Wednesday, December 31, 2014


By Patrick

Another year is over. 2014 was eventful, and for domestic US politics, it was not a good year. The next year certainly will be challenging in this respect. Personally, we know that our readers and friends had some very positive experiences, and also some very tragic losses. Life is a journey, in which we have to find ourselves, and find a meaning as well. When the people who were our partners on this journey suddenly disappear, we should remember the times of joy and happiness we had with them, and this is how they would have liked it.

Kathleen and I had a nice break over the Christmas holidays so far, and there was much time for reflection. Living in a little care-free paradise across the ocean, in which most of the problems which we discuss here on our forum on a daily basis virtually do not exist, there is much to think about. Unity, common respect, decency, kindness - these are some of the elements that a society desperately needs, as well as the conviction that rules within a Democracy should not be abused, or altered arbitrarily, just so that one side gets an unfair advantage. Let's hope that the balance of power within the USA does not swing even more towards the rich, because this is in my view the most destructive development in the USA these days.

In accordance with the contemplative tone of this post, I present some winter photos which I took in Germany:

We all leave our little footprints in life:

Finally, switching to a different topic, it is well worth to remember one thing: Gun control works. The tragedies which occur on a daily basis in the USA are almost all preventable. In one of the finest segments of the "Daily Show" ever made, John Oliver got to the bottom of this subject. Maybe you haven't seen these three clips so far - they should be revisited over and over again, and there is actually not much else to say on this subject. Pure brilliance!




We wish you all a happy, 
healthy and wonderful 2015!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Glasgow, taken in December 2013 (click to enlarge!)

By Patrick

Another year has nearly finished again! Christmas is awaiting us. For many people, the best days of the year. It also is a time for reflection. We look back at a year filled with joy and tragedy, too much tragedy, unfortunately, and we feel with others who lost loved ones. We cannot change the world, but we should also not bury our heads in the sand. We can choose to be stupid, or to be educated.

So the team from Politicalgates wishes our readers a happy, joyful and merry Christmas!

May all your wishes become true.

In order to get into the Christmas spirit, here are some nice video clips.

"Peace on Earth", classic MGM Christmas cartoon from 1939:

George Harrison - Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth):

The "Nutcracker" as a cartoon:

"Yes Minister" Christmas sketch 1982, with Nigel Hawthorne:

Finally, if this was not enough Christmas for you yet, here is the ulimate clip: Christmas Carols and Victorian Christmas postcards. If this does not put you in the Christmas spirit, nothing will! ;-)

You are lucky that the football World Championship 2014 has nothing to do with Christmas, or I just would have posted clips from that. The Germans got their Christmas present already in July! Lucky, lucky Germans! :-)

However, this post would not be complete without the John Lewis Christmas advert 2014, which is a must-see if there ever was a must-see, and I am sure that more of 21 millions viewer on Youtube agree:

So, have a wonderful Christmas, everybody!

Don't forget to comment, message and tweet a lot, about everything. It's the season! :-)

Many thanks to our reader disqusux for the final picture:



I had to update this post with the Sainsbury's Christmas 2014 advert, after I discovered it - see for yourself, it features the famous "Christmas truce" from 1914, very moving indeed:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court Justice from hell, falsely claims in speech that the "US Constitution does not contravene torture" - and says other very silly things as well, as usual

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: Incompetence personified

By Patrick

If there was a TV-program called "America's Worst Judges", then Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would be the most convincing participant, no doubt about it. It is already assured that his name will live in infamy, due to uncountable awful or even horrifying remarks and decisions. But there is always a way to make things even worse, this Supreme Court Justice from hell apparently thought. While virtually everybody around the world and in the USA (excluding the lovers of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes) is deeply shocked about the contents of the recently published US Senate torture report, Justice Scalia apparently does not believe that torture is such a big deal, and now said that he could find nothing in the US Constitution that contravenes torture.

The Associated Press reports:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is joining the debate over the Senate's torture report by saying it's hard to rule out the use of extreme measures to extract information if millions of lives were threatened.

Scalia told a Swiss broadcast network that American and European liberals who say such tactics may never be used are being self-righteous.

