An Election is Simply a Festival for the Majority!

Fun, Politics & Current Events, WTF?

I speak now to the minority:

I apologize for not posting more. I've had many interesting ideas swirling around my head, each of them the potential kernel of a good blog post.

…but I've strangely lost the urge, energy, or whatever to turn ideas into bytes-on-the-page.

I still hope to sit my ass down and generate some content at some point, but until then, feel free to watch this video of me before I was expelled from Japan and emigrated to America. My opinions have changed not a whit.

59 Comments

Chilling Effect, Next Steps, Final Steps, Hope

Effluvia

Definition:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_society

open society
government in the open society is purported to be responsive and tolerant, and political mechanisms are said to be transparent and flexible.

Definition:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect

In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction.

Definition:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_fear

Culture of fear is a term used by certain scholars, writers, journalists and politicians who believe that some in society incite fear in the general public to achieve political goals.

Definition:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intimidation

Intimidation is intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm.

Data:

http://warrantless.org/2014/03/snowden-search/

A new empirical research paper
I have coauthored with Professor Catherine Tucker of MIT-Sloan [ Clark note: originally at http://warrantless.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Surveillance_Search.pdf ] examines the question of how Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations have shifted the way people search for information on the Internet. We look at Google searches in the US and its top ten trading partners during 2013. We identify a roughly 5% drop in search volume on privacy-sensitive terms. In the US, UK and Canada, the countries in our data who were most involved with the surveillance controversy, search volume fell for search terms likely to get you in trouble with the government (“pipe bomb”, “anthrax” etc.), and for searches that were personally sensitive (“viagra”, “gender reassignment”, etc.). In France and Saudi Arabia, search volume fell only for the government-sensitive search terms. This paper, though at an early stage, provides the first systematic empirical evidence of a chilling effect on people’s search behaviors that is attributable to increased awareness of government surveillance. I will be presenting this paper at the Privacy Law Scholars’ Conference in DC in May, 2014. I would welcome comments at alex@warrantless.org.

Clark's editorial additions:

1) Police states are not boolean: A society can be more or less of a police state. The presence of newspapers and absence of death camps does not mean that there is not something of a police state.

2) It is not necessary for anyone to to desire or plan a police state for a police state to arise. Men of good intentions can honestly attempt to solve problems on the ground and in doing so end up worsen the overall picture.

3) When people feel that they can't look up entirely legal information in the 21st century equivalent of a book because they fear know that their government

and based on this knowledge "voluntarily" curtail their own legal behaviors, we have some noticeable degree of a police state.

Clark's suggestion:

1) Do go read the Marthew's paper. I approach all social science papers with an attitude of skepticism…and in this case I was surprised (pleasantly so) by table 6, where statistical confidence is specified.

2) Add warrantless.org to your RSS reader and follow @rebelcinder on Twitter.

3) Put aside existing models of how and why the US government works and approach it as a forensic anthropology question:

  • Note that the NSA, the DoD, and the State Department are regulated by the government, but regulation does not work they way one might expect.
  • Note that no matter which party seems to win an election, the bureaucracy always stays in place, and has its own agenda.
  • Note that elections do not create moral government or consent.
  • Note that the DNA of the government is not just the Constitution, but the extended phenotype of defense oriented firms, police departments, bureaucrats, dependents, and more.
  • Ask yourself if people of good will tried to reform the government in 1980, and 1990, and 200, and 2010, and it has gotten larger and more intrustive every year, what effect people of good will trying to reform the government in 2014 will have.

4)Withdraw your consent from the system.

  • Note that just because party A is terrible does not mean that party B is any better, and refuse to ever say "this will be better after the next election" or "we just need the right guy in office".
  • Note that just because because a Constitution exists and a Supreme Court says that it will enforce the Constitution does not mean that it actually does so.
  • Note that this is not "your" government but "the" government, which you can choose to give loyalty to or not, as you see fit.
  • Note that the government can do whatever it wants to your body, because it has more men and more guns, but it can not force you to acknowledge its moral legitimacy.

The system is unreformable. It has more guns than the good guys (at least now). But if discontent grows and enough people start to stop talking about "our government" and start talking "your [ illegitimate ] government", at some point even the hard men look out at the swelling crowd, realize that they are on the wrong side of history, and go home.

Or at least we can hope.

87 Comments

Takei on Phelps

Culture, Politics & Current Events

On the topic of gay marriage, I'm pretty old fashioned.

…by which I mean I believe what goes on in a marriage contract is between two or more people, their lawyers, and their goðar / non-governmental polycentric legal service providers.

