Boing Boing: Florida cops threaten people who ask for complaint forms
Boing Boing: Florida cops threaten people who ask for complaint forms: "A CBS undercover reporting team went into 38 police stations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in Florida, asking for a set of forms they could use to complain about inappropriate police behavior. In all but three of the stations, the police refused to give them forms. Some of the cops threatened them (on hidden camera, no less) -- one of them even touched his gun."
This essay was originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, back in 2003, but I just discovered it and I think that it does a good job addressing some misperceptions that lead humans to support government.
The gist of it, from the article:
The illusion that immunity can be created by changing your behavior (or spending money) sets us up for terror. Whoever sent anthrax through the mail in 2001 managed to kill a total of five people -- sad, but frankly no worse than many car wrecks. The anthrax scare touched off hysteria (and a multimillion-dollar industry in anthrax prevention) because it exposed the bitter truth that the risk-free life is illusory. If we try to cling to the illusion, we'll continue to be susceptible to health terrorism, a term that is more to the point than bioterrorism -- that is, we'll continue to be terrorized that our health is in imminent jeopardy.
How did Americans come to have such faith in the risk-free life? We epidemiologists have to bear some of the burden. We made three mistakes: We bought into the focus on personal behavior rather than social reform, we provided too much information, and we colluded with the moralism of risk reduction.
South Dakota lawmakers yesterday approved the nation's most far-reaching ban on abortion, setting the stage for new legal challenges that its supporters say they hope lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade .
The article speaks for itself. I think a complete reversal of Roe v. Wade is unlikely, but this is likely to be the first assault made as the SCOTUS becomes more conservative. If, by chance, this law is upheld, what is the appropriate response? I think the ABA opposed the prohibition of abortion back before Roe v. Wade, arguing that it created a society of scofflaws. Maybe this new wave of prohibition will do the same.
I just learned from Marginal Revolution that Japan forces car-owners to have expensive maintenance done on a regular basis. While it may have something to do with maintaining air-quality in crowded Japan, the fact that consumers are forced to spend money like this makes me (and the folk at MR) think that this regulation is really about expanding the market for various special-interest groups. It seems that this system is being expanded to cover many electronics also. This system effectively bans the sale of used products.
Summary of a survey of parents and teachers asking them about the condition of schools; mildly interesting. One thing that stood out is that "the problem that ranked highest for parents and teachers was getting and keeping good teachers". I agree that this is a big problem for schools, but all the vested interests seem to do their damndest to drive away talented teachers: administration burdens them with regulations, a lack of resources, and students who don't want to be there. On the other side, teachers unions drive away most competent individuals by adamantly separating pay from performance and directing all benefits to senior teachers.
The Atlantic Monthly Online has an apparently insightful article called Capitalism: The Movie. Unfortunately, I'm not going to shell out $25 for a subscription right now so I can't read the whole thing.
The thesis seems to be this:
Yes, the system does work, says this culture, and there appears to be no alternative. But what a shame this is, it continues, because capitalism rewards our worst and most selfish instincts. "Greed is good" may stock the shelves, but is somewhat less than inspiring.
This is an interesting discussion for those of us who support free-markets, but oppose capitalism. What is it about "capitalism" that Americans have trouble with? Just like the evolution/creationism debate, people tend to conflate several issues when they discuss "capitalism". Do they really dislike markets and economic freedom, or do they dislike the "all or nothing" dynamics that result from the alienation of regular folk from the means of survival?
Wikinews reporters are claiming that Congressional staff has been modifying Wikipedia for their own propaganda purposes. It was only a matter of time until something like this happened: as Wikipedia becomes more influential, it will draw more attention from PR offices of all types. The big question is whether Wikipedia can remain open and democratic in the fact of the inevitable onslaught by the powers-that-be. Two factors make me hope that it can survive: first, the Wikipedia culture has a strong bias against deleting information unless it has been clearly proven to be wrong, meaning that once incriminating information makes it into Wikipedia it is likely to stay; otherwise, there may be enough competition among powerful groups (Repubs vs. Dems, Exxon vs. Shell, etc) that their activities will balance each other out.
Marginal Revolution: PDUFA: "PDUFA, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, is a shining example of a Pareto optimal policy innovation. First passed in 1992 the act was essentially a deal between the drug manufacturers and the FDA that said we, the manufacturers, are willing to pay an extra tax for submitting new drug applications to the FDA so long as the tax is earmarked for hiring more FDA staff to accelerate new drug review. "
A Spanish company called Fon has gotten some big corporations to support it in it's project to set up a sort-of peer-to-peer wireless internet system. On the up side, it seems like this project will encourage the development of a decentralized communication infrastructure. On the down side, it seems like these companies are trying to own the infrastructure.
This is probably not an original thought, but it seems like a lot of capitalists focus on the ownership of society itself, as opposed to the ownership of tools; this project seems to be based on the same premise. A lot of modern American businesses are based on control of culture (copyright), control over information sharing (file format monopolies), or control over productive institutions themselves without significant material property (software companies).
1) Training (technical/analytical) 2) Signaling (you were already good, just needed to prove it to others) 3) Self-acculturation (you decided that you want to be a particular type of person, and hang out with that type of person, so you go to school)