Sunday, June 10, 2012

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.

101 comments:

combinatorialimplosion said...

>>>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.

I think you might be misunderstanding a Constitutional Scholar's term of art here. First off, what is being referred to as "penumbral" is not the 6th Amendment itself, this is no attempted "diss" against that amendment. Rather, the assertion is that the right to record law enforcement is penumbral _under_ the sixth.

Then, the term penumbral in Constitutional Law is an invocation of Griswold v. Connecticut, which established a right to privacy as being one of the "...specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance". This reasoning (much disputed by social conservatives because this provided the basis for Roe v. Wade) allows one to assert that a right is protected by the Constitution despite not being specifically mentioned within the Bill of Rights. So, by using the term "penumbral", the authors of the paper are asserting that even though recording the actions of police is not mentioned by the 6th Amendment, that amendment still supports its existence, not suggesting that there is anything less vital about that right.

Robert said...

Going off on a science fiction movie tangent for a moment, cartoonist Erin Faith Hicks (through the publisher Tor) has submitted a fun little review of Prometheus (which does contain a couple spoilers, I should add). Hicks has done several cartoon reviews in the past, along with her normal graphic novel work.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

David Brin said...

combinatorialimplosion I understood the meaning perfectly and it was precisely the meaning that I was criticizing.


Our right to record authority in action is ensured exactly, centrally and "umbrally" by the Sixth Amendment. Indeed, the "due process" argument is vague and subjective in comparison to the Sixth's clear and explicit statement that the accused may coerce and call upon exculpatory testimony or "truth" in our own defense.

rewinn said...

In re Sixth Amendment, let's look at the text first:

Assuming "...to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor..." is the text we're speaking about, where does videorecording fit in? I totally agree with the policy in favor of citizen-cameras, but to make a constitutional argument that they are protected by the text, we're going to have to find some hook in the text.

Big question: Are cameras "witnesses"?

Well, I suppose if corporations can be people, perhaps we could argue that cameras can be people too. But that's a bit of a stretch and I don't think we need go that far.

It seems to me that a better arguement is that a camera held by a real person (you know, human being, DNA etc.) is seeing what that person is seeing, but BETTER because it records it objectively. Subject to the limits of the lenses and recording media, it does not degrade with the processes of memory and if is more readily available to prosecution and defense alike. Thus (...I would argue...) if a human being can stand and watch an arrest, then the same human being can stand and videorecord it (...or take notes in any other format...); for the police or any other to bar recording is to tamper with the witness.

Thus at a minimum what the 6th protects is the witness holding the camera and watching the arrest; it likewise protects the witness taking efforts to remember what is being witnessed; and therefore it protects the videorecording as an objective aid to memory of the witness,without which the witness cannot be "obtained".

The camera is not a "witness", it is a mechanism with which to "obtain" the witness.

In my opinion.

----

BTW this in the New Yorker is worth reading: "Why We Don't Believe In Science"

bobsandiego said...

Rewinn said but BETTER because it records it objectively. Subject to the limits of the lenses and recording media,
Oh I would very much disagree with your comment there. It is subjective still, but less so. It is subjective based on where the lens is pointed, based on how the action is placed into the frame, based on when the recording starts and stops. All these factors, on the fly and subconsious or concious editing will effect the way a person processes the information in the video. It is better than eye-witness testimony and the Rashomon effect that follows, but it is not objective.
The techonolgy and stroage capacity exists to record with badge cams every moment of a cops shifts and I think that should be done for every single officer on duty.

rewinn said...

@bobinsandiego -
- I don't want to quibble over the question of how objective something must be before we can call it objective. Certainly a lens can be pointed to give a particular view (a "viewpoint" if you will...) but the same is true of what human witnesses see as well. The difference is that all parties to a dispute can analyze the raw video in a way that would be ... messy ... with respect to a human witness. Playback of human memories is necessarily ported through mental and other biochemical processes that taint recollection in ways that, for the foreseeable future, make videorecording more objective in what it records than human memory. It may be that the selection of what is recorded may have some component of prejudice or lack of objectivity, and that universal badgecams are much better than relying on witnesscams but so what? Both should be admitted to court and let the contestants argue over what really happened.

---------


Norman Spinrad is stirring an interesting pot of issues by <A href="http://normanspinradatlarge.blogspot.com/2012/04/bug-jack-barron-screenplay-now-only-300.html>selling his screenplay for Bug Jack Barron on Amazon.</a>

LarryHart said...

From the "New Yorker" article posed by rewinn above:

Last week, Gallup announced the results of their latest survey on Americans and evolution. The numbers were a stark blow to high-school science teachers everywhere: forty-six per cent of adults said they believed that “God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.” Only fifteen per cent agreed with the statement that humans had evolved without the guidance of a divine power.


I'm inclined to think that what we're seeing here is more group-identification than out and out rejection of science.

So many people seem to intellectually grasp the facts of geology and natural selection, but compartmentalize that information separately from a belief in the Biblical creation myth. If pressed, they can easily rationalize that God is the one who set everything in motion, or that the earth was created 6000 years ago in a "mature" condition which seems to be much older (the same way Adam was created looking about 30 years old, even though he had not actually lived those 30 years). In other words, many of my fellow Americans are both rational AND religious.

But when pressed with a poll question such as whether they believe God created the earth in accordance with the Bible, they see that as a call to assert (or refute) their religious identity. Some fear for their souls if they give the "wrong" answer; others merely circle the wagons against an implied threat to their group identity. In legalese (or at least in television legalese), these are hostile witnesses, inclined to be at odds with the pollster doing the asking/threatening.

I believe the numbers, but I'm not sure they're telling the story that the "New Yorker" piece attributes to those numbers.

Paul451 said...

Rewinn,
Re: Spinrad's universal ghost.

I wonder if Universal still even has the original contract from the '70s. If they don't then Spinrad (and every director/producer/etc who have tried to buy the rights) would have a case for lost income through fraud. (By falsely claiming to own the rights, Universal denied Spinrad his own rights.) So if Spinrad's lawyers sued Universal for loss of income, the only defence would be to produce the original contract.

I mean if you can get patent-trolls, and jurisdiction-shopping anti-piracy trolls, there must be firms who would love to do this on a no-win-no-fee basis. Coz if you get a win, if opens the doors to sue over every single other "ghost" on behalf of the original creators. You could end up with a class-action over thousands of works, sue for billions.

Re: 6th Amendment "witness".

If technical evidence can be considered a "witness", then presumably precedence exists. I would think this is the basis for all "Discovery" rules. In which case, David is correct. If, otoh, a human is required to "give" the technical evidence, as seems to be the case in court, then you are correct (and it's tampering with a witness by destroying their "notes".)

(throupor 66: Tangent Reviews' "Worst Webcomic - 2009".)

Robert said...

Heh. I'm not sure if I ever really did a "worse webcomic" with my reviews... it's a philosophical issue I have with my friend Steve Anderson (who reviews movies and the like). He feels that you should review both the good and the bad because people need to be warned about the stuff out there that is just not worth viewing. I see it as a matter of perspective: what I see as bad someone else may very well enjoy. Thus if I review something I hate, I'm giving that comic, movie, or whatever increased visibility and sending people off to read it.

(Though I will say my review of one comic that fetishized binge eating left my readers flabbergasted because they were so used to me reviewing things I liked they were waiting to see the one aspect of the comic that made it worth reviewing... and my only caveat was "if this is your thing, go for it. I cannot, however, recommend it." The irony is that after my review, the comic vanished from the web. I joke that being the sole negative review on my site ended up driving it from the web, but I suspect it was more the cartoonist was weirded out by his fanbase.)

In essence, there is no such thing as a bad review. There are people who refuse to believe in a critic (I was that way for a long time after "Star Wars" was ragged upon, though looking back through the eyes of one who's seen decades of better movies I can admit it wasn't that good of a movie trilogy), and there are those who are curious as to what it is about a media source that left such a sour taste in the reviewer's mouth. In essence, reviews increase visibility... and if a reviewer truly despises something and wants to ensure people don't see it... the easiest and most effective method is not to review it at all.

Rob H.

Robert said...

While I've been writing abstracts for "The Economist" I must admit I'm puzzled as to something: why do governments have to bail out banks in the first place? Wouldn't insuring the first $100,000 (of the equivalent amount in whatever currency that nation provides) allow for depositors to be protected and thus let banks go into bankruptcy over their debt issues? Why do European nations have to throw taxpayer dollars into banks that made bad investments? Because this seems to be the primary drag for nations such as Spain and Ireland: the banks.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert,

My admittedly-uneducated guess is that under the current fractional reserve system, banks ARE the source of money. If the banks go under, the money supply evaporates.