As a non aligned bystander in the left-vs-right culture wars, I'm not as much a reflexively huge fan of George Takei as some people are.

Then I saw this:

George Takei

I take no solace or joy in this man's passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding "God Hates Freds" signs, tempting as it may be.

He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end.

Well done, sir.

79 Comments

"Enter Big G's Command Center Through the Revolving Doors on K Street"

Effluvia

Via Ken on Twitter:

Genius. Sheer genius.

I love everything about this, right down to the fine print on the website: "All audio, visual, and textual contents on this site have been granted an intellectual monopoly by the powers vested in the G-force."

"One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent." – H. L. Mencken

27 Comments

Cage Fight

Effluvia

dailymail.co.uk

The controversial billionaire Charles Saatchi told journalist Taki Theodoracopulos that his ex-wife 'always found you toe-curlingly vile' in a bizarre open letter to the magazine which has now resulted in the 77-year-old offering to take on Mr Saatchi in a cage fight.

Rumors that Taki Theodoracopulos has asked Texas lawyer Carl David Cedar to be his second at the cage match duel have not yet been confirmed as of press time.

13 Comments

Police interrogations: "I don't…" / "I would…" / "It's simple…"

Effluvia

In the comments to the previous post, many people were a bit confused by why an innocent man would falsely confess to a crime. Lots of advice and commentary appeared in the reader responses: "I don't…", "I would…", "It's simple…".

In my opinion all of these responses were utterly misguided…except for one guy who got it dead on right:

@Dick Taylor:

Don't talk to the police without a lawyer. Ever. Then it doesn't matter if they lie to you. Cases like this are more proof that if it's just you against the police, you will lose every time. After two days of interrogation in that kind of an environment, I doubt that he was processing anything well enough to defend his own interests. Nobody would.

Even aside from the general advice that one should never talk to the cops (a video well known to most of us here, but I was still happy that Doctor X presented another link), there's a specific bit in Dick Taylor's comment that deserves to be presented in a 70 point font made out of glowing red neon letters:

I doubt that he was processing anything well enough to defend his own interests

I have never been handcuffed, taken down to the police station, or put in a room with a one way mirror.

…but I was once, years ago, ruthlessly grilled by two cops on the sidewalk in a situation where I was not free to leave. I am a very strong willed individual who knew deep in my bones that I was right, they were wrong, and that I should not say anything to them. So, of course, I didn't say anything to them, and the whole thing resolved itself.

But the point I want to make is even a very strong willed individual who is mentally prepared for a confrontation with the cops and has rehearsed what he will (or rather, won't) say still experiences a level of psychological pressure that is hard to describe. This was in a neutral settings, in an encounter that lasted less than an hour, on an average day. I can not imagine the psychological pressure one would feel after 12 hours of interrogation, in a locked room far from home, while wearing handcuffs, after a family member had died.

Barracks lawyers asserting "I don't…", "I would…", "It's simple…", etc. do not, I suggest, have a feeling for what it feels like to actually be in the kinds of situations they are talking about.

I strongly recommend reading “Only the Guilty Would Confess to Crimes”
: Understanding the Mystery of False Confessions by Douglas L. Keene and Rita R. Handrich.

It's about 10,000 words, so it will take 10 to 15 minutes…but it's 10 to 15 minutes well spent.

90 Comments

Government Weighs Government Role in Coercing Confessions ( From Innocent Citizens )

Effluvia

The original headline is "Court Weighs Police Role in Coercing Confessions", but I like mine a bit better.

http://www.nytimes.com

detectives told Mr. Thomas repeatedly that the baby’s condition was an accident and that he would not be arrested. Several times they threatened to arrest his wife if he did not confess to abusing the baby, prompting him to say he would “take the rap.” Later they told him his son, who was already brain-dead, might die if he did not help doctors by describing how he hurt the boy.

Of course, the boy was already dead, and the detectives lied to the father, basically promising him that his son would live if he agreed to the fiction that he had done it, even if he hadn't.

After two days of interrogation, the father broke down, and agreed to the police lie, to save the life of his son and the freedom of his wife.

He is now serving a life sentence.

The judges were not with out sympathy. Oh, they had sympathy aplenty:

During arguments, several judges — among them Judge Lippman, Robert S. Smith and Eugene F. Pigott — expressed sympathy for Mr. Thomas’s contention that his confession was made under unfair pressure.

But sympathy only goes so far. There's precedent to worry about, and if innocent men have to go to jail to uphold precent, well, then, government employees understand the relative importance of these two things:

“We have precedent that says the police can use deception,” Judge Victoria A. Graffeo said. “What we are trying to figure out is when you enter this area of inappropriate pressure?”

