers to avoid, by their conduct, causing confusion about these points.

It is especially important to avoid a systematic problem where questioning the derivation of authority is, de-facto, criminalized, because that very rapidly becomes a question of obeying the police and not of you, the private person, and the police officer both obeying the law. Which is to say, replacing the rule of law with some form of authoritarian tyranny.

#688 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 12:56 PM:

Graydon @ 687... It is important to avoid confusion on these points.

You're assuming that confusion isn't the desired effect of this exchange for some of its participants.

#689 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 01:02 PM:

Scratch, #681: I personally think the officer should have offered a polite answer, but I think it's a stretch to suggest that the whole escalation hinged on his failure to do so.

And that is where you have it exactly backwards, because that IS the root of the whole escalation. Had the officer not gone straight to the equivalent of tactical nukes, none of this would have happened. The police officer has all the power in this situation, and therefore also has the responsibility not to abuse it. Power without responsibility leads to... well, to exactly what happened here.

#690 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 10:21 PM:

There are reasons why police etc. are supposed to be "civil servants" ....

#691 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2010, 11:14 PM:

Evan at 663: You are not. I recently read Starfish, Maelstrom, and Blindsight. Found them very engrossing; hard to put down. I especially liked Maelstrom.

#692 ::: Raphael sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2010, 04:08 AM:

---

#693 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2010, 09:05 AM:

Brutality charged as Pittsburgh police defend 'fist strikes' on teen

(CNN) -- An arrest in which several punches were thrown has triggered an accusation of brutality against Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police from the mother of the 18-year-old honor student who was taken into custody.

Police, in a criminal complaint on the incident, say "closed fist strikes" were used by the undercover police officers, but only to subdue the teenager as he tried to get away.

His mother said she plans to file a civil rights claim against the officers.

Terez Miles said her son, Jordan Miles, who is black, thought his life was in jeopardy when three white men jumped out of a car on the night of January 11 as he walked not far from his home.

"My son tried to run thinking his life was in jeopardy," Terez Miles said. "He made three steps before he slipped and fell." After that, she said, the police used a stun gun and beat him, pulling out a chunk of his hair.

The criminal complaint says the officers, considering Jordan Miles' appearance suspicious, got out of the car and identified themselves as police. He tried to flee, fell, and then struggled to escape.

The officers "delivered 2-3 closed fist strikes to Miles' head/face with still no effect," and then a "knee strike to Miles' head causing him to momentarily stop resisting," so that he could be handcuffed, the document says.

Miles' mother said the officers did not identify themselves as police to her son, a viola player and student at the city's Creative and Performing Arts High School.

The complaint says the police officers believed Miles was engaged in criminal activity and possibly armed with a "large heavy object." The object turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.

Miles was charged with aggravated assault, loitering, resisting arrest and escape.

A hearing in the case was scheduled for Thursday, but it was unclear whether the officers involved showed up, said Miles' attorney, Kerry Lewis. The judge postponed the case until February 18.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is "taking this very seriously," said his press secretary, Joanna Doven. "The case is being investigated, he's closely monitoring it. He's met with the chief."

The three officers were taken off plainclothes duty and were back in uniform, she said.

Terez Miles contends the officers used too much force.

"My son is 150 pounds and 5-foot-6. There's no need for this degree of violence and brutality for someone of this stature," she said.

Lewis said Jordan Miles has no criminal record.

#694 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2010, 11:32 AM:

Vancouver police retract statement about beaten man

CBC News - Vancouver's police chief issued one apology and made a retraction on Friday morning after an innocent man was arrested and badly injured in a case of mistaken identity early Thursday morning.

At a news conference at police headquarters, Chief Jim Chu not only issued a public apology for the arrest and injury of Yao Wei Wu, but also apologized for a statement released by police after the incident.

He said the department no longer stands by a police statement that alleged Wu was injured after he resisted arrest...


#695 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2010, 04:44 PM:

And in Seattle, a police officer who "forgot" to mention that he'd hit someone while arresting him, and later mentioned it when applying for another job, couldn't be fired for breaking his department's honesty program. Two of the three people on the commission making the decision said he couldn't be fired because nobody had ever been fired for that before.

Now that's logic for you, as Humpty Dumpty would say.

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#697 ::: Lori Coulson spies Spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 02:09 PM:

Ahoy, moderators -- we may be in need of the disemvoweller or a mop on Aisle 697.

#698 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2010, 08:28 AM:

Oh, FFS! I see that, thanks to a scheduling snafu, Peter Watts is now a fugitive from justice.

#701 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2010, 03:19 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 701: Thanks for the update; it's really nice to know that's been sorted out. Now let's hope the main mess gets sorted out sensibly.

#702 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2010, 03:21 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 701: Thanks for the update; it's really nice to know that's been sorted out. Now let's hope the main mess gets sorted out sensibly.

#703 ::: PrivateIron ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 12:44 PM:

According to the local paper, Peter Watts has been found Guilty. TANJ literally.

#704 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 03:55 PM:

Peter blogs about his conviction. And seems, to me, remarkably non-bitter.

#706 ::: Xopher agrees with The Modesto Kid on the blubbery German porn spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:14 PM:

'ficken' is German for a very similar English word with a schwa in that first vowel position.

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