There's probably room to argue whether that would be a worse problem than bailouts themselves are, but it's probably just such uncharted territory that everyone is terrified of going there. That was what seemed to be going on in 2008 leading up to the first bailout.

David Brin said...

LarryHart is right that Opinion Polls are to be taken with grains of salt. We contain multitudes and when cornered, a middle american will anser in a way that sides with God. When asked about dinosaurs, she will tell you that an asteroid killed them millions of years ago.

Robert, banking insurance is one area where - believe it or not - the US has always been more socialist than Europe.

If the state bails the banks, then the banks owners - who allowed the negligence - should forfeit. In effect, nationalize and then sell them off.

***The quasi annual Brin Newsletter goes out in a couple of hours! If you want one, go to http://www.davidbrin.com and go to the bottom of the center column and "subscribe."

Roger Kent said...

It is wrong for the police to forbid the public from video taping their actions. I read stories alleging that the police have committed acts of brutality, confiscated cameras that could have captured the incident,and the film and video tape "disappeared" before the trial. Without cameras, it is much harder to know the truth. I believe in the right of privacy, but actions of the police are not private.

Looking forward to the newsletter. Hope that I subscribed in time.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:


Robert, banking insurance is one area where - believe it or not - the US has always been more socialist than Europe.

If the state bails the banks, then the banks owners - who allowed the negligence - should forfeit. In effect, nationalize and then sell them off.


I'm pretty sure that's what the UK did. They bailed out their banks in exchange for an ownership share.

It's a mystery to me why so-called free-market USA gave our banks free taxpayer money with no conditions attached. It's even more of a mystery how the bankers can subsequently continue to argue (with a straight face) that they must be free to do whatever they want with THEIR money. I mean, sure if it WAS their money, but that's not what the $700 billion actually is.

LarryHart said...

From "The Nation" concerning the Wisconsin recall elections:

Pundits and polls seized on exit poll numbers that suggested that voters were fundamentally opposed to recall elections. Only 27 percent of voters who participated in the June 5 election between Walker, the state’s controversial anti-labor governor, and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, told exit pollsters that they thought recall elections were appropriate for any reason. Sixty percent said recall elections should only be held in cases of official misconduct, while 10 percent said recall elections should never be held.


So Democrats are apparently committing evil by "abusing" the power of a recall election for a situation it was never intended for?

And yet no such charge is levelled at GOP Senators for abusing the filibuster.

Just saying.

Alex Tolley said...

The US government only bailed out the "too big to fail" banks. Smaller banks were taken over and either sold or liquidated. That is why there is some suggestion that the regulations be changed to force large banks to be broken into smaller entities. At this point, that is a not on the table, but the fallback is to have details of bank entities to make a possible disentangling of operations easier and to reduce systemic risk.

Ian Gould said...

Alex, that's pretty much wht "bailed out" means.

The big bansk weren't simply handed checks - they were forced to merge, their executives were fired; they had to issue massive amounts of new equity which resulted in losses of between 80% and 100% for their pre-existing shareholders.

"Wall Street got bailed out. Min Stret got sold out." is a good slogan. It isn't an accurate representation of reality.

Ian Gould said...

"It's a mystery to me why so-called free-market USA gave our banks free taxpayer money with no conditions attached.'

It's a mystery to me why so many people believe that when it isn't true.

Ian Gould said...

No offence intended to anyone present but it really mystifies me as to why so many intelligent and otherwise well-educated peopel don't understand the role of banks in business.

Virtually every business-to-business transaction involves banks in soem capacity.

When I order stock from my wholesalers I get 7-90 days to pay for it. They finance that through overdrafts or other funding mechanisms such as factoring or commercial paper.

If they soruce stock or inputs from overseas, they typically use a letter of credit issued by a bank so that the supplier knows they'll be paid. The insurance on the goods in transit is typcially financed by a bank buying commerical paper issued by the insurer.

When I renew my lease on oneo f my shops in a coupel of months, I'll hand over a letter of credit to my landlord saying my bank will ay the rent for up to threee motnhs while they look for a new tenanat if I default.

If my bank goes bust, I'm on the hook for three months rent. Or my landlord is in violation of the terms of his loan from HIS bank.

The vast majority of bank activity is comemrical lendign and guarantees of this sort - not consumer lons or mortgages.

Without banks to fulfill those roles, the entire real economy goes down the tubes.

Ian Gould said...

Finally: the bank "rescue" part of TARP made a profit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TARP#Expenditures_and_commitments

That's because the US government didn;t "give" banks a cent: it made loans which have subsequently been repaid and bought assets (bank shares and loan porfolios).

The assets were acquired at the bottom of the market from forced sellers and subsequently increased in value.

Alex Tolley said...

@Ian Gould
"The big bansk weren't simply handed checks"

Really? Goldman Sachs, Citicorp and AIG, to name but 3, were "handed checks", albeit with strings attached. Essentially the taxpayer was asked to keep these banks afloat and prevent bankruptcy. Since then, banks now borrow money at effectively 0 interest rate to lend out to consumers at prime rate - a huge spread.

Consider, the US government could have simply nationalized the banks that needed to be kept afloat in return for the capital.

Call me old fashioned, but how do you think that isn't largesse for a minority of institutions?

Alex Tolley said...

@ Ian Gould

Re TARP "That's because the US government didn't "give" banks a cent: it made loans which have subsequently been repaid and bought assets"

That is disingenuous. The terms of sale were very generous and even then the banks wanted to renege on the deal. Providing banks zero cost money to recapitalize their balance sheet equity is a sweetheart deal.

Ian Gould said...

Yeah, I'm sure the shareholders who lost 90% of their capital investment feel they got a sweetheart deal.

Ian Gould said...

Oh and that "free money" is a disgrace too,

Just think how much better off the US economy would be if official interest rates were at 20% and the mortgage rate was at 25%.

David Brin said...

Larryhart: "t's a mystery to me why so-called free-market USA gave our banks free taxpayer money with no conditions attached."

Actually, that exaggerates. In fact, Geithner and co did a pretty good job demanding either collateral or stock in most of the bailouts. Our stock in GM for example is being sold so well that we'll only be in the red for a hundred million or so. Chicken feed.

Ah, but Geithner so totally fucked up when it came to AEG. Goldmann Sachs was going to lose tens of billions and its AEG insurance wasn't going to pay. GS arm-twisted Geithner into NOT demanding some GS stock in exchange for saving AEG. A blunder of top magnitude, even tho we appear to be making money off AEG itself. Something nobody imagined remotely possible.

Paul451 said...

Romney responding to Obama:
"He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message in Wisconsin?"

I know that the war on teachers has now been pretty solidly won on the Right (I've seen commenters call teachers "these scum") but I didn't realise the their base was comfortable enough hating on cops and firemen for such a comment not to need to be hidden behind code-words.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Geithner and co did a pretty good job demanding either collateral or stock in most of the bailouts. Our stock in GM for example is being sold so well that we'll only be in the red for a hundred million or so. Chicken feed.


General Motors was a different case. There, the taxpayer loaned them money which was subsequently paid back. And Republicans were dead set against saving the auto industry.

The banks--yes, Ian Gould correctly calls me on "free money", but only in the strictest sense of the words. The taxpayers loaned them money at zero interest, which is almost the same thing.

Ian Gould:

Oh and that "free money" is a disgrace too,

Just think how much better off the US economy would be if official interest rates were at 20% and the mortgage rate was at 25%.


Well, if someone is holding your kid for ransom, you might also say that it's a bargain to get your kid back in exchange for mere cash. But you still don't have to like the fact that your kid was held for ransom in the first place.

Are you now favoring the establishment of the principle that banks can take unlimited risks, that if they profit by those risks, the profit is THEIR money with no obligation to society, but if the risks go sour, society must prop them up?

Marino said...

David Brin wrote

LarryHart is right that Opinion Polls are to be taken with grains of salt. We contain multitudes and when cornered, a middle american will anser in a way that sides with God. When asked about dinosaurs, she will tell you that an asteroid killed them millions of years ago.

