Wonders and Disturbances: The Political Kind

Let’s take a look at a raft of political and social news, gleanings and/or outrages… followed by a potpourri of scientific and other wonders that remind us — civilization is about a lot more than anger!

But first the big news.  Exactly as I predicted, a federal court has stepped in with the most important decision and precedent of our times, one that will make a more crucial difference to our role as citizens than anything since the Civil Rights Act:  Citizens may now record their encounters with police.

This is so important that I will quote directly the first two paragraphs of the ruling just laid down by Torruella, Lipez, and Howard, Circuit Judges in the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals:

“Simon Glik was arrested for using his cell phone’s digital video camera to film several police officers arresting a young man on the Boston Common. The charges against Glik, which included violation of Massachusetts’s wiretap statute and two other state-law offenses, were subsequently judged baseless and were dismissed. Glik then brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his arrest for filming the officers constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

“In this interlocutory appeal, the defendant police officers challenge an order of the district court denying them qualified immunity on Glik’s constitutional claims. We conclude, based on the facts alleged, that Glik was exercising clearly established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause. We therefore affirm.”

I’ve said it before, I am no cop-hater.  I admire our skilled professional protectors and I’ve helped them in many ways, over the years, from consulting with many agencies all the way down to relieving Sheriff deputies from routine traffic duties during San Diego’s 2007 wild fires (as a CERT-trained volunteer).  I consider the current “war against professionalism” – including hatred of science and our civil servants – to be a travesty and I note the historic rise in professional standards among those doing a very taxing and challenging job on our city streets, dealing with provocations that any other generation of cops – reacting according to hormonal human nature  would have handled with a billy club upside the head!

Nevertheless, this is not a fight that our hardworking public protectors can be allowed to win, at any level, in any way, shape or form. The only recourse of a citizen, when pressed or shackled or condemned by authority , is the truth. We must have access to it, especially when it concerns our potential for exoneration. Purely, universally and always. It is human nature that they’ll want to evade the accountability of our cameras.

They must be taught – simply and firmly – to get used to it.

Remember this news. It was important.

 == Politically Fascinating Miscellany ==

—  Science is really starting to zero in on a list of verified personality differences between liberals, conservatives and leftists that manifest in measurable ways in the brain.  A fascinating article… and perhaps one more reason why dogmatists have been pushing the “war on science.”

— Look at these ten charts showing America’s historically super-low tax levels. Then ask “who is behind making low taxes for the rich the top issue? The only thing that matters?” Who is financing that message? Oh, right. Got it. (Make your friends see these charts.)

— Did I sound optimistic earlier, about the appeals court’s ruling about citizen cameras?  Well, maybe I spoke too soon.  Remember, the Supremes can over-rule!

The Supreme Court majority that gave us George Bush Junior for 8 years (after which, not one Republican I know can name an unambiguous statistical metric of national health that improved, with most of them plummeting as a result of brainless misrule) – also gave us the Citizens United decision, allowing corporations to spend whatever they like to influence elections, swamping contributions from mere citizens made of flesh and blood.  Now see how blatant it has become.

“Cameron Casey wanted to invest a million dollars in the Romney campaign and why not? He and Mitt were both scions of Bain Capital, which specializes in enriching its members by selling off America. Having a President overseeing the process could net a solid return!But those pesky campaign finance laws limited Mr. Casey to a few thousand dollars. No problem! He incorporated “W. Spann LLC”, gave it a million bucks; W. Spann LLC gave that million to “Restore Our Future”; and, no longer needed, W. Spann LLC dissolved.”

You do realize that there is nothing to prevent a foreign petro-lord from doing the same thing? And… this is… okay?

— And no, I do not believe the only political crazies are on the right. Anyone who has read Earth or The Transparent Society knows that I see dangers to freedom and enlightenment coming from all quarters, instead of the ridiculous mono-directional paranoia that is the lazy habit in most modern folks. (Suspicion of authority should aim in all directions!)  Lest we forget the evils of Leninism. Even today, when one end of the political spectrum seems to have gone stark jibbering insane, I keep reminding folks that we should keep an eye on the other extreme.

See it in action here.  Oh, yes, there are leftie jerks. Only bear in mind (1) that the loony left does not control liberals – whom they despise as moderate compromisers. And (2) if the Earth really is imperiled by a movement that won’t listen when science warns of a clear danger, then we can hardly be surprised when some folks get dramatic and think – well – exaggerated thoughts.

