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March 19, 2010

Empathy failed
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:05 PM * 214 comments

Peter Watts has been found guilty of being assaulted by a border guard. The actual charge was obstructing a border officer. The other charges were refuted in court, but there remained the fact that Watts, having just been punched twice in the head, did not immediately drop to the ground when ordered to do so, instead asking what the problem was. Apparently, this is a felony.

Sentencing still to come.

Update: Also, see Terry Karney. (via Nancy Lebovitz)

Comments on Empathy failed:
#1 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 06:49 PM:

Can a civil suit of some sort be pursued against law officers who lie under oath but are not punished for it?

#3 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 07:06 PM:

Much discussion in the original thread(s) on whether the official video of the events would be used/found unusable/conveniently lost. I'm curious as to whether the video was found and/or played in court. When(if) someone finds out, point me in that direction, please.

#4 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 07:07 PM:

Peter Watts says, re the jury, that he doesn't blame them: "Their job is not to rewrite laws, or ignore stupid ones." I disagree. Part of the reason for jury trials is to provide common sense. To say, on occasion, that while a law may technically have been broken, convicting would be wrong; to respond to the situation by stating that "if the law says this, then the law is an ass and we won't convict". We've seen it several times in the UK, when juries have refused to convict because, while the letter of the law had been broken,that just meant the law was written badly. ARRRGHH!

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 07:25 PM:

It's called jury nullification. And I hope those border guards all get their karma threefold, and soon.

#6 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 07:29 PM:

The link to Terry Karney is a little broken. It needs an "h" at the beginning.

Also: Godsdamnit!

#7 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 07:43 PM:

Good sense fail. Good judgment fail. Justice fail. System fail. Lots of fail here.

#8 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 07:54 PM:

I wonder if he is going to appeal? Does he have grounds?

#9 ::: Russ Allbery ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 08:05 PM:

Unfortunately, I would be very surprised if there were any realistic possibility for appeal. You can't really appeal jury verdicts in the United States. Grounds for appeal after a jury verdict are essentially only on procedural grounds: you have to show that evidence was improperly admitted or excluded, that witnesses lied, that the judge made an error of law, or a similar substantial violation of the rules of law occurred that had significant impact on the trial.

By Peter's account, and the jury questions, this appears to be a case of a very badly-written law (or, more cynically, a law written to privilege police officers by providing them with such a broad crime that they can meaningfully charge anyone whom they feel is making their job difficult). Since there was no obvious funny business during the trial, there really aren't any useful grounds for appeal.

#10 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 08:31 PM:

Well, this is !@#$ing appalling.

One of the comments in the Times Herald story is apparently from a juror. The jury clearly didn't know about Jury Exclusion.

They didn't feel Peter had done anything wrong, and they felt without question that the officers assaulted him and exacerbated the situation, but they were forced to the conclusion that as the law was written, Peter had technically broken it.

Under that interpretation, (asking a question of a police officer becomes resisting/obstructing police in their duty) so have I. I mean, asking "what seems to be the trouble, officer?" could be interpreted as resistance by a competent prosecutor under the law as it stands.

#11 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 08:40 PM:

La Migra--it's not just for brown people any more.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 08:51 PM:

Well, it has an upside. If you're living in a police state (and we clearly are), it's best to know it.

#13 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:02 PM:

Enormous numbers of us have always known we were living in a police state.

This state didn't start with the dubya taking on the fasces.

They've been implied since at least, well, riding the tories outta town on a rail in the 1770s - 1780s -- states are like that.'

But our mythos is that we are not.

Love, C.

#14 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:03 PM:

Of course, those secret INS prisons will never be used on middle class whites like me. Just like my kind of people will never be tortured or assassinated in the name of fighting terrorism. These things only happen to other people.

#15 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:19 PM:

As a heads up -- please, when you write to talk about this case, do refer to Dr. Watts as Dr. Watts, Ph.D. at least once. The constant references in official publications to "writer Peter Watts" are deliberate, at least some times, attempts to diminish his assumed reliability and veracity (writers tell lies for money).

He earned his doctorate, and is a well-respected scientist. Let's keep reminding people of that.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:19 PM:

14
Or 'get disappeared' either.

(I've had this vision for several years, of the knock on the door, and a person coming in who says something like 'Congratulations, you just won a free trip to [Afghanistan | Iraq]. You're leaving now; your possessions will be packed and shipped for you.')

#17 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:34 PM:

What shocks me is how many of the sf/f community are blaming the victim:

"This would never happen to me because whatever I might think I obey authority."

Love, C.

#18 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:42 PM:

I learned about jury nullification in civics class eons ago; it's stuck in my head for some reason. I recall also learning that it was something those who worked in the legal system did not particularly want jurors to know about, as juries make legal professionals crazy enough to begin with and this bit would just give them more rope.

In the one criminal trial for which I was called to jury duty, the prosecutor spent quite a bit of time asking questions of us that danced around that point of law, and amounted to were we willing to convict the defendant if he were proved guilty as per a certain law that said all participants in an armed robbery were primarily guilty, whether or not they were themselves armed, or even knew that some of their number were armed.

It was obvious to me that he didn't want to come out and say that since juries can set the law aside if they think it unjust, he was just checking to see what we thought of that one. Annoyed me, rather.

#19 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:50 PM:

[Insert ill-advised and arguably un-American invective here.]

#20 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:51 PM:

[Insert ill-advised and arguably un-American invective here.]

#21 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 09:59 PM:

Zero tolerance: applying a law to every possible instance, and applying the maximum amount of force allowed, without regard to circumstances.

Jury nullification: negating the zero tolerance effect by considering circumstances and choosing not to enforce an outrageously applied law.

Too many people I talk to think jury nullification means anarchy.

#22 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 10:13 PM:

Expletive.

#23 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 10:13 PM:

j h woodyatt wrote:

[Insert ill-advised and arguably un-American invective here.]

Under the circumstances, I don't think that invective would be ill-advised. We'd probably all agree with you.

As for anti-American, when America does stuff like this, who is pro-American on the topic?

Having people be pro-American is something that America, like any other nation, needs to earn. And this is a debt, not a credit, for America.

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 10:39 PM:

Ursula, jh actually said UN-American not ANTI-American.

#26 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 10:54 PM:

From Peter, Caitlin, and Dave, who are not regular posters here: thank you for your continued support.

#27 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 10:58 PM:

Lin Daniel @21: Too many people I talk to think jury nullification means anarchy.

It does, of course, but it's the good kind of anarchy.

#28 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 10:59 PM:

@#$%^&! )(?*&^%$#@!! *&^%$#@?/|\~!!
In short, I am disgusted.
I seem to recall an instance some years back, when police using excessive force were caught on a video and this resulted in riots in several cities. I don't like riots any more than anyone else, but I wonder if there is some way the rest of us could peacefully protest in such strength that the authorities would have to listen, and those who are supposed to protect us would not get away with such egregious failures of, well, everything?
I'm not going near that border. Much more of this and I won't even stick my nose out the door.

#29 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 11:17 PM:

Cripes. We have friends three hours away, and we can't go visit them without spending an absurd sum to renew three passports, and then we have to hope we don't run into an authority figure who's having a bad day (spouse left, dog crapped on rug, passed over for promotion) or who, for any other reason, might decide to... well, I don't have to say what.

#30 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 11:42 PM:

vian @10: Note that the story you linked said that he was found guilty on all charges, when in fact he was found guilty on one, that one being "failure to comply." As some of the charges he was NOT found guilty of were assault and obstruction, it should be pointed out clearly that those charges were not substantiated. Repeatedly. With blunt prose.

#31 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 11:49 PM:

Kip W @ 29 I'd like to go visit my mother, have been planning to this year, even though I have to renew one passport and get another. I haven't been home in some years, and she's not getting any younger.

And I miss it. I miss that part of the world. Mom's come to see us nearly every year since I emigrated. She had a bit of a rough time with security theatre once or twice, but passed it off as of no consequence. To me, insisting an elderly handicapped person get out of her wheelchair and stand around is at best clueless, but she didn't want to fuss about it. So many people don't; I expect that's a large portion of why these sorts of 'security measures' become common.

I thought that once Bush was out of office that it would safe to cross the border, that it'd be like it was before, where I was still a person. Chances are that it'll be fine when I do go, but this is not reassuring. Especially since like Peter, I am not a criminal, and am likely to react to being treated as one much as he did.

#32 ::: Jeff Fourmyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2010, 11:56 PM:

I've given Watts my share of dollars in exchange for his biologically-informed SF, but I've never liked the arrogant and self-righteous attitude he displays on his website towards publishers, grant agencies and lab directors. There are more subtle and effective ways to bite the hands that feed you.

Watts and most commenters on his case need to learn a thing or three about how to successfully resist authority. I'm no expert in the topic, but I've taken part in my share of protest actions. Rule #1, don't do it without planning in advance. Spur-of-the-moment resistance is a recipe for disaster. Rule #2, don't do it without witnesses who are on your side. Rule #3, do it in neutral territory. Disrespecting a police agent by not following his orders in a police facility such as a border-control station is a big mistake. Rule #4, don't push your "Canadians are better than Americans" attitude in the face of an American government official, even if it is true.

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:04 AM:

32
He wasn't staging a protest, he was leaving the US and entering Canada, which is not someplace he would expect to get stopped by US law enforcement, especially when he was a legal visitor.

(You seem to be one of those who believes that the Police Are Never Wrong, even when they are. You might want to adjust that attitude.)

#34 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:15 AM:

This is especially hot in my heart because we spent a lot of money trying to bring a worldcon to Kansas City, MO. We lost to Montreal for reasons that this event is a clue to.

The bids were voted on in Nippon. It has become so odious to foreigners to come to the U.S., and the vote was likely decided by foreign voters, that we were pretty much screwed no matter what. Even American nationals voted for Montreal because it was more exciting..

On the other hand, if we'd one, we'd have had to deal with a chair that was dealing with breast cancer in 2008.

Annoyed? much. I'm working now, finally (after a two year and one month hiatus) so it is not as bad as it was for the duration of the unemployment.

and we wanna go to Aus, but it's outside the realm of possibilities of the budget at this point unless we win a lottery.

#35 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:17 AM:

That should be "if we'd won"

#36 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:19 AM:

Kip, #29: incidents are rare, so it isn't as bad as all that. Nonetheless, take care.

#37 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:27 AM:

Shorter Jeff Fourmyle: "It can't happen to ME, because I'm smart and know how to act."

This is, of course, pure bullshit.

#38 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:30 AM:

Xopher, wasn't he around during the last big argument about this? Or am I thinking of some other #$%^&* who kept arguing that all you need to do to avoid this cr*p is 'whatever The Man says'?

#39 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:38 AM:

# 32 - Watts and most commenters on his case need to learn a thing or three about how to //successfully resist authority// . never question authority,or even ask what the heck is up if a cop punches you in the head.

Fixed that for you, Mr. Fascist Apologist

#40 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:39 AM:

P J, not according to his VAB. But you can be excused for the mistake, because they're all more or less alike.

#41 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:51 AM:

This is shameful. No, let me rephrase. I am ashamed of my country.

#42 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:54 AM:

Peter wasn't taking part in a protest action. He was just going on about his business. What happened to him is why we have protest actions.

What you're doing, Jeff, is confusing symbol with referent. You should try not to do that.

#43 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:56 AM:

Question for the Encyclopedia Fluorophericana: I've been chasing an imperfectly-remembered quotation, and apparently can't remember enough of it to Google successfully.

The gist of it is: It is to everyone's benefit to insist that the government obey the letter of the law, for the government has far more in the way of resources than any of us. If we allow the government to get away with slipshod work when prosecuting an obvious scoundrel, we erode our own protections -- because any one of us may appear to be a scoundrel due to bad luck or circumstances.

That last bit is the part that really stuck in my head, but apparently I'm not remembering the exact wording. Anybody got a clue?

#44 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:23 AM:

Lee, 43: There's this passage from A Man for All Seasons (in the box); is that what you had in mind?

#45 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:51 AM:

At the risk of sounding pro-fascist... there's a certain understood sycophancy that must be assumed when confronting officers of the law. Questioning a direct order does not usually bode well for the inquiring mind - not in the moment anyway - and generally is not the most prudent course of action. A cop, or border officer, can be as edgy and aggressive as a wild animal, and should be treated as such.

Next time you're confronted with one of these creatures, instead of asking "Why are you attacking me?" try a simple, "Yes, ma'am." It may save your life.

(Remember, only you can prevent forest fires... only you.)

#46 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:04 AM:

Lee: The quotation which comes to mind (and our "bend the knee to authority, lest one be knocked to them" visitor might wish to pay attention) is from Thomas Paine.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

#47 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:27 AM:

DanR, #45: "Next time you're confronted with one of these creatures, instead of asking 'Why are you attacking me?' try a simple, 'Yes, ma'am.' It may save your life."

Or make you food for us corvids. Never assume that an abuser will be pacified by silence and consent.

#48 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:30 AM:

Actually, a more full passage might be better.

An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

#49 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:35 AM:

Paula, #34: I believe the same sort of thing went on in the Olympic voting (from what I know from the sporadic reading I did on it). You don't want to hold an international event in a country that's going to detain international travelers for no reason and with no recourse.