The poll was quoted on a blog by some Italian economists working in the States and aptly named NoisefromAmerika...now, being an Euro secularist... well, such rationalization that a god created earth 6,000 years ago, but with geological strata, fossils, decayed isotopes, coal and oil is imho even worse that simple naive "young earth" creationism. Mirror climbing worse than Spiderman... and it's also very theologically weak: did God create Earth that way in order to push people into evolutionism, disbelief and then eternal damnation? Seems an evil God to me...
Now, my GOP-voting online friends see evolution as a trick of the Left struggle for ideological hegemony and if people reason (!) that way on account of party identity, they can swallow everything hook, line and sinker.

Ian Gould said...

"Are you now favoring the establishment of the principle that banks can take unlimited risks, that if they profit by those risks, the profit is THEIR money with no obligation to society, but if the risks go sour, society must prop them up?"

why, no.

Are you proposing that the banks are agents of the international Zionist conspiracy and must be destroyed if the White Race is ever to be free of the Jews and their Satanic master?

If not, can we skip the straw-men and ludicrous misrepresentations and talk like civilized people?

Andrew S. Taylor said...

Re: Sixth Amendment:

A general right to record the police in action would at first appear to be "penumbral" with reference to 6A, because 6A is specifically about the rights of a criminal defendant. 6A has no application for a complainant in a civil rights claim against the police -- say by OWS protesters who were pepper-sprayed.

Furthermore, the "compulsory" clause applies to compellingtestimonial evidence, which a recording of public activity is generally not. However, you could argue that a 6A right-to-record exists insofar it assists a criminal defendant by producing testimonial evidence. Put another way, because the activity involves the police making an arrest or a acquiring evidence against a defendant, the act of recording -- for the purpose of documenting the arrest or encounter -- would render the evidence testimonial.

However, this would not translate to a generalized right to record the police in everything they do -- only a right to attempt to use at trial a recording that was made as testimonial evidence. A more general civil right to record all police activity would have to come from elsewhere in the Constitution, since the rights conferred by 6A are conferred only to criminal defendants, not to bystanders (except perhaps in the "penumbral" sense).

There are no "positive rights" in the Bill of Rights, unfortunately.

Robert said...

One of my friends (who is somewhat conservative) recently made a suggestion while we were talking about things we wished would come about. Her thought? Forcing CEOs and upper executives to have a top salary that is only 10% higher than the median salary of all of the employees in the business. Personally I'd bump that up a bit higher, say 50%, but I'm willing to bet a lot of people would be willing to agree that limiting CEO pay is a good thing.

I can hear the outcry against this of course from the logical (corporations would fire lots of low-cost employees and contract out the work, thus allowing their "median" to increase while in fact most of the workers who are contractors get crap for pay) to the whining (it'll drive our top CEOs out of the nation and they'll go to other countries and improve THOSE businesses!). Though with the latter whine, I could easily counter with this: it might allow some new blood to become the CEO and thus increase innovation in those companies.

It'll never happen of course because it's not in the best interest of politicians who get corporate largess (if that's the right word). But I must admit it is a fond thought.

Personally though I'm in favor of something else: an Equal Rights Amendment that includes two caveats: Money is not speech, and Corporations are people and thus are subject to all of the laws of the land and get to cast one vote in national elections and local/state elections where they are headquartered.

At first it seems to bow to corporate interests. However, when you note that they're subject to ALL laws... it brings about some interesting concepts. How do you throw a corporation in jail? (Corporate punishment is easier: if a corporation is put to death, it's broken apart and its parts sold at auction with the government collecting the money and distributing it to those who were harmed by it.)

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

All of us in Wisconsin are pretty sick of the recall stuff. And most of you from outside the state have looked at the situation and drawn dubious conclusions.

If you are genuinely interested in the history of the recall and how it was being misused, here:

http://www.wpri.org/Reports/Volume25/Vol25No3/Vol25No3.html

Everyone in the state agrees that the recall was legal, and technically you can launch one for any reason. But should you?

It is a little like the Clinton impeachment. Sure, you can do things like that, but you mostly harm your own side, with colateral damage to the political system.

The recall folks were always disengeinous to the point of deceptive. This was never really about collective bargaining as a general principle, it was always about the power of public employee unions to drive state spending.

Of course as the recall progressed it became evident that a small but insurmountable majority of citizens actually favored Walkers reforms, and a good 70% felt the state workers needed to contribute more to pension and other bennies. (not gonna happen under the old system, or not for very long).

So the campaign kept morphing. Recall Walker because he is "divisive", or because of some nebulous federal John Doe investigation that smacks of Hooverism-and I don't mean Herbert. By the end it was Recall Walker because he will change deer hunting regulations!

You have to let leaders lead, and in general you have set terms to give them a chance to prove their merit. You really want to have Italy on Lake Michigan? You really want to depose elected officials over rough draft hunting regulations?

This is not what the recall provisions were designed to do. And the folks in the survey who said ditch the recall option were just speaking out of disgusted frustration.

Tacitus

rewinn said...

Re @Andrew S. Taylor and the 6th Amendment ...

Pardon the rant but ... I agree with your analysis. I think all or nearly all on this blog agree on the policy of freely videotaping the activity of public servants, including police; the vexation arises out of trying to find a way that this policy is Constitutionally protected or mandated.

IMO, It is somewhat nuts to try to figure out what The Sacred Text Means or The Founders intended with respect to videotaping; the classical distinctions between witness evidence and testimonial evidence and so on and so forth don't fit cameras and computers; even the distinction between civil and criminal disputes between a person and The State have become convoluted (what with civil forfeiture, postconviction incarceration of sex offenders, GWOT).

None-the-less this is a sort of insanity that we are stuck with attempting under our Constitutional system of law. In most cases, a fair Constitutional argument can be made for either side of a policy and it all comes down to the nine legislators on the Supreme Corporate. In the end, the difference between Law of Nature and Law of Humanity is that the former are predictions of how the Universe will behave and the latter are predictions of how a judge will rule. If as a result some judges seem to confuse themselves with God, that's just a hazard of the profession ;-)

Robert said...

Off on a brief tangent, I stumbled across an interesting blog post on how Harry Potter has altered the book industry... both during its publication (such as the NYT altering their "Best Seller's List" to remove "children's books" from the chart, or the creation of midnight book parties) and after with the current DRM-less books that use digital watermarks and how the fanbase itself policed itself when people tried to pirate copies of the book.

It's a fascinating quick read. And I have to admit it would be nice to see this having lasting changes on how ebooks are processed and distributed.

Rob H.

Alex Tolley said...

@ Ian

"Yeah, I'm sure the shareholders who lost 90% of their capital investment feel they got a sweetheart deal. "

You might be more specific about who lost money, rather than trying to paint a picture that ALL banks and financial institutions that were saved from bankruptcy and got loans had these sorts of shareholder losses.

You seem to have lost sight of the problem. Banks are supposed to fail if they make bad mistakes. If they are not too large, that doesn't hurt the financial system. It is the big banks holding the economy to ransom unless they are shored up that is a problem. You obviously know about "moral hazard", and Jamie Dimon only today is exemplifying that problem in his Congressional testimony.

LarryHart said...

Ian Gould:

"Are you now favoring the establishment of the principle that banks can take unlimited risks, that if they profit by those risks, the profit is THEIR money with no obligation to society, but if the risks go sour, society must prop them up?"

why, no.

...can we skip the straw-men and ludicrous misrepresentations and talk like civilized people?


Well, I thought I was. :)

This was my chain of thought: You mentioned that propping up the banks was a small price to pay to avoid the catastrphic consequences of systemic bank failures.

And I admit you have a point there.

But I also see that as license for the banks to hold society hostage. The banks successfully lobby against regulation on the grounds that THEY better than BUREAUCRATS know how to run their business. So society is on the hook when their management results in losses, but is not allowed to limit the risk OF those losses. And when those risks pay off, none of the profits need be used to OFFSET the potential for losses--no rainy-day fund or anything like that. Because that profit is THEIR money to do with as they will. And any (potentially catastropic) losses will be covered by society in order to prevent the metaphorical hostages from being shot.

I see something way out of joint with this arrangement, even from a traditionally conservative point of view.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Everyone in the state agrees that
It is a little like the Clinton impeachment. Sure, you can do things like that, but you mostly harm your own side, with colateral damage to the political system.


I mostly agree with your assessment, and even when I'm inclined not to, I'll accept your reportage of what it looks like from inside Wisconsin.