The 78-year-old justice said he doesn't "think it's so clear at all," especially if interrogators were trying to find a ticking nuclear bomb. Scalia has made similar comments in the past, but he renewed his remarks on Wednesday in an interview with Radio Television Suisse, a day after the release of the Senate report detailing the CIA's harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists. RTS aired the interview on Friday.

"Listen, I think it's very facile for people to say, 'Oh, torture is terrible.' You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. You think it's an easy question? You think it's clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?" Scalia said.

Scalia also said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. "I don't know what article of the Constitution that would contravene," he said. Scalia spent a college semester in Switzerland at the University of Fribourg.

Oh, so it's all fine then! There are unnamed "U.S. laws", but the constitution is OK with torture, right? Well, thanks for clearing that up, Justice Scalia. Finally, everyone involved doesn't need to have a bad conscience any more.

You really need to be a brain-dead teabagger to believe this. For those people who are not totally brainwashed or completely incapable of independent thinking, the evidence to the contrary is not difficult to find, and you can bet that every law student would fail his exam if he or she claimed that Justice Scalia was correct. Because such a statement is nothing more than a very dangerous distortion of the Constitution.

Let's for example take a look at the "U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" (commonly known as the "United Nations Convention against Torture"). The USA ratified the Convention in 1994.

The ratification of this Convention makes it a "treaty" according to the US Constitution's Supremacy Clause [Article VI, Clause 2]. These treaties are one of the three things that are the supreme law of the land. The other two are the Constitution itself and federal laws (see also here).

In Article one of the U.N. Convention, torture is clearly defined as:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Which of course fully covers the actions of the CIA and their money-grubbing as well as conscience-free contractors during the "enhanced interrogations" as described in the US Senate torture report.

But is Justice Scalia still right? It's not in the Constitution, right? It might be the "supreme law of the land", but hey, the Constitution itself doesn't talk about torture?

A Supreme Court Justice should know that constitutional matters are not that easy, but when Justice Scalia was appointed by Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1986, I very much doubt that his professional skills as a lawyer played the major role. So it is not surprising, but still pretty shocking, that Scalia comes across as the "Dumb of Dumber" of the Supreme Court.

Coming from a country where Supreme Court Justices are actually chosen due to their outstanding legal skills in the first place (political considerations come second), which is interesting because the German Constitutional Court was modeled after the US Supreme Court after WWII, I can just continue to scratch my head about the fact that US politicians have no problem to erode their democratic system by appointing incompetent candidates to the Supreme Court, who are obviously chosen for their political persuasions in the first place, or only for their political persuasions. When I say "US politicians", I do talk about Republicans in the first place, of course, as for example President Obama made great choices when it came to the selection of candidates for the Supreme Court.

During my own legal education in Germany, I personally met two German Supreme Court Justices in seminars, and can confirm that the lawyers who are chosen for the court are truly excellent. When appointing the judges, who are serving a 12-year-term, the politicians look for the best and brightest. The reputation of the German Constitutional Court has been very high throughout the decades, and the Court is responsible for many landmark decisions, which helped to establish a free and liberal political system. I can safely say that appointing an idiot like Scalia to the Court would be absolutely inconceivable in Germany and has so far never happened since the Court was established after WWII. Also, I am not aware that politicians in Germany have ever tried to abuse the German Constitutional Court for political gain.

But back to Scalia's claim! We still haven't fully refuted it yet, right? Well, we are in luck! Because when it comes to United Nations Convention against Torture, each country had the opportunity to submit a detailed report. The USA also submitted such a very extensive and detailed report, written in October 1999, and explained in detail why torture is prohibited by the US Constitution! Let's take a look and enlighten ourselves, even though there is apparently no hope left with Justice Scalia!


1. The Government of the United States of America welcomes the opportunity to report to the Committee against Torture on measures giving effect to its undertakings under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in accordance with article 19 thereof. The organization of this initial report follows the revised General Guidelines of the Committee against Torture regarding the form and content of initial reports to be submitted by States parties (CAT/C/4/Rev.2).

2. This report has been prepared by the U.S. Department of State with extensive assistance from the Department of Justice and other relevant departments and agencies of the Federal Government. Substantial contributions were also solicited and received from interested non-governmental organizations, academics and private citizens. The report covers the situation in the United States and the measures taken to give effect to the Convention through September 1999.