#50 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 03:02 AM:

DanR, that's not the U.S. I want to live in, and it's certainly not one I can be proud of. You describe a police state and those never end well. Worse, you describe a police state as inevitable, impossible to oppose effectively and correct. "That's just the way it is; put up with it" is not part of my world view.

Also, I have friends who are police. Damn all police for "wild animals," and I not only let abusive police officers off the hook for being responsible for their own behavior, but I also paint my friends (who don't in fact expect groveling from the rest of us just because of their big blue uniforms) with the same tar.

#51 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 03:10 AM:

Also, it's ironic to see someone quote Smokey the Bear as a rhetorical device in arguing that the abuse victim is responsible for the abuser's behavior. It's as though DanR thinks that Smokey was actually addressing the trees, or maybe the matches and the cigarette butts, but certainly not the humans. Stupid trees, not getting out of the way fast enough when humans were tossing lit cigarettes out car windows. Stupid cigarettes for letting humans throw them.

#52 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 03:10 AM:

To whom it may concern:

No one here is unclear on the potential consequences of insufficient grovelling to authoritarian authorities. We all understand that survival often requires unpleasant compromises, not a perfect world, etc. etc. What we object to is the idea that we should treat authoritarian bullying as an unavoidable fact of life, like the weather, rather than as the product of human choices and human actions. Therefore it can be changed, and that strikes me as by far the preferable option: working out precisely how to best survive authoritarianism is a poor substitute for preventing that authoritarianism from taking root in the first place.

#53 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 03:14 AM:

Chris, #44: No, that's not it, although the sense is the same. I distinctly remember the "anyone can appear to be a scoundrel" part.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 04:34 AM:

heresiarch @52:

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

#55 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:05 AM:

American cops are a bit more gung-ho than others, maybe, but this crap goes on pretty much on every border. Even Sweden managed to kill a failed asylum seeker during forced repatriation.

I'm still bitter. And ashamed of my usual cowing while crossing borders.

#56 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:08 AM:

Many expletives have been emitted with extreme vehemence. I have both kindred and friends in the USA. That it is not only grown rife with Daleks, but afflicted with serf-minded jury-pools who can evidently conceive of no law besides, "OBEY! OBEY! OBEY!", is a grief to me, and goes further to make me suspect it is fast becoming one of those places sensible foreigners Do Not Enter.

Since this was a Michigan court, one may at least hope that there remain other jurisdictions in which such abject verdicts are less likely.

Not empathy failed, having read the summary - rule of law failed, courage failed: jurors seem to have reluctantly and studiously concluded that their masters can do anything to anybody, and it is definitionally the body's fault, and that that is the constitution to which they owe allegiance. Ha!

Dr Watts is clearly a far more generous man than I, since he gives them infinitely more credit than I do. He also takes a positive view of the judge. Let's hope he's right, and that said judge calls an end to the infamy by levying only the minimum possible fine.

If failure to be an invulnerable automaton is a crime, it is also surely its own sufficient punishment.

#57 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:45 AM:

The problem behind this unjust and bizarre mess is buried a couple of layers deep.

Given: the assault (of Peter Watts, by the Border Patrol) shouldn't have happened. Nor should he have been charged, much less tried and convicted of assault in the opposite direction. Nor should failure to immediately and unquestioningly obey an order after being punched in the face be a crime -- any kind of crime.

But what's the root cause of it all?

I note with some alarm that the saucepan of free international travel we've been swimming frog-like in for decades is now steaming.

It's not just the USA where border agencies have quietly acquired vast, unaccountable, and draconian powers. Here in the UK, the government is responding to anti-immigration sentiment by erecting a near-iron curtain around all ports and airports, monitoring all traffic, and dealing harshly with anyone who wants to travel for reason other than tourism or business. Ditto most of the EU (within the EU things are as different as they are within the United States, for much the same reason -- it's a free trade/movement zone). The barriers are going up all around the developed world, and while the spikes are intended to point outward, other developed world travellers get caught on them. (I'm not just thinking of Peter Watts here; in a fannish context, can I mention Cheryl Morgan?)

Capital can flow freely, but labour is in shackles world-wide.

If you don't see a very specific political subtext here (being sold to the voting masses on the back of crude xenophobia and racism), let me be more explicit: labour wants to migrate where working conditions and pay are best. Capital wants to invest for growth where working conditions and pay are worst.

By penning us (the labour) in, capital can maintain, for a while, the wage imbalances that maximize profit. (Take raw material. Process as cheaply as possible. Sell for as much as possible.) In the long term, it's unsustainable -- labour in the high-cost developed world is taking a hammering due to being uncompetitive, and wages will be forced down until it is competitive, while labour costs in the developing world are skyrocketing. It'll end when American and EU wages meet in the middle with Chinese and Indian wages ... unless American, EU, Chinese, and Indian wage-earners are forced to recalibrate their expectations against the DRC or Somalia.

Welcome to the future that globalized capitalism has bought for us (and see also the vital, pressing need for election funding reform in the USA, which is the pivot on which this whole mess revolves). I'm beginning to think that, regardless of his prescription, Karl Marx's diagnosis of the crisis of capitalism was spot on the money.

Anyway, crap like this is going to keep happening as long as we're workers first and citizens last.

#58 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:04 AM:

The sentencing on this is going to be ugly. I'm certainly no expert but I'm guessing that under the 2009 Federal Sentencing Guidelines this will be Obstructing or Impeding Officers. This sets the "base level" at 10 and adds 3 to taht if the judge finds that Peter used physical contact. Assuming Peter has no criminal history in the US, that puts him in either 6-12 month or 12-18 month territory. Hopefully I'm wrong and he ends up in Zone A with probation or the judge finds grounds to depart downwards from the guidelines. An appeal is never going to happen based on Peter's versionof the trial. A (probably) Quixotic civil action might I guess.

#59 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:19 AM:

#54 ::: abi ::
heresiarch @52:

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Can someone inclue me on the local usage of this phrase. I know it's a Simpsons quote, but the context its being used in here suggests that I'm not aware of all internet traditions.

#60 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:27 AM:

As a point of fact, it is certainly true that there are more effective and less effective ways to deal with police. A subset of that is that there are more and less effective ways to deal with police who are behaving badly.

It is also true that there are more and less effective ways to conduct a conversation about dealing with police, and lecturing people on the subject when they are in the middle of expressing shock and grief over the likely imminent imprisonment of a friend and colleague is not really one of the effective ones. Even if your intentions are nothing but good, you are likely to strike your audience as a gigantic asshole.

I don't need to be reminded that Peter Watts can be a difficult person in some contexts. I run the SF line that publishes his novels and I have detailed knowledge of his disputes with his editor. I don't see how this means he must have done something to provoke his remarkably brutal treatment by American border police. In his comment #32, Jeff Fourmyle offers a list of "rules" that, he tells us, enable one to "successfully resist authority", and he takes care to preface that list by noting the "arrogant and self-righteous attitude [Watts] displays on his website towards publishers, grant agencies and lab directors." But Watts is also well known as a generous teacher and as an indefatigable provider of charity to defenseless animals. If we're to engage in suppositions as to what responsibility Watts bears for a confrontation that we did not in fact witness, it's unclear to me why his attitude toward publishers should be considered relevant but his attitude toward cats is not. Speaking for Watts's publisher, I can say with conclusive authority that no interaction between Watts and Tor Books ever created in us the least inclination to beat him, pepper-spray him, or throw him shirtless into an unheated cell.

John Scalzi ended his own post about the news of Watts's conviction by noting that "given that this is happening to someone I know and like and as such I am likely to be wildly uncivil to the first trolling jackass who pops in the thread to crow about the verdict, I’m just gonna not turn on the comments for this post at all." One can see why. Further outbreaks in this thread of "let me set you foolish people straight about cops" will be dealt with less sympathetically than this one has been.

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:39 AM:

praisegod barebones @58:

I don't know that there are local usages of this phrase. It's been floating in my meme soup since I encountered it in my last online community. It's just an amusing and useful way of pointing to a comment I agree with.

I've become violently allergic to This, which is often used in such situations. I've simply seen it in one too many poisonous *fails. It gets used as a tribal mark, a badge of membership in the Right-Thinking Us against Those Evil Them Folks. And I reject that and all its pomps.

What I wanted to do was point to that comment and say that I agree with it, so that the next time someone comes on the thread to disagree with the premise, we have some moderator heft behind not going down that particular rabbit hole yet again.

(ETA: I see that while I was drafting this comment, Patrick @59 came in with a firm and clear line on the matter. To which all I can say is that his ideas are intriguing to me, which is why I'm already on the editorial staff of his newsletter.)

#62 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:40 AM:

Patrick: reviewing my last in light of your last, I notice that I forgot to say how pissed-off I am about it. Psychological distancing, I think it's called. Peter's a good guy, and if this could happen to him, it could happen to me, so (stick fingers in ear, la la la, I can't hear you). Uh, no.

I don't see anything I can do to help him directly (unless he has legal bills to cover). Is there?

#63 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:05 AM:

(By the way, I am not unaware of the irony of ranting against internet tribalism on a thread that is primarily about Dr Watts' friends' emotional reaction to the verdict. This is why Patrick's point that arguing about ways of dealing with the police in this thread will likely be ineffective is much wiser than what I was sidling up to saying.)

#64 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:07 AM:

Angiportus @ #28: I'm not going near that border. Much more of this and I won't even stick my nose out the door.

I'm in the same boat. I'm also afraid to fly. HSA's strategy appears to be to make their job easier by turning us all so phobic we won't contribute to their workload by, you know, living our lives.

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:07 AM:

I don't have any inside information about what can be done by anybody, although I'm as interested as anyone in finding out.

#66 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:50 AM:

#57 ::: Charlie Stross:

Free international travel getting shut down, yes. And the right to work, if the work is available, too-- which is frequently handled as a separate issue.

Afaik, there is no organization which is working to re-instate even relatively free international travel. Have I missed something? Considering how personally and economically important travel is, I would think there is a constituency.

As for the freedom of labor to move, it's disingenuous to forbid immigrants from doing productive work and then complain that they're too expensive to have around.

#67 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:01 AM:

Is is any wonder that people on the internets will do things that tend to mask their identity?

There does seem to be an uncomfortable amount of self-delusion emerging in comment threads. People saying it wouldn't have happened if Dr. Watts had meekly submitted, usually people who don't know what did happen.

They say they're free. Walter Mitty wasn't that delusional. He just had a way of escaping.

(Hypothetical scenario: Marine drill sergeant encountering this particular mob of Border Patrol Officers. Would the thugs even try to do what they did? Yet, in the definitions of that Federal Law, that Marine drill sergeant would be guilty of assault just be existing.)

#68 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:28 AM:

If there's enough money in the kibble fund, Peter might want to try for an appeal. IANAL, so I can't speak for how likely he'd be to win that. Also, if, as seems likely, he becomes barred from re-entering the US, would he be able to successfully manage an appeal? Would he even be able to appear as a witness?

#69 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:44 AM:

abi @ 60: I have to consciously fight the urge to reply to "This" with "Is. SPARTAAA!" One overworked meme deserves another.

Although in the present case, I'm more likely to follow "This" with "is not the country I want to live in anymore."

#70 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:44 AM:

# 57 Charlie Stross

Exactly, precisely, right on the money. I stress majorly about every encounter I have with HSA and the local police; even though I have police that I've had cordial relationships with my sense is that they're a distinct minority.

My (current) hometown (PDX, OR) is notorious for persecuting anyone with a dark skin, to the degree that recently minority rights organizations have openly advised that you don't call the police if you have a problem. My experience is that this isn't limited to people of color; if certain local cops think you're poor white trash, they'll do it to you, too. Racist AND classist.

I resent that I have to get tense every time I approach a security line or border, especially when leaving or re-entering my own country. Experiences I've had in traveling to Japan and Europe have been good going into the country, more nerve-wracking coming home.

Patrick, please let us know what can be done to help.

#71 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:56 AM:

And the people who have the most power to change the system for the better, are those who are least likely to be in a situation where they're treated the way Peter was.

#72 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:58 AM:

Xopher kindly observes: "jh actually said UN-American not ANTI-American."

Still infuriated here. I'll say this: the distinction between un-American and anti-American, while still important, is becoming less and less interesting to me.

#73 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:12 PM:

Hypothetically, if the jury had the option to choose nullification but weren't informed of that option, would that be grounds for an appeal? Their questions to the judge, and comments afterwards, seem to carry a strong sense of "do we really have to convict for this?"

#74 ::: Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:21 PM:

I see people asking what they can do to help Dr. Watts, and suggesting appeals, and so forth.

I'd like to suggest another approach: given that he has been convicted of a felony in the State of Michigan, the Governor of that State, Canadian-born (!) Jennifer Granholm, has the power to pardon him. My belief is that one of the important reasons for chief executives to have the pardon power is to reverse miscarriages of justice resulting from more-or-less "by the book" applications of the law. Given the description by Peter on his blog of the trial process (though not the law) as being reasonably fair, even though the outcome was not, a pardon would seem like a real possibility.

(I'd like to add, by the way, that I'm not in full agreement with him on the fairness of the trial -- this seems to me like a clear case where prosecutorial discretion is in order. If the prosecutor had done sufficient investigation to understand how bogus the original police claims of assault by Dr. Watts were, she wouldn't have been left with a case which consisted of conviction of a felony (!!) for asking an officer a question. A commenter on his blog posted the text of the Michigan statute making adultery a felony, if the spouse of the adulterer complains within a year. Not a lot of prosecutions on *that* law in Michigan, I'll bet...)