What I wanted you to think about is how your many defenses of the GOP filibuster-everything strategy--that they are right in doing everything constitutionally allowed in order to stop the threat of Democratic policy--squares with the notion of "the recall was legal, and technically you can launch one for any reason. But should you?"

Robert said...

There is one alternative: a law stating that if a bank fails, then any executive working for the bank that made investments that resulted in the bank failure will be liable for those losses and thus forfeits all of his or her assets including property, pensions, and other financial assets. In essence, if a bank is wound down then the bank executives who caused the failure should not be allowed to keep their money and should be paupered. This would also eliminate the need for financial institutions to enact golden parachutes as there is no longer a need for a company to try and mollify a bank executive who is leaving... if they try to sabotage the institution then they are slitting their own throats in doing so and will lose all of their own assets as well.

The end result will be immensely risk-adverse financial companies because these banking executives will not want to risk having their personal assets seized and sold off. It will also allow for an easing of banking regulations because bank executives will police themselves more due to being on the hook. Finally, malfeasance would be more easily tracked because if someone is offshoring money and assets then it suggests that person is up to no good.

Rob H.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting interview with Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency; one of the things she mentions is that the primary factor damaging coal is not environmental regulations but market forces: natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than coal and thus more power plants are being designed to use it.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Rob H,
The problem with "trick" solutions is they are usually too easy to get around. Especially when the structure of a business can be... distorted, by games with ownership.

For example, the CEO-wage limit. Too easy to split higher management from rank'n'file workers. Workers belong to a labour-hire company who contracts to the main company. Or the senior execs belong to a management company than contracts to the main.

More so, most CEOs are hired under contract, so are they employees or independent contractors?

Better to just have proper business and finance regulation, not knee jerk laws trying to out-trick the tricksters.

Re: Corporations are people, can vote, and are subject to all laws.

So they can't vote until they turn 18? Or sign contracts? And company under 18 requires a parent or legal guardian, and if abused can be taken into state care on the word of a child protection worker?

Robert said...

Technically the chief executive officer and board of directors would be the guardian of the corporation until it reaches 18 years of age and thus would be able to sign contracts on its behalf. But yes, pretty much all that. Hey, if they really want to insist corporations are people then should not the corporations be covered by laws both to protect them and ensure they do no harm?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

If corporations are people, then ownership of one corporation by another is slavery. And mergers are gay marriage.

Actually, I think gays who want to marry should simply each incorporate themselves, and then merge. And (sigh) I suppose that potential slaveowners could get around the law in a similar way as well.

I'm still waiting for a good sci-fi story in which a corporation develops a conscience and acts accordingly, much to the dismay of its shareholders.

Andrew S. Taylor said...

Corporate "personhood" is not some singular "thing" that was magically bestowed on corporations at some single point in the past. It's an aggregate of legal devices, added over a period of a century, used to simplify simplify transactions, state oversight, legal proceedings, etc. In effect, corporations are to be considered "persons" with reference to certain situations, not all situations.

Contrary to popular belief, "personhood" of corporations is not the cause of our problems. Our problems, IMO, are caused by an adherence to a shareholder rather than stakeholder model of governance and voting rights. Make employees as well as shareholders the intended beneficiaries of the corporation and the whole intra-corporate social dynamic changes. Put it another way, laboring for a company is a form of "investment," and as such you should have a voice, and not be an expendable cog.

Paul451 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul451 said...

Andrew,
The problem with employee share-holders is the same as the problem with having a company pension-fund. Your entire wealth is invested in the same place you work. If the company goes under, you lose all three; income, shares, pension. It's one thing for an owner-operator, they are more masters of their own fate, but for employees, they have little more control for their one vote.

Or rather by giving their proxy to their boss or union rep, depending on where the real power to hire/fire lies. Without a secret ballot, and no proxy voting, I can't see how an employee can safely even exercise their vote.

Paul451 said...

[try again]

A mental Drunkard's Walk (or drunkard's mental walk) took me from Rob's friend's idea about limiting CEO wages to a percentage above the median-wage, to...

Imagine a whole society where you weren't legally allowed to do business with anyone or any company that was more than a percentage richer or poorer than yourself. Intended to keep dealings between near-equals. Say a multiplier of 5. You can't sell to, or sign a contract with, a customer who earns less than 20% of your own annual net profit. Same applies to employment (although that might be a higher multiplier). It's kind of like a class system, but with more continuity and hopefully less exploitation.

People would need to be issued income-band ID-cards. And businesses would need to display their income, at least to one significant figure.

This might still allow not-for-profit collectives to leverage their member's incomes, so they can buy services from companies they can't deal with individually. Although there might need to be a limit on the number of people in a single collective, to prevent abuse. As well as limiting the richest and poorest members to the 5-times multiplier.

Paul451 said...

cont.
I could even see democracy being done this way. Collectives of up to 500 people hire or select a representative, who they pay to join a collective of representatives of up to 500 collectives, and that collective-collective hires a group-representative, who is paid to join... and so on. Rates and taxes would pass up and down this chain. (Except for Federal income tax, which needs to stay centralised to standardise the income-band system.)

Hmmm, a collective of the wealthy might not be able to join the collective-of-collectives at the same level (due to the income disparity), so they'd need to "buy in" further up the chain. That multiplies their effective voting power, but also increases their equal-share of the higher rates/taxes at that level. (It also tells you explicitly how much more political power they have, rather than secret deals and SuperPACs and so on.)

Andrew S. Taylor said...

Paul -- "Stakeholders" does not mean that that the employees own shares. It means that they, in addition to shareholders, have a voting interest in the company.

rewinn said...

@Paul451 - the "banded" model you describe sounds more than a little like a lot of internet gaming, in which you can attack/must defend against persons of a compatible power level.

Whether that's good or bad IRL is another matter, but it makes for much better play value!

David Brin said...

Tacitus, most of what you said about the Walker recall is true, in its own right. I wasn't a big fan of trying to reverse an election, and you were right to point out the parallels with the Clinton impeachment.

Except sorry, you are being disingenuous by implicitly saying "now, boys and girls, you are equally guilty and you should both settle down and not do this stuff."

Sorry. The blues in America did not start this. The Clinton impeachment was so vastly worse because

1- it was unprecedented
2- it was an effort by a narrow caste of frenzied politicians (and their masters) to reverse an election by totally bypassing the electoral process, while WI was simply a matter of "now that you voters have seen this guy in action, decide again."

The latter is an inconvenience. The former is downright evil.

As is trying hard to get Obama diselected by obstructing actual governance, so the country will fail.

3- In Wi nobody pretended that it was about anything other than a referendum on political acts. The impeachment had nothing whatsoever to do with Clinton's performance as president, which was wildly popular.

4- Don't approve of the rancor? What the $%#! do you expect? Blue America had a woossy reputation of allowing itself to be stomped on by outrageous Red aggression, over and over again. That is ending. The loony GOP is about to reap what it has sown. The vociferous anger in WI is just a taste, friend.

Now I dislike the way it's couched as left-vs right. As corporate+oligarchy vs unions. (Though note that the oligarchy is skyrocketing in power while you rationalizers have somehow convinced yourself that the unions - having plummeted for forty years to pathetic, pale shadows of themselves, are somehow evil monsters, equivalent to the Kochs. Gawd what a delusion.)

I keep telling you, this is not right vs left.

When your "side" is waging war against every single clade of knowledge in American life,and your candidate derides teachers, cops and firefighters, it has gone far, far beyond that.

David Brin said...

Andrew the Sixth is aggressively positive, and could be interpreted (easily) as even more aggressive.

(1) The recording MIGHT become exculpatory evidence, at any moment, for anybody in sight, not just the camera user. Thus destruction of such records is a general practice that impinges upon the rights of potential accused, far more than say failing to read Miranda rights to every single perp who has heard the rights spoken in every cop film that he ever saw. If the state deliberately dried up the vast sea of potential camera recordings, it would chill and remove a vast fraction of potential compelled testimonies, in effect severely lessening what is just about the only assertively aggressive positive right in the Constitution.

2) By the very act of seizing the camera, police are initiating a dangerous conflict event between citizen and authority, one that could potentially escalate into arrest and trial. The act thus becomes a deliberate pre-denial of potential evidence from the cameraman's defense, should that happen.

Robert, Corporations can be people when they have limited life-spans and one life's worth of ability to think and do.

---

David Brin said...

Quick question... will any of you be attending the free video gathering on Shindig tomorrow Thursday at 6pm eastern?