3. The United States ratified the Convention against Torture in October 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on 20 November 1994. In its instrument of ratification (deposited with the Secretary General of the United Nations on 21 October 1994), the United States made a declaration pursuant to article 21, paragraph 1, recognizing the competence of the Committee against Torture, on a reciprocal basis, to receive and consider a State party’s claims that another State party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention. The United States also conditioned its ratification on two reservations and a number of interpretive understandings; these are included at annex I and discussed at the relevant portions of this report.

4. In 1992 the United States became a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, some provisions of which may be considered to have wider application than those of the Convention against Torture. The initial United States report under the Covenant, which provides general information related to United States compliance with and implementation of obligations under the Covenant, was submitted to the Human Rights Committee in July 1994 (see HRI/CORE/1/Add.49 and CCPR/C/81/Add.4). The United States also ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination at the same time as it ratified the Convention against Torture. In February 1995 the United States signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

5. The United States has long been a vigorous supporter of the international fight against torture. United States representatives participated actively in the formulation of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted in 1975, and in the negotiation of the Convention against Torture. The United States continues to be the largest donor to the United Nations Voluntary Fund For Victims of Torture, having contributed over $12.6 million as of August 1999. The United States Government pursues allegations of torture by other governments as an integral part of its overall human rights policy, highlighting such issues in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Conditions.

6. Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offence under the law of the United States. No official of the Government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. United States law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a “state of public emergency”) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension. The United States is committed to the full and effective implementation of its obligations under the Convention throughout its territory.

That sounds already quite good, doesn't it? I especially like this sentence:

"No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. "

This was of course before the Bush-cabal tried to bend and distort the applicable laws.

If this was not clear enough yet for Justice Scalia, he is in luck, because there is much more - just another short excerpt from this extremely interesting document:

47. In 1994, Congress enacted a new federal law to implement the requirements of the Convention against Torture relating to acts of torture committed outside United States territory. This law, which is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 2340 et seq., extends United States criminal jurisdiction over any act of (or attempt to commit) torture outside the United States by a United States national or by an alleged offender present in the United States regardless of his or her nationality. The statute adopts the Convention’s definition of torture, consistent with the terms of United States ratification. It permits the criminal prosecution of alleged torturers in federal courts in specified circumstances.

48. Any act falling within the Convention’s definition is clearly illegal and prosecutable everywhere in the country. Because existing criminal law was determined to be adequate to fulfil the Convention’s prohibitory obligations, and in deference to the federal-state relationship, it was decided at the time of ratification not to propose enactment of an omnibus implementing statute for the Convention or to adopt a single federal crime of torture.

49. Torture has always been proscribed by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments”. This Amendment is directly applicable to actions of the Federal Government and, through the Fourteenth Amendment, to those of the constituent states. See Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, reh’g den. 371 U.S. 905 (1962); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). While the constitutional and statutory law of the individual states in some cases offers more extensive or more specific protections, the protections of the right to life and liberty, personal freedom and physical integrity found in the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution provide a nationwide standard of treatment beneath which no governmental entity may fall. The constitutional nature of this protection means that it applies to the actions of officials throughout the United States at all levels of government; all individuals enjoy protection under the Constitution, regardless of nationality or citizenship.

50. Every state constitution also contains detailed guarantees of individual liberties, in most cases paralleling the protections set forth in the federal bill of rights. For example, nearly all state constitutions expressly forbid cruel and unusual punishment (including acts constituting “torture”) and guarantee due process protections no less stringent than those in the federal Constitution. The constitutions of 33 states also contain specific protections against unreasonable searches and seizures; only two state constitutions lack explicit protection against self-incrimination in criminal cases; and only five lack double jeopardy clauses. Even in such cases, however, defendants are not deprived of the protections afforded by the federal Constitution: United States constitutional protections are applicable throughout the United States, and the constitutional due process provision is broadly construed by the courts. In some cases, state law guarantees rights not explicitly recognized by the federal Constitution (such as privacy, education or access to courts), the protections afforded by state law sometimes exceeds those required by the federal Constitution.