#75 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:31 PM:

Joel@72: jury nullification is an extralegal action. There is no prcedural issue to appeal in not mentinoning it to the juror. The prosecution could, I think, appeal a case where the judge told the jurors they could nullify. Probably that would result in a new trial. Per Russ@9, there's no way this case can be successfully appealed based on Peter's description.

#76 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:48 PM:

Considering the seriousness of the (false) allegations and charges, could the prosecutor have declined to proceed? Vs. taking the mess to trial so that the truth could out? How much discretion does the prosecutor have for personally investigating the matter and decreeing that the whole thing should be tossed out?

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 12:53 PM:

j h 71: Still infuriated here. I'll say this: the distinction between un-American and anti-American, while still important, is becoming less and less interesting to me.

I don't feel that way. I think a law that makes it a felony not to obey police who are beating you for no reason is unAmerican, while saying "America sucks for having such laws," is anti-American. Americans being unAmerican anger me more and more; anyone, American or not, being anti-American angers me less and less.

Alex 73: given that he has been convicted of a felony in the State of Michigan, the Governor of that State, Canadian-born (!) Jennifer Granholm, has the power to pardon him.

It would take a lot of courage for her to do that, given that the Feds are involved, and doing so would amount to "contempt of cop," at least in the eyes of the fascist types who did this to Peter in the first place. She's a Democrat, though, so she might. (If she were a Republican, in Michigan that would mean NO chance at all.)

#78 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:01 PM:

When "No True Scotsman" emigrated, it changed its name to "Unamerican".

#79 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:01 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 57: "By penning us (the labour) in, capital can maintain, for a while, the wage imbalances that maximize profit."

Also: capital greatly prefers to exist under a different political regime than its labor. Otherwise, labor can use political measures to alleviate the wealth-polarizing tendencies of capitalism, which is of course terribly harmful to profit. (In one sense, colonialism was as much a search for politically-unrepresented labor pools as it was a search for raw materials. Not that capital draws much of a distinction between materials and labor.) If there is a free flow of labor between political regimes, labor will flow to where conditions are better. Can't have that, now can we?

#80 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:01 PM:

DanR's version of Smokey the Bear is like a Reagan ecologist, blaming the trees for pollution.

When one sees police lying under oath, is the correct procedure to get the FBI involved? Was the jury intimidated by implied threat of retaliation if they didn't go along with the police version of events? When things go this badly, I tend toward explaining it as malefic intent rather than mere incompetence.

#81 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:25 PM:

It seems to me that Dr. Watts has had his civil rights violated.

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:30 PM:

But TomB, he's Canadian. According to some shitty SCOTUS rulings a while back, he has no civil rights in America.

#83 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:42 PM:

I suppose this means he'll probably be blocked in the future from entering the US to attend SF conventions (an important publicity activity for many writers).

Now there's a reason for a future WorldCon to be held on a cruise ship offshore in international waters: to get around irrational visa entry blocks: fly guests in from friendly third-party countries via helicopter. Cheryl Morgan could benefit by this as well. There must be others.

#84 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:51 PM:

Xopher, I know you feel the same way I do. I'm just going to say that the Constitution is very clear about the rights of "persons" as well as those of "citizens."

#85 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:00 PM:

Charlie @ 57:

I have doubts as to how much of this can be ascribed to the machinations of Capital. If the only businesses that existed were multinational, low-tech manufacturing concerns, then you might be right. But that ignores the large parts of the economy (and large business concerns) in Western countries that can't or don't make use of labor in other countries.

The general tendency of business interests in Western countries in the late 20th Century has been to favor immigration, for a couple of reasons: The most obvious is that immigration increase the size of the local labor pool, and thus drives down wages. The second, related reason is the fact that immigrant workers are less likely or less able to take advantage of whatever rights citizen workers may have, and are thus less likely to protest, strike, file for injury compensation, etc. Thus, increasing immigration has the advantage -- for businesses -- of driving down wages and creating a more passive and biddable workforce (the extreme modern version of this being some of the Persian Gulf states).

I suspect that the reason that both Ireland and the UK, in contrast to other western EU states, allowed economic immigration from the new Eastern European members of the EU earlier this decade was a combination of: a) rapidly growing economies that needed more workers; b) lower levels of active anti-immigration political sentiment than in some of the other countries (e.g., France, Italy); and c) strongly pro-business governments which were happy to listen to business interests which wanted immigrant labor.


Hostility to immigration, and political parties that cater to it, are unfortunately rather deeply rooted, and certainly predate "globalized capitalism". One can't explain anti-immigrant movements in the 19th Century US (e.g., the Know-Nothing Party that ended up becoming part of the Republican Party) by appealing to some powerful capitalist interest in captive foreign manufacturing workforces, since the latter simply did not exist then.


(I'll grant you that free flow of capital is certainly something that's been lobbied for and achieved by capitalist interests, but I suspect the accomplishment is partly due to the fact that the technical details tend to be highly arcane and have little immediate, obvious effects for the general public, in contrast to the physical presence of growing numbers of immigrants.)

#86 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:09 PM:

re: nullification

I was on a jury last year (multiple counts of sexual assault and indecency with a minor, we found him guilty).

In the voir dire, one of the questions was whether we felt we could convict even if we disagreed with the law. They gave examples of why a law might seem unfair - indecency with a minor if he's 40 and she's 12 is different from a case where he's 15 and she's 16.

One of the prospective jurors asked about jury nullification, and said things like I'm reading here, that if the jury thinks the law is wrong, they can return a verdict in line with that. And the prosecuting attorney said if we thought a law was wrong, our only recourse would be to take that argument to our Senators and Representatives, and get the law changed. We would have to listen to all the testimony, and decide as a group if he was guilty of the charges or not (beyond a reasonable doubt), not whether we thought the charges were unfair or inappropriate.

The defense attorney didn't contradict that, and neither did the judge. I assumed that jury nullification was an urban legend. It's not?

(I sent a little to Dr. Watts defense fund when it happened, and got a very nice note a couple of weeks ago. I am in no way arguing that he deserved what he got. But if the jurors were instructed the way my jury was, they couldn't do anything but return guilty or not of the charges as filed.)

#87 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:17 PM:

@Patrick, @Charlie re: what can be done: As someone who was receiving daily trial updates from Peter and Caitlin, I don't know if they have decided on their next move. I have, and I'm at work on a letter to Governor Granholm. When it is finished, I'll be sure to post it here in the comments, and I would appreciate signal boost. As for other efforts (toward fundraising, for example), they'll go public as they happen. If you would like private notifications, then those can be arranged.

#88 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:29 PM:

Havana in 2012?

#90 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:34 PM:

Xopher @ 76: Governor Granholm is term-limited and therefore doesn't have a gubernatorial re-election to worry about. Perhaps that will help the odds a little?

Madeleine @ 86: Thank you in advance for sharing your letter to the governor. I'm ashamed of my adopted home state's unjust law and will gladly join you in writing to her.

#91 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:47 PM:

Susie, I hope so. This might affect her chances of being appointed to a SCOTUS slot, probably adversely, but if she issued this pardon I'd support her more, not less.

#92 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:51 PM:

On Jury Nullification...

I suppose the leading case on this is the trial of William Penn. It established that a Jury could be guided by the Judge, but not "led by the nose". But the whole case was pretty blatant--jury intimidation by the State.

I wonder how US States differ on one aspect. It's my understanding that, in the UK, what happens in the jury room stays in the jury room. When I see references to newspapers quoting individual jurors, in various parts of the USA, I have to remind myself that you do things differently.

If Jury Nullification happens in the UK, how could we know? Might an American jury, as might William Penn's (the rules were different then), feel they were making a political statement?

And the flipside of it all is that if a jury can ignore a law and acquit, they could as easily ignore a law and convict.

Jury Nullification is essentially a political act. And I'm afraid that some of the US material on the subject seems associated with some pretty unsavoury politics. Arguably, it's a necessary part of a system which allows lynchings to happen.

And, whatever the judge sets as a penalty, Dr. Watts now has a felony conviction in the USA. Maybe Tor needs a video-phone.

#93 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:51 PM:

This is just to say Thank You for the Empathy Failed topic; variety can be a key to abating outrage fatigue. I can put off being outraged at Erchoyvpnaf jub jnag gb xvyy zr ol oybpxvat Urnygu Pner Ersbez for a while as a result.

#94 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 02:54 PM:

#78 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 01:01 PM:

(In one sense, colonialism was as much a search for politically-unrepresented labor pools as it was a search for raw materials. Not that capital draws much of a distinction between materials and labor.)

Colonialism was well in place before labor had any political representation whatsoever.

In particular, the British government was impressing (enslaving) sailors, sometimes to work on slave ships.

(I've been reading Bury the Chains, an account of British abolitionism-- fascinating book.)

Actually, I'm not sure I know what colonialism was for. From what I've heard it was a financial loss for the imperial powers. Was it militarily useful? Was it a combination of it feels good to have an empire combined with special interests which did profit?

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 03:02 PM:

Dave 91: And the flipside of it all is that if a jury can ignore a law and acquit, they could as easily ignore a law and convict.

True, but a judge can set aside a conviction that doesn't follow the law—but not an acquittal. I was told by the judge on the one case I've been seated as a juror on that had the jury convicted in that case he probably would have set aside the conviction, since the case was such bullshit.

That's unlikely in this case, because it was the law that was unjust, rather than the jury failing to follow it.

#96 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 04:03 PM:

In the meantime there's no bending to authority by teabaggers:

"Things seem to be getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress."

For more description of what the teabaggers are doing today in the Senate, go here.

However, a woman was ejected from the public galleries just for WEARING a tee shirt that wasn't complimentary to dubya.

If women were going through the halls of the Senate and harassing the politicians this way because the so called health care reform wasn't supporting women's reproductive health, they'd all be jailed.

What gives?

It's very likely the same teabaggers kicking up such a fuss are the same sorts who insist that Dr. Watt deserves jail time for not being properly acquiescent to authority.

States rights -- until your state bans guns, then o nooooooooooooooes, that's against unity gummit.

The nation is insane.

Love, C.

#97 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 04:04 PM:

Ah. It's the Longworth Building, not the Senate proper where the teabaggers are menacing senators.

Nevertheless?

Love, C.

#98 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 04:41 PM:

Lee @88 -- no sign of jury nullification being protected in the Michigan constitution; and as this was a state prosecution, in state court, there might be some justification for claiming that it doesn't apply.

Makes me want to move to one of the five states that explicitly supports jury nullification in its constitution -- or possibly to work on an amendment initiative in my current state of residence.

Damn shame about Dr. Watts. Another example of how we lose rights regularly.

#99 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 04:47 PM:

Peter Erwin @ 84: "The second, related reason is the fact that immigrant workers are less likely or less able to take advantage of whatever rights citizen workers may have, and are thus less likely to protest, strike, file for injury compensation, etc."

Which is rather the point of draconian anti-immigration policies: not to prevent immigration (when has that ever happened?) but to ensure that those who do immigrate are entirely at the mercy of their employers. To circle back to my #78: immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, do not exist under the same political regime as the companies that employ them even when they are in the same geographic location. It's a form of second-class (non-)citizenship, more or less explicitly for the purpose of economic exploitation.

"One can't explain anti-immigrant movements in the 19th Century US (e.g., the Know-Nothing Party that ended up becoming part of the Republican Party) by appealing to some powerful capitalist interest in captive foreign manufacturing workforces, since the latter simply did not exist then."

They certainly did exist--the British colonies in North America began as a "captive foreign workforce," albeit agricultural rather than manufacturing. At the time of the Know Nothings, there were colonies covering most of the world. The US had fought its way out of being one of them, and the Know Nothings were protesting an influx of immigrants that they saw as undercutting their relative prosperity--they wanted the exploited workers to remain safely elsewhere, from whence the benefits of their exploited labor could flow towards the US without bringing down domestic wages; the foreign poor wanted in on this relative prosperity. (A living wage and a social safety net is the bribe paid by capital to the local working poor in exchange for their complicity in exploiting the working poor of the rest of the world.) The Know Nothings were entirely motivated by the machinations of global capital.

Nancy Lebovitz @ 93: "Colonialism was well in place before labor had any political representation whatsoever."

Colonialism isn't a static process; it's been mutating constantly since its inception, and a substantial number of those changes were driven by the political challenges presented by labor.

"Actually, I'm not sure I know what colonialism was for. From what I've heard it was a financial loss for the imperial powers."

This is diametrically opposed to my understanding of colonialism--I have always heard that colonialism was immensely, appallingly profitable for the imperial powers. Can you cite your source on this?

#100 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 04:47 PM:

The Teabaggers are pikers compared to the Red Shirts of Thailand.

#101 ::: Martin Schafer ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 05:01 PM:

"Jury nullification" is really just an intellectual framework, mostly pushed by libertarians, to describe what is possible to happen given the way jury deliberations actually work.

The court will explain that you have a duty to make a judgment on the facts of whether the law was broken or not and that's all you should be concerned about. However each person on the jury has a right to choose guilty or not guilty and only the arguments and social pressure of the other jurors can make them change their choice. If you vote not guilty and are willing to put the rest of your life on hold while the other jurors yell at you day in and day out you can force a hung jury.