Can any of you think of any promotional things I might yet do, to help Existence get a first week pop?

Andrew S. Taylor said...

DB,

Recording evidence, seizing evidence, and destroying evidence are three entirely distinct issues, and all are distinct from producing evidence (already extant) in court in a criminal case, which is what 6A relates to.

No question people have a right to videotape what they can legally observe. That much is obvious (though it has nothing to do with 6A). Also obvious that legally obtained evidence should not be destroyed.

The question is what happens when an observer with a camera comes perilously close to observing a police operation, to the point of possibly interfering with it, or adding risk to the situation. Or, for that matter, when the cameraman is also a suspect. At that point, it is by no means obvious that camera and tape are free from seizure.

At any rate -- and it's perhaps too academic -- to the extent that 6A is "positive" its only becomes so through due process incorporation (14A).

Paul451 said...

Andrew,
You didn't address this:

"Without a secret ballot, and no proxy voting, I can't see how an employee can safely even exercise their vote."

I'm going to vote against my boss? The guy who can fire me?

Andrew S. Taylor said...

Paul,

Your questions is a non-sequitur, assuming an unnecessarily narrow range of options.

There are really two different issues.

Japanese companies have been using a stakeholder model for most of the modern era. This means that managers are required by policy to consider employee interests as well as shareholder interests.

As for the company voting system for internal policies, it is not a direct democracy, but an upwards-cascading electoral system for policy-making called "ringisho." It's not adversarial. When people view the corporation as a mini-community which provides as well as takes, it's quite doable. In this version, an individual may circulate a proposal within their department, where it is voted upon and then given a final yea or nay by the supervisor based on the vote. From there, if yea, it is passed along to the next level.

Paul451 said...

Andrew,
Ringisho/ringiseido is wildly short of giving employees "stakeholder" status on a par with shareholders. Which is what you seemed to imply in your original comment:

"Our problems, IMO, are caused by an adherence to a shareholder rather than stakeholder model of governance and voting rights. Make employees as well as shareholders the intended beneficiaries of the corporation and the whole intra-corporate social dynamic changes."

Andrew S. Taylor said...

Paul,

I didn't imply equivalence. You are conflating the two issues, not me.

The stakeholder model simply incorporates the interests of employees as a matter of policy into the calculus of managerial decisions, so that it is not exclusively guided by shareholder interests, but by the interests of everyone (including to some extent "society" in the abstract) affected by the corporation's activities.

I then offered *one example* of how a corporation under the general stakeholders scheme can function democratically.

It did not suggest that a simple voting scheme turns employees into the "equivalent" of shareholders.

rewinn said...

@Dr Brin wrote:
"...Can any of you think of any promotional things I might yet do, to help Existence get a first week pop? "

1. I see sample chapters at http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/1932093025/1932093025___1.htm and elsewhere but they don't have a 1-click way to buy the book. PLEASE consider starting or ending the samples with "Like it? Buy it!"

2. Promote the heck out of the samples via Twitter. What's the hashtag for your book again? I don't see it on https://twitter.com/#!/DavidBrin1

3. Consider moving the "Buy It Now" to above the promo video at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ because the 1st thing you want peeps to do is buy it ... only if they decide not to do you want them to see the promo

4. Get http://www.facebook.com/Existence - it's currently available!!!

5. Any luck getting http://www.penny-arcade.com/ to comment - their audience is huge!

Good luck!

4.

duncan cairncross said...

Dunno about promotional but if your book is on BAEN I will buy it immediately

On Amazon I will bitch and swear and buy after the pressure gets too high

Assuming of course that Amazon don't decide (as they have done with several other books I would like) that they are not going to sell to New Zealand

Tacitus2 said...

David

Your latest regards the Wisconsin recall is just plain silly. You clearly are devoting most of your thoughts to book promotion, which is entirely reasonable.

I did get a big smile out of this:

'When your "side" is waging war against every single clade of knowledge in American life,and your candidate derides teachers, cops and firefighters, it has gone far, far beyond that.'

'Scuse me, but my side? I am not a member of any political party, and unless I choose to tell you who I vote for and why, you are simply speaking out of ignorance.

Now, if you want to add something of value to the discussion of fiscal responsibility as it relates to public employee unions, why not take up my request, repeated here for the third time, to comment on the San Diego and San Jose referenda? Surely these far reaching measures are yet another example of the "assault on unions". Come on, bring the heat!

What, not so bad as Wisconsin? Why not? I would not like to think you small enough to favor reforms when it benefits your tax bill instead of mine, or because the politicians in your back yard are of a party whose virtues you extoll, or because it would be harder work than just yelling Koch Brothers. I guess you could make the faint argument that in your back yard things had gotten to the point where Fiscal Judgement Day was nigh, and in Wisconsin we had the sense to do what you should have done a decade back.

You are of course not a djinn for me to command. You can ignore valid questions if you wish.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

I was going to label this post "Dr Brin, here's what we're up against in the culture war." But I should probably change that to "Tacitus, can you please explain where this sort of thing comes from?"

Today's (June 14) installment of the "Dustin" comic strip (which is not typically a political one) exemplifies what I mean about the right wingers operating from a different set of FACTS from the ones we liberals think are real:

http://www.thecomicstrips.com/store/add_strip.php?iid=81577

http://www.thecomicstrips.com/
store/add_strip.php?iid=81577

So according to the apparent sensibilities of the author, FOX News is balanced enough to feature a liberal, Bob Beckel, but MSNBC is so extremely biased that the characters can't even come up with a conservative on the network. The entire punch line of the strip rests upon this "truth".

It took me about a thousanth of a milisecond (whatever time a neuron takes to fire) to respond with "'Morning' Joe Scarborough?"

So I reiterate the question--where is this sort of crap coming from that whole segments of the population are so inclined to accept the "wisdom" involved in jokes like this that they consider its truth to be self-evident?

LarryHart said...

Some instructive lines from Orwell's "Notes On Nationalism" essay from 1945 which could be torn from today's headlines:


The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also. There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when 'our' side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one knows that it is exactly the same crime as one has condemned in some other case, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified–still one cannot FEEL that it is wrong. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function.

...

...in the modern world no one describable as an intellectual CAN keep out of politics in the sense of not caring about them. I think one must engage in politics–using the word in a wide sense–and that one must have preferences: that is, one must recognise that some causes are objectively better than others, even if they are advanced by equally bad means.

Paul451 said...

Tacitus,

Can you contrast the results of the Wisconsin recall with the Ohio referendum last November? Why do you think one was so overwhelmingly one way, the other the other?

The two main differences, I can see from way over here, is: A) in WI the police/firemen were protected from the changes, in OH they were front and centre. B) One was an actual referendum, the other a recall-election. That meant OH voted directly on the issue, whereas WI may have been influenced by the Dem candidate.

Which factor was more significant?

Also, "why not take up my request, repeated here for the third time, to comment on the San Diego and San Jose referenda?"

You keep saying you're tired of talking about politics, but keep asking David for more? :)

Andrew S. Taylor said...

While I can certainly believe that there is a culture war underway, I cannot grasp why it is categorically different from the rest of American history -- which is nothing if not constant culture war. I find the premise that the current situation is new and different difficult to swallow.

Oh, yes, our politics are more contentious. The tactics that we can now see above-board significantly nastier. But this may be a sign of something good -- our politicians have greater fear of their constituents than they used to.

The real question is why the cultural "right" and the cultural "left" have risen to such prominence in our media while the fiscal right and left have been completely marginalized (Ron Paul notwithstanding) and replaced by corporate fiscal interests. I submit that this is not a coincidence.

Tacitus2 said...

Paul451

iirc you have been around for a relatively short while, so I should clarify a few things. Firstly, I will always answer or attempt to answer any question put to me in civil or semi civil fashion. Secondly, my occasional breaks from politics are a way to keep from getting too overwrought about the stuff. And thirdly, I tend to keep quiet unless it is a topic where I have some basis for an educated opinion...my home state, my profession, etc.

Regards Ohio, I am not sure. If you are from there I would like to hear your opinions. A few theories: 1. It is six months later, and the national/global financial situation looks less rosy 2. a referendum is asking the will of the people, in some ways the recall was trying to thumb your nose at it. 3. maybe the unions have abused their powers less in OH.

I ask for perspective on Calif as it is our single biggest fiscal festering sore, and because efforts to change things there, while therefore crucial, are flying way, way under the radar.