112. Other constitutional provisions. Because the Eighth Amendment by its terms applies to “punishments”, courts have looked to other constitutional provisions, in particular the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and the due process requirements of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, to preclude the abuse or ill-treatment of individuals in other custodial circumstances. These constitutional protections are applicable and enforced at all levels of government.


114. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that “[n]o State [shall] deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law”. The Fifth Amendment applies to the Federal Government and similarly provides that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”. The principle of due process provides a broad and flexible measure of protection against abuse of state power. The due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments may reach actions that are technically outside Eighth Amendment purview, such as excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel during the investigative or pre-trial stages. Denial of pre-trial release by itself may implicate substantive and procedural due process concerns. United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739 (1987).

115. Although the Eighth Amendment does not apply to “pre-trial detainees”, i.e., persons lawfully arrested but not yet convicted and sentenced, the courts have ruled that such individuals enjoy equivalent protection under the Fourteenth Amendment with regard to conditions of detention. “[S]tates may not impose on pre-trial detainees conditions that would violate a convicted person’s Eighth Amendment rights.” Hamm v. DeKalb County, 774 F.2d 1567, 1573-74 (11th Cir. 1985), cert. denied 475 U.S. 1096 (1986). See also Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) (the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects a pre-trial detainee from the use of force that amounts to punishment); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979); Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977). In Lancaster v. Monroe County, Ala., 116 F.3d 1419 (11th Cir. 1997), a federal court of appeal stated that the minimum standard of medical care owed to a pre-trial detainee under the Fourteenth Amendment is the same as that required under the Eighth Amendment for a convicted prisoner.

Unless one is smitten with total ignorance, or is just plain malicious, there is simply no way to claim that the US Constitution is "silent" about torture.

This has of course long been acknowledged in the media as well. In an editorial, the Washington Post for example already wrote in 2005:

Interpreting the Constitution as permitting waterboarding in secret prisons is, to most experts outside the administration, legally outrageous and politically untenable. It means that the Bush administration accepts, in principle, that the FBI may use waterboarding, painful stress positions, forced nudity and other methods on Americans, in American prisons, "in certain circumstances." That's why the Justice Department has classified its memos on the subject and kept its conclusions secret. That's why President Bush and Vice President Cheney have worked so hard to stop the McCain amendment, which would pave the way for legal challenges to their interpretation. They want to give themselves the authority to commit human rights abuses without having to explain or justify themselves to the public, the world -- or an impartial court.

By the way, the United Kingdom in contrast does not even have a written constitution. According to Justice Scalia's logic, virtually everything would be constitutionally permitted then, as there clearly is "nothing" in there! Not even a piece of paper! Somebody should quickly tell the UK politicians, I am sure they will be thrilled.


Justice Scalia said in this interview several other outrageous things, as it is obviously his very own "personal style." The darling of the teabaggers strikes again, the AP report is actually very detailed, which is good to see:

The 30-minute interview touched on a range of topics, including the financing of political campaigns, the death penalty and gay marriage, about which Scalia said he should not comment because it is likely the court soon will have the issue before it. Asked about money and U.S. elections, Scalia scoffed that "women may pay more each year to buy cosmetics" than is spent on local, state and federal elections combined.

Women spend more money on cosmetics!! What an ingenious argument!

Dear US Republicans - you might think you are winning right now, but I don't think it will end well. Your lot is simply too stupid for your own good. All the dirty tricks and brainwashing won't help. The dark side will always be the loser in the end.

Have a nice weekend, everybody!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Enough is enough: Stop with the special legal protections for US police forces when they kill or assault citizens - The same self-defence rules should apply to everybody! Plus: The shockingly bad standards of conduct, training and supervision in many US police forces

By Patrick

This is a post I was a bit hesitant to write. Not out of laziness, haha, but because I have looked at so much "stuff" regarding this issue before, and have seen so many horrible things on the internet about police brutality in the USA, for example video clips which are hard to bear, that I really was tempted to turn my eyes away. Also, I live in a country where police brutality is not even an issue. The whole German police force for example fired 85 bullets against people in total in the year 2012, which some US police officers easily managed to do in just one single incident. But don't be surprised if US cops fire up to 600 bullets in a single incident, apparently in order to make sure that absolutely everyone is really dead, including the hostage in this case as well.