“Don’t threaten to arrest people’s wives whom you know are innocent,” Mr. Frost answered.

“That’s a narrow rule,” Judge Pigott said.

Still, the judges are positively Solomonic compared to the prosecutor.

Ms. Egan… insisted the detectives had done nothing that would cast doubt on the veracity of Mr. Thomas’s statement.

62 Comments

Monopoly of Force Monday: Kelly Thomas

Law, WTF?

details

I am incapable of adding any comment, except of the variety that would be get me arrested. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent

58 Comments

A Funny Joke

Effluvia

You know what would be a funny joke?

When you catch a guy driving drunk, instead of giving him a breathalizer test and then taking him to jail, instead zip tie his hands and then leave him in a Taco Bell parking lot.

…because he's Mexican, get it?

What's that?

The drunk guy wandered into traffic, hands behind his back, and got struck and killed by a car?

Uh – no comment.

Talk to our union lawyer.

And put down that camera, mother-fucker!

< pulls on rubber gloves >

67 Comments

Alex Marthews Sees the Police State Being Forged and Does Not Like It

Effluvia

This essay ( Quit Throwing 9/11 In Our Faces ) is quite something.

Like me, Alex Marthews prefers not to drop the f-bomb …but there are times that try men's souls, and our ongoing slide into an actual honest-to-God yes-it-can-happen-here police state is one of them, and it's pushed both of us into it recently.

What's got Alex's blood up today?

Continue Reading »

87 Comments

An Anarcho Capitalist Camel Nose Under the Tent Disguised as a Modest Wonkish Proposal

Effluvia

90 Comments

Would You Buy a Used Macroeconomic Policy From This Man?

Effluvia

(source)

195 Comments

Burn the Fucking System to the Ground

Effluvia

"I'm a good judge" … said by government employee and judge Gisele Pollack who, it seems, sentenced people to jail because of their drug use…while she, herself, was high on drugs.

But, in her defense, "she’s had some severe personal tragedy in her life".

And that's why, it seems, she's being allowed to check herself into rehab instead of being thrown in jail.

Continue Reading »

417 Comments

Clark's Favorite Books Part 1: Science Fiction

Books

Patrick has been bugging me recently for my top 10 books list. I'm an anarchist, and I don't kowtow to The Man, maaan, so I refuse to generate a top ten list. On the other hand, I can't resist telling people what cool shit they should be reading, so here's my I'm-not-even-sure-how-large list of books that I really like. Is it my "top" list? I dunno. I'm not the viewpoint character in High Fidelity; I don't spend that much time rank ordering stuff. Make of this list (these lists) what you will.



Lucifer's Hammer – this is, IMO, the single best post apocalyptic / survival book ever written. It's got it all: astronomy, physics, chemistry, economics, individual survival skills, sociology. One mark of a good book is whether you remember scenes from it years later. LH has dozens. It's a little bit dated by now (US / USSR Cold War, post-Vietnam US Army with racial integration problems, etc.), but it's still a great yarn.



The Mote in God's Eye – Niven and Pournelle are off to an early lead. TMiGE is the single best First Contact story ever written, and it deals with aliens that are truly weird, in some ways, and truly familiar in others. It warrants the term "space opera" for working at a grand scale: grand scales of space, time, imaginary physics, and stakes to human life.



Snowcrash – Neal Stephenson has written better books (Cryptonomicon, Anathem), but he's never written a more-Neal-Stephenson-per-page book than Snowcrash. It distilled, parodied, and reified the cyberpunk genre. As with Lucifer's Hammer, it was so good that it basically took all of the air out of the genre. After this, what's left to do? Does it have Big Ideas(tm)? And how. Dropping Big Idea bombs always runs the risk of looking silly, but with out risk there is no art. Shows its age a bit, but still excellent.



The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Heinlein distilled mid 20th century science fiction. Everything either good or bad in it, he did better or worse than others. Likable characters? And how. Embarrassing authorial excess? Yep. TMiaHM shows him at his best: fast paced, emotionally moving, exciting, full of ideas, and very little of the embarrassing or weird Heinlein. It's a seminal libertarian / anarcho capitalist science fiction novel and created the mold for a half dozen other similar novels that came later. The ending still leaves me a bit melancholy even thirty years after I first read it.