I also like to discuss issues over personalities.

LarryHart
I rather like the Dustin comic strip, although as father of a slightly Dustinesque 18 year old it is sometimes too close to home. If I was seeing the same strip as you, the "cage match" one I do not see much of a political point.

So I will try to make something out of not much.

Cable networks with overt political spin are dog and pony shows with trivial influence on myself and most other sentinent beings.

I do think sometimes that folks of diverging political opinions speak a different language in the same sense that say, I and my Scottish friends speak differnt languages after a couple pints at the pub.

"Ah, I'm fagged, but you've done a good bit of graft".

Translation: I'm tired but you have put in a solid day's work!

I try to, well, refine my phrasing so as to be less often misunderstood, but you lot can be like drunken Scotsmen sometimes!

Tacitus

Robert said...

The problem with the increased power of the base over politicians is that the base in question is a minority that controls the primary. After Bush's policies led to the self-destruction of the world financial system, a number of people unregistered from the Republican party. Those who remain were the die-hard voters who pretty much are the base of the Tea Party. But they are not the majority of Americans.

Look at public sentiments toward the Tea Party. The majority of Americans are against the Tea Party now and feel their policies are mistaken. Yet the Tea Party continues to push their candidates and their views on Republican candidates because they are most likely to vote in primaries and thus have a disproportionate amount of power.

The end result has been a growing nastiness in our Republican political culture, which is tragic when you consider the Grand Old Party used to be inclusive and worked to benefit all Americans... from a corporatist perspective. Now it's almost as fractiousness as Democrats are, and much more confrontational.

During the elections, these politicians drag out every misdeed of their opponent and smear mud everywhere. Negative campaigning has become the norm, not the derided exception. End result is that moderates look at the two choices: a Tea Party fanatic and a #(%*&-smeared Democrat, and refuse to vote.

The solution is to do what Washington State and California have done: open primaries, in which the two candidates who win the most votes go on the general ballot. Now you have a far greater choice for who to elect in the primary... and this gives moderates a REASON to vote because rather than having two candidates who don't represent them, they can find a candidate that most closely represents the middle... and choose him or her.

The end result is that you will likely have two candidates in a region, one who is more moderate, and the second who is more liberal/conservative. Voters in the general election thus will choose the person who least offends them... meaning moderates will get into office. And that's a good thing.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

An amusing contest to show the future of tractor-trailers. Peterbuilt is putting it on.

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/06/13/peterbilt-teams-up-with-local-motors-for-contest-to-design-big-rig-future/?intcmp=features

My quibble is that they defined it as sleeper cabs, whereas I see long haul trucking as an early adopter of Google's driverless technology.

rewinn said...

On the lighter side ... we now have actual video of L. Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand working together![*]



[*] "not intended to be a factual statement"

Jumper said...

What if recording devices become so common you literally have people who aren't aware they are recording. Perhaps they notice it later while using the device, likely a phone. The default state.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, there are certain issues regarding which I am willing to negotiate changes in union related entitlements and even contracts. I have long felt that job-protection rackets like seniority systems and tenure and gerrymandering and interlocking CEO directorates are all vile and should go. I consider the latter two to be VASTLY more devastating to our republic than the first two, but I will negotiate changes in teacher firing rules with much gladness. I have seen teachers who were disaster areas and I would give the unions hard pressure to negotiate changes.

What is obscene is the creation of a bugaboo boogey man of public employees when they are no responsible for the deficit, nor do they have the vast political power attributed to them. (Except the prison guards union.) Fifty years of declining union power is utterly ignored by the right's propaganda machine. When one center of power is skyrocketing in influence and the other plummeting, I find screams aimed at the latter to be disingenuous, at best.

At worst, utterly hypocritical.

I have no heat in my belly about the San Diego and San Jose referenda. The one in Diego was entirely a non-issue, banning the city govt from doing SOMETHING THAT IT HAS NEVER, EVER DONE AND HAD NO LIKELIHOOD OF EVER DOING. It was stupid anti-union-baiting... and in its own rights I saw no harm in the rather minor change taking effect. So? You utterly ignore the meaning of all this, that it is not about the issues at hand. It is Culture War. Enemies. Blue America is hated, top to bottom. And now, to the scientists and teachers and journalists, economists, professors, doctors... you must add two more professions Romney openly despised... policemen and firefighters!

Tacitus, please. Is there ANY point in all of this that you can imagine right now, where this trend could reach, upon which you would say, "all right, I admit they've gone insane"?

David Brin said...

Larry hart is right. You do not create "balance" at Fox by hiring a Colmes or Beckel whose job it is to PRETEND to be a cagey liberal while feeding straight lines to be smashed out of the park by the rightie batsmen.
The measure is GUESTS!

Opponents who are highly rated and chosen by the OTHER side as true pallidins of their best and brightest. Jon Stewart has on his show more top right wing minds (if that is not an oxymoron, these days) than the entire Fox Network brings to raise liberal issues. Indeed, ONLY O'Reilly has a smidgen of guts over there, at all, bringing in people to challenge him.

David Brin said...

Andrew, take it from an old fart, I never saw such horrid politics, even during Watergate or the fights over civil rights. Those were nasty. But the top people in all parties wanted government to function. Above all, senators represented their states and congressmen represented their districts. They did NOT think absolutely and only of party discipline.

Sorry Andrew, but you are wrong. There has never been in US history a partisan machine as disciplined and uniform as today's GOP. There have been episodes in which politics was this nasty! But never this disciplined and uniform. Ever.

Gerrymandering is partly responsible for radicalizing politics. In blue states, it has largely been banished and California seems to be in the process of un-radicalizing! But not a single red state has changed gerrymandering. Not one.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

I would like to comment on "Tenure"
The way I understand it when you are tenured your boss can still fire you BUT he/she has to go through due process and have a reason (like poor performance)

This is exactly what happens in other developed countries - but it applies to everybody (sometimes there is a short probationary period)
America is the only developed country where somebody can be sacked for no reason

The correct thing to do about "Tenure" is to make all jobs "tenured" - the same as the rest of the world

This is one of the reasons I am not a US resident - you are simply too vulnerable to a boss's tantrums

Yes you may be able to get another job but it may cost you thousands as well as the disruption to your family and health cover

Yes you can fire a poor performer - you just have to follow procedure
- Written warning -
- time for them to improve -
- still poor performance -
Bye bye -

This is not too onerous and is much better than the alternative

Jumper said...

You should come up with some kind of mischievous schtick and finagle an appearance on Colbert, David. Get the bump.

Tacitus2 said...

David

"Tacitus, please. Is there ANY point in all of this that you can imagine right now, where this trend could reach, upon which you would say, "all right, I admit they've gone insane"?"

The answer is yes, especially if the Republican party ran the board and had WH and both houses of Congress.

Now, good luck on the book tour. Spend as much time as possible talking with average folks.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Jumper Colbert filmed at my home last year for 6 hours! And used none of it. Got some Schwag...

Tacitus, they had the presidency, both houses AND the Supreme Court for 6 years and ignored every single item on their OWN agenda, except gifts to the oligarchy and miring us in land wars in Asia.

Those two things cost us more than three TRILLION dollars.

Except for those two items? Abortion? Unions? All their social issue complaints? They did zilch, nada zero, because they don't care about any of that. They want those issues to stay where they are, as red meat for the troops.

Oh, they did one other thing. Citizens United. Super Secret Pacs. Three things. Hope UR proud of em.

Off to talk to real folks.

David Brin said...

LRon Hubbard and Ayn Rand... how they started
http://www.cracked.com/video_18426_ayn-rand-5Bplaceholder5D.html?wa_vlsrc=continuous&pid=1&wa_vrid=18427&cp=1


http://www.cracked.com/video_18426_ayn-rand
-5Bplaceholder5D.html?
wa_vlsrc=continuous&pid=1&wa_vrid=18427&cp=1

Robert said...

Real folks? I hope you meant "talking to people offline" there... people here are very real. I say this even with the recent reveal I had from a friend who I once was in love with that for 11 years she'd lied to me... about what her name really was. (My response was "So? Lots of people use handles." She didn't lie about WHO she was... just her name.)

The important thing to remember about people online is that we're exposed to a lot of information... and slowly, that information sinks in. The old saying goes "you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time..." but that's no longer true. Eventually the lies catch up. And eventually the Republican Party is going to be left with a very large bill to pay... and no support among the American population.