— Sorry, but this is a matter that really chafes my hide. “Michele Bachmann thinks the world is ending and the pope is the antichrist. Her friends want to bring about the end times in Israel and her church has an issue with the papacy.” Look, I consider this separate from every other aspect of the divide across an idiotic, artificial “left right axis.” I don’t care what mythologies or beliefs people claim, so long as they remain detached from the candidate’s likely actions in office. But it really is another matter when a person asking for my vote also believes most of her fellow citizens are already damned souls. When she openly desires to see “fire rain from the sky”… while asking for the keys to our nuclear arsenal. When she openly wishes for an end to democracy and the United States of America.  I call that relevant.

— “How my G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy.” Yes, that is exactly what David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, “Four Deformations of the Apocalypse.”  This summary continues: “Yes, Stockman is equally damning of the Democrats’ Keynesian policies. But what this indictment by a party insider — someone so close to the development of the Reaganomics ideology — says about America, helps all of us better understand how America’s toxic partisan-politics “holy war” is destroying not just the economy and capitalism, but the America dream. And unless this war stops soon, both parties will succeed in their collective death wish.”

Holding predictors accountable?  Those who remember EARTH and  The Transparent Society know that I have long promoted the idea of better holding accountable those who make predictions about the future. Indeed, our brains are equipped with organs – the prefrontal lobes – that seem to be obsessed with attempting to appraise future possibilities and events. We just don’t do it as well as our prophets claim they do! See my articles on Predictions Registries:  http://www.davidbrin.com/predictionsregistry.htm and http://www.davidbrin.com/predictions.htm

“Now A Hamilton College class and their public policy professor analyzed the predictions of 26 pundits …and used a scale of 1 to 5 to rate their accuracy… The top prognosticators – led by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman – scored above five points and were labeled “Good,” while those scoring between zero and five were “Bad.” Anyone scoring less than zero (which was possible because prognosticators lost points for inaccurate predictions) were put into “The Ugly” category…   Even when the students eliminated political predictions and looked only at predictions for the economy and social issues, they found that liberals still do better than conservatives at prediction. After Krugman, the most accurate pundits were Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  …The group also found a link between conditional predictions and accuracy, that is, a prediction that was conditional (“If A, then B”) was less likely to be accurate. Finally, those prognosticators with a law degree were more likely to be wrong.”

It’s a step… though I remain a bit skeptical. As my articles describe, a truly respectably predictions accountability system will have a number of traits that seem to be missing in the Hamilton College study. For example, a specificity index is just as important as one for predicting successfully.  Still, a worthwhile effort.

— Finally:  See an interesting riff on Ayn Rand’s Hollywood days, writing treatments for a film glorifying the atom bomb. Elsewhere I call her a jibbering loony.  An apologist and rationalizer for the very same oligarchic tendencies that Adam Smith denounced.  (Choose: you can have Smith or Rand, not both.)

But in this case (for none of the reasons she gave) Rand was right about the bomb. It has proved (so far) to be a force for good. It limited the size of my generation’s wars to Vietnam level or below, saving probably a billion or more lives from the conventional WWIII that seemed inevitable in the normal pattern of human affairs. If this were 1947 and you listened to Oppenheimer and Teller, you would call Teller crazy and Oppenheimer wise. Indeed, at the time, we had no reason at all to believe Teller’s forecast that nuclear weapons would chasten humanity, wake us up and teach us new ways! Oppenheimer had history on his side and a desperate wish to step back from the precipice. But it turned out Teller was right (so far).

And the fact that we CAN be chastened into changing our ways may help explain why we’re among the first to reach for the stars.  A topic I expand upon, in my new novel.


1 Comment

Filed under media, politics

One response to “Wonders and Disturbances: The Political Kind

  1. “The group also found a link between conditional predictions and accuracy, that is, a prediction that was conditional (“If A, then B”) was less likely to be accurate.”

    I wonder how they judged these. Did they throw out predictions where the premise turned out to be false, or did they count those as being true predictions? It seems that conditional predictions should be extremely easy to make, gaming the whole system and getting ridiculously high score: I predict that if the moon turns into green cheese, GDP will plummet 10%. (Assuming the moon doesn’t turn into green cheese, this prediction is true according to basic logic)

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