Anathem – Stephenson pulls forward and ties for first place. (I'm reminded of the beginning of the movie Rounders: science fiction isn't a game of luck; it's a game of skill. Do you think that Stephenson and Niven and Pournelle keep writing great novels because they're lucky?). Anathem has it all: deep history, parallel worlds, medieval monasteries, formal logic, quantum uncertainty, cross-polar chase scenes, orbital mechanics, starships. A lot of people say that they thought that Anathem was too wordy or too weird. I feel bad for them – they've admitted something very embarrassing about themselves in public.



A Fire Upon the Deep / A Deepness in the Sky – A lot of my favorite authors write very little…or, rather, they release very few books. Mrs. Clark has a theory that authors accumulate good ideas for stories at a certain fixed rate, and their first books drain the tank half dry. According to her elaboration of this theory, most authors have two or three good books in them. I disagree with this hard-line version, but I think that there's some truth in the idea. Specifically, I think that most authors can write a good novel only once every few years (or, rather, most authors can't write a good novel at all, and those that can write one at all can write one at most every few years). Anyway, Vernor Vinge, computer science professor, does the smart thing: he writes at exactly the rate that he can generate good stories. Sadly, this means he doesn't write might. The two novels referenced here contain a lot: space exploration, vast galactic civilizations, weird physics, thoughts on anarchy, trade, and fascism.



The Star Fraction / The Stone Canal / The Cassini Division / The Sky Road – There are only three important things in life: what is the point of existence and what is The Good? what is worth having or doing?, when those things are scarce, how should they be divided up? Or, in shorter form: religion, politics, and money. You know – the three things that we're not supposed to talk about with people. In the mid 1980s the Scottish Big Three exploded on the American science fiction scene: Ian Banks (RIP), Ken Macleod, and Charlie Stross. Stross flamed out after a few good books (see Mrs. Clark's rule of thumb about most authors having only a few good books). Banks is operatic, utopian, and excellent. Macleod, though…Macleod is something between the sleeper of the group and the tortoise that wins the race. He's not as operatic as Banks – one novel (Newton's Wake) aside, there are no vast mega-structures, few vast spaceships, not much wit in each paragraph…but he does consistently talk about the big three topics: what is the good? what are things worth? who should divide them up? He's not a perfect writer – far too many of his novels have a denouement that boils down to several Scottish (just like him!) reformed Trotskyists (just like him!) discussing politics in a pub (just like him!), but he's good. The four books listed here aren't a series per se – more like riffing on the same subject via different paths (see also: Goldberg Variations, Kim Stanley Robinson's Three California's Trilogy, George Bush and Barrack Obama, etc. They're all worth reading.



Directive 51 – To my mind, the two most underrated science fiction authors of the last 10 or 20 years are Walter Jon Williams and John Barnes. Both have technical mastery of fiction writing, good characterization, amazing plots, complexity, and a dozen other skills down cold. They're not the only authors who are this good – there are a half dozen or so now writing who perform at this level. The amazing thing, though, is that these guys are all but invisible. Their works should be classics, and yet they're outsold by Jim Butcher, John Scalzi, and Stephenie Meyer. So, short version: pick up absolutely anything by either of these two guys (aside from Barne's Jak Jinnaka series, which was sort sort of experiment that didn't work for me). Anyway, on to Directive 51. This is the first book in a trilogy that traces the breakdown of our current world into a post apocalyptic nightmare. In our hyper-connected early 21st century society memes grow and spread like flashmobs, and soon a semiotics researcher named Arnie Yang (John Barne's not-really-a-Mary-Sue-but-sorta-based-on-himself) starts to see dangerous resonances. Deep Greens are talking about crashing the system and returning to nature. Billionaires are talking about crashing the system and returning to monarchy. Techies are talking about crashing the system with nanotech. What the heck is going on? The book is a multi-viewpoint-architected novel like a big technothriller (c.f. The Hunt for Red October, etc.) that investigates this question from a variety of viewpoints. Unfortunately, almost as soon as the authorities detect that something is wrong, the disaster is upon them: nanotech starts destroying modern technology, and the good guys are always two steps behind…or three. One of the hardest things in fiction is creating a true sense of dread and foreboding: most of the time we're watching a TV show or reading a book, we know that everything is going to turn out all right in the end. Luke will blow up the Deathstar. Doctor House will cure the patient. Professor Bernardo de la Plaz will free the Loonies from Earth's fascist grip. Barnes isn't like that. Good people die, and at every step of the way you fear that the good guys could lose entirely…and the scenes stick. More than a decade after reading Kaleidoscope Century I remember the protagonist throwing gold coins into the air to precipitate a riot and years after reading Directive 51 I remember a scene of captives being fast-marched past terrified viewpoint characters who are hiding in a crumbling suburb. After all this time these bits still send chills down my spine. Anyway, read Directive 51…and look out for a group review I've got queued up entitled "Three Post Apocalypses, Left, Right, and Center" that covers John Varley's Slow Apocalypse (left), S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire (right) and Barnes' Directive 51 (center). I've got some thoughts on in vino post apocalypse veritas.