There are some things that can get you thrown off a jury, but stubbornly sticking to an illogical or unjustifiable conclusion is not one of them.

As people's mention of questions on the topic demonstrate the prosecution does not want people on the jury who might base their decision on the justice or lack there of of the law. I don't know whether you are under oath when answering the jury selection questions. If so it would be perjury to deny that you might fail to convict if you felt the law was unjust, but it strikes me as almost impossible to prosecute you for that perjury as long as you are discreet outside of the actual deliberations.

#102 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 05:40 PM:

And in local news, it seems that even being a city councilman and retired police officer won't protect you from a police officer who thinks the appropriate response to "Let me explain" is to throw the person to the ground and handcuff them.

(Not that there haven't been city council members I'd have liked to see in handcuffs, but not this time.)

#103 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 05:45 PM:

Sharon M @ #85 said it first.

To quote Dave Neiwert;
In essence, jury nullification -- by sitting in judgment not just of the facts of the case but of the laws themselves -- arrogates to itself not only the role of the judge but of the legislature, essentially overturning at whim those laws that have been passed through democratic processes. In this sense, jury nullification is a threat not only to the courts, but to the very systems of laws on which the nation rests.

He mentions cases of hate crimes given a bye using this method.

PS. Lee @ #88, The FIJA is mentioned in Neiwert's post about jury nullification, and not in a good way.

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 05:54 PM:

One significant risk of practicing jury nullification is that you could piss off the judge enough to be tossed in jail for contempt.

#105 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 06:15 PM:

heresiarch @ 98:
I have always heard that colonialism was immensely, appallingly profitable for the imperial powers. Can you cite your source on this?

Per "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild, while the actual figures may never be known, it's pretty clear that a great deal of the profit from the rape of the Congo never got to the Belgian government or the exchequer: Leopold intercepted much of it.

I think one of the primary reasons for expansionist colonialism is the Red Queen's Race between imperial powers. For instance, Britain's imperial expansion in the 17th and 18th centuries were partly a matter of denying Spain access to her colonial territories, and the wealth they contained.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 06:22 PM:

But you know, linnen, abusus non tollit usum. Just because something can be misused doesn't mean it has no proper use. And I'd like to say a hearty FUCK YOU to a Legislature that passed this fascist law, and another FUCK YOU to every Ledge that has failed to repeal it since. Add to that a colossal FUCK YOU to the judge who would hold the jurors in contempt.

If the police, the legislature, and the judiciary all fail to be just, it's up to the citizens to do so...at least when it involves NOT punishing someone who any fool can see does not deserve to be punished.

#107 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 06:40 PM:

My research (while incomplete) hasn't turned up evidence of people being jailed for contempt for exercising nullification. The worst seems to be rare cases of being excused from the jury and replaced with an alternate, and that seems like a dandy cause for heading up the appeals ladder.

In addition, I'm not certain that a juror has to argue as far as nullification. Had I been a juror on this case and understood the case to the degree I do now (which, respectively, I was not and would understand much more about the evidence had I been there), I might well make the argument before a judge that I found the entire testimony of the officers to be prejudiced by the choking story that was not at all borne out by evidence and based on that I had a reasonable claim to doubt their testimony that they gave a dazed middle-aged man sufficient time to understand and comply with their order after they had beaten him without sufficient cause. FFS, we give young healthy boxers ten clearly enunciated seconds to comply with the order to get off the mat. It's ludicrous at that point to suspect that Dr. Watts was a threat to either them or the national security of the United States, and that he was planning to resist his arrest any more than he resisted his beating.

And the statute is amazingly vague. If a police officer in Michigan ordered me to lay an egg, should I have to go to jail for two years because I didn't? If he ordered me to run a mile, could he arrest me after two minutes? I say no, I say that the statute is written so that juries could apply the evidence and testimony as they see fit, and to thereby rule against officers who demonstrate that they are not fit to declare what is unreasonable behavior.

#108 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 06:55 PM:

Xopher @ 105;

I hear you. And then there is the minimum penalties part which prevents the jury from saying, "OK. So he is guilty of this stupid law. We, the jury, say that he should be fined One Dollar, US, and time served."

And consider the following scenario. (If you want to direct a FU my way, I understand. I am not happy to bring this up.) Say that the jury nullifies this law and Dr. Watts is now free to bring suit against the LEO's that did this to him. What would prevent a jury of 'Real Muricans' from justifying their nullification with those ideas of 'Well, he should have groveled more' that trolls use to defend the police in these situations?

#109 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:15 PM:

Isn't Dr. Watts able to bring suit against the LEO's that did this to him anyway?

I think the Pure Michigan tourism people should step up to the plate and do something to mitigate the bad press impact this whole incident will have on tourism to that state.

#110 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:22 PM:

The biggest problem with jury nullification (at least from the Jim Crow era onwards) is that the vast majority of times it is not used to protect the weak against bad laws. More often it was and is used to protect the bigots in power from being punished for their intolerance.

Think of it this way. By advocating jury nullification in this instance, what standing would you have the next time jury 'nullifies' the case against a group of thugs (with or without uniforms) that beat up someone that was LGBT? was insufficiently white? Pagan? Liberal?

There is a line in 'A Man for All Seasons' that goes;
"What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

#112 ::: Fred Moulton ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:48 PM:

Matthew @ 107

You might want to consider the case of Laura Kriho which is not exactly what you are looking for in your research but close:
http://wikibin.org/articles/laura-kriho.html

For the question why jury nullification is not brought up by defense council? A good first guess may be that the defense lawyer knows they will be before that judge and his friends many times in the future. If a judge routinely rules against a defense lawyer on every close call then that lawyer and many of that lawyer's clients are probably going to have a difficult time. So it is in the best interest of the defense lawyer to not antagonize a judge.

#113 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 07:55 PM:

heresiarch @ 99:

I'm not sure I follow your argument.

They certainly did exist--the British colonies in North America began as a "captive foreign workforce," albeit agricultural rather than manufacturing.

So the British established colonies in N. America to take advantage of cheap American Indian agricultural labor? Color me extremely dubious, to say the least. British colonies in N. America began as a mixture of religious ventures (Puritans, Quakers), misguided treasure-seeking (Roanoke, Jamestown), fur-trading outposts, and speculative land grants.

It's true that there were very profitable agricultural colonies in the West Indies, initially Spanish and Portuguese, but later British, Dutch, and French. But these colonies were established -- and were profitable -- not because labor was intrinsically cheap there (in fact, Spanish-spread diseases meant that "local labor" was mostly nonexistent, and so workers had to be imported -- either as indentured labor or as slaves), but for the simple reason that you can't grow sugar cane in Europe.

I would suggest that profitable agricultural colonies in the New World had little or nothing to do with "captive foreign workforces" and everything to do with the ability to grow valuable crops that couldn't be grown in Europe: sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, cotton, and so forth.


At the time of the Know Nothings, there were colonies covering most of the world. The US had fought its way out of being one of them, and the Know Nothings were protesting an influx of immigrants that they saw as undercutting their relative prosperity--they wanted the exploited workers to remain safely elsewhere, from whence the benefits of their exploited labor could flow towards the US without bringing down domestic wages

What "benefits of their exploited labor" are we talking about? During much of the 19th Century, the US had high import tariffs, intended to keep foreign goods expensive compared to locally manufactured goods. Most of the immigrants probably came from peasant populations anyway, and the US was agriculturally self-sufficient. American companies of the time didn't own factories in foreign countries, so American capitalists had no reason to care about exploited foreign labor -- indeed, they would probably have preferred foreign wages to be high, to make foreign goods less competitive with American goods.


The Know Nothings were entirely motivated by the machinations of global capital.

See -- I'm afraid that this makes no sense at all, unless in a kind of nebulous and unjustified "Everything is caused by global capital; therefore phenomenon X is caused by global capital" sense.

The reality is that the Know-Nothings were driven by a combination of economic paranoia and xenophobia: the economic paranoia being the traditional fear that immigrants will take jobs away, and the xenophobia being a mixture of the fear of cultural/ethnic difference ("They talk funny! They won't learn our language or culture!") and the fear of Catholicism (many of the immigrants were Catholic, and anti-Catholicism was a very potent factor in 19th Century US politics).

#114 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 08:16 PM:

Fred Moulton #112: If a judge routinely rules against a defense lawyer on every close call then that lawyer and many of that lawyer's clients are probably going to have a difficult time.

That kind of pattern of judicial retaliation sounds to me like grounds for impeaching a judge who would indulge in such behavior. Or, at the very least, forcing a judge to be recused from cases involving that defense lawyer, who has no reason to expect professional conduct or fairness at that point.

#115 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 08:33 PM:

Fred @ 112

Thank you for pointing that out. I'd argue that it isn't the same; that was a potential juror who missed clear opportunities during voir dire to clarify that she was likely to be prejudiced in a drug-related case and not able to dispassionately analyze the evidence and testimony. In Dr. Watt's case, an analogous situation might be a juror who was hell-bent on nullification who had concealed that he had been beaten by police officers years before and warned never to report it.

By contrast, I have yet to hear from a juror who didn't think that this case stunk on ice but that their hands were tied, and I argue that their hands weren't tied. They could have asked what "failure to comply" means under Michigan statute, found that it is undefined, and come up with their own definition that was less favorable to an overzealous prosecutor and fact-stretching officers. At that point, like I argue above, we could stop talking about nullification and start talking about reasonable doubt.

Indeed, this happens every day all over the country. Every time a jury returns a not guilty verdict in a criminal trial, they are consciously rejecting an argument that was good enough for the DA's office and a grand jury. Despite the presumption of innocence, there's a lot in the system that makes it seem very natural to affirm the prosecution's case, but the jury is not and should be made to feel like a rubber stamp when they think a result is unjust.

#116 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 08:48 PM:

I'm not sure where I picked up the idea that colonies are a financial loss, but I think it was from Jane Jacobs.

When I think about it, I realize that it would be very hard to do an accurate accounting of the net gain or loss from colonies.

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:02 PM:

Dave @ 92
Jurors can talk about cases after the verdict is read. In cases that are in the news, they're frequently asked to talk.

Also, for whoever it was who asked, IIRC from my last time through that part of the process (some years back), the prospective jury is sworn before the voir dire. After it's selected, there might be another swearing-in, but I haven't gotten that far.

#118 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:10 PM:

Matthew Daly's #115 seems to me very sensible.

I also agree with linnen, at #110, who points out that historically, in America, "jury nullification" has been a tool used by scoundrels to protect evil and keep the oppressed ground down.

Honestly, if you're mad enough about all this to shout FUCK YOU in a blog comment section, the solution is politics. You have to convince your fellow citizens to care and to work with you for change. It's hard work. It means spending a lot of your life with people whose outlooks you don't find congenial. Most of us don't want to do that. It's amazing to me that anyone does.

#119 ::: Fred Moulton ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:13 PM:

Matthew @ 115
"By contrast, I have yet to hear from a juror who didn't think that this case stunk on ice but that their hands were tied, and I argue that their hands weren't tied."

One of the values of discussion like this is that it can alert people that their hands are not tied. At the very least these blog discussions might get people to start considering about the issue.

#120 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 09:36 PM:

If I may make a suggestion?

Immortalize what happened.

Step away from the Internet and put tell it on paper, tell it in words. Put what happened to Dr. Peter Watts in your your stories, your poems, your filk. Make it tragic. Make it comic. Treat it with seriousness. Treat it with mockery. But let your readers and listeners KNOW what happened.

Sorry if I over-step my bounds, but this is the only idea that I can contribute.

Inform your audience.

#121 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:00 PM:

What Patrick said @ 118, which is why as of last month I am a Wisconsin county board supervisor, despite some significant misgivings as to the time and effort cost.

#122 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:11 PM:

Linnen: The thing is, there is no dichotomy betweent he net and telling. This is our medium, for a lot of us. And for others whose work ends in words on print, the tools of our writing are nonetheless on precisely the same screen - sometimes even in the same program - as what we're using here. There are important audiences to reach who won't hear this stuff online, but there are also audiences who are.

This is real.

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:35 PM:

Thanks linnen. Bruce is right, but so are you.

#124 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:37 PM:

Bruce #122;

Yeah. Most of my output, such as it is, is on the Internet.

It is just that ... how does one draw in those IRL that are not in the Internet audience? We can make a Internet meme of this, a marker if you would, but after that? When the Internet goes away, what then?

I guess I was doing a version of the fannish 'Write what I want you to write about.' I over-stepped. Sorry.

#125 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 10:47 PM:

Linnen @110: The biggest problem with jury nullification (at least from the Jim Crow era onwards) is that the vast majority of times it is not used to protect the weak against bad laws.

Do you have numbers for that?

I'm aware that jury nullification was used to protect white assailants of blacks during the Jim Crow period. So, of course, were plenty of valid institutions.

I'm also aware that jury nullification was used to protect violators of the Fugitive Slave Act, and of Prohibition. I read the other day that it's currently most often used in drug possession cases.

I don't have any figures at hand to tell me which kind of use was more common. I will observe that your parenthetical addendum ("at least from the Jim Crow era onwards") makes your argument something of a tautology -- jury nullification in a setting of intense racial bigotry was often used in the aid of intense racial bigotry. I don't think that's a useful indicator of the value or use of jury nullification in general.