Although there are of course single acts of police brutality each year in Germany as well, it is certainly not a widespread problem. Nobody here in Germany is "afraid" of the police in daily encounters, because there is just no reason for it. Also, the police forces in Germany are very well trained and educated. I am not saying that everything is perfect in this respect, no, there will always be "overzealous" or even bad policemen who might be too aggressive, or rude, but there is absolutely no indication that this is a common problem in Germany. Therefore, police misconduct is not a problem I myself encounter in daily life.

However, the problem of police brutality in the USA, especially the problem of US police officers killing citizens in cases where there is no apparent "self-defence situation" has become so horrifying, so shocking, so widespread, that it is just impossible to turn a blind eye. As bloggers we should try to make our modest contribution in order to tackle the issue.

The problem is complicated. There are also quite a lot of police officers killed "in the line of duty" each year in the USA. Wikipedia lists 103 deaths of US policemen so far for 2014, with varies causes, for example gunfire and accidents, a number of deaths which is of course far too high, and should not be accepted as "normal." However, journalists and bloggers reported that the statistics are particularly appalling when one looks in the other direction. It was for example reported in 2013 that from September 9, 2001 until November 2013, no less than 5000 citizens are believed to have been killed by US police forces within this time frame, although this is partially an estimate.

As the recent weeks have shown, police officers in the USA who kill citizens "in the line of duty" virtually never have to fear legal consequences, however shocking or unnecessary the killing might have been. It is not true however that every single killing by a police officer has no legal consequences. Yesterday, the BBC published an article in which they reported that they found a few cases where US police officers were actually charged. But in the very rare event of such a case going to court, an accused police officer does not lose certain privileges, as the BBC notes:

And once a case goes to court, and even a conviction, the tendency to give police officers every benefit appears to extend to the sentencing as well.

After his conviction, Blackwelder was given five years probation for the crime. He had faced up to 20 years based on the charge.

So what is going on here? What is the general problem? Well, there certainly exist lots of different problems, and to mention them all would be impossible in just one post.

However, one fact seems to be more than obvious, if not proven:

The issue of awful policing is not confined to a few police forces, but exists in many cities, in many police forces. It seems to be rooted in the system.

From the Huffington Post:

The various reports by the Department of Justice that the Huffington Post is quoting from read like reports from some third world country. There really is no nicer way to put it. The reports are absolutely frightening, and they clearly show that the problems have their roots in the system: The standards of training and supervision within the police forces are often shockingly bad.

One starts to wonder: Who actually supervises the local police forces on a regular basis? Who ensures that the police is properly trained? Nobody?

For example, from the 2014 report about the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) - read the PDF:

The Huffington Post quotes from further reports, where the Department of Justice reviewed the conduct of other police forces, and the results are equally terrible:

- New Orleans Police Department

- Newark Police Department

- Portland Police Bureau

- Seattle Police Department

The problems which are being mentioned in the reports often sound very similar. From the report about the Seattle Police Department:

In addition, just a few days ago, another report was published, about Cleveland Police Department, the police force which was responsible for killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The findings do not really come as a surprise, in light of the other reports, as the findings again sound very familiar indeed:

Excerpt from the report:

Why are so many police forces in the USA in such a terrible state, I would like to ask?

The police should aim to recruit the best and brightest, right? After all, you do not want incompetent police officers to make quick decisions about life and death, concerning US citizens, as well as other people?

This is what we would like to think, however there are reports which claim that exactly the opposite is the case:

Mr. Robert Jordan of New London, Conn. wanted to become a cop. The first step in that jurisdiction is for applicants to take a Wonderlic test. Many Americans have heard of this exam because NFL prospects must take it as part of the draft process.

Jordan took the test on March 16, 1996 and scored a 33 (out of 50). He was not allowed to move on to the next stage of the application process because he scored too high on the test. The City of New London defended its policy, saying Jordan scored too far above the “normative median” of 21 and would “get bored” with the job and quit. The average NFL player also scores around 20 on the test, according to Bleacher Report.

Mr. Jordan filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court alleging a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The district court dismissed the case, ruling that New London’s policy is “rational.” The U.S. Second Circuit Court Of Appeals affirmed. In other words, it is legal for police departments to purposely hire the least intelligent individuals they can find. (...)