I suspect the response to them this time will be much harsher than the response to the Democrats in the aftermath of the American Civil War. There will be no finagling their way back into the places of power.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2,

I've got nothing against the comic strip "Dustin" in general, but for a generally apolitical strip, it struck me as noticably weird that the author went for a such a blatant attack on MSNBC by name. And what I was wondering about is where the blatantly false meme that MSNBC has no conservatives at all, and is thus more biased than FOX (MSNBC gives three hours a day to "Morning Joe") gets enough traction in the mind of the author that he can rest his entire punchline on the general-acceptedness of that premise.

Robert:

Eventually the lies catch up. And eventually the Republican Party is going to be left with a very large bill to pay... and no support among the American population


You remind me of me before I got so dang cynical. I love your optimism. Just not sure I can actually believe it. Republican ideas should have been dead and buried after 2008, and yet here we are on the brink of handing them the Senate and the White House.

Robert said...

It's not optimism. It's extremely deep cynicism. You see, I figure when the economy tanks under the next Republican presidency and Congress, the environment starts going batshit insane and causing widescale death and destruction, and crime goes through the roof because of all the layoffs of firefighters and police, while top executives get even richer and then flee the nation to avoid the mobs, even the most blind of Republicans and Tea Party fanatics will go "we've been had" and start looking for the heads of the people responsible.

Mind you, this is going to include a lot of Democrats. And the end result is not going to be pretty... it could even be the destruction of democracy as we currently know it. And there will be no easy fixes from what the Republicans wrought; the environment will continue to be horrid, the economy will not improve, and the standard of living for people will tank. There could even be an endemic or two sweeping the nation due to the infrastructure breakdown and the destruction of the healthcare system under Republicans. But people will blame Republicans for what happened.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Beware of Breitbardesque video being used as testimony. He got a good employee fired when he trimmed off the most important part of her speech. Second, he interleaved studio scenes with field scenes and pretended they were all shot in the field. With computer graphics and advanced editing techniques, almost anything can be presented as evidence. Experts for now may be able to detect tampering with video, but cheaters are clever....

Robert said...

The solution of course is constant surveillance by the organizations in question. If an organization is accused of illegality and the accused dumps hundreds of hours of video (with faces censored for privacy issues) to show the core video in question, then malfeasance can easily be detected. And by dumping hundreds of hours of video, the organization can counter claims by Breitbardesque groups that the organization doctored the videos.

In short, it's a continuation of Dr. Brin's Transparency suggestions.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

And there will be no easy fixes from what the Republicans wrought; the environment will continue to be horrid, the economy will not improve, and the standard of living for people will tank. There could even be an endemic or two sweeping the nation due to the infrastructure breakdown and the destruction of the healthcare system under Republicans. But people will blame Republicans for what happened.


I use "optimism" in a very specific sense here. I'm not as optimistic as you are that Republicans will actually be as hated as Holnists were in Dr Brin's "The Postman". Too many people get their news and opinions from FOX News, Drudge, Limbaugh, etc. They'll probably blame Obama and liberals for any damage and even claim that only by doubling-down on gifts to the wealthy and powerful can we hope to be saved.

If it wasn't for Obama, we'd still be hearing about how everything is Clinton's fault. Remember those good old days?

Actually, if things get as bad as you predict, I'll bet that it will again become fashionable to blame "the Jews."

Tacitus2 said...

Robert

My suggestion to David was that he talk with "average folks". He indicated he would be talking with "real folks". Not exactly the same I suppose. You could choose to associate with only like minded folk, sort of real in the sense of someone being "a real mensch". If you instead were among average folks you would find among other things that 40% or so self identify themselves as conservative. And most of them are polite, pleasant people who deserve better than belittling turns of phrase such as "Hope UR proud of em."

David of course would be quick to point out that he knows that I personally can spell real words. In fact he would probably acknowlege that in the only real test of practical smarts-captaining rival Pub Trivia Teams-a competition between us would be spirited and with outcome uncertain.

But never mind all that. You raise an interesting tangential issue. Are internet friends-and I claim several here-actually "real".

Practically speaking, no. You lack corporeal form. Oh, I am sure you have measurable mass and all that, but I could pass any of you on the street and not know you from an invisible being.

So you, and I, are more like sophisticated imaginary friends. Kind of like
Harvey

I can talk to you, and you answer in unexpected ways.

I know my online persona of Tacitus bears only superficial similarity to my real self, although it is not that far off from the convincing yet synthetic extroversion that I activate when I go to work in my rather contact heavy employment.

So a question back. Are your online selves identical to the "real yous" or not?

Tacitus

Robert said...

My online persona is close to my real life persona. I'm lazy. I don't feel like creating a fake me that I have to climb into everytime I go online and start talking. I've long realized that I don't endear people to me and that I'm annoying and irritating. So why should I try to paint myself as anything else? Oh, I joke about being evil and all that, but I joke the same way in real life.

Basically, a number of years ago I decided there was no reason to pretend to be something I'm not and stopped doing so. I chose the path of Transparency, I suppose... though I'm also harder to track down due to the fact my name is common.

My cynicism is a very real part of me. My optimism is also very real. It changes from day to day. Sometimes I have a good feeling about the world. Sometimes I feel that that optimist is a fool and is going to end up a smear on the pavement.

In essence... the me I present here is quite close to the me I present in the real world. There is no need to seek the approval of others. I'm not going to get it. There is no need to pretend to be something I'm not. I'm not a good liar and will inevitably slip up. So I just am me.

And you know something? The longer you are online... the more you slip. The more things slip. It is difficult constantly living a lie. No doubt this is part of the reason why people like John Edwards and Bill Clinton (and Nixon, for that matter) were caught in their lies.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Thoughts of Skynet passing the Turing Test aside, Tacitus raises an interesting point: are our online personas the same as we present to others?

I have heard of studies indicating that people with autism find it easierto communicate online.

rewinn said...

"...I'll bet that it will again become fashionable to blame "the Jews."..."

Although The International Zionist Banker/British Royal Family Conspiracy remains ever-popular in some cesspools, the smart money is on blaming the Afghans and Iranians who attacked us on 9/11, supplied Saddam with nuclear weapons, and continue to threaten our precious bodily fluids!

---

"...on-line persona ..."

Back when the Internet was new, I used "rewinn" as widely as possible as a more-or-less unique combination of six bytes representing myself, which makes it difficult to establish as an internet persona separate from my meatspace self. Perhaps if I'd have used a couple of handles, I would have developed personas, but as it stands, "rewinn" is pretty much co-extensive with "R E Winn of Seattle" as to attitudes. I have occasionally invented personas, chiefly for jokes such as "Flaming Bag of Poo For President", but never taken it very far - it just hasn't paid off in terms of fun.

Going by the number of people with whom I communicate, "rewinn" is more "real" than is "R E Winn of Seattle"; if, as they say in "No Exit", hell is other people, then is that not also a truth about a more pleasant transcendent life?

Rob said...

I prefer to simply use my real name. This prevents me from becoming overly confrontational or rude online.

David Brin said...

RE Winn and other west coasters... check my coming events on book tour. See some of you out there.
db

rewinn said...

?Book-signing at Book signing, Elliott Bay Book Co. July 5th? Great! this is an excuse to go see their new digs on Capitol Hill.

----

Slipping into Civil War mode ...

I'd like to think "Reporter Interrupts Obama During Statement on Immigration" persuades a few fence-sitters that The Endarkenment is not fiction; that the movement dedicated to wrecking the ordinary trappings of civilization in favor of a Hobbesian/Randian war of All Against All in not merely another conservative movement.

Does it help to point out that this never happened while Bush was spouting nonsense on the road to murdering 4000+ American servicemembers, and God alone knows how many Iraqis, so that he could be a "Wartime President" and Halliburton could get enough fat contracts to escape the hole its CEO had dug it into?

I sincerely hope our next generation is a heck of a lot smarter than ours is turning out to be, and by smarter, I mean more willing to alter their beliefs and actions based on facts. Perhaps there is something about cloudsourcing decisionmaking that will have an impact, to the extent that it may be less amenable to subversion.

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

"...I'll bet that it will again become fashionable to blame "the Jews."..."

Although The International Zionist Banker/British Royal Family Conspiracy remains ever-popular in some cesspools, the smart money is on blaming the Afghans and Iranians who attacked us on 9/11, supplied Saddam with nuclear weapons, and continue to threaten our precious bodily fluids!