I also know that I'd be hard-pressed to think of any tool that can't be put to evil use by those determined to do evil, or good use by those determined to do good.

#126 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:13 PM:

Avram #125;
Sorry no numbers, anecdotal. Just the impression, from what I have been able to pick up from the hate watch sites. A matter of perspective I guess.

I have not heard anything about it being used in drug possession cases. Most of what I have read about drug cases is that all of the players are pretty much in straight-jackets now-a-days; the judge, prosecutor, defense and the jury.

#127 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:45 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 105: "Per "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild, while the actual figures may never be known, it's pretty clear that a great deal of the profit from the rape of the Congo never got to the Belgian government or the exchequer: Leopold intercepted much of it."

Oh, you read Nancy's point as being strictly about the balance sheets of the governments? I could see that: it's possible that the British Government spent more money conquering and holding India than they made on taxes, and trying to recoup the crippling costs of the French and Indian War out of the colonists was what triggered the American Independence Movement. I was thinking of it in terms of the society as a whole, and given the number and scope of the fortunes made by over-seas colonialists, it's hard to imagine that colonialism was a net loss.

Peter Erwin @ 113: "So the British established colonies in N. America to take advantage of cheap American Indian agricultural labor?"

That strikes me as a rather deliberately obtuse reading. The captive foreign labor force in the case of the North American colonies was (mostly) expatriate British, Scots and Irish, often indentured, until of course they hit upon the African slave trade. They were "foreign" for the purposes of this argument because having traveled overseas they were no longer represented within the English political system.

"But these colonies were established -- and were profitable -- not because labor was intrinsically cheap there, but for the simple reason that you can't grow sugar cane in Europe."

That's one of the reasons it was profitable to grow sugar cane in the Caribbean: sugar cane is a more efficient way to produce sugar than sugar beets. Another reason was that they could buy, work to death, and replace their labor force at very low cost. It was cheaper to import slaves from Africa and work them to death than it was to maintain a healthy, stable working force. They could treat their workforce this way because the laborers had no rights, and they had no rights because they could not force the government give them any.

"I would suggest that profitable agricultural colonies in the New World had little or nothing to do with "captive foreign workforces" and everything to do with the ability to grow valuable crops that couldn't be grown in Europe: sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, cotton, and so forth."

Are you really arguing that the immense deprivation inflicted on the workers in the Caribbean wasn't a part of the low costs of production there?

"What "benefits of their exploited labor" are we talking about? During much of the 19th Century, the US had high import tariffs, intended to keep foreign goods expensive compared to locally manufactured goods."

The high tariffs were part of an attempt to jump-start American manufacturing that didn't really succeed until the Civil War; the high tariffs are more accurately read as evidence of continued US dependence on imported manufactured goods. All of those goods were indirectly subsidized by the incredibly low costs of resource production in the remaining British colonies. Americans could afford those goods because their relative production advantage was immense amounts of natural resources, not hyper-exploited labor; indeed, the small population relative to arable land created a high demand for labor, driving wages up. The average American was substantially better off than the average European.

#128 ::: Zoe Brain ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:46 PM:

My condolences. This cannot be allowed to stand - a conviction, even without a jail term, causes serious problems when trying to travel internationally. Not just to the US.

As regards jury nullification - the most common examples of misuse in the USA at the moment are in hate crimes vs LGBT people. There are some jurors who will not convict anyone for assaulting someone who's gay, regardless of circumstances. There's rather more who won't convict when the victim is Trans, so much so that when a conviction is obtained, it makes headlines.

Not just in the US - in the UK recently, a trans woman was found by the jury to have strangled herself, even though the killer was videotaped entering her apartment, and leaving with her property after her death.

Usually, a plea bargain arrangement is made in such circumstances - such as a killer who stabbed a trans woman 22 times, put the body in the trunk of his car, and dumped it in the river pleading to "attempted manslaughter". That was after his confession, and having been caught after leaving the country.

It seems we have the worst of both worlds.

We can't solve all the problems - but let's see of we can get this one overturned, and ASAP.

#129 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2010, 11:56 PM:

I work for a company with offices in the USA, Canada, and several other countries, plus a whole lot of telecommuters (me included). We already have an inordinate amount of grief from US Customs just for people who fly back and forth regularly between offices, and have given up on having all-hands meetings in the USA because we can't get everyone a visa. I think we could probably make a case that this is costing the company money.

#130 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 12:19 AM:

"There are some jurors who will not convict anyone for assaulting someone who's gay, regardless of circumstances. There's rather more who won't convict when the victim is Trans, so much so that when a conviction is obtained, it makes headlines."

Grrrrr.

And again, GRRRRRRRR.

People have a right to be secure from assault. And simply being a person is not justifiable grounds for assault. Ever. In any way.

#131 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 12:22 AM:

Linnen @126, looking around for examples of nullification used in drug cases, I found the case of Loren J Swift, acquitted of marijuana possession in Illinois last year. The jurors didn't say explicitly that it was nullification, but observers speculated about it. It's actually hard to tell, since jurors don't generally say "Yeah, we nullified that law" or anything like that.

And lawyers often set perjury traps during voir dire, giving a juror who knows what jury nullification is, but wants to serve, an incentive to keep mum about it.

Still, there's only so much of a straitjacket you can put on juries. A juror can't be prosecuted for the verdict they deliver. At least one judge has thrown a juror off a jury in mid-deliberation because the judge suspected the juror was going to rule on the law instead of the facts.

#132 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 01:13 AM:

I'm conflicted about jury nullification. It can clearly, as Avram said, be used for good or evil. And we were told it wasn't our job to decide the merits of the law, but those of the case, and it didn't occur to me that that might not be true.

There's a lot to think about as a juror, and it's serious - we were deciding whether or not a man was an active pedophile, whether he would be labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life, and then how long he would be in jail. (We had to come up with a term, within set limits, for each of four offenses. The judge decided whether they were to be served concurrently or not.)

These are very different cases, but I suspect a lot of the process is the same - we weren't allowed to take notes, and almost everything was verbal - we heard people talk about reports, and calls, and videotaped interviews, and refer to those reports and transcripts to refresh their memories, but we weren't allowed to see the reports or transcripts or videos. That was frustrating, and limiting. We couldn't ask our own questions (we could ask for parts of the transcript of the in court testimony, but that was it.)

I'm not a lawyer, and I've never been even peripherally involved in a child abuse case, and there's a lot you have to take their word for. Assault and indecency with a minor under 14 is different than over 14 cases, the legal definitions for penetration - she testified, the girl, and dear God, as bad as it was to hear, to talk about that, be cross-examined about that in front of all of those people - and I'm way off track now.

It was hard to do, being on that jury. And I'm not sure how I could have done what I was supposed to do, as a juror, and also evaluated the law, and made the decision as an individual to disregard the law that was broken, as well as my oath when sworn in. (Not that the law in that case was problematic, it's just that this is the only experience I've had with the criminal justice system, unless you count a speeding ticket.)

So I'm conflicted. And not sure if I'm contributing to the conversation or not.

#133 ::: Michael Straight ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 02:08 AM:

I understand why people are talking here about the idea and theory of Jury Nullification and why it's considered legitimate.

But in practice? If you're on a jury, you can just vote "Not Guilty." You don't have to say why.

#134 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 02:59 AM:

Sharon M #132: we weren't allowed to take notes, and almost everything was verbal

That's just crazy; the only reason I can think of to justify that is to willfully make a jury less effective than it can be. The same thing goes for not allowing juries to do Internet research during their deliberations.

#135 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 03:25 AM:

@132
You weren't allowed to take notes? Either your jurisdiction does things differently or the case had special rules because of the subject matter, because in Los Angeles County they provide jurors with notepads. Also, while it's usually not advertised, in LA County you can have the bailiff pass a question on the the judge, who will then ask the witness the question if they find it relevant and admisable.

And as for jury nullification, under Jim Crow it was literally used by whites to allow other whites to get away with murder:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmett_Till#Trial

#136 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 04:42 AM:

As to complaints about jury nullification: if you over-extend the term to include every verdict where the jury just say, "Screw the law, we'll vote how we like," then naturally it will appear to be on the side of things bent. That isn't what it means. It's specifically the last-ditch anti-tyranny recourse of saying, "Here our masters overstep the mark. You want to murder a starving man for stealing a bread roll, or jail an honest man because he didn't dance for your minions while they were stamping him into the ground? Don't look to me to join my hand to yours!"

Participation, however quaint or justified, in your local legislative process and its actual honoring in practice, is not a substitute for behaving like a mensch and no myrmidon when the current masters start in beating up somebody maliciously or unjustly. You join your hand to theirs - or you don't.

That is nullification. I've served on a jury, and I've once had to vote the law instead of my sense of justice. The right to rebel against an act of arrant tyranny is not the same as appointing myself Lord High Everything in my head. But there are things that no smirking politico or slick lawyer will ever persuade me to do to my fellows, and I suspect that most or all people here with reservations about nullification would have a similar sticking-point, if it came to it. I've talked to people who say they wouldn't. Brrr!

As to the abuse of nullification for fomenting hate-crime, two thoughts:

Firstly, what Avram @ 125 says - the politicos and the law enforcement departments were also in it right up to their eyebrows. What would be the equivalent of banning jury nullification, as applied to law enforcement officers? Why, removing all discretion from enforcement. The cant phrase for this is 'Zero Tolerance'. Working well, so far?

Secondly, jurors singling out particular kinds of victims for non-conviction are plainly not nullifying an unjust statute. No honest approach to 'nullification' says, "Because the outcome is not whatever I would like it to be". It says, "Because if this be the law in the case, it is worse than not having one". Does anybody think that pro-lynch juries were really trying to nullify the laws against murder? They were trying to apply them corruptly and partially, and so are their spiritual heirs today: they most certainly wished to benefit from the protection of anti-murder laws themselves.

If such wilful accessories to murder can claim 'nullification', then I can stand by whistling whilst thugs beat them to death in the street, and claim 'conscientious objection to violence' when somebody asks why I did nothing about it. Which would be a very great pity indeed.

#137 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 04:48 AM:

#127 heresiarch
The textile industry in the USA imported rather than trained the most highly skilled, highly paid workers needed in fiber and cloth production (source, lectures at the institution which today is the textile history museum in Lowell.

#129 Zack
Halliburton moved it headquarters to Dubai when it decided the USA had become too inconvenient--but its buddies prevented any real dents in Halliburton's cushy profits and contracts from US sources and US organizations.

#113 Peter Erwin
By the time of the US Civil War, the North apparently had the higher industril per capita output in the world... [and googling has gotten me down a rathole, I have found an Appalling Essay which is supposed to be pedagogical. Alas, its erudition has certain deficiencies.... going to an open thread with it...)
===
I just emailed "Walrus"' comments from http://www.facebook.com/home.php?# to my federal Representative prefaced with "How the rest of the world views the USA"
==========

#57 Charlie:

labour wants to migrate where working conditions and pay are best. Capital wants to invest for growth where working conditions and pay are worst.

It'll end when American and EU wages meet in the middle with Chinese and Indian wages ... unless American, EU, Chinese, and Indian wage-earners are forced to recalibrate their expectations against the DRC or Somalia.

Um. Capital wants to invest where it gets the best Return on Investment (ROI) That does not necessarily equate to working conditions and pay being the worst.... Things that lure capital to an area include:
o perks offered by the area, including
oo tax exemptions or abatements,
oo infrastructue and provision of roads and powerlines and development set-asides and expediated permitting,
oo "business-friendly" political environment
o a workforce seen as appropriately skilled and productive and available for performing the work (I interviewed at one company which originally was setting up around Chicago, due to attractive housing prices, reasonable labor costs, computer programmers.. but discovered that the programmers were more Cobol-type applications programmers rather than people with scientific/engineering computer science backgrounds, and that the type of developers they needed, were either around eastern Massachusetts, or San Francisco Bay, and moved to Massachusetts)
o a workforce with a work ethic and necessary training and skill level (one of the things that exterminated Commodore was that it moved production to the Phillipines and the skill and expertise level of the people employed there, was below that needed for a low rejection rate--that is, the labor was cheaper per hour, but the cost of production was higher and the production rate was lower, and product quality was a lot lower, than the productio had been in other countries....) (Switzerland's promotional material for "Why your European Headquarters should be in Switzerland" includes, "We have a work ethic, we don't go on vacation for the entire summer!")

Stupid capitalists look at the "entry costs" and labor pricing, ignoring such things as, "Yes, a coder in India you pay a quarter as much in dollars as a programmer in the USA -- and you one-sixth as many lines of code for the same number of labor hours!" That ignores the code quality issue, and language impedance, and time-difference delays, too.... the person costs less, but the project need at least six times as many hours of programming time done in India... that's a 50% minimum greater expense, and/or delay, too (unless hiring the six times as many programmers.)

Long ago the US shoe industry got undercut by the Italian shoe industry, which got undercut by the Spanish shoe industry, which got undercut by the Chinese.... the textile mills of New England got undercut by mills in the US Southeast--and they're almost all shutdown losing out to India, China, and Pakistan. The furninture manufacturers in New England got sold out to Canadian and Carolina companies... not the Carolina companies have been collapsing and factories elsewhere in the world getting the business because they price t heir products a lot lower in dollars.

The victims include the extinct Yangtze River dolphins--one reason contributing to lower production expense in China, is blase attitudes toward environmental quality, another is less than scrupulous compliance to good practices as regards safety and non-toxicity and quality control of raw materials and of end product.... the most recent scandal to break about contaminated imports, is Indian subcontinent spices and cosmetics, the former susceptible to low levels of lead contamination, the latter to HIGH levels of lead contamination....

#138 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 05:47 AM:

Earl @134 : *You* can't take notes , but the court stenographer is accurately capturing every word when court is in session and the court will read back anything that the jury requests in open session. From what I was told during my time on a jury, this is to prevent the "tyranny" of one juror's transcription accuracy or the fights that come from multiple jurors capturing the same facts in opposite ways.

In an unrelated matter, I've got a question for my fellow New York State peeps. When I was on a jury a year ago up here in Rochester, we watched a mandatory video in the jury pool room narrated by Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer that was produced for the Court of Appeals that talked about the history of trial by jury in the United States and spent some specific time outlining the acquittal of Peter Zenger. But when I mentioned that in James Nicoll's blog, someone replied that xie served jury duty in Queens (didn't say when, though) and had seen no such video. I don't need you to back up my review that it's the best movie the government has ever forced me to watch, but you have seen it, right? RIGHT??

#139 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:57 AM:

So looking back at the incident in question, him asking the officers what the trouble was was a felony, then?

I am ten times more nervous about travel than I was a minute ago.

What if you can't understand what they say?

I'm hard of hearing and I lip-read a lot. Mike was always terrified for me (but hid it, mostly) when I traveled alone, especially crossing borders, in case somebody official should order me to halt when I wasn't looking at them and didn't see what they said.

That so could have been me, or a lot of other people. Because apparently even asking them to repeat themselves would be a felony.

(Yeah, I'm sure they'd look like jerks after they shot the nice deaf lady. But still.)

#140 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 08:12 AM:

Matthew Daly, #138: I've done jury duty in Brooklyn twice in the last decade -- a murder trial in 2002 and two weeks of grand jury service in January 2009. I know I was shown the film you mention, though at this point I don't remember which time.

Elise, #139: The anxiety you now feel is the intended result of events like this. The system isn't designed to single out Canadian science fiction writers with doctorates in biology. It's designed to single out randomly-chosen people in such a way that everyone else is made fearful and compliant. You're playing your part.

Analogically, I'm reminded of Joanna Russ observing (to me, in conversation), "Homophobia doesn't exist primarily to keep homosexuals in line. It exists to keep everybody else in line."

#141 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:04 AM:

Yeah, I know. I'd like to STOP playing my part.

Thing is, I'm likely to miss the cues either way.

#142 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:11 AM:

elise @139 and 141 -- I'd say you're quite right to be worried, as are we all.

From Dr. Watts' second post on the verdict, with regard to the video: He said it was useful in ..."establishing that I was out of the car for less than 20 seconds total (things started getting physical at around the 10-12 second mark)...."

Ye gods.

#143 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:44 AM:

Would pardon requests to the Oval Office be amiss?

There have been occasional stories describing the current occupant as an SF fan...

#144 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:50 AM:

I don't think this kind of crap, at least in the US, has much directly to do with class interests or capital vs labor. (Honestly, that seems like an almost classic example of misapplying a model that makes sense elsewhere.) Among other things, cops getting away with abuse of civilians is pretty common in the US, and the cases often look kind-of like this, with the police accounts of what happened contradicting one another but the accused person still somehow being guilty of some flavor of "resisting arrest" or some such thing. And the US allows a huge amount of labor into our country illegally (and in practice, this is allowed because it's profitable for some companies whose votes matter a lot more than yours or mine), so the notion that we're making our borders nasty to cross to prevent labor mobility just doesn't make much sense. Maybe it makes sense as an explanation in the UK, I don't know.

I think there's a much simpler explanation. Border police have vast, unchecked power. If one of them decides to smack someone around for insufficient deference, he can probably get away with it. They know this. That's all that's necessary for border crossings to get nasty in a hurry. Give one bunch of people pretty-much unlimited power over another, and nastiness will ensue nine times out of ten, sooner or later. I guess the main check on still more nastiness is probably the internal culture of the border cops, their self image, etc. (Sufficient nastiness would lead to reforms, but that's not a motive that individual cops are likely to be thinking about.)

#145 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:54 AM:

Actually, the point about Deaf/deaf/hard-of-hearing people being at a significant disadvantage in these "comply immediately" situations might, in itself, be good grounds to challenge the law.

Re juries: I was on one recently, for an armed robbery case. We were given notepads to take notes on, and we passed a few questions to the judge, though his answers weren't particularly helpful.

We also reached a verdict (guilty on 3 of the 6 charges) that represented a compromise. All of us were very uncomfortable with a law that says if 6 people are committing a robbery and one of them pulls a gun and chambers a round, all 6 are guilty of gun possession, assault and armed robbery, even if the other 5 didn't know the 6th had the gun--indeed, even if they'd already left the residence with the swag at the point at which the gun was pulled.

#146 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 11:28 AM:

We had to compromise, especially in sentencing. We all took it seriously and wanted to do the right thing, but that's 12 different definitions of the right thing to take into account.

You could refuse to say anything other than 'not guilty,' I suppose, but there are 11 other people in the room, and the pressure to reach consensus is substantial. I'm not sure that I could silently stare them down to hang the jury.

Changing a law changes that law for everybody (or it should). But jury nullification doesn't even change the law for that defendant - a jury that can't reach a verdict is not the same thing as an acquittal. Does jury nullification just force the state to try the case again with a new jury?

#147 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 11:32 AM:

Give one bunch of people pretty-much unlimited power over another

A question never answered, and apparently Congress is looking into it because even they can't answer it*, is

What is the chain of command?
When a police officer does something you don't like, you can take it to his commanding officer, or on up the chain of command. Whether they do anything is another issue, but you know who the next person in line is.
Border guards seem to have this unlimited power because there seems to be this hideous break in the chain of command.

Does anyone have any information to negate this impression?

---
*I'm having the person who told me this send me links to back it up. So right now, that part is unsupported. I add it in because I find the allegation, shall we say, disturbing.

#148 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 11:38 AM:

albatross @ 144: "I don't think this kind of crap, at least in the US, has much directly to do with class interests or capital vs labor. (Honestly, that seems like an almost classic example of misapplying a model that makes sense elsewhere.)"

It seems like a natural fit to me to, when analyzing factors that effect the flow of labor between labor markets, see what effect different kinds of flow (or the lack thereof) have on the development of capital. Also, it isn't labor versus capital as much as it is labor versus labor plus capital, in the classic "pay half to kill the other half" vein.

"And the US allows a huge amount of labor into our country illegally (and in practice, this is allowed because it's profitable for some companies whose votes matter a lot more than yours or mine), so the notion that we're making our borders nasty to cross to prevent labor mobility just doesn't make much sense."

I direct you back to my #99: "the point of draconian anti-immigration policies [is] not to prevent immigration (when has that ever happened?) but to ensure that those who do immigrate are entirely at the mercy of their employers...immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, do not exist under the same political regime as the companies that employ them even when they are in the same geographic location." The goal isn't to prevent labor mobility for the sake of preventing labor mobility, but to prevent labor mobility in order to maintain high levels of labor exploitation.

#149 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 11:48 AM:

The media's controlled by fascist vigilante instigators, supporters, and enablers.

Some weeks back Rep. Tsongas was the Chelmsfold MA library. There was a line of constituents inside the library to talk to her. Standing outside was a Pee [on the Constitution] Party jackbooterjack with a handwritten giant screen sign full of hatemongering virulent anti-Tsongas jingoism. That was ONE person. Somehow the Boston Globe seemed to thing that the loudmouthed jackass types were in the majority, despite the fact that I arriving late, and being in the line, saw and heard little indication of Pee Party asshole and sympathizers of them being in the majority.

But the Pee Party
a) gets promoted and publicized by the "news" media far disproportionately to its actual numbers, and
b) opponents to it are quieter, SANER, and get IGNORED. Demonstrations against the Schmuck and his regime and policies 2001-2008 orders of magnitude larger that Pee Party strident gatherings got no coverage, ONE Pee Party asshole gets media coverage as if a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators...

#150 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Patrick, #140: It's designed to single out randomly-chosen people in such a way that everyone else is made fearful and compliant.

Which, were it not being done by government officials with government sanction, is pretty much the canonical definition of terrorism.

#151 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 12:31 PM:

"I'm conflicted about jury nullification. It can clearly, as Avram said, be used for good or evil."

So can the vote. In both cases, though, I think it's ultimately a good thing for the people to have that power. And it's acknowledged at least obliquely in many state constitutions (including my own state's, though not particularly clearly).

I agree with others, though, that it should only be used as a last resort, to prevent incurring a grave injustice (from an unjust law or the unjust application of the law). I take that responsibility seriously, and I hope my fellow jurors will as well.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at cases involving Jim Crow and minority persecution: to convict someone, you need a jury to find the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt, *based on the evidence presented by the prosecution, and the instructions of the judge*. If local prosecutors are indifferent or reluctant about presenting a convincing case, a jury can't rightly try to fill in the gaps.

I don't know offhand how often wrongful acquittals have been caused primarily by prejudiced court officers and how often primarily by prejudiced juries. But any reliable data on the subject needs to take both factors into account.

#152 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 02:23 PM:

Xopher writes: "I don't feel that way. I think a law that makes it a felony not to obey police who are beating you for no reason is unAmerican..."

That's fine. I should note that when I use the word "un-American" it's usually with the way it was applied to Bill Mandel foremost in mind.

The excerpt of the famous Bill Mandel quote most relevant to this thread would be: "My boy of fifteen left this room a few minutes ago in sound health and not jailed, solely because I asked him to be in here to learn something about the procedures of the United States government and one of its committees. Had he been outside where a son of a friend of mine had his head split by these goons operating under your orders, my boy today might have paid the penalty of permanent injury or a police record for desiring to come here and hear how this committee operates."

"un-American" is one of those words that gets loaded differently by different people.

#153 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 02:44 PM:

Though much of this conversation has already bent toward the issue of jury nullification - an interesting enough topic - allow me to tardily (and qualitatively) apologize to friends and backers of Dr. Watts, who were understandably miffed by my previous comment.

I don't suppose anyone but an attorney would be daft enough to defend the border guard's actions, or even to assume them as the inevitable consequences of Dr. Watts' seemingly reasonable behavior. More importantly, those voices using this incident as an opportunity to speak out for reform are very sane, very admirable, and probably should be the focus of the day.

Hwvr, thr rmns (n my mnd) dssnnc bt th ctl ncdnt t th crssng. ftr rdng Dr. Wtts' scnd pst, nd cmng t ndrstnd tht th ffcrs mght nt hv fllwd prtcl, wr qt pssbly jckd p n th chmcl by-prdcts f thr dcy-nd-pwr ccktl, r ls th prtcl tslf llwd fr t mch flxblty n thr prt, cnnt dscnt ths tw cld, srdd fcts: 1) H stppd t f hs cr, nd 2) H dd nt mmdtly fllw drct rdr t gt n th grnd.

f crs n n dsrvs wht hppnd nxt. nd ys, cnvrstnl, gntl brdr grds wld b mch prfrrd t th jttr, rmd srt, bt why dsrgrd th cs gvn... why rlrd yrslf, nlss wth th drct ntntn f prtst, nd pssbly mrtrdm?

#154 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 03:04 PM:

DanR @153:

I refer you to Patrick @60, particularly the second paragraph, as to why you're now missing some vowels. Really, can we possibly be any clearer?

#155 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 03:20 PM:

DanR: Your "qualitative apology" is not an apology. You weaseled out of an actual apology, and followed that up with "... but he didn't follow orders!"

#156 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 03:55 PM:

DanR #153, me #155:

Forestalling your next likely query, here's an example of an actual apology:
---
Back when we were discussing Brust's Jhegaala, when someone pointed out that the tale was "out of sequence", I responded by insisting that the book was in fact, set after Issola. In support of this, I claimed "he had Godslayer, and used it to demonstrate the Morganti aura". Well, it had been a while since I'd read the book, but more recently I read it again... and realized I was wrong on all counts! He had Spellbreaker, and it was the assassin's Morganti blade which he used to demonstrate the aura.

While this hardly a matter of public safety or the like, I'm still sorry for my confused cluelessness, and apologize to anyone I might have infected with that confusion. Next time, I'll remember to actually check the original text before contradicting someone like that!
---

Note the structure: I admitted what I did wrong, expressed regrets for it, and stated what I'd be doing to "atone" (in this case, just mending my ways).

And demonstrating the "short form" while I'm at it: Abi, I'm sorry if I stepped on your toes with my simultaneous response to DanR.

#157 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 03:58 PM:

Earl @134, I think Sharon meant the jurors weren't allowed to take notes during the trial. Like, making their own record of testimony, for example.

Heckblazer @135, did you not notice that your very point about Jim Crow has already been introduced upthread and was under discussion?

#158 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 04:00 PM:

Regarding the possibility of an appeal:

In his second post, Dr. Watts said about the statute:
"Apparently the statute under which I was convicted is somewhat controversial. I chatted with an immigration attorney while the jury was out; she expects the ACLU or some other group to sue this law out of existence before too long, since it seems pretty explicitly designed to give the cops carte blanche to charge anyone for virtually anything."

Would this not be grounds for appeal? Ideally the ACLU might even decide that Dr. Watts would make a good test case, but even if they didn't, surely *he* could appeal on these grounds?

(IANAL, so this may well be wrong; but I'm curious if anyone has any thoughts.)

#159 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 04:13 PM:

PS: An apology can also have a "remediation" part -- that is, making good the injury. In this case, that was implied by the acknowledgement of error, though I'd have done better to post it on the original thread (which I can't seem to find).

#160 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 04:22 PM:

David Harmon @156:

No, your reply is fine. Thanks for thinking about it, though.

#161 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 04:33 PM:

Avram @157 (and Earl @134)- yes, sorry. We couldn't take notes in the courtroom. We could request a specific piece of testimony from the official trial transcript while we were deliberating.

We weren't supposed to talk about the case at all, even with each other, until after the trial part was over and we were sent back to the room to deliberate.

They were very specific about that - they wanted us to decide the case for ourselves, not using the opinions of other people who didn't hear all of the testimony. We weren't supposed to do any independent research, either, but were to decide using only what was presented in court to all of us. That way nobody had information that couldn't be challenged by the prosecution or the defense.

It was frustrating to be limited to what we heard in court (and the variations in what we heard was interesting), but I really think they were trying to make the trial fair for everybody.

#162 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 05:00 PM:

Lin Daniel @ 147: U.S. Customs is organized as a typical (large, and highly dispersed) law enforcement agency, albeit with a very large fraction of its staff devoted to the kinds of commercial cargo operations that most casual travelers don't often see.

As such, there is both a very well-established formal chain of command within the agency, and a very well-developed set of procedural rules which govern the ways in which Customs (and its employees) conduct the agency's business. Example: The last time the local Port Director of Customs showed me the union contract governing the agency's relationships with its front-line field employees, that contract filled an 8.5 x 11 inch three-ring binder, about three inches thick. And that's on top of the agency's own extensive internal regulations governing employee conduct ...

As should not be particularly surprising to any experienced observer of large bureaucracies, it is not necessarily easy to sustain a disciplinary action (up to and including termination) against some agency employees who deserve to be spanked -- hard. Conversely, some types of much less serious misdeeds, which happen to be both relatively easy to document, and particularly annoying to local management, can trigger much harsher actions against an unlucky employee. Yup, TANJ applies, both internally and otherwise.

It may also be useful to keep in mind the often overlooked point that -- under U.S. law -- a border inspection point is one of the very few locales in which "probable cause" is explicitly NOT required for a Customs (i.e., police) search of one's person and/or vehicle. (There are some rather specific reasons, and assorted strings of court cases, behind this practice. Even if one vigorously disagrees with the philosophy behind it, it's not something that came, randomly, out of nowhere, for no reason.)

None of which in any way justifies what appears to have happened to Dr. Watts, but may provide some relevant context.

#164 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 05:15 PM:

There's a dynamic in conversations I'm noticing here, which is probably obvious to everyone else. I think for any given conversation, there are some "attractors"--directions the conversation could go which would be easy for many of the participants, but which would ultimately end all the interesting and useful parts of the conversation. And good moderation/guidance/curation involves steering the conversation away from those attractors.

For example, the talking heads shows I saw when the NYT ran the big story about massive, warrantless wiretapping by the NSA tended to quickly go from a potentially informative discussion about the specifics of the case, to a much easier-to-have discussion[1] about whether the NYT should have published the story, perhaps even about whether publishing it amounted to treason or should have gotten someone arrested.

Now, if you're not all that informed about some issue, these common "attractor" discussions are great. You don't need to know much about CALEA or the FISA court, you don't really even need to have read the NYT story, to be able to have these discussions. You don't need to strain yourself thinking about the implications of this wiretapping scandal. You can argue in soundbytes until you get to the old, reliable discussion you have hashed out a million times, about press freedom vs. loyalty to your country vs. social responsibility. It's easy[2].

In this conversation and similar ones, there is an easy discussion to have. It involves reciting the rules of how to behave appropriately to avoid having some uniformed thug bust your head. That's a comfortable discussion, as it reassures its participants that they're safe from scary stuff like having some TSA drone decide to use them to get even with life. It's also, sadly, something all of us in the US have internalized, in much the same way that prudent, sensible people wandering around Paris in the 1700s knew how to kiss ass appropriately to avoid being forced into a duel. In this place, too many people know the guy whose grovel-failure led to his getting an ass kicking for that discussion to be comfortable. And many of us are pretty sensitized to this kind of discussion.

There's another attractor more atuned to this crowd, in which we all bitch ineffectually about the f--king cops and the f--king courts. That's more satisfying, but not really workable. (It makes up about 80% of Radley Balko's comment threads, however. That's not surprising, given what he usually discusses, but it's also not too informative.)

Having a discussion where people heal each others' hurts, and maybe learn something new or start thinking in a different direction, is much more valuable, but also much harder, I think. It probably requires refraining from commenting when you're just rehashing an argument you've had a million times before[3]. If I feel like I'm about to make an argument that requires little new thinking on my part, I try to resist the temptation to post. But I hadn't really thought through why before.

[1] By which I mean the discussion is more comfortable to most participants (less unsettling), and is also easier because it lets the participants reuse arguments they've had hundreds of times before.

[2] People trying to prevent informative discussions of various issues usually try to nudge them into the nearest attractor, as I suspect happened with the warrantless wiretapping story. The crude form of this is a really common kind of trolling, but more subtle versions can be very effective, and also aren't necessarily trolling exactly.

[3] And this has interesting implications for what kinds of comments will irritate the hell out of many posters, and for our previous moderation thread and the way different communities have some issues that they've kind-of settled one way or another and will discuss only when you have something really new to add, others they don't care to discuss at all, others that are excluded because they put the community at each others' throats, etc.

#165 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 05:21 PM:

Madeline Ashby @163, wow, that's pretty good.

#166 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 05:40 PM:

albatross @164:

This is a very astute observation.

There are conversations that hum along magically, where everyone has that particular sparkle of people learning new things. Those are a great pleasure, and I try to value and enable them. But I've never managed a good classification of when they occur and where they get sidetracked*. I've just been going with the duck definition.

Thank you; this is a nice tool to use.

-----
* or derailed

#167 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 05:46 PM:

Abi @ 166... I've just been going with the duck definition

...found on the web, and for us to ponder?

#168 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:04 PM:

abi @ 61:

Well I've seen it used here before - possibly by you, though.

Funnily enough, I came across the everything squared link when I was googling about to try and get a bit of context for the remark. But I was confused, since from that link it looked a bit double-edged, which didn't seem appropriate in this context. (Or, if you'll forgive me, terribly abi-like)

But anyway - given your explanation: Heresiarch's views are also intriguing to me and I too would like to subscribe to her/his newsletter. As well as to this one.

#169 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:08 PM:

Serge: Looks like, walks like, quacks like, probably is.

#170 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:16 PM:

I'm not sure that I could silently stare them down to hang the jury.

#146, I think one way around that is to practice. There are a couple of practices that are socially sanctioned but wrong that you could start telling people to stop: parking in bike lanes, and littering cigarette butts. Telling people to stop parking in the bike lane doesn't feel good, and it rarely changes anything (I've gotten maybe one car in a dozen to move), but it sure gets you used to doing something bizarre and socially unacceptable for a principle.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:24 PM:

Xopher @ 169... Oh, I knew that, but I could hardly let the chance pass, as I saw as a challenge Abi's comment about conversations that get derailed.

#172 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:24 PM:

Xopher @ 169... Oh, I knew that, but I could hardly let the chance pass, as I saw as a challenge Abi's comment about conversations that get derailed.

#173 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 06:59 PM:

heresiarch @128 --

The Jane Jacobs observation that I think Nancy might be remembering is that colonies inevitably gut your economy not out of economic necessity but because politics in colonial powers fairly inevitably winds up using military force to guarantee profitability to established interests in one way or another. Since colonialism is at root a process of using military power for economic advantage, once you've started being a colonial power you've started doing this and it's extremely tough to stop. Colonies could be a long term economic advantage; actually preferring democracy to capitalism would have been a long-term advantage to the post-war United States, too.

#174 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 07:28 PM:

I always assumed the origin of "I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter" lay in the dim prehistoric mists of SF fandom and was a catchphrase from the days of mimeographed fanzines. Alas, I haven't tracked down anything prior to the Simpson's episode "Mountain of Madness" (how Lovecraftian!)

#175 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 08:12 PM:

heresiarch @ 127:

The reason for my "obtuse" reading was that you seemed to be trying to apply Charlie's outsourcing/job-export argument to the colonial era. Charlie's argument, as I understood it, concerned activities like Nike opening a factory in Malaysia or Apple opening one in Ireland or AT&T outsourcing call center operations to India. All of which involves using (cheaper) native labor in those various countries. But if your "captive foreign labor force" is really immigrants, then you're already talking about something quite different.

And, apart from the very important case of slaves, N. American colonists were not "captive" -- even indentured servants were free to travel once their term of service was over. The huge flow of trade that developed between Britain and her colonies would hardly have been possible if the movement of American and Canadian colonists were restricted. Accounts in this book suggest that travel back and forth between the British Isles and the colonies was almost routine (one can even read about Irish criminals who were transported to serve time in America and were then re-arrested in Ireland).


There's an interesting contrast between the immigration and travel regimes of the French and British colonies. The French kept relatively tight control, severely restricting the number and type of immigrants (only French Catholics allowed). The British, on the other hand, seem to have left this up the individual colonies, which in turn tended to be rather open, so that settlers included religious dissidents and minorities like Puritans and Quakers (and Catholics and Jews) and even non-English-speakers (so that we find Benjamin Franklin complaining about German settlers in Pennsylvania who aren't learning to speak English).

The result was that by 1750, the British colonies in N. America had a European-descended population of over 1 million, while the French colonies had less than 100,000 -- even though the French had nominal control over more of the continent, and had forts and outpost surrounding the British colonies.

#176 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 08:30 PM:

albatross @164: It's funny to read that while I'm listening to the HCR debate in the House, and everyone's standing up to speak for 45 seconds, and literally nothing, on either side, is anything I haven't heard over and over and over for about six months now. In no sense is an actual conversation happening.

#177 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:05 PM:

Xopher:

I think that means that as the threads heat up, abi sits back and waits to see which participants will quack first....

#178 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 09:43 PM:

Albatross,

Point taken.

#179 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2010, 11:30 PM:

So, given that Peter Watts is saying that, at this point, he doesn't need financial contributions, what actions can I be taking so that, perhaps, some day, some of my friends from, oh, Canada, or the UK, or Japan might consider visiting? Right now, they don't want to risk it, and I cannot in good conscience insult their intelligence by telling them that they are being foolish.

#180 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 01:13 AM:

#164 albatross

Are you talking bout "attractor" or "derailing/sidelining" there -- derailing is often intention, while "attractor" is more like getting off focus reading one of Mike Ford's books, losing track of the main plots while the distracting intellectual sparklers are exploding on the sides of the path you're treading on trying to navigate through te book and follow the main action....

#176 Sean
The "conversations" were posturing for the cameras and politic advantaging out of the media (the level of hatemongering festering privilegig bigotry in the Pee Party failing to be communicated to the public apparently, while the Repukes continue their revisionist big lie propaganda; the Democrats were working to try to apply some level of party unity -- note the lockstep groupthink of the Repukes, oh what fine groupthink appartchiks they are, Beria was it wouuld be so proud.... and discipline in the ranks, and the President was trying, belatedly methinketh, to get the US public doing some cognitation....

#181 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 01:17 AM:

Lisa # 180

Bear witness. Contact your elected officials and express your outrage. Iterate.

#182 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 02:20 AM:

praisegod barebones @168:

I was using the phrase entirely un-ironically. If I avoided everything that didn't have a double edge from time to time, I'd have to stand mute.

#183 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 03:40 AM:

Another disturbing aspect of this case:

LEOs lead a dangerous life, and I don't blame them for being scared* sometimes. People shoot at them sometimes. Now, they chose a career they knew could lead to people shooting at them, so I'm not really crying over that, but all the same I'd be scared sometimes if I were in their shoes.

As a result, my reaction when any LEO asks me to do anything is to move VERY SLOWLY and to keep my hands in full view. If I need to do anything non-obvious, I announce what I'm going to do ahead of time.

Apparently, though, Dr Watts was convicted not for verbally refusing an order (he didn't say "no"), or for performing some action inconsistent with compliance (for instance, he didn't walk away when told to come here), but simply for not complying fast enough.

This establishes a very dangerous situation: If you don't move fast enough, you're a felon and you get two years in jail. If you move too fast, you're a threat and you get shot.

*I do, however, refuse to let them use macho synonyms like "threatened."

#184 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 06:54 AM:

Abi @ 182... If I avoided everything that didn't have a double edge from time to time, I'd have to stand mute.

"Dear, I can't hear anything."
"It's on mute."
"Well, UNmute it then."
"Where's the mute button on this thing?"

#185 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 08:06 AM:

Serge #184:

... "Ow! I cut myself on the mute button!"

#186 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 10:31 AM:

Paula:

Both ideas apply. I think of the attractors as being like places where there's a gradient surrounding some part of the discussion space, drawing all conversations that stray too close to the attractor in. Without any ill intent from anyone, conversations will often continue until they fall into one of these attractors, and thus (for example) stop being an interesting conversation about how people learn, and become yet another conversation about vouchers-vs-public-schools, or Democrats-vs-Republicans, or whatever.

The point isn't that those discussions don't have merit, it's that they get repetitive--once we've already had that discussion a few times, it's not too interesting to have it again. (Some subset of those discussions also are destructive of a community.)

And given the knowledge of those attractors, propogandists and advertisers and uninformed pundits trying to look smart and rabble-rousers of every stripe will often try mightily to push an informative discussion into one of these attractors, so that the informative discussion doesn't take place. For example, if you were trying to prevent any unsettling discussions of domestic spying from taking place after the NYT story a few years back, one way to do it was to change the discussion to one about press freedom or about those-damned-liberal-traitors. Both protect the listeners and participants from having to spend any time thinking about or understanding what's going on with the spying, and get everyone properly exercised and outraged without letting that outrage be directed in an inconvenient-to-the-powerful way.

A lot of that is done by framing the issue in a certain way, before it's discussed. *Start* the discussion of domestic spying with the question of whether this is another piece of evidence that the liberal New York Times is a hotbed of treason, and maybe you can avoid having anyone get back from that to talk about massive wiretapping of Americans with no oversight permitted.

At other times, this is a technique used when someone is losing an interesting argument. Let's stop talking about the details of healthcare reform, where I'm losing, and instead talk about why you want uninsured people to die/why you want a government takeover of the healthcare system. And I think this happens a lot without a conscious goal of pushing the conversation into an attractor, when you're really just flailing around looking for some way to salvage your argument.

#187 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 10:51 AM:

albatross #164, #186: A very good concept there... I'll add that the "basins" of those attractors are shaped on the psychological level, at least as much as the conversational level. Part of that is "trigger" responses such as those which give rise to Godwin's Law. Another part is the inclination to "transactional games" (a la Berne), as I mentioned in context of the joke thread.

#188 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 11:30 AM:

Since y'all are probably too modest, I'll post this quote from Dr. Watts here:

I remain profoundly grateful to Cory, and to Dave Nickle, and to John Scalzi and Steve Andrew and Kathryn Cramer and Patrick Neilson-Hayden — all those good folk who raised the alarm even though I’m sure some of them have found me a pain in the ass on occasion.

#189 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 02:50 PM:

A couple years ago I was on a jury hearing an odd DUI case. Cops testified that defendant had used enough of a controlled narcotic to be impaired, said impairment being substantiated by field tests imposed by said cops. Defendant said he'd just bought the substance and tasted just enough of it to ascertain that it really was what the dealer claimed, and any impairment he showed was because he was tired at the end of his work day. I should note that the cop that pulled him over never stated that his driving was erratic-- this cop was part of a unit empowered to stop any sort of commercial vehicle at any time for any reason, and defendant was at the time returning his heavy construction truck to the yard so he could punch out and enjoy his purchase on his own time.

I have extra hair and no great fondness for the War on (Some People who Use Some) Drugs, but I also thought the prosecution case stank on ice. The arresting officer testified to performing the field test, then taking him to a different station house where another officer with more (so called) training could conduct a more intensive test. That officer also testified, with a load of PR about how awesome the test was, and proceeded to mis-identify the drug he thought the defendant was impaired by (an error so egregious the judge snapped at him). And there were odd holes in the timeline, and some other weird omissions.

So I was determined to acquit, on the grounds of the cops lying their asses off. I got all but one other juror to agree with me in pretty short order, but that one guy had experience of junkies in the workplace, and felt like this was his chance to do something about the problem. Took me all day to argue him around. I mentioned jury nullification as a concept, where I took the point to be that average citizens can keep other average citizens from being railroaded, and that it sure didn't look to me like it served the cause of justice for the cops to collect this guy's scalp. But I didn't even see it as jury nullification, I saw it as my perceiving great gaping holes in the prosecution case. (Counsel for the defense didn't do a great job of pointing them all out, but enough got mentioned. Turned out there were some facts about the case nobody was allowed to say in open court.)

I think some people believe jury nullification means a jury can get an unjust law thrown out. That's the job of appeals courts. It just means that jurors refuse to apply the law in some particular case where they recognize an injustice being perpetrated. For the record, I don't recall any conception of jury nullification coming up in voir dire, and I was looking for it. I did get to see a video about the solemn responsibilities of jurors, though.

In retrospect, I remain astonished that the court allowed someone who looks vaguely like Jerry Garcia to sit in a jury on a drug case. They'd dismissed a bunch of potential jurors already, however, and were running out of warm bodies by the time they got to me. I tried to present myself as open-minded and evidence-based, although I suppose my belief that police will lie if they perceive the need arguably counts as a prejudice.

#190 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 04:21 PM:

My husband was on a jury once. (They never, never want me and on one occasion, have accused me of contaminating the entire jury pool, I state with pride. They dismissed all of us and had to start over.)

The defendant downed Michael Jacksonian quantities of Valium (100 mg) then had a beer chaser. The cop (clueless in suburbia) noted that she was impaired but only pulled a BAL (blood alcohol) and didn't check for other drugs of abuse.

Since she rearended somebody a block from our house, my husband was determined to convict. The friendly inebriate on the jury panel was hard to convince, but finally decided the defendant was "stupid" to chase Valium with a beer. So he voted to find her guilty of stupidity.

She got reckless driving and bodily harm or some such.

So I think a determined juror can make a difference, but it sounds like a pain in the rear to achieve.

#191 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 04:42 PM:

189
You're not any worse, but probably better, as a juror than the people who believe that the police are always correct, and that anyone who is arrested for anything is guilty.

#192 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 06:16 PM:

Does anyone know anything about the timing of pardons? I mean, we all know that presidents can pardon before there's even an indictment or impeachment (Nixon), but is there anything odd about the governor pardoning Dr. Watts BEFORE he's sentenced if she wants to? I'm thinking of urging her to send that very strong message about the thuggery of DHS.

#193 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 06:27 PM:

Throwmearope @ 190: (They never, never want me and on one occasion, have accused me of contaminating the entire jury pool, I state with pride. They dismissed all of us and had to start over.)

...???

Very well, Scheherazade, I shall spare your life for one more day...

#194 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 06:35 PM:

Xopher, #192: IMO, because he's been convicted that means a pardon can be issued, whether he's been sentenced or not. I'm not down with pre-emptive pardons -- the conviction must be handed down first, but after that it's home free.

Paul, #193: *giggle* (and seconded)

#195 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 07:15 PM:

@193 Paul Duncanson

It was a pain and suffering case and they asked me as a doctor how I feel about pain and suffering. And I said, "Well, you know, one man's pain and suffering is another man's minor irritation."

The judge said he didn't want me within 10 miles of his jury pool. Picky, picky, picky.

#196 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 07:47 PM:

Throwmearope @ 190: You have jury cooties? And they're catching?

I must have some variant form -- after over fifty years of voting in every election, I have been called for jury duty only once, and my number was dismissed even before I got to the courthouse to check in. I thought of going in anyway and demanding my right to perform the duty of citizenship, but I figured that would spoil my chances forever.

#197 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 09:43 PM:

I once got dismissed from a jury pool for cheerfully stating that, yes, I totally believed that someone could misunderstand a straightforward question on an application form and put down the wrong thing, because working customer service had convinced me that most people are unable to answer straightforward requests for basic information in a coherent manner when it's done via text.

But then, that was a weird jury pool. The whole set of potential jurors got into the spirit of asking questions, to the point that the judge had to remind us all that we were merely being potentially selected, not trying the case already that morning.

#198 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 10:00 PM:

re pardons: There was some flap about... no wait it wasn't a pardon Bush gave Libby, it was some other thing. I recall the prosecutor being livid.

Pardons are different, and yes, the governor could issue one now.

#199 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 10:15 PM:

198
I thought it was a pardon. The flap was partly because it didn't go through the proper procedures, including the Pardon Office.

#200 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 10:16 PM:

Right now I'm on an brief hiatus from jury duty that should expire next February.

But since I moved to Jackson County, MO, I've been called in something like five times and served once on a wasteful, trashy civil case (that was during a high-stress part of my work year....).

And apparently if I actually serve on three juries, I will get excused from it altogether.

We'll see.

When I lived in Kansas I got asked once and got excused almost immediately. It was an iffy case, the information presented was a mixup of he said/she said case and the main person to be questioned was a young girl. Either mom was lying about dad or dad was an asshole.

What got me excused was, the prosecutor asked, "is there anything I might do that will make you mad?" I replied, "If you browbeat that child on the stand I may be out of my seat defending her."

"You're excused right now."

#201 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2010, 10:20 PM:

Terry, P J: I thought it was a commutation. The idea being "wait, this is one of the oligarch class! They don't have to go to prison. I mean, honestly."

#202 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 12:12 AM:

Xopher: yes, that was it. The bit which was pissed-off inducing was that it was done oddly. Libby was commuted before he'd been incarcerated.

Which was some sort of massive irregularity.

It also meant he couldn't be compelled to testify, as he had no immunity from further prosecution.

Clever.

#203 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 12:26 AM:

Leroy F. Berven @162
Yes, it does provide relevant content. Thank you.

#204 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 09:54 AM:

#182 abi

Fair enough.

Also: 58 was really meant as an admission of cluelessness, and 161 as an explanation of why I'd felt clueless. I get the impression it came across as a challenge (and on re-reading it I can see why it would). It wasn't meant that way. If it seemed as though it was, I'm sorry.


198-202 Xopher, PJ, Terry

It was a commutation:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/07/02/libby.sentence/

As well as protecting Libby's ability to plead the 5th, it meant that he retained his felony conviction. (I guess he wouldn't have if he'd been pardoned) And apparently, one reason it was controversial was that Bush didn't consult with the prosecuting attorney.

I don't know whether governors can commute, but it sounds as though it wouldn't be an ideal solution for Peter Watts, given that the conviction remains.

#205 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 03:02 PM:

When it comes to the profitability of cheap labor and colonies a classic work is Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.

Colonies are about both wealth and control of natural resources for the imperium -- you cannot be an imperium, with all the wealth and power imperium implies, without colonies. In these days of late or decadent capitalism we have colonies via corporations. However, the British Empire's colonies began as companies, companies of all kinds.

The amount of wealth extracted by Britain from her colonies is astounding. The wealth comes in so many forms, whether as an administrator -- a nabob, in India, acquiring wealth from skimming taxes, 'presents' from the rulers of the territory you administer, investing in the opium and tea trade, investing in the slave trade -- and then the trade itself.

The African slave trade -- just the trade -- generated so much wealth, from the special ships that needed building, to the special insurance policies written to cover liability and loss, to the cargo itself. See The Slave Ship: A Human History by the great naval historian, Marcus Rediker.

A useful parallel volume on labor and Revolution that pertains to this subject is The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revoltuionary Atlantic by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker.

Love, C.

#206 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 03:39 PM:

Speaking of G. Gordon Liddy... Anybody else remembers the early 1990s Perry Mason movie in which he played one of the suspects, a conversative talk-radio guy? Yes, he does turn out to be the crazy murderer. (This is almost as shocking as the Perry Mason movie where Dwight Schultz turns out to be the crazy murderer.)

#207 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 06:36 PM:

I've edited my pardon letter post to include better instructions (thanks to Cory for the assist!), and you can read it here.

#208 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 07:23 PM:

When I was well and worked, I was never called to jury duty. Now that I'm sick and have some restrictions, I've been sent the form to fill out three times and I always send it back telling them I can't sit up straight for more than three hours and I can't go up steps. They never call me.

#209 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2010, 08:35 PM:

I've been in the first 12 jurors every time I've been called for jury duty. (1. settled, 2. settled, 3. struck, 4. struck and lectured, 5. served)

If you've never done it, here's the drill (in Texas, anyway). When you're called, three to six hundred people show up and watch a short movie about jury duty. Eventually, someone from the court calls the people that will be in the jury panel for each trial, giving them each a number, starting at 1, usually going up to 36, can go up to at least 72 (depending on the type of trial). If you're not called, you can go home!

If you are called, you go to the court the trial will be in, and sit in numerical order. Your odds of actually serving on the jury are high if your number is 1 - 12, and lower as your number gets higher. Each lawyer can strike a certain number of prospective jurors, and asking the questions in voir dire gets them their strike list.

When they're done asking questions, the potential jurors file out to stand around (free wifi in the courthouse!) until they call us back. They name the jurors, the jurors go sit in the jury box, everybody else can go home!

The jury gets basic instructions, told when to show up for the trial (in half an hour, that afternoon, the next day) and the trial is afoot.

#210 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2010, 01:59 AM:

I got called to jury duty in 2006 (it was only the second time in some 20 years of eligibility).

It was fascinating. I wrote it up in my Lj.

Trusting Strangers

#211 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2010, 04:51 PM:

Having been sentenced to paying fines, Peter Watts is going home without jail time.

Horse's mouth.

Mike Glyer writes:

On April 26 Canadian author Peter Watts was sentenced to a 60-day jail term suspended upon payment of court assessments — $68 state minimum costs, $60 victim rights, $1000 court costs and $500 fines, according to the St. Clair County Court database.

#212 ::: jason bond picks ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 01:39 AM:

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