A 2010 Michigan State University study found that cops with a two or four-year degree resorted to using force 56 percent of the time, while those with only a GED or high school diploma used force 68 percent of the time. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found in 2003 that 83 percent of U.S. police agencies require cops only to have a GED or high school diploma, and only one percent require a four-year college degree.

You have to be joking...!

Another issue:

The standards of training and conduct are one thing - and then there are also the actual "policies" which are being enforced. How good are they? Do they work?

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone about the controversial "Broken Windows" strategy, which in reality causes many more problems than it supposedly solves, when being enforced vigorously, as shown in the tragic case of Eric Garner:

The Garner case was a perfect symbol of everything that's wrong with the proactive police tactics that are now baseline policy in most inner cities. Police surrounded the 43-year-old Garner after he broke up a fight. The officers who responded to that call then decided to get in Garner's face for the preposterous crime of selling "loosies," i.e. single cigarettes from a pack.

When the police announced that they were taking him in to run him for the illegal tobacco sale, Garner balked and demanded to be left alone. A few minutes later he was in a choke hold, gasping "I can't breathe," and en route to fatal cardiac arrest.

On the tape you can actually hear the echo of Garner's years of experience with Broken Windows-style policing, a strategy based on a never-ending stream of small intrusive confrontations between police and residents in target neighborhoods.

The ostensible goal of Broken Windows is to quickly and efficiently weed out people with guns or outstanding warrants. You flood neighborhoods with police, you stop people for anything and everything and demand to see IDs, and before long you've both amassed mountains of intelligence about who hangs with whom, and made it genuinely difficult for fugitives and gunwielders to walk around unmolested.

You can make the argument that the policies work, as multiple studies have cited "hot spot" policing as a cause of urban crime-rate declines (other studies disagree, but let's stipulate).

But the psychic impact of these policies on the massive pool of everyone else in the target neighborhoods is a rising sense of being seriously pissed off. They're tired of being manhandled and searched once a week or more for riding bikes the wrong way down the sidewalk (about 25,000 summonses a year here in New York), smoking in the wrong spot, selling loosies, or just "obstructing pedestrian traffic," a.k.a. walking while black.

This is exactly what you hear Eric Garner complaining about in the last moments of his life. "Every time you see me, you want to mess with me," he says. "It stops today!"

Matt Taibbi adds:

This policy of constantly badgering people for trifles generates bloodcurdling anger in "hot spot" neighborhoods with industrial efficiency. And then something like the Garner case happens and it all comes into relief. Six armed police officers tackling and killing a man for selling a 75-cent cigarette.

That was economic regulation turned lethal, a situation made all the more ridiculous by the fact that we no longer prosecute the countless serious economic crimes committed in this same city. A ferry ride away from Staten Island, on Wall Street, the pure unmolested freedom to fleece whoever you want is considered the sacred birthright of every rake with a briefcase.

If Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon had come up with the concept of selling loosies, they'd go to their graves defending it as free economic expression that "creates liquidity" and should never be regulated.

Taking it one step further, if Eric Garner had been selling naked credit default swaps instead of cigarettes – if in other words he'd set up a bookmaking operation in which passersby could bet on whether people made their home mortgage payments or companies paid off their bonds – the police by virtue of a federal law called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act would have been barred from even approaching him.

There were more cops surrounding Eric Garner on a Staten Island street this past July 17th then there were surrounding all of AIG during the period when the company was making the toxic bets that nearly destroyed the world economy years ago. Back then AIG's regulator, the OTS, had just one insurance expert on staff, policing a company with over 180,000 employees.

This is the crooked math that's going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren't changed. We flood poor minority neighborhoods with police and tell unwitting officers to aggressively pursue an interventionist strategy that sounds like good solid policing in a vacuum.

Finally, I would highlight one particular, tragic case which is very well documented, from 2013. This case also shows that the victims of "excessive police force" are of course not always black, and this case again exposes the shocking incompetence so often observed within US police forces these days.

