Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cops and us: Keeping an eye on each other

== The Right to Record Police Officers ==
RightToRecordPoliceI have called it the most important civil liberties matter in our lifetimes, even though it was hardly covered by the press. In 2013 both the U.S. courts and the Obama Administration declared it to be "settled law" that a citizen has the right to record his or her interactions with police in public places.
No single matter could have been more important because it established the most basic right of "sousveillance" or looking-back at power, that The Transparent Society is all about. It is also fundamental to freedom, for in altercations with authority, what other recourse can a citizen turn to, than the Truth?  (See details here.)
See my earlier posting about this: You Have the Right to Record Police, wherein was also predicted that this would not be the end of it! One result will be more and more police wearing their own cameras! And in this explosion of reciprocal vision, crime and abuse of authority would be the two losers, while the streets will fill with both better behavior and tsunamis of thinly veiled sarcasm!
The other major effect would be - for a while - police "accidentally" breaking lots of cams and cellphones… "till third parties caught enough of them in the act."
What I did not expect was for this to play out so swiftly, in 2014.
Drop by this article on the ACLU web site: Hidden Third Cameraman Proves Crucial in Nebraska Photographer Abuse Case:  "Take a look at the photograph above. It shows a former police officer in an orange jumpsuit making a court appearance to face a felony charge of evidence tampering, as well as misdemeanor obstruction and theft. I hope that police around the nation will see this image … and realize that this is what can happen when they try to seize and destroy photographs or video taken by others."
Read the article and know that this will continue for a while. But more and more, cases like this will alert decent officers to choose our side. And then (for the most part) it will end.
==Transparency Prevails==
Indeed, evidence shows that California police use of body cameras cuts violence and complaints: An excellent article in The Guardian (UK) offers an update on the experiment in Rialto California where all 70 of its uniformed officers have been required to wear active video cameras when interacting with the public, and the results have emboldened police forces elsewhere in the US and in the UK to follow suit.  After cameras were introduced in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months. Officers' use of force fell by 60%. Most officers, skeptical at first, have adapted.  They feel constrained to be more polite, but are also freed from frivolous abuse accusations and win easier convictions for righteous busts.  This, even as citizens feel ever-more liberated to make recordings of their own.
== The philosophical underpinning ==
Transparency-AmendmentI spoke of the citizen's need to be able to appeal to the truth.  (We cannot compete with elites in the Realm of Lies.) The American Constitutional Framers knew this when they wrote the Sixth Amendment… the most under-appreciated but vital portion of the Bill of Rights.  It is the component that says you have a right to remain silent about your own faults or mistakes or even crimes… but you do not have a right to withhold information that might free or exculpate someone else.
The Sixth proclaims that when you are accused and put to trial, you may compel testimony in your own defense from reluctant witnesses and yes, even high officials of the state.  You can demand the surveillance footage that offers you an alibi. You can insist upon using light to protect your liberty.  It is the Transparency Amendment, and it underpins every argument for a coming world wherein reciprocal accountability limits the ability of the mighty to capriciously twist our lives.
Make no mistake. This general right to look back and to use light and truth for your own defense is the fundamental that may decide whether we might be the ones to set forth into the galaxy and bring light elsewhere. It will mean taking responsibility to be smart, complex citizens, instead of passive sheep or growling cynics.  It will mean shining accountability into places where the mighty (out of ancient human habit) thrash and wield great power to avoid it. But it all begins with the habits that we learn -- and maintain -- down at the level of the street.
== Examples? ==
I've seen some amazing footage of police officers patiently adapting to this new era by responding to citizen cameras with patience and professionalism. We need to share and discuss examples of both extremes. Because it is in such YouTubed examples that we'll feel our way forward. (Please share some here in comments.)
Woodrow-Wilson-quote-governmentThis example may make you cringe a little… but ultimately you come away glad to have hired grownups like these two.
"Government ought to be all outside and no inside…Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places and avoids public places, and we believe it a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety." -- Woodrow Wilson
== The real aim of the The Helium Sell-off? ==
  "In 1996, Congress passed a law requiring the U.S. government to sell off our entire helium stockpile by 2015. This has forced the price of the gas way, way lower than it should be, considering how little of the stuff is actually left in the world (Some estimate that a balloon's worth would cost $100 if the market were allowed to set the price."  The US currently owns 80% of the world's supply and given the ever-widening range of uses, it might offer leverage against - say - the Chinese near monopoly on rare earth minerals.  
Indeed, if anyone out there can think of a non-criminal reason why the GOP made this fire sale selloff such a high priority, I'd love to hear your theory.
== It's your own damn plan, fellows ==
Romneycare-obamacareRediscovered and now circulating - much to Republican embarrassment - is the signing ceremony, April 12, 2006, for the crowning achievement of Mitt Romney's governorship -- a health insurance plan almost identical to "Obamacare" that has been working very well in that state, ever since, and that was in fact the template from which the Affordable Care Act was modeled.  At the ceremony, the head of the Heritage Foundation -- the elite think tank of conservatism -- crowed over the role his group had played in designing "Romneycare" based in the earlier Republican Party Health Plan, proposed in the 1990s by Newt Gingrich and his party.  A plan for individual mandates and insurance buying markets or "exchanges" that in fact originated at the Heritage think tank and that was touted as a way to use market forces to solve the problem of the uninsured.
A plan that President Obama and the Democrats cloned almost exactly, under deluded thinking that if they proposed the Republicans' OWN plan, that would draw Republicans into negotiating calmly about how to institute their… own… damn… plan.  A delusion of mega proportions, proving that Democratic optimists can sometimes be almost as crazy as their lunatic opponents.  Who now screech "communism!" at their own… damn… plan.
Watch the video of how proud Heritage was, of a health care plan they devised, and now call communism.  Again, this is not about left or right.  It is about crazy.
== Some lagniappes of political miscellany  ==
Credibility rating ideas quickly becoming reality!   Politifact, which attempts to neutrally assess how often politicians tell whoppers or innocently get facts wrong, has spun off "Punditfact" to apply the same harsh scrutiny to "pundits" in mass media, who get away with riling folks up and stirring civil war without any formal; system to keep them accountable… till now.  And the future I portray in Earth and in Existence keeps coming on, even faster than expected.
And this. We're nuts.
And… NSA-developed methods for interfering in internet traffic at the basic, packet level are rather dismaying to contemplate.  Especially if everyone starts doing it.  Especially tyrannical regimes.
Some (iffy) US maps of the seven deadly sins. But… but I thought Republicans approved of greed!
And Finally…
Interesting exploration of which kind of tax maximizes revenue and which kind helps to deter a vice. An important issue as marijuana moves legal.
themythofamericasdeclineIn The Myth of America's Decline: Politics, Economics and a Half Century of False Prophecies, Josef Joffe takes on the gloomcasters by pointing out that the *relative* decline of US dominance comes largely from the success of Marshallian efforts to enable the rest of the world to rise out of poverty. 