Certainly anti-semitism is not fashionable at the moment in the United States. Even the Christian supremacists have chosen to side with Israel against the Muslim boogeymen at the moment.

I see this as similar to the way inter-ethnic conflicts were suppressed in the old Eastern Bloc, only to reemerge with a vengeance after communism fell.

When the s### really hits the fan and the extremists who can't admit their own policy failures need a scapegoat, the Jews are historically the go-to guys of choice.

Jonathan S. said...

I have heard of studies indicating that people with autism find it easierto communicate online.

That's largely because online, you don't have to interpret nonverbal cues - there's no tone of voice, no subtle facial expression, no body posture or clothing choices to obscure communications (although I have found that neurotypicals often think of such things as "enhancing" communications, rather than interfering with them). You can say what you mean, and if someone misunderstands you have the chance to correct the misinterpretation. Nobody's going to stop listening to you because you're speaking in a monotone, or because of your unfashionable haircut or your preference for going barefoot or whatever.

Larry:
So many people ... can easily rationalize that ... the earth was created 6000 years ago in a "mature" condition which seems to be much older (the same way Adam was created looking about 30 years old, even though he had not actually lived those 30 years).

And when I encounter one of those people, my response is to ask them, "Why are you calling God a liar?" So far, no useful responses to that have been forthcoming...

sociotard said...

Are there any fans of Sid Meier's Civilization series? In particular, Civ II?

This player had one game of Civ II he has played on and off for 10 years. The world is now a radioactive swampy wasteland. The remaining three nations are locked in perpetual nuclear war with each other, while putting down guerrilla insurrections within their own borders. Favorite quote:
"in the year 3991 A.D ... Vikings will surprise attack ... often with nuclear weapons."

Paul451 said...

David, to Tacitus2,
"Is there ANY point in all of this that you can imagine right now, where this trend could reach, upon which you would say, "all right, I admit they've gone insane"? "

You mentioned the inevitability of the Dems adopting more of the obstructionist/extreme tactics of the Right, as seen in WI. But that means that the "insanity" margin between left and right will remain fairly constant. It occurs to me, then, that if someone can't see the existing disparity, if Tac2 and your other "ostriches" don't believe that the Republican/Fox/Tea Party/Koch types are much more extreme than the Dems/MSNBC/Occupy/Soros, because "both sides are guilty of doing the same things", then they won't ever see a disparity. They'll see the overall process going further and further out of control, but continue seeing "both sides" being "guilty of doing the same thing".

So, the answer to your question will always be, in reality, no. If someone can't see the disparity now, they'll never see it.

Sociotard,
Re: Playing Civ II for ten years & four millennia.
For anyone who never played the game, it is actually extremely hard to achieve a stand-off with other nations. You either overwhelming win or overwhelmingly lose. Creating a three-way self-correcting military stand-off is impressive. Many times, once I realised I was sliding into an early victory, I'd get bored and try to achieve such a balance, I don't think I ever pulled it off. (And sometimes the last nation you faced was your main game-long rival, so you'd happily stomp their last city. But then you'd realise that one of the other nations is barely alive, with one city, stuck in a corner somewhere, unable to expand. So I'd try to "rescue" them, giving in to every "demand" for tribute of gold or discovery, seeing if I could bring them back from the brink and deliberately lose. Rarely worked. (I haven't played Civ V, but it is apparently easier to achieve a "cold war" stand-off.)

Re: On-line personas.
I wonder if there's a relationship between how you play Civilization and your "true" personality.

(asideac: We've always been at war with Asideac.)

Paul451 said...

Duncan,
Re: Aquatic ape. In the last thread (or the one before), we were comparing noses. You saw one adapted for water, I saw one entirely unsuited.

By coincidence, a show I recorded last week caught an anthropology programme after it. The host (Prof Alice Roberts) compared skulls from different points in human evolution. Our face-shape (and nose-shape) followed bipedalism by about 5 million years. Ie, you can go back 7 million years to semi-bipedal apes like sahelanthropus, to fully bipedal ardipithecus about 4 million years ago, and see only highly chimp-like skulls.

If an aquatic phase caused bipedalism (and other changes), then you'd expect our head/face/nose shape to adapt to our aquatic existence in sync with bipedalism. If we had an aquatic phase that shaped our faces, it occurred millions of years after bipedalism.

(Roberts emphasised the current(?) thinking, which is that the rift valley area underwent sharp repeated climate shifts. (She showed strata showing a lake going from deep to shallow to grassy marshland, to deep lake again, to shallow saline lake, to dried up salt-lake, all in a period of 5000 years.) Meaning that humans didn't "adapt to the African savannah", but rather we adapted to adapting. And that's how we beat every other hominin, erectus/neanderthal/etc. Whenever the local climate shifted (say from forest to grassland, in the case of neanderthals) we adapted to and occupied the new environment by cultural evolution before the rival hominins could adapt by genetic evolution. Before h.sapiens came in, they would have had time to adapt, after h.sapiens came in, we always got in first. So (IMO) the timing of h.sapiens entry into any region should match a local climate shift pushing the local population temporarily out of the way. I wonder if that pattern also occurred later during cultural shifts from nomads to farming to empires. You can imagine that a nomadic tribe with semi-domesticated cattle would bounce back faster than a tribe without cattle, gaining more and more territory after each of a series of major droughts.)

David Brin said...

Jonathan S. said...
I have heard of studies indicating that people with autism find it easierto communicate online..."

Portrayed in Existence!

sociotard said... Are there any fans of Sid Meier's Civilization series? In particular, Civ II? This player had one game of Civ II he has played on and off for 10 years."

My son pointed this out. Most worlds parallel to ours were fried by the risks Reagan took. But he succeeded in this one and I will award him points.

Jonathan S. said...

Well, actually, Dr. Brin, I was quoting Tony Fisk, and adding some interpretation of why this seems to be true - large amounts of "normal" human communication are carried on with these nonverbal signals, to the point that NT Internet users have had to invent the "language" of emoticons to convey what their words alone don't. Those of us "on the spectrum", on the other hand, tend to select our words to say exactly what we're trying to mean, because we're really not good at nonverbal communications...

TheMadLibrarian said...

One of my friends saw an app for a smartphone that is pictograms meant for an autistic child. It apparently makes communication easier between the child and other people. He saw the child get the adult's attention, get the phone from them, tap a couple of things on the screen. The adult looked at the screen and said "Let's find you a bathroom."

TheMadLibrarian
Conshoug 16: one of the longest running sci-fi conventions in R'yleh

Paul451 said...

MadLib,
Re: "Speak for Yourself"
I believe that is now pulled from the app-store because of a claim of patent violation by a supplier of traditional specialist (expensive) language equipment.

People are... upset.

http://techland.time.com/2012/06/12/ipad-app-that-helps-a-little-girl-speak-pulled-from-app-store/

Paul451 said...

On that topic, a group of Berkeley law professors have created a defensive patent pool. You "donate" all your patents to the group, and you get a royalty-free licence to every other member's patents. The idea is, that if enough small tech companies join, and a few big ones, there'll be a patent for all occasions, enough to protect you if a patent troll comes-a-suing. (However, you can still sue anyone outside the pool.) More, if your company goes bust, and your patents are bought up by a patent troll who withdraws them from the DPL pool, the terms of the DPL licence mean that every member is still protected, royalty-free, forever.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/defensive-patent-license-created-to-protect-innovators-from-trolls/

Hmmm, I wonder if it could develop an offensive arm. Say you're an inventor, and you want to develop your product without the cost and hassle of taking out patents. You don't really care if someone "steals" your idea, but you don't want someone to patent your idea from under you. So you join the DPL, but instead of licensing your patents, you licence the "right to patent" your ideas. This allows people to set up specialist companies to join DPL as "good" patent-trolls. They take out patents on other members' ideas, licensed to the group, but charge royalties to non-members (and sue violators, using the collective patent pool as extra leverage) to fund those patents. The small innovators save the cost of patenting, but still get almost all the benefits. (While the violators attacked by DPL's patent trolls have an easy defence. Just join the DPL and get a free licence.)

[Didn't want this to be the first comment in the new thread]

David Brin said...

See a fun commentary on how privatized spaceflight may help us to get out where the gold (and platinum group elements) is in them thar hills. On the excellent Science2.0 site.
http://www.science20.com/satellite_diaries/rockets_asteroids_gold_rushes_and_conferences-91096

and onward...