A victory in our right to look back… plus online “Brin Events”

== First a quick update about coming online events ==

* Join me for a big, informal Twitter extravaganza on June 20 at 1pm PDT  #TorChat

* Culminating in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” marathon, scheduled for June 26, starting at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern or 2300GMT) and continuing until… whenever!

By the way… anybody who helps the preview trailer of Existence to go viral will gain points in the Briniverse!   And see below how to sign up for our once-a-year newsletter, going out Tuesday!

== More on the importance of Looking Back at Authority ==

On to important matters. One theme that recurs in EXISTENCE… and in daily life … is the question of how to maintain freedom and hope in the presence of overwhelming power.  Which could be oligarchy, or aliens… or the cop on the corner.

I’ve long held that the most important civil rights issue of our time is ensuring that citizens maintain their power of “sousveillance” or gazing upward, unafraid, in order to hold authority accountable.  When a private person has any sort of clash with powerful figures, especially the police, he or she has only one refuge, one recourse that should overpower all other considerations.  The Truth.  The U.S. Constitution repeatedly emphasizes a citizen’s right to that recourse.  But lately, many police officers have tried to prevent people from recording arrests with their cameras and cell phones.

As I’ve often said, one can well-understand how human it is, when you have such a difficult and dangerous job, to wish you weren’t also under a constant glare of scrutiny.  But welcome to the 21st Century.  Police officers deserve all sorts of allowances and respect when they perform their functions professionally and well – and forgiveness of occasional and understandable lapses.  But we cannot let them win this one.  Not at all, at any level.  Those who resent scrutiny by their employers should seek other lines of work.

And now things seem to be falling into place on our side, for a change.  Not only have several court cases repudiated camera seizures, but now the Obama Justice Department has issued a stinging rebuke to the City of Baltimore for insufficiently protecting a universal right of citizens to record public events in a non-threatening way.  The existence of a right-to-record is laid out explicitly, in no uncertain terms.

Need any further proof that there is a difference?  Despite the fact that police officers have (for very good reasons) been voting democratic far more in the last decade (like all the other professional or knowledge castes), the Democratic administration simply had to issue this statement.  You know that it would not have been issued under Republicans.

And while we’re on the subject, here is a recent law paper: A Due Process Right to Record the Police, lining up the argument for a right to record as a core element of “due process” guarantees in the Constitution. While this article is cogent and persuasive, it includes a puzzling footnote to the effect that it is “worth noting that such a right might also find penumbral support in the Sixth Amendment’s right to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in a defendant’s favor.”

Here I deeply disagree.  It is not “penumbral” at all.  The neglected and seldom discussed Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is, in fact, one of the most important and vital in the defense of liberty and justice. It goes beyond what other clauses provide – by merely limiting the powers of the state – and instead lays out a positive power for the citizen to aggressively seek and compel testimony or other information in his or her own defense.   This is the very same aggressive demand that the citizen is asserting when using a camera or recording device to protect himself, in advance, against abuse of power.  The Sixth is the very heart and soul of our campaign to use transparency to defend both freedom and our civilization’s great experiment.

== Other Cool Items ==

In The not-so-fine Line between Privacy and Secrecy, Valkyrie Ice does a pretty fair and eloquent paraphrasing of my “Allegory of the Restaurant” – and the power of reciprocal transparency to let us have some privacy, even in a world filled with light.

And swiveling 190 degrees to the “sprituality front…” Just because I am a big old Science Guy who believes passionately in the Western Enlightenment, that doesn’t mean I am at all trapped by the zero sum game that says you can only be one thing. Be interested in just one thing.  I know for a fact… and from my days in the sixties… that you can dip into “spiritual” matters now and then, without harming at all your ability to think logically.  What “is” can be separated from “what’s cool to ponder.”  And hence, I can dig where my friend and fellow author Matt Pallamary is at, with his novels and nonfiction books about exploring the Amazon and experiencing the altered states that came from using native … well… spirit-shifting plants.  Watch his one minute video. And some of you can picture scenes in my books where – clearly – I must have talked to Matt too much!

== Science ==

Amid the flood of reported planet discoveries, made by the wonderful Kepler spacecraft ( which finds them by measuring “transit” planet passages between us and the parent star), a paper now contends that a third of the claimed finds may be false positives.  “We cannot say anything about smaller planets,” says Alexandre Santerne, a graduate student at the University of Aix-Marseille in France and coauthor of the arXiv.org paper. “It’s just for giant planets close-in.”

This doesn’t surprise me.  I felt it was odd how many huge, close-in planets were turning up.  We are still in an era of fantastic discovery.


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