Relative superiority is a sick allure that draws oligarchs to preferring impoverished feudalism over a rich and lively middle-class society. It is unworthy.

For those of you who enjoyed my brief -entertaining riff of pattern-seeking in "Will the 21st Century Start in 2014?," here's another that I take even less seriously! Just a brief note of ephemera: that the date January 13, 2014 could possibly be viewed by someone superstitious as the 13th day of the 13th month of the 13th year…. And yes… all right, that's taking pattern recognition way too far!
Still, be careful out there.


locumranch said...

The Helium Sell-Off suggests one of two possibilities. In the first, the the powers that be have concluded that helium has little or less strategic value in the view of static demand. In the second, the powers that control our society have concluded that helium is supremely valuable & wish to transfer it to private coffers.

In the first case, if we assume that helium has less or little strategic value, then the current public sell-off suggests cynical commodity manipulation by artificially increasing both helium scarcity & demand to result in short-term profits followed by higher helium prices when and if the US government decides to resupply. In the second case, if we assume that helium is supremely valuable, then we must also assume that the US government is complicit in theft from public coffers.

Either way, Big Oil & Gas appears to be the primary beneficiary in a Helium Sell-Off because helium is most commonly extracted from natural gas deposits, made even more plentiful by the current fracking epidemic, especially within the USA as opposed to international sources.

Like you, I'm more or less sold on possibility one -- short-term greed complicated by government incompetency -- but possibility two seems much more exciting and promising due to the tantalizing nature of this single question:

What would make Helium supremely valuable in a dirigible-free society?