update: added 23 December 2013:


Tales of the Dying Earth – There's a genre that I don't read or watch, "comedy of manners", which – Wikipedia tells me – satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class or of multiple classes, often represented by stereotypical stock characters. As far as I can tell examples of it mostly occur in mid-century British novels and TV, and a few American books making fun of NYC socialites. Neither is something that I'm particularly interested in, but I've been provided entre to the genre by Jack Vance, who writes utterly hilarious science fantasy that says a lot more about human foibles than it does about what the world will look like 30,000 years from now. In Vance's Dying Earth series the swollen red sun is so tired and ancient that it may go out at any time, and all of the characters in his books (a) realize this, and (b) react to it either with beyond-cinematic arrogance, beyond-Roissy rakishness, or beyong Quentin Crisp flamboyant good cheer. If you picture the characters Thundar the Barbarian as voiced by Jeeves and Wooster you'd not be too far off course (fictional exempli gratia "let me slip out of this wet pit of eternal despond and into a dry martini!"). A decade or more after reading it I still occassionally pause in the middle of the day and laugh thinking about Cugel as an incompetent worminger, or his insoucience in eating from the expensive buffet at the company town associated with a dragon scale mine. Fun, light reading, but really really rewarding.



Revelation Space /
Chasm City /
Redemption Ark /
Absolution Gap /
The Prefect – Wikipedia calls Alastair Reynolds a writer of "dark hard science fiction". I think that's a perfect term. The "Revelation Space" universe he crafts is cold, unforgiving, and vaguely menacing. Not just vaguely menacing in a "Cold Equations" / "there's nothing between my skin and the deadly vacuum but this thin suit" manner, but in a "there are deep and impersonal forces that are none-the-less malevolent and either actively want you dead, or at least won't care a bit if you die" sense. Couple that with rigorous physics, tight plots, and a very intricate back story and a deeply thought out universe, and the books are a mix of wonder at how much mankind might achieve over the next 500 years despite no magic get-out-of-jail-free cards like FTL, and a sense of dread about just how cold and scary the universe is. Picture Iain Banks without the cheerful tone and with more hard physics, and you get something a lot like Alastair Reynolds.

If you liked these reviews, keep your eyes peeled for future installments:

  • Clark's Favorite Books Part 2: Fantasy
  • Clark's Favorite Books Part 3: Politics
  • Clark's Favorite Books Part 4: Miscellaneous
164 Comments

Give To Those In Need

Effluvia

Reason.com informs us that a group of startups (Evertrue, Kinvey, Localytics, etc.) decided to get together to throw themselves a combined holiday party, so that employees of each of these small firms could schmooze with each other and others in the local tech scene.

As they have the last three years.

And, as they have the last three years, they structured the party thusly: a rented hotel function room, an open bar, a $50 cover charge, invites sent out over eventbrite.com, and surplus funds donated to charity via
tugg.org. (The exact recipient of the charity was TBA, but was to come from one of TUGG's "portfolio" of causes: Latino STEM Alliance, Youth Cities, Technology for Autism, Music & Youth, etc.

The Boston Police, meanwhile, was hard at work at solving the murders and homicides in the city.

I'm joking, of course.

The Boston Police were actually setting up a sting to catch anyone who violated the law regulation
204 CMR 4.03 1 (e) which makes it illegal to vary the price of alcohol over time.

I'd explain why this is an important regulation, and why anyone who violates it deserves to go to hell and/or be arrested, but I think it's pretty clear: we can't just have people selling things at different prices at different times, or we'd there'd be complete anarchy.

'nuff said.

So, anyway, the Boston Police, having solved the problem of murder, rape, and larceny within its territory, turned its attention to a consortium of technology startups and raided their Christmas party.

The good news is that a peaceful resolution was achieved: once the tech startups (cough) voluntarily (cough) agreed that instead of donating the profits to something silly like encouraging Latino youth to excel at science and technology, they'd instead donate it to a charity organization of armed individuals known as the "Boston Police Department", all charges were dropped.

I'm sort of curious to ask for records on Boston PD policies, but I've recently learned that Boston LEOs refuse to respond to public documents requests and threaten to arrest journalists who call them on the phone.

Render unto Caesar, my friends. And if at any point you're not sure which wordly power is Caesar, remember: he's the one who can crucify people without repercussions.

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