The victim in this case was David Silva from Bakersfield, California, here seen with his wife and his four children, who now have to spend their lives without him:

This basically a "textbook case" of what can go wrong if incompetent, poorly trained police officers are at work - from the local news:

Dad who died during arrest 'begged for his life'; witness videos seized

Blood stains are still visible on the sidewalk at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive, where a Bakersfield man struggled with as many as nine officers and later died this week.

David Sal Silva, 33 and the father of four young children, died early Wednesday morning after deputies say he fought with them and CHP officers who'd responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center.

The question on everyone's mind: Why hasn't video footage of Silva been released?

Debate erupts over cell phone video of Silva beating by officers. Witness: "I can still hear him."

The Kern County Sheriff's Office says Silva resisted, a canine was deployed, more law enforcement arrived, batons were used and the man later had trouble breathing. He was taken to KMC, where he died. An autopsy was slated for Thursday, but no results have been released.

Some witnesses apparently took cellphone video of the incident but deputies moved quickly to seize the phones. The Sheriff's Office, after releasing a statement Wednesday and naming its officers Thursday, declined all further comment.

People who say they witnessed the incident as well as Silva's family members described a scene in which deputies essentially were beating a helpless man to death. They were indignant that cellphone video had been taken away by deputies.

"My brother spent the last eight minutes of his life pleading, begging for his life," said Christopher Silva, 31, brother of the dead man. He said he's talked to witnesses but did not see the incident himself.

At about midnight, Ruben Ceballos, 19,was awakened by screams and loud banging noises outside his home. He said he ran to the left side of his house to find out who was causing the ruckus.

"When I got outside I saw two officers beating a man with batons and they were hitting his head so every time they would swing, I could hear the blows to his head," Ceballos said.

Silva was on the ground screaming for help, but officers continued to beat him, Ceballos said.

After several minutes, Ceballos said, Silva stopped screaming and was no longer responsive.

"His body was just lying on the street and before the ambulance arrived one of the officers performed CPR on him and another one used a flashlight on his eyes but I'm sure he was already dead," Ceballos said.

However, there is not just this newspaper report. There is also the following gripping, shocking TV-report, which simply has to be seen and gives this case another dimension, which goes far beyond a printed report in the newspaper:

We should not forget that behind the statistics are these unbearably tragic cases - and very many of them.

Things have to change.

My opinion:

Police officers should not have special legal protections, when it comes to killing and assault.

The same laws should apply to everybody. When a police officer for example kills somebody, then a court, a prosecutor should apply the laws which also apply to other citizens. That is how it for example works in Germany, and it works very well, there are no problems with this concept at all. In addition, this most likely is one of the main reasons why for example German police in 2012 only killed six people in total - in a country with 80 million citizens.

Why should police officers have the right to kill somebody, if it is not in self-defence?

I don't know if this concept sounds too radical. I do not believe it is, and it works in other countries.

All I know is that these kind of headlines are totally unacceptable:

Things have to change, or they will likely get much, much worse.

Have a good weekend, everybody!



One of the first steps in trying to contain police brutality in the USA could be improving the training standards. As the reviews of the Department of Justice showed, there apparently exist huge problems in this respect all over the country, and significant differences between the police forces. In the USA, each police force seems to have their very own rules and standards regarding the training of police recruits. While it is possible to find police forces where recruits only have to train for 14 weeks, it was reported that the average training time for a police recruit is about 19 weeks. It some cases, training can be up to six months, but this seems to be the exception.

Afterwards, a police officer in the USA then usually enters into a probationary period, and this seems to vary a lot as well, depending on the police force, from several months up to 18 months. From what I have read, the average there seems to be about one year.

I can only compare this with the rules in my own country, and it is quite striking to me that police training in Germany is not only much more "standardized", but also significantly longer. In Germany, the individual states ("Länder") control the local police forces, but there seem to be few differences from state to state. I found an English presentation from the German Police University, which is a joint institution for all police forces, where an overview is given. A police recruit in Germany will undergo training for 2 1/2 years, and in order to rise up the ranks, candidates need to complete Bachelor and Master courses at the state police academies or the Police University. This system aims to ensure a high overall standard of education with the German police forces.

Some slides from this presentation:

From a different presentation (Berlin School of Economics and Law):

Such a system can provide high unified police standards all over the country.