What the frack? Has some bright individual found a use for Helium 3 ? Has FUSION power become a reality under our very noses, held in abeyance only until the O & G industry monetizes & corners the helium market and slaps a big old 'H' on its name in order to become the alpha 'HOG' ?

All Hail HOG, the Savior of the Human Race, the owner of the Helium 3 Fusion Process (Patent Pending) and the purveyor of Climate Change-free energy at elevated prices.


Jean Lamb said...

The Portland, Oregon police already 'discourage' being recorded; coincidentally, they also have an awesomely disgusting rate of violence against civilians. Although last month, a grand jury *finally* slapped someone's wrist over an incident; heretofore they've always given cops a pass on things like beating a mentally ill man to death. So there is some risk in standing your ground in some cities.

Tony Fisk said...

The ABC have started a new section called 'Fact Check' which examines the veracity of various political announcements. I think their thumbnail summaries are a bit too clever (ie confusing) at times.

Who's buying the helium assets? What are its strategic uses? (wikipedia lists several)Even at the suppressed cost, use in dirigibles is restrictive (there are better ways)

Unknown said...

A bunch of freshmen GOP Congressional Reps come to Capitol Hill filled with fire & brimstone to tear down the bloated federal government brick by brick. They have enough star power that they can occasionally get on a Sunday morning press love fest, and they are drawing enough campaign donations that they are a source, rather than a sink, for contributions. After hours of behind-the-scenes, closed door meetings where arms are twisted and threats are made, these Young Turks come away with a tiny victory in hand; they'll get the government to shut down a program nobody wants, that has no strategic national interest, interferes with a rational market, has almost no population depending on it for jobs, is located far from anyone's home, has no aesthetic value of any kind, and is in a District utterly safe so there is no chance that the decision could tip a meaningful election.

Yay them. Applaud them, don't cast aspersions on them. They're the bulwark against the Dark Times.

David Brin said...

Good lord Ryan Dancey! I love those guys! Seriously… the way I love unicorns and flying ponies!

Speaking as a son of Adam Smith who actually believe in markets and enterprise and all of that, I would love to imagine that today's mad version of conservatism could actually produce such creatures!

Your faith is endearing. Here's a puppy.

Xactiphyn said...

Politifact is an interesting creature. I find the writeups to be extremely valuable, as they parse the details of where the data for the "fact" came from, how accurate it may be and how the data was played with. All this is really good.

However, the killer app is the conclusion: "True", "Pants on fire", "partially true", etc. And this conclusion turns out to be basically just opinion.

Most famously, PolitiFact rated Obama's promise you could keep your own health care plan as "Half True" in both 2009 and 2012. In 2013 it changed its mind and rated it "Pants on Fire" and gave it the lie of the year. Yet, nothing actually changed in terms of the available data at the times Obama said what he said.

So thanks for the data digging and fact checking, but no thanks for the headline rating. Unfortunately, that part doesn't work very well and I'm not sure it ever can.

Paul451 said...

Off-topic but interesting:

Exo-planet surveys are finding a lot of super-Earths. The problem was that they were thought to have too much water, resulting in 100's of kms deep oceans and no land. And while a SF reader sees "ocean world" as a lovely setting, apparently in reality it means the geological carbon cycle doesn't work. So "super", but not so much "Earth".

However, recent studies have suggested that most of that water will be locked up in the mantle at any given time (a "geological hydrocycle", I guess), leaving the surface with a decidedly Earth-like mix of ocean and continent.

This expands the pool of "Earth-like planets" which may actually be "like Earth".

mohin said...

No matter what you do, the Simpsons did it before. From Treehouse of horror VI:

Marge: (voiceover) It all started on the thirteenth hour, of the thirteenth day, of the thirteenth month. We were at Sprinfield Elementary to discuss the misprinted calendars the school had purchased.

Homer: (shivering, looking at the calendar) Oh, lousy Smarch weather.

Alex Tolley said...

Somewhat tangential in the transparency area but, I think apropos considering DB's mention of the l'Affaire Helium.

Ralph Nader has a nice piece about information that should be available, but isn't, even when the law requires it:
In the District of Columbia, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has repeatedly refused formal requests, pursuant to the DC Freedom of Information Act, that it produce the contracts regarding the “sale” of public properties (libraries, fire stations, police stations, schools, etc.) to private developers. As public contracts, the law requires them to be posted online, for public inspection, even if there has been no request filed by a citizen.

DB posits a conspiracy, possibly criminal regarding Helium. But this is only because the information he seeks is either not available, or difficult to find. (The Congressional Record should have all the public argument recorded. Only the backdoor communications are private).

But note the quote above. FOIA requests were ignored, even though the information should have been posted without such a request. IOW, transparency requires enforcement and that requires power, possibly coercive. We've seen a number of legal cases reported where DA's have deliberate;y hidden information from courts, police departments have destroyed evidence or refused to release it (e.g. for DNA testing), and where judges simply refused to follow the law in sentencing. This is not going to be solved with an IG - the scope is too large.

Alex Tolley said...

Public transparency and countermeasures. If it was just cameras, then privacy solutions that celebrities use to foil the paparazzi would work. For ordinary folks, clothing choices, masks and flash camouflage face projections might suffice, although gait recognition may need to be foiled too. But as the NOW phone hacking scandal revealed, this is insufficient. The internet of things will all betray your privacy. It doesn't have to be venal little brothers spreading innuendo or even demanding blackmail, but just overzealous employers micro-managing whereabouts. (keyboard logging of remote coders has long been in place to ensure work hours compliance for pay). There isn't a cop show that doesn't have phone and credit card usage as standard in a perp hunt. Built-in GPS in cars ostensibly for road use taxation becomes a convenient tracker avoiding the costs of using street cams.

So where does that leave privacy? I suspect that for a subset of the population, countermeasures like using disguises and camouflage for cameras, throwaway cell phones, cash and public transport may be increasingly used to avoid logging of whereabouts and possibly conversations. The state will also retaliate, as Spain did, by making covering of the face in demonstrations illegal as well as posting the faces of cops. (note that would make YouTube video posting illegal).

The Spanish response is exactly what we should worry about. The state has power to tilt the playing field. Even the US, with its much vaunted Constitution has found citizen protections destroyed. Sousveillance only works if it is allowed, and allowance can be taken away by a state friendly judicial system.

Alex Tolley said...

Helium shortage - cui bono? Below market prices set by the US as the dominant supplier wouldn't help private suppliers for the past decade. You would need to posit that the benefactors were planning a decade or more ahead, buying helium rich natural gas reserves to extract helium when the shortage would result in high prices and profits. If anything, the race for fracking will result in a lot of independent companies finding that even their low amounts of helium might be worth exploiting as the price rises steeply.

We've seen so many resource shortages disappear with market price signals generating new sources or technological substitution, that I doubt helium supplies are really going to be a problem. But I could be wrong.

Xactiphyn said...

David, have you seen The return of \patrimonial capitalism": review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st century yet? It discusses both income inequality and "America's decline".

David Brin said...


Will Hiltman said...

and Upward

Human behavioral data is being soaked up by telecom and tech companies - they give this to the US governement where the NSA stores it in a giant bank in Utah (leading to an AGI arms race) - people don't realize that could mine that data indefinitely (essentially having captured human behavior to review forever without the individuals true knowledge of how that data will be used in the future) - the last sanctuaries on Earth are continuing to be encroached upon despite the fact that they hold the largest and most valuable 'banks' of 'behavioral data between co-existing species' - we are on the verge of creating greater-than-human intelligence which is the largest risk to humanity and the universe we have yet encountered - having as much data as possible about stable minds which are in harmony with their environments would increase the likelihood of creating a "friendly" AGI out of the space of all possible minds - putting the pieces together: 1) consumers valuing and safeguarding their data will start putting more money in their pocket, 2) companies will begin lowering the threshold to gain access to technology, 3) gaining access to technology will 'Uplift' (David Brin) individuals looking to improve their quality of life, 4) markets develop for behavioral data which will simultaneously protect the sanctuaries on Earth and incentivize economies to take on the Uplift model. The Uplift model as I have come to understand it can be simply put as: I benefit when you benefit.

Anonymous said...

ACA ("Obamacare") is nothing like any Heritage plan. "Romneycare" is a backformation - nobody at the time in MA used the term - and Romney himself tried to stop and derail the law.

Please read this: